Pancho Villa’s missing head, an unsolved mystery

On a chilly February morning in 1926, a caretaker, making his routine patrol of the city cemetery in Parral, Chihuahua, noticed something strange. The cement cover on one of the graves had been disturbed. Pieces of the casket were missing, and the body within was mutilated. Even more disturbing, the body had been decapitated and the head of the famous resident removed. It was the grave of Pancho Villa, the most infamous of all Mexican revolutionaries.

Three years earlier, Villa, in his well-known 1919 Dodge Roadster, was driving to his home in Parral. While he usually was accompanied by many bodyguards, this time he went with only four associates. As he passed a grove of trees, someone shouted out “Viva Villa!”

After that, seven riflemen appeared and fired more than forty bullets into the car. Nine bullets hit Villa; four went into his head. He died immediately. His body was found with his hand reaching for his gun. Three of the men in the car with him died. Ramon Contreras, who killed one of the murderers, escaped. He reported that Villa’s last words were “Don’t let it end like this. Tell them, I said something.” He was laid to rest in a municipal lot in a raised cement catafalque. On it, in white paint, was a brief notice: “Tumba del Gral. Francisco Villa. Parral, Chi.” 

Despite the simplicity of the grave, Villa’s life was quite extraordinary. He came from a poor family, was drafted into the military as a common soldier, and managed, within a short time, to become the most renowned, and one of the most loved, and hated, generals of the Mexican Revolution. His life had been truly extraordinary. Besides his brilliant tactics and his numerous victories in battle, he also had a reputation for being hard-drinking, rough and tumble, and for sexual exploits unequaled by any previous Mexican leader.

Villa was fearless, some might even say reckless. One of his most notorious exploits was a raid on the town of Columbus, New Mexico, on March 9, 1916. The intent was to retrieve supplies for his army but, unfortunately, it resulted in the deaths not only of several of his men but of civilians in the United States. It was the only incursion by a foreign army on U.S. soil since the British, during the War of 1812. It provoked the ire of President Woodrow Wilson who ordered an expeditionary force to cross the Mexican border and hunt him down. 

General John (“Blackjack”) Pershing assembled a punitive expeditionary force consisting primarily of cavalry and artillery. They were 6,000 men armed with machine guns, Springfield rifles, and automatic pistols. They searched for almost a year and found no sign of Villa, although they fought several skirmishes with his men. In February 1917, they were withdrawn to fight in Europe, after the U.S. entered World War I. 

Villa, meanwhile, had parted ways with fellow revolutionary and later president, Venustiano Carranza, and had become engaged in a civil war. He was given amnesty in 1920, after the death of Carranza, and settled on a 25,000-acre farm with several hundred of his men and a generous pension. But he still had many enemies, especially among those generals who fought against him, including one Alvaro Obregon, a former Carranza ally, who ordered Villa killed.

Another friend of Obregon, who earlier had fought by Villa’s side but joined with the opposition and considered Villa a loose cannon, was the American soldier of fortune, Emil Holmdahl. He believed that Villa had hidden several million dollars’ worths of gold in the Sierra Madres. He had made several expeditions in search of the treasure but was unsuccessful.

On the night that Villa’s tomb was robbed, Holmdahl was suspiciously in Parral, Chihuahua. He was arrested by federal police the following day, along with a companion, and charged with vandalizing Villa’s grave. He was released after the intercession of an influential local rancher, Ben F. Williams. While Holmdahl never publicly admitted the decapitation and theft, a strong suspicion remains. According to the official biography of Williams, written by his daughter, Holmdahl told her father privately that he had stolen the head for a customer in the States. 

A persistent rumor is that the trophy is now part of a ritual of the secret Skull and Bones Society at Yale University, an organization which has included many powerful officials in the U.S., and which has been under investigation for its arcane and questionable rituals.

In the 2004 Presidential campaign, an interviewer asked both former President Bush and Senator John Kerry about their membership in Skull and Bones, to which the President replied; “It’s so secret we can’t talk about it.”

Source: Northamerican Project

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