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The MLK Assassination: Who Was Xavier von Koss?

Is it just a coincidence that at every major plot turn in the assassinations of JFK, MLK and RFK a “preacher,” “reverend,” “minister,” or “doctor” with some abstract credentials emerges to pivot either Lee Oswald, James Earl Ray, or Sirhan Sirhan closer to their fates? It is no different in the case of the death of MLK, and today we look further into one of these pivotal figures, a mysterious figure called Xavier von Koss.

Three months before Dr. King’s death at the Lorraine Motel on Mulberry St. in Memphis, Army veteran James Earl Ray was on Crenshaw Blvd. in Gardena, a suburb south of Los Angeles. For $20, von Koss advertised in the Los Angeles Times he could unlock the “Innermost Hidden Secrets of HYPNOTIC MIND-POWER.”

When William Bradford Huie interviewed von Koss for his 1970 book on Ray, He Slew the Dreamer, von Koss proclaimed himself an “internationally recognized authority on hypnosis and self-hypnosis.” And yet there is next to nothing on this supposed reputable hypnotist anywhere. Writing in the Los Angeles Times for a 2018 story on Ray’s sojourns in the Southland, reporter Matt Pearce remarked, “[von Koss] would probably be forgotten now, but his name appears briefly … an accidental witness to history.”

Ray had been in Los Angeles for six weeks before meeting with von Koss on January 4, 1968. He was on the lam, having escaped from the Missouri State Penitentiary serving a 20-year sentence for robbery (a grocery store), and using the alias ‘Eric S. Galt’ when he met von Koss.

But von Koss could not crack Ray’s subconscious. “[Ray] had stated he had wanted to use hypnosis to solve problems,” von Koss stated. von Koss handed off three popular self-help books to Ray/Galt: How to Cash in on Your Hidden Memory Powers; Self-Hypnotism: The Technique and Its Use in Daily Living; and Psycho-Cybernetics. Ray just happened to have all three copies on his person when he was arrested at Heathrow in London, June of 1968.

Xavier von Koss quickly disappears from the scene, his mission accomplished. The ads for his hypnosis business on Crenshaw Blvd. also vanishes, and there is not a word from him again.

As we see both with Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan, a reverend appears to shed some light on their movements, to implicate them in their guilt. von Koss indeed might have been forgotten by now, but anyone who has studied the movements of wandering bishops in the underworld knows there is more than meets the eye.

We have next to nothing on von Koss’s background. What were his credentials to offer a four-week course for $20? In what church was he a reverend? A FOIA attempt from this writer met a dead end. Other researchers made some tantalizing but unsubstantiated claims about von Koss: from Covert Action Magazine: “Xavier von Koss, had been an Army intelligence officer and was likely brought over under Operation Paperclip (which brought Nazi scientists to the U.S.).” Jesse Ventura: “von Koss seems to have also been involved in intelligence work.”

More likely, von Koss was an underling of the mad bishop himself, Earl Anglin James, the Toronto-based forger of diplomas, clerical documents, and anything in between. James even made a nonsensical claim he was James Earl Ray’s father — which, of course, he wasn’t. But von Koss claimed to be the head of the International Society of Hypnosis, a title nearly identical with a diploma mill called the International Hypnotists, of which Earl Anglin James was “dean.”

“I think the guy [Earl Anglin James] is pretending to be nuts, possibly as a cover,” Queen’s University Classics professor, Richard Bernabei, wrote to assassination researcher Harold Weisberg.

As with the prominence of reverends and ministers, hypnosis looms over the assassinations of MLK and the Kennedy Brothers: Ferrie suggested JFK’s assassin was hypnotized, and Dr. Bernard Diamond thought Sirhan Sirhan hypnotized himself before the shooting of RFK (not an uncommon practice — von Koss offered courses in it). The possible role of Dr. William Bryan and his American Institute of Hypnosis is also not to be dismissed out of hand relating to Sirhan.

As for the specter called Xavier von Koss, many questions remain. He was Swedish born, and at age twenty in 1930 made passing headlines when he rode a pony from Fort Worth to Los Angeles (as Anton Bogislav Josef Havier Baron Von Koss), with the intent to live in Berkeley where “I have many friends whom I met when employed at the United States consulate in Geneva.”

However, when this writer contacted the U.S. consulate in Geneva in 2023, there was no record of a von Koss having ever worked there.

Xavier von Koss, 1930

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