Somaly Mam and the Dark Side of Charity

Since 1996, a non-governmental organization known as AFESIP (from the French, Acting for Women in Distressing Situations) has been working to rescue and aid young female victims of human trafficking, operating three centres in Cambodia where the young women are housed and educated.
The guiding light of this effort is co-founder Somaly Mam, a Cambodian-born woman who claims to have been a child prostitute in the ’80s. She has become one of the world’s most prominent anti-trafficking activists, racking up prestigious awards and honours. According to Mam, over 4000 girls and women have been rescued from forced prostitution thanks to AFESIP’s efforts. AFESIP’s fundraising arm, the Somaly Mam Foundation, has raised millions since its inception in 2007.
So it came as a nasty surprise to many supporters when Mam stepped down as the head of her own foundation in May, amid allegations that she fabricated not only the stories of two of her spokespeople, but also her own life story. To hear other media outlets tell it, Mam’s downfall was brought about by a single Newsweek cover story penned by Simon Marks.

newsweek

A Distressing Situation

The Newsweek article is shocking, but here’s something even more shocking: Nothing in the Newsweek story is breaking news. Not one thing.

Back in October 2012, Simon Marks, along with Khy Sovuthy, published a piece in Cambodia Daily, “Questions Raised Over Symbol’s Slavery Story“, probing the accuracy of the horrifc story of sexual slavery and mutilation told by Mam’s most high-profile spokesperson, Long Pros (AKA Somana Long). This was just one of several articles Marks has written about Mam and AFESIP over the past two years.

Also in 2012, Cat Barton wrote several articles like this one, questioning the wisdom of the high-profile brothel raids engineered by Somaly Mam.  AFESIP has received a considerable amount of criticism from other anti-trafficking orgs for allowing journalist Nicholas Kristof to “live-tweet” a brothel raid in the northern Cambodian town of Anlong Veng in November 2011, as this violated the privacy of the young women removed from the brothel.
Barton also reported concerns that not all of the women and girls housed by AFESIP centres were there voluntarily; some had been dropped off by police following raids.

In November 2013, Lindsay Murdoch raised further questions about Somana Long’s  account and the integrity of Somaly Mam in a Sydney Morning Herald article, “Dark Truths or Fiction?

Another Marks article, published in El Mundo last year, exposed the same lies that Marks revealed in the Newsweek piece. In fact, there are few significant differences between the two articles. It’s disappointing that the world’s major media outlets ignored such an important investigative piece published by one of the largest newspapers in Spain.

In March, AFESIP launched an inquiry into the allegations raised by journalists over the years. Staffers knew that Marks was working on the Newsweek piece, and apparently realized it was time to deal with the issue head-on. The details of the independent, third-party investigation conducted by Goodwin Proctor LLP have not been divulged, but a statement posted on the website of the Somaly Mam Foundation makes it clear that the investigation results were the direct cause of Mam’s resignation. In other words, Goodwin Proctor discovered that aspects of her story were fraudulent.

With so many people raising the alarm about her, why has Somaly Mam been bulletproof for all these years?

The Long Con

One reason is the compelling stories told by young women she has rescued.

The first of these “pretty victims”, as Daily Beast* writer Amanda Marcotte has dubbed them, was Meas Ratha. Ratha, 14 years old at the time, appeared with Mam on the French TV programme Envoyé Spécial in 1998, only a couple of years after AFESIP was formed. This broadcast drew international attention to Mam’s work, winning Mam the endorsement of Queen Sofia of Spain and the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation. She was subsequently able to gain some U.S. government funding, and donations began to flow into AFESIP.

Ratha spoke of being imprisoned in a Phnom Penh brothel, lured there by traffickers who promised her a job as a waitress. She said her father had abandoned his large family, leaving her mother destitute.
Last year, however, she admitted that she and her sister, Meas Sokha, were sent to the AFESIP center in 1997 by both of their parents, not because she had been a child prostitute, but because the couple was unable to provide for all eight of their children. Meas Sokha confirmed this, as did Marie Christine Uguen, a woman who was caring for Ratha at the time of her Envoyé Spécial appearance. Ratha confessed to Uguen, shortly after the TV show aired, that Somaly Mam had selected her to tell a scripted story on television.
Prior to their TV appearance, Mam told Ratha that the trafficking story had really happened to another AFESIP resident, Sokha, who was too traumatized to discuss the events publicly. Ratha was stunned to discover, last year, that Sokha had been featured on the same Envoyé Spécial broadcast, relating a completely different story of forced prostitution.

It was Ratha’s story that won the world’s interest in Somaly Mam’s work, but the young woman known as Long Pros became her most visible success story, and a haunting symbol of human trafficking in Cambodia.

When she first spoke out about her ordeal in a Phnom Penh brothel, Long Pros (Somana Long) said she was 13 in 2005, the year a young woman kidnapped her and sold her to the brothel. The teenager was twice impregnated by rapists and subjected to home abortions. She refused to service the brothel’s clients on the day of her second abortion, and this so angered the brothel owner that the woman seized a chunk of jagged metal and gouged out Long’s eye. She threw the girl out into the streets when the infected, oozing eye socket began to displease customers. Her own parents refused to take her in. Somana was then rescued by Mam’s organization.

An entirely different account appears in Traffik, a 2008 book by photographer Norman Jean Roy. In this version of the story, Somana’s eye became infected after she was kicked in the face by a pimp, and it was surgically removed in hospital. Roy has worked closely with Somaly Mam, photographing girls at AFESIP centres.
Long herself told Josephine Lim, in a 2012 interview for the Australian website Our World Today, that people at the brothel had taken out her eye with a piece of steel and that she was rescued by a police raid.
Asking if Mam had perhaps exaggerated the stories of survivors, Lindsay Murdoch pointed out in the Sydney Morning Herald that Somana’s story changed over time, becoming increasingly gruesome and awful.

Two years ago, Cambodia Daily reported that Somana actually had her eye removed by surgeon Dr. Pok Thorn at the Takeo Eye Hospital in November 2005, because of a benign tumour that had been growing for years. Her parents, Long Hon and Sok Hang, confirmed this. They have since refused to discuss the surgery, worried that their daughter could lose her job if they do (she worked for an Australian nonprofit program affiliated with Somaly Mam’s organization).
Te Sereybonn, who was the director of the Takeo Eye Hospital in 2005, says his staff was responsible for Long’s placement in the AFESIP centre. She was not an abused child or a prostitute, but the staffers could see that her family was in financial straits, so they contacted AFESIP to see if she could be enrolled in one of their vocational training programs.
Goodwin Proctor also investigated Somana Long’s story, and it seems they found it to be untrue. The Somaly Mam Foundation has announced it is breaking all ties with her.

The pressing question is, why did Mam fabricate sex-trafficking tales? If her organization has, indeed, saved thousands of girls from forced prostitution, then surely a few of them would be willing to share their true stories. Even if the stories Ratha and Long told were 100% true, though, Mam’s use of these young women as spokespeople for her organization would be questionable. Having to relive their trauma over and over again in front of strangers could delay their own healing.

The Star Factor

Mam would not be where she is today – disgraced and unemployed – without the support of powerful people in business, entertainment, and journalism. She carefully courted these people, going to red-carpet and black-tie events in lovely gowns. She received endorsements from Queen Sofia of Spain, Ban Ki-moon, Hillary Clinton, Angelina Jolie, and Meg Ryan. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Susan Sarandon are advisory members of the Somaly Mam Foundation board of directors. Mam worked closely with Pulitzer-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof and his wife. Her 2005 memoir, The Road of Lost Innocence, received dustjacket endorsements from Mariane Pearl and Ayann Hirsi Ali, two women who have survived very real hardship and tragedy.

These people are not fools. Who among us, looking into the earnest, anguished faces of young girls as they recount abduction, rape, and torture, would ask questions like, “Is she putting me on?” In the end, journalists like Marks were the ones to ask the hard questions and dig up the hard, disappointing answers.
One of these journalists should have been Nicholas Kristof. He had observed the sex trafficking situation in Cambodia up close. In 2004, he spent $350 to buy two young girls out of a Cambodian brothel. Kristof is a good journalist, but even the best journalists are human. His emotional response to the plight of women in the Third World blinded him to the reality of the NGOs working with those women. In a 2009 New York Times article, he expressed admiration for the work of Greg Mortenson, the author of the New York Times bestseller Three Cups of Tea. Mortenson founded a nonprofit to educate girls in Middle Eastern countries, achieving worldwide renown for his efforts, but a 2012 investigation concluded that he had misspent $6 million that should have gone to his charity, and Mortenson agreed to repay $1 million. Like Somaly Mam, Mortenson had also fabricated portions of his life story to help promote his organization. When his lies were exposed by 60 Minutes, Mortenson hit back with angry denials; today, he thanks his detractors for putting him back on the straight and narrow. Sadly, his remorse came far too late to save the life of his co-author, David Oliver Relin. Relin committed suicide when the veracity of Three Cups of Tea was challenged.

Kristof embraced Somaly Mam’s work in the same manner that people had approached Mortenson’s accomplishments – with an uncritical eye and a deep willingness to believe in the strength of the human spirit. Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, co-wrote the 2009 bestseller Half the Sky, a passionate call to justice for women in developing countries. This became a PBS documentary of the same name in 2012. Both book and film featured Somana Long telling her story in her own words. She subsequently appeared on Oprah, and her story is still posted on Oprah.com.
It would be difficult to underestimate the amount of credibility that Mam gained by her affiliation with Kristof. His New York Times pieces, his book, and the PBS doc boosted her already thriving NGO into the upper echelons of nonprofit stardom.

Based on a Lie

The fake trafficking victims are bad enough. Then there is the issue of Mam’s own distortions.

On December 7, 2004, police and AFESIP raided a Phnom Penh hotel called the Chai Hour II, removing 83 women and girls to the local AFESIP center. The next day, a group of about 30 men forced their way into the center and removed the females.
In a speech she gave before the UN General Assembly in April 2012, Mam stated that the Cambodian army had killed eight of these girls. This bizarre claim was immediately challenged, and Mam had to  admit that she did not have any firsthand knowledge of events following the raid; she had relied upon secondhand information (from a “reliable source) that eight girls and women had died after the raid in a “series of accidents that may have had something to do with their pimps and traffickers.”

That could be chalked up to a mistaken assumption, but the story of her daughter’s abduction is not so ambiguous. In The Road of Lost Innocence, Mam wrote that in 2006 her 14-year-old adopted daughter, Ning, was kidnapped and gang-raped by traffickers in retaliation for the Chai Hour II raid. When the police found Ning, she was in the company of a “boy she knew”, who acted as a lure for the traffickers.
Mariane Pearl wrote about Ning’s abduction in a piece for Glamour.
However, Mam’s ex-husband and Ning’s father, Pierre Legros, told Lindsay Murdoch that Ning was not kidnapped. She ran away with her then boyfriend. Legros’ version of the story is supported by Aarti Kapoor, who worked as a legal adviser to AFESIP from 2003 to 2006. No police report was ever filed in connection with Ning’s “abduction”.
The creation of false enemies and phony “brushes with death” is something we’ve seen over and over on this blog, among “former Satanists“, conspiracy peddlers, and fraudsters. If you have powerful foes, you must have a powerful message, right? Disturbingly, Kapoor told Simon Marks that other AFESIP employees knew the story was a fabrication, yet elected to remain silent.

