WILLIAMSBURG - Advocates of our version of "The DaVinci Code" were back in town Friday, calling for another excavation to locate the "secret vault" of Sir Francis Bacon, which they still allege is buried beneath the churchyard of Bruton Parish Episcopal Church.

It is a replay of a saga from 14 years ago that put the church in an awkward position of dispelling some very weird myths. A media circus resulted.

The story propagated by Sir Francis Bacon's Sages of the Seventh Seal has all the elements of Dan Brown's theological thriller. The Bacon story relies on a conspiracy theory of history in which sinister forces have conspired to conceal a great historical and mystical truth from the world.

How great?

"It could stop the push for the Mideast War, for Armageddon," said Fletcher Richman, the group's spokesman, as he stood outside the church. He added that it could bring all the world's religions together.

Like "Davinci," Richman's tale involves a treasure that has been moved around the world. In Brown's book that treasure is the Holy Grail, the chalice used by Christ at the Last Supper.

In the theory of the Bacon enthusiasts, it is the original King James translation of the Bible, original versions of William Shakespeare's plays (which they believe Bacon and a circle of associates actually wrote) and "Christian Hermetic-Cabalistic mystery teachings." They alleged these treasures were moved from England to Jamestown to Williamsburg.

The Baconists believe that Bacon was the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth I of England and thus the rightful heir to the English throne. They also believe he faked his death in 1626 and actually died in 1684, at the age of 123.

The followers claim that Nathaniel Bacon the Elder, whom they believe was a relative of Sir Francis Bacon, supervised the transfer to Williamsburg. Colonial Williamsburg's research department said Friday they are unaware of any relationship between the two Bacons.

Nor is there any explanation of why the Baconists have resurrected their claims. Asked directly, Richman would not answer. Speculation is that he's trying to capitalize on the run-up to the 400th at Jamestown next year.

Cryptograms and codes play a large role in the Baconists' beliefs. They insist that Sir Francis Bacon left hidden messages in his writings and that cryptograms on the gravestones and crypts in the Bruton Parish churchyard point the way to the hidden vault.

The supposed Bruton Parish vault is one of a number of such hidden caches of knowledge, 144 to be exact, that the Baconists believe in. An article in their press packet describes their search for another alleged vault on the grounds of the state capitol in St. Paul, Minn., where Richman lives.

As in "The DaVinci Code," the Baconists' theory is long on speculation and supposition but short on verifiable fact.

Asked to cite one fact indicating that a vault existed beneath the church yard, Richman referred to cryptograms on the gravestones in the yard. Yet even if the codes exist, none has ever been adequately translated.

There are also sinister forces at work to suppress the release of the great secret, according to Richman. Baconists believe that the Skull & Bones secret society at Yale University, as well as Colonial Williamsburg's benefactor, the Rockefeller family, are to blame.

Richman goes so far as to accuse the Skull & Bones Society and the Rockefellers of arranging the murder of his mentor Manley Palmer Hall, who died in 1990. And he accused David Rockefeller, among others, of conspiring to ruin the 1992 excavation of the churchyard, which found nothing.

"They dug in the wrong place," Richman said. "They knew very well what they were doing."

Problem is, archaeologists who performed the excavation used the Baconists' own calculations to look for the vault. A year before that, Baconist Marsha Middleton dug for eight hours in the churchyard. For her trouble, she got a warning from police about trespassing.

Despite accusing the Rockefellers of murder, Richman and the Baconists hope to gain the cooperation of the Rockefeller Foundation, Colonial Williamsburg and the church in sponsoring a new excavation by experts.

That's unlikely.

Colonial Williamsburg said it's a Bruton Parish project and deferred all questions to the church. The church made its stand clear Friday.

When Richman suggested stepping inside the church for a group picture, facilities manager Mike Wanless told him flatly that wouldn't be allowed.

"We're a functioning conservative church, there's is a limit to how much we'll cooperate with this," Wanless told Richman. "This is mythology. It's an interesting story, but it's a myth."

"There's my opinion, there's your opinion and then there's God's truth," Richman replied.

He said that his group, four followers from Minnesota and three from Pittsburgh, were there to begin a grassroots movement in which the American people would demand a thorough excavation.

In doing so, Richman violated a letter of understanding with the church allowing the group access to the church, which the group included in their press packet.

"I also remind Mr. Fletcher Richman that, at a meeting with me a little over a year ago, I was given from a him a verbal promise that neither he nor any member of his group would use the newspaper or any other form of media to pressure Bruton Parish Church to support the Sages' cause," wrote the Rev. Herman Hollerith, rector of the church. "I trust that Mr. Richman exercises leadership over the group and is a moral person and, therefore, expect him to uphold his promise."

The group's renewed interest in the church is the latest chapter in saga that began in 1938.

In that year, Marie Bauer Hall, supposedly following clues she'd discovered on the tombstones and in the writings of Shakespeare and Bacon, dug in the churchyard without authorization. She didn't find any vault, but did unearth the foundation of the original 1683 church.

In 1985-87, ceramic engineer John Malweski, working for the Veritat Foundation, which was headed by Hall, conducted surface tests which supposedly proved that something is buried 20 feet below the original church foundation.

In August 1992 the parish investigated the claim using rods to locate the vault. Nothing was found. That, as far as Bruton Parish is concerned, should be the end of it.

"The chance that you'll be allowed to do any further excavation here is next to zero," Wanless told Richman Friday.