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Dead Betty Duke Arises in Occult Rehash

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Book Review – The Mysterious Life & Faked Death of Jesse James

The authors are the children of the late Betty Dorsett Duke who published three books that claimed her great-grandfather James L. Courtney was really Jesse James. It appears this family is going to endlessly produce books stating this claim over and over again.

A rehash for occult readers

BOOK REVIEW: Duke, Daniel J., and Duke, Teresa F., The Mysterious Life and Faked Death of Jesse James (Destiny Books, Rochester, Vermont, 2020) 200 pp., a number of illustrations b/w, endnotes, index. Softcover, $16.99.

By Nancy B. Samuelson

The authors are the children of the late Betty Dorsett Duke who published three books that claimed her great-grandfather James L. Courtney was really Jesse James. It appears this family is going to endlessly produce books stating this claim over and over again.

Author Daniel J. Duke
Occult author Teresa F. Duke
Author Teresa F. Duke
Time shifting authors
SPOILER ALERT !!! – The sibling authors Duke claim to be the second great-grandchildren of Jesse James. Jesse Woodson James was born in 1847. To partially validate their claim, the Duke siblings would need to be over 85 years of age at the present time, which they are not. They are short by a generation.

Former Claims Repeated

The first six chapters of the book repeat a lot of the claims made by Betty Duke in earlier books. Several photos are used again here that appeared in Betty Duke’s book, Jesse James the Smoking Gun. These photos are all very questionable photos.  Photos claimed to be pictures from Frank and Annie James’s wedding are, in fact, photos taken when Mrs. Quantrill visited Missouri. Copies of some of these pictures were reproduced and sold as postcards. Just about all of the material in the first six chapters merely repeat what Betty Duke has published earlier.

Tawdry Sideshow – Restated

Chapter seven is titled ‘Tawdry Sideshow”. This is a critique of James E. Starrs’s exhumation of Jesse James’s body and DNA testing in 1995. This is reasonably accurate but it is not new information. Your reviewer published an article “Who is Buried in Jesse James Grave” which covered this same territory. I was given the Perry Award by the James-Younger Gang in 2007 for this article. 

James L. Courtney Notebook – Argued

The third part of the book is an appendix, titled, “In His Own Words”. This is a copy of a diary or notebook that was supposedly kept by James L. Courtney. Some notes are added as commentary to explain some of the entries. This section makes up pages 84-187. This appears to be mostly a record kept by Mr. Courtney to show where and what work he did, what he spent money on, visits with neighbors and friends, etc. It makes for pretty dull reading. The authors added comments which further adds to the confusion. A couple of examples follow:

#1 In August 1871 a man named Singleton is mentioned. The commentary says, “Bud Singleton was a known James Gang member, as is verified by sources such as James W. Buel in his 1881 book titled The Border Bandits. [Buel’s book is very inaccurate and I have never found any reference to a man named Singleton in the James Gang anywhere else.]

#2 in February 1874, “Friday at Thads & Pa is still low & all the children is there & we all remained there all day Bud Poca William Serena & in fact all the Youngers & in the evening Bud & Poca they went down home & at nite [Dave] Mixen & Bill Holcom they came & set up until three & then went home.” The Commentary: “Notice in the diary above that he writes that “Bud, Poca, William, Serena and in fact all the Youngers…” Now some may say that just means younger children, but if that was the case he wouldn’t have written “children” in the line above that. We believe that when he writes “Youngers” he means members of his gang, as in Cole Younger and his brothers and possibly other members of the Younger family. This entry shows another uncharacteristic slip of the writer in revealing his identity. For us, it equates to further evidence that the diary legitimately belonged to Jesse James.” [Of course, none of these names except possibly Bud, which was a nickname for Cole younger, are Younger names.]

Conclusion – A Rehash

This book is largely a rehash of many of the claims by Betty Dorsett Duke that James L. Courtney was the real Jesse James. Just like Betty’s books and the previous book by Daniel J. Duke, there is still no good evidence here to prove this case.

About Destiny Books

EDITOR’S COMMENT from Stray Leaves: The publisher of the Duke family’s book is Destiny Books. As the publisher advertises below, the books it publishes fall into the genres of dreaming, the occult, magic, and time-shifting. Or, as Destiny Books more succinctly states, it publishes “books on popular occult topics…”

Destiny Books publishes occult and magic books.

Wikipedia defines occult so: “The occult, in the broadest sense, is a category of supernatural beliefs and practices which generally fall outside the scope of religion and science, encompassing such phenomena involving otherworldly agency as mysticism, spirituality, and magic.”

The Mysterious Life and Faked Death of Jesse James evidently is not intended for readers of factually true and authentic biography, history, or even family history. The professed genre by Destiny Books to publish books of the occult should alone be fair warning for readers of what they might expect to find in the family Duke’s rehash.


Murder & Betty Dorsett Duke

Betty demands blood from a great-grandson of Jesse James

Betty’s true biological family refutes her claims

Betty claims Stray Leaves’ publisher Eric F. James & others are out to kill her

Stalkers of Famous & Infamous Families (posted July 28, 2010)

Betty Dorsett Duke Book All Smoke No Gun

Old Jesse James Con Artists Never Die. They Just Propagate the Next Generation

Jesse James and the Lost Templar Treasure