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Joseph Mulhatton

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Joseph Mulhatton
Joseph Mulhattan - illo, 1901.jpg
c. 1901
Alias(es) Colonel Joseph Mulhattan, B. L.; Orange Blossom
Born 1852[i]
Ireland;[ii] or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania[H]
Died 5 December 1913 (65) [1]
Kelvin, Pinal Co., Arizona
Burial Kelvin Cemetery, Kelvin, Az.
Alma mater Honorary degree of B. L. (Boss Liar) awarded by "leading universities and newspapers of the country."

Joseph Mulhatton (sometimes credited as Joseph Mulhattan; c. 1852 - December 5, 1913) was an American travelling hardware salesman, miner, and serial hoaxer, the author of a multitude of fabricated stories that were widely published in local, American national, and international newspapers as legitimate news, including: alleged plans to have George Washington's petrified remains put on public display at Washington Monument; the exploration of an enormous underground river beneath Birmingham, Alabama; the fall of the largest meteor ever known; the calculation of the precise location of the Star of Bethlehem; an invisible moon thirty-thousand miles from the Earth; a lost pyramid and the golden treasures of an extinct race in Kentucky; hemp-harvesting monkeys and a plan to import them in huge numbers; and the discoveries of the Magnetic Saguaro Cacti of Arizona and the Arbor Diaboli (Devil Tree) of Mexico. He was frequently compared to Ananias, the Biblical figure of Acts 5 who was struck dead for lying, and in later years to Raspe's Baron Munchausen character, amassing an impressive array of headline titles from "Prince of Prevaricators" to "Monarch of Mendacity."

Timeline

A work in progress.

"I paved the way for all the present great enterprises of modern journalism."

Joseph Mulhatton, Letter to Arizona Republic (27 Aug. 1898)[2]

1870

Cetewayo, King of Zululand, Born in Pennsylvania

1875

Exhibition of George Washington's Remains

Mulhatton encourages the exhibition of George Washington's remains at the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia, Penn.

1876

Mulhatton's campaign to have Washington's remains put on display continues.

1877

George Washington's Petrified Remains

George Washington's 103 Year Old Son

Mulhattan claims George Washington has a living son, aged 103, resident in Washington, Pa.

Brief bio. note.

1878

Grand Crystal Cave of Glasgow Junction, Ky.

Mulhattan's Glasgow Junction Cave story, a precursor to his Birmhingham Subterranean River story of 1884.

1881

New Volcano Forms in Ohio Co., Ky.

1882

Prehistoric Masonic Cave at Leitchfield, Ky.

  • "A DISTINGUISHED resident of Louisville gets the following nice notice from the Springfield (Mass.) Republican", Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY): 4, 21 Mar. 1882, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/30209808/, "There is a liar named Joseph Mulhattan, who for seven years has been deceiving the newspapers and the people with stories of crimes which were never committed, and discoveries which were never made. His latest 'hoax,' as he calls it, was the description of a wonderful cave at Litchfield, Ky., a cave of marvelous size and dazzling beauty, containing hieroglyphics, pyramids and Masonic emblems of great scientific value. Then he wrote other articles telling of the vast crowds which flocked to the cave and were dumbfounded with the wonders of it. Not a few persons, it is said, traveled many miles to see the cave, wasting more time and money than they could well afford. All this is very gratifying to the liar, who appears exceedingly proud of his feats in falsehood. He has earned the high distinction of being the most stupendous liar in the South, and he is certainly as mean as any out of jail." 

1883

Meteor Fall in Texas

(Some reports of the Texas Meteor add a note that Mulhatton claimed to have "sold the Mammoth Cave to be shipped to England.")

Bio. note

  • "JOE MULHATTAN. The Great Kentucky Liar Recounting His Literary Triumphs.", St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, MO): 7, 27 Aug. 1883, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/137791806/  — in which Mulhattan boasts to having established "novelistic journalism," relating his beginnings writing for the Pittsburgh Leader, to which he contributed "stories of marvelous oil wells, of romantic highway robberies, and things of that kind", and later the Big Clifty fight, the Cave at Glasgow Junction "with navigable rivers, mummies 2,000 years old, and a hundred other marvelous things," and a Leitchfield story "about the finding of Masonic emblems that had been buried for thousands of years, showing a prehistoric race of Masons." (Mulhattan would later recycle both the Glasgow Junction Cave and the Leitchfield story in the Birmingham Underground River story a year later.)

