Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: The Bogus Christian Memoir Hall of Shame

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Literary fraud is an important topic at Swallowing the Camel. Whether it’s middle-aged women pretending to be teen boys afflicted with HIV/AIDS (here and here), or James Cameron’s BFF letting himself be snowjobbed by a lying WWII vet, or fake Holocaust memoirists, no one gets a free pass when it comes to literary misdeeds. So why should Christians be any different? This week’s Weirdness Roundup covers some of the most egregious frauds involving inspirational Christian nonfiction, starting with the most recent case:

  • A year after diligent readers expressed their concerns, UK Christian publishing house Authentic Media has withdrawn a popular preacher’s autobiography from the market. Tony Anthony’s Taming the Tiger (2004) told the awesome story of how Jesus transformed him from an angry young criminal to the person he is today (I’ll let you decide if that was an improvement or not).
    Taming the Tiger describes how 4-year-old Tony learned Kung Fu from his grandfather. As the book’s cover reminds us, he ultimately became a “3 times Kung Fu World Champion”. His professional debut was in 1984. The following year, he went to work as a bodyguard for international VIPs, including the Saudi ambassador to the UK, Italy, and Cyprus. In 1988 or ’89, his world fell apart when his girlfriend of three years, Aiya, was killed in a car accident. He turned his back on everything good in his life and become an enforcer for his boss, threatening and beating and even killing people who posed the slightest danger to the ambassador. He then became a burglar to raise money for an expensive medical procedure his father needed, and started getting into confrontations with police in Cyprus, where he was then living. He landed himself in jail in Christmas 1989, and it was there that an Irish missionary introduced him to Jesus Christ.
    Upon release in 1992, Anthony returned to the UK and settled down to have a family. He considered himself a good Christian, but after he was arrested for killing a woman in a hit and run (and lying to police about it) in 2001, he realized he still needed a lot of work. His second awakening as a Christian spurred him to write the memoir, which has sold more than a million copies in 25 languages. Its success gave him the opportunity to preach all over the world, and he established an Essex-based international evangelism organization called Avanti Ministries.
    The whole thing imploded when skeptical readers decided to look into Anthony’s actual background. One of the first things they discovered was that he was born in 1971…meaning he would have been just 13 years old when he became a Kung Fu grand master, and 14 when he was supposedly protecting an ambassador. He would still have been a teenager when he ended up in Nicosia prison. Also, the Saudi ambassador to the UK from 1980-1992, Nasser Almanqour, was never sent to Italy or Cyprus.
    It wasn’t just readers who were skeptical. One director of Avanti Ministries, Mike Hancock, resigned because Anthony seemed reluctant to verify the stories in his book. Hancock joined forces with another former Avanti director and a few concerned Christian ministers to investigate Anthony’s claims. Last year, they submitted a summary of their findings to the board of Avanti, the UK’s Evangelical Alliance, and Authentic Media, resulting in Authentic’s decision to pull the book.
    Tony Anthony has issued a statement saying he “wholeheartedly” defends everything he wrote in Taming the Tiger, with the exception of some details that he claims he wasn’t aware of at the time he wrote it. He admits that some names, places, etc., were altered to protect the privacy of certain people. He also claims he recently tried to publish an updated autobiography, but was blocked from doing so by unnamed persons “intent on discrediting” his ministry. Hilariously, he seems astonished that anyone would be interested in the historical veracity of his work (which is categorized as a nonfiction martial arts book in libraries and bookstores).
    Anthony’s statement includes the announcement that Avanti Ministries will no longer be in charge of its outreach programs.
  • The story of “Lauren Stratford” is by far the weirdest, most convoluted bogus Christian memoir tale of the past several decades. In 1988, her book Satan’s Underground was published by one of the top Christian publishers in America, Harvest House. In it, Stratford described a nightmarish existence as an abused child prostitute, handed over to child pornographers and pedophile rapists by her own mother (a schoolteacher). As a teen, she became a virtual sex slave to a Satan-worshiping porno kingpin known only as “Victor”. Victor’s cult engaged in everything from infanticide to cannibalism, and Lauren was forced to participate in their hellish rites. She was the first former Satanist to claim status as a “breeder”, a woman forced to bear children for ritual sacrifice, and I doubt it’s a coincidence that within months of the release of Satan’s Underground, breeders were popping out of the woodwork to appear on Geraldo and Sally Jesse Raphael. Stratford herself was invited to appear on Oprah and Geraldo as a victim of Satanic ritual abuse. Her book became very popular with recovered memory advocates and Christian therapists, and other ritual abuse survivors credited Stratford’s book with helping them retrieve their own “repressed memories”.
    Then, in 1991, the Christian magazine Cornerstone investigated Stratford’s background. The reporters couldn’t find a shred of evidence that Laurel Wilson had ever been abused by Satanists or anyone else, but they did uncover evidence indicating that Wilson/Stratford suffered a factitious disorder.
    Toward the end of her life, Stratford re-emerged as a Holocaust survivor named “Laura Grabowski”. She said she had been one of Josef Mengele’s victims, and even had a touching reunion with a fellow child survivor of Auschwitz, Binjamin Wilkomirski. The problem was, Wilkomirski had never been in Auschwitz, either.
    You can read more about the peculiar Wilson/Stratford/Grabowski saga in Part IX of my series The Prodigal Witch.
  • In 1986, Christian pamphleteer Jack Chick published a bizarre book titled He Came to Set the Captives Free, by one “Rebecca Brown, M.D.” It told the story of a crusading Christian doctor (Brown herself) who was engaged in a life-or-death struggle against evil forces in Indiana. Satanists were dogging her every step because she had rescued a young woman named Elaine from their clutches. Elaine had been brainwashed by the Satanists from childhood, and as an adult was forced to literally marry Satan in his human form.
    Having divorced Satan and her second husband too, Elaine helped Dr. Brown foil Satanic assassins and rescue other cult victims. The duo claimed to have saved about 1000 witches from dangerous covens in the first half of the ’80s alone. Brown published a second book about her battles with darkness, Prepare for War, in 1987. That same year, she and Elaine appeared on one of Geraldo Rivera’s shows about Satanism.
    In 1989, writers G. Richard Risher, Paul R. Blizard, and M. Kurt Goedelman delved into the backgrounds of Rebecca Brown and Elaine for the Personal Freedom Outreach Newsletter. What they found was deeply disturbing. Brown was really Ruth Bailey, and she had been stripped of her medical license five years earlier, after colleagues discovered she had been giving massive (potentially fatal) doses of prescription painkillers to one of her patients, Edna Moses. Edna Moses was “Elaine”. The two women had been living together in a filthy house for years, telling neighbours they were sisters. Bailey was known for her violent, unstable, paranoid behaviour. Edna/Elaine died in 2005.
    Bailey/Brown left Edna in 1989 to marry an ex-con who claimed he was tortured by Swiss rabbis as a boy, and the couple now runs a small ministry called Harvest Warriors.
    Though many Christians recognize Brown’s books for what they are (pure batshit insanity), they remain in print and continue to captivate the more gullible members of the Christian community.  In 2010, a sixth-grade science teacher in Brooklyn was mildly reprimanded for distributing and selling copies of They Came to Set the Captives Free to some of his students.
    The full story of Ruth Bailey and Edna Moses can be read in Part VIII of my Prodigal Witch series.
  • In the early ’70s, a roly-poly young Californian named Mike Warnke took the evangelical world by storm. He was loved for his Christian stand-up comedy (yes, that’s a thing, I guess), but it was his truly sinister background that drew the most attention to him. As he detailed in his 1973 memoir The Satan Seller, Warnke had dropped out of college to lead one branch of a nationwide Satanic cult that practiced blasphemous rites, lured teenagers into their ranks with the promise of sex and drugs, and occasionally raped and dismembered innocents in the name of the Devil. You know, typical frat stuff.
    Just like Tony Anthony, Warnke founded a successful ministry on the strength of his testimony. It wasn’t until 1992, nearly 20 years after The Satan Seller was printed, that a group of Christians published an exhaustive refutation of Warnke’s claims in a Cornerstone magazine article. As writers Jon Trott and Mike Hertenstein revealed, Warnke hadn’t been a Devil-worshiping drug addict in college; he had already become a Christian by that time, and spent most of his time doing ridiculously wholesome things that other square kids did in the late ’60s: Bowling, going out for ice cream, double-dating with his devoutly Catholic girlfriend, etc.
    Confronted with his make-believe past, Warnke weakly explained that his Satanic following may have been a bit smaller than he originally stated (around a dozen people, rather than 1500). He would not back down from anything else in his book. A few years ago, though, he admitted to Jim Bakker that he had felt compelled to present a dramatic conversion testimony to impress the evangelical community, and made a joke about “evangelasticity”.
    You can read more about Warnke in
    Part II of the Prodigal Witch series.
  • The same year The Satan Seller was published, Doreen Irvine’s autobiography From Witchcraft to Christ was released in the UK. A prim-looking older lady, Irvine claimed to have been a teen prostitute who was inducted into Satanism in London around 1950. Over the next 12 years, she developed the abilities to levitate several feet off the ground, read minds, render herself invisible, manifest apports, and kill birds in midflight just by looking at them. She was crowned Queen of the Black Witches of Europe. Then she walked into a church on a whim and was instantly converted to Christianity. After a grueling exorcism removed 47 demons from her body, she traveled to churches all over the world, sharing her story of redemption.
    No one has ever extensively refuted the claims in From Witchcraft to Christ, probably because they are too absurd to take seriously in the first place. But the book, and Doreen’s preaching, had a profound and lasting impact that has left at least one young woman dead. You can read more about her influence in Part I of The Prodigal Witch.

There are a number of other Christian memoirs that definitely set off my BS alarm, but the claims made in these books are so unverifiable that there is really no way to refute them. These include:

  • A Divine Revelation of Hell (1997) and A Divine Revelation of Heaven (1998) by Mary K. Baxter. Baxter, a Pentacostal preacher from Michigan, claims she was given walking tours of both Heaven and Hell by Jesus himself, so that she could bear witness to their physical reality. She says Hell is located near the planet’s core, is shaped like a human body, and contains many homosexuals. In Heaven, angels collect the tears of everyone on Earth and store them away in jars.
  • Blood Secrets by Isaiah Oke, as told to Joe Wright (1989). Oke is a Nigerian Christian who claims he was once a ju-ju shaman, and that he witnessed a brutal human sacrifice carried out by his mentor. The person who commissioned this sacrifice is described as a powerful colonel, and it’s quite obvious that Oke wants us to think he was Idi Amin.
    Oke became a Christian while studying accounting at college. As he and Wright tell it, a young American co-ed had annoyed him one day, but Oke was unable to “hex” her even after numerous attempts. Finally, he asked her why she was resistant to his magical powers, and she told him she was a Christian. He promptly converted, and continues to talk smack about Nigerian spirituality to the present day.

The Iceman Lieth

Was Mafia assassin Richard Kuklinski full of sh**?

I’ve had Richard “Ice Man” Kuklinski’s claims on my mind for some time now, and with the FBI recently scouring Detroit for Jimmy Hoffa and a movie starring Michael Shannon as Kuklinski being released in May, this seems as good a time as any to examine what the notorious hitman had to say prior to his death in 2006.

kuklinski
Who was Richard Kuklinski? 

Born in 1935 to an alcoholic, abusive railroad brakeman and a fanatically Catholic mother who also administered beatings freely, Richard Leonard Kuklinski dropped out of the eighth grade to become a full-time hoodlum, stealing cars and robbing houses in Jersey City and Hoboken.

