“I craved excitement, and here there were no fierce animals, no hostile savages, not even a few poisonous snakes. I longed to test my nerve.”
Frederick Albert “Mike” Mitchell-Hedges has been described by many people as being a real-life Indiana Jones, only instead of hitting Nazis in the face with a bullwhip and popping wheelies with Sean Connery, Mitchell-Hedges puffed on a sweet pipe and spoke in a heavy British accent. After reading about this dude’s insane adventures traveling the globe, discovering lost cities and ancient artifacts and arm-wrestling giant man-eating gorillas in the uncharted jungles of Central America, it’s hard to dispute that claim.
Born in 1882 in Buckinghamshire, Mitchell-Hedges was a pretty much an unruly bastard right from the beginning. His stodgy uptight father wanted him to get into the boring-ass family stockbrokering business, but Hedges was the kind of guy who would rather be hurling primitive wooden spears at ten foot tall scorpions, fistfighting an angry tribe of head-shrinking witch doctors and using a flimsy vine to swing over alligator-infested ponds like some kind of clinically insane Pitfall Harry – not sitting at a desk all day trying to figure out whether to buy fifty shares of fucking coffee, gold or milkshakes. He hated school, frequently caused trouble, and spent all of his free time reading whatever awesome adventure novels he could get his hands on. Eventually, old Dad had enough of Hedges’ bullshit. After one particularly rowdy night when Mike and his buddies got arrested for starting a bar fight by throwing a handful of ice cubes down the low-cut shirt of an incredibly large-breasted woman, the 18 year-old Mitchell-Hedges was shipped off to Canada.
Mitchell-Hedges moved to New York and worked for a while as at a soul-sucking corporate stockbrokering job, probably because that was the only marketable trade he really had at this time. One day he found out that his jackass co-workers were setting him up have his stock completely destroyed through some wacky bullshit business-jargon-related means that I can’t even possibly begin to understand, and he wasn’t going to fucking sit around and let some bullshit suit-wearing bastards get the better of him. Instead of going to his bosses with the plot or doing something to save his own ass, Mitchell-Hedges did what any badass motherfucker with a chip on his shoulder would do – he rigged the situation so that the entire fucking company went down in flames with him.
After the New York disaster, Mitchell-Hedges bounced around various odd jobs in places ranging from Texas to New Orleans before landing in Mexico, where he was promptly captured by Pancho Villa and his marauding hordes of frito banditos. Villa grabbed Mitchell-Hedges and threatened to execute him on the spot, but MH immediately busted out a perfectly-executed a capella rendition of “God Save the King” to prove that he was in fact British and not American. Villa was so pumped up about how fucking nuts this guy was that he decided to take Mitchell-Hedges into his gang. During his adventures riding around with Mexican outlaws, robbing train cars and raiding towns, Hedges received two gunshot wounds in his leg. In 1914 Pancho Villa allowed Mitchell-Hedges to return to London so that he would enlist in the Army and serve his country in World War I.
Unfortunately, the British Army declared Hedges unfit for service thanks to the two bullets lodged in his thigh, so he returned to New York. Not long after arriving in the city, Hedges’ good friend died, so he adopted her daughter to come live with him. Oh, and he was roommates with an undercover Leon Trotsky. MI6 contacted Hedges to spy on Trotsky, but he declined, saying that as long as Trotsky was on time with his half of the rent and paid for all of his crazy-ass long-distance phone calls he wasn’t going to sell out his own roommate.
Things got even more nuts for Mitchell-Hedges when he returned home to London and had a chance encounter at Waterloo Train Station with a total babe named Lady Richmond Brown. Brown and Hedges had been friends long ago, and when they met again Brown told our hero that she had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and only had a year or so to live (it would turn out later that the doc who issued this prognosis was actually a raging idiot and had no idea what the shit he was talking about). Since the end was oh-so near, Lady Brown said that if Mitchell-Hedges took her on some crazy insane adventures she would fund his exploits herself. Hedges hastily organized an expedition, and if it’s any indication as to the kinds of balls-out shit he accomplished from this point on in his life, I should mention that his memoirs are titled Danger, My Ally.
