Lake Delavan Giant Skeletons

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This image is often found in 21st century pseudoarchaeological articles about the Lake Delavan Giant Skeletons. This image is not the Lake Delavan Skeletons. It is a picture of Queen Elizabeth looking at the bones of Charles Byrne in 1962.[1]

Lake Delavan Giant Skeletons Excavation

Physical Description of Skeletons

News of Lake Delavan Giant Skeletons first appeared on May 3rd, 1912 in The La Crosse Tribune, a local newspaper from La Crosse, Wisconsin.[2] This article stated that the skeletons provided evidence for Darwin's theory of evolution. They believed that these skeletons could be the species that humans descended from. The article claims that some of the skulls that they found were abnormally large and had abnormal physical characteristics when compared to a modern human skull. They said that the skulls would "slope straight back and the nasal bones protrude far above the cheek bones".[2] The article also remarks that the jaw bones of the skulls are long and pointed and that some people who examined them were reminded of the heads of monkeys.[2] Further information about these skeletons was published on May 4th, 1912 in the New York Times. The New York Times article is very similar to The La Crosse Tribune article. It differs in that the New York Times does not mention Darwin's theory of evolution but instead chooses to say that the skeletons belong to "an unknown race of men". [3] The New York Times article goes into more detail about the skeletons. It describes them as having rectangular molars in the front of the jaw. The article also described smaller skeletons that were found. The smaller skeletons were assumed to be female skeletons and "were embedded in charcoal clay to shed water from sepulchre".[3] Although this information is all that can be found today describing the physical characteristics of the skeletons, several articles written in the twenty first century further describe their physical attributes. They say that the skeletons ranged in height from 7.6 feet to 10 feet tall, often had a double row of teeth, 6 fingers, 6 toes and came in different races. It was also believed that the elongated skull was a result of a life span greater than the average human. [4]

Location of Excavation

Lake Delavan is located in Walworth County, Wisconsin, United States. [5] The skeletons were not found in the lake. According to the articles written by The New York Times and The La Crosse Tribune, the skeletons were found inside a large mound on Lake Lawn farm by the Phillips brothers.[2][3] The skeletons are called Lake Delavan Giant Skeletons because Lake Lawn farm was close to Lake Delavan. As of 2021, Lake Lawn farm is Lake Lawn resort and it is on the shoreline of Lake Delavan.[6] Many articles written in the twenty first century about the Lake Delavan Giant Skeletons reference Kristan Harris’s blog post that states, “The dig site at Lake Delavan was overseen by Beloit College and it included more than 200 effigy mounds that proved to be classic examples of 8th century Woodland Culture.”[4]

Were the Lake Delavan Giant Skeletons Real?

While there is clear evidence that skeletons were found in a mound near Lake Delavan, the evidence that they were giants is nonexistent. Both News articles from 1912 mentioned that the skulls of the skeletons appeared strange but no information about height was given.[2][3] The first time these skeletons were said to be giants was in Kristan Harris’s blog post in 2013.[4] As Harris did not provide any sources for this claim and there is no other proof to support their statement that these skeletons were giants, it is clear that their claim is false. It is likely that they had read the news reports of giant skeletons being found around 1912 and did not realize the Lake Delavan skeletons did not fit into this category.


Burial Mounds

Digram of burial mound,[7].

Although neither news article in 1912 that reported on the skeletons found specified that the mounds the skeletons were found inside were burial mounds, given current knowledge of Native American practices in that region of the United States, that indicates that these sites were burial mounds. Burial mounds were used by some Native Americans as a custom to bury their dead. A burial mound would rarely exceed 10 feet in height and would usually be around 3 feet to 6 feet in height.[8] Burial Mounds often contained more than one skeleton.[8] The skeletons were found in positions indicating that the people were buried in a “sitting or partly kneeling posture facing the east, with the legs placed under them.”[8] The bodies would have a roof built over them out of bark or log before the rest of the mound was built.[8] The Lake Delavan Giant Skeletons were found in Southern Wisconsin which is in the area known as Effigy Mound Region.[9] Effigy mounds are mounds built in the shapes of animals such as birds, bears and panthers.[9] There were also many burial mounds in Wisconsin. Many of the burial mounds have been destroyed by excavation, by the flattening of land for buildings or roads, and by the work of natural weather and time.[9] Today, most burial mounds can be found in National Parks and State Parks and are protected from unauthorized disturbances by Wisconsin State Law. [9]

