This article originally appeared on VICE US.
Standing in his warmly-lit living room, the popular UFO conspiracy theorist David Wilcock was telling his YouTube Live audience that the "Illuminati Deep State" was responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic and that he knew the secrets of how to save humanity from the crisis. More than 20,000 people were watching; hundreds of dollars in donations began rolling in via YouTube Superchat. The video now has more than a million views.
Just over a week later, Wilcock’s comrade in arms, Corey Goode, posted a video claiming, nonsensically, that according to briefings he has received from government insiders, the new coronavirus was engineered as a “biological weapon from an American university” and smuggled into China by a student in order to act as a population control tool. He concluded by stating that he wasn’t sure if his source was totally accurate.
There is nothing novel about two conspiracy theorists addressing COVID-19; the crisis has become a bonanza for those promoting hoaxes, fake treatments, xenophobia, and general nonsense. Wilcock and Goode, though, offer something different than the average figure ranting about 5G towers; they're significant figures in the “disclosure community,” a conspiracy-driven New Age segment of the UFO subculture that believes the government is hiding the truth about extraterrestrials. Combined, the two men have over half a million followers across various social media platforms. And while both had humble beginnings as ordinary UFO conspiracy theorists, this moment may uniquely suit them. They claim, after all, to have become quasi-divine prophets offering salvation from global cataclysm—all while offering aggressive legal challenges to anyone who would do so much as describe Wilcock, a man who has started what for all intents and purposes appears to be his own religion, as a spiritual leader.
Wilcock and Goode first partnered several years ago, promoting each other's wild narratives. Their 2019 documentary The Cosmic Secret tells the tale of a global catastrophe which, according to what Wilcock describes as his telepathic communications with alien beings, will happen soon. The end of the world, more specifically, will be the result of a “global pole shift.” (While Earth’s poles have shifted and do undergo minute changes over periods of thousands of years, mainstream geomagnetists aren’t concerned that a global cataclysm will occur any time soon.) Wilcock and Goode claim that the Moon is hollow and served as the home to an alien civilization that lived on Earth billions of years before humans. They cite the Klerksdorp Spheres—round, naturally occuring pyrophyllite balls—as evidence that an “ancient builder race” occupied Earth billions of years ago.
Wilcock is not just well-known in the UFO world, he's often an ambassador outside of it. He has published books with Penguin Random House, one of the largest publishing outlets in the world. According to his bio, he has appeared in "600 television episodes," including Ancient Aliens.
Wilcock claims that he was selected as a child to be the messenger to humanity by highly advanced "good guy" alien beings who are engaged in an Avengers-style cosmic war with evil aliens, spanning both time and space. Evil humans, whom he calls the “Cabal” or “Deep State,” run a secret space program, he says, and are actively engaged in a quiet war to stop him. He explains that his “Alliance” of unnamed government insiders, secret whistleblowers, alien allies, and followers are waging war against corruption and evil. One of these supposed insiders, Goode, claims that he is a time-traveling empath and a government insider with the secret space program who has been “age regressed” due to his decades-long work with various alien species as a champion and warrior representing Earth. He is in contact, he says, with an alien species known as the “Blue Avians,” and worked in a “support role for a rotating Earth Delegate Seat (shared by secret earth government groups) in a ‘human-type’ ET SuperFederation Council.”
Though Wilcock and Goode have been active in UFO circles for a while now, last year Wilcock officially started what appears to be essentially a religion. Wilcock Spiritual Healing and Empowerment, a tax exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit of which he is both the president and director, is registered in the state of Nevada alongside his for-profit business, Divine Cosmos LLC. Both are maintained by a capital management company in Las Vegas called Corporate Capital Inc. According to the website, Wilcock Spiritual Healing and Empowerment is “an organization dedicated to empowering the sacred [...] We offer spiritual education courses, online and in person at conferences as well as share through written and video material to empower and uplift the soul.” They also accept donations. On Wilcock’s Divine Cosmos blog, he wrote, “I am also happy to report that we have now set up our own 501c3 foundation, so any donations you may send to keep us going are now completely tax-free: Donate Here.”
