Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: The Bogus Christian Memoir Hall of Shame

go-back-and-try-again-before-you-make-me-cry

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  • A year after diligent readers expressed their concerns, UK Christian publishing house Authentic Media has withdrawn a popular preacher’s autobiography from the market.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.
Advertisements

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

hoffa

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)

Book Review: Flying Saucers and the Three Men by Albert K. Bender


I was fortunate enough to snag this somewhat rare book for just $2.50 at a secondhand bookstore recently. It’s famous in ufology circles for giving the first in-depth description of the Men in Black, those not-quite-human, not-quite alien dudes who show up after close encounters to tell witnesses, “You saw the planet Venus.” The first book to mention them was was Gray Barker‘s They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers (1956), and I doubt it’s any coincidence that Barker was also the publisher and editor of Flying Saucers and the Three Men.

Albert K. Bender was a sci-fi and horror aficionado from Bridgeport, Connecticut, who founded one of the first UFO organizations, the International Flying Saucer Bureau (IFSB), in 1952. Just two years later, he shut it down with the cryptic explanation that the saucer mystery had been solved, and it would be dangerous to continue the IFSB’s work. For over a decade, Bender refused to give more than a handful of tantalizing clues to why the IFSB had folded.

Then, in 1968, West Virginian ufologist and publisher Gray Barker released this book, a full account of what happened to Bender and the IFSB.
Barker remains an enigmatic and controversial figure in the world of ufology, the subject of two documentaries (Whispers from Space and the recent Shades of Gray) and much speculation. He undoubtedly staged a few hoaxes in his time, and allegedly confessed that he created the Men in Black out of whole cloth. So it should come as no shock that Bender’s book props up some of Barker’s own work. For instance, the three Men in Black who visited Bender were actually aliens in disguise, and their true form resembled that of the “Flatwoods Monster”. Barker was the chief investigator and promoter of the Flatwoods incident.

YouTube user dslavin’s Spore rendition of the Flatwoods Monster

Bender gives us a very detailed overview of the IFSB’s formation and work, then delves into the reasons for its closure: Bender had an out-of-body experience, apparently caused by visitors from outer space, and in his astral body was taken to a spaceship stationed somewhere in the Antarctic. His escorts on this journey were three aliens with brightly glowing “lightbulb” eyes, disguised as floating men dressed all in black (black suits, black gloves, black homburg hats). On board the ship, another Flatwoods-type alien disguised as a human gave him a brief history of alien visitation to Earth, and explained that the aliens were mining our oceans for some unnamed substance essential to their survival. The refining process they used on the saltwater produced a strange, stringy byproduct that was sometimes left behind (though Bender doesn’t name this stuff, it was very common to early UFO reports and was usually referred to as “angel hair”. After the ’50s, it vanished from UFO stories).
The aliens expressed great concern about our use of nuclear weapons and energy, but they didn’t seem too eager to help out in any way. They just wanted to mine our oceans, then return to their home planet without any trouble. For this reason, they warned Bender not to say anything about their presence. If he did, he might just become a hostage like a few other meddling humans. Once they were safely en route back home, the aliens told Bender, he could reveal everything they had told him.

Silly as all this is, Bender’s book gives us invaluable insight into the early years of American ufology and the creation of the UFO mythos. Interestingly, it contains what may be the first mention of an alien implant; Bender experienced strange headaches both before and after his encounters with the “three men”, and suspected that they had placed some sort of object in his sinus cavity. Of course, many of today’s alien abductees believe this is exactly what the aliens have done to them (in Bender’s case, an X-ray showed no abnormalities). The book also touches on other pseudoscientific theories that are still with us today, including pole shifts (a favourite topic of the 2012 catastrophist crowd). For anyone interested in the roots of ufology and the making of modern legends, Flying Saucers and the Three Men is well worth a read.

Anti-Occult Nonsense On Stilts: Kurt Koch’s Occult ABC


In the world of anti-occult zealotry, Kurt Koch is something of a legend. A Lutheran pastor in Germany, he traveled the world addressing churches of nearly every denomination for over half a century, and claimed to have counseled about 20,000 people by the late ’70s.

I was *lucky* enough to score a copy of his most famous book, Occult ABC, at my local secondhand bookshop.

While it’s hard not to admire Koch’s deep religious devotion, it’s pretty easy to hate this book. Originally published in 1978, it reads like it was written in the early ’50s and consists almost entirely of anecdotes – mostly secondhand stories told by missionaries and pastors. You know the kind: “You wouldn’t believe what these savages are doing!” Koch even includes the old legend of the Hippie Babysitter and the Roasted Baby, substituting devil worshippers for the hippie. He also promotes the b.s. stories of “former Satanists” like Doreen Irvine and Mike Warnke. A big part of the reason Koch falls for this blarney is explained on p. 229: “When people have been convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit and have received Jesus Christ as their Lord, they generally speak the truth.”

As you’ve probably guessed, just about everything that doesn’t involve Bible-reading and praying to Jesus is “occult” in Koch’s opinion. He devotes sections to acupuncture, homosexuality, porn, yoga, meditation, “descent from the ape”, Freemasonry, and of course rock music. And Koch believes that any degree of occult influence can afflict multiple generations (the “sins of the father”), causing everything from skin diseases to demonic possession.

The wisdom Koch dispenses is often wildly contradictory. For instance, he maintains that all precognitive powers come from Satan, yet implies several times that it can be 100% accurate and that only a fool would ignore a warning from a psychic.
He stresses that some mental illnesses have natural causes and can be treated by psychiatry, while others are occult in origin and must be treated spiritually. But then he states that occult involvment isn’t the cause of mental illness; it just paves the way for mental illness to develop.
He describes many cases in which occultists changed their evil ways because a spouse or parent prayed for their salvation for many years. Later, he tells us never to pray for occultists unless they have explicitly expressed a desire to change, because it simply won’t work.

