As Ancient Aliens grows older, it is noticeably struggling to find new ways to present the same claims. The topics for the show have grown more diverse and less focused on aliens. The topic for S06E09 “Aliens and Forbidden Islands” is islands—simply an entire category of landmasses. We can look forward next season, I suppose, to “Aliens and Mountains,” “Aliens and Really Tall Trees,” or “Aliens and Pleasant Lakes.” At least this time the show tries to connect the subject to aliens, positing that islands worldwide are ancient alien bases.
Note, though, that the “forbidden” islands are so “forbidden” that not only did Ancient Aliens get to them but they are also mostly open for tourism.
We open in March 1963 near Puerto Rico, where Richard Dolan tells us about a sonar artifact the U.S. Navy tracked under water for four days. Mike Bara chimes in, too, but this is not ancient so I’m not sure what its relevance is. From this, Nick Redfern explains that Puerto Ricans believe that a UFO base is located near the island, but since that claim is rather easy to test it is surprising that they don’t bother to conduct even a cursory dive to go looking for one.
Tim Swartz of The Conspiracy Journal seems to be a new face on the show, and he explains why underwater UFO bases are such a great choice for aliens. Where do they get their air from, presuming they breathe air? Where do their waste products go? Surely we should be able to test for this sort of thing and find these bases. Somehow alien technology manages to account for every such possibility.
We next look at the Aleutian Islands in 1945 and yet another UFO sighting. Interestingly, the various talking heads tell us now that the “sighting” was of a disk-shaped flying craft, but Richard Dolan—one of those talking heads—wrote in his 2002 book UFOs and the National Security State that it was a “dark sphere” rather than a disk. Sadly, this story is not precisely as described; the “sighting” wasn’t reported until 1959, long after the UFO craze began and far too long after the fact to be taken as unambiguous evidence.
Giorgio Tsoukalos tells us that this is relevant because the islands’ native people, the Aleuts, in their origin story tell us that they originated from a dog who fell from heaven, which he interprets as genetic seeding from aliens. However, this is only one of many variants of the Aleut creation myth, which anthropologists also found in many versions that do not have any heavenly dog. One version uses only a pair of earthly dogs, and another a female dog and an old man who walked to the islands from the farthest north.
We move on to the Isle of Man and, of course, the Tuatha De Danann—which this week the show asserts arrived in “cloud of mist,” while last time (as in the previous episode) that very same cloud of mist was a UFO that blacked out the sun! They can’t even get their story straight in successive episodes. The show discusses fairy abductions and, instead of doing like most scholars (such as Thomas E. Bullard) and seeing this evidence that UFO abduction myths are modern folklore, they instead claim that fairies and little people are alien children.
The show attempts to describe the three-legged “fiery wheel” of Isle of Man lore, and asserts that it is a spaceship. This is a rather convoluted story, but the ancient astronaut theorists fail to note the origin of the story: The early legends of St. Patrick say that he found the island inhabited by three-legged men who walked in circles, revolving like wheels. From this early story came the modern myth, which was recorded by Joseph Train in the Historical and Statistical Account of the Isle of Man (volume 2) in 1845. It is therefore a very late derivative:
The natives say that many centuries before the Christian era the Island was inhabited by Fairies, and that all business was carried on in a supernatural manner. They affirm that a blue mist continually hung over the land, and prevented mariners, who passed in ships that way, from even suspecting that there was an Island so near at hand, till a few fishermen, by stress of weather, were stranded on the shore. As they were preparing to kindle a fire on the beach, they were astounded by a fearful noise issuing from the dark cloud which concealed the Island from their view. When the first spark of fire fell into their tinder box, the fog began to move up the side of the mountain, closely followed by a revolving object, closely resembling three legs of men joined together at the upper part of the thighs, and spread out so as to resemble the spokes of a wheel. Hence the Arms of the Island. (p. 144)
This is only one variant of the story. Another variant dispenses with the sky wheel and makes the fisherman find only a fairy fire on the beach. These stories, as Train observed, reflect the well-documented Druid practice of lighting a wheel aflame at the solstices as a symbol of the sun. The stories are also rationalizations of the arms of the Isle of Man, which show three legs in a pinwheel shape and derive from pagan solar symbols, in turn coming from the ancient Indo-European description of the sun as a wheel, something found in all Indo-European cultures.
