2014: The Year in Psychic Fail

mzarathustra1It’s that time of year again: Time to review some of the psychic predictions made for last year.
Sylvia Browne is out of the picture now, but as Illuminutti has pointed out, she made one last set of predictions that turned out to be very wrong. How did the upstart psychics fare?

Nikki, “Psychic to the Stars”

I covered Nikki’s predictions two years ago (and I’m still waiting for Stallone to nab that Tony nomination). It seems her style has really evolved since then. Her predictions have become more specific and less cataclysmic in nature, making them more believable than “the map of the world will change” or “Earth will fall off its axis a little more”. However, she still has that peculiar habit of combining world-shattering events like food riots and massive earthquakes with events so mundane that you wonder why the spirit world would even bother to communicate them (the death of a royal horse, marriage for Oprah).

Nikki claims that a ton of her 2014 predictions came true, including health problems for Cher and Avril Lavigne, a “space tragedy”, and the deaths of four celebrities. This year, she has unpacked a whopping 290 predictions for the new year, not including a list of dozens of public figures who may die and/or have health issues. That’s a good strategy. If you throw enough shit at the wall, something has to stick, right?

Let’s take a closer look at Nikki’s listed predictions for 2014. Out of 45 celebrity predictions, three were accurate (“Mathew McConaughey nominated for an Oscar”, “12 Years a Slave winning numerous awards”, and Rob Ford’s appearance on Jimmy Kimmel). Four, if you’re very generous and include “Cher has to watch her health”. Cher is 68 years old. Everyone in their late 60s has to watch their health.
Most of the predictions on Nikki’s list were absurdly vague (“Danger around Justin Beiber”), and several were ludicrously safe bets (“A country music legend will pass”). Of the seven relationship breakups she predicted, not one actually happened. She predicted a “slight accident” for Tom Cruise and cautioned Johnny Depp to be careful around motorcycles, but said nothing about Bono’s bike mishap. Not even the predictions that seemed highly likely (“Miley Cyrus full body cast”) came to pass.

Nikki’s success rate for world events is even more dismal. The Egyptian pyramids were not sucked into a giant sinkhole, a gorilla did not devour its trainer, and the Empire State Building was not attacked by terrorists. The Coliseum Colosseum did not partially collapse, civil war did not break out in the U.S., and Mt. St. Helen’s Helens did not erupt. Her obsession with bird attacks didn’t pan out, either.

Birdemic_13

Maybe next year.

I predict that in 2015, Nikki will finally hire an editor.

T.B. Joshua

This year’s Top Fail award goes to T.B. Joshua, one of Nigeria’s most successful televangelists. His megachurch, The Synagogue, Church of All Nations (SCOAN), broadcasts his sermons to millions on its own channel, Emmanuel TV.
Joshua’s predictions merit special attention, because he presents them as information imparted to him directly from God – old school prophecy in action. Let’s examine just one of the many prophecies Joshua unveiled in 2014.

On March 8, a video made up of clips from Joshua’s July 28, 2013 sermon was posted to Emmanuel TV’s YouTube channel. During that sermon, Joshua asked his audience to pray for an Asian country to help avert an airplane crash that could happen there. He indicated the plane would have some kind of problem that could be detected while it was still on the ground. “I see a balloon,” he said.
If the plane crashed, almost 200 passengers would die.
Joshua explained that God had revealed the name of the Asian country to him, but he wouldn’t reveal it for fear of disrupting air travel to and from that nation.
The video then segues into clips of news stories about Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, the plane that had just vanished.

The March 8th video is impressive, I have to admit. Here’s a guy in Africa, predicting a major Asian air disaster more than six months before a Malaysian airplane goes missing in one of the weirdest unsolved incidents of modern aviation history. Sure, Joshua was a little skimpy on the details, but that’s a remarkably on-target prediction, right?

Maybe not so much. Another video, showing an unedited version of the same July 2013 sermon, tells a rather different story. In this clip. we hear Joshua clearly say that the plane will crash just metres from its takeoff point…a key detail that somehow didn’t make it into his official video.

God revealed the crash to Joshua, yet Joshua has (obviously) played no part in locating the plane. A full day after searchers started looking for it in the Indian Ocean, he suddenly suggested that very area as the site of the crash, and revealed for the first time that some sort of confrontation or hijacking involving “strange people” was the root cause of the tragedy. He confidentally asserted that wreckage would be found in the ocean within a week.

what

WHAT ABOUT THE BALLOON, THO?

Okay, so one of T.B. Joshua’s prophecies was a bit wonky. Let’s all give him the benefit of the doubt, and see how he did with other 2014 prophecies over at the blog T.B. Joshua Watch.

Terry and Linda Jamison, the world’s “most documented” psychics

The California-based Jamison twins revealed dozens of 2014-2015 predictions during an online radio broadcast (Beyond the Gate) aired on January 6, 2014. They called 2014 The Year of the Truth Revealed – lots of uncloseted skeletons and exposed corruption. They also explained that Light Beings are helping us form crystalline bodies, increasing our “manifestation potential”. So, uh, enjoy that.
They also accused Lady Gaga of stealing their costume designs from the ’80s and ’90s.

They offered some helpful career tips (computer skillz) and a few investment tips (oil, gas, biotech, and wellness).

On their website, they have a page devoted to predictions made on this show that came to pass in the latter half of 2014. However, after listening to the broadcast on YouTube, I have a hard time matching their predictions to any of the events listed on this page. They did make a few successful predictions on the show –  that Republicans would win the Senate, for instance – but I didn’t hear them talking about the specific events on the list. They just matched real-world events to the vague statements they made. For instance, their airy prediction about “breakthroughs in prostrate cancer” is matched to a vitamin D study, even though they didn’t give any such details on-air. This is classic retrofitting in action.

Bizarrely, though, they can’t even get their retrofitting quite right. They write that Nicole Kidman’s father died in the Philippines amidst rumours of pedophilia and participation in a “child murder ring”. In reality, Antony Kidman died in Singapore. He was not under investigation for anything at the time of his death, because the International Common Law Court of Justice mentioned in blog posts about him is not an actual legal entity. It is a loose collaboration of individuals with no background in justice or law enforcement, acting under “common law” principles in the same manner as Sovereign Citizens or Freemen-on-the-Land. The allegations of Satanic ritual abuse and sacrifice that have been brought to light by the “Court” are extremely dodgy. I don’t say that lightly. The man who started the Court and popularized the Ninth Circle Satanic pedophile/murder ring meme and is now the primary investigator of its supposed crimes is a personal friend; for years, I supported his work with the survivors of Canada’s residential school system. In recent years, however, he has shown signs of mental strain and gullibility, traveling the globe to collect evidence that he believes implicates the pope, the English royals, and influential politicians in everything from mass child abduction to cannibalism. The International Common Law Court of Justice he established has presented no concrete evidence to support any of these accusations. The sole source of information about the Ninth Circle consists of testimony from various alleged victims of the cult, and they haven’t presented any evidence, either. As the stories spread via videos and blog posts, more and more people embrace them uncritically without asking for one iota of proof, just as the Jamison sisters have done. It is a disappointing and alarming trend.

