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Mystics Say Hidden Vault Contains Secret to World Peace

Wednesday March 19, 2003 1:32pm 

Williamsburg, Va. (AP) - A group of mystics says it's time to search again beneath the Bruton Parish Church graveyard for the secret keys to world peace.

"We're here by divine providence," said Fletcher Richman, one of a handful of believers who were so vocally insistent about the graveyard's supposed secrets more than a decade ago that church leaders sponsored a dig in 1992 to search for a legendary underground vault.

"This could stop the holy wars in the Middle East," he declared.

Richman, who lived in the Williamsburg area in the early 1990s but later moved to his current home in Minnesota, said the 1992 dig failed to find the vault because archaeologists picked the wrong spot.

During a recent weekend visit to Williamsburg, Richman gestured to the pyramid-shaped monument marking the centuries-old graves of Elizabeth and David Bray.

He was accompanied by six other self-described metaphysicians who call themselves Sir Francis Bacon's Sages of the Seventh Seal. Behind him was the historic church on Duke of Gloucester Street that serves as a tourist attraction as well as an Episcopal house of worship.

"Underneath here is a spiral staircase that goes down to a freemasonry library," Richman said as other members of his group nodded agreement.

He was referring to a reputed 10-by-10-foot vault, which is said by those who believe it exists to contain writings, documents and other material that belonged to Sir Francis Bacon.

Bacon was an essayist, among other things, and those who believe in the vault say he was editor of the King James Version of the Bible and the real author of the plays attributed to Shakespeare.

He died in 1626 in England without ever coming to Virginia. Believers say his written revelations, including missing pieces of the Bible, were shipped to Virginia in a vault that was buried first in Jamestown. The vault was moved in 1676 to beneath what is now the Bruton Parish Church yard.

Believers, who are convinced the vault's location is revealed by codes in various places, say its contents have the power to bring a new and peaceful world order. They also say the vault and its contents were known to America's founding fathers, including Thomas Jefferson.

Mainstream scholars dismiss the claims of the Bacon believers, but those beliefs have persisted. A California woman named Marie Bauer Hall persuaded church officials to dig in the churchyard in 1938, and that excavation led to discovery of the original church foundations.

In 1991, a New Mexico couple who were students of Hall's teachings dug surreptitiously in the churchyard at night. They were arrested and fined. About the same time, a group with which Richman was affiliated began planning to hold a symposium in Williamsburg about the vault.

Church officials, frankly hoping to put the vault legend to rest once and for all, then asked archaeologists from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to undertake a dig that would satisfy believers that no vault was there.

The dig lasted for several weeks in the late summer and attracted throngs of tourists and wide media attention. It ended with an announcement that archaeologists had investigated all the subsurface area that had been touched by humans over the past three centuries and found no sign of the vault.

Dr. Gerald H. Johnson, a geologist who participated in the 1992 search, now retired from the faculty of the College of William and Mary, had followed up the dig by extracting core samples of subsurface material beneath the excavation to a depth of about 20 feet. He said he got beneath the water table and found no sign that human activity had disturbed the deep soils.

Johnson said on a visit to the churchyard recently that he did not bore for samples beneath the monument Richman now claims marks the location of the vault. He said he'd be willing to take some new samples if he gets an official request.

Richman said that he felt back in 1992 that the location was wrong, but "withdrew" until the timing felt better. He said meditation and prayer drew his current group together for another try at finding the vault.

"Because of the alleged beginning of World War III or Armageddon, we're back here for that reason," he said.

Richman and his friends met last summer with the Rev. Herman Hollerith IV, rector of the Episcopal church, to try to convince him that new research provides the evidence to justify another excavation.

The Rev. Mary L. Douglas, an associate rector at the church, had agreed to meet again with the group recently but canceled the meeting at Hollerith's request. Douglas said Hollerith is taking some time off for medical leave and asked her to postpone meeting with Richman's group until he returns.

Richman said his group hoped the church would entertain bids by archaeologists or other researchers sympathetic to his cause to search for the vault this summer in conjunction with a landscaping project scheduled for the church yard.

Although Douglas said the only excavation planned as part of that project is construction of a new drainage ditch, Richman said he's still hopeful.

"We're not here to polarize," he said. "We want to inspire through public relations and good will."

But he also said that "students of metaphysics" from around the world could use pressure tactics if church officials don't cooperate.

"If we have to, we will surround this churchyard 24 hours a day with thousands of metaphysicians," Richman said.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed


How can we manifest peace on earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both sexes) in our vision of Peace?

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