Finally, there is Mam’s own chilling tale of survival.
As she tells it in her memoir, Mam was essentially a feral child, living out her earliest years in the forests of northeastern Cambodia with no one to look after her. Her parents and maternal grandmother abandoned her in the village of Bou Sra sometime in the late ’70s, when she was not yet 10 years old. As she repeatedly laments, she grew up without a mother.
Bou Sra was in a remote, forested area that had not been heavily affected by Vietnam or the Pol Pot regime, and Mam was sheltered from modern life. By the time she left the village around 1980, she had never seen a car, hot running water, or a pair of shoes. She had to forage for food and sleep in the open.
Around age 10 she was taken away to a far-off village, Thloc Chhroy, by a man who called himself her grandfather. She was subjected to daily beatings and forced to work in the rice fields. The Khmer villagers treated her like a slave, with the exception of a schoolteacher named Mam Khon and his wife, Pen Navy. This couple took her in, though they had six children of their own. Khon told her he was her paternal uncle, but Mam didn’t believe this. She was just grateful to be unofficially adopted by the family. “Grandfather” exploited Mam until she was approximately 14, then forced her to marry an abusive soldier. Without any medical training, she worked as a nurse in the military hospital at Chup, watching helplessly as soldiers and villagers died terrible deaths at the hands of untrained medical workers.
When her husband failed to return to Chup, Grandfather sold her to a brothel in Phnom Penh, where she was forced to have sex with half a dozen clients per day. She was “about 16 years old.” She remained captive there for about 3 years. She witnessed a brothel owner fatally shoot her best friend. She was subjected to brutal beatings, rape, and electric shocks.

By the time she was in her late teens, however, the brothel owners no longer held Mam captive. She admits she worked for them voluntarily, on and off, up until she decided to leave prostitution in 1991, having met future husband Pierre Legros, a young French biologist working in Phnom Penh.

At least, that’s one version of her story. Speaking at the White House in February 2012, Mam said she was trafficked at age 9 or 10 and spent a decade in the brothel. Sitting beside Susan Sarandon on the Tyra Banks Show in 2008, she said she was sold to the brothel at 13 or 14 and remained there for 4 or 5 years. Legros has stated that when he met his ex-wife in 1991, she was working freely as a prostitute, not in a brothel but in an upscale hotel bar. Some biographies of Mam, such as this one at Women’s Conference.org, would lead you to believe that she met Legros in France.

Simon Marks probed these discrepancies by interviewing villagers in Thloc Chhroy who had known Mam as a child. These people say that Mam was not an abandoned child. She was the biological daughter of the kindly couple she mentions in her memoir, Mam Khon and Pen Navy.
According to residents who were there at the time, the family arrived in the village in 1981 from a nearby community. Prior to that, Mam Khon had been assigned to teach in a remote part of northeastern Cambodia – the same area where Mam supposedly lived as an urchin of the forest for the first 10 years of her life. Furthermore, she attended school in the village from 1981 right up to graduation from Khchao High School in 1987, the period when she was supposedly being prostituted in Phnom Penh. After graduation, she and a friend both sat for a teachers’ exam in Kompong Cham. Then, around 1987, Mam left her family home voluntarily. Never, at any time prior to age 18 or 19, was she homeless or abandoned. She was not married off at the age of 14. She was not pushed out into the streets to sell herself. There was no abusive old man posing as her grandfather. She did not sleep beside the body of a dead mother in the military hospital. There simply wasn’t time for Mam to have been prostituted as a child. Again, this “not enough time” issue is a problem we’ve seen many times in Satanic ritual abuse accounts and self-glorifying autobiographies.

Many of the other stories in Mam’s memoir have yet to be verified, like soldiers decapitating a small boy in Thloc Chhroy, and another little boy being fatally wounded by a hand grenade during military training in the schoolyard, and another little boy (Mam’s best friend) being torn apart in an accidental rocket blast.

But She’s Helping Trafficked Girls, Right?

At this point, an estimated 150 women and girls are living in AFESIP centres. We have no way of knowing how many of them were trafficking victims, and how many are simply young women seeking an education because their families cannot provide for them.

As mentioned, AFESIP has been criticized for taking in sex workers picked up in police raids. One former prostitute told Simon Marks she was taken to an AFESIP center by police on two separate occasions, and fled both times because the centre insisted she learn to sew.
This raises the question of what, exactly, the centres do to help women overcome their tough financial circumstances. In the interview below, Mam enthused that her girls may be doctors and lawyers in 10 years. In reality, the young women in her facilities are taught sewing, hairdressing, weaving, and other traditionally female skills that will allow them to eke out only the smallest incomes. Last fall, Estee Lauder announced it will be training sex trafficking survivors at a Somaly Mam beauty salon in Siem Reap.

It would not be out of line to call Mam’s behaviour predatory. She has been exploiting and manipulating vulnerable Cambodian girls to promote her cause. She has brazenly, outrageously lied to millions of people about ordeals that never occurred, which undermines real victims of trafficking and sexual assault. She has collected millions from donors under false pretenses. She has seized a heroine status that isn’t hers to claim. In a 2013 Daily Beast article, she actually likened herself to the protagonist of 12 Years a Slave. I think we’ve gone well past exaggeration, here. This is cold-blooded deception on a frightening scale. We could be dealing with a sociopath.

Most NGOs struggle. It isn’t easy to raise funds and effectively operate a charitable organization at the same time, especially if that organization is anchored in a remote area of a developing country. So when a relatively tiny operation like AFESIP achieves dazzling success and brings in millions, attracting some of the most influential people on the planet to its cause, one has to wonder if the money and prestige have become more important than the cause. AFESIP seems to have a lot of both; the SMF regularly ran full-colour, full-page ads in TIME. The ads didn’t show trafficking victims, but a glamour shot of Mam herself.

Sex tourism has long been a problem in Southeast Asia, but now sex trafficking survivors are drawing in tourist money. Last November, U.S. travel company OmLuxe took 20 people to Cambodia to meet with Mam. They were promised they would be able to spend time with sex-trafficking victims. What if anti-trafficking is becoming the new trafficking? This year’s trip, scheduled for November, includes a lunch with Mam.

The Problem Doesn’t End Here

The Somaly Mam debacle is not an isolated incident. Charity-related fraud is widespread, and it’s very easy to be taken in by slick, professional-looking campaigns that want your donations. A few of the problems in the NGO world include:

  1. Fake Charities/Charities that aren’t actually charitable
    One example of a bogus charity is Pink Pagoda, an organization that claims to have rescued 50,000 Chinese girls from infanticide and is trying to raise $1 billion to rescue a million more. While it has the outward appearance of an NGO, a legal disclaimer in teeny-tiny print on the bottom of its website states that it is not a charitable organization. It is a for-profit enterprise, and an extremely dodgy one. Its founder/director, Jim Garrow, appears to be engaged in the buying and selling of babies. I’ve covered Pink Pagoda in a recent post about Garrow at Leaving Alex Jonestown.
  2. NGOs that aren’t actually doing anything
    Many orgs have good intentions, yet suffer from mismanagement, poor planning, or misguided goals.  NGOs dedicated to ending malaria in Africa (Roll Back Malaria, Malaria No More, etc.) tout mosquito netting treated with chrysanthemum-derived insecticides as the most effective method of stopping the disease. Unfortunately, a 2003 study found that an average of 55% of African households given treated bed nets actually used them over sleeping children. This amounts to roughly 20 million children – an impressive number, but far from enough to make an impact.
  3. Trafficking Activists who may be mistaken or lying
    In Argentina, Susana Trimarco is receiving the same accolades Somaly Mam did. Trimarco became an anti-trafficking activist after the disappearance of her 23-year-old daughter, Marita, in 2002. She insists her daughter was abducted and sold into prostitution, though the evidence seems thin, and has implicated everyone from hospital staffers to the governor of her province. She began to disguise herself as a prostitute to infiltrate brothels, piecing together stray bits of gossip in an attempt to track down her daughter. By some accounts, she has now rescued about 150 South American and Spanish girls from sexual slavery. She has millions convinced that some of the highest officials in South America are complicit in human trafficking, but how much of her story is accurate?
  4. The crying wolf effect
    Charity frauds like Mam and Garrow harden people, making them less likely to donate time or volunteer hours to worthy causes.

* It should be noted that Daily Beast made Mam one of its “Women of the World” just three years ago. Last November, it published Mam’s firsthand account of her time as a child prostitute, in which she likened herself to the protagonist of 12 Years a Slave.

2013: A Very Bad Year for Psychics

A landmark year for extrasensory fail. 

mzarathustra1

Don’t Help Me, Rhonda

On June 6, 2011, an unassuming ranch near the town of Hardin, Texas (about an hour outside Houston) was swarmed by Liberty County sheriff’s deputies, FBI agents, Texas Rangers, and officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety. News choppers buzzed overheard as law enforcement fanned out over the property with cadaver dogs. Backhoes were brought in to excavate random spots.
This huge search effort was triggered by two phone calls to the Hays County Sheriff’s Office from a woman who identified herself only as “Angel”. She said the remains of at least 32 “sacrificed” children were concealed in the walls of a building on the property of Joe Bankson and Gena Charlton, and that messages were scrawled on these walls in blood. She also said the lives of three more children were in danger, hinting that two of them were  Jasmine and Mariana Pinales, who had been abducted by their 14-year-old sister in May (weirdly, they were no longer missing at the time of Angel’s phone calls – they had been found alive two weeks earlier, near Austin). Angel admitted she had received this information secondhand, from the ghosts of the children, but authorities felt obligated to investigate nonetheless. For one thing, Angel seemed familiar with the ranch. She knew its location and its layout, even though she didn’t seem to know much about the owners (she incorrectly identified the unemployed Joe Bankson as a carny).
The search quickly caught the attention of KPRC-TV and KHOU-TV in Houston, and news outlets around the world picked it up that afternoon. After Reuters erroneously reported that bodies had actually been found, Ed Lavendera of CNN tweeted that “at least 20” bodies had been found, someone at ABC News tweeted “‘Dozens of bodies’ found in mass Texas grave”, and the New York Times tweeted that up to 30 dismembered bodies were discovered. The Houston Chronicle reported a foul stench and traces of blood at the ranch. If Bankson and/or Charlton were responsible for all the bodies said to be buried there, he/they would have been the most prolific serial killer(s) the Houston region had seen since Dean Corll and his two teenage accomplices, back in the early ’70s.
Later in the evening, the AP revealed that the tip about bodies at the ranch might have come from a psychic. This was the first hint that the story could be bogus. The news agencies started to qualify their statements, tweeting phrases like “unconfirmed reports” and “conflicting information” (the Washington Post has compiled a timeline of some of these tweets).

The second hint? The search produced nothing. The blood mentioned by the Chronicle had come from a May suicide attempt by the boyfriend of Joe Bankson’s daughter, the source of the bad smell was trash, and there wasn’t a single headless corpse anywhere to be found. “Angel” turned out to be an area psychic by the name of Presley “Rhonda” Gridley. In an interview with KHOU, she made it clear that her information about dismembered corpses and endangered children at the ranch came solely from Jesus and 32 “angels” (the departed spirits of the children supposedly murdered by Bankson and Charlton). She did not explain how she was able to give a physical description of the property when her other details were so horrendously off.
Incredibly, she has never been charged with making a false report to police.

