The year 2020 will be remembered for many things yet our main escapism has been the pop culture phenomenon ‘Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness’. For the few people who still haven’t seen the 8-part Netflix docu-series; here is a quick summary for you – there is a failed murder-for-hire plot, big cat breeding, three-way marriage, suicide, people losing limbs, skeletons in a sports car, hidden microphones, arson, guns, a cult, and one missing husband.
Now, there will be a follow-up series coming from Investigation Discovery titled ‘Investigating the Strange World of Joe Exotic’. In a press release, ID revealed, “The exclusive footage that has never been shown and the search to answer the one question every person in America is asking themselves right now: although she’s denied it, is Carole Baskin responsible for the disappearance of her husband, Don Lewis?”
Let’s hope the sequel will answer these following burning questions…
6. Is Jeff Lowe Really Carole’s Husband?
One of the most recent Tiger King conspiracy theories is that Jeff Lowe is really Big Cat Rescue owner Carole Baskin’s first husband, Michael Murdock. To unravel this theory we’re going to have to rewind on Carole’s personal history.
In 1980, when Carole was 19-years-old, she fled from Michael with their daughter, Jamie, as he had become physically abusive. In 1991, she married her second husband, Don Lewis, who she helped grow a fortune through buying and selling real estate yet he was regularly traveling to Costa Rica to engage in extra-marital affairs.
In 1997, Don filed a restraining order against Carole claiming she threatened to kill him but this was rejected. Don has been missing since the year he filed the restraining order and was legally declared dead in 2002. Carole married her third husband Howard in 2004. Fast forward 18 years later and ‘Carole Baskin killed her husband’ conspiracy theories were born.
One fan of the series posted on Facebook: “Jeff is Carole’s abusive first husband who she paid off to go take Joe down. She rented a mansion and that cat to draw him in. Jeff (and James Garretson) even admit they directed Joe to kill Carole. When Joe didn’t do it, they needed him to pay, he didn’t. So Jeff sent his friend and he ‘chickened out’ on purpose.”
Then, the internet went wild and posted a lot of side-by-side photos comparing Joe to Michael. To add further fuel to the fire, Joe also has a past conviction for assaulting an ex-wife. However, this theory doesn’t work as Michael would be 81 today and Joe is much younger at 67.
5. What Really Happened To Travis?
Another moment that shocked viewers was that Joe Exotic, real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage, married Dillon Passage just two months after his husband, 23-year-old Travis Maldonado, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Joe married John Finlay and Travis Maldonado at a joint ceremony in 2014. Travis was a heterosexual who had regular sex with multiple women on the grounds of Joe’s Greater Wynnewood Exotic National Park.
On October 6th, 2017, Travis died in an accident involving a .45 caliber handgun. He claimed that the gun wouldn’t fire without a magazine attached, despite the gun’s chamber containing an active bullet. Many members of staff at the zoo were known to carry firearms but people are still asking for another inquest into the death which was witnessed by Joe’s campaign manager.
Only nine months into his second marriage to Dillon, Joe was arrested and sentenced to 22 years behind bars for murder to hire and animal abuse charges. Dillon disagreed with Netflix showing security camera footage of the moment Travis died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Dillon said, “I feel like some things shouldn’t have been shown in the docuseries, like Travis’ accident in the office. I feel like that was very personal to Joe and that it was used for an emotional purpose and to get people more drawn in to the show.” He also revealed that his husband doesn’t know the footage was shown.
4. How Was Doc Antle Also Not Arrested?
Doc Antle was accused of animal abuse but he was never charged. Now, since the series has ended, people want to know what Doc is up to and if he is still running the Myrtle Beach Safari, aka T.I.G.E.R.S or the Institute for Greater Endangered and Rare Species.
Doc’s real name is Mahamayavi Bhagavan Antle but he changed his name and made all the women working for him call him “Baghavan”; his son Kody claimed it meant “master of the universe.”
