Why we just can't trust the "experts" (especially Dr. David Mantik)
Throughout this book, I have attempted to show how the medical evidence in the assassination of President Kennedy has been twisted again and again by those with an agenda. At times, I have questioned the integrity of the men distorting this evidence. Some of their “errors” are so outrageous in fact that it’s easy to believe they were designed to conceal an inconvenient truth. Now, I would like to have finished this study without questioning the integrity of the leading lights of the research community, men whose support will be necessary for this study to achieve any widespread recognition.
But, as we've seen, it has been impossible for me to do so. Some elements of the research community are so set in their beliefs that it appears they are psychologically unable to adjust to anything new, and heck, my analysis of the evidence is nothing if not something new.
As a result, when I first noticed that no one from the conspiracy research community had identified the Humes entrance on the “mystery photo” I wrote this off to a willful ignorance. It was right there in the photo, but no one seemed to notice it. I assumed this was because most researchers had been so absorbed in all the discussion of the large exit wound on the back of the head that no one even thought to look for the small entrance wound on the back of the head identified at autopsy.
This assumption was supported, moreover, by the books and articles I'd read when I first started studying the medical evidence. One such article was The Late Arriving Fragment, by Dr. Randy Robertson. It was published in the July 1995 issue of The Fourth Decade. In this article, Dr. Robertson, a diagnostic radiologist sharing my conclusion Kennedy was shot twice in the head by multiple gunman, asserted: "The arrival of (the) large late arriving fragment was a significant development during the autopsy. When testifying before the WC, Drs. Humes and Finck stated that, prior to the arrival of this bone fragment, an examination of the margins of the large defect in the skull failed to reveal a specific point where a bullet might have exited the skull." He then claimed that this was incorrect: "Autopsy photograph #44 clearly shows half of an exit defect exhibiting external beveling in the right frontal bone, which must have been even more obvious to the autopsy team upon direct inspection the night of the autopsy."
And from this he conflated:
"It has been the consensus of experts and other observers, including myself, that autopsy photo #44 clearly demonstrates external beveling and represents a portion of a frontal exit wound. In the 1966 Inventory the autopsy doctors realized that this photo documented what they said under oath had been nonexistent the night of the autopsy. In an effort to hide their previous perjury, they intentionally misidentified this photo, which depicts external beveling, as depicting a portion of an entrance wound in the rear of the skull. This has caused considerable confusion among critics, who would like to believe that this particular misidentified photo represents a portion of an externally beveled exit wound in the rear of the skull. In fact, the photo's correct orientation and interpretation provides much more damning evidence as we will see. The DOJ, in drafting the 1967 review for the autopsy doctors to sign, included in the statement the apparently logical conclusion that the late arriving fragment, having one half of a single exit hole, would fit in the front of the skull where the other half of an exit hole was depicted in the autopsy photographs. The autopsy doctors could not object to this logic, for to do so would indicate two separate exit wounds and evidence for conspiracy. We can now understand the original reasons for their perjury. The night of the autopsy they knew that the correct orientation of the large late arriving fragment's exit portion was towards the rear of the head. Boswell's candid revelation to Thompson. completely supported by the radiographs and films of the assassination proves this. In order not to reveal the presence of an exit wound in the rear of the skull, they denied the existence of a portion of another exit defect in the front of the skull which should have led them to its correct position. This allowed them to be intentionally vague as to where exactly this late arriving fragment fit. By signing the 1967 review, which included an accurate description of this frontal exit wound in the autopsy photos, the autopsy doctors confirmed their own perjury."
Ouch. While coming to a similar conclusion as myself, Robertson had most everything backwards. He'd convinced himself that Dr. Humes had lied when he'd testified to having noticed no beveling on the intact skull. Well, this let Dr. Baden off the hook for lying about it later. Robertson had also convinced himself that Humes and Boswell had lied when claiming photo #44 (the mystery photo) showed an entrance wound on the posterior skull. Well, this let the Clark Panel and HSCA panel off the hook for failing to mention the presumed bullet entrance on the mystery photo--which just so happened to be in the exact location claimed by the doctors--when interpreted as if the photo shows the posterior skull.
And that's just the beginning. Robertson had also convinced himself that a report written by the Justice Department at the behest of CBS News was more credible than an inventory sheet created by the doctors for internal use at the National Archives--that was then hidden away for a decade.
I mean, from my perspective, this is Through the Looking Glass kind of stuff. Robertson pushed that the doctors were trying to conceal that the mystery photo showed a frontal exit--even though such an exit would help them sell that the shots came from behind. He pushed that they did this because they "knew that the correct orientation for the large late arriving fragment's exit portion was towards the rear of the head" and that they were trying to conceal that there were two separate wounds, one at the crown of the back of the head, and one on the frontal bone.
But where did he get this?
From his own imagination, as it turns out. In Six Seconds in Dallas (1967), Josiah Thompson relates that he interviewed Dr. Boswell earlier that year, and that Dr. Boswell told him that the doctors were able to match up one of the edges of the large triangular fragment with the intact skull during the autopsy, and that this placed the fragment at "the crown of the President's head at the midline." Thompson says nothing about the beveled exit on this fragment being at the crown, mind you, and Boswell most certainly never said such a thing elsewhere, but Robertson is not to be dissuaded. After announcing that his interpretation of the x-rays has led him to believe that this fragment does indeed fill a gap near the rear of the head (a conclusion he fails to admit is at odds with the only forensic anthropologist to study the fragment), he offers that when placed in this position, the corner (of the fragment) "which contains a portion of an exit wound would be oriented to the rear of the skull at the crown of the head, just as Thompson had been told by Dr. Boswell." Well, yikes, Robertson had thereby taken his interpretation of an x-ray and used this to interpret Boswell's statements to Thompson, and then claimed Boswell had actually told this to Thompson. And no, not just that, but that this was a "candid revelation."
Well, geez, did it really never occur to Robertson that the autopsy doctors placed the large fragment in a different orientation than he had, and that, in their orientation, the beveled exit on the fragment was on the top of the head--where they later placed it in the drawings they'd created for the Warren Commission? I mean, Robertson is pretty much alone in placing the beveled exit on the large triangular fragment at the back of the head--why would he assume both that the doctors would place the exit at this location and that they would be so confident in their placement of it at this location that they would lie about the orientation of the mystery photo when creating an inventory for the archives?
And that's not even to mention that neither Humes nor Boswell nor Finck has ever claimed or agreed that photo #44 (the mystery photo) shows a frontal exit, and that the review written under the guidance of the Justice Department in 1967, and signed by the doctors, did not, as Robertson claims, assert that the large triangular fragment "would fit in the front of the skull where the other half of an exit hole was depicted in the autopsy photographs. As discussed in Chapter 14, this review actually claims the photo verifies the accuracy of a drawing showing the back of the head, and only the back of the head. It claims, furthermore, that the photos portray the wound discussed in the autopsy report, a "large irregular defect involving chiefly the parietal bone but extending somewhat into the temporal and occipital regions." It says nothing about the frontal bone, or an exit wound on the front of the head.
Well, enough about Robertson. I suspect you get the picture. He, like most everyone else at one time or another, got caught up in a web of assumptions (such as the mystery photo's being taken from the front) and theories built upon these assumptions (such as the doctors' obviously lying when they suggested it was taken from behind), and started confusing these assumptions and theories with facts. This only makes him human. The point I'm trying to make, then, is not that people make mistakes, but that articles like Robertson's convinced me that most researchers were in the theory-pushing business, and that few if any were in the deliberate deception business.
While at the November, 2005, JFK LANCER conference, however, I noticed something which forced me to reconsider the ‘innocence” of some of those failing to notice the bullet entrance on the mystery photo.
But first a little background... In 1992, Dr. Charles Crenshaw, by then the most vocal of the Parkland witnesses, co-wrote a book, JFK: Conspiracy of Silence, which related his memories of November 22-24, 1963, and his current theories on the assassination. After its publication, and the subsequent media firestorm, he was widely criticized. Articles were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggesting he was a liar—that he’d never even seen Kennedy at Parkland—and so on. Crenshaw then sued the publishers of JAMA. Several years later, after winning this lawsuit, Crenshaw corrected some errors in his book, updated his story to include a section on the lawsuit, and added a section on the current state of the medical evidence, which was written by two leading members of the research community, Dr. Cyril Wecht and Dr. Gary Aguilar. This new and improved version of Crenshaw’s book, entitled Trauma Room One, was released in 2001.
In Trauma Room One, on page 281 to be exact, there is a reproduction of the mystery photo, the photo of the President’s brainless cranium which has been the focus of so much of my study. What is astounding about this presentation of the photo, however, is that it is not printed in a way one can make sense of it. It is not printed so that the bone in the photo appears to be forehead, and it is not printed so that the bone in the photo appears to be the back of the head. If one is to believe this photo is of the back of the head, it is, in fact, printed upside down. Even worse, the scalp triangle and lock of hair at the top of the photo, and the presumed bullet hole at the bottom of the photo, have been cropped off the photo. This makes it even harder to orient.
Now, was this just a coincidence? It seems mighty convenient that the presentation of the photo in this manner supports the book's claims that the photo does not show "where the bullet struck the skull." and that when inspecting the photo it "is virtually impossible to know which side is up, to know which bones are in the image, what part of the skull is being photographed, etc." The presentation of the photo in this manner also makes it hard to second-guess the writers when they ask "Is frontal bone or occipital bone visible in this image. Not even Kennedy's pathologists know for sure."
Since both doctors had inspected the photo at the Archives—Wecht was, in fact, not only the second non-government-affiliated doctor, after Lattimer, to inspect the photos, but had testified before both the Rockefeller Commission and HSCA—one has to question why they would not only make the argument that the photo is indecipherable, but crop it to make it far less decipherable. After all, even single-assassin theorists such as Chad Zimmerman and Larry Sturdivan present the photo un-cropped in their work. The website of single-assassin theorist John McAdams even presents the photo in the back of the head orientation so that his readers can judge for themselves.
Why would two leading lights of the research community misrepresent something so important?
Well, one possibility is that they were protecting their own reputations. Wecht’s disagreement with the HSCA was chiefly over their support for the single-bullet theory; he accepted the higher entrance in the skull and accepted that there was no clear-cut evidence for the Humes entrance on the autopsy photos. Similarly, Dr. Aguilar has built his reputation in part on his belief that the many eyewitnesses describing a large exit at the rear of the head were correct, and that the autopsy report is a sham. It is in neither of the doctors’ personal interest, therefore, to reveal that Humes was right about his low entrance.
But are Wecht and Aguilar capable of such “skullduggery”? Would they deliberately mislead the American public just to further their own agenda?
I think not. I find it hard to believe these two men, whose work and statements have been hugely influential in the research community, and who have always pushed for the government to open up the Archives and let the truth be known, would go to such lengths to conceal something of such importance. (I would subsequently come to meet both men and develop a great respect for their sincerity and integrity.) As a result, I suspect they had a blind spot.
Let this section then serve not as an indictment of two great men, but as a case study in how even the smartest and most honest of men can have a blind spot.
In re-reading the works of both men, it should be stated, neither seems to attach much significance to the photo. In Aguilar’s excellent 144 page on-line article, How Five Investigations into JFK’s Medical/Autopsy Evidence Got it Wrong, co-written with Kathy Cunningham in 2003, he devotes 16 pages to the Justice Department’s inspections of the autopsy photos in November 1966 and January 1967 (the so-called Military Review) and fails to mention that the description of the mystery photo changed between the two inspections. This is probably the single-most important change. And yet it goes unmentioned. Are we to assume from this that Aguilar deliberately left this out? Similarly, in his 42 page chapter in Murder in Dealey Plaza (2000), entitled The Converging Medical Case for Conspiracy, Aguilar declared, when discussing the possibility of a missing photo, “no images survive in which JFK’s scalp is shown reflected from the skull so as to demonstrate the skull wound.” This blanket dismissal of the significance of the mystery photo so alarmed Dr. Fetzer, the editor of the book (who, by the way, is not a medical doctor), that he felt it necessary to insert an editor’s note, reminding the reader “Apart from F8.” (F8, or Fox 8, is a widely-used term for the mystery photo.) While the probability exists that Dr. Aguilar, who is in everyday practice an ophthalmologist, was simply being short-sighted (sorry about the pun, Gary), and was referring specifically to the small entrance wound described by Dr. Finck, the fact is, as I’ve maintained throughout this presentation, that this wound is EXACTLY where Dr. Finck said it was. Why can’t Aguilar see this?
Dr. Wecht, for his part, never mentions the mystery photo in his 1993 book Cause of Death. There is a passage in his 63 page chapter on the assassination that reveals his blind spot, however. When discussing his first inspection of the autopsy photos, Wecht states “As I reviewed the x-rays and autopsy photographs, I noticed a little flap of loose tissue visible just above the hairline on the back of the President’s head…the loose flap very easily could be an exit wound, which would prove there was a second gunman shooting from the front. But even if it is an entrance wound from a bullet, it would destroy the Warren Commission’s conclusion that only three bullets were fired.”
It's undoubtedly revealing that Wecht’s immediate suspicion upon seeing something which could be a wound in the location where the autopsy doctors placed the entrance wound was that it could be an exit wound. This shows that Wecht had little doubt there was an entrance in the Clark Panel’s location. Apparently, it failed to register with him that the autopsy doctors could be right and Russell Fisher, the Clark Panel's ringleader, wrong. Wecht’s claim a lower entrance wound destroys the Warren Commission’s theory is further evidence of this short-sightedness. It is the existence of a higher/cowlick entrance, a wound observed by ZERO witnesses, that would immediately destroy the Warren Commission’s conclusions. And yet Wecht fails to argue for the existence of such an entrance. As so many others, he readily accepts that the Clark Panel's red oval-shaped mark in the cowlick is an entrance wound. As with George Lundberg of JAMA, who blindly trusted Humes, it would appear that Wecht blindly trusted Fisher.
I suspect otherwise, however. I suspect that instead Wecht blindly trusted himself. In preparing for the writing of this study, I read dozens of papers and books on wound ballistics, most of which included photos of typical head wounds. The red mark in the cowlick noted by the Clark Panel does look a bit like an entrance wound created by a low-velocity, small-caliber, bullet. As a result, it may have looked like a typical entrance wound to Wecht. By no means, of course, is it a typical entrance wound for a high-velocity, military-jacketed bullet, which has broken up on a skull.
So it seems quite possible the mysterious cropping of the mystery photo was just a misunderstanding. On August 1, 2006, Dr. Aguilar responded to my questions about the cropping of the photo. He said: “Somewhere along the line, after the images left our control, someone unknown to us shoehorned the image for reasons I don’t understand. At that time I had too many balls in the air and was at risk of dropping a more important one if I paused to catch this one.”
Upon my acceptance that Wecht and Aguilar did not deliberately mislead us by publishing a cropped version of the mystery photo, of course, I have to accept the related possibility that many of the misleading "mistakes" noted in my study of the evidence, even those by Arlen Specter, Robert Blakey, Dr. Michael Baden and Thomas Canning, were equally innocent.
To this end it should be noted that the doctors testifying in the American Bar Association's 1992 mock trial all made substantive mistakes. Dr. Martin Fackler, testifying for the prosecution, incorrectly asserted that Dr. Robert Shaw only claimed that Connally's back wound was 1 1/2 centimeters long at a point "later on," after he'd already determined it to be 3 cm. This was not true. While Dr. Shaw wrote "3 cm" on a report describing Connally's wounds, he testified from the first time he was asked about it that this measurement was made after he cut away some skin around the edges of an approximately 1 1/2 centimeter wound. Thus, there is no evidence that he ever "changed his recollection," as claimed by Fackler. Similarly, Dr. Piziali testified that Kennedy's head "wound location and head motion shows that the shot was fired from the sixth floor of the TSBD," a statement without any real support. The location and movement may have been consistent with a shot from the TSBD, but came nowhere near "showing" that a bullet was fired from the sniper's nest, as purported. Piziali then said this shot was fired from "88 yards...290 feet", thereby confirming both his lack of basic math skills and lack of familiarity with the case. He then stated that the FBI's tests on Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition showed that it broke up on human skulls. The skull tests, of course, were not conducted by the FBI but by Edgewood Arsenal, a government contractor working with the Army. On the other side, showing that experts on both sides of the case were equally capable of error, Dr. Roger McCarthy testified that the 2 bullet fragments removed from Kennedy's brain were "in fact found in his scalp." He then embarrassed himself further by asserting that "the record is very clear on this."
Experts are mere humans, and busy humans at that, and, as such, prone to mistakes. It's sad, but true.
I suspect that only through this acceptance will we come to any consensus on what really happened on November 22, 1963.
My suspicion that Wecht's errors were related to his experience led me down a dark road of thought. I began to question whether it's possible for those "with knowledge" to ever learn anything new. Does our frame of reference frame our reality?
Let's use Wecht as a case study. On August 23 and August 24, 1972, Dr. Cyril Wecht became the first fully independent pathologist to inspect the autopsy materials. He also became the first conspiracy theorist to see these materials. He reported his findings in a 1974 article in Forensic Science.
As a long-time critic of the original autopsy, and as a long-time proponent of forensic science, Wecht undoubtedly had a chip on his shoulder. He resented, justifiably, that military doctors with little forensic experience were chosen to perform the most important autopsy of the century. It was indeed an insult to his profession. When the Clark Panel, made up of better-qualified civilians, (Dr.s Fisher, Moritz, Carnes, and Morgan), had its report released in 1969 (and concluded that the autopsy doctors had indeed made major mistakes), moreover, one can only assume Wecht shouted "Told you so!" Well, it follows then like pee from drinking that when Wecht first saw the medical evidence in 1972, he was prepared to confirm the Clark Panel's basic findings.
Sure enough, in section 3.3 of the 1974 Forensic Science article discussing his findings, Dr. Wecht concluded "Generally speaking, the author's observations and measurements of the wounds and locations of bullet fragments are in agreement with the findings of the Clark Panel in 1968." At no point in his paper does Wecht side with the interpretations of the original autopsists over those expressed by the Clark Panel.
Wecht's failure to question the Clark Panel becomes painfully clear when one inspects Fig. 3 in his article. This is a drawing of a skull, purportedly showing the locations of the bullet fragments visible on Kennedy's x-rays. Wecht failed to properly assess the rearward tilt of the skull in the x-ray. As a result the fragment in the middle of the forehead on the x-rays was depicted just above the right eye on his drawing. Wecht described: "A fragment from this location is reported to have been removed surgically and later subjected to spectrographic analysis." Yikes! This helped fuel the mistaken and ongoing belief that the forehead fragment on the x-ray was the one recovered at autopsy. Far worse, Wecht's drawing depicted a large fragment on the back of the head by the Clark Panel's entrance. A close look at the x-ray purportedly studied by Wecht, however, shows THERE'S NOTHING THERE.
Even more intriguing, Wecht KNEW there was nothing there. In his best-selling book, Best Evidence, David Lifton reveals that he accompanied Dr. Wecht to the archives, and that they discussed Wecht's findings both during and after his examination. Lifton recalls: "During the afternoon session, it became quite obvious that Wecht had great difficulty reading the x-rays--that he couldn't find the entry wound reported by the Clark Panel or by Dr. Lattimer. There was no hole there at all, said Wecht." Lifton then recalls that he discussed this with others and told Wecht that he shouldn't be looking for a "hole", but for a "subtle shading". He then recalls that Wecht "was still not able to locate the entry wound." Lifton then recalls that he measured out the length of thread the supposed entrance would be from the external occipital protuberance and gave this to Wecht to help him find the entrance on the x-rays. He recalls "Wecht did this, and that was how he found the entrance wound in the back of President Kennedy's head." (Unstated by Lifton but clear from his account is that Wecht was unable to locate the large fragment purportedly just below this entrance wound; if he'd seen the fragment, after all, he would not have needed to use this thread to find the location of the "hole.") Lifton then cites Wecht's dictation on the "finding" of this entrance. Wecht said "This is a change in density which apparently is what is referred to in the previous panel as a 'hole.' This either takes imagination or some very sophisticated radiological expertise because it is difficult for me to consider this a hole. In any event, it has to be because it fits the measurements that they give about 100mm from the external occipital protuberance."
Thus, Dr. Cyril Wecht, under pressure from David Lifton to confirm that the autopsy doctors were wrong, and unable to conceive that the civilians on the Clark Panel were so badly mistaken, ignored his own better instincts and came to not only accept that the cowlick entrance he could not find was there, but to depict the bullet fragment purportedly just below this entrance in his exhibits.
