Saturday, April 20, 2013

Book Review: Hit List

Hit List: An In-Depth Investigation into the Mysterious Deaths of Witnesses to the JFK Assassination by Richard Belzer and David Wayne.

The mysterious deaths of witnesses and participants in the aftermath of John Kennedy’s assassination has given rise to much speculation over the years.  Jim Mars in his classic book Cross Fire, documented the untimely deaths of many of the witnesses.  Warren Commission defender Vince Bugliosi in his mammoth tome, Reclaiming History, just dismissed the deaths as largely from natural causes and not in any way suspicious.  Of course, for someone as biased as Bugliosi, an ardent cherry picker of the evidence, nothing is shifty in the case of Kennedy’s assassination.  However, the cases I’ve looked into show there is more going on with the deaths of these people, which Jim Mars wrote comes in waves and those waves usually center around up and coming investigations.

In Hit List, noted actor Richard Belzer, along with co-author David Wayne, have completed probably the most comprehensive investigation into the deaths of these people.  Fifty people are documented from the famous and powerful to the poor and obscure.  Each entry is broken down by name, bullet points, and the various details involving their demise.  Each entry is throughly documented from sources in print, web, and author correspondence with family or acquaintances of the victims.

There are many thought provoking chapters in the book.  Two of which caught my attention and taught me some new things are the deaths of police officer J.D. Tippet and columnist Dorothy Kilgallen.  The authors do a good job documenting Tippet’s comings and goings, curious behavior, and then the Warren Commission’s machinations in dealing with issues they couldn’t prove in their attempt to link Oswald to the murder.  It’s probably the best recording of Tippet’s movements before his death and the resulting evidence that contradicts Oswald having been his killer.

Another good accounting is the sudden death of columnist and TV game show star Dorothy Kilgallen.  (My article on her passing happens to be the most popular article on this blog.)  The authors go into exhaustive detail involving the strange and out of place events that occurred before her death and surrounding her passing, from being found on the wrong floor of her townhouse to the chemical make-up of the heavy-duty barbiturates which are supposed to have taken her life.  This chapter alone is probably one of the best written anywhere in regards to Kilgallen’s alleged drug overdose, although it does leave out a few issues that I document in my article, The Lonesome Death of Dorothy Kilgallen.  In spite of that, it’s a fascinating and very detailed accounting.

The death of Dorothy Kilgallen is important as it displays the meme for most of the deaths listed.  Since people carry on common routines in life, most of the people indexed exhibit the occurrence of doing things outside of their normal life patterns.  Such as, the person that is found death from a gunshot with the gun in the right hand--they are left handed.  It is as if the killers setting this up are not informed about all of the victim’s personal habits.  So anomalies always abound in these things.

Robert Kennedy?
I did find it incongruous that one final death on the list was that the president’s brother, Robert Kennedy.  I don’t see his death in the same category of the others since most of the deaths reported are very private in nature.  RFK’s murder was quite public with a world watching in horror of the unfolding event.  There is no display of out of place behavior as with the others on list.

Besides Robert Kennedy, there is J. Edgar Hoover and Jimmy Hoffa.  While those two men both having suspicious events surrounding their demise, never the less, either of these men could have been placed in a different accounting (meaning another book) of untimely deaths, or in the case of Hoffa, disappearing altogether. They had 50 slots so I guess the needed filler.

I was disappointed that Edward Voebel’s name was left out.  He was Oswald’s best friend in junior high and gave testimony to the Warren Commission of his time with Oswald in school.  He essentially had nothing bad to say about him.  He was just a normal kid.  What may have put Ed Voebel in the crosshairs is that he gave an account of visiting Oswald and meeting his mother at the 126 Exchange Place address.  Under the official narrative, they were supposed to be living several miles further away.  Voebel has Oswald’s mother working at bars for tips which she wasn’t supposed to be doing at the time (1954-55) either.  Voebel took ill in the early 1970’s and was at one point asked by his doctor had he been around any poisons.  Voebel replied he had not.  He took a turn for the worse and soon died.

Hit List: An In-Depth Investigation into the Mysterious Deaths of Witnesses to the JFK Assassination, is a good entry into a well trod field of dubious witness deaths.  Well sourced and documented, it makes for a good source volume for any JFK researcher delving into this issue.  Stand-out chapters are the ones on Dorothy Kilgallen and Officer Tippet.  It’s also a good book for keeping the general pubic informed on this important side-history of the assassination.  It’s an impressive effort and highly recommended.

