Aliens in the old west
A warm and starry night in Texas. Except for a few crickets chirping and the wind rustling the trees, the night is dead silent. The small town's population is all in its beds. Not yet aware, this one-horse town would be thrown into the UFO frontier with an ear-deafening crash.
Our host Fredrik continues the mission to discover what is genuine, fake, and somewhere in between on the TV show Ancient Aliens. This time we'll look into the first half of episode 1 from season 3 (S03E01) called "Aliens in the old west." It will be an exciting journey through American history where they somewhat will focus on the era of the Cowboys. Even if we don't encounter them much here in the first part, they will come later.
In this episode, we'll cover the Aurora UFO incident and the Serpent mound. We'll cover the latest research and theories about these topics. We will also cover a bit of New-Age history and Plastic Shamans.
Our outro is written and performed by the band trallskruv; all other music in the show was used with permission.
In this episode:
The Alien who crashed in Texas
Exhumate a alien?
The real story of the Aurora Crash
Background of the Serpent Mound
Plastic Shamans and usurpation of traditions
The Draconis connection, electric stones, and pyramids
Sources, resources and further reading suggestions
Dunning, B. (2011). The Alien Buried in Texas. Skeptoid: https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4241
MUFON. (1973). Aurora Texas Crash. Mutual UFO Network. https://web.archive.org/web/20070204053124/http://www.mufon.com/famous_cases/Aurora%20Texas%20Crash%20Part%201%20MUFON%20Case%20File.pdf
National Museum of the United States Air Force. (n.d.). Heavier-than-Air Flight. Available at: https://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/Museum-Exhibits/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/197543/heavier-than-air-flight/
Frederick Stansbury Haydon and Crouch, T.D. (2000). Military ballooning during the early Civil War. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Randle, K.D. (2010). Crash : when UFO’s fall from the sky : a history of famous incidents, conspiracies, and cover-ups. Franklin Lakes, N.J.: Career ; London.
Porterfield, B. (1978). A loose herd of Texans. College Station: Texas A & M University Press.
Forbes, J. D. (2001). Indigenous Americans: Spirituality and Ecos. Daedalus, 130(4), 283–300. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20027728
Aldred, L. (2000). Plastic Shamans and Astroturf Sun Dances: New Age Commercialization of Native American Spirituality. American Indian Quarterly, 24(3), 329–352. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1185908
Welter, C. (2021). Shawnee Citizens Officially Invited Back To Great Serpent Mound. 91.3WYSO https://www.wyso.org/local-and-statewide-news/2021-07-12/shawnee-citizens-officially-invited-to-return-to-great-serpent-mound
Pember, M.A. (2021). Shawnee reclaim the great Serpent Mound. Indian Country Today. https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/shawnee-relcaim-great-serpent-mound
Pember, M.A. (2018). Crazy Theories Threaten Serpent Mound, Demean Native Heritage. Indian Country Today. https://indiancountrytoday.com/archive/crazy-theories-threaten-serpent-mound-demean-native-heritage
Henriksen, P.S., Holst, S. and Breuning-Madsen, H. (2019). Dating Ancient Burial Mounds in Denmark – Revealing Problematic Ancient Charcoal. Norwegian Archaeological Review, 52(2), pp.170–178. doi:10.1080/00293652.2019.1670250.
Willoughby, C. C. (1919). The Serpent Mound of Adams County, Ohio. American Anthropologist, 21(2), 153–163. http://www.jstor.org/stable/660267
Baker, L.D. (2007). From savage to negro: anthropology and the construction of race, 1896-1954. Berkeley, Calif: University Of California Press.
de Gille, R.W., McCoey, J.M., Hall, L.T., Tetienne, J.-P., Malkemper, E.P., Keays, D.A., Hollenberg, L.C.L. and Simpson, D.A. (2021). Quantum magnetic imaging of iron organelles within the pigeon cochlea. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(47). doi:10.1073/pnas.2112749118.
