Monday, January 8, 2024

The Strange Life and Death (?) of Al Seckel (Part 2)

(Continued from Part 1)

Seckel was enjoying a lot of success posturing as an “expert,” or at least as a “collector,” of illusions, primarily visual. He spoke before many audiences, wrote (or plagiarized) articles and books, and traveled across the globe to share his presentations. Many of the illusions Seckel presented were invented by the magician Jerry Andrus (1918 – 2007). Andrus was a well-known and well-loved figure in the skeptic community, as well as with magicians, and often spoke at skeptic conferences. I learned that, following Andrus' death, Seckel's Eye Wonder wanted to buy the rights to all of Andrus' illusions and other works. I recommended against it.

In 2004 Seckel was invited to give a TED talk on visual illusions. His Bio calls him an “expert on illusions.” It notes,

"A previous version of this biography described Seckel as a "cognitive neuroscientist," which was not accurate".

However, Seckel’s 2010 TEDxSCS talk “[Y]Our Mind's Eye” describes him as “Cognitive neuroscientist Al Seckel, formerly of the California Institute of Technology.”

Denice Lewis, 1988



After two divorces, in June, 2004 Seckel married Denice D. Lewis, who was reportedly "Europe's highest paid catwalk model" for over a decade. They move into a custom home in Malibu that rented for $13,500 a month. She files for divorce just four months later. (Probably he told her “I’m a scientist” and “I’m rich,” both of which were false.)     

Seckel successfully postures not only as an “expert” on illusions, but also as a futurist and visionary, giving many talks. His financial status was always rather dodgy, but he somehow managed to keep borrowing enough from Peter to pay Paul.  


Al Seckel and Isabel Maxwell speak at the
World Economic Forum (WEF), 2011

In 2007 Seckel married Isabel Maxwell, daughter of the late billionaire fraudster Robert Maxwell, and sister to Ghislaine Maxwell. She had many connections in the world of high tech.

In January, 2011 Seckel organized a “Mindshift Conference” on Jeffrey Epstein’s infamous private island. The participants were Murray Gell-Mann, Christof Koch, Catherine Mohr, Gerald Sussman, Frances Arnold, Leonard Mlodinow, Paul Kirkaas, Brock Pierce, Ron Reisman, Pablos Holman, Dan Dubno, and Reichart Von Wolfsheild. Isabel was there with him.

"Jeffrey Epstein and Al Seckel have assembled a diverse and eclectic intimate group of exceptional thinkers and achievers to discuss various topics...."

Sometime around 2010, Seckel and Isabel moved permanently to France, living for a while in a Chateau that was owned by a friend, and moving around to other places. Seckel and Isabel  repeatedly use the excuse that they are "destitute" to avoid traveling to the US for court depositions and hearings involving their bankruptcy filings and other ongoing court cases.

Al Seckel & family join Stephen Hawking
for a Zero-G flight.

Seckel had been suing skeptic Tom McIver for "libel," i.e., revealing some of Seckel's frauds and impostures. In 2013 McIver contacted journalist Mark Oppenheimer, who had interviewed Seckel a few times previously concerning atheism, humanism, etc., and had attended some of Seckel's parties. In 2000 the interview was for an article on atheist history. Seckel was one of the early officers of Atheists United in Los Angeles, which is still active today. Seckel was with that group when it broke off from the atheist group founded by Madelyn Murray O’Hair, who was very much a control freak.

McIver suggested that Oppenheimer interview Seckel again, to look into the many accusations of financial impropriety. Seckel apparently did not like the questions that Oppenhiemer was asking, and the article's October, 2014 publication was cancelled because of legal threats from Seckel. Seckel realized that Oppenheimer would not be writing a puff piece (like most journalists nowadays do), and cut off all contact with him.

The Article that Ended Seckel's Career as a Con-Man, and Perhaps his Life. (July 20, 2015)

Finally, On July 20, 2015: Tablet online magazine publishes Mark Oppenheimer's article on Seckel, "The Illusionist."  Tom McIver describes the significance of this article:

Article focuses on Seckel’s obsession with befriending, socializing with, and gaining the confidence of celebrities and powerful and influential people in science, academia, entertainment, media, and the entrepreneurial world, often hosting them at his eclectic parties.  Among his guests not mentioned elsewhere on this timeline: biologist David Baltimore (Nobelist, Caltech president), billionaire Elon Musk (PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX), actress Sharon Stone, and musician Slash.  Mentions that Gell-Mann, Koch, and Shimojo no longer endorse Seckel, and that Pearce Williams' wife was pleased he has been exposed as owing money to them.  Also mentions that it is "remarkably easy to find people who believe Seckel took their money," naming several. Quotes Gerald Sussman as saying "I don't feel good about it" when asked if he'd given money to Seckel, implying he had.  Mentions that Seckel now trying to sell Robert Maxwell's papers, without success.  Includes quote from Denice Lewis that their divorce was never finalized (and Seckel denying they had been officially married). Notes that Seckel's attorney in Seckel v. McIver (Nicholas Hornberger) admitted that Seckel never paid his legal fees.

