The black and white on the black and white

Radiology Review

Before one can properly evaluate the x-rays taken of President Kennedy's body on 11-22-63, one must acquaint oneself with a number of concepts. The first and foremost of these concepts is that an x-ray is a negative image reflecting the density of an object, and not its surface appearance. The areas of the x-ray film most exposed to x-rays are thereby the darkest, and the areas least exposed, the whitest. Dense matter, such as bone or metal, will, it follows, show up as white, while air will show up as black. A dark object or area is referred to as being radiolucent (meaning it is easily penetrable by x-rays), while a white object or area is referred to as being radio-opaque (meaning it is not easily penetrated).

This established, we can begin to discuss the autopsy x-rays of President Kennedy, probably the least understood and most controversial element of the medical evidence.

We should start by killing some myths about the x-rays. The widely-repeated conclusion of a number of conspiracy theorists--including Harrison Livingston--holding that Kennedy’s x-rays were inconsistent with the wounds described in his autopsy report, is nonsense. While Livingstone and others have insisted that the dark shadows on Kennedy’s right forehead area demonstrate that his right face was missing, air in the tissues is to be expected on the x-rays of gun shot victims. There is, in fact, an x-ray similar to Kennedy's A-P skull x-ray (that is, an x-ray taken from the front) n the March, 1990 American Journal of Roentgenology. (This is shown on the slide above.) The caption of this image reads: “Note the pneumocephalus, calvarial fractures, and loss of brain parenchyma.” Pneumocephalus means air in the brain cavity, calvarial fractures means fractures of the dome of the skull, and loss of brain parenchyma means a loss of the brain’s distinctive shape. In short, this victim, as Kennedy, had had the right half of his brain turned to mush by gunfire. And there's a black section on his x-ray as a consequence. 

Should one think I'm exaggerating the obviousness of Livingstone's mistake, then one should consider that Dr.s Cyril Wecht and David Mantik offered a similar rebuttal to the "missing face argument" of Livingstone and others in The Assassinations, published 2003. They wrote: "most of the x-rays in the beam are absorbed not by the bone, but rather by the brain itself. The dark area should instead have suggested to them that brain, rather than skull, was missing in this area."

Now, to be clear, I'm not claiming Wecht and Mantik as unerring experts on the x-rays.

Actually, far from it. While Wecht and Mantik observed that Kennedy was laying on his back when x-rayed, and that the brain in such case would settle on the back of his head, they also expressed doubt that the damage to Kennedy's brain observed at autopsy was significant enough to explain this "settling". On this, however, I believe they are mistaken. The notes of Kennedy's autopsy doctors tell us that the falx cerebri, a covering of the brain, which helps keep it in place, was "loose" along the sagittal suture, which runs along the middle of the skull from the coronal suture on back to the occipital bone. And that's just the beginning. An article in the August 2006 Radiology written by doctors from Dr. Finck's employer, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, reports that "In eight of 10 subjects with gunshot wounds through the brain, the brain was settled in the dependent portion, and pneumocephalus was present in the nondependent portion of the calvarium... The brain in the remaining two subjects was extruded from the calvarium." Well, heck, this proves the air observed on the frontal area of Kennedy's x-rays is not as suspicious as claimed by Dr.s Mantik and Wecht.

The March 1990 American Journal of Roentgenology offers another x-ray of interest. This lateral skull x-ray (that is, an x-ray of a skull, taken from the side) depicts the remnants of a bullet in a victim’s forehead after traversing his skull. As predicted in Spitz and Fisher’s Medico-legal Investigation of Death, the copper jacket failed to exit. Of even more interest, however, is that there are a number of small fragments on the outside of the skull surrounding the bullet’s entrance.

This is a head-scratcher. As the bullet killing Kennedy is purported to have entered in this same region of the skull and to have broken up to a much greater degree, it makes little sense that the bullet supposedly making its entrance in the cowlick region of Kennedy's skull failed to leave small fragments around the outside of its entrance into the skull.

Of course, there are those who’ve convinced themselves a full metal jacket bullet can fracture upon impact and only begin to break up as it traverses the skull. But that’s like saying you can fire an egg through a window without getting any yolk on the window. No, it’s worse than that. It’s like saying you can fire an egg though a window and leave an egg-shaped hole in the glass, without getting any yolk, egg white, or shell on the window.

A second look at this lateral x-ray reveals that it is strikingly dissimilar to Kennedy’s lateral x-ray in at least one other way. While Kennedy’s lateral x-ray is black towards the front and whitest towards the back, the lateral x-ray in the periodical has a much smaller range of black and white. It looks normal. While Kennedy's x-ray does not.

Now, this isn't something I stumbled upon. Oh no, far from it. In November 1993, Dr. David Mantik spoke at a press conference, and announced that he'd recently viewed the autopsy materials at the archives, and that the strange appearance of Kennedy's x-rays had led him to conclude they'd been altered.

Now, before one gets too excited about this, one should know that virtually every radiologist to comment on the x-rays, including those who believe the x-rays demonstrate the likelihood Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy, disagrees with this conclusion. In Anthony Summers’ December 2001 Vanity Fair article The Ghosts of November, for example, he cited Radiologist Dr. Randy Robertson, Radiologist Patrick Burnett, and Neuroanatomist Dr. Joseph Riley among those concluding the x-rays have NOT been altered. There is no comparable list of radiologists expressing the opposite opinion, and confirming Mantik's conclusions.

Still, Mantik’s observations regarding the extreme contrast of the x-rays are valid and deserve some discussion.  

To that end, we need to increase our understanding of how x-rays are created, and how Kennedy’s x-rays could be so strange in their appearance. Dr. John Ebersole, the autopsy radiologist, gave a partial explanation to the HSCA in 1978 when he told them “I would like to explain one thing. These films, these x-rays were taken solely for the purpose of finding what at that time was thought to be a bullet that had entered the body and had not exited. If we were looking for fine bone detail, the type of diagnostic exquisite detail we want in life, we could have taken the x-rays in the x-ray department, made the films there, but we felt that the portable x ray equipment was adequate for the purpose; i.e., locating a metallic fragment.”

So...hmmm... Was the strange appearance of Kennedy's x-rays a by-product of this decision?

It appears so.

The portable x-ray equipment used at Bethesda was reportedly an "old" General Electric 250. It was almost certainly of World War II vintage. The 1943 guidebook Medical Radiographic Technique by General Electric’s Technical Services Division explains "Defining contrast as the degree of difference in density between adjacent areas on the film, it is not difficult to recognize that gross-overexposure or under-exposure will affect this difference." It then offers: “Technics should not be used to produce maximum contrast, but rather technics which will give satisfactory contrast for maximum visibility of structure.” The book thereby presents three x-ray images of a human skull: one created with a short exposure that is too light; one created with a longer exposure that has an appropriate amount of contrast; and one created with an even longer exposure that is too dark.

These images are shown on the slide below.

Optical Density Comparison

Note that the most over-exposed x-ray in the book (at bottom right on the slide) is almost as black and white as Kennedy's right lateral x-ray (which is above it on the slide).

This is not something one claiming Kennedy's skull x-rays have been altered should ignore.

Since the x-ray equipment had a chart or manual which told the x-ray techs, Jerrol Custer and Edward Reed, how long to expose an image, based on the measurements of the object being x-rayed, however, one can't help but wonder how they could have screwed it up so badly. A partial excuse could be related to Reed’s admission that, in order to prevent his having to re-do his work should there have been a mix-up developing the x-rays, he exposed two x-ray films at the same time, and boosted the energy level to compensate.

This is not just my assumption. On page 96, Medical Radiographic Technic shows three chest x-rays taken with different energy settings (with peaks of 50, 60, and 80 kilovolts). As you might guess, they show "excessive," "satisfactory," and "insufficient contrast," respectively. The book then claims "Of the various factors affecting density and contrast in the radiograph, that most widely used is the x-ray tube voltage."

The thought also occurs that the unique structure of the skull, in which a fairly solid organ, the brain, is encased inside relatively thin layers of bone, only exacerbated the problems related to Custer and Reed's taking two x-rays at once.

I found confirmation for this in Manual of Roentgenological Technique, a textbook published in 1947. It notes that "The more nearly the density of the part examined approaches that of the surrounding tissues, the more precisely must the kilovoltage or penetrability of the rays be selected in order to give proper differentiation of the parts. While higher kilovoltage produces greater penetration, lower kilovoltage values produce a greater degree of contrast in the structure of varying density. Over-penetrated roentgenograms present a grey lack of contrast and under-penetrated films show a chalky increase of contrast which is equally objectionable." Well, it seems possible from this that Kennedy's skull x-rays were both under-penetrated and over-exposed, and that this unfortunate combination led to their strange appearance. Perhaps Reed had failed to properly set the energy level. Perhaps, should one study numerous x-rays made with similar equipment, at various settings, one would find the peculiar appearance of Kennedy's x-rays not so peculiar at all.  

This possibility is further supported by a book I picked up at a thrift store, almost as a joke. Textbook of Veterinary Diagnostic Radiology (1986) relates: "The degree of blackening of the x-ray film is measured in terms of optical density. Optical density and film blackness are directly related...Of particular importance in patient radiography is the fact that x-rays are not absorbed homogeneously by the body; some tissues absorb x-rays more efficiently than others. This phenomenon is called differential is important to recognize that the degree of differential absorption of x-rays by the patient is a function of x-ray energy. As the energy of x-rays increases, so does their penetrability. Thus, when higher energy x-rays are used, the lesser is the degree of differential absorption by the patient. When lower energy x-rays are used there is more difference between the radiopacity of bone and soft tissue."

And should one think my quoting a book on veterinary radiology inappropriate, one should know that I've confirmed this point in more appropriate textbooks as well. Limited Radiography (1999), for example, holds that:

"A diagnostic quality radiograph should have adequate density (blackness), good contrast (range of gray shades), clear recorded detail (definition and resolution), and no visual distortion or magnification (size and shape) of the anatomy being examined... Production of the visible radiographic image is controlled by the following exposure factors: milliamperage, kilovoltage peak, and source-to-image distance... The two major photographic factors of the image are 1) density and 2) contrast. Density is seen as the overall blackness of the total image. Density is controlled by milliamperage-seconds... The density of the radiograph is directly proportional to the amount of milliamperage used for exposure and length of time the exposure is delivered (referred to as milliamperage-seconds setting)...Density is directly proportional to milliamperage and time... Distance, or source-to-image distance has a significant influence on density... Simply put, the radiation beam diverges and proceeds in a straight path... The area covered becomes increasingly larger with lessened intensity as the beam of radiation travels a greater distance from the source... Contrast is the second major photographic factor... Radiographic contrast results from the distribution of black metallic silver in the film emulsion and is directly controlled by the penetrating effects of kilovoltage. Radiographic contrast is visualized in the image as gray tones or degrees of gray that reveal the differences between body organs or tissues. Contrast enhances information... Contrast is controlled by the kilovoltage or, more technically, the quality of energy or wavelength (short or long)... A variety of long and short wavelengths (low and high energies) will demonstrate a range of shades from black to gray to white (gray tones) and their density differences. The differences are easily seen in the structures visible in the radiographic image... Radiographic contrast is generally referred to as the overall contrast seen in the image. It includes long-scale (more gray tones) contrast and short-scale (more black and white tones) contrast. Radiation of higher energy (shorter wave-length), 70 kilovoltage peak or more, will produce long-scale contrast with many gray tones... If there are large differences in the thickness of body structures, e.g., bone vs. soft tissue, or if 70 kilovoltage and lower is used, short-scale contrast with more pronounced black and white tones will be produced... the degree of density is proportionate to the milliamperage-seconds...By comparison, contrast is controlled by kilovoltage peak... It should be noted that although kilovoltage peak and milliamperage seconds have an interactive effect in increasing or decreasing contrast and density respectively, they may not be interchanged to compensate for the lack of one or the other... if structures are underpenetrated due to a lack of kilovoltage peak, no amount of milliamperage-seconds increase will improve the penetration; added milliamperage-seconds will only add density... Conversely, if an image is underexposed and lacks density, milliamperage-seconds must be added; kilovoltage peak would add only scattered radiation and thus cause the image to look gray and flat without clarity."

This, then, leads me to suspect that an unfortunate combination of exposure time and energy setting caused the strange appearance of Kennedy's skull x-rays.

I mean, honestly, just look at the comparison above... and below. And then tell me there's no combination of settings and circumstances through which way the wide range of black and white on Kennedy's skull x-rays could have an innocent explanation...

Power and Proximity

The two series of images presented on the slide below come from Radiologic Science for Technologists, a textbook first published in 1975. The first of these is Figure 17.4. It presents an identical image created at 80, 70, and 60 kvp, respectively. As discussed, the greater the kilovoltage, the greater the penetration, and the greater the contrast. The second series of images is Figure 17.3. It demonstrates that the distance of the x-ray source to the image receptor (SID) is another key factor contributing to the optical density of the final image. Three images are present in Figure 17.3. These present an image created with an SID of 90 cm, 100 cm, and 180 cm, respectively. The first has too much contrast, the second has an acceptable level of contrast, and the third has too little contrast. Well, this suggests that the relative shortness of the SID inherent in the portable x-ray machine used on Kennedy contributed greatly to the over-exposure of the image Mantik finds so worrisome.

And that's far from the final factor affecting the image quality of the skull x-rays, which could help explain their strange appearance, which have never been addressed by Mantik. In 2015, while leafing through a book-form review for the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists exam in a used book store, I discovered a fourth series of x-rays in which one was too light, one was just right, and one was too dark. But this series had nothing to do with the voltage or exposure time of the x-ray, the development time of the film, or even the source to image receptor distance, and was instead a presentation of three images taken with the same voltage and exposure time, but developed at three different temperatures of 90, 95, and 100 degrees.

So, yes, it seems quite possible that the strange appearance of Kennedy's x-rays came as a direct result of the equipment used in their creation, and the unrecorded and quite possibly improper decisions of those involved in their creation. I mean, really, Dr. Mantik and his colleagues complain ad nauseum about the mistakes of the autopsy doctors and autopsy photographer, but act as though it is beyond the pale to assume any mistakes were made in the creation of the x-rays.

Comparing the Contrast

Yes, I'm sold. When one compares the three x-rays at the bottom of the Optical Density Comparison slide, and compares the contrast on the film receiving the longest exposure against the contrast on the film receiving the shortest exposure, it becomes clear that there's an exposure setting at which the vast range of black and white on Kennedy's x-ray image would be expected.

And one can only imagine how the difference in image quality based upon the changing of this setting could be amplified by the changing of other settings, and circumstances.

An article by Dr. E. Robert Heitzman in the February 2000 issue of Radiology, gives us more cause for pause. In this article, Heitzman notes the major advances in radiology of the 20th century. He proceeds to explain "Another important advance in radiographic technique occurred in the 1940s. This was the development of the automatic film processor introduced by the PAKO Corporation of Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1942...The automatic film processor was a great boon to the standardization of radiography. Prior to the advent of the automatic film processor, films were moved manually through the developing, fixing, washing, and drying cycles. Clothing was often destroyed by chemical stains. Radiographs were often of substandard quality. In fact, it was a frequent practice in radiography to overexpose the film when exposure factors were in doubt, the rationale being that one could always compensate by underdevelopment in the darkroom. Overexposed and underdeveloped films were commonplace." An automatic film processor was, from what can be gathered from Reed's and Custer's statements, not used at Bethesda on November 22, 1963.

And this was not the only help offered by Heitzman. In his article, he further explains that in 1945 a device developed by Dr. Russell Morgan (yes, the very same Russell Morgan who would later serve on the Clark Panel) reached the market, and that this device--which Morgan called a phototimer-- "standardized radiographic exposures; previously, it had been common to see radiographs grossly overexposed or underexposed." The radiology lab used to create Kennedy's x-rays, from what can be gathered, had no such device.

Well, this raises the additional possibility the x-rays were under-penetrated (for some reason or another) and over-exposed by Custer and Reed (as was their custom) and then underdeveloped in the dark room.

Or some other combination of the above...

And yet Dr. Mantik has failed to address any of this in the numerous books and articles in which he's written about Kennedy's x-rays, and claimed they must have been altered. They look strange to him so they must have been altered. No innocent explanation is possible for their strange appearance. Period.

And no, I'm not kidding... Dr. Mantik, who is by trade a radiation oncologist, and not a radiologist, has thoroughly failed to address the reality Kennedy's x-rays were created using an old portable x-ray machine, or even the possibility mistakes were made in the creation and development of these x-rays. In a quick study of his statements on the the x-rays online and in books, I found a reference to his comparing the x-rays to one of Kennedy while alive, to those of his own patients, and to 19 x-rays of gunshot wounds to the head, courtesy Dr. Doug DeSalles. (Curiously, in his summary of Mantik's studies in his book Inside the ARRB, Doug Horne reports this last number as 9.) In all Mantik's writings, however, I found no reference to his ever attempting a comparison to x-rays taken with the equipment used on November 22, 1963, at various settings.

There's just no reason to believe that the non-Kennedy x-rays studied by Mantik, his controls per se, were created under similar circumstances to those created at Kennedy's autopsy. Dr. Ebersole, in his 1978 testimony before the HSCA, let's remember, testified that Kennedy's x-rays were created as part of a desperate attempt to find bullets in Kennedy's body, and were not an attempt to create a proper and thorough record of Kennedy's injuries. Medical Radiographic Technic explains the significance of this, moreover; it relates that the compensation for the various factors affecting the quality of an image "is very often unpredictable when the patient first presents himself, making necessary the acceptance of a 'first film' which may be markedly under or overexposed."

Well, were Mantik's "control" x-rays "first films"? We have reason to be skeptical.

While Mantik presents photos of Kennedy's computer-enhanced x-rays to make his claim there's too much contrast, after all, he fails to tell his audience that these x-rays were computer-enhanced for the HSCA. In fact, in looking back through a half dozen or so of Mantik's writings and appearances, including his 2004 TV appearance on the Bill Kurtis program Investigating History, I've been unable to find the slightest indication that the optical density measurements he finds so incriminating were those of the original x-rays, as opposed to the computer-enhanced x-rays he shows his audience. 

