Indiana Jones character believed to be based on Beloit man

Published: Jun. 29, 2023 at 5:37 AM CDT
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BELOIT, Wis. (WIFR) - The final installment of the ‘Indiana Jones’ saga is set to hit theaters Friday, and while Jones may seem like a character from legends, he has similarities to an explorer from the area.

“For 3,000 years, man has searched for the Ark of the Covenant.” With those ominous words in the teaser trailer, excitement ignited for ‘Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark.’ The highest grossing movie of 1981 made more than $330 million that year and kicked off the blockbuster franchise. While the character of Indiana Jones may seem too good to be true, his story has ties to one man from Beloit: Roy Chapman Andrews.

“So a lot of people think he’s the inspiration behind for Indiana Jones because of the expeditions he went on in Mongolia and the Gobi Desert,” explains Roy Chapman Andrews Society Program Coordinator Danica Keeton. “And he has a lot of similarities to Indiana Jones, like the hat and the whip.”

Andrews was raised in Beloit, attended Beloit College, then, in 1906, went on to a career at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Keeton says Andrews started at the museum cleaning floors, but he quickly rose in the ranks, becoming the museum’s director and a famed explorer. He is best known for his journeys to Mongolia, where he became the first to discover fossilized nests of dinosaur eggs.

Sara Appelbee is Andrews’ granddaughter. “He was special,” she says. “He was a grandfather first and foremost. He treated me more as an equal than a child.”

She adds that Jones and Andrews shared another trait. “He was not afraid of many things, but the only thing he was afraid of were snakes, and that’s one thing Indiana Jones was afraid of.”

Though she didn’t realize his fame until later on in life, Appelbee says her grandfather’s spirit of adventure was apparent to her, even as a kid.

“He just had that way with animals and people and children. Some of the dinosaur eggs that they discovered in the Mongolian desert, they were in a glass dome on his coffee table.”

And no, there’s no evidence Andrews ever searched for the lost Ark of the Covenant, but like Jones, his stories live on today.

Beloit Classic Cinemas will celebrate this local tie alongside Visit Beloit and the Roy Chapman Andrews Society. Indiana Jones and the dial of destiny will screen a day early at the theater Thursday night.

There will be an early release party from 3:30 to 6:10 with games and prizes in the theater lobby on Cranston Road. The movie will screen at 3:00, 6:10 and 9:20. Go to Visit Beloit’s website for more details.