The Tribe Called Wannabee: Playing Indian in America and Europe Green, R. (1988). The Tribe Called Wannabee: Playing Indian in America and Europe. Folklore, 99(1), 30–55. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1259567
Hill, S. (2022). SPOOKY GEOLOGY Available at: https://spookygeology.com/
Right at the beginning, the typical ideas about what the Wild West entailed are taken up. The speaker talks about covered wagons heading out, cowboys riding leisurely into town, drinking in saloons, and Indians wearing war paint. But then they add that this is an embellished version of how things really were. This is true; the ideas about the old west come from dime novels and old Hollywood movies. For being such a show, this is quite a refreshing addition to what is shown. But do not worry; this brief foray into reality will quickly disappear when they start covering what is presented to us in this episode.
After the intro, we first see what looks like a reenactment but is surprisingly high quality. But when you see Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig, you realize its product placement. This is a preview of the 2011 movie "Cowboys and Aliens". The show tries to sell the film and explains a bit of the plot; this is entirely new for the show with this level of product placement. I have not seen this movie, and it might be an excellent bonus episode. Then the narrator admits that the film and the comic book it's based on are made up. But he adds that some parts could be inspired by actual events! Yehaa
The alien who crashed in Texas
We opened in Aurora, Texas - the name sounded very familiar to me. So when the show started discussing the cemetery, I knew what it would be about. So we're going to talk about the alien who's said to have been buried here in Texas in the 1800s.
We meet Jim Marrs walking in a cemetery, and he says:
"The Aurora's cemetery was founded in 1861, right at the start of the war between states. Texas State Historical Commission has a marker here that states the cemetery is well known because of the legend that a spaceship crashed nearby in 1897, and the pilot killed in the crash was buried here."
The crash occurred about 50 years before the Roswell incident, but we meet a new face in Jeff Danelek. He tells the story of this long-ago crash UFO along with Jim Marrs. On the screen, we see newspaper clippings as evidence of what happened back then.
If you are unfamiliar with the story, the show presents it as follows.
In the early morning of 17 April 1897, a UFO reportedly crashed into the wings of Judge Proctor's windmill and burst into flames. The explosion could be heard far and wide. It threw the ground into a violent, shaking motion that could be felt in even the farthest corners of their small town. The local reporter arrived on the scene and reported a large debris field and the charred remains of an extraterrestrial being. The traveler was given a Christian burial at the town cemetery - the supposed remains from another planet still lie under the bent branch of an old tree.
Jim Marrs adds this little gem to make sure that we as viewers should agree that it must have been a UFO:
"In 1897, this was six years before the Wright Brothers actually made heavier-than-air craft work. So, this is why I consider the Aurora spaceship crash the smoking gun of the UFO controversy, because this occurred six years before there was anything man-made in the air."
Let's listen carefully to what Jim Marrs is telling us here. First, he says that this was six years before heavier-than-air flights. That's wrong. It's true that the Wright Brothers successfully launched the first engine-powered airplane. It's also true that the aircraft the Wright Brothers used is one of the "heavier-than-air" airplanes. However, this aircraft type includes rockets, airplanes, helicopters, and gliders. Sir George Cayley is considered the inventor of aerodynamics and created the first man-carrying glider in the 1850s. I'd grant Jimmy that there probably weren't many gliders in Texas at the time. But balloons. Jim Marrs conveniently omits lighter-than-air crafts.
Lighter-than-air flights are anything that uses gas to get a lift. So hot air balloons, blimps, hydrogen balloons, and other flying machines float in the air. Manned balloon flights have been around since 1 December 1783, when Professor Jacques Charles and the Robert brothers made the first known manned flight. From then on, things continued to evolve. The Union Army even had its own division, the Union Army Balloon Corps, during the Civil War. After that, balloons were used mainly for recognizance. Even Napoleon used balloons during his campaigns. In July of the same year the alien crash is said to have occurred, the Swede Salomon August Andree launched his balloon "Örnen" (Eagle) to reach the North Pole. The attempt went wrong, and he crashed just two days later. It is quite a tragic story, but it all shows that there were many man-made things in the air at that time. Maybe not a common sight, but it's not as if people would run away in fear if a balloon appeared.
