Does Missoula’s International Choral Festival Have A CIA Dark Side?

by Travis Mateer

It’s no secret the man pictured above worked for the CIA before “retiring” and marrying into the Lee Enterprises family, so I take any opportunity to remind readers of this connection when John Talbot’s name and/or legacy comes up in local media.

Before getting to Talbot’s enthusiasm for bringing kids from around the world to sing in our humble little valley, I’d like to describe a group called The Finders. I didn’t realize, until doing the research for this post, that The Finders were “found” by authorities the same year John Talbot got started with the Choral Festival–1987. Isn’t that a curious coincidence?

From the link:

The Finders came to wider public attention when two members of the movement were arrested in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1987 and charged with misdemeanor child abuse of the six children accompanying them, the two men having responded with silence when, in a public park, the police inquired as to their identity and relationship to the children.[3] The men were Douglas Ammerman and James Michael Holwell, both described as “well-dressed men in suits.” They used a van to transport “six scruffy, hungry children” of varying ages. The age range of the children was between 2 and 11.[2]

The two oldest children, referred to as “Mary” and “Max”, were interviewed by law enforcement, as the others were too young to properly communicate. It was noted that medical examinations of the children showed signs of sexual abuse and malnutrition, as well as bite marks potentially belonging to an adult human. During the interview as well as eyewitness testimony from neighbors, it was discovered that the children were raised on a farm belonging to Pettie with little adult supervision, with there being twenty adults and one other child present. The younger children were observed to display behavior indicating they were not used to being in a house or using indoor plumbing, requesting to go outside to use the bathroom, or urinating in their pants (noted to lack underwear). “Max” had a poor concept of time. They explained that they were being “weaned” from their mothers and were rarely allowed inside the house, even sleeping outside. Neighbors observed that the children apparently lived in the farm’s watermelon field. Mary described Ammerman and Holwell as their “teachers”, teaching them to read and “play games”. One game involved disrobing a man, wearing his clothes, and going through his pockets for money (she later revised her statement and asserted that only jackets were involved). The two reported seeing female members of the cult naked and believed this to be another game as well. When questioned about “bad touches” Mary denied sexual abuse but “became very fidgety and wanted to end the interview”. At another Finders farm in Virginia, agents recorded cages on the premises, with witnesses asserting they were used to keep children. As of 2022, the full medical and psychological reports are not available for public viewing.[4]

The quote above is just from Wikipedia. For a deeper dive, Elizabeth Vos has a multi-part series for Mint Press worth reading (if you have the stomach for it). Here’s why Vos thinks this story is still important (emphasis mine):

The Finders Scandal — events that took place several decades ago, which I have explored in the two previous parts of this series — might be perceived as very much in the rear-view mirror. It is of great contemporary relevance, however, because it raises questions of ongoing significance — particularly in an era where American-style kompromat is seen by many to have an undiminished, if not augmented, role in our politics — about the rogue, untouchable nature of the intelligence community and its assets. The connection between the CIA and the Finders cult is one of the most explosive and significant aspects of the whole Finders scandal because, if substantiated, it would constitute not simply an outlandish and perhaps criminal group purported to be abusing and trafficking children, but one sanctioned by the most powerful government on earth.

In previous entries in this series, I’ve presented a general overview of the Finders cult and the multiple stages in which the story has unfolded, and I’ve highlighted the claims made in the most repressed and damning documents associated with the case: U.S. Customs documents penned by Special Agent Ramon Martinez. If his reports are accurate, the CIA stepped in to cover up the criminal activity of the Finders in the initial 1987 investigation, with the agency implicitly claiming association with the cult by rendering the issue “an internal matter.” This would link the CIA with evidence of organized child trafficking, child abuse and allegations of ritual abuse and mind control.

Now, with this history in mind, let’s take a look at the 1987 origins of the International Choral Festival as framed by Talbot’s home newspaper, the Missoulian (circa 2016).

From the link (emphasis mine):

On a recent afternoon, John and Susan Talbot had just finished hosting a special lunch for choir conductors at the International Choral Festival.

It’s a detail, unnoticeable to the public, that gives the conductors a chance to trade notes during the frenzy of last week’s festival, held every three years.

And it’s just one of the ways the philanthropic couple have contributed to the festival since its inception in 1987.

They’ve helped organize it and supported it financially. John has served on the board, and helped raise money for the nonprofit event, which brings choirs from around the world to western Montana.

“I did a fair amount of fundraising in Missoula for the festival: calling on businesses and individuals to make some donations for the festival. That was one of my larger roles,” John said.

The points of emphasis, on the surface, seem innocuous, but that’s kind of how intelligence works–just below innocuous appearing surfaces. It’s called “having cover”, like being a singer/songwriter who just happens to show up in places around the world before revolutions kick off.

Controlling culture is so important that I suspect artists, like Leonard Cohen, acted as parallel intelligence assets. What’s the evidence? It’s an accumulation of data points, like Cohen being in Cuba and Ethiopia before revolutions kicked off, and the claim by Ann Diamond, and Cohen’s own lyrics and verses of poetry.

Here’s a quote about Cuba (emphasis mine):

At the onset of spring 1961, Cohen left the shores of Canada to explore the socialist revolution of Cuba, and he arrived in the capital, Havana, on March 30th.

