Today we reach back into the dusty archives that chronicle the early years following Amelia Earhart’s disappearance, for an up-close-and-personal look at the strange and bizarre experiences that Amelia’s desperate husband, George Palmer Putnam, encountered during his vain search for his doomed wife.
For added realism, I’ve included the original headings from the November 1994 Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter article; forthwith is the first of three parts of “Is Amelia Earhart Still Alive,” by Dean S. Jennings (1905-1969), taken from the December 1939 and January 1940 editions of Popular Aviation. (Boldface emphasis both mine and in AES Newsletter original version.)
The judge’s voice had the tone of unwilling finality: “With all the evidence before me, I can reach no other decision: Amelia Earhart Putnam died on or about July 2, 1937. . . ”
And so, in the court of Superior Judge Elliott Craig at Los Angeles on January 5, 1939, ended another tragic chapter in-the dark glories of aviation.
Ended? Indeed not! For the next morning the postman arrived at the home of George Palmer Putnam in North Hollywood with his usual batch of strange letters from psychics and others who said: “She is not dead” . . . “I spoke to her last night” . . . “I saw Amelia in a dream.” There were more telegrams for a file already choked with some 500 wires. There were phone calls, local and long distance, from persons who challenged: “No court can govern nature. She is still alive.”
What is the answer to this mass controversy? Is Amelia Earhart alive? Did she find a refuge on some remote, uninhabited island? These are the questions that emerge from deeply moving appeals — more than 3,000 of them — to Mr. Putnam since America’s premier aviatrix vanished with her navigator, Capt. Fred Noonan, in the sunlight of a South Seas morning months ago.
Hundreds of writers, asking neither publicity nor reward, insist they have seen Amelia Earhart in their dreams. Many others claim they have talked to her in an astral world. One man in New Mexico insists Amelia told him she was murdered, not drowned. And Mr. Putnam himself, on several occasions, has conversed with weird spirit voices, at least one of which was supposed to be that of his lost wife. The letter writers ask the question: “Mr. Putnam. do you believe she is alive?” Now at last, 20 long months after the disastrous flight, her husband has given the answer he feels deep in heart and mind — an answer echoed by a court of law: “NO.”
In that agonizing interval George Putnam has had some of the most extraordinary experiences ever allotted to one man in a lifetime. Some of them were uncanny with truth and fact — and without explanation
He has been besieged, hoaxed, heckled, and strangely stirred by thousands of correspondents in every comer of the world. Open-minded, he has attended séances, read horoscopes, corresponded with mediums. He has received rambling messages written by spirit hands; has examined sketches of Amelia Earhart, handwriting, maps — all supposedly emanating from unworldly sources. And once, through one of the cruelest plots ever born in a criminal mind, he was actually convinced that Amelia had been found alive — and brought to New York.
The deluge began less than three hours after that last pitiful radio whisper from a plane floundering in the sky south of Howland Island. The Coast Guard cutter Itasca heard that SOS. Georgia Putnam heard it, crouched over a receiver in a Coast Guard station at San Francisco. The whole world soon heard it.
Here is the first telegram, copied verbatim from the original in Mr. Putnam’s personal files which, never before shown to anyone, were made available to this writer:
NEW YORK N.Y. DL
OPERATIONS MANAGER OAKLAND AIRPORT.
PLEASE GIVE THIS INFORMATION TO PUTNAM. EMINENT PSYCHIC SAYS BOTH SAFE ON REEF LESS THAN 200 MILES NORTHWEST HOWLAND ISLAND. PLANE PRETTY WELL CRACKED UP BUT BOTH SAFE.MISS EARHART IN BETTER SHAPE THAN NOONAN. ITASCA WILL FIND THEM IN MORNING. HASTE IS NECESSARY BUT THEY WILL BE RESCUED. PLEASE TAKE THIS FOR WHAT IT IS WORTH FROM A WELL WISHER.
The Itasca did not find them the next morning. Or the next. Or ever again. But the telegrams and letters and phone calls kept coming. By nightfall operators at the airport telegraph office had stopped sealing the messages; they gave them to Mr. Putnam in bundles. The telephone company installed a special wire. Postmen trudged a weary path to the Coast Guard office and his rooms at the airport hotel in Oakland. Today — more than two years later — those messages are still coming.
In those first anxious hours and days, George Putnam was surrounded by friends and well wishers, most of whom, openly skeptical, saw something grimly humorous in the flood of bizarre messages. He himself was faced with conflicting emotions–an ingrained doubt of the supernatural, a natural curiosity heightened by grief and worry. AE was down. And any thread was a line of life. . . .
George Putnam tried to answer every wire and letter, tried to run down every meager clue that offered any hope at all. By the end of the third day the task assumed staggering proportions. He had gone without sleep for 70 hours, had taken virtually no food. and friends tried to intervene.
“Now look, George,” said Dr. Harry Clay of San Francisco, an old friend, “you can’t stand much more of this. And anyway, you certainly don’t believe in that psychic stuff.”
“Believe?” George Putnam said wearily. “At a time like this, Harry, I’m willing to believe almost anything that might help.”
“But those letters are based on dreams. On spook voices. Probably fakes.”
“Perhaps, Harry. You’re a doctor. You know how close dreams are to reality. And who really knows how to find the dividing line?”
Dr. Clay smiled at his friend and patient. “There are some things people shouldn’t know. Oh, I know you and AE have sat in on table-tappings and other experiments out of your healthy curiosity.”
“With some astonishing results — ”
“–and others plainly ridiculous.”
“Of course. Someone asked me last night,” Mr. Putnam added a little bitterly, “whether AE carried a good luck piece on her plane.”
