Let me start with something fun: The ad agency behind OnStar wants me to put them in touch with Giorgio Tsoukalos so he can star in their new ad campaign. Let's all point out right now that OnStar would be ill served by tying their brand, supposedly known for reliability and accurate, helpful information, to Giorgio Tsoukalos, who is clearly not a reliable source of accurate information. I promise to make merciless fun of any such ad and to do my best to point out the idiocy of OnStar tying itself to Ancient Aliens.
Today, I’m going to share a few facts about America Unearthed and its predecessor, Holy Grail in America, that help explain some of the deception we see on the show. First, the easy piece: On the Hooked X website (as of this writing), Scott Wolter claims that “Committee Films won the 2009 National Association of Television Production Executives (NATPE) Best New Documentary Film for Holy Grail in America in January of 2009.”
As R. Lewis discovered and reported in a comment on my blog, NATPE does not offer any such award and denied ever honoring the film in an email. Lewis contacted producer Maria Awes, who confirmed that Wolter’s statement is incorrect. The actual award was the Best Emerging Producer-Non Fiction, given to Andy Awes, by Cable U, a cable research firm, which was presented at the NATPE conference but was not endorsed by it. The criterion for winning was a good pitch.
Wolter’s version is a subtle tweaking of facts—possibly even an honest mistake—but one that inflates the importance and impact the film in which he starred as the “key expert.”
Our next piece of deception is more serious. Yesterday Finders Keepers owner Dennis “Den” Parada contacted me both in comments postings on this blog as well as privately by email to accuse me of misrepresenting him. Parada threatened to “expose the real you” on “every site you post at” because I had expressed doubt that the ghosts of the Knights Templar and Henry Sinclair were interfering with the workings of his battery-powered dowsing rod. (Sometimes I can’t believe the things I have to write.)
Parada told me I was wrong in my assessment of his group and that they actually found gold at New Ross but were “forbidden” from reporting it on air (by whom?) for security reasons and therefore allowed the show to depict them as completely incompetent. Parada chided me for not doing my homework because I did not know (and the show never said) that they had drilling permits and owned the “mineral rights” to the land. He also complained that I failed to ask whether additional metal detection methods not seen on the show were used, and he implied I did so to make him look bad. I reminded him that I can’t possibly know what the show doesn’t say, and if he has a problem with being depicted as a man who is afraid that ghosts interfere with his dowsing rod in its ability to help him loot and destroy archaeological sites with a giant drill, that’s on the producers of America Unearthed, not the (re)viewer.
When I challenged him on the Nova Scotia law about artifact recovery, the 2010 Special Places Protection Act, which forbids treasure hunting for manufactured artifacts, he backed down and conceded his team has only a mineral rights permit and could only drill for (natural) metal, so the entire hunt for the Holy Grail was an act put on for the camera since by law they could not excavate for artifacts, and should any be found were required to report them to the government for scientific excavation and study. This is exactly like the “Giants in Minnesota” episode where Wolter failed to disclose that Minnesota law forbids excavation of human remains and therefore misdirects attention away from anything that might be “proof’ of his claims.
According to Parada, the three holes drilled for the show were shams done just for TV and had no relevance to the search for gold. The producers were also responsible for bringing in the large drill, not standard equipment for archaeological investigation. This also explains why the “Sinclair” castle remained unexcavated and appeared only in an archival photo from Joan Hope, which actually depicted the foundation of a seventeenth century mansion.
Parada claims his team found two gold nuggets, which I guess is possible since Nova Scotia is known to have had large gold deposits historically. The island was the center of a nineteenth century gold rush, and I would venture that Joan Hope’s claim that the First Nations peoples of the area believed that the seventeenth century mansion and “castle” were “covered” in gold descends from the gold mining and/or natural gold deposits in the area.
Parada said he and his team will be digging at New Ross next month and promises to “prove me wrong” by uncovering gold. But natural gold deposits are not Templar treasure, and there is a big leap between naturally-occurring gold nuggets and the Holy Grail.
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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