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Clairvoyance on the Canadian Frontier

Exactly 73 years ago, on June 11, 1945, two Indian trappers drowned in the headwaters of the Wapiti River in the British Columbian Rockies somewhere between Prince George, BC, and Grande Prairie, Alberta. These men, named Archie Belcourt and Josie LeTan, hailed from the tiny community of Rio Grande, located about 95 kilometres to the northeast. Tasked with guiding a survey party, they attempted to cross the Wapiti on horseback and were swept from their mounts by the spring current. Although the survey party searched for their remains, no trace of their bodies could be found.

The Dream

About a month later, a Beaver Dene Indian widow from the Horse Lake First Nation Reserve, located nearly 150 miles away from the site of the drowning, had a strange dream. She dreamt that she was in a canoe on a river in the middle of the wilderness. The man paddling the canoe was a guide whom her late husband had known in life. And in the bow of the canoe, guiding the paddler, was the ghost of her husband himself, who had drowned in the Wapiti many years earlier, in a similar manner to Belcourt and LeTan.

After a day on the river and a night under the stars, her husband’s spirit led her to a particular section of the riverbank. There, close to shore and out of the water, sprawled a human corpse. Her husband then took her to the opposite shore, where another body was entangled in a pile of driftwood.

The Search

Josie LeTan’s widow heard of this dream and asked the woman who experienced it to help her search for her husband’s body, which she believed the woman had been led to. Although the woman had never been to the Wapiti, she agreed to help. She insisted, however, that the paddler from her dream row the boat.

On the woman’s advice, the party started their search at the site of the drowning and paddled downriver. After a day on the water, they made camp on the riverbank in accordance with the Indian woman’s instructions. They continued down the river the next morning and paddled for most of the day. At around dusk, the Indian woman suddenly exclaimed: “This is the place I saw in my dream.”

The party headed over to the shore, where they found a skeleton. Although the wolves had been there first, the party was able to identify the body as Belcourt’s from a large metal belt buckle they found nearby. Some distance downstream, on the opposite side of the river, they found the half-submerged body of Jose LeTan wedged between two logs.

The remains of the two men were transferred to Rio Grande. Funeral services were held in the Rio Grande Roman Catholic Church on August 9th, and the bodies of Archie Belcourt and Josie LeTan were interred in the Rio Grande Cemetery, where they remain to this day.

 

Clairvoyance on the Canadian Frontier

The Problem with Rationalism

Ever since the 18th Century Enlightenment, Western thinking has been dominated by rationalism- the idea that our perception of truth ought to be defined by reason and the scientific method as opposed to emotion or divine revelation. This way of thinking has benefited mankind enormously. Under the pressure of rationalism, despotic monarchies have given way to democratic republics characterized by freedom and equality under the law (in theory, at least!). Medieval medical techniques like bloodletting and fecal ointments have been eclipsed by effective treatments like vaccines and antibiotics. Enlightenment thinking paved the way for technological advancements which have allowed us to work more efficiently, explore the world and beyond, and generally enjoy a better quality of life than our ancestors could even dream of.

For all the tremendous good it has done us, rationalism is not without its shortcomings. The idea that we can come to a complete understanding of reality through reason alone hinges upon the assumption that we human beings are equipped with the tools necessary to perceive and comprehend everything that is real. But just as an insect lacks the equipment to comprehend things like music, math, and spoken language, perhaps we humans lack the capacity to comprehend all reality via the narrow prisms of reason and our five senses through which we view the world. In other words, there are probably some facets of reality which we may never be able to fully understand or explain through reason alone.

 

Second Sight

One mystery which defies rational explanation is a phenomenon called ‘Second Sight’. Second Sight is a supposed extrasensory perception, or ‘sixth sense’. People endowed with Second Sight are said to have the ability to receive information, usually through dreams or visions, of distant or future events. They have no control over these visions, which come upon them unexpectedly. More often than not, these visions are distressing, as the information they contain frequently involves the death of someone known to the seer.

It has been suggested that there is a higher prevalence of Second Sight among members of certain ethnic groups. This ‘gift’ is most often associated with Gaels of the Scottish Highlands, who call it “Da-Shealladh,” or “Two Sights”. It is also known throughout the rest of Scotland, as well as in Ireland, Wales, Cornwall- regions of the British Isles with high populations of ethnic Celts.

According to Celtic-American writer Barry R. McCain, “The Second Sight is thought to be hereditary and it ‘runs’ in some families. As is often the case in genetics, the Second Sight may skip one or two generations, and then return, like some regressive trait for hair colour or shape of ears. The phenomenon is much too authenticated to pretend it does not exist.”

 

Clairvoyance in Northern Canada

Another ethnic group which may be similarly blessed with this gift of prophecy are the Dene of Northern Canada.

United by ancient blood ties and a common language family, the Dene, also known as ‘Athabascans’ or ‘Athapaskans’, are a First Nations ethnic group comprised of roughly 21 different tribes. Historically and currently, most Dene live in Northern Canada and Alaska, from the Arctic Circle to the boreal forests of the Western Provinces. Archaeologists believe that these people’s ancestors crossed from Siberia to Alaska via an ancient land bridge 10-12 thousand years ago, a millennium after the proto-Indians (the ancestors of most other Amerindians), yet several thousand years before the Thule people (the ancestors of the modern-day Inuit).

To the best of this author’s knowledge, few parapsychologists (as students of extrasensory phenomena are known) have explored a potential connection between Second Sight and the Dene people. Judging from a handful of stories from Canada’s Northern frontier, however, perhaps they ought to.

Poole Field’s Story

One of the first northerners to write about Second Sight among the Dene was a Canadian frontiersman named Poole Field. Poole Field began his career in the Canadian North as an officer of the North West Mounted Police- the precursor to Canada’s famous RCMP. He cut his teeth in the Klondike Gold Rush, serving under the famous Mountie Sam Steele. Following his honourable discharge from the Force in 1900, Field travelled extensively with the Mountain Indians- a Dene tribe from the Mackenzie Mountains in western Northwest Territories. His travels often took him through the notorious Nahanni Valley, an area in which he had some of his most exciting experiences. Eventually, Field established a trading post at the confluence of the Pelly and Ross Rivers, in Southeastern Yukon, from which he sold goods to the local Dene in exchange for furs.

Poole Field wrote about his adventures with the Dene in letters to his friend John “Jack” Moran, a former government inspector of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. In one of his letters, Field remarked that Dene medicine men were said to have “the power of a kind of second sight”. Sometimes, they received prophetic visions in their dreams, which all Dene took very seriously. On other occasions, Dene shamans sang themselves into a sort of trance. When they recovered from this dream-like state, they were able to foretell the future.

The Little Doctor

One incident which Poole Field recounted in his letters involved a reclusive Kaska Dene shaman from eastern Yukon, whom everyone called the Little Doctor. “He had about the biggest reputation as a doctor amongst the Indians,” wrote Field, “but would never come down to the store, always stayed out in the bush and would send his sons in with the furs.” In the spring of 1908, Field finally persuaded the esteemed medicine man to visit him at his trading post at Ross River. It would be Little Doctor’s first real taste of the white man’s world.

The Late Shipment

Several days before Little Doctor’s arrival, another band of Dene Indians paid a visit to Field’s store. These natives had come to trade their season’s take of furs for tea, ammunition, and other goods. Unfortunately, Field was fresh out of stock. Several weeks earlier, his partner had taken their steamboat down the Pelly and further down the Yukon River to Dawson City in order to purchase new supplies. He had failed to return on schedule, and Field had no idea what had befallen him. The Indians decided to pitch their teepees beside the post and wait for the shipment to arrive.

When Little Doctor finally arrived at Field’s trading post, one of Field’s native clients suggested that they ask the medicine man to see what had become of Field’s partner. “Well,” wrote Field, “I didn’t have much faith but it could do no harm so I took some tobacco as a small present and went to his camp and told him I was worried about my partner and to see what he could do about it.” Little Doctor said that he would do his best, but was unsure whether or not his medicine would work in this unfamiliar territory.

The Prediction

The following morning, Field paid a visit to Little Doctor’s teepee to see how he had made out. The medicine man claimed matter-of-factly that Field’s partner’s boat was a long way away, but that a band of strange Indians was also approaching the store from another direction and would arrive shortly after the boat did.

When Field inquired as to how the medicine man knew this, Little Doctor explained that, in a dream the previous night, he had been hunting on the side of a mountain not far from Field’s store. He spied a herd of mountain sheep and approached them cautiously, careful to not let them catch his scent on the wind. Despite his efforts, the sheep all stuck up their heads as if they were scared of something and looked down the Pelly River. Frightened of what they saw, they ran further up the mountain before stopping again and looking upriver. Frightened of this second menace, they ran further up the mountain and out of sight.

When Little Doctor looked downriver to see what had scared the sheep in the first place, he saw nothing. “Of course,” the Indian told Field, “you know that a sheep’s eyes are much better than ours.” Little Doctor maintained that the sheep had probably seen Field’s partner approaching, as that is who he had endeavoured to dream about before he went to sleep.

The menace that the sheep saw upriver, Little Doctor said, was likely a band of approaching Indians. They were a little farther off, as the sheep had to climb a little higher up the mountain before they saw them.

The Father of All Dreams

When neither Field’s partner nor the strange Indians arrived by late June, Field sought out Little Doctor once again and asked him to try to assess the situation for the sake of his Indian guests, who were getting anxious. The medicine man agreed.

Early the following morning, Field awoke to discover that the entire Indian camp was up and waiting for him. Little Doctor, it turned out, had awakened that morning from what Field described as “the father of all dreams”.

In his dream, Little Doctor went down the Pelly River in search of Field’s partner’s steamboat and found it “tied up for the night at the mouth of a large creek entering the Pelly from the north.” The medicine man boarded the steamboat and saw that everyone was asleep. The boat was piled to the roof with a very heavy load of freight.

In order to be able to describe the location upon waking, Little Doctor inspected his surroundings. He saw that an old abandoned log cabin rotted beside the creek not far from the steamboat. He went up the creek and followed it all the way to its headwaters, which proved to be two large lakes abundant in fish.

Little Doctor returned to the Pelly and travelled back upriver. Along the way, he found a man loaded down with freshly-dressed moose meat who was heading in the direction of Field’s store. Further up the river, after passing Field’s trading post, he saw a band of strange Indians with six huge moose-skin boats, who were also bound for Ross River.

The Steamer

Word of Little Doctor’s prediction soon spread to the other side of the Pelly, where Poole Field’s rival operated his own trading post. Soon, Field’s competitor and a handful of prospectors made a visit to Field’s post, where they “kidded the Indians about their medicine man” and placed bets that Field’s partner would not arrive for at least several days.

That morning, at around 11 o’clock, a man arrived at the trading post from downriver carrying a pack of moose meat. The Indians were certain that this was the man from Little Doctor’s dream. The man told the delighted natives that he had passed a steamer downriver, and that it was also headed in the direction of the trading post.

Sure enough, a steamer arrived at Ross River later that day. As it turned out, the boat belonged to Field’s competitor. “It was the wrong boat…” wrote Field. “Lots of gloom on our side…Too bad, of course, the old doctor had never seen a steamboat before, and how as he to know the difference? In any case, he had come pretty close to being right.”

Vindication

Field had bet $20 on Little Doctor’s prediction coming true, and would now have to pay his rival, who had bet against it. As he watched his competitors unload their cargo, lamenting his loss, the old medicine man approached him and told him he was sure this steamboat was not the one he had seen in his dream. “For one thing,” the Indian said, “the boat I was on was much lower in the water and the stove pipe was all black. This one is yellow with a black top. Then there is more white men on this boat and no Indians. [On] the other boat there is two Indians as well as white men.”

With fresh wind in his sails, Field asked his Dene clients if some of them might head downriver to see if they could find his partner’s steamer. The creek that Little Doctor described in his dream, at the mouth of which the steamer had been anchored, could only be Orkey Creek, which flowed into the Pelly about 20 miles downriver. Immediately, twelve Dene hunters piled into a moose-skin canoe and paddled down the Pelly.

Neither the hunters nor the steamer returned that day, and Field and his Indian guests retired for the night in poor spirits. Suddenly, at around 2:00 A.M., there was a knock on Field’s cabin door. Field unbolted the door and opened it. To his pleasant surprise, he found himself face to face with his partner. “He had walked up overland,” Field explained, “and everything was exactly as the old doctor had said… That boat landed at eleven that morning and [Indians from the Liard River] arrived that evening with six moose-skin boats, much to the disgust of the other parties.”

 

The Moccasin Telegraph

Another sourdough to write about native clairvoyance in Northern Canada was a woman named Jean W. Godsell. Jean was the wife of Philip H. Godsell, a Hudson’s Bay Company inspector-turned-fur trader who wrote many excellent books and articles on northern Canadian history. In the September 1954 issue of the magazine FATE, Jean Godsell wrote an article entitled “The Moccasin Telegraph”. This piece detailed a strange event which Jean witnessed in the winter of 1922, at Fort Fitzgerald in Northeast Alberta.

Earlier that year, in the fall of 1921, Jean and her husband watched a Chipewyan Dene band disappear into the wilderness for another season of trapping. Jean wrote:

“I felt a deep compassion for the daughters of the Chief, Marie and Therese Cheesie, as they staggered and slipped down the muddy bank to their canoe. They were toting bundles and bales heavier than their own slim bodies. Motherless tots, of six and seven years respectively, they were being taken into the wilderness to help their father with the daily chores of his life as a hunter and trapper.”

Jean expressed her sympathy for the little girls to her husband. “It’s tough,” the sourdough replied, “but it’s part of their life!”

John James Daniels’ Prediction

One morning that winter, when Jean was thawing out a loaf of bread over her cast-iron stove, a Dene interpreter named John James Daniels burst into her cabin. “Injuns,” he exclaimed, “dey come today!”

Jean was puzzled, as no one had visited the fort for weeks. “How do you know, John?” she asked.

“Me know,” the interpreter said cryptically. “Dey have plenty bad luck, too. Dem come before de sun reach here.” With these last words, he pointed his finger straight into the sky.

The Visitors

Sure enough, shortly before noon, an RCMP constable named Bob Baker dropped by and asked Jean if she would like to accompany him on a hike to the Slave River. “Some Indians are coming from the direction of Dog River,” he informed her. “Let’s see who they are.”

Mystified, Jean slipped on her parka and snowshoes and accompanied the Mountie to the riverbank, where a band of local Chipewyan women were congregated. There, in the distance, she saw the serpentine figure of a dog team heading towards them, mushing over the frozen river ice.

Jean peered more closely at the newcomers and noticed that something was amiss. The dog team had no driver. Suddenly, to her horror, Jean made out two tiny fur-clad figures struggling through the snow at opposite ends of the train. One of them stumbled along behind the sled, while the other trudged ahead on snowshoes, breaking a trail for the dogs. They were Marie and Therese Cheesie, the little daughters of the Chipewyan Chief, and the load strapped to the sled was their father’s frozen corpse.

