Daniel I. Morris
Grave Creek Connections
Waynesburg, PA: Vicoa.Com, 2008
Title Page Introduction
Excerpt 1: pp. 9-102
Excerpt 2: pp. 103-07
Excerpt 3: pp. 108-76
Excerpt 4: pp. 177-276
Excerpt 5: pp. 277-92
Excerpt 6: pp. 293-end
A novel by
Daniel Isaac Morris
[ 8 ]
This book is a work of fiction, and any similarities to places or persons, living or dead, is coincidental. While I refer to certain historical facts, be aware that these may at times be fictionalized and intentionally inconsistent with true historical accounts. The book, Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? authored by Wayne L. Cowdery, Donald R. Scales, and Howard A. Davis gives an account of the controversy concerning the founding of Mormonism and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The controversy is well documented, and this work neither supports nor disputes the authors' findings, since any controversy of a religious nature is settled as matter of belief and faith. I have the deepest respect for the beliefs, and particularly the family values, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Now Gentle Reader the writer who wishes well to thy present and thy future existence entreats thee to peruse this volume with a clear head and a pure heart and a candid mind. If thou shalt that thy head and thy heart are both improved it will afford him more satisfaction than the approbation of ten thousand who have received no benefit. --
(pages 10-101 not transcribed, due to copyright restrictions)
Sarge was waiting in the driveway when Eden arrived at the creek. It was midnight, but he decided to call Dave Quinn anyway.
"Yeah?" said a sleepy voice on the other end of the phone.
"Oh -- I didn't get you out of bed, did I?" Eden asked innocently.
"Who the f-- .. who is this?"
"It's me, Eden Whitloe, the Deputy Sheriff."
"Umph. It's real good to know you law officers are watching over us around the clock. But ya know, some folks sleep after midnight."
"Sorry, guess I lost track of the time," the Deputy fibbed. "If this isn't a good time, I'll call back later."
"Well, now that you got me up, I'll be awake the next couple of hours, so you might as well go ahead. Did you learn something new?
"Not really," Eden said. "Reason I called... would it be okay for me to stop by tomorrow? I want to bring over the other person who's helping me on the case -- the one I told you about."
"Oh, yeah. Amara's niece is helping you. Yeah, go ahead and bring her over. I'd like to meet her."
"Any particular time good for you?"
"In my line of work, there's no good time and no bad either," he said. "You come on over whenever the mood strikes you. If you come in the afternoon, there may be someone here you can meet. I'll be here all day."
"Who is it we might meet, Dave?"
"Oh, I'll introduce you when you get here."
"Afternoon it will be, then," Eden said as he hung up.
"Hey Shele, it's Eden. First -- are you okay? You seemed upset when I left the other night."
"Oh, I'm sorry. If I told you why, you would think I'm silly. It was nothing -- just a personal hang-up -- absolutely nothing to do with you. You're fine. We're fine."
"But," he pressed, "if we're going to work together, I need to understand you. Was it something I said?"
"No, no, Eden... look... it's just a silly phobia I have."
"No, silly! Of... of... well, trains. Every time I hear a train horn. Please don't laugh. There's a reason for it, not your concern. I'm fine. Now, what else did you call for?"
"Oh... well... I called to say we're to meet Dave this afternoon. He also said he wants us to meet someone. He didn't say who..."
"Pick me up anytime after noon, I'll be here."
They arrived at Dave Quinn's furniture shop at 1:30. No one answered so he went around to the side door with its unlatched screen. "Hello, inside," he shouted.
"Hello, yourself," said a female voice. "Dave'll be out in a minute."
"Is it okay if I just wait here?" he asked.
"Oh, I'm sorry," she said, "You must be Deputy Whitloe. Come on in."
She gripped his hand with a firm shake. "I'm Colleen McKay."
"Hi, I left me -- uh -- partner -- in the truck. I'll get her."
Eden walked around the front of the shop and waved for Shele to join him. They entered the shop just as Dave came from a back room. The scent of turpentine took over the horsy smell of oak shavings as he entered the room.
"Just finished cleaning some brushes," he said, extending his hand to Shele. "Hi, I'm Dave Quinn. And this is Colleen McKay," he motioned toward Colleen. "I heard you introduce yourself to the Deputy Sheriff."
Shele freely explored the place with her eyes, "Real nice place. You make some beautiful furniture. Do you sell to individuals?"
"It's all made to order for designers," Dave said. "All one-of-a-kind. If there's something you'd like me to make let me know. Expect some sticker shock, plus you'll have to wait for -- I think the backlog is caught up now -- about 9 months. I put the best material in it and each piece is an individual work of art -- at least to me."
"Oh, I was just curious," Shele said. "When I make my first million, I'll give you a call."
"What kind of work do you do?" Dave asked her.
"I'm a teacher. Library Science. Up in New York state."
"I heard you were helping Eden with his investigation," Dave said. "You going to be in George County very long?"
"For the summer. I hope we can wrap it up before I go back for fall term."
"Colleen, here, is from Amity, up the road. She has a craft shop -- it's real work by real artisans."
Colleen smiled, "Why thanks, Dave. That's a real compliment, coming from you."
Shele and Eden expected Colleen to be an earth-mother, and they weren't disappointed. She looked to be Dave's age, but with more facial lines and gray streaks through her fading auburn hair.
She had an aged Janice Joplin look, no makeup on a round face. Her Mother Hubbard dress gathered at the waist with voluminous folds of a skirt. Her legs were strangers to depilatories. And she wore the vest of the aging counter-culture uniform, in her case denim. But for all their flower-elder appearance, Colleen and Dave were fastidiously clean.
"Your from Amity... that sounds awfully familiar," said Shele.
"Jaws. Amity was the village where Peter Benchley's shark story took place. Then there is the Amityville Horror. Oh, we hear a lot from thriller writers. Then there is the Solomon Spaulding thing --"
"That's who I was thinking about -- Spaulding," Shele interrupted. "Didn't some Spaulding have something to do with the controversy about the origins of Mormonism? And didn't Amity play some role in it?"
"Oh, you bet," said Colleen. "It was a big flap back in the 1800s. Then some guys stirred it up again in the '70s with their book, Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? It rekindled a controversy that's still smoking."
"How does Amity figure into it?" Eden asked.
"Hold on," said Dave. I'll get us some coffee."
Colleen, warming up to her subject, forged ahead. "Solomon Spaulding wrote this novel, The Manuscript Found. But in the '70s book, the authors claim his manuscript was really a novel that was ripped off by some guy named Sidney Rigdon. The story goes that Rigdon and Joseph Smith later passed off the manuscript as the Book of Mormon. And, that's the heretical version -- so far as the LDS is concerned -- of how The Book of Mormon came into being."
"LDS?" Eden inquired.
"Latter Day Saints," whispered Shele.
"Oh, I remember now," Eden said. "Didn't the church's founder say the Book was translated from some gold plates?"
"The official LDS version," said Dave, "is that an angel appeared
to Mormon founder Joseph Smith, Jr. and told him about gold plates that would reveal God's plans for America. This angel, named Moroni, told Smith to dig up the plates and from them learn the history of the Americas. So Smith and some others came up with the Book of Mormon, which they say was translated from those plates. Some say that Smith made up the whole thing. Others, including the authors of the '70s book, say The Book of Mormon was just the Spaulding novel, stolen by Rigdon from a printing shop in Pittsburgh, and it became The Book of Mormon."
"Okay, Dave, but what does Amity have to do with Spaulding?" Eden asked, growing exasperation.
"Well, Spaulding left his novel at the printer's in the early 1800s, and then moved to Amity in 1814. It was around that time that Rigdon supposedly got hold of the manuscript," Colleen answered. "Spaulding is buried in the Presbyterian cemetery out in Amity."
This historical-literary chitchat is nice relationship building, Eden thought, but it's not doing much for the investigation. It's time to cut to the chase.
Eden interjected, "That's very interesting. Now Dave, you've had some time to mull over the facts about Amara, Myra, and June. What do you make of it so far?"
