Posts Tagged ‘John Wilkes Booth’

a Tale of One City

August 18, 2013


This is something that came to my attention before the Snowden avalanched the world.

For two days in a row in May, the very small town of Granbury, Texas, was in the news.

And neither of the stories hinge on the fact that John St Helen (a.k.a. John Wilkes Booth) once lived there.

The first mention was when the scam-master Billy Sol Estes died in his home in Granbury and the next day we heard about tornadoes that slammed the small town just outside of Ft Worth.

I’m not saying there’s any correlation between the two stories but in this butterfly-effect universe, who knows?

A hundred-ten years ago this past January (on Jan 13, 1903) David E George supposedly killed himself after confessing that he was Wilkes Booth, but that was in Enid, OK, not in Granbury.

And for the life of me I cannot figure out any connection between John Wilkes Booth and Billy Sol Estes, but I have never thought of looking in that direction before.

It’s probably nothing but just another bizarre coincidence, huh?


Differences of Opinion

March 10, 2013


There are some who have taken exception to parts of my volume The Plot to Kill John Wilkes Booth where I presented evidence that runs counter to “the accepted version”.

One must remember that in most occurrences, eyewitnesses are liable to recall different details, actions, or even ordering of the events. The “accepted version” uses its set of testimony and I use others that they have discarded.

Is there some rule of thumb that I used to “weight” the evidence? Most certainly!

If the evidence came from the mouth of Edwin Stanton – and most of the evidence did, then I disregard it. Why? Simple! My theory is that he was in charge of the cover-up and therefore anything he put into evidence was suspect.

Several of the witnesses during the course of the investigation also changed their testimonies. The altered testimony seemed to fall perfectly into line with the swill that Stanton was pedaling. I have chosen their earlier testimony over the later one, claiming their new version was influenced.

A fine example of the varying versions of testimony is to be found in We Saw Lincoln Shot by Timothy S. Good, and the author does an admirable job of trying to sort them all out.

So with all the data floating around and all the variant versions of testimony along every step of the way of the investigation and trial, a lot of different theories can be constructed.

I just took one that seemed to fit the evidence better than I thought the others did.

That’s not to say someone else cannot construct a different theory that satisfies their own interpretations better.

We are all free to surmise as wildly as we want. As long as we can find evidence to back it up.

Death of a President’s Son

March 7, 2013


Recently I was researching some history of California for a book I am planning. In the course of twenty minutes, three separate lines of research resulted in a connection with one person. Intrigued by the serendipity at work, I decided to look into a little more about the fellow.

Most people today have never heard of the man but Franklin Pierce was the Fourteenth President of the United States. I always figured he had been named for Benjamin Franklin. But his first name was not Benjamin although that was the name of his father as well as his son (his earlier two sons died young).

He was the youngest person elected to Congress (up to that time) and refused the Democratic nomination for Governor of New Hampshire. He also refused President Polk’s appointment to the position of Attorney General.

But he was a General in the Mexican War and received praise from both Robert E. Lee as well as Ulysses Grant.

After his election as President, he and his wife and his only remaining son, Benjamin, boarded a train and headed south to Washington but the train derailed near Andover, Massachusetts, and though Franklin and his wife survived, young Benjamin was killed.

It did not bode well for either his marriage or his Presidency.

There were a couple of strange facts about this era. First, the man Pierce defeated for President was his old nemesis from New Hampshire, John Hale, whose daughter, Lucy Lambert Hale, was later betrothed to John Wilkes Booth. The other interesting fact was Pierce’s Secretary of War was Jefferson Davis, later the President of the Confederacy.

Pierce was a supporter of the Confederacy throughout the war, and abhorred the attitude of his fellow Yankees toward the southern states.

He was also lifelong friends of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Other than these few fascinating tidbits, I do not know how any of this is connected to the conspiracy, but it certainly does seem a nice starting place.

