An intense examination of an autopsy photo so confusing that doctors won't guess what it shows
For reasons beyond my grasp, the first image in each chapter sometimes fails to appear. If there's nothing up above, don't despair; you can still see the image here
Scalp Triangle Comparison
By analyzing the scalp in the background of the open-cranium photo one finds another way to determine its proper orientation. This is because if one were to interpret the photo as being taken from the front, a la the HSCA, it would mean the doctors left the scalp intact at the back of the skull near their supposed entrance, the area they were supposedly inspecting and photographing. This just makes no sense.
When one looks even closer at this un-reflected scalp, one can see a triangle-shaped section of torn scalp. As there were no scalp lacerations at the back of the head recorded in the autopsy protocol and the testimony of the doctors asserts there were no incisions made on the scalp beyond one by the left ear, these obvious lacerations shouldn’t exist (unless one is to allow that the doctors ripped Kennedy’s scalp apart with their bare hands!!), should one insist this photo was taken from the front. Since a similar scalp triangle is apparent near the President’s right forehead in the lateral autopsy photo, it is simply far more logical and less gruesome to assume this photo was taken from behind.
When one notices Kennedy’s haircut in the autopsy photos, and realizes that the hair was much longer on top, and remembers that the doctors did not shave or cut Kennedy’s hair, the question arises then of where this hair went to, should one still believe the open cranium photo was taken from the front. Why is the hair in the scalp triangle so short, if it is in fact from the crown of Kennedy’s head, as would appear to be the case, should one still interpret this photo in the official manner? Since the hair by the temple was much shorter than the hair at the top of Kennedy’s head (as made clear by the left profile photo) doesn’t it simply make more sense to conclude the hair in the scalp triangle came from Kennedy’s temple? To my eyes, the scalp triangle only makes sense if the mystery photograph was taken from the rear.
Entry Wound Close up and Neck Line Comparison
When one inspects the back of the
head photo and matches its neck lines with those on what is presumed
to be the neck in the open cranium photo, one finds yet another argument that the open cranium photo depicts the back of Kennedy's head. Certainly the lines on the open cranium photo are not just
random lines on a towel. Since the HSCA
Authenticity Report stated “Such lines develop in most individuals by middle
age, but their exact arrangement forms a pattern that is virtually unique to
the individual” one would like to think they tested the lines to see if they
matched. Unfortunately, there is no mention of this in their report.
Perhaps they'd failed to do this because they'd concluded the lines weren't in fact lines of the neck... While I'd once thought the lines conclusive, and mentioned them in my videos, I now have my doubts. In 2010, I received an email from a reader named Martin, and he pointed out to me that when one looks at high-contrast versions of the mystery photo what I've purported to be Kennedy's neck appears to be a flat block or tray of some sort, on which the skull is resting on its side. (I hope to perform some re-enactments which will make this more clear.) In any event, when one views these high-contrast images, what I've previously presumed to be neck lines appear to be artifacts--scratches on the photos or some such thing. Now I really can't say for sure. But neither can I honestly claim the mysterious lines on the mystery photo are neck lines, and that this proves the photo was taken from behind.
But that's okay. There are numerous other indications that the open cranium photo depicts the entrance wound described at autopsy, and that it was thus taken from behind. Let us remember here that on their January 26, 1967 report on the photos, the doctors asserted, when discussing the color photo of the back of the head, that “due to the fractures of the underlying bone and the elevation of the scalp by manual lifting (done to permit the wound to be photographed) the photographs show the wound to be slightly higher than its actually measured site.” This indicates that before they pulled the scalp up, the entrance in the scalp was slightly lower and hidden in a skin fold. This explains the slightly lower position of the wound in the open cranium photograph. Not only that, this indicates that the position of the entrance wound before it was “lifted” approximated the teardrop of spinal fluid readily visible in the scalp on the back of the head photographs and repeatedly identified by the original autopsists as the entrance location. From this it seems logical that this mysterious fluid is no mystery at all, but is instead some macerated brain matter that leaked from the entrance wound during the long flight from Dallas.
A close inspection of the wounds is especially revealing. While it is usually inferred from the Warren Report’s description of the “slicing” associated with the occipital entrance wound that the wound was vertical, and the Rydberg drawings portray it as such, Dr. Finck, the bullet wounds expert at the autopsy, informed his Army superiors in a report filed in January, 1965, that the wound was “transversal,” heading right to left. (While Humes’ misrepresentation of the wound may have been an honest mistake, it’s intriguing that, within a week of interviewing Humes, Arlen Specter asked Parkland witness Dr. Clark if his observations were consistent with the presence of a “lateral wound measuring 15 by 6 cm. on the posterior scalp.” Did Specter know Humes’ testimony was incorrect? If so, how?) Anyhow, Finck’s description of the wound as transversal makes perfect sense when one remembers Boswell’s inclusion on the autopsy face sheet of an arrow heading both to the left and upwards from the bullet entrance, particularly when one considers that Boswell would have immediately connected in his mind the large exit high on the skull as the logical exit of the bullet making the small entrance below, and heading to the left.
One can deduce from this then that the bullet came from the President’s right, or that it hit the President while his head was turned to its right, just enough so that the bullet grazed along the flesh on the outside of his skull before entering. The so-called military review of January 26, 1967, says as much, stating, when discussing the photo with the President’s scalp still intact “The scalp wound shown in the photographs appears to be a laceration and tunnel, with the actual penetration of the skin (NOTE: they must have meant “skull”) obscured by the top of the tunnel. From the photographs this is not recognizable as a penetrating wound because of the slanting direction of entry.” Dr. Finck’s description of the wound and assertion of a tunnel is, not coincidentally, completely at odds with the Clark Panel and HSCA purported in-shoot in the cowlick. The skull at the Clark Panel's location for the bullet hole had been removed, in fact, before Dr. Finck had even arrived at the autopsy.
Should one accept that the entrance described at the autopsy could be the transversal entrance proposed in the images above, but have a problem believing that this bullet entrance could 1) have gone unnoticed by the Parkland doctors, and 2) be so hard to spot in the scalp on the back of the head photos, one should read more wound ballistics literature, as it is filled with stories where the entrance wound proved equally elusive. In Crime Lab: Science Turns Detective, for example, a story first told by Dr. Le Moyne Snyder is re-told by author David Loth. Loth tells of a young man who'd been treated for a .22 caliber rifle wound in the shoulder but whose condition continued to worsen. Finally, the doctor decides to inspect the rest of the man's body. The story concludes: "Behind the right ear, hidden by hair, was a tiny round hole, with the faintest trace of blood. The damage of the second bullet had been internal, and extensive. The victim died a few minutes after this wound was located" (That a wound caused by a .22 rifle would be less severe than a wound caused by Oswald's rifle has not been overlooked, and should make one wonder if maybe, just maybe, the small initially-overlooked entrance wound on the back of Kennedy's head was caused by a rifle other than Oswald's. Much, much, more on this to come.)
While one might also wonder why there’s
so little hair visible near the hairline in the open cranium photo, this, too, has an explanation. Dr. Finck
told the HSCA: “I don’t remember the difficulty involved in
separating the scalp from the skull but this was done in order to have a clear
view of the outside…the scalp is adherent to the skull and it had to be
separated from it in order to show in the back of the head the wound in the
bone.” Finck, we should remember, never budged from his
contention that this entry was on the occipital bone of the skull, inches away
from the HSCA’s entry in the cowlick. Is it just a coincidence, then, that this is precisely what's depicted in the open cranium photo once one accepts it was taken from behind?
Sometimes the most convincing information is the hardest to look at. When one looks at the open cranium (or mystery) photo and focuses one’s attention not on the white skull, but on what lies beyond the white skull, one can easily discern that it is not brain matter or the roof of a skull, as one would expect if this photo was taken from the front, but is absolutely positively the floor of a skull.
Some of the holes in the base of the skull, or foramen, can even be identified in the mystery photo. While the collapsed scalp from the forehead obscures much of the anterior and middle fossa, (the base of the skull above the eye sockets and by the ears), a small section of the posterior cranial fossa, (the base of the skull at the back where the spinal cord enters the skull) is fairly in focus. There are what appear to be two stubs of veiny material, around the rims of two holes in this area. These correspond precisely with the two foramina one should expect to find in this area. This seems way too much a coincidence. When one compares the relative positions of the Internal Auditory Meatus (#9), which gives passage to facial and cranial nerves, the Jugular Foramen (#10), which provides a passage for the internal jugular vein, and the rounded bowl-shape to the posterior cranial fossa apparent on any anatomy website, one should have no problem identifying the location of these same structures on the open cranium photo, and determine that this photo is indeed taken from behind.
When one looks even deeper in the photo, one finds other features suggesting the photo was taken from behind. In the base of the skull furthest from the camera, one can see what appears to be a pillar of bone, with a horn sticking out to the right . This is almost certainly the dorsum sellae with its horn--the right clinoid process. At its base, moreover, there's a fissure, running down to the jugular foramen. This fissure is almost certainly the petro-occipital fissure. There are no similar features on the back of the skull, not in the parietal region, the location of these features according to the HSCA, nor in the occipital region, where some theorists place these features.
