Regular readers will remember Scott Alan Roberts as the organizer of the Paradigm Symposium, that gathering of ancient astronaut and fringe history types, and also as a fringe history writer in his own right, one who has unique ideas about the Nephilim, Reptilians, and racial purity. Roberts is also the publisher of Intrepid magazine, the “official publication” of the KGRA Digital Radio Network and one of a series of fringe history magazines like Atlantis Rising and Ancient American. I’ve obtained a copy of the current issue of Intrepid (2.3, May-June 2014), and it has some, shall we say, interesting material. Today will be the first of a few posts analyzing the magazine to evaluate the very latest in fringe research.
The first thing that caught my attention was Nick Redfern’s piece on the UFO-Bigfoot connection, which has apparently exploded across the fringe history stratosphere over the past few months for whatever reason. Actually, there is a reason: Stan Gordon, whose 2010 Silent Invasion: The Pennsylvania UFO-Bigfoot Casebook Redfern decided to review after four years. He recognizes that the subject matter is a bit wonky: “Now, I know for sure that any book suggesting Bigfoot may somehow be inextricably linked with the UFO phenomenon is bound to raise distinct hackles in certain quarters, but, such reports undeniably exist, so examine them we must…”
I’m not a particular fan of Redfern and am not familiar with most of his work, but does he always write in convoluted sentences full of redundancy, repetition, and unwarranted complexity? Take a gander at this one:
The fact of the matter is that there is surely not a Bigfoot researcher out there who has not been exposed to even just a few creature cases that absolutely reek of undeniable high-strangeness, and that place the hairy man-beasts into definitively Fortean - rather than zoological or cryptozoological – realms, whether in Britain, the United States, Australia, or elsewhere.
The editor in me wanted to begin crossing words out: “Few Bigfoot researchers around the world have not experienced cases that reek of high strangeness, and that place the creatures into Fortean rather than zoolological or cryptozoological realms.” Half the length, same meaning. We could cut more, but I’m not an extremist when it comes to parsimony.
I struggle though to find something to say about Redfern’s review of Gordon’s book, largely because Redfern doesn’t evaluate Gordon’s claims about “Men in Black, paranormal activity, psychic possession, secret government interest in Bigfoot, and prophetic visions of a dark and foreboding future” so much as he simply announces their existence and declares it thought provoking. After this, he begins listing similar cases from Britain, but in the manner of Charles Fort—simply listing what others have said at face value. People in a place called Shropshire Union Canal in England reported sightings of a ghost ape in the same place where a woman once saw Nordic aliens wave out the window of a passing UFO. No details of the ghost ape are given, but a second ape—the Shrug Monkey of Rendlesham Forest—is introduced, without detail, and correlated with the alleged UFO sighting (repeatedly debunked) from that same area. Unable to develop either of these “correlations,” Redfern next resorts to recounting a Loch Ness monster hunter’s assertion that he saw a bright light while hunting for Nessie, was awoken by Men in Black, and later had a dream about an ape and a mushroom cloud. Obviously this a Bigfoot-UFO psychic connection!
Redfern isn’t able to actually provide a factual basis for this dream, so he instead turns to UFO abductee reports about aliens’ dire messages about nuclear war, as though this lent credence to a completely unrelated dream about a gorilla. It’s a clever bit of rhetoric: Apes are seen where UFOs are reported; therefore, if both apes and aliens are associated with atom bombs then apes and aliens must be in communion. But that’s a word game, not a rigorous conclusion. But having made the fanciful connection, Redfern turns to cryptozoologist Ronan Coghlan for confirmation that British giant apes are travelers from another dimension, arriving and departing through worm-hole portals, one of which he believes can be found in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, where an owl was mistaken for a moth monster—excuse me, where the demonic cryptid Mothman first appeared from the darkness.
Coghlan’s explanation for how this works is worth quoting in full:
I think, looking at a great many legends, folk-tales, and things of that nature, it is possible to vibrate at different rates. And if you vibrate at a different rate, you are not seen. You are not tangible. And, then, when your vibration changes, you are seen, and you are tangible; maybe that this has something to do with Bigfoot appearing and disappearing in a strange fashion.
So there you have it: Bigfoot’s UFO vibrates into our dreams from a parallel universe to warn us about nuclear war. And all without a single piece of evidence whatsoever!
I am obviously doing things wrong. Apparently, if Redfern is the model of a successful fringe writer, all one needs to do to earn cash is to uncritically summarize what other people wrote, expand each sentence with useless padding, and make ambiguous evaluations of how interesting it all is without actually asserting anything.
