In Search of the Great Red Spot
For the longest time, I suspected that the “slice” on the x-ray was embedded at the back of Kennedy’s head in the location of the red spot. With my discovery of the “slice” on the lateral x-ray, however, I avoided making such a sorry claim on this websitepresentation. (Only time will tell how many other sorry claims remain.) Anyhow, when you align the A-P x-ray with the back of the head and mystery photos, it becomes clear that the bullet “slice” was in fact, considerably to the right of the red spot. This is in keeping with the HSCA radiologists who said the fragment was to the right of the purported cowlick entrance.
So what was the red spot? For a brief period, I was tempted to conclude the red spot was merely the dried blood Dr. Humes suggested it was. But then I remembered that, when I matched up the neck lines in the back of the head photo with those in the mystery photo, the hairline wounds were suddenly in the same position as the one measured at the autopsy, and the red spot suddenly aligned with the beveled exit on the mystery photo. This seemed way too much a coincidence. This led me to conclude the red spot represented an impact location on the inside of Kennedy’s skull created by an exploding bullet fragment. Close-ups of the scalp reflected from the beveled bone in the mystery photo reveal a small dimple on the underside of the scalp, far too small to represent the exit of a full-sized bullet.
Ironically, the possibility exists that the fragment causing all this damage was the one found by Humes in Kennedy’s frontal lobe. Perhaps it landed in the lobe only after ricocheting off the inside of the back of Kennedy’s skull, leaving a line of macerated brain stretching from the far back of Kennedy’s head to his eyebrow, perhaps shedding small fragments along its way. This would certainly help explain the purported “channel” of brain damage observed on the brain photos.
Should one think that this fragment would have been likely to break through the skin at the point of the red oval, one should be reminded that books on the human skull acknowledge that it takes 30% more energy to pierce a skull when it’s covered with skin, and that skin is therefore much stronger than most believe. The bullet that killed Oswald, by curious example, cut through his entire body, including a number of organs, only to come to a sudden stop beneath the skin of his back.
Still, if the red spot overlay a hole in the skull caused by the large fragment removed at autopsy, it might appear that Humes lied to the HSCA. After all, when asked about the red spot in the cowlick, he answered: “I don’t know what that is. Number one, I can assure you that as we reflected the scalp to get to this point, there was no defect corresponding to this in the skull…” It remains possible, though, that he wasn’t lying. When he said “there was no defect corresponding” he may have been thinking in terms of the entrance he described to the Warren Commission, that is, a round hole completely surrounded by bone. Since so much of the skull collapsed as he reflected the scalp, and since he had such limited experience with gunshot wounds, it seems entirely reasonable that Humes would overlook what we now interpret as beveling, especially as it was some distance from what he’d determined to be the entrance and exit on the scalp.
X-ray/Ida Dox Drawing Comparison
testifying before the HSCA, medical illustrator Ida Dox declared that
the depiction of the skull fractures in the HSCA's medical exhibits was
determined after “studying very carefully
the x-rays…in close consultation with the medical panel, particularly
Baden.” As noted elsewhere, Baden had pressured her to
change her drawing of the back of the head
to make the red smudge in the cowlick look more like a bullet entrance,
and thus sell that the bullet entered near the top of Kennedy's head,
at not near the bottom, as noted at autopsy. This alone should give us
pause and make us double-check the accuracy of the fractures in these
Sure enough, when one compares the Dox illustration that details the skull fractures on Kennedy’s head, Exhibit F-66, to Kennedy's x-rays, one can't help but notice another one of Baden’s “improvements.” While there is a diagonal fracture heading towards the right at the back of the head on the Dox drawing, this fracture doesn’t appear on the x-ray. Although lateral x-rays are not expected to give clear images of fractures along the very back of the head, due to the density of the skull when looked at on edge, this fracture winds its way far enough to the side where it should be visible. So where is it? And, just as importantly, if it's not on the x-ray, why is it on the drawing?
And why are there fractures on the x-rays not depicted on the drawing? The large fractures originating near the President’s temple and running towards the back of his head were apparently overlooked by Dox and Baden. The intersection between the fracture originating near the purported in-shoot in the cowlick and the fracture coming from the wound near the temple, where it is made obvious that the temple wound pre-dates the cowlick wound, was also overlooked, apparently. But isn’t it a bit ridiculous to think that they also overlooked the two fractures running horizontally across the lower back portion of the skull? (The occipital region).
That these last fractures are troublesome is made clear when one reads the Clark Panel and HSCA reports and realizes that these fractures are never explained and are barely even acknowledged. While the Clark Panel, for instance, made the dubious claim that there was a hole 100 mm above the EOP and that “Immediately adjacent to the hole on the internal surface of the skull, there is localized elevation of the soft tissues”, they didn’t once mention the obvious and easy-to-distinguish fractures running horizontally across the back of the skull.
These fractures were ignored by most everyone, in fact, until radiologist Randy Robertson attempted to write about them in Radiology Magazine. Editor Stanley Siegelman submitted Robertson’s article for peer review to at least two doctors who’d staked their reputation on their belief that there was only one headshot. He then violated standard protocol and publicly rejected Robertsons’s submission, stating that these fractures were concentric fractures from the in-shoot in the cowlick, as per an article by Smith et al in the September, 1987 Journal of Forensic Sciences. When one reads the referenced article, however, one finds that concentric fractures are created slightly after a bullet’s impact as a result of increased intracranial pressure in the skull. This couldn’t have happened in Kennedy’s skull, however, because there were purportedly multiple exits created by its fragmenting bullet, which would immediately release the pressure. Similarly, the article demonstrates that concentric fractures have long spokes which are linked together by smaller fractures, as internal pressure builds and radiates outwards from the in-shoot. Accordingly, the smaller fractures connecting the spokes are not found at the end of the spokes, like a bicycle tire, but are lower in the spokes like a spider web. This is simply not the case with Kennedy’s fractures, where the spokes coming from the bullet fragment appear to end at the transverse fracture in the occipital region. This indicates that the occipital fractures pre-date the fractures purportedly coming from the bullet slice.
Adding to the likelihood that the troublesome features on
the x-rays were deliberately excluded from the Dox drawing is the fact that, on
exhibit F-66, the bullet is depicted traveling straight through Kennedy’s head,
down towards the seat in front of him. This would be Connally’s seat, where NO bullet fragments were found.