“Certainly not. She said the only lucky charms she wanted were a good engine and a first class mechanic.”
“That sounds like AE.”
George Putnam said no more, and walked back to the airport office and his long vain vigil. On the fifth day, when Mr. Putnam was on the verge of a physical disintegration that might have left permanent scars, the wise and determined San Francisco physician saw to it that he found rest. He slept 48 hours and rode the crisis.
Then, with his son David, and others who remained at his side during that humbling period when men and planes and ships searched the south Pacific, he began sorting the messages with a calmer mind. One of them might keep hope alive. . . .
One of the first telegrams, significantly, was from a woman now recognized as one of America’s leading astrologers. It was she who had written to Miss Earhart before the flight, counseling: “Flying conditions on the first and second of July (italics are the author’s) are very good indeed, and this would be an excellent time to make the last lap.”
On July 7, plainly stunned, the noted forecaster telegraphed to Mr. Putnam at Oakland:
YOU CAN IMAGINE MY STATE OF MIND AND I CAN IMAGINE YOURS.
CONSULTATION OF THREE PSYCHICS SIX ASTROLOGERS SAY ALL WILL BE WELL.
Still later, in a humble and poignant letter that reflected her perplexity, she wrote:
“I don’t want to alibi. I have none. I failed in the biggest job I’ve ever had and there’s no alibi for that. About psychics and astrologers, our work has been wrong many times right many times. That is about as much as one can say for it. It has a long way to go.”
In the same mail came a letter from another astrologer, Mrs. K___ S___, gently and wistfully reproving Miss Earhart and Mr. Putnam for having ignored a warning she had given them before the fatal flight. And she was right. Her first letter dated May 7, 1937, was found in the files, and it read:
“I beg of you to postpone your trip . . . you can expect at best only delays, obstructions, and difficulties, even if you avoid a dangerous crash. Please believe that this letter was motivated by a sincere desire to keep you from possible disaster.”
These ironic contradictions were noticeable in all the letters and telegrams that reached Mr. Putnam, first at Oakland, then in his North Hollywood home. (End of Part I.)
Today we leave the sordid world of bogus claims about antique cars and enter the bizarre realm of fringe Earhart lore to hear from the “other Irene Bolam,” Irene E. Bolam, who gained her last name through an accident of marriage and was a sometime, little-regarded member of the Amelia Earhart Society whose total contributions can be found in the below essay. I have no photo of her, can’t find this her maiden name, and know almost nothing of her, or whether she’s even still alive.* But she did have a few opinions, not all coherent, about the better-known Irene with the same last name, and she voices them in the below essay for the AES readership.
Shortly after publication of Joe Klaas’ Amelia Earhart Lives * in 1970, Irene Bolam held a well-attended but brief news conference in which she spoke only a few sentences, although these were most emphatic, according to observers. Holding an upside-down copy of the source of her consternation, she labeled it a “cruel hoax,” slammed the book on a table, roared, “I AM NOT AMELIA EARHART!” and left the room. Seven weeks later, publisher McGraw-Hill ceased sales of Amelia Earhart Lives and pulled it from shelves nationwide; no official explanation was ever given.
lrene’s written denial to Klaas and Joe Gervais, “I am not she,” was apparently too succinct and unassertive to convince them of her veracity. For the record, Irene Craigmile Bolam (Oct. 1, 1904 – July 7, 1982) was a former aviatrix who claimed to know Amelia Earhart and other celebrities, but in middle age had morphed into a devoted wife, financial manager, world traveler and resident of Monroe Township, Middlesex County, New Jersey, but these real and verifiable facts evaded the Earhart-addled Gervais, who never accepted them, at least publicly.
For anyone who would like to learn or get reacquainted with the odious details of the long-debunked, worm-eaten Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam myth, please see “Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society: Part I of IV,” on Dec. 29, 2015, the first of a four-part series I wrote on this dark chapter of the Earhart saga, as well as the 2005 jointly written “Amelia Earhart’s Survival and Repatriation: Myth or Reality?” also known as “The Atchison Report.”
The following essay by the “other Irene Bolam” appeared in the December 1993 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters. (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)
“A Personal View of Irene Bolam”
By Irene E. Bolam
Irene O’Crowley Craigmile Heller Bolam acquired her name the same way I did: by marrying one of the Bolam brothers. Her husband, Guy Bolam, was the first son of their father, born in England at the turn of the century. My husband, John was the last son, born in the U.S., 31 years later. So Irene became-a sister-in-law in the family when she married Guy in 1958, albeit more than a generation from us in age. John and I first met her in 1964 when we returned from Germany. She and Guy picked us up at JFK airport and took us to their home in Bedford Hills, N.Y. for several days. Irene was gracious, friendly, generous, helpful, funny, intelligent, worldly, and very much in charge of things. Guy was charming, intelligent, worldly, dapper, opinionated, but a stubborn Englishman who was hard to live with.
Regardless of what the New Jersey psychic said about Irene’s problems with love, marriage and grief during the first half of her life, she and Guy finally found true love when they married in their 50s. She was a perfect asset for his worldwide business dealings. They made friends easily, loved to travel, and people were delighted to be with them. Yet we believe that foremost they were friends and protectors of each other, and perhaps the keepers of each other’s secrets.
Guy and Irene traveled extensively and often, because he worked with Radio Luxembourg. Since he was born and raised in England, they spent much time with friends there. They met the author Lady Mary Stewart (from Scotland) on a train in southern Europe. Later while dining at their hotel they saw her sitting alone in the same dining room. Guy asked her to join them, and a very deep and lasting relationship continued between their families for the rest of their lives. Guy and Irene knew people all around the world, some of which were well known figures in high places. We can’t say there was anything odd or deceptive about this. Irene, especially, was very outgoing and friendly. If she liked you, you were a friend forever. People liked her immensely, and would proudly introduce her to others. She was intelligent, articulate (except for occasionally salty and sometimes acerbic language), and had a commanding presence. She knew a lot of important people, including many high ranking military officers, astronauts, and flyers.
