Chapter 18d: Reason to Believe

Why I believe the autopsy photos are authentic, and the Parkland witnesses were wrong

The Missing Mark

Since so many witnesses thought Kennedy's large head wound was further back on his head than the wound depicted in the photos, what can we take from this fact, if not that the wound was really on the back of his head, and the photographs fakes?

Well, as strange as it may seem, that so many described a wound further back on the skull than is depicted on the autopsy photos and x-rays has actually solidified my conclusion that the wound was as depicted in the autopsy photos and x-rays. 

The keys to this admittedly strange conclusion are the Rydberg drawings made under the supervision of the autopsy doctors, and admitted into evidence by the Warren Commission as Exhibits 385, 386, and 388.

When one compares the face sheet created at Kennedy's autopsy with CE 386, the assumption the back of the head witnesses were mistaken takes root. Since the evidence is clear the back wound has been moved between these two drawings, and since our study of the back wound suggests this was no accident, it only makes sense that, should the autopsy doctors have had concerns about there being a large exit wound on the back of Kennedy's head, they would have moved that, too.

But that's not what happened. While the location of the large head wound is not depicted on the face sheet, it is presented on the back of Kennedy's head on CE 386.

Hmmm...let's put on our thinking caps.

Hmmm...does the absence of the large head wound from a face sheet marking every other incision and wound suggest that this wound was not readily visible from the front or behind? Possibly. this possibility supported by the autopsy photos, which, strikingly, show the large head wound to be nearly invisible when viewed from behind. Yes, absolutely.

And, oh yeah, the back wound photo. We mustn't forget the back wound photo. It shows a back wound in a location that has proved incredibly problematic for the single-assassin conclusion. The location of the wound in this photo, moreover, does irreparable damage to the reputations of Warren Commission Chairman Earl Warren, Warren Commission Counsel Arlen Specter, and the work of the commission itself. And yet the head wound in this photo is not on the back of the head where most conspiracy theorists believe it to have been. Well, does it really follow that the "conspirators" would fake a photo to hide a problematic location for the President's large head wound, but leave within this very same photo a wound on the President's back, inches below where it needed to be to support that the President had been killed from up above? Hmmm... I think not.

And that's not the end of the hmmms...

Reason to Believe

Hmmm...since the depiction of the damage to the back of the head on CE 386 (the Rydberg drawing shown on the last slide) is essentially the same as on CE 388 (above), in which hair is presented, is it fair to assume from this that the autopsy doctors, and by extension the Warren Commission, were largely unconcerned about how having an exit on the back of Kennedy's head might appear?

Yep. That seems pretty clear.

Well, this, then, supports that there was no mass conspiracy to hide the wound on the back of the head suggested by the Parkland witnesses, and that the autopsy photos were not faked, and that, instead, the Parkland witnesses were simply --er, rather, not so simply -- mistaken.

If the wound was on the back of the head, after all, and the face sheet the accurate depiction of the President's wounds conspiracy theorists believe it to be (because it is so problematic for the single bullet theory), well, then, why isn't the wound on the face sheet?

And why, if the doctors were willing to move the back wound in CE 385 and CE 386 to help support the single bullet theory, and exaggerate Kennedy's forward lean in CE 388, to help sell that the fatal shot came from above, did they not also move the head wound to the front of Kennedy's head in CE 386 and CE 388? I mean, if they were so concerned about a wound on the back of Kennedy's head that they would alter or fake the autopsy photos, well, then why didn't they also move the wound forward of its location in CE 386 and CE 388?

Hmmm...since it makes no sense whatsoever for the government to fake top secret photos to hide a wound in the location described by the bulk of the back of the head witnesses, and then publish drawings of a wound in that location, we can reasonably assume those claiming the wound was further back than in the photos...are mistaken.

I mean, when you really think of it--and I mean all of it--it just doesn't follow that the autopsy photos are fakes. Those claiming the tracheostomy incision apparent on the photos too wide to have been the incision made by Dr. Perry miss that this was not a typical tracheostomy incision from the 1980's or afterward--that is, a vertical incision performed to establish an airway--but a 1960's-era horizontal incision through a bullet wound which could not only be used to establish an airway, but serve as a portal to view the extent of the wound...and through which vascular surgery could be conducted if necessary.

And, no, I'm not clutching at straws. While most recent manuals and websites describing tracheostomies describe a vertical incision, vertical incisions were not the norm in 1963. An Atlas of Head and Neck Surgery, by Dr. John M. Lore, Jr., a medical text from 1962, for example, instructs: "About one or two centimeters below the cricoid cartilage a horizontal incision is made from 4 to 6 cm in length." Well, heck, the incision on Kennedy's neck was reportedly 6.5 cm, only slightly wider than normal, and not the wide, gaping, act of mayhem claimed by all too many conspiracy theorists anxious to "debunk" the photos.

And that's not all. Lore then notes "The vertical skin incision has been completely abandoned." Completely abandoned!

So, yes, those claiming the photos showing the neck wound are fake (or indicative of pre-autopsy surgery in which a bullet was removed from the neck) are completely off base, and serial spreaders of manure...

Not to mention total hypocrites... I mean, really. Dr. Robert McClelland, the Parkland witness most often quoted by those claiming the autopsy photos are fake has gone on the record numerous times regarding the neck wound, and has always said the neck wound in the photos reflects his recollection of the neck wound he helped create by pulling upwards with an Army/Navy retractor. So how can those claiming his recollections regarding the head wound are irrefutable, and not to be doubted, simply ignore his statements regarding the neck wound and tracheostomy incision, and defer instead to the recollections of others like Dr. Charles Crenshaw, who were in the room but for a few seconds...and who had nothing to do with the incision?

They can't. And yet they do... Well, this alone should tell you that many of those arguing the autopsy photos are fakes are unreasonable...

And yet, even so, there remains a significant which defies an easy explanation...

IF the autopsy photos are legit and the head wound did not in fact stretch to the back of the head where so many claimed to have seen it...well, then, why? How could so many be so, uh, mistaken?

The Bone Flap

Well, let's stop right there, and point out that the recollections of the Parkland witnesses are not hopelessly at odds with the autopsy photos, as some would have us believe. As demonstrated in the previous chapter, many if not most of these witnesses said the wound was two inches or more higher up on the skull than depicted in the McClelland drawing. Well, this means the average location given for the wound is but a few inches back from where it is shown in the photos.

Perhaps even less. In 2015, I morphed together the two color back of the head photos published by Robert Groden and found that they proved the top of the head to be unstable.

This gif file is presented below.

Now, let's stop again and note that the back of head gives a slightly different appearance in these photos. Well, this proves the oft-repeated claim of Robert Groden and David Mantik--that the back of the head is identical in these two photos even though they were taken from slightly different angles, and that the back of the head in the photos is therefore a matte--to be so much nonsense. Groden first copied these photos in 1978. And yet he failed to publish these photos side by side, so his readers could judge this for themselves, until 2013. One might rightly wonder if this was a coincidence.

That the top of the head appears to be unstable in this gif, however, is no coincidence. This supports what I'd previously observed in a gif file created by John Mytton, in which the most frequently published color back of the head photo was morphed together with the black and white back of the head photo first published by Lifton. Mytton's file proves, beyond any doubt, IMO, that the rear-most part of the top of the head in these photos was a bone flap that could be lifted up. 

Here, see for yourself:

Well, it follows then that this flap may have opened up a bit at Parkland, and that this open flap helped create the illusion the wound stretched to the back of the head.

Now, this gets us close, but not close enough, in my opinion. The witnesses, after all, thought this wound involved the crown of the head, and this flap appears to fall just short of the crown.

So...let's put back on our thinking caps...and earnestly try to figure out how so many could be so mistaken.

Perceptions of Perception

Since so many of the doctors at Parkland Hospital reported Kennedy’s head wound incorrectly from their earliest reports, we will start off by exploring whether so many could logically perceive something incorrectly in the same manner or nearly the same manner (the exact location of the rear head wound as depicted by the Parkland witnesses in Robert Groden’s book the Killing of the President varies from photo to photo).

A discussion of cognition and memory follows…

The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal notes that “We all have a blind spot in our visual fields that our brains fill in. In the area of the retina where the branches of the optic nerve collect to exit the eyeball all visual receptors are pushed aside. Thus there is no registration of stimuli from the corresponding area in space. Yet none of us notices the gap—the brain fills it in by extrapolating the scene on all sides of the blind spot.” (FWIW, I also read about this in a Time/Life book on the senses... This means that a certain percentage of what we actually see is invented in our minds based upon what we expect to see.)

Additionally, Blackmore, in Dying to Live, notes that “under severe psychological stress, physiological trauma, or attentional manipulations such as meditation, sensory deprivation or hypnosis the brain’s representational apparatus may lose access to the sense data that are ordinarily its most predictive and useful inputs. So deprived, it begins to search for the next best alternative, usually images stored in memory banks.” (This suggests that watching the death of a much-loved or respected person could hinder a witness’ ability to accurately remember the fatal wounds.  More specifically, the sight of Kennedy lying dead on his back may have led some or all of the Parkland witnesses to remember images of him while he was alive, and standing up. These images of an erect Kennedy may have led to their remembering the wounds on his body as though he were standing up. A wound behind his ear while he lay on his back--at the top of his head-- might thereby have been transposed to a wound behind his ear while standing--at the back of his head. Admittedly, this is reaching...)

Even so, a 1992 article in Memory and Cognition by Reinitz, Lammers, and Cochran confirms: “Miscombination of stored stimuli features can produce illusions of memory.” They then break down that: 1) “research has supported the notion that memories are sometimes reconstructed at the time of retrieval;” 2) “research has clearly demonstrated that subjects mistake their inferences for material that they had actually experienced;” 3) “Underwood (1969) proposed that memory for an event consisted in a collection of quasi-independent attributes such as spatial relations between stimulus items, stimulus frequency, etc;”  4) “findings demonstrate that in many situations, subjects can retrieve some stimulus features in the absence of others.” They then summarize their findings by stating “previously encountered stimuli that cannot be consciously remembered can unconsciously affect judgments by producing a feeling of familiarity…in the current experiments, the subjects were unable to explicitly remember all of the stimuli they had seen during study. Instead, the subjects based their recognition responses partly on the degree to which the stimuli seemed familiar. Since conjunction stimuli contained more old features than did feature stimuli, they produced greater overall familiarity and so were judged as old (familiar) more often.” (This suggests that the Parkland doctors would be more likely to remember the locations of Kennedy’s wounds incorrectly than laymen, and not less likely. They knew what the President looked like. They knew what a gunshot wound on the back of the head looked like. Thus, a mental image of the president with a wound in this location would feel more familiar to them than to non-medical personnel.)

But could they remember the wound location incorrectly in a uniform, or nearly-uniform, manner? Is this possible?

I suspect so. A 1979 article in Cognitive Psychology by Nickerson and Adams demonstrates that people sometimes recall items they look at every day incorrectly and in a fairly uniform manner. They found that of the eight features (front and back) of four U.S. coins--pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters--the average American could accurately recollect only three of them. A 1983 article in Memory and Cognition by Rubin and Kontis followed up on this and found that when asked to draw the front sides of these four coins from memory, the drawings most frequently created by the participants in their study depicted the President’s left profile (the penny, in fact, depicts Lincoln’s right profile), centered (the dime, in fact, displays Roosevelt’s head to the right of center), with the words IN GOD WE TRUST across the top (the penny, in fact, is the only coin with those words across the top), the value of the coin, i.e. one cent, five cents, etc., across the bottom (none of them, in fact, have the denomination on the front side of the coin) and the year written horizontally on the right (the quarter displays the year on the bottom and the nickel has it vertically on the right).  None of the coins as most commonly recalled had the word LIBERTY on the front of the coin, when, in fact, it is on the front of every single one of them. When Rubin and Kontis asked their subjects to suggest a design for a new coin, moreover, they found that the most common design suggested was identical to the most common representation of the other coins—a left profile with IN GOD WE TRUST across the top, the year on the right and the denomination on the bottom. (This suggests that people’s visual memories are not like cameras and that the specific features of an image can be altered in one’s memory to fit a pre-conception of the image. More importantly, it suggests that these pre-conceptions are not random and that there is something about the way we process information that distorts the substance of the information we process.)  

This last point is re-enforced by the following exercise.

Count every ' F ' in the following text:


Now, how many were there?

3? 4? 

Wrong. For some reason, when people are asked to look for "F"s they almost always overlook the "F"s in words where the "F" makes the sound of a "V", such as the "F" in "of".  There are three "of"s in the above text. The correct answer is therefore six. That we can be blind to letters right in front of our face simply because the words containing these letters use these letters in unorthodox ways undoubtedly supports that we can be confused by the appearance of an object, and think something on the top of someone's head was on the back of his head. I mean, I looked at the above text three times before I spotted the three "of"s. And I was looking for the "F"s. 

Should one doubt that eyewitnesses could uniformly misinterpret something as basic as the location of a head wound, however, one should look at the illusion below created by Edward Adelson. Square A is darker than square B, right?  I mean, we can all tell dark from light, right?

Wrong again. When one follows a line the shade of square A down to square B, one can see that square A and  square B are indeed the same shade, and that our brain has adjusted for the shadow coming from the cylinder by perceiving square B at a shade lighter than its actual shade.  



Now, a February 1973 article by Walter Pohl in the Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology revealed that people process and store their memories of an items' location in a different part of the brain (the parietal cortex) than that which processes and stores their memories of its appearance (the inferotemporal cortex).

So, could the "shadows on the checkerboard", so to speak, lead the Parkland witnesses to improperly recall the location of Kennedy's head wound, without affecting their recollection of its appearance?

A Matter of Perspective

I suspect so.

The Einstein-Monroe illusion, in which an image of Albert Einstein becomes an image of Marilyn Monroe as it grows smaller to the eye, demonstrates that a certain aspect of an image--in this case the crinkly hair, crinkly eyebrows, and mustache that can not be seen from distance--can drastically change one's perception of an image, and that the failure to note these details can lead one to an incorrect identification.