"Well, I thought about it awhile. Then I called in Colleen. See, Colleen is more into the paranormal than I am. She hasn't had the same loss-of-faith experience I had. So I think she's better equipped to deal with what you need."
Eden's exasperation was beginning to surface. "So what do you think we need?"
"You need someone skilled in the way you believe Mara was. I know Colleen actually can deliver the results that Mara only pretended to produce."
"So we're back to seances and Ouija boards?" Eden sighed.
Colleen ignored his sarcasm. "I've never had much use for
Ouija," she said. "But we might get insights through the exercises that Amara was trying. I think you might have tuned into something when you and the Sheriff met with her."
Oh boy, here we go, Eden thought.
Perhaps true to her talents, Colleen read his mind. "I know you're convinced it was just smoke and mirrors. But underneath the bullshit, I believe Amara was getting at something. Let's put the mystical stuff aside for a while -- I know you're uncomfortable with it -- and put our heads together."
Shele interrupted, "I know it's irrelevant to the case we're working on, but... I am very curious... back to the Mormons for a second... Colleen, what do you think is the real story about The Book of Mormon?"
Colleen was pleased to return to a favorite topic. "I think it doesn't matter. In the spiritual realm, reality doesn't count for much. Belief has a force of reality to people. Do you know of any religion that isn't real as far as its devotees are concerned? Ask the faithful if their religion is real."
"This sounds like the barracks discussions we had in the Air Force," Eden scowled, now openly impatient and exasperated.
Colleen said, "Forget about a logical, scientific basis, I can call it real, or you can say it's coincidence. If it doesn't work, I can say it's because you didn't believe strongly enough," she grinned. "Isn't that the mystic's cop-out?"
"Dave, you're awfully quiet over there," Eden interjected. "What do you think?"
"I'm just listening," he said. "This is Colleen's thing. I'm here if you need me."
Eden said, "All right. You know, it just struck me -- here we are in some Bermuda Triangle thing. We have the Grave Creek Mound over on the Ohio River, and Prabhupada's Palace of Gold in the hills between here and there, and up in Amity we have the grave of old Solomon Spaulding. Three pretty mysterious places, I'd say. And we can throw in the Moundsville prison."
"Yes," Colleen said. "Grave Creek Mound is just one of numerous earthworks built throughout the area. And the others... did you ever hear of ley lines?
Shele laughed. "How about within the past couple of days? You ever hear of Alfred Watkins?
"You bet," said Colleen. "The Old Straight Track. I read that one years ago. Watkins was the one who originated the term ley line. Did you know there's a road that leads from Kutz Canyon in New Mexico to Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, over thirty miles away? That road is completely straight, not conforming to the landscape. It's been interpreted as a spiritual line, like Watkins' ley lines or the spiritual lines of feng shui."
Shele said, "I've heard of the Chaco Road --"
Colleen interrupted. "Listen, here's another: just west of here is
another spiritual line, the Hopewell Road over in Ohio. Twice as long, lined by walls up to three feet high, and about 200 feet wide. There are such roads worldwide, and no good scientific explanation....
Indian culture, with its shamanistic beliefs, and the mystical origins of life and occult power. One scholar thinks they sought a Tibetan-Arayan-North American connection."
"Lost tribes of the Aryan Nation?" Eden suggested with a straight face. "If you believe the LDS story," Colleen responded. "The Mormons -- or Solomon -- whoever came up with it first. They believe that Jaredites came to America and were destroyed. They were followed by the Mound Builders -- who they say were the Lamanites and Nephites -- the lost tribes. The Lamanites became red-skinned to mark them for their sins. Warfare eventually broke out, with the Lamanites eventually winning."
"Sounds like there's a lot of room in this for some space aliens," Eden suggested, still poker-faced....
(pages 111-117 not transcribed, due to copyright restrictions)
polite, and now I know exactly as much about what happened to Myra Kinchloe as I did when she first disappeared.
"Now I've got a head full of Nazis, Russians, Krishnas, Mormons, and aliens. My mind is ringing with ley lines, feng shui, telekinesis, and other paranormal bullshit. I know more about the history of all that crap than I ever wanted. Right now, I'd settle for some good old-fashioned evidence of any kind: bullets, fingerprints, tire tracks, shell casings, motives, suspects -- that's what I need to work with. I have a tough enough time dealing with a here-and-now world I can touch!"
He sighed hard. "Okay, now what did you think?"
"Well, I didn't think much of it at first. But now, I'm getting creeped out," she said. "None of the pieces mean much, but when you put them together -- well, I don't know what you get, but to me, it's... creepy. That Moundsville-Amity ley line just north of us -- ooh," she shuddered....
(pages 119-146 not transcribed, due to copyright restrictions)
..."Hmm," said Shele. "I can't see anything familiar, or significant. If I use my imagination... see, over there on the right -- and -- holy crap -- look at this," she pointed to the engraving at the bottom of the stone.
Sure enough, there was something that resembled the skeleton key used to unlock the holding cell back at the Sheriff's office.
Shele said, "The handle part isn't just right, but it sure looks like some sort of key,"
"Ah, duh, I don't think the Adenas had locks," he teased.
In her best professorial voice, Shele intoned, "What we have here is an ancient stone-age version of Joseph Smith's gold plates. We have before us, if we could decipher it, a message for the ages concerning the welfare of mankind ...
(pages 148-153 not transcribed, due to copyright restrictions)
...Driving back to Rainelle, Eden asked if she wanted to see Amity. She eagerly agreed, knowing this would be their last investigative trip of the summer.
Aside from the churches, a fire hall, and a few stores and shops, there's little to see in Amity. Colleen McKay's shop was right on the main road, with a "Closed" sign in the window, not that they had intended to visit her. Eden wasn't up for any more of the region's mystical history. Her shop was quaint, but seemed to have a reserved pall hanging over it.
The Presbyterian Church dominated the village. Eden parked in a gravel drive leading to the cemetery. They strolled through the cemetery, which surrounded the church. They looked for Solomon Spaulding's grave, but Eden didn't want anyone to know they were looking for it. People living near the church probably were pestered by curiosity seekers, and Eden didn't wanted to be counted among them. Nor did he want the world to know he was looking for a Spaulding link to a recent murder. It all seemed so ridiculous, and if anyone found out, they might send him to be Herman McMurchy's roommate.
"Here we are, walking over the dead -- again," he said to Shele, who was examining one of several table tombs, with their huge stone stabs laid flat instead of upright. The slab is supported by legs underneath, like a table.
"I've not seen gravestones like this before," she said.
"They're more common in the British Isles. I think they are Celtic. Anyway, they seem to be used by the Presbyterians -- Scotch-Irish, mostly. And older -- I don't know of any recent ones. Great tabletop for a picnic," he added.
"Maybe for Hannibal Lecter," Shele said. "You think old Solomon is here somewhere?"
"According to the cemetery records, he's here. Born in 1761
and died 20 October 1816. A couple of days of a wake at mist, and then planted out here around October 22nd, I'd say. I checked a calendar at the library. He died on a Sunday."
"Well, this is a needle in a haystack. I doubt that we'll find him."
"Wait just a minute. Over there, across the drive from the table tombs. There it is."
"There what is?"
"Solomon Spaulding's tombstone."
They had missed it because they were looking for a very old headstone. Spaulding's had been replaced with a newer, large monument. Sure enough, there it was, complete with its epitaph:
IN MEMORY OF
WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE
OCTOBER 28, A.D. 1816,
AGED 55 YEARS.
Kind cherubs, guard the sleeping clay
Until the great decision day,
And saints complete in glory rise
To share the triumph of the skies
They turned and walked the crunching gravel drive back to Eden's truck. The air had cooled quickly, and a few golden leaves dropped and skittered before them.
"We could tour downtown Amity," Eden joked, "if there were a downtown to tour. I suppose we had better set sail for Rainelle."