Ridge to Nowhere
Still, there are those who disagree with even this simple analysis. The HSCA’s ballistics expert Larry Sturdivan, in his determined but frequently inaccurate defense of the lone-nut conclusion, The JFK Myths, not only prints the mystery photo sideways, but claims that what appears to be the Jugular Foramen is instead the bullet hole near the EOP described by the doctors, only seen from the far side of the skull. In fact, he cites this bullet hole as his reason for believing the autopsy doctors were right about the entrance near the EOP: “The President’s parietal bone was extensively fractured all the way back to the occipital. The autopsy team said they removed loose pieces of broken bone instead of cutting out the usual “skullcap” to remove the brain. But if they removed enough of the parietal to remove the brain, the pieces containing the “higher” entry wound would have to have been among the pieces removed. If the entry wound had been lying on the autopsy table, how could it have been clearly shown in the photograph of the interior of the skull…?” Equally intriguing, Sturdivan asserts that the vein-like material around this “entrance” is a “stretched “hood” of dura.”
While searching for a good definition of dura, I discovered that the material around the holes could only be dura if the holes are foramen, as I believe. According to Gray’s Anatomy, “The Dura Mater is a thick and dense inelastic fibrous membrane which lines the interior of the skull….In the posterior fossa it sends a process into the internal auditory meatus, ensheathing the facial and auditory nerves; another through the jugular foramen, forming a sheath for the structures which pass through this opening…” Since I have never read of dura being stretched into a tube by a bullet’s entrance, and since the Gray’s description makes it clear that dura is inelastic, I am skeptical that the tube-like material in Sturdivan’s interpretation of the photo could be dura. Comments by anatomists, doctors, and morticians welcome.
Sturdivan’s interpretation of the photo does not exactly support the autopsists, moreover, in that it entails a beveled exit on the forehead that apparently escaped their attention. (He notes that they reported no such exit, states that “It seems unlikely that they would overlook such an obvious feature”, but fails to say what he believes the beveling represents.) His interpretation also fails to explain the second hole beside his purported entrance. While he does acknowledge the fissure presumed to represent the petro-occipital fissure in the photo, he strangely claims that it, along with the far edge of what appears to be a pool of blood, represents the "lateral sinus," an apparent reference to the transverse sinus, a raised ridge of bone along the base of the posterior cranial fossa. He fails to explain why this "ridge" comes to a sudden stop as it approaches the supposed entrance hole. He certainly can't believe the internal beveling on the skull caused by the bullet was far more extensive along the sinus than on the skull in actual contact with the bullet...
Or maybe he can... But he's wrong. Only adding to Sturdivan's "sinus problem" is the contention in his book, The JFK Myths, that the bony outcropping interpreted to be the right clinoid process on the previous slide is the "petrous process," an apparent reference to the petrous bone separating the base of the skull at the back of the head (or posterior cranial fossa), and the base of skull by the ear (the middle cranial fossa). If so, well, then he needs to explain why, in his interpretation of the mystery photo, there is a gap between this bone and the right side of the skull.
Reflections on Reflection
Since those defending the official view of this photo complain that conspiracy theorists print it the wrong way, and that "standard operating procedure" dictates that scalp is reflected over the face during an autopsy, I decided to confront this argument head-on by finding a photo of a typical reflection of the scalp. And guess what, they are right. Typically the scalp is reflected over the face. But what these defenders, including conspiracy theorist Don Thomas, forget to say or pretend not to notice is that just as typically 1) the skull cap is cut in an even line across the forehead, and 2) the posterior part of the scalp is reflected down towards the neck. In their interpretation of this photo, of course, there was 1) no cut across the forehead, just a jagged edge, and 2) no reflection of scalp at the back of the head, just tangles of torn scalp.
S.O.P. was not employed... Thus, Thomas and others sharing this argument are sadly S.O.L.
In an article found online, Dr. Ed Uthman describes a typical reflection of the scalp as follows: “The diener (an assistant) uses a scalpel to cut from behind one ear, over the crown of the head, to behind the other ear…The skin and soft tissues are now divided into a front flap and a rear flap. The front flap is pulled (this takes some strength) forward (like being scalped) over the patient’s face, thus exposing the top and front of the skull. The back flap is pulled backwards over the nape of the neck.” This approach, moreover, is confirmed by Handbook of Autopsy Practice (2009), which claims "The anterior and posterior halves of the scalp are reflected forward and backward, respectively..." Autopsy Pathology (2004), a medical textbook found at the New York Public Library, further confirms: "Incise the scalp down to the bone, and then peel the skin and subcutaneous tissues back to below the occipital protuberance posteriorly and to the level of the forehead anteriorly by a combination of sharp and blunt dissection." In The Hospital Autopsy (2003) the reflection of scalp over the neck is confirmed yet again: "incise the scalp, starting behind one ear and finishing behind the other. Reflect the scalp forwards and backwards using blunt dissection, examining the underside of the flaps for haemorrhage or damage." And, finally, Understanding the Autopsy (1992) confirms this as well, stating, simply: "The scalp is peeled off the bone, forward and back." The pattern then seems clear: when scalp is reflected forward it is also reflected backward.
That this is the typical pattern is confirmed, moreover, by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology autopsy manual, which David Lifton obtained and discussed in his best seller, Best Evidence. The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology was, tellingly, not only Dr. Finck's employer, but the provider of the only course on Forensic Pathology ever taken by Dr. Humes.
This demonstrates beyond any doubt that the reflection of scalp depicted in the mystery photo was not the "typical" reflection of scalp claimed by others.
As the entrance at the back of the head was one of the areas the doctors were trying to inspect, and as the scalp at the back of the head was reportedly intact, and as none of the four scalp lacerations noted in the autopsy report came anywhere near the exit near the EOP, and as it MAKES NO SENSE for them to have just ripped apart the scalp at the back of Kennedy’s skull with their bare hands, to be clear, it seems likely that the reflected scalp in the mystery photograph is the scalp at the back of the head, atypically, due to the extensive damage to the right side of the skull, reflected to the left. This interpretation is confirmed, furthermore, by the statements of James Jenkins and Paul O'Connor, Dr. Humes' and Dr. Boswell's assistants during the autopsy, to Harrison Livingstone, as recalled in Livingstone's 1992 book High Treason 2.
As the assistants normally tasked with removing the brain, moreover, the recollections of Jenkins and O'Connor regarding the removal of the brain can not be readily dismissed. In 1993, in an interview with William Law, in fact, Jenkins made it all as clear as can be. He said "We normally did a skullcap. We didn't really have to do a skullcap on this because, as they expanded the wound, it was large enough for the brain to come out."
The recollections of Jenkins and O'Connor are supported, furthermore, by those of the radiology tech at the autopsy, Jerrol Custer. According to Livingstone, Custer at first claimed that during the autopsy Kennedy's face had appeared to be "deformed...squished...It seemed like someone had taken a clay image of his face and pushed it together...the scalp and the front part of the face seemed like everything had drooped forward," and that Custer later made it clear this was only "after the scalp had been reflected in the back and the brain removed," as "The face no longer had anything to hold it tight over the skull." If the scalp had been reflected as in a typical reflection, of course, it would have been reflected right over the face, and Custer would not have been able to make these observations.
So what about Humes and Boswell? Well, Boswell was also interviewed by Livingstone, and his statements also suggest Kennedy's scalp was reflected to the left, and that the mystery photo was taken from behind. In a 9-1-91 interview, quoted in High Treason 2, Boswell described the large head wound as follows: "the scalp was lacerated, and a pretty good size piece of the frontal and right occipital portion of the skull had separated and were stuck to the undersurface of the scalp. So when that was reflected, then it was true; there was a big bony defect in the right side of the skull. And with the fragments--I think the brain was largely removed through that defect." If they could remove the brain through that defect, it follows, there would be no need for them to remove the entire top of Kennedy's skull--the procedure purportedly depicted in the mystery photo, when interpreted to have been taken from in front of Kennedy.
Then, what about Humes? Well, Dr. Humes himself made a number of statements
regarding the reflection of the scalp that only make sense when one views the
photo as taken from behind. He told the
Warren Commission.: “I extended the lacerations of the scalp…down in the
directions of both of the President’s ears…We had to do virtually no work with
a saw to remove these portions of the skull, they came apart in our hands very
easily…as we moved the scalp about, fragments of various size would fall to the
table…when we reflected the scalp away
from the badly damaged skull, and removed some of these loosened portions of
skull bone, we were able to see this large defect in the right cerebral
hemisphere.” One can only assume that
when he says he reflected the scalp away
from the badly damaged skull, he doesn’t mean he reflected the scalp over the badly damaged skull near the
President’s right temple, as would be the case should he have reflected the
scalp in a manner consistent with the official interpretation of the autopsy photo.
