Jesse James’ Hidden Treasure – Bogus history & fantasy from The History Channel

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The History Channel is building a record for spreading bogus history.

In their former program American Experience about Jesse James, they falsely linked Jesse to the Ku Klux Klan. Worse yet, they put that false information in the materials they distribute to schools to be used with schoolchildren in history classes.

Now comes their production Jesse James’ Hidden Treasure. Also comes more bogus history.

The fake history starts with the opening lines, which claim Jesse stole $5 million. Detailed analysis by reputable historians account a total under $250,000.

From this point on, the History Channel falls off the foundation of factual history into the fantasy lives of treasure hunter Ron Pastore, and Hollywood hopeful Ralph Ganis, who represents himself as an historian.

Pastore’s record of treasure hunting includes digging up a deceased individual to prove he is the real Jesse James, grabbing the deceased’s dna to no avail, and operating a small town museum filled with fake artifacts, that his Oklahoma neighbors ruefully call his “fifteen minutes of fame.”

Ganis is a former career Air Force serviceman, with a claimed service record that doesn’t jibe with Air Force verifications. He was a mercenary in the unjustified Iraq War. He, too, has put fake and questionable artifacts in museums. Now, Ganis hopes to cut a swath in Hollywood as a Jesse James authority, based on two books he’s self published that are debunked by professional historians.

Pastore and Ganis are made for one another. Hardly a line in the History Channel script doesn’t begin with the phrase “Pastore believes…” The books by Ganis are filled with phrases like “It is believed…” and “It is possible…” To these two, facts are irrelevant. Truth requires no logic, nor explanation. Just take their word for it.

For all that Pastore and Ganis present, everything is secret, or a former secret, apparently known only to them. Astoundingly, all of the secrets they know have eluded the most intense scrutiny and investigation by professional investigators, criminologists, forensic scientists, historians, writers, and educators, for over 125 years.

Once more, Ganis introduces his fantasy of Jesse being part of the KKK. But no explanation follows. Just like Pastore, who doesn’t explain his fantasy of why Jesse hides treasure in Kansas, or why and how Jesse buried and hid gold coins in jars manufactured after 1910, thirty years after Jesse died. Logic? They don’t need no stinkin’ logic!

The failures and inconsistencies in the multiple fantasies of Pastore and Ganis are cumulative and monumental, if not pathetically pathological. Their script is expected to be debunked, dismantled and de-constructed, line by line, in a different kind of forum, yet to come.

When the message is so bad, the usual caveat warns against shooting the messenger. In this case. the lie that is being put to factual history is so egregious that The History Channel well deserves to be shot, as do their guns for hire.

DOWNLOAD a .pdf transcript of the program

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19 thoughts on “Jesse James’ Hidden Treasure – Bogus history & fantasy from The History Channel”

  1. With all due respect: It is clear that this documentary does not fit into your world view and makes you uncomfortable. You may disagree with some or all of the evidence presented in the film, but you commit several egregious logical fallacies in your blog post. First off, your post is full of slanderous ad hominem attacks on the interviewees. This does nothing to refute any historical evidence, and it is very ugly and irresponsible to have these on your page. Moreover, you mistakenly believe that all the people interviewed in this documentary have the same point of view…they do not. Mr. Ganis does not agree with Mr. Pastore’s claim that Jesse James faked his own death. It was a shame that the History Channel would edit the film to present it as such. Lastly, while you take great time to enumerate all the professions who can so easily refute the evidence presented in this documentary, you do not make the slightest effort to explain how or why.

  2. To Anonymous,
    I appreciate you taking time to comment. Let me address your issues.

    Misters Pastore & Ganis have long records of personal attacks upon our James family, and its factual history. They have done so in the press, books, publications, and media repeatedly. In effect, this History Channel program constitutes one more assault by them.

    The James family has a long history of confronting its detractors and claimants. There have been several lawsuits in which the James have prevailed. There have been no lawsuits in which the James have not prevailed. It is, in fact, ugly business, as you characterize it. Nothing was more ugly than when the James proved in a court of law the insanity of one claimant, and then assumed responsibility for obtaining medical care for the self-delusional faker after the lawsuit was won. However, when the truthfulness of factual history is at stake, the reaction of our James family to confront those who promote false history or false identity of the family, is not irresponsible. If someone confronted your factual history and your identity as these miscreants do, you would likely assume a similar posture of defense.

