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On November 19, 1961 Michael Rockefeller vanished along the coast of southwest New Guinea; the true story of what really happened. Read more

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This project was successfully funded on September 19, 2012.

On November 19, 1961 Michael Rockefeller vanished along the coast of southwest New Guinea; the true story of what really happened.

About this project

Help me dive even deeper into the mysteries of the jungle.  I have a book contract with William Morrow to explore one of the most fascinating unsolved missing persons cases of the 20th century -- the disappearance of a young member of the Rockefeller family in New Guinea in 1961.

The Wall Street Journal called my last book, The Lunatic Express, one of the ten best books of 2010.  And this one, my third, is going to be bigger, better, and I'm almost there.  

I've spent more than two years researching the story, including two months in Indonesian Papua and I've made some amazing discoveries.  But the story is even richer than I first imagined.  It's not just about a collision of cultures experienced by one of America's wealthiest sons, but one that took place in the spirit world.  There are layers here -- mystical, brutal, enlightening -- that need to be explored.  And I can only do that by going back.  And diving deeper into the world of the sacred.

But my book contract does not cover the costs for a second long plunge into one of the remotest places on Earth.

That's where you come in.


On November 18, 1961 Michael Rockefeller was crossing the mouth of the Betsj River off the southwest coast of New Guinea when his boat capsized.  He strapped two empty fuel tanks to his waist, swam for shore and was never seen again.  Despite a massive search by airplanes, helicopters and boats, the son of then-New York governor Nelson Rockefeller and a member of one of the richest and most powerful families in America had vanished without a trace. 

Officially he drowned at sea.  But there have long been rumors: that he was kidnapped and held hostage.  That he decided to abandon the modern world and live in the jungle.  Or that he made it to shore, only to be killed and eaten by the local Asmat. 

THE LAST WARRIORS OF THE SPIRIT WORLD: Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Journey in the Land of the Asmat is the first substantive, deeply researched and reported account of what happened to Michael Rockefeller.  Relying entirely on never before seen documents, interviews with people directly involved with the case who've never before spoken, and on the ground reporting deep within the Asmat region, it is the definitive true tale.  It is a rich story about much more than just a vanished American son.  It's about a moment in time when the world was undergoing profound changes, about the end of colonialism, the rise of primitive art and the sacred world of the Asmat - a dramatic and riveting tale about change and collision. 

It's a story that's fascinated me for decades and I've spent the last two years combing archives and traveling to the Netherlands, the Canary Islands, the deepest jungles of Indonesian Papua.

The truth: his disappearance was no mystery at all - his fate was known by the Dutch government and the Catholic Church within three weeks, and it was kept secret. 

Until now.

I'm on course to complete a draft manuscript for my book in the next several months.   

But I need your help to finish, to cross the Ts and dot the Is.  I've had a researcher in Europe going at it for almost a year.  I have hundreds of pages of documents that have to be translated. And I need to go back.  Both to Europe and to New Guinea.  To go deeper.  To re-ask questions in light of information I didn't have during my first journey and to get more details, because what happened to Michael can only be understood within the context of a complex culture and its sacred world of spirits and ancestors. And that requires time and presence in Asmat itself. But the costs are overwhelming me.  To be in Asmat I need a guide, a translator, a boat, fuel - gas alone costs $10 a gallon there. 

So, please come with me, virtually if not physically.  To the jungles and rivers of Asmat, still one of the remotest places on Earth, to a world of 100-foot longhouses, an older universe barely touched by the outside, where men are cockatoos and fruit bats and wild boars and still travel with the tides in hand carved dugout canoes. 


Read what The Wall Street Journal had to say about Lunatic Express, my last book, here.

Here's a wild tale I wrote for Outside magazine on the Congo.  And if you've ever wondered about Afghanistan's brutal national sport, read this

A note on how to use kickstarter to make a pledge:

To make a pledge to THE LAST WARRIORS OF THE SPIRIT WORLD click the green “Back This Project” button. You will be asked to enter your pledge amount and select a reward. Then, you will go through and must complete the Amazon checkout process. If the project is successfully funded, your card will be charged when the book reaches its funding deadline. THE LAST WARRIORS OF THE SPIRIT WORLD- the title may change - is expected to be published around August 2013.

Important note: Amazon payments will bill your card only after and if the project has reached it's goal.

Please help in any way you can. Even $10 counts and is highly appreciated. 

Please consider sharing this project on your social media network or/send it to a friend. Spreading the word is the most important part of all. If you have any creative idea on how to promote this project, feel free to do so or send me a message.

Thank you!


Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    21 backers

    An enormous thank you. A huge, virtual hug. My everlasting gratitude. The knowledge that you helped solve one of the great mysteries of the 20th Century and brought a book to life.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    42 backers

    All of the above, of course. You'll also get a signed, personally inscribed hardback copy of the book with my sincerest thanks.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    28 backers

    This is where things start to get pretty cool. I'll send you a signed book AND you're gonna get a piece of Asmat itself and a genuine head hunting tool: a cassowary bone dagger all dressed up with cassowary feathers and doodads - made by one of my contacts in an Asmat village - the very same daggers used to pin heads to the longhouse floors. Not to mention heaps and heaps of thank yous.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $250 or more

    3 backers

    You're going deep into Asmat now! Same as above. But wait, that's not all. You'll get the dagger. You'll get a signed, personally inscribed hardback copy of the book AND a hand woven bag decorated with cockatoo feathers and job tears seeds; the real thing - every Asmat man wears them, the important elders hanging over their chests, the lesser pups hanging over their backs. They're beautiful and cool and I get them in the village - they don't come from a store.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    2 backers

    Okay, this is big: you'll be thanked in the acknowledgements of a real book, a bestseller (one can dream, right?) - your name in every bookstore in the country - there for you and your grand kids to see forever. Plus, of course, a signed copy of the book. Not to mention a cassowary bone dagger and woven bag.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $1,000 or more

    3 backers

    How about a seven foot long bow with ratan strings and a bunch of six foot long arrows? Yep, the real thing, made by an Asmat man to hunt with. These things are impressive; plus your name in the acknowledgements and a signed copy of the book. And my undying gratitude. International shipping extra.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $5,000 or more

    2 backers

    You are amazing. The Asmat are some of the greatest carvers in the world - Michael Rockefeller lost his life collecting their art - and you'll get a genuine, hand carved Asmat shield. We're talking five to six feet long, ornately carved with head hunting symbols, a "penis" projecting from its top - the real deal. Plus all the other goodies - your name in the acknowledgements and a personally inscribed book. International shipping extra.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $10,000

    0 backers Limited (2 left of 2)

    Yep, it's a lot of money. But the reward is worth it - I'll take you (one person per pledge) to the source, to the wild rivers of Asmat, just you and me; it's not for everyone - we're talking rain and heat and bugs and mud and weird food and discomfort, but you'll be there, in the very villages - places with no stores, no plumbing, no electricity - and with the sons of the men who saw him last. You can shake their hands and look into their eyes while they drum and chant. NOTE: you must be physically in good shape, able to endure discomfort and pay your own way. But it'll be so worth it. Truly a unique opportunity, one that's really priceless. Oh, the stories I can tell and the things you will see!

    Timing to be arranged, but not before November 2013; trip duration to be arranged, too, but figure 10 - 14 days.

    Estimated delivery:

Funding period

- (23 days)