Chapter 18b: More Fun with X-rays
The Distortion Problem
The erratic interpretations of Kennedy’s x-rays can be partially explained by the fact that Kennedy’s A-P x-ray was unusually distorted. While many think of x-rays as see-through pictures, they are actually quite different. While in a photograph one is aware of perspective, that things in the background appear smaller than they really are, in a well done x-ray there is a fairly straight shot of the x-rays through the body, and each side of the body is accurately represented in proportion to the other.
This is not always true for x-rays created on portable x-ray machines, however. Researcher Joe Durnavich discovered that The General Electric machine used to make Kennedy’s x-rays needed to be at least 72 inches away from the film to minimize magnification. In Kennedy’s case it was only 44. This meant that the x-rays hitting the film were not heading straight through Kennedy, but were spreading outwards. This meant that the x-rays hitting Kennedy’s face, by spreading outwards before they hit the film, magnified his face in comparison to the back of his head. Durnavich estimates that Kennedy’s forehead was magnified 22% when compared to the back of his head. I’ve seen similar calculations in radiology textbooks and Durnavich’s calculations appear to be accurate.
Adding to the confusion over Kennedy’s x-rays, however, is that the x-ray techs couldn’t figure out how best to prop up Kennedy’s badly damaged skull. So they just sat it on the film cassette. As a result, his skull is tilted back approximately 14 degrees in the x-ray. While Jerrol Custer has said it was tilted back as much as 30 degrees, this seems much too much. Joe Durnavich’s slightly smaller estimate of 23 degrees fails to take into account that the x-rays were not framed with the skull in the anatomically upright position (The skull was tilted 10 degrees forward.) Larry Sturdivan, using measurements of Kennedy’s teeth taken from the original x-rays, concluded the “net upward tilt of the head in the A-P view would be 11.5 degrees.” When one lays flat on the floor, moreover, one’s head tilts back 20 degrees or so even under normal conditions. Since this 20 degree backwards tilt comes with the occipital bone as the pivot, and Kennedy had a depressed fracture on the back of his head, it only makes sense his head would tilt back less than normal when laying flat on the table. (Dr. Joseph Riley is another who disputes that Kennedy’s head was tilted back 30 degrees in this x-ray.)
On this slide, I have attempted to match up the relative positions of Kennedy’s face and back of his head in order to figure out the exact locations of the skull fragments in the x-rays. On one side, I aligned the temporal region of his skull, once adjusted for magnification, with the A-P x-ray. This confirmed that the “trail of fragments” on the x-ray matched up perfectly with the large defect of the skull, and is apparently on the scalp. On the other side, I placed an adjusted-for-magnification photo of Kennedy’s face (an inverted image of the left lateral photo), and placed it directly behind an adjusted-for-magnification back of his head. As I’d previously determined that the head in this photo was tilted back approximately 5 degrees, I tilted it back an addition 9, to reproduce the 14 degree backward tilt of Kennedy’s skull in the x-ray, and then matched up the top of the A-P x-ray against this larger face. It seems to be fairly accurate. The forehead fragment projects right onto the forehead. The large fragment or slice projects right up near the crown of the head by the mysterious red spot…
Believing is Seeing
Satisfied with the results of my distortion analysis, I decided to try to do a comparison between the A-P x-ray and the lateral x-ray. While I had initially planned on copying the proportions and angles used by Joe Durnavich in his article, I quickly realized that you could not accurately project the distorted image of the A-P x-ray onto the lateral x-ray. I thought about cutting up the lateral x-ray into 10 slices, and then make each one progressively shorter than the first one, and then try to line them up to get a concept of how they would appear in the A-P x-ray. I started with the forehead. I decided to line up the exact heights of the forehead fragment. And then I had another breakthrough…
For when I lined up the forehead fragment in the A-P x-ray with the identical-sized forehead fragment on the lateral x-ray, I found the location of the “slice” on the back of the head. And it wasn’t on the back of the head. And it wasn’t even a “slice.”