This, then, suggests the additional possibility that the unusual optical density measurements so decried by Mantik stem not from the x-rays having been faked, as he concludes, but from the computer-enhancement performed for the HSCA. As a consequence, then, of both Dr. Mantik's failure to address the possibility the x-rays were improperly created, and his failure to acknowledge that the x-rays he presents have been computer-enhanced, I must admit that I, as fellow buffs Dr.s Robertson, Riley, and, as I've been led to believe, Wecht, find Mantik's conclusion the x-rays have been altered premature, and unconvincing.    

An ODious Distraction

In June 2011, on the CTKA website, Dr. Mantik addressed my doubts about the significance of his OD measurements. After asking himself if he'd used the enhanced x-rays for the OD measurements, he responded "No--definitely not. This is an eccentric charge by Speer." He reacted, of course, as though I'd "charged" him with using the enhanced prints for his measurements when, as you've just read, I merely claimed his behavior "suggested the possibility." He then attempted to explain his behavior. He asserted that he'd always printed the enhanced prints when discussing the unenhanced x-rays "because the prints of the unenhanced x-rays do not accurately portray the extant x-rays" and that "In print format, the enhanced x-rays are closer in image content to the extant x-rays."

And, yes, you read that right. He admitted that his misrepresentation of the enhanced x-rays as the x-rays he'd studied and measured was not only not accidental, but premeditated. He then defended his actions with an equally surprising claim. He insisted "Given a choice of viewing the extant x-rays or the enhanced prints, most experts would prefer to see the x-rays. The enhanced prints were produced primarily because they more accurately reflect the x-ray images (than do the unenhanced prints)." Yes. He went there. While, earlier in his article, he'd offered "The HSCA, of course, enhanced the X-rays, but I suspect that was mostly to obtain useful prints for publication. (Printing changes the contrast)," he now committed himself. To support his claim the prints of the enhanced x-rays more accurately depict the original x-rays than do prints of the originals, he had actually claimed that's why they were created.

Well, this was nonsense. Mantik offered no support for this claim, and none is readily available. In his report on the x-rays, in Addendum C to the report of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, HSCA Radiology consultant Dr. G.M. McDonnel related that he'd first viewed the x-rays (radiographs) on March 7, 1978, and that afterward "At my suggestion portions of these radiographs were digitized and enhanced for further observation and analysis." After presenting his findings, moreover, McDonnel concluded "The digitized and enhanced images produced by Aerospace Corporation permitted definitive observation and analysis of the original radiographs. Further, enhancement permitted analysis or elimination of artifacts on the images. The most vivid result is the clear definition of the multiple fractures radiating from the area of the entrance of the penetrating missile in the right occipital bone."

That's right. McDonnel stressed that the enhanced x-rays were created to help him in his analysis, and that, furthermore, they were of help. He said nothing about how the enhanced x-rays better reflected the originals when printed, or that enhancement of the x-rays could be of help when publishing the report of the pathology panel (for the handful of people who would ever see it prior to its availability on the internet). Mantik's suggestion of as much is thus exposed as smoke. While Mantik, in his 2011 response to my criticisms, expressed dismay that I'd failed to ask him if he'd measured the enhanced or unenhanced x-rays, his response justifies my reason for not doing so. I hate being lied to, or being fed such nonsense that it feels like I'm being told a lie.

My distrust of Mantik, unfortunately, appears well justified. In September 2011, while browsing through the Harold Weisberg Archive, I came across Authenticity of the JFK Autopsy X-rays, a June 1995 essay by Mantik in which he reversed himself (if only briefly) and argued that the x-rays in the archives were in fact unaltered. Well, near the end of this essay is a revealing passage...quite revealing, in my opinion. In this passage, Mantik notes that the x-ray tech at Kennedy's autopsy, Jerrol Custer, had been shown prints of Kennedy's x-rays, and had said that they do not look authentic. He then offers "I suspect that what troubles him is the remarkable difference in contrast between the prints and the original X-rays. I know that several of us, who had repeatedly viewed only prints of the X-rays, have been somewhat surprised, when first viewing the X-rays, at the lesser degree of contrast seen there."

Well, I'll be. In 1988, KRON broadcast an interview with Custer, in which he was shown the x-rays of Kennedy's skull, and claimed they did not match his recollections. Custer claimed it was the substance of the x-ray that was the problem, and said nothing of the contrast. He was, tellingly, shown the enhanced prints of the x-rays. In 1993, in his book The Killing of a President, moreover, Robert Groden published the largest and clearest images of the x-rays yet published, and reported: "Technician Jerrol Custer took the X-ray pictures on the night of the autopsy. These X-rays, purportedly of the President's head, do not depict the true nature of the President's wounds. Custer has stated that the pictures shown here are not the x-rays he took that night." These were, once again, the enhanced prints. There is no evidence that Custer had, by 1995, ever been shown  unenhanced prints of the original x-rays.

Now, if the enhanced prints look more like the originals than the unenhanced prints, as Mantik now claims, why would he have claimed in 1995 that Custer's confusion stemmed from the "remarkable difference in contrast" between the enhanced prints seen by Custer and the originals?

Quite obviously, he wouldn't. It seems clear, then, that Mantik's latest excuse is something he just pulled out of thin air. Smoke.

Now, to be honest, the concept of "contrast" is a confusing one, and the word "contrast" is often used in contradictory ways. One radiologist e-mailed me some years back after reading an earlier version of this chapter. He objected to my use of the word “contrast.” He said “To me 'contrast' means the ability to distinguish things close together in physical density and this happens in the sweet spot of the film where there are lots of shades of gray. The sweet spot is not very wide and has to be placed on the area of interest. For example the area of the lateral view of the skull where the brain has been blown or sucked out is overexposed in my terminology (while the exposure toward the rear looks OK) and all the shades of gray have been wiped out up front and I would never say that view had too much contrast…” 

Well, this is interesting. I had used the word “contrast” in order to be consistent with the General Electric guidebook. Perhaps, then, Mantik has at one time or another shared this radiologist's interpretation of the word "contrast." If so, however, wouldn't he have insisted from the beginning that the original x-rays showed a greater degree of "contrast" (shades of gray) than the published prints, instead of the opposite?

Yes, there's no getting around it. In his attempt to explain his repeated misrepresentation of the enhanced x-rays as the x-rays he'd measured, Mantik has either said something that simply isn't true or "enhanced" the truth by telling what most of us would consider a lie.

Unfortunately, I've come to suspect the latter. It seems clear to me that Mantik knows full well that a comparison of a "normal" x-ray to the prints of the unenhanced x-rays published by the HSCA would not be very convincing regarding his claim the unenhanced x-rays were altered through the addition of a white patch...and that he deliberately publishes the computer-enhanced x-rays in their place.

I'm sorry. I just don't trust Mantik on the x-rays.

Nor should you, IMO, as reliance on Mantik and his supporters will only lead you to Nonsenseville. Doug Horne presented Mantik's findings in his 2009 4-volume book, Inside the ARRB. This section was written with Mantik's assistance. There, they claimed the white patch at the back of the skull had OD values across a range from .5 to .6, while the dark area at the front of the skull had OD values from 3.5 to 3.9. Horne prints in bold, moreover, that the white patch thereby transmitted "about 1100 times more light" than the dark area.

Now compare this to what Mantik reported in Optical Density Measurements of the JFK Autopsy X-rays, his original article on the OD values, written in 1993. He wrote: "A series of OD measurements were made in both the light and dark areas on the lateral X-rays. Within the posterior lucent area on the right lateral, these measurements ranged between .57 and .69, with a mean of .61. This corresponds to a transmission of 24.5 %. In the dark area the OD range was 3.22 to 3.78, with a mean of 3.52. These latter measurements were all taken in the area where the 'bone was visibly present. The corresponding transmission in this dark area is then 0.030%. The ratio of transmissions is 24.5 % / 0.030% = 820."

Well, there it is. Horne (and presumably Mantik) had fudged Mantik's numbers for the white patch downwards, and numbers for the dark area upwards, and had thereby increased the ratio between the values from 820 to about 1100.

Sad to say, but this puts Mantik's failure to publish his OD values--all of 'em--in a new light.

And Horne's not the only person deceptively hawking Mantik's wares.

In November 2015, Dr. Michael Chesser (a neurologist with a long-time interest in the assassination) came out in support of Dr. Mantik's OD findings, and said he'd compared the optical density of Kennedy's pre-mortem skull x-ray (found at the JFK Library) with the optical density of Kennedy's post-mortem skull x-ray. He claimed that the OD readings of the "white patch" on the post-mortem x-ray were out of line with those on the same patch of skull on the pre-mortem x-ray. And he even presented copies of these x-rays to demonstrate as much. (His exhibit is presented below. The pre-mortem right lateral x-ray is in the upper left corner. The post-mortem right lateral x-ray is beneath it. On the right hand side is a simulation of the incomplete post-mortem left lateral x-ray, created by reversing the right lateral x-ray, and cutting off the back of the head.)

As you can see, Dr. Chesser took a page out of Dr. Mantik's book by comparing an unenhanced version of the pre-mortem x-ray with a computer-enhanced version of the post-mortem x-ray. He even put his OD numbers--presumably taken from the unenhanced lateral x-rays--on the computer-enhanced x-ray. Eegads. This is nothing if not deceptive. Chesser admitted his left lateral was a simulation created by reversing the right lateral, but failed to explain that the OD measurements on both post-mortem x-rays were taken from the original unenhanced x-rays, one of which was shown previously in his presentation.

Yikes. It appears that deception is like the flu, and that Dr. Mantik has sneezed right into Dr. Chesser's face.

Dr. Chesser's presentation was alarming in other ways, as well. He claimed that while the petrous bone on the right lateral x-ray is only slightly whiter and therefore more dense than Mantik's white patch at the back of the head, the petrous bone on the (never-published) left lateral x-ray is clearly less dense than the white patch on the back of the head. Now, let's think about this. Chesser's measurements supposedly confirmed Mantik's findings. And yet, for all his visits to the archives, and for all his measurements of the x-rays, Mantik had failed to notice such a thing. In his original monograph on the optical density data, found in the Weisberg Archives, Mantik claimed: "in the JFK x-rays, the transmission of the white area in the posterior skull was measured to be nearly as high as that measured through the extremely dense petrous bone, which surrounds JFK's ear canal." X-rays. Plural. Right and left. He made a similar claim in his 2007 review of Vincent Bugliosi's Reclaiming History, and then once again during his 2009 JFK Lancer presentation. When reviewing this website on the CTKA website in 2011, moreover, Mantik further claimed "the ODs of the White Patch are similar to those of the petrous bone (in the right lateral X-ray)" and then noted: "the White Patch and the petrous bone are not nearly so similar to one another (in OD) on the left lateral skull X-ray."

Let's put some numbers to this. Chesser had the right lateral readings as .48 petrous, .56-.64 white patch--with the white patch number being at most 33% greater and therefore less dense--and the left lateral readings as .32 petrous, .24 white patch--with the petrous bone number being 33% larger and therefore less dense. Well, Mantik wrote that the OD readings for the petrous bone and white patch on the left lateral x-ray were not as similar as they were on the right lateral x-ray...and not that they were as similar, but in the other direction, with the white patch on the left lateral being more dense than the petrous bone.

Well, this suggests that, in Mantik's analysis, the white patch on the left lateral x-ray was less white and dense than on the right lateral x-ray.

And that's not just a suggestion. Mantik provided some additional info for his friend Doug Horne's book Inside the ARRB. This included his OD numbers for the lateral x-rays. They were .53 petrous, .625 white patch for the right lateral x-ray. Well, sure, this was pretty close to Chesser's readings of .48 and .56-.64. But look at Mantik's numbers for the left lateral x-ray. They were .73 petrous, .99 white patch. These were nowhere near Chesser's numbers of .32 petrous, .24 white patch.

OD readings reflect the level of whiteness of an x-ray. They are expressed as a logorithm, where 1 means 1/10 of the light is transmitted, 2 means 1/100 of the light is transmitted, and 3 means 1/1000 of the light is transmitted. A lower number corresponds to a whiter area of the film, and thus an area in which the x-rays met more resistance. In other words, a denser substance. According to Mantik, then, the petrous bone was considerably more white and dense than the white patch. Although Mantik, in a letter published in the January 2015 issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, claimed that: "The optical density (as measured at the National Archives and Records Administration) of a posterior whitish area on both lateral skull radiographs matches the optical density of the petrous bone (the densest bone in the body)" his actual data--the numbers strangely absent from his letter--prove this wasn't true.

And thus...despite all the huffing and puffing performed by Mantik and his minions, Chesser's measurements don't actually confirm Mantik's measurements. The white patch on the left lateral x-ray, is, in Chesser's analysis, far more white and dense than the petrous bone, while in Mantik's analysis this is reversed, and the petrous bone is considerably more white and dense than the white patch.

And that's but one of the challenges to Mantik's findings resulting from Chesser's visit.

On the website, in a short article announcing Dr. Chesser's review of Dr. Mantik's findings, website owner Greg Burnham published an image, created by Dr. Mantik, in which Dr. Mantik's OD readings for a copy of Kennedy's pre-mortem x-ray (in red) are compared to Dr. Chesser's OD readings for the original at the JFK Library (in blue). This is shown below.

Well, this is more than interesting, IMO. It's damning. From his first visits to the archives in 1993 until the present day, Dr. Mantik has asserted that his OD measurements for the right lateral x-ray (only recently published by Horne as .53 petrous, .625 white patch) were impossible, and suggested Kennedy was a "bonehead". And yet the whole damn time he knew his OD's for the pre-mortem x-ray were even more suggestive Kennedy was a "bonehead", with the petrous bone and "white patch" actually matching at .55!

Now, Mantik may have written this off as an anomaly caused by his measuring a print of the x-ray, as opposed to the original x-ray. But this is in direct contrast with his subsequent claim (in his 2011 review of this website) that "The act of printing is what increases the contrast." The contrast in his print, after all, was too little, not too large.

And that isn't all. Articles and presentations found online establish that the optical density range for x-rays stretches from 0.0 (all white) to 4.0 (all black), and that the "useful" range is from 0.5 to 2.25. Well, this demonstrates that there is nothing unusually white about the so-called "white patch" on the post-mortem x-ray and that it only seems too white when one compares it to the petrous bone and the dark area at the front of the head.

And, yet, from his own measurements, Mantik had reason to believe there was nothing unusual about the white patch in comparison to the petrous bone...

Let's review. In his first paper on the x-rays, written in 1993 and published in Assassination Science (1998), Mantik mentioned how "fortunate" he was to have access to the print of Kennedy's pre-mortem x-ray, as the lack of a white patch and black patch on this print helped convince him Kennedy's post-mortem x-rays had been altered. But he never mentioned that, oh yeah, the OD's for this print also suggest there was nothing to my claim the white patch was too white. I mean, really, is it just a coincidence that Mantik knew the copy of the pre-mortem x-ray at the archives failed to support his claim the white patch was too white in comparison to the petrous bone, and that he never got around to double-checking it? And that it took 22 years for someone else to double-check it? And that the man checking it was a supporter of Mantik's who failed to point out any of the serious problems with Mantik's previous claims?

And should one doubt that Chesser was a shill for Mantik, well, then, one should consider the following:

In 20 Conclusions After Nine Visits, Dr. Mantik's 2003 summary of his trips to the archives, he decried "This is the most important evidence to emerge from my nine visits." He then reported that on the left lateral x-ray there is a "T-shaped inscription, lying on its side...just in front of the spine." He then noted that "The appearance of this inscription—i.e., no missing emulsion—proves that this X-ray is a copy." He then concluded "The left lateral x-ray is a copy; the original is missing (in fact, all originals of the skull are missing)."

And this wasn't a one-time claim--something Mantik wrote in the aftermath of Y2K that he soon came to regret. No, not at all. Mantik repeated his claim there was "no missing emulsion" over the T-shape--and that the left lateral x-ray was therefore a copy--as late as September 2014, in his "debate" with Dr. Randy Robertson at the COPA conference at Bethesda.

And possibly even afterward. Somewhere around this time, Mantik was interviewed for a a documentary film, A Coup in Camelot. There, he repeated this claim. When discussing the T-shape on the left lateral x-ray, he pushed: "When I looked at the surface of the film very closely, I could see that there was actually no emulsion missing. So that was a conundrum--how is it possible for that object to appear there and yet not have any emulsion missing? And there's really only one answer: this film was a copy."

Now, shortly after this, Dr. Chesser visited the archives, and studied the x-rays for himself. Within weeks of this visit, to scattered applause, it is purported that he has "confirmed" Mantik's findings. And, read for yourself what he actually discovered: "As I was dictating my impression of the left lateral skull x-ray, and I was surrounded by 3 NARA personnel, I dictated that there appeared to be emulsion overlying the wax mark. Almost immediately one of the NARA personnel left the room and returned with Martha Murphy, and she informed me that a mistake had been made, and I was viewing the HSCA copies of the x-rays. I then asked if I could view the originals, as had been agreed upon, and these were brought out. I don’t believe that I would have viewed the original films without this happening."

The "most important evidence" discovered by Mantik was not important at all. The original left lateral x-ray wasn't missing. It had just never been shown to Mantik.

And yet Chesser failed to point this out. In his article on his visit, available on the website, he continued: "Dr. Mantik described emulsion over the T shaped wax mark, which was attributed to Ed Reed marking the film. I agree with him that the surface of the film appeared smooth, when viewed at eye level."

Chesser had concealed that Mantik, after nine visits, had claimed the lack of missing emulsion on the left lateral x-ray had led him to believe it was a copy, and that he'd never been shown the original!

So what was going on? Why did Chesser say he agreed with Mantik that "the film appeared smooth", when Mantik had actually stated as fact that there was "no missing emulsion" and that this proved the x-ray a copy? Was Chesser providing Mantik with an alibi, whereby Mantik could claim the x-ray he'd been shown only "appeared" to be smooth, and that he had in fact been shown the same x-ray as Chesser?

Incredibly, yes! On 12-12-15, in an Education Forum thread entitled "David Mantik Responds to Pat Speer", Dr. Mantik asked and answered:

1.     Did I view the (purported) original JFK X-rays at NARA?

Answer: I have often affirmed that I did; my optical density data derive from those images. Here are supporting clues (that I saw NARA’S “originals”).

A.     The so-called “burn” marks were highly wrinkled (i.e., three dimensional)—quite different from how they would appear in a copy film (i.e., they would be two dimensional).

