Melvin and Howard: The saga of a billionaire’s missing will

Mysteries

Did billionaire Howard Hughes leave his fortune to delivery driver Melvin Dummar? The strange saga of the "Mormon Will" played out in court after Hughes' death 45 years ago.

Howard Hughes seated in an automobile.

MYSTERY WIRE — When eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes died 45 years ago this week, he set off a frenzied scramble for control of his estate. A lengthy court battle was about to begin because most people believed Hughes did not leave a will.

However, a likeable delivery driver from rural Nevada named Melvin Dummar claimed he was named in Hughes’ will which he hand delivered to the Mormon church.

Dummar says he was on his way to Los Angeles in December 1967. As he was driving across the Nevada desert, just past the Cottontail Ranch brothel east of Death Valley, Dummar says he spotted a disheveled old man on a dirt road just off the highway.

Claimant to Howard Hughes’ will, Melvin Dummar.

“I was going down through Vegas and then on down to Cypress, California and just passed the Cottontail Ranch,” Dummar said during a 2006 interview. “I decided to, you know, pull off and relieve myself and I pulled off onto a little dirt road. And that’s where I found Hughes. And I wanted to, you know, at first I thought he was dead because you’re just laying in this little dirt road and one of the ruts of the road. And so, but then you know, it didn’t take very long I seen him start to move. And I said well, whoever it is least if they’re not dead, they’re in pretty bad shape, but they’re not dead. And so I got out and helped him up and brought him over, put him in the car, and asked if I could take him to a hospital or doctor and asked him if I could take him to the police. And he didn’t want nothing to do with hospitals or doctors or police or anything. He just wanted to go to Vegas and I said well, okay, I’m going down there through there anyway, so I’ll take you to Vegas.”

Dummar says as he was driving to Las Vegas that’s when the man told him he was Howard Hughes. Dummar didn’t believe him and dropped him off at the Sands Hotel.

The story of that fateful drive was told later in an Oscar winning film “Melvin and Howard.”

During the drive, Dummar says he told the man he had tried but failed to get a job at Hughes Aviation. “He told me he knew something about Hughes Aircraft because he owned it,” Dummar said. “He says, ‘I’m familiar with that because I own it.’ And I thought, yeah, right. sure you do. You look like a bum from skid row. That was my impression of him.”

It was nine years later, on April 5th 1976, when Howard Hughes died, and no one could find a will.

With his vast fortune up for grabs, a mysterious document surfaced, naming Dummar and the Mormon church as beneficiaries. The so-called ‘Mormon Will’ nearly destroyed Dummar’s life.

Dummar claimed an anonymous man dropped off the “Mormon Will” at his gas station in Utah one day. The will stated Dummar was left one-sixteenth of the Hughes estate.

In a highly publicized hearing in Las Vegas in 1977, Dummar was raked over the coals and the will rejected as a forgery. He did admit to opening the envelope at the gas station, reading the will, resealing the envelope before delivering it to the church, and then lying about being the person who delivered the will to the church.

Later in life, Dummar was able to laugh about his ordeal in a song he wrote.

Some of the lyrics in the song are Dummar telling people to “hear my warning if you’re driving through the desert, never stop and give anyone a ride. Because if they’re rich and they leave you in their will, it’s guaranteed to screw up your life, like mine.”

Former FBI agent Gary Magnesen also wrote a book about the legal battle over the will titled “The Investigation: A Former FBI Agent Uncovers the Truth Behind Howard Hughes, Melvin Dummar, and the Most Contested Will in American History”.

Magnesen, according to Dummar was skeptical of his story until he did his own research. “So he decided to do it and do a little checking,” Dummar said. “And I guess, from listening to him, you know, that things started checking out and one thing led to another. He said, ‘Wait a minute, you know, this is like a big puzzle.’ And he started putting it back together, saying, man … I think, totally changed his mind.”

Dummar was also the focus of a monologue by Johnny Carson on his late-night talk show and appeared on several game shows. He was on Let’s Make a Deal, Hollywood Squares and The Price Is Right.

Melvin Dummar passed away in Pahrump, NV on December 9, 2018. He was 74-years-old.


Below you can watch an entire interview by George Knapp with Melvin Dummar, read the transcript of the interview, and watch several reports that originally aired in 1977 and 1978 on KLAS-TV in Las Vegas, NV.

George Knapp 
Melvin, tell me what your life is like now in terms of, you know, now that the book is out. And part of you has gotta be glad that it’s lending support to your story you’ve told all those years. Part of you has got to be tired of telling the same stuff over again.