Other “predictions” were flat-out wrong. “Homeopathy will be helpful” in the treatment of depression? Sorry, ladies: Sugar and salt and water won’t cure anything.

homeopathy one weird trick

Sidney Friedman

U.S. mentalist Friedman’s predictions are, by far, the most entertaining of 2014.

  • “Garlic is in the news.”
  • “Chivalry returns.”
  • “A shock wave, perhaps literally or perhaps figuratively, is felt in Russia.”
  • “Remarkably, for the first time, a poll finally finds one person who actually approves of Congress.”
ouija-lunch-box

I predict bologna sandwiches today.

LaMont Hamilton

Not one of pyschic LaMont Hamilton’s predictions for 2014 came to fruition, largely because they’re silly. He predicted scientists would find that diseases can be spread by our thoughts, that a mirror universe would be discovered, and that a former U.S. President or First Lady would die. He accurately predicted the Bitcoin crash, but attributed it to a faulty algorithm rather than plain old human greed. He also predicted that “nano-chemicals” would produce cars that don’t need to be washed as often as regular cars. His less-silly predictions crashed and burned, too:

  • An electrical fire at the NSA’s new Utah data center will be linked to sabotage. Nope.
  • The Nobel Prize in Chemistry will go to Alivisatos, Seeman, and Mirkin for their work on DNA nanotechnology.
    Nope. It went to these fellows for their work on super-resolved fluorescence microscopy.
  • At least 2-3 Congresspeople will resign their offices before the Fall elections.
    “At least” is a clever little qualifier that can save almost any dumb prediction from certain death. Clearly, though, Mr. Hamilton doesn’t pay much attention to how many resignations we see in an average Congress. The numbers are always higher than this.
  • The original 1969 USA moon landing site will be reported as damaged or vandalized by another country that lands on the moon.
    Nope. And c’mon, this is just goofy. No one was even planning a moon landing for last year.

Better luck next year, ladies and gentlemen.

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Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: Detroit Bigfoot & a Possessed Mongoose

mongoose

“Your mother sucks c***s in hell!”

  • The tale of Gef, the talking mongoose, is by far one of the weirdest and stupidest incidents in the history of the paranormal. In the summer of 1931, a remote farmhouse on the Isle of Man was invaded by what initially seemed to be a pest animal. James Irving, who lived in the farmhouse with his wife and precocious 13-year-old daughter, Voirrey, took to sleeping with a shotgun in the hopes of killing the creature that wandered around in his walls and hissed at the family. But then the activity escalated to poltergeist-like incidents, and the animal in the walls began talking to James and Voirrey. It sang songs and answered questions in a high voice, speaking perfect English.
    At some point, this talking critter darted into view long enough to be identified as a mongoose. The Irvings named him “Gef”. Gef claimed he had been born in India 78 years earlier, indicating that he was some kind of spirit possessing the form of a mongoose. He could supposedly see things occurring at a distance, and knew things about people without being told. He was antagonistic much of the time, hiding in the walls of the farmhouse to taunt and threaten visitors. At other times he was almost kind, leaving dead rabbits and other tokens of affection for the Irvings.
    This ridiculous local spectacle caught the attention of the era’s most renowned ghosthunter, Harry Price, who wrote a book about Gef (The Haunting of Cashen’s Gap: A Modern “Miracle” Investigated, 1936) even though he didn’t witness any of Gef’s alleged psychic gifts.
    The solution to the mystery almost certainly lies with Voirrey. She was a bright, curious girl who just happened to be transitioning into womanhood – a common element in poltergeist cases. She enjoyed rabbit-hunting. Evidently a skilled ventriloquist, she could make people believe the insults they heard from the walls weren’t coming from her.
    The only remarkable thing about the Gef affair is how long it lasted: Over 14 years, a very long time for a poltergeist hoax. It ended abruptly in 1945, when James Irving died and Voirrey left Cashen’s Gap with her mother. Gef was never seen (or heard) again.
    Now, 83 years after his squeaky voice first issued from the walls, Gef is the focus of a symposium that will be held later this year at Senate House Library in London.
  • Is the beleaguered bitcoin a failed virtual currency…or a cult fetish? Maybe a little of both?
  • Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around Gothic children’s TV series made in Britain: The Moondial, The Haunting of Barney Palmer, Into the Labyrinth. They all had a “this room is surrounded by film” quality, but who wouldn’t be creeped out by the intro for Children of the Stones? Fangoria has a fabulous rundown of other gems of British folk horror  on TV and film.
  • A Sasquatch squatting in a house in Detroit? Seems legit.

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: The Bogus Christian Memoir Hall of Shame

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

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

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

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

The Iceman Lieth

Was Mafia assassin Richard Kuklinski full of sh**?

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

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Who was Richard Kuklinski? 

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

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

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

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

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

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Roy DeMeo

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

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

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

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

Hoffa

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

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

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

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

nope

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

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

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

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

galante crime scene

The Galante crime scene

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

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

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

Castellano

Paul Castellano

Paul Castellano

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

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

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

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

DeMeo

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who was Robert “Mister Softee” Prongay? 

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

Ice Cream Man

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

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

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

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

Did Kuklinski really work for Roy DeMeo?

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

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

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

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

Was he a hitman?

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

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

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

Gravano

Sammy Gravano

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

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

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

York Motel

Worst housekeeping ever.

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

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

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

busted by a sammich

Busted by a sammich.

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

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

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

How accurate is the movie The Iceman?

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

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

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

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

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

Why I don’t believe Kuklinski, in a nutshell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pantsafireaward1

Postscript

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

Sources: 

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

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

srsly

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

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

Atacama Humanoid

The Atacama alien

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

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

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

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

1953: Spaceman hit by a truck

georgia monkey

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

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

1979: Puerto Rico’s baby Conehead

Puerto Rico Alien

Consume mass quantities.

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

1995: American alien autopsy

alien autopsy

His name was Bob.

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

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

Burrito Alien

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

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

1999: The Starchild skull

starchild skull

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

2005: Yugoslavian alien autopsy

Yugoslav alien

I prefer them medium rare.

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

2006: alien in a jar

attic alien

Antiques Roadshow estimate: $3.50

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

2008: Russian alien autopsy

Russian alien autopsy

Might be Joan Rivers. Somebody check.

