Article by William Weston and Peter Heitmann
Reeve Whitson started numerous ventures that at first held promise but ultimately went bust. Normally one or two such fiascos would bankrupt a man, but Whitson was a CIA agent working for the military-industrial complex. Using an endless supply of money from unknown sources, he funded unusual or exotic programs which on the surface made sense but lurking inside was a secret purpose contrary to the longevity of the host. One such endeavor was the Brigadoon Dream Scheme, a plan to install an amusement park in the Scottish Highlands. Behind the carnival façade was something big and powerful. Taking a cue from a 1983 movie called Local Hero, we believe that it had something to do with the burgeoning oil industry in Scotland.
From Tom O’Neill’s book Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties:
He wanted to build a Brigadoon theme park in Scotland. He was involved in weapons manufacturing, early iterations of the Miss Universe pageant, and a new variety of childproof medicine bottle. And he had a passion for race cars – building them, selling them, driving them, which may explain how he befriended Jay Sebring, another racing enthusiast. These ventures had one thing in common: they fell through. The easiest explanation, of course, was that they were covers, and sometimes Whitson told his friends as much.
Race cars and race car toys were discussed in a previous article “Reeve Whitson: Builder, Seller, and Driver of Race Cars” by Peter Heitmann. Under the direction of toy designers employed by Whitson, slot cars on tabletop race tracks achieved greater speeds using innovative traction magnets. Research on magnets failed to save Matchbox, the company that was going to produce the slot cars, but discoveries elicited from ingenious toys might have broader applications for real-world vehicles and transportation systems.
In the late 1970s Whitson became a special advisor to Ilse Skorzeny, head of the Thyssen Corporation and widow of Nazi war criminal Otto Skorzeny. Whitson’s expertise in magnets might have been useful to Thyssen engineers tasked with the construction of a 250-mph train from Las Vegas to Pasadena using magnetic levitation.
Ilse and Otto Skorzeny
Although energetically promoted by Whitson, the train languished and died after a publicly funded study released in October 1984 showed that it would ultimately cost a daunting $2.5 billion. It was the downfall of another Whitson-connected enterprise. Notwithstanding, it was not a loss for the Germans, who garnered American government money to fund research on maglev technology that could be used elsewhere. In 1987 Thyssen built a monorail train using magnetic levitation in Emsden, Germany.
At the same time Whitson was working for Thyssen, he and his friend Art Linkletter conceived the idea of building a Brigadoon theme park in Scotland. The name comes from Brig o Doon, a fifteenth century bridge over River Doon in Aylshire, Scotland. The bridge appears in a poem by Robert Burns called “Tam O Shanter” over which the hero riding on horseback escapes a witch following in hot pursuit.
The Brig o Doon
In 1947 American playwright and lyricist Alan Jay Werner took a German legend about a lost village that re-appears one day every hundred years, transferred the setting to the Scottish Highlands, and wrote a Broadway musical called Brigadoon. A movie version was released in 1954 by Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer. Gene Kelly and Van Johnson play two Americans, Tommy and Jeff, who go on a hunting trip in Scotland. They get lost in the woods and find a bridge over a river, beyond which was a mysterious village that was not on their map. Tommy falls in love with a village lass named Fiona, played by Cyd Charisse. Highlights of the movie are the rousing Scottish songs and dances that the villagers perform with Tommy and Jeff.
Eventually, the two travelers find out that the village has but a single day before it will disappear for another hundred years. Before dawn the next morning, they depart from the village, which soon vanishes into the mist, like a dream in the night.
Upon their return to New York City, Jeff gets back into the swing of things, but Tommy is unable to shake his dissatisfaction with the hectic pace of city life. Longing to be with his beloved Fiona, he resolves to go back to Scotland to see if he can find the village again. Jeff agrees to go with him. At the same spot where they were before, the village chieftain miraculously reappears to welcome Tommy back. Tommy is last seen running across the bridge to reunite with Fiona. The village once more recedes into the mist, not to be seen again for another century.
