Regular readers will remember that I had become interested in the strange case of the French author Louis Martin, who wrote the book Les Évangiles sans Dieu (“The Gospels without God”), in which he claimed that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene had a child together. This claim is almost boringly familiar today, but Martin was apparently the first to make it when he published his book in 1887. The only trouble is that there are very few copies of the book in circulation. The publisher printed a few hundred copies, of which far fewer survive, fewer still accessible to the public. Most are in Europe. I believe there is one in a library in North America, at Cornell University. That’s why I am extremely thankful to David Bradbury, a regular reader of this blog, who was able to review a copy of the book and provided me with the French text of the relevant pages where Martin makes his most outrageous claim.
Robert Schoch Raising $600,000 for Fringe Research, Wants to Turn His Life Story into "Blockbuster" Movie
Did you know that fringe geologist Robert Schoch, famous for claiming the Sphinx dates back to the Stone Age, has a nonprofit foundation to collect money to fund research into a lost civilization? I didn’t until a link showed up in my Facebook feed this week. It turns out that this was all part of the plan.
"Expedition Unknown" Host Josh Gates Tells "USA Today" That Yonaguni Is "Convincing" Candidate for Atlantis
USA Today has a deserved reputation as “McPaper,” but as the country’s most-read and most widely circulated daily, it has outsize influence relative to the depth and quality of its reporting. The paper’s print edition reaches more than three million Americans, and its website many millions more. That’s one reason that I was disappointed to see USA Today offer a low-quality clickbait article on “10 mythical sites that just might exist.” The article was written Larry Bleiberg from a list provided by Expedition Unknown host Josh Gates. The list is, in reality, little more than a promotional summary of recent episodes of Gates’s show, but it shows that Gates is either less interested in the “truth” than he claims, or is happy to promote fanciful claims to draw viewers from among true believers in fringe claims.
Friday Roundup: Dodge Promotes Fringe History, Noah's Fossils in Texas Front Yard, and More WV Giants!
It’s been an interesting, if disappointing, week in the world of fringe history. Robert Sheaffer of the Bad UFOs blog finished his review of the 25th annual International UFO Congress yesterday, and he described Jacques Vallée’s talk about premodern UFO sightings. It turns out that it’s exactly what you’d expect: A giant commercial asking UFO believers to give him money to pay him to correct all the mistakes I caught him making in 2009’s Wonders in the Sky. But that wasn’t the only cash grab in the fringe history world…
Did the Smithsonian Try to Cover Up Giant Skeletons in West Virginia? You'll Never Guess What the Facts Say
Today I want to point to an article running at Ancient Origins in which gigantologists Jason Jarrell and Sarah Farmer try to make the case that the Smithsonian engineered a cover-up of giants uncovered in a West Virginia mound. According to their research, Ernest Sutton of Salem College uncovered the skeletons of as many as four giants between 7.5 and 9 feet in height in mounds located on the property of Benjamin Zahn in Morgansville, West Virginia, in 1929. These “giants” were reported in local newspapers in 1930. The authors then tried to prove that the newspaper accounts were true by examining Sutton’s field report, filed 29 years later in 1958.
Potter & Potter to Auction Newly Discovered Manuscript on Debunking Superstition Allegedly by H. P. Lovecraft
The New Yorker has an interesting meditation on what it means to live in a post-fact world, including a thoughtful discussion of the breakdown of Enlightenment epistemology in favor a medieval worldview of divine judgment and might making right. How, Jill Lepore asks, can we have rational discussions, political or otherwise, if we can’t agree on how to establish whether something is true?
Beware the Ides of March! Earlier today Shirley MacLaine appeared on the Today show and talked about her past life in Atlantis, and I have to say that the whole thing was an embarrassment. Matt Lauer took MacLaine’s claims about a past life on the imaginary lost continent at face value, and with a straight face asked her to describe life in Atlantis. No wonder so many people hate the media. If the media are happy to conspire with an actress to pretend Atlantis really existed, is it any wonder that they have such a hard time seeing beyond the horserace and the spin in presidential politics? I know MacLaine comes across as a batty but nice old lady, but even a puff piece surely ought to have minimal standards like asking for some kind of evidence or reason to believe any of these goofball ideas are true.
Yesterday I wrote about a Victorian vicar who believed that the Nephilim built the Egyptian pyramids. This inspired me to take a look at other spiritual leaders who made archaeological claims about the Nephilim and their works. In so doing, I came across some bizarre claims by Elizabeth Clare Prophet, the New Age guru who combined Theosophy, New Age mysticism, and Christianity in her Church Universal and Triumphant. Prophet claimed that at age 22 Theosophy’s Ascended Master came to her in a vision and proclaimed her a messenger of God. Fortunately for her, this vocation came with hefty remuneration and decades of media appearances. Prophet died in 2009, a decade after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
The Nephilim are an endless source of fascination for fringe history types, but they tend not to be big players in crackpot claims until the end of the twentieth century, when Creationists started to get in on the ancient astronaut craze and proposed Nephilim as an evangelical counterweight to more secular aliens, something like the way evangelical Christians proposed that flying saucers were really demons in shiny chariots. That’s why I was fascinated to find a nineteenth century text that ascribed many of the wonders of ancient history to—you guessed it—the Nephilim!
At the end of January, our friend Graham Hancock appeared on the Bulletproof radio podcast, but I wasn’t aware of this until an excerpt from it was posted to Audio Burst this week and ended up getting shared on Facebook. At this point, I think it’s safe to say that there are too many podcasts and radio shows to keep up with. Bulletproof seems to be a bit of an odd duck, in that its primary business is selling diet guides, coffee, and health supplements but it augments this business with a New Age lifestyle brand. Its podcast has played host to medical quacks, diet gurus, and media personalities like NatGeo Brain Games host Jason Silva. Into this stew of holistic health claims and pseudoscientific mysticism, Graham Hancock arrived to discuss ancient mysteries. This is important mostly for revealing that Hancock has not quite outgrown the more ridiculous end of the pseudoscience he once promoted in Fingerprints of the Gods and intentionally downplayed in Magicians of the Gods.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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