But this was not the only point on which Wecht wrongly deferred to the Panel. When discussing the angle of descent from the back wound to the neck wound, Wecht announced "Adopting also the Clark Panel's measurement of the vertical position of the exit hole, namely 9 cm below the same crease (although the author was unable to corroborate this measurement from his own observations) we are able to compute the trajectory of the bullet relative to the horizontal and sagittal planes through the President's body at the time he was struck. The downward angle works out to be 11 1/2 degrees..." As a more accurate measurement would have helped Wecht in his efforts to debunk the single-bullet theory, Wecht's acceptance of the Clark Panel's measurements made little sense, and suggests he'd given the Clark Panel's measurements and conclusions undue weight.
Wecht v. World
To his credit, Wecht seems fully aware the influence an "expert" can hold over another "expert." An April 19, 1975 memo in the files of the Rockefeller Commission reveals that when Dr. Wecht spoke to the Commission's Robert Olsen, he voiced his displeasure with the make-up of the commission's medical panel. Olsen related "Dr. Wecht was very unsettled by the identity of the members of the panel. Indeed, he was very angry to the point of shouting and indulging in frequent profanity. He said that almost the whole panel is made up of people from the Washington-Baltimore community; that all of them are under the control and influence of the Chief Medical Examiner of Maryland, Dr. Russell Fisher; that we should have looked elsewhere for impartial experts; that Dr. Fisher is a very strong-willed and influential man who has succeeded in getting more Federal grants in the field of forensic pathology than all other doctors in the United States combined...Dr. Wecht readily acknowledged the professional qualifications of all members of our panel. He said that among their fellow professionals each enjoyed a high standing. He stated, however, that it was wholly unrealistic to expect that anybody on this panel would express views different from those expressed by the Ramsey Clark Panel in 1968, which included Dr. Fisher and a radiologist from Johns Hopkins, Dr. Russell Morgan."
It seems Wecht knew of which he spoke.
Perhaps Wecht was thinking of Paul L. Kirk. Kirk was a respected criminalist, whose post-conviction study of the blood-spatter evidence in the Sam Sheppard murder case (the basis for the TV show and movie The Fugitive) brought Sheppard a new trial, and release. Understandably, this greatly upset Samuel Gerber, the coroner whose work helped convict Sheppard in the first place. Gerber is reported to have been so upset by this, in fact, that he retaliated against Kirk by using his influence with his fellow coroners to deny Kirk membership in the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. (This blackballing was only partially corrected by the Academy's naming a yearly award for excellence after Kirk. The Paul Kirk award was first issued in 1979, at which point Kirk had been dead for nine years.)
Or perhaps Wecht was thinking of a more benign form of influence. It goes without saying that people indebted to Fisher would be less likely to question his conclusions than those with a clean slate. It should also be evident that, once fed an interpretation of facts from someone one respects, it is difficult to completely shake off their interpretation and see this set of facts with fresh eyes.
In any event, Wecht's letter to Olsen was far from the only time he complained about the make-up of the panel. An interview of Wecht published in the October 1975 issue of Physician's Management shows that in the intervening months he had not only failed to cool down, but had actually heated up. He said the creation of the panel was "part of the cover-up" and described the panel's members as "government sycophants." He pointed out, and with good reason, that of all the lawyers in America who could be charged with heading an investigation into the CIA's illegal activities, and re-investigating the medical aspects of the Kennedy assassination, President Gerald Ford, the only member of the Warren Commission to write a book on his experience and tie his reputation to the single-bullet theory, picked David Belin, a corporate attorney from Iowa, whose only qualification came from his experience with the Warren Commission, and his being the only member of the commission's staff to write a book on his experience, and tie his reputation to the single-bullet theory.
On May 5, 1978, moreover, Wecht issued a press release in which he similarly attacked the make-up of the Rockefeller Commission's Panel. As three of the panel's members--Dr. Spitz, Dr. Lindenberg, and Dr. Wecht himself--had been trained by the Clark Panel's Dr. Fisher, and as Spitz had co-edited a book, Medicolegal Investigation of Death (to which Dr. Lindenberg had contributed), with Fisher, and as yet another panelist--Dr. Fred Hodges--was both a colleague of the Clark Panel's Dr. Morgan at Johns Hopkins University and the nephew of Morgan's mentor, Dr. Paul Hodges, it is easy to see Wecht's point. But it's worse than that. The other two members of the Rockefeller Commission panel were equally unlikely to question the conclusions of the Warren Commission and Clark Panel. One of these--Dr. Robert McMeekin--was a colleague of one of Kennedy's autopsists, Dr. Pierre Finck, at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, and the other, Dr. Alfred Olivier, had actually been the Warren Commission's wound ballistics expert.
Not that Robert Olsen, to whom Wecht initially complained, was concerned about this, mind you. In the Rockefeller Commission's files there is a Memo to File by Olsen on the creation of the medical panel. It acknowledges that Olsen called an expert at NASA regarding the movements of Kennedy's head in the Zapruder film, and that this expert referred him to Dr. Charles Stahl at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, and that Stahl, in turn, referred him to Dr. McMeekin. It was then decided that a panel should be formed. McMeekin suggested Lindenberg and Spitz. He also suggested Dr. Charles Petty. Olsen rejected Petty, however, as Petty was at that time the Chief Medical Examiner of Dallas, Texas, the scene of the assassination. Lindenberg then suggested Olivier and Hodges. Presumably, Olsen didn't realize that birds of a feather...well, you know.
In 1993, in his book Cause of Death, Dr. Wecht once again questioned the impartiality of his colleagues. This time, however, it was the impartiality of his colleagues on the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, whose reports, much as the Rockefeller Commission Panel before them, pretty much rubber-stamped the findings of Russell Fisher and the Clark Panel. When discussing why he alone among the panel was willing to dispute the single-bullet theory, which he calls "absolute nonsense," and the concurrent conclusion that there was only one shooter, Wecht reveals: "I believe it's more of a pre-determined mindset that many of my colleagues have that a cover-up or conspiracy of this magnitude by the federal government is unthinkable, or, at the very least, unlikely. Just as lawyers disagree over what a particular law or court ruling means, forensic pathologists frequently have differences of opinion. I have no reason whatsoever to doubt my colleagues' sincerity. However, it should be noted that many of these same people had a long-standing involvement with the federal government--many had received federal grants for research and appointments to various influential government boards. To be highly critical of a government action could end that friendly relationship with Uncle Sam."
Wecht was actually being far too kind. It is incredibly suspicious that, of the nine pathologists on the HSCA panel, six had embraced a professional relationship with Dr. Russell Fisher, whose findings they would be reviewing. Dr. Spitz had not only been trained by Fisher, he'd been closely associated with Fisher since 1959. He had worked as Fisher's assistant or Deputy from 1965 to 1972, and had co-edited the widely-praised book Medicolegal Investigation of Death with Fisher.
And Spitz was not the only one reviewing Fisher's findings to have a clear-cut conflict of interest. Dr.s Baden and Weston had contributed articles to Medicolegal Investigation of Death.
And then there's Dr. Petty... Dr. Petty had not only worked for Dr. Nicholas Chetta, the coroner of Orleans Parish (who'd performed the 1967 autopsy on the central figure in Jim Garrison's investigation of Kennedy's assassination, David Ferrie, and who'd concluded Ferrie's suspiciously-timed death had been by natural causes), he'd studied poisons while working with him (as discussed in a 3-29-56 article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune). By 1958, Petty had become an assistant to Dr. Fisher in the Maryland State Medical Examiner's Office. While there, moreover, he formed a long-lasting friendship with his future HSCA Pathology Panel co-panelist Dr. Werner Spitz. (An article in the June 1961 Journal of Forensic Science was, incredibly, attributed to Fisher, Spitz, and Petty--three colleagues who would somehow (by chance?) become the driving forces behind the Clark, Rockefeller Commission, and HSCA Forensic Pathology Panels--the three government-sanctioned civilian panels to investigate Kennedy's death. The Maryland Manual of 1965-1966, found online, moreover, lists the employees of the Department of Post-Mortem Examiners, and lists Fisher as Chief Medical Examiner, followed by three assistant medical examiners, two of whom were Werner Spitz and Charles Petty.)
But that wasn't the end of Petty's journey. In 1969--two years after he left Maryland for Indiana and the year after his mentor Dr. Fisher led the Clark Panel, Dr. Petty became the Chief Medical Examiner for Dallas. Yes, THAT Dallas. THE Dallas. Now, this made Petty's appearance on the HSCA Pathology Panel a conflict of interest...four times over: 1) his relationship with Chetta; 2) his relationship with Fisher; 3) his relationship with Spitz, who'd already confirmed Fisher's findings for the Rockefeller Commission; and 4) his relationship with the City of Dallas.
But it gets worse. Far worse. In July, 1977, Petty revealed his ongoing relationship with Fisher by co-editing a book with him, Forensic Pathology: A Handbook For Pathologists. This was published in July, 1977, only two months before Petty reviewed Fisher's findings for the House Select Committee. Even more shocking, Forensic Pathology was written under contract to the Justice Department, under whose guidance Fisher had made his findings in 1968. And even more shocking--but not all that surprising when one really stops to think about it--of the twelve contributors to Forensic Pathology beyond Fisher, four ended up on the HSCA panel reviewing Fisher's findings.
Now how can this be? Does it make any sense whatsoever that, of the six pathologists to enter the archives on 9-17-77 and review the medical evidence, four--Dr.s Petty, Baden, Coe, and Loquvam--had contributed to a book written for the Justice Department only months before? And that this book was edited by the prestigious Dr. Fisher, whose findings they would be reviewing? And that of the remaining two, one--Dr. Joseph Davis--was both trained under Stanley Durlacher, an early protege of Fisher's, and a former co-worker with Dr. Petty in the New Orleans coroner's office, and the other--Dr. Earl Rose--was the Medical Examiner for Dallas in 1963, and highly unlikely to say anything that might suggest a conspiracy, and cast doubt upon the "innocence" of his former home?
And what about the second part of the panel, made up of those who'd already studied the evidence? Does it make any sense whatsoever that Dr. Wecht was deliberately isolated on a panel in which the other two members--Dr.s Spitz and Weston--were not only close associates of Dr. Fisher's, but had already gone on record as saying the evidence supported Fisher's findings?
The answer, of course, is that it does make sense--but only if you accept that the membership of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel and its organization was designed to protect the reputations of Dr. Russell Fisher and the Clark Panel.
Not to mention the Justice Department, the creators of the Clark Panel...
I mean, let's get serious. Before they could be accepted to a panel reviewing Dr. Fisher's findings, Dr.s Spitz and Petty, at the very least, should have been asked to sign a statement saying they hadn't discussed the case with their colleague and mentor Dr. Fisher. That they were not asked to do so, and that, apparently, this issue never came up, speaks volumes and proves that the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel was infected from its onset.
This infection, moreover, was not limited to the pathologists on the HSCA's pathology panel. A quick google search of the panel's chief radiology consultant, Dr. G.M. McDonnel, reveals that he served as a Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army Medical Corps throughout the 1950's, studying the effects of radiation on soldiers and civilians on behalf the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army. It reveals further that by June 1960, while still in the Army, he'd become a member of the National Committee on Radiation Protection and Measurements. a committee set up to determine the safety (and danger) of various doses of radiation. It reveals also that in August 1961 a 195-page report on a 1957 project run by McDonnel, Effects of Nuclear Detonations on a Large Biological Specimen (Swine), was published by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, and that its corporate author was listed as the Walter Reed Institute of Research in Washington D.C.
Now this would be bad enough. McDonnel did not testify before the HSCA, so his background, outside his being a radiologist working at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, went largely unexplored. Few, if any, people studying the Kennedy assassination medical evidence realized he'd been a researcher for the U.S. Army, who'd worked out of Washington, D.C.
But it's even worse than that. A 9-28-61 UPI article (found in the Lakeland Ledger) reveals that McDonnel was by that time teaching at the University of California, Los Angeles. This article did more than reveal McDonnell's latest position, however. It revealed that McDonnel had just spoken at the 62nd meeting of the American Roentgen Ray Society, and had been part of a three member panel pushing that the "dangers to mankind because of atomic tests are 'highly exaggerated.'" This article reported further that Dr. "McDonnell said recent measurements have gone to 500 but they would have to go to 'several million' before there would be real concern. He said x-ray workers have been exposed to many times the present readings without ill effects...Dr. McDonnel said some people in India have lived for generations literally on top of a radium bed. 'I don't think they will be harmed at all until someone comes along and tells them they are in real danger,' he added."
And Dr. McDonnel wasn't the only member of the panel downplaying the harmful effects of radiation. Another member claimed: "I am much less concerned with the fallout than with the arms race behind it." This member was Dr. Russell Morgan, of Johns Hopkins University, the very doctor whose findings on Kennedy's x-rays Dr. McDonnel would later be called on to review. Johns Hopkins University is, by the way, only 40 miles from Walter Reed Hospital. The Johns Hopkins Radiology notebook, available online, reveals that Morgan served in Washington as a Commander in the U.S. Public Health Service during World War II, and that he conducted research at a special laboratory built for him in Rockville, Maryland, but 8 miles away from Dr. McDonnel's base of operations at Walter Reed. It seems likely, then, that Dr.s McDonnel and Morgan were well familiar with one another, and quite possibly close colleagues.
Now, can I prove this? No, not yet. But it can be shown they met more than once, as a government document found online reveals that on 5-18-61 McDonnel and Morgan served on an 11-member panel convened by the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to discuss the building of an Environmental Center in, hmmm, Rockville, Maryland.
And it seems likely their government service overlapped... McDonnel was born in 1919. He was in his early 20's at the outbreak of World War II. While I have not found a record of his induction into the Army, it makes little sense to assume this occurred after the war. This, in turn, suggests he was on active duty during Morgan's stint with the Public Health Service from 1944-1946. Perhaps, then, they worked together. It's unclear what Morgan's work for the Public Health Service entailed, but his pre-war employer, the University of Chicago, studied the dangers of radioactivity for the Manhattan Project, the developers of the atomic bomb, and he may very well have continued this study at his lab in Rockville. The earliest record I can find of McDonnel is a 3-26-50 AP newspaper article (found in the Daily Iowan). The article relates that "An Army doctor says many physicians have an exaggerated idea about the dangers of radioactivity in an atom-bombed area. Major G.M. McDonnel says it's safe to enter a bombed area two minutes after the blast of an air-burst bomb--and that doctors and everyone else should bear this in mind lest there be unnecessary delay in rescue work if atomic disaster strikes this nation. He said in an interview this would hold true for any A-bomb. He declared that this would be the most likely method used in any attack since an airburst causes the greatest amount of destruction. McDonnel is with the Armed Forces' 'Special Weapons Project.' If A-bombs are employed in an attack, said McDonnel, rescue workers should be prepared to go in fast with bandages, blood, and bulldozers--'and never mind waiting for a geiger counter to see if the radioactivity is within safe limits.'" This article was sent out of Washington.
So, yeah, Morgan and McDonnel knew each other, and may very well have worked together.
But, even if they didn't, what are the odds that, in 1961, at the height of the Cold War, three radiologists would appear before a meeting of their colleagues and try to convince them that the radiation released by the military's nuclear tests was of little or no danger to the public, and that 7 years later one of these radiologists would be called upon to study the x-rays of the murdered president who stopped these tests, and that, 10 years after that, another would be called upon to review his findings? I mean, could this really be a coincidence? Or was something else going on, whereby the consultants called upon by the government were not random, but were selected from a small pool of friends and associates known to be supportive of the government's objectives?
In any event, it's not just a coincidence that the HSCA rubber-stamped the Clark Panel's conclusions on the head wound. In his 1998 book Real Answers HSCA Deputy Chief Counsel Gary Cornwell reveals that he was all set to aggressively interview Dr. Humes and expose Humes' supposed mistakes--including that he'd misidentified the location of the entrance wound on Kennedy's head--but that the "committee's doctor" (presumably Dr. Baden, but possibly Dr. Petty) told him he couldn't do that, as Humes was a "respected man." This doctor then warned Humes of Cornwell's plans, and convinced Humes to acknowledge he'd made a mistake regarding the entrance wound location (a confession he subsequently recanted) in exchange for Cornwell's taking it easy on him, and not attacking his reputation. Well, if this doctor was Baden, as one might only assume, seeing as he was the only doctor on the pathology panel in regular contact with those running the committee, it seems certain that protecting Humes' reputation was the last thing on his mind, and that his true goal in warning Humes was to get Humes to back off his claim there was no entrance wound in the cowlick, and thereby prevent possible damage to the reputation of DR. RUSSELL FISHER.
This isn't as wild as it seems. In his book Unnatural Death (1989), Dr. Baden demonstrates little regard for Humes' reputation. No, check that--he TRASHES Humes' reputation. The autopsy conducted by Humes was a "disaster." Humes "had never autopsied anyone with a gunshot wound." Humes was "not competent for the job." Humes understood, without specifically being told, "that he wasn't supposed to do a full autopsy." "He was there to please his superiors." "He felt it was beyond his powers to describe the wounds." "The autopsy was woefully inadequate." "Humes couldn't understand what had happened to the head bullet..." "The autopsy is not finished until you work out the bullet tracks along with the exits and entrances. Humes explained that he was in a hurry, that the family was waiting for the body." Humes "burned his notes." "It is not clear what facts he used from his original notes." "The result was an autopsy report filled with errors, sins of omission and commission. Bullets weren't tracked, the brain wasn't sectioned, the measurements were inaccurate, the head wound wasn't described. The weights and measures of body organs made no sense."
Now this was not the random destruction of another man's reputation, mind you, but the willful destruction of a man's reputation in order to prop something up in its place. Having explained to his readers that Humes was incompetent and not to be trusted, Baden then thrusts upon them the one point he almost certainly knows they'd question if he was to tell them all the facts. Humes "didn't shave any hair from around the head wounds in order to examine them. The wounds were photographed through the hair." "The head is only five inches long from crown to neck, but Humes was confused by a little piece of brain tissue that had adhered top the scalp. He placed the head wound four inches lower than it actually was, near the neck instead of the cowlick." Baden never tells his readers that not only did Dr. Boswell, Dr. Finck, and autopsy photographer John Stringer also tell his panel the wound was where Humes said it was--and that there was no wound in the cowlick (where the great Russell Fisher said it was)--but that Finck had had a meeting with Baden's panel in an attempt to convince them of this fact, and had stuck to his guns despite Baden's badgering.
So, yeah, the military pathologists were just tossed to the side of the road by Baden and his buddies in their rush to support their civilian buddy Fisher.
Still, maybe this is just the way it's done in Washington.
The Good Old Doctor Network
I mean, it's not as if the doctors consulted by the ARRB were any more independent...
In 1996, the ARRB consulted with three outside experts. These experts, Forensic Anthropologist Douglas Ubelaker, Forensic Radiologist John Fitzpatrick, and Forensic Pathologist Robert Kirschner, were shown the autopsy materials and asked to informally share their impressions with members of the ARRB staff. In other words, they were asked to provide background. Now, one might think that the ARRB would seek out experts with no dog in the hunt for this background--respected professionals with no close ties to earlier consultants on the case. But one would be wrong. When one reads Dr. Ubelaker's memoirs, Bones, one finds that he was a protege of Dr. Lawrence Angel, a consultant to the HSCA Panel. When one reads articles on Dr. Kirschner, for that matter, one finds that he had a close association with Dr. Clyde Snow, another consultant to the HSCA. And when one reads Dr. William Maples' book Dead Men Tell No Tales, one finds even more to wonder about.
In his book, Dr. Maples tells the story of a box of cremains found on the side of a highway. There was a name on the box holding these cremains, and therein lies the problem. Just the day before the discovery of these cremains, Forest Lawn Mortuary had provided an urn full of ashes to the family of the woman whose name was on the box. The discovery of these cremains, then, came as quite a shock. The woman's family, naturally, assumed the ashes in the urn were not hers, and that the mortuary had lost her ashes and had tried to deceive the family. They sued for millions. Well, this caused Forest Lawn and its insurer to panic. How to prove the ashes in the urn were indeed the woman's ashes? Well, in comes Dr. Maples. They hire him to find some way to prove the ashes in the urn are the woman's ashes, and the ashes in the box not her ashes. So he hires five men to help him. At top dollar... The five? Dr. Clyde Snow, HSCA Forensic Anthropology consultant, Dr. Lowell Levine, HSCA Forensic Dentistry consultant, Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Douglas Ubelaker, a prominent Forensic Radiologist named Fitzpatrick (almost certainly John. J. Fitzpatrick), and Forensic Pathologist Dr. Robert Kirschner. This was 1991, five years before they would get pegged as consultants to the ARRB, and yet, here they were, the ARRB's supposedly independent consultants--Dr.s Ubelaker, Fitzpatrick, and Kirschner--working side by side with two of the HSCA's consultants on a case guaranteed to fill their bank accounts. (They ultimately claimed there was stuff in the urn that could only have come from the woman, and that none of this tell-tale stuff was in the box found by the highway.)
