Review of Forbidden History S04E02 "The Secrets of the Vatican"; Plus: Ben Radford Has More Reasons He Thinks I'm Wrong about Chupacabra
I was planning to review Forbidden History today, but then Benjamin Radford responded to my recent response to his recent response to an article I wrote about the Chupacabra six years ago. So, I will append the Forbidden History review below. Meanwhile, in the latest piece, Radford accuses me of purposely misrepresenting him and engaging in straw man arguments to promote a wacky, evidence-free hypothesis. As much as I respect Radford’s work, at times he is that tiresome type of skeptic who demands everything be spelled out in syllogisms and tends toward blindness in the weaknesses of his own arguments. He adds little new in the most recent piece, so I have very little to say about it except to point out some of those aforementioned weaknesses:
1. I was responding to his specific claims in his rebuttal piece, so my comments were confined to the argument he made there. Apparently, I needed to make clear that a criticism of an essay involves critiquing that essay and not the entirety of the Chupacabra literature. I am aware that he discussed folklore (of a different kind) in his book and in other articles, but in a blog post I cannot possibly address the body of his life’s work. My comments were limited to why Radford felt that folklore isn’t necessary to understand the Chupacabra name, not to the role of vampire lore in shaping its activities.
2. Similarly, my comments about Radford assuming that stories were transmitted formally by text rather than orally through folklore were again limited to the name of the Chupacabra. Given that the very shape of the creature derived from movies, it would be silly to argue otherwise. My comments, if poorly phrased, were intended to refer to the degree of proof he wants to prove that the goatsucker (bird) legend influenced the goatsucker (monster) legend. In the current piece, he is literally demanding pre-1995 published accounts of the use of the word “chupacabra” to prove that the goatsucker legend influenced the development of the goatsucker myth, while simultaneously maintaining that he does not require published accounts to prove the oral influence of folklore.
3. He accuses me of an argument from incredulity, wrongly stating that I can’t imagine that anyone would name a goat sucker a goatsucker without there being a mythology behind it. My entire point was that it seemed too coincidental to have two very similar stories passing under the same name.
Finally, Radford seems to feel that I am insisting that the goatsucker definitively is the source of the Chupacabra name. I have never insisted on it, especially since neither he nor I have done any research on Puerto Rico to try to document the prevalence of nightjar lore in the twentieth century. Let me try to rephrase this as clearly as I can:
I wrote my original article because Radford challenged his audience to find any reference to a Chupacabra prior to 1995. While conceding that there is no evidence of the monster before 1995, I noted that the same word existed (in a variant spelling) prior to 1995 and referred to similar lore about a vampiric animal that attacked goats. I said that this is something worth researching and not something to simply dismiss a priori on the assumption that no connection is possible, as Radford had done in his book. It is tedious to again remind Radford that I have no doubt that the modern Chupacabra myth emerged in 1995 and that it is a straw man argument of his own to pretend that I am insisting that the goatsucker bird lore is Chupacabra lore; my only point is that he was wrong in his book to suggest that he knew for a fact that the legend of the goatsucker bird had no influence on the story. You can’t know what you didn’t investigate. I hate to be in the position of the fringe historian here, but it is counterproductive to foreclose a possible avenue of research in an argument from ignorance.
Forbidden History S04E02 “The Secrets of the Vatican”
I know that many readers were wondering when I’d get back to wacky ideas after a week spent examining ancient texts for traces of Enochian wisdom traditions. Good news! Not only is Ancient Aliens back tonight with a new episode, but the AHC and Yesterday network pseudo-documentary Forbidden History returned this month with new episodes. Episodes air in the United States one week after their U.K. premiere. The first episode of the season focused on modern Nazi stuff, so I didn’t bother to watch it. This week’s American episode (last week in the U.K.) is about “Secrets of the Vatican” (S04E02), so let’s take a look at what a low-budget British History Channel knockoff thinks is going on inside the walls of St. Peter’s in Rome.
Well, technically not Rome, despite the show identifying the independent country of Vatican City as being part of the city of Rome. This is neither here nor there since the first segment is framed around (true) pedophilia rings, orgiastic sex scandals, and slave operations, which the show conflates with traditional (false) anti-Catholic propaganda claims about devil worship, pagan practices, and (of course) suppression of artifacts and secret knowledge.