I know this is fiction, but even in the Red Dead Redemption 2 game, part of the action takes place in a hot air balloon. Ballooning was a hobby for some at the time, just as it's today.
Then it continues with the narrator explaining that it could be evidence, but some were taken by the law or thrown into a well. Pretty mixed here; both could've happened. I get the feeling that they only bring up the law enforcement to bring up associations with Roswell and Area 51. We won't really pursue this thread anymore through the section. We learn quickly that the show and most UFO investigators prefer the well hypothesis.
The Aurora case has been presented as one of the best cases for extraterrestrial visitation. In 1973, Earl Watts and Bill Case of MUFON (Mutual UFO Network or Midwest UFO Network) led an investigation into it. They interviewed local residents, collected newspapers, and even collected scrap metal that they believed came from the crash. It's not specified exactly where this scrap metal was found, but they did test a bit of scrap aluminum.
Since then, there have been other investigations, for example, by Bill Porterfield and Kevin D. Randell. We'll come back to what they've to say a little later.
But let's get back to the well and what's in it. The Proctor farm was purchased by a man named Brawley Oates. We'll then spend a little time meeting Oates. Or we don't meet Oates in person, but Jeff Danalek and Phillip Coppens talk about him, and we also see a picture of Oates. In the photo, we can see quite clearly that he suffers from a severe case of arthritis.
As Jeff Danalek describes, Brawley Oates bought the farmland and started to clean out the well on the property. We must assume that this is the same well into which Proctor dumped the debris that day in April. Danalek and Coppens speculate that the well must've contained some element, probably a radioactive one, that caused Oates arthritis.
Going through the MUFON files of their investigation, we find that Oates claimed to some reporters that doctors believed radiation might be behind it. In another article, the radiation idea appears to have come from a passerby during the interview. However, investigators conducted several radiation tests, and the radiation was never above background levels. As we read the files and newspaper clippings, another story about Oates comes to life. We learn that the Oates family lost a very young daughter and that both Brawley and his wife developed arthritis. I feel for the family; they have been through a lot. It seems to me that the Oates needed something to blame, and this story seems to have become the target. Finding a scapegoat is a human reaction. Unfortunately, this reaction was highjacked by the UFO crowd.
The evidence doesn't support the claim that radiation levels at the farm are higher than average. The program presents the radiation theory as the only cause, but as far as I know, that doesn't seem to be the case. There are several causes of arthritis and also different versions of this disease. Genetics also plays a prominent role in how severe arthritis can become. From what we see in the show, the best guess is that it would be Rheumatoid arthritis. This version can cause severe swelling and deformation. Luckily modern treatment can stop this from becoming what we see in the show. Rheumatoid arthritis is mainly caused by genetic traits, but it's been shown that smoking can increase the risk for the disease.
Phillip Coppens concludes this segment by telling us that the Oates' descendants filled the well. The show leaves the Oates here, and I don't think we've much more to add. The narrator explains how the Roswell incident has reignited interest in this forgotten alien crash. But apparently not enough because no one really started looking into it until the 70s.
Exhumate a alien?
John Waylen, who may be familiar to comics fans among you as the author of "The Big Book Of The Weird Wild West," published by DC Comics. Waylen tells us that he and other researchers wanted to exhume the body. But the local cemetery board didn't want that, so they turned it down. But even if some say the grave's location is known, that could be wrong. Digging up a grave in a cemetery where people are still mourning could upset local residents.
Meanwhile, we get the following quote from Marshall Trimble:
"My first question is, why not? What's it gonna hurt? As a historian, it makes me suspicious when somebody is trying to hide something from you. Tells you, you can't, you can't do something."
Marshall Trimble wears a giant cowboy hat and is a country singer. He's also the official state historian of Arizona. But I think he should know better than that. There are several laws governing exhumations that you can't just do for fun and games. Most of these laws include that the gravesite needs to be known because you don't want to accidentally dig up someone else. There are other things, but according to current US law, the grave's location is unknown and, therefore, would not qualify for exhumation.
