Book: The Franklin Cover-Up: Child Abuse, Satanism, and Murder in Nebraska
Author: John W. DeCamp
Type of Book: Non-fiction, conspiracy theory, Satanic Panic, politics
Why I Consider This Book Odd: Okay, this is circuitous, but this book came across my radar in the following manner: When Jeff Gannon, porn star and male escort cum White House reporter/Bush apologist was outed, I was interested in finding out how such a man got high clearance press credentials. A web search on his name turned up a website devoted to a kidnapped child from Nebraska. Evidently, there are those who think Jeff Gannon is Johnny Gosch, whose mother Noreen maintains that after he was kidnapped in 1982, he was forced into child porn and prostitution (and no matter what, this is not going to be a discussion on poor Noreen – just don’t do it, okay?). The case of Johnny Gosch is as fascinating as it is sad, and on a conspiracy site, I found a thread accusing Hunter S. Thompson of being linked to the Gosch kidnapping because a “reputable” source said he filmed kiddie porn snuff films. The reputable source was this book. Yeah… When a book has you yelling, “Oh my god!” before you even read it, it’s gonna be odd.
Availability: This book was updated and is still in print. You can get a copy here:
Comments: Hoo boy. This is some excellent conspiracy theory, in that it is amazingly insane and involved. On one level, I actually believe about 1/8th of this book. The rest is just so whacked and beyond the realm of reason but with just enough grains of truth here and there that you can’t help but get sucked in.
First, let’s eliminate the whole Hunter S. Thompson thing. There were two sentences in the book that referred to Hunter Thompson as someone who filmed kiddie snuff porn. The person making the accusation is a man who evidently suffered from Dissociative Identity Disorder (or Multiple Personality Disorder as it was called when this book was initially written). I have no idea what DeCamp really knows of Thompson, but he calls him a “well known sleaze-culture figure,” whatever that means. It does not appear as if Thompson was ever visually identified by Paul Bonacci, the man making the claim, and no greater research went into proving it. (ETA: A commenter below pointed out that it was Anton Chaitkin who called HST a “wellknown sleeze-culture figure. I re-read and sure enough, I had misattributed the quote.) Evidently another young woman claimed Thompson tried to make her watch a snuff film but she didn’t watch whatever she claims he wanted her to see. Was it the horror film Snuff? Was it Cannibal Holocaust, which some still believe qualifies as a snuff film because of the live animal deaths included in it? Was she making it up, did she misunderstand? We don’t know. All we have is an unverified statement from some woman and two lines in this book attributed to a young man whose origins no one has been able to trace and whose lies/fantasies have fueled a bizarre conspiracy theory.
This book was initially released in 1992. Had anyone any evidence that Thompson filmed children being killed during sex, he would have been investigated thoroughly. Thompson was a man who showed no proclivities towards abuse of children or respect of authority to the extent he would have kept quiet about such a horrific thing out of fear of what would happen to him. Thompson was a thorn in the side of the government and authority in general – had he been involved in something so vile police would have been only too glad to investigate, as glad as he would have been to expose anyone who killed children on film. That all that seems to be out there to support this claim are the two lines from this book and some unclear claim from someone else sort of closes the case. But if that is not enough, bear in mind that Bonacci claims Thompson filmed kiddie snuff porn in the 1980s. Thompson already had a very successful career as a journalist and an author then. He didn’t need the money, had it been a part of an investigation into political corruption he would have reported on it gleefully, if not paranoiacally, and given his nature, had he been in the wrong place at the wrong time, he would have blown a whistle long before he took his own life.
So let there be no more said on this topic. Anyone who wants to discuss it here can, but I won’t reply. On your head be it if you decide to smear the name of a man whose career completely belied any association with such deviance without any proof other than hearsay from a fragile man who makes all sorts of extraordinary claims because one suspects he may be too mentally ill not to make such claims.
Back to the book… This book has it all, for the seasoned conspiratologist. It has Satanic Panic, with cabals of Satanists killing children, burning their bodies and grinding up their bones and teeth. It has a ring of pedophiles all the way up to the White House, flying out kids from Nebraska for sexual purposes. It makes reference to militias, Oklahoma City, the Montana Seven, the Monarch Project, Bohemian Grove, the Gosch kidnapping (but no Jeff Gannon, alas – perhaps DeCamp will issue a new edition?), the utter shittiness of Bob Kerrey (a subject on which I whole-heartedly agree with the author, because I can easily see a man who lied about being a war criminal for so many years lying about all the other things DeCamp claims), Iran-Contra, LaRouche, a conspiracy to murder witnesses and more and more.
Honestly, there is too much to go into even for my verbose nature.
