Wednesday Weirdness Roundup

The Black Death was caused by aliens, the UN hates your herb garden, and robots want to sexually harass you. Happy Wednesday!


  • This week’s Tea Party lesson: The best way to forestall thuggery is to become a thug. Many believe the UN’s Agenda 21 environmental sustainability program is the uber-conspiracy to end all conspiracies. According to various theories, it will outlaw veggie gardens, confiscate private property, force everyone to move into cities, kill off useless eaters, and maybe even turn us into those human batteries stored in strawberry Jell-O. Glenn Beck has written a horror novel about it, Alex Jones has twigged out over it, and one Oklahoman has reached his breaking point. Al Gerhart, co-founder of the Sooner Tea Party, is so eager to see his state’s anti-Agenda 21 House Bill 1412 passed that he threatened to dig up dirt on Senator Cliff Branan and basically blackmail him into getting it read, sending Branan a creepy-ass email in which he stated Branan would “regret it” if he didn’t do his best to push the bill through the House.
    1412 had only been on the shelf for two weeks. Thanks to Gerhart’s impatience, his entire party is now under investigation by the state Bureau of Investigation, and the sponsor of Bill 1412 pulled it after Gerhart publicly accused Sen. Branan of having an extramarital affair. Nice work. Now Oklahomans may never be able to grow carrots ever again.
  • Aliens disguised as Grim Reapers may have been responsible for the spread of bubonic plague? And they might do it again? Makes sense.
  • You’ve probably seen photos and videos of the Japanese robot that looks somewhat like a giant, mint-green Lego man, scooping up realistic dummies and setting them down someplace else. That’s basically all this particular robot is programmed to do. His designers hope he’s the prototype for a sort of robotic homecare/nursing assistant that will be able to move disabled and elderly patients into and out of beds. But somehow, in the goofy twilight world that is the Internet, “Kenji” the lifting robot has become a psychotic stalker. Beginning shortly after the robot’s unveiling in 2009, stories like this one at Gizmodo claimed Kenji was “programmed to love”, but went off the rails and began obsessively pursuing and molesting a female lab worker. Not sure how “aimless groping” got confused with “love”, but it doesn’t really matter – the Kenji story is bunk, of course. We love robots. They don’t love us. And “Kenji” is actually RI-MAN, created not by Toshiba but by RIKEN (their latest lifting robot, created in collaboration with Tokai Rubber Industries, reminds me a little of the freaky teddy bears in Duckman). For some reason, the stalkerbot story just won’t die, and Brian Merchant of Vice’s Motherboard blog has done some digging to find out where it began. Where did the name Kenji come from? Well, probably this unfortunate dude – one of the first known robot murder victims.

If you combine these stories, you get the heartwarming Pixar sequel in which WALL-E and EVE settle down on a farm, only to have that cute little tree EVE planted uprooted by officious UN bureaucrats, and all their radicchio and parsnips destroyed by plague-spraying Grim Reapers from Mars.

Book Review of The Return of Planet-X by Jaysen Q. Rand, Part II

continued from Part I

The Evidence

The Chronology of Planet-X

If X passes Earth roughly every 3600 years and its next fly-by is expected any minute now, then we’ve got an excellent idea of when these major cataclysms should’ve wracked the earth. The last wave of havoc should have occurred ’round about 1590 BC, in the late Bronze Age. The wave before that would have happened around 5190 BC, in the Stone Age. As we’ll see, Rand has a quite different chronology, with a margin of error of well over 1000 years. He states that X’s last fly-by occurred in 1447 BC.
The theories of Zechariah Sitchin and Immanuel Velikovsky become important here.

