I just received my copy of Jacques Bergier’s Extraterrestrial Visitations from Prehistoric Times to the Present (1970; trans. 1973). I ordered the book because it contains some of Bergier’s plainest admissions that his work in developing the ancient astronaut theory was inspired by H. P. Lovecraft. Indeed, the book is positively saturated with Lovecraft, both explicitly and implicitly.
In an earlier article, I discussed how Lovecraft governed Bergier’s investigations into the ancient astronaut theory for Morning of the Magicians (1960), the most influential ancient astronaut text ever written (Erich von Daniken, Robert Charroux, and David Childress cribbed shamelessly from it). Here, I thought I’d present a bit more of Bergier on Lovecraft from Extraterrestrial Visitations, a deeply weird book, perhaps the strangest ancient astronaut book I’ve ever read.
The unnamed translator of the book, whoever he or she was, clearly had no real understanding of the material being translated, making an already obscure text that much more bizarre. Thus, in the following passages, the names of Lovecraft’s Old Ones are a bit butchered.
Throughout, Bergier makes plain his debt to science fiction in general and H. P. Lovecraft in particular for inspiring his investigations into prehistory; even where unnecessary, Bergier emphasizes parallels between Lovecraft and the ancient mysteries he relates.
Extraterrestrial Visitations is a deeply European book, beginning with the author’s insistence that he held an “exclusively rationalist position” even as he then proceeds to pile speculation upon speculation, often without any factual support, in the name of inductive reasoning. He assumes the reader is already familiar with the mysteries he discusses, leaving out conventional references, background information, and anything more than allusions to Victorian newspaper clippings and Fortean speculation. As a result, the text is frequently obscure, understandable only with a deep familiarity with the ancient mystery genre—and with Lovecraft.
Bergier devotes a chapter to the infamous case of Dr. Gurlt’s cube, which he describes as being a 60 million year old perfect cube made of iron, with two opposite faces slightly curved. It had been found in a mine in Austria in 1885, and Bergier made three false claims about it: first, that it is perfect in form; second, it is an extraterrestrial recording device meant to transmit information about earth to outer space; and third, that a conspiracy is responsible for having made the object “disappear” from the Salzburg Museum so scholars like Bergier could never confirm its extraterrestrial origins.
Weirdly for someone writing in 1970, Bergier was completely unaware the object was analyzed in Vienna in 1967 when he wrote of how badly he wanted modern science to examine it. It is in all probability, as Dr. Gurlt suggested in 1886, a lump of meteoric iron. As the image below shows, it is not a cube in any recognizable sense, much less a device of perfect machine manufacture, what he called “data collectors of the same type as magnetic bands, but much more highly perfected.”
Furthermore, Peter Kolosimo argued that it could not have disappeared from the Salzburg Museum in Austria because it’s actually in the Salisbury Museum, in Britain. (After consulting his original Italian text, I’m not so sure this isn’t Kolosimo’s translation error for Salzburg—not least because the name of the British museum is the “Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum,” though it does have a fine collection of geological specimens. I also don’t see how the cube would have traveled from Britain to Vienna and back in 1967 without any record.)
Anyway, I don’t want to waste too much time on the facts, since they speak for themselves. What interests me is the way Bergier’s discussion of Dr. Gurlt's cube echoes Lovecraft. The “cube” Bergier persists—against evidence—as viewing as an extraterrestrial device of perfect geometry, which he claims must have been a recording device meant to take note of “everything that has taken place on our planet in the past ten million years.”
This weird theory—unique to Bergier, so far as I know—is, to me, quite closely modeled on Lovecraft’s Shining Trapezohedron from “The Haunter of the Dark” (1935). The Trapezohedron is, like Bergier’s imaginary version of Gurlt’s cube, a “crazily angled stone” of extraterrestrial manufacture that sends and receives signals to other intelligences across the cosmos, “a window on all time and space.” It is also a relic of prehuman times (Triassic, though, rather than Paleogene). Interestingly, in the story the Trapezohedron is also lost to science by the efforts of one who knows too much in order to protect the public from knowledge of the aliens.
Based on these close similarities, I would suggest that Bergier’s alternative explanation for Gurlt’s cube is dependent upon Lovecraft’s Trapezohedron. The most telling point is the last sentence of Bergier’s that I quoted above. Despite spending his chapter discussing objects shaped like cubes, spheres, and cylinders, he refers to them collectively as “angled object[s].” This tells me that he had as his model the “crazily angled” Trapezohedron, and not the regular geometric forms of the “real” alien communication devices he purports to discuss.
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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