Friday 29 June 2018

Hoax 'devil coins' found in Bath Abbey

Fake currency was used in elaborate satanic hoax in Scandinavia in 1970s

Two “devil coins” that were hidden in Scandinavian churches as part of an elaborate hoax in the 1970s have been discovered in the unlikely setting of Bath Abbey.

Dusty odds and ends, including an order of service from 1902, were found in the abbey when stalls were removed for restoration work.

The most intriguing discovery, however, was two coins bearing a picture of Satan and the legend Civitas Diaboli on one side and 13 Maj Anholt 1973 on the other.

Experts figured out the coins were linked to the story of a Danish eccentric who perpetrated an elaborate 40-year hoax that was only discovered almost a decade after his death.

The date on the coins refers to an episode that took place on the island of Anholt, between Denmark and Sweden, in May 1973.

 The ‘devil coins’ were found when stalls were removed for restoration work in the abbey. Photograph: Wessex Archaeology
Thirteen “ritual sites” were discovered by residents that prompted an investigation by police from the Danish mainland.

Police puzzled over the meaning of the sites, where items included strange masks, weird stone formations, bones wrapped in string, black candles and a (fake) shrunken head on a stake. The story was picked up by the Danish national media and salacious stories of satanic cults on Anholt abounded.

Coins like those found at Bath Abbey began to be discovered in churches and museums across Denmark. Some were accompanied by letters claiming to be from a satanic high priestess named Alice Mandragora.

In 2013, the Danish newspaper Politiken ran a six-part investigation into the coin phenomenon, revealing that the Anholt mystery was a hoax perpetrated by Knud Langkow, an office clerk at the National Gallery of Denmark who died in 2004, aged 73.

His niece Lene Langkow Saaek told the newspaper he was not a satanist and the hoax was just his sense of humour. “I think normality annoyed him,” she said. ‘He did not like ordinary.”

Some coins may have been minted by Langkow but others are thought to have been created by independent experts who were in on the joke.

Bath’s Anholt coins are in the care of Wessex Archaeology and will be included in the final site archive, alongside artefacts dating from the Roman through to the modern period.

Bruce Eaton, the project manager, said historians and archeologists were used to written artefacts telling an untrue story, but not physical ones.

“As archaeologists we set great store by the integrity of the physical objects we recover. To discover finds that are a fabrication, designed to mislead, is both fascinating and a timely reminder that we should always view any discovery with a critical eye.”

(Source: The Guardian)

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