Instead, Ancient Aliens simply asserts that the “revolving object” is a wheel and therefore the wheels of Ezekiel and a UFO.
After the commercial, we go to Guadalcanal to listen to myths about giants that are supposedly still living in tunnels beneath the island. Again, the show chooses not to go find them, or their bones, or the remains of their food, or any other trace of them. Instead, the show tells us that these giants are Sasquatch-like creatures and they are related to UFOs—just like the “Aliens and Bigfoot” episode of Ancient Aliens! We hear more claims about alien abductions and UFO sightings in the Solomon Islands, but not a shred of proof is offered that such stories are true.
[Note: This passage has been edited to remove incorrect information. I originally thought they had digitally altered Jacob Zahn's 1696 image of a mermaid to make it look fishier, when in fact they used Guillaume Rondelet's 1554 engraving of the same, which is apparently Zahn's source. I had no idea Zahn stole his mermaid from an earlier work. I apologize for the error.]
After the commercial, the second half of the show opens with Nan Madol and its massive basalt ruins constructed atop 92 manmade islands off Pohnpei. The show argues that the people of the city, being primitive brown people, simply could not have built them on their own because the blocks are too heavy for ancient people to lift and transport using muscle, ropes, levers, and boats. That’s just silly! Instead, sorcerers used “auditive levitation” to fly the stone using magic sound waves. Remains of this sound wave technology, of course, conveniently disappeared without a trace. The show asserts that the city is cursed and that the German governor died in 1907 the day after visiting the site as a result of the curse. Dr. Viktor Berg, the German colonial deputy governor of Pohnpei at the time, in fact died of sunstroke and exhaustion, according to the official records, shortly after excavating the tomb of Isokelekel. Later excavators of the tomb suffered no ill effects. The show fails to note that the “curse” was invoked at the time because Berg had been hated by the natives for his imposition of harsh German colonial policies, including disarmament and restrictions on cultural expression. It was part of native efforts to resist colonial rule, a constant source of tension during the German administration of the island.
The “second,” sunken city off Nan Madol offered up by David Childress does not exist. Repeated dives have found only natural rock formations.
After this we hear about Sandy Island, a cartographic mistake. Captain Cook recorded the existence of an island at one spot, which was never confirmed, but after 1876, a whaling ship asserted, through an apparent mistake of measurement, that it was located at a different spot four degrees of longitude away. Because Australian navigational policy at the time required all potential hazards to be marked, it entered Australian maps and thus continued its half-formed existence until 2013, since no one bothered to check if the 1876 report was correct. Map makers did, however, note it as “ED” (“Existence Doubtful”) from 1879 to 2013. The 1876 report likely inaccurately reported the location of the Chesterfield Islands, 100 km away. Ancient Aliens instead tells us that the aliens are cloaking the island with secret technology that bends light.
If Ancient Aliens were a drinking game, and one had to drink each time Childress says “you have to wonder,” we would all be dead by now. Also: Did you notice that Jason Martell is now wearing the same “Columbian flyer” lapel pin as Tsoukalos, and that they both have the same jacket and open shirt combination? Coincidence or alien sartorial plot?
Tsoukalos describes the Greek mythological falling star islands, which I covered the first time he discussed them.
We finish with Hy-Brasil, a mythic island in the Atlantic. Early navigators tried to find it, but the show is wrong to say John Cabot landed there. Instead, Pedro de Ayala identified the new lands Cabot found in America with Hy-Brasil. John Nisbet claimed that large black rabbits lived on the island—and the show uses its graphics to imply without words that these were aliens with large, floppy antennae. As with so many other legends, the story is nothing more than a combination of wishful thinking, distorted mythology, mirages, and mistakes—and more than a little hoaxing.
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.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.