Thursday, February 16, 2023

Does Ogam at Victorio Peak Prove Noss Story?

Back in the mid-1990s, the Internet wasn’t quite the tool that it is today. There is now so much information available that nearly every question can be answered to some degree. I will also note that in that time frame, that is the 1990s, we all had a little more respect for the news media, assuming that they would accomplish their due diligence or fact check the information they were publishing. In fairness, not all news media had access to the information available today or to the resources of the large news conglomerates that existed then or now. In other words, we cited as sources, the newspapers, news magazines and books used without being able to check the reliability of those sources. That has all changed for the better.

I mention this because, as noted in the series that I have posted about the alleged treasure hidden in Victorio Peak, there was an article in the Hatch, New Mexico, newspaper, The Courier that suggested there some corroboration for the treasure tale was based on the information and study done by two men, Dr. Arnold Murray and Dr. Barry Fell. While I found Murray’s association with Shepherds Chapel Network somewhat worrisome, Fell was a Harvard professor and was associated with the Epigraphic Society. His credentials were somewhat more impressive than the those of Murray.

Murray’s research and participation in the attempted recovery of the treasure was described in the March 4, 1993, issue of The Courier, which said:

Dr. Murray, on site at locations near Victorio Peak where suggested Ogam was found inside the Peak at the 180 foot level, examined petroglyphs, pictographs and ancient symbols which have now been authenticated by Murry, Dr. Barry Fell and staff members. Location and documentation of the Ogam locations was done with the assistance of a government archaeologist and a historian associated with the Ova Noss Family Partnership.

The Ogam found near Victorio Peak takes on a singularly important status because a man working with Milton ‘Doc’ Noss said that he had seen items of great antiquity in the caverns of the Peak in 1940-41 and they could ‘Date to the time of Christ’…

The Ogam found and now verified near Victorio Peak one week ago [late February 1993] probably dates between 50 and 110 A.D. The message is entirely different than an Ogam heretofore deciphered according to Dr. Murry, however, I am not able to give any details at this time.

But I can tell you that the message in stone, in Ogam, would tend to confirm the statement made by the man working for ‘Doc’ Noss.

According to the newspaper of March 4, “Noss, as well as his helper said that there were things in the caverns, in addition to gold and silver bullion, coinage, jewelry, artifacts, armor and skeletons, that were of great antiquity. Yaqui and later Apache traditions, made the same claim and now identified and translated Ogam tend to confirm this.”

What this means is that there is, according to the translations of the Ogam found in the vicinity of Victorio Peak, confirmation that there is a huge fortune stashed somewhere in the caves inside the mountain. But they can’t tell you anything more about it at that time. It all now hinges on the translation made by Barry Fell of the petroglyphs found around the mountain and in that area of New Mexico. Fell is said to be the expert in Ogam.

So, what do we know about Fell? Is he a recognized expert in this field and are his translations of the Ogam considered to be accurate? In the world today, these questions can be answered. Well, sort of answered.

According to various sources Howard Barraclough Fell was born in Lewes, Sussex, England and moved to New Zealand after his father died. He received his Ph.D. at the University of Edinburgh in 1941 and served with the British Army in the Second World War. He was a world class authority on fossil sea urchins and was eventually recruited by Harvard University to join the staff of the Museum of Comparative Zoology where he worked until he retired in 1979.

So, here was a man with impressive credentials, with a history of publishing books in his chosen field, and who was recruited by a prestigious university. He was certainly an authority to be cited in the zoological arena.


He was best known for three books that were not in his scientific specialty that suggested that there were many European and North African explorers who reached North America long before Christopher Columbus arrived. All this began when Fell started to study Polynesian petroglyphs in 1940. In 1976, he published America B.C., in which he claimed that inscriptions on rocks in both North and South America were written in old world scripts that suggested contact with the native peoples hundreds if not thousands of years before Columbus. He continued in this vein with Saga America and Bronze Age America.

Quite naturally, his attempting to rewrite history, was not well received by others in the academic community. And yes, we can cite all sorts of examples where a radical idea is rejected by the mainstream only to be, eventually, accepted by those same academics. This doesn’t seem to be the case with Fell’s theories, which have been called amateurish, and that they lack any sort of independent proof. In fact, in 1989, two lawyers, Monroe Oppenheimer and Willard Wirtz published an article based on the opinions by other academics including archaeologists and linguists that the Fell’s cited inscriptions were written in Ogham were in error. They went so far as to accuse Fell of fraud.

David H. Kelley, a University of Calgary archaeologist, in a 1990 essay in The Review of Archaeology, provided a somewhat more position evaluation of Fell’ s work. Kelley wrote about Fell’s theories:

Fell’s work [contains] major academic sins, the three worst being distortion of data, inadequate acknowledgement of predecessors, and lack of presentation of alternative views… I have no personal doubts that some of the inscriptions which have been reported are genuine Celtic Ogham… Despite my occasional harsh criticism of Fell’s treatment of individual inscriptions, it should be recognized that without Fell’s work there would be no ogham problem to perplex us. We need to ask not only what Fell has done wrong in his epigraphy, but also where we have gone wrong as archaeologists in not recognizing such an extensive European presence in the New World.”

While that seemed to temper some of the criticism of Fell, in a 1983 survey of 340 archeologists, 95.7% of them had a negative view of Fell, 2.9% had a neutral view, and only 1.4% had a positive view. Many of the detractors thought of Fell’s work as “pseudo-archaeology.” What this means, simply, is that the academic world found Fell’s work to be less than reliable, but then, since he was challenging the history of the last two thousand years, that sort of skepticism is to be expected.

