Who was James Henry Lunn? — Updated

Update: A reader in Malaysia claims to have known James Lunn and provides what sounds to me like a very credible explanation about who he was and how he ended up in Egypt — a tragic story:

Jim Lund was a retired truck driver from San Diego, living in Malaysia. Some years ago Jim was in a bad car wreck and suffered organic brain damage. For years he has pretended that he is an ‘undercover’ US Army general and had written his name in his passport as ‘Gen. James Lunn’. For some years he has had delusions that he would save the world. Two years ago Jim ‘invented’ a hundred-mile-long seagoing device that could transport water to dry climates. In August he left for Egypt with a small model of the device to ‘give to the Palestinians’. That was the ‘unknown electronic device’ he was carrying. A harmless nut but one who loved to be thought of as a secret agent.

A further note: The James Lunn dead in Egypt is definitely the James Lunn living in Malaysia. I read the quote from his web blog that you published and noted the reference to the arc of the covenant. That was one of his obsessions. If you read further you might find references to an asteroid that will hit the earth in 20 years. That was another of his obsessions. Egyptian Jim is Malaysian Jim is San Diego Jim the head-injured truck driver.

The Guardian reports: A US citizen has been found dead in a provincial Egyptian jail, six weeks after being arrested in Egypt’s restive north Sinai peninsula, Egyptian officials have confirmed.

James Henry Lunn, 66, is the second foreigner to die in police custody since the July overthrow of Mohamed Morsi, and one of several to have fallen foul of Egypt’s brutal and labyrinthine judicial system this summer.

Lunn was first detained on 29 August in Sheikh Zuweid, North Sinai, an area in which the Egyptian army is currently waging a controversial counter-insurgency against Islamist extremists.

Lunn aroused suspicion because he had allegedly broken curfew, and because he was carrying “a map of Egypt and a very hi-tech electronic device”, said Badr Abdellatty, a spokesman for Egypt’s foreign ministry.

Following his arrest, Lunn was taken to a jail in Ismailia, a city on the Egyptian mainland, where he had been detained without trial ever since. Thousands of Egyptians also remain detained without charge following this summer’s mass arrests of Morsi supporters.

Egyptian prosecutors said Henry was found dead in a prison bathroom on Sunday morning, and appeared to have taken his own life.

Lunn’s death will naturally provoke all kinds of speculation. Was he a spy? Was he simply a victim of the xenophobia now rampant across Egypt? Did he kill himself or was he murdered?

The only clues that might suggest possible answers to any of these questions can be found at Amazon where Lunn published three e-books. Descriptions of those books make it sound like whatever mission Lunn was on had nothing to do with any government and perhaps nothing to do with this world.

His description of Blogging with Muhammad says:

The following anthology is composed of a variety of blog comments and stories which were posted over a two year period (2008-2010) under my Islamic name Muhammad on the My Space page entitled Flying Puppet. The general thrust of these threads was to provide for myself a platform where I could give voice to the most glorious news that I have had the good fortune to receive…this being that the Ark of the Covenant of Moses existed still and was well and truly enshrined within the Kaaba in Mecca.

Along with this revelation came a sense of purpose and euphoria which would be most commonly identified as a messianic delusion. I must admit that even though this news came to me through diplomatic channels from the office of the Prime Minister of Malaysia in the scope of my duties as an intelligence officer of the United States Army, I was not really prepared to receive it and the emotional response that it provoked lays, still today, just under the surface of my demeanor. Indeed, I tremble at the magnitude of this disclosure. Who am I to manhandle the cross of Jesus Christ, for heaven’s sake?

In the intervening years I have tried to pass the burden of this knowledge off to others better placed to reveal it…those more educated and better trained and with greater credibility than me, to no avail.

I am left, after many attempts and with the most profound apologies for my many shortcomings, with the following mismatched jumble of attempts to keep a grasp on reality with one hand as the other reached for the stars:

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Comments

  1. Jim Lund was a retired truck driver from San Diego, living in Malaysia. Some years ago Jim was in a bad car wreck and suffered organic brain damage. For years he has pretended that he is an ‘undercover’ US Army general and had written his name in his passport as ‘Gen. James Lunn’. For some years he has had delusions that he would save the world. Two years ago Jim ‘invented’ a hundred-mile-long seagoing device that could transport water to dry climates. In August he left for Egypt with a small model of the device to ‘give to the Palestinians’. That was the ‘unknown electronic device’ he was carrying. A harmless nut but one who loved to be thought of as a secret agent.

