Since the advent of the Trump Administration, it’s like the craziness at the center of Washington has sucked all of the air out of the room and made it harder to find weird things that aren’t connected to politics. Fringe historians declared their political allegiances months ago, with characters like L. A. Marzulli, David Wilcock, and J. Hutton Pulitzer endorsing Donald Trump and others like Giorgio Tsoukalos and Scott Wolter risking their aggrieved audiences by opposing the House of Orange. Consequently, it was no surprise that again this year conservative extremists blasted the Super Bowl halftime show for promoting occultism, which seems to be conservative code for liberalism.
You might remember that a year and a half ago I discussed the story of the 85 statues that Hermes Trismegistus allegedly built at the Mountains of the Moon in order to regulate the flow of the Nile. In reading a book about the history of Hermes Trismegistus, I found that the author made reference to this story, but seemed to know it only from its appearance in the Picatrix, a Latin translation of an eleventh century Arabic text called Ghāyat al-Ḥakīm. The book has an odd history, having been written sometime in the 1000s before being translated into a now-lost Spanish text by order of Alfonso X around 1256-1258, and then from Spanish to Latin sometime thereafter. As a result of its retranslation, the book acquired some odd readings, but what is more interesting is that, like its near-contemporary, the Akhbar al-zaman, it is not an original work so much as a composite of older material.
Regular readers will remember geologist Robert Schoch, who has spent more than two decades advocating for the existence of a lost civilization that carved the Great Sphinx of Giza at the end of the last Ice Age. Since then, Schoch has grown increasingly fringe in his views, arguing at various times for a global pyramid-building culture, the catastrophic destruction of said culture by solar bombardment, and that the Easter Island moai are remnants of an Ice Age civilization. He also started a nonprofit, Oracul, to help fund his flights of fancy, and like many fringe figures, he now runs for-profit “ancient mysteries” tours of ancient sites. Anyway, he apparently now believes humans have psychic powers.
I am constantly amazed at the way Zecharia Sitchin’s ideas have so seeped into fringe culture that they appear in unexpected places. Today’s case in point is this bizarre rendering of a legend associated with Mt. Shasta in California from Dustin Naef, the author of two forthcoming books about the mountain and a one-time guest on a Travel Channel “mysteries” show. Here is how Naef presents the story in a recent Ancient Origins piece:
I received an eBook copy of David Wilcock’s newest book, The Ascension Mysteries: Revealing the Cosmic Battle Between Good and Evil (Dutton, 2016), which sold more than 5,000 copies in its first week and became a bestseller on the Nielsen BookScan sales list. I believe it is a public service to provide a review of a book from a major publishing house that outsells most major nonfiction hardcover releases. Just so we’re clear: David Wilcock’s publisher is a division of Penguin Books, one of the largest publishers on Earth. Penguin is in bed with a vile, reprehensible snake-oil salesman who feeds his audience a diet of paranoid fear trussed up in the glittering garments of Elohim and is happy to lend his dubious credibility to the most loathsome Russian anti-American propaganda. Penguin should be ashamed of themselves, but so long as Wilcock can push 5,000 books a week, Penguin is happy to give him a platform to spread his message of fear, anger, and hate.
I’m sure that many of you will have seen the story running this week in the Atlantic in which Sam Kriss explains the latest strange obsession of conspiracy theorists: Flat-Earth super-forests. I’m almost positive I mentioned the idea last month, but the gist of it is that a Crimean man is claiming that not only is the Earth flat, but that mesas and oddly-shaped mountains are actually the trunks of prehistoric trees, which were felled ages ago by a conspiracy. Somehow, according to Kriss, the Crimean man claims there was a nuclear war in the nineteenth century, lost civilizations had advanced technology, and giants felled the super-trees using powerful machines.
A great deal of fringe history centers on glorifying one’s own city, region, or country as the most important in the world. For believers, world-historical events conspired to occur right in the spot that he or she loves most. So, for many American fringe historians the U.S. is the center of the universe. In Britain, it is the U.K. where all roads converge. The pattern repeats wherever you go. It’s not universal of course—Atlantis, ancient Egypt, and whatever is trending in the news have their share of adherents around the world—but it is a consistent pattern. Today I’d like to look at an offbeat and minor key version of this pattern, coming to us courtesy of a Slate magazine and Roads & Kingdoms article by Tara Isabella Burton about the Adriatic port city of Trieste.
Hanks Fumbles Grand Canyon Hoax; Plus: Hancock Claims Cacti Are the Physical Form of Cosmic Intelligence
For those of you who are interested and keeping score at home, last Friday Ancient Aliens brought in 1.14 million viewers, down several hundred thousand from its previous outing. Its lead-out, Time Beings: Extreme Time Travel Conspiracies, clocked in with an even 1 million viewers. According to ratings data, the loss of viewers came almost entirely from younger viewers under the age of 49, especially among female viewers, the largest segment to tune out.
I have a fun one today, but boy was it confusing! Our story begins with the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. According to legend, when Howard Carter broke into the tomb, he triggered an ancient curse, which read “Death comes on wings to he who enters the tomb of a Pharaoh.” The particular wording of his curse is unusual, all the more so since it doesn’t seem to appear in print until the end of the twentieth century, attributed to a bewildering array of sources. Sometimes it is said to come from a tablet found in Tut’s tomb, or just as an Arabic proverb. Sometimes it is said to have been inscribed about the entrance to the tomb. Other times, it is claimed that newspapers printed the curse either a month before or in the week after Lord Carnarvon, sponsor of the excavation of the tomb of King Tut, died on April 3, 1923 from blood poisoning from a mosquito bite.
In the penultimate episode of the third season of Forbidden History, host Jamie Theakston went in search of Satan, in an episode that never quite rises to the level of the infamous Ancient Aliens episode that asked viewers to worship Lucifer as the embodiment of cosmic good. “Inside the Cult of Satan” (S03E05) instead is overly concerned with whether people enjoy sex too much, and if this might threaten Christian morality. To make that case, it tells us that there are more than 100,000 Satanists in the world, a number that is growing according to ghost hunter Richard Felix because of a rejection of puritanical Christianity in search of hedonism. “Hallelujah! Praise the new Lord,” Felix proclaims sarcastically. Heather Osborn, a fringe radio host, engages in moral panic by proclaiming that “dark” television programs are leading teenagers to embrace Satan, with the implication that this is why they are sexually active.
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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