Allen Dulles’s wife, Clover, and his wartime mistress, Mary Bancroft, were both patients of Carl Jung. Mary began treatment with the man who was the second pillar of modern psychology in the 1930s, after moving to Zurich with her new husband, a Swiss banker. Clover entered analysis with Jung after reuniting with Allen in Switzerland in the final months of the war. The extroverted Mary got an electric charge from her connection to the great man, intellectually sparring with him, swapping gossip, and, although he was nearly three decades older, openly flirting with him. Clover, whom Jung quickly sized up as a classic introvert—sensitive, reticent, dreamy—had a more troubled reaction to him, and she terminated their relationship after a few sessions in favor of one of his disciples, a brilliant Jewish female analyst named Jolande Jacobi, who had fled the Nazi invasion of Vienna. After twenty-five years of marriage to Allen Dulles, Clover had had her fill of domineering men. Jung clearly was much more in touch with his female “anima” than her husband. But, still, the imposing figure struck her as “arrogant” and made her feel small in his presence. With his gray mustache, rimless spectacles, and ever-present pipe, Jung even bore some resemblance to her husband.
Despite their striking personality differences—and their awkward romantic triangle—Clover and Mary developed a unique friendship that would last the rest of their lives. With her keen intuition, Clover sized up the situation soon after arriving in Bern in January 1945. Finding herself alone with Mary one day, she reportedly told her rival, “I want you to know I can see how much you and Allen care for each other—and I approve.” This story gives Clover an authority over Allen’s amorous adventures that, in reality, she sorely lacked. In truth, no woman in Dulles’s life enjoyed this type of leverage over him. Even Mary Bancroft—who was allowed to participate in some of his secret life as his wartime courier, translator, confidante, and bedmate—would struggle for years to decipher her relationship with Dulles, which she called “the most complex and overwhelming” connection of her life.
Clover and Mary were bound by their mutual fascination and bewilderment with Dulles. But the two women’s joint effort to understand the puzzle that was Allen Dulles was a doomed enterprise. On the surface he was full of a charm and gaiety that promised entry into a world of fascinating dignitaries and dazzling conversation. His air of mystery only seemed to add to his allure. But as the women in his life sought more from him, Dulles only revealed a deeper and deeper emotional impenetrability. Even in the life-and-death throes of wartime espionage, Dulles seemed untouched by the intense human drama swirling around him. Mary would always remember “those cold, blue eyes of his” and “that rather peculiar, mirthless laugh.”
In her effort to find out more about the man at the emotional center of her life, Mary sought enlightenment from the great Jung. She made her way down the long, tree-lined path to his home on Lake Zurich, above whose elaborate stone portal was etched in Latin: Vocatus atque non vocatus deus aderit (“Called or uncalled, God will be present”). Jung was alive to the potential of the supernatural. He believed in demons and angels. The inscription reminded Jung, who said he always felt “unsafe,” that he was “in the presence of superior possibilities.”
Jung enjoyed discussing men of power and action like Dulles. Analyzing the dictators of his era who held the fate of Europe in their hands, he had developed various power “archetypes.” Jung deemed Hitler a “medicine man” who ruled more through magic than political power. Whereas Mussolini projected the brute strength of a tribal chief, Hitler seemed to lack not just physical potency but basic human qualities. His power came from his uncanny “mystical” ability to tap into the German people’s deeply troubled unconscious.
Before the war, standing near the two leaders at a Berlin military parade, Jung once had the occasion to observe Hitler and Mussolini together. Jung recalled the revealing experience for an interviewer in October 1938. While Mussolini greeted the goose-stepping troops and trotting cavalry horses “with the zest of a small boy at the circus,” Hitler showed no emotion. He appeared to Jung like “a mask, like a robot, or a mask of a robot. . . . He seemed as if he might be the double of a real person, and that Hitler the man might perhaps be hiding inside like an appendix, and deliberately so hiding in order not to disturb the mechanism.
“What an amazing difference there is between Hitler and Mussolini!” Jung exclaimed. “I couldn’t help liking Mussolini. . . . You have the homely feeling with Mussolini of being with a human being. With Hitler, you are scared.”
Jung’s portrait of Hitler is as chilling a picture of psychopathology as you will find. Dulles was fascinated by his insights into the German leader, and he urged Mary to keep seeking more such wisdom from Jung.
The esteemed psychoanalyst was happy to oblige. The two most powerful men in Mary Bancroft’s life were intrigued with each other, though they had little direct communication. Jung had a hard time figuring out Dulles. He did not fit neatly into the Jungian system of power archetypes. One could see in Dulles the same disturbing mix of magnetism and ruthlessness that Jung observed in the dictators of his day. But there was also an impenetrable blankness that made him hard to read. Jung warned Mary that her lover was “quite a tough nut.”
