Capital Takes a shine to the skull of doom

SOME say it speaks to them. Others claim to have seen images of their future as they stare at its glistening curves. A few have even insisted that, as they have stared into its glassy eyes, they have made contact with an "intelligence".

Some, of course, feel absolutely nothing at all. And tomorrow visitors to The Hub in Edinburgh can judge for themselves when the Mitchell-Hedges Crystal Skull – otherwise known as the Skull of Doom – the inspiration for the latest Indiana Jones film and alleged to be 3600 years old goes on display to the public for the first time in the UK.

"We're not saying to anyone what the skull is or should be," explains event organiser Cris Winter, who is bringing it to The Hub as part of the Histories and Mysteries Conference with colleague Philip Coppens. "We just want people to have a look at it and make up their own minds.

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"We chose Edinburgh because it is the city of light, measurement and illumination. It's a wonderful city and The Hub is a beautiful venue for this magnificent event."

The quartz skull – the size of a small human cranium with a detachable jaw – was the inspiration behind the latest outing for the archaeological adventurer in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls. The movie saw Harrison Ford pitted against Soviet agents to retrieve a psychic alien crystal skull.

And while the real story behind the discovery of skull doesn't

The tale begins in the 1900s . . with a real-life Indiana Jones

involve spies or Martians, it certainly has plenty of mystery.

It begins back in the 1900s, when real-life Indiana Jones, English explorer Mike Mitchell-Hedges, was in British Honduras, now Belize, with a team of colleagues, as well as his daughter Anna who was celebrating her 17th birthday.

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It was there that Anna claimed – right up until her dying day last year, aged 100 – that she came across the skull, buried under a collapsed alter inside a temple in the forgotten village of Lubaantun.

Calling on her father for help, the team uncovered the rest of the village, keeping the glistening skull and bringing it to her home, firstly in Oxfordshire and latterly in Canada, where she would show it off to friends.

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"Anna used to keep the skull wrapped in a black piece of material on her coffee table," says Chris Morton, author of The Mystery of the Crystal Skulls, whose parents live in the Capital.

His book about the object – and the Native American teachings which say the skull is key to the true origins and destiny of humankind and is one of 13 skulls scattered across the world, which if brought together would have terrible powers – is thought to have inspired the recent Indiana Jones film.

"There was never any official recording of the dig undertaken by her father, though, and the skull was never reported to the British Museum," he adds.

"There have therefore been suggestions that perhaps he planted the skull there for her to find, because it was her birthday.

"I must admit, when I first heard the tale I thought it was just very colourful, but the more I learned, the more I became intrigued."

Mitchell-Hedges himself claimed it was called the "Skull of Doom" and was used to "will death" by the Mayan priests who were said to use it as long as 3600 years ago.

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The current owner of skull is Bill Homann, who was left the object by Anna Mitchell-Hedges in her will.

The pair had become friends many years before her death and Bill had helped care for her in his home during the last eight years of her life.

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He is keen to carry on the legend of Anna and her father's "discovery" –hence the Edinburgh event – and believes the skull balances mental, physical and emotional states, leading to better self-understanding.

But as the skull – used by science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke as the logo for his Mysterious World TV series in the 1980s – is made of rock quartz, which doesn't erode, it is impossible to date, making it far harder to verify any of the claims made about it. And critics have claimed it is a 20th century fake, with one story being that it was bought in an auction in the 1940s.

As for the event organisers, they insist they are happy for the mysterious skull to speak for itself, as it were, and let visitors decide for themselves.

However, tonight a sound and light show aims to explore the potential powers behind the skull.

Cris Winter, who was a family friend of the Mitchell-Hedges, explains: "We will be photographing energy fields at the exhibition and how they change when people get nearer the crystal skull.

"This is the first time this has ever been done and people will be able to see them on a screen above it. It has been proved before that the fields often react when people come into contact with the skull."

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Chris Morton, who met first-hand with Anna Mitchell-Hedges as well as Native Americans when he co-wrote his 1997 book with wife Ceri Louise Thomas, adds: "Whether or not we believe that 13 crystal skulls will be found across the world, this one is here to make us think. Some people say they have seen images of the past by looking in the crystal – others have obtained information about the future. It certainly captures the imagination though."

• The audiovisual sessions take place tonight at 7.30pm and 9pm at The Hub. Tickets are 15. Tomorrow the skull goes on public display from 9.30am until 5pm at The Hub. Tickets for the public display cost 5, available on the door. Log on to for more information.