Review of Peter Kolosimo's "Not of This World" (Pt. 2): In Which the Cthulhu Mythos Is Taken as Real!
I am so glad that I decided to read Peter Kolosimo’s early ancient astronaut book Not of This World (1968, English trans. 1970). It is a veritable black hole of fact, sucking in all of the major themes that I talk about in my own work: racism, mistranslation, fabrication, conflating science fiction and fact, and H. P. Lovecraft. Yes, Lovecraft. I was shocked to discover that Kolosimo not only knows of Lovecraft but actually uses his work as factual evidence for ancient astronauts. No more can ancient astronaut theorists deny that they had any inkling Lovecraft lay behind so much of their work since they all cite Kolosimo, who in turn explicitly discusses Lovecraft, apparently considering him to be a secret source of occult history.
I’ve never seen anything like this, and I can’t believe I wasn’t aware of this bizarre attempt to, in Kolosimo’s words, “support” Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos by martialing all manner of “facts” to prove the reality of the Old Ones. He goes so much farther than Jacques Bergier and Louis Pauwels ever did in Morning of the Magicians, and he is much more explicit about seeking support in science and science fiction for a Lovecraftian ancient alien invasion.
Last time, I talked about the way Peter Kolosimo seemed to be using science fiction and claiming it as science fact in Not of This World. In so doing, I mentioned that in 2012 Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews caught Kolosimo presenting a pulp fiction story from Adventure magazine as a factual account. As it happens, the very next chapter after where I left off last week is exactly this account of “John Spencer” traveling to Mongolia and encountering supernatural power from the Pleiades in a lamasery. Kolosimo calls Adventure, a pulp fiction magazine, a nonfiction “review”! Despite this story originating in a pulp magazine, later writers copying from Kolosimo have included it wholesale, including Bruce Rux in Architects of the Underworld (1996), Hartwig Hausdorf in The Chinese Roswell (1998), and Cecilia Frances Page in Extraterrestrial Civilizations on Earth (2009).
I wonder, though, if Kolosimo isn’t again pulling our legs. Could the “William Thompson” who supposedly told this story in Adventure be a riff on the physicist William Thomson, Lord Kelvin?
He relates this to a passage from Charles Fort’s Book of the Damned (1919), but Kolosimo and the translator combined have done a disservice. The translator did not consult the original and translated back into English an Italian translation of the original, mangling it and adding much more connecting tissue that Fort’s telegraphic style actually allows. The part in question is about 17 tiny coffins of 3-4 inches in length reported in the London Times of July 20, 1836. Kolosimo, however, can’t resist throwing in a lie to go with some facts, so he makes Fort say that which he does not: that a trip to the Gobi desert (Mongolia) could clear up the mystery of the midgets from outer space.
He next discusses shamanic art and asserts that it depicts aliens, followed by more material from the Russian science fiction author Alexander Kasantsev, whom he has now promoted to “Professor Alexi Kasanzev.” Kasantsev did publish some nonfiction popular books on UFOs and had been an engineer, but to attribute to him a scientific study of ancient aliens stretches it a bit. Of all Kasantsev’s claims the most interesting must be that the Gateway of the Sun at Tiahuanaco depicts “automatic space-craft using solar energy.” And to think: Graham Hancock though it showed extinct megafauna!
Following this, Kolosimo introduces what will in the future become Erich von Däniken’s most famous claim when he stole it wholesale from Kolosimo or his source: that the coffin lid of Pacal in Palenque shows an astronaut in a rocket ship. Kolosimo suggests that a “white god” was buried in the tomb—yes, he is again emphasizing the Caucasian aspects of the alien deities. Kolosimo is astounded that it would take modern equipment to move the lid and wonders how it got into a space whose entry is narrower than the lid. He apparently can’t conceive of building in place. Kolosimo, in turn, borrows the spacecraft interpretation from Guy Tarade and André Millou, writing in October 1966 in the Italian journal Clypeus. Here, however, Kolosimo chooses to be honest about his sources. More of von Däniken’s future claims follow, including the Jomon statues as aliens in “spacesuits,” again taken from sci-fi author Kasantsev, and the “Great Martian God” petroglyph from the Sahara, found by Henri Lhote.
Kolosimo then borrows material on the Peruvian geological formation of Marcahuasi from Morning of the Magicians (1960) and takes over from Pauwels and Bergier the attribution of the (imaginary) prehistoric statue complex to “white men from the stars,” again relating ancient astronauts explicitly to colonialist racism. He concludes the chapter by discussing petroglyphs that can only be seen from the sky and calling the Nazca lines reminiscent of the (imaginary) canals of Mars.
This is the chapter where Kolosimo fabricates the claim that the books of Chilam Balam asserts that white men from the stars descended in flying saucers. He takes much of his material from Harold T. Wikins, the ufologist who wrote Mysteries of Ancient South America, but the printer or the translator mangles the name to “Wilins.” Wilkins believed that the Americas had been home to “a humane and civilized race of white men” until the Native Americans ruined everything for white people, leaving them “degenerate.”