"We offer spiritual education courses, online and in person at conferences as well as share through written and video material to empower and uplift the soul."
While the two men have expressly denied being religious or spiritual leaders—it's unclear why, and when contacted for comment they responded with legal letters—they do offer what sound a lot like religious and spiritual courses. Wilcock explains that salvation from certain doom is to be had through Ascension. According to Wilcock, those who are ready will have their consciousness live on in higher dimensional states with “the good ETs.” Through meditation, having “a little more than 50 percent of your thoughts and actions be in service to others,” and merely being open-minded, he says, a person’s consciousness can be spared from catastrophe the aliens are about to induce. He asks his followers to continue following him, consume his printed and digital content, and pay $533 for his seven-session “Ascension Mystery School.” (He, also, at times, asks for donations.)
Following in Wilcock’s footsteps, Goode has launched what he calls the Accelerating Ascension Online Course. ("Quite literally, Corey is the Enoch of our modern times," the site says, "sent to our planet to reignite the Christ Consciousness message of love, forgiveness, and service to others in preparation for the most extraordinary time in our recorded history.") Not only is Goode claiming to be a psuedo-Biblical messenger, he is promoting the same apocalyptic event as Wilcock. His course teaches people about “safe zones, preparing your family, and building a local network.” The 10-week course costs $333.33 (£273).
The foundation of their ideas is based on a 1984 book which claims to be the channelled words of a supposed divine being named Ra, called The Law of One. Like many religious texts, it teaches that “love” and “light” are the two essential forces which make up the fabric of the universe. L/L Research, the organization that owns the text, told Motherboard that it maintained a relationship with Wilcock until about 2005, and that since then, only a handful of short emails have been exchanged. They explained that they provide the Ra material to the public for free via their website, but were quick to point out that they are not associated with Wilcock or Goode.
“L/L research provides this material for free to the public in our commitment to love and unity and does not wish to act as an authority in its interpretation, but as stewards of the material we can neither endorse nor condone certain uses of the Law of One, including any uses that energize conspiracist thinking, showcase and aggrandize the self over others, avoid personal accountability, create social harm, or generally promote separation and confusion in an already confused world,” Austin Bridges, the assistant director of L/L Research, wrote in an email to Motherboard.
“Religious language and references are ‘built in’ to UFO culture because historically people from many cultures have looked to the sky and have seen things that aroused wonder,” said Dr. Diana Pasulka, professor of philosophy and religion at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and author of American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology. She explained that strange aerial events were often seen as portents of “end times or viewed as being apocalyptic.”
Since the early 1950s, countless UFO religions have popped up. L. Ron Hubbard famously created the still-thriving Church of Scientology, the foundations of which tout the alien overlord Xenu as being the source of all life on Earth. Raëlism was founded by Claude Vorilhon in 1974; it still teaches today that life on Earth was seeded by extraterrestrials called Elohim. That same year, Marshall Applewhite founded Heaven’s Gate. A mix between Biblical teachings and prophecy, esoteric beliefs, Gnosticism and science fiction, the cult made international news in 1997 when Applewhite and 38 of his followers died by mass suicide, hoping to have their souls reborn on an alien spaceship hinding behind the Hale-Bopp Comet.
The dawn of the internet and social media has changed the way these groups function and recruit. Modern UFO religious groups seem to be forming at the strange intersection between fringe media, the viral spread of online content, and a community’s willingness to believe in the words of gurus. At times, there have been tragic consequences.
