5 Deaths So Weird They Totally Deserve Conspiracy Theories
Despite what the internet might tell you, not every death is the result of a shady conspiracy carried out by shapeshifting CIA agents from another dimension. No, Robin Williams wasn't killed by the Illuminati, and John Lennon probably didn't get whacked by top-selling author Stephen King. But every so often, a death is so insanely suspicious that it would be weirder if there wasn't a sinister conspiracy behind it. Here are some more of those.
A Random Homeless Woman Travelled Across The Country To Murder The CIA's Failing Financier
In 1985, a homeless woman named Lois Lang (no relation) hopped on a Greyhound bus and took a very roundabout trip from Seattle to New York via Tijuana. Once in NYC, she patiently waited outside the office of a complete stranger named Nicholas Deak, and then shot him dead. That's weird enough as it is. Then you learn a little bit about the victim.
Deak was a Transylvanian aristocrat (read: vampire) who worked for the CIA before starting a flower business in Hawaii, which quickly grew into a major Wall Street bank and international currency trader. This unusual career path actually makes sense, because Deak was still working for the CIA the whole time, and it was using his company as a front to fund operations around the world, including coups in Iran, Guatemala, and the Congo. That was presumably easier to do as a bank than a flower dealer, since very few groups accept daisies as payment.
Since laundering money for the CIA was going so well, Deak figured he might as well do the same for organized crime. His company made huge profits moving dodgy money for everyone from the Macau triads to the Argentinean mob. We've previously covered his operation smuggling bribe money for Lockheed, which led to the fall of the Japanese government and a porn star flying a plane into a Yakuza don's house (Japanese politics are very complicated).
Deak's good times came to an end in 1984, when the U.S. Treasury publicly accused him of laundering millions for Colombian drug cartels. This prompted every spy and goon in the world to ditch his bank before the ensuing investigation revealed all their spying/goonery. Unable to meet the demand for withdrawals, Deak was forced to file for bankruptcy, probably thinking things couldn't get any worse. Then Lang and her .38 showed up.
Lang claimed that "friends" had taught her to shoot and told her she "could carry" the gun. Deak's successor as CEO unearthed evidence that Lang met with two Argentinian men in Miami immediately before buying the gun and a bus ticket to New York. He also found an unreleased photo of Deak dying in the firm's mysteriously abandoned Macau office. Oh, and it turned out Lang's old psychiatrist was associated with the Stanford Research Institute, where the CIA studied (among many other X-Files-sounding things) methods of brainwashing and mind control.
Despite the massive flashing neon "THIS SEEMS SUSPICIOUS" sign that kept appearing over her head, the official verdict was that Lang was nothing but a wacko who randomly killed Deak for no particular reason. Case closed!
A Geologist Conveniently Falls Out Of A Helicopter While En Route To Explain Millions Of Dollars In Nonexistent Gold
In 1995, a small Canadian mining company named Bre-X announced that they'd found a dig site in Indonesia that was apparently more gold than dirt. The company's stock price went through the roof, cleared orbit, and could only eventually be detected via gravitational anomalies in the Kuiper Belt. Bre-X lined up a lucrative deal with spectacularly corrupt (and thus obscenely rich) Indonesian dictator Muhammad Suharto.
By 1997, Bre-X was worth billions of dollars. Everything was going swimmingly until that same year, when a company subcontracted to run part of the dig site reported that they couldn't find any gold at all. Like, zero gold. If you've ever inhaled near a necklace, they could pan more gold out of your bloodstream than they found in that jungle. It was later discovered that the Bre-X employee who discovered the site, Filipino geologist Michael de Guzman, had deliberately buried gold samples partially shaved from his own wedding ring. Don't worry, he had backups; de Guzman had four wives across Southeast Asia, none of whom knew about the others. (He also proposed to a Canadian stripper, but somehow she resisted his raw sensuality.)
