Lincoln assassination: fakes, frauds & forgeries

Newspapers with inside stories concerning the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln sold out quick in the spring of 1865, both in America and Europe, although most articles were packed with outrageous fabrications designed to sell issues. Very quickly, manufacturing of fake evidence in this case became a cottage industry, as the gullible were easily led down a maze of rabbit holes, starting with Jefferson Davis, Andrew Johnson, Knights of the Golden Circle, The Vatican, and so it went through the decades, with inventive frauds appearing on a regular basis. Some of this muck may have been manufactured to obscure the real plot, but some was the work of con artists seeking fame, fortune and publicity. (The instant appearance of multiple rabbit holes would be repeated for JFK and 9/11.)

Not much is known about Dion Haco, the dime novelist who rushed out the first tabloid biography on Booth before the trial was over, a yellow-sheet published by Dawley’s New War Novels. The following year, Haco followed up with the even-more explosive The Private Journal and Diary of John H. Surratt. Strange a year later, when Surratt returned to face trial, he made no mention of this forgery, which claimed he was a made member of the Knights of the Golden Circle, an anti-Catholic organization. Although a military tribunal had hanged his mother, Surratt walked away a free man after the civil trial on the same charges. He gave two lectures afterwards, but left no diary nor journals. By this time, public opinion had shifted against accepting the tribunal that had found Surratt’s mom guilty because so many perjuries by government witnesses had come to light.  Within a few decades, however, few would recall how corrupt that trial had really been.

The Lincoln assassination may be one of the most investigated murders in history, but it’s astonishing how much research is tainted by obvious forgeries. You can’t believe the amount of people who take Haco’s melodramatic novels as gospel truth.

William Henry Burr also wrote some early books on the assassination and they all pointed toward a Catholic conspiracy. Apparently, his key evidence was advance knowledge of the assassination in the tiny hamlet of St. Joseph, Minnesota, home to a college for the training of Jesuit priests. According to Burr, the news arrived two hours before the assassination! This rabbit hole would become one of the most well-traveled since John Surratt, his mother and childhood friend found guilty were all Catholics….forget the reality Booth was not, and Booth was the actual assassin, while the Catholics were just patsies.

On January 13, 1903, David E. George passed away in Enid, Oklahoma, allegedly confessing to his landlady he was John Wilkes Booth. Upon hearing this story, Finis L. Bates rushed to Enid from Texas because he’d known a man named John St. Helen, who also claimed to be Booth. Bates wanted to view the corpse while still at the undertakers, and once he did, he declared it was the same man he knew as John St. Helen. Meanwhile, the landlady recanted George’s death bed confession, but no matter, Bates paid to mummify the corpse so it could be put on public exhibition for an admission fee. The mummy was sold through the years to circus sideshows, and at various times held under bond, seized for debt, banned from exhibition, or kidnapped. And, of course, Bates wrote a crackpot book purporting to tell the real story of Booth’s escape.

There’s a strong current in history pulling scholars toward accepting official stories and staying within those parameters, and since that route usually yields the best book and film deals, not to mention professorships, serious historians often remain on this tack. But suddenly, in 1937, after gaining access to long-hidden War Department files, Otto Eisenschiml published the ground-breaking: Why Was Lincoln Murdered? The book painted a compelling portrait of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton as possibly the instigator of Lincoln’s murder and was written in an entertaining, novelistic style. To marshal his case, the author stretched the truth here and there, and some points were quickly refuted by mainstream historians, however, the bulk of his case emerged unscathed, and most second-generation Lincoln researchers were influenced in some way by Eisenschiml.

At this point, a circus tatoo man had gained possession of George’s mummy, and the success of Eisenschiml’s book ignited renewed interest in Lincoln conspiracies, so in 1937, the mummy suddenly earned over $100,000 in exhibition fees, five times what Booth made as an actor in his best year. Obviously, there was a lot of money to be made fabricating Booth stories, which is why we’ve had a steady parade of fakes and forgeries ever since.

