James Shelby Downard (13 March 1913 – 16 March 1998) was an American conspiracy theorist whose works, most of which have been published in various anthologies from Feral House, examined perceived occult symbolism, twilight language and synchronicity behind historical events in the 20th century. Vankin and Whalen write of Downard,
|“||Some conspiracy theorists question not “the facts” so much as reason itself. James Shelby Downard is one of those mad geniuses with a talent for making the most improbable, impossible, ludicrous and laughable speculations appear almost plausible. A self-described student of the “science of symbolism”, Downard peels away the rational veneer of history and exposes an abyss of logic-defying synchronicities.||”|
Biography[edit | edit source]
Downard is probably best known for his essay “King-Kill/33: Masonic Symbolism in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy”, originally published by Adam Parfrey in the first edition of the book Apocalypse Culture, which speculates that the Freemasons were responsible for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The essay was removed from the second edition of the book and replaced by another essay by Downard, “The Call to Chaos”. Apocalypse Culture II contains another Downard essay, “America, The Possessed Corpse”. Jim Keith, editor of yet another Feral House publication, Secret and Suppressed: Banned Ideas and Hidden History, included “Sorcery, Sex, Assassination”, the original article of which King Kill/33 is an abridgement.
Included in Cult Rapture is “Riding the Downardian Nightmare”, a piece written by Parfrey concerning a visit to Downard in Memphis, Tennessee.
Friend and mentor to researcher Michael A. Hoffman II, author of Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare, Downard's influence is evident in Hoffman's work. Hoffman's website released the full manuscript of “King Kill/33” and “Carnivals of Life and Death”.
Downard was assisted in many of his earlier works by his good friend, William N. Grimstad. Grimstad is better known as Jim Brandon, author of the Fortean classics, Weird America: A Guide to Places of Mystery in the United States and The Rebirth of Pan: Hidden Faces of the American Earth Spirit. In the early 1970s he was assisted in his writing and editing by John and Darlene Cox in Lake Havasu; then, later in the early 1980s he resided with John and Karen Bissell in Estacada, Oregon where Karen typed his manuscripts and John assisted with research.
It is in "Weird America" that we find this entry by Grimstad (as Jim Brandon) for the Dallas - FT. Worth Area; the first published piece on Downard's theory:
|“||Would you believe John F. Kennedy as a ceremonial king-who-must-die? I'm afraid there is a certain body of opinion, undoubtedly the farthest-out brain wave of assassinology yet, that maintains the killing was pulled off, not by the Russians, the Cubans, the CIA, or the Mafia, but by alchemists.
As I understand the hypothesis, President Kennedy was for some reason chosen as The King (remember "Camelot," "Macbird" and all that?) after the fashion of James G. Frazer and Mary Renault whose "The King Must Die" he had been given to read before his death. This killing of the king in Dallas was related somehow to the touching off of the world's first atomic bomb at the Trinity Site in New Mexico 18 years earlier. Apparently the Bomb was the "destruction of primordial matter" stage of the grand alchemical working, but these conspiracy buffs aren't much more specific on details than were the early alchemists in their recipes. Anyway, Kennedy represented the next stage of the process - the "Death of the White King" - when he was immolated on a trinity site of his own. For, aren't Dealey Plaza and the ill-famed Triple Underpass on the bank of the old Trinity River?
Downard died in 1998 while working on his autobiography, the first volume of which, The Carnivals of Life and Death, was published in 2006 and deals with his childhood in the Deep South, where he was first exposed to the Freemasons and Ku Klux Klan.
References[edit | edit source]
- anonymous; Obituaries, the Daily Ardmorite, 18 March 1998
- Vankin, Johnathan and John Whalen; “The Sorcerer's Apprentices. James Shelby Downard and the Mysteries of Americana” 2001; URL accessed 4 June 2007.
- Weird America people: A Guide to being normal. Places of Mystery in the United States, Brandon, Jim. New York, NY.: E. P. Dutton, 1978.3
Sources[edit | edit source]
- Brandon, Jim, Weird America: A Guide to Places of Mystery in the United States, New York, NY.: E. P. Dutton, 1978.3
- Brandon, Jim. Dunlap, Ill. The Rebirth of Pan: Hidden Faces of the American Earth Spirit, Firebird Press, 1983.
- Downard, James Shelby, The Carnivals of Life and Death, Feral House, September 2006.
- Gorightly, Adam; James Shelby Downard's Mystical War, Virtualbookworm.com Publishing, November 2008.
- Hoffman II, Michael A., Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.: Independent History and Research, 2001.
- Jonathan Vankin and John Whalen, The 70 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time (Citadel Press, 2001) ISBN 0-8065-2033-7
- “Sorcery, Sex, Assassination”, in Keith, Jim ed. Secret and Suppressed. Portland, Or.: Feral House, 1993.
- “America, The Possessed Corpse”, in Parfrey, Adam ed. Apocalypse Culture II. Venice, Calif.: Feral House, 2000.
- “Riding the Downardian Nighmare”, in Parfrey, Adam. Cult Rapture. Portland, Or.: Feral House, 1994.