Searching for Sinister Forces


All Photography // Jeff Wolfe 

(To read the set-up to this story, click here.)

Back in May I planned a family road trip inspired by Peter Levenda’s speculative history book, Sinister Forces. In his thesis, Levenda details a myriad of interconnected conspiratorial webs that, if true, significantly alter the accepted narrative of American political and social history. The specific section of the book that inspired my journey is laid out in a chapter entitled, The Mountains of Madness: American Prehistory and the Occult. The chapter makes reference to a number of ancient earthworks and burial mounds located throughout the country, with the most significant sites found in southern Ohio and eastern West Virginia.

In a previous article post, I got into Levenda’s breakdown of the astronomical connections that sites like Serpent Mound contain. Other researchers like Ross Hamilton have explored the idea that a 5,000-year-old race of giants may have built the mound. This theory is related to the uncovering of 7-8 ft. tall skeletal remains there. The Internet is full of other wild theories, like the notion that the serpent effigy was constructed to send a message to extraterrestrials or some other form of Sky Gods. Hey, I don't pretend to know, I'm just totally intrigued by the mystery of it all. I hope that entertaining such ideas is not an insult to First Nations people, who have already suffered enough from Anglo-Saxon cultural theft. 

I have long been aware of Indian burial grounds, most likely from pop culture films like Poltergeist, Pet Sematary, The Shinning and The Amityville Horror. These stories play up the notion that Native burial sites are cursed and if disturbed, have the power to unleash supernatural consequences upon the living. Another question arises regarding the extent that these grounds have been embedded with a vibratory energy that can seep outward and effect the surrounding lands and its inhabitants. Is it possible burial mounds contain positive spiritual energies that can be tapped into if approached in the appropriate manor? To some extent, this is the entire theme of Levenda’s book – Sinister Forces have been raised and are at work on the subconscious minds of Americans, causing an occult influence on history. The source of this trope most likely has to do with associated white guilt and fear of retribution for the desecration and theft of Native lands by Europeans. Be that as it may, I still have an interest in spiritual resonances that can be encoded into physical spaces. 

Considering the timeline and resources available to me, I decided that Serpent Mound, Mound City and Grave Creek Mound were all close enough together for me to tackle over the course of two days prior to reaching a final destination of Blackwater Falls State Park, WV. 

View from the platform tower
The first stop at Serpent Mound, the world’s largest effigy mound, is perhaps as historically significant as the Pyramids at Giza or Stonehenge in England. In that regard, I’m surprised by it’s rather low-key presence here in the States. Of course, that fact only added to the mystery and allure.

On a Saturday morning, my wife and I, along with our two kids (7 and 1) set off in a packed SUV. Driving from the metro-Detroit area, we managed to reach Adams county, Ohio in roughly 5 hours. Topographically, Ohio is a really boring state to drive through – until you start hitting the southern region. This was the first time any of us had been down that far and were pleasantly surprised when the flat lands sprung up into beautiful rolling hills on all sides. This was an Ohio I had never known about. An Ohio, brimming with ancient burial grounds.
Sign at a nearby ice cream shop
The sun was just beginning to make its descent in the west as we pulled up to a nearly empty parking lot. The museum and gift shop was still open and we started our exploration there. I’ll say this now about the staff at every site visited on the trip, all were very pleasant, friendly and helpful. After browsing what was on display, I grabbed some maps, postcards and stones to take home and anxiously headed out to the main site.

On the initial approach, the first thing I noticed was a tall, iron tower designed to give visitors an aerial view. Even though the stairs were completely solid, the narrowness and height still freaked me out. I carried my 18-month-old daughter about halfway up the ascent before taking her back down. Heading back up with my son (still feeling squeamish), I began shooting my first images from the upper platform and taking in the most complete view of the design you can get without a helicopter. Although the tower is not quite high enough to get a complete end-to-end view, it provided about an 80% view of the effigy.

The 1st curve off the coil
Being mid-July, it was super hot and the sun was beating down with plenty of humidity in the air. Once I was satisfied with the overhead view, I made my way around a path that encircles the mound. As I walked I began noticing signposts along the way that act as markers for the specific astronomical alignments.


