This is not a new story, but it is worth repeating. At the moment that bullets were being fired into JFK’s motorcade, a man can be seen standing on the side of the road near the car holding an open black umbrella. It was a sunny day (although it had rained the night before) and no one else in Dallas was holding an umbrella.
This is exactly the kind of detail that sets a fire under conspiracy theorists. It is a genuine anomaly – something that sticks out like a sore thumb.
The event also defies our intuition about probability. Even if one could accept that somewhere on the streets of Dallas that morning one man decided to hold an open umbrella for some strange reason, what are the odds that this one man would be essentially standing right next to the president’s car when the bullets began to fly?
Our evolved tendency for pattern recognition and looking for significance in events screams that this anomaly must have a compelling explanation, and since it is associated with the assassination of a president, it must be a sinister one.
When you delve into the details of any complex historical event, however, anomalies such as this are certain to surface. People are quirky individual beings with rich and complex histories and motivations. People do strange things for strange reasons. There is no way to account for all possible thought processes firing around in the brains of every person involved in an event.
Often the actions of others seem unfathomable to us. Our instinct is to try to explain the behavior of others as resulting from mostly internal forces. We tend to underestimate the influence of external factors. This is called the fundamental attribution error.
We also tend to assume that the actions of others are deliberate and planned, rather than random or accidental.
The common assumption underlying all of these various instincts is that there is a specific purpose to events, and especially the actions of others. We further instinctively fear that this purpose is sinister, or may be working against our own interests in some way. In this way, we all have a little conspiracy theorist inside us.
*Who Was the Umbrella Man?
The assassination of John F. Kennedy remains one of the most controversial events of the 20th century. While the most widely accepted theory is that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing Kennedy, a huge number of conspiracy theories have arisen about that fateful day in Dealey Plaza. But what if the President’s death was actually a terrible accident? First popularized by the ballistics expert Howard Donahue, an intriguing theory holds that after Oswald opened fire on the motorcade, a panicking Secret Service agent accidentally discharged his rifle, firing the shot that killed Kennedy.
This list is not intended to accuse anyone other than Lee Harvey Oswald of having anything to do with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Donahue’s theory is just that—a theory. The following is merely an examination of the evidence for (and against) one of the most fascinating “What Ifs” in American history.
10 • Multiple Witnesses Described the Last Two Shots As Very Close Together
Oswald used a bolt-action Carcano rifle, which requires the shooter to make four movements after each shot in order to cycle the spent case and chamber the next round. The Warren Commission found that the minimum time required to fire the rifle, cycle the bolt once, and fire a second shot was 2.3 seconds. The most commonly accepted theory is that Oswald fired three shots, one of which missed, requiring him to cycle the bolt twice. Based on footage from the Zapruder Film, the Commission concluded that the two shots that hit Kennedy were fired 4.8–5.6 seconds apart.
If the second shot missed, then all three bullets must have been fired in that time. If, however, the first or third shot missed, then the minimum timespan increases to 7.1–7.9 seconds for all three shots. Neither scenario is impossible, although 4.8–5.6 seconds would be a remarkably short time to fire accurately on a moving vehicle.
But the Warren Commission’s calculations are only important if the shots are assumed to have occurred at equal intervals. If, instead, the last two shots were to occur almost simultaneously, then a single bolt-action rifle could not fire them both. Interestingly, some witness testimony seems to support that scenario. Notable is the testimony of Secret Service agent Bill Greer, who drove the Presidential limousine, when asked: “How much time elapsed, to the best of your ability to estimate and recollect, between the time of the second noise and the time of the third noise?”
Greer answered: “The last two seemed to be just simultaneously, one behind the other, but I don’t recollect just how much, how many seconds were between the two. I couldn’t really say.”
District Clerk James Crawford, who was standing at the intersection of Elm and Houston streets during the shooting, stated: “As I observed the parade, I believe there was a car leading the President’s car, followed by the President’s car and followed, I suppose, by the Vice President’s car and, in turn, by the Secret Service in a yellow closed sedan. The doors of the sedan were open. It was after the Secret Service sedan had gone around the corner that I heard the first report and at that time I thought it was a backfire of a car but, in analyzing the situation, it could not have been a backfire of a car because it would have had to have been the President’s car or some car in the cavalcade there. The second shot followed some seconds, a little time elapsed after the first one, and followed very quickly by the third one. I could not see the President’s car.”
Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig was standing in front of the Sheriff’s Office on Houston Street, having watched the motorcade pass and turn onto Elm. Once it was out of sight, Craig heard three shots and started running toward the scene. Here is part of his testimony, as taken by Commission staffer David Belin:
CRAIG: The first one was—uh—about three seconds—two or three seconds.
BELIN: Two or three seconds between the first and the second?
