Chapter 16c: Confirmation and Disappointment

A discussion and review of the Discovery Channel program JFK: Inside the Target Car

Death by Disco

On March 23, 2008, an intriguing message appeared on the alt.assassination.JFK message board. Dr. Chad Zimmerman, by then no longer active on the board, returned to pass along that he'd "been in contact with a television producer that is looking to produce another JFK assassination related episode for the Discovery Channel. He is currently seeking ideas that could be pursued and is looking for input. As most of their shows are CSI styled shows, I would assume that is the style of program they're looking for...If you have an idea, please pass it along on this thread and I will be sure that the producer is made aware of the ideas."

While some took the opportunity to attack Dr. Zimmerman about his appearance on a previous Discovery (some say Disco") Channel JFK assassination-related episode (see chapter 12b), I took Dr. Zimmerman's approach as sincere, and offered up five suggestions. My second suggestion was to film a head shot on a simulated skull using a camera like Zapruder's, to see if the blood dispersed in the pattern seen in frame 313 of the Zapruder film. Zimmerman seemed to like this idea and responded: "Regarding the Zfilm splatter, I have an identical Carcano with WCC ammunition, as well as two Zapruder model cameras. I'd also like to see something to that regard."

Flash forward to October 2008. The JFK assassination forums are abuzz about an upcoming program entitled JFK: Inside the Target Car. I see the list of the people involved. It's the same shooter and the same Australian crew used in previous Discovery Channel programs on the assassination. I briefly assume it's made up of outtakes from these earlier programs. It rapidly becomes clear, however, that this is indeed a new program, and that they have in fact conducted tests similar to the one test I'd proposed that had met Dr. Zimmerman's approval.

On November 16 the program airs, and both confirms and disappoints. It confirms that my interpretation of Kennedy's head wounds are logical and most probably correct, but it disappoints in that, much as the producers' earlier program Beyond the Magic Bullet, it is terribly slanted and fails to tell its viewers the true significance of its findings.


A Summary and Review of the Discovery Channel Program JFK: Inside the Target Car

The program opens by giving a little background on the assassination, and talking about the limousine in which President Kennedy was riding. It flashes on a computer rendering of the limousine, in which the jump seats appear to be in the proper position. This is interesting because the same producers, in their program Beyond the Magic Bullet, deferred to animator Dale Myers' depiction of the limousine, in which the seats were 3 1/2 inches further inboard from the door than they were on the limousine's schematic. It seems a bit of a coincidence that they now present the seat in its proper location, now that its exact location is no longer central to their findings. Ever hopeful, I take this as a sign that perhaps this program will be less deceptive than Beyond the Magic Bullet.

My hopes are quickly dashed. Up next are two eyewitnesses, Nellie Connally, who rode in the limousine just feet away from Kennedy, and motorcycle officer Bobby Hargis, who rode to the left of the limousine just yards behind. They start to describe the shooting. Instead of letting them finish their stories, however, the program cuts to Gary Mack, curator of the Sixth Floor Museum, and an Associate Producer on the program. Mack relates that many of the witnesses did not recognize the first shot as a gunshot, but that they all knew the second shot was a gunshot. This conceals from those just learning about the assassination and therefore not in the know that Mrs. Connally insisted that the first shot hit the President, and never wavered on this point. It also hides that Hargis heard only two shots, and insisted that no shots were fired before the shot that made the President lean forward, which the program's producers previously proclaimed to be the second shot. It seems clear from this that the program is trying to cut off any speculation that the first shot hit Kennedy, and led him to lean forward. It seems clear as well that the program's creators are trading on the credibility of witnesses such as Connally and Hargis while simultaneously ignoring their recollections. This makes me fearful of what's to come.

But then things get better, if only briefly. The program moves on to discuss the clean-up of the limousine by the Secret Service outside Parkland Hospital and how this compromised the blood-spatter evidence, which could otherwise have been studied to determine the location of the shooter firing the fatal head shot. On one hand, it's refreshing to find that this event can now be reported without a narrator throwing in that "conspiracy theorists claim the limousine was cleaned up" or some such thing. On the other hand, it's discouraging to find that the program's creators are still too tentative to relate that this clean-up, which was reported by numerous eyewitnesses in the days after the shooting, was never investigated by the Warren Commission.

I wonder how this rare admission of a suspicious event is gonna factor in the program's conclusions. We're then given a clue; the program's creators have wrangled up two men--a Dallas motorcycle policeman named H.B. McLain and a bystander named Jack McNairy--who still recall the appearance of the limousine before the removal of the bloody debris. From this it seems likely that the producers intend to re-enact the shooting from the sniper's nest location, along with other locations, and to determine which location creates a debris field most similar to the recollections of these witnesses.

To support that these tests are relevant, and necessary, the program calls once more on Gary Mack. Mack discounts the value of the statements and testimony of those actually hearing the shots by claiming that the acoustics of Dealey Plaza were tested in 1978, and that shots "echoed all over the place." He then explains "If you're at a right angle to the source of the shot, all the experts will tell you, you can't tell where the shots are coming from." This both overstates the case and ignores the evidence. While it is true that people can have difficulty orienting a high-velocity rifle shot that passes in front of them, it is also true that the 1978 tests to which Mack refers demonstrated that it was quite easy to tell a shot from the sniper's nest from a shot from the grassy knoll, particularly when standing in front of the depository building. Incredibly, more than half those standing in front of the building on 11-22-63 admitted that they thought the shots had come from west of the building, in the vicinity of the grassy knoll. Hmmm. One would think Mack would tell the viewers as much to make the study of a shot from this location more dramatic. Hmmm. His failure to do so makes me suspect the program's creators are out to portray the possibility of a shot from the knoll as a silly conspiracy theory, without a lick of supporting evidence.