Dulles, for his part, approved of his wife and mistress’s submitting to Jung’s treatment. He told Mary that he realized analysis could be “useful” for others, but he was convinced that he himself had no need for it.
Throughout his life, Dulles was drawn to creative, intelligent, neurotic women like Clover and Mary—women who were under constant siege from their unconscious, as Joan Dulles described her mother’s emotional plight. For a man as emotionally numb as Dulles, women like this were his essential link to the rest of humanity. They translated human feeling for him. They were, in short, “useful”—that favorite word of his. It was a word, recalled Mary, which “was constantly on his lips.” If Dulles could use a person, that person was somehow real for him. If not, that person didn’t exist.
Allen Dulles first laid eyes on Martha Clover Todd in the summer of 1920 at a party of fashionable young people at a lakeside resort near the Dulles family home in upstate New York. Before the week was out, he had proposed to her. She later spoke of her blitzkrieg courtship and marriage to Dulles with a sense of wonder. She couldn’t quite explain why she had agreed to marry the headstrong young man. “I married Allen,” she told a curious nephew years later, “because he was attractive, and doing interesting things.” This commonplace observation was the best she could offer. Clover had other suitors at the time, including a perfectly acceptable young doctor who was particularly eager to win her. That courtship became entangled in her indecision. But Allen Dulles gave her no room to ruminate or reconsider. He had made the decision for both of them—she was the girl for him.
At twenty-six, Clover was a year younger than Dulles, and she radiated an ethereal beauty that set her apart from the other debutantes in her social set. She had sensuous lips and wide-set, almond-shaped green eyes that seemed to hint of deep sadness. She spoke in a breathy voice that made men lean closer to her. In photographs of Clover at the time, she always seemed to be looking away from the camera, as if her thoughts were somewhere else and too melancholy to be shared. She had an air of fragile mystery that undoubtedly appealed to Dulles.
But she also possessed some of the feisty “flapper” spirit of her generation of liberated women. She looked sexy and self-possessed in the masculine fashions of the day, posing for one photo in a trim suit, businesslike tie, and a wide-brimmed hat jammed down over her tightly coiffed curls.
Once, on holiday from her Connecticut boarding school, Clover was invited by an eccentric New York society queen to an evening in honor of “some poor convicts” recently paroled from Sing Sing prison. The evening was grinding on with excruciating stiffness until Clover broke the ice by challenging the ex-cons to a game of poker. In later years, she made prison reform a passionate personal commitment. Clover’s affinity for convicts was fueled by the fact that she often felt like a prisoner of her own life. During World War I, she volunteered as a canteen girl in a Paris officers’ club. She sometimes wandered the streets of the war-tattered city dressed as a beggar, just to feel what it was like to be someone else, someone who had to plead for bread.
Clover’s own childhood was rich in material comfort. Her mother came from a wealthy Baltimore manufacturing family whose foundry had produced the metal plates for the USS Monitor, the famed ironclad Civil War vessel. Her father, Henry Todd, was a distinguished professor of romance languages at Columbia University. She and her sister and two brothers grew up in a tastefully furnished house near Central Park filled with books and music. Their father would take his children on long strolls through the city, discoursing at length on its history and architecture. Her mother would make “fairy circles” from tiny white stones in the park, where, she insisted, the sprites would gather for dances on moonlit nights. Clover grew up with her mother’s fey spirit and would constantly be disappointed by the modern world’s banality. Instead of the fairy world conjured by her mother, she was forced to dwell in a world “too pedestrian, too filled with anxiety, with duty, with the necessity to be always right.”
Clover’s father, a strict Presbyterian with an Old Testament sense of right and wrong, made her feel that she never measured up. When she was eight and her sister, Lisa, was ten, he tried to teach them both Latin but gave up in frustrated rage. “We simply weren’t ready for Latin yet, or at least I wasn’t,” she recalled. “We exasperated Father terribly. He was a scholar—very tense and high-strung—and he cared. As he was a professor, it was hard to have subnormal children.”
Her mother, who was prone to debilitating migraines and would often take to bed for long “rest cures,” was too involved with her own travails to provide her children with maternal love. There were nursemaids for the children and housekeepers, and when Clover’s mother was confined to bed under her pillowy white bedspread, an efficient domestic manager named Miss MacMillan would arrive and put the house in order. But Clover’s mother would go into rapid decline as soon as Miss MacMillan departed, overwhelmed by the obligations of family life.
Clover’s emotional touchstone in her family was her younger brother, Paul, a beautiful and sensitive boy the nursemaids enjoyed dressing like a girl. While still quite young, he began demonstrating precocious artistic skill, drawing “the most astonishing [pictures], queer animals always, each one different from the last and exhibiting the most extraordinary amount of skill and imagination.” But their father thought Paul’s nursemaids had turned him into a “sissy.” He seemed too fragile for the rough-and-tumble of college life when he went away to Princeton in 1918, and at the end of his freshman year, he dropped out.
