There was a used bookstore downtown, in a barely renovated nineteenth century warehouse. It was five floors of dense, rickety shelves, piled high with jumbled paperbacks in various states of decay. To say that they were sorted in any kind of order would have been a gross exaggeration, but there was a certain thematic geography to the place. In a dark corner of the top floor, up a dangerously steep and narrow staircase, was the esoteric books section.
On afternoons when it was too rainy or too cold to play outside, before the place burned to the ground in 1983, my father would load a bunch of us into the backseat of his giant Ford Torino and drive us to the used bookstore. He would give each of us a two dollar bill (we still had those back then) and let us loose in the labyrinth. The expensive books were usually a dollar. I stayed away from those. Many were 50 cents. A bunch went for a dime, especially the well worn, marked up paperbacks in the esoteric books section, which is where I always went.
I came out with arms full each time, but I read a lot more books on the spot than I ever bought there. While my siblings and friends pursued their own interests in their own preferred regions of the store, I ascended to the top floor, found the esoteric corner, and burrowed in for the duration, among the lapsed hippies, the bearded anarchists, and the wild-eyed conspiracy theorists. I don’t remember feeling out of place.
I read about ghosts and spirits, telepathy and telekinesis, spontaneous combustion and astral projection, about magick with a k, but nothing captured me like sunken continents, their lost civilizations, and those alien visitors, ancient and modern.
Those were important formative experiences for me. They kept alive my sense of wonder about the world through the stuffocating, stupefying, and intellectually bruising early school years. They prepared me for my first real investigation into pseudoarchaeology, which turned out, in fact, to be an exo-archaeology project, using what I would today call remote sensing (and definitely not remote viewing, which I also read about at the bookstore).
It must have been summer 1978, or maybe 79. I spent my entire summer allowance at the giftshop of what was then The Museum of Man in Ottawa, of all places (now The Canadian Museum of history), on a new copy, not a used one, of a French translation of George Leonard’s Somebody Else is on The Moon (Ils n’étaient pas seuls sur la Lune: le dossier secret de la N.A.S.A). The sticker in the bottom right corner of the back cover is badly faded, but I think it says $17.75. I guess I must have had a twenty dollar bill.
The book had everything this ten year old could have ever wanted: astronauts, aliens, super-technology, conspiracy, and it claimed to have ample evidence, in the form of original NASA photographs. It claimed it was real. I devoured the book. I was astonished by the evidence. There were incredible pictures, hidden in plain sight by NASA, of structures on the moon, traces of activity ancient and new, even alien mining machinery in current use, spewing dirt into the lunar sky.
And here is where, as a budding pseudo-archaeologist, I lost my prefix. I wanted to find out more. I wanted to see for myself. I wanted to see how far I could get, what I would find. My father happened to have been subscribed to National Geographic since the early sixties. National Geographic in those days had pictures of the moon. Lots of them. Good ones, printed on glossy paper.
I dove into his collection, not for the first time, but now more systematically and with a specific goal. I wanted to find my own lunar structures. I wanted to see in greater detail and in better prints the ones Leonard had identified. I wanted to find out everything I could about them.
My grand-father’s magnifying glass in hand, I scoured the magazines, helpfully arranged by space mission throughout the 60s. I found pictures of the same regions as the anomalies shown in the book. In some cases, I was lucky to find the very same photographs reproduced.
I won’t claim that I was happy, or even that I wasn’t bitterly disappointed when, seen in the higher quality reproductions in my father’s magazines, the blocky lunar architecture of the alien factories, their insect-like mining machinery, dissolved into no less amazing but more parsimonious and very natural assemblages of ridges, boulders, and assorted small craters. I was overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time.
While passionately pursuing it, I had unwittingly debunked my first pseudo-archaeology claim. Such was my outrage, that had any of my friends had any interest at all in any of this, I would have given several lengthy presentations of my findings to the assembled neighbourhood kids, with side by side comparisons of grainy black and white slides projected on our living room wall, no doubt.
I wanted to communicate my findings so bad, it hurt. It still hurts. I hope for their sake that my parents have forgotten the undoubtedly impassioned and endless dinner time monologues to which they must have been subjected in the wake of my detailed investigation.
Leonard’s overall conclusions, which for me were the main attraction, that aliens had intervened in human evolution, that they had been visiting us for millions of years, supported by his photographic findings, were suddenly hobbled, their hard data foundation brutally knocked out from under them. Even back then, I remember thinking that this didn’t make his claims necessarily false, it just meant that they weren’t supported the way he said they were.
The next time I encountered lunar archaeology claims, in Don Wilson’s Our Mysterious Spaceship Moon, I knew how to approach them. I systematically checked every claim as it came up, which in pre-internet days wasn’t quite as trivial as it sounds now. This more proactive approach, that involved a lot of biking to the public library and a lot of digging through index card catalogues, I retroactively applied to my other pseudo-archaoelogical readings and explorations, in Atlantis and Mu, at the Nazca Lines and at Stonehenge, which I began revisiting with new weapons at my disposal.
6 thoughts on “My encounter with pseudo-archaeology”
Dusty, musty, used bookstores and junk/ antique shops feed our inquisitive minds.
Tes parents n’ont jamais été ennuyés par tes ”conférences”. Pour ma part, j’adore lire tes textes, même si je ne les comprends pas toujours… L’évolution de ta pensée et ta recherche de la réalité m’ont toujours fascinée. J’aimerais tellement que tu nous en parle plus souvent. Au moins, tu écris.
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We had much fun on those road trips and day trips. You did comment a lot and I used to listen and return comments and, at times, correct some misinterpretations. Once I Said: André Costopoulos instant lectures; you shot back: Paul Costopoulos instant sarcasm…and we all laughed.
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Reminds me of when a flat earther was pointing at some artifacts in a photo of the earth from the moon. He didn’t realize that was from JPEG compression and the original didn’t have that. Always verify the source material.
Wonderful story of how your scientific mind was inspired.
From these book shelves of esoterica, Hollywood came up with the Lovecraft series on TV. Twisted stuff and filled with satanic imagery and racism. Not very pseudo-scientific, more like political mind control writers.