Newton Falls linked to JFK

Archives show bizarre connection

Newton Falls postcard from the National Archives

NEWTON FALLS — The village with its distinct ZIP code — all fours — can now boast about being a footnote in one of the most controversial crime mysteries of modern history.

The village’s name appeared on a March 18, 1964, postmark of an “obscene postcard” that appeared on one of the documents pertaining to the investigation of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy that happened 54 years ago this month.

The investigation surrounding the mysterious postcard is detailed in the batch of JFK files released Oct. 26 for public consumption on the National Archives website. President Donald Trump released the data to go with a congressional mandate passed in 1992.

The document’s five pages do not again mention Newton Falls or how the postcard, addressed to then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and signed by a German citizen named Alfred Hiller, managed to get a local postmark.

The postcard became the topic of conversation at the McDonald’s Restaurant in downtown Newton Falls on Nov. 2 as the group who usually gather for coffee did some speculating.

“Maybe this German guy Hiller had a relative in Newton Falls that he sent the postcard to so they could mail it for him,” said Marie Jura of Newton Falls, who stated that she did spend some time in Germany a few decades ago.

Former Newton Falls school superintendent Harry Benetis had no theories, but said it is too bad local historian and former teacher and basketball coach Gene Zorn is not around.

“He died late last year,” said Benetis, who also mentioned the U.S. Post Office where the mysterious postmark originated is not on South Canal Street anymore, being wiped out by the 1985 tornado.

Chrissy Braun, youth services librarian for the Newton Falls Library, said she has looked for the Hiller name in the branch’s local history room, but couldn’t find any mentions. But she did supply the name of the postmaster of the town in 1964 — Fred Stanley. She said Stanley is still living in Newton Falls.

When contacted by phone, Stanley, now 95, said he can’t remember that much from his work from the 1960s, but did confirm that he was the postmaster at the time.

Former Mayor Patrick Layshock said he used to live near a family named Hiller in the old governmental housing complex, but did not know if they were still around.

“Of course, they were sisters, so they could go by married names now,” Layschock said. “But I know one thing, I didn’t do it.”

A search of the Newton Falls white pages online showed Hillyers and Hilliers, but no Hillers.

Most of the document reports the FBI’s investigaton into Hiller’s background that detailed the man’s mental illness dating back to when he was age 12.

The postcard’s five-paragraph message tells that Hiller had foreseen the Nov. 22, 1963, death of JFK. The German man was in his 20s when he allegedly penned the postcard.

“I also know quite accurately the precise circumstances of the Dallas assassination,” Hiller wrote to JFK’s brother on the postcard. “Of course, the precise details must be of very great interest to you.”

According to a report written by then-FBI special agent Robert E. Gemberling, the West German federal authorities conducted an investigation into Hiller.

“He (Hiller) was known to the police in (the West German towns) Boeblingen and Rottenburg. While employed in Boeblingen, Hiller had written incoherent letters to various citizens in the village of Altdorf.”

It mentioned an incident on April 8, 1964, in which the man partially undressed himself on the Neckar River bridge in Rottenburg and threw clothing and phonograph records into the river. After the incident, Hiller was committed to the Tuebingen University Hospital. According to a Dr. Ostermann, who signed the commitment papers, Hiller suffered from religious hallucinations.

The FBI report states Hiller was questioned June 23, 1964, at his home in Altdorf, Germany, about the circumstances surrounding the postcard he wrote to Robert Kennedy. Hiller told the authorities he first dreamed about Kennedy’s death in January 1963, some 10 months before it happened. He also claimed to have talked to the late president, according to the FBI report.

“I had originally predicted and had also made it a condition in conversations with the President, that I would not make known the truth about the murder to the public until half a year after the deed. I also suggested the founding of a memorial library,” the FBI report quotes Hiller as telling the German authorites.

The report also goes on to quote Dr. von Kalckreuth, who was in charge of Hiller in the sanitarium from April 8 to June 5, 1964. The doctor told the German police that Hiller suffered from schizophrenia and that his visions and series of dreams are symptoms of that illness.

According to the FBI report, the authorities were apparently satisfied by the thorough examination of Hiller.

But Newton Falls residents now are wondering how that postcard managed to get to their old post office.