Cryptic Code of the Templars in America: Origins of the Hooked X™ Symbol
Scott F. Wolter | 310 + xxiv pages | North Star Press | 2019 | ISBN: 978-1-68201-101-0 | price varies
When Amazon told me that Scott F. Wolter’s new book would ship in 1 to 3 months and North Star Press, the publisher, couldn’t provide a shipping date, I wasn’t expecting to see it anytime soon. But then it showed up on my doorstep from the publisher this weekend. I can’t tell you how that made me feel. Really, I can’t. Not in print, anyway.
All you really need to know about Cryptic Code of the Templars in America: Origins of the Hooked X™ Symbol—and, yes, the trademark appears on the cover as part of the official title—is that the book starts with a page-long explanation of the cover art, which represents Masonic ideas married to author Scott F. Wolter’s bonkers cosmology, and then proceeds with a foreword by pseudohistory writer William F. Mann in which he claims that he had been suspicious of Scott Wolter for years because “he didn’t share any of the ancestral bloodline nor Masonic/Native American spirituality deemed necessary to solve the larger puzzle” of the alleged Sinclair colonization of America before being won over by Wolter’s “doggedness” in pursuing his ideas against all opposition. Mann also imagines an “evangelical” conspiracy to suppress the “sacred feminine” in Christianity. Self-aggrandizement, intimations of conspiracy, and an underlying spiritual panic—those are the real truths of the Cryptic Code.
But that doesn’t make for a book review or fodder for a TV series, so we must persist in reviewing the remaining 300+ unindexed pages of this cheaply produced, poorly edited attempt at a book. The pages are badly laid out. The editing fails to follow the niceties of Chicago style, and there are formatting mistakes all throughout. The photos and graphics are fuzzy in places and mostly printed too dark to see clearly. Some are still watermarked from the databases where they were downloaded and then cited to “Internet.” I wonder if the Travel Channel authorized the use of its name, logo, and promotional artwork on Wolter’s book cover? There is no copyright notice as is always the case when using work with permission. (Having written and ghostwritten enough books, I have done the copyright dance many, many times.)
Anyway, after Mann’s foreword comes a second foreword, this time by cable TV looney Alan Butler, who once tried to sue me and later intimated that time-traveling Freemasons built the moon. Butler wrote a bad book with Wolter’s wife and in the foreword offers nothing but hagiography and adulation. It’s basically an extended blurb and should have been cut down to a sentence to stick on the cover.
The two forewords are followed by Wolter’s own introduction, though this is no longer considered front matter, I guess, since the publisher has oddly changed the page numbering from roman numerals to Arabic digits. Traditionally, that should occur at the beginning of the first chapter. He also refers to his book as his “manuscript” in the published text, apparently because the publisher never changed the references, or because he doesn’t know the difference between a manuscript and a published book. I admit to laughing out loud when I notice that Wolter adopted my sarcastic habit of placing the trademark symbol after “Hooked X” to make fun of his trademark claim to the word—which only covers its use in book titles. He actually uses the trademark symbol in the text of the book. The introduction, for what it’s worth, only restates Wolter’s earlier claims that the Kensington Rune Stone is a genuine medieval artifact and the dubious evidence he used to reach that claim about the nineteenth century Minnesota artifact.
The first chapter is a written summary of “the two most successful episodes” of Wolter’s America Unearthed television series, the third season two-part finale, “Tracking the Templars” and then parts of his follow-up series, Pirate Treasure of the Knights Templar. He describes some of the fakery that went into staging the episodes to seem spontaneous and dramatic, but the discussion of the episodes is so muddled and plunges so quickly into the depths of numerological and occult lunacy that anyone unfamiliar with the past many years of Wolter’s “work” would stand no chance of understanding what is being said or why. I confess to having difficulty following parts of it without consulting my own notes from America Unearthed to try to piece together what was going on. He adds some ridiculous speculation that is simply so far beyond logic and evidence as to be utterly confounding. At the Church of John the Baptist in Tomar, Portugal, a clock bears the heads of a man and a woman and two sets of skulls and bones, symbolizing life and death regulated by time. Wolter interprets this as the Knights Templar removing the bones of Jesus and Mary Magdalene from the Talpiot Tomb in Jerusalem, where some speculated that they were buried, and cites his information to Wikipedia! He calls this section of the chapter, including subsequent related claims, “fun speculation.” Similarly, he alleges that every stylistic flourish, serif, or splotch on or near the upper right stave of an X makes it a “hooked X,” even if the other staves also have bigger or grander flourishes. So enraptured is he by the shape of the variant A rune on the Kensington Rune Stone (the one shaped like an X with an extra branch sticking out of the upper right stave) that almost literally anything attached to an X becomes one.
