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From the Files of the River Journal's Surrealist Research Bureau

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The Vatican's Secret Time Machine

Nearly two years ago in TRJ I related the tale of "Mel’s Hole," a supposedly bottomless pit in the hills of eastern Washington that I soon established, to my own satisfaction at least, was a modern-day hoax, despite scores of Internet sites devoted to it and being featured prominently on Art Bell’s radio show and on MTV.

There’s a similar buzz going on about a secret time machine built by scientists under the direction of the Vatican, a "chronovisor" which allows one to see into and record images from the distant past. According to the Internet chit-chat these scientists have witnessed Christ’s crucifixion and have recorded a "lost" play by Quintus Ennius performed in the Rome of 169 B.C.

That’s the bare bones of the Internet story. Further research, however, points to the conclusion that most, if not all, of the story can be traced to one man, a Benedictine priest, scientist, and one of the world’s leading authorities on archaic music. His name was Father Pelligrino Ernetti and after seminary school he began working with the distinguished Father Agostino Gemelli at the electro-acoustical laboratory at the Roman Catholic University of Milan.

While working in the lab they reportedly began picking up unknown voices, speaking in foreign tongues, on their equipment. Months later he told Father Brune, author of four books on theological matters, that the lab had accidentally begun recording voices and images from the past and that they’d begun focusing on scenes from the life of Mussolini and had now worked back to the time of Napoleon and were hoping to go even further back. Father Brune described the device as looking like a diving bell with thick windows suspended by a heavy cable in the center of the lab. It was months later that the team, now assisted by Enrico Fermi (the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who built the first nuclear reactor), reported they’d witnessed Christ’s crucifixion and had shown film of the event to the then Pope Pius XII as well as the President of Italy.

(Fra. Ernetti reported that 12 world-famous scientists helped to construct the machine, including not just the forementioned Fermi, but Wernher Von Braun (Nazi father of the American space program). The remainder, he said, wished to remain anonymous. The two named were dead when he made his claim.)

Father Ernetti’s first love was, however, archaic music and after receiving Papal orders to disassemble the chronovisor, he made one last visit in it, to Rome in 169 B.C. to determine the music played during the plays of Quintus Ennius, the father of Latin Poetry, during which he recorded the "lost" play of the tragedy "Thyestes."

It’s a good story, but now for the bad news: The lost play "Thyestes" is only 10 percent as long as most plays of the era, a scant 20 pages long, and shows few signs of brilliance, being the sort of thing a dilettante might accomplish with some effort and some modest research. Further, and most damning, a supposed photograph of Christ on the cross taken by Ernetti’s team and widely distributed on the Internet was found to be of a sculpture by a medieval artist named Valera.

I could go on in this vein but my basic point should be clear. I feel Father Ernetti (who died in 1994) perpetrated a giant hoax and I’m amazed the story is still being circulated around the Internet. Still, as Lovecraft once said; "Man lives on a tiny island of ignorance in the midst of a vast, black sea of knowledge and it was not meant for us to travel far."

‘til next time, Yours for a Strong America!

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Jody Forest Jody Forest When he's not hidden behind the palatial gates of his Dover estate, Casa de Bozo, Jody is out using outdated and corny pickup lines on various gullible women.

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