Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Erich von Daniken: Fraud, Lies and Bananas


To me this is the most incredible, fantastic story of the century”, wrote Swiss author Erich von Daniken in his 1973 book, The Gold of the Gods.. “It could easily have come straight from the realms of Science Fiction if I had not seen and photographed the incredible truth in person. What I saw was not the product of dreams or imagination, it was real and tangible”, he emphasized.

Daniken gave an excited first person account of this expedition guided by fellow Juan Moricz, and the incredible wonders he saw for himself. Only thing is, shortly after the book was published, Moricz disauthorized the Charioteer and told German newspapers Däniken had never been to the caves “unless it was in a flying saucer. If he claims to have seen the [golden] library and the other things himself then that’s a lie”.

And in the NOVA/Horizon documentary above, The Case of the Ancient Astronauts (1977), around 40 minutes on, you can see Däniken himself admitting these things described in his book didn’t actually happen. It’s wonderful seeing how he express some discomfort, but does not seem terribly disturbed confessing he simply made up the “incredible real and tangible truth”;.

According to him, those were simple literary “effects” and “small details” that an author was allowed to use. Not only did he invent his visit to the caves, despite the persevering search for what is yet another version of El Dorado, all suggests Moricz himself also invented everything. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but when those who claim to have seen those wonders come up with excuses like “they were too heavy to take out”, “the world is not yet prepared to know it” or that even simple photos “wouldn’t prove anything anyway”, one can reasonably disregard the subject until something solid comes up.


That was not actually the first time Däniken somewhat candidly confessed making things up. Previously, in a wonderful interview by Timothy Ferris published on Playboy, August 1974, after being presented as a three times convicted criminal – one for stealing and twice for fraud –confronted with someone who contrary to him, had done his homework, Däniken concedes again and again how little he knew of the subjects he wrote about.

You can read a full scan of the interview here. And in the end, Däniken actually admits he was not entirely serious on what he wrote:

Ferris: A last question comes to mind because of our favorite of your theories – the one in Gold of the Gods in which you suggest that the banana was brought to Earth from space.

Ferris is referring to this excerpt, from the same book with the imaginary expedition to the non-existent golden caves:

“The banana, a delicious item of food, has been known in every tropical and subtropical region of the earth for many thousands of years. The Indian saga tells of the "wonderful Kandali" (= banana bush) which the "Manu," the loftiest spirits and protectors of mankind, brought to our planet from another star which was much further along the path of evolution than our earth. But a banana bush or banana tree simply does not exist! The banana is an annual plant which does not multiply by seeds, which it does not possess, but by suckers. Looked at in this light, the banana is a problem. It is found on even the most remote South Sea islands. How did this plant, which is so vital for the nourishment of mankind, originate? How did it make its way round the world, seeing that it has no seeds? Did the "Manu," of whom the Indian saga tells, bring it with them from another star-as an all-round foodstuff?”

And Ferris straightly asks: “Were you serious?” Von Däniken answers:

Von Daniken: No, and not many people realize that.”

The best part ends the brilliant interview:

Ferris: That leads us to ask if all your writing is a put-on. Are you, as one writer suggested, ‘the most brilliant satirist in German literature for a century’?

Von Daniken: The answer is yes and no. We have a wonderful term in German: jein. It’s a combination of ja and nein, yes and no. In some part, absolutely not; I mean what I say seriously. In other ways, I mean to make people laugh.

Ferris: Well, you’ve succeeded in both aims.”

ha ha! [with thanks to Carlos Bella for suggesting the 1977 documentary online]

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Posted in Aliens,Fortean,People | 31 comments

31 Comments so far

  1. Boris Nakamura April 8th, 2012 5:51 pm

    Hey! Thanks for the interesting stuff.

    “Mind under Matter” is my favorite.

    But, how do you pronounce your blog title? :)



  2. Mori April 8th, 2012 8:24 pm

    Thanks for reading! You pronounce “forgeto mori” somewhat like:

  3. CK April 9th, 2012 6:12 pm

    Old news- let’s talk about the recent conviction of JREF co-founder Dayvi Pena for fraud and his impending sentencing in Federal court. Let’s ask what James Randi knew and when he knew it about these crimes, which include the theft of a Bronx man’s identity (which is why Randi alludes to Pena’s mythical Bronx accent in his Carlos hoax video). Let’s talk about how Randi could have hired a man the Toronto Star identified as a Venezuelan in 1986 in a fluff piece on Randi and was later identified as an American by Randi himself on repeated occasions.

    Let’s find out why Richard Dawkins defends the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, founded by a man who defended pedophilia as “God’s Will” in a pedophile magazine with direct links to CSICOP through Vern Bullough, a pedophilia advocate who Paul Kurtz hired as The Skeptical Inquirer’s sexuality editor. Let’s find out why Dawkins not only cites this organization- widely known as a pedophile front throughout the justice system- but also the work of Elizabeth Loftus, who testified for Scooter Libby’s and Ted Bundy’s defenses, among other serial killers and miscreants.

