|Born||James H.W. Thompson
March 21, 1906(1906-03-21)
Greenville, Delaware, United States
|Disappeared||March 26, 1967 (aged 61)
Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
|Status||Declared dead in absentia|
|Alma mater||Princeton University
University of Pennsylvania
|Occupation||Co-founder, Thai Silk Company|
|Known for||“Mysterious” Disappearance|
|Spouse||Patricia Thraves (divorced)|
James (Jim) Harrison Wilson Thompson (born March 21, 1906) was an American businessman who helped revitalize the Thai silk industry in the 1950s and 1960s. A former U.S. military intelligence officer, Thompson mysteriously disappeared from Malaysia‘s Cameron Highlands while going for a walk on Easter Sunday, March 26, 1967.
Many hypotheses have been advanced to explain his disappearance. Theories range from his committing suicide to his being carried away by aborigines.
 Education and professional background
Jim Thompson was the youngest of five children of Henry and Mary Thompson. His father was a wealthy textile manufacturer; his mother was a daughter of James Harrison Wilson, a noted Union general in the American Civil War.
Thompson spent his early years of education at St. Paul’s boarding school. He graduated from Princeton University in 1928. Post-graduate studies followed at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Architecture but he did not get his degree at this institution due to his weakness in calculus.
During the 1930s, he led an active social life and sat on the board of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Before the decade came to a close, he not only became politically active; his liberal politics also alienated him from his family.
 World War II activities
At the height of the Second World War, Thompson was recruited by William Joseph Donovan to serve in the Office of Strategic Services (which in 1947 was disbanded in place of the newly formed Central Intelligence Agency).
His first call of duty was with the French resistance forces in North Africa. Later, he was sent to Europe. After Victory in Europe Day (May 7–8, 1945), he was transferred to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). He was put in charge of the pro-Allied Seri Thai or Free Thai Movement. In August 1945, he was about to be deployed in Thailand when the Surrender of Japan officially ended World War II. He arrived in Thailand shortly after Victory over Japan Day to take charge of the Bangkok OSS office. In the spring of 1946, Thompson went to work for the American Legation, as military attaché to his former Princeton classmate Charles Yost – the U.S. Minister to Thailand. As part of the Legation, Thompson was able to use his contacts among the Free Thai and Free Lao groups to gather information and defuse conflicts on Thailand’s borders. Working with them in the Legation was Kenneth Landon – whose wife was the author of Anna and the King of Siam, the inspiration for The King and I.
 Return to private industry
In 1948, he partnered George Barrie to found the Thai Silk Company. The establishment achieved a coup in 1951 when designer Irene Sharaff made use of Thai silk fabrics for the Rogers and Hammerstein musical, The King and I. From then on, the company prospered.
Thompson’s formula for success was not as complex as what one would make it out to be. It hinged on two factors.
“In the first instance,” he said, “we run a dependable operation. Whenever we come up with a pattern or color that sells well, we make sure we stick to its exact formula. That way, our customers can rest assured that when they re-order, they will get a consistent product.”
“Equally important,” he mentioned, “is that the cottage industry in this part of the world is more significant than what most people realize. Most of the weavers in this area either don’t care or don’t need to know who are buying their products. But it is necessary for us to know what our customers’ tastes and requirements are.”
Besides inventing the bright jewel tones and dramatic color combinations nowadays associated with Thai silk, he raised thousands of Thailand‘s poorest people out of poverty. His determination to keep his company cottage-based was significant for the women who made up the bulk of his work force. By allowing them to work at home, they retained their position in the household while becoming breadwinners. It was only after Thompson’s disappearance that the Thai Silk Company relocated its weaving operations to Korat, a city which serves as a base of operations for the Royal Thai Army. Although it abandoned home-based weaving in favor of factories in the early 1970s, the Thai Silk Company’s Korat facility looks more like a landscaped campus than a factory.
 Thompson’s ‘House on the Klong’
Thompson was unlike any other figure in Southeast Asia. He was an American, an ex-architect, a retired army officer, a one-time spy, a silk merchant and a renowned collector of antiques. Most of his treasures, if not all, were amassed after he came to Thailand.
In 1958, he began what was to be the pinnacle of his architectural achievement – the construction of a new home to showcase his objets de art.
Using parts of old up-country houses – some as old as a hundred years – he succeeded in constructing a masterpiece which involved the reassembling of six Thai dwellings. Most of the units were dismantled and moved from Ayutthaya, but the largest – a weaver’s house (now the living room) – came from Bangkrua.
In his quest for authenticity, he saw to it that some of the structures were elevated a full floor above the ground. During the construction stage, he added his own touches to the buildings by positioning, for instance, a central staircase indoors rather than having it outside. Along the way, he also reversed the wall panels of his quarters so that it now faced inside instead of it having an external orientation.
