There seems to be a bit of confusion over exactly what this episode of Ancient Aliens was supposed to be. According to my cable company’s on-screen guide, this was the first episode of season seven, but History’s website says that this is another episode from season six. I’m labeling this Ancient Aliens S06E12 “Aliens and Stargates” for now, but if I find something official about its designation, I’ll come back and change the episode number.
What is much less ambiguous is the show’s desire to recycle and reuse ideas from past episodes. We’ve certainly heard about alleged star gates (I’m not spelling it as one made-up word) before; I remember joking about telling David Childress to run head-first into an Inca false door if he was so certain that it would transport him to the Orion nebula. Well, the Inca door is not on the agenda but other doors and windows in Peru are featured in the weird funhouse-mirror world of Ancient Aliens. There is a great scene in Gaston Leroux’s novel The Phantom of the Opera where the Vicomte de Chagny is trapped in a hexagonal room whose walls are mirrors.
I have said that the room in which M. le Vicomte de Chagny and I were imprisoned was a regular hexagon, lined entirely with mirrors. Plenty of these rooms have been seen since, mainly at exhibitions: they are called "palaces of illusion," or some such name. But the invention belongs entirely to Erik, who built the first room of this kind under my eyes, at the time of the rosy hours of Mazenderan. A decorative object, such as a column, for instance, was placed in one of the corners and immediately produced a hall of a thousand columns; for, thanks to the mirrors, the real room was multiplied by six hexagonal rooms, each of which, in its turn, was multiplied indefinitely.
The competing reflections create the illusion of endless halls filled with whatever is placed in one of the corners. That’s Ancient Aliens in a nutshell: endless reflections of the same couple of ideas, repeating infinitely to give the illusion of depth and grandeur.
Our episode suggests that wormholes can be found here on earth and that they connect us to other planets. This seems to be a reaction to the realization that modern physics has fairly good arguments for why conventional 1950s-style flying saucers could not physically make the journey across the vast gulfs of space. So now we have wormholes and star gates to explain away the inconvenient physics. The show admits this, in time.
We open in Pamukkale, Turkey where recently (last March) archaeologists uncovered a so-called “Gateway to Hell,” a Plutonium, one of many imaginary entrances to the underworld scattered across the Greco-Roman world. They were everywhere in the ancient world and were, of course, symbolic. This particular gateway to the underworld was part of the cult of Cybele, and Ancient Aliens wants us to think that Philip Coppens’s widow, Kathleen McGowan Coppens, is qualified to discuss the mysteries of Cybele despite the fact that she believes herself to be the semi-divine descendant of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene and has no formal education in ancient history, archaeology, or mythology. She is very obviously reciting from a prepared text.
The narrator informs us that everywhere around the world there were symbolic gateways to the realm of the gods. William Henry, whose stock and trade is spirituality and star gates rather than aliens, tells us that myths associated with these gates relate them to “advanced beings who came from the stars, Star Beings.” This just isn’t true. Try naming some. You will find them very rarely since most ancient peoples (e.g. the Babylonians, the Hebrews, the Greeks, and the Egyptians) thought that the sky was a large, solid dome and the stars either pinholes in the dome or small lamps hung from it. There was no room for the gods there.
Since Henry makes his money from selling material about alleged star gates (he also thinks telephone booths are symbolic portals to other dimensions), this episode is really an hour-long infomercial for Henry. His website logo features the Y in his name turning into a star gate in the form of a wormhole.
I love the way Henry tells us that “the terms we use today” for doors to other dimensions is “Star Gate,” as though that usage doesn’t derive from the 1994 movie of the same name. The term “Star Gate” was used occasionally before 1994, sometimes to describe scenes from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Back further, Andre Norton’s 1958 novel Star Gate includes a similar portal, which transports users to alternate worlds, a concept revisited in Pauline Gedge’s 1982 novel Stargate, which was the very loose inspiration for—yes—the 1994 movie. Are you seeing a pattern yet? It’s sci-fi, not science, that uses the Star Gate moniker. Ancient astronaut theorists adopted it from sci-fi and either pretend they did not or are not aware of the borrowing.
