”Those that can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” Voltaire
At long last, this blog post is the second part of The Enigma in the Lake: a Critical Inquiry into the Rock Lake Pyramids. This writing is timely in that we find ourselves overwhelmed by science denialism and fake news. That science denialism has become politicized and has been connected to ideas of nationalism. With the recent removal of statues commemorating racist history, what follows is a gross miscarriage of history and archaeology used to promote a racist agenda and build a fake narrative around an equally fake archaeological site. This agenda and those behind it need to be exposed now more than ever. This is the latter history of the Rock Lake pyramids and it is a dark, unusual history.
Pseudoarchaeology is that which purports to be archaeological claims, conclusions, ideas, or notions that have fake, fraudulent, or overly fantastic bases in reality rather than being solidly grounded in the scientific method. Archaeology is the study of human culture from material remains and like any science, this is done through careful observation and methods using consistent logic to evaluate the data.
The legend of the sunken pyramids of Rock Lake along with legitimate archaeological sites across the midwest was co-opted into a narrative that suggests that ancient white Atlanteans were responsible for these ancient sites rather than indigenous Native Americans. Thus discrediting the works of the indigenous peoples of Wisconsin and their ancestors. Findings of scientific fact were connected to occult theory, facts and evidence were either bent or completely fabricated to further this narrative. All of this research was conducted with shadowy motives for decidedly sinister ends by those with an equally dark past. Much like the previous blog, this blog post seeks to expose the fact from fiction regarding the rock lake pyramids and those who developed and furthered the narrative namely the infamous Frank Joseph Collins.
Much like the writings concerning the Rock Lake pyramids; The Lost Pyramids of Rock Lake: Wisconsin’s Lost Civilization, and Atlantis in Wisconsin: New Revelations About Lost Sunken City; this blog is going to travel across time and space first to Austria at the turn of the century, Nazi Germany, the ancient site of Tiwanaku in Bolivia, Burrows Cave in Olney, Illinois and then to Chicago, Illinois, of the 1970s to discuss the diffusionism of racist thought and illustrate that Frank Joseph Collins hails from a long line of similar thinkers and researchers. This blog post will still focus on the submerged pyramids of Rock Lake Wisconsin and how this previous research relates both to them and Frank Joseph Collins. Like much of pseudoarchaeology, the claims Frank Joseph Collins makes and the enigmatic pyramids themselves are almost too much to be unpacked, it has taken two blogs (and possibly a third) so far. This is going to be a long, dark voyage with a considerable cast of villains.
”Read with our souls the landscape which archaeology reconquers with the spade.” Guido Von List
”ESP is replacing the spade as archaeology’s primary tool.” Jeffrey Goodman
Guido Von List and Psychic Archaeology
Psychic archaeology is using occult means to learn and understand the past. This concept is used extensively in Atlantis In Wisconsin as evidence to further the narrative that the Rock Lake Pyramids were constructed by Atlanteans. Psychic archaeology was introduced by Jeffrey Goodman in his 1978 book of the same name. However, the use of occult means to discern the past has its roots further in the past and those roots are far more insidious. Guido Karl Anton List was born on 5 October 1848 in Vienna, Austria. As a young boy List would go on trips to the Austrian countryside where List developed a passion for nature, art, castles, and prehistoric monuments. List would also have a transformative moment when he visited the catacombs beneath St. Stephans Church in Vienna. List would claim that he discovered and knelt before a ruined altar in a crypt and swore to build a temple to Wotan (the Norse God Odin). List regarded this altar as a pre-Christian shrine dedicated to the pagan deity. List began sharing his passions writing for several newspapers. In 1875 List went rowing down the Danube River to the ancient Roman town of Carnatum where they camped and celebrated the 1500th anniversary of the German victory over the Romans and to commemorate the event he buried eight wine bottles in the shape of a swastika beneath the arch of the pagan gate.
List would later write Carnatum which was a fictional romance set against the backdrop of the ancient battle between the Germans and the Romans. Although fictional, the history used in List’s story gave a proud depiction of ancient Germans and also connected ancient Austrians with ancient Germans. List’s work caught the attention and inspired German nationalists, politicians, the Volkisch movement, and the growing pan-Germanic movement. They were able to build an association between history and nationalism in a similar fashion as the UK with the discovery of the dubious “Piltdown Man” in 1912. This attention garnered financial backing for his work and the creation of the Guido von List Society. List was undoubtedly inspired by Madame Helena Blavatsky Theosophy movement of 1875. (Madame Blavatsky is a character in her own regard and sources regarding her and the Theosophy movement will be added in the “Sources & Resources section”) Theosophy in its essence is the belief that there is a deeper spiritual reality and contact with that reality can be achieved through intuition, meditation, revelation, altered states of consciousness all through an esoteric doctrine. To List, Theosophy was a part of being Aryan, it was a tangible connection to that past. The Volkisch movement was an opposition to modernity occurring in the early 1900s, it was a rebirth of Germans through following reconstructed traditions of ancient Germans, it emphasized a return to nature. Guido Von List was the first popular writer to combine Volkisch thought with theosophy, occultism, and eventually pseudoarchaeology and antisemitism. This combination would be later be given the title of Armanism and several organizations would be formed around List and his ideas.
List would later pen the article Die Juden als Staat und Nation (The Jews as a State and Nation) cementing List and his work as anti-Semitic. After 1902 Lists’ work grew more occult due to getting surgery to remove a cataract leaving him blind for 11 months. List saw himself like Odin who also lost an eye and his sight in order to gain wisdom. Throughout his blindness List concerned himself with furthering his ideas and runes and language. In 1903 he sent a manuscript that was the culmination of his insight into Aryan Proto languages to the Imperial Academy of Sciences in Vienna which never received comment or acknowledgment. Essentially List used his psychic insight during his blindness to discern the meaning of runes and Germanic language. List would revisit and combine his earlier thought with his new occult ability to create a vast narrative about the German and Aryan past.
