An aura of mystery pervades the Mayan archaeological site of Palenque, which is located in the Chiapas district of Mexico, not far from the valley of the River Usumacinta. Enveloped by dense, tropical jungles on all sides, the white limestone pyramids and buildings look enchanting against the backdrop of the luxurious, green, foliage. The monuments here are some of the architectural masterpieces of the Mayan civilization, built during the Classic Period, between 615 to 800 CE. Like most visitors to the site, I was enthralled by the magic of Palenque when I went there nearly a decade ago. Of course, little did I know at the time about the weird goings-on at the place after dusk.
The grandest monument of Palenque is undoubtedly the Pyramid of the Inscriptions which was built as a funerary monument for King Pakal the Great (K'inich Janaab' Pakal) who ruled the city from 615 to 683 CE. A steep, narrow, staircase leads to the temple on top of the pyramid. In 1952, Mexican archaeologist Alberto Ruz Lhuillier had removed a stone slab from the floor of the temple, revealing a stairway filled with rubble. After two years, when the stairway was finally cleared, it was found to lead down to an underground burial chamber which had a large sarcophagus containing the remains of a high ranking figure – later identified as King Pakal. The sarcophagus was covered by a monumental stone slab with an elaborate bas relief.
The image on the sarcophagus lid has been a subject of controversy ever since Erich Von Daniken wrote about in the Chariots Of The Gods (1968). He had suggested that the figure depicted is that of an ancient astronaut, with its body bent forward like a “racing motocyclist”, who is sitting inside a rocket and manipulating a number of controls with his hands and feet. As exciting as that interpretation sounds, it was way off-target, since the symbolic import of the different elements of the image are now quite well understood. At the center of the image is the reclining King Pakal. Below him is the Terrestrial Monster which symbolizes Xibablba i.e. the kingdom of the deceased. Above him is the World Tree, Wakah-Chan, the symbolic axis-mundi, which connects the 9 levels of the Underworld with the 13 levels of Heaven. Perched on top of the tree is the Celestial Bird, Itzam-Yeh. Around the edges of the lid runs a band with cosmological signs, including those for the Sun, Moon, and the stars. Scholars are not sure, though, whether the image depicts King Pakal ascending to heaven along the World Tree or falling into Xibalba, the underworld. Probably neither, in my opinion.
It seems to me that King Pakal has been identified here with the Turtle God, from whose cracked shell the Maya Maize God – who is also the World Tree – emerged. The Mayans, much like the Asians, venerated turtles. One of their inscriptions tells us of a double-headed Turtle God called the great Divine Lord, who had appeared at the dawn of creation: “On 4Ahaw 8 Kumk’u, was seen the first image of the Turtle, the great Divine Lord”. The Turtle God appears to have been regarded as the Source of creation, from whose back the Tree of Life emerged; and King Pakal, after his death, was imagined to return to this Source. This interpretation is supported by the fact that Pakal is shown wearing a “turtle ornament” on his breast.
Even though Daniken’s hypothesis about King Pakal’s spacefaring missions missed the mark by a mile, there are numerous strange accounts of UFO sightings and alien encounters in and around Palenque, as documented by Ardy Sixkiller Clarke in her book, Sky People: Untold Stories Of Alien Encounters in Mesoamerica. Reading these rather incredible stories forces one to ask: Did King Pakal really have some alien connections?
First, a little about Ardy. Dr. Ardy Sixkiller Clarke is Professor Emeritus at Montana State University. Over a period of seven years from 2003 to 2010 she made fourteen trips covering eighty-nine archaeological sites in Mesomerica, with the express purpose of collecting stories about the Sky People and UFO’s from the indigenous people. Her educational pedigree and Native American ancestry allowed her to establish a bond of trust with the interviewees - many of whom were arranged by her driver or tour guides, while many others were accidental aquaintances - who generally avoid reporting their experiences to the authorities for fear of ridicule or harassment.