Dr. Humes’ discussion with the HSCA forensics panel thirteen years later is even more helpful. When asked about the supposed in-shoot in the cowlick, he replied: “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 at any point. I don’t know what that is. It could be to me clotted blood…it certainly was not any wound of entrance.” Notice that he says they had “reflected the scalp to get to this point,” implying that “this point,” the red spot in the cowlick adjacent to the midline, was some distance from where they had begun reflecting the scalp. Note also that when one views this photo under the assumption the bone in the foreground shows forehead the scalp near the supposed entrance in the cowlick has not been reflected at all!
Humes’ comments to the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1992 are also relevant. He said “The head was so devastated by the exploding bullet…that we did not even have to use a saw to remove the skullcap…We peeled the scalp back and the calvarium crumpled in my hands from the fracture lines…” Since there was little damage to Kennedy’s left skull, and since Humes said there was little or no cutting, Humes’ comment that they did not need to remove the skullcap confirms that they did not cut the skull on the left side of Kennedy's head, and that they therefore, by necessity, must have pulled the brain out from the devastated right side of Kennedy’s skull. Since there was talk of an open-casket funeral, it only makes sense that the doctors would try to preserve as much of Kennedy’s face as possible. If this was so, then they would have logically reflected the scalp back and to the left, pulled the brain out from the right side of his skull, and preserved the left side of his face.
Humes' words to the ARRB in 1996 further support this analysis. He told Jeremy Gunn: "Once we got the scalp laid back, some of those pieces could just be removed, you know, by picking them up, picking them up because they were just not held together very well, other than by the dura, I suppose. So other than that, we probably made it like we normally do, in a circumferential fashion from books, like right above the ear around. But it was a real problem because it was all falling apart, the skull. And I can't recall the details of exactly how we managed to maneuver that, because it was a problem."
Notice that Humes always discussed reflecting the scalp away from the badly damaged skull, toward the back of the head, or flat-out backwards, and that he never once discussed reflecting the scalp over Kennedy's forehead. This proves Don Thomas' claim in his book Hear No Evil that "when I performed craniotomies at the Pathology Department of the Memorial Medical Center in Long Beach, California, I always reflected the anterior scalp forward to the eyebrow before removing the skull cap...the chief prosector, Dr. Humes, stated that he followed this procedure..." not only untrue, but doubly untrue. Not only did Humes not claim he'd followed this procedure, he specified that he didn't have to perform a procedure of any kind in order to remove the brain. (Sorry, Don.)
This suggests something else as well. The scalp was reflected back and to the left.
After reading an online article by
Dr. Chad Zimmerman, in which he correctly pointed out that to reflect the scalp to
the left the doctors would have needed to cut along the base of the skull at
the back of the head, and that Dr. Humes told Gunn and the ARRB that he didn't make any incisions beyond the one between Kennedy's ears, however, I realized that things were not as clear as I'd like them to be. After
re-reading Humes’ and Boswell’s discussion with the pathology panel, from 19
years earlier, however, it became clear there was some minor cutting along the back
of the head. Boswell: “we just folded that back and this back and
an anterior flap forward and that exposed almost the entire—I guess we did have
to dissect a little bit to get to…” Humes: “To get to this entrance,
right?” Boswell: “But not much…”
Since the scalp by the entrance near the EOP (the only entrance the doctors could have been discussing) is indisputably intact in the official interpretation of the open cranium photographs, moreover, Humes and Boswell's statements to the HSCA support that the scalp was reflected to the left, and that the mystery photos were taken from behind. Everything fits.
In Dr. Zimmerman’s interpretation of the “mystery’ photo, on the other hand, the President’s right ear is at the end of a line of reflected scalp. But if this is so then the gaping hole directly in front of the ear (where the wing of bone is flipped outwards in the other photos) is hidden by this line of reflected scalp. This raises the question of just how one reflects badly lacerated scalp over an area where there is no bone.
And that's but one of the problems with Zimmerman's orientation for the photo. In an attempt to explain how he was able to understand the open cranium photographs to a greater degree than the autopsy doctors, Zimmerman said I “tend to believe that the color prints were not shown to the autopsy physicians during their interview with the HSCA investigators.” This is self-serving and inaccurate, since the doctors were shown all the photos in 1966, and 1967, and again by the ARRB in the late 1990’s, and failed to come to the conclusions espoused by Zimmerman. It’s also misleading in that the record shows the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, not the HSCA “investigators” cited by Zimmerman, showed Dr.s Humes and Boswell open cranium photograph number 44. Number 44 is, of course, a color print.
The Color of Deception???
Dr. Zimmerman is not alone, however, in his obsession with the colors in the photo. In The JFK Myths, Larry Sturdivan similarly suggests that the key to understanding the mystery photo rests not only in its features, but in its colors. (The color versions of the photo are, of course, inaccessible to most researchers.) Sturdivan, for example, claims that the area appearing to be neck is really blue cloth. He also claims that “The entry crater was filled with what seemed to be clotted blood with a dark hole through it. On the poorer view, #45, there was a blue highlight on the side of this hole. All other highlights were white. The shade of blue on this one highlight, however, was the same shade as the blue cloth lying behind the head. We took this as an indication that the hole through the clot extended all the way through the skull and the highlight was reflected light from the underlying cloth.” (The “we” refers to Sturdivan and the Dr. who accompanied him to the archives...Dr. Chad Zimmerman.)
This momentarily threw me for a loop. I couldn’t remember anyone else noting that a blue cloth was visible through an entrance. While there were no color versions of this photograph available on the internet, the late researcher Tim Carroll was able to locate one in a brochure put out by Robert Groden, and post it where I could download it. The appearance of this color photo raises some interesting questions.
One: which photo is
it? Well, since Figure 25 is purportedly
a blow-up of photo #44, and since the beveled bone in Figure 25 does not
precisely match the beveled bone in this photo, this must be the only other
color photo of this beveling, photo #45. This means it’s the same photo in which Sturdivan saw the blue
cloth. When one looks at this photo, one
sees a dark blue smear across the bottom of the photo, but this blue smear
extends onto the skull in places and does not seem to correlate to any blue
towel. The far right part of what
appears to be neck is not blue at all, but flesh colored. If this is an accurate
copy of photo #45, then Sturdivan is wrong. ***
Two: how do we know
this is one of the color photos, and not a black and white photo colorized by
Groden? We don’t. We do know, however, that Groden had access
to the color prints, through the HSCA, and made himself copies. He told the ARRB “I went in and made copies
for test prints. I kept some of them…
They were made from the duplicates in the House Committee’s collection, not
from the originals.” We also know he had this photo in his collection as far
back as the mid-80’s, when he was writing his book, High Treason, with Harrison
Livingstone.” Livingstone mentions this
in his 1992 book High Treason 2. In the
lawsuit Groden brought against Livingstone as a result of that book, Groden
testified that the five color copies he obtained while working for the HSCA
were “two photographs of the rear of
the head, one photograph of the left side of the head, and one photograph of
the right side of the head.” He has published only one other photo of the back
of the head. Finally, we also have Groden’s stating, when discussing the
autopsy photos he brought before the ARRB, that “There are photographs here I
don’t believe were even used in the book” (a reference to his book The Killing
of the President). Sure enough, this photo was not included in that book.
Still, one has to wonder why this photo looks identical to the black and white
photos when so many of those who’ve visited the archives report that the color
photos have a much field of view than the black and white. Did Groden crop the photo to match the black
and whites? If so, then why?
(In November 2009, I spoke to Groden and asked him about the blue and green colored smear across the top of the neck on the version of the photo in his pamphlet. He acknowledged that it was a flaw in the development process. He gave me a copy of his pamphlet. Upon subsequent inspection, I noticed that there was an asterisk next to the color version of the photo. The asterisk was explained elsewhere on the page, and indicated that the photo had indeed been colorized.)
Still, my decision not to accept Sturdivan’s interpretation
had less to do with the Groden colorized photo than with Dr. Chad
Zimmerman’s conflicting account of his trip with Sturdivan to the archives. In an essay on the trip on his (now-defunct) website, Zimmerman explained: “At first we did not notice the
entrance in the posterior scalp.
However, upon close examination between the two available color prints,
I noticed a blue-grey spot on one of the prints…It wasn’t until I noticed this
“spot” that I could see that the film of blood had broken and we could actually
see through the hole. The blue-grey area
was the reflection from the underlying
stainless steel examination table behind the President’s head.” Yes, you got that right. In
Sturdivan’s version the back of Kennedy’s head lay atop a blue cloth, but in
Zimmerman’s it lay atop a stainless steel table. Confusing matters even more, the other single-assassin theorist to visit the archives in recent years, Dr. Robert Artwohl, assured an assassination conference audience in 1993 that what is here interpreted as Kennedy's neck was not the blue cloth noted by Sturdivan, but a yellow block, and that the transverse lines on this block were not neck lines, but artifacts.
