SSSSSSStay Paranoid

Lizard People: Examining a Narrative of Power and Division

An urban legend exists that puts LA right on top of an ancient and advanced civilization of Lizard People. Investigating the Lizard People narrative and the legend’s permeation into LA’s literature and popular culture yields very little scholarly research, though a handful of newspapers have published articles about this strange and intriguing story. As it stands today, the story of the Lizard People, or reptilians, has erupted into a web of conspiracy theories that extends beyond LA’s borders and into the rest of the world. The bulk of the research that inspired our performance has involved studying some of the hundreds of conspiracy theory websites that have been created to perpetuate the Lizard People story. Each conspiracy theorist demonstrates a different understanding of the role the reptilians play in our society, ranging from underground beings to the ruling class. In the past two decades, most of the work electronically published about the reptilians has been based on the ideas first presented by David Icke in his book The Biggest Secret in 1999. Icke asserted that the reptilians are actually martians who landed on Earth centuries ago, and have systematically taken over every human civilization since the beginning of recorded history. All kings, presidents, and members of governments are at least part lizard person, according to this theory. Conspiracy theorists have also begun to include celebrities in this class because of their social power and influence. This theory embodies the perceived division between the ruling class and the common citizen, a divide that is felt even in democracies like our own. This theory adds a new layer to Marxist theory, as now we have the proletariat and the reptilian classes, with no potential for upward socioeconomic movement because we literally see two biologically different species. Throughout this past election, it has been fascinating to follow these theorists as they speculate whether or not Donald Trump carries reptilian blood. Though many may dismiss this phenomenon as another conspiracy theory to add to the depths of the internet, the vast amount of websites dedicated to this story, along with the cultural examples and ramifications of this materialized socioeconomic divide, warrants an academic conversation.

Roots: Hopi Legend of the Snake Brothers

Long before the conspiracy theorists stepped in, the Hopi Native Americans had a legend about an advanced civilization that once lived underground in the LA area. The Hopi call this population their “snake brothers,” and according to some, they were allegedly related to the Mayans. The snake brothers evolved into Lizard People who were highly intelligent and, according to legend, escaped a meteor shower by using extremely advanced chemicals and technology to build an underground city that would shield them from natural disasters. In an interview in 2010, Hopi Little Chief Greenleaf explained that the Lizard People had been living in North America for centuries, perhaps even before the Sumerian civilization, which was established 7,000 years ago. Greenleaf also explained that the underground shelters many treasure hunters were looking for were built to protect the population from meteor showers, or ‘firestorms.’ The legend tells of an instance where a huge fire came unexpectedly from the southwest and destroyed parts of the cities (Aym 2010). Los Angeles finds itself in the Chaparral biome, which is dependent upon fire for renewal, so this is entirely plausible and logical. The introduction of meteor showers into the narrative brings in the confusing question of time, because this natural phenomenon would have left physical traces that archaeologists or geologists would be able to identify. The legend holds that one of the most impactful meteors fell about 5,000 years ago, affecting what is now Southern California and Arizona (where the Hopi are most concentrated). Mythologists and historians have referred to the Barringer Crater in north-central Arizona as evidence of one of the meteor impacts. However, this crater is estimated to have been formed 25,000 to 50,000 years ago (Aym 2010). This is in very stark contrast to the detail in the Hopi narrative.

The age of the Barringer Crater actually opens a few more interesting (and further puzzling) windows. If the Lizard People actually existed 25,000 years ago, instead of 5,000 years ago, then we should also look at ancient Indian texts that refer to that time period. These texts describe advanced city-states with extremely advanced technology on the Indian sub-continent. The Olmec civilization, who occupied what is now Guatemala and Mexico, also left behind stories of an advanced civilization that collapsed for unknown reasons about 20,000 years ago. The similarities are startling. According to Little Chief Greenleaf, the Hopi have considered these details and claim that the Barringer Crater “is only one of the pieces that fell from the sky at that time” (Aym 2010). As a result of this meteor and others like it, the civilization was forced underground, and the Lizard People were eventually “killed by natural gas leaking into their bunkers”. Unfortunately, the ending of this legend is not universally recorded, and the only primary source available to myself as a researcher about this specific conclusion to this story is this particular interview with Little Chief Greenleaf. This ending seems to be a bit more neat and final than the endings of most Native American myths, indicating the possibility of Western intervention and influence over the narrative, but this has yet to be specifically traced and proven.

