Erich von Daniken, The Tayos Cave Scandal and the Crespi Collection Forgeries

In his 1973 book The Gold of the Gods Erich von Daniken claimed that he and a local guide Juan Moricz explored a cave system in Ecuador known as Cueva de los Tayos (Cave of the Oilbirds) which was supposed to be an underground tunnel system which ran for hundreds of miles. He wrote,

“To me this is the most incredible, fantastic story of the century. It could easily have come 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 and imagination, it was real and tangible.” (Erich von Daniken, The Gold of the Gods, Corgi, London, 1975, p 1)

Von Daniken described entering the cave, “We switched on our torches and the lamps on our helmets, and there in front of us was the gaping hole which led down to the depths. We slid down a rope to the first platform 250 feet below the surface. From there we made two further descents of 250 feet. Then our visit to the age-old underworld of a strange unknown race really began.” (The Gold of the Gods, p 6)

Someone, who reads this and von Daniken’s use of the first person, would conclude that von Daniken is saying he went into the cave and saw these things himself.

He described how they entered “a hall as big as the hangar of a Jumbo Jet … Galleries leading in different directions branched off it.” (The Gold of the Gods, p 7) They went down a side passage to another hall which measured 153 feet by 164 feet where there was a library comprising 2-3000 metal plaques, about three feet high and one foot wide with writing upon them (The Gold of the Gods, p 9-10) .

It sounds like the greatest archaeological discovery of all time.

However, not long after The Gold of the Gods was published, Juan Moricz told a reporter from the German magazine Der Spiegel, “Daniken was never in the caves – unless it was in a flying saucer. … If he claims to have seen the library and other things then that’s a lie. That’s extremely indecent. We didn’t show him these things.” (Ronald Story, The Space Gods Revealed, New English Library, London, 1978, p 88)

In a 1974 interview with Playboy, von Daniken was asked, “Which of you is telling the truth?”

Von Daniken replied, “I guess we both are telling half the truth.” He went on, “In German we say a writer, if he is not writing pure science, is allowed to use some dramaturgisch effekte – some theatrical effects. And that is what I’ve done.”

The interviewer asked, “Did you, in fact, see things you describe? Seven chairs made of a plastic like material, a zoo of solid-gold animals, a library of gold plates?”

Von Daniken replied. “Definitely. No doubt. I must say I am not sure, anymore, if the so-called zoo is made of gold. It could be something different.” (“Playboy Interview: Erich von Daniken,”, Playboy, August, 1974, p 58)

In his 2009 book History is Wrong von Daniken quotes his description of the metal library from The Gold of the Gods, but it is edited in such a way that he now does not claim to have seen it himself (Erich von Daniken, History is Wrong, New Page Books, New Jersey, 2009, p 91) . He now says the description of the metal library came from Juan Moricz who told von Daniken about it in a restaurant and only took him into a side cave (History is Wrong, p 98-109) .

“Afterward, we crawled a few meters into the cave. From deep within the dull depths we could hear the rumbling of water … Apart from a few strange figures and stone sculptures that stood out in the scampering torchlight, there was little to see. Certainly no metal library.” (History is Wrong, p 109)

Von Daniken does not admit he did anything wrong or acted dishonestly. It was everyone else’s fault. Von Daniken wrote his second book Return to the Stars (Gods from Outer Space) while he was in prison in Switzerland in 1970 for fraud and embezzlement from the hotel which he had managed. An article in The New York Times reported, “A court psychiatrist examined von Daniken and found him a prestige-seeker, a liar and an unstable and criminal psychopath with a hysterical character.” That would explain a lot.

Moricz claimed that the gold library was real, only that von Daniken had not seen it. In 1976 a British Cave Research Association expedition, which included Neil Armstrong, explored the cave and, not surprisingly, did not find any gold library.

One would not know this from reading what David Hatcher Childress wrote in Ancient Aliens, The Official Companion Book in 2016,

“Maybe the most mysterious network is the Tayos cave system. This part of Ecuador is very remote and dangerous to reach. Back in the 1970s, several Ecuadorians contacted Erich von Daniken and told him the could take him there, and that inside the cave he would find alien artifacts, gold tablets, copper tablets, and mysterious statues. He went and ended up writing his third book, The Gold of the Gods, largely about the experience and all the things he had seen there, which were just as the Ecuadorians had promised. In the mid-1970s, a British Special forces expedition explored Tayos, as did Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, Many people were fascinated by the stories around Tayos.” (David Hatcher Childress, “Tombs of Blood and Gold”, Ancient Aliens, The official Companion Book, Harper Collins, New York, 2016, p 79)

Childress was still giving the impression that von Daniken had seen the gold library when he had admitted he made it up. The mid-1970s “British Special Forces expedition” presumably means the 1976 British Cave Research Association expedition which included Neil Armstrong. Childress does not make it clear that the 1976 expedition did not find any gold plates.

