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Harold Oxley, often referred to (with affection) as "Ox" or "The Oxman" by friends and family, was a Professor of Archaeology who had studied at the University of Chicago alongside Indiana Jones. He had an obsession with the legendary crystal skulls purportedly hidden worldwide, and his search eventually led to the discovery of a genuine crystal skull, stolen in the sixteenth century from the city of Akator, that possessed sentience and psychic powers.

The skull hypnotized Oxley into acting as the representative for the skull's thoughts, which had the side effect of dumbing down Oxley's intellect. Mistaken as madness by others, this effect eventually wore off when the skull released its mental control on Oxley's brain; having accomplished its goal of returning itself to its body, it no longer needed a mortal to act as its avatar in the physical world. Oxley regained his normal demeanor, and later attended the long-delayed wedding of his close friends Marion Ravenwood and Jones.

Oxley was a noted colleague of Indiana, who had unknowingly fathered a son with Marion during a turbulent period in their relationship. This boy, fashioning himself "Mutt Williams", quickly befriended Oxley, and considered Harold to be a surrogate father and a kindly uncle figure.


Early years[]

Harold Oxley was born in 1887 in Leeds, England.[1] At some point, he relocated to the United States of America in order to attend the University of Chicago under professor Abner Ravenwood. It was during that time that Oxley first met and became close friends with fellow student Indiana Jones, as well as Ravenwood's young daughter Marion.[2]

Search for the Temple of the Sky[]

Harold Oxley in 1934.

In 1934, while in South America, Oxley asked Indiana Jones for help in searching for pieces of the key to to the Temple of the Sky. Jones found a lead that they lay in Peru, so he enlisted the newest member of the Adventure Society for help.[3]

Oxley believed that the eagle warrior statues at the temple ruins site could move on their own, but Indiana Jones warned the Adventure Society member not to take Oxley's words seriously as there had to be another explanation.[3]

When Indiana broke off his relationship with Marion in order to avoid the burden of being a family man, Oxley sided with Ravenwood in 1937. He was said to have been infuriated at Jones' display of cold feet, and subsequently refused to speak to his friend for the next two decades, bitter at how Jones had callously abandoned Marion. In the aftermath, Oxley temporarily stayed with Marion in order to help her recuperate from the ordeal, as well as care for her newborn son, named "Henry". Despite that, Oxley failed to connect the dots and realize that the boy had been fathered by Jones.[2]

Prof. Harold Oxley with a young Mutt Williams.

Colin Williams, Henry's stepfather, perished during World War II while the boy was still young. Having been under the impression that Colin was his genuine father, Henry found comfort with Oxley during that sad time. Quickly bonding, Oxley and Henry became very close, and Oxley would often "talk [...] until the cows came home" to Henry at bedtime, which on reflection the boy would claim was better than a glass of warm milk. Eventually, Henry dropped his original first name and adopted the alias "Mutt".[2]

Quest for Akator[]

Oxley's main goal during his archaeological career was to prove that legends regarding "El Dorado" were based on fact. Set on finding a crystal skull, Oxley focused his efforts on both Central and South America, spending many years trying to prove his claims.[4]

In 1957, Oxley traveled to Nazca, Peru, hoping to track down the hidden kingdom of Akator, better known as "El Dorado" due to a mis-translation by the Spanish.[2] Visiting Chauchilla Cemetery during the daytime, allowing him to bypass the sleeping warriors who guarded the area at night,[5] Oxley discovered a hidden tomb containing the mummies of the lost long conquistador Francisco de Orellana and six companions. They had disappeared centuries prior while searching for Akator, under the false assumption that the city was built of solid gold.[2]

Ox also found an abnormally-large crystalline skull, hidden behind Orellana's corpse. He left Chauchilla, with the intent of fulfilling the old legend of the crystal skull: whoever returns the skull to the Temple of Akator will be rewarded with mastery over the skull's power. Before setting out, Oxley made sure to contact Marion and tell her of the recent turn of events. His passion and excitement gave Marion the false impression that Oxley was ill in the mind (which would contribute to her future decision to travel to Peru in the hope of finding Oxley and helping him regain his senses).[2]

