To follow up briefly on yesterday’s post about Bigfoot and UFOs, I neglected to mention a few pertinent facts that probably should be on the record. First, the idea that there were giant apes hiding in the woods did not begin in 1958, although the Bigfoot myth does. In 1929, for example, Dr. François de Loys claimed to have photographed a five-foot tall ape in South America, though it is almost certainly a hoax created from a spider monkey; and in 1924 some miners claimed to have met a group of ape men in Ape Canyon, at Mount St. Helens, though skeptics believe they actually mistook some campers for monkey-people. (Later, in the 1960s, one of the men, Fred Beck, would claim the creatures were “not entirely of the world” and that he had Theosophical-style psychic communication with Native American spirit guides.)
The other important thing I omitted, as Jeb J. Card reminds me, is the theme of the evil ape in fiction before the pulp era, an image tied closely to racist ideas. This theme goes back at least as far as Hanno the Carthaginian, who encountered chimpanzees in the sixth century BCE and mistook them for violent, crazed women who had to be killed and skinned. Medieval bestiaries called apes “the devil in disguise.” Edgar Allan Poe wrote of an orangutan and implied sexual violence against two women whom he killed in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841). The ape has long been seen as the demonic other. The British caricatured the Irish as violent apes, and white Americans routinely depicted African-Americans in the same light. I won’t belabor the point except to point to this helpful index of apes in fiction, which more than makes the point about our evolving views of apes. Of special note are the Bigfoot-like super-strong Sagoths of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s subterranean Pellucidar, who play into the underground world theme that became a standard part of conspiracy culture.
The proverbial elephant in the room is of course King Kong (1933), which is not only about a giant ape but also carefully layers the ape into a Gothic-inspired supernatural realm in which the natives of Skull Island worship him as a god behind cyclopean walls. Robert M. Price noted three decades ago that this film, if not actually inspired by “The Call of Cthulhu” (1926), bears an uncanny similarity to it in terms of structure and motifs—all, to be sure, also found in Theosophy, fringe history, and pulp fiction. The ape, as uncanny mirror, has always been tinged with a whiff of the supernatural.
OK, so much for the supernatural ape motif for today. Now on to space aliens.
Did you see the follow-up article Buzzfeed ran last week about the New Jersey UFO conferences that spawned their article on the conference’s 57 most bizarre conspiracy theories, of which the majority were Bible-based? This piece has a little more detail about specific presentations at the conference, and while it was the same old material all over again, I was struck with some of the more unusual presentations and what they say about the forces behind conspiracy culture.
Robert Schoch continued to push the same line he’s been offering for the last few years, that the Ice Age ended due to a coronal mass ejection from the sun around 9700 BCE and that the resulting plasma clouds inspired Paleolithic artists to create petroglyphs of humanlike stick figures because that’s what the plasma clouds looked like. Obviously, human beings wouldn’t possibly be interested in drawing images of, say, human beings. Schoch seeks a physical origin in the stars for other shapes that David Lewis-Williams has demonstrated can more readily be observed within the human mind during altered states of consciousness, attempting like so many before him to somehow make the supernatural “real.”
And of course Robert Skiba presented his Bible-based speculation that angels and demons are really extraterrestrials, that some of them were giants called the Nephilim, and that their secret base was located on Mt. Hermon (1 Enoch 6:6). But as he went on, his Biblical concerns about the decline of traditional culture became increasingly evident. Jesus, he said, can protect us from aliens, but occult ritual somehow “attract” the aliens, who are drawn to invocations of Satan. Aleister Crowley and L. Ron Hubbard—those enemies of traditional Christian piety—somehow opened the inter-dimensional portals that let the UFOs into Area 51. (That’s literally, not figuratively, that they opened this gate.) Worse, CERN, the organization that runs the Large Hadron Collider, is Satanic and attempting to destroy the world in keeping with Revelation. He is concerned about occult Nazi technology (but of course) and that the UN has a secret station atop Mt. Hermon to communicate with the Watchers.
It’s not really a secret, but there is a small base—nicknamed the Hermon Hotel—atop Mt. Hermon (which, let’s note, also houses a ski resort!) as part of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force Zone designed to monitor the buffer zone between Syria and Israel established at the end of the Yom Kippur War. The location of this site at 33 degrees N and 33 degrees E (of the Paris meridian) has, of course, led conspiracy theorists to connect it to Satan’s emissaries, the Freemasons, who of course were also leading the French Revolution for Satan.
That’s a new one on me, but apparently it’s an established part of the “Nephilim Research Community” and an article of faith that the one world government of UN, in anticipation of the rise of the Antichrist, has established this based on Mt. Hermon to research the Nephilim and/or communicate with the Watchers and open the gates of hell.
Perhaps most enlightening was Richard Dolan’s accidental admission of the real concerns that have driven him into the arms of conspiracy culture. “Forget upward mobility. The free market is gone. There is zero difference between the Democrats and the Republicans,” he said. Dolan’s concerns about growing income inequality would fall squarely within the left wing mainstream if it weren’t for the fact that he cannot imagine that income inequality is the result of a combination of economic changes, workforce changes, technological changes, and government policies over the past half century. Instead, he sees at work a UFO conspiracy whereby elite families, in league with the aliens, have created “a breakaway civilization” of the superrich.
I was immediately struck by the similarity to the story of climate change skeptic Christopher Monckton reported in today’s eSkeptic, whose denial of climate change seems closely tied to his nostalgia for the British Empire—for, like Dolan, he also sees an unpatriotic elite (this time in Britain) trying to destroy the good people of the middle and working classes by wrecking the economy while they party in a separate and unequal world of privilege. The only difference is that Monckton assumes that the false flag used to destroy regular people’s worlds is a fabricated global warming crisis, while Dolan prefers to the think that the government is using or hiding UFO secrets to the same ends. It’s all sort of an inverse of the classic Outer Limits episode “The Architects of Fear,” where instead of using an outside threat to bring civilization together the nefarious conspirators are using it to drive us apart.
Then, just to tie it all together, Nick Redfern gave a presentation in which he explained that the evil Men in Black, who may be aliens themselves or their cloned agents, are also investigating Bigfoot sightings and harassing witnesses. Fortunately for all of us, Bigfoot witnesses won’t be intimidated by aliens and heroic “researchers” like Nick Redfern are here to take on the national security state by exposing the government’s ongoing curtailment of civil liberties by—oh, wait, he’s actually reacting in a completely off the wall way by expressing anxiety over the modern surveillance state in terms of the supernatural, which is apparently more comforting than the idea that government officials, elected by and supposedly responsible to the public, nevertheless exercise more surveillance, monitoring, and policing power over the average person than did the absolute monarchs of old like Louis XIV. At least with aliens or angels you can assuage your anxiety with the notion that a greater intelligence is doing this as part of a plan that will ultimately end in the Second Coming, the Millennium, the Singularity, or Galactic Brotherhood rather than the uncertainty and chaos of realpolitik.
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.
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