Assailing the Tender Age: How to Beat It All the Way to Ohio
Thursday, 20 November 2003. On this date, thousands of anti-war activists were preparing for a weekend of international demonstrations against the United States’ impending invasion of Iraq. But this event received little press.
Another story upstaged it.
Television stations went live around the US to report that a plane from Las Vegas would be landing sometime in Santa Barbara, CA.
Pop star Michael Jackson had taken the flight in order to turn himself in to local authorities following an arrest warrant for child sexual abuse. The subsequent news coverage of the arrest and ultimate adjudication of the case added mew meaning to the cliche “media circus.” Amid Jackson’s ultimate acquittal on all of the fourteen charges against him on 13 June 2005 were numerous doubts regarding his innocence in the matter. However, the Wilshire division of LAPD and the Los Angeles Department of Children & Family Services had concluded in a 26 November 2003 investigation that the charges were “unfounded.” Also other celebrities, most notably Tonight Show host Jay Leno, swore or testified that the family of the boy appeared to want to shake them down. And the family itself insisted on 19 February 2003, six days after the LAPD investigation began, to British documentary producer Martin Bashir, that no molestation took place.
Figure 1. Los Angeles Department of Children & Family Services Report.
Of course, that leads to the question of why the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office would spend so much of its resources prosecuting a case that its own investigators characterized as “unfounded.” Between 2003 and 2005, I noted how the intense coverage of this case dominated the mediasphere to the distraction of more important stories, among them the prosecution of the war in Iraq, the sharp increase in wealth disparity that had occurred during the Bush administration, or the unsound trading practices that would shortly lead to an economic crisis in the US.
Sources conflict as to the origins of one hypothesis explaining the prosecutor’s office dogged pursuit of Jackson. What’s not in dispute is that a private investigator hired by Jackson, one Gordon Novel, disclosed the particulars of it to Vanity Fair reporter Maureen Orth in 2005. According to him, Michael’s brother, Jermaine, suspected that SONY records, it’s former head Tommy Mottola, and Deputy District Attorney Tom Sneddon had conspired against his brother. The point would be to bring criminal charges. A conviction would lay the foundation for a civil case that would bankrupt Michael and force him to sell off his assets, among them all of his intellectual property. This included Northern Songs, a gold-mine firm that among other things administers the rights to the Beatles catalogue.*
According to some sources, Novel left Jackson’s employ because he felt Mottola too dangerous a person to tangle with. But Novel said that he quit the case because Jackson stiffed him for five grand of his $25,000 retainer. Novel then approached news outlets in an attempt to sell his knowledge about the case. As Orth pointed out, however, Vanity Fair had a policy of not paying for information.
As you are probably aware, there have been a number of conspiracy hypotheses surrounding Jackson’s death in 2009--ranging from speculation that Sir J. Paul McCartney masterminded Michael's demise in order to finally gain control over his own music, to reports that Jackson faked his own passing. Obviously, there’s no reason to take such stories seriously. Yet, I’m intrigued by how much of the conjecture centers on the relationship between Jackson and Novel.
Novel had a, let’s just say “colorful,” past that entangled itself with ufology and other parapolitical tales. But it’s his involvement with one particular conspiracy story that compels our attention on 22 November 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of the JFK assassination.
As a private investigator, he worked on some fairly high-profile cases, among them the defense of automaker John DeLorean against drug charges. He also worked for Uncle Sam, investigating the deaths of seventy-six adults and children at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX.**
Most important,, he worked for Orleans Parish District Attorney Jim Garrison on the JFK assassination.
Garrison told Novel to beat it after a number of suspicious actions led him to believe that the latter was deliberately trying to thwart his investigation.*** Garrison subsequently learned of other things, which convinced him that Novel was a CIA contract agent, starting with his close association to David Ferrie and Guy Banister. As Garrison explained in an October 1967 Playboy magazine interview:
In 1961, he [Novel] raided a munitions bunker in Houma, Louisiana, with David Ferrie and a prominent anti–Castro exile leader, and the weapons seized were subsequently shipped by CIA agents to the counterrevolutionary underground in Cuba. He also worked for the Evergreen Advertising Agency in New Orleans, a CIA front that alerted anti–Castro agents to the date of the Bay of Pigs invasion by placing coded messages in radio commercials for Christmas trees. Novel himself was a paid employee of the CIA.
As I mentioned earlier, Novel’s own lawyer, Stephen Plotkin, has admitted that his client is a CIA agent. On May 23, 1967, Plotkin was quoted in the New Orleans States–Item as saying that his client ‘served as an intermediary between the CIA and anti–Castro Cubans in New Orleans and Miami prior to the April 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.’
