According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, there is a new museum in Anaheim exhibit devoted to teaching parents and children about UFOs and the ancient astronaut hypothesis from a credulous perspective. “This is a 101 on UFOs,” curator Brian Bouquet said in describing the purpose of “Encounters: U.F.O. Experience,” which is on exhibit in Anaheim until May 31 following successful runs in Arizona last year and South Carolina in 2013. According to organizers, about 13,000 people per week visited at the Arizona State Fair, and in Anaheim more than 1,000 have already paid the $12 admission fee ($8 for children 8 years or older; free under 8) since the exhibit opened in early January. The exhibit is located just around the corner from Disneyland.
The exhibit was first conceived in 2008 and took five years to bring to life, according to the Huffington Post.
“There are displays of original and replica artifacts, conceptual models, and documented film clips and recordings that support claims of ancient encounters through modern day sightings,” the exhibit’s website said. “Replicas and models include the famous Easter Island statues and Egyptian Hieroglyphic tablets reporting extraterrestrial sightings.”
None of the published accounts explain what hieroglyphs allegedly contain extraterrestrials.
The exhibit tells the “alien” history of earth in roughly chronological order, opening with a room dedicate to the ancient astronaut hypothesis. The exhibition informs visitors that aliens may have had a hand in constructing the moai of Easter Island, the Nazca lines, and the temples and monuments of Puma Punku in Bolivia. “We don’t have even modern cranes that can lift the heavy rocks into those positions,” Bouquet told the Times in explaining why he believes aliens are behind ancient monuments.
The remaining rooms cover twentieth century UFO crazes, recent sightings, and alien abductions. Bouquet explained that the exhibit is geared toward getting kids excited about aliens and the ancient astronaut theory. It features a simulated alien “autopsy” in which kids can play with the creature’s “guts” as well as a simulated alien abduction experience, complete with white light. A final room, simulating an “escape” from hostile aliens, is set to open later this spring.
“It’s a good waste of time if you are into aliens, and definitely kid-friendly,” one Yelp reviewer wrote of the Myrtle Beach version of the attraction in 2013. Another offered that “Our tween kids had fun watching the videos and looking at all of the artifacts. More fun than a normal museum. It makes you think about how much of the ufo reports have been covered up by the government.”
With the move to a location opposite Disneyland, it seems that the “Encounters” exhibit is aiming squarely for the family tourism crowd, and it’s disturbing to think that a tourist attraction that bills itself as at least mainly nonfiction would purposely target children with ancient astronaut fantasies and conspiracy theories. If there is any saving grace it is that most visitors have complained that the exhibit is cheaply produced and unconvincing.
If only the History Channel, the Ancient Aliens broadcaster co-owned by Disney, had thought of the idea first.
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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