If you know of any other interesting facts about Pierce, I would love to hear about them.

Still a Draw After 150 Years

February 22, 2013


The National Geographic channel’s “Killing Lincoln” garnered the station its highest ratings ever!

But, as I am sure you realize, the sesquicentennial of the assassination is rapidly approaching. It will be just over two years from now, in April 2015. And I am certain that there will be more and more shows and books on the subject as the date draws nearer.

The version NatGeo showed was from the book by Bill O’Reilly, the television personality. Though it follows pretty much the straight “approved” historical account, O’Reilly adds a few personal touches in adding some modern political flavor into the ballad.

I did not see the program but I am fairly well versed in Lincolnania and specifically the assassination.

Several of my previous posts have touched on the subject (as well two published volumes). And so I am always on the lookout for anything new.

Unfortunately, the O’Reilly version tells the same old story we have all heard before with the same misconceptions told and retold.

The presentation was entertaining but there was nothing new brought to the table in its rendition.

Lincoln and the assassination is a lucrative market – with at least five new books published every year on the subject – but rehashing the same old information is not very interesting for me.

Strange Connections

November 25, 2012

As a youth, I had somewhere gotten the notion that Booth and Poe were connected. Perhaps it was because I thought Poe and Booth resembled each other… a little perhaps… maybe… whatever. And then I added another figure of the period to the group, Stephen Foster. Don’t ask me how I came to create this assemblage, but in my mind they were all connected. Perhaps in some traveling musical cabaret though their ages were widely different:

Poe was born in 1809 (died 1849), Foster was born some seventeen years later in 1826 (died 1864) and Booth was not born until Poe was 29 in 1838 (died 1865).

So, when Poe died (in 1849), Foster was twenty-three and Booth would have only been age eleven. I really could not figure out how three should be connected.

It seemed likely, with such disparity in ages, they could not have been together in anything. So, it was with some amazement that I discovered a historical, factual between all three: Charles Dickens was the connection!

Dickens visited in 1842… Poe was 33, Booth was 4, Foster was 16.

When Dickens arrived, he visited with an old friend from England, one Junius Brutus Booth. Later, in Philadelphia, he visited with Edgar Allan Poe, with whom he had already been in correspondence. Then he traveled westward to western Pennsylvania where he fell in and was taken care of by the Foster family. So in this one trip, Charles Dickens met all three of the characters I had always fused together in my mind.

What does it mean? I haven’t the foggiest except to perhaps lend some weight to the argument that I am rapidly closing in on total insanity.

But then, such coincidences are the part and parcel of the conspiracy theorist.

So what – other than extreme coincidence – could this possibly mean?

We know that Dickens was a crusader against the social conditions in England but what of the three Americans?

Booth was the only one of the three actively involved in any “social work” and his was to keep the South free. Poe was interested in raising the level of literacy among the writers in America. Foster was a composer and seemed to have no interest in such things.

But all three had rather unusual finishes to their careers on earth.

Foster died alone and penniless in New York City. Though he only visited the South once, most of his songs had a Southern theme.

Booth was allegedly killed at Garrett’s Farm a week after allegedly killing President Lincoln, for a major Southern theme.

And Poe was found stoned out of his mind, wearing someone else’s clothes, far from where he was supposed to be and died in a delirium. And this just shortly after he had published his most unusual work, Eureka.

Strange connections indeed!

Now if I could only figure out what it all means… if anything.

My Theory on Booth III

November 15, 2012


So, I searched through more records… and reading the transcripts of the trial, I was astonished at the involvement of so many Post Office people, either directly or indirectly. And knowing that the PO Dept was the only branch of the government that actually turned a profit, I thought perhaps there might be something more there.

But then the location of all these people kept pointing to Troy, NY

So, I looked into the place in New York.
Seems it was a playground for the wealthier set… And that brought me to NY Senator Ira Harris and his daughter Clara and his second marriage to the widow Rathbone, whose son was Major Henry Rathbone.