B.     The pencil line (presumably placed by Ebersole) was evident on only one side of the right lateral X-ray (that’s the image in the public record). That is proof that that film had not been copied since the pencil line was placed.

C.     The 6.5 mm fake object exhibits the phantom image effect, i.e., smaller objects are visible inside it. If this film were to be copied, such a double exposure effect would not occur. Dr. Michael Chesser notes that, on the HSCA X-rays (that he saw, but I did not), the 6.5 mm image is uniformly bright (transparent). That is the expected outcome for a copied image. It is also very important to note that Michael Chesser also observed at least two metal fragments inside the 6.5 mm object—which further confirms that we saw the same X-rays.

D.    The edges of the skull films (in many places) showed the typical deterioration that inevitably occurs over time, i.e., the emulsion had either already disappeared, or was actively falling off.

E.     Chesser’s ODs are consistent with mine; this is a very unlikely outcome if we had examined different films. Chesser has also just stated: “I didn’t say that David had not seen the original X-rays….” He has also just sent this comment to me: “I'm certain that you viewed the originals, and you can quote me.”

F.     For further confirmation that I viewed the “original” X-rays, just ask these on-site witnesses: Gary Aguilar, MD, Steve Majewski, PhD, David Poynter (NARA), Martha Murphy (NARA), or Matthew Fulghum (NARA). Furthermore, Aguilar actually assisted in taking some OD data.

Well, yikes, I suppose some of the confusion comes from the word "original". Let's be clear. Mantik and Chesser both believe the "original" x-rays--those taken on the night of the autopsy--were disappeared or destroyed after being copied days later, and that alterations were performed on them while being copied. Mantik has complained, furthermore, that the altered copy he was shown failed to show missing emulsion over an inscription. Chesser, however, claims he was shown a copy which failed to show missing emulsion over the inscription, that he complained about this, and that he was then shown the "original" copy in which emulsion was missing over the inscription.

Well this is an embarrassment to Mantik, who has long insisted he was shown the "original" copies. So how does he handle this? Does he complain about the archives? No, he complains about me, and tries to deny the obvious--that he was never shown the "original" copy of the left lateral x-ray--by citing evidence he was shown the "original" altered copies of the A-P and right lateral x-rays.

Let's recall that in his 2001 summary "20 Conclusions After Nine Visits" Mantik pronounced that "the most important evidence to emerge" from his visits to the Archives was that no emulsion was missing from the T-inscription on the left lateral x-ray, and that, therefore, "THE LEFT LATERAL X-RAY IS A COPY."

So why didn't Mantik acknowledge this? And why did he claim "Chesser's OD's are consistent with mine" when he knew full well Chesser's OD's for the left lateral (the x-ray in question) bore little resemblance to his?

ENOUGH Already. (Drops mike.)

I apologize for the detour. Or should I write "ODetour..."

(An explanation for the "white patch" will be offered in the next chapter.)

Skull X-rays

When one studies the x-ray images of President Kennedy, taken during his autopsy, one must keep in mind that these images were made using portable equipment, as the doctors performing the autopsy were in a bit of a hurry and were reluctant to move the President's body to the radiology department. Just as significant, these images were created not for diagnostic purposes, but to help the autopsy surgeons locate the bullet fragments within his skull and the bullet presumed to have been lodged within his body. The portable equipment used to create these images was not state-of-the-art, moreover. With that in mind, then, it’s easy to understand how the autopsy doctors missed out on some of the details we now find so compelling.

It is less easy to understand how the Clark Panel--the panel of medical experts convened in secret by Attorney General Ramsey Clark in 1968--saw so much.

For starters, the Clark Panel, presumably under the influence of Dr. Russell Morgan, their one radiologist, claimed: “a hole measuring approximately 8 mm in diameter on the outer surface of the skull and as much as 20 mm on the internal surface can be seen in profile 100 mm above the extreme occipital protuberance. The bone of the lower edge of the hole is depressed.” Well, why was the skull at the lower edge of the hole depressed? Since the Clark Panel proceeded to describe a large fragment at the back of Kennedy’s skull, claiming it was “embedded in the outer table of the skull close to the lower edge of the hole” and the subsequently convened House Select Committee on Assassinations' radiologists explained that this fragment, measured at exactly 6.5 mm, (the width of a bullet from Oswald’s gun), was 1 cm below the depressed fracture, it follows that the fragment was officially on a depressed section of bone as much as a centimeter below the alleged in-shoot on a non-depressed section of bone.

Well, how did this happen? Dr. Michael Baden's 1978 HSCA testimony holding that this fragment was a piece of metal that "rubbed off from the bullet on entering the skull and was deposited at the entrance site" is thoroughly inadequate.

I mean, why wasn’t this fragment, the largest fragment visible on the x-rays, even mentioned in the autopsy report? The autopsy report mentioned two fragments removed from Kennedy's cerebral cortex but nothing about a a large fragment embedded on the back of the skull. Dr. Humes testified, moreover, that they'd removed two fragments from behind the right eye. It seems possible then that they believed the bullet fragment on the back of the skull was behind Kennedy's right eye, and stopped looking for it when they found a smaller fragment. This possibility is supported by the fact the club-shaped fragment in the forehead readily visible on the HSCA’s enhanced x-rays, which is widely believed to represent the fragment recovered at the autopsy, is basically invisible to the naked eye on the original, un-enhanced x-rays viewed by the doctors at the autopsy. The Clark Panel, for that matter, mentioned a large fragment on the back of the head but none near the forehead, specifying, in fact, that the trail of fragments in Kennedy's head ended "just anterior to the region of the coronal suture," inches away from the forehead fragment.

It's reasonable to assume, then, that the failure of the doctors to mention this fragment in the autopsy report was some kind of mistake. While some have claimed the FBI’s report of the autopsy proves the doctors lied about this fragment, a closer study of this report reveals this isn’t true. The 11/26/63 Report of Agents Sibert and O’Neil states that “X-rays of the brain…disclosed a path of a missile…the path of the disintegrated fragments could be observed along the right side of the skull…The largest section of this missile as portrayed by x-ray appeared to be behind the right frontal sinus…The next largest fragment appeared to be at the rear of the skull at the juncture of the skull bone.” Those who believe the doctors lied take from this that the second fragment mentioned is a reference to the large fragment or slice found on the x-rays.

But this is far from reasonable. To me, it's more than clear that the first fragment mentioned is a reference to the “slice,” and that the second fragment is a reference to a smaller fragment visible near the crown of the skull. I believe this for four reasons: 1) the small fragment near the crown is the second largest fragment visible on the x-rays; 2) it is indeed at the rear of the skull; 3) it is near a “juncture” in the skull, the sagittal suture along the midline, as revealed by the A-P x-ray; and 4) it is in the so called “path of disintegrated fragments” mentioned by the agents, while the large fragment is not.

Still, as the autopsy report failed to mention a large fragment on the far back of the head, and the Clark panel discussed such a fragment, some of those reading their report came to believe that this fragment had been “discovered” by the Clark Panel. An air of mystery developed around this fragment.

And this air grew thicker with time. One of the Rockefeller Commission’s consultants, Dr. Richard Lindenberg, amazingly, tried to dismiss the fragment as nothing unusual, reporting that “the bullet became deformed when it entered the skull and lead was squeezed out of its base. One larger fragment lies outside and next to the lower margin of the entrance wound” and then concluding “The presence of a distinct exit wound also suggests that the bullet did not disintegrate within the cranial cavity but was only somewhat deformed. Disintegration must have taken place as it exited the skull.” (Lindenberg was thereby asserting that there was a large bullet fragment on the outside of the back of the skull, but that the bullet didn’t in fact break up until it exited from the front of the skull! Huh? As we've seen, this line of bull-oney was later repeated by Dr. Baden.)

Others, including ballistics expert Howard Donahue, developed their own novel explanations of this fragment. Donahue believed, and convinced many others, that this fragment was the result of a ricochet.

When one reads about ricochets in such books as Vincent J. M. DiMaio’s Practical Aspects of Firearms: Ballistics and Forensic Techniques, however, one finds that the bullets are flattened length-wise and that there is no record of them breaking into narrow cross-sections, or slices. As non-jacketed, lead bullets have been found to on occasion “pancake” on the back of men’s skulls, however, some have said that the possibility remains that this “slice” on the back of Kennedy’s skull was not a slice but a lead fragment of a bullet that ricocheted. (It’s probably too small to be a “pancake” of a full-sized bullet.) Even this contention, however, is seriously undercut by DiMaio’s research. On page 90 of Practical Aspects he has a chart indicating the expected level of deflection of bullets fired from various angles. According to this chart, a 6.5 mm full metal jacket bullet like those fired in Oswald’s gun would have no appreciable deflection upon hitting smooth stone from 20-30 degrees above. If one is still convinced the fragment on the back of Kennedy’s skull came from a ricochet then one should reflect that any shot fired from the sniper’s nest towards President Kennedy and somehow ricocheting off the street to strike him would have to have magically avoided striking motorcycle officer James Chaney, riding slightly behind and to the right of the President.

Although he did not discuss this fragment in his 1978 HSCA testimony, HSCA ballistics expert Larry Sturdivan has in recent years developed his own theory about the fragment. He has concluded that, since it makes little sense for there to be a round fragment on the back of Kennedy's head, well, then there isn't one, and that what appears to be one is most probably an artifact, an error on the x-ray. (Sound familiar?) The one thing he says he’s sure it isn’t is a cross-section of a bullet, as he claims to have never seen a perfectly rounded piece of bullet jacket in a wound. He also shares the opinion of Dr. David Mantik (who, unlike Sturdivan, believes the fragment was deliberately added to the x-ray to make people think the shot came from behind) that the fragment seems to have greater optical density (whiteness, demonstrating thickness) when the x-rays penetrate its thin round face on the a-p x-ray, than when the x-rays penetrate it edge-wise on the lateral x-ray.

In 1979, however, the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel concluded simply that "The small missile fragment present at the margin of the entrance wound was probably a portion of the missile jacket..." This avoided both the conclusion suggested by the circular shape of the fragment and the panel's conclusion that the nose and tail of the bullet ended up in the front seat. In other words, this avoided that this "small fragment" was just what their ballistics expert now swears it is not: a slice from the middle of the bullet sheared off upon impact by the oval entrance in the cowlick, 1 cm above, and lodged on the back of the President’s skull. When one considers that the fragment is, according to the reports of the Clark Panel and HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, 6.5 mm in diameter, the same as a cross-section of the bullet, moreover, this unstated conclusion seems obvious.

That the panel was too scared to conclude what seems obvious, moreover, seems equally obvious. When one reflects that skull bone is made of three layers, an outer hard shell, a spongy middle, and a brittle inner lining, it becomes clear that no competent doctor would feel comfortable concluding that a slice from a high-velocity bullet was sheared off from the middle of the bullet upon the bullet's impact with a human skull...and that it ended up in the outer table of the skull adjacent to the entrance. That's just too much. Since the nose of the bullet had purportedly created beveling, where through the outward dispersion of energy the hole in the brittle inner table was (according to the Clark Panel) two and a half times the size of the entrance hole on the outside of the skull, moreover, one can only wonder how this bullet slice found its way onto the outer table on a different segment of bone. Did it Frisbee through space before lodging in the depressed segment of bone below?

That no doctor has ever uncovered a comparable case, whereby a slice of a metal-jacketed bullet has been found on the outside of a skull near the point of impact, is not surprising. It just doesn't happen.

And so the HSCA FPP pulled the chicken switch and failed to conclude that the fragment on the back of the head was a slice of a bullet, and instead mumbled (if written words could mumble) that the fragment was "probably" a portion of the missile jacket, which just so happened to be circular in shape, and just so happened to be, according to their colleagues on the Clark Panel, the same width as a cross-section of the bullet. And, oh, by the way, they also concluded that this bullet, now relieved of this circular bit of jacket, continued on largely intact until "striking the automobile, causing it to fragment into several pieces" one of which was the nose of the bullet, and one of which was the to-all-appearances-intact base of the bullet.

In other words, they'd made clear the fragment was a slice without having the guts to say as much.

That something is wrong is further confirmed by the fact that the most visible supporters of the HSCA FPP's conclusions--Dr. Baden and single-assassin theorist John McAdams--still refuse to admit what is obvious--that their conclusions suggest the fragment was a slice from the middle of the bullet. Instead, Dr. Baden, in a high-profile appearance at the 2003 Wecht Conference, claimed that the fragment simply "rubbed off" the open base of the bullet. Huh? Well, at least this spurious explanation, which is in direct opposition to the findings of Baden's Pathology Panel, by the way, acknowledged that the fragment was not a slice incorporating both jacket and lead. Meanwhile, McAdams, apparently unable to process that the base of the bullet was found intact in the front section of the limousine, claimed (in a September 17, 2010 post on the alt.assassination.jfk newsgroup) that the fragment "was almost certainly sheared off the base of the bullet." My God! What smoke!

More on this later.

Computer-Enhanced X-rays

Now let's use our eyeballs.

When one looks at the computer-enhanced prints of the x-rays released by the HSCA (or at least the photos published of these prints), one comes to a quick realization. There is a bullet fragment visible on both the AP x-ray and lateral x-ray, in the President's forehead, above his right frontal sinus. There were two fragments removed at autopsy, one large one from behind the right frontal sinus, and a smaller one nearby. Well, if this is the larger fragment, where's the smaller one? And, if this is that fragment, what of the even larger fragment seen on the A-P x-ray? In the sections above, I've surmised that the doctors went looking for that fragment, later determined to be on the back of Kennedy's head, and stopped when they found this club-shaped fragment in his forehead. Well, the enhanced x-rays show the two fragments to have been of radically different proportions. Could they really have been that mistaken? Or is there a better explanation?

When one reads the reports of the HSCA's radiology consultants, Dr.s McDonnel and Davis, included in Vol. 7 of the HSCA's report, one finds even more to ponder. Much of what they said fails to support the conclusions of the forensic pathology panel. In fact, if one reads closely, one can find substantive support for our operating premise that a bullet broke up on the outside of Kennedy’s skull above his ear.

First of all, neither of the two doctors mentioned the large entrance hole on the back of the skull described by the Clark Panel. Second of all, Dr. David Davis said he believed the fractures at the back of Kennedy’s skull emanated not from the HSCA’s in-shoot but from the bullet slice itself. Since it simply makes no sense for a bullet to enter half-way into a skull, break-up, and have a slice from its middle lodge within its in-shoot, (particularly as the tail of the bullet struck the windshield only a few feet from its nose), a better explanation is needed. Third, when Dr. Davis discussed what he proposed was a trail of fragments stretching from a location some 6 centimeters above and in front of the supposed entrance wound in the cowlick along the mid-line of the brain towards the President’s forehead, he admitted that the largest of this supposed trail of fragments (the one high up near the crown of his head) appeared to be “outside the intracranial space.” This makes absolutely no sense if the large defect was solely an exit! I mean, how could bullet fragments speeding through a skull at hundreds of feet per second reverse themselves and attach themselves to the outside of the skull at a location inches back towards the entrance? Dr. Davis himself admitted: “It is impossible to work this out entirely.” That this fragment didn’t come as a result of the impact at the in-shoot is refuted by the small size of the entrance wound, which would have been truly impossible if the bullet had exploded in half on the outside of the skull at that location. Furthermore, since the reported trajectory of these fragments within the brain doesn’t follow the HSCA’s trajectory of the dissolving bullet, which they believed headed 18 degrees left to right within the skull and exited en masse (in order to create the large skull fractures apparent near the temple), it’s clear a better explanation is needed here as well.

Although not mentioned by the radiologists, the x-rays give us yet another reason to believe a bullet impacted on the side of Kennedy's head, above his ear. Take a close look at the lateral x-ray above. A fracture line running from the area of the supposed in-shoot in the cowlick confirms something happened in that area; this fracture line, however, comes to a complete stop after intersecting a fracture line coming from the large defect near the temple.

Well, what's the significance of this, you might ask? Well, only that the large defect preceded whatever occurred near the cowlick. Don't believe me? Then one should consider this passage by Dr.s James Messmer and B.G. Brogdon in chapter 18 of A Radiologic Atlas of Abuse, Torture, Terrorism, and Inflicted Trauma (2003): "Determination of entrance and exit wounds in the skull is assisted by the rule of intersecting fractures, which states that a linear fracture from an earlier blow will stop propagation of a fracture from a second blow."

And should that not be clear, one should also consider this passage from Forensic Neuropathology: A Practical Review of the Fundamentals (2007): "Cranial gunshot wounds produce primary (and sometimes secondary) radiating gunshot wounds that extend from the entrance wound outward. It has been established that these radiating fracture lines develop faster, and thus are already present, when a bullet exits the skull. Radiating fracture lines from the exit will, therefore, stop at the preexisting fracture lines caused by the entrance wound, allowing the entrance and exit wounds to be distinguished by this skull fracture pattern irrespective of beveling characteristics of the entrance and exit wounds."

When one studies other textbooks and forensics journals, moreover, one finds that the belief fractures stop when they encounter pre-existing fractures dates back to 1903, when first proposed by a German pathologist named Puppe. Puppe’s Rule, as it has come to be known, has been accepted ever since. There is nothing controversial about it. The Oxford Handbook of Forensic Medicine, 2011, notes "Puppe's Rule is that fracture lines resulting from the second injury will not cross those from the first, thereby helping identification of which fracture occurred first. The rule has been recently applied to analysis of radial fracture lines caused by multiple bullet wounds to the head." And yet, not one of the Clark Panel, Rockefeller Commission, and HSCA’s radiology consultants mentioned that, "Oh yeah, the x-rays demonstrate that Kennedy's supposed exit wound by his temple pre-existed his supposed entrance wound in the cowlick."

Now, that's not to say that no one noticed. Letters and papers by Dr. Randy Robertson found in the Weisberg Archives prove that Robertson, a diagnostic radiologist, noticed the "intersection" on the right lateral x-ray as far back as the early 1990's, when he viewed the original x-rays at the archives. And that's not all. They prove that, long before I began my study of the evidence, Robertson had invoked Puppe's Rule to claim the large wound presumed to be an exit by the temple preceded the fractures near the cowlick, and that this suggested more than one bullet had been fired into Kennedy's skull.