F.A. Mitchell-Hedges spent the next several years having crazy adventures discovering uncharted civilizations and uncovering buried treasure across Central America and the Caribbean. He explored ancient ruins and tombs, found sacred artifacts from long-forgotten empires, fought giant beasts, and traveled among the indigenous populations located deep in the forests of Belize and Honduras. He frequently reported his tales of derring-do to the paper back in London, and the rare pieces he unearthed were immediately shipped off to the British Museum, where they are still on display to this day. He told fascinating tales of adventure, which often times involved him saving Lady Brown, his adopted daughter, or his beautiful young secretary Jane Harvey from imminent peril like he was fucking Race Bannon hitting a T-Rex in the face with a wooden torch or using a blowgun with poison darts to drop a tribal cannibal war-party. He was involved in hand-to-hand combat with jaguars, giant scorpions, poisonous snakes, and bloodthirsty bears, and one time he even claimed to have taken out a vicious oversized carnivorous iguana with a hunting knife. He discovered the Mayan Ruins at Lubaantun, documented the “bizarre” rituals of a tribe of cannibals, and recovered priceless pieces of great archaeological significance.
He was also a master fisherman,. During his days the Caribbean he would sail out in a crappy wooden canoe and use a rod-and-reel to haul in massive stingrays, marlins and swordfish. In his well-illustrated book, Battles with Giant Fish, Mitchell-Hedges claims to have reeled in a 31-foot sawfish and says that he once caught a 700 pound man-eating killer shark off the coast of Jamaica. While living on the island of Roatan, he accidentally dug up three chests of buried pirate treasure, filled to the top with gold doubloons.
Now fabulously wealthy and incredibly well-known for his amazing exploits, Mitchell-Hedges bounced around the world, living in places such as Hollywood, London, New York, and Paris. In the 1930s he had a Sunday night radio show in New York where he would tell amazing stories about his adventures in Central America.
“Live lived without adventure is no life at all.”
Mitchell-Hedges two most significant finds were the Virgin of Kazan and the Crystal Skull of Doom. The Virgin of Kazan is a 16th century icon of the Orthodox Church that the Russian people claimed helped them defeat Napoleon in 1812 by coming to life, growing to become 200 feet tall and them stomping the Grande Armee to death with its massive foot like it was a Really Holy Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Hedges discovered this piece on the West Coast of Africa at the age of 65, and claims that he acquired it in a whisky drinking match against ex-Nazi Luftwaffe commander Herman Goering. Goering got pissed that he lost, so Hedges decked him. The Crystal Skull of Doom is a large human skull carved out of a single piece of solid crystal, complete with a moveable, hinged jaw, and is believed to be one of the most stunning crystal skulls in existence (a factoid that indicates that there is apparently more than one giant crystal skull in existence). Hedges found this artifact on a dig in the Mayan ruins of Belize, and constantly referred to it as a conduit of black magic and the embodiment of all evil. The thing is so creepy and weird that it was used as the logo for the famous show Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World back in “the day”.
Of course, at this point I should mention that there are quite a few people out there who believe that pretty much everything F.A. Mitchell-Hedges ever said or wrote was either hyperbole, shameless self-promotion, or out-and-out bullshit. For example, the ruins of Lubaantun were actually previously discovered in a well-documented 1903 British expedition, and there’s evidence to suggest that Hedges actually purchased the Skull of Doom at a Sotheby’s auction in the 1940s. Still, the way I see it, Frederick Albert Mitchell-Hedges is either the most interesting man to have ever lived, or he’s one of the greatest fictional adventure heroes of his generation. The fact that fifty years after his death we still don’t know which version is the truth only makes his tale that much more badassed.
The creepy skull.