At 19 he became a serial killer, murdering homeless men in the alleys of New York, Newark and Hoboken. He claimed he killed at least 50 men just for the pleasure it gave him. He experimented with different killing techniques, as he would throughout his life. He was soon working as an enforcer and contract killer for New Jersey’s DeCavalcante crime family, which would later serve as the model for the fictional DiMeo crime family in The Sopranos.
At 6’4″ and 250 pounds, with a hair-trigger temper and an array of weapons, Kuklinski was an incredibly deadly force. He was such a skilled, trusted hitman by 1960 that he began doing work for the New York crime families, earning up to five figures per job. Yet he continued to live in low-income housing in Jersey City, thanks to his penchant for gambling.  (1)

He married a good Catholic girl, Barbara Pedrici, in 1962. This was his second marriage. He had two sons (the elder was Richard Jr.) with his first wife. He claims he sliced off his first wife’s nipples when he found her in bed with another man, but didn’t officially separate from her until the eve of his marriage to Barbara.  (1)

Though Barbara had three miscarriages and a difficult fourth pregnancy in 1962 and ’63, and the couple had no money, Kuklinski didn’t take a single contract during this period. He worked a series of low-paying, menial “straight” jobs. The closest he came to organized crime was bootlegging copies of cartoons and X-rated movies while working in a film lab. Then, with two other guys, he reverted to stealing truckloads of merchandise. He shot two men in a fit of road rage, killed four others when a buyer who tried to renegotiate the price of a stolen load of wristwatches, and tortured and killed two men who attempted to steal a load of stolen goods from his crew.
So far as his family knew, though, Kuklinski’s only job was copying cartoons in a Hell’s Kitchen lab. They weren’t aware that he was actually copying porn movies in a lab controlled by a member of the Gambino crime family. He worked long hours, often staying in the lab through the night. When a union representative confronted him about this, he killed the man and disguised his death as a hanging in a public park. In 1971, he murdered a bouncer at the Peppermint Lounge for showing him disrespect.
It was around this time that he quit his lab job and began distributing and financing porn. One Christmas, he killed a porn producer who refused to repay a $1500 loan, even though the man’s brother was a captain in the Gambino family.  (1)

In the early ’70s, Kuklinski got himself heavily into debt with a Gambino associate who was partners with Roy DeMeo, and DeMeo pistol-whipped him. But he ended up being so impressed by Kuklinski’s fearlessness – a quality they shared – that he began giving him jobs. Once again, he was a hitman and enforcer for the Mafia.

demeo

Roy DeMeo

DeMeo had worked his way up in the Gambino crime family. His headquarters was the Gemini Lounge, a seedy bar on Troy Avenue, Queens. DeMeo was involved in a broad range of criminal enterprises, notably stripping stolen cars, but in the ’70s he assembled a team of hitmen and made contract killings his specialty. His outfit became known as the Murder Machine. By the early ’80s, he had attracted the attention of the Organized Crime Task Force of the Queens D.A.’s office. Detectives Kenny McCabe, Joe Wendling, and John Murphy put the Gemini Lounge under unofficial surveillance, learning the faces and names of every frequent visitor to the lounge.  (2)

By 1969 the Kuklinskis had three children, two daughters and a son. In the mid-’70s Richard purchased a lovely three-bedroom split level in Dumont, New Jersey, where he and Barbara hosted neighbourhood barbecues and pool parties. They went to church every Sunday, and the kids were enrolled in private Catholic schools.
Meanwhile, Kuklinski killed one of his two partners in the porn distribution business on DeMeo’s orders. Immediately afterward, he shot a stranger in another fit of road rage.  (1)

Altogether, Kuklinski killed over 100 people in at least 18 states, including Hawaii.  (1, 3)
In the ’70s and ’80s, he was involved in some of the most infamous killings in Mafia history (more on those shortly). But it was his crew of relatively small-time cat burglars that brought him down; after killing no fewer than four of his associates between ’81 and ’83, Kuklinski finally caught the attention of New Jersey law enforcement. A sting operation resulted in his arrest in ’86, and in ’88 he was convicted of four murders (a fifth case against him was dropped for lack of evidence).

Between 1991 and his death in 2006, Kuklinski gave a series of chilling interviews to HBO. These were turned into three America Undercover documentaries. In the first, chewing gum and wearing a sweatshirt, he calmly ran down his crimes – the cyanide, the strangulation, the time he wore elevator shoes to infiltrate a disco. He showed a flicker of humanity just once, as he talked about his ex-wife and children.
In this first interview, he made no mention of his most dramatic claim – that he, along with three other men, had kidnapped and murdered Jimmy Hoffa.
In his second HBO interview, aired in 2001, he explicitly stated that he did not kill Hoffa (but knew who did).  (3, 4)
Then, just before his death in 2006, he supposedly gave a very different story to true crime writer Philip Carlo, who documented it in his book The Ice Man.

Hoffa

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The task of making Hoffa “disappear forever” had been handed to a childhood acquaintance of Kuklinski, identified only as “Tony P.” or “Tony Pro” by Philip Carlo (obviously meant to be Anthony Provenanzo, a Genovese caporegime who was also  vice president for Teamsters Local 560 in Union City, New Jersey).  (5)
Provenzano enlisted Richard and two other Jersey men to help him. Kuklinski was told only that a union guy in Detroit was making trouble for the Genovese family, and had to be killed. That was all he wanted, or needed, to know.
On the afternoon of July 30, 1975, the quartet drove to the Machus Red Fox restaurant outside Detroit, as arranged, and Tony P. conversed briefly with Hoffa in the parking lot. Then Hoffa got into the car, and Tony drove several miles before giving Kuklinski the signal to knock the mark unconscious with a “jawbreaker” and stab him to death with one powerful thrust of his hunting knife. They bundled the body into the trunk, and Kuklinski was left with the risky job of driving it back to Jersey while the other three guys caught a bus out of town.
Back in New Jersey, Kuklinski took Hoffa’s body to a Mafia-affiliated junkyard in Kearney and deposited it into a 50-gallon drum, which he then burned and buried on the property.
Kuklinski thought the man had looked familiar, but didn’t discover who he was until later.
Around 1978, one of the killers began to talk to the FBI. Kuklinski was hired to take him out. This man, according to Carlo’s book, was Salvatore Briguglio, an official in Union City’s Local 560. Prosecutors subpoenaed Briguglio and several other suspected conspirators to appear before a federal grand jury on December 4, 1975, but they could never pin Hoffa’s disappearance on them.  (1, 5)
In March 1978, Briguglio was shot to death near the Andrea Doria Social Club in New York’s Little Italy. This seemingly had nothing to do with Hoffa; Briguglio had been scheduled to appear in court with Anthony Provenzano and Harold Konigsberg for the 1961 murder of Anthony Castellito.  (5)
According to several people, including his wife, Hoffa had expected to meet with Anthony Giacalone of Detroit and Anthony Provenzano on the afternoon he vanished. But Provenzano wasn’t even in Detroit that day; he was in Union City. The car that picked up Hoffa was likely driven by a man Hoffa looked upon as a son, Charles O’Brien.  (5,6)

The following account is drawn from the work of Dan Moldea, author of The Hoffa Wars. He has pieced together what federal investigators believe is the closest we will ever get to the truth about Hoffa’s death. Some of the information came from Ralph Picardo, a former driver for Provenzano.
Hoffa had gotten on the wrong side of Provenzano and Pennsylvania crime boss Russell Bufalino. Hoffa and Provenzano even came to blows in prison. On the morning of July 30, O’Brien picked up three of Provenzano’s henchmen at a Detroit-area airport and drove them to a house where he was staying, not far from the Machus Red Fox restaurant. These three men were Sal Briguglio, his brother Gabriel, and and another New Jersey Teamster official named Thomas Andretta. All three would subsequently be named as the suspected assassins by the federal grand jury. Moldea suspects that Frank Sheeran of Teamsters Local 326 in Wilmington, Delaware, was another conspirator/witness.
In the afternoon, O’Brien picked Hoffa up at the restaurant and drove him to the house, where the men were waiting for him.  (5)
Picardo alleged that Hoffa’s killers stuffed him into a 55-gallon drum, loaded him onto a truck in Detroit, and shipped him to an unknown destination. His remains were later squashed in a car-compacting machine. This, too, was brought before the grand jury.  (6)

Kuklinski claimed that after Briguglio started talking in ’78, the barrel containing Hoffa’s scorched remains was dug up, squashed in a car-compacting machine, and shipped off to Japan as scrap metal.  (1, 4)

Though he had talked about his work at great length with the HBO crew years earlier, Kuklinski waited over 20 years to publicly confess his role in Hoffa’s disappearance. I don’t know how you feel about all this, but my response was basically

nope

The thing with Hoffa’s disappearance is that isn’t as mysterious as the average person thinks it is. As you can see from the above passage, the feds had a pretty good idea who was involved, and who was connected to those guys. Kuklinski’s name did not come up once. Former FBI agent Robert Garrity, one of the investigators of Hoffa’s disappearance said, “I’ve never heard of him, and I’ve never heard of the writer [Carlo].” Bob Buccino, the former head of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice’s organized crime division and a member of the task force who ultimately brought Kuklinski down, was reportedly also skeptical of the claims in Carlo’s book.  (7)
In fact, you’re not going to find a single seasoned Hoffa or Mafia investigator who buys Kuklinski’s story. Yet Carlo would have us believe that this hulking maniac, who would literally murder other drivers just for looking at him funny, was so skillful and so meticulous in his work that he managed to slip past every Mafia-savvy federal agent, police officer, and investigative reporter in the nation for nearly 30 years, like Caspar on steroids.

totallylegit
Also, who would drive from Detroit to Jersey with a former Teamster boss in his trunk? They don’t have car-crushing machines in Detroit?

Now let’s look at three other infamous hits in which Kuklinski was supposedly involved: The murder of Bonanno family boss Carmine Galante; the assassination of the head of the Gambino crime family, Paul Castellano; and the death of Roy DeMeo.

Carmine “Lilo” Galante was a big-time narcotics trafficker, instrumental in the French Connection, and he took over control of the Bonanno family after Philip Rastelli went to prison in 1974. The other four New York families deeply resented Galante’s domination of the drug trade and its profits, so they began plotting to take him out.
On the afternoon of July 12, 1979, three men in ski masks burst onto the patio of Joe and Mary’s Italian-American Restaurant in Brooklyn and opened fire on Galante, his cousin, and three other members of the Bonanno family. Galante never saw it coming; the little man nicknamed for a cigar died with one clamped between his teeth. Only two of the men survived, and these two (Baldo Amato and Cesare Bonventre) were suspected of having some involvement in the hit.  (8)

galante crime scene

The Galante crime scene

Numerous men have been floated as suspects over the years, but Kuklinski has never been on the radar in relation to the murder of Carmine Galante; the only person to suggest he could have been one of the gunmen was Kuklinski himself. His version of the story is extremely detailed – right down to the restaurant decor and the “rubbery waves of heat” coming from the sidewalk that day – but it simply doesn’t match up with the event. Kuklinski’s claims are in bold, with the facts as they are told in Selwyn Raab’s Five Families following:

– He identified the owner of the restaurant as Galante’s cousin Mary. Joe and Mary’s was actually owned by Galante’s distant cousin, Giuseppe Turano, who was one of the three men killed that day.
– Galante entered the restaurant with two guys, one of whom – Bonventre – was in on the job (as DeMeo explained to Kuklinski). Galante showed up alone that day, dropped off by a nephew. Everyone who was on the patio during the shooting had joined Galante later. Clearly, Kuklinski and/or Carlo relied on popular accounts of the shooting, which indicated (erroneously) that Amato and Bonventre were acting as bodyguards for Galante that day and accompanied him into the restaurant.
– Kuklinski arrived before Galante and behaved like a regular customer until the other two gunmen appeared. Surely, Giuseppe’s son John – who was shot by one of the three men – would have noticed an unmasked gunman moving toward the patio. Everyone agrees that all three shooters entered and exited the restaurant at the same time, wearing masks.
– Kuklinski started toward the exit as soon as the other two assassins started firing, got into a car driven by DeMeo, and was gone by the time it was all over. Again, all three gunman left the restaurant together and got into the same getaway car.
– DeMeo told him that one of the guys with Galante – Bonventre – would leave the table at some point, giving the signal. Kuklinski watched him exit the restaurant. By all other accounts, Bonventre did not leave the patio. He remained there throughout the attack and exited the restaurant shortly after the shooters did. In fact, that’s what tipped people off that he could have been involved in the hit; he and and Amato were almost literally on the heels of the three assassins, yet made no effort to stop them.

This cockamamie story serves to expose other tales Kuklinski told as bogus. For instance, DeMeo and his boss Anthony “Nino” Gaggi were supposedly so impressed by his expert handling of the Galante murders that they cut him in on a huge cocaine deal, even sending him to Rio to negotiate a shipment. But if Kuklinski didn’t kill Galante, why would Gaggi reward him in this way?