List stated that the diluvial Atlanteans were equated with being kinsfolk of the giant Bergelmir from Norse mythology who also survived a catastrophic flood. List also claimed that the prehistoric megaliths of southern Austria were evidence of Atlantean survival and these ancient Atlanteans were ancestors of modern Germans. List gleaned this information through his psychic archaeology; altered states of consciousness and clairvoyance, not any empirical method. List would use the same technique to find evidence of an ancient Germanic Wotanist armanist culture throughout Austria and Germany. The evidence of which persisted despite Christian destruction. He found this evidence in the aforementioned megalithic monuments, tumuli, archaeological sites, hillforts, and castles built upon earlier pagan sites. List also found this evidence in the local place names for rivers, hills, mountains, and fields that came from the pre-Christian period and recalled the names of the Gods and Goddesses of the Germanic Pantheon. Additional evidence came from List reinterpreting local folk tales and legends. This made for a rich rich narrative of Germanic history and a superior Germanic culture that people could appreciate and connect to; List was able to ascribe modern German nationalist meanings to ancient cultural objects. The psychic archaeology that List developed was in opposition to the then academic archaeology. Tangible evidence recovered archaeologically was of little interest to List and his followers, he believed his historical narrative was a genuine revival of the primordial Aryan tradition.
List would develop a blueprint for a new pan-germanic empire which called for the ruthless subjugation of non-Aryans to Ayan masters in a structured hierarchical state. Candidates for education or positions in public service and commerce were to be tested for racial purity. The Germanic race was to be removed from wage labor and demeaning tasks as an exalted elite over the slave casts of non-Aryan people. Strict racial and marital laws were to be observed. Each family was to keep a genealogical record attesting to their racial purity. Inside of his state was to be a mystical theocratic elite, which anticipated the mystical elitism of the SS in Nazi Germany. Lists Pan-Germanic empire bears an uncanny resemblance to the later Nuremberg racial laws of the 1930s. List would die on 17 May 1919 in Berlin but his ideas would live on with Jorg and Lanz von Liebenfels, the Thule Society, and Ahnenerbe researchers (which will be explored in the next section), and Heinrich Himmler. It’s undecided whether Guido Von List influenced Adolf Hitler. Although List’s ideas lived on and were later co-opted into the Nazi narrative of the past, The Guido Von List Society and List’s Armenian Order would not last under the Reich through the Nazi persecution and suppression of Esoteric organizations. Lists Wotanism would be made to represent a false and competing religion within the Reich.
“These days prehistory and archaeology have become popular sciences across the entire world…excavations particularly those which take place on a grand scale speak to a nation’s emotions and passions. Fantasy is set in motion…therefore one must be cautious. These days archaeological artifacts and results have important meaning for nations. They are part of a people, a nation’s spiritual capital. However, they should not be misused for nationalistic propaganda.” Anton Brogger, Norwegian Archaeologist
The Nazi Search for Atlantis
In 1935 Heinrich Himmler leader of the Schutzstaffel or SS and the architect of the Holocaust founded the Ahnenerbe (ancestral heritage) as an elite Nazi scientific research institute and think tank. The mission of the Ahnenerbe was to find evidence of Germanic (or Nordic) cultural accomplishments in prehistory, Germanic dominance in the past, ancient Germanic knowledge, and find evidence to support Hitler’s race supremacy theories. Their research was conducted through scientific or pseudoscientific methods and then the Ahnenerbe would convey these findings to the German people. They were to disseminate this narrative through their two journals, magazine articles, books, museum displays, and scientific conferences. The Ahnenerbe was to portray itself as an elite, cutting-edge scientific and academic institution that would display Nazi political ideas, especially where race is concerned as scientific ideas and fact. The SS organization was comprised of scholars, scientists, and pseudoscientists from a broad range of academic disciplines. It was the Nazi corruption of academia to suit their needs. The researchers it employed were in the business of distorting the truth and evidence to support the Nazi narrative and when the opportunity arose their research would be used for both fuel and as a justification for the Holocaust. Himmler had realized the importance of the past and considered the research being carried out by the Ahnenerbe as essential for the future of the Reich by controlling Germany’s ancient past.
Himmler himself believed in the mythical story of Atlantis; he believed that the Nordic race had descended from heaven to occupy the continent of Atlantis and eventually emigrated to the ancient city of Obo in Central Asia. (The ancient city of Obo isn’t a real place). The first president of the Ahnenerbe was Herman Wirth and one of the most controversial prehistorians in Germany. Wirth was convinced he found an ancient holy script that was the forerunner to all languages invented by an ancient Nordic civilization in the North Atlantic. This was contained in the Frisian Oera Linda book. (Which has hence been proven as a hoax). Wirth believed by unlocking these ancient texts he could find insight into the Nordic or Aryan religion and reawaken Germany from its unhappy slumber and restore it to greatness again. Wirth believed that examples of this script existed in folk art.
Wirth had joined the Nazi party fairly early on but canceled his membership because he didn’t want to lose to any possible Jewish donors for his research. Wirth had no evidence to back up his claims, the available evidence at the time suggested that language and writing developed in the Middle East, not Germany. Wirth suggested that the Nordic race evolved on a lost continent in the North Atlantic until a great cataclysm drowned their lands and the survivors fled to both Europe and North America. It was possible to Wirth that this Nordic homeland was the Atlantis of legend and based on his research into the descriptions of the fictional nation’s grandeur, it must have been. To Wirth, Atlantis occupied a region between Iceland and the Azores before it sank due to tectonic activity. Wirth’s work of Atlantis and a lost Nordic civilization was eventually published in 1929 as Urgeschichte der atlantisch-nordischen Rasse (Prehistory of the Atlantic Nordic Race) which generated a lot of interest and eventually drew the attention of Heinrich Himmler. Wirth’s research generated the construction of the Haus Atlantis in Bremen, Germany. Wirth’s work garnered much criticism from the academic community one even warning that even though Wirth seemed harmless, his visions of the past seduced Germans into dangerous dreams of Racial superiority. Once president of the Ahnenerbe Wirth was able to organize an expedition into Sweden to take casts of petroglyphs to prove the Nordic immigration south to Germany. Wirth and his theories of Atlantis would eventually be denounced by Hitler and Himmler had drummed him out of being president of the Ahnenerbe. That aside, Hitler took little notice or care of the Ahnenerbe.
