AN INTERVIEW WITH BEN HAMMOTT
Ben Hammott is a researcher and first time author whose work is of considerable interest to the greater Rennes-le-Château community. This is because his discoveries, once confirmed, may prove to be the most significant in the history of Rennes-le-Château, even if the sceptics rant otherwise.
Ben Hammott is an anagram for ‘The Tombman’, an alias he adopted after his discovery of a tomb near Rennes-le-Château in 1999. Now, 9 years later, he’s self published the most eagerly awaited book in the genre in sometime; Lost Tomb of the Knights Templar, the chronicle of his journey to discovery.
What has Hammott discovered and why is his research so controversial? Details of Hammott’s finds are revealed on his website and include a tomb discovered when his camera fell down a crevasse in a cave and filmed a room with red cross on a white sheet draped over a coffin. Subsequent analysis by Hammott suggests that the body inside may be none other than Mary Magdalene. Hammott’s initial discovery was followed a few years later – shortly before the filming of the Rennes-le-Château / Priory of Sion documentary Bloodline – by the discovery of parchments and cryptic maps concealed within 4 different bottles, as well as a chest containing a glass vial, amongst other artefacts. Some of the finds have been attributed to the famed priest of Rennes-le-Château, Bérenger Saunière – and another before him, Abbé Bigou, while others are believed to be the artefacts from the wedding of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. Each was discovered buried in the landscape near important sites around Rennes-le-Château.
The implications of Hammott’s discoveries are staggering, and if substantiated, would alter the history of Rennes-le-Château and possibly Catholicism, for good.
Success has not come easy for Ben Hammott. The much hyped Bloodline documentary achieved little notice and his book, although fascinating and highly recommended, has been self printed and in limited availability. Nevertheless, Hammott could very well have the last laugh, not to mention a treasure that no amount of money can buy; fame.
Ben hi, great to have you on Arcadia.
Yes, but I bet you say that to all your interviewees.
Just to reply to your intro above, fame you can keep, I do not enjoy it and I do not purposely seek it, but obviously I cannot escape it altogether what with my website, the Bloodline movie, and my book. But what notoriety does bring you that I do like are new friends, friends that I never would have met otherwise. No, you can keep the fame, but I wouldn’t mind the money if there is any to be had, but so far it has eluded me.
Right, so fortune yes – fame no. Sorry, but I reckon you’re saddled with the fame anyway. Let’s hope the fortune follows soon.
Listen, congratulations on your book, ‘The Lost Tomb of the Knights Templar’. I really enjoyed it, and have loads of questions as you might expect. So let’s get started, shall we?
Thanks Andy. I am really glad you enjoyed the book, not that it was giving me sleepless nights of course. Rather, that was down to the spare mummified corpse sharing the bed with me, it was a 2 for 1 deal at the mummy auction you see, and what with my garage full up with the staged tomb set, I have nowhere else to keep it.
Alrighty then… I can see we have some seeds to sow here, but that’s fair enough. I probably deserve it.
You do, now let the inquisition begin.
1. Right, so thanks for that shockingly graphic visual Ben. Cheers!
Clearly, your book is the most eagerly anticipated of its kind in years. What’s been the reaction?
The reaction to the book has been great, a lot better than I expected. In fact, I am now on a second print run. I was very nervous releasing it as it has been somewhat a labour of love for many years now and letting it go wasn’t easy. The feedback I have received has been great; people seem to like my style of writing as much as the book’s contents. The book has even received good comments from individuals who had been against me prior to reading it.
I can’t imagine who you might be referring to Ben…
So, the fact that the book was self-published is quite surprising to me, especially in light of the publicity it received in the film Bloodline, which featured your research and discoveries as its central theme. Why do you think there was not greater interest amongst publishers? Did the James Cameron debacle add to the problem?
As most people are aware now, unless you are a celebrity or have previously been published successfully, getting a book deal in today’s climate is not an easy task. There is a large US publisher who has shown interest in publishing my book, but, as I think I mentioned to you before, because of the whole ‘Tomb of Jesus’ book, documentary fiasco, they are very nervous about taking on anything similar. I did have other smaller publishers who were interested who would have published the book for me but if they did the US publisher would not have been interested in picking up the book at a later date.
I was advised to self publish and sell the book through my website etc, to those interested in the Rennes-le-Château mystery, and this is what I am doing, and I am happy with this approach for the moment. The US publishers have recently been sent a copy of the book and my fingers are crossed, not entwined, that a publishing deal will be forthcoming. If it doesn’t happen now I am sure when the tomb is excavated, whatever the age or origin of its contents or the identity of thecorpse inside turns out to be, I will have no problem getting a publishing deal.
Makes sense Ben. But I wonder, do you think you’re early branding as Tombman at all hindered your credibility?
