In reviewing Ancient Aliens there are many levels of consideration I have to weigh in putting together my take on an episode. One is the theoretical: Which claims are worth discussing, and how much detail do I provide in evaluating what they say? The other is quite practical: The show is an hour long, and if I am reviewing it in real time, there is only so much I research I can do during the commercial breaks. This episode, S07E02 “The Tesla Experiment,” falls into the category of practical problems. I don’t know much at all about Nikola Tesla, and it’s hard for me to have much to say about an episode that attempts to expand earlier episodes’ segments on Tesla into a full hour. I can say this: Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) certainly stretches the definition of “ancient” in the show’s title.
Before we begin, it’s worth noting that this episode is modeled closely on S05E05 “The Einstein Factor,” which also claimed that a modern figure had revelations from space beings—and which also featured a long segment on Tesla himself. Tesla has been a frequent subject of Ancient Aliens despite not being ancient.
The episode starts with claims that the FBI seized all of Tesla’s materials at his death (which is true), with the strong suggestion that they did so to suppress high technology and alien secrets (which is most likely not true). The FBI apparently worried that Tesla’s material might fall into communist hands because Tesla was Serbian by birth and therefore might have connections to the Communist or Nationalist movements in occupied Yugoslavia.
The show backtracks to suggest that there was a prophecy given at his birth that he would be a “Child of Light.” It then gives a potted history of Tesla’s work with alternating current (they attribute to him work first done by George Westinghouse) and his various scientific and technological interests. The show is clearly playing for time in an effort to generate a full hour of content out of what they previously treated as a 10-minute segment on past episodes. Ten minutes into the hour, aliens haven’t been mentioned. Instead, we hear about pollution, environmentalism, and futurism. One speaker even suggests that Tesla is a figure of Gothic horror by claiming (falsely) that he was born near Transylvania (Smiljan, Croatia is nowhere near Transylvania), while the ancient astronaut rabbi Ariel Bar Tzadok claims he fulfills a prophecy from the Zohar about opening the gates of wisdom.
David Childress suggests that Tesla received messages from ET through his subconscious. Childress once claimed to be Nikola Tesla’s posthumous coauthor in The Fantastic Inventions of Nikola Tesla (1993), in which Childress claimed that Tesla got ideas from Atlantis, but the show only acknowledges this in an onscreen identifier marking him as the author of The Tesla Papers, which appears to be a retitled version of the older book.
As we roll into the first commercial, the parallel to the “Einstein Factor” episode is clear: The show is going to claim that invisible aliens set up spiritual wi-fi in the genius’ brain and gave him all his ideas. It’s the idea that humans are too dim to come up with ideas on their own. I wonder if the aliens get a cut of the profits from Ancient Aliens since there’s no way any of the people on this show could come up with their ingenious theories on their own—at least not by their own admission.
The next segment describes Tesla’s plan for global wireless energy, and Nick Redfern suggests that corporations suppressed his wireless electricity experiments to preserve their profits. I guess he’s thinking of the plot of the 1977 David Mamet play The Water Engine and its 1992 TV-movie adaptation.
Anyway, the show repeats the idea that space aliens were able to project blueprints and scientific plans into Tesla’s brain, and then Tsoukalos suggests that Tesla was merely reusing alien plans first used in Egypt. The Dendera light bulb (incandescent, not CFL or LED, mind you) is brought up again, and we get a brief recap of the Tesla segment of S05E03 “Alien Power Plants,” which already covered Tesla’s alleged connection to energy-generating obelisks, pyramid power plants, and a supposed alien world energy grid. Seriously, people: Get some new material.
After the break, we get a discussion of Tesla’s claim to have received radio signals from an unknown source, which Tesla speculated might have been from extraterrestrials on Mars or Venus. Here he was likely building on the then-popular claims of Percival Lowell that Mars had an advanced civilization, but rather than imagine Tesla was influenced by the broader scientific world around him, the show instead decides that Tesla really did have radio contact with aliens. But I thought the aliens had a direct line to his brain, so what did they need the radio and mysterious beeps for? Nothing ever makes sense on this show. The program’s experts assert that Tesla’s ET interests made him a scientific pariah and therefore his peers unfairly denied him a Nobel Prize.
The show suggests that Tesla was an ancient astronaut theorist, but his own words belie this claim. In his 1901 article on extraterrestrial communication, which the show cites, Tesla takes no position on the ancient astronaut theory in discussing his radio beeps: “How long these attempts have been going on is, of course, problematic. It is possible they have just begun. It is possible, also, that they have been going on for centuries.” The show quotes only the last sentence in order to claim Tesla as Giorgio Tsoukalos’s spiritual godfather.