(Re)Discovery: The Excavation

This Native American story was revisited during the Great Depression under a very different lens. The Los Angeles Times published a front page article about a geophysicist and mining engineer named George Warren Shufelt, who invented a device that he called a “radio X-ray machine,” and claimed that it could detect underground tunnels (Bosquet). He claimed that he had discovered a complex tunnel system located underneath the city of Los Angeles in the shape of a lizard. His research led him to Little Chief Greenleaf, as well as a handful of eager treasure seekers who believed the tunnels to be filled with gold. Shufelt claimed he had discovered and precisely mapped out 1,900 square feet of tunnels, including 16 places where vast hoards of gold were stored, all by using his radio X-ray machine (Bosquet 1). Shufelt obtained permission to excavate in the middle of Los Angeles on North Hill street “overlooking Sunset, Spring and North Broadway” from the County Board of Supervisors, and began digging (Creason 2014). Please refer to Appendix A for the map. He and his small crew had agreed to share half of whatever they discovered with the county. The site was watched intently by an eager community seeking entertainment and distraction from the devastating effects of the Great Depression. The socioeconomic context of this event is important to consider, as it undeniably affected the decision of the county to grant Shufelt the opportunity to excavate a major metropolitan area. It also affected the news coverage and historical preservation of the dig itself. Because so many larger, economic issues were being covered, the only people who followed the dig were the local Los Angeles denizens, who could see the actual excavation site daily. It is also very possible that the county actually gave Shufelt money to excavate, believing that he might find gold that could improve the area’s economic crisis. If this is true, it would be very controversial and has been covered up well. Though the crew dug for months, the tunnels were never found.

Lizard People Today: Conspiracy Theories

Between this event and the 1999 publication of David Icke’s The Biggest Secret, the myth appears nonexistent, with the exception of a few obscure references to reptilian people in a few films, such as Sssssss (1973) and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998). Icke’s reptilians are aliens who are cleverly disguised as humans, and in this way they have been able to mate with humans to create generations of Lizard People. As they are quite advanced and intelligent , they have risen to power in all human populations. Even our former president, Barack Obama, is suspected of being a Lizard Person, or a ‘reptilian.’ According to this theory, essentially all of our politicians carry reptilian blood, and the reptilians rule us. Icke’s book has inspired countless conspiracy theories. Some hold on to elements of the Native American myth, some draw from Icke’s alien theory, and some pull ideas from entirely different sources and places. The internet is full of these theorists, along with volumes of digital and other visual arts inspired by them.

We saw a spike in this artwork during this year’s presidential election, as many theorists edited photos of Hillary Clinton as a reptilian, reflecting their belief that she was part of the political establishment. Conversation has been sparked about whether or not Donald Trump is a reptilian, as he is not part of the political establishment but is part of the country’s capitalist establishment (Phillipson). These conversations and theories reveal the disconnection that many of these Americans feel from the country’s political system. Some of us feel that we are so disconnected from our policymakers that we can realistically theorize that they are a different species than we are. This is a shocking realization in a country that claims to be governed ‘by the people.’

For the sake of brevity, I will choose one of the most nebulous reptilian conspiracy theory sites as an example. holds a bilingual (English/Spanish) space for conspiracy theorists to publish their work on the reptilians. Many of the articles are directly inspired by Icke’s work. An essay by Andrew Hennessey titled “Reptilians, Aryans, and Horror” actually posits that ‘Aryan’ and ‘reptilian’ blood are one and the same, and that in fact it was the Aryans who came to Earth from a different planet and took over our governments and civilizations. Because of ideas like this, many of these conspiracy theorists have been accused of racism, including Icke himself. It is interesting to observe the materialization of social divisions that this conspiracy creates, whether it be a socioeconomic or racial divide. The contributors of this site have great fear for the reptilians, accusing them of constantly kidnapping and raping humans. Other articles discuss experiences running into members of the military who were actually reptilians. In every anecdote, the reptilians are the ones who are in power.

