Philip Coppens, the shaggy-haired speculator whose European accent and irrepressible enthusiasm for all things ancient and mystical made him a mainstay of the Ancient Aliens cable television series, died yesterday in Los Angeles following a brief battle with a rare form of cancer. Coppens had only recently finished filming interviews for the fifth season of Ancient Aliens when he sought treatment for an illness that was eventually diagnosed as angiosarcoma, a cancer of the blood or lymphatic vessel walls.
Coppens, 41, is survived by his wife Kathleen McGowan as well as a body of work that spans multiple nonfiction books, documentaries, and (as coauthor) one novel.
Coppens’ close friend and fellow Ancient Aliens regular Giorgio A. Tsoukalos reported his death on Twitter yesterday afternoon, and Coppens' Twitter feed later confirmed the news. In previous days, Tsoukalos had asked Coppens’ fans to use mental telepathy to cure Coppens’ cancer.
In a blog post published December 16, Coppens expressed his hope that he would be well enough to visit the Egyptian pyramids in preparation for a planned book on their construction. Coppens wrote that in the days leading up to the Maya calendar entering the thirteenth baktun he expected ancient knowledge to provide “insights into life, its value and especially its magical qualities, in the hope that with only a few days before December 21, people, through choice, will embrace a positive change in their life and travel onwards to the next level of their mission, which is the only reason why we have chosen to incarnate here on this lovely, blue water planet.”
Coppens was born Filip Coppens in Belgium on January 25, 1971. He became an investigative journalist and later moved to Scotland, where he lived many years. At the age of 23, he served as the editor of a manuscript on European megaliths by the Belgian historian Marcel Mestdagh, who had died in 1990. Coppens gained from the experience an appreciation of alternative interpretations of history. For a time he endorsed Mestdagh’s eccentric view that Atlantis was headquartered at the site of the French city of Sens, along the English Channel.
In 1995, Coppens became one of the first English-language journalists to report on the existence of pyramids in China, in an article in Australia’s Nexus magazine, which he claimed as his first major alternative history scoop. Coppens’ article closely followed a 1994 book on the pyramids by fellow ancient astronaut writer Hartwig Hausdorf, later translated as The Chinese Roswell in 1998. The Chinese pyramids, under their former identification as burial mounds, were known to scholars since at least 1914 but were not widely discussed outside scholarly circles.
Also in 1995, Coppens founded Frontier 2000, a European magazine devoted to alternative history and esoteric mysteries. The magazine was distributed in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Coppens’ big break came in 1998 when he served as the principle researcher for The Stargate Conspiracy (1999), one of the most influential alternative history books of the 1990s. Written by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, the book argued that Western intelligence agencies and power brokers were involved in a fifty-year conspiracy to direct Western belief systems on behalf of what these powerful individuals believed to be space aliens posing as the gods of ancient Egypt, who in turn were in communication with psychics and cult leaders.
For the next ten years, Coppens wrote articles about ancient astronauts and alternative history, many posted online, as well as a series of books on subjects ranging from ancient astronauts to alternative archaeology to alternative views of Western religions. Most of these books were published by small presses in the United States and England. Nearly all of his books discussed Coppens’ pervasive belief in wide-ranging conspiracies designed to suppress knowledge and keep the public at large ignorant of what he viewed as the true nature of history. One of his most recent works, the 2012 ebook Killing Kennedy, titled to tie in with the 2012 Bill O'Reilly book of the same name, alleged a massive conspiracy and cover-up surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Throughout his early work, Coppens portrayed himself as an honest broker who sought the truth wherever he found it. In many of his early articles published online, he criticized the more extreme aspects of the ancient astronaut theory, the belief that space aliens influenced early human civilization. In his 2000 article “Dogon Shame,” published in the Fortean Times, Coppens claimed that “new evidence” demonstrated that Robert Temple’s 1976 claim that the Dogon tribe of Africa received special knowledge of astronomy from space aliens was wrong. Coppens’ “new evidence” was anthropologist Walter van Beek’s investigation of the Dogon’s star lore—from 1991. The article fully endorsed the claims of the Stargate Conspiracy that Temple was under the influence of the conspiracy representing the alien gods. In the article, Coppens did not reveal his connection to the book, a breach of traditional journalism ethics.