But before they can do so, they need to establish which locations, other than the supposed sniper's nest in the Texas School Book Depository, were likely locations for a sniper, and thus in need of testing. At this point the narrator makes one of those statements that can only make one shake one's head. He says there's "one clue to where the shots came from that no one disputes." Yep. He's talking about the Zapruder film. It seems clear from this that the program's producers either failed to realize that there are many in the conspiracy research community who doubt the authenticity and accuracy of the film, or are deliberately hiding from its uninformed viewers that such doubt exists. The narrator then recites the currently popular single-assassin theory that Kennedy is shot as he comes out from behind the sign in the Zapruder film. The narrator fails to note that this is not an official theory, but an unofficial one, and that the HSCA--a body whose findings on the medical evidence the program accepts, and the last official body to investigate the assassination--found that Kennedy was first hit around frame 190 of the film, before he went behind the sign. Gary Mack then uses the Zapruder film to place an exact replica of the limousine complete with re-enactors in the exact spot Kennedy was at the moment he received his fatal blow. The narrator then tells the audience that the re-enactors "assume the position of 312," the last frame of the Zapruder film taken before the head shot.


Views on a Scene

The sniper hired by the program, Michael Yardley, then looks at the limousine from four possible locations in the Plaza. He discusses these locations with Mack, to see which locations should be tested. They rule out the south knoll because the bullet would have to have been fired through the front windshield of the limousine. This hides in part that some researchers believe there was a hole through this windshield. They rule out the middle of the Triple Overpass for the same reason. Yardley then says the north end of the Triple Overpass is possible, but is shot down by Mack who says the shooter would have been noticed in this location. They then take a look from behind the picket fence. Although single-assassin theorists have long insisted that the limousine would be moving much too fast across the sights for someone to fire from this location, Yardley says there would be enough time to get off a shot. And it's a good thing, too, for without at least one location besides the sniper's nest to test, the program might look a little biased, even to the uninformed.

The program then cuts away to Adelaide, Australia, and depicts the creation of the simulated heads to be used in the tests. Pamela McElwain-Brown, who consulted on the program, reported later that these heads cost $50,000 apiece.

Anyhow, something strange occurs during this sequence. A CT scan of a skull is depicted as the narrator relates that the Australian team is to make "a target that would allow us to re-stage the assassination." (This scan is shown on The Death by Disco slide above). The CT scan is dated August 2008, and depicts wounds quite unlike Kennedy's words, and quite unlike the head wounds incurred by the simulated skull later in the program. What, then, does this CT scan represent? Did the creators of the program create a horribly inaccurate fake CT scan of what they believe Kennedy's head wounds actually looked like?  In their previous program, Beyond the Magic Bullet, the program's creators had a CT scan performed on a simulated torso, after it had been fired upon. Is this then the CT scan of a skull fired upon but not discussed in the program? 

It appears not. Towards the end of this program it is mentioned that they have an extra simulated head available if the shooter misses his target. The program then shows Yardley making the shot. On the Discovery Channel's website, however, it was later acknowledged that Yardley missed this shot, and hit the side of the simulated head, and that the shot in the program was in fact a shot on the fourth and final simulated head. Well, surprisingly, the wounds on the simulated head not shown in the program also fail to match the wounds on the CT scan shown during this sequence. So what, then, is this CT scan supposed to represent?

Leaving that aside, while the Australian simulated heads appear to be more accurate than the deliberately incomplete chest torsos used in Beyond the Magic Bullet, they are in fact quite problematic, as they are missing something vital. Blood. The program notes that simulated brain matter will be injected into the skulls at the last minute. But there is no mention of blood. A comparison of the blood spatter patterns observed during a simulated shooting and the blood spatter visible on the Z-film was at the core of my original suggestion that these tests be conducted. Blood spatter analyst Sherry Gutierrez concluded the head shot was fired from the south knoll in large part because there was no backspatter from the back of Kennedy's head visible on the Z-film. The program's failure to inject blood into the head therefore seems suspicious. Perhaps I'm being a nit-picker. Perhaps this "simulated brain matter" will react much like blood. We'll see.

At this point the program moves to yet another location. It now details the construction of a simulated car, in a simulated Dealey Plaza, on a Sylmar, California shooting range. Ironically, the program stresses that the measurements of the wooden "car" have been taken from schematics of the President's limousine--the same schematics ignored when the producers sought to demonstrate the single-bullet theory in Beyond the Magic Bullet.  A simulated Kennedy torso with a simulated head attached at the top of a "rigid, crash-test dummy neck," is then placed in the car in a reasonably accurate re-creation of Kennedy's position in Z-312 of the Zapruder film.

Next, Michael Yardley fires at the first of the heads shot in the program. He fires this shot from the simulated grassy knoll position behind the picket fence. For this shot he uses a Winchester rifle and soft-nosed hunting ammunition, the ammunition the program claims would most likely be used by a professional assassin. The head is blown to pieces. Completely destroyed.

He then shoots at a second head using a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle like the one purportedly owned by Oswald, firing full-metal jacket ammunition, ammunition similar to that found in the limousine. This shot exits the left side of the head, on a trajectory suggesting that, if such a bullet had been fired from this location on 11-22-63, it would have hit First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. 

Or so the creators of the program would have us believe...


Sleight of Jackie

A close look at frame 312, later projected onto the mock target car fired upon in the program, shows Mrs. Kennedy to be slightly forward and left of her husband, looking at his face, and out of line with a shot coming from his right front. So where does the program get off claiming a bullet fired from the picket fence would have hit her?

Only nine seconds after showing its viewers 312, moreover, and claiming "Our team has exactly re-created a forensic moment in history," the program shows an image of the re-enactors shown earlier in the program, layered onto an image of the Kennedy shooting dummy as seen from the picket fence location used by Yardley. This layered image depicts Mrs. Kennedy behind her husband, in direct line for a shot fired from the fence.. At this point the narrator relates "Our first two tests from the grassy knoll show both debris and damage inconsistent with autopsy and film records." By "film records" the program seems to be asserting that the Zapruder film demonstrates Mrs. Kennedy to be behind the President, and that the re-enactors therefore got it right. But only nine seconds earlier, the program had proved this to be untrue!  This is utterly baffling. Could this really be an innocent mistake? I mean, shouldn't at least one person working on the program have caught such an obvious mistake?