Mel Dummar
At least now somebody come out that actually believes it and we’re getting a lot of supporting evidence to show that I wasn’t lying about picking up Hughes and it does make me feel a lot better for what it’s worth. I just for almost 20 years, I was in, you know, a state of I don’t even know how to explain it where I almost felt like I was just living zombie, you know, because I, I didn’t really want to talk to anybody I didn’t, I kind of would want to spend a lot of time by myself, not even socialize with people. And it’s kind of starting to turn around. Well, in the 80s, late 70s, I used to like to go out in the entertain and sing, and for almost 20 years, I just stopped everything. It seemed like, I mean, I would try to earn a living the best I could, but it was hard.

George Knapp 
Hard, because why? Because you people didn’t believe you.

Mel Dummar 
You know I’d hear the snickers, you know, the people talking and everything and it bothered me. And therefore I didn’t, you know, make a whole lot of friends and just kind of withdrew from before Hughes died. I was kind of investing in real estate and stuff like that. And we were doing fairly good. And I think that by now I’d have been totally retired. You know, if Hughes hadn’t remembered me, but then you know, because of the situation that, you know, we had to sell just about everything we owned it and it just, I like lost my ambition and everything because of it.

George Knapp 
Tell me about this. Gary Magnesen the FBI guy, how is it that he came to contact you?

Mel Dummar  
Gary Magnesen, I got a job working for Asset Recovery. Which liquidates bankruptcies You know, when stores go out of business and stuff. And I was working with this brother Dean. And I’d worked off and on with him doing several different jobs over the years. And he’d told me that his brother was in the FBI. And then, just a few years ago, his brother retired from the FBI and he, and I guess it was Dean Magnesenthat got him and his brother, he said, You got to go talk to Melvin. So Dean put him in contact with me. And so Gary came up and seen me. And first time, I talked to Gary and met him. He just, you know, basically asked me about what happened and everything. And from talking to him, I could see that, you know, he didn’t believe me, you know, Gary didn’t. And but I told him, you know, my involvement, what had happened as far as I knew, and I told him, I’m not trying to to persuade you one way or the other. I said, this is what happened, this is what I went through, go check it out yourself, you know, just, you know, find out for yourself.

George Knapp   
And he decided to do it just for…

Mel Dummar   
So he decided to do it and do a little checking and, and I guess, from listening to him, you know, that things started checking out and one thing led to another, he said, Wait a minute, you know, this is like a big puzzle. And he started putting it back together, saying, man, and he, I think, totally changed his mind.

George Knapp 
Was there one thing that happened that he found when he called you on the phone and said, hey Melvin, I think I finally believe you?

Mel Dummar  
Well, one of the things he found or even before he found, Darrell, was the records of the mining claims in the locations where they were. And you know, that they were recorded, there was recorded evidence. And the exact road that I picked up Hughes on, Hughes at that particular time, had an option on the mining claims that was on that road. And he exercised that option that was only about 20 days or so before his option run out that that he had on the mining claims it was there and he was, Hughes was trying to corner the gold and silver market and he ended up buying hundreds of mining claims, but those were the some of the first ones that he got in … well, he had the option on him in late 1967, early ’68. And it’s recorded, you know, the dates and the locations and everything and then then of course when Bob Darrell he got ahold of Johnny Meyer and then Bob Darrell called and I listened to Bob Darrell called me and he called me after that one article you have and told me a story and of course Gary was already started on the book and I said I told Bob I said there’s somebody else I’d like you to talk to and please give him a call and tell him tell him what you know what you know about it and so he did and so.

George Knapp   
Were you and Bonnie at all worried about the possibility of a book opening this thing up all over again? 

Mel Dummar
Well, I knew Gary, you know he wanted to do something and so it didn’t take him too long to get back with me and I knew that he had found some things that was in my favor and like, you know, it because he started checking out the location and the records in the mining claims and and then I think pretty early on he got a hold of Johnny Meyer and Johnny Meyer told him some stuff and so he said you know maybe there is something to this and so he, I think he got more and more intrigued as the time went on but I think it wasn’t too long after he talked to me that you know that he did a few calls and a few checks that he found out that you know there was something to it.

George Knapp   
So you were not worried that this is going to open it all up and cause problems for you and your wife?

