Of Mice and Murder

I've been interested in the investigation of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy since I was seven years old (1965). That was when I read a short, tersely-worded news item in the local daily paper, the headline reading: Kennedy Brain Missing**. It gave me a passing thought as I walked to school the next day:  Did anyone mess with the president's body after his death? What a horrible thought for a little kid! In 1980 author David Lifton, in his still controversial book Best Evidence, expanded on that very theme.

Lifton's theory of Kennedy's body being "messed with" after the assassination is the most bizarre (and the scariest) theory. But another aspect of the assassination, which was barely hinted at during Jim Garrison's investigation of Kennedy assassination the late-60s, ranks right up there in terms of utter weirdness. It begins on February 22 1967 with one of Garrison's witnesses, David Ferrie, dead from an alleged accidental drug overdose - it was pretty big news at the time, along with the murder that day of a potential Garrison witness, Ferrie's friend Eladio Del Valle. When Garrison entered Ferrie's apartment soon after he died, he said he detected a strong odor from the hundreds of lab mice which Ferrie kept in cages in his apartment. According to Garrison, Ferrie fancied himself as a cancer researcher. I noted the mice story at the time, and later wrote it off as just an odd hobby of Ferrie's. His mice menagerie was only touched upon in the movie JFK, with Joe Pesci playing the weird genius Ferrie who wanted to find a cancer cure - when not plotting the assassination of the president.

My view of Ferrie's scientific "hobby" changed in 2003, when a woman named Judyth Vary Baker went public with her story about being Lee Harvey Oswald's lover and David Ferrie's friend (I've noticed how few people have admitted to being their friends - one would think they had lived in a vacuum). It's beyond the scope of this post to go into detail about Ms Baker's life story (click the above link for that). With the documentation she has provided, it's nearly impossible to deny that in 1963 she was a cancer researcher who lived in New Orleans during the time that Oswald and Ferrie lived there, and that she was employed at the same company as Oswald in the same time period. She also lived in the same New Orleans neighborhood as Oswald and Ferrie. Her story only relates indirectly the the actual assassination of JFK - other than pointing to the conspiracy put forth by Jim Garrison, but does expose underlying secrets that will shock the American people if proven true. It's hard to say which of her allegations is more disturbing:

(1): That she and David Ferrie were working on a covert project to develop a fast cancer-causing drug with which to assassinate Fidel Castro, and that Oswald was to deliver the drug to his contact in Mexico City. (Oswald was supposedly pro-Castro). This covert project was allegedly funded by the CIA through the cover of the Ochsner Clinic and Tulane University Medical School in New Orleans.

(2): That Oswald, Ferrie and Jack Ruby were all friends with each other in New Orleans, as were Oswald and Clay Shaw.

(3): That prison inmates at a Louisiana mental hospital were unknowingly injected with cells generating fatal, fast acting cancers - under the direction of the CIA, and under the secret cover of Dr Anton Ochsner, who was renowned as one of the doctors who proved the link between cigarette smoking with lung cancer (he also happened to be a friend of Clay Shaw's). This illegal project was allegedly the testing phase of the cancers intended to kill Castro (and other potential targets). The hospital, located in Jackson, Louisiana and now known as East Louisiana State Hospital, was the same facility where Oswald applied for employment in August 1963, according to a witness. Oswald was also spotted at several other places in the city of Jackson, Louisiana (as was Clay Shaw identified as being in Jackson with Oswald). Baker claims that Oswald had the responsibility of delivering the live cancer cells from Ferrie's secret lab (and other secret labs) in New Orleans to Jackson for use on the inmates. If she's telling the truth, it would appear that Oswald's applying for a job at the mental hospital was merely a plausible pretext for his being there.

By 1963, the CIA already had a decade of experience in testing drugs and lethal toxins on unwitting people. Read the 1977 Senate Report on MKULTRA, the CIA's long-running drugs testing program. Using powerless people for "terminal experiments" in the United States is a long tradition: such as the infamous and medically unethical "Tuskegee Syphillis Experiment" run by the U.S Public Health Service from 1932 to 1972.

According to the authoritative book In Search of the Manchurian Candidate by John Marks: If CIA officials wanted an assassination to look like a death from natural causes, they could choose from a long list of deadly diseases that normally occurred in particular countries [such as botulism]...When CIA operators merely wanted to be rid of somebody temporarily, SOD [Special Operations Division] stockpiled for them about a dozen diseases and toxins of varying strengths [such as Staph infection]...more virulent in the SOD arsenal was Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis virus...If the Agency wanted to incapacitate someone for a period of months, SOD had two kinds of brucellosis. The use of the U.S. Public Health Service prison hospital in Lexington, Kentucky for testing hallucinogenic drugs is well documented. According to Marks' book, during the 1950s the CIA used Lexington to test LSD and psilocybin on "recovering" drug addicts, who were enticed with their favorite narcotics in exchange for their uninformed consent to be used as test subjects. In one instance, a Lexington prisoner was kept intoxicated on LSD for 70 days straight.

One may well ask why the CIA would need to use cancer for assassinations, since it already had so many lethal drugs and poisons to work with. One reason they would is that using cancer would give the assassin and conspirators time to escape the crime scene (or flee the country), months before the target was even aware he had cancer. As Marks' has described, the CIA had a disease for every occasion. In using cancer for their attempts against Castro, the CIA was taking great pains to hide their involvement. One could say that Judyth Vary Baker cobbled together much of the same public information that I just did in this post, and then shoehorned her allegations into Ferrie's propensity to keep caged mice. However, the fact remains is she was a cancer researcher and it is difficult to disprove that she knew Oswald and Ferrie. The American TV show 60 Minutes interviewed her in 1999 but decided not to run the story, but her allegations have been debated for years on the internet. It was her appearance on the 2003 TV documentary The Men Who Killed Kennedy that finally brought her to the attention of the general public. Due to lawsuits from powerful Americans, this show will probably never been shown on United States television again, but of course bootleg copies of it are available on the internet, thankfully. For the time being, you can watch it here:

**Fourteen years later the House Select Committee on Assassinations, after investigating the matter, could not prove what had happened to Kennedy's brain and other autopsy items but determined that Robert Kennedy had destroyed the items or otherwise disposed of them. See report here.

Sources: macadams.edu, spartacus.uk.co, druglibrary.org, wikipedia (Ferrie, Tuskegee Experiment), The Search for the Manchurian Candidate: John Marks (1979)