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


Official Hotel del Coronado Heritage Department book: Beautiful Stranger: the Ghost of Kate Morgan and the Hotel del Coronado - ISBN 978-0916251734 - 2001, 2005 - limited availabilityWhy Three Books?

One Nonfiction, the second a Fictional Dramatization, the Third is Both Books in One Volume.

How It Started For Me. I have lived in San Diego since the 1970s, and long ago heard of the so-called Kate Morgan ghost story at the Hotel del Coronado. Like many San Diegans, I found the story to be a vague muddle of myth, mystery, and confusion. Then, from 2006 to 2008, I worked at the Hotel del Coronado in the Transportation Department, which put me inside the hotel's remarkable world of history, mystery, and excitement. Of the several persons who have written books the 1892 crime story, only I and the official hotel historian have actually worked in the hotel and experienced its living aura. Of the many points needing clarification: the 1892 true crime is totally separate from the ghost legend that evolved from the true crime event.

The hotel and I have authored the only two bodies of work worth reading. One is the hotel's official Heritage Department book that started it all for me: Beautiful Stranger: the Ghost of Kate Morgan and the Hotel del Coronado. The other is Dead Move, my own carefully and objectively researched analysis (based 100% on true, known history—no ghosts were consulted or harmed). From Dead Move, I spun off a dramatization (novel) titled Lethal Journey. Both of my books are now available in one volume titled Coronado Mystery.

Dead Move, a Nonfiction Scholarly Analysis. Equipped with a lifelong study of history, three college degrees, and professional experience in the disciplines of journalism, editorship, and most areas of writing, I set myself a scholarly task. My primary interest was not in a putative ghost, but in the actual true crime that occurred in 1892. In a classic Einsteinian Gedankenexperiment (thought experiment), I constructed my investigation within rigorously reasoned boundaries. The hotel's well-researched book explores every aspect of the legends and the written records surrounding the story, but draws no substantive conclusions. My thought experiment was this. If I used the hotel's official book as a guide, could I go a step further, tie all the loose ends together in a way that makes sense, and solve the puzzle? After considerable study, drawing maps on large sheets of paper, and internet research of my own, I arrived at the only plausible solution anyone has ever offered.  TOP

Lethal Journey—Fiction, Dramatization. While the intriguing findings in Dead Move make for a lumbering, cautious behemoth of footnotes and exhaustive iteration, I felt that a genuine thriller lurked within this story. I am, in fact, an Active Member of International Thrillers Writers, an organization founded by my fellow thriller authors including Clive Cussler, David Morrell, Tess Gerritsen, and other great writers. My goal with Lethal Journey was to harness the best of both my analysis and the rousing legend, to create a noir period thriller in the tradition of The Prestige and The Illusionist. A rare, rousing novel with appendices (shades of Michael Crichton!), Lethal Journey also offers a broad understanding of the classic Victorian Fallen Angel, as well as information about the broader, global circles in which this story actually moved (fall of the Hawai'ian monarchy, bittersweet life of Princess Victoria Ka'iulani, and much more). I will soon add more info on these globe-girdling tangentials.  TOP

Coronado Mystery—both of my books in one volume. In a previous iteration, I published two versions of Dead Move: one as a stand-alone, the other as a combination of both books. There is a logical progression to this. Originally (2008) there was only Dead Move, the historical analysis based on an interesting hotel industry term.* That book contained a chronology that turned into a dramatized narrative. By 2009, I was convinced to remove the narrative and turn it into a rousing thriller (fiction) embodying the best features of both my analysis and a long-standing legend about Tom Morgan as a villain and gambler. In reality, Tom Morgan probably never set foot in San Diego. His wife Kate allegedly left him to run away, not long after the death of their infant son in 1885. Tom Morgan was too good to pass up, so I made him a villain in Lethal Journey. He doesn't figure in Dead Move; rather, I suspect that Kate Morgan stole Lizzie's paramour, John Longfield, as another in a string of brief dalliances with men, and that contributed to Lizzie's ultimate despair and suicide.  TOP