Coppens’ reputation as an honest broker had the ironic effect of limiting his appeal through the mid-2000s, a fallow period for alternative history and ancient astronaut speculation. He was too skeptical for most believers and too credulous for most skeptics. In these lean years after the collapse of the alternative history wave of the 1990s, only the most extreme believers maintained a significant following, and Coppens changed with the times. It was in these years that he anglicized his professional moniker from Filip to Philip. He tried his hand at writing guides to Dan Brown’s popular 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code and tie-in nonfiction titles exploring Code mysteries related to the Templars and the Holy Grail.
Everything changed for him in 2009 when the History Channel commissioned a two-hour documentary entitled Ancient Aliens. This special proved so popular that it spawned a companion series, now in its fifth season. As one of the featured talking heads on the documentary series, Coppens used his television platform to transform himself from an obscure writer to one of the top tier “ancient astronaut theorists,” as the program described him. On Ancient Aliens, Coppens discussed topics ranging from pyramid secrets to time travel to the extraterrestrial origins of religion, often abandoning the carefully qualified language of his books for outright endorsements of alien contact.
In his final years, Coppens used his television celebrity to promote a series of books designed to tie in to Ancient Aliens, including The Ancient Alien Question (2011), as well as tie-in DVDs keyed to his books and television appearances. To the very end, Coppens’ English-language written work never lost the unusual grammar and European sentence structure attributable to his Belgian upbringing—a somewhat anomalous situation for someone with so many English language publications to his credit.
Coppens portrayed himself as a deep thinker and a tireless investigator of world mysteries. His written work, however, tended to avoid original analysis in favor of journalistic reportage of other alternative writers’ various hypotheses and extensive summaries of their evidence. His articles, too, tended toward reporting what others had investigated. In some cases, this resulted in preventable errors; in other cases, Coppens’ reliance on secondhand sources led to serious misinterpretations of evidence that undermined his more expansive claims about ancient history.
In the last few years Coppens came to the conclusion that ancient aliens were actually spiritual visitors from another dimension, essentially gods. He also concluded that multiple lost civilizations had high technology ten or twenty thousand years ago. Coppens could point to no physical evidence to support either proposition, instead relying on secondhand interpretations of ancient texts and myths, some of which he manifestly misunderstood.
(Readers of this blog will remember that Coppens severely criticized me for pointing out his misunderstanding of ancient Egyptian texts.)
Coppens also frequently accused academics, scholars, and skeptics of participating in a conspiracy to suppress historical truth. “It is far more effective,” he wrote, “to introduce lies into the historical records – lies which will forever be quoted as proof, for they are, after all, part of the historical records, not? (sic)” This was, he said, “a methodology that continues to be practiced to this very day” as part of a “vociferous and vile campaign” by scholars and skeptics.
In the end, Philip Coppens was a minor light in the alternative history firmament, a status reflected in his choice of book topics, which frequently tried to tie-in to other, more popular books. Robert Temple took the night’s brightest star, Sirius, for his masterwork, The Sirius Mystery, and Coppens settled for Canopus, the second brightest star, as the subject of his Canopus Revelation. Although his work will not long outlive him because it lacked the combination of arrogance and audacity that defines the most memorable ancient astronaut books, Coppens was the rare alternative author who seemed to genuinely have a real interest in the mysteries he wrote about and a desire to tie them to actual texts and artifacts, no matter how badly he misunderstood them or how far short of solid proof his investigations fell. For that he will be missed.
1/1/2013 03:26:45 pm
That's rather sad. Because my own interest in alternative thought includes political conspiracy theorists--Holocaust deniers, New World Order paranoids, Birthers, Truthers, and David Icke--I have always found catastrophists (excluding creationists) and ancient astronaut aficionados to be the least harmful end of the spectrum. Even though I'm an historian by training, I have always had a bit of an affection for these people or, at least, no real animosity.
1/2/2013 04:49:10 pm
John J. McKay,you probably missed a good opportunity to conceal your ignorance. "I have always found catastrophists (excluding creationists) and ancient astronaut aficionados to be the least harmful end of the spectrum...".
