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Jim Morrison Biographies: Fact Checking Claims

Updated on December 19, 2019

"They take a part of him and sensationalize that. People don't really know Jim. They don't really have a clue." - Mary Werbelow

Another look at Jim Morrison's "Pagan wedding", the "biography" that Morrison's "friends and admirers" wrote, Dawn's Highway and the "it's Pam's fault that Jim died" theory

Patricia Kennealy

Did Jim Morrison Really "Marry" a Pagan Witch?

The claim that one-time pop music writer and one-time romantic fantasy fiction writer Patricia Kennealy was Jim Morrison's "Pagan wife" and Jim Morrison's "secret soul mate" remains according only to Patricia Kennealy and Patricia Kennealy alone.

Patricia Kennealy
Patricia Kennealy

Patricia Kennealy has long claimed that she and Jim Morrison were married in a Pagan "handfasting" ritual, complete with a "Presbyterian minister" and "witnesses".

These claims only came to light since Kennealy made a paid cameo appearance in Oliver Stone's 1991 film The Doors, and since her subsequent attempt to profit from a memoir.

"Yeah, this is a little different from the other 'bitter ex' books, because most of the bitter ex books involve a divorce from the rock star. In Kennealy's account, it involves the death of the rock star. But there’s still so much bitterness and REWRITING OF HISTORY, there’s so much HATE and BITTERNESS in this book..."

Patricia Kennealy
Patricia Kennealy

Kennealy has not provided any authenticated proof of this alleged ceremony taking place or that Jim Morrison considered Kennealy to be someone more meaningful to him than the scores of other women he had affairs with outside of his long term relationship with Pamela Courson.

Let alone proof that Morrison considered Kennealy to be his "wife".

Kennealy's complete lack of independently verified proof or third-party witnesses does not seem to bother Wikipedia's editors or Administrators or certain Jim Morrison biographers, though.

Kennealy's Claims vs Legal Documentation Signed and Dated by Jim Morrison

"Jim, who was very well aware indeed of the nature and implications of what he was signing–that say she and James Morrison DID get married, seventeen months after they met, a month after he asked her to be his wife."

- Patricia Kennealy

Apparently Patricia Kennealy forgot to inform Jim Morrison that he was "married" to her.

The pesky issue of the legal documentation Jim Morrison filled out, signed and dated months after Patricia Kennealy claims Morrison "married" her remains ignored by certain Morrison biographers, Wikipedia and by Patricia Kennealy herself.

Jim Morrison filled, signed and dated his "death benefits" card and indicated that he considered himself single approximately four months after Kennealy claims that Morrison took part in a Pagan wedding ceremony with her.

The Telegraph: 'Jim Morrison's Death Benefits Card to be Auctioned'

Although it was Jim Morrison's choice to name anyone he chose as the beneficiary on this card Morrison decided to name his younger brother Andy as the beneficiary, rather than the woman who claimed to have "married" him.

In Jim Morrison's last will and testament Morrison named Pamela Courson as the primary beneficiary

Jim Morrison: Last Will and Testament

and his two younger siblings as the secondary beneficiaries in the event of Pamela Courson's death.

Morrison never altered his will after meeting Kennealy or after their alleged "handfasting" ceremony and there is no mention of Morrison having a "Pagan wife".

In the first, handwritten draft of his will Morrison referred to Pamela Courson as his "only companion in life":

"January 21, 1969, To whom it may concern, I bequeath all of my worldly possessions to my only companion in life, Pamela Susan Courson, in the event we have not yet been wed, Jim Morrison"

Jim Morrison's first-draft, handwritten will
Jim Morrison's first-draft, handwritten will

Those Closest to Jim Morrison Deny Kennealy's Claims

Patricia Kennealy Says "Relationship" and "Married". Those Who Knew Both Kennealy and Jim Morrison Say Otherwise.

"Pam Courson returns to L.A. from a vacation in Paris. She discovers Jim sleeping with a woman who claims they were married in a Pagan witch ceremony. But the witch flies back to New York and Jim goes back to Pam.

