Ark of the Covenant, the Hoax

The following message was just posted on the forum of my esteemed research colleague Andrew Gough.

The fake Ark as forged by Bill Wilkinson aka the Tombman Ben Hammott“It has come to my attention that a covert project is under way to sell an artificial / fake / recently-constructed Ark of the Covenant look-alike to private investors for an enormous sum of money. In this instance, however, the plan is not to publicise the alleged find until it has been sold; only then will it be presented to the public, so as to avoid the critical eye of sceptics. It appears that the Ark of the Covenant look-alike is located in a cave, and I have been presented with details from a reliable source. I believe that it is in our interest, and we have an obligation as a genre, to expose this deception.”

The fake Ark as forged by Bill Wilkinson aka the Tombman Ben HammottThe attempt to sell a fake Ark of the Covenant is another episode in the Rennes-le-Château forgeries of The Tombman Ben Hammott.

In Andrew’s words: “The whistleblowing in this article represents a stand against the continued nonsense. A fake Ark of the Covenant is now for sale. Buyer beware!!”

The Full Story

In 1999 a certain Bill Wilkinson changed his public-facing name to Ben Hammott, an anagram for ‘The Tombman’. The change highlighted his alleged discovery of a tomb in or around Rennes-le-Château; a tomb he would later suggest contained the body of Mary Magdalene. However, new evidence suggests that there may have been another reason for his name change.

Bill Wilkinson (Ben Hammott) on the left wit the Loch Ness researchers in 1999Also in 1999, Bill Wilkinson, supported by his brother, Mick, presented a video of what they claimed to be the Loch Ness Monster to a team of specialists at the Loch Ness & Morar Project, a respected organisation, led by the esteemed authority, Adrian J Shine. According to Shine, the Wilkinson brothers were looking for validation that the video was authentic, so that they could sell it, presumably for a large sum of money.

a still from Wilkinson's fake Nessy videoConversations of Andrew Gough and your webmaster with Adrian Shine (February 2012) confirmed that the Loch Ness Project scientists rejected Wilkinson’s video. Shine confirmed that Wilkinson submitted a copy of his video on 5th August 1999 and that they notified him of their findings seven weeks later, in a letter from Shine dated 25th September, which described Wilkinson’s effort as, “a well constructed hoax”.

Letter from Adrian Shrine to Bill Wilkinson about the Loch Ness fraudShine sent a letter to Wilkinson on September 25th to state his findings (click the letter to read it for yourself). Another letter around the same time, from a different member of the Loch Ness Project, termed it, an attempt to deceive” and added, “we feel that the neck and head are latex mouldings, attached to and manoeuvred by a diver.

Wilkinson subsequently attempted to sell the video of “Nessie” to various newspapers, including the Sun and the Mirror, and he did receive an offer from one of them, which he turned down in Letter from the company that was used to authenticate Wilkinson's videothe hope that he could demand a significantly greater amount of money should Shine and his team authenticate the video. They did not, and the offers dried up.

Shine also mentioned that he visited the Loch at the location where Wilkinson indicated he had filmed ‘Nessie’, not expecting to find the creature, but rather in the hope of identifying how Wilkinson had orchestrated the deception.

Within a couple of months of his video being rejected, Wilkinson changed his name to Ben Hammott and moved on from the Loch Ness Monster and began refocusing on the tomb of Mary Magdalene in Rennes-le-Château, which he claimed he had discovered previously. No-one took notice of his Loch Ness Monster fiasco and it had faded into oblivion until an individual by the name of Richard Paul watched a documentary (Bloodline) with a colleague of Shine, who recognised Wilkinson from the Loch Ness Monster deception.

Bloodline Movie PosterHammott’s alleged discovery of the tomb of Mary Magdelene attracted considerable attention within the Rennes-le-Château genre for a while, but little interest was generated in the mainstream press or within academia, due (in part) to his resistance to showing French officials the tomb, despite having met with them on at least one occasion. RLC Research published an article exposing the hoax behind Bloodline the movie in May 2008.

Today, no evidence (besides Wilkinson’s own video footage) has been produced to confirm the tomb’s existence and Wilkinson is said to be fearful of returning to it due to his belief that ‘it is cursed’. Curiously, Wilkinson’s video ‘evidence’ never included audio of the camera’s descent down the irregular-shaped shaft in the cave. When I examined the camera a few years ago I noticed that this feature could not be turned off, begging the question: was there something on the audio that Wilkinson wanted to hide?

Bill Wilkinson aka Tombman Ben Hammott showing one of his forgeriesSubsequent to the alleged discovery of a tomb that looked more like a movie set than the last resting place of one of the most renowned women in history, Wilkinson ‘discovered’ a chest containing miscellaneous items, which he and his colleagues suggested were artefacts from the wedding of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene, together with three bottles containing un-aged parchments with poorly written and anglicised Old French. Each was discovered in the vicinity of Rennes-le-Château. Not surprisingly, all items were (and are still) obtainable on eBay.

