Conspiracy Nation -- Vol. 11  Num. 21
                     ("Quid coniuratio est?")


Suspicious Deaths and Circumstances

LAFAYETTE BAKER: In his book, History of the United States Secret Service (1867), Baker "recalled many of the post-assassination blunders which [Edwin] Stanton would most certainly have preferred to remain forgotten. More embarrassing to Stanton, it aroused new interest in [John Wilkes] Booth's suppressed diary which, Baker claimed, had been mutilated since it had left his possession." (Anatomy of an Assassination by John Cottrell. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1966) The existence of Booth's diary had been kept secret. Baker's book revealed its existence. The disclosure created a storm in Congress: Why had it been hidden? Booth's diary was recovered from the War Department, but 18 pages were missing. (See CN 3.90) In the previous issue of Conspiracy Nation (CN 11.20) is shown how Baker seems to have persisted in trying to expose a wide conspiracy involving Stanton and other very powerful persons as behind the death of Abraham Lincoln. Baker feared for his life. In 1867 he was "shot at and attacked by someone with a knife on several occasions." (Cottrell) In December of 1867, Baker was shot at and injured by splinters caused by the bullet striking the door of his carriage. By early January of 1868, Baker was complaining of being under constant surveillance. This surveillance was confirmed by his physician; according to Dr. William Rickards, "I saw a man who was skulking up an alley and carefully watching General Baker... As I walked along the street I saw another man step from an alley further down the street... They were definitely following the General." (qtd. in Cottrell) Baker died in 1868. He may have been poisoned. Here is part of Dr. Rickard's testimony (qtd. in Cottrell):

Q: Did his symptoms fit the symptoms observed with any

known poison?

  1. Yes.
  2. Which poison?
  3. Arsenic.
  4. In other words, the symptoms shown by General Baker show more similarity to arsenic poisoning than they do to typhoid fever?
  5. Yes.
  6. Is it then possible that General Baker died of arsenic poisoning?
  7. From a medical standpoint, yes. But I know that he was not poisoned.
  8. How do you know this?
  9. No one had the opportunity.

MAJOR HENRY RATHBONE AND CLARA HARRIS: They accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln to Ford's Theater on the fatal evening of April 14, 1865. (The occupants of the box at Ford's Theater did not number four, but five. The fifth occupant of the box was Charles Forbes, Lincoln's footman and personal attendant. See books by Otto Eisenschiml.) Rathbone later married Ms. Harris, then later murdered her. Major Rathbone was committed to a lunatic asylum, where he remained for the rest of his life.

PRESTON KING AND SENATOR JAMES HENRY LANE: Mrs. Mary Surratt, scapegoated as one of the prime conspirators, was sentenced to death by hanging. Her daughter, Anna Surratt, tried to reach President Andrew Johnson at the White House to petition for clemency. On July 7, 1865 -- execution day -- Anna Surratt, weeping for mercy, threw herself on the White House stairs. She was turned away by King and Lane. It is likely that, had Anna Surratt been able to see Johnson, clemency for Mrs. Mary Surratt would have been granted. Conditional to the death sentence pronounced against Mrs. Surratt was a provision that a petition for mercy would be attached and sent to President Andrew Johnson. But Johnson later said he had never received any such petition. Writes Cottrell, "Some person or persons were apparently determined that Mary Surratt should not live." As to King and Lane, who had roadblocked the weeping Anna Surratt from seeing President Johnson: Four months after July 7, 1865, Preston King tied weights to himself, jumped off a ferry boat, and drowned. Eight months after July 7, 1865, Senator Lane shot himself.

JOHN WILKES BOOTH: There's no question that Booth shot Lincoln. There is much doubt, however, whether it was indeed Booth who was subsequently shot dead by Sergeant Boston Corbett at Garrett's Farm on April 26, 1865. (Corbett, later employed as a doorman by the Kansas State Legislature, brought two revolvers to work and opened fire on the legislators. He was committed to an insane asylum, escaped, then disappeared.) The real John Wilkes Booth most likely committed suicide at Enid, Oklahoma, in June of 1903. (See past issues of Conspiracy Nation, e.g., CN 3.89, 3.90, 3.91.) Descendants of Booth obviously had doubts whether it was really Booth buried in "Booth's grave": in June of 1995, a Baltimore judge refused permission to exhume the supposed body of Booth. "Twenty-two descendants of the Booth family asked for the exhumations after being contacted by attorneys for two researchers who have spent years challenging history books that say Booth died of gunshot wounds outside a burning barn in Caroline County, Va., on April 26, 1865." (Washington Times National Weekly Edition, June 5-11, 1995)

LOUIS PAINE: On April 17, 1865, Louis Paine, a common laborer, innocently knocked on the front door of Mrs. Mary Surratt's boarding-house. Perhaps some work needed to be done, thought Paine. But poor Mr. Paine knocked at the wrong door at the wrong time. Government detectives investigating the Lincoln assassination were on the premises. Paine was arrested and later charged with conspiring to assassinate Lincoln, Vice-President Andrew Johnson, General Grant, and Secretary of State Seward. Writes Vaughan Shelton in Mask for Treason (Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, PA, 1965), "Even today, a century later [1965], his [Paine's] image is unchanged from that given him by the prosecution at the Conspiracy Trial: A homicidal, half-witted brute without a flicker of remorse... But the persistence of the prejudice against this young man for a full century... is a phenomenon of mass thought-conditioning that has no parallel... Of the eight defendants at the Conspiracy Trial HE WAS THE MOST INNOCENT."

MRS. MARY TODD LINCOLN: President Lincoln's widow believed that there had been a larger conspiracy, a plot within a plot, behind her husband's death. "Ever since her husband's murder, Mary had been convinced that John Wilkes Booth was part of a larger conspiracy." ("Mary Lincoln's Insanity File," broadcast on The Discovery Channel (TDC), 12/29/96) She was far from alone in this belief: "It was widely believed in 1865 and during the years that followed that President Lincoln was the victim of a gigantic conspiracy. Many held that he had been betrayed by his own government. Far fewer accepted the official explanation that his death was merely the work of a mentally disturbed actor and a tiny band of fanatical conspirators." (Cottrell, inside jacket cover) On June 30, 1865, when the military tribunal reached its verdict and sentenced David E. Herold, Louis Paine, Mrs. Surratt, and George A. Atzerodt to be hung, a crowd of citizens outside responded to the verdict with angry shouts of "Judicial murder!" Mrs. Lincoln, a potential voice to challenge the cover-up, was savagely attacked by the newspapers. Said the Chicago Journal, "She is insane." Mrs. Lincoln is quoted as follows (TDC): "A piece in the Morning Tribune says there is no doubt I'm deranged, have been for years past, and will end up in a lunatic asylum." But an expert on the TDC program says now that Mary's so-called "insanity" was in a 19th-century context: "We're talking about a society that's getting less and less willing to deal with eccentrics... For some reason, this sense of tolerance disappears in the United States." By around 1875, Mrs. Lincoln was "hearing strange voices" and had "fears of murder." She had reportedly said to her son, Robert Lincoln, "You're going to murder me." Through treachery and trickery involving her son, Robert, and others, Mary Lincoln was involuntarily committed to an insane asylum. But within 10 months, thanks largely to the efforts of a pioneering female attorney in Illinois, Myra Bradwell, Mary Lincoln was released. Said Bradwell: "She is no more insane than you or I." Mary Lincoln died, a recluse, in Springfield, Illinois, on July 16, 1882.

(This has been a preliminary report. Other names may be added in the future.)

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