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Hal Bush <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 8 Jan 2021 15:48:34 +0000
text/plain (1 lines)
The Murrell myth, especially when Matt mentioned the how the Mystic Clan's plots & conspiracy theory
synthesized "anti-Black, anti-Semite, anti-Catholic, and several other common antebellum prejudices," reminded me of a much larger group doing similar things: the Freemasons, of which MT was a member, as were many riverboat pilots and others, right here in St. Louis in fact! I could say much mora about freemasonry, but some would certainly include them, and other mysticl brotherhoods in C19, as often provoking conspiracy theories, to say the least.
Polar Star Lodge No. 79 History – Polar Star Rose Hill Lodge No 79<>
A Brief History ~ Polar Star Lodge No. 79, St. Louis Written by PSRH#79 Member Worshipful Brother Richard B. Ramage, Appearing in The Missouri Freemason Fall 2004 (Volume 49, No. 4)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Dr. Hal Bush​

Professor of English &

Director of the Undergraduate Program

Saint Louis University

[log in to unmask]


author blog:<>
From: Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Wolfgang Hochbruck <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, January 8, 2021 9:32 AM
To: [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: [External] Re: MT & conspiracy theories?

...Murrell and his gang even more openly get featured in _Tom Sawyer_,
i thought, when Tom & Huck find the treasure ... William G. Simms wrote
more about Murrell in _Richard Hurdis, or the Avenger of Blood_, and
there was a melodrama _Murrell, the Pirate_ (1835), originally written
by Nathaniel Harrington Bannister and popularized by Charles Burke,
both in their turn inspiring German immigrant Friedrich Gerstäcker who
then became they German Simms after his remigration in 1844 with _Die
Flusspiraten des Mississippi_ and _Regulatoren in Arkansas_, both
loosely based on the Murrell story --
This conspiracy myth must have had a lot more traction in the 1840s
through the Civil War period than i usually suspected.


On Fri, 8 Jan 2021 09:37:25 -0500
 Matthew Seybold <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>That's a great question, Hal.
>When I wrote my dissertation on the figure of the con-artist, I spent
>a little time on conspiracy theories, which are often created and/or
>amplified by con-artists. One of the most extraordinary conspiracy
>theories of the 1830s circulated around "the Mystic Clan." This was,
>supposedly, a secret society led by a notorious outlaw, John Murrell,
>and thanks in large part to Virgil Stewart, who published a series of
>books and pamphlets claiming to expose the Mystic Clan's plots, they
>were planning to start slave insurrections as a distraction while they
>raided banks in major Gulf Coast cities. The conspiracy theory
>synthesizes anti-Black, anti-Semite, anti-Catholic, and several other
>common antebellum prejudices.
>Twain was definitely aware of Murrell, whose real (and fictional)
>operations had been in the trade corridor where Twain was later a
>pilot. He refers to "Murel" in LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI as a criminal
>"genius" who made Jesse James look like a "retail rascal." In this
>passage, Twain mentions several details from the Mystic Clan
>conspiracy theory and seems to be treating it as accurate history,
>although he also acknowledges in the same paragraph that "cheap
>histories" of romantic outlaws were for sale at train stations and
>steamboat landings. Melville alludes to the same market for specious
>criminal biography in the opening chapter of THE CONFIDENCE-MAN,
>specifically naming Murrell its most profitable topics. I haven't dug
>into whether Twain refers to this conspiracy elsewhere later in his
>Like you, I'd love to know what others C19 conspiracies people have
>encountered in Twain's life and work. There are, of course, several
>alluded to in Richard Hofstadter's THE PARANOID STYLE IN AMERICAN
>Stay safe, everybody.
>- MS
>On Fri, Jan 8, 2021 at 8:42 AM Hal Bush <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> Dear friends: what a week. Can I tie these horrific events into C19
>& MT?
>> A friend has passed on his terrifying essay on a conspiracy theory
>way back in 1860, see below.  I think we need reminding that
>conspiracy theories have a very long history in our nation, and that
>they can be deadly and incendiary.
>> Q; has anyone looked into MT's encounter with and understanding/
>critique of conspiracy theory--pro and con?
>[;!!K543PA!bqFn8R79de9Vzns52b-hITjy_dsP0n9FgsvDNZP5iauvlDnAusm7tz2jkRkW2g$ ]<*.X_hexOBMFTZ__;Iw!!K543PA!bqFn8R79de9Vzns52b-hITjy_dsP0n9FgsvDNZP5iauvlDnAusm7tz0Kt6vHUA$ >
>> How 300 children lost their fathers to lynching on a single day
>because of a conspiracy theory – Baptist News
>Global<*.X_hexOBMFTZ__;Iw!!K543PA!bqFn8R79de9Vzns52b-hITjy_dsP0n9FgsvDNZP5iauvlDnAusm7tz0Kt6vHUA$ >
>> There is nothing new about conspiracy theories. Recently, while
>doing some research on the history of lynching, I learned that Anthony
>Bewley, a Methodist minister, was lynched in Fort Worth, Texas, back
>in 1860. Bewley was the victim of a bizarre conspiracy theory.
>> _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
>> Dr. Hal Bush
>> Professor of English &
>> Director of the Undergraduate Program
>> Saint Louis University
>> [log in to unmask]
>> 314-977-3616
>> author blog:
>;!!K543PA!bqFn8R79de9Vzns52b-hITjy_dsP0n9FgsvDNZP5iauvlDnAusm7tz3yog7CsA$ <;!!K543PA!bqFn8R79de9Vzns52b-hITjy_dsP0n9FgsvDNZP5iauvlDnAusm7tz2ta9_2aA$ >
>Matt Seybold
>Assistant Professor of American Literature & Mark Twain Studies
>Elmira College

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Hochbruck
Dept. of English
Centre for Security and Society
Albert Ludwigs University Freiburg
Rempart St. 15
D-79098 Freiburg