I wonder how much of the time I spent watching Unexplored + Unexplained is just a complete waste since absolutely no one is watching it. According to the Nielsen ratings, just 348,000 people watched the Science Channel’s broadcast of the show’s search for the Ark of the Covenant on Sunday. Meanwhile, America Unearthed host Scott F. Wolter, whose show airs on Science’s corporate cousin the Travel Channel, appeared on the Earth Ancients podcast to promote his new book, Cryptic Code of the Templar in America. (My review: Part 1, Part 2). Honestly, it was more of the same. All his greatest hits were there—Templars, Holy Bloodline Da Vinci Code conspiracies (cited by name as Da Vinci Code ideas), the Kensington Rune Stone, and the Newport Tower. We’ve talked about all of them before, and there is nothing new to say there. Most of the interview was devoted to the imaginary “mysteries” of the Newport Tower, and the “pagan rituals” he pretends were performed there. Instead, I’d like to talk about some of the less repetitive parts of the interview.
First, the big news: Wolter claims to be a member of the Royal Family of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. He modestly says it is “not that big of a deal” because “millions” of people share the same heritage, but he also says that he has ties to the royalty of Scotland and to the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten—a claim that can only exist if you accept the bonkers idea promulgated among fringe types that Akhenaten was the founder of Jewish monotheism and/or was actually Moses. Finally, though, we have proof of what I have long suspected, that extremist views of history are highly personal.
In the interview, Wolter summarizes his book and reiterates his belief that the hoaxed Cremona Document and Sinclair Journals (which I discussed in my linked book review) are in fact genuine medieval texts. However, much more interesting was Wolter’s admission during the interview that even the Travel Channel found his speculative history and acceptance of questionable documents to be too extreme even for cable TV. According to Wolter, his production company, Committee Films, reined him in: “They wanted to stick to the stuff that the network really wanted us to get into with the idea that if things went well, then we can get into some of these things,” he said. In short, the network wanted a more mainstream aliens and conspiracies show rather than an extremist Templar-Bloodline superfan power hour. Basically, my intuition after watching the boring fourth season of America Unearthed on its new network turned out to be right: the network interfered to make the show more mainstream and less balls-out bonkers. Apparently, when you are on the Discovery Networks, there are some limits to how crazy you can get, whereas the History channel, whose various channel aired Wolter’s previous efforts, finds no claim to esoteric or ridiculous to air.
Anyway, in the current interview, Wolter openly asserts that the “fugitive” Knights Templar openly called their American colony the “Free Templar State.” OK, prove it. I challenge him to find a single genuine medieval document making any reference to this fake name, particularly a medieval world where territories were not defined by the nation-state. Our word “state” for a political organization is medieval, from what the Online Etymological Dictionary says are “Latin phrases such as status rei publicæ” (the status of the Republic). While “state” could be used to refer to a territory from about 1300 onward, it wasn’t used as an official name of a political organization at that time.
Wolter asserts that the Knights Templar were in charge of the Holy Land during the Crusades and “intentionally” gave up control of the Crusader kingdoms to the Muslims after stripping Jerusalem of “science, technology,” and ancient artifacts and texts. This is an astonishing claim, an a horrific one if you are arguing that the Templars are paragons of freedom and peaceful goddess worship. They sacrificed thousands of lives, created untold suffering, and imposed European rule over a foreign people for generations and did it because they couldn’t figure out how to visit Jerusalem quietly. Wolter says that he is “100%” certain that the Knights Templar (apparently in their tens of thousands) were members of Jesus’ extended family, the royal lineage of the Jews.
At one point, Wolter declares that modern historiography is “more like faith than science” upheld by “institutions” that are obsessed with a “paradigm.” He also takes a swipe at (presumably) me and others for suggesting that Native American oral traditions are not fully faithful reproductions of history. He said that listeners should “slap” anyone who suggests that oral traditions are revised and change over time. “It’s an insult,” Wolter says, because it questions the sacred. But if you compare colonial and early ethnologists’ records of oral traditions with the versions told today, you can see how they change and adapt over time to reflect current events. Just for example, versions of myths about monsters told before and after the discovery of dinosaurs can be radically different, as Adrienne Mayor has shown. That’s not to say oral traditions don’t contain elements of historical truth, but that they can’t be used without confirmation and context due to the nature of oral reports.
The bottom line seems to be that Wolter’s historiography is growing into a family origin story for himself and a personal mythology to justify his (Masonic) spirituality. That might explain why he pursues it with the zealotry of the faithful, to the point that even his own network is trying to tone it down.
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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