The Lady Vanishes Part II: Agatha Christie

Part I is here.

The Solution

The amnesia explanation was too dodgy to convince everyone, and instead of curtailing rumours, it only caused curiosity about the “missing eleven days” to escalate over the years.

One curious person was Jared Cade, a young Christie fan and collector from Australia. He had studied the mystery carefully, and in the end he simply couldn’t accept that Agatha had behaved so dramatically while suffering memory loss. He was fascinated by the contrast between her actions at the Hydro Hotel and her refined, decorous persona. He wondered why she hadn’t explained the disappearance in her autobiography. In short, Jared Cade wanted to know the real story.
In 1989 he traveled to England to see some of the locations that had inspired Agatha Christie. In the archives of the British Library he located her obituary box, and was astonished to find a complete account of her activities during the “eleven missing days”.
Cade would spend the next six years of his life filling in the blanks. He contributed information to a 1997 BBC programme, Mysteries with Carol Vanderman, that re-enacted the known facts of the disappearance, but saved the big revelations for his book, Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days.
The first thing Cade discovered is that reliable information on Agatha’s disappearance is scarce. The Surrey police files relating to it were destroyed in the Blitz. Contemporary news accounts were sensationalistic and contradictory. The principal players had clammed up as soon as Agatha was found, and at any rate were dead by the time Cade began his investigation.
Cade made one decision that broke the case, though: He visited Abney Hall, now home of Nan Watts’ daughter Judith Gardner and her husband Graham, both of whom had been close to Agatha.
The Gardners had previously refused to contribute to a biography commissioned by Agatha’s daughter in the early ’80s. Janet Morgan, the author of this official biography, had edited political diaries for the Labour Party. The Gardners felt that Agatha – a lifelong Tory – would not have appreciated that. Both Rosalind and Judith had also unsuccessfully tried to prevent the release of a 1979 film, Agatha, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Dustin Hoffman, which portrayed Agatha’s disappearance as voluntary.
The Gardners were impressed by the enthusiastic young Cade, however. The elderly couple soon trusted him enough to finally divulge the details of Agatha Christie’s disappearance.

Here, according to the Gardners, is what really happened December 3-13, 1926:

On the morning of December 3, Archie and Agatha argued over his intentions to end the marriage and to attend the houseparty with Nancy, but Archie wouldn’t be deterred. He departed for London, and Agatha was left at Styles to pen a reproachful letter. She also wrote a letter to her secretary, calling off all her plans for the week. She may also have written and sent a letter to Deputy Constable Kenward of the Surrey Constabulary, informing him that she feared for her life, but if so this letter has never been found. Remember that Kenward was the only investigator who believed Agatha was murdered.

In the afternoon Agatha and Rosalind visited Archie’s mother, Rosamund Helmsley. Agatha seemed cheerful, though concerned about her inability to get much writing done. Mrs. Helmsley noticed that she had removed her wedding ring. Mrs. Helmsley would later defend her daughter-in-law to the police and the press, insisting that Agatha would never willingly leave her husband and child. Yet almost in the same breath she speculated that Agatha had been planning suicide when she drove to Newland’s corner. In retrospect, Mrs. Helmsley clearly knew more than she revealed.

Shortly before 10 p.m., Agatha drove her car about half a mile from Styles, to Newlands Corner. This location was mere miles from the house where Archie and Nancy were staying. One rumor had it that after receiving a phone call from his wife that night, Archie went off to meet her somewhere. As we shall see, that was false.
Agatha parked at the edge of Waters Road and pushed her still-running car down the slope towards the chalk pit.
She then walked to West Clandon Station and took a train to London, where she stayed overnight with Nan. This explains how Agatha passed the first 24 hours of her disappearance; she was not wandering the countryside in a state of confusion, but confiding in a close friend. Nan knew all about Agatha’s marital problems and was probably sympathetic. She agreed to give Agatha some nice clothes and enough money to stay in Yorkshire for several days.

On the morning of December 4th, right around the time her car was found at the chalk pit, Agatha posted the letter to Archie’s brother Cameron, explaining she was on her way to a Yorkshire spa. This letter, she believed, would give people a clue as to where to start looking for her. However, Cameron lost the letter and this delayed her discovery by several days.
After lunch, she caught a 1:40 train to Harrogate, six hours away. That night she danced the Charleston to “Yes, We Have No Bananas” in the Hydro ballroom.

By Sunday, December 12 (the day of the “Great Sunday Hunt”), two members of the band that was playing the Hydro had recognized Theresa Neele as the missing woman in the papers, and called the police. The head waiter did the same. The police followed up these tips by placing plainclothes officers in the hotel on Monday, December 13. Confident they had found Agatha Christie, on Tuesday they called on Mr. Christie to travel to Harrogate and identify his wife.

Agatha was persuaded by Archie and the Watts family to stick to the amnesia story. It seemed, at the time, to be in everyone’s best interests: Culpability would be reduced on both sides, and the family would not be shamed by Agatha’s bizarre behaviour. The Watts family bribed two doctors into diagnosing amnesia.

The incident emotionally aged Agatha Christie. Faced with the disapproval of nearly everyone around her, she must have felt every bit as embarrassed as she had hoped Archie would feel. The plan had blown up in her face. Archie was upset, not contrite, when his affair was paraded in front of the public. The press and the public were upset at being the victims of what they perceived as a cruel, publicity-mongering prank. Agatha was shunned by many of her friends.
She had hoped to shake up her husband a little, embarrass him and force him to recognize the grave consequences of his behaviour. She probably wanted to ruin his weekend with his mistress. Perhaps she hoped, against hope, that her disappearance would revive his love for her. Whatever her intentions, it’s clear that she wanted to have a fun holiday to take her mind off things while Archie sweated it out at home. She might even have taken some delight in the knowledge that Archie would be under suspicion. What she didn’t count on were the lengthy time required to locate her, the intense media coverage, and the public backlash. She also did not expect her family to convince her that hiding her pain behind a tale of amnesia was the wisest course of action. Her scheme had garnered no sympathy.

After the disastrous disappearance and public humiliation, Agatha really had no choice but to give Archie his divorce. Agatha disapproved of divorce on a spiritual basis. More significantly, though, she knew that Rosalind would be devastated if her father moved out. Rosalind ws a confirmed daddy’s girl, so similar to Archie in temperament and tastes that Agatha sometimes felt like the outsider of the family.
James Watts somehow convinced Agatha that a divorce would be best all around, and in 1927 she relented. The grounds were adultery, but a make-believe rendezvous with a strange woman was cited as the reason. In the days before no-fault divorces, the adulterer had to produce the name of his or her extramarital partner along with the details of their indiscretions. Presumably, Archie wanted to shield Nancy Neele from public humiliation.
Less than three weeks after the divorce was granted in 1928, they married. They remained together until Nancy’s death in 1954.

The Aftermath

It was far from the end for Agatha Christie. For one thing, the adage “any publicity is good publicity” proved true in this case. Having her name in the papers for weeks had launched Agatha from the rank and file of mystery authors into the realm of national celebrity. Her next book, The Big Four, sold twice as many copies as The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and her sales continued to increase after that. She was easily able to support herself and Rosalind on her writing income.

