Last night the National Archives sent me the material they had on file about Erich von Däniken, all documents that had been declassified in the 1990s but had languished on microfilm since then and have never before been published. It’s a bit strange that they delivered the document late on a Friday evening, the traditional time government dumps documents to bury them from the news cycle, but the important thing is that I have them now.
I’ve transcribed the documents and have posted the transcripts here along with scans of the original documents, appearing on my website for the first time anywhere.
This is a fascinating historical artifact that I encourage you to read.
In sum, in 1976 Erich von Däniken (EVD) sent an autographed copy of his 1974 book In Search of Ancient Gods to then-president Gerald Ford. In the accompanying letter, EVD devotes enormous space to puffing himself up by relaying his sales figures. When he finally gets to the point, EVD discusses his disgust with left-wing politics, tells Ford to pander to UFO believers to secure votes for the 1976 election, and urges the president to unilaterally abrogate the UN conventions demilitarizing space before the Soviets do so.
To my mind, the most interesting thing is that EVD never mentions his own theories and supposedly convincing proof of ancient astronauts when discussing the need to explore space to seek out intelligent life. If we read EVD’s words literally, when he says that he hopes space travel will find “traces” of intelligent extraterrestrial life, it would seem to imply that he was unconvinced by his own theories and never really believed in the “traces” of extraterrestrial life he wrote about, including, say, that fake cave full of alien records written on gold tablets from a few years earlier.
President Ford never read EVD’s letter. It was diverted to an obscure unit of the State Department that monitored issues affecting space security, and a noncommittal letter from an assistant secretary of state was the sole response. The secretary didn’t even deign to sign the letter. Had there been any further interest in EVD, the letter’s archival cover sheet would have indicated that copies had been sent to, say, the CIA or the NSA. They were not.
This, therefore, was almost certainly the entirety of the US government’s interest in EVD and his theories.
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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