#43 – Seeking Expert Opinions

Written by Virginia Hourigan:

[There is an error in the book where apparently 1 or 2 pages did not get properly included in the final printing. Therefore, this chapter is missing the beginning.]

That’s Gloria. Well, at least I didn’t have to try to persuade her that it was a good idea.

We arrived in Vincennes about the 17th of July, and when Gloria saw the stones she was most impressed. She looked hard for any fakery, of course, but she didn’t see any. In fact, it’s almost impossible to look at those hundreds of strange stones and imagine anyone today actually carving them in such styles. Russell came over from Olney, told his story again and answered questions. Gloria said she couldn’t decide for sure if the stones were genuine without seeing the cave itself, but after she got home she asked Barry Fell to let her withdraw the negative article she’d written for ESOP.

Jack, Russell, Gloria and I went to lunch at Charlie’s. Afterwards, Russell and I were alone in the parking lot waiting for the others and I said something about the gold. “What!” he exclaimed, looking really furious. “Who said anything about gold?”

“Why, Jack did, when I was here before. He showed me some pieces of it. Warren Cook said you and Jack both told them about it that morning when you called them over to the office, and he said he insisted you tell me too.”

“That’s not true,” Russell growled. “He didn’t say anything about you. Jack just couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Can you imagine what a stampede there’d be if that got around?”

“Well, you’re not saying it’s not true, are you?”

He thought it over. “No, it’s true. But that bastard, Jack, was supposed to leave all the pieces in the safe deposit box. He must have taken some out without telling me.”

“Then you told the Warrens about it but you weren’t going to tell me.”

“I was too! Just not yet.”

“Sure you were.”

Let none despair – male chauvinism is alive and well in America.

Later I asked Russell to tell Gloria about the gold and he did, but Jack didn’t have any pieces out of the bank then to show her, or said he didn’t, only some photocopied pages of coins. One thing Russell did say was that there were several other artifacts like the “elephant stone” Fell had made such a fuss about, some with the second character as on the Crespi version and some with the “mistake,” but all truly from the cave.

Before driving Gloria back to Heavener I got permission to return to Olney and photograph the other collection even larger then Jack’s collection of cave stones. I picked up my bike and made a large circle to visit friends on the way back home. The first stop was Oklahoma City to show my pictures and artifacts to Dr. Don Wyckoff, director of the Oklahoma Archeological Survey and a friend of Gloria’s.

He just shook his head over them and said, “I’ve never seen anything like this before.” He didn’t see how it could be a fraud, but he didn’t know what to make of it either, which was a pretty reasonable attitude for a professional, I thought, considering that I couldn’t offer any proof except the word of a stranger that a cave even existed. If only I’d been able to say I’d seen the cave myself!

Circling around to eastern Kentucky, I visited old friends Harry and Anne Caudill at their lovely home in the mountains near Whitesburg. They were almost as excited as I was by the discovery and insisted I go by way of Lexington, KY. to show the pictures to their friends, University of Kentucky archaeologists William Y. Adams and his wife, Nettie.

I found them in the yard under the trees on a Sunday afternoon. Bill was very busy getting ready to leave for his dig in Africa the next day, but he stopped long enough for a cold drink and a look at some of the pictures and artifacts. Both he and Nettie were polite but reserved and noncommittal. I knew how hard it is to put your mind on anything else when you’re leaving on a long trip the next day, so I appreciated their taking the time to meet with me at all.

What I didn’t realize was that Jack Ward had already been to see Dr. Adams with some of the stones and had created a very shady impression. No doubt he told Adams all about Pharaoh Piankhi and Chief Raz and 726 BC and maybe translated a stone for him, and was told thank you, goodbye. Jack told me later in aggrieved tones that Adams had thought his stones fakes. I was afraid then that their politeness to me was just because of the Caudills.

I was sure of it when the American Institute of Archaeology held its annual conference in New York that December and I ran into Bill Adams. I asked his advice on how we should proceed with investigating the cave. “Get an archaeologist,” was his only response. He could barely hide his contempt.

I tried to explain that it wasn’t that simple, that other archaeologists had declared the cave a fake without even seeing it. It was controversial because it didn’t seem to be American Indian, I said, and many archaeologists didn’t want to touch it.

“Ridiculous!” he snorted. “If there were anything to it the State Archaeologist would be involved. What do you expect me to say? You show me a hodgepodge of Mayan, Persian, Egyptian, Greek and who knows what else and expect me to define it. Why should I take such rubbish seriously?” His lip was curling.

“If there were anything in it would you be connected with it?” he sneered and walked away.

I went back to Olney that summer of ’87 and spent two more weeks taking photos of hundreds of stone artifacts, many of lesser quality than those Jack had, but interesting all the same. Than I packed up my bike again and headed west.

Bart Jordan had gone off with my tapes of Russell’s story as well as an artifact, and had lied about what he would be doing in New Mexico. Irate, I vowed to call on him in Santa Fe when he wasn’t expecting me and get them back. He had said he’d be playing concerts in the state parks as well as playing lute on stage in a couple of operas but I’d found out neither the Parks Department nor the Santa Fe Opera personnel office had ever heard of him. He’d be living with Robin there, though, so when I got to Santa Fe, I phoned her.

“Bart’s not here,” she said. “He’s at Chaco Canyon working with archaeologists. But your tapes are here.”

I went over and she brought down the tapes. “Have you heard anything from the French archaeologists who are supposed to be analyzing that artifact?” I asked.

“No, we haven’t heard anything from them.”

“I don’t think I believe that story,” I said. “Are you sure it’s not here with Bart’s things?”

She looked frightened. “I haven’t seen it. I don’t know anything about it. You’ll have to ask Bart, but there’s no phone at Chaco.”

“When will he be back?”

In about a week, she said, and I was so angry at losing the artifact again that I showed her a very nasty letter Russell had written to Bart for me to give him. When she’d read it she looked positively terrified and I grabbed it back, thanked her for her trouble, gave her my phone number in California and left. She didn’t say anything. I guess I should have felt grateful just to get the tapes back, because if Bart had been there he’d probably have found a way to do me out of them permanently, too.

A week or so later I arrived in San Leandro, California, to visit my aunt, and pretty soon Bart called. He was furious.

“How dare you upset Robin by showing her a letter like that to me?” he shouted.

“You weren’t there.”

“Too damn bad. It’s nothing to do with Robin,” he shouted louder.

“That’s right, it’s too damn bad. Where’s my artifact?”

“I mailed that back to you before I left New York and you know it!” he roared.

“Like hell you did. The only day you could have mailed it was Sunday and the Post Office is closed. Besides, you were so frantic to leave the next morning you wouldn’t even let me come and get it myself.”

Cursing, he slammed down the phone as hard as he could. I’ve never seen or heard from him since. I haven’t seen anything of the artifact either, and I never will.