Eunice Murray: Housekeeper and Unreliable Witness

God blessed the religious family of Joerndt with the arrival of a second daughter two years after the turn of the century. The infant’s parents, then living in Chicago, devout members of the Swedenborgian religion, a sect of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, named her Eunice. For several years following Eunice’s birth in 1902, the family remained in Chicago; but they eventually relocated to a farm in Ohio where Eunice and her older sister, Carolyn, attended a rural grade school. When Eunice was eleven years old, her parents sent Carolyn, who Eunice apparently idolized and often emulated, to Urbana, Ohio, where she attended the Urbana School and Academy. Four years later, thrilled to be reunited with her older sister, Eunice joined Carolyn at the school. Soon thereafter, the girl’s parents moved to Los Angeles. Then an event occurred that apparently forever changed Eunice.

Unaware that the religion of Carolyn’s parents prohibited the intervention of doctors during a medical crisis, the educators in Urbana summoned a doctor when Carolyn contracted influenza. After the Joerndts learned of that transgression, they disowned Carolyn and literally abandoned her. The heartless and cruel reaction of her parents to a situation not caused by her sister traumatized Eunice; and as a result, her formal education ended in 1918 due to her perceived emotional and psychological frailty. Eunice joined her parents in Los Angeles while, fortunately, the family of a benevolent woman who worked at the Urbana school, along with the community of Urbana, virtually adopted and cared for Carolyn until 1924, the year she, and Eunice as well, announced that they would soon marry.

Carolyn married Franklin Blackmer, a prominent Swedenborgian minister. Eunice married John Murray, whose father was also a prominent Swedenborgian minister. John intended to follow his father’s religiously pious footsteps into the ministry; and so he attended Yale Divinity School. However, Murray left divinity school and instead became a carpenter, a trade that he loved and of which Eunice wholeheartedly approved: engaging in carpentry was, after all, a direct emulation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Once married, Eunice transferred the focus of her life to her husband and assumed the role of a devoutly Swedenborgian wife. Swedenborg taught his followers that man is a form of truth and woman is a form of love: truth and love must be combined to create oneness, to create the spiritual whole. The eighteenth century theologian also taught his followers that marriages were holy and continued even after death, that a person’s marital status continued with them into eternity and hopefully into the perfection of Heaven; but apparently, the union of John Murray and Eunice Joerndt did not produce an idyllic spiritual oneness or a marital whole. Even so, it produced three daughters, Jacqueline, Patricia and Marilyn.

While emulating the Lord’s life as a lowly carpenter, Murray became the vice-president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners which led him into union organizing. While traveling around the United States, and even into Mexico organizing tradesmen, Murray managed to build his family a house located on Franklin Street in Los Angeles. During his house construction, John Murray was present in the lives of Eunice and his daughters only occasionally and only until he completed constructing the Spanish-style house. Apparently no longer interested in attempting to create a spiritual idyllic one wholeness with Eunice, in 1946, Murray disappeared, leaving his wife with a mortgage that she could not pay. After only four months of residency in the house, Eunice sold it to Dr. Ralph Greenson. Eunice finally divorced John Murray four years after relinquishing her house to Dr. Greenson and that must have been a major disappointment. Her divorce certainly represented a major failure with respect to the Swedenborgian Theology; but after Eunice’s idolized sister died, curiously and oddly enough, Eunice married the widower, Franklin Blackmer, who died one year later. Ralph Greenson hired Eunice as his housekeeper; but eventually, the doctor began placing her with some of his more significant patients, to whom she became both a companion and a faux nurse, a role for which Eunice had neither formal nor professional training and no real life experience. Mostly, the mild-mannered woman who never graduated from high school and simply referred to herself as a nurse, and also referred to herself as an interior decorator, became Dr. Greenson’s willing spy, occasionally in residence. She faithfully followed the doctor’s orders and reported to him the details of his patient’s private lives and behavior; and thus became the situation when Marilyn, who, in submission and compliance with Dr. Greenson’s insistence, hired Eunice Murray as her housekeeper in 1961. Even though Eunice occasionally spent the night on Fifth Helena Drive, those sleepovers were infrequent; and Mrs. Murray maintained her own place of residence, contrary to what has been frequently reported. 

