10 Real-Life Inspirations For Indiana Jones

7. Frederick Russell Burnham

Frederick Russell Burnham

Photo via Wikimedia

Called “He Who Sees in the Dark,” Frederick Russell Burnham was a US scout and Native American tracker who made a name for himself in Africa as a British spy and adventurer. If he truly helped to inspire Indiana Jones, then Indy would be the second fictional character touched by his larger-than-life legacy. The first was Allan Quartermain, H. Rider Haggard’s heroic big game hunter. (On a stranger note, if history had gone in a different direction, Burnham would be better known as one of the two men who first introduced hippopotamus meat into the Western diet.)

Armed with his trusty six-shooter, Lee-Metford rifle, and various indigenous weapons, Burnham became one of the most feared and respected scouts in North America and Africa. In the US, Burnham fought with the Army in the Southwest during the Apache Wars. In Africa, he participated in both the Matabele Wars, which helped to win what became known as Rhodesia for the British South Africa Company. Burnham also fought in the bloody Second Boer War, where he frequently worked behind the lines doing covert operations such as dynamiting Boer infrastructure. Burnham’s exploits in Africa (which include the assassination of Mlimo, the Matabele spiritual leader who fomented the rebellion that helped to spark the Second Matabele War, and his leadership of the feared Lovat Scouts, a Highlander regiment in the British Army) helped to make him one Great Britain’s biggest heroes.

Outside of war, Burnham made his mark in other arenas. Besides partaking in the Klondike Gold Rush, Burnham also found time to help found the modern Boy Scouts along with Robert Baden-Powell, whom he had met during the Second Matabele War. While in Mexico with celebrated fisherman Charles Frederick Holder, Burnham uncovered a large, inscribed stone in the Yaqui River Valley that has since come to be known as the Esperanza Stone. The stone, with its bizarre symbols and unknown origin, remains a favorite topic of discussion among Forteans, or the followers of paranormal researcher Charles Fort, who examined the stone as part of his The Book of the Damned.

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