IN THE SUMMER OF 2019, FLAT EARTHIST Patricia Steere shocked the very movement which she had helped to nurture, facilitate, and ultimately create, by pulling the plug on her YouTube channel, “Flat Earth & Other Hot Potatoes.” Actually, she pulled the plug on everything. She killed social media. She even erased her list of contacts. I was sitting under the shade of a tree somewhere alongside the Dordogne River in France, welcoming the sweltering heat of summer in, when I received the news. Patricia Steere simply walked. And nobody knew why.
I was preparing to cook my family dinner, trying to make sense of another long-winded recipe in French, when a message lit up my screen. Rick Hummer, the man who’d served as Masters of Ceremony at the Flat Earth International Conferences, had said Patricia Steere was willing to talk. More specifically, she wanted to talk with me.
“But I didn’t have her number,” I said.
IN 2009 THE FLAT EARTH SOCIETY was quietly re-established with little to no fanfare. Its founder, a man named Daniel Shenton (no proposed relation whatsoever to Samuel Shenton) claimed succession from the Zetetic astronomers, Samuel Rowbotham, and those under the umbrella of the Universal Zetetic Society in 1884, as well as Samuel Shenton’s Flat Earth Research Society, founded in 1956. No mention of the Texan was made. “While the Society’s focus became more religious throughout the 20th Century,” Daniel Shenton wrote, “the Zetetic underpinnings remained intact.” In the 21st century, Shenton assured his new audience, the Flat Earth Society would return to its original scientific focus.
WHEN LISTENERS BEGAN SENDING DAVID WEISS flat earth videos in 2014, he deleted them—every single last one. “I wouldn’t even look at a single minute of video,” he said. Flat earth was bad for business. And besides, flat earthists, it seemed, were derailing the very truther movement which he held so dear.
THE HOLLOW EARTH THEORY was apparently something to be tinkered with in 2014. Mark Sargent doodled with it. So did Chris Van Matre.
Admiral Byrd, check.
Flying saucers, check.
Wooly Mammoth, check.
One thing led to another…
Eric Dubay, check…?
ONE DAY IN THE SPRING OF 2015, 55-YEAR-OLD Bob Knodel got to thinking. Firstly, he thought about his training as a pilot—and then gyroscopes. He thought about space and satellite imagery too. Something didn’t add up right.
“I was always, for the last 25 plus years—I guess you could kind of call me a conspiracy theorist. I never trusted the government. I always knew there was something wrong with it—with the world in general, honestly. But I couldn’t put my finger on it. The biggest thing was with wars. You know, why did they have so many wars, for property or what? They’d spend billions of dollars on wars and they never made any sense to me. Why didn’t they just spend that money to fix the problem? As I grew older I started to have more and more distrust for the government, and the system in general. I never really liked it instinctively.”
THE TALL, DARK, AND HANDSOME standing on her doorstep was the very tall, dark, and handsome from her dream—quite literally. To put it in slightly other terms, she had dreamed of this very scenario earlier that morning. Even his clothes were indistinguishable. Karen was going through a divorce when the man whom she’d met in high school, and who she cares not to name, entered her life again. It was October of 2008. Karen was living in Sacramento. He was in the navy, stationed in San Diego.
‘Synchronicity,’ she thought.
THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM and mainstream propaganda had already taken its toll on forty-three year-old Paul Lindberg by the time he sat down one evening with his wife for dinner—which, on both accounts, is often how these things go. Between this and that, attending public school and catching a screening of The Empire Strikes Back as a child (a moment which would manifest into a lifelong devotion to everything Star Wars), Lindberg recounted, “I started questioning the six day creation; questioning if there was any validity to evolution—millions and billions of years.”
Was it possible to take Scripture and the creation account figuratively and still believe in the integrity of God’s Testimony?
AS ONE DECADE GAVE WAY TO ANOTHER, the statistical estimate of homosexuals had ranged from twelve to twenty-five percent of San Francisco’s total population, with the average gay man having sexual encounters with at least five-hundred other men—twenty-eight percent with more than a thousand. Some fourteen years after the fact, the almost-mythical corners of Haight and Ashbury were no longer the standard for America’s love revolution. In 1980, the Castro was. Never before in the history of the modern world had sex been more readily available than San Francisco. The Satanic Panic officially began that very year with the publication of Michelle Remembers, a book co-written by Canadian psychiatrist Lawrence Pazder and his former patient, then wife, Michelle Smith, which detailed her childhood abuse by a cabal of Satanists and the demonic possession which resulted from it.
In both cases, nobody was prepared for the shit storm to come.