And Robertson was not the last to notice the "intersection" on the original x-rays. Doug Horne's notes on his discussion with Dr. Douglas Ubelaker, the forensic anthropologist consulted by the ARRB on 1-26-96, reflect that while viewing the x-rays, Ubelaker "observed that one fracture line occurred prior to the other, because the longer one stopped the shorter one." While Horne's notes failed to reveal which lines intersected, and which came first, one look at the x-ray makes this pretty obvious. (As Horne's notes quickly dismiss "But in and of themselves, 2 fracture lines occurring at different times do not indicate 1 bullet or 2 bullets to the head," it seems likely he failed to understand the importance of what Ubelaker was telling him, and that the order of these fractures could in fact help determine the direction of fire.)

And Ubelaker wasn't the last to notice, either. On November 13, 2013, PBS broadcast a new program on the Kennedy assassination, NOVA: Cold Case JFK. While much of the program was wasted trying to prop up the single-bullet theory, the ending of the program held a big surprise. Dr. Peter Cummings, a Massachusetts forensic pathologist, visited the National Archives to view the Kennedy assassination medical evidence. He came out with a surprising conclusion. He concluded that the x-rays suggested that the fatal bullet entered low on the head, as determined at autopsy. A quick graphic showed why he came to this conclusion. Cummings believed the large fracture running along the back of the skull derived not from the large defect, as I suspect, but from the entrance by the EOP, and that the lateral fracture heading from the supposed cowlick defect was a subsequent fracture, and part of an eggshell or spiderweb fracturing pattern, in which primary fractures from the defect are connected by secondary fractures running between them.

In other words...Cummings AGREED with Robertson (and presumably Ubelaker) that the lateral fracture from the supposed cowlick entrance came to a stop at the vertical fracture heading into the large defect! Well, this completely undercuts the long-held (supposedly official) conclusion the fatal bullet entered at the cowlick!

Of course, it also undercuts my suspicion that the vertical fracture derived from the large defect, and that the large defect came first. This led me, then, to consider the possibility the bullet entered near the EOP, sent fractures up the back of the head, and then exploded out of the large defect, pretty much as described in the autopsy report.

But only pretty much. The report makes it clear that the largest fractures derived from the large defect. In Cummings' and apparently Robertson's interpretation of the x-rays, the bullet's impact in the occipital region creates a small entrance hole and massive fractures that stretch upwards to the vertex of the skull. I'm skeptical this happened.

Here's a good reason why...

This diagram was found in one of the first books on the wound ballistics of rifles like the one used in the assassination. It has a really long name:






The caption to this diagram reads:

"Diagram of Aperture of Entry in Occipital Bone, showing radiating fissures exact length. The exit in the frontal region was of typical explosive character. Range '100 yards'"

The bullet creating this entry was, furthermore, a .276 in Mauser bullet, weighing 173.3 grains, fired at 2262 f/s. This is a larger bullet than the ones fired in the purported assassination rifle...traveling at a greater velocity. Such a bullet would almost certainly have created a larger entry than the entry on the back of Kennedy's head, with larger fractures. If Cummings is correct, however, the opposite occurred.

When one looks back at the skulls used in Olivier's tests for the Warren Commission, moreover, one finds further reason to doubt Cummings' conclusion. As shown throughout Chapter 16, the bullets striking low on the backs of the skulls either left a small entrance hole or blasted off the whole right side of the head. On none of these skulls did the bullet leave a small entrance hole in the occipital region with fractures stretching upwards to a massive defect at the top of the skull. This fact was noted, moreover, by Larry Sturdivan, Cummings' fellow single-assassin/EOP entry wound theorist, in his 2005 book The JFK Myths. There, while arguing against the large fractures by the cowlick having been created by the impact of the bullet, as opposed to the temporary cavity created by the bullet, Sturdivan claimed that radiating from each of the entrance wounds on the back of the ten skulls fired upon for the Warren Commission, was, "at most, a single crack that ran across the entry hole." He then related: "None had multiple displaced cracks radiating from the entry hole."

Cummings' belief that fractures from the entrance by the EOP radiated all the way to the exit by the temple is almost certainly wrong. Clearly, a better explanation is needed!!

So here it comes... The fractures on the back of the head derived from an explosive impact at the large defect. Dr. Donald W. Marrion, in 1999's Traumatic Brain Injury, describes: "In some instances, a bullet disintegrates when it hits the skull at an angle, sending multiple fragments into the scalp and thereby having the appearance of a shotgun wound on plain skull radiographs." If we assume Kennedy was struck in such a manner at frame 313 of the Zapruder film, of course, it correlates Dr. Davis' observation that the fragments appeared to be in the scalp with Dr. William Kemp Clark's observation and testimony that Kennedy's large head wound appeared to be a tangential wound. It appeared to be because it was.

That Dr. Davis was agreeable to this conclusion is confirmed by a 12-22-78 letter written to the HSCA. In response to their question of whether the x-rays were consistent with a shot being fired from the grassy knoll, he wrote: "the only possible occurrence would have required President Kennedy's head to have been tilted to the left side, that is, with the right ear elevated and the left order to justify our potential explanation that a tangential blow might have been struck to the right top of Mr. Kennedy's skull at about the same time the posterior missile entered." Dr. Davis then haggled about the exact trajectory needed for this to work, and concluded "If the films of Mr. Kennedy's head at the time of the impact do not show such a tilt, I think that it is completely reasonable to assume that there was no possible head wound from the right side." Dr. Davis had thereby confirmed that his problem with such a shot did not come from his study of the x-rays, but from the assassination films, and that the x-rays were completely consistent with the large defect's having been created by a tangential blow.

Those studying the x-rays at autopsy, in fact, suspected such a blow. On 3-11-78, the radiologist at the autopsy, Dr. John Ebersole, in testimony originally slated to be sealed for fifty years, discussed his opinions regarding the fatal head shot with the HSCA medical panel. He told them: "In my opinion it would have come from the side...I would say on the basis of those x rays and x rays only one might say one would have to estimate there that the wound of entrance was somewhere to the side or to the posterior quadrant." Such a wound is most assuredly not the small wound on the back of the head by the EOP.

There were others at the autopsy who shared this assessment. When discussing the back of the head in the lateral x-ray, radiology tech Jerrol Custer testified before the ARRB "you see the fragmentation, how it starts to get larger and larger and larger...The brain has been pushed back, and it pops the skull out." When asked then if this meant the trauma began at the front and moved towards the back of the head, Custer clarified "Yes, absolutely." An HSCA report on an interview with Dr. Humes' and Dr. Boswell's assistant at the autopsy, James Curtis Jenkins, reflects a similar opinion: "He said the wound to the head entered the top rear quadrant from the front side."

Jenkins would later clarify his thoughts. As recounted in High Treason 2, in 1990, he told Harrison Livingstone that "just above the right ear there was some discoloration of the skull cavity with the bone area being gray and there was some speculation that it might be lead." When then asked by Livingstone if this might have been an entrance, he replied: "Yes, and the opening and the way the bone was damaged behind the head (it) would have definitely been a type of exit wound." In an interview with William Law, published in Law's book In the Eye of History (2005), moreover, Jenkins stood by this assessment. About Humes and Boswell, he related "They were speculating about a lot of things." When asked about what, he continued "Well, about a hole actually above the right ear. The speculation was that it had some gray substance on it and of course the speculation at that point in time that it was from a bullet." When asked if they came to a conclusion regarding this hole, he responded "No, I think--from my assumption--that it was an entry wound." He then acknowledged that "Later on I was told there was a wound below the nuchal line on the back of Kennedy's head" and that even so "I came out of the autopsy that night and I was sure that the bullet entered the right side of the head and exited in this area" (at which point he pointed above his right ear).

As none of these men noted a separate entrance and exit for the large head wound they observed, it seems clear they were describing a tangential wound impacting on the side of Kennedy's head at the supposed exit defect. It follows then that they were either unaware of the small entrance wound near the EOP discussed in the autopsy report or of the impression the small entrance wound near the EOP discovered at the autopsy did not correlate with the large defect more readily observed at the top of the head, and that there was more than one head wound.

While undoubtedly problematic for the single-assassin conclusion, the assumption that the shot striking Kennedy at frame 313 was a tangential blow nevertheless makes sense out of all sorts of nonsense. It explains why the President’s skull fragments shot upward from above and forward of Kennedy’s ear. It explains why the four major scalp lacerations described in the autopsy report all began at the large defect, and none at the supposed entrance. It removes the messy proposition that the bullet traversing Kennedy's skull changed directions upon exit before striking the windshield, and replaces it with the far more likely assumption that the bullet was deflected after breaking up on Kennedy's skull, and then struck the windshield. It explains, moreover, why the crumpled nose of this bullet was found to have been covered with human skin, a recently-discovered fact that is completely at odds with the official theory that this bullet entered through a small hole in the back of Kennedy’s head and tumbled through 4 inches of brain matter.

The “Trail of Fragments”

Should one still not be convinced, then perhaps one should look at bullet fragments in Kennedy's head more closely. Such an inspection will reveal that the bullet fragments purportedly leading across the brain appear to cluster in the upper right quadrant of the brain. The Clark Panel's report probably describes this best. It relates that a "cluster" of small bullet fragments "appears to end anteriorly immediately below the badly fragmented frontal and parietal bones just anterior to the region of the coronal suture."

There's a huge problem with this, however. That part of the brain was missing. Dr. Humes, we should recall, had testified before the Warren Commission that "The greatest loss of brain substance was particularly in the parietal lobe, which is the major portion of the right cerebral hemisphere" and that "The base of the laceration was situated approximately 4.5 cm. below the vertex." More to the point, Dr. Boswell had testified: "the top of his head was blown off. A 14-centimeter segment of it was blown off. And it was on the right side of his brain that the brain was missing." That the supposed trail of fragments on the x-rays were not even in the brain, and appeared "to be suspended in midair," moreover, was proposed by Dr. Mantik long before I, and reported in Harrison Livingstone's 1993 book Killing the Truth. Got to give credit where credit is due.

When one looks real close, furthermore, it appears that some of the fragments appear to be where even skull is missing. Since the ballistics expert at the autopsy, Dr. Finck, reported to his superiors in the Army that “many metallic fragments were seen on x-ray films, but only two were recovered,” and that his post-autopsy examination of the removed brain revealed no metallic fragments, only bone fragments, it seems reasonable to assume that the bulk of these bullet fragments were in the President’s scalp or hair, and not within his skull. As the doctors, under the reasonable impression the President was slated for an open-casket funeral, were understandably reluctant to shave his head, and as Dr. Finck, the one member of the autopsy team with experience with bullet wounds, arrived after the removal of the brain, it seems reasonable as well to assume that Humes and Boswell simply peeled back Kennedy’s scalp without inspecting it, and then rushed through the unappetizing business of searching the President’s skull for bullet fragments. When Humes’ testified about this inspection before the Warren Commission, after all, he admitted that: “in this area of the large defect we did not encounter any of these minute particles. I might say at this time that the x-ray pictures which were made would have a tendency to magnify these minute fragments somewhat in size and we were not too surprised in not being able to find the tiny fragments depicted in the x-ray.” So, NO particles from the supposed “trail of fragments” were found on the interior of the skull near the supposed exit.

Unfortunately, Dr. Humes’ inability to find these fragments failed to prevent him from citing them as support for his theories. In the autopsy report Humes claimed that a bullet entering near the hairline deposited “minute particles along its path” from the entrance near the EOP to the right forehead. The Clark Panel and HSCA both claimed this same trail of fragments, when projected backwards, led to the in-shoot in the cowlick. The fact is, however, that virtually all the fragments are well above both Humes’ proposed path and the path first proposed by the Clark Panel. (When asked about this by the Rockefeller Commission, Clark Panel leader Russell Fisher’s co-author and pal Dr. Werner Spitz explained that the right side of the skull was displaced on the x-rays and that “if this were all placed back in its original location…then that dispersion of metal fragments which indicates the wound track comes into perfect alignment…” Yeah, okay. Funny how the rest of the x-ray seemed in perfect alignment, and how only the top inch or two of the right side of the skull was lifted an inch or two compared to the left side…)

Anyhow, the supposed “trail” of fragments makes little sense when one notes that the energy and particles of a disintegrating bullet are believed to fan out in a cone. Since HSCA radiology consultant Dr. David Davis acknowledged in his 8-23-78 report that “the metallic fragment pattern that is present from some of the metallic fragments located superiorly in the region of the parietal bone, or at least projecting on the parietal bone, are actually in the scalp,” we have reason to believe a bullet broke up on the outside of the skull at a point further forward than the cowlick.

And it's not as if Davis was alone in this. In his 9-7-78 testimony before the House Select Committee on Assassinations, Dr. Michael Baden rejected that the fatal bullet could have entered low on the back of Kennedy's skull as described at autopsy. He asserted: "There is present evidence of a bullet track only in the upper portion of the skull; these metal fragments have moved a bit because some of the fragments are in the loose scalp tissues and soft tissues that are movable." Well, whoa there, Doctor! Just how did these fragments get into these "loose scalp tissues"? Baden, we should recall, insisted that the bullet only leaked lead within the skull, and broke-up after hitting the windshield strut. Did he honestly believe this "leaked" lead dripped out on the scalp?

And it's not as if no one at the autopsy saw the metal fragments described by Davis and Baden. The radiology tech at the autopsy, Jerrol Custer, was interviewed by researcher Tom Wilson in 1995. The notes on this interview were published in A Deeper, Darker Truth, 2009. According to these notes, Custer told Wilson that when viewing the left lateral x-ray at the autopsy "You could see metal flecks in the top of the head expanding from front to back. They were resting on the bone itself and they were clearly visible." Custer said that he then told Dr. Ebersole that he thought Kennedy's x-rays depicted an entrance wound in the right temporal area, but that Ebersole responded "Just do what you're supposed to do."

And then there's Robinson... Mortician Tom Robinson, when asked about the fatal bullet by the HSCA staff during a 1-12-77 interview, stated his assumption that “It exited in many pieces,” and then explained, “They were literally picked out, little pieces of this bullet from all over his head.” And Custer and Robinson weren't the only ones attending the autopsy to report signs suggesting the bullet broke up at the supposed exit. Autopsy assistant James Curtis Jenkins, we should recall, claimed the doctors discovered a gray discoloration of the skull on the right side of Kennedy's head, right by the supposed exit. A gray discoloration of the skull of course suggests the presence of lead. Lead is of course a metal. Two plus two equals four.

When one realizes that the largest fragments of an exploding bullet travel the furthest, and that the two largest fragments discussed at the autopsy were on the opposite ends of Kennedy’s skull and equidistant from our proposed entrance, and adds this to the fact that, defying expectation, there were no small fragments surrounding the supposed in-shoot in the cowlick, then one should rightly conclude that the lateral x-ray demonstrates convincingly that a bullet broke up near the site of the supposed out-shoot, above the right ear. I’d bet everything I have on it. And have.

But there are always those who disagree. Larry Sturdivan offers an explanation as to how all the fragments from the bullet he now proposes entered low on the skull ended up at the top of Kennedy’s head. He writes: “Many of the fragments deposited in the President’s brain were flushed out, along with the brain tissue, as the large amount of blood flowed out of the explosive wound in the side of his head, in the car and in Parkland. It is evidently some of these that were deposited in the bone flaps by clotting blood that show as a “trail” of fragments near the top of the lateral view.” Sounds good. But does this really make sense? I mean, if these fragments were all on bone flaps, which is doubtful, and were held in place by “clotting blood,” wouldn’t these fragments slide to the back of Kennedy’s head once he lay firmly on his back? The x-rays, after all, were taken more than 8 hours after Kennedy’s head exploded. Certainly, Sturdivan doesn't believe Kennedy’s casket was shipped on end.

Lateral X-ray/HSCA Trajectory Comparison

When one compares the lateral x-ray to the trajectory drawings of the skull prepared for the HSCA trajectory analysis, one finds that not only is the supposed trajectory far below the purported “trail of fragments” but that the supposed outshoot, as discussed earlier, appears to be below the cluster of fragments, on bone. If this is true, of course, this means that the trajectory analysis plotted an in-shoot where there was no in-shoot, to an outshoot where there was no outshoot. I’m not kidding.

When one looks at the purported in-shoot near the cowlick on the trajectory drawing one can see that although the in-shoot was supposedly only 1.8 cm from the middle of the back of Kennedy’s head, this would still project slightly inwards from the back of Kennedy’s head when viewed laterally, due to the rounded nature of the skull. When one looks at the x-ray, however, one sees that there is no clear-cut entrance at this location. That this entrance was hard for even trained experts to locate can be revealed by reading the various reports written for the Clark Panel, Rockefeller Commission, HSCA, and ARRB. To put it mildly, they lack consensus. Here is a brief summary...

February, 1968. Dr. Russell H. Morgan, the radiologist on the Clark Panel notes in its report that "On one of the lateral films of the skull, a hole measuring approximately 8 mm in diameter on the outer surface of the skull and as much as 20 mm on the internal surface can be seen in profile approximately 100 mm above the external occipital protuberance. The bone of the lower edge of the hole is depressed." This places the hole in a section of parietal bone that presumably fell to the table when the doctors peeled back the scalp and NOT in the occipital bone near the hairline where the doctors claimed to have seen a beveled entrance. Morgan also notes that "embedded in the outer table of the skull close to the lower edge of the hole, a large metallic fragment" can be observed and that "on the antero-posterior film" this fragment "lies 25 mm to the right of midline." This suggests the fragment is in the depressed bone below the entrance. He then notes "This fragment as seen in the latter film is round and measures 6.5 mm in diameter." As the ammunition found in the assassination rifle measured 6.5 mm, this suggests the fragment was a cross-section of the bullet. Morgan then offers that "Immediately adjacent to the hole on the internal surface of the skull, there is localized elevation of the soft tissues. Small fragments of bone lie within portions of these tissues and within the hole itself."

