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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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
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
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
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
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
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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