Some of his examples are just plain creepy. Koch boasts that Mirin Dajo died because some Christians prayed for his sword-piercing trick to fail onstage, and it did. (Actually, it didn’t. Dajo died after slipping into a coma, and he was not performing at the time.)
In another example, Koch writes of a man who foolishly yoked himself to a non-Christian wife and spent the rest of his life regretting it. His poor son-in-law got so tired of the woman’s nagging that he boxed her ears until she shut up. The lesson seems to be that it’s A-OK to smack your mother-in-law around if she’s a non-Christian.
Once, when a woman with a nasty skin disease consulted him, Koch asked her “how she ever got married in such a condition.” Nice.
Then there was the little girl who become “dreadfully depraved” after being treated by a nature healer. “At the age of ten she seduced a married man – not vice versa.” Where have I heard that before? Oh, right, from child molesters.

Here are just a few choice bits from Occult ABC:

  • Christian Scientists ganged up to psychically murder a man who left the church, giving him a skin disease that caused him to shed his skin “like a snake.”
  • Sorcerors in East Timor engage in “criminal activity” by projecting parts of their spirits into owls, which fly to the homes of enemies to steal pieces of the enemies’ livers.
  • After signing a pact with the Devil, a German woman become possessed and was repeatedly squished by a giant, invisible snake. Koch recorded about 100 cases of such blood pacts, and states that in the previous 20 years, “tens of thousands of young people have signed their souls to the Devil in their own blood.” As with every other statistic in the book, we have no idea where he got these numbers.
  • Elves are real.
  • All hypnosis is dangerous, even stage hypnosis. If you allow yourself to be hypnotized by one, you may become a drunk like this one chick in Argentina. Stage hypnotists are criminals.
  • If you go to an iridologist, you might become a wife-beating drunk like this one dude.
  • If an occultist becomes a Christian, the Devil will be furious and will do everything in his power to oppose you. So you might become a wife-beater anyway, like this other dude.
  • UFOs are heralds of the Antichrist.
  • Gospel singer Henry Drummond, before becoming a Christian, could hypnotize people at a distance of 50 miles.
  • A woman with legs of unequal length went to a “spiritist healer” for healing, and the shorter leg magically grew. But when she became a Christian, it shrank.
  • You must never collect bric-a-brac from non-Christian cultures. “A minister’s wife on Prince Edward Island had collected a whole table-full of figures of gods and cultic objects from the mission field. Today she is in a mental institution.”
  • About 50% of the compulsive neurotics Koch counseled had connections with spiritism or magic in their backgrounds, hence these things cause compulsive neuroses. (Keep in mind that Koch has no training in psychology.)
  • Uri Geller is really psychic, and everyone who found their cutlery bent after one of his TV broadcasts had some psychic ability, as well. “Only the ignorant make fun of these things.”
  • “Voodoo” practitioners drink blood and sacrifice children.
  • In his chapter on Freemasonry, Koch writes that “French historians like Abbe Barnuel maintain that the French Revolution” was engineered by Masons. First of all, it’s Barruel. Secondly, he was not a historian. He was a conspiranoid priest who later rewrote his anti-Masonic thesis, shifting blame to the Jews.
  • Koch takes the view that porn is a Communist device to weaken the morals of Westerners. Perversion for Profit, anyone?
  • Anonymous psychiatrist: “The ouija board is filling our pyschiatric clinics in New York.”
  • Koch on the manufacturers of ouija boards: “If the American government knew how much evil this one firm in Massassachusetts has brought on the American people, they would prohibit the production of these devilish boards at once.”
  • Some Africans can turn themselves into leopards.
  • “I go to the dentist when it is necessary. But I always pray when I go, for dental treatment can last six months and cause much pain.” (I’m guessing this wouldn’t have been the case if he went to the dentist more than “necessary”…)
  • In the Arctic, archaeologists found bones that were said to be 20,000 years old. “I am somewhat skeptical about this claim.”
  • On astrology: “There really ought to be a law prohibiting this and all other forms of fortune-telling. Astrology has been responsible for a number of suicides and murders.”
  • You must not touch a practicing medium. You might get an electric shock, like this one guy.

And so on. From what I’ve seen, all Koch’s books are like this one – so I won’t be reading any of them.

Book Review of The Return of Planet-X by Jaysen Q. Rand, Part II


continued from Part I

The Evidence


The Chronology of Planet-X

If X passes Earth roughly every 3600 years and its next fly-by is expected any minute now, then we’ve got an excellent idea of when these major cataclysms should’ve wracked the earth. The last wave of havoc should have occurred ’round about 1590 BC, in the late Bronze Age. The wave before that would have happened around 5190 BC, in the Stone Age. As we’ll see, Rand has a quite different chronology, with a margin of error of well over 1000 years. He states that X’s last fly-by occurred in 1447 BC.
The theories of Zechariah Sitchin and Immanuel Velikovsky become important here.

A crash course (haw haw) in Velikovsky & Sitchin

Like most people who’ve read it, Immanuel Velikovsky was confounded and somewhat appalled by Freud’s Moses and Monotheism (1939), in which Freud posited that Moses was a disciple of Akhenaten murdered by his followers sometime during the Exodus.
Most people shrug, say something like “Wow, Freud was kinda nuts at the end”, and move on. Not Velikovsky. He set out to prove that every event in the Old Testament happened precisely as described. Rather than producing another work of Judeo-Christian apologetics, however, he decided to take a stab at writing a scientific treatise blending history, archaeology, and astronomy. This was Worlds in Collision (1950). In it, Velikovsky proposed that beginning around 1500 BC, our solar system was engaged in a crazy cosmic pool game. First a monstrously huge comet broke off of Jupiter and zoomed extremely close to Earth, causing all the plagues of Egypt as well as the miracles of the Exodus. For instance, the plague of flies was really a plague of fly-like insects from Jupiter. Really.
Later this comet knocked Mars out of orbit and settled down to become the planet Venus, but that’s not for here.
Velikovsky’s comet caused just as much death and destruction as Rand’s X, but it was a boon to the homeless Hebrews in the desert. Its passage caused the planet to stop and tilt slightly on its axis, “dividing” the Red Sea just long enough for them to slip across the seabed unharmed. Its carbohydrate-rich tail provided manna for them to eat, and though Velikovsky doesn’t mention it, the comet was respectful enough to observe the Sabbath by not providing any manna on Sundays. What a nice comet. Compared to Velikovsky’s comet, Planet-X is a total asshole.