Garrison subsequently sought his former investigator for questioning. But Novel wouldn’t wait around for the third degree. He fled New Orleans. Garrison cited a newspaper source reporting that days after he left the Big Easy Novel was present in McLean, VA, a town near the CIA’s headquarters in Langley. Yet, in his haste to avoid the District Attorney, Novel left behind yet one more piece of incriminating evidence:
After Novel fled the city in March, my investigators and the city police both scoured his apartment for evidence, but Novel appeared to have covered his trail pretty effectively. I’m afraid, in this case, we weren’t as efficient as two young girls who moved into Novel’s apartment a few weeks later and, during a thorough house cleaning, found a penciled rough draft of a letter under a strip of linoleum on the kitchen–sink drainboard. One of the girls gave it to her boyfriend, a student at Tulane University, and he in turn passed it on to one of his professors, who subsequently showed the letter to Hoke May, a reporter for the New Orleans States–Item. May had the letter examined by an independent handwriting analyst, Gilbert Fortier, who compared it with other samples of Novel’s writing and determined that the draft had been written by Novel — a fact that was confirmed by Novel’s attorney, who said that 'everything in the letter as far as Novel is concerned is actually the truth.'
This letter makes fascinating reading. It is addressed to a Mr. Weiss, Novel’s apparent superior in the CIA. Novel tells Weiss: ‘I took the liberty of writing you direct and apprising [sic] you of current situation expecting you to forward this through appropriate channels. Our connection and activity of that period involved individuals presently about to be indicted as conspirators in Mr. Garrison’s investigation.’ Novel goes on to warn that my probe was in danger of exposing his ties to the Double–Chek Corporation in Miami, which the book The Invisible Government exposes as a CIA front that recruited pilots and saboteurs for the Bay of Pigs and subsequent anti–Castro adventures.
Novel writes in the letter: 'Mr. Garrison … is unaware of Double–Chek’s involvement in this matter but has strong suspicions.' He also adds that he lied to the FBI: 'I have been questioned extensively by local FBI recently as to whether or not I was involved with Double–Chek’s parent -holding corporation … My reply on five queries was negative. Bureau unaware of Double–Chek association in this matter.' The letter indicates that Novel was growing edgy, because he complains: 'We have temporarily avoided one subpoena not to reveal Double–Chek activities … We want out of this thing before Thursday, 3/ — /67. Our attorneys have been told to expect another subpoena to appear and testify on this matter. The Fifth Amendment and/or immunity and legal tactics will not suffice.'****
After Virginia, Novel’s movements became more difficult to trace. But Garrison finally tracked him down to Ohio, where he sought Novel’s extradition to Louisiana for questioning. Curiously, Ohio Governor James Rhodes denied the request unless the Orleans Parish District Attorney specifically promised not to ask him questions about the JFK assassination.
Of course, that would kinda defeat the purpose of bringing him down to New Orleans.
Novel’s involvement in a lot of weird, high-profile and conspiracy cases is something worth noting. Not just because of Novel’s knack over the years for sticking his fingers in a lot of interesting pies, but because it exemplifies something that I and a number of other writers have observed.
On The X-Spot you will find the JFK assassination mentioned in seemingly unrelated stories. For example, former Harper’s editor Jim Hougan, CBS newsman Daniel Schorr and former Nixon-Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman all discovered a link between Kennedy’s assassination and the events of Watergate. Mae Brussell noted that Ed Butler Lawrence Schiller and Larry Ball, all of whom played critical roles in propagating the single shooter story, attempted to crystalize public opinion against black militancy and the youth counterculture in the wake of the Tate-LaBianca slayings.***** The role of Kerry Thornley, a reputed second-Oswald and a confirmed (yet spurious) witness for the Warren Commission, in forming Discordianism, the very existence of which confounds serious inquiry into sensitive political issues, came up in the story of Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan. The previously cited JFK researcher A.J. Weberman came up in The Grounded Walrus series, due to a declassified FBI item documenting his harassment of both John Lennon and Bob Dylan.
And we’re just getting started. There are a lot of other cases where you can find the footprints of JFK assassination issues crisscrossing the path of understanding. Over the years, I’ve occasionally seen self-described skeptics depict the overlapping of personnel between the JFK assassination and other conspiracy stories as "proof" of the latter’s implausibility: the gist of them is that shadowy people like Novel, the CIA, the military industrial complex serve the same function as other putative “villains” of spurious conspiracy lore, such as the Freemasons, the Illuminati, and certain ethnic groups.
To me, the appearance of the same characters in so many stories seems more indicative of well-trained and experienced professionals who, by now know what they are doing when it comes to shaping public opinion, especially with respect to politically sensitive topics.
Gordon Novel passed away in his sleep on 3 October 2012.
__________________ * Mottola stepped down from his stewardship of SONY in January 2003, a month before the investigation into the child sex abuse case against Jackson began.
**Specifically, he was tapped by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark to investigate David Koresh et al.
***Novel is loosely fictionalized in Oliver Stone’s JFK as Bill Broussard, played by actor Michael Rooker.
****The Double-Chek Corporation was a CIA money-conduit front that maintained the cover of a private holding and investment firm. Headquartered in Miami Springs, FL, it secretly funneled money on behalf of the Agency. For example, when four CIA-backed pilots illegally participating in The Bay of Pigs Invasion–contrary to orders of President Kennedy–were shot down, their widows were paid a $450/month “insurance” benefit by the Double-Chek Corporation. In their aforementioned 1964 book The Invisible Government, David Wise and Thomas Ross felt that this money was used to silence the widows, or dissuade them from contesting the official story given them: namely, that their husbands died as test pilots for experimental aircrafts.
