On 22nd November, 1963, Abraham Zapruder filmed the motorcade of President John F. Kennedy. He later explained to Wesley J. Liebelerabout the background to the filming. "I didn't have my camera but my secretary (Lillian Rogers) asked me why I don't have it and I told her I wouldn't have a chance even to see the President and somehow she urged me and I went home and got my camera."
According to Jim Marrs: "Zapruder made a fourteen-mile round trip drive home to pick up his camera.By the time he returned, crowds were already gathering to watch the motorcade." Zapruder told the Warren Commission: "I thought I might take pictures from the window because my building is right next to the building where the alleged assassin was, and it's just across 501 Elm Street, but I figured - I may go down and get better pictures, and I walked down. I believe it was Elm Street and on down to the lower part, closer to the underpass and I was trying to pick a space from where to take those pictures and I tried one place and it was on a narrow ledge and I couldn't balance myself very much. I tried another place and that had some obstruction of signs or whatever it was there and finally I found a place farther down near the underpass that was a square of concrete I don't know what you call it maybe about 4 feet high." Zapruder decided to take his receptionist, Marilyn Sitzman, with him to Dealey Plaza.
Abraham Zapruder went on to tell Wesley J. Liebeler: "I heard the first shot and I saw the President lean over and grab himself like this (holding his left chest area)... I thought I heard two (shots), it could be three, because to my estimation I thought he was hit on the second - I really don't know. The whole thing that has been transpiring - it was very upsetting and as you see I got a little better all the time and this came up again and it to me looked like the second shot, but I don't know. I never even heard a third shot."
On his return to his office he told Lillian Rogers " to call the police or the Secret Service... I just went to my desk and stopped there until the police came and then we were required to get a place to develop the films. I knew I had something, I figured it might be of some help - I didn't know what." Zapruder's colour film shows the entire assassination sequence and became an important part of the evidence looked at by those investigating the assassination.
By 25th November, 1963, Zapuder's film had been sold to Life Magazine. In charge of the purchase was C. D. Jackson, a close friend of Henry Luce, the owner of the magazine. According to Carl Bernstein, Jackson was "Henry Luce's personal emissary to the CIA". When appearing before the Warren Commission, Zapruder claimed he received $25,000 and then gave this money to the Firemen's and Policemen's Benevolence. However, when the contract was eventually published it showed that Zapruder received $150,000 for the eighteen-second film.
On 29th November Life Magazine, published a series of 31 photographs documenting the entire shooting sequence from the Zapruder film. It was only later discovered that the critical frames that depicted the rearward motion of Kennedy's head were transposed to indicate a forward motion. James Wagenvoord, the editorial business manager and assistant to Life Magazines Executive Editor, realized that a mistake had been made: "I asked about it when the stills were first printed, (they didn't read right) and then duped for distribution to the European and British papers/magazines. The only response I go was an icy stare from Dick Pollard, Life's Director of Photography. So being an ambitious employee, I had them distributed." In 1965 FBI director J. Edgar Hoover explained this reversing of the Zapruder frames as a "printing error".
Ray Marcus was one of those people who purchased a copy of the magazine. He told John Kelin: "I wasn't sure of it, as there weren't enough other photographs available. But the direction in which the shoulders slumped presented a picture of the man just as he was hit, and it indicated to me that the shot could have come from the front."
In its 6th December, 1963, Paul Mandel wrote an article about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. "The doctor said one bullet passed from back to front on the right side of the President’s head. But the other, the doctor reported, entered the President’s throat from the front and then lodged in his body. Since by this time the limousine was 50 yards past Oswald and the President’s back was turned almost directly to the sniper, it has been hard to understand how the bullet could enter the front of his throat. Hence the recurring guess that there was a second sniper somewhere else. But the 8mm film shows the President turning his body far around to the right as he waves to someone in the crowd. His throat is exposed – toward the sniper’s nest – just before he clutches it." Jim Marrs has argued: "The account is patently wrong, as anyone who has seen the film can verify. The reason for such wrongful information at such a critical time will probably never be known, as the author of this statement, Paul Mandel, died shortly afterward."
David Lifton argues in The Great Zapruder Film Hoax (2004) that: "Abraham Zapruder... sold the film to Time-Life for the sum of $150,000 - about $900,000 dollars in today's money... Moreover, although Life had a copy of the film, it did little to maximize the return on its extraordinary investment. Specifically, it did not sell this unique property - as a film - to any broadcast media or permit it to be seen in motion, the logical way to maximize the financial return on its investment... A closer look revealed something else. The film wasn't just sold to Life - the person whose name was on the agreement was C. D. Jackson."
On 2nd March, 1967, Jim Garrison announced the arrest of businessman Clay Shaw on charges of conspiring to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. Ramsay Clark, the Attorney General, stated that the FBI had already investigated and cleared Shaw "in November and December of 1963" of "any part in the assassination". As Garrison has pointed out: "The statement that Shaw, whose name appears nowhere in the 26 volumes of the Warren Commission, had been investigated by the federal government was intriguing. If Shaw had no connection to the assassination, I wondered, why had he been investigated?" Within a few days of this statement Clark had to admit that he had published inaccurate information and that no investigation of Shaw had taken place.
As part of Garrison's attempt to prove the existence of a conspiracy, he subpoenaed the Zapruder film from Time-Life Corporation. The company refused and they fought this subpoena all the way to the Supreme Court, which finally ruled that the corporation had to hand over the film. As Jim Marrs has pointed out: "Time-Life grudgingly turned over to Garrison a somewhat blurry copy of the film - but that was enough. Soon, thanks to the copying efforts of Garrison's staff, bootleg Zapruder films were in the hands of several assassination researchers."
The Zapruder film first appeared on national television in March, 1975, on ABC's Goodnight America. The Zapruder film showed Kennedy's violent backward and leftward movement. This convinced many that the fatal head shot come from the Grassy Knoll. Others used the film to argue that it supported the lone-gunman theory put forward by the Warren Commission.
Some writers such as Noel Twyman, David Lifton, Jack White, John Costella and David Mantik have claimed that the Zapruder Film has been tampered with. They have pointed out that the film conflicts with the large number of witnesses who claimed that the limousine stopped after the first shot had been fired. This included the two people standing closest to the limousine, Jean Hill and Mary Moorman, and the four police motorcyclist nearest Kennedy's car.