The dream-like character of the story seems far removed from the modern-day world of fast-paced business endeavors, but two entrepreneurs thought the idea could work as a money-making proposition. Reeve Whitson and Art Linklater (using the Scottish spelling of his name as a public relations gimmick) went to Newtonmore, a community in Spey Valley in the Highlands of Scotland, and told residents there that they wanted to build a village as a movie set for a remake of the 1954 classic film. After finishing the movie, they would make Brigadoon Village a permanent tourist attraction.
In response to a question from Peter Heitmann, Zandra Macpherson wrote the following Facebook post:
Yes – I could write a book about those two or three years when AL and RW came to stay with us promising to build the Brigadoon Village and make us all rich – we had famous actors coming in day and night by helicopter to be interviewed for the film – singers, dancers you name it – some staying for weeks. It was totally exhausting. HIDB [Highlands and Islands Development Board] was involved too and the village to be built was going to be the backdrop for industry after the film was made. Russ Ives, who did the effects for ET, also stayed. My goodness this has brought back memories!!
After two or three years of negotiations, the Highland Regional Council approved the application of local landowner Euan Macpherson to build the village on his land at Glentrium according to an April 19, 1984 article in the Glasgow Herald, entitled “Go Ahead for a £15m Highland film set.” The original idea of a remake of Brigadoon had by that time gone by the wayside, perhaps because MGM, the studio that had the rights, declined to be involved.
Newtonmore, near the proposed site of Brigadoon Village
The next article “Brigadoon myth looks set to loom into vivid reality” appeared in the May 8, 1984 edition of the Glasgow Herald.
“Brigadoon” will be a real working village with the emphasis on “working” say the two Scots-Americans whose hand-picked Scottish partners have reached a crucial stage in their efforts to turn an old myth into a multi-million pound export achievement. Art Linklater, a TV personality turned entrepreneur, and California business man Reeve Whitson have now received official confirmation of planning permission to build on the slopes and hills of Glentruim, near Newtonmore, a village designed by Dundee University architecture professor James Paul.
The blueprints for the village in Mr. Whitson’s possession, and on public display at Highland Regional Council headquarters in Inverness, show scattered, low stone cottages with architectural echoes of the “black houses” of the Western Highlands ranged around a village square with features taken from Fife and North-East coastal villages. Without being specific as to the initial size of the settlement to be built on the 5000-acre parcel of land, the plans spread out over several tables of a Los Angeles Chinese restaurant showed: A traditional barn with facilities for dancers; a village inn with a bar and its own bakehouse; a three-bedroom manse designed as a guest house; a laird’s house with a grand hall in the manner of Scottish fortified houses of the eighteenth century; houses designated for a souter, smith, forester and beadle, among others; and a schoolhouse, parish kirk and an “illicit still” which serves as another bar.
Both men are elated by the enthusiastic response of the Highland Regional Council which unanimously granted planning permission for the village late last month. In the letter of confirmation addressed to Whitson, Highland regional planning director Richard Cameron describes the Brigadoon plan as “the most interesting, exciting project.”
“That brought the nicest music to our ears,” said Whitson, joined on Monday by Linklater in a three-way telephone conversation from Los Angeles.
Both men are anxious to be seen as only the catalysts in an essentially Scottish project. Overall the concept would appear to be that of a centre for Scottish traditional industries and Highland arts and culture with the added commercial ingredient of American marketing acumen.
Among those understood to have been recruited as consultants in Scotland in addition to Professor Paul are: Ian Dean, an Edinburgh based marketing consultant; Euan Macpherson, chieftain of the Clan Macpherson, on whose land the village will be built; Billy Forsyth, head of the World Congress of Highland Dancers and John D. Burgess, the piping phenomenon who took every accolade in the art by the time of his seventeenth birthday.
Recruited in a head-hunting style more common to Madison Avenue or Wall Street, these men and a considerable number of others who cannot yet be named, will form the background of an operation “which could be as big as you can think of” asserted Linklater.
“Scotland has a lot of pizzazz in marketing,” he says, explaining that the lively attractions of the bagpipes, dancing, and the tartan-clad Highland regiments whose tours of duty and appearances at the far-flung Highland games inspire even the Japanese to imitate them. When asked if the planning permission meant that the building of the village will now go forward, Linklater answered that “every indication is there.”
“We didn’t come this far just for a lark,” added Whitson, who will be in Scotland shortly to take up negotiations he has been having with the various companies involved with providing basic services to the site. “We are committed to building the village of Brigadoon.”