And that wasn't the last of the ARRB's fling with the experts. In January 1998, after enhancing the autopsy photos and x-rays, the ARRB decided to show the new and improved images to two experts, and ask them if these images led them to believe a new investigation should be conducted. The two experts? Dr. Vincent DiMaio, who was not only a former associate of Dr. Fisher of the Clark Panel, but was someone who'd already made his belief there was no conspiracy known, and legendary crime scene analyst Dr. Henry Lee, whose friendship and working relationship with the HSCA's Dr. Baden had preceded even their dramatic testimony on behalf O.J. Simpson, in one of the most notorious trials in American history. Neither DiMaio nor Lee should have been asked about a new investigation, as they were too close to those involved in the old investigation. And yet...they were the only two questioned on this point.
So, yeah, the independence of those dragged into this mess by the government was non-existent from the beginning, and never got much better. The concerns Dr. Wecht expressed in his book were justified, and perhaps even understated.
Dr. Wecht's suggestion that money played a role in the pathology panel's decisions was also understated. That the economic interests of doctors can influence their conclusions has been confirmed numerous times. By way of example, a survey by Mildred Cho and Lisa Bero published in the March 1996 Annals of Internal Medicine revealed that 98% of the studies of drug effectiveness funded by the drug's manufacturer came to a favorable conclusion, while only 76% of the studies funded by independent sources shared this conclusion. This suggests that a drug company is 12 TIMES more likely to avoid an unfavorable conclusion about its product if it funds the doctors making the conclusion. A survey published in the October 1999 Journal of the American Medical Association was almost as discouraging. It found that a study sponsored by a drug company was about 8 TIMES more likely to avoid an unfavorable conclusion on its new drug than a study sponsored by a non-profit organization. Perhaps, as suggested by writers Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber in their book Trust Us, We're Experts!, the physician's motto of "First, do no harm" should be changed to "First, do no harmful publicity."
Of course, money is not the only motivating factor that can consciously or subconsciously color a doctors' perceptions, conclusions, and testimony. None less than Dr. Baden, in his book Dead Reckoning, has noted: "Physicians may be the worst witnesses. They are often swayed by whoever asked them to be an expert. If that lawyer is smart enough to ask their advice, they conclude, he must know what he is doing. That being the case, physicians therefore adopt whatever the lawyer tells them as the facts of the case and become, if only subconsciously, an advocate for the lawyer rather than an independent adviser." The ease with which scientists and doctors can be seduced into supporting otherwise unsupportable conclusions by lawyers is such common knowledge, in fact, that it was the subject of a well-received book, Gallileo's Revenge, by Peter Huber. Huber, a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, was so disturbed by what he found that he was led to conclude "Malpractice by scientific and medical professionals is not only tolerated but encouraged, so long as it is solicited by lawyers themselves." Damning words indeed.
But one doesn't have to question the motivation of doctors to question their ability to see evidence with absolute clarity. The susceptibility of doctors to innocent suggestion, and their innocent resistance to data challenging this suggestion, has also been studied. In 1972 Dr. David Rosenhan of Stanford University, along with seven recruits, checked themselves into psychiatric hospitals. These eight subjects told the hospitals they'd heard voices in their heads repeating words with no apparent meaning. After admission, however, the subjects claimed the voices stopped, and began acting perfectly normal. The psychiatrists "treating" these subjects, however, routinely interpreted the "normal" behavior of these subjects as additional signs of their psychopathology. As a result, the patients were hospitalized for an average of 19 days, and fed an average of over 250 pills. Seven of them were diagnosed as being schizophrenic, and one as being bi-polar. Rosenhan himself was confined for almost two months. After his release, Dr. Rosenhan began the second half of his study. He told the hospitals of their mistakes, and that he'd be sending them more fake patients over the next three months. During this period 193 patients were admitted to one of the hospitals. 20% of these patients were identified by at least one staff member as being one of Dr. Rosenhan's "fake" patients. In fact, none of them were. Dr. Rosenhan had simply planted the suggestion that there could be fake patients in the minds of the hospital's employees, and they had begun to see them everywhere. Whereas not one of the original 8 patients pretending to hear voices had been spotted as a fake, over 40 actual patients were subsequently, and inaccurately, accused of being fakes.
The resistance to new perceptions, once one's frame of reference has been set, had been tested even before Rosenhan. In 1949, in a landmark study performed by Jerome Bruner and Leo Postman, subjects were flashed playing cards, some of which had a wrong color, i.e. red spades, black diamonds. They found that people would always recognize a normal card within 350 milliseconds, but would fail to recognize what they called a "trick card" 10% of the time, even when given a full second. They found, furthermore, that as one was exposed to more "trick cards," the speed in which one could identify the trick cards drastically improved.
Historians have also studied this resistance. In 1962, Thomas Kuhn published a landmark work of his own, "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions". As part of his study, Kuhn looked at the time lapse between the development of new scientific theories and their general acceptance by the scientist's peers. He found, amazingly, that very few scientists, once committed to a theory, ever change their minds and embrace the findings of another scientist, even if this other scientist's new theory better answers the questions answered by their old theory. Kuhn relates:
"Copernicanism made few converts for almost a century after Copernicus' death. Newton's work was not generally accepted, particularly on the Continent, for more than half a century after the Principia appeared. Priestley never accepted the oxygen theory, nor Lord Kelvin the electromagnetic theory, and so on. The difficulties of conversion have often been noted by the scientists themselves. Darwin, in a particularly perceptive passage at the end of the Origin of the Species, wrote: 'Although I am fully convinced of the truth of the views given in this volume...,I by no means expect to convince experienced naturalists whose minds are stocked with a multitude of facts all viewed, during a long course of years, from a point of view directly opposite to mine...But I look with confidence to the future,--to young and rising naturalists, who will be able to view both sides of the question with impartiality.' And Max Planck, surveying his own career in his Scientific Autobiography, sadly remarked that 'a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.'"
So...if you've made it this far and have failed to be convinced by any of my arguments, I can only say that I hope you die soon... Just kidding. No, really, if you think I'm wrong about everything, but have nevertheless made it this far, I'm delighted to have entertained you on whatever level I've entertained you. Particularly in that there remains a chance I can convince you of something.
Let's go back to Dr. Wecht. In 2003, in an article co-written with Dr. David Mantik, Wecht publicly reversed his position on the 6.5 mm fragment he'd once portrayed on the back of Kennedy's head. This article, published in a compendium entitled The Assassinations, presented an image of Kennedy's computer-enhanced A-P x-ray with the caption "The 6.5 mm (white) object seen within the right orbit is almost certainly a deliberate artifact that was added to the original x-ray; the latter was then lost or destroyed." Above this image is an image of Kennedy's computer-enhanced lateral x-ray. It has an arrow pointing to the back of Kennedy's skull, where Wecht depicted the 6.5 mm fragment in his 1974 article. Only this new image is captioned: "The arrow at the rear identifies the corresponding site for the 6.5 mm fragment." It seems clear from these captions then that Wecht now readily acknowledges that he fails to see the 6.5 mm fragment at this site. While I would like to show Wecht my own work and convince him that the large fragment on the A-P x-ray is actually not an artifact, but the fragment behind Kennedy's right eye described and removed at autopsy, it is nevertheless comforting that some "experts", sometimes, can be convinced to change their opinions.
I suppose, in this light, I should also take comfort that Larry Sturdivan has changed so many of his opinions, and that Dr. Lattimer, while sure of Oswald's guilt to the end, nevertheless changed his opinion on the entrance wound on the skull.
I'll work on that. Taking comfort.
But in the meantime. I'm stuck in the middle with you. Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, you know.
And Left is Right?
I mean, it's not as if those on the conspiracy side of the fence are automatically more credible than Sturdivan, Lattimer, Myers, et al...
No, not at all. Unfortunately, the clognitive thinking described in the last chapter is not unique to the single-assassin theorist community.
It reveals itself in a number of ways. Some conspiracy theorists are so desperate to believe there was a conspiracy they will present the wackiest statements made by witnesses decades after the shooting as some sort of "proof." These people will claim Jean Hill's latter-day recollections are credible and the statements of Gordon Arnold, who claimed to have been on the grassy knoll at the time of the shooting--but whose presence can not be detected in any of the photographs--all the proof they need. One such theorist, in fact, has written me numerous times arguing that Robert Knudsen's 1978 testimony, in which he stated he first became aware of the autopsy photos on the morning after the autopsy, did not suggest he was not in attendance at the autopsy, as one would suspect, but suggested instead that he only took photos of the autopsy after midnight.
Such cloudy thinking is so widespread, unfortunately, that conspiracy theorists clinging to the notion the mystery photo was taken from the front are as likely as single-assassin theorists to dispute the obvious fact that the original description of the mystery photo (that of a photo depicting a "missile wound over entrance in posterior skull, following reflection of the scalp") indicates it was taken from behind.
In fact, as hard as it is to admit, I've been forced to conclude that many conspiracy theorists are just as "stuck" in their ways of thinking, and just as unable to see the world through a fresh pair of eyes, as the blindest single-assassin theorists. To use the image on the Clognitive Thinking slide as a metaphor, they are stuck seeing the world in shade and the middle square of this world (the Kennedy assassination) as light brown, or even orange. To continue on with this metaphor, then, single-assassin theorists see the world in light, and the middle square (the Kennedy assassination) as dark brown. Meanwhile, in the eyes of someone looking at the squares separate from any particular world view, both squares are really the same color, and a shade somewhere in the middle. (This shade, should one find it, is the truth.)
The search for the shade in the middle, moreover, alienates both those seeing the middle square as dark brown and those seeing it as light brown. I've tried to see the shade in the middle, and have upset many individuals in the process.
Here's a most telling example...
In late 2009 and early 2010, I had a number of heated exchanges on the Education Forum, an online discussion group, with Dr. James Fetzer. He kept attacking me for being closed-minded and not subscribing to his and Jack White's claims that the autopsy photos, x-rays and assassination films have all been altered by the government. He also accused me of never having read any of his books. On January 4, 2010, after I posted the Eye of the Beholder section from chapter 13 of this webpage to demonstrate that 1) I had read at least one of his books, and 2) he had never read my webpage or else he'd have known that, he responded in a changed manner. He suddenly acknowledged:
You have made an extraordinary discovery here, by which I am referring to the apparent second entry wound at the back of the head in the HSCA photographs, which simply stuns me. To the best of my knowledge, you are the first and only person to have made this observation...At the very least, this means that a photograph that the HSCA used to justify its shift in the entry location by four inches was actually contradicted by the lower entry location shown on the same photograph. I am fairly astonished that no one has noticed this before. I would compare it to the photo showing Arlen Specter illustrating the path of the 'magic bullet' had to have taken, while the circular patch showing the actual entry is visible well-below his hand, which means that a photo intended to illustrate the 'magic bullet' theory actually refutes it."
Well, this is it, I thought, finally an acknowledgment from Fetzer and his colleagues that I am not just a nay-sayer to their wild theories, but am actually pushing the investigation forward in new and revealing directions.
But no such luck. Three hours later, he added:
"I don't know what to say, Pat, because Jack has taken a look and says that the hole you have 'discovered' isn't there. This will take some sorting out. I will invite David Mantik, David Lifton, and John Costella to take a look, too. Something is not right."
Well, we can agree on that. Something is not right when a supposedly independent thinker such as Fetzer, who taught critical thinking at the university level, has to check with his colleagues--all of whom have embraced theories which I have publicly rejected--before allowing himself to acknowledge what he has already admitted he sees. Something is especially not right, moreover, when his admitted reason for doing so is that Jack White, a long-time researcher who believed not only that the Kennedy autopsy photos, x-rays and assassination films were all fake, but that O.J. Simpson was innocent, no astronauts landed on the moon, no jet hit the Pentagon on 9/11, and the theory of evolution is a fraud, had told him that we were mistaken.
Or does that sound too harsh? Well, judge for yourself. Here is a February 11, 2010 post by White on the Education Forum in which he acknowledged that he perceived the election of America's first black President, Barack Obama, and America's humanitarian response to the then-recent devastating earthquake in Haiti, as all part of some master plot:
"There are not as many paid provocateurs in the JFK affair as in other more monstrous charades such as 911, Apollo, OKC, TWA800, etc. JFK was "just" the killing of a single man. Much more serious are the callous murders of thousands in other events in deceptions on an enormous scale (to say nothing of the ensuing wars).
These nitpickers have no concept of the gigantic struggle between GOOD and EVIL we are involved in. The sinister forces of the New World Order do not consider it wrong to "eliminate" the masses if it serves their corrupt agendas. The Skull and Bones elite death cult promotes death as a means toward progress. The evil international bankers, led by David Rockefeller, decide who our "leaders" will be (ala Obama). S&B and other evil groups promote EUGENICS as a means of wiping out entire populations, especially in third world nations, especially those places with abundant natural resources that can be taken over. Weaponry has been developed for weather control and creation of simulated natural disasters which can provide excuses for occupying countries in the guise of "humanitarian relief".
"Democracy" that the revolutionists brought to America will soon be gone in a world ruled by propaganda and mind control. Truth is the only lantern to shine light into the dark places and only truth can rip away the Oz curtain and expose the fraudulent wizards."
And, here is Jack's response to a January 20, 2010 post on the Education Forum in which I pointed out that his harshest critics are not the single-assassin theorists who write him off as a hopeless crackpot, but his fellow conspiracy theorists, who think that many of his claims are just too far out to ever gain widespread acceptance:
"Your prism on things is too narrow. There ARE conspiracies. Vast conspiracies. Not "far out," as you have been led to believe. Politicians faked going to the moon. Exotic weaponry tested in Oklahoma City was then used to bring down the twin towers. The war on "terrorism" is a fake. "Presidents" past and present have been elected unconstitutionally and illegally. Agencies of the government fake evidence to suit their purposes...as far back as the JFK assassination.
It is YOU who need to learn how FAR OUT conspiracies have become. WAKE UP and smell the fakery...from Z-films to fake presidents!"
Fetzer's deference to White is particularly ironic in that his presence on the Education Forum in January 2010 was in large part fueled by his desire to push the then-recent release of Doug Horne's 5 volume set Inside the Assassination Records Review Board. The irony is that Horne had sought to distance himself from the non-JFK related statements of both Fetzer and White, and would almost certainly have questioned Fetzer's rejection of what he sees in the autopsy photo based upon what Jack White claims not to see.
From the very book Fetzer was on the Forum to promote...
"Another pet peeve I have is the false association by many in academia and the media of all JFK assassination researchers with persons who don't believe we landed on the moon six times (from 1969-1972); or with persons who believe that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were really 'controlled demolitions' set off by the government, and were not caused by fanatics flying airplanes into buildings.
I think the principal lesson of the JFK assassination is that we should not defer to arguments about major historical events (such as assassinations, and how wars begin) based on authority—we should study the primary evidence ourselves and reach our own conclusions. If people don't learn to do a better job of this in the United States, our democracy will remain in peril, and our society will continue to just 'muddle through,' rather than excel in tackling its many challenges."
FWIW, Dr. Fetzer never got back to me...
This was not true of Jack White, however...
As part of an apparently hopeless attempt to get Fetzer to see beyond White's nay-saying, I pointed out to him that the bullet wound he had admitted seeing on the back of the head photo appeared to overlay a wound on the skull that White had previously acknowledged. This, in turn, led White to go on the attack and falsely claim he'd never agreed with me about any such wound on the skull in the mystery photo. He then posted an image purportedly presenting his interpretation of the mystery photo.
This image was obviously in error, with the bullet hole on the back of the head enveloped in darkness, and supposedly on the left side of the head, but with a caption acknowledging it was in fact to the right of the EOP (which is at the middle of the head). I can think of no logical reason for him to use this obviously inaccurate image to refute me other than that in his rush to refute my assertion that the autopsy photos are far from fake and are in fact the key to understanding the assassination, he had lost track of what was left, and what was right.
Ironically, Fetzer was to be on the receiving end of such nonsense within weeks of the exchanges detailed above. By then, Fetzer had stopped pushing Horne's book and had instead begun pushing an upcoming book by Judyth Vary Baker, a woman claiming to have been Oswald's mistress. This upset White, who saw Baker's descriptions of Oswald as a challenge to the "two Oswald" theory he found so compelling. White thereby began attacking Baker, and presenting evidence she was a fraud. This caused Baker, through Fetzer, to challenge White's photo studies of Oswald. (These studies, published in John Armstrong's massive book "Harvey and Lee," suggested there'd been two different men using Oswald's name.) Baker then demonstrated that some of the images used by White to suggest there'd been two different Oswalds had in fact been altered to make Oswald's face look wider. White then challenged Fetzer and his ability to recognize photo alteration by presenting six photos of Fetzer, one of which he claimed was unaltered. Fetzer picked one. White then pounced and admitted that they'd all been altered. He then asked how could Fetzer not know this, etc... To which Fetzer responded that he'd mistakenly assumed White was not a liar, and had not been lying when he'd written that one of the images had been unaltered.
From there, things only got worse for Team Fetzer. In April 2010, John Costella, who Fetzer had long-haled as the pre-eminent expert on the Zapruder film, published an extremely critical review of Inside the Assassination Record Review Board. Angry to the core, Costella repeatedly attacked Doug Horne (whom he repeatedly called "government man D.P. Horne") for theorizing that frames from the Zapruder film had been removed and painted over, when Costella had (to his mind) already proved this impossible, and had shown that the film was either "completely genuine" or "completely fabricated." Costella then concluded that "regardless of his disclaimer at the end of his last page of his five massive volumes—page 1807—that his words do not represent the views or opinions of the U.S. government, one cannot fail to feel that Horne's work is, indeed, the final chapter of the government's cover-up of the brutal assassination of the thirty-fifth President of the United States." This, of course, was wacky. Horne had self-published a work claiming that Kennedy's body had been altered, autopsy photos had been faked, and the Zapruder film had been altered. And yet he had failed to pass Costella's smell test simply because he had failed to embrace Costella's own research!
Emboldened by Costella, Jack White then acknowledged he had his own problems with Horne, and considered Horne's book to be a "Limited hangout," a widely-over-used term for a CIA operation in which a minor crime is admitted in order to conceal a much greater crime. By embracing Horne, Fetzer had, in effect, alienated two of his closest colleagues, Costella and White.
On April 19, 2010, on the Education Forum, this all came to a head. As a response to White's insistence Judyth Baker's story of a romance with Oswald was the by-product of a fertile imagination mixed with sexual frustration and a life of disappointment, Fetzer cut ties with him altogether. He posted, for all to see:
"NOTICE OF TERMINATION OF FRIENDSHIP WITH JACK WHITE, WHO HAS FINALLY DISGUSTED ME
I cannot believe that someone I have admired in the past would stoop to such a sophomoric level by lodging such a blatant ad hominem. Those who resort to arguments of this caliber have discredited themselves massively. I denounce each and every one of them...Cease and desist, Jack White. You have forefeitted being taken seriously. Please know that I want nothing more to do with you in any context at all. We are no longer friends."
In short order, Fetzer would similarly denounce David Lifton, whose work he had previously championed. Lifton had, after all, done his damnedest to expose Ms. Baker as a fraud. This falling-out climaxed, sadly, when Lifton presented excerpts of Fetzer's work on 9/11, and called him to task for blaming the attacks, at least in part, on an international Jewish conspiracy. Now, this would be bad enough, but the ludicrous became surreal when Fetzer responded to Lifton's claims not by disassociating himself from the claims Israel was behind the attack, but by claiming Lifton's criticism of this position was motivated not by his Jewish pride, but by his desire to evade repayment of "loans" received from Fetzer years before. (After much back and forth, it turned out that these loans--more like small advances--were held by Lifton against the royalties Fetzer had failed to pay him for his significant contribution to Fetzer's book The Great Zapruder Film Hoax. Fetzer, of course, claimed the book had failed to break even, and that, as a result, he owed Lifton nothing. He'd failed to provide Lifton with a royalty statement proving as much, of course.)