As to getting a publisher I do not think it did me any harm. The Rennes-le-Château community though is a different kettle of fish and I think the name may have harmed my credibility, although there are some out there who think I had little or no credibility anyway so the TOMBMAN alias would make little difference, but it has had its uses. It is certainly a name not easily forgotten, as I am beginning to find out, so thanks for mentioning it again Andy!
So you don’t regret using the pseudonym? Why have you not used your real name, which is now widely known?
I am known by many names my young Padawan, ask me again and you will feel the full force of the business end of my light sabre! I like the name Ben Hammott, people know me as Ben Hammott so I will continue to use it as my pen name.
I agree your pen name is pretty catchy, and at risk of being dispatched by your light sabre I shall promptly move on…
Your book is unpretentious and fun, which is quite refreshing, especially in this genre. One reviewer even went so far as to say that its appeal was down to your ‘Bob the Builder’ approach to deciphering the clues of the mystery. Your style is also reminiscent of Rat Scabies and Christopher Dawes superb Rennes-le-Château adventure yarn, Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail.
However, what sets your adventure story apart from Rat’s is that you have some made very significant discoveries. Thus, did you ever consider writing about them more seriously, without the humour and travelogue detail?
Firstly I must say I thoroughly enjoyed Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail. It was the first book to break the mould of Rennes-le-Château books that normally took themselves so seriously, and it reassured me that the similar style in which I was writing my book, i.e., my journey into the Rennes-le-Château mystery, was not a complete gamble.
It was never my intention to write a ’heavy’ book about Rennes-le-Château (although it does weigh almost a kilo, so perhaps I failed there!). I wanted my book to tell what happened as it happened so the reader would be able to feel that they too were there on my journey, and could experience in part what I was experiencing. I wanted to try and get across what I was going through as I made these discoveries. I am not a particularly clever person. I just seem to notice things other people don’t. I tend to look at things more simply, noticing details that others see but don’t ‘notice’.
Never did I consider leaving out the humour, it was part of my experience, part of my journey, and so I thought it important enough to include. I think it breaks up all the seriousness of the clue solving and discoveries, as it did in real life.
I’d also like to ask you about the title of your book; ‘Lost Tomb of the Knights Templar’. Really, I am not sure the title encapsulates the essence of the book for me. What may I ask were some of the other contenders?
Thinking of a suitable book title is not easy and there were many variations, most which included the usual words you see associated with a book about Rennes-le-Château; secret, solved, Rennes-le-Chateau, deciphered, Saunière, etc. to make something like – Treasure of Rennes-Le-Chateau, Sauniere’s Mystery Solved, but I wasn’t happy with this. It sounded like so many other books about Rennes-le-Château so I simplified it as much as I could. It is a lost tomb and the red cross hints at a possible Templar connection, hence the title, LOST TOMB OF THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR.
2. Readers of your book will no doubt have noticed that you have capitalised individual letters in random words throughout the book. What’s all that about? Can you tell us what this apparent code is meant to reveal?
The letters are a code from the messages. I have managed to work out what they mean, but not what they mean, if you know what I mean! I believe that they will lead to a certain location in the landscape within sight of Rennes-le-Château, and although we have tried to find it we have been unsuccessful. I thought that if someone was clever enough to decipher them from the book they may also be clever enough to work out the clues to find the location.
That’s interesting. You are sounding more and more like Gerard de Sede everyday! Any feedback yet?
Yes a few readers have contacted me and one person came up with a slightly different translation than what we had and that was interesting, but it is early days yet. I may even post some of the more interesting ones on my website in the future.
Although I have removed the code from the text in the second edition, I have included it in another way, making it much easier to work out.
I see. Now we will have to purchase that edition, too. And you said you weren’t very clever. Ha!
3. When Bloodline Director Bruce Burgess recounts first meeting you – having been coaxed into doing so by his colleague and producer Rene Barnett, he sounded sceptical of your discovery. Really, it’s only fair to ask for your perspective of Burgess. Did you have any reservations about working with him at first, and how has your opinion changed – if at all – since the release of Bloodline?
In my book I describe Bruce as a mixture of Pavarotti meets Peter Jackson meets Fagin. But looking back I suppose I was a bit wary of Bruce at first, but slowly he worked his charms on me and I gradually began to trust him more, as he did me, and we became good friends. We didn’t always see eye to eye on everything and sometimes there was a little friction.
Can you give us an example?
Sorry I am not prepared to elaborate, but it was nothing major, usually something like whose turn it was to cook breakfast, or who was getting the best room? But more importantly, who had been drinking my vodka? Things like that.
Obviously I am disappointed that the Bloodline film did not reach a wider audience, Bruce and Rene put their heart and soul into the film and they deserved it to be a bigger success. I think they did a good job and yes, if I had had any say in the matter, I would probably have added to or omitted some of the material Bruce included in the movie, but he has the experience in this field, not me. But I do not think we have heard the last of Bloodline yet, there are still some surprises ahead.
That’s intriguing. What might some of those ‘surprises’ entail? Can you give us a hint?
