Tuesday, August 9, 2011


                                  - Donna DiPietro

I have been hesitant to make this case public and have given my decision very careful consideration. I know that once I post this chapter to my blog, there is no turning back. I am not and never was an official part of the investigation but I know that I have given investigators information that has been helpful. I feel that I have a responsibility to make available to the public this important chapter in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s history. This information could have sat in a file cabinet for years, the paper disintegrating over time, becoming only a story handed down from generation to generation with facts twisted and lost along the way. I could not let that happen.

In May 2008, I was contacted by a well known Boston radio talk show host who knew someone involved in the Gardner Museum heist investigation. He heard about me through others and called me ‘The Real Deal’ and asked if I would be interested in going to the museum for a tour and to see if I sensed anything. On Sunday afternoon, August 10, 2008, the radio host, his wife, my husband and I, and another couple, went to the museum. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were met at the door by an investigator and given a grand tour of the museum. The investigator did not believe in psychics and to him this was not considered anything but a visit.

There were many visitors at the museum that day and our group fit in as regular art lovers. I do not think anyone in our group knew what to expect from me and even I did not know what would happen. I brought a steno pad and pencil with me, as I had read on the museum’s website that pens were not allowed inside, the reason being that ink may accidently touch a valuable art object or the antique wallpaper. I planned to write down anything that I sensed. We were in the short gallery and I came up with the name ‘Richard’ and the expression ‘Smart Alleck’. The investigator was talking with the radio host and I interrupted them and asked if ‘Richard’ and ‘Smart Alleck’ meant anything. I was then told that one of the security guards on duty the night of the robbery was named ‘Richard’ and he was known as a ‘Smart Alleck’ in the police report. I then asked if a small piece of paper had fallen off the back of one of the stolen pieces during the robbery and I pointed to an area on the floor where I envisioned it to be. The investigator confirmed that a label had fallen off the back of one of the stolen pieces and was found on the floor in the area I pointed to. I then told him that one of the robbers said something that a British person would say – such as ‘cheerio’. He said that one of the robbers called the other one ‘Mate’. I asked how he knew that and if the robbers were recorded. He would not answer my question and said he had his way of knowing. I found the answer to my question in Ulrich Boser’s book 'The Gardner Heist’  that came out six months later in February 2009. One of the guards supposedly heard a robber call the other one ‘Mate’. The radio host asked me about the condition of the stolen art. I told him that one of the paintings has a split in it. He said that one of the paintings is on wood and it does have a split in it.

We went to the main entrance of the inside garden and I was standing next to the lion statue located on the right. At that moment, I felt Mrs. Gardner rush over to me and she held my right arm and asked me to get ‘Ellen’ (or a name that sounds similar). I asked the investigator who Ellen, or someone with a similar sounding name, was and he did not know. I envisioned Mrs. Gardner wearing  a long dark blue satin dress with a matching short jacket with long sleeves. The ends of the sleeves were loose and hung from her arms. There were two dark blue satin roses on the front of the jacket where buttons would be.  She wore matching dark blue satin slippers with a large blue satin rose on top of each. She was showing me the Blue Room entry and told me that she was standing there when the robbers went in and stole one of her paintings. She said that an alarm should have sounded but it did not. I found out later that there was an alarm over the Blue Room entry that the robbers disengaged. (An oil on canvas, ‘Chez Tortoni’ by Manet, was stolen from the Blue Room.)

On my next visit to the Gardner, Thursday, October 9, 2008, I again met the investigator and a ‘legitimate source’ who asked me about my visit in August. I told this source about the experience I had while standing next to the lion statue on August 10th - how Mrs. Gardner grabbed my right arm and pleaded with me to get ‘Ellen’ or a similar sounding name. The source said that was very interesting. I did not know how interesting until about an hour later when we visited the carriage house. The carriage house was torn down in July 2009 to make room for the museum’s new addition. The museum had to go to the Supreme Court to get permission to tear it down and finally won approval. We went into the carriage house but we could not go to the second floor apartment because an artist-in-residence was up there at the time of our visit. The ‘legitimate source’ then told us about the apartment. Over an eight month period there were five artists who lived there at different times and all of them experienced paranormal activity. The room and furniture, and even the bedding and curtains, would get electrified and unusual things would occur. One female artist had the same experience that I had. Each evening, when she retired for the night, a woman would hold her arm and plead with her to get ‘Ellen’. I asked the ‘legitimate source’ who ‘Ellen’ was and the source said ‘Ella’ was Mrs. Gardner’s personal maid and whenever Mrs. Gardner wanted something she would say “Get Ella.” I was told that Mrs. Gardner’s bedroom furniture was upstairs in the apartment and it was where the artist slept. The artist thought the woman said ‘Ellen’ whereas I thought the name was either ‘Ellen’ or a name that sounds like Ellen.

