Once a claim enters the ancient alien ecosystem it just won’t die, no matter how fake it is. Remember how Erich von Däniken admitted back in 1974 that there was no proof of the alien gold library of Ecuador he claimed to have visited, yet this claim continues on to the present day? Well, Donald Patterson informs me of another silly claim that is apparently still active despite the fact that it was exposed as a hoax years ago. I am at a loss for why this is the case.
A few months ago Donald Pennington of Bubble News wrote a piece about the claim that French scientists discovered a microchip embedded in the exhumed skull of French emperor Napoleon I, leading to speculation that Napoleon had been abducted by extraterrestrial beings. “Of course, millions of us the world over would be thrilled if this claim turned out to be true. But sadly, I'm actually expecting it to turn out to be a hoax or some other publicity stunt.”
Pennington’s piece came three years after the first wave of claims about Napoleon’s microchip.
In February 2010, Gregory Brewer of Examiner.com wrote a piece about the microchip, speculating that other world leaders are similarly implanted and asking whether the chip was extraterrestrial in origin or whether it came from future via time travelers. Brewer quoted the entire “original” news report and attributed it to the Disclose.tv discussion forums.
The claim was similarly repeated across the internet, both in English and French, despite the fact that the body of Napoleon was not exhumed and no examination conducted.
The source should have been fairly easy to find. It’s the Weekly World News, which ran the story on its website sometime after the tabloid ceased print publication in 2007 and went to an exclusively online format. Recently, however, there has been some confusion over the order of events because the Weekly World News removed the original article and reposted it on May 1, 2012 with a new publication date. As a result, it now appears as though the WWN version was published after the internet discussion, even though links to the WWN article dating back to at least February of 2010 can still be seen online.
The WWN article was published under the byline of “Erick Van Datiken,” the longtime WWN parody of Erich von Däniken who wrote articles about UFOs from the 1980s down to 2012. The real von Däniken rose to prominence in the United States when his Chariots of the Gods was serialized in WWN’s sister publication, the National Enquirer. The parody version has been fooling von Däniken’s believers for decades.
When I was in college, I knew the son of a high ranking official at Weekly World News parent company American Media, Inc. This was the time right after 9/11 when the anthrax attacks were occurring, and one such attack happened at the company’s then-headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida. I met him while doing a college journalism class report on the anthrax attacks. In those days, Weekly World News still pretended that its stories were true. It printed its first disclaimer only in 2004. Therefore, when I asked (not as part of the story) about whether WWN faked its stories, he swore me to secrecy and revealed some of the tricks the paper used to come up with its “news.” Officially, of course, he repeated the company line that they believed everything they reported was true.
He also showed me several “photographs” of “news” events from the paper that, beneath wigs and fake mustaches, were photographs of him! He also told me that he had written several WWN articles himself under various fake names. Of course I did not speak a word of this until WWN itself began admitting its stories were only for entertainment in 2004.
Sadly, though, for many people on the internet the Weekly World News is closer akin to the short-lived 2001-2002 Sci Fi Channel TV series The Chronicle, in which a WWN-style tabloid’s stories turn out to all be true, though no one believes it.
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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