Today I’m going to try to finish my evaluation of Zena Halpern’s Templar Mission to Oak Island and Beyond, and you will forgive me if I summarize more than usual some of the sidetracks that aren’t directly relevant to the question of the Knights Templar in America. Before we begin, however, I need to address a couple of points that David Brody and Steve St. Clair, both friends of Halpern and active participants in her hunt for Templar treasure in the Catskills, made in comments on my blog.
First, when I said that Hunter Mountain is in Halpern’s backyard, Steve St. Clair accused me of lying and of not knowing Halpern lives in New York City, a two-hour drive (three if you take the long route) away. Halpern states that she lives in New York City on her website. Perhaps it comes from living in upstate New York where distances are measured in hours of travel rather than city blocks, but I have always thought of any place one can visit in a day trip as being close by. Growing up in Central New York, that included for me everything from Buffalo to Albany, and from Elmira to the Thousand Islands. In Akhenaten to the Founding Fathers, Scott Wolter gives the impression that Halpern and her friend Donald Ruh were quite familiar with the Catskills area and had visited there in the past. Indeed, in her past articles and conference appearances, Halpern has indicated that Ruh had taken her hiking in the Catskills “regularly” over the past two decades, where he showed her various (almost certainly fake) ancient inscriptions. Don Ruh told Walter that he lives in upstate New York in a mobile home, and he told Wolter that he travels regularly between his mobile home and Zena Halpern’s residence. I think you can connect the dots.
Second, I was going to wait until the end to say it, but since our dear friends have made an issue of it: In his book, Wolter cites Halpern as giving a somewhat different story for the origin of the brass box, which is featured in that book. In that account, it is Don Ruh who found the garden ornament containing the box while scuba diving in the Hudson in 1968, not William D. Jackson, who in the new account alleged that he salvaged it from the shore himself. (Jackson said he had friends with him, presumably the aforementioned Ruh.) Other details don’t quite align with the more elaborate story presented in this book. In the old account, Ruh found only the top ball-shaped finial, but in the new Jackson retrieved an entire square-shaped block with a pyramidal summit surmounted by a round, ball-shaped finial. In 2013, the “Jackson” material was allegedly given to Ruh by hand by Jackson himself, but in 2017 we now get an elaborate story of how “Dan Spartan” sent it directly to Halpern by secret post. Either Wolter is a bad writer who failed to make sure he had the right facts (cough, ahem), or Halpern changed the story.
Now, on to the remaining chapters.
Yet another chapter is devoted to a story reliant entirely on “Dan Spartan’s” description of William D. Jackson’s alleged 1971 investigation into the brass box. Here the confirming evidence is yet another document that “Spartan” describes, but which Halpern never actually sees. This time it’s an alleged eighteenth century pamphlet called La Applicazione de le Francese, Gallese et Scozzese a la Lingua de Indiano Americano, by Gauden Roche and Galvao Benvenuto, purchased from a French rare books dealer named Pierre de Valzac, all of whom are still more people whose names do not appear in standard databases or repositories. I am also uneasy about the pamphlet title, which uses an Italian term for Native Americans not in evidence in extant eighteenth century literature available in online indexes or old Italian dictionaries. This pamphlet contained references to—wait for it—the word Onteora, which just happens to be a name associated with the Hudson Valley, held by a school district and a park downstream from Hunter Mountain. This is rather surprising since I can find no record of the word “Onteora” prior to its use as a steamboat name in the 1870s (probably from highly local Ulster County poet Henry Abbey’s poem of that name). It is the current spelling of what was claimed to be the local Native American name for the Catskills, meaning “hills of the sky.” In truth, however, the name “Onteora” is fake. Henry Rowe Schoolcraft invented it in 1844 (as “Ontiora”) to de-Dutch the Catskills. It didn’t take but was applied locally to give a faux-Native veneer to a summer resort community.
It really beggars belief that Halpern accepts that a medieval Englishman, Ralph de Sudeley, had his memoir of an American voyage entitled The Onteora Document, given that the name was invented in 1844 and only took on its modern spelling after 1870.
