Lost in time: Richard Halliburton

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Richard Halliburton | Public domain | 14335

Richard Halliburton, an American traveller, adventurer, and author, was born on January 9, 1900 and was presumed dead after March 24, 1939. He was famous from the 1920s onwards for daredevil adventures, including swimming the Panama Canal. His final and fatal adventure was an attempt to sail a Chinese junk across the Pacific Ocean from Hong Kong to the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco.

Wikipedia sums up a complex personality succinctly: “The words of Oscar Wilde, who in works like The Picture of Dorian Gray enjoined experiencing the moment before it vanished, inspired Halliburton to reject marriage, family, a regular job, and conventional respectability as the obvious steps after graduation. He liked bachelorhood, youthful adventure, and the thrill of the unknown.”

An explorer in the age of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, and as successful as an author, his books contained unbridled enthusiasm for whatever place his was exploring. The Great Depression put an end to such adventures and he started writing a series of children’s adventure books, called “Richard Halliburton’s Book of Marvels”. Its sales soared while taking children around the world to its wondrous sights as they sat in the comfort of their own bedrooms.

In 1939, he built an oversized Chinese junk to sail it from Hong Kong to San Francisco, to arrive during the 1939 World’s Fair. He never made it. Within months of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, Halliburton was lost at sea, along with his crew. No trace was ever found of him.

There were rumours that he was recruited by President Franklin Roosevelt to spy on the Japanese.

Halliburton kept secret his true sexual orientation from the public and his family but film star Ramón Novarro and philanthropist Noel Sullivan are linked romantically to him, while his most enduring relationship was with freelance journalist Paul Mooney, with whom he often shared living quarters and who assisted him with his written work.

Updated 20 November 2014. Photo replaced.


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