*****Ball consulted for the Warren Commission, and later with Susan Atkins. Schiller recorded Ruby’s fraudulent confession for Capitol Records shortly before the nightclub owner’s death, and co-wrote Atkins’ memoir, which honed the dubious Helter-Skelter motive. Butler hosted Oswald’s radio appearance with Carlos Bringuier, thus painting Lee as a Communist, and possibly a Soviet or Cuban fifth columnist, and wrote an op-ed piece titled “Did Hate Kill Tate?” in which he blamed the Tate-LaBianca killings on the Black Panthers.
* Abraham Lincoln defeated incumbent Vice President John Breckenridge to gain the US presidency in 1860. John Kennedy defeated incumbent Vice President Richard Nixon to gain the US presidency in 1960. * Abraham Lincoln’s assassin shot him in a theater and fled to a warehouse. John Kennedy’s patsy supposedly shot him in a warehouse, and fled to a theater.
You’ve seen these before, I assume. But if you haven’t, these are a list of connections between the JFK and Lincoln assassinations.
* Both Lincoln and Kennedy ‘were concerned’ about African American civil rights.
* Lincoln’s son, Willie, and Kennedy’s son, Patrick, died during their fathers’ tenure in the Oval Office.
Many of these connections are quite accurate. Some, however, are not.
* Lincoln had a personal secretary named Kennedy. Kennedy had a personal secretary named Lincoln.
In the above, for example, we know for a fact that JFK had a personal secretary named Evelyn Lincoln. In fact, I’ve cited her memoir on The X-Spot. But there’s no record or indication that President Lincoln ever had a secretary named Kennedy.
Of course, when people make lists such as this, they’re on a roll and hard to stop. When you’re on a roll, it’s almost unconscionable to let accuracy get in the way of a good myth.
And, perhaps a myth is precisely what we’re looking at. The original author of this list will forever remain a mystery. Yet, we can show that it came into existence less then a year after JFK’s demise. An article in the 10 August 1964 edition of Newsweek reported its presence in the G.O.P. Congressional Newsletter.
* President Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theater. President Kennedy was shot in a Lincoln, a car manufactured by the Ford Motor Company.
* Lincoln’s Vice President, a southerner named Andrew Johnson, succeeded him. Kennedy’s VP, a southerner named Lyndon Johnson, succeeded him.
In the previous series, and in the sporadic posts I’ve put up recently regarding the Paul-Is-Dead rumor, I’ve noticed a tendency to make connections such as these. I obviously don’t think there’s anything wrong with making connections. That’s what we do here. The problem is the lack of critical evaluation of information that assesses its relevance. Consequently, many of these connections don’t mean very much, and have led some very bright researchers down the garden path to self-discrediting.
What makes a connection meaningful? Oftentimes, that’s difficult to tell. A datum might have significance later on if it is consistent, or inconsistent with a narrative. And you might not see its importance at first. Yet oftentimes, these stray bits of information don’t really address the critical matters at hand, and at worst distract from examination of important evidence. Moreover, many of these items can be explained fairly easily simply by looking at the context of the connections. For example, the fact that Lincoln was elected in 1860 and Kennedy in 1960 isn’t that remarkable in and of itself when you point out that US presidential elections occur every four years. After all, 100 is just a dumb number. It’s only human perception that endows a century, or a round figure, with special significance. One can also note that Johnson is a rather common American/British name. There’s nothing spectacular in that as well. Also, a number of incumbent vice-presidents (e.g. Thomas Jefferson, George H. W. Bush, Albert Gore, Jr.) have run for the presidency. Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose. But it’s not an uncommon occurrence. So there’s nothing particularly meaningful about that connection either.
In other words, some things are better and more satisfyingly explained as coincidence. In the natural order of things, synchronicity happens. When it doesn’t happen at all, that’s something to take note of. When someone presents a story where there is no chance of randomness in any facet, I get more than a tad suspicious.
* Both the names Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth have fifteen letters.
* Both Andrew and Lyndon are six letters.
Another weakness in these types of connections is the perceptual fallacy of forcing meaning onto randomness. The Cosmos isn’t scripted. Yet some act as if it were. One can note a number of times when somebody attempts to show a pattern of deliberate action by only citing data that affirm their ideas, and dismissing information that doesn’t. In any two instances, you can draw at least one similarity between event A and event B. In the case of Lincoln and Kennedy, the fact that most people will never be President of the United States, and that most US Presidents do not die in office, let alone by dint of assassination allows more similarities to be drawn. Yet, one can find many more dissimilarities between these two men that seem to escape mention in this presentation of fact. For example, Kennedy was a New Englander, Lincoln a Midwesterner. Kennedy had a rather pronounced libido, Lincoln did not. Kennedy believed in racial equality, whereas Lincoln (despite the Emancipation Proclamation) believed in white supremacy.* Lincoln lived and died in the Nineteenth Century, Kennedy the Twentieth Century. Lincoln was born in 1809, Kennedy in 1917. Lincoln died at age 56, Kennedy at age 46. Lincoln never traveled outside the US while in office, but Kennedy did. Lincoln faced danger from a divided country, where alien enemies actively sought to kill him. Kennedy faced danger from a united country wherein enemies of the state had seized some measure of control over the government and threatened him from within the system. President Kennedy had to contend with the CIA. Lincoln’s Intel concerns were not nearly so hairy or complex. The technology of the 1960s was vastly different than the cutting edge of the 1860s, thus Kennedy could more readily communicate and become a “personality” with the public than Lincoln.