After he was through with its creation, he filled his home with the items he had collected in the past. Decorating his rooms were Chinese blue-and-white Ming pieces, Belgian glass, Cambodian carvings, Victorian chandeliers, Benjarong earthenware, Thai stone images, Burmese statues, and a dining table which was once used by King Rama V of Thailand.
In all, his ‘House on the Klong’ occupied a hectare in area. The garden was a mini-jungle.
It took Thompson almost a year to complete his mansion. Now a museum, the Jim Thompson House could be reached by public or private transport. Except for Sundays, it is open to the public from 9am to 4.30pm.
Thompson departs “Moonlight” for a stroll
Thompson came to the Cameron Highlands with Mrs. Constance (Connie) Mangskau on Friday, March 24, 1967. They stayed at “Moonlight” bungalow with Dr. Ling Tien Gi, a Singaporean-Chinese chemist and Mrs. Helen Ling, his white American-born wife. On Easter Sunday, March 26, they attended the morning services at All Souls’ Church. Later that day, he went for a walk but failed to return.
The question is this: Why the vast difference in timing? Could it be that Dr. Ling was not aware that Thompson left the premises at 1.30pm? Or could it be he had a reason for saying things differently?
Dr. Ling took it that Thompson left the estate at approximately 3.30pm. In an interview with The Straits Times, he said:
Mrs. Ling, however, felt otherwise. She told the Eastern Sun that Thompson left her home at 1.30pm. She said, “Mr. Thompson told her and Mrs. Mangskau at 1.30pm just before going for the walk: ‘Good night, sweethearts’.”
Asked why the ‘good night’ bit during noon, Mrs. Ling replied, “It has always been our practice, despite the time of the day or night to say good night whenever we wanted to retire for the night or for a siesta.”
Thompson fails to return
When he (Thompson) failed to return at 8.30pm, his friend (who asked that his name not be published) contacted the police.
After six, Dr. Ling got into his car and took a slow drive to a nearby club. He was confident he would meet Thompson along the way. He never did. When he returned home, he was puzzled as to where Thompson could have gone to. He later called his rental agent to inform him about Thompson’s absence. He felt since he knew the area rather well, word of Thompson’s whereabouts would soon be forthcoming. This, however, did not come to pass. At 8.30pm, he went ahead and lodged a police report. He was told that word of his missing friend would be filtered down to the settlements in the area. He was also informed if Thompson failed to show up, an inquiry would be conducted the following morning.
Police comb area
At daybreak, about five policemen showed up at “Moonlight”. After taking a look at Thompson’s passport, they left the scene. Later that morning, the police, with the help of thirty aborigines, combed the area. The survey was intensive but there was just no trace of him. Before noon, news of his disappearance began to spread. Now, there were more than a hundred people looking for him.
Massive hunt for Thompson
The following day (March 28), the biggest hunt in Malaysian history was staged. The police came complete with loud hailers, walkie-talkies, field telephones, pistols and sub-machine guns.
The sweep of the forest was fairly thorough. It went on without a break. Till late in the evening, no one was able to find Thompson. The police concluded that he could either be trapped or accidentally injured. However, they were convinced he would somehow or other be able to find his way back. His previous jungle-survival training, they reasoned, would be sufficient to see him through whatever difficulties he was in.
Last known sightings
On Wednesday, March 29, the police were provided with some clues which they found to be useful in their quest to locate Thompson.
Che Fatimah binte Mohamed Yeh, 24, a cook at the Lutheran Mission bungalow, told Superintendent A.S. Nathan she saw Thompson on Sunday at about 4pm.
“I was in the kitchen,” she said, “when I saw him come up the road. He had on a white shirt and a pair of gray slacks. He stopped for a while to take a look at the garden. While looking at the plants, he did not speak to anyone. A short while later, he left the premises and headed the same way from where he came.”
In a separate report, a servant at the Overseas Missionary Fellowship mansion informed the police she saw a man who resembled Thompson standing on a plateau opposite the property. According to her, he was there at around 4pm. After thirty minutes or so, he was not to be seen.
The last person who saw him was an employee of the Eastern Hotel (which is now known as the Century Pines Resort). He was sure he saw someone who looked like Thompson heading in the direction of the track which led to the golf course.
The Thai Silk Company was the first to declare a reward for the finder of Thompson. Charles U. Sheffield, 40, who was appointed acting manager, announced that “a generous reward of US$10,000 will be paid by the Thai Silk Company to any person or persons” who succeeded in finding Thompson.
Asked what she meant by “handsome”, she (Mrs. Mangskau) explained that it was a “big” reward in the “terminology” of the aborigine trackers.