Her friendship with Nan was undiminished. Nan faithfully kept her friend’s secret, and after WWII she and Judith resided in Devon to be near Agatha.

In 1929, while Rosalind was away at boarding school, Agatha decided to take a holiday by herself, to see the excavations that were taking place in Mesopotamia under the direction of Leonard Woolley.
Agatha found the trip so enjoyable that she returned to the excavation site at Ur in 1930. This time Woolley’s wife, Katherine, asked her husband’s 25-year-old assistant, Max Mallowan, to take Agatha on a sight-seeing tour of the area. The two discovered that they had many things in common, despite considerable differences in age, background, and education.
Max and Agatha both travelled with the Woolleys to Athens after the Ur site was closed for the season. It was there that Agatha learned Rosalind was very sick, and shortly thereafter sprained her ankle. Max promptly cancelled his own plans and offered to accompany her back to England. Within two years, they were married.

Jared Cade believes that Agatha learned much from her experiences with Archie Christie. She learned, first of all, to accept people’s flaws along with their virtues. She was prone to hero-worship and had idealized her first husband; when he betrayed her, she was shattered.
With her second marriage, Agatha also appreciated the value of togetherness. Knowing that Max Mallowan was relatively poor at the time of their marriage, she offered to pool their finances rather than keep her earnings to herself. And while Agatha and Archie had sometimes taken separate vacations, Agatha now dragged her typewriter to archeological digs in far-flung desert locales.

Certainly the marriage was beneficial for both of them, but it was far from idyllic. During the late 1940’s, around the time he was given the archeological chair at London University, Max began an affair with his assistant. He maintained this relationship for years without Agatha’s knowledge. Nan caught wind of Max’s affair and let Agatha know what was happening. She was undoubtedly hurt, but Agatha didn’t wish to open herself up to heartbreak and public scrutiny again. In 1926 she had been overwhelmed by the desires to get back at her husband and to escape the pain of being an unwanted wife. Now that she was older and more settled, she could deal with infidelity in an outwardly calmer way. She didn’t have to run away and became someone else.
Her marriage to Max would last 47 years.

In 1949 it was revealed for the first time that Agatha had published several romantic novels under the pen name Mary Westmacott. It’s odd that her disappearance continued to be considered a mystery at all after this, because one of these pseudonymous novels, Unfinished Portrait, was a barely disguised account of what had taken place just prior to her eleven missing days in 1926. During the last interview she gave, in 1974, she said the writing that had given her the most enjoyment were her romance novels.
Agatha was outraged when her pen name was revealed, though. Mary Westmacott had apparently served much the same purpose for her that Theresa Neele had: To bring hidden aspects of Agatha’s emotional world into the open without really bringing them into the open.

Archie Christie died in 1962. Agatha didn’t write anything overtly negative about her first husband in her posthumously-published autobiography, though it’s interesting that colonels often come to bad ends in Agatha Christie novels.

The Lady Vanishes Part I: Agatha Christie

The media hoo-rah surrounding South Carolina governor Mark Sanford’s recent “disappearance” brought to my mind some far stranger voluntary disappearances, most of them involving the very same thing that supposedly drove Gov. Sanford into the arms of his Argentine mistress: True love. Or, in some cases, the lack of it.

Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie remains not only the most successful mystery author of all time, but the top-selling author of all time. Yet upon her death in 1976, a puzzling incident in Mrs. Christie’s own past was still unexplained. This incident helped make her a household name and almost ruined her life.

Born in 1890 to a wealthy Devon family, Agatha Miller had a comfortable and refined childhood in seaside Torquay with her two older siblings, Madge and Monty. Their Engish mother, Clara, taught Agatha herself because she believed formal education ruined the brain. Agatha learned to read at age 5, a remarkable feat as she was dyslexic.
Prominent authors, including Henry James and Rudyard Kipling, were guests at the Miller home. Agatha and Madge both wrote a great deal from a young age.

Their American father, Frederick, died when Agatha was eleven. A year later, Madge married a Manchester merchant named James Watts. The Miller and Watts families forged close ties. Agatha and James’ little sister Nan became close, lifelong friends. Years later, Nan would play a key role in Agatha’s disappearance.

Agatha grew up to be an attractive, dignified redhead. Though extreme shyness hampered her dream of becoming an opera singer, she was popular with the boys. Shortly after her coming-out season in Cairo, she became engaged to a young man she had met in Torquay – her second fiance. That engagement was promptly broken when she met, at 22, a young lieutenant named Archibald Christie. Her mother wasn’t enthused about the match. Archie was serious and reserved, Agatha deeply emotional and romantic. They married on Christmas Eve, 1914. Agatha lived with her mother and volunteered as a Red Cross nurse during WWI while Archibald was away with the Army. He became a colonel during the war.

It was during this time that Agatha decided to try her hand at writing mystery fiction. Only a dozen years later, she had achieved enviable success as an author, and was living in a 12-bedroom Berkshire home christened Styles (after her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, published in 1920). She was not yet a celebrity, but was very popular with fans of detective fiction. Her income was on a par with that of Archie, who worked as a financial adviser in London. This might have caused some friction between the two, especially as Agatha insisted on managing her own money. Archie was not entirely happy about this, nor about the small amount of weight his wife retained after the birth of their daughter, Rosalind, in 1919. Outwardly, though, the pair seemed settled and content.

Agatha Christie’s life might have been nearly perfect in 1926, had it not been for the sudden death of her mother, followed closely by Archibald’s confession that he was in love with a young typist named Nancy Neele. Agatha had always been a fairly compliant wife, and in requesting a divorce Archie seemed to anticipate that she would give in without a struggle. He was wrong. Agatha dug in her heels. After she refused to grant the divorce, he reluctantly consented to a trial reconciliation. He used the next several months to wear her down, all the while flagrantly continuing his affair with Nancy Neele.

On the weekend of December 2, 1926, Archie informed his wife that he wasn’t going to go on with their trial reconciliation. He wanted his divorce immediately so he could marry Nancy. He would be attending a weekend houseparty with Nancy whether she liked it or not.
Agatha waited, but Colonel Christie did not return home on the night of December 3.

On the icy morning of December 4, Agatha’s Morris car was found a short distance from Styles, coated in frost and dangling over a chalk pit at Newlands Corner. The ignition was still on, Agatha’s fur coat flung across the seat, but there were no signs of the owner. Agatha had abruptly left Styles the previous night without telling her 7-year-old daughter or the servants where she was going. Newspapers across the country seized on the irony-laden story of a mystery novelist’s disappearance, and it dominated the headlines for weeks.

On Monday morning, huge search parties were launched. Police considered suicide most likely. Only Deputy Chief Constable Kenward of the Surrey Constabulary was certain that Agatha had been murdered. At any rate, searchers were looking for a body, not a live woman. Divers probed the Silent Pool, a “bottomless” lake that had appeared in one of Mrs. Christie’s novels.
December 12 saw the intensive “Great Sunday Hunt”, when thousands of people (including another mystery novelist, Dorothy L. Sayers) converged on Newlands Corner to make absolutely certain that Agatha’s body was not somewhere on the Surrey Downs.
Meanwhile, Archie told the Daily News that his wife had talked about staging her own disappearance on several occasions. The paper published pictures of Agatha wearing several potential disguises.