I could go on and on (and sometimes I do), but you get the point, right? The selective culling of facts does not for good research make.
* The names Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy both contain five syllables.
On the one hand, you might say that the very existence of these noted connections, circulating as they did less than a year after the assassination, most likely reflected the actual feelings of the public at that time. As I researched the JFK assassination over the years, one thing that astonishes me is the degree to which many sectors of society doubted the single-shooter hypothesis from the outset. These sentiments grew more vocal after the Warren Commission published its findings. Yet, this rumor might have given voice to those dissenting from the information gleaned from contemporary television and news reports by linking Jack’s death to that of Lincoln, whose assassination was officially ruled a conspiracy.
Consequently, the connections became part of American lore, a tale spun in many different media. I first encountered them as a child in the 1970s as presented on a bubble gum wrapper (I kid you not). I’ve since seen them on TV, heard them on radio, and spotted an allusion to them in a comic book. I’ve even heard a musical rendition of this list.
Figure 1. Musical rendition of the Lincoln-JFK connections (Buddy Starcher).
At the same time, these connections do not support any finding of truth in the JFK assassination, and often undermine serious inquiry into a very serious and somber subject matter. For example, in 1992 the Skeptical Inquirer held a “Spooky Presidential Coincidences Contest.” Contestants were able to come up with similar lists when comparing most US Presidents. Not surprisingly, some have used such lists to “debunk” the notion of a conspiracy in Dallas on 22 November 1963, although that type of specious reasoning seems to exemplify the same type of logic that went into this original list.
* The year before his death, Lincoln was in Monroe, Maryland. The year before his death, Kennedy was in Marilyn Monroe.
* While one can certainly argue that Lincoln advanced the cause of African American civil rights in the US, one has to also note that the Emancipation Proclamation had no legal bearing on slavery. When Lincoln issued it (1 January 1863), the directive only applied to states within the CSA, which at that time was a foreign, enemy nation. The President cannot really make an enforceable law for a foreign nation, especially an enemy one. Moreover, the Proclamation exempted slave states that were part of the Union (e.g., Tennessee, the counties of Virginia that were in the process of becoming the state of West Virginia).
Legal slavery in the US actually ended with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution on 18 December 1865.`
Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer Came down upon his head.
Clang! Clang Maxwell’s silver hammer made Sure that he was dead. –John Lennon and Paul McCartney, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,”Abbey Road, 1969
Identical twins Reginald and Ronald Kray (left) grew up in London’s violent east end, amid the raging carnage of the Battle of Britain. In short, they were tough. Real tough.
They put that toughness to use as professional prizefighters. They also led a criminal gang that specialized in protection rackets, muggings, and murder-for-hire. They parlayed the money they got from all of these enterprises into a chain of nightclubs, starting with their flagship operation, Esmeralda’s Barn.
Despite the name, the club attracted such local celebrities as Diana Dors. Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, and Frank Sinatra also frequented the place when in town. The Krays ingratiated themselves with the glitterati, many of whom warmed to the genial, albeit dangerous hosts.
The Krays made a special point of getting friendly with John Lennon, J. Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Richard Starkey right after Beatlemania had rendered them arguably the most famous four people on the planet. But according to a 21 June 2009 story by Zee News, the Krays weren’t schmoozing the Fab Four for celebrity’s sake alone. The twins aimed to get rid of Epstein, and take over the Beatles themselves:
It has also been revealed that Reginald ‘Reggie’ Kray and Ronald ‘Ronnie’ Kray, the foremost organised crime leaders dominating London`s East End during the 1950s and 1960s, asked Glasgow crimelord Arthur Thompson for advice on their plan. . . .
The meeting between the three feared crime bosses took place in the early 1960s in the now-demolished Cockatoo Bar in Govanhill.
At the end of their discussions, the Krays stunned the Glasgow Godfather by telling him they were taking over Beatles manager Brian Epstein`s music empire.
It is believed they had been planning to blackmail the fabulously rich pop guru into handing over his business.
The report goes on to say that Thompson had to talk them out of a hostile takeover of the Beatles. One might suspect, given their history, that they could have ignored Thompson, and nevertheless considered murdering Brian Epstein and David Jacobs (respectively, the Beatles’ manager and attorney) to achieve this purpose.
The twins indeed murdered, either through their henchmen, or on their own. On 9 March 1966, Ronnie gunned down rival gangster George Cornell at a local pub, after the latter allegedly made threats against him and called him a “fat poof” to his face. The shooting occurred in front of a bar full of witnesses, all of them too intimidated to talk to police, at least initially. In October 1967, Ron held one of their fellow gang members, Jack McVitie, so that Reg could stab him to death. The twins paid McVitie £1,500 up front for a hit that Jack never carried out. They murdered him for reneging on the contract, and for being a general pain in the can.
It took a couple of years to amass a case against them, but Inspector Leonard Reed finally took the brothers, and fifteen members of their gang, into custody on 8 March 1968. They were subsequently convicted of murder, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Ron died behind bars in 1995. In the year 2000, the government gave Reg a compassionate release after the surviving Kray came down with inoperable cancer.
