Johnny Gosch, Jeff Gannon, Hunter Thompson and the
Unraveling of a Troubling Tale
By Tim Schmitt
April 6, 2005
Cover Story: Death of a Conspiracy
Noreen Gosch sits in a booth at the West Des Moines Village Inn,
nursing a cup of coffee and managing, despite her larger-than-life personality,
to blend into the surroundings and keep a low profile in the almost empty
restaurant. She is open with her thoughts and willing to share what information
she can, yet she remains guarded - cautious and thoughtful in a manner often
mistaken as cold and standoffish. She thinks carefully as she speaks about
her son, Johnny, and the players in a bizarre conspiracy surrounding his
disappearance in 1982 that continues to evolve, and may finally be on the
verge of breaking down.
"Just because you don't want to believe something is
true," says Noreen slowly, "that doesn't mean it's not true."
It's a statement that bears repeating:
"Just because you don't want to believe something is
true, that doesn't mean it's not true."
Anyone who has heard the theories surrounding Johnny Gosch's
disappearance on Sept. 5, 1982 (and who in Iowa has not?), knows they are
difficult to accept. If there are Satanic pedophiles working in the top
levels of government and law enforcement selling kids on the black market
and forcing them into prostitution, pornography, extortion and things far
worse, it's easier as a human being to simply believe that such things could
not be true.
But they could be.
And Noreen knows this all too well. She didn't want to believe
her child was kidnapped, sexually abused, tortured, brainwashed and sold
into slavery, but she accepts this now as an indisputable truth. And she
is not alone.
Many others accept the existence of a vast network of high-profile
people - powerful politicians, business leaders, law enforcement and government
agents - who exist in a subculture of degenerates who participate in child
pornography, snuff films, drugs, devil worship, brainwashing and kidnapping.
And Noreen believes that Johnny (and hundreds of other children like him)
was forced into this life of depravity by those who kidnapped him.
But Johnny's story has been told thousands of times. It's
been analyzed, disputed and ridiculed just as frequently, and we have neither
the time and space, nor the inclination to repeat it here in full. As, tragic
as it may be, it's old news. Nothing major has happened in the case for
some time, and the alleged players in the story have been silent, absent
or simply missing for years.
In the past few months there's been a flurry of activity among
the people once related to his case and the conspiracy that surrounds it.
And in the midst of this commotion, some believe Johnny Gosch has been found
very much alive.
Recent events began with Jeff Gannon, the right-wing journalist
who was found to have gained access to the White House press pool with few
credentials and a fake name. The death of Hunter S. Thompson followed shortly
after. The arrest of two men, seemingly unrelated, in Nebraska and Virginia
within days of the Gannon story and Thompson's death also play a role in
And all these events, some suggest, are related to the 12-year-old
paperboy kidnapped from West Des Moines 23 years ago.
And if they are right, there is much more to come...
In late January a conservative journalist in Washington D.C. was
found to have gained access to the White House press pool despite using
a fake name, and despite the fact that he once worked as a high-priced homosexual
Jeff Gannon was a White House correspondent for Talon News
who regularly attended White House press briefings and at least four press
conferences with President George W. Bush. On Jan. 26, 2005, Gannon asked
a question of the president that was so friendly and factually inaccurate
that some of his colleagues began looking into his background.
Talon News, it was learned, is a barely disguised tool of
the Republican Party, and Gannon's credentials as a journalist consist solely
of a training course at the Leadership Broadcast School of Journalism. After
two days of training that cost $50, Gannon was officially a graduate of
a journalism school and on his way to the White House press pool.
It was soon discovered that Gannon's real name is Jeff Guckert
and that he has also gone by the nickname "Bulldog" when listing
himself on the Internet as a homosexual escort and personal trainer charging
$200 per hour for his "discreet" services.
Gannon was removed from the White House and resigned from
Talon News on Feb. 8 "Gannongate" quickly became the presidential
scandal of the hour, though the story faded from public view as politicians
and the media eagerly turned their attention to such pressing matters as
steroids in baseball and the Terri Schiavo situation.
But before long, Internet bloggers had picked up the story
and began to think back to the administration of President Bush's father,
which was rocked by a scandal that allegedly involved a high-level official
giving private, late-night tours of the White House to teenage, male prostitutes.
The New York Times and the Washington Post both wrote about the story and
the eventual death of Washington lobbyist Craig Spence, who reportedly arranged
the visits. Spence, it has been suggested, was preparing to admit publicly
that he was using the teenage boys to blackmail high-powered politicians
in the beltway. He committed suicide before he had the opportunity to do
With a gay escort gaining access to the White House during
a Bush administration while many of the same officials from the '80s are
back in power, the question became, "Is there a connection?"