This review is from the e-book version purchased via iTunes.

Addendum 5.7.13
There is a mistake on page 401 of Hit List claiming that country singer Jim Reeves knew Jack Ruby and Lee Oswald.  This is not correct, according to Larry Jordan's excellent biography, Jim Reeves: His Untold Story–which is sourced in Hit List.  As stated in the biography, Reeves knew Ruby but had only seen Oswald in the crowd at the Longhorn Ballroom, twice (p.885).  No dates given for this.  Reeves was known to have a photographic memory for names and faces, hence his telling friends he had seen Oswald before.  But Reeves never knew Oswald personally.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Lonesome Death of Dorothy Kilgallen

“In five more days I’m going to bust this case wide open.”  Dorothy Kilgallen

(Re-posting of an earlier article with new links and info.  Done here as I can't get the formatting right on the original, posted in 2008.)

When her hairdresser found her she was propped up in bed, makeup still on, hairpiece still on, fake eyelashes still on, and dead to this world.

Dorothy Kilgallen’s name will go unrecognized by today’s generation but she was at one time one of the first of a new bread of celebrity journalists.  By the mid-50s, she was the most famous journalist in America, made even more apparent by her 15-year stint as a panelist on the popular CBS show, What’s My Line.  The events surrounding her untimely and mysterious death are intertwined with the lore of the Kennedy assassination.

She started her career in journalism at the age of 17 covering crime stories and earned a reputation of good, thorough reporter--someone that left no stone unturned.   As her father said, “She had an unerring instinct for news. She had a brilliant style of writing. She was accurate and had a flair for the apt phrase. She had an uncanny ability to produce scoops and an inordinate speed in turning out copy.”

By 1950 her column was running in 146 papers, and reaping 20 million readers.  Kilgallen’s style was a mixture of gossip, movie star news, and politics.

As time went on her reporting got closer to heart of power in this country.  She was one of the first reporters to imply, which we now know to be true, that the CIA was working with the mob to assassinate Fidel Castro.  This does not go unnoticed in the halls of power and declassified documents show that Kilgallen’s activities were being monitored by the FBI since the 1930s (they have a fondness for blackmail material), while her travels overseas were closely watched by the CIA.  

The JFK Assassination
Devastated by the news of John Kennedy’s death (of whom she met on a White House tour with her son), Kilgallen increasingly turned her attention, and her impressive crime investigation skills, to the assassination of the president. Dorothy Kilgallen quickly made a name for herself as one of the first (and few) people in the mainstream press to question the Warren Commission report. Kilgallen pulled no punches as she wrote the first article on the FBI’s intimidation of witnesses, interviewed Acquilla Clemons a witness to the shooting of Officer J. D. Tippit whom the Warren Commission never questioned (Clemons claimed to see two men at the scene of the murder—none matching Oswald’s description), and was successful in interviewing key figures such as Jack Ruby.

A major and controversial scoop was when Kilgallen got a transcript of Earl Warren’s interview with Jack Ruby, which showcased Warren’s ineptness as an interviewer.  It proved to be an embarrassment to the government.  The FBI showed up at her townhouse enquiring her sources.  Kilgallen told them she would prefer to die than to reveal any names.  In the September 30, 1964 issue of Journal-American Kilgallen opined that the FBI "might have been more profitably employed in probing the facts of the case rather than how I got them, which does seem a waste of time to me."

She approached one of Jack Ruby's lawyers, Joe Tonahill, seeking an interview.  It was granted. Tonahill, as an observer, later stated that Ruby "cooperated with her in every way that he could, and told her the truth as he understood it. It was just a very agreeable conversation between them..."  Dorothy Kilgallen never published the Ruby interview, instead saving it for a book she hoped to publish on the Kennedy assassination called, Murder One.  It went into her JFK file, which upon her death would disappear along with her Ruby interview notes.

Shortly thereafter, she stated she has enough to blow the case “wide open.”

There is not enough space there to go into the comings and goings of Kilgallen before her death.  Her life was spent making deadlines, appearing on a popular TV quiz show, having clandestine meetings with sources, and hanging out with the rich and famous.  She had the usual amount of death threats as someone does in her position and strange events that would have led her to believe that somebody knew the intimate details of her life and people she associated with.

Enter one, Marc Sinclaire.  Sinclaire was Kilgallen’s hairdresser and close friend.  He would be the first person to discover Kilgallen’s body at 8:30 a.m., on the morning of November 8, 1965.  He has only recently started talking about the events of that morning and was never questioned by police investigators in regards to Kilgallen’s death.