After publication of the Oppenheimer article, Seckel’s career as a wheeler and dealer among the rich and famous would be over. After reading this account of one person after another complaining that Seckel had cheated them of significant sums of money, no serious person would ever again enter into a business deal with Al Seckel.

The Oppenheimer article dropped an even bigger bombshell – Denice Lewis told him that she and Seckel were still legally married! Their divorce was never finalized. Therefore, Seckel’s marriage to Isabel Maxwell was never valid, a fact she apparently did not know until then. You can imagine how she reacted to this!

The world didn’t hear much about Seckel for a while after this. Then suddenly on Sept. 19, 2015, a memorial website appears for Seckel, saying

Al Paul Seckel, who died at the age of 57 near his home in France, is best known for helping to make optical illusions a household name throughout the world.

No time or place of death, or cause of death, is given in this anonymous announcement. Who wrote it? Isabel? Possibly even Seckel himself? Seckel’s alleged death was noted in various internet postings, but not in any actual news reports. As time passed, the paucity of details on the fate of Al Seckel became widely noted and remarked upon. No death certificate was ever presented, even to this day (and many people tried to find it). It was widely speculated that Seckel did not die but went into hiding, perhaps with the assistance of Epstein’s circle. But apart from rumors, there was no evidence whether Seckel was alive, or dead.

Then, finally on April 14, 2022 the Daily Mail headline blared,

EXCLUSIVE: 'A hand and a foot were missing, probably eaten by wild boars.' Mysterious death of Ghislaine Maxwell's con-man brother-in-law is finally declared a suicide SEVEN YEARS after he jumped to his death from a 100-ft. cliff in France
Al Seckel's disappearance in 2015 has finally been solved – he flung himself off a high cliff outside a picturesque French village
Seckel claimed to be the husband of Ghislaine Maxwell's older sister Isabel, but in fact he had not divorced his third wife
It was originally believed that he might have faked his own death when a major expose about how he conned buyers of rare books was about to be published
His body lay unnoticed for weeks before it was finally found on July 1, 2015
'It was the smell of putrefaction that eventually led to the corpse,' former deputy mayor Roland Garreau told
 'A hand and a foot were missing, probably eaten by wild boars or foxes,' Garreau told

PUBLISHED: 10:52 EDT, 14 April 2022 | UPDATED: 10:52 EDT, 14 April 2022

Seckel eaten by pigs? Maybe I do believe in Karma.
But this is the only news source to offer any information about Seckel’s fate. The article contains what it calls Seckel’s “death certificate,” but it actually appears to be a statement from the Mayor’s office, partially handwritten, based on a police report. It is not a formal certificate as is found in vital records.

At present I would say that the “preponderance of evidence” suggests that Seckel probably did die in France in 2015, but I wouldn’t say that it is established “beyond a reasonable doubt.” On the one hand, it is entirely reasonable to think that a person who has just suffered a devastating , irreparable setback might become suicidal.On the other hand, remember that Seckel's reported death was inexplicably kept secret for two months, then reported anonymously. There is also the lack of a formal death certificate. When dealing with the likes of Jeffrey Epstein, Al Seckel, and the Maxwells, it is reasonable to believe that somebody might have gone to a lot of trouble to deceive you.

During the 2021 trial in New York City which found Ghislaine Maxwell guilty of sex trafficking and other charges, Ghislaine's sister Isabel was seen, faithfully attending every session and supporting her sister in every way.

I’m wondering when we will see a Netflix documentary series about Seckel, maybe “The Great Illusionist?”
Isabel Maxwell arrives at her sister's trial, 2021.


[Much of the material used in this report is drawn from Tom McIver’s exhaustive "Seckel" compendium]

1 comment:

  1. If Al is really dead, then he got his just deserts...thus to all con men and women!


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