On the eve of Allen and Clover’s wedding—which was held in October 1920 on the wooded estate of Todd family friends outside Baltimore—Paul sent word that he did not feel hearty enough to attend the festivities. “He said he didn’t feel well enough and we thought it rather queer,” Clover later noted in her diary, “but we were always all of us not being well and having all sorts of inhibitions and neurotic feelings.”
Clover later tormented herself for not being more attuned to her brother’s emotional condition as she prepared for her wedding. But she herself was in a state of great anxiety. “To me it was a terrible strain being engaged, trying all the time to act the way you suppose a normal person would act, instead of simply jumping out the window the way you naturally would. So I wasn’t thinking very much about my brother.” That December, when the newly wed couple arrived in Constantinople, Allen’s next diplomatic port of call, Clover heard that Paul had suffered a nervous breakdown and been confined to a fashionable sanitarium in Greenwich, Connecticut. In November 1921, after being discharged, the twenty-one-year-old was found dead in bushes alongside a road not far from the sanitarium. He had shot himself between the eyes with a revolver.
Paul’s death plagued Clover for many years. “In a certain sense I suppose I did kill [Paul], at least I let him die, yes, certainly I let him die without lifting a finger,” she wrote nearly three decades later in a therapeutic journal she was keeping.
Clover quickly learned that the man she married was simply not suited to help someone with as much inner turmoil as she suffered. She was tortured by feelings of worthlessness, which Allen did little to allay. Throughout most of their early married life, Clover underwent Freudian analysis with various psychoanalysts in New York, and at one point she committed herself to a sanitarium for six weeks. “I started Freudian analysis,” she wrote in a journal many years later, “because I was suffering so much that it was not possible to live unless I did.”
Clover and Allen’s oldest daughter, Martha (“Toddie”), also grappled with psychic demons throughout her life—bouts of manic depression that became so severe that she submitted to multiple rounds of electroshock therapy. In some ways, Toddie was the most like her father—energetically outgoing and self-confident. But his daughter’s troubles failed to engage Dulles. Nor did he display much interest in his children’s accomplishments, including those of his son and namesake, Allen Jr., even when the boy began to shine at Exeter, where the headmaster said he was the brightest student in the school.
Dulles seemed a guest in his own family home—amiable but detached. It was clear to his daughter Joan that “his life was somewhere else.”
“My father was a benign figure at home,” she remembered. “He was friendly, but he was clearly not interested in us. . . . I don’t remember any anger. He never scolded us when we weren’t doing well enough in school, or asked us how we were doing.”
The one time Joan saw her father cry was after he heard on the radio about the fall of France to Hitler’s troops. She watched this rare display of emotion with “astonishment” as her father wept in his library. But she had no idea why this dramatic bulletin—among everything else in his eventful life—had so profound an effect on him. He never discussed politics or world events at home, even though it was the fuel of his career. “At breakfast he would have the New York Times and I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything about his attitude toward anything. He’d be buried in the newspaper.”
There’s a “price,” Joan added, for this sort of emotional anesthesia in a family, for never “talking in the home about your life and your politics and what’s going on”—about anything that truly matters. “I think it’s devastating.”
Dulles carefully insulated Clover from his life. He would fly off to distant locations at a moment’s notice and not tell her where he was going or for how long. It had nothing to do with intelligence protocol, insisted Joan. “It was just the way he operated.”
Mary felt that Dulles kept his professional life from Clover because he was afraid that she was too morally sensitive and would disapprove of his undercover work. But he seldom showed much of a protective instinct toward his wife. Dulles would fill his letters home to Clover with references to his many dalliances and infatuations with other women. The life he evoked in this correspondence was filled with beautiful countesses and expertly mixed cocktails, and was certain only to cruelly reinforce Clover’s domestic confinement.
Eleanor Dulles once remarked on the difference between her two brothers. Foster, who was inseparable from his own wife, Janet, would go out of his way to help anyone in the family who was in distress. The pious older brother would even secure an abortionist—in his day, not an easy or legal task—if it came to that, she said. “As for Allen,” added Eleanor, “when anyone was in trouble, Allen seemed always to be off somewhere, lying under a palm, getting himself fanned.”
Clover tried to keep the distress of her marriage from her children. Despite her husband’s frequent absences—and his constant social demands when he was home—she ran the family households in Manhattan and Long Island with calm efficiency. She took pains to compensate for his emotional shortcomings. In a letter she wrote Joan in February 1945, soon after reuniting with Allen in Bern, she tried to put his extreme self-absorption in the best possible light for their daughter. By then, Dulles had been away from home for over two years, during which time he had no contact with his children as they navigated their way through adolescence.