By contrast, it was almost a relief to read Andrew Collins’s piece on Göbekli Tepe, the oldest known stone temple complex in the world, because Collins at least manages to say something and to employ facts in support of his presentation. Collins is writing in opposition to recent claims published in New Scientist that the Turkish site was designed to align with the star Sirius. Collins prefers to see it aligning to the circumpolar stars of the north, particularly Cygnus. However, I am concerned about his claim that Paleolithic hunter-gatherers “abandoned their cherished lifestyle to create the first monumental architecture in human history.” By all accounts, the builders remained hunter-gatherers, and it is likely that humans had been gathering at sacred sites long before, perhaps (on the model of known temple sites) building wooden structures before switching to stone.
But Collins confuses the case for Göbekli Tepe by suggesting that because Göbekli Tepe is near to the ancient site of Harran (itself built on Neolithic foundations), and the Harran site was later occupied by the Sabaeans that therefore beliefs from Göbekli Tepe could be found among the Sabaeans 9,900 years later. “It is extremely possible that aspects of the beliefs and practices expressed by the Göbekli builders persisted in the region and eventually found their way into the religion of the Harranites, who from the ninth century onwards were known as Sabaeans…” This confuses me greatly, for Harran is located in what is now southeastern Turkey, but the Sabaeans lived in what is now Yemen. They are not geographically close. Presumably he is referring instead to the Sabians, a monotheistic “people of the Book” in the Qur’an. These Sabians could be found throughout Mesopotamia, though in the early Islamic period they did have a stronghold at Harran where they practiced astrology. There is no indication that they maintained a direct connection to the Paleolithic or Neolithic period, for nothing at Göbekli Tepe suggests an ideology resembling the Sabians’ Abrahamic monotheism and astrology. Collins, however, repeats the false claim that the Sabians worshipped the stars, when according to Al-Shaafa’i they were a variety of Christian and Abd al-Rahman Ibn Zayd said they were monotheists. Collins, instead, follows Islamic-era slander which accused them of star worship because they assigned angels to each star and planet. Hasan al-Basri, for example, wrote in the eighth century that “the Sabian religion resembles the Magians and they worship angels.” But the identification of stars with angels was hardly unique to the Sabians; Christians after all routinely identified Satan as the Morning Star, and the Jews likened stars to angels (Job 38:7). The Egyptians suggested that dead kings became stars, and the Babylonians thought the planets to be visible aspects of the gods. Such imagery continued to modern times: William Blake in “The Tyger” explicitly makes angels into stars during the Fall of Lucifer: “When the stars threw down their spears / And watered Heaven with their tears…”
Unless we posit all of these as influence from Göbekli Tepe or the Neolithic, it’s hard to ascribe a particular connection to the Sabians of Harran. But that is exactly what Collins would like us to believe, tracing the “influence” from the Harran people to the Mandaeans: “That a link existed between the Harranites’ and Mandaeans’ veneration of the Pole Star and the beliefs and practices associated with the sanctuaries at Göbekli Tepe is tantalizing.” It might be if we had a solid reason to suspect that the Pole Star were important at Göbekli Tepe, something we are asked to accept only through citations to Collins’s other work. He does not in this article explain why we should assume that the temples were oriented to target the north if their openings faced south.
From here, Collins presents a lengthy discussion of nineteenth century Mandaean death rituals and asks us to believe that they represent a direct line of descent from Göbekli Tepe, for which there is of course no evidence. Now why should he want to do that? Oh, right: Collins, author of the Cygnus Mystery, believes that all ancient people had an undying love of the constellation Cygnus, which he wrongly believes has always been viewed as a bird. (We cannot prove its existence as a recognized constellation prior to Ptolemy listing it as such, let alone what prehistoric people saw in it, if anything.) As a result, Collins wants us to see Mandaean funerals, which involve a pigeon, as reflecting ancient rites of sky burial (letting vultures eat the body—which actually did exist in Neolithic cultures) so he can better connect all of this to the bird constellation, for the stars of Cygnus control our fates, or some such rubbish. “Here the souls of the deceased, often in the guise of a bird, would have been seen to enter the afterlife, while new souls emerged from this point in the sky prior to incarnation, making the celestial bird a place of rebirth on both a material and cosmic level.”
It’s possibly the people of Göbekli Tepe saw Cygnus as a bird, but we can’t prove that. There are no star maps at the site, nor can we say with any certainty that any of the animals on the site’s stone pillars are meant to be constellations—or that constellations as such existed then, excepting the Pleiades, which are apparently depicted in one Lascaux cave painting in Europe. (On Paleolithic constellations, see here.) Collins is back-forming an ancestral religion from wishful thinking and random data points. Some of what he says is probably right: Vultures carved on the pillars probably have something to do with sky burials, and there likely was a belief that birds served as psychopomps. Such beliefs filter down through history and can be seen in Minoan and Mycenaean art, and are suggested in the Homeric epics. But Collins assumes too much and goes too far beyond the evidence in developing an idea of 12,000 years of unbroken tradition that simply cannot be proved.
It is the infuriating thing about Collins: He has some genuinely interesting ideas, but he pushes them so far beyond the evidence that any good parts are quickly buried beneath layer after layer of the improbable.
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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