Heath Ledger was found dead in his lower Manhattan apartment on January 22, 2008. The official cause of death was an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. He was 28. Much like River, speculation, controversy and plenty of contradictions surround his death. For instance, on the day of Ledger’s death CNN quoted police spokesman Paul Browne as saying:
“Ledger was found naked and unresponsive, face down on the floor at the foot of his bed by a housekeeper trying to wake him for an appointment with a masseuse.”
In the days and weeks following his death, the media glossed over this initial police statement. Sources like MTV, The Huffington Post and various others began reporting that Ledger was found in bed with the sheets pulled up to his shoulders. One report has a maid entering his room at around 12:30pm to change a light bulb and remembers seeing him in bed snoring. About two hours later the masseuse showed up, and just like the maid, remembers seeing him in bed. Below is a report from The Huffington Post:
“A masseuse, Diana Wolozin, arrived to give Mr. Ledger a massage about 2:45 p.m. At 3 p.m., after Mr. Ledger did not emerge from his bedroom, with the door closed, the masseuse called him on his cellphone but got no answer. She entered the bedroom and saw him lying in bed. She took a massage table out of the closet and began to set it up near his bed. She then went over to him and shook him, but got no response. Using his cellphone, she used a speed-dial button to call Ms. Olsen in California to seek her guidance, knowing Ms. Olsen to be a friend of Mr. Ledger’s.”
Quite the discrepancy in specifics to say the least. Here’s my question: why would the media gloss over such a juicy bit of detail? Finding someone dead and naked on the floor is much more interesting than finding them peacefully tucked away under the covers in bed. Once again, we have a cover-up.
I didn’t follow Ledger’s career and know very little about him, but my quest to solve River’s murder led me to his last movie, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. The film centers around Doctor Parnassus who made various bets with the devil throughout his life and is on the verge of losing his daughter due to one of those bets. For love, youth and immortality, Doctor Parnassus promised the devil that should he ever have any children, he would give up his first born once he/she reached sixteen. I will dedicate a later post for a full analysis of this film, but I wanted to establish my theory that River was behind the inspiration for making the movie.
Old Man River
As far as I know, Heath Ledger never actually met River but he seemed to have developed a friendship with Joaquin Phoenix two years prior to his death. Below they’re seen laughing and cracking jokes together at the 2006 Academy Awards Show. Another photo shows them conversing with each other on the streets of New York.
It’s easy enough to assume that Ledger at least respected River as an actor and was influenced by his work, but I suspect his love and admiration for River might have come close to matching my own private obsession. Ledger was quite decorated with tattoos, but this one in particular stopped me in my cyber-tracks. Old Man River, the tattoo reads.
“I would get songs sung to me, like ‘Old Man River, ‘or kids would call me Mississippi and things like that.” (River Phoenix)
Old Man River, a song from the 1927 musical Show Boat was a nickname River never lived down. When asked about the tattoo, Ledger gave this explanation:
“It’s got a few meanings, they all have many meanings, and I usually get tattoos when I need to be reminded of something but the answer I’ll give you (laughs) is that it has nothing to do with the song, I just felt there was something eternal about the phrase and I feel that I’m at a stage in my life now where life is just about to really speed up and flash by and so I feel like I am on old man river paddling on a little row boat. That’s my answer for today (laughs).”
Look at that mischievous smile on his face in the above picture. Anyone with eyes to see and a love for River Phoenix knows his tattoo was a tribute to River. Notice also the leaf tattooed on his hand. This is the same location as Michael Stipe’s brick tattoo from the cartoon Krazy Kat and Ignetz Mouse which Stipe had done soon after River death. Click here for an explanation of that tattoo.
To quote River, “All we are, are leaves that fall.”
“You donkey ass you bore the load of all creations tortured souls. Choices are for one and all, all we are are leaves that fall.”(Red Hot Chili Peppers, Transcending, a song for River)
Michael Stipe also refers to River as a leaf in the song Submarine:
“Tyrel and his mechanical owl, a moth disguised as a leaf.” (The Luna moth resembles a green leaf)
It makes sense. River the nature boy, the environmentalist, the beloved friend of Michael Stipe who has never fully recovered from his death. Ledger is said to have been good friends with Stipe and I suspect he knew about River’s murder and the events leading up to his death. He no doubt knew about the devil and the hanged man.