Needless to say, I’ll swear by Sturdivan's blue towel, or Zimmerman's stainless steel table, or Artwohl's yellow block, when I see these photos myself.
Since autopsy photographer John
Stringer told the ARRB he would “very seldom” change lenses during an autopsy
shoot and would ordinarily use a standard or normal lens, it seemed logical to
try and find out what lens was standard for the 4 by 5 Graphic view camera purportedly used to take the autopsy pictures, and
if this lens was compatible with the open cranium photo as interpreted by the
HSCA. Since a Department of Defense memo
to the HSCA mentioned a 135 mm Zeiss Jena Tessar lens that was purchased along
with the camera, I decided to see what the field of view was for this lens.
Sometimes one finds the information one needs in unexpected places. While rummaging through a Goodwill Store I found a 1961 book on press photography by the authors Rhode and McCall. This book, appropriately entitled Press Photography, reported that a 4 x 5 Speed Graphic camera, a hand-held variation of the Graphic view camera used by Stringer, would have a 51 degree field of view when equipped with its “normal” lens of 135 mm. Assuming this 51 degree field of view, then, and using the ruler in the back wound photo (which is apparently a 32 cm ruler) to measure an approximately 54 cm field of view at the distance of the ruler, I was able to estimate that the camera was about 56 cm from the ruler in the back wound photo. Since the open cranium photo, once the rulers were matched in size, was barely half as large as the back wound photo, this indicated that it was, in turn, taken from a distance of 28 cm, with a field of view at the depth of the ruler of about 27 cm. This was confirmed by subsequent measurements.
Now it gets tricky. Since the ruler was about 28 cm or 11 inches from the camera in the open cranium photo, and since the ruler would appear to be 5 ½ inches or less behind the bone in the skull closest to the camera, one is forced to conclude the camera was at least 5 1/2 inches from this bone. Assuming this bone is the forehead, this seems too far. (While messing around with a 35 mm camera I had to get within 3-4 inches of a skull before its forehead could fill the frame so completely.)
If one is to assume the ruler in the photo is 11 inches away, and that the closest part of the skull to the camera is 5 1/2 inches away, moreover, then one can calculate that the closest part of the skull is 100% larger in the photo in comparison to the ruler (based upon the roughly one to one ratio between the distance and the width of a 51 degree field of view). From this we can approximate the apparent size of the forehead. Since what is purported to be forehead is 5 times as tall as the ruler is wide in the photo, this means the forehead, once one takes into account that the forehead has been distorted in size by 100%, was roughly 3.64 inches tall. (5 x the approximately 37 mm width of the ruler, divided by 2, and then divided by 2.54, the number of cm per inch). This is bigger than the size of my forehead. While one might assume Kennedy's forehead was larger than normal and that this would seem to confirm the official interpretation of the photo, this confirmation, remember, is reliant upon the ruler being 5 ½ inches behind the forehead within the skull, which at this angle means it’s at the left ear. As there were no incisions reported on the largely undamaged left posterior quadrant of the skull, moreover, these measurements necessitate that the doctors tore this section of the skull apart with their hands for no apparent reason. This seems unlikely.
When Kennedy’s forehead in the left lateral photo is sized to match the purported forehead in the open cranium photo, the problems with the official interpretation of the open cranium photo come clearly into focus. As the lateral photo depicts an over 12 inch field of view at the depth of Kennedy’s face, we can assume the photo was taken from over a foot away. If one is to allow that the closest part of the skull to the camera in the open cranium photo is 5 1/2 inches away, this means the lateral photo was taken from about two and a half times further away, and should be approximately 2.5 times the size of the open cranium photo once the forehead is made to match. This means the lateral photo should be about 25% larger than the back wound photo (which is twice the size of the open cranium photograph) once all three photos are made to match. Instead, it’s more than 50% larger!
Since an actual measurement of
the lateral photograph reveals it to be about 2.8 times as large as the
photograph of the open cranium once the foreheads are made to match, and since
the lateral photograph appears to have been taken approximately 12 inches from
the forehead, this indicates the camera must have been about 4.3 inches away
from the skull when the open cranium photo was taken. This is in line with my earlier
guesstimates. If this is true, however,
since we’ve already ascertained that the ruler in the photo was approximately
11 inches from the camera, this would mean the ruler in the photo was 6.7
inches behind the part of the skull closest to the camera, which would place it
at around 3/4 inch outside a normal-sized skull by the left ear, or at the far
back of the skull.
It seems more than a coincidence then that there are no problems with the photo when one interprets it as being taken from behind. Since the ruler is in what would appear to be the posterior cranial fossa, it would be at most 3 ½ inches beyond the bone closest to the camera. This would make the skull 7 1/2 inches away. If we calculate that the skull at the back of the head, from the neck up to the fracture near the crown is about 5.8 (the height of the skull at the back of the head in comparison to the width of the ruler) divided by 1.47 (the relative distance of the ruler to the closest part of the skull) times 1.46 (the presumed width of the ruler), we can deduce that this section of skull appears to be about 5.75 inches tall. When one looks at the back of a normal sized head at the downward angle suggested by the appearance of the posterior cranial fossa in the photo, moreover, one will find that the crown of the head, where the fracture appears to be on Kennedy’s skull in the open cranium photograph, is roughly at this level. We can suspect this is not a coincidence.
NOW, I am the first to admit the measurements in the preceding paragraphs are speculative and imprecise, but the basic point I'm aiming for is not. There's just no getting around it. When one compares the mystery photo to the other autopsy photos available to the public and considers that the photos are purported to have been taken with the same camera and the same lens, and to have not been cropped in any significant way, then it becomes fairly obvious, even to a layman, that the mystery photo depicts the back of Kennedy's head, and not his forehead.
The problem with the camera and its lens was the subject of a 29-page memo by the ARRB’s Doug Horne in 1998. Horne was trying to locate the camera used at the autopsy, so that its negatives could be compared to the negatives of the autopsy photos, and help confirm their authenticity. But what he found was proof of deception. While the HSCA report on the photographic evidence insisted that “the Department of Defense was unable to locate the camera or lens used to take these photographs”, Horne found memos from the Department of Defense asserting that they’d in fact found the camera, and a series of memos from the HSCA staff acknowledging the receipt of this camera. Even more unsettling, Horne uncovered a March 27, 1978 letter from HSCA Chief Counsel Robert Blakey to Secretary of Defense Harold Brown admitting “After examining the camera and comparing its features with characteristics on the autopsy photographs, our photographic experts have determined that this camera, or at least the particular lens and shutter attached to it, could not have been used to take the autopsy pictures. We have requested additional information in an attempt to locate another camera that might have been used and to determine if the lens could have been changed subsequent to November, 1963.”
On April 20, 1978, John G. Kester, an assistant to Secretary of Defense Harold Brown, responded to Blakey’s letter as follows: “It is presumed that the camera previously provided to the Committee was the camera used at the autopsy; the camera was described in a previous Committee request as a 4 X 5 Graphic View type, and the camera provided the Committee was the only one of that description in use in 1963. Although other lenses were also in use at the Medical Center during that time they have been replaced.” While many, including Horne, suspect this indicates that one or more of the photos in the archives were not taken by photographer John Stringer on November 22, 1963, and are fakes, I suspect the real significance of Blakey’s statement is that the 135 mm lens purchased at the same time as the camera and handed over by the Defense Department along with the camera could not have been used to take one or more of the photos. As the HSCA photographic experts left no notes detailing their failed comparison of the camera to the photos, one can only speculate which photo or photos failed to match. As the other photos are fairly uniform and consistent with what one would expect from a standard autopsy camera shooting standard autopsy photos, it seems likely that the photo whose “characteristics” were in disagreement with the 135 mm lens was the mystery photo when interpreted as depicting a forehead. No matter which photo or photos presented the problem, however, Horne’s discovery demonstrates that the HSCA staff rejected and concealed the Department of Defense’s identification of the camera rather than seriously question the authenticity and/or official interpretation of the photographs. In May, 1978, the HSCA was preparing to parrot the Warren Commission’s conclusions. In light of this one shouldn’t be surprised to find that Michael Baden, the head of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, told Horne he was never even notified of the conflict between the camera and the photos. Equally unsurprising, no one could tell Horne the current whereabouts of the camera.