Tsoukalos claims Tesla could have worked on an antigravity device because of vimanas from the Mahabharata, which he claims had antigravity powers and were the same as modern UFOs. But he is wrong and the narrator is confused and claims that these flying spaceships were depicted in that epic. The illustration shown is actually from the Vaimanika Shastra, an early twentieth century fraud that falsely claimed to be an “ancient” text channeled psychically from the past. The Mahabharata has no flying UFO-like spacecraft. It has flying chariots and floating cities, and the Ramayana even has flying palaces that transport monkeys.
After the break, we get more biography and hagiography of Tesla and his infinite beneficence, which Tzadok claims derives from ideas given to him from incorporeal beings. After the third or fourth repetition, even Jason Martell’s point-blank claim that Tesla operated “under the influence of extraterrestrials” has just become boring. We’ve heard it all before. David Wilcock tells us that Tesla’s late-life obsession with the numbers 3, 6, and 9 must relate to the pyramids of Giza, which are three, and honeycombs, which are six sided. The point, he says, is that the universe is encoded with multiples of 3. In fact, Ancient Aliens did a whole episode about Wilcock’s interest in the number 3, S06E01 “The Power of Three,” so this claim is yet another repeat. The claim hasn’t become any truer since it first aired in October. I will point out that Ancient Aliens manages to be wrong about Giza twice, once in S06E01 when it claimed that there were only three Giza pyramids, and again here when Wilcock claims there are six. There are in fact nine, three major pyramids and six satellite pyramids.
In the next segment, following another break, we finally get the TESLA DEATH RAY. Tesla claimed to have invented a particle beam weapon capable of bringing down enemy aircraft, but very little of this work survives. In fact, Tesla claimed that he never wrote down any of the plans at all—he kept them all in his head! The plans—whatever they were—died with him. The show asserts that Tesla was responsible for the so-called Philadelphia Experiment, in which a Navy vessel allegedly left this dimension and returned with the crew embedded in the ship’s metal. Even the show acknowledges this is widely believed to be a hoax. David Wilcock asserts it really happened, despite there being no missing sailors, no mangled ship… Ah, but conspiracies are really good at covering all their tracks except for those intrepid heroes like Wilcock so easily uncover. He cites “leaked documents” as proof, but fails to mention that most accounts from fringe figures assign the Philadelphia Experiment to an effort to prove theories from Albert Einstein, not anything to do with Nikola Tesla. Oh well.
After a final break this turkey comes in for a landing on the back of an Israeli laser defense system, which Childress likens to some of Tesla’s more grandiose plans. Wilcock claims that Israel’s laser beams are the same as Tesla’s particle beam death rays and that Tesla was aware of Israel’s plan through an alleged time travel device or time window he supposedly developed. The narrator suggests that the U.S. government stole Tesla’s particle beam plans and gave them to Israel seven decades later. I’m still not seeing the connection. Mark Seifer, Tesla’s biographer, calls him an avatar of space aliens and/or gods, a veritable savior. Wilcock tells us that Tesla would have been a savior who would have reversed climate change, made deserts habitable, and made all energy free. But once again the show’s lack of logic is problematic: If the all-powerful aliens gave Tesla all this “wisdom” to save us, why is it that they are so ineffective that a few FBI agents could somehow undo all their work—while also delivering it to Israel? The inconsistencies may not register beneath the soaring music and paeans to a coming technological Millennium of peace and glory—but they are there.
8/1/2014 04:27:11 pm
Ancient Aliens is very good at delivering their (commercial) message. Where they are failing is in fulfilling their promise to science and answering questions, whether asked or unasked, such as: Who would win a sack race between Galileo and Thomas Edison?
8/1/2014 05:10:44 pm
True Fact of "Science": Bazookas fire rockets... rockets can enter outer space... Joe used bazookas... Therefore, the Bazooka Joe comics are just a lapsed cultural memory encoded in our xeno-ape DNA of a time when our ancestors - who from the heavens came! - descended to earth, ploughed every hominid they could find (with their syringe-phallus-trident-things), and created people like Tesla to fill the world with strange contrivances in order to bring about the spiritual awakening and the fulfillment of [insert bullshit pseudo-religious "prophecy" here], as carried to us by the prophets Jason "Tiger Stripe" Martell and Giorgio "My Life is a Lie" Tsoukalos.
8/1/2014 05:16:37 pm
8/1/2014 05:53:48 pm
"Oh, how convenient! A theory about God that doesn't require looking through a telescope. Get back to work!" - Futurama ("Godfellas")
8/1/2014 07:04:42 pm
Watched the video, EP. The first comment was the best I've read on Youtube in a long time.
