Sunday, September 24, 2023

Author and Conspiracy Theorist Kenn Thomas Passes Away

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.

Kenn was a friend of many writers, including Jim Keith, Greg Bishop, Paul Kimball, Adam Gorightly, Jim Martin, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Adam Parfrey, Jim Marrs, Mae Brussell, Tim Binnall, Kevin Nealon, Ron Bonds, Stephen Miles Lewis, Robert Sterling, Robert Guffey, and, me, Loren Coleman.   Kenn also had various close relationship with some powerful women writers and thinkers (e.g. Acharya and Alfvegren). He saw many friends, male and female, die early.

            I was involved with one of Kenn’s St Louis area conferences in 1999, and we visited local Fortean sites such as Piasa Rock in Alton and the nearby “name-game” haunted location at the Beall House.

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).

On September 16, 2016, Kenn wrote what his semi-retirement was revealing:

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.

Beth, Kenn's ex-wife wrote the following for the public:
“ Kenn and I met in high school, in 9th grade history class (or maybe it was English class - you think you’ll never forget this stuff). We didn’t become friends until 11th grade journalism class. We became close in our senior year when I was the editor of the school paper and he wrote and drew a comic strip for it, the originals of which I still have. We stayed friends after high school and started dating during college. We moved in together at some point and got married when we were 25. We had two children before divorcing in 2001. When he got sick a few years ago, I stepped in to help our kids manage his chronic health issues. We had been a part of each other’s lives for nearly 50 years when he died Friday morning at Mercy Rehabilitation Hospital.

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.

Over the last three years, it has taken a team of folks to take care of him, and I want to give them a grateful and loving shout-out: Jeffrey Von Behren, Nancy Von Behren, Alan and Norm (not on FB), Jerry Durrwachter, Douglas Jake Jacobs (and Kathy). His sisters Mary Thomas-Turner and Bridget Bueltemeyer, despite battling their own health issues, have been the emotional support we needed, and his niece Jackie Turner worked on his house when he needed it. We will miss him forever. If you have a story or remembrance, please share it in the comments below. He leaves behind his children, Sara and Simon, his sisters, Mary and Bridget, three nieces, Michelle, Jackie, and Brandey, two nephews, Luke and Anthony, and a multitude of friends from across the globe. Kenneth Francis Thomas: June 12, 1958, to September 22, 2023."



Thomas had been involved in several books that have impacted the conspiracy thoughts in the United States.


Selected Bibliography:
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.
Round Trip To Hell In A Flying Saucer, Timothy Green Beckley (with contribution by Kenn Thomas), Global Communications, 2011.
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.
Trumpocalypse Now!, Adventures Unlimited Press, 2017.
William Cooper: Death Of A Conspiracy Salesman, various with contribution from Kenn Thomas, Inner Light, US, 2001.

Kenn’s beloved Charlie, his service dog, assisted him greatly during the last few years. Sending treats and dog toys to Charlie was my way to support Kenn’s journey through his dark days.

“Remember it is in love that we are made and in love we disappear.💙” ~ Kenn Thomas, 2022.

Red Pill Junkie | Miguel Romero has written a worthy tribute you should read.

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