In 2012, Kelly Pingilley, a follower of cult leader Sherry Shriner, was so terrified that the alien apocalypse was looming that she died by suicide, overdosing on sleeping pills. A bizarre mix of Christian evangelism and the works of alien and conspiracy authors David Icke and Bill Cooper (and bearing a similarity to theories propounded in a 2018 documentary by Wilcock and Goode), Shriner's teachings preached the shadowy existence of evil reptilian aliens in league with Satan who ruled the world’s governments. Her cult existed entirely on social media and YouTube; she claimed to be a divine messenger sent by God to save humanity from alien based annihilation. She told journalists at the time that Pingilley was assassinated by NATO. In 2017, Steven Mineo was shot and killed by his girlfriend Barbara Rogers due to his feud with Shriner, who had told her followers that Rogers was an evil reptilian. Mineo turned on Shriner and, after a series of online arguments, was murdered by Rogers.
In mid-December 2017, Brent Wilkins, a follower of the New Age alien and conspiracy-touting guru Bentinho Massaro, jumped off a bridge in Sedona, Arizona while on a retreat led by Massaro. While Massaro claims zero responsibility, and charges were never filed against him, Wilkins’ family blames Massaro for their son’s suicide.
“The Internet has created a virtual reality where people may be living in their own houses or in their own apartments, but they're mentally isolated from everybody else,” said Steven Hassan, author of Combatting Cult Mind Control and The Cult of Trump. “So the old notion that you have to be in some isolated ashram in the woods somewhere is no longer necessary in the age of smartphones and the internet. That's kind of what's going on here.”
Wilcock and Goode do not ask people to abandon their family or move to a commune. They often state that they are not spiritual leaders and explain that everyone is their own savior. On the other hand, Wilcock has publicly stated that his alien contact, who has at times resembled Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars, has been telling him all his life that he “would become a very famous spiritual figure.” He has also claimed that he has incredibly accurate prophetic visions. Goode, for his part, claims to be a modern-day Enoch, who in Genesis is chosen to live with God. What exactly they're doing if not acting as spiritual leaders isn't clear; what is clear is that they don't want to be described that way.
Australian journalist and content designer Daniel James has been researching the work of Wilcock and Goode for several years now. After undergoing extensive medical treatment, James was convalescing in the hospital when he fell down the YouTube rabbit hole of fringe videos concerning New Age spirituality and consciousness. YouTube’s algorithm began providing some pretty esoteric video recommendations, and James decided to check it out.
“Out of curiosity, I decided to watch a few of the more ‘out-there’ videos. Initially, I discovered David Wilcock, then Corey Goode, and it wasn’t long before I had found dozens of these ‘speakers’ who proclaimed to have the answers to consciousness and a whole lot more,” James told Motherboard in an interview.
James quickly understood what was happening. Initially, he admits, he was mildly entertained.
“Immediately my BS detector went off, but I kept watching as it was fascinating to me that there was this whole group of public figures that had created their own lore, with interlinking tropes of crazy-looking extraterrestrials like something out of a George Lucas film, the Illuminati, Nazis in space, QAnon and everything in between,” James said. Soon, however, he realized that many people were taking this content seriously.
“I saw the actual harm that was being caused. People wanted to believe so much in their stories that they would open their wallets at every opportunity to support them,” James said. Followers made generous donations, paid for spiritual courses, and bought products.
“They are effectively operating as a cult," James said, "and boast a dedicated cult-like following.” James has since started his own YouTube channel that examines claims made by popular conspiracy theorists, and debunks them.
“They are effectively operating as a cult," James said, "and boast a dedicated cult-like following.”
“Their dedicated believers are absorbed into the collective ideology and will sometimes go to extreme efforts to prove their dedication,” James said. In June of 2019, he said, he received death threats via Twitter from a follower over a video he posted about Wilcock and Goode.
Stina Ferrante is a YouTuber and a former follower of Wilcock and Goode. The loss of her mother and grandmother in a seven-month period left her searching. It led her to Wilcock and Goode.
