Before we begin today, I wanted to share that it is my birthday, and this is what the universe decided to get me: Former television host Scott Wolter is going to be coming to my city of Albany next month to give a lecture to the local Masonic lodge. According to an advertisement that a reader shared with me via Twitter, the $15 entry fee to the three-hour event includes dinner. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Wolter won’t be making good on his promise to buy me a beer when he arrives in town for the May 19 lecture.
Anyway, onto something else I saw on Twitter…
The 1970s were a weird time for everyone, or so I’ve been told. I’m not old enough to have lived through them myself, but pretty much every piece of media I’ve seen from that decade is either weird, grimy, or grim. But I was actually taken a bit aback by the cover of a 1978 UFO magazine posted to Twitter yesterday by the Pulp Librarian. It was a doozy!
“Beware: Polyester Fabrics Are Driving You Insane!” Surely that must be about the most ’70s headline imaginable: conspiratorial, weird, polyester.
That said, the hilarious magazine cover did prompt a little bit of thought about the 1970s and its New Age “mysteries,” both because of the cover itself and a recent article I read in which a parent objected to Oklahoma’s proposed new creationist-friendly teaching standards on the grounds that they would empower teachers to instruct students that the “pyramids were built by aliens.” The bill would provide legal protection to teachers who question scientific conclusions, so long as they do so in an “objective” way that involves criticizing a theory’s “weaknesses.”
Anyway, it made me wonder how it was that “aliens built the pyramids” became shorthand for the ancient astronaut theory, since that specific claim doesn’t appear in most versions of the ancient astronaut theory. Erich von Däniken, for example, devoted a lengthy section of Chariots of the Gods to the mysteries of the pyramids, but he did little more than imply that aliens had something to do with the math. Giorgio Tsoukalos explicitly denies that aliens built the pyramids. It seems that the idea comes mostly from reading into von Däniken’s book and making the connections he didn’t explicitly state.
But what I found most interesting in researching this is that von Däniken and the classic ancient astronaut writers were rather late to the party, and the whole idea of aliens building the pyramids had already been thoroughly worked through in science fiction, and occasionally in UFO books, prior to the ancient astronaut explosion. Garrett P. Serviss, for example, in his 1898 novel Edison’s Conquest of Mars explicitly states “The Martians were the builders of the Great Sphinx and the Pyramids.” While not strictly on the same subject, I found this fascinating passage by science fiction writer P. Schuyler Miller in a nonfiction column for Astounding in July 1958, in an article on the connection between science fiction, ancient history, and occult mysticism:
These various themes that science fiction and fantasy have shared and are sharing with cult-type movements seem to me to be of two main kinds: “They”-centered, and "We”-centered. The first are the kind of thing Wolfgang Müller was discussing in the passages I quoted — a groping for a dogma, an authority, to bolster us up in this uncertain world we’re in. Atlantis — Mu — the sages of Mount Shasta or Tibet — the “geniuses” who made the pyramids, or the Easter Island statues, or the fortress of Sacsahuaman — the people who drive the saucers — all these, severally and in some ungodly amalgams, are variations on the idea that a Great and Wise Power has existed, or does exist, which can solve all our problems if only we’ll let it, and bring back the Golden Age. We want archaeologists to dig up the “secrets” of Mu or Egypt and make everything easy again; we want All-wise, All- powerful people from the stars to come down and take care of us.
Miller naively thought that science fiction readers could separate fiction from the “lunatic fringe” that took it for fact, and in that sort of charmingly optimistic midcentury way, he thought that the occultism of Velikovsky and Shaver and Theosophy would fall before the power of science. He did not see the ancient astronaut theory and the great retrenchment of the 1970s coming.
But this led me, in a roundabout way, to an interesting look at a case where someone did say the pyramids were built by aliens. TV producer Alan Landsburg, in his 1975 tie-in book to the Rod Serling-narrated documentary The Outer Space Connection—the sequel to the Chariots adaptation In Search of Ancient Astronauts—talked about visiting Egypt and claiming to see the water line on the pyramids where the Great Flood covered their prehistoric bulk. He then talked about a Victorian book on the pyramids that he said helped prove the pyramids were an extraterrestrial construction: “In 1859 London publisher John Taylor drew upon all of these ideas and wrote a book that shocked the historians and scientists of the day. Taylor claimed that the pyramids had been built by Noah, who had been directed by a race of superbeings from another world.”
That is pretty close to an explicit claim that space aliens built the pyramids. Too bad Landsburg was fudging it pretty badly, more so when he stated explicitly that Charles Piazzi Smyth published a book which gave support to “the idea of extraterrestrials having built the pyramids.” Yes, we can blame Landsburg for popularizing the idea that aliens built the pyramids, a claim projected backward to von Däniken, whom Landsburg was adapting.
