From Skeptical Inquirer, November/December 2000

The Face Behind the "Face" on Mars:
 A Skeptical Look at Richard C. Hoagland 

 Part 2 

by Gary P. Posner

Return to Part 1

Note: In early 2020, Richard Hoagland's "" website's URL changed to
"" (an added "s" changing ". . . mission" to ". . . missions"), but the site has
either changed URL again -- or disappeared entirely -- sometime in November or December 2023.
In this article, the affected links are to his pages as saved by Internet Archive's Wayback Machine.

The $10,000 Stamp Set

Hoagland also endeavored to help create a groundswell of public interest in a set of souvenir stamp sheets that was being sold through mail order, by promoter (and occasional stamp dealer) Alan Shawn Feinstein, for more than $100, roughly two to three times its face value. The thirty-seven-stamp series (see right) from Sierra Leone was devoted to "saluting the coming exploration of Mars" by the ill-fated Mars Observer craft, which was to have returned high-definition photographs of the red planet, including the Cydonia region. The stamps depict likenesses varying from Galileo and Percival Lowell to space probes and Martian surface features, including the "Face."

According to Michael Laurence's "Editor's Choice" column in the April 30, 1990, issue of the authoritative Linn's Stamp News,  Feinstein's sales pitch included the following heads-up: "If that Face should turn out to be created by intelligent life, this stamp set could become one of the most valuable collector items in the world." Laurence noted that Feinstein's latest venture combined "his interest in extraterrestrial life with his penchant for selling stamps at high markups to non-collectors." (A recent Web search revealed that Feinstein has since created the Feinstein Foundation, whose Web site describes him as "a nationally known philanthropist and humanitarian [who] founded the World Hunger Program at Brown University . . . the World Hunger Brigade . . . and the Feinstein International Famine Center at Tufts University.")

In a follow-up December 10, 1990, column, Laurence reported that the stamp set from Sierra Leone, "an obscure and corrupt-ridden African nation," had recently been "blacklisted by a Swiss-based combine of international stamp organizations [due to Sierra Leone's violations of] the philatelic code of ethics of the Universal Postal Union." He also noted that Richard Hoagland had been engaged by Feinstein for some months "as an expert witness to support the assertion that the Sierra Leone set will soon be worth five figures." Laurence then quoted from the October issue of Feinstein's Wealthmaker Quarterly Report, in which Hoagland asserted that the stamp set

should soon be worth $10,000 or more. That's what I believe. I know basically nothing about stamps. But I know a great deal about the specific subject of the Sierra Leone stamp set. On the basis of my research, that's what I think that set is going to be worth. The value of a commemorative is dependent on the intrinsic value of the event it is commemorating. . . . [The "Face"] is a constructed monument made by intelligent life. When the world finds that out, it will be nothing less than the greatest discovery in the world. It will have an unprecedented effect on people everywhere, and on the value of the Sierra Leone set.

Michael Laurence's learned response followed: "Those who believe such breathless nonsense probably deserve financial disappointment. And that's the likely reward in store for anyone who expects speculative profit from this overpriced and highly manipulated stamp set." Indeed, Laurence informs me that the current philatelic retail value of the set remains less than $100. But don't lose hope. Several Web sites contain "Sale" listings for the set (in mint condition) with owners requesting anywhere from $99 (rare), to several hundred dollars (more plentiful), to Hoagland's $10,000 figure. (Most appear to be asking for about $5,000.)

Free-Energy Machines

During the course of my 1990 monitoring of For The People broadcasts, Hoagland (with Chuck Harder) was also engaged in selling a book, published by FTP and edited by Hoagland, which promoted a perpetual-energy device dubbed the "N Machine." According to Hoagland on September 7, the machine opens "a gate to the 4th dimension [as it] reaches into space-time and converts direct electrical energy from the basic properties of the space-time continuum." He "clarified" matters on November 16:

It [only] looks like it's perpetual motion, but it's not. Because what I think is happening, based on our Cydonia work, is that the rotation of the magnets opens a gate to the 4th dimension, and the energy simply flows downhill from the 4th to the 3rd, and is manifest in 3-space as electrical energy. [The magnets] are hexagonally shaped in terms of their crystalline form, and it's the hexagonal pattern, which is really the double tetrahedral pattern, which is the heart of our Cydonia equations. . . . [And] there's a more general field effect [going on], a more general energy transfer, and that's what's doing the slowing down of time.