I noticed that just above the right eye socket there were a number of fragments, and that the largest of these fragments had the identical height of the supposed slice. I noticed also that it was at a slight angle, whereby it would appear to be thicker in the A-P and more radio-opaque than when viewed upright. I then spotted a small fragment just below it. And found that just below the “slice” supposedly on the back of the head in the A-P view there was a similar fragment. In short, I realized that the Clark Panel’s statement that “there is, embedded in the outer table of the skull close to the lower edge of the hole, a large metallic fragment… Immediately adjacent to the hole on the internal surface of the skull, there is localized elevation of the soft tissues. Small fragments of bone lie within portions of these tissues,” was, in fact a description of an area just above Kennedy’s right eye socket, the very area from which Dr. Humes had testified to removing two fragments, one measuring 7 by 2 mm, and one measuring 3 by 1 mm.
I then looked back at the un-enhanced x-rays used by the Clark Panel, and realized that the fragment I'd identified behind the eye was not visible on the lateral view, only on the A-P view, and that the small fragment in the forehead, believed by many to be the fragment recovered at the autopsy, was only barely visible on the lateral view, and completely invisible on the A-P. This led me to believe that Clark Panel radiologist Dr. Russell Morgan had made an honest mistake. He saw a fragment on the A-P view, couldn’t find it on the lateral, convinced himself it was at the back of the head by the bullet hole “discovered” by Dr. Russell Fisher, and moved the fragment much as Fisher had moved the bullet entrance. The autopsy protocol used by The Clark Panel to help with their report, it should be noted, stated only that “From the surface of the disrupted right cerebral cortex two small irregularly shaped fragments are recovered.” As a result, there is no evidence that Morgan or anyone else on the panel was aware that Humes had testified the largest fragment was behind the right eye. From this, then, it follows that the Clark Panel never even considered the possibility that the fragment on the x-rays was behind the right eye, and that the mistake of one expert--Morgan-- had become official government doctrine.
I was dazed by this revelation, and a bit saddened. I knew I would have an uphill battle trying to get people to believe a layman as myself could notice something overlooked by so many "experts". And so, for many years, I fought this fight alone. This fight reached its nadir in November, 2009, at the JFK Lancer Conference, when Dr. David Mantik refused to address all the evidence I'd gathered suggesting the large fragment on the x-ray was the large fragment noted at the autopsy, and told his audience simply that Speer's "candidate (on the lateral x-ray) has never been recognized as metal by any prior viewer" and that, as a result, "It's a non-starter."
Oh, my! By his logic we should reject every finding not previously found, no matter how much evidence one can find in its support.
P.S. In his 2011 review of this website, published on the CTKA website, Dr. Mantik made an equally asinine comment by pointing out the small fragments below the large fragment on the A-P view, and claiming "Metallic debris (claimed by Speer not to exist) just inferior to the 6.5 mm object, is identified by a horizontal lavender arrow. Some of these (lavender) fragments may have correlates on the lateral x-ray, which would then mark them as authentic metal debris." When discussing the lateral x-ray, he then added "Two tiny metallic-like fragments (invisible here--lavender arrow) can be seen on the x-rays at NARA." The lavender arrow, no surprise, pointed to the back of the head. Well, this was yet another self-inflicted blow to Mantik's credibility. Mantik was purportedly reviewing this website. The above slide has been a part of this website since it was created. I showed it at the COPA Conference in 2009, with Mantik in the audience. He mentions this slide in his review. Mantik is 100% in error to claim I said these fragments don't exist, when I have repeatedly and consistently shown where they are on the lateral view and have repeatedly and consistently presented them as compelling evidence the large fragment was behind the right eye. That he not only hides this from his readers but simultaneously claims the fragments are on the back of the head, where, by his own admission, no one else has seen them, is incredibly disappointing.
