Sunday, December 28, 2014

The La Verendrye Stone Mystery

Looking down the nave of St. Sulpice Church in Paris, France.

Scott and historian, Tom Backerud pose with the Du Luth Stone while shooters Brandon Boulay and Colin Threinen prepare the next scene.

Can you spot the five Committee Films crew member setting up for a shot amongst the Hoo Doo's on a rainy day in Writing on Stone Park in Alberta, Canada. 

Episode writer Will Yates, poses with the Du Luth Stone on a hot July day.


I really enjoyed this particular episode for a couple of reasons.  First, it was fun to bring the story of the mysterious La Verendrye Stone to a wider audience.  I wrote about the stone and the possibility of it being another land claim stone placed by the Knights Templar at about the same time as the Kensington Rune Stone in my 2006 book, "The Kensington Rune Stone: Compelling new Evidence" (pages 228-236).  One of the reasons it fascinated me so was because early KRS researchers, Hjalmar Holand and Newton H. Winchell, also believed the La Verendrye Stone was likely another runic inscription.  They had made plans to travel to Paris to search for the inscribed stone, but as fate would have it, a negative vote by the Museum Committee of the Minnesota Historical Society, by one vote, squashed the funding for the trip and to purchase the Kensington Stone for $5,000.  An interesting twist of fate is if the vote had been favorable it almost certainly would have been considered genuine as the negative votes were based on the now proven erroneous opinion of the linguists.  Holand eventually did travel to Europe, but was never able to make headway finding the artifact.  I guess he and I have that in common...

Of course, the star of this episode is the amazing and absolutely authentic Du Luth Stone that was actually brought to my attention several years ago by local residents who asked me to keep it quiet.  Their reasoning was they didn't want the public to know for fear of someone defacing or stealing it.  The other reason is the landowners wanted to keep it quiet for both security and privacy reasons.  I kept my end of the bargain until a couple of years ago when they allowed me to publish my weathering study in my latest book, "Akhenaten to the Founding Fathers: Mysteries of the Hooked X", (pages 72-79).  Note: If anyone is interested in a pdf version of my full report just send me an email and I'll forward it. 

Historian Tom Backerud was impressed enough with the inscription and felt it was very important to not just Minnesota history, but North American history.  Strangely, the Minnesota Historical Society's current position is they, "don't believe it's real because they don't think he (Du Luth) was in that area."  This is truly mind-boggling as it is well documented that he was in the area.  Further, the MHS haven't even taken the time to look at the inscribed boulder.  And people wonder why I get frustrated with academia and certain institutions.  Even the harshest skeptics will find this attitude hard to defend.  We're hoping to find a permanent home for the artifact that is very important to the early history of Minnesota.  Call me bias, but I think the City of Duluth would be appropriate.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Great Walls in China and California

Scott and Mr. Dong at the incredible Great Wall.

Scott poses for a photo with family who came to watch the California Walls shoot.  (R to L) Scott's sister Danna Kiefer, brother-in-law, Kevin Kiefer, niece, Katie Kiefer, and childhood friend Ken Amundsen  


Rear Admiral Zheng Ming poses with Scott in front of a bronze statue of Admiral Zheng Hu. 


Our Chinese interpreter, Crystal, waits inside the stone and fired brick bastion along the "wild" portion of the Great Wall in China.


Rear Admiral Zheng Ming holds court with interpreter Crystal and the Committee Films crew.

The opportunity to travel to China was amazing and it was everything I hoped it would be and more.  Aside from the long flights, the trip was worth it just see the Great Wall which included special access the "wild" portion overgrown with vegetation and not maintained.  Walking along the wall in both areas we visited was one of those surreal moments trying to take it all in.  The wall is so big and imposing it's hard to imagine how it was constructed to snake though the highest and most rugged parts of the mountain peaks.  It is simply amazing.

Both of my guests in China were wonderful; especially Rear Admiral Zheng Ming.  He is 82 years old and a hero to the Chinese who was so knowledgeable, kind, and humble.  He was so happy to have us there to talk about Chinese exploration and was genuinely thrilled to have Americans' learn about their history.  The morning we left to fly home, the admiral got up at 4:00 a.m. and was waiting to meet us in the hotel lobby to see us off.  We were all genuinely touched by this man whom the Chinese have every right to be very proud of.  The Chinese are also very proud of their historical hero, Admiral Zheng Hu.  I am embarrassed to say I had not heard of him prior to filming this episode.  His accomplishments on his seven voyages are staggering and the lack of knowledge in the United States about this amazing explorer says a lot about how Eurocentric our education system is.  It's understandable to a point, but this is one man we should be learning about in history class.