  4. George Wagner April 9th, 2012 10:10 pm

    I’ve read that we humans share 15 % of our DNA with the banana. That suggests to me that we evolved together.

  5. John Maxim April 10th, 2012 12:46 am

    Von Daniken is simply trying to sell books. I read his first book when it first came out, and even as a teenager, I was puzzled that no other researcher had discovered these “truths”.
    He only muddies the waters. Read Graham Hancock if you’re really interested. Of course, he sells books too, but is far more interesting and thought provoking.

  6. sinkroo April 10th, 2012 5:37 am

    This Swiss author has written hundreds if thousands of paragraphs like that one, containing many more oddities and mysteries, admitted (many times) he’s not a scientist, and that he’s just asking the academia et al. to try and answer the questions. And what you do? “Excerpt” a couple of claims they can shoot down at will, and just ignore the rest. Of course, it’s not like the true scientists have time to read all of his books and then go around the world and conduct scientific tests just to prove each point of the Swiss author wrong, but the banana case and whether he has been to the caves personally or not is not really enough to say “he has been dealt with”, at least if you want to think of yourself as a responsible defender of true science.
    For instance, he being in the caves or not says nothing about whether the thing exists. You believe Juan Moritz when he says E.V.D. lied, right? Well, Juan Moritz also says the golden library is true. It shows that you guys just enjoy being yourselves and being right, and making that point as fast and easy as possible. There you go – it’s sometimes called “cherry picking”. It has nothing to do with science or any other kind of truth. That elitist arrogance of academia makes people keep buying this Swiss author’s and similar books.

  7. Mori April 10th, 2012 7:23 am

    I don’t believe Moricz when he says Daniken lied simply because he said so. I believe because Daniken himself admitted he lied. This is not cherry-picking.
    I’m not ignoring all the elements Daniken presented. In fact he presented no original research, and he admitted so in the Playboy interview. In fact he admitted several of the evidences he presents were not mysterious, and had he done his research properly before writing and selling them, he would not have presented them as so.

  8. sinkroo April 10th, 2012 9:03 am

    Okay, got it. But what I’m trying to point out is the fact that we repeatedly read how he admitted this and admitted that, which comes down to a limited number of things, while all he generally claims he is doing is POINTING OUT stuff that should be in the focus of (“original”) scientific research, since it APPEARS to have the potential of significantly changing the paradigms and upgrading our knowledge about the history or metallurgy or technical advancement or migrations or… of human kind in ancient times – which does not necessarily need to involve aliens. Cherry-picking I referred to is not related to the caves, but to giving spotlight only the obvious faults made by the over-enthusiastic writer and a non-scientist and using them to distract the public from true potentially paradigm-shifting issues via arrogant reminders that an author of the book where it was said made no original research and admitted this and that. And doing it again and again, to discredit everything he ever claimed and hoping the valid points will be somehow washed away with it. And you did the exactly the same in your reply. “Who actually said what” says nothing about the potential mystery. Is this a gossip website or it debunks fraud? And the “original research” remark is just beautiful. So what? Does that make, for instance, the Iron pillar of Delhi less mysterious? One would expect such a true puzzle to make many science-powered people scratch their heads to blood because it may just open a whole new realm of understanding our own civilization? But no. We read: on page X, he was stupid about the bananas. Or: he didn’t pay his taxes and went to prison. Or: he was not the first to say it. Or: he made money. Scio me nihil scire would be a much better guideline to real knowledge than the “cool” forgeto mori gag. I’m not an E.V.D. or “ancient aliens” proponent, not by a long shot, but please. Skepticism is when you doubt the prevailing “truth”, not when you defend it, let alone ignore it’s challenges. Plaese make a point every once and a while on how some seemingly established scientific knowledge may in fact be false, or you’re not a skeptic.

  9. jaal April 10th, 2012 10:11 am

    Mori… I’m a great fan of your page but I’m with sinkroo here. Your article reads like an Ad Hominem Fallacy and doesn’t go a great length at dismissing the “big picture” we get when reading Danikens books.

    He always claimed that all he did was ask the questions in his books. Who knows if he is right or wrong, we only know that he was not always telling the truth (putting on?). Having said that I ask, what’s the more important issue; the questions raised in his books or his modus operandi?

  10. CK April 10th, 2012 12:39 pm

    Skeptics love to bash Von Daniken because they can’t explain away all of the megalithic structures (“no, it ain’t neither,” is their usual, petulant reply) and the rest of the anomalies in the AAT canon, and they still think by bashing him they can make it all go away. But Von Daniken was never the originator of the theory- he was just the popularizer. He lifted most of his material from Morning of the Magicians, and there were a host of authors who were better writers and researchers at the same time.

