Serpent Mound & Paranormal Events
By Dr. Greg Little
Serpent Mound is, if not the largest effigy mound in the world, at least the largest one that has been preserved and well maintained. The mound is one of the five most important mound sites in America. It is a 1348-foot long earthen effigy of an uncoiling snake. It is built atop a 90-foot high promontory above Ohio Brush Creek and is formed from a 20-foot wide, 4 to 5-foot high embankment of earth with buried stone forming the base of the structure. Dating of the effigy has been controversial and for years it was assumed to be a Hopewell-era construction built sometime around 500 BC. More recently many believe that it is related to the Fort Ancient Culture, perhaps built around A.D. 1000. The mound has a number of astronomical alignments and has been the focal point of paranormal and “New Age” events.
Paranormal Events at Serpent Mound
The first time I ever heard of paranormal events at Serpent Mound was around 1986 when I was working on my 1990 book People of the Web. At that time I read an account by sociologist Robert Harner about a visit he made there in November of 1975. Harner related that as he was driving into Ohio he had an impulse to make a detour and visit Serpent Mound, which he had once visited as a child. It was early in the afternoon when he arrived and the museum was closed for the season. It was peaceful, quiet, and no one else was there. “As he walked, he asked himself, ‘why this hill’? Why had the ancients built this wonderful effigy on such an inconvenient hill? He reached the serpent’s head. For no apparent reason, Harner felt a cold, irresistible sense of dread. He felt his hair stand on end, he was paralyzed with terror, and felt completely helpless. He then watched helplessly as piles of leaves began to creep up the hill toward him at the Serpent’s head. As the piles of leaves got closer to him they gathered themselves into a larger pile. Then they began swirling around in a hypnotic dance.” He related that they slowly crept upward as they swirled around and came down advancing, step by step. “Harner stood transfixed by the spectacle until some part of his mind cried out that he had a camera in his car and he had to photograph it. He took off running back to the car, but he knew immediately that the spell—whatever it was—had been broken. Then he knew the answer to his question. Special things happen on that hill. They built the mound there because it is a special place. It is a place where the spirit world emerges.” (People of the Web, p. 59-60.)
Along with my wife Lora, Brent and Joan Raynes, and John Van Auken, we have conducted a series of tours to mound sites starting in the mid-2000s. A couple of the tours went to Serpent Mound. In addition to the tour visits, I have been there a total of 7 times or so. During the first mound tour I was walking alone as our group of over 100 people quietly meditated with John Van Auken at the serpent’s head, which depicts what is thought to be an egg being swallowed. As I walked in the area where Robert Harner saw his vision of walking leaves, I began to think about his experience. I sat down at the spot where I believed Harner had his experience and was stunned to see what looked like a dust devil picking up a swirling mass of leaves. It lifted the leaves up for a moment and then they fell in a heap, hopping about 2 feet up the hill. Then another swirling pile of leaves lifted up and moved another 2 feet or so up the hill. Again and again it happened. I wanted to get the attention of Brent Raynes but he was with the large group quietly meditating, so I had nothing left to do but watch. After the group finished their meditation I called Brent over and explained to him what I’d seen, but it was gone and the huge group was itself swirling around. About 2 years later we again visited Serpent Mound (Brent Raynes, Joan Raynes, and Lora Little) a couple days before we were to begin another mound tour. We were actually timing how long it took to move between sites and how long it took to walk the sites. I walked to the location where the “walking leaves” event had happened, but there were no leaves on the ground. It was a different time of the year—mid-summer. I saw nothing unusual.
A couple years after that (in the Fall again) we returned to the site with a large group and once again the group meditated at the serpent’s head at the egg. This time Brent, Joan, and my wife were leading the meditation. Again, I left the group and walked to the site of the walking leaves. There it was again: leaves moving step, by step, by swirling step. I walked down to the moving leaves and could feel a breeze swirling around in this site, which was at a place where a culvert had been formed. The wind was being funneled into the culvert. No less than 3-feet away, I watched as what seemed to be dust devil-like wind swirls pick up a clump of leaves and move it up the hill. Then it happened again and again. I concluded that, as Harner had said, it was a special place. The culvert, fallen leaves, and wind funneling made for a most interesting effect. The explanation was sufficient for me, but it was still special.
