This installment of My Serious Universe is special, because I believe we’re seeing the birth of a brand new fringe conspiracy. It’s tough to say if this one will take off or just fizzle away, but fringe theories with stupider origins have become mainstays of the fringe-o-sphere. Remember the Philadelphia Experiment? It got its start in hilariously campy annotations a man named Carl M. Allen made in a popular UFO book, pretending to be aliens discussing how little humanity understood about science. What follows is a conspiracy with an origin we can pinpoint exactly.
Yesterday Mysterious Universe lent its credibility to the strange story of the “Ark of Gabriel.” What is the Ark of Gabriel? In a nutshell the story goes like this: In September of last year there were two disasters in Saudi Arabia. The first was the collapse of a giant construction crane at the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Around 110 people were killed. Two weeks later, during the Hajj, there was a crowd crush at Mina that killed around 2400 pilgrims. Both of these disasters were actually caused by attempts to remove the Ark of Gabriel, an ancient artifact of power that’s described in a manuscript called “Gabriel’s Instructions to Muhammad,” from its recently discovered hiding place under the Grand Mosque. After consulting with the head of the Russian Orthodox church, Saudia Arabia arranged for the Russian navy to transport the Ark to Antartica. Why Antarctica? Well, this month the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church met with the Pope, acquired an ancient document of some sort, then made his way to Antartica to perform an ancient ritual on the Ark, before the Ark was deposited somewhere in the interior of the content by the Spetsnaz.
The Mysterious Universe article, written by Paul Seaburn, weakly acknowledges that, “substantiated references to the Ark of Gabriel seem to be non-existent,” but then follows up with, “there are plenty of unsubstantiated tales about it.” This last statement is a complete lie. There are exactly two unsubstantiated tales about the Ark of Gabriel. That’s it. And they both come from the same source.
That source is WhatDoesItMean.com, a particularly crackpot “news” source that is the work of someone going by the name Sorcha Faal. Originally Faal claimed to be a Russian scientist, and she still claims that most of her stories come from sources inside the Kremlin or the Russian Ministry of Defense. However, these days Faal claims that she’s actually the Irish Mother Superior of some sort of secret society, not a scientist. WhatDoesItMean.com’s stories tend to combine real news events (however poorly understood) with conspiratorial motives allegedly gleaned from “a report circulating in the Kremlin” or some such.
So the crane collapse and the crowd crush are real news stories from Saudi Arabia last year, though in the Ark of the Gabriel version of the story the deaths were caused by “plasma emissions” from the Ark itself. (Faal for some reason uses the much larger death estimates reported by the heavily biased Iranian media for the Mina crowd crush instead of the more reliable independent estimates, and she doesn’t seem to know that Mina isn’t actually in Mecca or near the Grand Mosque. Both mistakes go uncorrected in Seaburn’s article.) Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church did meet with Pope Francis in Cuba last week and then visited Antartica to get photographed with penguins.
On the other hand, there is absolutely no evidence that the Ark of Gabriel exists or was ever thought to exist outside of the WhatDoesItMean.com articles and the fringe-o-sphere stories derived from them. Ditto the “ancient” document called “Gabriel’s Instructions to Muhammad.” The whole thing is made up, created by combining a collection of unrelated news stories with the plot of Raiders of the Lost Ark and just a dash of Nazi UFO base mythology.
Seaburn basically obscures the fact that the whole Ark of Gabriel story comes from two posts on one lunatic website (here and here) by linking his article to two slightly more reputable looking (if still kooky) websites (here and here). Both websites clearly list the only source for their stories as WhatDoesItMean.com, and I can find zero mentions of the Ark of Gabriel on the web or in books before December 6, 2015, when WhatDoesItMean.com posted their first story. Mysterious Universe, no matter how many qualifiers Seaburn includes in his article, is basically endorsing a complete fiction and purposely trying to hide the information its readers would need to make an informed decision about how credible the story is. This is how the echo chamber of the fringe-o-sphere works. Obscure, repeat, insinuate, and eventually the silliest theories become “the truth” through incredulous repetition.