Joe Dec Was a Devoted Brother Despite Adversity

Clinton Street resident Joe Dec, who died on December 1, was loved by the people  in his co-op and on his street.   With no living family members left to make sure that his final wish to be buried with his mother and brother be carried out, his neighbors took on the responsibility.    In a time where bad news and polemics rule the news cycle, this story of a community coming together  is particularly uplifting.

What many of his Brooklyn Heights friends may not know is that Mr. Dec’s life presented him with challenges that few of us are forced to deal with. And because of this, Mr. Dec is also being mourned by a different group of people – the devotees of his late brother.

Francis E. Dec, Esq., who died in 1996,  has been a “cult hero” for decades.  There are websites dedicated to him and his Wikipedia entry rivals that of some significant historical figures:

Wikipedia: Francis E. Dec (January 6, 1926 – January 21, 1996) was a U.S. lawyer from Hempstead Village, New Yorkdisbarred for fraud in 1959, and later known for the bizarre socio-political tracts of conspiracy theories he mass-mailed to the media. Often denouncing a “Worldwide Mad Deadly Communist Gangster Computer God”[1] mind-controlling mankind, Dec is considered to have been a paranoid schizophrenic of the influencing-machine delusion kind, and is often referred to as a “kook“.[2][3][4][5][6][7]

Not unlike Ed Wood, Dec later became a cult figure referenced in underground culture. He was the subject of a 1994 book chapter, a 1998 comics, and a 1999 stage play; he also made his way into the folklores of the Discordians and the Church of the SubGenius. His rants have been reprinted in a 1983 issue of Robert Crumb‘s magazine Weirdo and circulated since 1986 from recordings by KROQ-FM host Doc Britton; they have been sampled in 1991 and 2004 by Psychic TV, in 2004 byVenetian Snares, and inspired a Coldcut album in 2005; they have been archived as outsider art by UbuWeb and WFMU; they spawned a fanclub and website; they have also been used as a gauge in 1994 for “kook typography” and in 1998 for the entropy of the undeciphered Voynich manuscript.

After Francis’ death, one obsessed fan traveled to his home on Long Island.  There, he claims to have had a conversation with Joe about his brother. He said  he was aware that Francis was “some sort of celebrity” and that he was constantly being contacted by his  fans looking to find him.   He also knew that recordings of Dec’s rants had gone “worldwide”.  (Note: These recordings were mostly done by radio dj Doc Britton from Mr. Dec’s writings.)  The fan also mentions that he wanted to acquire artifacts or papers Francis may have left behind.  Joe claimed to have burned them all after his brother’s death.

It is believed  that Francis was a paranoid schizophrenic.  While “fans” find his rants to be hilarious, delusional and mostly ridiculous, it’s clear that this was a man in crisis who must have caused great duress for his family.  In fact, no one was off limits when it came to Francis’ fury, not even Joe who he called a  “deadly felon-murderer and secret-assassin spy-agent against [me] for the Gangster Government.”

Joe  reportedly told the “fan” that he visited his brother practically every day  as he lay dying in a VA hospital  in 1996.  It’s a testament to the man’s character and to his compassion  that he remained dedicated to Francis despite the name calling and wild accusations.  Remember both men were of a generation that was only beginning to understand this illness.

In light of that, it’s no wonder then that  Joe’s friends have rallied this month  to help him find peace.

But do the “fans” who have elevated Francis to some strange demigod status understand the reality of how difficult life must have been for Joe and his family?


On the message boards of the Official Francis E. Dec fanclub one user who read the posts about Joe on BHB commented, “Amazing.  If Joseph was somewhat cordial enough to go out with his little dog and socialize it casts new light on his true nature vis a vis the rants.”

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  • Anne

    Thanks for the kind articles on the passing of Joe Dec. I am one of the “fans” of Francis E Dec, but I am quite respectful of Francis’s illness, as my late uncle suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. So glad Joe Dec had such devoted friends and neighbors.

  • zer0

    Dear Mr. Fink,

    Thank you for your articles and the insight they display into Joseph I. Dec as a person. Having so far only heard the extremely slanted and biased descriptions of him as presented by Francis E. Dec, it is extremely refreshing to be able to glean some insight into Joseph’s true personality at long last. As founder of the Francis E. Dec Fanclub, I can assure you that I put no stock in Francis’ descriptions of Joseph, as cited by you in your post, and that I, ever since having read a letter sent by Joseph to the “fan” mentioned by you in your post (see:, have long suspected him of being a man of markedly different character than the schizophrenia-inspired caricature presented in Francis’ “rants”.

    I can further assure you that I fully understand how difficult Francis’ illness must have made life for his brother, especially considering the incredible stigma that having a mentally ill family member must have carried with it during Joseph’s youth and adulthood. I am glad that this attitude has begun to change in latter years so that it is no longer off-limits to publicly talk about mental illness, even if it is exhibited by your close family members or loved ones.

    Thank you very much for your enlightening series of articles. Having a personal interest in the life and times of the Dec family, I find the insight into Joseph I. Dec as presented through your articles to be highly interesting. I also find it touching that such compassion and kindness exists among neighbors even to this day, in which – as so accurately pointed out by you – bad news are often reported on with an alarming frequency.

    With condoleances,

    //Peter “zer0″ Branting,
    The Official Francis E. Dec Fanclub

  • Ted T.

    It should be noted that many fans or Francis, myself included, are absolutely aware of the serious nature of the illness that he seemingly suffered from. While we have speculated on the various themes regarding his ravings and have found them to be amusing in some ways it does not take away from the very real fact that we are aware of what a mess this had caused him in his life and the impact it must have had on his family. We speculate on many things regarding the rants, even the wild and surreal. One should not take it as a given that if we conjecture what might have happened that would cause Francis to view his brother in such a negative light that we place any validity in the statements that Francis made. Our efforts have always been aimed at uncovering the history and the background of a cult legend. All of this is done with nothing but respect for history and for truth. With little historical material available we are left to speculate. I can say with certainty that no one involved in Francis Dec research has or had any ill will towards Joseph, despite any speculations made. I for one will say quite plainly that I am sorry to hear that Joseph has passed away, and I have nothing but warm regards for all of his friends that stood by him and stepped up to help out after his tragic death.

  • Claude Scales

    Why would anyone be a “fan” of Francis Dec? From what I’ve read, and heard from a recoding of one of his rants that included repeated uses of racial epithets along with paranoid notions, the man was worthy of compassion for his illness, but not admiration.