The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is one of the most popular and highly controversial novels in history. It has been referred to by some as the “Bible Of Teenage Angst.” On the surface, it is a book about a young man peering back onto the innocence of childhood to shirk the dissatisfactory “phoniness” of adulthood. It was simultaneously one of the most taught books in schools and heavily censored from the early 60′-80’s. In some school districts, it made their banned books list. To add to the book’s controversy it has since been found on/ in the possession of some of the most infamous murders or attempted murders of high-profile American figures causing the conspiracy theories that it is a trigger for “sleeper assassins”. That’s right. One of the greatest pieces of literary work is rumored to be used by the United States government to murder people. I have literally been scrubbing the internet floor for weeks and praying the FBI doesn’t come to my door over this one.
“The Catcher In The Rye” – A Novel
J.D. Salinger was a bestseller with The Catcher in the Rye. He immediately following his success, strangely, by becoming a hermit. He’d started writing the book in its youngest form a short story called “The Boy in the People Shooting Hat“, which eventually became chapters 3-7 of the novel when he was in Berlin serving in World War II for just under a year. He took the book with him when he checked himself into a mental hospital post-war. Some think that the book and his alienation was a way for him to cope from something like PTSD, common for soldiers, as we know now.
This is why the book is thought to be heavily autobiographical. Written from the point of view of a boy in a mental hospital, reflecting on a past time in his life when he was attending prep school and life was better than the present. Some say Salinger was trying to grasp for innocence, something he had lost if at no other time, during the war. Needless to say, many people and publishers were critical of his book and his mental stability. And maybe they should have been. But then again, maybe he shouldn’t have been. First, let’s look at the murders.
The Murders- A Coincidence?
Mark David Chapman will forever be known as the man who got an autograph from Beatles founding member John Lennon hours before he shot and killed him in front of his New York home. Chapman had the book on him that night, and was reading it with fervor when the police came to arrest him. Apparently, Chapman identified with the book so much that he wanted to change his name to the main character’s name, Holden Caulfield.
And inside the book, he scrawled his own inscriptions the way an author does when they dedicate it to someone. It said simply: “This is my statement”. Upon police arrival at the scene of the shooting and arresting him for shooting Lennon, he reportedly told the police, “I’m sure the big part of me is Holden Caulfield, who is the main person in the book. The small part of me must be the Devil.” But anyone who knew Chapman personally prior to the murder didn’t believe he would do something of the sort.
Another copy of the book was found in the hotel room of Ronald Reagans’ almost assassin, a lonely mid-twenty, John Hinckley Jr. He was said to be obsessed with the book and John Lennon stating that without Lennon, the world was “over“. Some say he wanted to commit suicide by being killed by the secret service and earn notoriety in the process by Taxi Driver actress Jodie Foster.
Actress Rebecca Schaeffer was shot by Robert John Bardo at her apartment home in Los Angeles in 1989. Bardo was a former straight-A student turned drop out who was obsessed with the actress and had been stalking her for about three years. When he visited her apartment complex and she turned him down, he returned the same day, knocked on her door and shot her when she answered. The Catcher in the Rye was in his possession when he killed her, but tossed the book onto the roof of another building a few blocks away.
The infamous Lee Harvey Oswald, the man charged for JFK’s murderer also had connections to his book. A raid of his Dallas apartment following the assassination, Catcher in the Rye along with books like George Orwell’s Animal Farm and Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf were found. He also spent much of his teens studying socialism in his free time. A psychological assessment conducted from a short stint he spent in a ‘juvenile reformatory’ due to consistent truancy from school revealed his tendency for a “vivid fantasy life, turning around the topics of omnipotence and power, through which [Oswald] tries to compensate for his present shortcomings and frustrations”. Dr. Hartogs detected a “personality pattern disturbance with schizoid features and passive-aggressive tendencies” by a Doctor Hartogs. These days people who get stuck in fantasy worlds are often sucked into television or social media.
There are just a few of the assassinations that have been linked to The Catcher in the Rye. The little links between these occurrences have sent conspiracy theorists heads spinning. As things tend to do. It is important to consider a few factors. The book was and is still highly popular. Thus, the correlation between some of these can be pure coincidence. The rest? Maybe not. This aside, are the theorists on to something this time? Many outlandish statements have at least some shred of truth. And some of the basis behind The Catcher in the Rye assassination also contains some truth.
The Manchurian Candidate:
A well-known theory about The Catcher in the Rye is that it is a trigger for sleeper assassins trained by the CIA’s MK-Ultra mind control program to take out individuals. This applies most strongly to John Lennon’s murder. The claim is that the book is the trigger used to wake trained sleeper assassins to something they learn while under mind control. This is where the idea of The Manchurian Candidate (of a book and film with the same name) started getting throwing around heavily. In The Manchurian Candidate, the protagonist is captured and brainwashed and turned into an unaware assassin. Lee Harvey Oswald said something strangely close to this during his interrogation. He referred to himself a “patsy” – which is essentially a scapegoat, or pawn to take the fall for something. Which could also be why he was then killed so swiftly.
This is where it starts to get interesting, and possibly becomes a considerable concept. Imagine this: You are a higher-up within a large government unit. You and some high-profile associates have a special agenda. For example, “so – and- so” really shouldn’t have said that on TV last night, or “So- and So” figure is becoming too powerful and making too much noise or whatever the motive- that part doesn’t matter.
