(return to Part One)
The pointlessly brief eighth chapter of five pages (half of which is pictures) begins with Wolter stating in a footnote that the History Channel attempted to assuage his disappointment over the cancelation of America Unearthed in 2015 by telling him the show was “too smart” for History Channel viewers. I’m not sure whether to assume this to be a disingenuous attempt at flattery or to believe that History thinks its viewers are idiots. Really, both possibilities are equally probable.
Anyway, the chapter recaps Wolter’s Pirate Treasure of the Knights Templar series from 2015, including Wolter’s now-familiar claims that the Templars originated in the “Venus families,” imaginary royalty (ruling what, exactly?) from the early centuries CE, and that Portuguese churches in India contain “heresy” indicating a secret knowledge that Jesus survived his crucifixion. He even repeats the dumbass pun that the story of the Resurrection isn’t about the Son of God but the Sun God. The pun only works in English, and only modern English, since “son” in Old English was sunu, and Sun was sunne. It is not a revelation. It’s all old Victorian and Edwardian speculation from the Christ Myth school, but even if we took Wolter’s claims at face value, the idea that Jesus survived the crucifixion is decidedly not a secret and not one that needs a lengthy explanation stretching back to a first-century conspiracy. It’s a tenet of faith in Islam, where the story of Jesus surviving the crucifixion appears in the Qur’an (he subbed in a body double). It was also widespread in Judaism in the Middle Ages as part of the Sefer Toledot Yeshu. In the seventeenth century, a hybrid Gospel of Barnabas with Islamic influence was written, apparently to try to bridge the gap between Christianity and Islam, and it tells the same story. The long and short of it is that the “secret” knowledge was basically available to anyone who traveled outside of Western Europe.
This chapter deals with Wolter’s fantasies about the Talpiot Tomb, including claims dating back to (and debunked in reviewing) his last book. All the greatest hits are here: That a Byzantine crown on a medieval coin is really a picture of the Talpiot Tomb, that the James Ossuary contains codes upon codes in the slapdash scratch marks on its surface, that the letter X represents Jesus’ phallus (^) penetrating Mary Magdalene’s womb (V), that the lead bar (finally admitted to be lead rather than silver) discussed in Pirate Treasure is a secret Masonic code, that the precession of the equinoxes changes human religions to conform to the stars, etc. All of this is from his previous books and TV shows and was debunked at the time. He issues a paean to the ecstasies of his own marriage, praising the “infinite intricacies and dynamics” of his relationship with his wife as key to his understanding of the infinite complexities of goddess worship.
Wolter claims that the Egyptian royal symbols of the crook and flail are a hooked X (which might jibe with the crook, but what does that make the flail end of the flail?) and he adds that we can’t ever know the truth depth of Templar symbolism because each symbol contains many levels. That is, of course, why they usually depicted them in stick figures and scratch marks rather than anything artistically accomplished.
The chapter concludes with the claim that the Templars discovered the “hooked X” by seeing the scratch marks on the James Ossuary in the Talpiot Tomb during the First Crusade and thereafter adopted it as their secret symbol. This would, of course, contradict the earlier claim in this very chapter that it was the occult symbol of a Venus lineage dating back to Akhenaten, for it couldn’t be both an eternal symbol of the goddess brotherhood and an accidental discovery at a later date by said brotherhood. Any attempt to smooth out the contradiction just creates epicycles upon epicycles in a bonkers cosmology revolving around an idiotic assumption.
The chapters in this book are so wildly inconsistent that it can be jarring to find one stop in what seems to be the middle of a thought and the next to go one tens of pages past the natural end point. Chapter 9 doubled the length of Chapter 8, and Chapter 10 triples the length of Chapter 9. This chapter is all about Wolter’s skewed ideas about symbolism and begins with his assertion that “the reader should find this chapter particularly interesting.” One might read this as tacit confession that the previous chapters were baffling and pointless if it were not for the fact that the chapter is not interesting.
The first section deals with Wolter’s imaginary “M” hand gesture. Many hands, including my own, naturally have the middle and ring fingers fall together when the hand is at rest because they are closer together than the other fingers. Wolter reads this as an intentional nod to Mary Magdalene, apparently even among those who don’t use the Roman alphabet. (Also: Andy Warhol is an initiate, apparently. He would be surprised.) He repeats claims from as far back as America Unearthed, such as his allegation that the number 13 is “evil” because it represents M, the initial of Mary Magdalene. As he half-heartedly admits (finally), this can’t be true prior to the introduction of the letter “j” into the Roman alphabet in modern times. He assumes, however, that this is all part of a master plan tracing back to Egypt, and that the United States’ 13 colonies were intended as Templar Mary Magdalene symbolism. Except, of course, that 13 was never an intentional number, and many regions tried to become their own colonies, and some colonies didn’t at first want to be part of the United States.
At one point, Wolter tells us that the “colors” of the Knights Templar are yellow, blue, and white, the colors of Jerusalem. This is not a thing at all, and he’s referring actually to the Freemason Templar order, which uses the colors in its robes. Otherwise, this seems to contradict earlier claims that the Templars were totally into white and red. He adds that these colors are also Egyptian in origin, which he seems to take from Tutankhamun’s sarcophagus. Modern Masonic symbols have bled so thoroughly into his historiography that every claim is now infested with mythology that he mistakes for history.