Mel Dummar   
No I really didn’t worry about it causing problems because everything that my involvement is all out in the open and everybody knows what I’d done and so I figured well what the heck is going to hurt me any worse than it already has so you know like told him go for it you know whatever, you know, because i don’t have anything to hide you know and even when I picked Hughes up and stuff the only thing that I regret is when all this first happened is LeVane Forsythe bringing that will to me and not knowing who you was or where he was from or why he left it with me, it scared the living daylights out of me and I just didn’t know how to handle it and so my curiosity over the will itself and when I steamed it open and read it and found out what what it was was I didn’t even know what to do with it other than it was like a you know picking up a hot potato, I didn’t want to hold it any longer than I absolutely had to and so since it was addressed to the president of the Mormon church I decided well that’s where I should take it and so when I took it down there and tried to see the president of the church and they wouldn’t let me to see him they told me I had to make appointments and go through a lot of rigmarole I didn’t want to hold it any longer and I had to so I, since I couldn’t get in to see him I just put in another envelope and left it on a desk there so that you know that it would get to him addressed it to the then current president of church. But then when the news media got ahold of it, like the next day or a couple of days later, and I was listening to the news and I heard it on the news before anybody ever got a hold of me and they said a mysterious woman had delivered this will to the Mormon church and I thought well if they think a mysterious woman delivered this will to the church I’m just going to let them believe that because at that point in time I didn’t know if it was real or if it was a fake myself and so I just thought, well if they think a mysterious woman delivered it and if it’s a fake you know I don’t want anything part of it so I’m just gonna let him believe that and that caught me in a lie and i regret that part. So then, you know ,after you know they start checking everything out then I had to tell him you know exactly what happened and how it happened and that’s what really you know hurt me and I had to live with that and that’s one of the biggest lessons of life you know, if you tell the truth then you don’t have to worry about it. I mean you know, let it run its course as long as you’re telling the truth you know you don’t have to remember what you said because the truth is always the truth.

George Knapp 
You became an overnight celebrity right? An international celebrity.

Mel Dummar 
Yeah it was for a short period of time and then everybody started calling me a liar and a con and a forger and you know whatever else they could come up with.

George Knapp 
Well let’s talk about the short period time first what that was like, that must have been a heck of a ride wasn’t it?

Mel Dummar 
Actually, to me, it was a little nerve wracking and scary, you know, because, you know, people, right from the get go people start coming out of the woodwork and you know, just because of the news, people thought automatically you had all this money and it got to be a little scary. Because people, even though a lot of people, you know, just said congratulations and all that, there was a lot of people want me to contribute to whatever cause they had going. And then there was other people that started coming out of the woodwork claiming they were with me, and that I should share it with them. And a lot of people who was thinking that I already automatically had all the money and started coming around demanding that I give them money and as a consequence, I got, you know, threatened you know, got my life threatened, got, you know, just, you know, threatened that, you know, they’re gonna blow up my house or car, you know, if I didn’t give them money and had people pull knives on me and guns on me and everything, you know, just claiming they were with me, or they wanted part of the money or, you know, for whatever reason, and it got a little spooky for a while.

George Knapp   
What was the other , was there a good part of that? I mean, you know, you’re doing TV appearances, radio appearances?

Mel Dummar 
Well, it was and then, you know, they came to me wanting to make movies and things and so. But it turned around so quickly. Even the movie, the movie, Melvin and Howard that we signed a contract for. The handwriting experts, right at first was all saying that it was legitimate that it was Howard Hughes’ handwriting. And then all of a sudden, they started turning around and say no it wasn’t. I know part of the reason behind that now. But right when we’re signing the movie contract. And then you know, at first handwriting experts, and everybody was saying it was legitimate. And then they started saying that it was a forgery. Some of the same handwriting experts, you know, what is going on here. And so what they originally wanted to offer me to make the movie, they cut that way down. You know, because something you know, they started getting some negative publicity. And I understand now about some of the handwriting experts were the president of the American Handwriting Association, a guy by the name of Harris. Some of the handwriting experts that originally said that it was authentic, when it came to trying to get them to testify in court. They wouldn’t do it because they were threatened by someone that if they testified that it was legitimate, that they’d be blackballed from the American Handwriting Association. Now where those threats come from, I don’t know. But you know, a lot of things like that started happening. And it made me start wondering, you know.

George Knapp 
Do you own a copy of the movie? You watch it? Do you ever watch it?

Mel Dummar  
Oh, not too often anymore. Every once while it’s on TV, and if I happened upon it, I think in December they showed it on TV about three or four different times.

George Knapp  
What do you think about it?

Mel Dummar 
I think that if they’d have made it more realistic, I mean, exactly what happened would probably, would have been a better movie, that’s what it was. It was a good movie but I think that they even filmed more that they cut out of the movie because they, it was too long.

George Knapp 
What about the portrayal of Paul Le Mat of you?

Mel Dummar
Paul Le Mat, he did a fair job. Personally I wanted to play myself and I drove him nuts because first you know, I told him well, I don’t think anybody can play me better than myself. And they got fed up with me they even hang up on me, because I’d go, just let me try.

George Knapp  
But I mean, he seemed really likable. You seem like a likable character in that movie. And I know maybe you know it showed your life with warts and all and everything but as a movie fan I just thought you came across pretty well.