When asked about this later on the Discovery Channel's website, Gary Mack insisted that, unbelievable as it may seem, that it was in fact an innocent mistake. When it was pointed out to him that Jackie was not behind her husband, but was in front of him, he readily admitted: "She wasn’t and we didn’t catch it at the time. At the moment of the fatal shot, Jackie’s head was in front of JFK, whereas our actor’s head was behind him. However, that error had no bearing on the purpose of the recreation in Dallas. The only actor who needed to be seated correctly was JFK, and he was perfectly placed. After all, we were only trying to show whether or not a sharpshooter could see his target -- Kennedy -- from the various locations." 

Mack's answer raises more questions, however. While he is correct to state that the improper placement of the Jackie substitute in the limousine during the segment filmed in Dealey Plaza had little impact on Yardley's conclusions about which shots seemed likely, he sidesteps that the program later used its incorrect positioning of Mrs. Kennedy to discount that a shot was fired from the picket fence. It seems hard to believe he has forgotten this not-so-minor detail. 

Particularly in that he was the one who did the discounting. After the shot in question was fired, Mack, Yardley, and the creator of the simulated heads, Wesley Fisk, ran over to the mock car and looked at the  damage to the left side of the skull. At this point, Mack stated "Then there would have been a dead Jackie right here." This leads the narrator to proclaim: "Our test shows that the bullet would have passed through John Kennedy and hit Jackie, killing her as well. In addition, our test shows massive damage to the left side of the skull, an area undamaged in the official autopsy report." Yardley then asks Mack "We may have just proven that there wasn't a gunman on the grassy knoll--what do you think?" To which Mack replies: "That's the way it looks."

So, Mack wasn't telling the truth and nothing but the truth when he responded as though the incorrect placement of Jackie in the re-enactment was immaterial to the program's conclusions. It was, in fact, central to its conclusions. Even worse, Mack was chiefly responsible for this error. He was responsible for aligning the re-enactors in the target car. And he was the one who blurted out on camera that the bullet exiting the head would have killed Jackie. 

Either this was an embarrassing mistake from someone who certainly ought to have known better, or Mack was part of a deliberate charade designed to fool the millions viewing the program. That he would later admit this mistake really doesn't tell us all that much. After all, in my exchanges with Dale Myers I got him to admit that his animation as depicted in Beyond the Magic Bullet was distorted and deceptive. Of the millions who've viewed Beyond the Magic Bullet, how many do you think are aware of this fact? Or will ever be aware of this fact?

Similarly, of the millions viewing Inside the Target Car, how many will ever find out that its creators screwed up and placed Jackie behind JFK instead of to his front? And that Mack admitted as much?

That Mack's mistake about Jackie could have been a deliberate ploy designed to dismiss the feasibility of a shot from the knoll, moreover, finds support in an unexpected place: Mack himself. As first exposed by Ryan Smith (real name Siebenthaler) in a 2013 video he put up on youtube, the Discovery Channel's 2003 program The Conspiracy Myths included a similar--and equally inexcusable--"mistake." In that program, Mack and Yardley were testing the feasibility of the head shot's coming from a storm drain on the north end of the railroad overpass. After using a laser beam to show that the trajectory for such a shot was possible, Mack insisted that the three men in the background of Kennedy in the Moorman photo would have blocked the view of anyone firing from that position, and made such a shot impossible. To prove this point, the program's producers flashed the Moorman photo, and overlay the photo onto night time footage of the grassy knoll, with Gary Mack in the location of Moorman. There was a problem with this, however. They'd cropped the Moorman photo--which shows the men to be standing half way up the knoll, at the top of the first batch of steps--so that it looked like the men were standing at the bottom of the steps, in the path of the laser beam from the storm drain. Yes, that's right. Mack had said something that plainly wasn't true, and the program's producers had altered an image in order to make it appear true. Hmmm... How many deceptive "mistakes" does it take before one can reasonably conclude they're not in fact mistakes?

(In 2009, Inside the Target Car was re-broadcast, apparently with some minor changes. According to Pamela McElwain-Brown, who watched this re-broadcast. the program's creators corrected an error about the timing of the photos taken of the Presidential limousine, and inserted a different photo of the Jack and Jackie stand-ins into the Sylmar shooting sequence. She said that this made the program's incorrect placement of Jack and Jackie less obvious. When I asked her if they had also removed the offending sequence of Mack incorrectly claiming a grassy knoll shot would have killed Jackie, she reported that they had not. If this is so, then the suspicion that Mack's admitted mistake was not an accident but a deliberately scripted part of a deliberately deceptive program...would appear to have been confirmed.

P.S. I watched a re-broadcast of the program in 2015, and found that Mack's deceptive comments about Jackie were still included in the program, and still presented as an argument against the shot coming from the knoll.)


Notes from the Sylmar Knoll 

Still, if the program's creators were being deliberately deceptive about the likelihood a shot was fired from behind the fence, it wasn't because they had to be. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to doubt a shot was fired from this location. Whether or not a shot from the knoll would have hit Mrs. Kennedy, no exit wound was observed on the left side of her husband's head, and no damage was observed on the left side of his brain. Also problematic is that those closest to this location did not hear a shot fired from its direction. Nearby witnesses who thought the shots came from the knoll, such as William Newman and Abraham Zapruder, felt they came from somewhere to the east of the fence. Of course, Mack has already discounted the value of the earwitness evidence, so the program's failure to make this last point is not all that surprising.

What is surprising, however, is that the program's tests from this location leave so much unanswered. While the program's creators were open-minded about what rifle may have been used to fire from this location, for some unexplained reason they did not extend this open-mindedness to ammunition. Yes, the identifiable bullet fragments found in the car were full-metal jacketed ammunition. But they were fragments of Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition, and the program has already conceded that evidence was lost during the clean-up of the limousine. There is therefore no reason for them to fire a Winchester rifle from this location, knowing that its ammunition didn't match, and not also fire other kinds of weapons whose ammunition didn't match. They could have tested soft-nosed reduced-charge ammunition, which would have exploded the head to a lesser degree than the soft-nosed hunting ammunition they'd used, but would not have exited from the left side of the head. But they did not. Instead they tested an ammunition they'd already declared would not have been used by a professional assassin--full metal jacketed ammunition--from a location where no one has proposed such ammunition was fired. 

