It’s not every day that the emissary of an extraterrestrial race invites you to her home to discuss government torture, the innate sensuality of the Octopus Man, and the desirability of Pittsburgh as a place to rebuild society after the Planet X cataclysm kills ninety percent of the people on the planet.
One of the first things people notice about this particular contactee is that she seems to have a particularly cavalier attitude towards death, especially for someone who’s almost supernaturally upbeat.
“Drowning, I can tell you, is not painful,” she explains. “By the way, starvation isn’t painful either.”
Nancy Lieder claims that she is the sole human conduit of extraterrestrial travelers from Zeta Reticuli, a binary star system roughly 30 light years from here. And if this is true, they’ve obviously put a lot of time and effort into the relationship. She told me that she’d been groomed for this position since childhood, while in her teenage years she participated in the development of Zeta / Human hybrids. She is still in contact with her half-Zeta son, a friend of Al Gore (who has his own hybrid stepfamily). Lieder has written extensively about this, pointing out that custody battles between parents of human-alien hybrids are quite rare.
It was in 1993 that she became aware of her alien contactee status, a fact that would permanently alter the course of her existence.
The slippery slope to delusion
custody battles between parents of human-alien hybrids are quite rare
ZetaTalk is Nancy Lieder, and Nancy Lieder is ZetaTalk. ZetaTalk is the name of her website, and it’s how she describes her role as a conduit between humans and Zetas, two of over forty races represented in the Council of Worlds. ZetaTalk is also a registered trademark, filed in 1995. Soon, people would start seeing ZetaTalk as an apocalyptic-alien contactee cult.
On some level, it’s easy to see how this came about. It’s late 1994, and Nancy Lieder is living in San Francisco, where she finds herself inextricably drawn to a UFO convention. Maybe she’s lonely, maybe she’s curious. Maybe she’s even convinced herself that she can talk to the space men inside her head. Whatever it is, she has found herself in a new world, one that accepts her — or at the very least doesn’t reject her. Soon, she’s going to UFO meetings regularly, becoming part of the community, learning the lore and picking up the languages.
It’s while attending one of these events that Michael Lindemann, who’s sort of a big deal in UFO circles, turns Lieder on to his current project — an AOL group called the Institute for the Study of Contact with Non-human Intelligence (ISCNI). Soon she is a regular contributor.
January 19, 1995, is the day that Lieder began her new life as ZetaTalk.
Someone on the ISCNI abductees board was sort of wondering aloud: is there anyone online tonight that would want to try making psychic contact with their extraterrestrial abductors? If so, the group would like to ask them some questions.
Nancy was the only volunteer, and it was a huge success. People would ask her questions, and she’d reply in public, on the message board, not as Nancy Lieder, but as the sole emissary of a highly advanced extraterrestrial race. It was such a success that soon ZetaTalk, as it became known, had to be moved to its own website.
Almost immediately, Lieder had found a doomsday scenario: Planet X, a rogue planet four times the size of ours, would soon make a flyby. The ensuing magnetic forces would cause natural disasters of biblical proportions, culling almost the entire race.
Planet X, she announced, would strike on May 27, 2003.
I was eating Star Bursts, glued shut cardboard box, welded plastic wrapper around individually wrapped pieces. You have to break your fingernails to get the candy, practially. [sic] So I'm eating along and get to the last piece. It's not individually wrapped in wax paper. Now, EVERY Star Burst is so wrapped, by machine, I have no doubt. So, I figured that was my sign, when I wasn't expecting it."
October 17, 2000
Soon afterwards, Lieder moved to Wisconsin. She purchased the large house that belonged to her grandmother — in the same woods where aliens first contacted her as a child. This would be her refuge from the horrible events that the next few years held in store.
The Zetas have adopted a new policy: no more exact dates
By doomsday, May 2003, Nancy had become a celebrity in the insular world of UFOs. It must have been something of a relief when it passed without any sign of Planet X. If ninety percent of the earth’s population were to die, where would she find new fans?
Nancy still stands by her claims. She's just fudged the timeline a bit. The real return of Planet X, Lieder says, is indeed imminent, but the Zetas have adopted a new policy: no more exact dates. Which, if you ask us, seems like the best idea they’ve had yet.
Or the only idea, for that matter. It’s hard to find one element in this exemplar of UFO millennialism, where aliens stand in for angels and demons and gods and devils, that hasn’t been done to death already.
Here are a few examples:
Pole shift: Lieder’s idea that the Earth’s crust can move independently of the rest of the planet has been kicking around forever. It’s basically an idea first proposed in the fifties by Charles Hapgood, an American college professor. It’s never been taken seriously.
Planet X / Nibiru: Compared to the rest of her oeuvre, this one actually shows some inspiration. The term Planet X is used in astronomy to denote a hypothetical planet beyond Pluto. But the name sounds pretty badass, so Nancy adopted it for her own ends. As time went on, she began to call it Nibiru, which she stole from pseudoscientist Zecharia Sitchin
Earth Changes: Too many to count, from Edgar Cayce to the Russian psychiatrist Immanuel Velikovsky.
MJ12 or Majestic 12: The top secret intelligence organization has been popular in UFO circles ever since the mid-1980s, when the first fake documents supporting the hoax started making the rounds of the UFO world.
Zetas: Of course, these are ETs at their most generic. The famous UFO abductee case of Betty and Barney Hill, dating back to 1961, featured aliens from Zeta Reticula.
In fact, most of Nancy’s stories — and she’s always telling stories — owe their existence to the standard tropes of UFO folklore. It’s as if she found her true voice only after learning to recite the hoaxes and pseudoscience of others. And while her message is fundamentally absurd, it’s also been incredibly popular, from the very beginning.
Because of course, her message isn’t originating from Zeta Reticuli. The only thing Nancy Lieder is channeling is the desires of a niche audience, refined and perfected, probably unintentionally, into the ultimate UFO conspiracy theory. And for her followers, that is quite enough.