Surely there is something about fringe history beliefs that curdles even the most fertile of minds once faith supplants facts in the minds of the true believer. Have you ever heard of Richard J. Dewhurst? Dewhurst began his career producing legitimate work. He graduated from NYU with a degree in journalism and worked for ABC News, The Miami Herald, PBS, Fox, and many other outlets, including the History Channel. He also says he won an Emmy for his work on an HBO documentary about the Vietnam War, though his name does not appear in the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ online records. According to the Academy, the Emmys were awarded to writer Bill Couturie and producer Thomas Bird for Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam (1988), although Dewhurst was a credited writer on the project according to IMDB.
Somewhere along the line, he became a believer in fringe history, particularly the myth of the Mound Builders and the Bible Giants. According to Dewhurst, “Giants” once “ruled America.” Dewhurst believes that Native Americans did not build the prehistoric mounds of America, that Native Americans are conspiring to prevent research into the true builders of these mounds, and that the U.S. government is actively destroying evidence of a lost race of giants.
Oh, and of course these giants were “white” and had blue eyes and blond hair. Don’t take my word for it. One of his key pieces of evidence is a 1920s Ogden Standard-Examiner newspaper article titled “How Our White Indians Are Rising Out of Legend Into Fact,” about alleged blond Caucasian skeletons thousands of years old.
Dewhurst claims to have derived his information from old newspaper stories about giant skeletons as well as alleged eyewitness accounts to the discovery of the same. His new book on the subject is The Ancient Giants Who Ruled America: The Missing Skeletons and the Great Smithsonian Cover-Up (Bear & Company, Dec. 2013), and he’s been on a media tour promoting it. The book is largely a collection of reprints of old newspaper articles.
Regular readers will remember that there were no accusations of a Smithsonian cover-up until David Childress invented them in a 1993 article based on secondhand rumors and fake evidence.
Here’s an example of the quality of Richard J. Dewhurst’s newspaper research. In an article promoting the book on Graham Hancock’s website he presents an 1871 newspaper account of the discovery of two hundred “giant” skeletons from Grand River, near Cayuga. (The newspaper identified the skeletons as “Anakim,” or Bible giants.) But Dewhurst claims that this took place near Cayuga, NY (a village in the county where I grew up), which shows that he paid no attention whatsoever to his alleged source, since the original newspaper article describes the events as taking place in Cayuga Township, Ontario—in Canada! Obviously, he hasn’t visited either Cayuga to do any firsthand research into his claims that an old newspaper account accurately reported the discovery of hundreds of giants.
Worse: The fact that these skeletons were allegedly found in Canadian soil undermines his claim that the Smithsonian is suppressing the Bible giants. What interest did Canada have in following suit at a time when it was a part of the British Empire, an empire that the next year would celebrate George Smith’s discovery of the cuneiform Flood legend, which was believed at the time to have provided proof of the literal truth of the Bible, giants and all?
But Dewhurst isn’t interested in truth but propaganda. Despite the fact the Cardiff Giant is on display at the Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown, NY—where I visited it many years ago—he does not make firsthand observations of the carved statue and instead relies on a bad argument from authority—that “Harvard scholars” declared it a Bible giant—to claim it’s a real petrified man from Genesis 6:4! Dewhurst also relies on the dubious claim that 1.5 billion tons of copper were mined from Lake Superior in prehistoric times to give the giants copper weapons, a claim based on incorrect assumptions and faulty math, as I discussed when the same claim appeared on America Unearthed.
Here’s where Dewhurst’s propaganda surpasses his facts and runs into disturbing territory. He discusses the fact that nineteenth and early twentieth century people destroyed many prehistoric mounds, leveling them for farmland and for growing cities. (In fact, my hometown of Auburn, NY planted Fort Hill Cemetery atop one such mound!) But he then suggests that this situation continued apace today as part of a program to destroy antiquities to deny biblical truths. Listen to this bit of propagandistic sleight of hand: “To compound matters, the Mound Builders still have no official standing as an indigenous Native American People, as no official descendents (sic) of the Mound Builders have ever been recognized by the courts of the United States.” Do you see the trouble? There being no singular or distinct race of Mound Builders, they can have no official standing. The mounds were the work of the Adena, the Hopewell, the Mississippians, and many more. They have long been recognized, though their relationship to post-Contact tribes is less certain due to the population collapse and great migrations that followed. But by phrasing his claim this way, Dewhurst suggests that the Mound Builders were a separate race, distinct from modern Native Americans, which in turn is a rhetorical point supporting the equally ephemeral idea that there were genetically distinct “white” giants in America. Denial of federal recognition now becomes spurious evidence of “suppression” of that which did not actually exist!
Dewhurst asserts that the Mandan people were blue-eyed Europeans with blond and red hair. Although he differs from his fringe history colleagues in recognizing that the Mandan still exist today, he does not inform his readers that they are not blue-eyed or blond. Instead, he dismisses claims that they are Native Americans as “superstition, academic bias and ill-founded opinions.”
To return briefly to the “White Indians” from the Ogden Standard-Examiner that forms one of his key pieces of evidence: Dewhurst concludes his Graham Hancock website article by claiming that the Smithsonian and the Fowler Museum covered up the discovery of two hundred giant skeletons on Catalina Island until they were forced to admit their existence in 2011. However, according to the Los Angeles Times, parts of the skeletons were used by the 1928 excavator, Ralph Gidden, to build a museum of the “white” Indians, literally embedding their bones in the walls. Gidden apparently purchased bones from curio shops to salt his finds and created a fake dig site as a tourist attraction. He kept hundreds of bones and 30,000 teeth at his museum until it closed in 1950, at which point they went to the Fowler Museum at UCLA. (The Smithsonian have never housed them.) In other words, these “suppressed” bones were publicly accessible from 1928 to 1950, which is hardly suppression. The Fowler Museum has not put the bones on public display because museum do not generally display Native American bones anymore and Gidden kept poor records, so they could not identify which came from the Catalina dig and which were purchased elsewhere. There are no “giants” in the collection, which in 2012 began undergoing a new round of scientific testing to determine its origins. So far, all signs point to Native Americans of normal size.
Dewhurst conveniently leaves all that out because a newspaper in 1928 reported Gidden’s hype about Caucasian giants and everyone knows everything in the newspaper is always true. It is those evil scientists who lie.
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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