Detailed analysis of the film has revealed that the limousine displays a variety of irregular movements, including travelling only ten feet within 21 frames between Z-197 and Z-218 (this is only about one half of the expected distance).
Noel Twyman carried out detailed research into the actions of William Greer in the Zapruder film. He discovered that Greer's rapid head turns between Z302 to Z-304 and Z-315 to Z-317 appeared impossibly fast. Experiments were carried out with athletic subjects repeating Greer's actions. These showed that no one was able to reproduce this angular speed. Twyman concluded that frames of the film had been removed therefore speeding up the actions of Greer.
Eddie Barker: Abraham Zapruder, whose film of the assassination was studied at length on last night's program, was standing up on this little wall right at the edge of the grassy knoll. Now, shots from behind that picket fence over there would have almost had to whistle by his ear. Mr. Zapruder, when we interviewed him here, tended to agree that the knoll was not involved.
Abraham Zapruder: I'm not a ballistics expert, but I believe that if there were shots that come from my right ear, I would hear a different sound. I heard shots coming from - I wouldn't know which direction to say-but they was driven from the Texas Book Depository and they all sounded alike. There was no difference in sound at all.
The following may be of interest to those who would seek a glimpse at the beginning, even though it tends to raise questions about the only piece of evidence that we know is real, intact, unaltered, and 100% without blemish. Qualities that are curiously absent from the character of the one who filmed it...
Abraham Zapruder-White Russian affiliation, 32nd degree Mason, active MEMBER of 2 CIA Proprietary Organizations: The Dallas Council On World Affairs and The Crusade For A Free Europe;
These two organizations were CIA (backed) Domestic Operations in Dallas whose membership included:
Abraham Zapruder, Clint Murchison (owner of the Dallas Cowboys at that time) , Mr. Byrd, (owner of the Texas School Book Depository), Sarah Hughes, who swore LBJ in as the 36th President while Air Force One was still on the ground in Dallas, George DeMohrenschildt, (CIA contract agent AND best friend of LHO), George Bush (also close friend of George DeMohrenschildt), Neil Mallon, (mentor that Bush named his son, Neil, after), H.L. Hunt, & Demitri Von Mohrenschildt (George D's brother).
In 1953 and 1954 a woman named, Jeanne LeGon worked SIDE by SIDE with Abraham Zapruder at a high end clothing design firm called, Nardis of Dallas. Jeanne LeGon designed the clothing and Abraham Zapruder cut the patterns and the material for her.
Incidentally, Abraham Zapruder's obituary mis-states the date/year that he departed Nardis of Dallas, incorrectly citing 1949. The correct year was 1959, [the same year that his "partner in design" Jeanne LeGon became known as, Jean LeGon DeMohrenschildt... She had married Lee Oswald's BEST FRIEND (to be), CIA Contract Agent, George DeMohrenschildt!].
I didn't have my camera but my secretary asked me why I don't have it and I told her I wouldn't have a chance even to see the President and somehow she urged me and I went home and got my camera and came back and first I thought I might take pictures from the window because my building is right next to the building where the alleged assassin was, and it's just across 501 Elm Street, but I figured - I may go down and get better pictures, and I walked down. I believe it was Elm Street and on down to the lower part, closer to the underpass and I was trying to pick a space from where to take those pictures and I tried one place and it was on a narrow ledge and I couldn't balance myself very much. I tried another place and that had some obstruction of signs or whatever it was there and finally I found a place farther down near the underpass that was a square of concrete I don't know what you call it maybe about 4 feet high.
After the first shot - I saw him leaning over and after the second shot - it's possible after what I saw, you know, then I started yelling, "They killed him, they killed him," and I just felt that somebody had ganged up on him and I was still shooting the pictures until he got under the underpass - I don't even know how I did it. And then, I didn't even remember how I got down from that abutment there, but there I was, I guess, and I was walking toward - back toward my office and screaming, "They killed him, they killed him," and the people that I met on the way didn't even know what happened and they kept yelling, "What happened, what happened, what happened?" It seemed that they had heard a shot but they didn't know exactly what had happened as the car sped away, and I kept on just yelling, "They killed him, they killed him, they killed him," and finally got to my office and my secretary - I told her to call the police or the Secret Service - I don't know what she was doing, and that's about all. I was very much upset. Naturally, I couldn't imagine such a thing being done. I just went to my desk and stopped there until the police came and then we were required to get a place to develop the films. I knew I had something, I figured it might be of some help - I didn't know what.
Mr. LIEBELER - I understand that you took some motion pictures at the time assassination?
Mr. ZAPRUDER - That's correct..
Mr. LIEBELER - As you stood there on this abutment with your camera, the motorcade came down Houston Street and turned left on Elm Street, did it not?
Mr. ZAPRUDER - That's right.
Mr. LIEBELER - And it proceeded then down Elm Street toward the triple underpass; is that correct?
Mr. ZAPRUDER - That's correct. I started shooting - when the motorcade started coming in, I believe I started and wanted to get it coming in from Houston Street.
Mr. LIEBELER - Tell us what happened as you took these pictures.
Mr. ZAPRUDER - Well, as the car came in line almost - I believe it was almost in line. I was standing up here and I was shooting through a telephoto lens, which is a zoom lens and as it reached about - I imagine it was around here - I heard the first shot and I saw the President lean over and grab himself like this (holding his left chest area).
Mr. LIEBELER - Grab himself on the front of his chest?
Mr. ZAPRUDER - Right - something like that. In other words, he was sitting like this and waving and then after the shot he just went like that.
Mr. LIEBELER - He was sitting upright in the car and you heard the shot and you saw the President slump over?
Mr. ZAPRUDER - Leaning - leaning toward the side of Jacqueline. For a moment I thought it was, you know, like you say, "Oh, he got me," when you hear a shot - you've heard these expressions and then I saw - I don't believe the President is going to make jokes like this, but before I had a chance to organize my mind, I heard a second shot and then I saw his head opened up and the blood and everything came out and I started - I can hardly talk about it [the witness crying].
Mr. LIEBELER - That's all right, Mr. Zapruder, would you like a drink of water? Why don't you step out and have a drink of water?
Mr. ZAPRUDER - I'm sorry - I'm ashamed of myself really, but I couldn't help it.