“Dad asked for news of you both very especially—[you] and Allen—and your coming of age,” Clover wrote. “Otherwise it would not be possible for you to imagine how engrossed he is in his work, and how he neither thinks, speaks or asks of anything else. There is no doubt he is different from most but I do believe that he does everything that he does, not only because he likes it, but as a way of showing his affection for us, paying us the compliment of believing that what we want is for him to do something worthwhile in the world. Everyone here adores him and he has done incalculable good.”
But many years later, Clover would write a more honest assessment of her husband in a diary that she left for her children. By then, she felt no obligation to window-dress their marriage. “My husband doesn’t converse with me, not that he doesn’t talk to me about his business, but that he doesn’t talk about anything. . . . It took me a long time to realize that when he talks it is only for the purpose of obtaining something. . . . He talks easily with men who can give him some information, and puts himself out with women whom he doesn’t know to tell all sorts of interesting things. He has either to be making someone admire him, or to be receiving some information worth his while; otherwise he gives one the impression that he doesn’t talk because the person isn’t worth talking to.”
It was Clover’s curse to spend her life with such a man, and it was Allen’s to live with a woman who was finally able to understand him.
Near the end of the war, Clover went to great lengths to rejoin Allen in Switzerland, pulling every available string to acquire the visas and travel permits necessary for an American citizen to venture into war-torn Europe. At last, after hearing that the U.S. embassy in newly liberated Paris had ordered a shipment of official cars, she finagled an assignment as one of the drivers. After a rough ocean crossing, Clover disembarked in Lisbon and joined the convoy as it took an arduous course through Portugal and Spanish Basque country, crossing the Pyrenees into France, where she and the other dozen drivers came under the protection of French resistance fighters. It took a full week for the drivers to complete their painstaking journey to Paris. When the exhausted Clover delivered her vehicle to the American embassy, she was relieved to hear that her husband was also in Paris—but he installed her at a different hotel and kept her waiting for two full days before finally greeting her.
When he appeared in her hotel room, Dulles brusquely informed her that he could spare only ten minutes. He told her to meet him early the next morning at his own hotel to begin their automobile journey to Switzerland. Then, without making any effort to cushion the blow, he announced that her mother had died while Clover was crossing the Atlantic. And with that, he disappeared again, leaving her to mourn alone.
“My wife is an angel,” Dulles told Mary soon after meeting her. “She’s always doing things for other people.” But that is not the way Allen generally made Clover feel. After Clover began treatment with Jolande Jacobi, the analyst encouraged her artistically inclined patient to begin expressing her inner turmoil in drawings. In one picture, Clover drew herself as a crying, forlorn donkey. That’s the way she felt, she explained to Mary—like a weepy ass—whenever Allen was rushing around, “engaged in activities [Clover] didn’t understand but suspected were not as important as his behavior implied.”
When Dulles shifted his operations to Germany in the postwar period, Clover moved to Zurich so that she could work more closely with Jacobi. It was an intense, therapeutic relationship that Clover kept going long after she returned to the United States, returning to Switzerland on numerous occasions for prolonged visits. While visiting the United States, Jacobi would stay at the Dulles home in Washington. What Jacobi did for her suffering patient “was nothing short of a miracle,” Clover later wrote. After each of her Swiss sessions, Clover would hurry to a Zurich café to jot down the insights she had unearthed with Jacobi. The treatment, she wrote at the time, filled her with a new self-confidence. Clover began to feel “liberated from the feeling that my husband’s way of looking at things is the right way or has any particular glamour or reason attached to it.”
The journals that Clover kept during her analysis are mercilessly introspective—wrenching cries from the darkest depths of her soul. Some of the journals were devoted to meticulous accounts of her dreams, which revealed the misery of her marriage as well as a vibrant but stifled erotic imagination. In one dream, which she recorded in her journal in November 1945, Clover was suffering from a terrible physical trauma, but Allen was completely oblivious to her pain. “My whole stomach had collapsed, or been cut open or cut in two. . . . [But] it was a great satisfaction, a sort of triumph even, a justification to myself that all the time there actually had been something seriously the matter with me, a proof that instead of making a big fuss about nothing, as my husband thought, I actually had made comparatively little out of a really big affliction.”
In other dreams, Clover expressed shame about her husband’s mysterious espionage exploits. She entered nameless towns where “men were taking part in dark and nefarious negotiations.” In her dreams, as in life, she was excluded from these secret activities, which carried a tawdry air, but nonetheless sometimes held a powerful allure for her. Clover also gave vent to her sexual jealousy. In a dream fragment from September 1948, her husband complains that he has no fresh underwear. But when Clover peers into his dresser drawer, she finds it stuffed with undershorts. On closer inspection, however, each pair is stained with semen.
