Everybody loves that Steven Spielberg movie when a cute, child-friendly ET phones home.
That movie, of course, is pure fiction, but so are news reports claiming that an 800-year-old cellphone, used by extraterrestrials, has been found in Austria.
Images of that curiously shaped object are indeed remarkable. Nevertheless, even if they were genuine, they do raise an interesting point: Why would spacelings, advanced enough for interplanetary travel, not use iPhones or Androids or something even more advanced.
Instead, these ETs would "phone home" with something that looks exactly like an outdated Nokia -- the sort that were popular more than a decade ago.
The truth behind this intergalactic controversy: German sculptor Karl Weingärtner created these clay objects in 2012, with lettering designed to look like they were from ancient Sumeria.
Weingärtner, who was selling the items online, posted a photo of his sculpture on Facebook where someone called it "BabyloNokia." He has no idea why some websites got the story so wrong. And he's angry about it.
"The photo was used without my knowledge and without my consent,” he told HuffPost. “It's not what I wanted. I do not believe in UFOs and I do not believe in aliens."
"The strange and wonderful mobile phone was found in Austria. This strange thing was discovered in an excavation in Austria," the story claims. "It has many similarities with the wireless devices today [sic]."
"The tablet looks surprisingly like a modern phone, with the 12 keys, a display and a ‘talk’ button. Could these extraterrestrials have tried to introduce the Sumerians to a phone-like communications device, only to find they weren’t ready for it and dialed them back to a stylus and clay tablets?"
The author of that piece, Paul Seaburn, told HuffPost he saw the Conspiracy Club article but didn't link to it.
Seaburn said he thought it was strange that the article didn't name the researchers or link to a source. He also wondered how the 800-year timeline was determined.
"I think I did the best I could under the circumstances while still trying to get the story up in a timely manner," he said.
Since then, the alien theory has been bandied about in various blogs as well as the Daily Mail, which describes the cellphone story as "absurd."
Snopes.com connected the dots between Weingärtner and his cellphone last week, declaring, "There are several indications that this post was simply a joke."
When HuffPost showed the Snopes piece to Seaburn, he conceded it was a more likely explanation than any alien theory.
However, Seaburn has not updated his own story.
"Someone posted the Snopes article on the comments. I think that's enough," he said. "Hey, we work in weird news. We're not Bob Woodward."
Once-Classified UFO Files Temporarily Available To Everyone
In January, something both amazing and frustrating at the same time happened in the field of UFO studies. Approximately 130,000 pages of files from the 22-year Air Force UFO study -- Project Blue Book -- were finally made available to the public for free online. Ever since Project Blue Book ended in 1969, anyone wanting to research those files prior to 2015, had to pour through microfilm files at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Writer and producer John Greenewald, creator of The Black Vault -- a huge online compilation of government documents -- converted Blue Book files from jpeg images into searchable PDF files. It was every UFO researcher's dream come true. But it didn't last long. Shortly after the files became available, they were removed from The Black Vault by a company called Fold3, which posts military files, claiming to have a copyright on the old Air Force files. Easy come, easy go with the UFO files, it seems. But there's still hope that those files will once again see the light of day. This image is a re-enactment of one of the most credible Project Blue Book cases, from 1964, in which Police Officer Lonnie Zamora witnessed an egg-shaped craft along with two beings in Socorro, New Mexico.
At the end of April, San Diego's NBC News affiliate captured an unusual colorful grouping of lights over San Ysidro, near the U.S.-Mexico border. The red, blue and green lights were flashing and changing colors. When HuffPost contacted the TV station, a reporter said she was instructed by station management not to give out any information about the incident.
Disc-Shaped Object Hovers Over Chile For 1 Hour
In April, a new update was released about a couple of photos from 2013 showing a disc-shaped object over a copper mine in northern Chile. Witnesses said they watched the object for over an hour as it moved around and hovered. Investigators for CEFAA -- Chile's official government UFO study group -- examined the photos, and ruled out experimental aircraft, planes, weather balloons or drones. The study concluded "It is an object or phenomenon of great interest, and it can be qualified as a UFO."
Loch Ness UFO Causes Monster Controversy
It took several updates to this story to try and figure out what exactly it was that a family, vacationing at Scotland's Loch Ness captured in a photograph above the 22-mile-long lake in April. Their camera seemed to catch a pair of objects (see image with close-up insert) moving in the sky over the lake. The controversy heated up when Metabunk.org stepped in, claiming that the family had merely photographed a dual reflection of a room lamp. To this day, both parties believe they are correct: The family insists it was no lamp reflection and Metabunk maintains it was.
Christmas Tree-Type Lights Over Tucson
On July 4, Tom Sanger videotaped a colorful display of changing lights over the Sabino Canyon, northeast of Tucson, Arizona. In late August, an updated report by OpenMinds.TV suggested these lights were caused by "human activity" at a mountain lookout point, i.e. the headlights of oncoming vehicles.
Similar UFOs Appear Over U.S., Japan Cities
Left: TVE24HD Right: IPRA Strong / YouTube
Two separate cases of unusual-looking lights over different continents within a few days of each other prompted speculation that ranged from alien life to Chinese lanterns. The image shows objects over Osaka, Japan (at left around the end of July) and Milwaukee, Wisconsin (on July 25). The Milwaukee objects were later identified as an Army parachute team, performing during the city's annual German Fest. Still no official word on those Osaka lights.
London Police Investigate Reported UFO Crash
Kingston Police, UK
It wasn't exactly of the same legendary caliber as the 1947 Roswell, New Mexico, incident, but it was unique in its own way. On Oct. 17, police in Kingston, London, sent an emergency response team to a location to check on an unknown object that was on fire. When officials arrived on the scene, they thought, at first, they were looking at a crashed UFO! The orange-blue hemispherical object was partially smashed with pieces of it strewn all around. Turns out, online detectives helped determine the UFO was, in fact, a pizza oven that may have fallen off a truck. That's some pizza delivery service.
Mystery Revealed In Space Station Astronaut UFO Photo
NASA / Scott Kelly
When International Space Station astronaut Scott Kelly snapped a photo of south India on Nov. 15, Internet UFO hunters speculated about the bright, tube-like object at the upper right of the image. It was just the latest in a long series of objects photographed by space station astronauts that fuel Internet chatter about UFOs. In this case, however, a simple adjustment of brightness and contrast of the original image clearly reveals that the UFO in question is a UHF antenna attached to the space station.
Scary Explanation For Blazing Siberia UFO Sighting
Many people saw and videotaped a spectacular bright object over several cities in Siberia on the night of Nov. 17. Initial speculation included things like UFO, alien wormhole, and a secret Russian military rocket launch. Former NBC News space consultant James Oberg -- an expert on all American and Russian space activity -- confirmed that the bizarre spectacle was part of a Russian missile test program. While not an ET invasion, it doesn't lessen worries over increased tensions between Russia and members of NATO.