Sorry, like me you will just have to wait and see.
4. One thing I loved about the book is your treatment of the assassination of Abbé Gelis. In short, you conclude based on evidence discovered in the 2nd bottle, amongst other first-hand accounts, that Bérenger Saunière may have been the culprit. Although the theory is not entirely new, you pull all the pieces together for the first time, really. What reaction have you received by suggesting that the protagonist of the Rennes-le-Château legend may in fact be a murderer?
I became intrigued ever since I first heard about the Gélis murder; why was he murdered and by whom? With all the mystery surrounding Saunière’s antics just across the valley, and with Gélis being a fellow priest, and I assume friend as well, it was a good bet that Saunière was somehow involved. Although Gélis’s home was searched and money found, it was not stolen, but rather left there.
This seems strange to me, and if it had been a simple case of robbery gone wrong then the money would have been taken, so there had to be another reason for the intruders being there, and I think given the evidence available to us from the police and autopsy reports, and the report from Colin Taylor, a retired modern day murder detective, etc, that it is almost a certainty that Gélis was interrogated. The motive could only be to get information from him.
Yes people who have read the book do like the Gélis info and most agree it is a likely stage of events that may have happened. I believe it is the first time the report has been available in English so the first time a lot of people have been able to read it. As for Saunière being the actual murderer, as I say in the book, I do not think that Saunière actually planned to murder Gélis, it’s just that things went wrong during the interrogation and while trying to escape he was killed. Saunière may have not even been present, and even though he did not administer the fatal blow, Saunière felt responsible for his death. He had ‘blood on his hands’.
5. Let’s talk about Nicholas Haywood for a moment. As a key figure in Bloodline, and in my humble opinion the star of the film, Haywood appears to support your discovery by revealing that there are in fact 3 important tombs in the vicinity of Rennes-le-Château, of which yours is one. Have you met Haywood and if so what are your impressions?
Oh, and could you also comment on the fact that as an alleged spokesman for the Priory of Sion, nobody seems to have ever heard of him?
It is interesting that Haywood mentions the possibility of there being three tombs in the area. The messages I’ve discovered even reference a tomb, which seems different to the one I have found, unless the body mentioned in the messages is in a marble sarcophagus on which the body in the tomb is laying on top. Perhaps Haywood will take Bruce or someone to one of the other tombs one day, but I have no idea, apart from the obvious, who could be interred in them.
I have never met Haywood and know nothing about him or his association with the Priory of Sion.
Given what he says he knows are you not inclined to contact him, gain his confidence – perhaps collaborate?
I have had enough of meeting strange men and I am in no hurry to do so again anytime soon. If Haywood wants to reveal any more information he will do so through Bloodline.
6. Interesting. Let’s explore that a bit further. You make it quite clear in your book and web site who you believe is buried in your tomb. Who do you think is buried in the other two tombs alluded to by Nicholas Haywood, and where do you put your odds at discovering them?
I only say it is a possibility that it may be Mary Magdalene in the tomb due to the legends that she may be buried in the area. It is a theme that has persisted and perhaps it is a case of there is no smoke without fire. Also the way the body is laid out is unusual, and perhaps this could be explained if in fact the body was at one time venerated by people who knew it was there and at one time had access to the tomb before it was blocked up and its location lost.
The cups and chalices in the tomb may have been used in this veneration ceremony. If Saunière then found something in his church that eventually led him to discover this lost tomb and he also thought it was the body of Mary Magdalene, it could explain his obsession with her and the number 22 (her feast day) and also perhaps why so many people sent him money; he was in possession of a Saint.
As to finding the other two tombs, if they exist, Haywood mentions that if you gain entry to one then you can find the other two, so we will have to see what the future brings.
7. Most of us have followed your pursuits for some time now – since The Tomb Man, your former alias, launched a website in 2000. Since that time, what has been the most outrageous request, bribe, threat, offer or con, to gain access to your tomb?
You just can’t resist mentioning The Tombman can you Andy.
Sorry. But you started it.
Well, apart from you offering to sleep with me Andy, an offer I am still considering, just have to move out that corpse first…
I see. So it’s me or a rancid corpse – cheers. Great, now the secret’s out!
Seriously, I have been offered money – a lot of money – £3,000,000 in fact, for the Tomb’s location. But at the time I didn’t think it was a genuine offer. Maybe it was, but who can tell? And to pre-empt your next question – if it was offered to me now – would I take it? I am not sure, it certainly would be tempting after all the hassle I have gone through and there are things going on in my life right now that money may help with.
As most people know I have been threatened on more than one occasion, and some have been quite scary, others were more easily dismissed as being from cranks. Most hide behind e-mail addresses but I suppose this is ‘par for the course’ with a discovery like this connected to the, at times, weird and wonderful world of Rennes-le-Chateau.