I was also unaware of were the mysterious stone walls in California prior to filming that were brought to my attention through the tip line.  Since there is no known historical record of the origin of the walls, and it appears the surviving local native tribes have no intact oral stories about who made them, they truly are a mystery.  To me, the two most plausible explanations are local natives built them, but have lost the knowledge of the ancestors work.   The could also have been built to mark territory by a visiting culture most likely from the Far East.  Having been built primarily at the top of the mountains, it seems unlikely they were constructed to keep in livestock or to keep out advancing enemies.  Because of their tradition of building walls just like these along with the more massive sections of the Great Wall, the Chinese are a legitimate possibility to have created them.   

More important than the origin of the California stone walls was the incredible map evidence both Dr. Gunnar Thompson and Dr. Lee shared with me.  The detail displayed in the geography of North, South, and Central America could only have been obtained through detailed mapping by cartographers from numerous pre-Columbian voyages to these continents.  The skeptics are going to mash their teeth and their keyboards trying to explain away the Chinese component of the early history of the America's.  I'll bet many Native American tribes have knowledge preserved somewhere about the highly advanced navigators from the Far East who almost certainly visited BOTH sides of our continent.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Captian Kidd has nothing on pirate Pat Croce.

Members of the Committee Films Crew and the ship captain wait for the fog to lift before we set off to find Kidd's treasure.

Scott encounters a feisty pirate outside Pat Croce's Pirate Museum in St. Augustine, Florida.   

Hundreds of silver coins welded together into one solid chunk due to hundreds of years on the bottom of the ocean.  This treasure was recovered from the shipwreck of the Emperor Aurangzeb, son of the Great Mogul who built the Taj Mahal and was discovered by film writer Arthur C. Clarke.  (Courtesy of Pat Croce and his Pirate Museum) 

Scott and guest Bill Scheller pose for a photo while searching the Maine coastal island for clues to Kidd's lost treasure.

The personalized key guard on the treasure chest of Captain Kidd that was made in Leith, Scotland. (Courtesy of Pat Croce and his Pirate Museum)

The crew prepares to shoot a scene in the Astor Mansion's octagonal-shaped library filled with old books.

Scott and Janet at Nina Bouphasavanh and David Scheller's wedding in early November.  Congratulations to the happy couple.  (Photo by Adrian Danciu)

Even though I was certain we wouldn't find a chest filled with Captain Kidd's gold and silver, I have to say I was surprised to see so many interesting artifacts directly connected to or that personally belonged to him.  Pat Croce's Pirate Museum was a surprisingly satisfying payoff at the end of the investigation for a couple of reasons.  Besides the artifacts, the Pirate Museum had a lot of amazing gold and silver along with many other real treasure artifacts recovered from shipwrecks dating back to the 1600's.  The other treasure was Pat himself who is a ball of energy, knowledge and passion that was difficult to match.  We hit it off immediately and I think the scene we filmed together was the first and only time the director asked us to turn back the enthusiasm a little bit.  It was great fun and I hope we can find another excuse to work with Pat in the future.

Bill Scheller was another wonderful guest who also happens to be the father of the then fiancĂ© of the "Kidd" episode writer, Nina Bouphasavanh.  In November, we attended David and Nina's wedding and had a fantastic time along with Bill and the rest of the crew.

When it comes to Kidd's "treasure" it's impossible to know if he ever stashed any of it and if the note he passed on to his wife lead to anything tangible.  I suspect it did and only she knows if the numbers in the note made sense, but if it was at that latitude/longitude in Maine there is one other possibility that I doubt people have considered.  Everybody assumes that if it's up in Maine somewhere, why does it have to be on Deer Isle or any other island for that matter?  Maybe Kidd was more clever and "buried" it underwater?  Instead of digging a pit and burying the treasure on one of the small, easily accessible islands, maybe he intentionally sunk a smaller boat or simply threw a treasure chest or secure box full of riches overboard at a location he thought he could later find again?  That could explain why the treasure hasn't been discovered and is still out there somewhere?


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Was there really a Custer Treasure?


Old friends from their days working together at WCCO television in Minneapolis, former long-time anchorman Don Shelby, and Director of the Custer episode, Raul Cadena, pose for a photo.  Raul also played the cigarette smoking thief in the reenactment at Two Moons monument. 