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

2011: Siberian alien and Russian refrigerator alien

Siberia alien

finger lickin’ good

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

Russian fridge alien

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

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

roswell alien  brazil

The Prodigal Witch Part III: John Todd

Part I

The only positive thing I can say about the late John Todd is that he makes everyone else in this series look pretty good by comparison. At the height of his fame as a “former witch” he was also a sexual predator, a military imposter, and a practicing witch who used several aliases.

John Todd emerged on the Christian scene around 1968, at least four years before Mike Warnke (according to the Cornerstone article on Warnke, he accused Warnke of stealing some of his Illuminati material), but never gained the level of mainstream popularity that Warnke did. His tales of Satanic intrigue were just too dark and outlandish for the average Christian. Frankly, you would have to be either blissfully innocent or profoundly stupid to buy any of Todd’s b.s.
He was ultimately relegated to the far-right fringe, preaching to militia members and Christian Patriots about the endtimes and the need to establish armed strongholds. One of his last known locations before his arrest was Iowa, where he attached himself to a paranoid young couple named Randy and Vicki Weaver. He convinced the Weavers they needed to get away from populated areas and prepare for the end of the world. We all know how that turned out.

Even though his anti-occult invective wasn’t as appealing as Warnke’s, Todd still has his fans. Old audio recordings of his diatribes have popped up on YouTube, where he is vaunted as an Illuminati insider, framed by The Powers That Be. Henry Makow still promotes his story.

Who is John Todd?

No one really knows. His background is so occluded that even the year of his birth is in doubt. Possibly he was born in Ohio around 1950. He was taken into foster care as a youth. He suffered epileptic seizures throughout his life.
He was fairly good-looking and extremely tall (about 6’4″).
Given his peculiar fascination with daytime television and gay porn movies, I strongly suspect he was a failed actor.

Todd first surfaced on the fundamentalist Christian scene in Arizona in 1968, performing as a Pentacostal preacher. He was about 19 or 20 years old, married to a slightly older woman named Linda. Earlier that year he had been arrested in Columbus, Ohio for malicious destruction of property.
He told Pastor James Outlaw of the Jesus Name Church that he had recently been saved at a Pentacostal church service after practicing witchcraft in the Navy, and wanted to be re-baptized as a Jesus Only believer.
He then vanished for several years, resurfacing in 1973 as a born again warlock. He again said he had been saved at a Pentacostal church service, and identified himself as an independent Baptist, but preached mostly to charismatics. He was now married to a woman named Sharon Garver.
He went on the fundamentalist lecture circuit in Cali, educating churchgoers about the international Satanic conspiracy. His talks were a blend of pop conspiranoia, anti-occult fearmongering, and tell-all braggadocio.

Todd said his real name was Lance Collins, and he had been born into a powerful family of devil-worshiping witches with ties to the Illuminati. The Illuminati is the life’s blood of conspiracy culture today, but until the publication of Gary Allen’s None Dare Call It Conspiracy in 1972, it was largely forgotten. Allen and Todd helped nudge it back into prominence within conservative circles. It is extremely likely that Todd’s interest in the Illuminati was sparked by Allen’s book; we know that he was at least aware of it, because during one of his talks a woman in the audience mentioned it and he recited the title along with her.

The Collinses were direct descendants of Scottish Druids who posed as Puritans and imported witchcraft to America before helping to establish the Illuminati.
Todd’s mother was so ashamed of her witchy behaviour that she ended up in a mental hospital, hooked on barbituates. His foster mother, on the other hand, was the high priestess of all the witches in California, and his sister was made the high priestess of Ohio at the tender age of 13.
Todd was perhaps the first “former Satanist” to come from a Satanic family, but within a few years this would be the norm.
The hereditary Satanism he described bears little resemblance to Doreen Irvine’s “black witchcraft”, and no resemblance whatsoever to Mike Warnke’s “third level” Satanism. Presumably, as an Illuminati member, Todd was privy to knowledge that Warnke never imagined.

He was reared on a diet of “occult” teachings: ufology, spells, Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis.
Witch parents aren’t allowed to love or discipline their children; kids belong to the cult. At age 13 or 14, boys are sent to witch schools called Outer Courts to be trained as Satanic priests. Todd was initiated into the priesthood at 14. His sister became such a powerful high priestess that she could summon demons in the form of UFOs.
At age 18, while serving as a Green Beret, Todd became the high priest of his coven.

The Illuminati Todd describes is a configuration of pure evil represented (in part) by Freemasons, Mormons, international finance, Communists, and – paradoxically – the John Birch Society. He explained that very few Jews belong to the Illuminati, but the Rothschilds are at the top of the pyramid, totally controlling the illustrious Council of 13. All Illuminati members, whatever their supposed religious affiliation, are actually devil worshipers.
He claimed to know a great deal about the inner workings of Freemasonry, yet always called it “Masonary”. He also called the Trilateral Commission “the Trilateral Council”, and the Council on Foreign Relations “the Council of Foreign Affairs”.
Clearly, he was somewhat familiar with John Birch literature. But he never explained why the John Birch Society, as part of the Illuminati conspiracy, would expose all these real Illuminati fronts.

Let’s move on to the Satanism. Todd was, of course, a high-ranking Satanist within the Illuminati. He belonged to a Grand Druid Council headed by Raymond Buckland, the man hand-picked by Philippe Rothschild to head the Illuminati and a professor of anthropology at Columbia. Buckland revealed to Todd many things known only to high-level witches; lower-level witches were hand-fed disinformation and nonsense. He also received some witchcraft training from Ruth Carter Stapleton, sister of future president Jimmy Carter.
Buckland, as you may know, was indeed a very prominent witch. But he never taught at Columbia, and wasn’t an anthropologist. He was a flight attendant for British Airways. (For more information on Buckland, see my post “John Todd Addendum“.)

According to Todd, Satanists don’t congregate. This is quite a contrast to Doreen Irvine’s gatherings, which attracted up to 1000 black witches, and to Mike Warnke’s San Bernadino-area coven of 1500.
In Todd’s form of witchcraft, Satanists dealt directly with their high priests. They didn’t even know the other members of their covens.

The central scripture of Satanism is the Necronomicon, but copies are rare. The only copies known to Todd were kept in St. Petersburg, Glasgow, and the British Library.
In case you’re keeping track, that makes three different sacred texts in just three different “ex Satanist” accounts: The Book of Satan (Doreen Irvine), The Great Mother (Mike Warnke), and a book that doesn’t freaking exist (Todd). But hey, at least we’ve heard of the Necronomicon. Those other two books don’t seem to exist even in the realm of fiction.
All three cults were supposedly organized on a national level, and two encompassed the whole planet. So why aren’t all these Satanists using the same books?
And just for the record, Lovecraft stories never named St. Petersburg or Glasgow as locations of the Necronomicon. There were copies at the British Museum, Harvard, the Biblioteque Nationale, the University of Buenos Aires, and Miskatonic University.
Todd also referred to the book several times as the “Necromonicon“, just as he called Masonry “Masonary”.
Sheesh, he couldn’t even get his bullshit right.