    But again, old news. James Randi’s recent scandals are infinitely more salient, you have to admit that. We’re talking the grand old man of Skepticism here- the absolute figurehead of the movement- caught up in a very nasty identity theft scandal. We’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg- the civil suits haven’t started yet- can you imagine what might be found in the JREF’s files? And the IRS hasn’t weighed in yet.

    I wonder why every single skeptic I raise the topic with is absolutely terrified to even acknowledge any of it even exists. You should have seen Benjamin Radford tuck his tail between his legs and run off when I raised the issue with him, right in the middle of his usual huffing and puffing. A volte face for the record books.

  11. Lance Moody April 10th, 2012 7:13 pm

    Nice piece!

    In the above comments, Christopher Knowles (CK) continues to more hysterically insist that folks discuss topics of his choosing rather than their own. He has done the same at other sites.

    Above he betrays a twisted sense of logic (someone is guilty because they were friends with someone else?) that is depressingly common among Google cut and paste “researchers”.

    It’s almost cute and ever so precious.

    Perhaps you can do this at your own nonsensical site, Christopher? Your silly thoughts resonate better among the crystal vibration and tea leaf crowd, surely?


  12. Mori April 10th, 2012 8:38 pm

    Granted, this post doesn’t say much of anything at all regarding the “Ancient Astronaut” evidence. In fact, the big picture can actually ignore Daniken altogether: long before him others had uncovered, connected and presented the evidence and the “PaleoSETI” hypothesis in a much more serious and thoughtful tone and argument — and that includes Sagan and Shklovskii.

  13. CK April 11th, 2012 3:44 am

    Oh go re-dye your tips, Lance. You need to keep up your image as the Don Dokken of the superannuated debunker cult.

  14. NEMROD34 April 11th, 2012 9:39 am
  15. sinkroo April 11th, 2012 12:23 pm

    Wow, short and triumphant. Well of course – it’s even on Wikipedia, isn’t it? And E.V.D. himself “admitted”, didn’t he? That’s exactly what makes it a perfect example of how these things should be treated. By omebody checking it out, and finding truly amazing stuff about the ancients. Not by “who was stupid about the bananas”. It’s so tremendously irrelevant.
    And still – this analysis does not truly make it mundane, does it? If you see it simply as “we now know what makes it is so special…so, they had the skill”, it still is special. And more – why aren’t there a plethora of such feats around, if they simply had the skill? (I nearly said “why isn’t there a breeding population” of magical iron items)
    And – what’s next? How do we know that it is Khufu who had that notorious pyramid made, in terms of “scientific evidence” (no aliens or Atlanteans attached)? What about Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca head? What about the work of Robert Schoch – nobody succeeded to really answer all the questions (again, no aliens attached), and yet somehow all efforts are not pointed towards answering them, but towards eliminating them? It blows my mind that you sciensapiens guys do not urge more research on this precisely.

  16. […] out this fascinating post over at Forgetomori, complete with videos of von Daniken noting that he made up his ancient […]

  17. Acleron April 11th, 2012 7:03 pm

    ‘Skepticism is when you doubt the prevailing “truth”, not when you defend it, let alone ignore it’s challenges’ @sinkroo

    No, not even close to a definition of skepticism.

    Skepticism is challenging a statement when that statement can be shown to be contrary to the evidence.

    Von Daniken was an entertaining read but there were too many facts he was wrong about. That’s still ok. But the picture of the monkeys paw from the Nazca Desert that he described as a ‘space port’ was just fraud. He knew exactly what it was.

  18. sinkroo April 12th, 2012 6:43 am

    “Skepticism is challenging a statement when that statement can be shown to be contrary to the evidence.”

    I’m disappointed. I thought it was more.

    How can that be CHALLENGING, when a statement CAN be shown to be contrary to the evidence? That’s correcting or educating or reminding. The greatest value of this skeptical movement (and it is of great value, at least when it’s not about the bananas) is exactly educational.

    But skepticism, shouldn’t that be more than a safe bet? Something along the lines of an attitude? More like challenging THE evidence, not statements that seem contrary to it. Because – how will you come to know if your evidence (…that the Earth is flat, or that the Sun revolves around us…), is not really evidence? Skeptics should advance the knowledge, not restrain it. Do not make me elaborate the point further. Sure you agree. How will you know a theory has to be changed in order to explain the aspects it failed to encompass?

