The Roswellian Syndrome and Paranoid Message
Marilyn’s Murder Orthodoxies are like many of the other enormous and elaborate conspiracy theories that have developed over the years regarding many perceived to be mysterious deaths and other occurrences; and Skeptical Inquirer writers Joe Nickell and James McGaha identified a five-phase process through which, in their opinion and belief, all the incredible and massive conspiracy theories involving UFOs have been created. Their five phases are:
- Reemergence and Media Bandwagon Effect.
This five-phase process can also be applied to the orthodoxies involving Marilyn’s death, all the orthodoxies taken as an enormous whole and then, also, each orthodoxy taken individually. Of course, Marilyn’s grievous death was the incident. The pronouncement of probable suicide debunked some of the initial whispers that perhaps she had been murdered. During the submergence phase, whispers of possible murder never completely dissipated and then the mythologizing phase began.1Both Nickell and McGaha noted that mythologizing is the most complex part of the syndrome, beginning when the story goes underground and continuing after it reemerges, developing into an elaborate myth. Mythologizing involves many factors, including exaggeration, faulty memory, folklore, and deliberate hoaxing.
In Marilyn’s case, the reemergence phase began in a somewhat weak manner with the publication of Frank Capell’s anti-Kennedy pamphlet in 1964; and in a way, the murder orthodoxies submerged a second time until the publication of Norman Mailer’s 1973 factoidal novel, which was then followed and expanded by Robert Slatzer’s apocrypha one year later. Not long thereafter, the media bandwagon effect began, represented by the many documentaries and the publication of several books about Marilyn’s life, not to mention the many newspaper and magazine articles proclaiming her murder, most of them crammed with distortion, supposition, opinion and outright prevarication. Those apocrypha were then followed twenty-three years after Marilyn’s death by the pathography written by Anthony Summers, which appeared to offer proof of murder and proof of a cover-up; but what the author and the book actually offered was merely more supposition and more hypothesizing in the form of witness testimony, much of which was, in fact, hearsay. Summers’ resurrection of Jeanne Carmen allowed her to spin her exaggerated tarradiddles while faulty memories created more confusion and noise as did the absurd folklore which began to surround Marilyn’s life, a folklore to which she herself had contributed while she was alive. The folklore has a name: The Marilyn Mystique.
It is worth noting here that Anthony Summers dropped hundreds of names and quoted the second, often third hand testimony of more than a few dubious witnesses, both alive and deceased, only to conclude, in the end, that Marilyn more than likely killed herself, committed suicide accidentally, a prime example of paralipsis. As Sarah Churchwell noted, paralipsis can be employed by an author on a narrative scale by advancing a fable that he or she will ultimately reject (Churchwell 163); but then, Summers merely emulated Norma Mailer’s novel factoidal novel, in which the author dedicated many words to an elaborate murder theory involving Marilyn and Robert Kennedy, only to admit, ultimately, that no evidence existed to support his outrageous hypothesis.
Other factors have also contributed to the proliferation of Marilyn’s Murder Orthodoxies and the longevity of the belief that she was murdered, not only murdered, but murdered by powerful forces and even faceless men in a Kafkaesque nightmare from which she could not escape. Without question, Marilyn’s death, arguably the first death of an incomparable and incredibly famous twentieth century celebrity, when combined with the assassinations of her alleged lovers, American Royalty both, offered more than a fertile medium for the seeds of murder and political conspiracy to grow; and a paranoia generated by the inclusion of an all powerful government and the automatons at its disposal, the minions of the FBI and the CIA, functioned as nothing less than a powerful fertilizer.
