Did CIA Agents Kill Hollywood Screenwriter Gary DeVore?

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Picture of Gary DeVore and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In the early hours of June 28, 1997, Gary DeVore, a Hollywood screenwriter best-remembered for penning the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie “Raw Deal,” disappeared while driving home from his friend’s house in Santa Fe, New Mexico. At the time of his disappearance, DeVore was working on a remake of the 1949 movie “The Big Steal,” a film noir about the hunt for a thief who deliberately disappeared in Mexico. DeVore wasn’t aiming for a modernized update, but a complete overhaul involving the American invasion of Panama in 1989.

Officially, the American government’s justifications for the invasion was to protect American citizens, defend Panama’s democratic system from dictator Manuel Noriega,and crackdown on the country’s drug trafficking. The invasion lasted little more than a month, and Noriega was ultimately deposed and then convicted for drug trafficking and money laundering charges in the U.S.

While conducting research for his script, however, DeVore became convinced that there were more ulterior reasons for the invasion. According to one researcher, as reported by The Daily Mail, “… the film may have implied the invasion was nothing more than a diversion that would allow the US into Panama to steal back incriminating photos of senior US officials that Noriega could have used as blackmail.”

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Mugshot of Panamanian General Manuel Noriega.

The embarrassing pictures the government was so anxious to retrieve were allegedly taken during wild booze and drug-filled sex parties organized by Noriega. These parties were said to have gone on for years, and were attended by CIA agents and Congress representatives. Noriega’s purpose in organizing the parties was to secretly film American officials and create sex tapes that could be used to blackmail them. (Note: This rumor about Noriega’s secret sex tapes first surfaced in the short-lived “Sunday Correspondent,” in an article that was published two months before the U.S. invaded Panama.)

The night he disappeared, DeVore last talked to his wife on the phone around 1:15 AM,  as he was driving to their home in Santa Barbara, California. Wendy tried calling her husband three times earlier, but his phone only rang and went unanswered. When DeVore called Wendy back 15 minutes later, he acted strangely and told his wife not to wait for him to come home. Despite being three or so hours away, near the town of Barstow, DeVore never made it home. The authorities searched all over his route, yet the screenwriter never materialized.

Worried by his behavior on the phone, Wendy was afraid that DeVore had been abducted. She strongly felt that somebody else was in the car when she talked to him at 1:15. DeVore’s publicist, on the other hand, thought that he left for Panama with the help of a CIA friend. Others suspected that DeVore committed suicide due to financial problems and dissatisfaction with his career. Over the next year, Wendy would organize many more searches and even put out a $100,000 reward to locate her husband, but it was eventually an amateur detective named Douglas Crawford who would find DeVore’s remains.

Crawford had nothing to do with Wendy DeVore or the investigation, but he believed Gary DeVore probably fell asleep at the wheel, drove off the road, and drowned in the California Aqueduct. Amazingly, Crawford’s theory was right, and DeVore’s Ford Explorer turned up submerged in the canal. His decomposed body was found in the driver’s seat, secured with the seat belt. The laptop DeVore had carried the night he drove off the road was never recovered. It contained the latest draft of “The Big Steal,” which he had worked on while in New Mexico. His gun, which he kept in his car, was also missing. DeVore’s autopsy came back inconclusive, but the authorities were convinced that Crawford’s accident theory was correct. Other people, like DeVore’s widow, suspected foul play or CIA involvement.

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DeVore’s car being recovered from the California Aqueduct.

In recent years, thanks to the release of a 2014 documentary entitled “The Writer with No Hands,” public interest in DeVore’s bizarre death has resurfaced. The movie’s title is a reference to the claim that DeVore was missing his hands when he was found, a detail not mentioned in any of the newspaper articles I read from the time when DeVore’s body was discovered. According to The Daily Mail article I quoted earlier, the coroner who looked over DeVore concluded that the hands he was found with weren’t actually his. In fact, they were estimated to be over 200 years old!

With this weird little tidbit in mind, conspiracy theorists have argued that DeVore was murdered by the CIA because his new movie was going to leak a bunch of classified information about the Panama invasion. Letting Hollywood shoot the movie, so the story goes, would have been a threat to national security. Before his death, DeVore was allegedly very close with some members of the CIA, and regularly received phone calls from them. He even allegedly traveled to Panama with CIA agents.