He didn't mention the date discrepancy. It was just one of those records-versus-the-tombstone things, he reckoned. And he could have sworn he saw somebody duck behind the side of the church as they studied Solomon's gravestone... but given the setting... well,
(pages 156-176 not transcribed, due to copyright restrictions)
"Come on in," Eden said. "Have a seat. I remember you take your coffee black."
They enjoyed pancakes and sausage over chitchat, and then Dave plunged in. "Well, we've both had time to think it over. Your thoughts?
"It just seems to me we oughta get an archeologist --"
"Hold on before you say anything else. I have to tell you some things. When we lifted the stone on the sarcophagus, or whatever it is, I felt a strong wave of deja vu. I thought about it so hard, I couldn't sleep. It kept going through my head again and again, like a song you can't get out of your mind. What do they call that?"
"An earworm. I had one that lasted for weeks. Also called repetunitis."
"Whatever. Anyway, it finally came roaring back -- what I was trying to recall, not the song. Remember when we talked about Solomon Spaulding and his novel, Manuscript Found? Well, that's it!" he exclaimed joyfully. "In fact, it's often pointed out as a direct parallel to Joseph Smith's discovery of the golden plates that led to the Book of Mormon, and some tried to use it as proof that Smith ripped off the whole thing."
He excitedly fumbled through the makeshift briefcase, producing a sheet of scruffy-looking notepaper. He put on a pair of half-lens
reading specs, and intoned:
I happened to tread on a flat Stone. This was at a small distance from the fort and it lay on the top of a small mound of Earth exactly horizontal. The face of it had a singular appearance. I discovered a number of characters, which appeared to me to be letters, but so much effaced by the ravages of time that I could not read the inscription. With the assistance of a lever, I raised the Stone --
He peered at Eden over the reading glasses. "Well, what do you think? That's old Solomon Spaulding's description of finding the manuscript. Deja vu all over again, right? But read Joseph Smith's version of finding what he claims to be the origins of the Book of Mormon: he gives a similar description of digging up the gold plates. He says they were buried at Hill Cumorah, just a few miles south of Palmyra, New York. Uh, that's beyond Rochester, up there in the Finger Lakes region. Anyway, Smith said he used a lever to pry up a stone that covered where the plates were buried."
Eden snorted. "Seems like there were a lot of folks prying stones off burial sites back then." Both of them knew Spaulding's story was a tale he made up and intended to publish as a novel, but Joseph Smith's story became part of a well-established religion that now has over nine million members.
Eden told Dave that maybe Solomon's story wasn't just made up... maybe he found something like they found yesterday. Maybe he found something but kept it to himself. Maybe he used the tale to embellish his story. It was all guesswork. No proof of anything -- except for what they had found.
"Now, if you're ready for some really weird shit," Dave resumed, "just over the hill from where we dug up that stump, there was a frontier blockhouse called the Swanson Fort, built in the late 1700s. Back then, a blockhouse was just a log cabin with a palisade fence,
where settlers could go to escape the Indians. It wasn't really a fort in the military sense, but people around here just use that word.
"Remember, Spaulding said his find was a small distance from the fort. That's another parallel with Joseph Smith's story: both the Spaulding tale and Smith involve finding something under a rock near a fort. Is that spooky, or what?"
Eden was in deep thought. "Hey, maybe our find is just like Smith's. You haven't seen any angels hovering around, have you?"
Dave ignored that. He explained that one problem in researching anything in the mid-1800s was that hoaxes were so popular then. The Cardiff Giant, sea serpents, perpetual motion machines, chess-playing machines, and stories about lost tribes abounded. One guy had people convinced that Patagonia was inhabited by a race of giants. Anything exotic appealed, and few folks knew much about the world beyond their hometown.
Every medicine show had its Wild Man from Borneo, or some such. All this stuff was driven by the Enlightenment," Dave said. "When scientists, let alone the common folk, were presented with real discoveries like a duckbilled platypus or the remains of a mammoth, on one would believe them. No wonder they were skeptical. It seems the nineteenth century was one of hellacious good fun."
Eden mused, "Ya know, it's not hard to imagine Solomon Spaulding mulling over how he would reveal what he had found to the world. He would start with a fanciful tale, embellish it, and let it lay awhile. Then, little by little, he would slip "truth" to folks. It might have worked except for one thing -- he died before the Revelation of Spaulding could be published."
If it weren't for the indisputable fact of a religion with over nine million believers, a revelation of pre-Columbian lost tribes would seem as fantastic as Eden's freshly hatched, hare-brained theory about Spaulding.
(pages 180-188 not transcribed, due to copyright restrictions)
with the Solomon Spaulding story -- trying to recreate it."
"Yeah," Eden said gloomily, someone too cheap to use gold plates.
"Eden, it does make sense, if you think about it. The site is awfully close to where Spaulding lived out his last days. And Gus thinks someone may have wanted to mess with the Mormons' minds. Hell, it might have been Spaulding himself."
"You said they took more pictures. Do you think they'll give you any more information?" Eden asked hopefully.
"Roger says he'll run a computer program on the coverstone characters. He says it doesn't appear to be a language as such, but it might contain an encrypted message. Probably about a bunch of Swedish monks lost at sea and making it to the Americas --"
"That would be about right, and the cuneiform river stones are, no doubt, the Ten Commandments from the lost tribes of Israel, except three are missing."
"Sounds about like it to me," said Dave, gloomily. "At least now we know we aren't going to get rich. This could be a big controversy for years: Is it a message left by ancient mariners? Or Spaulding's attempt to stimulate interest in his novel? Or a cache of information passed down by ancient astronauts? I can hardly wait until the National Enquirer shows up."
"Well, we can always hope it turns out to be a real ancient find," Eden said. "Who knows, who could tell?"
"Start holding your breath," Dave grumped.
"Well, even if it is a hoax, it's still a pretty amazing piece of history. And being from the 1800s, it might even have value to people who collect that sort of stuff," Eden encouraged.
"Look, Eden, I've poked around long enough to know something: any legitimate archeologist is going to treat this find like the plague. So much controversy has been stirred up over the Ohio Valley aborigines -- the earthworks and all -- that it's politically
incorrect to even speculate on it. Prestigious scientists have had their careers toasted on the Hopewells and the Adenas. This whole area of research got mucked up in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Now, Eden, let's mix in some angry LDS folks... oh, I can just imagine!
He continued, "Here... let me read you some of what Gus and his colleague translated.
"The family name I sustain is Fabius, being descended from the illustrious General of that name. I was born at Rome and received my education under the tuition of a very learned Master. At the time that Constantine arrived at that city and had overcome his enemies and was firmly seated on the throne of the Roman Empire, I was introduced to him as a young Gentleman --
The vessel laden with provisions for the army -- (unreadable) -- boundless Ocean. Soon the whole crew became lost and bewildered --
On the fifth day after this we came in sight of land, we entered a spacious River and continued sailing up the same many leagues until we came in view of a town. Every heart now palpitated with -- (unreadable) -- distance from the shore. Immediately the natives ran with apparent signs of surprise and astonishment, to the bank of the River..."
"Any of that sound familiar?" Dave asked.
"It wouldn't have before we got into all this. But I've read some of Spaulding's stuff. I'd say it's Spaulding word-for-word."
"Bingo!" exclaimed Dave. "It looks like we found a plant by the Great One -- Solomon Spaulding himself -- or a plant by someone who wanted to jerk off the experts with a faux Spauldingesque find. Either way, it makes our discovery just a curiosity."
"Well, it'll make a great display for the George County Museum
in Rainelle, unless we can find a collector with cash," Eden smirked.
"Humph. If you want to peddle the stuff, I'll take my cut," Dave said. "But I've pretty much lost interest."
So far, the Deputy's success at treasure hunting matched his success at sleuthing. Peddling their find had no appeal.
And then a little bulb flickered in his brain... maybe the Mormons would be willing to finance a project to discredit the Spaulding story for all time!