What organisations or individuals are interested in the tomb today? Specifically, when we last met you shared some intriguing information about an extremely credible and established organisation who has expressed interest in excavating the tomb. Can you elaborate on this for our readers?
Apart from the DRAC, which we all know about, I am sorry Andy but if I made this other information public then we would have the whole annoying phone call saga again. I am afraid certain people have ruined the release of information until it has all been finalised. But I will say that I am very excited about the company who wants to be involved with the excavation.
Fair enough. So watch this space I suppose…
8. Your book alludes to a second treasure ‘chest’ that has yet to be discovered. You refer to as The Templar Chest, due to its inferred contents, as documented in the Bigou parchment found in the glass vial in the first treasure chest. How confident are you that The Templar Chest will in fact be discovered, or do you believe that it already has been found and that it is in fact the ancient metal chest that you and Bruce Burgess stumbled upon in the Hautpoul Chateau in Rennes-le-Château, as you describe in the book?
I do not think the metal chest in the Hautpoul Chateau is the one we are looking for, but this may just be wishful thinking on my part because, if it is the one, then it has already been found.
If this ‘Templar Chest’ was buried at the location we think the clues were pointing to, then there is a good possibility that it has been previously discovered. Then again, it is possible it is still there, as something small is easy to miss. Alternatively, as this location is vastly different from all the other locations where our discoveries were made, then perhaps we have incorrectly deciphered the clues and have been looking in the wrong place. I still have an inkling that the chest location is in the landscape and not in the village, but I just can’t work out where. I think the clues are in the messages but have so far been unable to decipher them, but will not give up trying. I want to find that second chest.
Good luck with that.
Ok, so now I’d like to ask you some more controversial questions; apologies in advance if they are a little awkward. Truth is they are intended to provide you with an opportunity to exonerate certain accusations and rumours that have surfaced since the details of your research and discovery have been made public.
Here comes the red hot poker!
Not true! I promise to be gentle. Right, so I don’t need to tell you that many members of my Arcadia Forum – and other forums – and perhaps me in particular, have been rather sceptical about certain aspects of your discoveries.
Touché! However, for the record, let me say that I personally draw a line in the sand between the discovery of the tomb and the discovery of the Bottles & Chest. That is, I believe like I feel many do that you have in fact discovered a tomb, but at the same time many of us have reservations about the bottles, chest and subsequent excavation of the tomb. Let me explain.
9. Let me start by asking about your registration of the discovery of the tomb with the local authorities. In the book you detail your reporting of the tomb with the French organisation DRAC, and have been on record as encouraging others to affirm these developments with the DRAC directly, should they desire.
I have never enticed people to contact the DRAC, they did it themselves.
Not even in my forum?
Not even on your forum Andy, have I asked anyone to contact the DRAC. Sandy found out that it was being done by certain individuals on a French Forum and so sarcastically said why don’t you contact the DRAC, or something similar, knowing that they were already in the process of doing it. So you see they would have contacted the DRAC anyway; they certainly didn’t need us to tell them to.
Right, so those of us who have contacted the DRAC office that you visited have not been instilled with reassurance that the tomb is of any interest to them. In fact, conversations with DRAC officials have suggested just the opposite. Can you help clarify the degree of DRAC’s involvement with your discovery and what their next step will be? Can you provide a DRAC incident number that will silence the sceptics?
The reporting of the tomb and the various meetings with the DRAC officials, including taking them to the site, all happened as detailed in my book, my website, and also on your forum Andy.
Anything to the contrary, as stated in the DRAC meeting article, is a lie and I am even willing to put £10,000 on it. I know because I was there at these meetings. This has also been repeated on your forum Andy, people can chose to either believe it or not but I have told the truth about all of the meetings with the DRAC. I cannot say the same for what others have said about their own alleged meetings with Giraud as I wasn’t there, although, to date, no proof has ever been forthcoming of any of these meetings. It is up to the public to decide who is telling the truth. It seems some people can say whatever they like against me without providing proof and that is OK, but when I make a statement I HAVE to prove it, which I believe I have done as far as I am able.
Thanks for that Ben. What about the taped recording with the DRAC official that has been published on my Forum, that pretty much states that while you visited DRAC, they were not enticed by what you showed them?
No I think you will find you are mistaken there Andy, the tape recording, whatever it is about, mentions nothing about not being enticed by what was shown to them but actually tells of their interest in whatever it was they were shown; it’s not clear from the recording what. They are even keen to see it with their own eyes so they can make a proper assessment. As Giraud said in the phone conversation:
Transcript of Giraud’s speech (That is indistinct in parts).
"I was informed by the American team of the discovery. The information was in the form of the pictures which will soon be shown (in the film)…pictures on the internet….but I don’t have an internet account.”
(I think he is saying there are pictures=2 on the internet, because Giraud was sent the link to the Bloodline website at the time, but that he hasn’t looked at those as he has no internet account).
“They showed me the pictures and indicated a site to me.