So what was missed at Parkland? What was the "mustache" that they could not see, that led them to mistake Einstein for Marilyn, and misidentify the location of Kennedy's large head wound? 

Rotation and Perception

I think I know. When I began researching facial recognition I was surprised to find that people have great difficulty properly interpreting faces when viewing them upside down. This feeds back into what Jerrol Custer mentioned to William Law in 1998--that people's perception of the "back" of the head is related to the position of the head, and that what appears to be the back of the head while the subject is lying down may very well be the top of the head. This leads me to suspect then that the Parkland doctors’ seeing Kennedy while he was lying on his back--and thus in a rotated position-- played a factor in their subsequent confusion about the exact location of his wounds. 

But you don't have to take my word for it...

A February 2005 article in the Journal of Vision by Marialuisa Martelli, Najib J. Majaj, and Denis G Polli entitled “Are Faces Processed like Words?” concluded that yes, indeed, they are. The authors also noted that just as we have trouble reading words upside down we have great trouble reading faces upside down. This is significant as Kennedy’s head wound could not have been viewed while looking at his face from the front. As he was lying on a stretcher, a wound on either the top or the back of his head could only have been viewed with his face in profile or upside down. A 1986 article in the Journal of Experimental Psychology by Diamond and Carey indicates that expertise has little bearing on this issue. Their studies showed that dog experts had as much trouble identifying upside down photos of individual dogs as non-experts. A 1987 article by Young, Hellawell and Hay in Perception is also helpful. They found that when they made photographic composites of famous faces their subjects had more trouble recognizing the faces when looking at them right side up than when looking at them upside down. They concluded that when faces are viewed right side up people interpret them as a whole, but when turned upside down they recognize them based upon their isolated features. This research was supported by a 1993 study reported in Cognitive Psychology by Bartlett and Searcy.  Their research indicated that altered faces with inverted eyes and mouths were perceived as being far less grotesque when viewed upside down than when viewed right side up.

A 1998 article in Perception by Dominique Valentin, Heve Abdi, and Betty Edelman further tracked the accuracy of facial recognition against rotation. They found that people were more than twice as likely to identify a face incorrectly when it was rotated 90 degrees. They also found that people use two strategies in facial recognition. When rotated less than 30 degrees, faces are identified by their configuration, i.e. how the eyes, nose, mouth, and ears all fit together. (Thus, they process the features collectively, or “wholistically”.)  Faces rotated more than 30 degrees, however, are identified by their peculiarity, i.e. their distinctive marks. (Thus, they process the features separately.) Those seeing Kennedy in the crowded emergency room, therefore, would most logically have recorded the images of his head wound without a specific reference point. Upon recall, however, they might very well have remembered that the wound was surrounded by hair and in back of the ear. The wound described by the doctors and the wound seen on the photos are both in the hair and behind the right ear, when viewed from different angles. If a doctor remembered the location incorrectly, and discussed its location with his colleagues afterward, he might very well have influenced their memories as well.

The effect rotation or inversion of an image has on our ability to measure spatial differences has also been studied. A 2000 article in Perception by Freire, Lee, and Symons noted that “accuracy in detecting spatial differences among faces fell from 81% with upright presentation to 55% with inverted presentation. By contrast, accuracy in detecting featural differences was unaffected by inversion (91 vs. 90).”  Here once again, we see that people are more than twice as likely to make mistakes when reading a face that’s been rotated away from the upright position. A 1990 study reported in Perception by Kemp, McManus, and Piggott had achieved similar results. It concluded that “subjects are significantly less sensitive to the displacement of features in negative or inverted faces than they are in normal faces…” Their study also measured recognition errors related to the horizontal movement of features against recognition errors related to the vertical movement of features. They concluded that when photographs are altered via the movement of the eyes further apart, closer together, further up, or further down, people will fail to notice the vertical movement almost three times as often as they will fail to notice the equivalent horizontal movement.  

If one is to take these last two studies in tandem, therefore, and assume that half the spatial differences reported in the 2000 study were vertical differences, then one might venture that a person is more than 3 ½ times more likely to make a mistake involving the vertical location of a wound on a man’s head when he is lying down than when upright. Is it just a coincidence then that this is the mistake suggested? Is it so illogical to assume that such a mistake occurred? Further support comes from Perception of Faces, Objects, and Scenes, edited by Mary Peterson and Gillian Rhodes. This article summarizes much of the recent research on face recognition and reinforces that we identify faces based upon the relative positions of its features, that we do this best when the face is upright, and that when we identify faces piecemeal, such as when it’s been rotated more than 30 degrees, we make mistakes.  

In 2009, while browsing through a 1964 book entitled Perception, edited by Julian E. Hochberg, I realized why none of this research regarding facial recognition should come as a surprise. From our youngest days, we learn to recognize people even when they are at a distance... Even when they are at an angle... Even when they are upside down... We don't look at a far off man and say "Wow! Look how small he is!" We don't look at an upside down face and say "Holy moly, that man has his mouth where his eyes should be!" No, we look at the upside down face, compare it to what in our mind's eye we THINK his face would look like if turned upright, and compare it to faces known to us. We then recognize the face as dad looking down at us in our crib. 

We continue to do this in adulthood. As a result, when we look at faces at angles other than the upright position in which we normally identify them, we don't actually SEE them as they are. We INTERPRET them in our mind's eye, and compare them to faces we've seen the upright position. It only makes sense then that those looking at Kennedy while he lay on his back would be looking at his face, and identifying his face based upon 1) their interpretation of what his face would look like when upright, and 2) their recollection of what Kennedy looked like when upright. They were not studying his face or his head wounds as they were in three dimensional space. It should not be surprising, then, that some confusion would result...

Should one still doubt that our perceptions are so erratic that people might remember a wound behind the ear while lying flat (a wound on top of the head) as a wound behind the ear while standing (a wound on the back of the head) one should contemplate a happy face. Literally.

We perceive happy faces (the circles with smiles and eyes we learn to draw as children) as representing human faces, but they do not resemble us at all. The space where are nostrils should be is not in the middle of our head between the tops of our heads and our chins, our eyes are. Our foreheads are the same size as our mouth, nose, and chin combined, and yet we scarcely even notice them, let alone represent them accurately on stick figures or gingerbread men... Our acceptance that happy faces resemble human faces suggests then that we pay little attention to the relative positions of our ears and forehead to our face, and that any wound remembered in relation to our ears and forehead is a wound likely to be remembered incorrectly.

And no, I'm not just pulling all this out of my rump.

Professor Barbara Tversky of Stanford University has conducted a number of studies which offer additional support to the possibility Kennedy's wound location was recalled incorrectly by the Parkland witnesses. In her articles and papers, available online, she describes studies that demonstrate:

1) Mental rotation of an image is one of the most difficult transformations made in the human mind. (This confirms what we've discussed.)

2) People tend to recall environments as if they were viewing them from above. (Since Kennedy’s wound on the top of his head was on the far side of those standing at the foot of his bed, this might contribute to their remembering it as being on the back of his head.)

3) People make small corrections in their memory. Nearly symmetrical items are remembered as more symmetrical than they really are. When people are shown two outlines of South America, for instance, one as it appears on a map and one as it would appear if its northern-most point was directly in line with its southern tip, people incorrectly pick the “corrected” version when asked to pick the actual shape of the continent. (Perhaps this explains why some of those who remembered the wound as being on the back of Kennedy’s head had clear memories of it being smack dab in the middle of the back of his head.)

So, yes, it's quite possible the nature of Kennedy's wound and the manner in which his wound was viewed helped lead to its location being remembered incorrectly by a number of those who'd caught a glimpse of it.

As to how this mistake could spread, well, it could spread the same way misinformation spreads in any group of people. Presumably, these individuals shared their recollections with one another, which only reinforced their incorrect appraisal of the wound location. They then committed this incorrect appraisal to paper, in the form of a report, which further reinforced their feeling their incorrect appraisal was correct. This incorrect appraisal then made its way into newspapers, magazines, and testimony, which further reinforced their feeling their incorrect appraisal was correct, and influenced the statements and testimony of those not writing a report on the day of the assassination.

So...with that in mind, let's look at the statements of the Parkland witnesses with fresh eyes, and see if they offer us any reasons to believe the rotation of Kennedy's head contributed to the confusion regarding his wound location.

Statements and Questions

As one reads the following statements, one should also keep in mind the manner in which these statements have been presented by conspiracy theorists of all stripe and color. In his 2006 book The JFK Assassination Debates, historian Michael Kurtz relates that "Every physician and nurse at Parkland Hospital who examined the President's head wounds described a large wound in the right rear of the head. In other words, they described a bullet wound of exit in the back of the head, which meant that the bullet came from in front of Kennedy because he faced forward. In their original descriptions of the wound in Kennedy's head, Dr.s Malcolm Perry, James Carrico, Robert McClelland, Paul Peters, Ronald Jones, and others clearly described a large wound of exit in the occipital region. In addition, they observed both cerebral and cerebellar tissue coming from the wound."

This passage, then, implies that all the doctors and nurses saw the same thing: an exit wound in the occipital region oozing cerebellar tissue. Let us see, then, how many doctors, on the day of the assassination, actually claimed 1) the wound was in the occipital region, 2) this wound was an exit wound, and 3) they saw cerebellar tissue coming from this wound.

Appendix VIII - Medical Reports from Doctors at Parkland Memorial Hospital, Dallas, Texas

Commission Exhibit No. 392

The President arrived in the Emergency Room at exactly 12:43 p. m. in his limousine. He was in the back seat, Gov. Connally was in the front seat of the same car, Gov. Connally was brought out first and was put in room two. The President was brought out next and put in room one. Dr. Clark pronounced the President dead at 1 p. m. exactly. All of the President's belongings except his watch were given to the Secret Service. His watch was given to Mr. O. P. Wright. He left the Emergency Room, the President, at about 2 p.m. in an O'Neal ambulance. He was put in a bronze colored plastic casket after being wrapped in a blanket and was taken out of the hospital. He was removed from the hospital. The Gov. was taken from the Emergency Room to the Operating Room.

The President's wife refused to take off her bloody gloves, clothes. She did take a towel and wipe her face. She took her wedding ring off and placed it on one of the President's fingers.


The President arrived at the Emergency Room at 12:43 P. M., the 22nd of November, 1963. He was in the back seat of his limousine. Governor Connally of Texas was also in this car. The first physician to see the President was Dr. James Carrico, a Resident in General Surgery.

Dr. Carrico noted the President to have slow, agonal respiratory efforts. He could hear a heartbeat but found no pulse or blood pressure to be present. Two external wounds, one in the lower third of the anterior neck, the other in the occipital region of the skull, were noted. Through the head wound, blood and brain were extruding. Dr. Carrico inserted a cuffed endotracheal tube. While doing so, he noted a ragged wound of the trachea immediately below the larynx.

At this time, Dr. Malcolm Perry, Attending Surgeon, Dr. Charles Baxter, Attending Surgeon, and Dr. Ronald Jones, another Resident in General Surgery, arrived. Immediately thereafter, Dr. M. T. Jenkins, Director of the Department of Anesthesia, and Doctors Giesecke and Hunt, two other Staff Anesthesiologists, arrived. The endotracheal tube had been connected to a Bennett respirator to assist the President's breathing. An Anesthesia machine was substituted for this by Dr. Jenkins. Only 100% oxygen was administered.

A cutdown was performed in the right ankle, and a polyethylene catheter inserted in the vein. An infusion of lactated Ringer's solution was begun. Blood was drawn for type and crossmatch, but unmatched type "O" RH negative blood was immediately obtained and begun. Hydrocortisone 300 mgms was added to the intravenous fluids.

Dr. Robert McClelland, Attending Surgeon, arrived to help in the President's care. Doctors Perry, Baxter, and McClelland began a tracheostomy, as considerable quantities of blood were present from the President's oral pharynx. At this time, Dr. Paul Peters, Attending Urological Surgeon, and Dr. Kemp Clark, Director of Neurological Surgery arrived. Because of the lacerated trachea, anterior chest tubes were placed in both pleural spaces. These were connected to sealed underwater drainage.

Neurological examination revealed the President's pupils to be widely dilated and fixed to light. His eyes were divergent, being deviated outward; a skew deviation from the horizontal was present. Not deep tendon reflexes or spontaneous movements were found.

There was a large wound in the right occipito-parietal region, from which profuse bleeding was occurring. 1500 cc. of blood were estimated on the drapes and floor of the Emergency Operating Room. There was considerable loss of scalp and bone tissue. Both cerebral and cerebellar tissue were extruding from the wound.

Further examination was not possible as cardiac arrest occurred at this point. Closed chest cardiac massage was begun by Dr. Clark. A pulse palpable in both the carotid and femoral arteries was obtained. Dr. Perry relieved on the cardiac massage while a cardiotachioscope was connected. Dr. Fouad Bashour, Attending Physician, arrived as this was being connected. There was electrical silence of the President's heart.

President Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1300 hours by Dr. Clark.

Kemp Clark, M. D.
Service of Neurological Surgery

cc to Dean's Office, Southwestern Medical School
cc to Medical Records, Parkland Memorial Hospital 

(Note: this summary was written by Dr. Clark. Here he describes the head wound as right occipito-parietal, which would place it above and behind the right ear. As no notes were taken in the ER, however, it seems clear Dr. Clark was relying solely on his memory of a wound seen hours before. As a result, it is not unreasonable to suspect he made a rotation error.) 




DATE AND HOUR 11/22/63 1620 

DOCTOR: Carrico

When patient entered Emergency room on ambulance carriage had slow agonal respiratory efforts and scant cardiac beats by auscultation. Two external wounds were noted. One small penetrating wound of ant. neck in lower 1/3. The other wound had avulsed the calvarium and shredded brain tissue present with profuse oozing. No pulse or blood pressure were present. Pupils were dilated and fixed. A cuffed endotracheal tube was inserted and through the laryngoscope a ragged wound of the trachea was seen immediately below the larynx. The tube was passed past the laceration and the cuff inflated. Respiration using the resp assistor on auto-matic were instituted. Concurrently an IV infusion of lactated Ringer solution was begun via catheter placed in right leg and blood was drawn for type and crossmatch. Type O Rh negative blood was obtained as well as hydrocortisone.