Other dreams overflow with her own libidinal energy and confusion. She finds herself in bed with young soldiers and naked women, an architect she knew, and in more than one reverie her disrobed sister. In a dream of October 1945, Clover was engaged to be married to a woman—who turned out to be Mary Bancroft. She was delighted to be marrying a woman but was horrified that “I didn’t have the physical apparatus to play a masculine role. I felt very shaven and shorthand empty in front and very much concerned how I could marry. Then I realized that, after all, she knew I was a woman, she was a woman herself, it wasn’t even my fault I was made that way. And as a matter of fact, what ever made me feel that I was supposed to be the man? Why wasn’t she the man? Perhaps she didn’t even expect me to be the man.”
It was her severe, judgmental father—a man repelled by “the inferiority” of the female sex—who had bestowed on her “my disgust of women,” Clover noted in another journal entry. “I want a penis,” she stated in another.
In other journal entries, which she called her “hymns of hate,” Clover expelled poisonous clouds of the rage and self-loathing that were billowing inside her. She fantasized about going on killing sprees with an ax or sledgehammer, and when those weapons proved too limited, she mused about poison gas. She unspooled long lists of potential victims, but she devoted one entire murder fantasy in March 1947 to her husband. “I hate my husband,” it began. “I hate my husband, I hate my husband. Oh, how I hate my husband . . . I want to kill him . . . I will be like a fighting cock with knives on my talons, I will cut him in ribbons with sharp knives, I will cut him in the back, I will even perhaps cut his throat with a sharp sharp knife tied to my talons when I am a bloody murderous fighting cock.”
Mary Bancroft sympathized with Clover, up to a point, as they compared notes about Dulles. By the time Clover arrived in Switzerland, Mary’s own affair with Dulles was waning and she brought a more detached perspective to their discussions. Sometimes they could even share a laugh about the enigmatic man who occupied the center of both of their lives. Clover told Mary that she had once heard the Dulles brothers referred to as sharks. “And I do think they are,” said the wife to the mistress. “I guess there’s no solution but for you and me to be killer whales!” From then on, the two women referred to Allen as “The Shark” and to themselves as the “Killer Whales.”
But Mary was more fascinated with the world of male power than Clover, and she prided herself on understanding men like Dulles in a way that his wife could not. In a later generation, Bancroft herself might have been a central player in that world. But she settled for taking an occasional place in the room, offering these men of action her insight and solace.
Mary, whose mother died hours after giving birth to her, was raised by her grandparents in a comfortable Cambridge, Massachusetts, household dominated by men whose ambitions always seemed just beyond their reach. Her grandfather was a former mayor of Cambridge and Harvard overseer who was once talked about as a candidate for governor but never made it beyond municipal politics. Her father had been a precocious young scholar, entering Harvard at the age of fourteen and graduating summa cum laude three years later. He became a lawyer and, like his father, a pillar of civic affairs, winning appointment as the director of the Port of Boston. But the top rung of power eluded Mary’s father, too, and, overcome by the disappointments of his life, he committed suicide in middle age. The man who made the biggest impression on young Mary was a step or two away from her immediate family, Clarence W. Barron, the short, white-bearded, twinkly-eyed publisher of The Wall Street Journal and the stepfather of her stepmother. She spent as much time as she could in “CW’s” lively vortex, watching him dictate memos from bed until noon and sending the male secretaries who were always at hand scurrying to and fro. At an early age, Mary became familiar with names like Rockefeller, Morgan, Carnegie, Harriman, Ford, and Du Pont. Their world always seemed to hover tantalizingly just beyond her fingertips.
Mary was disappointed in marriage. Her first husband—the father of her two children—turned out to be a dull company man. Her second—a French-Swiss banker who traveled frequently on business to the Balkans and the Far East—promised to be more exotic. But once she was installed in his Zurich home, they settled into a marriage of convenience that left Mary ready for more adventure.
When Mary was introduced to Dulles in December 1942, shortly after he arrived in Switzerland, they instantly took to each other. At thirty-nine, she was a decade younger than the OSS man, and by her own account she was “at the height of my sexual prowess and usually always on the prowl.”
Mary was a big-boned woman with round cheeks and a ready smile that was all teeth. Nor was Allen the stuff of romantic dreams. Her first impression of him was of an aging man with “iron-gray hair” and the rumpled clothes of a distracted professor. But Mary not only possessed the right pedigree, she had a sharp intelligence and an accommodating warmth, and Dulles instantly knew he could put her to use. Mary, in turn, found herself immediately excited by the aura of power that seemed to surround Dulles. “He actually shimmered with it,” she later wrote in a journal. “It seemed to cling to him as phosphorescence does to the oars when one is rowing a boat at night.”