I said in order for me to be able to go any further I would need to see it with my own eyes, and for the moment this has not yet happened.
(When he says “site” I think Giraud means the actual Tomb)
I saw the pictures and I said I would make myself available to take a look at it, in the field, but so far it has not been possible to do this survey, for various reasons, for reasons beyond my control. The person who discovered it has had personal problems, to do with illness, I think, so we have not been able to…we set up an appointment but it didn’t work out, so, we planned to go and check things out – in order to be able to make intelligent comments about it I can’t just content myself with just seeing pictures, when I haven’t been able to check the…I don’t want to say check the "reality", because the pictures are there, but I haven’t been able to see it personally, with my own eyes.
(Here Giraud is saying that he believes the tomb is real but needs to see it for himself. The survey Giraud mentions is the tomb interior survey with the remote camera that was unfortunately postponed, not the survey of the location of the cave site, etc, which, depending on the date of this phone call, may had already been surveyed by the DRAC as previously explained.)
Me or one of my field agents, who is a specialist on the terrain, is supposed to go and see and check out the discovery, but it had not yet been possible for him to do this.
I really need to examine a certain number of things in order to be able to evaluate the importance and the exact nature of this discovery."
As you can see everything Giraud has said in this taped phone conversation backs up what I have said previously.
LOL! It’s funny but if I had posted that edited conversation as proof of anything I would have been laughed at. There is no mention of my name, a Tomb or anything to link it to me personally. It could be about anyone and anything. Also there is no telling when the conversation took place, was it the day before it was posted or 12 months ago? There is no way to tell.
If it is about my Tomb site, on reflection it’s not really evidence of anything. Except that someone unknown phoned Giraud and Giraud said what he said, whether this was the whole phone conversation or just the edited highlights I have no idea. That is the thing with technology today – if you have the means and a reason you can make anything show what you want it to show. And if there had been anything damming said by Giraud against me I have no doubt it would have been included and as he didn’t I think that speaks volumes. I have told the truth about the DRAC meetings and their reactions to what they were shown and their visit to the site, what more can I say?
We had all previously voiced our concerns that the area where the site is located, if revealed, could be inundated with treasure hunters, so perhaps Giraud, caught off guard, was being protective about the site and not saying more than the minimum, and a minimum which was perhaps intended to down-play the site to discourage frenzied Rennites who were phoning the DRAC, trying to find out where it was! They have also signed a non-disclosure agreement, which obviously restricts what they can say.
I have personally never heard anything said by the DRAC that can be verified as being from them, that does not confirm what I have said.
Further, Bruce and Rene have a letter from the DRAC on official headed notepaper which Rene is going to send me a scan of, and when I have it I will show this to you Andy if you wish, Bruce and Rene have said this is okay.
Thanks Ben. Great rebuttal. And that document would be grand. I think that would go a long way to silencing the critics…
Can you share the schedule of events and relative timings of the further involvement of DRAC? Also, what can you tell us about the Rennes-le-Château researcher and Bloodline contributor, Nichole Dawe, and her involvement with the DRAC on your behalf?
Sorry Andy as I said before, certain people have ruined the release of any further details concerning the DRAC or the excavation, no one will know about it now until it is all over. It’s a shame but as always the few spoil it for the many. As Nicole speaks fluent French she was asked to be our go-between with us and the DRAC.
And why may I ask, after you and your brother made the initial discovery, why did you not team up with any French researcher or authorities at the time?
Because I didn’t know any; couldn’t speak French and later thought I had broken the law by not reporting the discovery. This was all new to me. I was just a normal guy having a bit of fun and adventure but it just all sort of escalated out of control and I wasn’t prepared for all the attacks against me from the so called Rennes researchers who felt threatened by my discovery. Now I realise it was probably all just jealously on their part that they had failed to decipher the clues themselves. That is hardly my fault is it?
10. Sceptics have commented that the objects in your tomb appear to have been moved around over time. For avoidance of doubt, have you or have your not entered the tomb and handled / examined its contents close up?
For the umpteenth time of telling, there is no way to get into the tomb apart from the small shaft I filmed through. As explained in my book, certain objects were moved during the filming process to try and retrieve them or in an attempt to open things.
I’ll take that as a no then?
And which elements of the tomb were recreated in a ‘movie set’ for the film, Bloodline? I mean this makes sense, but just for the record it would interesting to know.
Really? Sorry, I must have misunderstood. I thought you said on the Forum that a film set – a duplicate environment to the tomb – had been established for purposes of filming certain scenes?
No that was one of your forum members having a joke I think.
11. Having listened to you and fellow researchers Sandy Hamblett and Bill Kersey recount the discovery of the bottles and chest at Rennes Group (a Rennes-le-Château discussion and research group run by author Guy Patton) meetings over the past couple of years, I can’t help but feel that the story as it was recounted then is far less refined than it is now.