And this was the Rathbone, and his step-sister/fiancée Clara, who were with President and Mrs. Lincoln on that fateful evening in Ford’s Theater.

So, I checked out the Major. He was not exactly a Major Harris but his step-father was a Harris. And he was a major… Hmm? That psychic may have been on to something.

Rathbone claimed the pistol shot came from behind him and he rose to struggle with the assassin. Booth then pulled out a Bowie knife and slashed Rathbone’s arm. And there is nothing overly suspicious in any of that.


Henry Rathbone ended his career in Hanover, Germany, attached to the American Consulate there. In the autumn of 1881, friends noticed he started acting a “little strange” and he began saying that he had been responsible for Lincoln’s death. On Christmas Eve that year, he climbed the stairs to his children’s’ room and found the door locked. His wife had noticed his strange behavior and barred his entry. So he continued to their bedroom where he stabbed her to death and then shot himself in the head. It seemed a rather bizarre reconstruction of the activity in the President’s box some eighteen years before when Booth shot Lincoln and then stabbed Rathbone.

I found it odd that he did not claim responsibility for not defending Lincoln but responsibility for his death.

In Dark Union by Guttridge and Neff, they comment how Booth must have felt being in Albany, NY, when Lincoln came through on his triumphal trip to Washington and the inauguration, and how odd it was that watching from another window near his own was one Clara Harris, who happened to be in the same hotel.

Funny, she also lived at the National Hotel when in Washington, the same as Booth. And it was known that she was a favorite of Lincoln and his wife, visiting the White House on numerous occasions.

So I came to the conclusion many years ago that Rathbone was the real killer, but I never had any sort of motive. Well, other than money… but that is rather old hat and not supported by any of the evidence I have seen. Without a complete examination of Rathbone’s finances all we have to go on is the facts of the case.

And the facts show that Stanton, otherwise so very much “in charge” of every situation, was caught with his pants down on this occasion. Like I mentioned before, had he any knowledge of a murder about to take place, he would have had a cover story already in place, rather than scrambling wildly to patch together something on the spur of the moment.

This fact alone shows that Rathbone was acting on his own – without his superior’s knowledge – and for his own motives. And it wasn’t for money as the moneyed people were expecting him to help Lincoln’s kidnappers, stationed as he was as Stanton’s representative that evening.

It may not seem like much.

But there is another connection that seems a little strange. Rathbone and his step-father both had ties back to Troy, New York, just as had the majority of the Post Office connections in this strange affair.

And, as if it wasn’t strange enough, Boston Corbett, killer of Booth, was also from Troy, New York.

My Theory on Booth II

November 12, 2012


Meanwhile, I read the ravings in Booth’s “diary”, the day-book he carried with him on his escape from D.C.

He spoke of having to push his way past “their Colonel” and raise the pistol, speaking the words “sic semper tyranis” before he fired, not later. This did not seem to jibe with the eyewitness accounts at all.

Then he said something that amazed me. “I have a mind to go back into the City and prove my innocence, which I feel I can do.”

Obviously, the man was quite mad. After admitting just two pages earlier that he had pushed past the “colonel” to kill the President, how could he possibly think he could prove any innocence?

There were two very real possibilities that I could see:
1 – Booth was completely unhinged at this point and unable to function any better than an idiot, or
2 – the record had been doctored.
A third possibility, that he meant he could simply get off on the insanity plea made popular by Stanton a few years earlier, would not actually “prove his innocence” so I did not consider it.

As #1 was completely counter productive for my purposes, I chose option #2 and began looking for evidence.

Is it possible that the diary could have been forged? When dealing with people in the intelligence services – yes, even way back then – such a possibility cannot be ruled out. But what could be the purpose of such forgery?

