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June 26, 2003

Outbreak of humor in Cedar City, UT; St. George area residents protest
Posted by Teresa at 11:24 AM *

This is from the Denver Post:

Utah town’s Viking yarn spins some anger
Gullible fall for tall tale intended to promote fest

Sometimes fiction is stranger than truth. But that didn’t stop people from believing a whopper about “local Vikings,” as told by the mayor of this small town in the desert highlands of southwest Utah.

Mayor Gerald Sherratt was seeking attention for what he hopes will be the town’s next successful big event, the Festival Royale of Himmelsk, a days-long celebration of fictional Vikings planned for April. “This town has nothing Norwegian about it,” Sherratt says. “We were founded by English, Irish and Scotch people.”

So Sherratt and a task force, which he described as “a bunch of weirdos,” spun a long yarn about the discovery in a nearby canyon cave of the artifacts of an ancient Viking settlement. Starting in the fall of last year and ending this spring, they published the tale in installments in local newspapers. …

The story goes like this: The Vikings, including King Harold “The Fair-Haired” Haarfarger, his son Eric Blodoks and others, first landed on April 1, 956, on a coral island in the Pacific Ocean. But small volcanic eruptions jostled off the island’s cap and set it and its inhabitants adrift in the ocean.

A final huge volcanic explosion and resulting tsunami carried the island, on the tip of the giant wave, and dumped it inland—far inland—on a desert plateau in Utah. Right here by Cedar City.

Most island dwellers survived the event, of course, and so the Vikings lived peacefully alongside the Paiute Indians in a settlement called Himmelsk - until a nosy President James Polk sent an expedition in 1845 to explore the area. Eventually, the Vikings were found and cheated out of their land by the U.S. government, which never paid the negotiated sales price, $88.7 billion in today’s dollars. If only the rightful Blodoks royal family heirs could be found, this could all be set right. …
The results were entirely predictable.
Despite the Viking saga’s fantastic twists, it inspired a few true believers. Some of them came forward to claim the ancient artifacts—swords and other weapons unearthed along with documents telling the entire Himmelsk history. The priceless antiquities, the ads had informed, were to be sent to Washington, D.C., for study.

“We started getting calls,” Sherratt says. “One man begged me not to let the Smithsonian have those things. ‘You’ll never get them back,’ he said. I had a couple that told me they have property on a mountain with a cave, and the things might be theirs, and we should not have given away their property. And one man called and said he has the mold that the swords and other things were cast from.

“‘Oh, really?’ I said.”

Other callers thought there might be a connection with the Book of Mormon, a text sacred to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sherratt says he immediately confessed to all such callers that the recently immortalized Viking explorers were a big fib fabricated for tourism promotion. “They got mad,” he says. Other callers did not believe it was fiction and cried coverup.

Fellow festival promoter David Nyman, a retired chairman of Southern Utah University’s music department, says he has no regrets about taking the Vikings ruse too far. “It’s unbelievable people would believe it,” Nyman says. “I guess they’re gullible. We thought it was funny. We’re just trying to bring more revenue to the town.”
This is my very favorite part:
Sherratt would not release his critics’ names because, he said, “I’m embarrassed for them.”
If you take that reaction together with the stupidities that prompted it, you have one of the basic social transactions in that part of the world.
But he does note that all the calls were from the St. George area, also known for towns such as La Verkin, where there is a referendum to reinstate a citywide ban of United Nations activities, and Virgin, known for its city law encouraging every household to have a gun. …
They talk funny, too.
[Cedar City’s] 42-year-old Utah Shakespearean Festival draws tens of thousands of visitors over the summer months to this town of 23,000. It won a Tony award three years ago for best regional theater. It seems only logical for the town to make the leap from the sublime to the ridiculous. “The Shakespearean Festival attracts 150,000 wealthy, educated people. We’re looking for a different crowd,” Sherratt says. Sherratt says he wants the new festival to have all the idiocy of Mardi Gras without the booze or the raunch. There will be a royal procession down Main Street. The Himmelsk armed forces, with catapult, will march.
If anyone in my family is reading this, will they please not tell Mom about it for a while yet? She’s only just got her staples out.
Comments on Outbreak of humor in Cedar City, UT; St. George area residents protest:
#1 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 12:16 PM:

This gets me thinking: Are there any places in Europe that claim that they were settled or visited in ancient time by bands of Native Americans?

