Welcome to John T. Cullen's Coronado Mystery main website


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

Charlotte Barnard or Barnes

What Do I Mean By Fake Woman? I refer to the name Lottie A. Bernard, under which the Beautiful Stranger was registered as a guest of the Hotel del Coronado on Thanksgiving Day, 23 November 1892. Why did she choose that particular name? I am not given to idle speculation in my nonfiction scholarly book Dead Move, but (as openly declared) I allow myself some very careful leeway in my 1892 noir thriller Lethal Journey. The novel (fiction, thriller) is closely based on both my historical analysis plus certain legendary tales that have grown vine-like around the carefully contrived legend (e.g., the untrue tale of Tom Morgan as a gambler). In the novel, I suggest that the name she used was a code, with a powerful message embedded in it, designed to scare John Spreckels. The idea was for Spreckels to cough up a lot of money (blackmail) to quash rumors of sexual transgression that would have harmed his reputation in Victorian society at a critical moment. Since at least one (totally uninformed, irresponsible) individual is now making false claims online that Charlotte Barnard was real, I feel compelled to straighten out the true record on this particular issue.

Totally Invented by Me. The origin of the name Charlotte Barnard or Barnes urgently needs to be clarified, since it has now begun appearing as part of spurious research claims by person(s) unknown to me, who have pirated detail out of context from my writings.. I invented Charlotte Barnard or Barnes in 2009 as a hypothetical or conjecture to close a small but important gap in the blackmail theory. I plugged the name into my novel Lethal Journey (fiction closely based on fact), not my research in Dead Move (which is nonfiction).

My proposition in Lethal Journey (a historical thriller, novel) was this. I had already mentioned this possibility in passing in Dead Move, but I felt I could take one or two carefully explained liberties with the novel. That does not mean I wantonly invented details. I have been quite careful to note that, while in the factual analysis Dead Move, I found no evidence that Kate Morgan's husband Tom Morgan was involved in Kate's plot in Coronado, I used the mythological figure of Tom Morgan (the gambler, the bad guy) from the existing legend to make optimum use of the intriguing legend. After all, Lethal Journey is a work of fiction, not a scholarly work like Dead Move. At the same time, because Dead Move is admittedly a difficult and tedious slog filled with detail and footnotes, I urge interested folks to read Lethal Journey before tackling Dead Move. All of that said, here is the skinny on Charlotte Barnard.

In the novel Lethal Journey, I took a necessary speculation of the nonfiction analysis Dead Move to its logical conclusion. Think of the positions of the players during that fateful Thanksgiving Week 1892. John Spreckels, owner of the Hotel Del, was in Washington wiht his personal friend, President Benjaming Harrison, involved in desperate, last-minute negotiations over the fate of Hawai'i and his father's vast sugar cane plantations there. At the same time, Spreckels was still operating out of his father's offices in San Francisco. And, simultaneously, in San Diego and Coronado, an army of Spreckels functionaries were busy managing the cities that Spreckels virtually owned. The police force consisted of a dozen or fewer poorly trained, uniformed beat cops and zero detective force; whereas the Spreckels Machine had the money and resources to maintain an army of Pinkerton detectives to see after his banks, real estate, newspapers, light rail system, water flume, electrical and gas utilities, and other vast holdings. Into this mix come our three conspirators: Lizzie Wyllie, posing as Lottie Bernard at the Hotel del Coronado (owned by John Spreckels); John Longfield, hovering in the background in company of Kate Morgan, and posing as needed as Dr. M. C. Anderson; and Kate Morgan, the sociopathic grifter who orchestrated a blackmail plot against Spreckels.

As the players take their positions, Kate Morgan (operating stealthily around San Diego) must send a telegram to the Spreckels concern in San Francisco to launch her scheme. She must inform Spreckels, in some form of code or guarded language that only he will presumably understand (she has no idea he is in Washington, D.C.), of her threats. The distance of roughly 500 miles (800 km) plays in her favor, she thinks, since the matter is urgent, her threats are dire, and she expects his response to be prompt. The threat is that allegedly (but totally untrue) Spreckels has made a woman, perhaps a house maid, pregnant out of wedlock. Unless he delivers blackmail money, the woman will deliver a spontaneous abortion on the floor in the main lobby of his hotel. This would cause great embarrassment to Spreckels in any age, but these were Victorian times, and he would at least become a laughing stock around the world, if not a moral pariah in high society with all of its hypocrisy. What Kate Morgan did not know is that the fate of Hawai'i and the Spreckels sugar fortune hung in the balance, and this was no time for Spreckels to allow himself to be open to attacks in the media. This was the age of the Yellow Press, where any scandal was good for press, whether true or not. Not only that, but the telegraph now connected the nation, so that rumors could fly coast to coast in mere hours—it was the internet of its day.