This pretty much puts the nail in the coffin of this hoax.
The rest, essentially, is noise.
Chapters 8 and 9
This chapter detail’s the increasingly fictitious-seeming Jackson’s clandestine efforts, alongside the Spartan Agency, to obtain the Onteora Document and secret it out of Italy before Benvenuto operatives and the Catholic Church could sequester it in the Vatican. It reads as a third-rate spy thriller, and Halpern made no effort to confirm any of the parts to the story. The document itself was written, anachronistically, in post-Renaissance-era Theban and transliterated passages in Old English, Latin, and Italian. Old English was on the wane at the supposed era of the document, but I’d be very curious as to the Italian used, given the huge variance in dialects that have plagued Italy since the breakup of Vulgar Latin. Conveniently, Jackson was able to translate the entire document into modern English, and the originals, of course, disappeared into the Vatican vaults when he sold it (!) to the Church.
Halpern spins an elaborate conspiracy theory involving Templars, and she concedes that the so-called “Benvenuto Dialogues” she identifies as letters from an Italian to Henry I Sinclair, Earl of Orkney in the 1300s were actually published in 1610 and were addressed to another Henry altogether (probably Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales). But she says she has “reasons” to think they are really 300 years older.
I will pass over in silence the laundry list of Scott Wolter-inspired Templar, Sinclair, and Jesus Bloodline claims that are of secondary importance to the narrative, and which I have debunked extensively and repeatedly. I will also mention only in passing that a raft of supporting documents allegedly from diverse European hands over the past three centuries all share the same quirks and idiosyncrasies (and a penchant for using modern business-letter formatting) and (when a handwritten version exists) all seem to be by the same hand, with its rather notable downward slant to the uneven lines.
One document contains a single “X” with a small mark on the upper right stave. The resolution is not sufficient to get a good look at it, but the blotch visible in the low-resolution version suggests a slip of the pen. Halpern calls it a “hooked-X” and cites Scott Wolter as proof that it is evidence of a Jesus Bloodline conspiracy. Frankly, I am more upset about what seems to be blank pages torn from old books to concoct what look very much like prima facie fakes.
The long and short of it is that the collection of documents all say that an ancient treasure of wisdom and scrolls was secreted away in “the Land of Onteora,” which must be news to Schoolcraft, when he concocted a name that somehow had been in use only among one group of cultists for 300 years.
Part II lacks a chapter title in its first section. It is a rehearsal of various Templar conspiracy theories familiar from fringe literature going back to Eugène Beauvois, and Halpern alleges that Jackson’s “Onteora” document confirms them all. She provides a close up of a corner of the pages of the document, and it seems to be comprised of old paper sheets—odd for the twelfth century, when vellum or parchment were the most common choices. The text is printed in Theban in block characters. Where a form of cursive is employed for Latin, the writing is childish, full of odd decorative curls, apparently by a forger with little or no knowledge of medieval orthography. Humorously, according to the translation “Jackson” made, the Templar knights called out to each other by their “last” names (“De Paynes, you take the rear!”), for the forger has misunderstood how names worked in the Middle Ages, and how the Knights are documented to have spoken to one another.
Halpern does not present the complete Templar document but rather a series of excerpts, all in the “translation” of Jackson, with no indication of the original text. The “translation” is full of anachronisms and improbabilities, such as calling Hildegard of Bingen’s Physica by a frequently used variant Latin title, one granted it only after its author’s death and beatification. (Her incomplete canonization is pointlessly complex; she was popularly thought a saint before the 16th century.) The modern De Gruyter critical edition gives that title, Liber Subtilitatum Diversarum Naturarum Creaturarum, as one of four in the manuscript traditions, and clearly not the original since it is embedded in the opening line “Here begins the book of St. Hildegard…” I could go into more detail, but the critical edition’s notes are in German, and I really don’t have the energy to translate the marginally interesting details. Suffice it to say that according to scholars the title belongs to a later redaction. This is a problem because the “Templar” text allegedly was written while Hildegard was composing this particular work under that specific title!