The reason for this was that certain details had to be withheld until the Bloodline film and my book were released. Also, being a somewhat nervous public speaker, I tend to fumble a bit and perhaps do not explain things as clearly as I could do.
12. Right, well fair enough. I want to move on to the discovery of the first bottle near the Devils Chair in Rennes-les-Bains. That must have been an amazing thrill, especially knowing that documents of Sauniere were contained within, yet you waited many months before opening the bottle back in the UK, in Glastonbury, again at a Rennes Group meeting.
Yes it was really exciting. Both Sandy and I were a bit shocked at the find. It had been an idea of mine for some time that Saunière’s Devil may be hiding another clue. With the addition of the Devil’s Armchair in the Fleury Tableau, I was even more certain.
Incidentally the armchair in the bottom left corner of the Fleury tableau is as near as Saunière could possibly place it to his demon!
Although I was going through the motions of looking for something at the Devil’s Armchair, I did not really expect that I would find anything. It was just to stop this nagging feeling I had every time I looked at the church Devil. If I had found nothing, I could then move on, but I did, and it led to even more discoveries.
As to the delay in opening the first bottle, I know this has bugged you for a long time Andy, but when we discovered the first bottle we wanted to do the right thing. We knew if we opened it when it was found we would have no proof that its contents were genuine. By opening the bottle in front of witnesses we hoped to avoid any accusations of tampering with the contents, whatever they may be. And yes, the waiting was hard, as we obviously wanted to know what the message said. Also at the time we thought this was a one-off. We had no idea it was just the first part. Perhaps if we did, we may have opened it there and then. I thought it would be something like the parchments already associated with the mystery, a cryptic puzzle of some kind, and we all know what bad press they were receiving. This was another reason to be patient and have the opening witnessed and filmed.
But it all seems to have been a waste of time as there have been many lies said about me and the messages. Even that the message found in the bottle as seen at the Rennes Group meeting has now changed. I believe the only explanation for saying this is about part of the message that I have intentionally blurred to hide its details as I was saving the reveal for my book. This was clearly labelled as having been done. ’Above image has been temporarily part blurred to hide contents… ’In all other instances, apart from a small section removed for carbon dating tests that proved the paper dated to Saunière’s era, it is exactly the same. As usually with these accusations and attempts to discredit me or the discoveries, no proof is offered, it is just stated as fact. Just imagine what the reaction would have been if we had opened it as soon as we had found it with no witnesses!
Fair point Ben. Is there anything else that you would like to get off your chest and clarify for your public?
Funny you should ask Andy. For a start, it has also been stated that the signature found on the 1st message, the one with the wrongly sloped accent, wasn’t among the ones that were shown to British handwriting expert Emma Bache when the Bloodline team went to see her to authenticate the messages. This is yet another lie; I have photos in my book with the signatures from both the messages clearly visible on the table in front of Emma. And it was not the ‘Bloodline Team’ who were present as was also stated, but Rat Scabies and Andrew Gough. The whole point of the meeting was to get an expert on handwriting to see if the signatures and handwriting could be Saunière’s, and Emma thought they could be (full details of this meeting are in my book). If I were trying to deceive anyone why would I invite Rat and yourself Andy, who kindly filmed the meeting for me, along to witness my deceit if that was my intention? Which obviously it wasn’t. I think I was brave in having you both there as witnesses to the outcome; the meeting could have gone against the messages, although it didn’t, but I had no means of predicting that beforehand. In fact I think I have been very open and honest about the messages.
I believe I have successfully explained the reason for the wrongly sloping accent above the ‘e’ of Saunière’s signature on message 1 in my book, but just to try to console others, there is an example from Saunière’s private notes that he has signed it this way. Below is a photograph that, as far as I know, according to the museum official that showed it to me, has never been made public before. It seems that Saunière may have been practising a different way of doing his signature.
I am not having a go at anyone, I know how these things happen when the full story of what took place is not known, and much is said in the heat of the moment, which is at times hard to take back. I am just answering some of the misinformed statements against me. This is the trouble when people take as fact what others say, who may or may not have their own agenda, instead of someone who actually knows what happened. The bottle was opened in front of witnesses to avoid this very thing, so we would not be accused of changing anything, if we wanted to we could have opened it privately.
Incidentally, as the signature could be seen through the glass of the bottle, Sandy and I had already noticed the wrong accent above the ‘e’ before setting up the meeting for its grand opening, so we already knew there was a chance that the message might not be from Saunière and yet we still went ahead because we wanted the opening witnessed, what ever it’s contents.
It was also I who first pointed out the wrong accent on the signature from Message 1 on my website. In my book I explain why this may have been purposely done. There was also a second signature that matches Saunière’s and was included, I believe, on the second message so that it could be compared to the signature on message 1 to see the differences as part of a code embedded in the messages. The clue to this was the phrase (English Translation):
“From 1 take 2 of my name. A direction to use in 3”
The two wrong letters are ‘n’ and ‘e’. The direction from this would be Nord-Est or North-East. So a direction of NE, along with other clues, would have to be used to find part 3 of the message.