This drawing also fails to depict how the nose of this bullet raced across the
car at the level of Kennedy’s head and struck the windshield, and how the tail
of this bullet struck the windshield frame nearby. That this last deception was deliberate is
borne out by the pathology panel’s report, which states “in the experience of the members, the
estimated size of the principal exit defect is consistent with the size of a single exiting missile representing the
mass of the two major fragments recovered outside the body”. Since the "two major fragments” were the
nose and the tail of the bullet, and were missing large sections of the middle
and were thus not able to comprise a “single exiting missile,” the HSCA medical
panel was as much as admitting that the large skull fractures by the supposed
exit made no sense! Not surprisingly, F-66, created under Dr. Baden's supervision, fails to depict these fractures.
That the panel tried to hide the lack of logical support for their conclusions is further evidenced by their description of the bullet's path through the head. The report notes "The x-ray evidence indicates that the missile fragmented on impact, produced a number of outwardly radiating fractures, and proceeded in an essentially straight and forward path and to the right, paralleling the upper surface of the head. This type of missile fragmentation is consistent with a jacketed missile. The main core mass probably existed in a single fragment that remained intact until striking the automobile, causing it to fragment into several pieces." This is one of the most preposterous passages in the whole report. First, how does a bullet fragmenting upon impact with a skull remain intact until after exiting the skull, and then break up on a windshield or metal strut? It doesn't. Second, how does a "main core mass" entailing the nose and base of a bullet leave the contents of its middle in a skull, but exit intact? It doesn't. And third, since the largest recovered fragment was deformed and folded over on itself to a greater degree than one would expect from its merely striking a windshield, how does one conclude that this fragment "probably" exited the skull as part of a much larger fragment? One doesn't. Thus, the panel's conclusion regarding the fragments is absolute garbage, indicative of either the panel's own confusion, or its desire to confuse or mislead others.
As Dr. Baden himself, in his book Unnatural Death, repeats this nonsense about the bullet exiting intact and breaking up on the windshield frame, it seems likely he either actually believed or actively pushed this silliness. It seems mighty convenient for Dr. Baden and his contention of a cowlick entry that the exhibits created under his supervision not only failed to depict the occipital fractures on Kennedy's skull and the large fractures by the supposed exit, but the bullet's presumed exit trajectory to the windshield, which made little sense for the supposedly intact bullet needed to create the large exit fractures. It kinda makes one wonder whether Dr. Baden is a scientist or a salesman.
On the other hand, the errors and omissions might just be an
honest mistake. For the life of me I
can’t figure out any reason the Dox drawing would show the bullet descending at
20 degrees when the reported degree of declination from the sniper’s nest is
16 degrees. Maybe Baden and Dox were in way over their heads.
Another aspect of the medical evidence which has convinced many of fakery or deception is the “wing” of bone visible in the autopsy photos. It seemed to move from photo to photo and change shape. After much thought, however, I believe I have an explanation for these changes.
When one looks at the Zapruder film, one can’t help but notice the large opening on Kennedy’s skull apparent in the frames after 313. This opening appears to begin just in front of his ear. When one looks at the right lateral autopsy photo one sees exposed bone behind his ear, however, and in a location where there was reportedly no missing bone or scalp. This is a clear indication that this bone was dislodged from someplace else. And yet it’s still attached to scalp... Hmm...
After some consideration I realized that when the scalp exploded downwards, the skull bones that were attached to it began to peel away. One large fragment peeled all the way and crashed to the floor. (It can be seen flying down in the frames after 313.) A section of bone lower down on Kennedy’s skull, however, possibly including his sphenoid bone, didn’t finish peeling away from his scalp. It was, instead, left dangling by a thread of scalp by Kennedy's ear. (The shape of this bone can be seen in shadow in frame 323.) When Jackie Kennedy tried to close her husband’s head wound, moreover, she failed to flip this “wing” of bone back around to match up with the scalp, and left this “wing” dangling inside out back behind Kennedy’s ear. This is apparent in the right almost-lateral autopsy photo. Not surprisingly, the shape of this wing matches the shape of the shadow in frame 323.
When one looks at the back of the head photo, obviously taken a few minutes later, as Kennedy is now lying on his side, however, one can see that the “wing” of bone has suddenly changed. It is now far forward of the ear and of different proportions. I believe this is because it’s no longer a “wing” of bone, but a “wing” of scalp, the stubborn scalp that held the wing in place for so long. The dimensions of this scalp flap can be seen in frame 337.
It seems likely, then, that the wing of bone had either fallen to the table or been removed when the scalp and skull were more closely examined. This is not pure speculation, for that matter, as Dr. Humes testified that, early in the autopsy, when he and Dr. Boswell "moved the scalp about" while looking for metal fragments within Kennedy's skull, bone "fragments of various sizes would fall to the table..."
This so-called "wing of bone" becomes important when interpreting the x-rays. If the x-rays are Kennedy's, and were taken before the photographs, as purported, then the wing should be readily visible.
So where is it?
Where is the "Wing"?
Before I began this project I knew virtually nothing about x-rays. After reading about some of the controversies involving the Kennedy assassination, I eventually decided it was time to get my feet wet and learn a thing or two. The first thing I read was an online article by Joe Durnavich entitled “Making Sense of the Head X-rays,” available on Professor John McAdams’ JFK site. I was extremely impressed with this article, particularly its identification of the "wing" of bone on the lateral x-ray. When I tried to use Durnavich’s location on a comparison between the x-ray and right lateral autopsy photo for this presentation, however, I learned something unexpected. Durnavich, and just about everybody else who’s written on the x-rays, was wrong.
When one matches the wing of bone in size and angle in Durnavich’s analysis with the wing of bone on the right lateral autopsy photo one is at first amazed. Holy smokes, that’s the bone alright. When one aligns the wings in the x-ray and photo vertically, however, it becomes apparent that the x-ray extends way behind the skull in the photo. Even though the photo is at a slight angle, when one turns the face in the photo to be in perfect profile in one’s mind one can see the back of the head does not align with the x-ray. A closer look and one realizes, moreover, that the wing on Durnavich’s analysis is in front and above the spongy-looking bone on the x-ray; this is the mastoid process and it signifies the location of the ear. The photo, on the other hand, demonstrates that the wing is above and behind the ear.