    Selective skepticism is as good as selective belief. Or selective evidence. Or selective anything. No offence, you are all smart and knowledgeable guys, but my god (no religion attached) I wish you all get abducted by ghosts of telepathic aliens and brought deep into psychokinetically built pyramid for installation of astral implants enabling you to see and awe true mysteries. Science and scientific method were advanced by people born with that ability, not with the compulsory impulse to distract attention sleight-of-hand-style from the (currently) unknown to…bananas.

    Joking about the psychokinetically built pyramid. Not so sure about the rest :)

    For can you be absolutely sure? I mean, if you’re a skeptic?

  19. Anthony Bragalia April 12th, 2012 7:14 pm

    I share the feelings of others that you are being overly-selective and taking things out of context, Mori.

    Von Daniken -as some have have pointed out- was (and is) a popular press (not scientific press) author. He asks questions and does not claim to Be a learned man of science writing for a refereed journal.

    He is amusing, naive and entertaining. But mostly he is thought-provoking. He makes us think about historical possibilities and how little we really know about our far-past.

  20. Mori April 12th, 2012 8:47 pm

    Those may be your feelings, Anthony, but I stand by what I published — which isn’t a lie nor a joke.

    Nor was it out of context.

    As for it being selective, the text is very short and deals with a single subject, it does not pretend to be an evaluation of the PaleoSETI issue at all. Readers who bring this to question are missing the point: I’m not questioning the Ancient Astronauts at all.

    I’m only pointing to very relevant information related to Daniken that, I think it’s quite clear, many people nevertheless didn’t know and which, thanks to the Internet, is openly available — that is, the NOVA episode in which Daniken confess he invented his visit to the golden caves, as well as the candid Playboy interview.

    Those are facts, they are relevant when considering Daniken — or if you choose to consider them irrelevant, one has to know about them and decided for himself. And that’s all.

  21. Acleron April 12th, 2012 10:38 pm

    @sinkroo – Another feature of skepticism is spotting the fraudulent data. Like this one:-

    ‘How can that be CHALLENGING, when a statement CAN be shown to be contrary to the evidence?’

    Trying to imply I said that is sad.

  22. CK April 13th, 2012 4:50 pm

    Von Daniken is a showman, pure and simple. As such I admire him since he’s a lot tougher and more resilient than his critics. Not a single one could stand up to the beatings he’s taken over the years. Not one (certainly not Randi).

  23. NEMROD34 April 14th, 2012 1:58 pm

    @sinkroo 11th Avril, 2012 24:23

    “And – what’s next? How do we know that it is Khufu who had that notorious pyramid made, in terms of “scientific evidence” (no aliens or Atlanteans attached)

    ? What about Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca head? What about the work of Robert Schoch – nobody succeeded to really answer all the questions (again, no aliens attached), and yet somehow all efforts are not pointed towards answering them, but towards eliminating them? It blows my mind that you sciensapiens guys do not urge more research on this precisely.”

    Can you prove it? If you can not build the others can …
    look: alone without pulleys he built his Stonehenge …


  24. NEMROD34 April 14th, 2012 2:03 pm

    @CK Avril 9th, 2012 18:12

    Are you drunk ? Where are the evidences?

  25. CK April 14th, 2012 2:08 pm

    Can you prove it? If you can not build the others can …
    look: alone without pulleys he built his Stonehenge …


    Do you want to know why no one beside debunkers pay any attention to this guy? Did you happen to notice the surface he’s moving these blocks on? Kind of important clue there. Did you happen to ask how he moved these blocks to where this video was filmed? Do you know anything about how far the megaliths were moved in some of the ancient sites and what kind of terrain they were moved over and up? No, of course not.

    Just another Randi-type sleight-of-hand job. Misdirection, deceit, distortion.

  26. NEMROD34 April 14th, 2012 2:11 pm

    sinkroo 11th Avril, 2012 24:23

    This is to historians that you have to talk then, there is nothing mysterious constructions without these, nothing, and evidence that you request demand to travel back in time …

  27. NEMROD34 April 14th, 2012 2:15 pm

    “Do you know anything about how far the megaliths were moved in some of the ancient sites and what kind of terrain they were moved over and up?”

    And you ? You are in place in time ?
    You dont see the réality, you want dreaming, it’s your right, but this is nothing more …

  28. NEMROD34 April 14th, 2012 2:18 pm

    One question: in your opinion why the pyramids does not sink?
    I’m not saying do not recovertent by sand, but do not sink into the ground?

  29. CK April 14th, 2012 2:43 pm

    Yes, yes. Fascinating.

  30. […] blogged about von Daniken’s history of deceit before. Readers might recall this telling post to which I linked maybe moons ago, where von Daniken is caught on video acknowledging making up his […]

  31. Chariots of the Gods April 24th, 2013 10:56 pm

    […] 41 minutes in the video below von daniken admits to some of his fraud on the NOVA episode… Erich von Daniken: Fraud, Lies and Bananas Reply With […]

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