Crystal Skulls

Section: Crystal Skulls

Ancient Aliens: “Belize, Central America. In 1924, British adventurer Frederick Mitchell-Hedges travelled here with his daughter Anna to explore the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Lubontoon. One afternoon Anna climbed to the top of a crimpling pyramid, hoping to see the ocean”

AA: “It was high noon and she was at the top and the way the sun came in; the way the rocks had moved, there was just a small opening and the light from the sun went through and it hit the top of the skull. She ran down and she was all excited and she said ‘there’s someone in the there with a flashlight’.  Anna’s father and others in their party were too large to fit inside the small opening of the pyramid, so they tied a rope around Anna and lowered her into the hole. When she came back up, Anna held the top of a strange crystal skull. A second search uncovered a macthing jaw.”

As you might have suspected nothing you just heard is true, the real story about the Mitchel Hedges Skull (MHS) is quite different. It’s worth mentioning that the reason that Ancient Aliens focuses in on the MHS is because all of the other known crystal skulls have now been proven to be fakes [1] and even ancient aliens admits this.

AA: “Scientific tests have determined that the two owned by the British Museum and the Cape Brandley were not authentic pre-Columbian artifacts.”

The MHS was the last hope for a real one, and the only reason it was the last hope is because the daughter of Mitchel Hedges, while she was alive, refused to have an official study done to see if it was fake or not. Rather than that she toured around with it in new age conventions and the like, until she recently died.

Her widower however, in 2007 took it to the Smithsonian museum for natural history where extensive testing was done on it. It was found to be a fake, just like the others.[2] I’m not sure if Ancient Aliens produced this episode before or after 2007, but I suspect they wouldn’t have cared much either way.

The real history of the MHS starts with another crystal skull that was in the British Museum which the forger of the MHS copied it from.[3]

The British Museum acquired a crystal skull in 1898 at a time right after tools were first invented that made it possible to carve crystal skulls like these. We now know it was also a time when a lot of fake crystal artifacts were sold to museums.[4]

The British museum’s skull, which has its own dubious history, was later found to be fake too, but in the 1930’s it was still believed to be genuine, and it was proudly displayed in the museum.[5]

Based on research done on the MHS by the Smithsonian museum, it was concluded that the forger of the MHS copied the one in the British museum in order to make his work seem more authentic.[6] The MHS was first owned by a man named Sydney Burney who we have records of trying to sell it to various people unsuccessfully for 10 years before this. He finally sold it to a member of the general public at a Sotheby’s auction in London in 1943.[7] That member of the general public was Fredrick Mitchel Hedges. (FMH)

We actually have the letter FMH wrote to his brother directly after purchasing the skull at the auction in which he expresses his excitement about his new purchase – this will be important later.[8]

Five years later though in a local paper FMH was claiming that he found the skull himself in a daring expedition to Central America.[9]

FMH was a renowned storyteller and often sold his fanciful stories to Hearst newspapers.  In these stories he was always the main character.

For example FMH was a fisherman by trade, and so he would have tales of him catching previously undiscovered animals; fighting off sea monsters; tales of man eating sharks, as well as your average big fish stories.

Later with his book “Danger is my Ally,” he told tales of him discovering previously unknown lands and undiscovered people groups, as well as battling all kinds of jungle dangers.

Later on people would write editorials that had been to the areas he said he went to and publically debunked him.[10]

FMH was also shown to hoax an odd situation involving a supposed robbery and several shrunken heads. He even lost a very public liable suit concerning this. But all of this only scratches the surface of the deceit that surrounds the MHS.[11]

First of all none of the stories about the discovery of the MHS match each other, and all of them contradict the letter he sent to his brother in 1943 which clearly says he bought it in an auction. It says:

“The “Collection” grows and grows and grows. You possibly saw in the papers that I acquired that amazing Crystal Skull that was formerly in the “Sydney Burney Collection.” It is fashioned from a single block of transparent rock crystal, exactly life size; scientists put the date at pre-1800 B.C., and they estimate it took five generations passing from Father to son  to complete. It is anthropologically perfect in every detail, a superb piece of craftsmanship. There is only one other in the world known like it, which is in the British Museum and it is acknowledged to be not so fine as this.”

Many years later, when this letter surfaced, his adopted daughter Anna tried to explain the discrepancy between these stories this way on her website:

“In 1943 Mitchell-Hedges got embroiled in another controversy that still rages in some quarters to this day. In times before burglar alarms, it was not unusual to leave valuable items with friends if one was going away for long periods of time.

Mitchell-Hedges did this with a school friend, Sidney Burney, who had always shown an interest in the Crystal Skull. However, in 1943, Burney inexplicably put the Crystal Skull up for auction at Sotheby’s in London.