    You appear to have some knowledge of the editing of this program. On the other hand, as a viewer I did not. My comments are reflective of what the History Channel presented to the public, which I too witnessed.

    As stated in my commentary, the entire History Channel program will be dismantled line by line and annotated for its historical distortions, inaccuracies, falsehoods, and fakery. Professional historians already are at work on the project, as they were previously with former projections made by Pastore, Ganis, and The History Channel. This analysis will be published and disseminated publicly.

    I invite you to return to participate in the analysis.

    ERIC JAMES
    President
    The James Preservation Trust

  3. Mr. James,

    Your slanderous description of Mr. Ralph Ganis serves only to diminish any other assertion that you might make. Mr. Ganis has honorably served our nation in the US Marines, US Army and US Air Force. He is a combat veteran of Operations Just Cause, Desert Shield and the Global War on Terror. He has kept the public trust as both a musuem curator and crime scene investigator. His intellect is considerable and his character is above reproach.
    However poorly done the History Channel’s documentary was, your assassination of Mr. Ganis’ character tells the world a lot about your own values and standards. Shame on you!

  4. Would you please elaborate on the experience of Mr. Ganis as a “museum curator and crime scene investigator”? To my knowledge the history community knows nothing about this.

    No matter how lofty one’s resume may be, it should never be undermined by distrust brought on by an abrogation of fact. Our nation has had presidents who lied. One, most recently. Among the historical community, there’s no greater sin than falsifying history.

    If Mr. Ganis has found himself in need of a corps of self defenders, he has only to retract the false history he promotes.

  5. Your comments questioning the service record of Mr. Ganis are shameful. I know for a fact he served in three services (Marine Corps, US Army, and the USAF). Given his various duty positions, he was asked many times to perform duties above and beyond those of his peers. You know nothing about his service to this nation. His military career is not one of a typical serviceman but one filled with accomplishments in unique positions that would not have been possible had Ralph not taken the initative to seek them out and make them happen. To refer to him as a “mercenary in the unjustified Iraq War” is unfounded. Fact, he contributed significantly to the GWOT whereupon his actions contributed to the destruction of the enemy. However, he did not serve in Iraq. You really need to get your facts straight. You should be careful how you chose your words as your personal attacks on Mr Ganis are leading you down a road that attacks the service men and women defending our great nation. “mercenary and injust” interesting words for an individual that has no stake in this war. If anything, you should thank Mr. Ganis for voluntarily defending this country and affording you the opportunity to make the slanderous comments you are so willing to make against him.

    Tomas

  6. Good of you to join the discussion, Tomas. Ralph Ganis is mustering quite a militia to his defense. Unfortunately none of his militia address the core subject here, part of which is Mr. Ganis representing himself in this History Channel program as an historian, when he is recognized for publishing and disseminating false history.

    I grant you the use of the term “in an unjustified war” may be more an editorial comment, somewhat irrelevant to the discussion perhaps. It’s a different discussion altogether. However the issue of Mr. Ganis as a spokesperson for truth and history sits squarely on the table for review, investigation, analysis, and dissection. It is Mr. Ganis himself who has placed himself in this position.

    Our past experience has demonstrated how Mr. Ganis musters others to speak on his behalf, as he does not rise to his own defense. So be it. Some use attorneys. Others employ the military, their wives, co-writers, etc.

    Those who come to the defense of Mr. Ganis are mistaken, though, when they take the issue at hand and personally transform it, as when assuming what is said about Mr. Ganis applies equally to those who defend him.

    If Mr. Ganis had distorted, twisted, and mis-stated the factual history of your family, as he does with the James, you might not be so willing to accept whatever authority Mr. Ganis claims, military or otherwise. But if you knowingly did, you would be his fool.