The entire incident echoed a fruitless search conducted in central Washington state in 1989. In that case, investigators were acting on a tip from the late Ted Gunderson, a retired FBI agent who considered himself an expert on ritual abuse, human sacrifice, and other things Satanic. During a taping of one of Geraldo Rivera’s many shows on the dangers of Satanism, Gunderson declared that a knowledgeable source had told him about mass graves containing countless the bodies of Satanic murder victims somewhere in Mason County, Washington. In response to the concerns of county residents, multiple agencies conducted helicopter and ground searches of the area. No trace of the “Satanic burial ground” was ever found.
That Geraldo broadcast I mentioned was mostly about the mass grave found in Matamoros. In that case, a group of drug runners with strange, cultish beliefs had ritualistically murdered several people to increase their luck and fortunes (that worked out really well for them). This was a big deal at the time. Now, drug cartels have considerably larger mass graves, and Geraldo isn’t saying boo about them. Huh.

In the Washington case, no private property was damaged, and no one’s reputation was harmed (unless you count Gunderson and Geraldo). The Texas case was much different. Bankson’s and Charlton’s land was riddled with holes, their house was trashed, and friends and acquaintances grew deeply suspicious of them.  Last year they filed a lawsuit against the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office for unlawful search and seizure, and against several media outlets (including most of those mentioned) for defamation. They also sued “Angel”, naming her as “Jane Doe” because the woman would not reveal her real name. They ultimately dropped the sheriff’s office and the media from their suit.
On May 7 of this year, Gridley was ordered to pay the Charltons $6.8 million in damages. This spells the end of the weird case for most people, but troubling questions remain. Why did Gridley target Bankson and Charlton, two people she apparently did not know? How did she know the layout of their property when she lived 800 miles north of it, in Stanton? Why has she not been charged with making a false report?
And when will the next massive, fruitless searched be launched on the say-so of some self-proclaimed seeress or cult expert?

Sylvia Browne

Louwana Miller was terrified when her 16-year-old daughter, Amanda Berry, failed to return home from her job at a Cleveland Burger King on April 21, 2003, just one day before her 17th birthday. Amanda had phoned to say she would be getting a ride home from work, and that was the last anyone heard from her. Miller knew her daughter hadn’t run away from home.
One week later, Louwana received a call from her daughter’s cell phone. A male voice said, “I have Amanda. She’s fine and will be coming home in a couple of days.” But Amanda never appeared.

Almost exactly a year after Amanda vanished, 14-year-old Gina DeJesus disappeared from the same street. The two girls were featured on America’s Most Wanted and Oprah. Then Montel Williams decided to invite Louwana on his show to ask the late Sylvia Browne about her daughter. Browne was accurate, at first. She correctly stated that Amanda had been wearing a jacket, and seemed very confident that only one person was responsible for her disappearance (at the time, Miller and the authorities believed three men were involved). She even gave a description of the perp that was remarkably on-target: “sort of Cuban-looking, short, kind of stocky build, heavyset…”, though she got the age wrong (21 or 22). Then she broke the bad news: Amanda was dead. Her body was “in water” somewhere.

Louwana Miller never entirely gave up the search for her daughter, but she did scale back her efforts after Browne told her Amanda was dead. Her health declined steadily. She died of heart failure in 2006.

On May 6 of this year, Amanda, Gina, and a third missing woman named Michelle Knight were rescued from a Cleveland house owned by Ariel Castro. All three had been abducted and subjected to sexual assault and abuse by Castro. Amanda had given birth to a daughter without medical assistance the year after her mother died.
Castro was Puerto Rican, not Cuban, and was in his 40s when he abducted his first known victim, Knight, in 2002.

The media was quick to pounce on Browne’s mistake, but this was just one of numerous epic blunders she had made over the years. She misled more grieving people than I can count, either giving them false hope that their deceased loved ones were alive, or smashing their hopes by declaring falsely that their loved ones were dead. She went to her grave without apologizing to even one of these people.
Furthermore, she didn’t even accurately predict her own death. On a May 2003 appearance on Larry King Live, she said she would die at the age of 88.

An Unsuccessful Success Story

Psychic detectives have an abysmal track record when it comes to actually solving crimes, as a previous series on this blog shows. One psychic seemed to have defied expectations this past summer, however, when she located the body of an 11-year-old boy in Menifee, California. Terry Smith Jr. had been reported missing by his mother on July 7. The community and law enforcement quickly mobilized to search the area.
On July 10, Pamela Ragland phoned the tip line set up for information related to Terry’s disappearance. Identifying herself as a psychic, Ragland said she had been experiencing visions of Terry lying on his side, as though sleeping. Riverside County Sheriff’s investigators, desperate for any lead, encouraged her to visit Menifee. She and her children were taken to the Smith property by an off-duty fireman. Within an hour, the Raglands came upon Terry’s remains. His body had been placed in a shallow grave beneath a tree.
The media lavished attention on Ragland’s astonishing “hit”, pointing out that she somehow knew her way around the Smith property. But a closer examination reveals that Ragland was literally stumbling around in the dark. After seeing the Smith home on TV, she was familiar enough with the property to point out a few landmarks. No psychic ability required. She didn’t even find Terry’s body; her 12-year-old daughter did. The only mystery connected to this story is how the grave was overlooked for days.
Skylor Atilano, Terry’s 16-year-old brother, has been charged with his murder. Skylor did not have access to a vehicle, so by necessity would have had to dispose of his brother’s body in the immediate area. Perhaps Ms. Ragland suspected as much, since Skylor was admittedly the last person to see Terry alive.

Sleazier Than Fiction

Jude Devereux is one of the top-selling romance novelists in the world. In 1991, she decided to end her four-year marriage to Claude White, and she feared that he (in an interesting reversal of gender roles) would take her to the cleaners in court. That was when she happened to meet a woman named Joyce Michaels in the Manhattan studio of a friend. Michaels revealed she was a psychic, operating out of an office in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and offered to help Devereux get through her divorce with relatively little trauma – for a price, of course. She then told Devereux precisely when White would file for divorce, and on what day the papers would arrive at her home.
Devereux says she was deeply skeptical of this seer until the papers arrived. Now convinced that Michaels possessed extraordinary powers, Devereux gave her $1 million to somehow make the divorce process easier. Michaels had convinced her the money was cursed, and promised to cleanse it of “evil” at the cathedral (a classic scam).
Devereux was so satisfied with the “results” that she continued to consult Michaels for years, giving her up to $20 million for various readings, consultations, and blessings.
What Devereux and other clients of Joyce Michaels didn’t know was that the woman was really Nancy “Rose” Marks, the matriarch of a family of psychic scammers who often used aliases. She did not have an office in St. Patrick’s cathedral. The Marks clan defrauded so many people that police set up a sting operation to catch them, codenamed Operation Crystal Ball. Several members of the extended Marks family were arrested in August 2011.
Nancy Marks was convicted of 14 counts of fraud in September, after Devereux and other victims testified against her.

Following the Chemtrails IV: A Timeline of Significant Chemtrail Events

Part IV of Following the Chemtrails

Where did it all begin?

In researching chemtrail sightings and theories, I was stunned to learn that this phenomenon didn’t begin with people noticing persistent contrails in the sky, wondering what they could be, and searching for explanations. Chemtrail theories actually began as a horror story about deliberate world depopulation, crafted and spread by a small network of Christian Patriot conspiracy researchers – including one rather infamous anti-Semite.
There are strong indications that at least some of these guys were trying to create a contrail cash cow for themselves, which has forced me to rethink the entire chemtrail phenomenon. It was my original view that the chemtrail issue is not, as the U.S. Air Force contends, a hoax. I believed that like most conspiracy theories, chemtrail theories evolved in organic fashion from various anecdotes and incidents.
That’s not to say there haven’t been hoaxes. Photos have been altered, then distributed among chemtrail researchers. Less than credible “whistleblowers” have told bizarre stories that can’t be verified. Clearly, anyone who engages in this sort of fraud isn’t searching for the truth. In my experience, the average chemtrail-watcher is searching for the truth. He is concerned about the potential effects of chemtrails, and he wants answers.
Now, after looking into the history of the phenomenon, I suspect the hoax allegation has some merit, after all. I still believe the average chemtrail-watcher is a genuinely concerned citizen who honestly believes he is seeing strange, unexplained vapour trails, and doing what he thinks is right. But I do not trust the motives of those who started the rumours of death-by-contrail.

To see why I reached this conclusion, let’s examine the history of chemtrails.

Early 1980s

Farmers, environmentalists, and others in the eastern U.S. report that ground water is contaminated with ethylene dibromide (EDB), a carcinogenic chemical used as a pesticide and as an anti-knocking agent in leaded aviation fuel (“avgas”). EDB has been never a component of jet fuel, because jet fuel does not contain lead.

1984

EDB is banned for pesticide use in some places, phased out in others (in remains in use to this day in some areas).

Late 1980s

EDB use in avgas is phased out.

1994

HAARP installation begins in Gakona, Alaska.

1995

Concerns about EDB contamination resume among some Christian Patriots. They suspect that the newly-introduced military jet fuel JP-8 contains some contaminant, or combination of contaminants, that are intended to kill us. The prime suspect is – guess what? – EDB. These concerns rapidly spread throughout the country via online message boards and mass emails.

The Contrail Science website contains links to what appear to be some of the earliest known online references to unusual contrails, which would later be called chemtrails. This material was originally published on The Patriot Page (the now-defunct website of Clarence Napier, still accessible via the Wayback Machine).
In emails distributed through BIOWAR-L (an email list service dealing with biological weapons), people exchanged information about “mysterious” persistent vapour trails left by military jets throughout the U.S., the health effects of EDB, and the depopulation conspiracy theory.
A few people submitted soil and water samples for lab testing, which confirmed the presence of EDB (not surprising, as it is known to persist in ground water). They concluded that EDB was coming from the sky. These test results, if they ever existed, were never actually reproduced.

Acting on information he allegedly received in 1993, Larry Wayne Harris of Lancaster, Ohio begins selling a self-published booklet (Bacteriological Warfare: A Major Threat to North America), warning that Iraqi sleeper cells will launch anthrax attacks against multiple cities in the U.S., aiming to reduce the U.S. population to 50 million by 2025. He conducted research for this booklet at the library of the Aryan Nations compound. He was a card-carrying member of Aryan Nations, which is not only America’s largest white supremacist organization, but also the nation’s largest and most violent prison gang.

dafuqreally

I’m sure we can trust their impeccable research skills.

At the time, Harris believed Jews controlled the world and had to be opposed (according to the Anti-defamation League, he later renounced these views).

Harris claims the information about impending anthrax attacks was given to him by the daughter of a former Iraqi president. She allegedly told him that Iraqi women were smuggling massive amounts of weaponized anthrax into the U.S. in their vaginas, preparing for synchronized biological assaults on numerous U.S. cities that would reduce the nation’s population to just 50 million souls by the year 2025.
In the spirit of goofy FBI code-names, let’s call this plan VAGTHRAX.

Harris makes some cash selling his booklet about VAGTHRAX at gun shows and conspiracy conventions, scaring the hell out of his fellow Patriots and Aryan brethren.
Though Harris was supposedly teaching people how to defend themselves against terrorist attacks, it has been noted that his booklet appeared to double as an instruction manual for terrorism. For instance, it laid out in considerable detail how to sabotage power lines and launch large-scale biological attacks. Not exactly information the average American would need.

toxic virgins by Doug Brinkman

Coming not-so-soon

Harris is arrested and charged with mail fraud after posing as a research microbiologist to obtain bubonic plague from the American Type Culture Collection. He had stolen some stationery bearing the letterhead of the Ohio lab where he was employed as a water inspector to do this. Convicted of mail fraud, Harris is placed on probation.
Harris claims to be a CIA asset and a licensed microbiologist throughout most of the ’80s and early ’90s. He also boasts that he has scientifically proven the existence of God. None of these claims are true.
He continues to warn about impending Iraqi bioattacks for the next three years.