January, 1972. Dr. John Lattimer, a urologist, becomes the first independent examiner of the autopsy photos and x-rays. He would later be asked to testify for the Rockefeller Commission. In his article on his examination, published in the May 1972 issue of Resident and Staff Physician, Lattimer presents his conclusions. These conclusions are not truly independent, however. In the article, he admits that a "top roentgenologist, Dr. Russell H. Morgan," had previously reviewed the x-rays, and had "issued a technical report about them, couched in proper medical terms." This is a reference to the report of the Clark Panel. Lattimer then adds "The author wishes to fully acknowledge this report by forensic experts." Throughout the article, moreover, Morgan's influence is obvious. In his depiction of Kennedy's wounds, Lattimer depicts a bullet entrance high on the back of the head and notes "The ovoid 'wound of entry' was fairly high up on the back of the skull, well above the hairline, where the skull was starting to curve forward, and about 10 cm above the occipital tuberosity... The bone at the lower margin of the hole was depressed slightly and the wound in the inner table was characteristically larger than the wound in the outer table (cone shaped), exactly as one would expect from a 'wound of entrance' into the back of the skull." He then asserts "A (6.5 mm diameter) fragment of the bullet had been shaved off by the sharp edge of the thick bone of the skull and was embedded in the margin of the wound of entrance." That Lattimer was simply regurgitating the Clark Panel's report is suggested, moreover, by the fact Lattimer changed his opinion late in life, and ended up believing the bullet entrance on the back of the head was low on the head, as proposed in the autopsy report.

August, 1972. Dr. Cyril Wecht, a forensic pathologist, becomes the first independent forensic pathologist to view the autopsy photos and x-rays. He would later testify for the Rockefeller Commission and function as a member of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel. As reported by writer David Lifton, who accompanied Dr. Wecht to the Archives, Wecht can't find a bullet entrance on the back of the head on the x-rays. For his April 1974 article on his examination, however, Wecht appears to take a cue from Dr. Lattimer, and defers to Dr. Morgan. On Wecht's depiction of Kennedy's skull, as viewed from the side, he presents "a sizable fragment" on the back of the head "at the lower margin of the hole of presumed bullet entry." In the text he then claims that from viewing the autopsy photos and x-rays "one entry wound is definitely identifiable...high on the rear of the skull." That Dr. Wecht was not an expert on x-rays, and was simply deferring to Morgan, is supported, moreover, by the fact Wecht later co-wrote an article with Dr. David Mantik in which they claimed that the small fragment on the back of the head in the lateral x-rays was too small to be the large fragment on the A-P x-ray.

April, 1975. Dr. Werner Spitz, a forensic pathologist closely associated with the Clark Panel's Dr. Fisher, and a member of both the Rockefeller Commission Panel and HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, views the autopsy materials. In his report, he notes "The missile which struck the right side of the President's head penetrated approximately 10 cm above the occipital protuberance and 2 1/2 cm to the right of the midline." These are the exact measurements offered by the Clark Panel. As a result, it seems more than likely Spitz was yet another deferring to Morgan's opinion regarding the wound location. Even so, it's interesting that in Spitz's 6 page report for the Rockefeller Commission he never mentions the large fragment apparent on the x-rays. Instead, he claims, weakly, that "Nothing in the evidence which I have viewed tends to conflict with my opinion that the two shots which struck the president could have come" from the sniper's nest.

April, 1975. Dr. Richard Lindenberg, a neuropathologist on the Rockefeller Commission's Panel, and another close associate of Dr. Fisher's, views the autopsy materials. He appears to have been yet another to rely on Fisher's and Morgan's conclusions, and notes in his report that a "circumscribed defect in the posterior parietal bone which has the characteristic of an entrance hole" is apparent on the lateral x-ray. He then claims a bullet "hit the right side of the head of the president approximately 2.5 cm from the midline and 10 cm above the occipital protuberance." He notes further that the "bullet became somewhat deformed when it entered the skull and lead was squeezed out of its base. One larger fragment lies outside and next to the lower margin of the entrance wound." Apparently, he felt Lattimer's conclusion the fragment had been "shaved" from the bullet was inaccurate.

April, 1975. Dr. Fred Hodges, the sole radiologist on the Rockefeller Commission's Panel, views the materials. He notes that, although a bullet entrance is not "readily detected," many "linear fracture lines converge" on the site of the "small round hole...described in the autopsy report in the right occipital bone." He notes further that "one large metallic fragment is flattened against the outer table of the occiput." He concludes that "The x-rays and photographs are diagnostic of a gunshot wound in which the bullet struck the right occiput leaving a portion of itself flattened against the outer table before penetrating the bone, producing a small hole of entry largely obscured on the x-ray by the more extensive havoc caused in the brain and anterior skull represented by extensive fractures, missing bone, disrupted soft tissues and gas within the cranial cavity." By concluding there was a bullet entrance in the location "described in the autopsy report", Hodges appears to reject the conclusions of Dr. Morgan and the Clark Panel. Still, perhaps he was just playing it safe. Perhaps he wrote "described in the autopsy report in the right occipital bone" so he could get around admitting it was not in the occipital bone. But why would he do that when the autopsy doctors' supposed mistake had long been made public?

April, 1975. Dr. Robert McMeekin, a forensic pathologist on the Rockefeller Commission's Panel, views the autopsy materials. He is quite vague about what he observes, however. He reports simply that "The evidence presented is consistent" with the fatal bullet's being fired from the sniper's nest. He then notes that from studying the Zapruder film, he concludes that "The motion of the President's head is inconsistent with the shot striking him from any direction other than the rear." Note that he fails to say the medical evidence says as much. Note that he fails to support the wound location and fragment location offered by the Clark Panel. From this it seems reasonable to assume McMeekin believed the Clark Panel and/or the original autopsists had made some mistakes, but didn't want to get in the middle of it. Intriguingly, the man running the Rockefeller Commission's investigation, former Warren Commission counsel David Belin, had presented the members of its medical panel with fourteen points that should be addressed in their reports. Not among them was the actual location of the entrance on Kennedy's skull. Not among them was the actual location of the large fragment on the A-P x-ray. Apparently, Belin had no interest in solving these mysteries.

April, 1975. Dr. Alfred Olivier, a veterinarian, and a consultant on wound ballistics to both the Warren Commission and Rockefeller Commission, is shown the autopsy materials. His report on his examination is also vague, and notes merely that "It appears that the President was struck by two separate bullets that came from behind, somewhat to the right and above." He offers no clear support for the entrance wound location offered by the original autopsists, nor the one offered by the Clark Panel, but suggests he supports the former. When discussing the head wound he asserts "When that bullet entered the head the nose of the bullet erupted on the skull and expended a tremendous amount of energy. This caused what is known as a temporary cavity. Apparently, this cavity was nearer the side of the head so that it buried in that area, and say, took the path of least resistance. If the bullet path had been near the top of the head it could have burst through the top.” The so-called cowlick entrance, we should recall, is closer to the top of the head than to the side of the head. Olivier never mentions the mysterious fragment readily identifiable on the A-P x-ray.

October, 1977. Dr, Lawrence Angel, a forensic anthropology consultant to the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, views the autopsy materials. In his report on his examination he notes that the fatal bullet's entrance "appears to have been just below obelion and 18 mm to the right of midline." Obelion is a point on the posterior parietal bone along the sagittal suture for which Angel gives no measurements. Angel also notes a "radiopaque lump behind obelion with which cracks appears to mark entry." In other words, he, like Hodges, does not see an entrance on the back of the head, but assumes the presence of one due to the fragment and fractures on the back of the skull. By claiming the entrance was below obelion and that the fragment was behind obelion, moreover, Angel also suggests that the fragment was above the bullet entrance, the opposite of what was suggested by Morgan and the Clark Panel.

February, 1978. Dr. Norman Chase, a radiology consultant to the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, is interviewed by an HSCA investigator. The memo on this interview asserts that while viewing the x-rays, Chase notes that "The lateral skull x-ray indicated that the missile 'blew the top of the head off,' striking with enormous power. The wound was massive, not the kind he would expect for a single, jacketed bullet hitting straight on; it was possibly tumbling or hit on an angle. The entry point was visible on the upper rear head." He reportedly claims further that a "large metal fragment" is "prominent" on the A-P x-ray, and that he "believes it corresponds to the metal fragment in the rear of the head as evidence on the lateral view." Hmmm... Chase's observation that the bullet was possibly tumbling or hit on an angle suggests that he did not see the hole on the back of the head described by Morgan. Chase seemed hesitant, for that matter, to even say the large metal fragment was on the back of the head.

February, 1978. Dr. William Seaman, a radiology consultant to the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, is interviewed by an HSCA investigator. The memo on this interview asserts that while viewing the x-rays, Seaman notes a "possible defect" in the "upper rear skull," and that it "could be an entrance wound and could not be a missile exit wound," but can not detect "beveling of the skull at that point." This beveling was not only supposedly detected by Morgan and the Clark Panel, it was measured down to the millimeter, and cited as proof the wound was an entrance wound. And that's not all... Seaman was a colleague of Dr. Lattimer's at Columbia University, and had assisted Lattimer in some of his experiments regarding the Kennedy assassination. (This was acknowledged in the May 1972 issue of Resident and Staff Physician, in an article on Lattimer accompanying Lattimer's article on the Kennedy medical evidence.) It seems quite likely, then, that Seaman was not an entirely unbiased party, as one should expect, but one who knew full well he was supposed to find an entrance at the "upper rear skull." And yet he only found a "possible defect." In the short report on the investigator's discussion with Seaman, for that matter, the large fragment is never mentioned.

March, 1978. Dr. John Ebersole, the radiologist at Kennedy's autopsy, is finally released from a military order of silence handed down within days of the autopsy. A March 9, 1978 AP article (found in the Reading Eagle) on an interview with Ebersole reports that he now admits "I would say unequivocally the bullet came from the side or back...There is no way that I can see on the basis of the x-rays that the bullet came from anywhere in the 180-degree angle to the front, assuming Kennedy was facing forward. It looked to me like an almost right to left shot from the rear." When, during his March 11, 1978 testimony before the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, Ebersole is shown Kennedy's x-rays and asked if he can identify an entrance location for a bullet, moreover, Ebersole responds "In my opinion it would have come from the side on the basis of the films. I guess that is all that can be said about the films at this time... I would say on the basis of those x rays and x rays only one might say one would have to estimate there that the wound of entrance was somewhere to the side or to the posterior quadrant." By saying that the x-rays only showed that the bullet came from the side or behind, Ebersole was acknowledging that he was unable to note a bullet entrance on the back of the head in the x-rays.

August, 1978. Dr. G.M. McDonnel, a radiology consultant to the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, views the enhanced images of the x-rays. He had previously viewed the originals. In his report on these examinations, he fails to note a bullet hole on the back of Kennedy's head. Instead, he notes a depressed fracture with radiating fractures 10.6 cm above the EOP. He also notes a metallic fragment 1 cm below this fracture, on the outer table of the skull, above the mid-portion of the EOP, that is "nearly spherical" on the enhanced A-P image. As he proceeds to describe this fragment as a "spherical shaped contoured metallic fragment" it seems clear he either had trouble finding it on the lateral view, and just named it in accordance with its appearance on the A-P view, or that he thought he saw a corresponding "spherical shaped" fragment on the back of the head in the lateral view. No one else, of course, has claimed to see such a thing.

August, 1978. Dr. David O. Davis, a radiology consultant to the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, views the enhanced images of the x-rays. In his report on his examination, he fails to note a bullet hole on the back of the skull, but says radiating fractures "seem to more or less emanate from" an "imbedded metallic fragment" 9-10 cm above the EOP on the outer table of the skull. He then notes that "On the frontal view, this metallic fragment is located 2.5 cm to the right of midline, and on the lateral view, it is approximately 3-4 cm above the lambda." As he later says the central point of the skull fractures is 3 cm from midline, this means that, in Davis' analysis, the large bullet fragment ended up to the left of the entrance.

1979. The Report of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel does not note an entrance hole apparent on the x-rays, but notes a depressed fracture as a “sharp disruption of the normal smooth contour of the skull 10 cm above the EOP” (which places it higher than in the Clark Panel Report, whose measurement of 10 cm was the distance to the 8 mm hole above the depressed fracture). The report also mentions “suggested beveling” of the inner table and radiating fracture lines. In its section on the course of the bullet through the head, moreover, it notes that "embedded within the lower margin of this defect is a radiopaque shadow which, in the opinion of the panel, is a fragment of the missile. This shadow is 10 cm above the external occipital protuberance and 2.5 cm to the right of the midline" in the A-P x-ray. (If one is to assume they shared the trajectory panel's belief the entrance was 1.8 cm from mid-line, this means the Pathology Panel felt the bullet fragment ended up to the right and below the bullet's entrance.) The report then notes that "one surface of this round. The maximum diameter of the fragment measures .65 centimeter." This last measurement was not provided by any of the panel's radiology consultants, nor was it mentioned in the testimony of the panel's spokesman, Dr. Michael Baden, before the committee. As a result, one can only assume it was added into the report at the last second, and was taken from the findings of Dr. Morgan and the Clark Panel.

1979. The Report of the HSCA Trajectory Panel claims the entrance high on the back of Kennedy's head was 1.8 cm to the right of midline and 9 cm above the EOP. This places the entrance 1 cm below the depressed fracture observed by the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, and on intact bone. This also contradicts the conclusions of the Clark Panel.

January, 1996. Dr. Douglas Ubelaker, a forensic anthropologist, is shown the autopsy materials and interviewed by the AARB. The report on this interview claims that "No entry wound could be located anywhere on the A-P x-ray" by Ubelaker. It notes further that he "could not locate any entry wound to the head on the lateral x-rays," and that he noted a large fragment visible on the A-P x-ray, but "could not find this object anywhere on the lateral x-rays of the head."

February, 1996. Dr. John J. Fitzpatrick, a forensic radiologist, is shown the autopsy materials and interviewed by the ARRB. The report on this interview claims that "No entry wound was seen on the A-P x-ray" by Fitzpatrick. It notes further that he also claims "No entry wound can be found on the lateral head x-rays." It also reports that Fitzpatrick admits he's "puzzled by the fact that the large radio-opaque object in the A-P skull x-ray could not be located on the lateral skull x-rays."

April, 1996. Dr. Robert Kirschner, a forensic pathologist, is shown the autopsy materials and interviewed by the ARRB. The report on this interview notes that "No entrance wound could be located on either the two lateral x-rays, or the single-A-P x-rays..." by Kirschner. It then claims that he wonders if the supposed large fragment embedded on the back of the head was instead "a plug of bone forced forward into the skull by an entering bullet." This confirms that Kirschner saw no sign of this fragment or plug on the back of the head in the lateral x-rays.

The conclusions just discussed raise lots of questions.

First of all, how could the Clark Panel, using un-enhanced x-rays, “see” so much more than everybody else? Particularly when the panel's radiologist, Dr. Morgan, later complained that these x-rays were of "poor quality" and "severely over-exposed"?

I mean, c'mon, the Clark Panel not only provided precise measurements for an entrance wound on the back of Kennedy's head unseen by most of the others, they provided precise measurements that made little sense. (While an entrance wound of 8mm on the outside of the skull, and 20mm on the inside of the skull might sound impressive, a German ballistics study published in the Sept/Oct 1979 issue of Archiv Fuer Kriminologie, and summarized on the website of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, established that "A large quotient between the outside and inside measurements of the bullet entry hole suggests slow shot velocity." SLOW SHOT VELOCITY! Oops!

And that's probably the least of the questionable claims of the Clark Panel. They also claimed there was a 6.5mm bullet fragment embedded on the back of the skull near this hole, but noted no hole on the skull associated with this fragment. Well, ask yourself, does that make any sense? How did this fragment get on the back of the head, on the outside of the skull, on a different piece of bone than the bullet entrance? Did it frisbee downwards between two layers of bone?

Did the Clark Panel really see these things?

The likely answer, of course, is that they didn't actually see these things, and only said they did because it helped them shut down the "junk" in Josiah Thompson's book, and build support for their argument that the actual entrance on the back of the skull was four inches higher than determined at autopsy.

There's also this: Clark Panel radiologist Russell Morgan was a noted inventor, teacher, and administrator. But that doesn't necessarily mean he was good at reading x-rays. Among the Clark Panel's many mistakes was that they claimed there were two left x-rays of Kennedy's head, when there was one right and one left. Perhaps, then, Morgan was in way over his head, and "saw" things no one else could see in order to impress his colleagues.

But what about the other radiologists? Shouldn’t an oval-shaped bullet entrance high on the back of someone’s head be readily identifiable to experienced radiologists and doctors using computer-enhanced x-rays?

Why is there no consensus on what is shown in the x-rays?

It should be noted that the lack of a clearly identifiable hole on the back of Kennedy's head in the x-rays has led to some mighty strange speculation. While it was not my intent when writing these pages to go through every wrong or misguided statement made by a conspiracy theorist, Doug Horne's status within the so-called research community is of such a magnitude that I find it necessary to note some of his mistakes. Here is one such mistake...

On page 554 of his monster work, Inside the ARRB, Horne writes:

"Dr. Mantik believes that the apparent fragment trail seen in both lateral skull x-rays, high in the skull near the vertex, that appears to connect a point high in the forehead with the large displaced skull fragments high in the back of the head is real, and is evidence of a bullet's passage through the skull, as it disintegrated. If his definitive finding that there is no entry wound 1 centimeter above the so-called 6.5 mm object on the A-P x-ray is correct, and if the 3 pathologists are correct that the entry wound in the skull was really 4 inches lower than where the Clark Panel and HSCA tried to place it, then, as Mantik points out, the fragment trail near the vertex of the skull constitutes evidence of a second shot to the head, almost certainly entering high in the right front and exiting rather high in the rear of the skull, where the large displaced bone fragments are located on the right lateral x-ray. There is much evidence to support this placement of the entry for the missile which caused this fragment trail in the right front, and its exit in the rear..."

I'll give you a second to digest that. Yep, you got it... Horne is asserting that since Dr. Mantik believes there is no entrance high on the back of the head where the HSCA claimed it to be, that this then is evidence there was an entrance high in the right front and an exit high on the back of the head... Uhhh, silly question...But IF there is a hole on the back of the head--which Mantik doesn't even claim to see--who's to say that it's not the entrance described by the HSCA, only not where they said it was?


Baden's Bluff      

Still, to be fair, Horne wasn't the first to speculate on large holes in the head unseen by others. I mean, at least he didn't claim to see such a hole on the x-rays. Not so, Dr. Michael Baden.

In his 1978 HSCA testimony, Dr. Baden pulled one of the all-time boners. (Excuse the pun).

