The Mysterious Death Of Journalist Dorothy Kilgallen

Dorothy Kilgallen was found dead in her New York City apartment on November 8, 1965 at age 52. Kilgallen was a reporter and journalist who started working at only 17 years old, reporting for the New York Evening Journal.

She was also known for being the only woman to compete in an around-the-world race, when she was only 23 years old. She came in second, and wrote a book about her experience, called Girl Around the World. She also became a popular panelist on the game show What’s My Line?

Although the majority of her reporting work focused on gossip and celebrities, she also became known for hard-hitting news and crime stories. She even covered murder trials, and was one of the first reporters to imply that the CIA was involved in working with the mafia to attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro.

murderOn August 3, 1962, Kilgallen wrote publicly of Marilyn Monroe having a relationship with a Kennedy. She was the first journalist to do so. Less than 48 hours later, Marilyn Monroe was found dead. Immediately, Kilgallen began writing of her suspicions that something was not on the up and up with the cause of death allegedly being an overdose of pills. She asked tough questions and challenged the police and medical evidence.

After President Kennedy was assassinated, she somehow, through an unnamed source, got her hands on the Warren Commission’s report even before President Lyndon Johnson saw it. Kilgallen believed that the report was full of holes and contradictions, and took it upon herself to launch her own independent investigation. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover sent agents to her apartment to interrogate her, during which she reportedly said she’d rather die than reveal her source. It’s alleged that for years after this, Kilgallen was trailed by agents, and her phone was tapped. It’s reported that she was feeling unsafe and fearing for her life.

When the Freedom of Information Act made some documents available, it was revealed that the FBI and the CIA were keeping tabs on Kilgallen from 53 separate offices around the world.

After this, she was rumored to have been working on a book about the Kennedy assassination, and had even conducted a private interview with Jack Ruby, the only journalist to do so. When the February 21, 1964, issue of LIFE magazine came out, with a controversial photo of Lee Harvey Oswald that many believed to have been manipulated, she publicly challenged its

The next month, she excitedly talked to her What’s My Line? makeup artist about a trip to New Orleans to meet with a secret source who had some information about the Kennedy assassination. Kilgallen reportedly said, “If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to break this case.”

It was her hairdresser, Marc Sinclaire, who found Kilgallen dead in her home. He was surprised to find her body in the master bedroom, as he knew she hadn’t slept in there in years — indeed, she and her husband slept on different floors of their townhouse, and neither in that room, or on that floor. Sinclaire also claimed that she was dressed in a way that he’d never seen her dress to sleep before, and was fully made up, with even a hairpiece and false eyelashes on. He also questioned the fact that the book found with her in bed, as if she’d been reading it, was one he knew she had finished weeks before. In addition, her reading glasses, which she needed, weren’t even in the room.

Another odd factor was that the medical examiner whose signature is on her autopsy report was not the one who worked on the case, and in fact later said that he wasn’t even working in Manhattan at that time.

Years after her death, in 1968, tissue samples were analyzed to determine the exact chemicals responsible for her demise. The glass next to her bed showed traces of Nembutol, a drug she was known to take, but that drug was not found in her body. Analysis showed a deadly combination of three barbiturates: secobarbital, amobarbital, and pentobarbital.

Dorothy Kilgallen in 1946 at the White House. [Abbie Rowe [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

Dorothy Kilgallen in 1946 at the White House. [Abbie Rowe [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

It’s been remarked upon that her death, attributed to a combination of alcohol and barbiturates, is the same way that Marilyn Monroe died. Monroe’s death has always been seen as suspicious, and not just by Kilgallen. One of the queries Kilgallen had about Monroe’s death was, “If she were just trying to get to sleep, and took the overdose of the pills accidentally, why was the light on? Usually people sleep better in the dark.” Chillingly, when Kilgallen’s body was found in an extremely similar circumstance, her light was also on.

The large folder of notes on the JFK assassination that Kilgallen carried with her was never found after her death.

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Main photo: Dorothy Kilgallen [screenshot from final What’s My Line? appearance]


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