Warren Gamaliel Harding (image above), twenty-ninth U.S. president, was elected in 1920. True to the “zero years curse”, where all U.S. presidents since 1840, elected in years ending in zero, subsequently die in office, Harding died in 1923. (The exception to the zero years curse was Ronald Reagan, elected in 1980, although Reagan did almost die from a 1981 assassination attempt.)
In a manner similar to that of Russia’s Tsar Nicholas II, where seer Grigori Rasputin influenced decisions made by the Romanov government, Florence DeWolfe Harding, the president’s wife, sought advice from a Washington, DC clairvoyant and diviner known as “Madame X.” The advice given by Madame X influenced decisions made by the president, since Mrs. Harding advised her husband regarding matters of state.
During the Harding administration, Gaston B. Means worked for what was then called the Bureau of Investigations, part of the U.S. Department of Justice. Means worked under William J. Burns, Chief of the Bureau of Investigations. Means was employed personally by Mrs. Harding and, under approval by Burns, he reported directly to the First Lady.
“Doc” Sawyer, called “Doc” because he had attended a questionable medical school for two semesters, was president Harding’s personal physician. As such, he got to wear a Brigadier General’s uniform and so was dubbed with a new nickname: “General” Sawyer. In October of 1921, according to Gaston Means (in his book, The Strange Death of President Harding), General Sawyer was in Burns’ 7th-floor office at the Bureau of Investigations. Sawyer, close to Mrs. Harding, had been sent by her to implement the recovery of embarrassing documents. Burns sent for Means and left Sawyer and Means alone in Burns’ office.
Sawyer confided to Means that certain papers containing correspondence between Mrs. Harding and Madame X must be recovered. But, warned General Sawyer, “Madame X is dangerous. She has unbelievable powers. She can cast a spell over you!”
Liaison between Mrs. Harding and Madame X was “Mrs. Whiteley” (pseudonym), good friend of Mrs. Harding. Mrs. Whiteley, described as an attractive woman, about 38 years old, having “alluring eyes” and being “a subtle controller of men”, was a married woman. Yet in a further embellishment to the intrigue, she seems to have had a dalliance with General Sawyer. For that reason, Sawyer withheld Mrs. Whiteley’s address from Gaston Means. Nonetheless, Means, with the assistance of eight “shadow men”, discovered the location of Mr. and Mrs. Whiteley’s apartment.
What Means refers to as “shadow men” were, in other words, experts at surveillance. He describes them as “of a distinct type: small and neutral personality, non-de-script men who would not attract notice anywhere.” Surveillance by these “shadow men” revealed that Mrs. Whiteley frequently paid visits to the Veterans Bureau (then administered by a Colonel Charles R. Forbes) where she would ensconce herself in General Sawyer’s offices therein. His interest piqued, Gaston Means gave orders “to tap her telephone wires” (no mention given of a court order).
One of the shadow men, posing as a door-to-door salesman, rang the doorbell of the Whiteley apartment and discovered that a “colored” maid was employed by the Whiteleys. Gaston Means then sent for a “young negro investigator”, Harry Peoples. Means instructed Peoples to romance the maid. A few days later, after insinuating himself into the acquaintance of the maid, Peoples succeeded in secretly borrowing the key to the Whiteley apartment, getting copies made, then returning the original. Means now had access to the apartment. Shortly thereafter, Means and Harry Peoples surreptitiously entered the Whiteley apartment and recovered the Madame X documents.
Also recovered during the “black bag job” were love letters written by General Sawyer to Mrs. Whiteley. Gaston Means delivered all of the purloined documents to Mrs. Harding.
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Most of the above information is from the book, The Strange Death of President Harding, by Gaston B. Means as told to May Dixon Thacker. (New York: Guild Publishing Corporation, 1930). Some information on “General” Sawyer comes from the book, The Aspirin Age by Isabel Leighton, editor. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1949)
The above blog entry first appeared at my old Conspiracy Nation web site on September 17, 2002.