Andrew Gough, the publisher of Heretic Magazine, and a man who thinks he knows much more than he does, suggests that the Catholic Church “could have built their capital” anywhere in the world but chose the Vatican because of its “ancient pagan temples, Mithra temples. I can’t believe for a second it’s an accident.” I imagine he’d be surprised to learn that the bishops of Rome were not always the heads of Christendom, or that the current St. Peter’s stands atop old St. Peter’s, a basilica built by Constantine the Great to mark the burial place of St. Peter. It wasn’t chosen by a conspiracy.
A man named Philip Willan explains what he thinks is hidden in the “Secret Archive” of the Vatican, a library that has long been open to qualified researchers. The show suggests that the Church is hiding documents from that archive, and Gough scoffs at the idea that the oldest documents date to the eighth century, suggesting that ancient truths are hidden in the library’s 53 km (33 miles) of documents, the length of which seems to boggle his mind. By contrast, just so you know, the Library of Congress has more than 1,380 km (838 miles) of shelves and somehow isn’t accused of hiding secret Jesus bloodline documents, as one talking head suggested of the Vatican.
Gough shows up again to allege that the Vatican Secret Archive (the Latin name, while using the word secretum, actually means the “Private” archive) contains the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, and all the other stuff that shows like this usually go in search of elsewhere. Gough spins some conspiracy theories about the Vatican locks away secret truths, and he keeps coming back to the idea that Christian churches were built atop pagan temples. Gee, no shit, Sherlock. Rome’s most famous temple, the Pantheon, became a Christian church. The same thing happened around the world where churches sprang up atop old pagan sites to show the dominance of the church and to Christianize pagan sites. Muslims did the same thing when they converted churches like Hagia Sophia into mosques. Gough literally claims that the Church is “satanic”—“a really, really dark place”—in which Isis became Mary Magdalene and Osiris became Jesus. Indeed, he adds a bunch of “Jesus myth” false claims about Mithra being born on December 25, having 12 apostles, and resurrecting from the dead. All of that is false and created in modern times as anti-Christian propaganda. It has no support in ancient texts. Gough seems to have some sort of fixation on old twentieth-century “Jesus myth” literature and has all of the critical capacity of a footstool.
Gough adds that there are “rumors” that the Catholic Church conducts pagan sacrifices to pagan gods. He is repeating old claims from the Protestant anti-Catholic tract The Two Babylons, which accused the Pope of being Nimrod’s secret worshiper, and it is sad to see a documentary uncritically accepting Victorian era anti-Catholic nonsense as some kind of revelation. Richard Felix and Linda Papadopoulos agree with Gough and declare paganism “the true religion,” which seems to reinforce the idea that shows like this aren’t really about their purported subjects but instead are New Age / Theosophical propaganda. The show folds in pedophilia scandals with the unstated implication that pedophilia is part of the Church’s satanic worship of demons and general evil. “This is an evil empire,” Lynn Picknett, the fringe writer, states in explicit terms.
I’m quite surprised that the show seems to think that the Vatican has all of the secrets of the world and the “truth” about the Bible in their basement, but the coeval Orthodox church somehow does not. We never really see conspiracy theories about Orthodoxy, presumably because shows like this aren’t really about Vatican conspiracies but carry a subtext of anxiety over whether Western civilization (defined tightly as Western Europe and its offshoots) is built on faltering foundations.
The show did a segment on exorcism, which had nothing to do with the preceding half-hour, except perhaps for the suggestion that the Vatican is in league with Satan. Gough makes this explicit when he says that exorcisms conducted by priests to combat evil only enhance the “rumors” that “they are evil” themselves. The remainder of the show focuses on the Vatican Bank and conspiracy theories about money laundering, which are of little relevance to us.
As the show winds to a close, the narrator says that some people believe that the Vatican keeps the corpse of Jesus alongside the Ark of the Covenant in the basement. I wish I was making that up. Some talking heads express doubt about the existence of Jesus and suggest that the Vatican is trying to control the beliefs of Christians through fear, and Gough claims that soon a priest will leak the secret history of Jesus and his Bloodline and destroy the all-powerful Vatican. It’s weird how powerful they think the Catholic Church is and how easily prelates can somehow manipulate all of the non-Catholic governments and churches of the world to conform to their view of history. After all, more than 50% of the world’s 2.3 billion Christians are not Catholic, not to mention the 1.6 billion Muslims who already believe that Jesus did not die on the cross (Qur’an 4:157-158), so you’d think the “truth” would have leaked out somehow.
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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