Prominent People The CIA Might Have Murdered

It's worth looking back at some of these CIA conspiracy theories.
Prominent People The CIA Might Have Murdered

For every famous death, there's a theory that the CIA had them killed for some reason or other. ("They knew David Bowie and Prince were the only two people who could stop a Trump presidency!") We can laugh all we want, but this agency turns up in every conspiracy theory for a reason. We know that the CIA sent hitmen after leaders like Fidel Castro, received new powers to kill during the War on Terror, and between those milestones, the backlash against their hit squads grew big enough that the White House had to say, "OK, we won't kill anyone. We promise." So it's worth looking back at some of the "Maybe the CIA did it?" theories and realizing that at least some of them are almost definitely true.

After Their Cover-Up Failed, The Government Admitted Their Ecstasy Killed An Unwitting Tennis Player

Every fully educated and properly paranoid consumer of internet facts has heard of MKUltra, the mind control program the CIA ran in the '50s and '60s. The program involved experiments in hypnosis, sensory deprivation, electricity, and dosing people will all sorts of psychedelic drugs. That last part almost sounds fun, until you hear about the terrible things that ended up happening to some who took those drugs. We've previously told you about the death of Frank Olson, a CIA employee, but we should feel even worse for another guy, Harold Blauer. Blauer wasn't even looking to be involved with the government in any way, and he still ended up dead.

Blauer coached and played tennis professionally. That sort of life makes you picture someone brimming with good health, but he suffered from depression following a divorce, so he checked himself into the New York State Psychiatric Institute in Manhattan. His treatment continued into 1953, the year MKUltra was authorized, and it included doctors giving him injections. You know, those anti-depression injections they give people? He was almost ready for release when he received injection #5. His limbs immediately spasmed, he frothed at the mouth, and he fell into a coma. He was dead in two hours.

It turned out Blauer had been a test subject for the experimental drug tenamfetamine, which is variously described as a mescaline derivative and an analog of MDMA, but which most definitely would not make a depressed man ecstatic. Rather, the goal was to see if it was a "potential dicombobulator of enemy populations," and it dicombobulated Blauer right into the morgue. He never had any idea he was part of a government study, and neither did his family. They sued the state of New York for negligence, and they weren't told that half of the $18,000 settlement was covered by the federal government in return for New York and the hospital keeping quiet about the experiment.

Then, two decades later, Congress was investigating something totally unrelated when they turned up papers documenting what had really happened to Blauer. His family learned the truth, and after another dozen years of legal wrangling, the case ended up in front of a judge, who made the government pay his daughters another $700,000. Despite the pleadings of the U.S. attorney (one Rudolph Giuliani), the judge ruled that yeah, the government killed Blauer and covered it up. And if you like certainty and/or closure for your stories, you can pretty much stop reading now, because things only get murkier from here.

Related: 5 Deaths So Weird They Totally Deserve Conspiracy Theories

A Nobel Laureate May Have Been Murdered By A Double Agent

If you know of Chile's Pablo Neruda, it's probably as a famous poet (he won the Nobel Prize in Literature, after all), but he was also a major political figure. He was a senator, and at the end of his life, he was an advisor to President Salvador Allende. Allende's presidency (and life) ended in 1973, when Augusto Pinochet took power in a coup backed by the CIA. Neruda was in the hospital during this time, being treated for cancer. He died two weeks into the coup. It appears, however, that he did not die of cancer.

The day Neruda died, he phoned his wife to say he'd been injected with something, and he suspected Pinochet was having him killed. He had been planning to leave for Mexico and lead a government in exile against Pinochet, but instead, six hours after he made that call, he was dead. So had he been dosed with some tenamfetamine, perhaps? No, but tests do suggest he was dosed with Staphylococcus aureus, bacteria that had been modified to be extra toxic -- to the point that the Chilean government finally acknowledged in 2015 that he'd probably been murdered.

We know that the person who injected him went by the name of Price, but there wasn't any Dr. Price employed at the hospital. So who was he? Based on a description, one suspect is Michael Townley, which is not only the name of a GTA V protagonist, but also a former CIA agent who worked for the Chilean secret police. Townley was also an international assassin. In 1979, he was convicted of killing the Chilean ambassador to the U.S., and that was only one of multiple political murders he's been linked to. Since 1983, he's been in the federal witness protection program, so if you've seen him lately, I'll ask that you not mention where in the comments.