This slow-motion train wreck was embarrassing to all those involved. It exposed yet again the contradiction-in-terms that is the conspiracy research community. Conspiracy research demands one be suspicious, and independent-minded. People wishing to enter this world, myself included, have a deeply rooted desire to find and expose some higher truth. This leads them to feel passionate and defensive of the "truths" they uncover, a bit suspicious of those who won't accept their "truths," and a bit jealous and envious of those whose "truths" are more readily accepted by others. This leads to a lot of in-fighting, with researchers beating up on a researcher one week, and then forming an alliance with that researcher the next week or month or year to beat up on someone else.
In this particular instance--that of the scuffle between myself and Team Fetzer--things came full circle on May 4, 2010. After Fetzer, in a discussion thread on Judyth Vary Baker's claim she and Oswald were lovers, once again insulted me and claimed I had no credibility due to my daring to disagree with Doug Horne and David Mantik, I responded by creating a new thread, in which I presented the section of Chapter 18 on the fragment behind the eye, in which I expose Horne's and Mantik's errors regarding said fragment. While Fetzer, to no one's surprise, failed to respond, you'll never guess who did. Actually, I suspect you will guess. That's right. Jack White. White wrote:
"Pat...a very interesting study. I am not qualified to interpret all of it.
However, I have never been satisfied with any explanation of the round 6.5 dense spot on the xray.
I particularly wondered how it could be on the back of the head, when that portion was missing, and that it did not show in the lateral views. You may be onto something that it was to the FRONT of the skull, and LOOKED DIFFERENT FROM THE SIDE.
But my observations are not from an expert.
Thanks for the thoughtful study.
So there you go. Fetzer had rejected my research out of loyalty to White, Costella, Lifton, Horne and Mantik. Horne had made it clear he felt no such loyalty to Fetzer and White when it came to 9/11. Costella and White later made it clear they distrusted Horne. Fetzer and White then fell out over Judyth Baker. Fetzer and Lifton then fell out over both Fetzer's attachment to Baker and Fetzer's theories regarding 9/11. White then made it clear he suspected I could be right about something on which Horne and Mantik had been wrong. Team Fetzer had thus been an illusion, and had dissolved in a puff of smoke.
(UPDATE: shortly after Fetzer parted ways with White and Lifton over his support for Judyth Baker, Fetzer denounced yet another of his longtime colleagues, Greg Burnham. This time the falling out was over Fetzer's fervent support of Ralph Cinque, a man obsessed with the idea Oswald was outside at the time of the shooting and was photographed in the doorway of the depository building by news photographer James Altgens, who then turned his film over to the CIA so they could make Oswald look like his co-worker Billy Lovelady. Burnham refused to support Cinque, so Fetzer denounced him in public. Of course, Fetzer's infatuation with Cinque didn't last either. He eventually wandered off, muttering to himself, claiming that the Newtown, Connecticut massacre of 27 adults and school children was a government conspiracy designed to make us surrender our guns. So, y'know, "they" can put us in camps or something.... Sadly, when last seen, Fetzer was pushing a new book on conspiracies in which he tried to revive the "Paul is dead" hoax from the sixties. And no, I'm not kidding.)
Coincidence or Conspiracy?
And yet the essence of "Team Fetzer" survives, in the ongoing (and still widely regarded) work of Dr. David Mantik.
In September, 2010, while looking through Professor Fetzer's Assassination Science website, I stumbled upon Dr. Mantik's power point presentation on the forgery of President Kennedy's x-rays. Dr. Mantik had delivered this presentation on 11-21-09 at the JFK Lancer Conference in Dallas. Now, I was in Dallas at that time, and had intended to attend Mantik's presentation, but had arrived at the tail-end of the Q and A session afterward, just in time to hear him dismissing "Speer's Theory" regarding the "white patch" on the x-rays. At the time, I thought little of it. I mean, I can't expect everyone to agree with me.
Well, upon viewing Mantik's presentation, I came to understand why Mantik was so nervous when I talked to him afterward. You see, not only had he dismissed my theories regarding the x-rays, as one might expect, but he'd spent much of his presentation concealing evidence supporting my theories.
Sounds pretty crazy, right? Well, if we're willing to consider that the bulk of the HSCA's Forensic Pathology Panel would misrepresent the medical evidence--if only on a subconscious level--in order to defend the credibility of their friend Russell Fisher, we should also consider the possibility that Dr. Mantik would misrepresent the evidence to defend his own credibility, and that Team Fetzer would align itself against anyone challenging their theories on the medical evidence, including yours truly.
There is evidence supporting this throughout Mantik's presentation.
First off, it must be stressed that Mantik quoted my website on one of his slides, put my name in the title of three of his slides, and actually showed several of my slides to his audience. So he is clearly familiar with my work. His being familiar with my work, then, makes it near certain he is familiar with my studies of the mystery photo, and my conclusion the photo can be oriented through an acknowledgment of several features. So why did Mantik, when showing his audience the mystery photo, opt to bury these features beneath boxes of text, that could just as easily have been placed to the side of the photo?
Was he concerned that those in attendance might notice these features, and argue against his orientation for the photo, which has the camera sharply to the left of the center of the skull? Was he concerned that their doing so would force them to reject his orientation, and thereby reject his conclusion the mystery photo shows a hole in the middle of the back of Kennedy's skull, into which the Harper fragment fits like a puzzle piece?
I don't know...that sounds pretty paranoid, even to a conspiracy theorist like myself. One would have to find more questionable images than this one before suspecting some deliberate deception was afoot, correct?
The Floating Debris
Correct. Unfortunately, however, Mantik provided several other questionable images, and made a number of other questionable "mistakes."
Perhaps the most egregious of these mistakes was his pulling a switcheroo on the Harper fragment. Now, to understand the relevance of this switcheroo, one must understand two things. The first is that Mantik had long ago asserted that, in his impression, the Harper fragment was dislodged from the back of Kennedy's head, and that, in his orientation, "the lead smudge" on one edge of the fragment "ended up precisely where the pathologists said the bullet had entered the rear of the skull." (This assertion, of course, failed to recognize that Dr.s Humes and Finck had consistently claimed this entrance was a through and through hole, and that even the confused Dr. Boswell, who made statements suggesting the hole was missing a piece, claimed this piece was matched up during the autopsy, which--as Boswell was never shown or even told about the Harper fragment until many years later--effectively ruled out the Harper fragment as the source of this piece.)
The second thing one needs to know is that no one from the conspiracy theorist community had actively challenged Mantik on his orientation of the mystery photo (F8), and his belief the Harper fragment derived from the center of the back of Kennedy's head. Some single-assassin theorists, such as Paul Seaton, had written articles challenging Mantik, but they were largely ignored by those in the CT community. Perhaps, then, Mantik had come to believe he'd really scored a bulls-eye, and that his findings had become those of the community as a whole.
And so it rested...until I came along...and challenged Mantik on both points... I pointed out that, when one accepted the impression of Dr. Lawrence Angel that the Harper fragment derived from the top of Kennedy's head--which Mantik admitted was a possibility--the discolored edge suggesting a bullet entrance lay not on the back of Kennedy's head, but at his temple, where most conspiracy theorists assume there was an entrance. (My analysis of the fragment can be found here: http://www.patspeer.com/harperfrag.jpg).
My "theory" if you will, was thus something equally, if not more, attractive to the conspiracy theorist community than Mantik's theory. It follows then that Mantik should have countered my theory with evidence and intelligent argument during his Lancer presentation.
But, instead, perhaps as an innocent mistake (others, including John Hunt, have made similar mistakes)--Mantik changed the location of the "metallic debris" on the Harper fragment when showing his audience Angel's orientation for the fragment. Yes, as shown on the slide above, Mantik presented the metallic debris on the discolored edge of the fragment at a point counter-clockwise from the arm-like point when showing his own orientation, and clockwise from this point when showing Angel's orientation. (Even worse, he cited this new and not improved location for the debris as a reason to disbelieve Angel, claiming that by placing the Harper fragment as he had, Angel "ends up with metal over here..." Mantik then pointed to the the top of the head on the image above.) He then pounced: "How could you have metal over here in the HSCA scenario, when the bullet enters in the rear at this x-mark and exits over here." (He then pointed to the other x-mark by the temple.)
He had thereby concealed from his audience that, in Angel's orientation, the lead smudge suggesting an entrance on the fragment was by the supposed exit by the temple--where many of those in the audience believe a bullet entered. I believe this is something the audience had the right to know.
I felt terrible about this. I had great respect for Mantik's intelligence, and had found many of his writings on the Kennedy assassination both interesting, and informative. His review of Reclaiming History, for example, was most insightful. And yet, here, while making a presentation on his specialty, the Kennedy assassination medical evidence, a topic on which some, including Dr. Fetzer, consider him the top expert in the world, he had either made a really dumb mistake, or a deliberate obfuscation.
Other aspects of Mantik's presentation swayed me toward this second possibility.
Let's see if you agree...
Mantik started out his presentation with a quote from Jerrol Custer, the radiology technician who took Kennedy's skull x-rays. He has Custer saying the x-rays shown him are fake. Mantik failed to tell his audience that Custer made this statement after viewing the cropped and computer-enhanced x-rays published by the HSCA, and that, in 1997, subsequent to making this claim, Custer was shown the un-cropped and un-enhanced original x-rays by the ARRB, and acknowledged them as the x-rays he'd taken.
Mantik then discussed the optical density of the x-rays. He'd measured this himself. He claimed that these measurements were clear proof of alteration, as some areas on the x-rays were far too white, and others far too black, and there was far more contrast on Kennedy's x-rays than on the other x-rays he'd measured. While doing so, he pointed out the problematic white and black areas to his audience... He did this, however, on photos of the computer-enhanced x-rays published by the HSCA. He failed to tell his audience that these were not the original x-rays, and that these images were computer-enhanced to increase the contrast, and that this contrast was made even greater through the reproduction of these images on paper.
Now, he knew this was deceptive. As discussed in chapter 18, Mantik had previously discussed the confusion caused by looking at prints of the enhanced x-rays, and had correctly attributed Jerrol Custer's initial failure to recognize Kennedy's x-rays to this confusion. Yes, on point 8 of his June 23, 1995 monograph Authenticity of the JFK Autopsy X-rays, Mantik relates "Custer has claimed that the x-rays do not look authentic. I suspect that what troubles him is the remarkable difference in contrast between the prints and the original x-rays. I know that several of us, who had repeatedly viewed only prints of these x-rays, have been somewhat surprised when first viewing these x-rays, at the lesser degree of contrast seen there."
Let's let that sink in... In 1995, Mantik suspected Custer's confusion was related to his looking at prints of the enhanced x-rays. In 1997, sho' nuff, Custer looks at the original x-rays and says he now believes they are authentic. And then, in 2009, rather than saying "See, I was right; Custer did sign off on the x-rays once shown the originals!", Mantik ignores Custer's more recent statements and tells his audience that Custer says the x-rays are fake. And then explains to them that his own analysis supports that the x-rays have indeed been altered. And then shows them a print of a computer-enhanced x-ray -- the very print he'd previously claimed was the likely cause of Custer's confusion...
I mean, how is this not deceptive?
And this was but one slice of Mantik's pie of deception. (Sorry. That phrase made me chuckle so I decided to keep it in. The pie of deception... Harry Potter and The Pie of Deception, James Bond will return in The Pie of Deception. Scooby-Doo and Shaggy Devour the Pie of Deception...) In any event, Mantik was also quite deceptive about the largest bullet fragment recovered at the autopsy. Several of his slides pointed out a fragment on the right lateral x-ray. This fragment is near the middle of Kennedy's forehead. Mantik claimed, however, that this was the 7 x 2 fragment recovered during the autopsy. He failed to tell his audience that Dr. Humes, along with just about every key player in the autopsy, had always claimed the fragment he'd recovered had come from behind Kennedy's right eye, and not from the middle of his forehead. Perhaps even worse, Mantik failed to tell his audience that he -- Dr. David Mantik -- had personally inspected what remains of the fragment recovered by Humes...and had concluded it was not the fragment on the middle of the forehead on the x-ray.
Now this deception rubbed up against another. Mantik subsequently discussed my conclusion the supposed 6.5 mm fragment supposedly on the back of the head was actually behind Kennedy's right eye. He told his audience that, as no expert had ever identified the fragment I'd identified as metal, this was a "non-starter", and not even worth considering. He failed to consider that no true expert had signed off on his conclusions, either. Even worse, he presented my findings as those of a layman who'd thought he'd seen something on an x-ray; he failed to tell his audience that the location of the fragment I'd identified--behind Kennedy's right eye--was exactly where those present at the autopsy claimed they'd found the large fragment they recovered.
Now this was information which I firmly believe they should have been told...particularly in that the radiology technicians who'd actually taken Kennedy's x-rays--Custer and Reed--both said they saw a fragment in this location when shown the x-rays by the ARRB. That's right. They said they saw a fragment...just above or in the orbital ridge...where I've proposed there is a fragment...only years before I'd ever noticed such a fragment.
In any event, Mantik failed to share this with his audience. And let them think instead that little old under-qualified me was simply seeing things...
Well, if I wasn't then, I was almost a year later when I finally saw Mantik's presentation. I was seeing red. I'd respected Mantik. Although I'd disagreed with many of his findings, I'd hoped he and I could work together on something that would reach beyond the research community. I'd believed he was sincere. I'd never considered that he would go to Dallas to counter some of my arguments and conceal so much from his audience. I'd never considered that, in order to convince his audience they should ignore my ramblings, that he would lie. That's right, I wrote "lie." Mantik's errors of interpretation and misrepresentation of my findings were so egregious, in my view, that I found myself believing he'd lied.
And the more I viewed Mantik's presentation the more obvious these lies became. To counter my claim the "white patch" he'd identified on the x-rays was nothing more than the wing of bone seen on the autopsy photos overlapping intact bone at the back of Kennedy's skull, Mantik claimed (on a slide entitled "The White Patch--Impossible to Explain via Overlapping Bone") that "a single layer of bone contributes only a modest amount to the OD" (optical density measurements) -- "an amount far too small to explain the white patch." Well, okay, he was sticking to his original story here. Nothing wrong with that. I mean, he'd never tested x-rays created on the equipment used to make Kennedy's x-rays, at various settings, let alone those involving over-lapping bone. And he'd never explained why, if the loss of a layer of bone would have so little effect on the appearance of the skull on the x-ray, that the fractures in Kennedy's skull, which Mantik accepts as legitimate fractures, and which would have involved only one layer of bone, were so easily recognizable. But the man's entitled to his beliefs.
But he didn't stop there. No, in the notes accompanying his presentation on Dr. Fetzer's website, Mantik offers: "note that the dark area contains two layers of skull bone, one from each side, yet this area is astonishingly dark. One more layer of bone will not turn the Dark Area into a white patch."
Well, this was more nonsense. My "overlapping bone" theory, if you will, does not hold that the white patch has three layers of bone, and the dark area two, and that the white patch therefore represents 50% more bone, it holds that the white patch has three layers of bone, and the dark area one, and that the white patch therefore represents 300% as much bone. This is a huge difference. One that Mantik could not have missed. I mean, where does he think this overlapping bone came from? Could he really have read my writings on the "white patch" and "dark area" and missed that I was claiming that the bone missing from the dark area was the bone overlapping the skull on the white patch? I just can't see how...
And that's not even the worst of it. In the latter part of Mantik's presentation he discussed the conclusions of the three consultants hired by the ARRB. (He sped through some of these slides in Dallas, presumably because he was short on time, but they appear to be the same slides as those on Fetzer's website.) Now, it's important to note that, prior to Mantik's presentation in Dallas, no one in the audience had ever read the memoranda in which the conclusions of these consultants were reported, as the reports of their conclusions were not made public until a month later, with the release of Doug Horne's book Inside the ARRB. And so, Mantik had pretty much a blank slate--he could have told his audience that these guys said he was right about everything.
It is to Mantik's credit, then, that, on his slide discussing the findings of Dr. John Fitzpatrick, a Forensic Radiologist, he noted, among eight other points of interest, that Dr. Fitzpatrick claimed he did not find the work of Dr. Mantik "persuasive." Now, on Fetzer's website, Mantik admits this is troublesome, and that he is annoyed that Fitzpatrick wouldn't respond to his letters and explain his failure to be persuaded.
But what Mantik should have known, and should have told his audience, was that Fitzpatrick's reasons for rejecting his conclusions regarding the "white patch" and "dark area" were readily apparent, once one read the entirety of Horne's report on Fitzpatrick.
You see, Fitzpatrick shared MY interpretation of the "white patch" and "dark area." While Mantik had spent the first part of his presentation dismissing my findings as those of a layman, and had spent the last part of his presentation discussing the findings of the ARRB's experts, and even claiming "The Buck Stops with Fitzpatrick" when he found something upon which he and Fitzpatrick had agreed, he failed to tell his audience that, when discussing the lateral skull x-rays with Horne, Fitzpatrick had claimed "some of the dark appearance in the anterior portion of the skull is due to missing bone..." This is PRECISELY as I've claimed, and is in opposition to Mantik's claim "the dark area contains two layers of skull bone, one from each side."
And that's just the half of it. Mantik also failed to reveal that Fitzpatrick claimed "Overlapping bone is clearly present in the lateral skull x-rays," and that, drum roll please, "the red flap above the ear" in the autopsy photos "equates with the overlapping bone in the lateral skull x-rays."
That's right. While Mantik told his audience the "buck stops with Fitzpatrick" when Fitzpatrick agreed with him, he concealed from his audience that Fitzpatrick had subscribed to the "overlapping bone" theory to which I subscribe, which explains both the "dark area" and "white patch." What Mantik had snidely dismissed as "Speer's theory" before his audience, had been in fact "Fitzpatrick's theory" years before. And Mantik had chosen not to tell this to his audience.
And Fitzpatrick wasn't the only expert whose findings he concealed. While Mantik noted, on his slide describing the findings of Dr. Douglas Ubelaker, a forensic anthropology consultant to the ARRB, that Ubelaker found the "dark area" on the lateral x-rays "very puzzling," he left out that this led Dr. Ubelaker to wonder, not if the x-rays had been altered, as Mantik was suggesting, but "whether there had been some processing defect when the x-rays were developed." He also failed to reveal that Ubelaker had noted "overlapping bone fragments" in "the temporal-parietal region of the lateral x-rays," which we can only assume was yet another reference to the "white patch."
Now, it's possible Mantik simply failed to appreciate the significance of these statements by Fitzpatrick and Ubelaker.
But I just couldn't convince myself of this. Not after Mantik had committed so many other suspicious "mistakes."
And so I decided to fight back. From my perspective, Mantik had singled me out for attack in a public forum, knowing full well that my theories were supported by those with better credentials than himself--men whose expertise he'd trumpeted elsewhere in his presentation. I mean, if Dale Myers or John McAdams, in the middle of a presentation on the single-bullet theory, had made a similar series of mistakes and/or evasions in order to dismiss my research and defend the otherwise indefensible, I'd assume their misrepresentations and evasions were by design, and call them out on it.
And so, while I'd learned some time ago to accept the possibility single-assassin theorists can be just as honest as conspiracy theorists, my dealings with Mantik forced me to accept the related possibility conspiracy theorists can be just as dishonest as single-assassin theorists.
I'm still struggling with this information..
Of A, B, C's and X-Rays
But I'm trying. In 2011, Dr. Fetzer and I had a number of arguments in which he revealed himself to be even less rational than I'd previously suspected. At one point, in order to refute my questioning of his friend Dr. Robert Livingston's credibility, he claimed the transcript of Dr. Robert Livingston's testimony in Dr. Charles Crenshaw's civil case had been falsified...
This was truly wacky. Livingston had testified...at Fetzer's urging. Bradley Kizza, Crenshaw's attorney--and the one presumably responsible for the accuracy of the transcript--was a friend of Fetzer's. The transcript, even worse, was made a public document by the ARRB, almost certainly at the urging of another of Fetzer's buddies, Doug Horne.
So what was Fetzer talking about? Apparently, when faced with evidence his friend, Robert Livingston, was a weird egg, and not entirely credible, he opted to claim the evidence was fake. EVEN THOUGH the evidence was evidence he--Jim Fetzer--had brought before the public. (Dr. Livingston had testified that he'd come forward--with his highly dubious story he'd spoken to Dr. Humes on 11-22-63--in order to "save the world.")
