Solid Muldoon: Petrified Prehistoric Man was an Elaborate and Daring Hoax
The Solid Muldoon is the name given to a supposedly petrified prehistoric man that was ‘discovered’ in 1877. This ‘ petrified body’ was unearthed by William Conant at Muldoon Hill, a small hill not far from Beulah, Colorado. The Solid Muldoon soon drew the attention of the public and many were willing to pay the 50¢ entrance fee to have a look at him.
The popularity of the Solid Muldoon, however, did not last for long, as it was soon revealed that it was a hoax. Once this revelation was made, interest in the Solid Muldoon plummeted and nobody is sure as to the object’s ultimate fate.
According to some sources, the Solid Muldoon was named after William A. Muldoon, a wrestler who was known as the ‘Solid Man’. Others state that the name was given to the object by The Colorado Chieftain , whose writers drew inspiration from Edward Harrigan’s well-known song, ‘Muldoon, the Solid Man’. In any case, the Solid Muldoon was the work of George Hull, a tobacconist from New York.
Drawing of the Solid Muldoon. ( Cryptids State-by-State )
The Cardiff Giant, Hull’s Big Hoax Before the Solid Muldoon
The Solid Muldoon was not the first hoax created by Hull. In 1869, Hull created the Cardiff Giant, one of the most infamous hoaxes in American history . The idea to create such a hoax stemmed from a long argument between Hull, an atheist, and a traveling Methodist revivalist preacher named Reverend Turk. The two men were debating about a passage from the Bible ( Genesis 6:4), in which it is written that there were once giants on earth . While Reverend Turk asserted that the Bible should be interpreted literally, Hull remained unconvinced.
The Cardiff Giant at the Farmers' Museum in Cooperstown. (Opencooper / CC BY-SA 2.0 )
The debate got Hull thinking and gave him the idea of creating the Cardiff Giant to demonstrate the gullibility of religious believers . Additionally, he saw this as a means to make some money. In short, he got a block of gypsum and hired stoneworkers to carve it into a giant. He had the Cardiff Giant buried and then ‘discovered’.
News of the ‘discovery’ spread, and many came to see it. While many religious believers saw it as proof that giants existed in the past, as written in the Bible, the Cardiff Giant managed to fool scientists as well, who believed that it was an ancient statue. Nevertheless, there were some sceptics from the start and confessions made by Hull’s stoneworkers confirmed it as a fake. Still, interest in the Cardiff Giant (which became known as ‘Old Hoaxey’) continued, but eventually waned as the century drew to its end.
The Cardiff Giant being exhumed in October 1869. ( Public Domain )
The Solid Muldoon As the Missing Link
A couple of years after the hoax was exposed Hull decided to try his luck again. This time he was hoping to fool the scientific community and the Solid Muldoon was to be passed off as the legendary ‘ missing link ’. He knew that a sculpture like the Cardiff Giant would not work and therefore learned to make plaster molds . Through trial and error, he created a mortar using a combination of organic and inorganic materials, including clay, meat, and ground bones .
Next, Hull needed to make molds for the various body parts of the Solid Muldoon and Hull’s son-in-law was used as a model. As the casts were being made in an icehouse, Hull’s son-in-law quit halfway due to the cold. As a consequence, the upper body of the Solid Muldoon was made from casts of Hull’s upper body. As the two men had different builds, the Solid Muldoon was unusually disproportionate.
The casts of the Solid Muldoon were being made in an icehouse and Hull’s son-in-law quit halfway due to the cold. ( Evgeny / Adobe)
Hull then purchased a human skeleton, placed it within the assembled molds and poured his home-made mortar into them. The Solid Muldoon was then fired in a kiln and the mortar took on a brownish tone that made it look much older than it actually was. Hull also made a number of ‘petrified’ fruits, a fish, and a turtle to accompany the Solid Muldoon. At the end of his work, Hull realized that he had run out of money and approached the famous showman, P.T. Barnum , to see if he would like to invest in his scheme. Barnum agreed and gave Hull $2000 in exchange for a 75% share in the venture.
Using plaster molds Hull made a number of ‘petrified’ fruits to accompany the Solid Muldoon. ( celiafoto / Adobe)
The ‘Discovery’ of Solid Muldoon
Hull was introduced by Barnum to one of his associates, William Conant, and the men began to plan the Solid Muldoon’s ‘discovery’. Hull and Conant traveled to Colorado to find a suitable spot to bury the ‘petrified body’ and settled for Muldoon Hill. The next step was to create some hype around the area. A local rock hound by the name of Lewis Allen was hired to ‘discover’ some of the smaller ‘ fossils’ made by Hull, and this was reported in the Colorado Mountaineer , a local newspaper where one of Conant’s sons was working as an editor. This served to create an impression in the minds of the public that the area was rich in archaeological resources .
The Solid Muldoon was then shipped to the site, buried, and left for several months. On September 16, 1877, the Solid Muldoon was ‘discovered’ by Conant and another of his sons. Needless to say, the story was publicized by the Colorado Mountaineer . Public interest was roused further by Barnum, who had conveniently been in Denver. He decided to drop by to have a look at the Solid Muldoon and offered publicly to buy the petrified man for $20,000.
Masthead for the Solid Muldoon Newspaper published 22 March 1892. ( Public Domain )
Hull’s hoax did not last long, however, as it was soon exposed by a man called E.J. Cox, who had been promised half of Hull’s share of the proceeds once the Solid Muldoon was ‘discovered’. What Cox was unaware of at the time was that Hull’s share was by then less than 15%. When Cox found out about this he felt that he had been cheated and exposed the whole affair to the press.
Once the hoax was revealed, public interest in the Solid Muldoon dried up almost immediately. The ultimate fate of the Solid Muldoon is unclear. But in 1976, a replica of the Solid Muldoon was made and buried near the spot where the original had been ‘discovered’ 99 years ago.
Top image: The Solid Muldoon was supposedly a prehistoric ‘petrified human body’ unearthed in 1877. Source: Public Domain
By Wu Mingren
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