Here was the man who would finally take her into the world of action about which she had fantasized ever since she was a girl, when she watched Wild Bill Donovan parade down Fifth Avenue with his troops on Armistice Day. Ever since then, she wrote, “I longed for a life of adventure. I wanted to go everywhere, see everything.” She even daydreamed about being a “glamorous spy” like Mata Hari. Now she had found the man to make her dreams come true.
Dulles never made Bancroft an official OSS agent, but he quickly found a role for her, phoning her at her Zurich apartment every morning at nine thirty and giving her the day’s marching orders. She pumped information out of a variety of sources for him—from cleaning maids with German relatives to members of the intellectual and artistic elite in the German-Austrian exile community, a crowd with whom the well-read and over-analyzed Bancroft was more comfortable than Dulles.
Mary also proved that she was more tuned in to certain nuances of the spy craft than Dulles. She realized, for instance, that intelligence could be gathered from the enemy as well as Allied camps by tapping into the underground homosexual network that ran through Europe’s diplomatic and espionage circles. “One of my [OSS] colleagues was frantic,” Bancroft later recalled, “because he wanted to get a—how do the French say it, a tuyaux—you know, a line into this homosexual network. And he used to bang on the desk and say, ‘I wish Washington would send me a reliable fairy! I want somebody with a pretty behind so I can get into that fairy network and find out what the British are doing in North Africa!’” Her colleague couldn’t bring himself to discuss his delicate recruitment needs with the old-fashioned Dulles, who—as Mary repeatedly observed in her journals—had been born in the nineteenth century. So Mary broached the subject with Dulles, who did indeed prove clueless about the homosexual beau monde, including its sexual mechanics. “What do those people actually do?” he asked Mary.
Although Dulles and Jung met face-to-face in early 1943, Mary also continued to serve as the main link between the two commanding men in her life. Both men were excited by the idea of forging a pioneering marriage between espionage and psychology. Dulles’s reports back to Washington were filled with Jung’s insights into the Nazi leadership and the German people. Jung even correctly predicted that an increasingly desperate Hitler would likely commit suicide. Mary’s appointments with Jung became dominated by Dulles’s “ask Jung” questions, to the point that they more closely resembled espionage briefings than therapy sessions.
Dulles was so enamored with the flow of provocative psycho-political perceptions from Jung that he gave the psychologist an OSS number—Agent 488. After the war, the spymaster hinted broadly to a Jung family friend that the sage of Zurich had even contributed to the Allied cause by leaking information he had gleaned from sessions with patients who were connected to the enemy side. But this might have been an exaggeration from a spy chief who liked to pride himself on all the influential personalities he had in his pocket.
While Dulles valued Mary as a go-between with men like Jung, he also found more personal uses for her. One morning he came rushing into her apartment when he knew that her husband was away on business. “Quick!” he barked, dispensing with any foreplay. “I’ve got a very tricky meeting coming up. I want to clear my head.” When he had finished with her, Dulles quickly headed for the door. “Thanks,” he said over his shoulder. “That’s just what I needed!”
Afterward, Mary resolved to tell Dulles that she would no longer cooperate in “clearing his head,” no matter how stressful his upcoming meetings were. But she continued to make herself available to him.
The spy chief was confident enough in his control over Mary that he felt he could loan her out to a German Abwehr agent with whom Dulles had established a relationship. Dulles arranged for Mary, who was fluent in German, to work with the tall, imperious Nazi double agent Hans Bernd Gisevius on his memoirs. Gisevius had secretly turned against Hitler after his once promising Gestapo career had stalled, and in frustration he began feeding Dulles important inside information on German military operations. One day, Gisevius, who had grown enamored of Mary as they toiled together over his manuscript, begged her to come with him to Lugano, where he would have use of a “beautiful apartment” and where he would be meeting with the first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. The invitation appealed to Mary’s appetite for danger, but she turned it down. When she told Dulles about it, he was upset, not because he had a rival for his mistress’s affections, but because she had missed an opportunity to squeeze more information out of the amorous German. “Why the hell didn’t you go?” he snapped at her. “It might have been very interesting.”
Mary did, in fact, later become Gisevius’s lover. But, as she confided to Jung, shuttling back and forth between the two men proved to be emotionally draining.
Gisevius became one of the principal conspirators in the July 20, 1944, bomb plot against Hitler, barely fleeing with his life to Switzerland after it failed. When she discussed her German lover’s exploits with Jung, he was unimpressed with Gisevius’s moral character. The Abwehr man was fighting for the same thing that Hitler possessed, Jung told Mary: “pure power.” He added that Gisevius and his rival in the conspiracy ring, General Claus von Stauffenberg, “were like a pair of lions fighting over a hunk of raw meat.” When she gave Jung some pages from Gisevius’s book for his reaction, he pronounced them “saturated with Nazi ideology.”