Mr. LIEBELER - Nobody should ever be ashamed of feeling that way, Mr. Zapruder. I feel the same way myself. It was a terrible thing. Let me go back now for just a moment and ask you how many shots you heard altogether.
Mr. ZAPRUDER - I thought I heard two, it could be three, because to my estimation I thought he was hit on the second - I really don't know. The whole thing that has been transpiring - it was very upsetting and as you see I got a little better all the time and this came up again and it to me looked like the second shot, but I don't know. I never even heard a third shot.
Mr. LIEBELER - You didn't hear any shot after you saw him hit?
Mr. ZAPRUDER - I heard the second - after the first shot - I saw him leaning over and after the second shot - it's possible after what I saw, you know, then I started yelling, "They killed him, they killed him," and I just felt that somebody had ganged up on him and I was still shooting the pictures until he got under the underpass - I don't even know how I did it. And then, I didn't even remember how I got down from that abutment there, but there I was, I guess, and I was walking toward - back toward my office and screaming, "They killed him, they killed him," and the people that I met on the way didn't even know what happened and they kept yelling, "What happened, what happened, what happened?" It seemed that they had heard a shot but they didn't know exactly what had happened as the car sped away, and I kept on just yelling, "They killed him, they killed him, they killed him," and finally got to my office and my secretary - I told her to call the police or the Secret Service - I don't know what she was doing, and that's about all. I was very much upset. Naturally, I couldn't imagine such a thing being done. I just went to my desk and stopped there until the police came and then we were required to get a place to develop the films. I knew I had something, I figured it might be of some help - I didn't know what.
Mr. LIEBELER - Now, I understand that you, yourself, retained the original film?
Mr. ZAPRUDER - No; I don't have that at all - I don't have any at all. They were sold to Time and Life magazines.
Mr. LIEBELER - You sold that to Life magazine?
Mr. ZAPRUDER - Yes.
Mr. LIEBELER - The Commission is interested in one aspect of this and I would like to ask you if you would mind telling us how much they paid you for that film.
Mr. ZAPRUDER - For the film?
Mr. LIEBELER - Yes.
Mr. ZAPRUDER - Well, I just wonder whether I should answer it or not because it involves a lot of things and it's not one price - it's a question of how they are going to use it, are they going to use it or are they not going to use it, so I will say I really don't know how to answer that.
Mr. LIEBELER - Well, I am not going to even urge you to answer the question. We will ask it and if you would rather not answer it - the Commission feels it would be helpful.
Mr. ZAPRUDER - I received $25,000, as you know, and I have given that to the Firemen's and Policemen's Benevolence with a suggestion for Mrs. Tippit. You know that?
Mr. LIEBELER - I don't know that - you received $25,000?
Mr. ZAPRUDER - $25,000 was paid and I have given it to the Firemen's and Policemen's Fund.
Mr. LIEBELER - You gave the whole $25,000?
Mr. ZAPRUDER - Yes. This was all over the world. I got letters from all over the world and newspapers - I mean letters from all over the world. It was all over the world - I am surprised--that you don't know it--I don't like to talk about it too much.
Mr. LIEBELER - We appreciate your answer very much.
Mr. ZAPRUDER - I haven't done anything, the way I have given it, at a time like this.
Mr. LIEBELER - I want to tell you, you may not be aware of it yourself, but I want to tell you that your film has been one of the most helpful things to the work of the Commission that we could possibly have had because it has enabled us to study the various positions of the people in the car and to determine by comparing it with the reenactment--by comparing it to the view from the window of the building, to develop with a fair degree of accuracy the facts here.
Donald Purdy: What is it about the normal paths of bullets which leads you to the conclusion that these diagrams illustrating the photographs, permit you to conclude that the bullet did not pass through both men?
Cyril Wecht: The inescapable fact that unless a bullet, especially one fired from a high speed weapon, reasonably high speed, approximately 2,000 feet per second muzzle velocity - unless it strikes something of firm substance, such as bone or something else, that that bullet will travel in a straight line.
Donald Purdy: Mr. Chairman, I would ask at this time that the item marked JFK exhibit F-245, which is a blowup of frame 230 of the Zapruder film, be entered into the record... Dr. Wecht, in your opinion, could Governor Connally have incurred the damage to his wrist which is described in the medical reports and still be holding the hat as shown in this photograph?
Cyril Wecht: No; absolutely not. In F-245, which is a blowup of Zapruder frame 230, we are told under the single bullet theory that Gov. John Connally, for a period of approximately one and a half seconds, has already been shot through the right chest with the right lung pierced and collapsed, through the right wrist, with the distal end of the radius comminuted and the radial nerve partially severed. I heard some vague reference to a nerve in the prior testimony, but I didn't hear the followthrough discussion that I was waiting for about nerve damage. There was nerve damage, yes, to the radial nerve. And the thumb which holds this large Texas white Stetson that is required for it to be in apposition with the index or index and middle fingers to hold that hat is innervated by the radial nerve. Note in F-245 that the hat is still being held and Governor Connally is not reacting. This is again a very alert individual, under a very special circumstance, and I do not believe or accept for one moment the story that we must accept under the single bullet theory that this gentlemen, at this point, one and a half seconds previously, has already been shot through his chest, through his wrist, and into his left thigh.
Donald Purdy: Dr. Wecht, is it your opinion based on this exhibit, JFK exhibit F-245, that Governor Connally is not yet injured in any way?
Cyril Wecht: Yes; that is my opinion.
Donald Purdy: Dr. Wecht, Is it possible that he had been injured prior to this frame but has not yet manifested a reaction?
Cyril Wecht: NO; I do not believe so, not given the nature and extents of his wounds, the multiplicity and the areas damaged, I do not believe that.
Donald Purdy: Dr. Wecht, given the nature of his wounds, how much prior to the time that he manifests a reaction is the earliest he could have been struck?