8/3/2014 02:36:42 am
Get over yourself....please. Trust that you're not at the top of the food chain. That's all I wanna say to u folks who say "and unicorns do not exist".
Duke of URL
8/3/2014 06:00:06 am
Admit it, Gregor - you just got a job writing for MSNBC "News", didn't you?
8/3/2014 07:32:22 am
..or, more likely, Fox News.
8/1/2014 04:28:13 pm
In case anyone's interested, Tesla's article on interplanetary communications can be found here:
8/1/2014 05:04:54 pm
Childress would be a "huge fanboy" of Idi Amin or Pol Pot if there was a paycheck to be had in it.
8/2/2014 02:00:48 pm
Oh Gregor, you speak the truth sir. That he would, and you can bet the farm on it.
8/1/2014 06:56:46 pm
Oh, he's a "huge fanboy" alright. His nugget alone wouldn't fit on anything less than a wide-screen monitor.
8/2/2014 02:02:05 pm
He IS rather full of himself isn't he.
5/12/2018 12:41:38 pm
The Law of One:
8/1/2014 05:44:36 pm
Given that Tesla has been deified on the internet including countless made up claims I'd say he fits in quite well.
8/1/2014 06:00:48 pm
>>Given that Tesla has been deified on the internet including countless made up claims I'd say he fits in quite well.
8/1/2014 06:11:35 pm
You should read what Tesla himself actually wrote. No one has ever exaggerated Tesla's accomplishments more than Tesla himself.
8/1/2014 06:35:03 pm
8/1/2014 07:02:42 pm
Wait, how exactly does the claim you quoted imply that "what happens on the internet accurately reflects upon, and is intrinsic to, the individual"?
8/1/2014 07:58:05 pm
I meant fits as a topic for the show; he was a great engineer and helped push the ball of science forward, but the stories of his accomplishments have been greatly exaggerated on the intertubes. In some cases elevating him to a sort of mythical figure, not unlike when Ancient Aliens (and similar shows) tackle real historical figures who are alleged to be aliens, time travellers, indigo children, etc.
8/2/2014 02:24:21 am
8/1/2014 06:08:02 pm
In spite of being a really clever inventor, Tesla was scientifically illiterate. He was also a near-pathological liar and/or insane.
8/1/2014 06:44:48 pm
A minor quibble... but it strikes me that it should read "In spite of being scientifically illiterate, Tesla was a really clever inventor". Personally I'd be more inclined to think that a scientifically skilled individual would also be good at inventing, rather than that an "inventor" / "tinkerer" would be intrinsically a skilled scientist as well. You probably chose this phrasing because it ends negatively, but still.
8/1/2014 07:13:06 pm
Who says I don't feel this way about other cases? Though, again, Tesla is a bit exceptional in these regards. Just like Ted Bundy is not just another killer...
8/2/2014 01:51:53 am
AA. Has the throw some crap up and then move to something else so fast one doesn't have a chance to use their brain cells to question the ridiculous claims. After an episode I honestly can't recall much other than georgics hair and some nice pictures of far away places. Tesla, didn't he cause the Tunguska event?
8/2/2014 05:54:26 am
This has already been mentioned in the replies, but I think it bears repeating: Jason, you say that Tesla "invented" (or discovered) Alternating Current in your post, but this is a common misconception (and I did not watch the episode so I don't know if you are repeating what AA claimed). Tesla was important in the adoption of AC with his invention of the first AC electric motor and his part in the "Current Wars" between Edison and Westinghouse, but his significance is often overstated in this regard. A number of other people made important discoveries about AC as well, and in reality Westinghouse played a more important role in implementing AC as the primary electrical current in the US as compared to Tesla. Tesla made some important contributions but it seems that his legacy has become almost mythic and ripe use in pop culture (see the movie "The Prestige") as well as in fringe ideas (both of which only serve to enhance this mythic image of Tesla).
8/2/2014 06:11:55 am
The vast majority of Tesla's work is pseudoscientific at best and downright fraudulent at worst.
8/2/2014 06:35:20 am
The show focused on him as the developer of AC and never mentioned Westinghouse. I can't recall if they specifically said he invented it, but it was the impression they tried to give. I'll add a clarification above.
8/2/2014 06:43:08 am
Fun fact: AC was pretty much standard in Europe by the time Tesla came to America.
To clarify, Westinghouse was more important to AC as an investor (though he was an engineer) and making AC and electricity commercially viable. The battle was over what would control the market, Edison's DC or Westinghouse's AC, with Westinghouse winning out because of the characteristics of AC which made it easier to transmit. In reality, Tesla played only a small role in this battle (though he did work for both Edison and Westinghouse at different times). The Wikipedia article on it (linked) has a reasonable and brief overview of it.