Other Skeletons

The Lake Delavan Giant Skeletons found in 1912 were not the first skeletons to be found in Wisconsin. In 1897, 15 years before the Lake Delavan Giant Skeletons were discovered, The New York Times published a very brief section in their newspaper released on December 20th about a large skeleton found in a mound.[10] The New York Times wrote that the skeleton of a man slightly taller than 9 feet was found when a large mound was opened in Maple Creek, Wisconsin.[10] The article also stated that, “The skull was as large as a half bushel measure. Some finely tempered rods of copper and other relics were lying near the bones.”[10] In 1916, four years after Lake Delavan Giant Skeletons were discovered, The New York Times reported the discovery of different giant skeletons in Pennsylvania.[11] On July 14th, 1916, The New York Times published an article about bones discovered by Professor A. B. Skinner of the American Indian Museum, Professor W. K. Morehead of Phillips Andover Academy, and Dr. George Donohue from Pennsylvania University.[11] They found the bones of sixty eight people that they believed were buried around the year 1200.[11] The height of these skeletons was said to be, on average, seven feet tall with some skeletons being taller than seven feet.[11] The article also states that, “Further evidence of their gigantic size was found in large celts or axes hewed from stones and buried in the grave.”[11]

Pseudoarchaeological significance

What fuels the Belief that Giants once Walked the Earth?


There are many examples in Christianity where the bible states that giants once existed. One such example is “There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” (Genesis 6:4). Millions of people believe that the bible is based on reality. They will seek out anything that will support their beliefs. This means that when something is found they are less likely to question the scientific accuracy of the finding. An example of this is the case of the Cardiff Giant. The Cardiff Giant is a ten foot tall gypsum figure of a man that was said to be the fossilized remains of the ancient race mentioned in Genesis.[12] “‘Found’ in the heart of New York’s Burnt Over District, the Giant benefited from the religious fervor sweeping the area” [12] and because of this people did not question the scientific accuracy of the finding enough to realize that it was a fake. The Cardiff Giant was actually created by George Hull after he had an argument with a revivalist minister about the biblical passage in Genesis that mentioned giants.[12] Hull had “Argued that the Bible was filled with tall tails that only the gullible would believe” [13] and created the Cardiff Giant Hoax to prove his point. It is possible that someone staged the finding of the Lake Delavan Giant Skeletons with the same motive as George Hull.


Every great discovery can bring fame to those who discover it. It does not matter if the findings are real as long as people are willing to believe they are. The case Piltdown Man forgery shows an example of how fame could motivate someone to make a fake discovery of human fossils.

Piltdown Man Hoax

Charles Dawson and Arthur Woodward forged a skull to make it appear as if they discovered a real human fossil.[13] They became famous in archeology for the extraordinary find because it provided support for the brain centered theory of evolution.[13] Their positive fame lasted for 40 years until their “discovery” was proven to be a fake.[13]


Although there is no record of anyone making money off of the Lake Delavan Giant Skeletons, they also can not be found in any museum. It is possible that they were a part of an attraction in a similar way the Cardiff Giant was and were discarded once they were no longer profitable. People are curious by nature and will pay to see attractions that spark their interest. In 1869, the Cardiff Giant was such a profitable roadside attraction that P.T. Barnum offered $150,000 to buy it so he could use it in his own sideshow attractions.[12] Today $150,000 is worth $3,050,613.97.[14] If the Cardiff giant was to be that profitable, it is a reasonable possibility that someone tried to copy the idea with the Lake Delavan Giant Skeletons.


Robert Wadlow, tallest man ever.[15].