However, Oxley at some point stared too long into the skull’s sockets, and the mystical psychic energy radiating from the skull caused temporary brain damage to the professor, rendering Oxley a babbling, nonsensical, almost semi-conscious interpreter for the demands of the skull which was still somehow sentient despite being disconnected from its body. The object had commanded Oxley to return itself to Akator by any means.[2]

Upon arriving at Akator, having been guided by the skull, Oxley was able to get past the Ugha warriors that guarded the entrance to the valley concealing the kingdom from the outside world. He only had to display the crystal skull in order to spook the superstitious natives, who instantly recognized their gods' distinctive head shape, into retreat. He made his way up to the Temple, but the pyramid entrance was sealed by an ancient obelisk mechanism, locking out the Ugha (or anyone else) from entering the gods' private chambers. Unable to solve the riddle of the device, Oxley turned around, trekking on foot all the way back to the Chauchilla Cemetary.[2]

En route, however, Oxley was able to discover that the team of Russian KGB Agents lead by Irina Spalko was trying to track down the crystal skull and use its powers to conquer America. Understanding the intentions of the Russians, Oxley quickly returned–again, during daylight[5]–back to the Cemetery, reentered the hidden subterranean tomb, and put the skull exactly where he had found it before.[2]

He attempted a hasty job at covering up his presence there by repositioning Orellana’s corpse, resetting the hidden doors and entranceways. Then Oxley — still under the spell of the skull — was commanded to find other people to finish the job of returning the skull, due to Oxley’s incapability of opening the obelisk. Arriving back in Nazca, the ranting Oxley was deemed mentally unstable by the locals, who then had him locked within the local sanatorium.[2]

After a few days of imprisonment, during which Oxley carved the word "return" in multiple languages all over the cell walls and ceiling accompanied by drawings of the crystal skull, Ox was suddenly abducted from the building by a team of Russian soldiers, who had succeeded in tracking him down. Oxley was taken to the Soviet campsite within the Amazon jungle farther north, where his incoherent babbling made little sense to Irina Spalko.[2]

Ox used as bait[]

Frustrated at Oxley's pointless rantings, she then forced Oxley to send Marion a letter which contained multiple drawings and written riddles in an extinct Incan dialect. The letter was deliberately designed to make no sense, in the hope of tricking Marion Ravenwood into traveling to Peru to investigate Oxley's strange actions. The trap worked, and the moment Marion arrived, Spalko’s men were ready to intercept her.[2]

The second phase of the plan was to set up an opportunity for Ravenwood to temporarily escape and make quick contact with her son. Spalko knew that Marion would send the letter (which she still had in her possession) to America, in the hope that the boy would solve the mysterious writing and find the hidden location of the crystal skull: Spalko’s goal. This went exactly as imagined, and as soon as Marion was able to pass on what information was necessary for Mutt to investigate the message, Spalko had her men recapture Ravenwood.[2]

However, Marion had pulled an unexpected stunt; she had advised Mutt to not only solve the riddles in Oxley's letter, but to seek out an old acquaintance of hers called Indiana Jones, a 'grave robber' who could help translate the writing and find the skull. Spalko was at first unaware of this detail, but when her agents stationed in Connecticut discovered that Jones had been enlisted by Mutt to help him, they instantly modified their plans to include Indiana as well. Now Indy would be captured along with the boy, and Mutt would be used as a bargaining chip to force Jones into finding the skull.[2]

The two agents were initially unable to acquire the pair, and therefore they summoned a team of Spalko’s men to personally deal with the two. The group, lead by Antonin Dovchenko, opted to remain hidden and secretly follow Jones' trail. Therefore, Indiana was unknowingly doing all their work for them.[2]

It payed off when Jones and Mutt emerged from Chauchilla Cemetery, having used the clues in Oxley's letter to find the skull's location. Now that they knew where the skull was, Dovchenko ordered the pair to be knocked out and brought to the Russians' Amazon campsite.[2]


