The Bermuda Triangle II

So many of those who follow my blog have done so because of my contribution to True Crime and Cold Case. Be that as it may, I still hold my position, perhaps not so coveted, as the “world’s authority” on the Bermuda Triangle. So for those who still follow me for this reason, this post is for you.

YachtI have finally commenced writing my much anticipated sequel to Into the Bermuda Triangle (2003), my first book ever to be published. I had electrified the web for 3 years by this time with hundreds of new cases and fresh research, and McGraw-Hill rushed my book to print. Now, finally, it is time to follow up with much more information, cases and new discoveries in theories. I have cleverly named my sequel “II.”

Well, what do you expect?

In any case, here is a rough-out of the chapter titles.

Chapter 1    The Bermuda Triangle: An Enduring Mystery                  

Chapter 2   A Saga of Disappearing Planes and Lost Ships

Chapter 3   Over a Past Horizon

Chapter 4   “Aircraft Damage and Injury Index Presumed”

Chapter 5   A Triangle of Today

Chapter 6   Is There an Easy Answer?

Chapter 7   Witnesses to a Clue

Chapter 8   Space, Vortices, and Electronic Fog

Chapter 9   Worlds Above; Worlds Beneath

Chapter 10  A Saga of the Earth’s Past

Chapter 11  Electronic Fog: an Answer or a Symptom?

I have finished my second pass on HorrorScope, so that this is the perfect time, while my mind clears of that (so I can take it on again fresh and re-edit), to start on Bermuda Triangle II.

 

 

Advertisements

In Quest of Michael Rockefeller

Above is a frame from the late great In Search Of episode in 1977 with Leonard Nimoy featuring the chief of the Otsjenet tribe denying they had killed and eaten Michael Rockefeller. He blamed the other Asmat tribes for saying it, declaring they wanted the Otsjenet to get into trouble. He said that he is chief and if they had killed Michael Rockefeller he would know it.

Not exactly a stellar denial.

However, for 1977 this was significant. It was only 16 years since Michael Rockefeller had vanished in their land. Many were still alive who remembered the events of 1961. The gruesome claims had smoldered for quite a while. They originated with a Dutch missionary who investigated soon after Rockefeller had vanished. Maybe true, maybe false. There were no facts. But it has become vogue in the last few years to believe the sensational rumors that the 20 year old Rockefeller was indeed eaten by cannibals. It seems such a Rice-Boroughs novelette way to die.

MRock3
Michael Rockefeller, 1961

After graduating Harvard, Michael Rockefeller embarked on a documentary filmmaking journey to New Guinea. He would assist as sound man. Rockefeller was a gifted photographer as well. He truly enjoyed the primitive surroundings and after 6 months, when the doc wrapped, he  went to the nearby Asmat area of New Guinea. He studied the primitive tribes, traveled amongst them in the company of Dutch missionaries, grew a beard and looked quite the anthropologists. He was, however, collecting large amounts of Asmat art. The wood carvings in particular fascinated him.

His father, New York governor Nelson Rockefeller, was a major collector and loved primitive art. Michael wanted the art he was collecting to be  displayed in the family museum in New York.

Michael had already bartered for some art and was now on his way to collect them with Dutch anthropologist Rene Wassing. It was November 17, 1961. As they entered the mouth of the river they were going to use in order to go upstream, their makeshift catamaran was caught in the tidal and cross currents. First their motor went, then the next wave capsized them. Two of the natives aboard jumped and swam for shore, but Michael and Wassing were pulled out to sea with the capsized hulk. Finally, Michael decided to make a go of it. He stripped to his undies and strapped (through his belt) two red and empty gas tanks to his waist for buoyancy. He swam off, sure he could make it. He was never seen again.

MRock15
Asmat canoers.

Most know the story. Nelson Rockefeller went out to New Guinea to try and help. It became a media sensation. The huge searched failed, and Michael Rockefeller entered the realm of those famous or intriguing people who have vanished, like Glenn Miller or Amelia Earhart. He was declared to have drowned, but there was no proof. There was only one clue. One of the red gas tanks he had strapped to himself was finally found floating at sea. His belt must have broken and he lost his buoyancy.

Rumors, of course, circulated that he had made it to shore and had been eaten or went feral. Some parts of New Guinea, including the Asmat, still practiced headhunting, though they realized it was illegal.