Private investigator Sherman H. Skolnick posted a story about
the Gannon debacle on www.rense.com, a site know for its conspiracy theories,
and publicly stated on Feb. 19 that Gannon is Johnny Gosch.
Andy Stephenson, a blogger from Seattle familiar with the
details of the Johnny Gosch case and the child sex rings in Nebraska detailed
in the Book, "The Franklin Cover-Up," began, with a group of other
writers and investigators, to ponder the claim. They looked at markings
on Gannon's body and compared them to those reported on Johnny Gosch. They
considered the lack of personal information about Gannon's early years.
They considered that Johnny was alleged to have been used as a gay prostitute
for blackmail purposes. They considered that the high-powered people alleged
to have kidnapped and brainwashed children as part of the government's Monarch
Project and MK-Ultra program, including Johnny, did so to use them in a
variety of ways to advance their own agendas. And they contacted Noreen
Gosch and discussed the idea with her - the first she'd heard of the theory
- and they, too, came to the conclusion that Jeff Gannon is none other than
The Internet has been abuzz with the theory ever since. And,
in a way, it makes perfect sense. You've got a kid abducted and brainwashed
into doing the bidding of government officials as part of top-secret mind-control
programs, so now that he's older why not put him into the White House to
soften press briefings to make the president look better? The suggestion
from many is that Gannon is a Monarch Program child-turned-adult operative.
Gannon, according to investigators like Skolnick, is involved
in high-level espionage and is also an expert on torture. He is said to
be an expert penetration agent, using sex to compile negative data on U.S.
and foreign governmental officials, and is also believed responsible for
the Valerie Plame White House leak that allegedly caused 70 CIA undercover
agents to be murdered.
Yet others suggest that Gosch took on the persona of James
Gannon/Jeff Guckert and gained White House access with the eventual goal
of exposing the people who kidnapped him and put him, and his family, through
hell. Gannon is alleged to have a publishing deal with a Russian imprint,
which some believe will result in a tell-all book that exposes those who've
paid for his "services," as well as the pedophile ring that he,
as Gosch, was victimized by after his kidnapping.
"I'm convinced 99 percent that he is Johnny Gosch"
says Ted Gunderson, a retired FBI agent who has been working on the Gosch
case for more than a decade. "The only way I'd be 100 percent sure
is if there was a DNA test or if he admitted it."
He bases his opinion on a confidential source from whom he
claims to have videotape testimony that has him identifying Gannon as Gosch.
"My source has told me in the past that he has maintained
contact with Johnny Gosch," says Gunderson. "Let's just say he's
in a position to know. The kids are all in touch with each other. It's a
bond they all share."
The kids he refers to are those forced into the sex slavery
rings and the government-sponsored mind-and behavior-control programs. One
of those "kids" is a man named Paul Bonacci, who claims to have
participated in the kidnapping of Johnny Gosch and says he was forced to
be the first person to molest Johnny. Bonacci has long claimed to be part
of the vast network of children trained to work for the government and participate
in deviant sexual acts to make the blackmail of politicians possible.
In 1999, Bonacci won a $1 million lawsuit against Larry King,
the former head of the Franklin Credit Union in Nebraska, whom he claimed
forced him into the pedophile ring. The federal judge ruled Bonacci was
truthful in his testimony, which included his claim that he was one of several
young male prostitutes known to have toured the White House in the 1980s.
Gunderson claims that Bonacci is not his source for the Gannon-is-Gosch
claim, but adds that Bonacci informed him a while back that Gosch had changed
his appearance. John DeCamp, author of "The Franklin Cover-Up"
says Bonacci told him the same thing.
"I do know that Johnny Gosch altered his appearance and
the changes I've heard about conform to how Gannon looks now," he says.
"Paul told me you could be standing right next to him and not know
And he says that Gannon has been asked the question, but refuses
to answer one way or the other.
"A fellow in New York City went to his door and asked
him about his mother in Iowa and he slammed the door on him," he says.
"He wouldn't talk about it at all."
A mother's instinct
Noreen Gosch has seen the videotape that Gunderson made with his
confidential informant and believes the man is credible.