Mel Dummar   
See, the thing about that. bless her heart, my ex wife, they made it look like I was really a loser. I mean getting my cars repossessed all the time and boats repossessed and you know they kind of exaggerated a little bit. Well yeah I did that I mean I was very good at whatever you know like a salesman and I did win contests at the dairy and in thanking him for getting new customers but in fact that’s where I got my first color TV because I won it from the dairy.  But how they put things together like my ex wife going on a TV show and buying a house and then me going out and buying a Cadillac and a boat and all that. I had, you know, the Cadillac and the boat and we did buy a house based on my ex wife’s winnings on Let’s Make a Deal, but they changed it all around. I bought a boat here in Utah, the only boat I’ve ever owned, and it wasn’t didn’t have anything to do with the movie. In fact, it was when my wife and I were divorced. We weren’t even married. I wasn’t even in California. But I did have a boat for a while and it never got repossessed, we ended up selling it after Bonnie and I got married, moved back to Utah. But, and one of the Cadillacs that I got. Yeah, I had an Eldorado convertible then, but my wife and I, Linda wasn’t even together at the time. But we kind of got back together and one of her good buddies, friends, barroom buddies, wanted to buy the car because I decided I wanted to sell it. And so he wanted to take it for a test drive. And you know, he said he was gonna buy it. I never seen the car again. He just like stole it. Gone. And so I told the finance company to you know, find it because I had no clue where it went. I didn’t even know where this guy lived. And then another car repossessed is because we’re right there when I picked up Hughes, the same car that I picked Hughes in, got repossessed, because I did on that particular trip. I went to California because my wife had run off some other guy. I went down there in California, picked her up. We went back to Nevada because I was living in Gabs. But a few months later, she took that car and ran off with another guy from Hawthorne, and ended up in Las Vegas but with the same car that I picked up Hughes in and it was a 1966 Chevrolet Caprice. And my feeling when she took off, I wasn’t gonna pay for a car for her and some other guy to run around in. So I just stopped paying on it. And it was kind of funny because it was in 1968. I went to Vegas, I’d file for divorce and I went to Vegas looking for Linda because I knew she moved there and I found out where she was working…

George Knapp 
You made her sign the papers?

Mel Dummar 
Yeah, and so I went to Las Vegas, but I found the car before I found her while I found it you know where she was working in the California Club in Vegas. But I found the car parked I think it was called the Rancho market or something I can’t remember for sure. But I seem I was driving down the road because I we had two cars and I see my car. It was very easily recognizable. Because my wife had tried to run over me before the driver’s door of the car was caved in and stuff and so you can tell …

George Knapp  
Did she hit you with the car?

Mel Dummar 
The car that I was driving at that time looking for her was her actually her car, but we left it in California when I picked her up and went back to Nevada but before I went to Nevada, she tried to run me down and then I jumped out of the way and so she crashed in beside the car. So, but anyway, we had some good fights. But anyway, when I found the car, it was interesting to me that there was a note in that car the the 66 Caprice and I can’t remember who it was from or if it was even signed. But I was living in Gabs, and this was in Las Vegas. And there was a note in the car asking if I’d moved to Las Vegas, which I hadn’t. And then it was asking me to go to some bank in Las Vegas and ask for somebody that I didn’t didn’t even know. And I didn’t know what it was all about. So I just I think I just threw the note away.

George Knapp   
So it wasn’t a note, somebody had found the car, slipped it into the car and was asking him to come see.

Mel Dummar  
Yeah, well, it was telling, asking me if I’d moved to Vegas and asking me to go to some bank there in Las Vegas.

George Knapp 
That’s pretty strange.

Mel Dummar  
Yeah, I thought it was kind of strange. But see, when I was down there, I was there to have Linda served with divorce papers and it was on a weekend and and I didn’t even have a bank account. So I said, I don’t know what this is all about. So I didn’t I didn’t follow up on it. 

George Knapp
You weren’t really thinking on the will and all that stuff at the time?

Mel Dummar 
No, no, I don’t even know if it was associated. But it could have been because it was right in that same time frame. I think it was like in April of or maybe May of 68 and, and but whoever it was knew my car, or knew that car.

George Knapp 
I want to ask you about the obvious question about that night picking him up. You were on your way to…?

Mel Dummar
I was on my way to California..

George Knapp  
To find your wife?

