Mega Hoax - The strange plot to exhume Billy the Kid and Become President
Mega Hoax cover new

Out of Print

Mega Hoax book cover

Out of Print


"Having spent more than half a century working to accurately document the historical truth about Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County War, I have been and still am appalled by the contemptable hoax which has been perpetrated upon the American public by sheriffs and deputies, as well as a shady cabal of lawyers and politicians headed by Governor Bill Richardson, which has encouraged the campaign to obfuscate, cheapen ans subvert recorded history."

"No one has been more active, more diligent, and more effective in opposing the machinations of these shameless charlatans than Dr. Gale Cooper, who, since 2003 has worked tirelessly to expose the lies, the cover-ups, the manipulations of office and utter contempt for the law perpetrated by those responsible for inventing and disseminating this unforgivable insult to history.
I commend her to your attention."
    FREDERICK NOLAN, Author of The Lincoln County War: A Documentary History.


"My biography of Sheriff Pat Garrett was done to research and state the facts. And the facts are that Garrett shot the Kid dead. And the Kid's body lies in the Ft. Sumner cemetery; in his marked grave – or certainly nearby."
    LEON METZ, Author of Pat Garrett: The Story of a Western Lawman.


This huge book exposes and spoofs the most elaborate historic-forensic hoax ever perpetrated: the Billy the Kid Case. Fabricating the headline-grabbing contention that Sheriff Pat Garrett had not shot Billy the Kid on July 14, 1881, but had killed an innocent victim for his Fort Sumner grave, the hoaxers proposed to dig up Billy and his mother for DNA comparisons (though both graves were unreal tourist markers). After that silliness was blocked legally, the hoaxers fabricated possession of Billy the Kid DNA from an old carpenter’s workbench; and went on an hilarious exhumation rampage to prove that utterly discredited pretenders were Billy the Kid. During that, the hoaxers accidentally dug up a random man - not even a pretender - and the hoax turned into a scandal with cover-up.

The hoaxers were as surprising as their hoax: a seated governor, his major political donor, sheriffs and deputies, a university professor, a U.S. Marshals Service employee, and a nationally known forensic expert - all of whom ignored historians saying their quest was absurd.

The quest was only absurd if one cared about the truth. The hoaxers were after publicity - and they got press, TV documentaries, and a movie.

More strange than motives of fame and fortune - run-of-the-mill for hoaxing - were two others. First, the governor believed the scheme would generate national name recognition for his 2008 presidential bid. Second, his donor, was an amateur historian, receiving that hijacked history as weird pay-to-play.

Even more strange was the author’s statistical impossibility as the hoaxers’ nightmare. She combined a medical degree with specialty in forensic consultation, world-class knowledge of Billy the Kid history, and the willingness to stand up to promulgators more like thugs than theoreticians.

Along with MegaHoax’s seven year, hoaxbusting adventure, the book includes major hoax documents and a massive bibliography of investigative sources.


ON JANUARY 4, 2009, BILL RICHARDSON, New Mexico's governor, withdrew as president-elect Barack Obama's pick for Commerce Secretary. Having flown too close to the political sun, he plunged with waxed-in feathers melting off make-shift wings. The country - witness to his presidential bid - now saw him fall from a Cabinet of stars, like Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

Richardson luck failed by a quirk of fate: another man's headlines paralleled his with jeering alliteration and comprehensibility: "Selling Senate Seat." An FBI wiretap had nabbed, eventually-indicted, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in that pay-to-play, whose two P's were a reporter's bonus.

Right then, Richardson was facing the same two P's, in an Albuquerque grand jury. His alleged pay-to-play was with CDR Financial Products: its hefty political contributions, possibly yielding a huge state contract. But soporific fiscal complexities, plus public virginity about pay-to-play, only simmered scandal; until Blagojevich's S's flared, and Richardson's two P's sizzled. And down he toppled.

Two things can ruin a politician: sex and silliness. Sex gossip has never stuck to Richardson; but David Letterman found his joke jugular. Letterman's January 15th monologue said: "[Richardson] announced: ‘You know what? I've been doin' some stuff maybe too illegal to be in the Cabinet, but just about right to keep me as governor of New Mexico.' "

As detrimental, was Richardson's reverse Dorian Gray problem: he looked like the painting in the attic. Around his neck seemed wrapped a ferret - sometimes hairy, sometimes shaved - suffocating under his jowls. Letterman hit the lard.

He said Richardson "was chubby; and everybody said, but he was the best guy for the gig ... and he said yes; and he got a little fatter; and he said, ‘Sign me up.' "

On screen, appeared Richardson, as a Taco Bell fan, captioned: "Bill Richardson: mmmm hungry." Notwithstanding Hispanic insensitivity, that picture was worth a thousand words. In the 1870's, an illustrator, Thomas Nast, drew laborious newspaper cartoons exposing robber baron, "Boss" Tweed, in gluttonous adiposity. Richardson saved the effort by every photograph - complimented by his dead-fish eyes of a soul on vacation.

But some Richardson luck remained: Landing below national radar, almost let him slink away without history's glare revealing his presidential campaign ploy: the oddest since candidate, William Howard Taft's, 1908 choice of the opossum as his mascot. That mammal missed the mark of Teddy Roosevelt's wildly popular teddy bears from 1904. Named "Billy Possum," he shared Richardson's Dorian Gray attic problem: he looked like a rat.

