St. Louis area resident and author Kenn Thomas, born June 12, 1958, passed away on September 22, 2023. He was a former university librarian and archivist, and a conspiracy writer, and editor/publisher of Steamshovel Press, a parapolitical conspiracy theory magazine.
Thomas wrote over a dozen books on various conspiracy topics, including NASA, Nazis & JFK; Maury Island UFO, about the possibility that Fred Crisman was connected to the assassination of John F. Kennedy; and The Octopus: Secret Government and the Death of Danny Casolaro, about the Inslaw affair. In 2004, Feral House published a new edition of The Octopus, extending the suggestion of connections to the post-September 11 attacks world and al-Qaeda. A new edition of Maury Island UFO was published by Feral House in 2011 as JFK & UFO: Military-Industrial Conspiracy and Cover-Up from Maury Island to Dallas.
Thomas called his research interest "parapolitics," the study of conspiracies of all colors—from alien abductions and the Illuminati, to the John F. Kennedy assassination and the September 11, 2001 attacks. The New Yorker called his work "on the cutting edge" of conspiracy. His name has become a by-word for a conspiracy theorist; enough so that baseball was described in print as involving "enough fishy behavior to keep Kenn Thomas swarming for years,"(Baseball Prospectus 2002).
Kenn Thomas traveled extensively during the 1980s and 1990s to speak about his conspiracy, assassination, and Fortean interests. Thomas appeared at Conspiracy Con in 2003 and 2007.
He fell almost two weeks ago while at dialysis. The details are murky, which I suspect may be due to the dialysis staff not wanting to admit responsibility, but that’s a story (and maybe an investigation) for another day. He hit his head so hard, it knocked him out, and he was taken to Mercy Hospital by ambulance. He spent two days in the ICU with a hematoma and a brain bleed. They stopped his blood thinners, which helped, and the doctors were optimistic, so they sent him to rehab. Simon visited him, and he seemed like his old self and was upbeat about getting better and going home.
If you knew Kenn, you may remember him as a charming and super bright dude who could talk about anything - music, politics, comic books, and (his favorite) conspiracies. He was probably a polymath, meaning he was talented in so many areas and could pick up new skills seemingly effortlessly. He was a writer, an artist, a researcher. He had a master’s in English and could understand and explain even the densest literary works (Pynchon was his favorite). He took an acting class once and blew everyone away with his portrayal of Cardinal Wolsey.
He was a gifted speaker with a DJ’s voice and in fact worked at KWMU on the weekends for a few years when they still played music. He reviewed rock concerts for the Post-Dispatch and the Globe-Democrat and co-hosted a music and talk show with Phil Gounis on KDHX in its early on-air days, where they mostly played Dylan but also talked about other music and books. He was part of a small but (obsessively) devoted local group of Dylan diehards who saw every concert (and recorded many of them in the early days). He loved the Beat poets and Timothy Leary and could claim something of a friendly connection to William Burroughs, who he spoke about - and accepted the honor for - when Burroughs was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 1990 because Burroughs was too frail to travel to his hometown. If all goes according to plan, Kenn will be buried near Burroughs at Bellefontaine Cemetery.
Kenn worked for the University of Missouri for almost 40 years before retiring in 2019. He never really loved the archives/historical manuscripts career field, but he made it work for him, while also writing and lecturing about conspiracy stories and publishing a magazine, “Steamshovel Press.” He loved his children and his dogs and old TV shows (Hogan's Heroes was a favorite) and resisted going into a nursing home or assisted living because it would have meant living without his books, records, and comic books, which to him was not living at all.
Acid: A New Secret History of LSD, David Black (introduction by Kenn Thomas), Vision, UK, 2003.
The Arch Conspirator, Len Bracken (introduction by Kenn Thomas), AUP, US, 1999.
The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Acharya S (introduction by Kenn Thomas), AUP, US, 1999.
Cyberculture Counterconspiracy: A Steamshovel Web Reader, Book Tree, US, 2000.
Inside the Gemstone File, Kenn Thomas and David Childress, AUP, US, 1999.
The Little Book of Conspiracies: A Paranoiac's Pocket Guide, Joel Levy (introduction by Kenn Thomas), Thunder's Mouth, US, 2005.
Maury Island UFO: The Crisman Conspiracy, IllumiNet, US, 1999.
Mind Control, Oswald & JFK, AUP, US, 1997.
NASA, Nazis & JFK: The Torbitt Document & the Kennedy Assassination, Adventures Unlimited Press, US, 1996.
The Octopus: Secret Government and the Death of Danny Casolaro, with Jim Keith, Feral House, US, 2005.
Parapolitics: Conspiracy in Contemporary America, AUP, US, 2006.
Popular Alienation: A Steamshovel Press Reader, IllumiNet, US, 1995.
Popular Paranoia: A Steamshovel Press Anthology, AUP, US, November 2002.
Saucers of the Illuminati, Jim Keith (introduction by Kenn Thomas), AUP, US, 2004.
Secret and Suppressed II: Banned Ideas and Hidden History into the 21st Century, Feral House, US, 2008.
Shadow Government: 9/11 and State Terror, Len Bracken (introduction by Kenn Thomas), AUP, US, 2002.
William Cooper: Death Of A Conspiracy Salesman, various with contribution from Kenn Thomas, Inner Light, US, 2001.