If you look at the slide above, you'll see that the bone above the supposed cowlick entrance, at the crown of Kennedy's skull, is visible on the lateral x-ray. No one honestly disputes this. And yet, after entering this x-ray, Exhibit F-53, into evidence, Dr. Baden, the spokesman for the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, entered Exhibit F-66 into evidence. Exhibit F-66, a drawing which depicted both the location of the large defect and the skull fragments recovered from outside the skull, showed the crown to be missing.

While one might assume the artist creating this drawing had made a simple mistake, and had inaccurately placed the location of the large defect too far back on the skull, the testimony of the illustrator, Ida Dox, indicates she made these drawings under the close scrutiny of Dr. Baden. So was Baden the one at fault?

Undeniably, yes. During his testimony, when pointing to Exhibit F-55 and the bullet fragment supposedly on the back of Kennedy's head, Baden testified "there are fracture lines radiating from the point of entrance marked by the relatively large fragment and the x-ray lines extending from it." He then used his pointer to encircle the large dark area on the right side of the skull in the x-ray, and continued "This corresponds precisely to the point of entrance beneath the cowlick area and shows the extensive loss of bone in that area." Baden had thereby supported the wound location in Exhibit F-66 and, in the process, revealed his inability to properly interpret x-rays. Although he spoke as a representative of a panel, furthermore, there is nothing to indicate his baffling conclusions were shared by anyone else. There is nothing in the Panel's report, nor in the report of any of the Panel's consulting radiologists, to indicate the dark area of the x-ray represents a loss of bone "beneath the cowlick area" on the back of Kennedy's skull. The autopsy photos, moreover, show that the head "beneath the cowlick area" remained intact. Conspiracy or no conspiracy, Baden was clearly pushing nonsense in this part of his testimony.

But it was intriguing nonsense, nonetheless. Since the lateral x-ray was darkest towards the front of the skull, and reveals a large defect in that area, it would only have made sense, should someone believe the dark area of the A-P x-ray represented an "extensive loss of bone", that the missing bone be on the forehead. Although refuted by the radiology literature, which asserts that a large dark area on a skull x-ray may only signify that there's air in the underlying tissues, this has indeed been the conclusion of many conspiracy theorists. So why did Baden take the opposite route, and testify that the dark area on the A-P x-ray was evidence of missing bone on the back of the skull by the entrance? Was he trying to refute the report of HSCA forensic anthropology consultant Lawrence Angel, and Angel's conclusion frontal bone was missing? Was he trying to cut-off speculation about a frontal entrance? Or was he just confused?

Baden's bluff, or blunder, along with his previously-discussed inability to properly orient the "mystery photo," demonstrates beyond any doubt that his credibility is questionable, and not just questionable by conspiracy theorists scratching for something, anything, to question.

Or maybe I'm being too harsh. As it turns out, men more open-minded regarding the assassination and more competent regarding x-rays have come to a similar conclusion as Baden. Strangely, Dr. Randy Robertson, a radiologist convinced more than one shot hit Kennedy in the head, shares Dr. Baden's strange assessment of the back of the head in the x-rays.

Here is Robertson in a November 2015 article in which he denounced the accuracy of the so-called McClelland drawing and claimed the autopsy photos and x-rays are consistent and legit: "The autopsy radiographs and photographs clearly delineate the true extent of underlying bone loss. The documented bone loss in the rear of the head is in actuality higher than in Dr. McClelland’s diagram and is much more faithfully represented by Ida Dox’s HSCA diagram determined from the photographs and radiographs."

Strange, indeed. Not necessarily wrong, but undoubtedly unexpected and unusual.

The Distortion Problem 

The erratic interpretations of Kennedy’s x-rays can be partially explained by the fact that Kennedy’s A-P x-ray was unusually distorted. While many think of x-rays as see-through pictures, they are actually quite different.  While in a photograph one is aware of perspective, that things in the background appear smaller than they really are, in a well done x-ray there is a fairly straight shot of the x-rays through the body, and each side of the body is accurately represented in proportion to the other.

This is not always true for x-rays created on portable x-ray machines, however. Researcher Joe Durnavich discovered that The General Electric machine used to make Kennedy’s x-rays needed to be at least 72 inches away from the film to minimize magnification. In Kennedy’s case it was only 44.  This meant that the x-rays hitting the film were not heading straight through Kennedy, but were spreading outwards. This meant that the x-rays hitting Kennedy’s face, by spreading outwards before they hit the film, magnified his face in comparison to the back of his head. Durnavich estimates that Kennedy’s forehead was magnified 22% when compared to the back of his head. I’ve seen similar calculations in radiology textbooks and Durnavich’s calculations appear to be accurate.

Adding to the confusion over Kennedy’s x-rays, however, is that the x-ray techs couldn’t figure out how best to prop up Kennedy’s badly damaged skull. So they just sat it on the film cassette. As a result, his skull is tilted back approximately 14 degrees in the x-ray. While Jerrol Custer has said it was tilted back as much as 30 degrees, this seems much too much. Joe Durnavich’s slightly smaller estimate of 23 degrees fails to take into account that the x-rays were not framed with the skull in the anatomically upright position (The skull was tilted 10 degrees forward.) Larry Sturdivan, using measurements of Kennedy’s teeth taken from the original x-rays, concluded the “net upward tilt of the head in the A-P view would be 11.5 degrees.” When one lays flat on the floor, moreover, one’s head tilts back 20 degrees or so even under normal conditions. Since this 20 degree backwards tilt comes with the occipital bone as the pivot, and Kennedy had a depressed fracture on the back of his head, it only makes sense his head would tilt back less than normal when laying flat on the table. (Dr. Joseph Riley is another who disputes that Kennedy’s head was tilted back 30 degrees in this x-ray.)

On this slide, I have attempted to match up the relative positions of Kennedy’s face and back of his head in order to figure out the exact locations of the skull fragments in the x-rays. On one side, I aligned the temporal region of his skull, once adjusted for magnification, with the A-P x-ray. This confirmed that the “trail of fragments” on the x-ray matched up perfectly with the large defect of the skull, and is apparently on the scalp. On the other side, I placed an adjusted-for-magnification photo of Kennedy’s face (an inverted image of the left lateral photo), and placed it directly behind an adjusted-for-magnification back of his head. As I’d previously determined that the head in this photo was tilted back approximately 5 degrees, I tilted it back an addition 9, to reproduce the 14 degree backward tilt of Kennedy’s skull in the x-ray, and then matched up the top of the A-P x-ray against this larger face. It seems to be fairly accurate. The forehead fragment projects right onto the forehead. The large fragment or slice projects right up near the crown of the head by the mysterious red spot…


Believing is Seeing

Satisfied with the results of my distortion analysis, I decided to try to do a comparison between the A-P x-ray and the lateral x-ray. While I had initially planned on copying the proportions and angles used by Joe Durnavich in his article, I quickly realized that you could not accurately project the distorted image of the A-P x-ray onto the lateral x-ray. I thought about cutting up the lateral x-ray into 10 slices, and then make each one progressively shorter than the first one, and then try to line them up to get a concept of how they would appear in the A-P x-ray. I started with the forehead. I decided to line up the exact heights of the forehead fragment. And then I had another breakthrough…

For when I lined up the forehead fragment in the A-P x-ray with the identical-sized forehead fragment on the lateral x-ray, I found the location of the “slice” on the back of the head. And it wasn’t on the back of the head. And it wasn’t even a “slice.”

I noticed that just above the right eye socket there were a number of fragments, and that the largest of these fragments had the identical height of the supposed slice. I noticed also that it was at a slight angle, whereby it would appear to be thicker in the A-P and more radio-opaque than when viewed upright. I then spotted a small fragment just below it. And found that just below the “slice” supposedly on the back of the head in the A-P view there was a similar fragment. In short, I realized that the Clark Panel’s statement that “there is, embedded in the outer table of the skull close to the lower edge of the hole, a large metallic fragment… Immediately adjacent to the hole on the internal surface of the skull, there is localized elevation of the soft tissues. Small fragments of bone lie within portions of these tissues,” was, in fact a description of an area just above Kennedy’s right eye socket, the very area from which Dr. Humes had testified to removing two fragments, one measuring 7 by 2 mm, and one measuring 3 by 1 mm.

I then looked back at the un-enhanced x-rays used by the Clark Panel, and realized that the fragment I'd identified behind the eye was not visible on the lateral view, only on the A-P view, and that the small fragment in the forehead, believed by many to be the fragment recovered at the autopsy, was only barely visible on the lateral view, and completely invisible on the A-P. This led me to believe that Clark Panel radiologist Dr. Russell Morgan had made an honest mistake. He saw a fragment on the A-P view, couldn’t find it on the lateral, convinced himself it was at the back of the head by the bullet hole “discovered” by Dr. Russell Fisher, and moved the fragment much as Fisher had moved the bullet entrance. The autopsy protocol used by The Clark Panel to help with their report, it should be noted, stated only that “From the surface of the disrupted right cerebral cortex two small irregularly shaped fragments are recovered.” As a result, there is no evidence that Morgan or anyone else on the panel was aware that Humes had testified the largest fragment was behind the right eye. From this, then, it follows that the Clark Panel never even considered the possibility that the fragment on the x-rays was behind the right eye, and that the mistake of one expert--Morgan-- had become official government doctrine.

I was dazed by this revelation, and a bit saddened. I knew I would have an uphill battle trying to get people to believe a layman as myself could notice something overlooked by so many "experts". And so, for many years, I fought this fight alone. This fight reached its nadir in November, 2009, at the JFK Lancer Conference, when Dr. David Mantik refused to address all the evidence I'd gathered suggesting the large fragment on the x-ray was the large fragment noted at the autopsy, and told his audience simply that Speer's "candidate (on the lateral x-ray) has never been recognized as metal by any prior viewer" and that, as a result, "It's a non-starter."

Oh, my! By his logic we should reject every finding not previously found, no matter how much evidence one can find in its support. 

P.S. In his 2011 review of this website, published on the CTKA website, Dr. Mantik made an equally asinine comment by pointing out the small fragments below the large fragment on the A-P view, and claiming "Metallic debris (claimed by Speer not to exist) just inferior to the 6.5 mm object, is identified by a horizontal lavender arrow. Some of these (lavender) fragments may have correlates on the lateral x-ray, which would then mark them as authentic metal debris." When discussing the lateral x-ray, he then added "Two tiny metallic-like fragments (invisible here--lavender arrow) can be seen on the x-rays at NARA." The lavender arrow, no surprise, pointed to the back of the head. Well, this was yet another self-inflicted blow to Mantik's credibility. Mantik was purportedly reviewing this website. The above slide has been a part of this website since it was created. I showed it at the COPA Conference in 2009, with Mantik in the audience. He mentions this slide in his review. Mantik is 100% in error to claim I said these fragments don't exist, when I have repeatedly and consistently shown where they are on the lateral view and have repeatedly and consistently presented them as compelling evidence the large fragment was behind the right eye. That he not only hides this from his readers but simultaneously claims the fragments are on the back of the head, where, by his own admission, no one else has seen them, is incredibly disappointing.

Seeing is Believing

Although my alinement of Kennedy's A-P and lateral x-rays had led me to believe I'd found the location on the lateral x-ray of the supposedly 6.5 mm fragment easily observed on the A-P x-ray, I decided to study Kennedy's pre-mortem x-rays to confirm that what I saw was not a piece of bone. When I went to compare HSCA Exhibit F-297, the pre-mortem x-ray, against Exhibit F-53, the lateral x-ray, however, I was reminded that Kennedy's face had been cropped off the pre-mortem x-ray, and that a thorough comparison would therefore be impossible.

And so I did the next best thing. I studied dozens of skull x-rays online, to see if any of them had a white shape in the eye socket comparable to the one found in Kennedy's eye socket.

None of them did. Not even close. As a result, I came to feel quite sure that I had actually identified the true location of the supposedly 6.5 mm fragment on the lateral x-ray, and that it was in fact behind the eye.

This led me to reflect on everything I’d read about this fragment, how it was faked, how it was proof of forgery, how it was proof the head shot struck Kennedy in the cowlick. I thought of the HSCA’s forensic pathology report and how it over-ruled the autopsy doctors on the head wounds.  I thought about some of the statements in the report, such as how when discussing the A-P x-ray they claimed the “missile fragment to be slightly to the right of the midline and in approximately the same vertical plane as in the above mentioned lateral view.”  Approximately?  They were given two years to solve the mysteries of Kennedy’s head wounds, and that’s the best they could do?”

I thought about this some more.  And then I got mad.


The “Missing” Missile

I got mad on behalf of Dr. James J. Humes. Not only did he accurately depict the position of the large fragment in Warren Commission Exhibit CE 388, but he was right about its angle within the skull. And yet, even so, everyone believed the Clark Panel when they said the largest fragment on the x-rays was on the back of Kennedy’s skull. Why did they believe them? (Heck, for that matter, why did I for the longest time believe them?) Were we pre-disposed to disbelieve Humes because of his military background? Or was it his Warren Commission experience in particular that destroyed his credibility? Were the autopsy doctors the boy who cried wolf and the Clark Panel a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

I re-read every reference to the large fragment I could find. The autopsy report written by Dr. Humes states: “There is edema and ecchymosis (bruising) diffusely over the right supra-orbital ridge (the eye socket) with abnormal mobility of the underlying bone” and that “roentgenograms (x-rays) of the skull reveal multiple minute fragments along a line corresponding with a line joining the above described small occipital wound and the right supra-orbital ridge… From the surface of the disrupted cerebral cortex two small irregularly shaped fragments of metal are recovered. These measure 7 x 2 mm and 3 x 1 mm.” While these statements supported that the fragments were behind the eye, one might stretch them to support they were just behind the forehead as well. Perhaps then Humes' testimony was more specific.

Indeed, it was. Before the Warren Commission, Humes testified that while studying the x-rays taken at the beginning of the autopsy, he'd observed "A rather sizable fragment visible by x-ray just above the right eye" and that the majority of the fragments visible on the x-rays were "dustlike...with the exception of this one I previously mentioned which was seen to be above and very slightly behind the right orbit." After being shown Exhibit 388, on which this fragment was depicted behind the right eye, he then explained: “We attempted to examine the brain, and seek specifically this fragment which was the one we felt to be of a size which would permit us to recover it.” Arlen Specter then asked: "When you refer to this fragment, and you are pointing there, are you referring to the fragment depicted right above the President’s eye?” To which Humes replied: “Yes, sir. Above and somewhat behind the President’s eye." He then continued: "We directed carefully in this region and in fact located this small fragment, which was in a defect in the brain tissue in just precisely this location.”

Humes tried to get through to the HSCA as well. Dr Petty: “the least distorted and least fuzzy portion of the radiopaque materials would be closest to the film, and we would assume then that this peculiar semilunar object with the sharp edges would be close to the film and therefore represent the piece that was seen in the lateral view” Dr. Humes: “Up by the eyebrow.” Dr. Petty: “no up by the—in the back of the skull.” Petty returned to the topic later: “we’re trying to establish whether this particular sharp-edged radiopaque defect is close to the back of the skull or close to the front of the skull." Dr. Humes: “I can’t be sure I see it in the lateral at all, do you? Do you see it?” Dr. Petty evaded Humes’ question and turned to Dr. Boswell: “Were these fragments that were recovered at all?” To which Boswell, obviously trusting Petty that the fragments were where he said they were, replied: “No. They were not.”

When asked about the large fragment by the ARRB, Humes similarly relented: “I don’t remember retrieving anything of that size.” Later, however, when asked if he could spot any fragments on the lateral x-ray, he said: “Well, you see, there’s nothing in this projection that appears to be of the size of the one that appeared to be above and behind the right eye on the other one.” Wait. He claimed not to recognize the fragment, and yet he still knew exactly where it was—and it just so happened to be in the exact location where he’d found a fragment during the autopsy??? From this strange slip-up, one might assume Humes suspected all along that the Clark Panel’s fragment on the back of the head was in reality the fragment he’d found near the forehead. By the end of his ARRB interview, in fact, he admitted as much, telling Jeremy Gunn that the large fragment “that you saw in the first AP view of the skull could be the 7 by 2 millimeter one that we handed over to the FBI.”

Well, at least Humes tried to tell the truth. Unfortunately, no one believed him… that is, except Dr. Boswell, who shared his faith the fragment was the one removed at autopsy. In 1994, when asked about the largest fragment on the x-rays by Dr. Gary Aguilar, Dr. Boswell asserted "The largest piece was up along the frontal sinus, right." When shown the lateral x-ray by the ARRB, moreover, Dr. Boswell told Gunn “I think we dug this piece out right here,” and then explained “right here” as near the “right eye...right supraorbital area.” He later told Gunn that the large semicircular fragment he’d initially had trouble identifying on the A-P x-ray might very well be “the same as the one that appears to be in the frontal bone in the lateral.” Well, which part of the frontal bone? In any event, he was on the right track.

And he wasn't alone. While the radiologist at the autopsy, Dr. Ebersole, died years before he could be called to testify before the ARRB, his two assistants at the autopsy, x-ray technicians Jerrol Custer and Edward Reed, who actually took the x-rays, were called to testify, and both confirmed that the large fragment on the x-rays was found behind the right eye. When asked in a series of questions if he could see the large fragment visible on the A-P x-ray on the lateral x-ray, Reed told Gunn, "Yes, I can...In the frontal lobe...Right above the supraorbital ridge...Supraorbital rim. It is right impregnated in there." Even more telling, when asked the same question a week later, Reed's boss on the night of the autopsy, Custer, testified that the large bullet fragment was located in the "Right orbital ridge, superior."

Their statements, moreover, echo what Secret Service Agents Roy Kellerman and William Greer told the Warren Commission. On 3-9-64 Kellerman told the commission that both he and Greer were shown the x-rays during the autopsy and that the only fragment he recalled being removed came from "inside above the eye, the right eye." Shortly thereafter, Greer testified in a similar fashion. He recalled: "I looked at the X-rays when they were taken in the autopsy room, and the person who does that type work showed us the trace of it because there would be little specks of lead where the bullet had come from here and it came to the--they showed where it didn't come on through. It came to a sinus cavity or something they said, over the eye." As Custer and Reed were but technicians, and not officially qualified to interpret the x-rays, we can only assume the "person" who claimed this was Ebersole.

And this wasn't the last time Kellerman spoke on the matter. In 1977, when asked about his role in the autopsy by an HSCA investigator, Kellerman recalled that the x-rays showed "...a whole mass of stars, the only large piece being behind the eye, which was given to the FBI agents when it was removed."

