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SKEPTOID BLOG:

Death by Mysterious Circumstances

by Mike Rothschild

July 8, 2013

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Donate The idea of the "mysterious death" as a cornerstone of conspiracy theories is one of the more commonly held tropes in that world. Whether it's people related to 9/11, UFO's, false flags or corporate maleficence, believers tend to describe the death of anyone connected to any element of anything that might involve a cover-up conspiracy as "mysterious." Labeling the demise of people who "knew too much" or "were about to go public" or "were in the way" serves numerous purposes in the conspiracy narrative.

It ascribes outsized importance to both the person who died and the conspiracy that killed them — even if the two had no connection. It explains away things that "don't add up." And it demonstrates the power behind those pulling the strings in our world, showing they'll kill anyone, sometimes in gruesome and nearly impossible ways, to get what they want. The more powerful the conspirators, the more bodies pile up and the deeper the mystery gets.

To the conspiracy believer, no matter what actually happened to someone, be it an accident, suicide or illness, any and all unexpected deaths are "suspicious." All crashes are caused by the conspiracy, all suicides are actually murders, every autopsy is either faked or "not allowed to be performed" and no detail is too gruesome to ignore or too pertinent to the incident — as long as it fits with the theory.

Yes, there have been many actual mysterious deaths, murders and disappearances that have never been solved. But for every legitimate "mysterious death" out there, there are far more where the cause of death is known and simply not accepted. All plane crashes and accidents start as suspicious, until the professionals who investigate them do their work and figure out what happened. Suicide is often incredibly mysterious, and we very rarely know exactly what drives a person to take their own life.

But sometimes we do know, and those reasons will usually be ignored by the conspiracy theorists who see a government mad with power murdering everyone in its way. Look around and you'll find a "mystery" behind every death you can think of, no matter what happened, from George S. Patton to John Denver to Pope John Paul I to Heath Ledger.

Here are a few of the more prominent "mysterious deaths" and "body count lists" in conspiracy circles, and why the vast majority of those who died did so as a result of causes that are anything other than unknown.


Various UFO "whistleblowers"
— It's a compelling narrative to the uninitiated: the crusading UFO researcher murdered or "suicided" by the government for getting too close to the truth. And on first glance, there are a substantial number of investigators in topics related to UFO's, conspiracies and aliens who met untimely demises.

There was the police shooting of conspiracy theorist William Cooper, the apparent suicides of Dulce Base whistleblower Phillip Schneider, UFO researcher James McDonald and the author who first revealed the Philadelphia Experiment, Morris Jessup; and the death by allergic reaction of MUFON investigator Ron Johnson. And there are many others. As far back as 1971, UFO writer Otto Binder identified nearly 140 of his fellow investigators who had been murdered for what they knew.

Breaking down the death of every UFO researcher and witness from the dawn of time until now would be impossible. But there are numerous similarities between these cases that can be explored - and these similarities almost always tie back to the demons that drove them into the UFO community in the first place. We've seen over and over how many prominent figures in UFO mythology, from Men in Black originator Gray Barker to "Grinning Man" victim Woodrow Derenberger to the people I mentioned above battled some form of mental illness, paranoia or delusional disorder. Look into the backgrounds of the researchers who died, and far from government maleficence, you'll find an array of significant traumas, business failures and above all, mental illness. This is not a conspiracy — it's a tragedy.

JFK Witnesses — Kennedy Assassination conspiracy theorist and UFO lecturer Jim Marrs has compiled the quintessential "body count" list — an exhaustive record of everyone connected with the death of the President who subsequently has died under mysterious circumstances. Dozens and dozens of people shot, stabbed, killed in "apparent suicides" and on and on, all to cover up one of the great crimes of the 20th Century.

But a closer look at Marrs' list opens up a Texas-sized box of logical fallacies, and they're the classic flaws with lists such as these. For one thing, many of the people Marrs believes were killed to cover up the assassination had nothing at all to do with it or President Kennedy. They may have worked for someone connected to someone else, or were accused by someone of being involved, with no proof to back it up. And given the size of the investigation, the complexity of the various supposed plots and the length of time since the assassination, it only makes sense that there were a large number of people involved, and that most have passed away.

One particular name that's always galled conspiracy theorists is journalist Dorothy Kilgalen, who was believed by some to have new evidence to blow the lid off the murder of President Kennedy. Instead, she died in 1965 of an overdose of alcohol and barbiturates. Because of her outspoken criticism of the Warren Commission and various governmental figures, speculation still lingers that she was drugged. But this is based on hearsay and a death certificate that stated she died from "circumstances undetermined" — because it couldn't be determined if she died from an accidental overdose or suicide.

