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.
- In Asterix in Spain Unhygenix is named responsible for Carnac (the English version name-dropped Stonehenge instead).
- In Asterix and Cleopatra Obelix was responsible for the missing nose of The Sphinx: he tried to climb the statue and kicked it loose.
- In The DCU, the pyramids are sometimes explained as creations of Hawkman's race, the Thanagarians.
- In the Marvel Comics Universe, The Sphinx is the original Time Travel ship used by Rama-Tut/Kang the Conqueror.
- The Umbrella Academy reveals that the Eiffel Tower is a deadly robot built by... zombie Gustave Eiffel.
- Wolverine (2014): In the Marvel Universe, the Japanese island of Itsukushima (aka Miyajima) isn't just a major tourist attraction and the location of the Itsukushima Shrine. It's also the location of the secret Temple of Death on Holiday, an Eldritch Location which is simultaneously on the island and outside the physical universe.
- Stonehenge was built to cover Underhenge, which hides the Pandorica.
- The Legends of Pandora's Box were the influence of the Pandorica for the robotic plastic mind-controlled alien Romans but because time doesn't go anti-clockwise the legends ended up being about (and thus hiding) the Pandorica when it was removed from Underhenge.
- Whilst another stone circle, the Nine Travellers, is the hiding place of a ancient astronaut and some of the stones are her Ogri servants.
- According to the novelization of "Rose", the Eiffel Tower is actually a spaceship that the Doctor prevented from taking off... but is still functional.
- The Empire State Building's construction was taken over by the Cult of Skaro so they could create a race of hybrid Daleks.
- Canary Wharf was constructed by the Torchwood Institute to try to gain power from a gap in reality.
- The Moai:
- In "The Wedding of River Song" Area 52, Stars and Stripes in tow, is inside... the Pyramids, built to hide everything. Namely, to contain the Doctor. This was in an Alternate Universe where all of history was happening at once, though, so it may not qualify.
- The entire desire for humans to go to space, and especially the Kennedy Center, were created just so there was a suit that could keep someone unconscious alive whilst submerged readily available in Florida.
- In "The Fires of Pompeii" the Pyroviles and Sybilline Sisterhood use energy from within Vesuvius in order to turn all the puny residents of Earth into Pyroviles — creatures of lava and rock. To prevent this, the Doctor and Donna overload the generator, causing the volcano to erupt a cloud of ash into the town of Pompeii.
- 'Dutch' (Scottish), ginger Amy is also Vincent van Gogh's muse. Then, after being transported back in time by the Weeping Angels, Amy sets up the Van Gogh display she attends to meet him in the first place.
- The Daleks shot down the Zeppelins.
- A certain Haunted House isn't really haunted (who knew), but the spirit of a future explorer is locked in slow-motion, reaching out to a psychic who also happens to be her great-ancestor.
- The Chicxulub crater believed to have caused the K-T extinction event was not made by an impact from an asteroid hit, but by an Earth cargo ship exploding due to Cybermen and careless hyperdrive usage.
- All life on Earth was kicked off by the explosion of a Jagaroth ship, and its pilot guided human evolution for millions of years so he could go back in time and fix it.
- The Statue of Liberty is really an old Weeping Angel which is inactive. Well, until it isn't inactive anymore. It is implied that the events take place not only in an alternate timeline, but one where the Statue of Liberty was affected long ago and only hasn't been 'active' because of people constantly looking at it. This is made more explicit because of the mentions of New York suddenly being very quiet and everyone disappearing. 'Reality' is restored when Rory and Amy killed themselves to create a paradox, wiping the Angels' scheme from the timeline.
- The Earth's core is actually an ancient Racnoss nest.
- The Moon is an egg for a planetoid-sized creature.
- By 2006, UNIT HQ and the Black Archives are located beneath the Tower of London.
- The Post Office Tower (now known as the BT Tower) is the home of WOTAN, the giant computer and creator of the War Machines.
- The asteroid belt is all that's left of the home of the Fendahl, destroyed millions of years ago by the Time Lords.
- Loch Ness is not the home of the Loch Ness Monster, but is instead the secret base of a group of stranded Zygons, who genetically engineered a dinosaur into Nessie to scare away the locals while they rebuilt their ship.
- One of the pyramids was built by the alien Osirans as prison to hold the evil Sutekh.
- There is a fireplace in Versailles that, back in the 18th century, had a portal connected to a spaceship in the 51st century.
- Agents of the Great Intelligence have a base inside the Shard (and may actually have been behind its construction).
- The dome of St. Paul's Cathedral has been dimensionally modified to hold a bootleg copy of the Gallifreyan Matrix...and an army of Cybermen.
- 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.
- 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 the Harry Potter franchise we are to assume, as Hogwarts is older than King's Cross Station, that the latter was built to hide the otherwise rather conspicuous method of transportation to and from the former.
- In the Stargate-verse, the pyramids of Giza were originally landing pads for Goa'uld motherships.
- 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?
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".
- 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."
- The following discussion happens (book two):
- 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.
- America Unearthed uses this premise for a lot of the theories propagated by Scott Wolter.
- Doctor Who has been using this trope for so long, it's getting hard for the writers to come up with historical landmarks that haven't been given an Alternate Landmark History.
- In Merlin, Stonehenge was built as a portal to the land of the dead.
- Stargate SG-1:
- The aforementioned "pyramids = Goa'uld landing pads" thing.
- Glastonbury Tor, a hill used heavily by the ancient Celts including for fortifications, has an Ancient installation beneath it.
- Stargate Command is underneath NORAD at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. In real life, the franchise had such a close relationship with the Air Force that the real Cheyenne Mountain has a door labeled Stargate Command. (It's a broom closet.)
- Tracker did this; Cole said visitors from Migar (probably Cirronians, since they were trying to hide the Doomsday Device from the Vardians) built the Great Pyramids and Stonehenge.
- In Wizards of Waverly Place, Rosie tells Justin that the Hollywood sign is there as a doorway to the Angel world (as are many other angel-related places on Earth, such as the Angel of the North).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Parodying National Treasure, American Dad! reveals that the Lincoln Memorial was built to conceal the headquarters of the
IlluminatiIlluminutty, 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".
- 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.