Note: if you like this post, you might also like The Top Five Paranormal Phenomena That Might Be Real.
We’ve been picking over the New Seven Wonders of the World, which was announced on July 7, 2007 (7/7/07, get it?), and frankly, we here at Area51.Org are underwhelmed. We have seven alternative wonders that might impress you a little more than the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall. They might even freak you out a little bit. A list of wonders needs a flavor of the unexplained or truly bizarre about it, and perhaps a certain paranormal bouquet.
The heads have been silent for long enough. The truth is that they’re not just heads: there are whole torsos hiding underneath the soil. Sure, scientists claim they know how the giant moai statues (more than 500 complete and as many unfinished) were built — if you believe the scientists. And there’s a lot of speculation about how they were transported to their resting places.
Even if this all didn’t require extraterrestrial intervention, as Erich von Daniken speculated in Chariots of the Gods, the moais of Easter Island still command our respect. At up to an imposing 33 feet high, they ought to. And there is some remaining mystery — with no trees on the island, how exactly did the natives get the giant, heavy statues some four miles from their source to their final resting places? Once there, why were they knocked down? Few realize that, until recent restoration attempts, the heads all lay on their sides, the victims of some change in tribal leadership, godhead or cosmic alliance?
The year was 1795, and Donald McGinnis and a couple of friends, the teenage sons of settlers on a small island in Nova Scotia, found a large, circular depression in the ground with a tackle block hanging over it. A day of digging later and the boys thought they were on the way to finding Captain Kidd’s hidden treasure — a booty that had become legendary in that time.
Maybe it was pirate treasure — the boys never found out. Neither did the scores of others who spent years trying to dig it up. Some even gave their lives.
Why couldn’t they just dig up a buried treasure? Lots of reasons: for one, in 1802, when diggers had reached a whopping 90 feet beneath the surface, they discovered two things. First, they found an inscription that read “Twenty feet below, two million pounds lie buried.” Second, they found that whatever was below was protected by booby traps: three shafts connected directly to the ocean flooded the pit. Bailing was useless, and attempts to dig alternate shafts failed, too — more flooding booby traps.
What is most fascinating is that after over 200 years, no one knows what’s down there. And not for lack of trying: there have been almost continuous attempts at digging, but it’s still a very difficult proposition, excavating that deeply, even with modern equipment and techniques. The soil at those depths is unstable, making it nearly impossible for explorers to make progress.
One question we might have: since the original designers probably had a secret way of accessing the prize at the bottom, why haven’t investigators tried to figure out what that might be — and use it?
On a side note, a critical mind might wonder what exactly is paranormal about Oak Island. OK, we admit it: probably nothing. But in our own defense, this does involve a heavy dose of the unexplained — and so far, inexplicable. Close enough, don’t you think?
Yes, you know it from The Da Vinci Code. That’s so 2005 of you.
Here are a few things you might not know about Scotland’s most famous chapel.
For one, Rosslyn Chapel was the first Masonic temple. Many believe that Freemasonry was not founded until the 18th century, but all indications are that the Knights Templar who weren’t killed in Philip the Fair’s inquisition fled to Scotland and carried on their traditions in secret. The Templar descendants built Rosslyn Chapel and went on to turn the Knights’ traditions into the rites of Freemasonry.
But the strangeness doesn’t stop there — it only begins there. Did you know that the chapel is an exact replica of the Temple of Solomon (AKA Herod’s Temple) in Jerusalem? The original was destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. This has lead some researchers to wonder if the lost treasures of Solomon’s Temple — including the famous Ark of the Covenant — are buried in the sealed secret chamber below Rosslyn’s floor. (Yes, that part of Da Vinci Code was absolutely true: there is a secret chamber beneath the floor, just as in the original Temple of Solomon.)
Rosslyn Chapel also features stone carvings of ears of corn — carved many years before corn was first seen in the New World (it’s native to North America). This could be an amazing coincidence, or it could indicate that the Templar-Masons had knowledge of the Americas that they kept to themselves. The mind boggles.
The Temple’s ceiling, with its arches that feature 213 decorative cubes, is actually sheet music made of stone. Researchers have cracked the code that turned the cipher into music, and it was first performed on May 18, 2007 — inside Rosslyn Chapel, of course. The music is now available on CD.