(pages 192-196 not transcribed, due to copyright restrictions)
... "Hey," mumbled Pauly, "that's jus' like what the grand poohbah-whatsis up at the lodge said happened back in Hamul when the Tihu located where the Araca would be found."
"What the f--?" Lin answered incredulously. "What in the pluperfect hell are you gibbering about, Pauly? You don't belong to them Masons, do you? I know they're big into that Egyptian bullshit flapdoodle -- but just what the hell are you talkin' about?"
"Naw, ain't none o' that there 'gyptian stuff. That was discredited years ago. Never was in Egypt -- nor Asia neither. Came right over through Ethiopia, through South 'merica -- maybe Mexico. That Well o' Souls is jus' a bunch of Hollywood hooey anyway. We got the real goods. Dug up the story just like old Joe Smith done," Pauly slurred. "Never found it though -- they never did find it."
Lin frowned. "Never found what, Pauly? ...
(page 198 not transcribed, due to copyright restrictions)
was really getting interesting. Pauly knew something juicy and had been told to keep his big mouth shut. Lin could spend the rest of the night on this!
As it turned out, Pauly didn't know very much about the Araca. But he did tell Lin that the family, which he interchangeably called the lodge, was some fraternal organization or cult that developed in the mid-1800s. It was organized after some stones were discovered that bore obscure writing. Pauly rambled on about a man named Rigdon who started the sect long ago. Pauly was getting into it, trying to impress Lin with his secret knowledge of the family.
Then, a few days later, the beans began to spill when Lin let it slip to Eden that Pauly had [been] blabbing about some sort of mysterious cult that was operating in the George County. ...
here's what I found out: Andy, Randy, Ted, and Pauly belong to some sort of bullshit quasi-religious sect that was started sometime around 1848 or 1849 by this Walter Rigdon character. I'm saying it was kinda like a religion, because it was like a lot of other lodges that were popular back then; lots of symbols, incantations, hoodoo, that sort of thing. I think it's more like a good-old-boy clique than anything else.
"Anyway, back then Rigdon convinced a bunch of people that he had discovered runes -- that's what he called 'em, runes -- that contained messages that only he could decipher because he was a Chosen One. He said the messages were from some lost tribes that moved into America that got here by way of Asia. They came from God-knows-where and set up housekeeping out west in New Mexico or some damn place. Pauly says they were taught that the messages were revealed by a Kachina or something, by name of Makya or something, who will come again to help others and bring peace to the world. He wasn't too clear on how the messages got on the stones and into Rigdon's hands.
"Rigdon also said Makya was a guide, or channel, through the spirit world who would reveal to the faithful followers the location of the Araca. And all the faithful would follow and take orders from Rigdon the Revealer, who is the representative of Makya on earth. He threw in a lot of Great Spirit talk too.
"I think of you could get this load in a spreader, you'd have enough manure to fertilize all of George County," she concluded.
"Anything else you can think of?"
"Like I said, Pauly ain't the sort you give sharp scissors to. Come on now, Eden, level with me. This is some bunch of Peyote-button munchers you're trying to bust, right?"
"You're too smart for me, Lin," he replied, leaving her hanging.
"I'da believed you if you'd denied it. Now you're trying to bullshit the bartender," she said, peevishly. "Thanks for nothing."
"Anyway," he asked, "does he have a clue what an Araca is?"
"He says it's some kind of gadget that focuses the energy of the gods, kinda' like the Ark of the Covenant, I'm figurin'. He don't know what it looks like, but he thinks Rigdon, or someone in the early days -- that's what they call anything before the twentieth century -- tried to make one. According to Pauly, it was destroyed by some sort of angry beings or was lost. He didn't seem very clear about it, or a whole lot of anything else, for that matter. He said the location of the original Araca hasn't been revealed, and won't be until the end-time -- whatever that is. I figure it's like the Book of Revelation story, ya know?"
"So Eden, that's it. When you pick up Pauly Loughman's brain, the pickings are slim, I think the lodge just let him come along so they would have someone to clean up after them."
Eden chuckled,. "You got that right. Thanks for all the help. I'll remember, and if you need anything, you just let me know."
"Oh, there's one other thing."
"What's that, Lin?"
"Pauly said something about not being initiated yet. He didn't seem to be looking forward to it either. You got any idea what that might be all about?'
"Nope," Eden replied, "you know more about it than I do."
He had the same feeling after talking with Lin that he had after his conversation with Colleen: all very interesting but not very useful. There was a lot of weird shit going on in and around George County and Rainelle, but it didn't seem to be connected to the dead woman.
Eden did fantasize a scenario in which the three young women wind up in a satanic rite and are sacrificed to Makya at Andy
Walbridge's Funeral Home in a ritual to free up the location of the genuine Araca. In the fantasy, Amara commits suicide to become the spiritual bride of Makya in a ceremony conducted by the resurrected Walt Rigdon. But Eden didn't share his fantasy with anyone, for fear of having to repeat it to Weird Herman Harold McMurchy's shrink....
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..."Something to drink?" Dave offered. "There's coffee, and soda in the fridge. I'm afraid to drink caffeine -- I don't need any more stimulation. I feel like I'm on speed."
"Okay, well begin," Eden said. "Sharing will relax you."
"All right. One of the hardest things I have to sort out is what Sidney Rigdon really believed, and what was pure bullshit, or what he may have been duped into believing. You remember Rigdon was the one who supposedly stole the Spaulding novel? Anyway, add to that dilemma how much of all this is hoax and how much is real, how much is psychic and how much is scientifically provable, and you can see the --"
Eden scowled and interrupted, "I think you can put most of it in the hoax-and-bullshit category."
Dave forged ahead. Colleen theorized that Rigdon was part believer, part charlatan, and partly taken in by hoaxes that were floating around at the time. He figured Rigdon might have really believed the whole lost tribes story and stole Spaulding's novel, believing it to be New World gospel.
"Who knows," he said, "I have suspicions and pretty good indications that Rigdon and Joseph Smith arranged to have it "revealed" to the world. I don't have hard evidence, but I think
Rigdon, Spaulding, and Smith had some sort of falling out and Rigdon went his merry way and tried to create his own church, or at least a cult based on the Manuscript Found revelations. Spaulding wound up in the Amity cemetery, Smith founded the Church of Latter Day Saints, and Rigdon -- well, who knows? The word is that another Rigdon -- Walter Rigdon -- was involved somehow, but it might be that he inherited the group from Sidney."
Eden picked up on the word "cult," but he did not mention the Andy/Randy group. It would only muddy the already murky waters.
Dave went to the sink and drew a glass of water. He held it up to the light and examined it, apparently for sediment. Eden figured he would use it to make a point, but instead he drank without comment.
"I have no reason either to believe or to doubt any of it," Eden said, "If that's what you brought me out here for -- to assure you that you're not crazy and you're on the right track --"
"No," Dave said abruptly. "That's not why I called you. There's a lot more, and it's more bizarre."...
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the mysterious stuff that goes on in this area, Indians avoiding the Ohio River Valley because it's haunted, the Grave Creek Mound, the weird vibes emanating from the prison -- the Germans, the Russians -- an elaborate Hindu temple thousands of miles from India, in what is pretty fundamental Christian country, and in -- of all places -- West Virginia? And on to Amity, and the lost-and-found stones and plates? Those stones and plates may have led to the establishment of a yet another religion, Mormonism? Is this all just coincidence?"
"Dave, maybe you've been at this too long," Eden said quietly. "Now don't get your dander up, but I'm really not convinced. It's just too far-fetched. You know I'm a skeptic by nature... and I know you've spent a lot of time on this... but maybe that's the problem... you may be too close to it --"
"Okay, okay," Dave broke in, "I'm not a hundred-percent on the piezo-stuff, but I am convinced there is much more to all we are seeing than just random, unrelated, strange occurrences. Eden: If you can stand atop Grave Creek Mound and feel nothing, or you can stare down into the Moundsville prison yard and not feel it, or you don't get powerful vibes at New Vrindavan, or you can't feel the psychic tide in Amity Cemetery -- then you can tell me I'm a nut case, and I'll give up."
