RALEIGH - Harlan “Carolina” Jones was commissioned by Biblical Archeology Review in 1977 to find the long-lost Ark of the Covenant. Three decades of frustration could have been avoided had Craig Newmark, then a 24-year-old fratboy at Wofford College, hurried up and started his nifty Web site for classified ads—Craigslist.org.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited and all,” Jones said. “But I feel like a dang fool.”
Jones was searching on Raleigh Craigslist for a new Husky toolbox for his pickup truck when he clicked on the following ad: “Funky storage box. Used. Free jar, stick and a couple of concrete slabs included. $75, OBO.”
“There it was, cherubim and all,” Jones said.
Jones happened upon the Ark of the Covenant while sitting in his wifebeaters and downing a Pabst.
His search for what some Bible scholars consider the holy grail of religious artifacts had led Jones to the Middle East, Africa and Tierra del Fuego.
“Who knew it was in a garage over on Route 74,” Jones said. “Talk about a WTF moment.”
Chance McCoy—a 62-year-old tobacco farmer from nearby Fuquay Varina—placed the ad on Craigslist, unaware that he was hocking one of the most sought-after relics in the history of mankind. “Jus’ needed to make room for my Bowflex,” McCoy said.
McCoy bought the Ark of the Covenant at a tri-county swap meet several years ago. “There was a fella there with this storage box that had a coupla angels on it. Funny, cuz there was beer hats on the angels’ heads. Anyway, I thought, ‘what the hay, it’ll be a good chest for the grandbabies.’ That thing held all kinds of stuff over the years—a Big Wheel, a My Little Pony, one of them electronic football games with the wide receivers that get their arms all tangled up so they spin around in circles; you name it, that there chest stored it.”
Jones e-mailed McCoy, and $75 later the Ark of the Covenant was sitting in Unit #135 at U Store It off the Billy Graham Parkway.
Biblical artifact scholar Dr. Neil Gula verified the authenticity of the Ark, using standard techniques such as regional pollen comparisons and carbon dating. “It matches the specs in Leviticus and our carbon dating tests place this ark between 1,000 and 2,000 BC,” Gula said. “We prayed over it and feel a real peace about it. That said, the Mr. Pibb sticker on the side was obviously added later."
Gula was initially concerned about testing the Ark, per Biblical warnings concerning its power. "In 2 Samuel, Uzzah was killed for touching the Ark, but I guess it's lost a bit of its vigor after sitting around all these years under a couple boxes of Juice Newton and Dusty Springfield albums. Now you're more likely to die from hearing those records."
Premiere auction houses, including Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Crouch’s have contacted Jones about purchasing the Ark.
“This discovery (of the Ark of the Covenant) could usher in the Rapture, should the Ark be placed in a rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem,” said Florence Jean Castleberry, spokesperson for Crouch’s. “Or, that Jones fella could sow the Ark into a TV ministry as a faith offering, and reap a hundred-fold blessing.”
“I dunno,” Jones said. “It just seems like if it really was a big deal to the Lord, He wouldn’t have let BB holes get shot through it. Tell ya what—I’m libel to take that ol’ Ark to the Antiques Roadshow when it comes to town, and get me an estimate on it. Next stop—eBay.”