During her first visit to Palenque, Ardy had met a Maya vendor who believed in Daniken’s theory about Pakal being an astronaut. “Pakal was able to travel back and forth from the Earth to other planets,” he told her. And then, he said something odd that made Ardy take notice. “The old ones come here to honor him.” The vendor clarified that by “old ones” he meant the Sky Gods. One of his friends, who worked as a night security guard, saw them once. They appeared tall, white and glowing. They came in a silver spacecraft which had such an awful smell that his friend felt sick and dizzy.
“Spirits of the old ones come to Palenque. Most Maya would never spend the night here. But he was Mexican [Spaniard], and he ignored the warnings about the spirits. He saw them.They came from the sky and landed in the plaza. They entered the Pyramid of Inscriptions and disappeared. He ran away and never came back.”
On her last trip to Palenque in 2010, Ardy met a full-blooded Maya tour guide named Pax. Pax reiterated what Ardy had heard on her earlier trip to Palenque about the Sky People. “Many come to the Temple of Inscriptions where King Pakal was buried. Mostly balls of light go back and forth as though guarding or protecting the entrance. Mostly you see them about the time the forest turns black after the sun goes down”.
Pax was aware of Ardy’s interest in collecting stories about the Sky People and he invited her to his house in the evening where a large group of friends and family had assembled. After the meals were over, some of those present began to share their stories. First was Mario. He recounted an incident nearly ten years ago, when he was only fourteen years old. He was going to his sweetheart’s place at night, shining his flashlight around the road and forest to check for wild animals. Suddenly, a bright light appeared over the forest and moved directly over the road. It landed on the road in front of Mario. He was paralyzed with fear.
“I saw steps descend from the bottom of a strange, round machine and four men came out of it. As they got closer, their silver suits glistened in the light. I had never seen such dress. One carried some kind of instrument and when he pointed it at me, I felt sick…It was as though lightning had struck me. I felt needles all over my body. I felt I was burning alive. Then the pain stopped and I was sick. Stomach ache. I threw up. I remember that…
The next thing I remember is waking up inside their craft, but I could not focus my eyes. The light was too bright. There was a cold dampness to the room. I was lying on my stomach on a hard surface and when I tried to move, I realized I was strapped down. My back was in terrible pain. I had never had back pain. Panic set in, but before I had a chance to think of a way to escape, I woke outside my Papa’s place.”
Mario did not remember what happened to him on the spacecraft, why he was strapped down, or how he reached his home, almost as if his memory was erased by some means.
Mario’s friend Tohil shared a similar experience which had unfolded along the same stretch of road through the forest. What’s with the UFOs’ really? Do they have their own beats to patrol? Does seem that way, sometimes. Anyhow, Tohil was with his friend Lorenzo, when a craft landed on the road. “It was a long cylinder. It had a lot of bright lights but the whole craft seemed to glow from a bright red to an orange,” he said. Both of them were then forcibly taken aboard the craft.
“There were four small men who take [sic] us. We fought but we were no match for them. I think they have some way of making you helpless. They took us on their ship and put us in a room with strangers.”
Tohil said that the strangers wore different kinds of clothes, as if they were abducted when they were in the middle of something – like going to bed, work, school etc. They were of different nationalities, but one thing stood out: “Too many blondes.” Aha! So, the aliens are just like us. Nothing to worry folks, our ancestors are here! Tohil then said that all the strangers on the craft just sat there, as if in a trance, with no emotion whatsoever.
“I tried to talk to one man but he did not react. The short ones saw me trying to talk to the others, and they forcibly removed me to a room away from everyone..They forced me to drink some kind of a liquid that tasted of dirt. It was thick and slimy and I almost threw up. After a few minutes they put me inside a machine and turned me upside down. I stayed there for several minutes. I could not move. I felt numb, except I was wide awake. My head felt like it was going to explode. I don’t know how long they kept me there, but the next thing I remember, Lorenzo and me were standing alone on the dark road and the craft was disappear [sic].”
