The History Channel has canceled the semi-annual Alien Con after nearly a decade. A representative told New York Post journalist Steven Greenstreet that the company would instead focus on its Ancient Aliens and Secret of Skinwalker Ranch touring live shows because they make more money. “We make money on the tours,” a spokesperson for History’s parent company, A+E Networks, said. And of course they do. The traveling shows feature a few guys sitting in chairs, and even orthopedic chairs cost less than all the overhead that goes into putting on a full convention with all the trimmings, especially as the shows’ ratings decline and the incentive to travel a thousand miles to a convention declines. It’s much easier to get casually interested audiences to go to a local show.
Perhaps that’s also the reason that former Pentagon UFO hunter James Lacatski self-published his new book about hunting UFOs for the Pentagon with Colm Kelleher and George Knapp and is promoting it on Knapp’s and Jermey Corbell’s Weaponized podcast rather than in the New York Times. Indeed, the authors of the new book—which is partially a copy-paste of sections of the team’s previous book, Skinwalkers at the Pentagon—have appeared on Knapp’s and Corbell’s podcast and NewsNation, the pro-UFO cable channel owned by Knapp’s employers, but not in major mainstream media. In other words, they are selling an inferior product to a niche audience, much like latter-day Ancient Aliens and its declining audience of 600,000 or so Americans.
In the book and on Corbell’s podcast, Lacatski asserted that the U.S. possesses an alien spacecraft of remarkable construction:
He stated that the United States was in possession of a craft of unknown origin and had successfully gained access to its interior. This craft had a streamlined configuration suitable for aerodynamic flight but no intakes, exhaust, wings, or control surfaces. In fact, it appeared not to have an engine, fuel tanks, or fuel.
If the claim seems familiar, it’s because it’s an old one. Silas Newtown came up with the same claim in creating a hoax about a crashed saucer in late 1949, which Variety reporter Frank Scully included in his book on UFOs, Behind the Flying Saucers, a few months later:
Apparently there was no door to what unquestionably was the cabin. The outside surface showed no marking of any sort, except for a broken porthole, which appeared on first examination to be of glass. On closer examination we found it was a good deal different from any glass in this country. […] With this ship on the ground we could not help but be aware of the fact that it looked like a huge saucer, and you might almost say that there was a cup in it, because the cabin set in an insert in the bottom of the saucer. The over-all dimensions of the ship were found to be a fraction short of 100 feet in diameter. To be exact it measured 99 99/100 feet wide. From the outer tip of the wing, which was entirely circular, to the bottom of the saucer, measuring in an imaginary line vertically, was 27 inches. The cabin which was entirely round, was 18 feet across, and 72 inches in height. Exactly 45 inches of the cabin was exposed above the outer rim of the saucer. […] On getting into the ship, the doctor said, their first objective was to decide, if they could, how the ship was propelled. He was the first to suggest that it probably flew on magnetic lines of force.
And, of course, Newton claimed that government officials gained entry to the craft despite there being no obvious door—just as Lacatski also alleges.
The similarities are rather striking, particularly because Newton’s hoax, exposed by the FBI and True magazine back in the 1950s, continues to circulate as a “true” account in UFO circles. It would not be the first time a ufologist mistook an old hoax for a government report, particularly since there are actual government documents referencing Newton’s claims as various agencies investigated the allegations.
The allure of UFOs and space aliens, particularly now that Congress is still pursuing UFO disclosure amidst all the chaos in Washington—House Republicans scheduled a classified meeting with various inspectors general to discuss David Grusch’s claims of secret spacecraft—and the spillover seems to be impacting the broader community of purveyors of fake facts. Sam Osmanagich, the promoter of some natural hills in Bosnia as ancient pyramids and formerly a regular on Ancient Aliens, has long been a believer in virtually every New Age claim, but after lying fallow for several years, he has reemerged by foregrounding his ancient astronaut ideas. He told Michael Salla this week that ancient pyramids are communication devices used by space aliens.
Osmanagich had previously favored advanced lost civilization claims, in the manner of Graham Hancock. But like Scott Wolter, he has apparently read the writing on the wall and decided that space aliens are en vogue, so Atlantis got thrown overboard in favor of aliens.
This speaks to the broader collapse of the “alternative archaeology” field overall. The stalwarts of the genre have largely removed themselves from the playing field. Several retired, officially or unofficially, and even the dedicated publishers of occult books moved toward consciousness, ETs, and magic over Atlantis and pyramids. As of this writing, neither Inner Traditions nor Red Wheel, the two largest publishers in the genre, have a single alternative archaeology title on their new release lists—a radical change from a few years ago when they published a new one seemingly monthly. Even Andrew Collins made a bid for respectability by publishing a book about the female pharaoh Sobekneferu that barely touched on Collins’s fringe ideas. Many big names went full ancient astronaut theorist and tried to hitch their stars to the UFO movement. The biggest name who hasn’t gone ancient alien (though he flirts with it), Graham Hancock, is more about spirituality and consciousness than Atlantis nowadays, doing little to capitalize on last year’s surprise success of his more traditional “alternative archaeology” program Ancient Apocalypse. He hasn’t even posted a blog in ten months.
And despite Ancient Apocalypse being a massive global hit, no major cable channel or streaming service tried to imitate it. Instead, chasing the fantasy of governmental power, all of the energy in TV production went to UFO documentaries, few of which were ratings successes or made much of an impact on mainstream media. Despite the clear evidence that there is a low ceiling on the number of people demanding more UFO content, the media keep serving up what they think government interest will promote, not what ratings say viewers want.
Where have all the lost civilization claimants gone?
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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