Irene and Guy made the trip to Boston once a year for physical checkups at the Lahey Clinic. During the last three years of Guy’s life, John was working near Boston, so we were able to visit during their week-long stays. It has been written that Irene didn’t really do much flying, became inactive in 1933, and let her license lapse in 1937. However she knew a lot about early flying and spoke fondly of it. One night in 1969, when Guy was in the hospital and Irene was very worried about him, we spent a long evening in a restaurant atop one of the insurance buildings in downtown Boston. Since John and I were taking flying lessons at the time, we were delightfully entertained by Irene’s stories of learning to fly.
When she was ready for her first solo flight in an old biplane with an OX-5 engine, the instructor gave her careful instructions about flying once around the field and landing again. She took off OK, but as she leveled off at pattern altitude her plane started to trail a plume of smoke (apparently the water-cooled engine had a leak in the radiator). While the instructor waved frantically for her to cut the flight short and land immediately, she doggedly continued to follow his original instructions and made a long leisurely downward leg and approach. As luck would have it, she landed safely amid a cloud of smoke and wondered what all the fuss was about.
Irene related other interesting anecdotes, including the fact that she knew many of the famous flyers of the time, including Wiley Post and Amelia Earhart, and that she had indeed flown with some of them. She appeared to be completely familiar with any subject we might bring up about flying in the old days, such as types of planes, instruments, early airports, etc.
Irene also loved to go shopping and buy whatever she pleased with little regard to the price. Not everything she bought was for herself, however. She also showered gifts on her friends, often bringing back woolen items from Scotland, and linens from Ireland to give away. One time in their Boston hotel room, she was trying on a lounging outfit to show another friend and me. The friend asked how old I was, and I told her. Irene came storming out of the bathroom and said, “Don’t EVER tell anyone how old you are!” She managed to get away with that philosophy throughout her life; perhaps there’s a lesson here for all of us?
After Guy died in 1970, she continued to manage the Radio Luxembourg accounts while trekking around the world. She rarely traveled alone, always talking one of her women friends into accompanying her on interesting adventures. Her Christmas cards told of the places she had been that year, or the ones she intended to visit next. She thoroughly enjoyed life, people, events, theater, travel, new heights. She was the epitome of a “Classy Lady.”
What do we think about the Irene Bolam/Amelia Earhart connection? After a most fascinating three days of the AES Symposium at the Flying Lady, our heads were swimming with the new information revealed. From Irene’s actions in numerous situations, we believe retired NYPD Forensic Specialist Jerome Steigmann’s conclusions seem most logical. His evidence indicates that Irene had been recruited by the U.S. government to play the role of a decoy, because Gervais & Klaas (and perhaps other researchers) were getting too close to the truth about Amelia. The government and Irene could “muddy the waters” of her past, in order to leave the impression that she might be Amelia, but maybe not. She could deny everything with vigor, act elusive with some interviewers and mislead others, refuse to let her fingerprints be taken, occasionally wear Amelia’s jewelry but deny that it was what it appeared to be.
Irene told us she was a member of both the Ninety-Nines and Zonta [International], but others say that her name doesn’t appear in the records of these organizations. Why then would they ask her to speak at their national and international meetings? As far as we know, she was just another female flyer, who never broke any records or made famous flights that might be reported in the newspapers of that time. Perhaps some of the older Ninety-Nines members knew more than they are telling about Irene being a decoy? She traveled a great deal, and could have used these trips to meet with Amelia and learn everything she needed to know about Amelia’s life.
Guy and Irene often entertained guests at their Bedford Village home. It was a country home and neighbors were some distance away, so Amelia could have visited there incognito. I can see how Irene might have gotten a kick out of playing the role, pretending to be mysterious, and keeping everyone guessing. John wonders if she might even have been associated with a covert government organization in the first place, and met Guy, a member of British MI-6, through that connection.
We were shown pictures at the AES meeting, and were asked if they were all Irene. Frankly, about half looked like her, and the other half were similar, but not quite the same! We are also curious as to whether her “lawyer,” ex-judge Kennedy, might have been connected with the government also? He was often at her side, or in the background, at interviews and public appearances. Could his role have been to see that she said the right things?
From letters, we know that Irene was bedridden for several months to a year with cancer of the spine before she died. But Robert Myers, author of Stand By To Die, who knew Amelia from the early 1930’s, claims to have had a meeting with Irene/Amelia in 1982 on a New Jersey street corner. While her driver waited a discreet distance away, she and Myers talked thru the window of her limo about the days at old Oakland airport when her [?] plane was being readied for the world flight. Myers said Irene died “a few weeks later.” (Italics mine.)
We find it hard to believe this could have been the same woman who was so incapacitated. Also, according to the last issue of the AES Newsletters, an old flame of Amelia’s from the early 1920s named Lloyd Royer contacted author Gervais in 1977, to tell him about the secret shenanigans with Amelia and her plane. He is the one who said a new plane was waiting in the skunk works hanger, complete with her N-number painted on the tail, even before her busted craft arrived from Hawaii. Royer told Joe that Irene Bolam had recently visited him and left a copy of “AE Lives” inscribed to him. Why would she do this if she hated the book? Could the real Amelia Earhart have traveled around meeting old friends under the guise of Irene Bolam? [For more on Royer, see my Feb. 24, 2021 post “Lloyd Royer’s Earhart claim: Truth or fancy?”]