I got mad on behalf of Dr. James J. Humes. Not only did he accurately depict the position of the large fragment in Warren Commission Exhibit CE 388, but he was right about its angle within the skull. And yet, even so, everyone believed the Clark Panel when they said the largest fragment on the x-rays was on the back of Kennedy’s skull. Why did they believe them? (Heck, for that matter, why did I for the longest time believe them?) Were we pre-disposed to disbelieve Humes because of his military background? Or was it his Warren Commission experience in particular that destroyed his credibility? Were the autopsy doctors the boy who cried wolf and the Clark Panel a wolf in sheep’s clothing? I re-read every reference to the large fragment I could find. The autopsy report written by Dr. Humes states: “There is edema and ecchymosis (bruising) diffusely over the right supra-orbital ridge (the eye socket) with abnormal mobility of the underlying bone” and that “roentgenograms (x-rays) of the skull reveal multiple minute fragments along a line corresponding with a line joining the above described small occipital wound and the right supra-orbital ridge… From the surface of the disrupted cerebral cortex two small irregularly shaped fragments of metal are recovered. These measure 7 x 2 mm and 3 x 1 mm.” While these statements supported that the fragments were behind the eye, one might stretch them to support they were just behind the forehead as well. Perhaps then Humes' testimony was more specific. Indeed, it was. Before the Warren Commission, Humes testified that while studying the x-rays taken at the beginning of the autopsy, he'd observed "A rather sizable fragment visible by x-ray just above the right eye" and that the majority of the fragments visible on the x-rays were "dustlike...with the exception of this one I previously mentioned which was seen to be above and very slightly behind the right orbit." After being shown Exhibit 388, on which this fragment was depicted behind the right eye, he then explained: “We attempted to examine the brain, and seek specifically this fragment which was the one we felt to be of a size which would permit us to recover it.” Arlen Specter then asked: "When you refer to this fragment, and you are pointing there, are you referring to the fragment depicted right above the President’s eye?” To which Humes replied: “Yes, sir. Above and somewhat behind the President’s eye." He then continued: "We directed carefully in this region and in fact located this small fragment, which was in a defect in the brain tissue in just precisely this location.”
Humes tried to get through to the HSCA as well. Dr Petty: “the least distorted and least fuzzy portion of the radiopaque materials would be closest to the film, and we would assume then that this peculiar semilunar object with the sharp edges would be close to the film and therefore represent the piece that was seen in the lateral view” Dr. Humes: “Up by the eyebrow.” Dr. Petty: “no up by the—in the back of the skull.” Petty returned to the topic later: “we’re trying to establish whether this particular sharp-edged radiopaque defect is close to the back of the skull or close to the front of the skull." Dr. Humes: “I can’t be sure I see it in the lateral at all, do you? Do you see it?” Dr. Petty evaded Humes’ question and turned to Dr. Boswell: “Were these fragments that were recovered at all?” To which Boswell, obviously trusting Petty that the fragments were where he said they were, replied: “No. They were not.”
When asked about the large fragment by the ARRB, Humes similarly relented: “I don’t remember retrieving anything of that size.” Later, however, when asked if he could spot any fragments on the lateral x-ray, he said: “Well, you see, there’s nothing in this projection that appears to be of the size of the one that appeared to be above and behind the right eye on the other one.” Wait. He claimed not to recognize the fragment, and yet he still knew exactly where it was—and it just so happened to be in the exact location where he’d found a fragment during the autopsy??? From this strange slip-up, one might assume Humes suspected all along that the Clark Panel’s fragment on the back of the head was in reality the fragment he’d found near the forehead. By the end of his ARRB interview, in fact, he admitted as much, telling Jeremy Gunn that the large fragment “that you saw in the first AP view of the skull could be the 7 by 2 millimeter one that we handed over to the FBI.”
Well, at least Humes tried to tell the truth. Unfortunately, no one believed him… that is, except Dr. Boswell, who shared his faith the fragment was the one removed at autopsy. In 1994, when asked about the largest fragment on the x-rays by Dr. Gary Aguilar, Dr. Boswell asserted "The largest piece was up along the frontal sinus, right." When shown the lateral x-ray by the ARRB, moreover, Dr. Boswell told Gunn “I think we dug this piece out right here,” and then explained “right here” as near the “right eye...right supraorbital area.” He later told Gunn that the large semicircular fragment he’d initially had trouble identifying on the A-P x-ray might very well be “the same as the one that appears to be in the frontal bone in the lateral.” Well, which part of the frontal bone? In any event, he was on the right track.
And he wasn't alone. While the radiologist at the autopsy, Dr. Ebersole, died years before he could be called to testify before the ARRB, his two assistants at the autopsy, x-ray technicians Jerrol Custer and Edward Reed, who actually took the x-rays, were called to testify, and both confirmed that the large fragment on the x-rays was found behind the right eye. When asked in a series of questions if he could see the large fragment visible on the A-P x-ray on the lateral x-ray, Reed told Gunn, "Yes, I can...In the frontal lobe...Right above the supraorbital ridge...Supraorbital rim. It is right impregnated in there." Even more telling, when asked the same question a week later, Reed's boss on the night of the autopsy, Custer, testified that the large bullet fragment was located in the "Right orbital ridge, superior."