Castellano

Paul Castellano

Paul Castellano

Paul Castellano was made head of the Gambino family not so much because he earned it, but because he had married Carlo Gambino’s sister. This gave him a lot of pull, but by 1985 John Gotti was plotting to take him out and replace him. Kuklinski claims he was given the contract to shoot Castellano’s right-hand man and chauffeur, Tommy Bilotti, by Sammy Gravano. Someone else would take care of Castellano, he was told.  (1)
It would not be possible to overestimate the importance of this assassination in Mafia history. Gotti, a relative unknown, shot to gangland superstardom because of this hit. Ever see that A&E show Growing Up Gotti? Yeah, well, you wouldn’t have had to suffer through that if it wasn’t for this hit. It was a seismic event, and once the dust settled, the terrain of the Gambino family was never the same.
The plan was cooked up by Gotti, Robert DiBernardo, Joseph Armone, and Gravano. Their people allegedly broached the idea with three of the five New York families, and received unofficial sanction for their hostile takeover. Frank DeCicco provided vital inside information; Castellano would be meeting with a trusted group of capos – himself included – at Sparks Steakhouse in Manhattan at 5:00 PM on December 16, 1985. Gotti chose eleven assassins for the job. Four of them would wait near the entrance to Sparks and take out Castellano and Bilotti as they approached.
The hit went off precisely as planned. The four gunmen swarmed Castellano’s Lincoln Town Car and fired a hail of bullets into the two men. All team members escaped in getaway cars.  (8)
Again, Kuklinski’s account deviates significantly from the known details of the event. His claims are in bold:

– Gravano told him straight out that Bilotti was his target. The eleven guys handpicked by Gotti were not given their targets until just hours before the hit.
– He walked to Sparks by himself, window-shopping along the way. He did not know who the other assassins were, or where they were. The assassins met in a nearby park for a “dress rehearsal” shortly before 5:00.
– He chose a spot across the street from Sparks. The gunmen had already selected their positions by the time they arrived. This would not have been left to chance; it was a tightly coordinated hit.
– He fled on foot and hailed a cab. The assassins had getaway cars waiting for them on Second Avenue. What kind of hitman hails a cab from a crime scene, anyway?

Gravano would later cut a deal and testify against Gotti, admitting to his role in the murder of Castellano. He did not mention Kuklinski. Even after Kuklinski fingered him for the murder of Peter Calabro, Gravano never explicitly stated that he knew him, though it certainly would have been to his advantage to finger Kuklinski for the Castelleno hit. “Yeah, I know that guy. I hired him to take out Bilotti.”

I will repeat that no one familiar with organized crime recognized Kuklinski after his arrest. In Selwyn Raab’s Five Families, his name is given as “Kukinski”. This might say more about Raab than it does about Kuklinski, but isn’t it curious that a journalist who followed Mafia affairs for the New York Times for a quarter of a century had never heard of the guy? Just how does a Polish hitman standing six and a half feet tall slip under the radar?

DeMeo

In Carlo’s book, Kuklinski never really respects Roy DeMeo. He’s grateful for the work DeMeo gives him, but he secretly nurses resentment over DeMeo’s bullying and plans to kill him someday.
In February 1983, he finally got his chance. DeMeo feared murder charges would soon be laid against him for the murders of “Jimmy Esposito” and his son (Nino Gaggi was already in jail for this crime). Kuklinski feared that DeMeo, desperate as he was, would roll over on him. So he shot DeMeo as they were parked in DeMeo’s car near Sheepshead Bay. He placed the body in the trunk and strolled away.
Even Carlo admits, in a postscript to his book, that Kuklinski probably wasn’t involved in DeMeo’s death. The generally held view is that Castellano ordered him killed because he couldn’t be trusted, and the hit was carried out by one or more of DeMeo’s own crew members. Again, several men have been named as strong suspects, and Kuklinski was never mentioned by anyone. Also, the motive he gives doesn’t make a lick of sense, and his details are again inconsistent with known facts. For instance, the Eppolito (not Esposito) murders had occurred four years earlier; Gaggi had already served his time, and the case was closed.

Anthony Bruno left the Castellano and DeMeo murders out of his 1994 biography of Kuklinski, The Iceman: The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer. He has explained that he simply couldn’t verify them.

Kuklinski also claimed he was in on the murder of John Favara, a neighbour of John Gotti. Favara accidentally struck and killed 12-year-old Frank Gotti, John’s youngest son, with his car in the spring of 1980. Kuklinski said Gotti’s brother Gene, a few other men and himself beat and tortured Favara to death. Several men have been named in relation to the case, and one of them was Gene Gotti, but Kuklinski has never been mentioned – except by himself and Carlo.  (1)

Some of Kuklinski’s other dramatic – and unprovable – claims:

  • When he was 5, his parents told him that his 10-year-old brother Florian had been struck and killed by a car, and he believed them. Years later, however, he claimed that Florian really died from one of their father’s beatings, and his parents told police Florian had tumbled down a staircase. How would he know this? It seems unlikely that either parent would ever admit to obscuring the cause of their child’s death, and Kuklinski obviously didn’t witness his brother’s demise.
  • He accidentally beat a neighbourhood bully named Charley Lane to death with a clothing rod from his closet when he was just 13 or 14 years old. He stole a car and drove the corpse two hours south to a swamp in the Pine Barrens, where he removed all the boy’s teeth and hacked off his fingers to delay identification of the body. (1)
    I can find no information on a Jersey City boy disappearing or being found dead in 1948 or 1949. There are at least two versions of the story; in Carlo’s book, young Kuklinski is already crime-savvy enough to steal a car, make a clean getaway, and dispose of a body, while in Bruno’s book he merely leaves the body in the courtyard of his apartment building. Carlo states the boy’s body was not found.
  • Between 1955 and 1960, he killed no fewer than three people after disputes in bars. His second murder was committed outside a Hoboken pool hall about 5 years after he killed Lane. A young Irish policeman who was getting on his nerves had fallen asleep in his car, so Kuklinski set it on fire. This man is known as “Doyle” in Carlo’s book. There may be at least two versions of this story, because elsewhere Kuklinski claimed he beat a man to death with a pool cue when he was 18. In 1959 he stabbed another man and beat a bouncer to death with a hammer.
  • In his late teens and early 20s, he headed a crime ring of 4 or 5 other young guys. They called themselves the Coming Up Roses. The gang was approached by a member of the DeCavalcante crime family and asked, point-blank, to “take care of” a man who was causing trouble. It was Kuklinski who walked up to the mark’s parked car outside a Hoboken bar one night and shot him in the head with a .32 revolver. Each member of the gang received $500. After that they were given many jobs, including stealing $3 million in cash and gold from an armoured-truck warehouse in North Bergen.
    This robbery would have been bigger than the Great Brink’s Robbery of 1950 (which was the nation’s largest robbery at that time), yet it didn’t even make the New Jersey papers. Huh.
    Later, under orders from the DeCavalantes, Kuklinski killed two of his own crew members. The names Philip Carlo gives for these two men are apparently pseudonyms.
    All of this supposedly occurred before Kuklinski was 19.
  • In February 1956, he killed three men who confronted him in Jersey City and dumped their bodies in a cave in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
  • He was the only hitman known to have worked for all five New York crime families (plus the two in New Jersey), according to Philip Carlo’s book.
  • One of the porn films he copied at the lab where he worked in the ’60s was Dogf**ker, starring Linda Lovelace. But that movie was made in the ’70s. This is just one of numerous examples of Kuklinski and/or Philip Carlo juicing up the narrative with BS details. Remember that bouncer he killed at the Peppermint Lounge in ’71? Well, that bar closed in 1965 and didn’t reopen until 1980.
  • In Florida, he killed a rapist (on DeMeo’s orders) by cutting off chunks of his flesh (including his penis) and setting him adrift in the ocean to be devoured by sharks. Immediately afterward, he killed three young men at a rest stop because they had taunted him on the road.
  • He blew off the head of a motorist stopped at a traffic light with a double-barreled shotgun, from a motorcycle.
  • Strictly as an experiment, he shot a random pedestrian in the head with a crossbow.
  • In Honolulu, he threw a man off the balcony at a five-star hotel.
  • After a robbery in New Jersey, he tired of the bickering of his four cohorts and decided to feed them cyanide-laced sandwiches. All four men died within minutes. He did not dispose of the bodies. The following day, he poisoned the man who had arranged the job.
    Four men being found dead in the same room would be a big deal, even in New Jersey. Yet this didn’t make the papers, either.
  • On more than one occasion, he took victims to a rat-infested cave in Pennsylvania, cocooned them with duct tape, and left them there to be devoured. These murders-by-rat were supposedly videotaped, with a motion sensor triggering a light as the rats moved in to feast, and Kuklinski says he gave the tapes to his clients to prove the “marks” had suffered.
  • He poisoned several people with cyanide in restaurants, while dining with his victims, yet managed to get out the door without being apprehended or questioned. Each and every one of these deaths, he claims, was attributed to heart attacks – meaning the EMTs and medical examiners somehow failed to detect any of the telltale signs of cyanide poisoning (cyanide rictus, the distinctive odour of almonds, etc.).
  • He poisoned more than one victim with cyanide merely by spilling it on their clothes. He would approach the mark in a bar, “accidentally” dump his cyanide-laced drink on the guy, then walk away. The cyanide, he explained, would gradually soak through the victims’ clothing and into their skin.

Then there’s the issue of the ice cream truck assassin…

Who was Robert “Mister Softee” Prongay? 

Kuklinski supposedly met Robert Prongay (spelled Pronge by Carlo) in the early ’80s, at a New Jersey hotel. He and Prongay were possibly stalking the same victim, and they quickly discovered they were fellow assassins. They enthusiastically traded techniques and war stories. Prongay claimed to be a former Special Forces member, trained in the use of explosives and poisons. Kuklinski said he was particularly impressed by Prongay’s use of a Mister Softee ice cream van as a surveillance vehicle, his ingenious use of cyanide in spray form, his remotely-controlled grenades, and his habit of freezing bodies before he dumped them to obscure the estimated time of death. Kuklinski began adopting some of Pronay’s methods in his own work. Prongay, in turn, was fascinated by Kuklinski’s use of rats.

Ice Cream Man

TV Tropes has an extensive list of killer ice cream men under the label “Bad Humor Truck”. Zero points for originality, Ice Man.

Their friendship came to an abrupt end in 1984. First, Prongay asked Kuklinski to kill his wife and young son for him. Then he told Kuklinski of his plan to poison a community reservoir just to kill members of a single family. Outraged, Kuklinski shot him.

What do we really know about Robert Prongay? Basically, nothing. We are told by Carlo that he was found shot to death in his ice cream truck in 1984, but his death didn’t make the papers. Other sources state that his body was discovered hanging in a warehouse on Tonnelle Avenue. There are no known photos of him. His background is a blank. No one in the world – other than Kuklinski – has ever talked about the guy. Carlo tells us Kuklinski pled guilty to his murder in 2004.
There are several possibilities here. One is that an ice cream assassin really was tooling the streets of North Bergen in the ’70s and ’80s, stashing bodies in his freezer. Another is that Kuklinski really did know a criminal ice cream man, and created a bullshit story around the guy, transforming him from a small-time hood into a crack military-trained assassin to obscure the unimpressive truth.

The Prongay conundrum turned out to be the tip of an iceberg. The more I delved into Kuklinski’s world, the less credible he became. Nagging doubts and unresolved issues multiplied, until I was finally faced with some deeply troubling questions.

Did Kuklinski really work for Roy DeMeo?