In her final days, Irene was taken to an indigent hospital where they say she died. Her body was willed to Rutgers University Hospital with the stipulation that no fingerprints would be taken. The hospital later reported they had cremated her body and the ashes were buried in an unmarked grave. This sounds too much like a contrived “final solution” to this intriguing story.
Almost four months after Irene’s death, a memorial “dinner” was held at Forsgate Country Club in New Jersey — invited guests only. There were no Bolams on the list. None of the Bolam family were ever notified of Irene’s death. Richard Bolam. another brother, just happened to see her obituary in the St. Petersburg, Florida newspaper under the section of “celebrity” deaths. We think Irene would be amused to be able to continue playing her role, even after death. (End of “A Personal View of Irene Bolam.”)
The foregoing is apparently all that Irene E. Bolam left to posterity and the record, at least as it’s found in the AES Newsletters. The events surrounding Irene Bolam’s death and memorial dinner are indeed bizarre. I would have expected more, but Bill Prymak had little to say when I once asked him about this “other Irene,” offering only a brief remark about people who are attracted to fame. I didn’t pursue it.
* Amelia Earhart Lives author Joe Klaas, who passed away in February 2016 at 95, was a pilot and World War II hero, a POW and a talented writer with 12 books to his credit. But sadly, Klaas fell victim to the insane delusion Joe Gervais had birthed and spread to other witless sheep over the years that New Jersey housewife Irene Bolam was actually Amelia Earhart returned from Saipan via the Japanese Imperial Palace in Tokyo, determined to live out her life in obscurity and isolation from her family — something Amelia was incapable of doing.
Some have even suggested that Gervais was a paid agent of disinformation — working for Uncle Sam to muddle the truth about Earhart’s disappearance. I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility, but whether Gervais dreamed up his ridiculous claims about Bolam, as well as his other phony assertions, or was doing the bidding of the U.S. Deep State matters little now. Nobody until TIGHAR came along in the late 1980s did more damage to the truth about Amelia Earhart and the public’s perception of credible research, such as that done by Fred Goerner, Vincent V. Loomis, Oliver Knaggs and Bill Prymak, than Gervais and his sidekick Joe Klaas.
It was a shame, because the eyewitness interviews conducted by Gervais, Robert Dinger and the local police detectives on Guam and Saipan in 1960, on the heels of Fred Goerner’s arrival on Saipan, were some of the most compelling ever done.
Once again, you can read everything and more than you need to know about Irene Bolam and Amelia Earhart, beginning with “Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society: Part I of IV,” posted on Dec. 29, 2015.
* A bit of closer checking reveals that Irene Egnor Bolam, 88, lives in Independence, Ore. We’ve never corresponded and I’m not inclined to start now, as this post is about Irene Craigmile Bolam as seen by someone who claimed to have known her. I’m not comfortable doing any more with this post than what was published in the AES Newsletters.
If ever a story published on this blog needed an update, it’s my March 15 post, “Marshall seeking final proof on “Earhart’s Packard.” I really stepped in this one, and so will now attempt to extricate myself from this muck, not only to debunk yet another false Earhart claim, but also to warn others who might be adversely affected in the future.
I wasn’t initially skeptical about Ross Marshall’s assertion that his 1935 Packard Super 8 Coupe once belonged to Amelia Earhart. Some readers even could have understood my post as an flat-out, unadulterated promo supporting his boast about his car’s unique status as an Earhart heirloom, or even that Marshall and I are friends, which is absolutely not the case. “I’ve agreed to further air Marshall’s story,” I wrote in my March 15 post, “in the hope that he can somehow find the final proof the Packard was indeed Amelia’s, and thus increase its value and prestige,” which was Marshall’s stated goal from the jump.
Actually the car wasn’t my main concern. Marshall had contacted Marie Castro and expressed interest in helping her with the Earhart Memorial Monument project on Saipan, and my first instinct was to support her and the AEMMI. “As you can see,” I wrote in conclusion — and here was my extremely stupid misstatement, which certainly could have been taken as an endorsement: “I have a personal interest in Mr. Marshall’s final success in nailing down his Packard as Earhart’s, about which no one should have any doubt to begin with. Should that happen, we have his pledge that he would build the AEMMI monument ‘personally.’ ” (Italics added.)
Other than his potential contribution to the Saipan Earhart Monument, I didn’t care whether Marshall sold his car at any price. But more importantly, I’ve never intentionally perpetrated any false claims about Amelia Earhart or anyone else. Regrettably, I briefly suspended this ethical imperative in my haste to assist Marie Castro and her worthy cause. This work has never been about money for me; my integrity and reputation are not for sale, and I’ve never knowingly written or uttered a lie in my Earhart work since my introduction to the story in 1988.
I soon experienced the truth of the old adage, “No good deed goes unpunished,” and not for the first time. Longtime reader, pilot and friend William Trail quickly disabused me of any illusions I had about Marshall’s so-called “AE Packard.”
“I’ve been chewing away on this and I’m highly skeptical of this whole Packard thing,” Trail wrote in a March 16 email and comment to this blog. “Something’s just not right.” Trail continued:
Ross Marshall alleges that the president of the Packard Motor Company (PMC) gifted AE a 1935 Packard Super 8 Coupe in February 1935. Although not named by Marshall, the president of PMC at the time was James Alvan Macauley. Macauley was president from 1916 to 1939. At the time of the alleged gifting, AE and GP were residing in Rye, N.Y. Therefore, upon transfer to AE the vehicle would be registered to her in New York. I would think that a check of the motor vehicle records for 1935 archived by the Commonwealth of New York Department of Motor Vehicles would be worth doing.
