H. David Sox (1936–2016)
August 25, 2017
H. David Sox—a onetime advocate for the Shroud of Turin who was later persuaded it was a fake and went on to delve into other art forgeries—has died. He and I knew each other only slightly but respected each other’s work, and I am deeply saddened by his loss.
H[arold] David Sox— “David” to his many friends throughout his more than eighty years—was born April 24, 1936, in Hickory, NC, to Rev. Samuel and Nellie Sox. With a Rockefeller Scholarship, he completed seminary studies and was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1961, doing parochial work and holding a series of chaplaincies (notably in New York City and San Francisco). Moving to London in 1974, he taught at the American school for the next 19 years, also assisting at several Anglican churches as well as the Society of Friends’ Westminster meeting in London. He died at his home in Palm Springs, CA (where he had moved after four decades in London), after a brief battle with colon cancer. He is survived by his partner of 45 years, Allan Offermann (Obituary 2016).
I first knew of David Sox from his book, File on the Shroud (1978), written when he was General Secretary of the British Society for the Turin Shroud. When world-famous microanalyst Walter McCone spoke to a closed meeting of that group in September 1980 and confided that he had found on shroud fibers an iron-oxide pigment known as red ocher (Nickell 1998, 123–124), David must have been an attentive listener. He went on in 1981 to write another very different book—The Image on the Shroud: Is the Turin Shroud a Forgery?—a question he answered in the affirmative, based in large part on McCrone’s further, devastating findings. (For example the “blood” was red ocher and vermilion tempera paint.)
In Image, David favorably cited my early shroudlike recreations (Sox 1979), while in my own book (1983) I often cited him as a trustworthy researcher. Our mutual good friend, McCrone (1997, 177–179), praised David’s trilogy on the Shroud (including The Shroud Unmasked ) as “several fine books . . . that helped greatly in following the action” of the shroud controversy.
I must go on to mention that David wrote many more books, having learned much from his experience with the art-forgery “relic” known as the Turin Shroud. (According to a bishop’s report of 1389, it was used in a faith-healing scam and was the work of an artist who confessed he had “cunningly painted” the image.) His books include The Gospel of Barnabas (1984), Relics and Shrines (1985), Unmasking the Forger: The Dossena Deception (1987), and Bachelors of Art (1992), among others. I too was writing other books on deceptions, and once, over the years, David and I exchanged admiring letters.
But it was his work on the Shroud for which I will best remember David Sox, the sincere believer who wrote a hopeful book on the alleged “relic,” then turned out two more that faced up to the negative scientific evidence (including ultimately the radiocarbon tests dating the cloth to the time of the 14th-century artist’s confession). I learned with what intelligence, integrity, and verve he approached that subject—and so many things that mattered. Even to have known him a little was huge.
McCrone, Walter C. 1997. Judgment Day for the Turin Shroud. Chicago: Microscope Publications.
Nickell, Joe. 1979. “The Turin Shroud: Fake? Fact? Photograph?” Popular Photography, November, 97–99.
———. 1983. Inquest on the Shroud of Turin, updated 1998. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.
Obituary of Harold David Sox. 2016. Online at Trident Society; accessed August 16, 2017.
Sox, H. David. 1979. File on the Shroud. London: Coronet.
———. 1981. The Image on the Shroud. London: Unwin Paperbacks.
———. 1988. The Shroud Unmasked. Basingstoke, UK: Lamp Press.