Is Catcher in the Rye an assassination trigger?

Mark David Chapman

After Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon, he calmly opened up Catcher in the Rye and proceeded to read it — before being apprehended. John Hinckley, the man who attempted to kill Ronald Reagan, also was in possession of the book. It is also alleged Lee Harvey Oswald was quite fond of the book, though this is disputed.

Catcher in the Rye has sold 65 million copies. Of the millions who have enjoyed the book, perhaps three have become well-known assassins. Still, we should ask: is there any merit to the book being an assassination trigger?

John Hinckley

How did famous assassins perceive Catcher in the Rye?

Of the three assassins, Mark David Chapman was the only one obsessed with it. Being a Christian, Chapman took offense to Lennon’s atheism. He saw John Lennon as a phony, because he saw God as real. By killing Lennon, Chapman hoped to save children from emulating Lennon’s godless ways. Chapman saw Catcher in the Rye as his inspiration.

John Hinckley was not obsessed with Catcher in the Rye. It just so happens that when police entered Hinkley’s residence, Catcher in the Rye was sitting on his coffee table. Hinckley, while mentally unbalanced, had an altogether different obsession: Taxi Driver. Hinkley saw himself as Travis Bickle. By killing Ronald Reagan, he sought to impress Jody Foster.

As for Lee Harvey Oswald, Catcher in the Rye was just several other books he owned. He also had in his possession Animal Farm, Das Kapital, and Mein Kampf. He was also a big fan of spy novels and science fiction.

Why Catcher in the Rye?

Catcher in the Rye depicts Holden Caufield, a 17-year-old boy who narrates from a mental hospital.  The book recounts events over a two day period that happened a month earlier.

To those who do not cope with a mental illness, the plot of Catcher in the Rye seems depressing, and it is. But by the book’s end, it is apparent that events being described are actually the happiest moments in Caufield’s recent memory. What he describes is something that he remembers fondly as joyous and happy.

He chooses not to mention present day, saying simply that he feels “sick”. Seeing, his current life as inconsequential, he feels he needs to “start applying” himself. Inside the mental hospital, he find he misses everyone: his former classmates, Stradlater and Ackley, and even Maurice, the elevator operator/pimp.

What’s striking about Catcher in the Rye isn’t how weird Caufield is, but how normal he is. Rather than being unhinged and unpredictable, Caufield is simply a boy very much like other boys. In this sense, it is easy for someone dealing with depression to identify with him.

Declassified MKULTRA documents

The Grain of Truth in the Conspiracy Theory

While Catcher in the Rye may not have been designed to turn children into cold-blooded killers, it is true that the CIA conducted mind control experiments — some of them seemingly designed to trigger individuals into asssssination mode. The most well-known of these experiments was Project MKULTRA. This project lasted nearly 20 years, and is a catalogue of unethical activity:

 The published evidence indicates that Project MKULTRA involved the use of many methodologies to manipulate individual mental states and alter brain functions, including the surreptitious administration of drugs and other chemicals, hypnosis,[5] sensory deprivation, isolation, verbal and sexual abuse, as well as various forms of torture.

The most infamous example of Project MKULTRA’s activities is the case of Frank Olson. A United State Army biochemist, Olson was given LSD without his consent. Soon after, he fell 13 stories to his death. Officially, it was ruled a suicide, but as Olson’s family points out, Olson planned to blow the whistle on moral issues he had with his research.

When Olson’s body was exhumed in 1994, cranial injuries indicated that Olson had been knocked unconscious before he exited the window. The medical examiner termed Olson’s death a “homicide”.

Why was Olson murdered? Olson’s concerns were the development of assassination materials used by the CIA, collaboration with former Nazi scientists under Operation Paperclip, LSD mind-control research, and the use of psychoactive drugs during “terminal” interrogations under a program code-named Project ARTICHOKE.

Clearly, though Catcher in the Rye probably was not the assassination trigger, it is quite probable that the CIA often does use other means for assassination triggers.

24 responses to “Is Catcher in the Rye an assassination trigger?

  1. Sometimes you have to kill a person before you can get into a good book.

  2. YES: Chapman was a patsy set up for the hit by the CIA’s MK-Ultra program. Why? Because Lennon was due to win his U.S. citizenship a few months later, and they needed to eliminate the chance that Lennon would have joined the opposition to their murderous counterrevolutionary wars in Central America (esp. Nicaragua and El Salvador), just getting underway as Reagan’s transition team was taking power in December 1980. Think that’s nuts? Read _Who Killed John Lennon?_ by Fenton Bresler, _The Search for the Manchurian Candidate: the CIA and Mind Control_ by John Marks, and _John Lennon: Life, Times & Assassination_ by Phil Strongman. And visit

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  6. hybridrogue1

    Some things are simply simple – some things are terribly complex with a simple cover.

    All legends have some basis in fact, even urban legends.

    Perhaps Atomic Poet should look into ‘World Vision’ rather than worrying about the honor of Caufield, who is after all merely a a character of fiction.


  7. Jennifer

    So you’re saying that catcher in the rye isn’t the problem, it’s our government?

    • Yes, that’s exactly what we’re saying. Chapman’s plane tickets were doctored, a fact uncovered by the only person ever to investigate the murder, the British journalist Fenton Bresler, as detailed in his book _Who Killed John Lennon?_ Chapman was in the CIA’s neighborhood twice, in Beirut at the start of the Lebanese civil war in 1975, then later that year at a “refugee resettlement camp” run by World Vision for CIA assets and their families airlifted out of Vietnam as Saigon fell to the NLF. If you don’t believe that the CIA is capable of creating a “programmed assassin”, then you should watch the film “RFK Must Die”, which includes footage of Dr Herbert Spiegel of Columbia U., author of a standard textbook of clinical hypnosis, explaining the details of exactly how this can be done (and *was* done, in his opinion, in the case of Sirhan Sirhan). _Catcher_ is not relevant here — it may or may not have served as a “trigger” for MDC. What’s important is the evidence that Chapman was hypnotically induced to kill John Lennon. Whoever was responsible for that act — for taking John Lennon away from all of us forever — is/are still on the loose.

      • Wayne

        Another good read is “The Franklin Cover-Up” by John DeCamp. Also, the 5th Estate’s “The Sleep Room” is an excellent cinematic portrayal of the MK-Ultra experiments that were being conducted at the Allen Memorial Institute in Montreal, Quebec, by Dr. Ewan Cameron under the direction of the C.I.A. in the 1950’s and 60’s.

  8. ajg

    sirhan sirhan made an attempt on reagan’s life. hinkley shot oswald.

  9. ajg

    wait! i was wrong. nevermind.

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  17. Mr FlapJack

    Robert John Bardo also carried a copy of catcher in the rye when he murdered actress Rebecca Schaeffer in 1986 . Whats odd about this murder is that he had recently been stopped from stalking peace activist Samantha Smith , who later died in a mysterious plane crash due to a radar ‘glitch’ . Bardo was seen throwing his copy of Catcher in the rye onto a rooftop as he fled the murder of Schaeffer .

  18. Good post. I learn something new and challenging
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  19. david

    WHAT? Whoever wrote this article really needs to do some research. Arnold stars in the new film, honestly this info isn’t too hard.

  20. V.E.G.

    There is once a victim named Kirsten Hinckley. Hinckley died of a gunshot wound. Ironically, there is a Mexican-American named Ronald Herrera was saved by a hero, Charles Foster, same last name as Jody’s! Ironically, there is a gunman named Jody, shot Doug Brady, the same last name as James Brady! That is prophetic and a crazy world!

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