It's actually worse than that. Not only did the program's creators test the wrong kind of ammunition from this location, they failed to note the significance of the tests they did perform. The shot hit the near side of the head, and exited the far side of the head. It hit no bones in between. The bullet was fired at a closer range and thus traveling faster than the bullet believed to have killed Kennedy. And yet the top of the head did not explode like Kennedy's. This is damaging to former HSCA wound ballistics expert and single-assassin theorist Larry Sturdivan's contention that the top of Kennedy's head exploded as a result of the expansion of a temporary cavity created within his skull. If these simulated skulls are so similar to human skulls, why didn't this skull explode? The soft-nosed bullet fired from this location exploded the skull to a greater extent than one would expect on a human skull. So why did the second bullet not send fragments from the top of the simulated head skywards?

There are other problems as well. While, as one might expect, the exit hole on the left side of the skull was larger than the entrance hole on the right, the simulated scalp lacerations and apparent fractures were larger at entrance than at exit. Upon the bullet's impact, moreover, material flew back from this entrance. The program should have asked why a small entrance with small fractures was found on the back of Kennedy's head and a huge hole with huge fractures was found on the top of his head, and why, as near as can be determined from the Zapruder film, no backspatter shot back out this entrance. 

Of course, programs like this are not in the business of asking such questions.


There Won't Be Blood

After satisfying themselves that the head shot wasn't fired from the knoll, the programs' creators then proceeded to perform what was obviously designed to be the centerpiece of the program: the re-creation of the President's head wounds by a shot fired from the sniper's nest. For this shot, Yardley used a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle similar to the purported assassin's rifle, and the appropriate ammunition. He fired at the "cowlick" entrance, which, according to Gary Mack, was based on the autopsy photos and x-rays, "something the Warren Commission did not have in 1964."  

Well, hold it right there. Mack conceals from the program's viewers that Chief Justice Earl Warren later admitted that he DID look at the autopsy photos, and REFUSED to let the autopsy doctors look at them in order to accurately depict the President's wounds in their drawings. He also conceals that the autopsy doctors later looked at these photos, and, not once but twice, reported that the photos confirmed that the entrance wound was where they originally said it was, 4 inches lower than Mack now claims. He conceals as well that the doctors, after having been confronted with the photo purported to show the "cowlick" entrance, insisted that the red mark in the photo was at most dried blood. In short, he hides all the serious questions about the head wound entrance location discussed in chapter 13 of this webpage by pretending that the questions can be answered by the simple proposition that the Warren Commission did not have the autopsy photos and x-rays in 1964. Mack's comment is an insult to serious researchers, and is an obvious attempt to lull those unaware of the problems with the medical evidence back to sleep. (Note to self: this program is selling certainty, not doubt!)

So, anyhow, Yardley fires. Although it was later admitted that he missed on this attempt and hit the side of the simulated head, the program inserts instead his shot on the fourth and final simulated head. He hits the cowlick entrance... And blows the top of the simulated head off!

There is no small entrance leading to an extremely large exit as was supposedly observed on Kennedy... There is just one large gutter wound... Just as I'd predicted in chapter 15 of my webpage years before this program was filmed... 

At this point, the program is at a crossroads. It can continue on its road to deliberate deceptionville or it can make the right turn and admit they were surprised by the result of their test. The program's creators can admit that their test suggests that perhaps just perhaps the entrance wound on the back of the skull was not as determined by a secret panel years after the fact and then confirmed by close colleagues to the members of this panel years after the fact, but was actually where the doctors who actually saw the body said it was, or they can ignore their own test and pretend that nothing the least surprising transpired.  

Well, not surprisingly, considering they ran the stoplight at a similar crossroads in Beyond the Magic Bullet, they race right through the intersection. The program does not mention that the bullet impacting on the back of Kennedy's head supposedly made a small entrance, and traveled several inches through his skull before exploding outwards. It makes no mention that the wound they've created is one large gutter wound.

There is something else that is not mentioned, nor explained. There is also no backspatter visible on the film of this headshot. Nor is there any forward spatter. While the program's creators have placed a large fan blowing wind measured at 25 mph in front of the limousine, in order to better reproduce the conditions in Dealey Plaza on 11-22-63, they have obviously not done so in order to compare the size and shape of the blood spatter erupting from Kennedy's head with the size and shape of the blood erupting from their simulated skull. There is no simulated blood erupting from the simulated skull, just green goo simulating brain matter. 

As the study of blood spatter is a highly-respected field of forensic science, and a comparison of the blood spatter in a simulation with frame 313 of the Zapruder film might prove most enlightening, it's hard to understand why there was no simulated blood injected into the skull to go along with this simulated brain matter. Perhaps the producers knew they would fail, so failed to even try. Or perhaps they simply thought that green goo would look better on camera.

In his subsequent discussion on the Discovery Channel's website, Gary Mack admitted as much. He related: "We did not want to use red, since that would have been rather gross to watch. And we couldn’t use a clear liquid since that wouldn’t show up on camera. For best visibility on television, we used bold colors that were easy to see. The HD version of the show has clearer images than the regular TV version." 

O.K., Gary, that almost makes sense.

At another point in his online discussion, when asked about the shot to the cowlick's failure to replicate Kennedy's wounds, however, Mack proclaimed: "Although our test shot struck very, very close to the actual bullet entry hole, no such test can be absolutely exact. What’s more important is the effect of the bullet and whether or not the blood spatter matches the film of the actual shooting or not."

Well, if this is so, then why not use a liquid that sprays back out of bullet holes, and leaves mist in the air upon the explosion of a skull? Something that remotely resembles...blood. 

Flight of Fantasy

We now enter the spin cycle of the program. 100%. The centerpiece of the program--an attempt to replicate Kennedy's head wounds with a shot fired from the sniper's nest--failed to re-produce Kennedy's head wounds. And not only that, it called into question the most recent conclusions about the entrance location of the bullet. How do the producers then spin this to fit their already demonstrated agenda--that of supporting the "official" story?