Howling with grief, the local native women helped the little girls to their teepees and ministered to their blackened, frostbitten faces. Astounded, Jean Godsell looked over at John James Daniels, who had predicted the Indians’ arrival.

“Cheesie,” the interpreter told her in a hushed voice, “him die ‘way out in de bush eight sleeps to the eastward. Dem kids, dey tie ‘im on de sled an’ trek 150 miles through de woods to bring ‘im to de fort so de mission people can bury ‘im proper… I told you, Indians- dem come today!”

“But how did you know?” asked Jean.

“Last night I had a dream,” the interpreter replied, shrugging his shoulders. “Saw everything, just as now.”

 

The Incident at Fort Churchill

Later on in “The Moccasin Telegraph”, Jean Godsell described another incident of native clairvoyance in the Canadian North. “Some years ago at Fort Churchill, in Northern Manitoba,” she wrote, “another Indian’s prophetic dream came true.”

Much like Poole Field in his story about Little Doctor’s prophecy, the factor of Fort Churchill- a man named Ashton Alston- was waiting for a long-overdue shipment of trade goods. These supplies, on which the fort’s employees and their Indian clients very much depended, came once a year from the Hudson Bay Company’s storehouses in England. In order to keep his Indian clients from going hungry in the interim, Alston issued them free gunpowder and bullets with which they could hunt caribou on the coast.

One day while waiting for ship from England, Alston received an unexpected visitor: an old Indian medicine man named Shonkelli. Dressed in fringed leggings and a blanket capote, the leather-faced shaman wandered into the trade room, squatted on the floor, and lit up his pipe.

No sooner had the old Indian begun to smoke than Inspector Tremayne of the Hudson’s Bay Company, another of Alston’s visitors, stormed through the trade room door. The delayed shipment was making life miserable for the Inspector, who had come to Fort Churchill to supervise the transfer of supplies. He said as much to Ashton Alston as he strode anxiously about the room.

Shonkelli’s Predicition

When Tremayne wondered aloud what had become of “that confounded ship,” Alson suggested that they ask the old medicine man. Much to the disgust of Mr. Tremayne, who did not believe in the possibility of clairvoyance, the factor asked Shonkelli for his assistance and offered him a few plugs of tobacco as payment. “But the old Indian was not to be tempted lightly,” Jean Godsell wrote. “Not till his ‘fee’ had assumed considerable proportions did he agree to commune with the spirits and find out what had become of the missing ship. Picking up the tobacco, he slipped silently from the store and headed for his caribou-skin wigwam, where he went into a trance. At sundown, he returned.”

Shonkelli told the Company men that he had sent his spirit body out over the water. The ship, he declared, was safe, and would arrive the following day. It was delayed because her crew had decided to rescue a party whose own ship had foundered in the ice-choked waters of Hudson Straits. After rescuing these men, the Company men suffered a tragedy of their own: one of their members, who wore clothes like a woman, died and was buried at sea.

The Ship

The following day, the Hudson’s Bay Company ship indeed arrived at Fort Churchill, just as the old Indian had predicted. Alston and Tremayne boarded the vessel and learned the cause of the day from its Captain Mack.

While heading through Hudson Straits, the ship’s crew spotted a handful of men marooned on an ice-floe. They rescued the unfortunates, but were trapped by heavy pack-ice in the process. When they finally managed to liberate themselves from their icy prison, one of their members fell overboard and drowned. This man was a black-robed priest bound for the Mission at Chesterfield Inlet in what is now Nunavut.

Shonkelli’s prediction, it seemed, was fulfilled in detail.

 

Other Cases of Clairvoyance on the Canadian Frontier

Canadian frontier lore is riddled with similar anecdotes of First Nations clairvoyance, not all of them experienced by people of Dene ethnicity.

Jerry Potts

For example, Jerry Potts, a legendary Scots-Blackfoot frontiersman who guided the first Mounties across the Canadian plains, is said to have had a truly uncanny sense of direction. In the words of Mountie Sam Steele:

“He never talked with others when he was at work. He would ride on ahead by himself, keeping his mind fixed on the mysterious business of finding the way. He was never able to give any clear explanation of his method. Some mysterious power, perhaps a heritage from his Indian ancestors, was at work.”

Piapot

Another Indian of the Canadian prairies to experience episodes of clairvoyance was Piapot, a great Cree-Assiniboine chief.

In the fall of 1870, Paipot and a handful of Cree and Assiniboine chiefs assembled a massive war party and headed into what is now Southwestern Alberta, determined to strike a crippling blow to their enemies, the Blackfoot. One night, Piapot had a dream in which his fellow tribesmen were gored and trampled by a buffalo bull with iron horns. Certain that this was an omen portending defeat at the hands of the Blackfoot, Piapot decided to withdraw from the upcoming campaign and urged the other chiefs to do the same. As the Cree believed themselves to be far more numerically superior to the Blackfoot band they had targeted, however, most ignored Piapot’s dream and continued westward.

The following day, the Cree clashed with a Blackfoot war party that was many times larger than they had expected. The ensuing skirmish is known as the Battle of Belly River. The Blackfoot completely routed the Cree and slaughtered many of the retreating warriors, much like Piapot had predicted.

Ootek

In his book Never Cry Wolf– an account of his experience observing wolves in the Keewatin Barrens of what is now Nunavut- Canadian biologist and writer Farley Mowat described an Inuit shaman named Ootek, who paid the occasional visit to his camp. Mowat related one instance in which Ootek predicted the arrival of a caribou herd with astonishing accuracy. On another occasion, the medicine man predicted the arrival of a party of Inuit hunters, accurately estimating their number before they arrived. The medicine man informed Mowat that he received this information not in dreams, but rather from listening the wolves, whose language he had come to understand.

The Hayward Murder Case

And then there is the strange story of the Hayward murder case in Northern Alberta and the dream which led to its resolution… but that’s a story for another time.

 

Tell Us Your Stories

Do you know any other tales of clairvoyance in Canada and beyond? Let us know in the Comments section below!

 

Sources

  • “Indian Woman Has Revealing Dream”, in the December 1945 issue of the Alberta Folklore Quarterly, by the Edmonton Journal
  • Letter from Poole Field to John “Jack” Moran, July 14, 1939
  • “The Moccasin Telegraph”, in the September 1945 issue of the magazine FATE, by Jean W. Godsell, courtesy of Mr. Gary S. Mangiacopra
  • Never Cry Wolf, by Farley Mowat, 1963

The Strange Death of Violet Goglin

The Strange Death of Violet Goglin

Last Christmas, the Season 4 premiere of the Canadian TV series Letterkenny aired on CraveTV. This hilarious sitcom revolves around the small fictional town of Letterkenny, situated in the heart of rural Ontario. Each episode details the exploits of the members of the town’s four main sub-cultures: the hicks, the hockey players, the skids, and the Christians. From the standoffish, tough-guy attitudes of the farm kids to the almost-incomprehensible vernacular of the junior hockey boys, Letterkenny is filled with side-splitting inside jokes which will resonate anyone familiar with small-town Canadian culture.

According to an article by CTV News, the fictional town around which the show revolves is loosely based on Listowel, Ontario, the hometown of Letterkenny’s creator and co-star Jared Keeso. Although the article does not mention it, it is likely that the name of the fictional town derives from the actual Letterkenny, Ontario, a ghost town in the quiet backwoods east of Algonquin Provincial Park.

Palmer Rapids

The real Letterkenny is lonely and secluded place. The nearest settlement of any significant size is Petawawa, Ontario- a town of 17,000 situated about an hours’ drive north, near the confluence of the Petawawa and Ottawa Rivers.

If you drive about 20 minutes southeast of Letterkenny, you’ll come to the tiny settlement of Palmer Rapids, Ontario. This sleepy farming and logging community lies on the shores of the mighty Madawaska River, a tributary of the Ottawa River.

In the fictional town of Letterkenny, there are a few hyper-zealous members of the Christian community whose strange sectarian schemes sometimes shape the plot of an episode. In Palmer Rapids, however, there is a much darker, nearly-forgotten real-life parallel to these fictional sub-plots which once shook the little community to its core.

The Incident

At around 4:00 in the morning on August 29, 1948, 23-year-old Viola Goglin woke up with a start. Whether she was roused by the sound of the door closing or the silence that suddenly beset her father’s farmhouse, she could not tell. Whatever the case, some mysterious force compelled her to get out of bed, slip out the front door, and wander into the darkness towards the river, where she knew, through some supernatural hunch, she would find her little sister.

Background

Viola’s family lived on a farm in the woods not too far from Palmer Rapids. In addition to farm work, their lives revolved around an alternative style of worship that their father had invented.

Viola’s father, 55-year-old Henry Goglin, was a prosperous farmer and a born-again Christian. Every Sunday, he used to take his eleven children to the Evangelical church in Palmer Rapids. In 1943, however, he suddenly decided to leave the church and keep his family at home on Sundays.

For five years, the Goglin family worshipped in their own way, adhering to a family religion based on Henry’s interpretation of the Bible. Every Sunday, they held worship services in their home, during which they repeated the words “Praise the Lord!” over and over. Sometimes during these services, Viola and her younger sister, Violet, received what their father called a “blessing”. During these incidents, the Goglin girls, seemingly possessed by some otherworldly force, feverishly “praised” for hours on end. Henry Goglin believed that his girls’ actions were directed by the Holy Spirit, similar to Christ’s apostles at the first Pentecost.

Violet’s ‘Blessing’

On the night of Thursday, August 26, 18-year-old Violet Goglin received another “blessing”. She entered a trance-like state and began praising over and over, encouraged all the while by her delighted father and siblings. She maintained this performance all throughout the Sabbath, hardly stopping to eat or sleep. For three days, the farmhouse resounded to her incessant cries of “Praise the Lord!”

On Sunday, August 29, at around 4:00 A.M., Violet suddenly left the farmhouse and headed for the Madawaska River. Her sister, Viola, followed close behind, prompted by some strange urge.

Viola reached the riverbank shortly after her sister. Through the gloom of the early morning, she saw Violet wading into the river, barefoot and in her nightgown. Over and over, the younger Goglin cried, “Faith is the Victory!”- quoting a passage from the Gospel of John.

The Drowning of Violet Goglin

Viola watched her younger sister from the shore as she walked further and deeper into the river, repeating the same scriptural incantation as she went. Viola knew full well that her younger sister was unable to swim. Convinced that Violet’s actions derived from the divine, however, she made no move to intervene, content to leave her sister’s fate in God’s hands. Soon, she found herself urging her sister onward, supplementing her cries of “Faith is the Victory!” with her own shouts of “Praise the Lord!”

When Violet was neck-deep in the water and showed no sign of slowing, Viola felt a twinge of panic. Beset by that protective sisterly instinct so common in elder siblings, she made a step towards an old rowboat which was tethered to a tree nearby. Some otherworldly force held her back, however, and Viola maintained her position at the river’s edge. Submitting to what she believed was God’s will, Viola watched as Violet’s head disappeared beneath the dark water.

There was no frantic thrashing, nor did any muffled cries issue from beneath the water’s surface. The only sounds that Viola could hear were the gentle gurgling of the Madawaska and the chirping of the morning birds. Viola stood by the water’s edge for some time, but her little sister did not resurface.

Aftermath

Viola then made her way from the riverbank to Palmer Rapids, where she informed two loggers of what had transpired. The men then drove the young woman back to her father’s farmhouse before informing local authorities of the situation.

At the farmhouse, Viola related the events surrounding Violet’s disappearance to her father. Instead of exhibiting fear, sorrow, rage, or any other emotion which might naturally be expected from a parent presented with such terrible news, Henry Goglin was overjoyed. He was certain that his daughter had been called into the water by the Holy Spirit, and was elated that she had received such a blessing.

Shortly after Viola relayed the tragic news of Viola’s disappearance to her family, Henry Goglin and his 28-year-old son, Bart, found Violet’s lifeless body floating on the Madawaska. They fished her corpse from the river and buried it on a lonely hillside near the family home.

The Trial

Due to the strange nature of Violet Goglin’s death, the Ottawa Attorney-General’s Department summoned a jury to determine whether or not foul play was involved. In the dilapidated town hall of Palmer Rapids, a panel of farmers and loggers listened with mouths agape as four members of the Goglin family related the last days of Violet’s life, and the details surrounding her drowning.

Henry Goglin’s Testamony

First, Henry Goglin took the stand. With a contented smile, he described the family service he held on the night of Violet’s passing, and told the jury of Violet’s “blessing”. Furthermore, being familiar with Holy Scripture, he drew a parallel between Violet Goglin’s fate and that of Philip the Evangelist, an early disciple of Christ. According to the Acts of the Apostles (the fifth book of the New Testament) Philip met a courtly Ethiopian eunuch on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. After converting the Ethiopian to Christianity, Philip waded into a roadside pond with him and baptized him before being borne away by the Holy Spirit. Henry Goglin believed that his daughter had met a similar fate.

Viola Goglin’s Testamony

After Henry Goglin’s testimony, a perfectly-composed Viola Goglin said a few words to the men of Palmer Rapids. Modestly clad in a long, old-fashioned cotton dress that fell down to her cotton-hosed ankles, she described her sister’s last moments. “God told me to go with her,” she said, pressing a well-thumbed Bible close to her chest. “I stood on the bank and kept praising while Violet walked into the river. She kept walking in and praising and repeating, ‘Fair is the Victory’ until she disappeared.”

After Viola’s speech, more members of the Goglin family testified at the trial. Ultimately, the bewildered jury decided that Violet Goglin had drowned to death in the Madawaksa River, and that no one was responsible for her death. It was clear to everyone in the hall that the girl’s family had no doubts in their mind that a supernatural force had impelled her to wade into the water.

Commentary

The story of Violet Goglin’s strange death is an obscure one. To the best of this author’s knowledge, it was covered in a handful of newspaper and magazine articles in the late 1940’s, and was thereafter forgotten.

One commentary on the incident, published in the July 1949 issue of the Canadian magazine Signs of the Times, remarked that God, in the Old Testament, strictly forbade fanaticism such as that exhibited by the Goglin family. The article quoted from Leviticus 18:21, a verse from the Hebrew Torah in which God commanded the Israelites to abstain from child sacrifice, a practice adopted by their Canaanite neighbours: “Thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God.” The article went on to explain that “human sacrifices have always been abhorrent to God. There is no instance in all God’s dealings with the human race when He required a human offering.”

The commentary ends with the chilling suggestion that, if a supernatural entity did indeed compel Violet Goglin to drown herself in the Madawaska River, it was not the Holy Spirit as the Goglin family believed, but more likely an agent of Satan.

