Today I’d like to share some more treasures from Official UFO Special: Ancient Astronauts magazine from 1977 and 1978. In many ways, Ancient Astronauts magazine was the Ancient Aliens for an analog generation, to judge by the contents of the issues, which cover the familiar material we’re used to seeing on H2’s weekly excursion into the outré: time travel, parallel worlds, crystal skulls, ancient astronaut mind control panic, monsters as alien hybrids, pyramidiocy, and of course gold-mining aliens. And, just as Ancient Aliens tries to explain superheroes as aliens, Ancient Astronauts devoted an article to arguing that the Force from Star Wars was real—and under alien control!
Special thanks to Terry the Censor for sending copies of some of this material from his personal collection of this bizarre entry in the annals of ancient astronautics. I will thank Terry again for supplying the name of the author of the article I discussed on Friday about Jesus as American time traveler: Ronald A. Pokatiloff, who eventually published a freestanding work, Was God a Future American Spaceship (1977), on the subject. In a follow-up article to his time traveling American Jesus in November 1977’s edition of Ancient Astronauts, Pokatiloff expanded on his reasoning for why he concluded Jesus was an American. It beggars belief, quite frankly.
According to Pokatiloff, he arrived at this conclusion by process of elimination—always the best way to prove a theory. He argues that we know space travelers could not have come from this solar system because no other planet could support advanced life, and they could not have come from beyond our solar system for two reasons, one of which we must give him credit for recognizing. The first reason is distance (obviously), but the second is intriguing: He recognizes that ancient astronaut theorists like Erich von Däniken and Zecharia Sitchin were proposing a “low level of technology” for the spaceships: Apollo-style rockets. He rightly concludes that rockets and propellers would make for terrible interstellar vehicles. But rather than conclude that the ancient astronaut authors were projecting their own fantasies onto ancient texts, he decides that this must mean that the technology was actual American rocketry.
To wit, he argues that there is a second, parallel earth abutting our own, whose denizens are in a timeline about 4,000 years in advance of ours and which must be nearly identical to our own or else the aliens could not have interbred and interacted with us. Since this world must be virtually identical, he leaps to the conclusion—unwarranted—that this world has a United States of America, that this America is, like here, the richest and most powerful country, and is identical to our own future. Consequently, the fact that Josef Blumrich wrote The Spaceships of Ezekiel (1974) identifying the vision of God’s chariot-throne in the Book of Ezekiel as a spaceship is pregnant with meaning because Blumrich was an NASA engineer: “it took a NASA engineer to properly interpret” the text. Therefore, the design must be one of NASA’s future plans!
Pokatiloff does not explain the impact on his theory of the fact that Blumrich only developed his bizarre interpretation of Ezekiel because the convicted Swiss embezzler Erich von Däniken suggested it in Chariots of the Gods, as Blumrich himself admitted.
Another article, from the Spring 1978 edition of Ancient Astronauts—by which time the ten month a year magazine had become a quarterly—features an interview between space journalist James Oberg and von Däniken. In the interview, von Däniken claimed that he was about to undertake a $100,000 expedition complete with camera crews and helicopters into the Amazon to find lighted caves which the chief of a tribe of unnamed Amazon natives promised were filled with ancient “machines which they do not understand, but which the priests use in rituals.” Von Däniken said that he was footing $20,000 of the bill and promised to bring back proof of these prehistoric machines. He was unconcerned that the story might be a hoax—“why should the chief lie to us?” Yet von Däniken admitted that the story came not directly from the natives but through the good offices of a local bishop “who had already read my books, and suggested that the chief contact me.”
The most interesting detail is that the “Amazon Indians”—whoever they were—supposedly asked von Däniken to intercede with the Brazilian (I assume) government to protect them in exchange for revealing the machines! He agreed to do so. As with his earlier effort to convince Gerald Ford to use UFOs to combat communism, von Däniken seemed to think quite highly of his ability to influence governments in the 1970s.