In December 2019, Doc’s safari was raided by South Carolina authorities to investigate accusations of animal abuse including euthanizing cubs or selling them to the circus.
Though Doc claims there is no abuse, PETA said in a statement on their website: “(Doc) is a key player in the exploitative tiger cub–petting industry, which churns out baby tigers in order to have a constant inventory of infants people pay to hold and get photos with. Tiger cubs are torn away from their mothers when they’re just days old in order to acclimate them to such handling. In the wild, they’d stay with their protective and nurturing mothers for two years.”
PETA added, “Once the cubs grow too large and dangerous for the public to handle – which they do quickly – their exhibitors often unload them. In this case, the cubs, now named Jade and Amara, face a lifetime of cramped cages, whips, constant travel, and frustration in the circus.”
Despite the accusations of abuse, Doc’s park is still currently open.
3. Did Jeff Set Up Joe?
Jeff Lowe had previously denied all claims that he set up Joe yet he has since appeared to boast that did have an involvement in the incarceration. Jeff – who has a previous conviction for mail fraud – purchased and re-opened Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in 2016, shortly before Joe attempted to hire a hitman to kill Carole.
In a bonus episode titled ‘The Tiger King and I’, Jeff said, “Joe’s where he belongs and I would probably just tell him, you know, ‘Gotcha.'” Adding, “The USDA tried to take him down. PETA has tried to take him down. Humane Society tried to take (Joe down) – Carole Baskin spent $2.5 million trying to take him down. And we’re the ones who did it.”
Jeff, alongside his wife Lauren Lowe, has not committed to the sequel although their names will no doubt be part of the Tiger King conversation for quite some time.
2. Has Big Cat Rescue Lost Donations?
In 2013, the documentary ‘Blackfish’ detailed the consequences of keeping orcas in captivity. The main focus was on Tilikum, a captive orca involved in the deaths of three people and also how SeaWorld’s orcas have a considerably shorter lifespan than those in the wild. The following year, SeaWorld announced stock prices dropped by 33% and that profits had fallen 28%.
Big Cat Rescue is still open and operating. In a lengthy post on their website, they write about how they were misrepresented by Netflix and led to believe the documentary would focus on illegal big cat breeding.
The blog post also details the “idiotic” claims that Carole exploits her volunteer workers and that she is just as guilty of exploiting animals as her rivals. They write: “All sanctuary income, whether it is from tours, donations, or a gift shop, stays in the nonprofit to support its mission. Carole gets none of that money, just her salary like the other employees. In the first 11 years of the sanctuary, she was the largest donor each year.” Adding, “Joe never had volunteers because of the horrible way he treated people.”
1. Did Carole Really Kill Her Husband And Feed Him To Tigers?
If there is going to be a Tiger King sequel then there is one question that is unavoidable – did Carole really kill her husband and feel him to tigers?
In an interview with Tampa Bay Times, Carole and her current husband Howard said they felt a real betrayal over how they were portrayed in the documentary. She said the scrutiny following the release of ‘Tiger King’ has been intense; people film her when she walks down the street, drones fly over her house and the security cameras at her home capture at least 30 people a day standing outside her house.
Also, a number of people somehow managed to find out Carole’s phone number and she received numerous abusive phone calls.
Carole became a pop culture icon after the internet went crazy with theories that she killed her husband, covered him in sardine oil, fed him to a tiger and put his remains through a meat grinder. Don has not been seen alive since 1997.
In the documentary, Carole mentions that she believes Don was suffering from Alzheimers. In a blog post on her website, she writes, “In the few years preceding his disappearance Don’s behavior was gradually showing signs of mental deterioration. His behavior became increasingly strange. He started refusing to use the bathroom and defecating outside. He brought in a homeless man to stay in our house. I rescheduled an appointment for him to see the specialist Dr. Gold. But he disappeared before the appointment date.”
We don’t know what the real truth is but we do know that the Tiger King story is not over yet.