Charles Berlitz's "Mysteries of Forgotten Worlds": An Uncanny Echo of Graham Hancock Decades Earlier
It’s been a very long time since I opened one of Charles Berlitz’s books. His musty old paperbacks were neither the most famous nor the most extreme of the imitators of Chariots of the Gods to hit bookstores in the 1970s, and his fantasies about the Bermuda Triangle and Atlantis have long overshadowed some of his less important books. But yesterday I had to open his Mysteries from Forgotten Worlds in order to check references that David Childress had made to it, and I was rather surprised to see that Berlitz’s book is a fairly straightforward precursor to Graham Hancock’s Fingerprints of the Gods and Magicians of the Gods.
The Radioactive Skeleton of Mohenjo Daro: How Soviet Propaganda Spiraled into a Extreme Fringe History Claim
Today I wanted to share with you the fascinating work of Philippe Hernandez, who has posted an interesting exploration of the origins of the myth that Mohenjo Daro contains the remains of a nuclear massacre of that civilization’s people. As Hernandez discovered, the original source was Russian, and later authors’ lack of facility with the language allowed a modern myth to prosper.
After a great deal of hard work, I am not only a few pages away from finishing my book on the history of the Mound Builder myth, but in doing so, I ran into a couple of small issues that I haven’t been able to resolve, for all my efforts at research. I am going to present them here, and perhaps one of you reading this will have an answer.
I should probably spend a few minutes marking the passing of Brad Steiger, a longtime writer of fringe books, but to be entirely honest, it’s hard for me to say kind words about the written work of a man who steadfastly refused to learn from his mistakes for half a century. Between the 1960s and today, Steiger continued to repeat the same false claims borrowed from other writers, failed to check sources, and generally never let facts get in the way of a sensational story. That might have made him a great storyteller, but it made him a lousy researcher.
Some of you might have seen that Graham Hancock posted on his social media accounts yesterday that he is currently writing his new book on prehistoric America and is deep into creating alternative explanations for the alignments of the Newark Earthworks in Ohio. This amused me because I am also writing about the Newark Earthworks for my own book this week, though in a very different way. Hancock is analyzing the mounds themselves for secret alignments and their connections to astrology and Atlantis, while I have been investigating the people who invented these claims, many of whom never actually studied the mounds in person or conducted any scientific surveys. Hancock is particularly interested in the Great Serpent Mound, which has quite the colorful history of attracting misinformed views, including the bizarre claim that it is a duplicate of a mound at Loch Nell in Scotland, which is actually a glacial deposit and not a serpent-shaped mound. That claim had a good run of 140 years, and none of the early advocates of the claim, including famed archaeologist Frederick Ward Putnam, had actually visited both sites.
I read a fascinating article at Ars Technica this week, originally published on The Conversation, about Flat Earthers and why people embrace obviously inaccurate scientific claims. Harry T. Dyer, a sociologist at the University of East Anglia, argues that the core issue at stake isn’t the shape of the Earth but rather who controls knowledge. Advocates for the Flat Earth theory are standing against what they perceive to be the tyrannical control of science and government over the creation and distribution of knowledge. He relates this to the work of the postmodernist philosopher Michel Focault, who argued that knowledge is created and controlled to legitimize those in power. For Dyer, Flat Earthers are expressing their rejection of the legitimacy of elite scientists and academics as holders of social prestige and power.
You’ve probably noticed that over the last few weeks my blog posts have been a bit shorter and less detailed than usual. That’s because I’m busy trying to finish my book on the myth of the Mound Builders. Over the past four or five weeks, I’ve added about 40,000 words to the book, and I have about a chapter and a quarter left to write. I always come to a point near the end of a book where my energy and enthusiasm start to wane, and it becomes a little difficult to make the final push to complete it. Part of the reason for that is that the sense of adventure has vanished this late in a book. Early on, I am still discovering new things and unexpected connections, but by the last few chapters, the narrative has boxed me in and becomes mostly busywork pulling together the threads I’ve spun throughout.
On Twitter, Graham Hancock linked to a glowing review of his 2015 book Magicians of the Gods and endorses its author’s praise of him. Normally, I wouldn’t talk about someone else’s book review, but this one as a strange read that has a few points that are worth looking into since the author claims to be a major public figure who will change the world just like Graham Hancock is changing history. It seems to be fair to evaluate his views.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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