"Ted sent me a videotape of his interview with his source
and he said Gannon is Gosch, and he said it without hesitation and without
blinking an eye," recalls Noreen. "And he said he's known it for
When the theory was first proposed, Noreen's phone was ringing
every 15 minutes with calls from bloggers, investigators, and radio and
TV stations, all asking if she would identify Gannon as her son. She has
not done so. She's sat with the numerous photos from the Internet and compared
them to those of Johnny, herself and John Gosch Sr. looking for similar
"I could see some of the similarities that the bloggers
were talking about," she says. "I could see in (Gannon) the features
that Johnny had. And the last time I saw Paul Bonacci, he told me that Johnny
had changed his entire appearance again. That he shaved his head and is
going with that look for now."
She says the birthmark on Johnny's chest is very similar to
a mark seen on Gannon's chest in at least one photo. And she points out
that Gannon has a spot on his right cheek in the same place as Johnny. Sometimes,
she's almost convinced. But it's not quite enough and she just can't - or
won't - say for sure that Gannon is her son.
"People have asked me why I can't recognize him if I
saw I him in 1997, and I tell them a picture from the Internet is a lot
different than someone sitting in your kitchen," she says.
Noreen claims that Johnny visited her at her West Des Moines
apartment in 1997, but told her he could not come out of hiding because
his life and hers would be put in grave danger.
But what about her gut feeling? Her maternal instinct?
"Honestly, it changes," she says. "Sometimes
I think, 'oh, yeah, that looks like him,' and other times the jump is too
much to think about. When you factor in the facts, it's hard to believe.
I've spent a lot of sleepless nights over this. I really wish I could say
But Noreen is no fool. She knows the risk of saying, one way
or the other, if she thinks this is her son. If it is, and he's chosen not
to say anything, she understands that he has reasons for his secrecy that
are likely life-threatening and her outing him could very well put him at
risk. If she were to claim Gannon is Johnny and is proven wrong later, then
any amount of credibility she has left would go out the window."Even
if he (Gannon) admitted to it, I would still want a DNA test done,"
she says. "This is so surreal. It's like I'm on the outside looking
in. Almost 23 years have passed and we know he's still alive, but to potentially
have your loved one found is just unreal. If this would turn out to be Johnny
it would be a blessing for everyone to know what happened and to have it
all wrapped up."
That is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Despite millions of words
devoted to the subject on the Web and investigations being conducted by
hundreds of Internet detectives, Gannon has not acknowledged the speculation.
Despite this, some say that Gannon has been providing clues
to his real identity on his Web page (www.jeffgannon.com), which is still
Shortly after the theory was presented, Gannon posted an article
titled "Hiding in Plain Sight," and has posted a column entitled
"Fear and Loathing in the Press Room," which some suggest is a
reference to the recently deceased Hunter S. Thompson, who also was accused
of involvement in pedophile, child slavery rings in the 1980s (see below).
Others suggest that his name itself is a clue to his real
identity. Both Jeff Gannon and James Guckert share the same initials as
Johnny Gosch. Furthermore, shortly after Johnny's disappearance, Noreen
made a personal plea to the editor of The Des Moines Register, Johnny's
employer. The editor printed her letter in the paper and mocked it by allowing
the police department to dissect it. The editor's name was James Gannon.
"I would say that those are subliminal messages,"
says Gunderson, an attempt on Gannon's part to let slip his identity.
Jim Rothstein, a retired New York Police Detective who spent
more than 35 years in the force, much of it investigating child slavery,
pedophile rings, agrees that the evidence is strong that Gannon is actually
"To me Gannon looks like Johnny," says Rothstein.
"Everything just fits - the profile, the M.O., everything."
Rothstein has been involved as a private investigator on the
Gosch case for the past several years, and says he is working to get the
final proof needed to determine Gannon's true identity.
"We're working on getting a tail on him and getting a
DNA sample to test," he says. "I still can't figure out why no-one
knows where he (Gannon) was for 10 years."
There have been some Internet postings that give a timeline
of Gannon's life, but according to Rothstein they are based on flimsy information
that is not to be trusted.
"Records are easy to create," he says. "Maybe
this Guckert kid died and someone took over his identity. If it is not Johnny
Gosch, then it's one of the other kids like Johnny Gosch."
Says Noreen: "If all this is true, I don't think he was
ready to be exposed just yet."
Hunter and snuff films
The Gannon/Gosch connection was first made public early in the morning
on Feb. 20. Later that same day, Hunter S. Thompson was found dead in his
home, the victim of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.
Few people would ever have thought to connect Thompson and
Gosch, but those familiar with the tales of child abuse and pedophilia documented
in "The Franklin Cover-Up," a book first released in 1994 by former
Neb. State Sen. John DeCamp, understand the association.