Well, they start by re-showing the film in slow motion, and discussing similarities between the shooting they've observed and the shooting of Kennedy. Of a large piece of simulated skull flying backwards from the head, they relate: "A large chunk moves backwards and lands on the trunk, just like the large piece that Jackie may have retrieved." This "may" is most revealing. While a piece of skull and/or brain matter landing on the trunk of the limousine has long been used by conspiracy theorists to suggest the head shot was fired from in front of the President, many single-assassin theorists still dispute this. The program's use of "may", then, seems designed not to offend these folk, and is used even though Secret Service Agent Clint Hill, who was jumping onto the trunk of the limousine at the time, insists he saw Mrs. Kennedy pick something up, and even though Mrs. Connally insisted she heard her scream "I have his brains in my hands", and even though one of the doctors at Parkland Hospital working on Kennedy, Dr. Marion Jenkins, insisted she'd handed him the brains. Well, why are the creators of a supposedly independent program so worried about upsetting the relatively few single-assassin theorists in denial on this point, when they seem completely unconcerned about upsetting the numerous conspiracy theorists convinced a special ammunition was used for the shot from the knoll?

Here, then, is a gif put together by John Mytton and posted on the JFK Assassination Forum in which the explosion of the skull, and backwards movement of one "large chunk," are depicted.

In any event the program moves on to consult with forensic scientists and criminalists, who study the brain spatter in the car and conclude the shot was fired from behind. They also use a laser to align the bullet's entrance on the simulated dashboard with a trajectory through the head and conclude the bullet was fired from the simulated sniper's nest.  Well, this is interesting. There was but one bullet entrance on the dashboard. This indicates the bullet exited in one piece. This is yet another way in which the program's head shot simulation differed from the shooting of Kennedy. The bullet striking Kennedy exploded into numerous pieces. More than half of it was never located. 

Later, when asked on the Discovery Channel's website if the bullets fragmented, Gary Mack admitted "No, and that was quite a surprise. Carcano bullets are military, metal jacketed bullets designed not to fragment upon impact. Oswald’s did, but ours did not. We do not know why that happened." Well, bravo Gary. A straight and honest answer, without spin. Nice.  

The program's creators then show photos of the green goo spatter in the simulated car to limousine witnesses McLain and McNairy, and they, not surprisingly, agree that the spatter patterns look like what they saw in the limousine outside Parkland Hospital on 11-22-63. While this is clearly supposed to be dramatic, it is in fact far from it. It was 45 years ago. How accurate can their recollections be? But more to the point, why weren't they shown photos of goo from when the skull was shot from the knoll? They may very well have said that those photos look just like what they saw in '63 as well. It seems apparent from this that, while these witnesses are no doubt well-intentioned, the program's creators have used them much as they've used Nellie Connally and Bobby Hargis. Their credibility has been borrowed, but is not questioned or fully put on display. They are in the program to help sell its creators' hypothesis and that is all.

Even so, the program makes a mistake in this stretch. It tells its viewers that photos were taken of the limousine on the night of the assassination while in the White House garage. The color photos shown, however, were taken the next afternoon. This was first pointed out by Pamela McElwain-Brown in an online critique of the program. Ironically, Ms. Brown is an expert on the limousine, and was given a special thanks in the program's closing credits.

But that's leaping ahead. The program isn't over. The narrator announces that they still need to compare their film of a bullet's impact on a simulated skull with the impact seen in the Zapruder film. He then offers that "There is a difference between documenting an experiment and showing the death of a human being. For this reason we've translated the graphic portions into a digital facsimile. This allows us to directly compare the data in a way that blunts the horrific impact and respects the memory of a beloved President."

With this, I prepare for the worst. Historically, from the inaccurate medical drawings prepared for the Warren Commission to the deceptive animation of the shooting shown on TV, most every time someone tells us that they are creating an accurate facsimile to replace something we can look at for ourselves, they misrepresent the evidence.

And this time is no different. The "test footage reduced to similar data points" as the Zapruder film depicts an explosion of brain upwards and forwards. It also shows a skull fragment fall backwards. The animated head explosion taken from the Zapruder film, on the other hand, shows a mist explode from the skull--not gobs of goo--and a skull fragment explode slightly upwards, and then fall backwards. Although the narrator proclaims these animations match "almost exactly", there are in fact, huge problems with this animation, and with this claim. First, the fragment in the Z-film comes from the top of Kennedy's head, when the fragment in the test footage comes from the back of the head. Not an insignificant difference. Second, the limousine was moving during the filming of the Zapruder film, and it seems unlikely the animation takes into account that the bloody cloud erupting from Kennedy's head started to erupt when Kennedy was inches behind where he appears in the film. Third, the explosion of skull in the Z-film heads both upwards and downwards, while the explosion in the animation goes strictly upwards. And fourth, and most importantly, THE ZAPRUDER FILM DOES NOT SHOW A FRAGMENT EXPLODE SLIGHTLY UPWARDS AND THEN FALL TO THE TRUNK OF THE CAR.

Even worse, the program's creators KNOW the Zapruder film does not show this. When discussing the creation of their "digital facsimile" they showed an animator at work, with frames from the Zapruder film on his computer monitor. Upon these frames red marks had been added to designate fragments exploding forwards and upwards from the impact location on the President's head. Not one of these fragments behaves like the large fragment in their "digital facsimile". Even more surprising, not one of the fragments designated by these marks is even depicted in the "facsimile".  

This suggests that the program's creators started to do a legitimate analysis of the skull explosion, only to realize it didn't back up their pre-ordained conclusion that their tests supported the official story. It seems likely then that they decided to pretend that it did, and decided to "sell" that it did via their shoddy cartoon. One of the unique aspects of Kennedy's death, and therefore one of the clues as to what actually happened, is the explosion skyward of a large bone fragment at frame 313 of the Zapruder film. This fragment is almost certainly the bone fragment discovered the next day by Billy Harper at a location approximately 80 feet away from the impact location, as this is the largest bone fragment found outside the limo, and must have traveled there somehow. The program's failure to discuss this fragment, and its pretending that the fragment seen at frame 313 fell to the back, and was, by implication, the object picked up by Jackie Kennedy from the trunk of the limousine, is shockingly bold, and suggestive that its creators shared a naked desire to deceive. I have no other way to say it--I think these guys are liars.