Further, Hoagland's studies in "tetrahedral geometry" suggest to him a connection not only between the "N Machine" and the Cydonia structures, but also with our own planet's "crop circles": "The measurements of the units by which this object on Earth [crop circle] was laid out are part and parcel of the exact same units that the objects on Mars are laid out -- Alexander Thom's famous megalithic yard, 2.72 British feet" (July 27).

Referring to Dr. Duncan G. Cumming's article about the "N Machine" in the Fall 1990 issue of Skeptical Inquirer, Hoagland claimed on November 9 that "If you carefully read the article, they . . . take potshots but they never do the experiments." In reality, Dr. Cumming does discuss his experiments in the article. On November 5, I had written to Chuck Harder: "In the interest of full disclosure, I would request that you please send a review copy [of the book] to Dr. Cumming, and arrange for an on-air interview with him. . . . If necessary, I would be willing to pay for the book and shipping costs." Harder replied on November 27, informing me that he was "sending [my letter] on to Richard Hoagland who will respond." When Hoagland failed to do so, I sent Harder a reminder on January 12, 1991, to which he responded, "If you or Duncan Cumming want a book from us, you can order one from the catalog and pay for it."

According to FTP, a variation of the "N Machine" was already in full operation. Thus, on September 21, 1990, I wrote to B. Premanand, founder of the Indian Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal:

I would like to know if the Indian government has in operation a power generator that produces more energy than it consumes (i.e., a perpetual energy machine). This claim is being made repeatedly on the "For The People" radio program (heard on 7.520 MHz. internationally from 2400 to 0200 hours UTC).

The machine is supposedly a magnetized gyroscope, located on the west coast of India in a city that sounded like "Caroa," which is supposedly south of an old Portuguese colony that sounded like "Doa." If I heard correctly, a German company that sounded like "Gadori" may have actually built it.

Although Premanand's letter of reply never made its way back to me, mine did reach him. I was quite surprised, and delighted, to discover that, as a result of my letter, he had devoted nine pages to this subject in the April 1995 issue of his group's Indian Skeptic newsletter (in which a copy of my letter was reproduced). Premanand wrote about his efforts to track down Dr. Paramahamsa Tewari, who, according to a 1987 Indian newspaper account, had demonstrated his machine in Hannover, Germany, before an audience that included 1,500 scientists from around the world. His Space Power Generator (SPG), one of about twenty-five similar machines presented at that conference, supposedly extracts power from the vacuum of space. Though the prototype was said to have been built at the Tarapur Atomic Plant in India, Premanand could find no one in the Department of Science & Technology of the Indian government who knew of Dr. Tewari or his SPG.

In a June 21, 1994, letter (reproduced in Indian Skeptic), N. A. Janardan Rao, Vice President for R&D and Technology Development of Kirloskar Electric Company Ltd. in Bangalore, wrote (to the author of a 1994 Indian newspaper article), "Many years ago I had corresponded with Dr. Thiwari [sic] and he had sent me a small book written by him on this subject. I then proceeded to actually design and fabricate a free energy machine. We incurred an expense of more than one hundred thousand rupees and 8 man months in fabricating this unique device. Subsequent testing showed that there was no free energy as claimed; an infinitesimal electrical output was detected which could be attributed entirely to Faraday's law" (emphasis added).