I began to realize that there isn’t a lot of concrete evidence actually connecting Kuklinski to DeMeo. The only person besides Kuklinski to publicly declare that Kuklinski was an associate of DeMeo is another highly questionable character by the name of Greg Bucceroni. This fellow crawled out of the woodwork a couple of years ago, telling Dr. Phil and any journalist who would listen that he was a Gambino associate at the same time as Kuklinski, that he had been a teenage prostitute for the Gambino family, that the Mafia tried to hire him to kill Mumia Abu-Jamal prior to his arrest, and that Philly businessman Ed Savitz once tried to pimp him out to disgraced Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky. Bucceroni alleges that Kuklinski often traveled between Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York on behalf of DeMeo and Robert DiBernadino, trafficking in illegal porn, working as an enforcer, and of course murdering people.
To date, there is no solid evidence that supports any of Bucceroni’s stories. Not even the Philadelphia Daily News, a glorified tabloid, really bought into him. In fact, reporter William Bender essentially called him out as a liar. The Patriot-News reporter who broke the Sandusky story, Sara Ganim, said when she first spoke to Bucceroni, he presented her with fresh allegations against the coach and other members of what he said was a vast pedophile ring, but couldn’t or wouldn’t provide any details. He said he didn’t know the surnames of his abusers. Later, however, he gave a laundry list of prominent names to other media outlets. When Ganim decided not to run with his unverifiable accusations, Bucceroni resorted to sending her harassing emails and naming her in profanity-laced tweets. Other writers who have had dealings with Bucceroni report similar experiences. Check out Kyle Scott’s posts on Bucceroni at Crossing Broad for more info.
So what we seem to have here is one conman propping up the stories of another conman. Interesting stories? Sure. Convincing evidence? Nope.
Bucceroni is the one and only person who has ever named Kuklinski as a close associate of DeMeo, though several members of DeMeo’s crew became informants.

In their 1992 book Murder Machine, Jerry Capeci and Gerry Mustain didn’t mention Kuklinski at all. Capeci does not buy his stories about Hoffa, Castellano, and DeMeo, and refers to him  as “heretofore unknown”. In other words, while intensively researching DeMeo and his crew, Capeci and Mustain didn’t hear squat about a gigantic Polish hitman.

In The Ice Man, Carlo explains that informant Freddie DiNome tipped off investigators to Kuklinski’s work for DeMeo. I can find no evidence for this. If you come across some, kindly let me know.

On the other hand, the film lab where Kuklinski copied porn was linked to the Gambino family; it was owned by Robert DiBernardi, and one of the theatres he sold stolen porn to was owned by DeMeo. And Kenny McCabe of the NYPD allegedly confirmed to author Anthony Bruno that Kuklinski’s vehicle had been parked at the Gemini Lounge in Brooklyn on several occasions in the early ’80s, when DeMeo was under surveillance. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean he worked for DeMeo outside the film lab. 

Was he a hitman?

Six of the seven murders that can be linked to Kuklinski are those of his own associates, people who worked with him on relatively minor jobs involving theft, or people who owed money: Robert Prongay, George Malliband, Louis Masgay, Gary Smith, Paul Hoffman, and Daniel Deppner. Then there is the case of Peter Calabro, which is rather questionable. All seven murders were committed within a short timespan (198o-1984). Kuklinski was convicted of two of them in 1988, pled guilty to two others, and (according to Carlo) pled guilty to the murders of Pronge and Calabro in 2004.

The first murder that can be definitely linked to him was committed in 1981. Louis Masgay, 44, purchased a lot of stolen merchandise from Kuklinski’s buddy Phil Solimene to stock a little store he owned in Paterson, and one day Phil and Kuklinski decided to rob and kill him. Richard wrapped the body in plastic and tipped it into a cold-water well near a warehouse in North Bergen. He wanted to try freezing a body, as Mister Softee sometimes did.
George Malliband was killed in the first week of February, 1982. A small-time hustler from Pennsylvania, friendly with Kuklinski, Malliband supposedly owed DeMeo $35,000. He tried to weasel his way out of paying on time by hinting that he could harm Kuklinski’s family…and Kuklinski, though brutally abusive to his wife, was so protective of his daughters that he would actually spy on them during parties. He was instantly enraged. He shot Malliband five times, shoved his body into a barrel by removing one leg, and dumped the barrel on the grounds of a chemical plant.
The plant owner found the barrel almost immediately, and it didn’t take police long to learn that Richard Kuklinski was the last person to see Malliband alive.
Meanwhile, DeMeo had decided to switch coke suppliers, and had no intention of paying for the last shipment he received from his original suppliers, a pair of Brazilian brothers. He wanted Kuklinski to travel to Rio a second time and take out both brothers. That’s how Kuklinski became an international assassin. It would not be his last overseas job, he claimed.  (1)

One murder that has been linked to Kuklinski serves as the strongest evidence that he was, in fact, a Mafia-linked hitman. Yet this case is extremely problematic. The hit was allegedly ordered in 1980 by Gambino underboss Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, and the mark was a crooked NYPD detective by the name of Peter Calabro. The exact reasons for the hit aren’t known, but it has been alleged that Calabro’s former in-laws suspected him in the 1977 drowning death of his wife, Carmella, and turned to Gravano for “help” (in the Carlo/Kuklinski version of the story, Calabro hired DeMeo himself to kill Carmella).

Gravano

Sammy Gravano

Here’s how the murder went down, according to Kuklinski: He waited in his van near Calabro’s home in Saddle River, New Jersey, maintaining radio contact with Gravano, who was tailing Calabro. When Calabro attempted to drive around the van, Kuklinski fired the shotgun given to him by Gravano through the windshield of his Honda Civic, killing him with a single shot.  (1, 4)

The murder remained unsolved for over two decades. In 2003, Gravano was charged with soliciting Calabro’s murder. Why? Because Kuklinski took credit for the hit and told the feds it was Gravano who hired him. Beyond that, there is no evidence connecting Kuklinski to Calabro’s murder. Kuklinski had kept this murder under his hat until 2001, when he was interviewed by HBO for the second time.
He agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence (rather than a death sentence), and he also agreed to testify against Gravano. The young state police detectives who questioned Kuklinski claim he provided details that only the killer would know.  (1)  Just what those details are remains a mystery. And no one has answered  a rather obvious question: Why would Gravano, one of Mafiadom’s most prolific hitman himself, hire Kuklinski to do a job like this? He had to hire someone else for the Castellano hit because it was done on a street crawling with Christmas shoppers and steakhouse patrons who could recognize him, but he could easily have pulled off a covert nighttime hit like the Calabro shooting himself. It doesn’t make much sense. Several jailhouse informants have stated that Gravano bragged about killing Calabro himself, for whatever that’s worth.
At any rate, Kuklinski died before Gravano went to trial. The murder charges were dropped for lack of evidence.

The third and fourth murders for which Kuklinski was convicted in ’88 were those of Gary Smith and Daniel Deppner. In late 1981, Percy House, one of the members of a small burglary ring Richard ran, was arrested, and fingered Kuklinski as the boss, though he knew Kuklinski only as “Big Rich”.
Later, the ex-wife of missing crew member Danny Deppner provided state police detective Patrick Kane with Richard’s full name. This woman told Kane that Kuklinski was a hitman, and that he and Deppner had murdered crew member Gary Smith in December 1982 by giving him a poisoned hamburger, then strangling him. Sure enough, Detective Kane learned, Smith’s body had been found stuffed beneath a bed at the York Motel in North Bergen two days after Christmas in 1982. Several people had rented the room without noticing it.

York Motel

Worst housekeeping ever.

In May 1983, Deppner’s body was found near a reservoir in West Milford. He had been poisoned with cyanide, then shot. It would later emerge that he had been killed in the apartment of Richie Peterson, boyfriend of Kuklinski’s elder daughter, Merrick. Peterson had even helped Richard dispose of the body. Kuklinski told young Richie that Deppner had died of a drug overdose, and Richie believed him.
Then came the discovery that gave Kuklinski his nickname, the Ice Man. In August 1983, Louis Masgay’s partially defrosted corpse was found in Rockland County, New York (by other accounts, he was found in Palisades Interstate Park near Orangeburg, New Jersey). Though the corpse appeared fresh, an autopsy revealed shards of ice in his chest cavity, indicating he could have died much earlier.
It was Percy House who broke the case open, finally admitting to Detective Kane that he knew “Big Rich” had killed Masgay, Smith, and Paul Hoffman. Then Kane learned that a fourth guy, George Malliband, had an appointment with Kuklinski on the day he ended up in a barrel. Kukinski’s attorney would try to pin everything on House.
The Masgay case contains a mystery: How did Kuklinski freeze the body? Carlo claims it was kept in an ice-cold well, while the authorities seem to believe it was kept in an industrial freezer. So far as we, though, Kuklinski didn’t have access to a freezer large enough to hold a man’s body. 

Pat Kane worked obsessively on the Kuklinski cases for over four years. Initially, his bosses didn’t think there was anything to them because the MOs were so different in each murder: Strangulation, shooting, poisoning. How could they possibly be the work of one individual, a family man? Kuklinski was a “film distributor” on paper, and had a clean record (with just two complaints for road rage incidents).
Nonetheless, Kane was certain he was on to something. And he kept hearing rumours that Kuklinski was not only a killer, but  a hitman with Mafia ties. Given the body count, that wasn’t hard for Kane to believe. So he cooked up a plan to lure Kuklinski with a decoy client, an undercover cop. The man selected for this job was an enthusiastic ATF agent, Dominick Polifrone. In early 1985, Phil Solimene agreed to introduce him to Kuklinski as a weapons dealer.
It wasn’t until September 1986 that Polifrone finally met Kuklinski face-to-face. Kuklinski asked him to acquire some cyanide, and Polifrone asked for some firearms. Unaware that their phone conversation was being recorded, Kuklinski presented one of his associates (identified as “John Spasudo” in Carlo’s book) as an arms dealer who could get Dominick some “metal” for an IRA client. The two men then chatted about cyanide and all the interesting ways there are to kill people. Kuklinski was admitting, for the record, that he had murdered people.
They arranged to meet at a rest stop on October 2 so Kuklinski could hand over a “hit kit” consisting of a gun and silencer. As they hovered over the trunk of Kuklinski’s car, Dominick floated the idea of poisoning a wealthy young client by cutting his cocaine with cyanide. Kuklinski took the bait, telling Polifrone it could be done. Again, the conversation was recorded.
On Halloween, they arranged to meet up at the rest stop for a third time. This time, Dominick would bring the young coke buyer he supposedly wanted Richard to kill. Detective Paul Smith posed as the buyer. Kuklinski didn’t show. He was too busy conducting business in South Carolina and Zurich, according to Carlo’s book. The team waited tensely until another meeting was set up for December 6. This was a key meeting, because Kuklinski finally named two of the people he had killed: Deppner and Smith. During and after a fourth meeting, on December 12, he and Polifrone made arrangements to meet up again five days later and poison the coke buyer with a cyanide-laced sandwich; Dominick said he could supply the cyanide and the sandwich, which seemed to suit Kuklinski just fine.
On December 17, Polifrone handed Kuklinski a bagful of egg salad sandwiches and a tiny vial of white powder that looked like cyanide. He would pick up their mark and bring him back to the rest stop in about half an hour, he said. Kuklinski said he would swap his car for a van (a safe place to poison the buyer) and return to the rest stop in twenty minutes.
It didn’t take him long to realize the cyanide was fake. He pulled his car over and tested some of it on a stray dog – to absolutely no effect.  (1)

State police detectives were staking out his house in Dumont. They watched him return home around 10:00 AM with a load of groceries. Deputy Chief Bob Buccino gave the order for Kuklinski to be arrested there, and fifteen police vehicles rapidly converged on the scene. Oblivious, Kuklinski bundled a sick Barbara into the car, planning to take her out for breakfast, and drove directly into a solid line of cop cars. It took several men to subdue Richard once he was out of the car.

busted by a sammich

Busted by a sammich.

It seems clear, in hindsight, that Kuklinski at this point in his life was like a scared animal, frantically defending his small amount of turf by recklessly killing anyone who could conceivably pose a threat to it. But his own account of these last years of freedom paint a much different picture, of course; in his own mind, and in Carlo’s book, he was a jet-setting mastermind with his fingers in firearms, foreign currency, and Swiss bank fraud. He committed scores of contract murders, killed a few more people in fits of road rage, freed a dozen trafficked children from the dungeon of a pot dealer in New Jersey, and took down an Arab blackmailer in Zurich with a quick spray of cyanide.

