Frank Collin: From neo-Nazi to Hyper-Diffusionist and Witch*
By R. D. Flavin
*A previous version of this article appeared in The Greenwich Village Gazette, Feb. 21, 1997, as "The Many Faces of Frank Collin."


Photo by Tony Soluri

     Ron and Carla Gay were not afraid of the 1995 escapades of Frank Collin and his followers, but they were concerned about any influence those antics might have had on their young children.  The Gays are the caretakers of the Native American site known as Princess Mound, at Aztalan in Jefferson, Wisconsin.  It's been nearly four years and all is still quiet.

     Because of events involving Collin and his followers, initially the Gays wanted to erect a public sign discouraging visitors who had read Collin's recent books, written under the pseudonym 'Frank Joseph', his first and middle names.  Frank Joseph Collin is most often associated in the public mind as the neo-Nazi who threatened in 1977 to march and rally in Skokie, a predominately Jewish suburb of Chicago.

     In 1995, Collin showed up at the Princess Mound with a half-dozen women, all wearing long, white, one-hundred percent cotton robes.  Collin, who refused without explanation to pay the customary two-dollar admission, wore a "Thor's necklace," and carried a wooden staff embedded with special crystals collected on his research travels over the past several years.  The infamous Frank Joseph Collin (the half-Jewish, ex-neo-Nazi, and convicted pederast) is now also a witch.

     The Illinois Corrections Department released Collin after three years, a "minimum time served," from his 1980 conviction of sexually molesting young boys.  Since 1983 Collin has established himself as a published author, editor, and anti-science proponent.  Collin now writes articles on sacred sites and Atlantis for such nationally distributed magazines as Fate and The Ancient American.  His publishers know the true identity of Frank Joseph; his readers do not.


Collin in 2001 as 'Frank Joseph'.
From: The Ancient American, Vol. 6, No. 39, 2001, p.16.
Used without permission.

     Collin has told many people he's "a changed man," and he's "not into that anymore..."  Now a hyper-diffusionist -- a believer in pre-Columbian contacts between the Old and New Worlds -- Collin proclaims that scientists and historians have lied, and argues for a: "...New American History of tomorrow!"  A few years ago, then at age 50, Collin left his parent's home on the southside of Chicago, and relocated to Minnesota -- Collin appeared to be earning a fair income from his writing.  That job didn't last long and he moved just down the road from the publisher of The Ancient American.  According to JDL investigators, Collin continues to use his real name.

     Milwaukee historian, Nancy Oesteich Lurie, has remarked on the position of Collin ('Joseph') that: "The rantings against the scientific 'establishment' or 'proper' scholars are of a piece with the urge to assassinate, in this case character or reputation if not physical harm."  Lurie is an authority on the Native American site of Aztalan and its Princess Mound and knows well the public misconceptions of the site, long before Collin became interested.  She feels sorry for Ron and Carla Gay and their having to endure "witches and warlocks" visiting the Aztalan Museum and site.  One woman, an admitted reader and admirer of 'Frank Joseph', wore a live snake wrapped around her
neck when she visited the site.  Lurie sees a sad, subtle usurpation of Native American history in Collin's hyper-diffusionistclaims.

     The Native American tradition of building earthen mounds, like at Aztalan, has sparked wonder and speculation since Colonial times.  Toward a better understanding of the mounds, Thomas Jefferson became the first American archaeologist after digging into a small manmade mound in Virginia and discovered the contents were Native American and not those of some Old World lost race.  Though the mounds were still being built in the nineteenth century, many investigators ignored the data and saw these structures as evidence of an advanced civilization.  The misconception of fantastic origins, or what's called "The Myth of The Moundbuilders," appeals to historical revisionists, New Age types, Mormons, and others.

     Collin is currently editor of The Ancient American, owned and published by Wayne May, a Mormon from Colfax, Wisconsin.  Though often overlooked, the avowed revisionist stance of the Mormons concerning American prehistory and their bizarre theory of race-origins for Native Americans are tolerated or ignored by most, yet they remain a direct challenge, like Collin's work, to conventional sensibilities and First Amendment rights.  An increasingly blatant Mormon propaganda vehicle, the glossy hyper-diffusionist magazine claims to offer "a forum for discussion between the professional and the avocational archaeologist."  One editorial signed Frank Joseph, ended with, "To the up-holders of ...out-dated dogma, we can only say 'We told you so'."  Wayne May says of Collin, "He's served the time.  He's paid his debt to society."