Weeks later, Oxley was still being held captive in the camp, but had been allowed to at least join in the nighttime dances performed by the soldiers to amuse themselves. He evidently enjoyed doing this, and became quite fond of using a long tube-like instrument in his erratic dancing.[2]

During his incarceration in the Peruvian sanatorium, Oxley had privately solved the obelisk puzzle. Somehow, the poems of John Milton and T. S. Eliot made Ox realize the solution. Upon having this epiphany, Ox had since tried to share this with anyone who would listen, using Milton and Eliot quotes to express his theory, but Spalko was unable to understand the metaphors.[2]

One night Ox was interrupted in the middle of one of his dances, and dragged by two soldiers into a tent containing Spalko and the shackled Indiana Jones. Upon seeing Oxley's astounding behavior, Jones falsely hoped that his old friend was merely pretending. When Oxley began to recite his Milton/Eliot riddle, Indy attempted to refresh the man's memory by listing off personal information, to no avail. Oxley was then brought back outside.[2]

Oxley was standing alone by the fire, when his mind began to receive contact from Jones, who was at that moment staring into the eyes of the crystal skull. This succeeded in reawakening a shred of Oxley's old self, as Ox recalled the true name of Indiana: Henry Jones Jr. A moment later, Oxley met again with Jones (held at gunpoint by the Russians, of course), and delightfully chanted the name repeatedly, giving Jones hope that Oxley could be cured.[2]

Ox then attempted a second time to share the coded clues to Akator's location, along with the key to opening the Temple. Jones was able to piece together a rough idea of the trail from ideograms drawn by Oxley, while Mutt Williams and Marion Ravenwood tried to speak with the professor. Ox was unable to recognize the pair when they attempted to gain his attention. This deeply hurt Mutt, who loved Oxley like an uncle.[2]

Furious at the Russians due to his belief that they were responsible for Ox's madness, Mutt bravely attempted to escape the camp with Jones, his mother and Oxley. As they fled into the jungle, Jones chastized Oxley for moving too slowly. When the group stopped to listen for approaching scouts, Indy and Marion became caught in a dry-sand pit, which began to engulf them.[2]

As Mutt ran off to find something to reel them out, Oxley merely crouched by the pit, watching the two passively. Jones yelled for Harold to go get help, which took Oxley a moment to understand. He ran through the forest, and, following Indy's directions literally, found the nearest people who were around: the Russians. Upon returning to the pit (Jones and Marion having already been pulled out by Mutt, using a rat snake as a rope), Oxley proudly announced the arrival of "help".[2]

Escaping the Russians[]

The following day, Oxley was kept in the same "duck" as George McHale when the convoy of Russian vehicles began the trek through the Amazon, with the path being cleared by a gigantic jungle cutter. When Indiana Jones, Mutt and Marion were able to hijack one of the trucks, Jones used an RPG bazooka to destroy the jungle cutter, which succeeded in getting the attention of Spalko and her men. The convoy momentarily halted as Spalko got out to survey the damage, and when Oxley spotted his friend approaching in his stolen truck, he happily said "Henry Jones... Junior".[2]

Spalko ordered her troops to continue through the jungle while she would deal with the Americans. It was at this time that Ox was able to snatch away the crystal skull, contained in a burlap drawstring bag, and held onto it for dear life as Indy and Marion and Mutt switched to a different jeep, before Jones leapt onto their duck. Oxley watched with amazement as Indy took out all the soldiers in the vehicle, and when Jones accidentally drove right over a log jutting from the jungle floor, the bump sent the vehicle sailing into a huge jump. Oxley lost hold of the bag as it flew in the air, only to land straight back down into his hands when gravity inevitably kicked in.[2]

While Indiana drove the duck with McHale in a headlock, a neighboring transport containing Spalko drove up alongside. She yelled for the one remaining Russian soldier to throw over the bag, and despite McHale's attempt to prevent this, the young man tossed the skull to Irina. Upon this, Oxley continued to cradle his arms as if he were still containing the object that had tasked him with protecting it.