Cyril Wecht: Well, a fraction of a second, again, an infinitesimal moment. It is possible that a fraction of a second earlier he could have been shot, although I do not believe that. Please keep in mind that now we must correlate that with the Governor's own version, and remembering that this bullet was traveling 2,000 feet per second muzzle velocity, much faster than the speed of sound. Please keep in mind that it does not seem at all likely. I doubt that it is possible that he had already been struck. The panel (of experts assembled by the House Select Committee on Assassinations), to the best of my recollection, was in unanimous agreement that there was a slight upward trajectory the bullet through President John F. Kennedy, that is to say, that the-bullet wound of entrance on the President's back, lined up with the bullet wound of exit in the front of the President's neck drawing a straight line, showed that vertically the bullet had moved slightly upward, slightly, but upward. That is extremely important for two reasons. One, under the single bullet theory - with Oswald as the sole assassin, or anybody else, in the sixth floor window, southeast corner of the Texas School Book Depository Building, you have the bullet coming down at a downward angle of around 20-25 degrees, something like that, maybe a little bit less. It had originally been postulated, I think, by the autopsy team, and the initial investigators, at considerably more. How in the world can a bullet be fired from the sixth floor window, strike the President in the back, and yet have a slightly upward direction? There was nothing there to cause it to change its course. And then with the slightly upward direction, outside the President's neck, that bullet then embarked upon a rollercoaster ride with a major dip, because it then proceeded; under the single bullet theory, through Gov. John Connally at a 25 degree angle of declination. To my knowledge, there has never been any disagreement among the proponents and defenders of the Warren Commission report or the critics, about the angle of declination in John Connally - maybe a degree or two. We have that bullet going through the Governor at about 25 degrees downward. How does a bullet that is moving slightly upward in the President proceed then to move downward 25 degrees in John Connally. This is what I cannot understand. My colleagues on the panel are aware of this. We discussed it, and what we keep coming back to is, "well, don't know how the two men were seated in relationship to each other." I don't care what happened behind the Stemmons freeway sign, there is no way in the world that they can put that together, and likewise on the horizontal plane, the bullet, please keep in mind, entered in the President's right back, I agree, exited in the anterior midline of the President's neck, I agree, and was moving thence by definition, by known facts, on a straight line from entrance to exit, from right to left. And so with that bullet moving in a leftward fashion, it then somehow made an acute angular turn, came back almost two feet, stopped, made a second turn, and slammed into Gov. John Connally behind the right armpit, referred to medically as the right posterior axillary area. The vertical and horizontal trajectory of this bullet, 399, under the single bullet theory is absolutely unfathomable, indefensible, and incredible.
Cyril Wecht: Yes; I believe F-246, which is a blowup of Zapruder frame 237, demonstrates that Gov. John Connally has now been struck.
Donald Purdy: Dr. Wecht, what is it about his movements that leads you to the conclusion that he has been struck?
Cyril Wecht: The body is turning, the cheeks are puffing out, there is a noticeable grimace on his face, in contrast, for instance, to F-245, Z-frame 230, and there seems to be some dishevelment of his hair. These features can be seen very dramatically also one frame later, F-247, or Zapruder frame 238, which I remind you is one eighteenth of a second interval away, and you can see the hair movement, the twisting of the body. There is no question in my mind that the Governor has now been hit.
Donald Purdy: Dr. Wecht, referring again to the JFK exhibits F-229, F-272 and F-244, which are the frames immediately before and the frames after the sign, you discussed the fact that the men did not line up in a horizontal trajectory?
Cyril Wecht: Yes. The panel, to the best of my recollection, was in unanimous agreement that there was a slight upward trajectory the bullet through President John F. Kennedy, that is to say, that the-bullet wound of entrance on the President's back, lined up with the bullet wound of exit in the front of the President's neck drawing a straight line, showed that vertically the bullet had moved slightly upward, slightly, but upward. That is extremely important for two reasons. One, under the single bullet theory - with Oswald as the sole assassin, or anybody else, in the sixth floor window, southeast corner of the Texas School Book Depository Building, you have the bullet coming down at a downward angle of around 20-25 degrees, something like that, maybe a little bit less. It had originally been postulated, I think, by the autopsy team, and the initial investigators, at considerably more. How in the world can a bullet be fired from the sixth floor window, strike the President in the back, and yet have a slightly upward direction? There was nothing there to cause it to change its course. And then with the slightly upward direction, outside the President's neck, that bullet then embarked upon a rollercoaster ride with a major dip, because it then proceeded; under the single bullet theory, through Gov. John Connally at a 25 degree angle of declination. To my knowledge, there has never been any disagreement among the proponents and defenders of the Warren Commission report or the critics, about the angle of declination in John Connally - maybe a degree or two. We have that bullet going through the Governor at about 25 degrees downward. How does a bullet that is moving slightly upward in the President proceed then to move downward 25 degrees in John Connally. This is what I cannot understand. My colleagues on the panel are aware of this. We discussed it, and what we keep coming back to is, "well, don't know how the two men were seated in relationship to each other." I don't care what happened behind the Stemmons freeway sign, there is no way in the world that they can put that together, and likewise on the horizontal plane, the bullet, please keep in mind, entered in the President's right back, I agree, exited in the anterior midline of the President's neck, I agree, and was moving thence by definition, by known facts, on a straight line from entrance to exit, from right to left. And so with that bullet moving in a leftward fashion, it then somehow made an acute angular turn, came back almost two feet, stopped, made a second turn, and slammed into Gov. John Connally behind the right armpit, referred to medically as the right posterior axillary area. The vertical and horizontal trajectory of this bullet, 399, under the single bullet theory is absolutely unfathomable, indefensible, and incredible.
Garment manufacturer Abraham Zapruder was a spectator at Dealey Plaza who captured the entire shooting sequence with his cheap movie camera. Life magazine immediately snapped up the film for an untold sum. Although Life ran several frames in its cover story on the Warren Commission Report, the motion picture itself had never been shown in public. (Not even members of the Commission had seen it.) Now it had surfaced, courtesy of La Bell France.
The Zapruder film is horrifyingly graphic. It shows Kennedy clutching his throat as a shot from the rear goes through his neck. There are agonizing moments as he slowly slumps forward in the limousine. Then his head literally explodes, sending up a blood-mist halo. The force of the hit rocks him back so violently into the rear seat cushion that it is compressed. He bounces forward as Jackie grabs for him. There is no mistaking that he was killed by a shot from the front. Suspect Lee Harvey Oswald was at the rear.
I rushed to Hollywood with the film to have it analyzed by experts. They pronounced it authentic, probably a second or third generation copy. I then understood why Life, which had taken a stand in support of the Warren Report and featured Gerald Ford's rendition of how the no-conspiracy conclusion was arrived at, had kept the film sequestered. In fact an anonymous caption writer at the magazine had described the head-shot frame as a shot from the front, and a number of subscribers received copies with that caption. But the press run was quickly stopped at tremendous expense, and the offending plate broken and replaced by one whose caption was in conformity with the official position.