On 28 July 1935, AE and GP purchased a home and moved to 10042 Valley Spring Lane in North Hollywood, Calif. If they possessed a 1935 Packard Super 8 Coupe it stands to reason that the vehicle would then be re-registered in California. A check with the California DMV for archived vehicle registrations is worth looking into as well.
In the back of his book, Legerdemain [Saga Books, 2007], David K. Bowman provides a detailed, almost day-by-day account of AE’s life. There is nothing for February 1935 about AE being gifted a Packard automobile, or having a photo op with the president of Packard — both fairly significant events if they actually happened. I don’t see something that newsworthy falling through the cracks and being “lost to history.” It would be the same if the Ford Motor Company had gifted a 1968 Mustang GT to Steve McQueen, and it wasn’t publicized. No way!
Then, there is America’s Packard Museum in Dayton, Ohio. Mr. Robert Signom III is Curator. . . . I would think that if Packard gifted AE a Super 8 Coupe the curator of America’s Packard Museum would surly know about it. I would also think that Mr. Marshall would have contacted him by now. The museum was easy enough to find. It didn’t require Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. I did it this morning.
I wrote to Mr. Signom at Dayton’s American Packard Museum, which is now “temporarily closed,“ and got no reply. Another museum, the National Packard Museum, referred me to an expert in New York, but the email address they provided rejected my message and he hasn’t replied to the snail mail I sent.
I joined a Packard information forum on March 17. My query has received 338 views to date, ostensibly from Packard experts and enthusiasts, and not a shred of evidence has been forthcoming to support either Earhart’s connection to the 1935 Packard or that the two fires described by Marshall ever occurred. I did learn that Marshall himself is associated with at least one well-known contributor to this Packard Information site, who informed him about my query to the forum. This may be why I’ve heard nothing of substance from this bunch, as Marshall’s Packard has apparently been accepted on the site as once belonging to Earhart, basically on Marshall’s say-so. Sometimes no reply is itself an answer.
Considering the dystopian nightmares the California and New York state governments have become, I don’t want to get involved with their DMVs and don’t believe it’s necessary. I’m certain I’d find nothing if I ever gained access to reliable records, and the fact that Marshall has not mentioned them as two agencies that would support his story tells us plenty about his credibility, or lack of same.
Marshall’s statement that “we can confirm . . . AE and The President of Packard were pictured together is Manhattan New York in Feb 1935, announcing the new Packard range of Automobiles for 1935” is his only claim that can verified, as the above photo testifies, although the president of Packard is not named in the caption. Marshall has nothing more than this, an accidental confluence between the Packard company and Amelia Earhart, yet he’s bent on transforming his 1935 Packard into a cash cow and a fat payday through sheer effrontery and chutzpah, more commonly known as BS.
“Marshall’s story is a load of bull,” William Trail wrote in a March 19 email. “AE’s life has been so meticulously researched, minutely scrutinized, and painstakingly documented, that if James Alvan Macauley, President of Packard Motor Cars had authorized a specially built automobile to be gifted to her there is no question in my mind that we’d know about it. Packard aficionados would know about it. It would be well documented.”
Among the experts I’ve contacted in search of their informed opinions is one Arthur Einstein, author of Ask the Man Who Owns One”: An Illustrated History of Packard Advertising (McFarland; 1st edition September 2, 2010). Most of the Packard historians I’ve contacted have not seen fit to answer my queries, but Trail bought the Kindle edition of Ask the Man on March 21, and spent the afternoon “pouring through the relevant chapters covering the 1920s up to the 1950s,” he said. “I also carefully reviewed the Chapter Notes, Bibliography, and Index. Bottom line: No mention of Amelia Earhart whatsoever.”
Two catastrophic, record-destroying fires?
My BS alarm was not functioning the day I read Marshall’s first email to me, as it should have loudly screamed upon reading his two incredible whoppers below. Subsequent research showed that no evidence whatever exists for these two statements Marshall presented to explain the lack of documentation linking Earhart and the Packard:
The sad part about the critical documented history of our Packard was No. 1, The Department of Roads in Dallas had a fire in the early ’50’s which destroyed all the files and records of ownership of The City beyond the early forties. The late ’40s title we hold shows the last time our car was registered was 1948, the original license plates are still on our car to this day!
Then, No. 2, we have the history of The Packard Motor Company with a similar problem. It appears when Packard was amalgamating with Studebaker in the late 60’s the two opposing Sales Directors had such a dislike for each other, the Packard man destroyed by fire, all the build records and buyers of Packard going back more than 50 years of corporate history!
As stated above, I find no evidence supporting these alleged fires. Was Marshall repeating stories told to him by the Dallas judge, who he does not identify, or did he invent these two ridiculous yarns on his own? I don’t know, and it makes little difference. These stories are phony as a three-dollar bill, I should have called him out on them, and the more I looked at this, the more embarrassing it became. Not only that, the Dallas judge segment of Marshall’s story is irrelevant, as William Trail pointed out in a March 19 email:
Marshall’s story about documentation obtained from the Texas judge is inconsistent. The excuse that there was a fire at that destroyed records in Dallas has no bearing. It is a misdirection, a dodge. Official Texas motor vehicle documentation would not establish AE’s ownership of the vehicle. Archived New York and California DMV records would be the logical place to look. Marshall hasn’t done that because he knows his claim is false. Likewise, Marshall’s claim that the Packard records that would prove his claim were deliberately burned is also a misdirection.