“At that time in my life, I was taking care of my dying mother and dog, my grandmother had just died, and my son was at the age where his neurological issues started to become apparent," she said. "I was overwhelmed by stress. I also had developed a thyroid issue, which when you're already having death anxiety due to so many people dying around you, finding something like spirituality comforted me during that period of my life.
"I just fell head first into the deep end.”
According to a statement on her YouTube channel, “this New Age disclosure group marrying Ufology, conspiracy theories and spirituality was everything I needed to cope with life.” As time went on, though, she began to realize “things were not as they seemed.” She explained that there was a clear contradiction in their constant claims of being nothing special, yet asserting that they are liaisons with the “highest consciousness” beings.
“Their audience has a blind faith that is usually only reserved for a deity which is given to these two mortal dudes,” Ferrante told Motherboard. With support, she broke free from what she describes as “a cult.”
Ferrante said she discovered that Wilcock purchased a ranch house and a seven-acre property in Colorado last year for a little over $1.2 million. (Motherboard has been able to confirm that Wilcock does own a property in Colorado valued over $1.2 million. According to his website’s biography page, Wilcock also resides in California and often states on social media that he takes a yearly sabbatical to Canada.) She received a cease and desist letter, which has been reviewed by Motherboard, threatening legal action from Wilcock and his lawyer claiming that her videos were considered “cyber-stalking,” defamatory, and a form of harassment.
Benjamin Zavodnick, a lawyer and YouTuber who goes by C.W. Chanter, has posted several videos on his channel questioning the stories of Wilcock and Goode. He also received a threatening cease and desist letter from Goode’s lawyer, the same lawyer who sent a cease and desist letter to Ferrante, making similar allegations to that of Ferrante’s cease and desist letter. Motherboard has also reviewed a copy of Zavodnick’s letter.
Motherboard requested comment from Wilcock concerning his spiritual teachings and whether he considered himself a religious leader. Motherboard also reached out to Goode, as well as individuals who associate with them, and received two lengthy and threatening emails from Florida based attorney Liz Lorie.
The two cease and desist letters claimed that Wilcock was the target of a massive conspiracy to defame him, and that he has been physically threatened. "This is a very serious matter with potentially historical implications within the UFO community," Lorie wrote. Moreover, Lorie threatened legal action against VICE if an article was written which referred to him as a “cult leader” or “spiritual leader,” stating that VICE would be implicated as “co-conspirators” in any legal proceedings.
"This is a very serious matter with potentially historical implications within the UFO community."
A second legal letter sent on behalf of Wilcock and Goode stated that VICE and its journalists “are hereby ordered to cease and desist your efforts (under the pretense of your ‘investigation’) to harass, cyberstalk, and defame my clients David Wilcock, Corey Goode, and any of their associates. To be clear: Any publications made by you, VICE media, or any of your affiliates or proxies...defaming … Corey Goode, David Wilcock, or any of their associates based on these unsubstantiated allegations will be deemed defamation per se.” The letter further demanded that VICE not disclose its existence:
Further, any attempt by you, Vice Media, or anyone else (directly or indirectly) to use, publish, transmit, distribute, or disclose this letter or any of the contents herein for any purpose (other than seeking advice of a licensed attorney), including for the purpose of mocking, defaming, casting in a negative light, harassing, stalking, cyberstalking, cyber-harassing, or otherwise interfering with or causing emotional distress or other harm to David Wilcock, Elizabeth Wilcock, Corey Goode...and/or any of their business entities, family, friends, or business associates (in any form of medium or on any public platform, social media platforms, website, or otherwise) shall be used as evidence of your (and Vice’s) malicious intent to inflict injury upon and damage the aforesaid parties, their brands, and their business activities.
The strangest thing about the letter may have been its allegation that VICE Media was involved in a complex conspiracy to defame Wilcock and Goode. Named in the letter as co-conspirators were Jimmy Church, the host of a paranormal-themed late-night radio show, which I appeared on in April of 2019 to promote my book; a social-media promotion company, which I contracted to help with book promotion; and several Twitter users. The claim is ridiculous, but in line with their messaging.