The Deputy stared at the impassioned Dave for many seconds. Then he slowly dropped his eyes, focusing on Dave's coffee cup on the table. There was nothing he could do but sit in awkward silence.
After several minutes, Eden announced, "Well, it's getting awful late. You have put a lot of good, hard work into this, Dave. Why don't we sleep on it?"
Eden shuffled off to his truck and headed east to Random Creek. Out there on the western sky, just below the handle of the Big Dipper, a brilliant flash left a long, luminous trail behind it, heading toward the horizon. Go. go, he thought. Go home to Chaco Canyon.
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... "Eden, you can't say anything that I haven't already. But Aingeal is Aingeal, and she's on a mission, determined to get the story. Like you said, she's a big girl."
Then she added with a note of concern, "You really don't think this Rigdon coven, or cult, whatever the hell they are, is up to anything criminal, do you?"
"I suppose not, but they're a pretty kinky outfit. When you have a weird-ass initiation rite like that, it creates a strong hold on people. And in this town, people will do anything to avoid a scandal. So it leads to a code of silence and coverup." ...
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... Randy invited her home for dinner several times and he suggested they attend church together. "Randy belongs to one of those holiness churches. He attends a tabernacle out in the western end, somewhere around Brightbrook."
After awhile, at one of the dinners at his home, Randy introduced Aingeal to funeral director Andy Walbridge and his wife. They got along well, as Aingeal continued to gain acceptance into Randy's circle. Eventually, she worked her way into a group of his associates and later into a clique she began to call "the inner circle." This coterie consisted of Andy Walbridge, Ted Dunlow and -- to Eden's surprise -- barber Harry Woodland.
Aingeal mentioned a couple of other names Eden dodn't recognoze, people from the next county. And it was doubtless a coincidence, but one name she mentioned was Russian: Mikail Pavlock, a Ukrainian who had immigrated shortly after the Soviet Union breakup.
Aingeal continued, "I haven't heard anything about the Rigdon group itself. But I'm sure these guys are part of it. I'm also quite sure the wives of Walbridge, Dunlow, and Woodyard are involved. I assume the other wives are in it as well. I'm not sure about whether the Ukrainian is married. If he is, I feel for his wife -- he seems like the kind of sweetheart who would enjoy being a prison guard."
Aingeal claimed to be on the verge of being invited to join the
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Dave was busily working on a cocktail table for one of his city clients, but happy to share coffee with his friend. Consumed by the murder cases, Eden had forgotten about their find, but Dave brought it up.
"Hey, I've got news on the stuff we found when we dug up that old stump. Gus Bimelar called. He remembered at a conference a few years back that he ran across a woman who was researching nineteenth-century hoaxes. She was particularly interested in the Rigdon-Spaulding controversy and how it might have been related to the founding of the Mormon Church.
"Well, he didn't pay much attention to this woman back then, because there are so many loonies who have theories about lost tribes and the Mormon Church," Dave explained. "But Gus now believes it's very probable that our find is one of three or four other plants that were made by one of Sidney Rigdon's relatives -- Walter Rigdon.
"According to what the woman could find out -- she did a lot of genealogical research on the Rigdon family -- Walter Rigdon went around the countryside, setting up artifacts that could be discovered, so he could begin his own version of a lost-tribes religion. Maybe he wanted to start a Latter-Latter Day Saints religion of his own?" he chuckled.
"Did you get the name of that woman?" Eden asked.
"You noticed I didn't tell you right away?" Dave teased. "It's a mysterious person you're already aware of."
Eden thought, Colleen McKay -- Aingeal Farrell -- or even Shele -- no --
"Mara," Dave announced.
"Mara Kinchloe? She'd be too young to -- "
"No, no. Mara -- Amara McClure. Who'da thunk it? She, sure as hell, never said anything to me about her research. Maybe she planned to write a book, and was keeping it a secret."
Eden suddenly had an image of Amara McClure lying on her bed, a .38 slug in her temple. With it came a queasy sensation in his stomach and the instant rebirth of his hunch that her death was not a suicide.
Dave said, "I remember when you were investigating her shooting. I figured she found something she shouldn't have been messing with. Remember that?"
Eden nodded. He remembered all too well their discussions surrounding how Amara killed herself.
"Wow," Eden said. "This is quite a surprise. I need a little time to digest this news. This revelation alone might make us reinvestigate Amara's death."
Shaken, Eden said his thanks and departed. As he drove, his mind raced in speculation...
If Amara McClure killed herself... could it have been because she stumbled onto something about the Rigdonite cult? His suspicions emerged from the world of a personal fantasy into a full blown vision of possibility. Maybe she uncovered something a cult member wanted kept secret. Maybe she tried to blackmail one of them. Maybe she had become involved with them, creating a reason for her to kill herself -- drugs -- a bad trip -- occult dabblings -- his mind raced on a trip of its own....
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This exasperated Eden a bit. "But don't you find it odd that she never said anything about it? And that we didn't find any references to her research? Or any of her notes?"
"Yeah, it's a little strange. You'd think [we'd] find something. What are you suggesting?"
"Hell, I don't know. It's odd, that's all. Maybe someone got in her house and cleaned it out?"
It was Shele's turn to be exasperated. "Good grief, you never give up, do you? she exclaimed. "One of the Rigdonites killed Aunt Amara to keep her from finding them out and revealing their cult to the world, and then they went through all her things to be sure no evidence was left behind, is that it?"
"There's no point in continuing this. There's nothing to go on. So let's just drop it, okay?"...
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Shele had shown him earlier. There were some old yellowed tablets he hadn't seen before. They weren't informative, and didn't reveal anything Rigdon-related. They seemed to be notes taken during her client sessions. They had escaped one of her flash-paper fires.
It struck him that, since he hadn't been able to find anything, perhaps he should instead look for nothing -- in other words, something removed, something missing, something noticeable by its absence. He picked up the loose-leaf notebook and thumbed through it, wondering if any pages had been removed.
He turned to a familiar page where was scrawled:
-- GN Dulnev -- Parapsychology and Psychophysics
-- VP Zolokazov & VA Zagriadsky. Experiments on Levitation & Telekinesis
-- LM Porvin & SV Speransky -- Study of the Man-Animal Bond
The next page seemed to continue Amara's ramblings, but a couple of pages later, at the bottom, he spotted an incomplete sentence:
He had been a member of the Mahoning Baptist Association from 1820 to 1822; thus, he was returning to Baptist Congregations which appreciated both his preaching ability and his support of Campbell's doctrines. The Mahoning Association sheltered Campbell's reformers until it was dissolved in 1830, when most of the members joined the newly-formed Disciples of
He turned the page expecting to see "Christ" or some reference to Campbell or Campbellites. Instead, he found another interrupted sentence that obviously did not connect to the previous page:
the ravages of time, that I could not read the inscription. With the assistance of a leaver I raised the stone.
Hmm. It appeared that an entire wad of material had been removed. Eden later would affirm his suspicion that this was a lone from the introduction to Solomon Spaulding's Manuscript Found, which begins:
Near the west bank of the Coneaught River there are the remains of an ancient fort. As I was walking and forming various conjectures respecting the character, situation, & numbers of those people who far exceeded the present Indians in works of art and ingenuity, I happened to tread on a flat stone. This was at a small distance from the fort, & it lay on the top of a small mound of Earth exactly horizontal. The face of it had a singular appearance. I discovered a number of characters which appeared to me to be letters, but so much effaced by the ravages of time --
For whatever reason, someone -- perhaps McClure herself -- had removed a sizeable number of pages from the notebook.
Well, it proved that Amara McClurg had been dabbling in either the works of Spaulding, or more likely, Rigdon. It confirmed Dave Quinn's information that she had been involved in Spaulding Rigdon research. But unless someone could make a case that her research had gotten her into trouble with modern-day Rigdonites, it was of no help. ...