The idea young Rockefeller had survived was not popularized until the 1970s. It was the result of the journey of Milt Machlin, one of Argosy magazine’s writers and editors. He had been tipped off by a strange man named Donohue who came into his New York office one day and said Rockefeller had been taken to a remote island named Kanapu. This turned out to be bunk, but Machlin’s journey culminated in his book The Search For Michael Rockefeller in 1974.

MRock17
One of Michael Rockefeller’s pictures.

Machlin’s source for local information in New Guinea was the Dutch missionary Cornelius van Kessel. From more recent discoveries, however, it seems Machlin might not have had the best observational or logical skills to sift what he was told. Film he took on his journey in 1969 was rediscovered and some footage shows an armada of Asmat canoes and oarsman polling down a river. Some frames clearly show a white man oaring along with them. Either Machlin didn’t notice or he knew who the person was in the film and it was of no consequence. Fraser Heston discovered the old footage and it helped inspire his own documentary on the search for Rockefeller.

One account of the frame says that the man was dressed in the garb of the culture. Delicate way of putting it. If the birthday suit can be considered the apparel of a culture then, yes, quite. The white man looks well fed for have been living in the buff and rough for 8 years, if it was Rockefeller. Moreover, 1969 was post the counterculture, and it is possible that someone else from the West might have gone native.

I’m not knocking it. I recommend Heston’s documentary (The Search for Michael Rockefeller). Also Carl Hoffman’s book Savage Harvest, which is the book that has most recently popularized the idea of Michael having been killed and eaten by the Otsjenet.

MRock14
Asmat wood carvings intrigued Rockefeller the most.

But I have to inject a few things from experience here. Machlin’s seminal work is clearly in the mold of the ultimate ur-seeker of lost celebrities, Fred Goerner, a CBS radio journalists who lit the flame and carried it the highest for the search for Amelia Earhart. Goerner created a sensation with the Saipan theory in his 1965 book The Search for Amelia Earhart.  Others have elaborated upon it, and an entire genre in the search for Earhart has been created. But Saipan is a little more accessible than New Guinea’s Asmat lands.  Other researchers and journalists have visited the island and discovered that the natives like to tell stories they think will please the hearer. It seems Goerner fell for a lot of well-intentioned stories. In the 1970s he ended up drastically amending his theory, but he continued to maintain it was “inconceivable” that those stories he heard on Saipan about a white woman pilot before the war could not have been true.

It is beyond the scope of this article to elaborate in too much detail on the Saipan theory, but it reveals how the most inconsequential Pacific rumors became the kernel of entire theories. The Earhart on Saipan stories began with Josephine Akiyama, who as a young woman had lived on the island around 1937. In this year she remembered  that a plane crashed in the lagoon and a man and woman pilot were taken out by the Japanese troops, taken into the woods, and then she heard the shots of a firing squad. The man and woman never came out.

However, time has revealed how the story cannot be true, and not one of those who supports the Saipan theory even relies on it. The Japanese commander of the island did not have that authority, and it is now known the Japanese knew who Earhart was and even the emperor’s bother was keen to have her found. Akiyama’s story sounds like something that happened in the war. Sadly, this type of execution of American pilots happened. Nevertheless, from her memory an entire legend has emerged, one completely disconnected to what she reported. This legend is one of Earhart on Saipan, one of imprisonment, even execution, perhaps natural death, perhaps even having been taken to Tokyo (!) or New Jersey (!!!!!).

MRock7
Another of M. Rockefeller’s photos.

The difference with Rockefeller/cannibal theory and the Earhart/Saipan theory is that Rockefeller was really on New Guinea. But like Earhart the idea that he was merely lost at sea does not seem acceptable to many. It’s a banal fate. Historians did not consider it too banal for Earhart, but it is for Rockefeller, despite the fact he was between 3 to 10 miles off shore when he began swimming.

Like the Saipanese the Asmats don’t mind telling stories to please the hearers, and Carl Hoffman warns us in his Smithsonian article that the Asmats most certainly can be like that. Thus we have to consider the facts and the logistics of the theories rather than take the oral testimony at face value.

It begins with Milt Machlin. As an Argosy writer, he really wasn’t the stuff of investigative reporting. Nor did he have to be. The bogus tip that brought him to New Guinea also brought him to van Kessel, who was sure the natives had told him the truth in 1962. He is essentially Machlin’s source.

