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Alternate Landmark History

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And you thought they only built the pyramids! note 

The Doctor: The stones. These stones are great big transmitters broadcasting a warning to everyone. Everywhere. To every time.
River: Stonehenge is transmitting. It's been transmitting for a while. So who heard?

Works of fiction will often disguise Scenery Porn by providing suitable (if probably false) explanations for "mysterious" landmarks, or related phenomena. The work will tell its audience for what reason the landmark was built, true or not, making the obvious ones more interesting. It's most commonly done with Stonehenge and the Pyramids and it likely involves a Government Conspiracy of some kind.

Often, the landmark is a facade for something concealed inside or beneath it sometimes becoming an Elaborate Underground Base. Most things that offer an explanation for Area 51 as part of their plot count but not if they just show us what's in there. It generally follows the Rule of Cool.

Super-Trope to Pyramid Power, Ancient Astronauts, Ancient Conspiracy, Area 51, Atlantis, Beethoven Was an Alien Spy, ET Gave Us Wifi, Hollow World, Julius Beethoven da Vinci, Paul Bunyan, Roswell That Ends Well, Rushmore Refacement, and Weaponized Landmark. Sister Trope to All Myths Are True, All Theories Are True, Alternate History, Elaborate Underground Base, Government Conspiracy, Historical In-Joke, and Landmark of Lore.

Will frequently overlap with Ancient Astronauts and Beethoven Was an Alien Spy, and very rarely doesn't create Alternate History, being a type of Historical In-Joke. May double-up as a Weaponized Landmark.

Compare ET Gave Us Wifi. Contrast Landmarking the Hidden Base and the Eiffel Tower Effect.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Outlaw Star: The beginning of the 21st episode, Grave of the Dragon (00:16-01:19), explains that Stonehenge is only one of many mysterious ruins, found on other worlds, that are believed to have been left by the same advanced alien civilization.

    Comic Books 

    Doctor Who 
Yes, Doctor Who has so many examples we had to give it its own section.

    Film Animated 
  • In Aladdin, Aladdin and Jasmine fly the magic carpet to Egypt and a shocked stonemason breaks the nose off the Sphinx.
  • Promos for Ice Age: Continental Drift showed Scrat causing the continental drift, shifting Pangaea into the present landmasses. He also accidentally created the Sphinx (in his image) and caused the sinking of Scratlantis.
  • A Noodle Incident mentioned toward the beginning of Mr. Peabody & Sherman:
    Sherman: Let's just say that the Leaning Tower of Pisa wasn't always leaning.
  • In The Prince of Egypt, Ramses and Moses race their chariots through the monument construction grounds, causing a worker to hack off the Sphinx's nose.
  • Animated film Rise of the Guardians explains the Aurora Borealis phenomenon as a communication method between Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and others.