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... After Aingeal's initiation, the members gave her their version of how the Lodge of the Runes was founded. There were gaps between the group's version and what Eden and friends had learned about the actual history. The whole Spaulding-Rigdon-Smith mess was steeped in controversy, and no one was sure who was planting misleading evidence.
Walter Rigdon, founder of the sect, had little connection to Sidney Rigdon. Some claimed Walter was a cousin, some an uncle, and others said Walter wasn't related and wasn't even a Rigdon. According to one story from those who doubtless were considered heretics, Walter Rigdon was in fact Doctor Philastus Hurlbut, who was excommunicated from the Mormon Church for participating in the Spaulding heresy.
Whoever Walter was, he had -- much like Joseph Smith or the guy in the Spaulding novel -- found a stone buried in the ground and
used a lever to pry it up. This revelation did a great deal to confirm Eden's suspicion that old Walt, or Hurlbut, or whoever he was, had planted his own stones, perhaps including the ones Dave and Eden had found.
More and more, it appeared that Rigdon -- whoever he was -- had planned his discovery as a competition to Smith and the Mormons. It was his way of getting even for excimmunication -- forming his own version of a religion based on the lost tribes and lost gospels. After the finding, Rigdon had the opportunity to write his own gospel and create his own version of a New World religion. He probably added the south-of-the-border twist so it wouldn't appear to be just a Spaulding or Smith rip-off.
It was suspected that, sometime during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Rigdonites grew obsessed with the Ark of the Covenant. At that time, renewed interest in the paranormal flourished, and Celtic-Germanic cultism ran rampant. With their proximity to Moundsville, they could have come in contact with Nazi mystics who were working there. The interest in the Ark no doubt reinforced the cult's belief that they were among the truly chosen.
So, it was easy for Rigdon to retrofit the Ark into the original schema of their religious dogma. Tracing it from the Americas, back through Chaco, and from there to Mexico, to Ethiopia, to Egypt, and then to the Holy Land, was a simple matter for the simple-minded. Since they were so secretive, small, and didn't have the resources to build a magnificent temple, a reproduction of the Ark would have made a fine anchor point for the newly-formed Rigdon cult....
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The pair operated much faster than Eden could have imagined. By the very next weekend, Shele called. They had made good on their threat to snoop out the Rigdonite barn. She promised a Rigdon Report when she came out for the weekend at his place. By now she was so accustomed to Eden's Random Creek estate that there was no need for Eden's help, or interference, in the kitchen, where she busily prepared breakfast for them.
"Well, it's creepy," she said. "You go out the main road, then turn off on a little lane that crosses railroad tracks, and just beyond the tracks is the barn. Yes, it creeped me out -- both the railroad tracks and the barn.
"Anyway, it's a pretty far-out place. You would expect more security, but they just locked the door. Once we got by that, it was smooth sailing. They don't even have a basic alarm system. I suppose after all the years of calm, they became complacent."
"The only problem out there would be juvenile vandals," Eden said. "But tell me, how the heck did you get through the door? Did you jimmy it or pick the lock?"
"It was really tough," Shele grinned. "Aingeal has a key. She filched it from Randy's pocket when he left his clothes on a living room chair one day. She took it to Carl Dunlaney's hardware and made a copy. Leave it to Aingeal to find the easy way. You see, Mr. Inspector Whitloe, women don't have to resort to complicated ways to getting things accomplished."
(pages 294-296 not transcribed, due to copyright restrictions)
I'd have experienced one of those probes the guys who have close encounters describe."
Shele explained that she and Aingeal were curious about the weight and tried to lift the handles on the box. They found the rings weren't solid gold, but gold-leafed -- probably made of copper or bronze. They were surprised that the handles weren't attached to the box, just to its lid. When they lofted the handles, the lid came loose, and they could see the interior.
"Since there was no place to set the lid down, we rotated it so we could see inside. We expected the Ten Commandments, Aaron's Rod, or a pot of manna. But the only thing inside was a large blue glass cylinder or pot. Its bottom and sides were covered with more gold leaf -- more like foil. The only part not covered was the top edge, so we could tell it was cobalt glass.
"And there was a copper strap that stood up from inside the cylinder and flared out at the top, like a spring. It looked like it would contact the lod when closed. It was polished on the flared end to make good contact with the lid, or on through to one of the angels on its top, On the other end was another strap, only it was connected to the outside of the cylinder."
"Damn, Shele, that sounds like a Leyden jar! Scientists way back used those to store electricity. Ben Franklin stored the lightning discharge from his kite in a Leyden jar. It's essentially a large capocitor that holds an electrical charge. Once it was charged up, a Leyden jar could deliver quite a jolt if you touched it. Now, that explains the angel's nose and pointy thing that poked your butt -- those were contact points for a good electrical zappola! I'll bet Walter Rigdon built his Ark with this primitive electrical system that would zap the fear of God into anyone who fooled with it. Between his runes and his Ark, he must have been Da Magic Man. No wonder he developed a following. Walter Rigdon must have been a damned clever fellow."
Eden wondered how ol' Walt might have charged up his Leyden jar. Later that night, Wikipedia explained it. At the time the group was founded, experimenters were using an electrophorus, an apparatus for generating static electricity, consisting of a hard rubber disk that is given a negative charge by friction, and a metal plate given a positive charge by induction when in contact with the disk. Another website gave directions for making one from plastic and an aluminum cookie sheet.
Eden continued, "I can just imagine Rigdon luring one of the faithful onto the device, then zapping the living shit out of him just to prove he was The Man.
"Did you find any books or records showing how the thing was used?"
"No. But if Randy has anything like that lying around, it won't take Aingeal long to come out with it," she grinned. "We think the Ark is a leftover from the first days when Rigdon got his congregation running. But it hasn't just been sitting. Someone polishes and maintains it. There wasn't a speck of dust on it, and it appeared to have been used fairly recently. We thought [it] might be another version of the initiation stone, but there's really no way for someone to stay up there with another person on top of them."
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... "Yeah, I've heard that one."
Then she talked about the Rigdonites. To anyone that learned of their existence, they called it Lodge of the Runes. But to the members, it was the Rigdon Tabernacle. As it turned out, they actually did call themselves Rigdonites.
Aingeal believed that Philastus Hurlbut was the mysterious Walter Rigdon, and he was the legitimate founder of the group -- if there was anything legitimate in the whole thing. The group insisted that Hurlbut was related -- by some spiritual relationship -- to Sidney Rigdon.
Philastus Hurlbut, or Walter Rigdon, or whoever the hell he was, had rigged a site near a fort where someone would "discover" the
runes. That done, he was on his way to forming a New World/Lost Tribes religion. Eden figured that's why he took on the Walter Rigdon persona, to align himself in people's minds with Sidney. With a little knowledge of electricity and basic physics, he was a notch above the average southwestern Pennsylvanian bumpkin of the nineteenth century and was able, like a modern televangelist, to flimflam the faithful. The only trouble was that the faithful lacked wealth. They were dirt farmers and small-town merchants so the "church" was doomed to similar poverty.
Aingeal went on, "The Rigdonites are a hodgepodge of PreColumbian Indian stuff, Aztec, Inca, Anazai, Adena, Hopewell -- along with a liberal sprinkling of Mormonism. In the '60s or '70s -- probably to boost membership -- someone threw in Carlos Castaneda and some of his bullshit. The Mormon part is why I believe the Hurlbut heresy theory," she said.
"I'm sorry I wasn't able to come up with more than occasional use of peyote, Eden. In all, they seem to be a pretty benign bunch. A bit kinky, but just a gathering of late-blooming flower children. I think you'll find a similar population in any remote area. Harmless to a fault."
Eden thought otherwise, but said nothing.
She learned from Andy that the group met sporadically to perform ceremonies of "the Ancients." They also would observe celestial phenomena through the year, nibble some peyote buttons, have visions, and dabble in the paranormal and occult.