Jung told Mary that she would always attract “extremely ambitious men interested in gaining power for themselves.” She would never be the type of woman who judged men like this, whatever their moral flaws. “Power was my natural element,” she later reflected. “I felt as at home in situations of power as a fish did in water.”
Dulles would gain notoriety for his promiscuity—at least among his biographers, some of whom expressed greater disdain for his sexual indiscretions than for his more egregious moral failings. But by Mary’s standards, he was by no means sexually reckless. She took umbrage when British traitor Kim Philby described Dulles as a “womanizer” in his memoir. “Kim Philby of all people!” she harrumphed. “[Allen] was nothing of the kind.”
One evening, while warming themselves by the fireplace at Herrengasse, Mary fell into conversation with Dulles about Napoleon’s love life. She told him that she had read that the great conqueror had enjoyed nine women during his life. “Nine!” exclaimed Dulles. “I beat him by one!” Mary was amused by Allen’s boast. “To anyone born in the 20th century as I was,” she later noted in her journal, “that seemed a very modest score, particularly for a man who had traveled the world as Allen had. It certainly did not qualify him as a womanizer in my book.”
Dulles was fortunate to find someone like Mary, a woman whose morals were conveniently flexible—or, as she herself put it, a woman with a “sophisticated point of view.” She had a curious way of explaining her moral dexterity, but Dulles certainly would have endorsed her way of thinking. “In order to engage in intelligence work successfully,” Mary observed, “it was essential to have a very clear-cut idea of your own moral values, so that if you were forced by necessity to break them, you were fully conscious of what you were doing and why.”
But even the sophisticated Mary found herself unnerved by one of her conversations with Dulles. She had observed that despite his cunning reputation, Allen always seemed so “open and trusting,” even with people about whom he clearly harbored suspicions or whom he “actually had the goods on.” As he listened to Mary, Dulles grinned. “I like to watch the little mice sniffing at the cheese just before they venture into the little trap,” he told her. “I like to see their expressions when it snaps shut, breaking their little necks.”
Mary was taken aback by this outburst. She told him she found it repellent, but Dulles would have none of her outrage. “What’s the matter with you?” he said. “Don’t you realize that if I had not caught them, they were about to catch me?” It did not occur to Mary to ask why “little mice” could be so threatening, or how he could take such pleasure from their suffering.
Clover Dulles had great hopes for her second daughter, Joan, after she graduated from Radcliffe College in 1944, where many of her classes had been integrated with Harvard’s due to the wartime shortage of professors. Clover wanted her daughter to escape the confinements of domestic life by pursuing a life of adventure. After graduating, Joan joined the Frontier Nursing Service, an organization that imported British midwives—because midwifery was outlawed in America—to help deliver babies in the back hills of Kentucky. Joan escorted the midwives on horseback through the remote hills and hollows of the Bluegrass State, sometimes riding for as long as five hours to reach their destinations. The young woman was enchanted by the beauty of the Kentucky backcountry and was thrilled by the rugged work.
In April of the following year, as the war was coming to an end, Joan sailed for Europe with her aunt Eleanor, who was on a diplomatic assignment to Austria, a country that was rapidly turning into a front line in the Cold War. Vienna, which was divided into Allied occupational zones, was suffused with the danger and intrigue later displayed in the 1949 film The Third Man. Joan was once threatened with arrest by Russian soldiers as she traveled by train through the Soviet zone. Government officials in the Western zones often disappeared off the streets, snatched by Soviet agents.
Not much more than a year out of college, Joan seemed well on her way to fulfilling her mother’s hopes of creating a bold life for herself. She had studied international law and relations at Radcliffe, and she seemed well positioned to follow her aunt’s pioneering path as a female diplomat, or even her father’s as a legendary spy. She could speak French and German and was learning Russian, a language that she particularly loved, finding it “just like music.”
But Allen Dulles had other plans for his daughter.
While Joan was living in Vienna, her father introduced her to one of his young agents from the war, a well-born and well-connected Austrian named Fritz Molden. The son of a prominent newspaper editor and a widely respected author and poet, Molden and his family had suffered cruelly at the hands of the Gestapo during the war. After escaping from a Wehrmacht punishment battalion on the eastern front that he had been forced to join, Molden took up with the Austrian resistance, where he was put in touch with Dulles. Molden grew attached to Dulles, though the spymaster kept asking the young man to “prove himself” by risking his life for him. After the war, the Communists accused Molden of continuing to work as a paid agent for Dulles, but he denied it.
When Joan and Fritz married in spring 1948, it was clearly a marriage of convenience—for Joan’s father and her new husband. Molden, who became secretary to Austrian foreign minister Karl Gruber after the war and later an influential journalist and diplomat, was a vital intelligence connection for Dulles. The marriage was also a wise move for Molden. For the young, ambitious Austrian, having Allen Dulles as a father-in-law was obviously a big feather in his cap. But the match proved much less successful for Joan.