8/2/2014 06:46:43 am
America's founding fathers? Check. Leonardo da Vinci and his fellow Renaissance thinkers? Check. Einstein? Check. Tesla? CHECK! Boy these assholes are on fire in insulting our intelligence and saying that the only reason for our progress is due to aliens. Just remember, they aren't saying that humans don't have ingenuity - they are just saying that aliens do...and that they telepathically gave their "chosen ones" great ideas. Cause it's not like their have been a series of other underrated scientists, inventors and philosophers that have been swept under the carpet like the Great Tesla. Fuck these guys.
8/2/2014 06:54:43 am
Far from having been "swept under the carpet", Tesla was a media celebrity for most of his life, with the press eagerly and uncritically reporting his nonsensical opinings (free energy, earthquakes, interplanetary communications, eugenics, how women belong in the kitchen, etc...).
8/2/2014 07:36:00 am
8/2/2014 07:53:49 am
He was pretty sloppy with calculations as well. And I don't know what visualizing amounts to without good drafting or calculations. It smacks of all those nutjobs claiming they can visualize their perpetual motion machines. Or science fiction writers.
8/2/2014 10:47:14 am
So, plasma beam allowing a directed lightning strike (as Tesla's death ray was described at one point during the show) is the "same technology" as a laser? I know lasers can use plasma as a gain medium, but somehow I don't think that's what the AA commentators meant.
8/2/2014 12:19:36 pm
Tesla's own description of his superweapon is, if possible, even more ridiculous than the AA version:
8/2/2014 03:01:29 pm
Aside from a TV movie in the early 1980s, the Philadelphia Experiment originally was nothing more than a WW2 legend dreamed up by some drunk Navy sailors in a bar on the east coast. They were talking about a supposedly invisible ship. It had nothing to do with 'dimensional travel' 'time travel' or anything that fanciful. According to actual veterans from that period, it was little more than a ship painted with radar reflecting paint. The same tech was later used on stealth boats and craft. It does not, did not, and never could travel in time or make people phase into the hull. Also the darn thing wasn't terribly stealthy. Ha.
8/3/2014 07:27:13 am
I strongly suspect the entire thing sprang from Carl Allen's ravings.
8/3/2014 04:43:01 am
"Seriously, people: Get some new material."
8/4/2014 04:41:40 am
"...a coming technological Millennium of peace and glory...."
8/4/2014 07:56:14 am
AA failed to mention that Tesla invented teleportation while at Colorado Springs. It is well documented how Tesla successfully teleported Hugh Jackman.
8/8/2014 03:50:38 pm
That's just a myth, he really duplicated Hugh Jackman.
8/5/2014 10:18:01 pm
Like UFO Hunters:46 minutes of chasing speculation and at the end of the chase no concrete answers. H2 should change it's title to NFYI.
8/18/2014 10:01:17 am
I actually enjoyed the Tesla episode. I knew very little about him before I watched the AA episode. Very impressive that he was still inventing things into his late 70s. I don't with many of the theories expr3essed about the man. But I did enjoy learning about his legacy and the long list of incredible inventions.
8/18/2014 10:02:32 am
* I don't agree with many of the theories expressed by the AA crew about the man.
9/24/2014 04:10:52 am
What a kick ass episode! I live in Thailand so there's a bit of a delay, and I just saw this episode tonight. But this episode of "Ancient Aliens" is the best bit of TV writing since the time I saw "Small Wonder" dunk a basketball.
12/21/2014 06:25:00 pm
Most people here are clueless and completely ignorant. Tesla was one of the greatest minds ever. Some imbecile above even accused Tesla of having sloppy math skills...yaaa...that's right....his math skills were so sloppy that NOT ONLY COULD NIKOLA TESLA DO CALCULUS IN HIS HEAD, BUT HE COULD DO INTEGRAL CALCULUS IN HIS HEAD! He also knew 6 languages by the time he was 17. What do you think HAARP is based on? It's all Tesla stuff. The guy was a genius even compared to most other geniuses (if that makes any sense). People here are way too ignorant and close-minded.
12/21/2014 06:28:24 pm
...Continued from above...
9/14/2015 07:45:51 am
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12/4/2020 02:22:54 pm
Far be it from me to stir up conspiracy stuff, but watching our 'late' (sic) president dismantling our constitution and system of democracy about our ears as he flails about turning the White House into a modern version of the Berlin Führerbunker brings to mind a curious piece of historical coincidence.
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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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