In view of tracheal injury and decreased BS a tracheostomy was performed by Dr. Perry and Bilat. chest tubes inserted. A 2nd bld infusion was begun in left arm. In addition Dr. Jenkins began resp with anesthesia machine, cardiac monitor, and stimulator attached. Solu cortef IV given (300mg), attempt to control slow oozing from cerebral and cerebellar tissue via packs instituted. Despite these measures as well as external cardiac massage, BP never returned and EKG evidence of cardiac activity was never obtained.

Charles J. Carrico  M.D  

(Note: Dr. Carrico was the first doctor on the scene. Here he fails to specify the exact location of the head wound. But, on 3-25-64 he told the Warren Commission that "The wound that I saw was a large gaping wound, located in the right occipitoparietal area. I would estimate to be about 5 to 7
cm. in size more or less circular, with avulsions of the calvarium and scalp tissue. As I stated before, I believe there was shredded macerated cerebral and cerebellar tissues both in the wounds and on
the fragments of the skull attached to the dura."
This supports his original report. An occipitoparietal wound, of course, suggests a wound higher on the skull than the wound in the "McClelland" drawing, which is almost entirely occipital. It should come as no surprise then that
Carrico would later make statements suggesting that the wound was chiefly a parietal wound, above the ear. In 1981, when shown the HSCA's tracing of an autopsy photo by a reporter for The Boston Globe, for example, he said that the official autopsy photograph showed 'nothing incompatible' with what he remembered of the back of the head. After viewing the autopsy photos in the archives in 1988, moreover, he disavowed his earlier references to occipital and cerebellar damage, insisted he'd been mistaken, and declared instead that Kennedy’s wounds were as shown in the photos. And this wasn't just him caving in for a TV documentary, mind you. A 5-27-92 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association quoted Carrico as claiming, "Nothing we observed contradicts the autopsy finding that the bullets were fired from above and behind by a high-powered rifle." And, should this not be clear enough, a 6-6-92 article in the Dallas Morning News reported that Dr. Carrico, along with fellow Parkland "witnesses" Dr.s Baxter, Jenkins, and Peters, attended a forum on Kennedy's wounds sponsored by the Dallas Council on World Affairs, and that Carrico told those in attendance he'd never actually seen Kennedy's cerebellum, but had confused cerebrum for cerebellum "in part because the brain was so mangled by the bullet." Writer Harrison Livingstone, for his 1993 book Killing The Truth, obtained a tape of Carrico's comments, and quoted him as follows: "If I had to testify again today...I would correct or at least be far less definite about seeing cerebellum. We saw significantly destroyed brain and we thought it was cerebrum and cerebellum. I'm not at all sure we saw cerebellum."

Kurtz score: Carrico does not describe the location of the wound in his original report, although its location can be inferred from his reference to cerebellum. He does not, however, describe this wound as a wound of exit. Kurtz's summary of Carrico's statement is therefore accurate on 2 of 3 points. Somewhat misleading.)





Staff Note

At the time of initial examination, the pt. was noted as non-responsive. The eyes were deviated and the pupils were dilated. A considerable quantity of blood was noted on the patient, the carriage and the floor. A small wound was noted in the midline of the neck, in the lower third anteriorly. It was exuding blood slowly. A large wound of the right posterior cranium was noted, exposing severely lacerated brain. Brain tissue was noted in the blood at the head of the carriage.

Pulse or heartbeat were not detectable but slow spasmodic respiration was noted. An endotracheal tube was in place and respiration was being assisted. An intravenous infusion was being placed in the leg.

At this point I noted that respiration was ineffective and while additional venisections were done to administer fluids and blood, a tracheostomy was effected. A right lateral injury to the trachea was noted. The tracheostomy tube was put in place and the cuff inflated and respiration assisted. Closed chest cardiac massage was instituted after placement of sealed drainage chest tubes, but without benefit. Electrocardiographic evaluation revealed that no detectable electrical activity existed in the heart. Resuscitation attempts were abandoned after the team of physicians determined that the patient had expired.

Malcolm O. Perry, M.D.
1630 hr 22 Nov 1963

(Note: Perry simply describes the large head wound as posterior. Within a few days of the shooting, Dr. Perry was the source for an article by Jimmy Breslin in the New York Herald-Tribune which was not so vague, claiming "The occipito-parietal, which is a part of the back of the head, had a huge flap." This flap, of course, is readily apparent on the autopsy photos but is nowhere to be seen on the "McClelland" drawing purported to represent the wound as seen by Perry. When testifying before the Warren Commission's attorneys on 3-25-64, for that matter, Perry would further describe the wound as being both in the "right posterior parietal area of the head exposing lacerated brain" and as a "large avulsive injury of the right occipitoparietal area." On 3-31-64, when testifying before the Commission itself, he would again describe the wound as "a large avulsive wound of the right parietal occipital area, in which both scalp and portions of skull were absent" with "severe laceration of underlying brain tissue." The wound described was, no surprise, higher on the skull than the wound depicted in the "McClelland" drawing. While Dr. Perry told the HSCA's Andy Purdy in 1978 that "some cerebellum" was seen, moreover, he either changed his mind about this or was referring to what someone else claimed to see, as he was reported to have told Gerald Posner in 1992 that he'd never actually seen cerebellum. In support that he'd actually told Posner such a thing, an article in the 4-5-92 Ft. Worth Star-Telegram had Perry rejecting Dr. Charles Crenshaw's assertion Kennedy was shot from the front, and claiming "There were no wounds at the front of the head at all." It also had Perry claiming that most of the doctors who'd seen Kennedy at Parkland failed to talk much about the shooting not because they'd been silenced, but because it was "a painful experience most of us don't want to relive." This, in turn, led to a 5-27-92 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, in which Dr. Perry further denounced Dr. Crenshaw and his belief Kennedy was shot from the front. This time he went a bit further, however. To counter Crenshaw's claim that his fellow Parkland physicians, including Perry, had participated in a "conspiracy of silence" about Kennedy's wounds, in order to save their careers, Perry responded by saying that, if Dr. Crenshaw had truly felt Kennedy's wounds were evidence of a conspiracy, and had kept his silence for 29 years, then that was "despicable." In 1997, in a letter to single-assassin theorist Francois Carlier, moreover, Perry made his rejection of the conspiracy theorist claim Kennedy's head wound was on the back of the head at Parkland, but on the top of the head at Bethesda, crystal freaking clear. When asked by Carlier if he was familiar with David Lifton's theory the body was kidnapped and altered, Perry responded "I didn't know this--what a joke!" When then asked what he thought of Lifton's theory, he responded "Don't know or care what he says. He wasn't there." And it's not as if Perry was just telling Carlier what he wanted to hear. In 1998, when conspiracy theorist Vincent Palamara similarly pushed Perry for clarification on Kennedy's wounds, Perry wrote him back and insisted he'd made "only a cursory examination of the head" and that both his findings and those of his colleague Dr. Clark were "consistent with those described by Dr. Humes et al during the autopsy." Yes, it's more than clear. Perry, as Carrico, felt the wounds he saw at Parkland were consistent with the wounds observed at Bethesda. He was not a conspiracy theorist. And conspiracy theorists should stop pretending he was.

Kurtz score: Perry does not mention the occipital bone, nor cerebellum, in his original report. Nor does he describe the wound as a wound of exit. In fact, in the initial press conference in which Kennedy's wounds were discussed, Perry said "The nature of the wound defies the ability to describe whether it went through it from either side." Kurtz's summary therefore is inaccurate on all 3 points. Misleading.) 




Note of Attendance to President Kennedy

I was contacted at approx 12:40 that the President was on the way to the emergency room having been shot. On arrival there, I found an endotracheal tube in place with assisted respirations, a left chest tube being inserted and cut downs going in one leg and in the left arm. The President had a wound in the mid-line of the neck. On first observation of the remaining wounds the rt temporal and occipital bones were missing and the brain was lying on the table, with extensive lacerations and contusions. The pupils were fixed and deviated lateral and dilated. No pulse was detectable and respirations were (as noted) being supplied. A tracheotomy was performed by Dr. Perry and I and a chest tube inserted into the right chest (2nd intercostal space anteriorally). Meanwhile, 2 pts of O neg blood were administered by pump without response. When all of these measures were complete, no heart beat could be detected. Closed chest massage was performed until a cardioscope could be attached which revealed no cardiac activity was obtained. Due to the excessive and irreparable brain damage which was lethal, no further attempt to resuscitate the heart was made.

Charles R. Baxter M.D.
Associate Prof of Surgery
Southwestern Medical School


(Note:  Baxter’s statement is a bit strange. If “the rt temporal and occipital bones were missing”, as Baxter claimed, there would be a huge hole on the side and back of Kennedy’s head. Perhaps then, he meant only that parts of the temporal and occipital bones were missing. Baxter's testimony is even more intriguing. When he testified before the Warren Commission, at a time long before anyone was talking about the difference in the wound descriptions of those viewing Kennedy in Parkland and Bethesda, he testified that he observed a "temporal parietal plate of bone laid outward to the side," and that "the right side of his head had been blown off." He was also asked to read his earlier report into the record. While doing so, however, he read the line "the rt temporal and occipital bones were missing" as the "temporal and parietal bones were missing." This, in effect, moved the wound from the side and back of the skull, to the side and top of the skull. Now, while some might claim he was pressured into doing so by Warren Commission Counsel Arlen Specter, who took his testimony, this seems a bit far-fetched seeing as none of the other doctors recalled receiving any similar pressure regarding their own descriptions of the head wound. The probability, then, is that Baxter was "correcting" his earlier statement on his own. If so, then he was relatively consistent from that point onward. In 1992 alone, he is reported to have told writer Gerald Posner that "The wound was on the right side, not the back," to have told a writer for the Journal of the American Medical Association that he defers to the findings of the autopsy report, and to have told Tom Jarriel on the news program 20/20 that it was impossible to tell the direction of the bullet from what he observed. He would eventually tell the ARRB, while sitting with some of his fellow Parkland witnesses, that "None of us at that time, I don't think, were in any position to view the head injury. And, in fact, I never saw anything above the scalpline, forehead line, that I could comment on.” And should that seem too clear, Baxter wrote single-assassin theorist Francois Carlier in 1997 and once again revealed his confusion. While answering a series of questions (the same questions Carlier asked Perry) Baxter told Carlier both that the wound was in the "occiput" and that his initial suspicion was that the shot came "from the rear." He then clarified his position, forevermore, by insisting that Lifton's theory the wounds were altered was "Bull!" Now, that's three for three. Three Parkland doctors. Three men who failed to believe the wounds they saw indicated Kennedy was shot from the front.

Well, that settles it. While David Lifton, in the 2011 forum post cited in chapter 18c, presented Baxter as one of two Parkland witnesses suggesting the head wound was low on the back of the head, and that the Harper fragment was occipital bone, it's clear Baxter, based on his testimony and subsequent statements, would NEVER agree to such nonsense. As Dr. Paul Peters, the other doctor cited by Lifton, repeatedly pointed out the location of the wound at points higher than the occipital bone (as shown in The Men Who Killed Kennedy, here), it's clear Lifton has carefully selected statements and testimony to convince himself of something that the people making these statements never believed was true. While all researchers willing to think outside the box, including this one, are at risk to wind up in this position, it is at least a wee bit hypocritical for Lifton to claim "the primacy and importance of the Dallas doctors observations cannot be overemphasized," while ignoring observations, such as Baxter's observation of a "temporal parietal plate of bone laid outward to the side," and demonstrations, such as Peters' demonstration of the wound location, that contradict his theory.

Kurtz score: from his inclusion of the temporal bone in his first report, and his subsequent claim the missing bone was temporal and parietal,, it's clear Baxter was describing a wound on the side of the head, not the rear of the head. Even so, he did mention occipital bone in his first report. While he mentioned cerebellum in his 3-24-64 testimony, he made no mention of cerebellum oozing from the wound in his original report, nor that this wound was an exit wound. Kurtz's summary of Baxter's statements therefore is inaccurate on 2 of 3 points. Mostly misleading.)

DATE AND HOUR 22 Nov 1963

12:20pm to 13:00 hrs

Called by EOR while standing in (illegible) Laboratory at SWMS. Told that the President had been shot. I arrived at the EOR at 1220 - 1225 and .The President was bleeding profusely from the back of the head. There was a large (3 x 3cm) amount of cerebral tissue present on the cart. There was a smaller amount of cerebellar tissue present also.

A tracheostomy was being performed by Drs. Perry, Baxter and McClelland. Exam of the President showed that an endotracheal tube was in place and respiratory assistance was being given by Dr. Akins and Jenkins. The pupils were dilated, fixed to light and his eyes were deviated outward and the right one downward as as well .

The trach was completed and I adjusted the endotracheal tube a little bit. Blood was present in the oral pharynx. Suction was used to remove this. Levine Catheter was passed into the stomach at this time.

He was (illegible) that I (illegible) no carotid pulse. I immediately began closed chest massage. A pulse was obtained at the carotid and femoral pulse levels.

Dr. Perry then took over the cardiac massage so I could evaluate the head wound.

There was a large wound beginning in the right occiput extending into the parietal region. Much of the skull appeared gone at brief examination. The previously described lacerated brain was present.

By this time an EKG was hooked up. There was no electrical activity of the heart and no respiratory effort - He was pronounced dead at 1300 hrs by me.