The offer was made on Wednesday, March 29, that is, three days after Thompson was reported as lost. This incentive was a close follow-up to the strong rumors in the Thai capital that he could have been kidnapped and taken to another country.
Apart from this, two other rewards were also declared. On her part, Mrs. Mangskau affirmed she was more than willing to hand out a reward to anyone who knew where Thompson could be found. She left the details of her “handsome reward” with the police at Tanah Rata.
The Malaysian police, in line with tradition, also came up with a remuneration amounting to RM10,000 (about US$3,000). The payment, which was approved by the Inspector General of Police, was valid for a period of three months.
General Black joins in the hunt
On Friday, March 31, Brigadier-General Edwin Black came to the resort. He visited “Moonlight” with his aide, Lieutenant Denis Horgan and his friend, Dean Frasche. While they were at the bungalow, they were briefed by Mrs. Ling and Mrs. Mangskau about the developments which unfolded prior to Thompson’s going astray.
When Thompson visited the Lutheran bungalow, it became apparent to him the people he was supposed to meet were not there. When he left the property, he came into contact with the driver of a white car. After a brief exchange of words, the driver drove off. The questions that came to mind were these: Who was the driver of the vehicle? Did he know Thompson? Did he ask for directions? Did he threaten Thompson? Was the driver Dr. Ammundsen? Or was it Dr. Ling?
The following morning, the trio got up early and arranged for an aerial tower to be positioned near the house. The gadget was designed to throw a radar communication ‘net’ which covered a radius of approximately sixteen kilometers. Lieutenant Horgan was put in charge of the device.
General Black then headed for the forest to conduct a survey of his own. He was in constant contact with his aide while being accompanied by Frasche and two aborigines. Apart from being able to keep in touch with his assistant, General Black was also able to establish radio contact with the other parties who were on the lookout for Thompson.
The search conducted on Saturday, April 1, was indeed extensive. Joining in the exploration were two hundred more officers and men from Perak’s police field force. They were earlier engaged in a training operation at Tambun near Ipoh. They came to the hill station from Tanjung Rambutan after making their way through the woods. They were later ordered to merge with the other parties who were based at Tanah Rata.
On Monday, General Black and his crew decided to call off their search. They left the scene and headed for Kuala Lumpur. While resting at the Malaysian capital, the commander told a group of reporters that “there has been absolutely no trace of Thompson’s whereabouts.” “Thompson,” he reasoned, “has knowledge of jungle survival. This would have enabled him to survive for a few days. On realizing he was lost, he would have been on the lookout for a stream. He would have subsequently followed it expecting to come to a village.
“I find his disappearance rather strange. There has not been a single clue, not a bit of torn clothing or even a shoe. According to the police, a ransom is usually demanded within a time frame of forty-eight hours. Nothing of that sort has surfaced since the day he went missing.”
The search winds down
The pursuit for Thompson went on uninterruptedly for eleven days. On their part, the police did put in a concerted effort to find for him. On the twelfth day, there was a change in their operation: more than two hundred officers and men were ordered to head back to their base in Perak. Only a force numbering less than a hundred was instructed to stay behind.
With the dwindling of the police field force, the casting about for Thompson took on a different twist – the seekers narrowed down to two categories: the first were experts who knew the place like the back of their hands; the second were those who delved into the supernatural. Both parties were just as confident of success; they were more than eager to track Thompson down.
Noone engaged to look for Thompson
On Sunday, April 23, Richard Noone, 49, a British officer with the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization came onto the scene. He was no stranger to the jungles of the area. At one stage, he served as head of the Malayan Department of Aborigines.
After two days of planning, Noone, a Cambridge-trained anthropologist, went into the woods with two assistants. Both helpers were equally at home in any tropical rainforest: one was a border scout from Sarawak, the other was an aborigine witch doctor. While they were in the wilds, they met a few aborigines but they were unable to provide the threesome with leads as to where Thompson could be found. Undiscouraged, the group carried on exploring in the hope of meeting up with him from where the field force had earlier left off.
Hurkos visits “Moonlight”
While Noone and his partners were still in the jungle, a controversial figure arrived at Tanah Rata. He was Peter Hurkos, a psychic investigator from the United States. Hurkos came to the haven on Tuesday, April 25, with his personal secretary, Miss Stephany Farb, and Lieutenant Denis Horgan.
His (Hurkos’) spiel was that Thompson had been drugged unconscious, abducted and flown off to Cambodia.
But when he was told that there was no landing strip (at the Cameron Highlands), the story was amended to include an equally impossible boat ride to a neighbouring state for the plane trip.