CRAIG: It was quite a pause between there. It could have been a little longer.
BELIN: And what about between the second and third?
CRAIG: Not more than two seconds. It was—they were real rapid.
None of this conclusively disproves that Oswald was the sole shooter. But it does raise an interesting possibility—if the second and third shots were fired so close together, is it conceivable that one of them wasn’t fired by Oswald at all?
9 • George Hickey Was The Only Secret Service Agent Armed With A Rifle
There were 12 Secret Service agents assigned to guard Kennedy on the day of the assassination. Special Agent in Charge Roy Kellerman rode in the front passenger seat of the Presidential limousine, with Special Agent Bill Greer driving. Win Lawson and Verne Sorrels rode in the lead vehicle and Agent Sam Kinney drove the rear vehicle, with the President’s limousine in the middle. Also in the rear vehicle were Special Agent Emory Roberts in the front passenger seat, George Hickey in the left rear seat, and Glen Bennett in the right rear seat. Special Agents Clint Hill, Tim Mcintyre, Jack Ready, and Paul Landis stood on the rear car’s running boards.
The lead vehicle was a hardtop, the other two were convertibles with their tops down. All of the agents were armed with 4-inch-barreled revolvers. As per standard procedure, one agent, Hickey, was also armed with an AR-15 rifle. Thus, assuming Oswald did not fire the headshot, then Hickey’s rifle was the only other one available.
8 • Hickey Did Produce The Rifle During The Shooting
Hugh W. Betzner, Jr., an eyewitness who had been standing at the intersection of Elm and Houston when the motorcade turned left onto Elm, reported that: “I also saw a man in either the President’s car or the car behind his and someone down in one of those cars pull out what looked like a rifle.” Betzner also described seeing a “flash of pink” somewhere in the motorcade, which has occasionally been interpreted as a muzzle flash. This flash could have come from Hickey’s rifle, or any of the agents’ handguns, although an AR-15 creates a much more noticeable flash. However, it is much more likely that the “flash of pink” referred to Jackie Kennedy, who was dressed in pink, reaching out to Special Agent Clint Hill, who had jumped from the rear car onto the back of the Presidential limo. Betzner actually specifically describes the flash as resembling “someone standing up and then sitting back down,” so the muzzle flash theory seems relatively dubious.
However, Hickey himself confirmed Betzner’s report that he did “pull out” the rifle during the shooting, testifying: “At the end of the last report I reached to the bottom of the car and picked up the AR-15 rifle, cocked and loaded it, and turned to the rear. At this point the cars were passing under the overpass and as a result we had left the scene of the shooting. I kept the AR-15 rifle ready as we proceeded at a high rate of speed to the hospital.”
- November 22nd, 1963: The day the FBI failed. (theobamacrat.com)
- Newspapers from November 22, 1963 (joshsternberg.com)
- The Kennedy Assassination (November 22, 1963) 50 Years Later (unreportedtoday.com)
Via CBS News
Now there’s new evidence about that fateful day. It comes from a book called “The Kennedy Half-Century,” written by professor Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
From the moment shots rang out in Dealey Plaza the search for definitive answers in the Kennedy assassination has proved elusive. Was Oswald acting alone, or was he a member of a conspiracy?
The 888-page Warren Report issued in 1964 found no evidence that anyone assisted Oswald in planning or carrying out the assassination. The report had many critics and conspiracy theories multiplied over the years. Hundreds of books have been published about the case and dozens of documentaries and films, most notably Oliver Stone’s 1991 Academy Award-winning film “JFK.” But the strongest official confirmation for conspiracy buffs came in 1979 when the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that President Kennedy was “probably assassinated as the result of a conspiracy.” A key piece of evidence was an audio recording that the committee believed captured the sound of four gunshots being fired. One of the gunshots apparently came from a second location, the so-called Grassy Knoll, a patch of land that was ahead of the president’s limousine.
This year, political scientist Larry Sabato had the tapes re-analyzed using state-of-the-art technology. He says they do not capture gunshots at all, but the sounds of an idling motorcycle and the rattling of a microphone.
Sabato also says analysis of the recordings showed the sounds — which were of police radio transmissions — were not from Dealey Plaza, but from a location more than two miles away.
A new poll conducted as part of the book found 75 percent of Americans still reject the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Oswald acted alone.
Sabato said on “CBS This Morning” his book has completely blown the 1979 House Select Committee on Assassinations report “out of the water.” He added, “Their evidence simply does not hold. And they concluded there was a conspiracy.