Note that Velikovsky’s date for the Exodus (1500 BC) somewhat matches Rand’s date of 1447 BC. They’re both quite different from the 1590 BC date we would expect for a celestial body with a 3600-year orbit, but hey, let’s give Rand some slack. We can’t honestly expect him to contradict one of the grand masters of catastrophism, can we? It’s clear that Rand uses – or at least admits to using – more of Velikovsky’s material than Sitchin’s. This is possibly because Sitchin’s work is not as Christian-oriented. Sitchin even hinted that God himself is a fabrication of the helpful but deceptive Anunnaki.

Sitchin , based on his own translations of interpretations of ancient Near East artwork and mythology, theorized that a distant planet called Nibiru (which is or is not Planet-X, depending on which page of Planet-X you read) passes by Earth in its elliptical orbit about every 3600 years. The only significant difference between Rand’s brown dwarf and Sitchin’s Nibiru is that Nibiru is inhabited by humanoids who can reach Earth by spaceship when their planet is close enough. Please don’t ask me how a planet so far from the Sun can foster intelligent humanoid life.

These Nibiruans probably spawned the Nephilim mentioned in Genesis, as well as the ancient gods of Sumer and Babylonia known as the Anunnaki. They’re responsible for the rapid evolution of man at certain points in our history, because they introduced metalworking, writing, mathematics, and pretty much every other major innovation. Without them, we’d still be morons playing with rocks. They may even have genetically engineered us to be a slave race, toiling in their mines.
Then the Sumerian god/ET overlord Enlil broke away from his evil brother Enki and freed us. Or something like that. It’s all in Sitchin’s 7-book series if you’re interested. For now let’s just keep in mind that Sitchin’s Nibiru timeline should mesh closely with Rand’s X timeline. Sitchin believes Nibiru swept by around 11, 000 BC, 7400 BC, and 3800 BC.
So, um, yeah. By Sitchin’s chronology, Nibiru wouldn’t have been anywhere near Earth during the Exodus.

Alright, so the chronology is totally screwed. Let’s move on to real, solid, meaty evidence of why we should believe that Planet-X regularly brings death and chaos to our “small and watery world hurtling though the vastness of the Milky Way Galaxy.”
In Rand’s view, science must start accepting ancient mythologies as straightforward historical accounts, and cease the “international coverup” of the evidence of recurrent global catastrophes caused by Planet-X.
Let’s keep Rand’s X chronology in mind as we review some of this “forbidden” evidence he cites:

“Gram” Hancock dove down to extensive ruins full of Doric columns in Quait Bay (off Alexandria, Egypt). To nitpick, “Quait Bay” is not a bay. It’s a fort named for the sultan who built it, Qaitbay. Graham Hancock has some photos of underwater “megalithic structures” off Alexandria on his website. There are no Doric columns visible, but it certainly isn’t unheard-of for ancient Egyptian structures to contain Hellenistic elements from the 3rd century AD on. So what the hell does this have to do with Planet-X? Nada. Besides, these ruins (if they are, indeed, ruins) are few and pitiful when compared to spectacular monuments discovered in the same waters off Alexandria. I’m not sure why Rand thinks Hancock’s site is of any special significance to his thesis.
For years, Hancock has been attempting to prove that a “pole shift” occurred about 10,000 years ago, followed by a global flood that wiped out several advanced civilizations (another timeline, just what we needed!). He routinely pulls out flimsy or outright retarded pieces of “evidence” to support his theories, and also creatively reinterprets actual archeaological evidence. He also uses the common pseudohistorian’s trick of interpreting myths as garbled accounts of real historical events and personages, a lead Rand follows in Planet-X.

Rand claims he and some diving buddies probably found the remains of Flight 19 while recreating its final flight, and while they were at it they discovered a 3000-lb. marble Doric column, which he refers to as “Atlantean“. It was later stolen. (Rand also discovered the possible site of the Fountain of Youth. It’s a sunken stone Lithium spring located in a mangrove swamp east of North Bimini.) These are *interesting* stories, but Rand presents zero evidence of his amazing discoveries. Not that they have anything to do with X, anyway. Again, a Doric column in the ocean won’t tell us anything about what may have happened in 1590 BC (or 1447 BC). It should be noted, too, that Rand didn’t come to the Atlantis conclusion through any kind of scientific analysis; Bimini is one of the most popular locations for Atlantis, because the “Bimini stones” were discovered there after Edgar Cayce said Atlantis would resurface off the coast of Florida sometime in the late ’60s.

Rand also tentatively locates Atlantis in the Azores, where in 2001, 18-story towers were discovered underwater. Rand just can’t seem to decide where the hell Atlantis was. Maybe it bounced around like the island in Lost. Anyway, I have no idea what he’s talking about here, unless he’s referring to very impressive mineral deposits discovered 1800 km from the Azores in 2000. These are natural geothermal chimneys.

Chaotic flood deposits of animal remains have been found in various parts of the world. Like Velikovsky and many creationists, Rand points to animal graveyards as evidence that mass extinctions were caused by a global flood or a sudden freeze. There are many reasons why animal remains would be jumbled together in certain places: Crevasses, the action of river currents, tar and mud pits. You don’t actually need a catastrophic event to explain them. And while the 15 or so mass extinctions that have occurred in the past were certainly caused (at least in part) by catastrophic events like carbon dioxide releases and comet and asteroid collisions, they were definitely not caused by a single worldwide flood nor by a “pole shift” (as we’ll see in part III).

Nicholas Flemming found the underwater city of Elaphonisos off Greece. Flemming found Pavlopetri off the Greek island of Elafonisos, actually. That’s how much in-depth research Rand has done. Pavolpetri dates to the Bronze Age and is the oldest submerged city yet discovered. It sank around 1000 BC.