Pam still envisions a life for the two of them, which starts with Jim leaving The Doors."

- from the Doors-approved 2009 documentary, When You're Strange

'When You're Strange' part 6 of 6

"She would get hostile with everyone, and it reached a point where if she thought you were aligned with someone who was on the wrong side of her fence, then you were all condemned. No matter who you were."

- Jim Morrison's close friend and author of An Hour For Magic and Jim Morrison: Friends Gathered Together, Frank Lisciandro on Patricia Kennealy

"When No One Here Gets Out Alive was published in 1980 and I saw the real Patricia Kennealy in all her dubious glory, and in 1986's Rock Wives she not only expanded her earlier tall tales. I haven't read Strange Days intend to, but I've had parts of it read to me, enough to know it's simply a further and ever more spiteful rearranging of reality. Since its publication in 1992 Patricia has continued to demonstrate her truly vicious, vengeful and greedy nature."

- Janet M. Erwin, a former friend of Kennealy's and author of 'Patricia Kennealy: Your Ballroom Days Are Over Baby!'

"If you timeline Patricia Kennealy's Strange Days and compare Jim's schedule you will find that Kennealy spent less than a week and a half with Jim Morrison - days, not even a month. Let alone a year."

- music journalist and close friend of Jim Morrison, Salli Stevenson

"Everyone knows Patricia Kennealy is the woman who stalked Jim, who claimed to be officially engaged to Jim, who claimed to marry him, and now claims to be his widow.

The only woman that Jim ever took seriously was Pamela. They experienced every facet of a relationship that could be experienced together: parental, friends, brotherly, lovers, partners. She was his old lady. She is the only woman he ever allowed to say she was his wife.

The Jim I knew was for many reasons completely bonded to Pamela. I knew that nothing could come between them. I felt that they both deserved Purple Hearts for weathering the challenges of their journey together. I've said so many times, when asked."

- Salli Stevenson

Q. Just one more somewhat related question. What about Patricia Kennealy? What do you know about Jim’s relationship with her?

Lisciandro: "She contacted me at some point to tell me that she was going to establish herself as this, that, and the other thing, and she wanted me to know because she was sure that I knew who she was. But I never met her in my life and I never once heard Jim talk about her, but like I’ve said, Jim was pretty discreet about the women in his life. It was only when I was going through his poetry notebooks that I found a few vague references to her.

I did know who she was back then, because she was an editor with Jazz & Pop magazine and she used a photo of mine on the cover at one time. But as far as I know I never actually met her.

So, anyway, she came out of the woodwork some years back and started saying, 'I’m Jim’s wife', and all that stuff about the witch wedding, blah blah blah. So I listened to her for a little while, but when I asked her some questions she got a bit hostile.

And she would get hostile with everyone, and it reached a point where if she thought you were aligned with someone who was on the wrong side of her fence, then you were all condemned. No matter who you were [laughs].

So I just gave up after a while and stopped all communications with her."

- Frank Lisciandro, close friend of Jim Morrison and author of An Hour For Magic and Jim Morrison: Friends Gathered Together

Q. Do you remember Patricia Kennealy visiting Jim during the trial in Miami? If so was he happy to see her?

"No. He wasn’t. But given the gravity of the trial atmosphere, even Jimbo subconsciously held 'the lizard brain' in check and put up with her. Nobody could stand the b*tch, to tell the truth."

- Tony Funches, Jim Morrison's friend and body guard

Tony Funches with Jim Morrison
Tony Funches with Jim Morrison

From Jim Morrison: Friends Gathered Together, by Frank Lisciandro

Former Doors' publicist Leon Barnard:

Q. Did you have the feeling that there was a strong relationship going on between Jim and Patricia Kennealy when you went to pick Jim up at her apartment? I mean; were they reluctant to part? Were they lovey-dovey?

Leon Barnard: “Oh, no. I mean when I got there…she lives in a very casual apartment in New York. No, it wasn’t all like that.