In addition to the murders of Masgay, Malliband, Smith, and Deppner, Kuklinski was charged with the April 1982 murder of Paul Hoffman, a crooked pharmacist who supposedly supplied him with cyanide for many years. This was another profit-motivated killing; Hoffman was willing to pay a large sum of cash for a stolen load of Tagamet, and Kuklinski again conspired with his good buddy Solimene to simply bump him off and take the money. He shot and bludgeoned the man to death, stuffed his body into a 55-gallon drum, and brazenly deposited the drum near a Hackensack diner he frequented, Harry’s Luncheonette. He claimed that even though the barrel was in plain sight, no one discovered what was in it. One day when he dropped by for lunch, the barrel was gone.  (1, 3)
Hoffman’s body has never been found.
There is very little doubt that Kuklinski committed this murder, but the charges were ultimately dropped for lack of evidence.

In his second HBO interview, it is stated that Kuklinski became a hitman only after meeting Roy DeMeo. Prior to that time, he had never killed for money, and told DeMeo he thought he could do it. This story changed later, when Carlo interviewed Kuklinski. Suddenly, Kuklinski had been a teenage hitman, so proficient in the art of contract killing that he was already in demand at the age of 19. No one except Carlo accepts this. Even the makers of the movie The Iceman rejected it completely.

How accurate is the movie The Iceman?

The film makes no mention of Kuklinski’s more outrageous claims (Hoffa, DeMeo, etc.). This is because the script was based on Anthony Bruno’s book, rather than Carlo’s book. Even so, it relies on Kuklinski’s own accounts of his crimes, so it is probably not even remotely accurate. This is one of those films in which “inspired by a true story” is stretched to the outermost limits.

Son Dwight is left out of the picture. Barbara is “Deborah”. Murders of non-Mafia associates are transferred to powerful Mafia-linked figures. For instance, the Christmastime murder of Kuklinski’s associate “Bruno Latini” becomes the murder of a character based on Anthony Gaggi and Paul Castellano, Roy DeMeo’s bosses in the Gambino family. In reality, as we have seen, Kuklinski played no role in the assassination of Castellano.
The names of DeMeo’s closest associates are altered, and the name of “Mr. Freezy” (Mister Softee) isn’t given at all.
In The Iceman, Kuklinski is drawn into the Mafia through his work in the film lab, and Roy DeMeo essentially forces him to become a hitman. Kuklinski claimed just the opposite; he was an expert contract killer by the age of 19, and his stint at the labs was just a way to make ends meet. It was not DeMeo who introduced him to the Mafia.

The bizarre sneezing-in-the-disco scene in Iceman was actually even weirder in real life, according to Kuklinski. He had decided to kill a Bonanno family lieutenant inside a popular New York disco – a spectacularly risky move that doesn’t seem at all like his usual style. He had recently learned about poisons and acquired some cyanide from Paul Hoffman, and one night he showed up at the mark’s favourite disco in an absurd “gay” getup: elevator shoes (remember, he was 6’4″), a red hat, wildly coloured clothes. Instead of spraying cyanide on his mark, Kuklinski jabbed him with a syringe as he scooted past him on the dance floor.  The man was dead before Kuklinski left the club.
Kuklinski didn’t start using cyanide in spray form until the 1980s, after he befriended ex-military assassin Robert Prongay (Mr. Softee).  (3)

Kuklinski did not save a teenage girl from a sexual predator. That story, it seems, was created out of whole cloth just for the film.

In the film, Kuklinski is just as he described himself; a Jekyll and Hyde. But the dividing line between the upright family man and the raging sociopath was not clearly demarcated between his work and his home life, as it is in the movie. Michael Shannon’s Kuklinski controls his temper around his wife and daughters, for the most part. In reality, Kuklinski was physically abusive to Barbara, and so controlling with his three children that one daughter, Chris, claims she lost her virginity to a stranger at age 12 just to feel she finally had control over something – her own body. Kuklinski blackened Barbara’s eyes, caused her to miscarry, shattered furniture, destroyed mementos. He told his daughter Merrick that he would have to murder the entire family if he accidentally killed her mother, so she and her sister carefully packed a bag and worked out a plan to run for their lives, just in case.

Why I don’t believe Kuklinski, in a nutshell

1. He was a prolific liar. Even people who believe most of his story, like Bruno, acknowledge that not all of his stories are true.
2. There is simply no concrete evidence that he was a hitman.

Here’s what I think happened: Kuklinski was a minor-league criminal running a B&E gang, bootlegging porn, selling stolen merchandise, etc. In the early ’80s he lost control of his crew, and some members starting getting into trouble, so he began picking them off one by one, just like Jesse James did in the twilight of his criminal career.
He had long been telling people he was a hitman, and after his arrest he decided to pass himself off as a world-class Mafia hitman. An avid – but not very careful – reader of true crime lit since boyhood, he used famous crime scene photos and twice-told gangster tales to piece together an impressive life story, inserting himself into some of the Mafia’s most notorious murders. Many people bought it.

I do believe that Kuklinski and his siblings were severely abused as children, because the Kuklinski clan spawned two remorseless killers. His younger brother, Joseph, served 33 years in Trenton State for the rape and murder of a 12-year-old neighbour.
I believe that he did work, in some capacity, for DeMeo (perhaps merely as a porn supplier).
I believe that he killed at least six of his associates. The fact that he was busted for nearly all of them indicates he was not a professional killer.
I believe that he was a career criminal. He had very few legit jobs in his lifetime, yet his income was steady and he was able to maintain a comfortable lifestyle.
In my opinion, the rest is bullshit.

How did Kuklinski pull off one of the biggest hoaxes in criminal history?

First of all, he chose the right profession. Hitmen often work alone, are crazy paranoid about surveillance, and kill people to whom they can’t be connected – usually without even knowing their names. If a Mafia hitman tells you he killed 100-200 people over three decades in two countries and at least 18 states, that’s a tough thing to refute. I cannot conclusively say that Kuklinski never worked as a contract killer. I can only cast doubt on his claims by pointing to the lack of corroborating evidence for them.
Kuklinski was a serial killer. There’s no question about that. His real killing experiences may have enabled him to spin plausible-sounding tales about contract murders.

Secondly, Kuklinski was a sociopath. He was a convincing liar, and a reasonably intelligent man. He knew how to fill the credibility gaps in some of his stories. He was smart enough to know that DeMeo’s Gemini Lounge was under surveillance, and to make up the story about always meeting DeMeo near the Tappan Zee Bridge. As DeMeo’s “secret weapon”, he supposedly didn’t have to rub elbows with the other killers in DeMeo’s crew very often. This would explain why he wasn’t known as a Gemini Lounge regular.
He was also smart enough to come up with an excuse for living in a nice, but hardly extravagant, 3-bedroom house in New Jersey when he was pulling in millions every year: Gambling. Sure, he could send his kids to private schools and buy lovely furniture for his wife, but he pissed away several grand on a regular basis in poker games and casinos. This lie unraveled when the man who prosecuted him, New Jersey Deputy Attorney General Bob Carroll, said to HBO, “He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t gamble.”  (3)

Thirdly, he stuck to a principle that liars and hoaxers throughout history have found extremely useful: Go big or go home. By seeding his stories with some of the biggest names in modern Mafia history, Kuklinski effectively armored himself against accusations of trickery. Who would pretend to kill people for Roy DeMeo, or finger Sammy Gravano for a murder, unless he was legit? No one would be so bold. No one would be so foolish.
Paradoxically, it was this name-dropping that made me start questioning Kuklinski in the first place. Like most everyone who watched the HBO interviews, I was mesmerized and appalled by Kuklinski, and had little reason to doubt he was a hardcore contract killer. Then his Hoffa story hit the news, and I suddenly realized that not all of his stories were necessarily true. This ultimately led me to what I believe today – that Kuklinski was not a contract killer and did not work for the Mafia outside of the porn-bootlegging business.

Maybe Iceman is the perfect name for him – he pulled off an amazing snowjob. In fact, he wins the second posthumous Pants Afire Award. Irony.

pantsafireaward1

Postscript

It’s nearly impossible to dig into any subject without bumping into conspiracy theories these days. Here’s one about Kuklinski, courtesy of Ed Chiarini (the Texan who believes John Stossel is Freddy Mercury, Winston Churchill was also Lionel Barrymore, etc.): Richard Kuklinski did not die in prison in 2006, but became the chief medical examiner of the state of Connecticut, Dr. H. Wayne Carver. In Chiarini’s view, Kuklinski/Carver was a key player in the Sandy Hook massacre hoax.
Chiarini is losing his touch. Sure, I could believe that Robert Blake was the Pope, but the resemblance between Kuklinski and Carver is extremely slight (they’re both large and bald, basically).

Sources: 

1. The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer by Philip Carlo (St. Martin’s Press, 2006)
2. Roy DeMeo episode of Mobsters (originally aired on the Biography Channel October 24, 2008)
3. The Iceman Tapes: Conversations with a Killer (1992)
4. The Iceman Confesses: Secrets of a Mafia Hitman (2001)
5. The Hoffa Wars by Dan E. Moldea (Paddington Press, 1978)
6.My Afternoon With Jimmy Hoffa’s Alleged Killer” (1999) by Dan E. Moldea, Moldea.com
7.Man’s claim that he killed Hoffa is dismissed as a hoax“. Detroit Free Press. April 18, 2006.
8. Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires by Selwyn Raab (Thomas Dunne Books, 2005)

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: The Iceman Returneth

Bigfoot in a Suit

It’s been a big week for Bigfoot and/or Neanderthal Man.

  • As you may know, The Altoona Bigfoot murder I mentioned in a previous Roundup (here) turned out to be merely Bigfoot tracks (see here) discovered by a Mr. John Winesickle. And the Winesickle tracks have turned out to be bear tracks.
  • Meanwhile, in Utah, amateur fossil-hunter Todd May is very excited about the stupid rock fossilized Bigfoot head he found in Ogden Canyon sometime in May. The Standard-Examiner‘s Mark Saal actually reported  the find, and is now quite flattered that Weekly World News stole his big scoop.
    If you squint and tilt your head a certain way, Mr. May’s 70-lb. rock vaguely resembles a squashy human face. May believes you can even make out the Bigfoot’s tongue, and a hand resting against the skull. He also  admits that, like most people who find Bigfoot-related stuff, he has long been searching for evidence of Bigfoot. Recently, he spotted two of the critters in the canyon.

  • After 43 years, the infamous sideshow attraction known as the Minnesota Iceman has reportedly turned up in Austin, Texas. As a hoax, the Iceman is so iconic that he’s even featured on the front page of my old, frozen blog. (Get it? Frozen? GET IT?)
    The saga of the Iceman may be old hat to many of you, but here’s a recap:
    In 1967, a Minnesota man named Frank Hansen began exhibiting a frozen caveman at various carnivals and livestock fairs around the U.S. Encased in a rectangular block of ice, the Iceman was 6′ tall, covered with long dark hair, and definitely not human. He wasn’t a pretty sight. He had the broad, flat nose of an ape and the face of a Neanderthal. One of his remarkably long arms appeared to be broken, and one eye was missing. Hansen advertised him as a missing link fished out of the Bering Strait, and said he was displaying the body on behalf of its owner, an “eccentric California millionaire” who preferred to remain nameless. This dodgy backstory alone should have kept scientists miles away from the thing, but a handful of curious biologists decided to investigate. They couldn’t actually take samples from the Iceman, though, because Hansen wouldn’t allow the ice to be thawed. This made the Iceman’s features blurry and distorted, difficult to discern (the crystal-clear “photo” commonly associated with the Iceman is actually an artist’s rendition of what his face might look like, first published in the May 1969 issue of Argosy magazine).
    Nonetheless, credulous Belgian zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans designated the Iceman a previously undiscovered species of human. In February 1969, he published an article in the Bulletin of the Royal Institute of Natural Sciences of Belgium suggesting it was closely related to the Neanderthal. He called it Homo pongoides, and theorized the Iceman was most likely a certain cryptid shot and killed during Vietnam.

    Bigfoot Frozen

    This happens all the time in Vietnam.