Eventually Oxley would regain the skull when Mutt swung on a vine into Spalko's vehicle, knocking her aside and stealing back the bag. Jumping back into Indy’s duck, Oxley quickly snatched the sack, happy to have his ‘master’ back. However, a second later the duck collided with an anthill, the home of a vast swarm of carnivorous siafu. The ants flooded from the ground, intent on eating the ones who had disturbed their homes, and Oxley was with Jones, Mutt, Marion and George McHale when they fled to the nearby river.[2]

But at this moment, Indy and Ox were tackled to the ground by Antonin Dovchenko, who then proceeded to engage Jones in a savage one-on-one fight. As they battled ferociously, Oxley saw the approaching swarm of ants, and quickly took out the crystal skull, turning its gaze towards the siafu. Spooked by the skull's mysterious energy, the siafu diverted their path, circling in an arc around Ox and the still-fighting Dovchenko and Indy. When Jones succeeded in knocking Antonin senseless, the man fell over, dazed from the brutal blows given by Indiana, right into the siafu. Mistaking the tumble as a deliberate attack against them, the ants overpowered and consumed Dovchenko. Therefore, Oxley's actions had been an invaluable aid to Jones.[2]

Jones then carried Oxley as he fled the swarm, and the two re-entered the duck being driven by Marion, with Mutt and McHale already having boarded. Ravenwood then drove the vehicle off a cliff and straight into the river below. Due to the duck's aquatic capabilities (hence the name), the vehicle stayed afloat, and was swept downriver. It was at this time that Ox remembered the land route he had taken on his first trip to Akator, which had been right next to a trio of waterfalls. Warning his comrades “three times it drops”, the duck then suffered going off all three falls, the last of which destroyed the duck. The inhabitants, however, survived by leaping from the vehicle as they had fallen, saving their lives. Through all this, Oxley was miraculously able to hold onto the crystal skull.[2]

As the small band of adventurers rested on the shore of the river, Oxley recognized the formation shaped like a skull on a rocky outcropping across the water. Through the eye sockets of the formation was the secret tunnel that led to the valley concealing Akator from the world. Oxley alerted the others to this, and the group made their way through the passage. Soon they came to a chamber, where the walls featured drawings that described how a race of beings from an alternate universe came from above and helped the Ugha tribe build the kingdom of Akator. The ceiling also housed hollow sculptures of screaming skulls. Within these were Ugha warriors, their job being to lay dormant inside the walls until intruders passed into the chamber.[2]


The warriors burst from the rock, and chased Jones, Oxley, Mutt, Marion and McHale out of the tunnel, exiting onto a long staircase built into the mountain-side. Just as the group were to be slaughtered by the Ugha, Oxley revealed the skull, just as he had done on his first visit to the lost city. The Ugha remembered both Oxley and the skull, and allowed the party to continue on to the Temple, knowing that their mission was to return the skull home.[2]

The Temple of Akator[]

Arriving at the peak of the pyramid, Oxley then demonstrated his solution to opening the entrance. By draining sand from the hollow base of the obelisk, it would cause the arms of the contraption to rise up as the platform sank downward. Upon colliding with each other, the arms triggered the opening of the ground beneath Indy, Marion, Mutt, Mac and Ox's feet.[2]

They fell onto a gargantuan spiraling staircase, the steps of which promptly began to retract into the wall. Moving quickly down in order to avoid falling to their deaths, the party were slowed down considerably by the ponderous Oxley, who unfortunately was in front. However, the group was able to climb down far enough that when the steps disappeared completely, they fell into the water below from a low height, saving them.[2]

Upon landing in the pool, Oxley accidentally fumbled the skull, dropping it into the murky water. This greatly upset him, and waded around in a frantic attempt to recover his charge. When Mutt finally picked up the undamaged skull, Oxley reacted with great relief, embracing the skull.[2]