Apocalypse Not

In ’69, Todd enlisted in the military. Illuminati witches are exempt from military service, but he wanted to set up some covens in other countries and this was a convenient cover. He served in Vietnam as a Green Beret before being transferred to Germany. One night, in Stuttgart, he got crazy drunk and high and (for reasons known only to him) engaged in a firefight with one of his former commanding officers. The man was killed. From military confinement, Todd phoned his foster mother in L.A. and asked her to cast a spell on the members of the jury at his imminent court martial, to make them believe he was innocent. (It would have been simpler to cast a spell on the commanding officer in charge of the court martial, but what do I know? I’m not a Satanic Illuminati witch.)
Instead, someone pulled major strings for Todd. A Senator, a Congressman, and two generals personally escorted him out of his cell. He received an honorable discharge, no questions asked. The Army even destroyed all Todd’s military records to help preserve the secrecy of the Illuminati.
In reality, Todd’s papers were not destroyed. And they tell a slightly different story: He served as a clerk in the Army from February 1969 to July 1970 without ever setting foot in Vietnam. He was stationed in Germany for less than a month and was discharged under a Section 8. You know, that thing Klinger was always trying to get by running around in drag? I wonder just how unstable a person would have to be to get a Section 8 during ‘Nam. I’m guessing “Charlie Sheen”.
Anyway, Todd had been making death threats and false suicide reports. A psychiatric evaluation conducted in ’69 found he suffered emotional instability, pseudologica phantastica, and possibly brain damage as well. He was also treated for a drug overdose at an Army facility in Maryland in 1969.

Devil Rock

Like evangelist/exorcist Bob Larson, Todd claimed to be a music industry insider. After ‘Nam, he was a manager at Zodiac Productions (variously described as “the largest music conglomerate in the world” and “the largest booking agency”), so he knew that every rock musician in America had to become a witch before he could get a recording contract, and that every master recording was taken to a Satanic temple to be possessed by a demon. Each major record label had its own temple.
In one of his anti-rock lectures, he recounts a conversation he had with David Crosby after his conversion:

Todd: “Do they still bring the master [recording] to the Temple…and conjure demons into the master? Is the purpose of rock music still to use witchcraft, cast spells…?”
Crosby: “Of course. You know that, Lance.”

The only moderately successful Zodiac Productions operating in the U.S. during the early ’70s was a film company that produced one film (a ’74 gay porno called The Portrait of Dorian Gay – NSFW) and several episodes of the ’60s variety show The Hollywood Palace. It did not have a music division.
To explain why no one recognized this mammoth media conglom, Todd said Zodiac was forced to change its name because of the negative publicity he brought to it. He did not divulge the new name.

World Domination and Stuff

In ’72, the Grand Druid Council received a diplomatic pouch from headquarters in London, containing an eight-year plan for world domination (culminating in December 1980). It involved economic breakdown, a military strike force comprised partly of prisoners, the execution of millions, and a Third World War that would spare only Jerusalem.
Around the same time, a letter from Satanic HQ announced the discovery of a man believed to be Lucifer’s son. He would serve as a false messiah to lead the masses astray. Todd later identified this Antichrist as fellow Baptist Jimmy Carter.

It was shortly after this that Todd was supposedly saved at a Pentacostal church service. Sometimes he placed this event in California, sometimes it occurred in Texas.

After his conversion and defection in ’73, the Satanists made many attempts on Todd’s life. This campaign of terror echoes the assassination attempts described by Mike Warnke and his first wife, and was equally unsuccessful. How is that these international Satanists can pull off world wars, but they can’t bump off two regular dudes?
Todd wouldn’t have been hard to find. He was working at a Pheonix, Arizona coffeehouse run by Pentecostal Ken Long, a local leader of the Jesus movement.

Todd’s extant lectures overflow with such stupefyingly retarded bullshit. Just a few examples:

  • Ayn Rand fans are Communists. Atlas Shrugged was commissioned by Philippe Rothschild (Rand’s lover) as a blueprint for the destruction of the U.S. and the Communist/Illuminati takeover of the world. Rand inserted racy passages in the book to keep Christians away from it. Todd doesn’t explain why Rothschild didn’t just write it himself. (One wonders, too, why the Satanists concocted an eight-year plan in the ’70s if Rand had already produced a step-by-step instruction manual for global domination back in ’57. I guess the Illuminati doesn’t mind busywork. Also, Rand’s hinky sex life has been exhaustively documented – I mean, seriously, TMI – and it didn’t involve any Rothschilds.)
  • JFK faked his death. Wait, no he didn’t. As “personal warlock” to the Kennedys, Todd met with JFK many times in the early ’70s. He never went into detail about this. In later talks, he said JFK was assassinated in 1963 because he was born again in Tampa, Florida.
  • Epilepsy is a medical condition, but the seizures are caused by demonic possession and/or medication. Todd actually instructed his epileptic listeners not to take their medication.
  • The supernatural soap opera Dark Shadows was based on the history of the Collins family. Todd was asked to bring a family diary to Hollywood, all expenses paid, one summer. He spent several months as a consultant to the writers while the series was being developed. I’ve never seen Dark Shadows, but my mother tells me most of the main characters were vampires and werewolves rather than witches, and there wasn’t any explicit occult content other than maybe a few black candles. Episode synopses at Wikipedia indicate the plot elements were culled from classic Gothic lit and popular novels.
  • Most of the cast of the Star Wars movies were gay men who had slept with the producers, culled from The Young and the Restless. The Y&R cast contained so many witches that Todd referred to it as an “occult soap opera”. But none of the primary Star Wars actors were ever in it. Mark Hamill was on General Hospital. Harrison Ford was never on a soap at all. Nor was Alec Guinness. James Earl Jones was on The Guiding Light and As the World Turns. Billy Dee Williams was on The Guiding Light; even though he still does a lot of soap work, he has never been on Y&R (interestingly, though, Ford and Williams appeared in some of the same films and TV shows: The Conversation, The F.B.I., and The Mod Squad). All of these men had considerable acting ability and would certainly not have to sleep with any producers to get work. Aside from Guinness, who was reportedly bi, not one of them appears to be gay. Maybe the Modal Nodes were gay warlocks?
  • Actress Cindy Williams (Laverne and Shirley) and her boyfriend started a witch cult. I suspect Todd singled out Williams because she and Penny Marshall co-wrote a screenplay about the Salem witch trials, Paper Hands. She was also in The Conversation, the tale of a man who lets paranoia and his imagination get the better of him. Hmm.
  • Most Israeli license plates contain the number 666. Todd was taking a big risk with this one. Any listener who had traveled to Israel would know he was full of it.
  • All of the people executed during the Salem witch trials were born again Christians rather than Puritans, and this is why the Collins family and other secret witches had them killed.
  • The Illuminati gave him $8 million to start the Christian record label Marantha Records, to corrupt Christian youth via Satanic rock music. Marantha would later produce such hardcore Satanic albums as Psalty’s Funtastic Praise Party.
  • The Dunwich Horror, starring Sandra Dee, was the most accurate representation of witchcraft on film. LOL. I’ve seen this movie, and about the only thing it accurately represents is Grade B cheese.

