"The Finders": No Easy Answers

2007-02-13 10:49:00

Meet the Finders

The fact that you can find dozens of answers to the simple question "What is 'The Finders' anyway?" is very much by design. They are basically an intentional community of human chameleons who experiment with constantly shifting belief systems. That's the best summation I can give you, and it's a troubling one for me, because it could just as easily be describing my circle of friends: artists, revolutionaries, visionaries and glorious weirdos. One key difference, though, is that we've never sacrificed any goats. Take a look at this description of The Finders, taken from an interview we'll be exploring later:

The Finders have more-or-less rational explanations for even the most bizarre behavior attributed to them, especially in the context of a group that exists to challenge social paradigms. Even the goat sacrifices, known as "Goatgate" to the group, have been attributed to the Finders just play-acting at being witches and warlocks, another "game" to dumbfound lookers-on. Many of the Finders' games serve as parody or put-on.

"The Finders" is especially tricky to define when you consider it's alleged founder and core member states, flatly, that it doesn't exist. "There's no such thing as the Finders," says Marion Pettie. "It's just a group term for people who like to hang around me."

Meet Marion Pettie

Marion Pettie is a cipher unto himself. Earlier I quoted from the intro to a fascinating interview with Pettie.

Pettie: I just keep open house. That's about all I do. It changes as people show up. Basically, we have about 600 acres up there and a few houses and people who are here more or less permanently now-They spend part of the time in this town [Culpepper] and part of the time in DC and part of the time up in the mountains, and another part traveling all over the world. Q: But it's still basically the same drift in, drift out kind of thing. Pettie: Nobody signs anything. Q: It's an interesting philosophical difference with the culture at large. Pettie: Personally, I'd say the only thing that has been different is --I'm closest to being Taoist.

The famous Patch Adams offers a very glowing summation of Marion David Pettie:

"Marion Pettie [is] very intelligent, extremely well-read, a perceptive thinker who gathered around him over-educated people who find current society, as I do, not very interesting. They dropped out of whatever it was they were doing to play games under Pettie's direction. The anthropological, psychological, sociological game of life with each other. Never to my knowledge have they done drugs of any kind. They like playing games, more in their heads than in their hearts. This is not Scientology. I know lots of Finders who have left. We get together. We laugh and joke about it. They're probably laughing about all this right now. Marion Pettie is not an angel. He's not a devil. He's a regular person, unless a regular person is someone who is bored with his job, his life and is dissatisfied with his life. If that's the definition, then I guess he's not a regular person."

The Incident in Florida

The police had received an anonymous telephone call relative two well-dressed white men wearing suits and ties in Myers Park, (Tallahassee), apparently watching six dirty and unkempt children in the playground area. HOULIHAN and AMMERMAN were near a 1980 Blue Dodge van bearing Virginia license number XHW-557, the inside of which was later described as foul-smelling filled with maps, books, letters, with a mattress situated to the rear of the van which appeared as if it were used as a bed, and the overall appearance of the van gave the impression that all eight persons were living in it. The children were covered with insect bites, were very dirty, most of the children were not wearing underwear and all of the children had not been bathed in many days. The men were arrested and charged with multiple counts of child abuse and lodged in the Leon County Jail. Once in custody the men were somewhat evasive in their answers to the police regarding the children and stated only that they both were the children's teachers and that all were enroute to Mexico to establish a school for brilliant children.

Two guys and six kids sleeping on one mattress is disturbing. As for little kids running around "covered in insect bites," "not wearing underwear," who "had not bathed in several days," I find it odd that someone would find that odd. I guess that just means I'm a Vermonter, though.