W. Kemp Clark  

22 Nov 1963 1615 hrs -

(Note: although Clark describes cerebral and cerebellar tissue on the cart, a number of his colleagues would subsequently come to claim that macerated brain tissue is difficult to distinguish from cerebellar tissue, and that he, as they, could have been mistaken. His statement that “much of the skull appeared gone” is problematic, moreover, for those who try to make the Dallas doctors' descriptions of a wound on the back of the head jive with the Zapruder film and autopsy photos' depiction of a wound on top of the head by speculating that 1) the Dallas doctors did not see the large wound on top of the head because Mrs. Kennedy had put the scalp back in place, and 2) the autopsists' closed the flaps on the back of the head before the photos could be taken. Clark claimed to see a large hole in the skull, and not a hole between some bone flaps. This suggests then that the large head wound was either on top of the head and Clark was mistaken as to its exact location, or on the back of the head, and the films and photos have been faked. I select the first alternative.

Clark's March 21, 1964 testimony for the Warren Commission offers some support for this selection.  He testified: "I then examined the wound in the back of the President's head. This was a large, gaping wound in the right posterior part, with cerebral and cerebellar tissue being damaged and exposed." Later, however, when discussing the first press conference, and a newsman's noting that a bullet traveling from the neck wound up to the head wound would have been traveling upwards, he said: "Dr. Perry quite obviously had to agree that this is the way it had to go to get from there to the top of his head." Yes, he said "top of his head." Still later, Warren Commission Counsel Arlen Specter referred to this wound as a wound "at the top of the head," and asked if Clark saw any other wounds, and he replied "No sir, I did not." When then asked if his recollections were consistent with the autopsy report's description of an entrance wound slightly above and an inch to the right of the EOP, he replied "Yes, in the presence of this much destruction of skull and scalp above such a wound and lateral to it and the brief period of time available for examination--yes, such a wound could be present." He had thereby claimed the wound he examined was entirely above the EOP, and more than an inch to its right. Well, this would be well above and to the right of where so many theorists propose the wound to have been located. It would, in fact, rule out the Harper fragment's being occipital bone. Clark was then asked if his observations were consistent with the autopsy report's conclusion of a bullet entering near the EOP, and "exiting from the center of the President's skull." He replied: "Yes, sir." When brought back four days later, and asked about a February 20 article in the French paper L'Express, where it was claimed he'd told the New York Times the first bullet entered at the knot of Kennedy's tie and penetrated Kennedy's chest, and that the second bullet hit "the right side of his head" and caused a "tangential" wound of both entrance and exit, furthermore, Clark disagreed with its characterization of his statements regarding the first bullet, but said nothing about its characterization of the second. In sum, then, while Clark's report and testimony suggest he saw a wound on the back of the head, a closer look at his testimony shows he was agreeable that this wound was at the top right side of the head, and consistent with the wound described in the autopsy report.

While some might take from this that Clark had sold out, and had testified in opposition to his original report, they would be wrong to do so. Before writing his report, we should remember, Clark had spoken to the press...twice. In the official press conference, he had claimed the wound was "principally on the right side." While speaking to Connie Kritzberg, about an hour later, moreover, he reiterated that it was on the "right rear side." He had never claimed, nor would ever claim, the wound was on the far back of the head, below the top of the ear, in the location depicted in the "McClelland" drawing. This was something many had assumed based upon his mention of cerebellum. But it was never supported by the sum total of his statements. The cerebellum he thought he saw could easily have come from below the hole on the back of the head along with the bullet he thought exploded from below the hole on the back of the head.

While some have taken Clark's post 1964 silence as confirmation he believed the fatal shot exited from the far back of Kennedy's head, furthermore, a more complete look at the record suggests Clark believed theories holding as much to be foolish and ill-informed. In the early 1970's, Clark served as a consultant for single-assassin theorist John Lattimer, and helped Lattimer develop a scientific and "innocent" explanation for Kennedy's back-and-to-the-left movement in the Zapruder film. Lattimer eventually discussed his relationship with Clark. In a 10-23-75 letter to researcher Emory Brown, he bragged "The brain surgeon who examined the President at Parkland is a good friend of mine and I have discussed the head wound with him at some length, and he sees no discrepancy between what he found at Parkland Hospital and what the autopsy photographs reveal." Now, Clark was very much alive at the time of Lattimer's letter, and it's pretty silly to believe Lattimer would lie about such a thing if it could come back and bite him.

Particularly when subsequent statements by Clark suggest he wasn't lying... A November 22, 1983 UPI article, (found in the Ellensburg Daily Record), boasts an interview with Clark, in which he claims "The only regret I have is that I'm constantly bothered by a bunch of damn fools who want me to make some kind of controversial statement about what I saw, what was done, or that he is still alive here on the 12th floor of Parkland Hospital or some foolish thing like that. Since these guys are making their money by writing this kind of provocative books, it annoys me, frankly." This was, strikingly, less than a year after Clark at first expressed interest in looking at the autopsy photos in David Lifton's possession, and then refused to even open the envelope containing these photos when Lifton arrived at his office. In 1997, moreover, Clark once again broke his silence, and granted an interview with former Warren Commission attorney Arlen Specter. It follows, then, that Clark was no friend of conspiracy theorists, and that he'd picked his side on the matter--the side inhabited by John Lattimer and Arlen Specter. Well, for me, it's hard to believe he'd have done this if he'd actually felt certain Kennedy's head wound was an occipital wound oozing cerebellum. But the reader may wish to think otherwise.

Kurtz score: by mentioning the parietal bone, Clark was describing a wound higher on the skull than the one implied by Kurtz, and depicted in the McClelland drawing. Even so, Clark does mention the occipital bone, and the oozing of cerebellar tissue from the wound. He does not, however, describe the wound as a wound of exit. In fact, Clark, a man from whom all the other doctors would take their cue, made clear in the initial press conference that the wound could be either an exit for a shot fired from the front OR a wound of both entrance and exit for a shot fired from the rear. Kurtz's summary of Clark's statement, then, is accurate on 2 of 3 points. Somewhat misleading.)

The McClelland Dilemma



DATE AND HOUR Nov. 22, 1963 4:45 P.M. DOCTOR: Robert N. McClelland

Statement Regarding Assassination of President Kennedy

At approximately 12:45 PM on the above date I was called from the second floor of  Parkland Hospital and went immediately to the Emergency Operating Room. When I arrived President Kennedy was being attended by Drs Malcolm Perry, Charles Baxter, James Carrico, and Ronald Jones. The President was at the time comatose from a massive gunshot wound of the head with a fragment wound of the trachea. An endotracheal tube and assisted respiration was started immediately by Dr. Carrico on Duty in the EOR when the President arrived. Drs. Perry, Baxter, and I then performed a tracheotomy for respiratory distress and tracheal injury and Dr. Jones and Paul Peters inserted bilateral anterior chest tubes for pneumothoracis secondary to the tracheomediastinal injury. Simultaneously Dr. Jones had started 3 cut-downs giving blood and fluids immediately, In spite of this, at 12:55 he was pronounced dead by Dr. Kemp Clark the neurosurgeon and professor of neurosurgery who arrived immediately after I did. The cause of death was due to massive head and brain injury from a gunshot wound of the left temple. He was pronounced dead after external cardiac message failed and ECG activity was gone.

Robert N. McClelland M.D.
Asst. Prof. of Surgery
Southwestern Med.
School of Univ of Tex.
Dallas, Texas

(Note: in this, his earliest statement on the assassination, Dr. McClelland reveals that he was easily confused and prone to speculation. First of all, he gets himself all turned around and mistakenly says there was a wound in the left temple. He says nothing of a wound on the back of the head or behind the ear. As but one head wound was noted at Parkland, and as no competent doctor would mention a wound he did not see while failing to mention the one he did, it seems probable McClelland meant to say this wound was of the right temple, not left. Second of all, he states, without offering any supporting evidence, that the throat wound was a fragment wound. This shows he was prone to speculation.

In light of the fact many conspiracy theorists cite McClelland as the most reliable of the Parkland witnesses, McClelland's next statements are even more intriguing. McClelland was the prime source for the 12-18-63 article by Richard Dudman published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in which the Secret Service's visit to the Parkland doctors, and its attempt to get them to agree Kennedy's throat wound was an exit, was first revealed. And yet McClelland told Dudman that after being told of the wound on Kennedy's back "he and Dr. Perry fully accept the Navy Hospital’s explanation of the course of the bullets." And yet he told Dudman "I am fully satisfied that the two bullets that hit him were from behind." And yet he told Dudman "As far as I am concerned, there is no reason to suspect that any shots came from the front." Repeat...NO reason to suspect any shots came from the front... That's the very article most conspiracy theorists believe first exposed the government's cover-up of Kennedy's wounds, Dr. McClelland, the man they consider the most credible of the Parkland witnesses, spelled out--and made CRYSTAL CLEAR--that he did not think the large head wound he observed was an exit wound on the far back of the head.

This is confirmed yet again by the first article on the wounds published in a medical journal. Three Patients at Parkland, published in the January 1964 Texas State Journal of Medicine, was based upon the Parkland doctors' 11-22 reports, and repeated their descriptions of Kennedy's wounds and treatment word for word. Well, almost. In one of its few deviations, it changed Dr. McClelland's initial claim Kennedy was pronounced dead "at 12:55" to his being "pronounced dead at 1:00." This was an obvious correction of an innocent mistake. In what one can only assume was another correction of an innocent mistake, moreover, it re-routed Dr. McClelland's initial claim "The cause of death was due to massive head and brain injury from a gunshot wound of the left temple" to the more acceptable "The cause of death, according to Dr. McClelland was the massive head and brain injury from a gunshot wound of the right side of the head." Right side of the head. Not back of the head. While some might wish to believe the writer and/or editor of this article took it upon himself to make this change without consulting Dr. McClelland, and that he'd changed it to fit the "official" story, the fact of the matter is there was NO official story on the head wounds at this point, beyond the descriptions of the wound in the reports of McClelland's colleagues published elsewhere in the article. And these, in sum, described a wound on the back of the head. It seems likely, then, that McClelland himself was responsible for this change.

In any event, on March 21, 1964, Dr. McClelland testified before the Warren Commission. In contrast to his earlier statements, he now claimed: “As I took the position at the head of the table that l have already described, to help out with the tracheotomy, I was in such a position that I could very closely examine the head wound, and I noted that the right posterior portion of the skull had been extremely blasted. It had been shattered ... the parietal bone was protruded up through the scalp and seemed to be fractured almost along its right posterior half, as well as some of the occipital bone being fractured in its lateral half, and this sprung open the bones that I mentioned in such a way that you could actually look down into the skull cavity itself and see that probably a third or so, at least, of the brain tissue, posterior cerebral tissue and some of the cerebellar tissue had been blasted out.” 

Note that McClelland specifies both that he was at the head of the table helping out with the tracheotomy when he examined Kennedy's head wound, and that this put him in position to closely examine the wound. Here is Figure PR10.1, "Position for Tracheotomy", from the textbook Emergency Medicine (edited by Harold May, 1984):

Note that in order to expose the neck the head is tilted sharply backwards in the tracheotomy position. So how in the heck could McClelland 1) closely examine a wound low on the back of Kennedy's head while Kennedy was in such a position and he (McClelland) was standing at the head of the table? and 2) claim his standing at the head of the table put him in "such a position that I could very closely examine the head wound"?

McClelland's words only make sense if the wound he was observing was on the front half of Kennedy's head. It seems likely then that McClelland, as Clark, was confused by the rotation of Kennedy’s head. 

And it seems just as likely McClelland is not the man many if not most conspiracy theorists assume him to be. Notes on a 12-1-71 interview of McClelland by researcher Harold Weisberg reveal that McClelland "volunteered at some length about Garrison's men, describing Garrison as a psychopath, and seemed proud that he had talked them out of calling him as a witness...McC was quite bitter about Garrison and Lane, but he was without complaint about Specter and the Warren Commission..."

So there it is. Dr. Robert McClelland--whom many conspiracy theorists believe an unshakeable truth-teller--was a supporter of the Warren Commission's for years and years after the assassination--to such an extent even that he refused to cooperate with Jim Garrison's attempts to re-open the case. Well, is it any wonder then that McClelland, while continuing to insist he saw a wound on the back of Kennedy's head, repeatedly defended the legitimacy of the autopsy photos? And that he told the producers of the television show Nova in 1988 that "I find no discrepancy between the wounds as they're shown very vividly in these photographs and what I remember very vividly?"

And is it any wonder then that in both his Nova appearance and ARRB testimony McClelland ventured that the back of the head photo depicts sagging scalp pulled over a large occipito-parietal wound? Now this is strange indeed. Scalp overlying explosive wounds to the skull does not stretch and sag, it tears. No such tears were noted on the back of Kennedy's head at autopsy, and none are shown in the autopsy photos whose legitimacy McClelland defends. 

And it's not as if NOVA was the end of McClelland's strange which he defended the authenticity of the autopsy photos, while describing wounds at odds with the autopsy photos. A May 19, 1992 Newsday article by Steve Wick for which Dr. Humes was interviewed--and in which Humes claimed there was no conspiracy and all the shots came from the rear--also featured some quotes from McClelland, in which he similarly argued those claiming there was an exit wound on the back of Kennedy's head were mistaken. McClelland told Newsday: "I saw the wound more closely than anybody...There was a massive wound on the back rear portion of his head. There's no way you can tell, based on a wound that size, which way he was shot."

I mean, McClelland is as erratic as can be. Where he once assured journalists suspecting shots came from the front that "there is no reason to suspect that any shots came from the front," and where he later told researchers he'd created a drawing in which an exit wound behind Kennedy's right ear was depicted, he now tells crowds --such at that at the 2013 Wecht conference--that 1) "the whole right side of his skull was gone;" 2) the appearance of this wound--and not its location--suggested it was an exit wound; 3) it was Kennedy's response to this shot in the Zapruder film that convinced him the shot came from the front...and 4) he'd never been pressured into lying about Kennedy's wounds! The man's recollections are just not reliable.