Arthur Posnansky found “chaotic rubble” indicative of some great disaster on the shore of Lake Titicaca. Posnansky didn’t excavate the shore of Lake Titicaca. He explored nearby Tiahuanaca in the 1930s, and posited that an earthquake created the crack in the Gate of the Sun around 15,000 BC (though he didn’t find any rubble, or other evidence of seismic activity). Today, archaeologists estimate the city was built around 200 AD.

In 1993, a U-shaped underwater structure was found off the coast of Kadaikadu, India. There’s a site off Poomphuar touted by (guess who?) Graham Hancock because it is very deep (about 23 m) and contains a horseshoe-shaped “structure”. However, even Hancock is hesitant to declare this a manmade artifact, as exploration has been limited.

Paulina Zelitztsky and Paul Weinzweig claim to have found ruins constructed of polished granite, including a pyramid roughly 150 feet high, off the coast of Cuba in 2000. Alas, the only evidence they possess is an intriguing side scan sonar image, which doesn’t tell us much. Zelitztsky has declared the “ruins” are at least 12,000 years old, and possibly as old as 50,000. No freaking comment.

The Pakistani cities of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa contain roads covered with skeletons, some holding hands, as well as thousands of melted clay vessels. This is not even remotely the case. Mohenjo Daro is a thoroughly excavated World Heritage site, built around 2600 BC, and it shows no evidence of any sudden disaster other than some flooding of the Indus River. Nor does Harappa. On the contrary, many delicate and intricate works of art from these sites have been preserved.
But lots of strange rumours have surfaced about the two cities. Pseudohistorian Philip Coppens claims not only that Mohenjo Daro was “melted”, but that skeletons discovered there are radioactive – indicating an atomic blast. Similar misinfo can be found all over the Internets. It’s all unsourced.

In 1999, megalithic structures were found on the seabed near Malta. They resemble those found on the mainland. This “find” was supposedly announced to a “Paleo Astronaut Society” in Germany by archaeologist Hubert Zeitlmar, who claims the ruins resemble the famous temples of Malta. His video footage and photos have not been reproduced, and I can’t find any further info about Zeitlmar.
The mainland temples were constructed between about 3600-3000 BC.

Sunken kingdoms of legend: Cantre’r Gwaelod (Wales), Lyonesse (England). Welsh and Arthurian legend is not exactly straightforward history, but if you insist on using these examples I’ll just point out that Lyonesse hadn’t yet sunk during Arthur’s time (6th century AD), and that Cantre’r Gwaelod was flooded because some drunk forgot to close the dike.

I’m baffled as to why Rand used these weak examples of “forbidden archaeology”, rather than better-documented finds like the Yonaguni monument (Japan). Sure, no one knows if it’s manmade or not, but since it’s not dated Rand could argue that it sank in 1447 BC.
At any rate, you’ve probably noticed that the estimated ages of the ruins and suspected ruins in all of Rand’s examples in no way mesh with the supposed dates of Planet-X crossings. If you’re trying to prove that shit got real in 1447 BC, then you’re going to have to find examples of bad shit from that period. Pretty basic. You can’t just pick a random sunken city.
There are many sunken cities sprinkled around the planet, and in most cases the exact circumstances of their demises aren’t known. All we know is that they were sent to the bottom of the ocean by earthquakes, tsunamis, rising sea levels, or some combination of those things. A few, like Baiae, were simply built in the wrong places. It should go without saying that none of this has to be caused by the passage of giant celestial objects, “pole shifts”, or global floods.

Part III: “Pole Shifts”
Part IV: So does “Planet-X” exist?

Book Review: The Return of Planet X by Jaysen Q. Rand

The full title of this book won’t even fit in the space allotted for the blog post title, so here it is: The Return of Planet-X And Its Effects on Mother Earth ~ a Natural Disaster Survivor’s Manual ~ WORMWOOD: Mankind’s Ongoing Legacy With A Brown Dwarf Star by Jaysen Q. Rand, Ph.D. (FutureWorld Publishing, 2007).

Let’s start at the end, since starting at the beginning won’t make any more sense. The bibliography for Planet-X is the freaking weirdest I have ever seen in my life. It includes numerous sci-fi novels, the 1990 Guinness Book of World Records, a Jehovah’s Witness tract, and a book called Re-Discovering the Sacred by Phyllis A. Tickle. There are many non-academic works of Bible history, religious prophecy, and pseudohistory, written by people with extreme fondness for exclamation points, such as Gyeorgos Ceres Hatonn‘s Shrouds of the Seventh Seal (The Anti-Christ Whore of Babylon!) and Cataclysm! by D.S. Allan and J.B. Delair. Most interestingly, there are several works by one Harold Camping, a California radio preacher. His name comes up in the latest issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine (May/June 2010). It seems Camping has used his own mathematical Bible Code to discover the date of the end of the world several times… and his latest date is May 21, 2011. That’s gotta hurt. You use the guy as the backbone of your 2012 theory, and he goes and pulls 2011 out of his hat.

There is no index. The text is errata-riddled, the punctuation bizarre (slashes are used in lieu of commas 99% of the time, and I lost count of the triple exclamations points!!!). Some pages are just blank. There’s neither rhyme nor reason to the layout, giving the impression of a scrapbook belonging to an insane person. Random photos jostle with sentimental free-verse poetry by Anonymous, Bible verses, and vaguely relevant clipart. Most of the photos are superfluous. One blurry photo of Earth is captioned, “Planet Earth – the continuing saga of a small watery world seemingly lost in space on its intrepid journey hurtling through the vastness of the Milky Way Galaxy here in the 21st Century.”

Moving forward (er, backward) from the bibliography, Planet-X concludes with a brief history of George Van Tassel’s Integratron. Rand lived on Van Tassel’s property in 1983-84 and wrote a book about his paranormal experiences there, The Reality Engineer. I still have no idea what this has to do with the end of the world.
There’s also a press release from the Binary Research Institute, and a critique of the Kyoto Accords, arguing that reforestation can offset some of the effects of the coming catastrophe – no curb on greenhouse gas emissions required.
The main text ends with a prophecy by “Mother Shipton” (a seeress who likely never existed).