Mel Dummar  
Yeah. Because, see, I was living in California. And she run off with a guy and we had you know, pretty good little fight and stuff and that’s when she kind of crashed in the side of my car a little bit and, and so I got mad and quit my job and moved back up to Nevada because that’s where I was raised and I was then moved up to Gabs. I’ve got a couple of brothers that live there and I still live there in Gabs. So I moved up there and got a job but I was still crazy. I want to run back and forth and find her. And I found out that the guy she’d run off with they’d had a fight and so she was back at her mother’s place in Cypress California. So, this is one things they screwed up in a movie. On the 27th of December of 67, I had a motorcycle and I was there in Gabs and I was trying some of the Evil Knievel stuff, seeing how far I could jump it. Well, it didn’t work too good. And I kind of crashed and burned. And my whole face, they took me to Hawthorne because it knocked me out, my whole face was a big scab. I mean, it was just horribly, you know, ripped up. I’m surprised I don’t have scars all over my face. But I only spent a day or so in the hospital. So that’s like the 27th of December of 67. And so when I got out of the hospital, I went back up to Basic, the mine that I was working at, and asked him when I could come back to work and they told me to take a couple of weeks off, you know, so my face and stuff would heal up, you know, so they wouldn’t get infected. And so I thought, well, you know, I have a week or two off, I’ll go back to California and see if I can hook back up with my ex wife, Linda. Yeah, nut case. Yeah. So I left on the 29th of December of 67. And I went over to Tonopah and I stayed there for I don’t know how long I was there. But I sometimes used to like to gamble a little bit. And so I went there to the Mizpah and stayed in there for a little while. And then after I left it was I don’t even know what time it was that I started heading, because I was going down through Vegas and then on down to Cypress, California and just passed the Cottontail Ranch there are a few miles I decided to you know, pull off and relieve myself and and I pulled off onto a little dirt road. And that’s where I found Hughes. And I wanted to, you know, at first I thought he was dead because you’re just laying in this little dirt road and one of the ruts of the road. And so, but then you know, it didn’t take very long I seen him start to move. And I said well, whoever it is least if they’re not dead, they’re in pretty bad shape, but they’re not dead. And so I got out and helped him up and brought him over, put him in the car, and asked if I could take him to a hospital or doctor and asked him if I could take him to the police. And he didn’t want nothing to do with hospitals or doctors or police or anything. He just wanted to go to Vegas and I said well, okay, I’m going down there through there anyway, so I’ll take you to Vegas.

George Knapp  
What kind of shape was he in?

Mel Dummar
He was pretty bad at first he was just trembling violently he was just shaking all over. And he had blood on him too. He had blood, I thought it was coming out of his ear. It was on the side of his face and, you know, on his shirt. And I thought, God, you know, I thought somebody, you know, beat him up and just dumped him there. But I don’t know, he wouldn’t tell me, you know, what he was doing there or how he got there. So I just took him to Vegas. But on the way to Vegas, which really got me, that’s when he told me who he was, he asked me, you know, questions, you know, who I was and what I was doing and I told him a little bit about, I’d been in the Air Force and I’d got out of the Air Force and tried to get a job working at Hughes Aircraft in Fullerton, California. And he said, well, I know, you know, he was familiar with that. Because he owned it. He said, and I thought, this guy’s nuts. And then he said that if I want a job that he could arrange it, and I thought, boy, he really is, cuz I thought he was a bum or an old wino.

George Knapp  
Was he dressed poorly.

Mel Dummar
Oh, yeah. He was pretty messed up. And I said, Oh, well.

George Knapp  
So at what point does he come out and say, hey, by the way, I’m Howard Hughes.

Mel Dummar 
Oh, well, that’s when he said, You know, when I start talking about trying to get a job at Hughes Aircraft, he said he was familiar with he knew about because he owned it. He was Howard Hughes. And I thought, Yeah, right. At that time, he was 23 years old. And, you know, I, in looking at him, putting it in perspective he was just same age as I am now. You know, he’s 61, I think, at that time, but he looked older. And he was just, he looked like a mess. And so that’s why I thought he was just transient or you know, a bum. And so I took him to Vegas, and I took him to the Sands Hotel. He that’s where he wanted to go. And I know one thing that kind of puzzled me when I first you know, asked him where he won me dropped me off at. And he told me the Sands, well when I  pulled into the sands right off the strip. I think it’s gone now. But he was like, he panicked. He said, No, take me around back, you know, you want me to take him to the back around, backside. So I said, Okay, whatever. So I took him back there and just, you know, dropped him off. And then he, and then he asked me if I had any money. And I thought he was you know, asking for money because he wanted to make a phone call or buy another jug or whatever. And so I reach in my pocket and gave him some change. And, and he got out of the car. And that was it. When he got away from the car. Then I just drove off and went on to California. And then when I got to, when I got to California, went to my ex in-laws house. And my wife course answered the door, and she says, Oh, God, You look terrible, you know, because my face was a big scab, you know? And then it was that same day where it was my wife’s stepfather. This guy named Wayne Sisk. I started talking to him and say, hey, guess who I picked up on the way down here? And I told him about it. And, and he’s, nobody’s seen him for 15 years? Why didn’t you take a picture of him? Hell, even if I had a camera, I probably wouldn’t have taken a picture of him.

