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Mark Twain’s old adage, “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail” couldn’t be truer once you take a deep plunge into the murky waters of UFOlogy.

Take for instance this video, recently shared by a Twitter account I follow, which shows the many benefits of an industrial forklift developed by the American company Airtrax, equipped with “omni-directional technology”:

Josef Blumrich

Perhaps this video is not that interesting to most people –unless they happen to work in a warehouse– but to me, the unusual ‘tires’ of the forklift immediately transported me to my early childhood, when I received a book about ‘Ancient Astronauts’ edited by Jacques Bergier and Georges H. Gallet as a birthday present. It was in the pages of that book that I first learned about Josef F. Blumrich (1913-2002), the Austrian-born aeronautical engineer who worked for NASA after he emigrated to the United States, and participated in the development of the Saturn V rockets and the Skylab launch, but who is nowadays more remembered for his book 1974 The Spaceships of Ezekiel, in which he gave his personal interpretation of the biblical prophet’s ‘divine visions’. Originally, Blumrich had intended to debunk Erich von Däniken’s claims, but in the end he became one of his greatest supporters.

Josef Blumrich's design
Blumrich’s concept of what Ezekiel saw

As I watched, a great stormwind came from the North,* a large cloud with flashing fire, a bright glow all around it, and something like polished metal gleamed at the center of the fire.

From within it figures in the likeness of four living creatures appeared. This is what they looked like:

They were in human form, but each had four faces and four wings,

and their legs were straight, the soles of their feet like the hooves of a bull, gleaming like polished brass.

This passage, which for countless religious scholars was the description of four cherubim guarding the Throne of God,  was now re-interpreted by the NASA engineer as a toy-top shaped machine capable of atmospheric flight thanks to four helicopter rotors underneath it (the ‘wings’ of the cherubim). The ‘wheels’ which accompanied the four ‘living creatures’ took special importance to Blumrich, due to their amazing ‘functionality’ and the fact that they could move in any direction: He conceived a special tire composed of six independent parts, which would be capable of 4 different directions of movement without the need to rotate on its axis; he thought such a wheel would greatly increase the mobility of wheelchairs, and he was even granted a US patent for it. 

Blumrich's US patent
Diagram from Blumrich’s US patent (note the similarity with Airtrax’s forklift)

Does Blumrich’s technical expertise and the viability of his designs mean he was right about what Ezekiel may or may not have seen 2500 years ago? 

Of course not.

The Book of Ezekiel –like many things in the Ancient Aliens field– is one big, messy Rorschach’s test. Some people will see it as a religious allegory, others as a mystic vision (perhaps even chemically induced!). To a mechanically-oriented individual like Blumrich, the ancient references to “straight legs with bull hooves gleaming like polished brass” reminding him of the landing structures he himself had been developing for NASA. In my opinion, his Biblical aerial machine and his innovative multi-directional wheels are a case of inspiration arriving from looking at a given problem from a new perspective, which frees the mind from falling in the typical blocks and allows you to propose fresher solutions.

Another example of this can also be found in that old Ancient Astronauts anthology by Bergier and Gallet, which included Friedrich Egger’s description of a rotating piston engine developed and patented by doctor Klaus Keplinger in 1973. Keplinger arrived at his Eureka moment when looking at images from an ancient Mayan codex depicting an anthropomorphic figure near a stela-like object, and the simple “X” type glyph inside the object looked to him like a mechanical motor, whereas to his friend Egger it looked like an ‘envelope’. They say genius is the ability to go from A to D without going through B and C; perhaps genius is also the ability to see an engine where everyone else sees an X.

Keplinger's Mayan inspiration
From this…
Keplinger's patent
…To THIS?
Keplinger's engine (3d model)
3d model of Keplinger’s engine.

If I were a college teacher at some Engineering school, I would propose an ‘Ancient Aliens course’ in which students would be tasked to come up with design solutions directly inspired by ancient hieroglyphics and old myths, as a right-brain exercise that would help them learn how to approach projects in different ways. I would also encourage aeronautical engineers to take a look at the UFO phenomenon not with the intention to debunk or vindicate it, but to see if some of the reports could inspire them to conceive new ideas –the same way professor Leik Myrabo is said to have received great inspiration for his laser propulsion concepts, after looking at the photos and films kept by the controversial UFO investigator Ray Stanford.

Alas, both the websites of  Airtrax  (which went out of business in 2008) and Vehicle Technologies Inc. (founded by Airtrax’s former employees, which acquired the rights of the omni-directional wheels) have zero mentions of Blumrich, so it’s impossible to know for certain if these companies were directly inspired by the Austrian-American engineer, or that if their technology is a newer version of his US patent. If that was indeed the case, we could make the argument that at least on one occasion the Ancient Aliens theory managed to uplift mankind for a change–or rather, forklift it.