Most of the early Internet communications about poisonous contrails mention Harris as a good source of information on the topic. Christian Patriots are advised to submit soil and fuel samples to him for testing. At least one EDB/JP-8 researcher, radio evangelist Bill Brumbaugh, submitted a JP-8 sample to Harris for analysis in the late ’90s. Harris, without supplying any documentation, reported that the jet fuel contained EDB. Questionable results like these were trumpeted throughout the Patriot/conspiracy community, adding literal fuel to the fire.

1996

The Defense Department publishes a study, Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025. This paper will become central to the weather control/geonengineering theories about persistent spreading contrails, which gradually overshadow the EDB/depopulation theory.

September 17, 1997

Richard Finke of Ohio distributes an email with the heading “Lines in the Sky Identified!”. This may be the first mass email on the subject of “deadly” contrails. In it, Finke declares that lab testing of samples from “JP-8 contaminated fields” in Maryland and Pennsylvania have revealed the presence of ethylene dibromide (again, not surprising, as EDB has been used as an agricultural pesticide for years). The testing was conducted by Aqua-tech Environmental. Finke wrote of contrails, “The lines are dispersed and may linger for hours, slowly filtering down to unsuspecting pests, and I guess we’re the PESTS.”

1998

Richard Finke and Larry Harris set up a “defensive biowar and disaster recovery” consulting firm called LWH Consulting. They promote their services by sending out mass emails warning that a biological attack on the U.S. is imminent, and posting information about poisonous contrails on message boards.
LWH Consulting was legally incorporated under the name of Harris’ attorney, Curt Griffith, who was suspended from practicing law in the state of Ohio in 2004 for ripping off two of his clients. Griffith also defended Harris in court.

Just as the biowarfare threat helped Harris sell his VAGTHRAX booklet, the EDB contamination scare may have helped Patriot radio broadcasters sell colloidal silver. You can’t read any of the early chemtrail reports without running into mention of colloidal silver as a defense against contrail-created illnesses. Later, chemtrail researcher Will Thomas began selling USANA brand vitamins and mineral supplements on his website, writing, “You don’t have to be a Gulf War veteran to be suffering daily effects from Chemical Warfare (CW) exposure. As a frequent writer on environment and health, while researching a major article on chemical sensitivities, I learned that Multiple Chemical Sensitivity can be triggered by massive repeated low level exposure to oil and other chemical releases…”
In 2000 and 2001, Larry Harris hawked a line of Solutions-4-You® anti-microbial products and a lichen-based herb called Lechenya Meera that could supposedly protect you from anthrax and other biochem warfare agents. He claimed a Ph.D at that time, though I can’t find any confirmation that he has one, and billed himself as “one of 17 registered microbiologists in the US” (I rather doubt this, as the National Registry of Certified Microbiologists certifies dozens of registrants each year).
Because chemtrail information is so closely tied to product placement and dishonest self-promotion like this, we should not eliminate the possibility that chemtrail theories are driven – at least in part – by profit motives.

February 18, 1998

Harris and a cohort, William Leavitt, are arrested in Vegas for possessing anthrax. When the anthrax turns out to be an avirulent strain, Harris is charged only with probation violation and receives a longer, more restrictive probation for impersonating a CIA agent.
After the hearing, Curt Griffith reportedly warned him, “Don’t let the word ‘CIA’ come out of your mouth.”
Though Harris wasn’t in possession of any dangerous biological agents this time, the Vegas anthrax arrest scared the hell out of people and made national headlines. It was alleged that Harris wasn’t just warning the world about impending biological attack – he was planning one himself. A cohort had reported to authorities that Harris boasted about possessing enough anthrax to poison a U.S. city.

After Harris’ second arrest, the speculation about persistent contrails gradually shifted from EDB to other toxic ingredients (mostly metals). But the legend of EDB-contaminated jet fuel lives on. Joseph E. Mario, in his Anti-Aging Manual (1998), declared that EDB was being dispersed over the U.S. via JP-8 jet fuel exhaust (contrails) for the purpose of indiscriminate population reduction. As “evidence”, Mario noted that EDB had been detected in Cape Cod cranberry ponds, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Again, this can be explained by agricultural fumigation. There was no need to bring aircraft into the equation at all.

February 1998  

Tommy Farmer collects samples of what he calls “angel hair”, a fibrous material presumably deposited by aircraft on six occasions between February, 1998 and January, 1999. The term might be familiar to UFO buffs, as “angel hair” was a common feature of early close encounter reports. Farmer claims he fell ill after his first contact with the “angel hair” (today, sticky filaments known as “chemwebs” are still being reported).

After the initial hubbub of 1997 and early 1998, the poisonous contrail theories went sub rosa for several
months, kept alive by only a handful of conspiracy researchers like Clarence Napier, John Hammell, Chip Tatum, Dot Bibbee, and Joe Burton.

1999, on the other hand, would be the Year of the Contrail.

January 1999

Canadian journalist Will Thomas publishes his first two articles about the dangers of contrails, “Mystery Contrails May Be Modifying Weather” and “Contrails: Poison From the Sky”. In these two short pieces, Thomas laid out a number of suppositions that have since become entrenched as chemtrail factoids:

  • The “poisonous” contrails are sprayed by “fleets” of aircraft flying in gridlike patterns.
  • The “spraying” is done by military jets. Thomas described the work of Tommy Farmer, a former engineering technician with Raytheon Missile Systems who had been tracking the patterns of jet contrails for more than a year. Farmer “positively identified” two of the aircraft most often involved in aerial spraying as the Boeing KC-135 and the Boeing KC-10, both used by the U.S. Air Force for air-to-air refueling.
  • The “spraying” is also done by unmarked military jets.
  • Contrails may be part of HAARP-related experiments.
  • Contrails may contain substances that facilitate weather modification, and substances that are harmful to us, such as bacteria.
  • Contrails may cause a variety of ailments, ranging from respiratory difficulty to lupus. No direct evidence of a link between contrails and these ailments is provided by Thomas; he is content to rely upon anecdotal evidence. Anecdotal evidence is a great place to start. It is not a great place to finish.

Thomas also rehashes the EDB-in-jet-fuel theory, and mentions public concerns about fuel dumping (discussed in Part III.5 of this series).

January 25, 1999

Art Bell discusses contrails on the popular paranormal-themed radio show Coast to Coast AM for the first time, with guest Will Thomas.

February 10, 1999

Will Thomas sends an email to John Hammell, warning that people throughout the U.S. and the U.K. are falling ill with flu because of contrails. He speculates that a virus may be in the jet fuel along with EDB, and strongly urges people to stay indoors when jets are flying overhead. The email is widely distributed. It is so hysterical in tone that I reproduce it here in its entirety to show you how speculation and misinformation were disseminated in the early days of the chemtrail phenomenon:

“Tell everyone to STAY INDOORS when contrails are being woven overhead. I’ve got a BBC photo of a freezer-semi filled with dead bodies in England – all from sudden respiratory ailments. We’re talking (according to the BBC) 6,000 deaths from respiratory failure in two weeks. People are VERY SICK here. And spraying continues, after heavy spraying last Friday over Asheville, Knoxville, Dallas and other US centers. I have this morning received reports of ‘many deaths’ from a ‘cough that never leaves’ in Louisiana. This is big. This is real. I have positively verified that Emergency Rooms are overflowing with acute respiratory cases from coast to coast. Doctors are telling the New York Times that this is NOT the flu. The only lab test I have shows JP8 present in soil samples after spraying. The ethylene dibromide in JP8 is banned by the EPA as a known carcinogen and an extremely toxic substance that attacks the respiratory system at very low doses of exposure. There may be a viral component to the spraying, as well. I am tracking this and will get back to… STOP PRESSES! I have just this minute received a call that confirms my worst fears. According to a source within the Canadian Intelligence Service, heavy spraying taking place over Victoria, BC (near me) and other population centers throughout North America are classified ‘tests’. I now know what the ‘tests’ are aimed at achieving. And it is not pretty. This is a MAXIUMUM RED ALERT for everyone on your list, John. TAKE COVER! Stay indoors during spraying. This is NOT ‘woo-woo’. This is NOT a drill.”

The most astonishing thing about this email is that the epidemic Thomas describes didn’t exist. There were no reports of a “mystery” respiratory illness published by the New York Times or the BBC in 1998 or 1999. Rather, there was one article in the Times about a well-known virus that affects infants and young children (respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV). If 6000 people in England alone had perished from the same illness in two weeks, this would have been an epidemic on par with the influenza outbreak of 1918. Yet I could not find a single 1998 or 1999 article (BBC or otherwise) that included information about 6000 sudden deaths in the UK. There were plenty of media releases concerning outbreaks of respiratory illnesses that occurred that year (see this one on an illness in Afghanistan or this one about  Nipah virus in Singapore and Malaysia, for instance). In these cases, dozens or even a few hundred people fell ill. But 6000, in a single country? No, nothing on that scale happened in 1998-1999.  If Thomas did, indeed, see a “BBC photo” of a truckload of corpses, it was either unpublished or misrepresented to him. As for the “many” coughing-related deaths in Louisiana, Thomas provides no verifying information. My own search for a ’99 Louisiana outbreak of respiratory illness came up empty. In short, this terrifying email does not contain any verified information.  In the winter of 1998-1999, neither the flu nor respiratory illnesses other than RSV were particularly serious. In 2000, the CDC reported the “numbers and types of circulating influenza viruses are similar to the previous two seasons (1997-98 and 1998-99). These findings suggest that this year’s flu season has not been unusually severe.” Even if the flu or respiratory illnesses had been worse than usual in 1998-1999, the connection to contrails would not be a given. Such outbreaks are not uncommon.
In another post, we’ll look more closely at Will Thomas’s chemtrail research and some of the other bizarre misinformation he has been disseminating. It will be obvious that his scientific knowledge is extremely limited. This is not an insult; it is a statement of fact. Ignorance is nothing to be ashamed of, because it does not have to be a permanent condition. Mr. Thomas can brush up on his science skills anytime he chooses.

March 30, 1999

Clarence Napier, a Christian Patriot conspiracist, claims to have located the “hidden” HQ for the death-spraying “United Nations” planes in Arizona. He declares that Arizona is the epicentre of contrail-poisoning activity (to this day, Pheonix remains a central hub of chemtrail-watching and activism). In the last post, we explored how firefighting planes (particularly Everygreen Aviation’s Supertanker) have been repeatedly mistaken for “chemtrail-spraying” planes.
In his email, Napier wrote:

“To every one in the Phoenix, Tucson, and Chandler, Arizona area, should try to check this  location out. I’m shure [sic] I have located the airfield were [sic] the planes spraying the contrails  are based in Arizona. If you get on my Web Page you will see a photo of the planes in the field,  William Thomas said people have reported to him that they looked at these planes through  telescopes, and reported that they are painted all white with no markings, and that is how I spotted this field, and the entrance to it is well hidden.”

