Statue touted as 'missing link' found to be a hoax

By By:Ruth Miller
Posted 1/30/02

In 1871, William Conant appeared in Pueblo with a large stone figure of a man. He claimed he had found it about 25 miles away in an arroyo and had …

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Statue touted as 'missing link' found to be a hoax

Posted

In 1871, William Conant appeared in Pueblo with a large stone figure of a man.

He claimed he had found it about 25 miles away in an arroyo and had used a pick to free the figure from its surrounding clay.

The statue was of a man in a reclining position, one arm crossed over the chest, the other alongside the body with the hand on its leg.

It measured 7 1/2 feet in height and weighed 450 pounds. The "man" had Asiatic features and a 2-inch-long tail protruding from the end of the spine.

Its arms were long and ape-like; the feet large and flat.

The press gave the discovery great coverage, thinking it was possibly the long-sought missing link between ape and man. They dubbed it "Solid Muldoon" and attracted people from all over Colorado with their headlines.

Displayed in a Pueblo theater, the figure even attracted P.T. Barnum, who traveled from his Connecticut home to be on hand for the showing.

Barnum's presence alerted a Pueblo newspaper editor, E. Shelburne, who was skeptical about the appearance of Barnum and the validity of the Solid Muldoon.

With two other men, he set out to examine the site where the statue had been found.

A reporter from Kansas City asked Barnum if the figure was genuine or a hoax like the 1869 Cardiff Giant.

Barnum said he believed it was genuine and that Conant was an honest, respected man; he claimed he was considering investing in Conant's discovery. Shelburne's paper printed the opinion of professor John Bogg, who pointed out anomalies in the so-called petrified man and declared it a fake.

When the truth about the Solid Muldoon was finally exposed, it was found that a Mr. Fitch, owner of a Connecticut factory manufacturing artificial stone, had consulted with Mr. Hull, the man who had sculpted the Cardiff Giant.

Hull gave Fitch money to join him in making a new petrified man. He asked for Fitch's help putting some bones into the figure to make it more authentic.

Hull made the molds for the figure, using his son-in-law's and his own bodies as model. Fitch did the casting. Unfortunately, each place where the foot-long sections were joined showed joining marks, but no one apparently noticed.

A human skeleton was used in parts of the body's interior that the creators thought scientists might examine. Hull discovered that if the Solid Muldoon had truly been a petrified man, calcite crystals would be present.

He volunteered to bore a hole for the scientists and, concealing some crystals in his palm, was able to insert them through the hole, thus fooling the investigators.

Fitch, afraid the scientists were too inquisitive, exposed the hoax. P.T. Barnum had been involved and was culpable, along with Hull and Fitch.

Although the cement used in the fake man cost only $11.45, Hull had spent all his money - about $6,000 - on its construction.

Membership in the Parker Area Historical Society is open to all who have an interest in the history of the area. Be sure to see the society's exhibits at the Parker Library. For further information, call (303) 841-6530.

Ruth Miller is an avid historian and Parker area resident.

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