We're now going to meet Jim Marrs on-site at Aurora Cemetery. He tells us that he's one of the few people who know the original location of the gravesite. That's because he was there, and the program put up a few pictures of what appears to be a minor flat sandstone that is supposed to be the grave marker. But this was removed under mysterious circumstances. UFO-Researcher Kevin D. Randell spent a lot of time in Aurora in 1970 and then heard that the headstone was a larger stone with an airship. However, when he visited the cemetery, he could find no such stone. He also didn't see the small stone we see in the pictures and suggested that it was probably added after his visits.
Jim Marrs continues:
"Now, back in 1973, Bill Case was the aviation writer for the Dallas Times Herald. I was working for the Star-Telegram. We met up here. He had a metal detector, and we found three readings of metal in the grave. A couple of months after the headstone went missing, Bill invited me to meet him up here. We went over the grave, and there was no readings in the grave. He showed me three little holes that had been drilled in the grave. Somebody had extracted the metal out of the grave."
A decent metal detector can find coin-sized objects at a depth of 45 cm (18 inches) under good conditions. 45 cm is pretty far above the usual depth of a grave. Some detectors can go deeper, but they're pretty expensive even today. We should perhaps remember that the price of the cheapest Coinmaster in 1971 was $169 or $1236 in today's money. I doubt what Jim Marrs said took place, and if it did, it would have taken something bigger than boreholes to extract it. Marrs claims that scientists have found evidence using ground penetrating radar that there was a child-sized grave. But GPR doesn't usually show what has been somewhere, and the readings or scientists aren't presented. I couldn't really find them now while preparing for this program.
The real story of the Aurora Crash
Let's go back to that morning in April when it all began. This is where the show leaves us, dusts off its hands, and goes to a new place. But we haven't gotten the whole story yet; quite the opposite. The article in the Dallas Morning News of 19 April 1897 reads as follows:
About 6 o'clock this morning the early risers of Aurora were astonished at the sudden appearance of the airship which has been sailing through the country.
It was traveling due north, and much closer to the ground than ever before. Evidently some of the machinery was out of order, for it was making a speed of only ten or twelve miles an hour and gradually settling toward the earth. It sailed directly over the public square, and when it reached the north part of the town collided with the tower of Judge Proctor's windmill and went to pieces with a terrific explosion, scattering debris over several acres of ground, wrecking the windmill and water tank and destroying the judge's flower garden.
The pilot of the ship is supposed to have been the only one on board, and while his remains are badly disfigured, enough of the original has been picked up to show that he was not an inhabitant of this world.
Mr. T. J. Weems, the United States signal service officer at this place and an authority on astronomy, gives it as his opinion that he was an inhabitant of the planet Mars.
Papers found on his person — evidently the record of his travels — are written in some unknown hieroglyphics, and can not be deciphered.
The ship was too badly wrecked to form any conclusion as to its construction or motive power. It was built of an unknown metal, resembling somewhat a mixture of aluminum and silver, and it must have weighed several tons.
The town is full of people today who are viewing the wreck and gathering specimens of the strange metal from the debris. The pilot's funeral will take place at noon tomorrow.
The article was written by S. E. Haydon and has a bit of flowery prose in it. But if we start to look into this article, we will find more. Brian Dunning has done an excellent job in his episode 241, "The Alien Buried in Texas," tracing down similar tongue-in-cheek articles about air flights. Everything from singing men throwing down temperance tracks to aerial monsters piloted by men from New York. As we mentioned earlier, even if balloons were infrequent, they were known among the population. It would have been something the town gossiped about among each other.
The figures in the article have been tracked down by both Bill Porterfield and Kevin D Randel. T. J. Weems, for example, was the town's blacksmith. He admitted to comprehending little to nothing about astronomy. Mr. Haydon was a businessman in the area, trading cotton and penning for the local paper. Proctor was, in fact, a judge and did have two mills on the site.