When one uses an inverted view of the left lateral photo and matches it with the un-enhanced x-ray this becomes even more apparent. When one finds the right tilt for the skull, and lines up the skull dimensions, and depicts the position of the wing on Durnavich’s analysis on Kennedy’s profile, one can see that Durnavich’s “wing” begins almost on Kennedy’s face, when the actual wing is at last an inch and a half back in his hair. When one looks at the un-enhanced x-ray, moreover, one finds that Durnavich’s wing is located over a considerable amount of black space. When one considers that the wing of bone overlay intact skull, and that this means the x-rays penetrating it would have to penetrate three skull walls instead of two, then it’s really hard to understand how the wing could show up as black.
When one looks on the x-ray where the wing is on the photo,
however, it all becomes clear. For the
location of the wing on the autopsy photo--draping down behind the ear almost
to the table—is the very location of the mysterious white area we discussed on
the optical density slide. The “wing” is the white area!! This makes perfect sense as it represents
three walls as opposed to two. As Custer
and Reed did not allow for this extra level of density in the skull—it’s
doubtful they even discussed it since the doctors had not yet examined the
body—they would have set the levels as if they were x-raying a skull with only
two walls. The area with three walls would therefore go un-penetrated, and remain white. This unexpected overlay of
bone, furthermore, distorted the relative density of the entire x-ray.
Ironically, Dr. David Mantik, who was to conclude that the white area “was almost certainly added in the dark room. Its purpose was to emphasize the resulting dark area in front, which suggested that a bullet had exited from the front,” was on the verge of figuring out this mystery before his suspicious nature got the best of him. In Assassination Science, he discussed the white area in less paranoid terms. He said: “On close inspection, this remarkable white area is distinctly wider on one lateral view than the other. This implies that it was located closer to the right side of the skull.” He was so close and yet so far. Apparently, he never realized that the range of optical density measurements he'd derived from normal skull x-rays bore little relation to the range one would expect on an x-ray of a badly damaged skull with over-lapping skull fragments.
it was too late, and he was wed to his mistake... On November 21, 2009, I saw the concluding question and answer session of Mantik's presentation at the JFK Lancer conference in Dallas. As I
struggled toward the back of the room, I was stunned to see half the audience turn to look at me. As
I sat down and looked up, moreover, I saw that Mantik, too, was looking
at me. As the questioner in the front row resumed his question,
however, I realized why. Someone had asked Mantik if
the overlapping bone and missing bone on the x-ray could significantly alter the density range. He called it
"Speer's theory." Mantik, however, refused to acknowledge that this
would have much of an effect, and summarily dismissed "Speer's theory"
with the claim I was a layman and didn't know what I was talking about,
and that my theory was so unscientific that he felt testing the density
range of a skull damaged as badly as Kennedy's to be a total waste of
it wasn't the theory of a layman. Oh no, far from it. On 10-21-97,
Edward Reed, one of the two x-ray techs to assist in the autopsy of
President Kennedy, testified before the Assassination Records Review
Board (ARRB). When examining the lateral x-rays, Reed noted "The
dark spot that I am pointing to right now is a less dense area. There's
hardly any bone there. And there's only one side intact. Whereas here,
posteriorly, where I'm pointing to now is--the white area--is where the
words presented a serious challenge to Mantik's theory. Not only did
they pre-date my development of "Speer's" theory by seven years or so,
but they show that one of Mantik's biggest supporters, Doug Horne of
the ARRB, knew of my argument against Mantik's theory before I'd even stumbled on it.
how does Horne deal with this in his book? In Volume 2 of his five
volume opus Inside the Assassination Records Review Board, Horne
devotes 33 pages to a discussion of Reed's testimony. Curiously,
however, while he skips right over Reed's common sense explanation for
the "dark spot" and "white area" of the x-rays, he finds the space to
point out repeatedly that Reed was just an x-ray tech, and not
qualified to interpret any x-ray, let alone the x-ray of a gun shot
victim. This overlooks that Mantik, to whom Horne frequently defers, is
but a radiation oncologist, and has almost certainly never worked with
x-rays like the ones made of Kennedy, let alone interpreted them.
It's actually worse than that. In September, 2010, I finally took a look at the Power Point presentation Mantik delivered in Dallas the year before. On one of his slides, The White Patch: Evidence of Its Absurdity, it is noted that "No such white patch was seen in 19 cases of death due to gunshot wounds to the head, in x-rays collected by Douglas DeSalles, MD from forensic files." If I'm reading this correctly, it means that the OD measurements Mantik boasts prove the lateral X-ray a forgery were established not through his own intensive study of hundreds of x-rays, as one might guess, but through the study of but 19 x-rays collected by Dr. Doug DeSalles, a fellow researcher. Well, were these x-rays taken with the same kind of portable x-ray machine used to make the x-rays of Kennedy? Did they depict high-velocity gunshot wounds to the head? Did they depict skulls with missing fragments, set side by side with overlapping skull? I'd bet the farm they did not.
And you should, too. On another one of his slides entitled The White Patch: Impossible to Explain via Overlapping Bone, Mantik further revealed his lack of credibility. He claimed "that the Dark Area contains two layers of skull bone, one from each side, yet this area is astonishingly dark. One more layer of bone will not turn the Dark Area into a white patch." Yikes. How could he have missed that Reed and myself had argued that the White Patch was three layers of bone, and that the Dark Area was one layer of bone, and that the White Patch had therefore represented 300% as much bone, and instead claim that we believe the White Patch was three layers, and the Dark Area two, and that the White Patch had therefore represented but 50% more bone?
While I'd prefer to believe Mantik was above blowing smoke, I must admit that if I'd discovered a single-assassin theorist misrepresenting my theory in such a manner I'd have stood up from the crowd and corrected him. Hmmm... Maybe this explains Mantik's nervousness when I approached him after his presentation. I don't know.