This is all very juicy stuff, but none of these last few details have ever been covered or verified by a reputable mainstream source. The CIA does, in fact, have some connections with Hollywood.  Since 1996, the agency’s “entertainment industry liaison” officers have worked to help and influence the movie industry. This influence might be limited to fact-checking or encouraging movie-makers to portray the CIA in a positive light, although some believe the agency’s scope goes far beyond just these activities. Interestingly, DeVore’s CIA friend, Chase Brandon, was an entertainment industry liaison officer.

As it stands, Gary DeVore’s death remains solved, and his CIA relationship flimsy. Currently, the police files that deal with his death are classified and unavailable even to Wendy DeVore. Perhaps, should they ever be released, the many rumors surrounding DeVore’s death will end up confirmed or debunked. For the time being, anybody interested in pursuing the conspiracy angle should check out “The Writer with No Hands” or its accompanying book.

 

 

 

 

Ochate: Aliens, Epidemics, and a Possible Hoaxer

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The ruins of Ochate.

According to legend, the little Spanish village of Ochate was struck by three different epidemics in a period of only ten years. The village suffered a deadly outbreak of smallpox in 1860, and the population was further devastated after being hit by typhus in 1864. A final attack of cholera in 1870 encouraged the last few survivors to leave Ochate for good. Amazingly, none of the other villages in the area were touched by the epidemics. Only the people of Ochate were affected.

Ochate, a Basque word meaning “secret door,” has sat in ruins ever since. A variety of different paranormal activity is said to haunt the place, from ghostly voices that shout for visitors to leave and “close the door” to mysterious lights and passing UFOs. As infamous as the place is today, it was relatively obscure until the magazine “Unknown World” published a picture of a UFO taken above the village in 1981. The photographer, a bank employee named Prudencio Muguruza,  later wrote a popular article about Ochate and its legends three months later in the same magazine.

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Prudencio Muguruza’s picture on the cover of “Unknown World.” (The article about the story translates to “UFO in Treviño.”)

Nobody’s quite sure about the meaning of Ochate’s name, but some paranormal enthusiasts believe the village is a “door” to another dimension.  In 1868, four years after the typhus epidemic, a local priest named Antonio Villegas vanished without a trace. About a century later, in the early 1970s, a farmer passing through the area also inexplicably disappeared. In August 1978, a man named Angel Resines saw a white light emerge from Ochate and break into three other lights. As he hid in his shed, Resines watched the lights fly into some mountains and disappear.

In 1987, a researcher pursuing the dimension gateway theory committed suicide while conducting a group investigation in Ochate. Why the researcher decided to do it here isn’t particularly clear, but he apparently killed himself in his car by carbon monoxide poisoning. The man’s ghost is now said to haunt the town. Later that year, another investigator named Mikel Colmenero claimed to have seen two human-like beings dressed in black suits and standing at least ten feet tall. Colmenero watched the creatures pass by in his car, so terribly frightened that he couldn’t bring himself to move.

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Another picture of some ruins in Ochate.

Other paranormal researchers who have investigated Ochate have run into nothing out of the ordinary. Some believe there’s nothing supernatural about the town at all. There aren’t any historical records, for example, that can verify the mysterious epidemics that destroyed Ochate in the 19th century. One skeptic, Enrique Echazarra, traced an 80-year-old man who lived in the town before the Spanish Civil War. Echazarra said in an interview with the Spanish newspaper ABC that the man “was very surprised at what was said about his town. He said that there had never been any witches, ghosts, or UFOs.”

It seems that Ochate was only abandoned during the first three or so decades of the 20th century. By the early 1930s, the population had fallen to only four inhabitants. Prudencio Muguruza, the man who popularized Ochate, has been accused of making stories up and faking his UFO picture. In 2014, Muguruza published a book about Ochate in which he claimed that aliens became stranded in the village in the 13th century. Some of the aliens died and were buried in an Ochate cemetery, while the survivors were eventually saved by a UFO that rescued them 34 years later. Alternatively, Muguruza also reported an even stranger second theory, in which the aliens fought the Templars.