Now, I didn't know how to respond to this. I had contacted a man Livingston claimed as a confidant regarding his connection to the Kennedy assassination, the veteran reporter Richard Dudman, and had asked him if Livingston had told him about his call to Humes in 1963, shortly after it had (supposedly) happened. His response was most surprising. Dudman told me he didn't recall Livingston, an old school chum of his who he occasionally ran into at reunions, EVER having told him about such a call.
And yet, I decided not to tell this to Fetzer. His behavior had been such that I feared he would launch an all-out assault on the 93 years-old-but-still-working Dudman, or on me for trusting such an old man, etc. Fetzer's behavior was just too ugly. I decided to put him on ignore.
(And it's a good thing, too. I subsequently discovered a video-taped presentation of Fetzer's from 1994, in which he discussed Livingston's claim he'd contacted Dr. Humes before the commencement of the autopsy. Well, in this presentation, a younger, more level-headed Fetzer, admitted that, seeing as Livingston had claimed his wife would back up his story--i.e. that he shared with her his thoughts before calling Dr. Humes, and shared with her his distress over the fact his call to Dr. Humes had been cut-off by the FBI--that he (Dr. James Fetzer) had actually followed up on this by asking Livingston's former wife if she remembered her husband calling Dr. Humes on 11-22-63! Fetzer then related: "She told me she didn't recall that specific conversation but she did recall a telephone call he had received from Bethesda asking him to describe the difference between an entrance wound to the throat and an exit wound to the throat." That's it. She didn't recall this phone call coming on November 22nd, or, at least, Fetzer didn't state that she did, and she made no mention of Humes, or at least, Fetzer made no mention of her mentioning Humes. Well, heck, this is fairly toxic to Livingston's story. IF your husband stood in front of you and called up the man performing the autopsy of the century and told him what to look for, you'd remember it, wouldn't you? In any event, I was glad I discovered this after I'd stopped discussing such things with Fetzer, because if he'd claimed his own video-taped presentation had been faked to undermine Livingston's credibility, well, he may very well have collapsed my brain. And without the use of energy beams... And yes, that's a snide reference to Fetzer's highly dubious claims about 9/11.)
If Mantik ever told him... In 2015, Dr. Mantik was Dr. Fetzer's guest on a 2-hour episode of Fetzer's interview show The Real Deal. This was uploaded to youtube on 5-12-15. At one point, while looking at the so-called "back-of-the-head" witnesses featured in Robert Groden's book The Killing of a President, Mantik pointed out that Dallas Justice of the Peace Theron Ward was pointing to the side of his head, and not the back of his head. This was a point I'd made many times online. Mantik tried to spin this his way, however, by claiming Ward was "probably showing us where a bullet entered obliquely from the right side--which would actually be consistent with the grassy knoll." (He never explained why such an entrance would only be noticed by a Justice of the Peace only briefly viewing Kennedy, and would go unnoticed by all the emergency physicians and personnel whose recollections Mantik supposedly holds sacred.)
This brings us back to Mantik... Shortly after my (hopefully) final battle with Fetzer, (a battle in which David Lifton came down on my side, by the way), Dr. Mantik responded to my criticisms of his 2009 Lancer presentation...and once again confused me as to whether he was merely out to lunch, or lying.
Yes, in a June 2011 response to my website published on the CTKA website (which, sadly, refused to allow a rebuttal), Mantik not only spread some new manure (such as inaccurately reporting my placement of the wing of bone on the x-rays), and defended his many mistakes, he actually doubled down. While he admitted that I was correct on one key point--that in his 2009 Lancer presentation he'd presented the metal debris "at the opposite pole on the Harper fragment" from where he'd originally placed it, he maintained that he had done so not to refute Dr. Angel's interpretation of the Harper fragment, but because "new evidence on the Harper x-ray discovered by John Hunt" convinced him the debris was really in this new location. As Mantik admitted merely that he'd left his audience with a "confused picture" of the site of the lead debris, and not that he'd thoroughly misled them, I at first thought this was mere obfuscation. That the "new site for metal" discovered by Hunt was in fact unveiled in Mantik's presence at a conference six years before the Lancer conference, and that he'd failed to admit that he'd continued to cite the old location of the debris as strong support for his own interpretation of the Harper fragment in the intervening years--and had even done so in the first part of his Lancer presentation--only confirmed this suspicion.
While subsequently reading his April 2011 review of Don Thomas' book Hear No Evil (also found on the CTKA website), however, I came to realize that Mantik really HAD changed his interpretation of the debris' location. Yes, in his review of Hear No Evil, Mantik not only admitted he'd been incorrect in placing the debris at its former location, he actually put a red arrow on an image of the Harper fragment purporting to point out the real location for the debris, and put this in the WRONG location. No, scratch that..the obviously wrong location. No, scratch that...the blatantly obvious 100% clear to anyone using their brain WRONG location. (This is demonstrated on the slide above.)
Yes, in the caption to Figure 5 of his review of Thomas's book, Mantik admitted "I had earlier placed the lead smudge at the site indicated here by L." (Note: site L is by the EOP.) He then continued: "I would still do so now, just based on that photo. However, the X-ray places it instead at the site indicated by the horizontal red arrow." (Note: this site was on the parietal bone, inches away from site L.) "The photo also shows an apparent smudge consistent with the X-ray site, but it is not as marked as at site L (on the photo). If one site must be chosen, then the X-ray should serve as the final arbiter."
Needless to say, this raised some troubling questions. Just as I'd once felt McAdams could not honestly believe some of the bizarre stuff he'd claimed, it was hard for me to believe someone with a background in radiology, as Mantik, could possibly believe the metallic debris on the x-ray was where he claimed it to have been on the photograph. Pure fantasy. Alice-in-Wonderland kind of stuff.
And yet, it seems he actually believed this nonsense. While many of the claims in Mantik's response to my criticisms smelled to high heaven--his claimed, for example, that he always presented the HSCA's contrast-enhanced x-rays in his articles while discussing what he claimed was an inordinate amount of contrast in the originals not because he was trying to deceive his readers, but because the available photographs of the contrast-enhanced x-rays looked more like the originals than the available photos of the originals--he made a number of surprising claims in his review of Don Thomas' book that led me to suspect he was not playing to any audience but himself. I mean, as a conspiracy theorist, I know full well there is NO upside in questioning if a bullet fired at Kennedy from the grassy knoll would leave a trail of fragments near the top of his skull and exit the occipital region. And yet, from answering these questions, Mantik not only concluded more than one shot struck JFK's skull but that "The GK shot, if any, missed." I mean, that's pretty much suicide in some circles. I wonder how his buddy Fetzer felt about that one.
In any event, Mantik's unpredictability and willingness to go against the grain--if only briefly--makes me suspect he is NOT a conscious liar, just someone who is really really wrong an awful lot of the time...who makes false claim after claim in support of his incorrect conclusions.
Inch by Inch
Now notice that, at the beginning of the third to last paragraph, I wrote that it seems Mantik actually "believed" the debris was on the Harper fragment in a location other than where the x-ray shows it to have been. I wrote "believed," as in "used to believe." Well, that's because Mantik has changed his mind...back...and now believes the debris on the Harper fragment is where he initially claimed it to have been--by the temple when one views the Harper fragment in the Angel orientation.
Yes, to my surprise, Mantik's 2013 review of Sherry Fiester's book Enemy of the Truth reflected that he'd finally become convinced of his error on this issue. While proposing that Kennedy was hit by three head shots (he'd long been claiming he'd been hit by two) he pronounced: "A shot from the rear (e.g., from a lower story of the Dal-Tex building) may have entered at the pathologists' beveled site just right of the external occipital protuberance (EOP). My reconstruction of the Harper fragment, with the lead deposit precisely at the pathologists' site, may be considered objective proof of their honesty and accuracy on this issue." He then cited an article he'd written in Murder in Dealey Plaza (2000) in support of this claim.
He then described a second shot that entered "high on the right forehead, near the hairline (where the incision is seen in the autopsy photographs)," which left the trail of fragments readily observed on the x-rays; and a third shot that "may have struck tangentially" and "entered anterior to the right ear, and then exited to yield the orange-sized hole at the right rear."
So, yeah, it appears to have played out like this.
That Mantik was both simply and badly mistaken was subsequently confirmed, moreover...by Mantik. We shared the stage at the October 2013 Wecht conference in Pittsburgh, and Mantik, in an effort to keep our discussion focused on our current differences in interpretation, admitted he'd been mistaken as to the location of the lead on the Harper fragment. He conceded a couple of other points as well. He was all business. He was there to discuss the evidence, and gave no indication he was trying to deceive the audience.
But that's exactly what he did...
Now, it took me awhile to realize it, but Mantik had chosen the date of our "debate" as the date he'd announce what may be his wackiest "discovery" yet.
I suppose I was too nervous about my own presentation, which was to follow, and I suppose I was too pleased that Mantik had finally admitted I was right about the location of the lead smear on the Harper fragment. In any event, towards the end of his presentation, Mantik unleashed a series of statements which I should have jumped all over during my own presentation. But didn't.
Here 's what he said: "The optical density data taken from the lateral x-ray shows just where the Harper fragment begins to be about right back here—where I’m pointing on my head there’s an abrupt shift in optical density that is maintained across that whole area where the Harper fragment came from." (Note: the video of the conference fails to show where Mantik is pointing.) He continued. "If the Harper fragment is missing you have to look for it right here between my four fingers (Note: this location is shown above.), not here... (He then pointed to the middle of the skull where the white patch resides on Kennedy's x-rays.) He continued: "The Harper fragment is back here. You can not see that absent Harper fragment at that point on the x-ray. Forget it. But what you can do is do optical density measurements. So when I did that—coming straight down here just below—it’s inferior to where the 6.5 mm fragment is--the optical density suddenly jumped and it stayed at that level through this whole area. (Note: the locations he pointed to are shown above.) It jumps consistent with missing bone just where I say the Harper fragment should be. That’s extremely quantitative evidence of missing bone at the back of the skull."
Now, seeing as this was "extremely quantitative" evidence and all. I'm embarrassed to say I didn't pick up on what Mantik was saying for several years...after viewing him make a similar statement in a subsequent presentation.
In other words, I blew it... Or rather he blew it---smoke--and I just sat there and watched it waft by.
It's time I correct that mistake.
For reasons that are not at all clear, a 9-27-14 scheduled debate/dual presentation on the acoustic evidence between Dr. Mantik and Don Thomas at the AARC conference in Washington ended up as a debate/dual presentation on the Harper Fragment between Dr. Mantik and Dr. Randy Robertson. (Presumably, Dr. Robertson wanted to talk about his own impressions of the fragment.) In any event, although I attended the conference, and saw every presentation on the medical evidence I could, I not only failed to attend this debate/discussion, I was unaware this debate/discussion even took place, until the next summer.
When I finally watched it, moreover, I was glad I did.
You see, watching Mantik counter Robertson proved to me that it wasn't personal...that Mantik will clutch at most any straw to counter anyone when that person has him in a corner, no matter how desperate he appears in doing so. And what's more, he'll convince himself he's right in doing so.
When Robertson pointed out that the lateral skull x-rays proved there was no hole in the middle of the back of Kennedy's head (in the location Mantik places the Harper fragment), Mantik countered not by saying the x-rays are fake, as some might expect, but by asserting that his optical density measurements for the lateral x-ray revealed "a distinct discontinuity which suggested that bone was missing exactly in this area, from the occiput." (As he said this he pointed to a location on the right side of his head.)
He then explained: "If you place the Harper fragment in this occipital area, you'll find that it overlays the very back of the lateral skull x-ray." He then continued: "It's not possible for a human eye to see absent bone in that location. You shouldn't expect to... You should not expect to see absent occipital bone on these x-rays, due to the Harper fragment, that is. Where I've placed it, you simply cannot determine that. But you can with optical density data, which I took." (He then pointed to his head again, and at the very same location. This is shown on the slide above.)
He then stressed: "And there you have that sudden transition in optical density. Bing. Just in that area. Where we placed it in the occiput, we have missing bone."
Now, at first glance, this would appear to be consistent with Mantik's former claims. He had, after all, said much the same thing in our "debate" the year before. But, significantly, that was the first time he'd made such a claim. In 2002, Mantik met with three men present at Kennedy's autopsy--autopsy assistants James Jenkins and Paul O'Connor, and FBI agent James Sibert. This meeting was filmed, and released as The Gathering in 2015. Well, in this meeting, Mantik showed these men the A-P x-ray and pointed out a triangular area on the A-P x-ray where he claimed the back of the head was missing. He said this was supported by his OD data, of course, of course. He then showed them the lateral x-ray, and admitted that the back of the head appeared to be intact in this x-ray. He then claimed: "The human eye is not sensitive enough to pick up that difference in bone density from a place where it's partly missing here, and a place where it's entirely present. The human eye just can't do that job...And that has misled a lot of people...Your eye just can't make that decision. It's not that discriminating."
Now, let's note the difference. In "The Gathering", Mantik claimed it was the data from the A-P x-ray that proved the back of the head was missing. He said nothing about the OD data from the lateral x-ray confirming this conclusion. During his 2013 debate with myself and his 2014 debate with Robertson, however, he insisted there was an "abrupt shift" and a "distinct discontinuity" near the back of the head on the lateral x-ray, which suggested the back of the head was missing.
Now does this pass a simple smell test?
My nose says "no." Mantik himself has long insisted that when viewing the lateral x-rays one can make out a "tiny" fragment embedded within the rear wall of the back of the skull. Well, HELLO, if one can spot a "tiny" fragment on the back of the skull on an x-ray, it follows like night from day or anything else that actually follows, that one can spot a discontinuity where a 2 1/2 inch triangular piece of bone is MISSING from the back of the skull. (Note: the location of this small fragment is pointed out by Mantik on the White Patch exhibit included in the slide above.)
And Mantik has also claimed, in his 2010 CTKA-based attack on this website, that "I was not able to locate a hole at the rear of the skull anywhere near the HSCA entry site."
Now let's stop right there. The location where Mantik now claims to see a "distinct discontinuity" is just below the "tiny" fragment he claims as the "6.5 mm fragment" on the lateral x-ray. And this "tiny" fragment was itself just below the HSCA's presumed entry site. (The HSCA entry site is located on this HSCA drawing, here.) So that means Mantik's "distinct discontinuity" is somewhere near the HSCA's presumed entrance site. And that's yet another Mantik conclusion one can throw in the trash!
And no, that's not the worst of it. Scroll back up and take another look at where Mantik is pointing, and then compare this to Kennedy's x-ray. First, note that one can see a skull fracture on the x-ray directly above where Mantik is pointing. Now, no one disputes this is a skull fracture. Well, what is a skull fracture but a line of missing bone? Mantik's claim one couldn't see missing bone in this region is thereby proved false. Now, look toward the very back of the head, just above the white arrow pointing out the purported location of the "tiny" fragment purportedly embedded on the back of the skull. There is indeed a discontinuity along the back of the head in this location, which is believed to indicate a comminuted fracture. This is similar to what one might expect to see if the very back of the skull was missing, as claimed by Mantik. But this isn't what he's talking about. Not only did he point to a location an inch or so forward of this location when pointing out the location of the "discontinuity" suggesting missing bone, Mantik also specified that this "discontinuity" was not visible to the naked eye.
And that's not even to mention that the location Mantik pointed to was on the parietal bone, and not the occipital bonw, where Mantik places the Harper fragment.
So then what's he talking about? Eegads, could it be? Eegads, I think it could. It seems way too much a coincidence that when Mantik pointed out the location of a discontinuity suggesting missing bone to Robertson and the audience, he pointed to a location on his head that lines up perfectly with the top corner of the "white patch" on his earlier exhibits.
So, yikes, it seems possible that during his "debates" with myself and Robertson Mantik retrofitted the white patch from being a white patch "added in a dark room" whose purpose was to "obscure the loss of tissue at the back of the skull" (as claimed in the online version of his 2009 presentation) into being normal skull, beside which the less white area at the back of the skull can be assumed to house a hole.
But let's not go there, if just for a second. Let's give Mantik the benefit of the doubt, if just for a second. Let's assume that within an inch or less of the upper margin of the "white patch" readily visible on the x-ray is a "discontinuity" only observed through the OD readings, which suggests there is a large hole on the back of the head. Hmmm... This would mean that within an inch the x-ray would shift from an area that, according to Mantik, is far too white to be explained by over-lapping bone, to an area at the very back of the head, in which bone is missing from both sides.
And yet Mantik claims this shift is not visible to the human eye, and can only be observed via an optical densitometer, which, as it turns out, is something only he has done.
So, why didn't Robertson call him on this nonsense? Was he as nervous as I had been the year before?
While it could very well be that Dr. Robertson was nervous, or just wanted to move on, the possibility exists that he was afraid to push the point about the x-rays not supporting Mantik's theory, because he knew full well they also failed to support his own theory.
Here is Robertson's proposed re-construction of Kennedy's skull, taken from his debate/discussion with Mantik.
Note that Robertson places the "Delta" fragment at the top of the back of the skull, where bone appears to be present on the x-rays. Well, the "Delta fragment" is Robertson's term for the large triangular fragment found in the limousine, which was brought into the autopsy room towards the end of the autopsy, well after the skull x-rays were taken. Most every expert to attempt a reconstruction of the skull, including forensic anthropologist Dr. Lawrence Angel, the HSCA medical panel, and neuroanatomist Dr. Joseph Riley, place this large fragment on the front of the head, either just in front or just in back of the coronal suture. Unless Robertson was willing to argue that the highest part of the back of the head on the lateral x-rays is substantially darker and more indicative of missing bone than the middle of the back of the head on the lateral x-rays--something never noticed by anyone else ever--then, he couldn't rightly push that Mantik's theory was at odds with the x-rays without also pointing out a serious--perhaps fatal--flaw with his own theory.
Still, I raise this not to trash Robertson, but to point out the desperation and reckless disregard for the truth Mantik employs when defending his conclusions.
After having defended his interpretation of the Harper Fragment against yours truly in November 2013, and Dr. Robertson in September 2014, Dr. Mantik decided to try to have the final word one last time. And so, starting on 11-20-14, he put "The Harper Fragment Revisited--and JFK's Head Wounds: a Final Synthesis," a book-length essay eventually expanded to 4 parts, up on the CTKA website.
Within this essay. Mantik holds Robertson up as one of his key opponents--someone who, although competent, simply fails to see the obvious fact the Harper fragment is occipital bone. To this end, he writes: "Although the visible, small dark areas in the AP X-ray are suggestive, the HF defect is not easy to appreciate with the naked eye. The OD data, however, clarify this issue. Also, as we shall soon see, the eyewitnesses corroborate this conclusion (of missing occipital bone) in spades. In fact, to maintain his position, Robertson (and Seaton) must ignore dozens of eyewitnesses, at both Parkland and at Bethesda, who described a large hole in the posterior skull. That list includes well over a dozen physicians at Parkland, to say nothing of at least eight more physicians at Bethesda (footnote 31). Curiously, neither Robertson nor Seaton (nor apparently Riley) believes any of these twenty or more doctors."
Well, this was the malarkiest kind of malarkey one can imagine. And, sadly, it fit a pattern. Much as Mantik had coughed up some malarkey after I pointed out that the lead smear on the Harper fragment (when viewed in Dr. Angel's orientation) was in a location most conspiracy theorists wound find intriguing, he was now coughing up some malarkey to combat Robertson's assertion the top of the back of the head was missing--something many if not most conspiracy theorists would find intriguing.
So, what was the malarkey? Well, first, that the eyewitnesses corroborate Mantik's conclusions "in spades", and second, that Robertson's impression of the large head wound was more at odds with the recollections of the eyewitnesses than Mantik's own impression.
Still, don't take my word for it. Here, see this for yourself...
The Hole of Disbelief
It should be noted here that Mantik and his supporters have long claimed the photos of the so-called "back of the head" witnesses in Robert Groden's book The Killing of a President (including those of the Parkland physicians shown on the slide above) as evidence supporting his claim the upper middle section of the occipital bone was missing. But this isn't exactly true, now, is it? As previously discussed in chapter 18c, most of these witnesses were pointing to a location too far to the right, and/or too high on the back of the head, to support Mantik's claim the middle of the back of the head was missing.
