In light of continued claims that the remains of “giants” could not be those of Ice Age mammals because scientific men would not mistake one for the other, I thought I would share this passage I discovered in the September 1869 edition of the Canadian Naturalist summarizing a presentation that the famous paleontologist O. C. Marsh gave to the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s eighteenth meeting in Salem, Mass. that August. The presentation focused on bones found in Nebraska:
While engaged in sinking a well at that place, in June, 1868, a layer of bones was found by the workmen at a depth of sixty-eight feet below the surface, which were at first pronounced to be human, but during a trip to the Rocky Mountains, Professor Marsh examined the locality and bones, and found that the latter were remains of tertiary animals, some of which were of great interest.
In other words, locals (presumably of some official capacity, to judge by the use of “pronounced”) mistook Ice Age animals for human remains until a specialist in animal bones set them straight. We can add this to the similar account from 1827 on the long list of mistaken fossil identifications.
Just in case you care, the AAAS didn’t think the presentation worth publishing in their Proceedings, mentioning it only in title, “On a Remarkable Locality of Vertebrate Remains in the Tertiary of Nebraska.” It is only by dint of the Boston Daily Advertiser reporting Marsh’s words (and the Canadian Naturalist reprinting that account) that anything of this important testimony survives.
You’d think that such things would be old news, but to many in the giant- and Nephilim-hunting community, it is still shocking to discover that some people can’t tell the difference between animal and human bones.
There must come a point when an event has receded far enough into the past that it’s no longer news. Right? The Conspira-Sea cruise took place seven months ago, so it was a bit of surprise to see Popular Mechanics running a lengthy account of the January conspiracy theory gathering now, in their September issue. Given the number of outlets that have devoted space to this cruise, from Popular Mechanics to the Refinery 29 “lifestyle” site, you’d think it was the biggest thing to have happened in the history of conspiracy theories. It wasn’t even in the top echelon just of conspiracy theory conventions this year. The authors who think this was something special might do well to check out the MUFON conference, the Paradigm Symposium, and even the appropriately named upcoming History Channel Alien Con.
I was struck by author Bronwen Dickey’s description of conspiracy theory cruisers:
The conspiracy group […] was mostly serious-looking senior citizens in "Infowars" T-shirts. Some of them wore casts, others walked with canes. Two relied on motorized scooters. None looked like he or she could afford to spend money frivolously. One eighty-year-old man's toes poked through the tops of his worn leather loafers.
Cruises and conspiracy conferences both attract disproportionate numbers of senior citizens, so this isn’t much of a surprise, though the description seems rather unkind.
I think the saddest detail in the whole story has to be this one: “At breakfast one morning, a woman whose father had survived the Holocaust told me that she broke down in tears when another cruiser claimed it never happened.” Of course there were Nazi apologists on the cruise.
I was also interested in the account Dickey gave of how Missy and Ron Hill, a married pair of truck drivers from Florida, claim to have become interested in UFOs and ancient mysteries: They said that they were churchgoing people when they met, and then they started listening to Coast to Coast AM while on overnight trucking runs. “After that, we were kind of hooked, I guess,” Ron Hill said. The couple now travel the world to visit prehistoric power centers in search of alien “star gates.”
While anecdotal, and possibly incomplete, this story illustrates the problems with paranormal media. In the old days, producers of syndicated mystery-mongering shows felt compelled to at least offer a sop to reality, if only because they had to sell their show separately to hundreds skeptical stations across the country, rather than a single cable network. In Search of… for example used to open with a disclaimer: “This series presents information based in part on theory and conjecture. The producers’ purpose is to suggest some possible explanations, but not necessarily the only ones, to the mysteries we will examine.” Contrast that to Coast to Coast or Ancient Aliens, where the only remnant of this is a tendency toward rhetorical questions (“Could it be…?”), more to protect the producers from being proved wrong than to protect the audience from their paranoid lies.
But how could they do otherwise? The people who produce these lies are often divorced from reality or cynical opportunists, and the media professionals who empower them are either true believers, too (like Committee Films’ Maria and Andy Awes) or cynical opportunists themselves. It did not surprise me at all Dickey described two fringe types literally chasing her down the hall screaming threats and offering to fight anyone who got in the way, or that another fringe figure planned to ambush Dickey in order to engage in public humiliation of her.
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.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.