Longtime Packard expert Dwight Heinmuller, of Sparks, Md., a Packard historian and co-author of Packard: A History of the Motorcar and Company (Automobile Quarterly, 1978), joined Trail in rejecting Marshall’s claims that fires have destroyed all evidence that his car once belonged to Earhart.
“The owners claim that Studebaker-Packard was formed in the 1960s and that two employees hated each other and destroyed files, etc.,” Heinmuller wrote in a March 20 email:
All of that is nonsense. S-P was formed in October 1954. There were no clashes between employees at that level that would have resulted in files being destroyed! Records were NOT destroyed. Further, only the dealer would have records as to whom cars were sold except for factory delivered cars. Those records may exist but their whereabouts is unknown.
It appears to me that there is no way to confirm that AE owned this Packard unless some document(s) is produced for verification. So, anyone that says this was AE’s Packard cannot prove it, so why perpetuate the rumor? I remember seeing this and thought at the time that these people’s claims are questionable.”
I’ve contacted more than a handful of authors and other experts in seeking some dispositive statements that might put this issue to rest. Thus far, only Heinmuller has been civil enough to respond. Some of these automotive history types are rude elitists who refuse to soil themselves by mixing with a “conspiracy theorist,” while others may consider the answer to the question about Earhart’s alleged ownership so obvious that it requires no confirmation — maybe both apply! For whatever reasons, that aspect of the basic research hasn’t been easy, but in the end the truth requires no snooty verification. Neither William Trail nor I have found a single reference that places a 1935 Packard in Amelia Earhart’s name, or any Packard of any year, for that matter. This itself is definitive.
On March 19, Trail found more helpful data on the Packard Information site whose forum I discussed above. Buried among numerous photos of infinite Packard-repair minutiae is the brass date plate from Ross Marshall’s 1935 Packard Super 8 Coupe. The photo quality isn’t good, but the vehicle number is 858 230, and it was delivered by Packard to Dallas, Texas on Feb. 2, 1935.
“If this automobile was built especially for AE, why would Packard ship it to Dallas?” Trail asked. “Why wouldn’t the data plate indicate that this vehicle was built especially for AE as Marshall claims it was?”
Unmentioned until now, but far from the least of countless discrepancies is Marshall’s claim that “Our Packard has her ‘AE’ initials still permanently displayed today,” yet he’s offered no photo to support that contention. Moreover, even if the “AE” were somewhere on the car, anyone could have put it there, least of all Earhart herself, who was not the type to do such a thing. An entirely accurate description of this entire tawdry matter isn’t appropriate for a family blog like this, but Marshall’s contentions add up to a huge, steaming pile of you know what.
Finally, as a condition of my writing and publishing Marshall’s story, and not contingent on selling his car or results of any kind, he pledged to make a donation to the AEMMI when the March 15 story went up on this blog. In a March 18 email to Marie Castro, Marshall told her that it is “impossible to do business overseas these days when you are attempting to do a cash transfer.” He then promised to send her a check “via registered mail in a few days.” Marie, ever hopeful, is still waiting.
Clearly, Marshall thinks that Marie and I are morons, and he was right about me, at least briefly. Whether he is a con man or simply a naive victim himself — can we even consider the latter a possibility? — is irrelevant in the end. He’s abused Marie Castro’s goodwill and mine as well — not to mention our readers’ time and attention. As I told Marie as this sordid incident was playing itself out, “This Ross Marshall is some piece of work.”
This story appeared in the November 1994 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, and is another unique example of the strange and weird lore that has attached itself to the Earhart saga over the decades. I will leave the rest to you, dear reader, to sort out and classify for yourself, and will forego any further introductions. (Boldface emphasis mine unless stated; capitals and underline emphasis in original.)
“A Mysterious Encounter in 1945 Japan”
Excerpts taken from a tape narrated by Ralph S. Martine, on Sept. 14, 1993
At the end of WWII, our Naval unit moved from Okinawa (we had been there for the battle and all that good stuff’) to Sasebo, a naval base built in an excellent harbor in the southern part of Japan. There we were kept aboard ship about two weeks because our commander wasn’t sure how the Japanese people would treat us. The SEABEES and a small detachment of marines went ashore to start cleaning up the city.
Sasebo was originally about the size of Huntington Park in LA with 3 and 4 story buildings, but twelve of our super fortresses had leveled the entire city. When we were allowed liberty, I wanted to see the countryside, shops, stores, even though there wasn’t anything to buy. I wanted to see what Japan was like. On the outskirts of Sasebo, three other sailors and I were walking up the hill into a side street of a residential district when we met 9 or 10 British sailors coming down. They were having a great time busting in the doors and walls of the Japanese tissue-paper houses they were passing. We jumped them, and they ran off, which was a wonder as there were only 4 of us.
When the fight was over, we were standing there and the Japanese started coming out of all these houses — seemed like a thousand, but there must have been only about 50 of them. Men and women, were all pulling at us to see who could get us to go to their house because we had saved their property from being damaged. We were right in front of a [Japanese] Navy Captain’s house, and because I was the tallest and biggest of our four, he won me [sic]. I went into his house, which hung out over the edge of the hill on poles like they do in California. The city of Sasebo started right at the edge of a creek below his house.
We sat on the porch, and he introduced me to his 8 years old daughter, and his wife. They were both literally scared of me because they believed the propaganda that the Japanese had put out that we were monsters, and my size didn’t help that monster image. But the Captain knew what kind of people we were because he had graduated from U.S.C. in L.A. in 1934, at or near the head of his class. He was a naval ordinance officer, and a very nice person to talk to as he knew English better than I do. After he graduated he went back to Japan, took his commission as a Japanese naval officer, and got married in the mid-1930s.