And are instead ever-changing. On November 18, 2013, McClelland was interviewed by CBS11 in Dallas. There, according to the station's article on the interview, he repeated one of his latest claims--that shortly after his arrival in Trauma Room One, he said "'My God, have you seen the back of his head?’ And they said, ‘No, we came in just ahead of you.’ And I said, ‘Well, the whole back of his head is missing on the right side...Well, when I saw that injury to the back of his head, it became apparent to all of us, all three of us who were gathered around the President’s head working on him, that this was a fatal injury.”  So what's wrong with that, you might ask? Well, the first day reports suggest there was relatively little bleeding from the throat wound. So where did Dr.s Perry, Baxter and Carrico--the primary respondents prior to McClelland's arrival--supposedly think the blood and brain matter covering Kennedy's hair, the cart, and the floor had come from? It seems clear they'd noticed the head wound, and, sure enough, the reports of all three doctors indicate that they'd taken a look at the head wound upon their arrival on the scene. So, here, once again, McClelland appears to be embellishing his story in order to elevate the importance of his personal observations.

Kurtz score: McClelland's original statement said none of the things Kurtz claims it did. Kurtz's summary of McClelland's statement is therefore inaccurate on all 3 points. Misleading.)



DATE AND HOUR  Nov. 22, 1963 4:45 P.M. DOCTOR: BASHOUR

Statement Regarding Assassination of the President of the  U.S.A., President Kennedy At 12:50 PM, we were called from the 1st floor of Parkland Hospital and told that President Kennedy was shot. Dr. D ?? and myself went to the emergency room of Parkland. Upon examination, the President had no pulsation, no heartbeat, no blood pressure. The oscilloscope showed a complete standstill. The president was declared dead at 12:55 P.M.

F. Bashour M.D.
Associate Professor of Cardiology
Southwestern Medical School Dallas, Texas

(Note:  there is not much to say about Dr. Bashour’s report. His Warren Commission testimony, in which he described the head wound as "massive," is not much better. But the next statement, in my analysis, holds the key.)

November 22, 1963  1630

To: Mr. C. J. Price, Administrator Parkland Memorial Hospital

From: M. T. Jenkins, M.D., Professor and Chairman Department of Anesthesiology

Subject: Statement concerning resuscitative efforts for President John F. Kennedy

Upon receiving a stat alarm that this distinguished patient was being brought to the emergency room at Parkland Memorial Hospital, I dispatched Doctors A. H. Giesecke and Jackie H. Hunt with an anesthesia machine and resuscitative equipment to the major surgical emergency room area, and I ran down the stairs. On my arrival in the emergency operating room at approximately 1230 I found that Doctors Carrico and/or Delaney had begun resuscitative efforts by introducing an orotracheal tube, connecting it for controlled ventilation to a Bennett intermittent positive pressure breathing apparatus. Doctors Charles Baxter, Malcolm Perry, and Robert McClelland arrived at the same time and began a tracheostomy and started the insertion of a right chest tube, since there was also obvious tracheal and chest damage. Doctors Paul Peters and Kemp Clark arrived simultaneously and immediately thereafter assisted respectively with the insertion of the right chest tube and with manual closed chest cardiac compression to assure circulation.

For better control of artificial ventilation, I exchanged the intermittent positive pressure breathing apparatus for an anesthesia machine and continued artificial ventilation. Doctors Gene Akin and A. H. Giesecke assisted with the respiratory problems incident to changing from the orotracheal tube to a tracheostomy tube and Doctors Hunt and Giesecke connected a cardioscope to determine cardiac activity.

During the progress of these activities, the emergency room cart was elevated at the feet in order to provide a Trendelenburg position, a venous cutdown was performed on the right saphenous vein, and additional fluids were begun in a vein in the left forearm while blood was ordered from the blood bank. All of these activities were completed by approximately 1245, at which time external cardiac massage was still being carried out effectively by Doctor Clark as judged by a palpable peripheral pulse. Despite these measures there was no electrocardiographic evidence of cardiac activity.

These described resuscitative activities were indicated as of first importance, and after they were carried out attention was turned to all other evidences of injury. There was a great laceration on the right side of the head (temporal and occipital), causing a great defect in the skull plate so that there was herniation and laceration of great areas of the brain, even to the extent that the cerebellum had protruded from the wound. There were also fragmented sections of brain on the drapes of the emergency room cart . With the institution of adequate cardiac compression, there was a great flow of blood from the cranial cavity, indicating that there was much vascular damage as well as brain tissue damage .

It is my personal feeling that all methods of resuscitation were instituted expeditiously and efficiently. However, this cranial and intracranial damage was of such magnitude as to cause the irreversible damage. President Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1300.

Sincerely, M. T. Jenkins, M.D .

The Trendelenburg Position

At first glance, Dr. Jenkins’ statement is not particularly eye-opening. As with Baxter, he describes the wound as “temporal and occipital.”  As with Clark he makes sure we know there is missing bone, describing “a great defect in the skull plate” incompatible with the “sprung-bone theory” so popular with so many conspiracy theorists and later pushed by McClelland.

But that's just the beginning of Jenkins's journey. Although an 11-10-77 report on an interview with Jenkins conducted by the HSCA staff specified that "Dr. Jenkins said that only one segment of bone was blown out--it was a segment of occipital or temporal bone" and that "a portion of the cerebellum (lower rear brain) was hanging out," he was soon thereafter shown the error of his ways (apparently by Dr. Lattimer), as a 3-4-81 transcript of an interview with the  Boston Globe found in the Weisberg Archives has him saying both that the wound was "above the ear, parietal...about the size of the palm of your hand" and that he knew he hadn't actually seen cerebellum.

He continued in this vein ever after. In 1988, he told the producers of the television program NOVA that, upon finally viewing the autopsy photos, he'd come to believe his earliest descriptions of the wound location were incorrect, and that he did not see cerebellum protruding from the large defect. Four years later, in the 5-27-92 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, moreover, he would reiterate this position, not only questioning his original descriptions of Kennedy's head wounds but those of his fellow Parkland witnesses. He declared: "I was standing at the head of the table... My presence there and the President's great shock of hair and the location of the head wound were such that it was not visible to those standing down each side of the gurney where they were carrying out their resuscitative maneuvers."

And he didn't stop there. In 1992, in what was apparently a busy year for Jenkins, he is reported to have told writer Gerald Posner that "The description of the cerebellum was my fault…When I read my report over I realized there could not be any cerebellum. The autopsy photo, with the rear of the head intact and a protrusion in the parietal region, is the way I remember it. I never did say occipital." (Oh yes, you did.) A 6-6-92 article in the Dallas Morning News, reporting on a Dallas Forum on Kennedy's wounds, moreover, further claimed that Jenkins, along with Dr.s Carrico and Peters, had told those in attendance that they'd confused cerebrum for cerebellum "in part because the brain was so mangled by the bullet." Jenkins' exact words were printed in Harrison Livingstone's Killing the Truth the next year. He'd told the audience "In my official report, I said the cerebellum was hanging out, and I thought it over after I turned it in. Well, I confused my three lums at times. I'd call one by the other one's name. I'd call cerebrum cerebellum. When I looked at the photographs again, I can see why we did that, because this coming out of the temporal-parietal area, brain was so convoluted right there, that the cerebrum had a cerebellum look. But it wasn't cerebellum..."

Jenkins was thus not only not a back-of-the-head witness, as many claim, but an ardent defender of the authenticity of the autopsy photos.

Almost hidden in Jenkins’ November 22, 1963 statement, however, is something which convinces me that my speculation on why so many of the witnesses made the same mistake is not just reasonable, but absolutely correct. When discussing Kennedy’s early treatment, he reports: “During the progress of these activities, the emergency room cart was elevated at the feet in order to provide a Trendelenburg position."

I looked up the term "Trendelenburg Position", and found this description: In the Trendelenburg position the body is laid flat on the back with the head lower than the pelvis in contrast to the reverse Trendelenburg position. This is a standard position used in surgery in gynecology. It allows better access to the pelvic organs as intestines move cranially by gravity. It was named for the German surgeon Friedrich Trendelenburg.” Elsewhere, I found an even better description: Tren·de·len·burg position n. A supine position with the patient inclined at an angle of 45 degrees; so that the pelvis is higher than the head, used during and after operations in the pelvis or for shock.”

Well, this surprised me, as no one else had mentioned that Kennedy was not only flat on his back, but topsy-turvy. (I was later to find that, in 1981, in an interview with the Boston Globe, Dr. Paul Peters had similarly claimed "the President was lying in the supine, slight Trendelenburg position.") 

In any event, that Kennedy died with his feet in the air is a much under-appreciated fact. Presumably, the Parkland witnesses failed to realize that a wound on the top of Kennedy's head slightly in front of his ear would appear posterior to his ear not only while he was undergoing a tracheotomy, but while he was subsequently lying in the Trendelenburg position. The confusion caused by this rotation, moreover, helps explain how Dr. Robert McClelland could testify he “could actually look down into the skull cavity itself” whilst simultaneously embracing the contradictory attitudes that the wound was on the back of Kennedy’s head and that Kennedy was lying on his back. It seems more than a coincidence, after all, that if the wound was on top of Kennedy’s skull, as presumed, while Kennedy was in the Trendelenburg Position, as claimed by Jenkins, and Peters, the wound would have been observed as claimed by McClelland.  

Now, I know what you're thinking (or at least what some of you are thinking). You're thinking that Nurse Audrey Bell claimed she saw the wound on the back of Kennedy's skull after Dr. Perry showed her the wound, and that he did this by turning Kennedy's skull slightly left. If she was telling the truth, this would undermine my "Trendelenburg" theory. But there are two problems with Bell. One is that Bell has no credibility, as there's no evidence whatsoever, beyond her latter-day say-so, that she was even in the room with Kennedy. And two is that Bell has no credibility, as Dr. Perry most certainly had more sense than to stop whatever he was doing to turn the head of a patient with a cervical neck injury to show this patient's head wound to a nurse...a nurse...and a nurse that wasn't even part of his team.

Should one still be skeptical that the confusion over the location of Kennedy’s head wound came from the rotation of his body when observed by the doctors, however, one should feel free to go back to the Lincoln/Kennedy comparison slide here, and take a closer look at the locations of the red stars over President Lincoln. 

(In September 2008, I put this slide up on an online forum, and asked if anyone noticed anything. After a few days passed, and no one responded, I offered the hint that there was something odd about the red stars I'd placed on the images of President Lincoln. Finally, after more than 500 views, a member offered that the red stars were not in the same location on the images of Lincoln, and that one was above Lincoln's ear, and the other was on the back of his head. That it took so long for someone to state something so obvious, once one compares the red stars to the top of the ear, supports my suspicion that the majority of those viewing this slide did not perceive the red stars in relation to the top of the ear, but to the middle of the ear. This, in turn, supports my suspicion that the Parkland witnesses were similarly confused.)

Now, let's check back in with Kurtz.

Kurtz score on Jenkins: The wound described by Jenkins was along the right side of the head, not back of the head. But he did mention occipital bone. While Jenkins also mentioned cerebellum, he did not describe the wound as a wound of exit. Kurtz's summary of  Jenkins' statements is therefore accurate on 2 of 3 points. Somewhat misleading.

Final Kurtz score: Kurtz has misrepresented every initial statement to some degree. Four of the six doctors to comment on the head wound on 11/22/63 mentioned locations more to the side of the head and/or top of the head than the wound described by Kurtz. Others made no mention whatsoever of the occipital bone or the cerebellum. None described the wound as an exit. Even worse, Kurtz has deliberately ignored Clark's and Perry's statements suggesting the wound could be a wound of both entrance and exit, and the likelihood that ALL the other doctors would defer to this analysis. By including Ronald Jones and Paul Peters in his list of doctors making these statements, moreover, Kurtz implied they'd made statements in the days after the assassination that could be considered "fresh" when, in fact, Dr. Jones' 11-23 handwritten report (Jones Exhibit No. 1) said merely that Kennedy had suffered a "severe skull and brain injury" and the earliest statements one can attribute to Peters were made several months later, after no doubt dozens of discussions on the assassination with his fellow Parkland physicians and nurses. Kurtz's summary, then, which was accurate on only 7 of 18 points in the initial statements of the Parkland doctors, can only be considered misleading.

Still, I wouldn't want to be accused of being unduly arbitrary, so let's see if adding Jones' and Peters' subsequent testimony into the mix improves things for Kurtz.

When Dr. Ronald Jones testified on 3-24-64 he said Kennedy had "a large wound in the right posterior side of the head" and then further described "There was a large defect in the back side of the head as the President lay on the cart with what appeared to be some brain hanging out of this wound with multiple pieces of skull noted next with the brain and with a tremendous amount of clot and blood." He later discussed "what appeared to be an exit wound in the posterior portion of the skull." He had thereby described the wound as a probable exit. But he'd failed to mention "occipital" and "cerebellum." Kurtz was therefore inaccurate on 2 of 3 points. Misleading. As discussed, Jones would later defer to the accuracy of the autopsy photos, and tell the ARRB that "it was difficult to see down through the hair." He then clarified his position to researcher Vincent Palamara, first admitting that he really didn't have "a clear view of the back side of the head wound. President Kennedy had very thick dark hair that covered the injured area" and then offering "In my opinion it was in the occipital area in the back of the head." And should that not make his position clear, one should view this 9-24-13 interview of McClelland and Jones, in which Jones counters Dr. McClelland's claim the head shot came from the front, and cites the studies of Dr. John Lattimer as evidence the shot actually came from behind. He also pushes that the back wound was an entrance for a bullet exiting the throat. Dr. Jones is not a "back-of-the-head witness," nor is he a conspiracy theorist.