Mitchell-Hedges learned of this the day before and was so furious that for a while he was unable to speak. Unable to contact Burney, he arose the next day at 5am and traveled to London to retrieve his property.

Sotheby’s informed him that the vendor was Sidney Burney’s son. When they refused to withdraw it from the sale, Mitchell-Hedges realized the easiest way of regaining his property was to purchase it back. This he did for £400.”

This doesn’t make sense for lots of reasons, let alone that according to her story, which we will get to in a minute, this would mean that he had the skull for 10 years and didn’t mention it to anyone until after he writes a letter to his brother a decade later obviously implying that it was something he just acquired for the first time.

After FMH died the skull was left to Anna Mitchel Hedges, his adopted daughter, and this is when things really get sketchy.

Anna spent her entire life trying to sell the skull. She hired a guy named Frank Dorland, an art dealer, to promote the skull so she could get it sold. Dorland had worked with her father when he was alive to sell another one of his objects, which also turned out to be a fake.[12]

She and Dorland signed an agreement in July of 1964 that he would promote the skull and that the price of its sale must be no less than $50,000.

Dorland then got busy trying to make everything look really official, including coming up with a totally different story for the skulls discovery. After this agreement with Dorland in 1964 was the first time Anna claimed that is was she, not her father who found the skull.[13] Something that no one else seemed to mention in the last 30 years.

By doing this it made Anna the sole person who could establish provenience for the skull, something that a buyer would want, especially a museum. And because everyone else involved was dead by this time there was no one left to contradict this new story.

All of the mystical claims about the skull were born out of the two books that the promoter, Frank Dorland commissioned in order to promote the skull.

Here is a letter from Dorland to Anna concerning the writer who he wanted to write one of the books.

I have convinced Dick Garvin (who does sell) it is worth the percentage to you and me and you to furnish the information. This makes it a better book, makes more money all the way around. The skull is not sold, it is put to use in this manner and for public appearances to boost sales and interest. (OC 276, folder #11 – 3/10/1970)”

These books make outlandish claims about the crystal skulls origin and powers and, since the books were released at the height of the new age movement, they enjoyed an uncritical and enthusiastic audience.

During all these years they tried desperately to sell the skull. The problem was that, because of all the fakes, museums were now asking to validate the skull first. [14]

One letter from the British Museum to Anna shows that negotiations were stopped when the curator caught wind of the actual history of the skul.

None of this stops Ancient Aliens from promoting all kinds of contradictory stories about the skull.

AA: “Yes, they’re alien artefacts. Even some people think they’re made on another planet”

AA: “They were created specifically to hold records from alien civilisations. There was a legend that there were 13 skulls and that when the 13 skulls come together then something significant will change in the world”

AA: “Legend suggests that there are 12 additional worlds out there – planets which are inhabited by intelligent species. These 13 crystal skulls that allegedly exist on planet Earth were each brought here from one of those 12 planets, and the 13th skull is the one that apparently contains all of the information of all those 12 different realms…and that’s the legend of the 12 crystal skulls.”

AA: “But, as ancient astronaut theorists maintain, why would visiting aliens have given the crystal skull to the Maya?”

The only problem is that no one can seem to find a record of this Mayan prophecy.[15] The idea seems to trace back to one new age author. Mayan scholars have never heard of this legend…and certainly not this one:

AA: “A lot of natives and a lot of people working with crystal skulls say that the high-quartz-contents skulls and especially the quartz skulls themselves is the highest frequency or energy or vibration possible on the physical plain, and so a lot of native people kind of worshipped or took care of these objects because they knew that they had, or felt that they had, the highest energy possible on the Earth plain.”

This whole myth was birthed out of a marketing campaign for a forged artifact, a myth which found a home in the new age.

In conclusion, all of the proposed crystal skulls have now been conclusively proven to be hoaxes. The last holdout (the MHS) was only still a candidate because it was not allowed to be examined until recently. Its history is full of greed and lies, and it genuineness could only be accepted by the most dedicated devotee given the facts we now know.


[1] British Museum (n.d.-b), Jenkins (2004, p.217), Sax et al. (2008), Smith (2005), Walsh (1997; 2008)

[2] Jane MacLaren Walsh. “ – The Skull of Doom”, May 27, 2010. Skull of Doom.htm.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Aldred (2000, passim.); Jenkins (2004, pp.218–219). In this latter work, Philip Jenkins, former Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies and latterly an endowed Professor of Humanities at PSU, writes that crystal skulls are among the more obvious of examples where the association with Native spirituality is a “historically recent” and “artificial” synthesis. These are “products of a generation of creative spiritual entrepreneurs” that do not “[represent] the practice of any historical community”.