Machlin was quite a character, but a lot of credit is given to him that simply isn’t true. Wikipedia even claims he coined the term “Abominable Snowman” and “Bermuda Triangle.” Vincent Gaddis wrote the groundbreaking article on the Triangle for February 1964’s Argosy issue. Perhaps he didn’t write the title (The Deadly Bermuda Triangle) and Machlin, possibly the editor, did. But Machlin most certainly did not coin “Abominable Snowman.” That term came about in 1921 and was largely due to Henry Newman mistranslating the Sherpa words Metoh Kangmi (filthy or disgusting snowman) as “Abominable.” The British dailies loved the term “Abominable Snowman” and ran with it. Milt Machlin wasn’t even born until 1924.

Despite the tendency of the more erudite approach today to downgrade Machlin’s material, basically little has been added, from what I can tell, to augment the view that Rockefeller didn’t drown.

MRock11
Milt Machlin

Carl Hoffman and others believe that Rockefeller was killed as he came ashore, that it was an act of revenge for the lives that a Dutch expedition had taken in a 1957 raid on Otsjenet leaders. The story’s credence also hangs on the account of Dutch missionary Cornelius Van Kessel,  but more so on something a little more specific than a general retelling. Van Kessel had said that the Otsjenet described him as wearing funny shorts (American undies). Thus it appears that Van Kessel’s source was an eyewitness, and Van Kessel is the conduit for most everything from Machlin to Hoffman (he had read Van Kessel’s written report). So that essentially the belief stems from the missionary who soon after the whole affair questioned members of the tribe.

There was an incredible “underwear” story that proved very influential with Earhart’s search as well. A New York con man tried to blackmail G.P. Putnam, her husband, with the story that he had seen Earhart on an island near New Guinea wearing only athletic shorts. He was taken seriously because Earhart did, in fact, wear men’s athletic shorts while flying because they were more comfortable.  How this east end New Yorker picked that up, it is hard to say.

At an opposite to the cannibal theory, Fraser Heston pursues the possibility that Rockefeller did survive and went native. He has a frame of film, after all, that shows a bearded and quite nude white man in 1969.

MRock10
Nelson Rockefeller with the gas tank.

 

The facts at hand make it hard to accept that the Otsjenet would kill and eat Michael Rockefeller and not keep as practical souvenirs his red gas tanks, for whatever reason.

The Otsjenet knew the power of the Dutch and what they did in 1957. They never took revenge on the white missionaries, and they did know Rockefeller by name. It seems strange that they should decide to kill him, a fatigued man as he was wading into shore. They knew what the Dutch could do in return.

There’s rumors that his head was shrunken, but then there are claims it was not and just buried. There are rumors of who was involved and who amongst the Otsjenet had his hip bone, etc. But nothing has been proven. There are no facts, and the Asmat land is a land where tribes engaged in frequent warfare and revenge. One tribe blaming another for Rockefeller’s death is a possibility, and now perhaps some have made it a reality.

But that bright red gas tank found floating at sea remains the only tangible clue. Like with the Amelia Earhart legend, the rest is oral, contradictory and sketchy. And Machlin almost completely copied Fred Goerner’s sensational approach as used in his search for Amelia Earhart on Saipan. It seems, however, that the establishment wants to believe the sensational conclusion for Michael Rockefeller today. Perhaps it is true. There is just no proof except for a floating gas tank.

*         *          *

Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.

The Lord Lucan Mystery– A Logistical Approach

Kind hearts are more than coronets, and simple faith than Norman blood. . . Alfred, Lord Tennyson

It was the night of November 7, 1974, a Thursday night it was, close to 9 p.m. It should have been the nanny’s night out at 46 Lower Belgrave, the townhome in posh Belgravia, London, of the 7th Earl of Lucan, but Sandra Rivett remained in tonight. The kitchen was in the basement floor of the 5 story townhome. It was dark. The lightbulb that illuminated the bottom of the landing was lying still on a dinette chair. A figure melded with the  darkness. A flick back and forth could be heard from upstairs, but the switch at the top of the stairs didn’t buy any light. No matter. The person slowly descended into the darkness. There was a little rattle here and there. The petite figure carried a tray with the implements for tea on it. At the bottom of the stairs, in the darkness, she was taken by surprise when a piece of that darkness suddenly detached and moved toward her like a cat that thrusts upon its prey. She is punched in the faced, drops the tray with a splatter, and falls back. She is punched again. Then she is bludgeoned to death.

Crime scene investigation tells us this and a bit more that we shall soon go into. The rest of that night is oral testimony.