From the evidence, it seems as if this article was a spoof to lighten up the spirit in the town. Aurora had been struck by both two epidemics and their harvests by pests. Few people remain, and those who stayed seem to have done their best about the situation. Judge Proctor even rewrote the story in a rebuttal towards Haydon that apparently had the local constable in fits of laughter.
Maybe the article was an attempt to put Aurora back on the map, an endeavor that succeeded but some 70 years too late. Perhaps it just was a joke between a few friends trying to keep up the town spirit. But from what we have gathered, I think we can safely say that there is no alien in Aurora, Texas.
But let's turn our attention to another state: Ohio. More precisely, to Adams County, some of you may already know what we'll be dealing with there.
The show's narrator tells us about settlers that were awarded land grants by George Washington for serving in the revolutionary war. When reaching the area, they encountered the Serpent mound and other mound s in the surrounding countryside. These were among the first settlers to learn about the Serpent mound and conveyed this back east.
Now, the mound is quite marvelous, and they don't cover this in the episode, but there are more mounds and graves in the area. It's been occupied since at least the Adena culture that lived between 800 BCE-100 CE. Two of the largest conical mounds in the area have Adena artifacts, so we know this place has been an important site for over two millennials.
We also met Dr. Brad Lepper, who might stand out a little bit to some. He is the Senior Curator of Archaeology at the Ohio Historical Society and has had a long career as an archeologist. He has also published articles with Ken Feder that you should remember from previous episodes. They wrote with others a few articles for the Sceptical Inquire.
Lepper is a tad ashamed of his appearance here, even today. The show contacted the Ohio Historical Society with some false pretenses so Brad would appear. Of the three-hour interview, only this quote was used:
"Serpent Mound was one of the amazing mysterious mounds found by the first that came over the Appalachian Mountains. There are thousands of mounds, but the Serpent Mound must have been special."
I think we understand what he means by this, and it's not that there is an alien connection. But this is used so a viewer will feel it might be true if the professionals address it this way. We then got the Nazca connection which was not really a surprise. The argument from Childress here is the same as with the Nazca lines; how could you build this without being airborne? But in reality, you only need simple tools like rope, stakes, and maybe someone in a tree. But people visit the site every day and see it is snake shaped while walking on the ground. The mound might look better from above, but that's a bonus for us today.
Background on Serpent Mound
But let's have a break from the show and talk a bit about the serpent mound to give it some context. This ancient site was first described to white settlers and documented by E. Squire and E. Davis in 1846. It's on their drawing that the restoration we can see today is based. You can see the etching if you go to the show notes on the website. If you look at the serpent mound, you will notice that the tail is coiled, then the body somewhat straightens, and at the head, it seems as if it is trying to swallow an egg. But other depictions from before the restoration show the mound a bit differently. For example, in 1884, John MacLean depicted it almost the same but with a frog leaping away from the egg. You can see this also on the website. MacLean did associate this with a story he heard from the Native Americans in the area. Now the missing frog might help us date the mound later but let's see what the alienists have to say. We have Ross Hamilton leading us on telling us.
"Serpent Mound had no burials. It's one of those mysterious mounds that offered us no clue as to who the builders were, but on the property, there were burial mounds dated from about a very early period, nearly 3,000 years ago."
Now he is somewhat correct. The mound has no burial, but this is not uncommon for effigy mounds. The Alligator Effigy mound in Granville, Ohio, does not contain graves, just to mention an example. Before you ask, yes, there are more effigy mounds, not that the show acknowledges this.
We mentioned before that the area's conical mounds are associated with the Adena culture dating back 3000 years ago. Ross Hamilton is correct with that claim and that we are not entirely sure who exactly built the serpent. This has been debated for a long time, and as we are today, there are two contenders. The previously mentioned Adeena culture and the Fort Ancient culture. Both have lived in this space but at very different times in history.