No one knows who built it or why. We can only estimate when it was built — construction began circa 3,000 BC. That’s right: by the time Jesus was walking the Earth doing his Jesus Thing, Stonehenge was already an ancient monument.
One thing’s for sure: the Druids did not build Stonehenge — they came too late, only appearing around the time of Christ. In fact, scientists and historians today have absolutely no idea who built it. They can name off a long list of groups who didn’t build it, including Phoenicians, Gauls, Saxons, Danes, and Romans. Some collection of people got together 5,000 years ago, gathered giant blocks of stone, cut and arranged them, and then were completely lost to history. (If, of course, you accept that they were human at all. Since we want to be taken seriously, let’s just stipulate to their humanity.)
Here’s something most people don’t know: Stonehenge is merely the grandaddy of giant block megalith “henges” — there are over 50,000 of them worldwide (you read that right!) from Europe all the way to North Africa. So whoever built these things seemed to get around. Or, word about how to build a henge made it around the world in a time when walking was the only mode of transportation.
Oh, that’s another thing: how did they build Stonehenge? Each block, 13 feet high (over four meters), weighs an impressive 40 tons. Researchers have tried a lot of different ways of moving gigantic stones using the technology of 3,000 B.C. with varying degrees of success. Maybe the unknown ancients could’ve done it, but it would have been a tremendous feat requiring engineering genius. Let’s not even get started on how they got the stones upright; that’s a whole other problem/mystery. And please don’t bring up how they got those capstones up there.
Why was it built? Turns out there’s a pretty good guess: it’s a cosmic calendar, and a ceremonial stage. On the days of the summer and winter solstice, the sun rises exactly over a prominent stone, the Heel stone. It may have done more, but no one’s figured that out yet. Meanwhile, the site was also used for burials, possibly human sacrifice, and probably for religious ceremonies.
What religion? — that’s a question that we’ll likely never have an answer for.
The Winchester Mansion, built by Sarah Winchester beginning in 1886, is arguably the most famous haunted house in the world.
It’s definitely the craziest. Once construction started, it never stopped, not even at night. Builders were on the job 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for 36 years straight; the construction finally ceased when Mrs. Winchester passed away. There was no specific building plan, mind you, only orders to keep building and building. The result? Staircases that lead to nowhere, upper-story doors that open to nothing except the outside air, hallways that seem to collapse as you walk through them … in short, insanity.
Not that you can blame the old bat for going batty.
Her husband, William Winchester, was the president of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, manufacturer of the “guns that won the West” — in other words, the rifles that killed millions of American Indians. William died in 1881, but not before their only child, Annie, died mere weeks after birth. Sarah sought solace in a spiritual medium, partly because of her grief, and partly because of the tremendous guilt she’d developed in proxy for her husband’s bloody business. It hadn’t taken long before she believed that she was being haunted.
The medium told Sarah: go West! Build a house and, to be sure you keep those angry spirits at bay, keep building it any which-way you can to confuse the angry ghosts.
Hence the insane mansion. When construction stopped in 1922, it had a total of 160 rooms, including 40 bedrooms, 47 fireplaces, and 17 chimneys. (Don’t ask us how 47 fireplaces worked with only 17 chimneys.)
The crazy scheme might have worked too well — the house is notoriously haunted, keeping all those spirits trapped in its doomed corridors. According to Troy Taylor, author of The Haunting of America:
In the years that the house has been open to the public, employees and visitors alike have had unusual encounters here. There have been footsteps; banging doors; mysterious voices; windows that bang so hard they shatter; cold spots; strange moving lights; doorknobs that turn by themselves…. and don’t forget the scores of psychics who have their own claims of phenomena to report.
You’re welcome to visit; the mansion is now a tourist attraction, open year-round with special nighttime flashlight tours on Halloween and on every Friday the 13th. Boo.
Out in the flat desert 250 miles south of Lima, Peru lies amazing artwork that dates back to 250 B.C. Mere lines in the sand that were preserved by a cooperative climate, these drawings can only be appreciated from an airplane.
Wait. Environmental sculpture from 250 B.C. that can only be seen from high in the air? The nearest mountains are too far away to be a vantage point.