A good example of the trouble with Fell’s scholarship in the field of archaeology comes from Davenport, Iowa. In 1877, Reverend Jacob Glass, who was digging on a mound site called Cook’s Farm, found two inscribed tablets. In translating the symbols, it was suggested they were of Indo-European origin. Dr. E. Foreman of the Davenport Academy of Sciences concluded that the tablets were “nongenuine,” or, in other words, fake. Fell used the tablets as evidence of pre-Columbian contact between Europe and North America, calling them the American Rosetta Stone. Once the tablets were determined to be fake, Fell downplayed their importance, but still seemed to believe in their authenticity.

Now, before I go too far down this rabbit hole, let me point out, that the preponderance of the evidence seems to suggest that Fell, well, you might say, fell for confirmation bias. He did not apply rigorous scientific methodology to his investigations of the evidence and interpretation of the Ogam symbols found in the desert southwest. Though there is some support for his theories, at the moment, that support is quite limited. Additional work must be done but until and unless that work is done, it seems that Fell was overly enthusiastic in his interpretation of the symbols. While described by some as the foremost authority on Ogam, that accolade is somewhat problematic and probably misplaced.

Not helping here is Dr. Arnold Murray, who seems not to be an academic but a televangelist. As noted, he was associated with the Shepherd’s Chapel which is a broadcast facility and church in Gravette, Arkansas. Murray has been providing a one-hour, chapter-by-chapter study of the Bible but there is nothing that I see to suggest that he was able to decipher the images on stone allegedly left by a Celtic priest some two thousand years ago in North America. This deciphered message, according to The Courier, “tipped the scales in favor of the Noss family and the truth.” Well, I’m not so sure, though the enthusiasm for these theories is evident in the various articles.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that Murray’s church has a Christian identity which, of course, is not a bad thing. Although Murray had disavowed racism, according to that report, there seemed to be hints of it in his teachings. Murray has said those who said he taught racism were lying.

One of the problems with Murray was the source of his doctorate. He wrote, on the Shepherd’s Chapel website:

I have never claimed to have received a doctorate from Roy Gillaspie. I do not know where some of these “researchers” came up with this. Roy Gillaspie was simply a beloved teacher of God’s Word and I have never said or implied any such thing. It is true that I have a policy of not publicly stating where I earned my doctorate because then “critics” cannot judge my association. I have always publicly stated that my credentials are my ability to teach God’s Word. To the extent that our Heavenly Father blesses me with the ability to clearly teach His Word then what higher ordination could there be?

I suppose the real reason is that if had he named an institution and those “researchers” checked, only to learn that Murray did not receive degree from them, it would damage his standing. This is the sort of dodge that those who claim other endeavors, such as military service and training, use. They refuse to provide documentation because they know it will be investigated.

But to go just a bit deeper into this, and to prove that there sometimes no end to the rabbit hole, the Southern Poverty Law Center has its own problems. On August 17, 2019, Jessica Prol Smith, writing in USA Today, claimed, “The Southern Poverty Law Center is a hate-based scam that nearly caused me to be murdered.”

She added to that, “For years, former employees revealed, local journalists reported and commentators have lamented: The Southern Poverty Law Center is not what it claims to be. Not a pure hearted, clear-headed legal advocate for the vulnerable, but rather an obscenely wealthy marketing scheme. For years, the left-wing interest group has used its ‘hate group’ list to promote the fiction that violent neo-Nazis and Christian nonprofits peacefully promoting orthodox beliefs about marriage and sex are indistinguishable.”

Proving that nothing is ever easy in the world of hidden treasures, this is the rabbit hole I found myself in. Doc Noss never produced evidence of the gold bars, fearing the federal government and the law against private citizens owning gold bullion. He wanted money to continue his quest and had at his disposal, the resources necessary to do that without violating the law. He had said there were silver bars in the cave. There were jewels and coins. There were Spanish artifacts found that could be sold. Instead, we were treated to his manipulations of the situation that didn’t make much sense even at that time. It is a major flaw in this tale and I have recounted that in previous posts here.

However, we were treated to a series of long articles about Victorio Peak in the Hatch, New Mexico, newspaper, The Courier. We learn about two authorities who have studied symbols and alleged writing found in the area that supports Noss’ claim. But there are troubles with the backgrounds of the men that suggest they might be more enthusiastic than the evidence supports. We learn that one of the men, or rather his church, has been singled out by the Southern Poverty Law Center, but we find that Southern Poverty Law Center does not have a sterling reputation some have attached to it. It really boils down to who you want to believe and where you think the evidence takes you.

Photo copyright by Kevin Randle

At this point, I’m not inclined to accept the evidence uncovered by either Murray or Fell. I just don’t find it persuasive because there is no real academic agreement with Fell’s interpretations of the Ogam symbols found around Victorio Peak. While it would seem that these symbols suggest a great treasure inside the mountain, that interpretation is open to question and proves nothing. In other words, we are back to where we started. We have only the testimony of Doc Noss about what he found but we have no evidence he found anything of value. We have some, alleged confirmation from others, but again, it is their testimony without physical evidence.

There are those who truly believe that treasure is, or maybe was, hidden there, but until someone carries out a few of those gold bars, I’m not among those believers. This is just another of those wild tales that keep some searching while the rest of us understand the truth. There really is no treasure in Victorio Peak. 

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