And it's worse than that, IMO. Many of these witnesses were actually pointing to locations closer to the location Robertson proposes for a large wound at the back of the head, than the location Mantik proposes for such a wound.
And it's even worse than that, IMO. Even if one convinces oneself that the statements and actions of these and other witnesses were more consistent with Mantik's claim the wound was actually in the middle of the back of the head than Robertson's claim the wound was on the right rear at the top, one can not honestly get around that Mantik--who claims to accept the veracity of their recollections--actually believes they were uniformly incorrect, in that they all somehow seemed to miss out on the giant gaping wound at the top of the forehead created by the displacement of the triangular, or delta, fragment, which he has quietly proposed, since at least Murder in Dealey Plaza (2000) was dislodged from the frontal bone during the shooting.
And should one doubt me on this, here is Mantik's "Final Synthesis" (2014) synopsis of researcher John Hunt's article detailing the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel's disagreement with its consultant, Dr. Angel, over the orientation of the large triangular fragment: "Hunt concludes that the Forensic Pathology Panel was wrong, but that Angel was correct to place the triangular fragment into the frontal area. (I agree with Hunt.)"
And here is Mantik's "Final Synthesis" response to Robertson's placement of the triangular fragment at the top of the back of the head, and his related claim the frontal bone was intact: "I have often discussed this mistake (about the frontal bone) in my essays and lectures. In fact, Dr. John J. Fitzpatrick, the forensic radiologist for the ARRB, agreed with me that the frontal bone was present only up to the hairline... In a letter to Jack White (October 7, 1995; copy in my files) Robertson stated: "The frontal bone is intact and the large late arriving fragment CAN NOT [sic; emphasis by RR] therefore be frontal bone." Robertson was quite aware that he thereby disagreed with Angel. (Robertson e-mail of August 11, 2014: "The Delta [DM: triangular] fragment was posterior parietal...") In fact, Robertson not only disagreed with Angel and with John J. Fitzpatrick (a fellow radiologist and a consultant for the ARRB), but he has also disagreed with pathologist Boswell (who sketched some absent frontal bone; as well as absent occipital bone). Robertson has also disagreed with another radiology colleague (Gerald M. McDonnel, a consultant for the HSCA), who reported some absent frontal bone."
And here is Mantik's "Final Synthesis" argument for frame 313 of the Zapruder film's being altered to suggest the Harper fragment exploded forward from Kennedy's head: "here is the crux of the problem: the two obvious streaking fragments may not be authentic. And here is why: (1) both trajectories oddly converge on the same point on JFK's forehead... , (2) virtually this same site (JFK's high forehead) is also the origin of the large triangular bone fragment..., (3) this large triangular fragment simply fell into the limousine; while the two streaking fragments paradoxically zoomed off at very high speeds..."
The man's a warrior, you can give him that. But what's to be said of a man whose fervent desire to "win" compels him to attack Robertson for not going along with Angel (and even Fitzpatrick!) on his placement of the "triangular", "delta", or "late-arriving" fragment (Yes, they're one and the same), when he himself refuses to go along with Angel on his placement of the Harper fragment...even though his (Mantik's) placement of this fragment at the back of the head means there were TWO large holes on Kennedy's head, as opposed to the one observed by the witnesses?
And, yes, you read that right. As shown on the slide above, Mantik's much-discussed placement of the Harper fragment on the back of the head runs concurrent with his much less-discussed placement of the triangular fragment at the front of the head, and indicates he believed there were TWO large holes on Kennedy's head, including one large one at the top of the head that somehow went unobserved by the Parkland witnesses Mantik pretends to "believe".
Yep. it's sad but true. The witnesses recalled but one large hole. Robertson is a one-holer, and Mantik is a two-holer.
So where does Mantik get off suggesting he "believes" these witnesses, and that Robertson does not, when Robertson's proposed location for a posterior wound is far more in line with their recollections than his own?
Now, to be clear, Mantik is not the only writer on the medical evidence to propose a hole on the front of the skull went unnoticed at Parkland Hospital.
Oh, really? A 10 cm long piece of bone, comprising roughly 65 sq cm, is missing from the high forehead of a man's skull, and NONE of the dozen or so doctors claiming to have gotten a look at the wound on his head--which they recalled as being on the back of his head even though he was lying on his back--noticed it was missing? Seriously? The top of the forehead looked normal even though there was no underlying skull, or brain, for that matter, to support it? Livingstone must have been kidding, right?
One of the first to do so was Dr. Robert Artwohl, a prominent single-assassin theorist. In a 1992 letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association, ironically, written in response to a letter by Mantik, Artwohl declared: "Mantik also discusses the discrepancy in the size, location, and appearance of the head wound between the Dallas and Bethesda examinations. This is hardly surprising. In Dallas, the physicians were trying desperately to save the President’s life and were confronted with an actively bleeding wound comprising blood, brain, bone fragments, scalp flaps, and clot. Furthermore, the head wound gushed blood with each chest compression. Most likely, the large frontoparietotemporal bone flap, so evident on the Zapruder film, was closed over and was held in place by clot..."
Wait, what? Artwohl had ignored or forgotten that there was no large frontoparietotemporal bone flap that could have been closed over, at least not according to the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, which concluded the largest piece of bone found outside the skull was parietal bone from the top of the skull, the presumed location of this "flap."
While this was later acknowledged by others, furthermore, their attempts at selling this lemon seemed even more desperate. In Killing Kennedy (1995), Harrison Livingstone acknowledged that the "large 10 cm piece of parietal bone" found in the limo accounted for a large percentage of the missing bone described in the autopsy report, but then sought to make this fit the recollections of the Parkland witnesses by claiming "this area of missing bone was covered with scalp or hair and not seen."
Sadly, no. He wasn't kidding. Nor was Mantik's colleague Dr. Gary Aguilar kidding five years later when he wrote "It is not hard to imagine the possibility that during the time it took the Presidential limousine to get to Parkland Hospital, clot had formed gluing a portion of disrupted scalp down making JFK's skull defect appear smaller to treating surgeons than it later would to autopsy surgeons” (Murder in Dealey Plaza, 2000).
And nor was Mantik's partner in common sense crime, Doug Horne, kidding when he suggested something similar in the documentary film A Coup in Camelot (2016). (Although the words to follow were actually spoken by narrator Peter Coyote, they were spoken in a section on Horne's findings, and undoubtedly represent Horne's views, which tend to mirror Mantik's.) Here, then, are the words: "In the Zapruder film, a flap of skull can be seen opening up after the head strike. During the frantic ride to Parkland Hospital, the flap had been folded back into place where the blood acted like glue and sealed the wound. That wound was not spotted at Parkland, as it was obscured within the hairline."
Eegads! Will someone please tell me why it's less logical to believe a number of medical professionals incorrectly recalled the exact location of a large gaping head wound in the middle of bloody hair than that they completely failed to notice a similar-sized hole on the skull at the top of the head, due to the overlying scalp's being folded back into place, and the blood along the edges of this scalp's acting like glue? I mean, from a medical perspective, it's far better for them to have incorrectly recalled the location of a fatal wound, than to have missed one altogether. So why has my defense of their competence become so controversial?
Because I'd really like to know...
The Slow Motion Switcheroo
Let us now demonstrate the fatal folly of following false messiahs. (White this is undoubtedly unfair, I couldn't resist the alliteration.)
Here is Harrison Livingstone in the October-November 1993 issue of The Investigator, discussing Mantik's first trip to the archives: "Dr. Mantik found that the large hole on the right side in the back of the head described in the autopsy report and by the Dallas medical witnesses was covered up in the X-rays."
And here is Mantik himself at a Livingstone-put-together press conference days later: "What someone did in taking the x-rays of Kennedy during the autopsy was to put a great white patch on the back of the lateral X-ray to cover up the hole, which is why the area is so extraordinarily white," (Source: Reuters news Article on the 11-18-93 press conference, published in Livingstone's book Killing Kennedy, published 1995.)
And, should one assume the writer of this article, Jeanne King, to have misreported Mantik's words, here is an AP report by Richard Pyle, on this same news conference, which was similarly republished by Livingstone in 1995: "Dr. David Mantik, a radiologist from Rancho Mirage, Calif., said he recently conducted 'optical density' tests on the photos in the National Archives, finding that they were 'composites' that blocked out the large exit wound and positioned a bullet fragment to suggest a shot from the rear."
And here is Dr. Randy Robertson in a 2-4-94 letter to Jim Lesar found in the Weisberg Archives: "David also has said that the "big white patch"was put on the back of the skull x-ray to hide the large area of bone that was missing there because a bullet exited out the back of the head."
And here is Mantik himself in a 4-10-94 letter to researcher Harold Weisberg found in the Weisberg Archives: "The primary question now is -- and always should have been: why is there no obvious missing tissue at the back of the head? What we see instead on the lateral X-ray is a remarkably white area, where it should appear relatively dark, secondary to significant missing tissue."
Mantik's claim the x-rays were altered to hide a hole in the back of the head thereby became big news, at least in the eyes of the research community. Here is Livingstone again in Killing Kennedy (1995), which devoted an entire chapter to Mantik and his findings: "Dr. Mantik found beyond any question that the x-rays are altered images intended to hide the position of the large defect as described in the autopsy report itself...We can see the unusual whiteness on this area of the x-rays with the naked eye." And here he is later in the book: "the rear part of the hole described by all witnesses is nowhere to be seen in the lateral x-rays. That is because it is covered over." And then later down the page: "light readings on post-mortem x-rays on other cadavers (provided by Doug DeSalles, M.D.) in the area of what Dr. Mantik calls the 'great white patch' over the large defect area in the back further proves that it cannot be a true feature of the skull."And here is how Stewart Galanor presented Mantik's findings in Cover-up (1998): "Dr. Mantik was forced to conclude that the autopsy X-rays of President Kennedy's head had been altered. They were composites. The original autopsy X-rays had been rephotographed with a radio-dense patch super imposed over the rear portion of the head, the region precisely where the Parkland doctors had seen a large gaping wound."
And it wasn't just Livingstone that was hawking Mantik's wares. The second-to-last page of the Winter 1996 issue of the Kennedy Assassination Chronicles featured a large ad for a 7-part video series by Dr. James Fetzer, priced at 19.95. In this series, Fetzer discussed the recent findings of a number of researchers, including Dr. Mantik. Leading off the list of the most important "new JFK assassination findings" presented in this series is "that autopsy x-rays of JFK's cranium were fabricated to conceal (a) massive blowout to the back of the head." In part 3 of the series, now available on youtube, Dr. Fetzer discussed Dr. Mantik's finding one could add a white patch to an x-ray. He then relates "In that way you'd have a patch that concealed exactly the area that all the witnesses testified had been blown out at the back of the President's head."
Mantik's claim spread far and wide... Here is how Noel Twyman described the computer-enhanced right lateral x-ray in his book Bloody Treason (1997): "This x-ray is considered by Dr. David Mantik to have been altered to conceal evidence of a blow-out of brain from the right hemisphere of the head through a hole in the rear of the skull. This was accomplished by either making a composite x-ray in which area P was masked to conceal the absence of brain or bone in that region, or by shielding that portion of the head when the x-ray was taken."
And here is how Mantik's number one supporter, Dr. James Fetzer, presented Mantik's findings in Murder in Dealey Plaza (2000): "As Mantik has discovered through the employment of optical densitometry studies, the lateral cranial x-ray has been fabricated by imposing a patch over a massive defect to the back of the head, which corresponds to the eyewitness reports..."
And here is Fetzer again in The Great Zapruder Film Hoax (2003): "Dr. David W. Mantik, M.D., Ph.D...has discovered that the right lateral cranial x-ray has been altered by imposing a patch to conceal a massive blow-out to the back of the head..."
And here is Fetzer in Reasoning About Assassinations, an article published in the International Journal of the Humanities (2006): "In response to the controversy ignited by the release of Oliver Stone's film "JFK", I organized a research group of physicians, physicists, photo-analysts and attorneys to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy...Our research has...led to the discovery of...deceptions in the death of JFK. The most important are that the autopsy x-rays have been fabricated (a) to conceal the massive blow-out to the back of the head that more than forty eyewitnesses reported and (b) to add a 6.5 mm metallic slice in an apparent effort to implicate an obscure World War II Italian Mannlicher-Carcano as the weapon used."
And here is Fetzer again on a TV program entitled The World's Greatest Mysteries (2008): "The President's autopsy has been a source of controversy in that regard which extends to the autopsy x-rays which were fabricated to conceal a massive blow-out to the back of the head caused by a shot from the front."
And here is how author Jim Douglass presented Mantik's findings in JFK and the Unspeakable (2008): "There was far too much bone density being shown in the rear of of JFK's skull relative to the front. The X-ray had to have been a composite. The optical density data indicated a forgery in which a patch had been placed over an original x-ray to cover the rear part of the skull--corresponding to the gap left in part by the Harper fragment, evidence of an exit wound. The obvious purpose was to cover-up evidence of a shot from the front that, judging from the original Parkland observations, had created an exit hole the size of one's fist in the back of the head..."
And here is how Mantik's closest associate Doug Horne presented Mantik's findings in an interview published in Dick Russell's book On the Trail of the JFK Assassins (2008): "The two lateral skull x-rays, Mantik has demonstrated, had a very dense optical patch superimposed on the copy films over the occipital-parietal area behind the ear to mask the blow-out or exit wound seen in Dallas in the back of the head."
And here is what Horne had to say about Mantik's findings in his own book Inside the ARRB Vol. 1, published the next year: "Mantik posited that the purpose of placing the alleged forged composite copy films of the skull into the official record was twofold...in the case of the two lateral skull x-rays, the purpose of the suspected artifact (which Mantik calls the 'white patch') was to obliterate, or rather mask, an area of missing bone (and brain) in the right rear of the skull--and therefore to erase evidence of being shot from the front..."
And here is Horne in Inside the ARRB, vol. 2, published at the same time as vol. 1: "If Dr. Mantik is correct that a dense patch is present behind the right ear in x-rays 2 and 3--and that x-rays 2 and 3 are not originals, but instead are forged composite copy films of the real laterals, with a patch or large artifact covering up a blow-out behind the right ear superimposed, then this could account for the differences in perception between the many autopsy witnessed who recall the back of the head missing, or blown out, at autopsy, and who believed that night that President Kennedy had been shot from the front, and the perceptions of the Clark Panel, the HSCA panel, and most people who view x-ray no. 2 and 3 today, who see apparent evidence of an exit wound in the right front of the skull."
And should that not be clear enough, here is Horne in vol. 2 a bit later: "Mantik believes that the 'great white area' in the posterior skull (the occipital-parietal area, to be precise) on the lateral x-rays is an optical 'patch' (i.e., a 'light-blasted' area) superimposed on top of the authentic x-ray image...The transmission ratios between area 'P' and the ear canal are different on the JFK lateral skull x-rays because the forged composite copy films created after the autopsy were imperfectly created--that is, the right lateral was 'light-blasted' more than the left lateral was during the copying process, when the occipital-parietal blowout was obliterated by exposing the copy film to extra light in that region."
And here is how Mantik presented his findings in his 2009 JFK Lancer presentation: "The White Patch was likely added in the dark room, to both left and right lateral X-rays. Its purpose was to obscure the loss of tissue at the back of the skull and its effect (especially alongside the very dark area at the front) was to suggest a bullet entry from the rear that blew out tissue from the front."
And here is how Mantik, in an interview uploaded to youtube on 3-31-10, responded to his friend and supporter James Fetzer's assertion the white patch was probably created "in order to conceal the massive blow-out to the back of the head reported by more than 40 different witnesses including massive, experienced physicians at Parkland Hospital"...crickets. Fetzer said the white patch was perhaps Mantik's "most celebrated" discovery, and said it was probably done to conceal the large defect observed at Parkland Hospital, and Mantik didn't deny it. And, should one assume Mantik was simply being polite, one should note how Mantik responded to Fetzer's subsequent question about Kennedy autopsy radiologist John Ebersole. When asked whether Ebersole would be the "prime candidate" for being the one who'd "effectuated the obfuscation of the defect," Mantik replied: "Yes, he would."
And here is how...just kidding. I'm sure you get it by now. Mantik said the white patch covered the hole on the back of the head noted by the witnesses and the research community echoed his claims. As he also claimed the Harper fragment had exploded from the back of the head, moreover, it seemed obvious Mantik had simultaneously claimed the white patch covered the hole from which the Harper fragment had exploded. That's what everyone thought. And I dare say that's what Mantik wanted them to think.
But then I came along. From leafing through some radiology books, and putting two and two together, I realized that the central claim regarding Mantik's findings--that the white patch covered a hole on the back of Kennedy's head--was hoo-ha, as the "white patch" was on the side of the head, and did not reach the back of the head.
I began stating as much online. Now, this led to attacks by Dr. Fetzer in which he called me the worst researcher ever, etc. But my efforts were not in vain. On 10-11-10, in a Fetzer post on the Education Forum, Mantik responded to my assertion the Harper fragment did not correlate with the white patch. He wrote: "I have never demonstrated exactly where on the lateral skull X-ray the Harper would appear, but it would be at the very rear." Well, the white patch is not at the very rear. He had thereby confirmed my conclusion.
But he failed to state as much publicly. As a result, writers continued to cite either Mantik's original claim about the white patch, or Fetzer and Horne's subsequent claims. Here is Phillip F. Nelson in LBJ: Mastermind of the JFK Assassination (2013): "Dr. Mantik's expert analysis of the two lateral skull x-rays proved conclusively that 'a very dense optical patch [was] superimposed on the copy films over the occipital-parietal area behind the ear to mask the blow-out or exit wound seen in Dallas in the back of the head.'"
But alas, all things must pass. On October 17, 2013, as part of our "duel" presentations on the Harper fragment at the Wecht Conference in Pittsburgh, Mantik finally admitted: "The white patch has nothing to do with the missing Harper fragment!"
Now this didn't come as a surprise. I'd noticed some years earlier that Mantik had retreated from his earliest claims regarding the white patch. To wit, his 2003 paper summing up his findings had said merely that "the white patch was almost certainly added in the dark room. Its purpose was to emphasize the resulting dark area in front, which suggested that a bullet had exited from the front." Well, heck, that's a long cry from claiming its purpose was to conceal the occipital-parietal blowout described by the Parkland witnesses.
And this was nothing new. A 12-12-98 post by Mike Griffith on the alt.assassination.JFK newsgroup reported:
"In other correspondence with me, Dr. Mantik pointed out that the large white patch is NOT in the same area as the right occipital-parietal wound described by so many witnesses. In light of this, I asked him to explain why the white patch was placed on the x-rays. He replied as follows:
MANTIK: TO MISDIRECT ATTENTION TO THE DARK FRONTAL AREA--IT LOOKS MORE LIKE AN EXIT THEN. ALSO, IN REALITY, THERE WAS BRAIN MISSING AT THE REAR (WHICH WOULD BE CONSISTENT WITH A REAR EXIT) BUT BY USING A WHITE PATCH THIS MISSING BRAIN WAS OBSCURED."
So the white patch which Mantik originally claimed covered a hole now only covered up the missing brain near the hole. Now, what had changed since Mantik first popped on the scene, claiming it had covered a hole? Well, a quick review of Mantik's writings shows that he never mentioned the Harper fragment in his early articles, and that he first claimed it fit into the middle of the back of Kennedy's skull in Murder in Dealey Plaza (2000). So it seems clear from this that somewhere between 1994 and 1998 he realized he couldn't have it both ways--a blow-out hole on the right side as well as on the middle of the back of the head--and decided to ditch his original claim the white patch covered a hole on the right side.
But did Mantik acknowledge that he'd changed his mind on this issue? Or that, at the very least, he'd misled the research community on this very important point?
No, of course not. In 2014, in his book Panjandrum, Harrison Livingstone claimed "A primary reason for altering the skull X-rays was that the large defect or hole in the back of the head created by an exiting bullet (seen by nearly all witnesses) had to be obliterated..." Now, this was what Mantik had told Livingstone back in 1993.
Now note how Mantik responded to this claim in his CTKA review of Livingstone's book: "The need for such a cover-up is totally false...the defect caused by the Harper fragment lies at the very rear of the skull. Missing bone due to the Harper fragment is not (and never was) obvious on the X-rays, so it did not need to be covered up. I have never held (or stated) any other position, although others have misinterpreted my position on this matter".
