Note: This post has been edited to protect the privacy of April Holloway after the pseudonymous author asked that her real name be removed from the article. This included removing comments she made in response to this post. I have also revised some material to better clarify the corporate relationship between Ancient Origins and its affiliated businesses. Finally, I have removed photographs at the request of Ancient Origins, which asserted a copyright claim. While I believe my use of the photographs to be fair use, I have removed them out of respect for the wishes of Ancient Origins and Stella Novus.
Update: Since this post was published, and due to its publication, both Ancient Origins and Novus Web Solutions have updated their websites to (a) identify John Christian Black as the pen name of John Syrigos, (b) identify April Holloway as a pen name, and (c) clarify on the Novus page that Ancient Origins is owned by Novus's parent company and is not an independent client of Novus.
First up: The Roswell Slides were unveiled in Mexico City on Tuesday, and to no one’s surprise the “alien” body in the slides was immediately recognizable as a child mummy in a glass display case, presumably in a museum. The most interesting thing about the whole episode, other than the crass commercialism of the “unveiling,” is Nick Redfern’s continued efforts to rewrite his views of the slides.
Back in March he said that the first, blurry image of the slide looked to him like “a mummy of some kind. Check the Internet. You’ll see numerous examples of small, humanoid bodies, in glass cases, positioned on blankets – just like the body in the ‘Roswell slides.’” He concluded that the slide showed one of many “ancient mummies.” He then backtracked and suggested there was reason to think the slides may really show an alien. Today, though, Redfern claims that the newly released image “looks more like a child-mummy than ever. The low-resolution image, admittedly, did not – at least, not to a significant degree, it didn’t. The smooth skin, in particular, looked very unlike that of a mummy.” That’s not what you said in March! You’d think Redfern would have been content to be proved right for once, but apparently not; and for reasons known only to him, he’d like us to think he was wrong.
Here’s a weird one sent to me by an alert reader: Many of you will have seen the fringe website Ancient Origins, which runs lightly rewritten news stories about ancient history and longer compilations of fringe claims about a variety of ancient astronaut, pseudohistory, and related claims. The website claims to be “the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives,” though in terms of sheer volume, it’s more of a delivery service for a high volume of advertising for a variety of fringe history books, videos, and other products.
(Disclosure: Ancient Origins has on occasion quoted my blog posts.)
The site’s editor is named April Holloway, a self-described writer with a bachelor’s degree. She also writes for other fringe and fringe-oriented publications such as Epoch Times. Holloway uses one particular picture of herself across all of her web presences, including Ancient Origins, Facebook, Google+, etc. Weirdly, that same picture also appears under another name on the website of Novus Web Solutions, an Australian web design firm that shares a corporate owner with Ancient Origins, Stella Novus.
The same woman also appears in another Stella Novus property, English with Jo, a website providing English language lessons online. She has asked not to be identified because she writes Ancient Origins under a pseudonym.
Here’s where it gets interesting: Novus Web Solutions (not to be confused with Texas-based Novus Web) did the web development and marketing for Ancient Origins, and the founder of Novus Web Solutions, John Syrigos (a.k.a. Ioannis Syrigos; a.k.a. Ioannis Sirigos), a Greek-born computer scientist and Victoria University Sydney lecturer, was promoted in Circular Times magazine in 2013 as the original editor of Ancient Origins when the site launched, before his name was scrubbed from the site. On Ancient Origins he is now listed as John Christian Black, but otherwise kept the same biography and uses a photograph from what appears to be the same photo session as the photo provided in the Circular Times article announcing the founding of Ancient Origins. He maintains a Facebook page under this name. Ioannis Syrigos has a separate web page for his computer work.
John Christian Black describes himself as “a computer engineer with a background in Artificial Intelligence research, primary editor for Ancient-Origins.net.” A profile of Ancient Origins published in Circular Times when the site launched stated that “Dr. John Syrigos is a computer and electrical engineer with a specialization in Artificial Intelligence.”
But don’t take my word for it. On his LinkedIn page, Syrigos admits that all of the sites I’ve mentioned above are his own work: “I am a Computer and Electrical Engineer, co-owner of StellaNovus.com, an IT consulting company where we run several individual online projects (Ancient-Origins.net, EnglishWithJo.com and NovusWebSolutions.com.au).”
Now I of course would never say that people aren’t allowed to write under pseudonyms; pen names are an old and established literary tradition. Indeed, in dealing with controversial subjects they are sometimes even necessary. (Disclosure: I have published some forgettable, failed fiction under a pseudonym.) When I first researched this article, I became deeply concerned that Syrigos and his team were presenting Ancient Origins as a client that the Novus Web Solutions company has assisted—indeed, in their portfolio it was one of only two listed projects—while not disclosing on that website that Ancient Origins is owned, operated, and produced by Novus staff under other names. Fortunately, the Novus team has agreed to make changes to clarify this information and ensure that everyone who visits their sites has a much better understanding of the relationship between them.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Syrigos isn’t the first fringe figure to straddle the line between fringe history and computer science. Jason Martell spent much of the last decade trying to balance his day jobs working for GodTube.com and Christian Mingle, among other tech companies, with his ancient astronaut work, separating them out across his many web sites with relatively little convergence until recently.
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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