UFOs & Crop Circles Near Serpent Mound—Crazy Beliefs?
In 2003 there were dozens of reports of UFOs sighted in small towns and areas around Serpent Mound. These included black triangles, formations of white lights, and disc-shaped objects. There were also reports of unexplained electrical failures and satellite feed disruptions in the area. Then, several crop circles were discovered in the area. Since then, numerous other crop circles have appeared in southern Ohio at various mound sites in the area—and the UFO reports continue. In 2011 an episode of Ancient Aliens suggested that Serpent Mound was perhaps a marker left by aliens to point to fuel for spaceships. And Serpent Mound has become a haven for large groups of people. In June 2013, Indian Country published a long article relating that “crazy theories” threatened Serpent Mound. Actually, a close reading of the article showed that the theories didn’t threaten anything. The “threat” or danger came from what people did in response to believing specific things. Among the ideas covered in the article were that Serpent Mound was marking a mine where spaceships obtained fuel, that it was a portal to another dimension, and it was a “safe place” for the destruction of the world that “happened” in December 2012 when the Mayan calendar ended. In 2012 (and at other times) it was reported that “Light Warriors” from the “Unite the Collective” organization dug hundreds of holes into the mound and buried hundreds of “organites” in various places. Organites are crude objects made by clumping crystals and metal together using resin as a glue. (These must have worked since the world didn’t end.) There were also hundreds of people clamoring on the mound during the 1987 “Harmonic Convergence” celebration, so it has long been seen as a haven of sorts.
The idea that Serpent Mound was hiding a mine for spaceships came from a 2011 episode of the show Ancient Aliens. In that Ancient Aliens episode, Tom Johnson was depicted as an expert on Serpent Mound and he related that the Shawnee believed the mound to be a marker for space travelers. The article related that Johnson is a former factory worker who now runs a museum that is actually just a store for rocks and crystals. Supposedly the mine contains spaceship fuel so the mound was built as a marker to alert future spaceships that arrive with empty fuel tanks.
Digging into the mound is certainly not a good thing to do and people actually climbing up and down the actual earthen effigy is not good either. But the many unusual ideas about Serpent Mound are essentially harmless. In general, people believe things that confirm what they already believe. So if you believe ancient astronauts built the pyramids, mounds, all megalithic sites, and that aliens basically are responsible for every invention ever made, that’s okay. But digging into a mound isn’t okay. Personally, I don’t believe ancient astronauts built the mounds or the pyramids. Maybe sometime in the past aliens did visit. And I’m fine with not knowing. However, the truth is that many archaeologists cloak themselves as scientists—but in fact they want to believe things that confirm what they already believe—just like the people they are so quick to label as kooks.
My view of American archaeology is that they have taken out a lot of the mystique and mystery that actually exists in archaeology, and by pretending to be completely “scientific,” archaeologists have created a field that is less and less interesting to the masses. I have watched in wonder as well-known archaeologists hold up a couple pieces of pottery and then construct a completely fictional history of the people who made the pottery. Then they go on to concoct a history of the site where the pottery was found. And I’ll never be able to get out of my memory watching a mainstream archaeologist hold up a couple pieces of pottery recovered from a historic northeast site and essentially saying, “this pottery proves Atlantis never existed.” No real scientist would assert something “never existed”—but a crackpot nincompoop would. In truth, a lot of American archaeology is simply guesswork guided by what is already believed. That’s worth saying again. A great deal of what is believed in archaeology is guesswork. We really do not know all that much about America’s mound builders. We can see what they built, and we know a bit of their beliefs and symbols—and these beliefs are actually pretty mystical. Saying that the builders of the mounds were the ancestors of the current Native Americans is fine. I agree. But it explains very little. If some people want to believe that mounds are mystical power sources, there is nothing wrong with it. For the truth is, we really don’t know why effigy mounds like Serpent Mound were built.