1/4/2013 02:47:59 pm
Tara, you probably missed a good opportunity to have a civil conversation by starting with an insult, but I'll ignore that and try to have that conversation anyway.
1/4/2013 05:08:14 pm
I`ll respond on your blog,it wouldn't be appropriate to hijack Jason`s thread. Regarding my comment on Coppens, I stand by my words, especially when we know that "NY Times bestselling author" Kathleen McGowan (wife of Philip Coppens author,international lecturer,investigative journalist & star of the ancient aliens series) had to rely on "fan`s donations" to pay for her husband funerals. When greed overshadows grief....
1/11/2013 07:09:13 am
1/18/2013 06:52:34 am
Probably not very sentimental indeed, but blame it on my education.I was raised by a couple of ultra individualistic ambitious monsters,but I am certainly not an "angry person".As I already stated before,Coppens death is a tragedy (like any other) but you cannot expect me to share tears for someone I never met.
5/21/2013 11:04:18 am
Tara Jordan, who the hell asked you?
1/6/2013 03:57:49 am
Tara, I'm not sure I understand what the problem is with relying on "fan donations" for funeral expenses. Robert Anton Wilson wrote nearly 30 books that were very popular and his family still had to ask for donations from his fans who had read and loved his books and work in order to keep him comfortable in his last days. I can't see any problem with a fan-base, even a fan-base of someone's work that you don't like, helping out a public figure whose work they admire in a time of need. A "NY Times bestselling author" doesn't necessarily mean someone who is crazy rich at any specific moment. It seems to me that you have an axe to grind here more than you are interested in reflecting on the mixed-bag that was the life and influence of Philip Coppens.
1/6/2013 04:49:28 am
Kevin, you are right ,why should I care about frauds,charlatans,crooks & liars who take advantage of new age intellectual midgets, who get sucked into this Ancient Aliens garbage. Falsehood flies,and the truth comes limping after.My sarcasm is vindicated .....
11/8/2013 04:43:13 pm
Tara, U are a diabolical blob of trash! U are heartless and without a care for Mr. Coppens or his wife. See a Psychiatrist!
8/31/2015 06:44:43 pm
Tara seems to be a little full of herself. Mental midgets? Tell us exactly what do you rate your own intellectual stature? You sound like your a wanna be intellectual to me. An awful lot of smoke.and a chance to bash someone who may have accomplished a bit more than you have, Get a life and maybe take a few classes, you seem to have neglected the philosophical aspects of a well rounded education, just a tiny bit. Sucks to be you, sums it all up I think, Huh? Good luck changing that though.
1/6/2013 10:34:37 am
I knew he was ill, but nonetheless, I was shocked to learn of Filip's death, so I wrote and published a very brief tribute of my own as soon as I learned the sad news. Perhaps understandably, I've been looking for other notices of his passing, so I found my way here a day or so ago. As someone who regarded Filip as a friend, I would like to commend you, Jason, for your generosity of spirit and for taking the time and the trouble to mark this man's passing.
1/6/2013 03:15:16 pm
Of course his death is a tragedy,like any other death,but what an an orgy of mawkishness,sloppiness,and false sentiment for someone who make a career out of deceiving people intellectually.About 29,000 children under the age of five (21 each minute) die every day, mainly from preventable causes.I expect all of you to express the same intensity in lachrymose
1/6/2013 03:18:16 pm
Typo : " for someone who made a career out of...
2/26/2015 10:01:27 am
Tara, you go girl! I'm with you! This irrational unsupported crap presented as fact annoys the hell out of me! Phillips Coppens was a quack and a charlatan parading as a respectable intellect!
2/25/2013 07:45:18 am
Tara the internet Troll. She is a well known blog nuisance!! Keep ignoring her.
9/20/2014 10:23:07 am
It's September 20, 2014 and I just read this "memoriam" to Coppens. I ask this in retrospect: what would have been wrong with the following statement?
1/26/2018 10:31:17 pm
Tara must had a bad day...or life to respond in this way. Phillip is a very interesting man. I enjoy his enthusiasm about the subject matter that he is so passionate about.