A crash course (haw haw) in Velikovsky & Sitchin

Like most people who’ve read it, Immanuel Velikovsky was confounded and somewhat appalled by Freud’s Moses and Monotheism (1939), in which Freud posited that Moses was a disciple of Akhenaten murdered by his followers sometime during the Exodus.
Most people shrug, say something like “Wow, Freud was kinda nuts at the end”, and move on. Not Velikovsky. He set out to prove that every event in the Old Testament happened precisely as described. Rather than producing another work of Judeo-Christian apologetics, however, he decided to take a stab at writing a scientific treatise blending history, archaeology, and astronomy. This was Worlds in Collision (1950). In it, Velikovsky proposed that beginning around 1500 BC, our solar system was engaged in a crazy cosmic pool game. First a monstrously huge comet broke off of Jupiter and zoomed extremely close to Earth, causing all the plagues of Egypt as well as the miracles of the Exodus. For instance, the plague of flies was really a plague of fly-like insects from Jupiter. Really.
Later this comet knocked Mars out of orbit and settled down to become the planet Venus, but that’s not for here.
Velikovsky’s comet caused just as much death and destruction as Rand’s X, but it was a boon to the homeless Hebrews in the desert. Its passage caused the planet to stop and tilt slightly on its axis, “dividing” the Red Sea just long enough for them to slip across the seabed unharmed. Its carbohydrate-rich tail provided manna for them to eat, and though Velikovsky doesn’t mention it, the comet was respectful enough to observe the Sabbath by not providing any manna on Sundays. What a nice comet. Compared to Velikovsky’s comet, Planet-X is a total asshole.

Note that Velikovsky’s date for the Exodus (1500 BC) somewhat matches Rand’s date of 1447 BC. They’re both quite different from the 1590 BC date we would expect for a celestial body with a 3600-year orbit, but hey, let’s give Rand some slack. We can’t honestly expect him to contradict one of the grand masters of catastrophism, can we? It’s clear that Rand uses – or at least admits to using – more of Velikovsky’s material than Sitchin’s. This is possibly because Sitchin’s work is not as Christian-oriented. Sitchin even hinted that God himself is a fabrication of the helpful but deceptive Anunnaki.

Sitchin , based on his own translations of interpretations of ancient Near East artwork and mythology, theorized that a distant planet called Nibiru (which is or is not Planet-X, depending on which page of Planet-X you read) passes by Earth in its elliptical orbit about every 3600 years. The only significant difference between Rand’s brown dwarf and Sitchin’s Nibiru is that Nibiru is inhabited by humanoids who can reach Earth by spaceship when their planet is close enough. Please don’t ask me how a planet so far from the Sun can foster intelligent humanoid life.

These Nibiruans probably spawned the Nephilim mentioned in Genesis, as well as the ancient gods of Sumer and Babylonia known as the Anunnaki. They’re responsible for the rapid evolution of man at certain points in our history, because they introduced metalworking, writing, mathematics, and pretty much every other major innovation. Without them, we’d still be morons playing with rocks. They may even have genetically engineered us to be a slave race, toiling in their mines.
Then the Sumerian god/ET overlord Enlil broke away from his evil brother Enki and freed us. Or something like that. It’s all in Sitchin’s 7-book series if you’re interested. For now let’s just keep in mind that Sitchin’s Nibiru timeline should mesh closely with Rand’s X timeline. Sitchin believes Nibiru swept by around 11, 000 BC, 7400 BC, and 3800 BC.
So, um, yeah. By Sitchin’s chronology, Nibiru wouldn’t have been anywhere near Earth during the Exodus.

Alright, so the chronology is totally screwed. Let’s move on to real, solid, meaty evidence of why we should believe that Planet-X regularly brings death and chaos to our “small and watery world hurtling though the vastness of the Milky Way Galaxy.”
In Rand’s view, science must start accepting ancient mythologies as straightforward historical accounts, and cease the “international coverup” of the evidence of recurrent global catastrophes caused by Planet-X.
Let’s keep Rand’s X chronology in mind as we review some of this “forbidden” evidence he cites:

“Gram” Hancock dove down to extensive ruins full of Doric columns in Quait Bay (off Alexandria, Egypt). To nitpick, “Quait Bay” is not a bay. It’s a fort named for the sultan who built it, Qaitbay. Graham Hancock has some photos of underwater “megalithic structures” off Alexandria on his website. There are no Doric columns visible, but it certainly isn’t unheard-of for ancient Egyptian structures to contain Hellenistic elements from the 3rd century AD on. So what the hell does this have to do with Planet-X? Nada. Besides, these ruins (if they are, indeed, ruins) are few and pitiful when compared to spectacular monuments discovered in the same waters off Alexandria. I’m not sure why Rand thinks Hancock’s site is of any special significance to his thesis.
For years, Hancock has been attempting to prove that a “pole shift” occurred about 10,000 years ago, followed by a global flood that wiped out several advanced civilizations (another timeline, just what we needed!). He routinely pulls out flimsy or outright retarded pieces of “evidence” to support his theories, and also creatively reinterprets actual archeaological evidence. He also uses the common pseudohistorian’s trick of interpreting myths as garbled accounts of real historical events and personages, a lead Rand follows in Planet-X.

