It’s hard to believe that we’ve already reached the season finale of Search for the Lost Giants, but since the show loses viewers each week (down to just 1.4 million last week, with only 400,000 under the age of 50, fumbling 1.1 million Curse of Oak Island lead in viewers, most of whom were under 50), perhaps it is for the best. In just six episodes, the show has managed to achieve the same types of ethical issues it took America Unearthed thirteen episodes to rack up: The show has intentionally distorted or fabricated evidence, selectively edited “experts” to make them seem to support the show’s claims, made wild leaps of logic, and, finally, garnered a roster of unhappy interviewees who feel that the show lied to them and misrepresented them. The Catalina Island Museum posted on their blog last week that after all the attention the show brought to their museum they needed to reiterate that Ralph Glidden, whose work the show profiled, produced a great deal of fiction masquerading as fact. Further, Terje Dahl, the gigantologist, admitted that the show distorted his views and engaged him from his sick bed to fabricate scenes for the show with “evidence” he had never seen but pretended to know.
But that pales before the revelation that archaeologist Steven Mrozowski, who appeared in Episode 3 to evaluate the Goshen Mystery Tunnel for potential excavation, didn’t know he would be on a show about giants, and is upset that footage of him was manipulated into making him appear to support the existence of a lost race of giants. On the Fiske Center blog last week Mrozowski wrote about his experiences:
I was surprised and disappointed to see my appearance on the History Channel’s Search for the Lost Giants, Episode 3, used in a manner that appeared to give credence to a long-discredited theory concerning giants. Who said anything about giants? I thought I was being asked to inspect the Goshen tunnel and to offer my opinion concerning who may have built it or what it was used for. The site was very interesting.
He went on to reaffirm a point I’ve often made, which is that the search for giants is closely related to nineteenth century racist efforts to deny Native Americans their own heritage, and he came pretty close to calling Search for the Lost Giants a racist show by asserting that it continues the trend of denying Native Americans their own culture’s accomplishments. Pointedly, he does not appear in this episode, about the excavation.
We open Search for the Lost Giants S01E06 “Moment of Truth” with a reprise of Genesis 6:4 in order to reinforce the Biblical basis for the hunt for slightly oversized human beings. The show uses the King James translation because it’s out of copyright.
After the opening credits, we are at the Goshen Mystery Tunnel, which has served as the connecting tissue for the first season of the show. A UMass archaeology team is planning to excavate in search of a small chamber that Jim and Bill Vieira think might have a giant’s skeleton within for reasons they never made clear. It seems to be related to the idea that “giant” skeletons came from Native American burial mounds and tombs; therefore, any tomb could be that of a giant. The logic escapes me, frankly, since there is no evidence that the miniature tunnel—just two feet tall—has any relationship to giants.
The archaeology team starts to dig, but this is boring, so we take off. In a very brief aside, the narrator admits that a “giant tooth” found in a cave in the Ozarks several episodes back was “not that of a hominid.” In short, it’s the animal tooth I guessed it was. This is buried amidst a cavalcade of “evidence” from old newspapers, and the Vieira brothers then have a Face Time session with L. A. Marzulli, the Nephilim researcher who earlier this year accused Jim Vieira of fundamental dishonesty for not giving him credit for “discovering” Ralph Glidden’s photograph of an alleged giant in what would become Episode 3. Marzulli got over his outrage and is now on the History Channel, all the better to promote himself and his line of overpriced DVDs—which are conveniently promoted on screen below his name. Marzulli is a Nephilim researcher and a Biblical literalist. The show gives Marzulli a chance to claim credit for finding the photograph, which he claims depicts that of a giant humanoid. Marzulli says he had the photograph analyzed, and I described the analysis here. As I said at the time, the analysis is dependent on assuming no forced perspective and assuming that the skeleton is in fact that of a real human being and not a staged fake, like so much of Glidden’s material. Marzulli explains that this skeleton is proof of the Nephilim of Genesis 6:4 because it is tall. By that logic, that would make the NBA the most important proof of the Nephilim theory in the world.
Jim Vieira says that he disagrees and that the Nephilim are a memory of interbreeding between what the narrator calls “two species of early man.” The show attempts to tie this to the Denisovan humans, whom it suggests are the progenitors of “giant” humans.
This segment seems to be an apology to Marzulli.
Jim Vieira and Ancient Aliens guest Hugh Newman plan to go in search of Benjamin Bucklin, a colonist killed at Nine Men’s Misery near Cumberland, Rhode Island, to whom was attributed gigantic stature and double rows of teeth. I investigated this story on November 21 and was able to determine that Jim Vieira is completely wrong about this. You can read all of the details here, but the short form is this: Bucklin’s body was exhumed in the late 1700s or early 1800s. A chronicler, John Daggett, wrote in 1830 (but published in 1834) that the body had “the remarkable circumstance of a set of double front teeth.” Daggett said nothing about him being a giant. A doctor who attended the exhumation confirmed the accuracy of Daggett’s account in 1836, in a letter published in a later edition of Daggett’s book. However, that same year Leonard Bliss wrote his own version from secondhand sources, primarily Daggett, who expanded Bucklin’s measurements. Now we hear him identified by “his very large frame, and from a set of double teeth all around.” The latter probably referred to his teeth being worn down, not actually in two rows, in keeping with standard use of the “double teeth all around” phrase at the time. Nevertheless, five decades later, a reporter for the Providence Journal mistook the “large frame” for “extraordinary size,” transforming a robust man into a giant. This game of telephone is what created the legend of Benjamin Bucklin, double-toothed giant.
