(Editor’s note: Some of the more perspicacious readers of this blog know that the very same day Part I of “Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society” was published, Dec. 29, 2015, the UK’s Daily Mail, followed by Fox News ran stories promoting a new book that, unbelievably, attempts to re-resurrect the absurd Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart lie, as if this is something new and important that the world needs to know about! “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous,” is a statement attributed to Albert Einstein, and I suppose it’s more poignant than simply saying, “There are no such things as coincidences.” Could anyone be so clueless as to write a book in 2015 based on 50-year-old, discredited garbage, unless this is the latest government disinformation effort in the Earhart case, mixing the Marshalls-Saipan truth with the Bolam falsehood in order to discredit all three elements?
The Daily Mail will not allow anyone to post a comment that names this blog, my book, Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last or even my name, and with one recently reported exception, Fox News has been equally exclusionary, so determined are they to keep readers ignorant about the truth, and this has been going on for many years. This should tell even the minimally observant where the truth can actually be found, and it’s nowhere near the “fair and balanced” place on your cable TV news lineup. With that said, I present Part II of “Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society” for your information and entertainment.)
“What is the hardest task in the world? To think.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Those of us concerned about the damage that might accrue as a result of the National Geographic Channel’s revival of the Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart canard didn’t wait long to see our fears realized. Less than a month after the Earhart special’s first airing, a glance at the Internet site Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia that’s not always credible, revealed the first ripple in the new wave of media attention that the National Geographic Channel had instigated. In late December 2006, the Wikipedia entry for Amelia Mary Earhart featured a new subhead, “Planned disappearance and paranormal explanations,” wherein Wikipedia informed readers:
In November 2006, the National Geographic Channel aired … the theory that Earhart survived the incident near Howland Island, moved to New Jersey, changed her name, remarried, and became a person named Irene Craigmile Bolam and lived the remainder of her life in relative peace and quiet (a book published in 1970 called “Amelia Earhart Lives” by Joe Klaas detailed this theory). Bolam denied being Earhart and filed a lawsuit requesting $1.5 million in damages. One source stated that five years later, the book’s authors offered to settle for the requested amount if Bolam would agree to provide her fingerprints to establish her identity in front of the judge. Bolam declined and later dropped the suit. This source also stated that Bolam died in 1982, was cremated, and that her death certificate listed her parents as “unknown.”
Note that unlike National Geographic, which exposed the photo overlays purporting to prove that Bolam and Earhart were the same person, advanced by Reineck and his associate, Tod Swindell, as bogus junk, Wikipedia simply repeated the original theory without mentioning that it had been thoroughly discredited many times. Ukrainian researcher Alex Mandel, Ph.D., contacted the owner of Wikipedia’s Earhart page in December 2006, and urgently needed counterbalance was soon added to the Bolam material. By February 2007, much to Wikipedia’s credit, the entire Bolam entry was rewritten in a shorter, more concise form under a new subhead, “Assuming another identity.” The false claim that Bolam dropped her suit over the fingerprint issue was deleted, as was as the dubious statement about her “unknown parents” on her death certificate. In Wikipedia’s new version, its conclusion was emphatic, succinct and most importantly, accurate:
Bolam’s personal life history was thoroughly documented by researchers, eliminating any possibility she was Earhart. Kevin Richlin, a professional criminal forensic expert hired by National Geographic, studied photographs of both women and cited many measurable facial differences between Earhart and Bolam.
Beginning in late 2002 and continuing until about mid-2006, the growing Bolamite wing of the AES, by far its most vocal subgroup, became increasingly more emboldened in its asseverations against those who dared offer solid research findings that questioned their dogmas. In early 2005, Reineck’s literary misadventure reached its final frontier, culminating in the publication of “The Last Chapter,” also known as “Chapter 13,” a small booklet produced as a supplement to Amelia Earhart Survived, an update, as it were, of the latest “innovations” in Bolamite thinking.