The first thing he did was to visit “Moonlight”. While he was at the address, he spent some time pacing the garden in an unusual manner. Then he stopped to feel a chair which was left at the veranda. After a short pause, he gave out a loud yell, “This is the chair! Yes, this is the chair that Thompson sat on just before he disappeared!” A brief silence followed. A few minutes later, he sat on the floor just outside the house. A photograph of Thompson and two maps were laid out. The first chart highlighted the countries of Asia; the second featured the details of the resort. While glancing at Thompson’s photograph, his face grew tensed. Later he broke out into a stammer:
“He was sitting in the chair… right over there… he was not sitting in the house… the chair was on the veranda… aagh, Prebi, ooogh… Thompson… Prebi, Pridi… fourteen people… fourteen people took him… Prebe or Bebe… orah blah-lun-dah Bebe… he is not in the jungle… I want to follow the route where they picked him up… he was sitting right there… this chair… there was nobody in the room… they were upstairs… he was sitting outside in this chair… this chair… not in the jungle… car… fourteen people… one vehicle, like a military vehicle… like a truck… I see truck… ah, truck, about from here on the road… he walks down the road… somebody woke him up… he was sitting outside and somebody came in here… a friend of his… Bebe or Prebie… Pridi has own army… no bandits… nothing to do with bandits… he walks about half a mile, with Bebe or Prebie… truck on the road… fourteen people… one person here, one person picked him up… he knows him… he was sitting on the veranda and the men came in… asked for something, I don’t know… he went down the road… got chloroform… chloroform… sleep in truck…”
After returning to his normal self, Hurkos had this to say, “it is ridiculous to look for Thompson at the Highlands or even within a-hundred-and-sixty kilometer radius of it.”
“There is no way you’ll find him there,” he declared. “It’s just that he had been abducted to another country. You can take it from me he is not being held for ransom. I am prepared to stake my neck on this!”
“Thompson isn’t in the jungle”
On Wednesday, April 26, Noone and his two assistants, Rahim bin Kamman and Toh Pawang Angah Sidek, emerged from the forest. In all, they spent a total of thirty-six hours looking for Thompson.
“I am fully convinced,” Noone told a group of reporters, “that Thompson isn’t in the jungle. We went further into the woods, starting off from where the police field force men had earlier left off. But we could not find any clue which could be of use in leading us to him.
Before her death it was reported she believed her brother (Thompson) would turn up for dinner two days earlier – American Labour Day – as was his habit every year.
“During our survey, we came across a steep cliff. We had to turn back. I don’t think it would have been possible for Thompson at his age to have scaled that cliff. Furthermore, I don’t think he would have gone as far as we went if he did go into the wilderness.”
When told of Hurkos’ visit and his abduction theory, Noone expressed his surprise at the soothsayer’s claim that Thompson had been kidnapped and was being held as a captive.
Thompson’s sister murdered
The last appearance of Thompson was unique in many ways: for the next few weeks, his eclipse was not only discussed at length; equally significant, it also became a subject which refused to die off on its own.
Did Thompson leave the country? He did.
While many were trying to figure out what had happened to Thompson, another strange development came to light. On Wednesday, August 30, it was reported that his older sister, Mrs. Katherine Thompson Wood, 74, was found dead in her Pennsylvania home.
Police believed that a blunt object was used to carry out the murder. They later said her death had no link to Thompson’s disappearance. Still, the coincidence (if that is what it was) left many people wondering.
Was Thompson behind his disappearance?
The mystery of Jim Thompson was not only puzzling; it also stirred many to come up with their own conclusion.
First and foremost, what were Thompson’s reasons for visiting the Highlands? Moreover, what did he have in mind after the completion of his stay at the resort?
According to Mangskau, “[H]e was a tired man… That was why he came here for a holiday.” She was also quoted in the press as saying, “He was looking forward to going back to Bangkok.” But was this his actual arrangement? Not so. Thompson had in fact made plans with Mangskau and the Lings to go to Singapore on the morning of March 27. The Lings were to drive him there so he would be able to keep his dinner appointment with Francis Joseph Galbraith, the United States ambassador to Singapore, and Edward Pollitz, an American capitalist who was exploring the possibility of establishing a textile company in the republic. But the day before that, Thompson disappeared. Why? Could it be that he was part of a “planned disappearance’’, or was it something else?
One researcher believes the clue to Thompson’s mystery may lie in some bone fragments that were found at the Cameron Highlands in 1985.
Captain Philip J. Rivers, a master mariner, said he learned of the discovery while researching on Thompson’s disappearance in 2007.
To date, there has been no confirmation that the bones belong to Thompson. According to Rivers, however, “The bones are presently kept in a safe and secure place”.
 See also
Sumber dari : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Thompson_%28designer%29