Here are the basic points of Sinclaire’s discovery of that morning:

  • Dorothy Kilgallen’s body was discovered in the third floor bedroom of the townhouse.  She always slept in the fifth floor bedroom.
  • She was found sitting up in bed, still wearing her make-up, false eye lashes, false hairpiece, and earrings.  Normally, she would never go to bed all “made up” for going out. 
  • She was not wearing her regular pajamas, but instead a blue matching peignoir and robe.
  • A book was on her bed, but upside down.  It was also a book she finished reading two weeks earlier.  Her reading glasses were nowhere nearby.
  • The air conditioning was on though there was no need for it. Sinclaire says she was cold natured and would have preferred the heat on.
  • Sinclaire sees a piece of paper on the floor but never examined it.
  • Upon leaving the townhouse, Sinclaire sees a police cruiser with two officers sitting in it.  They ignore him.  Oddly, Sinclaire does not approach them to tell them of his discovery of Dorothy Kilgallen’s body.  Police detectives do not show up till later in the day after an announcement is made by Douglas Edwards on CBS News.

Kilgallen’s death has many mysterious elements to it.  The autopsy showed her to be in overall good health, but tests found her to be over the legal limit for alcohol consumption.  The cause of death would be ruled as "acute ethanol and barbiturate intoxication, circumstances undetermined." In an odd turn of events, Dr. James Luke, a New York City medical examiner that did the autopsy, did not sign the death certificate.  It was signed by another physician, Dr. Dominick DiMaio, who when questioned, did not know why is name was appeared on the certificate, nor was he working out of Manhattan at the time.  If what he says is true, then his name was forged on the death certificate.

In 1968 a test using a new process determined from saved tissue samples, proved that Dorothy Kilgallen died of fatal mix of three barbiturates: secobarbital, amobarbital, and pentobarbital.  Kilgallen was not known as a drug user.  She was spotted at the Regency hotel, chatting with a stranger in a booth.  Perhaps a source?  Did this man slip a mickey in her drink?  Her favorite drink included the ingredient, quinine, which can be used to mask the taste of barbiturates.  The Regency was seven blocks from her home and it is unknown how she got to the townhouse or what transpired during this time.  She apparently was not among friends in her final hours.

Her husband, Richard Kollmar was slept in the fourth story of the townhouse.  He gave inconsistent accounts of what happened that night.  He claimed that Dorothy arrived home at 11:30 p.m., in good spirits, and went off to write her column.  But those who saw her in the Regency lounge reported her being there far past midnight 2 a.m.  Later, when asked by friends about Dorothy’s JFK investigation, he replied, “I'm afraid that will have to go to the grave with me."  And it did when Kollmar died of a drug overdose in 1971.

Other Related Events
Mary Brannum, managing editor of a several movie magazines receives an anonymous call telling her that Dorothy Kilgallen is dead.  She has no idea why she was called or who the caller was.

In 1975, Dorothy's son Dickie, was contacted by the FBI concerning his mother's JFK research papers.  He told them the notes were still missing.  Notice that the FBI was interested in the papers at this late date, after they had long decided that Oswald was the murderer of the president.  Why would they be so interested now?  After all, they are law enforcement organization that claims to have solved the case.

The NYPD failed to ask pro forma questions of any of the witnesses that were around Kilgallen before her death. That includes as mentioned above, Marc Sinclaire who discovered the body.

When those who go to murder, and desire to make the victim’s death appear as a suicide, drug overdose or accident, they all have one thing working against them.  They can never know enough about the intended victim’s personal habits.  In this case, if Dorothy Kilgallen’s death was a murder, the killers were not aware of her favorite bedroom, her sleep attire, her need for reading glasses, or for that matter, the book that she had already read.  They must have been men, as no woman goes to bed with her make-up on.  Think of the mess on the sheets and pillowcases!  

On the other hand, Kilgallen may have been so inebriated that she did all of these out of character things.  But she was not known to be a heavy drug abuser.  Maybe she was, but no one testifies to that.  There was enough here for a thorough investigation if one had been done.  But that was brushed under the rug, like a lot of things are.

It’s often said that keeping a high profile keeps one safe.  This apparently did help not Dorothy.  If there is a motive for the murder it was her information she had collected on the Kennedy assassination and the fact that she was a thorn in the side of government’s powerful elites.  She was not a shill.  Imagine somebody like her in the mainstream press today.