One of the consultants noted in the above article was “Billy Forsyth, head of the World Congress of Highland Dancers.” He will be discussed later in this article as the writer and director of Local Hero.
Billy Forsyth speaks to the cast of Local Hero
An article in the Glasgow Herald, July 3, 1984 said that Reeve Whitson would be arriving the next month to launch construction of Brigadoon Village. It also said:
The last Macpherson landowner in the area, Euan Macpherson of Glentrium and his lady have a full house at that time of year and big things are planned for the estate. It is there that Brigadoon is to be built, a project with costs estimated at £20m which is shortly to have its formal announcement.
The formal announcement never occurred. According to a Facebook post by Laclan Macpherson:
I remember Reeve Whitson came to Glentrium a few times, though Zandra Macpherson may have more stories about him. The film and village never did go ahead, no.
We could not find any explanation as to why the project was abruptly cancelled, nor were there any further articles on the subject in the Glasgow Herald. It was as if the project, like the legendary village itself, vanished into the mist.
Linkletter and Whitson were not the only strange characters buzzing around Spey Valley. Another was British entrepreneur and international banking magnate Alex Herbage. An enormous figure with a flamboyant style, he was best known for his spectacular appetite. Local residents were astonished to see a human conveyor belt putting into his hands an endless stream of sausage rolls, egg sandwiches, cups of tea, and soft drinks. Reportedly his weight varied between 450 and 500 pounds.
In March of 1983 Herbage bought the 6000-acre estate of Dalchully and Coul, which was located near the community of Laggan Bridge, a few miles up the road from the proposed site of Brigadoon Village. According to an article in the July 3, 1984 edition of the Glasgow Herald Herbage wanted to turn his land into a cattle ranch.
Estate workers are already building up a herd of pedigree Aberdeen-Angus cattle which are returning to vogue in Britain. There is also, he considers, a big market in the USA where farmers would love to have a 100% tartan bull. It is part of a £1.5m project to develop a working Highland estate with a visitor centre and footpaths to allow tourists to watch every operation. It will include sheep-farming, a cheese-making plant and a meat smokery.
So like Brigadoon Village, Herbage’s cattle ranch was also to become a tourist attraction. More details appeared in the September 19, 1984 edition of the Glasgow Herald.
Eighteen months ago Dalchully and Coul were sold to Mr. Herbage and his wife, Maria. More recently they have purchased Strathmashie to bring their holding to 9000 acres.
Mr. Herbage who describes himself as a political economist advising governments and multi-national companies on currency and other questions, and also as a banker, is known for his involvement in the complex business of offshore funds.
Of more pressing interest in Laggan Bridge, however, is the transformation he is working there. Flying to Inverness frequently in his private jet from his home near Southampton, or from his offices in Amsterdam or Frankfurt, he has seen employment climb to nine, with seven cottages purchased from the Forestry Commission to house new workers. He expects employment to increase to more than a dozen.
Most effort so far has gone into drainage works aimed at restoring to health 1200 acres of arable land to carry a large increase in cattle stock. Two herds, one pedigree Aberdeen Angus and the other pure Highland, have been started with a purchase of 12 cattle, one this month taking champion heifer in its breed at Perth Show.
Over 80,000 trees have been planted for shelter.
“The investment so far is £1.3m,” said Mr. Herbage, “just under half of it in stock and improvements. We will lose money again this year, but we will start to make money next year.”
The self-described political economist and banker, born in 1929, entered British banking after working with banks in Europe and America. In 1959 he started Merchant Guaranty Bank in Bournemouth. He also opened the Hampshire-based Bank of Valetta. Pretending to have ties to the Bank of Valetta in Malta (which it did not), he offered his customers the possibility of investing in “leading European and British growth stocks.” The embarrassing discovery of empty vaults led to Herbage’s resignation as chairman in February 1963. An attempt to save the bank failed, and it was eventually liquidated with an unpaid debt of 170,000 pounds. The Merchant Guaranty Bank also suffered from financial difficulties and was dissolved in February 1963 (apparently a bad month for Herbage).
