2009 Burrows Cave Hoax Update
By R. D. Flavin
Segment from "Holy Grail in America" featuring Burrows Cave artifacts - click to play.
2009 is some two months and change away from completion,
an update is nonetheless due the
involvement of C.
Rydholm with the
“Holy Grail in America” was
directed and edited by Andy Awes, written by Maria Awes,
and features interviews with (in order of appearance
accreditation): Dr. Alice Kehoe (anthropologist), Dr.
Antoly Liberman (philologist, University of Minnesota),
Darwin Ohman (grandson of Olaf Ohman), Scott Wolter
(forensic geologist), Tom Trow (past archaeologist, MN
Hist. Society), Florian Ledermann (past president,
Runestone Museum), Dr. James Scherz (prehistoric
cartographer), Alan Butler (author , The Knights Templar
Revealed), Simon Brighton (author, In Search of the Knights
Templar), Erling Haagensen (author, The Templars' Secret
Island), Steven Sora (author, The Lost Colony of the
Templars), Kelly Krause (archaeologist), Ashly
Cowie (author, The
Rosslyn Templars), Evan Pritchard (director,
Center for Algonquin Culture), Scott Wolter (geologist
& author, The
Hooked X), Niven Sinclair (Clan Sinclair
patriarch), Carmen Legge (president, New Ross Historical
Society), David Brody (chair, Westford Knight
Committee), Dr. Virginia Kimball (Westford Knight
Historian), Dr. Bruce Bourque (archaeologist, Maine
State Museum), Roslyn Strong (New England Antiquities
Research Assn.), Richard Lynch (New England Antiquities
Research Assn.), Dr. William Penhallow (astronomer &
physicist), Suzanne Carlson (architect & president
of NEARA), and Akram Elias (Freemasonic Grand Master).
Dr. James P. Scherz.
accreditations are standard and self-explanatory, with the
exceptions of the emeritus status of both Prof. Alice B.
Kehoe (anthropology, Marquette Univ.) and Prof. James P.
Scherz (civil engineering, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison),
and that Scott Wolter is the only individual featured in
the program who is described twice, first as a “forensic
geologist" and, again, as a “geologist & author, The Hooked X.”
The designation of Scherz as a “prehistoric cartographer”
is almost too ridiculous for comment. However, given
the fantastic nature of the program and its inclusion of
Burrows Cave material, I would guess that Scherz is
claiming to be an expert on Burrows Cave inscribed items
which are thought to depict maps of the Mississippi River.
English language term 'writing' conveys much more than the
characters used to represent our alphabetic script, as it
also includes punctuation marks, numbers, musical
notations, and many symbols to represent different
concepts and things. The use of the term
“prehistoric” would imply from a time before either the
invention or introduction of writing or a script, though
when used in a New World context specificity is extremely
important, as various Native American peoples and cultures
either possessed the means to record 'history' (the script
of the Maya, the quipus
knots of the Peruvians, the narrative rock art of certain
Amerind tribes or nations, etc.) or their initial contact
period differed (ca. 1000 with the Norse, ca. 1350 with
the Basque, 1492 with Columbus, 1500 with Pedro Álvares,
1524 with Giovanni da Verrazzano, etc.). Arguing the
“age” of a Burrows Cave inscribed "artifact" with a map on
it is comical enough, that it was buried in southern
Illinois before Columbus is a joke that has amused and
bemused for over two decades, and that despite many of the
Burrows Cave items having alphabetic and symbolic writing
on them (including the so-called “map stones”) if Scherz
wishes to describe himself not as a professor emeritus in civil
engineering, but rather as a “prehistoric cartographer,” I
can only hope that his university health care insurance
program adequately covers his medication.
