Monday, December 21, 2020

#2421: Scott Wolter

One of the most versatile cranks in the US, Scott Wolter is a self-proclaimed forensic geologist and former host of the television series America Unearthed, a popular hit series where Wolter would “investigate” and engage in JAQing off about mysteries and artifacts that he believes reveal an alternative history of North America before the United States. “There’s a hidden history in this country that nobody knows about,” says Wolter, failing to address the most obvious reason no one knows about it.

His show is based cherry-picking “evidence” from all manners of nonsense, including secret symbols, alleged secret societies, hoaxes, alleged coverups, vague coincidences, testimony from other cranks and complete fabrication, in order to shoehorn it into his own, grand unified conspiracy theory. For the most parts, he completely ignores the facts before him (as well as the claims of the other conspiracy theorists and crackpots he cites) to invent his own.

There is a comprehensive review of his TV series here. The episodes of season one (link to reviews in the titles) are:

  • 1.1. “American Maya Secrets” (more here), which discusses the supposed end of the Mayan calendar in the context of what Wolter, together with local cranks Jon Haskell and Richard Thornton, suggests is a possible Mayan village in Georgia, while conspiracy theories and incoherent attempts at pseudoscience fly.
  • 1.2. “Medieval Desert Mystery”, wherein Wolter investigates a burial site in the mountains of Arizona that he claims belongs to a medieval Englishman whom Wolter believes taught the art of building cliff dwellings to the Native Americans. His conclusion is primarily based on an obviously newly made rune stone that was recently placed at the site (the inscription is gibberish but Wolter finds a message): a local archaeologist points out that the stone wasn’t there when the site was recorded by the state in 1984, which leads Wolter to conclude not that it is recent but that the local archaeologists intentionally did not record the stone and are thus involved in a nefarious cover-up. (Wolter doesn’t like people who knows anything about an issue telling him anything about that issue.)
  • 1.3. “Great Lakes Copper Heist”, where Wolter suggests that old Michigan copper mines are connected to the Minoan civilization and the Bronze Age.
  • 1.4. “Giants in Minnesota”, in which Wolter visits a Minnesota farmer, Roger Saker, who believes some bones found by professional dowser Leonard Engen may stem from a 9-foot tall Norse giant. They find no evidence whatsoever, leading Wolter to conclude that Norse giants settled the area in the Middle Ages.
  • 1.5. “A Deadly Sacrifice”, featuring Wolter investigating a large boulder from the Arkansas River inscribed with a bull symbol, which could either be very old or recent. It’s recent. Wolter concludes otherwise.
  • 1.6. “Stonehenge in America”, where Wolter claims that the 20th-century structure known as “America’s Stonehenge” is New Age-related to England’s Stonehenge and has something to do with ancient Phoenicians – apparently Phoenicians arriving in North America to move rocks and carve in them didn’t know their own culture very well.
  • 1.7. “Mystery of Roanoke”, in which Wolter determines that a series of clues that are usually considered frauds may be related to the Lost Colony of Roanoke. They’re not. They’re frauds.
  • 1.8. “Chamber Hunting”, where Wolter claims that an underground stone chamber in Pennsylvania may have been a ritual bath chamber for a secret society.
  • 1.9. “Motive for Murder” (follow-up discussions here, here and here), where Wolter and retired local tv anchor Don Shelby investigate the death of Meriwether Lewis and rejects any established narratives, since who wants the simple and correct explanation when you can spin a yarn that is incoherent, complicated and wrong? (Wolter suggests Lewis was murdered because he, through his explorations, had come to know too much about what Wolter thinks happened in prehistoric North America.)
  • 1.10. “The Desert Cross”, where Wolter teams up with his son Grant to investigate the infamous Tucson artifacts (an obvious hoax). Interestingly, Wolter tries to shoehorn the nonsense into a mythology of his own making, thereby contradicting both the claims the hoaxsters were trying to make as well as the facts about the items. (Follow-up on some claims here.)
  • 1.11. “Tracking the Templars” (follow-up here), where Wolter finds alleged evidence of the Knights Templars (and Freemasons) in the US, including the “hooked X” symbol, which Wolter has written a book about (he has also trademarked the phrase “hooked X”). The Knights Templars are central to Wolter’s grand unified conspiracy (an interesting side note on that here).
  • 1.12. “America’s Oldest Secrets”, in which The Newport Tower, too, is connected to the Knights Templar. Prior to getting his own show, Wolter was perhaps best known for his 2009 two-hour special “Holy Grail in America”, which aired on the very nexus of all pseudohistory drivel promotion, History Channel, and where he explores, in brilliantly crackpot pseudoscience fashion, the idea that the Kensington Runestone is evidence that the Knights Templar sailed to America about one hundred years before Columbus’s voyage. There is a review of a talk Wolter gave on the Kensington Runestone (including its connection to Oreo cookies) here.
  • 1.13. “Hunt for the Holy Grail”, where Wolter hunts for – you guessed it – the holy grail.

And that, of course, was only the start. Later seasons are even lighter on research and go into even sillier territory, with Wolter investigating for instance whether the Ark of the Covenant could be in America (as per a well-known documentary; Wolter doesn’t find it), whether the New World Order was behind the Denver International Airport and the Georgia Guidestones, and Bigfoot). There is a sample review of one of the episodes here.

Wolter’s rantings are endlessly silly, of course, but if you lean toward thinking that the alt-history of people like Scott Wolter is just harmless fun, we encourage you to read this.

Diagnosis: Absolute rubbish, and calling it “pseudoscience” is a stretch – “incoherent conspiracy theories that Wolter doesn’t even try to back up” would be closer. And again: if you think the stuff people like Scott Wolter is doing is just harmless fun, it isn’t.

Hat-tip: Jason Colavito

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