Writer looks for clue in Delavan dig
DELAVAN–It’s a 103-year-old Walworth County mystery that’s puzzled area historians, and if you’re the one holding the photographic clue you could be $500 richer, courtesy of a California researcher.
L.A. Marzulli is a lecturer, researcher, filmmaker and author living in Malibu. The topics of his books range from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to the Shroud of Turin. Four of his novels and one non-fiction book—he’s currently writing the second—deal with the Nephilim, a race of giants mentioned in the Bible, described as the offspring of humans and angels.
Nephilim have been noted by writers like Jewish historian Flavius Josephus as far back as 2,000 years ago. And very large skulls and skeletal remains have been found in archeological digs in England, Peru and the United States—including, as it turns out, Delavan.
Late last month, Marzulli visited Wisconsin, researching a dig by two brothers named Phillips who, in March of 1911, uncovered oversized skeletons on their property, located on what is now Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan. Marzulli visited the Delavan Historical Society, the Walworth County Historical Society in Elkhorn and the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison.
“I was hoping to hit that pay dirt,” Marzulli said in a telephone interview from California.
He found newspaper articles about the dig—including one from the New York Times.
There were even letters from Ernest Field Phillips, written on Lake Lawn Hotel stationary, to Charles Brown, an archeologist from the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison, about how he and his brother, Chester W. Phillips, decided to investigate one of a number of ancient burial mounds on their property.
”As we were looking over and mapping out the mounds at Lake Lawn Park, we took it into our heads to search one to satisfy ourselves and others what was really in them and their makeup,” Ernest Phillips wrote.
Phillips described digging down several feet to discover a cobblestone pit that contained fourteen skeletons, their forms well preserved under a coating of dirt and hard clay. The skeletons, he wrote, revealed “big, powerful men.”
Phillips included sketches of the excavated site in his letter and promised to take photographs and send them to Brown.
Marzulli found no trace of the photos, but he’s offering $500 to anyone who can.
The Delavan skeletons’ purported sizes, ranging from seven to nine feet tall, with abnormally large skulls, are consistent with other skeletal remains which Marzulli said fit the Nephilim profile.
He doesn’t doubt Nephilim lived in North America.
“Native Americans have stories Paiute elders talk about red-haired giants in the land, and they’ll talk your ear off if you let them,” Marzulli said. “Paiutes, Navaho, Cherokee — all of them have stories of a race of giants.”
Centuries-old newspaper accounts reveal discoveries of giant skeletons in Ohio, Nevada, and other states, but the skeletons themselves aren’t around. Often after such findings made headlines, members of the Smithsonian Institution reportedly came to examine the sites, collected the bones and the skeletons were never seen again, Marzulli said.
“Why isn’t there any record of these skeletons? Where did they wind up?” he asked.
He said a friend of his had questioned Smithsonian officials about the giant skeletons and received a “condescending letter” in reply.
Marzulli said the academics, anthropologists and scientists he’s spoken with about the skeletons won’t speak on the record because they’re afraid of losing tenure or jobs by admitting the existence of a race of giants.
Of course, hoaxes do exist, like the 10-foot tall stone man unearthed in Cardiff, New York that made big news in 1869. It was found to have been a planted statue, although that didn’t stop P.T. Barnum from trying to buy it and make it part of his circus exhibits.
Though the Phillips brothers had family connections with the Mabies—owners of a local Delavan circus—Marzulli doesn’t believe their dig was a hoax.
Marzulli’s research covered a lot of ground: from Circus World archives in Baraboo to Beloit College, where anthropologists were supposed to have overseen the Phillips’ dig. He tracked down Ernest Phillips’ will, and checked out stories of the late Gordon Yadon, Delavan historian, who allegedly ventured into Phillips’ cavernous basement.
“That burial site (Phillips found) was incredible, air tight and water tight. The skeletons were in very good condition,” Marzulli said. “This was 1911, and Phillips would have had the ability and money to take photographs. But where are they?”
Pat Blackmer, researcher at the Walworth County Historical Society, pointed to Ernest Philips’ question, in his letter to Brown: “Do you want some bones?” It’s an unthinkable offer today, but she wonders if parts of the skeletons—or even photos—were given to Brown or a few of the other locals Phillips invited to examine the dig.
Blackmer, who noted Phillips had no children, has correspondence that says his collection of artifacts was sold in 1930 to Commonwealth Edison, the onetime owner of Lake Lawn Resort.
“I think the key to discovering any photos is to find out what happened to Ernest Phillips’ estate when he died,” she said.
Delavan Historical Society President Patti Marsicano said she didn’t “find a smoking gun” while doing research for Marzulli.
“All I know for sure is that when the remains were found, Ernest Phillips felt that the discovery was important enough to correspond with the Wisconsin State Historical Society about,” she said in an email. “And that he seemed to be of the opinion that (the skeletons) were definitely nowhere near what we consider normal.”
As for the photos?
“They could have been destroyed by water, fire or 100 plus years of poor environment,” Marsicano said. “They could be stashed away in a box in someone’s attic and they don’t even know they have them. They could also be unlabeled laying in a box of old photos in an antique store somewhere…or at the Smithsonian. No one knows…yet!”