He next claims that the Micmac god Glooscap was an alien, but we all know that he was really Henry Sinclair, as per Frederick Pohl. He refers to the Micmac as “redskins.” He then attributes to the botanist P. H. Davis an investigation into whether Amazon tribes think the aliens will return, but it is Kolosimo who introduces astronauts into a paraphrase of a solar myth.
Some ancient wonders in the sky follow, mostly tales of auroras, sun dogs, meteors, and novae, which he admits can be explained in ways other than alien spaceships. It is all taken verbatim from an Italian magazine article, and much of it is garbled by Latin texts translated into Italian and then into English without reference to the original. Kolosimo of course never consulted the originals. I am amused that the translator assumes Cassius Dio and Pertinax were Italian (Dione Cassio and Pertinace, left untranslated) and the printer, who is apparently an ignoramus, has rendered Pliny’s Naturalis Historia (Natural History) as the Naturalist Historia, but I am less amused that the citations are rendered useless by confusing books and chapters within the work. The highlight is probably the passage from Livy preserved in Julius Obsequens (54) that shows up repeatedly in ancient astronaut lore. Here it is as follows: “Near Spoleto a ball of golden fire rolled on the ground, seemed to become bigger and then move (sic) across the ground towards the East—it was so big it hid the sun.” Despite the telephone tag of translation, this is remarkably correct. My own translation, direct from the Latin, gives it as “In Spoletium a gold-colored ball of fire rolled down to the ground and, becoming larger, appeared to be carried off from the ground toward the east, concealing the sun with its magnitude.” This is especially astounding since our friend Harold T. Wilkins, in Flying Saucers on the Attack, mangles the quote through bad translation.
After some nonsense about the coinage of Pertinax showing a Sputnik-style satellite (it’s a stylized star, unclearly struck), we do it all again with medieval wonders in the sky, again mostly astronomical phenomena, along with some imaginary material derived from Roman precedents for appropriate divine signs presaging victory. Much of this material would reappear the next year in Jacques Vallée’s Passport to Magonia, but I can’t say who was copying whom since I don’t know what Vallée wrote in his two earlier UFO books. In describing the medieval legend of the sky sailors who sail the clouds in their boats and make it hail (which he knows from the fictional Rosicrucian novel Comte de Gabalais rather than from primary sources), Kolosimo substitutes “space” for “sky” and “vehicle” for “ship.” He also, like Vallée, asserts that Charlemagne passed legislation against aliens. This is utterly untrue and a perversion of the actual law Charlemagne decreed, chapter 65 (or 63, depending on edition) of the Admonitio generalis, which reads as follows: “Let no one among you be a wizard, nor an enchanter, nor a soothsayer. Therefore, we enjoin that there shall be neither prognosticators and spell-casters, nor weather-magicians or spell-binders, and that wherever they are found they either be reformed or condemned” (my trans.). The weather-magicians are what Vallée and Kolosimo, who know the law only secondhand, take for space aliens. Do they really think Charlemagne wanted to “reform” space aliens?
The chapter concludes with a litany of meteors, comets, aurorae, etc. from more recent times, with the insinuation that at least some might be spaceships.
This chapter made the entire book worth reading. It opens with material from H. P. Lovecraft, a mangled passage from At the Mountains of Madness, proving that Lovecraft’s shadow extended over ancient astronautics right to its very moment of origin, when the mechanistic paleo-UFO sighting ideas of the 1950s and early 1960s became the New Age alien god myths of the modern era. Have you ever wondered what would happen if you translated Lovecraft into French and then from French into Italian and then from Italian back to English? Now you can find out. Here’s just a taste; the “translation” runs for two pages in the book:
Pauwels and Bergier—Lovecraft’s popularizers and translators in Europe—had certainly done their job well, seeding Lovecraftian ideas throughout the ancient astronaut theory. Kolosimo, however, pulls a bit of sleight of hand. Although he seems aware that Mountains is a work of fiction, he does not share this with readers, suggesting that it contains alien truths, although Lovecraft “dabbles in fantasies.” He quotes Pauwels and/or Bergier (I think; he gives no source) as approving of Lovecraft’s exacting scientific accuracy, creating the false impression that Mountains has an underlying truth. He follows this with a discussion of sightings of strange white things moving in the snows of Antarctica during the Geophysical Year of 1958. Since these sightings don’t appear in other sources, I am sorely tempted to attribute them to John W. Campbell’s Who Goes There? (1938), which is better known from its movie adaptation, The Thing from Another World (1951). Kolosimo says his source is an anonymous geologist friend, which is not very convincing. He then asserts that a “journalist” named “P. Deville” concluded that Antarctica had been inhabited before the Ice Age and that this legend had been preserved for hundreds of thousands of years. I tempted to say that he is instead rehashing the plot of A Strange Manuscript found in a Copper Cylinder (1888) by James DeMille, about a volcanic tropical paradise located in Antarctica, inhabited by Semitic people since prehistory. A similar tale involves a “Horace Deville” in Valery Brussof’s Russian science fiction novel The Republic of the Southern Cross (1918).
