Conspiracy Nation -- Vol. 11  Num. 35
                     ("Quid coniuratio est?")


"In assuming 72 identities, did Jesse go romping about the country in invisible, astral form keeping his eye on the post-Civil War Confederate Underground and his own vast financial empire?"

The above rhetorical question is asked in the introduction to a most unusual book, sent to me by a reader of Conspiracy Nation. (Jesse James Was One Of His Names by Del Schrader, with Jesse James III. Arcadia, California: Santa Anita Press, 1975. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 74-33962.)

Yes, I know that the grave of Jesse James was recently dug open and that the body therein had DNA tests run on it. And yes, I know that the DNA tests prove that it was really Jesse James buried in Jesse James' grave. But maybe they are lying to us, or a further hoax was put in operation against the scientists doing the DNA tests. (The original alleged hoax is that Jesse James faked his death in St. Joseph, Missouri on April 3rd, 1882.)

Here is the story, as alleged in the book. It is left to the reader to determine -- Who is hoaxing who?

Right after the Civil War, Jesse James supposedly got in a knife fight with a Mexican. Before James stabbed him dead, the Mexican bit off part of his finger. This becomes important later on, as an identifier.

Jesse James was reportedly part of a secret society, "The Knights of the Golden Circle." According to Norma Cox, in her book, The New Spoilers, Jesse James is also linked with the notorious Albert Pike. Cox has the 12 charter members of the Golden Circle as including Jefferson Davis, Bedford Forrest, Jesse James, and William Quantrill. Some say Albert Pike was the creator of the Knights of the Golden Circle, but Cox doubts it. "Important to remember about such secret organizations is the fact that only the men at the top know the truth..." (Cox, 5)

Because James and his gang were being hotly pursued by lawmen (and the heat was increasing due to copycat crimes being routinely attributed to the James gang), Jesse James allegedly arranged to fake his death. But one of his gang, an illiterate black named John Trammell, decided he'd leave a coded message hinting at the truth. Trammell, according to Schrader's book, got some wet bricks, and a friend helped him scratch some messages into them before they dried. One brick "contained an image of a Spanish dagger, the numerals 777, KGC [Knights of the Golden Circle] and JJ [Jesse James]..." Trammell reportedly buried the bricks in St. Joseph, Missouri, and later exclaimed, "Just wait 'til they find them St. Joe bricks!" (The alleged bricks were discovered in 1966.)

It is known (Come Retribution by William A. Tidwell; ISBN: 0-7607-0381-7) that the Confederacy had a sophisticated covert intelligence apparatus, a sort of "secret service." The uninformed bias might be that the Confederate spy agency could not possibly be as sophisticated as, for example, the "modern" CIA. In some ways that's true, for example in the area of electronics. But in other ways -- like cunning, common sense, and a limited but superior level of classical education (of deep-down learning) -- don't be so sure that we "moderns" are smarter than our forebears. Yes, our ancestors did not have the "advantages" we have, like television and a state-controlled "education" apparatus. But it is our own conceit that unreflectingly assumes we "moderns" must be "so much smarter" than those who came before.

So maybe some things have been slipped by us.

Almost immediately after James' "death" in 1882, rumors began surfacing that he was still alive. Eleven days after the supposed event, the Liberty Tribune reported:

Certain parties still aver that Jesse James is not dead, and intimate that the man killed and buried was not Jesse, but someone inveigled into Jesse's house and killed, to get the reward [of $10,000]. Such a conclusion would implicate Mrs. James, Mrs. Samuels, Governor Crittenden, Sheriff Timberlake, Police Commissioner Craig and others in a scheme of fraud and perjury. We believe nothing of the kind and have no doubt of Jesse's death. (qtd. in Schrader)

But Governor Crittenden, according to Schrader, was a good friend of Jesse James, and "Mrs. James" was not really Mrs. James, but a Mrs. Bigelow. She was of questionable repute, and was bribed to give out a fake story. The whole "identification" of the corpse and subsequent hasty burial was rigged, says Schrader.

The real Jesse James is supposed to have finally emerged in Lawton, Oklahoma on May 19, 1948. An array of witness testimony is marshalled purporting to prove that "Colonel J. Frank Dalton" was in fact a quite aged Jesse James. Knowledgeable readers will recognize the name Ray Palmer; Palmer looked into the story and felt there was something to it. In the September 1968 issue of Search Magazine, Palmer writes:

I signed a contract with Jesse to write his life story, and he handed me a shoe box containing ten-thousand dollars in fives, tens and twenties to cover the cost of publication. I never published the book, for a reason I will explain. I still have the cancelled check I sent back to Meremac, Missouri, when the contract was broken. (qtd. in Schrader)

(Palmer says he discovered that "Jesse" had signed contracts with three other parties to publish the same book. Palmer writes, however, that he is convinced that "Jesse was really Jesse, that he had repented for his life of crime...")

But hold on, the story gets stranger . . . .

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