In 1965, Major Joseph Gervais was invited to speak at a gathering of retired pilots. While he was there, he was introduced to Mrs. Irene Bolam by one of Amelia Earhart's closet friends, Viola Gentry. Gervais felt he instantly recognized her as an older version of Amelia Earhart and commenced to research her past. Using Gervais' research, author Joe Klaas documented his assertion in his book Amelia Earhart Lives released in 1970. Bolam denied being Earhart, filed a $1.5 million lawsuit and submitted a lengthy affidavit refuting the claim. The book's publisher McGraw-Hill pulled Klaas' book from the market shortly after it was released, and court records indicate they made an out of court settlement with her after she refused to give a set of fingerprints to the court upon her victory.
On Bolam's death, Gervais sought permission to photograph and fingerprint the body, but permission was denied.
After Amelia Earhart Lives was published in 1970, three additional books were subsequently published that continued to support the Irene Bolam hypothesis as it’s come to be known. Those books were titled, Stand by to Die by Robert Myers and Barbara Wiley, Amelia Earhart Survived by Colonel Rollin C. Reineck (2003), and in January 2016, Amelia Earhart: Beyond the Grave by W. C. Jameson was published. The authors of these books continued to promote the theory that Bolam and Earhart were one and the same.
Shortly after the passing of Irene Bolam in 1982 researcher and author Bob Meyers, who we mentioned earlier and who had known Amelia Earhart as a young teenager had multiple conversations with Irene’s closest friend and confidant Diana Dawes about the role that Irene played in the repatriation of Amelia Earhart. Recently courtesy of aviation pioneer Ann Holtgren Pellegreno who herself completed Amelia’s world flight in a Lockheed 10 we received those tapes. Conversations never before heard by the general public. Until now.
Friends of Amelia Earhart like Bob Meyers, Art Kennedy and many of the Zonta believed that Amelia Earhart returned and that Irene was Amelia. While denying it on public platforms, Irene herself played coy about her background and past in private; even going so far as to tease family and friends that there was more to her than meets the eye. Irene’s own son Larry Heller stated emphatically that when Irene passed away in 1982, the woman pictured on the funeral program was not the woman who raised him. Check the links in the show notes for tonight’s episode for the photo of Irene Bolam that Joe Gervais took on that day in 1965. You won’t’ find any photos of that same woman prior to 1940. That’s because according to the theory, that woman didn’t exist before 1940. At least not as Irene.
For most people, this theory is the most far-fetched of all the many theories in this case. Most people wouldn’t give a platform to such an idea. But we’re not most people. Tonight, we return and theory five is finally upon us.
Exit Amelia Earhart. Enter Irene Bolam.