     Frank Joseph Collin went to jail for hiring underage boys and violating them and Illinois law.  For Collin's role in the Marquette Park rallies in Chicago, the pamphlet distribution in Skokie with its "Death To The Jews" message, the media-manipulation after winning a Supreme Court decision allowing Collin to wear a swastika in any neighborhood of his choosing, Collin was never accused of anything other than being a nuisance, nor has he publicly spoken of those years since.  Collin was once quoted as saying, "I used it [the First Amendment] at Skokie.  I planned the reaction of the Jews.  They are hysterical."

     Jonathan Miller, writing in The New Republic (179, p. 10, July 1978), warned: "There is a point for the rest of us, too.  It is that while whizzing along with Collin's fantasies, almost everyone involved has helped him succeed most wildly beyond his dreams.  The next Frank Collin, whoever she or he may be, should not be extended the same cooperation."  Not long ago, it is alleged that Collin was mugged while vacationing in Peru.  Reports indicate the involvement of a young boy in the crime.  Money earned from his writing has enabled Collin to vacation often since his release from prison.  A surprising number of other-wise normal people are happy for Collin and his success,  and how he's turned his life around.

     Frank Collin was born in Chicago, Illinois on November 3, 1944.  His father, Max Simon Collin (formerly Cohn or Cohen), a Jew who is said to have spent time in the Dachau concentration camp, may have had a major impact on his life.  On Chicago television, one Illinois psychiatrist interviewed Collin during his neo-Nazi period and found him to be consumed with a "hatred for his father," and thought Collin's proposed Skokie march was, in effect, "an anti-Collin demonstration."  Today, Collin attends book-signings, radio interviews, writes about Goddess sites, and has a Christmas audio album in release.

     Collin's historical revisionism and anti-establishment position can be traced directly to his involvement with the National Socialists White People's Party (formerly the American Nazi Party) and later, his own NSPA (National Socialists White People's Party of America), all of which espoused racist ideals.  Recent Nazi promotion is still primarily concerned with spreading anti-Black and anti-Jewish positions, yet more and more of their books, newspapers, and newsletters reveal newly created "secret" history, usually involving lost continents, ancient superior civilizations, and, increasingly, some incredible extraterrestrial scenarios.

     The current rhetoric of Frank Collin is familiar to any reader knowledgeable of his past, as when Collin writes of an "Aztec holocaust," or discusses "miscegenation" and "racial identity."  Though no longer a card carrying Nazi, Collin may have attracted a Nazi audience through the use of a pseudonym, having been abandoned by his former followers for his Jewishness as well as his pederasty.  Frank Collin is still opinionated, confrontational, and arrogant, though now he uses a computer instead of a heavy club.

     Since his release from prison sixteen years ago, Collin has tirelessly marketed himself in Chicago and southern Wisconsin.  Joining such amateur organizations as Madison's Ancient Earthworks Society and the larger Badger State Archaeological Society, Collin used scuba-gear to investigate Rock Lake, WI and its "mysterious" underwater piles of stones, which Collin believes are somehow related to the pyramids of Egypt.  For a recent book, Atlantis in Wisconsin (by 'Frank Joseph', St. Paul, MN: Galde Press, 1995), Collin engaged the services of Chicago and Milwaukee-based psychics to comment on Rock Lake, its imaginary "necropolis," and the Princess Mound at Aztalan.  Not surprisingly, Collin has visited, sold his books at, or arranged some event with nearly every sizable bookstore and gift-shop in southern Wisconsin.  Collin, as 'Frank Joseph' is well-known in some circles.

     In 1987, when Collin heavily marketed his first book, The Destruction of Atlantis, at least three Chicago bookstore-owners recognized 'Frank Joseph' as Collin, the ex-neo-Nazi.  All three agreed to sell his first book and one occult bookstore, Arum Solis in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago, continues to sell his recent releases.  The bookstore's owner, Jack Armstrong, admits to selling "books by all types of people."  Collin still stops by on occasion, according to Armstrong.  Armstrong recognized 'Frank Joseph' as Collin in 1987 and thought nothing of it and still doesn't.  Coincidentally, Armstrong is not particularly liked in Chicago's neo-pagan community.