I don’t think any claims were placed on either one of them, by either one; just like, ‘we’ve had three days of fun or just being together’. I didn’t feel there was any special connection between the two of them.”

Q. She did the interview with Jim. What was that interview like? Did Jim give her a good interview?

Barnard: “Well, it was just more of a conversation. It wasn’t a formally structured interview. It wasn’t a question and answer thing at all. That’s when we went out to dinner and it was more of an informal conversation.

I think Jim’s main interest was getting a review of his poetry books.”

Jim Morrison's close friend and body guard Babe Hill:

Q. During Jim's trial in Miami, you were there with him. Did Patricia Kennealy come and visit Jim during that period?

Babe Hill: "Yeah. I really didn’t know her that well to form any kind of impression. I knew from sources that she said she was having a baby. I didn’t talk to Jim about it, or we didn’t talk about it; whether it was true or not. I think the information I was getting was from someone else."

Q. Did you have the impression he was in love with her?

Hill: "No."

Q. Did you ever hear about the witch’s marriage ceremony he was supposed to have gone through with her?

Hill: "No. But it could have happened. I mean, we’d wind up in some pretty strange places sometimes; drunk in the middle of the night in Hollywood."

Jim Morrison and Babe Hill
Jim Morrison and Babe Hill

“Patricia Kennely later changed the spelling of her name to ‘Kennealy’, and retold and elongated her story in her 1993 memoir Strange Days, which described in uncanny detail an alternative Jim Morrison that no one else who knew him was able to recognize.

Her tone throughout the book is angry, venomous, secretive, and defensive.

But she hedged about some of her bizarre claims by writing that she might have hallucinated the whole thing. She also wrote that she was high on marijuana, cocaine, and tranquilizers during the period in question.

Former Elektra employees who knew and worked with both Jim and Kennealy can only vouch for her being at certain places at certain times. Over the years, Patricia Kennealy cleverly inserted herself into Jim Morrison’s saga via the media, first in No One Here Gets Out Alive, and then in Oliver Stone’s 1991 movie The Doors.”

- Stephen Davis, Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend

Kennealy's Own Conflicting Statements

The sheer number of times that Patricia Kennealy has publicly contradicted herself should give anyone pause.

"Patricia Kennealy was very clear interviews that it was not a legal marriage."

"I chose not to take this to court based on that case law, but that does not mean he and I were not legally married."

"I would hasten to say that I have never claimed to be Jim's legal wife."

"I have several pieces of paper–all witnessed, all dated, all signed by all participants, including a Presbyterian minister fully empowered by law to perform weddings in the State of New York."

"I have ever been the first person to say that our handfasting was not a 'legal' ceremony."

"I am indeed Jim's wife. I just have never gone to court to pursue my rights."

"Legally, of course, he never married either of us; neither Pam nor I was any more Jim’s legal wife than Ray or John or Robby was."

"I just don't grub in the gutter for validation, or for anything else."

"But to her, going through the [alleged] ceremony was, 'Like being validated in the way I wanted to be'."

"Jim and I were married in a handfasting ceremony which is a Celtic religious ritual. Jim took it VERY seriously.”

"Patricia doesn't know how seriously Jim took the alleged ceremony, 'Probably not too seriously..."

“Pamela showed me a marriage certificate when I was in Paris with her. Clearly no one else in Jim’s life was as close to him as Pamela was. Of course she was his wife, Pamela was Jim Morrison’s soul wife if nothing else.“ - Doors’ manager Bill Siddon
“Pamela showed me a marriage certificate when I was in Paris with her. Clearly no one else in Jim’s life was as close to him as Pamela was. Of course she was his wife, Pamela was Jim Morrison’s soul wife if nothing else.“ - Doors’ manager Bill Siddon

'No One Here Gets Out Alive'

Close of friends of Jim Morrison, as well people who were interviewed for the book, have dismissed Jerry Hopkins' and Danny Sugerman's No One Here Gets Out Alive as "Nothing Here But A Lot of Lies".