Naturally, the subcontractor scheduled a meeting with de Guzman to discuss his puzzling non-discovery. Unfortunately, they were informed that de Guzman wouldn't make it to the meeting, since he'd fallen out of a helicopter on his way there (hate it when that happens). It took five days to recover the body from the thick jungle, by which time it was severely decomposed, partially eaten, and basically impossible to identify. A note was found indicating that de Guzman had decided to commit suicide after learning he had hepatitis B. However, the note was addressed to a co-worker de Guzman barely knew and misspelled his longest-running wife's name. Also, "immediate helicopter suicide" is a fairly unusual reaction to a mild STD diagnosis.
In 2005, one of de Guzman's wives claimed that he was still alive, and even occasionally sent her money, although she stopped answering questions once pressed for evidence. (Maybe she fell out of a helicopter?) There have been several sightings of him since, prompting speculation that he's living abroad with the estimated $4 million he made selling his Bre-X shares. On the other hand, an investigation by a leading forensic scientist concluded that the body was de Guzman, and that he had been tortured, castrated, and strangled before his corpse was thrown from the helicopter, possibly by the Indonesian secret police. Uh ... right before he came back to life to commit suicide, right?
Nobody has been criminally charged in relation to the Bre-X scandal, but the story did inspire a Matthew McConaughey movie that got mediocre reviews. See? Justice may take a while, but it always arrives.
The British Police Keep Fumbling The Case Of A Murdered Detective ... Who Was Investigating The British Police
In 1987, a private detective named Daniel Morgan was found in the parking lot of a London pub with an ax buried in his face. If you think that sounds like the setup to about eight cheesy pulp detective novels, well, you ain't wrong.
The obvious suspect was Morgan's partner at Southern Investigations, Jonathan Rees, who reportedly told their accountant that he wanted Morgan dead, and asked about hiring a hitman (he was presumably wondering if it was deductible as a business expense). The investigation was handled by Sergeant Sid Fillery, who declined to arrest Rees and didn't bother to collect some pretty crucial evidence, which then disappeared. Relevant note: Fillery was Rees' best friend, and became his new partner at Southern Investigations after leaving the police. So ... nothing to see here?
Rees and Fillery were questioned, and Rees was even briefly charged, but the case collapsed due to a lack of evidence (again, the thing Fillery himself failed to collect). Ironically, a 2011 attempt to prosecute them failed because there was too much evidence by then, and the prosecution didn't disclose all of it. In the meantime, Rees and Fillery made a good living "acquiring" sensitive information via a network of corrupt cops and selling it to shady folks like drug dealers -- or worse, the tabloids. Rupert Murdoch's News Of The World, the best-selling newspaper in Britain, paid Southern at least 150,000 pounds a year to provide confidential police reports and other juicy classified info. Whether you needed dirt on a political opponent or wanted to find out exactly which type of rodent was extracted from a rock star's anal cavity, Rees and Fillery were your guys.
Incidentally, the reason Rees and Morgan had a falling out in the first place? Morgan attempted to sell a story about police corruption -- one that implicated Rees -- to NOTW's crime reporter, seemingly unaware that said reporter was Rees' other best friend. He's a friendly dude!
Later, when Rees was arrested for trying to plant cocaine in a woman's car as part of a divorce case, the NOTW claimed to be shocked by his activities ... only to put him on staff with a six-figure salary as soon as he got out of prison. The paper also had two unmarked vans follow the chief superintendent who relaunched the case in the 2000s, after promising they'd "sort him out." The case remains officially unsolved, but there's one lesson we can all take away from this: Stay friendly.
A CIA Agent And The Washington Post's Editor Both Competed To Find The Diary Of JFK's Murdered Mistress
Mary Pinchot Meyer was an artist and D.C. socialite who had a passionate affair with John F. Kennedy ... although in fairness, that was true of like 40 percent of all American women, and a solid 5 percent of the men. Meyer was also the ex-wife of senior (and sinister) CIA official Cord Meyer, and the sister-in-law of legendary Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, recently phoned in by Tom Hanks in The Post.