1884

Great Subterranean River at Birmingham, Ala.

National Drummer Party Candidate

1887

Monkey-Harvested Hemp in Madison Co., Ky.

Jos. Mulhatton, as depicted in Herringshaw's Biographical Review of Prominent Men and Women of the Day (1888).

1888

Cunningham's Anti-Serpent Electro-Toxic Lotion

Discovery of an Invisible Moon

1889

Finger-Cutting Duel at Taos, New Mexico

1890

Arbor Diaboli of Mexico

1891

Mulhattan was reported as having spent time at an insane asylum, later claimed to have been either to deal with alcoholism, or, if you believe the story, a head injury that left bone penetrating his brain.

  • "MULHATTAN RELEASED. Says He Will Be Better When Gets Something To Eat. Characteristic Interview With the Champion Ananias As He Leaves the Prison.", Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY): 5, 23 Apr. 1891 
  • "Mulhattan in a Fair Way for Recovery", Dubuque Daily Herald (Dubuque, IA): front, 10 May 1891, https://newspaperarchive.com/dubuque-daily-herald-may-10-1891-p-1/, "Joseph Mulhattan, of national fame as a newspaper writer, who recently had brain trouble in Chicago, is here under surgical treatment and is in a fair way of recovery. It was discovered by trephining the skull that a portion of the bone was penetrating the brain. The bone was carefully removed and the patient is now doing well." 

Accused of theft in Pittsburgh, Pa., and later acquitted.

1893

Mulhatton's mother is reported as having been impoverished and receiving funds for her care.

Mulhatton is reported as having acquired placer claims in the area of the Rio Chama in New Mexico.

1895

Mulhatton is reported to have tramped by rail from Arizona to Los Angeles, on the way to San Francisco.

1896

Mulhatton encourages Kentuckians to mine in Arizona, and a visit from his sister.

1897

Mulhatton at the Ripsey Mines in Pinal Co., Arizona

1898

Mulhatton still mining in Arizona.

1899

Magnetic Saguaro Cactus of Arizona

1900

Mulhatton was reported as having been confined at the Arizona Hospital for the Insane, apparently after suffering hallucination that he killed a man.

1901

Mulhatton was released from the asylum.

1902

"Joseph Mulhatton as he looked in more prosperous times, when he was one of the highest salaried drummers in the country, and as he appeared yesterday." (SF Call, 7 Oct. 1904)

1904

Mulhatton was reported to have been arrested at San Francisco, Cal., for the theft of a coat, caught by police while giving a lecture on phrenology at a Salvation Army gathering.

1905

Mulhatton's brother, Robert Allen, was reported to have sought him out in Arizona.

1908

Mulhatton as a miner, working from his plot at Dagger Well, near Kelvin, Az.

1909

Mulhatton's brother, Robert, reported as having been arrested and held for 20 days on a vagrancy charge.

1911

1912

Self-Nomination for Presidency

1913

Reading

A Survey of Hoaxes

Notes

  1. Joe Mulhatton also appears in Pinal County voting records, giving a birth year of 1852.
  2. There is a Joseph Mulhatton of Irish nationality, alongside mother Bridget, brothers Edward and Robert, and sister Helena, on a New York Passenger list dated to 1856, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939V-R79N-LY, the family having come to America aboard the Constellation; he is listed as having been 5 at the time.

References

  1. "Most Artistic Liar in the World Drowns in River in Arizona", El Paso Herald (El Paso, TX): 1, 1913-12-09, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88084272/1913-12-09/ed-1/seq-1/, "Phoenix. Ariz., Dec. 9. News of the drowning of Joe Mulhatton, which occurred at Kelvin last Friday, has brought to mind the fact that for years he was regarded as the biggest and most artistic liar in the United States. He was proud of that reputation." 
  2. "PHOENICIANS AT LONG BEACH. Joe Mulhatton Transmits a Couple of Society Notes.", Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ): 4, 27 Aug. 1898, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/168553253/