Another Atlantis researcher that was in the employ of the Ahnenerbe and the SS was Edmund Kiss although he had a slightly different interpretation. Kiss was a proponent of a theory known as the Welteislehre (WEL) a cosmological theory put forth by Austrian engineer and inventor Hanns Hörbiger. This theory which Hörbiger had received in a vision, essentially suggests that most astronomical bodies such as moons, planets, and stars were made of ice. Space is full of water vapor, in this wet environment small stars cool down to become ice stars and then gravitate towards bigger ice stars where they remain for millions of years until they explode into steam. The matter blasted into space by these explosions coagulates to form planets and moons. The orbits would gradually deteriorate and get pulled toward the sun through the smaller ice stars are captured by the outer planets. Smaller planets and moons would be captured by the gravity of larger planetary bodies in a process that generates massive floods and tremendous earthquakes until they settle into stable orbits or crash down into the host planets. As the planets fall into each other, the gravitational attraction causes a massive tidal displacement that causes all the water to bulge around the equator which caused cataclysmic flooding. Accordingly, this catastrophe happened several times throughout Earth’s history causing certain humans to seek shelter on the tallest mountain peaks thereby affecting mankind’s evolution.
Hörbiger was avowedly anti-intellectual as stated, he received this grand cosmic theory from a vision and additionally, he went on to state his belief that calculations could only lead you astray. Hörbiger’s ideas were the German antithesis of the ”liberal Jewish” theory of relativity and was promoted as such. To Hörbiger, Germany was being poisoned by western sciences.
Thus, this theory caught the attention and the backing of the Nazi party and Adolf Hitler. This was a widely criticized and denounced theory that had no empirical evidence to back up its claims. Astronomers were heckled during lectures to outright harassment and molestation in the streets. Certain business owners forced their workers to sign a promise to adhere to Hörbiger’s Welteislehre theory.
To Edmund Kiss, the evidence for Welteislehre was located at the ancient site of Tiwanaku in Bolivia. Kiss was an architect and writer inspired by Hörbiger and Arthur Posnansky. Posnansky was a civil and geodetic engineer living in Bolivia turned archaeologist and anthropologist after watching the British dismantle the site for its stones to be used in construction projects. Posnansky took pictures, excavated surveyed, and wrote extensively about the site to raise awareness, a noble goal. Posnansky then suggested that Caucasian immigrants from far west had designed Tiwanaku and put indigenous Andeans to work building it. Edmund Kiss struck up a friendship with Posnansky and after winning a $20,000 mark prize in a writing contest traveled to Bolivia in 1928. Kiss studied Tiwanaku extensively, sketched floor plans, any inscriptions that he found, and made various notes about how features of Tiwanaku were clearly European. Kiss also allegedly discovered a large carved head with “clearly nordic features” that was never photographed or recovered (most likely a hoax) and also interpreted Tiwanaku’s famous Gateway of the Sun was a huge calendar. Kiss’s interpretation was that Tiwanaku was an ancient Nordic refuge designed by Nordic people fleeing Atlantis that was sunk as a result of Welteislehre.
”The work of art and architectural style of the prehistoric city are certainly not of Indian origin. Rather they are probably the creations of Nordic men who arrived in the Andean highlands as members of a special civilization.” Edmund Kiss
When Kiss returned to Germany he would write a series of novels based on his travels and his theory of Tiwanaku; Die Letzte Königin von Atlantis (The Last Queen of Atlantis), Frühling in Atlantis (Spring in Atlantis) Das Sonnentor Von Tihuanaku und Hörbiger’s Welteislehre (The Sun Gate of Tihuanaku and Hörbiger’s World Ice Theory), later Das Singschwäne aus Thule (The Singing Swans from Thule). His works along with his very detailed drawings of Tiwanaku became very popular and eventually caught the attention of Himmler who grew very passionate for Kiss’s novels even going as far as making a special leather-bound edition of Die Letzte Königin von Atlantis to Hitler for his birthday. Kiss’s stories were so popular that there were articles written about his research in both Hitler Youth magazines.
With the creation of the Ahnenerbe, Kiss hoped to get SS support and backing for another research expedition to Tiwanaku. In 1936 Kiss and four other prominent Welteislehre researchers signed an official declaration known as the Pyrmonter Protkoll which states that Welteislehre is a true gift of Aryan importance. Himmler and the Ahnenerbe would send Kiss to find evidence of Welteislehre a little closer to home on the coast of Libya. Himmler also attempted to get Kiss on Ernst Schafer’s famous 1939 Ahnenerbe expedition into Tibet but Schafer refused. Himmler had believed that Schafer’s expedition would find the lost city of Obo, even though it wasn’t Ernst Schaefer’s goal. In August 1939 Kiss finally got his wish, the Ahnenerbe began planning an expedition for him to return to Bolivia. Kiss made meticulous plans and called for an interdisciplinary team including divers that were to take underwater footage of the bottom of Lake Titicaca and pilots to fly across the Andes to take footage of the Inca Roads for a whole year. This expedition never occurred due to the outbreak of WWII.
Kiss would go on to serve in an SS Anti-tank division, receive an honorary SS dagger, and would later be in command of the SS troops at Hitler’s Wolschanze. Kiss and his troops would retreat west so they could surrender to American forces. He was interned at Darmstrang and declared ”A Major Offender”. Kiss hired an expensive lawyer for his Denazification hearing and argued that he had never been a member of the Nazi Party. He portrayed himself as a reformed man and stated that he had doubts in the Welteislehre theory. He was allowed to go free where he continued writing about Atlantis with Some Comments on the Critias until his death in 1960. Edmund Kiss’s theories about Tiwanaku would live on in modern pseudoarchaeological works including Graham Hancock’s Fingerprints of the Gods.