With Booth already seeming to have admitted to the crime – even though it is surprising that he did not know the difference between a Major and a Colonel – what could have been the purpose of admitting to it and then denying such admittance? It seemed obvious he was supposed to look deranged, and perhaps he was…

Another interesting thing about the little book was that Stanton had gotten it – along with all the other evidence concerning the crime – and he had locked it up in his safe. Its existence was not known at the time of the trial of the conspirators and was not learned about until a year later, and even then the “missing pages” created quite a stink.

Another interesting fact in the case is that the small book was supposed to have been taken off Booth’s body at the Garrett Farm when he died and was taken back to the capital with the corpse.

Unfortunately, the photographer at the War Department photographed the book and the images contained in the back pocket – photos of several female companions of Booth – and dated the photographic plates when he archived them. The date he write was the day before Booth died.

So there is a mystery even on this little piece of the puzzle. But, hey, the clerk simply forgot what day it was. I mean, the President had just been assassinated, you know. That could be enough to rattle anyone.

But it sure throws a monkey wrench into what would elsewise be a perfectly clear-cut case… yada yada yada.

And then there is the evidence that it was not Booth who died at Garrett’s farm. Like the Elvis sightings more recently, many people had claimed to have seen the assassin later.

Most historians, scoff at the idea, many pointing to the later exhumation of the body where several witnesses examined the remains. One person present attempted to remove Booth’s boot and found the foot had remained in the boot, because of the break in the leg caused by the jump to the stage after the assassination.

And that evidence should suffice for most people except for the location of Booth’s boot. You see, the infamous Doctor Mudd had to remove that boot to work on Booth’s leg. And since the foot had already swollen too much to pull the boot off, Mudd had to cut the footwear off. He later turned it over to investigators.

If the body had been Booth, he should have still worn the shoe Mudd had given him, and not a boot! The evidence from the exhumation examination proves it was not Booth.

Historians like to also claim that the Booth family identified the body as well and buried it in the family plot in an unmarked grave.

But, once again, that evidence points toward Booth’s survival. After escaping, I am certain he would have told his family of his continued existence. The family, on seeing someone else presented to them would have said “Yes, that’s John” to keep the government at bay. If they had said it was not John, it would have begun the search again.

And their burying it without markings could also point in that direction as well.

So, if the historians are wrong on this little detail, imagine how far they are wrong with the rest of the case.

My Theory on Booth I

November 10, 2012


Here’s where I seem to lose a lot of people. You mention psychical research as any form of “evidence” and you’re liable to be laughed out of any room.

Still, using the psychic research as a guide to uncovering evidence is another matter entirely. Some lines of inquiry might go completely overlooked without a little nudge from the afterlife and the mediums who – purportedly – have the ability to contact the realm.

After all, in matters of a case this old, there is no one alive to ask the really hard questions to. All the witnesses have been dead for many years.

So, bear with me a moment while I take you for a walk on the wild side…

I have studied reports from several different psychics and found they each had as different a view about what happened as the eyewitnesses reported on Booth’s exclamation after he jumped to the stage that fateful night.

One psychic mentioned Booth had gotten entangled with a supposedly sympathetic Union Major by the name of Harris (who was not a secesh sympathizer after all but worked for Stanton). He was Stanton’s control on the kidnapping plot Booth had to remove Lincoln. (Why Stanton wanted Lincoln removed is another matter entirely that I do not delve into with this study.)

Another psychic saw that Stanton was behind the entire plot… much like Eisenschiml thought. But they saw no further details other than Stanton was pulling the strings. But this could also connect with the first psychic above.

And yet another psychic claimed Booth shot Lincoln because the President was sleeping his girlfriend.

The last one was the most intriguing to me and – I originally thought – might have been the easiest one to find any evidence on so I looked for something along that line. However, I failed to find any historian making mention of Lincoln having had any affairs, although I did find talk of people claiming he was homosexual.

Then came the book by Larry Starkey, Wilkes Booth Came to Washington. This book mentioned there were rumors that Lincoln was having affairs with several different women.

