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John T. Cullen's two books about the ghost at the Hotel del Coronado, and the 1892 crime that created her legend.Lottiepedia

Kate Morgan

Kate Morgan, nee Farmer (born about 1867-date of death unknown). As always, we may trust the redoubtable official historian(s) at the Hotel del Coronado and its Heritage Department, who have compiled a biographical sketch of all that is known (and not known) about Kate Morgan. Here is an official press release from the Hotel del Coronado with useful information on Kate Morgan.

Kate Morgan Was Not The Dead Woman (Coincidentally, Therefore, Not The Famous Ghost). As detailed and professional as the hotel's official publications are, especially their great source book Beautiful Stranger, the conclusions to be gleaned differ in one major regard. As a very professional job of historical research and writing, the hotel's official book is the best available compendium of known or knowable facts. It also mentions the various major speculations involved in several myth threads that have accompanied the ghost/crime story since 1892. The official book discusses, with much enjoyment that we all share, the ghost legend in addition to the true crime case (two totally separate issues). Where we differ is this. While drawing no explicit conclusions, but presenting fact and legend as received over generations, the Heritage Department implicitly falls into the trap of assuming that the dead woman (Beautiful Stranger) was Kate Morgan. My analysis, based on my own research and theirs, suggests that the dead woman was actually the second I.D. made on the victim, once police knew that she could note be Mrs. Lottie A. Bernard, a fake name. That second I.D. was of a missing Detroit woman, Elizabeth 'Lizzie' Wyllie.   TOP

Kate Morgan—What We Know For Sure. As the hotel's press release shows, Kate Farmer was born in or about 1867 to a wealthy miller named George W. Farmer and his wife Elizabeth, in Washington, a town inFremont County, Iowa. Kate's mother died in 1868, leaving the girl to be raised largely by the men in her life. She turned out to be wild and ungovernable as a child and as an adult. Kate had no surviving siblings.   TOP

Marries Thomas Morgan. On December 30, 1885, Kate Farmer (age c18 or 19, where 'c' means circa or 'about') married Tom Morgan (age 25), also from a solid local family. The couple had one child, a boy named Thomas, who died two days after his birth on 31 October 1886. Kate had no surviving siblings. Her marriage left no surviving children. As the hotel suggests, nothing more is known of Kate's life until the events in 1892 at the Hotel del Coronado; but the conclusions they draw about her in 1892 are surprisingly circumstantial and debatable. My closely reasoned, detailed conclusion is that Kate Morgan was not the victim as legend claims, but she was the perpetrator of a blackmail scheme which left another woman (Lizzie Wyllie) as the victim.   TOP

An Old, Brittle Cold Case. There is no explicit proof from the time that either Kate Morgan or Lizzie Wyllie were ever in San Diego, much less turned up dead in Coronado. The entire case has to be reconstructed from myriad data compiled by the hotel, from surviving police files, public records, and newspaper accounts of the time.

Identifying the Beautiful Stranger. What we do know is that she checked in at the Hotel del Coronado early in the afternoon of Thanksgiving Day, 1892, and that she lay dead of a gunshot to the head not quite a week later, on the morning of 29 November 1892. First, a national search ensued for a Mr. Bernard (her supposed husband) or for Dr. Anderson (her supposed brother). Lottie A. Bernard, Mr. Bernard, and Dr. Anderson were solidly established to be fictions. So who was the dead woman, called the Beautiful Stranger in the press at the time? The first I.D. was for Lizzie Wyllie, a beautiful runaway from Detroit. The only picture of the dead woman was a police sketch of her face, done at the undertaker's a day or two after her death (so the condition of the body is unknown). From this sketch, and a description of some physical characteristics on the body, her mother (Elizabeth Wyllie) identified the body (without coming to San Diego) as that of her daughter. Subsequently, for reasons that become apparent from my analysis (the dead woman was pregnant, which was part of the blackmail plot), the I.D. shifted to another target, a woman named Kate Morgan, who was thought to be working as a domestic under various assumed names around the western U.S. Other tentative I.D.s were discarded. After a hastily summoned inquest lasting less than one day, when the body was barely cold, in a city owned lock stock and barrel by John Spreckels, the conclusion was that she had been Kate Morgan. The official court transcript was 'lost' and later 'recovered' by a minor city clerk, meaning it was removed from the chain of custody and authority, so it could have been doctored; we will never know, but the possibility is open to question. The idea of a coverup becomes ever more likely, given the nature of John Spreckels' involvement and situation. As an added unusual note, the death certificate lists her under two names as 'Lottie Anderson Bernard a.k.a. Kate Morgan.' Where my findings differ from the assumptions of the hotel today is that the hotel unquestioningly buys into the myth that she was Kate Morgan; whereas my finding is that there was a coverup to protect John Spreckels, that attention had to be diverted at all costs from a pregnant and dead Lizzie Wyllie, and that the convenient target of this coverup was Kate Morgan. Based on the otherwise solidly researched book of the hotel, and all the contextual history of John Spreckels, his hotel, and the United States at that time, I have concluded there was a blackmail attempt and a coverup. My book Dead Move builds that case in a detailed and painstaking manner.   TOP

