The briefcase actually contained a magnet to reproduce a technical glitch one of the other cast members had while taking photos with his smartphone. Everyone on the ranch is now afraid of evil magnetism and thinks there is some secret super-magnet under the ranch. It is deeply bizarre that Taylor, who claims to believe space aliens built cities on the moon and UFOs are coming to Earth through vortices, is the voice of reason and tells the ranch team that they have no evidence of any danger. The remainder of the episode was a long boring slog watching the all-male cast take measurements and wander around the arid landscape. It so closely apes the Oak Island format that you already know before they finish that nothing conclusive will occur. Tom Winterton, who alleged that digging a hole years ago gave him an unexplained head injury, claimed in this episode that merely visiting the ranch’s mesa gave him a headache, so they rushed him to the hospital. They call it an “injury” despite describing it as a headache.
Isn’t it amazing that despite the danger, the production crew for Secret of Skinwalker Ranch happily films the circus, and that they managed to escape the supernatural bombardment unscathed?
Fugal claims that the only way to avoid injury is to “approach the ranch” with “humility” and “respect.” I, however, am amazed that even if there were radiation causing negative health effects, the people involved are imagining a malevolent sentience to it—a wildly unsupportable claim. So it seems that despite aping the Oak Island format and style, in terms of content the Secret of Skinwalker Ranch is going to be less Curse of Oak Island: Desert Edition than Ghost Hunters in Slow Motion.
Unless there is something of note in future episodes, this will conclude my interest in the saga of dead cows and head bumps. Seriously, space poltergeists: Up your game. You barely hold a candle to regular poltergeists. At least the teen girls that faked classic poltergeists had a little more style and flair.
Speaking of shitty cable shows, I should also mention that Discovery Communications has begun broadcasting a new series of Forbidden History. They promoted the fringe conspiracy series from its former U.S. home on the American Heroes Channel to the Science Channel, where it now airs on Sunday nights to 284,000 viewers—one of the rock-bottom lowest-rated pseudo-history shows on TV. However, the Science Channel is no longer part of my cable package, this is mercifully beyond even my panopticon, and thanks to coronavirus isolation, I can’t go to a friend’s house to watch it there, either. Sadly, the show will have to take its miniscule audience and vanish into the night, unwatched and unnoticed.
Finally, I want to highlight a fake history claim currently circulating in the Middle East and South Asia in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. A series of Arabic-language social media posts and memes on WhatsApp and elsewhere allege that the medieval Akhbar al-zaman predicted the outbreak of coronavirus. According to the Arabic text, prophecy researchers discovered references to the numbers 20 + 20, a spreading disease, the prohibition of pilgrims, the quieting of all noise, the invasion of locusts, and the death of the king of the Romans. This, the conspiracy theory claims, refers to the year 2020, when coronavirus would shut down the hajj, prevent social gatherings, leave the fields fallow, and see Donald Trump die from coronavirus. The author of the conspiracy theory alleges that the book further adds some anti-Semitic bullshit, situates the outbreak in March, and then concludes that the markets will all close and a third of people will die.
As most readers are aware, I am especially familiar with the Akhbar al-zaman since I translated the text into English. The book does not contain prophecies of any kind since it is a (pseudo-) history book covering history from the creation to Moses. The supposed prophecies do not appear in the text. Locusts are only mentioned, for example, in discussing the plagues of Egypt. No Roman king’s death is discussed, and “Roman” meant “Byzantine” in the book anyway. Similarly, the other claims do not appear in the book. It would be exceptionally strange for a book written in Arabic by Muslims in the Middle Ages to encode a Christian year, following a Gregorian calendar that wouldn’t be invented for a few hundred more years.
It is possible that the posting meant the other Akhbar al-zaman, but that book—a massive encyclopedia of world history—was lost in Middle Ages.
At any rate, the hoaxer attributed the false prophecy to Ibrahim bin Saluki (or Saluqiyya), an author unknown to medieval history. People existed with the al-Saluki name, and I assume that statistically at least one was named Ibrahim, but no copy of the Akhbar al-zaman, nor any literary reference to a book that that name, attributes any such book to a bin Saluki. Similarly, no such references identify any bin Saluki as the author of a book of history or prophecy. The lost Akhbar al-zaman was the work of al-Masudi, and the extant one is an anonymous book often falsely attributed to al-Masudi and sometimes identified as the work of Ibrahim ibn Wasif Shah (a.k.a. al-Wasifi).
The false bin Saluki’s biography is an interesting mashup of various authors of the real Akhbar al-zaman. According to a Saudi summary of the Arabic claims, bin Saluki was born in Persia, trained in Mesopotamia under the Abbasids and died in 1071 CE (463 AH). He wrote a 30-volume history of the world, of which only a one volume survives. The last part is easiest to trace back. It refers to al-Masudi’s Akhbar al-zaman, which ran (surprise!) 30 volumes, of which one volume supposedly remains in Vienna, though its authenticity is unproven. The remaining details are random medieval tropes. Bin Saluki’s peregrinations are pretty close to those of the famed astrologer-historian Abu Ma’shar but also many other leading lights of the medieval Arab world. Bin Saluki’s supposed death in 1071 about averages out the dates of various candidates for the Akhbar al-zaman’s authorship. Al-Mas’udi died in 956 CE, for example, and ibn Wasif Shah (if he existed) probably died sometime after 1200 CE.
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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