    Film Live-Action 
  • In 2012, the Ganges Dam in China was revealed to be hiding the construction of the Arks.
  • In AVP: Alien vs. Predator, the Aztec pyramids are implied to have been built for the Predators, who came as godlike beings to earth thousands of years ago, demanded human sacrifices, and gave humans advanced technologies (such as the one necessary to build said pyramids).
  • In From Dusk Till Dawn, the ancient Mayan/Aztec temples were implied to be places where the blood-lust of vampires was appeased.
  • Godzilla vs. Megalon has it that the Easter Island moai were created three million years ago by the people of Lemuria.
  • In Hellboy II: The Golden Army the Giant's Causeway in the British Isles is shown to be a secret entrance to the Land of Faerie.
  • In Hop the Moai statues on Easter Island (where all the bunnies are from) are the secret entrances to the Easter Bunny's whole operation.
  • For a given value of a landmark, in The Last Witch Hunter the Black Death is said to be a Mystical Plague created by film's Big Bad, the Witch Queen.
  • Men in Black:
    • The observatory towers in New York's Flushing Meadow Park are really moored flying saucers.
    • The second film in the series shows that the Statue of Liberty conceals a giant neuralizer device.
  • In National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets the ancient mythical city of Cíbola was hidden behind Mount Rushmore. Or rather Mount Rushmore was created to hide Cíbola.
  • At the end of The Rocketeer, Neville Sinclair steals the rocket pack but ends up crashing into the "HOLLYWOODLAND" sign and exploding, converting it into the now-famous "HOLLYWOOD" sign.
  • In The Santa Clause the pole at the North Pole is a keypad stand, you need the correct code in order for the Sleigh to enter Santa HQ.
  • In Starman, it's implied, though not explicitly stated, that the huge meteor crater in Arizona was built as some kind of alien spaceship landing site.
  • In Stonehenge Apocalypse, Stonehenge, the Great Pyramids, and masses of other landmarks turn out to be hiding vital catalysts for the End of the World. All the pyramids-unravelling-and-becoming-volcanoes should be fair warning, however the film fails to mention by who or what, or why, any of it was built.
  • Transformers Film Series:
    • Transformers (2007) reveals that Hoover Dam was actually a Sector 7 research facility that stored a lot of their finds, including the Allspark and Megatron.
    • In Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen, the Great Pyramid of Giza was built to hide the Sun Harvester which a corrupt Prime had brought to Earth.
    • In Transformers: Dark of the Moon, while not a landmark, the Apollo Program was designed primarily to investigate the alien ship that had crashed on the other side of the Moon during the Kennedy Administration.


  • In Animorphs one of the Pyramids of Giza was built over the Time Matrix.
  • Lorien Legacies:
    • The following discussion happens (book two):
      Sam: The pyramids of Giza? They were built by the Loric?
      Six: Partly us, but mostly the Mogadorians.
      Sam: What about the Great Wall of China?
      Six: Humans.
      Sam: Roswell, New Mexico?
      Six: You know, I've asked Katarina that once and she had no idea. So I don't know either.
      Sam: Wait, how long have the Mogadorians been coming here?
    • Then, as a Call-Back to that, in book 3 Number Eight tells us that, yes, Roswell, New Mexico is an ancient Loric site. Loric being "of Lorien", not "of Lore".
      Eight: I can only teleport where there's another one of these big Loralite rocks around... to Peru, to Easter Island, to Stonehenge, the Gulf of Aden near Somalia... and I've ended up in the desert in New Mexico.
    • And, this, explaining how the Ancients weren't quite as amazing as currently perceived: "how we helped the Egyptians build the pyramids, how the Greek gods were actually Loric, how we taught the Romans military strategy, and so on."
    • The Pyramids and Dulce Base, New Mexico also hide the spaceships.
    • Area 51 is "a meaningless airplane hangar, give or take", explicitly a decoy set up so the aliens could conduct their extraterrestrial business elsewhere (Dulce, primarily) undisturbed by "all the UFO freaks". You know, exactly what the trope page says (down at the bottom).
    • Stonehenge is an ancient graveyard for all the Loric that died fighting on Earth.
    • The 7/7 bombings in London (if you don't know, think about them as Britain's 9/11) are implied to have been instead the fight between the Mogadorians and Conrad. So it got blamed on terrorists.
    • Book one gives us: "Some of the greatest figures in Earth's history were actually the product of humans and the Loric, including Buddha, Aristotle, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein... Aphrodite, Apollo, Hermes, and Zeus were all real, and had one Loric parent."
  • In Roman de Brut, in 1155, Wace illustrated his belief that Merlin had constructed Stonehenge with the assistance of a giant.
  • In The Secret of Platform 13 King's Cross Stationnote  was built over a Gump, a portal to a magical place called The Island.
  • In Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan various Earthly achievements are actually the result of psychic projection from the planet Tralfamadore; Salo, a stranded Tralfamadorian on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, watched these through his telescope, decoding human monuments like the Pyramids and the Great Wall of China as messages in his own language, like, "A replacement part is on the way."
  • One of the Russian Death Zone novels (taking place after the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise) reveals that the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl was the result of a Soviet scientist attempting to create a wormhole to link several sites of the USSR together. It wasn't the wormhole that caused the meltdown but the uncontrollable drain on the power. Decades later, someone finds the abandoned device and attempts another activation. It partly succeeds, but in the worst way imaginable, creating five Zones (3 in Russia, 2 in Ukraine) isolated from the world by powerful gravity bubbles. In the Zones, runaway nanites developed to terraform Mars are infecting everything and turning people and machines into techno-zombies. The "partly succeeds" part involves the fact that the center of each Zone has a perpetually-rotating vortex that allows people to teleport from one Zone to another.
  • In the Ogden Nash poem "The Thirteenth Labor of Hercules", it is suggested that the Sphinx's nose was deformed after Hercules won a riddle contest against the Sphinx:
    "And from that point,
    The Sphinx's nose has been out of joint."
  • Played for laughs in Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code, which reveals that Stonehenge is the remains of a fairy pizza place. The real building had to be moved belowground once humans began snooping around, but it's still a popular tourist destination for fairies.
  • The Bartimaeus Trilogy features an alternate London which is ruled by magicians. Many prominent British landmarks have been put to purposes specific for the use of magicians, such as the Tower of London serving as headquarters for both the police and security divisions of the magical government, as well as the nation's most secure prison. Westminster Abbey, meanwhile, has become exclusively a mortuary for the nation's most prominent deceased magicians.