They are, after all, the same guys behind Beyond the Magic Bullet, an equally deceptive program. They have, after all, ignored in this program that their shot from the knoll using full-metal jacketed ammunition created wounds quite different than those reportedly found on Kennedy. They have, after all, ignored in this program that their shot from the sniper's nest also failed to replicate his wounds, and that the explosion of the skull from this shot suggested that, at the very least, the bullet impacted at a different location than that fired upon. They have, after all, created a cartoon in this program that is a blatantly false depiction of the impact on Kennedy, and have claimed that they created this deceptive cartoon out of respect to the President's memory. 

(To be clear, I don't believe the program's producers are "liars" in the sense that they know Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy and are part of some conspiracy to convince people otherwise. That would suggest a level of knowledge that is probably beyond their grasp. No, I mean "liars" in the sense that they are interested in pushing a specific scenario, and deliberately shade every bit of information to support that scenario, even if it means misrepresenting the evidence to support their previously agreed-upon conclusions. In this behavior, admittedly, they are not dissimilar to many conspiracy theorists. There is a significant difference, however. The difference is that most conspiracy theorists are honest enough to say they believe Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy, before presenting the reasons why. The Discovery Channel programs, on the other hand, pretend they have no agenda, and have come to no conclusions beforehand, and that it's just an incredible coincidence that everything they push forth supports the single-assassin scenario, EVEN WHEN IT DOESN'T.)

The program then concludes "The Warren Commission was correct--the fatal shot did not come from the grassy knoll." Gary Mack then relates that the shot came from behind, "apparently from the sixth floor window." It closes with Mack looking out this window. While I tend to agree with this conclusion, the road getting there was so filled with dust and deception that it leaves me feeling numb. 

The Flight of the Harper Fragment 

A few days after I thought I'd finished this summary and review, however, I saw something that snapped me to my senses. No, I didn't re-appraise what was in the program itself. I remain convinced it was deliberately deceptive. What I saw was a discussion by Gary Mack of the program on the Discovery Channel's own website, the discussion referred to in the added sections above. When asked what became of the footage of the extra skull mentioned in the program, Mack replied: "The “cutting room floor,” as they say, removed for time and clarity by Discovery. Their decision was reasonable, as there wasn’t enough time to include everything. The show’s producers and I very much wanted the scene to be shown; for that reason, it will be included in the DVD release of the show. But you can also see it below, as posted to YouTube or you click the hyperlink to see it on the Discovery Channel News site. For that shot, fired from behind, Michael missed the spot on the skull slightly, resulting in damage on the right side of the skull. Nevertheless, the blood spray pattern was very similar to the second attempt from our Depository window."

Well, I immediately watched the footage to judge this last claim for myself, and developed a whole new appreciation for the Discovery Channel. This outtake was by far the most significant part of the program, and the most damaging to the official story otherwise propped up by the program. The fact that someone, anyone, affiliated with the program thought this footage worthwhile, and endeavored to make it available to the curious, and the more-than curious, suggests that not everyone affiliated with the program had an absolute disregard for the truth.

You see, this footage confirmed one of my most important conclusions about the shooting. It showed that a bullet impacting on the side of Kennedy's head from behind would dislodge a large skull fragment and send it soaring through the sky at an almost identical angle to the large fragment seen soaring through the sky in Z-313. This footage much more closely resembled Z-313 than the shot used in the program.  


The Cloud of Mist

The resurrected re-enactment footage showed more than just a fragment sailing skywards, however. It showed also that an impact at this location would create an explosion of skull and brain heading both upwards and downwards. The explosion of skull used in the program did not do this; the simulated brain matter from that skull exploded upwards and then fell downwards. Zapruder frame 313 was taken within .03 seconds or so of the bullet's impact, too short a time for the bloody matter below the bullet's exit and out in front of Kennedy's face to have exploded upwards and to then have fallen downwards.

This resurrected footage also showed a cloudy white mist, apparently caused by the bullet's tangential entry on the skull. No such mist was observed on the footage used in the program, where the bullet entered straight into the back of the skull and exited straight from the front of the skull. Such a mist is seen above the top of Kennedy's head in Z-313, however. This suggests that the tangential entry on Kennedy's skull was more to the top of his skull than the tangential wound was on the simulated skull in the Discovery Channel's footage. Having a wound in this location is also consistent with Zapruder film, autopsy photos and x-rays.

The Missing Piece

Once one realizes that the flight of the Harper fragment in Z-313 closely resembles the flight of the fragment in the resurrected re-enactment, and the explosion of skull in Z-313 closely resembles the explosion of skull seen in the resurrected re-enactment, naturally, one begins to wonder what else can be tested, what else can be compared.

This led me to wonder if the Discovery program's creators had bothered to find and film the fragments that had exploded from their simulated heads, if only just to see, y'know, what these fragments looked like. I wondered if any of these fragments resembled the Harper fragment, the only fragment from Kennedy's skull found outside the limousine and subsequently photographed.

While we all grow old (or, in some cases, even older) waiting for this footage to surface, however, we must satisfy ourselves with what is already apparent. And that is this: the missing piece of the simulated skull just above the bullet's path, the apparent source of the largest fragment observed exploding upwards in the resurrected footage, is sharply triangular, and closely resembles the size and shape of the Harper fragment, believed to be the largest fragment exploding upwards in the Zapruder film. The flight path, size, and shape of the Harper fragment are therefore all consistent with its being dislodged by a bullet striking Kennedy on the side of his head, just as proposed in the previous chapter.

"Gutter" Wound Comparison

When one looks closely at this simulated wound, moreover, it is quite easy to imagine the destruction the bullet creating this wound would have caused if it had hit the skull just a bit higher and more forward. It would have, clearly in my opinion, created a large wound quite like the wound described by both Dr. Clark in Dallas on the day of the assassination and Dr. Humes in his report the next day.