In another curious episode, Kilgallen had given a backup chapter of book to her friend Florence Pritchett.  She suddenly died a day after Kilgallen.  The backup chapter was never found.

Hit List, p.140., Richard Belzer and David Wayne.

Town House pictures

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Oswald Avatar

Avatar |ˈavəˌtär|  noun
Computing an icon or figure representing a particular person in computer games, Internet forums, etc.; an incarnation, embodiment, or manifestation of a person or idea.

For some time now I have been noticing a lot of strange things going on in the JFK case.  While the event has its share of coincidences, anomalies, and synchronicities, there are some very peculiar things going on that require further investigation.  Some of these things are near paranormal in strangeness.  While Lee Oswald will always be a bit of an enigma, with his mysterious ways, desiring to be called "Lee" to one group of friends and "Harvey" to another, he drifts in and out of various locales with such ease as if he's a ghost looking for an empty house to dwell in.  There are dozens of witnesses to testify to this.  He has an ability to be in two places at once, either by sight or by scribbles in obscure documents.

Maybe the current scientific model for reality is flawed, or maybe we are just being played by a very devious and clever Intelligence establishment.  There are a lot of strange things going on here that are hard to catalog or make sense of.  There are of course, rational explanations for many of these events but some are so peculiar it's as if a prankster has been set loose to toy with our senses.

November 20, 1963
Just two days before the association of John F. Kennedy, there was a flurry of activity.  Some of it quite odd.  The first incident is Oswald in the Dobbs House Restaurant having a nasty fit because his eggs were not cooked right.  In attendance was officer J. D. Tippet, who Oswald allegedly murders two days later.  There are lots of theories as to why Tippet was there but the real clincher here is that Oswald's work records indicate he never took any time off that morning (a pattern to be repeated constantly).  He was supposed to be filling book orders by 10:30 AM, not having a mid-morning breakfast and yelling at waitresses.  This has never been resolved other than to use the incident as evidence of Oswald being impersonated, besides having a personality of a jerk.

The scene shifts later in the day when Ralph Yates picks up a hitchhiker carrying a long package.  When the young man enters his truck, he says the package is a set of curtain rods.  In a few days Lee Oswald will do the same thing, carry a package, about 4 feet long, and will tell coworker Wesley Fraser that the contents are curtain rods.  As Yates drives across downtown Dallas with his passenger the hitchhiker asks Yates if a sniper could shoot someone, such as the President, from one of the tall buildings.  Yates thinks so and says one must need a rifle with scope.  "Like this one?" the hitchhiker asks as he whips out a picture of man holding a rifle (no scope) with a pistol on his hip.  Yates will tell FBI agents that the man in the picture resembled the hitchhiker (but apparently not Oswald).  The young man will ask if the parade route has been changed and Yates will tell him it hasn't.  Yates will drop the young man off with his package in hand at a stop light on Elm street, the same street where the assassination will take place.  Yates watches him walk north to Houston street, which will be the main parade route.

This is quite a story!  It plays out like precognitive dream.  This hitchhiker character is foreshadowing the actual event.  He mimics Oswald's curtain rod story, complete with a backyard style photo of himself holding a rifle and a holstered handgun, such as Oswald has already done, to be revealed to the world later on the cover of Life magazine.  He brings up the subject of assassination of the President and inquires about the parade route changes.  He is then dropped off on a street that the President will be assassinated on.  He is not Oswald.  He doesn't resemble him and besides, he is asking about things Oswald would already know. The hitchhiker is a living Avatar for a day that lies in the near future.  Or maybe he's not living at all–at least not in the sense that we are.

Since I've never ran an assassination operation, or any clandestine business before I have no idea if this is normal operating procedure or not.  To put someone in play such as this, mimicking the real shooter, or patsy, by use of a misdirection ploy would be clever if not mysterious.  What are the odds that it will accomplish anything?  Perhaps it was only meant to confuse.  No law enforcement investigator ever bit on Yates' story.  And besides, it's too peculiar anyway.

Are there other patterns of this?  Yes there are.  The so-called Chicago plot where months earlier, Kennedy's motorcade was scheduled to pass through a high-rise section of Chicago until a disgruntled ex-Marine was arrested and found to have a large batch of firearms in the trunk of his car.  The former Marine, Thomas Vallee, had a job in a warehouse on the parade route, which featured a 90 degree turn just like the one on Elm street in Dallas.  No charges were ever filed and he was let go.  However, Kennedy's trip there was canceled.  Like Oswald, he never went around making threats against the President's life and of course, fit the description of a loner. (Talbot, p. 242)

Thomas Vallee then, becomes another typecast Oswald figure, another synchronicity in a long line of them.

