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Farewell to Parapolitics Trailblazer Kenn Thomas (1958-2023)

Word recently got around in paranormal circles that Kenn Thomas passed away last week on September 22nd, which comes as a huge loss to the field of Parapolitics.

For those of you who have never heard of this funny word before, you need to understand that in the realm of alternative news and fringe topics, Parapolitics is the proper way to refer to the study of political practices and covert arrangements that are unacknowledged by the public and mainstream media, with the intention to misinform or obfuscate a hidden agenda. It is the stuff that is conveniently left out of history books by the victors who get to write them.

The uncouth way to refer to this type of research? Conspiracy Theory.

Kenn Thomas, founder of Steamshovel Press —co-author of the seminal book The Octopus, and author of many books and magazine articles— definitely preferred to be referred to as a Parapolitics researcher rather than a ‘conspiracy theorist’. After all, he came from a time when investigating things like the JFK assassination (the ‘wakeup call’ of many in his generation), the Gulf of Tonkin, or the Waco massacre, was done in the library instead of TikTok. When one needed to cite original sources and first-witness interviews instead of YouTube videos and podcasts. When a distrust for official versions was a sign of healthy skepticism instead of ideological fanaticism.

If pressed, Ken would probably accept the ‘conspiracy theory’ hat but with a caveat: there’s a difference between being a conspiracist and conspiranoid. One has an impressive library and large cabinets filled with newspaper clippings and original documents; whereas the other one has a messy basement office no one is allowed to enter displaying a garish bulletin board crisscrossed with colored strings —and if you dare to say to them you don’t see ‘connections’ to the patterns they have meticulously uncovered, they get very, VERY angry.

Maybe it’s because Kenn often cited comedian Lenny Bruce as a personal inspiration what allowed him to retain throughout his career a healthy sense of humor, which is an excellent tool to keep things in perspective and (more importantly) not taking yourself too seriously. I’ve listened to several podcast interviews with Kenn over the years (here are a couple you can listen to at the Radio Misterioso website) and he’s always laughing, or making cracks about how much money Mel Gibson should have paid him and his colleagues when he made the 1997 blockbuster Conspiracy Theory.

Kenn’s friends jokingly named him “America’s best loved conspiracy researcher” as a testament to how he never took it personally if someone happened to disagree with him on a particular topic —like I said, Kenn was from the old school before Twitter and Facebook ruined everyone’s public manners.

One thing that did distinguish Kenn from the rest of the old school Conspiracy field, however, was how he wasn’t afraid to ‘cross the streams’ as it were and dabble in areas that more conservative parapolitics researchers would normally frown upon —namely the UFO phenomenon. His book JFK & UFO combines the two fringe topics in ways that are far more intriguing —and plausible— than the usual sensationalistic tales promoted at modern paranormal conventions.

No, President Kennedy was not killed because he was about to disclose the nefarious UFO coverup; but the fact that a mysterious figure like Fred Crisman shows up in one of the first major flying saucer stories of the 1940s —the Maury island incident— and he was also investigated by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison for his supposed involvement in the Dallas events of 1963 *is* something that seems beyond coincidence —Garrison believed Crisman was one of the ‘hobos’ investigated by the Warren commission, and Kenn theorized he was a hired gun working for the aerospace giant Boeing company.   

Incidentally, I had my chance to personally meet Kenn on April of 2018, when he joined a group of friends and I for a weekend of sightseeing and camaraderie in New Orleans. Among the memorable things I keep from that trip was walking alongside Kenn —who was already suffering from health issues— as our group was crossing the French quarter in search of a restaurant, and he casually asked me my opinion about the JFK affair. Two years prior, the same group of friends visited the infamous Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, and that visited forced me to rethink my assumptions about the 1963 magnicide (which had been heavily influenced by Oliver North’s movie).

I told Kenn that at that point in my life I wasn’t entirely unsure if Oswald hadn’t in fact being the ‘lone gunman’ the Warren commission had accused him of being all along —unlike Bill Hicks, I could perfectly see the road from that small window at the book depository building which now houses the JFK Assassination Museum, and it wasn’t entirely preposterous in my mind that Oswald had been incredibly lucky with that little crappy carabine he had ordered by mail.

At the same time, I said to Ken as were making our way through the throngs of drunken tourists and I was keeping and eye on his footing, I thought the main conspiracy lied not in the mafia’s involvement or the military industrial complex’s goal to escalate the war in Vietnam; but in the way the CIA tried to bury the fact that Oswald had worked as an informant for them for many years —the fact Langley hadn’t raised the alarm bells when Oswald visited the Cuban embassy in Mexico to let them know of his plans to kill Kennedy (something the Mexican government informed their American partners of) was to me more telling than all the speculation involving magic bullets and second gunmen hiding behind the mythic Grassy Knoll.

Ken just listened to me politely as I did most of the talking. I’m sure he could have raised 15 different points to refute my naïve assumptions before we even had had a chance to reach our restaurant and sit at a table, but instead he just kept quiet. Maybe he was feeling tired from the long walk, but I instead prefer to believe this veteran truth seeker knew the best lesson he could give to this rookie Mexican researcher, was to let him find his own answers.

The next morning the whole group went on a road trip to visit the Metairie Cemetery, where Jim Garrison is buried. Unlike the revelry of the night before, there was a palpable solemnity and —dare I say— sacredness to the experience, when our little band of Fortean friends arrived to the headstone marking the final resting place of the man who took it upon himself to uncover the truth about one of the more defining moments in XXth century’s history —and paid the price for it.

Kenn sitting at Garrison’s tomb, explaining something to our group (at the risk of sounding excessively romantic, he almost looks like Plato or Aristotle addressing a group of Greek students gathered around the tomb of Socrates).
A copy of the fliers Oswald was handing down in New Orleans during the summer of 1963, left by our group as a little memento at Garrison’s tombstone

Garrison’s tomb is very discreet and unassuming. Aside from us, there were no other visitors taking pictures. In a hundred years, perhaps barely anyone will remember or care about who he was and what he tried to do. But I am willing to predict that there will still be a few curious individuals keeping their ears close to the ground, and learning about these deep socio-political currents which shape the outer surface of our reality in ways many of us can barely imagine.

And those individuals will have a huge debt of gratitude to Kenn Thomas. Whether they even realize it or not.   

From left to right: myself, Kenn, and my friend Carlos, posing behind Garrison’s tomb at Metairie Cemetery.
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