Obviously, I can’t prove that Kolosimo was fabricating—there might have been a French or Italian article written by a P. Deville—but it seems beyond coincidental that time and again the material he discusses matches very closely science fiction tales. At any rate, his traceable sources are no better; he considers Charles Hapgood’s earth-crust displacement idea proven science.
Next Kolosimo passes off H. P. Lovecraft as science fact! He falsely claims that “certain Tibetan texts which refer to the mythical plateau of Leng” have a real existence, and that they were independently confirmed by an ancient astronaut theorist named “William Bennett,” of whom I can find no record. On the authority of “Bennett” Kolosimo rehashes H. P. Lovecraft’s justification for moving Leng from Asia (where he originally had it as a fictional Tibet) to Antarctica for At the Mountains of Madness.
Following this Kolosimo tells the fictional story of the Green Children of Banjos, which he quotes from John Macklin’s Strange Destinies (1965) but attributes to what must have been an excerpt published in the newspaper Grit, since he gives the publication that name. As I previously discussed, Macklin fabricated the story from a Victorian book of fairy stories. He then quotes an apparently non-existent poem by W. B. Yeats called “Caterina” that describes a bird with a stick that Kolosimo says is a spaceship. Perhaps this is a bad Italian rendering of the play Cathleen Ni Houlihan (1902)? Update: As Clay points out below, the text is that of the poem “Byzantium,” badly retranslated. How that became “Caterina” I cannot fathom.
He says next that the Irish hero Cú Chulainn is the Mayan god Kukulkan because both are “white.” He then attributes the collapse of the Norse Greenland colonies to aliens because he does not understand the concept of climate change. He finishes off by recapping a science fiction story that he does not state is fiction but which cannot possibly be meant as fact in which microbes build spaceships and reactivate human corpses as slaves. I’m not familiar with the story, possibly Italian (he says he assumes his Italian readers have heard of it), but it’s similar to Plan 9 from Outer Space.
Wow, this one got even more racist. Kolosimo talks about “redskins” and complains that it “is completely useless to ask old Indians about” anything because “they cannot explain” their own stories. He then asserts that “we don’t really know anything about” Native American mounds, so therefore they must have been the work of a superior civilization. He links them to Mexico and South America (which he previously declared the homeland of Caucasian), and he suggests that the Native Americans wiped out a lost advanced culture. Humorously, perhaps, he attributes to the astronomer Edgar Lucian Larkin (which the publisher misspells) passages about an underground civilization beneath California’s Mount Shasta taken from Dweller on Two Planets, the “channeled” text written by Frederick S. Oliver in 1894. He then quotes Serge Hutin as claiming that the Chumash of California are a “vanished” race (they’re still alive!) and that they had “superior” technology—this despite the fact that we’re currently arguing over whether they decided to sew planks together to make wooden canoes because of the Polynesians.
We get claims about how the Jomon are so weird they must have been influenced by space aliens, and some claims that various natural phenomena seen in Japan were really UFOs. He name checks the famed Theosophist H. S. Olcott but doesn’t mention that he was a theosophical believer in space aliens, and he takes the Thunderbird of Native American myth—again referring to Native Americans as “redskins”!—as the sonic boom of a metallic spaceship.
This chapter again opens with mangled quotations from H. P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, and the parenthetical says that Kolosimo discusses Lovecraft in more detail in his earlier book Timeless Earth—which I suppose I’ll have to check out now. He quotes at length the section of Madness where Lovecraft describes the prehistory of earth, from the creation of shoggoths to the battle between the Mi-Go and the Cthulhu Spawn. He does not at any point indicate that this is not fact but science fiction, and instead goes on to say that he will provide “support” for the idea that “creatures rained from the stars, to hide in the depths of our seas.”
He starts by talking about 1950s and 1960s underwater sightings of metallic anomalies and then quotes Robert Charroux, from whom he takes the story of the Mary Celeste, mistaking Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictionalized version of the abandoned ship for the actual facts of the case. He talks about various other ghost ships, some of which might actually be real, and he attributes to Sir Anthony Laughton a claim that bipedal creatures walk under the sea. Laughton seems to have been referring to unusual shapes caused by natural phenomena on a sea bed, but I don’t know the exact reference to check. He finishes the chapter by implying that the “globster” found in Tasmania in 1960 (which he mistakenly refers to with the date of the Hobart Mercury’s original article on the creature from March 1962) is either a Mi-Go or a Cthulhu Spawn. Seriously: He wants us to read At the Mountains of Madness as fact. The globster, a many-ton mass of flesh, was later determined, long after Kolosimo wrote, to be a decayed whale.
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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