takes me back...!
Do you know who Danny Casolaro was? Some of you will recognise the name; younger readers probably won't.
Back in the 1990s, around the time The X-Files
first hit the air, Casolaro's mysterious death was the
hot topic among parapolitical researchers. Casolaro was found dead -- almost certainly murdered -- in a hotel room in Martinsburg, West Virginia, in 1991. He had been working on a sprawling book about Spookworld, tentatively titled The Octopus
Casolaro may be best known for uncovering the Spookworld takeover of the Cabazon Indian reservation in the California desert. (Previously, that reservation was made locally famous by its giant roadside dinosaur statues, as seen in the film Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
.) There were only a handful of actual Cabazon Indians left, and most of 'em were pretty easy to buy off. This opened up the res for weapons manufacture and God-knows-what else. As many noted at the time, setting up shop on an Indian reservation is a good way to avoid EPA inspectors and other pesky outsiders.
The Cabazon episode gave rise to several lingering murder mysteries.
"The Casolaro papers" (as some called them) were an agglomeration of documents which circulated samizdat-style after the writer's death. I still remember reading that file at an all-night diner, starting at 2 a.m. and lasting until nearly sunrise. Those pages introduced many researchers to the Cabazon arms deals, to Wackenhut, to the PROMIS mystery -- and to the claims made by the outrageous Michael Riconosciuto.
Michael (who had a familial connection to a spooky corporation called Hercules) was a tinkerer, a con-man, an alleged "genius," and a Spookworld hanger-on. He was also -- as Penny from The Big Bang Theory
might have have put it -- "a kind of chemist." Casolaro used him as a source, although I'm not sure if Danny believed all that he heard. Riconsciuto certainly loved to talk, and some of what he said was actually true, although he also unloaded some outrageous whoppers
. I tend to visualize him as being akin to Jack Black's character in The Jackal
Around the time Casolaro's body was found, Riconosciuto was busted on a serious drug rap. In prison, he told hair-raising yarns to anyone willing to pay for the phone call, wildly inflating his importance in the scheme of things.
(Whatever happened to Mikey? I seem to recall that he was received a very long sentence -- still, he ought to be out by now.)
Many would-be sleuths, most of them gullible and inexperienced, tried to follow Casolaro's leads. The trail began in the realm of the possible (Iran-Contra, BCCI, drug smuggling, October Surprise) and led straight into the swamplands of Wackyland (UFOs, Satanism, weird science). Naturally, and as always happens, the wacky stuff brought discredit to the entire "Octopus" investigation. After a while, only the doofiest conspiratards were still following the breadcrumbs.
That said, Casolaro must have stumbled onto something
. I have never believed that his "suicide" was just a suicide.
If you're a nostalgic oldster like me -- or if you're a younger fan of spy-stories who would like to learn more about the smack that all of the hippest paranoia-junkies pumped into their veins, back in the day -- you're in luck. A cache of Danny Casolaro's private papers has just been placed on the internet, courtesy of the good folks at Cryptocomb.
Go here for fear!
I haven't yet gone through it all, but I've flipped through part of it. Though decades have passed, some of that stuff is still meaty and juicy.