One of the central premises of Bloody Treason is that the Zapruder film was altered by members of the cabal that murdered President Kennedy, as part of an effort to at least partly conceal the plot and the plotters. This notion has gained increasing credibility in recent years, but I must concede it is an idea that part of me wants to reject outright, because I just don't get it. The Zapruder film as it has been known since the 1970s is convincing evidence of a front shooter and thus a conspiracy. To dwell on alleged alteration strikes me as counterproductive, missing the forest for the trees.
As I understand the overall argument, frames were deleted from the film in order to hide evidence that Kennedy was shot from the front, which of course would destroy the lone nut scenario. The original film was seized by the conspirators and altered using what was, in 1963, sophisticated yet rather commonplace equipment. Traces of the forgery inevitably remained, but were not ferreted out for many years.
There are undeniable problems in the film, such as whether the Presidential limousine came to a stop during the fusillade. In the conventional Z-film it plainly does not, but numerous eyewitnesses gave sworn testimony that it did, or at least that it slowed down (also not observed).
Another issue that Twyman focuses on is the speed with which limousine driver William Greer turns his head at two points in the shooting sequence. According to Twyman, the speed of this head turn is a physical impossibility, and further proof that key frames were deleted from the film. There are filmed recreations of the head turn (no subject could do it the way Greer supposedly did) and discussions of calculations intended to show it couldn't be done.
These may be Twyman's most powerful demonstrations. But at this stage I am still sitting on the fence on the question of film alteration. Suffice it to say that proving the allegation the Zapruder film was tampered with is not a simple task. Respected researchers have staked claims on both sides of the question; this is not an issue that will be resolved any time soon - if ever.
Kennedy was hit in the right temple while Moorman and Jean Hill were visible in the background. JFK's head rotated slightly counterclockwise (i.e., left) - just a tic. A flap of skin or bone swung out on a vertical hinge. The hinge became horizontal and the flap became part of what looked like a giant clam. I never saw the famous "blob" nor did I see clouds of gore. I only saw thin translucent lines intersecting the head that scientists (in fluid dynamics) tell me are most likely condensation lines left in the wake of a bullet. One line suggested the shot came from Zapruder's immediate left. About 1/2 second later JFK went flat across Jackie's lap, not forward but leftward, away from the viewer. JFK then came back up to about where he was before. His head made two nearly imperceptible jerks, a tip to the left, a tip to the right. Then he bucked backward - but there was no head snap. He moved all of a piece, as if given a shove in the sternum.
A strong case can be made for extensive editing of the Zapruder film. In fact, the conclusion seems inescapable - the film was deliberately altered. No other explanation is in the same league, in terms of explanatory power, for the myriad of anomalous characteristics that are seen everywhere in this case. Many frames were excised, some individual frames were extensively altered, others were changed only enough to fill in for missing frames, and others were left alone. Frames that were excised were simply too embarrassing for the official story or contained troublesome edge prints. What is perhaps most remarkable, though, is that, even in the past several years, to say nothing of the past several months, yet more evidence has accumulated - all of it pointing toward alteration. One can only wonder what still remains to be discovered.
A US arbitration panel put a price on the world's most famous home movie yesterday when it agreed to award $16m in compensation to the family of Abraham Zapruder, whose 26-second film of the assassination of President Kennedy has become a national relic. Lawyers for the Zapruder family had been asking for $30m in return for surrendering the film to the national archives, but they called yesterday's ruling "thorough and thoughtful". However, a dissenting member of the three-member arbitration board argued the award was too large for a damaged strip of 8mm celluloid.
Abraham Zapruder, a dress manufacturer, was standing by the route taken by the presidential motorcade through Dallas on November 22, 1963, and was filming the event when the fatal shots rang out. The colour film shows the president grab his chest after the first shot, before his head disintegrates under the force of the second bullet.
Just after the assassination he sold the footage for $150,000 to Time-Life magazine, which published individual frames but did not allow the film to be screened in its entirety. Meanwhile, it became the iconic focus of the ceaseless controversy over whether the shooting was part of a conspiracy. Time-Life gave the film back to the Zapruder family in 1975 for a nominal $1.
Arbitrators were called in when lawyers for Mr Zapruder's heirs and the government failed to agree on fair compensation following the decision by the Assassination Records Review Board ruling in 1997 that the film should be declared the permanent possession of the US people.
Government experts pointed out that even an original manuscript of a President Lincoln speech had only raised $1.5 million at auction, and that the US should not pay much more for the film, especially as the Zapruder family would retain the copyright.
The Zapruder lawyers argued it was a unique artefact like a Vincent Van Gogh painting or an Andy Warhol print, and should be valued accordingly. The panel ruled by 2 votes to 1 that: "The Zapruder film is one of a kind".
I have brought with me today a very special copy of the Zapruder film of President Kennedy's assassination. And this relates somewhat to what attorney Belin was referring to earlier. As everyone knows the original was an eight millimeter positive. Copies of that film were immediately made for the FBI and the Secret Service, and within days Zapruder sold the original to Time Life. Although it was reported at the time that he obtained $25,000 for his film. In fact, the contract, which I provided ARRB shows he was paid $150,000. And that would be about a half million dollars today. I disagree with Belin who said it would be a million. I had a banker compute this and that's one of the many things we would probably disagree on is the rate of inflation since 1963. The payments were made in a series of six $25,000 payments that occurred shortly after the first of each year through 1968. Despite the substantial price paid for the film, for all rights, it was not exploited by Time Life as a motion picture film, i.e., it was never shown on TV or sold in any documentary form as a moving pictures. No newsreels, no TV specials, nothing. Yet one of the most controversial aspects of the film were never addressed by the Warren Commission was the violent backward motion of the head depicted on the frames following the fatal shot. What this means has been debated back and forth over the years. Passions run high on both sides. For reasons I never understand, the Warren Commission failed to address the issue. In other words, if we're to believe the record, the Warren Commission apparently didn't notice the very thing which has fueled the assassination debate for three decades. And of course the public didn't even know it was an issue because Time Life chose not to show it as a motion picture film after paying $150,000 for those exclusive rights. I might add, Professor Liebeler appeared here this morning and put the B.K. Jones report, a fellow from UCLA, on the table here and his contributing it. Thank you very much Professor Liebeler we already have that in the Archives. That was contributed 15 or 20 years ago with the Rockefeller Commission when that was already submitted to try to explain the backward snap of the head. But in anyway it's being resubmitted and I suppose there's no real danger in recycling that sort of thing.