Part II

Move over, Burzum…

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: UFO Stuff



Cow-blood transfusions and other achy breaky bullshit

  • Yet again, a series of blurry-ass photos help prove the existence of Bigfoot. This is almost as convincing as the video of a blob-that-could-be-a-spaceship abducting a smudge-that-might’ve-been-a-cow. How can you go on denying the evidence?!
  • And speaking of alien cow abductions, at least one UFO Casebook forum commenter/alleged contactee still believes the old cattle-mutilation rumour that bovine blood can be transfused into humans. (Don’t try that at home, kids. I’m pretty sure you’ll just die from immunological shock and leave behind a very confused cow.) On the other hand, this commenter could be screwing with us: His source is a page that says nothing about cow blood and appears to be just an educational “murder mystery” for students.
  • Michael Horn, the spokesman for Swiss contactee/crude hoaxer Billy Meier, will be making two presentations to show why Meier’s story has been “suppressed” by the media (even though just about everyone who knows of Meier first learned of him through the media). Unfortunately for Horn, he announced these appearances with press releases.
  • I’m not exactly sure why, but MSNBC is giving a looot of space to a smackdown between author Leslie Kean (UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record) and NBC’s space analyst James Oberg. He’s criticizing her because eyewitness testimony is often horseshit, and she counters by saying he should have outed himself as a skeptic before writing anything about her UFO book. Is this really newsworthy? Someone writes a UFO book and a skeptic doesn’t like it? Doesn’t that happen every other day?
  • If you thought UFO Hunters was gawdawful, there are reports that a new SyFy channel series will star Billy Ray Cyrus and his son Trace. It’s reportedly going to be called UFOs: Unbelievably Freakin’ Obvious. Please let this be a hoax. Please.

Some Rather Pointless Hoaxes

  • No, Lindsay Lohan has not been poisoned. The search term “Lindsay Lohan Poisoned”, which popped up on Google Trends and elsewhere two days ago, is a publicity stunt by Alex Jones. He’s promoting an 11-minute video on the supposed dangers of ADHD medications, fluoridated water, vaccines, GMO food, etc. It’s amazing how many errors one person can cram into 11 minutes.
  • I’m not sure just how or why people fell for this one, but a few did: An email declared that on August 27th, a mysterious “second moon” would be visible in the night sky. NASA and umpteen science blogs were quick to set the record straight – the “moon” was Mars (which was nearly 200 million miles away). Weirdly – but to their credit – the Planet X people didn’t even try to capitalize on this.
  • Another peculiar email claims that for the first time in over 800 years, the month of August will have 5 Sundays, 5 Mondays, and 5 Tuesdays. This actually occurred just 6 years ago, and will happen again in the years 2021, 2027, and 2032.
  • There have been several shark sightings off the Massachusetts coast this swimming season, but at least one of them turned out to be completely bogus. Didn’t Bugs Bunny do this like 50 times?
  • Misleading internet headlines have given many people the impression that Buddy Valastro, star of The Learning Channel’s Cake Boss, was charged with sexually assualting a minor last week. In reality, Valastro’s brother-in-law was arrested and allegedly confessed to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl. As an employee of Carlo’s Bakery, he sometimes appeared on the show.
  • David Bowie has squashed rumours that he’s collaborating with Lady Gaga on a new single. The rumour popped up simultaneously on a glut of arts and entertainment outlets, many of which posted a *copy* of a document confirming that Bowie was doing co-production, guitar, vocals, and writing for Gaga’s next album. I’m not naming any suspects here, but I find it interesting that Gaga’s producer, RedOne, has been hyping this already-overhyped popstar even more than usual lately. He recently told Billboard her next album will be “shocking”, adding that it’s part of his job to “keep her evolving”. He has a lot of work to do if he wants her to evolve to the level of Bowie…

Demons prefer air freshener

I mentioned Paranormal State in my last post on “ghostbusters” Ed and Lorraine Warren. At that time I thought the show had plumbed the depths of duuuhhhh, but that was before I watched the episode rebroadcast tonight. A middle-aged, menopausal woman was experiencing poltergeist activity in her house, and Lorraine Warren declared that hormonal changes other than puberty can create such disturbances (poltergeists are most often reported in the homes of young teenagers, surprise surprise). But that wasn’t the funny part. The funny part was when Ryan Buell and a priest set up camp in the woman’s living room and Buell shouted, “We command you to make your presence known! I know you have thrown potpourri! If you are here, throw some now!”

Ghostbusters Part IV: Ed and Lorraine Warrens’ Other Notable Cases

Dolls, wolves, and perverts. Oh my.

At long last, this is the final post of the psychic detectives/ghostbusters series (you can read the other posts by clicking on Psychic Detectives or Ghostbusters in the sidebar menu). Enjoy!

The Smurl Haunting

The following information comes primarily from The Haunted, a 1988 book written by Scrantonian Herald reporter Robert Curran. The Smurl family and the Warrens collaborated with Curran.

Jack and Janet Smurl were a hard-working, straight-laced young couple just starting out. Both raised in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, both devoutly Catholic, they had met at a Christmas party for the candy company where they both worked and married just one year later, in 1968. They moved in with Jack’s parents, John and Mary.
Life went smoothly for them until 1972, when the Smurl home was flooded during Hurricane Agnes. The entire family reluctantly relocated to the small town of West Pittston, where the elder Smurls purchased an old duplex at 328-330 Chase Street, a working-class neighorhood full of similar duplexes and single-family homes. The house had been constructed in 1863, but seemed to be in decent shape. John and Mary lived in the 330 half, and sold Jack the other for a fraction of its worth.
Janet was delighted to have her own home at last. She promptly decorated it with statues of the Virgin and chintz curtains. Jack’s touch was added, too; a German Shepherd roamed the yard, and a portrait of John Wayne squinted down from the living room wall.
They quickly became active in the community, joining the Lions and Lionesses clubs and coaching girls’ softball. John, a welder, settled into middle management at his company. They had four daughters: Heather, Dawn, and twins Carin and Shannon.