Serpent Mound has lunar, solar, planetary, and celestial alignments. It marks all the solstices and equinoxes by lunar or solar alignments or both. In 2005, a local research team observed a triple alignment during the Summer Solstice Sunset. The moonrise was in the opposite direction and Venus set in the same area as the sun, all happening in succession.” - Wikipedia 
By consolidating both lunar and solar events into one symbol shows a high level of astronomical knowledge for an ancient culture. It makes me wonder from what source the builders derived their insights? The head of the snake is placed at a ridge edge, directly overlooking a deep depression created by a 300 million year old meteor impact, known as an astrobleme. (Did the builders place the effigy there with knowledge and intention regarding the meteorological event?) 

The head of the snake, sometimes thought to have a solar quality based on the abstracted design, points directly towards the summer solstice sunset. The opposite end of the snake, designed in a coiled pattern, appears to align with the winter solstices.

The serpent's coil


The serpent's coil
To add further interest and speculation, the layout of the serpentine body seems to lineup rather well with the constellation, Draco. Interestingly, Draco is Latin for, dragon. 
Thuban (α Draconis) was the northern pole star from 3942 BC, when it moved farther north than Theta Boötis, until 1793 BC. The Egyptian Pyramids were designed to have one side facing north, with an entrance passage geometrically aligned so that Thuban would be visible at night.[2] Due to the effects of precession, it will again be the pole star around the year AD 21000. It is a blue-white giant star of magnitude 3.7, 309 light-years from Earth. The traditional name of Alpha Draconis, Thuban, means "head of the serpent". (Wikipedia, Draco constellation)
Whatever the purpose and significance of the serpents astronomical placement, all researchers would agree that the site served a ceremonial purpose and the symbol of the serpent was chosen based on powerful, spiritual correspondences. 

It was with that though in mind that I made sure to mentally perform ritual workings based on my personal Western esoteric studies. If there was any cosmic energy focused on those grounds, I was interested in tapping into it. At the time of sunset I came to the ridge facing the sun and offered a solar adoration in the form of Liber Resh vel Helios, which honors the Egyptian God, Tum. I tried to take another moment of reflective mediation as I completed my pass around the entire mound but was slightly occupied with taking photos and managing the kids as well. 

Liber Resh vel Helios
Sign of Silence
Tum/Atum, God of the setting sun
I didn’t experience any tangible paranormal phenomena but found the beauty of the site and questions it raises to be totally fascinating. Adjacent to the effigy mound are three Adena burial mounds. It was near a wooded area just beyond the mounds that I saw something truly curious. Planted in the ground I spotted two crude figures of a sort, made of black and white cloth, attached to a cross of sticks. The clothes were fashioned with a tie towards the top that created the impression of a human head. I can’t be sure of what it meant or represented, but I can say that it was bizarre with a sort of folk magic look to it. It could have been stuck there by some little kid or something but not knowing for sure, it creeped me out.

A little spooky
Adena Mound
Adena Mound
The most fascinating aspect about the mounds and the effigy for me is the question of what ceremonies or rites were practiced there and who or what the builders intended to communicate with.

Mekoce Shawnee Chief Frank Wilson had this to offer as explanation.
“If you count the curves in the Serpent, there’s seven of them, there’s seven curves before it gets to the head. And seven, the way I was taught, for the Shawano people, is the seven gates that one must go through to reach spirituality, or enlightenment, as people call it, to become a Dawan, a medicine person. So each curve, a person walked the snake. They walked the serpent. And there were certain things they had to accomplish on each curve of the snake’s back. And as they accomplished this they moved on, and when they reached the head, they reached a point where everything was completely stripped away except their spirit.”
Very interesting, indeed.

On the way out I popped over to one last sight. A unmarked pile of cement and other jagged rocks in front of a house near the entrance. I’ve done some searching online, but as of yet, not found any information about what the pile represents, if anything at all.
 