Reg lived eight weeks as a free man. During this time he gave a controversial interview with BBC, during which he claimed to have committed one additional murder that police had missed. Although that one death would bump the brothers’ official body count by 50%, there were indications that this unnamed victim might have represented only the tip of a very large iceberg.* In 2002, someone very close to Reg would declare that the brothers carried out at least one more murder, and successfully disguised it as a suicide.
The informant, born 1979 as Bradley Allardyce, grew up hearing about the Kray twins’ exploits.** Indeed, in some circles the pair had become folk heroes. So, as a child, he became Reg’s pen pal, and met finally met him in 1991 at Gartree Prison. A few years later, Bradley embarked on his own life of crime, and wound up becoming his idol’s jailmate. It was at this time when the relationship between Allardyce and Kray became intense, and, as Brad would later declare, sexually intimate.
In 2002, two years after the last Kray brother’s death, Allardyce stated publically that Reg confessed to him his darkest secret: specifically, the murder of his first wife, Frances. Police ruled that a distraught Frances committed suicide after she and Reg became estranged. But according to Allardyce, Reg told Ron to force her to swallow sleeping pills at gunpoint. (One might also imagine that he might have threatened harm to other family members..)***
What this all means is that (1) the Kray twins wanted to take control of the Beatles; (2) weren’t above murdering others to achieve these goals; and (3) had some facility for disguising deaths as suicide. So one could naturally imagine them forcing someone like Epstein to swallow a lethal dose of carbamazepine, impressing on the manager that if they couldn’t have the Beatles, no one would, even if it meant killing all four of them. Even though in custody during the death of David Jacobs, one has to keep in mind that the brothers engaged in murder-for-hire. They would know quite well how to arrange a hit “on the outside,” especially if they believed that they could beat the rap, and reap the rewards of Beatles’ management.
Then too, there could have been another, more personal motive. Ron vehemently, sometimes violently, reacted when someone accused him of being gay (as did his victim, Cornell). He instead, in his later years, that he was bisexual. Note that five of the six men mentioned by Doc T. (Epstein, Jacobs, Kenneth Halliwell, Joe Orton, and Joe Meek) were not only gay, but also networking, socially and professionally, through this discreet, underground social scene. This has led to some speculation that Ron (and perhaps Reg) both belonged to this underground at various times, and worried about exposure should the others, because of their distaste and disgust at the brothers’ tactics, out them.
There are two major problems with the hypothesis that the Kray brothers murdered Epstein and Jacobs in order to takeover control of the Beatles. First, there’s the obvious: lack of evidence. Even if we stipulate that the twins murdered, and that some of these murder were never solved; even if we concede the possibility that they were adept at disguising murders as suicides, then we would still have to admit that we don’t have evidence for this hypothesis at all. Instead, we have conjecture and the realization that the evidence available doesn’t preclude this as a possibility.
What casts severe doubts about this hypothesis is that it presupposes that the Krays would have disobeyed crimelord Arthur Thompson, or could without suffering disastrous consequences. For all we know, Thompson might have talked them out of the plan because another, more powerful gang, had already staked out the Beatles as their territory.
_________________ *Inspector Reed believed that the victim was Teddy Smith, one of Ron’s former paramours.
**At some point, Allardyce legally changed his name to Kray. Most sources nevertheless refer to him as Allardyce.
Brad and Reg shared a mutual fantasy that they were father and adopted son. They referred to each other as such n their correspondence. Thus the change in name most likely aided in this fantasy.
***Upon hearing Allardyce’s allegation, Inspector Reed found the story credible enough to have been investigated had he known about it at the time. But by 2002, when Brad made this statement, both Kray brothers had already died. Thus, Reed found no reason to embark upon further investigations into possible crimes they might have committed.
Yes I’m lonely. Wanna die. Yes I’m lonely. Wanna die. If I ain’t dead already, Girl, you know the reason why.
–John Lennon and Paul McCartney, “Yer Blues,” The Beatles, 1968
Looking up stuff for something you’ve already worked on before can become tedious. You have to wade through all of the stuff you already knew, all the references you’ve already got in your notes, just to find new bits of information that you either missed, or deemed irrelevant.
In this case, Doc T. (not to be confused with our biochemist cyberpal from Georgia Tech) provided a few leads, some of which were interesting and possibly relevant. At the very least they were new items to look at. But in reality, most of what I began looking at here was not so much new stuff, but rather a shift in focus, looking at old things in a different way, especially if they initially seemed irrelevant to the Paul-Is-Dead rumor. For example, as mentioned in the PID series, one can find a number of “clues” in the Beatles’ movies, especially Magical Mystery Tour. Add to that George Harrison’s work in film, along with the post-Beatle film work of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Richard Starkey. But there were a number of items, including scripts and footage that never saw the silver screen, and these all seem to explore some of the ideas surrounding the PID story in more depth, when viewed in toto. So in this instance, the focus shifts from the movies specifically mentioned in conjunction with the rumor to the entirety of the Beatles’ film work, both together and alone.
So here are some of my tentative, preliminary thoughts on the subject.
