Paranoia knows no bounds, and it shouldn’t surprise us that the internet is full of the paranoid. On Facebook, creationists have been sharing a “suppressed” photograph of an alleged biblical giant supposedly recovered in Loja, Ecuador. The photograph passing under this giant’s name is admitted by the photographer to be a “reconstruction,” based on alleged “giant” bone fragments that were uncovered long before. According to mystery-mongers, seven fragments were found, each seven times the size of a “normal” human bone. Somehow, despite claiming that many of the fragments were sent to the Smithsonian for analysis, they were also used to make this reconstruction under the supervision of Alex Putney, a true believer in all manner of bizarre material, from Sanskrit fundamentalism to Atlantis to ancient magic powers.
Now let me say this carefully: The “reconstructed” skeleton of the “giant” is not located in Ecuador. It is not a real skeleton. Would you like to know what it is?
It’s a fake giant skeleton made for Erich von Däniken’s Mystery Park ancient astronaut theme park in Interlaken, Switzerland. If you have the money to rent the now-closed theme park, you can see it even today. Here is a photo of von Däniken posing with the skull while it was under construction, along with video from the park, at the 5:45 mark:
A photograph of the bone fragments on which this fake skeleton was based appears with testimony from Austrian mystery-monger Klaus Dona, where the Austrian asserts that the bones are “too old” to yield DNA.
Honestly, they look like rocks to me, or perhaps the bones of a giant sloth or some other Pleistocene mammal. I note that no anatomist examined the bones, only creationists, Atlantis believers, and priests.
But having disposed of the monster, let’s take this to the next level. Based on this fictional skeleton, internet users have turned it into a wide-ranging attack on elites, whom they accuse of hiding the truth about giants. In the comments on the Facebook posting, conspiracy-mongers accused both the Rockefellers and the Rothschilds of conspiring to suppress the giant. Elsewhere, creationists hailed fake von Däniken skeleton as proof that the Bible is true: “…modern archaeologists and scientists cannot afford to allow these remains to made public for they disprove evolution and prove the Bible account to be true; something they cannot allow to happen.” True believers even suggested that the “reconstruction” was a real skeleton and that the Smithsonian would invade Switzerland to seize it.
But shall we kick this up one more level?
Over at The Daily Paul, a libertarian discussion board dedicated to the ideas of Ron Paul, someone posted the von Däniken skeleton and claimed it as proof of the historicity of Genesis. Another asked where the “skeleton” came from and received this response yesterday:
Just watch “America Unearthed.” The scientific community has been burrying odd and not so odd archeological finds (like evidence that the Mayans migrated to Georgia) for a while now. I don't know what the purpose is behind burrying certain finds. It doesn't make much sense to me. Doesn't mean this skeleton is legit though. Hard to tell by just clicking on internet links. =)
What did I tell you about how audiences interpret insinuations of conspiracy on TV?
The common thread throughout the short, strange history of the von Däniken giant is anti-elite paranoia (often of the libertarian variety), with a good dose of religious fundamentalism. It is dumbfounding that the same “evidence”—nothing more than a few lumps of stone, or possibly Pleistocene mammal fossils—can be spun into an ancient astronaut genetic experiment, proof of Biblical creationism, and an anti-elite government conspiracy, all based on how the reader chooses to incorporate ambiguous ideas into a preexisting ideology.
I smell an Ancient Aliens, America Unearthed, and America’s Book of Secrets crossover event! Are you listening H2?
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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