Yesterday I discussed Xaviant Hazes’s podcast appearance in which the DJ, Trump supporter, and bush-league conspiracy theorist described a project he says he is working on for the History Channel. He claimed that he is hunting for a cave containing the monstrous remains of giants, a cave first discovered by a German missionary named Bernard Middendorf, whom standard accounts say came to New Spain in 1756 and began a mission to convert the Natives. I had never heard of him having found a cave of giants, so this took a little digging to learn more about. The story is strange, and apparently obscure.
The only major modern source to discuss the tale is Mormon in origin. The 2001 book Hidden Treasures of Ancient America was written by John Heinerman, who approvingly cites Mormon fantasies about ancient history in his discussion of the prehistory of the continent. In the early pages of the book, Heinerman claims that a man named Hector Rosales provided him with information about, and a translation of, a manuscript in the Jesuit Archives in Mexico City called the Relation de las Indias de Visita de San Javier del Bac written by Middendorf to describe his time living in the area around what is now Tucson.
According to Rosales’s translation, the story runs something like this: One day, Middendorf encountered a Native who had been converted to Catholicism. He informed Middendorf that there was a cave containing “monstrous bodies of human form, and much riches.” They went off together into the Arizona desert and came to a cleft in some cliffs, which gave entrance to a cave sealed with a door of rock that they were able to slide open because it was carefully hinged on a juniper pole that passed through a perfectly bored hole in the rock. Inside, the cave was filled with niches, each of which held a large stone casket with an ornately carved lid. Each casket was sealed with resin. One had been broken open, and within was a man of “monstrous size” wearing silk clothes. Around his neck, he wore an amulet of marble in the shape of a unicorn—a lifelike depiction of a horse with a single spiral horn. Despite the fact that the unicorn was a longstanding symbol for Christ, Middendorf destroyed the amulet as the “devil’s work.” He also found in the cave a cache of weapons and an unspecified treasure. Condemning the whole thing as the sepulcher of the wicked, he ordered it sealed, and no one ever found it again.
Later, Heinerman speculates that a tall tale from the 1890s, about a prospector named Pauly finding a cave in the same area with seven giant skeletons and some copper weapons, might have been the same cave as the one Middendorf found. “Was Pauly’s tomb discovery similar to, or, in fact, one-and-the-same made by Father Middendorf of Tucson with his Indian guide some 125 years earlier?”
In his interview, Haze stated that Pauly did in fact revisit the same tomb, and thus “proved” Middendorf’s account correct. The coincidence of accounts between Haze and Heinerman proves as much as one can prove such things that Heinerman is the source for Haze’s claims, and his History Channel “investigation” is yet another secondhand exercise in futility.
As best I can tell, no one else has published any other information on Middendorf’s manuscript, and I have been unable to find evidence that this manuscript has ever been published. The mission referred to in the text’s title is real, spelled today San Xavier del Bac, and Middendorf was briefly in charge of the mission there in 1757. It’s also true that in that year Middendorf explored parts of what is now Arizona. It is further true that the works he wrote in the late 1750s were sent to the Spanish Viceroy in Mexico City in 1760. But it is also true that Middendorf was suspected of being an alcoholic, and he was imprisoned following the expulsion of the Jesuits from America in 1767 until the Empress Maria Theresa intervened with her Spanish counterpart to secure his release. His maps are considered historically important, but I have not seen any evaluation of his other accounts, except for brief references to his scientific narratives in books like Early History of the Southwest through the Eyes of German-Speaking Jesuit Missionaries, none of which even allude to a cave of giants. Hubert Howe Bancroft, who reviewed all of the extant documentation he could find on the Jesuit presence in Arizona known to him in the 1800s, reported nothing about caves of giants, though he does allude to legends of giants circulating among the Spanish in the 1600s.
Heinerman’s limited information provides too little to judge the veracity of the account. The fact that what was published is a summary of an English translation of an alleged account from Mexico that may or may not have been written contemporary with events does not inspire confidence. Similarly, the name “Hector Rosales” is so common that no profitable information can be gleaned from it, either. Unfortunately, the Jesuit Archive of the Province of Mexico is not indexed, and according to library and archival records, there are hundreds of boxes of archives with no index or catalog, nor are the materials online. To confirm the story, one must travel to Mexico City and make an appointment with the Archives, and then sift through 300 boxes of material!
It’s rather frustrating to know whether to trust report that Heinerman provides. Parts of it seem to parallel other colonial-era fantasies, like the near-contemporary “Manuscript 512,” but parts of it seem much closer to more modern fantasies, like the Moberly Hoax of 1885 or the Grand Canyon Hoax of 1909.
3/7/2017 12:13:31 pm
You'd think the references to silk and unicorns would be enough for even the most credulous researcher to check a little further.