Sitting on his porch we could see the whole city — what was left of it — just rubble, nothing standing. I visited him several times, bringing him toilet articles I bought in our ship’s store, and giving his wife Palmolive soap, which was the best the Navy, had. He shared his whisky with me — sugar beet whisky, which was pretty good. The third time I went over with more things for him, he told me he was from the base directly across the harbor from his house, which was located on the southeast side of Sasebo. We could look westward across the water and see the naval base clearly.
In normal conversation, nothing leading up to it, he said that in one of those buildings on the base there were parts of Amelia Earhart’s plane! (Boldface in original) He tried to tell me which building but I really didn’t understand. This came out of the clear blue. We had been talking about the war and the 12 super fortresses which leveled the city. He showed me which way they flew in across the city, banked around, and went back to Guam. They knew exactly where we were flying to and from. In this same conversation, he also indicated that Amelia Earhart and her “mechanic” were still alive at that time and were living in a house outside of Sasebo, just up the road from the naval base. (Boldface in original.)
We had been given orders aboard our ship that if you came in contact with any prisoners or dead bodies, you were to go immediately to Army intelligence. I was in the Navy, but MacArthur was running the whole show, and he insisted that all intelligence go through the Army. I told this Japanese naval officer that we were moving to the sea plane base at Yokohama, and that I wouldn’t see him again. He bade me goodbye, and I didn’t question any more that he had said because of all the instructions we had been given by MacArthur.
We arrived in Yokohama just before Thanksgiving. As soon as I got to Tokyo I looked for Army Intelligence which was right on the main drag, in the center of town, in a four-story building. You could see from one side of Tokyo clear across to the other side (about 10 miles). Only a few buildings were left: most were just pieces of ruins. The building that housed Army Intelligence was one of the few that was still intact. I went inside and talked with the sergeant behind the desk.
From the stripes on his arm, I could tell he had been in the service for about 12 years. I told him my information about Amelia Earhart, and he looked at me very puzzled, with a dumb look on his face. He asked me who this Amelia Earhart was? I told him she was a woman aviation pilot trying to break the record flying around the world and she was lost in the Pacific, and that there was a lot of speculation that the Japanese had shot her down. He sent me to another officer because he didn’t know what I was talking about. I went to 5 or 6 different officers in Army Intelligence, and NOT ONE OF THESE MEN EVER HEARD OF AMELIA EARHART!
These men were all Caucasians, Army, looked like Americans, and everything else looked proper to me. But not one of them knew who AE was! I couldn’t believe it. You could not have lived in the continental part of the United States without knowing who AE was, and to be older than me at the time you couldn’t have done it. The Army Sergeant couldn’t have had 12 years in the service at that time without knowing who she was. I was on some jungle islands in tile Pacific, and the natives knew who she was. They didn’t have newspaper, radios, or any communications, but they still knew who AE was! And these men in Army Intelligence did not know, or they played dumb (which is normal for any intelligence agency), and I don’t believe they looked into the matter whatsoever. They just dropped it because it was 600 miles away to the south of Tokyo.
I read about the AE Society in Colorado, in “Omni” magazine. As much as I’d love to meet with you all, it looks like I won’t be able to make it to the convention in California. However, I decided to tell my story to you this way, and I would be glad to talk with any of you on the phone, or if you are in my area of Oregon. God Bless and take care.
(Ralph Martine resides at 18625 East Burnside, Lot 6, Portland, Oregon, 97233; phone: 503-492-xxxx.)
Ralph S. Martine passed away in January 2012 in Portland, Ore., at age 84. I’ve seen nothing else relative this story, which ranks among the strangest Earhart yarns I’ve ever read.
I’ve seen Lloyd Royer’s name in passing over the years, chiefly mentioned in biographies as one of Amelia Earhart’s favorite early boyfriends, during the early to mid-1920s. A few crackpots have accused Royer of fathering a child by Amelia, but no evidence has ever accompanied such speculation; if Amelia ever had offspring, we’d certainly know about it.
The question asked in the headline of today’s post is strictly rhetorical, as anyone familiar with this blog will immediately discern once they read it. Still, I think it’s instructive to understand how many otherwise apparently rational, productive citizens — giving Royer the benefit of the doubt — were clueless when it came to the wicked Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart canard — and a few poor souls likely remain so.
The following story appeared in the September 1993 issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters. (Caps emphasis in original AES story; boldface and italic emphasis mine throughout.)
“The Strange Meeting Between Major Joe Gervais & Lloyd Royer”
by Bill Prymak
Lloyd Royer became involved in Amelia Earhart’s life as early as 1921 when AE wrote to Lloyd re: repairs on her father’s equipment, and in 1924 assisted Amelia in selling her truck after she had gone back to Boston.* Lloyd at this time was a master mechanic at Kinner Field; it was no secret he’d grown very fond of her, having proposed to her in late 1923 with no definitive answer. Sam Chapman was another suitor who followed her to Boston, but, as history was to later show, both failed to capture this beautiful prize.
Lloyd eventually drifted into the employ of the fledgling Lockheed Aircraft Company in the early 1930s, and his skills focused on installing control pedals and instrument panels on the new Electra Series aircraft. Thus it must be assumed that he knew a great deal about the Electra airplane and the general operation of the Lockheed plant.
Lloyd Royer’s trail drifts aimlessly into obscurity for many, many years, but in one of the most bizarre twists of fate Royer comes back into the picture nearly forty years later when Joe Gervais receives a telephone call from the now elderly Royer begging him to come to his home in Huntington Beach, Calif. “Joe, I read your book, and before I pass along, I must tell you about Amelia and the secret shenanigans that went on at Lockheed when I worked on her airplane.”