As an “anthropologist,” I can understand why Prof. Kehoe was included in a speculative-themed program which features the (in)famous Kensington Runestone, as she is a respected and accomplished diffusionist anthropologist, archaeologist, and author whose published opinions, even the most controversial ones, are always well founded. Her work on the Kensington Runestone (Kehoe 2005) remains thought provoking, though I personally disagree with her conclusions. Scherz? Ah, he taught advanced plumbing for many years, founded an amateur group to investigate Native American burial mounds (Ancient Earthworks Society), co-authored a book with Burrows (Scherz & Burrows 1992), and has a fine collection of Burrows Cave “artifacts.” I'd guess it was Scherz's collection which was on display in Wolter's laboratory, but I can't be sure and I ...honestly don't care. If Wolter and the producers of “Holy Grail in America” gave Scherz on-screen time in exchange for displaying his collection of fakes, that's their business.
quick Google search with the keywords “Wolter Burrows
Cave” provides a hyperlink to an exceptionally whacky
web-site which claims: “Burrows Cave is one of many
caverns opened up through the New Madrid Earthquake of
1811-12. The two and a half month earthquake even
caused the Mississippi River to run backwards.
Russell Burrows needs to assist the general public in
re-opening this special Book
of Mormon Mulekite
deposit of King Solomon’s temple treasures.” The
web-site also reproduces what appears to be an e-mail
between Wolter and Burrows (though the different fonts are
puzzling). An initial Mormon connection to Burrows
Cave will be described in my forthcoming “The Cave of Hill
Cumorah and the Burrows Cave Hoax.” However, for the
skinny purposes of this update, the ludicrous “belief”
that the Burrows Cave inscribed items were somehow part of
Solomon's “temple treasure,” that they somehow survived the
temple destruction by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE, that the
inscribed items were somehow
incorporated into Herod's temple and survived its
destruction by Titus in 70 CE, and were somehow found by the
Knights Templar during the Crusades, and transported from
Jerusalem to Olney, Illinois is ...a horrific new low for
The History Channel. Yeah, Mormons,
hyper-diffusionists, and the tin-foil hat crowd are known
for that level of whack, but for The History Channel to
show a reenactment of Templars reverently digging up
Burrows Cave items, placing them in a “treasure” chest,
and carrying the items from the Old to the New World is
...very, very wrong. Such foolishness belongs on The
Comedy Channel, or the Sci-Fi Channel, but not The History
Alleged e-mail from Wolter to Burrows.
the Kensington Runestone, the inclusion of the “Larsson
Papers” in “Holy Grail in America” is potentially
significant. The “hooked ‘x’” runeform and
Freemason’s Cipher (i.e. the “Pigpen” cipher) aside, the
young author and amateur cryptographer, Edward Larsson
(1867-1950), is known to have been a traveling tailor and
violinist. Coincidence is a magical occurrence, yet too
many associations often indicate a layered
relationship. The Kensington Runestone was
“discovered” in the midst of a thriving Swedish community,
not German, Irish, Italian, French, etc., but …Swedish, a
Scandinavian people who (along with their Norse and Danish
brethren) invented the runic alphabet. Such a
coin-dance! Who’ll hop for a penny? It just so
happens, wonder of wonders, there’s another Scandinavian
violinist with an association of runes and Minnesota, the
“Nordic Paganini,” Ole Bull (1810-1880).
By all accounts, the Norwegian violin virtuoso, Ole Bull, was one of those larger-than-life characters who made history most mornings that he awoke. He also inspired people. A biographer has written (Smith 1943, p. 179), “Grieg himself has told the story of his early relations with Ole Bull. One day in the summer of 1858, when Grieg was fifteen years old, a horseman on a beautiful Arabian steed galloped up to Landaas, the Grieg summer home near Bergen—a tall, slim, dashing figure who greeted the family with rushing enthusiasm and heartiness. This was the young Edvard’s first glimpse of Ole Bull, his legendary hero, and he recalled that, when he shyly approached and shook the great man’s hand, ‘something like an electric shock passed through my body.’ He sat with wide-eyed fascination and bated breath as Bull, with the true story-teller’s art, described his recent six-year sojourn in America and his adventures with the ill-fated Pennsylvania colony.” It’s said that when the Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, asked Grieg to compose incidental music for his new folklore-based drama, “Peer Gynt,” that Grieg envisioned Ole Bull as the eponymous lead character. Okay, he was a great musician, got tossed in jail and sued a few times, but his accomplishments far outweigh his occasional lack of good judgment.
