This year wasn’t quite as bad as 2021, so I can’t be too upset at a year that, if nothing else, did not get appreciably worse. On the other hand, nothing really improved either. Between inflation and further work cuts in my failing industry, it’s been hard. When a prominent astrologer said this year would be the best of my life, I wasn’t sure whether that was a promise or a threat. It’s a good thing astrology is bunk, or else I would be painfully depressed to think this was the best things will ever get.
In a more general sense, this was a year devoted mostly to UFOs, which dominated the paranoid paranormal discourse for the first ten months, until Atlantis made a late run for the crown.
Here, then, is the year that was, edited and condensed from my blog posts and newsletter.
The year began with the CBS Evening News using a tarot card reader to predict the news. Spoon-bender Uri Geller announced that he had psychically divined the location of the Ark of the Covenant while dowsing in the museum of himself he was, by complete coincidence, about to open and needed to promote. He said he would recover the Ark. He did not. Onetime TV host Scott Wolter took issue with Geller’s clam, alleging instead that the Ark was the battery running the hidden super-technology of the Egyptian pyramids. He also promoted a commercially made faux-antique journal as an ancient repository of Templar secrets. Ancient Aliens launched a new season, its eighteenth, lasting the whole year. The Telegraph ran a puff piece depicting racist ancient astronaut theorist Erich von Däniken as a cuddly eccentric. Marco M. Vigato published Empires of Atlantis, a racist disquisition on the superior genetics of white Atlanteans. By year’s end he would be featured in the year’s biggest speculative history show, Netflix’s Ancient Apocalypse. Astrophysicist Avi Loeb of Harvard’s Galileo Project continued his push into paranormal territory by hiring Jacques Vallée, who claimed last year that the U.S. military recovered an avocado-shaped UFO in 1945 piloted by miniature space aliens. Immunologist-turned-paranormal-ufologist Garry Nolan claimed “people” in the U.S. government hired him to study UFOs. Chris Mellon publicly asked the Pentagon to give Lue Elizondo is old job back, but inadvertently started his UFO friend group on the road to ruin by accidentally admitting most of Elizondo’s UFO work was “on his own time,” not under Pentagon orders. Soon enough, we’d learn Elizondo’s real job had been running the space-ghost paranormal program years before his UFO adventure. Leslie Kean, who introduced Elizondo to the world in a deceptive 2017 New York Times story, announced her belief that UFOs were deeply connected to consciousness and the afterlife, the subject of her last book. CNN gave her a five-episode UFO documentary order, but thanks to turmoil at the network, it never aired. Right-wing plotter Steve Bannon praised Alex Jones and endorsed a clip of Jones saying “intergalactic” space demons have taken over human bodies.
Some of the people behind the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis offered an implausible new claim, alleging that another comet hit Ohio in the early centuries CE and destroyed Ohio’s Hopewell civilization, who conveniently commemorated their own incineration with a comet-shaped earthwork. Discovery+ and the Travel Channel ran a two-hour hoax documentary claiming missing persons and victims of violent crime have actually been seized by a hive of newly awakened vampires who descend from a blood-drinking hominid species that evolved 68,000 years ago before settling in Transylvania. Parent company Discovery never admitted the hoax. Not long after, it bought the parent of CNN and vowed to restore integrity to media. Discovery+ ghost-hunter Zak Bagans opened his new James Dean supernatural “curse” exhibit at his Las Vegas museum, and fabricated material from the exhibit, faking even what he didn’t need to fake. Jacques Vallée received a glossy profile in Wired hailing him as a hero. Chris Mellon told The Hill’s morning show, Rising, that space aliens are the best explanation for UFOs. Garry Nolan speculated about interdimensional space poltergeists infecting the brains of the very intelligent with space inflammation, as Nolan angled to get government funding to study mind parasites and their psychic space powers. Hal Puthoff claimed that aerospace companies are hoarding physics secrets unknown to academia. Lue Elizondo once again got caught misrepresenting government documents to heighten the drama of his claims. This time, citing The Sun tabloid, he falsely claimed that a transcript of a 1960s public speech using a fictitious alien message as a hypothetical code-breaking exercise was a formerly classified NSA report on communicating with space aliens. Diana Pasulka claimed to know scientists who have made contact with entities from another dimension. The History channel announced Ancient Aliens LIVE: Project Earth, a traveling 90-minute Ancient Aliens stage show in which the series’ stars “perform” the TV show’s greatest hits in front of a live audience. Avi Loeb said the Galileo Project would prepare the way for global unity.