The Star Gate concept per se doesn’t really exist before Andre Norton, at least not by name, though it clearly has sci-fi antecedents in Golden Age science fiction, as well as H. P. Lovecraft’s idea that high-end mathematics and non-Euclidean angles could give access to hyperspace in “The Dreams in the Witch House,” as well as the Gate through which Randolph Carter can access all of the many planets and realms of creation in “Through the Gates of the Silver Key.” Heck, it probably bears more than a passing resemblance to old Looney Tunes where Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny opens a door and sees something incongruous on the other side—another land, outer space, whatever. The deep origins probably come from legends of teleporting wizards or gods.
The show, however, takes all this science-fiction very literally and suggests that the Turkish Plutonium was in fact a passage to another planet and that the goddess Cybele was an “otherworldly” (note: no longer alien) being. Now, this is where I’m confused. McGowan-Coppens tells us that “the ancients were doing something really important with this idea of time travel, of portals…” and then drops time travel, but the ancients said that these holes in the ground went underground. Not to space. Not to another planet. Underground. Why am I supposed to take parts of the ancient stories literally but not the rest of the stories? The rules of ancient astronautics baffle me.
David Wilcock suggests that the priests who entered the cave went through a “portal,” and David Childress calls it an “inter-dimensional star gate technology.” They suggest that because the cave contained toxic carbon dioxide fumes which were used to kill sacrificial bulls, the priests must have teleported out of the cave to avoid the fumes. It doesn’t occur to them that the priests simply waited inside the cave entrance, where the fumes were more diffuse, while the tethered bull slowly suffocated down below. Nope. Has to be an inter-dimensional portal. Strabo (13.4.14) informs us that the priests only went a little way into the cave, and that they held their breath while inside, and that he could see them start to suffocate before they came back out.
Next we travel to Machu Picchu, a site from the 1400s CE, not a terribly old site by any estimate. This leads to a discussion of the Inca creation myth, where the children of Viracocha entered the world through three windows in a mountain. You can take that for what it’s worth since there are many variants of Inca creation legends. A more common version has the children rise up through the cave of Puma Orco at Pacaritambo, which avoids the need for star gates. The pundits all neglect to note the existence of variant myths and instead declare star gates the source of Inca civilization.
After the break, Albert Einstein is invoked to justify the physics of wormholes, whose existence has yet to be scientifically demonstrated. Michael Dennin, the physicist, is back to lend his fragile credibility to another episode of Ancient Aliens. Nick Redfern concedes that flying saucers can’t likely fly regularly to earth because of the distances involved, and the show explains the difficulties of producing wormholes with conventional means. Dennin suggests that exotic matter (with negative mass) could be used to power up a wormhole, though he concedes it would take enormous amounts of energy (equivalent to more than the entire mass of Jupiter) to create one wormhole, let alone the thousands that Ancient Aliens thinks are on earth. To justify this, the show suggests that space-time is naturally riven with small wormholes the size of atoms that the aliens could stretch into something big enough to walk through with relative ease.
Jason Martell tells us that wormholes “may” explain how humans interacted with “ancient gods,” which I guess reflects the assumption that the gods are real. I’m still waiting to hear back from Zeus for comment, but so far he hasn’t returned my calls.
We look at a pre-Conquest northern Mexican city called Casas Grandes (Paquimé) in Chihuahua (not to be confused with Casa Grande on the Gila River in Arizona) that combines Mesoamerican and Pueblo cultural traits. It is classified archaeologically as a Puebloan site, though many archaeologists suspect it was instrumental in transmitting central Mexican ideas to the American southwest. This is interesting, but the show doesn’t care about this and instead focuses on what ancient astronaut theorist Logan Hawkes calls “tall, blond Star People,” according to legends recorded in modern times and therefore of relatively little value in determining prehistoric beliefs. Archaeology tells us that Paquimé’s people worshipped Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc, neither of whom are Nordic aliens. I do not know where this story of Caucasian aliens at Casas Grandes came from, but Andrew Collins starts to tell us that Caucasian aliens come out of the star gates to civilize the earth’s brown people. It’s a bit disturbing, especially since it is well known that European accounts of “Caucasian” Native gods, particularly Quetzalcoatl, are a combination of propaganda and misunderstanding.