Their statements, moreover, echo what Secret Service Agents Roy Kellerman and William Greer told the Warren Commission. On 3-9-64 Kellerman told the commission that both he and Greer were shown the x-rays during the autopsy and that the only fragment he recalled being removed came from "inside above the eye, the right eye." Shortly thereafter, Greer testified in a similar fashion. He recalled: "I looked at the X-rays when they were taken in the autopsy room, and the person who does that type work showed us the trace of it because there would be little specks of lead where the bullet had come from here and it came to the--they showed where it didn't come on through. It came to a sinus cavity or something they said, over the eye." As Custer and Reed were but technicians, and not officially qualified to interpret the x-rays, we can only assume the "person" who claimed this was Ebersole.
And this wasn't the last time Kellerman spoke on the matter. In 1977, when asked about his role in the autopsy by an HSCA investigator, Kellerman recalled that the x-rays showed "...a whole mass of stars, the only large piece being behind the eye, which was given to the FBI agents when it was removed."
So what did these agents have to say about this fragment? On the night of the autopsy, FBI agents James Sibert and Frank O’Neill signed a receipt as follows: “I hereby acknowledge receipt of a missile removed by Commander James J Humes.” These agents were therefore intimately involved in the recovery of this missile (which they would later insist was the fragment). One might think then that they'd be sure to remember if it was the largest fragment on the x-ray and from where it was removed. While an 11-22-63 memo from their boss, Alan Belmont, written during the autopsy, claimed a bullet was "lodged behind the president's ear," we can only assume this was a misunderstanding of what the agents had actually told their superiors over the phone. Sure enough, Sibert and O'Neill's 11-26 report on the autopsy asserts “The largest section of this missile as portrayed by x-ray appeared to be behind the right frontal sinus.” As the right frontal sinus is just above the eyebrow and is an inch or so lower than the club-shaped fragment widely believed to have been the fragment recovered at the autopsy, this would put the bullet fragment, not an intact bullet as implied by Belmont's memo, behind the eye, and not the ear, as claimed in Belmont's memo. (The club-shaped fragment, it should be noted, was simply in the middle of the forehead, and not lodged behind anything, let alone another body part beginning with the letter "E".)
Lest that not be convincing, Sibert and O'Neill's subsequent statements further confirmed that the largest fragment recovered at autopsy was recovered from behind the eye, and not from the middle of the forehead. Although a 10-24-78 affidavit signed by Agent Sibert for the HSCA said merely that the fragments were recovered from the head, a report on an 8-25-77 interview with James Sibert notes "Sibert believes that both fragments came from the head, probably from the frontal sinus region." An HSCA Report on a 1-10-78 interview with his partner Frank O'Neill, moreover, confirmed that this fragment was recovered from just behind the eye. It states: "O'Neill believes the doctors recovered a piece of the missile from just behind an eye and another one from further back." On 11-8-78, O'Neill even put this in writing; his signed affidavit declares "I saw the doctors remove a piece of the missile from just behind an eye and another one from further back in the head." (P.S. It seems likely O'Neill thought the second fragment recovered was the second largest one noted on the x-rays. This is an understandable mistake. He noted two fragments in his report and the doctors recovered two fragments. Problem is they weren't the same two. The second fragment recovered by the doctors was found right next to the fragment removed from behind the eye while the second largest fragment observed on the x-rays was, according to O'Neill's own report on the autopsy, observed "at the rear of the skull at the juncture of the skull bone.")
And no, Sibert and O'Neill aren't the end of our parade of witnesses for the fragment behind the eye. That honor belongs to Bethesda chief of surgery Dr. David Osborne. On 4-5-90, Osborne (then an Admiral) wrote JFK researcher Joanne Braun. He told her that the fatal bullet "hit in the occipital region of the posterior skull which blew off the posterior top of his skull and impacted and disintegrated against the interior surface of the frontal bone just above the level of the eyes."
So here we have the men most intimately involved with the skull x-rays ALL stating that the large fragment on the A-P x-ray was in the supraorbital ridge or that the trail of fragments came to an end above and behind the right eye.