Luis Alfonso Gámez, a journalist and blogger, has accused Muguruza of making a living off exploiting believers’ naivety. After popularizing his UFO picture, Muguruza sold the negative and quit his job. He opened a bookstore, made media appearances as a ufologist, and later dabbled in parapsychology. Of course, other people have reported seeing strange things in Ochate, and they haven’t made a living off it. Perhaps these witnesses really do believe they encountered ghosts, lights, and UFOs. Personally, I’d say they misunderstood natural phenomena and tried reapplying local legends to make sense of what they saw. (Muguruza’s picture, for the record, is believed to be a cloud.)

Check out my book “Mexico’s Unsolved Mysteries: True Stories of Ghosts, Monsters, and UFOs from South of the Border” for more interesting mysteries of the Spanish-speaking world.  You can buy the book on Kindle here. 

The Macastre Murders

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In January 1989, Rosario Gayete Moedra, her boyfriend Francisco Valeriano Flores Sanchez and their friend Pilar Ruiz Barriga were murdered under mysterious circumstances in Macastre, Spain.

On January 19, 1989, a farmer in the small town of Macastre, Spain went into his shed and found the corpse of a teenage girl lying in his bed. The girl was identified as 15-year-old Rosario Gayete Moedra, who had left her home five days earlier to go on a camping trip with her friend Pilar Ruiz Barriga (also 15) and boyfriend Francisco Valeriano Flores Sanchez (14). The three teens were from Valencia, and had a history of doing drugs and getting into trouble. Nobody had seen them since the day they went camping.

According to Rosario’s autopsy, she had died from cardiac arrest, probably triggered by a drug overdose of something. The authorities speculated that Rosario and her friends stayed in the shed to escape the cold weather. While resting in the shed, Rosario took an untraceable drug and overdosed. Francisco and Pilar then ran out of the cabin, either looking for help or fleeing the scene. The Civil Guard, Spain’s national police force, launched a search looking for them.

On January 27, a woman found an amputated foot in a waste container in Valencia. The police suspected it belonged to one of the missing Macastre teens. On April 8, Francisco’s body turned up in some bushes located less than a mile from where Rosario was found. His autopsy was inconclusive, but he might have died from the same untraceable drug Rosario took. (Note: Some sites claim that Francisco was badly beaten and shot, but I’m not sure whether that’s a rumor or not. I’ve also read that his body might have appeared after the Civil Guard searched the area. It’d be quite shocking if they missed Francisco during their initial search.)

On May 24, a group of children passing by a river in near-by Turis discovered the body of a mutilated young woman. The corpse, which seemed to be between 15 and 17 years of age, had its missing right hand and left foot cut off by a chainsaw. The face was too disfigured to tell who it was, but investigators eventually ruled that the body was Pilar’s. Pilar’s family, however, refused to accept that the body was hers. They pointed out that the body had a scar which Pilar didn’t have, and insisted that she was still missing.

In 1999, the case took another strange turn when some skeletal remains were found in Macastre. A DNA test of the remains with Pilar’s sister showed a match. Whether the body found in Turis was really Pilar’s is still up for debate, but the discovery in May 1989 shifted the focus of the case into a murder investigation. Francisco and Rosario might have been intentionally poisoned. A few days before Rosario’s body was found, witnesses reported seeing her and her friends at a local bar in Macastre.

Macastre, interestingly, is an hour away from where the teens planned to camp. It seems that somebody must have given them a ride. This person might have taken them to the bar, and then led them to the shed where Rosario was found. Whether voluntarily or by force, Francisco and Rosario died after ingesting something lethal or poisonous. Pilar presumably tried to escape, but was killed and dismembered. According to the teens’ autopsies, all three of them died between January 16-17, 1989.

There is still a lot of interest in this case today, but the authorities have yet to uncover any big leads or suspects. Some armchair sleuths have suggested a connection to the Alcasser Murders, an incident in 1992 in which three teenage girls were brutally raped and murdered near Valencia. While their murderers were officially caught, one of the men escaped and is still on the run. The investigation was filled with a countless number of problems and unanswered questions, however, and there are a bunch of conspiracy theories that claim the girls were killed for a snuff film or Satanic ritual.

Check out my book “Mexico’s Unsolved Mysteries: True Stories of Ghosts, Monsters, and UFOs from South of the Border” for more interesting mysteries of the Spanish-speaking world.  You can buy the book on Kindle here.