Disappearance of Jim Thompson
James Harrison Wilson Thompson|
21 March 1906
Greenville, Delaware, U.S.
26 March 1967 (aged 61)|
Cameron Highlands, Pahang, Malaysia
|Status||Declared dead in absentia by a Thai court in 1974|
University of Pennsylvania
|Occupation||Co-founder of the Thai Silk Company Limited|
Patricia Maury Thraves |
Henry Burling Thompson (father)|
Mary Wilson Thompson (mother)
James Harrison Wilson "Jim" Thompson (born 21 March 1906) was an American businessman who helped revitalise the Thai silk industry in the 1950s and 1960s. He co-founded the Thai Silk Company in 1948.
The son of a prominent Delaware family, Thompson graduated from Princeton University in 1928 and studied architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. From 1931 to 1940, he worked as an architect in New York City, designing homes for East Coast high society. In 1941, Thompson quit his job and enlisted with the Delaware National Guard regiment, serving as an operative in the Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency) during World War II. After the war, he was assigned to the U.S. legation in Bangkok, Thailand. He embarked on his silk weaving career after leaving the military in 1946.
Thompson disappeared from Malaysia's Cameron Highlands while going for a walk on Sunday, 26 March 1967. Prior to his disappearance, he left Bangkok to spend a day in Penang with Constance "Connie" Mangskau, his long-time acquaintance. On Friday, 24 March, they headed for the Highlands to holiday at the ”Moonlight” bungalow (now the Jim Thompson cottage). Their hosts were Dr. Ling Tien Gi, a Singaporean-Chinese chemist, and Mrs. Helen Ling (née Dalling), his Caucasian American-born wife.
On Sunday, all four got up early to attend the morning services at All Souls’ Church. While the rest were preparing themselves for the service, Thompson informed them he would be taking a walk down Jalan Kamunting, the bungalow's access road.  After walking about two kilometres, he reached the main road. This was the first time he was alone for approximately 20 minutes. Later, he met up with the others and they all drove on to church.
The Easter services lasted for more than an hour. When it ended at noon, the group returned to ”Moonlight” for lunch. At 1:30 pm, he left the bungalow for an afternoon stroll. Before leaving, he waved goodbye to Mrs. Ling and Mrs. Mangskau. They saw him depart the estate via the only access road, Jalan Kamunting.
Thompson was in the "Kamunting" precinct for more than two hours. At around 4 pm, a cook from the Lutheran Mission bungalow ( He did not stay, but failed to return to "Moonlight" ( ) before 6 pm.) saw him when he visited the chalet.
An intense search was conducted after the police declared he was lost. More than 500 people were involved in the hunt. They included the army, the Malaysian police field force, Orang Asli trekkers, Gurkhas, reward hunters, tourists, residents, mystics, scouts, missionaries, adventure seekers, American school students and British servicemen convalescing at the resort. At the end of the hunt, Thompson was not to be found, and no clues were unearthed. The official search lasted for 11 days, and sporadic additional searching went on for months.
The case generated worldwide publicity and intense speculation, with most press reports and analysts contending that Thompson had been kidnapped (although no ransom note was forthcoming); had been murdered (although no body was ever found); had voluntarily left to do secret work in resolving the Vietnam conflict (although no evidence was presented); or was eliminated by business rivals (although no evidence on this emerged).
One researcher believes the clue to Thompson's mystery may lie in some bone fragments that were found at the Cameron Highlands in 1985.
Captain Philip J. Rivers, a master mariner, said he learned of the discovery from a health officer while researching Thompson's disappearance in 2007. The police collected the fragments but no connection was made to Thompson's disappearance in Tanah Rata, as they were found in Brinchang.
"The probability is that his body lay undiscovered in the thick under bush, hidden in an unmarked grave after a hit-and-run accident. A DNA on the bones might possibly provide a fuller answer," said Rivers at a lecture organised by the Perak Academy in Ipoh, Perak, West Malaysia on Friday, 26 March 2010.
To date, there has been no confirmation that the bones belong to Thompson. According to Rivers, however, “the bones are presently kept in a safe and secure place".