Twenty-nine years ago, Oliver Stone released his movie about President Kennedy’s tragic assassination and the elaborate government conspiracy to obscure the facts and the cover-up which transpired afterwards, absent any mention of Marilyn Monroe; but within that movie, writer Robert Robins and psychologist Dr. Jerrold Post perceived a message which they identified as a paranoid message, one closely related and connected to conspiratorial narratives. For the JFK Assassination Home Page, in their article, “Political Paranoia as Cinematic Motif: Stone’s ‘JFK’,”2Robins and Dr. Post wrote: The paranoid message will give more and more, and then it will give even more. The entertainment value of the paranoid message has very few, if any, challengers because it serves its audience narratives which feature enigmas and mystery, drama and passion, heroes and villains, struggle and travail; but if the narratives can be connected to a historical event, especially one that involves romantic characters and unexpected death, then fiction, history, and popular delusion can be joined in the pursuit of profit. Robins and Dr. Post noted that the narrative can even linger forever since evidence that challenges the conspiratorial basis of the paranoid message will either be ignored or repudiated while individuals advancing such evidence or challenging the conspiratorial basis will simply be transformed into part of the elaborate conspiracy. The paranoid explanatory system is a closed one, explained Robert Robins and Dr. Post, into which nothing but confirmatory evidence is accepted. Contradictions are dismissed as being naive or, more likely, part of the conspiracy itself.
The preceding quotations touched upon an essential factor contributing to the longevity of Marilyn’s Murder Orthodoxies, the pursuit of profit; but it also touched upon factors which have made a profit pursuable: romantic characters and unexpected death portrayed as a never ending story of incredible tragedy, featuring a perceived to be tragic but charismatic and gorgeous female movie actress and incomparable star, the story of incredible tragedy presented as a complex riddle that can never be solved due to a huge and clever conspiracy, all included in the type of closed conspiratorial system described by Robins and Dr. Post.
The conspiratorial arguments are all one-sided, complete with illusory correlation, confirmation bias, cherry picking, evidence exclusion and belief perseverance. Logical and powerful arguments, which include exculpatory evidence and testimony, logically prevail against the murder orthodoxies and have been offered to rebut the conspiratorial arguments and fallacies; but the belief that Marilyn Monroe was murdered and then her murderers escaped punishment because of their political power, despite contraindicative evidence and testimony, remains entrenched and unshakable. Beliefs can survive potent and logical or empirical challenges, according to researchers Lee Ross and Craig Anderson.3Their experiments and research also indicated that: 1) falsehoods are particularly difficult to discredit once implanted and a person or a group develops a rationale for accepting the falsehoods; and 2) beliefs can survive and even be bolstered by evidence that most uncommitted observers would agree logically demands some weakening of such beliefs. They can even survive the total destruction of their original evidential bases.
As a brief example of how entrenched and unshakable beliefs can survive a potent and logical challenge, consider this. John Kennedy was not a romantic per se. He was not interested in sex as a romantic endeavor; and he was neither interested in foreplay nor after play. In short, he did not engage in pillow talk. Even so, Marilyn putatively learned many of John Kennedy’s tiptop secrets during after copulation cigarette smoking and pillow talk with the president, certainly a glaring inconsistency and contradiction if not a mendacity and if not a potent challenge to a fallacy often used as evidence and proof of a lengthy romance between movie star and president and often used as a motive for Marilyn’s murder: revealed secrets that she intended to expose during her scheduled press conference.
So, with a confirming nod toward the experiments and postulations of Lee Ross and Craig Anderson, appropriately consider and weigh the following challenges to the Marilyn-was-murdered evidential bases. I’ll begin with the alleged press conference.
It has been asserted that Marilyn had scheduled her revelatory press conference for Monday, August the 6th. Most certainly her press agent, Pat Newcomb, would have known about that announcement; but Pat never mentioned a scheduled press conference. Not ever. Most certainly as well, if Marilyn Monroe had announced, even remotely hinted that she intended to appear before the cameras of the press, that event certainly would have been excitedly reported by them, particularly if her appearance before the cameras might also involve, even if remotely, the middle Kennedy brothers; but in fact, neither a credible nor a contemporaneous report of an announced press conference involving Marilyn has ever been discovered. Never. Furthermore, a press agent actually involved with Marilyn and Pat Newcomb testified that no such press conference had even been suggested at that time in 1962.