The question therefore arises: what would Kate Morgan say in a short telegram to totally arouse John Spreckels (a married man, whose wife must conduct herself with etiquette as well)? I believe that the best code words would be the maid's name, but not the name directly—instead, a name just similar enough to instantly remind him of his affair. In the novel, I have Kate Morgan obtaining a packet of stolen letters between Spreckels and this maid, which would have proven the details of the affair if sold to a Yellow Press newspaper like that of William Randolph Hearst. Judging by the speed of the Coroner's inquest and other factors, it is pretty evident that the Spreckels Machine were ready and waiting from the beginning. Pinkerton (or their type) agents would have great experience dealing with this sort of blackmail. This is why it is clear that the blackmail was doomed from the start. In fact, it is quite possible that, when Lizzie (under the false name Lottie Bernard) arrived at the Hotel Del on the afternoon of 23 November 1892, the chief clerk (A. S. Gomer) had already been briefed and was working with detectives to not only deflect the plot, but to trick Lottie A. Bernard (the Beautiful Stranger, or LAB) into delivering her accomplices (Kate and John) into the hands of authorities.

As a shuttle driver at the Hotel Del, I have personally experienced the reaction of doormen and other hotel employees to the arrival of the type of woman LAB presented. Even in the 21st Century, a single, stunningly beautiful woman arriving without company or luggage, dressed to kill, and striding into the hotel lobby, would evoke in any doorman or hotel dick the same impression she would have in 1892: a hooker. Sorry, ladies, but this is a reality of the world. She might in today's world be a young business executive or a convention visitor, but she could also be a call girl—a business no respectable hotel wants to openly encourage, though it too is a reality of everyday life in the big city. The doorman is god in the entrance of a hotel. A good doorman has his (or her) eye out for any number of things, including the comings and goings of hookers. Now imagine in buttoned up Victorian society—young women were not allowed to travel alone, without their husband, father, or brother; or a female chaperone of the type seen in Henry James' Daisy Miller for example. And LAB had to sign up at a special side of the desk reserved for non-standard arrivals; same book, because we have a copy of the page on which she signed, but different procedures. She did not sign herself in, but a clerk signed her in. As Kate Morgan no doubt had telegraphed the name to San Francisco, so she now signed in as Lottie (short for Charlotte) A. (Anderson, her Aunt Louisa's and her mother's maiden name) Bernard (a mysterious choice of names, unless it was reminiscent of the name of a former Spreckels fling). I therefore created a hypothetical Charlotte Barnes or Barnard to demonstrate (hypothetically) how Kate Morgan might have pulled off her telegraphic threats to Spreckels. I have no doubt there were then, and are now, lots of women named Charlotte with a last name like Barnett, Barnes, or Barnard, or even Bernard; but I invented her entirely for Lethal Journey. It is important to underscore this, for fear of throwing legitimate researchers off the real track. It is important to keep the record straight.

I have a strong suspicion that Lizzie's ill-fated acting career as LAB was doomed before she even arrived at the Hotel Del that day. Normally, the hotel staff would not have permitted a woman traveling under her circumstances to sign in at all. And, please note, the ubiquitous Harry West mysteriously attached himself to her for every need. Perhaps he was really a Pinkerton agent. Who knows? In the end, the facts speak for themselves. Her mission at the Hotel Del (and it was clearly a mission; she did not randomly appear there, with no money in her purse, and pursue the last few days of her life as she did) was purposeful. And doomed. And tragic. For all of his imperfections, John Spreckels had nothing to do with the pregnant girl who showed up at his hotel. Spreckels already had a sizeable Machine in San Diego and Coronado. His agents could communicate within hours by telegram between San Diego and San Francisco, and East/West Coast. Kate and her crew never stood a chance. And the Charlotte Barnes or Barnard hypothesis is merely one small cog in that overall mystery machine. So there we have it.   TOP