Napier postulated that these unmarked planes were United Nations aircraft, and that the purpose of the spraying was to sicken and kill people all over the world. He posted photos of the “hidden” airfield on his website without identifying it.
One diligent researcher investigated and learned the airfield was Chandler Memorial Airport, an airfield owned by the area’s Pima and Maricopa Indian Nations. Since 1978, the airfield has been leased to International Air Response, an aviation outfit that had been contracting with the U.S. Forest Service to fight forest fires since the late ’60s. The entrance to the Chandler Memorial airfield was not hidden, and its operations were not secret.

March 1999

The word “chemtrail” begins appearing online. A portmanteau of the words “chemical(s)” and “contrail”, its exact provenance is unknown (I have been told by many chemtrail-watchers that Will Thomas coined the word. This may be true, but all I know for certain is that the word didn’t emerge until the spring of 1999. I have found no appearances of the word prior to March of that year). Jay Reynolds, who has been researching the contrail-related conspiracies since the late ’90s, has stated the word was coined by former USAF captain John Grace, who used the pseudonym “Val Valerian”.
In the early days, when the contrail theories revolved around a chemical pesticide, “chemical contrail” made sense. But today, when the theories are focused on metal oxides, “nanobots”, and fibers, “chemtrail” is a bit of a misnomer.

November 20, 1999

Art Bell again discusses chemtrails on Coast to Coast AM, with guest Clifford Carnicom.

1999

The white supremacist/conspiracy publication The Spotlight begins publishing stories about contrails, promoting the theory that they are part of a secret military operation.

Clifford Carnicom sets up his first website about chemtrails.
When it comes to chemtrails, I don’t think it would even be possible to overestimate the work Clifford Carnicom. He is, quite simply, the leader in the field of chemtrail research. Will Thomas and others are certainly influential, but it is Carnicom who has introduced each new “discovery” about chemtrails. Carnicom was the first person to produce a documentary about chemtrails (Aerosol Crimes, 2004). His was the first major website devoted to chemtrails. He was the first person to publish articles on the alleged links between chemtrails and Morgellons disease. He was the first to document what he believes are “nanotech devices” in Morgellons sufferers. It’s safe to say that whatever theory Carnicom comes up with next, the majority of chemtrail-watchers will accept as probable.

2001

Chemtrails are mentioned under the heading of “exotic weapons systems” in a bill sponsored by Dennis Kucinich, H.R. 2977 (107th): Space Preservation Act of 2001. They are removed from subsequent versions of the bill.

2002

On Coast to Coast AM, guest Will Thomas discusses the theory that the military is using jets to spray aluminum oxide and/or barium stearate into the air for weather modification and advanced radar/HAARP experiments.

2003

The biowarfare theory of chemtrails, introduced to the public by Will Thomas in ’99, becomes much more popular in 2003. It is reinforced by the claims of Clifford Carnicom, who says he heard important information from another researcher, who heard it from a military source.
According to Carnicom’s source, airplanes are dispersing polymer filaments with freeze-dried bacteria or viruses and metals (barium, aluminum) attached. The metals heat up from the sun, allowing the pathogens to survive in the cool air.
The ultimate goal of the spraying, Carnicom states, is the “control of all populations through directed and accurate spraying of drugs, diseases”. He declares that people who have “tried to reveal the truth have been imprisoned and killed”, but does not provide any names for verification.

2004

The incredibly weird “sylph” sightings begin. Chemtrail watchers report seeing cloudlike forms absorbing chemtrails, then vanishing. Some believe the sylphs are living creatures. Others suspect they are supernatural entities along the lines of angels, or nanobot swarms that can be manipulated remotely (like the Smoke Monster in Lost).

Clifford Carnicom releases his self-produced documentary Aerosol Crimes, the first feature-length film about chemtrails.
As with any conspiracy theory that gains some traction, infighting and suspicion among researchers soon surfaces. Chemtrail-fighter Don Croft declares that Carnicom’s Aerosol Crimes is disinformation. Croft tries to eliminate chemtrails with Reichian orgone devices (bits of metal).

2007

Lydia Mancini starts the website Barium Blues to document the “barium chemtrails” she has been seeing since about 2003.

Will Thomas publishes his book Chemtrails Confirmed.

August 2007

The Discovery Channel program Best Evidence airs a show on chemtrails.

2008

The Carnicom Institute becomes a registered non-profit organization

Toxic Skies, a fictional movie dealing with chemtrails, is released in Australia. The second film from Canadian thriller/horror director Andrew C. Erin is a medical thriller, starring Anne Heche as a virologist struggling to identify a mysterious disease.
As a medical thriller, the film is deeply uminpressive (at one point Heche’s character declares, “We don’t know if it’s Avian Flu or bubonic plague”). The film receives attention in the conspiracy community for three reasons: It explicity mentions chemtrails, the context is profoundly negative, and it was “banned” in North America.
Spoilers: The virus is being spread via pellets that have been mixed into jet fuel (must be one tough virus to survive not only the temperatures of a jet’s fuel system, but the cold temperatures of high altitude). The virologist develops a vaccine to inoculate people against the virus, and must race against the clock – and the bad guys-  to deliver it.
The film was shot in Spokane by a mostly Canadian crew, but premiered in Australia, causing some chemtrail researchers to cry out that it had been “banned” in the U.S. In reality, the film was simply picked up by a foreign distributor. The highest bidder gets distribution rights, and the American distributors evidently weren’t impressed. After being screened in Australia, Toxic Skies began showing up everywhere else. It is available in the U.S. and Canada. It’s even on Netflix.
Then there were those who believed Americans were supposed to see the movie. You see, many conspiracy researchers believe in something they call “predictive programming”. In essence, they contend that the world’s elite (the Illuminati, the globalists, the lizards, etc.) are required by some ancient code of conduct to have willing victims (I mentioned this briefly in a Wednesday Weirdness Roundup, in relation to Beavis and Butthead “predicting” 9/11). In other words, They have to tell us what They’re going to do to us before They do it. So They seed clues into TV commercials, cartoons, magazine articles and even low-budget medical thrillers. Chemtrail researchers who look for predictive programming would probably point to the vaccine in Toxic Skies as just another ploy. First, the Illuminati poisons you with a chemtrail virus, then they dupe you into taking a vaccine that will also kill you.
To my knowledge, no one has asked the director himself how he feels about chemtrails. Perhaps Mr. Erin just picked an interesting conspiracy theory to hang a thriller on, as so many screenwriters do. I challenge you to scan the list of conspiracy theories at Wikipedia  and find a single one that hasn’t become fodder for entertainment. FEMA camps? X-files. Fluoride? Dr. Strangelove. Morgellons? Bugs.

January 2008

Local news station KSLA in Shreveport, Louisiana broadcasts a report on chemtrails. Producers sent water samples collected in August 2007, in Stamps, Arkansas to a lab. The man who collected the samples suspected that jets flying over his property were spewing chemicals or metals. The results showed the water to contain 68.8 parts per billion (68.8 µg/L) of barium. The EPA limit is 2 ppm (2000 µg/L), and the tests found 0.0688 ppm (68.8 µg/L), just 3.4% of the allowable limit. But the KSLA reporter misread 68.8 µg/L as 6.8 parts per million, over three times the EPA level.
When the mistake was pointed out, KSLA issued a correction to its report.

October 2008

The chemical depopulation theory persists. MythicShadow posts the following on an online forum:

“STRANGE DAYS STRANGE SKIES YOU ARE NOW BREATHING ETHYLENE DIBROMIDE, NANO-PARTICULATES OF ALUMINUM AND BARIUM AND CATIONIC POLYMER FIBERS WITH UNIDENTIFIED BIOACTIVE MATERIAL: “We the people have not been warned, advised or consulted but are certainly vulnerable to the outcomes.” Lightwatcher.com “Biologic components have been reported in airborne samples that include: modified molds, desiccated red blood cells and exotic strains of bacteria” Additionally, award winning investigative reporter, Will Thomas, has reported findings of over 300 types of virally mutated fungi in the chemtrail fall out. The Idaho Observer has reported findings of 26 metals including barium, aluminum and uranium, a variety of infectious pathogens and chemicals and drugs including sedatives in chemtrail fallout. Dr.R. Michael Castle reports the finding of cationic polymer fibers. Others have reported findings of tiny parasitic nematode eggs of some type encased in the fibers. Welcome to the brave new world of toxic barium skies, weather control, mind control and population control through the use of chemtrails modulated with electromagnetic frequencies generated by HAARP. Our health is under attack as evidenced by the skyrocketing rates of chemtrail induced lung cancer, asthma and pulmonary/respiratory problems as well as the emergence of a new plague, Morgellons Disease, an infection with a new and unknown pathogen that is seriously disabling and disfiguring. Over 12,000 families in the U.S. are now infected with Morgellons. I am one of the infected. Our skies are increasingly hazed over with fake barium/ aluminum particulate, ethylene dibromide chemtrail clouds. Whether in the atmosphere or in the Ocean this added particulate matter is a hazard to the health of every living thing on this planet. My health and the health of my family has already been drastically affected. There is a main-stream media blackout on this subject so the only way to get the word out is by word of mouth. People are already dying because of the chemtrails. Life expectancy is down. This situation presents an immediate and serious threat to you, your family and loved ones. We must join together to stop this insane program of chemtrail spraying now. Please do what you can to help.”

2010

The first professionally produced, feature-length documentary about chemtrails is released. What in the World Are They Spraying?, directed by Michael J. Murphy, draws more attention to chemtrails than anything to date. The film centres on the geoengineering theory of chemtrails, though depopulation and a few other theories are mentioned.

Once again, a racist connection to chemtrail theories rears its ugly head: The executive producer of WITWATS is G. Edward Griffin. A disciple of Hitler-adoring conspiranoid Eustace Mullins, Griffin was a speechwriter for George Wallace’s presidential campaign. Like Mullins, he has made a career out of promoting a broad array of conspiracy theories and quacky medical “cures” while warning about the Commie menace.

WALLACE

George Wallace wasn’t a racist. He just didn’t like black people, that’s all.

Next to the work of Clifford Carnicom, the release and distribution of WITWATS is probably the single most important event in the history of the chemtrail phenomena. We’ll examine it in detail in a another post.

2012

Paul Wittenberger, co-director of What in the World Are They Spraying?, releases a documentary about depopulation, The Great Culling. It is promoted as a follow-up to WITWATS, but Michael J. Murphy and his Truth Media Productions distance themselves from it. Other chemtrail researchers, like Rosalind Peterson, ask not to be included in the film. Francis Mangels, a retiree who threatened to shoot down jets to preserve his veggie garden during a county meeting, also distances himself from the “culling” theory of chemtrails and the Wittenberger documentary.

 

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: The Iceman Returneth

Bigfoot in a Suit

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

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

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

    Bigfoot Frozen

    This happens all the time in Vietnam.

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

    giant penguin

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

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


Sources:

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

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: The Top 10 Conspiracy Theories About Popes and/or the Vatican

popemark

The retirement of Benedict XVI has unleashed a shit-tonne of conspiracy theories. In a March 1 interview with Howard Stern, Alex Jones declared Benedict stepped down because of “transvestite orgies”. Others insist pedophilia must be involved, though there is scant evidence to support that. There’s also talk of a secret dossier about clerical misdeeds, last year’s “Vatileaks” scandal, and Vatican money laundering. What the conspiranoids aren’t talking about is Benedict’s advanced age, or the fact that he attempted to retire three times before being elected pope.