The Devil and the Hanged Man
Co-directed by Ledger, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus portrays the devil (played by musician Tom Waits) and Doctor Parnassus as somewhat friendly rivals dependent on one another’s existence. Ying and yang. Duality. In order for good to exist, there must also exist evil. The true villain in the movie is The Hanged Man aka Tony Liar (inspired by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair). Played by Ledger, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell, Tony is a thief and a cheat who landers money from a children’s charity, seduces Doctor Parnassus’ daughter and exploits the doctor’s traveling act by commercializing his talents. The Hanged Man is the antagonist that even the devil himself doesn’t trust. In a pivotal scene, Tony convinces Doctor Parnassus to update his act by showing him a magazine spread depicting the masonic black and white checkered floor and fashion models flashing the all-seeing eye.
“This is what people want,” Tony insists. “I know this world, trust me. With you and your mind control, we need to meet the public halfway. The secret is not to hide, be bold. Go places where no one would expect you to be at.”
We see the finished result in the next scene as Doctor Parnassus’ act brings into play all those familiar symbols and imagery so prevalent in pop culture today. Tony is even seen with a butterfly on his lapel, a known symbol for Monarch programming and mind control. The same symbolism is used in R.E.M.’s video for Strange Currencies signifying Michael Stipe’s Monarch programming. Doctor Parnassus goes into a trance to control people’s imagination. Mind control, one of the movie’s central theme. The devil, the hanged man and mind control: sounds like River’s story.
Director Terry Gilliam included in his script a number of references to sudden, tragic, and premature death before the loss of Ledger became a reality. In fact, Gilliam felt compelled to emphasize time and again that upon the film’s release many things might be mistaken as references to Ledger’s fate but that the script wasn’t changed apart from re-casting Tony with Depp, Farrell, and Law.
The scene where Johnny Depp guides a rich woman through her fantasy world is perhaps the most telling. On a river overshadowed by a towering pyramid, three boats appear bearing the pictures of Rudolph Valentino, James Dean and Princess Diana. All three personas have something in common with River:
Valentino died on River’s birthday, August 23, 1926. River was the James Dean of Generation X, the beautiful movie star who died tragically young. Princess Diana was a known humanitarian believed by many to have been murdered by the MI6 (British Intelligence Agency).
Out of all the deceased public figures they could have used, why those three? I suspect they wanted to use River’s photo but as we’ve seen for the past 20+ years, River is simply off limits. Perhaps because fans and viewers alike might start putting some of the pieces together. Perhaps that’s why Ledger is no longer with us.
According to the official ParnassusFilm Twitter channel launched on March 30, 2009, post-production was finished on 31 March. After the production had finally come to a successful closure, Gilliam felt that,
“[I] didn’t make this film. Forces from above and below made it. It made itself. I don’t worry anymore. It’s got its own relentless momentum. It just needed some human sacrifice.”
Quite a chilling statement from Gilliam but he speaks the absolute truth. River was The Hanged Man because The Kinship considered him a traitor and sacrificed him on Halloween morning. Perhaps afraid they had another River on their hands, The Kingship saw to it that Leger too suffered the same fate.
In the book The Illuminati Formula by Fritz Springmeier and Cisco Wheeler, the authors describe the obedience training to which Monarch (mind-controlled) slaves are subjected:
“Those who have been spared multiplicity [dissociative identity disorder] still must participate in a two-week intense mind-control session that might be compared to the Army’s Ranger school. Those who participate in this have learned obedience. Those who haven’t learned obedience are forced into ritual gladiator type duels or other punishments to eliminate them. Finally, a traitor’s death, as pictured on one of the Tarot cards, is waiting.”
Whether or not Ledger went through any kind of obedience training, he suffered a traitor’s death just like River.