On October 12, 2010, however, Dr. Mantik responded to some of my claims, and gave me reason to believe that he just isn't in touch with the facts. In a post on the Education Forum, Dr. James Fetzer related some comments from Mantik. One of these comments dealt with Mantik's "white patch," and my assertion it did not overlay the wound location proposed by most conspiracy theorists. To this, Dr. Mantik responded: "The original lateral X-ray probably showed missing BRAIN in the current area of the WHITE PATCH. It was the missing brain, not missing skull, that likely led to the WHITE PATCH.
This is one of my older points: on the lateral X-ray, it is missing brain that typically produces obvious dark areas, not missing bone!"
Well, heck, there it is. Mantik thinks the dark areas on the x-ray reflect missing brain. He fails to appreciate the obvious--that the un-enhanced x-rays show skull fractures on the intact skull that have nothing to do with missing brain and everything to do with missing skull. He simply fails to understand that, should one of the skull fragments on the back of the head be absent, the dark lines designating the fractures on the skull would be expanded to fill the gap, and become a "dark area." I mean, this isn't exactly rocket science. If losing a layer of bone would not make the skull appear much darker on an x-ray, as Mantik claims, then the skull fractures we all see on the x-rays are some sort of illusion.
Manual of Roentgenological Technique (1947) obliterates Mantik's claim missing brain "typically produces dark areas" on x-rays, and "not missing bone!" On page 134, it informs: "The thickness of the skull varies in different localities and since the density of the bony structures is in large part the determining factor in the production of the roentgenogram, those variations in thickness cause a pronounced difference in the density of the shadow produced. Owing to this localized thinning of the bone, five normal dark areas are seen in the skull corresponding to the thinner parts." It then lists these five "normal dark areas": Number one on this list is the "frontal bone on its lateral aspect just anterior to the coronal suture." This is the location of the "dark area" on Kennedy's x-ray Mantik finds so puzzling.
But no matter. We'll discuss Mantik in more detail later. We were discussing the deleterious effect of Mantik's mistakes on Horne. Such an impact becomes clear when one reads Horne's book's appendices. Yep, once again, the reports Horne wrote on his 1996 meetings with the ARRB's three consultants on the medical evidence undermine his subsequent conclusions. Forensic Anthropologist Douglas Ubelaker, upon viewing the lateral x-rays, noted "overlapping bone fragments" in the "temporal-parietal region of the lateral x-rays." This is almost certainly a reference to the white area noted by Mantik. More specifically, however, Forensic Radiologist John J. Fitzpatrick, a man with far more expertise on these matters than Mantik, confirmed that "overlapping bone is clearly present in the lateral skull x-rays" and that "the red flap above the ear" in the autopsy photos "equates with the overlapping bone in the lateral skull x-rays." (Although Mantik summarized the findings of Ubelaker and Fitzpatrick in his presentation, he failed to report that they'd both foreshadowed and offered strong support for what he preferred to call "Speer's theory." It's hard to believe this was an oversight.)
And from there it only gets worse... Near its conclusion, Horne's report on Fitzpatrick admits: "after reviewing some brief summaries of the independent research efforts of...Dr. Mantik...He did not find the work...to be persuasive, and did not concur with (his) findings..." (While Mantik did report Fitzpatrick's lack of approval, he presented it to his audience as a mystery, and failed to discuss the reasonable probability that Fitzpatrick did not concur with his findings at least in part because he believes Mantik's White Patch to be overlapping bone... what Mantik prefers to call "Speer's theory.")
In any event, I'm not the first to make the observation that the wing of bone or red
flap on the autopsy photos represents the white area on the x-rays.
Fitzpatrick had done so in 1996 and Edward Reed had done so in 1997. When one goes back to 1978, in fact, one can see that HSCA radiology consultant William Seaman, working with the un-enhanced x-rays, had also noted "overlapping skull pieces," much as the ARRB's anthropology consultant Ubelaker. That only makes sense. But what does not make sense is Doug Horne's
being told, as far back as 1996, of a common sense explanation for the white
area on the lateral x-ray...and then failing to raise this
issue with Mantik...
wait, it does make sense. Perfect sense. Sometimes even the best of us
are so stuck on our theories -- or so enamored with our favorite expert
or witness -- that we fail to look beyond them.
Lateral X-ray Comparison
Newly armed with this information that the “white area” on the lateral x-ray was in fact the “wing” of bone, we can look at the lateral x-ray with a fresh perspective. One thing one notices immediately is that the lower occipital fracture leads directly into the white patch, and appears to re-emerge on the far side of the “wing.” This is a strong indication that these two fracture lines are really one, only with a short distance of its length blocked off by the “wing”. This, of course, means that Dr. Randy Robertson was wrong, and that the occipital fractures did not derive from an occipital entrance. Since much, much earlier we noticed that the lowest of these fractures seems to run right up to the entrance in the hairline, and then veer away, it seems clear that the EOP entrance pre-dated the huge fractures coming from the temple. This is in keeping with our analysis of the angle of entry.
When one compares the lateral x-ray to the pre-mortem x-ray of President Kennedy, moreover, one can find that some of the whiteness in the “white area” pre-dated the wing. In other words, the wing over-lapped an area already demonstrating dense bone. This makes it difficult to isolate the exact shape of the wing. One can also find through such a comparison the location of some of the sinuses—air pockets-- in the bones of Kennedy’s skull. Since one of the pre-existing air pockets has a fracture running out of it on the autopsy x-ray, some might try to convince themselves this signifies the location of the EOP entrance. But they would be wrong, as this point is well above the EOP.
When one compares the location of the HSCA in-shoot to this same location on the pre-mortem x-ray, however, one can see a previously unseen dark shape on the bone, almost assuredly a result of a fragment’s impact on the interior skull. This leads one to wonder what can be noticed at the EOP entrance location. Despite the HSCA’s insistence that there were no signs of this entrance to be found, a dark shape almost certainly signifying this entrance, and one that is far more prominent than the shape in the cowlick, is precisely where Humes said it was! And no, it’s not an artifact…
Should one be skeptical that an entrance wound in the occipital bone could create so few fractures, one should remember that the test skull submitted by Larry Sturdivan to the HSCA demonstrated just that.