The second chapter fails to follow logically from the first, instead crashing into the narrative as a random “update” on artifacts and sites from Wolter’s previous work. Wolter calls this his “custom” in his “Hooked X series,” though there aren’t really enough books in it to make this a wanted or expected feature. Most of the material had already been featured on Wolter’s blog or in his revived America Unearthed TV series, but the unstated theme that Wolter doesn’t quite recognize is that this mass of dubious evidence, including the Westford Knight and the “In Hoc Signe Vinces” stone, revolve around a small group of close friends in Wolter’s orbit. These men are enormously proud of themselves for imagining that they have seen spiritual and historical truths unknown to anyone else, and Wolter features photos of them preening and himself being celebrated at various ceremonies in which crowds of middle aged and older white folk cheer the imagined evidence of pre-Columbian Scandinavian colonists. Blood and soil and all that.
The third chapter continues the theme of recapping and repeating by returning to Wolter’s favorite theme, his ongoing investigation of the Kensington Runestone, henceforth KRS, which was the subject of his first book. If it seems like we are going backward with these chapters, it seems that we are. Each one barrels relentlessly backward toward earlier phases of Wolter’s “work,” as though desperately trying to justify the circuitous and often nonsensical path he walked from one speculative idea to the next. It then segues into summaries of episodes of America Unearthed related to the rune stone. For the reader who is not already intimately familiar with Wolter’s oeuvre, the lack of transitions, skimpy explanation, and over-generous assumptions about the reader’s knowledge of extreme pseudohistory claims leaves this material little more than a word salad. For those who do know, it is baffling why 20% of the book is made up of summaries of previous books and TV shows.
Finally, in the fourth chapter Wolter starts to move into some new material, albeit without actually trying to establish a purpose or rationale for the current book. The title implies that we are hunting the “cryptic code of the Knights Templar,” but the book as written is really Scott Wolter’s book report on what he did during the hiatus between the end of America Unearthed on H2 in 2014 and its return on the Travel Channel in 2019. This particular chapter creates a strained interpretation of the Larsson Papers to justify a belief in the authenticity of the KRS. These Victorian documents include the variant-A runestone known to Wolter as the hooked X, a shape that was not otherwise attested in Scandinavian runes. Wolter sees this as vindication of authenticity, though what the papers really prove is that a modified runic alphabet was in use among Scandinavian peasants and their American immigrant counterparts in the late 1800s, the period when the KRS was almost certainly carved. The papers imply nothing about medieval times, any more so than the existence of Comic Sans would prove Erasmus wrote an early version of Batman. Wolter concludes the chapter by speculating that the Hooked X gained its hook through influence from the Hebrew letter aleph (both represent the vowel “A”) and therefore connects the X to (sigh) the Talpiot Tomb in Jerusalem. There is a superficial resemblance, but the supposed Hooked X really gained its extra arm when inexperienced carvers tried to reproduce in stone the hook-shaped stroke needed to start the ink flowing when writing with a quill. We know this because the same “hook” occurs in the manuscripts Wolter cites on other letters with right-to-left downward strokes, such as the lowercase letter “y.” The stone carvers seem to have mistaken the ink stroke from an intentional feature of the letter.
The fifth chapter once again takes an unexpected and unconnected turn from the preceding one. This chapter traces young Scott Wolter’s path from atheism to theism, a faith in God brought about by his father’s scuba diving death in 1983 and his subsequent discovery, from the coroner (!), that his father was a Freemason. Honestly, the more Wolter reveals about his biography, the more obvious the personal nature of his “discoveries” as his own internal ancestral myth becomes. He then describes his own journey into Freemasonry and speculates about theology in the manner of a freshman philosophy student who just discovered the ontological argument for the existence of God. Wolter explains that because he does not consider Jesus divine, he chose to take his Masonic oath on a copy of Thomas Jefferson’s expurgated Bible, which Jefferson had shorn of the supernatural.
The sixth chapter at least connects logically to the preceding one, though its content it illogical. This chapter goes over the claims Wolter has made about a secret Masonic code on the Kensington Rune Stone involving numerology. More specifically, he claims that the mention of numbers like 8, 22, 1, 2, and 10 on the KRS reflects the use of the same numbers in a Masonic allegory involving the character of Hiram Abiff. Regardless of whether such a number code truly exists (as I have discussed before, when Wolter first made the claim), it would not prove what he thinks it would. The Masonic allegory only dates to the nineteenth century, so if we take Wolter at face value (which is always dangerous to do), he seems actually to have proved that the KRS is a Victorian fake planted by Masons.
Wolter’s speculations about the connection between these numbers and immortality and resurrection are juvenile, made worse by the “depth” of his research extending, per his footnotes, to websites such as Building Beautiful Souls and EgyptianMyths.net. He took most of his ideas from Manly P. Hall’s Secret Teachings of All Ages, which, as I have shown before, is a somewhat slapdash summary of other books that contains numerous important errors. The chapter then proceeds to Wolter’s familiar claims about this code being contained in Kabbalah, with images and information cited to, and I quote, “Internet.” He strangely concludes that the KRS number “code” is derived from the number of bones in the human skull and spine, specifically the eight cranial bones and the fourteen maxillary bones, which could then be added together (so some are counted twice?) to yield twenty-two. Apparently, the bones of the inner ear don’t count. The whole skull bizarrely then counts as one to add to the 32 vertebrae to yield 33 degrees of Masonry, a number that wasn’t even part of Freemasonry until that impossibly ancient year of 1801. (The modern 33-degree Scottish Rite system to which Wolter belongs dates only to 1867, though this is beyond our scope here.) Previous systems had anywhere from three to 25 degrees. So, again, Wolter’s own reasoning implies a nineteenth century origin rather than a medieval one for the KRS. The chapter ends with Wolter speculating that an angled flourish on the downstroke of a calligraphed “m” must be a secret code rather than a standard bit of calligraphy.