The film is important for another reason. Because Zapruder was filming through a telephoto lens, some of the frames show the wounds and so the film constitutes an unusual photographic record of the President's wounds in Dallas. In order to do any work with the Zapruder film, whether about the wounds or about the motions shown, the velocity, the car, et cetera, the clearest possible copy is required. In commercial production applications a device known as an optical printer is normally used to copy motion picture film frame by frame particularly if blowups are to be made. But optical printers are not designed to accept home movies which are an eight millimeter format. In 1967 Life sent the film to Manhattan Effects, later EFX, a New York City film lab. Where film technician Moses Weitzman designed a device permitting a high quality full commercial optical printer to accept an 8 millimeter home movie film. Then in one fell swoop he enlarged the Zapruder film from 8 millimeter to 35 millimeter format. The kind used in standard motion picture work. The result is stunning as anyone knows who has seen the movie JFK, or who has purchased a laser disk copy of that film. One reason for the clarity is that Weitzman used a liquid gate, or a wet gate as it's called, which permits a liquid of the same index of refraction as the emulsion of the film to come in contact with the frame when it is imaged. The result is that scratches are eliminated or greatly reduced in the copy. The very best of these 35 millimeter negatives and interpositives were given to the customer Time Life and I would hope that Review Board would attempt to locate these with all resources you have available to you. They are a priceless record of our history. But with regard to the 35 millimeter negatives, known as technician copies, which Weitzman kept in his lab, these he gave to another researcher and they remain as they always have, completely unavailable to the research community. But in 1990 before that transfer took place, I had the opportunity to work with one of these 35 millimeter negatives. The best of the lot I'm told. One which had been loaned to the producer of the TV show Nova by Weitzman. First I supervised making high quality timed liquid gate contact interpositives. Then, using funds provided by several researchers - and this project cost between 10 and $15,000 - I rented the services of an optical lab in New York and for about a week I worked at the optical printer taking the next step that would be necessary by an archivist in order to preserve the record and create a progenitor for all future 35 millimeter prints. Operating the printer myself I also made high quality liquid gate interpositives from the 35 millimeter negative. Then I made interpositive blowup sequences directly from that same 35 millimeter interneg. Some focusing on Kennedy, some on Connally, some on the two Secret Service agents in the front of the car.
I'm holding here one of those 35 millimeter interpositives. It's a timed liquid gate contact interpositive, which I am today donating to the ARRB for placement in the JFK Records Collection. From this archival item, this 35 millimeter interpositive, it should be possible to make many negative positive pairs. That is, this 35 millimeter interpositive can be the progenitor of many 35 millimeter internegatives and they in turn can be used to create 35 millimeter positives, whether they be slides or motion picture film. Although I defer to Moses Weitzman, you can call this item the Lifton interpositive made from the Weitzman internegative. I cannot over emphasize the high quality of the original Weitzman internegative. One researcher who has worked in this area tells me that although he has bought rights for the film from the Zapruder family, when it comes to actually using pictures for his book, the negative from this interpositive, producers' positive images that are clearer than he can obtain from the corresponding source item at the National Archives. It does not surprise me that this is the case because Weitzman is a fine technical person and the internegative he made, which was done in 1967, is certainly equal and probably better than anything made by Life for the FBI or Secret Service back in '63 and '64, and may be better than anything made today in 1996 depending upon what has happened to the original film over the intervening decades.
Perhaps no greater debate has raged in the history of the study of the death of JFK than over the authenticity of a 27-second home movie of the assassination, known as "the Zapruder film". This footage has been described as "the most significant amateur recording of a news event in history". It is surely one of the most controversial. Some students of the crime take it as the absolute foundation for understanding what actually transpired. Others are not so sure.
This book brings together leading experts on the film, including Jack White, the legendary photoanalyst; David Healy, an expert on film production and post-production; John Costella, Ph.D., a physicist with specialization in light and the properties of moving objects; David W. Mantik, M.D., Ph.D., the leading expert on the medical evidence and another authority on the film; David Lifton, a noted student of the assassination and author of Best Evidence; and James H. Fetzer, Ph.D., a professor of logic, critical thinking, and scientific reasoning.
The evidence that is presented in this volume provides proof that the film has not simply been edited by removing a few frames or by altering the contents of specific sequences (which has indeed been done in this instance) but that the whole film has been created by the use of sophisticated techniques relying upon optical printing and special effects, whereby any foreground can be merged with any background, any specific unwanted events can be removed and any wanted events can be introduced.
Intensive scientific analysis of the Zapruder film by a team of Life researchers, as well as by the Itek Corporation, reveals that the head actually undergoes a double movement. The optically enhanced computer analysis by Itek demonstrated that in frames Z312 through Z313, President Kennedy's head flies rapidly forward. This forward head movement is not apparent to the viewer of the film because the head moves faster than the speed of the film and camera. In frame 314 the head reverses direction and moves rapidly backward until it hits the rear seat in frames Z321...
The most plausible explanation for the forward and backward movement of the head and body is that of a double impact on the head, one shot fired from the rear, and the other from the front. The author has interviewed numerous physicians and veterans who served in Italy during World War II. He has also interviewed several veterans of the Italian Army who used Mannlicher-Carcano rifles and copper-jacketed ammunition. Collectively, these people have seen several thousand gunshot wounds inflicted by Mannlicher-Carcano rifles. Their unanimous experience has been that the type of head wounds suffered by President Kennedy, as well as the double movement of his head, could not possibly have been caused solely by Oswald's rifle....
The (Select House Committee on Assassinations) decided that the first shot was fired from the Depository at Zapruder frames Z157-161 and missed. The second shot, also from the Depository, came at Z188-191 and struck both Kennedy and Connally. The third shot, from the Grassy Knoll, came at Z295-296 and missed. The fourth shot, again from the Depository, came at Z312, struck President Kennedy in the head, and killed him. While the committee's scenario cannot be ruled out, several factors militate against it. First, the evidence against the single-bullet theory is overwhelming. Second, it hardly seems credible that an assassin firing from the knoll, only 50 feet from the president, missed, while one in the Depository, 300 feet away, hit his target. Third, the medical and ballistics evidence already covered argue strongly in favor of a hit from the Grassy Knoll.