Rand claims he and some diving buddies probably found the remains of Flight 19 while recreating its final flight, and while they were at it they discovered a 3000-lb. marble Doric column, which he refers to as “Atlantean“. It was later stolen. (Rand also discovered the possible site of the Fountain of Youth. It’s a sunken stone Lithium spring located in a mangrove swamp east of North Bimini.) These are *interesting* stories, but Rand presents zero evidence of his amazing discoveries. Not that they have anything to do with X, anyway. Again, a Doric column in the ocean won’t tell us anything about what may have happened in 1590 BC (or 1447 BC). It should be noted, too, that Rand didn’t come to the Atlantis conclusion through any kind of scientific analysis; Bimini is one of the most popular locations for Atlantis, because the “Bimini stones” were discovered there after Edgar Cayce said Atlantis would resurface off the coast of Florida sometime in the late ’60s.

Rand also tentatively locates Atlantis in the Azores, where in 2001, 18-story towers were discovered underwater. Rand just can’t seem to decide where the hell Atlantis was. Maybe it bounced around like the island in Lost. Anyway, I have no idea what he’s talking about here, unless he’s referring to very impressive mineral deposits discovered 1800 km from the Azores in 2000. These are natural geothermal chimneys.

Chaotic flood deposits of animal remains have been found in various parts of the world. Like Velikovsky and many creationists, Rand points to animal graveyards as evidence that mass extinctions were caused by a global flood or a sudden freeze. There are many reasons why animal remains would be jumbled together in certain places: Crevasses, the action of river currents, tar and mud pits. You don’t actually need a catastrophic event to explain them. And while the 15 or so mass extinctions that have occurred in the past were certainly caused (at least in part) by catastrophic events like carbon dioxide releases and comet and asteroid collisions, they were definitely not caused by a single worldwide flood nor by a “pole shift” (as we’ll see in part III).

Nicholas Flemming found the underwater city of Elaphonisos off Greece. Flemming found Pavlopetri off the Greek island of Elafonisos, actually. That’s how much in-depth research Rand has done. Pavolpetri dates to the Bronze Age and is the oldest submerged city yet discovered. It sank around 1000 BC.

Arthur Posnansky found “chaotic rubble” indicative of some great disaster on the shore of Lake Titicaca. Posnansky didn’t excavate the shore of Lake Titicaca. He explored nearby Tiahuanaca in the 1930s, and posited that an earthquake created the crack in the Gate of the Sun around 15,000 BC (though he didn’t find any rubble, or other evidence of seismic activity). Today, archaeologists estimate the city was built around 200 AD.

In 1993, a U-shaped underwater structure was found off the coast of Kadaikadu, India. There’s a site off Poomphuar touted by (guess who?) Graham Hancock because it is very deep (about 23 m) and contains a horseshoe-shaped “structure”. However, even Hancock is hesitant to declare this a manmade artifact, as exploration has been limited.

Paulina Zelitztsky and Paul Weinzweig claim to have found ruins constructed of polished granite, including a pyramid roughly 150 feet high, off the coast of Cuba in 2000. Alas, the only evidence they possess is an intriguing side scan sonar image, which doesn’t tell us much. Zelitztsky has declared the “ruins” are at least 12,000 years old, and possibly as old as 50,000. No freaking comment.

The Pakistani cities of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa contain roads covered with skeletons, some holding hands, as well as thousands of melted clay vessels. This is not even remotely the case. Mohenjo Daro is a thoroughly excavated World Heritage site, built around 2600 BC, and it shows no evidence of any sudden disaster other than some flooding of the Indus River. Nor does Harappa. On the contrary, many delicate and intricate works of art from these sites have been preserved.
But lots of strange rumours have surfaced about the two cities. Pseudohistorian Philip Coppens claims not only that Mohenjo Daro was “melted”, but that skeletons discovered there are radioactive – indicating an atomic blast. Similar misinfo can be found all over the Internets. It’s all unsourced.

In 1999, megalithic structures were found on the seabed near Malta. They resemble those found on the mainland. This “find” was supposedly announced to a “Paleo Astronaut Society” in Germany by archaeologist Hubert Zeitlmar, who claims the ruins resemble the famous temples of Malta. His video footage and photos have not been reproduced, and I can’t find any further info about Zeitlmar.
The mainland temples were constructed between about 3600-3000 BC.