    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Caerns: Places of Power source book for Werewolf: The Apocalypse provides an alternate history for the Trinity test site in Alamagordo, New Mexico. The Trinity test spawned Grandmaw, a colossal thunderwyrm who serves as one of the holiest caerns of the Black Spiral Dancers. The impact crater receives no human visitors, and the Black Spirals use the crater as an amphitheater for large gatherings. The McDonald ranch house, where the atomic bomb's core was assembled, is now the home of White-Eyes-ikthya, a Trinity Hive elder. In real life, the Trinity testing site and the McDonald ranch house are a historical landmarks that receive thousands of visitors each year. Trinity's ground zero crater was bulldozed in 1952.
  • The new World of Darkness core book reveals that the Apollo missions occurred to bring back the corpse of the Angel of Death from the moon.

    Video Games 
  • In Atlantis: The Lost Tales it's revealed that the Stonehenge was built to hide a terrible power and the Moai statues were made to appease a non-existent god.
  • In the Ben 10: Ultimate Alien: Cosmic Destruction video game the Great Wall of China was built to hide part of an ancient Galvan artifact, the Potis Altaire.
  • In The Day the World Broke, a previous Chief Engineer of the machine that runs the world built the Pyramids to cover up some unsightly protruding bolts.
  • In the PC adventure game The Omega Stone, several famous landmarks (the Giza pyramids and Sphinx, Stonehenge, Chichen Itza and the Moai), along with yet-undiscovered ones at Bimini and in the Aegean, were constructed as part of a globe-spanning mechanism to destroy a comet that would impact the Earth one day. Stonehenge was also calibrated to come into alignment with certain celestial bodies just in time to warn future generations that the cometary strike was imminent.
  • In Timelapse, the Moai statues, Egyptian and Mayan pyramids, and Anasazi cliff dwellings were constructed by the people of Atlantis using energy beam tools, and the people of these civilizations were given special Gene Pods that infused their children with Atlantean DNA, which allowed these civilizations to prosper while others didn't. Though not all of them used these gifts peacefully, and the Atlanteans withdrew their gifts upon seeing the Maoi people slaughtering themselves.
  • In Cydonia: Mars - The First Manned Mission, the face-shaped Cydonia Mensae structure on Mars turns out to house a building and several outlying ones, constructed by another alien species that came to aid the Martian people in achieving enlightenment and understanding the Martian caste system.
  • The videogame The Secret World centres itself around the concept that EVERY real world myth, urban legend, and conspiracy theory (surrounding many landmarks' creation) is, in fact, true and claims to have entire missions devoted to each of them. The tagline is "everything is true".
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R. toys with this trope and Alternate History. Sure, the experiments that lead to the Zone being what it is were merely the result of the Chernobyl Zone of Exclusion being a good place to hide secret experiments, but the experiments would never have been possible were the Russian Woodpecker not secretly a super-sized Mind-Control Device.