An Inconvenient Truth
So, why haven't researchers proposed that these men were correct, and that the largest bullet fragment was behind the right eye? Well, unfortunately it appears that in this instance we're at a rare cognitive confluence of single-assassin theorists and conspiracy theorists, where they both want the same thing, and claim the same thing is true, for entirely different reasons. Single-assassin theorists want to believe Dr. Morgan and the HSCA radiologists' claim the fragment was on the back of the head because it feeds their hope that the medical evidence is a closed book, with no more surprises. Conspiracy theorists, on the other hand, believe the claim because Dr. Mantik has long noted that the large (and denser at the top) fragment visible on the A-P x-ray is not the much smaller (and denser at the bottom) fragment visible on the back of the head in the lateral x-ray, and this suggests to them that the large fragment was added onto the x-ray... which to them proves a conspiracy... (Ironically, this amounts to them wanting to believe it is there so they can then claim it's not there. Hmmm...)
Well, there are several problems with the thinking behind this "the fragment is fake so it's all a fraud" theory. One big problem is that those adopting this position fail to adequately explore the possibility this fragment or white spot could have an innocent explanation. Medical Radiographic Technic (1943), in its "Processing Room Trouble Chart" relates that "Light Spots" can be caused by "Fixer or water on film before development."
And that's not an outdated explanation. Radiography in Modern Industry (1969), presents the following image.
Seeing is Believing
Although my alignment of Kennedy's A-P and lateral x-rays had led me to believe I'd found the location on the lateral x-ray of the supposedly 6.5 mm fragment easily observed on the A-P x-ray, I decided to study Kennedy's pre-mortem x-rays to confirm that what I saw was not a piece of bone. When I went to compare HSCA Exhibit F-297, the pre-mortem x-ray, against Exhibit F-53, the lateral x-ray, however, I was reminded that Kennedy's face had been cropped off the pre-mortem x-ray, and that a thorough comparison would therefore be impossible.
And so I did the next best thing. I studied dozens of lateral skull x-rays online, to see if any of them had a white shape behind the eye that was comparable to the one I'd found behind Kennedy's right eye.
None of them did. Not even close. As a result, I came to feel quite sure that I had actually identified the true location of the supposedly 6.5 mm fragment on the lateral x-ray, and that it was in fact behind the eye.
This led me to reflect on everything I’d read about this fragment, how it was faked, how it was proof of forgery, how it was proof the head shot struck Kennedy in the cowlick. I thought of the HSCA’s forensic pathology report and how it over-ruled the autopsy doctors on the head wounds. I thought about some of the statements in the report, such as how when discussing the A-P x-ray they claimed the “missile fragment to be slightly to the right of the midline and in approximately the same vertical plane as in the above mentioned lateral view.” Approximately? They were given two years to solve the mysteries of Kennedy’s head wounds, and that’s the best they could do?”
I thought about this some more. And then I got mad.
The “Missing” Missile
And, no, that's not outdated, either.
Limited Radiography (1999) similarly provides a list of "Common Problems" in the "Handling and Processing of X-Ray Film." Among the common problems listed is the existence of "white circular spots" on the film. The cause of these spots? "Fixer on film before development."
In all the discussion of the white spot on Kennedy's x-rays, I've yet to see anyone rule out that the spot could be a drop of fixer.
So, yeah, unfortunately it appears that those pushing this position (that the supposedly 6.5 mm fragment cannot be genuine and that the x-rays were thereby faked) are overly in love with their theory, and completely blind to its faults...
Let me provide an example. Doug Horne, in his 2009 opus Inside the Assassination Records Review Board, presents the ARRB testimony of Humes, Boswell, Reed, and Custer on this fragment, and interjects after each one that they were wrong about the location, without once noting that they were unanimous in their recollection. At one point, he explains: "Everyone I know of who is qualified to interpret the A-P x-ray--the Clark Panel, the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, and Dr. David Mantik--agrees that the large, bright, 6.5 mm wide semi-circular fragment corresponds in location (if not in density and corresponding brightness) with a very small metallic fragment on the exterior surface of the rear of the skull about 100 mm above the external occipital protuberance."
This is bizarre, to say the least. Horne can't claim Mantik, who insists the large fragment is not visible on the back of the head, as support for those claiming it is visible on the back of the head, and then take from this that anyone questioning the claim it was on the back of the head, including everyone in attendance at the autopsy, i.e. Humes, Boswell, Reed, and Custer, is wrong.
