Told FBI He Was Being Used by 'Secret Health Organization'
Jan. 10, 2000
By Janon Fisher
NEW YORK (APBnews.com) -- Science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, whose grim visions of the future inspired movies like Blade Runner and Total Recall, believed he was being drafted by a "secret world health organization" to spread its message, according to letters contained in his FBI file.
The letters show that in 1972 Dick wrote to the bureau for help with what he believed was a plot to use his writing to relay messages on "paresis, an alleged new strain of syphilis sweeping the United States, which caused quick death."
The episode was triggered by a break-in to the author's apartment in 1971. Dick wrote to the FBI that "at least one entire room of stuff is missing," listing a .22-caliber pistol and some of his canceled checks among the items at large.
Feared for his life
Although it is not clear from Dick's letters how he thought the burglary and the alleged syphilis plot were related, it appears that the writer took it seriously enough to flee for his life.
"Sergeant Keaton also advised me informally that I 'ought to get out of Marin County [Calif.] for good, or I'd very likely get a bullet in my back some night. Or worse,'" Dick wrote to the bureau. "I took his advice and left for Canada, as I say in the enclosed letter."
It appears that Dick thought the burglar might be a man named Harold Kinchen who, the author writes, knew how to bypass his security system and had been under investigation by the Air Force in relation to an "attempt on the arsenal of the Air Force Intelligence people." Dick said he had been asked by Air Force officials to testify.
Dick also believed that Kinchen was "an ardent Nazi trained in such skills as weapons-use, explosives, wire-tapping, chemistry, psychology, toxins and poisons, electronics, auto repair, sabotage, the manufacture of narcotics."
The author contacted the bureau for help with what sounded like a plot from one of his novels. "What I did not pass on to any one, because I feared for my life, is the fact that Kinchen put coercive pressure, both physical and psychological, on me to put secret coded information into my future published writings, 'to be read by the right people here and there,' as he put it, meaning his subversive organization."
'He was a little paranoid'
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Anne Dick, one of the author's five ex-wives, dismissed the conspiracy and questioned the reality of any break-in.
"He was a little paranoid," she told APBnews.com. Anne Dick is the author of Search for Philip K. Dick, 1928-1982: A Memoir and Biography of the Science Fiction Writer.
"At that period he was taking enormous amounts of methamphetamines," she said. Dick's drug use has been documented by several of his biographers, but others are less direct in their assessment of the author's mental state at the time.
May have gone to Canada for treatment
Elaine Sauter, who co-authored the book What If Our World Is Their Heaven: The Final Conversations With Phillip K. Dick, which is due out in March, rejected the theory that the whole episode was part of Dick's neurosis.
"I would not consider him paranoid at all. He could roll out of bed at 5 a.m. and call his agent in New York and play hardball. This is not the behavior typical of paranoid people," said Sauter. "There's been a big tendency since Phil's death to minimize his intelligence and his mental health and how personable and intelligent he was."
She added that Dick did think his phone was tapped but he felt that wasn't unusual during that era. "Back in the '60s and '70s, everybody who was anybody thought they were being bugged," she said.
She confirmed that he had moved to Canada but said it wasn't just to get away from the perceived death threat.
"There were various reason for him to move to Canada," Sauter said. "He was living in a house with some guys and his living arrangements fell apart." She said that he also went to Canada for drug treatment.
Withheld taxes to protest war
How does Sauter explain Dick's letters? "I think that Phil had some disturbing things happen," she said. "He never knew who broke into his house, and this was his attempt to explain it."
Calls to the Marin County Sheriff's Office were not returned by press time.
One additional item that appears in the file is not related to the break-in. A Jan. 30, 1968, newspaper clipping from the New York Post lists Dick as one of the writers that was refusing to pay a 10 percent income tax in opposition of the Vietnam War.
There is no other record in the file of the FBI looking into Dick's private life.