The last time Scott Wolter dropped in to visit this blog was right after the airing of the episode S01E09 “Motive for Murder,” in which Wolter asserted that Thomas Jefferson had given Meriwether Lewis “secret instructions” to go in search of Welsh Indians, whose presence might pose a threat to the sovereignty of the United States. I asked Wolter to please provide copies of those presidential instructions as I was unable to find them in any Jefferson archives. Wolter never responded.
At the time, I had searched the Jefferson papers at the Library of Congress and turned up nothing. Since then, I’ve also reviewed the archives of the Monticello Museum and the New York Historical Society, and I have read all of the existing correspondence to and from Meriwether Lewis about his expedition. After reviewing this material, I have a tentative reconstruction of what actually happened.
I’ve been writing about alternative history since 2001, when I first started publishing articles about the then-popular ideas of Graham Hancock, Robert Bauval, Robert Schoch, and their friends. More recently, I’ve devoted enormous amounts of space to cataloguing the fabrications and plagiarism of David Childress, Erich von Däniken, and their friends. But in all that time, with the exception of Childress’s negative comments about me in the Chicago Reader in 2006, these alternative theorists have been content to largely avoid engaging me, probably because they never really considered my website to be much of a threat to building their audiences.
Not so the new group! Over the past few weeks, I have apparently upset multiple alternative theorists, many of whom appeared recently on America Unearthed, and they want me to know it. The most recent is Richard Thornton, who last night wrote to suggest that I did not fully understand his hypothesis that the Creek tribe of Georgia descended from Maya gold miners from Chichen Itza. He insists that I will understand after giving him $15 for an eBook with 350 photographs that prove his position.
I’m continuing to cycle back through my America Unearthed reviews to pick up things I’ve missed. One thing that bothered me about episode 5, in which Scott Wolter goes in search of Celtic cultists of Mithras in Oklahoma, is just how anyone got the idea that the Mithras cult threw its initiates into an underground pit, covered it with grating, slew a bull atop the grating, and bathed the initiate in bull’s blood. Although the scene is reenacted in the episode, I wasn’t able to find confirmation in standard reference works until I came across Jaime Alvar’s Romanizing Oriental Gods (2008), which devotes significant space to just this topic. Just so we are all on the same page: Mithras was a Roman cult deity who was based in part on an earlier Persian god, Mithra.
This is a case where America Unearthed made a claim that was not exactly wrong but not exactly right, and did nothing to acknowledge the great uncertainty surrounding the material.
As you know, I’ve been circling back and researching some of the claims I missed during my first pass through America Unearthed. One that has been bothering me is the episode 4 claim that the Norse who allegedly colonized Minnesota in the Middle Ages were giants. Why giants? There are no giant Norse skeletons in Norway, Iceland, or Greenland, so at first blush this claim seems silly.
In response to my review of America Unearthed S01E12 "America's Oldest Secret," Jim Egan of the Newport Tower Museum wrote some comments that were too lengthy to fit into my blog's comment feature. I told Egan that I would publish his comments in full. Here they are:
Now that America Unearthed has concluded its first season, I feel like a weight has lifted from my shoulders. Writing weekly reviews of the show has been exhausting. With Ancient Aliens, it was much less work because their claims are so outrageous that even the most basic of facts refute them; with America Unearthed, the fabrication of pseudo-history is more subtle and requires much more effort to unravel. Additionally, the medieval period isn’t my favorite (I prefer to study from the Bronze Age down to the Classical period, which also happen to be Ancient Aliens’ favorite periods, too), so there was a lot I needed to learn to understand what was going on in Scott Wolter’s quixotic quest for the Holy Grail.
Well, that was interesting. I’m not sure I exactly followed how having every single one of his claims proved wrong led Scott Wolter to becoming more convinced than ever that he’s right, but such is the belief of every crank committed to an ideology masquerading as a science.
Over the past few days, I’ve explored the convoluted story of “Prince Henry,” as Scott Wolter calls him, more properly Henry Sinclair, 1st earl of Orkney and Baron of Roslin. (His princely title rests on the fact that Henry’s Norwegian-held title of jarl, or earl, of Orkney was once translated as “prince” because of its higher rank in Norway, above a duke.) I want to encourage anyone who has not done so to please read my long and thorough discussion of the origins and growth of his legend. It is essential background for understanding what has gone terribly wrong in Scott Wolter’s quest, including the conflict of interest Wolter failed to disclose about his close relationship with the Sinclair family and their joint pursuit of investigations.
As I mentioned the other day, I’m revising my early reviews of America Unearthed to collect them for a book. Once again, I noticed that in my review of S01E02 “Medieval Desert Mystery,” I overlooked a significant problem because I wasn’t aware at the time just how badly the show fakes its material. In the episode, Scott Wolter finds a stone in Arizona covered in runes that allegedly state that the rock marks the burial place of “Rough Hurech,” an Englishman of the year 1200. After hearing from those who can read runes that the rock was actually hoaxed gibberish (no coherent words can be formed from the runes), I didn’t think much about the translation. That was a mistake.
As a side note, in re-researching this episode, I also found that the white supremacist group Stormfront (to which I am not linking do to its extreme nature) discussed this episode on its message boards as a “program of interest to white people,” and users stated that “we have our own media now,” in response to America Unearthed (among several shows). While this is not the producers’ or Scott Wolter’s intention, it is disturbing that the show has been adopted by white supremacists as part of the “white pride” movement.
(Note: What follows contains some text that originally appeared in my first review of the episode.)
Yesterday I wrote about the Sinclair/St. Clair family and the zealotry with which some members of the family promote the mistaken belief that their ancestor, Sir Henry Sinclair, First Earl of Orkney, sailed to Rhode Island and built the Newport Tower in 1379. According to Sinclair myth-making, Henry Sinclair was a secret Knight Templar (fifty years after the order was dissolved) and led the charge that made the Templar land claim to the continental United States, as marked by a secret code in the Kensington Rune Stone of Minnesota, to which Scott Wolter believes that Tower is mysteriously “aligned.” Conveniently, the Rune Stone code also says that the Templars guard the Holy Grail, the blood descendants of Jesus, who are the Sinclairs. Although no one says so explicitly, the upshot of this line of speculation is that the head of the Sinclair family is therefore the legitimate heir of Christ and the rightful Grail King of America.
There’s an old saying in journalism, “follow the money.” In the case of the weird world of Scott Wolter and America Unearthed (hereafter AU), we’re going to follow the hidden connections between Scott Wolter and the people who directly benefit from his claims. It’s complicated, but I’m going to try to make what follows as simple as possible. The story is still a convoluted mess, but here goes nothing.
I'm an author and editor who has published on a range of topics, including archaeology, science, and horror fiction. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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