Before we begin, I’d be remiss if I did not note that Australian Fortean researcher Louis Proud, author of a book on alien and occult influences from the moon, announced that he recently read Dracula for the first time, and he determined that Bram Stoker’s horror masterpiece was awful: “I found it overly long, in parts boring, and frequently tedious. By the end of it, I felt as though I myself had been attacked by a vampire, such was the extent of my exhaustion.” Don’t let him near Don Quixote or The Count of Monte Cristo. I can’t help but question the literary taste of anyone who finds Dracula to be “tedious.” Contemporary reviews called it “the most exciting old-fashioned story of horrors we have read in a long time” and “a web of horrors I do not remember the mate to” and worried readers would have wracked nerves from reading it. Proud revealed his views in service of a book review of Jim Steinmeyer’s Who Was Dracula? (2013), in which Proud’s ignorance of Dracula and a century of work on the subject leads him to imagine that Steinmeyer was among the first to look for an origin for the vampire count beyond Vlad Tepes.
By the way, Steinmeyer’s previous book, 2011’s Last Greatest Magician in the World, has a very familial look to it thanks to public domain art collections from the Library of Congress:
Yesterday in discussing the Westford Knight, I noted that there were reports that witnesses had seen two local boys make part of what is now considered the Westford “carving” in the late nineteenth century, specifically the punched holes that form the so-called sword hilt, the only indisputably manmade part of the figure. One of the commenters on the post asked after the primary source, and I confess that I am not familiar with it. I gained the information from Ken Feder’s Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology, which attributes the fact to David K. Schafer’s study of the Westford Knight in the Bulletin of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society in 2003. Schafer, now the senior collections manager at the Peabody Museum and known today as David DeBono Schafer, attributed the information to documents he got from the town historian in Westford, Mass., which I have not seen. Conspiratorial novelist David Brody claims to have read Schafer’s private correspondence in which he allegedly admitted that his report on the Westford Knight was intended as humor, but Brody never talked to Schafer.
I tried calling the Peabody Museum this morning, but no one answered the phone. It went to voice mail each time I tried. I am also trying to contact Schafer via Facebook. I will report back on the results when and if I am able to get hold of him, and if he can share with us the documents in question.
Brody agrees that boys worked on the figure, noting that “two local boys added to the carving in the late 1800s by inscribing a ‘peace pipe’ to the area near what many believe to be the face of the Knight.” However, David Goudsward’s The Westford Knight and Henry Sinclair tells us that this story originally involved only one boy, Edward Fisher, whose sister Lily recalled in 1954 that she remembered him taking a hatchet to rock and knocking a V-shape into it 70 years earlier. This appears to be the source of the claim that Edward Fisher (and, in some versions, his brothers) carved the entirety of the image. This claim may well be false, since the Westford image was first described in an 1874 gazetteer of Massachusetts the year after Fisher was born: “The mineral called ‘andalusite’ is found here; and an immense ledge which crops out near the Centre has upon its surface ridges furrowed in former times by glacial forces. There is upon its face a rude figure, supposed to have been cut by some Indian artist.”
However, it is unclear from the gazetteer entry whether the “rude figure” is actually the punched “sword” hilt or refers to the imaginary human figure projected onto the glacial ridges, as the text implies. If that latter, it would actually support the idea that the sword hilt was punched at a later date. Indeed, in the clearer description in Edwin Hodgman’s 1883 History of Westford, there is no mention of the sword-hilt at all, and it is quite easy to read his comments as referring to an imagined face appearing in the random grooves left by a glacier: “A broad ledge, which crops out near the house of William Kittredge, has upon its surface grooves made by glaciers in some far-off geological age. Rude outlines of the human face have been traced upon it, and the figure is said to be the work of Indians.” In both the 1874 and 1883 accounts, the obviously manmade features of the current carving are not mentioned explicitly, and in both cases the authors heavily imply by placing the “rude” outline so close to a discussion of glacial activity that the image is imaginary and the product of local fancy and legend.
My conclusion would be that local people in Westford imagined a human figure in the glacial markings, and sometime after 1883 someone “improved” upon it with the pecked sword hilt, perhaps under the influence of the then-popular hypothesis that the Viking Vinland was Massachusetts.
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.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.