Chariots Of The Gods: Sketchy Tales Of Ancient Aliens Became A Best Seller

By | September 20, 2020

test article image
The familiar front cover of Von Daniken's best-seller. Source:

Erich Von Däniken's Chariots of the Gods told us that aliens were responsible for everything from the pyramids at Giza to the statues of Easter Island. The best-seller from 1968 was popular around the globe, with millions of readers believing its theories, an early example of the passion instilled by seductive, widely-distributed pseudoscience. It's a phenomenon we wrestle with to this day, whether it's hokey TV we kind-of want to believe (like Ancient Aliens) or the so-called "fake news" that simply confirms a worldview we'd like to be true. 

Before we had infinite cable channels and the internet to put questionable information at our fingertips, we had Chariots of the Gods, its sequels, and the documentaries it inspired. In the late '60s, many people were open to alternative thinking, and looking for a narrative that explained the cosmic mysteries they'd pondered in smoke-filled dorm rooms at 3 AM, and Chariots of the Gods scratched that itch.

Von Däniken Asked Some Reasonable Questions; He Just Gave Flimsy Answers

test article image
Erich von Daniken. Source:

Have you ever been curious about Earth's artifacts? Why massive ancient temples across the globe are pyramidal? Or why cave drawings throughout the ancient world looks as if they show beings from the sky? In 1968, Von Däniken sought to explain that these aren't just coincidences, but a map to the stars. Chariots of the Gods sent shockwaves through the extra-terrestrial- and UFO-obsessed underground, and it made a splash in mainstream culture as well. Had someone finally cracked the secret art, science, and religion all in one book?

According to academics, no, not at all.

Chariots of the Gods was cast as pseudoscience by many who read it, and as much as people got into reading about our god-like alien overlords they were just as into debunking the theories that von Däniken put forth in this book. The saga of Chariots of the Gods, its claims, and fallout are more than just the rise and fall of a weird piece of pseudoscience. It tells the story of belief, fraud, and the lengths that people will go to find meaning in the universe.