In this part of Honduras it is believed that on the bank of the Rio Platano, in its upper course, there are important ruins which were discovered by a hulero (rubber tapper) about 20-25 years ago, when he was lost on the mountain between the rivers Plátano and Paulaya. He left this name and a fantastical description of what he saw there. It was the ruins of a very important city with white buildings of a stone similar to marble, surrounded by a large wall of the same material. Shortly afterward, this Ladino disappeared in La Mosquitia, and nobody knows what became of him. An old Paya (Pech) saurín (shaman) then said that the devil had killed him for daring to contemplate this forbidden place, which this Indian knew from his ancestor.
By dint of the white buildings, this place was known by the name “White City.” After a few years, a mulatto, who went exploring in the small tributaries left of the Rio Platano, claimed to have found the ruins, but after a few days of making this report, he drowned in the river and the Indians attributed his death to the anger of the devil.
Despite the great measures that the Ladinos and foreigners have undertaken in order to obtain a guide, they have never found a Paya to lead them to these ruins. All the Indians say that they do not know of it and that it is all a myth, but the other residents of the coast affirm that they do not want to show these ruins to others for fear that then they would die.
On a much less interesting note, regular readers will remember Christopher Knowles, the author of Our Heroes Wear Spandex (two part review here and here), a book that used some fringe history claims to tie superheroes to ancient mythology. Knowles also had some not so kind things to say about me and my work on the Cthulhu Mythos of H. P. Lovecraft when asserting that Lovecraft had access to specific Theosophical texts he almost certainly did not read. Knowles recently weighed in on the so-called Roswell Slides, which had claimed to depict an extraterrestrial corpse in the 1940s or 1950s but which actually showed a child mummy on display in a museum. Knowles took the opportunity to argue that skeptics of ufological claims are angry zealots upset at their lack of contact with the divine.
The fact of the matter is that debunkers are just disheartened believers, longing with all their hearts for the skies to open and for the saucermen to take them to the stars. It probably wouldn't take much coaxing to draw this out, maybe just a few beers and a starry sky.
It's clear that debunkers suffer from what psychologists call "approach-avoidance conflict syndrome," a conflict between desire of an object and fear of it. The debunker is torn by his insatiable desire for a close encounter and his simultaneous fear of the unknown (or perhaps his fear that the unknown will forever elude him).
The answer gets at the underlying motive behind Knowles’s seemingly incoherent claims. He has taken different issues, some of which have merit, and melded them together to create a straw man designed to bolster a particular point of view. He’s right that many skeptics, especially in organized skepticism, have taken on the ideology of secular humanism and have developed a fixation on promoting atheism and secular humanism as a social and political agenda. But these activist skeptics aren’t generally the “obsessive” debunkers he accuses of infiltrating ufology to antagonize the faithful. (You won’t find Michael Shermer or Sam Harris, for example, analyzing UFO cell phone footage for signs of CGI.)
However, his argument needs the various groups who dispute UFO claims to be part of a single movement to support a paranoid worldview evident throughout his blog post, one where “intelligence agencies,” the U.S. federal government, and the Jesuits are somehow all-powerful organizations that manipulate and control our perceptions of reality. He suggests that these powerful cartels have perhaps used ufological subcultures as disinformation agents, and then in his conclusion he reveals the underlying ideology behind his series of claims:
UFOs themselves are kind of boring. To my way of thinking they only take off when plugged into the overall matrix of esoteric thought, parapolitics, quantum consciousness and all the rest of it. But the present generation of UFOlogists- trained to view the phenomenon in a sci-fi mindset and often blindingly conventional in their attitudes- are keeping that alchemical mix from its boiling point because they turn so many people off from the topic with their endless dysfunctions.
It should be obvious that I disagree with all of this on many levels. In the comments on his blog post, Knowles expands his discussion to include ancient astronauts, so I guess that ropes my area into this as well. On the surface, I’d seem to meet his definition—when I was a teenager I believed in ancient astronauts, and I write a daily blog about weird things. But on the other hand, while I like and enjoy the weird for many reasons (mostly what Lovecraft called the momentary illusion of the suspension of the tyranny of natural law), I also recognize it as a tool. Knowles asked why debunkers or skeptics don’t devote themselves to discussions of digestive enzymes or other “science” topics. The fact of the matter is that the reading public is interested in the weird more than the obscure. I’m interested in mythology and how the stories people tell shape our view of reality, but few people would read about that. So I write about the weird, and I use it as a tool to create a platform for talking about my own interests under the cover of subjects the public wants to read more about.