Six Degees of River Phoenix
Johnny Depp: Co-owner of The Viper Room where River died. Stood in for Ledger after his death as Tony in the key scene depicting the three boats on the river.
Tom Waits: Played the devil in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Along with Depp and Chuck E. Weiss, Tom Waits also had a hand in redeveloping The Viper Room.
The picture above shows Waits as the devil posing against a graffitied brick wall. The number 14 is shown on the bottom of the wall. On the Tree of Life the number fourteen, the path of Nun (fish), corresponds with the tarot card for death. Resting against the wall is a box with two arrows point up at graffitied letters spray-painted blue. I’m still trying to decipher what the word spells, but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion it has something to do with River.
Jonathan Pryce: Starred in three of the Pirates of the Caribbean with Depp. Starred with River in Dark Blood. Also starred in Gilliam’s film, Brazil, which was River’s favorite movie. On October 30th 1993, River excitedly told director of Dark Blood, George Sluizer, that Jonathan Pryce had arranged for him to meet Terry Gilliam.
“He told me he had watched it thirteen times,” recalled Sluizer.
Notice he uses the number of The Path of Mem, thirteen.
It’s no wonder Brazil was River’s favorite movie as it depicts a dystopic future with a totalitarian government where mankind is dependent on machines. His appointment was scheduled the next day, Sunday, October 31, but River would never get the chance to meet Gilliam.
Terry Gilliam: Director for Brazil, Twelve Monkeys, Fear in Loathing in Las Vegas and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Gilliam is an outsider in the world of Hollywood and formally renounced his American citizenship in 2006. Also a favorite director of both River and Ledger.
Ledger played The Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight, a role that many believe led to his downfall. They said the same thing about River, accusing him of getting lost in his role as Mike Parker in My Own Private Idaho. Method acting gone too far. While working on the film in London, Ledger told Sarah Lyall in their New York Times interview that he viewed The Dark Knight’s Joker as:
A psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.”
I can imagine it would be a difficult role to tackle, but we should probably cut Heath some slack. The Joker is a comic book character. Let’s keep things in perspective. A hard role to play? Yes. A reason to abuse drugs and overdose? No.
Michael Stipe refers to himself as the fool in R.E.M.’s 1994 single Strange Currencies, and while it may be a loose connection, the fool of the tarot is the Joker in a regular deck of playing cards.
“The fool might be my middle name…” (Strange Currencies)
The clues on Frusciante’s album cover for Smile From the Streets You Hold tell us that the diamond (The Kingship), the heart (Heart Phoenix) and the Joker/Fool (Zero) are responsible for River’s death. See Soul Removal for an explanation.
Michael Stipe is the wild card. The mind-controlled patsy. The trump card that The Kingship plays whenever they feel it necessary. They are the true evil that controls the entertainment industry and decides who gets to live long and prosper, and who gets sacrificed. They pit allies against allies and force them to fire into their own ranks. Did Stipe have a hand in Ledger’s death? It needs more research but if the mean cat did strike again, he probably doesn’t remember. Michael Stipe attended the New York screening for The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. He was met with open arms.
In the days and weeks following Ledger’s death, media circuits reported that “friends” and “sources” knew he was on a reckless path. The story reads just like River’s. The friends and sources go un-named but insist they knew the inside scoop into Ledger’s state of affairs. I call bullshit. Heath Ledger knew too much. His tattoos are all the proof I need to believe that he was a huge admirer of River. In his quest to expose the workings of Hollywood and it’s ruling Kingship (the same royal hands that killed River), he too met the fate of The Hanged Man. An ironic twist? I don’t think so. There’s nothing ironic about murder. When Jack Nicholson (who also played The Joker) was told about Ledger’s death by a gaggle of paparazzi, he made the cryptic statement,
“I warned him.” (Click here for video)
One can only speculate what he meant but I tend to believe it has everything to do with disobeying The Kingship. Just as Ledger’s character Tony says numerous times in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,
“Don’t shoot the messenger.”
Ultimately, that’s exactly what happened.