Doc Paget’s 1960s & 70s Team

Abandoned and forgotten?

In Michael Baigent’s book ‘The Jesus Papers’ he stated that no one had entered the tunnels at Baia for 40 years, until he and Robert Temple entered, together with two site custodians, Gino and Pepe.

It has become clear through messages to this website that there are, in fact, a number of people alive today with personal experience of the tunnels and remember going down them.

As short while after this website started in 2012, a message was received from Peter Knight, who had responded to a comment on Amazon about Doc Paget’s book ‘In the Footsteps of Orpheus’, mentioning this website.

Peter’s email to me ran as follows: “I have just read your comment about the Oracle of the dead on Amazon. I knew Doc Paget and know this place very well. He first introduced me to the Oracle back in 1968 and I have been in it many times and gave guided tours at one time. Sadly I am a little old for climbing in there now and anyway the authorities have closed it off in the last couple of years.”

Living memories

As author of this site of course I was delighted to communicate with someone who  had not only been in the tunnels and knew them well, but also knew Doc Paget, their first explorer, intimately. It really was something more than I could ever hope for.

Peter Knight very quickly followed his first email by sending me a few pictures. He also mentioned that he had remained friends since those days with another man who was equally familiar with Doc Paget and who had also ventured into the tunnels on multiple occasions and I was quickly introduced to Tory Failmezger.

Peter Knight is a retired Chief Petty Officer of the Royal Navy. His friend Victor “Tory” Failmezger is a retired US Commander in the US Navy. Both were key members of Doc Paget’s archaeological team in the 1960s and 1970s. Tory was an executor of Doc Paget’s will.

Some Of Doc's Archaeological Team, Assembled At The Ruins At Baia
Some Of Doc’s Archaeological Team, Assembled At The Ruins At Baia

The team at the site at Baia: Peter Knight is centre top, pointing. Standing to the left as we view him is Arthur English. Top right is Joe Carpenter. Tory Failmezger is on the right, kneeling. Next to him in the white hat is Fred Bullock. Sitting centre bottom is Tom Ross Jr.

Peter had already met Doc Paget and was part of his investigative team. Tory was, at the time, a seaman in the US Navy, assigned to work under Peter at a remote NATO radio transmitter station. Peter and Tory, both in their 20s, shared a keen interest in history and archaeology, a passion which remains with them both today. It was not long before Peter introduced Tory to Doc Paget and of course his amazing discovery of the tunnels at Baia.

Franco Santini, Baia guide circa 1970
Franco Santini, Baia guide circa 1970

Investigation of the tunnel complex in those days were undertaken with the agreement of Professor Alfonso di Francisis, Superintendent of Antiquities for the Campania region of Italy. Members of the NATO archaeological club gave vital help to Doc Paget through the late 1960s and early 1970s, both with Doc Paget’s archaeological interests and in his private life.

Together with Doc, Peter and Tory toured Campania, exploring the ancient sites which abound in the region.

It is through the patient and detailed memories of both Peter and Tory that I have been able to piece together a 3D reconstruction of the tunnel system and I am personally indebted to them for their help with this and many other aspects of this website.

A meeting in May, 2013

At the end of January CDR Failmezger emailed me to say that he was arriving in the UK in grand style on the Queen Mary, and would arrive in Portsmouth on May 10th. He was on a tour of Europe and suggested we meet ‘over a pint or two’.

Peter Knight had also agreed to fly in from Bacoli to meet also, and so it was that we arranged a long weekend ‘mini-conference’ to discuss the tunnels at Baia and exchange what information we had to date.

Tory had contacted and met author and academic Robert Temple on a previous visit to London, having read his book ‘Netherworld’. Tory had agreed to write his anecdotes and memories of Dr Robert Ferrand Paget, ‘Doc’, and the visit to London was also an opportunity for Tory to show Robert Temple what he had written, a sizeable, professionally produced book, combining memories, anecdotes and intimate correspondence of both Tory Failmezger and his friend Peter Knight.

Robert and Olivia Temple graciously offered to entertain us at Olivia’s London office on the Saturday. The agenda was set.

By lunchtime on May 10th Tory Failmezger had arrived at the hotel with his delightful wife Patty, we had picked up Peter Knight from Gatwick Airport and within no time at all we were sitting down with the promised pint or two, comparing what we knew about the Oracle of the Dead at Baia.