In his book, DeCamp relates many interviews and discussions
with Paul Bonacci, the young man who claims to have been involved with the
kidnapping of Johnny Gosch. Bonacci told horrific tales of being forced
into sex with adults and other children. In one case he recalls being flown
into Nevada with another young boy whom he did not know. They took on another
passenger there and headed to a secluded location where Bonacci says he
was forced to have sex with the younger boy. The young boy, Bonacci claims
in this book, was also forced to have sex with adult males, who then killed
the boy with a gunshot to the head. Bonacci says he was then forced to have
sex with the corpse.
The passenger they took on in Nevada filmed the entire thing,
and Bonacci recalled that his name was Hunter Thompson.
"I think it's kind of strange that Hunter Thompson would
commit suicide at this time," says Gunderson. "Several kids told
us that he directed snuff films. I think it's a strong possibility that
he was murdered and I strongly suspect that it's all connected."
And the speculation on the Internet has been that Thompson
was either killed to prevent his coming forward, or that he killed himself
because he feared his role as a director of child snuff films would be proven
DeCamp also expressed some surprise at the timing of Thompson's
death and says he still believes Bonacci's claim is true. Stephenson, the
blogger from Seattle who has investigated the Gosch case, is also suspicious.
"I wonder, did he know? In light of Paul's (Bonnaci)
testimony regarding the snuff film, I submit he knew quite a bit,"
he says. "The timing of his death was interesting."
The snuff film that Thompson allegedly made with Paul Bonacci
is believed, based on Bonacci's description of the surroundings, to have
been filmed at Bohemian Grove, a summer camp of sorts for the rich and powerful.
Bohemian Grove is a secluded area outside Sacramento, Calif., where world
leaders and dignitaries meet annually for a retreat that involves neo-pagan
activities, including mock human sacrifices made before a large Owl statue
referred to as "Moloch." While conducting this ritual, which they
call "The Cremation of Care," participants are dressed in druid
robes and chant and sing before Moloch.
Information on these gatherings has been well known for some
time, though video footage has only recently been leaked out of the site.
The site is very secure and access is available only to a handful of people
worldwide. As a child, Bonacci could never have had access to the site,
but he described it accurately, including the large owl statue.
Noreen Gosch says that on one recent evening her Web site,
www.johnnygosch.com, had more than 50 hits that came from within a 10-mile
radius of Bohemian Grove.
The CIA pedophile
In her book, "Why Johnny Can't Come Home," Noreen Gosch
writes about a man who contacted her just six months after Johnny's disappearance
claiming he worked with a government agency that was investigating pedophile
George Paul Bishop (often known just as Paul Bishop) claimed
he was a "CIA asset" and arrived in Des Moines in July of 1984
to offer his assistance to the Goschs. Before he left, he provided, through
his investigation, a detailed map of the kidnapping scene. Bishop, according
to Noreen's book, often called the Gosch home from the Washington D.C. office
of Sen. Charles Grassley, with whom Noreen had worked on Johnny's case.
"Many times Paul Bishop would call me from Sen. Grassley's
office and, when finished speaking with me, he would hand the phone to one
of Grassley's aides who I was familiar with," Noreen recalled in her
book, published in 2000. "That convinced me Paul was an accepted visitor
on the Hill in Washington."
Based on this, Noreen believed that Bishop was responsible
for securing her invitation to testify before Sen. Arlan Specter's Hearing
on Organized Crime and its Relationship to Kidnapping at the U.S. Capitol.
Bishop, in fact, picked Noreen up from her D.C. hotel and accompanied her
to the hearings.
Bishop became close to Noreen, even referring to her as "Mom,"
but suddenly, in 1985, he disappeared from the scene. The phone number he'd
left was no longer valid and no one knew how to contact him. No one had
seen or heard from him in almost 20 years, until he was suddenly arrested
on Feb. 4 of this year in Virginia, after police allegedly found an explicit
video of a 16-year-old boy in his home.
Detectives searched Bishop's home and found the tape after
receiving a complaint that he was allowing teenage boys to drink and use
drugs on the premises.
Noreen wonders now if Bishop was on the wrong side of Johnny's
case all along. Was he involved in the kidnapping and merely running a smokescreen
at the time to prevent discovery? Was his recent arrest an effort to keep
him quiet about the larger story? A threat?
Or was he honest from the beginning and his recent arrest
merely an effort to discredit him before he reappeared and started making
noise and threatening to expose the powerful people involved?