What Happened to Kate Morgan? My conclusion is that the dead woman was Lizzie Wyllie, who had been put up to her mysterious stay at the hotel for blackmail purposes. Kate Morgan met John Longfield (the 'cad' and 'bounder' who ruined Lizzie) in or near Detroit in her many travels, saw the opportunity in Lizzie's ruined state, and convinced John and Lizzie to join her in the blackmail attempt in Coronado—which was only a few days' journey away, on the comfortable, modern Transcontinental Railway system. Kate Morgan's reputation was ruined by the Yellow Press. She could not have used her real name again, but that was no problem for her, since she was a mistress of many aliases, which in turn suggests she must have been no stranger to crimes and scams. We will never know under which false name she vanished into history, leaving her name and her victim (Lizzie) dead in San Diego.   TOP

The Rest of the Story. All the many myriad details (the embroidered hankies, notes left on the dead woman's table in the hotel, the story of the Missing Day, the three maid jobs of 'Kitty' in Los Angeles, and the lie about Lizzie's trip to Ontario) are covered in my painstaking, detailed analysis. To understand them, readers must study my book, which amounts to a complex puzzle, and a satisfying intellectual exercise once the work of comprehending it is done. My ultimate word: if you are given a puzzle of 1,000 pieces, and you assemble it so every piece fits with every other piece, it is a foregone conclusion that you have solved the puzzle.   TOP

Note: The Wikipedia Entry for 'Kate Morgan'. The Wikipedia entry for 'Kate Morgan' has been doctored by a person with a skewed agenda, so that I caution against trusting it. This individual, who pops up at every public forum where I attempt to discuss my results, is a smooth-talking purveyor of fractoids (details, either false or half true) taken out of context for the purpose of swiftboating a targeted researcher and his published results. His motivations are as hazy as his grasp on reality. It's simply in the nature of a story like this to attract the occasional crank, who can be as fanatical as religious zealots in the pursuit of their delusions, and therefore capable of Macchiavellian means in the service of their ends. A reasonable person will ask: "What on earth is the point? It's just a ghost story, after all, or a true crime story that most people barely know or care about?" In a disturbed mind, an entirely different scale of values may be at play. Hello, little colored pills and capsules, where are you when such persons need you?

Disinformation versus Legitimate Research. As with the spurious Alan May book of 1987—which has planted so much misinformation in all sorts of rambling, un-fact-checked websites and ghost books—it is best to take most 'sources' under careful advisement. I use Wikipedia as a quick lookup or refresher all the time, as many authors and scholars do without admitting it. In regard to Wikipedia, the famous Ronald Reagan maxim applies: "Trust, but verify." For important lookups, always verify from a more stable and reliable source. My recommendation is that the hotel's official publications, even with the one facile and disputable conclusion about Kate Morgan, are our most reliable source of baseline information. I trust the hotel's research, which touched upon all the right libraries, public records, and other resources. My own book rests on its own merits, and requires no defense from cranks. I am prepared to defend my thesis at the level of a doctoral monograph, so well-defined are my stated methods. This website's Links page lists several official websites of note. Intelligent readers, accustomed to critical thinking (the intended audience of my book Dead Move) will also avoid the obvious charlatans and seancers who cruise paranormal waters seeking gullible subjects to part from their money.   TOP