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"When the Black Marker was first discovered on Earth so long ago, the government at the time hid all evidence of it from us. When our prophet Michael Altman spoke out against them, he was silenced."
Jacob Arthur Danik[1]

Michael Altman was a geophysicist and the central figure of the Church of Unitology, credited as the man who, in 2214, first revealed the proof of alien life to Mankind: the Black Marker.[2][3]

He is believed by the Church of Unitology to have been assassinated by the government to suppress the knowledge of the Marker.[1] The government, however, has maintained the story that Altman's death was accidental[4] and that he was no more than a hoaxer.[3]


Marker Discovery[]

"In 2214, a geophysicist named Michael Altman made a discovery that would change history. Buried at the impact site of a crater near the Yucatán Peninsula, he uncovered a divine alien presence - the Marker. The Marker spoke to Altman and revealed a plan that would unify mankind and lead them to a bright, new future."
Unitology History Log[5]

At some point in his life, Altman became a "respected geophysicist"[3] and worked near the Chicxulub crater. When the Black Marker discovered in the crater, Altman worked with the mining corporation DredgerCorp and the military under Craig Markoff to recover the artifact and bring it to a floating facility for study.

After the Marker began to be studied, it was speculated that its signal and technology held tremendous power and could be used as a source of limitless energy.[6][7]

Revealing the Marker[]

"When Michael Altman went public with his research on the Black Marker, the world was teetering on the brink of self-destruction. Many people, myself included, felt civilization was at an end. We couldn't change the world by ourselves, and most of us didn't want to. What Altman offered us, this chance at a rebirth for humanity, was exactly what our hungry, empty souls were looking for. Practically overnight, our hope for humanity was renewed."
—An account of Altman's actions in revealing the Black Marker.[2]
Unitology 010

A Unitologist mural depicting the Black Marker "speaking" to Michael Altman.

Realizing the power of the Marker and with the belief that the government was planning on covering it up entirely, Altman escaped from the ocean facility and made a public announcement about the Marker during a press conference, declaring that the artifact was the first proof of alien life and that it predated humanity, although he confessed to not knowing exactly what its purpose was.[2]

After his announcement, Altman was apprehended and brought back to the research facility, where he soon bore witness to a Necromorph outbreak that ravaged the compound and killed most of the staff.[7]

Unitology 011

Altman's death as later depicted in a Unitologist mural.

Though Altman managed to escape the outbreak and the sinking facility, he was soon captured by Markoff as well as Stevens, a psychologist who had been working alongside him. Stevens and Markoff declared that they were now both believers in the Marker's divinity, stating that the Necromorphs were merely a "glitch" of the Black Marker and not the true "eternal life" promised by the artifact; according to Stevens' theory, the Marker's true plan would be revealed once a new Marker was found or once the Black Marker was successfully replicated as per its requests. Stevens declared that, as believing in the Marker's plan was a matter of the "salvation" of the entire human race, he and Markoff needed a way to get the public to share this faith, using Altman's death and apparent martyrdom to found a new religion that would prepare humanity for the coming Convergence.

The two former members of the project then murdered Altman and began to publicly pose as his "acolytes",[2] leading the public to found the Church of Unitology in his name despite the government's efforts to cover up the entire disaster.[7]

Martyrdom and Legacy[]

"Even when Altman was forced into hiding, allegedly for fear of government retaliation, his acolytes Stevens and Markoff risked everything to bring his word into the light. His books sold out within hours. Millions flocked to conferences where we were taught the greater truths of the Marker. We stared in awe at the evidence of this alien artifact that would change everything. And we did whatever Altman, through his acolytes, told us to. We rallied against the government whose oppression kept our prophet from us. We joined together in congregations to share his word. And we prepared ourselves for the future he said was coming. Where were you when Michael Altman was assassinated by our government? It's the question of our generation, I suppose. It's certainly the day when everything changed for me... and the world. [...] The martyring of the scientist-turned-savior Michael Altman begat fanatical zealots, and I was one of them. Who wouldn't be outraged by the images of his broken, brutalized body, as if a clean death wasn't enough? Who wouldn't be moved by the stoic Markoff struggling on the verge of tears during his eulogy? In those terrible days, we birthed and maintained the tenets of a new religion, known now as the Church of Unitology. I was only a follower, but I was suddenly part of the biggest social movement in history. The riots that followed and the crippling of our government on colony after colony made me realize we finally had the power to change things."
—An account from a former Unitologist.[2]
DSR Stevens Interview

An interview with Stevens about Altman's death.

After Altman's death, Stevens and Markoff began to twist the truth about his fate, publicly declaring his martyrdom and even publishing books in his name; fueling interest, civil unrest and demands for action against the government.[2][3] Revealing only Altman's data that would support their conclusion about the Marker's divinity, Stevens and Markoff helped found the Church of Unitology to continue what they claimed to have been Altman's vision.[8] Since then, Unitologists have worshipped the geophysicist as a martyr figure for their faith and interpreted the Black Marker to be a sign from God, supported by fragments of knowledge from Altman's notebooks that were provided by his two "acolytes".[9]

Altman's body came into possession of the Church, and centuries later, it had been stored in one of the many stasis capsules that were sent into deep space aboard the massive ships of the Church's Mausoleum Fleet.[10]


  • The Hebrew meaning of the name Michael is "Who is like God?". In Old German, Altman means "old man" or "wise man".
  • Both in name and appearance, Michael Altman bears a resemblance to the leader of Heaven's Gate, Marshall Applewhite.
  • The assassination of Altman on March 15 may be a reference to historical figure Gaius Julius Caesar, who was assassinated on the same date.
  • In the original Dead Space game log "Unitology Article," Michael Altman is said to have been an anthropologist, as opposed to a geophysicist as referred to later in Dead Space 2Dead Space (2023) corrects this by changing the text log to be in line with the updated lore.[3]
  • Michael Altman's discovery of the Black Marker and martyrdom is explored in the 2010 novel Dead Space: Martyr. It should be noted, however, that several key plot points and lore elements of this novel were abandoned after its release and were explicitly contradicted by newer established lore, leaving the book's canonicity ambiguous.[11] As a result of the various lore issues presented by Martyr, this article uses a broad overview of the book's events combined with the canon information about Altman found in the games.
    • B.K. Evenson, author of Martyr, wrote a book in the '90s titled Altmann's Tongue.