George Knapp
Years later, did anybody ask him to verify that you had told him that story?

Mel Dummar   
They did. And I don’t know who it was. But when Hughes died in 76, Wayne Sisk also died in 76 a few months later, but when they first contacted me and I think it was the FBI, I’m not sure who that was. But I was. I remember one day I was down at my parents house. So just a few days after it all came out and they asked me, well did you ever tell anybody about this? And I know there’s several people I told it and I told them about Wayne Sisk and they said where’s Wayne Sisk and I said I don’t really know. The last I heard he was in a hospital somewhere in Georgia. And you know, I didn’t know where and I didn’t even know what his condition was. But you know his son or somebody told me that he was in hospital.

George Knapp 
Do you think they found him?

Mel Dummar   
Oh yeah, cause Wayne called me about two hours later, he says What is going on? He said they’d already been there. They’d located him and found him and talked to him and he called me and says, what’s happening? What’s going on?

George Knapp   
Somewhere there’s a file that confirms that?

Mel Dummar  
Oh, yeah. And I think was the FBI because it couldn’t have been over two hours from the time I told these guys and I think they were FBI. I’m not positive who they were, maybe they were investigator for Summa or something, but they’d located him and they were at that hospital questioning him. So it had to be somebody that had, you know, people all over the country.

George Knapp   
Tell me this, talk about the will. You’re working at a gas station, right down the road. And, and in somebody comes one day.

Mel Dummar   
Well, we found out who it was, or at least LeVane Forsythe said that, you know, after a while, came forward and said that he was the one that delivered it. And they even had me go to Alaska to identify him and, he just came in one day. I think it was about two weeks after he’s died and just started asking me a lot of questions about you know what I thought of Hughes dying to me, I didn’t care. I care but I care about people. But you know, I didn’t know what, you know why he was asking me that he and he asked me questions if I’d ever met him and you know, and I thought you know, this kind of strange, you know, why is he asked me all this stuff? And he did say wouldn’t it be great if somebody like you is left in his will and I thought well, that ain’t gonna happen at least at that particular point in time. And then he just followed me around and you know, just talk to me and finally another customer came in and I said excuse me and I went out to help the other customer and when I came back he was gone. Whoever he was, I don’t know.

George Knapp  
But he left something behind.

Mel Dummar  
But see, when he came in, I was going to Weber State College at the time, I was going to night school and stuff up there. And when he came in, I was not in the station part, I had a little store in there,  but there was a back bar there that I had my books and stuff. And I was reading, you know, some of my schoolbooks and stuff. And that’s where I was when he first came in. I didn’t really hear him come in. But he came back there, and that’s where you start talking to me at. So after he’d left, I didn’t know who he was, where he went, and the other customers left, I went back and I was gonna, you know, do a little more studying and right on my school books, was that envelope with the will in it. And I thought, what, I didn’t even see him leave it there. But it had to be in him. He was the only one that even came in the station. And, and I was there by myself. And I thought, you know, what the heck is this? You know, and so I, I mean, right away, you know, reading the envelope where it says on it, like, Dear Mr. McKay, please see that this is delivered to the Clark County Courthouse after my death, Howard R Hughes, I think that’s what it says on the will. And I thought, what is going on? You know it, you know, it piqued my curiosity, like it probably would almost anybody. And so let’s see what this is all about. And so…

George Knapp 
You steamed it open…

Mel Dummar  
I steamed it open, I steamed it open. And people say, Well, how do you know how to do that? We’ll see, you know, I had an ex wife that every once in a while, I’d find a letter that she wrote, or somebody wrote her from her boyfriends, because she ran off about a dozen different times with different guys. And every once while i’d steam her letters open so that’s why we used to have some pretty good fights, you know, because she would know what she was up to. And, but so I steamed it open and read it fact, I read about a dozen times, I couldn’t hardly believe it. You know, it was it was it was just seems crazy. You know, and I thought, man, is somebody trying to pull a joke on me? Or is this real? Or, you know, what should I do? It really confused me, it scared me, you know, and so I decided that I was going to just take it down to the church myself and, and see if I could talk to the president and tell him, you know, what, what happened? And I get down to the church? And they said, Well, no, he can’t see the president. He’s, he’s involved, and you got to bring your Bishop, you got to make appointments. And you they just started, you know, tell me all kinds of things. So I said, well, I can’t you see the president of the church. You know, I can’t, you know, crash his door down and say you don’t demand it. So I said, Well, I’ll just leave it. And hopefully he’ll get it. You know, I put it in another envelope and addressed it to him. And somewhere along the line, I don’t know if it was LeVane Forsythe or who it was, had told me about a Hughes will, somewhere being found at one of the church presidents house or in his house or around it. So I actually wrote a little note when I put in there that, you know, this was found by, I think it was Joseph Smith’s house, in his house or around it, I couldn’t remember what they told me or what I’d heard. So I just said, Well, that was it. I left it and then that like I said, then they the news media comes out with this mysterious woman had delivered it. And when we got into court, they even asked me if I ever dressed in drag. And I said well no!