I don't believe this is a coincidence. In earlier chapters of this online book, I'd concluded that a shot impacting low on the skull and traversing the skull without hitting any bones before exiting, such as a shot striking the near the EOP and exiting from near the coronal suture, would be likely to create a large entrance on the skull, with large fractures, and an even larger exit, with smaller fractures. The Discovery Channel's shot from the picket fence with a full-metal jacketed bullet, hitting near the temple, created just such a wound. In earlier chapters, I'd also concluded that a full-metal jacketed bullet fired from the sniper's nest and hitting Kennedy at the so-called "cowlick" entry on the back of his head, would blow the top of his head off. The Discovery Channel's replication of this shot did precisely that. And finally, in earlier chapters I'd concluded that a full-metal jacketed bullet striking Kennedy near his right temple, if fired from the sniper's nest and hitting him at Z-313, would be likely to send a large skull fragment upwards, blow out the right side of his head, and leave a large tangential, or "gutter", wound. The Discovery Channel's footage on the cutting room floor shows that, yes indeed, such a shot would both re-create the skull explosion seen in Z-313, and the large head wound reported by the doctors.

As a result, I suspect that the Discovery Channel's re-enactments are the missing piece that will finally force those interested in such matters to finally sit up and take notice.

Perchance to dream.

Perry for the Defense

On 12-03-08, in an online critique of Pamela McElwain-Brown's complaints about JFK: Inside the Target Car, Gary Mack's close associate Dave Perry defended the program. In this critique, subsequently posted on the alt.assassination.JFK newsgroup, Perry, who portrayed Secret Service agent Roy Kellerman in the program's wildly inaccurate re-creation of frame 312, not only failed to acknowledge his own role in the program, but that he'd played a more substantive role in previous programs on the assassination made by the same production team. While this may have been a simple over-sight, Perry's closing statements revealed a serious under-sight, or blindness.

Perry's conclusions (with my own comments added):

  • "What the Discovery Channel producers attempted to do was to scientifically test a couple of theories and present the results of those theories. When other scientists or researchers dispute a theory they form a research group and do their own testing. If their results contradict what was proposed they make their findings public to counter the original theory." (This sounds reasonable. The problem is that JFK: Inside the Target Car failed to test the conspiracy theories as usually proposed, and not only misrepresented them to the public in order to shoot them down, but shot them down for fraudulent reasons.)
  • "If the Discovery Channel’s findings can be refuted then most likely a competing network or organization would be more than happy to air the results. To those who complain about the cost of such a venture that argument is not valid. I know of at least two individuals who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote their own pet theory as to who the shooter was as opposed to attempting to show how the assassination took place." (This just is not true. "Competing networks" have NEVER made it their business to refute the findings of reality-based programs on other networks. There is, in fact, a professional courtesy at work, in that, no one working at network A is likely to embarrass those working at network B, for fear that come next year they will be working at network B, or for someone who used to work at network B. I personally have met network executives who won't even TOUCH on a controversial subject covered by a "competing network," for fear they will look like they are "following the other network's lead." Perry's criticism of those spending "hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote their own pet theory" about the shooter, without "attempting to show how the assassination took place" is equally nonsensical, and pre-supposes that determining exactly how the shooting took place is more important than figuring out who performed the shooting--a prioritization not remotely accepted by the FBI, Warren Commission, HSCA or any other body to investigate Kennedy's assassination. The FBI, after all, decided Oswald pulled the trigger without figuring out if it was even possible for him to have fired all the shots. The Warren Commission, for their part, found Oswald to be the lone assassin while simultaneously concluding there was insufficient evidence to decide just how many shots were fired, let alone which ones hit.)
  • "If a new proposal appears even remotely to have merit then competitors will rush to air it. This is exactly what happened when Nigel Turner made his pitch, with little proof of his and other “researchers” accusations, to the History Channel. His new programs aired in 2003 as the latest installment of The Men Who Killed Kennedy series." (This is more nonsense. Nigel Turner was allowed to create more programs because his earlier programs had made a lot of money for the network. After his last program accused President Johnson of masterminding Kennedy's death, however, the outcry from mainstream historians and political figures became a threat to the network's survival, and the network decided creating conspiracy-oriented programs was more trouble than it was worth. Since that time--over five years now--not a single cable channel--the same channels pumping out dozens if not hundreds of programs on UFO's, vampires, monsters, and ghosts--will touch anything on the Kennedy assassination that remotely suggests government complicity in the killing of the President. Perry most certainly knows this.)
  • "Ms. Brown and those who disagree with the results of JFK: Inside the Target Car or any of the other Discovery Channel’s programs concerning the assassination should stop fault-finding and begin their own scientific testing. Let them refute the theories presented. And when doing so they should use facts as opposed to misrepresentation." (This again sounds reasonable. This ignores, however, that the problems with the programs stem not so much from the results of their tests, but from the SPIN given the results of their tests. It is difficult to conceive that any channel currently in existence is gonna finance a replication of the Discovery Channel's tests just so someone can come on and say "Oh yeah, by the way, this same test was performed for the Discovery Channel but that program's creators deceived you about the true significance of their results." I, for one, don't see it happening anytime soon. Probably not in our lifetime...)

Mack's Me-a Culpa

On August 14, 2009, researcher Paul May, using the name Spiffyone, posted an email from Gary Mack in which Mack attempted to explain some of the mistakes in the program. Mack's response is as follows:

JFK: Inside the Target Car first aired nine months ago and with all the whining about our Jackie actor being in the wrong position, no one has bothered to ask how it happened.until today.  You’re the first!

The short answer is miscommunication between the producer and our spotter in the car.  The young woman is a local actor, though I don’t remember her name.  My friend, David Perry, portrayed Secret Service agent Roy Kellerman and Dave’s responsibility was to make sure the limo, the Kennedys and the Connallys were positioned appropriately. Those Dealey Plaza scenes were merely illustrative so viewers would have an understanding of who sat where and how the limo may have    affected assassins’ views.

Initially, the program was going to test several shooter locations including some test shots into a real 1961 Lincoln limousine and through its windshield.  But the producer had to fly the skull replicas and their two builders to a California shooting range from Australia, and since the heads were very expensive, the production budget quickly became a significant expense.

Unfortunately, two major problems forced a change in the show’s direction.  First, production researchers failed to find any available operating or junked 1961 Lincoln Continental limousines or
windshields.  Without either, Target Car had no target, since it was extremely important to have a real 1961 Lincoln windshield.  Next, the National Archives declined to shoot new video of the actual JFK windshield or to fully open its container.  Without access (their understandable concern was for the safety and preservation of the windshield), we were unable to test the windshield shot theory.