The group continued onward through the pyramid, arriving at more wall art that showed thirteen large-headed humanoids acting as the ruling council of the Akator civilization. Eventually they came across the chamber that acted as the gods' storage room for all the historical artifacts they had collected from multiple visits to our dimension in the past. Oxley, however, became focused on a large ornate door, which would only open in the presence of one of the beings, ensuring that no one else could enter their throne room. Jones was able to open it by placing the crystal skull in front of the door, which then retracted away, revealing the private quarters of thirteen interdimensional beings.[2]

Ox approached the one skeleton that was missing its head, and reverently consoled the skull, telling it that it would soon be reunited with its body. Before Oxley could do so, however, George McHale held them all at gunpoint as Irina Spalko and her remaining soldiers entered the throne room. Eager to receive the knowledge of the beings, Spalko wrenched the skull from Oxley's reluctant grip, and when the cranium was reconnected, Ox acted as the mouthpiece for the skeleton.[2]

Spalko demanded to learn all the secrets of the universe, and the room began to crumble and rotate as the chamber (revealed to be the control center of the beings' spaceship) unleashed an interdimensional portal. It was at this moment that the skull finally removed its consciousness from Oxley's brain, restoring the professor's mind and personality. When Mutt questioned if the creatures were spacemen, Ox corrected him by calling them "interdimensional beings".[2]

Jones, Oxley, Marion, and Mutt were able to escape the self-destructing temple alive, while the Russians and Mac were reeled in by the miniature black hole while Spalko remained at the chamber to be given the knowledge she asked for. Ultimately, Spalko met her end when the skeletons merged into one seemingly living being and disintegrated her into dust as there was too much knowledge.[2]

Oxley at the wedding of Jones and Ravenwood.

Meanwhile, Oxley and the others hid atop a cliff overseeing the valley, and were fortunate enough to witness the utter destruction of Akator, caused by the liftoff of the alien spaceship (which the Temple had actually been constructed over). As Ox compared the damage to a broom erasing footprints, Jones asked where the beings had gone. Oxley wryly replied, "the space between spaces..." As the weary adventurers caught their breath, Oxley observed Jones and Mutt's exchange in which Mutt referred to Indiana as his father. Ox, at first thinking this was a sarcastic remark, slowly realized the pair's relationship after being oblivious to Mutt's real parentage for years.[2]

The Wedding of Indiana Jones[]

Afterwards, on October 19 of that same year, a clean-shaven Harold Oxley was one of many who attended the wedding of Jones and Ravenwood. As the crowd clapped, Harold congratulated "Henry", confusing both Indy and Mutt, but Jones thanked him anyway before all of them left the church once there ceremony ended.[2]

Personality and traits[]

Oxley was once described by Indiana Jones as brilliant, but prone to long-winded speeches that could "put you to sleep". He was a happy, optimistic man with a great sense of respect and awe for the past, and was especially interested in crystal skulls. However, Harold was quite naïve as well and would often misunderstand sarcastic statements or jokes.[2]

However, despite Oxley's intelligence, he was apparently unable to realize the fact that Mutt Williams was Indiana Jones' son, when there was strong evidence for this (Marion was with no other man at the time of her impregnation, which immediately proves that Jones must have been the father).[2]

Aside from Oxley's jolly personality, he was fearless, beset on unearthing the crystal skull that would lead him to "El Dorado".[4] Ox was also a strong proponent of the theory of multiple parallel universes.[2]

Behind the scenes[]

Harold Oxley was portrayed by the late, renowned British actor John Hurt in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.[2] The Oxley character originated in Frank Darabont's script for the fourth film, then Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods, with the first name Vernon and it was Darabont who suggested Hurt for the role.[6]

Hurt refused to sign on to the film without reading the script, which was quite a request, since the screenplay for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was under extremely high secrecy. Such was the amount of security that an agent had to be dispatched to Hurt's home and supervise his viewing of the screenplay, before leaving again with the script.[7]

Director Steven Spielberg urged Hurt to look to the character of Ben Gunn from Treasure Island as stylistic inspiration for Oxley.[7]


Non-canon appearances[]


Notes and references[]