What happened to ‘The Octopus Murders’ subject Danny Casolaro?
(Credits: Netflix)

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What happened to 'The Octopus Murders' subject Danny Casolaro?

The hit new Netflix docuseries American Conspiracy: The Octopus Murders delves into the life of Danny Casolaro, the investigative journalist whose 1991 death in a hotel room was ruled a suicide, much to the fury of those close to him, who maintain he was murdered due to the nature of his work. 

The four-part documentary was released on February 28th and delves into Casolaro’s investigation into an alleged government conspiracy after “new details emerge” about his death.

What happened to Danny Casolaro?

Danny Casolaro was born in McLean, Virginia, in 1947. A writer and author, his story became the stuff of legend after he was found dead on August 10th, 1991, aged 44, with multiple slashes to his wrists in a bathtub in the Sheraton Hotel in Martinsburg, West Virginia. The medical examiner ruled his death a suicide. Due to his well-known squeamishness of blood, his family maintained he would not have committed suicide this way.

The story soon spread, as his notes suggested he was in Martinsburg to meet a source about a story called The Octopus. This report centred on an extensive conspiracy involving an international plot, featuring several stories journalists working in Washington, D.C. in the 1980s were familiar with in the 1980s. 

What do Danny Casolaro’s friends and family say?

“He had been researching this thing for a long time and was very excited about the information he was finally getting,” said Casolaro’s friend Benjamin Mason, the last person to see him alive. He told The Washington Post in 1991: “He was in good spirits and very excited about the source he was going to see in West Virginia.”

Casolaro’s family contend he was murdered, with him allegedly telling his brother he had received threatening phone calls late at night. He is also said to have told his brother before he went to Martinsburg that it wouldn’t be an accident if something were to happen to him. 

What is ‘The Octopus’?

When Casolaro was working for the computer software trade publication Computer Age, he was alerted by a colleague about a developing story concerning a dispute between Bill Hamilton, the founder of D.C.-based tech information company INSLAW, and the Department of Justice. 

After meeting with Hamilton, Casolaro started digging deeper, leading him to powerful elites connected to the Reagan administration. He supposedly realised that something more significant might have been going on, as journalist Christian Hansen explains in the Netflix documentary. 

Casolaro then started to make discoveries that he believed were linked, involving money laundering, drug trafficking and the Iran hostage crisis. He would come to connect the dots, dubbing it ‘The Octopus’, and paired the tentacles with a former government official, whom he felt was responsible for the discoveries. 

Watch the trailer for the American Conspiracy: The Octopus Murders below.