12/5/2013 09:00:11 am
....and you said you were 'educated'? I find that very difficult to believe after reading your last few comments (I would suggest you check for errors in spelling and grammar as well as proper punctuation and use of such tools, especially when referencing your 'education' so profoundly as to have us not dare question or misunderstand how well-read you are). And btw, I don't make a 'career of' pointing-out writing fumbles [I have plenty of my own] but I do take note when that person is trying to convince others of their educational superiority.
1/16/2013 03:52:50 pm
It is sad that someone like Jodi Arias is alive and well and spinning her web of lies at her murder trial, and this brilliant man (P. Coppens), whom I always would see on ANCIENT ALIENS, is gone! This is very sad to me. He was only about a year younger than my step-son. He died too soon and as for his wife asking for funeral donations, that is her business. I would assume she needs the money and if people donate, then this is what his followers / fans want to do. Times are tough, and perhaps, he and his wife, fell on hard times financially. Who knows, but all I know is I will miss seeing him on the show which I thoroughly enjoyed every Friday night. He seemed like a very smart guy and my condolences go out to his family and the staff of ANCIENT ALIENS. He will be truly missed by many, many people!
12/4/2021 12:58:58 am
It’s such a shame that the majority of commenters here are so insensitive & rude. I guess they must all think they’re perfect. I was a fan of Mr. Coppens as well & what a sad passing. The most shameful of all is the man that wrote this article…I don’t know exactly what his point was, but actually he made his own point by showing everyone who read this article that he was a complete piece of shit person. It’s one thing to be a reviewer of an author’s books, but it seems to me like this guy, in hearing about Mr. Coppens’ death, couldn’t wait to write a nasty article. This was the most worthless trash of writing I have read in a long time. Just wait when u die. If another jerk were to write something like this, imagine how your family would feel. You’re a pathetic imbecile. REAP WHAT YOU SOW.
2/2/2013 10:42:06 am
I didn't know Mr. Coppens, but he seemed like a very likeable, knowledgeable person. I admire his work and commentary on "Ancient Aliens", and Amazon.com reviews indicate that his book, "The Ancient Alien Question" is a very good read. He was a nice guy, I think; one of the good guys.
James Henry Lister Junior
2/10/2013 08:14:01 am
I agree with Jay Calloway's assessment of Philip Coppens. Philip's astute statements on the "Ancient Aliens" program have been thought-provoking. I enjoyed his European accent. Philip will be highly missed. His family has posted a beautiful wedding tribute to him on the youtube.com website.
7/5/2013 06:10:06 am
The subject matters on AA most of the time to me are interesting until they bring in the "Ancient Aliens" but I always felt comfortable with Philip Coppens . But not enough to buy his books.
7/14/2013 03:58:29 am
We suffer from that newly-felt alienation since when we're taught we were created by Ancient Aliens instead of a conventional Almighty God.
11/8/2013 04:24:09 pm
I have watched Mr. Coppers on Ancient Aliens every week, and read his books. I learned so much from him. He was a brilliant genius. My heart goes out to his wife and family. I will miss him greatly. Judy
1/5/2014 09:02:59 am
Oglądnałem całą serię "Starożytnych Kosmitów" którą współtworzył Pan Philip Coppens i mogę napisać tylko jedno:Robota na medal!!! Naprawdę wielka to strata dla wszystkich ludzi o otwartych umusłach z powodu śmierci Pana Coppensa. Mi pensas ke Li ie dauxre vivas. Kore salutas Vin cxiuj!
2/14/2014 01:34:32 pm
Rest in peace my friend,you are greatly missed by many.god bless your family.Derek fearon.uk
James Lister, Jr.
2/20/2014 03:13:44 pm
4/4/2014 02:32:26 pm
I was saddened to hear of Philip Coppens passing. I have watched Ancient Aliens since the beginning. Mr. Coppens was very interesting and was loyal to his beliefs. He will be missed.
4/18/2014 01:33:18 pm
As a fan of AA I alway liked something about Phillip Coppens. His goodnes showed through the camera. One time I saw a breif comment about his memory and said to myself "It can't be." I refused to believe he had passed, especially after I saw him all the time after that on the show. He appeared to be a man you would have liked to get to know. He will be missed by all of us.
