I'm continuing my review of David Childress's masterwork, Technology of the Gods (2000). To the documented plagiarism, we can now add hoaxing and quote manipulation. Of course, this isn't Childress's fault, since he's merely copying and copying and copying others who hoaxed and manipulated well enough to fool him.
What, really, is there to tell about a chapter supposedly documenting ancient flight? Childress, like the ancient astronaut theorists before and after him (and him when he is one), find it impossible that the ancients could imagine flight and therefore must have observed airplanes and rockets in action. The existence of birds and bugs apparently escapes him, as does the well-developed spectrum of myth from bird-men to winged sandals to winged horses to flying chariots. The connections from one to the next are obvious, as is the process that gradually developed the myth of flying chariots from wishful thinking about being like birds. It is a short step from the most ancient of myths, like the Mesopotamian story of Etana riding the eagle, to Pegasus the winged horse, Perseus’ winged sandals, and flying chariots of the gods.
But knowledge of any of this would presuppose knowledge of history, which Childress does not possess. He tells the story of how Alexander the Great was buzzed by “discoid” UFOs at the Indus River, but his source is not ancient Greek but Frank Edwards’s Stranger than Science. (He had actually reported on these earlier, in his Lost Cities & Ancient Mysteries of South America, where he blasted Erich von Däniken as a “fraud”—how times have changed!) Anyway, the story is a complete hoax, invented by Frank Edwards in 1959, misunderstanding Quintus Curtius Rufus’ ancient reference to the Tyrians hurling (normal-sized) bronze shields heated by flame from the walls of Tyre to attack Alexander’s forces. The whole story of this sorry mess can be found here.
Childress summarizes the “ancient airplane” greatest hits, including the gold jewelry from Columbia, the Egyptian bird glider, and the imaginary Nazca balloon. Nothing is original here; everything is summarized or directly quoted (to the tune of hundreds of words) from others’ books. Then we get a section about flying cars that appears nearly word for word in Lost Cities of China, Central Asia, and India (p. 272), Vimana Aircraft of Ancient India and Atlantis (p. 29), and Lost Cities & Ancient Mysteries of Africa and Asia (pp. 248-249). It supposedly quotes the Ethiopian Kebra Negast, but the quotation comes from Erich von Däniken’s Signs of the Gods (1981, p. 51), not the actual ancient text. There is nothing about flying cars that I can find in the actual Kebra Negast; it appears to be von Däniken’s intentional manipulation of the text. Here is how Childress and von Däniken give the quote, and how it really is translated when not being manipulated:
I trust you can see that von Däniken has substituted “flew” for “ran by” and eliminated the armies (since how would they fit on a wagon?), but has otherwise kept all of Budge’s text. (To be fair, von Däniken used Carl Bezold’s 1909 German translation; English translator Michael Heron is responsible for adapting Budge’s text without credit.) My guess is that Bezold was translating literally a figurative expression for speed, which von Däniken simply accepted at face value. (“Fly” has a figurative meaning of “speeding” in most languages.) Childress, plagiarist that he is, simply copies.
Is there any reason to bother reviewing the rest of this chapter’s false, fake, plagiarized, copied nonsense? I will only briefly mention that Childress discusses the fabricated story of the alleged vimana aircraft of India (a modern forgery by a so-called “psychic”) and then launches into a discussion of the imaginary Rama Empire invented by his Lemurian Fellowship friends. The vimana discussion takes up dozens of pages, all based on a psychic fraud, an “ancient” text written in the 1920s. Screw him.
This is the infamous chapter on ancient atom bombs that Childress excerpted for Nexus magazine back in 2000, and which I critiqued in my article “Ancient Atom Bombs,” my e-book of the same name, and my article “The Case of the False Quotations.” I don’t really have anything to add here. The chapter remains an example of poor research, bad sources, fabrication, and outright lies. All the “greatest hits” are here: Sodom and Gomorrah as Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the completely fabricated Mahabharata quotation, so-called “vitrified” cities, radiation in archaeological sites—all things that have been explained in non-atomic ways. As always, Childress has nothing original to say and merely copies earlier writers, particularly Brad Steiger’s Mysteries of Time and Space and Charles Berlitz’s Mysteries of Forgotten Worlds (1972) from which he borrows the fabricated Mahabharata quotation.
I will pause only to note that chunks of this chapter are lifted verbatim from Childress’s Lost Cities of China, Central Asia, and India (1998). Check out, for example, pp. 242ff. of Lost Cities and compare to the verbatim copying on pages 236ff. of Technology of the Gods. The same passages also appear verbatim in his Lost Cities of Ancient Lemuria & the Pacific (1988, pp. 72ff.) and Vimana Aircraft of Ancient India and Atlantis (1991, pp. 60ff.). What makes it really special is that Childress to be quoting the actual words of the King of Atlantis in direct quotation. Sadly, this is more channeled psychic nonsense from “the Lemurian Fellowship lesson materials.” Copy, copy, copy!
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.