A big chunk of the chapter is devoted to numerology and to stories about filming Pirate Treasure.
I won’t bore you with a recitation of every one of Wolter’s many claims for symbols, most of which he has discussed many times over. Instead, I will highlight that Wolter repeatedly relies on other pseudohistory writers and on random internet correspondents who claim esoteric knowledge to justify his many bad ideas. He comes across as an indiscriminate consumer of claims, someone who can’t tell the difference between good ideas and bad and instead relies on his emotional reaction to others’ personalities as a proxy for determining whether their ideas are good or bad. In other words, if a person is friendly and supportive, then his or her ideas must necessarily be good.
The chapter ends, as all pseudohistory books must eventually discuss, with the story of Enoch, the Watchers, and the Flood, albeit in Freemasonry’s bastardized and bowdlerized form. That this is an early modern version of an original from Antiquity does not cross Wolter’s mind. In his view, Masonic stories are genuinely ancient lore.
At more than 100 pages in length, Chapter 11 plunges into the depths of intellectual bankruptcy, which would be appropriate numerology if I believed in that sort of thing. The chapter concerns the so-called Cremona Document, which was featured in Wolter’s last book and was the subject of both Zena Halpern’s book about Templar mysteries (my review: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), Don Ruh’s dissenting book on the same subject (for he and Halpern wildly disagreed about the rights and responsibilities of reporting the fake Cremona Document story), and episodes of The Curse of Oak Island. In the chapter, Wolter goes through the supposed narrative of the Templar journey to America point by point, with (grammatically dubious) “translations” from what he claims to be coded Theban, a cipher first attested in the early 1500s but which Wolter believes to be hundreds or even thousands of years older, based on no evidence other than faith that early modern occultists were telling the truth in making up stories about themselves.
Honestly, I don’t have much to add that I haven’t said in my previous analysis of Cremona Document, a text that even Wolter admits is (at best) a copy of a copy of an imagined original. The text is almost laughably modern, even accounting for the poor quality of the “translator’s” prose. It reads like a modern writer’s half-assed effort to sound medieval. It follows neither the style nor substance of genuine medieval texts, of which I have read thousands of pages. Consider this laughable line in which the document’s Templar narrator describes seeing a Native American dressed in feathers and decorated with silver rings: “He is called the Shay-Man or Shaw-Man and is considered a healer and religious leader among his people.” As should be obvious, the hoaxer is trying to give the Templars an encounter with a shaman, but the hoaxer isn’t aware that shaman is a Russian word derived from Siberian usage (likely from the Evenki via Manchu-Tungus), meaning “one who knows,” possibly (some argue) from the Arabic shaitan, and at any rate not used in the West until the 1600s and not applied to practices outside of the Tunguska region of Siberia until modern times. Native Americans would not have called their healers “shamans.” As in previous iterations of the claims, parts of the document are said to be in “Old English,” several centuries after Old English had passed into Middle English. How the “translator” could translate a document without actually recognizing the language is beyond me. The “English” sections of the document are rendered with stylistic flourishes from the King James Bible, but the lack of any supposed original medieval text makes it quite unclear whether the imagined medieval writer anticipated King James English by a few centuries or if the “translator” just thought it sounded old-timey. The only Latin text Wolter provides from the “original” document is actually a line from Horace’s Odes.
At one point, the supposed twelfth century narrator visits the “Cat-skins,” which the “translator” identifies as the Catskills, apparently unaware that the Catskill Mountains bear a Dutch name, meaning “cat’s creek,” that wasn’t applied to the region until the seventeenth century. He similarly calls the Finger Lakes of upstate New York by a name referring to fingers, though no one called them that until 1883, and speaks of the Five Nations of the Iroquois, though the historicity of this grouping at such an early date is unclear.
The story told in the document, as I discussed before, is custom-designed to reflect the Templar mythology invented after the early 1990s, including elements that were not common in Templar fantasies until the 2000s. Even Wolter, at one point, admits that the narrative reads as though it were fiction, “almost to the point of seeming a bit contrived,” though he dismisses the doubts. In another place, he calls part of the story about a Templar building a boat and sailing back to Europe “far-fetched,” before deciding that medieval people didn’t think crossing the ocean “wasn’t that big of a deal” and “standard practice.” For being so easy, somehow no one bothered except a few Vikings until Columbus decided that, oh, well, I guess I can get off the couch and head over to Hispaniola to get some spice for my paella.