Archibald Christie was not considered a suspect at first, but when his affair and the circumstances of his departure from Styles became public, watchful eyes settled on him. He had initially denied having a mistress.Virtually overnight he changed from upstanding financier and war veteran to a shady adulterer and possible wife-killer.
Renowned crime writer Edgar Wallace offered the opinion, in the Daily News, that Agatha Christie’s disappearance was a revenge scheme against someone who had wronged her. Wallace wrote, “Her intention seems to have been to spite an unknown person who would be distressed by her disappearance.” He thought she might be found in London. He ruled out memory loss because he considered it “impossible” for anyone to reach a specific designation while amnesiac.

Then police received a phone call, not from a kidnapper or the discoverer of a corpse, but from a waiter. The head waiter of the elegant Hydropathic Hotel at Harrogate, Yorkshire, 250 miles away from Styles, was reasonably certain that one of the hotel’s guests was Agatha Christie. She had registered under the name Theresa Neele. Members of the Hydro Hotel’s band corroborated the sighting. The police were willing to follow any lead at this point, so after a preliminary investigation they dispatched Archibald Christie to the Hydro to see if he could identify his missing wife among the guests.
He waited in the Hydro Hotel dining room and, sure enough, his wife appeared. She had just finished a game of billiards and was about to change for dinner. She entered the dining room shortly afterward in a pink gown. For the past several days, this vivacious and talkative “Mrs. Theresa Neele” from South Africa had been a hit with the Hydro’s guests. According to some sources, she informed guests that she had lost a child and needed a rest. During the day she took long walks and did crossword puzzles. She was also seen reading the papers, which featured screaming headlines about the disappearance of Agatha Christie.
Strangely, Agatha had registered at the Hydro nearly 24 hours after leaving Styles. Where had she been in the interval?

Archie snuck Agatha out of the Hydro to avoid the press. She was taken straight to Abney Hall, home of the Watts family. Archie released a single statement to the press, explaining that his wife had suffered some sort of amnesiac episode. He did not attempt to account for the first 24 hours of her disappearance, and no further details were released to the public. When Agatha returned to Styles several days later, Archie did not rejoin her.

Here is where established fact ended and speculation began. Some locals complained that Mrs. Christie’s “publicity stunt” had cost taxpayers several thousand pounds. The Daily News demanded an “authentic explanation” from Agatha to “thousands of public who joined in cost of search and cannot understand the loss of memory theory”. She did not respond. Archie refused to pay 25 pounds he was fined for the cost of the search.
Yet no one could refute the explanation that Agatha had experienced a strange fugue state. Two doctors, a neurologist and a general practitioner, had confirmed it. In her autobiography, Agatha described the episode simply as a “nervous breakdown”. She refused to discuss it in interviews right up until her death in 1976. She did what she could to stifle gossip, though. In 1928, for example, her lawyer intervened in a libel case in which a Mr. Mitchell-Hedges had referred to Agatha’s “foolish hoax on the police”. He produced a medical certificate stating that Agatha had, in fact, suffered amnesia. Aside from this, Agatha remained mum on the incident.

Theories

The publicity stunt explanation offered up by the press seems outlandish. Agatha’s books were already selling well, after all, and if she had decided to get her name into the headlines with a vanishing, it would almost certainly not have been based on the traumatic breakdown of her marriage. Agatha was a very shy, reticent woman who liked to keep her private affairs private.
At first glance, a psychogenic fugue episode seems possible. During a psychogenic fugue, a normal, healthy person vanishes and reappears hundreds or even thousands of miles from home with no memory of how or why he ended up there, and science is at a loss to explain precisely why this happens. Sometimes the lost memories resurface, but more often they remain buried in the subconscious mind, leaving the sufferer of the fugue episode just as perplexed by his behaviour as everyone else.
Fugue states can also be a symptom of Associative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder), a condition in which the personality is so fragmented by early childhood conflict or trauma that numerous individual personalities emerge and manifest themselves at various times. Periods when an alternate personality is “in control” of the body are experienced as fugue states by the original (core) personality. Controversial as this disorder has always been, it continues to be diagnosed in psychiatric patients, most them female. Could Agatha Christie have been a “multiple”? Unlikely. Throughout her life, she didn’t exhibit any other signs of Dissociative Identity Disorder, and her early childhood had been a relatively happy and unfettered one.
An isolated fugue episode brought on by stress seems still more unlikely, because Mrs. Christie did read the papers whle staying at the Hydro. She saw photos of herself and read headlines about her own disappearance. This should have been sufficient to bring her out of an amnesiac fog.
Still, Christie’s biographers have more or less concurred that she had a mental breakdown followed by an amnesiac episode. It has been assumed that her use of the surname Neele was subconscious retribution against her husband.

Janet Morgan, Agatha Christie’s official biographer, theorized that Agatha lost control of her car at Newlands Corner and suffered a concussion in the accident. The problem with this explanation is that her car showed no signs of having been in an accident.

Then there was the matter of her clothes and money. Agatha left Styles on the night of December 3 wearing a plain skirt and sweater under her fur coat, and she carried very little money. By the time she reached the Hydro Hotel, though, she had a fashionable wardrobe that even included a purse with a zipper, a new device that some of the Hydro’s staff had never before seen.
Last but not least, Mrs. Christie had registered with the surname of her husband’s mistress. All in all, she seemed possessed of every faculty. Agatha even took out an ad in the The Times of London, asking friends of Theresa Neele, “late of South Africa”, to send any letters to a Harrogate postal address. Her behaviour at the Hydro did not in any way hint at memory loss.

There was also the statement that Archie’s brother Cameron made to the police. For some inexplicable reason, he said, Agatha had mailed him a letter explaining that she would be at a Yorkshire spa for a few days. It was postmarked in London at 9:45 a.m. the day after her disappearance. Perhaps believing that Cameron was just trying to save his brother’s neck, the police paid little attention to this odd bit of information. Anyway, the letter was never presented to them because Cameron Christie had misplaced it.

Acquaintances had reported that Agatha seemed unsettled in the weeks preceding her disappearance. She ate little, moved her furniture around compulsively, and wasn’t sleeping well. She was suffering from neuralgia and earaches. Since her mother’s death she had experienced difficulty in writing. Archie Christie was not terribly supportive after Clara Miller’s death, either. He remained in London while his wife mourned in Torquay. To top things off, he chose to divulge his love affair on Rosalind’s seventh birthday, while Agatha was still taking care of her mother’s estate. She had lost her first family, and now it appeared she was about to lose her second. There were other difficulties in Agatha’s life, too. For years she and Madge had been financially supporting their older brother Monty, a disabled veteran of the Boer and Great Wars. Monty was a handful. He shot at animals and the occasional visitor from his bedroom window for sport, persuaded Madge to invest in a never-launched cargo boat, and so exasperated his mother that she banished him from her home. He could certainly have contributed to Agatha’s depression and anxiety in 1926.