In 1964 he built a recording studio, formed a music publishing company, and renovated the London Dance Institute to create a club called Beat City on Oxford Street in London, which became very popular among young people. Among the bands and musicians performing there were the Rolling Stones, the Animals, P.J. Proby, Little Eva, and Chuck Berry. The club lasted only a year before Herbage declared bankruptcy, owing 44,000 pounds.
Undaunted, he went to the Channel Island of Guernsey, where he opened a financial services business called International Commodities Corporation. When local authorities began asking questions, Herbage quickly moved to Zurich, where he hooked up with Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos and continued trading commodities. He also set up a stock exchange for mutual fund clients in Germany. Swiss police raided his offices in Zurich and shut him down, leaving debts of $75 million. Over the next four years, another seven companies he had formed went broke. These companies were located in such far-away places as Panama, the Bahamas, Andorra, Belize, and the Isle of Man. Despite police raids upon offices in Guernsey, Zurich, and Germany, criminal proceedings against Herbage did not go any further.
Amidst financial and legal difficulties, Herbage’s cattle breeding operation in Scotland continued to proceed smoothly. On December 5, 1984, he entered a fourteen-month-old crossbred steer named Thunderflash at the Royal Smithfield Show at London’s Earls Court. Judged to be “a perfect beef animal for modern needs – clean in the brisket, no waste in him, a beautiful animal,” Thunderflash easily won the championship. Unfortunately, instead of spending life impregnating cows in the Scottish Highlands, he was sold at an auction to become a very expensive Christmas dinner.
That same day, December 5, police arrested Herbage at his Sutton Manor in Hampshire on various allegations of fraud. A court injunction froze his assets, and Dutch police raided his offices in Amsterdam. On August 22, 1985 a federal grand jury in Washington, DC indicted Herbage for defrauding 3000 American investors of more than $46 million through his company Caprimex, an investment company based in the Cayman Islands. On August 29, 1987, he pled guilty to three counts of fraud at a federal court in Orlando, Florida and was sentenced to fifteen years in prison.
In at least two ways Alex Herbage was similar to Reeve Whitson – starting companies that inevitably failed and having unlimited amounts of money from unknown sources. Herbage’s banks might have come from the same mold as the Nugan Hand Bank in Australia, which used people’s deposits to fund drug running and weapons deals. After co-founder Frank Nugan was found dead in his car with a gunshot wound to his head (an apparent suicide), the bank collapsed, leaving many Australians bereft of their life savings.
Probably worried that he might suffer the same fate as Nugan, Herbage kept a security force of twenty-four ex-Marines, because “he was frightened someone from USA would come looking for his frauds,” according to a Facebook post by Ruaridh Ormiston, a resident who lived near the Dalchully and Coul Estate.
It is strange that Herbage wanted to establish a tourist attraction near Laggan Bridge and Linkletter and Whitson wanted one near Newtonmore. Spey Valley was at that time, and years prior, experiencing staggering losses in the number of tourists passing through. According to a July 3, 1984 article “Spey Valley fights to put itself back on tourist trail” by Douglas Lowe in the Glasgow Herald, a new highway between Inverness and Perth, designated as A9, had bypassed the communities of Newtonmore, Dalwhinnie, and Laggan Bridge, dramatically reducing the tourist trade. The highway was built to service the North Sea oil industries.
The Highlands and Islands Development Board, Highland Regional Council and the Scottish Tourist Board have given the area special priority. This has until March to run and there are hopes it will be extended.
There is a long way to go before the project can by any stretch of the imagination be called a success. But there is general agreement that if it had not come about, the new A9 would have spelt death.
When it went past Dalwhinnie in 1976 and Newtonmore four years later there was an immediate drop of as much as 50% in hotel bed occupancy. Shops less dependent on passing trade still noticed a fall in trade of up to 20%.
According to Lowe both the Brigadoon Village and the cattle ranch generated great interest among residents worried about their future.
Bypassed by the new A9, the residents of Newtonmore, Dalwhinnie, and Laggan have been forced into a corner, but their backs are arched and teeth bared. They are fighting for survival and other Scottish communities whose turn is next are looking on anxiously.
Hoteliers, farmers, and entrepreneurs of all sorts are buzzing around the quiet villages in a calculated effort to divert the thousands of tourists who would otherwise flash past on the new road.
