The mystery of Leo W. Hurrah

While digging through some old newspapers this afternoon researching #thaistory, I stumbled upon the tale of Lleieusszuieusszesszes Willihiminizisteizzi Hurrizzissteizzi.

I first found him in an Associated Press story from September 24, 1925, also published in the New York Times the following day:

A Siamese arsonist from Folsom, California, with the name of Lleieusszuieusszesszes Willihiminizisteizzi Hurrizzissteizzi, who was being deported as an undesirable alien after his friends lost a long fight on his behalf to keep him in the United States? Of course I immediately began investigating this extraordinary tale.

On further research the story became even more intriguing. According to the Brewster Herald of May 8, 1925, Lleieusszuieusszesszes Willihiminizisteizzi Hurrizzissteizzi was a Siamese magician and cook, who had arrived by ship in San Francisco, presumably a few days earlier.

But after that, the trail went cold. So far, the only other pieces of information I have been able to discover are that apparently he was mentioned in Robert Ripley’s second Believe It or Not! book, published in 1948, and that ever since then he has been regularly named in Top 10 lists of the world’s most unusual names.

But who was he? What was his story? Where did he come from? Where did he go? And how did he come to be convicted of arson?

If anybody finds further information, please share it. Let’s solve the mystery of Lleieusszuieusszesszes Willihiminizisteizzi Hurrizzissteizzi!


  1. Paul Ryersbach says:

    I wonder what the Thai orthography of that name would be

  2. tc03a says:

    This is clearly not a Thai name, as I’m one, and back then I doubt if a Thai person would have a last name as it the last name is quite new to Thai culture compared to the Western. Rather I presume it’s a makeup name by the person or someone else just to confuse the authority.

    • zenjournalist says:

      Yes it is obviously not a Thai name, unless it was transliterated using a very peculiar method. But the person was Thai, and I would be fascinated to learn more about him. So far, these fragments are all I have found.

  3. Steve Todd says:

    If the man himself wrote the transliteration, aside from the fact that it isn’t even close to any possible Thai name, why would he give himself three names? It seems to me that this is simply good old fashioned 1920s racism on the part of either US immigration or the journalist who wrote the original story. Clearly, someone had what they thought was a sense of humour when they decided on ‘Hurrah’ as the substitute surname.