Conspiracy theories about the pope and the Vatican are so easy to believe, in large part, because the Vatican of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has been visited by more than its share of conspiracies, cover-ups, and scandals:

  • The very establishment of Vatican City as an independent state may have been based on a forgery, the Donation of Constantine.
  • During WWII, several high-ranking Nazis were able to flee Europe with Vatican passports, thanks to a sympathetic bishop.
  • In the early ’70s, a minor investigation by the New York City district attorney’s racketeering squad led to the discovery that organized crime figures had trafficked millions in dollars worth of stolen and forged stocks all over the world…and roughly $1 billion of those bogus stocks resided in Vatican Bank vaults (see Richard Hammer’s The Vatican Connection).
  • A decade later, powerful Vatican officials were found to be part of a vast banking scheme that involved fictitious financial institutions, controlled from behind the scenes by the sinister Licio Gelli and members of his faux Masonic lodge, Propaganda Due (P2).
  • Recently, it has come to light that the cover-up of child molestation within the Catholic Church went all the way up to the Vatican.
  • Then there is the abduction of 15-year-old Emanuela Orlandi from the Vatican in 1983, which was badly mishandled by Vatican authorities, likely leading to the girl’s murder.
  • Then we have the tragic worldwide legacy of residential/industrial schools, magdalenes, and Catholic-run orphanages. From 1950 until the early ’70s, Irish nuns sold infants on a first-come, first-served basis (see Mike Milotte’s Banished Babies: The Secret History of Ireland’s Baby Export Business).

Add to this a couple of Dan Brown novels, anti-Catholic frauds like the Taxil hoax and The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, and a parade of memorable Catholic villains in film and literature, and it’s no wonder so many non-Catholics are willing to believe the worst.

Leaving aside the more outré conspiracy theories, like Leo Zagami‘s Illuminati/Satanism nonsense about the Jesuits and the Pope being able to summon demons (aliens) from other dimensions and Ed Chiarini’s belief that Benedict is actually Robert Blake, here are the Top 10 Conspiracy Theories About the Pope and/or the Vatican:

10. There was a female pope. The fable that one pope was actually a woman in disguise first surfaced in a thirteenth-century chronicle written by the Dominican historian Jean Mailly. Mailly recorded that in 1099, a pope went into labour whilst mounting “his” horse, and was subsequently dragged and stoned to death by the outraged citizens of Rome. Accounts written later in the same century can’t agree on a date for “Pope Joan‘s” or “Pope Joanna’s” rule, and today most historians realize that the recorded popes were the only popes. There simply isn’t a mysterious two-year gap in which Joan/Joanna could have served.
The legend of a lady pope spawned another legend that still persists, though: That each new pope must submit to a gender test in which an examiner feels his privates to ensure he has well-formed testicles. This test even appears in the very first episode of The Borgias, when Rodrigo Borgia/Alexander VI (Jeremy Irons) resignedly sits on a toilet-like chair so a papal lackey can thrust a hand beneath his gown and declare “Habet duos testiculos et bene pendentes (he has two well-hung testicles)!”. However, there is no evidence that gender exams have ever been conducted on popes.
9. The Soviet Union and/or the CIA was behind the attempted assassination of John Paul II in 1981. Even though would-be assassin Ali Agca was Turkish, Soviet involvement was something John Paul himself reportedly suspected at one time, as Russia was certainly not pleased with his support of the Solidarity labour movement in Poland. The problem with this theory is that not even the so-called “Bulgarian connection” initially described by Agca has been confirmed, much less a KGB plot.
8. The Third Secret of Fatima was suppressed for years, and/or the publicly revealed Third Secret was fabricated because the real Secret is too explosive. The three child seers of Fatima were entrusted with three secrets by the Virgin Mary, but it was not until WWII erupted that the only surviving seer, Lucia Santos, revealed the contents of the first two secrets and wrote down the third. Pope Pius XII expressed no interest in the Third Secret until 1957, and even then merely squirreled it away in a safe without reading it. It wasn’t until 1980 that John Paul II told a small audience in Germany that the Third Secret involved an epic disaster that would kill millions – possibly a nuclear holocaust. Yet he waited a full 20 years to have the Third Secret published, after revealing it had foretold his own attempted assassination.
Some Catholics still weren’t satisfied. They decried the published Third Secret as a fake, insisting the real secret was too politically sensitive and/or damaging to the Church to be revealed. Others pointed out that Lucia wanted the secret to be published before 1960, meaning the Church had suppressed it for over 40 years.
7. The “black pope” of the Jesuit order is the true ruler of the Vatican and/or the world. Jesuits have long been the favourite target of anti-Catholic crusaders, and conspiracy theories about their shady doings abound. In some conspiranoid circles, it is believed the general of the Jesuit order is secretly revered as the “black pope”, and that it is he – rather than the dude in the hat – who controls the Vatican. Here is just one of many recent examples of this theory.
6. The Knights of Malta, headquartered in the Vatican, control the world, and Opus Dei is a cult-like organization that is trying to extend its tentacles into every major government on the planet. Robert Anton Wilson was perhaps the foremost modern proponent of the idea that the Knights of Malta exert a massively disproportionate influence on world events, and were behind everything from Nazi infiltration of the CIA to the Vatican bank scandals of the ’70s and ’80s (see his article in a 1989 issue of Spin, for example). David Icke has speculated that Benedict was “fired” by the Knights of Malta. Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, with its Opus Dei villains and ancient conspiracies, gave expression to concerns about the cult-like devotion and prominence of Opus Dei members.
It’s true that Opus Dei and the KoM contain many powerful, highly-placed members, but Catholic “secret societies” don’t seem to be any more dangerous than other fraternal organizations.
5. Pope Pius XII was complicit in the Holocaust. Catholic writer John Cornwell has even gone so far as to dub him “Hitler’s Pope” in his 1999 book of the same name. However, many commentators have discredited Cornwell’s claims, pointing out that Pius XII spoke out against the persecution of German Jews and was not sympathetic to the Nazi cause. Even Cornwell has conceded that Pius’s “scope of action” was very limited in regard to Hitler.
4. “The EU is a means of undoing the Reformation and extending Vatican sovereignty over Britain”. So reads the title of an opinion piece by Adrian Hilton published in the 30 August 2003 issue of The Spectator. Hilton (along with a few like-minded critics of the European Union) contends that the establishment of the EU fell perfectly in line with the Church’s aim for a one-world religion, or at least a pan-European one. But Catholic hegemony has not materialized in Europe over the past decade, and is incredibly unlikely to do so in the foreseeable future.
3. Islam was invented by the Catholic Church as a means of controlling Middle Eastern peoples. This bit of WTFery comes from Alberto Rivera via Christian pamphleteer Jack Chick, the same guy who brought us John Todd and Edna “I Married Satan” Moses.
Rivera was a Spanish Christian who in the ’70s began claiming that, during his time as a Jesuit priest, he learned from his superiors that Muhammad had been conned by priests and nuns into believing he was the prophet of a new religion. Their aim was to destroy the Jews and non-Catholic Christians of the world, paving the way for Catholicism as the one-world religion (see Chick’s comic-book tract The Prophet).
He also alleged the Church faked the Fatima apparitions, created Nazism, and killed JFK (among other things).
When Rivera realized the Church was also behind Freemasonry, he left the priesthood and denounced Catholicism. As payback, the Jesuits abducted and tortured him.
Chick was so taken with Rivera’s tale of Catholic treachery that he turned it into a fawning biography and several comic-book tracts. Other, more diligent, Christians subsequently discovered that Rivera had never even been a priest.
2. John Paul I was murdered. In his 1984 book In God’s Name, David Yallop contends that the “smiling pope”, who died just 33 days after taking office, was killed, probably because he was planning to dismiss and/or excommunicate high-ranking officials who were also Freemasons, investigate the massively corrupt Vatican Bank, replace Chicago cardinal John Cody, and permit Catholic women to use artificial birth control.
The Vatican tried to counter Yallop’s claims by commissioning Catholic author John Cornwell to write his own book on John Paul I’s death. Cornwell disappointed them by publishing A Thief in the Night, which argues that although John Paul may have died from a pulmonary embolism, people close to John Paul I tampered with his body after discovering it.
1. The pope is not the pope. The pope is a powerful guy, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that there are dozens of pretenders to the hat, known as “antipopes” or “conclavists”. These faux popes often lead small, cultish sects. The French-Canadian Apostles of Infinite Love were led by two popes, one of whom was under investigation for an array of alleged extortion and sex-abuse offenses for 34 years. The Palmarian Church in Spain has had three popes since 1978, and also declared its own saints and martyrs (including, inexplicably, Pope Paul VI). Until their last pope died in 2011, he had some competition from another Spaniard named Joaquín Llorens, who made himself Pope Alexander IX in 2005. There’s even a pope in Kansas – David Bawden. Bawden claims there hasn’t been a legitimate Roman pope since Pius XII, and in 1990 (at the relatively tender age of 30) was “elected” pope by a conclave of laypeople that included himself and his parents, Kennett and Tickie Bawden (owners of a thrift store called The Question Mark). Bawden calls himself Pope Michael I. His Apostolic Palace is a rundown farmhouse he shares with his mom.
The creepiest of these pretenders is the Australian cult leader William Kamm, a thrice-convicted sex offender who says he is Benedict’s rightful successor. He also seems to think John Paul II will be bodily resurrected at some point.

Thanks to Schwarherz for venturing into the wacky world of antipopes.

2012 Prediction Fail

invincible


The Winner

ibringyoulove

The biggest fail is the late Terence McKenna’s Timewave Zero prediction. First published in 1975, it was predicated on McKenna’s complex novelty theory about the cyclical nature of time, and guesstimated that some kind of awesome singularity would occur in December 2012 (the date was based partly on his own calculations and partly on the Mayan calendar). Just how the arcane ramblings of a chemognostic savante ended up on Discovery Channel specials and in Britney Spears videos is beyond me, but the bottom line is: Nothing happened. No singularity. So let’s move on to that dagger-nailed doyenne of prophetic fail…

Sylvia Browne

Browne played it safe last year by making many of her 2012 forecasts hilariously vague. She asked us to “be mindful of trucks”, said she’s “still worried about trains”, and spoke of “airline difficulties” in several states. Which basically amounts to

look-both-ways

She has stayed away from celebrity predictions altogether lately, since her 2009 prophecy about Clint Eastwood’s varicose veins failed to impress.
Her big prediction was that the economy, the job situation, and the housing market would all improve dramatically. Oh, and taxes would decrease. If by “dramatically”, she meant “somewhat”, then I guess this qualifies as a direct hit. Vagueness occasionally works in her favour.
When she was any more specific than that, she bombed. Here are a few of her biggest misses:

There will be a tsunami in Florida in the fall.
A cure for Multiple Sclerosis will be found.
Obama will not be reelected.

wutgif

I’ve skipped most of her weather-related predictions, because they’re basically just variations of “There will be weather”. Glue some fake fingernails on your copy of the Farmer’s Almanac to achieve the same effect.

A few of her predictions did nothing but betray her uneven grasp of the sciences:

Weather stays terribly erratic. We are in a polar tilt.
The hell is a “polar tilt”?
We have to be more cognizant about vaccinations or we are going to have more outbreaks of measles, polio and whooping cough. These vaccines do not cause autism.
You don’t have to be psychic to know this.

A ridiculously safe bet:

There will also be earthquakes in Japan, China and Europe.
There have been major quakes in Japan every year since 2003, and in China since 2008. And there are earthquakes somewhere in Europe pretty much every year.

orsonlikesit

A few of her predictions were just nonsensical:

We will pay more attention to causes for eliminating hunger and animal care.
“More attention” than what? No attention at all?
More people realize this is a new age of enlightenment.
Again with the “more” thing.
We are looking at a time when spirituality is on the upswing.
Dogmatic religions will see their member numbers decrease.