They are also watching with vested curiosity the progress of two strange multi-million pound projects. One is to remake the film and build a reconstruction of the fictitious village of Brigadoon. The other is to rebreed the Aberdeen-Angus cow for export to New York and to attract tourists in the process.
If both projects were seriously meant to benefit from the tourist trade, then they probably would not have survived. Both Whitson and Herbage had been down this road before with previous failed endeavors. These projects probably were, as Whitson told his friends, cover stories concealing something else.
Occasionally Hollywood movies can provide answers to questions when other sources are silent. Although Local Hero is a fictional movie, we believe it contains the solution to the Whitson/Herbage enigma.
The movie is a romantic comedy about a picturesque town on the north coast of Scotland, where fishing and catching lobsters have been the livelihood of the folk there for many generations. Two representatives of an American oil company arrive with an offer to buy up the whole town and move the inhabitants elsewhere. The plan was to level the town and build in its place a huge petrochemical complex with an oil refinery and storage tanks. Instead of being grieved by the imminent loss of their old way of life, as one might expect from a story like this, the inhabitants are surprisingly delighted by the prospect of becoming “filthy rich.” Local Hero is full of humorous touches, making it an enjoyable movie to watch.
Peter Riegert, Burt Lancaster, and Peter Capaldi from a scene from Local Hero
Abounding in the movie are allusions to the Brigadoon story, such as the hectic pace of city life in contrast to the timeless serenity of the village; a dense mist in the night that stops the two travelers’ car from proceeding further but lifts in the morning to reveal the beautiful mountains, ocean water, and the town itself; the joyous Scottish songs and dances; and a Fiona-like woman who tempts the man from Houston to give up his ambitions of becoming a big-time executive in an oil company to live the simple life of a villager.
The connection of the above movie to the proposed remake of the 1954 version of Brigadoon was Billy Forsyth. He was the writer and director of Local Hero while at the same time serving as a consultant to Linkletter and Whitson. Local Hero was released on February 17, 1983 and negotiations for the construction of Brigadoon Village began around 1981 or 1982 with final approval given in April 1984. We believe that Local Hero has a cautionary message for the inhabitants living at that time in Spey Valley. Brigadoon Village may look like a god-send on the surface, but behind it is a globalist agenda to turn centuries-old, small communities into modernized, overcrowded, traffic-congested cities with industrial plants looming among them.
At the time Local Hero was made, Scotland was booming economically from the growth of the oil industry via the North Sea offshore drilling platforms. An article in the Montreal Star February 3, 1973 mentions the Highlands and Islands Development Board, a government agency helping people in the region adjust to the growing needs of the oil industry. It was also the same agency involved in the Brigadoon Village project.
The Highlands and Islands Development Board expects a total of 50,000 people to come and settle in the areas in the next 10 years, along with the creation of 20,000 new jobs. There will be a series of new towns, and a sharp rise in demand for restaurants, hotels, and many other services.
Linkletter, Whitson, and Herbage probably recognized a golden opportunity with land development for the oil industry. Using cover stories of a theme park and cattle ranch, they hoped to secure land acquisitions or land use rights cheaply.
Linkletter’s interest in the petroleum industry is well substantiated. For decades, Link-letter Oil Enterprises has drilled for oil and gas in Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, Canada, Alaska and all parts of the USA. In 1969 he became a board member of McMoRan Exploration Company, which during the 1970s acquired a reputation as an aggressive petroleum explorer with cost-efficient drilling programs. In 1979 the name was changed to McMoRan Oil & Gas Company. In 1981 it merged with Freeport Minerals (formerly Freeport Sulphur) to become Freeport-McMoRan of Phoenix, Arizona. (Freeport Sulphur was “a company that connects the CIA, the Rockefellers, Clay Shaw and David Phillips. The company had serious clashes with Castro over an expensive project, and with the Kennedy administration over matters of great monetary significance to Freeport. Allegations of a Canadian connection with New Orleans, and Cuban nickel mining and processing operations fit neatly into Shaw’s reported activities. And this is a company which had at least one director reportedly talking about killing Castro.” For more information, see the article “David Atlee Phillips, Clay Shaw, and Freeport Sulphur.”)