Sources

  • “The Editorial” of the July 1949 issue of the magazine FATE, by Robert N. Webster (a.k.a. Raymond A. Palmer). Article courtesy of Mr. Gary S. Mangiacopra.
  • “Fanaticism”, Signs of the Times, July 1949
  • “Driven By Holy Spirit Into River: Coroner’s Inquest Hears Strange Tale”; The Lethbridge Herald; Thursday, September 16, 1939
  • “Called by ‘Holy Spirit,’ Girl Wades To Her Death”; Winnipeg Free Press; Tuesday, September 7, 1948

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Thunderbird- A Canadian Legend

Thunderbird

A Canadian Legend

On the eastern shore of Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, at a place known as Brockton Point, stands a cluster of ten totem poles carved and painted by First Nations artists. One of these carvings- a striking replica of a Kwakwaka’wakw longhouse post- stands in conspicuous prominence. It is called the ‘Thunderbird House Post.’

The lower half of the Thunderbird House Post features a grizzly bear holding a human being. Its upper half- the half relevant to this article- is dominated by an aquiline figure with outstretched wings- a mysterious character from First Nations mythology known as the Thunderbird.

The Thunderbird of the Pacific Northwest

The Thunderbird is a common motif in the indigenous artwork of Canada’s West Coast. From Haida Gwaii to the Fraser Delta, the image of a great eagle with curved horns serves as testament to an ancient legend shared by the First Peoples of the Pacific Northwest.

For centuries, Bella Coola, Nootka, and Tlingit medicine men regaled their fellow tribesmen with tales of a winged monstrosity which once dominated the western skies. Around smoky longhouse fires, they spoke of a massive eagle endowed with the ability to create storms. Lightning shot from its eyes when it blinked, and thunder boomed when it flapped its wings.

These mythical creatures made their homes among the rocky crags of the Coast Mountains. Their nests were enormous structures composed of tree branches, supplemented by the occasional human bone. The Coast Salish said that, in ancient times, a Thunderbird lived atop the Black Tusk peak in the Garibaldi Range north of Squamish, British Columbia. Every once in a while, it left its perch to hunt killer whales, which it snatched from the ocean like a bald eagle snatches salmon from the river.

The Coastal tribes had many names for these giant birds. The Kwakwaka’wakw called them “Kwunusela“. To the Bella Coola, they were the “Alkuntam“. The Haida referred to them as “Ooolala“. Today, we know these monsters as “Thunderbirds”.

Thunderbird Traditions Across Canada

It might surprise some Canadians to learn that the legend of the Thunderbird is by no means a phenomenon unique to the Pacific Northwest. First Nations from all over the Great White North have similar legends of a giant bird responsible for the creation of thunderstorms.

The Thunderbird of the Great Lakes

The Ojibwa, or Chippewa, whose traditional homeland includes the forests of Southern Ontario and Quebec north of the Great Lakes, have their own legend of a giant, thunder-making eagle. In fact, the city of Thunder Bay, Ontario, situated at the head of Lake Superior, gets is name from a translation of the Ojibwa words “Animike Wekwed“- literally “Thunder Bird Bay”.

Ojibwa legend has it that a Thunderbird once nested atop Mount McKay, a butte in the Nor’Wester Mountains located southwest of Thunder Bay.

The Thunderbird of the Maritimes

The Thunderbird also appears in the mythology of the natives of the Atlantic Northeast. The Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, and Passamaquoddy of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick called this creature the “Cullona”. The Montagnais and Naskapi Indians of Labrador, on the other hand, referred to it as “Met’co”.

The Thunderbird of the Arctic

The Inuit of Northern Canada have their own version of the Thunderbird legend. In his 1875 book Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo, Danish geologist Dr. Hinrich Rink wrote that the Inuit spoke of “fabulous birds” called “Serdlernaks.” These birds hunted seals, and were perfectly capable of killing full-grown men if they so desired.

Similarly, zoologist and polar explorer Edward W. Nelson recorded an Inuit story describing “the last of the Thunderbirds.” This avian abomination supposedly lived along the lower Yukon River. There, it preyed upon caribou, and even snatched up the occasional Inuit hunter.

The Thunderbird of the Rocky Mountains

The Kootenai Indians of the Canadian Rockies, who traditionally made annual hunting trips east onto the prairies to hunt for buffalo, had their own Thunderbird legends. German-American anthropologist Franz Boas included some of these stories in his collection entitled Kutenai Tales.

The Blackfoot were another people of the Canadian prairies with Thunderbird stories. According to French archaeologist Claude Schaeffer, who spent time among the South Peigan Blackfoot of Montana, the Blackfoot called this creature “Omaxsapitau“. “Omaxsapitau” means “Big Pitau“, Pitau being the name the Blackfoot applied to the golden eagle.

White Bear’s Story

In 1951, Schaeffer interviewed a Blood Blackfoot named Harry Under Mouse, who told him an incredible story involving his own grandfather’s alleged abduction by a Thunderbird. Harry’s grandfather was a Cree medicine man named White Bear. Despite the animosity which existed at that time between the Blackfoot and the Cree, White Bear married a Blood Blackfoot woman and joined her band.

In those days, White Bear was a skilled eagle trapper. In order to catch an eagle, whose tail feathers played an important role in Blackfoot ceremonies, he first found himself shallow pit. Next, he baited the pit with a stuffed animal. Then he camouflaged it with grass and vegetation. Finally, he concealed himself within the pit and waited for an eagle to arrive. When an eagle sank its talons into the bait, White Bear grabbed its legs and thereby trapped it.

In the winter of 1850, 28-year-old White Bear’s band camped south of Fort Edmonton (present-day Edmonton), Alberta. Their pemmican stores were low, as hunting was poor that fall. To make matters worse, there were few buffalo in that part of the prairies that winter. Inevitably, the band went hungry.

Eventually, White Bear and a handful of Blackfoot hunters wandered west into the Rocky Mountains in search of game. Mysteriously, hunters disappeared from the party one by one. In spite of this, the hunters decided to split up so that they would have a better chance of finding food.

The Abduction

One day, while camped east of present-day Banff, Alberta, White Bear found a deer. He brought the animal down and set to butchering it. When he finished dressing the carcass, he packed the meat onto his back and headed west. Suddenly, he was surrounded by the shadow of an enormous bird. Before he knew what was happening, White Bear found himself rising into the air. With a thrill of horror, he realized that an Omaxsapitau had grabbed hold of the meat he had packed and was carrying him off to its lair.

After a terrifying journey over the mountains, White Bear landed in an enormous nest built atop a high cliff. Bones of various animals lay about him. Some of these were unmistakably human- likely the last remains of the missing hunters.

Also in the nest were two baby Omaxsapitau. Using his skills as an eagle hunter, White Bear seized the birds’ legs and jumped out of the nest with them. The baby birds flapped their wings furiously, slowing their descent, and White Bear landed on the ground unharmed. He plucked two arm-length feathers from the baby birds’ tails as souvenirs of his adventure and struck out east for the prairies.

Sightings

Sightings in Alberta

Other members of the Blackfoot Nation in addition to White Bear claimed to have seen the Thunderbird around the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies. A Blackfoot named Dog Takes a Gun claimed that his parents saw a Thunderbird near what is now Calgary, Alberta, in the 1860’s. In that same decade, Peigan Blackfoot warriors led by Heavy Runner (whose band was infamously massacred on the orders of U.S. Army Major Eugene Baker in 1870) saw a Thunderbird while on a raiding party against the Crow, which they took to be a bad omen. And according to Claude Schaeffer, the wing of “an extraordinary bird”, perhaps a Thunderbird, was “in the possession of a curio dealer in Calgary” as late as 1940. This wing was initially found by Cree Indians from Maskwacis, Alberta (formerly Hobbema), south of Edmonton, AB.

In July 1925, hikers reported seeing a massive bird evocative of the Thunderbird near the Tower of Babel, a mountain in the Canadian Rockies southeast of Lake Louise, Alberta. According to Canadian naturalist Dan McCowan in his book Animals of the Canadian Rockies (1936), the hikers “saw an eagle flying at considerable height. As it neared the Tower… it came much lower and they observed that the big brown bird carried an animal of considerable size in its talons.” The bird subsequently dropped the animal, which proved to be a mule deer fawn. A Parks Canada official weighted the fawn at nearly 15 pounds (6.8 kg).

Sightings in Quebec

In the fall of 1974, Daniel Caron, his sister Suzette, and Remi Bassette of Western Quebec saw a large bird near the village of Louvicourt, Quebec, east of Val-D’or. Daniel first saw the bird drinking at a pool of stagnant water. Later, the trio saw the bird flying off with a dead beaver in its clutches. The party described the bird as whitish gray, with a body measuring 4 feet (1.2 metres) in height. The wingspan of this aerial colossus was supposedly so great that the observers were afraid to publicly estimate its length for fear of ridicule.

Theories

Mark A. Hall’s Theory

Cryptozoologist Mark A. Hall described hundreds of alleged Thundebird sightings reported throughout the 20th Century, most of them in the United States, in his 2004 book Thunderbirds: America’s Living Legends of Giant Birds. Many of these sightings are eerily similar. Hall contended that, when considered as a whole, these sightings seem to indicate that a rare, large bird yet unknown to science once lived, and perhaps still lives, in the wilderness of North America. Drawing from witness descriptions, Hall suggested that the bird exhibits the following characteristics:

  • Its wingspan measures 15-25 feet (4.6-6 metres)
  • It has a height of 4-8 feet (1.2-2.4 metres)
  • The plumage of this bird is dark, usually being brown, gray, or black
  • Its head and neck are bare (i.e. devoid of feathers)
  • It kills and eats large game such as sheep, deer, caribou, moose, colts, dogs, and occasionally human beings
  • It has the outward appearance of a California condor, but displays predatory traits more consistent with those of a hawk
  • Its bill is curved, and its feet are capable of carrying heavy loads
  • It breeds on crags in simple nests of sticks and leaves
  • It is long-living and slow-breeding, typically laying 1-2 eggs at a time
  • It’s nocturnal
  • It is migratory; it travels south over mountainous terrain during the fall, and north over the same route during the spring

Interestingly, many supposed witnesses of the Thunderbird claimed that it made a loud noise when it flapped its wings. Hall suggested that this characteristic, coupled with the Thunderbird’s occasional appearance during spring thunderstorms, helped to spawn the legend that the Thunderbird was capable of conjuring storms.

Claude Schaeffer’s Theory

In his 1951 article Was the California condor known to the Blackfoot Indians?, Claude Schaeffer suggested that the  Omaxsapitau- the Blackfoot version of the Thunderbird- was based on encounters with the California condor. Although this rare bird is native to the West Coast of North America, Schaeffer put forth the hypothesis that its habitat once extended east to the Rocky Mountains.

Karl Shuker’s Theory

In his 1995 book In Search of Prehistoric Survivors,  British cryptozoologist Karl P.N. Shuker suggested that the thunderbird of native lore is “a nonexistent composite, deriving from Amerindian observations of three different species…” Specifically, these three species are the golden eagle, the California condor, and an “undiscovered species of teratorn”.

The Golden Eagle

Shuker argued that the thunderbird’s alleged ability to carry off large prey was “inspired by [that] of the golden eagle.”

The golden eagle is the largest bird of prey in North America. Although these raptors occasionally appear in Canada’s eastern provinces, they are more common in the west. Every fall, golden eagles from Alaska and Northern Canada migrate south, riding thermals down the Rocky Mountains to the Western United States.

Golden eagles are powerful birds. Their broad wings, strong feet, and muscular pectorals allow them to lift and carry relatively heavy loads. In his book, Shuker recounted several instances in which golden eagles reportedly carried off human children. In 1838, for example, a golden eagle allegedly swooped down on a group of children playing on a mountainside in the Swiss Alps. The raptor sank its talons into a 5-year-old girl named Marie Delex and bore her away. Two months later, a shepherd found Marie’s half-eaten corpse lying on a rock about a mile and  a half from where she was abducted.

Shuker also related an incident recounted by French biologist Felix Pouchet in his 1873 encyclopedia The Universe. This incident supposedly took place in a schoolyard in Mississippi in 1868. One Thursday afternoon, a golden eagle descended upon a group of young boys playing marbles not far from the schoolhouse. The bird snatched up 8-year-old Jemmie Kenney and climbed into the sky with him. For one reason or another, the raptor dropped Jemmie from a tremendous height. The boy did not survive the incident.

Shuker argued that incidents such as these served as the basis for the Thunderbird’s ability to abduct human beings. Native storytellers exaggerated the ‘Thunderbird’s’ weight-carrying capacity for dramatic effect. In time, this mythical bird graduated from snatching children to plucking killer whales from the ocean.

The California Condor

The thunderbird’s appearance, Shuker surmised, derived from native sightings of the California condor.

With a wingspan of up to 10 feet, the California condor is the largest land bird in North America. Although this buzzard, with its black feathers and bald head, bears great resemblance to the red-headed vulture of India, it is actually more closely related to the stork.

This carrion-eating colossus once dominated the skies of the Pacific Northwest, ranging from the West Coast of British Columbia to the beaches of Baja California. Throughout the 19th Century, settlers hunted the California condor to near extinction. Then, in the late 1980’s, conservationists reintroduced the bird to the Californian wilderness. Today, this endangered species boasts a population of around 500.

An Undiscovered Species of Teratorn

In his book, Shuker put forth the notion that the ‘thunderbird’s’ tremendous size was inspired by an “undiscovered species of teratorn”.

Teratorns are an extinct family of enormous birds believed to have gone extinct near the end of the last Ice Age. Related to New World vultures, these avian behemoths were some of the largest flying birds to ever live. One teratorn species, Argentavis magnificen, had an estimated wingspan of up to 6.07 metres (19.9 feet), making it larger than a Cessna CR-3 aircraft.

Shuker postulated that an ancestor of some teratorn species still survived in the Pacific Northwest long enough to be observed by the natives. This creature’s tremendous size, Shuker contended, helped to inspire the legend the of the Thunderbird. According to Shuker, these Pleistocene relicts, despite their size, did not have the ability to carry off enormous prey like the thunderbird of native lore. Like the California condor, they were anatomically related to storks. Therefore, Shuker maintained, they likely had relatively weak feet, and were incapable of carrying heavy prey.

Sources

  • Thunderbird: America’s Living Legends of Giant Birds (2004), Mark A. Hall
  • In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), Karl P.N. Shuker
  • Was the California Condor Known to the Blackfoot Indians? (1951), Claude Schaeffer
  • Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology (2002), George M. Eberhart
  • Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo (1875), Henry Rink

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Waheela- the Great White Wolf of Northern Canada

Waheela

The Great White Wolf of Northern Canada

On May 16, 2018, a Montanan rancher shot and killed a strange wolf-like creature on his property. According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) officials:

The animal came within several hundred yards of the rancher’s livestock. He shot it and reported it as required by law. The animal was a young, non-lactating female and a canid, a member of the dog family, which includes dogs, foxes, coyotes and wolves…

“The animal originally was reported as a wolf, but several Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ wolf specialists looked at photos of the animal and collectively doubted it was a purebred wolf: the canine teeth were too short, the front paws to small and the claws on the front paw were too long…”

This animal was so strange-looking that FWP officials submitted some of its tissue for DNA analysis. The results of this test are forthcoming.