    Heuvelmans and world-famous biologist Ivan Sanderson had examined the creature up close earlier in the year, and both deemed it to be a real specimen that had been dead for no more than 5 years. (1)
    Like Heuvelmans, Sanderson was the sort of scientist easily sucked in by peculiar notions and trickery. Two decades before the Iceman surfaced, he declared that a series of 14″ long, three-toed footprints found on a beach in Clearwater, Florida, had been left by a giant penguin that somehow wandered too far north. In 1973, Al Williams admitted he and a buddy created the tracks with a pair of iron “dinosaur” shoes they designed, as a practical joke. (2)

    giant penguin

Sanderson and Heuvelmans were impressed not only by the Iceman’s appearance, but by his stench. They claimed the block of ice gave off the odour of putrefied flesh. They tried to interest the Smithsonian in studying the Iceman. This apparently made Hansen very nervous, because he soon announced he was withdrawing the Iceman from public exhibition on the millionaire’s orders, and replacing it with an impressively realistic latex replica. However, primatologist John Napier, working with the Smithsonian, looked into the matter and learned that Hansen had commissioned the creation of a rubber caveman from a West Coast artist named Pete Corrall in the spring of 1967 – the very same year he began touring with the Iceman. Napier concluded that Hansen had merely thawed his rubber Iceman, repositioned it a little, and refrozen it to make it look slightly different. (It must be noted, here, that Napier was not exactly a skeptic when it came to Sasquatch. He believed the so-called “Cripplefoot” tracks found in Bossburg, Washington, in 1969 were genuine, though most other Bigfoot enthusiasts considered the prints a hoax likely perpetrated by the peculiar Ivan Marks.)
Heuvelmans and Sanderson insisted the “new” Iceman was not the same one they examined in 1968, but very few people were still convinced. As interest in the Iceman melted away (hur hur), Hansen suddenly changed his entire story. Pointing to the “original” creature’s bulging eyeball, he claimed he himself had shot the creature in the head, somewhere in the woods of Minnesota. Then, in the spring of 1970, he abruptly stopped touring with the Iceman, explaining that the millionaire had decided to stow it in some secret location for no obvious reason. It was not seen in public again.
Now, Steve Busti, the owner/curator of Austin’s Museum of the Weird, claims to have the Iceman in his possession. According to a HuffPo article, he bought it from Frank Hansen’s family in Minnesota. Hansen, who died about 10 years ago, had stashed the thing in a freezer on his property.
The Museum will be holding a Grand Opening event for its new exhibit on July 13th, in collaboration with Cryptomundo, the website of Loren Coleman (perhaps the world’s best-known Bigfoot researcher and cryptozoologist). The MoW seems to be more or less a big sideshow, so maybe the Iceman has found a permanent home at last.

  • P.S. If you looked at the title of this post and are now a little disappointed that Richard Kuklinski wasn’t mentioned, stick around. That will be an upcoming post.


Sources:

1.The Missing Link?” by Ivan Sanderson. Argosy, May 1969, pp. 23-31.
2. Borderlands: The Ultimate Exploration of the Unknown by Mike Dash (Dell, 1997), pp. 273-277

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: Satan, Satan Everywhere

Think Satanic panic disappeared along with Geraldo and acid-washed jeans? Well, not quite. Welcome to the world of Jordanian Satanists conducting ceremonies in college bathrooms, panty-stealing gremlins, demonic mermaids – and the deeply misguided authorities who persecute them. 

Satan Is Real

 

  • We’ll get to Satan, but first: Yet another alien body has surfaced, this time in China. In what appears to be the Eastern version of the Dr. Reed Microwave Burrito Alien hoax, a man identified only as Li claims he witnessed a UFO crash near his home on the Yellow River in Binzhou, Shangdong province, on a night in March. The next day, checking his electric rabbit traps, he found the remains of a lightly fried entity roughly four feet tall, with pebbly white skin, a bulbous head, and what appears to be female genitalia. Li took the alien lady home and stowed her in his freezer, where local police officers made a landmark scientific discovery: Somewhere in the cosmos, there exists an alien race made entirely out of rubber.
  • Since 2011, four women have filed lawsuits against Mark Schwartz, founder of the Castlewood Treatment Center for eating disorders in Ballwood, Missouri. The former patients allege that in the course of treatment Schwartz and his partner, Lori Galperin, persuaded them to “recover” (false) memories of Satanic ritual abuse, cannibalism, and even murder. Schwartz has stepped down as the director of Castlewood.
    This is practically an instant replay of a case that erupted over 15 years ago in Chicago. In the mid-’90s, Dr. Bennett Braun was sued by several former patients after he and members of his staff at the Dissociative Disorders Unit of Rush Presbyterian Hospital convinced the women they were recovering repressed memories of belonging to abusive, powerful Satanic cults. Though Braun and his colleagues were trained and licensed medical professionals, their methods weren’t much better than those of the bizarre faux-psychotherapy cult of Okie pastor Doug Riggs, and the outcomes were identical: Dozens of people came to believe their loved ones were actually demented Devil worshipers who had enslaved them through a combination of ritualistic abuse and sophisticated mind control programming.
    I’ll be posting about the Schwartz and Braun cases at Speak of the Devil in the near future, because there’s far too much weirdness there for a mere roundup.
  • Also in the ritual abuse category, a Dutch woman named Toos Nijenhuis has declared that child sacrifices are taking place in Holland. She recently told a group of independent researchers that a sinister international cabal, which includes such prominent members as Prince Bernhard of Holland and British royals, has been ritualistically abusing and experimenting upon children for some arcane purpose. Nijenhuis led the researchers to a rural forest near Zwolle where she claims ritual child sacrifices have been committed as recently as November of 2010. Her claims are virtually identical to those made by some of the former witches and Satanists I wrote about in the Prodigal Witch series, particularly Arizona Wilder (who has retracted her claims about a clan of Satanic lizard-people ruling the planet) and alleged Illuminati slave Cisco Wheeler. The Canadian-based citizens’ group called the International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State (ITCCS) and allied organizations plan to investigate Ms. Nijenhuis’ allegations and possibly issue  “court summonses” to the royals and high-level clerics she has named.
  • In Etwatwa, South Africa, a 14-year-old boy stands accused of murdering four members of his family with an ax. Police have reportedly called in an occult expert to determine if the boy was connected to Satanism or Satanists, but no link has been discovered so far. That hasn’t stopped neighbours and South Africans in general from declaring the murders a Satanic ritual sacrifice, as shown in the video report below and in this tabloid article, which cites a detailed confession allegedly given by the boy. The boy’s family, on the other hand, seems to think drugs were involved.
  • Many reports out of Africa draw parallels between the Etwatwa ax murders and the “Satanic” stabbing murder of schoolgirl Keamogetswe Sefularo in March, which brought up memories of the “Satanic burning” of teenager Kirsty Theologo two years ago. Two 18-year-old boys were convicted of Kirsty’s murder last March, sentenced to 17 years each.
  • Also in Africa, a 2-year-old Northern Cape girl drowned in late May after she was allegedly pushed into a dam by a female 12-year-old cousin who reportedly had a history of doing the same thing to other young children. Family members promptly blamed Satanism, telling the press the girl was possessed and “doing the Devil’s work”. Before they start shopping for an exorcist, they should perhaps ptry adopting some appropriate water safety and child supervision practices.
  • Parts of Zimbabwe have been aflame with Satanic panic in the past year. In Bulawayo’s suburban Cowdray Park last October, a teen girl confessed to participating in 16 murders committed by a neighbourhood cult of Satanists, causing deep rifts and panic in the community. Around the same time, at least three schools in the country were closed after students were stricken with bizarre symptoms they attributed to Satanic spells. Then there are the evil mermaids. Last March, Zimbabwe Water Resources Minister Sam Sipepa Nkomo told a senate oversight committee that mermaids had been terrifying workers at reservoirs in Mutare, Gokwe, and Manicaland, causing them to flee their work and refuse to return. Many Zimbabweans consider mermaids to be demonic creatures, and a man named Justice Manyonga even claims to have been held captive by them for two years. To remedy the mermaid infestation, Nkomo summoned traditional chiefs to perform exorcisms at the Gokwe and Mutare dams.
    In Gokwe, Underpants Gnomes made an appearance around the same time. A 62-year-old man declared that a rash of missing ladies’ undergarments in his neighbourhood was caused by a panty-stealing goblin he had somehow acquired years earlier. Incredibly, this is not the most bizarre goblin story to come out of Zimbabwe in the past year. In January of this year, an explosion in Chitungwiza, Zumbabwe, killed 5 people in a single house. The home was owned by a traditional healer, and he claimed the explosion occurred because he was attempting to behead a goblin on behalf of a client. Just like the owner of the Underpants Gnome, this guy says he bought a goblin to help bring himself good luck and prosperity, but it ended up being a major PITA. So if you buy a goblin through Kijiji or Craigslist, make sure you get a warranty on that sucker.
  • In March, five students at Al al-Bayt university in Mafraq, Jordan, were accused of burning pages from the Koran as part of a supposed Devil-worship ritual conducted in a campus bathroom. They were promptly arrested for desecrating the Koran, but no charges were filed against them, prompting Human Rights Watch to call for their release. This resulted in immediate charges against  the students. They were tried before a military tribunal in May and acquitted of all charges, but the incident caused tremendous strife and distress throughout Jordan, with extremists demanding the students be lynched and others bewailing the lack of freedom of religious expression in a country that has been presented to the world as relatively open and progressive.

merman

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: Extra-Stoopid Edition

satanfarts

It’s good to be back. My ThinkPad finally succumbed to a series of long-term ailments two weeks ago (Hans has a computer, but can’t type with cloven hoofs. I think he just uses it for porn). I’ve now replaced it.
So. On with the weirdness.

  • Folks love a good feral child story. Probably because feral child stories combine three of the things we want most in our Pixar films hard-hitting news coverage: Kids, the triumph of the human spirit, and cute fluffy animals. Sadly, some of these stories are ridiculously bogus. Amala and Kamala, the Bengalese girls raised by wolves, were actually urchins “rescued” by a minister who wanted to promote his missionary work (the famous photos of the wolf-girls walking on all fours were taken years after they died, using stand-ins). Misha Defonseca, the Belgian Holocaust survivor adopted by wolves at the age of 8, wasn’t even Jewish and spent the duration of the war safely ensconced in her grandpa’s house.
    Now we have Marina Chapman, a British national who claims in a new memoir that she was reared by monkeys in Colombia. She clambers up trees, makes monkey noises, and says it’s quite comfortable to scoot around on all fours. Supposedly, Marina was abducted from her family by two men around 1954, when she was 4 or 5 years old. One of them chloroformed her as she played in her yard, and she was taken to a remote area somewhere near the Venezuela-Colombia border. Then her kidnappers simply dumped her in the rainforest for no obvious reason, never to return.
    Marina says she gradually came to be accepted – even loved – by a troop of Capuchin monkeys, and survived by mimicking their behaviour and scooping up their dropped bananas. The monkeys groomed her and led her to water when she was sick, but the relationship Marina describes strikes me as one of tolerance rather than affection.
    Marina says she was rescued by hunters around age 9, only to be sold into sexual slavery in exchange for a parrot. She ran away from the brothel to become a street kid in Cúcuta, stealing food until she was saved again, this time by a family of “notorious” gangsters that treated her like a household slave. Finally, she was adopted by a decent family that migrated to England in the late ’70s. Marina settled down and raised a large family while working as a chef at the National Media Museum in Bradford.
    At this point, no one knows exactly who the hell Marina Chapman is. She says she can’t remember her name, or where she lived prior to the age of 4. She doesn’t recall her birth family at all, in fact. Her daughter Vanessa, who helped her write the memoir, hopes someone in Venezuela or Colombia will step forward to identify her.
    Aside from the obvious parallels with the wolf-girl hoaxes, there are a few other reasons to question Marina’s story. First of all, her memoir reads like a serial melodrama from the early 1900s. It’s The Perils of Pauline meets Tarzan, with absurdly evil villains lurking around every corner, scheming to trap the innocent monkey-girl. Secondly, Marina claims she totally lost the ability to speak Spanish during her time in the jungle, yet regained it with ease some 6 years later. How likely is it that Marina basically learned to speak for the first time as a pre-adolescent, without assistance? She would be the first feral kid to pull that off. Thirdly, she recalls the details of her abduction remarkably well…but she can’t remember a single thing about the family she left behind on the very same day? This whole thing smells.
    And speaking of smells…
  • The city of Quincy, Massachusetts is experiencing some rather weird shit. Perhaps literally. For the past several weeks, citizens have been complaining of sulfurous, noxious odours wafting through town, and at night they’re observing overflights of a mysterious plane they can’t quite identify. Theories range from ZOMG ALIENS to ZOMG CHEMTRAILS, though there doesn’t seem to be any direct link between the stink and the annoying plane. Also, the Patriot Ledger reported last week that the stench is probably coming from a malodorous brown algae, Pilayella littoralis.
  • If massive, non-human primates were roaming populated areas everywhere from Arizona to upstate New York, we would be finding copious signs of their existence; bones, poop, furballs, etc. But it seems Bigfoot only leave behind Blair Witch-style craft projects and magically vanishing corpses. About a week ago, a Bigfoot was supposedly shot and killed by an unnamed turkey hunter somewhere near Altoona, Pennsylvania, as overheard by a ham radio operator known only as Daniel C. This happened scarcely two weeks after the release of Shooting Bigfoot, a documentary about a 2012 Bigfoot murder in Texas. It includes footage of Rick Dyer luring a Sasquatch with some ribs, then shooting it (the Bigfoot stumbles off, fatally wounded, and is never seen again). Before that, in 2010, there was a double Bigfoot murder called the “Sierra Kills”. That incident produced a “Bigfoot steak” that may or may not have been examined by Dr. Melba Ketchum as part of her bizarro Sasquatch DNA study, but the bodies themselves were never recovered. And no one has presented the Pennsylvania Bigfoot yet, either.
  • Alex Jones thinks a magical government weather machine may have caused the tornado that ripped through an Oklahoma City suburb, killing dozens and leaving hundreds homeless and injured. Jones hasn’t seen this mechanism, he can’t even begin to explain how it might function, and he didn’t produce the name of a single scientist or agency involved with its development. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
    Looks like the Godlike Productions Forum guys have it all figured out, though…it was a HAARP tornado whipped up to distract us from government scandals. If so, it was kind of a bonehead move; the tornado itself is creating government scandals.
    Pat Robertson doesn’t know what caused the tornado, but he still says prayer can alter storm systems  if enough people join in. He doesn’t seem to realize what he’s revealing about himself, here. If he truly buys into this prayer-based weather manipulation deal, then he should park himself in front of the Weather Channel every single day and go on the air to tell his viewers to start praying for certain areas. The 700 Club has roughly 1 million viewers per day in the U.S. alone, and if half of them prayed under Robertson’s direction, he could theoretically prevent any tragedy from occurring ever again. Instead, he waits for a storm to hit and then gets all Dr. Brule on us, like, “Why didn’t you think of that, dum-dum?” From this we can infer one of two things: Pat Robertson is lazy, or he just doesn’t give a crap.
    Either way, he’s being a total dick.