Which brings us once again to Dr. Peters...When Peters testified on 3-24-64 he described "a large defect in the occiput" and then explained "It seemed to me that in the right occipitalparietal area that there was a large defect. There appeared to be bone loss and brain loss in the area." He then described it as "a large occipital wound," and admitted to wondering, as Jones, if the head wound wasn't an exit for the bullet creating the presumed entrance wound in the throat. Although Peters would later tell David Lifton that he looked down into the skull and saw cerebellum, he failed to claim that cerebellum was oozing from the wound, and, in fact, told the Bangor Daily News in 1980 that he'd come to believe the wound was a tangential wound of entrance and the Boston Globe in 1981 that the cerebellum had been intact. After being shown the autopsy photos for the Nova program in 1988, moreover, Peters asserted that he'd been wrong about both the location of the wound and his seeing cerebellum, and then offered that "that shows how even a trained observer can make an error in a moment of urgency." He then affirmed this position at the 1992 Dallas Forum put together by Dr. Lattimer. As reported in the Dallas Morning News, Peters, along with Dr.s Carrico and Jenkins, insisted that they'd confused cerebrum for cerebellum "in part because the brain was so mangled by the bullet." And this wasn't just Carrico speaking for Peters. For his 1993 book Killing the Truth, writer Harrison Livingstone obtained a copy of the tape of this forum, and revealed that Peters, when asked if he had changed any of his impressions over the years, had indeed admitted that after viewing the autopsy photos in 1988 he'd changed his mind about seeing damage to the cerebellum. Now, to be clear, in 1998, when testifying for the ARRB, Peters reversed himself a bit and asserted that he, as McClelland, still believed the large wound he'd observed was on the back of Kennedy's head--and that this wound had been covered up by some sort of flap in the autopsy photos. But he was far from certain about this, and covered himself by explaining that he and his colleagues "were doing a resuscitation, not a forensic autopsy." Peters had thereby retreated from his statements to Lifton. Still, in his original statements, Peters had indeed described a presumed wound of exit at least in part on the occipital bone, which means Kurtz was accurate on 2 of 3 points. Somewhat misleading.

So, even with Jones and Peters added back in, Kurtz was accurate on but 10 of 24 points, and was undoubtedly misleading. While he, as Groden, as Lifton, can pretty much fill in the blank...indicated that the original statements and testimony of the Parkland witnesses universally described an occipital wound from which cerebellum was flowing, this is a conspiracy myth, as pervasive and deceptive, in this writer's opinion, as the single-bullet theory, which some claim as a fact.

I'm serious about this. While many of those pushing the single-bullet theory claim their theory is in line with Governor Connally's statements and testimony, when it is not, conspiracy theorists pushing the "back-of-the-head blow-out" theory are no better, as they claim their theory is in "support" of the Parkland witnesses, when it is not. In fact, when one looks back through ALL the statements of the eight doctors most involved with Kennedy's treatment at Parkland, one finds that six of the eight (Perry, Carrico, Baxter, Jenkins, Jones, and Peters) let it be known that they deferred to the accuracy of the autopsy report and autopsy photos, and one (Clark) rarely spoke on the subject beyond his Warren Commission testimony, where he deferred to the conclusions of the autopsists. This leaves but one conspiracy theorist in the bunch (McClelland), and even he admitted he thought the autopsy photos were deceptive, but unaltered, and that he'd seen nothing at Parkland to convince him shots had been fired from in front of Kennedy, and had only become convinced such shots were fired after viewing the Zapruder film on TV.

Sadly, however, Kurtz's misrepresentation is typical of what one finds in the conspiracy literature. While I don't expect to change the minds of those utterly and permanently convinced there was an exit wound on the back of Kennedy's head, I do hope to curtail the spread of such smoke. Please help me in this cause.

Now, that said, we still have a bit of a problem. While the rotation of the body could have led some key Parkland witnesses into incorrectly recalling the large head wound as a wound on the back of the head, this does little to explain how they could simultaneously confuse the cerebrum they saw oozing from this wound with cerebellum, which could only ooze from the back of the head.

Well, actually, macerated cerebrum does give the appearance of cerebellum. And, not only that, it seems reasonable to assume the doctors saw cerebellum in part because they were expecting to see cerebellum--no, not because they thought the wound was LOW on the back of Kennedy's head--but because they thought the bullet causing Kennedy's neck wound had deflected upwards and exploded out the top of the back of his head. Such a trajectory--and this could hardly be a coincidence--leads through the cerebellum...

And there's also this... As the testimony of the Parkland witnesses, coming months after Dr. Clark claimed he'd seen cerebellum, reflected a greater degree of cerebellum sightings than the original statements of these very same witnesses, and as the location of the wound described by the witnesses coming forward in the 80's, which came after the publication of the so-called McClelland drawing showing an occipital wound, were centered on the occipital bone to a greater degree than the wound described previously, it's reasonable to assume that social pressures, "groupthink," if you will, was in part responsible for so many of these witnesses thinking Kennedy's large head wound was further back on his skull than as shown in the autopsy photos.

A study reported in the July 2011 issue of Science Magazine supports this probability. In this study, participants were 1) shown an eyewitness-style documentary in groups of five, 2) brought back individually three days later and asked questions about what they'd observed, 3) brought back four days later and shown the answers of those tested at the same time as them, 4) asked the questions again, 5) brought back again 7 days later and told that the answers of the others they'd been shown the week before had been random answers, and may or may not have been the actual answers of those with whom they'd originally viewed the documentary, and 6) asked the same questions again, after being told to rely on their original memories. The participants were then debriefed, with the results of those suspicious they were being manipulated thrown out.

The results were impressive. While some of the answers of others shown the participants a week after viewing the documentary were 100% wrong, and not even the real answers given by the others, 68.3% of the participants answered these questions in accordance with how they'd been told the others had responded, even though they'd answered these questions correctly only four days before. That this wasn't simply a failure of memory is proven by a control test, in which only 15.5% of those getting an answer right three days after viewing the documentary got it wrong 14 days after viewing the documentary. This suggests that over 50% of the participants changed their answers to fit in with the crowd.

That this wasn't just a change of answer, but an actual change of memory, for many of those tested, moreover, was demonstrated by the results of the final test. 40.8% of the participants who got a question correct, and then changed it to fit in with the crowd, stood by their incorrect answer after being told the answers of others they'd been shown had been randomly generated, and that they were now to rely exclusively upon their original memories. Disturbingly, this suggests that the memories of a significant percentage of the public can be changed, permanently, by being told what their peers remember, even if what they're told is something they at one time knew was untrue.

Memories are fragile. The recollections of the Parkland doctors, co-workers who undoubtedly discussed what they saw with other co-workers, most if not all of whom would have been familiar with Dr. Clark's description of the wound, are just not as reliable as many would like us to believe. 

And should one still refuse to believe the Parkland witnesses were confused about the wound's location--one should know that, no matter the explanation, such confusions occur. In the early 1990's, now Associate Professor Daniel Simons of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana created a video of six people passing basketballs back and forth, while moving around in a circle. Simons played this video to unsuspecting subjects, asking them how many passes were made, or whether the women in the video made more passes than the men. No matter. The passing was just a distraction. During the middle of the short video-taped passing demonstration, a man in a gorilla suit walked into frame and stood in the middle of the basketball players. What Simons really wanted to know was if anyone counting the number of passes would notice this man in the gorilla suit. He got his answer, which continues to confound people to this day. He found that, upon first viewing, only about 50% of those looking straight at--no, actually studying--a video of a man in a gorilla suit, had any recollection of seeing him, when their attention was drawn to unrelated details. One can view this video, here.

The application of Simons' experiment to the Kennedy case should be obvious. From the failure of so many to note the gorilla in the room one can easily extrapolate that the team trying to save Kennedy's life was so focused on trying to save his life that the exact location of his head wound was only a fuzzy afterthought...subject to confusion...

And should this explanation not suffice, and should one still refuse to believe that the excitement of a trauma room can lead to mistakes in bullet wound identification (and/or that trauma room physicians are not properly trained to judge the direction of bullet wounds) one should know that Wake Forest University indirectly studied this from 1987-1992, by comparing the reports of trauma specialists with the corresponding reports of forensic pathologists. This study, as described in an April 28, 1993 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that, with multiple gunshot wound victims, trauma specialists mistakenly identified the number of shots or the direction of fire 74% of the time, and that, even with single shot victims with through and through wounds, they were mistaken 37% of the time.

And, no, this wasn't an aberration. It may even have been an understatement. In Forensic Science, An Introduction to Scientific and Investigative Techniques (2003), long-time forensic pathologist Dr. Ronald Wright notes that emergency room physicians without forensic training tend to rely on the general rule that exit wounds are larger than entrance wounds, and fail to understand that this rule doesn't apply to contact wounds of the head (wounds in which the gun is held against the head). As a result, writes Wright, "the error rate of emergency room physicians without forensic training in determining directionality of suicidal contact gunshot wounds to the head is almost 100%."

Doctors make mistakes. Lots of 'em...

And so do I. Lots of 'em...While my earlier conjecture--that the peripheral Parkland witnesses were influenced by what they heard from the key Parkland witnesses, and what they read afterwards--could easily be correct, this might be an unnecessary over-reach. I mean, we can't just assume those claiming these witnesses confirmed the statements of the key witnesses are telling the truth, can we?

So let's take a closer look. Who knows? Maybe there's no there there...

The Supposedly Supporting Cast

Let's start with Father Oscar Huber, the priest who gave Kennedy his last rites. The November 24th, 1963, Philadelphia Sunday Bulletin ran an article datelined Dallas, Nov. 23rd, 1963. Father Huber was interviewed for this article. It reported: “The President was lying on a rubber-tired table when I came in,” Father Huber said. He was standing at his head. Father Huber said the President was covered by a white sheet which hid his face, but not his feet. “His feet were bare,” said Father Huber... He said he wet his right thumb with holy oil and anointed a Cross over the President’s forehead, noticing as he did, a “terrible wound” over his left eye."

A "terrible" wound over his left eye! No such wound was noticed by the Parkland doctors. It seems possible then that Father Huber had confused Kennedy's left for his right, and that Huber had in fact noticed the wound depicted in the autopsy photos while at Parkland.

Or not. A few years later, while interviewing Father Huber for his movie Rush to Judgment, Mark Lane asked Father Huber about this wound. (The transcript to this interview was made available by the Wisconsin Historical Society.) Ironically, Huber told Lane "Well, his face was covered with blood and there was a blotch of blood on the left forehead, which I, at the time, thought possibly could be a bullet wound, but I learned later that it was not, that I was entirely mistaken, because he had been shot in the back of the head. I did not see really any wounds on him, because I only uncovered his face to the tip of his nose. I learned later that the bullet came out, perhaps at the jaw, I don't know."

So, okay, Father Huber was confused, horribly confused. But it's interesting nonetheless that he believed the "terrible" wound observed at Parkland was on the front half of Kennedy's head, and not the back.

Justice of the Peace Theron Ward also claimed to see Kennedy's head wound while at Parkland. He was never asked about the wound location until the 1980's, however. As discussed in the last chapter, his placement of the wound was captured on video and published in Robert Groden's The Killing of a President. As demonstrated in the last chapter, it was not on the back of his head, but on the side of his head, by his ear.

FBI agent Vincent Drain was yet another non-medical witness who claimed to see Kennedy's head wound while at Parkland. Drain was interviewed by Larry Sneed in the 1990's. His account was published in Sneed's book No More Silence in 1998. Drain claimed: "When I arrived in the trauma room, the doctors were working with President Kennedy. They were trying to do what they could to stop the gurgling sound he was making by performing a tracheotomy on him. Despite the fact, as I later learned, that he was dead, his body reflexes were still working. I wasn't up close to the body, but I could still see fairly well the large amount of blood from the head wound. The head was badly damaged from the lower right base across the top extending across the top of the ear. It appeared to me as though the bullet traveled upward and had taken off the right portion of his skull." Well, that's not the wound described by most researchers, is it? That's pretty much the wound described in the autopsy report...

Well, what about the nurses, then? Yes, Patricia Hutton described a wound on the back of the head in her report on 11-22-63. And Diana Bowron testified in a similar fashion. And Doris Nelson...she told researchers the wound was in the parietal area, but further back on the head than shown in the autopsy photos...and then pointed out the wound location shown in the autopsy photos in a photo published in Life Magazine, when asked to point out the location of Kennedy's head wound.

And then there's Margaret Henchcliffe... While she purportedly told researchers the wound was on the far back of the head, in a location that appears intact on the autopsy photos, she apparently changed her mind. On May 26, 2016, researcher Matt Douthit emailed me to tell me he'd just spoken to Parkland emergency room nurse Margaret Henchcliffe. When asked if the head wound was on the front or on the side, Henchcliffe told Douthit that the wound was "On the side, yeah." She then ran her hand down the right side of her head. Douthit then tried to ask her about the throat wound, only to have her clarify her last statement with "It was the whole side of his face" and then again run her hand down the right side of her head.

Let's say, then, that the recollections of the nurses are not entirely consistent.

So, let's cut to the chase. Do the statements of the supporting cast of doctors suggest the far back of the head was blown off, as purported by the slew of JFK researchers claiming the statements of the Parkland witnesses are consistent and Exhibit 1A in the medical case for conspiracy?

As previously discussed, Dr. Burkley was aware of but one wound on Kennedy's head, a large wound by his temple. As previously discussed, Dr. Salyer testified that the wound was in the "right temporal area," and thus near the ear, and not on the back of the head. While Dr. Adolph Giesecke testified that the wound was on the left side of the head, moreover, he also claimed that it was a large wound stretching from the vertex to the ear, and the brow-line to the occiput, and thus not the hole on the back of the head purportedly recalled by all the witnesses. In fact, Giesecke later told Vince Palamara that although he "did not examine the President's head and should never have said anything about the wounds," he had nevertheless concluded "all entrance wounds were from the rear."

Now, the statements of these doctors stand in opposition to what is purported to be the position of all the doctors viewing President Kennedy at Parkland. 

Well, certainly then there were a number of doctors whose Warren Commission testimony supported that the wound observed at Parkland was low on the back of Kennedy's head, and centered on his occipital bone...

You wanna bet? The closest to one was Dr. Gene Akin, who testified that "the back of the right occipitalparietal portion of his head was shattered", but who later rejected the depiction of this wound in the so-called McClelland drawing, and told the Boston Globe "what I saw was more parietal" (presumably, higher up on the skull). Akin was akin to a "no man's land" witness--a witness who doubted the authenticity of the autopsy photos, but whose recollection of the wound location was also at odds with the occipital location proposed by Lifton, Groden, Mantik, et al.