Another Billy became Richardson's comparable folly: Billy the Kid. That scheme yielded both a political farce unmatched in American politics; and the most elaborate historical-forensic hoax ever perpetrated: "The Billy the Kid Case."

It was a Billy Possum of a publicity stunt. And it attained the inconceivable: putting "Billy the Kid" and "President of the United States" in the same sentence in back-room, political conniving; and thug-drenched telephone threats to opponents.

To that absurdity, Richardson added his grim monarchial streak, which prevented retreat in defeat; while his compatriots gamely, and with increasing hollowness, announced publicly that they were having fun.

All were assigned the attention-grabbing claim that Old West Sheriff Pat Garrett had not shot Billy the Kid - as would be revealed by their CSI, forensic DNA, murder investigation! Richardson trusted that the ensuing "media circus" of newspapers, magazines, TV programs, movies, and books would somehow make him a shoe-in for the presidency.

All he had to do was dig up Billy the Kid ... and conceal that his "Billy the Kid Case" was a hoax - until he had to conceal its scandal, stretching over three states.


Because the Santa Fe Ring won the Lincoln County War, it claimed the victor's option of writing its history. It made Billy the Kid an outlaw – not the freedom fighter he was – made the opposition a mere, localized, mercantile conflict, and it hid even mention of its own existence. The head of the Santa Fe Ring, Thomas Benton Catron, also become one of the two first New Mexico senators, when statehood was granted in 1912. So Santa Fe Ring-style politics continues in New Mexico to this day. It is the politics of cronyism, of fear and favor, and of pay to play. Its taint has given New Mexico the modern reputation of one of the most corrupt states in America.

I accidentally discovered another Ring aspect: its members go to preposterous lengths to triumph – even in a scheme as silly as hijacking the history of Billy the Kid as a publicity stunt for the presidential run of its governor, Bill Richardson. That 2003 publicity-grabbing – and hoaxed – claim was: Sheriff Pat Garrett did not kill Billy the Kid; but murdered an innocent victim to allow Billy to escape. This, of course, necessitated ignoring the massive evidence to the contrary; and making up a new story lacking any evidence. But what the hoaxers named "the Billy the Kid Case," was framed as a real murder investigation against Garrett – translation: utilizing real taxpayer-funded sheriffs' departments and courts for private gain.

From the start, I became the hoaxers' nightmare, possessing the statistically impossible combination of world-class knowledge in Billy the Kid history, medical background in forensics and murder cases, and enough zeal to risk thwarting rough characters. And I did; blocking each of their steps, collecting their paper trail, and now exposing them. They, however, did me a favor. As 18th century political satirist, Voltaire, wrote: "I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous. And God granted it.'" The Billy the Kid Case was so silly that it was fun fighting.

The hoaxers' plan involved fake forensics of proposed exhumations of Billy the Kid and his mother for DNA comparison, though their graves are merely tourist markers, and not considered real. So the hoaxers were blocked in courts by the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator's refusal to issue permits for purposeless exhumations. So the hoaxers simply got more outrageous.

They brought in Dr. Henry Lee – of O.J. Simpson murder trial notoriety – and claimed that Lee obtained the DNA of Billy the Kid from alleged blood on an old carpenter's bench on which the Kid was allegedly laid out (thus, hoping the public forgot that the Kid was supposedly never shot, or laid out, according to step one of their hoax). This switcheroo necessitated the Kid "playing dead" for the 200 townspeople who viewed his body through the night, and for the Coroner's Jury inquest in the morning (since their case otherwise became just conventional history of "Pat shot Billy dead")!

Next, in 2005, the hoaxers claimed to "match" their fake bench DNA (which Dr. Lee, when investigated, denied claiming as blood or DNA from Billy) to an exhumed, Arizona, Billy the Kid pretender named John Miller – whom no one but a single author took seriously as Billy (Miller being, for starters, 10 years older than real Billy – no "kid;" and never claiming the hoaxers' carpenter's bench, playing-dead scenario).

Things got worse. In the Miller exhumation process, since graves were unmarked, the hoaxers also dug up, and took bones of, a random man, William Hudspeth – who, if he has surviving relatives anywhere, may have won the death lottery for a legal case. Then things got even worse for the hoaxers. Someone in Arizona made criminal charges against them for those exhumations; and those charges had to be covered up.

Next, in 2007, the hoaxers tried to dig up Texas, Billy the Kid pretender, Oliver "Brushy Bill" Roberts, but were laughed out of the state. Finally, all the hoax's financial and forensic shenanigans had to be covered-up from public records inspection requests.

So, beginning with Richardson - and a few a compliant lawmen, lawyers and judges - the Billy the Kid Case hoax eventually necessitated Richardson's calling in the chips of his loyalists in three states (New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas), until almost a hundred people were in the cover-up. That grew the hoax into a scandal, that I named Shovelgate.

The point of this MegaHoax tale, which became its own political satire, is: If this can happen with Billy the Kid history, imagine what occurs when the Santa Fe Ring political machine is in full bore with major, pay to play plots.

Final justice for Shovelgate may now rest only with the angry ghost of William Hudspeth. So I dedicated MegaHoax to him as: "Billy the Kid's new dead pal."