Part II: The Solution

Conspiracy Monday: And the award for Stupidest Michael Jackson Death Conspiracy Theory goes to….

According to a June 25th article at Natural News.com (home to all the alternative-health weirdness you can handle, plus more), Jane Burgermeister is an Austrian investigative journalist who recently filed criminal charges with the FBI against the World Health Organization, the United Nations, Barack Obama, various pharmaceutical company executives and public health officials, and others*. She alleges they are all complicit in a plot to carry out “mass genocide” against Americans and Austrians via the genetically engineered Swine Flu and Avian Flu viruses. This plot is being directed by the same international bankers who control the U.S. Federal Reserve.

In April, Burgermeister filed criminal charges in Austria against the Swiss subsidiary of Baxter International (the pharmaceutical company responsible for developing Swine Flu vaccine) as well as AVIR Green Hills Biotechnology of Austria, for producing contaminated Avian Flu vaccine (deliberately). She believes these companies created the Avian and Swine Flu pandemics in order to profit from the vaccines that caused the pandemics in the first place. This theory is shared by Alex Jones, Dr. Bill Deagle, and others.

As evidence that the Swine Flu is a genetically engineered bioweapon, Ms. Burgermeister included in her “dossier”quotes fromSwine Flu 2009 is Weaponized 1918 Spanish Flu by the anonymous “doctor” known as A. True Ott and a Science report by Dr. Jeffrey Taubenberger et.al. (Taubenberger’s team was the first to note the similarities between the 1918 flu virus and the Avian Flu virus).

Burgermeister says the mass murder via injection will facilitate the bankers’ ultimate goal to add the North American Union to their international crime syndicate and reduce the world population to just 1 billion within the next decade. They have already created a gulag of FEMA concentration camps and mass grave sites to get rid of those who stand in their way. Ms. Burgermeister evidently didn’t mention microchip implants in her dossier, but I’m sure they’re part of the plan, too.

So what in the freaking hell does any of this have to do with Michael Jackson?

According to an article by Sorcha Faal, posted at What Does It Mean and a few other conspiracy sites, Jackson was a “long standing supporter” of Ms. Burgermeister’s work. His concert tour would have given him a worldwide platform to warn the world about the flu vaccine plot, with the help of Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad al-Khalifa, son of the King of Bahrain. He and Jackson recently reached an out-of-court settlement involving loans intended to relaunch Jackson’s career. The sheikh was also a supporter of Burgermeister’s work.

Faal reveals that the FSB, the Russian security agency, blames the CIA for Jackson’s death. At the time he died, a Russian military satellite detected an electromagnetic pulse centered on Jackson’s house.

This theory fails at just about every level. For one thing, how do you get from an EMP to a CIA murder plot? For another, Ms. Burgermeister apparently denies that Jackson was a supporter, and suspects Faal is in cahoots with the Bankers of Death.

Faal doesn’t provide any sources for the FSB allegations, and this thread at the Above Top Secret conspiracy forum mentions a long list of declarations made by Ms. Faal that turned out to be just wrong, some of them based on Pravda stories (for the record, Pravda has only suggested that Jackson knew he was dying). There’s even a lot of speculation that Faal is actually the alter ego of What Does It Mean editor David Booth. Sorcha Faal is supposedly Sister Maria Theresa, 73rd Sorcha Faal of the Sorcha Faal Order. The order has been around since 588 B.C., but has miraculously managed to avoid all publicity, academic scrutiny, and historical documentation.

 

* Including Janet Napolitano (Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security), David Rothschild, David Rockefeller, George Soros, the Chancellor of Austria, and the Austrian Health Minister

The Michael Jackson Conspiracy Theories

Unlike everyone else in the universe, I didn’t OD on Michael coverage last week, thanks to my vacation. Other than having to hear my grandparents complain for the umpteenth time that Michael’s people tried to take over an entire floor of a hotel in Kansas where they were staying two decades ago, I really wasn’t exposed to any Michael mania. Therefore, I was itching to find out what sort of conspiracy theories were brewing…

The dead Michael wasn’t the real Michael. Not an actual conspiracy theory, yet it totally explains everything. Beautiful.
Supporting evidence: Earlier this year the Daily Mail reported rumours that Michael used an imposter for at least one press conference.

Michael was too strung-out to do his tour, so someone killed him to avoid the embarrassment and high cost of cancelling all his shows, 50 of which were already sold out.
Supporting evidence: He was strung-out, and 50 of his shows were sold out. That’s about it.

Michael was murdered. This one has been used for online data-stealing, for obvious reasons – who can resist speculating? That’s why it is by far the most popular theory about his death. But it’s not developed enough to actually be a theory. No one has come up with a plausible motive yet. If you do the cui bono thing, then I think Paul McCartney would be your prime suspect (there are rumours that Jackson bequeathed McCartney’s own songs to him in his will). But let’s be realistic, here: If McCartney can put up with Heather Mills, he’s not a homicidal guy.
Supporting evidence: There really isn’t any. Of course no decent doctor would inject his patient with an overdose of painkiller, but decent doctors typically don’t work without a license, either.

Michael faked his death to get out of the limelight.
Um, why? When you’re already a semi-reclusive, deeply eccentric celebrity that at least half the world despises, a pseudocide really isn’t necessary. I doubt that he would relinquish his children just to go a bit deeper underground. Besides, how is he going to disguise that face? It’s not as though he can get any more plastic surgery.
Still, this is the second-most popular theory out there. It’s nearly identical to the theories that Tsar Alexander I, Jim Morrison, Andy Kaufman, Elvis, James Dean, and Paul McCartney faked their deaths to get some breathing room (Alexander, Morrison, McCartney), avoid the humiliation of disfigurement (Dean), or play the mother of all practical jokes (Kaufman). Those theories and the stories that have sprouted from them are quite flimsy, (I saw Elvis at the gas station! Jim Morrison is my neighbor!), but to be fair, pseudocides do happen. They just don’t happen to ridiculously famous people.
Supporting evidence: Grainy-ass, undated photos of Michael sightings.

Iran killed Michael. To be fair, I’ve only heard this theory from a single source. The idea is that Ahmadinejad or someone working on his behalf called for the murder of an internationally famous pop star just to take the heat off of him for a while. Michael’s doctor was bribed or blackmailed into doing the deed, if he didn’t actually volunteer.
The largest fatal flaw in this theory is that Iranians know a celebrity death is only going to totally dominate the news for about three days, tops. And that the reporters covering Iran’s election disaster are not the same reporters who do the entertainment beat.
Supporting evidence: lol

Conspiracy Monday Wednesday: The Stupidest David Carradine Theory So Far (Updated)

In lieu of a Wednesday Weirdness Roundup, here’s one big ol’ chunk of weirdness for you…

As you probably know, David Carradine, star of Kung Fu and the Kill Bill movies, died in Thailand on June 3rd. His death was apparently caused by either suicide or auto-erotic asphyxiation (sorry for TMI, but it’s kinda central to this post).

