Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
Whatever you thought of the ending of the “Death Valley” half-season of the FX juggernaut American Horror Story, one thing’s for sure — they packed a lot of UFO and alien lore into just four one-hour episodes. In case you couldn’t keep up, AIPT Science is here to break down all the bullet points pulled from America’s weirdest modern mythology.
Well, first off, let’s get it out of the way that Neal McDonough, who portrayed President Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower in the second half of American Horror Story: Double Feature, also played James Harding, one of the main government antagonists in History Channel’s Project Blue Book docudrama, which was (very) loosely based on the Air Force UFO investigation program of the same name. Guess he’s found his niche?
Eisenhower’s interrupted outing: Just like “Death Valley” hits us with in the beginning, Ike really did end his 1954 Palm Springs, California, vacation early, with the story being released to the press that he needed to see a dentist after chipping a tooth. Michael Salla, current UFO proponent and former university professor with a PhD in government, says that was just a cover for the Chief Executive to meet with aliens at Edwards Air Force Base.
But these aliens were the human-looking Nordics, and they offered up their tech (like, as seen in American Horror Story, microwaves and “stealth” planes) if the U.S. would get rid of their nuclear weapons, a popular topic among the UFO contactee movement of the ’50s. Salla goes on to say that Eisenhower LATER that year met up with our more familiar greys, who, yes, signed a treaty with him to experiment on cattle and people, as long as they were returned afterward.
Alien autopsy: The first gruesome look at the extraterrestrials of “Death Valley” comes at no surprise to fans of ’90s trash TV. That’s when a grainy film showing men in surgical masks removing amorphous organs from a short, doughy body surfaced, and the journalistic paragons of the Fox Network decided to build an entire prime time special around it.
Despite that, no one took the thing very seriously (not even a lot ufologists), and accumulating converging evidence (bogus codemark, rubbery-appearing body, later confessions, etc.) eventually led most to agree the film’s autopsy was a hoax performed on a dummy.
Cattle mutilations: This added gore was introduced at the end of the first episode, and never appeared again. Which is pretty fitting, because it occasionally flits into UFO lore and then departs, because it’s not all that interesting and pretty easy to explain. Cows die. Scavengers grab the easy bits, like tongues and eyes, first. Of course there’s no blood; corpses don’t bleed. What’s the big mystery?
Missing time: Actually the name of a book by one of the major alien abduction popularizers of the ’90s, Budd Hopkins, it’s the term for when people, typically, see a light in the sky while driving, get mentally fuzzy, and arrive home hours later than they expected to. “Highway hypnosis,” a phenomenon in which a person zones out on a drive and forgets long stretches, is a real thing and not that controversial.
Other factors can often be at play in these instances, too. Betty and Barney Hill, the subjects of the first American UFO abduction story, stopped their car and got out several times to look at the “craft” that was dogging them, and careful research shows they were probably driving a lot more slowly than they thought they were. Suddenly, getting home two hours late doesn’t seem all that extraordinary.
Hybrids: The main thrust of “Death Valley,” the idea of alien/human hybrids also rose to prominence in that wonderful decade of excess, the 1990s. The concept is truly terrifying, so thankfully it’s also completely ridiculous. Human beings and chimpanzees share 99% of the same DNA and still can’t interbreed — how are we going to have kids with a creature that doesn’t even HAVE DNA?
That must be why it took 60 years! The abduction promoters of the late 20th century ran into similar problems, claiming that thousands if not millions of hybrids had been created, yet somehow the beings who mastered interstellar travel and walking through walls just couldn’t figure out selective breeding. Maybe they should go back to looking at cows.
Men in Black: When an ultrasound tech discovers something scary lurking in the womb of one of the modern-day characters in “Death Valley,” she’s quickly snuffed out by sinister G-Men in black suits and shades, who make suspiciously fewer quips than Will Smith.
While the “UFO silencers” might have at first been thought to be government agents clamping down on their conspiracy, the folklore quickly moved into uncanny valley territory, with Men in Black who complained of “low energy,” couldn’t figure out how to drink, and ate cigarettes. Maybe they were actually aliens themselves? Hard to find out, considering almost all Men in Black reports are uncorroborated and don’t even come with witness names.
Valiant Thor: A competing Eisenhower story! Told by a man named Frank E. Stranges (we sh*t you not), Valiant Thor was said to be an incredibly handsome alien from beneath the surface of Venus who met with Ike to help us prevent nuclear war. Yep, more contactee “space brothers” stuff. Stranges said Thor had no fingerprints and could turn intangible, but never mentioned him being a robot or f*cking the First Lady.
Area 51: AKA “that place in Nevada,” apparently. As big a part of American culture as anything UFO, Area 51 is of course said to be a place where the military reverse engineers crashed alien spacecraft (which can traverse deadly cosmic rays and a crushing vacuum, but crumble from a little thunder).
In reality, it’s where such super-secret projects like the U2 spy plane and and the SR-71 Blackbird were first tested, so officials were happy to let Americans believe instead that what they saw in the skies over the base were spaceships. And to let the Russians believe that Americans were batsh*t crazy.
Reptilians: But maybe the most batsh*t of all the ideas in “Death Valley” is that YET ANOTHER race of aliens, the monstrous reptilians, lives in disguise among us and has infiltrated all our governments. There aren’t a lot of reports that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger might have been one, but that hasn’t stopped people from speculating about Queen Elizabeth, Donald Rumsfeld, and — gasp! — even Justin Bieber!
And just like in American Horror Story, you can spot them when their human suits start to fail and their eyes blink vertically. Let’s hope if THEY want to make hybrids, we can just hand over our gecko populations.
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