Speaking of formatting, I’ll add here that Wolter either was inspired by Graham Hancock’s America Before, or else there is a very strange new trend in publishing, since like Hancock he has taken to using boldface in the text of the book where italics would normally be expected. Unlike Hancock, he also uses italics, creating a visual potpourri of typesetting extremism. I’ll blame the publisher since one paragraph in this chapter starts dead in the middle of a sentence after a skipped line where someone seems to have accidentally pressed “enter” on the keyboard twice.
The seventh chapter does not pretend to connect to the end of the sixth. Titled “New Discoveries,” it is another grab-bag of Wolter’s most recent speculation about a hodgepodge of topics. In it, for example, he discusses how references to fishing must necessarily be a secret allegory for the Fisher King from medieval Grail lore. He declares the use of a keystone in the arches of the Newport Tower is a “spot-on match” to the Royal Arch of Freemasonry, apparently in blissful ignorance that prior to reinforced concrete, the standard way to make an arch was to use a keystone to hold angled stones in place. The chapter presents a lot of numerology about the Newport Tower, most of little interest, and many based on nothing more than the standard organization of a 360-degree circle with relatively evenly spaced openings in it. He professes excitement that 45 degrees north latitude see 8 hours and 22 minutes of daylight on the summer solstice, which he takes to be a purposeful confirmation of his KRS “8/22” code. It’s only a coincidence since hours didn’t have fixed length until the invention of the mechanical clock. In ancient and medieval times, regulated by sundials, “hours” varied in length by the movement of the sun and the length of the night. Wolter calls this “mathematical magic.”
I won’t relate his description of the world’s most boring “U up?” text message except that it somehow involves York Rite Freemasons operating hundreds of years before the York Rite was established. It also involves Wolter arbitrarily adding numbers to measurements to create more harmonious ones in line with the so-called (fake) megalithic yard on the assumption that magic people from fantasy land might have had a symbolic use for the numbers. You don’t get to add extra numbers just for fun.
Wolter also discusses his amazement that a bunch of pseudo-Scandinavian artifacts found in the center of New England all appears with half a degree of longitude of 71 degrees West. No shit, Sherlock. It’s the middle of New England, a region that isn’t that big to start with. It’s a function of population and cherry-picking.
The chapter continues with Wolter repeating his claim that a loop George Washington used to decorate the crossbar on the “t” in his signature is actually a “fish symbol” and therefore a nod to esoteric mathematics (rather than, say, the more common Jesus fish). It’s just a flourish, and Wolter is also wrong to read esoteric indoctrination into the evolution of Washington’s signature between the ages of 12 and middle age. My own signature has fluctuated quite a bit between high school and now, to judge from surviving examples, and there was no thought behind the changes. I discussed all of this when Wolter made the claim on his blog earlier this year.
Wolter later mistakes ampersands for “‘fish’ symbols randomly sprinkled throughout” a letter written by Martin Luther. They aren’t “coded symbolism” except insofar as “&” is code for et, the Latin word for “and.” The finer upper loops of the ampersands have faded with time but are clearly visible in the photograph Wolter provides. By the end of the chapter, every loop has become a secret cypher, including the loops on the hunting horn strings on the Forrester coat of arms. A long section imagines various secret codes in Rosslyn Chapel, about which I treated when Wolter blathered about them on America Unearthed, and then he alleges that the word sklar or skjär (“shelters” or “skerries”) appearing on the KRS’s fourth line is really “Sinclair,” so the line actually reads (nonsensically) that “we camped by two Sinclairs,” referring to members of Henry I Sinclair, Earl of Orkney’s father’s or grandfather’s family. Uh-huh. He says this “could be” a “conclusive” connection between the Sinclair family and the KRS, though he does not explain how “Sinclair” would fit into the grammar of the sentence.
The chapter concludes with nonsense derived from Frederic J. Pohl about an “alliance” between Sinclair and the Mi’kmaq, who allegedly worshipped him as a god. Pohl, you will recall, came up with the idea after mistaking a Victorian book of random Mi’kmaq legends for a biography of the god Glooscap, whom he identified with Sinclair based on this misunderstanding.
Wolter, of course, doesn’t even think to question the story.
This took me through more than half the chapters and a little less than halfway through the book. I need some time to read and digest the remainder, and I am currently on deadline with two books I am writing, so I anticipate I will publish the second part on Thursday.
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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