"When those silo slits aligned with celestial objects, they performed ceremonies and made offerings -- and no, I couldn't find evidence of hearts being removed or animal sacrifice. I think Randy would shit himself if he saw a drop of blood. He was a real pansy when it came to that. And, on the topic of pansy, I never figured out if he was bi or not, but I suspect he was.
"There is one thing though," she said thoughtfully
"Remember that alignment of planets we talked about, the one that will only happen three times in the next century? Evidently that is a big deal with them. No one, and I mean no one, would talk about it. Believe me, I tried to pry out of Randy at really opportune moments, when his defenses were down."
So there it was. The Rigdonites seemed like just another bunch of nut bars who would get together for fun, fellowship, hocus-pocus, voodoo, or whatever their shtick was. Getting into the group's inner circle was kinkier than some clubs, but considering the backwater they came from, what else did they have for entertainment?
"Oh, and I just remembered -- there may be others."
"Other Rigdonite groups, other members somewhere else. I'm not sure. All I know is that one time when Randy and Ted were together, Ted mentioned something about others in upstate New York. I got the impression some drifted up to the Rochester area in the early 1900s. But when I asked, they shrugged it off and seemed [to] get a little agitated, so I didn't pursue it. But who knows -- maybe I'll write a book."
Then they talked about Shele, sharing their admiration for her, and noting the frustration over her murder -- no leads thus far -- the truck indeed was stolen and no other evidence was found at the scene. When Eden and Aingeal parted, Eden couldn't know it would be the last time he would see her.
In a funk, Eden went home, pulled into the garage, removed the plastic box from the back of his pickup, and placed it on a shelf at the rear of the garage. Later he would be unable to recall doing that. He immediately went to the bedroom and lay down on the bed and went into a sound, dreamless sleep.
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...For some strange reason he had difficulty bringing himself to open the lid. For some time, he sat, staring at the box as though it were a Pandoran container. However, once opened, he couldn't wait to get at the contents. He set the shoebox aside and lifted out a round cookie tin. Next were some magazines, and under them a book. It was an early stained, weathered copy of Manuscript Found. There also were copies of The Old Straight Track, and Journey to Ixtlan, and the entire text of The Teachings of Don Juan: a Yaqui Way of Knowledge. Down under that was a newspaper with headlines that read, "Third C-Ed Found in Gamelands." He found a fat, hefty legal envelope with a tie of ribbons around it. A peek inside revealed 200 to 300 pages of lined notepaper, filled with the unmistakable, diminutive handwriting of Amara McClure.
After adjusting the lamp, he laid the envelope on the table beside the sofa. He settled back into a sofa cushion, took a deep breath, and began to read. And the first thing he read was, "This document to be placed in my deposit box and read only in the event of my demise."
An instant chill struck Eden, an ominous foreboding, a tightening in his stomach. Jesus, he thought. Was the note instructions to her attorney, or something else? And how did it come to be in Shele Ocevan's car? He began to read.
"This is an attempt to explain my demise, which is imminent. That being said, let me make clear that life is not so dear to me. I am nearing old age and have lived what I experienced to the full. I have nothing to leave, I have no living relatives, so there is no need for a will."
Odd, your niece Shele is a living relative, even if you didn't see her often, Eden thought. The oversight must have been a lapse on Amara's part.
If that wasn't jarring enough, the next page began with, "My Involvement in Rigdonism." For the next several pages, Amara explained how she had been recruited in her thirties. Oddly, or perhaps not so oddly, she did not mention her initiation or the rites.
A lengthy history of the founding of the Rigdonites followed. It agreed with what Eden, Shele, and Aingeal had figured out, and added some apocryphal embellishments as it went. Even after her death, Amara planned to make the whole thing sound a lot better than it was. She devoted several pages to some "ancient astronauts" nonsense, trying to establish a link between them, the Anazai, and the lost tribes.
Eden disciplined himself to keep reading thoroughly, even as his mind raced ahead, impatient to get to the part in which Amara felt endangered. And it was a good thing he kept reading diligently, for he might have missed the introduction to that section. It began with blather about the alignment that must have happened around St. Patrick's Day.
The time of the celestial alignment was drawing near and a suitable suppliant had not been found. If the ritual were to have efficacy, the subject would have to be "true of heart." and young, not past the age of 25.
She used at least a full page to deride modern society and its morals -- along with the inability of the group to find a suitably chaste suppliant.
I know from personal and direct knowledge that Theodore Dunlow said for us not to worry, if push came to shove and we couldn't find anyone, he would arrange for one of the co-eds he knew to be a stand-in. Let it be known if there is anyone who is blameworthy in all of this, it is Mr. Dunlow.
Next, she went on to explain the importance of the celestial alignment rites. apparently no one really knew the origin of this liturgy, but the idea was that there would be one last occasion during the lifetimes of the group's members when the alignment would occur. Therefore, there was a great immediacy. Amara wrote that she did not know if Dunlow had panicked, or if it was his plan all along. Nonetheless, at the appropriate time, he produced the goods.
"I saw Mr. Dunlow, Mr. Winter, and Mr. Walbridge bring a young woman who was in some sort of stuporous state to the meeting that was held that momentous night. Although I have no direct knowledge of them placing the woman on the Ark, I do know they took her to the room for that purpose.
According to our teachings, any woman who was without sin, who is placed on the Ark during the alignment, would be physically transmogrified into Makya, the princess of peace who would rule the earth for the next 100 years. We were so instructed by the Glorious Teacher, Reverend Rigdon, and there was no doubt that this would happen, since he has predicted all other world events with great accuracy. This is not an item to be taken lightly, and it is not something to be taken on faith alone. It is a very real occurance.
This would be the final repudiation of all other false religions and philosophies and the establishment of the Rigdon Tabernacle as the true followers of the Great Spirit. Makya would be his representative on earth until 100 years passed and the next alignment ensued.
We are also reminded that if a suppliant who has committed the sin of adultery is placed on the Ark she would be terribly punished, and if this were to happen at the time of the alignment, the punishment could be death."
Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out the way they planned. Evidently, Ted Dunlow had slipped Myra Kinchloe a drug -- probably mescaline and who knows what else. There he and his buddies, Andy and Randy, had taken her to the barn and plopped her on the Ark. What happened next is unclear, because Amara didn't see it, but it's not hard to imagine,
The next time I saw Miss Kinchloe, she was being carried, nude and lifeless, through the sanctuary to a room at the rear. There was the smell of burning hair and there seemed to be smoke rising from the back of her head.
It was apparent, at least to Eden, they put her on the Ark and contact was made between the nose of the foreward angel, one of the terminals connected to the Leyden jar, and to an earth ground, the other terminal, which was the function of the secind angel. She was placed between the contacts -- with one of them well implanted -- of the Leyden jar and at some point was electrocuted when it arced over. Now, whether any of this was due to the alignment, the line that ran from the barn to Chaco, piezoelectric energy from tectonic plates, or some sort of other charge they stored in the Leyden jar, no one would ever know. But Eden suspected psychic energy or paranormal forces had little to do with it.
Of course, there is no way to know if Myra was dead when she was taken from the Ark. She may have been rendered unconscious in much the same way a stun gun knocks out a would-be attacker. She may have been in a coma for a short time and died later. No one would ever know.
I know that Mr. Dunlow and others conferred and I heard them say they would have to consult with the Venerated Masters. The
Masters are among the older members of a group located at one of the Tabernacles somewhere in Upstate New York.
I have no direct evidence, but from what I could learn, it was decided that although the incident was accidental, the implications for the group were considered so dire that it would have to be managed by the Elders. According to rumors, two or three people from New York came down to dispose of the body. I remember the name Stroheim.
At that point, Eden felt an electrical charge that would have rivaled the Ark at full tilt. He remembered Amara's "friends," Erich and Norma. From one standpoint it was unbelievable, but from another, it made perfect sense. Amara's Stroheim had to be Eric Strohman.
