I've spent half a century (yikes) writing for radio and print—mostly print. I hope to be still tapping the keys as I take my last breath.
16th-century Bath Abbey was showing its age, so work began on rescuing its sinking floor. In June 2018, workers found two coins under some pews.
On one side of the coins was an image of Satan brandishing the obligatory trident, with the inscription “Civitas Diaboli,” meaning “the devil’s house.” On the other side of the coins was written “13 Maj Anholt 1973,” “Maj” being Danish for the month of May, and “Anholt” being a Danish island between Sweden and Denmark.
The detective work was soon underway. (There might also be cause for an investigation into the efficiency of the church cleaning staff who failed to root out the coins for 45 years. But, that’s for another story.)
Satanic Cult in Anholt?
Even the most dim-witted investigators figured out that they needed to see how Anholt, Denmark, fitted into the story. The island is 7 miles (11 km) long and about 4 miles (6.4 km) wide at its widest. A large part of it is a sandy desert, and only about 150 people live there.
And May 13, 1973, turns out to be the date of a fascinating discovery on the island. Local residents found what looked like sites of a Satanic cult in the desert region of the island.
There were some strange artefacts:
- A fake shrunken head;
- Masks that looked as though they came from Polynesia;
- Bundles of bones tied up with string;
- Black candles; and,
- Odd stone formations.
Danish media had a field day speculating about what the discovery meant. One newspaper went over the top with an allegation about a human sacrifice, but yarn lost some of its zip when the supposed victim presented herself at a police station alive and well.
The story soon cooled off without any real explanation about what was going on. Then, the coins started turning up.
Coins Hidden in Churches
One coin was found hidden behind a picture in a Danish police station, others turned up secreted in churches and a museum.
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Some of the coins were accompanied by letters from Alice Mandragora who described herself as a high priestess of Satanism. Other invented characters with the wonderfully creative names of Dunk Wokgnal and Karl Klunck chimed in with their bizarre and chilling letters. Historian Keld Grinder-Hansen wrote some scholarly articles about the coins and received a letter warning that Satanists were on his case and ready to drink “blood soup” with him.
For years, the coins and letters popped up in Denmark and in some Scandinavian tourist spots and nobody was able to solve the mystery. By early in the 21st century, 370 “devil” coins had been found.
According to The Independent, “Individual devil coins can fetch more than £100 at auction.”
The Perpetrator Exposed
In 2013, the editor of the newspaper Politiken decided it was time to put an end to the nonsense and he launched a major investigation. The trail led to a man called Knud Langkow, who had been a lowly clerk at the National Gallery of Denmark. He engineered the very elaborate, 45-year-old hoax, from creating the “Satanic cult scenes” on Anholt Island to concealing coins in churches and elsewhere.
He left a strong clue in that one of his alter egos, “Dunk Wokgnal,” was his own name spelled backwards.
It seems Langkow had a touch of eccentricity and a subversive streak about him. Also, it looks as though his employer did not think highly of him. The Independent reports that he “had been shunted into a narrow room to operate the gallery’s then antiquated telephone system, [and] had reportedly been made to spend 25 years working in a small office overlooking some birch trees―even though he was allergic to birch pollen.”
Langkow’s niece, Lene Langkow Saaek, told Politiken that “I think normality annoyed him, he did not like ordinary. He wanted to leave his mark on the world.”
Ms. Langkow Saaek was full of praise for the prankster in an interview with The Independent: “He was an adorable man, a good and thoughtful uncle. “Both an ordinary man and an intriguing personality. He did a great thing, and it is great that his story and his name will be remembered.”
Knud Langkow died in 2004 at the age of 73, never having revealed his complex trickery nor having basked in the notoriety it brought him.
- In October 2016, during renovations to a house in Egypt, some weird-looking coins came to light. On one side is a strange human head not unlike the images of the aliens that were supposedly captured and dissected in Roswell, New Mexico. On the reverse side, is an image of something that looks like a spaceship, or maybe a flower or umbrella. And, there is an inscription reading “OPPORTUNUS Adest,” which is Latin for “the timing is opportune.” For tabloid newspapers, the coin is evidence of alien visitations. For the better-informed the coin is a jeton; these were used in Europe between the 13th and 17th centuries as counters similar to the beads on an abacus. Or perhaps, someone was having a lark.
- Mexican construction worker Diego Aviles claimed to have discovered a coin from a parallel universe, one in which Nazi Germany dominates the world. The coin has a swastika and is dated 2039, although it requires a vivid imagination to decipher that date from the heavily worn coin. An inscription reads Alle in einer nation, meaning “All in one nation.” There’s plenty of fodder here for conspiracy theorists.
- “Hoax ‘Satanist’ Coin Discovered in Bath.” Bruce Eaton, allaboutcoins.co.uk, January 18, 2019.
- “Devil Coins Found at Bath Abbey Prove ‘Prank of the Century’ Reached Britain.” Adam Lusher, The Independent, June 27, 2018.
- “ ‘Devil Coins’ Discovered in UK Church, James Rogers, Fox News, June 29, 2018.
- “Satanic Panic Hit As ‘Devil Coins’ Were Unearthed Beneath Bath Abbey.” Ashley Cowie, Ancient Origins, June 28, 2018.
- “Mystery Coin and Coin Token Discoveries.” British Pobjoy Mint, October 31, 2018.
© 2020 Rupert Taylor
Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on April 08, 2020:
Rupert, you told an interesting story. The world is still full full of many more mysteries. I wish you more strenght and long life to unearth these stories.