British archaeologist Timothy Darvill bizarrely claimed in Antiquity that Stonehenge was an ancient calendar of Egyptian origin. A retired architect claimed that piles of granite ships’ ballast in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast are the remains of a Graham Hancock-style 12,000-year-old sunken pyramid city “related” to the Great Pyramids of Giza. Lue Elizondo became an ancient astronaut theorist and announced his fascination with the Ica Stones, a hoax showing humans riding dinosaurs. Soon we would learn he was secretly working with U.S. Space Command while commenting on UFOs in the media as though he were a civilian. Diana Pasulka signed a book deal with St. Martin’s Essentials for a new book on scientific “contact” with interdimensional beings. Sirius Mystery author Robert Temple published a new book claiming the plasma making up the universe is a sentient alien entity. Avi Loeb announced that the director of the alien-themed movie Arrival had teamed up with him to create a UFO documentary. Ross Coulthart promised that the truth about UFOs would be coming soon, and then announced that he, too, was negotiating a media deal for an American UFO documentary TV series. Fox Nation commentator Lara Logan told a right-wing podcast that the Rothschild banking family paid Charles Darwin to develop the theory of evolution as part of an international conspiracy of world domination. Fox eventually cut ties after repeated antisemitic conspiracy theories.
Fox News star Tucker Carlson announced a slate of streaming Fox Nation documentaries, including one about UFO cattle mutilation and another about a conspiracy to feminize men. William Shatner threw a hissy fit on Twitter because I posted a review of a recent episode of his The UnXplained in which he made baseless pseudoarchaeological claims and consequently archaeologists took to social media to attack his false claims. Graham Hancock tweeted out nineteenth century claims that the Olmec were Egyptian. The mayor of the town where the ancient site of Göbekli Tepe is located claimed that the temple complex’s stylized carvings of human figures are so unusual that they may depict space aliens. Ufologist Nick Pope of Ancient Aliens alleged that after the infamous Oscars incident in which Will Smith slapped Chris Rock, space aliens probably called off their invasion of Earth because they are now afraid of Will Smith, conflating him with his Men in Black character. Bryan Bender of Politico finally admitted that Lue Elizondo and the Skinwalker Ranch space-ghost spook crew misled him about government UFO research, five years too late. Ex-CIA paranormal investigator Kit Green admitted supposed “UFO” injuries sustained by witnesses were not caused by aliens as Garry Nolan had repeatedly implied. Garry Nolan spent several hours on a podcast trying to resurrect 1970s psychical research as the key to understanding UFOs, going so far as to suggest that E! and Netflix TV psychic Tyler Henry has extraordinary powers. Avi Loeb published a piece claiming that a meteor that crashed into the Earth in 2014 could be a piece of alien technology and arguing that it should be recovered from the bottom of the ocean for study. By year’s end, he made plans to do so and was sucking up to billionaires like Elon Musk for funding. Thiel Capital’s Eric Weinstein interviewed Loeb, and during the chat Loeb said humanity must focus on “spirituality” in order to “save” humanity from existential threats. Lue Elizondo grandiosely claimed that all his enemies would suffer similar fates after his longtime nemesis, Pentagon official Garry Reid, had his alleged sexual wrongdoing exposed. Nick Pope told a tabloid newspaper that seagulls might be working for space aliens as spies, a claim he later walked back.
The United States Congress held the first hearing on UFOs since the 1960s, and Pentagon witnesses effectively made the case that the flap over UFOs is a tempest in a teapot driven by sensationalism. The great UFO flap faded after most UFOs turned out to be drones, balloons, distant lights, and aerial debris, and officials found no evidence of aliens, crashed flying saucers, or other conspiracy claims Congress raised. Skyfort, the pro-UFO think tank founded by Sean Cahill and promoted on Tucker Carlson Tonight by Lue Elizondo, folded. Elizondo, who commented on the UFO hearing for Fox News and CNN, also accused his critics of being part of an organized gang of criminals who beat women. Politico and the Morning Consult conducted a sloppily worded poll that found 3 out of 5 Americans think aliens are real and 4 out of 5 of those believers think the Pentagon is hiding the truth about UFOs. A team of scientists from Stockholm University published an article speculating that a photo processing artifact on a 1950s photo was an alien spaceship. The announcement of a previously unguessed type of culture among the stone age hunter-gatherers of Karahan Tepe prompted speculation about Atlantis and Bible giants and a depressingly exoticized take on history from The Spectator, casting the past as inherently separate from the present and fellow humans as an alien Other. The author, novelist Sean Thomas, dismissed rural non-Westerners as rubes.
Garry Nolan claimed in a podcast to have special knowledge that Congress was not only working on “immunity” or “amnesty” for officials who have protected UFO secrets but that the immunity deal is almost complete. Shortly after, Congress introduced legislation to exempt the Pentagon’s UFO office from government employees’ and contractors’ NDA and classification restrictions. Australian journalist Ross Coulthart declared in a Fade to Black radio appearance that UFOs were an ancient earthly civilization. UFO celebrity Chris Lehto shilled for alien-themed NFTs: “You can look at your boring bank account, or you can look at this.” Defense contractors mingled with UFO celebrities at the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies’ Anomalous Aerospace Phenomena Conference in Alabama, where many of the celebrities turned out to be on contractors’ payrolls in anticipation of Congress creating a UFO Pentagon bureaucracy with lucrative contracts by year’s end. Lue Elizondo said that he hopes to serve in Congress in the next five years and promptly made his GOP leanings clear with weird comments about Nazis and racial slurs. Secret of Skinwalker Ranch and Ancient Aliens star Travis Taylor volunteered to testify to Congress and then admitted to deceiving his TV bosses and the public by failing to disclose he had worked for the Pentagon’s UFO task force and contributed to its 2021 UFO report, which he then analyzed as an “independent” commentator on Ancient Aliens. His bosses cheered his unethical deception, claiming it legitimized their entertainment products. Taylor accused his critics of being part of a conspiracy paying them to criticize him and his work.
The 75th anniversary of the Kenneth Arnold UFO sighting in late June and the Roswell Incident in July passed largely unnoticed as the Powers That Be avoided kitschy ufology to appear Very Serious to Congress—and worthy of taxpayers’ money. Congress worked on passing a wish list of UFO enthusiasts’ fantasies, including an investigation into UFO crash retrieval conspiracy theories and a historic survey of UFO cover-ups since 1947, resulting in an effort to mandate an endless make-work paranormal program for UFO grifters. Lue Elizondo confirmed that Chris Mellon was directly responsible for convincing senators to introduce the legislation. UFO enthusiast Robert Bigelow gave bigot Ron DeSantis $10 million to ensure DeSantis’s anti-LGBTQ policies continue in Florida. The Georgia Guidestones, subject of many cable TV conspiracy documentaries, were damaged in a bomb attack and then demolished. The case remains unsolved but authorities speculated the attack was linked to rightwing conspiracy theories. Graham Hancock had a podcast discussion with convicted rapist Mike Tyson about psychedelic drugs while the table before them displayed bags of cannabis gummies shaped like the ear Tyson bit off Evander Holyfield.
Garry Nolan appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox Nation streaming morning show Tucker Carlson Today to offer his thoughts on space aliens and the government’s efforts to investigate UFOs, with the openly gay UFO hunter laughing it up with one of America’s biggest homophobes. Nolan claimed to have secretly advised Congress on UFO investigations while pretending he wasn’t and to have had his recommendations written into law. He then appeared in a Ross Coulthart UFO show in Australia claiming whistleblowers would imminently reveal the truth about flying saucers. They didn’t. Nolan falsely accused me of violating HIPAA and “stealing” his laptop for reporting on research Nolan had already shared with a UFO researcher two years before. Lue Elizondo retained Kyle Rittenhouse’s attorney, Todd McMurtry, to advise him on potential action against “commentators” and public officials he accuses of defaming him by asking him for evidence of his claims. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand bizarrely claimed to know of secret military UFO videos and sensor data that she also claimed to need a new UFO office to prove exist. Hal Puthoff published some pitiful, recycled ideas about how to hunt and track antediluvian supernormal humanoids, such as Atlanteans and djinn, in a low-quality academic journal. Mick West revealed “alien” scars on UFO witnesses promoted by Jacques Vallée to be burn marks from a standard hair dryer.