Two local native actors who played roles in the massacre reenactment pose for a photo with Scott.  I'm pretty sure it wasn't either of these guys who "killed" me during the battle.

In a "period" looking photo, Sargent John Slatton and Scott pose for photo on their horses.

Ross Mitchell and John Slatton led me and my horse "Trinity" across a ridge at the Little Bighorn battlefield in the late afternoon of a gorgeous late June day. 

I'd like to start by saying this episode was the most fun I've had on a shoot to date.  Not only did I get to participate and get "killed" in the exciting Little Bighorn massacre reenactment, but I was also allowed to ride over the entire battlefield on horseback for three hours discussing various tactical maneuvers that likely happened that day with men who served in our nation's military who knew what they were talking about.  In fact, all of the cavalry soldiers who appeared in the show are currently enlisted in various branches of the military or are veterans who served our country.  They were all extremely knowledgeable, skilled soldiers who knew how to ride, as well as helpful and friendly to the host of the show (me) who didn't have a clue what he was doing most of the time.  It's because of people like these guys who served and continue to serve in the military with honor and distinction that allows guys like me to run around playing Indiana Jones.  We all have to keep that in mind and be grateful for the freedom we enjoy.  I certainly am.

One thing became abundantly clear to me during my conversations with the cavalry guys that was not made clear in the show, and that was there was no Custer "treasure" in the form of gold and/or silver.  The pay wagon was with Reno who pulled back and wasn't part of the Little Bighorn battle.  Therefore, the only thing that could have been salvaged from the dead soldiers by the natives was personal items and paper currency.  However, the natives considered currency to be "Picture paper" and thus was meaningless to them.  I spoke to some of the native actors in the reenactment who were direct descendants of those who fought in the battle with Custer and they said the paper money taken from the dead soldiers, "Was given to the children who threw it up into the air and watched it blow away in the wind."  Besides, what would the natives do with paper money?  Walk into a grocery store and spend it?  Hardly.

So that begs the question, if there wasn't a Custer treasure, what was the treasure that Two Moons 'treasure map' reportedly led to?  What makes sense to me is there was a lot of gold miners prospecting in Montana at that time who were frequently moving across the state.  No doubt many of them were robbed of their gold by natives who at some point, realized it had value to the White Man.  I suspect that is what comprises Two Moons treasure since it couldn't realistically be anything tied to Custer.  Unfortunately, since the treasure map was stolen around 1960, we likely will never know what Two Moon's treasure actually was.  As we said in the show, it was either found half a century ago by whoever stole the map, or it is still out there. 

UPDATE: 12-9-14

Today I received a note from one of our guests on the show, David Meyer, that he had received a rash of emails from people chastising him for being involved in a "fake" episode.  It turns out there are non-serious debunkers who consistently take anything they can from our shows, and apparently this blog, and twist it out of proportion to create controversy and drive people to their own blogs.  I've said it many times before that if debunkers were really serious about the subject matter that appears on our show, they'd ask me about it directly instead of creating deliberate fabrications to drive people to their sites.

The issue appears to be my statement about a pay wagon, possibly filled with gold and silver, not being at the battle to have been recovered by the natives.  David said people were arguing that a pay wagon wasn't with Reno or anywhere near the battlefield.  I could very well be wrong about Reno having a pay wagon at all since I was going on what I recalled from my conversations.  I don't remember exactly.  In any case, whether Reno had a pay wagon or not is secondary to the point that there was no pay wagon with Custer.  Therefore, there couldn't have been a substantial hoard of gold and silver that could qualify as a "treasure."
I came to my own conclusion as we were filming there was no significant treasure beyond personal items, weapons, and paper money which would have been useless to the natives.  There was nothing preconceived about this treasure before filming the episode as apparently has been suggested.  My opinions were reached after talking with the cavalry personnel and the descendants of the Cheyenne who fought in the original battle while I was there.  

Did we play up my involvement in the reenactment to create drama?  Of course, but immersing myself into the action helped me better understand and appreciate what happened that day and put additional context on the questions we were investigating.  Nothing was faked, other than our deaths as member of the ill-fated members of Custer's troops.  My advice to anyone with a question about any of our episodes is to ask me directly on this blog.
I received two emails from people who shared very interesting memories that are germane to our "Custer Treasure" episode.  I have no reason to suspect these people are not telling the truth.  While these revelations are not 100% conclusive, as far as I'm concerned all my questions are answered with regard to what the natives did with the personal items and weapons taken by the women after the battle, and as to what happened to two Moons treasure.  My thanks go out both people who contacted me for sharing their stories.
"Hello Scott,
I watched your episode last night on the "Custer Blood Treasure" with great interest. I knew W. P. Moncure very well !!

