Sunday, April 21, 2019

Geraldine Belkin's "Manly P. Hall: The Murdered Mystic"

Easter Sunday is as good a day as any to contemplate the life and work of the "Master of the Mysteries" himself, Manly Palmer Hall (1901-1990).

At the International Theosophical History Conference in London, England, on the 21st of September, 2014, Geraldine Belkin presented a lecture entitled "Manly P. Hall: The Murdered Mystic" (the entirety of which can be seen below). As Belkin notes at the end of her presentation, much of her information is based on Louis Sahagun's 2008 biography Master of the Mysteries: The Life of Manly Palmer Hall. For those not familiar with Hall's life and work, Belkin's lecture is a good introduction.

At several points during this lecture (as well as in the title itself, of course), Belkin insists Hall was murdered. On July 5th, 2003, I interviewed Dr. Stephan A. Hoeller, the Bishop of the first Gnostic Church in America and a longtime Hall associate. This interview appeared in Paranoia Magazine #34 (Winter 2004) under the title "The Suppressed Teachings of Gnosticism." At one point during the interview, I decided to ask Hoeller about this persistent rumor regarding Hall's death:

RG: This is all secondary rumor, but I was talking to somebody who’d talked to his widow, and what he heard was that there was some question as to Manly P. Hall being murdered. Do you know anything about that?

SH: Well, of course, that became his widow’s contention after a certain time. What happened was that a few years prior to his death (he died a few months short of 90 years old), maybe two or three years before his death, Mrs. Hall introduced an individual into his inner-circle, and basically forced this man onto Mr. Hall. This man’s name was Daniel Fritz. Mr. Hall was very old and very feeble. He was still lecturing and so forth, but other than that he didn’t really have the strength to deal with these things very forcefully, as he might have earlier. So this man, and a couple of his associates, acquired more and more power in the society, and basically after [Hall’s] death took over the Philosophical Research Society. It was Mrs. Hall who brought Daniel Fritz in and championed him all that time and basically forced him on Manly Hall, but then after Mr. Hall’s death she turned – probably felt guilty about what happened – and then started going around spreading the rumor that Daniel Fritz had killed Mr. Hall. Well, if you want to hear the complete story I can tell you how it happened.

Mrs. Hall – on a Labor Day weekend I seem to recall, or some holiday weekend – wanted to go and visit her sister in San Luis Obispo and she wanted to take Mr. Hall with her. Mr. Hall was feeble and old and a very heavy man, he didn’t walk very well, so they wheeled him into a van, and with Daniel Fritz driving they started out on the road. Well, they got as far as Santa Barbara and Mr. Hall started feeling very ill and he said, “You know, guys,” and these were his words I understand, “I’m not gonna make it if I go any further, I’ve got to get back home.” So they managed to understand that apparently, and then Mrs. Hall took some taxi or something, some other form of transportation from Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo, and Daniel Fritz drove Mr. Hall home and he put him to bed, and by the following morning Mr. Hall passed away in bed.

There is no evidence of anything else having happened, but Mrs. Hall claimed that Daniel Fritz smothered him with a pillow or something. How would she know? She was a few hundred miles away from there to begin with. So I think that part was nonsense. Mr. Hall was going to die anyhow. It was only a matter of time, and not that much time after that Daniel Fritz would have come by his power anyhow. It would have been grand foolishness on his part to try anything else. But then she ended up suing her husband’s organization for money. She behaved in such an insane fashion in the court that the judge ordered her silenced and only her lawyer could speak.

While Hall was alive she would come to the Society about two times a year, on Christmas for the Christmas party and for Mr. Hall’s birthday party. She had an obsession with some mythology that she developed about a tomb or a vault in Virginia somewhere near Washington, D.C. and that in this vault were the documents of Francis Bacon and things of that sort. She talked about it from the 1930s until the 1980s, and finally after Mr. Hall’s death (it was written up in the L.A. Times) some of her followers broke into the vault [during an archaeological dig] and they found nothing. [Laughs]

RG: Right. And Manly P. Hall was about 90 when he died, so it’s logical to assume that he died of natural causes.

SH: Yeah, there is no reason to think otherwise. I know this on fairly good authority, as far as the L.A. police is concerned, the case is closed. There is no investigation going on.

RG: So it actually did go to a trial?

SH: No, but I think Mrs. Hall and possibly some of her followers made some charges of possible foul play with the Homicide Division. And they looked into it and said there’s no evidence.

RG: And what happened to Daniel Fritz?

SH: Daniel Fritz is now dead. First, let’s say his dishonesties and financial false dealings were unmasked by, primarily, Obadiah Harris (who is now the head of the Society) and at that time he was told they wouldn’t file any charges against him if he left. So he left. A few years later, I think four or five years later, he died of cancer.

RG: So you were still working at PRS at this time?

SH: Oh yes, I was there during all of this time. I never took any active part in anything. I just did my lectures and left. That way I managed to survive all of these situations [laughs] by just staying at a certain level of activity.

"Manly P. Hall: The Murdered Mystic"
by Geraldine Belkin

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