  7. I have not seen the Histroy Channel program as I have little interest in the story of a criminal. The fact that others stand by MR Ganis speaks for itself to the character of the individual. Historian, what defines such a person? Is not hisroy and interpretation of the data at hand? Since you were not there when it happened, your side of the story is told with the information you have on hand. I guess you can say its a lot like a parent believing their child is an Angel and can do no wrong. However, this may not be so when the child is not in the presence of the parent. Now, I’ll admit that I have little to no knowledge about the James story whether it applies to your family or Jesse James the American outlaw. However, I have heard discussions about Jesse with Mr Ganis and I do remember seeing an original paper detailing key points similar to the KKK but under a group name of a different organization. However, this may have already been addressed in the program. The point of my original comment was to Ralph’s military record. I know the facts and wanted to set them straight for others though I am sure Ralph can do this all by this lone some. I look forward to reading your follow on comments.
    Tomas

  8. Mr. Leafblower: I had not planned to even respond to your slanderous attitude and comments but you have gone so far over the top, I could not resist making a fool out of you. Me thinks you protest too much. Do you mean to tell me that you are NOT familiar with Mr. Ganis’ years spent as a curator of a museum???? And you are unaware of his role in the fight on terrorism??? You say that you requested an “open” record of his military history but he holds a very rare classification in the military that you would NEVER be privy to. You are so ill-informed about him that nothing you can possibly say at this point could be credible. I have had an opportunity to listen to him, and I am a great fan, if you cannot tell. I know something about his research, having followed his historical talks for years. I can tell you his research, as well as his research assistants, validate and re-validate every shred of history he prints. His attention to detail and provenance is unequivacable. Yes, he does take positions that are not in keeping with encyclopedic descriptions. Thank God. Otherwise, we would still believe the world is flat! By the way, Mr. Ganis holds an undergraduate degree in History, which you also apparently did not know. And as far as his not coming to his own defense, why should he respond to such defamation? He’s much smarter than that. I’m sure he is getting a kick out of you. Oh, by the way, would you like to tell Brad Pitt that the gun he borrowed from Mr. Ganis for his film was a fake? He’d love that! You are embarassing yourself with every post.

  9. I perceive your lack of an answer to my two questions of where Mr. Ganis has been a museum curator, and his career as a crime scene investigator, as meaning you don’t have an answer either.

    You and I certainly agree that Mr. Ganis does not conform to “encyclopedic descriptions.” Like Mr. Ganis, I too have no issue with doing that, provided one can assemble cohesive and intelligible arguments in their support. We do part paths, however, at the intersection where supposition meets logic and fact.

    Mr. Ganis never has held up his suppositions to the scrutiny of empirical review. No doubt, when he acquired his undergraduate degree in history, he also learned that would be required of him, if he was to be considered seriously as an historian.

    Mr. Ganis has not spoken before, nor made himself available for the review of, the historians and organizations that might confer credibility upon his suppositions. He never has spoken to The National Association for Outlaw & Lawmen History, nor to the meetings of The James-Younger Gang, from both of which he received invitations. Nor has he appeared before the Wild West History Association, consisting of historians with eminent knowledge, teaching, and publishing credentials. These organizations and historians would hold his suppositions to intense scrutiny, to rise and fall decidedly on the merits Ganis attributes to his suppositions. Nor has Mr. Ganis spoken before the colleges that are related historically with and to the James, who regularly review subsequent history for its evidence of fact and insight, and also teach it. From all of these, Mr. Ganis has cowered.

    As a consequence, Mr. Ganis has not made of himself a noteworthy historian. His books routinely are debunked in the journals of these organizations, as lacking in fact, certitude, or believability. Perhaps had he not cowered from their review and critiques, his own writings might have appeared in their journals also, and his suppositions advanced as history worthy of consideration. The fact that he now associates himself as a claimed historian with treasure hunters, conspiracy theorists, and secret societies, does nothing to earn him respect.

    The reputation Mr. Ganis has earned is the reputation he has made for himself. Not too unlike the reputation you attempt to attach to me by putting words in my mouth, attributing actions I did not perform, attaching a lack of knowledge to me that I do not possess, and linking me with people I do not know. I see perfectly well what makes you an eminent advocate for Ralph Ganis.

  10. I was having Thanksgiving dinner with a physician friend who had taped the “History Channel” presentation on Mr. James. We were not paying a great deal of attention until the segment about the autopsy was shown. Between us we were concerned about the accuracy of the autopsy report and the accuracy of the autopsy photo. If the autopsy report is correct it would appear by the bullet path that the victim was only a few inches above the shooter. Was Mr. James not standing on a chair or a stool?