Twenty years after Eisenschiml’s groundbreaking book, Theodore Roscoe followed up with the even more comprehensive The Web of Conspiracy, three times the length and packed with even more supporting documentation. In his foreword, Roscoe described the assassination’s legend as “a towering edifice of so-called history built on sand.” For two decades a parade of apologists defending the official record had nitpicked every exaggeration in Eisenschiml’s book, but when Roscoe came back with a mountain of additional evidence, the best they could do was ignore him and pretend the book was never published or just a meaningless rehash of Eisenschiml’s. When you crack a deep political conspiracy like Lincoln’s assassination, it’s like solving a jigsaw puzzle. Suddenly you can see where to fit the missing pieces. Conversely, when you bend over backwards inventing complex rationalizations (magic bullets, etc.), remaining pieces fail to fit and require additional complex rationalizations. When you arrive at the truth, however, it lights up like a Christmas tree and everything falls into place.

In 1977, David Balsiger and Charles E. Sellier, Jr. published The Lincoln Conspiracy, which used a lot of material from Roscoe’s book, but added dubious evidence taken from transcripts provided by an unknown source acting through a lawyer as his agent. This person claimed to be a bastard descendent of Edwin Stanton and was offering to sell Booth’s missing diary pages, which identified the cabal behind the assassination. This source also claimed to have the letter Booth wanted delivered to the newspapers. In hindsight, I’d guess this was a clever intelligence operation designed to taint the story forever, and I file this effort under: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em—and throw in a ton of disinfo. And if that wasn’t enough, there was additional new material provided by a professor from Indiana State University named Ray Neff.

Neff claimed to have purchased a volume of Colburn’s United Service Magazine in 1957, a British military journal for professional soldiers. He soon discovered the book had notations in cipher in the margins, as well as the date: 2/5/68. In order to decipher the code, Neff claims to have taken the book to an unnamed cryptography expert. The first paragraph decoded went: “In new Rome, there walked three men, a Judas, a Brutus and a spy. Each planned he would be king when Abraham should die.” An invisible signature of Lafayette C. Baker was discovered on one page, and an analysis expert claimed it matched the real Baker’s signature.

Neff is obviously a fanatic researcher, and pursues documents from the era with enormous zeal, all of which are now archived at Indiana State University. Apparently, Neff sued the college for $90,000, but I found little information on that dispute. In fact, I find it odd I can’t locate a photo of Neff.

In a nutshell: the cipher messages stated Baker was being followed by professional spooks who wanted him dead. An enormous cabal had been working with Stanton, involving dozens of bankers, merchants, generals and government officials. However, only eight were supposedly intimately involved with the assassination, and those eight were not identified. Neff had a document from Baker’s archives proving he’d purchased a copy of Colburn’s. He had a hair analysis performed on Baker’s remains and announced he’d been poisoned with arsenic and did not die of meningitis as claimed. Eventually, Neff claimed to have discovered the arsenic had been laced in beer provided by Baker’s brother-in-law, a War Department employee.

Neff and an English co-writer eventually released their own book in 2003, Dark Union, which also claimed Booth escaped and died in India, that he’d been secretly married, and that James B. Boyd was the man shot in Garrett’s barn.

But that was 26 years after The Lincoln Conspiracy sold a million copies and became a major motion picture using the same information. But if you really peer deeply into this story, you’ll find fingers pointing in strange directions and dots lining up that don’t really connect, and while I’m sure Baker owned a copy of Colburn’s, I believe those ciphers were more likely added by someone else. In my opinion, all attempts to claim Booth wasn’t shot dead at Garrett’s farm are manufactured rabbit holes.

Today, few take Neff’s work seriously, but for a while, he did manage to grab the center of energy on Lincoln research, which was certainly unfortunate.


The tracks of our fears

In the late 1930s, Otto Eisenschiml, a chemistry professor and Civil War buff with ancestral connections to the Lincoln administration, gained access to the long-buried War Department files on the assassination and surprise, surprise, uncovered evidence of a coverup! After much research, his suspicions centered on Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and he published a book, Why Was Lincoln Murdered?

Did you know that three days before the assassination, Lincoln began having nightly dreams of seeing himself in a coffin with mourners all around? Lincoln requested additional protection the night he was killed. He’d been expecting General Grant and his retinue to accompany him to Ford’s theater, but Stanton ordered Grant elsewhere and then refused additional protection beyond one bodyguard, who suspiciously left his post as soon as the play began. The President was left unprotected and the only person who could have engineered that was Stanton.