The story of the text reads like Templar fan fiction: A group of knights enter a secret tomb in Jerusalem and discover treasure, scrolls, a copy of the Torah, a compass (described the way a modern person pretending not to understand one might describe it), an astrological/astronomical brass object with symbols, and some astrolabe/sextant type devices. Since it is quite clear that the document is a fake, there isn’t much point in analyzing the concocted devices for plausibility. They also uncovered a Little Orphan Annie-style secret decoder pin, like the one in A Christmas Story, only with Arabic and Hebrew writing instead of Little Orphan Annie branding. The decoder pin helped Italian Templar scholars determine that the Jewish/Arabic records recorded a trip to Onteora, which, as we know, didn’t exist.
The third part details the next part of the Templar document, an account of Ralph’s voyage to America, again identified as Onteora. Bizarrely, the only excerpt in the original language is given in la Français moderne, as is the transliterated part of the coded Theban message. This is decidedly wrong for 1180 or anytime thereafter, as I long ago discovered in struggling mightily with translating the very different Middle French of the 1400s, let alone the Old French of 1180! Occasionally, the text slips in an archaic French word (Halpern highlights soutrain, an Old French term used in place of souterrain), but they are dropped into modern French sentences with modern grammar.
In places, the forger attempted to give Theban characters a Hebraic cast, and the flourishes added the staves of letters Halpern interprets as Scott Wolter-style “hooked X” symbols.
Halpern, however, denies that any of this is a problem and notes that those who question the document are simply too dumb to understand its infinite complexity:
I expect that some will question the authenticity of “A Year We Remember” and the Templar Document in its entirety. To them I will just say that the information contained is of such complexity that it would require experts in various fields of ancient and medieval history, linguistics, cryptography, astronomy, cartography, navigation and geography to compile.
I respectfully dissent. I could concoct a similar story with the help of some reference books. Halpern has read into some rather generic lines complexities that, in a prima facie reading, are not there. For example, when the “Templars” refer to a “goddess” that they worship—probably the forger’s reference to Mary Magdalene and the secret Black Madonna cult fantasies about her, given the Da Vinci Code fantasy involved—she takes it as an “enormously complex” and oblique reference to ancient Israelite Asherah cults surviving into the Middle Ages. She brought that to a text that offers nothing along those lines.
The story is brief, light on detail, and pretty similar to those told in fringe books like those of Frederick Pohl. The Templar team sails to Oak Island and Nova Scotia, they encounter local natives (whose language, despite being unintelligible to them, they nevertheless correctly decipher and record phonetically while claiming not to understand it), and they thank the Goddess for their protection. They get involved in a war between the Mi’kmaq and another tribe, and somehow they manage to become fluent in their language in the midst of the battle, from whom they learn of the Norse occupying “the north.” Amazingly, as they make their way to Hunter Mountain, they correctly identify each tribe by its modern name—even before such tribes took on their post-Contact modern identities. At Hunter Mountain, the Natives tell them of the Cohens (priests) of the Elohim (God) who dance on its summit. These, of course, at the Temple Jews who secreted God’s treasure at a future ski resort, where neither loggers nor skiers managed to find it in centuries of traversing the mountain. Nearby, a tribe of giant white men with copper armor stand guard, and they are Welsh who speak that tongue (as apparently do the ridiculously polyglot Templars) and have a pagan goddess temple. The story references some crude animal carvings on Hunter Mountain, and Halpern relates all of this to “paleo-Hebrew” inscriptions Ruh has spent more than 15 years bringing her to the Catskills to show her, carvings she said Scott Wolter confirmed for her were very old. This disagrees with Wolter’s claim in 2013 that he could not date the stones because they were weathered before they were carved. [UPDATE: Wolter announced on his blog that Halpern described his work incorrectly and that he stands by the 2013 version.] I described them at the time as a “postmodern homage to ancient art.” They’re crude in a way only fakes tend to be.