Wow..."Missing bone due to the Harper fragment". Perhaps Mantik wants us to believe that when he told Livingstone and the country that "someone...put a great white patch on the back of the lateral X-ray to cover up the hole, which is why the area is so extraordinarily white" that he was talking about a hole other than the hole created by the missing Harper fragment.
But no, that doesn't work either.
In part 2 of his "Final Synthesis" (2014), Mantik wrote: "The White Patch has nothing to do with missing occipital bone. That Patch lies far anterior to the missing occipital bone (where HF originated). This point has often been misunderstood by researchers, who think that the White Patch was superimposed in order to cover up the missing HF, but of course they are wrong. In fact, the darker areas on the JFK skull X-rays often represent missing brain rather than missing bone; a point I have often made, but which still tends to be overlooked. On the lateral X-ray, the HF defect is not apparent to the naked eye (nor should it be, because it is too far posterior); so there was nothing for forgers to cover-up at that site. So why was the White Patch added? We can only guess, but most likely the forgers wanted to draw attention away from the rear of the skull (where some brain was actually missing), so that viewers would instead focus on the anterior skull, where lots of brain is missing (on both lateral X-rays). The resulting visual impression would, of course, suggest that a bullet exited from the front, but not from the rear; thus further implicating Oswald. Had I altered the skull X-rays, I would have omitted the White Patch; it just seems like overkill. It would have been enough just to add the 6.5 mm object. But when someone gets a clever idea, such as altering X-ray films in the darkroom, it is easy to get carried away with one's own ingenuity."
And he followed this up with an extended appearance in the documentary film A Coup in Camelot (2016). There, when discussing the reason the white patch was added, Mantik mused "If there were a dark area at the back (of the head), that would imply a lot of missing tissue in the back of the head, wouldn't it? And that would suggest a shot from the front. So they didn't want that. So they added the white patch to make it look like the back of the brain was all okay."
Now, let's not pretend. With this article and this interview, Mantik was in full retreat. He'd become the darling of the research community when he told them the white patch covered up a hole. While he may have believed it covered up the evidence for a hole, i.e. missing brain, and not an actual hole on the skull, he never took the time to explain this to anyone, and instead let his followers believe what they wanted to believe and write what they wanted to write. Then I came along, and pointed out that the white patch does not cover the location of the hole Mantik claims was on the back of the skull. He then and only then admitted that the white patch had nothing to do with the hole on the skull, and complained that those claiming it did--essentially all his closest colleagues and supporters--had misunderstood what he'd told them.
If he'd actually told them... On May 22nd, 2015 a 75 minute-long interview of Mantik's closest associate Doug Horne was put up on youtube under the title "JFK--The Medical Cover Up". In this video Horne discussed the white patch as follows: "The skull x-rays in the record today do no reflect the damage seen at Parkland Hospital or the damage done by assassins' bullets. They reflect the damage done by post-mortem surgery. And in fact, the right and left lateral x-rays--taken from the side--do not show a blow-out in the right rear of the head. What they do show is a bright white patch, which according to Dr. David Mantik in his analysis emits about 500 times more light than it should in a normal x-ray...His conclusion is that all three surviving skull x-rays are altered copies...The ones taken from the right and left side were fixed, by light blasts, it's that simple." Well, it certainly seems from this that Horne never got a memo from Mantik telling him that "the white patch has nothing to do with missing occipital bone."
And the white patch isn't the only aspect of Mantik's conclusions that has proved too confusing for his supposed supporters to follow... In October 2013, just as Mantik was preparing to declare that the white patch had nothing to do with the presumed hole in the occipital bone, Jesse Ventura and Dick Russell pushed out They Killed Our President!, a surprising best-seller. Now, in their book, Ventura and Russell repeated a claim about Mantik I'd heard dozens of times online, a claim that was 100% wrong, moreover. Ventura and Russell started out by quoting some of Mantik's comments in Doug Horne's Inside the ARRB. They then summarized: "In other words, the wounds didn't change by themselves. What that means in plain English is that they were altered and the massive exit wound at the rear was disguised medically so that it could be represented in the official autopsy photos and x-rays as displaying the effects of a shot from the rear." They then quoted a review of Horne's book by Brian Rooney. It read: "At this point, Dr. Humes performed clandestine surgery of the head to enlarge the head wound to create "evidence" of a temporal/parietal exit and an incision was made to remove evidence of a right forehead entry. The scalp and skull were manipulated to conceal the size and location of the occipital "blowout" and a "wound" was created to simulate a small entrance wound on the back of the head."
Well, yikes, this series of quotes suggests just what so many supporters of Mantik incorrectly believe about his research and conclusions--that they suggest the x-rays were faked to hide a hole on the back of the skull. Let's be clear about this. Although Mantik initially claimed the white patch covered a hole on the back of the head, and later admitted that it didn't cover a hole on the skull but perhaps covered a dark area of missing brain, he never said anything about the x-rays proving someone had re-constructed the skull prior to the x-rays being taken. He, in fact, claimed the opposite: that the x-rays were taken when a blow-out was apparent on the skull, and that this blow-out WAS NOT covered.
And yet I have run into the claim Mantik's research proves the large wound was covered over over and over again over the years. (Yep, that's four "overs" within six words. A new world record?) The problem stems, I think, from cognitive dissonance. Mantik's conclusions make no sense to most studying the case. (I mean, really, Mantik is a leading light of assassination research...who's concluded there's a HUGE blow-out on the back of Kennedy's head...that can not be seen on the x-rays???) When confronted with such a dilemma, many if not most of those exposed to Mantik's conclusions check out, and assume he's concluded something else entirely--either that the white patch covered this HUGE blow-out, or that the HUGE blow-out was concealed via skull reconstruction prior to the taking of the x-rays. That Mantik actually believes the body was altered to add a HUGE blow-out to the top of the skull, and that the x-rays are thereby deceptive in that they show MORE damage to the skull than was observed at Parkland Hospital, is simply indigestible* to most of those studying the medical evidence.
(*With apologies to Robert Palmer...)
And no, I'm not misrepresenting Mantik's claims...
In Part 2 of his 2014 "Final Synthesis," Mantik attempted to rebut Robertson's claim the x-rays showed no hole in the occipital area.
Here is his rebuttal:
"Robertson relied heavily on JFK's lateral skull X-ray to conclude that occipital bone was intact. Actually, at first glance Robertson appears to be correct; occipital bone does seem to be present. Ironically, though, Robertson's argument can also be used to show that no frontal bone is missing; which is clearly false. Let us illustrate this: since frontal bone is visible on the lateral skull X-ray, we should (according to Robertson's logic) conclude that (almost) no frontal bone was missing. On the other hand, based on the AP X-ray, we know that some frontal bone (mostly on the right side) really is missing. Therefore, mere gross inspection of the lateral X-ray cannot tell us whether some frontal bone is missing. The human eye is simply not sensitive enough for this task.
The same is true for the occipital bone; based on the lateral X-ray, our eyes cannot tell us whether some occipital bone is missing. The problem is that we are viewing this site tangentially; and so long as some bone intercepts the X-ray beam we will see some occipital bone on the lateral X-ray. And, just as we had to assess missing frontal bone by using the AP X-ray, likewise we should try to assess missing occipital bone on the AP X-ray. Unfortunately, for this task our eyes are simply not good enough; in particular, on the AP X-ray there is too much intervening tissue (both brain and bone). So instead (on this AP X-ray) we must rely on the OD data."
Well, heck. Mantik said nothing about the OD readings on the lateral x-rays proving there was a hole on the back of the head--his revelation in his debates with myself and then Robertson. No, instead, he retreated to his earlier position; that it was the OD data on the AP x-ray which proves occipital bone was missing!
Now, he sees it. Now he don't.
But what's more important at this point is that we see what he doesn't want us to see.
In Mantik's "Final Synthesis", he presents the right lateral x-ray as Figure 14. Here is its caption:
"Figure 14. JFK lateral skull X-ray. Notice the apparent presence of frontal bone (red arrow), where we know that some bone (on the right side) was absent, and the apparent presence of occipital bone (yellow arrow). The metal fragment on the rear of the skull is identified by the orange arrow; on the AP X-ray, its partner image lies inside the 6.5 mm object (as seen at the Archives). The center of the White Patch is identified by the green arrow. The cyan arrow locates the anterior border of Seaton's guess for my placement of HF. That is far too anterior; that anterior border should instead lie near the tip of the yellow arrow."
Well, I'll be. If Mantik had run down the middle of a busy street wearing a chicken suit he couldn't have done more to damage his credibility. Look at Mantik's placement of the Harper fragment on the slide above. Look at the location of the H. It's at the middle of the skull, right? Well, the skull curves forward from this location. It only follows then that the left and right edges of the Harper fragment stretch forward from the rear of the skull, and that the hole left by the loss of the fragment should be apparent on a lateral x-ray from this forward location on back, at least in the areas where the defect encompasses both sides of the skull.
Now look at where Mantik places the yellow arrow signifying the anterior edge of the Harper fragment. Now let this sink in. Mantik wants--no, expects--us to believe that the seemingly intact skull from that arrow to the back of the head is an illusion, and that in reality (Mantik's reality, at least) most of that bone--for 2 1/2 inches up and down the back of the head, mind you--is missing.
A "Hole" Filled with Bone?
And no, I'm not kidding. In 2013, Mantik reviewed Sherry Fiester's book Enemy of the Truth and approximated the location for the "orange-sized hole" he thinks people saw on the back of Kennedy's head. He approximated this, moreover, with an orange arrow on Figure 6, an image of Kennedy's right lateral x-ray. Now, this is the same x-ray Mantik used for Figure 14 of his "Final Synthesis." There, he presented a yellow arrow to designate the anterior edge of the former location of the Harper fragment, that is, the anterior edge of this "orange-sized hole" on the x-ray.
I have overlapped these Figures on the slide above. This proves that there is significant bone at the back of the head between what Mantik claims is the front of the hole and what Mantik claims is the back of the hole.
THERE IS NO HOLE THERE, PEOPLE!!!!
Still, perhaps I'm missing something. Here, then, is Mantik's caption for Figure 6:
"Figure 6. The yellow arrow represents the trail of metallic debris on this JFK lateral skull X-ray. The cyan arrow identifies the 7 x 2 mm metal fragment – removed by Humes at the autopsy. The dark blue arrow identifies the small fragment at the rear, which is seen as a phantom image through the 6.5 mm object on the AP skull X-ray. The beige arrow locates the orbit, while the green arrow identifies the EOP (external occipital protuberance). The violet arrow locates the ear canal, and the orange arrow approximately locates the orange-sized hole reported by most witnesses. I have explained elsewhere why such a hole would likely not be visible on a lateral skull film." 
When one goes to footnote 58, however, all one finds is a link to Mantik's bizarre review of my website--in which he failed to offer an explanation for why such a hole would likely not be visible--accompanied by the following comment: "In particular, the defect left by the Harper fragment would not be expected to be visible on this lateral x-ray."
So, there it is. Mantik's explanation for why "such a hole would likely not be visible" is that such a hole "would not be expected to be visible." That's circular reasoning, folks.
Still to be fair, in his "Final Synthesis" Mantik finally offers up an "explanation" for his preposterous claim we shouldn't expect to notice a giant gaping hole on the back of the skull on a lateral x-ray. He wrote: "so long as some bone intercepts the X-ray beam we will see some occipital bone on the lateral X-ray." But this is hogswallop, pure and simple. If Mantik is correct, and the Harper fragment was dislodged from the middle of the back of Kennedy's head, NO bone can intercept an x-ray beam at the middle of the back of the head because all the bone is missing...on BOTH SIDES of the skull.
There is another problem with Mantik's yellow arrow, for that matter, one that is especially hard to digest... (Not that one should digest arrows...)
The placement of this arrow on the x-ray proves that, in Mantik's mind, if nowhere else, the "hole" he says we're not equipped to see with our eyes, but which can be "seen" via his OD measurements... begins at the posterior edge of the white patch.
Well, let's think about this. Since his first visits to the archives, Mantik has claimed the area he calls the white patch is too white to be explained by overlapping bone, and that, if authentic, it actually suggests Kennedy was a "bonehead" in this area, with solid bone running across the skull from one side to the other.
He has claimed, furthermore, that the "whitest area" of the white patch "lies immediately anterior to the inner table of the occipital skull."
And now he's switched things up and claimed the area just posterior to this white patch is not the inner table of the occipital skull (as claimed in his 2011 review of this website), but the former location of the Harper fragment... that, in other words, there really is no bone in this area...and that, by extension, our eyes just aren't equipped to detect the border between too much and nothing.
And that, gulp, only he can detect such a thing...using his special machine.
Now all this talk of voodoo science makes me think of witch doctors, which in turn reminds me that Mantik is a highly-educated doctor of western medicine with real-life actual patients...many of whom die of cancer...
Alas, this brings us to "Birdbrain". "Birdbrain" is Mantik's name for a lateral skull x-ray taken of one of his patients (now deceased), onto which he has superimposed a pteranodon shape. He has presented this x-ray in articles and presentations to show how easy it is to superimpose a "white patch" on an x-ray. One problem is that this "patch" is a solid patch, and bears little resemblance to the "white patch" on Kennedy's x-rays, through which one can make out underlying features and fractures.
But perhaps that's just nit-picking. A far bigger problem, IMO, is that the skull in the x-ray onto which Mantik has added a pterosaur is a skull with "many dark opacities" that, in Mantik's own words, "suggest a diagnosis of multiple myeloma."
In this diagnosis, moreover, Mantik is almost certainly correct. Here are some x-rays (found online) depicting multiple myeloma:
This image was found here: http://jnm.snmjournals.org. The caption to this image reads: "Stable focal osteolytic bone lesions of skull and right humerus in a patient with multiple myeloma in complete remission for 5 years."
A similar article explains: "Multiple myeloma is named for the "clock face" appearance of these cancer cells when seen under a microscope. They infiltrate virtually all of a patient's bone marrow. In x-ray images of multiple myeloma, it looks like holes have been "punched out" of the bone." This article and the image below can be found here: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org.
The caption to this image reads: "A skull x-ray taken from the side shows typical findings of multiple myeloma and multiple "punched-out" holes. The arrow is pointing at one of the larger holes." Well, heck, this proves that a circle of cancerous bone will not only be recognizable along the back of the skull, but easily recognizable.
And, finally, this image was found here: http://www.medical-labs.net. First note that the dark circles (osteolytic lesions) suggesting multiple myeloma are as recognizable at the back of the head as elsewhere. Now note that the back of the head has a white patch approximately as white as the white patch on Kennedy's x-ray. While I have no idea why this is, it's significant, IMO, that this x-ray (which I just stumbled across online) replicates a situation (the parietal bone's being nearly as white or as white as the petrous bone) that Mantik would have us believe is impossible, and indicative of alteration.
And that's not even to mention the elephant in the room. These images depicting multiple myeloma, Mantik's "birdbrain" included, suggest that Mantik knows perfectly well that missing or even cancerous bone along the back of the skull on a lateral x-ray... is readily detectable... And that Mantik's claim otherwise is smoke.
Yep, Mantik's "Final Synthesis" was nothing if not smoke. Its central claim was that the Harper fragment derived from JFK's upper occipital bone. Well, a quick glance at an anatomy book proves there are a number of ridges on the internal aspect of the upper occipital bone. In between two of these ridges, moreover, there is a groove, which corresponds with the superior sagittal sinus of the brain.
And yet...the internal aspect of the Harper fragment is nearly flat, with none of the ridges and grooves you would expect to find if it were upper occipital bone...
And this isn't just something I came up with. Dr. Joseph Riley, a neuro-anatomist, pointed this out to Dr. Mantik...in the 1990's. Yep, way, way, back, well before I entered the fray, Riley had already pointed out that in contrast to parietal bone occipital bone has "internal markings, including deep sulci ("grooves") that are much larger than vascular grooves; these are grooves for the transverse sinus and superior sagital sinus. No such deep grooves are visible in the photographs of the Harper fragment."
So how did Mantik get around this? Well, Mantik got around this by playing semantics. Here is the relevant part of the caption to Figure 1 of his "Synthesis:" "A vascular groove (blue arrow) can also be seen in 1B. Another groove (green arrow) has been cited by some (e.g., Riley) as an ordinary vascular groove; however, it might instead be the sulcus for the superior sagittal sinus."
And here is a passage from later in Part 1, in which Mantik once again discusses Riley: "the sulcus (or groove) for the superior sagittal sinus may actually be visible on HF (Figures 1 and 30B). Riley did not specifically address that possibility."
Hmmm... It "might" be. It "may" be. "Riley didn't specifically address..." Well, this might be funny if it wasn't so godawful. Mantik's friend Fetzer regularly attacks writers for using "weasel words." And here Mantik is, pulling the weaseliest trick in the business. Mantik's Figure 1 consists of the two photos of the Harper fragment presented on the slide above, with a number of added arrows. On the slide above, I have placed a green arrow on the photo of the internal aspect of the fragment exactly where Mantik placed it on his Figure 1. And I have placed a similar arrow on an anatomy drawing showing the internal aspect of the occipital bone, as viewed from the front. And I have matched up the relative sizes of the bones in the photo and drawing. Well, ding ding ding, anyone with eyes can see that the thin vascular groove Mantik points out bears no resemblance whatsoever to the much deeper and wider groove for the superior sagittal sinus.
So how can Mantik criticize Riley for not specifically addressing a possibility that is, at best, a minute possibility, a possibility on the level of the moon's being made of cheese, or George W. Bush's being a secret Muslim?
And why didn't he show his readers the internal aspect of the occipital bone? I mean, that's what one does, right? When one writes that something "might" be a something else, one usually presents a photo or drawing of this first something along with the something it might be. And yet, no images of the internal aspect of the occipital bone were presented alongside the internal aspect of the Harper fragment in any of Mantik's writings in which he claims the Harper fragment is occipital bone.
Now, to be fair, it's not as if he didn't present images of the internal occipital bone in his "Synthesis." It's just that he presented them in such a manner that a quick comparison with the Harper fragment was difficult, if not impossible. In Part 2 of his "Synthesis" (a part in which, curiously enough, the Harper fragment itself was never shown) Mantik presented, first, the internal aspect of the occipital bone on an actual skull, and second, the internal aspect of the occipital bone as depicted in Gray's Anatomy.
Here is what he had to say before presenting the first image: "Figure 17A shows the inner occipital surface of an authentic human skull that I purchased...In Figure 17A the sulcus for the transverse sinus is identified. On the skull that I purchased that sulcus is actually quite deep but that impression of depth is lost in this two dimensional photograph. On HF a similar loss of depth may also have made the superior sagittal sinus appear more superficial than it actually was; that may explain why Riley could not recognize it as sagittal sinus."
Feel free to read that again. Mantik was offering up excuses for Riley's not noting the ridges and grooves only Mantik sees on the Harper fragment. The pictures were 2-D, you see, when the actual Harper fragment was 3-D.
Now, on first glance, this might appear to be mighty kind of Mantik.
But it avoids yet another elephant in the room. (He really needs to get that door fixed!) Image 17 A is below. The skull in this image was cut an inch or so down from the upper margin of the occipital bone. If Mantik's orientation for the Harper fragment is correct, the middle of the skull along the cut line should correspond to the middle of the Harper fragment. But there's no resemblance. At the middle of this skull along the cut line there's a ridge that separates the right and left lobes of the brain. And there's nothing like that whatsoever on the Harper fragment.
Here is the relevant part to Mantik's caption for this image: "In my reconstruction, the Harper fragment lies entirely superior to the internal occipital protuberance (violet arrow). The sulcus for the superior sagittal sinus is identified by the blue arrow. This sulcus may also be visible on the inner surface of HF." Well, heck, there it is again: "may".
Mantik then presented a drawing from Gray's Anatomy.
Here is Mantik's caption for this image: "Figure 18. Interior view of the human skull. In the lower occiput, note the sulcus for the transverse sinus (red arrow). In the upper occiput note the sulcus for the superior sagittal sinus (blue arrow), which may be visible on the interior surface of the Harper fragment."
So there it is again. It "may" be. The thought occurs that Mantik knows or at least suspects that the Harper fragment is not occipital bone, but desperately wants his readers to believe otherwise.
And that wasn't the end of it. In Part 3 of his essay, published the next spring, Mantik reported that researcher John Hunt had only recently discovered the FBI's photos for the Harper fragment. He then questioned if "based on this new evidence (especially the possible sulcus for the superior sagittal sinus)" Dr. Riley would change his opinion regarding the orientation of the Harper fragment, and come to agree that it was in fact occipital bone. Mantik then presented the "new" photos discovered by Hunt in the archives. The photo of the internal aspect is shown below.
