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Revisionist History and Strange Stories

Having been involved with Koreshan history for over 20 years, I’ve always found it interesting to see and hear what some people are saying. The story of Cyrus Teed, a.k.a. Koresh and the Koreshans have been told many different ways. For example, the Koreshans themselves put Koresh up as some kind of martyr after his death in 1908. It played better than admitting that he simply died of a circulatory disease, as was probably the cause of his death.

In this age of the Internet, you can do a search and find a million sites. For example, a recent Google Search found over 8 million hits for “Hollow Earth” and almost 10,000 hits for “Cyrus Teed”.

The history of the Koreshans is certainly bizarre in some ways, but it is real history and not some kind of fairy tale. I recently ran across a short video produced by the Travel Channel. In it they say that Teed was beaten nearly to death at a political meeting where the Koreshans were trying to incorporate Estero to avoid paying taxes. After Teed’s death, the real cause for the demise of the Koreshan”cult” was that cursed “celibacy”. Hmmm… I suppose that is partly true, but the way it was explained in the video was not really true. They took many real historical episodes and combined them into one story. Yes, Teed was beaten — yes, the Koreshans sought to incorporate Estero (and did), but not to avoid taxes, but to get their share of tax money. Celibacy certainly played a part in the demise of the Koreshans, but the demise was more due to the fact that none of Teed’s claims were substantiated. Take a look for yourself and see what this revisionist history sounds like.

A few years back the History Channel had a program called “Weird U.S.”. Their video is not available online, but they have a web page devoted to the Koreshans. Their explanation is a little more fact and less sensational. The video was not quite as accurate, claiming that they put Teed’s body onto a barge of some kind and sent it down the Estero River. Of course, Teed died on Estero Island (Fort Myers Beach), so there was no need to move his body down the river.

Then there are the strange ones out there. A web site that claimed Teed returned in 2006, walking ashore in England. Here is an excerpt from the website

From the website

From the website

Teed was never seen again until: On December 26th, 2006 98 years after his last appearance a man claiming to be Dr Cyrus Reed Teed appeared to walk from the sea and onto the beach at Canvey Island, Essex, UK. Whilst on the island Teed attempted to turn Canvey into his New Estero and set out a series of plans to create a community based upond his updated vision of the Cellular Cosmogony. After only 6 months Teed once again disappeared, leaving only his suit behind in Canvey Heights Country Park.

You can find all these in one place or another. Since Teed’s death in 1908 there have been a number of people either claiming to be Teed’s successor or Teed himself, even to the point where one man informed the State Historic Site that he would be returning soon and that they should prepare for his return.

What is fact is that the Koreshans were “different“, but their belief in a communal society was not uncommon at the turn of the 20th century. The idea of a hollow earth was also a plausible idea in the 1890’s since science had not progressed to the point where ideas such as theirs were found to be totally lacking.

Within the last month, the Huffington Post ran an article entitled The Florida Sect Doomed From the Start. Maybe, but the article, which was intended to make light of the weirdness of Koreshan beliefs said things like “Here is the written premise of the Koreshanity — do you see how it rhymes so well with insanity?“. That is easy to say in 2016. The point here is that the Koreshans were “real” folks who were, for the most part, very well educated. Yes, Cyrus Teed died and was not resurrected, but the basic notion of the Koreshan belief was the “Golden Rule” and living in community, something that was tried all over the world, from the Economites, to the Shakers and to the Harmonists, and perhaps that is what really matters, not their attempts to take science in a different direction, nor in the attempt of 21st century pundits to show the Koreshans as whackos.

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