So what did these agents have to say about this fragment? On the night of the autopsy, FBI agents James Sibert and Frank O’Neill signed a receipt as follows: “I hereby acknowledge receipt of a missile removed by Commander James J Humes.” These agents were therefore intimately involved in the recovery of this missile (which they would later insist was the fragment). One might think then that they'd be sure to remember if it was the largest fragment on the x-ray and from where it was removed. While an 11-22-63 memo from their boss, Alan Belmont, written during the autopsy, claimed a bullet was "lodged behind the president's ear," we can only assume this was a misunderstanding of what the agents had actually told their superiors over the phone. Sure enough, Sibert and O'Neill's 11-26 report on the autopsy asserts “The largest section of this missile as portrayed by x-ray appeared to be behind the right frontal sinus.” As the right frontal sinus is just above the eyebrow and is an inch or so lower than the club-shaped fragment widely believed to have been the fragment recovered at the autopsy, this would put the bullet fragment, not an intact bullet as implied by Belmont's memo, behind the eye, and not the ear, as claimed in Belmont's memo. (The club-shaped fragment, it should be noted, was simply in the middle of the forehead, and not lodged behind anything, let alone another body part beginning with the letter "E".)

Lest that not be convincing, Sibert and O'Neill's subsequent statements further confirmed that the largest fragment recovered at autopsy was recovered from behind the eye, and not from the middle of the forehead. Although a 10-24-78 affidavit signed by Agent Sibert for the HSCA said merely that the fragments were recovered from the head, a report on an 8-25-77 interview with James Sibert notes "Sibert believes that both fragments came from the head, probably from the frontal sinus region." An HSCA Report on a 1-10-78 interview with his partner Frank O'Neill, moreover, confirmed that this fragment was recovered from just behind the eye. It states: "O'Neill believes the doctors recovered a piece of the missile from just behind an eye and another one from further back." On 11-8-78, O'Neill even put this in writing; his signed affidavit declares "I saw the doctors remove a piece of the missile from just behind an eye and another one from further back in the head." (P.S. It seems likely O'Neill thought the second fragment recovered was the second largest one noted on the x-rays. This is an understandable mistake. He noted two fragments in his report and the doctors recovered two fragments. Problem is they weren't the same two. The second fragment recovered by the doctors was found right next to the fragment removed from behind the eye while the second largest fragment observed on the x-rays was, according to O'Neill's own report on the autopsy, observed "at the rear of the skull at the juncture of the skull bone.")

And no, Sibert and O'Neill aren't the end of our parade of witnesses for the fragment behind the eye. That honor belongs to Bethesda chief of surgery Dr. David Osborne. On 4-5-90, Osborne (then an Admiral) wrote JFK researcher Joanne Braun. He told her that the fatal bullet "hit in the occipital region of the posterior skull which blew off the posterior top of his skull and impacted and disintegrated against the interior surface of the frontal bone just above the level of the eyes."

So here we have the men most intimately involved with the skull x-rays ALL stating that the large fragment on the A-P x-ray was in the supraorbital ridge or that the trail of fragments came to an end above and behind the right eye.

An Inconvenient Truth

So, why haven't researchers proposed that these men were correct, and that the largest bullet fragment was behind the right eye? Well, unfortunately it appears that in this instance we're at a rare cognitive confluence of single-assassin theorists and conspiracy theorists, where they both want the same thing, and claim the same thing is true, for entirely different reasons. Single-assassin theorists want to believe Dr. Morgan and the HSCA radiologists' claim the fragment was on the back of the head because it feeds their hope that the medical evidence is a closed book, with no more surprises. Conspiracy theorists, on the other hand, believe the claim because Dr. Mantik has long noted that the large (and denser at the top) fragment visible on the A-P x-ray is not the much smaller (and denser at the bottom) fragment visible on the back of the head in the lateral x-ray, and this suggests to them that the large fragment was added onto the x-ray... which to them proves a conspiracy... (Ironically, this amounts to them wanting to believe it is there so they can then claim it's not there. Hmmm...)

Well, there are several problems with the thinking behind this "the fragment is fake so it's all a fraud" theory. One big problem is that those adopting this position fail to adequately explore the possibility this fragment or white spot could have an innocent explanation. Medical Radiographic Technic (1943), in its "Processing Room Trouble Chart" relates that "Light Spots" can be caused by "Fixer or water on film before development." Limited Radiography (1999) similarly provides a list of "Common Problems" in the "Handling and Processing of X-Ray Film." Among the common problems listed is the existence of "white circular spots" on the film. The cause of these spots? "Fixer on film before development." In all the discussion of the white spot on Kennedy's x-rays, I've yet to see anyone rule out that the spot could be a drop of fixer.

And yet another problem is that those pushing this position are overly in love with their theory, and completely blind to its faults...

By way of example, Doug Horne, in his 2009 opus Inside the Assassination Records Review Board, presents the ARRB testimony of Humes, Boswell, Reed, and Custer on this fragment, and interjects after each one that they were wrong about the location, without once noting that they were unanimous in their recollection. At one point, he explains: "Everyone I know of who is qualified to interpret the A-P x-ray--the Clark Panel, the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, and Dr. David Mantik--agrees that the large, bright, 6.5 mm wide semi-circular fragment corresponds in location (if not in density and corresponding brightness) with a very small metallic fragment on the exterior surface of the rear of the skull about 100 mm above the external occipital protuberance."

This is bizarre, to say the least. Horne can't claim Mantik, who insists the large fragment is not visible on the back of the head, as support for those claiming it is visible on the back of the head, and then take from this that anyone questioning the claim it was on the back of the head, including everyone in attendance at the autopsy, i.e. Humes, Boswell, Reed, and Custer, is wrong.

Or, rather, he can, but not without coming across as someone with a blind spot as wide as Manhattan is tall.

This blind spot is brought further into focus by studying the appendices to Horne's book. Appendix 43, 44, and 45 are reports written by Horne on behalf of the ARRB, summarizing the findings of three outside consultants hired by the board to help them understand the medical evidence. Intriguingly, the substance of these reports was largely unknown to the public before Horne's book was published, some 13 years after the fact. While Forensic Anthropologist Douglas Ubelaker, after being shown the autopsy evidence, noted that the large fragment he saw in the "vicinity of the orbit of the right eye" on the A-P x-ray could not be located "anywhere on the lateral x-rays of the head," and Forensic Pathologist Robert Kirschner speculated that the fragment "near the right eye" on the A-P x-ray "might possibly be a plug of bone forced forward into the skull", thereby acknowledging that it could be somewhere other than on the back of the head in the x-ray, these men, in Horne's eyes, might not be qualified to interpret x-rays.

The third consultant, Dr. John J. Fitzpatrick, a Forensic Radiologist, however, most certainly was so qualified. According to Horne's own notes on his meeting with Fitzpatrick:

"No object directly or clearly corresponding to the bright 6.5 mm wide radio-opaque object in the A-P x-ray could be identified by the consultant on the lateral skull x-rays. Although there is a mere trace of some additional density near the fragment location at the vertex of the skull, the consultant did not feel this object was anywhere near the density/brightness required for it to correspond to the bright, radio-opaque density on the A-P x-ray. After briefly speculating that the small metallic density behind the right eye in the lateral x-rays might correspond to the bright radio-opaque density in the A-P x-ray, this idea was abandoned because neither the locations nor the density/brightness of the 2 objects are consistent."

Thus, contrary to Horne's assertion that "Everyone I know of who is qualified to interpret the A-P x-ray...agrees that the large, bright, 6.5 mm wide semi-circular fragment corresponds in location (if not in density and corresponding brightness) with a very small metallic fragment on the exterior surface of the rear of the skull", the fact is that not one of the three consultants hired by the ARRB said as much, and that Dr. Fitzpatrick, a Forensic Radiologist, instead looked for this fragment behind the right eye--where he found a fragment previously not discussed in the medical literature--before deciding it didn't match up.

FWIW, I hope to contact Dr. Fitzpatrick in the future to see if the fragment he pointed out and rejected as the large fragment was the very fragment discussed on this slide. If it is, well, I suspect he is incorrect in his conclusion the location was incorrect. It bears repeating that I only came to notice this fragment after spending many hours time trying to match up the A-P and lateral x-rays. There is no evidence Fitzpatrick did this. It is incredibly ironic, moreover, that the fragment I'd observed is directly in line with the small fragment Mantik sees on the back of the head. This suggests the two overlap. Perhaps this overlap explains why the "density/brightness" of the fragment fails to match on the A-P and lateral x-rays.

On the other hand, there is no real reason to think the "density/brightness" of the fragment should match on the A-P and lateral x-rays. As pointed out by Jerrol Custer in his 1997 ARRB testimony, the lateral x-ray had "much greater" density than the A-P x-ray, and that, as a result, the fragment may have been "burnt out" of the x-ray by the increased exposure. Custer had, by 1997, been an x-ray tech for 28 years. He was, furthermore, well familiar with Dr. Mantik's theories. And yet, despite the fact he'd helped push conspiracy theories for years, and had obviously been unconcerned his testimony would be used against him, he firmly rejected Mantik's theories--all of 'em--in his ARRB testimony.

This hasn't gone unnoticed, by the way. In his epic Inside the ARRB, Doug Horne chooses to ignore the elements of Custer's testimony at odds with Mantik's theories. Horne claimed he did this, moreover, because Custer had been inconsistent, and that those trying to understand his inconsistent statements should go by his earliest statements.

But this is ludicrous... I mean, think of it. in Horne's analysis, the initial opinions of someone shown published photos of cropped and computer-enhanced x-rays are more reliable than the opinions of this person after studying the un-cropped originals. Yikes. This is the very definition of foggy thinking.

The 7 x 2 Confusion

Horne's blindness when it comes to Mantik and the supposed fragment on the back of the head becomes even more clear when one realizes that, within Volume 2 of his book, he uses the consultants he ignores regarding the supposed fragment on the back of the head in the x-rays to help debunk that there was a bullet hole apparent on the back of the head in the x-rays. Well, one should ask, if these three consultants were "expert" enough for Horne to quote them regarding a lack of a bullet hole high on the back of the head in the x-rays (and thereby use them to contradict the conclusions of the Clark Panel and HSCA Pathology Panel), why does he disregard their opinions when they fail to support that there is a fragment on the back of the head in this very same x-ray? I mean, how can he, after spending so much time discrediting the Clark Panel and HSCA Pathology Panel's conclusions, turn around and defer to their expertise regarding this fragment supposedly on the back of the head?

The answer, almost certainly, is that Horne couldn't care less what the Clark Panel and HSCA Pathology Panel had to say about anything, and was using their presumed expertise as a smokescreen to disguise that his belief there was a bullet fragment on the back of the head in the lateral x-ray stems solely from his trust in Dr. Mantik, and Mantik's near religious belief the fragment in the A-P x-ray has been added atop a much-smaller pre-existing fragment...

As stated, Horne needs it to be there, so he can say it isn't there...

As does the man he blindly trusts, Mantik... Despite Humes' repeatedly claiming that the bullet he removed was in the supra-orbital ridge behind the right eye, Mantik, in his articles discussing the fragment removed at autopsy, misrepresents the statements of those present at the autopsy, so that he can claim the fragment removed at autopsy was the fragment in the forehead. In Assassination Science, published 1998, he actually claims that the forehead fragment is seen on the A-P view above the 6.5 mm fragment and that "The pathologists always refer to this one when asked about the largest fragment" and that, furthermore, this fragment "can also be seen on the lateral view where it does indeed lie just above the right frontal sinus--exactly where the pathologists described it."

Well, this is not true. Having taken that route, however, Mantik follows it to the end. After misrepresenting what the doctors said, he correctly quotes the FBI report claiming the fragment was behind the right frontal sinus, but then interjects "It should have said above." He then uses his re-interpretation of the location of the fragment removed at autopsy as a broad description of this fragment, even reporting that when asked about the largest fragment recovered during the autopsy, Humes immediately "referred to the fragment above the right frontal sinus." This completely disguises that Humes' actual testimony was that it was "up by the eyebrow" and "above and somewhat behind the President's eye" and that, while describing CE 388 before the Warren Commission, Humes pointed out the fragment behind the eye on the drawing and said the fragment removed at autopsy was in "precisely this location."

And this was not the only time Mantik misrepresented Humes' statements regarding this fragment. In his 2009 appearance at the JFK Lancer Conference in Dallas, Mantik presented a number of slides in which the forehead fragment was identified as the "7 x 2 Fragment Removed by Humes," even though, as we've seen, 1) there was no mention of a forehead fragment in any of the reports on the autopsy, 2) Humes never claimed this was the fragment he'd recovered, and 3) Humes claimed instead that the fragment he'd recovered was found behind Kennedy's eye.

To be fair, it certainly seems possible Mantik's slipperiness on this issue is not a deliberate ploy to mislead his audience, but is instead a byproduct of his unwarranted acceptance that the 7 x 2 mm fragment removed at the autopsy is the 6 mm long club-shaped fragment visible on the forehead in the x-rays. Apparently, it never occurred to him that a three dimensional crescent-shaped object such as the purportedly 6.5 mm fragment might be described by the length across the crescent, approximately 7mm, by the thickness of the fragment, approximately 2mm, and that, accordingly, the 6.5 mm fragment "discovered" by the Clark Panel could be the 7 x 2 fragment removed at autopsy.

In this, he was far from alone. In fact, I may have been the first to make this observation...

But, apparently. it never occurred to him that the "6.5 mm fragment" could be elsewhere in the skull.

And...apparently, it also never occurred to him to look for this fragment where the autopsists actually said it was: behind Kennedy's right eye, where what Mantik now claims is "probably a bone fragment" is readily apparent...

This mistake is less understandable...particularly in that the autopsists had claimed to have recovered a 3 by 1 mm fragment from the same location as the 7 by 2 fragment recovered at autopsy, and there are no fragments anywhere near this size by the club-shaped forehead fragment Mantik claims was recovered at autopsy...

Yes. You got it. This inconvenient truth offers us a possible explanation for Mantik's utterly false claim I deny the existence of the small fragments beneath the large fragment on the A-P x-ray. As previously discussed, and demonstrated, these fragments are apparent on the lateral x-ray as well, right behind the eye. By claiming I deny their existence, and then claiming he (and he alone) has seen these fragments on the lateral x-ray, only by the back of the head, he hides from his readers that my location for the fragment recovered at autopsy--behind the right eye--is consistent with the autopsy report's description of a second fragment being found at this location, while his location (the middle of the forehead) is not.

And that's not all he seeks to hide. In his 2011 review of this website, Mantik not only refused to acknowledge his mistake regarding the location of the fragment recovered at the autopsy, (I mean, this was no surprise), he also failed to present the eyewitness support for my belief the fragment was really behind the eye. Instead, he insisted "The so-called “slice” that Speer identifies on the lateral X-ray is the ultimate “boner”...No expert has ever identified that site as a piece of metal...The discussion that follows from his misidentification should just be ignored--totally. The reader should simply ask himself a simple question: Who is likely to be correct--an amateur who has viewed only prints or zillions of experts, who have seen the x-rays? It is true that phrases (some by Humes, but others have contributed, too) have imprecisely located the 7 x 2 fragment...but the bottom line is simple: despite the semantic fog, there is really only one large metallic fragment under discussion--and it's not the 'slice' cited by Speer. His 'slice" is just a bone spicule, certainly not metal. It has nothing to do with the case, except that it might have resulted from trauma. The only authentic large fragment involved in the autopsy is the 7 x 2 mm one...which Humes removed." (NOTE: whenever Mantik writes "7 x 2 fragment" he means the club-shaped fragment in the middle of the forehead.)

Well, this is horse droppings of the smelliest kind. Mantik is simply wetting himself here. What he claims is a "bone spicule" is whiter and wider than the "7 x2 fragment" he finds so compelling. It would quite obviously show up on the A-P x-ray. So where is it if it's not the large fragment on the x-ray? Even claiming that some "phrases" uttered by unnamed people have "imprecisely located the 7 x 2 fragment", Mantik hides from his readers that ALL the autopsy witnesses suggested that the large fragment was removed from where I claim it was and NONE of them suggested it was where he claims it was. This is particularly ironic in that Mantik has in both his study of the autopsy photos and Zapruder film upheld the recollections of the eyewitnesses over the filmed evidence. By pitting my observations against those of "zillions of experts," moreover, he proves himself a total hypocrite, as these same "zillions" have failed to acknowledge the bulk of his own observations.

Oh, wait... What "zillions"? While one can not deny that some of those studying the x-rays have asserted the large bullet fragment I propose was behind the eye was really on the back of the head, the most recent experts to study the x-rays, including Mantik himself (if one wishes to consider him an expert), have not. This suggests that at least a few of these "experts" would be open-minded to my identification of the fragment, should they ever become aware of it. Even worse, and even more embarrassing to Mantik, none of the radiology experts noting the club-shaped fragment on the x-rays, beyond Mantik himself of course, have claimed it was the fragment recovered at autopsy.

Don't believe me? Well, then, let's go through them...

The Clark Panel, who "saw" much more than everyone else, made no mention of the forehead fragment. None of the Rockefeller Commission's experts mentioned it, either.

And the HSCA's consultants weren't much better. Dr. Angel mentioned a "radiopaque mark" near a bullet exit on the frontal bone--a bullet exit Mantik justifiably fails to acknowledge--but never claimed this "mark" represented the fragment recovered at autopsy. Dr. Chase mentioned a "frontal fragment" that was slightly higher than the largest fragment on the A-P view, and may have been discussing this in connection with its being recovered at autopsy, or not... Dr. William Seaman failed to note any bullet fragments. Dr. McDonnel noted a fragment above the sinus, but never claimed this was the fragment recovered at autopsy. Dr. David Davis never even once mentioned this fragment in his report. The report of the pathology panel, on the other hand, asserted that there were a number of missile fragments apparent on the x-rays, with a number of them between 2 and 6 mm, with the largest of these present "beneath the skin in front." That's right. They noted the fragment. But nevertheless failed to claim this was the fragment recovered at autopsy. As they claimed this fragment was but 6 mm, moreover, it seems possible that they'd doubted it was the 7 mm fragment recovered at autopsy. I mean, who knows? Certainly not Mantik.

The ARRB's three consultants, in closing, never mentioned this fragment.