The Boy from La Noria

The Secrets of the Atacama Humanoid Human

Note: Since this was first posted, it has emerged that the Atacama skeleton is actually that of a female. You can read more about the latest findings at the New York Times (here).

As described in my last post, ufologist Dr. Steven Greer announced last summer that he had gained access to the tiny body then known as the Atacama Humanoid or the Atacama Alien, discovered around 2003 in the desert sands of Chile. It is a seemingly human skeleton with an elongated and peculiar skull, not much longer than a pencil, yet remarkably well-proportioned. Strangely, it has only ten ribs and what appears to be a tooth. Greer said that two top scientists – a geneticist and a foremost expert on skeletal abnormalities – were analyzing the creature, and promised the results would be made known to the world in the documentary Sirius. The film was screened earlier this week in Los Angeles, to wildly mixed reviews.

“In the end, no halfway intelligent person will be swayed by this film.” – Bad UFOs

“I got the feeling that it should be called Greer Movie instead of Sirius.” – Before It’s News

“The tag line for this film is…’It’s time you know’. To be honest you can keep it to yourselves. ” – Troll2Rocks

Did I say the reviews were mixed? Yeah, they weren’t. It was terrible. Everybody hated it. And yes, you read that correctly – a Troll 2 fan thinks Sirius is awful.

But we did get what Greer promised: The long-awaited findings of the two American scientists who analyzed the Atacama Humanoid. We now know they were Dr. Garry Nolan and Dr. Ralph Lachman. Nolan is a professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford University’s School of Medicine, and Lachman is a pediatric radiologist specializing in the study of skeletal dysplasia (“dwarfism”).
After studying DNA samples and images of the body for over half a year, what do these esteemed medical professionals have to say about it?

Welp, it’s not a monkey. Or an ape. Or an alien. Or a human-alien hybrid. It’s a six- to eight-year-old child that could fit in the palm of your palm. Think about that for a minute. If it’s not blowing your mind yet, think about it some more. I’ll wait.

The body is evidently not – as a I originally suspected – a Piltdown Man or a Nondescript, stitched or glued together from parts of different species for the amusement of some trickster. Greer’s team extracted a DNA sample from the body by surgically dissecting two of its ten ribs. These samples contained bone marrow material. DNA analysis conducted by Nolan (which is ongoing) shows the tiny being is a male human child, probably born to an indigenous Chilean woman. Though its age is difficult to estimate, Nolan guesses it was  born sometime in the last one hundred years. According to Nolan, “Obviously, it was breathing, it was eating, it was metabolizing. It calls into question how big the thing might have been when it was born.” You can read a preliminary summary of his and Lachman’s findings here.
Working with X-ray and CAT scan images, Lachman found that the skeleton’s bone density and epiphyseal plates were those of a small child, approximately six to eight years of age, rather than a foetus. As you’ll see, not everyone agrees with his conclusions.

Atacama Human

Bizarrely, Greer states early in the film that the body is extraterrestrial, only to be contradicted later on by his own experts, and his report on the skeleton contains weird references to Martian obelisks and DNA that is 10 billion years old. He still refers to the skeleton as humanoid, and plans to talk more about it at this year’s Mutual UFO Network symposium. If someone can figure out WTF Greer thinks he’s doing, let me know.

At this point, we know very little about the boy found in the desert. His body was unearthed by a treasure-hunter in the autumn of 2003. If the account of his discovery is accurate, it seems the boy was given a crude burial beside the Catholic church in the long-abandoned mining town of La Noria, in northern Chile’s Atacama desert. This is a desolate place, once home to one of Chile’s many saltpeter mining operations but now known only as a literal ghost town with a spectacularly creepy cemetery. Eschewing a coffin, someone had wrapped the body in a piece of white cloth, bound it with some purple ribbon, and interred it in a shallow grave near the church.

Was the child considered a demon? A curse? A portent of disaster? Stories of “monstrous” human infants, like the legendary Hull House devil baby that terrified Catholics in pre-WWI Chicago, continue to be told even today – so it seems quite likely that devout Catholics in a remote desert town would have been petrified (and perhaps mesmerized) by the birth of a baby that would make Tom Thumb look like a  giant. They may have kept the child’s existence a secret, out of shame and fear. It’s even possible the boy was never known to the world beyond his immediate family, or perhaps nuns entrusted with his care. To date, no contemporary reports of a tiny child born in Chile have surfaced. One has to wonder what his brief, astonishing life and untimely death were like. Was he baptized? Was he loved? Did the skull fracture observed by the doctors have something to do with his death? Did a weeping mother kneel beside his grave? As the last residents of La Noria drove away in the 1950s, did they gaze back through the swirls of dust at the little Catholic church and whisper a goodbye to the boy they had never known, but always heard about?

After his discovery in 2003, the “horrible dwarf extraterrestrial” was briefly spotlighted in Chile’s tabloid media. Thereafter, he was passed from hand to hand like a carnival sideshow exhibit, finally ending up in the possession of a Barcelona “exobiologist” named Ramón Navia-Osorio. He was treated much more like a collectible curiosity than a scientific specimen, but Navia-Osorio did persuade several scientists to render their opinions on the body. According to an article at the UFO site Open Minds, three physicians X-rayed it and determined it was a complete human skeleton, rather than an assemblage of parts. Dr. Francisco Etxeberria Gabilondo, a professor of legal and forensic medicine at Basque Country University and a specialist in forensic anthropology at Madrid’s Complutense University, declared the body to be that of a mummified human foetus, approximately fifteen weeks old.

Greer, on the other hand, decided he was an Extraterrestrial Biological Entity and commissioned Lachman and Nolan to examine him. If the boy had been considered merely a human oddity rather than a possible EBE, it is doubtful he would have regained any degree of attention. I certainly hope that once the alien nonsense fades away, other scientists will examine him and tell us much more about him. They should be able to resolve the disparities between Dr. Etxeberria’s report and the Lachman/Nolan findings.

I have only one thing to ask of you. Don’t think of the Atacama skeleton as just another alien hoax, or yet another black mark against Steven Greer, or the over-hyped hook for some goofy documentary. Think of him as the little boy from La Noria.

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: Steven Greer’s alien + lots of other fake dead aliens

srsly

On April 22, Amardeep Kaleka‘s documentary Sirius will premiere in L.A. Though the film is mostly about magical alien energy sources, like Thrive, the highlight will undoubtedly be the tiny alien body that Dr. Steven Greer has been studying for more than a year. (Update: You can read more about that here. )

Greer’s alien was discovered by a treasure-hunter back in 2003, in the ghost town of La Noria in Chile’s Atacama desert (interestingly, a place considered similar to the Martian surface). The dessicated little skeleton, which is no longer than a pen yet has perfect proportions, was found buried  in a ribbon-tied bit of cloth near La Noria’s Catholic church. It had well-formed teeth, nine ribs, and a strangely elongated skull. The tabloids in Chile joked about a “horrible dwarf extraterrestrial”, but no serious interest was shown in the “Atacama humanoid”. It changed hands a few times, eventually ending up in Spain.
That’s where it came to the attention of Dr. Greer, an American ufologist best-known for founding the Disclosure Project. He probably heard about the humanoid during the Exopolitical Symposium held near Barcelona in 2009 (he was a presenter). Last year, he announced that his Center for the Study of ET Intelligence had gained access to the body, and would need funding to carry out scientific tests. He released a single photo and an X-ray of the “humanoid”, failing to mention it had already been in the Chilean tabloid press nine years earlier. In late October, he announced the body had been examined by “experts” using X-rays and CT scans, but still wouldn’t release more photos or give the names of the scientists working with him. For a disclosure advocate, Greer doesn’t like to disclose much. He would only say that “one of the world’s top geneticists” was studying DNA samples from the alien, and the “world’s foremost authority on skeletal abnormalities” had pronounced the skeleton non-human.

Atacama Humanoid

The Atacama alien

Steven Greer has a – how shall I put this? – rather checkered history in the field of UFO studies. He has promised big things before, with no payoff:

  • Throughout the ’90s, he claimed the ability to summon and communicate with UFOs using lights, lasers, and mental telepathy.
  • In 2008, the Orion Project announced it was developing a free energy device. Delay after delay pushed its unveiling all the way to the spring of 2010, when the Orion Project declared the work could not continue until their funding needs were met (a mere $3 million or so). Greer repeatedly insisted the device was already functional, yet it has still not been revealed.
  • In 2009, he practically guaranteed that the Obama administration would give full disclosure about UFOs and ETs by the end of 2010. (video)

Greer claims the secrets of aliens, free energy, and antigravity spacecraft are being kept from the public by a massive conspiracy possibly known as PI-40, comprised of Freemasons, Bilderbergers, the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, and…uh…Mormons. He says most of his associates, including Eugene Mallove, were murdered because they came too close to the truth about aliens – just like Marilyn Monroe and former CIA director William Colby. He also thinks the government has possessed the capability to induce cancer from a distance since the 1950s.

You would think the Atacama humanoid results would be big, big news in the world of ufology, but skepticism and disinterest remain high. I’m guessing this is partly because of Greer’s track record, partly because he won’t even release the names of these world-renowned scientists, and partly because we’ve been through all this before. Since the ’50s, we have been subjected to a veritable parade of alien fetuses, alien autopsies, alien skeletons and alien skulls – nearly all of which turned out to be terrestrial. Let’s take a quick look at some of the alien corpses of years past. Be warned that a few of the photos are kinda gross.

1953: Spaceman hit by a truck

georgia monkey

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a bald monkey.