The area was first excavated by Frederic Putnam, who thought it was probably built by an earlier group of people. From what I've read, Putnam seems to have not been too impressed by Native American society. This claim is based more on the racist ideas of the time rather than scientific reasoning. Or a better wording might be that the science was heavily based on racist theories.
The more prevailing idea is that the mound was built by Adena, and then the Fort Ancient culture repaired the site that had fallen in disrepair. One of the main arguments for this theory is a couple of core samples. These were taken during an excavation in 2014 of the mound.
Core samples have been used for some time but have been problematized lately. Danish scientists did publish a paper in 2019 where they could show that dating charcoal obtained by core samples usually added up to 3000 years to the datings. This is due to charcoal from the topsoil being picked up when taken during collection, skewing the dates. You can find the paper "Dating Ancient Burial Mounds in Denmark – Revealing Problematic Ancient Charcoal". This does not mean the samples are contaminated, but there is a possibility. Especially when we compare these datings to charcoal collected during an excavation back in 1991. These were in situ from the mound's base layer and were dated to Fort Ancient territory.
The competing theory suggested by Dr. Brad Lepper and others thinks it's more likely that the Serpent mound was built by the Fort Ancient culture. They base this on the fact that serpents have not been represented in Adena art, except for maybe on the Adena Effigy Pipe. So it would be weird that their only mound would be of a serpent.
The serpent does have a vital place in Fort Ancient and Mississippian culture. Both of these cultures did interact with each other and are seen as sister cultures by scholars today. Now, what do Mississippian have to do with all this? In Mississippian art, we have three elements that often appear and have a special meaning within the culture. An egg, a frog, and a serpent. This is believed to refer to the "making of the earth rite" or the creation story. In the picture cave, they have made C14 samples of coal used as a pigment in the serpent petroglyph. The specimen obtained again puts this serpent in the same period as the datings from the serpent mound in 1991.
We can't forget the Effigy mound culture between circa 700 CE to 1100 CE. Another culture that built similar types of mounds closer in time to the Fort Ancient culture. Again, I and others find it strange that there would be such a long gap from the first example to the next one. You might think I have not proven either here, and no, I haven't. To be honest, even if Lepper and others have done great work the last few years with this theory, we might still need more to get a definite answer. Trying to get better and in situ material to date and continue the research. But it needs to be done closely with the Native Americans who claim this site as their heritage. This has slowly started, and the Shawnee tribe has been invited back to reclaim what they see as their ancestral monument. We will talk more about this in a moment. But this is exciting research, and I am interested in learning where all of this will lead in the future. This has been an exciting journey learning more about this site. But let's get back to the show now when we better understand the history of the site and the actual discussion taking place about it.
Instead of going into the more accurate history of the serpent mound as we did, the show will start to make things up. We're taken to a nearby crater with the unfortunate name "Serpent mound impact crater." The hole has been known since the 1960s and is some 8 kilometers in diameter. But there's nothing special about it that confuses researchers about it.
But what would Ancient Aliens be if we did not have some silly claims? We meet Thomas Johnsson, who claims that there are magnetic anomalies around the mound. Giorgio Tsoukalos chimes in, claiming that there are places at the ridge where compasses are just spinning and spinning. What he is describing is a magic trick. If there's a magnetic disturbance, the needle does not point north; there are locations like that across the globe. I'm not sure if Georgio is aware of that or not. Though I've discussed an anomaly, I encountered where a compass didn't work at an excavation. That time it turned out to be the motherload of iron slag from a smith causing this. But if you want to impress Georgio at his live show, just learn how to palm a magnet and circle it behind the compass.
These claims are a little silly but not racist enough; let's add some of that. Thomas Johnson will help us:
"The myth is that the Native Americans, when they came here, could see birds similar to passenger pigeons, or homing pigeons, circling by the millions. Because within the skull of the pigeon is a little piece of hematite or magnetite, and that's how they navigate. And they couldn't figure out where the north was. Can you imagine millions of birds flying in a circle five miles wide?"