1. Usually, when I do a series, there’s far more material offline than on. There was obviously a lot of online material about the subjects of the previous series. But the bulk of it consisted of the subjects’ blog, along with posts by people writing about them, most of which consisted of commentary as opposed to information. The actual information one could find on them was relatively sparse compared to the opinion, and overwhelmingly consisted of links to the already well-known articles by several writers. But hard-copy information about the ill-fated couple consisted of approximately 200 articles, most of them written during their lifetimes.
So naturally, one can contribute to the online knowledge of a subject by referencing, citing, or summarizing the hard-copy material that has yet to find its way to cyberspace.
The Paul-Is-Dead rumor is really the first subject I’ve come across where the information available online actually dwarfs the information one can readily find in hard-copy media. While many of the ancillary topics (those aptly covered by Doc T) are consistent with the normal ratio to hard-copy to cyberspace resources, actual information about McCartney’s putative death, or even the nature of the rumor itself, is relatively scarce. The initial coverage consisted of Fred Labour’s report, and the wire service reports derived from it. Most biographers mention the rumor in a paragraph or two.
2. Doc T brings up a lot of interesting points, but I’m only going to summarize one here. Within a twenty-six month period, six individuals connected to the Beatles died suddenly: record producer Joseph Meek (3 February 1967); playwright John (known to friends as “Joe”) Orton and his boyfriend Kenneth Halliwell (9 August 1967), Beatles manager Brian Epstein (27 August 1967), Beatles attorney David Jacobs (15 December 1968), and Sir Dr. Richard Asher (25 April 1969).*
The closeness of these people to the Beatles, and thus their relevance here, varies. Obviously, Epstein and Jacobs were very near to the group, and involved with their business and personal affairs. Dr. Asher, father of McCartney’s girlfriend Jane, was a personal friend who allowed Paul to live with him and his family for a brief period. The Beatles commissioned Orton to write the screenplay of their third movie, after their dissatisfaction with Help!.** Meek, working primarily out of Abbey Road studios, was more famous for turning down Epstein’s offer to produce the band than for his biggest hit record.
As for common threads (other than the Beatles), one can note that five of the six (Meek, Orton, Halliwell, Epstein and Jacobs) were gay, and in the closet because of the then-laws prohibiting their existence as such.*** Four of the deaths (Meek, Halliwell, Jacobs and Dr. Asher) were officially ruled suicides, and one (Epstein) was reported to the public as a suicide, but officially ruled an accidental overdose. Police ruled that shortly before their deaths, Meek murdered his landlady, Violet Shenton, and Halliwell murdered Orton.
Meek’s suicide doesn’t appear to be all that suspicious. Associates noted that he suffered from depression and describe his actions as paranoid. Phil Spector saw Meek as paranoid, and--let’s face it–Phil knows a thing or two about the subject.
Dr. Asher’s death isn’t all that suspicious at first blush, for he too showed symptoms of severe depression. Although some sources say that he ended his practice five years earlier in 1964, just as Beatlemania began, Philip Norman gave an indication that he was still very much involved with his profession during McCartney’s residence:
The Ashers’ house on Wimpole Street was plagued by telephone gigglings and breathings which Sir Richard could not shut off because the line belonged to his surgery. What few people knew, even within the Beatles’ entourage, was that Paul now spent all his time in London with the Ashers.
Dr. Asher was a .highly esteemed physician in his day, known for solving complex medical problems through critical evaluation. As head of the mental ward of Central Middlesex Hospital, one could speculate that he might have advised or consulted mind-control experimentation projects for British, or perhaps even American Intel. This has led some to further speculate that far from retiring in 1964, Dr. Asher took on a top-level assignment: namely, the programmed manipulation of McCartney. Stretching the conjecture out even further, at the time of his death, McCartney had ditched his daughter, and had married Linda Eastman, thus suggesting that Asher’s assignment had come to a close, and that, in order to tie up a loose end, the good doctor might have had some, well, assistance in his suicide. Yet, all that is highly speculative, without any really good evidence to support it. So unless someone can come up with some, this death is also not all that suspicious.
On 8 September 1967, a coroner’s inquest found that Epstein died from an overdose of carbamazepine, an anti-convulsion drug sold under that brand name Carbatrol. It would seem that Epstein had used the drug as a sleep-aid, and had ingested it so often that it accumulated in his body. Thus, the fatal dose that killed him wasn’t much of an overdose, if it was an overdose at tall.
There were indications of high strangeness in Epstein’s death. A minor point, but one to raise: his bedroom door was locked, forcing his assistant, Peter Brown, and an unnamed physician to break it down. Brown characterized the locked door as unusual. They found Epstein covered by letters and business papers. The curtains were completely drawn. .
What’s worse, Epstein’s former business partner, Nicky Byrne, received two anonymous telephone calls in the weeks leading up to Epstein’s death. The first was from a man with a “very low, very polite” voice who asked if he had settled his suit against Epstein. When Byrne confirmed that he did, and asked why the speaker wanted to know, the caller hung up. A few days later, Byrne received another call from the low, polite voice. As he told Norman:
In August, I was uin Florida–actually on my boat–and I got another call. That same very quiet, polite voice. ‘Mr. Byrne,’ it said, ‘you’re going to hear soon that Brian Epstein has met with an accident.’