In a 2018 episode of the Travel Channel’s Expedition Unknown titled, “Hunt for the Metal Library” the host Josh Gates led an expedition which explored even more of the Tayos Cave. They did not find anything man-made, including the alleged gold library.

Childress also writes, “The Tayos caves are said to connect with a vast underground tunnel system that connects Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and Brazil.”  (Ancient Aliens, The Official Companion Book, p 79)It may be “said”, but there is no evidence it is true. The British Cave Association and Expedition Unknown expeditions could only explore a few kilometres. There is nothing to suggest the cave is part of “a vast underground tunnel system.”

In The Gold of the Gods von Daniken also describes visiting Father Carlo Crespi in Cuenca, Ecuador. He writes that Crespi was “a trustworthy friend of the Indians, who during past decades fetched the most valuable gold, silver, and metal objects from their hiding places piece by piece and gave them to him.”(The Gold of the Gods, p 21)

“Father Crespi led us through his treasure chambers. Room I houses stonemason’s work; Room II contains Inca artifacts of gold, silver, copper and brass, while Room III holds the gold treasure, which he seldom shows anyone, and then unwillingly. Cuenca has a “Gold Museum” of its own, but it cannot compare with Father Crespi’s.”(The Gold of the Gods, p 21-22)

Von Daniken wrote about one of Crespi’s artifacts,

“The showpiece was a stele (Fig. 26), 20 ½ inches high, 5 ½ inches wide and 1 ½ inches thick. Fifty-six different character are “stamped” on its 56 sqaures. I had seen absolutely identical characters on the leaves in the metal library in the Great Hall.” (The Gold of the Gods, p 22)

Von Daniken specifically said he had seen the same symbols in the gold library in the Tayos Cave – the cave he had never been in.

In History is Wrong, in which he now said he had never been in the Tayos Cave, he wrote about the stele,

“The most impressive piece from the Crespi collection remains the roughly 60-centimeter-tall gilded metal panel with its 56 “stamped” symbols. As Father Crespi assured me – I visited him several times – this was just one prize example from an entire metal library that lay in secret hiding places.” (History is Wrong, p 82)

So now, Von Daniken is telling us that he did not see it in the gold library, which he had never been in. Rather, Crespi told him it was from the gold library. Does von Daniken think no one reads his older books anymore?

The skeptic James Randi visited Father Crespi in the late 1960s. He was not so impressed with the collection,

“The collection was a total fraud from wall to wall, Scraps of tin cans, brass sheets, and copper strips abounded, mixed with piles of rusted chains, shards of armor, and bits of miscellaneous machinery. Some of the embossed sheets were embossed and scratched with everything from elephants to dinosaurs. Crude and rather poor designs were plentiful in the margins and backgrounds, and there were more representations of pyramids than I cold count.” (James Randi, Flim-Flam, Prometheus Books, New York, 1982, p 125)

Randi only saw one piece of gold, “It was quite obviously a scrap from a larger artifact, chopped out of the original and reworked by human hands.”(Flim-Flam, p 125)

Randi continued, “Some of it doubtless came from the artefact factories that abound in Ecuador. But the nature of the entire collection was proven to me when, in looking over the pile of debris, I came upon a cooper float for a toilet tank and an embossed tin on which the words “product of Argentina” were still visible. But it was all good enough to fool von Daniken, And/or his readers. I can only conclude, based on these facts, that von Daniken is a liar and an incompetent fake.” (Flim-Flam, p 127)

David Hatcher Childress claims that the Crespi collection “had vanished” (Ancient Aliens, The Official Companion Book, 79). Actually, 5,000 pieces from the Crespi collection are in the Pumapungo Museum in Cuenca. In the Expedition Unknown episode “Hunt for the Metal Library” the host Josh Gates examines some pieces with an x-ray fluorescence spectrometer which reveals they contained lead and zinc, which was not used by pre-Columbian Americans, so they must be modern forgeries.

Then there is the theory that Father Crespi was actually Adolf Hitler hiding out in South America, but not even Erich von Daniken will touch that one.







Author: Malcolm Nicholson

I am a small business owner and I live in northern Tasmania. I am a graduate of the University of Tasmania and I have a Master of Arts in Early Christian and Jewish Studies from Macquarie University. I attend a Reformed church. I have been a teacher librarian, New Testament Greek teacher, branch president and state policy committee chairman of a political party, university Christian group president. My interests include ancient history, early Christian history, the Holocaust, Bible prophecy, revival, UFOs, peak oil and science fiction.

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