Rao's letter went on to provide Tewari's whereabouts: He turned out to be Director of the Kaiga Project for the Indian government's Nuclear Power Corporation in Karwar, Karnataka. Premanand then wrote to Tewari, whose August 25, 1994, letter of response reported, "The experiments on various models of Space Power Generators are continuing with a hope to come out with the most commercially viable system. . . . By end September [1994] one of the machines [should] be in operating condition."

Six more years have since transpired, with still no confirmation of the miracle machine that Hoagland and Harder had touted as operational (and sold books about) back in 1990. No matter. Largely with Hoagland's help, For The People's ratings (according to Harder) soared that year (e.g., up by more than 1,000% in Gainesville, Florida). Given the program's (and its companion magazine's) pro-paranormal, conspiratorial bent, such is certainly understandable.

The Scrupulously Skeptical Hoagland

But like a Hollywood marriage, the Hoagland/Harder relationship didn't last, and by 1992 Hoagland was no longer a fixture, or even a footnote, on For The People. The reason (improbable as it sounds): Apparently Hoagland had seen fit to chastise Harder for promoting a wild claim without first having nailed down the facts! Harder had been hyping a story about an "intelligently guided" asteroid that was slowly decelerating, and making course corrections, as it worked its way toward the inner solar system. An authentic-looking New York Times article, dated October 6, 1977, quoted a number of scientists as confirming the artificial nature of the "asteroid," and projecting that it would enter Earth's orbit, between Earth and Moon, on or about October 25 -- 1977! The fact that no such event had occurred was not enough to quash Harder's fascination. Writing in the first 1992 issue of UFO (Vol. 7, No. 1), the magazine's research director, Don Ecker, reported that Hoagland had "embarrassed host Chuck Harder on the air, thereby severing his weekly spot on Harder's show. . . . On one of Hoagland's weekly spots, he attacked Harder on the air, lambasting him for giving out the story without, according to Hoagland, checking out the facts. . . . It turned out that when the New York Times Index was checked, along with microfiche copies from that date and several days after, no such article could be found." [Update: Following publication of this article in Skeptical Inquirer, I have been informed by a reader that the split between Hoagland and Harder was not permanent, and that Hoagland has been a frequent guest on Harder's radio program during the past few years. But also see Chuck Harder's comments, sent to me in November 2003.]

On March 21, 1996, the scrupulously skeptical Hoagland presented his best evidence for extraterrestrial civilizations during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. According to Richard Leiby's article in the following day's Washington Post,

Reporters from about 50 worldwide media organizations came to see . . . "suppressed evidence" . . . "apparent lunar ruins" . . . [and other] proof of aliens. They scrutinized grainy blowups of old NASA photos and slides of impossibly fuzzy objects -- including a blob that [Hoagland's] assembled research team called "the castle." To be more precise: "an extraordinary, highly geometric, glittering glass object hanging more than nine miles above the surface of the moon," in the words of Richard Hoagland, the New Jersey author and noted pseudo-scientist who [organized] the conference.

Hoagland, 50, is, basically, a kook. He's famous for popularizing the sighting of an alleged "human face" in the terrain of Mars, and he more recently claimed that the Bosnian peace talks were held in Dayton, Ohio, so the world leaders could view alien bodies housed in an Air Force hangar there.

But . . . the collective media didn't snort with laughter and walk out. Instead, journalists politely asked [questions]. . . . Later, reporters from CNN and the Associated Press, among others, called Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean to ask whether he'd ever stood on the moon near a "massive tier of glass-like ruins," as alleged in one Hoagland handout. . . .

Hoagland said a source at [NASA's] Goddard Space Flight Center . . . leaked him a pristine negative from the Apollo 10 mission showing a 1 1/2-mile-high "shard" protruding from the lunar surface. . . . "I see absolutely nothing like the so-called shard," said Paul Lowman, a Goddard geologist and expert in orbital photography, after examining the frame cited at the news conference. "He's seeing some sort of a [photo] processing defect."