In 2015 an analysis, report and four news articles were done (by Llewellyn ("Lew") Toulmin, see news articles and external links, below) of the 1967 search for Jim Thompson from a search and rescue (SAR) and scientific point of view. This analysis drew on interviews with a leader of and participants in the search; on interviews with other actors; on principles and mathematical formulae developed by the US National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR); on reviews of FBI, CIA and US Department of State material on the case and on Thompson; and on various other sources.
This analysis concluded that:
- The 1967 search delivered about 1448 person-days of searching, a substantial number, but likely not enough to cover all the 17.7 square miles that were estimated in 1967 to be the target segment in the Cameron Highlands area.
- The "probability of success" (as defined by NASAR) of the 1967 search, calculated by the "probability of area" (likelihood that Thompson was in the searched segment vs. some other nearby segment) times the "probability of detection" (likelihood of finding the subject in the searched segment) was in the range of 43 to 30 percent or less, meaning that there was a fairly high chance that the search missed Thompson's body, if it was in fact present in the general search area.
- Various possible, likely or certain errors in search tactics and execution reduced the quality of the search effort; and the massive nature of the search made it almost certain (and even arguably provable mathematically) that just because it was the "biggest land search in Malaysian history," it was almost certainly not the "best search in Malaysian history".
- Three bloodhound type dogs searched the Moonlight Bungalow (the "last known point" or LKP) for scent trails of Thompson, and did not find any going down the only access road or into the jungle, and this led the Malaysian Police early on to conclude that Thompson left the area in a car, thus breaking the scent trail (this bloodhound search detailed information was not revealed previously); but this evidence is not conclusive.
- A possible sighting of Thompson in Tahiti did take place several months after the disappearance, but this sighting is not certain.
- The "bones of Jim Thompson" did exist, in that some unknown bones were at one time in the Tanah Rata District Medical Office, but the bones were never proved to be human, were not probably connected to the Thompson case, and have since disappeared in an office move.
- Of the 25 possible causes for the disappearance cited by the press in 1967, about half can be eliminated as not credible.
- Of the "eyewitnesses" who may have seen Thompson after he left the LKP, two can be impeached as being too far (as measured on Google Earth) from Thompson to be credible, and the rest are of fairly low to very low credibility.
- The literature on the decomposition of bodies in various climates shows that if Thompson's remains are in the jungle, they are likely to be spread over 1 to 4 square miles, due to predation.
The Toulmin report concludes that the probability (but not certainty) is that Thompson's remains are still in the Cameron Highlands, and that a possible way to move the case forward is to use proven SAR techniques of detailed scenario development, "Mattson voting," and human remains detection (HRD) or "cadaver" dogs. (Mattson voting is a standard SAR technique in which SAR field staff (and/or experts on a case) rank search segments (areas to be searched, developed in the scenario development phase) using a secret ballot, in priority order. These individual rankings are then summed and the group results used to allocate SAR resources.)
The Toulmin analysis also reviewed the brutal, still unsolved murder of Jim Thompson's sister, in Chester County, PA, just a few months after Thompson disappeared. The analysis drew on an interview with the Pennsylvania State Police cold case officer; on a review of the wills and estate administrations of Thompson, his sister, and his sister's son; on interviews with neighbours and residents; and on contemporary (1967) news sources. The analysis concluded there is no provable link between the Jim Thompson disappearance and the murder of his sister; that the two cases are unlikely to be related; and that several persons of interest (POIs) can be named but there is no proof against any of them.
The Toulmin report (see External Links below) contains over 500 pages of primary source material on the Jim Thompson disappearance and the murder of his sister; this is the only such compilation available. The material includes CIA, OSS, FBI and US Department of State material, maps of the search area, 200 pages of previously unpublished letters from Thompson to a former lover and fellow art collector, detailed interviews with various actors, photos and exact lat/longs of all the key locations (including possible witness locations), and other items.
- "BUSINESS ABROAD: The Silk King, Time, Monday, 21 April 1958".
- "The Thai Silk Company Founded in 1948,". The Jim Thompson House. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
- "Story of the Lings, The Straits Times, Monday, 15 June 1981". p. 8.
- Stephens, Harold (1983). Asian Portraits (2nd ed). Travel Publishing Asia Limited. p. 184. ISBN 962-7088-02-1.