Ah, ha! I thought. I was closing in on the truth. I just had to find out who Booth was involved with…

Well, so much for that! Not only was Booth already married at the time but he was also engaged to (at least) one other woman, Bessie, daughter of Senator Hale. And it seems he also had three different girlfriends pregnant at the time of the assassination.

It did not sound like he was real hard up on female companionship.

So, I sat back to look at more of the evidence I had gleaned. A Major Harris and a killing for a woman’s affections…

Stanton’s being behind the plot was written off early in my investigation because the cover-up was too hodge-podge for the killing to have been planned before hand.

the Continuing Obsession with Booth

November 5, 2012

Many CT (Conspiracy Theorist) people have cut their teeth on the Kennedy Assassination, myself included. There are so many parts of the case as presented in the government’s findings that simply do not add up.

But I am not going to delve in depth here in the Zapruder films, the grassy knoll, the lone gunman, or anything else about the Kennedy Assassination. It is the earliest murder of an American president that intrigues me – no, not Zachary Taylor… the exhumation proved it was not poison.

Also, as there have been countless parallels drawn between the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations that I have always thought – as have many others – that the one was made on the model of the other. Therefore, by studying one, you could gain insight on the other. Conceivably.

So, they each had a patsy hung with the crime but never lived to be tried… A rush to judgment that “silenced” any opposing views… Blaming the killing on a foreign power… for Kennedy it was Russia, for Lincoln it was the C.S.A. Planted evidence of a conspiracy… Facts in the case that simply do not stand up to their interpretation…

For most people, Oswald’s participation in the crime was puzzling. Why did he harbor such a grudge against Kennedy? The Russian connection has always been favorably viewed because he had recently returned to the states with a Russian wife. That he was a tool for the KGB was – and still is – widely assumed. The most recent offering being Joseph Trento’s book The Secret History of the CIA, a joyful excursus into fantasy.

It might be easy to believe their take on the crime if they could first prove that Oswald was acting alone. Which, of course, cannot happen because the majority of the evidence points elsewhere.

So, I took the JFK killing as a starting point when I went to analyze the Lincoln Assassination. I figured the many parallels would help clear up some of the mystery.

But, just as with Oswald, discovering the motive for Booth to do the killing has not been forthcoming. Oh, certainly there have been theories proposed – too many, in fact – but all of them have fallen apart under scrutiny.

The reasons usually proposed are:
1 – He was a failed actor.
Not by any stretch of the imagination could anymore figure Booth was a failed actor. He was probably the most widely known and recognized actor of his age anywhere in the country. Why else would so many of the theater-goers at Ford’s that evening so readily mentioned the actor as the one who jumped to the stage. Ix-nay on theory one.

2 – It was revenge for the Dahlgren Affair.
I first heard of this rationale in Dark Union and I don’t buy it at all. (In case you are unfamiliar with this incident, Lincoln approved a mission by General Dahlgren to raid Richmond and free the Yankee prisoners there. Secret orders by Lincoln were discovered in the false leg of Dahlgren when he was killed and the orders were to murder the Rebel leaders and throw the Confederacy into total confusion.)

3 – He was bitter because the South lost the War.
This is the one response I see most often. As Lee had surrendered at Appomattox a few days before, modern folks assume the war was over. Whoa! Not even close. What Lee surrendered at Appomattox was nothing more than the forces under his direct command, which was about one third of the total CSA Army. Johnston had a much larger force ranging around in the Carolinas and it was the cable from Carolina that Lincoln was wildly expecting when he went to Ford’s Theater that evening. (Johnston actually surrendered in late April 1865 but the war was “officially” over, until the last CSA unit surrendered in 1866.) And since the Confederate government had not been captured during the Fall of Richmond, no one there, least of all Lincoln or Booth, actually thought the war was over. In fact, if Booth had captured Lincoln as planned, the South may still have won!