Focus on the Focal Length
In July 2006 my conjecture about the camera and the mystery photo received a response. Single-assassin theorist Jerry Logan expressed online that the erratic difference in ruler size between the various photos reflects only that the photographs were taken with different effective focal lengths. He stated further that in his opinion the mystery photo when interpreted as depicting a forehead is compatible with a Graphic View camera and a 135 mm lens, and that the mystery photograph as forehead appeared to have a 1:1 ratio (whereby the 4 x 5 negative captures the image of a 4 x 5 area). He explained that a 135 mm lens is 135 mm only when focused on infinity (with the lens as close to the film as possible), but that it would be 270 mm when focused on a close-up object with a 1:1 ratio. He suggested that the mystery photo was taken with the 270 mm focal length, as opposed to the other photos which were taken with the camera focused on infinity. He said “I’ve personally taken photos with a view camera and single lens that covered a greater range of magnifications than that shown in the autopsy photos.” He went on to theorize that the HSCA photo experts rejected the camera and lens turned over by the Department of Defense not for the reasons I suspected but “because of what they saw in the lens and didn’t see in the pictures.” He suggested that perhaps they discovered a flaw on the lens provided by the Navy, and that this flaw convinced them the lens was not used during the autopsy. In my opinion, he overlooked that the photo experts also considered the possibility the problem was with the camera. To me this suggests the problem had something to do with the proportions in one or more of the photographs and not with any feature specific to the lens.
While my understanding of photography and optics is admittedly rudimentary, I believe Logan missed other key points as well. As he admitted, when focusing on a close-up object such as the bone in the mystery photo, one would increase the focal length. In so doing, however, one would make the ruler in the background of the photo grow larger in proportion to the forehead, and appear too BIG when compared to the other photos, not too small. By way of example…if the bone is 8 inches away from the camera, and the ruler 14, an inch of bone would appear to be roughly 1.75 inches on the ruler. If the focal length was increased, however, so that skull 8 inches away filled the frame as if it were 4 inches away (when the camera was focused on infinity), the ruler would still be proportionate to the skull, and appear to be 7 inches away. In other words, the ruler would appear to be only 3 inches behind the bone and appear too BIG in the mystery photo in comparison to the other photos, not too small. This brings up the issue of whether the View Camera delivered by the Navy was capable of shortening the focal length of its lens. As acknowledged by Logan “The view camera has a bellows that allows the lens to focus much more closely than the 35mm. That’s why it’s possible to take macro photos (1:1) with an ordinary large format lens, while 35 mm cameras require special macro lenses or bellows.” There is nothing in the view camera to reverse this process, and allow it to take (short focal length) wide-angle shots with an ordinary large format lens, such as the 135mm Zeiss Jena Tessar handed over by the Navy. Autopsy photographer John Stringer’s statements to the ARRB, moreover, indicate that he didn’t use the bellows for magnification, but only to focus. In discussing the camera used at the autopsy, he explained: “It was a Graphic view camera…It was on a monorail that you focused back and forth. You had the different lenses for magnification…” In the 2006 book Terminal Ballistics, Karen Byrne confirms that this is as expected, stating “Occasionally, the photographer is required to know the focal length used to take a particular image…Because of the general superior quality, fixed focal length lenses are the preferred choice for forensic photography.” The 135mm Zeiss Jena Tessar handed over by the Navy was of fixed focal length. All this leads me to believe that the mystery photo as forehead is incompatible with the Graphic View camera supplied by the Navy, unless the mystery photo was mistakenly taken with a wide angle lens, and the photo then enlarged and cropped. While this seems ridiculous on the face of it, so is this entire discussion.
If a photo expert wishes to explain how increasing the focal length would decrease the size of the ruler in the background, I’ll include their explanation in my next update.
The Drainage Problem
Perhaps the biggest challenge to my understanding of the mystery photo came not from a single-assassin theorist, but from a fellow conspiracy theorist named Richard Tobias. After looking through my online presentation, Tobias e-mailed me his appraisal of the photo, which closely parallels Larry.Sturdivan’s appraisal of the photo. (Evidently, Tobias was an influence on John Canal, and John Canal was an influence on Sturdivan.) A circled feature in Tobias’ image, however, and a key factor in Tobias’s orientation of the photo, was a drainage hole visible on the autopsy table. This, admittedly, took me by surprise, as the images I’d been working with, available on such websites as JFK Lancer, had cropped off this drainage hole.
Annoyed that I’d never noticed this feature before, I immediately compared the drainage hole in the Tobias orientation to the drainage hole visible in the top of the head autopsy photo. I suddenly felt at ease. The drainage hole hadn’t proved my orientation to be incorrect at all, but had given us yet another reason to believe the mystery photo depicts the back of the head. You see, the drainage hole in the Tobias orientation, purportedly by Kennedy’s neck, was much smaller in comparison to his skull than the drainage hole in the top of the head autopsy photo, even though the hole in this photo was further from the camera, and beneath Kennedy’s right shoulder. From this, I knew Tobias’ orientation was incorrect.
When I compared the Tobias orientation image to the actual mystery photo, I noticed even more inconsistencies. While the skull in the mystery photo appeared even, with the bone and scalp equidistant from the camera, Tobias had the skull angled sharply away from the camera in his orientation. This was undoubtedly misleading. The skull in the mystery photo is not curved in such a manner. There were also the ongoing problems with the forehead interpretation, including the whereabouts in the photo of the scalp from the left rear of Kennedy's skull.
Looking Out or Looking Down?
The most convincing piece of evidence that the mystery photo was taken of the back of Kennedy's head when he was lying on his side, however, came when I measured the proportions of the drainage hole in the Tobias orientation, and compared them to the proportions of the drainage hole in the top of the head photo. Despite the fact that the Tobias orientation has the camera looking almost straight down on a prone Kennedy, and the top of the head photo has the camera looking at the autopsy table from only slightly above the horizon, the shapes were quite similar. While the hole in the top of the head photo measured roughly 40 x 87, the hole in the mystery photo measured roughly 47 x 87. Since a photo with the camera looking straight down would be 87 x 87, reflecting the round shape of the hole, this meant that the mystery photo was taken more from the side of the table than from above. (If anyone has any evidence suggesting the holes were not round, please speak up.)
It was at this time that I came across a photo of numerous stacks of coins. As the coins on the taller stacks—closer to the level of the camera-- appeared more elliptical and less round, this photo allowed me to see that the approximate angle of the camera to the drainage hole could be determined.
The 58 Degree Solution
While I knew that the angle of the camera to the drainage
hole could be determined by the hole’s proportions, I couldn’t remember how to
do so. One’s mind forgets a lot of math after 30 years of non-use. To solve the problem, then, I just began
measuring the distance between two parallel lines rising from the edge of a two
inch round shape at different angles. At
58 degrees from vertical, I found the proper angle to account for the 47 x 87 proportions of
the drainage hole. When I took a photo
of the Tobias orientation from 58 degrees, however, I found that the camera was
looking at the top of the head, not the forehead. When I took a similar photo of the skull at
45 degrees, the camera was still not as high in the sky as the camera would
need to be for the Tobias orientation to be correct. Tellingly, the round shape representing the
drainage hole in the 45 degree photo was already far too round and not remotely
similar to the proportions of the drainage hole in the mystery photo.
Anatomy of a Mistake
When I attempted to recreate the mystery photo with the
skull on its side, however, I found that a camera looking down on
the drainage hole from 58 degrees from vertical could indeed take a picture of the back of a
skull as proposed.
But I can't gloat about this discovery. While studying the mystery photo, I noticed two other reasons to believe the mystery photo depicts the back of the head, and was quite mistaken on each. First, when comparing the mystery photo to the left lateral autopsy photo, I noticed that the steel edge of the head rest seen in the left lateral photo was at a similar height as what could possibly be a steel edge in the mystery photo. This seemed more than just a coincidence. Secondly, I noticed that an unidentified object under the neck in the mystery photo appears to be a glass jar sitting on the table. It seemed a bit of a coincidence that this glass shape appears to be right below the low entry wound on the skull, where tissue was removed during the autopsy for further inspection.
I was so convinced of the importance of these observations, in fact, that I created a slide for this chapter called "New Perspectives On Old Mysteries." The slide above is the same slide, only re-titled "Anatomy of a Mistake" to reflect my loss of faith in my impressions regarding the head rest and the glass. The recreation of the mystery photo on this slide, while proving its point, was also inaccurate.
At the root of all these mistakes was one mistake: I had the photo upside down. The photo depicts Kennedy lying on his right side, not his left.
The Light From Above
In November 2008, while working on part 4 of our video series, series director Braddon Mendelson gave me a call, and told me we had the photo upside down in our re-enactment. I went into my bedroom, whipped out the copy of the photo in High Treason 2 and took a good look. A few minutes later I called him back to confirm his impression.
I'd stupidly made the assumption that because the photo of the back of Kennedy's head before his scalp had been reflected showed him to be on his left side, the mystery photo was most likely taken with him on his left side. I'd taken my belief that I'd spotted a head rest and a glass in the photo as further confirmation he was on his left side.
But Brad, as a video director, wasn't looking at the photo with these pre-conceptions; he was looking at the lighting of the photo. And it seemed obvious to him the photo was lit from above. And he's right. The glare on the reflected scalp--apparently held in place by one of the doctors, indicates that the reflected scalp is above the skull cavity. Brad was also correct to note that the drainage hole would be lit on the inside of the far rim, and not the outside of the near rim.