    Web Original 
  • In Tales of the Questor, the stonehenges (plural) were built by the Rac Cona Daimh as basically glorified incinerators. Since granite is lux-proof, a granite henge can be used to absorb the magical blast when destroying dangerous or unstable magical items. They consider this an elegant way of disposing of their thaumaturgical waste, except for the circles' tendency to attract druids.

    Western Animation 
  • Parodying National Treasure, American Dad! reveals that the Lincoln Memorial was built to conceal the headquarters of the Illuminati Illuminutty, a peanut-based conspiracy surrounding George Washington Carver's total lack of responsibility for the invention of peanut butter.
  • A gag in the Gravity Falls episode "Irrational Treasure" reveals that the faces on Mount Rushmore are actually gigantic presidential-faced robots, that will only be activated when America needs them the most.
  • Played with in an episode of Jackie Chan Adventures. A group of evil druids thinks that Stonehenge is a Fantastic Nuke and casts spells on it to try and blow up London. Despite the Chans' interference the druids manage to cast their spell and Stonehenge fires a beam into the sky, but nothing happens to London and the British Army arrests the druids. After everybody leaves, a Flying Saucer touches down in Stonehenge.
  • In the Looney Tunes short Louvre Come Back to Me, Pepe Le Pew (the skunk) visits the Parisian museum, and his trademark odour alters many famous works of art. He causes the arms to fall off of Venus de Milo.
  • In The Real Ghostbusters, the Eiffel Tower turns out to be a Steampunk ghost trap built by...not-a-zombie-at-all Gustave Eiffel.
  • In one episode of The Simpsons set in the past, it is revealed that all the moai statues on Easter Island are busts of Lord Uglyface.
    I keep telling you, I DON'T LOOK LIKE THAT! Do another!
    Yes, Lord Uglyface.
  • The Phineas and Ferb episode "Unfair Science Fair Redux (Another Story)" ends with Doofenshmirtz accidentally turning on his very first Inator and firing it into Mars, destroying a huge carving of Candace's face on the rock done by the Martians prior, and turning it into the infamous "Face on Mars".

    Real Life Legends 
  • Everything about Area 51 now that we know it's a spy plane centre. Comparatively, incredibly dull truth.
  • The legend of Paul Bunyan says that the giant lumberjack's footprints formed Minnesota's famed 10,000 Lakes when they filled with water, that Bunyan logged Lakes Michigan and Huron to give Michigan its famous mitten shape because he had lost his mitten, and that Lake Superior is cold because he keeps his icebox at the bottom of it. Some Tall Tales credit Bunyan with digging the Grand Canyon and Puget Sound, as well.
  • According to legend, where Stoodley Pike now stands there were once some cairns or standing stones in its place. If one of the stones was moved then strange lights were seen to play around the hill. It was also meant to be a medieval UFO tracking marker.
  • Visoki Decani, a 14th century Serbian monastery, contains an icon of the Crucifixion with what looks like two UFOs. Notable alien conspiracy theorists, like Erich von Däniken, have for decades considered this to be an evidence of UFO presence in medieval history. This "theory" was, of course, dismissed by the priests, who offered a more Biblical explanation of the painting.
  • Centuries before humans thought of extraterrestrials, it was common to attribute geological forms and large, ancient ruins to giants, wizards, and other mythical creatures. The Pillars of Hercules straddling what is now the Strait of Gibraltar get their name from Greek legends stating that Hercules formed them as part of his Twelve Labors by smashing through some mountains to get to the land beyond (or narrowing an already-existing strait to stop the monsters beyond the Mediterranean from getting in — ancient Greek myths tend to have multiple stories due to its oral nature.) The northern point has been identified as the Rock of Gibraltar; the southern one is uncertain but is thought to be either Monte Hacho in the Spanish exclave of Ceuta or Jebel Musa in Morocco.