     Russell Thorne, owner of Chicago's The Occult Bookstore, does not recall meeting Collin during the marketing campaign of 1987 and 1988.  On subsequent campaigns, Collin did visit Thorne's bookstore and made follow-up telephone calls.  During one recent conversation, Thorne addressed "the Nazi-thing" and Collin answered, "I'm a good boy, now."  Thorne wants to put together a coalition of local neo-pagans against Collin and his ideas.

     One vocal critic of Collin is Native American author and poet, Jim Stevens of Madison, WI.  Stevens has concerned himself with Collin's antics as they directly effect the local Native Americans, primarily the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago tribe).  At one point Stevens retraced much of Collin's southern Wisconsin wanderings and provided concerned individuals a photocopied news-article about Frank Joseph's true identity.

     Stevens regrets how Collin ingratiated himself into the Native American community.  An associate of Collin, since after his release from prison, is engineering professor (now emeritus), Dr. Jim Shertz, of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the founder of the Ancient Earthworks Society.  This amateur group sees fascinating geometrical and astronomical layouts in many Native American sites and mounds, but interpret the technology as resulting from "smarter" and "more advanced" non-Native American visitors in ancient times.  Stevens asserts that Shertz's allegations of a highly respected Native American "Old Man" giving Shertz permission to discuss and disclose mystical "secrets" are false, and that Shertz's claims of having "Indian blood" are illegitimate.

     In what could be the oddest of coincidence, when Frank Collin was at Pontiac State Prison, he may have met a corrections officer named Russell Burrows, then of Olney, Illinois.  Eighteen months after Burrows left Pontiac he claims he discovered a fantastic cave with gold, tombs, statuary, and dead bodies.  A cache of more than two thousand inscribed stones comically suggests a confluence of nearly every Old World artistic style and alphabetic script known.  The majority of the stones bear crude sketches of square-jawed faces, most resembling Chester Gould's character Dick Tracy, but wearing an Egyptian uraeus instead of a felt fedora.

     Most everyone believes "Burrows' Cave" does not exist as described, however this hasn't stopped Burrows from selling the many inscribed stones he supposedly removed from the cave.  Shertz is president of B.C.C. ( the "Burrows Cave Committee") and Collin serves as editor of The Ancient American, the only nationally distributed magazine to feature articles on Burrows' Cave.  When first told of the real identity of 'Frank Joseph', Burrows feigned surprise and indignation, and then later admitted to having "met him while at Pontiac."  Burrows has since changed his mind and denies ever meeting Collin at Pontiac and claims their current relationship is recent.

     Frank Joseph Collin has once more found a controversial niche to explore.  Gone is the brown-shirt, now replaced with a long, white robe.  Whatever costume Collin chooses to wear, which of his many faces he allows the public to see, or what name he uses, he stands as a primary reminder of the liberties generated by a free-society -- it's not against the law to be aberrant.

      When Ron and Carla Gay first took over the information-center at Aztalan and the Princess Mound, The Lake Mills Leader ran a story on the young couple and their commitment to Native American history.  After the 1995 incident with Collin as his followers, the Gays considered putting up a broadside, but state and federal laws wouldn't permit it.  And, perhaps, that's for the best.  Collin may be steering towards legal confrontation with Wisconsin and federal authorities on his First Amendment rights.  Nazis, swastikas, and Jews have given way to witches, robes, and Native Americans in this sequel to Skokie.

     The Constitution protects Collin's religion, what he chooses to wear, publish, and his right to assembly.  With the proposed Skokie march and the legal help of the American Civil Liberties Union, Collin took his case all the way to the Supreme Court and won.  It is not known when or whether Collin will again visit Aztalan and the Princess Mound, or if he'll pay the standard two-dollar admission, if he does.

     Ironically, the skeleton at Aztalan is that of a robust male, as the original is too fragile and deteriorated.  Now stored at the University of Milwaukee, the so-called "beaded princess" is thought to have been a local wise-woman or shaman -- the concept of "princess" was unknown in Native American society.  Working with psychics, Collin believes the burial site is of "Katalani," the granddaughter of the marriage between an Old World visitor and a Native American from the Yucatan.  Such manufactured history may sell books, but stands as much of a chance at being accepted by historians, as Collin has of being elected mayor of Skokie.

     Ron and Carla Gay, along with their children, may have quite a time in store for them.  As public volunteers, they provide assistance to tourists and other interested parties at the Native American site of Aztalan.  Ron Gay suspects Collin of worshipping Satan, and holds that the sign of the swastika represents a "cutting through of Heaven."  It will be interesting to the Gay family, legal students, and cultural historians to see which of his many faces Frank Joseph Collin wears next.