So what is this imminent catastrophe, exactly? Let’s go to the beginning. The book starts out with the Wormwood passage from Revelation (8: 10, 11) and other Bible verses, along with excerpts from Planet-X itself, which is just weird. There are some additional subtitles, too, including “a working hypothesis based on science and fact”. We learn from these snippets that Dr. Rand has awkwardly melded Velikovsky‘s catastrophism to the Nibiru material of Zecharia Sitchin to create a “scientific” theory: Every 3600 years or so “Planet-X” (an undiscovered brown dwarf in our solar system) passes close to Earth on its wildly elliptical orbit, causing catastrophes aplenty. It last passed by us during the Biblical Exodus (dated here as 1447 BC), which Velikovsky explained in his 1950 masterpiece of pseudohistory and pseudoastronomy, Worlds in Collision. A “pole flip” may occur when X next passes Earth, either in September 2009 or December 2012. More on that concept later.

Planet-X is variously described as “a creative writing project”, a “timely natural disaster survivor’s manual”, a work “critically important for every American and citizen of planet Earth living today”, and a scientific treatise. At one point, Rand mentions he was given the “ET assignment of writing a number of books”.
Rand himself doesn’t quite seem to accept that the world as we know it will end in a few years. Early on, he suggests that a visit to your local planetarium would be fun and educational for the whole family. Screw the apocalypse, go to the Planet Arium!
In his “introductory overview”, he mentions that the book started out as a series of teleplays for a never-produced TV pilot, packed with “exciting Planet-X adventure themes”. Um, why propose a TV series if you think the world will end in five years? Who is this guy, anyway?

Jaysen Q. Rand, Ph.D.

The name sounds like one of those old-timey dramatic serials you can still find on the comics page, doesn’t it? I can just picture “Jaysen Q. Rand, Ph.D” next to Mary Worth and Prince Valiant.
But anyway, according to his bio and other info in the book, Rand is an alien abductee, a UFO researcher with close ties to Russian ufologists Lt. Col. Marina Popovich and her ex-husband, General Pavel Popovich, and a Grammy-nominated record producer with 35 gold/platinum records to his credit. The “dr.” comes from an honorary PhD bestowed by the Academy of Energyinformative Sciences sometime in the early ’90s. As the only accessible info about “energyinformative science” comes from the academy’s own website, I’m not exactly sure what it is. But it incorporates folk medicine, “cosmic biorythmology” [sic], astrology, “uphology” (the science of upholstery?), biolocation, psychology, psychotronics, and aerodynamics, and it seems to be another term for “eniology”, whatever that is.

Rand’s real name is Paul Bondora. Currently, he resides in a small town in Mississippi. The photo in Planet-X is incredibly outdated; Rand (b. 1939) is now in his golden years, as you can see in the promotional vid at the end of this post.
Last year, criminal charges of acting as a real estate agent without a license were filed against him, then dropped.
He apparently does have some background in the recording industry, but his Grammy nom and gold/platinum status are in question.
He first came to public attention with the publication of Planet-X and a 2008 appearance on Coast to Coast AM.

When did Rand first become interested in Planet-X? Well, it all began in Manitoba, in the year 1950. An ET named A-Lon saved 11-year-old Paul Bondora’s life, and Paul spent five hours aboard a landed spaceship with A-Lon’s family. They showed him an hour-long film about the history of Wormwood.

The Gist of Planet-X

We’re all going to die in two years. Well, most of us will die. There will be a few survivors – the lucky ones who purchased this book.
Rand believes that Earth’s geological, mythological, and even sociological history has been shaped by catastrophic upheavals more than anything else, and that most of these upheavals were caused by the repeated passage of “Planet-X”, the body referred to as “the star Wormwood” in the Book of Revelations. Our scientists and public officials know all about this “star” and its effects, but to avert widescale panic they have painstakingly hidden the truth of our planet’s history and future. The Bush administration doubled FEMA funding in 2002 because of Planet-X, for instance. Rand paradoxically insists that modern science is woefully ignorant of Earth’s cataclysmic history. This isn’t the only issue on which Rand contradicts the hell out of himself. On page 64 he asserts, “We believe Nibiru is ‘Wormwood’.” But go back to page 25 and you’ll read this: “Many Internet websites suggest that Planet-X be referred to as Planet Nibiru – one particular theory about ‘X’ that we don’t ascribe to [sic].”

X has been affecting Earth’s weather patterns since 2005, causing a record number of tropical storms. Rand predicted that it would make its first pass of Earth in 2009, causing massive natural disasters: a 180-degree “pole shift”, tsunamis, quakes, fires, volcanic eruptions. I’m sure you remember all this happening, so I won’t go into any detail.
In 2012, all this stuff (and probably more) will occur again when X makes its second pass. Oh, and “as our planet’s vibratory rate increases daily we’re also beginning to see phenomenal shifts in our personal time-based physical reality streams.”
This is all New Age-speak for “Shit’s gonna get real.” And that’s pretty much all Rand has to say. The rest of the book is filler. Rand speculates that the “Nefilim” aliens written of by Sitchin may already be on Earth, preparing a Rapture-like scenario in which they will ferry select humans to safety. Another possibility is that the hybridization programs so often mentioned by alien abductees are the aliens’ effort to repopulate Earth with a new species.

There’s also a lot of material about Atlantis and other “lost kingdoms” destroyed by brushes with X. Rand points to ruins discovered near the Azores, Cuba, India, the Thar Desert, Peru, and Malta as evidence of sudden catastrophes. We’ll look at some of this archaeological evidence in Part II, along with “pole shifts”.

Promotional video for The Return of Planet-X (Part I)

Pants Afire Awards

The Pants Afire Award goes to the least credible people I’ve written about here on Swallowing the Camel.
And the lucky winners are…

Benjamin Fulford, saving the world with Freemasonic ninjas

Larry Sinclair – Obama’s gay lover and his murder allegations

James Frey – Bad writer, no Pulitzer!

