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J. O. Reilly: A famous spy on the run for decades

John McFakeson, who used the name J. O’Reilly and was executed for espionage on Sept. 8, 1924, was famous for another role. He was one of the creators of the fictional city of Atlantis, discovered and found out about in a novel that was published in 1927 by Hiram Chaganty.

And as we now know, the ocean city that he helped to create played a very prominent role in the plot of a novel that was published nearly a century and a half ago.

Chaganty wrote about his discovery of the underwater world that wasn’t exactly true. In the book, Chaganty, whose real name was Gustavo Santiago, offers a glimpse into what might have been. In the final third of the novel, Milo, a man living on a city called Sheffield, discovers that we exist only to safeguard another, and explains to his wife the secret to his success.

“And so you cannot build houses and roads without a body of red seaweed, but they will float into the maw and take their home away, so you must put them back,” Milo tells Mary.

McFakeson, who worked for the United States Navy, played an important role in creating the rest of the city of Atlantis, including its buildings, structures and docks. In a conversation between Milo and Mary, Chaganty claims to have told McFakeson that he had been contacted by a man named Joseph whose mother had come upon a dead man buried in some rocks in the sea. Since the discovery of bodies in the sea had been a problem in London, Joseph sent the dead man on his way to Sheffield, but the body was not actually a human; rather, it was a mass of calcium sulfate.

Milo also informs Milo that Dr. Cockburns and his friends had been called to investigate a sickness that was sweeping across London, as well as a catastrophe that left more than 10,000 people missing. He told that Dr. Cockburns, who was working for the Consolacruz Brothers, had been sent by Queen Elizabeth to Sheffield, his wife had told Milo. Cockburns then compiled a list of names of people who had mysteriously disappeared and written to a radio station to report the coincidence.

Chaganty also reports that several years earlier, a man named John Bright had reached Manresa College in Portugal with plans to build a citadel, but was killed in a car crash by a submarine. Bright decided to memorialize his accomplishments in the city of Atlantis, and went to make his first gift to the city, though he had in fact already remarried in Sheffield.

In the book, Mary assures Milo that she is perfectly happy in Sheffield, never considering that he might be interested in her. But the same can’t be said for Milo and Mary.