So far as I can tell, nothing came of this expedition, and the cave appears to have never been mentioned again, unlike its Ecuadorian counterpart, which von Däniken also lied about several years earlier in The Gold of the Gods, but which he continues to push on Ancient Aliens and in books down to the present. It’s almost as if, after admitting in Playboy in 1974 that the Ecuadorian cave was a lie (“It is what I call theatrical effect… the main point is not if I have seen these things or not. I just don’t care.”), he was dressing it up in new clothes… In fact, Oberg catches von Däniken on this very point and asks him why he doesn’t follow up on his earlier cave rather than hunting for a new one, to which von Däniken repudiates the 1974 admission and declares everything from The Gold of the Gods “is definitely true”—no longer “theatrical effect.” (He had already made this revised claim the previous year, in his 1977 book According to the Evidence.) Oberg presses him on the point, and von Däniken says he simply can’t prove the Ecuadorian cave is real because Juan Moritz (who accused von Däniken of lying about the cave) owns the land and won’t let him back for less than $200,000!
When asked about other criticisms of his work, von Däniken repudiates his earlier admissions of lying and fraud. He now says (in a position he maintains to this day) that everything in Chariots of the Gods is true, despite his 1974 admission of being wrong about the Iron Pillar of Delhi. He dismisses his critics as writing “anti-ancient astronaut propaganda” and “garbage.” He felt particularly betrayed by Carl Sagan, who once speculated on ancient astronauts but turned against the idea after evaluating the evidence—“rubbish and garbage,” he said of Sagan’s work.
Most interesting of all is that when pressed to provide “proof” of the ancient astronaut theory, he does not refer to his own work at all but to Robert Temple’s Sirius Mystery (1976), which he does not give here by name but whose argument he appropriated wholesale for his then-current book, According to the Evidence. It is rather astonishing, really.
He concludes by saying he believes the aliens last visited earth in the time of Ezekiel (contradicted by his own books, which repeatedly reference medieval material) and rhapsodizes that the aliens invented mythology to drive us into outer space, where we might find a “time capsule” of “vital information” that will “save our civilization.” Oberg points out that this is remarkably similar to the then decade-old 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and von Däniken bristles as the comparison.
But to save the best for last: Longtime MUFON UFO Journal contributor Lucius Farish (1937-2012) wrote an article for Ancient Astronauts in May 1977 on the “Old Ones” of Mt. Shasta, the California mountain associated with an advanced and ancient civilization from Atlantis in Frederick S. Oliver’s A Dweller on Two Planets (1905) and in the prophecies of Edgar Cayce based on them. Farish describes what he claims to be a secondhand relation from a science fiction writer (!) of an old man named Harmonious’s experiences with the Old Ones. Farish likens this to the Ascended Masters of Theosophy (just as Dweller references Theosophy, a key influence), but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t sound like regurgitated Lovecraft in parts.
These Old Ones dated back several hundred million years. And yet, taking planet Earth as criterion, there’s been more than enough time for fifty such races to have risen, achieve god-like eminence, decay, and fall into silence. […] All the Old Ones are of one race, both here and on other planets. They carry on intercourse with one another here on earth, the planets and various natural satellites (all of which are inhabited underground).
Further, other entrances to the Old Ones’ underground realm could be found in Antarctica, the Andes, and the Pacific Ocean.
While this passage is strikingly similar to “The Call of Cthulhu,” these beings are not Lovecraft’s monstrous Old Ones. They are human-like, for one, and wear loincloths. The specific details of the Harmonious account parallel very closely those made for the Atlanteans in Dweller on Two Planets, including their hovercraft, their image projection technology, their base beneath Mt. Shasta, their spectral intercourse with Venus and hidden planets, etc. Even Farish, who was apparently unfamiliar with Dweller on Two Planets, noticed that the story also closely recalled the Shaver Mystery dressed up in Theosophical clothes—remarkably close to the truth that Oliver’s Dweller was a Theosophical mélange.
According to Farish, the unnamed science fiction writer provided this evidence after Farish noticed references to Charles Fort in the writer’s work, thought that the writer might have been an acquaintance of Fort, and contacted him about Fortean topics. He wasn’t a friend of Fort, only a reader of him, and I can’t help but think he pawned off on Farish a pastiche of Lovecraft, Dweller, Shaver, The Coming Race, and similarly-themed science fiction.
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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