Unmarked rock pile
After getting all the photos I needed, we packed up and made it to a hotel for the night before tackling any more monuments. The following day was quite jam-packed as we covered a good chunk of the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park. The center of the Hopewell complexes along with the information center is a site called, Mound City. As eerily pointed out by Levenda, Mound City is located right next to the Chillicothe Correction Institution. A prison that just so happens to have housed a young Charles Manson for a stint in the early 1950’s.This would not be the last time on our escapade that we witnessed a burial mound standing in the shadows of a huge industrial prison. In fact, at Mound City, there is second prison across the street from Chillicothe. I’m not saying it means anything definitive, but one must admit it to be fairly strange. I pulled up our vehicle into the prison parking lot in the hopes of capturing a photo at a distance. The images I snapped off suffered greatly from the fact that a surveillance guard noticed my presence immediately and pulled his car back in an unmistakable manner to let me know I was being watched. Not really needing the shot, I made a quick exit off the property.

With only a day to work with, I had to be selective about which of the five separate sites to visit. Mound City, in my estimation is the most interesting out of the bunch. A group of 23 burial mounds, spread across 13 acres, enclosed by a 3-4 ft. tall rectangular build up of earth. The site is thought to date back two thousand years, with at least 100 cremated bodies discovered there. A sign displayed at the site indicated that Ross County, Ohio might have been the most significant concentration of Native culture in eastern North America in that time period.

Mound City Group
Mound City Group
The visitor’s center has a small museum of artifacts on display as well as a documentary to see. Mound construction engineering and funeral rites were all detailed there, accompanied by excellent illustrations. Not having any expectations when I got there, I was thoroughly impressed with the numerous multi-media displays.

Part of a display in the museum
Mound City Group

After doing a quick information binge and eating lunch, it was time to be amongst the mounds themselves. It worked out well that the site was fairly devoid of visitors at the time of our arrival. That meant I could perform some meditative rituals around the mounds, uninhibited. I observed the noon Resh as I had at Serpent Mound at the outer rim of the rectangular enclosure. The noon Resh is in observance to the Egyptian Goddess, Hathor.

 
Hathor

Liber Resh vel Helios


One of the simplest rituals I know of is the Star Exercise. I learned of from the 70’s occult group, the Source Family. I’m positive it has older origins, but I haven’t identified them yet. The purpose of the ritual is to banish negativity and revitalize cells and energy through breathing and focus. 

Star or Pentagram Exercise
Star or Pentagram Exercise
I oriented my body into the five-pointed stance and went through the motions while facing the mounds. Once completed, I moved in closer to the mounds. I took some time to stand very close to the mounds in silence. Another simple ritual I decided to perform was the basic Qabalistic Cross of Light. This is usually the first rite an aspiring magician learns, with the foundational purpose of expanding the aspirants field of consciousness while simultaneously drawing down divine energy into the body.
 
Qabalistic Cross of Light Ritual


Aside from the rituals, I enjoyed the peaceful quiet and sacredness of being on the sacred grounds. I could only wonder and imagine what collective energy had compiled there over the course of thousands of years of ceremonies that took place there.

Mound City Group
Mound City Group
We spent at least two hours at the site before deciding to hit the next nearest complex called the Hopewell Mound Group. The experience there was a little befuddling as there weren’t any physical mounds to see in the same degree as Mound City. At Mound Group we walked a cleared square path in what was mainly a huge field of overgrown grass. This path taken from either the right or left takes you to another D-shaped area that once held burial mounds. Sadly, there wasn’t all that much to see. And truthfully, I could only drag a child filled wagon behind me in the scorching summer heat for so long before everyone was exhausted. The interesting thing I learned about the original layout of the Mound Group, was the use of geometry and scale. The current research at the site still offers no definite answers as to the meaning and purpose of the use of monumental circles, squares, rectangles, etc. Only that there did seem to be a significance, possibly astronomical in nature. An information sign standing at the site speculates that the area could have been designed with observatory as well as ceremonial purposes.
 
Hopewell Mound Group
Hopewell Mound Group pathway
Again, it comes back to the mysteries, the cosmos, spirits and ceremonial dramas, that we have largely cut ourselves off from and no longer understand. Modern materialists look down upon the spiritual cultures of the past, scoffing at their “superstitions.” It’s an attitude I find offensive, disrespectful and plain ignorant. In an increasing age of technological and scientific fetishism, those of us who want to revisit and tap into cosmic and planetary energies find ourselves marginalized. I can at least appreciate the attempt at some degree of preservation and historical documentation that still allows sites like these to exist. While at the same time, realizing so many other sites have been destroyed for commercialization. 