I cannot convey to you how un-medieval the “translated” text reads. It resembles no medieval text I have ever read, and I have read a lot of them. But within this narrative is a further embedded narrative. “Ralph” says that the Welsh gave him an ancient text stating that the Jews brought the Ark of the Covenant to Petra and hid it there, apparently without notice from the inhabitants of the city. Oh, and of course they had a document confirming the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene—and not just any document. They had their actual marriage certificate, sealed by Herod Antipas himself. I’m pretty sure this is incredible for an absurd number of reasons.
Ralph also drew a map of the Hudson River valley and of eastern Canada, all of which he apparently surveyed accurately simply by wandering through them. Amazing, isn’t it? He returned to Europe with Jesus’ marriage certificate, which the Templars valued above all other items. Unfortunately, the Little Orphan Annie decoder pins got lost, so the Theban text of various other documents couldn’t be read.
And lo and behold: Halpern said that she assembled a team made up of David Brody, Steve St. Clair, Scott Wolter, and Scott’s son Grant to look for the decoder pins, ancient scrolls, and other Judaica. They did not find them, but as we know from Wolter’s book, Halpern’s property is littered with crude “ancient” carvings, though weirdly such a vast population of Jews left nothing anywhere else in the area. Gee, I wonder why.
It doesn’t matter, since the texts’ own internal evidence marks them as fake. The remainder of the chapter presents claims about Templars and secret codes in church art, etc., all familiar from Wolter’s books. The conspiracies are irrelevant unless the “Onteora” texts are real, and they cannot be given what we know of actual facts.
Part IV presents the supposed Templar maps of Oak Island seen on The Curse of Oak Island. Halpern has little to say about them and devotes most of the time to explaining how influential the TV show was on her thinking about history (sigh) and how Jackson believed that the Maya were involved in hiding gold treasure at Hunter Mountain. She now thinks Oak Island is tied to Hunter Mountain as twin repositories of all of the world’s treasures and secrets. She weaves a ridiculous story about the Spartan Agency engaged in manipulations against the Vatican, which, she says, bought all of Jackson’s original documents, which is why she has only transcripts. It became clear that Halpern assumes Oak Island to be a serious show, and her analysis is so mixed up with what she saw on the show that they are one and the same. She adds that she now thinks that Onteora is actually ante-ora, a misspelled Latin-Spanish hybrid meaning “in front of gold” because, as she says, gold is the most important thing to the Templars and therefore the most logical “alternative” translation. Consequently, Onteora must refer to Oak Island, a blip of generally unimportant land that is nevertheless of world-historical importance as the gateway to gold.
She does not bother to deal with the problems of the maps, that they are “Jackson’s” redrawing of an eighteenth century copy of a fourteenth century or later version of an allegedly Templar map that nevertheless depicts, as she believes, the area when sea levels were lower. Any one of those removes from an original would be problematic; the fact that she refuses to explain why she believes them to be “authentic” accept to say that the story on them matches what she saw on The Curse of Oak Island strains even my tolerance for bullshit. Anyone could fake the maps; they are not terribly good, and even as “copies” they are somewhere between amateur and disastrous.
Halpern says we need to wait for Volume 2 at some uncertain date for more “evidence” and more details about the so-called “Templar” documents.
Thus ends the book. Make of it what you will, but it offers nothing remotely resembling evidence of the authenticity for any of the documents or artifacts it is based upon.
4/8/2017 10:18:49 am
Well, Jason, this seals the deal. If you want a believable fringe history account done, you are just going to have to do it yourself.
4/11/2017 01:20:10 am
Hate blogger gonna hate
Not the Comte de Saint Germain
4/11/2017 10:52:40 pm
I assume you won't respond to the evidence that all of Halpern's claims are based on a hoax, because you never argue evidence, just sling insults.
1/29/2019 08:23:57 pm
4/16/2017 03:36:04 pm
I feel sorry for you and the people you contaminate Jason. I pity what ever person or gender you may be married to because you are without a doubt the most contentious and negative person to ever publish so call critiques on the net. You make life miserable for those who are searching for truth. You don't provide facts, just your own narrow minded negative thoughts. You squelch cognitive thought and research. You degrade people and their works as though you are the guardian of truth but in fact are a satanic influence on people who are searching for truth. You should do the world and internet a favor and spread your negativism only those whom you hate. Perhaps get a real job and do something to improve the world.