- De Souza, Edward Roy (2010). SOLVED! The "Mysterious" Disappearance of Jim Thompson, the Legendary Thai Silk King (2nd ed). Word Association Publishers. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-59571-505-0. LCCN 2009944204.
- De Souza, Edward Roy (2010). SOLVED! The "Mysterious" Disappearance of Jim Thompson, the Legendary Thai Silk King (2nd ed). Word Association Publishers. p. 95. ISBN 978-1-59571-505-0. LCCN 2009944204.
- De Souza, Edward Roy (2010). SOLVED! The "Mysterious" Disappearance of Jim Thompson, the Legendary Thai Silk King (2nd ed). Word Association Publishers. p. 104. ISBN 978-1-59571-505-0. LCCN 2009944204.
- "On Thompson’s trail, The Malay Mail, Thursday, 21 March 2013". p. 24.
- "THE HUNT (8th day) CONTINUES, Eastern Sun, Monday, 3 April 1967". p. 2.
- De Souza, Edward Roy (2010). SOLVED! The "Mysterious" Disappearance of Jim Thompson, the Legendary Thai Silk King (2nd ed). Word Association Publishers. pp. 21–23. ISBN 978-1-59571-505-0. LCCN 2009944204.
- "The Star". p. T12.
- "On Thompson’s trail, The Malay Mail, Thursday, 21 March 2013". p. 24.
- "CNN Travel".
- "Cloaked in mist and mystery, New Straits Times, Thursday, 4 December 2014".
- "THE HUNT ("8th day") CONTINUES, Eastern Sun, Monday, 3 April 1967". p. 2.
- De Souza, Edward Roy (2010). SOLVED! The "Mysterious" Disappearance of Jim Thompson, the Legendary Thai Silk King (2nd ed). Word Association Publishers. p. 92. ISBN 978-1-59571-505-0. LCCN 2009944204.
- "Cook: I saw millionaire the day he vanished, The Straits Times, Thursday, 30 March 1967". p. 1.
- "Spy who vanished, The Sydney Morning Herald, Sunday, 15 February 1987". p. 5.
- De Souza, Edward Roy (2010). SOLVED! The "Mysterious" Disappearance of Jim Thompson, the Legendary Thai Silk King (2nd ed). Word Association Publishers. p. 27. ISBN 978-1-59571-505-0. LCCN 2009944204.
- "The Star". p. T12.
- De Souza, Edward Roy (2010). SOLVED! The "Mysterious" Disappearance of Jim Thompson, the Legendary Thai Silk King (2nd ed). Word Association Publishers. p. 45. ISBN 978-1-59571-505-0. LCCN 2009944204.
- "Where Is Flamboyant Silk King, Spartanburg Herald-Journal, Saturday, 26 March 1977". p. 83.
- "The Star".
- "Bones May Cast Some Light to Jim Thompson's Mystery, Ipoh Echo, Thursday, 1 April 2010".
- De Souza, Edward Roy (2010). SOLVED! The "Mysterious" Disappearance of Jim Thompson, the Legendary Thai Silk King (2nd ed). Word Association Publishers. ISBN 978-1-59571-505-0. LCCN 2009944204.
- De Souza, Edward Roy (2004). SOLVED! The "Mysterious" Disappearance of Jim Thompson, the Legendary Thai Silk King. Word Association Publishers. ISBN 978-1-932205-89-3. LCCN 2004101795.
- Warren, William (1970). The Legendary American: The Remarkable Career and Strange Disappearance of Jim Thompson. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-395-08302-4.
- Warren, William (1998). Jim Thompson: The Unsolved Mystery. ISBN 978-981-3018-82-2.
- Kurlantzick, Joshua (2011). The Ideal Man : The Tragedy of Jim Thompson and the American Way of War. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley. ISBN 978-0-470-08621-6.
- Toulmin, Llewellyn (presenter at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand -- FCCT) (September 2016) "The Exotic Life, Mysterious Disappearance and Massive Search for Jim Thompson, the 'Silk King of Thailand.'" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3GNr08eawU
- Anderson, Hope (director) (2001, 2004). Jim Thompson, Silk King (VHS, DVD). Hope Anderson Productions.
- Anderson, Hope (director) (2004). The Jim Thompson House and Art Collection (VHS). Hope Anderson Productions.