Three young men in Georgia reported to police that they had struck what appeared to be a 2″-tall space creature with a pickup (the alien’s two companions had managed to escape in their flying saucer). A local vet confirmed the round-eyed, jug-eared being was no animal known to mankind, but Emory University anatomists who studied the body disagreed: The Georgia alien was a shaved Capuchin monkey with its tail removed. The three men confessed to staging the hoax to get into the local paper. Today, the spacemonkey is displayed at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation museum. (read more at The Museum of Hoaxes)

1979: Puerto Rico’s baby Conehead

Puerto Rico Alien

Consume mass quantities.

As one version of the story goes, two teenage boys exploring a cave near Cerro Las Tetas stumbled upon a whole colony of aliens, and bludgeoned one of the creatures to death in their panic. The pickled alien was revealed to the world by ufologist Jorge Martin later that year. It was never subjected to thorough scientific examination, however, and its current whereabouts are unknown. Señor Martin has since moved on to other dead aliens that are definitely fake. (read more at the Forgetomori blog)

1995: American alien autopsy

alien autopsy

His name was Bob.

Supposedly a film of doctors conducting a peculiar autopsy on an alien killed in the Roswell crash of 1947, the film turned out to be precisely what it looks like: A hoax utilizing rubber aliens, animal parts, and raspberry jam. The owner of the footage confessed to fakery, but stubbornly insists it was a “recreation” of genuine Roswell autopsy footage that is too damaged to be shown.

1996: Dr. Reed’s alien, AKA the Screaming Alien or the Microwave Burrito Alien

Burrito Alien

Protip: Fake aliens always look more real if you stick ’em on a space blanket.

You could probably compose several novels, an entire History Channel series, and an opera out of the hilariously dumb saga that is the “Dr. Reed” hoax, in which a Seattle psychologist enthralled Coast to Coast AM listeners with his tale of encountering a landed triangular spacecraft in the Cascades, watching a very fast alien vaporize his dog, then capturing the alien and stuffing it into his freezer. The alien wasn’t quite dead yet, however, and let out a horrifying shriek when Reed opened the freezer. Reed claimed the body was stolen by government agents who continued to stalk and menace him (though they somehow forgot to confiscate his photos of the UFO and the frozen alien).
“Dr. Jonathan Reed” was soon exposed as Seattle gas station attendant John Rutter. Incredibly, Rutter still insists his alien story is essentially true, and has made many fantastical additions to it over the years, including the discovery of an alien bracelet that either allows him to teleport (skip to the 7:00 mark) or just sit on a couch in a Mexican TV studio. (read more at UFO Watchdog)

1999: The Starchild skull

starchild skull

In 1999, American novelist Lloyd Pye purchased what is probably the skull of a hydrocephalic child. But he’s pretty damn sure it’s an alien-human hybrid, and won’t stop talking about it.

2005: Yugoslavian alien autopsy

Yugoslav alien

I prefer them medium rare.

Basically the same as the American autopsy footage, this film was said to have been taken in the former Yugoslavia in 1966. In photos sent to UFO Casebook by one “Ivan Kremer”, doctors are shown examining the charred corpse of an alien, supposedly recovered from a crashed UFO in the village of Otocek. Italian skeptic Andrea Zoboli later took credit for the hoax, citing the American alien autopsy as his inspiration.

2006: alien in a jar

attic alien

Antiques Roadshow estimate: $3.50

During renovation of a cottage in Gunthorp, workers found a jar containing what appeared to be (and was) a realistic alien model made from clay. Who put the alien model in Barney Broom’s attic, and why, remains a mystery. (read more at the BBC)

2008: Russian alien autopsy

Russian alien autopsy

Might be Joan Rivers. Somebody check.

The makers of this film were quite innovative. They opted for colour instead of black and white, chose a small alien dummy rather than a child-sized dummy, and zoomed in on the alien instead of standing ten feet away. The film even includes footage of Russian soldiers surrounding a crashed UFO that looks about as real as Tara Reid’s breasts. B for effort, guys.
This is not to be confused with a  “KGB” film that shows unmasked doctors hovering over random bits and pieces of an alien (judging by the hair on the lady doctor, this one was shot in the ’80s or early ’90s).

2011: Siberian alien and Russian refrigerator alien

Siberia alien

finger lickin’ good

The Siberian alien was probably the biggest dead alien story to hit the news since the American autopsy. Media outlets around the world carried stories of the cell phone video shot and posted to YouTube by anonymous teens, showing a pitifully one-legged alien entity sprawled in the snow. The Kremlin actually launched an investigation, and within hours an “alien” made out of old bread and chicken skin was found in the home of one of the kids in the video. Two boys confessed to creating it.
A few months later, Marta Yegorovnam of Petrozavodsk produced photos of a plastic-wrapped alien corpse she had been storing in her fridge for two years. It looked somewhat like the lovechild of Jabba the Hut and Kermit the Frog. Sadly, no one ever had the chance to examine Ms. Yegorovnam’s disgusting leftovers, because she surrendered them to the Karelian Research Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The Academy disclaimed any knowledge of the fridge alien. (read more at the Daily Mail, which was one of the few mainstream media outlets to bother with this)

Russian fridge alien

C’mon, lady.
At least put it in the crisper.

Date unknown: Roswell alien that looks suspiciously like the masks from the movie Brazil

roswell alien  brazil

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup

The Black Death was caused by aliens, the UN hates your herb garden, and robots want to sexually harass you. Happy Wednesday!

cute_kawaii_robot_by_trubuteofdistrict13

  • This week’s Tea Party lesson: The best way to forestall thuggery is to become a thug. Many believe the UN’s Agenda 21 environmental sustainability program is the uber-conspiracy to end all conspiracies. According to various theories, it will outlaw veggie gardens, confiscate private property, force everyone to move into cities, kill off useless eaters, and maybe even turn us into those human batteries stored in strawberry Jell-O. Glenn Beck has written a horror novel about it, Alex Jones has twigged out over it, and one Oklahoman has reached his breaking point. Al Gerhart, co-founder of the Sooner Tea Party, is so eager to see his state’s anti-Agenda 21 House Bill 1412 passed that he threatened to dig up dirt on Senator Cliff Branan and basically blackmail him into getting it read, sending Branan a creepy-ass email in which he stated Branan would “regret it” if he didn’t do his best to push the bill through the House.
    1412 had only been on the shelf for two weeks. Thanks to Gerhart’s impatience, his entire party is now under investigation by the state Bureau of Investigation, and the sponsor of Bill 1412 pulled it after Gerhart publicly accused Sen. Branan of having an extramarital affair. Nice work. Now Oklahomans may never be able to grow carrots ever again.
  • Aliens disguised as Grim Reapers may have been responsible for the spread of bubonic plague? And they might do it again? Makes sense.
  • You’ve probably seen photos and videos of the Japanese robot that looks somewhat like a giant, mint-green Lego man, scooping up realistic dummies and setting them down someplace else. That’s basically all this particular robot is programmed to do. His designers hope he’s the prototype for a sort of robotic homecare/nursing assistant that will be able to move disabled and elderly patients into and out of beds. But somehow, in the goofy twilight world that is the Internet, “Kenji” the lifting robot has become a psychotic stalker. Beginning shortly after the robot’s unveiling in 2009, stories like this one at Gizmodo claimed Kenji was “programmed to love”, but went off the rails and began obsessively pursuing and molesting a female lab worker. Not sure how “aimless groping” got confused with “love”, but it doesn’t really matter – the Kenji story is bunk, of course. We love robots. They don’t love us. And “Kenji” is actually RI-MAN, created not by Toshiba but by RIKEN (their latest lifting robot, created in collaboration with Tokai Rubber Industries, reminds me a little of the freaky teddy bears in Duckman). For some reason, the stalkerbot story just won’t die, and Brian Merchant of Vice’s Motherboard blog has done some digging to find out where it began. Where did the name Kenji come from? Well, probably this unfortunate dude – one of the first known robot murder victims.

If you combine these stories, you get the heartwarming Pixar sequel in which WALL-E and EVE settle down on a farm, only to have that cute little tree EVE planted uprooted by officious UN bureaucrats, and all their radicchio and parsnips destroyed by plague-spraying Grim Reapers from Mars.

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: Wannabe Rappers

rap

  • I have seriously lost track of the number of YouTube vids and homemade documentaries that attempt to expose the supposed links between rap/hip-hop music and the Illuminati/Satanism. Run a YT search for “sold out to Illuminati” and you’ll see what I mean – there are even vids explaining how 2Pac was assassinated because he wasn’t souled out to The Man. Or the Satanists. Or whatever. Then we have a certain citizen who is so vigilant against Illuminati brainwashing in pop music that he can’t even identify himself, lest the Devil-worshipers decide to take him out for exposing their sinister use of, um, dolls and kittens.
    The basic premise of the Pop Illuminati theory is that in order to get anywhere near the top of the heap in the worlds of entertainment or sports, artists and athletes have to pledge abject devotion to the Illuminati, and/or literally sign their souls over to Satan. Talent, taining, luck, management, connections, good timing – that’s all bollocks. It’s really about what you’re willing to do for the Jews. I mean the Illuminati. Did I say Jews? Ha ha, no, that’s silly, the Pop Illuminati theory isn’t anti-Semitic. Not even a little bit.
    Until recently, the Pop Illuminati theory only affected merchandise sales (and not very much). But thanks to this overload of Illuminati hip-hop conspiranoia, we could soon be dealing with a bumper crop of deranged aspiring celebrities who honestly believe this shit. Take Wafeeq Sabir El-Amin, a wannabe rap star in Virginia (there’s your first mistake, kid) who allegedly crept up on a sleeping friend one night last December, aimed a gun at his head, and declared, “You are my sacrifice” before pulling the trigger. El-Amin’s victim was spared when the bullet ricocheted off his head, and he was able to escape by wrestling the gun away from El-Amin and shooting him in the stomach. Reportedly, El-Amin believed he had to make a human sacrifice to get in with the Illuminati. I’m guessing he didn’t make it. He’s currently in lock-up, awaiting trial.
  • You might remember Silibil ’N’ Brains, the hip-hop duo who briefly enjoyed C-list stardom in the UK with songs like “Tongue Kung Fu” back in ’04 and ’05. Their style was basically straight-up Eminem mixed with a little skaterboi punk, but the Cali dropouts had enough attitude to pull it off. After a single audition in London, they signed a a $350,000 record deal with Sony, scored a contract with one of the top managers in the UK, headlined a few minor festivals, toured with Eminem, and were introduced by MC Harvey on English MTV’s Brand Spanking New.
    It all fell apart when Brain (Gavin Bain) confessed that he and Silibil weren’t skatepunks from the Valley, after all, but college students from Dundee, Scotland. They had hidden their thick brogues and college educations after it became clear to them that a rap version of The Proclaimers just wouldn’t fly. Personally, I don’t see how this is much worse than Charlize Theron affecting an American accent even in roundtable discussions with other actors, but Bain’s confession instantly sped up the inevitable decay of  Silibil ’N’ Brains.
    Now, director Jeanie Finlay has released a documentary about them.
  • Sounds like a Canadian mockumentary, but isn’t: Hip Hop Eh.

Wednesday Weirdness Updates

Developments in the two stories covered in this week’s Weirdness Roundup

  • The saga of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s bogus dead girlfriend is getting even weirder. Te’o still insists he was the victim of a hoax, but according to both athletic director Jack Swarbrick and an article published today in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Te’o now admits he knew “Lennay Kekua” wasn’t really dead. Early last December, three months after she supposedly succumbed to leukemia in California, she phoned him to confess that she staged her death to evade some drug dealers.
    If this story is true, then Te’o was complicit in the hoax for at least a month. He reportedly told Notre Dame officials about the call, triggering a hush-hush investigation in late December, but he and Notre Dame apparently elected not to share their findings with the public.
  • Salon has published “Your comprehensive answer to every Sandy Hook conspiracy“. I wouldn’t call it “comprehensive”, exactly, but it does cover the basics. One of the most popular pieces of “evidence” is that the webpage for the United Way Sandy Hook support fund was created three days before the massacre, according to the Google timestamp. But as this article points out, wonky timestamps are more the rule than the exception; one Fox News article on Sandy Hook is dated by Google as having been published in 1983. That’s 13 years before Fox News existed, and 9 years before Adam Lanza was born.