Who Carved the Westford Knight?
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.
Peace Pipe added
6/16/2015 07:19:17 am
James P. Whittall II, Gertrude Johnson (editors), " T.C. Lethbridge – Frank Glynn Correspondence: 1950-1966" (Early Sites Research Society, 1980; Revised Edition 1998)
Peace Pipe added
6/16/2015 07:49:27 am
From David Goudsward, "The Westford Knight and Henry Sinclair: Evidence of a 14th Century Scottish Voyage to North America" (2010), page 30: "[Lila Fisher] also recalled the time her brother Edward decided to 'improve' the Indian by taking a hatchet and adding a carving of a peace pipe" (footnote 27 referencing Lethbridge-Glynn Correspondence, page 30)
6/16/2015 07:56:09 am
Bram Stoker boring? I guess someone's idea of great writing and great literature come from reading Archie comics is qualified to make that judgement.
6/16/2015 08:14:26 am
Jason, everyone, stay calm. For decades, the AATs have been arguing that humanity was/is an unintelligent, unimaginative lot, totally dependent on alien influence.
6/16/2015 02:24:38 pm
I've always seen that as one of the redeeming qualities of AAT. Its proponents may only accuse dark-skinned people of being unable to build impressive structures, but to them, *no* human being is capable of writing about anything they didn't see with their own eyes.
6/17/2015 03:22:01 am
Ah, but Shane, to quote the article at Unicorn Booty:
6/17/2015 10:48:42 am
Yeah, but they only built the Colossus because they met Talos, the alien robot. =P
6/16/2015 03:30:51 pm
Ok- basically the story of the boys carving this amounts to a retold retold retold story with , so far, no basis produced fact. The perfect scenario--stories written, pro or con, on no producible fact.
Westford rock and Frank Glynn
6/16/2015 11:40:47 pm
There is no fact that the "carving" on the Westford rock was a "human carving". When Frank Glynn took a photograph of his "chalked knight" in 1954 he failed to take a photo of the Westford rock in its natural state without the chalking. Frank Glynn was the first person in history to identify the "carving" as a knight in full armour. Nobody before Frank Glynn ever made such a claim.
Westford rock and Frank Glynn
6/17/2015 01:16:54 am
Two early photographs with a line drawing of the Westford rock are found in the rare 1954 book by William B. Goodwin "The Ruins of Great Ireland In New England". Accompanying text stating that part of the "carving" depicted the broken sword of a Viking,
Westford rock and Frank Glynn
6/17/2015 01:20:08 am
Typo: Goodwin's book was published in 1946
6/17/2015 01:23:38 am
6/17/2015 02:37:19 am
Dracula is an amazing read, its 'slow' because Stoker had the ridiculous idea that individual characters needed actual characterization and developement instead of being shortcut stereotypes. I re-read it every few years.
6/17/2015 02:39:42 am
Dracula by Bram Stoker consists of diary entries, missives and other similar items instead of normal chapters. A great gimmick
6/17/2015 11:07:50 am
Sorry, Jason, but for once I agree with the fringe guy--I find Stoker a rather dry, dull read. To the point where I have yet to manage to get into the story enough to reach the horror bits. But at least I know that the problem is with me, not the story; I have the same problem with Austen and to a lesser extent, Dickens. Those durned Victorians were just so durned fond of verbiage! And anything where you can't connect to the story seems dry and dull. Even Star Wars is boring, if (like me) you just can't get into it.
6/18/2015 04:03:50 pm
"Those durned Victorians were just so durned fond of verbiage! And anything where you can't connect to the story seems dry and dull."
6/18/2015 04:42:11 pm
For myself, I think that whoever once impressed upon Stephen King the unfortunate concept that he needed to cut swathes of pages involving elaborate, hackneyed characterization of uninteresting characters has much to answer for.
6/17/2015 08:27:12 pm
I think it may be significant that the earliest reference to the figure is the 1874 Gazetteer. Gazetteers, by their nature, borrow hugely from standard texts on geography and history, but it seems that, in this case, the gazetteer researcher was actually shown the figure on visiting Westford. Once it appeared in print, the locals had an incentive to make it look more interesting ...
6/19/2015 02:31:49 am
6/25/2015 12:40:20 am
The earliest reference is the 1873 edition...not 1874, though it is in the 1874 edition as well and 1890 where it changed a little sating it was done by an "ambitious Indian artist". Yes, it says "rude figure". The museum in Westford has a depiction of the figure believed to be the one the Gaz. was speaking of. The sword hilt and pommel were believed at the time to be an Indian carving of an Indian. That is what was believed to be the "figure". Then later it was determined to be a sword. The rest of the Knight? Don't think it is there...
6/23/2015 10:58:57 am
As I mentioned in the contact form I sent you, the citation referencing Schafer's article being in the MAS Bulletin is in error. I have the 2003 issues on disc, and Schafer is not in there. MAS only published one article in 1960 by William Fowler: The Westford Indian Rock. At least by 2010, they haven't published anything by Schafer. It was only published here in short form: http://www.ramtops.co.uk/westford.html
9/10/2016 06:01:10 am
I have written in detail about the many historic problems of this Westford 'knight' being a 'Clan Gunn knight' - see http://clangunn.weebly.com/on-a-gunn-helping-discover-north-america---sir-james-gunn-of-clyth-crowner-of-caithness-and-the-westford-knight-myth.html
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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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