Lateral X-ray/Back of the Skull Comparison
Since there are so many who believe the open-cranium photograph and the lateral x-ray are in complete disagreement, I decided to put them side by side and size them, to see if this was so. After careful study, I have concluded they represent the same skull at different points of an autopsy. Apparently, the source of the confusion lies in Dr. Boswell’s measurements of the head wound, which are quite large and stretch from the back of Kennedy’s head to its front, and are in accordance with the photograph, but in disagreement with the x-ray and the other photographs with Kennedy’s scalp intact. What people seem to miss is that Boswell’s measurements were performed on the skull after the scalp was peeled back and the brain removed. This was some time after the lateral x-ray was taken, and before any incisions were performed on the body. That the wound changed shape when the scalp was peeled back is confirmed by Dr. Humes’ testimony, both before the Warren Commission and afterwards, where he recounts how large chunks of skull fell to the table when he peeled back the scalp, and how he had to break off even more pieces of skull to remove the brain. When one compares the x-ray and photograph, one can even make out these large chunks of skull.
Should one believe that the measurements were taken before the scalp was peeled back, one should ask oneself how accurate measurements could have been taken with Kennedy’s long blood and brain-matted hair in the way. That the hair was not shaved is confirmed by everyone present.
Especially remarkable when one makes this comparison is that the bullet hole visible on the autopsy photo appears to match up perfectly with the shadow apparent on the x-ray. This shadow almost certainly represents the small entrance in the occipital bone described by Humes. But is it apparent on the A-P?
A-P X-ray Comparison
According to the report of the HSCA radiology consultant Dr. G.M. McDonnel, he inspected the x-rays on March 7, 1978, and made suggestions to Aerospace Corporation, El Segundo, California, as to what portions should be digitized and enhanced for further analysis.
One of the reasons cited for this procedure was that “enhancement permitted analysis or elimination of artifacts on the images.” (This makes me nervous already. Since so many of the mysteries of the x-rays have been interpreted as “artifacts”, one can’t help but wonder what “artifacts” were “eliminated” in this “enhancement,” and whether any valuable information was lost in the process.)
His report goes on to say he re-examined and discussed the (now-enhanced) x-rays on April 6 and 7 with the photographic evidence panel and again on his own at the National Archives on June 2. What is suspicious about this whole sequence of events, however, is that when one compares the un-enhanced and enhanced x-rays it is startlingly obvious that the lower back of the head has disappeared from the enhanced x-ray! While one might say that McDonnell simply didn’t find that area relevant, this would be akin to calling McDonnel a moron. The area in question is where the autopsy doctors said there was an entrance. The area in question was closely studied on the photographs. While the area on the x-rays may well have revealed nothing, the failure to enhance this area revealed all. To me it is a clear indication the HSCA’s panelists and consultants had a pre-disposition to support the conclusions of the Clark Panel and assert the president was killed by a shot entering near his cowlick. Even if this meant damaging the reputations of the autopsy doctors. Even if this meant ignoring the truth…
A-P/Lateral X-ray Comparison Comparison
It was while comparing the un-enhanced and enhanced A-P x-rays that I noticed something mighty peculiar. The transverse fracture line presumed to have been in the occipital bone was wider on the un-enhanced x-ray than on the enhanced x-ray. Since the fracture itself would have to be the same in both exhibits, I gathered from this that there was air surrounding the fracture, and that this air became less apparent in the enhanced version. This puzzled me a bit, in part because this fracture seemed like a very sharp line in the lateral x-ray, but even more so because I couldn’t figure out what tissue was holding this air. I couldn’t imagine the President’s brain, as devastated as it was by the bullet striking him near his temple, to have the consistency necessary to contain the air by the occipital fracture. It was then that I realized the transverse fracture was significantly wider in the A-P view than in the lateral view. This made no sense, as a fracture at the back of Kennedy’s head should, due to the substantial magnification of Kennedy’s face in the A-P view, appear smaller than the lateral fractures when the skulls were made to match.
This led me to roam the internet for a night or two in search of lateral and A-P x-rays of fractures at the back of the head. And I found what I should have suspected all along--that fractures of the occipital region do not show up clearly on A-P x-rays. That is why there are different views of the skull. According to the chapter Skull Trauma, by Bergeron and Rumbaugh, in Radiology of the Skull and Brain, “Most radiologists obtain, at a minimum, right and left lateral views, anteroposterior and posteroanterior views in the Caldwell projection, and anteroposterior and posteroanterior Towne views.” The view prescribed for identifying fractures on the occipital bone is the Towne view, which was not attempted with President Kennedy. The Skull Trauma chapter was also educational in that it included a number of A-P and lateral x-rays taken of the same skulls. As suspected, there wasn’t one instance where a posterior fracture was larger in proportion on the A-P view than on the lateral view. In several instances, large fractures across the back of the skull could not even be seen on the A-P view. I probed further in order to verify my suspicions.
Optical Illusion Analysis
I looked through the old General Electric guidebook on x-rays I’d found to see if it described the use of A-P views to inspect the occipital bone. I found that yes indeed there was such a projection, but it entailed the patient tucking his chin while x-ray beams were sent through his skull at a 35 degree angle from above. The portable machine used on Kennedy was not capable of such a maneuver. Neither was Kennedy.
Even so, the HSCA radiologists insisted the fractures visible on the A-P view were on the occipital bone. Dr. G.M. McDonnel stated that from the metal fragment he believed to be on the back of Kennedy’s head “stellate type fractures “radiate” into both occipital bones, the right parietal bone and the right temporal bone.” Since he was wrong about the fragment, perhaps he was wrong about the fractures as well. But he wasn’t alone. Dr. David Davis told the HSCA: “There is a sharply defined linear fracture extending laterally from the metallic fragment into the left side of the calvarium, around the parietal bone to the lateral aspect of the skull.” He continued: “two linear fractures extend inferolaterally from the metallic fragment, one into the occipital bone, about 3 cm from the midline, and this fracture crosses the lambdoid suture. The other one is more lateral, and extends down toward the lateral sinus, probably above the lambdoid suture.”
The report of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel agreed with their consultants on this point: “there is a sharp disruption of the normal smooth contour of the skull…with fracture lines radiating superiorly and inferiorly….at this point there is an irregular, radiopaque, sharply outlined bullet fragment…The location of the missile fragment and transverse fractures of the occipital region of the skull is also apparent in the anterior-posterior x-ray view of the skull…The defect in the skull and the inward beveling thereof provide definite evidence of an entrance wound of the head at a point corresponding to that noted by the panel in the upper back of the scalp.”