In “The Last Chapter,” Reineck levels the most outrageous allegation yet conjured against Earhart – that she secretly gave birth in 1924 at the age of 27 to a girl he identifies as “Irene Jr.,” whom, he says, was adopted by Irene Bolam’s aunt, attorney Irene Mary O’Crowley, and O’Crowley’s mother, Sara Rutherford O’Crowley, who “became the little girls [sic] childhood Nanny” in Sara’s Newark, New Jersey home.
Are you following this? As evidence for this incredible claim, Reineck cites a 1984 letter from family friend Lucy McDaniels, 83 at the time, to Diana Dawes, a close friend of Irene Bolam, recalling that in 1928 she “saw a baby in a crib” at Sara’s apartment. According to McDaniels, Irene Senior, i.e., Irene Mary O’Crowley, told her the baby was the child of her deceased sister, at which point Reineck interjects an author’s note informing us that Irene Senior did not have a deceased sister. “Of course I don’t know who the baby in the crib grew up to become,” McDaniels wrote, according to Reineck. As if to lend credence to this bizarre fantasy, Reineck presents an inscrutable diagram on the booklet’s next-to-last page, purporting to illustrate the family tree into which Earhart’s imaginary child was adopted. Needless to say, the person “Irene Jr.” never existed.
In the booklet’s opening pages, Reineck credits the “investigative efforts” of Tod Swindell for this latest revelation, which isn’t the only new discovery he unveiled for befuddled readers. Inside “The Last Chapter” Reineck inserted a four-by-five slip of paper, titled “Preface,” in which he advises, “For ease of understanding ‘The Last Chapter’ (13),” there were “three Irene Craigmiles, two of them became Irene Craigmile Bolam.” The third Irene Bolam, Reineck wrote, was “the face on the 1982 [Irene Bolam] Memorial Dinner cover. . . . We can only speculate who she really was.” In fact, Reineck’s third Irene Bolam is none other than the first and only such woman, photographed at a younger age.
The torturous logic through which Reineck declaims the existence of two Irene Bolams, the first of whom vanished without a trace to be “replaced” by Amelia Earhart, is already far beyond our ken. But in “The Last Chapter,” Reineck asks us to take complete leave of our senses and accept three such discrete persons. Further exploration of the preposterous Bolamite delusions advanced in this absurd addendum would be pointless.
Sad indeed was the state of affairs within the AES in the years following the release of Amelia Earhart Survived. If the Bolamites weren’t busy launching vitriolic attacks and accusations of “intolerance” against non-believers, they were ignoring the most recent submissions in the ever-growing mountain of evidence laying waste to their claims. I experienced my own rude introduction to this “collegial” group in late 2002, when, before publication of With Our Own Eyes, I sent the forum its most important chapter, “More GIs Step Forward,” which presented the never-before-published accounts of two-dozen Saipan veterans that revealed the presence and deaths of Earhart and Noonan there prior to the 1944 invasion.
The wall of silence that greeted this important new evidence told me all I needed to know about the AES and its so-called “search for the truth.” It was then that I realized any findings associated with Devine’s eyewitness account would be roundly rejected by this agenda-driven group, which, with few exceptions, is populated by non-contributing pretenders and aging cynics unwilling or incapable of adding anything of substance to their decades-hardened biases. During the 14 years since I freely shared the new chapter of eyewitnesses in an open spirit of cooperation, that opinion has been borne out in spades.
Soon after Reineck’s posting of his “Chapter 13” on the AES forum in late February 2005, Alex Mandel wrote a rebuttal of the latest despicable allegations laid at Earhart’s feet. Mandel called it, “Amelia Earhart’s Survival and Repatriation: Myth or Reality?” and it later became known as The Atchison Report, the most comprehensive deconstruction of the IB theory extant. Mandel’s paper, nine single-spaced pages of unassailable logic, was met with abject silence on the forum, a certain indication of its efficacy. From the first rumblings of the IB theory’s baneful resuscitation in early 2002, to its unfortunate materialization in Survived, Mandel, trained in rigorous scientific logic, untiringly and enthusiastically deconstructed the steady stream of irrational Bolamite claims. More than anyone in the AES, Mandel did the hard things necessary to keep the IB myth in its proper perspective, inspiring others, who, while not in sympathy with the Bolamite faith, lacked the will or resources to confront it directly.