Sunken kingdoms of legend: Cantre’r Gwaelod (Wales), Lyonesse (England). Welsh and Arthurian legend is not exactly straightforward history, but if you insist on using these examples I’ll just point out that Lyonesse hadn’t yet sunk during Arthur’s time (6th century AD), and that Cantre’r Gwaelod was flooded because some drunk forgot to close the dike.

I’m baffled as to why Rand used these weak examples of “forbidden archaeology”, rather than better-documented finds like the Yonaguni monument (Japan). Sure, no one knows if it’s manmade or not, but since it’s not dated Rand could argue that it sank in 1447 BC.
At any rate, you’ve probably noticed that the estimated ages of the ruins and suspected ruins in all of Rand’s examples in no way mesh with the supposed dates of Planet-X crossings. If you’re trying to prove that shit got real in 1447 BC, then you’re going to have to find examples of bad shit from that period. Pretty basic. You can’t just pick a random sunken city.
There are many sunken cities sprinkled around the planet, and in most cases the exact circumstances of their demises aren’t known. All we know is that they were sent to the bottom of the ocean by earthquakes, tsunamis, rising sea levels, or some combination of those things. A few, like Baiae, were simply built in the wrong places. It should go without saying that none of this has to be caused by the passage of giant celestial objects, “pole shifts”, or global floods.

Part III: “Pole Shifts”
Part IV: So does “Planet-X” exist?

Book Review: The Return of Planet X by Jaysen Q. Rand

The full title of this book won’t even fit in the space allotted for the blog post title, so here it is: The Return of Planet-X And Its Effects on Mother Earth ~ a Natural Disaster Survivor’s Manual ~ WORMWOOD: Mankind’s Ongoing Legacy With A Brown Dwarf Star by Jaysen Q. Rand, Ph.D. (FutureWorld Publishing, 2007).

Let’s start at the end, since starting at the beginning won’t make any more sense. The bibliography for Planet-X is the freaking weirdest I have ever seen in my life. It includes numerous sci-fi novels, the 1990 Guinness Book of World Records, a Jehovah’s Witness tract, and a book called Re-Discovering the Sacred by Phyllis A. Tickle. There are many non-academic works of Bible history, religious prophecy, and pseudohistory, written by people with extreme fondness for exclamation points, such as Gyeorgos Ceres Hatonn‘s Shrouds of the Seventh Seal (The Anti-Christ Whore of Babylon!) and Cataclysm! by D.S. Allan and J.B. Delair. Most interestingly, there are several works by one Harold Camping, a California radio preacher. His name comes up in the latest issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine (May/June 2010). It seems Camping has used his own mathematical Bible Code to discover the date of the end of the world several times… and his latest date is May 21, 2011. That’s gotta hurt. You use the guy as the backbone of your 2012 theory, and he goes and pulls 2011 out of his hat.

There is no index. The text is errata-riddled, the punctuation bizarre (slashes are used in lieu of commas 99% of the time, and I lost count of the triple exclamations points!!!). Some pages are just blank. There’s neither rhyme nor reason to the layout, giving the impression of a scrapbook belonging to an insane person. Random photos jostle with sentimental free-verse poetry by Anonymous, Bible verses, and vaguely relevant clipart. Most of the photos are superfluous. One blurry photo of Earth is captioned, “Planet Earth – the continuing saga of a small watery world seemingly lost in space on its intrepid journey hurtling through the vastness of the Milky Way Galaxy here in the 21st Century.”

Moving forward (er, backward) from the bibliography, Planet-X concludes with a brief history of George Van Tassel’s Integratron. Rand lived on Van Tassel’s property in 1983-84 and wrote a book about his paranormal experiences there, The Reality Engineer. I still have no idea what this has to do with the end of the world.
There’s also a press release from the Binary Research Institute, and a critique of the Kyoto Accords, arguing that reforestation can offset some of the effects of the coming catastrophe – no curb on greenhouse gas emissions required.
The main text ends with a prophecy by “Mother Shipton” (a seeress who likely never existed).