Here is Mantik's caption for this image: "The rather straight groove (green arrow) may be the sulcus for the superior sagittal sinus. For comparison, see that structure in Figure 17A (my purchased skull) and Figure 18 (a textbook figure). As would be expected for this sulcus, it appears straighter than most meningeal grooves."
So that's six times Mantik wrote "may," "might," "possible", when he should have written, "I'm sorry for wasting your time on this, but there's just no freaking way the Harper fragment is occipital bone." The photo of the Harper fragment above is significantly over-sized relative to the skull photo and anatomy drawing above. And yet the thin vascular groove on the fragment is still not as wide as the "groove" for the superior sagittal sinus on the skull photo and anatomy drawing.
And that's not even to mention that this groove runs down the middle of a ridge separating the right and left cerebral fossa, and that no such ridge is apparent on the Harper fragment...
Here is how Gray's Anatomy describes the internal surface of the occipital bone: "The internal or cerebral surface is deeply concave. The posterior part or tabulur is divided by a crucial ridge into four fossa. The two superior fossa receive the occipital lobes of the cerebrum, and present slight eminences and depressions corresponding to their convolutions. The two inferior, which receive the hemispheres of the cerebellum, are larger than the former, and comparatively smooth; both are marked by slight grooves for the lodgment of arteries."
And here is how the two superior fossa are depicted on Wikipedia... Note that Mantik contends that the nearly-flat interior aspect of the Harper fragment correlates to the middle of the pink area.
So, yes, there's no way around it. It seems readily apparent that for his "Final Synthesis," Dr. Mantik synthesized smoke--that he kept his exhibits separate and used "weasel words" to conceal from his readers what he feared they'd discover for themselves, namely, that the internal aspect of the Harper fragment bears no resemblance whatsoever to the internal aspect of the upper occipital bone where he has long placed the fragment.
But, no, he still wasn't done. On July 23, 2015, Mantik published an e-book covering the same material covered in his four-part article. This was more modestly entitled "John F. Kennedy's Head Wounds: A Final Synthesis--and a New Analysis of the Harper Fragment. Not a Novel." He then rallied his friends Jim Fetzer and Jim Marrs into helping him promote the book, and a number of other JFK researchers and writers (e.g. Jim DiEugenio, Vince Palamara, Doug Horne, Larry Hancock, Peter Janney, Greg Burnham, Joseph Mcbride, Cyril Wecht, and Wallace Milam) into writing rave reviews for the book on Amazon.com.
Although mostly a reprint of his online article, this e-book included a few surprises that led me to further question Mantik's credibility. In both the article and the book, Mantik claimed the central portion of the lambdoid suture is not visible on the A-P x-ray, and that this suggests the center of the back of the skull is missing. He then claimed the Harper fragment completes this missing area on the back of the skull. Now, here's the switch. Towards the end of his book, Mantik admitted that he no longer believes the lambdoid suture is present on the Harper fragment!
Well, just think about that. If the lambdoid suture is not present on the Harper fragment, then the fragment does not complete the missing area on the back of Kennedy's skull Mantik claims he's ID'ed on the the AP x-ray. That's plain as day, right?
Well, yeah, that's plain as day, even to Mantik. In both the article and the book Mantik covered himself by writing "The missing sutures may have been on small bone fragments that were ejected." Well, there it is again... "May". Whenever Mantik runs into a seemingly insurmountable problem, he thinks up a "may" that allows his "pet" theory another day of life. (Hmmm... Maybe he should have been a veterinarian.)
And that wasn't the only surprise. While repeating his latter-day confession there was no connection between the Harper fragment and the white patch, Mantik assured his readers that "no significant missing bone is apparent on JFK's lateral x-ray in the area that I labeled the White Patch." Well, great googly moogly. This was the same guy who'd emerged on the scene claiming "someone...put a great white patch on the back of the lateral X-ray to cover up the hole, which is why the area is so extraordinarily white." He had now thoroughly reversed himself. Not only was he now claiming the hole left by the displacement of the Harper fragment failed to correlate with the white patch, he was now claiming he knew what was beneath the white patch, and it wasn't a hole!
The Migrating Discontinuity
And that wasn't the biggest surprise in the book. Here is Mantik's (hopefully) final observation regarding the lateral x-rays: "Indicator 10: On the lateral x-ray, over the back of the skull, an abrupt change in OD occurs precisely where the HF defect begins...It was only as i prepared the present essay that I realized I might see a discontinuity in the OD data precisely where occipital bone was missing at the very rear of the skull. In fact, that turned out to be correct. As I examined the data a discontinuity appeared just where the lamdoid sutures were missing." He later concluded: "on the lateral x-ray, the sudden jump in ODs (from superior to inferior at the rear of the skull) strongly implies absent occipital bone--into which HF could fit."
Mantik was thereby doubling-down on what he'd claimed at the 2013 and 2014 conferences. He explained why he never mentioned it before his "debates" with myself and Robertson by saying it was a recent discovery. Well, this might make sense had he mentioned this in the massive article published two months after his debate with Robertson. And it might make sense if this "discontinuity" was where he'd said it was when he pointed it out in his debate with Robertson. But it wasn't. It was inches away, on another bone. One might rightly wonder, then, if he'd added this into his book in an attempt to cover his tracks.
To be clear, here's why one might wonder such a thing. Mantik and myself had a little-seen debate on 10-17-13. Mantik and Robertson had a little-seen debate on 9-27-14. In these "debates" Mantik claimed the lateral x-ray showed a hole on the back of the head. This was something he'd never said before. On 11-20-14, Mantik published a 2-part online article, entitled in part "Final Synthesis", which specified that no hole on the back of the head could be found on the lateral x-ray, but that such a hole was suggested by the A-P x-ray. No mention of an upcoming book was made at this time. On 3-2-15, the Mantik/Robertson debate was put online. Now people could see that Mantik had claimed to have discovered a hole on the back of the head on the lateral x-ray. Part 3 of Mantik's article was put online 4-4-15. (It's unclear whether Mantik mentioned his discovery in this part, seeing as it was subsequently taken down and was strangely not recorded by The Wayback Machine.) In any event, on 5-12-15 Dr. Mantik made an appearance on his buddy Jim Fetzer's interview program The Real Deal, in which he announced an upcoming book. This was a 2-hour interview in which Dr. Mantik repeated that one should not expect to see a hole on the back of the head on the lateral x-rays, and made no mention whatsoever of his supposedly important discovery of just such a hole, using his OD measurements. Mantik's e-book, in which he announced his discovery of a hole on the lateral x-rays (albeit in a different location than he claimed the year before), was published on 7-23-15. The 4-part article in which Mantik presumably failed to mention such a hole was then disappeared, sometime before September.
To me, this seems suspicious. But I'm willing to believe it isn't. It could be that Mantik prepared his 11-20-14 article well in advance of his 9-27-14 debate with Robertson, and forgot to add in his most recent discovery. And, as long as we're giving him the benefit of the doubt, it could be that his article was taken down to maximize sales of his book.
But, no, that doesn't work. In the Acknowledgements section of his e-book, Mantik acknowledged he'd worked on his "monograph" and "interminable essay" in Santa Fe NM and Carlsbad CA in August 2014. Bethesda MD in September 2014, Portland OR in October 2014, and his home in Rancho Mirage CA on his birthday on October 14, 2014. So how could he have failed to mention a discovery he'd first reported in October 2013? And, since he brought it up, Mantik is a doctor from Rancho Mirage, California. This area is quite affluent. The money derived from book sales would presumably be pocket change compared to his regular income. It seems probable, then, that exposure from the 4-part article would be more valuable to Mantik than money from his e-book sales. So why was the article taken down, if not to hide something? Mantik had made mistakes in his earlier articles on CTKA, and had never gone back to correct them. So why was this article disappeared?
It's probably not worth thinking about. But, unfortunately, I think about a lot of things that aren't worth thinking about. The location for the discontinuity pointed out by Mantik in his debate with Robertson was on the side of the head, INCHES away from where he now claims it to be, at the middle of the lambdoid suture at the very back of the head. Had Mantik had a brain fart? Had he briefly confused the location for the white patch with the location of his latest discovery on the lateral x-ray? Or had he blown smoke at myself and Robertson, and then covered himself by adding a more credible version of this smoke into a book written months later?
We have reason to suspect the latter. In his most recent "Final" discussion of the "discontinuity" on the back of the head in the lateral x-rays Mantik admits there is no corresponding "discontinuity" below. Well, hello! He had thereby admitted he had nothing by which to approximate the size of this hole, if it was in fact a hole. And he had thereby self-destructed his subsequent claim the discontinuity "strongly implies absent occipital bone--into which HF could fit."
He also offers up some numbers for our digestion. He writes that "the OD values are nearly constant (OD = 1.10) just superior to this discontinuity, and then again nearly constant (OD = 1.46) inferior to this discontinuity." Well, heck, this is not nearly as impressive as he pretends. In fact, it's more depressing than impressive. For starters, the Harper fragment is not uniform in shape. It is, in Mantik's orientation, 2 times or more wider near its middle (where it covers the entire back of the head and wraps around onto the side) than at its top (where it fails to cover the back of the head). So why would the ODs of the hole left in its absence be "nearly constant"?
Oh wait, I forgot. Mantik now claims there "may have been...small bone fragments that were ejected." These fragments, one can only assume, can be rustled up to explain the "nearly constant" ODs. And yet, this would be totally at odds with Mantik's orientation for the Mystery Photo, in which he fits the Harper fragment into the back of the head like a puzzle piece. Hmmm...something wrong here...
And not just there, but here... In Assassination Science (1998) Mantik published the OD values surrounding the small metal fragment on the back of the head just above what he now claims as the"discontinuity." These values, recorded clockwise, starting at 12:00, were 1.72, 1.45, 1.33, 1.25, 1.11, 1.24, 1.41, and 1.59. He then reported the values for the air off the back of the skull, 3.30, 3.24, 3.49, and 3.44. Note first that there is a jump of .27 from the 12 o'clock position to the 1 o'clock position. This approximates the .36 jump Mantik finds so significant. And yet Mantik fails to claim this as a "discontinuity", and then wonder if there is a hole in this location... Now note that four of these values, at the 12 o'clock, 1 o'clock, 6 o'clock and 7 o'clock positions, are nearly as large or larger than the value of Mantik's proposed hole.
And now realize that Mantik's OD measurement for the small fragment itself--the fragment he says is real and readily apparent to one's eyes when looking at the unenhanced x-rays--is 1.50.
Well (pukes in mouth) this means that Mantik's supposed hole was whiter and more dense than what he claims is a fragment of metal embedded in intact bone at the back of the head...a half an inch or so away.
There was no large hole, except, perhaps, in Mantik's mind.
The real problem as I see it is this: Mantik commands too much respect within certain circles. It's almost like a cult. If you publicly question Mantik's findings, an internet thread or article will soon appear challenging your expertise and your right to question the findings and/or competence of the great David Mantik. Few if any of the issues will be addressed. The focus will be on who are you to disagree, as opposed to why you disagree.
Here's a recent example. In November 2015, Dr. Michael Chesser endorsed Dr. Mantik's theories. Now, I responded to this by presenting a few reasons why I thought he was in error. And a number of articles popped up as a result. One such article (which I was able to confirm was written by Mantik himself) was written as a dialogue between Miguel Cervantes, Sancho Panza, and Don Quixote, in which I was Quixote, a pretend knight with a penchant for attacking windmills, and Panza, his pretend squire, a combination of several other members of the Education Forum. Well, this was quite insulting to these other members, none of whom could be considered "followers" of anyone, let alone followers of myself.
This article was also, shall we say, poorly-researched. Time and time again it put words I'd written into the mouth of Panza, and words others had written into the mouth of Quixote. It was as if accuracy had become irrelevant to its author. I'd drawn blood so he wanted some blood in return.
So why even mention the article? Well, it included an important development. In his desperation to hold onto his own impossible dream--his dream the Harper fragment is occipital bone--Mantik jumped the shark, IMO. I mean, I don't see how any of his closest supporters can honestly support him on this one. In an effort to address the problems I'd demonstrated regarding the appearance of the Harper fragment, i.e., that it failed to show the ridge running down the middle of the inside of an occipital bone, Mantik wrote: "Chronic use of steroids (e.g., JFK) is often associated with osteoporosis. Not only can bones become thinner, but actual bone remodeling can occur. Although the professional literature strongly suggests that osteoporosis is not likely to occur in the skull, the critical question seems unanswered: Can bone remodeling, even without overt osteoporosis, occur in the skull? To be more specific: Could this mechanism have decreased the prominence of JFK’s sulci in the upper occipital bone?"
Well, this was as disgusting as it was surprising. Quite clearly, Mantik had come to realize that his photo of the interior aspect of the occipital bone--on which he'd added captions and arrows in an apparent effort to conceal the ridge--still showed too much ridge, and had decided to try to offset this by arguing that, gee whiz, perhaps Kennedy's Addison's disease had thinned out his bones to such an extent that this ridge was no longer visible. Well, this was a page from Dr. Lattimer's book. When Dr. Lattimer realized Kennedy's back wound was below his shoulder line, and almost certainly at or below the level of his throat wound, Lattimer raised up the shoulder line by claiming Kennedy's Addison's disease had made him a hunchback. Now, Mantik had done much the same. I'd demonstrated to the research community that the interior aspect of the Harper fragment bore no resemblance to the interior aspect of the occipital bone, and Mantik had countered by claiming Kennedy's Addison's disease might have "remodeled" his occipital bone. To quote David Spade, in his so-bad-it's-good classic, Dickie Roberts, Former Child Star, this is nucking futs!
Of course, Mantik is not the only "researcher" and "theorist" whose "research" demands more "research", and whose theories make me scream and/or quote David Spade. And his book is but one of dozens I can whole-heartedly not recommend. I would, in fact, urge caution when reading any book on the assassination, whether CT who-dunnit or Oswald-did-it Bible. It takes a lot of assumptions and/or blind beliefs to make sense of this nonsense--and some of those assumptions and blind beliefs are bound to be wrong.
Mantik in a Nutshell
So why spend so much time on Mantik, then? Well, it goes back to what I mentioned a minute ago: that Mantik commands too much respect in the research community. He has led it astray, IMO. It is my hope, then, that my shining a light on the bizarre nature of Mantik's claims will prove helpful to those just beginning their journey.
When assessing Mantik's credibility, to be clear, one should keep in mind:
So, YIKES! Mantik wants us to believe his study of the Harper fragment proves Kennedy was killed by a shot fired from in front of the limousine. To that end, he has concluded that a number of bone fragments were blasted out the back of Kennedy's head, even though the largest of these fragments--the Harper fragment--was recovered from a location in front of Kennedy's position at the time he was shot. He has acknowledged, moreover, that this fragment bears little resemblance to bone in the location of the skull from where he believes this bone was blasted, but holds that this could be because Kennedy was so diseased his bones were remodeled. He has acknowledged, furthermore, that the back of Kennedy's skull on the x-rays is unaltered, and that Kennedy's x-rays show no evidence for a large hole on the back of the head that can be detected by a layman viewing prints on the internet, or even a radiologist viewing originals at the archives. And he claims, ultimately, that he's performed special tests through which this hole has been revealed.
There's no mistaking it. It's voodoo science, people!
The Extremely Myopic Mantik?
And yet I keep making excuses for Mantik and his clear pattern of deception.
Perhaps it's 'cause I've met the guy, and have seen him embraced as a leading light in the research community. Or perhaps I simply feel sorry for him. In any event, it's just hard for me to accept that Mantik could serve up such a steaming slice of deception pie...on purpose. Perhaps Mantik, like so many others, has a blind spot, or two, or three. People--even those who fully believe they are fully committed to learning the truth--settle into certain ways of thinking--and this groove, or rut, leads them to dismiss other ways of thinking--without ever seriously considering what it is they are dismissing.
But would this blind spot lead Mantik to make so many suspicious mistakes? I don't know.
Perhaps then--and this may be the most disturbing thought I've had in relation to the assassination--those pushing theories (of any breed) are often blind not only to the possibility someone else could be correct, but to the possibility they could be wrong. Perhaps when our theories are challenged to such a degree we feel we are under attack, some sort of self-defense mechanism pops up that allows us to reconfigure the facts, so we can avoid what to us would be a form of death--an acknowledgment that our pet theory is not house-broken. Perhaps, then, I should give Mantik a break, and assume he was so bent on defending his position that he began presenting what he wanted to be true as the truth, and subconsciously protected himself from anything that would suggest that he'd been wrong.
Yeah, I know that's weak sauce... But the more I study cognitive psychology, the more I gain confidence such forces exist. Voodoo Science (2000), by physicist Robert Park, for one, supports my suspicion there is a mechanism within the brain that prohibits people of strong belief from seeing the errors of their ways. According to Park:
"A belief begins when the brain makes an association between two events of the form: B follows A. The next time A occurs, the brain is primed to expect B to again follow...Information gathered by the senses is normally routed through the thalamus, a small subsection deep within the brain, to the sensory cortex, which analyzes it in detail to decide how much weight it should be given...Sensory information processed by the cortex finally reaches the amygdala, almond-shaped structures in the temporal lobes. Part of the amygdala, for example, are involved in fear...Whether a belief is retained depends on how significant B is--how frightened we were, for example--and whether the association with A gets reinforced...The belief may also be permanent if the information entering the thalamus coincides with a high state of emotional arousal, such as fear or the thrill of victory. The chemical messengers of emotion cause the thalamus to bypass the sensory cortex and route the information directly to the amygdala...By the time a child reaches adolescence, beliefs tend to be enmeshed in an insulating matrix of related beliefs. The belief process becomes decidedly asymmetric: the belief engine is generating beliefs far more easily than it erases them. Once people become convinced that a rain dance produces rain, they do not lose their belief in years the drought persists."
So it seems possible Mantik's emotional attachment to his theories has hijacked his ability to reason, at least when it comes to the JFK assassination medical evidence.
Dr. Gary Aguilar made an appearance at the 2014 AARC conference in Bethesda, Maryland, in which he discussed this exact problem, albeit in the context of those defending the single-assassin conclusion in the face of all the contrary evidence. Here was his description of what I presume is Mantik's ailment... (Although uncredited in Aguilar's presentation, I believe he took this from an online post by someone named Michael Walker): "Confirmation bias occurs when people actively search for and favor information or evidence that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses while ignoring or slighting adverse or mitigating evidence. It is a type of cognitive bias (pattern of deviation in judgment that occurs in particular situations - leading to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, or illogical interpretation) and represents an error of inductive inference toward confirmation of the hypothesis under study."
Yep, that's Mantik, alright.
Now, this reminds me of a quote from Maya Angelou: "When someone shows you who they are, believe them..." In his articles and presentations, Dr. Mantik frequently offers his extreme nearsightedness, or myopia, as an explanation for his unique observations regarding the x-rays. In this instance, it seems to me, we should take him at his word. The root words for myopia, myein and ops, mean "to shut the eyes" and "sight," respectively. This translates then as seeing with one's eyes shut. From Wikipedia:"The terms "myopia" and "myopic" (or the common terms "short-sightedness" or "short-sighted", respectively) have been used metaphorically to refer to cognitive thinking and decision making that is narrow in scope or lacking in foresight or in concern for wider interests or for longer-term consequences. It is often used to describe a decision that may be beneficial in the present, but detrimental in the future, or a viewpoint that fails to consider anything outside a very narrow and limited range."
So, perhaps Mantik lacked the vision to see the big picture.
It is clear, however, that if I'm to let Mantik off the hook for his deceptive claims and presentations, then I should be equally forgiving of Dr. Lattimer for his deceptive claims and presentations, and equally forgiving of Dale Myers for his deceptive animation, and equally forgiving of John McAdams for his continued defense of the deceptive Artwohl exhibit, and equally forgiving of Vincent Bugliosi for completely distorting the historical record while claiming to defend the historical record.
And I'm just not ready to do that...
And so... Slippery or sloppy (or both--sloppery?), it no longer matters to me. Mantik's findings and writings are, in my considered (more like tortured) opinion, a huge distraction to those researching the Kennedy assassination. They are in essence thick black smoke at a crime scene. There's something there, but it's hard to see, what with Mantik's many pals waving this thick black smoke in your face.
We're better off ignoring his nonsense...
This brings us to Max Holland.