A much more plausible scenario, one that fits the constraints both of the Zapruder film and tapes, as well as the medical and ballistics evidence, follows. The first shot, from the Depository, came at Zapruder frame Z177 and struck Kennedy in the back. The second shot, also from the Depository, struck Connally in the back. It came at Z208. The third shot, from the knoll, struck Kennedy in the head at Z313. The fourth and final shot, at frame Z327, came from the Depository and also hit Kennedy in the head. Even the committeee conceded the possibility of this sequence, although it did not place much credence in it.
Ron Redmon, a school principal in Indiana, has studied the Z-film extensively. Ron discovered that approximately 20 spectators along the north Elm curb east of the Stemmons sign do not appear to move for more than three seconds, while every spectator on the south curb does move. By overlapping images from two slide projectors, I determined that Ron was probably correct. It seems to me that a single image of the 20 spectators had been repeated over and over. It seems improbable that in this period of time not a single person moved an arm or leg, waved, or changed position to any noticeable extent. Ron speculates that when frames were removed in this sequence, spectator movements would have been very jerky so they had to be stabilized by repeating them. In correspondence with me, Ron also mentioned many other possible signs of tampering, which he summarized in The Fourth Decade in March of 1995. These include:
(A) In frames 144-153 (one-half second), spectator Hugh Betzner has moved a distance which exceeds human speed capability indicating excised frames.
(B) In frames 155-161 (one-third second), spectator Linda Willis has turned 180 degrees and comes in contact with spectator Robert Croft, another instance of superhuman speed... again indicating excised frames.
(C) In frames 161-180 (approximately one second), Linda Willis takes several steps, and Rosemary Willis takes several steps... again much too fast, indicating excised frames.
(D) Looking at the Stemmons sign, in frame 161 it is in perfect condition, but by frame 183 there is a significant notch on the top left edge, yet by frame 188, the notch disappears.
(E) In frame 255, Ron speculates that a fake shadow has obscured driver William Greer, to his west. Since the sun was overhead and to Greer's left, Ron says this shadow is inconsistent.
(F) In frames 312-321, Governor Connally turns 90 degrees in one half-second. Also the white spot on the grass in the background moves more than 10 feet in one half second.
(G) In frames 321-336, JFK's head moves from the seat back to leaning forward with his head in contact with Jackie's left arm in less than one second, seemingly too fast.
(H) In frames 153-155 (one-ninth of a second), a woman who is the thirteenth person east of the Stemmons sign has shifted her feet significantly... more than should be possible.
(I) In frames 335-336 (one-eighteenth of a second), Jackie moves her right arm a significant distance. Ron reminds us that laboratory tests show that a human eye blink is one-twenty-fifth of a second, and a flinch or startle response of moving an arm, leg or head takes one-fifth of a second as a basis for his conclusions.
(J) Comparing the Willis and Betzner photos, which are almost simultaneous in time, Ron notes that in Willis five adults and a child can be seen framed between the posts of the Stemmons sign, but in the Betzner picture, from a similar angle and a split second earlier, the same persons are not seen. Also, two women appearing in Zapruder in this sequence (188-210) should be seen in Willis and Betzner are not seen.
(K) In recent correspondence with me, Ron cites Dan Rather's description of the film and compares it to what is seen. Rather, of course, was one of the first persons to view the Z-film. Early in his commentary. Rather says the film shows... "The President's automobile was preceded by one other car... (the film does not show this) ... the President's black Lincoln automobile made a turn, a left turn, off Houston Street onto Elm Street (the film does not show this). It got about 35 yards from the corner of Elm and Houston... at the moment the President put his hand up and lurched forward and it was obvious he had been hit." The present film begins with the limo already on Elm at frame 133 and the forward lurch is between frames 188-200. "Governor Connally," Rather continued, "... in the seat just in front of the President, sensed something was wrong... his coat was unbuttoned... and as he turned he extended his right hand toward the President, he exposed his entire shirt front and chest... and was wounded with... a second shot (as Redmon comments, no existing Zapruder frames show the specific action that Rather describes, with the governor in full turn with hand extended toward the President). Rather continues"... the third shot hit the President, and... his head went forward with considerable violence." Was Rather looking at an unaltered different film... or is he just a lousy reporter?
In the wider context of the assassination, the most incongruous feature of the extant "Zapruder" film is arguably the depiction of a single, fatal shot to the President's head, which appears to blow out the entire right temple area, leaving a massive "crater".
The obvious inconsistencies between this imagery and the wounds to the President when he arrived at Parkland Hospital are enough to convince any serious student of the assassination that this section of the film is a complete fabrication. (Author David Lifton seems to be the first person to have made this observation in print, in his 1980 book Best Evidence.) But even leaving aside this "medical" evidence of alteration, the film itself can be examined for physical inconsistencies that would not occur if it were genuine, but which may have been overlooked if created as a work of "special effects". The "explosion" in Frame 313.
The bright red "explosion" shown in Frame 313 of the extant film appears to be a completely spurious addition. Recall that this "explosion" is not a ball of flame (as it would be if it were a special effect for an action movie), but rather is supposed to represent bloody matter ejected from the President's head. Now, whereas flame is caused by the emission of light upon the combustion of some material (which will subside when the fuel is spent), the red "spray" shown in Frame 313 ostensibly represents the reflection of light from the bloody matter, which would persist while this matter remains in the field of view.
My interest in this has endured for some time now. I first saw the Zapruder film around the Geraldo showing in 1975. It was a bootleg copy that some cameraman had come across. The first time I saw it, perhaps five or six other television cameramen were with me and, to a man, we felt it was very peculiar.
Every man in the room had combat-zone camera experience and their comments can be summed up as follows: either Zapruder knew what was coming down or he was stone-cold deaf. Anyone who was unaware of what was about to transpire and was forward of any muzzle blast - especially within 50 feet to his rear, as he reported - would have been off that pedestal in a flash.
My knee-jerk summation of the Zapruder film? JFK had to have been shot by more than one rifle and from more than one direction - possibly three directions, but certainly at least two. I don't give much credence to the so-called jet effect.