7/21/2014 07:00:43 am
Philip Coppens was one of the people on Ancient Aliens that just seemed cool. He was a good speaker, invoking thoughts and questions. There is only one guy on the show that I find aesthetically annoying. Does anybody laugh like hell at the David Spade lookalike's bowl cut?
9/2/2014 04:53:35 am
Yeah when I found out and read about Philip Coppens death it saddened me. I really enjoyed his opinions and input on ancient aliens. He will be missed. Ancient aliens will never be the same without him there. I know it's late, but my condolences to his wife and family. RIP. Philip..
James Henry Lister Junior
9/2/2014 12:32:32 pm
1/14/2015 05:19:27 am
Mr Coppens RIP your search for the truth investigating facts or fiction clarification of artifacts taught us what a wonderful world the Ancient God creator left evidence so we can find it. Thank you.
3/21/2015 01:35:28 am
i just listened to a rerun of talk show and was blown away by the knowledge and wisdom of the speaker that i never heard of - phillip coppens. I googled to learned more about him and shook to my core that he died few months after the radio show.. we lost a truly honest broker of truth. there is nothing wrong in getting few facts wrong especially when the passion is to find and train light on the truth
King Uther Pendragon
11/2/2015 10:13:26 am
I would like to thank all of you who had something nice to say about Phil. I knew him years ago for a brief period and he was a very nice man. His bereaved wife is also a genuinely sweet soul. I helped Phil on a book and his lack of perfection speaking the English language disguised a high intellect. Most people don't know this, but he overcame a very debilitating speech impediment that caused him to endure a grievous childhood. In fact, Phil overcame many things in his life that would have destroyed some people and I was proud of him for that.
6/29/2018 05:47:55 pm
'seeing Philip's name and picture 'Today' on the History Channel...I remembered when I talked to him in Joshua Tree, Ca 92252...where I once lived...
4/20/2016 11:15:51 pm
He was more in tune than most even though Jason's epitaph is probably correct about him not having gone deep enough,
4/21/2016 09:00:37 am
I think it's interesting that a person can be well-read, well-educated, well-traveled and yet say things so confidently that are unlikely conjectures at best - and be so revered for it. Any explanation involving extraterrestrials, supernatural entities, or gods is an improbable claim and requires extraordinary evidence (Sagan's principle). This evidence has never been provided. Although Coppens may have been a kind, loving person he unknowingly contributed to pseudoscience and encouraged non-critical thinking by his espousal of unlikely hypotheses and for that he should not be praised. PS. Why has there been no laudatory blogs of Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, or Albert Einstein?
3/21/2017 08:35:04 am
5/11/2017 06:53:20 am
After reading these threads, and should have stopped after I read his biography, am personally appalled at most of you.
5/12/2017 07:23:49 pm
I watch AA every time it is on and I will continue to watch reruns for as long as they are aired. To Kathleen, I hope you are well and I love seeing you carry on in Philips absence. I didn't know you or him but still to this day I miss his opinion and him. To the hateful people who put your disgraceful words in writing at a time when people who loved him were grieving, shame on you. Whether you agree with the theories or don', it doesn't really matter. 4 billion anything is a lot or long time. We will never know what has brought us to where we are now or where it will take us in the future. Personally I believe creation/life will and has been and will continue to be eternally. My big question is where is this in the eternal infinity? RIP Philip Coppens I hope you are conquering the worlds.
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2/16/2018 10:12:04 pm
I enjoy watching the TV show Ancient Aliens and I especially enjoy watching Philip.
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11/13/2020 07:35:36 am
I have negative feelings after this read... not to Phillip but to you Jason.
7/18/2021 08:43:29 am
Filip and I worked together in the ´90 th in the Netherlands. I wrote for the magazine he created Frontier 2000 and I always admired his spirit. He had so much energy and believed in the things he dis and wrote. We didn´t always see eye to eye, but that is what live makes beautiful. After all this time I still miss him and I´m always pleasantly surprised to see him on AA like today. As if he is still around. Bless his soul and who knows we´ll meet again somewhere, someday.
I just came across these comments. I'm shocked at the callous attacks on Philip Coppens.
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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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