In a recent and quite odd 30-second YouTube video, for instance, a poorly-lit Corey Goode silently signs paperwork for his lawyer. The video’s description threatens that a massive lawsuit is in the works to sue nearly a dozen individuals and organizations, including popular UFO historian Richard Dolan, the organizers of the UFO-themed conferences Conscious Life Expo and Contact in the Desert, and the New Age video streaming service Gaia TV. Goode is now suing Gaia TV, as well as Zavodnick, and other individuals for alleged racketeering and defamation, according to Colorado court documents acquired by Motherboard. Zavodnick did not respond to requests for comment concerning the lawsuit and Gaia declined to comment on ongoing legal proceedings. Prior to publication, VICE reached out to Wilcock and Goode’s respective attorneys with a detailed inquiry about our reporting, asking them to comment. Wilcock and his attorney did not respond; Goode’s current lawyer, Texas-based Valerie Yanaros, stated that VICE had “factually mischaracterized” Goode and that neither she nor Goode were going to provide comment. VICE requested clarification on the supposed inaccuracies. Neither Goode nor his attorney responded.
(Goode later posted VICE’s email sent to his lawyer on Twitter account, stating, “WOW! Does ANYONE know WHO owns this "Publication" or WHY they are doing this to us? CG @david_wilcock #FakeNews #DarkAlliance #BlueChickenCult”.)
In March of this year, Goode officially launched a website promoting the “Light Warrior Legal Fund,” asking for donations to help him. According to the website, he “has been relentlessly attacked, harassed, defamed, stalked, and threatened by those in power who desperately wish to silence him, as they slowly lose their choke-hold on humanity and our beloved planet.” The site asserts that since he came forward, he “has exposed the brutal and greedy cabal that controls our planet and their crimes against humanity and our children” and claims that “these dark forces have cleverly designed their plan to destroy Corey and his efforts to Disclose the Truth by using proxies from all corners of our Country – and the globe – to do their dirty work.” (It seems that the dark cabal has no power over the US legal system, Paypal, or the Las Vegas-based accounting firm he is using.) He notes on his website that donations are simply gifts, as Light Warrior Legal Fund LLC is a for-profit organization.
None of this is exactly new. In 2017, Wilcock alleged that the “Dark Alliance” sabotaged the brakes on his car, twice. The two men have also claimed that reptilian aliens occupy large swaths of Antarctica, are massing for an invasion, and control the world’s governments and banks. The COVID-19 outbreak fits neatly with their overarching narrative, in which sinister powers present evil plots to which Wilcock and Goode alone have the answers. Anyone challenging them—or simply describing what they do—is, it seems, the enemy.
In a February interview, Jenny McCarthy, who boasts 1.3 million Twitter followers and a role as a judge on Fox's highly-rated The Masked Singer, had Wilcock and Goode on her popular radio show . Looking to them in studio with curious admiration, she asked if they were still in communication with their alien contacts.
“I would say both of us do have access to these benevolent ETs,” Wilcock said. “I mean, another thing I want to point out, too, is that we are not elite or special. This is something that everybody is having to varying degrees. You can write your dreams down in the morning, you can learn the language. In my new book, I'm teaching you what that language is.”