After having seen this light, I noticed also that the "pool of blood"
I'd previously noticed in the base of the skull was now consistent with
gravity. I also noticed that, in this orientation, the triangle of
scalp hung down from the head, and was similarly more consistent with
gravity. In short, everything made much better sense in this
orientation, except that darn metallic object I'd confused with a head
rest and that darn glass object I'd confused with a beaker. I'm still
not sure what they are, but perhaps they are tools used to reflect the
scalp or hold it in place, once it's been reflected.
If At First You Don't Succeed
Having realized my earlier mistake, Brad and I set out to re-create the photo in its proper orientation. As demonstrated in photo 3 above, a still from Part 4 of our video series, we got pretty darn close. The camera seems to be at the proper vertical angle to the skull, but the slightly rounder "drainage hole" in our photo indicates the skull is tilted a little too much towards the table. The top of the skull should also be pulled back slightly toward the camera, so that the base of the skull more closely aligns with the base of the skull visible in the photo. But that's beside the point. We were simply trying to demonstrate that the shape of the drainage hole indicates the photo was taken from an angle incompatible with the bone in the foreground of the photo being forehead (as demonstrated in photo 4 above), and that the photo was therefore most logically taken from behind.
Even so, the thought occurs that an exact reproduction can be accomplished. If an experienced photographer with the right equipment wishes to try to more accurately recreate this photo, I will be glad to assist them in the positioning of the skull.
If at first you don't succeed...
Game, Set, No Match
In 2010, I became aware that author John Canal, who had devoted much of the past ten years trying to prove the mystery photo depicted Kennedy's forehead, had also claimed to have re-created the photo at the proper angle to the drainage hole. When his supposed re-creation was posted online, however, (ironically, by single-assassin theorist extraordinaire, John McAdams), I realized Canal was just blowing smoke. The proportions of the "drainage hole" in his re-creation were, as they are in all simulations of the photo in which the bone in the photo is forehead, not even close to the proportions of the drainage hole in the mystery photo.
His re-creation had other problems as well. As the camera was slightly closer to the table in his re-creation than it was in the Tobias orientation, more of the table below the skull should have been visible. So where was Kennedy's shoulder? The right shoulder of the mannequin in Canal's photo is clearly visible.
In sum, then, Canal's failure to re-create the image only confirmed what I'd been saying all along: the photo was taken from behind Kennedy, and depicts the back of his head.
Back of the Head? Or Forehead?
Still, it seems quite possible all this discussion of the proper way to view this
photograph is a waste of everyone's time, as it seems quite possible there are many men familiar with this photo who know full well its proper orientation. Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, for
instance, whose panel interpreted this photo as being taken from the front,
told researcher James Douglass in 1998 that Jacqueline Kennedy was reluctant to
return the autopsy photos in 1966 due to her fear the photos would fall in
the wrong hands, and her children “would have to live with the head of their
father pictured on the cover of Life Magazine…with half the back of his head blown off.” Clark appears to have
forgotten, or maybe he never understood, that his experts decided there was no
photo depicting half the back of
Kennedy’s head missing.
When one looks at the report of Clark’s Panel there is even more reason to suspect some sort of cover-up. Remember, the Clark Panel refused to attach any significance to the open-cranium photographs, stating: “Due to lack of contrast of structures portrayed and lack of clarity of detail in these photographs, the only conclusion reached by The Panel from study of this series was that there was no existing bullet defect in the supra-orbital region of the skull.” Similarly, the report of Dr. Richard Lindendberg for the Rockefeller Commission noted that the medical panel looked at a photo depicting the “cranial cavity with brain removed from above and from the front” but failed to note the supposed beveled exit, or any of the other signs now considered so important. None of the other reports written for the Rockefeller Commission even mentioned the photo. My suspicion that this cover-up is organized was heightened, moreover, when I contacted a noted forensic pathologist, one who has regularly disagreed with his colleagues over much of the autopsy evidence, and asked for his help in understanding this photograph. Despite his previous offer to help me understand the forensic evidence, and my repeated attempts to contact him, he failed to respond. While this was most probably a coincidence, or a reflection of his personal distaste for discussing the photograph, there’s just too much other strange behavior surrounding this photograph to ignore.
Consider the case of Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell, who changed their interpretations on this, the darkest, deepest, most disturbing autopsy photo, probably ever taken, and then supposedly forgot all about it. On November 1, 1966, on a list of the photos prepared for the National Archives, Humes and Boswell described the black and white photos taken from this position as "depicting missile wound over entrance in posterior skull, following reflection of the scalp" and the color transparencies taken from this position as depicting a "missile wound in posterior skull, with scalp reflected."
On November 10, 1966, moreover, Humes and Boswell, along with autopsy radiologist John Ebersole and autopsy photographer John Stringer, signed a version of this report prepared by the Justice Department that changed these words only slightly, quite possibly as a result of a typo. This report described the black and white photos as depicting a "missile wound of entrance in posterior skull, following reflection of scalp.” The "over" had been changed to "of" and "the scalp" had been changed to simply "scalp". The color transparencies taken from this position, not surprisingly, bore the same description as earlier.
On January 26, 1967, less than 3 months later, however, on the report of the examination conducted for the Justice Department, Humes and Boswell said these photos “show the other half of the margin of the exit wound; and also show the beveling of the bone characteristic of a wound of exit.” They went on to state that two of the photos “show that the point of exit of the missile was much larger than the point of entrance being 30 mm (1.18 inches) at its greatest diameter.” As Dr. Humes in his testimony before the Warren Commission in 1964 and Dr. Finck in his letter to his commanding officer in 1965 expressed that there was no beveled exit visible at the large defect, outside the beveling on one of the recovered skull fragments, and as Dr. Boswell failed to mention any beveling on the intact skull when interviewed by Josiah Thompson on 1-11-67--only NINE days before the doctors' January inspection--the January report's description of a beveled exit visible on the intact skull is yet another reason to believe this so-called Military Review was written by someone other than the doctors.
Two years after the "Review," in fact, during the trial of Clay Shaw, Dr. Finck seemed unaware he’d even signed a document claiming there was beveling on the intact bone. He testified “I could make a positive determination of a wound of exit, of a portion of a wound of exit, in a bone fragment submitted to us during the course of the autopsy…it was during the course of the autopsy this fragment was brought to us and allowed us to determine that this was the wound of exit.” For his part, Dr. Humes seemed conscious of the change. He told the ARRB in 1996 that when inspecting the exit defect, he found that “the bone fragments that were placed—that remained in place, halfway in place—were shelved on the outer table of the skull. And when we got the fragments from Dallas…we almost could complete the circle of what appeared to be the actual exit wound.” Perhaps the knowledge of this fabrication has haunted even Humes, however, as neither he nor the other two original autopsists has ever pointed out this beveled exit on the autopsy photos when given the chance.
When asked about this photo by the HSCA forensics panel for
example, Humes and Boswell escaped without committing themselves one way or the
other. They were shown the color version
of this photograph by Dr. Petty and asked “Could you, Dr. Humes or Dr. Boswell,
either one, from examination of the photograph purported to show the posterior
cranial fossa locate the point of in-shoot into the skull? Now we’re looking at photograph No. 44.” Dr. Humes then responded “How
about here, Jay?” and began discussing it with Dr. Boswell, who became
confused, which then led Humes to conclude “I don’t think the photograph permits us to
say with accuracy where it is.”
The HSCA had even less success with Dr. Finck. When asked if he'd seen any evidence of an exit defect at the margin of the large defect, as proposed in the January 1967 report written for the Justice Department, Finck played it safe and replied "I don't recall." When then shown photo 44 and asked if it refreshed his memory, he held his non-committal ground, stating "No." When counsel Andy Purdy then pushed a little harder, and asked Finck if he saw "anything on that photograph which would represent the exit hole of a bullet?" Finck once again played dumb, stating "I don't know what this is." When a clearly exasperated Purdy then pointed out the beveled notch in the photo, and asked Finck if this semi-circle could be an exit wound, Finck stood by his story, stating "No. Hazy, blurred."
When asked about this photograph by the ARRB in the late 1990’s, moreover, the doctors continued to play it safe. Despite their unanimous recollection of a photograph being taken of the occipital region demonstrating the wound of entrance after the brain had been removed (tellingly, none of them remembered taking a photograph of the frontal bone demonstrating the wound of exit after the brain had been removed), when shown this photograph, all three claimed they were unable to figure out even which part of the skull it represented!!! Humes: (When asked to orient the photographs) “Boy, it’s difficult. I can’t. I just can’t put them together…Very disappointed. No, I can’t…they’re disappointingly confusing to me…There’s what appears to be a notch in a major portion of bone here centrally located, but I’m not at all sure about it. I don’t know what it is or—I can’t get oriented at all. I just can’t;” (when shown an earlier description of the photo) “down here opposite the edge of the ruler, I presume that, is what we’re talking about right there…I have to presume is what we’re talking about right there…I don’t know. I have trouble with this. I can’t really recognize it there.” Boswell: “I’m sorry. I can’t orient this at all…I’m afraid I can’t…what we were attempting to show here, I don’t know;” (when asked if the hole in the skull appears towards the front) “I can’t be sure;” (when confronted with his earlier descriptions of the photo) “I can’t identify anything else in here to tell where we are...This is what appears to be calvarium, a piece of bone plate, skull plate…And if you look at this beveling of the bone here, this would be a wound of exit…there’s no way this could be called a wound of entrance, now the only other thing is that if—on the reflected scalp here, there is a wound or something…It’s such a dilemma.” Finck: “I cannot say much about this…I have difficulties to orient this;" (when shown the semi-circular notch that Boswell latched onto as possibly showing outward beveling and asked if it helped him remember what the photo depicts) “No.”