Updates:

2002
The following is taken from my online article, "Falling Into Burrows' Cave," and deals with Collin returning home to Chicago (albeit only in print).  See the article on Burrows for context.

"...A recent story in the Chicago Reader (Huebner 2002a) about “The Waubansee Stone” featured Frank Joseph, editor of The Ancient American, who “didn’t actually view the Waubansee Stone till the early 1980s, when he embarked on a career in ‘cultural diffusionist’ studies...”  Right.  Frank Collin, neo-Nazi and pedophile, gets out of jail and becomes ‘Frank Joseph’.  I wrote the Chicago Reader and expressed my disappointment (Flavin 2002).  The author’s reply was pure wiggle (Huebner 2002b) and a columnist reasoned "that when someone starts out life as a Nazi, there's nowhere to go but up (Miner 2002)."  Ouch."

Flavin, Richard.  2002.  "Letters to the Editor: Secret Identity," Chicago Reader, Vol. 31, No. 16, Sect. 1, p.3.  Unedited version: "To the Editor: Recently the Chicago Reader ran a story about a local enigmatic stone and featured comments by "Frank Joseph," an author, public speaker, and editor of THE ANCIENT AMERICAN magazine.  "Joseph" is the pseudonym of Frank Collin, the half-Jewish, ex-neo-Nazi, and convicted pederast, who achieved infamy for, among other things, threatening to march in Skokie.  Those who work with "Joseph" (his publishers, radio-talk show hosts, and others) know of his true identity and horrible past, but claim he's a changed man.  Today "Joseph" deals with such fantastic topics as Atlantis, UFOs, and specializes in a revisionist history which seeks to minimize the accomplishments of Native Americans and argues for a significant influence by Europeans and other Old World people before Columbus.  It's one thing for crackpots to overlook Collin's past, because his interests coincide with their own, and another for the Chicago Reader to use this sicko as an authority.  It's a shame his homecoming wasn't better publicized." 
Huebner, Jeff.  2002a.  "The Riddle of the Rock," Chicago Reader, Vol. 31, No. 14, Sect. 1, pp. 1 and 16-18.
Huebner, Jeff.  2002b.  "Letters to the Editor: Jeff Huebner replies," Chicago Reader, Vol. 31, No. 16, Sect. 1, p.3.  Huebner writes: "While I find his past indefensible, I can defend his right to espouse ideas about North American prehistory, as unpopular and far-fetched as they may be." 
Miner, Michael.  2002.  "Hot Type: News Bites," Chicago Reader, Vol. 31, No. 16, Sect. 1, pp. 4 and 5.  After mention of a "spirited letter to the editor (Flavin 2002)," and discussing a past assignment involving Collin, Miner writes: "My view is that when someone starts out life as a Nazi, there's nowhere to go but up.  If today Joseph is peddling the wacky theory that the Waubansee Stone -- the mysterious carved boulder that was the subject of Jeff Huebner's January 4 Reader cover story -- was sculpted by visiting Phoenicians 3,000 years ago, that's a lot less odious than the racial theories Collin pronounced back in the 70s.  But Flavin sees a line from then to now.  On his website, www.flavinscorner.com, he asserts, "The current rhetoric of Frank Collin is familiar to any reader knowledgeable of his past, as when Collin writes of an 'Aztec holocaust,' or discusses 'misegenation,' and 'racial identity.'"  Flavin tells me, "In fact, some of his magazine articles and books are actually being marketed in some skinhead catalogs."  Flavin, who describes himself as a "struggling novelist," lived in Chicago until 1994, when he moved east.  He's a fantastic-archaeology buff himself but takes it far less seriously than Joseph: "If a couple of Romans did come over here, who cares?"  As a writer, he's turned Frank Joseph into a cottage industry.  He tells me he's had at him in the Greenwich Village Gazette and New City and the CD-ROM database Ethnic Newswatch, as well as his own Web site.  I reached Joseph by phone and inquired about his unusual path through life.  "I have nothing to say about that," he responded."  Any reader, but a Chicago reader, it seems. 