3/7/2017 12:44:54 pm
I am sure that silk exists, but I am uncertain about unicorns, of course all the dragons probably ate them.
3/7/2017 12:57:53 pm
I think we should ask Pauly Shore to corroborate his part of the story.
3/7/2017 01:14:51 pm
"They went off together into the Arizona desert and came to a cleft in some cliffs, which gave entrance to a cave sealed with a door of rock that they were able to slide open because it was carefully hinged on a juniper pole that passed through a perfectly bored hole in the rock"
3/7/2017 01:37:59 pm
I want to know how all these giants got buried in caves whose entrances were too small to allow them access dead or alive.
3/7/2017 01:44:14 pm
Perhaps they entered the caves as children, and grew big and strong eating unicorns inside.
3/7/2017 02:38:46 pm
Unicorns are frail and smaller than a normal horse, and hardly enough protein to raise giant young. It's simple biology, but they are stopping any real research into it. Unicorn horn is, however great for drilling stone holes.
3/7/2017 03:57:14 pm
Do the stones have to be uncarved virgins?
3/7/2017 05:15:41 pm
Not at all. I know a code stone that took three drills at the same time.
3/7/2017 05:08:32 pm
There is a little nuance of Portuguese that perhaps escaped you in your translation of Manuscript 512. Near the end of the manuscript:
3/7/2017 08:36:10 pm
Thanks for pointing out the error. I'll correct the translation.
3/7/2017 05:22:54 pm
As Scott Hamilton tried to point out, supra, the elephant in the room is WHERE DID THE SILK COME FROM?
3/7/2017 07:53:08 pm
I will be scrupulously correct and note that Heinerman technically did not call it silk. It was a "fabric" that had "a silky feel to it." Without the original Spanish, we can only speculate on what was meant.
3/8/2017 09:00:10 pm
...not much of an elephant anyway. By 1756, the Spanish had been close enough for trade and exploration with/in Arizona for like two hundred years. Even if the grave was "old," well, so is George Washington's grave. The Spanish had silk for about 500 years before colonization of the Americas began--and full-on sericulture was introduced to the British colonies in 1619, about 140 years before the finding of this "grave."
3/7/2017 09:59:42 pm
I would have thought that the obvious source of the silk was he unicorns. They winged it in from the far reaches of the land.
3/7/2017 10:10:27 pm
Thats absolutly insane. Pegasuses(pegasii?) Have wings not unicorns.
3/8/2017 12:27:37 am
Clearly, the garments were woven from unicorn wool.
3/7/2017 06:05:51 pm
3/7/2017 06:17:16 pm
That makes no sense at all. Everyone knows chines dragons don't write in runes.
3/7/2017 06:28:13 pm
In this comment section: pure gold. Thanks, guys. I had a really good laugh for today.
3/7/2017 07:17:32 pm
Honestly, when I read "monstrous bodies of human form" I don't really jump to giants. I picture something more, well, monstrous. Deformities of extreme proportions, conjoined twinning effects, the usual Ripley's canon of weird and uncommon physiology.
Just some guy, you know?
3/8/2017 03:08:08 am
An alternate sense of "monstrous" is "extremely and dauntingly large." Still, I think it's a stretch that such an alternate meaning was meant in the original Spanish - it depends on which word was first used.
3/9/2017 12:26:31 pm
3/7/2017 11:27:35 pm
From what you are saying it sounds like someone took an old manuscript tale and then 'amped it up' to sell to Heinerman. Good luck in running this one down to earth.
3/8/2017 04:07:03 pm
300 boxes of materials on the early history of California, Arizona, and New Mexico, all unindexed...fascinating.
4/7/2018 04:56:24 pm
After arriving in the "New Spain" Hernando Cortes was shown the remains of a giant of which Cortes, removed the bone that connected the knee to the hip - it was said to be the size of an average man - so if the bone of one third of the body is 5' - which is a small man rather than average but still, Cortes was looking at the remains of a being possibly 15' - 18' high. Let's say it was important enough that he sent it, along with gold, silver, and other items that the explorer discovered upon arriving in what is now Mexico City, on the first return ship to Spain to the King.
11/28/2019 10:58:02 am
All nay sayers prepare to eat your words. The "cave" more accurately "tomb" does exist within the Superstition mountain range and is most likely the basis for the myth of Cibola. The Apache protected it thru the early 1900's until they were removed. They called it "Chicomostoc." This is a tomb where the gods live, not a city made of gold. Simply a gold laden tomb. They are giants because the bodies are about 6'5"-6'8". Think about it. If you were that size back then-you were both a giant and a god. This tomb was discovered about 5 years ago but the USFS has refused to allow excavation and threatened to imprison anyone who divulges it's location. It is and has been in in court, sealed like a ***** and may never be made public. Gotta love our government. I know, I've been in it. FYI: it's not all that impressive except for the legends that grew around it.
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