So now let's look at the Johnny-come-latelys--doctors not previously discussed and only marginally involved in Kennedy's treatment, whose statements regarding the head wound location came many years later...and see whether they line up with the wound being on the far back of the head--as claimed by so many researchers...

While Dr. Richard Dulaney testified before the Warren Commission, he was not asked about Kennedy's head wound. Although he told a number of researchers and reporters in the 1980's the large head wound was on the back of Kennedy's head, he was asked to view the original photos by the producers of NOVA in 1988 and quickly changed his tune. In the program he declared: "I don see any evidence of any alteration of his wound in these pictures from what I saw in the emergency room." And this wasn't a momentary lapse. When pointing out the wound location in Groden's book and video he pointed to the crown of his close to the wound depicted in the autopsy photos as the one depicted in the "McClelland" drawing.

Dr. Don Curtis also testified before the Warren Commission. He also was not asked about the wound location. As a result, his recollection as to the head wound location was not recorded till many years later, when he at first told researcher Brad Parker the "McClelland" drawing was "essentially" correct, and then specified to researcher Vince Palamara that the wound was on the "posterior lateral surface of the skull," the side of the head.

And then there's Grossman... While there is almost no record of Dr. Robert Grossman's presence in Emergency Room One on 11-22-63, he emerged in 1981 with claims of having been at Dr. Clark's side when Kennedy's wounds were studied. His statements and articles not only reflect that he alone, of all the doctors to work on or inspect Kennedy at Parkland, noted an entrance wound on the back of Kennedy's head in his hair, but that he also recalled seeing an exit wound "about the size of your hand" on the right side of Kennedy's head, "over what's called the parietal boss." Although this supports my conclusions regarding the wound locations, I nevertheless suspect Dr. Grossman is full of hooey. It just smells to high heaven that the only Parkland doctor claiming to see an entrance wound on the back of JFK's head was a doctor no one else remembered even being there, who failed to come forward for 17 years or more.

There's also this: while Dr. Grossman reportedly told the ARRB in 1997 that the entrance wound he saw was "a circular puncture in the occipital region...approximately 2 cm in diameter, near the EOP, centerline, or perhaps just right of center, through which he could see brain tissue which he believed was cerebellum" (which is in the same location as, but much larger than, the wound described in the autopsy report), a November 22, 2003 article by Frank D. Roylance in the Baltimore Sun based upon an interview with Grossman reported that "Grossman and Clark saw a small wound about an inch in diameter on the upper part of the back of his head, just to the right of the midline...filled with damaged brain tissue" (which would appear to be a reference to the supposed cowlick entrance). So, did Grossman move the location of the entrance wound he and he alone "saw" to kiss up to those holding this wound was in the cowlick? I don't know but it's just hard to believe anything he says...

This brings us to Midgett. While Dr. William Midgett's presence in the emergency room was confirmed by the Warren Commission testimony of several nurses, his impressions were not recorded until decades later when he was interviewed first by Gerald Posner and then Wallace Milam. He is reported to have told Posner the wound was "more parietal than occipital" and to have told Milam it was an approximately 6 cm wound in the parietal area behind the ear. While this is not the wound shown in the autopsy photos it is also NOT the wound on the far back of the head in the occipital bone oozing cerebellum so many claim as the one true wound. 

The wound described by Dr. Donald Seldin was also not the one true wound purported by Lifton and others. When contacted by Vince Palamara in 1998, Seldin is reported to have claimed that the bullet exploded the skull, and that the "frontal, parietal, and temporal bones were shattered." He did not mention the occipital bone. While Seldin's recollections were at odds with both those claiming the bullet entered from the front and those claiming it entered on the back of the head--he told Palamara the bullet struck Kennedy in the forehead--he was nevertheless most adamant that his recollections not be used to spread doubts. He is reported to have told Palamara "I believe that the official story is accurate in all details."

And what about Zelditz? When contacted by Vince Palamara in 1998, Dr. William Zelditz reported that he arrived in Trauma Room One just before the tracheotomy was performed. He said he noted "a massive head injury to the right occipito-parietal area (right posterior-lateral) of the cranium." He said the wound covered an area approximately 10-12 centimeters in diameter. Well, this is too big to be the wound in the McClelland drawing, but is in the approximate location of that wound. Zelditz spoke in public at the 2003 Lancer Conference in Dallas, however, and further detailed his observations. He said Kennedy was supine (flat on his back) when he (Zelditz) came in the room. He then said the head wound was "massive--the entire posterior and right side of the head was nothing but matted hair and clots, and pieces of bone and tissue, and it was a mess. I gently palpated the area and it felt like somebody had boiled an egg and then dropped it. And then picked it up. The bones were just in crinkly pieces." He was asked about this again and added: "There was an area, I'd say, 8 by 12 centimeters in the back of the head on the right hand side on the occipito-parietal area, that was gone. And it was filled with blood, tissue, hair, bone fragments, and brain fragments, and that's all you could see." Well, this is not the gaping hole behind the ear depicted in the McClelland drawing.

Zelditz was then asked to depict the location of Kennedy's head wound on his own head. He placed his hand on the back of his head, with his fingers stretching from above his right ear on back to just below the top of his ear. He then admitted that beyond this area one "couldn't really tell the depth of it, or the extent of it." He was then asked if he had to rotate Kennedy's head to get a good look at the wound, and responded "No, no, there was enough of it there." He was then asked if he'd placed his hand under the head to palpate the skull, and said "No, it was in the back, and to the side." When then asked if he'd felt the extent of the wound, he admitted "No, I didn't see all of the wound. I couldn't see all of it because he was laying on that." (He then pointed to the back of his head)." He was then asked about the wound again. He put his hand back where the wound is in the McClelland drawing, and responded "It wasn't strictly straight back." He then moved his hand up to the top of his head with his fingers stretching above his right ear, and continued "It was top, back, and side." When then asked if the skull in this area was gone, he replied "It was in pieces." When then asked if the shattered skull in this area was still attached to the scalp, he continued "I could not tell. It was covered with blood and hair and other stuff. I could feel the bones but they felt like they were (he wiggled his fingers) loose." He expanded: "The bony fragments that were there were loose. And there was a spongy mass in the center of that, most obvious without bone, so I guess part of the bone was gone, but still there were fragments of bone still there." When then asked the million dollar question if he felt the autopsy photos showing the back of the head to be intact were altered, he clarified "The back of the head was not intact, but it was covered, as again I mention, with hair, blood, tissue, y'know, it was all there so you couldn't tell whether it was intact underneath that or not."

So, yeah... Zelditz had placed the wound about half-way between the location of the wound in the autopsy photos and the location of the wound in the McClelland drawing. His extended description of the wound, and insistence he could see it without rotating Kennedy's head, moreover, supported that the wound was not as depicted in the McClelland drawing.

And that's not the end of the Parkland witnesses claiming the wound was NOT on the far back of the head. Should one choose to look beyond Zelditz, one can find Sharon Calloway. Calloway, an x-ray intern at Parkland on the day of the shooting, performed an oral history interview for the Sixth Floor Museum on 1-27-02, and claimed she saw the back of Kennedy's head in the hallway before he was moved into Trauma Room One. She claimed: "The top of his head was gone... One of the doctors came down the hall shaking his head and he said it looked like someone had dropped a ripe watermelon on the floor. This is what the top of his head looked like. And we could see that. We could see his head. It wasn't draped yet."

And, no, Calloway was not the last such witness to come forward. On 11-21-15, the producers of a film on the Parkland doctors presented three of these doctors before the audience at the JFK Lancer Conference. Two of these three claimed the wound was not on the back of the head, and the third never commented on the head wounds. One of the two claiming the wound was not on the back of the head, Dr. Kenneth Salyer, has already been discussed. But the other, Dr. Peter M. Loeb, had not previously spoken on this issue, as far as I know. In any event, Loeb said that he got a quick glimpse of Kennedy in the hospital and that "When I looked at Kennedy, the top of his head was blown off." Top, not back.

So, there it is, yet another Parkland witness claiming to have observed an opening on the top of Kennedy's skull, inches away from its location in the McClelland drawing.

There really was no there there...

So why do so many believe the supporting cast of Parkland witnesses--those coming forward in the days and decades after 1964--invariably support that the fatal shot was fired from in front of Kennedy, and that the occipital area on the back of his head was blown-out?

Oh, yeah, Dr. Charles Crenshaw. That's pretty much what he came to claim. And nurse Audrey Bell. Both came forward in the eighties and nineties and told researchers that the low back of Kennedy's head was blown out.

I'm convinced Bell was either blowing smoke, or no longer in her right mind, when she came forward with her stories. Her claim Dr. Perry showed her the back of Kennedy's head--when no one else remembered Dr. Perry showing the wound to anyone, or her even being in the room--is as smelly as smelly can get. I don't believe it, and I'm embarrassed for you if you do.

But Dr. Crenshaw?

The Crenshaw Puzzle

I suspect Dr. Crenshaw told the truth as he remembered it. But that what he remembered just wasn't true.

Here's why...

Prof. Barbara Tversky's articles further demonstrate that:

1) When people talk about their emotional response to a traumatic event, they encode a better memory of their emotional response to the event, but make more mistakes in free recall. (This helps explain why so many of the stories of the most passionate witnesses fall apart on close inspection.)

2) People engage in selective rehearsal when they retell events, leaving out certain details to accomplish a maximum effect. The re-telling of these events reinforces certain aspects of the event and downplays others. Over time, the original memory is replaced by the memory that has been re-told. (This helps explain why so many stories have changed.)

3) When people are forced to take a position of advocacy on an event on which they initially had no bias, their memories become biased as a result. (This helps explain the behavior of Earl Warren, Arlen Specter, Howard Willens, et al...not to mention Vincent Bugliosi.)

And she doesn't even get into what to me is the number one cause of eyewitness unreliability: contact with researchers.

Yep, contact with researchers, who’ve tracked down eyewitnesses years after the fact and asked questions about details that witnesses would normally not remember even the next day, has undoubtedly contributed to some inaccurate recollections. When attempting to remember things so far in the past, witnesses are likely to inadvertently mix together their memories with suggestions offered by the researchers, and accidentally create false memories. While a question such as “Did you see any men behaving strangely?” might illicit a simple “no” for an answer, a question such as “You know there are a lot of us who believe there was a headshot from the area of the grassy knoll, and the Zapruder film reveals the shot came from the front…A number of others recall seeing a man in a hat. I was wondering if you saw anyone running in that direction…” might illicit “Y’know, I think maybe there was someone. It seems I recall a man in a hat running over there. Yeah, I remember.”

And, no, this isn't me just making stuff up... The effect of misleading information on witness memory has been studied numerous times, in numerous ways.

And yet the results are nearly identical.

As discussed in a July 2009 segment of CBS' 60 Minutes, Iowa State University Professor Gary Wells conducted a study in which subjects were shown a tape of a crime, and then asked to identify the perpetrator in a line-up. Despite the fact the perpetrator was not in the line-up, most selected the suspect bearing the closest resemblance to the perpetrator. Now, this would be bad enough, but Wells studied the effect of positive re-enforcement on this identification, and received some startling results. He found that when his subjects were lied to and told they'd made a correct identification, they were more than 6 times as likely to say they'd had a good look at the suspect. He also found a more than 350% increase in those claiming they were "certain" of their identification in those who'd been told they'd been correct.

So, yes, it seems quite possible Dr. Crenshaw's exposure to books such as Best Evidence and High Treason, and subsequent contact with conspiracy theorists such as James Fetzer, led to his "remembering" Kennedy's head wound in the location of the wound in the so-called McClelland drawing, where none of his Parkland colleagues recalled seeing such a wound.

Re-reading Loftus

Since those rejecting the possibility the Parkland doctors could be mistaken about the location of Kennedy's head wound cite Professor Elizabeth Loftus in support of their position, a short discussion of Professor Loftus' research is in order.

First of all, here's their argument... On Table 3.1 of Loftus' 1979 book Eyewitness Testimony she presents a chart demonstrating memory accuracy in relation to saliency or importance. This shows that when it came to salient details, (what was determined after the event to be most frequently discussed or noticed) the recollections of the eyewitnesses to the event used as a test were 98% accurate, while the recollections of the details that were less widely noticed were only 61% accurate.

Well, this suggests (at least to those citing this chart, e.g. Dr. Gary Aguilar) that it would be extremely unlikely for so many witnesses to be mistaken as to the location of Kennedy's head wound.

But there are a number of problems with this conclusion. To begin with, this chart was based upon a 1971 study by Marshall et al (that was published in the Harvard Review) in which the "witnesses" were shown a short film, and then interviewed immediately thereafter. The interviewers had previously shown the film to another group of witnesses, who had listed what they had noticed in the film. And this list helped the interviewers determine what was "salient." The interviewers then asked the new group of witnesses a series of multiple choice questions, and from this they determined that the new group of witnesses was 98% accurate on the salient points.

The problem, of course, is that this study bears no resemblance to what happened with the Parkland witnesses.

1. The Parkland witnesses were not bystanders observing everything as closely as possible in anticipation they would be tested on it, but participants in a fast-moving and traumatic event.

2. The Parkland witnesses' first recollections as to the wound location were not given immediately after leaving Trauma Room One, but an hour or more afterwards, on up to 30 years or more afterwards.

3. There is no reason whatsoever to assume the precise wound location was a "salient" detail. The salient details in the study cited by Loftus, after all, were determined by pre-screening the film and noting what details were most often listed. There is no reason whatsoever to assume the precise location of the head wound would have been one of the details most listed by those watching a film of the President in Trauma Room One.

Now that might sound a bit silly. One should consider, however, that no one at Parkland Hospital had a clue where the shots came from, or what the position of the limousine was on Elm Street when the shots were fired. As a result, there is no reason to believe the exact location of the President’s head wound was of interest to them, and should be considered a salient detail. So...what was a salient detail, then, if not the exact wound location? Well, one such detail was whether or not the wound was a survivable wound. The witnesses, after all, were 100% consistent on that point. They all said "no."