So, in this position, what do you do? Maybe you attain and train someone unassuming with the help of technology and psychological warfare to do your bidding. Maybe these people have histories of mental illness which can be blamed because in a case of court with a simple Insanity Plea. Let’s say you and your colleagues find people like this, paint them as outcasts, point out their flaws like “unhealthy obsessions”, bring up the fact that they dropped out of institutionalized organizations (like school) and charge them with the crime. If someone doesn’t recall being hypnotized, what’s not to lose? You are free to carry out your agenda, blame it on a “mentally unstable” person, and be out of the office and home by 7 PM for dinner with wife and the kids. Your hands clean.
What do you think? Let’s go deeper, shall we? Is this even possible?
Dabbling in Psychosis and Mind Control
There is a line in chapter 21 of the J.D. Salinger book that could plainly be pointing to the use of hypnotization and mind control. It reads:
“It’s funny. All you have to do is say something nobody understands and they’ll do
practically anything you want them to.”
This statement can be received two-fold. For one, the act of inducing mind control via hypnosis (in some theories the phrase “model psychosis” is used instead) and subliminal messages are never overt. Hence, the name. They’re often something someone cannot understand- or even recognize is happening. The implanted thought seems to have come from one’s own psyche, and would someone with “mental illness” actually be easier to manipulate? Is this how they choose subjects?
This is something to consider. Regardless, once they have been conditioned to kill their target, they have their mission and are ready to kill. Especially once they are “activated” or come into contact again with the trigger/subliminal message. Maybe this also sheds some light as to why both Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley Jr. behaved so strangely once killing their target. Chapman was found reading the book, and Hinckley was still trying to shoot the gun that he had emptied of bullets. Most assassins killing people of such high stature don’t kill their targets so publicly or stick around the scene of the crime. But, if these were, in fact, Manchurian Candidates, this could make sense.
Another way this line can be interpreted is suggesting that the plot of The Catcher in the Rye is at least two-fold. One Historical and religious scholars believe that there is a secondary plot line running through the novel via typology, which could actually make the book make a bit more sense and definitely more juicy. Typology is described as the study and interpretation of types and symbols, originally especially in the Bible. With this overlay, J.D. Salinger seems to be talking about a secret society- the Freemasons.
What ties J.D. Salinger to any of this?
Since many believe the novel to be autobiographical, it can be seen as the author is talking about his experience in the army, which is where they say he started the book. J.D. Salinger spent a year in the US Army in 1942, it consisted of two phases. Initially, his job was to interrogate captured Nazis with the CIC (Counter Intelligence Corps) an intelligence sector responsible for “providing security for military installations and staging areas, located enemy agents, and acted to counter stay-behind networks. They also provided training to combat units in security, censorship, the seizure of documents, and the dangers of booby traps.”
Towards the end of his year, the CIC joined Operation Paperclip. This was a tightlipped operation that involved the US recruiting over 1,600 Nazi scientist, engineers, and technicians to help us win the race with the Soviet Union to win the space race since the Cold War was looming. Some of these Nazis probably worked in concentration camps and conducted experiments there. Years later, Project Paperclip would give way to other, more… let’s call them “morally sticky” projects. And though Salinger was not in the Army when the later projects were in operation, many of then were in their infancy when he was around. And being an extension of an intelligence agency, surely he had some insight and clearance. It is true that the man was known for being a hermit after he left the army? So we really don’t know what he was up to or with whom he was conversing. Army buddies, perhaps?
The projects that came about post-Operation Paperclip were the following:
- Project Chatter: A US Navy program where they lab-tested drugs on both animals and humans in interrogations and the recruitment of agents.
- Project MK-Ultra: Project MKUltra, also called the CIA mind control program, is the code name given to a program of experiments on human subjects that were designed and undertaken by the United States Central Intelligence Agency, and which were, at times, illegal. Experiments on humans were intended to identify and develop drugs and procedures to be used in interrogations in order to weaken the individual and force confessions through mind control.
- Project Bluebird: Extension of Project MK-ULTRA focusing on hypnosis and behavior modification as a means of preventing Agency employees from providing intelligence to adversaries.
- Project Artichoke: The primary goal of Project ARTICHOKE was to determine whether a person could be involuntarily made to perform an act of attempted assassination – 1951
How are these related? Well, remember the space race? Since we brought over German scientists, technicians, and engineers, they were assimilated into life in the US and they continued their jobs work for the US government. So, whatever skills they used there- we wanted here. Concentration camps were known to have human experimenting. And shortly after they arrived we were doing things similarly. Coincidence? So, there is definitely confirmed evidence of the government testing out mind control on both agents and unassuming others.
These mentioned government projects are true and some of which are obviously very questionable. However, the book may be its own entity and never touched by the FBI or CIA. Or maybe it was? The thing about conspiracy theories, as I mentioned, is that they are often always built with some truth. We call them theories because we will never know the full truth of what really happens. And that’s what makes it fun, and a little bit frustrating. If any of this information piques your interest, read up on it. Many of the redacted project files are even available online to read at this point! So, what do you think, is the US Government using The Catcher in the Rye to brainwash assassins or do conspiracy theorists need real hobbies? I think I’ll go with the second one.