My more considered opinion? At least two guns from the rear, where, at my gut level, I surmise two from the right rear and one from the front, probably as an insurance policy (from the limo driver's front-facing perspective).
The Zapruder film was viewed on the day of the assassination by lab employees after it was processed. It wasn't sold to LIFE until the following day, after being viewed by Secret Service agents and media representatives.
Although Time-LIFE didn't allow public showings of the film, it was available for viewing at the National Archives following the Warren Commission Report's publication, and many researchers viewed it there.
The film was also repeatedly publicly shown in 1969 at the Clay Shaw trial in New Orleans, after which bootleg copies circulated widely. The film was also shown at JFK conferences beginning in 1973.
The idea that anyone had 12 years to "work on" the film is, of course, untenable. No one who saw in on November 22 or 23, 1963 has alleged alteration, and the film was readily viewable by researchers by late 1964, which would be a maximum of 12 months, not 12 years. Many of us had seen the film before it was shown on television in March 1975.
I have examined the arguments alleging alteration of the film, and have found nothing convincing in them. I have also examined the Zavada Report, which seems to firmly establish the film at the Archives is the camera original. The two Secret Service copies of the film are also at the Archives (no missing frames).
Although the limousine slowed considerably, it didn't stop. Witnesses alongside the limousine mostly support this - and most witnesses who report a stop were viewing the limo from behind. I don't recall any early statement by Moorman, Hill or the motorcycle officers that the limo stopped. Some confusion has resulted from the fact that the Warren Commission used an average speed, when the limo went both faster and slower than the average at various points.
There have also been interesting developments from the crime scene, perhaps the most important of which may seem like a no-brainer: The famous 26-second Zapruder home movie of JFK's murder contains original undoctored photographic imagery of the assassination. This authentication was deemed necessary by the Assassination Records Review Board, created by Congress to oversee the release of JFK records, because a vocal faction of JFK conspiracy theorists in the 1990s started claiming that the film had been surreptitiously altered to hide evidence of a conspiracy. (Their theory refuted, these conspiracy theorists abandoned the JFK field for greener pastures of 9/11 speculation.) However, this isn't to say that there aren't some legitimate and uncomfortable questions about assassination-related photographs.
"The only caution I have in the photographic record concerns the JFK autopsy material," says Richard Trask, a photo archivist in Danvers, Massachusetts who has the world's biggest collection of JFK assassination imagery, and has written two books on the subject. "That is an area that always makes me pause. What was happening during the autopsy if there was a cover-up or just incompetence, I don't know. It is the only area of the JFK story that I have some doubts about."
As well he should. The JFK medical evidence is worse than a mess -- it is a documented national scandal that awaits decent news coverage. The new evidence shows beyond a reasonable doubt that the photographic record of Kennedy's autopsy has been tampered with by persons unknown. The sworn testimony and records developed by the Assassination Records Review Board in the late 1990s allow no other conclusion.
Among the key post-Stone revelations in the JFK medical evidence:
Autopsy photographs of Kennedy's body are missing from government archives, according to sworn testimony from doctors and medical technicians involved in the autopsy. The origins of other autopsy photos in the collection cannot be determined.
Two FBI agents who took notes during the autopsy gave detailed sworn testimonies rejecting the so-called single bullet theory which girds the official story that Oswald alone killed Kennedy.
Dr. James Humes, the chief pathologist at JFK's autopsy, admitted under oath that he destroyed a first draft of his autopsy report. Humes had previously only admitted to destroying his original notes.
Dr. Gary Aguilar, a San Francisco ophthalmologist who has written about the autopsy, is emphatic. "The medical evidence is really stark evidence of a cover-up in my view," he says. "The story is so extraordinary that it is hard for some people, especially in mainstream media organizations, to come to grips with it. There's just no doubt that there were very strange things going on around the president's body that weekend."
Sounds like a paranoid fantasy? More than a few of the people who participated in the JFK autopsy have sworn to it.
Saundra Kay Spencer was a technician at the Navy's photographic laboratory in Washington. She developed the JFK autopsy photos on the weekend after Kennedy's death. She kept her oath of secrecy for 34 years. When she spoke to the ARRB in 1997, Spencer displayed the efficiency of a career military woman. She was well prepared with a sharp memory for the details of her involvement in the amazing events of November 22-24, 1963. Her testimony, after reviewing all the JFK autopsy photographs in the National Archives, was unequivocal. "The views [of JFK's body] we produced at the [Naval] Photographic Center are not included [in the current autopsy collection]," she said. "Between those photographs and the ones we did, there had to be some massive cosmetic things done to the President's body."
FBI agent Francis O'Neill was present during the autopsy and took notes. In 1997, he also viewed the photographs. Referring to an autopsy photograph showing the wound in the back of Kennedy's head, O'Neill said, "This looks like it's been doctored in some way. I specifically do not recall those -- I mean, being that clean or that fixed up. To me, it looks like these pictures have been. . . . It would appear to me that there was a -- more of a massive wound. . ." O'Neill emphasized he was not saying the autopsy photographs themselves had been doctored but that the wounds themselves had been cleaned up before the photograph was taken.
James Sibert, another FBI agent present at the autopsy, had a similar reaction to the photos. "I don't recall anything like this at all during the autopsy," he said under oath. "There was much -- well, the wound was more pronounced. And it looks like it could have been reconstructed or something, as compared with what my recollection was."
What both men were objecting to was the lack of a big hole in the back of JFK's head which would be somewhat indicative of a so-called blowout wound caused by a shot from the front.
The retired FBI agents were especially scathing about the single bullet theory positing that one bullet caused seven non-fatal wounds in Kennedy and [Texas] Governor Connally and emerged largely undamaged on a hospital stretcher.
They took notes on the autopsy as Dr. Humes examined Kennedy's body. Both said the autopsies concluded the bullet that hit Kennedy in his back had not transited his body. But chief pathologist Humes took another view in his autopsy report, writing that the bullet had emerged from Kennedy's throat and gone on to strike Governor Connally. But Humes's credibility is undermined by the ARRB's discovery that he destroyed not only his notes, but also his first draft of the autopsy report without ever revealing its contents or even existence.
Sibert later told a JFK researcher of the single bullet theory: "It's magic, not medicine."