Another strange curiosity worth mentioning is the fact that two of the five Hopewell complexes are barred from the public view entirely. What the hell is up with that?

The conical Grave Creek Mound, in Moundsville, WV, was the last remaining burial mound on the checklist. This is when things got a little odd I suppose. We arrived at sunset to discover that unlike previous sites, GCM is completely gated in. Visiting hours had ended and we were unable to access the museum that stands next to the mound site. Despite that, a fairly close view of the mound was possible as the mound stands nearly 70 ft. tall, the largest of all Adena culture mounds on record. 
Grave Creek Mound
Grave Creek Mound
The craziest thing about our visit was the immediate observation that a huge Gothic prison sat directly across the street from the mound. West Virginia State Penitentiary is a tall, moody building built in the 1800’s. Closed since the 1990’s, the facility stays open as a haunted tour destination as well as a training ground, hosting simulated inmate riots. If not for the kids, I would have loved to do the paranormal tour. The pictures featured here give you an idea of the dark imposition it imposes. Having said all that, the really crazy thing is the fact that both of these cryptic destinations are smack-dab in the middle of a damn neighborhood. Can you even imagine a situation were you grow up living next to an ancient burial mound and a State Pen? Not to mention, a prison that had a number of documented escapees and riots. Thousands of prisoners died there, by natural causes as well as by execution.

As relayed in Sinister Forces, Grave Creek Mound is associated with the most controversial mystery of any of the mounds described here. This is related to the fact that a Runic stone with Phoenician engraving was discovered among the bodies during mound excavation in 1838. If authentic (which seems likely as the scripts translation didn't occur until well after the stone was uncovered), that little rune would draw into the question the origins of the builders themselves. This raises the possibility that European cultures inhabited North America hundreds if not thousands of years before Columbus. That would of course rewrite history in a way that would make a whole lot of people very uncomfortable. It poses more questions than there are answers for. 

The Runic Cast and Wax Impression
West Virginia State Penitentiary
West Virginia State Penitentiary
After mentally processing all that, I began shooting the best photos I could despite the fencing. As I was going about my work, it was my wife who started getting seriously spooked by the environment. I say this with very limited exposure and respect, but this section of the neighborhood was a little on the run-down side. Not dissimilar to low-rent areas back in Detroit. All these ominous factors got into my wife’s head right away. Then my daughter took a spill onto the concrete road as we were making our way around the mound. It was a bad fall that made impact with her forehead. Kids fall down all the time, no big deal. In this case it happened seconds after my wife told me she felt freaked out and wanted to leave. There was a moment of panic after the fall, as we noticed the bruise on our little girls head swell up instantaneously in an unsettling manor.  Luckily no real damage was done and we soon calmed down. Even still, the wife and kids got into the car and would not come back out. I decided to get the last photos as quickly as I could and get the hell on our way. But just before we did, I stopped to talk with two guys who also showed up to see the mound. It was a good thing I did because they ended up adding an item to our itinerary. A place I never would have thought to seek out, especially in the country hills of West Virginia.
 
Grave Creek Mound
Grave Creek Mound
In the unincorporated area of New Vrindaban, is America’s largest community for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. An intentional community sitting on 1,204 acres includes temples, apartments, lodges, statues, huge gardens, farms and ponds. The centerpiece attraction for certain is Prabhupada'sPalace of Gold.  A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was the founder and guru of the Hare Krishna movement and this palace was intended to be his new home had he not died before its completion in 1979. When the guys from the mound showed me their phone pics of this place I had to make the trek, which was not far from the Grave Creek at all. After staying over a night and ready to put the mounds behind us, we set out for the temple. Let me tell you, this place is in the middle of nowhere. The course took us deep into the sticks along winding roads and up into the Appalachian hills. There’s nothing in the surrounding area that prepares you for the slice of India we came upon that day. Their website bills the area as "America’s Taj Mahal." All I can say is that it was not like anything I had ever seen. 
 