Kiss’s expedition wasn’t the only one that was delayed indefinitely due to the outbreak of WWII. There was also a planned Ahnenerbe expedition to the Canary Islands. This was to be led by Dr. Otto Huth, an expert in religious science. The Canary Islands were believed to have been part of the southern edge of the continent of Atlantis. Huth believed that the natives of the Canari Islands were members of a pure undiluted line of the Nordic race who had preserved ancient Aryan religious customs in their culture. This was based on the account of early European explorers to the islands that had observed some islanders with white skin and blond hair. To Huth, the mummies discovered with blonde hair was the physical evidence that proved this theory rather than their hair being dyed blonde due to the type of preservatives indigenous Canarians used when making mummies as proposed by American anthropologist Earnest Hootan.
I know what you must be asking, What do the Rock Lake Pyramids have to do with Nazi archaeology? Rest assured dear reader, the next section will answer that question.
Frank Joseph Collins, Architect of Atlantis in Wisconsin
Versus Skokie, Illinois
Frank Joseph Collins was born in Chicago, Illinois on 3 November 1944 and would rise to prominence as a neo-Nazi in Chicago and later research into Atlantis. Perhaps growing up in Chicago of the 1950s and 1960s, one of the most segregated cities of the time influenced Collins’s racism, but his true motives are unknown. Even his own family members have gone as far as saying they don’t understand where his racism comes from especially for being descended from either (it’s unclear) holocaust survivors or a Jewish family that did not survive the Holocaust. In any case, as a young man, he joined George Lincoln Rockwell’s National Socialist White People’s Party also known as the American Nazi Party in the mid-1960s. Collins was able to quickly ascend through the party ranks and his efforts were eventually noticed by George Lincoln Rockwell who then appointed Collins as the Parties Midwest Coordinator. George Lincoln Rockwell was assassinated by a former member of his party John Palter on 25 August 1967 and would be succeeded by Matthias Koehl. Koehl and Collins did not get along and eventually, Koehl found evidence of Collins’s apparently Jewish ancestry and thus had him expelled from the party.
In 1970 Collins would form the National Socialist Party of America with a few former members of Rockwell’s party and declare himself president. Throughout this time in the early 1970s, his party would garner 30 members. Collins would bring attention to himself and the party by disrupting peace parades, protesting at the German Consulate in Chicago for the continued imprisonment of Nazi Rudoph Hess, protesting a talk at Triton Junior College by Nazi Hunter Simon Wisenthal, and holding gatherings at Marquette Park in Chicago’s south side, the same park where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at and was subsequently attacked in 1966. Collins believed that having his gatherings in the same place where Martin Luther King was attacked, in a predominantly white neighborhood not far from Englewood a predominantly African American neighborhood would be fertile grounds to extol his Nazi ideas and gather more followers. Collins would go to great lengths to intimidate those who protested him often instigating brawls. Collins would eventually attempt to get a permit for a Nazi rally in Marquette Park from the City of Chicago. Fearing the altercation that would surely follow, the City of Chicago wanted parade insurance of $250,000 liability.
Collins and his followers did not have enough in the coffers to pay for such insurance, much less find anyone who would insure them, so they searched elsewhere to hold their rally. Collins and his party would mail out solicitation letters which went mostly unanswered except that for the Chicago suburb of Skokie, Illinois, which was a firm “No!“. Skokie was a calculated choice on the part of Collins and he would later admit as much. Apparently, prior to WWII, there were formerly Nazi rallies, but after WWII Skokie had become a predominantly Jewish neighborhood with many of its citizens being survivors of the Holocaust. Initially, the reaction on part of community leaders was to let them march, ignore their message and move on, however when the community at large discovered these plans, they weren’t going to allow it. Many holocaust survivors spoke out against the idea of a Nazi demonstration in their town and told stories of their experiences during the Holocaust. Many living in Chicago of Eastern European ancestry spoke out. They had witnessed the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party and saw what they had achieved after having been underestimated. They did not want to underestimate Collins.
The community of Skokie had united to condemn and attempted to prevent Collin’s March in Skokie. Collins ordered his followers to print flyers with a large swastika that proclaimed “We are coming! May 1, 1977” and distributed them throughout Skokie. It also stated that the denial of his request to march would be limiting his first amendment rights. The city of Skokie was able to file a late-night injunction banning Collins and his followers from marching in Skokie and the local police were able to intercept him and his followers on their way to the Skokie City hall. Meanwhile, there was a massive counter-demonstration outside. After which there were several city ordinances and court orders filed against Collins and his party further confirming to Collins that Skokie was the best choice. Collins filed lawsuits against the City and Mayor of Skokie stating that all was indeed a violation of his first amendment rights.
“I used the hysteria of the Jewish community in Skokie especially to propel the issue of first amendment rights for the National Socialists and people who speak up for the white people.” Frank Joseph Collins.
The massive legal battle surrounding Collins and the National Socialist Party’s right to demonstrate in Skokie erupted on local, state, and federal levels eventually traveling all the way up to the Supreme Court on 14 June 1977. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) a non-partisan organization that defends first amendment rights got involved. They had agreed that it was an infringement of Collin’s first amendment rights; they had gotten ordinances levied and appealed challenges. A divided Supreme Court 5-4 ruled to lift the injunction against Collins and immediately he announced plans to finally rally in Skokie on 4 July 1977. Regardless the ongoing legal battle resulted in a legal stalemate that stopped Collins at every turn and he eventually canceled his march again. Regardless, Collins remained steadfast and confident that he would eventually be allowed to have his march. On 23 February 1978, a federal judge in Illinois ruled that Skokie’s city ordinances did indeed violate the first amendment and four days later the Illinois State Supreme Court sided with the US Supreme Court and lifted the injunction. Collins was finally free to have his Nazi march in Skokie with all the pomp and circumstance, Collins had planned to have his march coincide with Adolf Hitler’s birthday on 20 April 1978 but then decided to push it back to 22 April 1978 to have it coincide with the first day of the Jewish holiday of Passover. This decision sparked both national and international outrage and the citizens of Skokie received a massive amount of support. Collins’s march was pushed back once again. The Seventh circuit court affirmed the ruling that Skokie’s ordinances were unconstitutional as written and at that same time the US Supreme Court declined judicial review confirming their unconstitutionality. On 21 June 1978, the City of Chicago relented and overturned the required fee for parade insurance. Though citing security concerns, the City of Chicago gave Collins the option to move the march to the John Kluczynski Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago rather than in Marquette Park or Skokie. The Illinois State legislature made one final attempt to prevent the march which was quickly quashed in the house. After two years of controversy and legal battles, Collins canceled the Nazi march into Skokie even he finally could and marched at the Chicago Federal Plaza on 24 June 1978. Collins and twenty-nine others marched versus over roughly three thousand counter-protestors. Two weeks later on 9 July 1978 Collins and a dozen members marched on Marquette Park to another thousand counter-protestors. Collins spoke for only five minutes before the police escorted him away amidst a hail of rocks, eggs, and aluminum cans. Less than a year later Collins was ousted from being president of the party he created. In 1979 Frank Joseph Collins would be convicted of pedophilia and sent to prison, serving his sentence for three years before being released for good behavior. Frank Collins would fade from public memory until his resurgence.