On June 6th, very shortly after the latter possibility came to light, Jones’ Infowars website reported on Extra correspondent Jerry Penacoli’s comment, during a Larry King broadcast, that Carradine was “very interested in investigating and disclosing secret societies” and that his death was “abnormal…not natural.”

Evidently, Kurt Nimmo of Infowars considered this a clue to the mystery. The following day, he posted a story titled “Author Claims David Carradine was Ordo Templi Orientis Member.”

This was probably big news to a lot of people, but I’ve been researching “Satanic panic” and witch hunts for several years, which has given me a fairly good grasp of the history and practices of the OTO and other occult organizations. (I could make this post 100 pages long with OTO-related trivia, but I’ll spare you for now. Just check out the Wikipedia entry if you want a quick rundown.)
I knew that John Carradine was involved somehow with the OTO, and a quick check of the two major biographies of Jack Parsons, Sex and Rockets by John Carter (Feral House, 1999) and Strange Angel by George Pendle (Harcourt, 2005), confirmed that he had read a poem by Aleister Crowley at the first meeting of the Agape Lodge in 1935, in Hollywood. This lodge later came under the leadership of Parsons and moved to Pasadena. Pendle mentioned that Carradine visited Parsons at least once after the move. There’s no mention that he was actually a member of the lodge, but let’s assume he was, just for the sake of argument.

Nimmo referenced two works. I had heard of Martin P. Starr’s The Unknown God: W.T. Smith and the Thelemites (2003), which is a biography of the man who established the Agape Lodge, but Craig Heimbichner’s Blood on the Altar: The Secret History of the World’s Most Dangerous Secret Society (2005) was completely unfamiliar to me. I soon found out why.

The link at Infowars led me to the online store at Revisionist History.org, “The Independent History and Research Co.”. This is the website of Holocaust “revisionist” (denier) and professional conspiranoid Michael A. Hoffman II. His store offers an array of B-grade conspiracy books and racist/anti-Semitic literature, including Hate Whitey: The Cinema of Defamation, Hoffman’s own Witches and Rabbis: Legacy of the Reagan White House, and the batsh** insane ramblings of the late James Shelby Downard.

Blood on the Altar supposedly exposes OTO links to NASA, Patriot groups, NAMBLA, Kabbala, ’60s drug culture, and neo-conservatism – among other things. In fall 2005 Paranoia magazine reviewed it, and Heimbichner replied with an essay posted at Revisionist History. A link to this essay was provided at Infowars. In it, Heimbichner states that two-party political systems “are minted from the kabbalistic schema of Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572)” and repeats the names of some prominent people “linked” to the OTO: Alfred Kinsey (who made a single visit to the abandoned Abbey of Thelema years after Crowley’s death), Aldous Huxley, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Rampolla, Robert Heinlein (who may have corresponded with Parsons, a sci-fi fan; Heinlein’s widow and L. Sprague de Camp claimed the two men never met in person), and of course John Carradine (curiously, the only entertainer mentioned).

Why did Nimmo choose to reference an alarmist, anti-Semitic screed peddled by a Holocaust denier, rather than thoroughly respectable works like those written by John Carter et al? Only he knows for certain, but I suspect his answer would only reinforce my utter disrespect for Infowars and Prison Planet.

Now, let’s look at the story itself. The implication is, of course, that David Carradine learned too much about the OTO, and someone murdered him to keep him quiet. This really has nothing to do with what Jerry Penacoli and Keith Carradine’s attorney, Mark Geragos, were talking about on Larry King. They suspected that David Carradine had uncovered some dirt on the “martial-arts underworld”. But let’s set aside the second-stupidest theory about Carradine’s death, and deal just with the OTO thing.

Is Nimmo’s suggestion plausible? Not really. OTO members, past and present, tend to be proud iconoclasts – they don’t care if you know what they do in their spare time. Parsons, for instance, was repeatedly slandered and condemned by neighbors and colleagues, but never once backed off from his occult interests to appease anyone. His rituals might have remained secret, but his lifestyle didn’t.

Nor are OTO members known to be violent, dangerous, or menacing. They’re mostly productive and responsible citizens, highly intelligent and creative. Does Robert Anton Wilson seem like the kind of guy who would have barged into a man’s hotel room, ruthlessly murdered him, then staged an embarrassing suicide just to keep anyone from knowing he was a member? Srsly?

From its inception, the American OTO has never been implicated in any serious wrongdoing. Probably its gravest offense, legally, was in allowing gay and bi sex rites at a time when homosexuality was illegal. Members tend to like their illicit substances, but they aren’t hardened criminals. Subversive? Yes. A little pervy? Maybe. Somewhat gullible? Yes, especially in Parsons’ case. But not coercive or cultish, and certainly not some kind of occult Mafia that dispatches assassins to Thai hotels to kill septuagenarians.

If someone connected to the OTO did kill Carradine, then there would likely be some evidence of murder that Thai officials would have to cover up. The question is, why would they? The OTO has never been as star-studded and influential as Freemasonry, Opus Dei, or other “secret” societies, and it doesn’t have a strong presence in Asia.

Do OTO members worship Satan? No. Alex Jones and company might say yes, but no. “Occult” does not equal “Satanic”, period. Crowley and Parsons dabbled in some dark stuff, certainly, but even they couldn’t really be called Satanists. Their belief systems were a melange of ancient Egyptian, Tantric, Kabbalistic, Hermetic, Gnostic Christian, and Eastern ideas, just as the OTO is.

Is the OTO part of the New World Order? Not freaking likely, at least not the same NWO Jones imagines. In his NWO, Communists and Nazis and liberals and neocons are all of a piece. Both the OTO’s co-founder, Theodore Reuss, and its most infamous member, Aleister Crowley, worked as anti-Communist informants in Germany. Crowley disseminated Nazi propaganda in WWII, but to this day no one’s quite sure if he was working on behalf of British intelligence or not. And the OTO leader who replaced Crowley, Karl Germer, was captured by the Gestapo, tortured, and thrown into a concentration camp because the Nazis hated secret societies they couldn’t control.
The OTO just isn’t cut out to be an Establishment outfit. Maybe if Pat Buchanan joins….

Is the OTO, as Heimbichner contends, the next step beyond Freemasonry? Yes and no. While some founding members were Freemasons or faux Masons (belonging to lodges that weren’t officially recognized), Crowley – a faux Mason – removed virtually all of the OTO’s Masonic trappings and replaced them with other occult traditions. By the time the OTO reached America, it was less Masonic than Mormonism was.

In Alex Jonestown, any private organization or gathering that isn’t totally transparent and open to any schlub who wanders in off the street is suspect. In the real world, a little secrecy among friends never hurt anyone. Including David Carradine.

But as long as we’re making completely retarded and irresponsible insinuations, maybe Jerry Penacoli killed David Carradine because he knew too much about that gerbil thing.

