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Men of Metal: Horror or Hoax?
April 25, 2004
by Michael Walls

Let’s face it – advertisements are just disguises for gigantic lies.

“This SUV can defy all the laws of gravity and suspension engineering." "This light beer will make you the life of any party!" "This toilet paper will brighten your day!"

So why not use a gigantic lie to disguise an advertisement? It’s brilliant actually!

Men of Metal: Eyewitness Accounts of Humanoid Robots is a supposed book by Rowland Samuel. A 37-page “excerpt” fell out of my National Geographic Adventure magazine this month and I had the same contorted expression on my face that you probably have right now. I mean, after all, it sounds retarded – doesn’t it? “Eyewitness accounts of humanoid robots?” What in the world...?

But you know what? I got sucked in. I started to read this excerpt and I couldn’t put it down until I finished it. And when I finished it, I wanted to read the book. And in my Internet search for the book, I came across a lot of weird stuff – stuff that, in retrospect I realize, I was suppose to find. I fell for it. I bought the whole thing and followed the bread trail and all I can do is applaud the geniuses that contrived the whole marketing ploy. Nice work guys.

But let me back up a bit. Let me tell you about Men of Metal.

Author Rowland Samuel (if that is his real name) is a journalist in the U.K. who has written this book about unexplained sighting in Oxford, England. His style is absorbing. It is almost treated like a journal, which adds to the authenticity of it. Dated entries, short descriptions, recorded conversations. No elaborate opinions or assumptions, allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions as the mystery unfolds. In the end, the reader is left with the realistically lingering concept that internal combustion robots are being built and tested in a remote area of England, by Dr. Colin Mayhew, a retired engineer for BMW, using overengineered Mini Cooper parts.

Wow. Could this be real? 37-pages ago I would say “no way.” But now I’m not so sure. Guess I need to buy the book. A brilliant piece of advertising.

But what is being advertised here? The book? I can’t find the book. The mystery deepens.

Casson Publishing (known for its collection of conspiracy theory books on subject likes Loch Ness, Bigfoot, Area 51 and crop circles) is the publisher of Men of Metal – but has delayed the publishing due to “new information [that] has recently come to light regarding the sightings in Oxford…”

Rowland Samuel’s website is mysteriously “down for repairs.”

What about this Dr. Colin Mayhew? If this is real, certainly there must be some information about him on the Internet.

Within the excerpt, Samuel references a website that he stumbled across, that reveals intimate details about Dr. Mayhew’s secret project – including schematic drawings, video interviews, and video tests of humanoid robots.

I type in this web address, and sure enough, there it is – all of Dr. Mayhew’s notes and videos. (Note: I have provided all related links at the bottom of this article.) The site isn’t anything special. In fact it’s rather low-tech in its design and format, and leads you to believe that you are actually looking at a private website of some mad scientist. There is also a link to Dr. Mayhew’s personal website, which is simply a smiling picture of the gray-haired doctor and some friendly information about himself, his family, and his hobby of building miniature locomotives. (No mention of his other hobby of building gigantic humanoid robots terrorizing a small English town.) This site is a free Geocities website and is all very innocent and very convincing.

On his “research” site, Mayhew has even acknowledged his recent fame from the book by posting an apologetic message for his site being “down” due to all of the recent traffic, and has since upgraded his hosting service.

But where is the book?

Up to this point, there isn’t anything other then a very slick, very expensive, 37-page excerpt placed in various magazines, including Rolling Stone, Maxim, Automobile Magazine, and Motor Trend, to name a few.

Meanwhile, a “whois” search into the domain name of Mayhew’s research site reveals an address in London that, after more searching, matches the address of a film and video post-production company called Martyn Gould Productions, who specialize in commercial post-production. Ah-ha!

A “whois” search for Casson Publishing also reveals that Casson uses the same web host as Dr. Mayhew’s site, even using the same name servers. Hmmm...

There isn’t a whole lot of official information about Men of Metal. In fact, the majority of info available is buzzing around various message boards, where people are arguing about the authenticity of the book, Dr. Mayhew, his videos, and the actual existence of such a technology to build these robots. The boards range from robotics hobbists, to transformer fanatics, to BMW and Mini Cooper enthusiasts. The blog communities have also picked up it, creating a network of links to all of the sites I’ve mentioned above.

As much as many would like to believe this is all true, the general consensus is that it is an elaborate hoax – a gigantic lie – an advertisement. And we have all perpetuated the marketing scheme by contributing to the buzz. Brilliant.

But what is the advertisement for? The book? No, too complex and expensive for a small publishing company. Then it’s got to be Mini Cooper and BMW. Within this excerpt and within Mayhew’s site, there is too much emphasis on the overengineering aspects of Minis and BMWs. Mini Cooper also has been running some other very expensive ad campaigns, and this hoax wouldn’t be out of character for the agency pulling the strings behind the marketing of Mini.

There doesn’t seem to be any direct connections to BMW, Mini Cooper or an advertising agency, but the loose end seems to be this Martyn Gould Productions. Who are they? Why do they have the same address as Dr. Mayhew? And why does Dr. Mayhew’s site share the same web server as the publishing company that is “uncovering” this conspiracy?

Guess we’ll have to wait until the next phase of the marketing campaign kicks in.

In the meantime, enjoy the mystery. Below are the related links to this article. To get the full effect of this saga, I would recommend you view the following links in order, starting with the excerpt from Rowland Samuel’s Men of Metal. Followed by Dr. Colin Mayhew’s secret website (as referenced in the book) and his videos. Least of all, do not miss the video “car stop test.”

Enjoy.

(Michael Walls is a volunteer staff writer for 2 Walls Webzine and is nothing more than an unwitting pawn in the whole master scheme of things.)

• Read the follow-up article Men of Metal: The Anatomy of a Hoax


Related links:
• Men of Metal: Eyewitness Accounts of Humanoid Robots (an excerpt)
• Dr. Colin Mayhew’s research website (http://www.r50rd.co.uk/research/internal/v2i/engin/)
• Dr. Colin Mayhew’s personal website
• Rowland Samuel’s website
• Casson Publishing website
• Car stop test video (from Dr. Mayhew's research website)


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