Left: No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman, Top right: the late Jerry Hopkins, Bottom right: the late Danny Sugerman
Left: No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman, Top right: the late Jerry Hopkins, Bottom right: the late Danny Sugerman

"Danny then changed a lot of my interview to HEARSAY that other people did. I am FURIOUS about the book, and so is everyone else I've talked to who is quoted in it."

- Doors' producer, the late Paul Rothchild

Frank Lisciandro:

Q. In No One Here Gets Out Alive and other books, they point out a lot of negative sides and negative stories about Jim Morrison, what is your honest opinion on that?

Lisciandro: "For me it is the whole subject of my quest in the last couple of years working with Jim’s poetry. I started this quest a long time ago when I made the book An Hour For Magic and the propose of it was to say that this guy that is talked about in Nothing Here But Lots Of Lies is not the guy that I knew. Nothing Here But Lots Of Lies is exactly what it is, it’s a lot of lies! I didn’t know that person pictured in that book. The person I knew I tried to talk about in An Hour For Magic."

Doors' producer, the late Paul Rothchild:

Q. Excuse me for interrupting, but you are quoted in No One Here Gets Out Alive as saying you thought Riders On The Storm was cocktail music.

Paul Rothchild: "I'm glad you mentioned that. I'd like to digress for awhile and tell you about that. I did NOT say that about Riders On The Storm.

Danny Sugerman, (co-author of the book) is a FAN of the Doors who took Jerry Hopkins' original manuscript and destroyed it. Danny didn't interview me, Jerry did. Danny then changed a lot of my interview to HEARSAY that other people did. I am FURIOUS about the book, and so is everyone else I've talked to who is quoted in it. It's a great piece of sensationalism, very little of which holds to historical fact. The general shape of it is correct, but Jim is sensationalized rather spectacularly, and the best parts of Morrison are not there. The people who really helped the Doors' career are treated in a very cavalier manner, and the only people who come off well in my opinion are the groupies and sycophants who were hanging around the band and close to Danny Sugerman - who was a groupie himself."

Incidences and quotes taken out of context, exaggeration and false stories.

Key insights into Jim Morrison and his mental health were conveniently left out; Morrison being in a suicidal depression when he wrote People Are Strange coupled with the guilt that Morrison carried over the abortions his short-term girlfriends and groupies had, a sense of guilt that inspired the song Peace Frog.

Also missing from the book is the story of Jim Morrison's first true love - and possibly Jim Morrison's only true love - the only woman Jim Morrison ever proposed to (twice proposed to), a young woman by the name of Mary Werbelow.

Mary Werbelow
Mary Werbelow

"We connected on a level where speaking was almost unnecessary. We'd look at each other and know what we were thinking." - Mary Werbelow

"By phone from his home in Northern California, Manzarek says all the guys in film school were in love with Mary. She was gorgeous, and sweet on top of that. 'She was Jim's first love. She held a deep place in his soul'."

"That's a real key to understanding Jim," Gates says. "She was the love of his life in those days. They were virtually soul mates for three or four years."

The Doors' 11-minute ballad The End, Manzarek says, originally was "a short goodbye love song to Mary." (The famous oedipal parts were added later.)

This is the end, Beautiful friend

This is the end, My only friend, the end

Of our elaborate plans, the end

Of everything that stands, the end

No safety or surprise, the end

I'll never look into your eyes . . . again

. . .

This is the end, Beautiful friend

This is the end, My only friend, the end

It hurts to set you free

But you'll never follow me

The end of laughter and soft lies

The end of nights we tried to die

This is the end

"They take a part of him and sensationalize that. People don't really know Jim. They don't really have a clue." - Mary Werbelow

It is worth mentioning that Ray Manzarek had an un-credited hand in helping to write and edit the book and, apparently, gave his blessing to the books's contents.

"So I was happy to sit down with Ray at the Hamburger Hamlet in Westwood. He was interested in the band X, whose work he’d encountered for the first time in my Reader story. It seemed like a natural pairing; there were a lot of similarities between Ray’s band and the punk neophytes, who even covered “Soul Kitchen” in their sets. He seemed genuinely excited about working with them, and I gave him the phone number of X’s then-manager Jay Jenkins.