  2. A further note: The James Lunn dead in Egypt is definitely the James Lunn living in Malaysia. I read the quote from his web blog that you published and noted the reference to the arc of the covenant. That was one of his obsessions. If you read further you might find references to an asteroid that will hit the earth in 20 years. That was another of his obsessions. Egyptian Jim is Malaysian Jim is San Diego Jim the head-injured truck driver.

  3. norbert Svatos says:

    To whom it may concern. I have known Jim for many years. When he was living in Malaysia. He was working for many years an a floating device to transport water from areas with a abundant water supply to areas where water was in short supply. For some unknown reason he wanted to present it to the Palestinian people as a gift. He flew to Bangkok to meat with Palestinian representatives before he went to Egypt. He was a very nice person maybe a little bit strange in his thoughts but never the less harmless. If it was suicide it is very strange because he sailed with his daughter from San Diego to Mauritius and must have experienced difficult situations without committing suicide. In his last E-mail he told me about how he was picked up by the tourist Department at Cairo airport and put up in a nice hotel and driven around so no harm would come to him. He wanted to go to Gaza to hand over the floatation device to who ever was in charge at the time. He was a harmless dreamer may he rest in peace Norbert Svatos

  4. I too knew Jim Lunn. We first met in Penang, Malaysia where he had visited many times and for the last few years had been living. After getting to know Jim, I considered him delusional (insane) but able to function well in society nevertheless. As Norbert said above, Jim had messianic delusions and an obsession with middle-eastern peace, the abrahamic religions, and the ark of the covenant being in the Kaaba in Mecca. He believed he was called to reveal this to the world. There are other stories of him showing up at various middle-eastern embassies as a retired army general only to be politely shown the door. And yes, he told me several times that he had modified his passport to say he was a retired general. He claims to have even sent his passport to the Vatican with some sort of note to the Pope. I too saw his sketches for this fresh-water moving machine which he claimed would be the solution for the water problems of the palestinian refugees.

    I think it is entirely possible that Jim committed suicide. I could see that he really struggled with trying to understand his condition and what reality really was. I never thought it would end well for Jim.

    But I liked Jim very much. He had a depth and breadth of knowledge that was impressive. RIP Jim.

  5. “Picked up by the tourist department and driven around” is certainly to count as part of his delusions and megalomania. This would never happen in Egypt. They are far too messy.

  6. For anyone who wants to see James Henry (Jim) Lunn in one of his wierder moments you can watch a youtube video he posted a couple of years ago while living in Penang. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2DoeEdBIJk He went by the moniker “thelowercastemessiah”.

  7. Sayed Bakri says:

    Ayman, Cairo International Airport arrival hall is full of guys who claim that they are with the official tourism department and tell unsuspecting tourists that their job is to help them get a hotel room and arrange for a driver. They make, of course, a percentage on the hotel, driver and all the shops where the poor tourist is driven.

  8. Sayed Bakri. Absolutely right. That happened to me upon arrival at Cairo in year 2000. In fact, Cairo is absolutely full of tourist scams and rip-offs of all sorts. The worst city in the world for that sort of thing, in my opinion. It is quite possible, I might even say probable, that Jim fell for one of these scams.

  9. Poor Jim, sad story….
    RIP Jim

  10. Would anyone who knew Jim Lunn — including those who have left comments above — please contact me using the contact form: http://warincontext.org/contact/

  11. Penang Tosser says:

    A wise man once said, “I don’t give a damn about a man’s religion, as long as he can throw a frisbee!” Jim was a sailor who’d captained his own boat safely around the globe, an amateur radio operator and inventor, a guitar player and guitar maker, the proud father of a beautiful daughter. And he could throw a frisbee with the best. Sail on, Abang Muhammad!