There was a death in my family this week, so you will forgive me if I am less than enthusiastic about putting up with Ancient Aliens’ bullshit today, including the use of at least two known hoaxes as “evidence.” Last night’s episode, “Aliens and the Founding Fathers,” spent an hour suggesting that America’s founders were the recipients of extraterrestrial wisdom. But it was telling that most of the talking heads were not ancient astronaut theorists (AATs), and it was mostly left to the voiceover narration to launch into speculation about George Washington et al.’s alien encounters.
The majority of the episode featured warmed-over conspiracy theories about the Freemasons, long debunked, and occult theorizing about the Masonic symbolism of Washington, D.C.’s architecture leftover from other, sturdier History Channel programs. As the “experts” interviewed on Ancient Aliens strained to force E.T. into their prefabricated conspiracies—one talking head actually said that one could call a “heavenly being” seen by George Washington an extraterrestrial but it was a “heavenly being”—it was quite obvious that the program existed primarily as thematic lead-in and cross-promotional opportunity for Brad Meltzer’s Decoded, which does cryptographic fantasies much better. As with Ancient Aliens’ earlier episode devoted to promoting the movie Cowboys & Aliens, an alleged “truth” came a distant second to the commercial necessities of corporate synergy.
The main lines of “evidence” were laughably bad—not to mention fraudulent. One piece of evidence was an alleged vision George Washington had of a “heavenly being” that showed him “the birth, progress, and destiny of the Republic of the United States” while at Valley Forge. AAT Giorgio Tsoukalos and Ancient Aliens took this as a genuine vision (albeit of an "alien" and not an angel) reported by the 99-year-old Anthony Sherman, a (non-existent) former aid to Washington, in 1859, as told to Wesley Bradshaw. In fact, this is a well-known hoax concocted by Charles W. Alexander, the actual author of the piece, in 1861, at the start of the Civil War. It was intended as fiction, hence the anachronistic references to the “Union” projected back to 1777-1778.
Another claim made by Ancient Aliens, that Washington was visited by “Greenskins,” or alien beings, derives entirely from hoax diaries allegedly found in a Scottish castle in the 1990s and later reported on by a British tabloid reporter in the Sun. As far as I can tell, such diaries have never been published and in all likelihood do not exist.
After seeing credence given to a hoax exposed at least as early as 1917 and another with no supporting evidence whatsoever, what purpose is there in bothering to examine the AATs' other “evidence”?
Whopper of the week: The dumbest claim has to be that the streets of Washington, D.C. were laid out in the shape of a five-pointed star to communicate to the aliens that we “respect” them. Do I even have to mention that real stars do not have points, and the convention of five points on a star would have no relevance whatsoever to beings unfamiliar with the convention? Heck, even in Western civilization we don’t always use five points on a star. Sometimes we have four (like many depictions of the star of Bethlehem), six (the asterisk—literally, star), or seven (a sheriff’s badge).
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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