Just like her mother many years before, Joan had great difficulty explaining why she had married her husband. Joan suffered the same severe pre-wedding doubts that Clover had before marrying Allen. Joan found Fritz a “very erratic character, always given to creating dramatic situations,” as she later wrote her mother. She worried about marrying “someone who wasn’t ever satisfied with the simple everyday aspects of life.” But, in the end, Joan gave in to the implacable intensity of her suitor and went through with the marriage, resigning herself to the fact that she would never have children or enjoy a stable family life with such a man.
Her marriage to Molden, who openly reveled in the company of other women, soon developed a striking resemblance to that of her parents. He often disappeared on mysterious rendezvous, leaving her to wonder when she would see him again.
“Fritz was a ladies’ man, that’s for sure,” Joan recalled years later. “He was so extroverted that you just never knew where he was. He’d say, ‘Let’s rent a sailing ship in the Greek islands,’ and I didn’t know how many of his girlfriends would be on board or for how long we’d be at sea. Do I see similarities with my father? Probably, probably.”
Joan divorced Molden in 1954, but, as if to not disappoint her father, she quickly replaced him with another high-ranking Austrian diplomat named Eugen Buresch. The son of a former Austrian chancellor, Buresch had succeeded Molden as director of the Austrian Information Service in New York. The following year, after being named Austria’s ambassador to Iran, Buresch took Joan off to Tehran, another highly sensitive diplomatic posting. Joan suddenly found herself amid the imperial splendor of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s court, the emperor reinstalled on the Peacock Throne by her father, after the CIA overthrew Iran’s democratically elected government in 1953.
Joan gave birth to two children with Buresch, a boy and girl. Like Fritz Molden, Joan’s second choice for a husband seemed crafted primarily for her father’s professional benefit. Iran was not only an oil-rich nation, it was a strategically located CIA surveillance platform bordering the Soviet Union. To have a son-in-law acting as his eyes and ears inside the shah’s court was an espionage boon for Dulles, who by then was running the CIA.
But, again, the marriage turned out to be much less beneficial for Joan. In July 1959, Joan wrote her father a painful letter, made all the more poignant by its resolutely upbeat tone, informing him that she and Buresch had separated. Joan, who was living with her young children in Switzerland at the time, had recently visited her parents in Washington but found it easier to tell her father about the failure of her second marriage through the post. The separation had not been her idea, she assured her father—she “would have gone on trying endlessly for the sake of the children,’’ she wrote. But, in any case, she was “very glad to be alone again.”
Joan had good reason to welcome the breakup. Buresch, it turned out, had a violent streak. “Every six months, or every time I do something he doesn’t approve of,” she wrote her father, “he gets terrible fits of rage and tries to beat me up, etc. etc. Last summer, because I tried to come to Europe to see mother, he nearly kicked me out.” When she said, “kicked me out,” Joan added, she meant it “literally.” Apparently Buresch vented his fury with his feet as well as his fists.
Joan did not dwell on the abuse that “Gino,” as she called her husband, meted out. She was much more concerned that her father not worry about her, or worse, write her off as a hopeless case after the collapse of her second marriage. “Pa, you will think indeed that you have a black sheep in me, but I am glad to be free, I shall live alone and bring up my children, mind my own business and I am sure I will be happy.”
Joan was clearly eager for her father’s reassurance, even his forgiveness. “Pa,” she continued, “I have never been scared of life and I am not now. I like being alive no matter what comes. I hope you know what I mean, and that you will not be either too angry or too upset.”
Joan finally found sanctuary, not only from her husband but from her father, by moving with her children to the remote New Mexico high desert. It was about as far as possible from her father’s world of power as she could venture. She made her home in Santa Fe, among artists and free spirits, returning to Zurich in the mid-1960s to study at the C. G. Jung Institute, where she became a certified psychoanalyst. After coming back home to Santa Fe, she married a prominent Jungian therapist named John Talley, with whom she lived and worked until his death in 2013.
Mary Bancroft believed that she had fallen in love with Allen Dulles. Among the many men in her life, she had only given her heart to two, and he was one. But Dulles himself was incapable of returning love. Jung told her this, in so many words. One day, while sitting in his study—a room stuffed with books, busts of Voltaire and Nietzsche, and primitive artifacts—Jung made an observation that stuck with Mary for many years. The opposite of love is not hate, he said. It’s power. Relationships fueled by a drive for power, where one person seeks dominance over the other, are incapable of producing love.
Mary remained enthralled by the Dulles mystique all her life. But through years of agonizing self-exploration, Clover and Joan finally arrived at something close to the truth. As Jung observed, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”
In the end, this is what Dulles’s wife and daughter came to understand about the man who dominated so much of their lives. The drive for absolute control was the only passion that truly gripped Allen Dulles.