Stanton rounded up a nest of Confederate spies instantly who’d plotted to kidnap Lincoln back in March so he could be traded for Confederate prisoners of war. John W. Booth was the ringleader, and John Surratt, one of the most important couriers for the Confederate Secret Service, was also involved. This crew was penetrated by an informer inside the War Department named Louis Weichmann.

The abduction plot was foiled by a sudden shift in Lincoln’s itinerary, but that sort of thing happened with numerous Confederate Secret Service operations and it was almost impossible to conceal any significant plot because of all the double agents and informers, some of whom worked for political causes and others who worked for money to the highest bidder.

Stanton engineered a position in the War Department, and launched a plot that eliminated his boss, clearing his way to take charge. Allen Pinkerton was in charge of the Union Secret Service, and reported directly to Lincoln through Secretary of State Seward, but Stanton had that operation moved to the War Department, and quickly replaced Pinkerton with Lafayette Baker, who would soon gain the reputation as the most corrupt and ruthless official in Washington D.C.

Baker grabbed the lead of the Lincoln murder investigation, but was disappointed by the meager share of the reward he received from Stanton.

In reality there was no benefit for the South to kill Lincoln, and although he was despised by some as a tyrant responsible for many unnecessary deaths, his murder resulted in greater exploitation of the South, which had already lost 258,000 men and trillions in assets.

Even more suspicious, when John Surratt was captured in Egypt and brought back for a civil trial, he could not be convicted and hanged like his mother, but set free. Jefferson Davis was not subjected to a trial at all, even though a third of Stanton’s military tribunal had been devoted to exposing his evil plots. Stanton never found a shred of evidence, however, linking Davis with the assassination, except the evidence he manufactured through his double agents.

Some major players on Wall Street at the time would have been Fernando Wood, August Belmont, John Jacob Astor, Jay Gould and Archibald Gracie.

Stanton was a high-ranking Freemason and close with the leader of the Copperheads, the Northern movement against Lincoln who were working hand-in-glove with the Confederate Secret Service. In fact, Stanton owed his political career to the head of the Copperheads.

In terms of experience and expertise in law, Stanton was ahead of Lincoln and considered Lincoln an uncivilized “ape,” and inferior in everything but telling crude stories laced in profanities. In Spielberg’s film, Stanton shouts, “I can’t bear to hear another of your stories,” before storming out of the room, a scene that really happened. Stanton and Lincoln clashed constantly and Lincoln always had to go to the War Department because Stanton seldom came to the White House.

But the most suspicious thing is the landslide of books raining down on Eisenschiml, all filled with cheap shots and personal attacks. Eisneschiml’s book broke important ground, but was painted as a total fraud by many who must have known better.

When a sustained and well-funded attack on a legitimate conspiracy theory appears that contains cheap shots and personal insults, I immediately suspect someone’s propaganda at stake, which is not to say these historians are bought-and-paid for, only that the ones who hold suspicions against the powers-that-be may not be getting any of the fat book deals.

The message is clear: join the status quo or break your rice bowl.


Why the story of Lincoln’s assassination is all wrong

You don’t read much about Jacob Thompson these days, but during the Civil War he was in charge of the Confederate Secret Service in Canada. Thompson had been Secretary of the Interior prior to the South’s succession.

The real story you haven’t been told is that the plot to divide the U.S. into two warring countries may have emanated in England, and His Majesty’s Secret Service may have helped fund the abolitionist movement headquartered in Boston, as well as the Southern Rights movement. British agents were placed at the highest levels of American masonry and some worked hand-in-glove with Thompson, who had enormous assets placed at his disposal in a bank in Montreal. Despite all their pleas and constant efforts, the Confederacy was unable to make a military alliance with any European country, all of which officially refused to recognize this new nation.

