Project Serpo is an online hoax launched in the early 2000s that claimed to have secret materials from an exchange program between the U.S. government and space aliens from the planet Serpo in Zeta Reticuli, where aliens live in mud huts for some reason, that supposedly took place between 1965 and 1978. The details of the supposed transport of twelve astronauts to Serpo mirror those of the twelve who travel with the aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the rest of the story is a modern amplification of a bare-bones sci-fi conspiracy theory invented in the early 1980s and fed to Linda Moulton Howe: “I learned back in the 1983-1984 time period,” Howe said, “about an alleged exchange program of humans leaving Holloman AFB on April 25, 1964, for Zeta Reticuli with non-humans while I was working on a Home Box Office television special entitled, UFOs: The E. T. Factor. I was told three human men went: one died on the alien planet; one went insane (don't know fate); and one returned to Earth and was given a safe house in which to live the rest of his life on an island provided for by the U. S. government.” The Project Serpo hoax builds on a similar Twilight Zone/Outer Limits premise, but the details are all different.
In any case, details added to the Serpo hoax accrued after their pop culture equivalents. Zeta Reticuli, for example, became the default home world for aliens after Astronomy magazine ran a notorious feature called “The Zeta Reticuli Incident” in 1974 in which it credulously reported, based on teacher Marjorie Fish’s faulty interpretation of Betty Hill’s hand-drawn map to her alien abductors’ home planet, that UFOs came from Zeta Reticuli, otherwise a star system of no particular note with no known planets. Close Encounters laid the template for the transport of twelve people to another world, and then claims about magnesium-bismuth alloys entered the story after Howe’s investigation of Art’s Parts made them UFO-famous only a couple of years before Project Serpo hit the internet.
Now Prasad is spreading the idea that there is some sort of mystery behind the fact that both Project Serpo and TTSA are interested in magnesium-bismuth Art’s Parts and imagine that such parts will revolutionize physics through anti-gravity technology:
So to summarize, we have Project Serpo, riddled with fantasies about alien exchange programs but an insane amount of (surprisingly, mostly accurate physics) discussing multi layered bismuth magnesium metamaterial waveguides and how it functions as part of an engineered system as well as descriptions of Hal [Puthoff]'s research work as if it has already been implemented in an existing interstellar propulsion scheme.
Prasad then concludes that there are two primary possibilities to explain this similarity:
He’s wrong on both counts. The timeline makes clear that the real order of events places Hal Puthoff at the center, not Project Serpo. Puthoff has been working on the fake physics of his fantasy poltergeist-UFOs since the 1970s, as his longtime associate Jacques Vallée helpfully and proudly outlined in Forbidden History, and Puthoff’s views on the subject have never been much of a secret. As documented in Mirage Men, in the 1970s, Puthoff’s remote viewing team of psychics claimed to see adobe-style huts in which aliens lived on another planet. Project Serpo recycled exactly that claim for its incongruous alien home world—and no less than Richard Doty himself identified Puthoff’s material as a close parallel! Puthoff and Howe worked together to investigate Art’s Parts since they were first delivered to the late radio host Art Bell in the 1990s, and Puthoff has, again, not been shy about sharing his imagined ideas about the supposed power of such metals.
Project Serpo first incorporated material about magnesium-bismuth in 2007, nearly a decade after Howe had begun discussing it following her first efforts to have Art’s Parts analyzed. Project Serpo even refers to Art’s Parts as “Roswell (Number 1),” a clear reference to the unsubstantiated claim made by Howe that Art’s Parts were wreckage from the imagined 1947 Roswell UFO crash. As we can see from the evidence of a reference in Richard P. Crandall’s They All Told the Truth: The Antigravity Papers from 2003, magnesium and bismuth were already considered the “formula” for the metal of a “crashed UFO” within months of Howe discussing her first analysis of Art’s Parts. Interestingly, the journal Research & Development mentions similar chunks of metal in September 1993, suggesting that it had been part of a military rocket launch that went awry on the Atlantic coast. This article returned to two earlier claims that magnesium was a key UFO component, the first being the 1957 Ubatuba Bay, Brazil “wreckage” (later determined to be earthly) and the second a 1979 flap about the use of magnesium to propel UFOs. These claims may be the inspiration for passing off magnesium-bismuth chunks as UFO parts, and the 1979 claim from Fermi Labs that proton beams could be channeled through a crystal lattice, which sparked the 1979 UFO propulsion debate via hexagonal magnesium crystals, would seem like the direct predecessor of Puthoff’s and Serpo’s claim that the magnesium-bismuth material is a “waveguide” to channel energy through a UFO.
The Project Serpo hoax simply incorporated and amplified material that Howe and Puthoff had already been flogging from the 1980s to the early 2000s. Since everyone involved was working from the same baseline—Puthoff’s UFO claims, Art’s Parts, and Howe’s magnesium-bismuth claims—it’s no wonder that there is a similarity between them. No conspiracy is necessary, just gullibility and plagiarism. It doesn’t really help matters that the presumed hoaxer of Project Serpo, Richard Doty, who wrote a book about it, not only cites Puthoff by name in interviews but also appeared on TTSA’s History Channel show Unidentified, reinforcing the notion that this swirl of fantasy is interconnected in a closed loop of mutual masturbation.
Fortunately, on Twitter, Prasad seems to understand that there is a possibility that Project Serpo hoaxers are using Howe and Puthoff as source material, but he still seems convinced that Art’s Parts are real pieces of an alien spacecraft, and he seems convinced that Puthoff is borrowing from Serpo, even though the Serpo hoax follows Puthoff’s UFO studies.
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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