Lady Lucan grew curious as to why her children’s nanny was laggard. From her second floor bedroom (first floor in British parlance) she went downstairs. She stood at the top of the stairs. The switch did not bring light to the horror scene at the bottom. She stepped a couple of stairs down and suddenly she was pounced upon, beaten, fingers shoved in her throat, strangled. She struggled, recalls grabbing the inseam of the attacker and twisting until he fell to his knees and stopped choking her. She became compos mentis enough now to recognize her husband, Lord Lucan.

Rivett
The victim, Sandra Rivett.

Lady Lucan asked where was Sandra. Lord Lucan was evasive at first. Now that his wife was before him, however, he had realized the horror of what he had done, at least insofar as one-sided oral testimony tells us. He finally told her bluntly– he had killed the nanny!  Due to their extremely bad relationship at the time, Lady Lucan deduced that he had intended to kill her and mistook the nanny in the darkness for her. Lady Lucan then said she could help him escape from what he had done if he would spare her. According to her he let her go into the first floor (ground floor in Britain) washroom, but only the hot water tap was working. It was too hot to drink. They went upstairs to her bedroom, where she passed her eldest daughter and went into the bathroom to clean up. She told her to go to bed. She scampered upstairs. She saw that her mom was crying and had blood on her. She saw her daddy briefly. He was dressed in a long overcoat, full length, fawn colored with brown check, and had dark trousers on. It was about 9:05 p.m.

According to Lady Lucan, when she came out of the bathroom, ready to lie down, Lord Lucan said she looked a sight. He told her to put a towel around her head to prevent getting blood on the pillow. He said he would clean up her face. He went into the bathroom and she heard the tap water running indicating he was wetting a towel. She dashed out, rushed down the stairs and burst out the front door, running to the corner of Lower Belgrave Street, to the pub the Plumber’s Arms, where she burst in, covered in blood, declaring “he” tried to murder me.

The eldest daughter, Lady Frances, remembers looking down the stairway from her upper floor room and seeing her dad, Lord Lucan, come up the stairs to the floor where her sister and brother had rooms, and call for “Veronica,” Lady Lucan’s name. “Where are you?” He didn’t come up to her level but then went back down to the second floor. He must then have left the house.

Plumbers Arms2
The Plumbers Arms on Lower Belgrave.

The police would soon come, called by those at the Plumber’s Arms. The bobbies had to kick in the front door since they found one of the locks engaged, there to find blood all over the first floor (ground floor) but the children safe upstairs, unaware of the bloody mess in the kitchen. To the kitchen landing they returned, where a bloody metal pipe with tape wrapped around it lay, and then down the stairs to the basement kitchen, and there to find a body in a canvas mail bag, one limp, bloody arm hanging out of it; a pool of blood continued to ooze out around it, and blood splattered about the walls, floor, and apparently also the ceiling. There was a bloody shoe print as well. There was a broken tea cup, a tray on the floor at the bottom of the landing, and the lightbulb that should have brought light was lying still on a dinette chair. Sandra Rivett was dead.

Lady Lucan had passed out at the Plumber’s Arms, never mentioning a culprit name. She had been rushed to St. George’s Hospital. As the townhouse swarmed with police, the dowager Countess of Lucan, Lord Lucan’s mother, arrived. She said that her son had called and said there was a terrible “catastrophe” at the house and please go get the kids.

46-Lower

46 Lower Belgrave today, between the two porches.

Lord and Lady Lucan were estranged, separated. In a nasty court case which Lord Lucan finally withdrew from, his wife had gotten the children. He had insisted she had been mentally unstable, but the judge did not care for the fact that Lucan was a professional gambler. Lucan couldn’t stand the fact he had lost his children to what he considered a mentally ill woman who thought he had put a contract on her, “like in American television movies,” had said one friend.

The dowager Countess had to tell the detective that her daughter-in-law was only verbally abusive, not physically, but that she was being treated for a mental disorder and the children were wards of the court. The dowager Countess then said that when her son had called her he had said he was driving past the house and saw through the kitchen window a man fighting with his wife. He rushed  in to defend her. The man hopped it. Now he wanted his mother to check on the kids and get them out of there. He had called her at 10:45 p.m.

Naturally, this was curious to the police. If their father had been present, why did he leave his children alone and why did his wife then escape down the street to the pub to get help? Is he the one who locked the front door again, to make sure the kids would be safe in the house?

Actual46-2

 The kitchen window. It was impossible to see into it from a passing car.