I decided to match up the back of he head with the A-P view as best I could. Since I’d already matched up the forehead fragment (on the Believing is Seeing slide) and since Joe Durnavich had convinced me the forehead in the A-P x-ray was 20% larger than the back of Kennedy’s head, due to magnification, I increased the comparative size of the A-P x-ray in that comparison by 1.2 in order to match up the occipital regions on the two x-rays. I then compared this larger skull to the lateral x-ray and I found what I was afraid I’d find. The transverse fracture in the A-P x-ray is not low enough on Kennedy’s skull to be the transverse fracture in the occipital bone on the lateral x-ray. Even worse, when I projected the relevant angles onto Kennedy’s pre-mortem lateral x-ray, I saw that the dense petrous bone by Kennedy’s ear would be likely to obscure most of his occipital bone in the A-P projection. I concluded that the fractures apparent on the A-P view were almost certainly not in the occipital bone. This would explain why the fractures along the back of Kennedy’s head in the A-P view were either invisible or in the wrong place on the lateral view.
The more I thought about it, the more I accepted this possibility. While the fracture in the lateral view disappears into a sinus at the back of Kennedy’s head, this sinus is inexplicably invisible in the A-P view. Upon closer examination, the fracture heading into the left side of the skull also fails to match. Along with the other fractures supposedly radiating from the fragment in the A-P view, where are these fractures in the lateral view? The transverse fracture nearest the level of the depressed fracture seems to be on the right side, as it ends at a fracture coming from the large defect by the right temple. The angle that this fracture heads forward seems wrong as well. While it curves downwards in the lateral view it soars upwards in the A-P view. If one is to argue this fracture is not seen on the lateral, because it is on the far side of the skull, then one should explain why the occipital fracture would be so clear on the A-P view. Finally, as this fracture is reportedly a depressed fracture, shouldn’t there be a white line reflecting the overlap of bone? According to Skull Trauma by Bergeron and Rumbaugh “the roentgenographic characteristic of the depressed fracture is the line or shadow of increased density caused by overlapping of bony margins or fragments.” Keep in mind that when talking of x-rays, white areas are often called shadows. Black is white and white is black.In February, 2006, I decided to take my findings on the x-rays to an online radiology forum. While my online presentation received hundreds of hits as a result, I received very few comments, positive or negative. (I took this as a positive; if my findings had been totally off-base, I think these professional radiologists would have told me about it, or at least recommended a book I should read so I could learn what the heck I’m talking about.) Anyhow, I did receive a confirmation for one of my claims—that Kennedy’s A-P view would not show his occipital fractures. This confirmation came from a medical radiation technologist. He/she agreed with the official interpretation that Kennedy’s head was tilted back considerably in the A-P view but responded to my prodding by stating: “I don't think that a modified Waters view would help with a view of the occiput. You would probably throw the jaw and the teeth over the structures in the occipital region. The cervical spine would also be superimposed on top of the midline of the occiput. The best view would have been the angled down Towne's view...as shown in your photograph. That would toss the face below the level of the occiput and showed the entire bone. In clinical radiography that view is almost always taken. In forensic or autopsy radiography, usually only two views are done--the AP and lateral.” I received an e-mail response from a radiologist which offered additional insight. He said “much of the theory about how to shoot AP or PA plain films of the skull and facial bones is designed to get the dense petrous pyramids out of the way…The occipital view for example is designed to throw the petrous pyramids below the foramen magnum.”
Years later, when re-reading Harrison Livingtone's book Killing the Truth, moreover, I realized that Livingstone had been in contact with Dr. Donald Siple, Chief Radiologist at Maryland General Hospital, and that Siple had told him much the same thing. In an April 16, 1993 letter, reprinted in the book, Siple told Livingstone that a large defect visible on an A-P view would have to be in front, as occipital defects "did not shine through."
This is further confirmed by Manual of Roentgenological Technique (1947), which, while listing the prominent features to be studied on an A-P x-ray, listed only features of the front of the skull, such as the orbits (aka the eye sockets), the frontal sinus, and the frontal bone; it failed to even mention the occipital region.
So there you have it. There are good reasons to believe the fracture line low on the A-P view is not on the occipital bone.
Fractured Orbit Analysis
So where were the fractures in Kennedy’s eye socket on the A-P view actually located? Well, since they appear to be in his eye socket, I thought I’d start by checking there. Once started, I decided to look no further.
Let’s recall the words of the doctors in the autopsy protocol (I’ll do my best to translate): “There is edema and ecchymosis of the inner canthus region of the left eyelid measuring approximately 1.5 cm in greatest diameter. There is edema and ecchymosis diffusely over the right supra-orbital ridge with abnormal mobility of the underlying bone.” (There is swelling and bruising on the inner part of the left eyelid. There is swelling and bruising and a noticeable bone fracture above the right eye socket.) Let’s recall that Boswell’s drawing of Kennedy’s skull on the back of the face sheet, entered into evidence as part of HSCA exhibit F-44, depicts a shattered eye socket with the notes “Globe rt. Eye” and “fracture through floor.” (A globe fracture is a structural collapse of the eye.) These are indications that the President’s eye sockets were fractured. When asked by the ARRB to explain his notes on the skull drawing, Boswell stated: the “fracture through the bone extended from the frontal bone and through the floor of the orbit.” Case closed. Kennedy had fractured orbits (eye sockets).
So why didn’t the HSCA’s chief radiology consultant,
Dr. G. M. McDonnel, mention any fracture lines visible in the orbits on the A-P
view? After all, the A-P view portrayed
the face 20% larger than the back of the head and the fractures should have
been readily apparent.
They were certainly apparent to others. In a March 1993 defense of the single-assassin theory published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Robert Artwohl, while trying to refute those believing the X-rays showed the right side of Kennedy's face to be missing, claimed "The swollen and ecchymotic right orbit seen in the autopsy pictures and Humes' description of the instability of the face in this area correspond precisely to the extensive right orbital fracture and frontal bone fractures seen on the available roentgenograms." He later expanded on these comments in a September 11, 1994 e-mail to a JFK assassination newsgroup, reporting that "The right orbit is fractured in several places." Similarly, a 1977
report with one of their consultants, Dr. Norman Chase, entered
evidence as Exhibit F-34, claims that when shown the x-rays, Dr. Chase
fracture of the right orbit.” Chase's appraisal, moreover, supported the analysis of the other radiologist contacted by the HSCA in 1977, Dr. William Seaman, who told them that "Fractures were evident through the upper part of the right eye, including the top and bottom of the right orbit," and that, in addition, "The bottom of the frontal sinus was fractured." Even further back, Dr.
