One of the newest pieces of the Henry Sinclair-Holy Bloodline mythology is the claim that Sinclair built a castle in Nova Scotia and hid the Holy Grail there. You’ll remember that “castle” from the America Unearthed season finale where we heard that it was not only the resting place of the Grail and possibly the Ark of the Covenant but was also haunted by ghosts. They based these claims on the work of Joan Hope, which they specifically cited on the program. So, since I couldn’t find any real information about the supposed castle—which itself would “rewrite” history, despite the complete noninterest of all involved with the show—I decided to read Hope’s self-published 1997 book to learn why she felt she was sitting on a castle.
I finished her book, and I am dumbfounded.
The short form is this: Joan Hope was apparently delusional and believed her house was built atop the ancient site of a European penis-worship cult dating back thousands of years. This site was guarded by hundreds of ghosts as well as UFOs, all of which menaced her when she got too close to the phallic truth. Henry Sinclair was neither first nor last, just another in the history of people using her home to worship penises.
The long form is even worse.
The background is rather complex, so I’m going to try to simplify this a bit. In some versions of the myth of King Arthur, Arthur was supposedly buried at Glastonbury, sometimes along with the Holy Grail. In the 1930s, a Masonic leader in Nova Scotia developed a pageant in which he created a fictitious story that the Masons spirited away the Grail in 1536 to escape the clutches of the English prime minister. (There were no actual prime ministers before the 1700s.) This leader, Reginald Harris, was also involved in the explorations on Oak Island, which led to the weird idea that the Holy Grail was buried in its famous Money Pit.
Later, in the 1970s, Frederick J. Pohl resuscitated Richard Henry Major’s century-old argument that the Zeno Narrative told of Henry Sinclair’s voyage to America, and he identified the landing site as Oak Island. Joan Hope read Pohl’s book and decided that her backyard, near to Oak Island, must have been where Henry Sinclair built his colony. But that would come a bit later. At first she was looking for penis-worshiping Druids. She began promoting the “castle” in the late 1970s or early 1980s, where other writers picked it up, especially Michael Bradley, the author of Holy Grail across the Atlantic.
In her self-published 1997 book, reporting events from the 1970s, the elderly Hope (then in her 80s) confirmed that the above-ground stones seen on America Unearthed were the remains of a seventeenth-century mansion, though she also found some very scanty evidence that the site might have been visited by the Norse of Vinland, though an ancient Native occupation at the site complicates that claim. (This amounts to some ambiguous stone tools and some wooden handles she had carbon dated to the Middle Ages, at least according to her.)
But Hope, who died in 2007, was a romantic, and she believed the site to be haunted, often seeing phantasmagorical scenes of ghostly visitors, ranging from whole families of the dead to a disembodied ginger-haired head. All told, she encountered several dozen ghosts and was plagued by what she felt was a poltergeist attacking her possessions. One ghost even drew elaborate artwork on her frost-covered windows. Then, of course, she started to be visited by aliens in UFOs.
She imaginatively interpreted older layers of stone on the site as the walls of a vanished castle, following Pohl, and she spun for herself a fanciful history where her backyard was the site of a glorious pageant of history. An ambiguous mason’s mark on a stone was “linked to Stonehenge,” and her yard was once a Neolithic European stone circle from the depths of time! And it was used for penis worship! Leif Erikson built a summer home atop its ruins. A medieval castle stood there next, followed by a colonial-era mansion so wonderful that Massachusetts bought it and carried it off to become the statehouse in Boston. And of course the ghosts of all watched over the site, in their UFOs. “Phoenicians, Celts, Micmacs, Norsemen and other Europeans: all had used our property through the ages, if not to build their homes there, then as a place of worship. When all this began is lost in time; but we can say that the site has been in use, often as an important centre, for at least about 3,500 years.” How lucky for her.
Hope was a credulous woman, and she believed everything a local Native American told her because she believed Native people were inherently possessed of superior wisdom. One told her that her house had once been a castle completely covered in gold, and he drew her a picture of it. Right after receiving this picture she suddenly “found” evidence confirming exactly this imaginary image of a long-vanished castle. After reading Frederick Pohl’s book Prince Henry Sinclair: His Expedition to the New World in 1398—itself based on Richard Henry Major’s imaginary version of the Zeno Narrative—Hope adopted the most extreme claims for the Zeno text and concluded that Henry Sinclair built her castle, and she decided her castle was also the famous Norumbega, usually assigned to New England.
Sadly, Hope was too credulous for her own good, and playing about in the ruins of a colonial mansion built atop a Native American village, she imagined a glorious Eurocentric world that never was, a romantic fantasy that fit her ghost-haunted, alien-guarded world. There is obviously no reason to privilege the medieval castle above any of her other evidence-free fantasies.
But here’s the best part: She got her ideas from Frederick Pohl, who borrowed them from Richard Major, and applied them to her own house because it felt right to her! Without the preexisting alternative narrative—itself based on fabrications and lies—the “castle” would never have existed at all, and yet today in a stunning bit of circular reasoning the alleged existence of this castle is “proof” of the narrative that inspired its creation!
And so, when Scott Wolter, Steve St. Clair, and Dennis Parada complain about “strange energy” and being “warned” that ghosts haunt the site, they’re just repeating Joan Hope’s bizarre claims about UFOs and ghosts. Holy crap.
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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