If no, GET TO IT! For a nominal fee, I can provide assistance in the form of Authentic Style "Red Injun (tm)" Brand tomahawks and arrow heads to plant around the site of your future tourist attraction.

#2 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 12:31 PM:

This is funny, but the underlying "myth" is vaguely similar to the film "Joe Versus the Volcano."

Also quite funny, and charming, though it was a box office dud.


#3 ::: Derryl Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 01:00 PM:

Three little words, Teresa: "Oh my heck!"

I really really really miss that state.


#4 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 01:15 PM:

I live and work near a couple of communities settled by Norwegians about a century ago (not to many batchelor farmers though) that tend to have a sense of humor. Hmm . . . how about an embassy to their separated brethren during the festival? With costumes of course . . . and I think I know who to mention it to . . .

#5 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 01:20 PM:

I am too polite to say what this made me think...

*makes Will-8 roll, just barely*

Yes, I am. Too. Polite.

#6 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 01:44 PM:

A Viking Festival without debauchery... sounds a bit iffy to me. There should be at the very least a local meed brewing contest... But then it is Utah.

#7 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 02:55 PM:

A couple of weekends back I was at Lincoln Castle, watching the Romans.

They had catapults.

Fortunately there was a substantial medieval wall between the targets and where I'd parked my car.

#8 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 04:34 PM:

Reminds me of the reaction in New Zealand to Peter Jackson’s Forgotten Silver (if you haven’t seen it, do): a TV mock documentary about the discovery of a cache of films from a near-mythical early 20th-century NZ film pioneer named Colin Mackenzie (including, among other things, footage from Gallipoli, 'proof' that Richard Perase really did fly before the Wright Brothers, and so on) followed by an expedition into the bush to find the massive sets constructed for Mackenzie’s Biblical epic Salome, the première of the restored film, et cetera...

At any rate, according to the accompanying short feature on the DVD, when Silver was broadcast there was nothing (other than the fact that it was in a ‘drama’ time slot) to indicate that it was fiction, and the result was comparable to Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” broadcast; only instead of terror at the thought of invading Martians, Kiwi viewers were filled with pride at the discovery of a new national hero — and many of them were extremely angry to find out that their patriotic emotions had been so cruelly toyed with.

#9 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 04:35 PM:

Sorry — that should have been “Pearse”.

#10 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 05:26 PM:

Someone ought send this guy some of the best drinking and puking scenes out of EGIL'S SAGA, just so he'll be clear on what real Vikings are like.

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 05:57 PM:

Do I need to point out the parodic nature of the Viking story?

#12 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 07:24 PM:

I think you might.

#13 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 08:05 PM:


Compared to the various tales from the book of Mormon you've mentioned, or Emperor Ximu and his Thetans, the Krakatoa-like displacement of Viking settlers from Polynesia is positively mundane.

Besides which, as is obvious to any student of Victorian occultism (which has as much provenance as the Book of Mormon, and more than Dianetics), the coral atol that Eric and his father Harald landed on was either the Isle of Mu or some chunk of lost Lemuria, and they accidentally activated the vril-powered escape beams that the Lemurian survivors used to transport themselves to Mount Shasta in northern California.

Now mind you, I'm only going into theory here, but there must have been a massive charge of vril in the batteries built up after all those years, so instead of also transplanting Eric, Harold and the viking settlement to Mount Shasta, they overshot--no doubt due to the powerful network of ley lines in the north part of San Jose, which was bought up for this reason by the Rosicrucians--and found themselves in what would later become Utah.

Vril of course is an unearthly substance which allowed the Lemurians to levitate and perform other miracles, and is usually depicted as transparent and green, so it's hardly any wonder that some form of ancestral memory is at work, causing the decendants to fixate on green Jell-o.

I mean, it makes peaches levitate. What else could it be?

#14 ::: Ulrika ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 09:11 PM:

That was a circuitous route to connect back to marshmallows.

