You won’t find a single picture of G. J. A. O’Toole on the internet, even though he was one of the most perceptive writers on matters of deep politics in America. In 1966, O’Toole was hired as a computer expert for the CIA. Three years later, he quit the agency and morphed into a full-time writer. O’Toole died in 2001 after publishing a half dozen ground-breaking books, many of which were presented as “fictional” historical novels, like his Lincoln assassination book.
O’Toole had a great sense of humor and his research was impeccable. The Cosgrove Report purported to be a secret document prepared by a Pinkerton detective a few years after Lincoln’s assassination. Among other wild allegations, O’Toole claimed there was an ancient, forgotten subway tunnel in Brooklyn where the missing pages from John Wilkes Booth diary were buried. The book was published in 1979.
An engineering student at Pratt Institute named Bob Diamond heard O’Toole discussing this tunnel on a radio show and decided to go look for it. Every city official he contacted told him the tunnel didn’t exist, but after a year of snooping around Diamond discovered the tunnel plans buried in the files of the Brooklyn borough president’s office. In 1981, he convinced Brooklyn Union Gas to let him explore under a manhole cover at the corner of Atlantic and Court Streets, and Diamond immediately found the tunnel. Within a year, he created a nonprofit called the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association, and had the tunnel added to the National Register of Historic Places. He began leading twice-a-month tours into the tunnel that were attended by thousands of people over the next few years.
Even the leading historian of the Lincoln assassination was intrigued. “John Wilkes Booth often took trips to New York while he was engaged in the conspiracy against President Lincoln,” said Michael Kauffman. “Those trips were never investigated, and Booth’s New York contacts were apparently never questioned. I’m very skeptical about finding those diary pages, but I have to admit the search looks like an interesting project.”
Diamond’s tour always ended at a blank wall. The last two hundred feet of the tunnel had been filled in and this was where the box containing Booth’s diary was supposed to be buried under an old locomotive. All that was needed was a little excavation. Meanwhile, Diamond got permission to rebuild the trolley tracks and was planning to reopen the tunnel as a novelty subway for history buffs. That’s when things got weird. When he started excavating, DOT inspectors arrived and shut down his entire operation. The next day the manhole was welded shut and Diamond never was allowed back inside.
O’Toole’s book contains many fictional elements, but it also contains a wealth of real research into the assassination. The bombshell O’Toole dropped was that Jay Gould was profiteering off the war through his contacts with the War Department telegraph office. No one disputes Gould made his fortune during the Civil War, as did J. P. Morgan, and everyone knew Gould had some sort of inside information because he sometimes bet on Union victories and other times bet on Union defeats. But he apparently never bet wrong.
I don’t know why it took so long for someone to put these pieces together, but the fact the man in charge of the War Department telegraph office, Major Thomas T. Eckert, left the military after the war and instantly went to work for Gould, swiftly becoming his most powerful and most trusted executive, looks suspicious in hindsight. Eckert was eventually put in charge of Western Union.
You probably never heard of O’Toole, but I strongly urge you to check out his books. You won’t be disappointed.