One thing I would like to point out is the earliest discrepancy in the case: the vehicle itself. Please note the following quote:

HOULIHAN and AMMERMAN were near a 1980 Blue Dodge van bearing Virginia license number XHW-557,

That was from the initial, local police report. With that in mind, read the next source document in the case, the US Customs Report:

U.S. Customs was contacted because the police officers involved suspected the adults of being involved in child pornography and knew the Customs Service to have a network of child pornography investigators, and of the existence of the Child Pornography and Protection Unit. SS/A [deleted] stated the two adults were well dressed white males. They had custody of six white children (boys and girls), ages three to six years. The children were observed to be poorly dressed, bruised, dirty, and behaving like wild animals in a public park in Tallahassee. The police were notified by a concerned citizen and all eight persons were taken into custody. The subjects were living out of a white 1979 Dodge van, Virginia license no. XHW 557. Upon being taken into custody, the adult white males refused to cooperate, one of whom produced a "business" card with a name on one side and a statement on the other. The statement indicated that the bearer knew his constitutional rights to remain silent and that he intended to do so. Upon interviewing the children, the police officers found that they could not adequately identify themselves or their custodians. Further, they stated that they were enroute to Mexico to attend a school for "smart kids."

The next line should give the reader a sense of where things are headed:

SS/A [deleted] was further advised the children were unaware of the function and purpose of telephones, televisions and toilets, and that the children had stated they were not allowed to live indoors and were only given food as a reward.

Marion Pettie Explains it All

From the same Kenn Thomas interview:

Pettie: Would you like to hear about it? Q: I'd like to hear everything you have to say about it, actually. Pettie: It's very simple, we had the kids and the general idea was that they would go up to the country up there, twenty miles from here, and they would go to school, a self-governing school. Adults would be available to them, intelligent, well-balanced people. And they would never be alone with it kid so that no one could accuse them of any pedophiles stuff. At least two would have to be there. As far as I know, they did all that. Then they were just taking them on a camping trip to Florida. There were four intellectuals with them and they just happen to drive into a park and somebody was suspicious because the two men were well dressed. They had four people with them on the trip and they were all well-educated, well-balanced people. So I don't think there was any funny stuff going on. Q: There were just police suspicions? Pettie: Well, somebody called up and said, "there's two well-dressed men with some kids in a van over there," So the police come and then they take them down and by their standards these well-dressed men weren't answering the questions properly- So then they called Washington and somebody in the Washington police says, "Yeah, we know those people. They're Finders and we're just about to find out what they're up to up here and we'll use this as an excuse to go in there and rig them."

Things Fall Apart

Although it feels like I've spent the past three years of my life hunched over a computer in one capacity or another, I do have a great deal of "life experience" under my belt. In recent conversations with a great many people, apparently I've packed in a good deal more "life experience" than most people my age, so let me say a few things. I know that hippie communes get accused of all manner of horrific crimes. In 1984, here in Vermont, an Island Pond community called the "12 Tribes" had their homes raided and all of their children seized by the police.

I know that false accusations of child abuse are made with alarming regularity. I also know that real child abuse seldom ever gets exposed or punished. I also know -- and boy, do I ever wish I could un-know this one -- that "Satanic Ritual Abuse" is not a boogeyman for paranoid and gullible Christians. It is a perfectly real and utterly monstrous fact of American life, probably the lowest point of our nation's underbelly.

I wanted to investigate this case from a new angle -- one that didn't presume guilt, not to mention one that didn't presume CIA complicity and cover-up. The facts of the case leave me no further room for sympathies and doubts. Marion Pettie's explanation of the incident in Florida is disturbingly superficial, and what's more, it blatantly contradicts many reported aspects of the case. (Nearly all of them, actually.)

Why would children on a camping trip say they were en route to Mexico for a "special school"?

"It's very simple," says Marion Pettie, "we had the kids...." and thus Pettie makes the single most bizarre and worrisome aspect of the incident disappear. How did they get the kids? Who were the kids? Why did they have the kids?

Some Rather Damning Evidence

The black core of this whole article is a US Customs report, dated , filed by Ramon J. Martinez.

During the execution of the warrant at 3918/20 W St., I was able to observe and access the entire building ... There were several subjects on the premises. Only one was deemed to be connected with the Finders. [He] was located in a room equipped with several computers, printers, and numerous documents. Cursory examination of the documents revealed detailed instructions for obtaining children for unspecified purposes. The instructions included the impregnation of female members of the community known as the Finders, purchasing children, trading, and kidnapping.

