Weekend to do: Sci Fi’s ‘Mysteries of the Crystal Skulls’ interview with Lester Holt

The Sci Fi Channel has taken the mythology of the latest Indiana Jones film and examined the kernel of truth that lay behind the yarn.

On Sunday, May 18th at 9:00pm EST, “Mystery of the Crystal Skulls with Lester Holt” premieres and examines the real artifacts behind the new Jones film.

The Sci Fi special will follow the three previously released Indy films, shown back to back.

Mystery of the Crystal Skulls follows Lester, a seasoned investigative reporter, as he searches the historical home and lore of the 13 quartz perfectly rendered crystal human skulls.

NBC/Peacock Productions

NBC/Peacock Productions

These ancient Mayan and Aztec pieces are the worlds largest finished gemstones.  They are rumored to unleash “untold energy” and secrets of mankind’s survival here on Earth.

The Crystal Skulls are the sought-after objects in the newest Indy movie, and their real-life story is as compelling as the dressed-up version we get from screenwriter David Koepp and George Lucas, who co-wrote the script. 

NBC/Peacock Productions

NBC/Peacock Productions

The skulls were discovered by British man of action, explorer Frederick Albert Mitchell-Hedges, and his daughter Anna Mitchell-Hedges, who died in 2007 at age 100.  Many feel the Indy character is based on Mitchell-Hedges colorful life of exploration and adventure, which he retold during the “Radio Days” of the 1930’s on Sunday nights, with jungle music in the background.

Mystery of the Crystal Skulls with Lester Holt premiers Sunday, May 18th at 9:00pm.

Monsters and Critics spoke to reporter Lester Holt yesterday:

I’ve followed Anna Mitchell-Hedges, his daughter and this story for a few years. Have you held or seen in person any of these crystal skulls?

Lester Holt: No. Bill Homann, who had married Anna and is featured prominently in the documentary, brought with him a replica of the crystal skull. He had real concerns about bringing the real thing to Belize because many there think it is sacred and that it is part of Maya culture.

Frankly, he was afraid that it might be seized. So in this case, he brought a replica. I’ve never seen the real thing. I’ve read so many accounts of it and when I was approached with this documentary, I’d heard – just vaguely I knew about it and I did some reading.

After I read it, I became intrigued, this sounded like something that would be fun to do. And it was.

Will you ever make a point to go see one in person?

Lester Holt: I might. Bill – he’s a really nice guy. I got to know him a little bit and we exchanged cards. And he’s there in Indiana, and we kind of have a loose date that if I’m in that neighborhood.

I don’t know that I’d make a special trip, to be quite honest. But if I had an opportunity, if it was convenient, I would love to see one.

The Egyptians go all over the world to yank all of their treasures back to Egypt
as do the Greeks,  How did they get away with seizing and keeping these skulls which should probably be in their original country?

Lester Holt: Well the Anna Mitchell-Hedges one is in the United States…
with Bill Homann.  It was taken so many years ago.  I’m guessing it was before those kinds of antiquities commissions and sort of things had been put together.

So it wasn’t clear if it was going to be seized. He had just some concerns about bringing it in the country because for many, it –  they really believe it is part of Maya culture.

Did Homann give you an insight as to the properties of the skull? I’ve read that some people felt it was evil – the particular one that she found on her 17th birthday that she had in her possession. I was reading that it absorbed the aura colors of whoever was holding it.

Lester Holt: That’s one of the things he said. And he says people –  he speaks around the country and around the world about it.

He has shown it to other people and talked about how they’re all kind of affected and it creates this aura. And for some people, it’s a different feeling.

We shot it for the story and unfortunately I wasn’t there. And, back to the earlier question I wasn’t – didn’t get a chance to see it for myself and experience it.
So that’s my one regret in this because of the time constraints of my other responsibilities. I didn’t get to really have that impression that I could share with you.

But yeah, he gets a kick out of how people react when they’re in the room with it.

A newsman always has to keep some skepticism – what was in your mind when you were hearing this story?

