The onetime journalist and current ancient astronaut theorist Philip Coppens has an undeserved reputation as a “serious” ancient astronaut theorist due to his claim to apply solid research to his alternative investigations. As we shall see, Coppens is just another copyist who never lets facts get in the way of copying someone else’s bizarre claims.
So let's play another round of "Fake That Quote"!
Since last year Coppens has been promoting the “theory” that a remote tribe in China is made up of alien-human hybrids who have been living there for 12,000 years. Stop and think about that for a second. Philip Coppens believes he knows of people who are half extraterrestrial, and what did he do about this? Did he travel to China to meet these hybrid aliens? Did he bring them to Washington to hold a public event at the National Press Club? Did he call together a conclave of the world’s greatest scientists to explore this earthshaking discovery? Did he report the finding in leading scientific journals?
No. He started pimping out the idea for cash. And Coppens didn’t even do original research.
Coppens wrote about the theory in his 2011 book The Ancient Alien Question and discusses it in his 2012 direct-to-DVD documentary of the same name. This book is widely praised by alternative authors like Erich von Däniken, Robert Bauval, and David Childress as one of the most thorough and best-researched ancient astronaut books of all time. Unfortunately, it is just more of the same old crap from decades ago. (Side note: I just knew Bauval was secretly an ancient astronaut theorist ever since he cited Robert Temple as his inspiration for the Orion Mystery.)
In the relevant passage, Coppens merely repeats 1980s ancient astronaut theorist Hartwig Hausdorf’s claims about the Dropa (or Dzopa), a non-existent tribe of Chinese “dwarves” that supposedly had physical features unlike those of normal human beings. Coppens only original contribution (which he fails to tell readers he is actually copying from a later piece by Hausdorf) is to link Hausdorf’s claims to a 1995 AP news article about a Chinese village where environmental pollution stunted growth, arguing these people are the actual Dropa aliens. Coppens claims that the AP article describes the village as made entirely of “dwarfish beings,” a phrase he places in quotation marks but which I have not been able to locate in the AP news files via a Lexis-Nexis search. (According to Lexis-Nexis, the phrase appeared in print only once, in the New York Times, in a 2008 article on Japanese art.) This is what Philip Coppens says:
Coppens also cites a German article, which repeats the same information as the alleged AP account. (As we shall see, they are both dependent on a single source.)
So, let’s take Philip Coppens up on his offer of easy verification. The article is verifiable, so let’s verify it. As we shall see, there is less to this report that Philip Coppens claims, and he and his alternative colleagues won’t tell you why. On nearly every count, Coppens is “reporting” lies.
Since the late 1990s, alternative sources have been claiming that the Associated Press—the respected American news organization—reported the existence 120 dwarves in a village in rural China, proof, they think, that alien hybrids really exist. Coppens, lacking the initiative to bother looking up the original source, repeats the claim directly from internet sources (including the erroneous “dwarfish beings” quote).
Specifically, he is copying from Hartwig Hausdorf. In a lecture of 1997, Hausdorf offers the following claim, using the exact words quoted by Coppens as coming from the AP:
Hausdorf then incorporated this material into his 1998 book The Chinese Roswell, which is probably Coppens’ direct source: “But the Associated Press, in a November, 1995 article, reported that some 120 dwarfish beings had been discovered living in Sichuan Province in Central China, the tallest of them being no more than three feet ten inches in height, and the shortest adult measuring two feet one inch.” etc. etc.
Coppens mistakes this for the actual wording of the AP report and thus reproduces the phrase "dwarfish beings" directly from Hausdorff as though it were from the AP. Other online writers have turned this into an even blunter assertion: “In 1995 there has been a remarkable news report from China: In the province of Sichuan, which lies on the eastern border of the Baian-Kara-Ula mountains, 120 people of a previously ethnologically unclassified tribe have been discovered. The most important aspect of this new tribe is the size of its people: No taller than 3 ft. 10 in., the smallest adult measuring only 2 ft. 1 in.!” So now they’re unclassifiable! This assertion spawned the false notion that the dwarves are Grey alien hybrids.
Would you like to know what the source article really said? Sure you would. So did I. That’s why I did what Philip Coppens wouldn’t do. I went to the library, looked at Lexis-Nexis, and tried to find the November 1995 article that started it all.
Unfortunately, I can’t find any article from the AP. The closest I could come was a Globe and Mail article out of Toronto, and they didn’t make the initial report, either. Here’s the whole text of the Globe report, presented under an assertion of fair use with the aim of exposing another ancient astronaut fraud:
This same material was published a week earlier in the Deutsche Presse-Agentur and the London Evening Standard, also summarizing the original Xinhua report. (The Standard, though, differed in small details, misreporting the height, for example as 3’9”.) A few other papers ran digest versions of the same. The AP may have carried one or more of these articles on its news wire (or its own summary), but it none appears in the Lexis-Nexis database so far as I can find. It’s possible that Hartsdorf, in searching news reports, confused the Associated Newspapers that ran the Evening Standard and supplied its content to Lexis-Nexis with the Associated Press. Any newspaper reprinting the Standard article would likely have credited it to Associated Newspapers, the copyright holder.
So, let’s review: (a) only 32 of 120 villagers were dwarves, not all 120--most were normal sized; (b) the scientists attributed the unusual number of dwarves to environmental contamination, a known cause of dwarfism; and (c) the source of the news was not an American investigation but the notoriously unreliable Chinese state media.
Two years later, Chinese scientists reported that the dwarfism and pain were caused by toxic levels of mercury in the drinking water, which ancient alien theorists then denied as a conspiracy to suppress extraterrestrial truth. (Coppens follows the deniers, citing German news articles. This indicates that he must have some familiarity with the true facts of the story, thus suggesting he simply chose to report false facts, or was too lazy to care about the facts.) [Update: I gave Coppens too much credit. Even this material is borrowed wholesale from Hausdorf's Chinese Roswell.] No matter whether the real cause was mercury or some other environmental contaminant the Chinese were trying to cover up, the initial report, however, made clear that this could have nothing to do with aliens, let alone a tribe of extraterrestrial hybrids existing in rural China unchanged for 12,000 years. Had that been the case, there would have been more than 32 dwarfs, and they would have been present across time, not just in one specific generation.
The bottom line: Philip Coppens does poor research, pretends material from secondary sources came from primary sources, and doesn't bother to check even the simplest of facts while brazenly asserting to the reader that everything is "easily verifiable." It's like he wants us to catch his intellectual shortcuts and quote fraud.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.