4 – He was following orders from the Confederate Secret Service.
This is the most popular of the “current” theories. So current is it, in fact, that it was first espoused by Edwin Stanton the very day Lincoln died. But he had no evidence then, nor has the digging by historians for almost a century and a half found any better evidence than Stanton had. Some tie this reason to #2 above that Davis was so incensed by the Dahlgren affair that he wanted to do the same to Lincoln. But Davis’ verbal response to the Dahlgren Affair at the time was that gentlemen did not condone such action. He was likening Lincoln to a brute for trying such a thing, so do you think he was going to lower himself to that same uncultured level? Not bloody likely!

So, the motive for Booth to alter his plot to kidnap Lincoln into a murder conspiracy to take out the heads of the government – and General Grant, too, by some estimations – has never been discovered. And the reasons given above for Booth actually killing Lincoln fall far short of rational.

So, using normal logic, if something like this was so highly unlikely to occur, perhaps we should look at more likely scenarios.

And that’s what I have done.

But, if you start with the idea that Booth did not kill Lincoln but was only there as a ruse of a cable from the War department to lure him from the theater, who does that leave us with?

A – Mrs. Lincoln
I have read the theory about her killing her husband for the Jesuits but that doesn’t hold up. Why? The motive they assign to her is really weak. And because Rathbone was sitting on the settee behind the First Couple during the play and he would have seen such action. And he did not mention anything.

B – Clara Harris
As she was sitting furthest from the President that evening, it should have been noticed by the two other people in the box. Sure, Henry would have covered for his fiancée but Mrs. Lincoln would surely have noticed the young lady getting up and walking to the back of the box. Unless, of course, Mrs. Lincoln was working for the Jesuits.

C – Major Henry Rathbone
Suddenly, we are presented with a person for whom we can actually work with!. First, he had opportunity. He was sitting directly behind the President and had an exit door right beside his position – he could easily have seen Booth’s approach. Second, he was the only eyewitness to the shooting. Essentially, it is a case of his word against Booth’s for even with a theater packed with people, the only two people in a position to see the killing: Booth and Rathbone.

I will present some curious facts and observations on this in three successive entries: My Theory on John Wilkes Booth:
PART ONE – the psychic research (yes, you read that right)
PART TWO – the Booth “diary” evidences – coupled with the after death sightings
PART THREE – the strange case of Major Rathbone

Eisenschiml tried to hang Stanton with the crime but it never stuck. And I have seen some people trying to find the connection between Stanton and Boston Corbett, Booth’s killer and how Stanton could have gotten word to the fellow to shoot Booth rather than allow him to be taken alive. No one has found any such connection.

Ah, but there is such a connection between Rathbone and Corbett? You bet!

It is probably a rather tenuous string of events on which to hang a theory, but – I was amazed to discover – that the facts seem to support this craziness even more than they do the usual interpretation of the historic event.

Well, at least to my mind, anyway.

Free Book Giveaway

May 4, 2012

No, there’s no catch. I have recently published my novel, Eighteen Pages, and the publisher wants to do a free book giveaway.

Your name will NOT be entered into some government database to track your purchasing habits or… Well, at least not by getting the free book. I think they already do that stuff anyway.

If you would like to have a free copy of my book, in digital format (for almost all most hand-held devices as well as your computer), go to, and view a free sample of the volume or click “buy” and enter the coupon code: AU76E.

They tell me the offer is only open through Mothers’ Day, May 13th, so you have a week to take that plunge. Why they picked Mothers’ Day, I don’t know. I don’t believe they even publish any romance novels. But, hey, your mother might be interested in conspiracy stories.

Or not.

And since it is not just my book being offered for free, you’ll have to check out to see the other free giveaways.

And I am hoping you’ll like the thing well enough to leave some nice comment about the book. Of course, if you don’t like it, you can still leave that sort of comment as well. (But then the rest of us will wonder if you are really not one of them.