Stanley, North Dakota
The North Dakota story is probably one of the weirdest associated with Lee Oswald.  I documented it in an earlier post, And Then Harvey Rode Into The Trailer Park.  It has many creepy elements to it and is thoroughly documented by John Armstrong in his book, Harvey and Lee.

The basic story is that in the summer of 1953 in the oil boom town of Stanley, North Dakota, William Timmer and neighborhood pals met up with a scruffy kid from New York named Harvey Oswald.  The lad told tall tales of street gangs and razor fights.   Naturally they were all impressed with him.  He was peculiar in ways, showing off Marxist literature and seemed to have an aversion to being seen by adults and would promptly scoot off on his junky bike when encountering them.

At one point that summer, this Harvey character expressed to Timmer that he planned on killing the president of the United States one day.  Timmer later told his mother about this and she told him never to be around this boy again.  After that summer, Timmer never saw Harvey Oswald again, until years later, when he saw him in the news arrested for the death of a President and police officer.

This Oswald is another archetype.  Another Oswald at the wrong place and at the wrong time because under the official account he was living with his mother in New York city in the summer of 1953.  His mother's  employment records from the Lady Orva Hosiery store show her working there that summer.  Besides, it is curious as to why they would even be in North Dakota to begin with as there are no connections for them there–no family or employment opportunities.

The image of a teenage Oswald forecasting his future mission to be an assassin, as if he is predestined and looking forward to it, adds a certain creepiness to the story.  Why would any kid, or for that matter, any person have this as a future goal in life?  It's as if we are being visited with a meme. He's the Oswald we are supposed to be acquainted with.  The unlikeable outsider, one with peculiar habits, a social misfit with delusions of grandeur, complete with commie handbills.

And to add more fat to the fire, Lee Oswald, after he defects to the Soviet Union gives a series of interviews.  He gave one to Aline Mosby, of UPI, who wrote about his time in North Dakota.  The article was widely circulated on the wire services.  But he wasn't supposed to be there!  This discrepancy was dealt with by the Warren Commission by publishing her typewritten notes which listed New Orleans for this time period (CE 1385).  However, her handwritten notes she has "N. Dakota" jotted down.  Mosby's untyped notes were hidden for years and finally released by the FBI in a document dump in 1978. (Armstrong, p. 270)

There is a real predicament here with William Timmer's story.  He's not the only witness, so was his mother.  And she wrote a letter to none other than LBJ documenting their Oswald encounter in 1953.  It was filed away like a lot of things are.  Unfortunately, his school chums are untraceable, if any are still living to back up the story.  But the story is out there hanging heavy.  It could be real or part of somebody's imagination.

The Fair Haired Boy
Under the official dogma Lee Oswald was not supposed to drive a car.  He supposedly didn't know how and Ruth Paine told the Warren commission she was giving him lessons a week before the assassination.  However, Oswald was seen driving a car numerous times.  He was driving a car to the Sports Dome firing range practically every time he went there.  And, he was seen driving a car to his many visits to the Shasteen barbershop in Irving, Texas.

In one of the more unexpected stories involving Oswald, he was seen on his last trip to Shasteen's accompanied by a blonde, teenage boy (Armstrong, p.757). Cliff Shasteen saw them coming in but didn't stay as he was leaving to watch a local football game.  Later he was told by one of the barbers that Oswald had inquired about him and where he was going.  A little too nosey.

The teenage boy is an odd one.  Nobody saw him before and it's unknown why he accompanied Oswald in the first place.  Oswald was never known to associate with other people's children.  The boy visits the barbershop one last time, alone, and then vanishes from the scene (pg. 778).  It should be noted that during his last visit, the boy speaks up about current events and lays down his thoughts for the ills of world and that would be capitalist greed.  When asked where he came up with the line of reasoning, he has no response.  Another budding marxist here?  After all, Lee is supposed to have started his marxist interests as a young teen as well.  Or just another synchronicity?

For whatever reason a motif is set in action.  It’s not something that only pertains to the assassination of JFK.  One can see many of these archetypes appearing around other events both normal and paranormal.  Like many things surrounding the Kennedy assassination, we will never know for sure.

And Then Harvey Rode Into The Trailer Park

Talbot, David, Brothers, p. 242
Armstrong, John, Harvey and Lee, pps. 270, 757, 778