Some Other Stupid OTO Allegations:

– Ed Sanders, in his lurid Manson bio The Family, claims Manson had dealings with “an irresponsible bastard child of the OTO”, a “devil cult” in Southern California. This is a reference to the Solar Lodge, which was basically a hippie drug cult that claimed descent from the OTO. It was apparently an unauthorized attempt to resurrect the OTO in California, mostly dormant at that time due to contested leadership. The Solar Lodge was not a Satanic group, and there is absolutely no solid evidence that Manson nor any member of his clique had any dealings with the SL, ever. That’s why Sanders was forced to remove the group’s name from later editions of his book.
Sanders insists Manson was also a member of the devil-worshipping “Four P” cult spoken of by convicted killer Stanley Dean Baker, though there’s no evidence this group even existed. Maury Terry ran with this by declaring in his book The Ultimate Evil that the Son of Sam murders were carried out by a splinter group of Four P, itself supposedly a splinter group of the Process Church of the Final Judgement.

– In The Ultimate Evil, Terry contends that The Process incorporated some of the tenets of the OTO, and that the “entire occult underground in America today” can be traced to the Agape Lodge in Pasadena. Very early in his investigation of David Berkowitz, Terry wondered if Berkowitz was involved “with that treacherous English society [The Process] or its OTO counterparts.” At the end of his investigation, he concluded that an offshoot of the Four P cult was responsible for the Son of Sam shootings, and that Four P was an offshoot of The Process.

– Conspiracy researcher Alex Constantine (who might leave a livid, barely coherent comment on this post, ’cause he likes to Google himself) says the Solar Lodge and the OTO were probably CIA-financed and -controlled organizations specializing in mind control, murder, and mayhem. I don’t know about the SL, but as I mentioned earlier, the OTO is not coercive.
So far as I know, no known members of the OTO have committed murder. Yet author Peter Levenda also characterized SL and OTO members as murderous thugs.

– In the ’90s, NYC performer Janice Knowlton recovered memories of childhood ritual abuse and murder, perpetrated by her father in California. Around Halloween 1946, when she was 9, her father pimped her out to a Pasadena sex cult for use in a ritual. She was taken to the basement of a church-like building somewhere near Marengo Avenue and Green Street. There, men in hooded robes stood in a circle and chanted while Janice was instructed by her father to perform oral sex on at least one of the men.
She also recalled being at his side when he murdered women, including his pregnant girlfriend, Elizabeth Short – the Black Dahlia. One problem with this account (and there are many) is that Short was not pregnant at the time of her death.
Knowlton and the co-author of her book (Daddy Was the Black Dahlia Killer), Michael Newton, decided that the sex cult must have been the OTO. They attempt to build a bridge between occult rituals and child sexual abuse, but the span falls far short of its mark. “At this point it should come as no surprise to learn that rumours of cult-related child pornography were current among Los Angeles social service workers in the 1940s”, they write. Perhaps not. But the OTO has never been implicated in anything remotely resembling child abuse. And Knowlton has no reason to believe that the black-hooded men she allegedly encountered were OTO members, anyway.

With all the dangerous cults and bizarro religious groups in existence, why do conspiranoids prefer to pick on an organization that has a clean track record? I think there are several possible answers:

The Crowley connection. Though he wasn’t really a Satanist and didn’t engage in criminal activity (excluding drug use and homosexuality), he’s still considered a Satanic monster by many of those who are unfamiliar with his beliefs and practices.
The NASA connection. Parsons worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and every conspiranoid worth his salt knows that NASA stands for “Never a Straight Answer”. Richard Hoagland has even linked NASA to secret societies, suppressed knowledge, and dark occult deeds.
Sex. Though only the higher levels of the OTO practice sex magick, and despite the fact that one degree actually requires a temporary oath of celibacy, the OTO retains its rep as an ultra-pervy orgy club. Conspiracy theorists don’t seem to have a problem with the Kama Sutra being widely available, but the notion of Tantra plus magick outrages them. Many of them think sex for anything other than heterosexual procreation is a particular vice of the wealthy and debauched. For instance, JAlex Jones seems to believe that the “elite” (educated professionals, elected officials, appointed officials, etc.) are more sexually deviant than the rest of us, and delights in pointing out examples of their sex-related misdeeds. It’s a convenient way to undermine your enemy; Marie Antoinette was accused by her political rivals of everything from lesbianism to incestuous pedophilia.
It’s a “secret society”. To Jones, secret = bad.

Update:

I spoke too soon. This is the stupidest Carradine theory so far: On yesterday’s broadcast of The Alex Jones Show, guest Wayne Madsen suggested that Carradine probably had a heart attack in one of the Bangkok S&M clubs that caters to diplomats, Hollywood actors, and other VIPs. So to avoid the embarrassment of admitting that Carradine died in a whip-me-beat-me establishment, the owners and/or someone acting on behalf of the actor’s manager removed him to his hotel room, hung him in the closet, and staged his demise as a masturbation-related accident. ‘Cause that’s a lot less humiliating for everyone involved.

Atomic Nerds pointed out that Mark Geragos’ theory is actually the best one ever, and I have to agree. Now that Bush is out of office, blaming ninjas for everything has its appeal.

I’m wondering if Benjamin Fulford’s Freemasonic ninjas had some part in this. Maybe they realized that targeting movie stars would have more of an impact than going after government officials.

Conspiracy Monday: The Ballad of Butler County

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To be fair, the story of Debra Hunter Pitts can’t really be called a conspiracy theory. The proper designation would be “unadulterated bullshit”.
She waited many years to tell her tale, and when the time was right, she selected only the most unimpeachable information outlets: Rabid anti-Zionist broadcaster Greg Szymanski, and conspiracy researcher Wes Penre (founder of the website Zionist Watch). Good thinking, Ms. Pitts: Just the guys to go to with a story about evil Nazis.

The following is derived from Wes Penre’s interview of Ms. Pitts, available here. I also listened to her interview on The Edge Radio, but the sound quality is very poor.

It all took place in Butler County, Missouri (population 13, if you count the brothers who were fused together in an industrial accident as two separate people*). In the ’50s and ’60s, Debra grew up in a family that worshiped Satan because, let’s face it, snake-handling gets old after a while. She was raised in the household of her stepfather and stepmother. Think on that for a minute.
According to Debra, Butler County was run by a cabal of nasty people she variously describes as Nazis, CIA agents, Illuminati members, and Satanists. They had connections to the highest levels of the U.S. government and beyond, which is probably how they managed to get running water as early as 1956*. This cabal was plotting to take over the United States and install a Fourth Reich.
Sometime in the late ’50s, Debra finally noticed that the gawdawful stench rising from the woods behind her stepdaddy’s property wasn’t just coming from the outhouse; there were about 300 bodies buried in a mass grave there, belonging mostly to out-of-towners. Hence Butler’s unofficial nickname: “The Show-Me Where Else I Can Go County”.

Doing what any normal young girl would do, Debra decided to remain in Butler County for the rest of her life and raise a family.
Fortunately, she didn’t have to dip into the local gene pool, because both Carlos Santana and Eric Clapton breezed through town on their way to somewhere else and fathered her love children**. Both men wanted to announce this from the rooftops, but Debra gently informed them that fathering illegitimate kids with a woman controlled by a Southern Nazi-Satanist cult might create some PR difficulties for them.