Vieira quotes from the Providence Journal of January 20, 1886 I just reference above and which I have posted in my earlier article, but he attributes this text to 1820, seemingly identifying he alleged year of disinterment with the year of the article’s publication. The Journal article was based on Bliss and Daggett and written 50 years after those accounts, which mentioned no giant. Vieira chooses the worst possible source to use to spin his web of confusion.
Back at Goshen, the archaeologists continue to dig in search of the “hypothetical side tunnel.” Because this is boring, the narrator randomly asks whether large ancient hand axes found in South Africa in 2006 belonged to giants rather than normal people. After this, the archaeologists find a colonial era brass button.
Back in Rhode Island, Jim Vieira and Hugh Newman visit Bob Billington, director of the local tourism bureau. Billington known nothing about Benjamin Bucklin, whom Vieira describes without evidence as a “dude [who] must’ve been pushin’ eight feet.” No source suggests anything like that. Billington tells Vieira that the remains of the colonists killed at Nine Men’s Misery were disinterred in the 1920s by the Cistercians, who wanted unconsecrated burials off their land. The narrator demands to know if the monks were trying to purge their land of Nephilim.
After the break, we’re back at Goshen, where archaeologists found a builder’s trench over the known tunnel. An archaeologist tells the Vieira brothers that the tunnel was built on unplowed land, though what this is meant to tell us I can’t say. All it says is that the land hadn’t first been a farm. The narrator, though, goes beyond the Vieira brothers in his enthusiasm for the racist idea that it has something to do with the “mound building culture” of the lost race of giants, a culture that of course would deprive Native Americans of agency in their own cultural accomplishments. I didn’t think it was possible, but the producers’ insistence on having the narrator give voice to nineteenth century racist views makes the Vieira brothers—who want to attribute the site to Native American builders—seem sober and reasonable compared to the ignorant and somewhat racist narration.
In Rhode Island, Jim Vieira and Hugh Newman review articles about the reburial of the “giant” bones in the 1920s and spin conspiracy theories about the burial.
We go to commercial, and History promotes its “epic” two-night found-footage event about the Biblical end of the world, Revelation: End of Days, which takes the form of a badly-acted TV movie with poor special effects. It fits right in with Search for the Lost Giants and the network’s other appeals to the biblically literal.
After the break, Billington tells Vieira and Newman that the “giant” remains were reburied yet again in 1976, on the three hundredth anniversary of the massacre at Nine Men’s Misery. The men go off into the woods to look at the grave marker. The men are disappointed that they can’t rob the grave, and they ask Billington how they can get permission to break open the grave. Billington says he’ll try to get the authorities to authorize a disinterment.
In Goshen the archaeologists have dug trenches over the hypothesized side chamber. After the break team leader Kerry Lynch tells the Vieira brothers that there is no evidence of a side tunnel. Lynch says she found a piece of colonial glass and a nail. The tunnel, she concludes, was eighteenth century—a colonial construction, just like I assumed on construction style. Lynch, though, isn’t sure why the builders buried sand in the soil. Bill Vieira wonders whether the builders tunneled up to build a side tunnel from below. The brothers don’t want to take facts for an answer, so Bill Vieira decides that they need to keep digging to prove the existence of the tunnel. Jim Vieira, though, doesn’t want to conduct an amateur dig, so Bill Viera decides to stick a camera through the “zipper” seam in the tunnel wall—which he could have done back in episode one and saved us all six episodes of trouble.
Bill Vieira tries to thread the camera into the zipper seam but finds that the stones are too well-fitted to allow easy passage. After finding a spot to send in the camera, the men look through to the space beyond the wall and find a small cavity with another wall behind it, but no skeleton of a giant. But because the show has gradually lowered expectations over the course of six episodes, merely sending a camera through a hole in the wall and finding a small opening and a second wall is a triumph—even though the tunnel is (a) a colonial construction and (b) has no evidence whatsoever of anything to do with giants, ancient or otherwise.
As this season grinds to a close, Billington calls Jim Vieira back to tell him that he’ll call some officials to see if they might be willing to allow the grave to be disturbed for Vieira’s ignorant interest. Frequent show guest Todd Disotell makes a return appearance to tell Vieira (humorously) that “your journey is a lot like science” (just not scientific in any way), and Vieira tells Disotell about Bucklin’s skull. He asks Disotell if he will examine the skull should Vieira get permission to open the grave, and Disotell agrees. I want to repeat that the literary evidence provides no support for Vieira’s claims, and a plain reading of the primary sources is prima facie proof that the grave should remain undisturbed so that the men within can remain free from turning into an exhibit in the History Channel’s traveling circus.
On the other hand, it might be worth disturbing Bucklin, if only to show Jim Vieira how shoddy his research is, and how shallow his giant theories. Somehow, though, I fear that even Bucklin’s skull with its odd front teeth and normal proportions will do nothing to deter the search for giants. There is always another newspaper story to “investigate,” another myth to promote as fact.
With that, this season of Search for the Lost Giants draws to a close, with nothing resolved and the Goshen Mystery Tunnel and the Bucklin skull held out as ongoing threads for a threatened second season of ignorance, misinformation, and obsession.
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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