This myth seems to be invented by Thomas Johnson for reasons known only to him. Johnson is a former factory worker, trilobite enthusiast, rock shop owner, and a new-age peddler. But he is not an expert on serpent mound, native Americans, or biology. He is credited as the House of Phacops Museum owner in the show, but this is a shop that sells different rocks and has a few trilobites on display. The claims about the birds themselves are plain silly. Sure, some birds have a magnetic sense called "magnetoreception," but they rely on landmarks and routes they've learned most of the time. But this claim is dangerous because he invents myths and credits them to native Americans to sell his new age humbug. We will discuss this more later, so let's continue for now.
The show now tells us why the site is essential to aliens since we haven't mentioned it until now. So the reason this site is vital to the aliens because the meteorite deposited Iridium, iron, and uranium here. That itself is true; meteorites can deposit minerals on impact if they are present, and Iridium is a common meteorite mineral. So the alien basically came here to mine Iridium as you do. I mean, it's not like other planets have more meteoric impacts and, therefore, a higher yield and return. But maybe I just overthink things, and the show does claim there's evidence! There are caves within this crater the size of a medium-sized Village. From the example presented in the episode, it seems like a natural cave. But Ross Hamilton, who shows us this cave somewhere in the area, is confident it is something more. But we don't learn how he knows this is an alien mine, not a cavern. Instead, he continues the trend of making up Native American myths.
"The Serpent Mound is a marker for space according to the Shawnee Indians. They're convinced that space travelers are using Serpent Mound as a marker."
Plastic Shamans and usurpation of traditions
Now how do I know that Ross Hamilton made this up? Because the Shawnee has told this themselves. The cultural appropriation of Native American customs, sites, and religion is so widespread that it has a word among activists. Plastic shamans. These started to pop up when white, middle-aged suburban baby boomers began to look for something more spiritual. This is where the New Age movement was born, and it was not due to a spiritual awakening. The main goal of the New Age is consumerism; they want to sell you courses, stones, healing, and a sense of spirituality.
Why the religion of indigenous people in North America has been so heavily appropriated is a critical question to ask. I think Rayna Green describes this quite well in the article "The tribe called Wannabee." As Reyna Green describes, Euro-Americans and Europeans have liked to "play Indian," as she calls it. There's been a long tradition of playing Indian in other settings, such as in the Wild west shows, and in 1800 they were incorporated into medicine shows as healers. The shakers picked up the idea of native American spirits and grew from there. The appropriation of Native American spirituality had been ongoing for some time. But it was not until after World War 2 a few "plastic shamans" started to pop up. The plastic shamans didn't get big, though, until the New Age movement in 1970. But the idea shared is built on cherry-picking of traditions and exploitation of indigenous peoples' practices.
The main argument for why New Age is not a religion per se is that you don't have a creed in the New Age movement, no memberships or tenants. It's in studies shown as a loosely tied group of white, middle-aged people who pay to go to conventions and buy books and music. Participating in classes led primarily by other white people playing the role of Shaman. Usually, these Shamans take on an invented backstory, how they were taken in by Native American shamans and were given spiritual gifts and knowledge. The created teacher is often blind. We see that trait in New York Times bestseller Lynn Andrew's backstory. She claims that two Cree Indian medicine women, Agnes Whistling Elk and Ruby Plenty Chiefs took her in and teched her ancient native American spirituality. According to Andrews, Ruby Plenty Chiefs is supposed to be blind, like Mary Summer Rains mentor and many others.
The expropriation of other cultures has been a long-time issue in "History!" programming and continues the tradition to this day. We have seen much of it in previous episodes and will see more of it going forward. I've linked a few papers on the cultural appropriation of Native American traditions, from Rayna Green and "Plastic Shamans and Astroturf Sun Dances" by Lisa Aldred, to mention some examples.