- "BUSINESS ABROAD: The Silk King". Time Magazine. 21 April 1958. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
- "Millions from the Mulberry Bush". Time Magazine. 16 July 1965. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
- "American 'Silk King of Thailand' Disappears in Malaysian Jungle". Washington Post, Times Herald. 28 March 1967. pp. A12. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
- "American 'Silk King' Vanishes on Stroll in Malaysian Jungle". Los Angeles Times. 28 March 1967. p. 1. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
- "A Walk in the Jungle". Time Magazine. 7 April 1967. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
- "Air of Intrigue". Time Magazine. 5 May 1967. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
- "Mystery of missing Thai Silk King". BBC News. 25 March 2007. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
- "Looking for the Silk King". The Star. 23 March 2010. Archived from the original on 30 October 2012. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
- "Bones May Cast Some Light to Jim Thompson's Mystery". Ipoh Echo. 1 April 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
- "Re-living the day Jim Thompson went missing". The Star. 26 March 2012. Archived from the original on 13 April 2013. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
- "Cameron Highlands: Malaysia's enduring 'Little England'". CNN Travel. 27 June 2013. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
- "Cloaked in mist and mystery". New Straits Times. 4 December 2014. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
- Toulmin, Llewellyn ("Lew"). "The Exotic Life and Death of Thailand's 'Silk King,'" The Montgomery Sentinel (Montgomery County, Maryland), May 7, 2015, p. 19 (part 1 of a 4-part series).
- Toulmin, Llewellyn ("Lew"). "The Mysterious Disappearance and Search for Jim Thompson"  The Montgomery Sentinel (Montgomery County, Maryland), June 4, 2015, p. 16 (part 2 of a 4-part series).
- Toulmin, Llewellyn ("Lew"). "Continuing the Search for the 'Silk King'" The Montgomery Sentinel (Montgomery County, Maryland), July 2, 2015, p. 19 (part 3 of a 4-part series).
- Toulmin, Llewellyn ("Lew"). "The Last Stop in the Search for Jim Thompson,"  The Montgomery Sentinel (Montgomery County, Maryland), August 6, 2015, p. 19 (part 4 of a 4-part series).
- Techakitteranum, Hathai. "A 50-Year Mystery: The Curious Case of Silk Tycoon Jim Thompson," DPA International press wire, http://www.dpa-international.com/topic/50-year-mystery-curious-case-silk-tycoon-jim-thompson-170322-99-757606 March 22, 2017.
- "The Architect Who Changed the Thai Silk Industry and Then Disappeared". Time Magazine. 9 May 2016. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
- "New film sheds light on Jim Thompson mystery". Bangkok Post. 21 October 2017. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
- "New film 'solves' Jim Thompson mystery". The Australian. 21 October 2017. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
- "New film claims to have solved Jim Thompson mystery". Bluefield Daily Telegraph. 21 October 2017. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
- "Jim Thompson was killed by Malay communists, sources say". The Nation (online). 5 December 2017. Retrieved 6 December 2017.
- "Theory Jim Thompson was killed by communists plausible, but not new". The Nation (online). 6 December 2017. Retrieved 6 December 2017.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jim Thompson (designer).|
- Jim Thompson, the Thai Silk King www.YouTube.com
- Jim Thompson – Thai Silk King by Clem McMurray
- Jim Thompson – The Mystery by Carrado Jay Boccia
- Jim Thompson, the Thai Silk King by Alessandro Pezzati
- Legendary Locations S01 - Ep03 Lost and Found www.YouTube.com
- Silk Thread: The Strange Mystery of Jim Thompson by Larry Wallace
- Tracking the Legend: My Search for Jim Thompson by Francine Matthews
- The Curious Case of Jim Thompson, Thai Silk King by Kenneth Champeon
- Bangkok, Thailand and the unsolved mystery of Jim Thompson by Bob Taylor
- Solved! The disappearance of Jim Thompson in the Cameron Highlands by Edward Roy De Souza
- http://www.themosttraveled.com/new_land.html (Location of the Llewellyn ("Lew") Toulmin 2015 search and rescue pdf report, on a scientific SAR analysis of the 1967 search for Jim Thompson)