Risin' - Rumors, Myths and Urban Legends
Surrounding the Death of Jim Morrison - by Thomas Lyttle,
September 12, 2004 -
So much has been written and speculated upon surrounding Jim Morrison's life,
death and after-death that it is no longer enough to address just the facts.
One must now also address the self-perpetuating mythos that has developed
and enveloped the facts.
In the late nineteen sixties, Doors' singer Jim Morrison founded a publishing
company named Zeppelin Publishing Company with the help of the legal department
Warner Brothers Pictures and Atlantic Records. According to promotions
for Zeppelin, "Jim wanted to get his hands on the trademark 'Zeppelin'
before Led Zeppelin did. He did this while everyone in America knew who the
Doors were, but before the other rock group was well known..." Zeppelin
Publishing Company was chartered and put into hibernation for later resurrection.
On July 3, 1971, rock and roll wunderkind James Douglas Morrison was supposedly,
reportedly, found dead in a Paris, France apartment he had subleased as a
writer's studio. His 'wife', Pamela Courson, was the first to discover the
body in the bathroom. Jim lay in the bathtub, naked and half-submerged. At
first she thought that "Jim was pretending", noticing that he had
"recently shaved". What immediately followed was a series of bizarre
and convoluted events, probable conspiracies, strange coincidences and surreal
news reports surrounding the death of James Douglas Morrison. Following the
death there was a three day news blackout. This was reported on and questioned
widely in the media, including articles in The Berkeley Barb, Esquire, the
LA Free Press, Sounds, The Baltimore Morning Sun, and many others. Robert
Hillburn writing at that time in The LA Times, called his obituary of Morrison
"Why Morrison Death News Delay??" igniting a spark that has yet
The blackout prevented Morrison's close friends from getting at the principals
and witnesses -- and the corpse -- for close inspection. Even Jim's parents
and his in-laws were prevented from seeing the corpse.
Pamela had called a local French medical examiner -- Dr. Max Vasille -- to
take charge upon finding her husband's body. Dr. Vasille listed the cause
of death as "heart failure". Several people viewed the sealed coffin,
including Doors manager Bill Siddons, who apparently chose not to view the
corpse. Siddons official statement to the press was that "Jim Morrison
died of natural causes" and that "the death was peaceful".
Although Jim's death was listed officially as "heart failure",
his personal physician, Dr. Derwin, stated to the press that "Jim Morrison
was in excellent health before travelling toParis".
This has recently been complicated by "Queen Mu" writing in the
avant garde magazine Mondo 2000 (Summer, 1991). Apparently Mondo 2000 surfaced
a rare medical file regarding Jim Morrison's various sexual diseases, and
the treatments he was undergoing for them. There was mention of "cancer
of the penis...". Queen Mu reports:
"... Hey! No one wants to be expunged from the Book of Life. How many
medical workers at UCLA knew that Jim Morrison was being treated for gonorrhea
in the Fall of 1970? Knew of the biopsy that confirmed adenoma of the penile
urethra -- often consequence to repeated gonorrhea? This is a particularly
swift form of cancer whose onlyalternative may have been radical castration..."
-- Queen Mu, pp. 131
No autopsy was performed on Jim Morrison's corpse, as is the usual custom
in unusual or suspect deaths in France. Had friends been able to at least
see the corpse this might have been done.
According to several reports, a Morrison confidant Alan Ronay also helped
maintain the blackout surrounding the death. Jim Morrison's body was quickly
whisked away to be buried at Pere Lachaise. Pere Lachaise is a national French
monument and notables like Balzac, Edith Piaf, Moliere, Oscar Wilde and other
French countrymen are buried there. Regarding Pere Lachaise: Jim had handpicked
the gravesite on several occasions for his impending 'burial'. He had visited
the site as late as three days before his 'death'. This is reported in Break
On Through and other Morrison biographies.
The media at once showed suspicion regarding Morrison's grave due to the
fact that foreigners are rarely buried in a national French monument. Reports
like those in the Baltimore Morning Sun questioned how he might have cajoled
his way into the cemetary tobe buried.
Upon viewing the Pere Lachaise grave site, Doors drummer John Densmore stated:
"... the grave is too short!" Doors manager Bill Siddons, when asked
about Pere Lachaise, stated: "... how it happened is still not clear
to me". He was quoted in Bam!, a rock magazine back in 1981 regarding
the controversy. At any rate, Morrison's grave at Pere Lachaise remained unmarked
for several months, adding and maintaining a further cloak around the corpse
and the evidence.