Let's return to Ross Hamiltons' claim about the Shawnee tribe, who have officially been invited back to the Serpent mound as the rightful descendants. It's a small step, but it's something in the right direction and happened recently. Ben Barnes and Glenna Wallace from the Shawnee Tribe and Eastern Shawnee Tribe spent some time last year during the summer equinox giving lectures about the site and its importance to the tribe members. But why the Soaring Eagle Retreat is allowed to have its summer solstice event on the site is beyond me. Soaring Eagle Retreat is technically not on the site, but they are located just on the border and seem to have their events on the mound. They specialize in New-Age workshops and events, if you haven't guessed already. In an article, it's described that Barnes And Wallace's speech is interrupted by New Agers demanding the chiefs to participate in their "play." The individuals then complained that the Shawnee members were rude due to not accepting their pipe-smoking offer. It's beyond my understanding how people can be so disconnected from reality to think that Native Americans would participate in cultural appropriation.
The Draconis connection, electric stones, and pyramids
We're still not done with the Serpent mound, and Ross Hamilton, who does not appear in any other episode, gets a lot of airtime. He says:
"The serpent itself was aligned to a constellation that had its apex at the height of the night sky 5,000 years ago. The constellation Draconis – it was used to align the Great Pyramid."
I think Ross Hamilton is trying to allude to the fact that the mound is much older or that the builders got the information from an extraterrestrial source. The serpent mound does not align with Draconis since the constellation is from Greece and greek mythology. To give Ross an out, we can mention that Thuban, a star in the constellation, was the polestar until 3000 BCE. Due to the earth's rotation, the pole star changes between a few stars. But no, besides maybe the northern pole star, there's no relation between the Draconis constellation and the Serpent mound.
We have some more Ross coming up here. We also have him walking at an outcropping, stating that it's pure limestone or dolomite. Sharon Hill from the Spooky Geology Podcast helped me pull some info on the area, and according to the Ohio geological interactive map, the site should be dolomite. Hamilton also claims that the quality is better than the limestone used in the pyramid of Giza. But this claim is quite silly, and as Sharon told me, "Being that this kind of rock is extremely common, any claim that the rock is special or has interesting properties doesn't amount to anything."
Ross then stands beside a stone on the ground and looking at it, you could see some resemblance with a pillar. He claims that this stone has excellent conductive powers and must have been placed in the serpent at one point. This was to attract lightning to generate electric power for the spaceship. But we do not learn how far it is from the site or how he realized this. But sure, dolomite and limestone can be conductive. But it's not really due to the stone but more that it's rotten or porous leading to water entering the rock, and it's with the water that the electricity travels through the stone. We have heard similar electricity generator claims in the past, most notably with the pyramid. Though again, it's not the stone itself. We've also excavated the site, and nothing in the mound shows anything that could be used to store electricity.
Ross Hamilton has no credentials in any area relevant to what he speaks of. Other than a few self-published books, there's nothing much about him, really. This shows when you listen to him and read what he has written. It's fantasy more than fact; he closed out the segment about the mound with this quote.
"When the lightning lamps were eliminated, the native culture fell into the darkness again, about 5,000 years ago. But we know that if their prophecies hold true, the Serpent Mound will be reactivated again one day. And when that re-activation occurs, that'll be the beginning of the restoration of the earth."
Let's get back to Barnes and Wallace. Both have worked hard to educate people on the actual history of the mound. To wash away the new age alien claims, Barnes and Wallace are working with scientists and local authorities to provide a good understanding of the site. I would like to let Ben Barnes close our section on this with a quote from the Solar solstice presentation 2021:
"Unfortunately the Serpent Mound has become the epicenter of efforts to appropriate sacred American Indian sites and replace the Indigenous story with all sorts of fantastic, absurd stories. /…/Let's be absolutely clear. At the heart of these myths and fantastic stories is the racist notion that American Indians were too stupid to have built something so wonderful".
This is where we are going to leave it for this week. But we will return to the old west next time and finish this. Then we will learn about Mormons' ties to Ancient Aliens. Could it be that the angel Moroni who spoke with Joseph Smith was an extraterrestrial being? Is Paul Bunyan related to anything in the following episode? Tune in and find out!
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