In 1998, a bit more than a decade after publication of The Monuments of Mars, the Mars Global Surveyor orbital craft returned an image of the "Face" (Photo #22003) with more than 10x greater resolution than Viking had obtained two decades earlier. Contrary to Hoagland's theories, the new 20/20 view (right) revealed the "Face" to be nothing more than what NASA scientists knew it to be all along, one of many similar natural features sculpted into the dusty, rocky surface by the red planet's fierce, swirling winds. And a 1999 view of the "City Square" (Release No. MOC2-142) revealed it, also, to consist of nothing more than buttes and hills. [Also see 1998 view.]

With benefit of hindsight, has Hoagland now abandoned his "City" on Mars? A visit to his "Enterprise Mission" Web site reveals quite the opposite.

Mea culpa:  In Skeptical Inquirer, because of my error, instead of including NASA's above-right rectified MGS image of the face, the original, slightly "stretched" (so-called "Catbox") image was shown (see right). Though neither bears a resemblance to the Viking "Face," the rectified version is more face-like in its proportions.

Listen to the audio clips referenced in this article.

See my Skeptical Inquirer May/June 2001 follow-up column, which includes some additional material, including more photos of the "Face."

Listen to Art Bell and Richard Hoagland lie about my follow-up column!

Harlan Ellison enjoyed this article immensely.

See Hoagland's rebuttal to this article (written by Hoagland associate Michael Bara and posted on their Web site in early November 2000).

See my response to the Hoagland/Bara rebuttal.

See Ralph Greenberg's response to the Hoagland/Bara rebuttal.

See Chuck Harder's response to my references to him.

See NASA's version of the conception and creation of the Pioneer 10 plaque as described in its 1997 book Pioneer Odyssey (co-authored by Eric Burgess).

See NASA's detailed view of the "Face" taken April 8, 2001.

See the ESA's most detailed view yet of the "Face" taken September 21, 2006
and the corresponding 3-D "flight simulator" animation

Face is upside down
Have We Been Viewing The "Face" Upside Down?

Or might it be the face of Richard Hoagland???


On April 14, 1997, Hoagland posted a Press Release discussing "Hoagland's 17-year-old detailed model of a liquid 'satellite-wide ocean under the icefields of Europa,'" with no credit given to Cassen, Peale, Reynolds, and the rest. The Release also reprised Arthur C. Clarke's outdated credit to Hoagland as the originator of the idea, and complained that "Official recognition of Hoagland's clear priority in successfully predicting this immense discovery has, however, been curiously slow in coming inside NASA."

On September 13, 2000, after my above article was posted but before its publication in Skeptical Inquirer, Hoagland posted a new Press Release, subtitled "Hoagland Confirmed Again," which said that "even NASA's most ardent Hoagland haters are being forced to admit that Hoagland's overarching model of Europa -- which included over 20 years ago some kind of highly evolved, living organism's [sic] potentially swimming in that ocean -- is almost certainly correct." The Release added that "some critics have now desperately launched a full blown, rear-guard attempt to remove Hoagland from his historically preeminent position on this issue. . . . [D]esperate, last-ditch efforts have even included recent charges of outright fraud -- bizarre claims that Hoagland has attempted to take false credit for Cassen, Reynolds and Peale's original published work on the European [sic] tidal stresses." That Release did not specifically cite my above article or Ralph Greenberg's Web site (and neither of us is associated with NASA).

Hoagland also proudly boasts on his Web site of being the recipient of the first International Angstrom Medal for Excellence in Science. Though true enough, this "award" is apparently not the prestigious honor that one might assume, given its name (see Phil Plait's discussion about this on his "Bad Astronomy" Web site).

E-mail See Phil Plait's "Bad Astronomy" Web site's section devoted to "Richard Hoagland's Nonsense"

A few additional Web pages containing skeptical commentaries on Hoagland's claims:
    Here  · Here  · Here  · Here  · Here  · Here   (Please inform me of others worth noting)

The Tampa Bay Skeptics' "Face" on Mars Page

Photos of More "Faces" on Mars

The "Face on Mars" entry in The Skeptic's Dictionary

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