New Vrindaban Hare Krishna community

New Vrindaban Hare Krishna community
We arrived serendipitously just before a formal ceremony. we kicked off our shows and headed into the large Radha Krishna Temple. The inner sanctum was decked out with very ornate displays honoring an assortment of Gods and Goddesses. Impressively or weirdly, they have an extremely lifelike sculpture of Prabhupada to exact scale. The first half of the service consisted of 30 minutes of a song that repeats the Hare Krishna chant. The chanting was preformed by a very young American girl with a beautifully, hypnotic voice. There were several Krisha’s in attendance, we being the only outsiders. As guests, we were treated extremely well and I was pleased by their hospitality. We were welcomed into their holy ceremony and it was truly fascinating to witness. I was blessed with holy waters, flames and incenses. Not knowing what it all meant, I just relaxed and went with it. A talk was provided following the chanting. After the service we were even allowed to join in a communal vegan meal, free of charge. I don’t know much about traditional Indian food, except that it was excellent. They served a wonderful desert as well. I remember feeling dumbfounded by the unplanned circumstance that brought us there.

New Vrindaban Hare Krishna community
New Vrindaban Hare Krishna community
New Vrindaban Hare Krishna community
New Vrindaban Hare Krishna community
After the meal we spent the rest of the afternoon touring the grounds. It seemed clear that the facilities were under remodel, as certain aspects of the buildings seemed a bit neglected and worn by time. Looming large near the Lotus Pond are two huge statues of the Deities, Gaura and Nitai. Standing at their feet gives one the feeling of being in the presence of giants come to earth.
“Lord Gaura and Nitai are amazingly, and unlimitedly merciful forms of God, who have come to Earth to deliver the especially fallen souls (i.e, us!) living in the current time of quarrel and hypocrisy or Kali-yuga.”
I took a paid tour of the Golden Palace, which is extravagant to say the least, including three more life-sized statues of Prabhupada. Once I saw the view from the foot of the palace, I understood why they were drawn to the location. Very isolated with incredibly beatific vistas. 

Setting aside the specific beliefs and practices of the religion, it was an undeniably immerse and calming experience. There is also something very alluring about communal living and being completely self-sustaining, isolated from the madness of the modern world.

New Vrindaban Hare Krishna community
Lord Gaura and Nitai
Lord Gaura and Nitai
Palace of Gold
Palace of Gold
Palace of Gold

But one needn’t look to far back into the organizations history to find allegations of abuse, mind control and mistreatment. The New Vrindaban community claims they have addressed scandals in their past and made the proper changes. I’m not in any position to make a claim either way. We took the experience at face-value and enjoyed ourselves and conversations had with the people there. Due to spending much more time there than planned, we were unable to make a visit to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Outer Rosicrucian Order of Appalachia, in Morgantown. That wasn’t much of a loss being that they offer no public access to the Lodge itself. I feel the ISOKC Temple visit more than made up for that loss.
 
Palace of Gold

Palace of Gold
Palace of Gold
Palace of Gold

It was later that evening that we made it to our cabin in the Blackwater Falls State Park. Although the rest of our trip and stay there was awesome, with incredible natural sights to experience, I’ll wrap up the story here. The rest of the trip was just a good old, wholesome time spent in the great outdoors checking out places like the Seneca Caverns, Seneca Rocks and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water on the way back to Michigan. 
 
Mothman News Article
The only other unusual thing to report had to do with another West Virginia phenomena known as The Mothman legend. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the events surrounding the cryptid sightings, check out the video below. There was no way we could handle the four-hour hike down into Point Pleasant, where it all went down back in 1966-67. But as a next best thing, I at least wanted to tell the family about the myth and watch a documentary. It was odd that an hour or so after watching it, I went for a walk to get a coffee and while I was waiting for it, I looked down and saw a huge moth laying right there on the cement. Of course, a moth isn't out of place in the outdoors by any means. It was the fact that I personally hadn’t come across a moth like that in, who knows how many years. It just never happens. The timing so close to my Mothman immersion made it a little weird is all. Possibly a synchronicity. And then there was that snake in the road on the way back to the cabin…


1 comment:

  1. The 'star exercise' that you refer to was taken from the book The Science of Being written by Eugene Fersen in 1923 in Lesson Two where he writes about the Star Exercise. Jim Baker, the founder/leader of The Source Family adopted Eugene Fersen's Star Exercise combining it with the Kundalini Yoga Breath of Fire (rapid inhalation & exhalation) that he'd learned while with Yogi Bhajan.

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