Or, rather, he can, but not without coming across as someone with a blind spot as wide as Manhattan is tall.
This blind spot is brought further into focus by studying the appendices to Horne's book. Appendix 43, 44, and 45 are reports written by Horne on behalf of the ARRB, summarizing the findings of three outside consultants hired by the board to help them understand the medical evidence. Intriguingly, the substance of these reports was largely unknown to the public before Horne's book was published, some 13 years after the fact. While Forensic Anthropologist Douglas Ubelaker, after being shown the autopsy evidence, noted that the large fragment he saw in the "vicinity of the orbit of the right eye" on the A-P x-ray could not be located "anywhere on the lateral x-rays of the head," and Forensic Pathologist Robert Kirschner speculated that the fragment "near the right eye" on the A-P x-ray "might possibly be a plug of bone forced forward into the skull", thereby acknowledging that it could be somewhere other than on the back of the head in the x-ray, these men, in Horne's eyes, might not be qualified to interpret x-rays.
The third consultant, Dr. John J. Fitzpatrick, a Forensic Radiologist, however, most certainly was so qualified. According to Horne's own notes on his meeting with Fitzpatrick:
"No object directly or clearly corresponding to the bright 6.5 mm wide radio-opaque object in the A-P x-ray could be identified by the consultant on the lateral skull x-rays. Although there is a mere trace of some additional density near the fragment location at the vertex of the skull, the consultant did not feel this object was anywhere near the density/brightness required for it to correspond to the bright, radio-opaque density on the A-P x-ray. After briefly speculating that the small metallic density behind the right eye in the lateral x-rays might correspond to the bright radio-opaque density in the A-P x-ray, this idea was abandoned because neither the locations nor the density/brightness of the 2 objects are consistent."
Thus, contrary to Horne's assertion that "Everyone I know of who is qualified to interpret the A-P x-ray...agrees that the large, bright, 6.5 mm wide semi-circular fragment corresponds in location (if not in density and corresponding brightness) with a very small metallic fragment on the exterior surface of the rear of the skull", the fact is that not one of the three consultants hired by the ARRB said as much, and that Dr. Fitzpatrick, a Forensic Radiologist, instead looked for this fragment behind the right eye--where he found a fragment previously not discussed in the medical literature--before deciding it didn't match up.
FWIW, I hope to contact Dr. Fitzpatrick in the future to see if the fragment he pointed out and rejected as the large fragment was the very fragment discussed on this slide. If it is, well, I suspect he is incorrect in his conclusion the location was incorrect. It bears repeating that I only came to notice this fragment after spending many hours time trying to match up the A-P and lateral x-rays. There is no evidence Fitzpatrick did this. It is incredibly ironic, moreover, that the fragment I'd observed is directly in line with the small fragment Mantik sees on the back of the head. This suggests the two overlap. Perhaps this overlap explains why the "density/brightness" of the fragment fails to match on the A-P and lateral x-rays.
On the other hand, there is no real reason to think the "density/brightness" of the fragment should match on the A-P and lateral x-rays. As pointed out by Jerrol Custer in his 1997 ARRB testimony, the lateral x-ray had "much greater" density than the A-P x-ray, and that, as a result, the fragment may have been "burnt out" of the x-ray by the increased exposure. Custer had, by 1997, been an x-ray tech for 28 years. He was, furthermore, well familiar with Dr. Mantik's theories. And yet, despite the fact he'd helped push conspiracy theories for years, and had obviously been unconcerned his testimony would be used against him, he firmly rejected Mantik's theories--all of 'em--in his ARRB testimony.
This hasn't gone unnoticed, by the way. In his epic Inside the ARRB, Doug Horne chooses to ignore the elements of Custer's testimony at odds with Mantik's theories. Horne claimed he did this, moreover, because Custer had been inconsistent, and that those trying to understand his inconsistent statements should go by his earliest statements.
But this is ludicrous... I mean, think of it. in Horne's analysis, the initial opinions of someone shown published photos of cropped and computer-enhanced x-rays are more reliable than the opinions of this person after studying the un-cropped originals. Yikes. This is the very definition of foggy thinking.
