Legendary UFO expert Erich Von Daniken on his Chariots of the Gods at 50

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Mar 27, 2021, 2:00 AM EDT (Updated)

If you were alive in the 1970s and had any level of interest in the pervasive culture of UFOs, then you totally owned a dog-eared paperback copy of Erich von Daniken's ancient astronaut expose, Chariots of the Gods?

First published in 1968, the pioneering book ignited a worldwide craze for flying saucers, crop circles, extraterrestrial abductions, and ufology that slingshotted into the Swingin' '70s. No self-respecting stargazer or sci-fi conventioneer was without this bible of the bizarre, which postulated that our planet had been a stopover point thousands of years ago for interstellar visitors who shared futuristic technology with ancient civilizations.


Von Daniken theorized that many of Earth's most amazing structures and landmarks like the Egyptian pyramids, Stonehenge, the Moai of Easter Island, the Nazca lines in Peru, and cart-ruts in Malta and Australia had been influenced or utilized by these benevolent beings from beyond.

He also hypothesized that artwork throughout the world could be interpreted as depicting helmeted astronauts, fantastic air and space vehicles, intricate spaceports, and complex machines far outside any known human technologies of the time.


Controversial yet captivating, with significant pseudoscience at its core, Chariots of the Gods was eventually translated into 28 languages with total worldwide sales of 16 million copies.

The Swiss author went on to write another 32 sequels and companion novels on the spacey subject (selling a staggering 63 million copies) and his works have spawned multiple documentaries, Hollywood films, video games, and TV shows -- most notably the Ancient Aliens series on the History Channel. Chariots of the Gods and its legacy remain some of the most copied and referred-to texts within the UFO community, and next year the novel celebrates its 50th anniversary with a special deluxe edition from Berkley Publsihing.


Here's the official press release:

Berkley is thrilled to be commemorating the 50th anniversary of the classic CHARIOTS OF THE GODS by Erich von Däniken in July 2018 by re-releasing the groundbreaking book that introduced the theory that ancient Earth established contact with aliens in a beautiful anniversary edition with a new foreword and afterword by the author. Here, von Däniken examines ancient ruins, lost cities, spaceports, and a myriad of hard scientific facts that point to extraterrestrial intervention in human history. Most incredible of all, however, is von Däniken's theory that we are the descendants of these galactic pioneers--and he reveals the archaeological discoveries that prove it.

Check out SYFY WIRE's exclusive interview below with von Daniken, who makes his home in Switzerland, discussing the current state of ufology, how modern archaeologists and historians have debunked some of his groundbreaking theories, and what he hopes new generations of readers will take from his monumental book.


How do you see the status of UFO culture today as opposed to its peak intensity in the '70s and '80s?

Erich von Daniken: The spirit of time has changed. Although UFOs are for many persons something which does not exist and has to be ridiculed, many famous persons around the world accept the facts of UFO and even say this in public.

With science fiction so popular in entertainment offerings, how does Chariots of the Gods fit into the scene today?

Prometheus from Ridley Scott is a Chariots of the Gods theme. So are many other science fiction series, like for example Stargate from Roland Emmerich.


Did you ever meet Leonard Nimoy and what are your memories of Chariots of the Gods being featured on In the Search Of Ancient Astronauts show?

Unfortunately I never had the chance to meet Leonard Nimoy. The TV-Series Ancient Aliens from the History Channel is a full Erich von Däniken-documentary. It mostly has to do with my books. I am – so to say – the godfather of the series. Giorgio Tsoukalos who presents the series brilliantly has grown up with my knowledge and was my student. We are very good friends.

What are some of your favorite alien invasion or extraterrestrial abduction movies or TV shows?

The best movie in this connection is definitely 2001 and 2010: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke. And in the Stargate TV series there are many elements from my books.

What do you hope a new generation of readers might absorb and understand from Chariots of the Gods?

They will realize, that humanity was never alone and that we are the offsprings of an extraterrestrial space family. And, of course, in the future it will be absolutely clear that the reason for so many religions comes from the deep past and has to do with extra-terrestrials.


Have you changed any of your theories or positions on ancient astronauts and extraterrestrial visitors since Chariots was published?

The general theory is in the meantime absolutely confirmed and provable. On the other hand, there were some mistakes in my earlier books. This is the normal way in scientific works.

How do you hope the book will be remembered today, and another 50 years from now for its 100th anniversary?

As a modest man, I don’t know what the future will bring. Of course, I hope, to be not completely forgotten.