My research for the “Arkham Gazette” (still looking for a new name, btw…) has led me to some strange corners of pseudo-archaeology, from Great Ireland and Carl Rafn to NEARA and the Upton Chamber. Most, if not all of it, is total bunk. Fortunately for my purposes (those of writing for a game that is happy to mix and match fact and fiction for the sake of a story) bunk is just fine, since hopefully no one is ever going to read one of my scenarios and mistake the cults and creatures I write about for reality. While I have a high tolerance for bunk, I have a much lower acceptance of bullshit, and that is exactly what the folks behind America Unearthed have been trying to pass off as real history.
Perhaps I should not flip on any tv show that bears the hint of Fortean content; I’ve seen far too many Sasquatch hunts,”close” encounters, EVP pareidolia, and this idiot. Usually there is always some sop to the fact that the show is mostly conjecture… at best.
America Unearthed, which airs on the ‘History’ channel give us Scott Wolter, a Minnesota geologist whom the network compares favorable to Indiana Jones. If they mean to say he’s ridiculous and improbable, like Dr. Jones flying through the air in a refrigerator to escape an atomic explosion, I might buy that. In the typical episode they take some long-discredited pseudo-archaeological find, say the Newport Tower or the Bat Creek Inscription, make some highly spurious connections to a popular conspiracy theory, say the Templars or Atlantis, interview some crackpot or true-believer type, mash it all together with some quick cuts and splashy graphics, and wrap the whole illogical contortion of fact with a sweeping overstatement of the case. Yes, it is that bad.
I neither have the time nor interest to debunk the show episode by episode; I’ll leave that to the experts. Writer (and Lovecraft enthusiast) Jason Colavito has done just that on blog – JasonColativo.com. He’s even published a book on the topic. It is really a fun read, especially when you realize how far the folks behind American Unearthed had to work to ignore reality in order to put their bogus program together.
If nothing else, Keepers running a Cthulhu Now or Delta Green game can take inspiration from both America Unearthed and its primary debunker; while PhenomX might be gone, I’m sure there are plenty of programs to carry on its legacy.