This mystery has been boggling minds since the 1930s. The “geoglyphs” — many of recognizable animals like the hummingbird and the condor — are upwards of 600 feet (about 200 meters) in length. Imagine making a drawing in the sand the size of two (American) football fields, presumably with no one in the air to guide you.
The why of the lines is, of course, open to speculation. Religious adoration or signs to the gods? Some sort of cosmic calendar? Actually, both explanations are probably valid. Researcher Paul Kosok observed that the sun seems to set above particular lines on notable days like summer and winter solstice. Unusual solar eclipse activity also coincided with the Nasca building period, so perhaps the lines are a communication with the “eye in the sky”. Others believe that they may have been markers for subterranean water sources, seismic activity relays or even landing strips for aircraft, possibly extraterrestrial in origin.
It’s the how that is so perplexing. One intrepid researcher proved that it was possible to make a workable hot air balloon using the technology available to the ancient Nazcans. That’s all fine and good, but there’s no evidence that balloons like that ever existed. And you’d figure there might be a few leftover parts, considering that there are dozens of drawings covering an area of over 150 square miles. Precise mappings of all the drawings has only recently been completed and, sadly, the lines are now threatened by erosion due to climate change.
It was 1991 when geologist Robert Schoch shocked the world: the Great Sphinx was not built with the pyramids in 2,500 B.C. after all, but thousands of years earlier, in 7,500 B.C. According to Shoch, it was rain, not sand, that has worn the Sphinx down over the centuries, and the last era of huge rains was about 10,000 years ago. The rain explanation also accounts for the channels in the ditch that surrounds it.
Meanwhile, just as the scientific world was recovering from that carpet-pull, a facial expert announced that after extensive testing, he was convinced that our Sphinx friend was not modeled after Pharaoh Chephren — the Pharaoh who happened to be ruling Egypt in 2,500 B.C. The expert had used sophisticated forensics equipment to compare a bust of Chephren to his supposed likeness on the Sphinx, and things just didn’t match up.
Suddenly, we had a great quandary on our hands. The Sphinx wasn’t built by the ancients, but by the really ancient ancients? Who were these guys, and since civilization wasn’t really supposed to exist in B.C. 7,500, how’d they do it?
There is no certain answer. There is, however, a good opportunity for speculation.
Psychic Edgar Cayce had envisioned an ancient civilization living in Egypt, made up of survivors from the tragedy of Atlantis. That might be a stretch even for us. But how old is old and what, exactly, was this ur-civilization, then?
From the general appearance of it, the Great Sphinx seems to have been made in a traditional Egyptian style — or were the Egyptians merely imitating the style of the Sphinx, already ancient in their day, when they created their headdresses and stoic faces? Animal/man hybrid statues, generically known as sphinxes, abound in Egypt and, in fact, throughout many ancient traditions, including Indian and Asian. Was the Great Sphinx the original? Consider that the first excavation of the statue dates to 1400 B.C.. By then, it was already up to its shoulders in sand. Consider also that the head of the man is clearly disproportionately small for its body, a trait missing in other sphinxes. Some suggest that the pharaohic face may have been carved from the existing head of a lion, suggesting an even earlier life for the monumental riddle in the sand.
What’s weirder is to consider how advanced a civilization must have been in order to create the subtle architecture of the cat statue. We are talking about life nearly 10,000 years ago. As Carl Sagan once pointed out, people from that era were just as smart as you or I, but they didn’t have science or years of recorded knowledge to build upon. Or did they? A sophisticated work like the Great Sphinx may lead us to re-think our ideas about history. One etching in the base of the sculpture’s base describes it as “a great magical power that existed in this place from the beginning of all time”. Perhaps we’re meant to take this more literally than we previously have.
If there’s a theme here — and we’d like to think there is one — perhaps it’s that there is more to the world, its history, and its inner workings than meets the eye. Even if that eye is an observant eye. Did civilization try itself a few times before it worked well enough to stick? Are there technologies that might suggest hidden veins of knowledge only a privileged few have access to? Is there life beyond this mortal coil?
Naturally, you may have a different list. The arbitrary number seven was probably “picked” because, well, there were seven wonders that people could think of. Or maybe it was the number of God or some other artificial construction. So the list could be much longer, and could include even more bizarre phenomena.