Debra was no fool. While her family and neighbors ritually sacrificed tourists, teenaged Debra started a paramilitary resistance unit called Militia One, so named because it had one member. But not for long – Santana, Clapton, and a gang of other Hollywood celebs soon joined the fight against the powers of darkness in rural Missouri. And they kicked some ass.

By the mid-’80s, the cabal still hadn’t taken over the country due to technical difficulties like having substandard footwear and not actually being able to read the printed word. Debra sensed that the Illuminati was getting closer to their goal, however. This was confirmed for her when the mass grave was excavated by agents from the FBI and the Treasury Department (hey, don’t be fooled – they have a crack forensics team!). Rather than arresting anyone, the feds merely disposed of the bodies elsewhere and let things continue as usual in Butler County. Your tax dollars at work.

Debra was on her own. Except for her secret weapon: Militia One. It was time to summon her coke-fueled L.A. loverboys so they could assemble into a massive, Satanist-stomping machine. Kinda like Voltron, only cooler.

How did Debra meet these celebrity folks? Well, you see, she and her secret twin sister were child geniuses. The baddies who ran Butler County were so blown away by Debra’s Christian preaching that they contacted the top producers in Hollywood to tell them that a “goldmine” was ready to be groomed for superstardom. Her singing, dancing, and psychic powers would be a mighty tool in the hands of the Satanic Nazis. Imagine Shirley Temple crossed with Sylvia Browne, if you can stomach that.

The bigwigs were so intrigued by film footage of this dancing preacher-girl that they hired Satanists to dress up as limo drivers and chauffeur them through Butler County so they could get a peek at Debra. In this way she met John Lee Hooker, Jack Elam, and Jay Silverheels. When she was all of 13, Santana and Clapton parked their white limo in front of her school and struck up a conversation with her. It became clear to Debra that the Hollywood folks were on the right side of the battle between Evil and Not Evil; they clearly wanted to use her prodigious talents to defeat the evil plans of Butler County’s Satanic Illuminati Nazi brigade.

So Debra decided to accept funding from Clapton, Santana, et. al., rather than become rich and famous herself. That might have diluted her godliness, you see.
Somehow the trio became sidetracked by songwriting and movie plans. Debra wrote “Layla” at Eric’s request, cleverly hiding the story of a Satanic Nazi murder in what appears to be a love song. She completed it during one of her high school classes and passed it out the window to him. She also came up with the name Derek and the Dominos, though the lovebirds had a minor spat over how to spell “dominoes”. She thinks it’s very uncool that Pattie Boyd is so obsessed with Eric that she spreads false information about “Layla”, and she’s slightly peeved with Eric for failing to give her songwriting credits as promised.
The three pals also scripted and acted out comedies and Westerns that they would produce together after the Illuminati was defeated. In 1984 they even filmed a star-studded, improv romantic comedy in Texas to help them expose the Nazis. They filmed all the on-set fisticuffs that broke out between their Nazi minders and the film crew, then included the footage in the final cut for all the world to see. Stars included Yoko Ono, Tom Petty, Andy Warhol, Mickey Gilley, and Willie Nelson.
This film was shelved, but Debra assures us it will be released soon.

In 1971 Clapton saw one of the mass graves for himself and decided it was time to get Interpol involved. Unfortunately, you can’t just phone Interpol and say, “Hi, I’m an internationally renowned musician, and I’ve just seen a gravesite full of hundreds of bodies of unknown murder victims.” That’s not the way it works. First you have to find someone else to use as a contact – in this case, a 16-year-old girl that you’re apparently doing – and make a DeBeers diamond commercial with her so that Interpol will take you seriously. Oh, and you have to buy the diamonds first. You can’t just get them on loan for the commercial.

This brilliant scheme worked. Seeing the video of Eric Clapton hanging out in a limo with an underaged girl dripping in diamonds convinced Interpol agents that something very messed-up was going on in Butler County, Missouri. They immediately made Debra an informant. With the help of Militia One and its advisor, “General X”, Interpol successfully infiltrated and dismantled the Nazi/Satanic infrastructure of the U.S. government and restored it to its original, pristine state.

So that’s how Clapton, Santana, and their baby mama saved civilization. Of course, the musicians can’t talk about this openly because everyone would assume they were just having acid flashbacks or something, so it’s up to Debra to spread the word and change the history books. She soldiers on even though the FBI has had her under continuous surveillance since 1984. She is very happy for Eric now that he is clean and married. They had two pairs of twins together (in addition to Santana’s kids, another pair of twins and a son named William Woodstock). She also had another pair of twins with her primary Interpol contact. All of these children were born from surrogates, and the FBI doesn’t allow her to see them very often.

Debra’s post-showdown story is hard to follow, but I gather that she murdered her husband, Bill Pitts, in 1990. She had to do it – his entire family was plotting to kill her for the insurance money and royalties. Thankfully, the FBI arranged for her to be acquitted.

If this isn’t a country song, it should be.

* Not really.
** Really.

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup

  • A blog called Suicide Food examines advertisers’ use of cute cartoon animals that cheerfully urge you to eat them. (Saturday Night Live lampooned this kind of thing with their decapitated Clucky the Chicken, but Suicide Food takes it to a whole new level.) Far from being a modern marketing trend, however, “suicide food” has always been with us in one form or another. As Margaret Atwood described in The Robber Bride, French serving dishes are often fashioned in the shape of the foods they’re meant to contain (fish-shaped fish platters, chicken-shaped egg cups, etc.). Then there’s Charlie Tuna, the truly disturbing McNugget Buddies, the ham-eating pigs in the Boost Mobile commercial, etc. It is kinda creepy, especially when you consider that self-sacrifice and suicide are virtually unheard of in the animal kingdom (Disney invented that stuff about lemmings).
  • CGI is a Zionist tool used for sorcery and brainwashing! Well, if you actually believe anything you see on Iranian TV. A very confused guy tries to explain that ancient Egyptian rabbis (???) passed on kabbalistic “witchcraft” to the Knights Templar, and it ended up in the Harry Potter movies. Another guy declares there’s a cultural war going on between Zionist-controlled Hollywood and the Middle Eastern nations. If that’s true, Iran is clearly not even trying to win…
  • The 27 Club “theory” rides again. It’s weaker than usual this time, because most people (myself included) had never even heard of Big Brother contestant Jade Goody.
  • The ludicrous Smiley Face Killer(s) theory is still alive and kicking, too. IMHO, when you combine drunk college students with fast-moving bodies of water or moderately heavy traffic, theories usually aren’t necessary to explain the results. That said, The Foil Beneath My Hat has the best theory-within-a-theory so far.