Researchers like Joe never pass up an opportunity to listen to first-hand experiences, no matter how far the road required to travel, and on July 8, 1977, Joe Gervais visited with Lloyd Royer. Joe summarizes his meeting:
Before AE’s airplane returned from Hawaii, another Electra 10E with registry R-16020 was already painted on the tail; this brand new airplane was located in a secret hangar called the “skunk works” and headed up by Kelly Johnson. This building was also called the “Ginmill” because they had made gin there when it was a distillery. It was located on San Fernando Rd. in 1937 and the same building still exists.
(Editor’s [Prymak’s] Note, July, 1977: AES notes that Paul Rafford describes in interviews with mechanics at Miami that when a new ADF loop was ordered installed on AE’s aircraft, the cabin roof was found to be free of previous mounting holes (READ: this cabin roof, and assumedly [sic] the rest of the airplane was brand new!)
Royer stated that her mission was to fly over Truk and photograph the military installations; the entire operation, according to Royer, was later covered up by Lockheed and FDR.
As their meeting was concluding at the end of the day, Lloyd dropped a bombshell on Joe, unexpectedly placing on the coffee table a copy of Joe’s book AMELIA EARHART LIVES. Mr. Royer stated that Irene Bolam had recently visited him, leaving a copy of said book and inscribed “TO LLOYD WITH FRIENDSHIP.” Lloyd further showed Joe a Polaroid photo of Irene and Lloyd together on the front porch. Joe was unable to persuade Mr. Royer to print a copy of the photo for Joe to keep.
Unfortunately, Mr. Royer died shortly thereafter, and Joe was never able to secure a copy of the photograph. However, Joe did ask if Irene Bolam was indeed Amelia Earhart, but Lloyd would only respond: “I’ve known Irene for a long time, and the answer to that question might be found in your book.”
The AES membership might do well to reflect on the above. (End of Bill Prymak’s “The Strange Meeting Between Major Joe Gervais & Lloyd Royer.”)
Bill Prymak wrote this story in 1993, a year after he and Joe Gervais were suddenly brought face to face with the undeniable truth that Irene Bolam could not have possibly been Amelia Earhart. The penultimate incident is discussed in the “JOE GERVAIS & MARY EUBANK” subsection of “Amelia Earhart’s Survival and Repatriation: Myth or Reality?” available to all on Wikipedia.
By 1993 Prymak was no longer in thrall to Gervais and his Irene Bolam scam, but he failed to denounce what he knew to be a flat-out lie for far too long, as his closing words in the Lloyd Royer piece reveal. Prymak eventually came to his senses, too late to suit many who were close to the situation. Though he eventually regretted this unfortunate chapter in his long friendship with Gervais, he never really denounced him for the unprincipled charlatan that he was, as this paragraph in his 2005 letter to the online Amelia Earhart Society Forum reveals:
I have spent considerable time the last year compiling compelling evidence – some never before made public – that Joe made an honest mistake in identifying Irene Bolam as Amelia Earhart. I have irrefutable evidence that links Irene Bolam circa 1970 back to World War II and beyond as the one and only same person! I even have Joe Gervais involved in the Mary Eubank affair.
With the exception of Amelia’s mother, the outspoken Amy Otis Earhart, Royer was the only person close to Amelia who claimed that she was engaged on a “mission . . . to fly over Truk and photograph the military installations; the entire operation . . . later covered up by Lockheed and FDR.”
Royer allegedly made these sensational statements to Joe Gervais, who created the insidious Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart can of worms, and whose credibility in such matters has long been nonexistent in the minds of most objective, rational observers. To add flames to the fire, Royer strongly implied that Irene Bolam personally confirmed to him that she was indeed Earhart returned from her stay at Japan’s Imperial Palace — she was later relocated to a civilian internment in Weishien, China, thanks to the grossly sensationalized and misunderstood Weihsien Telegram — a scenario that, with our current knowledge of Bolam’s history providing clear perspective, was also patently absurd.
This is all I have on Lloyd Royer, courtesy of Bill Prymak and Joe Gervais. Thanks to research by Richard Bergren author of our Oct. 3, 2020 post, “Did top doctors search for Earhart on 1944 Saipan?,” it appears that Lloyd Royer was born on Feb. 21, 1892 and died in November 1978 at age 86.
Another source, however, “The Life Summary of Lloyd Geiman Royer,” claims that “Lloyd Geiman Royer was born on 14 September 1896, in Westminster, Carroll, Maryland. . . . He lived in Pasadena, Los Angeles, California, United States in 1930. He died on 27 October 1981, in Huntington Beach, Orange, California, United States, at the age of 85, and was buried in Sylmar, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States.”
So we have a bit of a conflict, and any help would be appreciated!
March 4 update: Reader Pam Boardwell has checked in and tells us: “Lloyd Royer was my great uncle. . . My grandmother’s brother. The correct date of birth for him is 14 September 1896 and date of death is 27 October 1981.” So our linked source above must the correct. Thanks Pam!
* A website that deals in sales of autographs, photos and memorabilia offered an “Amelia Earhart Autograph Letter Signed with Cover Addressed in Her Hand.” The undated letter’s envelope is “postmarked from West Medford, Massachusetts, on November 22, 1924. Addressed to Lloyd Royer of Santa Monica, California, the famed aviatrix writes regarding the sale of her automobile, in part: ‘If the offer for $1500 cash is real, I think we’d better take it. You have the necessary papers. From the fact that the hunting season is due for its slack time soon and from what I gather of conditions in building in Calif. I should imagine this is a good time to sell. The last letter was mailed before I put the number in so you may not get it promptly. I am writing in much haste. Adios, [signed] Am. E.’ ”