Also, is it not logical to contend this: if Marilyn Monroe had called a press conference for August the 6th and then had been found dead on August the 5th, that scandalous oddity most certainly would have made at least the local headlines, if not the national headlines. No such headlines appeared.
Certainly the preceding facts potently and logically challenge, and therefore should effectively weaken, the belief that Marilyn intended to expose the president and the attorney general as her lovers and thereby expose them as adulterers. The preceding facts also potently and logically challenge, and should essentially eliminate, one of the primary motivations for the middle Kennedy brothers to either murder Marilyn or order her murder. Still, the belief that Marilyn intended to appear at such a press conference, which resulted in her murder by John and Robert Kennedy, because of her expositional intention, remains entrenched, despite overwhelming indications otherwise, indications which are actually facts.
Robert Slatzer fathered the red diary myth. He asserted in his 1974 tarradiddle that Marilyn produced the diary from her purse during a trip to Point Dume in 1962; but then Slatzer testified to Anthony Summers that Marilyn, while simultaneously expressing her anger with Robert Kennedy and weeping, produced her diary from an oversized shopping bag. According to that Slatzer yarn, the incensed actress also produced a rubber-band-bound-wad of hand-written love notes from the attorney general, hand-written on Justice Department stationery (Summers 420-421). That wad of love notes did not appear in Slatzer’s 1974 fantasy and neither did the angry, weeping Marilyn. So, why the differing accounts of how Slatzer initially met Marilyn’s Little Red Diary? Why the obvious contradictions? Considering that Slatzer claimed he could remember verbatim each of his conversations with Marilyn over the sixteen year period of their alleged relationship; and he could clearly remember the details of his initial meeting with his future lover and wife, we can logically conclude, then, that he should have been able to clearly remember just how he initially met her Little Red Diary? Certainly, the obvious variations in his stories, his discrepant anecdotes, should generate reasonable doubt regarding the verity of the teller and the diary’s existence. As an aside, those handwritten love notes have never been found among Marilyn’s papers and have never surfaced.
Also, prior to and immediately following Marilyn’s murder, many highly motivated fellows searched for Marilyn’s Red Book of Secrets. Robert Kennedy searched, as did Peter Lawford and the private eye, Fred Otash, just to mention three; but despite those searches, that exposé of secrets could not be found. It has never been found. So, why do many persons still believe that Marilyn’s exposé of secrets actually existed, despite the many contradictory and mutually exclusive tales involving that journal. For instance, Norman Jefferies reported that Eunice Murray surrendered the diary to a courier dispatched from the coroner’s office on August the 6th; but then Samir Muqaddin reported that he inadvertently found the diary in Marilyn’s purse. Ted Jordan claimed Marilyn gave the elusive diary to him on August the 1st in 1962, just one of many diary tales Jordan related before he finally stated unequivocally that Norma Jean’s diary of secrets did not exist and never did.
The district attorney’s summary report, which followed the threshold investigation in 1982, addressed the fallacy of the red diary. The alleged existence of the red diary has particular meaning under the conspiratorial theory, the report noted and added that the red diary was directly related to the motivation to murder Marilyn Monroe. The Summary Report stated that the posited scenario doesn’t hold together and then concluded:
Under it, those who some might consider as suspects in her death, e.g., her physician and her house-keeper, were with her at the time of her death or shortly after and therefore had the greatest access to her personal documents, including the alleged diary. They are likely to have been the same persons who turned over the diary to the authorities from the Coroner’s Office or to the mortuary employees had such a diary existed. It doesn’t make sense to imply that those who were closest to Miss Monroe were responsible for her death and then to allege that these same people turned over to outsiders the very information they sought, by killing her, to suppress.
Even if one assumed that a stranger or a Coroner’s employee discovered a diary at the death scene and then passed it on to the authorities, one would also have to assume that the conspirators were incredibly inept to allow such a discovery.4
Clearly, the inconsistent and contradictory testimony pertaining to Marilyn’s Little Red Diary should challenge the belief that such a journal ever existed; and yet, books are still written and published, all manner of media stories still appear, along with all manner of TV documentaries and media podcasts that feature and proclaim the Red Book of Secrets as the motive for Marilyn’s murder.