Anywho, Ole Bull was a nationalistic investor and persistent proponent for a pre-Columbian “discovery” of America by the Norse. And, as it goes, it was a MAJOR part of his non-musical career. In 1853, Bull funded and founded a “New Norway” colony in Pennsylvania, and “spoke of the first discovery of America by Norsemen, a subject always very dear to his heart,” at the dedication ceremony (Smith 1943, p. 103). In 1857, Bull had someone purchase the Dighton Writing Rock in southern Massachusetts in his name (there was some confusion about a foreigner owning the land, though later it seems the transaction had more to do with Bull not having the $50 for the inscribed rock). And, over his last years, he performed many benefit concerts throughout America and Europe to raise funds for a commemorative statue of Leif Erikson, which he sadly never lived to see installed. According to a biographer (ibid, p. 201), “One of his closest friends was Professor Eben S. Horsford, who had made a good deal of money by concocting a new baking-powder, and who spent much of his time writing brochures to prove that the Norsemen discovered America long before Columbus. The two men used to pass many evenings trying to piece together elaborate proofs that Thorvald and his henchmen had trod the banks of the Charles River.” A statue was finally erected in Boston, Mass. on Commonwealth Avenue and Charlesgate East in 1887, and it's said that the sculptress, Anne Whitney, had Ole Bull in mind when she imagined Leif Erikson. Okay, so the Norwegian violinist was a proto-hyper-diffusionist; what could this possibly have to do with the Kensington Runestone?
1853 daguerrotype of Dighton Rock with Seth Eastman.
America, a jury considers “means, motive, and opportunity”
for a guilty verdict in a criminal trial.
Historians, even those associated with The History
Channel, would be well advised to adhere to basic
requirements. The Burrows Cave inscribed
items? Well, as Burrows often claims, the items were
subjected to automobile polish by his one-time associate,
Jack Ward, and can no longer be “tested” due to modern
contamination. And, inviting Goofy to join Mickey,
Wolter doesn't seem to be able to “test” the Burrows Cave
items any better than the “Hard
Evidence” ex-professor and Mormon 9/11 whack, Steve
Jones. The so-called “testing” of the
Kensington Runestone seems amateurish, at best, and at the
very least, a waste of time. Look, even the
Catholics regard the Shroud
Turin as an article of faith and not the actual burial cloth
of Jesus. There are books to help such individuals
who persist in believing in the fantastic (e.g. Sagan
1996; Shermer 1997).
In 1848, Seth Eastman traveled to Minnesota and made a series of watercolor paintings; five years later Eastman posed on Dighton Rock. Yeah, it's a coin-dance... In 1867, the Norwegian journalist, Paul Hjelm-Hansen, visited Minnesota and ardently wrote about how the land was perfect for immigrant Scandinavians. Ole Bull visited Minnesota many times (The New York Times, in their obituary for Bull mistakenly describes his second wife as being “from Minnesota,” though she was actually from Madison, Wisconsin), and in gratitude and appreciation, Minnesotans built a large statue of the violinist. Yeah, another coin-dance... The “means, motive, and opportunity” may be argued for others besides that so-called simple farmer, Olaf (var. Olof) Õhman, but ...it would be a fickle jury who'd dare pass judgment. I don't claim to know the answer, however supporters of the authenticity of the Kensington Runestone have not argued their case well enough to convince me. But, that's just my opinion.
Statues of Ole Bull and Leif Erikson.
In closing my online article, “Falling Into Burrows Cave,” I wrote, “The items alleged to have been removed from Burrows’ Cave are modern, there is no cave, and Burrows is a liar,” words which should remain sufficiently accurate for research purposes. Apparently, Wolter and The History Channel believe otherwise.
Burrows, Russell and Fred
Rydholm. 1992. The
Mystery Cave of Many Faces. Marquette, MI: