Today’s blog presents a snippet from the book LYING WONDERS OF THE RED PLANET, which continues to be one of Faith Happens Books’ best sellers.
DESPITE BEING A BIG DISHEVELED, belief in spiritual realities remains alive and well. The casual observer might not recognize the nature of spiritual yearning in today’s world since it appears disguised in all manner of technology-enhanced video, high-definition multi-media graphics, and über-visual production values. Nonetheless, if we delve into the meaning of the burgeoning social phenomena associated with the highly strange and paranormal, we uncover that humanity still seeks the divine—albeit in odd places. To be specific, affirmations of faith show vivid signs of life in unexpected quarters. We see these creeds embedded in a few formerly odd but now successful television shows which captivate the masses. In this respect, no drama spellbinds us more than the TV quasi-documentary, Ancient Aliens.
Produced by Prometheus Entertainment, Ancient Aliens has contributed mightily to the success of Cable TV’s History Channel. From its website, we read: “Established in 1999, Prometheus Entertainment has been a leader in supplying critically acclaimed, highly rated programming to the cable marketplace. The company has produced nearly 500 hours of dynamic and diverse television for clients such as History, A&E, E!, WEtv, Travel Channel, Bravo, Animal Planet, Lucasfilm Ltd., National Geographic Channel, AMC, Warner Bros–and more.”
Just how successful has Ancient Aliens been? Quite successful. After completing its fifth season, its producers have created a spinoff series. Debuting in 2014, In Search of Aliens will feature the usual crew of Ancient Aliens with Giorgio A. Tsoukalos (that guy with the crazy hairdo—formerly publisher of the now defunct Legendary Times Magazine), and Erich von Däniken—the infamous although the mildly charming author of the cultural phenomenon, Chariots of the Gods? (1968). Due to its popularity, Ancient Aliens and Prometheus Entertainment are arguably the primary reasons the History Channel created a second cable channel, called simply “H2”. Ancient Aliens was moved to H2 a few years ago (and In Search of Aliens followed it there) to form the nucleus of its programming strategy and guarantee high ratings to attract advertisers.
So it is that sensational television has a new golden child. Cosmic wonders, UFOs, and the mysteries of ancient civilizations combine to advance extraordinary extraterrestrial credos. It makes for great television, and the programming provides fascinating answers to ultimate questions. Thanks to The History Channel and Prometheus Entertainment, spiritual themes have been reintroduced to the public, pandering to our covert quest to understand where we come from. These techno-affirmations of faith ring true to many, thanks to both state-of-the-art media magic and a thorough baptism of pseudoscience. Who says we don’t like to watch religious programming on television?
However, today’s popular preoccupation with alien astronauts and unexplained archeology revisits the same phenomenon from the 1970s (we will later see, even from 100 years prior).
Not long after Erich von Däniken published Chariots of the Gods? a German movie was made in 1970 with the same name. Then an American version followed in 1973, retitled In Search of Alien Astronauts. The US movie was so successful that in 1975, Alan Landsburg created a three-part TV documentary, also named the same, which ran on NBC and was hosted by his friend Rod Serling.
Like the current craze, the story featured inexplicable archeological artifacts from around the world. This documentary was so popular that it spawned “In Search of…” series from 1977-1982. Before the successor series launched, unfortunately, Serling passed away. Leonard Nimoy, no longer trekking about, took over the helm as narrator. Von Däniken went on to write over 25 books, and the Cult of Ancient Astronauts had been thoroughly seeded in the modern American audience. 
Certainly, contributing to the cultivation of the notion were the books of Graham Hancock. Hancock proposed that there was no need to bring extraterrestrials into the equation. Instead, Earth once gave rise to ancient civilizations with advanced technologies that were lost after a series of cataclysms. His 1995 book, Fingerprints of the Gods, echoed the concepts of nineteenth-century author Ignatius Donnelly, who claimed that the artifacts of Egypt bespoke the connection to a not-so-mythical Atlantis, which was the progenitor of all ancient civilizations. The so-called Lost Continent bequeathed advanced architecture, astronomy, and mathematics technologies to humanity. The Pyramids of Giza were the prime example. The purpose and capability of the mysterious pyramids far exceeded mere tombs for dead Pharaohs or monuments to their celestial gods. (Hancock’s current highly controversial series, “Ancient Apocalypse,” dramatically carries this viewpoint forward.
Perhaps nine seasons of the very popular X-Files series (1993—2001) on FOX Television catalyzed interest in UFOs, alien abduction, and the highly strange. At its peak, X-Files built an audience of over 18 million viewers.
Then there are the discussion forums that also contributed to the hunger for paranormal programming. In particular, we should make mention of the call-in talk radio show Coast to Coast AM which frequently featured supernatural themes and experts (both real and self-described), drawing over three million listeners every day before the crack of dawn.
Beginning in 1984, the program was hosted by the outspoken Art Bell and years later by the more soft-spoken George Noory. Bell argued Coast to Coast AM peaked as his time with the program ended. Furthermore, according to Bell, Noory ruined the program because he refused to challenge the positions and views taken by his guests—many of which are beyond the pale, or as we say today, “over the top.” Noory counters that the program serves as a forum for the eccentric, a forum that would otherwise not exist, as these voices would otherwise not be heard. Apparently, his listeners agree since the program continues undaunted. But regardless of who was hosting, Coast to Coast AM played no small part in catapulting Ancient Astronaut Theory back into the public’s consciousness once again. 
 In the mid-nineties, the show was rebroadcast on A&E and garnered a number of fans. But other fiction programming and new names were to burst on the scene, expanding the research and increasing the speculation of Alien Astronaut theorists.
 Moreover, the program continues to offer up the opinions of fringe authors as well as genuine explicators of the extraordinary. One thinks of theoretical physicist Michio Kaku as a prime example of a genuine expert. Frequent guest Richard C. Hoagland represents “the fringe.”