Anyway, it’s all lies. Piazzi Smyth said nothing about aliens, nor did Taylor write of “superbeings.” Piazzi Smyth believed God was responsible for the pyramid, acting through human agents, and Taylor had alleged, as Piazzi Smyth put it,
Mr. Taylor deduces reasons for believing, that the directors of the building of the Great Pyramid were of the chosen race, and in the line of, though preceding Abraham; so early indeed as to be closer to Noah than to Abraham; and had been enabled by divine favour to appreciate the appointed idea, as to the necessity of a sacrifice for a sin-offering,—an idea co-eval with Abel and Cain, but which no man of Egyptian born would ever contemplate with a moment’s patience.
In other words, the Jews built the pyramids after the Flood but before the time of Abraham, and did so because (and this is the—or a?—weird part) God gave the Jews special levels of intelligence disallowed to other races so that they might understand the math needed. Piazzi Smyth abridged the argument a bit too much. Taylor decided that Noah probably created the plans, but his descendants in the line of Shem likely created the actual structure: “To NOAH we must ascribe the original idea, the presiding mind, and the benevolent purpose. He who built the ark was, of all men, the most competent to direct the building of the Great Pyramid.”
So how did Landsburg get from there to “extraterrestrials having built the pyramids”? It’s probably enough to know that Chariots of the Gods is cited in the bibliography but neither Piazzi Smyth’s book nor Taylor’s, which, for those who care, was called The Great Pyramid: Why Was It Built and Who Built It? I’m not sure exactly where Landsburg got his information about Taylor; it clearly wasn’t from primary sources. One possibility is Martin Gardner’s Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, which discusses Taylor at length. Man, Myth, & Magic also included similar material. However, it looks to me like Landsburg was the one who substituted space aliens for God and then confidently claimed Taylor, a religious extremist with a math fetish, as an ancient astronaut theorist. The argument becomes circular: God is an alien, and aliens are God.
Somehow that seems about right.
4/18/2017 10:24:43 am
Yeah, Freemasons are on the airwaves begging for new members. Now they're giving away cheap meals to get people in the door. And in this case unfortunately, pure mendacity for dessert.
4/18/2017 04:55:37 pm
You know, it wasn't widely advertised to the public. No reason to be snide.
4/19/2017 11:29:08 am
Sorry Casper, but any organization that will spotlight Wolter and his imbecilic speculation as legitimate inquiry has lost all credibility in my book. It's even worse if you consider the possibility that they're using Wolter, who openly suggests he's now in on Masonic/Templar secret knowledge due to his brief affiliation, to attract new members to fill their coffers.
4/19/2017 12:49:56 pm
I honestly think members like to hear information about Knights Templar. Should someone question his authenticity? Yes. I'm surprised he was booked based on the episodes I've seen wherein he mentions masonry. Plus, don't generalize about an entire group of people.
4/19/2017 01:09:26 pm
And I actually did reach out and express my concern about his booking. I think Jason would have made a better speaker- if he was interested, I'd float a suggestion of a rebuttal lecture.
4/19/2017 01:44:37 pm
4/19/2017 05:08:48 pm
Again with the generalizations. Sheesh. Also, see above. I know a lot of people of all types who have no idea of Wolter. He takes advantage of the fact he seems knowledgeable, but not everyone is aware of the truth. His flip flop on masonry is hilarious and having watched his program, I also think he merely joined just to expand his audience. But like I said, I spoke to people once I found out about this. I'd love to have a more learned and legit speaker.
4/18/2017 10:33:45 am
But you're going, right?
Wim Van der Straeten
4/18/2017 11:29:03 am
There's an error in the text: He then said talked about a Victorian book on the pyramids that he said helped prove the pyramids were an extraterrestrial construction: "then said talked".
4/18/2017 11:38:22 am
Go, Jason. Go to the lecture, I dare you. I want to know if Wolter will leave in a huff, claiming the local lodge was complicit in a "set-up". You can smile and wave your ticket at him.
4/18/2017 11:40:04 am
Damn, sent my comment too soon.
4/18/2017 04:57:53 pm
I am confused by the invite, because I'm wondering if he's going to accuse the assembled of the insidious Denver Airport or murdering Meriwether Lewis.
4/18/2017 05:24:41 pm
Well, Jason could always hold his hands up in the air and Wolter would have to acknowledge him as a fellow Mason. Hey, it got Davy Crockett out of a bad situation! Just ask Wolter.
4/19/2017 11:33:16 am
I actially was in airport consulting and my firm looked at DIA. No secret bunkers just a collosal waste of tax dollars! It wasnt needed.
4/19/2017 12:53:47 pm
A man buried nearby was saved using such a gesture during the Revolution. His rescuer came to visit him after the war numerous times and attend meetings. It has actually happened. My concern was always you save one guy from a regiment, just one? Feels a bit elitist, but ah well. I'd certainly bargain for leniency for my whole command.
4/18/2017 11:57:07 am
I had no idea you shared a birthday with Esther Afua Ocloo.
4/18/2017 04:01:10 pm
Lord knows I did.
4/18/2017 12:11:52 pm
4/18/2017 12:32:37 pm
I am wondering about the timing of Zecharia Sitchen's books with the others that you have named as Sitchen does make specific claims that it was the "annunaki" that built the pyramids.