So what is this imminent catastrophe, exactly? Let’s go to the beginning. The book starts out with the Wormwood passage from Revelation (8: 10, 11) and other Bible verses, along with excerpts from Planet-X itself, which is just weird. There are some additional subtitles, too, including “a working hypothesis based on science and fact”. We learn from these snippets that Dr. Rand has awkwardly melded Velikovsky‘s catastrophism to the Nibiru material of Zecharia Sitchin to create a “scientific” theory: Every 3600 years or so “Planet-X” (an undiscovered brown dwarf in our solar system) passes close to Earth on its wildly elliptical orbit, causing catastrophes aplenty. It last passed by us during the Biblical Exodus (dated here as 1447 BC), which Velikovsky explained in his 1950 masterpiece of pseudohistory and pseudoastronomy, Worlds in Collision. A “pole flip” may occur when X next passes Earth, either in September 2009 or December 2012. More on that concept later.

Planet-X is variously described as “a creative writing project”, a “timely natural disaster survivor’s manual”, a work “critically important for every American and citizen of planet Earth living today”, and a scientific treatise. At one point, Rand mentions he was given the “ET assignment of writing a number of books”.
Rand himself doesn’t quite seem to accept that the world as we know it will end in a few years. Early on, he suggests that a visit to your local planetarium would be fun and educational for the whole family. Screw the apocalypse, go to the Planet Arium!
In his “introductory overview”, he mentions that the book started out as a series of teleplays for a never-produced TV pilot, packed with “exciting Planet-X adventure themes”. Um, why propose a TV series if you think the world will end in five years? Who is this guy, anyway?

Jaysen Q. Rand, Ph.D.

The name sounds like one of those old-timey dramatic serials you can still find on the comics page, doesn’t it? I can just picture “Jaysen Q. Rand, Ph.D” next to Mary Worth and Prince Valiant.
But anyway, according to his bio and other info in the book, Rand is an alien abductee, a UFO researcher with close ties to Russian ufologists Lt. Col. Marina Popovich and her ex-husband, General Pavel Popovich, and a Grammy-nominated record producer with 35 gold/platinum records to his credit. The “dr.” comes from an honorary PhD bestowed by the Academy of Energyinformative Sciences sometime in the early ’90s. As the only accessible info about “energyinformative science” comes from the academy’s own website, I’m not exactly sure what it is. But it incorporates folk medicine, “cosmic biorythmology” [sic], astrology, “uphology” (the science of upholstery?), biolocation, psychology, psychotronics, and aerodynamics, and it seems to be another term for “eniology”, whatever that is.

Rand’s real name is Paul Bondora. Currently, he resides in a small town in Mississippi. The photo in Planet-X is incredibly outdated; Rand (b. 1939) is now in his golden years, as you can see in the promotional vid at the end of this post.
Last year, criminal charges of acting as a real estate agent without a license were filed against him, then dropped.
He apparently does have some background in the recording industry, but his Grammy nom and gold/platinum status are in question.
He first came to public attention with the publication of Planet-X and a 2008 appearance on Coast to Coast AM.

When did Rand first become interested in Planet-X? Well, it all began in Manitoba, in the year 1950. An ET named A-Lon saved 11-year-old Paul Bondora’s life, and Paul spent five hours aboard a landed spaceship with A-Lon’s family. They showed him an hour-long film about the history of Wormwood.

The Gist of Planet-X

We’re all going to die in two years. Well, most of us will die. There will be a few survivors – the lucky ones who purchased this book.
Rand believes that Earth’s geological, mythological, and even sociological history has been shaped by catastrophic upheavals more than anything else, and that most of these upheavals were caused by the repeated passage of “Planet-X”, the body referred to as “the star Wormwood” in the Book of Revelations. Our scientists and public officials know all about this “star” and its effects, but to avert widescale panic they have painstakingly hidden the truth of our planet’s history and future. The Bush administration doubled FEMA funding in 2002 because of Planet-X, for instance. Rand paradoxically insists that modern science is woefully ignorant of Earth’s cataclysmic history. This isn’t the only issue on which Rand contradicts the hell out of himself. On page 64 he asserts, “We believe Nibiru is ‘Wormwood’.” But go back to page 25 and you’ll read this: “Many Internet websites suggest that Planet-X be referred to as Planet Nibiru – one particular theory about ‘X’ that we don’t ascribe to [sic].”

