I kept returning to the subject of the Nuwaubians, unable to let it go. Even a cursory amount of research showed that the group was a strange phenomenon of the modern age—a true American religion, sworn to a proto-hip-hop preacher sworn to nonsense, that attempted a takeover of a small Georgia town in the late 1990s before a joint federal-local raid brought down its leader. Beneath that historical account was a tangle of details bizarre and bottomless.
One hot day in June 2002, a young man named Chris Gladden was fishing with his father when he discovered the complete fossilized remains of an ancient marine reptile called Clidastes. The fossil has the potential to be the most important of its kind known to science. More than a decade later, hardly anyone outside the Alabama Museum of Natural History in Tuscaloosa knows that it exists.