Those last two statements actually contradict each other. Historical trends indicate that in times of economic crisis, spirituality and dogmatic religions flourish. When things get better – as Browne was predicting they would – religious fervour tends to wane. So the chances of a spiritual revival and an economic upswing occurring simultaneously are actually quite slim. Play the odds, Sylvia, play the odds.

Patrick Geryl

Belgian author Patrick Geryl seems to be a cross between the poor man’s Velikovsky and Charles Manson. His website looks sort of sciency, but the core of Geryl’s predictions have nothing to do with science.
Geryl claims he uncovered long-lost prophecies of the ancients by deciphering parts of the Dresden Codex in his own special way.  He combined these prophecies with his own bullshit astronomical observations to come up with the following predictions:

Some kind of solar Armageddon event Geryl called the “killer flare” was supposed to happen on December 20.

Within a few hours, Earth would be surrounded by a plasma cloud with a magnetic field that would “deflect” the earth’s core, causing it to rotate. Since the rotation of the core and the movements of the earth’s crust would be in different directions, massive earthquakes and other upheavals would occur, culminating in something along the lines of

kaboom

Geryl and his handful of followers bunkered up and prepared for the endtimes, thinking they would have to repopulate the ravaged planet and rebuild civilization from scratch. Fortunately for Geryl, all he really has to do in 2013 is get a new domain name.

Ed Dames and other Remote Viewers

On the October 6-7, 2011 broadcast of the paranormal-themed radio show Coast to Coast AM, professional remote viewer Ed Dames predicted a 40% unemployment rate, the imposition of martial law, and mass detainment in FEMA camps within the next two years. He said he didn’t believe there would be a presidential election in 2012 as a result of all this.
Back when he started predicting the “Killshot” (yet another solar flare that was supposed to destroy Earth), Dames’ crack team of remote viewers “saw” a bombed-out stadium and “many thousands” of dead Americans in relation to some unspecified disaster that Dames thought might strike during the Superbowl or the 2012 Olympics. Keep in mind that this guy used to claim a 100% success rate for properly-conducted remote viewing.

In 2008, similar predictions were issued by a team of other military-trained remote viewers working on a project for the Farsight Institute. They were supposed to be remote-viewing climate changes, but instead “saw” a huge meteorite slamming into an ocean, causing tidal waves and volcanic explosions. This would happen by 2013, they said.

NO
For pure psychic lulziness, check out this About.com roundup of predictions from “leading” psychics, ranging from “gold disappoints” to “the Holy Grail will be found”. Here are a few of the highlights:

“Psychic to the Stars” Nikki

These are some of the flat-out weirdest predictions I have ever seen. Nikki seems to be predicting cataclysmic, earth-shattering events on the order of 2012 or Birdemic, but she also takes time out to let us know what will be on TV. Sure, most of us will die, but Ellen stays on the air! And Stallone gets a Tony! So it’s all gonna be okay.

thumbsupnotreally

I’ve tweaked Ms. Nikki’s predictions a little, because as written they look like drunk texts.

An earthquake will destroy most of Mexico City.
There will be a giant earthquake in California.
Animals and birds, wild and domestic, will attack people leading up to the end of 2012.
Someone will find giant prehistoric Sea Monsters under the sea.
There will be major UFO sightings all over the world. A spaceship might land.
North Korea will attack South Korea and Japan.
There will be an attack on the Vatican and the Pope.
Earth will fall off its axis a little more.
The Holy Grail will be found.
A plane crash will crash into the White House.
The map of the world will change because of catastrophic events happening in the world.
Ellen DeGeneres will join the army for one week.
Sylvester Stallone gets nominated for a Tony Award.
Madonna will break a leg.
There will be a National Hockey League for women.

Terry and Linda Jamison, The Psychic Twins

The Psychic Twins look kind of like the little girls from The Shining, all grown up and full of shit. They claim to be the world’s “most documented” psychics, with accurate predictions of 9/11 and the May 2000 stock market crash. So how did the creepy duo make out in 2012?

double

Double your fail!

Terrorist attacks are planned for New York, Washington, Boston, Texas and Florida, but most of them will be thwarted.
Economic growth; no recession; unemployment stays about the same.
Letting go a negative patterns; more acceptance of positive patterns and choices.
Earthquakes in Mexico, eastern and western China, and in Los Angeles in April.

Don’t be sad that the good predictions didn’t pan out. I’m sure the Grail, sea monsters, and “positive patterns” will turn up this year. And even if they don’t, there’s still lots of fun stuff in the future. I, for one, am looking forward to mocking the hell out of Mike “The Health Ranger” Adams’ 20 Dark Predictions for 2013, the Year of Oppression and Insanity, in 2014.

The Prodigal Witch X: Derry Mainwaring Knight

God’s 007

In the spring of 1983, an unassuming, middle-aged fellow by the lofty name of Derry Mainwaring Knight appeared in Newick, East Sussex, and began attending the local Anglican church, St. Mary’s. He became a regular at Bible studies and prayer meetings. He offered to hand out Christian tracts.
He told the late vicar, John Baker, that he had been born again in jail (he had just been released from Hull Prison after serving time for a rape conviction). His sincerity and eagerness to devote himself to his newfound faith must have touched Reverend Baker deeply, because he did everything in his power to help the ex-con. When Knight said he was homeless, Baker gave him a room in the rectory attic, rent-free. When Knight said he was desperately short of cash, Baker promptly raised over £6000 to put toward the newcomer’s debts.

St. Mary’s Church in Newick

That’s when Knight began to show symptoms of demonic possession, lapsing into strange trances and talking about the Devil.
During one such spell, he revealed to Baker that he was the grandson of a sorceress who groomed him from childhood to be a great Satanic leader. When he was just eight years old, Granny informed Derry he could enter into communion with the Devil himself if special platinum plates were surgically implanted in his skull. The plates were installed, and just as Granny promised, Derry was able to communicate directly with Satan. As an adult, he become a high-ranking member of a secretive but powerful cult.
When he came out of his altered state, Baker repeated all this to Knight and asked him if it was true. Yes, Knight admitted, it was. For years, he had been struggling to break free from a Satanic cabal that operated at the the highest levels of English society.

The son of a pastor, Knight had been raised in Germany. Lucifer manifested in his bedroom one night to claim him when he was nine, he told Baker.

Now, Derry claimed, he wanted to destroy his own devil-worshiping sect from within. He wanted to rid himself of demonic possession. He wanted to pay off his debts to cult members, so they could no longer hold sway over him. He wanted to bring other Satanists out of occult slavery. He wanted to destroy unholy Satanic regalia. To do all that, though, he would need funds. Major funds.
Over the next several months, members of St. Mary’s Church and other area residents donated a staggering sum (over £300,000) to Knight’s anti-Satanic crusade. The county high sheriff gave over £83,000 pounds. The wife of millionaire Tory MP Timothy Sainsbury ponied up nearly £120,000 pounds. Anthony David Brand, Lord Hampden contributed a Rolls-Royce with state-of-the-art communications equipment so that Knight could continue to pose as an affluent Satanist-about-town. The bishop of Lewes wrote a letter on Derry’s behalf, requesting donations for his “necessary work”. In November 1983, Reverend Baker secured a £25,000 loan from a Christian charity and handed it over to Knight.

Lady Susan Sainsbury, one of Knight’s prominent victims

Where did all this money go? Knight claimed to be buying up Satanic paraphernalia such as talismans and robes, expressly to destroy them in dramatic ceremonies. He explained that some of these items were being used to magically influence him, keeping him tied to Satan; the objects would send “signals” to the plates in his head. Oddly, no one suggested he simply get the plates removed.
On one memorable occasion, Knight flung a golden scepter into the Thames. Another time, he and the Reverend Baker carried a silver chalice into the church garden and crushed it.
At the time of his arrest in 1985, Baker was in the process of raising £20,000 so Knight could acquire a “Satanic throne” from a lavish temple in Pall Mall.
The members of St. Mary’s didn’t get to see a lot for their money, but they treasured the satisfaction of knowing they were literally buying a man’s way out hell. Like shareholders, they held regular meetings so they could be briefed on Knight’s progress.

No one in the Newick congregation was aware that Knight had just been sprung from prison after a rape conviction. Nor that he had prior convictions for fraud and robbery. Nor that he was an out-of-work housepainter in spite of his cult’s supposed affluence.
Clearly, he was still in Satan’s grip and needed all the help they could give him. Sometimes he would collapse to the ground in a deep trance, muttering Satanic incantations.

The first person to hear serious alarm bells in his head was the Bishop of Chichester, the late Eric Kemp. The septuagenarian bishop caught wind in the summer of 1985 that congregants in Newick were throwing fat sums of money at a Satanic double agent, and didn’t think it sounded quite right. The double-agent thing was sensible enough, he thought, but the donations seemed excessive.
The alarm bells turned to sirens when Derry himself told Kemp he had been initiated into Satanism by a defrocked Catholic cardinal. As Bishop Kemp knew, no English cardinals had been defrocked in the ’50s.
Kemp believed the Charismatic movement, which was popular among certain Anglicans at that time, rendered Christians vulnerable to this sort of deception. They focused on the ubiquity of evil until they convinced themselves that things like mind-control scepters and telepathic head-plates could really exist. They also convinced themselves that God was speaking directly to them, exhorting them to help scammers like Knight in His name.

A church investigation, conducted by a retired bishop, uncovered Knight’s police record, and Newick authorities were notified. Inspector Terrance Fallon concluded he was dealing with your typical con man – Derry was just luckier than the usual crook, having stumbled onto a community of kind-hearted and extraordinarily gullible people with scads of money. The donations had gone straight into Knight’s own pocketbook, usually manifesting as gifts for “lady friends”, high-end car rentals for himself, and posh parties. On one occasion, he chartered a champagne steamboat cruise along the Thames for one hundred guests. The Anglicans were not invited.

Knight, under Inspector Fallon’s questioning, played the innocent. Sure, he had asked the vicar for some cash to pay down a debt, and chatted with him about black magic and Satanism because Baker was “interested in that sort of thing”. But he never asked for another handout, he insisted. The Anglicans were so keen to squash Satanic evildoing in their area that they plied him with fistfuls of money every time he showed up for a prayer meeting, begging him to do something about the occult menace. (1)

As it turned out, Knight had a colourful history of scamming Christians out of their money. He had been dishonorably discharged from the Coldstream Guards for defrauding a fellow out of thousands of marks.

When the Anglicans of Newick learned about Knight’s real past, and his Larry Flynt present, most of them wisely faced the fact they had been scammed. Many of them testified against Derry at his 1986 trial. So did local jewelers who had been hired by Derry to craft peculiar-looking scepters and medallions out of gold and silver.
Church member Randle Mainwaring (no relation) testified that Knight once proposed sexually blackmailing a local bank manager to raise funds for his anti-Satanism campaign.