At that moment, Marilyn was living a second time in the apartments located on Doheny Drive. Dr. Greenson also insisted that Marilyn needed to purchase a house whereby she could establish a home through which the peregrine actress could then establish some roots. Dispatched by Dr. Greenson, Eunice located the house at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in Brentwood, a Spanish-styled hacienda that was near Dr. Greenson’s residence and resembled the house formerly owned and occupied by Eunice Murray and her daughters. Not long after Marilyn purchased the house on Fifth Helena, Eunice became Marilyn’s housekeeper and frequent companion; but, as noted above, Eunice was not a live-in maid.

A few of Marilyn’s biographers have speculated that Eunice Murray relived her former life with John Murray through her association with Marilyn. In a fantasy world similar to the one created by Ralph Greenson, Eunice also created a parallel fantasy world in which Ralph Greenson symbolized her husband and Marilyn symbolized her youngest daughter since they obviously shared Christian names. Perhaps Eunice’s marriage to her deceased sister’s husband allowed her to also create a strange fantasy world in which she became Carolyn; and perhaps, despite the Swedenborgian belief that marriages followed the married into the afterlife, when Franklin met Carolyn in Heaven, she did not slap his face for committing adultery. I assume that Carolyn forgave Eunice for committing that sin with her husband.

Thirteen years after Marilyn’s death, with the assistance of the author Rose Shade, Mrs. Murray wrote and published a memoir entitled, Marilyn: The Last Months. I have not read that memoir; and while some readers may consider that to be a real error by me or even a deficiency of this text, I have never perceived any real reason to read what Eunice asserted in writing, primarily because during the many interviews Marilyn’s former housekeeper granted to various pathographers and various film crews that produced the many documentaries promoting this or that murder orthodoxy, Mrs. Murray often contradicted herself.

In 1973, for instance, during interviews with both the Ladies Home Journal and The Chicago Tribune, Eunice reported that Robert Kennedy did not appear at Fifth Helena on August the 4th, a position that she also maintained in her 1975 memoir. During an interview with Maurice Zolotow, published by the Chicago Tribune on September the 11th in 1973, Mrs. Murray asserted that the stories about Marilyn and Robert Kennedy were the most evil gossip of all before declaring: It is not true that Marilyn had a secret love affair with Mr. Kennedy […] and I would tell you if it were so. Eunice also declared that Marilyn certainly didn’t go sneaking around with Mr. Kennedy and have a love affair with him. When asked directly by Zolotow if Bobby Kennedy was in the house that Saturday night, Eunice answered: No. After Zolotow posed the same question about Peter Lawford and Pat Newcomb, Eunice answered: No. Absolutely not. There was nobody in the house that night except me and Marilyn. The doors were locked. The gate was shut. The windows locked. The French window in her room locked. Ten years later, with the arrival of Anthony Summers, Mrs. Murray changed her story: the attorney general, she said, had been there that Saturday afternoon. Then, in 1986, Marilyn’s former housekeeper made a similar declaration to a Marilyn researcher by the name of Roy Turner; however, during an interview with the magazine Picture Week, then a new weekly publication by TIME,1Mrs. Murray, eighty-two years old at that time, refused to repeat what she had recounted for Anthony Summers, refused to repeat her ac­count of Kennedy’s alleged presence in the house […]. Mrs. Murray also admitted: Once in a while, everything becomes confused. I am confused. Most certainly, her admitted confusion could have caused the aging Mrs. Murray to relate several different versions of the same basic story; but perhaps, there are other reasons.

Apparently Eunice Murray was the type of person who said what she believed the other persons in her company at any particular moment wanted to hear; and some Marilyn experts have noted that Eunice generally supported the murder orthodoxy that happened to be the most popular at the time of her interviews or she supported the murder orthodoxy also supported by the conspiracist performing her interview at that moment. Additionally, she once admitted that she merely said what she thought sounded the best at the time. Furthermore, as evidenced by her relationship with Dr. Greenson, Eunice was easily manipulated. She was probably motivated by an ingrained compulsion to please men through a religiously implanted acquiescent complaisance. How can anything Eunice ever said be considered reliable? Even though I have quoted Eunice occasionally within this text, the only prudent answer to that question is this: nothing she ever said can or should be accepted at face value simply because Eunice Murray was an unreliable witness.

Ralph Greenson: Lover and Murderer