Reptilians (also called reptoids, reptiloids, saurians or draconians) are purported reptilian humanoids that play a prominent role in fantasy, science fiction, ufology, and conspiracy theories. The idea of reptilians on Earth was popularized by David Icke, a conspiracy theorist who claims shape-shifting reptilian aliens control Earth by taking on human form and gaining political power to manipulate our societies. Icke has claimed on multiple occasions that many of the world leaders are, or are possessed by, reptilians.
Michael Barkun, Professor of political science at Syracuse University, posits that the idea of a reptilian conspiracy originated in the fiction of Conan the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard. The first appearance of "serpent men" in literature was in Howard's story, "The Shadow Kingdom", published in Weird Tales in August 1929. This story drew on Theosophical ideas of the "lost worlds" of Atlantis and Lemuria, particularly Helena Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine, with its reference to "'dragon-men' who once had a mighty civilization on a Lemurian continent". Howard's "serpent men" were described as humanoid with human bodies but snake heads, able to imitate real humans at will, who lived in hiding in underground passages, using their shapechanging and mind control abilities to infiltrate humanity. Clark Ashton Smith used Howard's "serpent men" in his stories, as well as themes from H. P. Lovecraft, and he, Howard and Lovecraft together laid the basis for the Cthulhu Mythos. In the 1940s, a non-fiction writer, Maurice Doreal, wrote a pamphlet entitled "Mysteries Of The Gobi" which described a "serpent race" that had "bodies like man but...heads...like a great snake" and an ability to take true human form. These creatures also appeared in Doreal's poem, "The Emerald Tablets", in which he claimed the titular tablets were written by "Thoth, an Atlantean Priest king". Barkun asserts that "in all likelihood", Doreal's ideas came from "The Shadow Kingdom", and that in turn, "The Emerald Tablets" formed the basis for David Icke's book, Children of the Matrix.
Alien abduction narratives sometimes allege contact with reptilian creatures. One of the earliest reports was that of Ashland, Nebraska police officer Herbert Schirmer, who claims to have been taken aboard a UFO in 1967 by humanoid beings with a slightly reptilian appearance, who wore a "winged serpent" emblem on the left side of their chests.
According to British conspiracy theorist David Icke, 5–12 feet (1.5–3.7 m) tall, blood-drinking, shape-shifting reptilian humanoids from the Alpha Draconis star system, now hiding in underground bases, are the force behind a worldwide conspiracy against humanity. He contends that most of the world's leaders are related to these reptilians, including George W. Bush of the United States, and Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. Icke's conspiracy theories now have supporters in up to 47 countries and he has given lectures to crowds of up to 6,000. American writer Vicki Santillano included it in her list of the 10 most popular conspiracy theories, describing it as the "wackiest theory" she had encountered.
A poll of Americans in 2013 by Public Policy Polling indicated that 4% of registered voters (+/- 2.8%) believed in David Icke's ideas.
In the closely fought 2008 U.S. Senate election between comedian and commentator Al Franken and incumbent Senator Norm Coleman, one of the ballots challenged by Coleman included a vote for Franken with "Lizard People" written in the space provided for write-in candidates. Lucas Davenport who later claimed to have written the gag ballot, said, "I don't know if you've heard the conspiracy theory about the Lizard Men; a friend of mine, we didn't like the candidates, so we were at first going to write in 'revolution', because we thought that was good and to the point. And then, we thought 'the Lizard People' would be even funnier."
"Evil reptilian kitten-eater from another planet" was a pejorative used to refer to then Ontario Liberal Party opposition leader Dalton McGuinty in a press release disseminated by the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario on September 12, 2003, during the provincial election campaign in Ontario, Canada.
In February 2011, on the Opie and Anthony radio show, the comedian Louis C.K. jokingly asked former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld a number of times if he and Dick Cheney were lizard people who enjoyed the taste of human flesh. Amused by Rumsfeld's refusal to directly answer the question, C.K. suggested it as a possible admission of guilt. He went on to further muse that perhaps those who are lizard people cannot lie about it; when asked if they are lizards, they either have to avoid answering the question or say yes.
On March 4, 2013, a video depicting a security agent with unusual features guarding a speech by U.S. President Barack Obama was spotlighted in a Wired report about shapeshifting reptilian humanoids, leading to a tongue-in-cheek response from chief National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden that "any alleged program to guard the president with aliens or robots would likely have to be scaled back or eliminated in the sequester."