Sylvia Browne, the whiskey-throated emodiment of epic FAIL

Dr. Deagle – taking WTF to whole new levels

Al Bielek – He survived the Philadelphia Experiment only to be zapped back to infancy. Never trust the government, folks.

Casey Anthony – Whether she’s guilty of killing her daughter or not, this girl has got to be one of the least competent liars in the history of lying.

Richard “Iceman” Kuklinski – He became the world’s most infamous Mafia hitman without actually working for the Mafia or being a hitman.

Book Review: Alice in Wonderland and the World Trade Center Disaster by David Icke


This one definitely wasn’t on my winter reading list, but my Signif Other brought it home from a kooky New Age bookstore and I just couldn’t resist, even though it reeks of incense.

For those not familiar with Mr. David Icke (pronounced “Ike”), a crash course: He’s a former UK football player and sports presenter who experienced some sort of breakdown around 1990. Ever since, he’s been giving lectures and writing books about an ancient global conspiracy to control humanity, which he now says is headed by 4th-dimensional, evil Reptilian entities who interbred with certain humans to create 13 “Illuminati Bloodline” families. The most powerful members of these families (the Bushes, the Windsors, et. al.) are not strictly human; they are possessed by the Reptilians, and can shape-shift at will during their Satanic blood-drinking ceremonies. Their goal is to turn humanity into a microchipped herd of cattle, under total physical and emotional control. To this end the Illuminati has introduced aspartame, tainted vaccines, fluoridated water, GM foods, television, the media, trauma-based mind control (he extensively quotes Cathy O’Brien and other alleged victims of the possibly fictional Project Monarch), and all religions. The Illuminati also use manufactured wars to keep humanity distracted and distressed (the Reptilians feed on our fear and bad vibes as well as our blood, you see), covertly funding both sides of conflicts. To enforce their will upon us, the Illuminati produce manufactured problems with pre-arranged “solutions” (a real-world form of the Hegelian Dialectic, dubbed “Problem-Reaction-Solution”, or PRS, by Icke).
I admit I it: I like Icke. Sure, his research is spotty and he’s breathtakingly gullible and he believes in giant shape-shifting reptilian Satanists, but he’s sincere in his beliefs. You certainly can’t say that about many authors nowadays, as my posts on James Frey, “Nasdiij”, “J.T. LeRoy”, et. al., show.
Some activists, notably Canadian human-rights attorney Richard Warman, believe Icke to be an anti-Semite using “12-foot Reptilians” as a code word for “Jews.” For this reason, Indigo Books in Ontario will no longer carry his works and some of his Canadian appearances have been cancelled. Trust me, though – Icke believes in the lizards. And he despises all religions, not just Judaism. Also, he discusses Jews and Reptilians separately, and names mostly WASPy types as lizard people.
Icke’s early books (up to 1999’s The Biggest Secret) didn’t mention the lizards at all. That’s how Alice in Wonderland and the World Trade Center Disaster starts out, too; he reserves the multi-dimensional lizard stuff for the final chapter. Alice begins with an extensive overview of the Bush Dynasty, adhering to the theory that George Bush Sr. was the “Secret President” throughout the Reagan, Clinton, and Bush Jr. administrations as well as his own. Icke reviews Vietnam, Iran-Contra, Gulf War I, Enron, and a host of other dismal events before finally delving into 9/11 in chapter 7. As with all of Icke’s books, Alice is a colossal mish-mash of everything he’s ever read on the subject, some of it culled from reputable sources and some from utter lunatics he met in a back alley somewhere. Most of his information is boilerplate 9/11 conspiracy theory, but he does present numerous intriguing factoids that you won’t easily find elsewhere. (This is true of most of his books, particularly And the Truth Shall Set You Free.) He has also retained a refreshing sense of humour, something very rare among conspiracy theorists.
The only thing I found particularly annoying about Alice was Icke’s frequent reminders (roughly every other page) that predictions from his earlier books have come to pass, therefore we should believe everything he says now. Um, no thanks. I mean, when you spew out thousands of pages of predictions, you’re bound to hit on the truth from time to time…
A sample of the interesting tidbits in Alice in Wonderland and the World Trade Center Disaster:
– The Statue of Liberty is a representation of the legendary Assyrian Queen Semiramis
– George and Barbara Bush are descendants of Crusader Godfroi de Bouillon, First King of Jerusalem, and 34 of the U.S. presidents were descended from Charlemagne.
– Ben Bradlee worked for the CIA at one point (he, too, is descended from Charlemagne).
But there are also many references to FEMA concentration camps, Satanic ritual abuse, and the chemical assault on humanity. Icke writes that fluoride is a “major intellect suppressant” found in cockroach poison, Prozac, and nerve gas; (uncited) studies have shown it makes people “stupid, docile, and subservient” (I’d love to know which researchers use the word “stupid” in their papers). Oh, and it renders people sterile. GM foods, vaccines, crop chemicals, and food additives are actually designed to “genetically modify the body, rewrite the DNA” in order to reduce the “ability of consciousness to manifest its genius through the brain.”
Though he cites most of his sources, you obviously can’t trust a thing Icke says until you’ve quadruple-verified it for yourself. His stuff is really for entertainment purposes only, a glimpse into the ultra-paranoid worldview that seems to be getting more and more mainstream by the day.
For more Icke and Reptilian info:
YouTube search
Google Video search
– Wikipedia entry on “Reptilian humanoids

A Million Little Pieces of Crap



WARNING:
Contains SPOILERS for the book A Million Little Pieces.

I believe there has never been a realistic book about addiction.” – James Frey, promotional CD for A Million Little Pieces.

This is a brief introduction to James Frey and his 2004 memoir, A Million Little Pieces, which has sold over 3.5 million copies and topped bestseller lists in the nonfiction category, thanks to Oprah’s decision to make it her Book of the Month for October 2005.

