||[Jul. 10th, 2009|03:41 am]
I really don't have enough time to properly describe my visit to Erich von Daniken's Ancient Alien Astronaut Mystery Park Funland. And this internet cafe won't even let me upload my pictures. So this is more of a stub, to remind me to write up a better description later.
Erich von Daniken. The crackpot's crackpot. If you've ever heard anyone claim that aliens built the pyramids, or Stonehenge, or that the Nazca lines were landing strips for UFOs, or that the ancient gods in their heavenly chariots were really extraterrestrials in spaceships, thank Erich (or, as his fans call him, EvD). Starting with his landmark (in the sense that a very large pile of sewage could possibly serve as a landmark) work Chariots of the Gods in 1968, he took the world by storm with his sweeping, exhaustively-detailed claims. Even as you mocked his gullibility, you had to admire his audacity. He truly was a prince among nutcases.
Chariots of the Gods was the Da Vinci Code of its era, selling millions of copies and rocketing to the top of the international best-seller lists. His writing was a unique and highly enjoyable blend of complete fabrications, things that were sorta true but taken out of context, and genuine historical enigmas that lent a "Yeah, I've heard of that, this guy must be trustworthy" vibe to the whole thing. von Daniken made a fortune, with his finances no doubt helped by his habit of not paying taxes. After he got out of jail for tax fraud, he started wondering what to do with all his money and fame and legions of rabid supporters.
Well, using thought processes the rest of us can only guess at, he decided to build a theme park in Middle-Of-Nowhere, Switzerland, intended to present his unorthodox ideas while providing fun to the whole family. Immediately after opening, it shut down due to complete lack of customers. I mean, it was an awful theme park, it was outside a small town of only five thousand people, and it managed to somehow be age inappropriate for both children and adults at the same time. Eventually they tried reopening it, and it got shut down again a few months later. And then just this May, they decided to give it one last try, and now it's open for the summer.
So of course, I had to go. This is the sort of thing I live for. My mom even sent me the article about it saying "This sounds like the sort of thing you would like" before I told her it was already on the itinerary.
I arrived at Mystery Park (as it is known) at about four in the afternoon. It was too late for a day pass to be worthwhile, so I bought a card with five Mystery Points on it. Apparently, the park is divided into different lands, kind of like Disneyland. Each park has a museum and special presentations, and you use the points to buy access to the special presentations. My five points were enough for two shows.
I started in Pyramid Land, which was housed in - what else - a big pyramid full of animatronic Bedouins. There were camel rides outside, and the one person other than myself in Pyramid Land was a young child riding one of the camels.
When the movie started, I realized I needed English headphones, so I had to suffer through the no-audio version. There were some clips of Egyptians lugging stones around to build the pyramids. Then it faded to a night scene. Beams of light emanated from the pyramids and lined up with nearby stars. Then the pyramids rose from the ground and aligned with Orion's Belt (I'm guessing this is a reference to Schoch, who's actually not all that crackpotty, but I digress). Finally, there was a scene where a Bedouin with a torch wandered through the pyramid. He got to the sarcophagus, opened the lid, and then...my god, it's full of stars. The Bedouin was sucked into hyperspace, and the film ended with him staring down at the Milky Way from above.
...man, I thought this was going to be unorthodox. Don't all Egyptologists already agree that the pyramids were devices for transporting Bedouins to the Large Magellanic Cloud?
Anyway, I didn't have time to worry about this, because I had to run to the other presentation I'd decided to see. This one was in Maya Land, which was in a big Mayan Chichen Itza-style ziggurat. It was cheerfully festooned with sombreros hanging from the ceiling, and the loudspeakers were on an incredibly irritating loop of "La Cucaracha". This reminded me to pick up my English-language headphones, and I made it back just in time to be herded into the presentation chamber.
This was in the top of the ziggurat, which featured some sort of space portal filled with oscillaty-tentacle-lightning things. It was actually some pretty neat technology. The movie began and...well, I only have a few minutes left at this cafe, but no, I have GOT to describe this movie to you people.
It starts with two Mexican boys, climbing one of the Mayan pyramids late at night to get a get a better view of a meteor shower. One boy asks the other whether he things it's dangerous to be up here at night. "Of course not," the other boy replies.
Suddenly, a man steps out from behind a stone, where he had apparently been standing the past several minutes. "Greetings," he says. "I am Antonio Gonzales, the keeper of these ruins." Whose job apparently includes standing in them, fully dressed, at midnight. "You are probably worried I will tell your parents that you are up here. But I will not. I want to tell you a story."
"Many years ago, before the people who lived here had built cities or pyramids, there was a great noise in the sky. Suddenly, a mighty shape fell to the earth." There was a visual of a spaceship crashing. It looked very Star-Trek-ish.
"The native people were afraid, at first. But some of their bravest hunters approached the ship. A door opened in the ship, and they saw...astronauts!"
"Were they scared?" asked one of the boys.
"No," said Antonio Gonzales. "The astronauts looked like us, but they were very beautiful." In the picture, they looked sort of like malformed white people wearing Indian headdresses. "They made friends with the natives as they repaired their ships. When they left, they asked to take eight thirteen year old boys with them, to teach them the secrets of the cosmos."
"Did they come back?" asked the boy.
"Yes," said Antonio. "Fifty-two years later, they landed again. The boys now had great knowledge, and became the priests and leaders of the Mayans. They brought with them a great treasure - the most precise calendar the world had ever known."
Then there was a kinda nifty sort of hologram thing of another man. He was, apparently, The Skeptic. There was no explanation of why he was on top of the pyramid at midnight. "Pfah!" the skeptic told the boys. "All of this is just silly stories." The boys looked upset. "Is this true?" they asked Antonio.
"No," said Antonio. "Just look around you. This pyramid has ninety one steps on each side. Ninety one steps times four sides, plus the one top, equals three hundred sixty five, the number of days in a year."
The skeptic looked uncertain, and then gradually faded away. Which makes him officially the worst skeptic ever. The Mayans knew that the year had three hundred sixty five days, therefore their calendar was invented by aliens? Aliens whose planet also had a year with three hundred sixty five days in it? What?
But Antonio Gonzales was already going on to his next point. "The Mayan calendar began in 3114 BC," he said. "Calendars begin at an event of great significance. Could that have been when the aliens first visited the Maya people?"
(I was hoping The Skeptic would rematerialize here and point out that all the Maya texts specifically say their calendar began on the day the Great Flood receded, but apparently he'd been so devastatingly crushed by that 365 days in a year retort that he was staying out of this).
"Most importantly, the Maya calendar ends in December 2012?"
"What will happen then?" asks one of the boys.
"Perhaps nothing," says Antonio. "But perhaps...that is the day when the aliens will return!"
Then the movie was over, and we were shepherded back out. Now I was all out of points. But I did get to see some of the non-multimedia exhibits.
...but actually, I'm going to have to cut this short here because of time limits. I'll write it up and upload pictures, including the ones from Stonehenge Land, Contact Land, and Ancient Indian Airplane Land when I get home. The exhibits were much better done than the awful Maya video, and some even made for some interesting food for thought and intellectual conundra.
Speaking of food, did I mention there were pyramid shaped refreshment stands? I have pictures of those too.