Consider the assertion that a comatose Marilyn died in an ambulance en route to a hospital or actually died at a hospital after an ambulance delivered her thereto; but the hospital refused to accept her corpse. Despite that refusal, a physician allegedly signed a death certificate, after which the ambulance promptly returned Marilyn’s lifeless body to Fifth Helena where her murderer, or murderers, then staged the fake suicide scene.
During the almost four decades that James Hall’s Ambulance Theory has persisted, it has mutated into several forms, each of which has been a conglomeration of contradictions contained in the testimonies of various ambulance attendants, who also asserted that they and their ambulances were involved, along with a deceased attendant’s elder widow who charged that all of the other testifying attendants were liars. The theory is now a surreal legend and includes the application of lie detector tests,5odd hypnotic spells and questionable corroborating testimony, second and third hand most, all designed to create the impression of credibility and prove that this or that version of The Ambulance Theory is the only correct version; but just like all the theories pertaining to Marilyn’s alleged murder, The Ambulance Theory is replete with problems.
To begin with, as I noted earlier, that mysterious death certificate has never surfaced during the five decades plus since it was allegedly signed; and the fact that a dead Marilyn Monroe did not prompt the hospital’s staff to notify the police or the coroner drops the preceding scenario into the basket of a certain and comic impossibility. At any rate, why would murderers, intent on faking a suicide scene at Fifth Helena, first visit a hospital with Marilyn either near death or already dead. To do so is both nonsensical and illogical. The absolutely ludicrous nature of the many yarns, each of which is mutually exclusive, meaning all the yarns simply cannot be true, should stand in direct opposition to the belief that any one of them is true.6
As evidence that Marilyn’s death was not a suicide, each and every conspiracists has advanced the following opinions and apparent beliefs: 1) The level of barbiturate concentration in Marilyn’s blood indicated that she swallowed as many as one-hundred capsules, clearly a physical impossibility; 2) The water supply to Marilyn’s hacienda had been stopped; and 3) Marilyn did not have a drinking glass at her disposal.
Firstly, the quantity of pills Marilyn actually ingested, although speculated about frequently, remains unknown; however, I know from personal experience and firsthand knowledge that a woman of normal size can swallow one-hundred capsules while seated in an automobile, using only a can of soft drink; and she can swallow them in a matter of seconds. Therefore, quickly swallowing a large quantity of capsules is not impossible.
Secondly, the assertion that Marilyn did not have a drinking glass at her disposal is completely false. Police photographs, as I have already noted herein, clearly indicated a drinking glass at the base of Marilyn’s bedside table to the left of her bed.
Thirdly, the testimony regarding the water supply to Marilyn’s hacienda has been contradictory, as I have also already noted herein. However, even if the water supply to Marilyn’s house had had been stopped on August the 4th, a highly unsanitary and unlikely situation I suggest, the conspiracists never consider the possibility that Marilyn had access to liquid stored in her refrigerator, like fruit juice or a soft drink or even milk. Evidently, and according to testimony, Marilyn stood beside the open door of her refrigerator on the morning of August the 4th and drank a glass of grapefruit juice.
Obviously, the presence of a drinking glass, proven conclusively by police photographs taken that tragic August morning, potently challenges the assertion that Marilyn could not have ingested the pills that killed her; and add to that challenge the reality that she probably swallowed a quantity of pills considerably less than one-hundred, keeping in mind that she did not have one-hundred Nembutals at her disposal, it is amazing that many persons still believe Marilyn could not have swallowed the drugs that killed her.