One of the things that struck me about this encounter is that the aliens were described as short and powerful men. This reminded me of the legendary dwarfs who live in subterranean caverns, and are supposed to be very good at metallurgy and making all kinds of mechanical contrivances. Are they behind some of these abduction events? But why are they making people drink that gross liquid? Is it to get back at us for polluting the environment? “Here, taste this, this is what your factories spew out all the time,” they might be saying.
One of the anecdotes that I found most interesting was related by a middle-aged man named Gabriel, who had worked as a tour guide at Palenque all his life, until he retired due to arthritis in his knees. One night, after all the tourists were gone, Gabriel was picking up the papers, water bottles, cans that were thrown around.
“I found myself over a mile from the entrance when the sky became dark and a lightning storm came up. Taking cover in one of the structures, I decided to wait out the storm. It lasted much longer than I expected. Darkness came and I was still inside the ruins. As the rain eased, I decided to head home. That’s when a circular craft came out of the clouds and settled in the plaza. Three men, covered in light, came out of the craft. They stopped in front of the Temple of Inscriptions and turned themselves into balls of light. I watched as they floated upward to the top of the entrance and then they disappeared…I ran across the plaza, keeping to the edges and out of sight. Before leaving the plaza, I looked back, but the craft was still there. As I walked down the hill toward the town, I saw the craft move above the trees and head south, and then in a second it was gone.”
The Star People turned themselves into balls of light! That’s pretty amazing. I would love to see that on VFX. Another person in the group called Vincente backed up this story. He said, “I have seen the Sky People turn into balls of light in front of my eyes. I have also seen them disappear. They have great powers.” Vincente, however, did not think that these alien visitors are the same Sky People whom the indigenous people regard as their ancestors. “I don’t think they are the Sky Gods of our grandfathers. The visitors today are others from the universe. The ones who brought us here looked like us. The ones we have seen are taller than us, shorter than us, and none of them look like us.”
Now, it is quite well known that orbs of light have been seen at many places around the world, and they appear to be conscious entities which move in an intelligent manner, and often follow humans who may happen to be nearby. The balls of light are known to change colours from yellow to orange, red or blue, are capable of moving very fast, and sometimes a single light can split up into two. In the Banni grasslands of the Kutch district in India they are called Chir Batti or Ghost Lights, in the vast Australian outback they are known as Min Min lights, while in European folklore they are called will-o’-wisp or Jack-o’-lantern. The general belief in European folklore is that they are the spirits of the dead or supernatural beings such as fairies, elves or goblins. And now, a different perspective comes to us from the indigenous people of Palenque – it is the Sky People who turn into balls of light for ease of travel and, perhaps, also for camouflage.
The transformation of the Sky People into orbs of light is a story that Ardy came across in many places of Mexico. In Merida, she met a young woman called Evelyn, who was the daughter of an American expat mother and a Mestizo. Evelyn’s brother Adan was apparently abducted by the Sky People when he was sixteen years old. That was nine years before she had this conversation with Ardy. Evelyn recounted the harrowing events of that night when Adan was taken right before her eyes.
"I woke in the middle of the night and woke up Gabriella (her sister). I saw three balls of light in the backyard. On the way out of the house, we woke up Adan, and he followed us. We stood on the porch and watched them for several minutes…By that time they had become these tall beings. Not quite human, but human-looking. Adan said he was going to touch them. I called to him and told him not to go. He didn’t listen. Suddenly, we saw a big flash of light. That is the last thing either of us remembered. We fell asleep on the porch. My father woke us in the morning."
Adan was never found in spite of extensive searches. Evelyn’s father refused to believe he was abducted by aliens. But Evelyn clearly remembers seeing the silhouette of a UFO over the trees. It had cast a blue light upon the ground. Three balls of light came out of it. They materialized into human-like figures. She has no idea why her brother had been abducted by the aliens, but she still keeps hoping that one day he will return.