When things got desperate towards the end of the war, Thompson and his superiors allegedly began fomenting some really nasty plots, like distributing disease-tainted blankets to civilians in the North. This plot may have been an invention of the super spook Charles Dunham (aka Sandford Conover). One thing we know: Stanton’s Military Tribunal spent almost a third of its case on unveiling Davis’ many sinister plots, most of which cannot be substantiated today and appear to be the invention of Dunham. But a very real plot involved the kidnapping of Abraham Lincoln, and strangely it was Dunham writing as Conover who first revealed this plot in the papers, but then Dunham also sent a letter to Lincoln requesting permission to kidnap Davis from his Richmond home. The idea of kidnapping and/or assassinating both Presidents seems to have originated with Dunham.

On October 19, 1864, Thompson sent 21 Confederate cavalrymen dressed in civilian clothes to hold up three banks in St. Albans, Vermont. The soldiers escaped into Canada with $208,000. During the robberies, bank workers were forced to swear allegiance to the Confederacy before opening the vaults, a scene captured in the newspaper lithograph below. The raid backfired, however, since most Canadians resented the use of their country to launch raids. Around $88,000 was recovered and returned to the banks, although Canada refused to extradite the 21 men involved. Immediately after the raid, Dunham appeared in Canada in a failed attempt to penetrate this conspiracy, but was eventually unmasked by the Confederate community in Canada.

This April marks the 150th anniversary of the Lincoln assassination, and I plan to write a book on the subject to commemorate the anniversary so if you know any Civil War buffs, please introduce them to my posts to solicit their reactions. I’ve already uncovered some amazing details in only one week of research.

The great thing about this case is many vital documents are available free online, and the internet is full of evidence. The trial transcript can be downloaded, as well as a the autobiography of the chief investigator, Lafayette Baker. But I also found a treasure trove of documents few books ever refer to, including a War Department expose on the Knights of the Golden Circle, and an alleged diary of John Surratt, which goes into elaborate detail regarding the rites of the K.G.C. But since that secret society did not admit Catholics, which Surratt was, the diary is a forgery, like so many other documents associated with this case.

Surratt was one of the primary couriers for the Confederate Secret Service, so any possible inductions into the K.G.C. or other secret societies could have been part of his spook activities. Considering the War Department had recently concluded an exhaustive report on the K.G.C. and some alleged Knights of that organization were at the center of Lincoln’s assassination, I have to wonder why the K.G.C. and their association with the Copperheads never came up during the trial, an omission of evidence pointing towards the possibility of a kangaroo court rushing to judgment, hanging some patsies to let real conspirators walk free.

Since most historians support Secretary of War Edwin Stanton’s military tribunal, most of what you read about the Lincoln assassination follows his carefully constructed script, however bogus that appears today.
However, in the late 1930s, a chemistry professor in Chicago who was a Civil War buff declared Stanton (left) was part of the conspiracy and marshaled much evidence to support this claim. Of course, the professor was laughed out of the history game and sent back to tinker with test tubes. However, I believe that professor was correct. His name was Otto Eisenschiml and he deserves a place alongside Antony Sutton as one of the great conspiracy researchers in American history.

Stanton arrived at the scene of the assassination and took charge of the country for weeks, controlling the military, the press, the Washington police and the Secret Service. It’s never been explained why telegraph lines went dead for two hours right after the assassination, although Stanton’s telegraph at the War Department stayed operational throughout the night. It’s also never been explained why Booth arrived at the scene carrying only a one-shot derringer, or why Lincoln was left completely unguarded at the precise moment of his arrival.

History has given us the impression Stanton and Lincoln were friends, but this is not the story I’m turning up.

Gideon Welles (left) was the Secretary of the Navy during the Civil War and after he retired from politics, he published a diary, and here’s what Welles had to say on the subject of Stanton:

“His administration of the War Department has been wastefully extravagant and a great affliction to the country. Stanton has the executive ability, energy and bluster. He is imperious to inferiors and abject to superiors. Wanting in sincerity, given to duplicity, and with a taste for intrigue, he has been deep in the conspiracy and one of the chief instigators of the outrageous proceedings in Congress, a secret opponent of the President’s from the commencement of his administration…[Stanton’s] administration of the War Department cost the country unnecessary untold millions of money and the loss of thousands of lives.”
Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, published by H. Mifflin, 1911

And if you still don’t believe I’m onto something real, please consider that at the time of the assassination, the Supreme Commander of the K.G.C. was the man who financed Stanton’s career in politics in Ohio and had been shipped to the South during the war by Lincoln as an enemy alien.