There were telex messages using MCI account numbers between a computer terminal believed to be located in the same room, and others located across the country and in foreign locations. One such telex specifically ordered the purchase of two children in Hong Kong to be be arranged through a contact in the Chinese Embassy there. Another telex expressed interest in 'bank secrecy' situations. Other documents identified interests in high-tech transfers to the United Kingdom, numerous properties under the control of the Finders, a keen interest in terrorism, explosives, and the evasion of law enforcement.

Also found in the 'computer room' was a detailed summary of the events surrounding the arrest and taking into custody of the two adults and six children in Tallahassee the previous night. There were also a set of instructions which appeared to be broadcast via a computer network which advised the participants to move 'the children' and keep them moving through different jurisdictions, and instructions on how to avoid police attention

This is already plenty ugly enough, but now we return to the goats:

On Friday, 2/6/87, I met Detective Bradley at the warehouse on 4th Street, N.E. I duly advised my acting group supervisor, SS/A Don Bludworth. I was again granted unlimited access to the premises. I was able to observe numerous documents which described explicit sexual conduct between the members of the community known as Finders. I also saw a large collection of photographs of unidentified persons. Some of the photographs were nudes, believed to be of members of the Finders. There were numerous photos of children, some nude, at least one of which was a photo of a child 'on display' and appearing to accent the child's genitals.

I was only able to examine a very small amount of the photos at this time. However, one of the officers presented me with a photo album for my review. The album contained a series of photos of adults and children dressed in white sheets participating in a 'blood ritual.' The ritual centered around the execution of at least two goats. The photos portrayed the execution, disembowelment, skinning and dismemberment of the goats at the hands of the children. This included the removal of the testes of a male goat, the discovery of a female goat's "womb" and the "baby goats" inside the womb, and the presentation of a goat's head to one of the children.

Final US Customs Report, Verbatim

To: Resident Agent in Charge Date: 04/13/87

On Thursday, February 5, 1987, Senior Special Agent Harrold and I assisted the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) with two search warrants involving the possible sexual exploitation of children. During the course of the search warrants, numerous documents were discovered which appeared to be concerned with international trafficking in children, high tech transfer to the United Kingdom, and international transfer of currency.


On March 31, 1987, I contacted Detective Jim Bradley of the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). I was to meet with Detective Bradley to review the documents seized pursuant to two search warrants executed in January, 1987. The meeting was to take place on April 2 or 3, 1987.

On April 2, 1987, I arrived at MPD at approximately 9:00 a.m. Detective Bradley was not available. I spoke to a third party who was willing to discuss the case with me on a strictly "off the record" basis.

I was advised that all the passport data had been turned over to the State Department for their investigation. The State Department in turn, advised the MPD that all travel and use of the passports by the holders of the passports was within the law and no action would be taken. This included travel to Moscow, North Korea, and North Vietnam from the late 1950s to mid 1970s.

The individual further advised me of circumstances which indicated that the investigation into the activity of the Finders had become a CIA internal matter. The MPD report has been classified SECRET and was not available for review. I was advised that the FBI had withdrawn from the investigation several weeks prior and that the FBI Foreign Counter Intelligence Division had directed MPD not to advise the FBI Washington Field Office of anything that had transpired.

No further information will be available. No further action will be taken.

US News & World Report, December 27, 1993

One of the unresolved questions involves allegations that the Finders are somehow linked to the Central Intelligence Agency. Custom Service documents reveal that in 1987, when Customs agents sought to examine the evidence gathered by Washington,D.C. police, they were told that the Finders investigation 'had become an internal matter.' The police report on the case had been classified secret. Even now, Tallahassee police complain about the handling of the Finders investigation by D.C. police. 'They dropped this case,' one Tallahassee investigator says, 'like a hot rock.' D.C. police will not comment on the matter. As for the CIA, ranking officials describe allegations about links between the intelligence agency and the Finders as 'hogwash,' perhaps the result of a simple mix up with D.C. police.

Is There a CIA Connection?