In addition to the The Atchison Report, Mandel’s other contributions to Earhart research include “Amelia Earhart: Unusual Celebrity,” a meticulous day-by-day timeline of Earhart’s activities from mid-1928 through May 1937, which Mandel composed in 2006 by drawing upon his near-encyclopedic knowledge of Earhart biographical literature; and his 2004 essay, “Amelia Earhart: The Mystery of the Queen of the Air: Dispelling the Myths.” Throughout the protracted conflict fueled by the Bolamite ascension, Mandel, who speaks and writes English as a third language, continued to tread the ethical high ground he has held since joining the AES in 2002, always respecting his ideological opponents despite constant provocations and frequent insults. He also retained a wry sense of humor, as this message to Reineck suggests:
You wrote, “Some researchers believe that Amelia entered the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston sometime in late July and gave birth to a daughter which she subsequently turned over to Denison House for foster care.” Dear Rollin, generally – please why are you using at all this unclear and a bit foggy formula. “Some researchers believe” – as it is pretty well known that it is Tod Swindell’s theory, that Tod presented to the Forum several times? About the theory itself – sorry, but am forced to repeat that it is purely artificial invention, created specially for to “support” in some way the IB theory. Please see above for argumentation.
… Mainly, as I can see, this theory is supported now rather by the ‘power of faith’ of the people who are reluctant to abandon this belief, against many already presented arguments conclusively showing that it is baseless.
Mandel’s thorough dismantling of “Chapter 13″ was ignored by IB partisans on the forum, nor could a single expression of agreement or support be heard, which also wasn’t surprising. For the most part, I had been observing the spectacle silently, in near-helpless wonderment at the return of this long-slain monster from the pit of obsolescence, while privately praising and encouraging Mandel in his yeoman efforts. But Mandel’s devastating critique and the stony silence that greeted it inspired me to go on the record on his behalf in this March 3, 2005 message:
Rollin, Alex and Forum members,
The silence on the forum following the introduction of Rollin’s “Chapter 13″ and Alex’s lengthy rebuttal is deafening. With so much material to discuss, I wonder why this could be? Is the polarizing nature of this issue such that some are compelled to hesitate in expressing their thoughts because they may offend one or the other parties, who have staked out such dichotomous positions? We’ve all been watching this circus for several years – most, like me, mainly from the sidelines – as the AE as IB idea rose from the ashes to dominate the forum. Nature abhors a vacuum, so I’ll jump in now since no one else will.
In contrast to the tiny, parochial and extremely politicized atmosphere of the AES forum where the IB/AE theory has been resurrected and enjoys a thriving existence, acceptance in the “real world,” which after all is the goal of the Bolamites (to use a clever AES researcher’s term), has not proceeded apace. Indeed, another deafening silence has intruded itself into our awareness – that of the media and the reading public in the year following publication of Amelia Earhart Survived. (Full disclosure time: The book I co-authored with Mr. Thomas E. Devine, With Our Own Eyes: Eyewitnesses to the Final Days of Amelia Earhart, hasn’t made too much noise or sold many copies either, but it has received several excellent reviews and is the partial basis for Rich Martini’s movie in the works – “EARHART.”)
The abject failure of Amelia Earhart Survived to impress or move anyone in the literary marketplace is compelling evidence of the academic and intellectual bankruptcy of its propositions. Although the ideas it presents have been consistently and convincingly debunked within our closed society by Alex Mandel and Ron Bright, their dedicated and protracted efforts weren’t necessary to condemn this book to obscurity in the real world, where it failed miserably due to its own lack of any redeeming merit.
