A doll has continued to inspire curiosity after it was found inside the London Bridge two years ago, and Lake Havasu Visitor Center officials are still trying to decide what to do with it.
The doll was crafted in the likeness of former Lake Havasu City Herald columnist Jack Hardie, who was a well-known figure in the early days of Lake Havasu City. Before the London Bridge was dedicated in 1971, the doll was secreted away within the bridge’s western facade, beneath a concrete slab. For almost 50 years, the doll’s resting place was inscribed with the names of five of the bridge’s builders, and the words: “Here lies Jack Hardie.”
The doll was found by Lake Havasu City bridge maintenance workers in 2018. According to city employee Chris Rickard, the work crew was overseeing a bridge maintenance project to stabilize the bridge’s southern abutment when they found the stone.
“The stone covering the coffee can that the doll was placed in is about two feet in diameter and made of concrete,” Rickard said in a Facebook post about the doll on Friday. “The stone was made to look like a headstone. It is on the south stairs on the Island side,tucked under an overhang.”
According to Havasu resident Ric Elliott, the doll’s head was crafted by his mother, Betty Elliott, for a time capsule that would be placed within the bridge.
But as for why the doll was made in Hardie’s likeness, and why it was placed within the bridge — it all started with a bet.
According to a Lake Havasu City Herald story published Oct. 7, 1971, Hardie made a bet with Bob Beresford, who was a resident engineer for the U.K. company commissioned to build the London Bridge in Havasu. Hardie bet Beresford a bottle of scotch that the bridge would not be completed by Aug. 31 of that year.
Hardie collected on his bet that September, when all but a single section of the bridge’s railing had been constructed.
“Should you choose to gloat in public, I hope you will make it clear to your admirers that you are claiming a technical victory on the basis of four stones missing out of a total placed of 10,276,” Beresford reportedly said.
According to the story, Hardie did indeed gloat — but Beresford had the last laugh.
Beresford was joined by Herald photographer Bob Bilderback and director of bridge construction Carl Baker, who reportedly came up with the idea for what would be a “voodoo doll” of Hardie, to be placed in a time capsule within the bridge.
On Oct. 4, 1971, the three gathered with like-minded Havasu residents Steve Meyers, Eloise Black and Lee Shoblom. In a strange ceremony, the group’s members each stuck a pin in the doll before sealing it in a coffee can to be secreted within the London Bridge
“I have loved Jack dearly,”. Beresford reportedly said as he stuck his pin into Hardie’s likeness. “But after his ridiculous crying about his victory in the matter of completing the bridge, I wish to see him immortalized in the deepest bowels of the bridge.”
Even Bilderback took some amount of joy in the joke at his former coworker’s expense.
“I think this is the type of thing a man should do for a friend,” Bilderback said. “This should be done to a friend who would place some rotten shrimp in the darkroom under the plumbing in 120-degree weather, and leave it there for the weekend. This, definitely, is a giant step in the betterment of mankind.”
Today, the doll is kept in a display case in the office of Lake Havasu Visitor Center Director Jan Cassies. According to Havasu business owner Danny Finch, Cassies has declined offers to display the doll over the bar at the nearby Blue Chair restaurant.
Instead, Cassies says he plans to display the doll at the visitor center, if he can find an appropriate place for it.
The Lake Havasu City Herald was a predecessor of Today’s News-Herald.