Interesting. Thanks for that Ben. Listen, at risk of fixating on a theme let me say that similarly, when you discovered the 3rd bottle, you returned to your hotel and went for a swim before examining it. How did you manage to demonstrate such restraint?
Believe me Andy, if you had been scrambling about on a mountain in the hot sun for most of the day you would have been in that pool as well; an ice cold vodka and coke in hand. It is hard to explain but I thoroughly enjoyed the anticipation before the bottles were opened and the discussion as to what information might be revealed. I think if you or anyone else were there Andy you would understand.
Again, I can’t say with certainty that I would behave any differently, except maybe I would have had a beer with a whisky chaser. Seriously, it’s got to be annoying for people like me to flag this up. Sorry about that. I hope and trust that those of us who have been sceptical or even critical will have the class to say, ‘you were right – I was wrong – sorry!’, when all is confirmed…
Whisky is my second favourite drink after Smirnoff vodka. Just to make you jealous Andy, I had a gift of Glenfiddich 12 year old, Caoran Reserve, single malt whisky for Xmas, hmmm, poured over ice cubes, lovely. Hic.
13. Ok, so sobering up then…I also recall a Rennes Group meeting when you and your researchers recounted the decoding of the clues that lead to your discoveries, and how one member was key to the discovery of all but the first bottle. Curiously, I recall this individual saying when the 3rd bottle was discovered, that you should dig deeper as there may in fact be a 4th bottle hidden there as well, which you discovered a few months later when you visited the site by yourself.
I take it you are talking about Bill Kersey here, and it has never been said by me that Bill (and he would be the first to admit this as well) was key to all or most of the discoveries. If Bill had not been there the discoveries would have still been made. Over time, various members of the team, including Bill, Sandy, and at one time even Bruce, contributed an idea or noticed something that brought us one step closer to a discovery. Other times I worked out the clues alone. It was me that found the rock where the 3rd bottle was found, Bill was nowhere near but further up the hill.
Every time we made a discovery and Bill was present, he always wanted to dig deeper but even if we had dug deeper beneath the 3rd bottle it would not have been found as it was not directly below the bottle. It was only by deciphering the code stones found there, that the 3rd bottle was discovered.
It was Sandy and I who worked out the clues leading to the second bottle. Bill had nothing to do with it and it was I alone who solved the clues leading to the 3rd and 4th bottle. It is others that are saying Bill was a key player to all of the discoveries, not me. Yes on occasion Bill suggested or noticed something that helped the quest, but then so did we all. Even if Bill was a key player in the discoveries he would never perpetrate a hoax, as some have suggested, of this or any other kind. It is not in his nature.
Also, it has also been falsely reported that when the stone was rolled out of the way when the 3rd bottle was found, that it wasn’t there, only appearing later. Yet another lie! Well here is proof taken from the film footage that the bottle was there.
Thanks for that Ben. And I know Bill and his wife Mary, personally. They have been to my home. It’s just an observation that I felt needed clarifying.
Respectfully, I ask you to humour me here. While your personal involvement in the discovery of the bottles seems entirely legitimate, who would stand to benefit if in fact the bottles were a set up of sorts? Might they in some way be an attempt to discredit your legitimate discovery of a tomb?
It is a question I have asked myself and I have never come up with a suitable answer. It seems to be a lot of trouble for someone to go to, with as yet no obvious payoff or conclusion. Every test carried out on the discoveries so far has come back with positive results. If it was someone whose intention was to discredit the tomb, they would have included objects which were not authentic; objects that could easily prove it was all a set up, but there is nothing like this.
As not to cause him or his associates any embarrassment I will not name him here but a well known French researcher has already said that he hoaxed the Tomb, and then later, that he or his mate, the messages as well, but when asked certain questions that would verify that he did, he was unable to answer them and we never heard from him again, although he has since tried to discredit my discoveries.
How frustrating. And annoying…
14. Many have commented on the peculiar French texts in the bottle parchments, as well as their use of red ink. I felt that one of the best arguments in the book for their authenticity was the Sot Pecheur coded document, described by Gerard de Sede in his 1967 book The Gold of Rennes. The document also uses red ink and appears to have many similarities with the parchments you’ve found.
Can you address the concern that the French texts in your parchments are conspicuous and contain errors and grammatical inconsistencies?
As I am the person least qualified to comment on the French, or any other language (I have enough trouble with English), I bow to the expertise of others in this matter, and a French language expert was contacted to determine how good or bad the French was. The results are well known now; the professor thought they were coded documents, and in places quite sophisticated. I, like many others, do not speak or write perfect English. I expect many French speakers are the same with respect to their own language. The trouble is many people read the documents word for word but due to their coded nature, this is not how they were constructed to be read.