With his crooked smile, agile mind, and great gift for gab, Ray was tremendously companionable. At our first meeting, he surprised me by placing a typed manuscript in front of me: a copy of No One Here Gets Out Alive, the Morrison bio by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman, still some months away from publication."

At the time of publication Danny Sugerman was working as Ray Manzarek's paid personal assistant.

In 1979 Manzarek was clearly trying to capitalize on the renewed interest in Jim Morrison and The Doors after the song The End was featured in Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, which was released that same year.

As a result of the book's implication that Jim Morrison faked his death Jim Morrison's parents and brother and sister were subjected to fans showing up at their door demanding to know where Jim was "hiding".

(Hopkins and Sugerman reportedly had considered simultaneously releasing two different versions of No One Here Gets Out Alive; one version had Jim Morrison dying at the end and the second had Jim Morrison faking his own death and sneaking away to an undisclosed location.)

Jim Morrison's sister has spoken publicly about the additional pain that the rumor of Jim faking his death caused her.

In short; the very popular, the bestselling No One Here Gets Out Alive is a typical celebrity tell-all book; it was designed to make money and you will always make more money by feeding into a fake, cartoon-ish persona than by telling the truth.

It is a shame, however, that this book is considered to be the main narrative when it comes to Jim Morrison.

“We had a theory of the True Rumor, that life wasn't as exciting and romantic as it should be, so you tell things that are false because it is better that images be created.

It doesn't matter that they aren't true, so long as they are believed.”

- Jerry Hopkins, on No One Here Gets Out Alive

The Truth Behind The Mythical 'Dawn's Highway' Story

"Indians scattered on Dawn's Highway bleeding, Ghosts crowd the young child's fragile, egg shell mind" - Jim Morrison

'An American Prayer', words by Jim Morrison, music by The Doors
'An American Prayer', words by Jim Morrison, music by The Doors

Did Jim Morrison really see "Indians" scattered on a highway bleeding? Were there really multiple Native American fatalities involved in the highway accident that Jim Morrison claimed to have witnessed at the age of four?

Witnesses and public records tell a different story.

"Mr. Mojo Risin' (another name Morrison gave himself; this time an anagram of his birth name) lead a life made mysterious by dichotomies such as these. Even one of the most notorious and influential events of his life, one that he revisits frequently in his writing, is questionable. Jim claims that, at age four, riding down the New Mexican highway in the back seat of his parents’ car, he saw an overturned truck. The truck had been filled with Indians, who lay strewn, bloody, across the highway. This is how Jim describes the experience in the song Dawn's Highway:

'The desert, at dawn, and a truck load of Indian workers had either hit another car or just – I don't know what happened – but there were Indians scattered all over the highway, bleeding to death. So the car pulls up and stops. That was the first time I tasted fear. I musta been about four... (you know) a child is like a flower, his head is just floating in the breeze, man. The reaction I get now thinking about it, looking back; is that the souls of the ghosts of those dead Indians; maybe one or two of them were just running around freaking out, and just leaped into my soul. And they're still in there.' - Jim Morrison

The rest of Jim's family claim this incident never occurred; they saw no Indians, no overturned trucks, felt no spirits. Yet it is held by some as evidence that Jim Morrison was a shaman;that the spirit of one of those dead Indians entered his body on that day, and fed him with spiritual, poetic and musical wisdom."

  • Source: 'Acidemic, Journal of Film and Media, Jim Morrison: Master of Contradiction'

In the book Jim Morrison; Friends Gathered Together friends of Jim Morrison recall that Morrison liked to tell the story of his Dawn's Highway experience but that Morrison's version of events changed quite a bit.

In one version Morrison said his parents did stop to help the accident victims and in another version Morrison would say, "They didn't even stop to help!".

One thing is clear is that Jim Morrison held onto the belief that the souls of deceased Native Americans leaped into his mind and remained there for the rest of Morrison's life.