The Shunka Warak’in

For many cryptozoology enthusiasts (cryptozoology being the study of strange, unknown, or hidden ‘animals’), this strange Montanan canine evokes the Shunka-Warakin– a monster of Ioway Indian mythology.

The Ioway Indians are a Sioux people whose ancestral homelands include the Great Plains of Southern Wisconsin and Eastern Iowa. According to an old Ioway legend, a ferocious, hyena-like animal once roamed the American prairies. Due to its habit of killing and devouring dogs, the Ioway called this creature the “Shunka Warak-in“, which translates to “Carrying-Off-Dogs”.

The Legend

Every night, this creature snuck into Ioway camps. And every morning, a few more dogs were found missing. When the Ioway figured that these depredations had gone on long enough, they decided to ambush the animal. Armed with muskets and bows and arrows, they crouched in the darkness beside their teepees not far from where their dogs were tethered.

Suddenly, a strange, wolf-like creature slinked into camp from out of the darkness. The Ioway had never seen anything like it before. The baffled braves sprang from their hiding places and peppered the animal with arrows and musket balls. Incredibly, the missiles failed to bring the creature down. In fact, they only seemed to make it angry. With a bloodcurdling shriek, the animal lunged at its tormentors. The warriors drove it back with their spears and war clubs. After a tremendous struggle, the animal retreated back into the darkness. The Ioway decided to follow it.

The Ioway braves tracked the creature throughout the night and most of the following day. Eventually, they succeeded in cornering it. The creature put up a savage last stand and fought to the bitter end. When it finally fell under the Ioways’ guns, it cried just like a human being.

Once the creature was dead, the braves skinned its carcass, painted its hide, and placed it in a medicine bundle. The Ioway believed that whoever wore this medicine bundle in battle would be immune to enemy bullets and arrows, much like the indomitable monster whose skin it contained.

Lance Foster’s Theory

In 1991, a graduate student of Iowa State University named Lance Foster rediscovered the legend of the Shunka Warak’in. The legend reminded Foster of a mysterious stuffed canine which was once on display at a small museum in Henry Lake, Idaho. Foster knew that the museum had closed down long ago, and that the stuffed animal was missing. He suspected that the lost curio might be a Shunka Warak’in specimen- a relative of the vicious, dog-eating monster of Ioway lore.

Foster related his theory to Loren Coleman, a prominent American cryptozoologist. Using the information that Foster gave him, Coleman unearthed the fascinating backstory behind the stuffed animal at Henry Lake. He included this story in his 1999 book Cryptozoology A to Z.

The Tale of the Ringdocus

According to this story, a family by the name of Hutchins traveled by stagecoach to Montana’s Madison River Valley sometime in the 1880’s. There, the family’s patriarch, Israel Ammon Hutchins, established a ranch. No sooner had he and his family settled into their new routine, however, than their lives were turned upside down by the arrival of a strange and unwanted visitor. Israel’s grandson, zoologist Dr. Ross Hutchins, described the incident in his 1977 book Trails to Nature’s Mysteries: The Life of a Working Naturalist.

According to the Dr. Ross, Israel heard his dogs barking one winter morning and headed over to investigate. He discovered a dark, wolf-like beast chasing his wife’s geese. He shot at the animal with his rifle but missed. It ran down the river and disappeared into the brush.

Several days later, members of the Hutchins family spied the mysterious animal at dawn. They saw it several more times around the ranch. Their neighbours also saw the creature around their own ranch, located about fifteen miles down the river. Those who saw the animal described it as being nearly black, with high shoulders and a back that sloped downwards like a hyena. At night, the animal made haunting vocalizations which almost sounded like human screams.

One morning in late January, Israel Hutchins, alerted by the barking of his dogs, saw the creature and shot it dead. “Just what the animal was is still an open question,” wrote Dr. Ross Hutchins. After its death, the Hutchins family donated the creature’s body to a man named Sherwood. Sherwood stuffed the animal and kept it in his aforementioned museum at Henry Lake. He dubbed the beast “ringdocus“.

Conclusion

In November 2007, another grandson of Israel Hutchins named Jack Kirby rediscovered the stuffed ringdocus in the Idaho Museum of Natural History. Sure enough, the animal is a strange, wolf-like creature with dark coat, a narrow snout, and a back that slopes downwards like a hyena’s. Kirby repossessed the mount in his grandfather’s name before donating it to the Madison Valley History Museum in Montana, where it remains to this day. Kirby neglected to submit its hair for DNA analysis, preferring that the mystery of its identity live on. To date, no such DNA analysis has been conducted.

Sightings

Recent events suggest that the ringdocus might not be an isolated phenomenon. According to cryptozoologist Mark A. Hall, the 1990’s saw numerous reports of “mean-looking, near wolflike and hyena-like animals” in Alberta, Canada, as well as in the States of Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois.

Then, in 2005 and 2006, a mysterious wild animal invaded farmers’ properties all over Montana, killing a total of 120 sheep and seriously mauling many more. On November 2, 2006, the 106-pound culprit was shot in Garfield County, Montana, by state Wildlife Service agents. The creature’s fur had a strange hue that ranged from red to orange to yellow, and appeared to be something other than a gray wolf, the only animal it even remotely resembled. Despite postulations that the animal was a Shunka Warak’in, the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Department identified it as a four-year-old male wolf with abnormally red fur.

Will this new mystery canine, shot last week on a Montanan ranch, similarly prove to be a wolf? Or will the DNA analysis confirm it as an entirely new species, or a relic of Montana’s prehistoric past?

Identity

In his aforementioned book, Loren Coleman theorized that the ringdocus (and, by extension, the Shunka Warak’in) might be a relict Borophagus– an ancient, bone-crushing, hyena-like dog known to have lived in North America during the Pleistocene Epoch. Alternatively, cryptozoologist Jerome Clark put forth the notion that the animal might be a surviving Hyaenodon montanus, a species of carnivorous mammal believed to have gone extinct during the Obliocene Epoch.

Many cryptozoologists have attempted to draw a connection between the ringdocus / Shunka Warak’in and an even more mysterious creature from Northern Canada- a monster known today as the “Waheela”.

The Waheela

The Waheela is said to hail from the watershed of the South Nahanni River in Canada’s Northwest Territories- a rugged National Park and a Mecca for extreme outdoor adventurers. The Nahanni Valley, as it is sometimes called, is a place of myth and mystery, home to legends of lost gold mines, mysterious decapitations, forgotten tribes, and prehistoric monsters. To learn more about these chilling tales, please check out our non-fiction book ‘Legends of the Nahanni Valley‘.

The word ‘Waheela’ is not a local Indian word, nor does it have subarctic origins. In fact, it was first introduced to the world by Ivan T. Sanderson, an eccentric zoologist and adventurer and a pioneer in the field of Fortean- the study of unexplained phenomena. In fact, Sanderson is considered by some to be one of the Founding Fathers of Cryptozoology.

In October 1974, a year after Sanderson’s death, one of Sanderson’s unpublished articles, entitled The Dire Wolf, appeared in the magazine Pursuit. This article described a giant white wolf which lived in the Nahanni Valley. Sanderson called this creature the ‘Waheela’ after a mysterious wolf-like monster said to haunt the forests of Northern Michigan.

The American Expeditionary Society

Sanderson’s article, coupled with some of his private correspondence, describe how he- and, by extension, much of the Western world- first came to learn of this mysterious white wolf of the North Country. Back in the mid 1960’s, Sanderson was approached by a young mechanic from Philadelphia named Frank Graves. Graves had read Sanderson’s book Abominable Snowman: Legend Come to Life, one of the first works to explore the Sasquatch-Yeti phenomenon, and decided to make a trip to the Nahanni Valley in order to investigate a hunch that Sasquatch-like creatures lived in the region. He approached Sanderson in order to ask the seasoned adventurer for advice which might aid him in his own expedition.

Sanderson hooked Graves up with four men who had also approached him for advice, and who also hoped to explore the Nahanni Valley. These men were members of the so-called ‘American Expeditionary Society’ (AES), an academic club comprised of about thirty American university students who hoped to resurrect the dying art of old-fashioned exploratory expeditions. That summer, Frank Graves and his four AES companions flew to Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories, purchased a flat-bottomed scow with a motor, and made their way down the Liard River and up the South Nahanni.

The five companions established a base camp deep in the Nahanni Valley, at the base of an enormous waterfall called Virginia Falls. From there, Graves made several expeditions above the falls on foot. At all times, he was accompanied by an Indian guide.

Frank Graves’ Encounter

During one such excursion, Graves’ Indian companion brought along a dog. He hoped that his canine companion might be able to flush out any game they came across. The trio worked their way up a glen which led from the river. Eventually, they came to a small plateau covered with grass and brush. Sure enough, Graves’ native companion spotted some wild fowl in the timber below. With his dog by his side, he ambled down the slope towards them, hoping to bag something for dinner.

Frank Graves opted to stay up on the plateau in case any game appeared in his partner’s absence. He was armed with a double-barreled 12-gauge shotgun, and would be able to take any game that came his way.

Suddenly, there was a rustle in the bushes not far from where Graves was standing. Thinking that the hunter’s dog might be approaching, he did not raise his gun. He regretted his laxity when an enormous, snow-white animal ambled out of the brush. At first, Graves took this animal to be a polar bear. When he looked a little closer, however, he saw that it looked more like a gigantic dog. It stood up on long legs, more like a dog or a wolf. It had a wide, flat head and rather short ears. Graves panicked and fired both barrels of his shotgun at the creature. The animal hardly seemed to notice. It slowly turned away and wandered back into the forest. With shaking fingers, Graves slipped another shell into his weapon and fired at the creature’s rear. Amazingly, the animal maintained its leisurely pace as if nothing had happened.

The Great White Wolf of the North

Graves’ Indian companion quickly returned, thinking that Graves had killed some game. When the white man related his terrifying experience to his red companion, the native insisted that they return to their boat and leave the area at once. Only when they reached the safety of their base camp downriver did the native explain that the animal Graves encountered was not an extremely large wolf, but rather another animal entirely. These were solitary creatures, not pack animals like grey wolves. They were much larger than wolves, had splayed feet, and had thick, heavy tails. These beasts, the Indian said, were quite rare. Most of them lived further to the north. Some of them made annual trips into the Mackenzie Mountains, of which the Nahanni Valley is a part. And a few stayed in the Nahanni Valley all year round.

Another Description

Interestingly, Frank Graves and his Indian companion were not the only men to speak of this giant white wolf-like creature of the Northland.

In a letter to Ivan Sanderson, a man (whose signature this author was unable to decipher) claimed that in October 1970, while visiting the town of Moosenee in Northern Ontario, he heard tell of this creature from the lips of a Dene Indian who claimed to hail from Nahanni Country. The Dene were terrified of these monsters, the man’s Indian informant claimed. They were impossible to kill. The animal looked a little like a Husky/Alsatian crossbreed, but was many times larger. Its rear was more akin to that of a Saint Bernard. It had an 11-foot-long body and a 4-foot-long tail. “The rear portion of the body apparently slopes away in the manner of a bear,” the writer wrote. The head appears to be low slung and flattened and having a broad muzzle. Colours range from brown to white.

“Its habits are disgusting, if it exists,” the letter writer continued. “Part carrion eater, it can take a bear apart, but prefers to live on injured or young animals. Its delight is to snatch the young from the mother whilst she is in the process of giving birth. Also said to attack man on sight. Almost invincible, he has but one enemy.

“Now hang on to your hat!

“That enemy is a…”

[Check out our book to find out!]

More Descriptions

Other descriptions of the great white wolf of the North Country are eerily consistent with that of the letter writer’s Indian informant. For example, in The Dire Wolf, Ivan Sanderson mentioned that an old friend of his- a professional cameraman-turned-film director named Tex Zeigler- “made a few points about what he called the ‘great white wolf'” of Alaska back in the 1950’s, long before Frank Graves’ encounter. Before he became involved in the film industry, Zeigler worked as a prospector, then as a trader, and finally as a pilot in the Alaskan wilderness, earning himself the epithet the ‘Flying Trader.’ During his days in the Norht Country, he came across gigantic, solitary white wolves on a number of occasions.

Similarly, in a letter-to-the-editor published in Volume 2, No. 1, of the online Fortean magazine North American BioFortean Review (2000), a man who identified himself as Paul W., and who worked in the “outdoors industry”, described an enormous white wolf which his good friend encountered in the wilderness of Northern Ontario, not far from his hunting lodge. He estimated that this animal, which was feasting on a moose carcass at the time, weighed at least 200 pounds. It had a large, broad head, and its front legs were longer than its rear legs. It did not look much like a wolf, and was larger and more robust than even a big alpha male wolf should be. Its tracks were a whopping eight inches wide.

Theories

Some of those who have commented on the Waheela over the years have speculated that it is simply an unusually large wolf, perhaps a genetic freak shunned by its pack for its gigantism. Others suggest that the lone white ‘wolf’ of the Northland might actually be some sort of white bear, perhaps a “spirit” or Kermode bear, or a starving albino black bear.

Perhaps the most intriguing theory regarding the nature of the Waheela- first put forth by Ivan Sanderson in The Dire Wolf– contends that the great white northern wolf is an Amphicyon, an ancient, bone-crushing canid commonly known as a “bear dog”. These animals were neither dogs nor bears, but some of them were the size of the largest living bears, and some had doglike features. Today, it is believed that these creatures died out oat the end of the Miocene Epoch, the geological epoch preceding the Pliocene. Is it possible that relict populations of these creatures still exist in remote corners of the continent like the Nahanni Valley?

Of course, another theory contents that the Waheela is the same species as the Shunka Warak’in, the mysterious canine of Montana and the American Midwest. Despite the fact that the ringdocus specimen, at least, is much smaller than the great white wolf reported in the subarctic, and has a completely different physiology, both animals are mysterious canids that appear to be very difficult to kill, and to be endowed with the ability to crush bones. Perhaps the DNA analysis of the mysterious creature shot a week ago in Montana will clear up this mystery once and for all.

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The Curse of Oak Island- Season Finale: Amazing Discoveries

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 18: Amazing Discoveries

 

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of the Season 5 Finale of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.

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[SPOILER ALERT!!!]