4/17/2017 08:23:10 pm
That's rich !! haha,, Perhaps you could show where Jason is wrong ?
4/8/2017 10:35:18 am
"To them I will just say that the information contained is of such complexity that it would require experts in various fields of ancient and medieval history, linguistics, cryptography, astronomy, cartography, navigation and geography to compile."
4/8/2017 01:56:07 pm
To be fair... When I was still an academic, I would occasionally - once every few months - get an email from some lunatic asking for help with some lunatic project. Never anything about templars; I'm a math guy, so it would usually be somebody who had disproved Einstein or found a free energy machine or whatever, and just needed somebody to do the scutwork of filling in the math for his brilliant idea. These people would spam everyone in the department, getting our emails from the department webpage, promising to share their inevitable Nobel Prize if only someone would help them out.
4/9/2017 01:23:46 pm
You're a great help
4/9/2017 02:50:35 pm
Why do I owe them any of my time?
4/8/2017 04:35:41 pm
Joe: What she really needed was to consult an expert in photocopying.
4/8/2017 07:07:13 pm
He sounds very similar to the people e-mailing me...
4/8/2017 10:42:30 am
This sounded more like a rough draft for bad, Templar-themed conspiracy fiction.
4/8/2017 11:04:48 am
I hope the Templar's took time out to go to Grossengers to take in a show with Henny Youngman and Shecky Green. `
4/8/2017 11:20:07 am
Wow,, this whole thing is hilarious ! I'm thinking “Dan Spartan” may have been an alias used by Jethro Bodine when he was a double knot spy, the timeline and logic seem to fit.
4/8/2017 12:33:51 pm
So, a lot of this was just a novelization of Curse of Oak Island, the series? Yawn. Oh well, you made it sound at least interesting. The actual book probably isn't.
4/8/2017 02:07:03 pm
Kal; Jethro Bodine of the "Beverly Hillbilly's" wanted to be double knot spy like James Bond,,knot knot 7.
4/8/2017 04:31:39 pm
"Double nought", but it's always nice to see there are some who remember it.
4/8/2017 01:38:21 pm
Seriously, Jason, cobble together a book like this, throw in a bunch of details, and get one of your buddies to submit it to a few alternative publishers. Keep good records, then when references to it start popping up in the books of the true believers, pull the rug out from under them. It'd be a bit of fun (and might earn you some money).
4/8/2017 03:32:53 pm
I'm quite impressed by the quality of your writing Jason if your keyboard is as sweaty and crumb filled as alleged by your detractors from the stink lair.
4/8/2017 03:51:29 pm
Hi Jaosn -
4/8/2017 06:44:17 pm
4/10/2017 08:49:51 am
Hi AN -
4/10/2017 06:38:07 pm
Rather than me take in nonsense at the speed of human speech, how about you summarize it for me?
4/10/2017 07:58:32 pm
Hi AN -
4/8/2017 04:11:01 pm
Thank you so much, Jason, for the self-flagellation of paying for and reading the book.
Peter de Geus
4/8/2017 06:35:06 pm
Wolter is issuing a correction on his blog to stuff in the book about him. Someone in Pulitzer's FB group has also noted "almost word for word" copying from Wikepedia. When fringers throw other fringers under the bus, what are the skeptics supposed to think?
4/8/2017 06:43:40 pm
"Second, I was going to wait until the end to say it, but since our dear friends have made an issue of it: In his book, Wolter cites Halpern as giving a somewhat different story for the origin of the brass box, which is featured in that book. In that account, it is Don Ruh who found the garden ornament containing the box while scuba diving in the Hudson in 1968, not William D. Jackson, who in the new account alleged that he salvaged it from the shore himself. (Jackson said he had friends with him, presumably the aforementioned Ruh.) Other details don’t quite align with the more elaborate story presented in this book. In the old account, Ruh found only the top ball-shaped finial, but in the new Jackson retrieved an entire square-shaped block with a pyramidal summit surmounted by a round, ball-shaped finial. In 2013, the “Jackson” material was allegedly given to Ruh by hand by Jackson himself, but in 2017 we now get an elaborate story of how “Dan Spartan” sent it directly to Halpern by secret post. Either Wolter is a bad writer who failed to make sure he had the right facts (cough, ahem), or Halpern changed the story."