The book describes Frey’s stint in rehab at the age of 23 (he is now 36), and how he managed to overcome crippling addiction to alcohol and crack through the force of his own will, eschewing AA and the 12 Steps because, as an atheist, he refused to relinquish his life to a Higher Power. Frey’s story has become an inspiration to thousands of addicts and recovering addicts, all of whom embrace Frey’s mantra of recovery: “Hold on.”

Then, in January 2006, The Smoking Gun website posted a refutation of some of the claims James Frey made in his memoir, specifically the amount of time he spent in an Ohio jail. As you will see, this is central to the story told in A Million Little Pieces and Frey’s topselling follow-up, My Friend Leonard (2005).

Frey appeared on Larry King Live with his mother, Lynne, to defend the “emotional and essential” truth of his memoir, and Oprah Winfrey herself phoned the show to express her continued support of the book’s central message of redemption. Frey’s father, Robert, also defends the book.

A Million Little Pieces is categorized as non-fiction, so few of the people and places in the book are actually named. To make things a bit easier to understand, I’ve incorporated what is known of James Frey’s real life into my summary of his memoir.

A Million Little Pieces opens on a plane. James Frey, 23, wakes up to find himself covered in blood and vomit after a two-week blackout caused by drinking and crack-smoking, four of his teeth knocked out and a gaping hole in his face. He learns that a buddy found him facedown in the street after he fell from a fire escape somewhere in Ohio, and that he was taken to hospital. For some reason a doctor put him on a plane instead of patching him up. This part of the memoir is challenged by those who doubt an injured, blood-encrusted, unconscious man would be allowed to board a commercial flight, but that matter hasn’t been settled yet.

Frey’s parents, Robert and Lynne Frey, picked James up at the airport and took him straight to Minnesota’s famed Hazeldon rehab clinic (Robert Frey was a top exec with Whirlpool’s Latin American division at the time). Nearly the whole book deals with rehab. No one disputes the facts that James Frey was seriously addicted to drugs and alcohol, nor that he spent a period of time at Hazeldon.

James received about 40 stitches in his face. Later he underwent extensive dental work (root canals, caps) without Novocaine or painkillers; the dentist explained to him that people in rehab can’t be given anesthetic. This part of the book, while graphic and horrifying, doesn’t ring true. Novocaine is non-narcotic and can be safely administered to addicts in any stage of recovery. (In fact, it was created specifically as an alternative to the narcotic painkiller procaine.)
Also, the current president of the Minnesota Dental Association has stated that such extensive and painful work would not be done without anaesthetic.

During an Oprah appearance, Frey talked in detail about this experience and insisted the physical pain he felt during the dental procedures was far preferable to any emotional pain.

In A Million Little Pieces, James befriends Leonard, a Mafia figure; Lilly, a crack addict about his own age (male-female interaction is forbidden at the clinic, but they sneak into the woods to be alone together); and Miles, a federal judge and alcoholic. Leonard prevents James from leaving the clinic and becomes his mentor. Lilly quickly becomes James’s girlfriend, and the two plan to live together in Chicago after James serves some jail time in Ohio.

In flashback, we see scenes of James’s past: A miserable, destructive childhood in the ‘burbs and a small town (Cleveland, Ohio and St. Joseph, Michigan), alcoholism that began in his early teens, the death of a junior-high girlfriend for which he is responsible, drug and alcohol abuse that caused daily blackouts and bouts of vomiting. Somehow, he was able to graduate from high school and college (Dennison College in Granville, Ohio). James even pledged to a fraternity, but this isn’t mentioned in the book.

James grapples with intense rage he calls “the Fury” and suffers through family therapy with his parents, who are supportive and loving but appalled by what their son has done to himself in their absence (they reside in Brazil).

Lilly runs away from the clinic after being told she can’t associate with James anymore. James, with the help of a friendly driver, tracks her to an abandoned building (presumably in Minneaoplis) where drug users congregate. She is trading sex with a stranger for crack. James drags her out of the building and back to the clinic.

James refuses to accept the tenets of AA, arguing that relinquishing his will to a Higher Power would be swapping one addiction for another. He ignores the daily lectures. Despite his unwillingness to cooperate with the clinic’s treatment plan, James graduates from the clinic. The counselors warn him he won’t stand a chance in the outside world if he doesn’t embrace the 12 Steps and attend AA meetings, but James is convinced that his willpower and careful decision-making will keep him away from booze and crack.

An epilogue catalogues the aftermath of rehab for James’s friends: Lilly hung herself in a Chicago halfway house the day James was released from jail; Leonard the Mafioso died of AIDS; others were murdered or committed suicide. Only James and the judge, Miles, avoided relapse.

Now that you know the background story, let’s take a look at why A Million Little Pieces is really A Million Little Pieces of Crap

When Bill and Marianne Sanders left their New York home late last year to attend a funeral in St. Joseph, Michigan, a relative introduced them to a book written by a native son named James Frey. That book was A Million Little Pieces, a memoir. In the book, Marianne Sanders read that James Frey was indirectly responsible for the death of her daughter.

As Frey tells it, he was a troubled 12-year-old already well on his way to alcoholism when his family moved to a Small Town (Frey loves to capitalize). No one there liked him, but a beautiful and popular cheerleader named Michelle bucked the crowd to hang out with him. One fateful night when they were in the 8th grade, Michelle wanted to go on a date with a high school guy without her parents knowing, so James agreed to accompany her to the movie theatre in her dad’s car. From there, Michelle’s date picked her up in his car. Returning to the theatre a couple of hours later, the guy tried to beat a train across the tracks.

“His car got hit and Michelle was killed…She was my only friend.”

As if this burden wasn’t heavy enough for a 12-year-old, the community blamed James for Michelle’s death.

“I got blamed by her Parents…and by everyone else in that f***ing hellhole…I got taken to the local Police Station and questioned. That was the way it worked there. Blame the f***-up, feel sorry for the Football Hero.”

James blamed himself, too. He is haunted by the image of his lost friend as he spends his first day in rehab, wishing he could see her one last time, tell her he loved her.