“The American is a sucker for a legend.” Ben Whitcomb, The Lost Pyramids of Rock Lake. Skin Diver Magazine
Rock Lake Researches
Upon his release in 1983, Collins set to reinvent himself (in a manner of speaking) into a new age pseudoarchaeological diffusionist pagan author arguing for a “New American History of Tomorrow”. Reflecting this change Frank Collins became Frank Joseph, a pen name that was a shortened version of his full name, Joseph being his middle name.
“It’s not like I tried to hide.” He said noting that his nom de plume consists of his middle name without his last name.”If I wanted to hide, I would’ve called myself Melvin Proudfoot or something.” Frank Joseph Collins, Chicago Tribune.
Coincidentally, when Collins was serving his time at the Pontiac State Prison he had met and connected with a corrections officer Russel Burrows. Burrows is known for the pseudoarchaeological hoax known as the “Burrows Cave” which he had apparently discovered in April 1982 while hunting along the Little Wabash River in Illinois, either by falling into the cave after stepping on a large stone that tilted sideways or by simply stumbling across the opening (It’s not clear which, the story changed with each subsequent retelling) Burrows has apparently discovered a cave that within resembled an Egyptian tomb filled with gold and treasure along with artifacts relating to several different ancient cultures. Many artifacts reportedly had inscriptions in various ancient languages such as Phoenician, ancient Hebrew, and Iberian, but most were meaningless gibberish. Some artifacts apparently had Christ-like imagery. Many of the artifacts that were shown were very crude, comparable to an elementary school art project. Burrows kept the location of his find secret save for one person Frank Joseph Collins.
Burrows had apparently led Collins there in 1983. Similar to the Rock Lake pyramids, Burrows cave did receive the attention of academic archaeologists rather than being dismissed out of hand as Burrows had alleged. Burrows had received site-recording forms and methods for recording archaeological sites from the Illinois office of the State Archaeologist which Burrows never filled out because he wanted to protect the site’s treasure from looters. Burrows was contacted by several academics to get a viewing of the cave and Burrows refused, proclaiming that no one will ever see the cave. Many of the artifacts were revealed as forgeries and then the cave was dismissed as a fraud. Even fellow pseudoarchaeologist Barry Fell had dismissed Burrows Cave as a hoax. Tired of the criticism, Burrows had dynamited the entrance to the cave in 1989.
Burrows had apparently written two books on the subject: The Mystery Cave of Many Faces: A History of Burrows Cave and Rock Art Pieces from Burrows Cave with Dr. James P. Scherz whom will also later play a role in the Rock Lake Phenomenon. In 1993 Collins would become editor along with Wayne May of Ancient American Magazine dedicated to diffusionist ideas and pre-Columbian contact between the old and new worlds. Diffusionism is the transmission of cultural characteristics from one common society to all other societies. Aside from the two books, this magazine is the only resource on the Burrows cave. In a later article by Wayne May, May stated that he was led to Burrows cave on advice from Frank Collins who had been there previously. The cave was flooded but apparently not the original treasure-laden cave shown to Collins. Collins would eventually write about the Burrows Cave himself in his 2003 work The Lost Treasure of King Juba: The Evidence of Africans in America Before Columbus. Burrows cave was simply a pseudoarchaeological primer for Collins, his first dip into pseudoarchaeology before his research into the Rock Lake pyramids. Collins would write his first book The Destruction of Atlantis: Compelling Evidence of the Sudden Fall of the Legendary Civilization in 1987 after which his focus would shift to Rock Lake.
“Clues we found in the depths of Rock Lake revealed a Pre-Columbian tale of epic proportions a veritable saga of civilized splendor, mass migration, cataclysm, oblivion, and rediscovery.” Frank Collins, The Lost Pyramids of Rock Lake: Wisconsin’s Sunken Civilization
With Collins’s apparent self-described fascination with the story of Atlantis, he had happened across Jack Kennedy’s article in Skin Diver Magazine mentioned in Part I. Collins was apparently unable to find much aside from the magazine article and a few assorted newspaper articles (mostly because that’s all there is). With Rock Lake being so close to his native Chicago, Collins was spurned into action and that’s where his research began. He had quickly gotten to work and had begun his search in spring 1987 to 1988, but like with most underwater archaeology was met with difficulties from both weather and lake conditions.
In 1989 Collins wrote of his apparent discovery in The Lost Pyramids of Rock Lake for Fate Magazine as “Francis Joseph”. Collins’s choice in publishing in Fate Magazine, a magazine devoted to the occult and supernatural is particularly telling rather than sharing his discovery literally anywhere else. His article in Fate reads much like the previous magazine article written By Ben Whitcomb of Jack Kennedy’s dive on the pyramid for Skin Diver magazine discussed in Part I in that it was a fanciful description of diving into the depths and discovering the same structure that he titled “Limnatus”. The interesting thing is that Collins’s description of the Pyramid in this article does not match any previous descriptions or any descriptions that were made later. Especially in that “Limnatus” apparently had stone altars arranged across the top. This article would serve as the basis for his later book, including the idea that Azatalan, the archaeological site located three miles away from the lake housed a culture that succumbed to the pressure of indigenous native Americans resulting in both “killing and cannibalism” This idea would be expanded later to suggest that resident Atlanteans lived within Aztalan. (More on this as we go on)
Collins would extensively search Rock Lake through the late 1980s and early 1990s, which quickly drew many curious people and media attention creating the next wave of sensation around the Rock Lake pyramids. At this point, people resoundingly save for a few in Illinois seemed unaware of Collin’s nefarious past. His first book would become somewhat of a seminal classic of Wisconsin archaeology in a lot of ways writing The Lost Pyramids of Rock Lake: Wisconsin’s Sunken Civilization in 1992.
