Kitchener, Oct 30, 1996 - A life size human skull, exquisitely carved from solid rock crystal, is either a 100,000 year old magic treasure from Atlantis with tremendous powers, or a recent work of art that an eccentric English adventurer tried to pass off as an ancient Mayan "Skull of Doom". Either way, a near ninety Kitchener woman wants to use the skull, which attracts people, including famous movies stars, from around the world, to reintroduce Mayans to their culture.
"Peter O'Toole sat with it for four hours, over there on the carpet - he wanted to lie down" says Anna Mitchell-Hedges, 89, as she shows the photo of O'Toole towering over her to prove it. Shirley MacLaine and William Shatner also have visited to see the strange object sitting a few feet away from her knees that she calls "The Skull of Love" but her father, F.A. (Frederick Albert) Mitchell-Hedges, an adventurer and writer of travel books, called the "Skull of Doom" that could bring sudden death to those that mocked it. "That was one of my father's jokes" Anna says.
New agers have adopted the skull as an icon, and Anna travels with it, allowing believers to meditate with it. "The skull seems to bring people together" saying that many friendships and romances have sprung from people meeting at sessions with the skull.
Anna, who was born in Ontario and adopted by Mitchell-Hedges, says she went with him as a young girl to British Honduras (now Belize) in South America, on an expedition to find traces of the legendary lost civilization of Atlantis, where she says she found the skull on her 17th birthday in a ruined Mayan city called Lubaantun in 1924.
She said the Mayans who still live nearby allowed the Mitchell-Hedges to take the skull back to England, because they believe that the local government would have confiscated it. She said the Mayans told her the skull was of one of the chief high priest of Atlantis and was thousands of years old. "It could be used to will death" she said, but not in the way her father meant, who she said made up the "Skull of Doom" moniker to scare off robbers. Anna said the Mayans told her the skull could be used to transfer the knowledge of an elder to a younger person, when the elder was ready to die.
Skeptics scoff at the Mitchell-Hedges claims. "It's clear that her father bought it off a collector" says Joe Nickell, a senior research fellow with the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, near Buffalo, New York, who in his book Secrets of the Supernatural shows that the skull was in the possession of Sydney Burney, an English art dealer, ( it was even featured in a magazine article with Burney listed as the owner ) until it was sold to Mitchell-Hedges for 400 pounds sometime in 1944, according to a note in the British Museum. There is no written mention that can be found of either of the Mitchell-Hedges discovering or possessing the skull until F.A. Mitchell-Hedges published his autobiography in 1954, and Nickell says that no other member of the expedition to Lubaantun mention the skull, or even say Anna was there.
No certain idea was given for the skull origin or age. A similar skull in the British Museum was found earlier this year to have been made with modern tools.
None the less, Anna Mitchell-Hedges say that when she returned to Lubaantun in 1989 and 1996, many of the Mayans recognized her, and one, Leonardo Acal, named his son after her father. Acal wanted to come to Canada to tour with the skull in order to get support to start a school teaching Mayan language and traditions to natives and visitors.
October 15, 2014 - Here's a link to a story showing the skull was made with modern tools: http://archive.archaeology.org/online/features/mitchell_hedges/ and the National Geographic Channel did a reconstruction showing the skull has features more like a European woman than a Mesoamerican: http://natgeotv.com/uk/the-truth-behind/videos/crystal-skull