There is no light in the IB theory, which to those who love and can discern truth, is an extremely revealing attribute that identifies and marks it as blatantly false in virtually all its claims. Dark and ugly in its vile allegations against a defenseless Amelia Earhart, the IB theory, if its proponents had their way, would forever stain and besmirch the Earhart legacy to the point that her name would become a national embarrassment and an international joke. If the Bolamites are to be believed, AE is guilty of so many amoral and treacherous acts that her infamy would rank her among the most sociopathic personalities of the 20th century. Are we to believe this is what the “best evidence available” has to tell us? Please. (To Fred Goerner and Thomas E. Devine, not to mention AE herself: Don’t bother to roll over in your graves. It will never get that bad.)
The absurd and ridiculous speculation they engage in – which has been granted currency by many within the forum – defies credulity. Ironically, despite the grave serial depravity the book falsely accuses AE of engaging in, Amelia Earhart Survived was doomed from the start by its own sheer weightlessness. Like its creators and adherents, who grasp at every wispy straw to support their delusions but refuse to recognize, admit or correct even their most obvious, egregious errors as they build their house of cards, “AE Survived” is an utterly unserious book, a parody of academic inquiry, laughable in its pretentiousness and pathetic in its presentation.
Alex Mandel’s comprehensive and erudite rebuttal of Rollin’s “Chapter 13” is a clear reflection of his ongoing passion, attention to detail and unselfish willingness to do the hard things necessary to produce true research and oversight based on established biographical and historical facts, irrespective of the outcome. Alex is also a serious, highly respected academician with a Ph.D. in physics (a rigorous science with little or no tolerance for speculation), an author of several Russian books about the U.S. Navy, and a longtime Earhart devotee and bibliophile with no horse in this race. His ideological opponents will downplay and deprecate his achievements while extolling their own, but along with Ron Bright, Alex has been a beacon of reason and light who performs an invaluable service for all in the AES forum who are solely interested in searching for and discovering the truth about the fate of AE. The success of that search, by necessity, also means the abandonment of falsehoods, regardless of who is perpetrating them – or how long they may have been engaged in such counterproductive pursuits.
Of course this letter, like Mandel’s extensive trashing of the latest IB cant, also fell on deaf ears. Soon the relentless Bolamite gibberish resumed, utterly impervious to reason. Any random scan of message traffic on the forum during virtually any period between late 2002 through 2005 would likely reveal a sampling of the anti-intellectual, invective-laden discourse that was common fare in the AES during the height of the Bolamite incursion. Since the group site is accessible only to AES members, it’s not possible for most readers to see these shabby missives; however, though apparently no longer available, in early 2007 three pages of the most refined sophistry yet spun in support of the Bolamite movement was available to the public on John Stossel’s Message Boards at ABCNews.com, under the heading, “New controversial material sparks more Earhart interest.”
The “controversial material,” of course, was the IB theory, and its main expositor was Reineck’s associate and technical advisor, Tod Swindell. On June 14, 2005, Swindell posted a message regarding the Joe Gervais Memorial Dinner that several AES members, including Prymak, were planning for Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas on June 25. Swindell ridiculed the event, and called it a “mock lionizing tribute” to Gervais, because some of those in attendance, notably Prymak, did not embrace the IB theory, despite the fact that it was solely Gervais’ creation and Prymak was a close friend of Gervais.
For Prymak, Swindell’s characterization of the memorial dinner for his longtime amigo was reportedly the last straw, though five full months would elapse before he sent his official notice of resignation to the AES forum. In his letter, Prymak called Swindell’s remark “truly shameful and disgraceful,” and reminded Reineck and the Bolamites that the Amelia Earhart Society name was his creation and remained his property.
In my next post, we’ll continue our Irene Bolam retrospective and delve more deeply into the rotten core of this absurd canard, and pile plenty more facts on the growing heap of evidence that leaves no doubt as to its falsehood. I’ll also present some of the most humorous missives ever penned about the Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart fantasy. Be sure to tune in!