Pettie: Some investigators back in the 60s tailed me for four years. At first they said they thought I was a dope dealer big time because, I didn't use it myself. Then they decided that I was a front for the CIA. They asked I was a front for the CIA. Of course I wouldn't have told them anyway, but I asked those people, they said they ran the name through the computer and they said, "No, we don't own that guy." So then the investigator says, "I've been working on you for four years and I can't figure out what you're doing. What the hell are you doing?" So the point is that actually I'm not doing anything, just enjoying life and working on good ideas all of the time. I considered when I was 12 years old that my mission in life was to know everything and do nothing.
Q: What do you make then of these stories that connect the Finders up to a pedophilia ring in the CIA? Pettie: The pedophiles and all that stuff.. Q: That's all smear? Pettie: I just kept open house to a lot of the counter-intelligence and intelligence people over the years. I have been reported to their security officers probably plenty of times for trying to find out what's going on in the world. I've tried all of my life to get behind the scenes in the CIA. I sent my wife in as a spy, to spy on the CIA for me. She was very happy about it, happy to tell me everything she found out. She was in a key place, you know with the records, and she could find out things for me. And my son worked for Air America which was a proprietary of the CIA. There are some connections, but not to me personally. Q: But do you have any suspicions ... the Finders sounds like a real open group that attracts a lot different elements ... disinformation stories could be planted by certain elements to try to connect it to pedophilia... Pettie: The reason the CIA wouldn't hire me is that they wouldn't have the control factor over me. That's one of the things. They may have used me at some time without me knowing it. They have categories of unwitting agents. Maybe you two were sent here by them. But I'm pretty open about this kind of stuff, though. They wouldn't hire me as a contract employee because 1 wouldn't sign the papers. Anybody that's a contract employee must sign an agreement and then they pay you out the money. Well, I don't need the money, but I am trying to find out all about them. Basically, the one sentence about the CIA is that I have been studying them since before they were born, I was studying them back in the 30s. It was ONI back then [Office of Naval Intelligence], and then the Coordinator of Information comes on, and after that it turns. into the OSS and OSS turns into the CIAU and the CIAU turns into the CIA. So I've been studying that all of my life. But I wasn't personally working for them.

Last Word: Patch Adams

I don't wear underwear. I don't shower that often, either. I have no intentions of sending my kids to public school. I am still troubled the story of the Finders because so much of it resonates with my own life experience. Because I know how much being "different" will get you in trouble -- I know how people will lie about you when you're a weirdo.

So leave the reader on an ambiguous note -- because I want you to be uncomfortable, after all -- let's take a look at one of the supporters of the Finders, and view this hall of dark mirrors from yet another angle: Patch Adams, who has known The Finders and Pettie for "over 25 years," by his estimation.

An unconventional and controversial figure in the medical world himself, Adams affirmed that he has found no instance of child abuse among the Finders. He dismissed the notion that the group included pedophiles and characterized it instead as one of "over-educated" eccentrics presenting an alternative to social norms.

I am reminded of the old Bread & Puppet festivals where little kids were running around naked all the time. Not because we were involved in some pedophile orgy, but simply because little kids don't need clothing. I am also reminded of being present for the birth and death of countless animals, something fewer and fewer Americans can relate to. I've never sacrificed any goats, but I've certainly skinned pigs and dressed down deer carcasses. Satan was not involved in either of those operations, I might add. (Then again, we weren't "dressed in white sheets", either.)

Patch's take on the "goat sacrifice" should, I hope, give the reader pause:

"What other evidence have they uncovered? Ritual blood-letting?" Of the goat slaughter, he added, "On the farm it's called harvest. It's animal husbandry, a practice thirteen thousand years old. Farmers traditionally include their children, particularly their male children in the annual fall butchering of livestock. I've met city people who think milk comes from a carton. Urbanites are often ignorant of the realities of food production." "Their way of child-rearing isn't mine. Yes, they're strange. Yes, they're maybe misguided, but there are a lot of other kinds of neglect out there. If their children have been neglected, it wasn't meant to be neglect. They mean to give their children enriching experiences. This could be a lesson of survival. If you wanted to show our society it is messed up, this certainly will do it. "

2016 Update

I don't stand by anything here; it's been awhile and I need to edit this in some depth. There is a documentary film in the works about The Finders at this time, as well, so expect this whole horrible thing to come up again shortly.

My personal stash of all the '87 era news coverage in chronological order is probably more interesting than the essay you just read: 1987 Chronology. Some strange details in the mix there which really complicate the narratives of both Martinez and Pettie.

Read another?