Writing my annual year in review article used to be amusing, if not actually fun, because there was at least some entertainment value in seeing the wild claims and fantastical speculations that passed for history and science. But each year has been a little darker than the one before, and the job is less an exercise in tut-tutting foolishness than it is a depressing reminder that wealthy and powerful people are pushing conspiracies whose real-life consequences are no longer hypothetical but manifest every day in ways large and small, from the halls of Congress to hospital ICUs.
In a recent podcast interview, former television personality Scott Wolter made a bizarre assertion about prehistoric space aliens, a part of his ongoing conversion to full ancient astronaut theorist. Wolter discussed the documents he has asserted to be medieval records from the Knights Templar for the past several years, and in “new” Templar documents conveniently mirroring his own conversion to ancient alien enthusiast, he claims to have discovered evidence that space aliens intervened in human history.
Confessions of an Egyptologist:
Lost Libraries, Vanished Labyrinths and the Astonishing Truth Under the Saqqara Pyramids
Erich von Däniken | trans. Bernard Sulzer | September 2021 | New Page Books | ISBN: 978-1-63265-191-4
Confessions of an Egyptologist is at least somewhat unusual by ancient astronaut theorist Erich von Däniken’s standards. It is framed not as his usual grab-bag of medieval, Victorian, and midcentury pseudoscience but as a discussion of an Egyptian tour guide he calls Adel H., who died in the 1997 Luxor terrorist attack near the temple of Hatshepsut. His full name, in standard English transliteration (rather than the German used in this book) was ‘Adil Hummam, and the pair had been friends since 1984. I will refer to the man in the book as Adel, however, because it is never clear how much the literary version resembles the actual man. This conceit lasts barely a page before von Däniken (henceforth EVD) winds off on a tangent, asking if Hatshepsut was the “world’s first transgender person.” He can’t write a sustained discussion of anything, even the death of his friend.
Last week, viewers fled Hunting Atlantis, with the show's ratings falling even as its lead in, Expedition Unknown, gained viewers. Last Wednesday's episode drew just 605,000 live plus same-day viewers, down 45,000 from the week before. The demo collapse was worse. Only 90,000 adults 18-49 watched. By contrast, Expedition Unknown rose significantly, to nearly a million viewers. It's clear: Viewers aren't into Atlantis.
Another discontented viewer of cable pseudo-documentaries was none other than Erich von Däniken, the Chariots of the Gods author who is feeling a little ignored these days, as his protégé Giorgio Tsoukalos reported:
Since losing his Travel Channel TV series, former America Unearthed host has been on a downward slide into the depths of conspiracy culture in search of revelation and relevance. Because he no longer has a media platform, I haven’t been covering his antics as much as in the past, but because he is a former three-time cable TV show host and likely to return to TV in some capacity in the future as the demand for filler content grows among streaming services, it’s worth noting some of the extremes Wolter embraced in his latest podcast interview.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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