But others stubbornly maintained that Derry had been doing God’s work, and should never have been arrested. Michael Warren, who lost £36,000 pounds to this “work”, vociferously defended Derry from the witness stand and warned the court that Satanism was “very much a potent source of evil in this country”. (2)
Reverend Baker, too, remained certain that Knight’s life was imperiled by devil-worshipers. On the witness stand, he refused to name the items he and Derry had destroyed, for fear he and others would be “shot or disposed of in some way” by cult leaders for revealing details of their ritual implements. (2)

Though Knight admitted to Inspector Fallon that he wasn’t a Satanist, just the recipient of something like compulsive philanthropy, his trial defence strategy was to declare himself a member of a cult called “The Sons of Lucifer” and bring out shocking testimony that would blow the lid off Satanic doings at the highest levels of English society. He “outed” two Tory politicians (William Whitelaw, Enoch Powell) and one Labour MP (Leopold Abse) as cult members.
He declared he would have no need to bilk money out of churchgoers, because he was a successful pimp.
Derry Mainwaring Knight was convicted of nineteen counts of obtaining money by deception and sentenced to seven years in prison by Judge Neil Denison. He also received a £75,000 fine.
After his conviction, his own mother claimed he had conned her out of a large sum of cash.

Knight’s Legacy

Reachout Trust, a UK organization dedicated to fighting the occult, listed Derry Mainwaring Knight’s story as evidence that ritual abuse was really occurring in England in the ’80s, and with Reverend Kevin Logan produced a tape titled Set Free in Christ. In the video, a woman identified as Peggy Knight claimed she was Derry’s mother and a born again Christian. She said the cult Derry betrayed still posed a serious threat to the entire family.
Logan also included the Knight story in his 1988 book Paganism and the Occult, though he obscured the names and details. In this book, Logan stated that every city and major town in the UK contains a “small exclusive coven made up mostly of people in the professions.” (3)
Logan was heavily involved in UK Satanic panic; one of his most tragic Satanic ritual abuse misadventures is described in my post on Doreen Irvine. We’ll see Logan and Reachout Trust again in the next part of this series, dealing with “former Satanist” Audrey Harper.

Today, professional conspiranoid David Icke still considers Derry Mainwaring Knight a valuable Satanic whistleblower: “Willie Whitelaw, a chairman of the Conservative Part, was named as a leading Satanist by self-confessed Satanist, Derry Mainwaring Knight, at Maidstone Crown Court in 1986. As usual, nothing was done about it. Mainwaring-Knight lived near East Grinstead, one of the centres of Satanism in England.” (4)

Is it possible that Derry Mainwaring Knight really did practice Satanism with high-level politicians, when he wasn’t scamming churchgoers? No. The fact that he had to manufacture Satanic paraphernalia in order to destroy it indicates he didn’t have access to any real stuff. At one point he claimed to be a member of the Ordo Templi Orientis, an occult organization, but this wasn’t verified. That’s probably why he chose not to mention the OTO at his trial. There is no known Satanic group called Sons of Lucifer, and no grand Satanic temple exists in Pall Mall. “Nothing was done” about his courtroom accusations against Whitelaw simply because no one, barring a country vicar and a few Charismatic believers, found his tales remotely credible.

Due to the prominence of Knight’s victims and the sheer wackiness of his scam, the outcome of his trial was covered by all the major English daily newspapers. The affair should have staunched the spread of Satanic panic in the UK, but sadly it did not. Stories of former Satanists and ritual abuse survivors, which were every bit as spurious as Knight’s Sons of Lucifer nonsense, continued to flow through the media like a diseased river, polluting minds and sweeping innocent people into whirlpools of persecution.

Sources

1. The Lure of the Sinister: The Unnatural History of Satanism by Gareth J. Medway(New York University Press, 2001)
2.A British Con Man Says the Devil Made Him Do It” by Dianna Waggoner. People magazine. Vol. 25. No. 24 (July 16, 1986)
3. Paganism and the Occult by Kevin Logan (Kingsway Publications, 1988)
4. The Biggest Secret by David Icke  (2nd edition; David Icke Books, 1990)

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.

To the couple from The Second Cup

Kindly pardon my eavesdropping; it’s a bad habit. I wasn’t paying much attention to your companion’s chatter until I started to hear some alarming tip-off phrases: “catching the vibe”, “online mall”, etc. Also, all the talk about goals and aspirations was like a flashing neon sign to me, because it’s the standard M.O.: Getting you to “dream big”, then telling you it’s all within your reach if you “build your business”.

Before you make any decisions about “the project”, I urge you (and anyone else who’s reading this) to read my post “The Part-Time Job That Eats Your Soul“. World Wide Dream Builders is one of several alter egos of Amway/Quixtar, a cult-like and predatory corporate entity and Multi-Level Marketing scam that sells people on the idea of “building your own business”, when in reality most of the people who venture into it make negligible profits (if they make any at all, that is) because their money is going into motivational materials (“tools”), motivational conventions (“rallies”), and shady recruitment efforts.

My post contains my own experience with Amway (through an ex-husband who was sucked into it), some of the recruiting tactics used by reps, some of the methods used to get as much money out of you as possible, some reasons why it isn’t a golden business opportunity, and some unsolicited testimonials from people who experienced everything from poverty to relationship troubles thanks to their involvement.

I also recommend you take a look at the blog Quixtar Cult Intervention. It contains a lot of material on how Amway/Quixtar operates and how it can basically ruin your life.

Best of luck!

Now, for the rest of you, I’ll explain: This evening, while waiting for the Signif Other to get out of a book signing, I dropped into Second Cup. I was browsing through some magazines and enjoying a green tea latte (shut up! they’re good!) when three people, a man and two women roughly my own age, sat down at an adjacent table. I eavesdropped a bit as they chatted, one of my few vices. I initially thought they were three friends, until they began exchanging personal stories about their backgrounds, families, hobbies, etc. The man and one of the women were a married couple. I didn’t pay much attention to the banter until the other woman began talking. After describing her work history, she started to drop some phrases that were like warning bells to me. Could it be…Quixway? She talked about a business opportunity involving an “online mall, like Amazon”, with a minimal start-up fee and limitless potential for profit. She mentioned that since joining “the project”, she doesn’t regret leaving a good job she hated, even though it provided benefits. This woman certainly wasn’t any older than 35, yet boasted she’s about two years away from retirement thanks to “the project”.

She explained that “the project” works out best for people with “big goals or aspirations”, and asked the couple to share some of theirs. After they did, she implied that everything they had described could be achieved if they came on board and dedicated themselves to “the project”. She talked about all the free time people in the business have, how they can finally do all the things they’ve always wanted to do: organic farming, playing the guitar, making the world a better place, etc.

A big tip-off came towards the end of the spiel, when the husband said he still didn’t know just exactly what “the project” was. He knew it was an “online mall” affiliated with shop.com, and that was about all.

The rep still didn’t provide the name of the business. She would only say that one of their main suppliers was World Wide Dream Builders.

Bingo. Scamway.

By this time, I knew my conscience wouldn’t let me out of that coffeeshop without at least trying to send some kind of warning signal to the couple, who seemed like very nice people. I decided to slip the last one out the door a note, directing them to this website and Quixtar Cult Intervention. I knew I had to do it when the rep wasn’t looking, because she had already warned her prey that there’s a lot of *misinformation* about her business online, and if they wanted some *reliable* information, she would tell them exactly where to get it. If she saw my note, she would hastily assure the couple that I was just another loser trying to sabotage this promising business opportunity.

This is the note I gave to the husband, as soon as the rep turned her back: “Don’t respond to this note [a little overdramatic, but totally necessary]. She isn’t being straight with you. I speak from experience. Please go here [address of this blog]. There will be a personal message for you there soon.”

Naturally, I don’t know if the couple will actually wind up here or if they will pay much attention to the Quixtar material I’ve posted. But it’s worth a try. After leaving Second Cup, I met the Signif Other at Starbuck’s (I swear, I don’t usually spend all my time at coffee joints – that’s just where we agreed to meet). As I was telling him about the Quixway rep, one of the barristas overheard us (having the same vice I do, apparently) and told us that he has been approached by Quixway reps at work twice. They started out by mentioning shop.com, and asked him if he had twelve friends with whom he could share this unique “business opportunity”. Wary, the barrista told both reps that he only had six friends. They left him alone.

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup

  • Paula Oliviera, a 26-year-old Brazilian lawyer, claimed earlier this month that while visiting Switzerland she was assaulted by a group of neo-Nazi punks. The three skinheads grabbed her as she stood outside a train station in Zurich, speaking Portuguese over her cell phone. They made some racial slurs, then carved the initials of Switzerland’s wildly popular anti-immigration political party, the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), onto her pregnant stomach. Due to the stress of the attack, Oliveira said, she miscarried twins. It didn’t doctors long to figure out that Oliveira wasn’t pregnant in the first place, and that the cuts on her abdomen weren’t characteristic of a knife attack. This allegedly fake racial assault is only the latest in a long, sad series of self-inflicted “hate crimes” that usually involve a seemingly normal young woman carving or writing racial slurs on her own flesh, then blaming it on men of another ethnicity or race. As with the case of Ashley Todd (“mugged” and cut by a fictitious Obama supporter late last year), the attacks are often so poorly thought-out and staged that investigators get to the bottom of them within hours. I’ll be devoting a post to this phenomenon later in the week.
  • Some 9/11 Truthers suspect the horrific plane crash in Buffalo was more than an accident. Why? Because there were no fewer than two activists on the flight; 9/11 widow Beverly Eckert (who was preparing to sue the U.S. government) and Alison Des Forges of Human Rights Watch (who testified before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda). Michelle Pogue of Montreal 9/11 Truth (incidentally, one of the most rabidly anti-Zionist Truth groups in the world) suspects Des Forges was killed to cover up the fact that the Rwandan genocide was a “U.S. and French proxy war.” Pogue even accuses Ms. Des Forges of being part of the cover-up! Thankfully, not all Truthers are quite this duuuuuuhhhhh: A friend who belongs to Pilots for 9/11 Truth suspects the crash was the result of a tail stall brought on by tailplane icing (explained in a 1998 instructional video). This is a deadly situation that not all pilots are well-trained to handle, thanks to lax FAA and corporate policies.
  • And speaking of Truther bitchmonsters, a particularly nasty one who shall still remain nameless offered last week to contribute a travel package door prize to a Truth convention the significant other is organizing. When he declined, explaining that this event isn’t a freaking corporate Christmas party, she predictably became defensive and snippy. My alarm bells went off when she started to refer to the travel package in Quixway-like terms (“many satisfied customers would tell you how happy this made them!”). Sure enough, a quick search revealed that Ultra Life travel packages, while apparently legit, are part of a pyramidish MLM setup called Business in Motion. BIM “salespeople” don’t make most of their money from travel packages, they make it from signing up new “salespeople” at $3500 a pop. It has left many a disgruntled would-be travel agent in its wake, as this CBC Marketplace report shows. Why doesn’t it surprise me that an Alex Jones fan and fluoride-phobe would fall for this kind of thing?
  • Some Truthers and anti-Zionists have been griping all week that “Israel wants northern Iraq.” Aside from a handful of reports in dodgy Arab newspapers, I can’t find a single piece of corroboration for this. Kindly let me know if you spot any. There was a piece in Haaretz about the possibility of oil being pumped from northern Iraq to Haifa, but this doesn’t quite equate to “Israel wants northern Iraq.”
  • The other day I saw a bizarre infomercial advertising “Your Baby Can Read!”, a flashcard and DVD system that can supposedly teach kids as young as 3 months old to recognize two- and three-syllable words. Sounds like total b.s., just like the infant Mozart Effect. But even if it’s not, as Shelley Boettcher of the Calgary Herald asks, why would a baby need to read? Isn’t there enough time for that later on, when they’ve mastered potty training and walking?