Bill's book about his HoaxBill Wilkinson (aka Ben Hammott) soon released a book, and a documentary was made on the subject of the whole affair by the name of Bloodline. Its director, Bruce Burgess, who was as close to Wilkinson and his discoveries as anyone, later had this to say about one particularly farcical aspect of the researcher’s quest:

“When Ben found bottle three up on Blanchefort, I went with him… I must admit that I thought the whole treasure was silly beyond belief, so I took a nap in the bushes…And guess what, they found a crack in the ‘Guardian’ rock which resembled (???) the crack on one of the stations of the cross in the church, in which was stone marker, and although they removed it, somehow remembered that it pointed in a certain direction (???) which led to a rock, under which was….yes, you’ve guessed it, the small brownish bottle contained clue three. Glad I was sleeping off lunch.” – Bruce Burgess, Arcadia Forum 2010

Burgess also provided the audio from the day, which included Bill Kersey instructing Hammott to dig a little deeper beneath the third bottle because “god may have placed a fourth bottle there”. Sure enough, Hammott returned to the spot some weeks later and discovered the fourth bottle. Inside sources have confirmed that Hammott personally placed the fourth bottle there, just as he had personally hidden the others.

Not only is such a deception a punishable offence, but an unacceptable consequence of such behaviour, particularly in a genre ridden with fraud and deceit, is the continued manipulation of the public, particularly with regard to artefacts holding strong religious and political connotations.

Link to the original article.

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5 thoughts on “Ark of the Covenant, the Hoax

  1. It’s about time somebody starts to blow the whistle about Mr. “Oops I accidentally dropped my video camera down a hole and found an ancient crypt”. And now he won’t go there because it’s cursed? Yeah, sure. And the dog ate my homework. I’ve been lurking on that forum for longer that I care to remember, watching this stuff unraveling… it’s just face-hurtingly stupid.

  2. It’s out. Bill Wilkinson just posted a confession on Andrew Gough’s forum here:

    It has been a long time coming and something that is long overdue. And to tell the truth, for once, I am glad it has all finally come out and I thank Andrew for being the intermediary that facilitated this outcome. I have thought many times about coming clean and telling the truth, but lacked the guts to do so.
    Everything I said I discovered is a hoax, planted by me and only me.

    Sandy, Bill, Pat, Rene and Bruce, my brother, and everyone else were unwitting pawns in my game, for the lack of a better word. I have no idea why I did it, or carried on what was at first a stupid prank that escalated out of control. My intention was never to deceive, but then of course it was by doing what I did.
    Perhaps I did it for the money, though very little was ever forthcoming and realised early on that it probably never would.
    Did I do it for fame and attention? Perhaps. I did enjoy it at times but it wasn’t the driving force behind it.
    Maybe I just carried on to see what I could get away with. I really don’t know.

    I know saying sorry to the many friends and acquaintances I have made and deceived over the years, can in no way make up for what I have done. There is probably nothing I can say or do now to right the wrong. But I am very, very sorry and know that many of them I will lose, which apart from the deceit, is perhaps the worst thing about this sorry and despicable act of mine.
    Have I made money from my exploits, yes, a bit through book sales, but nearly all the money I have made has paid for further research and my many trips to rlc to try and find something real that I still believe to be there, to in some way hope to make up for my past deeds. I do believe Saunière found a secret, something hidden in the vicinity of Rennes-le-Chateau, and there is something truly amazing to be found. It is something that I will continue looking for.

    I have had nothing since bad luck since I become involved with the Rennes-le-Chateau affair, bad karma, almost certainly. Today I have no money, no family life, no home and now probably very few friends. It is perhaps a well disserved outcome.

    I apologize to everyone who has supported me over the years, everyone who bought my book, but most of all I apologize to my friends and family for letting them down. I cannot say sorry enough to Sandy, Bill, Rene and many others for being my friends and supporting me all these years. I have lied to you and let you down in such a big way I cannot even hope for your forgiveness.
    Anyone who would like to return my book can contact me for a refund and when I have the money I will reimburse them.


  3. Very saddenned by Bills admission and the fact that he has hurt so many people. To particularly allow Rene Barnett to continue in the enormously expnsive production of ‘Bloodline’ was despicable as it ha scaused her huge financial loss. She trusted, befriended and defended Bill thru all the contoversy. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and although it cost me little find that I can not accept his lame apologies. He made a deliberate choice to purely make money as most other criminals do. I hope the French authorities tak the appropriate action under french law if any offences have been revealed. Has anyone infromed the DRAC in case they wish to pursue it. Maybe an example should be made to prevent further hoaxes.

  4. Hello, everyone!
    If you feel hurt, I feel stupid… I did the Portuguese translations for that s.o.b…………..
    The worse is this hoax casting some shadows on RLC. Anyway, Hammott’s, or Wilkinson’s or whatever’s hoax DOES have some true facts or at least reasonable hypothesis. I propose we should stop mentionning this lousy affair and concentrate in the RLC Mystery. I’ve been reading some papers published by Dr. Robert Eisenmann on Jesus and the Essene Community, available in his own website and I think highly probable the hypothesis of Jesus, or his body, having been carried to Southern France. Probably he did survive the crucifixion, staged or not – in this bloody affair there seems to be a hoax in each corner! The possibility that he survived for some years has been forwarded publicly by Robert Ambellain, and lately Dr. Barbara Thiering came up with the same notion. The only “evidence” against was one of the bottle papers stating he had died after 22 days, but tha’s unimportant now…. Jesus enjoying several years of survival would explain a lot, indeed, and all the pieces seem to be glueing together.

  5. good day to every one ! hoax can not even begin to describe what bill has done . there r more important thing’s n life than money . it’s called the truth !
    looking for artifacts should be left to the men ,and women who have spent lifetime’s in school , and n field research period !

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