James Shelby Downard

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James Shelby Downard (March 13, 1913 – March 16, 1998)[1] was an American conspiracy theorist whose works, most of which have been published in various anthologies from Feral House, examined perceived occult symbolism, twilight language and synchronicity behind historical events in the 20th century. Shelby is known for his addition to Masonic conspiracy theories with his belief that the Freemasons were responsible for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy through a ritual known as "Killing of the King".[2][3]


Vankin and Whalen write of Downard:

Some conspiracy theorists question not "the facts" so much as reason itself. James Shelby Downard is one of those mad geniuses with a talent for making the most improbable, impossible, ludicrous and laughable speculations appear almost plausible. A self-described student of the "science of symbolism", Downard peels away the rational veneer of history and exposes an abyss of logic-defying synchronicities.[4]

Downard is known for his essay “King-Kill/33: Masonic Symbolism in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy”, originally published by Adam Parfrey in the first edition of the book Apocalypse Culture, which speculates that the Freemasons were responsible for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The essay was removed from the second edition of the book and replaced by another essay by Downard, "The Call to Chaos". Apocalypse Culture II contains another Downard essay, "America, The Possessed Corpse". Jim Keith, editor of yet another Feral House publication, Secret and Suppressed: Banned Ideas and Hidden History, included "Sorcery, Sex, Assassination", the original article of which King Kill/33 is an abridgement.

Included in Cult Rapture is "Riding the Downardian Nightmare", a piece written by Parfrey concerning a visit to Downard in Memphis, Tennessee.

Downard was assisted in many of his earlier works by his good friend, William N. Grimstad. Grimstad is better known as Jim Brandon, author of the Fortean classics, Weird America: A Guide to Places of Mystery in the United States and The Rebirth of Pan: Hidden Faces of the American Earth Spirit. In the early 1970s he was assisted in his writing and editing by John and Darlene Cox in Lake Havasu; then, later in the early 1980s he resided with John and Karen Bissell in Estacada, Oregon where Karen typed his manuscripts and John assisted with research.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Obituaries, the Daily Ardmorite, March 18, 1998.
  2. ^ Cook, Monte (2009). "Lee, Harvey, and the Rest". The Skeptic's Guide to Conspiracies. Avon, Massachusetts: Adams Media. p. 71. ISBN 9781605501130. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
  3. ^ Vankin, Jonathan; Whalen, John (2004). "The Sorcerers". The 80 Greatest Conspiracy Theories of All Time. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp. pp. 290–294. ISBN 9780806525310. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  4. ^ Vankin, Johnathan and John Whalen; “The Sorcerer's Apprentices. James Shelby Downard and the Mysteries of Americana” 2001; URL accessed 4 June 2007.


  • Brandon, Jim. Dunlap, Ill. The Rebirth of Pan: Hidden Faces of the American Earth Spirit, Firebird Press, 1983.
  • Downard, James Shelby, The Carnivals of Life and Death, Feral House, September 2006.
  • "Sorcery, Sex, Assassination", in Keith, Jim ed. Secret and Suppressed. Portland, Or.: Feral House, 1993.
  • "America, The Possessed Corpse", in Parfrey, Adam ed. Apocalypse Culture II. Venice, Calif.: Feral House, 2000.
  • "Riding the Downardian Nighmare", in Parfrey, Adam. Cult Rapture. Portland, Or.: Feral House, 1994.