Vince Foster and the Clinton Body Count — The Clinton family's swath of destruction against their enemies has been internet lore now for nearly two decades. And while the "Clinton Body Count" list has dozens of names who had little or nothing to do with the Clintons, one close tie has persisted in being mentioned as a victim of Bill and Hillary's death squads: former Deputy White House Council Vince Foster.

Foster, as the "official story" goes, was battling professional adversity and depression, when he wrote a resignation letter, tore it up, walked into a park in Virginia and put a bullet in his head. And despite an autopsy which proved he killed himself with a gunshot through the mouth, and three subsequent investigations that backed up those findings, conspiracy theorists maintain he was "suicided" by the Clintons to cover their tracks in the Whitewater scandal, or perhaps because he was having an affair with Hillary, or for numerous other reasons.

The "Vince Foster was murdered" meme persists not because of proof, but because of people with an axe to grind against the Clintons. No evidence has ever existed that indicates anything other than Foster being a depressed and broken man who ended his own life — a less salacious story, but a much more tragic one.

And presidential "death lists" are nothing new — one for Barack Obama is having new names added to it on an almost daily basis, including various citizens of Kenya and Navy SEALS who died in accidents. So if you have anything to do with anyone who has anything to do with Barack Obama or the government, military or planet Earth: you've been warned.

The 9/11 Witnesses — Yet another nebulous list of deaths and "official causes", only this one is linked by tragedy rather than coincidence. The "9/11 Witness Deaths" meme is fairly new, only gaining steam in the last few years. The most common version of the list has about two dozen names, but they're all over the place in relation to the September 11th attacks. A few are family members (some of whom committed suicide), others have tangential connections to the hijackers and some are supposed whistleblowers. Others are biologists with supposed links to the subsequent anthrax attacks. One is a ticket agent at Boston's Logan Airport who committed suicide, possibly out of guilt at allowing several hijackers to board their plane. Another is George W. Bush's brother's kids' babysitter, who was "crushed by a car" because of her links to...something.

Like JFK and Clinton's death lists, one name does stand out as a focal point for conspiracy, however: 9/11 widow Beverly Eckert, who was one of the leading advocates for victim advocate and of creating what became the 9/11 Commission. Ms. Eckert became famous for taking the government to task for intelligence failures and very publicly refusing the settlement payout. She later died in a small plane crash in 2009, immediately provoking outcries that she was murdered to "wrap up loose ends."

Lost in all of the conspiracy talk is the fact that light plane crashes aren't uncommon, especially in bad weather (she was flying in upstate New York in winter) and her estate is suing the airline she flew on that day. There also doesn't seem to be any reason for anyone to want Ms. Eckert dead, other than simple revenge. It should also come as no surprise that the conspiracy to murder 9/11 witnesses is held almost exclusively by 9/11 truthers.

The Journalists: Andrew Breitbart and Michael Hastings — We end with the deaths of two prominent writers who adeptly navigated the opportunities and pitfalls of news in the age of social media. Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, a constant thorn in the side of the Obama Administration, died of a heart attack in 2012 at the age of 43. A year later, journalist Michael Hastings, who wrote the Rolling Stone article that brought down General Stanley McChrystal, and later became an outspoken critic of NSA surveillance on American citizens, was killed in a fiery one car crash in Los Angeles. He was 33.

Like many of these other deaths, there are some readily apparent connections on the surface — connections that lead to conspiracy theories instantly sprouting regarding the "murder" of both men. They each died extremely young, and rather randomly - and while working on major revelations. Breitbart claimed he was about to release a video with greatly damaging information about President Obama's past, while Hastings emailed friends the day of his death claiming that the FBI was investigating his family, and that he was onto a big story. For Breitbart, the conspiracy deepens in that the coroner who apparently was involved in the autopsy later died of arsenic poisoning. Of course, the unfortunate coroner actually had nothing to do with Breitbart's autopsy, but his death remains a loose end nonetheless.

What's not a mystery is Breitbart's death. There were no signs of foul play, and his cause of death makes perfect sense. An overweight man in a high-stress work environment dying of heart failure is not mysterious at all, despite hysterical accusations that Obama thugs zapped him with a heart attack gun. The investigation into Michael Hastings' death is ongoing, but whatever happened, a one car crash isn't "bizarre" or unusual either.

Car accidents, like heart attacks, light plane crashes and suicides, happen all the time, to people involved in conspiracies and not. It seems clear that Hastings was speeding (possibly going 100 miles per hour) and ran a red light, where his car slammed into a palm tree and exploded. Accusations that someone remotely took control of the car's acceleration system or blew it up with a bomb haven't been proven, and most likely never will be.

When you hear conspiracy theorists claim someone died "mysteriously" or that someone or something is behind a slew of deaths, start looking into what really happened. Very often what you'll find isn't a conspiracy or plot, but bad luck, coincidence and tragedy.

by Mike Rothschild

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