What you are about to read may shock and disturb you.
You may find it difficult to believe.
It is the story of Big Jake.
To most people, Big Jake would appear to be nothing more than a rock. To most people, that is, except for the man who discovered and named Big Jake. He is Les Tindell, and he's convinced that Big Jake is "a very sophisticated message system that's been developed by a highly technical ancestor to humanity."
Tindell believes that what seem like naturally hewn nooks, crannies, chips and fissures in Big Jake are actually a complex series of images that, when enhanced photographically, reveal views into the past.
Such as: scenes of ancient Mesopotamia. A profile of Sargon, king of Akkad. The ethological history of bison. The legendary Incan city of Machu Picchu. A paleographical "smiley face." The more you examine Big Jake, the more you will see.
"I guarantee you," Tindell emphasizes, "you change the perspective, you'd be somewhere else. You might find the Sphinx in here, you might find the White House, you never know. I've seen a little chip in the rock that develops out into a city that develops into fossil images of dinosaurs, and, of course, the dragons and the usual scary-looking devil stuff that's in there."
Scary-looking devil stuff?
"I think this rock is an indication we needed to learn good and evil because we were endowed with the ability to be superior . . . something to scare people into doing the right thing," Tindell offers somewhat impatiently. "That rock was meant to tell us that we have a very sophisticated heritage--the gift of intelligence. And, at the same time, the animal world was provided a gift to us, a gene for domestication, mostly the animals with horns. But all that has horns isn't evil. If you go to Burger King, you're now indulging in something that has horns; it's all a matter of perspective.
"One thing I can honestly say about all of the scary-looking things in that rock, they're all smiling. They all seem to be happy in what they're doing and the message they're part of."
Tindell did not simply pluck "Big Jake," the name for this astonishing vessel of intrigue, out of thin air, he reveals:
"I played racquetball on the weekends for many years and Big Jake was a guy that used to be there. He no longer shows up so I figured it was okay [to use his name]. He was a big guy, a real friendly guy."
Les Tindell says he not only has a degree in anthropology from ASU, but is a "microelectronic engineer by trade. I worked for many years in the Valley in a medical electronics plant making pacemakers. My specialty was laser processing with silicone monolithic materials, trimming them with the laser. Because I learned fabrication technology and microelectronics, I was able to relate that to the fabrication technology that I saw within the rock."
Tindell's unique qualifications allowed him to recognize the stunning qualities possessed by Big Jake, from the moment he came into contact with it in 1994 in southeastern Missouri near the banks of the Mississippi River. Not far from Egypt Mills and Fruitland.
"It was the day after Christmas," he explains. "We were standing in a creek--this wasn't an archaeological site--pulling rocks out of the riverbed that looked interesting and one of the kids handed me Big Jake. . . . I have a degree in anthropology, I'm acquainted with rock art and artifacts and knowing what's out there, and I really couldn't say that I'd ever seen anything of this magnitude before."
He began to study Big Jake in depth. Tindell had him (he often refers to Jake affectionately in the third person) photographed professionally, had digitized shots taken, reverse images, black and white, color. Had the photos enlarged, and enlarged again. He found Big Jake becoming "more than a hobby, it's an obsession," and with the obsession came certain realizations.
"This would have to have been done with a very, very sophisticated etcher," says Tindell. "See, each mask layer--I call it the digital pixel mask--is like a photograph with spaces in between, then you put another photograph on top of it and it has spaces in between, but it doesn't exactly lay on top of the first one. So if you were to enhance the one underneath you'd see it, if you were to enhance the one on top you'd see it, and so forth."
That's how Big Jake tells his secrets to those willing and able to comprehend.
Yet, so far, the school of believers in Big Jake has an enrollment of but one.
"Nobody acknowledges this stuff," acknowledges a grim Tindell. "It can't possibly exist. I'm an outcast. I essentially can't explain it right and, therefore, am branded somewhat less than respectable in the category of visions." He claims to have taken Jake to "seven or eight archaeologists" who concluded that B.J. "was a calcium fill that occurs in underwater limestone caves, part of the silt that forms."