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup

  • “Right to the moon! Seriously!” On a recent Coast to Coast AM with George Noory, a guest brought up a truly weird story: Jackie Gleason was friends with Nixon, and Nixon took him to a U.S. military base (Homestead AFB in Florida) to view the body of an ET. The story was told by Gleason’s second wife, Beverly, and can be found at many UFO sites. Whether the story came from Gleason himself or not, he did have a great interest in UFOs and the paranormal, appearing frequently on Long John Nebel’s radio show (the “grandfather” of Coast to Coast AM).
  • Captain Eric May, 9/11 Truther/”Holocaust heretic”, is crying wolf yet again. False-flag nuke attacks, martial law, Zionism, FEMA camps, yadda yadda yadda.
  • I thought that ritual abuse conferences went out of fashion with acid-washed jeans, but apparently not.
  • Orac at Respectful Insolence has a very interesting post on Jenny McCarthy in her pre-antivaccination days. Back then, she believed autistic son Evan was a “Crystal Child”, a notch above Indigo. These kids can do wondrous things that will change the whole world, like talk to trees and see fairies.

Good Model, Poor Role Model

I’m relieved to see a long-overdue website aimed at the most visible anti-vaccination scaremonger in America: Stop Jenny McCarthy.

That a bisexual nude model famous for her gross-out behaviour can reinvent herself as a role model for parents of autistic children and as a vaccine “expert” says much about our culture. It’s not that I have anything against Ms. McCarthy on a personal level – I think she’s gorgeous and fun, and I applaud her for taking such an active role in her son’s upbringing at a time when many celeb parents are relying on round-the-clock nanny service. It’s just that with all the real medical experts and autism researchers out there, it strikes me as a bad idea to give airtime to someone with no medical training, no postsecondary education, and no qualifications as a medical advisor. McCarthy has appeared on Larry King Live, Entertainment Tonight, and Oprah to air her views on the link between childhood vaccines and autism. Her story of “healing” her son through alternative therapies (a casein/wheat-free diet and probiotics) has also been on the cover of People and other supermarket magazines.
While McCarthy stresses that she is not anti-vaccine, she does publicly encourage parents to take advantage of religious exemptions for childhood vaccinations because vaccines contain mercury, antifreeze, and other ingredients that can cause autism. To date, every one of her statements about the hazards of vaccines have been demonstrably false.

The bottom line is that children who are not vaccinated often suffer and sometimes die from diseases which can be prevented by vaccines, while children who are vaccinated rarely suffer or die from these diseases. There is no link between autism and vaccines. Very few vaccines contain mercury, contrary to what Ms. McCarthy has said (some contain anti-freezing agents, to keep them from freezing). Anecdotal evidence from parents with no medical background is not a sufficient reason to avoid childhood vaccination.

McCarthy’s prominence in the anti-vaccine movement has somehow lent it an air of legitimacy that it does not have. As more and more parents decide that vaccination is too risky, we will see rises in dangerous diseases like polio and measles. This has already happened in other parts of the world; when religious leaders in several African countires told parents it is against God’s will for their children to be vaccinated, polio outbreaks resulted. This was one year after the disease was eradicated in Egypt.
My sister-in-law, a public health nurse, has told me that parents have been protesting in outrage when their unvaccinated children are denied entrance to local public schools. One mother couldn’t comprehend why her son should be kept out of school “just because he didn’t get a stupid polio shot.” Perhaps if these parents could spend some time with people suffering the devastating effects of polio and post-polio, they wouldn’t be complaining.

For more information on the public health dangers posed by the anti-vaccination movement, please see Dr. Steven Novella’s article in the Nov. 2007 Skeptical Inquirer. This issue also contains a brief article by Dr. Richard G. Judelsohn explaining the benefits of vaccines.

Idiot Radio Roundup

Alex Jones and Coast to Coast AM have struck new lows. If you’re surprised by this, please go away.

Yesterday’s C2C featured guest Bob Fletcher, a Georgia man who says he knows everything there is to know about the assassination of Sonny Bono. Back in the ’80s, Fletcher had a small company that sold those little furry toys that look like they’re moving if you stroke them a certain way. Business was hopping (he could barely keep up with orders), so Fletcher merged his company with a larger one owned by Gary Best, which sold cheap watches to convenience stores. We’re not exactly dealing with the Fortune 5oo here. But Fletcher was bowled over by his new business partner’s lavish office furnishings, and baffled to see military men dropping by to chat with Best (“Colonel” Bo Gritz and General Harry Aderholt were two of them). There were also many strange incoming faxes that appeared to be in code (“Received the potatoes.”), and on one occasion he heard Best speaking fluent Chinese or Vietnamese. Later Best flew to Geneva, Switzerland “on business” even though they had no business there (the watches he was selling to 7-11 were definitely not Swiss).

When Fletcher’s business began to drop, he confronted Best about all the strange goings-on, and was told, “We sell armaments.” Best handed Fletcher a brochure for the Hellfire missile. It turned out Best was supplying arms for NSA and CIA covert operations, buying up innocuous-looking, obscure small businesses like Fletcher’s to use as fronts. Best and General Aderholt are real people involved with the Iran-Contra scandal, and Best allegedly did use business fronts for some of his government-sponsored covert operations in Afghanistan. The notion that either of these men would have anything to do with a novelty toy company is laughable.

After stealing Fletcher’s company, Best used his toys to smuggle drugs overseas. Fletcher said a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that information about Vista Animal Factory had been classified by presidential executive order, for reasons of national security, so he began researching black ops and political corruption. Learning that California Congressman Sonny Bono was very upset over Waco and government misdeeds, he informed Bono of some of his findings and was commissioned to prepare an extensive report on government drug smuggling in 1997.

That’s why Sonny Bono was assassinated. His “skiing accident” was somehow rigged up to look accidental. I didn’t listen to the whys and wherefores of this because an hour of listening to Fletcher’s toy stories had put me into a boredom coma, but the bottom line is that Fletcher and Ted Gunderson have called for Sonny Bono’s body to be exhumed.

This was easily the stupidest C2C broadcast I have ever head. Stupider than Mel’s Hole, the Hale-Bopp spaceship, and Reptilian-human sex combined. Are they really so desperate for guests?

Well, maybe they are. It seems that C2C perennial fave David Icke has appeared on Alex Jones’s show three times in as many months. This is an interesting development, because Jones used to identify Icke as a “turd in the punchbowl”, peddling his ridiculous Lizard Overlords theory when there are so many real conspiracies out there.
And Jones shared some of those real conspiracies on yesterday’s show, soon sounding every bit as cracked as poor old Icke. Did you know, for instance, that the Illuminati New World Order Elite Scum wrote The Matrix to desensitize us to their plan to place us all in tanks and lock us into a hive mind? Don’t believe it? You need proof? Well, Macey’s is now selling Illuminati brand clothing! What other proof do you need? Do you really expect Jones to do actual research? ‘Cause he’s far too busy saving the planet.

After hearing Jones declare for the umpteenth time that the Cremation of Care ceremony at Bohemian Grove is a “mock child sacrifice”, I switched over to C2C with the notion that tonight’s guest couldn’t possibly be any worse than Bob Fletcher.

Wrong. Marc Seifer was explaining how the Rife machine works perfectly, and how Tesla shot laserbeams at the moon.

To quote Bruce Springsteen,

This is radio nowhere
Is there anybody alive out there?
Is there anybody alive out there?