A week after J. Hutton Pulitzer announced on Facebook that he would not be commenting on the fourth season of Curse of Oak Island, he and business partner Scott Wolter delivered an hour-long podcast analyzing the fourth season of Oak Island. Pulitzer announced in the podcast that he has “retracted” his earlier Facebook posting. Wolter dismissed Curse, which held steady this week with 2.66 million viewers, as a “silly show,” while Pulitzer alleged that Curse of Oak Island’s production company, Prometheus Entertainment, is intentionally incorporating material originally presented on Scott Wolter’s America Unearthed, a show produced by a rival company, Committee Films. During the podcast, Wolter said that he told Prometheus Entertainment not to discuss his so-called “Hooked X®” because he had trademarked the phrase.
The pair’s thoughts about the mystery of Oak Island are not particularly relevant here, but since I do cover the business of fringe history regularly, I feel that I should share with you some of what they said about the corporate intrigue they allege is playing out between Prometheus Entertainment, Committee Films, and (through this podcast) their own new venture, Xplrr Media, LLC.
Pulitzer asked Wolter how he feels about Curse of Oak Island including reference to the symbol that Wolter is famous for having popularized, the so-called “Hooked X®,” a trademarked term for an X with an extra line on one stave that Wolter originally identified as a variant of the A-rune found on the Kensington Rune Stone, but which he has now expanded to include any cross-like shape with any bend, squiggle, crossbar, or other adornment (intentional or otherwise) on one stave.
“It annoys the hell out of me,” Wolter said. “Because, first of all they contacted me a little over two years ago, Prometheus did, a little over two years ago. I was down in Texas. I remember exactly where I was. I was speaking at a conference and I was in my car with Janet. We were just about to check in to our hotel when somebody called and wanted to talk to me about being on the show and talking about the Hooked X. And at the time I was just finishing filming season three of America Unearthed and I had no interest in being on that show because I didn’t like the show and I didn’t want them profiting from the Hooked X. I didn’t feel like … I was doing my own show. […] I trademarked the phrase ‘The Hooked X’ because I wanted to protect it. It was something that I coined, and it became synonymous with that all-important symbol. […] They called me and asked me if I wanted to be on the show. And I said no, and by the way you can’t use the phrase ‘the Hooked X’ period because it’s trademarked. And they said OK.”
Wolter then said that he told Prometheus that he did not want them “to use that symbol,” even though said symbol is in the public domain.
According to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records, Wolter trademarked the phrase “Hooked X” in 2009 only for “publications, namely, books in the field of historical artifacts.” His trademark is a word mark and it does not cover the symbol of the variant-A rune, and Wolter’s trademark application states nothing about its use on television. I have a letter from the attorney for A+E Networks stating in plain language that the network agreed that the symbol of the variant-A rune is in the public domain (having been introduced, at minimum, in the late 1800s) and is free for anyone, including me, to use at will. This was the one positive thing that came out of the network’s 2013 cease-and-desist letter targeting my book critiquing America Unearthed because of what the attorney claimed, among other things, was a violation of Scott Wolter’s intellectual property due to my use of the X-shaped rune from the Kensington Rune Stone. The network’s attorney agreed that the symbol does not belong to Wolter after I provided documentary evidence of its publication prior to 1923.
Wolter stated that the X-shaped carving shown on Curse of Oak Island is “not real” and was either created or chosen to “get around” his alleged trademark on the symbol. He claims that Curse digitally altered Zena Halpern’s map to remove hooks from the X’s on the map, though he did not say why they would do such a thing. The implication, however, is obvious.
After this, the pair refer to what I must presume is me as a “middle-aged deranged character living in his mother’s basement who has a personal affiniation (sic) with [Wolter].” Heavens! Am I really middle aged? I’m 35, and now I really do feel old. Two men two or three decades older than me said so. Pulitzer referred to what must be me as a “basement-dweller” again later in the podcast.
Just to share, I recently had a beautiful new backsplash installed in my kitchen, which I think really makes it look brighter and lighter. I had it done with 3 X 6 subway tiles because they are in keeping with the house’s original Art Deco style. I had thought about using some of the black and silver tiles I saw at Home Depot, but, man, were they wickedly expensive!
Elsewhere in the podcast, the two men use their time to settle scores against various groups, such as the New England Antiquities Research Association, for opposing Wolter’s claims about medieval history. Wolter later states that Prometheus Entertainment and the History Channel care only about money and therefore “make up this nonsense” in order to achieve ratings goals.
Not long ago, in a podcast with Pulitzer, Wolter admitted to staging and restaging parts of America Unearthed, particularly a scene using dowsing rods, in order to craft a more compelling narrative.
“I guess people buy into it,” Wolter said of allegedly falsified facts on Curse of Oak Island. “They’re making TV, and they’re making money.”
“Take the money and run!” Pulitzer said later.
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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