4/18/2017 10:36:18 pm
This was covered in "UFOs: The Lost Evidence" (episode 4) that I laughed through today. They presented all kinds of "new" 50+ year old material. Pretty sure the entire show was just a cut and paste job.
4/18/2017 12:35:16 pm
Weird. Medium John Edwards will be at the Desmond at the same time. You're spoiled for choice, Jason.
4/18/2017 01:27:31 pm
Yes, the 70's were grimy and polyester was invented by Aliens to drive humans crazy.
4/18/2017 01:28:08 pm
How do you know that Scott Wolter will talk about his Templar obsession. He may babble on for three hours about his various experiences in the examination of concrete. He may even have slides.
4/18/2017 01:37:35 pm
It would be wonderful irony if Landsburg really did get that info from Martin Gardner’s "Fads and Fallacies," one of my favorite books.
4/18/2017 01:57:41 pm
Jason, were you aware that you share a birthday with Superman?
4/18/2017 02:13:22 pm
Colonvito won't go to Wolter's talk because he's a scared little wuss who hides behind his keyboard. His spewing arrogance fades when he needs to back up his false claims.
An Over-Educated Grunt
4/18/2017 02:30:20 pm
And there's your fist! Ladies and gentlemen, Scott Reaney.
4/18/2017 04:02:20 pm
Yeah! Jason's a poopyhead and a meanie!
4/18/2017 05:09:34 pm
Says the anonymous poster who wishes to be associated with either (A) a kooky 1990's suicide cult that watched Star Trek V one too many times, or (B) an infamous 1980 flop movie that bankrupted a major Hollywood studio.
4/18/2017 02:29:38 pm
Hi Jason -
4/18/2017 02:38:16 pm
don't go, Jason. save the $15 because why waste good money on listening to a nut job. however, if they're serving filet mignon, then reconsider.
An Over-Educated Grunt
4/18/2017 02:39:08 pm
Bear-baiting aside, I think you should go see Wolter and take advantage of any Q&A time he offers. After all, you can hardly be held liable for attending an event where he advertised his presence.
4/18/2017 04:10:46 pm
Wolter is getting very cagey with his responses on his blog. He seems to have a new book and/or project coming soon. My evidence for this is that any time someone asks him a question, he says the answer will be "coming soon." I doubt any Q&A will involve more than "you'll have to read my next book." Perhaps Jason could go and make a drinking game out of that.
4/19/2017 01:51:25 pm
I'd actually be surprised if he allowed questions. Should that not be the case, I would press him on his assertion that no archeological evidence can be found in the U.S. for Templar activities because they "practiced extreme cleanliness".
4/18/2017 02:44:53 pm
Happy birthday, Jason. You have a gift to savor for the next few weeks. Take a book and see if he will inscribe it for you.
4/18/2017 04:12:35 pm
Interesting observation about the source of aliens building the pyramids. I realize now that I say exactly this when talking with friends and family to describe one who holds fringe ideas. It doesn't matter if the person really does believe the pyramids were built by ET, but rather, it's shorthand for "believes crazy things." I have no idea why I do that.
4/20/2017 11:57:28 am
I find myself doing the same thing. It's much easier, when speaking to someone who is not familiar with all the wild and wacky Nephilim - Gobeki Tepi - interdimensional bigfoot - bullshit to use two words that everyone understands. Aliens - Pyramids! Crazy, right? . . . Right?
4/18/2017 04:16:52 pm
In a recent blog post Wolter expands on his theory that the KRS Templar Cistercian Coachella party was on a one-way mission to the "center of the country" to live there forever, "assimilating" and presumably having sex with the Indians and their sex apes. And as near as I can tell the story is they stopped and built the NewPort Tower first.
4/18/2017 05:02:41 pm
Happy Birthday Jason! If Scott won't buy you a beer, I will.
4/18/2017 05:31:35 pm
Happy birthday, Jason!
4/18/2017 06:15:44 pm
4/18/2017 06:45:46 pm
Happy Birthday, for what it's worth, that 70s cover illustration is by Tony Roberts, one of the many sci-illustrators Britain produced during the period.
4/18/2017 07:43:34 pm
Happy Birthday Jason!
4/18/2017 08:02:11 pm
U gotta go man. Capture Scott Wolter responding to your questions! Id love to ask him how thousands of Minoan ships somehow made it to Lake Michigan
4/19/2017 12:25:11 am
Many happy returns, Jason.
4/19/2017 12:55:32 am
So, Noah was the first Pharao?
4/19/2017 01:21:05 am
4/19/2017 05:33:38 am
All the best for your next year Jason.
4/19/2017 08:09:16 am
4/19/2017 09:11:07 am
Happy Birthday Jason!
4/19/2017 01:08:09 pm
Happy Birthday, Jason!
4/19/2017 07:06:25 pm
Happy belated B-Day to you! I have a grandson who turned 9 today, and a granddaughter who turned 9 on the 13th. I'll probably remember yours now as well.
4/23/2017 12:16:43 pm
Happy birthday. If Wolters buys you a beer, I'll buy you a beer.
4/23/2017 02:03:47 pm
I bet the dinner is nothing more fancy than spaghetti. Can't wait to read the report on what happens.
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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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