Only two people saw Jim Morrison's dead body -- his wife Pamela and Dr. Vasille.
Dr. Vasille has repeatedly denied interviews and will not answer questions,
and Pamela is dead.
The Occult Connection
Besides the "facts" as laid out in countless books, films, interviews
and press reports, there exists also a wild and surreal assortment of rumors
regarding "what really took place". Many of these rumors center
in on the occult, black and white magick, Voodoo, magical Christianity and
assorted mystical strangenesses.
In J. Prochniky's biography of Morrison, Break On Through, there is this
description of Morrison-based occult rumors:
"... even more incredible were theories that Morrison had somehow been
'murdered' through 'supernatural means'. While Jim was fascinated with the
occult, it is quite an assumption that a jealous rival or jilted lover could
cause his death in a Paris bathtub by stabbing a Voodoo doll ormelting down
a Doors album while chanting a curse."
"... Another supernatural-based theory is that Morrison's body had been
driven to great extremes by the spirit of the shaman he believed had entered
his body as a child on that New Mexico highway. When this spirit or a demon
its talents to influence the world, it abandoned Jim and left him a physically
wasted and mentally exhausted man who felt betrayed with no desire to go on..."
-- Riordan and Prochniky, pp. 466
Another occult theory exists in No One Hear Gets Out Alive by Sugarman and
Hopkins. Regarding Jim's death they state:
"... Other theories abounded in Jim's close circle of friends. One had
him killed when someone plucked out his eyes with a knife ("to free his
soul", as the story had it). Another had a spurned mistress killing him
long distance from New York by Witchcraft..."
-- Sugarman and Hopkins, pp. 372
Anthropologist Allison Bailey Kennedy even went so far as to tie Morrison
in with Orphic mystery cults and the initiatory uses of various spider venoms,
which release the "deuende in Gypsy tradition -- the dark soul that burn
incandescently like a cicada, immolating itself in fiery passion."
Jim Morrison many times claimed connections to the occult and specifically
Voodoo or Voudun philosophy and magick. It was a part of his "path".
The moniker "Mr. Mojo Risin'" was an anagram -- a rearrangement
of the letters in Jim Morrison. Mojo is a religious term describing shamanic
"power icon" or affiliation. The
African root Mo refers to the dark
or darkness. Mojo is a specific African/Voodoo/Obeah traditional term.
"I think that there are whole regions of images and feelings that are
rarely given outlet in daily life... when they do come out, they can take
perverse forms" said Morrison circa 1968. He goes on to say that "the
shaman is the healer, like the Witch-doctor." Morrison reiterates elsewhere
that "we must not forget that the snake or the lizard is identified with
the unconscious and the forces of evil..." So says the legendary "Lizard
King". "The Lizard King" was one of Jim Morrison's occult code
names. He was also called "The Exterminating Angel" in occult circles,
according to film critic Gene Youngblood and others.
In No One Hear Gets Out Alive authors Hopkins and Sugarman recount Morrison
drinking blood with Witch-initiate Ingrid Thompson. In certain occult traditions,
the use of blood combined with certain sexual acts is regin men, part of a
hidden technology for spell casting. This is especially so in the Tantric
Vama Marg (left-handed) rites. It is also a part of Western ritual magic,
used in groups like La Couleuvre Noir, the Ordo Templi Orientis, Les Ophitis
and others, although it is more uncommon than common in occult work. This
sort of sorcery is also used in Voodoo/Voudun Petro rites to summon different
Loas (gods and goddesses).
Speaking of the Tantra Vama Marg and the Voodoo Petro, there is this description
of death mythology pertinent to Jim Morrison's occult beliefs and possibly
his practices. At the very least he would have known of these ideas:
"...but the human form is no means just an empty vessal for the Gods...
Rather it is a critical locus where a number of sacred forces may converge.
The players are the basic components of man: the z'etiole, the gros bon ange
and the ti bon ange, as well as the n'ame of the corpse cadaver. The latter
is the body itself, the flesh and the blood. The n'ame is the gift from God
and the spirit of the flesh that allows each cell in the body to function.
It is the residual presence of the n'ame for example, that gives form to the
corpse long after the clinical "death" of the body. The n'ame, upon
the "death" of the body begins to pass slowly into the organisms
of the soil... A process that takes 18 months to complete..."
