POLARIS: In 1909, the Arizona Gazette (now the Arizona Republic newspaper) ran an intriguing article entitled “Explorations in Grand Canyon: Remarkable finds indicate ancient people migrated from Orient” which claimed that a vast subterranean complex of Egyptian design was discovered at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The article read in part:
“According to the story related to the Gazette by Mr. Kinkaid, the archaeologist of the Smithsonian Institute, which is financing the expeditions, have made discoveries which almost conclusively prove that the race which inhabited this mysterious cavern, hewn in solid rock by human hands, was of oriental origin, possibly from Egypt, tracing back to Ramses. If their theories are borne out by the translation of the tablets engraved with hieroglyphics, the mystery of the prehistoric peoples of North America, their ancient arts, who they were and whence they came, will be solved. Egypt and the Nile, and Arizona and the Colorado will be linked by a historical chain running back to ages which staggers the wildest fancy of the fictionist.”
Aside from this single article, which apparently was not picked up or expanded upon by any other U.S. newspaper, no one else has ever made such a dubious claim. But one hundred years later, the story (or hoax) still raises its head from time to time. [See Jeremy Riposte’s Bogus Journey for more.]
In 1993, the story was revived by researcher and historical revisionist David Hatcher Childress. Writing in an extensive article published by the Australian magazine NEXUS, Childress noted: "While it cannot be discounted that the entire story is an elaborate newspaper hoax, the fact that it was on the front page, named the prestigious Smithsonian Institution, and gave a highly detailed story that went on for several pages, lends a great deal to its credibility. It is hard to believe such a story could have come out of thin air."
We would disagree. In fact, good stories come out of thin air all the time and the hallmark of a good hoax is the pepper it with enough legitimate-sounding references that an audience will buy it. The more Outcast Earth examined this story, the more we became convinced that it was a hoax. For example, the Gazette’s eyewitness, an elusive man named “G.E. Kinkade,” establishes conditions early in the article would make it nearly impossible for any outsider to find the subterranean complex:
"First, I would impress that the cavern is nearly inaccessible. The entrance is 1,486 feet down the sheer canyon wall. It is located on government land and no visitor will be allowed there under penalty of trespass. The scientists wish to work unmolested, without fear of archeological discoveries being disturbed by curio or relic hunters... A trip there would be fruitless, and the visitor would be sent on his way...”
Well, that is convenient!
The inability to prove or disprove the claim is highly advantageous to the hoaxer. From this point forward, the hoaxer only needs his gullible audience to take everything he says on faith. Once faith is established, the truly gullible will begin to manufacture their own evidence of the claim’s legitimacy. And fortunately for “G.E. Kinkade” (whoever he was), the gullible are still doing so.
Childress uses the Smithsonian Institution’s alleged involvement to simultaneously support and refute various aspects of the story. Since the Smithsonian is mentioned in the original newspaper article, the story must be true. But since the Smithsonian denies the story is true, this must be proof of a cover-up. A Smithsonian archaeologist named “S.A. Jordan” is said to be leading the investigation, but when the institution denies his very existence, Jordan also becomes a victim of the cover-up. The Smithsonian begins to loom as a titan of conformity, suppressing any discovery that is not part of their rigid world view.
“Is the idea that ancient Egyptians came to the Arizona area in the ancient past so objectionable and preposterous that it must be covered up?” Childress asks. But of course, in asking this he is also implying – without a shred of evidence – that the story must be true. After all, you would only cover up something that actually exists, right?
One of the more amusing “points of fact” of the story is that many of the geological features in the Grand Canyon have Egyptian-sounding names. Childress makes a big deal out of this in his NEXUS article, writing:
“Historian and linguist Carl Hart, editor of WORLD EXPLORER, then obtained a hiker's map of the Grand Canyon from a bookstore in Chicago. Poring over the map, we were amazed to see that much of the area on the north side of the canyon has Egyptian names. The area around Ninety-four Mile Creek and Trinity Creek had areas (rock formations, apparently) with names like Tower of Set, Tower of Ra, Horus Temple, Osiris Temple, and Isis Temple. In the Haunted Canyon area were such names as the Cheops Pyramid, the Buddha Cloister, Buddha Temple, Manu Temple and Shiva Temple. Was there any relationship between these places and the alleged Egyptian discoveries in the Grand Canyon?”
While it is true that many of the canyon’s features have exotic sounding names, this is hardly proof of an archeological cover-up. Instead, may we offer a more mundane explanation? From the time of John Wesley Powell, the first American explorers through the canyon provided many of the place names still used today. The canyon inspired both awe and imagination, and these adventurers were often very fanciful in their name choices. For example, there is a canyon in Shinumo Creek called “Merlin’s Abyss.” If we use Childress’ and Hart’s theories, however, are we to believe that this area has some connection to the legend of King Arthur?
Fascination with “Oriental cultures” – which could variously mean the civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean, Near East and the larger Asian continent – was rampant during the nineteenth century. American explorers may have looked up at the towering cliffs and buttes of the Grand Canyon and have given them an Egyptian-sounding simply as a matter of good humor without a trace of conspiracy behind it. Certainly that’s the more logical explanation.
Could this cultural fascination with the ancient civilizations of the Old World also be at the heart of the Gazette article? How titillating it must have been for a newspaper editor to believe that he would be the first to break a story about an Arizona-Egyptian connection. After all, archeological digs in Egypt were widespread in the years before the First World War and were making headlines all over the U.S. Many such excavations were either financially supported or actually spearheaded by the American rich and famous – including oil magnate J.P. Morgan and George and Phoebe Hearst, the mining moguls who parented William Randolph Hearst. At the same time, there was a widespread belief in highly-advanced ancient civilizations that were lost to conventional history. Stories of these cultures, including Atlantis, Mu and Lemuria, were often tied into the Spiritualism movement of the same period. Across America and Europe, there was an abiding desire to believe that strange, mystical realms lay hidden beneath our everyday worlds. Why not the Grand Canyon?
In the end, the Phoenix Gazette story stands as a clever ruse... and clearly one still being used by Jeremy Riposte and his ilk. But isn’t the Grand Canyon awe-inspiring enough without the inclusion of an Egyptian temple filled with gold and mummies?