Reno work unleashes hell, literally

Nothing of any significance occurred until two years later. When Jack and Janet replaced the old carpeting in their half of the duplex, a “mystery stain” appeared on the new carpeting so many times that they finally got rid of it. Then animal-claw marks appeared on brand-new porcelain bathroom fixtures and on freshly painted woodwork. The plumbing leaked. For the next eleven years, faucets and radios sometimes turned themselves on, empty chairs creaked, and bad smells permeated the house. The smells made the Smurls fear the house was subsiding, a common occurrence in an area riddled with old coal mines.

In the mid-’80s, these minor annoyances started to truly frighten the family. One day in 1985, Janet heard a soft female voice calling to her in the basement. She headed straight for her rosary beads. In February of that year, she glimpsed the first physical manifestation of the presence in the house as she ironed in the kitchen. A tall, human figure made of “black, roiling smoke” (much like the “man” on the ceiling of the Snedecker house) floated soundlessly past her, only to vanish in the living room.
Simultaneously, Mary Smurl saw an identical shadow person float through her living room wall on the other side of the duplex.
Janet began reading everything she could find about ghosts and demons.

The haunting escalated rapidly. On the evening 13-year-old Heather Smurl was confirmed into the Catholic church, a light fixture crashed to the floor, narrowly missing one of the 7-year-old twins. Janet attributed this to a demon, because she had read that demons are outraged by sacred rituals and objects.
Later that year, Jack and his mother experienced levitation while lying in bed, just like Kathleen Lutz in the Amityville House. Mary claimed her entire mattress floated close to the ceiling and refused to descend, forcing her to jump to the floor. She injured both knees.
Janet was dragged across her bedroom by an invisible force.
John and Mary heard “foul, abusive” language coming from Jack and Janet’s side of the duplex even though the couple swore they hadn’t been home at the time.
Mary watched a “headless puppy” race across her living room and disappear beneath the sofa. Rather than say, “Maybe it’s time to take Gran to the doctor”, the Smurls declared this another demonic manifestation.
All this time, the house continued to stink.

Guess who?

Janet finally decided to seek professional help in the summer of ’85. She phoned up parapsychology departments at various colleges, without success. Finally, a professor at Marywood College in Scranton referred her to the Warrens.

Once inside 328 Chase Street, the Warrens gave the Smurls their standard lecture about the very real dangers of tampering with witchcraft, ouija boards, and Satanism. The Smurls assured them they hadn’t experimented with anything of that nature.
It was time for Lorraine to do her sniff test. She quickly detected the presence of four entities: A senile old woman, an insane young woman, a man with a mustache, and a demon. Note, please, that Jack Smurl had a mustache.

As for the demon, it resided in the master bedroom closet. According to Lorraine, it had extraordinary powers; it could manipulate the other three spirits, put people into a state of “telepathic hypnosis”, and implant frightening images in the human mind. It might have been dormant in the duplex for a long time, but the adolescence of 16-year-old Dawn and 13-year-old Heather provided energy for the demon. Its goal was to keep the Smurls in a state of confusion, always doubting their own and each other’s sanity.

Immediately after warning the Smurls never to acknowledge or challenge a demon, the Warrens ordered the entire family to troop into the master bedroom while they attempted to flush out and challenge the demon. After taking infrared photos of the closet for no apparent reason, they used the time-tested method of turning out all the lights and playing Ave Maria on a tape recorder. Ed sprinkled holy water and prayed.
The demon reacted fiercely. The unplugged TV set glowed, dresser drawers trembled, mirrors swayed. Later that night, spirits slapped Janet awake and tickled Jack’s feet – not playful tickling, but what Curran described as the kind of tickling that can cause “weakness and even madness” if continued for a long time, whatever that means. Quake-like vibrations shook the entire house.

The house was blessed by priests on three separate occasions, but the Catholic church rebuffed all requests for an official exorcism. It was up to the Smurls and the Warrens to oust the spirits. The Warrens provided phone support throughout February 1986, as the infestation steadily worsened. Jack began seeing two transparent women hanging around the bedroom at night, wearing old-fashioned dresses and bonnets. Small objects like makeup vanished continuously, causing the girls to bicker. Lorraine pointed to this as another example of the demon causing strife; she didn’t suggest that perhaps the girls really were filching cosmetics from each other.
To aid them, the Warrens assembled a large, eclectic team of witnesses and researchers to spend time in the house. Members included police officer Roger Coyle and Ed and Lorraine’s grandson, Chris McKinnel (who also helped them investigate the Snedecker haunting). Every member of the team reported witnessing strange phenomena in the house, but McKinnell and Coyle saw and heard more than anyone. Chris heard pigs’ squeals on a tape recording.
Lorraine saw the shadow-man scratching on a bedroom window, and identified him as the demon. Ed claimed the demon tried to strangle him when he performed the “very dangerous” rite of provocation (calling forth a demon, then banishing it in the name of Christ). Writing appeared on a mirror: “You filthy bastard. Get out of this house”, an incident that echoes the scene from Jay Anson’s Amityville Horror in which a priest is ordered out of the house by a demon.

Succubus

The creepiest revelation by any of the Smurls (and remember, these are people who saw headless puppies and leapt from floating mattresses) came from Curran’s interview with Jack. He related how on the night of June 21, 1987, he was sexually assaulted by a succubus in the form of a hag disguised as a young woman. The entity had red eyes and green gums. Janet didn’t witness this episode – she was sleeping on the couch at the time – but she accepted her husband’s story as factual, and again attempted to enlist the church’s help.

Another odd incident occurred the next day, when Janet phoned the diocese. She spoke with a Father O’Leary, who, to her relief, expressed sympathetic concern. He even promised to speak with the chancellor on her behalf. Later, however, a friend informed the Smurls there was no Father O’Leary in the diocese. Sure enough, when Janet called back, a Father Mullally (sounds a bit like O’Leary…) confirmed this. He was patient but uncooperative. Curran and the Warrens rejected the possibly that Janet had simply misheard a name over the phone, concluding instead that the demon had infiltrated the phone line to impersonate a friendly, compassionate priest just to humiliate Janet.

The Warrens soon called in Father McKenna to perform an exorcism. McKenna was defrocked in the ’60s for refusing to recognize the reforms of Vatican II. He then became a traditional Roman Catholic in the Dominican Order of Preachers, and was later declared a “bishop”. He worked with the Warrens several times, performing exorcisms at his own discretion (like that of Maurice Theriault, which we’ll examine later). In fact, at the time of the Smurl haunting he claimed to have performed 50 exorcisms – about 20 of them successful.
This one was not successful. Within a few weeks, Dawn had to fight off an invisible incubus in the shower, Janet saw a slimy 3-foot-tall creature in the bathtub, and horrible odours became routine. The family decided to load up the Smurlmobile and go camping in the Poconos to get some peace and quiet. Things went fine until Jack, alone by the campfire one evening, spotted a teenage girl in Colonial dress lurking in the bushes, smiling at him. She vanished before his eyes. Later, they all watched a metal trash can spinning in circles. This convinced them the demon had followed them, and would probably follow them wherever they went.