When asked by the ARRB the million-dollar question of why
they changed the official interpretation of the photograph between November 10, 1966, and January 26, 1967, for that matter, the memory of these
lifelong medical men grew even foggier. Humes: (when asked if he even remembered the January report) “If you’ve
got such a statement, I presume we did. I
don’t remember the details of it…I don’t know who wrote this, it doesn’t seem
like I wrote it, just because of the phraseology and some of the comments…I
don’t recall anything about it. I really
don’t. I don’t recall it. Other than—other than the earlier, longer
report that takes the photographs number by number.” Boswell: “This is Jim’s (Dr. Humes’) language, I think;” (When confronted with
the two different interpretations of photo #44) “I think they were both wrong,
and I think the reason is that it’s just such a terrible photograph;” (When
asked why they changed the description) “I don’t remember that Pierre (Dr.
Finck) came over for that…Well, that may be the answer right there. See, Pierre
was a forensic pathologist, and he was extremely able relative to
ballistics. And he may have talked us
into this. That’s the only thing I can
think of.” Finck, however, remembered no
such thing: (When asked if he’d ever
seen the January report) “I don’t know when, but I think I did;” (When asked if
it was his signature at the bottom) “I recognize my signature;” (When asked if
the report was written by the doctors or by someone else) “Oh, I wouldn’t have signed this if it had been
written by somebody else. I am
pretty sure I participated in this.” (Let's recall here Dr. Finck’s 1967
report on this very review, in which he wrote: “the statement had been prepared by the Justice Department. We signed
These life-long pathologists reversed the official interpretation of the most significant autopsy photograph anyone had ever seen, and then forgot all about it? I must admit I’m skeptical.
Dr. Humes, I suspect, knew exactly what had happened. His February 13, 1996 testimony before the ARRB has some revealing exchanges. Few more so than this--
GUNN: When you were referring to that photograph in your previous answer,
were you referring to the photographs from View 7 that are in front of
you now? (NOTE: these are the mystery photos) You can hold off on the answer. Maybe if you can--if you could just--
HUMES. Well, these are quite obviously from the outside of the skull. They're not from the inside. That's perfectly obvious. So I don't see one from the inside of the posterior cranial fossa where the defect was. And I'm disappointed because I thought we had such a photograph.
So there you have it. Humes told the ARRB he had no recollection of the January '67 report in which the mystery photo was purported to depict a beveled exit on the front of the skull, and only recalled the "earlier, longer report" in which it was purported to depict a "missile wound of entrance in posterior skull, following reflection of scalp." He then proceeded to reject completely that the photo depicted the "posterior cranial fossa where the defect was." By saying the interior of the skull depicted in the photo was not "where the defect was" (low on the back of the head), however, Humes was as much as admitting that the "outside of the skull" depicted in the photo was not the forehead. He was, in effect, telling Gunn, AND the world, that the photo, taken "quite obviously from the outside of the skull," showed what he'd claimed it had in the "earlier, longer report" he recalled, i.e., a "missile wound of entrance in posterior skull, following reflection of scalp."
Still, the possibility exists that the doctors couldn’t make sense of the photo because it had been cropped in some way. My concern for this was heightened after reading Dr. Boswell’s 1996 interview with the ARRB. When asked if he remembered seeing any of the photographs now purported to be missing, including the one Dr. Finck remembers taking of the entrance on the back of the skull, he told them “The one of the skull wound, I thought I remembered seeing it, but I--now, I’ve seen a lot of pictures like in Livingstone’s books, where those come from, I don’t know. And whether they’re fabricated, some of them, or not—and I may be confusing pictures I’ve seen that are alleged to be autopsy photographs.” He is referring, of course, to Harrison Livingstone, whose book High Treason 2 included the Fox set of autopsy photographs. That Boswell was unsure if these photos were real, and thought he saw a photo of the entrance on the skull among them, and then FAILED to orient the skull photos he was shown minutes later by the ARRB, made me suspect the photos in the archives did not match the Fox set. Fortunately, there are others who swear they are the same.
In 1993, Dr. Robert Artwohl told an audience that the Fox set of photos was genuine and matched the photos in the archives, but that the archives photos were much clearer. He also stated that the area appearing to be neck was really a yellow block and that the scalp was reflected onto Kennedy’s left forehead. In 2004, Dr. Chad Zimmerman and Larry Sturdivan came away from their visit to the archives with slightly different impressions. On Zimmerman’s website, he recounted his visit to the archives. He mentioned that the Fox photo posted on his website is “significantly cropped as compared to the color prints” at the archives. This is a confusing statement. As the black and white prints are reportedly separate photos, taken moments apart, they are not “cropped” but are instead photos taken from closer to the skull, with a smaller field of view. By saying “cropped” Zimmerman implies there are images on the black and white negatives that were not printed, something he would have no way of knowing unless he studied the negatives. Since the doctors were not studying negatives, but prints, the thought occurs that Boswell’s confusion may have come from the progressive lightening of the “mystery photo” by researchers seeking to highlight what appears to be lines on the back of Kennedy's neck; perhaps the original is very dark. Still, Artwohl, Zimmerman and Sturdivan see so many things on the photos that are not apparent on the Fox set of photos, it really makes one wonder--are the photos at the archives different than those on the internet?
Dr. David Mantik, thankfully, helps clear this up. After nine visits to the archives, he concurs with Zimmerman that the black and white photos #17 and #18, which have a smaller field of view, are difficult to orient, but says that photos #44 and #45 were “taken from the rear” and that studying them was “essential” to his conclusion that there was a large defect in the right rear of the skull—a conclusion one could not make if interpreting the bone in the foreground as forehead. Since his conclusion is in opposition to the conclusions of Artwohl, Zimmerman, Sturdivan, the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, and the Clark Panel, and since Dr. Mantik is one of the few conspiracists ever allowed to see the photos, this leads me to suspect that one’s interpretation of the photos is based as much on what one expects to see as what is actually there. As the autopsy doctors were shown all 4 photos by the ARRB, then, their inability to make a decision appears to be unrelated to the subtle differences in field of view described by doctors Artwohl, Zimmerman, and Mantik, and everything to do with their refusal to commit to an interpretation of the photo. Since they are strangely the only three single-assassin theorists to see the open-cranium photos and not assert they were taken from in front and above, one can’t help but suspect this is because they know the photos were not taken from that perspective. On the other hand, this amazing coincidence might have come as a result of the doctors’ peculiar predicament. If they said the photos were taken from the front, they would be at odds with their original inventory of the photos created in 1966, the one they remembered creating. If they said they were taken from the rear, on the other hand, then they would be at odds with the Military Review they signed a few months later, not to mention all the doctors who examined the photos for the HSCA. Playing stupid may have simply been their way of avoiding controversy.
Even so, it’s hard not to take the doctors’ refusal to make
an interpretation as an additional reason to believe they were forced to lie
back in ‘67. Let's not be naive. In November, 1966, they identified a piece of bone on which a beveled exit seems apparent as bone on the posterior skull. Then, but a few days later, former Warren Commission counsel Liebeler sends out a letter to, among others, fellow former counsel David Slawson, now working directly for the Justice Department as an attorney for President Johnson in the Office of Legal Counsel, detailing the eyewitness evidence for a shot fired from the front, and exiting from the posterior skull. Then, in January 67, after the Justice Department decides that another report is needed, in part to assuage CBS News, which is starting to look at these issues, the photo of the bone on the posterior skull is re-interpreted, and is now presented as a photo of an exit on the front of the skull by the forehead...a photo that couldn't even exist, according to the sworn testimony of Kennedy's chief autopsist, Dr. Humes. Now, perhaps the doctors by January 67 had simply forgot what they'd said previously, and had honestly come to believe the photo was taken from the front. Stranger things have happened. Well, if they honestly believed the photo
was of the forehead then, why not restate so later, with so many prominent
pathologists on their side? It just doesn't wash. Someone's hiding something.