George Knapp 
The fact that you opened it and then weren’t truthful about it that caused you all kinds of…

Mel Dummar  
Oh, yeah.

George Knapp 
That made everybody think you’re a liar.

Mel Dummar 
Yeah it did. Everybody thought yeah he’s a forger, a con man and all that. But one of the things that I actually the FBI can’t confirm, they want to check everything out, of course. And I told him, I said, Look, I steamed it open, and I read it and I rebooted. But when I did that, I couldn’t, I couldn’t get it to seal. So I got some glue. I think I scraped it off of a different type of envelope and put on there so that I could seal the envelope backup, because I didn’t want you know, since it wasn’t addressed to me and I was taking it to the church. I didn’t want nobody even know that I’d opened it. But the FBI confirmed that, you know, because they sent it to the crime lab to see if it had been steamed open and reglued. And so one of the FBI reports comes back and says yes, it had been steamed open and reglued using a foreign glue, you know, glue not not found on that particular envelope. And I told him, he says you know if I’d of wrote that damn thing, what logical reason what I have to steam it open? You know, it’s nuts, you know, and I told Gary Magnesen that I said, you know, this is what I did. This is how I handled it. This is where I left it. And, you know, so you start checking out and okay.

George Knapp   
The idea that you forged it, or you could have forged it, could you of forged something like that? Could you have written a will like that? Did you know the facts that were included in there?

Mel Dummar 
Well, you know, they, I think that did it would have taken somebody really familiar with the, you know, Hughes operation to write that. And, of course, they accuse me of writing it. And one of the things that they accuse me of doing is going to library and getting the book Hoax, and using that as a model to forge it and everything. Well, it wasn’t too long after it came out and was delivered your week or two. There’s another thing with the news media, I had no clue even where to even look for any type of samples of Hughes’ handwriting. That would have been the first thing and I see on TV that they’re talking about the book Hoax in a Life magazine. And so I had copies of the will that the news media had brought me and I said, Well, I want to check this out myself and see if it even resembles his writing or anything. And so I went around, in fact I went to the library and you know, didn’t the county library and I couldn’t find nothing in there. So I went up to the college library at Weber State College where I was going and there was news media following me around everything even up there and that I dropped out of college because of it but I went up there and I did find the book Hoax. But I couldn’t you know, this was a week or two, maybe three weeks. I don’t know how long it was after I delivered the wheel. But I did find the book Hoax up there. But I couldn’t find nothing in it. I couldn’t find any handwriting samples or anything. So when I get into court, they accused me of checking the book out and removing they said there was some in there in the book hoax. But when I went looked at it, I couldn’t find anything in the book Hoax up at the library.

George Knapp  
So they tried to make it look like you’d look at the book before you forged the will.

Mel Dummar 
And the thing is, the speaking of the book Hoax To this day, I have never read that book. Never read it. Never had an interest in reading it. I know what it’s bout you know that? Can’t even remember his name?

George Knapp   
Gary something wasn’t it? Yeah, I know what you mean.

Mel Dummar 
I don’t know what. But anyway, you’re supposed to have some autobiography of Hughes. But I never read it there. I never checked it out of the library. I’ve still never read the book Hoax. The only time I seen it, I see it for about two minutes there at the college library, thumbed through it, couldn’t find any, you know, any samples of his handwriting, you know, to compare it with the, you know, the writing on the will. And so I’ve never, I’ve never read it to this day. Never read that book. Never.

George Knapp  
One other question in this vein, and the trial, the trial takes place in Las Vegas. Were you down there for the whole thing?

Mel Dummar  
No, just just when they called me, I was down there for a week or two. But..

George Knapp   
You were the star witness, though. What was that like? That must have been brutal.

Mel Dummar  
Well, actually, I was there. on different occasions, they had like a pretrial first. And then before the trial, the worst thing that happened there, I think that was pretty brutal, was when the judge called me a liar.

George Knapp
The judge called you a liar?

Mel Dummar 
The judge called me a liar, and said that he was gonna send me to prison and everything, you know. Because I guess he thought maybe the will was forged too. And so he said that if he found that I was lying in his court that he was going to make his duty to make sure that I went to the Nevada State Penitentiary. And so I don’t know.