Perhaps understandably, the former pacemaker maker does not exactly dig archaeologists.
"We're talking about a crew of guys and gals who just overcame the fear of the mouse on their computer," sniffs Tindell, "and they spend their summers scraping the lichen off of rock art in the Amazon and whacking the mosquitoes."
"So they think you're crazy?" I venture.
"And what is your response?"
"Thank you," Tindell says deliberately. He knits his brow, pauses for a second. "It's very difficult for me to understand this too, exactly. The manifestations, what's going on here."
Les Tindell's house at the end of a cul-de-sac in Tempe is an immaculate showroom of tasteful Arizona living. A large pool glows quietly into the evening out back. The living room is awash with pastels. Desert-related art adorns the walls. You can see the fresh vacuum swathes in the aquamarine shag carpet.
Somewhere in the house, a radio is tuned to an oldies station. As I ask Les where Big Jake is, the Raspberries sing "Go All the Way."
"He's right there sitting next to you," says Tindell. Jake lives in a dark blue, fingerless oven mitt. "Pull it out, he's meant to be held in your right hand," instructs Tindell. "I think it fits."
He's right. You can palm Big Jake easily. He looks a bit like a mini-Half Dome, with a noticeable glyph on the side that Tindell refers to as "the little peanut man."
Big Jake has his own Web site, bigjake.com. Tindell calls it up on his coffee-table computer and points out remarkable details in a few photos.
"If you look at this perspective, here you get a temple. Including a gent with an indented beard [that would be King Sargon], and a rock-art image of a guy in a pointed hat with starlight protrusions. And there's a woman walking right here, people leaning over. There's passageways, and the way the light shines on this structure you could imagine possibly snow on the ground."
Sure enough. It looks like the set of Lost Horizon.
Every 90 degrees the image changes. Les shows me this.
"As you turn the rock, you get into a very curious place halfway around the world where the Inca lived called Machu Picchu. If you look, there's walkways, stairwells, rock images everywhere.
"Twenty miles down the road was a place called Ollantaytambo, which was a fortress, but it was an agricultural center. It utilized a very sophisticated network of channels and aqueducts and that's what we have here. I'm not anthropomorphizing and reading things in, there is, in fact, a waterway and splashing water and an aqueduct there and passageways in and out to check water flow," Tindell states.
"I like this place, this temple here, this is my favorite," he says, smiling. "I really get off on the way they've done these faces. For me, I'm not a real religious guy, but I can see where the cradle of civilization just might be photographically depicted within the negative of this rock."
But who--or what--could have masterminded such a thing?
"I think Big Jake is alien arts and crafts, and I don't mean the Nogales type," Tindell says. "I think that the people that fashioned that rock were also a part of our heritage, I really do. I think it came from here, good old terra firma. But who did it? I really couldn't venture to say."
But what if--with all due respect--these images are coming not from Big Jake, but from the mind of the beholder? Tindell barely loses a beat.
"This rock generates image patterns in people's minds," he shoots back. "You see things and I see things. You will see very many things because what you're looking at is a single frame in what is, in fact, a message system. What is very nicely disguised as a rock is, in fact, an ark of communication."
For Tindell, Big Jake is up there with the Rosetta Stone, the Ten Commandments, the hieroglyphics of the pharaohs. The world of science may mock him, the public at large may shake its head in astonishment, he may be piloting the ark himself.
So what. Tindell lifts Big Jake from the coffee table and places him carefully in the glow of a lamp, near the safety of the dark-blue fingerless oven mitt. He has plans for his discovery.
"People in this Valley are very skeptical of anything that occurs in reality," Tindell offers cryptically. "I think there are places where people will be able to define what this is. California for one." He pauses as Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper" moves through the room, but Tindell has thoughts only for rock of a different kind.
"Big Jake is an absolute phenomenon.