Fred Hodges, in his 1975 report to the Rockefeller
Commission, observed "multiple extensive fractures
involving the cranial vault and orbits" and then specified that
fracture lines "reached" into the left orbit, implying that these
fractures started elsewhere, like the right orbit.
These statements led me to wonder if what McDonnell thought was a transverse fracture on the occipital bone in the A-P view could instead be the fractured right eye socket noted at autopsy, and then subsequently noted by Dr.s Hodges, Chase, Seaman, and Artwohl.
My wondering came to an end with the discovery of an x-ray depicting a blow out fracture of a man’s left orbit. This fracture created the wide air-filled shape apparent in Kennedy’s original A-P x-ray in the exact same place on the skull. The Merck Index defines a blow-out fracture as: “fracture of the orbital floor caused by a sudden increase of intraorbital pressure due to traumatic force; the orbital contents herniated into the maxillary sinus so that the inferior rectus or inferior oblique muscle may become incarcerated in the fracture site, producing diplopia on looking up.” That air had filled the maxillary sinus (a sinus—cavity—below the eye socket) would seem to explain the air surrounding the supposed occipital fracture apparent when one compares the un-enhanced x-ray to the enhanced x-ray. That air was in this sinus, and that this proved the orbit was damaged, and this "fracture" on the face, was not just my opinion, moreover, as the head radiology tech at the autopsy, Jerrol Custer, claimed as much in his ARRB testimony.But what of the other fracture lines apparent in the A-P view? While reading about blow-out fractures, I found a number of drawings depicting what are known as Le Fort fractures. These fractures appeared similar but not identical to Kennedy’s fractures. An online article by the Skull Base Institute entitled Craniofacial and Skull Base Trauma states: “forceful impact to the skull can cause a fracture along the weak points of the orbit….Le Fort III fractures…progress laterally along the entire orbital floor and extend to disrupt the zygomaticofrontal suture…Le Fort III fractures result in complete craniofacial dysjunction because the facial bones and structures of the middle third of the face become totally separated from the cranium…Since most facial trauma consists of blows from the side or slightly off center, ideal, symmetric Le Fort I, I, or III patterns are rarely followed. Most Maxillary fractures are more comminuted on one side than the other. Thus Le Fort fractures may be seen in any combination.” I took from this article that a Le Fort fracture would help explain the “abnormal mobility of the underlying bone” discussed in the autopsy report. It also convinced me that Kennedy’s fractures need not look exactly like the drawings of Le Fort fractures, and, in fact, shouldn’t look exactly like these drawings, due to the fact his fractures came from behind and were created in part by an actual impact of a missile on the orbital rim. But I needed a second opinion.
Another online article, Orbit Fractures, by Antonio Pascotto on the eMedicine website, discussed Le Fort III fractures in a similar manner: “This fracture rarely results in a single segment of bone; more commonly, the break is comminuted, with varying combinations of zygomatic, nasoethmoid, and orbital fractures. (Translation: fractures involving the cheek bone, nose, and eye sockets.) The fractures may not be symmetric on both sides, and minimal mobility may be present… Orbital emphysema, when detected on plain images, is frequently from a blow fracture of the medial wall…an air-fluid level in the maxillary antrum suggests an orbital floor injury…Unilateral base opacification of the ethmoid air cells would suggest a medial wall fracture.” While I still haven’t figured out exactly how to detect “unilateral base opacification of the ethmoid air cells” the line about orbital emphysema intrigued me, as both of Kennedy’s eye sockets appear to be darkened in the A-P view. In Radiology of the Skull and Brain I found an x-ray depicting such emphysema (air) in the eye sockets and found that, as on Kennedy’s x-rays, the air collects at the top of the eye socket.
Another eMedicine article entitled Facial Trauma, Maxillary and Le Fort Fractures by David W Kim confirmed much of what I’d already read: “In reality, the Le Fort classification is an oversimplification of maxillary fractures. In most instances maxillary fractures are a combination of the various Le Fort types. Fracture lines often diverge from the described pathways and may result in mixed type fractures, unilateral fractures, or other atypical fractures. In addition, in very high energy blows, maxillary fractures may be associated with fractures to the mandible, cranium, or both.” (Maxillary fractures are, by the way, fractures involving the Maxilla, the bone stretching from the upper jaw to the lower eye socket.) In Kim’s discussion of Le Fort III fractures I noticed something new, however: “Intanasally, a branch of the fracture extends through the perpendicular plate of the ethmoid, through the vomer, and through the interface of the pterygoid plates to the base of the sphenoid.” What I noticed was this reference to the Vomer bone, a small bone underlying the nose. Included in Dr. Boswell’s notes on the back of the face sheet are two words that have always intrigued me: “Vomer crushed.”
Crash Go the Consultants
A look at Dr. Boswell's drawing of Kennedy's skull further supports that the supposedly occipital fractures on the A-P x-ray were actually fractures of the right orbit. In the forehead area of this drawing, created during the autopsy, there is a notation reading "19cm." When asked in his ARRB testimony if this notation referred to the length of a scalp laceration, Boswell replied "there was an incised wound up there that extended into the right eye socket and then back across his temporal and frontal bone" and then explained further "The bone was all fragmented for that distance, 19 centimeters across the frontal bone." When one follows the line from the fractured floor of the eye socket on the drawing, furthermore, one can see that it rises up and curls over to the left side of the skull. This mirrors the fractures on the x-ray supposedly radiating from an entrance wound on the back of the skull. That the fractures purported to be on the back of Kennedy's head were in fact in his eye sockets is further supported by the not surprising fact that, in Boswell's drawing, there are NO fractures starting low on the back of the skull and curling over to the left side.