Lester Holt: Oh my skepticism meter was clicking the whole way.

Even from the time I got into the project. That’s what a journalist
does and there was no way I was going to even work on this unless I made sure we were going to explore all these different avenues and all the evidence that would point to this possibly being a fraud.

We did that. Bill Homann who has it now –  I tried to shake him. I asked him a lot of pointed questions and I came away at least with the conclusion that he’s a true believer.

He’d lived with Anna Mitchell-Hedges, he knows the skull and has heard her story, has asked her many of the same questions that I asked him. And he’s a true believer.

Now, that leaves the obvious question what do I think now?

I still don’t know is the answer. But I also approach journalism from the standpoint that there’s a lot of things that we don’t know and may never know.

Our obligation is to ask the right questions and explore all the potential avenues. I came away feeling this is a pretty interesting mystery because there have been tests suggesting that this couldn’t have been machine made.

There have been the stories, as you mentioned, of it being put up for auction. So there’s a lot of different stories out there. And it was kind of fun to explore all the avenues.

At the end of the day, you kind of walk away and as I often like to do with stories, with – assuming we can’t get to the bottom is to let viewers decide – put enough information out there that they can at least, in their own mind aside, or perhaps explore further for the answers.

There was talk of sending the skull to Hewlett Packard in 1970 and their tests revealed that it would have taken 300 years to make, has there been any update on that?

Lester Holt: No, that’s the information that is in the documentary. And that was one of the things that I read that I was like hmm, I guess as a journalist you approach everything naturally as a skeptic.

Especially when it comes to things that  border in the supernatural.  I’m always like okay, you got to give me something here.

That was one of the pieces that I said this is really worth exploring.  It’s made of this quartz and we discovered that quartz is available nearby.

We learned a lot about the Mayan culture. You walk away thinking, ‘hey, maybe.’

Is there any evidence that there are other sets of 13 skulls in other parts of the world?

Lester Holt: The legend if you will has been that there are 13. I’m trying to
remember how many off the top of my head, I can’t remember how many now have been identified in various locations.

But one of the legends is that if they’re brought together that they have some kind of a significant power. And that’s where it gets a little sketchy.

The origins of it in either the story of it coming from the – there’s a Maya ruin – it has some legitimacy. I came away from it with some sense that it was quite possibly an explanation.

Has anyone ever tried to recreate what the actual person would look like from the skull?

Lester Holt: I don’t have an answer to that.  We didn’t deal with that in the program. I don’t think so.

How did this project come about for you, and what was going through your mind as you heard that they wanted you to come do this special?

Lester Holt: The Sci-Fi Channel is part of the NBC/Universal family and they had come to me a couple of years ago to work on a project about the Bermuda Triangle – a similar kind of a program.

It’s funny because that was one – when I was a kid, I was always intrigued reading about the Bermuda Triangle. So that was an easy one. I said yeah, that sounds like fun and that was an interesting one.

So we had a relationship and they have talked to me about other projects in the past. But I mean, let’s be perfectly honest. I’m a journalist and fiction is a work – it’s kind of – it doesn’t always sit right with a journalist.

I’m very choosy about the things that I’m able to go forward with. But I was actually in LA on assignment and – at the hotel ran into some folks from Sci-Fi.

And they said ‘hey, we were going to call you. We’ve got this project we’re working on.’ So they kind of planted the seed and I went back to my room. And I logged onto the Internet, and just read a little bit about the crystal skull.

Then they followed up a few weeks later and said what do you think? And I said that it met that bar that the Bermuda Triangle did in my mind in terms of,  there’s definitely something there and there are a lot of people who have a real interest in this.

I always try to hold myself to the sense of, don’t be a news snob, ask the tough questions and have healthy skepticism.

But at the same time, this is something that a lot of people are hearing about and reading about. I knew the movie – Indiana Jones moving was coming out, so that was going to increase talk about these skulls.

So everything came together and I said yeah, this was a project,  I’m willing and would like to be involved with.

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