I learned about life at Baia in the late 1960s and early 1970s. How Peter had fallen in love with Rita, a beautiful girl from Bacoli and how a custodian at the Roman baths at Baia had translated Peter’s love for Rita into Italian.

How Peter and Tory had comforted Ada Immacolata, Doc Paget’s opera singer wife, until her death.

How they had both looked after Doc Paget afterwards and how, when Tory fell in love with Patty, Doc Paget stood ‘in loco parentis’ and gave Patty away as bride to Tory. Patty showed me the ring that Doc gave her which she has worn ever since.

The mystery of Baia had started for me as an acute interest in what I felt was surely one of the wonders of the world. Yet I’d looked around the web for information about Doc Paget’s discovery and could find little mention of it anywhere. Hence I had started this website and tried to piece together as much of the story as I could.

It quickly became obvious that for Peter and Tory the enthusiasm and belief in Doc Paget’s discoveries had not diminished in the least since the 1960s and 1970s. In fact they were as determined as ever to pursue the mystery of these tunnels and find out what they were for and what they were all about. Above all there was an overwhelming respect for Doc Paget and a desire to have Doc Paget’s discoveries put into the history books.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Fred Bullock

    I was delighted to come across this site as a result of watching a UK TV program on Yesterday channel on the internet about oracles earlier tonight (4th Nov ’16).

    My attention was alerted when I saw mention made of Doc Paget, and which subsequently led me to your excellent site.

    I too was part of the The Doc’s party and featured in your published photo of the Doc’s Helpers wearing the white USN hat next to Tory. Reading this has brought memories flooding back from my days as a Carto D’man working in the NATO Graphic Arts Section (P & A Div, AFSOUTH) from 1969 -1971 and subsequently as a civilian back in Naples 1973-1975.

    I first went down into the Underworld with Tory, with whom I had struck up a friendship, via Tom Ross Snr and Kathy Ross.) and also attended his wedding as his supporter to Patty at the Base Chapel.

    I also remember Pete Knight’s wedding to Rita, a local Italian girl(and his red MG!). FYI, standing on his right next to him in the photo is ‘Arthur’ English, also RN, who I remember enjoying some sailing with. It really was a time of La Dolce Vita for us privileged NATO personnel, and our social life was quite something else!

    A number of us, in full military uniform, also acted as the bearer party for The Doc’s wife Ada at her funeral.

    I have re-read my autographed copy of ‘In the footsteps of Orpheus’ a number of times, since retiring and returning to live in Athens, Greece after a thirty year spell in Australia. As an aside, I also reproduced the diagrams for his other book, Central Italy; An Archaeological Guide.

    The only one of the Group that I have maintained contact with is Bill Batten, teacher at the UK School on Base who also experienced a number of journeys to ‘The Other Side’. I have often wondered how those friends of yesteryear, brought together at that time in that place by The Doc, have fared through their lives.

    I would like to take this opportunity to send my warmest good wishes to Tory and Patty, Peter and Rita, Tom Jnr, Maria his sis, and his folks.

    Since retiring I have become an avid reader (and MOOC student) of historical matters Graeco-Roman, and I acknowledge that the seeds of this interest were germinated in Napoli, and in no small part by The Doc, Tory and others as well as La Bel Paese, now almost fifty years ago.

  2. Tom Ross Jr.

    I didn’t know this picture existed, Did my dad take this? hmmm. my dad checked over Dr. Paget’s last book and said he was mentioned in it… I wonder. Peter, Tory, Rita and Patty were all a part of that strange world. We lost touch… How strange it all seems to me, I remember Doc Paget describing the BBC Radio show on the Oracle, I remember losing to him in chess… alot. Peter, I tried to find you many times… Bet you wish you still had the MG. In the end we will probably all die and be forgotten unless somebody goes to the Oracle of the Dead.

  3. Larry Dreher

    Tom Ross Jr. is the young man in the front in the picture of the early team.

  4. Sheila Hendry

    Thank you for an excellent website, I’m following your investigation with great interest.
    My appetite has been whetted and a copy of ‘Paget, Discoverer of Hades’ has been ordered.

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