I Am Not Michael Rockefeller


In 1961, Michael Rockefeller, scion of the rich and powerful oil family and son of New York governor Nelson Rockefeller, disappeared following a boating accident off the coast of Papua, New Guinea, and was never heard from again.

Later that same year, a baby boy was born to electrician Joe Riordan and his wife Maureen in the town of Waldwick, New Jersey, pop. 13,948. A big baby, they named him Jack after Maureen's father, who had been a longshoreman. The younger Jack would grow to be tall and handsome, and after a brief, directionless period in the early 1980s would marry, complete a master's degree in business, and amass enough of a nest egg in the booming ‘90s stock market to buy a second home in the Hamptons and set up trust funds for his two daughters. His eldest, Jessica, would later make a name for herself in the field of public policy, while his youngest, Heather, would drop out of Princeton after her sophomore year to join an ashram in upstate New York, later leaving to become a glass-blower in Boulder, Colorado.

But that's getting ahead of the story.

Though I may be going out on a limb to state my position so unequivocally, I think it's fair to say that all of Jack's success came as a result of his being the reincarnation of Michael Rockefeller, who, as it happened, survived his boating accident only to be killed and eaten by Otsjenep cannibals two days later. I am convinced of the truth of these assertions, and contact with other investigators has proven that I’m not the only one pursuing this line of inquiry.

Two months ago I published my allegation in the pages of The New York Times, as part of an exposé on famous current reincarnees. In addition to exposing Jack for who he really is, I asserted my belief that Douglas J. Ward of South Hampton is in fact the reincarnation of former chief justice Salmon P. Chase, that Alex Simidian of Weehawken, New Jersey, is none other than heavyweight champion John L. Sullivan, and that Mr. Meyer Abramowitz of Cornwall-on-Hudson harbors the soul of silent film star Clara Bow in his balding, pudgy self.

I reached these conclusions based on the most exacting scrutiny, using the latest scientific means, and did not make them public without careful consideration of the impact they might have on the public good and on the persons involved — all of whom reacted in ways that only confirmed my suspicions. Mr. Simidian, a seller of Oriental rugs, came to my office and punched me in the nose, while Mr. Ward contented himself with a strongly worded letter sent through his legal firm of Ward, Ward, Ward, and Just. Mr. Abramowitz allowed first that I’d called his masculinity into question, but then admitted to a secret delight as he’d always been a fan of Ms. Bow, though born many years after her heyday.

Jack Riordan attempted to prove he is not Michael Rockefeller by losing the bulk of his assets in the Worldcom debacle and later being indicted for pension fund mismanagement, but I remain unconvinced of his innocence.

My investigation continues.

Matt Hannafin