The episode ends with Van Tassel’s death in 1978, and then they relate conspiracy theories that the government was somehow to blame. It’s true that the FBI monitored Van Tassel and infiltrated his UFO conferences, but the records of the time suggest that the real reason was concern that Van Tassel’s anti-atom bomb advocacy could pose a security risk by riling up the counterculture. According to the FBI, they were concerned that under the cover of UFOs, Van Tassel offered subversive ideas about social and economic issues.
After this, we are introduced to the wooden Integraton dome, which they imagine used “harmonics” to rejuvenate cells. Tassel had claimed the structure was 95% complete at the time of his death, and the show alleges that the government removed vital components after murdering Van Tassel in order to ensure that it could not function.
Apropos of nothing, the show segues awkwardly into a discussion of Chinese alchemy and its supposed potion of immortality followed by a discussion of the Greek gods’ ambrosia, which bestowed immortality. The show then wrongly claims that “every” ancient culture describes the gods as immortal. This is not, strictly speaking, true. The Norse believed that at Ragnarok their gods would die, for example. Baldur already had. After this, the show alleges that Biblical and Mesopotamian legends of ancient patriarchs and king who lived hundreds or even thousands of years recorded real lifespans of real “extraterrestrial travelers.” No evidence is given for the assertion other than Giorgio Tsoukalos’s certainty, which ought to count for nothing since he has no facts to support his belief and makes no effort to find any.
The second segment describes George Van Tassel’s involvement with Giant Rock, a boulder in the Mojave Desert that they describe as a “vortex,” though it is, as best I can tell, a rock. The story of Van Tassel’s interest in the rock is uninteresting, though I supposed there is some horror in learning that a prospector who lived under the rock committed suicide by blowing himself up to avoid the draft. The expert telling the story seems a little too amused by the horrific injuries of the men injured in the explosion. The show then irresponsibly suggests that the rock’s quartz content sent out energy beams that fried the dead man’s brain. Van Tasssel took up residence at the rock, meditated through its “energies,” and then claimed to encounter a UFO that landed beside the rock that sucked him up in an antigravity beam. The talking heads claim Van Tassel was a genius on par Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, though oddly, he left nothing of genius behind to prove it.
The third segment describes Van Tassel’s UFO conventions, which he used as a fundraiser for the Integraton, a building whose exterior took only a few years to raise but whose interior mechanics were never finished. The show repeats the claim that Van Tassel was a genius on par with Tesla in order to revisit the familiar story that Tesla had claimed to be in contact with Martians. Tesla thought he had received radio signals from Mars while Van Tassel claimed to be on a ship talking with space aliens, so it’s not really the same thing, as the show claims. In this segment, the show discusses the FBI’s interest in Van Tassel’s gatherings, though it alleges that it was due to concern for space aliens rather than the bureau’s well-known efforts to undermine allegedly subversive political viewpoints. As we head to a break, we hear that the Integraton supposedly rejuvenated human cells by zapping them with electromagnetic energy. There isn’t any scientific basis for this claim, but everyone treats it as though it is a commonsense belief that cells’ vital essence can be recharged like a battery. Science tells us that cells’ aging and death is programmed in their DNA, as their telomeres wear down. Ancient Aliens tells us that cells die because they are leaking mystical crystal energies.
The fourth segment sends David Childress to meet with Van Tassel’s protégé, Bob Benson, who tells Childress that Van Tassel left no information about how the Integraton would have been completed. Nevertheless, Benson came up with some ideas on his own, which he placed in a model that basically makes the thing into a giant Van Der Graff generator, if I understand the model correctly. Thomas Valone, another quack who thinks electricity can rejuvenate the body like James Whale’s vision of the Frankenstein monster, also has a model of the Integraton, and his has a Tesla coil in the middle to make big sparks. Childress tells us that Van Tassel compared the origins of the Integraton to God giving Moses the plans for the Tabernacle. Van Tassel also imagined that the Giza pyramids were piezoelectric rejuvenation machines, a pseudoscientific idea from the 1960s and 1970s made famous in the 1980s and 1990s.
The fifth segment speculates that the Integraton actually used sound rather than static electricity to produce its imagined effects. William Henry alleges that the Integraton was a model of Solomon’s Temple and therefore was a tabernacle to contact God, similar to the Ark of the Covenant, which rested in Solomon’s Temple. We hear that our brains have an interdimensional receiver that can be activated to receive signals from “otherworldly beings,” which somehow aren’t ever clearly aliens or angels in the show’s telling but something in between. William Henry immediately pushes this away and instead suggests that the Integraton would generate a portal to what he seems to imply is the heavenly afterlife dimension.
Of course, it could be that Van Tassel was a quack and the wooden dome was never going to do any of that. But that possibility can’t be allowed on the History Channel.
The final few minutes of the show celebrates the Integraton as a tourist attraction, and the narrator asks if the aliens will soon choose a “new human conduit” to order to finish the building. The segment repeats earlier claims from past episodes that humans never have any real ideas on their own but instead receive them through intelligence beams from space aliens. This claim was insulting the first time they made it, and it is still a depressing repudiation of humanity today. In the end, they never did provide any evidence of immortality, or even rejuvenation, and none of the advocates produced any in their models, either. It’s all just a bunch of nostalgia for the kookiness of midcentury ufology.
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.
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