In February of 2009, a man waving signs interrupted a meeting of the Sarasota City Commission to stand before the microphone and make a remarkable claim: John Lennon—shot and killed on December 8, 1980—had not been murdered by deranged Catcher in the Rye fan Mark David Chapman, but by none other than popular author Stephen King.
"Stephen King is the worst criminal the state of Florida has ever harbored," Steve Lightfoot said, before being peacefully escorted out of the council chambers. King was a part-time resident of Casey Key, which is under Sarasota City jurisdiction. "I'm from California. I'm known by ten percent of Florida. I'm known by fifty percent of California. I'm the man exposing the truth about John Lennon's murder."
"Stephen King," Lightfoot said, "shot John Lennon."
Just hours before he was shot outside his home at the Dakota, on Manhattan's Upper West Side, a photograph was taken of John Lennon signing a copy of his album Double Fantasy for a fan whose blurry face can be seen in the background. That person was later identified to the public as Mark David Chapman—the photo was widely published after the shooting. (The record is available for sale for $1,250,000.)
According to his website LennonMurderTruth.com, Lightfoot writes that he was well-acquainted with this photograph when one day, a few months after initiating his investigation into Lennon's death, he came across a photo of someone he thought was the same man:
A face rolled by on the microfiche and it looked like the assassin getting John's autograph that the media showed the world. I rolled it back and knew it was him based on the coded head-line:" One great big Zippo lighter ." which describes the murder scene, then three months to come, of a man in a raincoat at night with a gun blazing fire in the night.I had no idea who Stephen King was, the man attached to the headline, and was under the impression that King was an alias. I compared the face to the autograph hound and saw it was, indeed, the same exact person.
There is certainly a resemblance. But why would Stephen King kill John Lennon? Because Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan wanted it done.
In 1971, while running for re-election, Richard Nixon had tried and failed to have Lennon deported. In a photograph accompanying a news story pegged to Reagan's inauguration as president, Lightfoot explains, the former Hollywood star is pictured with a copy of Nixon's book The Real War.
According to Lightfoot, Nixon writes in The Real War, "the prancing of the trendies… rock stars… beautiful people of New York… who say war is bad and peace is good… must be removed from the stage of public debate…by whatever means… a flyswatter… are needed."
Lightfoot believes that Reagan took up the cause, and had Lennon killed. "Chapman is a paid patsy. A decoy. A King look-alike who was waiting in the police station while King, posing as Chapman, was murdering Lennon," he writes.
But again—why Stephen King? Here, Lightfoot's theory gets hazy. The apparent similarity in the two men's appearance is the strongest piece of evidence that he presents on his website—a 24-page booklet containing more information is available for $5.
(Lightfoot agreed via email to speak with me on the phone, but, when I called the number he gave me, a message saying the number was unreachable would play.)
Strangely enough, however, in the January 1981 issue of Playboy magazine—which carried what Lightfoot claims was Lennon's last major interview before his death—there is also an essay by Stephen King, on horror movies. It concludes:
The mythic horror movie, like the sick joke, has a dirty job to do. It deliberately appeals to all that is worst in us. It is morbidity unchained, our most base instincts let free, our nastiest fantasies realized... and it all happens, fittingly enough, in the dark. For thsoe reasons, good liberals often shy away from horror films. For myself, I like to see the most aggressive of them—Dawn of the Dead , for instance—as lifting the trap door in the civilized forebrain and throwing a basket of raw meat to the hungry alligators swimming around in that subterranean river beneath.
Why bother? Because it keeps them from getting out, man. It keeps them down there and me up here. It was Lennon and McCartney who said that all you need is love, and I would agree with that.
As long as you keep the gators fed.
In 2012, Lightfoot was reportedly driving around San Diego's Ocean Beach in a white van, across the side of which had been printed, "Stephen King, Not Chapman, Murdered Lennon." Also: "It's true, or he'd sue."
Lightfoot isn't the only Lennon fan who believes the musician's death came about as the result of a conspiracy theory.
"I believe John Lennon could have changed the world as we know it. He scared the status quo and was ostracized because of it. We have not progressed at all since, really," writes YouTube user Toxicnut1. "That is very sad. You only get so many chances."
"John Lennon was very influential and outspoken, and that made him dangerous. There is no doubt in my mind that these dirty warmongering NWO scum were behind his death," SeekTruthandWisdom writes. "He was a very real threat to the establishment so they took him out."
In 1992, Lightfoot allegedly received a letter from King denying his accusations. "I didn't kill John Lennon, and I think you know that as well as I do," the letter reads. "Why don't you let it go." (While King was not available for an interview, his assistant Marsha DeFilippo confirmed that King had written the letter.)
Six years earlier, however, Lightfoot had received a letter in what he believes was the same handwriting. That first letter reads, "You haven't got the whole story yet," and includes a clue. Both have been scanned and posted to his website.
Lightfoot's most recent updates—the latest one is dated April 2, 2015 (so, yesterday)—are buried in a section called " Footnotes." In October of last year, he wrote, "Lately I stumbled onto what I consider to be a major stepping stone towards golf perfection." In the months subsequent, he elaborates on his search for the ideal golf swing.
"A lot of life is being in the zone, living in the moment, etc., having oneself in tune with the universe and operating at an optimum level," he wrote on March 24. "I must be in that rarified space because I am learning more, lately, about golf, than ever in my life, each epiphany as profound as the next, it seems."
"So profound was my last lesson learned in practice that I will go out on a limb to say that, in the future, golf technique will focus mostly on making a good backswing and letting the whole downswing and follow through and finish happen automatically by itself."
This is Illuminati Month on Black Bag, in which Gawker locks itself in the woodshed and breaks out the red yarn to explore its favorite conspiracy theories. Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.