Today I have a few odds and ends about fringe history to share.
Due to a change in insurance coverage, I needed to find a new in-network primary care physician, which is obviously not something you’re much interested in. However, there was only one in-network physician taking new patients in my area, so yesterday I found myself in a new office. It was an experience. The waiting room was very small, and the doctor was running nearly two hours behind schedule. As a result, the place was fairly crowded, and not everyone was entertained by the small flat screen showing Judge Judy.
One of the women in the office found Judge Judy particularly upsetting, and she began to relate the case of the day to apocalyptic claims from the Bible, specifically Mark 13:12: “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.” The woman was very adamant that the End Times were upon us and that the signs were all around us.
That was par for the course, but what followed was disconcerting. The other people in the office began agreeing with her, and they and the office manager engaged in an animated discussion about how “the signs are all around us” and the world is obviously coming to an end because it has never been more troubled than it is today.
Leaving aside the fact that the world is far less troubled than it was in, say, the 1930s and 1940s, I have never been less comfortable than in the middle of discussion of how happy everyone was that the End Times were upon us. I live in a fairly liberal, secular city in the Northeast, and I’ve never experienced anything like it. From an anthropological perspective, I’m not sure that they entirely believed in the imminent termination of all life, and I think that they were using the apocalyptic tradition as a way to express disapproval of social conditions in a framework that applied the authority of God, but it was nonetheless shocking and uncomfortable to experience the apocalyptic beliefs I usually encounter mediated through the media “in the wild.”
New Age Entrepreneur’s New Ancient Astronaut Business
On May 6, the Nature of Reality radio program interviewed Jason Martell and what the host described as “his colleague Amish Shah” about the ancient city of Dwarka, famous for having been destroyed by a powerful weapon in the Mahabharata at 8.34:
The triple city then appeared immediately before that god of unbearable energy [Maheswara, or Siva], that Deity of fierce and indescribable form, that warrior who was desirous of slaying the Asuras. The illustrious deity, that Lord of the universe, then drawing that celestial bow, sped that shaft which represented the might of the whole universe, at the triple city. Upon that foremost of shafts, O thou of great good fortune, being shot, loud wails of woe were heard from those cities as they began to fall down towards the Earth. Burning those Asuras, he threw them down into the Western ocean. (trans. Ganguli)
This passage, despite quite obviously referring to a mythological super-arrow, has been interpreted as a nuclear bomb since a Soviet writer first proposed it as part of a communist anti-religion propaganda effort in the 1950s. Martell believes that Dwarka is located off the west coast of India and that his research partner has visited it. There is currently a city of that name, and there are ruins off the coast, though they are well known and mostly date to medieval times.
This isn’t really important, but what is important is what Martell is now up to. You’ll recall that he just recently launched Ancient School, a for-profit venture in which he charges fees for access to brief online videos of Martell and others talking about ancient astronauts. Now he has a new business called Ancient Explorers, which he launched in partnership with Amish Shah. Ancient Explorers is apparently intended to produce for-profit documentaries on fringe history themes.
More interesting is Amish Shah, who like Martell describes himself as an internet entrepreneur. Both men own and operate several online companies, and both have become millionaires as a result. Both have also used their millions to promote fringe history.
Apparently this is the same Amish P. Shah who became famous in 2011 when Microsoft sued him for cybersquatting. According to Microsoft Corporation v. Amish P. Shah, Jose A. Rivera, Digispace Solutions LLC, YMultimedia LLC, and DOES 1-50, Shah led a group of people to register domains containing Microsoft trademarks with slight misspellings in order to attract traffic meant for Microsoft’s own sites. Shah settled the case out of court after a judge ruled that it could go forward.
However, Shah also calls himself a “metaphysical explorer” who says he can create “reality-bending superheroes” by teaching entrepreneurs “ancient wisdom and space-age tools for activating your dormant creation powers.” Remember that: He claims he can teach you to alter the laws of physics for cash.
Montezuma’s Treasure in Utah
In 1914, a man named Freddy Crystal claimed that he had a map showing that the Aztecs buried the treasure of Montezuma in southern Utah after the Spanish Conquest in 1519. Although nothing has ever been found, the rumors of the treasure persist—along with rumors of a government conspiracy because the land where the gold is supposedly buried is also home to the amber snail, a species so endangered that the federal government imposes a $50,000 fine for killing one. The current owner of the land is upset that he is not allowed to drain Three Lakes pond in order to search it for gold because of these snails.
Earlier this year, filmmakers for Christian producers Jubal Productions trekked out to Three Lakes pond to document the history of the search for Montezuma’s treasure in Utah. They planned to use a submarine to look for the gold. One of the producers believes that there might be a supernatural explanation for alleged phenomena seen at the lake. His belief seems to be a reflex of a very old colonial American bit of folklore that attributed ghostly doings to Native Americans burial sites. The producer says that he read “several” books of Montezuma in order to determine the likelihood that the Aztecs high-tailed it to Utah.
More typically, claims for Montezuma’s treasure have been localized in Arizona, often at the Casa Grande site.
This isn’t terribly interesting on its own, but young adult science fiction writer and self-help guru Lois D. Brown revealed that she and Scott Wolter trekked through the same areas of southern Utah on April 30 in search of Montezuma’s treasure for an episode of America Unearthed to air next spring. This was about two months after KSL-TV reported on Jubal Productions’ efforts to do the same. It’s rather surprising to have two productions looking for the same treasure in the same unusual location within just weeks of one another.
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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