George Knapp   
But by the time the trial is over, even though it went the other way, the judge didn’t go back and say I need to send you to jail?

Mel Dummar 
You know, a person might, you know, check with the attorneys and stuff. But I found that kind of off the record the stuff that the judge had told the attorneys and stuff that he was going to make a public apologies to me, you know, after they started finding some of the evidence, you know, that, you know, showing that I wasn’t lying, but he never did.

George Knapp  
I saw one of the books by Roden, an attorney. At the end of that book. He says that the judge, after he died, there was a statement where he made that he said he wants to see two people and have his mother and Howard Hughes cause he had a question he’d like to ask him.

Mel Dummar  
Oh, that was Keith Hayes. Yeah. But you know, I, at that time, you know, when Keith Hayes, you know, call me a liar, I could understand what he was trying to do. And I could understand his position.

George Knapp  
Trying to scare you into coming clean.

Mel Dummar  
Yeah. The one that, that really worse than the judge, though, I mean, call me a liar, and never, never actually making a public apology, which, according to my attorneys, you know, he said he was going to, but he never did. Not to me anyway, was the Nevada Attorney General, Robert List. I had several people just recently, tell me, you know, cause Robert List was trying everything within his power, to have me thrown in prison. He was the one behind, you know, having everything checked out with the FBI and the crime labs and all that. And, you know, I didn’t really think that it was the Attorney General’s duty or place that he should be after me, you know, when they’re going through litigation. So a few of my friends around Nevada they told me, you know, why don’t you look into the political motivation of Robert List and see why he would be doing that. So I did, I started doing my own investigation on Robert List and find things that right during the trial where the Summa Corporation had donated him $25,000 and they made other contributions for Robert List to become governor and, and, you know, and then, you know, different expenditures of Robert List, you know, why would he be writing it off as a political expenditure, entertaining the ex-governor of Texas and his staff and in you know, different things like this, and it makes me wonder about, you know, his his political motivation. And of course, he got elected governor right after this, you know, thanks to people like Steve Wynn, you know, who’s owned a lot of stuff around Vegas and Lake Tahoe and, but it kind of puzzles me about, like during the trial, why Summa would be giving Robert List, you know, they call them political contributions. I call them bribes. You know, I call them what they are.

George Knapp  
The verdict comes back. It’s 8-0. You know, there are allegations that have been raised and are still unanswered, even now about jury tampering. I’ll ask it this way. Do you think that if that court case had been heard in any other city other than Las Vegas, that the decision would have been different?

Mel Dummar  
I think that the decision would have been different. But if they’d have known what they know now, what Gary and some of them have dug up, if the jury would have even known that, I think there have been a completely different verdict. You know, if they’d have known that the very spot and the date and time period and everything where I picked him up, you know, that Hughes actually had a legitimate reason to be there.

George Knapp 
Meaning if they had known that you weren’t lying about finding him, they might have been more sympathetic to considering the will was real.

Mel Dummar 
Oh yeah. And that was the number one reason why they said that it was a forgery, and they threw it out of court is because they convinced the jury that he never left the Desert Inn.

George Knapp  
And he did leave.

Mel Dummar  
He left it on a number of occasions. And I know it. Well I knew it all the time. But now you know, the FBI knows it and a lot of other people know it that he, in fact, I even talked to, well it would be considered hearsay. But one of the brother-in-laws of Howard Eckersley, too bad Howard Eckersley passed away. But his brother-in-law, told me said that Howard, once told him, he said hey, he said before, before his brother in law, Howard Eckersley died, he said, he said he told him he said, don’t believe all those stories you hear about Hughes being such a big recluse because he was out and about on several occasions. You know, and I believed it. You know, that’s, that’s true. You know, Summa Corporation, some of them, you know, wanted to keep it quiet. And of course he was pretty secretive. He didn’t want everybody to know that. You know what he was up to all the time.

George Knapp   
You ever think about what your life would be like if you had all that money? You had $150 million?

Mel Dummar  
I thought about it, but even right from the beginning, I thought, I never gonna see anything from this, you know, even if I did, they’d keep tied up in court for so long that it wouldn’t even matter. And so, it’s like I didn’t go out and spend the money. The only thing that kind of excited me more was when they made the movie and I thought I’d probably get more money from the movie than I would ever see from any will. But then I, it was almost a joke, even the movie, you know what I got out of, you know, movie about me. Because I didn’t, most of that went to the attorneys.

George Knapp 
Well, maybe this will be a new chapter and now have to do another one.

Mel Dummar  
Maybe, I don’t know.

George Knapp  
One with a happier ending?

Mel Dummar  
Maybe. A guy could only hope I guess.

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