Let's recall here the precise words of chief HSCA radiology consultant Dr. G. M. McDonnel. He concluded there was: "A metallic fragment on the outer table of the right occipital bone 9.6 cm above the mid-portion of the External Occipital Protuberfance (EOP). 1 cm above the metallic fragment is a depressed fracture from which stellate type fractures "radiate" into both occipital bones, the right parietal bone and the right temporal bone.These are vividly and convincingly displayed in the enhanced images, specifically the "anteroposterior" (AP) projection of the skull." From this it seems clear his incorrect belief the fragment was on the back of the head fed into his belief these fractures were on the back of the head. He'd compounded his mistake by twisting the evidence to support it.
Or maybe he was just covering up. In any event, he was not alone. The other HSCA radiology consultant shown the enhanced x-rays, Dr. David O. Davis, also came to the conclusion there was a bullet fragment on the back of the head and that fractures radiated outwards from this fragment. While McDonnell had noted "fracture lines through the anterior and posterior aspects of the right frontal sinus," moreover, Davis noted that the right orbit was fractured in the roof, right side and inferior rim. One can only wonder then which fractures on the A-P x-ray they'd connected with the occipital fracture and which ones with the sinus and orbital fractures. Still, it seems likely Davis associated the fracture lines around the outside of the orbit with fractures of its roof, right side and rim, and the fractures cutting across the orbit and heading to the left side of the skull with fractures in the occiput. If so, then one can only wonder if he'd ever been shown the drawing made by Boswell at the autopsy, which clearly depicts the fracture just below point 2 on the slide above in the eye socket, and the fracture line connecting point 2 with point 3 on the left front of Kennedy's head, and no fractures radiating from the cowlick area.
And, should one continue to doubt that the HSCA's radiology consultants were pressured or deceived into concluding that the large fragment and transverse fractures on the A-P x-ray were on the back of Kennedy's head, when they were really behind Kennedy's eye, one need only read the ARRB reports on their meetings with their own consultants. Dr. Douglas Ubelaker, their forensic anthropology consultant, could not find an entrance on the back of the skull on either the A-P or lateral x-rays, and noted no fracture lines on the A-P x-ray, but nevertheless related that "the orbit of the right eye appears displaced on the A-P x-ray." Dr. John J. Fitzpatrick, their forensic radiology consultant, also saw no entrance on any of the x-rays, and also failed to note fractures on the back of the head in the A-P x-ray, and similarly noted that "the orbit of the right eye is cracked and displaced." And, finally, Dr. Robert Kirschner, their forensic pathology consultant, completed the trifecta--he noted no entrance wound on any of the x-rays, noted no fractures in the A-P x-ray, and related instead that "The rear of the right orbit was observed to be missing."
That's three for three. Three consultants, all of whom failed to note fractures on the back of the head in the A-P x-ray, and all of whom offered that the damage visible in the A-P x-ray was in the orbit.
And oh, by the way, on this point, I am not at odds with Dr. Mantik. In an unpublished manuscript written before he was allowed to view the x-rays, and measure their optical density, Dr. Mantik discussed other aspects of the x-rays which he considered of interest. This manuscript was excerpted in Harrison Livingstone's 1993 book Killing the Truth. Even so, in 2011, while looking back through the book, I was astounded to find that Mantik had observed, long before I, that the fracture lines the HSCA's panel thought derived from the cowlick entrance did not actually come from that location, and that "On the contrary, based on the radiographs and on Boswell's diagram, several of these obvious fracture lines may lie in the inferior orbital rim and not on the posterior skull at all." He then proceeded to quote Dr. Seaman in support of this analysis.
And so, yes, surprisingly, on this point, Dr. Artwohl, Dr. Mantik, and myself, agree. As do the far more qualified and presumably impartial consultants hired by the ARRB...
out there still convinced these fractures were on the back of the
head, and not in the orbit, should feel free to chime in... But you're
When one compares the deaths of President Lincoln and President Kennedy, there are many striking similarities. Some of these similarities involve the wounds themselves. In both cases there were controversies about the direction that the bullet passed through the skull. Dr. Joseph Woodward performed Lincoln’s autopsy and reported that the round bullet lodged above Lincoln’s left eye. Surgeon General Joseph Barnes reported that it lodged above the right eye. Lincoln’s family physician Robert King Stone took notes at the autopsy; these notes were published almost a hundred years later; they largely backed up Woodward.
Another similarity is that, as a result of the bullet’s impact, both men suffered fractures of both of their eye sockets. This is a frequent occurrence in severe head wounds. The bones at the back of the eye sockets are particularly thin and prone to collapse from increased intra-cranial pressure. Dr. Vincent J.M. Di Maio writes “The production of secondary fractures of the skull in gunshot wounds of the head is dependent on two factors: the range at the time of discharge and the kinetic energy possessed by the bullet. The most common sites for secondary skull fractures are the paper-thin orbital plates. These are extremely sensitive to a sudden increase in intra-cranial pressure such as that produced by a bullet entering the cranial cavity.” Let’s compare… The bullet striking Lincoln in the back of his head and causing his eye socket fractures weighed approximately 6.7 grams or 103 grains and was traveling at approximately 400 fps. The bullet purportedly striking Kennedy at the back of his head weighed approximately 10.4 grams or 160 grains and was traveling at approximately 1800 fps. Since the basic formula for estimating energy release in tissue is mass x speed x speed, this means that Kennedy’s skull was subjected to an impact over 30 times as great as Lincoln’s. (While the actual amount of energy released into Kennedy’s skull would be substantially less than this amount, as pieces of the fatal bullet exited the skull before depositing all their energy, it remains clear that the amount of energy deposited in Kennedy’s skull was substantially larger than the amount of energy deposited in Lincoln’s.)
So where are these orbital fractures on Kennedy’s x-rays? Until these fractures or lack thereof are adequately explained, there is no reason to believe that the fractures on the A-P x-ray supposedly on the back of Kennedy’s head are anywhere but his eye sockets.
While some might say “case closed”, the fact is that, for me, the case will remain open. I have created this webpage, in part, to encourage a more open and intelligent discussion of the medical evidence related to the assassination of President Kennedy. I don't pretend to be an "expert" on any of the topics discussed in these chapters. And yet it seems I’ve uncovered many issues not addressed by the so-called experts. I await the response and criticisms of those more familiar with this subject matter than myself, and will update this webpage accordingly.