No Exit

Predictably, the Warrens urged the Smurls to go public with their story on the pretext that someone who could help would contact them. They arranged for themselves to appear with Jack and Janet on an exploitative Philadelphia talkshow hosted by Richard Bey. But Jack and Janet protected their identity, appearing behind screens as Jack described being raped by the succubus. The Warrens, of course, did not.

In the months that followed the broadcast, no one with helpful information stepped forward, and the demon retaliated against the Smurls for appearing on Bey’s show (having seen it a few times myself, I can’t say I blame him).
Ed warned that the demon was struggling to physically possess one of the Smurls, and was frustrated because they were too resilient and godly to be overtaken.
The horrors increased: Jack saw a hairy pig-creature that walked on two legs (two legs good), and Janet spied the mustachioed spirit (he had horns).
In desperation, the Smurls decided to publicly reveal their names. Perhaps that would shame the Scranton diocese into helping them. Instead, rowdy gawkers camped out on their lawn, and reporters made the haunting a local legend.
Robert McKenna performed two more exorcisms, both unsuccessful. All-night prayer vigils were ineffective. Finally, in the late ’80s, the Smurls sold the old duplex and returned to Wilkes-Barre. Though they have remained mum on the haunting for many years, the Warrens have claimed the demon followed them to their new home and may never leave.

If the incidents in The Haunted really occurred, then the Chase Street haunting would be one of the nastiest and most bizarre on record. But the Warrens’ involvement casts a shadow on the entire affair. Aside from the shadow man, the elder Smurls didn’t see or hear anything unusual at first; it was only after Janet began to tell frightening stories that they started to have strange experiences. The Haunted states there were 28 witnesses to the events, but virtually all of them “wished to remain anonymous”, and the ones who did permit their names to be used didn’t witness anything that couldn’t be easily explained as non-paranormal in nature. None of the photos taken in the house showed anything unusual. The tape recordings that featured mysterious pig squeals were not examined or preserved. In the end, there is no compelling evidence that the Smurl haunting was truly as horrendous as The Haunted or the 1991 TV movie of the same name would have us believe. It’s simply another notch on the Warrens’ very strange belt.

The Ultimate Frivolous Lawsuit

In a 1989 court case, according to Ed, the Warrens proved that a woman and her son had been driven out of their Hebron, Connecticut home by ghosts. “The Realtor that leased her the house was suing her for $2,000. She begged us to go into the house and to get some evidence that would prove that there really were ghosts,” Ed told Jeff Belanger (“50 Years of Ghost Hunting and Research With the Warrens”, Ghostvillage.com).
Strangely, this isn’t listed among the Warrens’ famous cases on their website (nor is the Snedeker case, nor the Arne Johnson case). And I can’t find any information on the lawsuit. However, a very similar judgement handed down by the New York Supreme Court in 1991 made it possible for new property owners to sue the sellers if they were not told the property was previously advertised as haunted.

Raggedy Rampage

The Warrens actually highlighted this case on their website, and it was featured in Gerald Brittle’s book The Demonologist. More than any other case in their careers, this one indicates that the Warrens were not dealing with the full deck of cards. It reads like a script treatment for Bride of Chucky: In the ’70s, two young nurses named Donna and Angie turned to the Warrens for help. A large Raggedy Ann doll given to Donna by her mother was changing position and moving around their apartment of its own volition when they weren’t looking. Then childishly scrawled notes with the unsettling messages “HELP US” and “HELP LOU” (their roommate) began to appear.
A medium told the nurses that the spirit of a little girl named Annabelle had entered the doll. She had died in their apartment when she was just seven years old, and was desperate for human playmates. So, rather than burning the thing or laughing themselves into a coma, the women started calling the doll Annabelle and treating it like a real child. Lou, on the other hand, was convinced Annabelle was a “voodoo doll” that was “taking advantage” of Angie and Donna. He had nightmares of the doll crawling up his leg to strangle him, and on one occasion a deep claw mark mysteriously appeared on his chest. The doll only moved when Angie and Donna weren’t around, but there’s no mention of where Lou was during these times. Both women insisted there were no signs of entry by an intruder. Now, any half-sensible person would wonder what role Lou might have played in all this.
Ed, on the other hand, immediately concurred with Lou: The doll was possessed, and not by some sweet little dead girl. The nurses had inadvertently welcomed a demonic entity into their home. It caught their attention by teleporting the doll around, which made them acknowledge the presence of a spirit (their first mistake). Then they consulted a medium to find out more about the supposed ghost (their second mistake; while self-proclaimed demonologists like Ed and self-proclaimed psychics like Lorraine are able to diagnose supernatural problems, self-proclaimed mediums are not). He immediately summoned an Episcopal priest, Father Cooke, to perform a blessing of the apartment.

Rather than burn Annabelle, Ed and Lorraine decided to take the doll home with them. But Ed “decided it was safer to avoid traveling on the interstate, in case the entity had not been separated from the rag doll. His hunch was correct. In no time at all, Ed and Lorraine felt themselves the object of vicious hatred. Then, at each dangerous curve in the road, their new car began to stall, causing the power steering and breaks to fail. Repeatedly the car verged on collision. Of course, it would have been easy to stop and throw the doll into the woods. But if the item didn’t simply ‘teleport‘ back to the girls’ apartment, at the least it would place anyone who found it in jeopardy.”

Um. Okay.

The third time the car stalled along the road, Ed reached into his black bag, took out a vial, and threw a sprinkling of holy water on the rag doll, making the sign of the cross over it. The disturbance in the car stopped immediately, allowing the Warrens to reach home safely“.

Whew.

In Ed’s office, the doll repeatedly levitated before his eyes (remember, the nurses didn’t see it move at all). Lorraine heard growling sounds throughout the house. She warned an exorcist named Jason Branford to be careful driving home after he casually picked up Annabelle and said, “You’re just a doll.” Sure enough, his brakes failed that day.

The doll is now safely ensconced in a glass cabinet in The Warren Occult Museum, behind a warning sign: “Positively do not open.” The museum also houses a haunted organ, a cursed string of pearls, a vampire’s coffin, and a portrait painted by the ghost of a witch. Price of admission? A mere $35 a head.