Future Directions

Though I often feel that this research seems to have raised more questions than it has answered, opening many different potential paths, I have chosen to continue to focus on the conspiracy theory aspect of the story. The end result of this project will be a research-based movement performance piece that will be presented along with my written research at the 2017 Arts Under the Stars event at CSUCI. I am currently leading a creative team of ten students as we further research this narrative and craft a performance that will embody what we have learned and make the knowledge accessible to a wider audience. We are exploring the ways that this narrative affects the common person’s relationship with social hierarchy, and how we can potentially alter and improve that relationship. It feels quite fitting to explore a narrative that offers a physical representation of a perceived divide through physical movement.


“Age Of Truth.” Age Of Truth, Accessed 4 Mar. 2017.

Aym, Terrence. “Who Were the ‘Lizard People’ of Los Angeles?”, 12 Nov. 2010.

Accessed 8 May 2016.

Bosquet, Jean. “Did Lizard People Live under L.A. 5,000 Years Ago?” The LA Times, 29 Jan. 1934: 1.

Los Angeles Times. Accessed 9 May 2016.

Bump, Philip. “How to Spot the Reptilians Running the U.S. Government.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media

Company, 31 Oct. 2013,

354496/. Accessed 4 Mar. 2017.

“Conspiracy Theories.” Time, Time Inc., 20 Nov. 2008,,28804,1860871_1860876_1861029,00.html.

Accessed 4 Mar. 2017.

Creason, Glen. “CityDig: The Underground Catacombs of L.A.’s Lizard People.” Los Angeles Magazine,

22 January 2014,

Accessed 4 Mar. 2017.

Gilliam, Terry, director. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. 1998.

Hieb, Louis A. “Social Memory and Cultural Narrative: The Hopi Construction of a Moral Community.”

Journal of the Southwest, vol. 44, no. 1, 2002, pp. 79–94.

Icke, David. The Biggest Secret. Bridge of Love Publications USA, 1999.

Kowalski, Bernard L., director. Sssssss. 1973.

Lamar, Cyriaque. “A 1934 Map Of The Secret Lizard City Under Los Angeles.” io9,,

15 Feb. 2010,

Accessed 4 Mar. 2017.

Masters, Nathan. “Lost Tunnels of Downtown L.A.” KCET, 15 Sept. 2016, Accessed 4 Mar. 2017.

Phillipson, Daisy. “Donald Trump Is A Reptilian Shapeshifter And Here’s Why.” Sick Chirpse, 19 Apr.

2016, Accessed

17 Feb. 2017.

Pritchett, Jeffery. “Native American Legends Describe Lizard People and Race of White Giants (Video) |

Paranormal.” Before It’s News | Alternative News | UFO | Beyond Science | True News| Prophecy

News | People Powered News,

white-giants-video-2507701.html. Accessed 5 Mar. 2017.

Rushdie, Salman. Shalimar the Clown. Random House, 2005.

“The Occult Reptilian Saga – La Saga Oculta De Los Reptilianos.” The Occult Reptilian Saga – La Saga

Oculta De Los Reptilianos,

Accessed 4 Mar. 2017.


STUDIES GROUP by Andrew Hennessey, Accessed 4 Mar. 2017.

“Weird California.” Weird California,

Accessed 4 Mar. 2017.

“12 Million Reasons to Believe in Lizard People.” Motherboard, Accessed 4 Mar. 2017.


Appendix A

Lamar, Cyriaque. “A 1934 Map Of The Secret Lizard City Under Los Angeles.” io9,,

15 Feb. 2010,