-- Davis, pp. 99
Remember, Jim Morrison's grave at Pere Lachait remained unmarked for several
months so that no one might disturb the corpse and the surrounding site. The
whole event from day one was part of a blackout, remember.
According to Tibetan tradtion, something similar is believed to exist so
far as naming the componants of the soul and the body. The Vama Marg and especially
the Bardo Thodol (the Tibetan Book of the Dead) relate specific death myths
concerning what occurs right after someone dies. Writing in Psychedelic Monographs
and Essays, psychiatrist Dr. Rick Strassman showsthat:
"... Another model of birth and death, and transformation in which the
49 day interval appears is in the Bardo Thodol... This is the time when the
life forces of the deceased -- the energetic tendencies accumulated during
"life", "decide on" or gravitate towards or coalesce around
the next incarnate form..."
-- Strassman, pp. 182
Rock writer Greg Shaw, writing in Bam! and Mojo Navigator interpreted Morrison's
song "The End" along these lines also, stating that each line in
the song is a direct quote from the Bardo Thodol. It all "makes perfect
sense, if one is familiar with the mystical background," said Shaw.
What are the implications for these ideas in light of the supposed "death"
of Jim Morrison? At clinical death, according to the above, the person actually
splits up into his or her true parts, formerly connected into a whole being.
According to occult lore, it is possible to ensnare or trap parts of the
personality or spirit during this transition. Wade Davis, author of The Serpent
and the Rainbow and Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie,
has this to say:
"During initiation, for example the ti bon ange may be extracted from
the body and housed in a clay jar called a canari. A canari is a clay jar
that has been placed at the inner sanctuary of the hounfour (ritual house)."
"... During the stages directly following the physical death and the
first stages of after-death the ti bon ange is extremely vulnerable... Only
when it is liberated from the flesh... is it relatively safe..."
-- Davis, pp. 102
Is it Jim Morrison's ti bon ange that is at the root of all these occult
rumors? Was it his ti bon ange that was bought, sold and then collected on
that fateful day in Paris when he"died"...?
That canari has a name. It is called Zeppelin Publishing Company. And the
bokor, or Voodoo high priest who cajoled Morrison's ti bon ange into the canari?
He runs a company called the B of A Company (or B of A Communications), formerly
of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and now of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He owns an
active passport and IDs under the name of James Douglas Morrison and claims
to actually be the no-so-dead rock star!
Apparitions and Appearances After the "Death"
In the first two years after Jim Morrison's "death" in Paris, many
sightings of the rock star were reported. These sightings range from the totally
spurious and ridiculous to the reliable and very hard to shake.
The LA Free Press and several wire service reports described someone in 1973
appearing on several occasions in San Francisco. There Morrison was involved
with business and banking transactions with the Bank of America of San Francisco.
The employee that handled the transactions, Walt Fleischer, confirmed that
someone resembling Morrison and using that name was indeed doing business
at the Bank of America. He did add that he "was far from sure that this
was the 'dead' artist" as Morrison showed no identification. Could this
be because a photo ID was already on file at the bank, with the name James
Douglas Morrison? Yes, it is still on file.
According to authors Riordan and Prochniky, Morrison was also seen on several
occasions hanging out in "unpleasant places" in Los Angeles and
wearing Morrison's leather garb, all in black. This was over a period of two
years right after the Paris "death". I researched this a bit further
and found out that the "unpleasant places" meant notorious gay leather
bars, and the underground gay community in Los Angeles.
There were also many rumors that Morrison was also appearing regularly in
Louisiana and had made several radio interviews. Again, Prochniky and Riordan
"... At an obscure radio station in the Midwest Jim supposedly showed
up in the dead of night and did a lengthy interview that explained it all...
After the interview he vanished into the darkness again. As you might buess,
no recordings of the interview exist and no reliable source remembers hearing
An LP record called Phantom's Divine Comedy was released also in 1974. This
was rumored to be Jim Morrison singing with an anonymous band with the names
of "drummer X, bassist Y, and keyboardist Z". The music reportedly
resembled Jim Morrison's sound quite well. All this again added and sparked
the rumor mills, and stirred public fascination.
However, in a 1992 press released from the Zeppelin group, it is revealed
that Morrison pal Iggy Pop was actually doing all the singing and helping
the "hoax" along. This added more fuel as to how many people were
actually involved in maintaining his "death hoax". Up until the
1992 press release, the record company that had released Phantom had refused
to divulge the names on the LP, or the singer's name -- which was indeed Iggy
Regarding all these rumors, Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek stated: "If
there was one guy that would have been capable of staging his own death --
getting a phony death certificate and paying off some French doctor... And
putting a hundred and fifty pound sack of sand into a coffin and splitting
to some point on this planet -- Africa, who knows where -- it is Jim Morrison
who would have been able to pull it off."