So what was Mantik thinking about? While I at first was at a loss, I later realized that the first two independent examiners of the autopsy materials, Dr. John Lattimer and Dr. Cyril Wecht, discussed the forehead fragment in their articles on their examinations, and suggested this was the fragment recovered at autopsy.

Lattimer actually went further than that. In the May 1972 article on his examinations, he depicted a "bullet fragment in front of brain" and asserted "The second largest fragment (7 mm x 3 mm, but crescentic) had come to rest in the front margin of the brain just above the top of the frontal sinus on the right." As the largest fragment collected at autopsy was reportedly 7 x 2, and adjacent to the frontal sinus, this undoubtedly fed the suspicion that the largest fragment on the x-rays--the one Lattimer claimed was on the back of the head--was not the one collected at autopsy.

And Wecht built upon this suspicion. The caption to Wecht's depiction of the lateral skull x-ray, published in the April 1974 issue of Forensic Science, describes a "sizable fragment at the rear of the skull" and then asserts "Another sizable fragment is seen in the supraorbital region. A fragment from this location is reported to have been removed surgically and later subjected to spectrographic analysis." This fragment is depicted on the forehead above the right eye. As Wecht's report followed Lattimer's by almost two years, moreover, it seems reasonable to assume Wecht got this from Lattimer. Yep, irony of ironies, Dr. David Mantik has attacked me for not going along with what he claims to have been the conclusion of "zillions" of experts, when the actual provenance of this "conclusion" appears to have been the muddy mind of Dr. John Lattimer, not exactly a reliable "expert" on the Kennedy assassination medical evidence.

Well, what can I say? Although Mantik's writings on the x-rays undoubtedly provoked my interest in this aspect of the assassination, many of his claims have not stood the test of time, and I have found his attempts at sidestepping my conclusions pathetic and embarrassing. His assertion that Humes removed the club-shaped fragment, when Humes never said as much, and in fact suggested otherwise, is nonsense, pure and simple. And he should stop repeating this falsehood.

I mean, it's not as if I'm the first or only person to conclude the fragment placed in the archives--the one purportedly recovered at autopsy--is not the club-shaped fragment on the x-rays. The man who's visited the archives and viewed the x-rays more than any other has concluded that they, in fact, are not the same.

The name of this man? You guessed it. It's David Mantik...

The Fragment Fragment

Now, to be clear, on this particular point I concur with Dr. Mantik. He was apparently the first to notice it, he deserves credit for it, and he is absolutely correct--CE 843, the fragment Humes claimed he'd removed from behind Kennedy's eye, bears no resemblance to the club-shaped fragment so many assume he'd recovered from the forehead.

In his essay 20 Conclusions After Nine Visits, Mantik writes that this is “One of the most shocking contradictions in the entire case.The shape of the larger piece of metal is nothing like the supposedly identical piece seen on the x-rays. No measurements taken on this piece can explain its bizarre transformation in shape. Most likely, it is not the piece taken from the skull…I saw only two, not three, at NARA. The largest, however, bears no resemblance to the corresponding image on the x-rays. The larger piece shown here is pancake shaped and was 107 mg. On the other hand the x-rays show a club shaped object—on both x-ray views. The studies done by the FBI on this object—spectrographic analysis and neutron activation analysis, required only a tiny amount at most, about 1 mg, according to one of the FBI experts…No one has offered an explanation for this flagrant discrepancy in shape of the largest piece. Sampling of the material is not an explanation. The possibility of substitution of fragments, an issue actually raised by the neutron activation expert (Dr. Vincent Guinn), remains wide open.”

While it might seem strange my quoting Mantik on this issue, seeing as I've repeatedly demonstrated his lack of credibility, it's not half as strange as Mantik's insisting the 7 by 2 fragment removed at autopsy is the fragment on the forehead on the x-rays, and then turning around and admitting that the fragment in the archives is not the fragment one sees on the forehead. Hmmm... I mean, before insinuating some sort of switcheroo had been performed, shouldn't it have occurred to him that maybe, just maybe, the fragment removed at autopsy was not the fragment on the forehead, but was a fragment removed from somewhere else? Hmmm... Perhaps even from where the doctors claimed it had been removed, from behind the right eye? I don't know. Just a thought...

In any event, Mantik was correct to mention Guinn. Guinn testified before the HSCA that the fragment he tested, and the fragment subsequently seen by Mantik, was much smaller than the original fragment. While the fragment entered into evidence by the FBI was 107 mg, the one tested by Guinn 15 years later was only 41.9 mg. Robert Frazier, the FBI ballistics expert, described the fragments to the Warren Commission as follows: “These fragments consisted of two pieces of lead, one weighed 1.65 grains. (107 mg) The other weighed .15 grains. They were examined spectrographically so their present weight would be somewhat less since a very small amount would be needed for spectrographic analysis.”

HSCA Chief Counsel Robert Blakey, however, followed up on Guinn’s comments and was able to find out that the size of the fragment used in the spectrographic tests was 32.045 mg, not as large as the original fragment, and not as large as the remaining fragment. This means the FBI broke up the fragment and destroyed or lost more than 60% of its mass! The reasons for this are not clear. Since these spectrographic tests were done before Frazier’s testimony, moreover, this means the photographs of CE 843 entered into evidence during his testimony showed only the remaining fragment. This, then, explains the discrepancy noted by Mantik.

But not really. When one reflects back on Mantik’s description of the fragment as “pancake-shaped,” and considers the size and shape of the fragment apparent in the forehead, it seems likely that the original-full-sized CE 843 looked nothing like the fragment apparent in the forehead, and is, if only by default, most likely the fragment seen behind the eye on the x-rays.

This feeds back into the possibility that the 7 by 2 measurement given for this fragment represented an irregular 7 mm pancake that was 2mm thick, and not a thin pole 7 mm long by 2 mm in diameter, as so many assume. Perhaps the rounded edge of this fragment, then, represents the rounded edge of the lead missing from CE 569, the hollow base of a bullet found beside the front seat of the limousine.

One finds support for this possibility, in fact, in the most surprising of places. In Larry Sturdivan's 2005 book The JFK Myths, he recounts his 2004 visit to the Archives to view the Kennedy autopsy materials. When discussing the supposed 6.5 mm fragment on the x-rays, which Sturdivan believes is an artifact, he offers "The disk was not as nearly circular as it appears on the view printed in the HSCA report. The edges are irregular, with the 'bite' being merely the largest indentation in the irregular, jagged margin." This irregularity of the edges would appear to be more consistent with the edges being lead from the inside of the bullet, than of their being the outer margin of a smooth copper jacket.

And we can see this for ourselves. At the 2003 assassination conference put on by Dr. Cyril Wecht, researcher John Hunt displayed photos he’d recently uncovered at the National Archives, including photos taken by the FBI of the bullet fragments prior to testing. These photos revealed a much larger fragment than the one entered into evidence by Frazier, with a rounded edge on the far side of the fragment, and a bite out of the near side. Intriguingly, the shadow of this bite approximates the shape of the bite visible on the x-ray fragment. Intriguingly, when one rotates the fragment in one's mind, so that the bite appears in the 5 o'clock position of the bite apparent on the x-ray, a small shelf of lead is lifted towards the top of the fragment when seen from the side, precisely where such a shelf is visible on the lateral x-ray. When one looks at the fragment in the photo, and compares it to the shape of the forehead fragment apparent on the A-P x-ray, moreover, it’s clear that the fragment in the photo is too thick to be the club-shaped fragment on the x-ray. As a result it seems almost certain that this fragment is the large fragment seen on the x-ray, and that it was found behind the right eye, exactly as claimed by Humes.

Not that Mantik will acknowledge this, of course. In his 2011 review of this website, Mantik asked himself "Has Speer explained the discrepancy between the 7 x 2 mm fragment (seen on the x-rays) and the quite different fragment in evidence at NARA?" He then responded by claiming that John Hunt has "discovered that only 2 mg was actually taken for spectroscopy. This is only a tiny fraction of the original mass (106.92 mg) of the larger fragment." Well, beyond his continuing to call the club-shaped fragment the 7 x 2 fragment, when this fragment was not in the location of the 7 x 2 fragment recovered at the autopsy, Mantik misled his readers on a crucial point. The fragment at NARA is not 104.92 mg, as suggested by Mantik, but 41.9 mg. The fragment used in the spectrographic tests was 32.05 mg. This suggests that the 106.92 mg fragment was broken into pieces. The break-up of this fragment, irregardless of the reason, offers us a reasonable explanation for why the bullet fragment in the archives photos fails to match its appearance on the x-rays.

It's Only Make Believe

It was not until 2010--years after I'd first concluded the supposedly 6.5 mm fragment on the back of the head was really the 7 by 2 fragment removed from behind the eye, that I finally realized the obviousness of it all. It was while looking through a presentation by, no surprise, Dr. David Mantik. In this presentation-- while arguing that the fragment had been added to the x-rays, Dr. Mantik had repeatedly argued that the supposedly 6.5 mm fragment must have been added on, as it made no sense for an actual fragment 6.5 mm in diameter to end up on the back of the head, and it made no sense for an accidental artifact to be precisely 6.5 mm, the width of the bullets fired in the rifle found in the book depository.

Well, I thought, how do we know it was precisely 6.5 mm? Ding. Ding. Ding. Alarm bells sound. Hmmm...

We don't! The Clark Panel, the same experts who incorrectly re-located the entrance on the back of Kennedy's head...and the same experts who misrepresented the level of Kennedy's back wound in comparison to his throat wound...and the same experts who claimed there were two left lateral x-rays in the archives, but no right lateral x-ray, said so. That is all.

While the report of the HSCA's forensic pathology panel also noted that the "maximum diameter" of the "radiopaque shadow" on the back of the head "measures 0.65 centimeter," it made no mention of where they got this measurement, and it seems clear they simply pulled this from the report of the Clark Panel.

To refresh, that report claimed: "On one of the lateral films of the skull (#2), a hole measuring approximately 8 mm. in diameter on the outer surface of the skull and as much as 20 mm. on the internal surface can be seen in profile approximately 100 mm. above the external occipital protuberance. The bone of the lower edge of the hole is depressed. Also there is, embedded in the outer table of the skull close to the lower edge of the hole, a large metallic fragment which on the anteroposterior film (#1) lies 25 mm. to the right of the midline. This fragment as seen in the latter film is round and measures 6.5 mm in diameter immediately adjacent to the hole on the internal surface of the skull, there is localized elevation of the soft tissues. Small fragments of bone lie within portions of these tissues and within the hole itself. These changes are consistent with an entrance wound of the skull produced by a bullet similar to that of exhibit CE 399."

Well, as we've seen, these conclusions are far more precise and far more detailed than the conclusions of ANY expert or panel of experts to look at the x-rays, before or since...even AFTER the x-rays had been enhanced by a computer. NO other expert to study the x-rays, beyond those on the Clark Panel, ever gave an exact measurement for the large fragment, let alone claimed it was 6.5 mm in diameter, the exact diameter of a cross-section of the ammunition purportedly used in the shooting. It follows then, that, sure as snow in Minneapolis in January, the Clark Panel were blowing smoke. I mean, let's get real, they found a fragment on an x-ray and claimed the size of this fragment suggested the use of the presumed assassination weapon. The books on radiology I've studied have virtually all warned against this, and have claimed instead that you can not determine with precision the bullet caliber of a bullet on an x-ray...and are better off not even trying.

Should one doubt me on this, well, here's another passage by Dr.s James Messmer and B.G. Brogdon from chapter 18 of A Radiologic Atlas of Abuse, Torture, Terrorism, and Inflicted Trauma (2003): "There is a great temptation, always to be resisted, to estimate the caliber of a bullet or size of a shot by eyeballing the projectile on a radiograph. Any missile contained within the body will be magnified to some degree upon radiography, and only a small degree of magnification destroys any hope of accuracy. The actual difference in dimension between the caliber of weapons commonly used in both military and nonmilitary weapons is really quite close together in size. Moreover, the common designations of caliber are not really precisely accurate."

Let's recall here that the Clark Panel studied the photos and x-rays over the course of two days... in secret. They did not talk to the x-ray techs who created the x-rays, nor to the radiologist and autopsy doctors who'd studied them. As a result, there's no reason to believe they'd acquired the information necessary to even approximate the actual size of the bullet fragment.

But we can give it a shot, if only just to see if they were even in the ballpark. In 1978, during the testimony of trajectory expert Thomas Canning, drawings of Kennedy were entered into evidence that included the claim Kennedy's head measured 17.5 cm at its widest point. When one measures the supposed 6.5 mm fragment, and divides it by the measurement of the widest point of the skull on the x-rays, however, and then multiples this by 17.5, one discovers that the fragment would be about 7.4 cm wide...

Or so it would seem... Let's see if we can get to the bottom of this...

According to Joe Durnavich's article on the x-rays, published on the website of John McAdams, the face on Kennedy's A-P x-ray was magnified by 22% in comparison to the back of the head. This means that the widest point on the skull would not be above the ear, as one would normally expect, but at the side of the forehead. It follows then that, if the large fragment on the x-rays was behind the eye, as I propose, it was about 7.4 mm in its longest dimension.

IF this fragment was on the back of the head, as purported by the Clark Panel, however, the fit is not so nice. You see, the fragment gives the appearance of being 7.4 mm wide when one assumes the fragment is at the widest part of the skull. For this fragment to appear so wide, when it is actually on the back of the head, then, it would have to be wider than 7.4 mm. By a rough guesstimate (feel free to conduct your own tests on this matter) what appeared to be the widest part of the skull was magnified around 20% over the back of Kennedy's head. If so, this means that the supposed 6.5 mm fragment, if it was on the back of the head as purported, was actually about 8.9 mm in diameter, and not precisely 6.5 mm, as so widely believed.

That's right. If the 17.5 cm measurement for Kennedy's skull provided by the HSCA is correct, the supposedly 6.5 mm fragment supposedly on the back of the head was not 6.5 mm wide.

So where did this measurement come from? Did the Clark Panel just make it up?

Maybe. On the other hand, as the 17.5 measurement provided by the HSCA is far larger than what one would expect for a human skull, and would seem to be the measurement of the skull on the x-ray, on which magnification is apparent, the Clark Panel may have simply thought that "Heck, the skull on the x-ray has been magnified about 20% over its actual size" and then adjusted their measurement of the fragment to account for this magnification. This would reduce the size of the fragment down to about 6.2 mm wide, which they may have considered close enough to 6.5 mm wide.

If they did this, of course, they were incorrect. There was no magnification at the back of the head, and no adjustment was necessary.

Mantik Rides Again

On October 12, 2010, Dr. David Mantik, responding to my writings on this subject through Dr. James Fetzer, replied: "The 6.5 mm object lay at the very rear of the skull, so it should have been very close to the film. That means magnification was minimal. For the actual size of the 6.5 mm object on the film, my OD graphs are best: measurements were to within 0.1 mm. Is that precise enough?"

Now, at first I took this as a claim that Dr. Mantik's measurements showed the fragment to be within 1 mm of 6.5 mm wide, and that the fragment therefore was most logically 6.5 mm in diameter.

This led me to claim that, if this was true, then the skull on the x-ray was not 17.5 cm, as claimed by the HSCA. Because the proportions just aren't right. 6.5mm /17.5 cm = .0371, while the skull fragment on the x-ray represents .0422 the apparent width of the skull. For the fragment to be 6.5 mm on the x-ray, moreover, the skull would have to be 15.4 cm wide on the x-ray. Since the skull was magnified on this x-ray, by about 20%, this would mean the skull was about 12.8 cm in width before magnification--too small. Still, perhaps the magnification was not as great as I've been led to believe. But if the skull was actually 14-15 cm wide, and appeared to be 15.4 cm wide on the x-ray, then from where did the trajectory panel pull this 17.5 cm measurement? Hmmm... Either Mantik is incorrect or the HSCA trajectory panel pulled this measurement from its collective rump.

But then I re-read Mantik's words. He is clearly deferring to his OD graphs. These graphs were published in Assassination Science.

Here is his OD Graph for the A-P x-ray.

Now, even by a conservative interpretation of the data, whereby the fragment starts around the 2 mm position and ends around the 9.5 mm position, the fragment is larger than 6.5 mm, and is about 7.5 mm. As Mantik believes the magnification of this fragment was minimal, moreover, it certainly appears that he is acknowledging that the supposedly 6.5 mm fragment was really not 6.5 mm, and is more in line with the 7.4 mm fragment I'd proposed.

Thank you, Dr. Mantik.

Or not. In June 2011, in the by-now much-mentioned article published on the CTKA website, Dr. Mantik responded to my many criticisms of his research and analysis. This article, sadly, was filled with a multitude of dubious boasts and claims, some of which we've already discussed. Among these claims was Mantik's strange assertion the fragment on the x-ray was really 6.5 mm even though his measurements showed it to be 7.4 or so. When asking himself if the 6.5 mm object was actually that size on the A-P x-ray, Dr. Mantik actually claimed "of course it was. This size was cited by both the HSCA and the Clark Panel." Well, I could stop right there. For Mantik to claim these panels as unimpeachable sources on anything was strange enough. But from there things only got stranger.

Yes, welcome to Strangeland. Although Mantik failed to dispute my 7.4 mm measurement for the shape on the OD graph above, he nevertheless insisted that my "measurement technique" was "highly unorthodox" and that "Most scientists would measure from the halfway point (between minimum and maximum ODs) at either end of the curve."

What silliness! If, for some reason, it was known that the object on the x-rays was flat and directly facing the x-ray, this might make sense. But since the object was believed to be a 3D fragment, whereby its edges would most likely be less thick than its center, and where its center would therefore have the greatest OD, measuring from the halfway point between minimum and maximum ODs would only serve to under-report the true size of the fragment. 

P.S. Since Dr. Mantik's measurements suggest that the fragment was roughly 7.4 mm wide on the x-ray, we can go ahead and assume the HSCA's 17.5 measurement was taken from the A-P x-ray, with its magnified skull. This means then, that, should the fragment be behind the right eye, as I presume, then the fragment would not be its apparent size of 7.4 mm, but be about 6.2 mm. Since the fragment behind the eye would, in my correlation, be angled away from the film, moreover, it follows that its actual size would be a bit more than 6.2 mm, and approximately that of the 7 mm fragment removed at autopsy.