X has been affecting Earth’s weather patterns since 2005, causing a record number of tropical storms. Rand predicted that it would make its first pass of Earth in 2009, causing massive natural disasters: a 180-degree “pole shift”, tsunamis, quakes, fires, volcanic eruptions. I’m sure you remember all this happening, so I won’t go into any detail.
In 2012, all this stuff (and probably more) will occur again when X makes its second pass. Oh, and “as our planet’s vibratory rate increases daily we’re also beginning to see phenomenal shifts in our personal time-based physical reality streams.”
This is all New Age-speak for “Shit’s gonna get real.” And that’s pretty much all Rand has to say. The rest of the book is filler. Rand speculates that the “Nefilim” aliens written of by Sitchin may already be on Earth, preparing a Rapture-like scenario in which they will ferry select humans to safety. Another possibility is that the hybridization programs so often mentioned by alien abductees are the aliens’ effort to repopulate Earth with a new species.

There’s also a lot of material about Atlantis and other “lost kingdoms” destroyed by brushes with X. Rand points to ruins discovered near the Azores, Cuba, India, the Thar Desert, Peru, and Malta as evidence of sudden catastrophes. We’ll look at some of this archaeological evidence in Part II, along with “pole shifts”.

Promotional video for The Return of Planet-X (Part I)

Anatomy of a Hoax: The Incredible Discovery of Noah’s Ark

Now that Noah’s Ark has been discovered for the umpteenth time, let’s review a classic Ark hoax from the ’90s.

In the early ’90s, CBS aired a string of Bible documentaries produced by Sun International Pictures/Sunn Classic Pictures: Ancient Secrets of the Bible, Ancient Secrets of the Bible II, Mysteries of the Ancient World, and The Incredible Discovery of Noah’s Ark. The films combined low-budget reenactments of Biblical events with spurious evidence that all this stuff really happened exactly as depicted in the Bible. Yes, millions of animals (14 of each species) really did walk/swim/fly/crawl to the Middle East, where they allowed themselves to be herded onto a wooden boat roughly three times the size of Titanic. Srsly, this happened, guys. Would CBS lie to you? Well, a few skeptics thought so. In particular, Professor Gerald Larue was dismayed that an interview he gave for Ancient Secrets had been extensively edited (each documentary featured a token number of skeptics, to make them appear balanced and thorough). Luckily for him, Larue had an ace up his sleeve: He was friendly with the discoverer of Noah’s Ark.

Back in 1985, Californian/Israeli actor George Jammal punked creationist Duane Gish by convincing him he had been hunting for Noah’s Ark since 1972 – and that he literally stumbled upon it in ’84 near the village of Nakhitchevan, Turkey. Mt. Ararat and environs have been a hot spot for ark-hunters since the early nineteenth century, and the site Jammal explored was possibly the famous “Ararat anomaly“. Sadly, the ship was so encrusted with ice that the Polish man assisting him, Vladimir Sobitchsky, plunged into a crevasse and died.
As proof of his discovery, Jammal told Gish, he had taken a smallish chunk of old wood.
Gish was too busy ignoring the fossil record to pay much attention to this, so he passed the info on to fellow creationist John Morris. Morris quizzed Jammal intensively. Having been to Turkey in search of the ark himself, he spotted a few problems with the story (first off, Nakitchevan is in Russia). Jammal’s account was so weak, in fact, that Morris didn’t even mention it in his ’88 book Noah’s Ark and the Ararat Adventure (Master Books). Yet, incredibly, he believed Jammal really had been to Ararat. In 1992, when Sunn Classic Pictures approached him for good ark material, he gave them Jammal’s name. Jammal, with Larue’s help, decided to see his hoax through to its logical conclusion.

Sunn Classic Pictures is best-known for the ’70s TV series The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, but its more typical fare consists of family-friendly movies with production quality so poor they make C Me Dance look like a James Cameron epic. It also cranked out a few horror flicks, to stave off the inevitable bankruptcy. In 1976 it produced the documentary In Search of Noah’s Ark, and its ’93 film was meant to be basically a remake of it. But it blossomed into a much juicier project after the producers learned Noah’s Ark had actually been found by one George Jammal.

David Balsiger was the chief researcher for all four of the films aired by CBS, and later co-authored companion books for Ancient Secrets of the Bible and The Incredible Discovery of Noah’s Ark. Balsiger was so dazzled by Jammal’s story, and the chunk of ark he was shown, that the director placed Jammal at the center of the film.

But other arkeologists weren’t fooled, and had their warnings about Jammal been heeded, this hoax would never have happened. Reviewing Jammal’s interview with Morris, Bill Crouse of Christian Information Ministries International quickly realized that Jammal was confused about the geography of the area, claimed to have done and seen things that couldn’t have happened, and hadn’t produced one scrap of evidence other than a hunk of wood – which hadn’t even been dated. David Fasold declined to be on the show after being presented with Jammal’s “evidence”, because he immediately recognized a hoax.