8-29-03
I received an e-mail recently suggesting Collin has been using “A. V. Shaerffenberg” as a pseudonym (a book review in Ancient American #4; Jan/Feb 1994, pp. 28-29 has this byline).  AA #4 was the first to achieve a wide distribution and it’s safe to presume all published submissions were the result of prior direct mailings and not the product of unsolicited happenstance.  The editorial office listed (bottom of p. 29) was Collin’s parent’s address.  Shortly after my confirmation that the editor and writer 'Frank Joseph' was indeed Collin, I noted the various bylines in the magazine and attempted to contact both content authors and those whose letters to the editor had been published.  The name “A. V. Schaerffenberg” interested me, however I was unable to locate the author at the time and the matter retired to my files.  Now, almost a decade later and with the advent of Internet search-engines, finding material under this byline is easy.  The author writing as “A. V. Schaerffenberg” is racist scum and I’m particularly offended by an attempt to portray Walt Disney as a Nazi sympathizer.  In my opinion “A. V. Schaerffenberg” is not another pseudonym used by Collin, as the writing styles are different in compositional subtleties and adjectival usage.  The hate-filled author using the byline of “A. V. Schaerffenberg” is actually a better writer than Collin.  However, that this author published in an early issue of AA connects the editor 'Frank Joseph' with the infamy of Collin, despite claims in 1994 and later that he’s “not into that anymore...”  Collin’s efforts are the stuff of psychology and legal decisions.  Those associates of his?  Fellow hawkers at a carnival of deceit. Caveat emptor.

3-20-04
During an afternoon of Google-surfing, I happened upon the webpage of a Canadian radio talk-show which specializes in New Age weirdness, sort of an Art Bell-lite program with more “Oh, the wonder of it!” as opposed to “The government and the aliens are working together to keep gas prices high, right?”  Mindshift: Exploring The Un-Explained, hosted by Errol Bruce-Knapp, airs Sundays nights at 10 PM EST on CFRB AM1010 out of Toronto.  The program guide to the show lists Collin (‘Frank Joseph’) several times as a guest.  The most recent listing, in January, contains the description: “Regular contributor Frank Joseph whose latest book The Lost Treasure of King Juba chronicles the discovery of The Burrows Cave in Southern Illinois and its contents gives us an update on the dig at the site.....” [Note: Hyperlinks in the above description are as they appear on the Mindshift webpage.]  A listing from 8-31-03 has Collin hawking another book, Synchronicity & You: Understanding the Role of Meaningful Coincidence in Your Life, by Frank Joseph (New York: Vega /Sterling, 2003).  A cover-blurb, written by Shirley MacLaine, reads: “Frank Joseph’s book on synchronicity demonstrates, with research and understanding, how truly harmonious and balanced every act and event in our lives is - not just coincidence.  It proves how we are all parts of a fabric of which we should be made more aware.”  Collin ('Frank Joseph') has been a guest several times on Shirley's radio program starting with, I believe, promotion for the publication of his book Sacred Sites of the West, by Frank Joseph ( Blaine, WA: Hancock House, 1997).  A brief article, "Why Go to a Sacred Site?" by Frank Joseph appears on Shirley's website.  During the summer and into the fall of 1980 Frank Collin and Russell Burrows were both at the Pontiac Correctional Center in Illinois and could have met.  Collin was a neo-Nazi without a cause (as the local neo-Nazis didn't take kindly to finding out his father was Jewish) and serving time for being a homosexual pedophile.  Burrows was a prison guard getting ready to quit because the drive was too far from his home and he didn't care for the stress which came with the job.  Now, all these years later, Collin has a new book out about Burrows' Cave.  Meaningful coincidence?  Shirley might think so..


Collin in 2003 as 'Frank Joseph'.
From: The Mindshift webpage at http://www.virtuallystrange.com/mindshift/
Used without permission.


2005 co-pilot Collin; see related article here.

A photograph of Collin as a brownshirt neo-Nazi may be found here.

2-7-09

I recently received an e-mail which directed me to notice of a new job for Collin’s longtime friend and publisher of The Ancient American, Wayne May, as a tour-guide for Mormons.  I seem to recall a part-owner of the magazine living in Salt Lake City and perhaps something about a travel agency (shades of Childress’ Adventure Unlimited tours which Collin enjoyed for many years in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s) from three or four years ago – I’ll have to check my notes.  I’d hazard a guess that it’s not so much a job as it is a chance to get “true believer” LDS members to invest in any one of May’s current confidence games.


© 1997, 2006, 2009 by R. D. Flavin.

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