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Plot Summary

The Oak Island team, with Marty Lagina and Craig Tester in attendance via Skype, meet in the War Room. There, Gary Drayton announces that he had the red jewel unearthed on Oak Island’s Lot 8 in Season 5, Episode 16 analyzed by a gemologist- an expert in the study of gemstones. “The bad news is that it’s not a ruby,” Drayton says of the gemologist’s analysis, “but the good news is it’s a rhodolite garnet… It’s a four or five hundred year old stone.” After Jack Begley remarks that the jewel’s age corresponds with that of many other artifacts found on the island that season, the narrator informs us that rhodolite garnets are semi-precious gemstones used in jewelry “since the days of the ancient Pharaohs, who used them for both decorative and ceremonial purposes.” Following the narrator’s exposition, Drayton explains that, while the garnet itself is likely millions of years old, the gemologist he consulted determined that it had likely been fashioned in the 16th or 17th Century on account of the rough, old-

fashioned nature of its facets (i.e. its twelve flat, polished surfaces). “These were hand-cut,” he explains. “These weren’t machine-made, and these were done before the days when people thought about refraction and light going through the stones.” Drayton further discloses that the housing in which the gemstone was set is made of silver with a high percentage of copper- a hallmark of pre-modern silver jewelry- and that the gemologist was able to corroborate the trinket’s age by analyzing the patina formed by the copper’s oxidation. The treasure hunters agree that further analysis of the gemstone is in order before concluding the meeting.

The next day, the Oak Island team congregates at the Money Pit, where diver Mike Huntley is preparing for his upcoming dive down the DMT Shaft (first discussed in Season 5, Episode 15). The narrator reminds us that Huntley’s objective is to determine the nature of the 75-foot-deep obstruction which precluded further excavation of the shaft back in Season 5, Episode 13. He also informs us that the team has already poured flocculant (a chemical which causes water-borne particles to clump together) down the shaft in the hopes of improving visibility.

As soon as his preparations are complete, Mike Hunley is lowered down the DMT Shaft on a bosun’s chair. Rick Lagina, Alex Lagina, Charles Barkhouse, Gary Drayton, and Craig Tester, the latter in attendance via Skype, watch Huntley’s descent on a screen at the surface, which displays the diver’s point of view.

Huntley reaches the shaft’s 75-foot depth without incident. Unfortunately, it appears that the flocculant which the team poured down the shaft not only failed to improve visibility (Huntley’s line of sight is severely impeded by clouds of sediment), but also transformed the bottom of the shaft into a spongy, impenetrable slurry. “This is definitely one of the weirder bottoms I’ve been on,” the diver remarks. “I can sink like no tomorrow, but as soon as I touch bottom, it pushes me right off.” Unable to properly investigate the obstruction, Huntley returns to the surface, packs sixty pounds of lead into his suit, and immediately heads back down the shaft.

Again, Huntley reaches the shaft’s bottom without mishap. This time, with the aid of the added weight, he is able to stand on the floor of the shaft, and proceeds to examine the obstruction. Suddenly, he asks the team to call Jack Begley over. When Begley arrives at the “command centre”, where much of the team is assembled, Huntley informs him via radio that the bottom is “kind of wide, like a [steel] plate,” to Begley’s obvious delight.

Craig Tester then asks Huntley to retrieve a sample of the obstruction. The diver proceeds to liberate some of the material with a knife before putting it in a bag and returning to the surface with it. Upon his ascension, Huntley learns that the samples he chipped from the shaft’s bottom failed to make into his bag. As Huntley has reached his daily “dive time safety limit”, backup diver Nick Perry, equipped with a hand-held metal detector, makes a trip to the bottom of DMT to retrieve the samples.

Upon reaching the bottom, Perry begins probing the shaft’s floor with his knife and strikes something hard. When he runs his metal detector over it, however, he discovers that the obstruction appears to be non-metallic. He then runs his bare hand over the material, and opines that it is probably hard granite. Nevertheless, he retrieves some of the samples Huntley left behind and returns to the surface with them. Indeed, the samples prove to be shards of granite. Dismayed, the Oak Island crew concedes that the mysterious obstruction which broke the steel teeth of their custom-made caisson is nothing more than a hard granite boulder.

The following day, the Oak Island crew bids farewell to the men of Irving Equipment Ltd. and ROC Equipment, whose services will no longer be required this season.

The next day, the Oak Island crew, with Craig Tester in attendance via Skype, meet in the War Room, where Charles Barkhouse has prepared a display featuring the various artifacts recovered on the island that summer. There, they discuss the implications of the discoveries and debate their next course of action.

First, Gary Drayton opines that the lead cross found on Smith’s Cove is the “find of the season”, considering its close resemblance to a design carved on one of the walls of Domme prison by Templar knights. Rick Lagina and Charles Barkhouse agree that the lead cross is the artifact most worthy of further research.

Next, Charles Barkhouse suggests that the human bones brought up from H8 constitute another major find- a notion with which Craig Tester concurs. Marty summaries the discovery thus: “To the limits of science, we know that two people’s remains are in the Money Pit… Human bones, from 162 feet, below searcher depth.”

Next, Doug Crowell remarks upon the significance of the piece of parchment also brought up from H8 and its apparent correlation with the parchment fragment which William Chappel discovered in the Money Pit in 1897. Jack Begley claims that his discovery of the artifact solidified his belief that the contents of the Money Pit are “very valuable,” while Rick similarly suggests that the discovery verified his belief that the Oak Island treasure is “something that is far more valuable than temporal wealth.”

After that, Gary Drayton reminds the crew of the 17th Century British coins he unearthed on the island this season. Marty Lagina suggests that these coins constitute proof that people visited Oak Island a century or more before the discovery of the Money Pit- a notion echoed by Laird Niven.

Next, the treasure hunters discuss the implications of the rhodolite garnet discovered on Lot 8. “This is about what you picture when you open a treasure chest,” says Marty Lagina, as he holds the stone up to the light. After considering the gemstone in the context of the key lock covering discovered a short distance away in Season 5, Episode 15, he quips, “I know I’m playing junior archaeologist here, but I can’t help but draw the conclusion…”

Next, Rick Lagina asks Dan Blankenship’s opinion on the arrangement of artifacts on the table. “As far as I’m concerned,” the veteran treasure hunter replies, shrugging his shoulders, “everything we’ve got on the table doesn’t prove or disprove whether there’s treasure on Oak Island.” He remarks that the majority of the artifacts are surface discoveries which one might expect to find on any island in the Atlantic Northeast, and only prove that people spent time on Oak Island in the distant past. He further laments the fact that the manner in which such surface finds are made is, by nature, “time consuming and expensive.” When Marty Lagina asks the elder Blankenship whether they ought to continue the search, the old hand replies that the answer depends on how much money he and the crew are willing to spend. He then implies that the discoveries made thus far, in his opinion, are not significant enough to justify further investment in the treasure hunt.

Marty responds to Dan’s bleak assessment by disclosing that, although he “entered this… quest thinking that maybe nothing of any consequence really happened on this island prior to 1790,” the artifacts recovered this season changed his mind. Doug Crowell nods his consent, venturing that these artifacts constitute “some of the most convincing evidence in the last 120 years.” This sentiment is echoed by Craig Tester and Alex Lagina. Most members of the crew similarly express a strong desire to continue with the treasure hunt. Finally, Rick Lagina marries Dan Blankenship’s sobering advice with the rest of the crew’s enthusiasm by suggesting that they proceed with the treasure hunt in a manner accordant with the clues they have discovered. With that, the meeting is ended.

Analysis

The Rhodolite Garnet Brooch

In this episode, it is revealed that the red jewel discovered on Oak Island’s Lot 8 in Season 5, Episode 16 is a rhodolite garnet, and that it- along with the copper-silver brooch in which it was set- was likely fashioned in the 16th or 17th Century A.D.

Taking his cue from Marty Lagina, the author of this article has decided to attempt a little junior archaeology of his own. Specifically, he will attempt to determine the nature of this rhodolite garnet brooch by considering its design and the substances of which it is composed.

One thing to consider when attempting to determine the nature of this artifact is its centrepiece, the rhodolite garnet. Garnets are semi-precious stones which have been employed in artwork for millennia. During the Bronze Age, Ancient Egyptians set red garnets in decorative and ceremonial objects, and certain pharaohs are known to have worn them in necklaces. In Classical Antiquity, these stones adorned Ancient Greek, Roman, and Carthaginian artifacts. Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder wrote about them in his famous encyclopedia Naturalis Historia, as did Ancient Greek philosopher Theophrastus in his notes on mineralogy, collectively entitled Peri Lithon.

By the 4th Century A.D., red garnets were the most common gemstones in the Roman Empire. Following the 5th Century collapse of the Western half of this regime, various migratory Germanic tribes inlaid golden jewelry and other valuable objects with strips these semi precious stones. For those tribes which adhered to Christianity, red garnets symbolized the Blood of Christ.

Well into the Middle Ages, nobles wore signet rings (which were used to impress personal crests into wax seals) made of red garnet- a practice first employed by the Ancient Romans. The word “garnet” has its origins in this time period, deriving from the Medieval Latin word “granatum“, which refers to the many garnet-like seeds of the pomegranate. Aristocratic Europeans continued to wear decorative red garnet rings throughout the Early Modern period.

Interestingly, rhodolite garnets- the specific type of garnet set into the brooch found on Oak Island’s Lot 8- are considered to have been first discovered (or, perhaps more accurately, “classified”) in the late 1890’s in North Carolina, USA, by a Rhode Island mineralogist named William Earl Hidden. These reddish-purple stones owe their name to the rhododendron, a purple flower native to North Carolina, which, in turn, owes its name to the Greek word “rhodon“, or “rose”. “Rhodolite” is not a scientific term, and does not denote a particular species of garnet, mineralogically speaking. Rather, it is a term used by jewelers to describe garnets of a particular reddish-purple hue. Today, rhodolite garnets are mined in the United States, Brazil, Greenland, Norway, India, Myanmar, and several countries in southeastern Africa. 

According to an unnamed gemologist who Gary Drayton claimed to have consulted in this episode, the rhodolite garnet found on Lot 8 was crafted in the 16th or 17th Century, judging from the condition of its 12 facets (flat faces)- two to four centuries before Hidden’s official aforementioned discovery. History supports the notion that the gemstone was probably not fashioned much earlier than this. Although Persian jewelers have been cutting facets on gemstones as early as the 11th Century A.D., gems were usually polished (rather than cut) up until the late 1300’s in Europe and the Near East (China, on the other hand, has a long history of jade-cutting stretching back to the days of the ancient Shang Dynasty). After French and German lapidaries (as gem workers are known) developed advanced facet-cutting techniques in the 1380’s, jewels like rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and diamonds were meticulously fractured along lines of cleavage (natural planes similar to wood grain). Faceted jewels were further refined in the 1400’s, when grinding wheels were developed and better rock-polishing techniques were invented. It should be mentioned that garnets do not have natural lines of cleavage, and form sharp, irregular facets when fractured under stress. Because of this, it is possible that a certain amount of bruting (“sanding” with another gemstone) was involved in the creation of the rhodolite garnet found on Lot 8.

Jewel cutting improved throughout the Renaissance. By the Baroque period (approx. 1600-1750), and especially throughout the second half of the 17th Century, most jewelry revolved around the beautification of gemstones (as opposed to that of the precious metalwork in which they were housed) and the implementation of floral designs- two characteristics which support the notion that the 12-faceted Oak Island garnet, as well as the flower-shaped brooch in which it was set, was crafted sometime in the mid-late 1600’s.

The Discoveries of Season 5

In this episode, Marty Lagina, who has voiced some skepticism about the Oak Island legend in the past, stated that the discoveries made this season convinced him that something of significance is indeed buried on Oak Island. Doug Crowell similarly suggested that this season’s discoveries constitute “some of the most convincing evidence in the last 120 years,” comparing their importance to that of the fragment of sheepskin parchment, the Chappell Vault, the stone triangle, and the South Shore Flood Tunnel- discoveries made by the Oak Island Treasure Company in 1897.

Although the author of this article neglected to mention it in the Plot Summary, Rick Lagina ventured in this episode that the lead cross found on Smith’s Cove might be a clue as to the sort of people who buried treasure on Oak Island, while the leather scrap and piece of parchment brought up from H8 might be clues as to the nature of the Oak Island treasure. In the context of the show’s repeated attempts to connect the lead cross with the Knights Templar, the implication of Rick’s statement is Templar knights might have buried historically-significant documents on Oak Island.

Another potential conclusion one might arrive at upon considering the Season 5 discoveries as a whole is that Oak Island’s original underground workings were constructed sometime in the late 17th or early 18th Century- a timeline consistent with a number of Oak Island theories, including the William Phipps theory, the Captain Kidd theory, the Freemasonic theory, the theories involving George Anson and the Shugborough Monument, the Duc d’Anville theory, and the Spanish theory. The artifacts which seem to support this notion include:

  • The fragments of human bones brought up from H8 which, in Season 5, Episode 8, were carbon dated from 1682-1736, and 1678-1764, respectively.
  • The British coins discovered in Season 5, Episode 3, which bore the dates 1673 and 1694, respectively.
  • The rhodolite garnet brooch, which an unnamed gemologist believed was crafted sometime in the 16th or 17th Century.

The piece of leather, the scrap of parchment, and the lead cross are similarly consistent with this theory, although it is also very possible that they predate the suggested timeframe.

 

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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 17: A Family Album

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 17: A Family Album

 

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 5, Episode 17 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.

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[SPOILER ALERT!!!]

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Plot Summary

After an introduction expounding the familial component of the Oak Island treasure hunt, Riley McGinnis and Kel Hancock- descendants of Money Pit co-discoverer “Daniel” McGinnis- recount the legend of the 1795 discovery of the Money Pit and the story of the Onslow Company.

Next, Diana Gregory- a descendant of co-discoverer Anthony Vaughan- with the help of author Randall Sullivan, relates an old family legend that Vaughan and his partners discovered a “decoy treasure” in the Money Pit, and that Vaughan’s father, Anthony Vaughan Sr., used his son’s share of this treasure to establish “a huge shipping empire in New Brunswick”. This tale was corroborated by “McGinnis Sisters” Jean, Joan, and Joyce McGinnis in Season 3, Episode 13.

After that, our attention is directed towards Samuel Ball, the black slaved-turned-Oak Island landowner who, according Nova Scotian historian Mather Myles DesBrisay’s 1870 book History of the County of Lunenburg, was one of the three co-discoverers of the Money Pit (instead of John Smith). Anthony and Ivan Boyd, Ball’s great great grandsons- along with Charles Barkhouse, Randall Sullivan, and Doug Crowell- describe how Samuel Ball escaped a life of slavery on a South Carolinian plantation by enlisting in the British militia during the American Revolutionary War. They recount how Ball came to Canada after the war, acquired land on Oak Island and, perhaps with treasure he unearthed while tilling his land, purchased more property on the island.

