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Inside the Great Reptilian Conspiracy: From Queen Elizabeth to Barack Obama -- They Live!

A look at one of the more fascinating alternate universes of belief.

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Sitchin, now 90, believes the Annunaki bloodline still lingers here on earth. He has seized on the findings of a controversial 2005 study in the journal Nature -- the "human genome shares 223 genes with bacteria -- genes that do not exist in the worm, fly, or yeast," as Science magazine writer Elizabeth Pennisi summarized. For Sitchin, the study offered a scientific explanation for his theories about the human alteration process conducted by the Annunaki: "223 genes not through gradual evolution, not vertically on the Tree of Life, but horizontally, as a sideways insertion of genetic material from bacteria," leading to his triumphant conclusion, "It was in the image of the Annunaki, not of bacteria, that Adam and Eve were fashioned."

Sitchin has gone on a crusade to test the DNA of the 4,500-year-old remains of Sumerian Queen Puabi, whose corpse rests in the London Natural History Museum. Sitchin believes Puabi's DNA signature is genetically related to the Nibiru-ites. "Whoever created us deliberately held back from us a certain thing -- fruit, genes, DNA, whatever -- not to give us health, longevity, and the immortality that they had," Sitchin told MSNBC. "So what was it? Maybe by comparing her genome with ours, we would find out what are those missing genes that they deliberately did not give us. Maybe. I cannot guarantee that, but maybe."

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Sitchin, who worked as a journalist in Israel and a shipping executive in New York, is not taken seriously by academic and professional research entities. But this hasn't gotten in the way of building a following that would make Thomas Friedman lizard-green with envy. Publishers have taken notice. Sitchin's first book, The Twelfth Planet (1976) has now passed its 45th mass-market printing, most recently by an arm of Harper Collins. His 14 books have sold millions of copies, and have been translated into over 25 languages. Treated as one of the high sages in the conspiracy theory media universe, Sitchin received a Lifetime Acheivement award from George Noory, host of conspiracy radio's syndicated flagship, Coast to Coast AM.

Sitchin's work has spread far into the conspiracy theory universe -- and into other realms of subaltern belief. It underpins, for example, the New Age obsession with the Mayan calendar and the very in-vogue idea that the world will end in the Roman calendar year of 2012. The 2012 concept has even made its way to Hollywood, in the form of an eponymously titled 2009 Columbia pictures film, directed by Roland Emmerich and grossing $769 million.

How the kernel of an idea mutated from Sitchin's writings to a Hollywood blockbuster is a case study in the fascinating ways marginal propositions can take root in the most mainstream spots in our culture. Skeptic magazine got curious about the fascination surrounding the 2012 idea, and an investigation by Dr. David Morrison, director of the NASA Lunar Science Institute for the magazine found Sitchin as the seed-layer:

Nancy Lieder, a self-declared psychic who claims she is channeling aliens, wrote on her website "Zetatalk" that the inhabitants of a fictional planet around the star Zeta Reticuli warned her that the Earth was in danger from Planet X or Nibiru. This catastrophe was initially predicted for May 2003, but when nothing happened the doomsday date was recalculated (a standard procedure for doomsdayers) and moved forward to December 2012. Only recently have these two fables been linked to the end of the Mayan long-count at the winter solstice in 2012 -- hence the predicted doomsday date of December 21, 2012.

2012 director Emmerich didn't explicitly credit Sitchin or Leider and her Zetatalk site for his film, but he did give Sitchin's Nibiru theories credit for inspiring another cult film he directed, the time-space dimension traveling 1994 fantasy film, Stargate -- good for $196 million at the box office.

The obsession with 2012 continues to grow. As Skeptic's Morrison concluded, "The volume of mail I receive about Nibiru (along with various alignments and pole shifts) keeps increasing -- now more than 20 per week. Clearly there is money to be made from people's fear about an approaching doomsday."

Clearly there is, and from much else besides. Just ask David Icke.

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Born in Leicester, England David Icke's career took many turns before he embraced the reptiles. He played soccer professionally for Coventry and Heresford City in England before becoming a BBC sports commentator, and later a spokesman for the UK Green Party. Icke had a life-altering experience in 1990, when a psychic he went to see for his rheumatoid arthritis conveyed through spirit messages that Icke was "a healer who is here to heal the earth and he will be world famous." Soon after, Icke found himself reborn as a crusading truth-teller and scholar. Today Icke regularly sells out venues of 1,000 people or more from Kiev to Las Vegas, sometimes charging as much as U2, the Rolling Stones or Madonna for a seat to watch his presentations.

Icke's early work was focused conspiracy theory centered on the power of world-dominating elites, but he has gravitated over the years to the belief that the world-dominating elites are themselves not human, arguing this explicitly in his third and most popular book, The Biggest Secret. Icke summarizes his thinking in a preface to a reptilian "Millenium Ritual" warning by his colleague, Arizona Wilder::