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The Gemstone File

The Skeleton Key to the Gemstone File, a twenty-three-page digest of an original sheaf of letters supposedly a thousand pages thick, was authored in 1975 by Stephanie Caruana, then a freelance journalist affiliated with that staid forum for elegant reportage, Playgirl magazine. The original Gemstone letters were penned by a mysterious and now long-deceased fellow named Bruce Roberts who was – well, no one’s completely sure who he was.

Caruana’s Key has been photocopied thousands of times. The exact number, like much of the information in the Gemstone File itself, is beyond verification. The contents are classic conspiracy theory: fact mixed with conjecture, blended with error, and expressed with certitude. Yet the document is so gripping and at the same time so obscure, always looking like a twentieth-generation Xerox, it begs credulity, even investigation.

Fade in.


Aristotle Onassis, the central figure in this epic – best known as the shipping magnate who married President Kennedy’s widow, but described in the Key’s opening lines as “a Greek drug pusher…who made his first million selling ‘Turkish tobacco’ (opium) in Argentina” – strikes a deal with bootleggers Meyer Lansky, Eugene Meyer, and Joseph Kennedy to ship illegal hooch into Boston. “Also involved,” states Gemstone, “was a heroin deal with Franklin and Elliot Roosevelt.” (Hmm.)

The chronology crackles through forty-three years of American cloak-and-dagger, fading out in April, 1975, at which time, to quote Caruana’s typically delicate phraseology, “Ford, Kissinger, and Rockefeller squat like toads on the corpse of America.”

Presumably, that date roughly coincides with the period when Roberts, beridden by an undoubtedly suspicious ailment, ceased scribbling his original letters and unceremoniously passed away.

Along the way, the Gemstone File drops some tantalizing, sometimes puzzling tidbits and makes some outlandish, albeit intriguing assertions. The File‘s plotline concerns the malignant codependency between the U.S. government and the Mafia – a plausible enough hypothesis. But wait. The Mafia has more in common with James Bond’s arch-nemesis SPECTRE than with the Sicilian secret society of Godfather lore.

And the “crowned head of the Mafia” is Ari O, himself. In fact, conspiracy researcher John Judge has speculated that Ian Fleming based his ubervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld on Onassis, which would gibe with the Gemstone File, for if Bruce Roberts has the story straight Onassis was an evil mastermind and overlord who puppeteered presidents, gangsters, and popes.

Following the critical 1932 deal with Kennedy et al., there came two more watershed triumphs in Onassis’s career-according-to-Gemstone. In 1957, he ordered Howard Hughes kidnapped and, later doped to death, which accounts for the eccentric billionaire’s storied reclusiveness. This caper gave Onassis control of Hughes’s expansive fiscal shogunate, on top of his own already impressive domain.

Then, in 1963, Onassis seized ultimate power. John F. Kennedy, formerly under Onassis’s control due to Daddy Joe’s debt to the “Big O,” unwisely wagged his presidential scepter by backing off on the Bay of Pigs raid, a Mafia (i.e., Onassis) operation to reclaim the Cuban cash cow. JFK “welshed” on the deal so Onassis ordered the president “hit” in Mafia style. Onassis, says Gemstone, lived up to “an old Mafia rule: if someone welshes on a deal, kill him, take his gun and his girl: in this case, Jackie and the Pentagon.”

Some of the Gemstone File‘s other provocative “revelations”:

Onassis immediately asserted control over Lyndon Johnson, relaying a message to him on Air Force One en route from Dallas: “There was no conspiracy. Oswald was a lone nut assassin. Get it Lyndon? Otherwise, Air Force One might have an unfortunate accident on flight back to Washington.”J. Edgar Hoover possesses the Gemstone File and threatened to use it to expose what really happened in Dallas, but he was poisoned first. Someone slipped “sodium morphate” in his apple pie; a gesture, it may be worth noting, rich in symbolism.

Katherine Graham, the publisher of the Washington Post and daughter of Onassis comrade Eugene Meyer, was Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s Deep Throat.

San Francisco’s infamous series of Zebra Killings – seemingly random shootings of whites purportedly perpetrated by black militant extremists – were really pulled off by Onassis/Mafia to deep-six a potentially dangerous witness, then distract attention from the murder’s true motive, at the same time giving authorities an excuse to crank up the heat on “black terrorists.”

Richard Nixon, a Hughes pawn who became an Onassis vassal after Ari did the number on Howard, was forced to resign when Roberts started squawking. Mafia bosses worried Nixon’d blab about Big O. the eighteen minutes of “accidentally” erased Watergate tapes include Nixon ranting about “that asshole Roberts”

Nixon made a deal with Gerald Ford, allowing Nixon to “murder anyone he needed to” to cover up Watergate/Gemstone (pretty much the same, in this universe).

The pope was in on this whole thing too.

So who was Bruce Roberts and why was he saying all those terrible things about the good Mr. Onassis? Seems he was a genius of sorts who concocted a process for fabricating artificial gemstones. He tried to sell the invention to Howard Hughes’s company only to see the multinational conglomerate tip him off. Righteously steamed, Roberts started digging – discovering that “Hughes” was not Hughes at all but in reality the sinister Onassis. That, anyways, is how Caruana tells the tale.

The two people who claim to have come into closest contact with the penumbral Roberts are Caruana and the ubiquitous Mae Brussell. Brussell said in a 1978 radio show that Roberts sought her out and passes her the file after reading her article “why Was Martha Mitchell Kidnapped?” in the Realist. Caruana met Roberts through Brussell.

Brussell, of course, has been deceased for several years, but Caruana is still kicking. Interviewed by Jim Keith, editor of the definitive work on this topic, Caruana described Roberts as a real-life James Bond, whereas Brussell had dubbed him “Casper Milquetoast.”

His letters, it seems, are widely discussed, but no one save Brussell and Caruana ever got a glance at them. For that matter, at this point, Bruce Roberts’s former existence as an actual human being is mostly a matter of Brussell’s and Caruana’s say-so.

None of which is meant to imply that Gemstone is a ruse, or that Roberts is Stephanie Caruana’s imaginary friend. If Caruana is a prankster, she is a peculiarly recalcitrant and testy one who engineered her fraud in such a way as to preclude any significant public impact or person profit. And Brussell, while perhaps known to indulge in the occasional leap of logic, was anything but a hoax artist. Finally, if Roberts, or whoever presented himself as Roberts, was a disinformation artist, he must have specialized in low-impact disinformation.

If not a hoax, it’s still tempting to dismiss the Gemstone File as the ranting of an admirably dedicated crank. But perhaps it would be kinder, and more accurate, to call the Gemstone File history by poetic license, the legacy of a man who was, if only in a peripheral way, history’s victim.