Next, Doug Crowell describes how a Halifax-based newspaper called The British Colonist published a three-part series on the Oak Island treasure hunt in January 1864. This series, according to Crowell, “gave a full history of the hunt up until that time on Oak Island. Up until that time, it was a very secretive operation.”

After that, Crowell, Sullivan, and Neena Chappell (the latter the granddaughter of Oak Island treasure hunter M.R. Chappell) describe the Chappell family’s involvement in the Oak Island treasure hunt, including William Chappell’s work as a drill operator under Oak Island landowner Frederick Blair, and his son Mel Chappell’s lifelong interest in the search.

Next, we are reminded of Captain Henry L. Bowdoin’s Oak Island treasure hunt in 1909. According to the narrator, Bowdoin believed that the Oak Island treasure consists of the ‘lost’ jewels of 18th Century French Queen Marie Antoinette– a belief shared by one of his investors, 27-year-old Franklin D. Roosevelt- future President of the United States. David Roosevelt, Franklin’s grandson, then explains how FDR likely acquired his interest in Oak Island from his own grandfather, Warren Delano, a wealthy businessman who invested in the Truro Company (an early Oak Island treasure hunting syndicate) in 1849.

After that, Rick Restall, and Lee Lamb -along with Randall Sullivan, Charles Barkhouse, Doug Crowell- describe the Restall family and their unique treasure hunt in the 1960’s. They remind us of their family’s discoveries, including the 1704 stone and the vertical shaft, and of the tragic disaster of August 17, 1965, which took the lives of their father, Robert Restall; their brother, Bobby Restall; Karl Graeser; and 16-year-old Cyril Hiltz.

Next, Sharon Olson- the daughter of Oak Island treasure hunter Robert Dunfield- describes her father’s oft-maligned heavy duty excavation in the Money Pit area in the mid-late 1960’s. “Dad was continually exploring,” she explains. “Dad would take Mom and I out on exploring excursions anywhere where Dad thought that there might be something that he could find.” Charles Barkhouse then describes how Dunfield’s massive excavation “obliterated a lot of the landmarks in the Money Pit area. Now, had he found the treasure, he’d have been a hero, but that’s not the case.”

After that, Dan Blankenship and the late Fred Nolan (evidently in interviews filmed years earlier) independently describe their respective treasure hunts on Oak Island, touching on the bitter feud that characterized their relationship with one another. We are reminded of Dan Blankenship’s discovery of Borehole 10-X and Fred Nolan’s discovery of Nolan’s Cross.

Finally, Rick and Marty Lagina describe their lifelong interest in Oak Island, which ultimately culminated in the formation of Oak Island Tours Inc. and its ongoing treasure hunt, around which this History Channel TV series revolves.

After we are treated to footage from Season 3, Episode 7- in which the team buries a time capsule on the island to mark the 50th anniversary of writer David MacDonald’s influential 1965 Reader’s Digest article (Oak Island’s Mysterious Money Pit)- the various Oak Island “family members” of whose interviews this episode is comprised share their final statements on the effect that the island has had on them and their families, and on their relationships with fellow treasure hunters. Marty Lagina explains that Oak Island treasure hunters “start to feel like [they] are part of this series of families. An individual first becomes quite enamored with the island, and then, because they’re part of families, the family gets drawn in.” Anthony Boyd, in a separate interview, follows up on that idea, saying, “It’s just not the treasure, but it’s the families’ lives that have been evolved in this hunt.”  Diana Gregory adds to that statement, saying, “Oak Island becomes an obsession for families who are part of the island history.” Lee Lamb- who, in fact, wrote the book Oak Island Obsession on the Restall family’s Oak Island treasure hunt- adds that the island, in spite of the terrible toll it took on her family, managed to weasel “its way into [her] heart. Oak Island has a very strong pull.” Shanon Olson follows up on that statement, saying, “It’s almost like the island calls to you, and even after you leave it, you have this longing desire to go back.”  Finally, the episode concludes with Rick Lagina’s statement that the common goal shared by all Oak Island treasure hunters “makes it easy to feel like they’re a part of us, and we’re a part of them.”

Analysis

Anthony Vaughan

Anthony Vaughan Jr. was the youngest of the three men said to have discovered the Money Pit in 1795. According to Oak Island historian D’Arcy O’Connor, Vaughan’s father, Anthony Vaughan Sr., arrived in the Chester area from Massachusetts in 1772 and began to farm a 200-acre piece of land on the mainland directly across from Oak Island, on what is now the town of Western Shore, Nova Scotia. A number of researchers, citing archival material, maintain that Anthony Vaughan Jr. was born in 1782, making him 13 years old at the time of the Money Pit’s discovery.

It should be noted that a handful of Oak Island researchers (including the late Paul Wroclawski, a retired engineer and Oak Island historian who, prior to his death on June 15, 2014, presented his spectacularly well-researched Oak Island theories on his website www.OakIslandTheories.com), claim that Vaughan was only 6 or 7 years old at the time of the discovery, which they maintain was actually in 1788 or 1789. If true, this piece of information calls the traditional Oak Island discovery legend into question, as it is doubtful that the elder McGinnis would have called upon a 6-7 year-old boy to assist with the physically demanding task of hand-digging a 30-foot-deep pit.

Whatever the case, Anthony Vaughan Jr. lived in Chester, Nova Scotia, until his death in 1860. In his later years, his account of the 1795 discovery of the Money Pit served as a primary source for the articles which gave rise to the famous discovery legend which has been perpetuated by various writers from the mid-19th Century until the present day.

The McGinnis Sisters

In the Season 3 finale of the History Channel’s The Curse of Oak Island (Season 3, Episode 13: Secrets and Revelations), the Oak Island crew was visited by the three sisters- Joan, Jean, and Joyce McGinnis- who claimed to be direct descendants of Money Pit co-discoverer Daniel McGinnis. The three sisters presented Oak Island Tours Inc. with a small, hand-hammered gold cross- a McGinnis family heirloom- and regaled them with an old McGinnis family legend.

According to this McGinnis family legend, Daniel McGinnis, John Smith, and Anthony Vaughan unearthed three treasure chests in the Money Pit in 1795. Each of these three Money Pit co-discoverers, upon swearing each other to secrecy, kept a chest for himself and his family. One particular item from the chest Daniel McGinnis claimed- the small gold cross- was handed down from father to son throughout the generations. Joan, Jean, and Joyce’s late brother Jim was the last male of the McGinnis line to inherit it. Jim McGinnis wore the cross about his neck for most of his life, even taking it with him on his tour of duty during the Vietnam War, as well as on a series of mysterious New York City business trips. During his service overseas, Jim was exposed to Agent Orange, a powerful herbicide employed by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War, which resulted in his developing a terminal illness decades later on American soil. On January 30, 2006, the night before his death, Jim entrusted his sister and caretaker Joan with the artifact, saying, “… don’t ever lose sight of the cross. It is the key .” The McGinnis sisters presented this cross- which, according to Oak Island historian Danny Hennigar in a 2007 article, was estimated by appraisers to be over 600 years old- to the Oak Island crew during their recitation of their family’s discovery story.

The McGinnis family version of the story of the discovery of the Money Pit- which is elaborated upon in the 2016 book Oak Island Connection: Go Back Over 200 Years to the Mysterious Beginning – is slightly different than the popular version in which McGinnis, Smith, and Vaughan are three young adventurous farm boys exploring Oak Island on a whim. Like the version of the discovery story put forth by Blockhouse Investigations (www.OakIslandCompendium.com), which is corroborated by Nova Scotia archival records, the Daniel McGinnis of the McGinnis family legend was a 37-year-old Scottish immigrant and veteran of the American Revolutionary War at the time of the discovery of the Money Pit. According to the McGinnis family legend, the first person to notice the depression in the soil on Oak Island’s Lot 18 was not Daniel McGinnis, nor John Smith, nor Anthony Vaughan, but rather Daniel’s newlywed wife (or perhaps fiancé) Maria. Maria and Daniel were lying together in a clearing in the woods on Lot 13 looking up at “the sunlight sparkling through the leaves” when Maria noticed the shape of an arrow carved into the bark of a nearby oak tree. The carving was so faded that it could only be perceived from that position. After investigating the surrounding area more thoroughly, Maria observed that the ground in the clearing was slightly concave, whereupon Daniel began to speculate that the clearing might be the site of a buried treasure. With the help of his friend John Smith and the young island resident Anthony Vaughan, McGinnis excavated the depression to a depth of 30 feet, finding a layer of flagstones just below the surface and platforms of oak logs at regular 10-foot intervals. Sometime before reaching the 30-foot level, the three men unearthed three small treasure chests, which they divided amongst themselves. Convinced that these chests comprised a decoy treasure, and that the true treasure lay far below, the three men remained more or less involved with the Oak Island treasure hunt until their deaths.

The author of this article must mention that, upon publishing an account of the the McGinnis Sisters’ visit to Oak Island in his 2016 book Oak Island, he was contacted by a well-respected Oak Island historian who presented him with evidence strongly indicating that the old family legend told by the McGinnis Sisters- specifically the part about the three decoy treasure chests- was more of a fictional tale than a historical account. In spite of this, Oak Island historian Doug Crowell, in a 2016 article, revealed several pieces of information which seem to lend credence to the claim. One such piece of information was given to them by Diana Young Gregory, a descendant of Anthony Vaughan who appears in this episode. While researching Oak Island, Gregory came across a newspaper article from September 9, 1991, written by a Nova Scotian journalist named Carl Mosher. The article states that a descendant of Anthony Vaughan was shown 25 canvas bags filled with gold by his grandmother Lucy in 1925. The man’s grandmother maintained that the treasure came from Oak Island. Unfortunately, the gold was later stolen by the man’s uncle, Edward Vaughan, who vanished shortly thereafter, leaving behind “his property, business, wife, and family.” Another piece of evidence the Blockhouse team brought to light was the fact that Oak Island treasure hunter Fred Nolan, in the early 1980’s, claimed to have discovered three ancient, empty oak chests buried in the Oak Island swamp. Three final pieces of evidence which seem to support the notion that decoy treasure chests were unearthed on Oak Island are the mysterious key introduced in Season 5, Episode 12, which Fred Nolan found on Oak Island; the keyhole covering discovered on Oak Island Lot 8 in Season 5, Episode 15; and the ruby brooch discovered the previous episode, also on Lot 8.

In Kerrin Margiano’s (Jean McGinnis’ daughter) 2016 book Oak Island Connection: Go Back Over 200 Years to the Mysterious Beginning, Joan, Jean, and Joyce McGinnis (it should be noted that Joyce McGinnis passed away on Valentine’s Day, 2016, just two and a half months before the book’s publication) elaborate on the McGinnis family stories regarding Oak Island. After reading reputable books on the history of the Oak Island treasure hunt, like D’Arcy O’Connor’s The Secret Treasure of Oak Island, or R.V. Harris’ The Oak Island Mystery, one gets the impression that the McGinnis, Smith, and Vaughan families’ interest in the Oak Island treasure hunt died with their Money Pit-discovering progenitors. On the contrary, the McGinnis sisters, in the book put together by Margiano, paint a fascinating picture of a family characterized by a two-century-long legacy of treasure hunting, suggesting that the McGinnis family never gave up on the Oak Island mystery. The McGinnis sisters recount how, in their childhood, their father and uncles would sometimes “sit around the kitchen table strategizing, drawing plans and studying maps” in an effort to solve the Oak Island riddle that had held their family in thrall for over two centuries. Joan, Jean, and Joyce recount some of the stories passed down to them by their grandfather George William “Bill” McGinnis, an Oak Island resident, and their uncles Wally, Roy, Albert, Roy, and George McGinnis. These stories include, among others:

  • An alternative Money Pit discovery story, as described above.
  • Daniel’s saving a badly-burned privateer who had been aboard the Young Teazer (a United States privateer schooner which, while being hounded in Mahone Bay by British Royal Navy warships during the War of 1812, was blown up by one of its crew members in the summer of 1813) a the time of its destruction.
  • Daniel’s witnessing the first so-called “Teazer Light” (the ghost of the Young Teazer, manifest as a silent burning ghost ship, said to appear in Mahone Bay at the site of the explosion near the anniversary of the ship’s destruction) in the summer of 1814.
  • The tale of the ghost of a red-coated British soldier said to haunt Oak Island.
  • The story of a curse put on the men of the McGinnis family by a Mi’kmaq shaman.
  • A secret underground hatch located a few inches below the surface in the vicinity of the ruins of the historic McGinnis family cabin.

The McGinnis sisters also tell of other family heirlooms and clues relevant to the Oak Island treasure hunt, including a gold nugget owned by their uncle Wally said to have come from Oak Island, and a copy of the mysterious document which has come to be known as La Formule.

 

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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 16: Seeing Red

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 16: Seeing Red

 

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 5, Episode 16 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.

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[SPOILER ALERT!!!]

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Plot Summary

This episode begins in the War Room. There, members of the Oak Island team reaffirm their desire to send diver Mike Huntley to the bottom of the DMT Shaft in order to determine the nature of the obstruction there, which has prevented the treasure hunters from excavating the shaft beyond a depth of 77 feet. The phone up Huntley, inform him of their predicament, and secure his assistance.

While the crew members of Irving Equipment Ltd. go about disassembling their excavation equipment in order to prepare for Huntley’s upcoming dive, Rick and Marty Lagina, Dave Blankenship, Charles Barkhouse, and Gary Drayton head to Smith’s Cove. There, while the tide is still low, they use a backhoe to dig a hole at the spot where Rick and Gary discovered the lead cross in Season 5, Episode 10. Meanwhile, Gary uses a metal detector for search for anything of interest in the hole and its spoils.

After digging for some time, the crew uncovers what appears to be the remains of an old wooden structure which, the narrator suggests, is somewhat reminiscent of the suspected French drain found in the area in Season 4, Episode 15. As they haul up a large piece of wood, the treasure hunters ponder the possibility that they might have discovered remains of the “U-shaped structure” which Dan Blankenship and members of Triton Alliance discovered in 1971. Shortly after making the discovery, the treasure hunters are forced to abandon the dig site on account of the rising tide level. They agree that they ought to carbon date the piece of wood they managed to extract, and to conduct a more rigorous excavation at Smith’s Cove if the wood proves to pre-date the 1795 discovery of the Money Pit.

Later that day, Rick Lagina and Charles Barkhouse pay a visit to Dan Blankenship. In Dan’s kitchen, Rick and Charles ask the elder treasure hunter about his discovery of the U-shaped structure in Smith’s Cove. Blankenship explains that the “structure” was not a wall, with one log piled atop another, but rather a chain of notched logs, and that he and the men of Triton Alliance left it where they had found it. Regarding his opinion on the structure’s nature, he says, “I never did come up with a definitive answer,” although maintains he did believe the structure constituted original workings when he and his fellow treasure hunters first discovered it.