Either way, Bishop seemed to know a lot about Johnny's disappearance
in 1982, and his sudden eappearance on the scene coinciding with the outing
of Jeff Gannon, the death of Thompson and the arrest of another man
involved with the case (below) is too much of a coincidence for some to
"It's very common to set someone up and arrest him to
discredit him," says Rothstein.
Rusty Nelson claimed that he once turned down an offer of $50,000
from Hunter S. Thompson to help in the production of a snuff film. The offer
was allegedly made because Nelson worked closely with Larry King, the central
figure in the "Franklin Cover-Up" accused of running a pedophile
and child slavery ring. Nelson would often accompany King to elaborate parties
where he worked as a photographer, taking photos of high-profile individuals
in compromising positions with young boys and girls.
Nelson testified in court that he participated as a photographer,
but claims that, though he took compromising photos, he never took any hardcore
pornographic pictures; that he absolutely refused any involvement with child
pornography. But he claims that King employed a Nelson look-alike for this
purpose in order to compromise both the powerful people in the photos and
Nelson himself. Nelson has admitted taking tens of thousands of photos,
many of which have been confiscated and either destroyed or permanently
sealed to protect those depicted. But many, according to some reports, remain
Despite his denials, Nelson has served time for his photography
work, having been arrested in Oregon years ago with a van full of photos,
at least one of which was said to involve a minor engaged in less-than-legal
activity. He's been living in Nebraska for some time, providing what information
he can to private investigators and trying to put his life back together.
Most recently he was working with a friend to open a studio that specializes
But two days after Thompson's death, Nelson was rounded up
by police and arrested, reportedly for failing to register as a sex offender
in a county of
which he was no longer a resident.
John DeCamp bailed Nelson out of jail and says he thinks the
arrest was intended as a warning to him and others that they best keep their
mouths shut. Others agree.
"The timing is interesting," says Stephenson. "Especially
given Thompson's death and Paul Bishop's recent arrest. I would place a
suicide watch on both
"I think there's fixin' to be a heap of manure hitting
the air circulating device soon," he adds. "I wonder about the
timing. I have been wondering why all these people have all of a sudden
come out of the woodwork. I wonder if there is a 'purge' going on. I don't
think injustice ever leaves the public consciousness. I think there is far
more going on here than we know."
So why now? After all this time, why the activity and renewed
interest in the Johnny Gosch case and the tales of child abduction, slavery
and prostitution in
general. Did the theory that Gannon is actually Johnny Gosch hit too close
to home and threaten to expose those with secrets to keep?
One suggestion is that increased media attention has the players
in the decades-old scandal getting jumpy and looking to protect themselves.
Nick Bryant, the man who confronted Gannon at his home and
asked him about Johnny Gosch, has apparently been working on this story
for several years and has been shopping the finished product around for
Rothstein says he's been working with Bryant for at least
three years, and that Bryant was originally commissioned to do the story
for Rolling Stone, which
has since turned the finished piece down. The New York Times and several
other outlets have reportedly shown interest in the story recently, as well.
Bryant declined to comment either on the Gannon situation
or his involvement in writing a story. But, Rothstein says since Bryant
began showing the piece
around, the players involved have once again become active.
"Something is cooking here now," he says. "They'll
have to throw someone to the wolves, but there's no telling how high it
Everyone involved in the story acknowledges that it sounds
like a wacky conspiracy theory, but the evidence of the conspiracy is too
vast, they say, to
simply dismiss it.
"I'm a conspiracy realist, because there is a conspiracy
out there," says Gunderson, who says just two weeks ago he was chased
through his neighborhood by an unknown man with a gun.
Adds Rothstein: "If two people were involved in kidnapping
that kid, then it's a conspiracy. Well, these people don't work alone so
it's a conspiracy.
They try to discredit you by calling you a conspiracy theorist. Damn right
I'm a conspiracy theorist, because that's what it is."
Still, in the end, this is a story about a young boy stolen
from his home and his family. This simple tragedy is often lost in the complicated
conjecture, but it remains the single, undeniable truth in the entire story.
"I hold out hope that we'll be able to have regular communications
with him," Noreen says of her son. "We know he's alive, and up
until a couple years ago, we knew what he was doing and where. Maybe he
could keep in touch with his mom, but moving back to Des Moines to live
a life here? Those windows of opportunity have closed. I hear the horrible
things people say about me. I can only imagine what they would say about
him given the things he's been through.
"Johnny knows I tried, and who's to say it's all over.
We don't know yet. If this is it, we're in the final days and this is all
going to blow wide open." PB
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