But on the most basic level, there is a kernel that can be believed in this book, though like I said, 7/8 of it, if not more, should be dismissed. The Franklin Credit Union in Omaha was run by a man named Larry King (no, not that Larry King), who embezzled approximately $40 million and undoubtedly molested children. The credit union was probably involved in the Iran-Contra scandal. Though no real trace seems to have been done on the money he stole, it would appear most of that money embezzled went into parties, stretch limos and access to private planes. King probably did have the sex parties described in the book, though I think the truth of the situation probably ended at flying some of the older kids to other locations to have sex with King. I can see that happening, though most of the other stories are implausible.
Not all the kids were in complicit foster homes or kids of the street – didn’t the orphanages or parents notice when the kids, some youngsters, went missing for days on end as they were carted from one locale to the other for sex. Additionally, some of the things that the chief witnesses described could have caused grave harm and certainly permanent scars or physical damage. There is no mention of a physical examination given to any of the witnesses. Moreover, one of the witnesses claims she gave birth to a police chief’s child. A paternity demand to this day could prove her side of the story, and since she is serving years and years of jail time for perjury, that this step has not been taken is baffling. (ETA: Alisha Owen’s child has been definitively proven not to be the result of any sort of sexual activity between Alisha Owen and police chief Robert Wadman. That is a huge problem for anyone who wants to believe Owen’s tales of institutionalized and systemic child rape condoned and committed by Omaha police.)
You have to keep in mind that DeCamp, while clearly holding some wacky beliefs, also fell down the rabbit hole in the 1980s when Michelle Remembers was still believed to be factual and not even psychologists knew how to question genuinely abused children without leading them to say all sorts of things that never happened in order to please the questioner. He is a true believer, and as such, dismisses lack of evidence as law enforcement involvement in the conspiracy, a media reticence as a form of institutionalized stonewalling (as if the media would really turn away a chance to score a scoop on a salacious story if there was any truth to it), and any evidence that disproves the Panic is a complicit act to encourage abuse of children. I don’t know exactly how men like DeCamp fall down the rabbit hole, and though they ultimately do more harm than good, I understand how it happens. So while I find DeCamp a little icky in other respects, his intent belief in the unbelievable does not surprise me.
Nor was it a surprise to find the unpleasant, sticky presence of Ted Gunderson, former FBI agent, in this book. The man believes in Satanic Panic to this day, but he also believes all kinds of bizarre things, as I will discuss in a moment. He is either a loon or crazy like a fox and either way, he is dangerous. He is also lawsuit happy, suing people whom he thinks slander him, including people who have clear screws loose and should be pitied rather than sued. (Google Ted Gunderson and the name Barbara Hartwell and just marvel at the sadness of it all.) I can say without any hesitation that his investigative presence in the Johnny Gosch kidnapping (and sadly, as most believe, murder) has kept the vulnerable Noreen Gosch in a realm where she will believe anything as long as it means her son is alive. It has made her prey to con men and people who torment her. I dream of seeing Gunderson in a whacked-theory cage match with someone – I just can’t think of whom I would inflict Ted on. Art Bell has already won an out of court settlement against him for calling him a child molester so it will have to be someone else (and since it was an out of court settlement with a gag order, there are no firm facts and all the information out there comes from sources that I would rather not link to, lest I become overrun with avid true believers from the whole rainbow spectrum of conspiracy, and if you think I’m verbose…). Gunderson to this day believes the McMartin preschool molestation/Satanic ritual abuse case happened and has been a force behind sending innocent people to prison. He is wicked, nasty and preys on the unstable and it’s not entirely logical for me to say that I automatically believe the opposite of anything he has to say, but that’s actually close to the truth.
The Franklin Scandal case is riddled by the same issues that plague every other Satanic Panic case. No bodies. The book reports that the children and babies who were killed were burned, and then their bones and teeth crushed into meal. What happened to that meal is a mystery because it would still be riddled with forensic evidence that would back these claims. Samples from sites where bone grinding occurred could to this day be sampled and tested for evidence of human remains. Additionally, some of the murdered kids were not the children of cult members that Satanic cults supposedly offer up as sacrifices. Where did these kids come from? The inclusion of Johnny Gosch’s sad story is likely an attempt to persuade readers to believe that missing children were used in cult rituals, but was any attempt made to match the descriptions of those the witnesses say they saw killed to recently abducted children? No, or at least no mention is made in the book about such an investigation.
The Satanic Panic was the Salem Witch Trials with a newer face. These trends of mass delusion and hysteria have always happened and will continue to happen. And I certainly do not believe that Paul Bonacci watched as a baby was sacrificed, nor do I think he was raped with a cattle prod-like instrument (how he could survive that without immediate emergency surgery is beyond belief) and I don’t think he was forced into necrophilia with a murdered child. I think he was molested, though, and it left him damaged beyond belief, and a bunch of adults led him to conclusions he knew they wanted him to reach.