W.P. Moncure, Walker Peyton Moncure, was my paternal grandmother's uncle. She raised me from 6 months until I went away to nursing school at 17. "Moncure" as we called him, was married to Anna Otoupalik in 1903 in Butte, MT. Her sister, Venus Otoupalik-Nedved, was my grandmother's mother. They all lived in Butte, MT where my grandmother was born in 1892. She died in 1968 and Moncure died in 1964. He was repairing his roof in Calabasas at age 88, fell of the roof, broke his hip, and died as a result of complications. He was a very "wiry" little man. And boy, could he tell the stories !! He was born in 1877 in Maryland and came from a prominent family in Virginia. In fact, his father was a doctor to General Robert E. Lee.

Moncure lived in Calabasas, CA. We lived in Portland, OR, as I still do. I am a very young 71 years old. Every year he went to the Yellowstone to stay the summer until the year before he died.. On his way he would come to our house and stay 5-7 days with us. Then on his way back to CA he would come to stay with us again for another week. He always brought me a one pound box of See's chocolates from CA every year.

He owned the Indian Trading Post in Busby, MT for many years. My grandfather that raised me worked for him there and was also the Postmaster there for 15 years on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Then my grandparents went over to the Crow Reservation and were there for 2 years before finally coming to Portland in 1928. My grandfather was the Postmaster there, and owned the store there at Crow Agency.

Of course we always knew about the Two Moons Monument that he erected. He would talk about it at times. He said he erected it for the benefit of the Cheyenne and that the "treasure" would one day greatly benefit the future tribe. He and Two Moons WERE good friends. My grandparents knew Two Moons, also, since they were right there, also. My grandmother was a wonderful artist and we had the huge oil painting of Two Moons she had painted before he died. Full headdress and all. We knew what all was contained in the monument. But he would not tell where the "treasure" was buried. So yes, it was not a myth !!!  It was REAL !!!

I have magazine articles and newspaper articles about it. One very long news article you should have known about is this. In 1957 Moncure turned over the care, responsibility, and permanent custody of the monument and all its contents to the Northern Cheyenne Indian Tribe committee. This group consisted of 9 members who Moncure helped pick. And shortly after this, the monument was "broken" into and the manila envelope was gone.

Now, after the tribe had control over the monument, do you really think they were going to leave that map there for some white man to get their hands on?  After this Moncure would always say, "No one has to worry about the wrong people getting possession of what belongs to the Indians."  The opening that was supposed to take place in 1976, 100 years after Custer's Last Stand", NOT 1986, was just done earlier because of the interest that had developed after Kathryn Wright's article. 
Also, Moncure and his wife, Anna, bought 1100 acres of land between 1915 to 1936 in the area and donated all the land to the Cheyenne.

The money paid to the massacred soldiers was not gold and silver coins. It was in the form of gold and silver treasury notes. Paper !  So all those gold coins in the rusty cans buried and found by that couple have nothing to do with the "Custer treasure".

I am going to make copies of the articles and some photos of he and Anna. I am going to send all of it to you at your company, American Petrographic Services in St. Paul, MN. I hope you read all the articles and also take all that I have told you in truth seriously. I have no reasons to lead you on about this matter. There is no "treasure" to be pursued and found. You might want to pass this information on to the man in the coin store and the other young guy on the show before you went to Montana."

Here is the second message that's also listed below:

"I remember years ago, when my grandfather was alive, he spoke about a time when his grandfather's grandfather was in the Battle of the Little Big Horn. After the battle, Sitting Bull and his people went north towards Canada, Crazy Horse and his people went south. This band came to The Stronghold, located in the Badlands of South Dakota - there Crazy Horse told his people to gather together all that they had taken from the battle field. After gathering all the items, he divided the items onto four buffalo hides and told four of his best warriors to ride in each direction (east, south, west and north), a day's ride and bury the items. My grandfather was told that there were numerous items which included coins, rifles, sabers, clothing, buttons and anything the women had found. This is a story that very few people know about. Those that did know have since passed on. I consider myself lucky to hear stories like the ones my grandfather used to tell. I thought this might be of interest to you after I watched the episode of the battle. I also find your shows very interesting. Thank you."