The Masters, or their agents, had put Myra back into her clothes, took her body out to the gamelands pond and blew out the back of her skull out [sic] to cover the electrical contact that led to her death. So, Joey Dunlaney probably had nothing to do with Myra's death. She was murdered by some of Rainelle's finest citizens through their zany pseudo-religious nonsense club. And the second and third murders may have been to cover the first.
By now, Eden was convinced she had written the pages as a suicide letter. It was part apologia, part justification, and part final attempt at redemption -- her legacy. Amara had made a determined effort to mislead them in their early attempts to find Myra. She was an accessory to what had happened, but she was dead now, far from the reach of the law.
And why were Amara's notes in the trunk of Shele's car? Had she removed them from the loose-leaf binder to cover her aunt Amara's activities? He recalled that Shele had invited him to search her house -- but of course, not her car.
(remainder of text not transcribed due to copyright restrictions)
Daniel Morris' Grave Creek Connections
SUMMARY OF STORYGrave Creek Connections was written as a fanciful, modern day mystery tale, set in the Pennsylvania/West Virginia border region. Most of the action takes place in Green County, PA (called "George County" in the parallel universe of the story), with additional events occurring in neighboring Washington County and across the border, in West Virginia. The author has created a fictional world, greatly resembling southwestern Pennsylvania, but sprinkled with imaginary locations and possessed of an alternative history. Readers who know next to nothing about the actual geography and history (particularly its religious history) of the setting, will probably be able to follow the narrative with less frustration and dismay than those who are already familiar with the origins of Mormonism and the biographies of historical figures such as Sidney Rigdon, Joseph Smith, Solomon Spalding (spelled "Spaulding" in the story) and D. P. Hurlbut.
Morris has stated that he "fictionalized the county" where most of the action takes place, so that his readers "would not assume his characters were real people." Unfortunately, his method of telling a story results in the portrayal of historical figures associated with early Mormonism in a most confusing, sometimes ridiculous manner.
Basically a Murder Mystery
The core story-line centers upon an investigation of some recent and mysterious murders -- an investigation conducted by a local Deputy Sheriff named Eden Whitloe, along with the help of his volunteer assistant, Shele Ocevan. Three young women have disappeared under strange circumstances, and those disappearances turn out to have been murders -- presumably perpetrated by the same killer or killers. In the course of the story an additional two women also lose their lives, the seeming victims of occult forces at work among the secretive inhabitants of the sparsely inhabited backwaters of "George County."
The book's title is taken from a presumed, but vague, association of mysterious places scattered along an invisible line stretching from Moundsville, WV (site of the Grave Creek Mound) to Amity, in Washington Co., PA. (site of the burial spot of Solomon Spalding). South of this imaginary line is the semi-rural countryside, wherein the occult powers are supposedly active, spreading an evil influence upon some people's thoughts and actions.
The crime investigators, while in the process of seeking out clues in the rash of disappearance/murder cases, come across local residents with an interest in the paranormal -- believers in the theory of preColumbian "ley lines," one of which reaches from New Mexico's Chaco Canyon ruins, over West Virginia's Grave Creek Mound, and evidently peters out just short of Pittsburgh's western suburbs. The abandoned Moundsville Prison is identified as a center of psychic forces, once secretly studied by Nazi Germans and Russian occult researchers. Located along the same "ley line" is the ISKCON Hindu temple complex and the final resting place of Solomon Spalding -- whom the author associates with Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith, Jr., in the founding of the Mormon Church (even though Spalding died when Rigdon was a young man and Smith was still a child, living far away from Spalding's last home at Amity).
The author provides little information on this supposed pre-Mormon association, other than to identify Spalding as a would-be writer, who may or may not have actually discovered an ancient record -- a record somehow passed on to Rigdon, who became a Mormon "heretic," and who developed into a serious threat to early Mormonism itself.
The police investigation of the women's disappearance locates their bodies in a remote hunting area, but the investigators are so frustrated by a lack of useful evidence that they begin to rely upon the helpful interest of a couple of local "psychics." Finally some of the area's residents begin to disclose some intriguing clues, and the mystery behind the murders starts to come clear. In the course of events, the investigators and their helpers uncover a clandestine cult (of 19th century origin, but oddly "new age" in its eclectic practices) which proves to be the ultimate source of the murderous events. The secretive cult members include prominent members of the community, and only by relentless sleuthing and a considerable amount of luck, do the investigators piece together the whys and hows of the strange murders, their cover-up, and the secrets of the cultists.
The Pseudo-LDS Connection
The foundational characters -- Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon and Solomon Spalding -- quickly pass from the scene, and their supposed efforts to perpetrate historical hoaxes and found shady religious movements, are taken up by the ex-Mormon bad guy, D. P. Hurlbut. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Hurlbut falsely assumed the reputation of a "Reverend" and a relative of the departed Mormon Elder, Sidney Rigdon, in order to delude and seduce a group of George County Christians (perhaps stray Mormons and similar sectarians) into the sphere of his religious influence. In the process, the pious faker fabricates alleged "runestones" and other buried artifacts of some extinct civilization -- along with concocted rituals, dogma, and even a fake (but electrically powerful) biblical Ark of the Covenant.
The "Glorious Teacher" Walter Rigdon (aka D. P. Hurlbut) leads his followers into a semi-Mormon, semi-Theosophical, new religion, complete with meso-American theological borrowings, psychedelic drugs, and reliance upon astrological alignments to predict and manipulate major events in human history. With his passing (an event not detailed in the story), Rigdon's followers (the "Rigdonites") expand across the country as far distant as "upstate New York" (at least) and perhaps even to the American Southwest and other sundry, secret locations. Ruled over by "Elders" and "Masters," the semi-church/semi-lodge continues Walter Rigdon's occult religion, electrical ark, and evil doings, down to the present day.
Depictions of Hill Cumorah, Joseph Smith, D. P. Hurlbut and Sidney Rigdon
(from the author's promotional video for Grave Creek Connections)
The book is long since written and published (with a sequel on the way), and so there is no way now to undo the probable confusion wrought by the "fictionalization" of the biographies of Solomon Spalding, Sidney Rigdon and D. P. Hurlbut. The author further muddies the historical waters by introducing a passing reference to a published edition of Spalding's "Manuscript Found." Motives for the purported collusion of Smith, Rigdon and Spalding are never clearly spelled out -- nor is the basis and structure of Mormonism itself. The author appears either unknowing or uninterested in the identity and function of "lost tribes" in the Mormon religion, along with the correspondence of Mormon sacred writ to biblical prophecy, restorationism, messianic expectations, millenarianism, etc.
A Missed Literary Opportunity
Had the writer understood even the basics of such stuff, he might easily have constructed a more plausible scenario for the religious organizing of "Walter Rigdon" and the resultant "cult." Sidney Rigdon's own post-1844 "Rigdonite Church" is well documented, and might have served as a better model for the fictional Rigdonites of the book. Certainly the modern reader would have little difficulty in imagining Sidney Rigdon himself, as the fabricator of a fake Ark of the Covenant, or even of the addition of Aztec mythology into a "second witness for Jesus Christ." However, the writer seemingly wished to reach outside of traditional Mormonism, in order to incorporate more occult-like story elements. These bits and pieces of parapsychology, demonology, etc., he lumps together under the misnomer of "mysticism." The conglomeration might better have been termed "theosophy" or "spiritualism." A certain amount of verisimilitude might have been constructed along these lines, had the writer included references to Hurlbut's own association with the Spirit-rappers, spiritual wifery, and Millerism -- but perhaps that much historical realism was beyond the scope of the novel's entertainment purposes.
No doubt a better story could have been imagined and compiled -- but if the reader puts aside all thoughts of actual Mormonism and actual facts relating to Spalding et al., the story can be enjoyed simply as a who-done-it, dressed up with a touch of Halloween creepiness. At the very least, it has better character development and is more readable than was Anderson's 1999 novel about Solomon Spalding and Mormon origins.