With all of the truths being uncovered about this supposed tragic accident one has to wonder if Morrison ever witnessed an accident on Dawn's Highway as a child or if this story is another clue into Morrison's mental health issues.

A short documentary released in 2016, Dawn's Highway, studied public records to try and determine what highway accident Jim Morrison was talking about and the only crash that occurred on Dawn's Highway around the year 1947 involved victims of Hispanic descent and in this accident there was one fatality, not bloody bodies strewn all over a highway.

Dawn's Highway: Final

Was Pamela Courson Responsible For Jim Morrison's Death?

Marianne Faithfull and other eye-witnesses debunk the rumor that Pamela Courson somehow "tricked" Jim Morrison into using the heroin that, by all accounts, killed him.

Pamela Courson
Pamela Courson

Pamela Courson comes across as unlikable to many fans of The Doors.

I don't know if Pamela has ever really been portrayed fairly and I honestly don't know how "nice" I would be if I was in love with and lived with a man who had women landing at his feet, women who didn't give a second thought to the fact that the man in question had a serious, live-in girlfriend.

Pamela Courson was once described as "the most hated woman in Los Angeles" because no matter what happened, no matter how many other women Jim Morrison had sexual flings with he and Courson always returned to each other.

As a result of Courson's reluctance to go into detail about what happened on that fateful Paris night in July of 1971 a rumor began wind its way through the Los Angeles rumor mill that Courson, a known heroin user, caused Jim Morrison's death by telling him that that the heroin she had in her "stash" was actually cocaine.

Depending on who you ask, this was either because Courson was intentionally trying to kill Morrison or because Courson knew that Morrison strongly disapproved of Courson's heroin use.

However, singer Marianne Faithfull, who was had an intimate, live-in relationship with the late Count Jean de Breiteuil, the French dealer who sold Jim Morrison the heroin that killed him (less than a year after Morrison's death de Breiteuil also died of a heroin overdose) has since come forward to say:

“Now, in an interview with England’s Mojo magazine, singer Marianne Faithfull says she knows who killed Morrison: her then-boyfriend, a heroin dealer named Jean de Breiteuil who inadvertently sent the singer on a final ride with Mr. Brownstone. Faithfull says when de Breiteuil went to visit Morrison for what would be the final time, she skipped the trip.

But who the heck is Jean de Breiteuil?

According to trashy rock biographies and limited news reports, a French aristocrat — that’s Count de Breiteuil — who liked drugs and rock stars.

‘He was a horrible guy, someone who had crawled out from under a stone,’ Faithfull wrote in a 2000 autobiography. She added: ‘What I liked about him was that he had one yellow eye and one green eye. And he had a lot of dope. It was all about drugs and sex.’

‘I could intuitively feel trouble,” Faithfull told Mojo. ‘I thought, I’ll take a few Tuinal and I won’t be there. And he went to see Jim Morrison and killed him. I mean I’m sure it was an accident. Poor bastard. The smack was too strong? Yeah. And he died. And I didn’t know anything about this.’

And I didn’t know anything about this.’

Other eye-witnesses confirm that Morrison went to a Paris club called 'The Rock-n-Roll Circus' on the night in question and bought the drugs himself and that Pamela Courson was nowhere near Morrison when he consumed the heroin over the course of a several hours:

“In his book, Sam Bernett [then owner of 'The Rock-n-Roll Circus'] writes: ‘I recognized the U.S. Army combat jacket and the riding boots from the Camargue region of France which he never took off. It was Jim Morrison, with his head between his knees, his arms dangling.’

‘I was used to talking about everything with Jim – from Janis Joplin to the beatniks – but that night it was just a bit of small talk. He’d come in to pick up heroin for Pam. He was always collecting drugs for her and the club was full of dealers.’

Morrison disappeared into the toilets at around 2:00 a.m.

‘Then, about half an hour later, a cloakroom attendant came up to me and told me someone was locked in one of the cubicles and wasn’t coming out. It was then that I got a bouncer to smash the door down.’

Bernett was met by the sight of Morrison’s body, slumped on the toilet.”

© 2019 Catherine


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