“If I hadn’t lied for her, it wouldn’t have happened.”

“Michelle” was clearly Bill and Marianne Sanders’s daughter, Melissa, who had indeed been killed in a train collision in St. Joseph, Michigan. But reality stops there.

Melissa Sanders died at age 17, not age 12.

As far as her parents know, she was not friends with James Frey.

James Frey did not accompany her to the movies – or anywhere else – on the night of her death.
James Frey was not to blame for the death of Melissa Sanders.

His story is b.s.

On the night of November 16, 1986, Melissa Sanders was picked up at home by her friend Jane Hall. The girls went to a house party hosted by Dean Sperlik, 17, and left with Dean in his ’79 Olds around 8:30, destination unknown. At 9:17 a C&O train barrelled into the car at the Maiden Lane railroad crossing in St. Joseph. The two girls died within the hour. Sperlik was injured, and served 6 months in jail for negligent homicide.

Sounds like Dean Sperlik got the blame, not James.

James Frey wasn’t involved. He was neither blamed nor questioned in relation to the incident. Bill Sanders has stated he never met Mr. Frey and never drove him anywhere.

This radically altered account of a young woman’s death is one of many exaggerations, obfuscations, and bald-faced lies sprinkled throughout A Million Little Pieces. When you tally them all up, you have to wonder how much of this factual memoir is even remotely factual.

All we can say with any certainty is that James Frey was an addict who spent time in rehab.

Here are a couple of the falsehoods uncovered by The Smoking Gun (see their report, A Million Little Lies: The Man Who Conned Oprah, for more details):

The Ohio Dust-up

The Ohio arrest and its aftermath are central to the story of A Million Little Pieces and Frey’s follow-up “memoir”, My Friend Leonard (2005). It resulted in a post-rehab jail term that prevented him from being with his girlfriend, Lilly, when her beloved grandmother died. Lilly hung herself in a Chicago halfway house the same day James was released from jail; he arrived merely hours too late to save her.

James Frey’s version:

When his parents sent him to Europe after college, James scecretly returned to Ohio to see his girlfriend – drunk. She refused to see him, so he parked his car on the sidewalk where she was talking to friends outside a bar, accidentally striking a cop. He had a bag of crack on him, but no insurance or license. He was dragged out of the car kicking and screaming, urging onlookers to rush the cops and free him. The cops beat him with billy clubs to silence him. He was charged with an array of felonies, including Felony DUI, Resisting Arrest, Felony Mayhem, Assault with a Deadly Weapon (the car), and attempting to incite a riot. He jumped bail and returned to France.

Two years later, in rehab, James learned he would have to serve at least 3 years in prison for the Ohio charges. The cops had plenty of evidence against him: A big bag of crack, 30 witnesses, and results of a blood alcohol test that showed a .29. He’d also have to pay $15,000 in fines and do 1000 hours of community service. Lucky for him his roommate was a federal judge and his best buddy a feared Mafioso. The two of them secretly cooked up a deal that got James a dramatically reduced sentence: Three months in county jail, no fines.

James decided he could live with that. A Million Little Pieces ends as he has just been released from the clinic and on his way to Ohio to serve his time. He’ll come back for Lilly as soon as he gets out, and they’ll begin a new life together in Chicago.

The Granville Cops’ Version:

James doesn’t name the town in which his rampage occurred, but it was Granville, Ohio.

On the night of October 25, 1992, officer Dave Dudgeon saw an ’89 Mercury pull up on the curb of a Granville street, nearly hitting a power pole, in a no-parking zone. James seemed drunk and there was a half-empty bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon in the car. He cooperated with a field sobriety test, which he failed, and made no fuss when a second officer arrived to drive him to the station. He refused a blood alcohol test, but was otherwise “polite and cooperative”. James was given two traffic tickets, one for a DUI and one for driving without a license, and given a misdemeanor criminal summons for having an open alcohol container in his car. He was to appear in Mayor’s court in 10 days, but jumped bail.

Upon release from rehab, James returned to Ohio to clear up the charges. He was not given any jail time. Licking County Jail records show he was never an inmate there. Despite the evidence, James Frey maintains he served time in Licking County. He did admit to The Smoking Gun, off the record, that the time was “significantly less” than three months.

  • He nearly hit a power pole, not a cop.
  • He may have had a blood alcohol level of .29, but there’s no test result to prove that.
  • He didn’t resist arrest.
  • He was not beaten with billy clubs.
  • He didn’t try to incite a riot.
  • He didn’t have any drugs in his car, though he insisted to The Smoking Gun that he did have a bag of crack in his pocket.

So what are we to think of the touching jailhouse scenes that open My Friend Leonard? The gut-wrenching realization that Lilly would have survived if only James hadn’t been confined to Licking County Jail? I’ll tell you what I think of it: There was no Lilly. She is a fragrant, blue-eyed figment of Mr. Frey’s imagination.

“I am a Criminal wanted in three states.”

This is a frequent refrain in A Million Little Pieces: “I am an Alcoholic, I am an Addict, I am a Criminal.”

Frey may have been wanted in Ohio, but charges in Michigan and North Carolina were settled before he started university in the fall of ’88.

James Frey certainly was an Alcoholic and an Addict, but I think his third epithet should be “Lying Creep.”

Update: Oprah Changes Her Mind

As most people know, Oprah changed her mind about Frey’s “essential truth” after reading The Smoking Gun report, and brought him back on her show to confront him. Looking blankly slack-jawed and speaking vaguely, as always, he admitted that he had never spent any time in jail and that he changed some locations and events for no apparent reason. For instance, Lilly killed herself with pills (not by hanging herself), and not in Chicago.

“Is there a Lilly?” Oprah asked pointedly.

“Absolutely,” Frey replied.

Jerry Stahl (recovering heroin addict, author of Permanent Midnight) has written a hilariously funny essay on James Frey, posted at laweekly.com: “Free James Frey! In Defense of the Post-Truth Memoir.” His imitation of Frey’s writing style is spot-on.