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


My Book Stands on its Own Merits

John T. Cullen's two books about the ghost at the Hotel del Coronado, and the 1892 crime that created her legend. Now you can have both books in one titled Coronado Mystery Avoiding Spurious Sources I carefully examined, and discarded, most of what writings I could find on this topic. That includes the dubious book written by Alan May in 1987 (in which, among other wild assertions, he claims to regularly have had dinner with the ghost in her long-ago room at the Hotel del Coronado, and had long discussions with her about the facts of her case).

Scholarly Bearing. Like any other reputable scholar and history writer, I lay my facts and conclusions on the table to be challenged—but fairly; not by individuals who pick through them, misquote what I say, and cherry-pick my findings and ideas to suit their own frequently muddled agenda. I occasionally see this done, particularly with the rich amount of information I have published. Shoddy research and shallow conclusions are facile, quick, and misleading. This is a complex case. My book is not easy reading. But a reasonable researcher will need to understand my findings very thoroughly in order to refute them in a rational, fair, scholarly manner.

Séance Fiction. A topic like this famous ghost story tends to bring out the best and the worst of opiners, and my experience since 2008 with this story exemplifies those tendencies. I have encountered charlatans, grifters, and other opportunists who prey on gullible tourists or readers. I can only reiterate my opinion that the only books of any value so far written on this topic are my own (Dead Move) and the official Hotel del Coronado book, available in its gift shop: Beautiful Stranger: the Ghost of Kate Morgan and the Hotel del Coronado.

Wikipedia Inaccurate as of 2014. I would caution you that the Wikipedia entry for 'Kate Morgan' continues the spurious, jumbled myth that the dead woman at the Hotel del Coronado in 1892 was Kate Morgan. Wikipedia has some flaws in its editorial cleanup policies, leading me to suggest a cautious approach of 'Trust but Verify' from other sources. It's good for a quick lookup, we all use it, but it is not a reliable source for scholarly information. In fact, I will cite some Wikipedia entries on this website, because it is so darn handy. Again, in my opinion, as my book Dead Move exhaustively demonstrates, the deceased 'Beautiful Stranger' was neither Kate Morgan (as stated on the Wikipedia page) nor Lottie A. Bernard, but Elizabeth 'Lizzie' Wyllie of Detroit.  TOP

Glorious Historical Context on a Global Scale. Anyone who actually reads my book in detail will learn a good deal about San Diego, U.S., and global history of the period. That includes the contextual background of how the Yellow Press drummed the U.S. into imperial ventures (Hawai'i; Spanish empire 1898). It includes the fascinating stories of Sugar Baron Claus Spreckels and Pineapple King James Dole. It includes the tragic history of the final years of the Kalakaua Dynasty of Hawai'i, and its beauful last Crown Princess, Victoria Kai'ulani. It includes a comprehensive understanding of global Eurocentric imperialism at a point when the United States began to emerge as a world power, with possessions and interests around the globe. It includes an understanding of the literary and artistic norms of the 19th Century, including the notion of a Fallen Angel, which was exmplified in the flesh by Lizzie Wyllie as she lay in state in San Diego, an Infanta Mourida as in Maurice Ravel's piano piece. The prime example of this norm is the theme best represented by Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented, but also found in many 19th Century heroines like Charles Dickens' Sissy Jupe in Hard Times or Stephen Crane's eponymous heroine in Maggie, A Girl of the Streets. The Fallen Angel is ubiquitous across 19th Century arts, including the work of the Pre-Raphaelites. A feminist can have a field day with this, since it appears to represent the trope of a woman held up to an impossible standard, and then smashed from her pedestal 'by an uncaring world and evil people through no fault of her own'. There is a strong Victorian streak in how the Beautiful Stranger was received and perceived at the Hotel del Coronado, including how and why she registered (had the clerk sign her in at a side desk, whereas men signed in personally at the main desk) under a false name. I could go on, but that is why you need to read my book—the detail can be grueling, but is always fascinating. I was not able to fully cover the vast historical context, but I was able to point out some of the major concerns in both Dead Move and the Addendum to Lethal Journey, as well as in the Lottiepedia on this website.  TOP

Wake Up, San Diego. It remains to be said that, with the 125th anniversary of the Beautiful Stranger's death approaching (2017), it is time for San Diego to wake up to its history, and cast aside the cobwebs of muddled (and, I think, purposely contrived) myths and legends. This means the media, universities, and historical societies as well as personally interested individual citizens. I would invite the San Diego Historical Society, the Coronado History Association, and local media to finally deliver the awesome truth to deserving readers about this story, which is indeed one of the most amazing and important true history stories about San Diego.