The ‘legitimate source’ told me, and the group I was with, that she was in the museum one evening and saw a full body apparition of Mrs. Gardner. This person was working upstairs alone in an archive room, sitting on the floor, facing the doorway that looks out onto a hall that has some file cabinets and a fax machine.  She saw something move in front of her, inside the room, looked up and saw Mrs. Gardner standing about ten feet away. She was wearing a long dark dress, remained a few seconds, then disappeared.

I also learned of the strange occurrence that happened on Mrs. Gardner’s birthday, April 14, 2008. The bust of a nun sits on the top of a cabinet that is in the Gothic Room. This is the same room where the life size painting of Mrs. Gardner, by John Singer Sargent, is on display. The nun is always facing the side of the room as Mrs. Gardner requested. When the guard checked the room on his rounds early the next morning, he noticed the bust was facing the center of the room. The top of the cabinet was scratched where the bust of the nun had moved, seemingly on its own. The museum has the most sophisticated surveillance cameras but for some reason the bust was not seen revolving.

On my October 9, 2008 visit, I was showing the five people I was with the bust of the nun that moved. We were standing in front of the cabinet and I started asking questions aloud, such as “Is someone here that would like to communicate?” Suddenly, a code-like metallic tapping sound came from inside the closed cabinet. Each of my questions was answered by this tapping sound. I asked the investigator if I could open the cabinet and he said “No.” At that moment, the code-like tapping sound came out of the cabinet and settled on the large candelabra that was standing in front of the cabinet. Again, with each question that I asked, I would get a response. The investigator walked around the area of the cabinet to see if he could make the same code-like sound but it could not be duplicated. We were looking for an explanation and thought the sound may have been caused by vibrations from traffic. We looked out the window and there was very little traffic and we were all standing still when the sound came from the cabinet and the candelabra. I was quite surprised when I visited the museum in September 2009 and saw a large square object sitting on the floor next to the cabinet. It had the words ‘Vibration Detector’ on the top.

On Sunday, April 4, 2010, I saw in the news that Robert Wittman, a retired FBI agent who worked on the Gardner Museum case, had written a soon to be released book, ‘Priceless’. The name ‘Robert Wittman, FBI’ sounded familiar - that is because it was among the notes that I wrote down in pencil on the steno pad that I had with me on my August 10, 2008 visit to the Gardner Museum. On one line is the name ‘Robert’. On the next line under ‘Robert’ is ‘Whitcomb last name W’ (The author’s name is ‘Wittman’). On the next line I wrote ‘FBI’.  I e-mailed the notes that I wrote on my steno pad to the investigator and the radio talk show host after I arrived home the evening of August 10, 2008. The notes were also e-mailed to another investigator who accompanied me on my October 9, 2008 investigation. A short time later, I scanned the original steno pages and e-mailed them to these people. I have kept records of not only these e-mails but all of the other e-mails that were exchanged between these parties and myself in relation to the Gardner Museum case. My decision to release to the public my information is difficult because it is of a psychic nature, against the norm, and my involvement, apparently, was to be kept secret. No one, including me, realized what I was getting myself into, what intriguing things I would find out, and how accurate I would be.  I am not a professional psychic and I have never accepted payment for helping people.  In the last few years, others have published books about their own investigations of the Gardner Museum heist, and I feel that I have an obligation to do the same. 

Recently, there have been news reports of investigators digging up the Connecticut property of mobster Robert Gentile. When I was at the museum on August 10, 2008, among the things I wrote on the steno pad were ‘Robert, small crimes, Connecticut’. Mary Callahan, Mary’s house, grandmother or mother, Mary’s Place. Two of guys have the same uncle, Maine’.  Investigators also searched the Maine property of another mobster. His widow told investigators that after the robbery, Robert Gentile supposedly gave her husband one of the stolen paintings to hide.  She said the painting was rolled up and in a cylinder, that she had seen it when it was taken out and unfurled, but she does not remember the details of what it looked like. Also, among the things I wrote on the steno pad is that in 2009 they will start to find information that will lead to the stolen art.  I believe that some of the art will be found, the others will remain missing.

During my first investigation on August 10, 2008, the radio host asked me if Whitey Bulger would ever be found. I said that he would be found in three years, living near the water, and that he had a heart condition and needed access to a health facility to obtain medicine. He said that Whitey was 78 at the time and would be 81 when found, if my prediction came true. James ‘Whitey’ Bulger was captured on June 23, 2011 in Santa Monica, California at the age of 81 and it was made public that he had occasionally travelled to Mexico to obtain heart medicine. 

Every so often, the media releases news that continuously verifies my predictions. My hope is that by making this information public, it will help in the return of Mrs. Gardner’s stolen treasures. There is much more to the Gardner Museum besides ‘The Biggest Art Heist in History’.

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