Later, Rick Lagina, Dave Blankenship, and Charles Barkhouse travel to Wolfville, Nova Scotia. There, they meet with Troy Coldwell, Kathleen Bishop, and Lynn Hiltz- all of them descendants of a man named Harold Bishop, who worked as a crane operator for Oak Island treasure hunter Robert Dunfield in the mid-late 1960’s. The relatives show the treasure hunters a piece of timber which Harold Bishop unearthed from the Money Pit area during Dunfield’s heavy duty excavation. The timber fragment bears a brass plaque which reads, “Found by Harold Bishop at Oak Island 1965.” Troy, Kathleen, and Lynn explain that Harold Bishop believed that the artifact “perhaps might have been part of a ship,” evoking Fred Nolan’s theory that a ship was buried in the swamp, as well as the log of a French ship which Doug Crowell introduced in Season 5, Episode 10. Dave Blankenship, observing that the piece bears two parallel, rectangular grooves, elaborates on that theory by suggesting that the piece might have been part of a ship’s rudder. The three relatives then point out two square nails embedded in the wood. When asked by the treasure hunters, the relatives agree to submit the artifact for testing.

Three days later, Rick Lagina, Dave Blankenship, and Charles Barkhouse meet in the War Room with geophysical engineer John Wonnacott, a veteran Oak Island researcher. The narrator explains that Wonnacott “conducted a previous investigation into the possible origins of the U-shaped structure” on behalf of Dan Blankenship. The four men initiate a video conference with Marty Lagina and Craig Tester, who inform them that the piece of timber unearthed on Smith’s Cove was carbon dated from 1684-1732, while the piece of wood discovered by Harold Bishop was carbon dated from 1646-1690. Marty remarks that these dates correspond closely with those of the human bones brought up from Drillhole H8. The treasure hunters agree that, in light of this new information, they ought to build a cofferdam around Smith’s Cove and conduct a more thorough excavation there in order to fully expose, and subsequently study, the U-shaped structure.

Later, Rick Lagina and Gary Drayton go on a metal detecting excursion on Oak Island’s Lot 8. Drayton quickly uncovers an old military button. Shortly thereafter, he unearths a metal brooch which appears to be missing its centrepiece. Drayton suggests that he and Rick leave the hole from which they extracted the artifact unfilled so that they might later sift through the dirt beneath it and hopefully recover the missing piece. While waving his instrument over the hole one last time, Drayton’s metal detector gets a faint hint. Upon closer inspection, the treasure hunter discovers the source of the hit to be a red jewel ensconced in a metal ring- almost certainly the brooch’s missing centrepiece. “Yeah, that’s old,” says Drayton. “That’s 1700’s. And remember, Rick, back in the day, they did things properly.” The narrator follows up on Drayton’s implication that the gemstone might be a genuine ruby by remarking that the find is consistent with the Oak Island theory regarding Marie Antoinette’s jewels.

Rick and Gary inform their fellow treasure hunters of their find via radio, and are soon joined by the rest of the team. The treasure hunters congratulate Drayton on his discovery and agree that they ought to submit the jewel to a jeweler for analysis.

Analysis

U-Shaped Structure

In the summer of 1970, Triton Alliance built a 400-foot-long cofferdam around the perimeter of Smith’s Cove. Upon its construction, Dan Blankenship discovered a large U-shaped wooden structure below the low tide line. This structure was made of 30-65-foot logs which were notched at 4-foot intervals. Each notch was labelled with a Roman numeral, and it appeared as if each notch had been fitted with a wooden dowel. Most experts who analyzed the structure determined that it was likely an ancient wharf or the remnants of a cofferdam constructed by the original workers.

One alternative theory regarding the nature of this U-shaped structure was put forth by Canadian author Joy A. Steele in her 2015 book Oak Island Mystery Solved. Steele argued that Oak Island served not as a treasure depository, but rather as the headquarters of a British tar-manufacturing enterprise, and that the U-shaped structure constituted a brace designed to keep tar kilns in place.

According to geophysical engineer John Wonnacott, who appears in this episode,  in an article on OakIslandCompendium.com, he, David Tobias (Dan Blankenship’s business partner), and Les MacPhie (a fellow engineer) unearthed a section of the U-shaped structure in the year 2000 and submitted a piece of it for analysis. Disappointingly, the wood was carbon dated to 1860, plus or minus thirty years- a date consistent with cofferdams built by the Truro Company in 1850, and by the Halifax Company in 1866.

In 2015, after observing the results of some of Oak Island Tours Inc.’s carbon dating analyses, Wonnacott had the piece of wood he dug up in 2000 examined by a dendrochronologist- an expert in tree-ring dating. In a follow-up article, he revealed that the dendrochronologist determined that the tree which yielded the wood sample sprouted and was felled, respectively, on two of six different dates: 1659 and 1695; 1711 and 1745; or 1822 and 1858. The first two possible date combinations correspond with a number of Oak Island theories, while the third vaguely suggests the 1866 Halifax Company cofferdam.

 

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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 15: Steel Trapped

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 15: Steel Trapped

 

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 5, Episode 15 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.

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[SPOILER ALERT!!!]

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Plot Summary

Rick Lagina, Dave Blankenship, and Gary Drayton meet with Mike Jardine and caisson operator Danny Smith at the Money Pit area, where the advance of the  DMT Shaft was halted at at a depth of 75 feet by a mysterious, impenetrable object back in Episode 13. On Smith’s suggestion, the team prepares to extract water from the shaft so that they can get a good look at the obstruction.

While the crew of Irving Equipment Ltd. go about their preparations, Rick and Marty Lagina and Gary Drayton welcome author Kathleen McGowan Coppens to the island. Coppens, who appeared on the show as ‘Kathleen McGowan’ in Season 2, Episodes 6 and 7, tells the treasure hunters that she has some information to share with them. Without further ado, the four head to the War Room, where they are joined by Dave Blankenship, Charles Barkhouse, Jack Begley, Alex Lagina, and Doug Crowell.

 

In the War Room, the Oak Island team shows Coppens the lead cross unearthed on Smith’s Cove in Season 5, Episode 10. After admiring the artifact, Coppens states, “There are a lot of representations of lead crosses that span a large time frame, and that can be anywhere from the early 3rd, 4th Century through the… 14th Century… So, there are a lot of different kinds of crosses. Nothing exactly like this, but there are some similar versions out there.”

After Alex Lagina remarks upon the similarity of the lead cross to the  crucifix carved into the walls of Domme prison, Coppens informs the team that she has relayed this observation on to Tobi Dobler, a leader of the Knights Templar of the New Order (a modern-day fraternity which claims descent from the medieval Knights Templar) who Marty and Alex Lagina met in the village of Rennes-le-Chateau, France, in Season 2, Episode 6. Dobler, Coppens explains, believes that the cross might be coated with lead, containing a centre of solid gold. According to Dobbler, the Knights Templar smuggled pieces of gold out of France during their suppression in 1307 by crafting them into little perforated rhomboids they called “pastilles” (although Coppens uses the word “rhomboid” to describe the shape of these artifacts, she also shows the Oak Island team a diagram depicting the pastilles as hexagonal).  The Templars covered these pastilles with lead in order to disguise their precious nature, threaded them onto cords, and wore them around their necks, often in combination with larger golden centre pieces similarly covered in lead. Dobbler suspects that the lead cross found on Smith’s Cove might be a centre piece of one these Templar necklaces.

“So,” says Begley, “there’s a chance that there’s some of those gold rhomboids that are out in Smith’s Cove still.”

“I certainly think so,” replies Coppens. “I think it’s time for us to go back out there.” Instead of proceeding to the beach, however, Coppens informs the team that a town just north of Domme, France, is called ‘Sarlat-la-Caneda.’ She then implies that the similarity between the words “Caneda” and “Canada”, coupled with Sarlat’s proximity to Domme, bolsters the theory that the Knights Templar made a secret voyage to Nova Scotia sometime in the 14th Century. Specifically, she suggests that the country Canada, through some design of outlawed French Templars, might have been named after Sarlat-la-Caneda,  similar to how Nova Scotia (literally “New Scotland” in Latin) was named after Scotland. The narrator then explains that Coppens’ theory regarding the origin of the word ‘Canada’ stands in contrast with that espoused by most mainstream etymologists, namely that the word ‘Canada’ originates from the Iroquoian word kanata, meaning “village” or “settlement”.

Later that day, Rick and Marty Lagina and Gary Drayton take Coppens on a tour of Smith’s Cove. Drayton claims that he plans to scour the entire area with a metal detector, while Marty explains that if he and his fellow treasure hunters are to do a thorough excavation of Smith’s Cove, they will have to contend with Nova Scotian digging permits and the whims of the Atlantic Ocean. “There’s no doubt in my mind that there’s more here,” says Coppens. “That cross is so important… I think it’s the beginning, not the end.”

The next day, Jack Begley and Charles Barkhouse stand by as the men of Irving Equipment Ltd. begin extracting water and sludge from the DMT Shaft with an enormous crane-operated bucket.

Meanwhile, the Lagina brothers and Gary Drayton go on a metal detecting excursion on Oak Island’s Lot 8, owned by Tom Nolan, the son of Fred Nolan. In a later interview, Rick Lagina informs us of Fred Nolan’s belief that there are at least eleven sites on Oak Island at which shallow treasure was extracted in the past. After ignoring a few “scrappy iron” signals on his metal detector, Gary Drayton discovers what turns out to be an ornate keyhole plate, evoking Captain James Anderson’s sea chest, introduced in Season 5, Episode 2, and the mysterious skeleton key introduced in Season 5, Episode 12.

Two days later, Rick Lagina, Alex Lagina, and Danny Smith stand by at the Money Pit area as crane operator Michel Oullette bails water and muck from the DMT shaft. After some time, the treasure hunters are informed that the shaft’s water level is so low that the obstruction at its bottom ought to be visible. Immediately, remote camera specialists Tony and Nick Paverill set about lowering a Spectrum 120HD camera down the shaft. On a screen at the surface, which displays the camera’s point of view, the treasure hunters get an excellent view of the shaft’s bottom. Strangely, thereappears to be nothing at the bottom of DMT aside from mud, clay, and several large rocks.

All of a sudden, water begins flooding into the caisson from the shaft’s bottom at a tremendous rate. Before the treasure hunters have time to react, the shaft fills with seawater up to the level of the water table. Disappointed with the setback, yet determined to carry on, the team proceeds to “probe” the bottom of the shaft with a chisel bit. When the probing operation is complete, Mike Jardine, despite a lack of visual evidence to support his theory, concludes that the impenetrable object at the bottom of the shaft is likely steel, reminiscent of the impenetrable iron object discovered time and time again by Oak Island treasure hunters in the Money Pit area. Danny Smith concurs with Jardine’s assessment.

Later that night, members of the Oak Island team, with Marty Lagina and Craig Tester in attendance via Skype, meet in the War Room. After some deliberation, the crew decides to send professional diver Mike Huntley down to the bottom of DMT in order to determine the nature of the obstruction. This undertaking would not be Huntley’s first dive on Oak Island. Back in Season 4, Episodes 9 and 10, Huntley explored the bottom of Borehole C1- a performance which he repeated in Season 5, Episode 1. With that, the treasure hunters wrap up the meeting.

Analyis

Kathleen McGowan Coppens

Kathleen McGowan Coppens (formerly Kathleen McGowan), who appears in this episode, as well as in Season 2, Episodes 6 and 7 of The Curse of Oak Island, is an American writer who has written a trilogy of “historical esoteric fiction” novels revolving around historical women and controversial subjects. These novels include The Expected One (2006), The Book of Love (2009), and The Poet Prince (2010). Coppens has revealed that she intends to write a fourth book for the series entitled The Boleyn Heresy.

In 2009, Coppens published her first and only non-fiction book, The Source of Miracles: Seven Steps to Transforming Your Life through the Lord’s Prayer, a New Age-Christian self-help book.

In 2012, Coppens published the ebook novella entitled The Ballad of Tam Lin. This ebook is the first of a new series called Legends of the Divine Feminine, a series which Coppens claims will be “a unique hybrid of fiction and non-fiction exploration into stories from around the world, featuring extraordinary female characters.”

In 2016, Coppens wrote the Forward for Nancy J. Myers’ book Entering the Light Fantastic: Discovering Life After Life Through Orbs, an autobiographical account of Myers’ investigations into the phenomenon of ‘spirit orbs’- small balls of light which some paranormal investigators believe embody the souls of the departed.

Sarlat-la-Caneda

In this episode, writer Kathleen McGowan Coppens reveals that a village situated just north of the town of Domme, France (where a number of Templar knights were incarcerated in 1307) is called Sarlat-la-Caneda. Coppens suggests that Canada was named after this French town, and implies that the Knights Templar had something to do with it.

According to a number of online sources, Sarlat-la-Caneda was once two separate municipalities: Sarlat, a 14th Century town which revolves around a Dark Age Benedictine abbey; and the more mysterious La Caneda. In 1965, the two merged together to form Sarlat-la-Caneda.

Sarlat” is a French word derived from “Serralatum,” a Latin word which roughly translates to “wide ridge,” evoking the concept of a large hill which, in medieval times, isolated the town from one or more of its neighbours. The origin of the word “Canedat,” on the other hand, is a little more mysterious. Some etymologists believe the word might derive from “Chania,” a city on the Greek island of Crete, on account of alleged ties between a certain monastery in the French village and a particular Cretan religious order. Others believe that “Canedat” is an appellation evoking a quantity of cannis- Latin for “reeds”- which might have grown in abundance in the town’s vicinity at the time of its naming.

Whatever the origins of the name ‘Sarlat-la-Caneda’, most etymologists agree that the word “Canada” derives from the Iroquoian word “kanata,” which translates to “village” or “settlement”. This word first appears in print in a written account of French explorer Jacques Cartier’s second voyage to the St. Lawrence River area (1535-1536), published in 1545. Upon learning this word from Iroquois Indians with whom he made contact, Cartier named the valley of the St. Lawrence River “Le Pays des Canadas,” or the “Land of Villages.”

In 1791, the Province of Quebec was divided into two separate colonies, which were named Upper Canada and Lower Canada, respectively. In 1841, the colonies were united and dubbed the ‘Province of Canada’. In 1867, this province, along with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, united to form the Dominion of Canada, the embryonic constitutional monarchy which would grow to become the second largest country in the world.

An alternative theory regarding the origin of the word ‘Canada’ has it that Spanish or Portuguese explorers, having found neither gold nor silver on the coast of the Atlantic Northeast, labelled the region “Aqui Nada,” or “Nothing Here,” on various charts and maps. According to this theory, these Iberian sailors passed this name on to the Iroquois, who began using it as a word for “village”.

 

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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 14: The Templar Connection

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 14: The Templar Connection

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 5, Episode 14 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.

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[SPOILER ALERT!!!]

