Before we begin today, there is a bit of news about America Unearthed.
When an avalanche claimed the lives of more than a dozen people climbing on Mount Everest this week, Committee Films was in the process of shooting segments on the mountain for a History Channel documentary as well as America Unearthed, according to producer Maria Awes, whose husband was among the climbers. He was at 12,500 feet when the avalanche hit. All of the Committee Films production team members as well as their Sherpa guides were unharmed and were able to descend.
If you’re at all interested in paranormal and historical mysteries, you almost certainly know the work of Joe Nickell, the resident investigator at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and one of the most frequent correspondents for Skeptical Inquirer and Skeptical Briefs. On his blog last week, Nickell related his experience with a television producer who had asked him to appear on TV to investigate an unnamed fringe mystery. According to Nickell, the producer complained that another skeptic he had contacted by phone was too negative and dismissive.
It’s Good Friday, so what better day to explore whether Jesus really died on the cross and rose from the dead? Scott Wolter did an interview with evangelical Christian author Karla Akins, who supports his findings despite disagreeing with his conclusions because in conspiracy culture what counts is your opposition to mainstream academia. In the interview he confirmed his belief that the Gospel narratives of Jesus are a conspiracy designed to hide the truth. If you remember Akhenaten to the Founding Fathers, he follows Ralph Ellis in believing that Jesus reigned as the king of Judea, as well as having been trained as the high priest of Amun, and sojourned in India to take training with Buddhist monks.
Today I’d like to talk about a crappy movie I just saw, but before I do, I want to share a little bit more about a recent flap over Nazis and fringe history.
I did it! I didn’t think I’d be able to squeeze my entire anthology of ancient texts used by fringe historians into the publisher’s limit of 125,000 words, but after completing the first draft of the full text, I clocked in at 124,800 words, which includes the texts, commentaries, book overview, and the chapter introductions. I’ll probably do some trimming here and there, but I thrilled that I managed to get everything in without having to sacrifice any texts.
Eclipses of the moon happen so regularly that even astrologers think of them as regular features of the heavens. However, the appearance of four “blood moons,” or eclipses where the moon seems to turn red, in an eighteen month period beginning early this morning have led to bizarre prophecies that this marks the end of the state of Israel or even the Second Coming of Jesus. According to Pastor John Hagee, who previously announced that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for a planned gay pride rally in New Orleans, the blood moons fulfill the prophecy of Joel (2:31), reiterated in Acts 2:20: “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.” There will be a solar eclipse on April 29. He isn’t sure that this is the Second Coming, but he believes a “world-changing” event is upon us and that it is intimately connected with the Jews.
This morning in a comment on my blog Brien Foerster accused me of libeling him for, essentially, taking him at his word. (The comment came from an email address associated with Foerster’s business, so I believe he was in fact the author.) In reporting that the Purdue Rare Isotope Measurement Laboratory refused to conduct destructive testing on a sample of rock allegedly from Puma Punku, I said that Foerster had chipped fragments from some of the stones at the site and had removed them from Bolivia. Foerster accused me of making false and libelous statements:
No artifacts were chipped from, nor were they taken from the Puma Punku site, as in, within the fenced area. Your allegations are both false and libelous...
Remember how I’ve been discussing the hallmarks of conspiracy culture? Well, according to Michael Barkun’s Culture of Conspiracy (2006), one of the most important markers of what separates a conspiracy theorist from your run of the mill zealous advocate of an unusual idea is the simultaneous rejection of mainstream academia while creating methods for appropriating its prestige and approval. The zealous advocate pushes his (and it’s almost always his) ideas through traditional channels and respects the foundations of scholarship (even if he is blind to his idea’s weaknesses), but the conspiracy theorist rejects the traditional channels and demands that his ideas be exempt from the types of review and scrutiny given to all others. Typically, this is due to a deep distrust of academia or the belief that there is a system-wide conspiracy designed to suppress the truth that the conspiracy theorist is somehow uniquely poised to reveal, if only the guardians of orthodoxy would let him.
You might be interested to know that according to an April 4 Facebook post on a page devoted to a solstice alignment in a Kentucky cave, a couple of weeks ago the crew from America Unearthed traveled to Kentucky to film the Red Bird Petroglyph, a chunk of sandstone that broke off of a formation in 1994. It is better known as the Manchester Marked Rock. The stone allegedly contains single-character carvings in eight Old World languages, including single letters in Punic, Libyan, South Semitic, Egyptian, etc., and a rebus in Ogham and a Christian monogram. In reality, the carvings bear little to no resemblance to the alphabets they supposedly represent and are geometric inscriptions. They could be Native or colonial or both; they have yet to be studies to determine their origin. Fringe theorists have simply scoured various Old World scripts looking for similarities, and didn’t do a very good job of it, either.
The stone head uncovered in a flash flood that the show is allegedly investigating according to that same post looks, from the art style, like an eroded architectural embellishment from the nineteenth century, though of course it is not possible to be definitive from a photograph.
Anyhow, moving on…
As I’m working on editing various texts for my anthology of ancient material used by fringe writers, I was writing commentary for material I will use from the Qur’an and the Arabian Nights to discuss the mysterious city of Iram of the Pillars, which was destroyed by the breath of God to chastise the ‘Adites for their hubris and sin (Qur’an 89:6-14 with Arabian Nights 276-279). This seems like as good a time as any to spare a few words for how H. P. Lovecraft inverted and parodied the Islamic legend of Iram in “The Nameless City” (1921), the story of a pre-human city of reptiles lost beneath the desert sands of Arabia.
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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