Between the hours of 12:01 AM and 2:00 AM on August the 5th, according to William Woodfield and Joe Hyams, a helicopter landed on Santa Monica Beach at Peter Lawford’s beachside mansion. That helicopter whisked Robert Kennedy out of Los Angeles and back to San Francisco. Norman Mailer asserted that the helicopter was, in fact, a Marine chopper; and as it lifted the attorney general into the night sky, the factoidalist implied, Marilyn Monroe was already dead. Keep in mind Officer Lynn Franklin’s testimony: at 12:10 AM on August the 5th, he stopped a white Lincoln driven by Peter Lawford, speeding westward on Olympic Boulevard, most certainly, the police officer later concluded, transporting Dr. Ralph Greenson and Robert Kennedy away from the scene of Marilyn’s already concluded murder. However, testimony from several other witnesses that have been presented by various conspiracists have created contradictions and twisted the hands of the clock like the surrealist painter, Salvador Dali.
Ambulance attendant James Hall testified in 1982 that Dr. Ralph Greenson injected Marilyn in her heart with a huge cardiac needle, thereby murdering her. However, in 1992, Hall told Lynn Franklin that the heart penetrating incident definitely occurred at 3:30 AM Sunday morning, which contradicted his original testimony to Assistant District Attorney, Ronald Carroll, to whom Hall testified that he and his partner arrived at Fifth Helena between the hours of 4:00 AM and 6:00 AM; and yet, according to the conspiracist Donald Burleson, Robert Kennedy actually witnessed Marilyn’s murder at Fifth Helena. Also, Bernard Spindel testified, to assorted acquaintances and friends, that the attorney general was present in Marilyn’s hacienda when she died. Obviously, the conspiracists have a severe dysfunction relative to time. If we accept the assertion of William Woodfield and Joe Hyams, that Robert Kennedy most certainly left Los Angeles by whirlybird prior to 2:00 AM on August the 5th, then the attorney general most certainly was not present when Dr. Greenson allegedly murdered Marilyn at 3:30 AM or any time between the hours originally noted by James Hall. This timeline conflict is just one of many within the Marilyn-Was-Murdered-Universe and leads to one final consideration.
Consider the mutually exclusive and oddly illogical nature of all the murder orthodoxies themselves, indications of mendacity invariably ignored, not only by the conspiracists, but also by those who simply want to believe that Marilyn did not and would not commit suicide. Moreover, within the assertion that Marilyn would not commit suicide there lies a major, but nonetheless revealing and interesting, contradiction. It is not so much a question of loose logic as it is a veritable lapse of logic, both an acute and a chronic lapse of common sense and reason.
The conspiracists invariably paint Marilyn as a woman mostly out of control, virtually a lunatic, ecstatically manic one moment and morosely despondent the next, needy and obsessive, used by everyone around her, including those she loved. They paint the portrait of a woman with a tenuous, at best, grip on reality, drug addled and alcoholic, confused and desperate; and yet they simultaneously maintain that she had absolutely no reason to even consider ending a life they paint as chronically chaotic, a life that Marilyn admitted, during an interview, left her generally miserable. Even so, Marilyn was happy, the conspiracists have asserted and assert; even though she could not find real happiness. What reason did Marilyn have to kill herself? Thus the conspiracists ask, expecting us, almost desperately wanting us, it seems, to see a fallacy within the probable suicide pronouncement by the authorities in 1962. Marilyn’s life was about to become a bed of roses, the pathographers gleefully assert. Obviously the conspiracists are incapable of perceiving the fundamental contradiction contained in what they have asserted and continue to assert; they do not perceive the assertion’s illogical foundation. And, too, when a fellow considers the many indications by Marilyn that death, for her, represented a form of relief from a life that she frequently represented as chronically painful, then the assertion that Marilyn had no reason to kill herself becomes immediately silly and untenable.7
French absurdist philosopher and novelist, Albert Camus, noted that a person predisposed to suicide or a person who has come to recognize the futile absurdity of his or her life does not actually need much of a reason to end the recognized futility: how an acquaintance or a passerby, or any person the predisposed might meet, just happens to say “good morning” at that moment could be reason enough. The why at that precise moment in Marilyn Monroe’s life will never be known unless additional information and additional evidence appears in the future, or time travel becomes a reality. Still, it is obvious that Marilyn Monroe was not murdered. Her life was not stolen from her. She did not have to die in 1962; death was her choice.