#44 – Discussion with Dr. Fell – 1987

Written by Virginia Hourigan:

Because we’d had a pleasant conversation the day after a very unpleasant one with Barry Fell, I phoned Barry’s friend Wayne Kenaston to tell him I was coming to San Diego. “Be sure and call me right away,” said Wayne. “I’m dying to see those pictures.”

So as soon as I got settled a couple of days later I did call him. “Oh, please come right over to my office,” he said, so I did.

As soon as I got there Wayne said, “Barry wants to take us to lunch. He and his wife have taken their daughter to the airport, but as soon as he gets back he wants us to come over. He wants to meet you.”

“Not me, he doesn’t,” I snarled.

“Oh, yes he does. He wants to see the pictures.”

“A likely story. Forget it. I brought them for you.”

But just then the phone rang. It was Barry. He and Renee were back sooner then expected and he wanted us to come right over. What could I say? So I climbed into Wayne’s pickup and we drove over to Fell’s house.

Well, you’d have thought I was the Queen of England from the reception I got. Barry came out to meet me, led me around the house showing me his work room, his files, his photos, his artifacts, smiling and chattering. Renee was charming, as I’d heard she always is. They took us to a very nice restaurant. Won’t you have some of this? How about a little more wine? Someone has told him he was too hasty in his judgment of the stones, I told myself.

Then Barry said, “Well, I guess I should have a look at the pictures.”

As I hadn’t yet sorted out the new pictures I’d only brought two large stacks of those from Jack’s collection. Barry pulled one toward him. He began turning the pictures over by twos and threes if they showed no script. When they did he would study the picture for a couple of seconds, turn it over and snort contemptuously. “This is all taken from my published work. It can’t be read. It’s gibberish. I don’t know why everybody can’t see it’s a forgery.”

He came to a picture of a ship that I thought quite artistic. “Now just look at this poor crude imitation of a Phoenician ship!” he sneered.

Wayne leaned forward. “Oh, is it Phoenician?”

“Huh. It pretends to be, but it’s completely phony.”

Barry turned over some more pictures without looking at them. He stopped on one showing script and held it up. “Now I might be able to do something with this one. If I had permission to publish,” he added emphatically, fixing me with a beady eye.

“Er, well, you’d have to get that from Russell,” I answered, knowing perfectly well that Russell would never agree.

“Oh. All right. Renee, get his address, will you?” And she whipped out her notebook and took it down like a good secretary as I dictated it.

Barry went on by twos and threes through the first pile of photos, pushed them aside, pulled over the second pile, turned over the first two and pushed the pile aside too. “I’ve seen enough,” he announced.

Confirming his original judgment didn’t make him hostile to me this time, though. We went back to the Fell’s house and he continued to bring out things to show me. He gave me a big bronze medallion of the Epigraphic Society. Then, as we sat by the big coffee table in the living room, he explained why he was so sure the “elephant stone” was a fake.

Dr. Clyde Keeler, a remarkable old gentleman with a lifetime of unique research behind him, had made the ceramic that had a mistake on it of the Ecuador version of this stone, and this ceramic had been reproduced in Fell’s book America B.C. as well as a number of other publications. Keeler had never seen an actual photograph of the stone but had made the ceramic from a drawing, and no one now could remember who had supplied the drawing.

It was he himself, Barry Fell now said, who had made the drawing from a photo. With a pencil he illustrated what he was saying on a piece of paper. When he saw the photo of the Cuenca stone showing a sun and an elephant at the top and Iberic script below, he said to himself “This should say something about an elephant, but with that second letter there it doesn’t. The scribe must have made a mistake. The second letter should have been a lazy Z.”

So he changed the letter on his drawing to what he thought it should be and sent that to Clyde Keeler. Now when he sees the same lazy Z on a similar stone from Burrows’ Cave he knows it was copied from Keeler.

My first thought was to wonder why he didn’t say, “This proves I was right all along.”

My second thought was that Russell had said there were at least a dozen versions of that stone in the cave, some in gold. Some had one of those letters in that place and some the other. Of course I said nothing.

My third thought, a little later, was that changing a letter so the message would read the way you thought it should was hardly my idea of great scholarship. The more I thought about it, the more I thought of other people who would be interested in knowing this too. I looked for the paper Barry had drawn this on, to slide it into my pocket, but he’d thought of that, too. It was gone.

A few months later Barry did write Russell a letter. He claimed I had given him permission to publish in my first letter to him in 1986, which wasn’t true. I sent Russell a copy of the letter to prove it wasn’t true. After carefully keeping this discovery out of publication so as to protect the cave, we saw no reason to help Barry Fell denounce it in ESOP.

I wrote Fell and asked for my pictures back. He sent me a copy of his letter to me saying he would accept the pictures as part payment for a volume of ESOP. I sent him a copy of my cancelled check. He finally sent the photos back, apologizing for “forgetting” about the check. In 1991 he did publish a denunciation of Burrows’ Cave in ESOP using drawings by Jim Whittall, but by then Barry had retired as editor and the whole tone of the journal was so dubious that few took it seriously.