Jim Morrison's best friend Tom Baker, writing in High Times (June, 1981)
had this to say: "I was very tempted to believe the rumors that Jim had
faked his own death."
A group of fans actually went so far as to try to get Morrison's dental records,
apparently to try to get permission to dig up his body and match the records
to the remains. This was immediately blocked both by Morrison's parents and
their attorneys -- at least for the time being.
It is known that Jim Morrison had repeatedly planted the seeds which would
lead to this sort of speculation -- that he had somehow faked his own death
and dropped out into a new identity. At the Fillmore in San Francisco in 1967,
Jim started suggesting that he should pull a "death stunt" to bring
national press attention onto the band. This was when he came up with the
"Mr. Mojo Risin'" anagram which would be used after he "split
to Africa" and wished to secretly contact friends.
Morrison also told Danny Sugarman and Jerry Hopkins on more than one occasion
that he could see himself "radically changing careers, reappearing as
a suited and neck-tied businessman." Jack Holzman's assistant Steve Harris
even remembers Jim Morrison asking what might happen if he were to suddenly
"die"... how might it affect business, record sales, the press,
and would people believe it? With confidant Mary Francis Werebelow Jim "entertained
long conversations about how the Disciples had stolen the body of Christ from
the crypt, jokingly calling it the "Easter heist," etc."
In a Rolling Stone article for September 17, 1981, author Jerry Hopkins recounts
many other Morrison sightings:
"The first one I remember was a beaut... He surfaced in San Francisco
shortly after Morrison's death and began cashing checks in Morrison's name.
He was not writing bad checks, mind you; it was his money he was spending.
It was just that he was dressed as Jim would in his 'leather period', and
that he told everyone that he was indeed the 'dead singer'.
"The telephone operator asked: 'will you accept a long distance collect
call from Jim Morrison?' It was an interesting conversation..."
"Our conversations were unsettling. He told me to go to Paris and dig
up the corpse, but that you would need permission from '12 Catholic Bishops'
to do it... A visit to his home was more jarring. There at the end of one
room was a Morrison 'shrine', converted with posters, flowers, religious icons
-- the works!"
-- Sugarman, pp. 33
Years later, I actually got the chance to visit and interview the shrine's
owner, who claimed to be Jim Morrison. He told me matter-of-factly details
about Hopkins, as well as that other reporters had actually burglarized the
shrine in an attempt toget a scoop.
Another surreal sighting involved "Donny" of Baton Rouge, Lousiana.
He described Jim Morrison at Morrison's home in 1978. Donny told his friend
"Larry" about it, as Larry was trying to break in to the world of
rock and roll:
"I remember Larry telling me about the whole wall of one room lined
with books all across it. Every one of the books were about Satan, or had
something to do with him. He also told me about a large chair that looked
like a throne, on which this man sat and watched over his nude children running
around... I guess that you can probably guess who that kinky old weird man
was -- Jim Morrison, The Lizard King!"
-- Sugarman, pp. 33
Another person named Rhea (the Greek goddess of fertility) claimed she was
living with Jim Morrison in 1979 with their son "Jesse Blue James".
She matter-of-factly claimed that Morrison had "evolved into a state
of pure energy... And can materialize and dematerilize at will." She
and Jim were also in direct telepathic communication and in "electromagnetic
The Intelligence Connection and JM2
Rock icon Jim Morrison's father was an admiral in the United States Navy,
privy to intelligence and counterintelligence information. His name is Steven
During the first few years surround Jim Morrison's "death" a number
of interesting articles surfaced. These cited references showing various intelligence
interests either in Morrison's underground activity; his "death"
or that intelligence had even masterminded Morrison's death itself! One of
the more explicit appeared in the Scandinavian magazine Dagblatte. This article
detailed French intelligence efforts to assassinate Jim Morrison in Paris.
Author Bernard Wolfe writing The Real Life Death of Jim Morrison for Esquire
(June 1972) related the story of:
"Sherry, a Pasadena girl who knew Morrison well: "...I couldn't
make sense out of the stories in the papers. Suppose he had a heart attack
exactly as they reported, is that what he died of? My God, you might as well
say that Ernest Hemingway died of "extensive brain damage". If you
want to know the cause of Jim's death -- not just the physiology of it --
ask what triggered his heart to stop... And whose finger was on the trigger."