Although a giant race of humans has never existed, it is possible that some of the skeletons that have been labeled as such are real skeletons but they are from humans with gigantism. They are not a separate species or race of giants. Gigantism is caused by “an excess of growth hormone (GH) during childhood, before the bone growth plates have closed”[16] and causes the person to grow to an extraordinary height. People with gigantism have been documented to grow to heights of almost 9 feet tall. The tallest man on record is Robert Wadlow.[17] He lived from 1918 to 1940 and was recorded by Norris and Ross McWhirter to be 8 feet and 11.1 inches tall.[17] Robert Wadlow was recorded in the Guinness World Records to be the tallest man ever because he was “the tallest man ‘of whom there is irrefutable evidence’"[17]. It is possible that hundreds of years ago there were cases where a person with gigantism grew to be even taller than Robert Wadlow. This could explain single abnormally large skeletons that have been found in cases other than the Lake Delavan Giant Skeletons. It is still most likely that the skeletons found near Lake Delavan were not of abnormal height and unreliable sources spread the rumor that labeled those skeletons as giant.

How does this impact science?

Hoaxes like the Lake Delavan skeletons being giants negatively impacts the reliability of science. When misinformation that is presenting itself in a scientific way spreads, people lose their trust in scientists. This means that when people are presented with true scientific facts they may choose not to believe them simply because they come from a scientific perspective.

The Smithsonian Cover Up Theory

The Smithsonian Cover Up Theory is the theory that the Smithsonian has been destroying the bones of the ancient civilization of giants.[18] This theory was sprung into popularity by an article published by World News Daily Report titled “Smithsonian Admits to Destruction of Thousands of Giant Human Skeletons in Early 1900’s”.[18] The article cites a Supreme Court case and several images to support their claim.[18] Under further investigation their sources are found to be faked or nonexistent.[18] The court case was completely made up.[18] There is no record of it and if it did exist it would be a “matter of public record and widely reported in mainstream publications due to its notability”. All images were not from where the article claimed they originated.[18]


  1. Magazine, Smithsonian. “Why the Skeleton of the ‘Irish Giant’ Could Be Buried at Sea.”, Smithsonian Institution, 26 June 2018,
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "Find Skeletons at Lake Delavan?" The La Crosse Tribune Limited [La Crosse, Wisconsin], 03 May 1912, Accessed 13 Now. 2021.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Strange Skeletons Found. (1912, May 4). New York Tomes, Page 13.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Harris, Kristan. “A Giant Mystery: General Discussion: Forum: Faygoluvers: Forum: Faygoluvers.” Faygoluvers RSS, 6 Feb. 2013,
  5. “Delavan Lake Walworth County, 1906 Acres.” Delavan Lake,
  6. “Wisconsin Resorts – Lake Lawn Resort – Delavan, WI.” Lake Lawn Resort, 26 Nov. 2021,
  7. THOMAS, CYRUS. Burial Mounds of the Northern Sections of the United States. SALZWASSER-VERLAG GMBH, 2018, gutenberg,, Accessed 28 Nov. 2021.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 THOMAS, CYRUS. Burial Mounds of the Northern Sections of the United States. SALZWASSER-VERLAG GMBH, 2018, gutenberg,, Accessed 28 Nov. 2021.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 “Burial Mounds.” Burial Mounds | Wisconsin DNR,
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Skeleton Found of a Man Over Nine Feet High with an Enormous Skull. (1897, December 20). New York Times, Page 1.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 Scientists Unearth Relies of Indians Who Lived 700 Years Ago. (1916, July 14). New York Times, Page 6.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Pkadmin. “Cardiff Giant.” The Farmers Museum, The Farmers Museum, 29 Aug. 2019,
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Watrall, Ethan. “Human-Evolution-Hoaxes-Lecture-2.” 2021.
  14. “Inflation Rate between 1869-2021: Inflation Calculator.” $150,000 In 1869 → 2021 | Inflation Calculator,
  15. Atwal, Sanj. “Why Robert Wadlow Will Be the Tallest Person Ever, Forever.” Guinness World Records, Guinness World Records, 21 Oct. 2021,
  16. “Gigantism.” Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 10 Feb. 2017,
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 “Robert Wadlow: Tallest Man Ever.” Guinness World Records,
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 LaCapria, Kim. “Did the Smithsonian Destroy Thousands of Giant Human Skeletons?”, 17 Dec. 2014,