In the book Collins had reviewed the same tales and source material discussed in the previous blog, even going as far as mentioning the same concept that many citizens of Lake Mills Wisconsin had regarded the pyramids as a ploy by the then Mayor Claude Wilson (who had apparently discovered them with his brother Lee in 1900) to generate outside interest in Lake Mills during the depression, a city that had been bypassed. The interesting thing is that Collins had painted a different picture of the pioneer of the Rock Lake Pyramids Victor S. Taylor. Collins had made Taylor out to be a social pariah after making the claims that the Rock Lake Pyramids were authentic, Taylor was the laughing stock of the town. Considering Collins’s past, this might be an example of Collins projecting in his writing because Collins was certainly made into a social pariah for his ideas. In his description, he had built Taylor into a martyr amateur fighting valiantly in the face of the establishment. Although Taylor’s contemporaries paint him as a character, he managed to get a college degree, win an election for City Clerk of Lake Mills, and wrote avidly for local newspapers promoting Lake Mills including his work for the WPA regarding the Rock Lake pyramids and the Fighting Finches. Taylor was a local radio personality until his untimely death in 1947.
The first section of The Lost Pyramids of Rock Lake is the typical pseudoscientific attack on science and “establishment” archaeologists and these attacks are peppered throughout his writings on the subject. He really tries to paint a picture of conflict that really isn’t there. Collins asserts throughout his writings that archaeologists never gave the Rock Lake pyramids the time of day when in reality the reverse is true as discussed in the previous blog in this series, Charles E. Brown grandfather of Wisconsin Archaeology was curious before dismissing them as “bunk” and once the technology was available, a dive of Rock Lake was conducted by Dr. Stephan Boryhegyi in 1962 in search of the Pyramids which Collins states as academics breaking their silence. Collins decries that Archaeologists focused more on excavations at Aztalan than searching Rock Lake, but considering the time period, diving equipment, and training were not widely available and underwater archaeology of any kind really would not be a thing until the mid-1960s when Scuba technology became widely available and affordable. Collins states, “The public waited in vain for answers.” Which never really seemed to be the case, based on the writing of the time, the pyramids were always met with some incredulity and seen as a joke amongst the citizens of Lake Mills. Mary Wilson’s History of Lake Mills has no mention of the Rock Lake Pyramids.
“Lest we forget that somewhere at the bottom of Rock Lake are Indian mounds.” Paul Gericke, Lake Mills 1881-1936
Collins certainly picks and chooses which scientists he agrees with and ones that he dismisses when it’s convenient for him and his narrative and this occurs throughout his writings on the subject. Examples of this tendency from the Lost Pyramids of Rock Lakes are Collins suggests, “Whatever happened before Columbus is regarded with indifference.” This is untrue prehistoric America has always been a focal point of American archaeology. In terms of the pre-Columbian contact that Collins espouses L’Anse aux Meadows is a Viking site discovered in North America in Newfoundland and has been extensively excavated and documented since its discovery in the 1960s. Even by the time, Collins was writing about pre-Columbian contact, L’Anse aux Meadows was a well-known site that clearly established Norse occupation in North America. A further example is his attack of archaeologist Dr. Lynne Goldstein later in the book. Dr. Goldstein amongst many other accomplishments is an expert on Aztalan having and had influenced US policy on the repatriation of human remains. Collin’s attack is based on her disagreement that the Rock Lake Pyramids are submerged glacial features mounds of rock deposited by retreating glaciers known as drumlins or kames that are just underwater. (More on this in Part III)
Collins paints archaeologists as sitting in armchairs making proclamations that become the official explanation of the scientific establishment yet disdains the fantastic claims of mere amateurs. Yet, in the very same book mentions conducting dives with Dr. Richard Boyd maritime historian, one of the founding members of the Wisconsin Underwater Archaeology Association who made a find of an apparent arrow shaft as Collins interprets it. and who would later pen a document also debunking the Rock Lake Pyramids. Collins also mentions diving with a then local anthropology professor Steven Hackenberger.
Another scientist that Collins works with and praises dubbing him the “leading pioneer in decoding country’s prehistory” is Dr. James P. Scherz. Scherz is now a professor emeritus of Civil Engineering at the University of Wisconsin: Madison who is interested in surveying and has surveyed several effigy mounds throughout Wisconsin. Scherz would come up with a method to map and survey an underwater structure from shore what Collins had titled the “Limnatus” pyramid also known as “Bass Rock Bar #1” widely considered the “main” pyramid in Rock Lake. In addition to the connection at Burrows Cave, Scherz has also attached himself to other pseudoarchaeological finds such as the alleged Ontonagon Pyramids in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and the Stone Faces of Wisconsin and Michigan and wrote a few articles in Ancient American. It’s a dissonance of claiming to be in conflict with academic archaeology yet appealing to academia or those with academic titles to further his narrative.
Collins also makes strides to connect Rock Lake to local Native American folklore stating that local Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) shared legends of “Stone Tepees” in Rock Lake when settlers arrived. After an exhaustive search, there is no mention of this in both historical records of Lake Mills and oral histories of the Ho-Chunk Nation. It’s uncertain where this information came from but it’s been regurgitated in several places since the publication of The Lost Pyramids of Rock Lake. Collins even states himself that the Indian Legend is not clear but later states that “Rock Lake is still alive in the consciousness of Native Americans”. With Rock Lake’s proximity to the ancient site of Aztalan just three miles away a connection between the two was always presumed. In the early speculation regarding the Rock Lake pyramids, a Native American connection was suggested however there was never anything stated about Ho-Chunk legends of Stone Teepees. At the time, it was considered equally possible that these Stone Teepees held caches hidden by the Finches a local band of Bandits and horse thieves that lived in the area early in Lake Mills history.
