A while back I noted that Erich von Däniken was trying to revive his entertainment franchise in the wake of the success of Ancient Aliens. His first go-round, Mystery Park, ended in ignominy when it couldn’t turn a profit, leading to the park shutting down and reopening as a children’s party venue where von Däniken keeps and office and gives regular lectures. A few years ago, von Däniken launched a venture to open a series of scaled-down ancient mysteries attractions in malls, under the Chariots of the Gods brand name. Well, after a long hiatus, its seems that the Chariots brand is getting ready to launch in yet another form.
Let’s back up for a moment: After Mystery Park went under in 2006, and then reopened in 2009 as Jungfrau Park for children, von Däniken teamed up with Media Invest Entertainment, a European firm with offices in Monaco and Liechtenstein, to create multimedia spinoffs from his intellectual property, such as it is. It is unclear how what exactly the relationship is between the mountebank and the corporation, but Media Invest appears to exist solely to exploit von Däniken’s intellectual property, claiming ownership over all of his copyrights, as I reported in 2013.
The trouble with that is that von Däniken does not own the generic term “ancient astronauts,” nor the specific term Ancient Aliens, which belonged then to Prometheus Entertainment and now to A+E Networks, the owners of the History Channel. He also was not the originator of the ancient astronaut theory, nor did he invent its specific claims. All he had—and this is a dubious claim at best—is the globally recognized book title Chariots of the Gods. But even that wasn’t entirely true. The company explicitly notes that the book Chariots of the Gods remains the property of its German publisher. His book’s first title was Erinnerungen an die Zukunft (“Memories of the Future”) and only gained its current title from its English-language publishers. Since no one had yet trademarked the phrase—which appeared in Bulfinch’s Age of Fable a century and half ago, and Plato’s Phaedrus long before—Media Invest trademarked the title in 2009, less than a month after Ancient Aliens’ pilot movie delivered big ratings. At the time, they intended to produce audio recordings, video games, computer games, clothing, and other materials.
Nothing came of this for many years, but now Media Invest Entertainment is producing an event this October 15, the “Von Däniken Legacy Night,” billed as a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Chariots of the Gods (two years early) but also intended to announce the arrival of a “360-degree entertainment franchise” based on von Däniken’s speculations. “Prepare to be amazed at what is coming next when this highly anticipated development is revealed,” the company said through Zohar Entertainment Group, formerly Zeta Global Group Limited, yet another mysterious company. It was founded in 2015 and changed its name this year. It’s run by Vitaly Safarov, a Russian immigrant to the United Kingdom who has “recovered” childhood memories of humanity’s lost knowledge and has spoken to groups about the “language of the Light” and promoted “quantum” hypnosis.
Von Däniken will participate in a two-hour “live stream” to revisit his greatest hits.
According to Media Invest Entertainment CEO Norbert Reichart’s LinkedIn profile, the “360-degree entertainment franchise” will feature a “Hollywood feature film, TV series, video games, live spectaculars, theme parks & resorts, interactive books and music productions.” It is perhaps telling that the company’s vision for the future of von Däniken’s ancient astronaut theory is almost exclusively in fiction productions, and not scientific research, education, or even much by way of non-fiction.
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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