Police ruled that Halliwell bludgeoned Orton to death with a hammer, then intentionally overdosed on Nembutel in a murder-suicide. What’s odd here is the fact that rarely does the murder victim outlive the murderer. Police investigating the crime noted that Halliwell’s corpse was quite cold, whereas Orton’s was still warm. This would indicate that Orton died well after Halliwell.
Although rare, one could note that the conditions do not disprove a finding of murder-suicide, especially since it might have taken Orton hours to die from his head injuries, and considerably less time for the Nembutel to take effect. The suicide case was augmented by two credible witnesses. First, Kenneth’s doctor called the night before to arrange a visit with a psychiatrist, and this after the doctor had prescribed him anti-depressants. Secondly, Peter Nolan, a friend, told a coroner’s inquest that Orton said he wanted to break up with Halliwell, but didn’t know how to do it.
Out of the six, Jacob’s passing seems the most suspicious. A close friend of his, actress Suzanna Leigh, arrived at her home in London after spending time in Los Angeles. She picked up the paper, and the mail. In the paper, she read that Jacobs had hanged himself in his garage. In the mail, she saw a postcard from David setting up a lunch date the following week. She then noted that the postmark indicated that he had dropped the card in the mail shortly before he died. It didn’t make sense to her that he would set up a lunch date with her if he planned on offing himself an hour later, so she took the postcard to the police. She also told him that lately he feared someone wanted to murder him. They told her they would look into it. After getting no further response, she pestered them to do something about what she increasingly suspected was her friend’s murder. After spending the next few days badgering the cops, Leigh received a visit from a couple of detectives who informed her that they too suspected that two suspects murdered Jacobs, but that they didn’t have much of a case against them. They told her not to worry, because they had the suspects in custody for another murder in which they had a much stronger case, one sure to put them behind bars for the rest of their lives.
While one might suspect the police told Leigh this just to get her off their backs, they weren’t lying. They did have two suspects in custody. Moreover, these suspects had a motive to murder Jacobs. Worse still, the motive could have been Beatles-related.
*Philip Norman, one of the most widely read and respected Beatles biographers, wrote that Jacobs’ death occurred several weeks after that of Brian Epstein, which would make the date sometime in September 1967. But every other source I can find gives 15 December 1968 as the date of Jacob’s demise.
**Commenting on Help!, John Lennon complained that he and the other three felt like extras in their own movie.
Orton allowed the group considerable input as to the film’s subject matter and content, and came up with a screenplay titled Up Against It, which depicted the Fab Four as terrorists buffeted by uncontrollable forces. The band loved the idea, but Epstein nixed it. The Beatles subsequently settled on Yellow Submarine, in which they only had a cameo role. Orton redrafted Up Against It as a stage play, which received its first performance on 14 November 1989.
***Meek was actually arrested and prosecuted for a gay-related offense in 1963, and fined fifteen quid.
I told you ‘bout Strawberry Fields: You know, the place where nothing is real. Well, here’s another place you can go, Where everything flows.
Looking through the bent back tulips To see how the other half lives, Looking through a glass onion..
–John Lennon and Paul McCartney, “Glass Onion,” The Beatles, 1968.
Back in the fall of 2007, I wrote an X-Spot series on the Paul-Is-Dead rumor (see sidebar). My initial thoughts on the subject were that the Paul-Is-Dead rumor doesn’t have anything specifically to do with ex-Beatle Sir J. Paul McCartney, but rather with an in-joke that began within their support staff; specifically, with a semi-fictional band calling themselves Billy Pepper and the Pepperpots.* After my correspondence and interaction with various persons populating the Nothing-Is-Real board, a forum dedicated to proving that McCartney died in 1966, I came to the opinion that this might have been something more, specifically a culture jam (see 11 February 2009 post). According to the moderators of that board, Neil Aspinall, long-time CEO of Apple Corp had participated using the handle Apollo C. Vermouth. Vermouth, who depicted himself as an insider, likened the true intentional mystery to a novel, in which everyone has read all of the chapters except the last.
At the time, I thought that rather cool, in a way. If true, then there is a mystery, a part of the story yet revealed. It would be fantastic if someone could someday discover that last chapter so that we could all enjoy it.
That is, someone other than me.
And, of course, it makes a certain sense. Imagine that you’ve pulled off THE culture jam of the Twentieth Century, and no one noticed. The fun of the jam, not to mention any salient or cogent political or philosophical point, is the reveal. I think it’s possible that, because of the underlying ideology surrounding Apple Corp, those behind the rumor were simultaneously mocking, yet, ironically, honoring their fan base. It was something designed to send Beatlephiles into a tizzy--yank their chains, so to speak--but at the same time relying on them to ultimately figure it out for themselves, and take their rightful credit for partnering with the band on what they might have conceptualized as a piece of community art. Because of fixating on the notion of trying to prove McCartney physically dead, the main point kinda got lost in the shuffle. I can therefore understand why someone like an Aspinall, a man who at the time I posted the series faced grave health conditions, might ardently contribute to such online forums. Simply put, he wanted to see the reveal in his lifetime.
If that’s the case, we all let him down. Aspinall passed away in March 2008.
