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.