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'Prophet' opens theme park for our alien heritage
He has written books that have sold more than 56 million copies, served three years in jail for tax evasion, and spent the past 30 years trying to convince the world that most of our famous ancient structures were built by creatures from another world.
But now Erich von Daniken, author of Chariot of the Gods and more than two dozen 'true-life' accounts of alien visitation, is set to join the ranks of the world's media elite: he is about to open his own theme park.
In a few weeks, on a massive site outside Interlaken in Switzerland, Von Daniken's Mystery Park - containing recreations of major 'extra-terrestrial works' that include Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Mayan temples, and others - will open to visitors at a cost of £22 a head.
Backed by major companies such as Swatch and Coca-Cola, the park and its domes, temples and pyramids - set bizarrely in the midst of plush Alpine scenery - is intended to attract more than half a million tourists a year. 'We will show the greatest mysteries in the world, but we will give no answers,' says Von Daniken.
Given that most scientists and archaeologists believe they have provided perfectly adequate answers about the human origins of these great works, such emphasis on mystifying them is likely to go down badly in academic circles, particularly those starved of the kind of cash that has been lavished on the park by backers including Sony, TV companies and local brewers. Daniken will not say how much the Mystery Park will cost to complete.
One typical prehistoric wonder to get the Von Daniken treatment is the Nasca Lines, made up of giant figures and symbols etched between 200BC and AD600 in the Nasca desert in Peru. They look like odd furrows scraped in the soil when viewed from the ground. Seen from the air, they turn into as a wonderful assembly of monkeys, spiders, whales and rectangles. Archaeologists interpret these as symbolic offerings to local gods.
But Von Daniken sees them differently. He claims the Nasca Lines are the remains of an ancient spaceport, turned into a temple after the aliens departed. And soon visitors to his park will be able to share the supposedly extra-terrestrial experiences of the Nasca people. Other attractions will include a giant Imax screen, 3-D films, and 360-degree 'all-round' cinemas - all geared to show our history is not human but created for us by beneficent aliens, who bred with our apemen ancestors to produce modern men and women.
Britain's own Stonehenge is thus reproduced as the suggested handiwork of generous extraterrestrials.
Scientists have heaped contempt on the Swiss author and repudiated virtually every claim he has made. Historian Brian Fagan described Von Daniken's book Arrival of the Gods as 'a grotesque parody' of scientific inquiry devoid of intellectual credibility or literary merit. 'This is not science; Erich von Daniken has raised his astronaut theories to the status of a cult, with himself as the Great Prophet.'
It remains to be seen how many will flock to the prophet's theme park.
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