If Townley or the CIA weren't involved, the other options may be even weirder. Another suspect is Hartmut Hopp, a Nazi doctor who worked at Colonia Dignidad, a commune set up by German expats after World War II. The community quickly became a cult, with guard dogs keeping residents from escaping. Once Pinochet took power, it became a center for torturing and murdering dissidents. Children were separated from parents, and dozens were sexually abused. Hopp was found guilty in Chile of child sexual abuse, but he fled back to Germany and is a free man there. If you know his current address, don't mention that in the comments either.

Related: 5 Celebrities Who Were Secretly Spies While They Were Famous

An Antiwar Monk Died In The World's Most Suspicious Accident

One major problem with life today is that we don't have nearly enough prominent monks guiding us. In that sense, at least, life was better in the '50s and '60s, when America had Thomas Merton. He authored dozens of books, and monasteries saw new members flock in after he published his autobiography. He was also a very vocal opponent of the Vietnam War, so at that point, you'd be justified in treating pretty much any manner of death as suspicious.

In 1968, Merton had been in Thailand for a monastic conference outside Bangkok. He was found dead in his hotel room (a retreat run by the Red Cross) with a floor fan lying flat across his body. He had apparently been electrocuted after stepping out of the shower. I know what you're thinking; this is suspicious, because monks are immune to shock damage. But the official cause of death was reported as a heart attack, which is not actually the same as heart failure due to electrocution. Perhaps it was a combination of being electrocuted and getting a heart attack, said a colleague of his agreeably.

He also had a wound on the back of his head, which didn't appear to be consistent with anything else. Let's try to piece this together. He exited the shower. He slipped and reached for the closest thing, a floor fan. The fan short-circuited, electrocuting him. He fell backward so neatly that the back of his head hit the floor first. Then he had a heart attack. The fan landed on his body. It's all possible, though it's strange that no autopsy was ever conducted.

A book that came out last year, The Martyrdom Of Thomas Merton, insists that the official explanation is absurd. Photos show Merton lying in his room totally flat, laid out like a body in a coffin rather than someone who slipped and fell. Their skepticism ties neatly into what Merton's friends have been saying for decades: That he was murdered, probably by the CIA.

One theologian friend of his, Matthew Fox, has been asking CIA employees whether the agency was involved. None denied it, and one finally said, "Yes. And the last 40 years of my life I have been cleansing my soul from what I did as a young man working for the CIA in Southeast Asia in the 1960s." Well that's pretty damning. Unless, you know, Fox is lying. But that wouldn't be very theologian-y of him, now would it?

Related: 5 New (And Strangely Plausible) Conspiracy Theories

The Still-Unsolved Daylight Shooting Of JFK's Lover

When Mary Pinchot Meyer was fatally shot at close range while walking outside one autumn day in 1964, she wasn't at first reported to be anyone of note. Only later was it revealed that her ex-husband managed the CIA's clandestine services, and only later still did it come out that she was one of John F Kennedy's lovers. Authorities managed to lay their hands on a suspect -- Ray Crump, a black man found walking in the area -- but he was found not guilty, as prosecutors never really found any actual evidence against him. The murder remains unsolved.

Meyer's brother-in-law was Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. He first heard of the death from Wistar Janney, a mutual acquaintance who happened to work for the CIA. Janney said he'd heard on the radio that someone had been murdered, and though she hadn't been identified, her description seemed to fit Meyer's. He turned out to be right. But that seems like a strange way for an intelligence officer to learn of the death of a friend, and it's even stranger for him to respond by phoning the news to others without verifying it.

Later, Meyer's family and friends searched her home for her diary. There are a few conflicting accounts of how this went down, but as Bradlee describes it, he arrived at her art studio, where he caught CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton picking the padlock and trying to break in. Why exactly was the CIA trying to get their hands on the diary? According to one theory, the issue was that Meyer had opposed the Warren Report's findings on who killed JFK. This was supposedly also why she was killed three weeks after the report's release. One author pushing this theory is Peter Janney, Wistar Janney's son. He says his father was the part of the team who killed her.

Now, you might ask, isn't this the same sort of conspiracy theorizing believed by the people who think the CIA killed JFK? Yes. Yes it is. And given that Meyer did have a relationship with JFK, the CIA had one reason to retrieve her diary, even without having killed her. It's entirely possible that she was killed by some sexually motivated rando, just like prosecutors argued. But what would you rather believe? That CIA assassins take out targets who threaten them? Or that any of us have a chance of dying randomly and pointlessly at any time? That's a serious question. I don't have an answer myself.

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