But truthfully, I have no idea for certain who wrote them, obviously I would like it to have been Saunière but I don’t believe this can ever be proved 100 percent one way or the other. The paper/ink has been dated to the time of Saunière but again this does not prove he is their author. As I say in my book they could have been written 100, 50, or 10 years ago but it seems to have been a lot of trouble to source the correct paper and ink for as yet no obvious payoff, but maybe that is yet to come. To counteract this I have made certain small changes in some of the messages, without altering their content or message, so if someone steps forward saying they wrote them, all they would have to do to prove it is produce the original and answer certain questions about where and how they were found.
I like it. Good idea…
15. One of the interesting things in your book is your observation of what is roughly a ‘4’ shaped alignment both inside and outside of the church. The shape leads you to a number of your discoveries. What I find interesting is that this approach was not mentioned in your earlier explanations of how you deciphered clues in the church.
I did not use the 4-sign to find the tomb, just the cross shape. The 4-sign came into play with the bottle discoveries.
In fact, in previous explanations you shared how the gaze of statue of the devil onto the floor was one of the primary clues. Can you shed some light on this?
Yes, that is exactly right and as explained in my book, the gaze of the devil in Saunière’s church was an initial clue that I was following and it was the four fingers of the devil’s hand on the knee matching the four angels above that led me to the four sign. I wanted to keep this sign to myself as it was a clue no one else had noticed.
Very interesting. Thanks Ben. Ok, so the Spanish Inquisition ends! Thank you and well done.
16. Right, so tell us about the next facet of your research. Are you seeking to uncover the fabled ‘hall’, the 2nd chest, or another object? And how close are you?
I am still attempting to decipher the clues on the third part of the message which includes a diagram of an underground complex of passages and ‘rooms’. One of these passages may be connected to the tomb I have found, which may explain why we cannot find the entrance. With help from Pat, Ronny, Andrea and Lars, some German mates of mine, I occasionally meet up with in Rennes-le-Château, and once Paul (who I re-named Pete, oh what fun we had), have entered any suitable hole, tunnel or entrance in the area in the hope it will lead into the tunnel complex but as yet we have been unsuccessful, but we will keep trying. I believe if we had, or could find the Templar Chest, that documents inside would provide us with the missing information that would lead us directly to one of the entrances.
17. Lastly, let me say thank you for your candour and humour, and for allowing me to ask you some tough questions. You’ve been great.
Yeah, whatever, anytime.
Before we conclude let me add that our mutual friend Rat Scabies and myself have enjoyed many evenings out with you and have commented each time how everything you have said and the way you have said it, really seems to rings true. Rat even put a lie detector in front of you for an entire evening one once and it affirmed your position 100% of the time!
Yeah cheers Andy, just what the world needs, another photo of me with two vodkas, snacks, fags and a stupid look on my face. The usual Ben Hammott look then.
It pays to be ‘behind the camera’ I’ve always said…
However Ben, many sceptics remain, and I for one have been one of the most outspoken. Let me ask you this – and actually I have taken the idea from my forum, where one of the posters indicated that it might be a good idea – given my prior ranting. And that is this.
Would you take me to the tomb in return for my public validation of its authenticity? I mean you can blindfold me if you like – throw me off a cliff afterwards if you must, but seriously, what do you think? I’ll sign a NDA. All you have to do is say yes and the sceptics will be silenced. What do you say?
Right, so I see you’ve been studying at the Russell Brand school of journalism. Nice. Carry on…
Seriously Andy, I mean it sounds really easy doesn’t it, take me to the tomb, blindfold me, etc, but in reality as ever, it is not. Firstly there is no way a blindfolded person would be able to negotiate the terrain. Secondly we have an agreement with the DRAC that neither they nor us would reveal or take anyone else to the site without both parties being present. Thirdly, even if I took you to the site Andy, I would have to undo something I have done to disguise the entrance, which is a work of art if I say so myself. Once inside then I would have to dig down to uncover the top of the shaft, then remove all the foam embedded rocks, which is not a fun job, and then all you would see would be a hole in the cave floor. You will not be able to see the tomb through the hole. And when you have finished looking at the hole, I would have to cover everything up again. Anyway the next time I visit the Tomb will be when it is being excavated.
I suppose a no would have sufficed!
Ok, ok – let me think about it Andy. I just have so much going on at the moment. A tip is to supply me with enough vodka and I will do most things, as that old corpse in my bed found out. (Also handy if you ever sleep over Andy, just bring a bottle with you).
All right Hammott. Enough already. ; )
Seriously Ben, thanks for a fascinating interview and for being so cool about all the innuendo and annoying rumours that have surfaced with respect to your work. Arcadia wishes you and your team continued success and may I recommend to everyone that they read your book as a matter of priority.
Well done, and thanks again Ben.
Cheers Andy and BTW just so people know, in the above photo, I’m the ugly one!
And finally I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who bought or intends to buy my book.
Are we done then? Thanks Ben…