A London Werewolf in America

The Warrens branched out from ghosts and demons with the case of Bill Ramsey, an unassuming London carpenter/cabdriver who, one night in 1983, felt searing chest pains on his way to work. He drove himself to Southend Hospital, where he viciously attacked two ER nurses. A police officer happened by at the right moment, and with an intern’s help wrestled wild-eyed Bill onto a gurney. At some point, the cabbie confessed that he couldn’t remember anything about the incident except “changing into a wolf”, and this enraged wolf persona must have attacked the nurses. This made him a minor tabloid celebrity in the UK. The Warrens heard about him and offered to ship him to Connecticut to be exorcised by Father McKenna. Bill accepted. He told the Warrens that he had experienced intense, unfocused rage as a teenager and often saw mental images of himself as a wolf.

McKenna, in all seriousness, touched Bill’s forehead and attempted to “banish the werewolf” in front of numerous onlookers. Bill growled, drooled, and even charged McKenna at the altar, but the exorcism was ultimately successful. Bill returned to his wife and kids a wolf-free man. The Warrens wrote a book, Werewolf: A True Story of Demonic Possession.

Bill Ramsey probably suffered lycanthropy, a rare delusional disorder that gave rise to epidemics of werewolf hysteria in the Middle Ages (along with tarantism, the delusion that one is being attacked by spiders or has been injected with a tarantula’s venom). Sufferers genuinely believed, as did Bill, that they were possessed by the spirits of wolves or had become wolves, and behaved like wolves for short periods of time. The symptoms usually subsided on their own, leaving sufferers confused but essentially unharmed. They often couldn’t remember what transpired while they were “under attack”, a common symptom of delirium. In other words, altthough the exorcism evidently helped Ramsey cope psychologically with his experience by placing it in a context that was more acceptable to him than believing he was delusional, it was not at all necessary.

Frenchy Theriault

Next to the Arne Johnson murder case, the possession of Massachusetts tomato farmer Maurice “Frenchy” Theriault is the most disturbing one ever handled by the Warrens. At best, the Warrens helped a deeply troubled man overcome his guilt. At worst, they aided and abetted a child molester by providing supernatural excuses for his behaviour.

It began in the summer of 1985. Maurice was experiencing blackouts, bleeding from his eyes, and accomplishing feats of what he considered to be paranormal strength. For some reason, he considered himself a danger to others and voluntarily relinquished all his firearms to the local police (note that this is something George Lutz reportedly did while living in the Amityville house, though Lutz himself denied it during a Coast to Coast AM interview with Art Bell shortly before his death).
Like all of the Warrens’ clients, Theriault was devoutly Catholic. So his wife, Nancy, appealed to the parish priest, Father Boyer, who in turn got in touch with the Warrens. They sent assistant Paul Walukiewicz to the farm to observe Theriault overnight.

Though Maurice’s primary complaint was the bleeding, no one thought to take him to a doctor. Ed, when asked by a young assistant if there might be a medical rason for the bleeding, sadly informed her there couldn’t be – Mr. Theriault was clearly possessed.
Nice try, but numerous conditions and diseases can cause blood to seep from the tear ducts, including thrombosis of the sinuses, brain tumours, adult onset hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”), and syphilis. Some of these can also cause delirium.

Only Mrs. Theriault had actually witnessed anything “demonic” about Frenchy. The Boston archdiocese recommended he see a psychiatrist, but as soon as the psychiatrist ruled out demonic possession as a possible source of his problems, Maruice stomped out of his office. Ed gave the shrink a tongue-lashing, hinting that he wished the doctor would become possessed just like the man he “refused to help”.
Ed came up with his own diagnosis: Theriault had become possessed in his sixties because his father had practiced Satanism on him when he was a child. Needless to say, the senior Theriault was not around to defend himself against these allegations in 1990, when they were published in the book Satan’s Harvest, by Boston Herald reporters Michael Lasalandra and Mark Merenda.

The archdiocese refused to push for an exorcism, so the Warrens again called in “Bishop” McKenna. McKenna would perform three exorcisms on Theriault, the final and most dramatic of which was successful. The video of this event, portions of which are still available on YouTube, is disturbing. In the opening interview, Theriault seems to be a calm and ordinary man in farmer’s clothes, but as soon as McKenna begins to speak Latin, Maurice’s skin blisters, he drools blood, and his staring eyes become filmy and blank. A split appears to form in his forehead, though this could be just a deep furrow.

Though the demon was successfully expelled, Maurice’s troubles weren’t over. Shortly after the exorcism he was arrested and charged with molesting his stepdaughter over a period of several years. The charges were dropped not because the girl or Theriault denied they were true, but because the district attorney was reportedly reluctant to deal with a bizarre insanity plea involving possession. Theriault relocated to another New England town, still bleeding occasionally.

The Warrens didn’t try to convince anyone that the molestation occurred only because Theriault was demonically possessed at the time, unable to control his actions. No, that would be too simple. Instead, Ed actually declared that Maurice didn’t molest his stepdaughter – an incubus in his image did. Maurice, he stated, simply wasn’t capable of such actions.

Yeah, right.

As for evidence, there is none. Maurice’s preternatural strength was demonstrated by a single photo of him lifting a concrete statuette of the Virgin, roughly 3 feet tall, a few inches off the ground. Maurice was a farmer who had done hard physical work all his life – it would be remarkable only if he couldn’t pick up Mary.

Ghostbusters: The Next Generation

With cases like this, you would think that Lorraine Warren would be living in obscure semi-retirement, known only to a handful of the most credulous ghosthunters, supernatural enthusiasts, and lovers of ’70s horror paperbacks.

You’d be so wrong.

Lorraine Warren is currently a consultant to Pennsylvania State University’s Paranormal Research Society, the subject of A&E’s popular program Paranormal State. The founder and head of the society, Ryan Buell, is also a psychic who has had terrifying encounters with ghosts and demons (which he calls bunnies, to disempower them) since he was a small child. Lorraine is his mentor, and she appears on the show whenever Buell feels compelled to call in the big guns. That is, whenever a case is suspected to involve malevolent entities or bunnies.

In one case, a woman was compulsively using Electronic Voice Phenomena to contact her dead son. Lorraine firmly told Buell that this must be stopped; the woman was bringing spirits into her home with this activity (which consists of turning on recording devices in empty rooms). In another case, a deeply distressed woman reported hearing a disembodied voice in her home say “Malthus”. A member of Buell’s team looked up the name on Wikipedia and found an entry for a demon known as “the Earl of Hell”. Seeing it, Lorraine expressed shock and horror, a rather dramatic reaction for a seasoned ghostbuster.

Buell, taking the Warrens’ cue, believes that supernatural activity is heaviest around 3:00 AM. He refers to this witching hour as the Dead Time, and schedules his team’s activities to coincide with it. The hour features prominently in The Amityville Horror, The Haunting in Connecticut, and other movies inspired by the Warrens’ investigations.

Psychic medium Chip Coffey also serves as a consultant for the Paranormal State ghostbusters. He and Carmen Reed are writing a book about the haunting in Connecticut.