The Sky People clearly appear to be magicians of great power. One can only wonder why they seem to have such an affinity for the archaeological site of Palenque, and the Temple of the Inscriptions in particular. Are they simply drawn by the mystical charm of the place or is it something else? Ardy Clarke mentioned that, even when the 19th century explorers Stephens and Catherwood had visited Palenque, the Maya refused to spend the night in Palenque with them, since they believed the place to be haunted by the ancestors. This belief persist to the present day, and as the accounts collected by Ardy indicate, alien visitations to Palenque continue to occur.
As per the local Maya, the Sky People come to honor the tomb of Pakal which is buried in a crypt below the Pyramid. Of course, the tomb entrance is now sealed up, but that may not be a deterrant for the Sky People. But why would they come to Pakal’s tomb? Was Pakal in some way related to the Sky People? Was he really an ancient astronaut? Perhaps, he was born of the union of a Sky God and a mortal woman? That could be why the city of Palenque underwent such a radical transformation during his reign, and some of the masterpieces of Mayan architecture were built when he ruled over the city for 68 years.
Ardy noted in course of her travels through the Mayan cities that many elders believe that the “Maya were the Sky People,” who settled down on Earth and built the cities. While that may seem like a bit of a stretch, one cannot rule out a linkage between some of the Mayan rulers and the Star Gods that they venerated in their temples. After all, a similar legend is associated with the small archaeological site of Lambityeco in the state of Oaxaca. Lambityeco had attained its peak cultural prosperity between 600 to 750 CE - around the same time as Palenque. The site has two excavated mounds, one of which was an elite residence with the entrance flanked by two imposing stucco masks of Cocijo, the Zapotec rain god.
There is an ancient legend about Lambityeco, which Ardy heard from a tour guide at the site called Helio. He said that,
“A Sky Lord named Cocijo came to the village on a beam of light and built the ancient temples. He took an earth woman as a wife and she bore him a son. When his son was old enough to assume the leadership of the city, the Sky Lord left Earth on a beam of light.”
Could this have been true of Palenque as well? Could it be that Pakal was also the son of a Sky God and a mortal woman? Not impossible, I would think. Helio went on to tell Ardy that, many times UFO’s hover over the archaeological site, and then move away extremely fast. “There is a connection between this place and the stars,” he said. “Cocijo is that bridge and I think they come to honor him.” Just as they come to honor King Pakal at Palenque! According to local lore, a space craft had landed near Lambityeco many years ago.
“There are stories. Many years ago when I was a boy, maybe nine or ten years, the men say that one of the space craft landed, and two men walked out of the craft and stood before the mask of Cocijo. It was a long time ago. Maybe thirty-five years. I remember that night. The night became day. My mother was frightened, and she cautioned my brothers and me to stay inside. I never saw the spacecraft, but the old men of the village saw it and saw the men…They said that the men stood before the mask and appeared very sad. They spoke not a word. When they left, they looked at the old men, and communicated with them that they meant no harm.”
The communication with the old men, Helio clarified, happened telepathically, without uttering any sound. The old men simply understood that the intentions of the Star People were peaceful. They called them ancestors. However, the communications between the Star Gods and the indigenous people have stopped long ago. Many Maya elders believe that is because the Star People are very disappointed with the way of life the Maya are leading after the arrival of the Spaniards, moving further and further away from their connection to nature and spirit.
So, what is really going on at Palenque? Are the alien visitations at Palenque due to the possible connections of King Pakal with the Sky People? Even if we accept that, as strange as it might sound, it still does not explain the various abduction events that the people have reported from the area, which are tantalizingly similar to other cases from around the world. Something bizarre is going down in Palenque, and across the world, about which we seem to be clueless. Are humans being used for genetic experimentation, and perhaps cloning? Are they activating our junk DNA to enhance our capabilities? Are these closely guarded government or military experiments? Or something even more sinister? We have no option but to wait for more evidence to emerge.
 Linda Schele, Khristaan D. Villela, “Creation, Cosmos, and the Imagery of Palenque and Copan”, Mesoweb <http://www.mesoweb.com/pari/publications/rt10/creation.pdf>
 Ardy Sixkiller Clarke, Sky People: Untold Stories Of Alien Encounters in Mesoamerica, The Career Press, 2015