Unlike the skeevy psychologist involved in the whole Michelle Remembers hoax, I don’t get the feeling that DeCamp wrote this book in a jaded manner in 1992, trying to cash in on a frightening cultural belief. I do, however, note that in the second edition, DeCamp is now working more with militias than SRA survivors. I find that interesting, but to reiterate, DeCamp did have some points to make that resonate with even a skeptic like me.
But there were elements of the book that are… off putting. Not the least that DeCamp was willing to defame Hunter S. Thompson as the worst sort of scum based on the eyewitness testimony of a very fragile witness. But there were other problems, too. I can’t go into every single one I have because this is a dense book, but I’ll touch on the highlights of just how DeCamp was not my cup of tea. In the minds of true believers, I can’t debunk a conspiracy anyway. All I can do is discuss some of the WTF moments in the book, moments when I felt kind of annoyed with DeCamp’s narration or disgust at the presence of Ted Gunderson.
One problem, as touched on above, is heavy reliance on witness testimony without any physical evidence or even common sense. For example, DeCamp believes Bonacci because Bonacci can describe in very sound detail an event that DeCamp himself attended, and that goes to the core of the issue of proof. On its face, it seems sound that if the kid had access to the same event that DeCamp attended, he would have the same details. But how could children have attended national fundraisers for the GOP to serve as sex partners and no one have any memory of them? There is no way to accept that every single person in attendance was a pedophile or a pedophile sympathizer and would keep silent about their peers committing wholesale child rape. So if those kids were there, how were they explained? Some people brought their children, but how is it that the victims have memories of these events but no one remembers the presence of random children (and I use the word victims because no matter how you slice it, those kids ended up victims at the end of all of this, be it via literal abuse or just the infamy this case brought them)?
Could it be because they were fed information, perhaps even by DeCamp? Analysis of recordings of questioning tactics used in famous debunked Satanic Panic cases show how even people who think they are scrupulous questioners pass information to their subjects. The main questioner in the case is dead so all we see is what DeCamp shows, and he seldom shows the back and forth between Gary Caradori and the witnesses. Moreover, the stilted dialogue DeCamp uses to further conspiracy points also calls into question his own recall and willingness to fill in blanks, but I admit that’s a judgment call on my part.
I also assert, based on my reading, that DeCamp, a religious family man, has issues with homosexuals. He is quick to say otherwise, that his own brother died from AIDS and that he considered him a fine human being. Not to demean a sad death, but that is too close to the “some of my best friends are black” statement people use to deflect racism.
In a case where a man may have been sexually harassed by another man at work, the situation quickly becomes a homosexual cabal that pressured men into deviancy. The way DeCamp discusses homosexuality, even keeping in mind the context in which he is discussing it, makes it seems as if he sees homosexuality as something quite sinister.
“So tell me,” I said, “just what is at the bottom of it? If it is not laundered money involved in the Iran-Contra scandal, what the blazes is it? How could Larry King get away with this, without you or somebody else knowing what was going on? Looks to me as if he had to have one heck of a lot of powerful political protection at the highest levels.”
“Homosexuals,” Fenner said. “Franklin finances the biggest group of homosexuals any state has ever seen…”
“Are you telling me that the Franklin theft and scandal was just one big queer party, with a bunch of rich people who don’t want their involvement known?” I asked.
“Yes,” replied Fenner…
I can’t even be sarcastic here. Queer party. Even in the pre-PC language age, this is a dick statement, especially for a man with a gay brother.
Gray’s own sexual proclivities were the subject of an article in the July-August 1982 issue of The Deep Backgrounder (AND LOL AT THAT PARTICULAR TITLE), entitled “Reagan Inaugural Co-Chairman Powerful ‘Closet Homosexual’?” The Deep Backgrounder tabloid featured exposes of homosexual networks in Washington, DC…
Homosexual networks, eh? How very sinister. My god, will no one do anything about the Log Cabin Republicans? If DeCamp really has no issue with homosexuals, the way he uses words and the way he paints sinister scenes is questionable
DeCamp’s puritanism and willingness to discredit people on the basis of hearsay knowledge about their sexual habits runs deep in this book. This passage refers to an Assistant US Attorney who felt Alisha Owen was lying and was over the top in his attempts to get to her recant:
Long before Thalken’s behavior in dealing with Owen, his name had surfaced in Gary Caradori’s investigation, as an alleged pedophile who frequented adult book stores in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Oh man, I’ve been in an adult book store. Several. In Dallas. Which is way seedier than Council Bluffs, Iowa. In fact, I suspect my very home, filled with IKEA chairs, cats and Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Cookie magazines, is seedier than Council Bluffs, Iowa. What, I wonder, could DeCamp find me guilty of? Also, hearsay, hearsay, hearsay. But then, all the pedophilia allegations in this book rely on hearsay. The only proven fact is that Larry King embezzled money.
