We are less than three weeks from the so-called Maya Apocalypse, and I for one would like believers to put their money where their mouth is and send me cash. You won't be needing it after Bolon Yokte and his green turkeys come to carry you off in a spaceship, or whatever. So, send it to me. There's a button to your right to make it easy.
Kevin A. Whitesides and John W. Hoopes have a fascinating article in Zeitschrift für Anomalistik (vol. 12, 2012) called "Seventies Dreams and 21st Century Realities: The Emergence of 2012 Mythology," in which they explore how the 1970s alternative culture helped spread a myth with little grounding in fact.
Whitesides and Hoopes briefly trace the origins of the 2012 apocalypse theme through time, including Columbus' belief in the Second Coming. The following paragraph is among the most interesting in explaining exactly how the Dresden Codex and the Maya calendar gave rise to an apocalyptic belief in the twentieth century. The authors are here describing the last pages of the Dresden Codex, a Mayan text whose final image is of a Great Flood. This image has been used to support everything from Noah's Ark to claims that the Maya predicted Obama.
Coe's incorrect 2011 date was later corrected to 2012, but not before it showed up in Alan Landsburg's ancient astronaut movie The Outer Space Connection (1975) and its accompanying book. According to Whitesides and Hoopes, Landsburg's film helped spread Mayan Apocalypse beliefs beyond the fringe since the film was broadcast on NBC to an audience comprising around a third of all TV viewers. The result would be a florescence of 2012 beliefs in the late 1970s, lasting down to the present day.
It continues to amaze me how a single writer, making a single claim, can set off a chain reaction that echoes down the ages as later writers repeat, expand, and misunderstand the original. Here, Coe is at fault, but his scholarly speculation would have been forgotten if Landsburg hadn't been casting about for new material to make a sequel to his adaptation of Erich von Däniken's Chariots of the Gods, which was itself a success because of Rod Serling, who only narrated the film due to the disaster that was NBC's and Universal's treatment of his Night Gallery, leading to its untimely cancellation despite strong ratings. So, thanks to the failure of Night Gallery we not only got ancient astronauts and eventually Ancient Aliens but also the 2012 apocalypse myth. Truly, this was the most consequential series cancellation of its time.
It's the law of unintended consequences at work. I for one think we'd have all been better off with more Night Gallery and much less apocalypse and aliens.
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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