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Plot Summary

The episode begins with a flashback to Rick Lagina and Gary’s Drayton’s discovery of the lead cross in Season 5, Episode 10. The narrator reminds us of the cross’ resemblance to a Templar carving on one of the walls of Domme prison, and suggests that its presence on Oak Island “could bring into question the very history of North America.”

The narrator- with the help of Theology professor Amir Hussain, author Clive Prince, author Sanford Holst, author Kathleen McGowan Coppens (who appeared in Season 2, Episodes 6 and 7 of The Curse of Oak Island), author James Wasserman, curator Jonathan Young, researcher David Whitehead, writer Christopher Knight, author Jerry Glover (who appeared in Season 5, Episode 9), academic Evan Pritchard, author Lynn Picknett, and researcher Paul Troutman (who appeared in Season 2, Episode 2)- proceeds to lecture us on the history of the Knights Templar. After briefing us on the Order’s founding following the First Crusade, he reminds us of the theory that Templars secretly conducted excavations beneath the Al-Aqsa Mosque, their first permanent headquarters. Legend has it that beneath the mosque, the Templars discovered priceless religious artifacts from the First Temple of Solomon, including the Ark of the Covenant and the golden Menorah.

The narrator goes on to explain how the Templars grew and expanded their influence throughout the 12th and 13th Centuries by developing Europe’s first banks. He then describes how the Knights Templar were accused of heresy and disbanded in 1307, and how some of their number are rumoured to have escaped from France to Scotland with their most precious treasures during this time. He further explains how some theorists believe these outlawed Templar knights travelled from Scotland to the New World with the aid of Scottish-Orcadian nobleman Henry Sinclair and Italian mariners Nicolo and and Antonio Zeno and possibly buried their treasures on Oak Island.

We then see old footage from Season 4, Episode 12, in which Rick Lagina and Doug Crowell travelled to Roslyn, New York, to visit with researcher Zena Halpern and discuss her maps, first introduced in the premiere of Season 4. The narrator reminds us that Halpern believes that a 12th Century English Crusader named Ralph de Sudeley buried Templar treasure on Oak Island.

Next, the narrator reminds us that, prior to visiting Zena Halpern, Rick Lagina and Doug Crowell, along with Charles Barkhouse, met with researchers Alessandra Nadudvari and Tim Loncarich in New Ross, Nova Scotia in Season 4, Episodes 1 and 2. There, Nadudvari and Loncarich showed the treasure hunters a stone which they believed bore a faded cross pattee, a style of cross used by the Knights Templar.

We are then reminded of how researcher Terry Deveau introduced the Oak Island crew to the Overton Stone in Season 3, Episode 4, on which is carved what Marty Lagina suggested is a “Templar cross.” Deveau speculated that the carving might have served to commemorate a friendship treaty between a group of Europeans and a band of local Mi’kmaq Indians. Doug Crowell, in an interview, then expounds the theory that the Mi’kmaq cultural hero Glooscap is based on Henry Sinclair- a theory bolstered by researcher Mark Finnan’s claim that the flag of the Mi’kmaq Nation is the mirror image of one of the battle standards flown by the Knights Templar.

Next, the narrator raises the question of whether or not an outlawed band of Templar Knights could possibly have had the ability to create complex underground structures like the Money Pit and the Smith’s Cove Flood Tunnel. He then reminds us of the coconut fibres which Dan Henskee, Jack Begley, Alex Lagina, and Peter Fornetti unearthed on Smith’s Cove in Season 1, Episode 2. These fibres were carbon dated to between 1260 and 1400 A.D.- a period of time consistent with the Knights Templar theory.

After that, the narrator reminds us of the peculiar Domme Cross carved by incarcerated Templar Knights on one of the walls of Domme prison, which Jerry Glover suggested might have been inspired by the Kabbalistic Tree of Life- a symbol which researcher Petter Amundsen, back in Season 1, Episode 4, suggested was manifest in Nolan’s Cross.

Next, the narrator reminds us that, historically, an unusual number of Oak Island treasure hunters have been Freemasons. He then describes the theory that Freemasonic fraternities are descended from the aforementioned band of outlawed Templar knights, and reminds us of the Oak Island crew’s visit to Rosslyn Chapel- a building containing carvings which some believe indicate a connection between Freemasonry and the Knights Templar- in Season 2, Episode 7. The narrator then summarizes the theory, put forth by writer Alan Butler in the same episode, that the Money Pit bears resemblance to the Freemasonic legend of the Royal Arch of Enoch.

 

 

Analysis

Coconut Fibre

Back in Season 1, Episode 2, while digging on Smith’s Cove, Dan Henskee, Jack Begley, Alex Lagina, and Peter Fornetti unearthed what appeared to be coconut fibre. Testing affirmed that the substance was indeed coconut fibre, and that it was carbon dated to between 1260 and 1400 A.D. Oak Island Tours Inc. is one in a long line of treasure hunting syndicates to uncover coconut fibre on Oak Island. It was discovered in 1804 in the Money Pit by the Onslow Company, in 1850 in Smith’s Cove by the Truro Company, in 1866 by the Halifax Company, in 1936 by Gilbert Hedden, in the 1960’s by Robert and Bobby Restall and Robert Dunfield, and on several occasions throughout the past 40 years by Dan Blankenship, Dave Blankenship, and Dan Henskee of Triton Alliance. It is interesting to note that, at the time of the Money Pit’s discovery in 1795, the nearest coconut palms grew in the Caribbean islands 1,500 miles southeast of Oak Island, and that throughout the 16th and 17th Centuries, coconut fibre was commonly used as caulking on sailing ships.

The Smith’s Cove coconut fibre’s carbon date of 1260-1400 A.D. is particularly baffling. Botanists and Age of Discovery historians alike agree that coconut fibre is neither endemic to Nova Scotia nor to the New World. In fact, coconut is native to Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean; today, all coconuts can trace their genetic origins to these two regions. Throughout the latter half of the 1400’s, the Portuguese transported coconuts from the Indian Ocean to their newly-established plantation colonies on the western coasts of Africa. Following Columbus’ discovery of the New World in 1492, Portuguese explorers introduced coconuts from their West African colonies to South America and the Caribbean, where they thrived.

If popular mainstream history is to be believed, coconuts (and, presumably, coconut components, including coconut fibres) were not introduced to the New World until the late 1490’s, at the very earliest. Assuming that the coconut fibre on Smith’s Cove was interred relatively shortly (i.e. less than 90+ years) after being harvested from the shell, its carbon dating of 1260-1400 A.D. apparently contradicts this notion, giving rise to a whole new realm of strange and intriguing possibilities. Perhaps early Portuguese, Spanish, or Italian explorers obtained large quantities of coconut fibre decades before Henry the Navigator’s (an administrator of the 15th Century Portuguese Empire who set in motion the Age of Discovery) discovery of the West African coast (the site of the earliest Portuguese coconut plantations) in the mid- 1400’s, and made some long-forgotten or undocumented voyage to the New World a century or more before Christopher Columbus’ 1492 discovery of the Americas. It is certainly possible that 13th, 14th, and 15th Century Europeans might have have obtained Indian or even Southeast Asian coconut fibre via the Silk Road, an ancient series of trade routes bridging Europe, Arabia, India, and China (although one wonders why 13th, 14th, or early 15th Century Europeans would use mass quantities of such an exotic commodity to construct a giant filter, as appears to be the case on Smith’s Cove). Alternatively, perhaps the Knights Templar, following their suppression in 1307, somehow managed to procure large quantities of Indian coconut fibre before shipping their fabled treasure across the Atlantic; after all, Palestine, once the heart of Templar territory, lies at an important Silk Road junction. Or, is it possible that another group of people with access to large quantities of 13 to early 15th Century coconut fibre, perhaps even a group not typically associated with Oak Island (ex. members of some medieval Indian or Southeast Asian dynasty), made a secret voyage to Oak Island during the Middle Ages?

The Royal Arch of Enoch

According to Masonic teachings, one of the most valuable treasures of the Temple of Solomon, and subsequently of the Knights Templar, is a golden triangle called the Delta of Enoch, on which is inscribed the ineffable Name of God.

According to the Book of Genesis, Enoch was a virtuous man beloved by God. The Old Testament asserts that he was the great-grandfather of Noah, the man who built the legendary Ark which housed Noah himself, his wife, his three sons, his three daughters-in-law, and mating pairs of all the world’s animals during the Great Flood.

According to Jewish and Masonic legend, Enoch had a dream in which God revealed His true Name to him on a mountaintop and forbade him to repeat it to anyone. Then, God transported him underground, through nine arches, to a subterranean vault where he found the Name of God engraved on a triangular plate of solid gold. When he awoke, Enoch interpreted his dream as a sign to construct the chambers he had seen. He immediately set about excavating the first eight subterranean chambers, which were meant for protection, underneath a mountain called Mount Moriah. In the ninth and final chamber, he built a pedestal and placed upon it a triangle of pure gold on which was written the unutterable Name of God (in his dream, Enoch had not only heard the Name of God but also seen it written in the clouds). When he had completed the chambers, Enoch marked the place where they were buried with a crude temple, which he built from unhewn stones.

Mount Moriah- the anglicized interpretation of the ancient Hebrew name Har HaBayit- was the holy mountain where, generations after Enoch and his son Noah, Abraham prepared an altar on which to sacrifice his son Isaac. According to the Book of Genesis, God, in order to test Abraham’s loyalty, commanded him to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham conceded to God’s demand and set about preparing an altar on Mount Moriah. When that was done, he led Isaac to the mountaintop, bound him to the altar, and prepared to slaughter him. However, his hand was stayed at the last moment by an angel, who informed him that the whole scenario was a test of loyalty. At that moment, Abraham spotted a ram which had caught its horns in some nearby bushes and, out of gratitude to God, sacrificed it on the altar instead of his son.

Centuries later, a Jebusite (i.e. Canaanite tribesman) named Araunah built a threshing floor on Mount Moriah. A threshing floor is a stone floor on which grain is trampled underfoot in order to separate the stalks from the husks. King David, the second king of the United Kingdom of Israel, purchased this threshing floor from Araunah and converted it into an altar. Later, David’s son Solomon constructed his famous First Temple of Jerusalem on the site of the altar. While Solomon’s builders were constructing the Temple foundation, they discovered the Enochean chambers and the Delta of Enoch. When the Temple was completed, the Delta was placed in its treasury.

Legend has it that, eleven thousand years later, in the aftermath of the First Crusade, the Delta of Enoch was recovered by the Knights Templar. More than two hundred years after that, it was brought to Oak Island and buried in the Money Pit. The men who constructed the Money Pit build nine oak platforms within it, representing the nine levels of the Royal Arch of Enoch.

 

 

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Famous Black Canadians: 6/10: Mary Ann Shadd

Mary Ann Shadd

Early Life

Mary Ann Shadd was born to free black parents in Wilmington, Delaware, USA, on October 9, 1823. At that time, slavery was legal in the state of Delaware. Shadd’s parents were abolitionists who opposed slavery. For several years, their Delaware home served as a station on the Underground Railroad- a network by which escaped slaves could make their way to freedom in Canada.

Mary Ann Shadd was the first of thirteen siblings. When she was ten years old, her parents sent her to Pennsylvania. There, she studied at a Quaker-run boarding school along with her brothers and sisters.

After studying for six years, 16-year-old Mary Shadd returned to her hometown. There, she founded a school for black children and began working as a teacher. Her educational career took her all over the Northeastern United States, from New York City to Trenton, New Jersey, to Norristown, Pennsylvania. Wherever she went, Mary Ann Shadd taught at all-black schools.

Moving to Canada

In 1850, the United States Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act. This nasty piece of legislation required free American citizens of all states to capture escaped slaves and return them to their masters. Those accused of being runaway slaves who could not provide irrefutable proof of citizenship were destined for the plantation. Afraid that they might be wrongfully accused, Mary Ann Shadd and her brother, Isaac, moved to Windsor, Ontario. There, Mary acquired a teaching position at an all-black school in Windsor’s rough Sandwich district. Her and Isaac’s family followed them into British territory shortly thereafter.

The Provincial Freeman

Like many of the courageous Canucks on our list of 10 Famous Black Canadians, Mary Ann Shadd was natural pioneer. Accordingly, she embodied a characteristic common to all great Canadian trailblazers: a belief in the virtue of self-reliance. Another core value which defined Mary Ann Shadd was her strong belief in racial integration. Unlike many of her black Canadian contemporaries, she opposed the idea of black separatism and ghettoization, and believed that it was in the interest of all Canadians for blacks and whites to live together as equals.

Mary Ann Shadd attempted to instill her values in her students, and opened her schoolhouse to both blacks and whites. When her benefactors eventually withdrew funding for her school on account of religious differences, she decided to share her ideas with a wider audience. In the spring of 1853, she established the Provincial Freeman, a newspaper written for a black audience. Therein, she expounded the virtues of self-reliance, put forth arguments in favour of integration, and encouraged black Americans to immigrate to Canada. In true pioneer fashion, her newspaper’s motto was: “Self-Reliance is the True Road to Independence.” In this way, Mary Ann Shadd became black female publisher in North America, and the first woman publisher in Canada.

In the spring of 1854, Shadd moved to Toronto, Ontario, where she could better run her newspaper. There, she met and married a barber named Thomas Cary. After the wedding, she moved with her new husband to Chatham, Ontario, where her chief editor lived. There, she and Thomas had two children, Sarah and Linton. Mary Shadd- now Mary Cary- spent the rest of the 1850’s raising her family and editing the Provincial Freeman.

The Civil War

In 1859, the Provincial Freeman went under, forcing Mary Cary to return to her former profession, education. She began teaching at an integrated school in Chatham. The following year, her husband, Thomas, passed away.

In 1861, Civil War broke out in the United States. Mary Cary and her family took a keen interest in this conflict, hopeful that it might bring an end to slavery in America once and for all. In fact, Mary’s brother, Issac, had played an important role in a pre-Civil War conflict known as the Raid on Harper’s Ferry, allowing his home in Windsor to be used as a sort of war room for militant American abolitionists who went on to raid a United States Armory in what is now West Virginia.

Eventually, Mary Cary, at the invitation of African-American abolitionist Martin Delany, moved to the United States to take part in the Civil War. In Indiana, she served as a recruiting officer, using the skills she had honed as a journalist to convince black men to enlist in the anti-slavery Union Army.

Later Life

After the end of the American Civil War, which saw the emancipation of slaves all across America, Mary Cary turned once again to teaching. She taught briefly in Detroit, Michigan, before taking her trade to Wilmington, Delaware. Eventually, took a teaching position in Washington, D.C. After teaching in the American capital for some time, she attended the newly-established Howard University Law School and graduated as a lawyer in 1883. In this way, 60-year-old Mary Cary became the second black female lawyer in the United States. She passed away in Washington, D.C., on June 5, 1893, at the age of 69.

 

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