After the broadcast of The Incredible Discovery of Noah’s Ark, Larue and a small group of skeptics, including Michael Shermer, outed Jammal as the hoaxer. Larue’s intent, of course, was to show that Sun films were poorly researched and biased. If anyone had examined the “ark fragment”, they might have realized that it was an ordinary chunk of wood marinated in various spices and baked in an oven to give it an aged appearance. If they had carefully examined the ’86 Morris interview, as Crouse did, they probably would have concluded that Jammal hadn’t really been to Ararat.

David Balsiger issued an indignant press release, defending the overall integrity of Incredible Discovery and complaining that uppity humanists were just trying to keep Bible documentaries off the air (if you want to know how thorough Balsiger typically is in his background research, note that he’s a co-author of Mike Warnke’s “autobiography”, The Satan Seller, which he continued to defend after it was exposed as a crude hoax).

In the end, however, Incredible Discovery debunked itself. In addition to Jammal, it featured a whack of other hoaxers and unverified ark stories that have since been exposed. There was the testimony of Fernand Navarra, a French explorer who produced a chunk of ark-wood much like Jammal’s. It was ultimately found to be only a few hundred years old – and some of Navarra’s expedition team members claim he purchased it from a Turkish village.
Navarra’s book Noah’s Ark: I Touched It was co-authored with David Balsiger.

All of this misses a central point: It’s extraordinarily unlikely that if the Ark existed, it would still be intact on a mountaintop somewhere. Noah and his descendants surely wouldn’t have let all that perfectly good lumber go to waste. Hell, even the Mayflower may have became a barn. Not to mention that all of the alleged chunks of ark, added together, would equal a whole fleet of ships. Maybe Noah was running a booze cruise. He was the world’s first alcoholic, after all.

Sunn Classic Pictures remains in business. Pinnochio in the Hood is currently in pre-production.

Other sources:

– “Sun Goes Down in Flames: The Jammal Ark Hoax” by Jim Lippard. Skeptic vol. 2, no. 3, 1994, pp. 22-33.
– Sunn Classics Pictures Inc. website

Pimp My Tomb

I immediately recognized the Canadian filmmaker, Simcha Jacobovici, who (alongside James Cameron) is touting the 27-year-old discovery of tombs bearing the names of Jesus and members of his family, including a son. I taped Jacobovici’s 1999 documentary Quest for the Lost Tribes off CBC when it originally aired, intending to watch it in more depth at a later time. I see I’ve taped over it or dumped it.

Anyway, the Quest documentary was intriguing and more than a little suspect. Jacobvici believes that Isreal’s lost tribes are still living as Orthodox Jews in Africa, South America, Siberia, and other far-flung locales. No matter where they settled, they retained the language and customs of ancient Judaism to some extent and are enigmas to the people who surround them. Slowly, they are making their way back to the holy land, a sign of the endtimes. One group of over 10000 was airlifted out of Ehiopia in 1984-85 and dropped in Israel (“Operation Moses“) because Israel’s Law of Return permitted them to “return to their homeland.” Wild stuff. I didn’t know what to think of it then and still don’t. But I do know this – after all that fuss over the ridiculously bogus ossuary of “James, Brother of Jesus”, I’m not making any bets that these tombs are the real McCoy. Nearly every country claims to hold the tomb of Christ, even – I kid you not – Japan. And let’s not even go into the fact that about a dozen churches claim to possess the “authentic” foreskin of Christ, or the fact that if you assembled all the splinters of the True Cross you’d probably end up with something the size of the Chrysler Building…

Update: On Larry King Live, Jacobovici argued that the authenticity of the James ossuary is still being debated (in the trial of four men charged with manufacturing and selling fake antiquities) and has not been proven a fake. Hmm. Several scholars continue to defend the ossuary against allegations of fraud, pointing out the Israeli Antiquities Authority hasn’t released an official report on why it concluded the ossuary was a forgery.