-- Wolfe, pp. 106
In the first few years after Morrison's "death" the owner of B of
A Communications, named James Douglas Morrison, claimed to be operating as
an intelligence agent for a number of domestic and international groups including
the CIA, NSA, Interpol, Swedish Inteligence and others. There are also connections
between James Douglas Morrison and various occult groups with probable intelligence
connections. [Author's note: from here on the B of A Morrison will be referred
to as JM2].
The enclosed plates show several documents implicating him in intelligence
circles. JM2 also claims to be the "dead" rock star and former singer
for The Doors. The new JM2 dropped the old JM1 rock and roll identity to become
a "James Bond" wearing the suit and tie that Morrison predicted
when he was with The Doors.
This author has in fact seen what appear to be stacks of official-looking
documents and letters between the CIA, various government agencies, national
news groups like CNN and NBC and JM2, involving what looked like personal
meetings, projects and ephemera. Of special interest is that when I viewed
parts of the files, all the reports had a paper-thin metallic band affixed
to them with colored UPC bar codes. There is no way for me to authenticate
the claims of JM2, but everything looked extremely offical and very elaborate.
From about 1972 through 1992 JM2 has left a surreal trail of paper and appearances
all over the world. These include letters to and from Louisiana Governor Edwin
Edwards and CIA Director William Colby, through the Washington, DC law firm
of Colby, Miller and Hanes.
A courtroom transcript which I have seen implicates the FBI and CIA in several
coverups regarding JM2's intelligence career. These show that there seems
to be a sytematic destruction of files relating to JM2's spy activities. An
enclosed plate also shows JM2's Swedish Intelligence ID card, obtained from
the FBI through the Freedom of Information Act. Unfortunately the only copy
I have is obscured in the facial area, but the ID numbers are intact. Also
in my possession are files concerning JM2's rogue financial activities with
the Bank of America, and news reports regarding lawsuits by and against JM2
for bank fraud and espionage, which he claims was done under intelligence
auspices as part of financial experiments to destabilize foreign currencies
and exchange rates.
There also appear to be hundreds if not thousands of miscellaneous files
-- both classified and declassified -- regarding one James Douglas Morrison,
dated after his "death" in 1971. These also refer to "WBC",
a nom de plume of JM2. These look like real letters, documents, and court
transcripts involving intelligence circles. These involve the CIA, Danish
intelligence, and others. There is also an active passport and banking IDs
under the name James Douglas Morrison.
Is this all for real or is this an elaborate hoax? It is not the scope of
this work to determine the truth -- or lack of truth -- or the consequences
of such activities. The important thing to note for the sake of this study
is that someone or some group are actively pursuing and setting up a mass
"urban legend" regarding James Morrison. They are painstakingly
documenting it also. Whether this is a hoax or not is not as important as
the fact that a lot of official-looking information is being generated surrounding
the myth and legendry of Jim Morrison, his life and his supposed "death".
Just why might this be?
Like the "multiple Oswald" theories of Kennedy assassination buffs,
there also exist rumors and urban legends describing the "multiple Morrison"
The idea that Jim Morrison was in fact several different people and actors,
or intelligence agents has been going on for some time. Besides the "Morrison"
singing on the Phantom (now shown to be Iggy Pop) there also exist rumors
that a Louisiana banker as well as Richard Tanguay -- a close friend of Mick
Jagger -- perpetuated the hoax. Even High Times ran and old news story about
someone claiming to be Jim Morrison (post 1971) running for governor of Louisiana!
Supposedly Richard Tanguay (related to vaudeville legend Eva Tanguay) took
the Morrison persona on, on several occasions, and even sang with The Doors
when they toured Europe with the Rolling Stones. Is thispossible?
In fact JM2 has claimed publicly that there have been numerous James Douglas
Morrisons, and that they all knew one another and met from time to time to
work it all out. The impersonations were part of CIA sociological experiments
like Artichoke or MK-ULTRA.
Is this all for real or is this an elaborate hoax? It is not the scope of
this work to determine the truth - or lack of truth - or the consequences
of such activities. The important thing to note that someone or some group
is actively pursuing and setting up a mass "urban legend" regarding
James Morrison. Whether this is a hoax or not is not as important as the fact
that a lot of official-looking information is being generated surrounding
the myth and legend of Jim Morrison, his life and his supposed death.