The only parts worse than the implied gay bashing is how DeCamp justifies some of his other information. For the record, Larry King is a black man.
If King was involved with CIA money laundering, that jibes with a report from a member of Concerned Parents: “I heard from two different black people in North Omaha that King used to send limousines down to Offutt Air Force Base [home of the Strategic Air Command] to pick up CIA personnel for parties.”
Well that seals the deal doesn’t it? Not only is this some topnotch investigation here (hearsay of hearsay from unidentified people), but of course, because every black person must know every other black person in Omaha, how can this solid proof be impeached? Bleah.
Then there are the “what is this I don’t even” moments. In the midst of describing what she considered Satanic behavior, one witness, who later died and I have no desire to sully her name further, says:
There are certain things that are in common with the children’s stories when we talk about devil worship… There are things that come up in every single story, such as candles. They all talk about sex.”
Sigh… Candles? Really? Is that really a marker for Satanism? Even the vanilla scented ones they sell at Target?
There are unintentionally revealing moments in the same woman’s testimony.
We were real sure, we knew he had not been around these other children and heard anything, but we began to question ourselves, “Are we asking strange questions. Is there something odd about us which makes children come and dump these things on us?”
Yes, I wager there is something odd about the people who manage to get this sort of information out of children consistently, children who do not know each other, children who did not even have, according to some of her earlier words, the power of speech until they came to live with you. It is no accident that Satanic Panics happen in an epicenter, around people who get on a hobby horse and ride it until they get the information out of suggestible witnesses, mostly children, that feeds their particular conspiracy.
This same woman died in a car crash that “former FBI abuse specialist Ted Gunderson” deemed “a satanic contract suicide.”
The other driver didn’t die, but well could have; in satanic lore, a person who loses his life in such a contract murder/suicide will be reincarnated with more power, granted by Satan.
What lore, one wonders. A basic Google on “satanic contract suicide” leads me nowhere but to Gunderson and this book. And how did reincarnation get mixed in with Satanism anyway, seeing as how Satanism is a pretty concrete element of Christianity, where one gets one life and one life only, which is why offering it to a force of evil has such power? If you get multiple lives, you can be a wicked Satanist in this life, accept Jesus in the next and negate your evil acts, accept Him again in the next and be ahead of the game, right? How did we get to such bizarre ideas? Because, I assert, Gunderson made them up, that’s how, using his authority as former FBI to give his creations a patina of truth.
Additionally, it should not be a surprise that DeCamp refuses to name many of his sources.
The fact of the matter is that most people know by now that the world can be a terrible place. We are exposed to atrocity daily. We, in this Information Age, expect the worst and have no trouble believing it when it is presented to us believably. It is not too much to expect for there to be more proof than hearsay in these matters. If missing children are killed in Satanic rings, produce forensic evidence. How about a name? Anything more than someone’s word?
One of the most famous and proven cases of semi-organized child murder and pedophila is the case of Marc Dutroux, who acted with an accomplice, and sold child porn he produced to other pedophiles. There is a network of pedophiles who trade the horrible stuff online, possibly a global organization, though a loose one. But even in one of the most organized productions of such pornography, there was direct proof, the children who were killed could be identified and there was no greater cabal at work than possibly two men and those who purchased the grotesque filth they produced. (ETA: Through further research, I can no longer say that the Dutroux case is not as clear as I initially thought. More to come on this later if I have time, but the Dutroux case was not the best example to use here.)
The fact is, despite any good intentions DeCamp had in writing this book, he really did do more harm than good because with a lack of proof other than victim testimony, no abuse victim was believed. None of those kids saw justice, aside from the mild justice Bonacci received when Larry King failed to respond to a civil case and Bonacci was awarded a million dollars, which he will never receive. No one went to prison for child abuse, no one suffered as a result of this book, and if the goal was justice, DeCamp did not get it. And I wonder how many children were disbelieved after this mess? Pedophilia is a dire societal problem, with some statistics saying that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be molested. People who encourage whacked out theories hinder the cause of child abuse prevention.
However, it’s entertaining conspiracy theory to be sure. I say read it on that basis alone. But just be aware that there is no justice and little truth down the rabbit hole. And Ted Gunderson is there. That, more than any of the content in this book, should keep you up at night.