In 1964, Meyer was shot dead at point-blank range on a Washington towpath. Nobody knows who did it, or why, or whether there were any magic bullets involved. Obviously, since this was someone JFK met within his lifetime, there are plenty of conspiracy theories involving Meyer, but one turned out to be more than a "theory."
Shortly before her death, Meyer had made one of her friends promise to destroy her diary if anything happened to her (the "erase my browser history" of the pre-internet era). Unfortunately, the friend was in Japan at the time of the murder, so she called Bradlee and told him about the request. According to Bradlee, he unlocked the door of Meyer's house to look for the diary and found CIA counterintelligence head James Jesus Angleton in the living room, already doing that. It's worth noting that Angleton was also a friend of Meyer ... and her spook ex-husband. Bradlee later went to Meyer's studio and again found Angleton, this time on his knees, picking the lock. After an embarrassed Angleton left, Bradlee found the diary, and soon realized its contents should never be made public.
Out of a sense of patriotic duty (and figuring that no one was better than the CIA at burying secrets), Bradlee agreed to give the diary to Angleton, on the condition that it was destroyed. Years later, Angleton admitted that he had in fact kept the diary for unknown reasons (definitely not masturbation-related). Bradlee's outraged wife insisted that Angleton hand it over, and they burned it in a birdbath, protecting Meyer's greatest secret ... until Bradlee himself blabbed about it in his autobiography in 1995.
An Italian Mobster Was Inexplicably Buried In One Of Rome's Most Famous Churches
In 1997, an investigative journalist got a tip to take a peek inside the crypt of Rome's magnificent Sant'Apollinare alle Terme church. They did, and discovered the tomb of Enrico De Pedis, the most notorious crime boss in Rome, who was shot dead by his own gang in 1990. Sant'Apollinare alle Terme is an ancient, spiritually important basilica, under the direct control of the Vatican. Burial there is usually reserved for bishops or other high-ranking figures. Enrico De Pedis was a famous murderer. So what the literal hell?
That question has never been satisfactorily answered. To make things weirder, De Pedis has been heavily linked to one of the Vatican's most famous unsolved mysteries: the 1983 disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, a 15-year-old girl who had the "honor" of being the first (and only) kidnapping victim in the history of Vatican City. Strong rumors and an increasing amount of evidence suggest that Orlandi was snatched by De Pedis' men. The Roman police even excavated his tomb in 2012 after receiving a tip that Orlandi was also buried in there. But wait, why would a powerful mobster even want to kidnap the daughter of a simple (read: non-rich) Vatican City clerk?
The most common theories involve a power struggle between De Pedis' gang and Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, the Vatican's shady finance chief. It's been speculated that Orlandi was kidnapped to put pressure on the Vatican after $1.3 billion disappeared from the mafia's favorite bank / money laundering service and magically appeared (at least in part) in various Vatican shell companies. Soon, the bank collapsed and executives started dropping dead. According to a former gang member, De Pedis got a fancy burial as a reward for negotiating an end to the hostilities being carried out by ... uh, also De Pedis.
It gets weirder. As part of the ongoing "Vatileaks" scandal, Italian journalists recently published a document supposedly written by a Vatican paymaster, which listed expenses related to keeping Orlandi alive and hidden. They included boarding school fees, accommodation in London, and even gynecological visits. The list ends in 1997 with "transfer to Vatican City State, and related final processing." The journalists emphasized that they didn't know if the document was real, just that it was definitely from the files of a senior Vatican official. But even if it was fake, why would the Vatican have that? Who made it? And how has HBO not made a show out of this yet?!
These deserve to be turned into better scripts than Gold. Get to writing one with a beginner's guide to Celtx.
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For more reasons to reach for your tinfoil hat, check out 6 Mysterious Deaths That'll Make You Believe In Conspiracies and 5 Eerie Conspiracies Theorists Were Right About All Along.
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