The reach of Wilcock and Goode is not limited to what they have on their own, or what the odd celebrity offers them; they are a part of a larger, loose collective that consistently pursue and push each other’s UFO and conspiracy narratives. This communal content-creation and development team has appeared together at conferences and media platforms. Conspiracy theorist and UFO researcher Dr. Michael Salla and the popular QAnon pundit and YouTuber Jordan Sather both appeared in Wilcock and Goode’s two documentaries Above Majestic (2018) and The Cosmic Secret (2019). Salla often promotes content by Wilcock and Goode on his website. Sather, who has close ties with Wilcock and Goode’s former producer and manager, Roger Richards Ramsaur, through a now defunct fair trade business, has often discussed his cohorts on his YouTube channel boasting 220,000 subscribers. That being said, recent tweets by Sather seem to indicate their relationship is being strained, and Ramsaur, alongside two other individuals involved in the Wilcock and Goode’s business dealings, are also being sued by Goode for allegations of defamation, trademark infringement and embezzlement according to court documents obtained by Motherboard. Ramsaur declined requests for comment.
The conspiracy media channel Edge of Wonder, run by former Epoch Times staffers Ben Chasteen and Rob Counts, which has links to the Falun Gong religion through media company New Tang Dynasty, has also spread disinformation through multiple videos featuring Wilcock, Goode, Sather and Salla. In one video, Wilcock claims that 9/11 was a plot hatched by the “Luciferian” Deep State cabal, and that the planes were empty. There is a cross-pollination of fringe media messaging across all these individuals, who market to separate audiences and are bringing multiple topics, which range from aliens to anti-government conspiracy theories, together and to the attention of their millions of combined followers.
In one video, Wilcock claims that 9/11 was a plot hatched by the “Luciferian” Deep State cabal.
“The Truth” seems to be crowded by a lot of gurus, yet, it seems that Wilcock and Goode are the only ones to have taken the spiritual messenger route—a role in which there's an inherent danger.
The use of social media to manipulate the public received significant attention after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Public awareness of that incident, though, has done little to change the fact that many people and groups online are still engaged in efforts at what amounts to mind control. White supremacist groups and terrorist organizations use proven, effective tools and tactics to draw in and convert followers; so too do religious and spiritual groups.
“We can pretty much predict how to press people's buttons, how to enter into their willingness to believe something,” said Steven Hassan, the cult expert. He identifies a specific danger in a movement based around a leader cannot be challenged ideologically by their followers because they are the messenger or prophet.
“If there is a leader who is getting channelling from higher beings," Hassan said, "has all of these special powers and has claimed to be clairvoyant and all of the rest, that makes the leader much more concerning than most other groups that have a charismatic figure.
“It taps into religious, spiritual beliefs that are difficult for a rational analysis. If the ideology is black and white, all or nothing, then indoctrination occurs, which is huge with destructive cults that claim only they have the keys to salvation.”
Regardless of Wilcock and Goode’s claims that they are not spiritual leaders, what they have done speaks for itself. With over half a million combined followers online and their relationships with other fringe media personalities and conspiracy peddlers, their sphere of influence easily reaches into the millions. What they offer that audience is a wild Hollywood story about an intergalactic war; a connection between the most farcical sort of UFO conspiracy and the current political conspiracy culture regarding QAnon and the Deep State; and seemingly religious messaging about an apocalyptic future that directly plays to people’s fears and their desire to be a part of a community. Their willingness to send legal threats on the least provocation, and to frame the lightest criticism or scrutiny as persecution and a pretext to raise funds, do not suggest innocent aims.
An apparent shift from being self-proclaimed “government whistleblowers” to men who start non-profit quasi-religious organizations, sell online spiritual self-help courses, and promote that they hold the keys to the Ascension amounts to more than a set of dizzying contradictions; it speaks to the needs of their audience. There are doubtless many among their followers in search of nothing more than entertainment; there are, though, certainly also people, including traumatized ones, in search of answers, who want to believe and find comfort, even in a curious set of pseudo-religious beliefs about evil reptile aliens, government conspiracy, and the end of the world. As COVID-19 makes millions feel about as close to that end as they could ever want to come, Wilcock and Goode deserve to be scrutinized for their use of fear to profit from this situation. So too, though, do the broader systems which give them the reach and influence they need to sell their alien gods, "cosmic secrets" and disinformation as solutions to people who are frightened—and justifiably so.