(FWIW, in Volume 3 of his 5 Volume epic, Inside the Assassination Records Review Board, Doug Horne posits that this photo was indeed a photo taken of the back of the head. As Horne believes the autopsy photos, x-rays, and Zapruder film have all been faked, however, he holds that the beveling apparent on the back of the head was also faked, and added in by some government employee under the belief the photo was taken from the front. This makes little sense, IMO. Such beveling was not described in the autopsy report. If Dr. Humes was instrumental in the cover-up, and had personally supervised the alteration of Kennedy's wounds, as Horne posits, why would he not be told that, oh yeah, we've added an exit onto the forehead of one of the autopsy photos, and you're to write about this in your autopsy report and testify about this should you be called to testify before a government commission? If Horne claims this was done without Humes' knowledge, after the completion of his report, furthermore, it makes even less sense. I mean, we know the photos in the archives are identical to those copied by James Fox but a few days after the assassination, and subsequently made available to the research community. So...are we to believe someone added an exit wound to the forehead in an autopsy photo within days of the shooting--but failed to tell the doctor whose testimony would be required to place such a wound into evidence? I don't think so.)
As clear as it is to most that the doctors changed their interpretation of the mystery photo between November 1966 and January 1967, there are those who insist this is a conspiracy myth. Dr. Chad Zimmerman, for example, is so convinced that the photo shows forehead that he refuses to believe the doctors ever could have thought it was the back of the head. Accordingly, he has convinced himself that the doctors' 1966 description of a "missile wound over entrance in posterior skull, following reflection of the scalp" is not a description of the back of Kennedy's head at all, but a description of the front of his head, showing the interior aspect of the missile wound in the posterior skull, and the scalp reflected over the forehead. Never mind that it says "over entrance in posterior skull," implying that the photo is of tissue just above the skull. Never mind that "following reflection of scalp" modifies "posterior skull" and not "anterior skull" or "forehead." Never mind that there is no mention that the entrance is inside the cranium anywhere in the photo's description.
Vincent Bugliosi, in his 2007 opus Reclaiming History, drifts even further out to see than Zimmerman. On page 261 of his endnotes, he
asserts that the allegedly missing autopsy photo of the entrance on President
Kennedy’s head is in fact in the collection. He asserts that this photo of the
president’s skull with his brain removed was properly described in the November
1, 1966 inventory of the autopsy photos.
As stated, this inventory claims the photo depicts a: “missile wound over entrance in posterior skull, following reflection of the scalp.” In January 1967, of course, the doctors changed
their interpretation of this photo, and said it depicted an exit on the
president’s forehead. Bugliosi, in keeping with Zimmerman, refuses to acknowledge that they changed their interpretation, however, and instead
asserts on page 238 and 262 of his endnotes that both descriptions were correct,
and that the photo depicts the interior of the back of the head when viewed
from the front, as well as the beveled exit on the frontal bone in the
foreground of the photo. To explain why there was no mention of the beveled exit
on the skull prior to the January 67 review, Bugliosi suggests that the doctors,
who’d only spent 6 hours or more staring at the president’s body, looking for
bullet wounds, only discovered this exit during the 1967 inspection of the
Bugliosi goes on to make a statement that distances himself from Zimmerman, however. On page 261 of his endnotes, Bugliosi states “The HSCA forensic pathology panel subsequently concluded that the images depicted both the entrance wound bevel (in the background of the image) and the exit wound bevel (in the foreground of the image).” He implies this conclusion supports his analysis of the 1966 and 1967 reports, and his contention that they really aren't in conflict.
Well, there's a number of problems with this. One problem comes from the exact wording of the passage cited by Bugliosi. On page 129, the HSCA panel's report claims "a possible portion of the beveled inner table corresponding to the semicircular margin of the entrance wound at the back of the head” can be seen in the depths of the mystery photo. Later, however, it claims an “anterior bone fragment" with a "semicircular defect” is visible in the photo. This is clearly the supposed exit. Bugliosi's circle is therefore complete--both an entrance and an exit are discussed in relation to the photo. The report is therefore claiming that both an entrance and an exit are visible in the photo.
But it is not to be believed. The key to understanding why is the phrase "semi-circular margin of the entrance wound at the back of the head." Well, there was NO semi-circular margin of an entrance wound at the back of the head. None was described at autopsy. None was discussed in the testimony of Dr. Humes before the Warren Commission. None was discussed in the testimony of Dr. Baden before the HSCA. While, on page 107 of the pathology panel's report, it is claimed that "Stereoscopic visualization of the inside of the cranial cavity at its depth, after removal of the
brain, reveals a semicircular beveled defect of the inner table in the
posterior parietal area to the right of the midline, from which fracture lines radiate
corresponding to the entrance perforation indicated in the skull X-rays" it seems clear the writer of this passage was just blowing smoke. The ONLY "semi-circular margin" on the skull discussed previously, after all, was the supposed exit in this very photo.
Still, even if one were to grant Bugliosi that the HSCA report supports that the photo shows both an entrance and an exit, and that there is nothing problematic about the supposed entrance supposedly visible in the depths of the mystery photo, one can't claim all is well. You see, the '66 and '67 reports Bugliosi has tried to reconcile are unanimous in that the entrance wound depicted is the entrance described at autopsy...on the occipital bone. And the so-called "cowlick" wound described in the HSCA report is on the parietal bone, four inches away.
This yields surprising complications. You see, every, and I mean EVERY, single-assassin theorist researcher concluding the mystery photo was taken from the front, and shows an entrance in its depths, has concluded that the entrance shown is the one described at autopsy. This EVERY includes Larry Sturdivan, the HSCA's wound ballistics expert, Dr. Chad Zimmerman, and author John Canal, all of whom were in contact with Bugliosi during the writing of his book. And it's easy to see they are right. When one interprets the photo as being taken from the front, it becomes obvious that the hole in the back of the skull is in a ridge of some sort. As there was no such ridge anywhere near the cowlick entrance, moreover, it becomes obvious that this entrance is the one by the EOP noted at autopsy. When one views the photo in this light, moreover, it's debatable there's any bone by the cowlick in which there could be an entrance!
Bugliosi's rejection of his advisers' opinions on this point is indeed strange. On page 238 of Reclaiming History's end notes, Bugliosi declares “the keys to the correct orientation of the images are a lip of a glass specimen jar on, and a drainage hole in, the autopsy table, which are both visible in the photographs and are located at the top of the autopsy table. These details show that the photographer was standing at the head of the autopsy table, looking down into the cranial cavity, with the president lying on his back.” This could have been written by Canal, who has been making similar claims for years. So why didn't Bugliosi mention that Canal, Sturdivan, and Zimmerman, among others, believed that the photo demonstrates an entrance on the inside of the skull in the location described at autopsy? His book, after all, was supposedly designed to answer all the questions, settle all the disputes. So why didn't Bugliosi mention that some of his advisers on the autopsy photos and medical evidence--Canal, Sturdivan, and Zimmerman--adamantly disagreed with his interpretation of the photo? Why didn't he acknowledge that they'd used this photo to conduct all sorts of tests, and that their tests uniformly proved that his #1 expert, Dr. Michael Baden, who'd testified before congress with this photo upside down after conducting NO tests on the photo, was incorrect in his understanding of the photo, and of the entrance wound location? Why didn't he settle this dispute, or even acknowledge its existence?
Perhaps he was far too subservient to "experts" like Michael Baden to tell his readers they were wrong, no matter how obvious it was to everyone else.
Or perhaps Bugliosi really had no interest in settling disputes, but was concerned instead with giving the appearance of settling disputes. Perhaps he felt it would prove "counter-productive" to admit that the "experts" to whom he so readily defers can't even agree on something as basic as the location of the bullet entrance on the back of Kennedy's head.
Note: on 10-1-10, on the alt.assassination newsgroup, John Canal, whose strident belief the mystery photo was taken from the front actually exceeds my strong belief it was taken from behind, responded to the above slide by as much as admitting he had no explanation for the bullet hole depicted on the left side of the slide. In his orientation, remember, this apparent bullet hole is on the left side of Kennedy's skull. Here is his response (with spelling errors corrected):Pat, for us to continue discussing this F8 orientation issue makes no
sense...we are obviously at a stalemate....and have been for a few years.
Besides the replications that show the face on orientation is correct, I
have the signed statement of the autopsy photographer that says the same
In fact, I can't think of one forensic expert who has examined the
originals and concluded the back of JFK's head is in the foreground in F8.
If I missed anyone, I'm remiss, but would add there's certainly not too
Also, you have the bone flap, most easily seen hanging of the front right
of his head, hinged by the scalp, in the BOH photos, but also seen in--of
course--the same place in F8.
Lastly, I'm baffled at how you have the gall to try to convince us to
accept your misorientation of F8 over its face-on orientation as diagrammed
by the HSCA's highly credentialed forensic anthropologist, Dr. Lawrence
Angel....who examined the "originals" and probably did it with a
stereoscopic viewer. No one was more qualified to determine the correct
orientation than he was.
Pat, I'd appreciate it if you'd respect my wishes for us to not to discuss
this F8 orientation issue, or any issues related to its orientation,
Notice that he fails to discuss the issue at hand, and instead lists some red herring reasons why he "knows" he's right. The bullet hole disproves his orientation, and he can't bring himself to admit it.