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Tinfoil on trial: Tulsa edition

Did the walk to the grassy knoll start in T-Town?



Morgan Welch

These are strange times for tinfoilers, folks.

Our game show host president’s myriad imbroglios with intelligence agencies have thrust conspiracy culture into the mainstream. Inversely, a deluge of Trumpsters has descended upon conspiracy forums and drained their own swamp into formerly non-partisan channels.

Knocking red-faced conspiracy toad Alex Jones off his platform only fueled their outrage and heightened the profile of alt-right conspiracy.1 This identity crisis couldn’t come at a more unfortunate time.

Mainstream figures like Elon Musk, Post Malone, and Kanye West are discussing simulation theory, “heart attack guns,” and manifestation magick—publicly. The dude from Blink 182 is disclosing classified UFO footage. And yeah, Trump also wants to get to the “truth” behind 9/11.

If the 90s were the golden age of conspiracy culture, we’re currently living through the platinum age. (The X-Files’ “smoking man” should be up to three packs a day by now.) For every funky Pizzagate, QAnon, and young flat earth dome concept there are more grounded theories that turn conspiracy theory into conspirafact.

To find such cases, one needs not even leave Tulsa County.

Our former Tulsa County sheriff falsified training records for a golfing buddy who murdered a man while playing cop. Whitey Bulger dropped a body at a country club2. Our mayor is currently shoring up the search for mass graves from the 1921 race massacre, whose potential existence had been successfully covered up until only recently.

And if you are among the majority of Americans who doubt the Warren Commission narrative, you may say the seeds of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination were planted right here in Tulsa.

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy can be viewed as the Big Bang of American conspiracy culture. Lee Harvey Oswald wasn’t even in the ground before theories of multiple shooters, the mafia, and LBJ’s involvement circulated. Theories run the gamut from gunmen in manholes to the event being a grand occult ritual—but for many, all roads lead back to the Central Intelligence Agency.

In 1976, long before he was president, the recently-departed George H.W. Bush was Director of the CIA3. He began his ascent to that position in 1953, when he started Zapata Petroleum with a group that included brothers Bill and Hugh Liedtke from Tulsa.

Another member was Thomas J. Devine.

An internal CIA memo from 1975 reveals that Bush began Zapata in conjunction with Devine, a retired CIA officer who continued working under commercial cover. Funding for the company was gathered in part by former Federal Reserve chairman, and Washington Post publisher, Eugene Mayer, a connection that should raise a brow on even casual conspiracists.4

    Zapata rose to prominence as a successful wild-catting operation, utilizing experimental drilling rigs made by inventor R.G Letourneau. After establishing successful oil fields, the group started Zapata Offshore, and their board was quickly staffed with intelligence agents, along with Bush’s Skull and Bones frat brothers. Apart from the mystique surrounding Skull and Bones—and the alphabet agency ties—the story is business as usual for the anti-Communist world of American industry in the 1950s.

The weirdness started when Zapata Offshore began selling their rigs at a loss to a newly-formed Mexican company named Permargo. With the Zapata Offshore board staffed by G-Men and the Good Ol’ Bones Boys, the Leidtke brothers found their hands tied and watched their wealth incinerate.

Zapata Petroleum’s early success for the Tulsans went belly up under the direction of Bush, but the brothers would go on to found Penzoil. Bush would become director of the CIA.

The oil rigs sold to Permargo were used as listening stations into Cuba, and training grounds for anti-Castro militants who would die in the Bay of Pigs fiasco.

So what does this have to do with the Kennedy assassination?

Kennedy was publicly suspicious of the CIA during his time in office. After the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, he planned to vastly reduce the agency’s budget, and reportedly said he wanted to “splinter [the CIA] into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.”

Would this public presidential decree of disbanding push the CIA to murder Kennedy?

Post Malone would probably say so. At the very least, Tulsa is linked to one of the most notorious CIA scandals in history. At most, if the single-shooter theory doesn’t hold water, you could say the long walk to Grassy Knoll started here in Tulsey Town.


1) It is the author’s opinion that Jones is a useful idiot at best and limited hangout at worst. The author believes he might actually be Bill Hicks though, and that is tight.

2) Certain Lebanese steakhouses have been rumored to harbor mob ties, but I won’t go near that one, lest my cabbage get rolled.

3) GHWB died as the author was revising his second draft of this article. (RIP) Put that in your synchromystic pipe and smoke it.

4) Extra tinfoil points here as current WaPo (and Amazon) owner Jeff Bezos has a highly scrutinized contract with the CIA.

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