In any case, investigation soon cast suspicion on Lord Lucan. He had vanished!

The chief detective, Roy Ranson, arrived and had the area cordoned off. Far too many people had been in the house already. Ranson now started looking at the clues. From what is described at the Inquest we can put it back together ourselves.

Before we do, we must go back. I have achieved my recognition in cold case for having treated such cases like a “hot case.” We must start all over again and act as though this was November 7, 1974. Any prejudices must go. All the folklore and rot of over 40 years must be put away. As such we start from the assumption that John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan,  is entirely innocent. We recommence the investigation  by combining the method of the French police (reenactment) with that of Scotland Yard (obsess on every clue).

Kimberly coronet
An Earl’s coronet.

And every man that striveth for mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible.” 1 Corinthians 9:25.

 

We commence:

The injuries on Sandra Rivett allow for a detailed reenactment. According to the coroner, the injury to the left side of her mouth and left eye were not caused by  the tape-wrapped metal pipe. It seemed she had been punched. The other wounds were to her head, behind the right ear and then a couple at the nape of her neck. There was a defensive wound on the back of her right hand. Significantly, there were four bruises on the front of her upper right arm, left by four fingers as she had been clutched by her assailant.

I have reenacted how Sandra Rivett had been approached and punched already. But now with the other information we can proceed. Her killer then grabbed her by the right upper arms, from the back, so that his four fingers embedded into the front part of her arm. He lifted the dazed nanny off the floor. She hung limp from his left hand. He then, with the pipe in his right hand,  started beating her head. She raised her right hand at one point and he hit her outer right hand. Her head slumped under the blows, and two more poundings with the lead pipe came down on the nape of her neck.

The canvas mail bag indicates that the killer had fully intended to take the body away. He put her therein and folded the it up so the top part was leaning against the wall. Despite having drawn the draw strings an arm flopped out. Leaning it up was no doubt to keep any blood from leaking out the top. However, the bag was not waterproof, and blood began to ooze out the seam or some other crack and form a pool around the canvas bag.

The killer was not very clever. He did not make sure the bag was waterproof. He also chose to kill in the sloppiest manner there is– bludgeoning.  Quite stupid really. According to Lady Lucan’s testimony, she was taken by surprise at the top of the stairs. There the police had found the lead pipe. Ranson theorized that the killer had gone upstairs to clean himself in the washroom. Then he heard another person approach. To Ranson, the killer was Lucan himself. He heard his wife call for Sandra and then realized he had killed the wrong woman. He burst forth and started attacking her, but then soon gave up and agreed to help her.

There is much here that doesn’t fit if or if not Lord Lucan is truly to blame. The killer fully came prepared with a weapon and a bag in order to dispose of the body. He came prepared to bludgeon. Those who believe that Lucan was guilty posit that he knew this was Rivett’s night off. When a figure came down the stairs he knew it had to be his wife. He intended to kill her in order to get custody of his children. But the fact the killer lurked and awaited in the basement presupposes that he knew Lady Lucan would come down the stairs later at night. How could he be sure? The manner in which Rivett was beaten would have put a lot of blood on the killer. Yet the eldest daughter didn’t notice blood on her father, but did notice her mother had lots of blood on her.

Logistics make many other points quite curious. If Lord Lucan was guilty, then he intended to dump his wife’s body somewhere and leave the kids alone in the house unattended. His reason for removing the body was because he didn’t want his children to find their mother like that. But he also chanced them finding the bloody mess, which would be traumatic enough. He had a late night dinner date that night, and when his apartment was opened, his clothes were lying out. He had taken everything from one pants pocket and laid it out, as if ready to dress for dinner. He really didn’t have time to dump a body and make the dinner appointment at 11 p.m.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. . .

To keep to chronology, all that was known is that Lord Lucan had vanished. He made a couple of calls, and wrote a few letters. Not too many clues were left by these. The car of the friend he had borrowed was found at a seaside town. He has never been found again, and became one of Britain’s most famous celebrities in crime because he was convicted in the popular court. He was convicted on oral testimony and on the fact he vanished. He is the last person who has ever been named a murderer by a coroner’s inquest jury. That power was soon removed by law. Because of this few have looked at the details of the crime scene logistically. Lord Lucan has been reported in many places around the world. He became a highly sought and exotic fugitive.

. . .But the immediate aftermath and the continuing saga of “looking for Lucan” is for the next post.

 

*         *          *

Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.