- JFK assassination conspiracy theory “blown out of the water,” author says (cbsnews.com)
- 5 Things I’ve noticed about… 9/11 Conspiracy Theories (illuminutti.com)
- Shedding new light on John F. Kennedy’s legacy and assassination: An interview with Larry Sabato on his “The Kennedy Half Century” book (themoderatevoice.com)
- Sabato: JFK Assassin Acted Alone (newsplex.com)
- JFK book assails conspiracy theory (politico.com)
- Beware the conspiracy theorists as JFK date nears (thenewstribune.com)
- New Book Debunks Important Piece of JFK Assassination Theory (slog.thestranger.com)
- New book raises doubts about 1979 JFK assassination probe (cbc.ca)
- New questions about government’s official story on Kennedy assassination… (politico.com)
From the complicated to the absurd, there is no shortage of hypotheses concocted by conspiracy theorists about what happened on that fateful day in Dallas nearly fifty years ago. While the upcoming REELZ documentary JFK: The Smoking Gun presents a straightforward, plausible and logical solution to this long unsolved mystery, many of the ideas that theorists come up with seem quite unlikely. Ballistics expert Howard Donahue and veteran police detective Colin McLaren came to conclusions which are simple and don’t rely on unsubstantiated claims, and audiences will get a glimpse of the processes they used when JFK: The Smoking Gun premieres Sunday, November 3rd. As for all those off-the-wall conspiracy theories, we took a moment to examine some of the claims, all of which look just a little more unlikely when compared with the evidence presented in the upcoming documentary.
Conspiracy Theory 1: The Mafia Killed JFK
One of the most popular theories about the JFK assassination is that it was a mafia hit. There are many variations on this theme, and mostly they differ in terms of why the mob decided to get involved. For example, some say the reason JFK was the victim of a mafia hit is because the mob rigged the Illinois election to ensure that Kennedy won the state. When JFK refused to play ball with them once he was in office, the mob felt a need to retaliate. Or maybe the reason that the mob was furious was because JFK continued the economic sanctions and travel embargoes to Cuba. Seeing as Cuba was something of a sanctuary for organized crime bosses, they felt they had to do something about it. Then there’s the simple idea that the mob was simply reacting to the fact that Attorney General Robert Kennedy was cracking down on organized crime. As sensational as these theories are, the fact is that the mob does not typically kill highly visible and powerful politicians or law enforcers, so the idea that they would call a hit on the POTUS seems unlikely. But even if the mafia did kill Kennedy and had a gunman on the grassy knoll, does the ballistics evidence substantiate that theory? Howard Donahue studied the bullet trajectories, and came to the conclusion that there’s no way any of the shots fired came from the grassy knoll. Though it’s had many proponents over the past fifty years, this theory doesn’t really hold up.
Conspiracy Theory 2: The CIA and/or the Illuminati Killed Kennedy
The myriad of theories that suggest that the CIA was responsible for JFK’s death is decidedly one jumbled bunch of ideas. One theory claims that the CIA resented the way Kennedy was handling Cuba, and officials were particularly irked that he was undermining their attempts to kill Castro. As a result, the government agency decided to kill Kennedy. Others claim that a shadowy Illuminati-type member of the Federal Reserve Bank wanted Kennedy killed because of a law he passed which could have made the Treasury more powerful than the Federal Reserve. This powerful figure was able to make the CIA do his bidding, because obviously the shadowy, underworld types control everything. The CIA even has a very lengthy (and very dry) explanation of how the story got started and why it is false in their online library. Would sworn US government agents really kill the President of the United States due to political disagreements? It hardly seems likely.
Conspiracy Theory 3: JFK was killed due to his interest in aliens
One of the more creative conspiracy theories is that JFK was killed because he was too interested in UFOs. They story is that he wanted to share the US government’s information about aliens and UFOs with the USSR in order to avoid a scenario in which a visitor from another planet was confused with an attack from the US. According to this premise, it was deemed that the President was sticking his nose where it didn’t belong so, of course, the only way to deal with the issue was for the CIA or some other government agency to assassinate him. Obviously this theory isn’t too difficult to disprove. Just a moment or two of critical thinking reveals the giant holes in the hypothesis, but really we have to love the intertwining of two major conspiracies.
- 5 Things I’ve noticed about… Bizarre Conspiracy Theories (illuminutti.com)
- 5 Things I’ve noticed about… 9/11 Conspiracy Theories (illuminutti.com)
- If the Government is shut down, then who is paying the shills? (illuminutti.com)
- Who needs facts when you have conspiracy theorists? (illuminutti.com)
- 6 Conspiracy theories that make people paranoid (illuminutti.com)
- New Documentary Puts Forth Controversial Theory About JFK Assassination (theblaze.com)
- Ventura: Facts Surrounding JFK Assassination Still Hidden (trutv.com)
- Are conspiracy theorists really the sane ones? (mobile.wnd.com)
- Are conspiracy theorists really the sane ones? (wnd.com)