Däniken, Erich von

Erich Anton Paul von Däniken
Erich Anton Paul von Däniken

Erich Anton Paul von Däniken was born on April 14th, 1935 in Zofingen, Aargau and is a Swiss author best known for his controversial claims about Extra-Terrestrials (E.T.) influences on early human culture, in books such as Chariots of the Gods?, published in 1968. Däniken is one of the main figures responsible for popularizing the “paleo-contact” and Ancient Astronauts hypotheses.

Däniken is a co-founder of the Archaeology, Astronautics and SETI Research Association (AAS RA). His ideas are largely rejected by scientists and academics, who categorize his work as pseudohistory and pseudoarchaeology.

Early Life

Von Däniken was raised a strict Catholic, and attended the international Catholic school Saint-Michel in Fribourg, Switzerland. During his time at the school he rejected the church’s interpretations of the Bible, and developed an interest in astronomy and the phenomenon of Unidentified Flying Objects.

At the age of 19, von Däniken was caught stealing money, both from an innkeeper and from a camp where he was employed as a youth leader, and was given a four-month suspended sentence. The psychiatrist who examined von Däniken at the time described him as displaying a “tendency to lie”. Von Däniken was withdrawn from his school, and became apprenticed to a Swiss hotelier for a time, before moving to Egypt. While in Egypt, he was involved in a jewelry deal which resulted in a nine-month conviction for fraud and embezzlement upon his return to Switzerland.

After his release, von Däniken became the manager of the Hotel Rosenhügel in Davos, Switzerland, during which time he wrote Chariots of the Gods?, supposedly working on the manuscript late at night after the hotel’s guests had retired. The book was accepted by a publisher in early 1967, and printed in March 1968.

In November 1968 von Däniken was arrested for fraud, after being caught falsifying hotel records and credit references in order to take out loans to the value of $130,000 over the course of the previous twelve years. He had been using this money to fund foreign travel to research his book. Two years later, von Däniken was convicted for “repeated and sustained” embezzlement, fraud and forgery, with the court ruling that the writer had been living a “playboy” lifestyle. Von Däniken entered a plea for nullity on the grounds that his intentions were not malicious and the credit institutions were at fault for failing to adequately research his references, but a court-appointed psychiatrist considered the defendant to be fully accountable for his actions, and described him as a criminal psychopath. Von Däniken was sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment and fined 3,000 francs. He served one year of this sentence before being released.

His first book, Chariots of the Gods?, had been published by the time of his trial, and its sales would allow him to repay his debts and leave the hotel business. Von Däniken wrote his second book, Gods from Outer Space, while serving his prison sentence.


Chariots of the Gods?
Return to the Stars
Gods from Outer Space
The Gold of the Gods
In Search of Ancient Gods
Miracles of the Gods
According to the Evidence
Signs of the Gods
Pathways to the Gods
The Gods and Their Grand Design
The Eyes of the Sphinx
The Return of the Gods: Evidence of Extraterrestrial Visitations
The Arrival of the Gods: Revealing the Alien Landing Sites of Nazca
Odyssey of the Gods: An Alien History of Ancient Greece
The Gods Were Astronauts: Revised
History Is Wrong
Twilight of the Gods: The Mayan Calendar and the Return of the Extraterrestrials


Roland Emmerich’s film Stargate was based on the research by Erich von Däniken.

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