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Book One

Chapter 1.

Erich von Daniken's Chichén Itzá

Jungle Ruins
Jungle Ruins Chichén Itzá

The twin prop, which held about twenty passengers and crew, landed on the dirt runway sometime after daybreak. It was 1977 and this was the first trip out of the country that my wife Sally and I had taken. We had left the beautiful resort island of Cozumel about an hour earlier. I’d had to literally beg her to take this expensive side trip. She momentarily abandoned her fear of motion sickness and reluctantly agreed.

So here we were bouncing down a runway that was really just a patch of dirt hewn out of the living jungle. Fog was drifting alongside our aircraft obscuring our initial view of this unknown country. You had to hand it to the Mexicans: this runway was a monument to their entrepreneurial spirit. Without it, vacationers would have to travel by bus or car to reach this isolated area. Now tourists had the opportunity to see and experience ancient history firsthand.

After exiting the plane we followed a tour guide through the jungle toward the ruins. We were standing in a cleared field and stretching before us were ancient structures that had been literally dug and cut out of the jungle. Thick trees and bushes were beaten back and mounds of earth removed, providing breathing space for a city some say was over 1,500 years old.

El Castillo
El Castillo

Towering before us and reaching up toward heaven was a great pyramid. We stared in awe. We exchanged "do you believe this?" nods and approached the pyramid eagerly. We chose the closest stairway and were greeted by two colossal serpent heads with gaping mouths and protruding tongues. These sculpted heads were the guardians of the stairways. During the equinox, the combination of sun and shade create the illusion that each serpent’s body is moving down the pyramid.

We started our ascent. Mayan pyramids consist of nine levels or tiers, decreasing in size as the structure goes higher. Each of the four sides of the pyramid have a stairway consisting of exactly ninety-one steps and counting the top platform they make up a total of 365 representing the number of days in a calendar year.

I was a bit exhausted after arriving at the top. This platform atop the structure housed a temple. The temple had four doorways, which faced the four directions of the compass. Its large chamber was amazingly cool under the morning sun. This pyramid and temple were known as "El Castillo" or "the castle."

El Castillo
El Castillo

As we walked out of the temple, it took a few seconds for our eyes to adjust to the brightness of the morning light. Surveying the area we saw the crumbling buildings of the ancient city below. Beyond the buildings were trees and beyond the trees was a jungle. From this height the green and black canopy of overgrowth suffocated the city and one had to wonder how long it would take for the jungle to reclaim it.

There was no wind; only heat. The sun was low in the morning sky, but its pulsating rays had already burned away the predawn fog. The grass surrounding the castle looked burnt and worn showing traces of the rich red earth beneath. We were standing atop the great pyramid at Chichén Itzá in Yucatan, Mexico.

From our vantage point we could easily see the Observatory, also known as the Carocal. It was almost directly south of El Castillo and looked like modern observatories everywhere. I half-expected to see a giant telescope protruding through the opening of the observatory’s crumbling dome and ancient Mayans peering through the lens and dictating their findings to their apprentices. Turning away from the Observatory we walked back into the temple and imagined what horrors may have been committed there.

The Mayans practiced bloodletting, which was carried out to appease the gods, and when their civilization began to fall, rulers with large territories rushed from one city to the other, performing blood rites in order to maintain the status quo.

For the Maya, blood sacrifice was necessary for the survival of both gods and people, sending human energy skyward and receiving divine power in return. A king used an obsidian knife or a stingray spine to cut his penis, allowing the blood to fall onto paper held in a bowl. Kings’ wives also took part in this ritual by pulling a rope with thorns attached through their tongues. The bloodstained paper was burned, the rising smoke directly communicating with the Sky World.

The Carocal
The Observatory, also known as the Carocal

Human sacrifice was practiced on prisoners, slaves, and particularly children, with orphans and illegitimate children specially purchased for the occasion.

Recently, scientists working in Mexico have uncovered a lilac-colored stone knife and two skeletons, which they believe belonged to persons of Maya royal blood. One of the bodies was colored with vermilion, which is a bright red mercuric sulfide. Archaeologist Oscar Quintana asserts that what has been found is the previously undiscovered center of a Mayan blood cult. American anthropologist David Webster states that the Maya took almost sadistic pleasure in battles and fighting. Evidence has been found that indicates that the Maya used severed human heads as soccer balls in sporting events.

After descending the stairs we were led to a passageway hidden in the shadows of the pyramid. The castle is built upon an earlier pyramid, which is evident only when exploring the interior. This inside passage is not for the claustrophobic, and leads to an enclosed staircase that leads to the chac mul, an altar where sacrificial hearts were placed to be offered to the Gods.

Erich von Daniken initially introduced me to Chichén Itzá in his best selling book Chariots of the Gods.

The 1970 book not only tells a fabulous tale of extraterrestrial intelligent life visiting earth but also suggests that these visitors may have "produced a new, perhaps the first, Homo Sapiens." Von Daniken used extraordinary photographs from countries around the world, as evidence to prove his hypothesis. One of the photos permanently etched into my brain was of a Mayan observatory, a stone building created to study the heavens before the invention of the telescope.

Erich von Daniken was one of the first writers to ask the questions science didn’t want to answer. Even today, thirty-five years later, scientists continue to parrot dogma taught to them in university. When was it that science and scientists forgot to ask the question, "What if …?"

As a direct result of the popularity of von Daniken and his controversial theories a 60-minute documentary movie was produced. The television special was entitled "In Search Of Ancient Astronauts," and was hosted and narrated by Rod Serling, creator and host of the Twilight Zone. It aired in 1973 and was seen by thousands of curious viewers. I admit that I was one of those viewers and this broadcast convinced me that UFOs are real and that extraterrestrial life has indeed visited earth in our ancient past.

The Ball court, where players literally lost their heads, at the end of the game.

We continued our day at Chichén Itzá by visiting the Observatory, also known as the Carocal. Several of its windows point towards the equinox sunset and the southernmost and northernmost points on the horizon where Venus rises.

Next, we followed a well-worn path that led to the Sacred Cenote. A cenote is a sinkhole in a limestone bed, but it reminded us of a quarry. The cenote was the major source of water for the city dwellers. An underground river fed it. The sides of the cenote were sheer and it certainly didn’t look very refreshing. In fact the water looked green and quite unappetizing.

We then also visited the Great Ball court, which has a playing area that is 545 feet long and 225 feet wide. The Mayans played a game that involved two teams and the players were only allowed to hit the ball with their elbows, wrists or hips. The object of the game was to knock the ball through one of the stone hoops on the walls of the court. The stone hoops were attached to the walls of the court and were twenty feet high.

Carvings on the lower walls of the court depict one team member with blood spurting out of his neck and another holding a decapitated head high. One can only assume that the headless man was the captain of the losing and not the winning team. It is said that a whisper from one end of the ball court can be heard clearly at the other end 500 feet away. The sound is seemingly unaffected by wind direction or time of day. No one has solved this riddle and it remains just one of many of the mysteries of Chichén Itzá!

The author with
Erich von Daniken

Since visiting Chichén Itzá I have also explored the Mayan cities of Uxmal and Tulum. This was my first quest: the quest to find Erich von Daniken’s Chichén Itzá.

In the late 1990s I had the opportunity to meet Erich von Daniken when he was in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. Mr. von Daniken was the head speaker at a paranormal related conference held there. Robert McConnell, host of the X-Zone Radio show, organized the event.

One night after the conference we went out to dinner and I had the good fortune to be able to personally meet and speak with von Daniken. My wife, Carolyn Mahon, took the above photograph.



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