Producer Robert Erickson, with whom I had worked on earlier shows, asked me what to do instead.  My answer was simple: concentrate only on the head shot by duplicating the official version of the shooting and the most likely second gunman theory, then compare the results to the Zapruder film.  My approach, which would have revealed any significant inconsistencies, was accepted just days before the Dallas scenes were scheduled to be filmed.

Nevertheless, when filming began, we hoped to at least show some of the earlier Z frame views if we had the time.  And just as explained and shown in the program, I helped our Kennedy actors assume their Z-312/313 positions.  Then, because the producer, photographer and I were going to be standing far from the car, Dave was to make sure the actors were properly seated and posed.  Both Dave and Robert Erickson had radiophones to communicate which frame was being filmed.  He and
the other actors had reference paper prints of each Zapruder frame we hoped to examine.

Here’s where events interfered and got us off track.  We filmed all day late into the evening in 100+ degree heat at Love Field, an abandoned building taking the place of Parkland Hospital’s emergency
entrance, and Dallas Executive Airport taking the place of the White House garage.  Hardly any of those scenes made the final program.  The next day, forecast to again exceed 100, was Dealey Plaza with Nick Ciacelli’s replica limousine, which we had shipped from Michigan to Dallas.

After the explanatory scene in front of the old Depository building, Robert, sharpshooter Michael Yardley and I prepared to restage some of the possible assassination scenarios.  The city of Dallas and Dallas Police would only allow Dealey Plaza to be closed for five minutes at a time, so we had to set up quickly, roll tape, then move the car out of the way while we walked to the next sniper location.  We were behind schedule even before testing the first shooting theory from the
south knoll, so we decided to only duplicate the head shot.

Robert was going to notify Dave of our decision, but somehow failed to do so.  His subsequent messages to Dave referred only to getting the limousine and JFK parked over the X on Elm, but not on how the Kennedy actors were supposed to pose.  Somewhere along the way, our Jackie actor, despite having been in the right position at the beginning of the day, got mixed up and put her head behind, instead of in front of, JFK.  And without hearing from Robert about Zapruder frames or the actors, Dave didn’t say anything to the actors.

By the time we did the knoll recreation, we were all sunburned and exhausted.  As we started setting up, I heard Robert Groden speaking with Robert Erickson about something or other. I was working with the cameraman and didn’t pay any attention at first. Groden, who was kind enough to move his table selling books and videos behind the wall near the Zapruder pedestal, was not involved with the production in any way.  Nevertheless, he tried to help by telling Erickson we were doing it all wrong.  Erickson put up with him for awhile, then referred Groden to me.  All I heard was that JFK’s head wasn’t exactly right; I heard nothing about Jackie.  I thanked him and quickly explained that JFK was close enough for what we were doing in the Plaza.  Groden, of course, knew nothing about us planning to fire test shots at replica skulls a week or two later.  We continued filming and finished,
exhausted, near sundown.

So why didn’t any of us see the problem?  The answer is quite simple: we were too far away.  Only our photographer, looking through his camera lens, had a good view of the car, but he wasn’t knowledgeable about the assassination.  Robert Erickson and I were at the ends of the Plaza for all but the knoll shot and neither of us could see the actors clearly.  We relied on Dave, but Dave was relying on us.  It was a classic case of a failure to communicate.

So by the time we recreated Z312/313, the actor placement error just didn’t register with me.  In fact, I initially stationed the cameraman a few feet away from the correct fence test location I had selected (which was, of course, the spot where the acoustics evidence placed a gunman). Eventually, I realized the problem and we had to reshoot putting us even further behind schedule.

Following the actual test shots at a gun range in Sylmar, California which were extremely accurate and over the following weeks, Robert Erickson and the folks at Creative Differences started putting the show together.  He sent me a DVD of a rough cut and I was astonished at the Jackie error, but there was absolutely nothing we could do about it.  There were no outtakes at that location showing her in the right pose and we had to include at least one closeup to illustrate JFK’s position.  We simply had no alternative.

In the movies, you’ll find the term Continuity somewhere in the end credits.  That’s the person or persons who make certain everything in one scene precisely matches what appears in the next.  For example, if an actor holds a cigarette in his right hand it had better be in that same hand when the camera cuts to a different angle.  Other than me, we didn’t have a Continuity person in Dealey Plaza and I missed the mistake.  Simple as that.

Those who don’t like the results of the test have been harping on the Jackie error as if it completely ruined the shooting test.  They are wrong.  They do that because they cannot dispute the simple science behind our basic premise: bullet goes in, matter comes out,and how does that compare to the Zapruder film?  The results were convincing.

Gary Mack

Okay, so things were chaotic. And there was a communication error. And the actors were filmed in the wrong position at the wrong location. But this STILL does not explain why after the firing of the knoll shot in the program Mack himself insisted the shot would have killed Jackie. If they had simply filmed the actors in the wrong position, as claimed, and he would have caught this mistake should he have been watching the actors through the camera, as claimed, well then why did HE use this "mistake" to debunk that a shot came from the knoll? And why, if he caught this mistake before the program was completed, as claimed, did they include both the shot of the actors in the wrong position and his comments based upon this mistake in the final program? Because they didn't have an alternate shot of the actors? Really? Then why, according to those viewing repeats of the program, was an alternate shot of the actors added back in? And why, since the REAL problem wasn't the shot of Jackie's stand-in in the wrong position, but Mack's claiming her being in this position destroys the theory a shot came from the knoll, wasn't THIS more substantive mistake corrected for subsequent showings of the program?

And, perhaps more importantly, if the comparison of the simulated sniper's nest shot in the program to the actual shot in the Zapruder film was so central to the "basic premise" of the show, as claimed by Mack, why did they forego comparing their shot to the Zapruder film itself, but instead compare it to a ridiculously inaccurate cartoon purportedly based upon the Zapruder film?

With this self-serving me-a culpa I'm afraid Mack has only dug himself a deeper hole.