Daughter of Ancient Astronaut Believer Plans to Continue Father's Effort to Find Ecuadoran Cave of Alien Gold
Oh, joy… The Ecuadoran cave of gold is back again. More than 40 years ago astronaut Neil Armstrong joined an expedition to find and explore the supposed repository of extraterrestrial artifacts that had been brought to popular attention in ancient astronaut theorist Erich von Däniken’s 1972 book Gold of the Gods. In that volume, von Däniken claimed to have descended into a cave in Ecuador where he saw fabulous golden artifacts and books made of gold written in no earthly language. However, in an interview with Playboy magazine, he admitted that the story was false, that he had never gone down into the cave, and that the story of the golden library was “dramaturgisch Effekte” or “theatrical effect.” He then claimed that he lied because he feared that the Ecuadorian government would assassinate him should he actually do what he pretended to do.
As I wrote five years ago, Armstrong was part of an expedition to find the caves that appeared in that book, and it did not go well:
In 1976, Scottish explorer Stanley Hall, a deep believer in alternative science and ancient astronauts, asked Armstrong, then a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati, to join him on a British military scientific expedition to Ecuador to investigate the Tayos caves, which von Däniken had claimed were carved at perfect right angles by aliens with laser beams. Armstrong, as Honorary President of the expedition, flew to Quito in August on a British Royal Air Force cargo plane along with Hall and the Black Watch and the Royal Highland Fusiliers regiment to explore the caves, though he was unaware of von Däniken’s wild claims about them or Hall’s alternative theories. It took only a day’s exploration at Cueva de los Tayos to determine two essential facts. First, there was no metal library where von Däniken had claimed. Second, in Armstrong’s own words: “It was the conclusion of our expedition group that they [the caves] were natural formations.” No lasers. No gold library. No aliens.
The result was a wave of bad publicity for von Däniken, who was called a fraud and a charlatan in global newspaper headlines, and as a result interest in the author’s works plummeted, bringing to a close the first wave of ancient astronaut pop culture and shunting the small group of true believers into an underground minority.
Von Däniken would change his story many times over the years, and in 1977 he even attacked Neil Armstrong in print for his efforts to find the truth.
Now Stanley Hall’s daughter wants to undo all of this and try to prove that Hall and von Däniken were right all along. I’m sure regular readers will be unsurprised to learn that Eileen Hall is busy promoting a new documentary about the 1976 expedition, and she is looking at other ways to make money off of the von Däniken legacy, namely by launching a new expedition to the same caves in the hope of recovering the golden books. Fortunately, Eileen Hall, 31, has set herself a long timeline for the task, saying only that she will be stringing out the moneymaking opportunities—sorry, “get[ting] to the bottom” of the mystery—“in my lifetime.”
Ms. Hall spoke to The Scottish Mail on Sunday to describe her goals: “I think Neil Armstrong was as intrigued as my father that a lost civilisation placed this treasure in the cave. To access this mystical landscape was another frontier in scientific exploration.” Hall added that her major research goal is to uncover why Armstrong was there at all: “‘There are a lot of unanswered questions and I would love to make contact with the remaining Armstrong family to see if they can help with my understanding of what made Neil embark on the trip.”
I researched this back in 2012 when I wrote my own article on the topic. According First Man by James R. Hansen (2006), Armstrong was under the impression that this was a government-sponsored military expedition for scientific research. He had no idea that it was organized by a fan of Erich von Däniken to hunt for alien literature. Hansen had this information from no less a source than Armstrong himself, who spoke about the expedition for what appears to be the only time between 1976 and his death in 2012. Armstrong said he had never heard of Gold of the Gods and knew nothing of the alien claims until he got to the site. He concluded, nonetheless, there was no evidence of alien architecture at the site.
“I believe the treasure cave exists,” Eileen Hall told the Scottish Mail. “And I intend to do all I can to realise my father’s dream of finding it.”
It is indescribably sad that ancient astronaut beliefs pass from generation to generation, but sadder still that they persist in face of all evidence, testament to the power of belief.
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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