#15 ::: Paul Riddell ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 09:58 PM:

Kevin, I love to tell people the real origin of the word "Lemuria" when I'm feeling particularly cranky toward New Agers and other pseudoarchaeology fanatics. What most New Agers don't realize is that the name was originally coined in the 1920s, before Wegener's theories of continental drift were presented, much less accepted. (As an aside, we don't appreciate it today, but H.P. Lovecraft's acceptance of continental drift in his story "At The Mountains of Madness" would have killed his career had he been a geologist or palaeontologist at the time. Even as late as 1969, some professors risked tenure by espousing continental drift.) back then, palaeontologists needed an explanation as to how lemurs could have traveled from North America (where they're known from fossils) to Madagascar (where they're known today". Since a land bridge from North America to Africa was a lot less plausible than a now-submerged land bridge from Africa to Madagascar, one then-popular theory was to look at a possible sunken continent now occupying the bottom of the Atlantic. Behold, Lemuria!

Of course, the theoretical Lemuria wouldn't have had civilizations, considering that it was supposed to have sunk some 30 to 50 million years ago. However, that's never stopped the New Agers, even after repeated scans of the Atlantic basin show no such sunken continent. Ah well...

#16 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 10:24 PM:

I would issue a sweeping observation that would place this all into a cosmic perspective and explain the wacky weekend Helena Blavatsky and Immanuel Velikovsky spent together in an orgone box, but it's been a long week and I'm a little short of vril.

Of course, the crowd who own the Kensington Runestone -still- haven't gotten the joke.

#17 ::: Larry Lurex ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 10:48 AM:

I am happy to report that several English people whose families have never travelled further abroad than France report American Indian parentage, and stress the importance of living in the traditional ways, smoking pipes of peace and eating bison. Living in tipis is, of course, second nature to them.

Furthermore, they usually have knife throwing acts and chant "Ai ai ai ah" while throwing.

Happily, these people tend to move to the west country, where they are all a bit potty anyway.

#18 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 11:40 AM:

LOL. Oh, that's great. (I needed that laugh to start my day.)

#19 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 01:12 PM:

Was it here or someplace else that brough to my attention the Native American Association of Germany?

#20 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 04:40 PM:

David, the Native American/German thing originates with Karl May, who about a hunnerd years back was an immensely popular author of pulp Westerns. He never visited the US (I think he never left Germany), but he seems to have at least tried to get things right. The German Eingeborenamerikanergekleidetevolksbunde go way back, and (at least from what little I've seen) they generally don't claim ancestry, they just want to live that way, and most make their best attempt to do so accurately.

This doesn't mean it isn't a fantasy life, but it's a different sort of fantasy life than imagining you're descended from the Lords of Mu.

#21 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 10:36 PM:

Karl May tried to get things right? I don't think so - the thriving cactus forests of West Texas? He certainly left Germany (Switzerland, Italy at least likely enough Austria) though not I think to live - didn't visit North America afaik. After he made his reputation he tried to backfill (obsf retcon) and had copies of the famous guns of his heroes made and such. It's interesting to note though that while SCAdians are dressing like (among others) medieval Germans, Germans are dressing like medieval Americans. Moscow Hide and Fur did and likely still does a thriving German business in all the bear gall and porcupine quills and other odds and ends as well as the hide and fur.

#22 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2003, 02:45 PM:

Compared to the various tales from the book of Mormon you've mentioned, or Emperor Ximu and his Thetans, the Krakatoa-like displacement of Viking settlers from Polynesia is positively mundane.

That's what I was too polite to say. Not is...

Never mind.

#23 ::: Sander ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2003, 03:57 PM:

Paul: Blavatsky wrote in "The Secret Doctrine" (published 1888) about the seven root-races, the third of which lived in Lemuria, a continent that "embraced large areas in the Indian and Pacific oceans, and also portions of what is now Africa". I can't find an etymology for this use of the word, and I can't make sense of the time this continent was supposed to exist; but apparently the term itself was in use before the 1920's.

#24 ::: Tuxedo Slack ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2003, 01:09 PM:

I am happy to report that several English people whose families have never travelled further abroad than France report American Indian parentage

How! Great man of peace! We understand!

(Ref that, anyone?)

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