4/8/2017 07:32:38 pm
Wow, I thought this 3 part review pretty much covered everything, but I guess it doesn't.
Peter de Geus
4/8/2017 08:01:52 pm
Pulitzer himself of course has no shame. He's well known to attack others that don't share his personal Oak Island agenda. He will of course cheer lead his so called partner to do it for him, as well. People that publish have especially been targets because I suppose this makes him even more jealous, having himself never actually published anything about Oak Island. He's stuck in the social media spamming rut.
4/9/2017 02:05:12 am
An Over-Educated Grunt
4/9/2017 09:04:40 am
I'm not a linguist but most of the things you quote from her that aren't in English just don't FEEL right. I'm having a hard time accepting "Indianos Americanos" especially; the Spanish would've been "Indios" without references to clarify which Indians they were talking about, and I have a hard time accepting Italians are going to say it in a substantially more complex way just because.
4/9/2017 09:13:48 am
In Spanish "Indians" are "indios," but in Italian, they are "indiani," so it's not entirely absurd. It's just that none of the terms are the ones that were used at the time. Currently, the Italian term is "nativi americani," which succeeded "indiani d'America," which competed with "pellerosa," meaning "red men." Italian Wikipedia says that Italian typically used "indios" (from the Spanish) or "indiani" in the early centuries, but I haven't had the chance to go through Italian documents to see what occurs more often. "Indianos Americanos," however, doesn't appear in most databases.
4/9/2017 01:44:03 pm
"I'm having a hard time accepting..." Mmmm, what a suckulent argument that is. Perhaps a run for office on the I'm-Sure-Italian-Is-Like-Spanish ticket is in someone's future.
4/9/2017 11:45:11 am
The irony that escapes them is that they're free to come here unfettered in their fecalphelia, yet go to their venues and try to explain "peer review" and you will be shut down posthaste.
4/11/2017 11:30:22 am
Thanks for the reviews, Jason. Great work.
4/17/2017 09:06:32 am
Excellent blog. I saw the program on Oak Island, yesterday, on History Channel, and found it all so fanciful and ridiculous that I decided to look for more information on the net. The idea that Europeans generally have of Americans (and I'm sorry, not to offend, this can be a bias) is that they are ignorant people who easily allow themselves to be manipulated with any fantasy that targets aliens or historical fantasies. Your blog proves that it is not so. There are also Americans like you. Congratulations. Continue your good work of dismantling fallacies.
4/17/2017 09:32:40 am
For a comprehensive exploration of the hoax that is the notion of treasure on Oak Island, see Richard Joltes' site:
William M Smith
4/30/2017 10:04:58 am
WAKE UP People - If you go to Amazon and look at Zena's book review you will see she is being sued by Don Ruh for plagiarism.
5/27/2017 10:34:17 pm
Jason, I too have purchased and read Zena Halperns book. I will most likely never get that money back nor will my eyes unlearn what they witnessed. Praise to you for taking the time to review this piece of (insert appropriate description here) because I couldn't do it.
William M Smith
5/28/2017 08:10:20 am
The following link will get you to some work I completed for Mr Rhu in 2008 and 2009. His artifacts were given to him at the time of death of Mr Jackson. Don Rhu told me he was with Mr. Jackson when they found the artifacts in a cave in the park in New York. After I sent a confidential 64 page engineering report to Mr Rhu I learned at the 2009 NEARA conference, it had been shared with Scott and others by Zenna. In my report I instructed Mr Rhu that his artifacts were priceless and should be returned to the state for proper study. This is a shame that state property ends up in the wrong hands to become fabricated stories for fooling the public. Note: I have all the letters between Mr Rhu and myself as well as copies of the photos he sent me to study the material including the research done by Mr Jackson and his associates at that time including the late Barry Fell. (http://www.migration-diffusion.info/article.php?id=371)
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