Why Was Lincoln Murdered?

April marked the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. It’s amazing how distorted this event has become over time and I imagine some Americans believe it was the work of another “lone assassin” because that’s the way these events are spun in the press to protect the guilty, but if you peer into the facts of the murder, you might be surprised by some details.

For example, did you know Lincoln requested additional protection that night as he had a premonition he was about to be assassinated? Aside from Lincoln, the most powerful man in Washington D.C. at the time of the murder was probably Secretary of War Edwin McMasters Stanton, an Ohio lawyer who’d been elevated to that position at the start of the war despite a complete lack of military expertise. So when Lincoln asked for additional protection, the man in charge of providing protection was Stanton, and he did assign one man to guard Lincoln that night, but that man disappeared from his post right before the murder, which seems bad enough, but consider this bodyguard was never punished nor reprimanded for leaving the President unprotected.

Obviously, the reason Booth can’t be a lone assassin is because there was another attempted political assassination that same night, as the Secretary of State was targeted for simultaneous removal from office.
Right after Lincoln’s assassination, telegraph lines leading out of Washington suddenly went dead and stayed that way for hours, although Stanton’s War Department line remained fully operational. Isn’t it somewhat eerie that a similar thing may have happened with phone lines in Washington DC immediately after JFK assassination.

General Grant was supposed to be at Ford’s Theater with the President but changed his plans, otherwise he could have been assassinated trying to protect the President. Stanton was Grant’s biggest booster later in life but rebuffed from a powerful seat on the Cabinet.
Within minutes of the assassination, Stanton was on the scene and took charge of everything: investigation, pursuit and trial, as well as the eventual impeachment hearings against Johnson, whom he tried unsuccessfully to implicate.

But wasn’t it odd Stanton closed all bridges out of Washington save one, which just happened to be the one Booth selected for escape? Within 11 days, he was trapped inside a locked barn and could easily been captured. But instead of waiting for daylight, the was set on fire and Booth shot in the back of the neck while inside. Killing Booth insured this complex conspiracy could never be tracked higher up the chain and who shot him remains a mystery.

During Stanton’s carefully orchestrated kangaroo court, two witnesses were produced to paint Mary Surratt as the mastermind. One was a Confederate spy named John Lloyd, who bartered his freedom in exchange for his testimony. The other, the actual star witness, was named Louis Weichmann, and he was a clerk working at the War Department who also and old friend of the Surratts.

If you find it hard to believe these facts, Robert Redford made a under-celebrated film called The Conspirator a couple years ago and it stays close to the historical facts, and when the film is over, it’s hard to believe Stanton was not involved in the conspiracy in some way because he put so much effort into railroading some patsies onto the gallows, especially Mary Surratt. Painting her as the evil ringleader seems absurd today, but because Stanton handpicked a jury of high-ranking military officers, all of whom were beholden to him, he was able to stack the deck and control the trial and its outcome. Few involved believed Surratt would be hung since that sentence had never been given a woman before and President Johnson had the ability to pardon her. And most of the judges requested that pardon, although the request was never shared with the President, so hang she did.

It’s only taken 150 years for this information to penetrate into my vivid imagination, so how long before the veils are finally lifted on the JFK assassination or 9/11? I can tell you the CIA was certainly involved in Kennedy’s killing and Saudi Arabia certainly played a role in 9/11. And as the years go by, the official cover story will continue to unravel. I just wish more Americans were interested in getting to the bottom of how politics really works.

While researching this blog, I uncovered a scientist and amateur historian who blew the whistle on Stanton back in the 1930s and Otto Eisenschiml’s groundbreaking book, Why Was Lincoln Murdered, can be read online for free here:

https://archive.org/stream/whywaslincolnmur00eise#page/n5/mode/2up

I know it’s a bit late in the game since Otto has long since passed over while his work was savagely dismissed by the establishment media, although Otto deserves credit for being one of the great conspiracy researchers of our time.