Now, to be clear, on this particular point I concur with Dr. Mantik. He was apparently the first to notice it, he deserves credit for it, and he is absolutely correct--CE 843, the fragment Humes claimed he'd removed from behind Kennedy's eye, bears no resemblance to the club-shaped fragment so many assume he'd recovered from the forehead. In his essay 20 Conclusions After Nine Visits, Mantik writes that this is “One of the most shocking contradictions in the entire case.The shape of the larger piece of metal is nothing like the supposedly identical piece seen on the x-rays. No measurements taken on this piece can explain its bizarre transformation in shape. Most likely, it is not the piece taken from the skull…I saw only two, not three, at NARA. The largest, however, bears no resemblance to the corresponding image on the x-rays. The larger piece shown here is pancake shaped and was 107 mg. On the other hand the x-rays show a club shaped object—on both x-ray views. The studies done by the FBI on this object—spectrographic analysis and neutron activation analysis, required only a tiny amount at most, about 1 mg, according to one of the FBI experts…No one has offered an explanation for this flagrant discrepancy in shape of the largest piece. Sampling of the material is not an explanation. The possibility of substitution of fragments, an issue actually raised by the neutron activation expert (Dr. Vincent Guinn), remains wide open.” While it might seem strange my quoting Mantik on this issue, seeing as I've repeatedly demonstrated his lack of credibility, it's not half as strange as Mantik's insisting the 7 by 2 fragment removed at autopsy is the fragment on the forehead on the x-rays, and then turning around and admitting that the fragment in the archives is not the fragment one sees on the forehead. Hmmm... I mean, before insinuating some sort of switcheroo had been performed, shouldn't it have occurred to him that maybe, just maybe, the fragment removed at autopsy was not the fragment on the forehead, but was a fragment removed from somewhere else? Hmmm... Perhaps even from where the doctors claimed it had been removed, from behind the right eye? I don't know. Just a thought...
In any event, Mantik was correct to mention Guinn. Guinn testified before the HSCA that the fragment he tested, and the fragment subsequently seen by Mantik, was much smaller than the original fragment. While the fragment entered into evidence by the FBI was 107 mg, the one tested by Guinn 15 years later was only 41.9 mg. Robert Frazier, the FBI ballistics expert, described the fragments to the Warren Commission as follows: “These fragments consisted of two pieces of lead, one weighed 1.65 grains. (107 mg) The other weighed .15 grains. They were examined spectrographically so their present weight would be somewhat less since a very small amount would be needed for spectrographic analysis.”
HSCA Chief Counsel Robert Blakey, however, followed up on Guinn’s comments and was able to find out that the size of the fragment used in the spectrographic tests was 32.045 mg, not as large as the original fragment, and not as large as the remaining fragment. This means the FBI broke up the fragment and destroyed or lost more than 60% of its mass! The reasons for this are not clear. Since these spectrographic tests were done before Frazier’s testimony, moreover, this means the photographs of CE 843 entered into evidence during his testimony showed only the remaining fragment. This, then, explains the discrepancy noted by Mantik.
But not really. When one reflects back on Mantik’s description of the fragment as “pancake-shaped,” and considers the size and shape of the fragment apparent in the forehead, it seems likely that the original-full-sized CE 843 looked nothing like the club-shaped fragment apparent in the forehead, and bore a much greater resemblance to the fragment found behind the eye on the x-rays.
Enter John Hunt. At the 2003 assassination conference put on by Dr. Cyril Wecht, researcher John Hunt shared photos he’d recently uncovered at the National Archives, including photos taken by the FBI of the bullet fragments prior to testing. These photos revealed a much larger fragment than the one entered into evidence by Frazier, with a rounded edge on the far side of the fragment, and a bite out of the near side. Intriguingly, the shadow of this bite approximates the shape of the bite visible on the x-ray fragment. Intriguingly, when one rotates the fragment in one's mind, so that the bite appears in the 5 o'clock position of the bite apparent on the x-ray, a small shelf of lead is lifted towards the top of the fragment when seen from the side, precisely where such a shelf is visible on the lateral x-ray. When one looks at the fragment in the photo, and compares it to the shape of the forehead fragment apparent on the A-P x-ray, moreover, it’s clear that the fragment in the photo is too thick to be the club-shaped fragment on the x-ray. As a result it seems almost certain that this fragment is the large fragment seen on the x-ray, and that it was found behind the right eye, exactly as claimed by Humes.