Nothing in the new discussion of the Cremona Document changes my earlier conclusion that it is a modern fake. However, I was amused by one detail from the “translator” and “discoverer” of the document, William Jackson, as to why the document wasn’t known prior to the twenty-first century when he allegedly translated it in 1971. Jackson said that he showed it to Barry Fell, who wrote about it for his book America B.C. However, Jackson demanded “recompense” for allowing mention of the document—supposedly a genuine medieval text, the acknowledge of whose existence cannot be limited by copyright or financial demand—causing Fell to remove mention to avoid payment. Jackson weirdly describes this as the result of a “university court order,” which makes no sense since universities do not have judicial powers. (A later footnote suggests it was a “non-disclosure agreement,” though no one seems to know what they are talking about.) He also claims, bizarrely, that Fell tried to circumvent the “court order” in 1977 by taking students out to the place where the Cremona Document supposedly claimed a priestess’s ashes were buried under the pretext of seeking out Ogham writing, only to have Jackson and Ruh race him to the cave and intimidate him into suppressing word of it. They also planted a fake artifact reading, in part, “I do not like the way thee smell […] goest thou to hell Dr. Fell.” The whole story is so stupid even Wolter thinks that it seems like an echo of an Indiana Jones movie. But he claims that there is corroboration from a journal from another participant, Denton Maier, but, sadly, it’s just another typewritten copy that could have been typed at any time in the past half century. It is not at all clear how the typist was supposedly typing a minute-by-minute account of the events, time-stamped to the minute, while in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York. One imagines him running through the woods with a typewriter strapped to his chest, keys tapping wildly as the men dart between trees.
I would be remiss not to point out that the handwriting on notes allegedly by “Denton Maier” included in the journal is virtually identical to the “medieval” writing on the “copies” of the maps included with the Cremona Document. Particularly the distinctive D’s and E’s are extremely similar despite efforts to make the “medieval” versions look older. The “I’s” are even dotted with the same oddly shaped dots.
The men involved in the Cremona hoax all seem to think that it bolsters their credibility to claim that they sold all of the priceless Templar artifacts they uncovered for small change.
Later, Wolter and the other men claim that the Black Death devastated North America and the Templar colonists, which ought to be something that left an archaeological trace. They also claim that they found uranium entombed with one of the characters from their story. They allege that the secret treasure buried in upstate New York is the marriage certificate (!) between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
There is a lot more in the chapter, much of it ridiculous, piling speculation upon speculation and conspiracy upon conspiracy to the point that even Wolter says that he doesn’t understand how it all fits together and the connections are “murky.” There are apparently fake French letters from the seventeenth century that somehow use modern formatting and anomalously bad handwriting. There is a fake Latin document in the same handwriting as “Denton Maier,” down to the dotted capital “I’s.” There is a special appearance from Wolter’s ex-Xplrr partner, who shall not be named, and here contributes a conspiracy about the Cremona Document’s maps being clandestinely copied in the nineteenth century from the Vatican Library.
It’s all just too much, and too stupid.
But let’s just say a word about the chapter being 100 pages long. It made me mad. When I write books, I work hard to marry the structure to the subject matter and keep the chapters balanced. In my Knowing Fear, I manipulated the narrative so that H. P. Lovecraft would be discussed dead center in the middle chapter, thus symbolically placing him at the center of horror. In my Jason and the Argonauts, I arranged the narrative to echo the Argonauts’ outward and return voyage, with the structure mirroring an epic poem, with major and minor climaxes placed in the appropriate places. Did anyone notice? No. But it’s part of the silent work of writing.
The twelfth chapter deals with Meriwether Lewis in Montana because Wolter believes that the Knights Templar have a “secret vault” containing the severed head of John the Baptist (!), which he alleges was Baphomet (!!) there and that the Cremona Document contains a map to lead to it. Wolter reveals that in 2011, he traveled to Montana in an attempt to find the vault and failed. He therefore speculates that Thomas Jefferson arranged the Louisiana Purchase to capture the vault and sent Lewis to Montana to recover the Baptist’s severed head, which he returned to Washington.
The final chapter (a Masonically significant 13, in the only attempt at art in the book) repeats Wolter’s nonsense about mystical symbolism in Washington, D.C. from his America Unearthed episodes on the subject and from his wife’s book about it with Alan Butler. Some (but not all) of the Masonic symbolism is intentional, but the numerology and penis/vagina symbolism are in Wolter’s head. The chapter concludes with Wolter proposing that Freemasonry can be a “wonderful alternative” to religion, and the whole book basically becomes a misguided commercial for Freemasonry as Wolter attempts to universalize his personal spiritual quest. After reaching something roughly approximating a conclusion, Wolter adds several more pages of numerology that came up with after writing the book, finishing with an excited revelation that Michelle Obama’s middle and ring fingers touched during Donald Trump’s inauguration, so she was obviously signaling the world that she was a member of the Magdalene goddess cult and that the Templar/Masons would save us all.
Cryptic Code of the Templars in America is barely a book. It is a series of blog posts loosely connected by theme and almost never by artistry. The writing barely rises to workmanlike; the story, such as it is, lacks the coherence of Graham Hancock or even the entertaining lunacy of a von Däniken. His thesis is never clear and the main arguments are so badly stated that they border on the nonsensical. The book is incompetently typeset. Paragraphs start and stop in mid-sentence. Footnotes are written in different fonts and sizes. In one place, a photograph is missing, and a number code sits in its place. The only reason that this book has even one star is because it provides enough insight into Wolter’s motivations and the operation of America Unearthed to serve as an accidental primer in the sausage-making that goes into the creation of pseudohistorical ideas.
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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