In 1959, military dictator Fulgencio Batista was overthrown by the communist revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro, and understandably, in 1961, when Cohen arrived, the country was going through somewhat of a blood transfusion. Prime Minister Castro was seen as public enemy number one by the global political community, as, after all, this was right in the middle of the Cold War’s tensest period. The country offered a thrilling escape from the complacency and mundanity of western civilisation, and in his diary, Cohen even wrote: “I’m wild for all kinds of violence.”

And Ethiopia:

Travelling . . . He’s always been peripatetic – trace his career from Montreal, to New York, to Nashville, to Greece – but more so in the last six or seven years, “since I could afford the air fares”. He was in Ethiopia just before the revolution: “I just get to a place, check into a hotel and hit the streets.” The wandering Jew.

Ann Diamond, a self-published author who interacted with Cohen personally on a level she later came to suspect wasn’t by happenstance, casually discloses her suspicion about Cohen’s espionage work in her book The Man Next Door.

From the book (emphasis mine):

Down the road, I thought, I might figure out why I had come. During the concert I stood behind the stage, as Leonard and the band made magic. I was familiar with most of the songs, except for “Field Commander Cohen”–a rambling, disjointed apology for the singer’s parallel career in espionage.

I could throw more data points out there, but you get the idea. It’s not smoking-gun proof, but it’s certainly more than raise-your-eyebrow proof that Cohen was playing a more serious game than gaining money and fame through the music industry.

Getting back to the angelic voices of children–which will be a key feature of the 11 choirs coming to Missoula from around the world–the return of the International Choral Festival will include honoring the founders.

From the link:

This year, during the finale on the U.M. Oval, a special tribute will be made to long-time supporters and organizers, many of whom are starting to pass away.”

And we’ll have some tributes to Don Carey, who is the founder of the festival that passed away recently. John Talbot, who was a great philanthropist in Missoula, and his family and Don’s families will be there. As well as Pete Tyler. He was a vocalist and a fantastic supporter, a board member. And then, Caroline Mueller, who was the executive director for some time and passed away, so we’ll have some wonderful tributes,” explains Stapley-Graham.  

While these local names get local kudos, the larger effort of institutions that seek to sculpt and control culture toward its own ends, like the CIA, will continue to be a focus of my cultural analysis, like this take on the movie 6 Days Of The Condor.

Another movie I watched recently, starring Michael Douglas and Glenn Close, ALSO came out in 1987, and while I’d love to examine the bunny-boiling and significance of Madame Butterfly in the film, this post is already getting kinda long, so I’ll save that one for another day.

If you appreciate the work I’m doing, Travis’ Impact Fund (TIF) is one way to help me out, while making a donation at my about page is another.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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3 Responses to Does Missoula’s International Choral Festival Have A CIA Dark Side?

  1. John Kevin Hunt says:

    I was born in November, 1957 — a month after Sputnik’s launch.

    The date of my birth was the 23rd.

    The very day before my sixth birthday, JFK was assassinated and the man arrested and charged for that was a propagandist for the Hands Off Cuba Committee. who had defected to the USSR, married a Russian. and returned to the U.S. with her.

    The USSR had launched Sputnik.

    Two of my initials match JFK’s and both of us had the same first name and initial!

    Not only that, but I attended Rattlesnake Grade School at the same time as Deborah Talbot, daughter of John Talbot, and field rep for MT U.S. Sen. John Tester

    Travis Mateer says John Talbot was a CIA man. I know Travis Mateer!

    Travis suggests Leonard Cohen was a CIA asset.

    My friend Mark — a SOCIALIST — has a show on KFGM-FM called Voice of the People, and the show’s intro theme song is one sung by…you guessed it. Len Cohen!

    The USSR and Cuba were self-described as SOCIALIST countries!

    While I was ENROLLED AT RATTLESNAKE GRADE SCHOOL, in 7th grade, I crashed my control line model airplane in Kiwanis Park. Seconds after it crashed and shattered into many pieces, there was a crunching sound from above, and upon looking up, I saw a wing falling, then a fuselage and another plane falling, then two open parachutes, one with a live man and ine with a dead woman. An arm fell onto sawmill grounds Rams football field. The live man on the chute landed in Loyola Ram Football Field. What had happened, was that two private planes, one carrying pilot plus seven parachutists and the other carrying pilot plus 2 local businessman, had collided in the loq clouds. The live chutist was the sole survivor.

    One of the killed businessmen was the father of a girl in my 7th grade class…….at Rattlesnake School!!!! And get this…desks were arranged such that gers and mune faced each other.

    I tried to repair my model plane, but the TESTOR’S airplane glue wouldn’t hold it together.

    Did our Senator change an “O” in his last name to an “E” in order to throw Travis off the trail of the JFK assassination, a tactic that succeeded?

    Did Deb Talbot slip psycotomimetic drugs into my achool lunch at behest of her CIA-connected father, as part of CIA MK-Ultra-like psyops experiments to see whether I could, by my actions on the ground, control.dosrant objects such as real airplanes?


    Send me money, and I’ll investigate to find out!!!

    • Fish don’t see water and you don’t see how your generation was manipulated, but if mocking me makes you feel better, go ahead. How many of your beloved counter-culture figures would today’s woke censors have cancelled? Weren’t you yourself cancelled once? Sometimes I appreciate your perspective, which you share on a platform I’m paying the bills on. Your welcome, Mr. Hunt.

      • B says:

        My belief at this time is that Mr. Hunt had meant for that satire rather than not. The plane thing seems metaphorically hyperbolistic, appreciate the both of you a great deal and thank you both for the knowledge shared. One love brothas.

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