As mentioned earlier, Linkletter and Whitson were very excited to get approval to build Brigadoon Village in the spring of 1984. By the summer of 1984, something happened to cause them to abandon the project with apparently no explanation why. If our hypothesis is correct that Brigadoon Village had a secret connection to plans being formulated by the petroleum industry, then the explanation for why the project did not proceed should be looked for there.
The summer of 1984 was a critical time for the future of North Sea Oil. For one thing it was facing a worldwide collapse in prices. It was reported on August 2 that the Soviet Union had cut its Ural crude barrel oil price down $1.50 to $27.50, below North Sea’s posted price of $30. Despite assurances from British Petroleum that it would not cut its price, by October North Sea was forced to cut its price too. The prospect of future price cuts stemming from OPEC sent oil stocks tumbling on Wall Street.
Another worrisome problem was the publication of new studies regarding how much oil was in the North Sea. In September 1984, pessimistic experts were predicting oil production in the North Sea would decline steeply in two or three years. The optimistic ones hoped it would last for another decade at least. In any case the bright future previously projected for the oil industry in Scotland suddenly looked very dim.
It is therefore probable that Linkletter and Whitson foresaw these negative assessments before they were reported in the newspapers. They quietly pulled the plug on Brigadoon before they invested any more money into it.
Undeterred by the disappointment in Scotland, Art Linkletter continued to make money in various other enterprises. When he was 93 years old, he did an interview with Larry King. Despite his age he was still making money from the oil business which began 35 years before. He also told King that he had been on the board of various companies such as General Electric, Western Airlines, Kaiser Hospital, MGM/Grand Hotel, and MGM/Grand movies. Over the years, he bought and sold several million acres of ranch and agriculture land and pioneered new ways to breed sheep and cattle in Australia. He pioneered public storage facilities, office buildings, large-scale housing and resort developments. He and his partners owned additional ranches in Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, and California. His real estate developments included industrial land in Arizona and Las Vegas. In California he developed an airport at Deer Valley, multiple office buildings in San Jose, and residential property in Rancho Mirage, WestLake Village, Paradise Valley, and San Diego. He also developed condominium communities in Vail, Colorado and San Antonio, Texas.
When he died at the age of 97 in 2010, his son-in-law Art Hershey, husband of Sharon Linkletter said, “He lived a long, full, pure life, and the Lord had need for him.”
Not long after his Scotland assignment, Reeve Whitson became involved in the Iran-Contra operation. He was the supervisor in charge of a private CIA-controlled airfield at Punta Pacifica in Panama City. Cash received from the sale of narcotics smuggled into the United States would be flown to Panama and delivered to Whitson. The money would then be used to buy arms and ammunition, which were transported to Central American airstrips to help the Contras opposing the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua.
When Linkletter and Whitson terminated the Brigadoon project near Newtonmore, Herbage continued to breed his cattle near Laggan Bridge. Irrevocably committed to his project with an expenditure of 1.3 million pounds, he was therefore interested in seeing it through. He probably did not foresee that in less than a year he would be sitting in a jail cell and losing everything he had.
As predicted by the experts, North Sea oil production peaked in January 1985 and declined sharply over the next three years. Discoveries of new oil fields brought a temporary resurgence in production in the mid-1990s, but oil production peaked again in 2001. Now Nigg Bay on the north coast of Scotland is a graveyard of derelict oil rigs, that no one knows what do to with. Meanwhile, the communities of Newtonmore, Dalwhinnie, and Laggan Bridge remain as they always were, simple and unhurried, miraculously saved from the brute force of modernity – kind of like the ending of a movie.
William Weston has been researching and writing articles on conspiracies and assassinations for various periodicals and websites for the past thirty years. He has been a featured guest on Jim Fetzer’s The Real Deal and on Len Osanic’s Black Op Radio.
Peter Heitmann is an analyst and writer researching the national security state and its partnership with academia, military, and intelligence communities in pioneering breakthroughs for physical, psychological, and atmospheric sciences. His research shows that important and highly advanced scientific discoveries and resulting data are controlled by a small group of individuals and hidden sponsors. Instead of sharing these discoveries with the general public, they prefer to hide them behind official narratives that induce fear and even work against the public’s own best interests.