This building of a Native American connection grows worse in his second book Atlantis in Wisconsin: New Revelations about Lost Sunken City written three years later in 1995 about Collins continuing research into the Rock Lake pyramids. Aside from creating a conflict with academia, the first book is a semi-coherent tale of researching the legend of the pyramids and continuing the research with scuba diving and side-scan sonar technology, Atlantis in Wisconsin is a complete diversion. In the very first chapter “The Elder’s Tale” Collins tells a cliché story of visiting a Native American elder who was on his deathbed in a tent on the shores of Lake Superior (conveniently not far from existing reservations in Wisconsin).
This elder related to him a story that conveniently fits the narrative that Collins was attempting to develop; this elder told essentially that strangers from the old red land (Atlantis) came to their land from across the sea who had hair like fire and eyes like ice and their skin had no color, their clothes were made from rainbow and the men had faces like bears (Atlanteans) they brought with them a magic stone that sang where to dig holes for red metal (copper) which they took away in their big canoes. (They would essentially cross the sea into the Great Lakes, retrieve copper, and return to their land by going south via the Mississippi River) When they died here these “marine men” would bury their dead in stone mounds (Rock Lake Pyramids). Echoing the aforementioned work of Edmund Kiss and Arthur Posnansky at Tiwanaku, this Native American Elder would state through Collins that his fathers performed much of the work for the Marine Men at this place. Eventually, the “Great Lodge” where marine men lived was pulled underwater and many marine men drowned (Atlantis). To protect their dead buried in these stone mounds one of the shamans of the marine men apparently made they had dug a ditch from the river (Crawfish River) to the lake and submerged their dead (Rock Lake). It’s unclear whether the lake was already there or this act in fact created Rock Lake. These Shamans would also create a monster to protect the dead interred in these pyramids. The leftover marine men would build nearby Aztalan and would grow rich because everyone would bring them food and hides and they, in turn, gave the Indians words from the sky gods and told them how to regulate their lives and crops. What caused the downfall of this Atlantean Aztalan was that one of the Chiefs had taken a bride from outside of Aztalan (this white Atlantean Chief intermarried with outside Native Americans) who apparently had brothers who worshipped demons and they honored by being cannibals and this union ultimately undid Aztalan. Additionally later in the book, these Atlanteans would use their powers for “manipulation of native peoples for political and economic purposes”.
“One vocal critic of Frank Joseph is Native American author and poet Jim Stevens of Madison, Wisconsin. Stevens has concerned himself with Frank Joseph’s actions as they directly affect the local Native Americans primarily the Ho-chunk…Stevens asserts the claim made by Joseph (and others) of a highly respected Native American old man giving permission to discuss and disclose mystical “secrets” are false.” Flavins Corner
This story that Collins relates begs a very important question. Which is worse? Misappropriating Native American Oral Tradition to serve an agenda or making up a fictional story and then claiming its genuine Native American Oral Tradition? Either way, such use is inherently racist.
Another reason why Atlantis in Wisconsin is such a diversion when compared to The Lost Pyramids of Rock Lake is that the book relies less on physical evidence and more on supernatural evidence. Right in the introduction of Atlantis in Wisconsin Collins writes of the “Psychic Archaeology of Rock Lake” and argues that for archaeology to be a truly multidisciplinary science it must make use of psychic archaeology. Collins cites the work of Canadian archaeologist J. Norman Emerson who was seemingly convinced of “intuitive archaeology” from his wife being a member of an Edgar Cayce study group. At any rate, this blog has shown where the paths of using psychic archaeology can lead how problematic such interpretations can be and Collins would state:
“It is, after all by way of our imaginative faculty that the hazy past may be brought into present focus. The psychic insights…flesh out that indistinct middle ground beyond the limits of scientific investigation, between physical evidence and human events. Those moments when the two apparently contrary methods cross-reference each other – confirm and validate each other’s findings from different points of view-are thrilling because they telescope our vision far into the prehistoric drama of our country.” Frank Joseph Collins, Atlantis in Wisconsin
Which sounds eerily similar to something the aforementioned Guido Von List. Collins would “test” three psychics at the end of the book with various artifacts that he had acquired from the bottom and shores of Rock Lake. An apparently man-made brick, a stone that Collins had interpreted as having the picture of a ship on it, bones found from the bottom of Rock Lake, a piece of Limnatus (or the temple of the moon), and a rock shaped like a pyramid. Conveniently each of the three psychics that Collins had worked with gleaned psychically a story from each artifact that conveniently fits with Collins’s narrative about the Atlantean occupation of Wisconsin and their Copper mining. (more on Atlantean copper mining in Part III) From this one of the psychics stated that apparently an Atlantean ship was buried underneath one of the Pyramids in Rock Lake, which makes for exciting shipwreck archaeology. Collins is carrying on the tradition that Guido Von List had started to move to supernatural evidence to back up his claims when the physical evidence is lacking.
Furthermore, like Guido Von List who incorporated local folklore and place names into his interpretations. Collins would do very much the same with local Native American legends, history, and place names incorporating it into his narrative of Atlanteans in Wisconsin. An example of this is Minong, the Ojibwe name for Isle Royale. The Collins interpretation is that Minong means “Island of Spirit”: implying death and states that the island was taboo to visit because of a group of Indians that traveled there were killed by the ghosts of his marine men. However, the true meaning of Minong in Ojibwe is literally “The Good Place”. Collins’s interpretation came from an account written in 1884 that described the Native American spirit Missibizi as “the spirit of the waters, like Neptune amongst the heathens; another came from Memogovissioois who are marine men, living constantly underwater like the tritons and sirens.” In this old comparison of explaining Native American spirits by comparing them to archetypes that white settlers would recognize, Collins found an explanation that fit his narrative of Atlantis, especially using the same characters or archetypes that appear in Atlantis lore. The fact that Devils Lake in Wisconsin has an effigy mound on either shore suggests that it was the westernmost influence of Atlantean Aztalan due to Devils lake’s “naturally numinous aura.” Additionally, Collins states that the famous Man Mound just to the North of Baraboo, Wisconsin was built by Atlanteans to represent a man whose mark of Authority was the horned helmet that lead survivors from Atlantis to Wisconsin.