Chris Mellon announced aliens are in contact with UFO witnesses while he attended a Spanish UFO conference where he inadvertently posed with a Nazi-sympathizing UFO influencer. Ufologists launched a coordinated and successful political and media campaign to have Congress void NDAs so so-called whistleblowers could reveal UFO information to the new UFO office—which cynics might see as a convenient way to put all of America’s intelligence on foreign spy drones in one location. Immediately after achieving this goal and securing a UFO office that would award defense contracts, Chris Mellon, Lue Elizondo, and Sean Cahill simultaneously announced no UFO “disclosure” would be forthcoming from the U.S. government, cursed out UFO believers as kooky cultists, and largely withdrew from public life. Travs Taylor alleged UFO skeptics have an “economic motivation” for denying space ghosts are real and blaming a “shadow group” for organizing a campaign to debunk parasitic interdimensional poltergeists. He called for those funding skeptics to be jailed. Garry Nolan speculated that aliens practiced eugenics on humans. Nick Redfern published a bad Pentagon UFO conspiracy book vaguely connected to the Giza pyramids.
Robert Schoch proposed that the temple complex at Karnak in Egypt had been deliberately buried in the Ice Age after viewing nineteenth-century photographs of the ruins before they had been cleared of rubble from their medieval collapse and partially restored. Avi Loeb compared the hunt for space aliens to the Torah and claimed the true purpose of science, like that of religion, is to be humbled and awed by powers greater than oneself. It came out that the U.S. government visited him at home to “suggest” he investigate Ukrainian UFO claims. Jack Brewer discovered that Uintah County, Utah secretly owns, operates, and funds PhenomeCon, a paranormal conference designed to promote (and enrich) those associated with Skinwalker Ranch, funneling hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars to people and companies associated with the ranch and its TV series. The New York Times abruptly terminated a year of UFO hype when it ran a story sourced to anonymous Pentagon officials revealing that once UFO research stopped being the sole province of a task force managed by a Skinwalker Ranch true believer with scientific advice from a Secret of Skinwalker Ranch and Ancient Aliens star, unsurprisingly most UFOs turned out to be Chinese drones and aerial debris. Government and media interest in UFOs all but ceased after that, but a UFO office, already embedded in draft legislation, went ahead anyway.
Pretty much the only thing that happened in November was the release of Graham Hancock’s Netflix series Ancient Apocalypse, which consumed all the oxygen in the paranormal, occult, and supernatural spheres. Although the show was merely a superficial video version of Hancock’s books from 2015 and 2019, because no one reads, the show shocked media and academic viewers and generated more mainstream media coverage than any show of its kind since Ancient Aliens debuted nearly fourteen years ago. Every magazine and newspaper seemingly needed to condemn Hancock’s illogical speculation and anti-archaeology spleen—that is, except for conservatives, who quickly latched onto the show as a weapon against wokeness and, especially, hated “elites,” as I discussed in my own New Republic piece on the subject. Elsewhere, Avi Loeb finally admitted directly that his UFO hunt was a search for a kind of spirit that exists beyond the material world. The Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies, the think tank run by millionaire UFO nut and Republican megadonor Robert Bigelow and staffed with former Pentagon UFO researchers, put out a bizarre statement claiming that its paranormal researchers are looking to communicate with “senior sources” from the “Other Side,” presumably the spirit realm.
Scott Wolter decided space aliens helped the Knights Templar found the United States via a medieval Templar Free State in North America. Wolter’s claims rest on the Kensington Runestone, and a Swedish researcher found the nineteenth century textbook that taught the eccentric runes found only on the Runestone and in nineteenth-century runic writing in the region of Sweden where the book was used. Wolter claimed the book actually proved the stone medieval. Two British authors published a poorly argued book claiming King Arthur was a Roman solider named Artorius. Randall Carlson, who appeared as an expert in Ancient Apocalypse, told a podcaster that Atlantis had bases under the ocean and on the moon. Kanye West was banned from Twitter after going on an antisemitic tirade and posting the Raëlian UFO cult logo, a swastika-emblazoned Star of David, which he and Twitter owner Elon Musk both mistook for a Nazi-Jewish unity symbol. The Pentagon held a media conference call to discuss its new UFO office and impending legislation requiring more UFO research. The thrust of the discussion was (a) there is no evidence of space aliens or “transmedium” vehicles, (b) the Pentagon is primarily focused on identifying drones and unmanned aerial vehicles, and (c) military sensors are calibrated for enemy aircraft so many anomalies are likely due to sensors picking up data they were not designed to handle. Although Pres. Biden signed the Pentagon UFO office into law just before Christmas, this placed what seemed to be the final nail in the coffin of the government looking at UFOs as alien spacecraft and shifted the UFO investigation to earthly sources. Chris Mellon resurfaced on Christmas Eve to praise the new law and suggested it would someday prove aliens are visiting Earth, if only the Pentagon would listen to cable TV UFO stars and space poltergeist believers.
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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