Rediscovering an obscure tomb and touting it as the final resting place of the historical celebrity of your choice isn’t uncommon, particularly when it comes to TV documentaries. Marianne Luban and Joann Fletcher (an expert in ancient hairstyles) each theorized the “younger woman” (actually a man) entombed in KV35 in the Valley of the Kings could be Nefertiti, but it was the flamboyant Fletcher who appeared on the Discovery Channel’s The Tomb of Nefertiti(2003), picking through the remains of the mummies to the chagrine of Zahi Hawass. She declared that Nefertiti had been murdered and/or mutilated after burial. Egyptian scholars dismiss Fletcher’s theory.

Holy Blood, Holy Crap: The Da Vinci Code Lawsuit and Michael Baigent’s The Jesus Papers

“You stole my ideas! Even though they’re not mine!”

The Da Vinci Code lawsuit was a prime example of wanton, greedy litigiousness. Two of the three “historians” who wrote Holy Blood, Holy Grail (1982) sued Dan Brown over alleged theft of intellectual property, even though Brown’s book is a work of fiction and theirs was supposedly nonfiction. If the stuff in Holy Blood, Holy Grail is truly factual (and I doubt it), how can Brown be accused of stealing the “ideas” in it? You can’t steal facts. The questionable documents and standard historical sources on which the authors based their weirdo premise (“Christ faked his crucifixion and eloped to France”) are available to anyone with a library card.
The third Holy Grail author, Henry Lincoln, was smart enough to capitalize on DV Code‘s success by appearing in related documentaries and whatnot. The other two guys, Baigent and Leigh, are just freakin’ lazy. And calling them “historians” is an insult to real historians. It would be like calling Anna Nicole Smith a nutritionist.

In March, Dateline NBC aired a story about Michael Baigent’s new book ,The Jesus Papers, exploring Baigent’s “startling new theory” that Christ survived the crucifixion. I guess no one remembered that Holy Blood, Holy Grail briefly went into this idea over 20 years ago. From the 1983 Corgi edition of Holy Blood, Holy Grail:

“Is there any evidence that Jesus did indeed survive the Crucifixion – or that the Crucifixion was in some way a fraud?” (371)

“There is, quite simply, no reason why his Crucifixion, as the Gospels depict it, should have been fatal.” (372)

“He should have survived…for a good two or three days. And yet he is on the cross for no more than a few hours before being pronounced dead.” (372)

“In the Gospels Jesus’s death occurs at a moment that is almost too convenient, too felicitously opportune. It occurs just intime to prevent his executioners breaking his legs…Modern authorities agree that Jesus, quite unabashedly, modelled and perhaps contrived his life in accordance with…prophecies, which heralded the coming of a Messiah…And the details of the Crucifixion seem likewise engineered to enact the prophecies of the Old Testament.”

Baigent speculates that the sponge soaked in vinegar offered to Christ might have been soaked in opium or belladonna. “But why proffer a soporific drug? Unless the act of doing so, along with all the other components of the Crucifixion, were elements of a complex and ingenious strategem – a strategem designed to produce a semblance of death when the victim, in fact, was still alive.” (374)

“According to Roman law at the time, a crucified man was denied all burial…Yet Pilate, in a flagrant breach of procedure, readily granted Christ’s boy to Joseph of Arimathea…In the Greek version [of Mark] when Joseph asks for Jesus’s body, he uses the word soma – a word applied only to a living body.” (376)

“the priest-king would seem to have had friends in high places; and these friends, working in collusion with a corrupt, easily bribed Roman Procurator, appear to have engineered a mock crucifixion…an execution was then staged – in which a substitute took the priest-king’s place on the cross, or in which the priest-king himself did not actually die. Towards dusk..a ‘body’ was removed to an opportunely adjacent tomb, from which, a day or two later, it ‘miraculously’ disappeared.” (377)

On Dateline, Baigent rehashed his “Jesus faked the Crucifixion” theory, then discussed new evidence that Christ was writing letters to his followers years after his supposed death. He admitted he has only seen two such letters; the others he “knows” about haven’t been photographed, copied, nor even seen. He’s not actually certain they exist. The letters he did see are squirreled away in the basement of a wealthy European collector who prefers not to be named, Baigent says. So that’s it! That’s the evidence for his book The Jesus Papers. A bit underwhelming, isn’t it?

Significantly, it was pointed out that Baigent’s new book is nearly identical to one written some 40 years ago: The Passover Plot, by Hugh J. Schonfield.

Dan Brown won the lawsuit.

BTW, if you’re interested in messages concealed in artwork, check out my post on a new documentary that claims that the blame for the Catholic abuse scandals lies in subliminal sexual/occult imagery hidden in religious paintings…