And that's not the only point on which they were consistent. While recollections of the exact location of the President’s head wound varied from being on the top of his head to being at the very back of his head, all the witnesses remembered clearly and correctly that the wound was not on his face. It seems likely then that the main focus of everyone’s attention was the President’s face.

Now, this realization--that the witnesses were focused on Kennedy's face--helps support what we've already discussed regarding rotation and perception. The witnesses were mentally rotating Kennedy's face while looking at his wounds and this led to some confusion as to the exact location of the head wound beyond that it was in his hair in back of his face.

Or not. We will almost certainly never know exactly why so many doctors got it wrong. But it's enough to know that mistakes of this nature are actually quite common, and of no surprise whatsoever to the cognitive psychologists tasked with studying such mistakes.

Don't believe me? Well, then, let's go back to Loftus. Yep, when I finally got around to reading Elizabeth Loftus' book Eyewitness Testimony for myself--as opposed to reading summaries of her work by those claiming it supported the accuracy of the Parkland witnesses--I realized just how WRONG it was for anyone to claim her work supports the accuracy of the Parkland witnesses.

Sure, there's a chart citing a 1971 study in which witness recollections were 98% accurate on salient points when taken immediately following the viewing of a film, but what about the rest of the book? What about Loftus' own studies?

Well, on page 54 she cites the negative effect of time on memory. She then proceeds to cite a number of studies in which certain kinds of behavior add to this decay. On page 55, she cites a 1927 incident in which a newspaper reporter misreported the substance of a college lecture, where the teacher then tested his students on the lecture, and found that those who'd read the incorrect article made many more mistakes than those who'd relied solely upon their attendance at the lecture. The teacher had discovered, to his dismay, that reading something that isn't true about something someone had witnessed for oneself could negatively impact one's memory of that event.

And that's just the beginning. Loftus then proceeds to cite a 1975 study of her own in which subjects were shown a film of a car running a stop sign and causing an accident. Half the subjects were then asked the approximate speed of the car when it ran the stop sign, with the other half being asked the approximate speed of the car when it made a right turn. All the students were then asked if they'd seen the stop sign. 53% of those reminded of the stop sign in a preceding question claimed they'd seen the sign, while only 35% of those not reminded of the sign in a preceding question claimed they'd seen the sign. Well, this shows how the questioning of a witness can inadvertently "enhance" their memory.

And not just for the better. For another 1975 study she showed forty subjects a short videotape of a student demonstration. At the end of the tape, she handed out some questionnaires in which she asked half the students the sex of the leader of "the four demonstrators", and the other half the sex of the leader of "the twelve demonstrators." A week later the subjects returned to answer additional questions. At this time, they were asked the number of demonstrators they'd observed. The correct answer was eight. Even so, those who'd been asked the "four" question recalled seeing an average of 6.4 demonstrators (an apparent compromise between the four they'd been asked about and the eight they'd actually observed), and those who'd been asked the "twelve" question recalled seeing an average of 8.9 (an apparent compromise between the twelve they'd been asked about and the eight they'd actually observed).

This tendency to compromise was further studied in 1977. In this study, the subjects were shown a series of slides depicting a car accident. They were then asked a series of questions about the slides. One of the questions dealt with the color of a car passing the accident. This car was actually green. Half the subjects were asked about the blue car driving past the accident, with the other half being asked the same question, but without being told the car was blue. The subjects then engaged in another activity. When they returned to the study, twenty minutes later, the subjects were shown a color wheel containing thirty color strips and asked to match these to ten objects they'd observed on the slides. Those who'd been asked about a blue car "tended to pick a blue or bluish-green as the color that they remembered for the car that passed the accident. Those not given any color information tended to choose a color near the true green. Thus, the introduction of the false color information significantly affected the ability of subjects to correctly identify a color that they had seen before."

On page 58 she cites another of her studies in which subjects were shown a series of slides depicting a car accident. (I think we can presume these were the same slides used in her earlier study...) Half were then asked if another car passed as the car stopped at a stop sign, with the other half being asked if another car passed as the car stopped at a yield sign. (There were, in fact, two different sets of slides, one showing it stop at a stop sign, and one showing it stop at a yield sign.) In any event, when shown slides a bit later in which the car was by one of the signs and asked if they'd seen this slide before, 75% of those who had been asked--but 20 minutes earlier--about the sign which they'd been shown answered affirmatively. Now, that's no surprise. But, here's the shocker: 59% of those who had been asked--but 20 minutes earlier--about a sign they had not been shown also answered affirmatively when shown a slide of that sign. This, to be clear, was a sign they had not been shown, but they claimed to recognize anyway, twenty minutes after being asked a question in which the nature of the sign--stop or yield--was misrepresented. Now, the control question for this study suggests that 25% of those shown an image of a sign they'd been shown will fail to recognize it. And this in turn supports that 25% of those claiming to have seen a sign they'd not been shown would have claimed they'd seen it even if they'd never been asked a misleading question. But this still suggests that 34% of the subjects were led to recall seeing something they'd never seen... from being asked a question that suggested they'd seen it.

Loftus then cites a similar study in which her students served as subjects. She showed them a film of a car racing down a country road. Some of them were then asked about a barn on the side of the road. A week later, all of the students were asked if they recalled seeing a barn in the film. 17% of those asked about the barn the week before recalled seeing a barn, while only 3% of those not asked about the barn the week before recalled seeing a barn. No barn was shown in the film. It follows, then, that 14% of the students were fooled into thinking they saw a barn just by being asked about it.

She then cites another less scientific study involving her students. In this one, her students staged a fake theft, in which a woman left her bag unattended in a crowded place and a man pretended to steal something out of her bag. The woman then returned to her bag and cried out that a tape recorder had been stolen. She and a friend then took the phone numbers of a number of witnesses. A student posing as an insurance agent called a week later. Well, more than half the witnesses claimed they saw the supposedly stolen (but actually non-existent) tape recorder, with some of them describing it in great detail.

She then cites another study involving saliency, to which those citing her book should have referred. This one is from 1977, by Dritsas and Hamilton. For this study subjects were shown films of industrial accidents, and then asked a series of questions--some deliberately misleading--about the films. Well, to no one's surprise, they found that salient or central items or events were recalled more accurately--and were less likely to be altered by misleading information--than peripheral items. But look at these numbers. The subjects were but 47% accurate on peripheral items. Even worse, their recollections of peripheral items could be altered via misleading information 69% of the time. Now let's see how they fared on central items. The recollections of the subjects on central items were but 81% accurate. (That's a far cry from the 98% suggested by the study depicted in Loftus' Figure 3.1). More telling, though, is this. 47% of those correctly recalling a central item or event recalled it incorrectly after receiving misleading information.

This all leads up to the largest study cited by Loftus, this one involving 600 subjects. For this study, she once again showed the subjects a series of slides involving a stop sign or yield sign, and once again asked some of the subjects a subsequent question in which they were given misleading information about the sign they'd been shown. But for this one, she asked some of the subjects what they saw immediately after viewing the slides, and asked some of them the same question one day, two days, or even a week later.

The results were staggering. While those questioned immediately after viewing the slides--and not asked any misleading questions regarding the sign shown in the slides--correctly selected the slide they'd been shown 80% of the time, those questioned a week later--and asked a misleading question about the sign shown in the slides--correctly selected the slide they'd been shown but 20% of the time.

Our memories are fragile. They are subject to change within moments of their creation, based upon subsequently received information. They also erode with time, and grow more subject to change as time goes by. The reception of misleading information can not only compromise our memories, where we remember things partly as they were and partly as we've been told they were, but lead us to recall seeing things we never saw, and remember things that never happened.

But who am I to blather on? Here is Loftus' own summary of her findings, as published in her memoir, Witness for the Defense (1991): "As new bits and pieces of information are added into long-term memory, the old memories are removed, replaced, crumpled up, or shoved into corners. Memories don't just fade...they also grow. What fades is the initial perception, the actual experience of the events. But every time we recall an event, we must reconstruct the memory, and with each recollection the memory may be changed--colored by succeeding events, other people's recollections or suggestions...Truth and reality, when seen through the filter of our memories, are not objective facts but subjective, interpretive realities."

As a result, I'm forced to reject the primacy of the Parkland witnesses. Their statements have been erratic from the get-go, and have only grown more erratic over time. Those holding them up as a "smoking gun" in the JFK case both misrepresent the location of the wound described by the bulk of these witnesses, and the consistency of these witnesses as a whole. There's just no "there" there.

Of course, this is a double-edged sword. The memories of those deferring to the accuracy of the autopsy photos twenty-five years after the shooting are not necessarily more credible than the memories of those claiming they saw cerebellum, and that's it. While the one group is seemingly more malleable, the other is seemingly less reasonable. It's impossible to say who is right based upon words and words alone.

So that's a choice I choose not to make.

The autopsy photos, x-rays, and autopsy report are consistent with the recollections of the Dealey Plaza witnesses. And for me that is enough...

Robertson Steps Up

In November 2015, Dr. Randy Robertson revealed that he'd recently visited the archives to view the three autopsy photos taken by assistant photographer Floyd Riebe, and exposed to light by the Secret Service. The ARRB had had them developed in the late nineties and he'd wanted to see if they matched the archives photos he'd viewed in the early nineties before the advent of the ARRB. He then wrote an article in which he listed three conclusions.

Here are his last two, along with his final summation:

#2. Parkland physician Dr. Robert McClelland and many others were mistaken in their memories as to the exact size and nature of the wound to the back of the President’s head, as it appears in Dr. McClelland’s diagrammatic depiction. Both the original autopsy photographs and radiographs show the actual extent of the wounds. This does not impugn the veracity of any other observations that Dr. McClelland has made.

#3.  Again, the original photographs and radiographs provide a degree of fidelity unchallengeable by any eyewitness attempts to describe the wounds to the President’s head in any manner. There are no internal discrepancies between the original and newly available photographs taken at the same time during the autopsy, or between any of the individual photographs or radiographs. Two cameras were simultaneously recording the true condition of the President’s body at the start of the autopsy. 

I can attest with absolute conviction that all these materials are authentic and unchanged since they were taken the night of the autopsy.

So, yeah, it looks like I have an ally on this issue... While I originally wrote "finally have an ally on this issue", for that matter, I subsequently came to realize that Robertson was actually exploring this territory--the what-if-the evidence-isn't-fake-territory--long before I. Early 1990's articles and letters by Robertson currently available at the Weisberg Archives prove that Robertson always looked at the evidence under the assumption it was unaltered. To wit, a 2-17-94 letter from Robertson to Weisberg closes with Robertson asserting: "Unlike most critics I have few, if any, problems with the authenticity of the autopsy materials or the photographic evidence. It is the government's interpretation of this body of evidence with which I differ."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Bravo, Dr. Robertson!

Go Ask Milicent

In early 2016, in an article entitled Fact Check, long-time researcher Milicent Cranor dismissed my efforts in these past few chapters by declaring:

"Pat Speer has been promoting the idea that the defect in JFK’s head was only on the top right, a hole that did not extend into the back of the head. He contrasts it with an obviously false one — that the defect was low in the back of the head, to the exclusion of the top and side."

She then proclaimed: "The real issue isn’t “hole-on-top versus hole-in-back,” because nearly all testimony combined describes a defect that included both the top — and the back of the head."

Well, this was a surprise. An unpleasant one. I looked back through Cranor's many articles on the head wounds and was unable to find even one where she attacked the integrity of writers such as Lifton, Groden. Livingstone, Fetzer, and Horne, all of whom have propped up the accuracy of drawings in which the wound seen at Parkland was exclusively on the back of the head, and have similarly presented the recollections of witnesses describing such a wound as incredibly important and credible, as opposed to "obviously false."

I was initially disgusted by this. By attacking me and appeasing those who feel those doubting the "back of the head" witnesses should be punished, while simultaneously acknowledging that my basic point was correct, it seemed to clear to me that Cranor wanted to have her cake and eat it, too.

It then occurred to me that this was an important development, and that those supporting Cranor (like Jim DiEugenio and David Mantik) would no longer be able to cite the statements and testimony of people like Charles Crenshaw, Audrey Bell, and Tom Robinson, people whose recollections of the wound was, in Cranor's words, "obviously false."

Well, as I've stated from the outset, my goal in writing these chapters was to force the research community to acknowledge that the wound on the back of the head depicted in the so-called McClelland drawing--and in subsequent drawings such as the "Parkland" drawing in David Lifton's book Best Evidence--was not an accurate depiction of Kennedy's head wound. And the veracity of my position has now been acknowledged by a highly-influential writer.

So thank you, Milicent. I think.

But there's still work to be done... As long as we're debunking "obviously false" claims about the medical evidence, here's one you should pounce on....

Doug Horne has claimed, and David Mantik has apparently agreed, that "Multiple eyewitnesses, who were medically and otherwise credible, confirmed that they clearly saw an entry wound in the FRONT of President Kennedy's head, in the upper right forehead at the hairline."

Well, first of all, who? And, second of all, how can the recollections of these witnesses be considered more credible than the supposedly accurate 11-22-63 reports of the Parkland physicians--which, as we've seen, describe no such wound?

Oh, never mind. There's no need for your help on this one, Milicent. The forehead entrance witnesses cited by Mantik in his book on Kennedy's head wounds are all latter day witnesses, people whose statements came decades after the shooting, and none of them are the least bit credible. His two key witnesses are Joe O'Donnell and Dennis David. O'Donnell, as we've seen, was suffering from dementia when he made his claims to Horne regarding the assassination. This was evident in his behavior, moreover, as he made claims to Horne that neither Horne nor Mantik found remotely credible (such as his editing the Zapruder film for Jackie Kennedy). And as for David, well, Dennis David never entered the autopsy room, and never saw the body...

So why does Mantik cite him as a witness, and quote him extensively, regarding a wound he never saw?

We'll get to that later...