Yesterday, the publicist for America’s Stonehenge demanded that I take down my review of an America Unearthed episode about the site because, among other things, I had mentioned that archaeologists have noted that many of the stones at the site have been moved into reconstructed positions, making it difficult to ascertain whether alleged alignments at the site were original or the product of restoration work (accidental or on purpose). Publicist Mark Eddy took issue with this and wrote that it was “inaccurate” to suggest that past owners of the site had moved the stones. As I mentioned yesterday, this was not my opinion but that of several archaeologists who visited the site over the past four decades.
This afternoon the publicist for America’s Stonehenge, the likely colonial era set of root cellars claimed to be a pre-Columbian site (often attributed to the Phoenicians), sent me an email demanding that I remove a January 2013 America Unearthed review referencing the site due to what the publicist determined were “inaccuracies” that “bordered on slander” some three years after the fact. I present his laundry list of complaints below, followed by my comments keyed the numbers in the complaint.
It’s deeply satisfying to learn that a conclusion that I reached through one line of evidence finds confirmation through a new and unexpected line of complementary evidence. That’s one reason I was quite pleased to read a cache of forty-year-old documents related to the 1961 Betty and Barney Hill abduction that Robert Sheaffer released last week. In them, we find some additional confirmation of one of the conclusions I reached in researching the abduction’s connection to The Outer Limits. The evidence isn’t exactly new, but it is a slightly different perspective on what we already knew about the case.
The other day I stumbled across a website called The Atlantis Maps while I was looking for, yes, public domain maps of Atlantis to use in creating some graphics for my website section on Atlantis. The website, by a guy named Doug Fisher, claims to offer a unique interpretation of the legend of Atlantis in light of ancient maps that the author believes will prove that plate tectonics is wrong. It’s a lot to take in, and I’m not sure I really understood most of the argument, which seems to be based on selective evidence and ignoring several primary sources and the larger context.
Last week I received an email from occultist Peter Levenda, who was upset that a decade ago I had included in my 2005 book The Cult of Alien Gods the then-recent news that writer, conspiracy theorist, and occultist Alan Cabal had revealed in the New York Press in 2003 that Levenda was in fact the author of the infamous Simon Necronomicon, a hoax claiming to be the authentic ancient text of the book that otherwise originated in the fiction of H. P. Lovecraft. (My copy of the article was dated 2004, but the currently available version reads 2003.) According to later accounts, Cabal and Levenda both worked at the same occult bookstore at the time of the Necronomicon’s release and traveled in the same social circles. Levenda denies the claim, but so far as I know never demanded a retraction or accused Cabal or the New York Press of libel. Indeed, the U.S. Copyright Office lists Levenda as Simon’s real name and as the holder of Simon’s copyright for the Necronomicon’s 2006 sequel. Levenda says this is merely a legal formality to protect the identity of the intensely private Simon.
When it comes to fringe history, there are rarely completely new and novel claims. Sometimes, though, I find myself surprised by how far they go back in time. In his current book Magicians of the Gods, Graham Hancock finally admits that the lost civilizations he seeks to prove existed is Plato’s Atlantis, and he identifies the sinking of that lost continent with the rising of sea levels at the end of the last Ice Age, resulting from what he alleges is a cometary impact. This claim is nearly identical to the arguments put forth more than a century early by Ignatius Donnelly in his books Atlantis: The Antediluvian World and Ragnarok. Both authors also share one other thing in common: They both identify this rising of the sea with the Flood of Noah, and this Flood with the one reported by Berosus in his account of Xisuthrus and the Babylonian Flood legend.
Editor’s note: There will be no blog post tomorrow. I’ll be taking the day off to celebrate Christmas.
It can be easy to look at crazy claims on the History Channel, laugh at them, and dismiss them outright as too stupid to be believed. But it’s important to remember that a lot of people accept what they see on TV as true. I learned yesterday that my brother’s barber is one of them. He’s an older Italian-American man who is curious about history and science but not particularly well versed in it. He asked my brother if he had seen History’s Hunting Hitler and proceeded to give a lengthy review of how the program, which alleges that Hitler escaped to South America after World War II, had changed his view of the war. “They showed so much I never knew happened,” he said. Rejecting gentle suggestions that the program may not actually be true, he insisted that the TV would never intentionally show programs that weren’t founded on facts.
In the darkest days of the year (in the northern hemisphere, at least), when sunlight is at a premium, it can be easy to despair at the sad state of the world. Consider, for example, the fact that Paul Seaburn at Mysterious Universe got duped by a very obvious hoax and reported that a Sumerian cuneiform tablet shaped exactly like a decade-old cellphone had been found in Austria. This hoax has been circulating since at least 2012 (originating, apparently, on a now-defunct Facebook page), but Seaburn breathlessly reports on it as though it were (a) legitimate and (b) something that just happened, giving only lip service to the possibility of a hoax at the very end of his Weekly World News-style report. That’s par for the course with fringe folk, who don’t care about facts or details as long as a claim supports their fantasy.
Micah Hanks weighed in on a new scientific study of horror movies, and as usual he had nothing to say but used that absence of insight to make money off of it anyway. Hanks used his characteristically tangled prose to baldly and badly rewrite a Guardian article about the supposed impact of horror movies on blood clotting, all while adding nothing to the original and actually making it more difficult to understand by somewhat misrepresenting the authors’ claims. Meanwhile, Mysterious Universe used the rewritten article to deliver paid advertising to its misinformed readers, thus making money off of rewriting the work of other people without original addition or insight.
We all know that fringe writers have no standards and are willing to say or do anything in the name of being “open minded” to “possibilities,” but it also seems that the companies that make money off of their fictions passing as fact are more than happy to aid and abet them in what can only be described as fraud. You will undoubtedly recall that a few weeks ago a writer over at Ancient Origins regurgitated a Romanian hoax about the supposedly suppressed being of neutrality, Il Separatio (Italian for “the Separation”), a fictitious demigod who allegedly helped God to separate the light from the darkness. Well, the writer, Valda Roric of Bucharest, is doubling down on the claim, and fabricating evidence to “prove” it.
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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