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Is this man one planet short of a solar system?

As a prophet of doom, Scots writer Graham Hancock has few equals. Armed with only a degree in sociology, he is tapping into a rich seam of PMT - Pre Millennium Tension.

His apocalyptic visions have been described as earth-shattering revelations - but mainly by his publicist.

In his new book, The Mars Mystery, he predicts an asteroid will destroy the Earth within 30 years.

But flick back to his 1995 bestseller, Fingerprints Of The Gods, and you'll find a different story.

Then Hancock claimed the Earth's crust would shift dramatically around its core in the year 2012, bringing widespread death and destruction - and perhaps even wiping out the human race.

His theories suggested an advanced super-race flourished on a lost continent in the Atlantic before the last Ice Age.

But, around 10500BC, this continent slid to the South Pole, becoming Antarctica. Hancock claimed the survivors fled, taking their technological knowledge to Egypt and South America where they built the pyramids.

And he warned that a similar disaster would be along in a few years.

Forget geology, astronomy or any other scientific discipline. He based his research on an ancient Central American myth that told of a cataclysmic flood.

He argued that the Maya race left us a calendar which paints a picture of destruction and rebirth.

We don't need to concern ourselves with too many dates on the calendar ... just December 23, 2012. That's when the Earth will move.

Or at least that's what Hancock thought until he came up with his latest book.

The Edinburgh-born author specialises in dressing up his fantastic theories of lost civilisations, pyramids on Mars and inherited knowledge with pseudo- scientific prose.

And the public love it. Fingerprints Of The Gods outsold Madonna's sensational book Sex in the UK, with 4.5 million copies.

The follow-up book, Keeper Of Genesis, published in 1996, expounded the theory that the pyramids date back to before the last Ice Age. It infuriated Egyptian authorities. "This is piracy," said Egyptian culture minister Farouq Hosni. "Our history and our civilisation must be respected."

But the public lapped it up and made it another international bestseller.

Even before Devon-based Hancock woke up to theories of lost civilisations, he was repackaging ancient myths for a living.

His first book, The Sign And The Seal, took him on a quest to find the Ark of the Covenant in 1993.

He concluded it was resting in Ethiopia, guarded by a succession of lone monks who all die of cancer.

His latest dire predictions in The Mars Mystery couldn't have come at a more fortuitous time -Hollywood is unleashing its own apocalyptic vision of the future with two blockbusters, Deep Impact and Armageddon.

Both are about comets heading for Earth -but no-one pretends this is anything but fantasy.

Hancock ,though, backs up his theory of an asteroid about to devastate the Earth with all sorts of mumbo- jumbo.

You might not be able to put Aztec myths under the microscope, but you can seal them in a hard- backed cover and sell them for pounds 16.99 a time.

Of course, making money isn't his main aim ... Hancock claims he's out to save the world. He says: "If we don't wake up we are going to be swatted like flies."

The book suggests that an advanced civilisation on Mars was wiped out when a huge meteor hit the planet and that Earth is about to suffer the same fate.

Its prose is peppered with authoritative sounding terms like "The Kuiper Belt" and the "Oort cloud". He also quotes eminent names such as Sir Fred Hoyle and Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe.

And to back up his theories, Hancock refers to such diverse sources as the Egyptian Book Of the Dead, which states: "Thou dost pass over and dost travel through untold spaces requiring millions and hundreds of thousands of years to pass over."

Johannes Kepler, a 17th century astronomer and mathematician, is also quoted.

Kepler observed: "There are more comets in the sky than there are fishes in the sea."

Hancock says: "We could have a major cataclysm in the next 30 years.

"It's highly likely an asteroid is going to hit the Earth - the evidence that has built up over the last 20 years is extremely worrying."

While the author looks forward to The Mars Mystery exploding on to the bestseller charts, one of Scotland's top astronomers has dismissed his claims as "poppycock".

Alan Pickup, senior scientist at Edinburgh's Royal Observatory, says that even if a stray asteroid was to come out of nowhere, there would be no way to predict it until it was too late.

He says: "None of the asteroids we know about are likely to cause devastation of that nature.

"We know their orbits well enough to know they won't collide with the Earth in 20 or 30 years.

"Any asteroids we haven't yet seen could collide with Earth tomorrow or in hundreds of years - but there is no way of predicting that. I certainly don't lose sleep over it."

Yet despite opposition to his views, Hancock maintains his theories should make us afraid, very afraid.

He points to photographs taken of Mars' surface by NASA in 1976 as proof of a past civilisation.

They reveal pyramid-like objects. All it needs is a fertile imagination and a shrewd business sense to see the objects as clues to a lost Martian civilisation. Hancock has both.

Alan Pickup scoffs at the author's theory.

He says: "NASA have produced clearer images of Mars and have disproved the objects were pyramids.

Only a few diehards with a vested interest in making money still make these claims.

He insists there is no proof Mars was devastated by an asteroid 20,000 years ago - or ever.

He added: "That number sounds as though it has simply been plucked out of the air."

There are a lot of "ifs" in Graham Hancock's theories ... but the book- buying public hellbent on making him a millionaire don't seem to mind. Comet smashes the box-office

IT has smashed into the box-office and broken all records - and Deep Impact is just the first of a pair of big-budget disaster movies involving comets.

Armageddon, starring Bruce Willis, follows later in the summer.

But it is Deep Impact, starring Robert Duvall, Morgan Freeman and Tea Leoni,

that is setting the standards.

It's the story of humanity's battle for survival when two comets head for Earth. The whole world is sent into chaos as the smaller of the comets strikes, causing climactic changes, huge tidal waves - and a fight to survive the next two years in underground caves with a menagerie of animals.

Last night, it was confirmed that the film, smashed all previous American records for a film released in May.

It took pounds 27.5 million in one weekend - nine times that of closest rival City Of Angels.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Morgan, Kathleen
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 13, 1998
Next Article:RECORD VIEW; Tories can't grill Cook.

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