In the fall of 2012, I received some comments from a netizen using the handle Dr./Gerald Tomoculus.** He suggested I take another look at the subject:
You have all the material you need, you just have to apply a couple other things to it -- one being Magick. The other being that there have been Two Pauls. All along. How? Oh I don't know. But the evidence keeps mounting that that is the case. And saying someone died, but is still alive, is a great way to get people to look at other things, rather than what's actually there. And the implications are staggering.
Especially when you go back to 1947. But you did. You've got most of this covered and knowledgeable of it. It just has to be applied to Paul Is Dead :)
Curious, I thought. How would he know what I needed to “solve the mystery” unless
he had already solved it himself, or was close to doing so? If that’s
the case, he can discover the last chapter by himself. He doesn’t
need me. And, you'll have to forgive me, Doc T., but I found this especially intriguing since I had just finished a series that discussed Discordianism, and the penchant of adherents to pull “Jakes,” or in other words send various people, often low-level bureaucrats, on wild goose chases, or as we call them around here, ‘snipe hunts.’
I thought--and you’ll have to beg my pardon, Dr. T. if you’re reading this, but I’m gonna talk about you for a bit--maybe he, and like-minded individuals are merely dedicated to solving the culture jam, and expanding the search to include more individuals. Interestingly, for reasons too involved to explain here, that would be quite consistent with the ideological center of Apple Corp, and is probably the most appropriate way to go about it.
Then other possibilities came to mind.
Whatever the case, I find Dr. T. quite enjoyable to communicate with, and I've grown to like him. His website’s a lot of fun, and I highly recommend taking a look at it. It’s a place where you can get lost for awhile, whether Beatlephile or no.
For what it’s worth, there really seems to be an intentionally constructed riddle to solve that could perhaps to lead to some profound, cogent statement. Part of that statement is dark, perhaps something the Beatles felt uncomfortable talking about in concrete terms, or even in the abstraction of poetic lyrics.
So, I promised to take another look at the PID rumor, not so much to solve anything, or research the subject in earnest (I’m a bit more careful about my time, these days), or even post much more than I already am on the subject. Rather, I’m taking a peek at it to see if it’s something I really want to pursue further, trying to estimate the amount of research and work that it will take. The jury’s still out on this one. But if I do post another series on McCartney’s putative demise, you’ll be the first to know.
In the next post, I'll tell you what I've been thinking.
* Fictional, because the band didn’t exist in the way that musical groups normally do, but rather as an ad hoc endeavor embarked upon by the performers involved. I said "semi-" because the effort actually produced real music.
**Tomoculus is a rare nerve disorder. If you query the term on the ‘Net, you wont find much about the condition. There’s thus the advantage of having it stand out when Googling the character string.
Please don’t wake me. No, don’t shake me. Leave me where I am. I’m only sleeping.
–John Lennon and Paul McCartney, “I’m Only Sleeping,” Revolver (UK), Yesterday and Today (US), 1966.
As you can probably tell, I haven’t spent much time in cyberspace, lately. I haven’t visited your blogs. Hell, I’ve hardly visited this one.
After doing nothing but writing for work and for the last series, I’ve become, well, written-out. Again, I don’t know how Charles manages to read and write as much as he does and still keep a job and his family. I’m completely in awe of the man. It’s something I cannot do.
It’s not that I have writer’s block. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s more like writer’s logjam. I’ve got so much more to say. For one thing, I want to continue the Assailing the Tender Age metaseries. But after my gig ended last June, and after the last post in July, I reckoned that I needed to take some time to goof off. I don’t know how much of a presence I’ll be. And I’ll try to get back into communication with everyone. But slowly.
I’ve been using the time to catch up on some research for possible future series. In addition to the ones I’ve mentioned previously (the deaths of Vicki Morgan, Pope John Paul I, and the Son of Sam slayings), On top of that, I’ve been delving into several other things:
The first is the Zodiac killings. Currently, I’m looking into the possibility that (a) there was more than one individual involved; (b) that many of the alleged murders are actually not connected to each other, but were tied together by someone writing in behalf of the assailants, or one of the assailants; (c) that a core of five or six murders might have actually been related to either organized crime and/or British occultists; and (d) some of the murders might have been committed by people connected to above British occultists, Charles Manson, or both. One of the things I’m most interested in is the story of Arthur Leigh (pronounced ‘Lay’) Allen, who for many years was one of the prime suspects. But DNA evidence failed to link him too the murders.
Second topic: the Robert F. Kennedy assassination. This was a topic I planned to write about many years ago, but never got around to it. I’m not sure, now, if I ever will. Noted researcher Lisa Pease plans to come out with a new book on the assassination later this year. I’ve followed her research over the years, and have read what she has had to say about the nature of political assassination in the 1960s. If her past work is any indication, I’m anticipating that hers will be a very important book on the subject, and I’m eagerly awaiting its completion and release. I’m quite sure I’ll review it, once it comes out. I can wait awhile to see what needs to be said about the assassination after reading it. But I expect that Pease will be quite thorough.
And then, there’s a third possible series I’m looking into. I’m not researching it per se. Just looking into whether or not I want to research it.
You see, it involves going back into the subject matter of a previous series on The X-Spot.