After the break, we change course entirely and ask whether the Sargasso Sea is a star gate that sucks ships into another dimension. What’s to say about that? Giorgio Tsoukalos claims, falsely, that ships were found “perfectly intact there, but the crew will have disappeared without a trace.” He is probably paraphrasing the “mystery” of the Mary Celeste, which was not found in that condition except in a fictional account written by Arthur Conan Doyle and mistaken for true by generations of mystery-mongers. The real story was much more pedestrian; the crew was indeed missing, but the ship was not intact; it was a “thoroughly wet mess” according to one of the sailors who found her adrift. The show, though, skips the Mary Celeste, found near Portugal rather than the Sargasso Sea (so much for a wormhole), for an equally fictional mystery.
Ancient Aliens quotes a London Times article of August 27, 1840 (published November 6) claiming that a French ship called the Rosalie had been discovered adrift in the Sargasso Sea with all crew vanished but the ship intact, its sails still set. The article, however, is fiction. It conflates two events: The first was the abandonment of the Rossini in the Old Bahama Canal when it ran aground. The crew abandoned ship, but the ship broke free and drifted on its own until two British ships captured it. The other event was a real ship called the Rosalie, but which British Maritime Museum records show vanished in 1840 and was never recovered. There’s a lengthy discussion of the case here.
We are treated to more such stories, all equally legendary, and David Wilcock then tells us that the Sargasso Sea overlaps the Bermuda Triangle and is therefore a star gate. This gets back to the “Underwater Aliens” episode—and I just don’t care. The show doesn’t either since it teleports us to Michigan for more “mysteries” involving locked rooms, missing people, and vanishing airplanes. I was under the impression that one had to actually enter a star gate (wormhole) to go from one place to another (wasn’t that the point of the cave segment?) but now the star gate is some kind of Star Trek transporter beam. Is it too much to ask for a little consistency? How exactly does a crew get sucked out of a ship but the ship left behind, especially if the beam comes from below?
Following this, we get UFO reports, which Wilcock informs us are “spherical formations of plasma,” because that is the shape of gateways “through space and time.” This completely contradicts earlier episodes that attributed mysterious lights to UFOs, and apparently Giorgio Tsoukalos must recognize this. His godly chariots depend on nuts-and-bolts UFOs, so he is almost nowhere to be seen in this episode as the cockamamie spirituality of David Wilcock and William Henry dominates the hour.
Frankly, I’m bored with 24 minutes still to go. I’ll summarize the rest more quickly because the amount of information declines with the minutes left in the hour.
After the break we get a science segment on space travel and propulsion in terms of quantum entanglement. This is more science-adjacent material designed not to really explore space travel but to provide a veneer of physics to justify belief that aliens came to earth. If you are interested in theoretical space travel, you might enjoy this segment. I’m not, and I’m not interested in the physics of wormholes.
After the break we travel to Abydos in Egypt to view a wall painting. Some largely irrelevant time filler on the myth of Osiris wastes a few minutes. The painting in question depicts a small vessel on a pillar, apparently covered in a cloth, within which the severed head of Osiris was supposedly kept after his dismemberment. William Henry says that the crown atop it looks like an “antenna” so therefore the relic is “mechanical,” but neither he nor the show explains that the “Osiris device” is not unique to this wall but is in fact a standard topping for the djed pillar, or world tree. Even Henry himself points this out on his own website, so here the show is simply being deceptive.
“Remember,” Giorgio Tsoukalos says in a piece of tape cut from what seems to be a discussion of a completely different subject, “the universe is infinite, which means that there are infinite possibilities.” So why am I stuck in the one where this show is still on?
William Henry finishes the hour by telling us that the gods intend for us to join them in the stars by reactivating wormholes around the world, so that we might join them in rapture forever and ever, for theirs is the power and the glory… blah, blah, blah… aliens are our gods. Worship and be saved!
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.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, 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.