Both books that Collins had written on Rock Lake, each mention the paranormal aspects of Rock Lake. Rock Lake is spooky diving and many divers felt uncomfortable in the darkness of the lake and felt like they were being watched. Collins builds the case that the Atlanteans had created a psychic serpent guardian to protect the Rock Lake pyramids from intruders. The residents of Lake Mills have hence dubbed this lake monster “Rocky”. This spirit guardian is the reason why finding the pyramids themselves is so challenging because it causes both boat engines and underwater cameras to fail, and causes the algae blooms and silt to change hiding the pyramids from the view of any explorer.
According to one of the Psychics that worked with Collins this spirit guardian “scrutinizes the heart of anyone who enters its domain”. Meaning that only those pure of heart would only be able to see the pyramids and those who are interested and research the Rock Lake pyramids like Collins himself are the reincarnated Atlanteans. Additionally according to Collins “Perhaps most of the coldly rational professionals who seem unable to find Rock Lake’s sunken structures have been prevented from seeing them by the spirit guardians because they suppress their spiritual nature.” Accordingly, the lake itself is a supernatural gateway that allowed “communication with spiritual entities which today might be called extraterrestrial intelligence” thus, bringing ancient aliens into the mix. The reason that any other scientist can’t see the evidence is that they aren’t spiritual enough and given to psychic evidence and aren’t pure of heart to see the pyramids which considering Collin’s past begs the question: how pure of heart does one have to be?
“The persistence of these bogus visions of the past cannot be treated as foolish diversions or harmless fantasy; they emerge from a long and dangerous history and in different circumstances might turn into a slippery slope descending into darkness.” Christopher Hale, Himmler’s Crusade: The Nazi Expedition to Find the Origins of the Aryan Race
An Archaeology of Buffoonery
Frank Joseph Collins has a tangible connection to Guido Von List, in 2010 Collins wrote Gods of the Runes: The Divine Shapers of Fate, which states in the publisher’s description “Based on the work of Austrian mystic and runologist Guido Von List.” As we had seen in Collins’s work, especially in the few examples I cited from Atlantis in Wisconsin we can see the echoes of Guido Von List and his interpretation of the past being regurgitated once again this time as Atlanteans in Wisconsin rather than Aryan Atlantean ancestors in Austria and Germany. Guido von List and his contributions to Nazism have only been recently discussed by western scholars and would have been virtually unknown to the dubious person reading Atlantis in Wisconsin when it was first published in 1995. Which makes the subtle nods to List’s work by Collins all that much more nefarious. Additionally, the subtle changing of his name from Frank Collins to Frank Joseph throws most people off (even though he says he didn’t try to hide). The very same can be said of the various Ahnenerbe researchers and their searches for Atlantis, they too have only been recently researched and discussed by western scholars. Using occult sources to gain information about the past (essentially making up your own version of the past), the ideology that impressive sites like Tiwanaku and Aztalan could not have been built by ancient indigenous peoples living in that region, the minimization of indigenous peoples, and the morphing of evidence to fit a preconceived narrative are all hallmarks of Nazi Archaeology and when compared and presented with them, Frank Joseph Collins fits right in. Collins capitalized on the Rock Lake Pyramids a hazy local legend, a product of yellow journalism, as a platform to express his ideology of white Atlanteans being responsible for most of the archaeological sites real or imagined in the New World and he succeeded where he couldn’t with Burrows Cave. Collins’s research into the Rock Lake pyramids is a modern continuation of the old myth of the mound builders. Wherein, when white settlers started coming across effigy mounds like those in Wisconsin because of the prevailing racist attitudes towards Native Americans, considered essentially anyone but Native Americans as their builders. Although believing in the Rock Lake Pyramids isn’t racist, believing in Frank Joseph Collins’s vision of Atlantis in Wisconsin is. Its goal was to discredit the indigenous peoples of Wisconsin.
“When a people have no history, they have no past, and when they have no past, their claims to their ancestral lands are nullified. This denial of the indigenous past has been part of the political utilization of prehistory by nationalism, with archaeology becoming a tool of cultural extinction, reconstructing a prehistoric past in which the indigenous peoples played but a limited role if any. For when archaeology is history, and history is literature, a non-literate society is considered primitive and uncivilized. By being classified as non-literate and therefore uncivilized, indigenous people have historically had their self-esteem undermined, and denied their attachment to the past. This denial of an indigenous past through archaeological racism has led to acts of cultural and physical genocide.” Graham E.L. Holton, Archaeological Racism: Hans Hörbiger, Arthur Posnansky, Edmund Kiss, and the Ahnenerbe Expedition to Tiwanaku Bolivia.
After the success of both books, Collins seemed to have dropped his interest into the subject of the Rock Lake Pyramids although others would eventually pick up where his research left off. (This will be Part III). Collins has mentioned them in his consecutive writings on the pre-Columbian contact between Europe and the Americas however, it’s nothing new and it’s just regurgitating his same ideas, especially regarding Aztalan as a clearinghouse of copper for Atlantis from the first two books without any further research. Although in one Collins goes as far as stating that they had discovered 1,100 ancient structures beneath Rock Lake and have no evidence for it. Both of his books on Rock Lake seem to end halfway through with other writers or ideas added in to pick up the slack and pad the length of the book. Much like his descent into Nazism in the first place, his motivations for his descent into pseudoarchaeology are hazy and unknown but certainly, his archaeological research is an extension of that. Although Frank Joseph Collins has stated otherwise, once a Nazi always a Nazi. This stuff is exhausting. Part Three will have a look at the more modern research into Rock Lake and a deeper look at some of the claims that Frank Joseph Collins made regarding the Rock Lake pyramids.
Sources & Resources
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Brown, Dorothy. The Fighting Finches: Tales of Freebooter of the Pioneer Countryside in Rock Lake and Jefferson Counties. Federal Writers Project.
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