  11. Doc, I wouldn’t interrupt Thanksgiving dinner for a TV show about Jesse James any day. However, I think your friend was recording a different show than the one discussed in this thread.

    You’re right. Jesse was standing on a chair. He was shot in the back of the head. And a question remains over the disposition of the bullet. If you have a chance, check out Brad Pitt’s movie The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. It ranks at the top of the list for the most realistic depiction of Jesse’s assassination.

  12. Leaf Blower:

    Thank you for the quick response to my ramblings. I was not quite clear about my friend recording the program, he had recorded it at some date and had shown it to me because I am sort of a history buff.
    I have seen the Brat Pitt film and I agree that it appears to depict the event. My problem with all of this is that if the bullet entered to the rear and below the right ear and lodged near the left ear at a shallow angle I would be hard pressed to agree that he was standing on a chair.
    Please don’t take me to seriously as I am really having fun with this.
    Since I have had experience with gunshot wounds I would really like to get a copy of the original autopsy report so that I might better understand the bullet position when recovered.
    Thanks for indulging me.

  13. I watched the show just now and did a google search to see if they ever finished digging…..never got further than this website. There were several research steps that bothered me about the show. Usually you do research and then get your findings….not start with the findings and then all your research validates it. That’s called Bass Ackwards. I can believe you found a gold bar…but why does that mean that Jesse James robbed a stage coach a quarter mile away? Was he the only man robbing stage coaches???? Jesse James’ name appeared on a roll call for a reunion….can that not mean that he was there in memory as the most famous man from the group and his name was down in tribute? I do have a question, did they present the correct autopsy? If they did it would indicate that his death did not happen as reported. Of course…they found coins dated after his death…which means, of course, not that the find isn’t related to him at all but that he faked his death. (Please note the sarcastic tone).

  14. The following review of Jesse James’ Hidden Treasure appeared in the Winter, 2009-2010 edition of The James-Younger Gang Journal, posted here with permission of the reviewer Nancy Samuelson & the Journal. Samuelson is an author, historian, lecturer, and book reviewer for the Wild West History Association.
    ******************

    Jesse James’ Hidden Treasure

    This program aired on the History Channel three times during early November, 2009. With this program the History Channel has stooped to a new low. The program featured, so called, historians Ron Pastore and Ralph Ganis.

    Pastore heads a team called the National Geomantic Survey or NGS. I have not been able to locate any such national organization. NGS appears to be a creation of Ron Pastore’s imagination. Further, the term geomantic comes from the word geomancy. This is the practice of divination by means of a figure made by a handful of earth thrown down at random or by figures or lines formed by a number of dots made at random. In other words fortune-telling!

    The program moves from this bit of pseudo-science to a lot of mythology about the Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC). We are asked to believe that a lot of carvings in caves in Kansas are really coded messages that will help locate huge treasure hordes hidden by Jesse James as he was working for the KGC. These carvings are said to be cryptic codes, however, most of what is shown is the initials JJ in various forms. Real cryptic—as these are the initials of Jesse James.

    Jesse James was supposed to have obtained 1.5 million dollars during his robberies and hidden much of it in Kansas in order to finance a second Civil War that was to be started by the KGC. The total of all the take in the James gang robberies probably does not exceed a quarter of a million dollars and Jesse James is not known to have spent any lengthy amounts of time in Kansas either. Ganis has Jesse involved in the Ku Klux Klan operations in North Carolina as well.

    Pastore claims to have located two treasure hoards. These two finds amount to all of about $30-35 in old coins. That is a pretty small amount of money to finance a second Civil War! The coins and one piece of gold were buried in Mason jars. However, the jars shown in the program were not discolored with age, and the zinc lid on one of the jars appeared in near pristine condition. Most of the coins also appeared to be in near pristine condition and the coins are dated in the 1890s. The dates of the coins are passed off as proof that Jesse James was not killed by Bob Ford in 1882.

    There is much more that could be said about the nonsense that was passed off as “history” in this program but I think I have given the reader enough information to realize that this program was not “history” in any sense of the word.

    Nancy B. Samuelson

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