One finds support for this possibility, moreover, in the most surprising of places. In Larry Sturdivan's 2005 book The JFK Myths, he recounts his 2004 visit to the Archives to view the Kennedy autopsy materials. When discussing the supposed 6.5 mm fragment on the x-rays, which Sturdivan believes is an artifact, he offers "The disk was not as nearly circular as it appears on the view printed in the HSCA report. The edges are irregular, with the 'bite' being merely the largest indentation in the irregular, jagged margin."
So, what Sturdivan thought was an artifact and what others believed was a "slice," was actually irregular--and thereby more likely to have been lead as opposed to the rounded slice of copper and lead presumed by most theorists.
Not that Mantik will acknowledge this, of course. In his 2011 review of this website, Mantik asked himself "Has Speer explained the discrepancy between the 7 x 2 mm fragment (seen on the x-rays) and the quite different fragment in evidence at NARA?" He then responded by claiming that John Hunt has "discovered that only 2 mg was actually taken for spectroscopy. This is only a tiny fraction of the original mass (106.92 mg) of the larger fragment." Well, beyond his continuing to call the club-shaped fragment the 7 x 2 fragment, when this fragment was not in the location of the 7 x 2 fragment recovered at the autopsy, Mantik misled his readers on a crucial point. The fragment currently at NARA is not 104.92 mg, as suggested by Mantik, but 41.9 mg. The fragment used in the spectrographic tests was 32.05 mg. This suggests then that the 106.92 mg fragment recovered by the FBI was broken into pieces.
Well, think about it. The break-up of this fragment, regardless of the reason, offers us a reasonable explanation for why the bullet fragment in the most recent archives photos fails to match its appearance on the x-rays.
The bulk of the evidence, then, suggests that the 7 by 2 measurement given for the largest fragment recovered at the autopsy referred to an irregular fragment found behind the eye that appeared to be roughly 7 mm in diameter and 2 mm thick on the x-rays, and not a thin stake found in the middle of the forehead that was 7 mm long by 2 mm in width, as Dr. Mantik continues to claim.
This fragment was then cut into pieces. For testing. Which is why it no longer gives the appearance it once did. It all makes sense.
The 7 x 2 Confusion
Horne's blindness when it comes to Mantik and the supposed fragment on the back of the head becomes even more clear when one realizes that, within Volume 2 of his book, he uses the consultants he ignores regarding the supposed fragment on the back of the head in the x-rays to help debunk that there was a bullet hole apparent on the back of the head in the x-rays. Well, one should ask, if these three consultants were "expert" enough for Horne to quote them regarding a lack of a bullet hole high on the back of the head in the x-rays (and thereby use them to contradict the conclusions of the Clark Panel and HSCA Pathology Panel), why does he disregard their opinions when they fail to support that there is a fragment on the back of the head in this very same x-ray? I mean, how can he, after spending so much time discrediting the Clark Panel and HSCA Pathology Panel's conclusions, turn around and defer to their expertise regarding this fragment supposedly on the back of the head?
The answer, almost certainly, is that Horne couldn't care less what the Clark Panel and HSCA Pathology Panel had to say about anything, and was using their presumed expertise as a smokescreen to disguise that his belief there was a bullet fragment on the back of the head in the lateral x-ray stems solely from his trust in Dr. Mantik, and Mantik's near religious belief the fragment in the A-P x-ray has been added atop a much-smaller pre-existing fragment...
As stated, Horne needs it to be there, so he can say it isn't there...
As does the man he blindly trusts, Mantik... Despite Humes' repeatedly claiming that the bullet he removed was in the supra-orbital ridge behind the right eye, Mantik, in his articles discussing the fragment removed at autopsy, misrepresents the statements of those present at the autopsy, so that he can claim the fragment removed at autopsy was the fragment in the forehead. In Assassination Science, published 1998, he actually claims that the forehead fragment is seen on the A-P view above the 6.5 mm fragment and that "The pathologists always refer to this one when asked about the largest fragment" and that, furthermore, this fragment "can also be seen on the lateral view where it does indeed lie just above the right frontal sinus--exactly where the pathologists described it."
Well, this is not true. Having taken that route, however, Mantik follows it to the end. After misrepresenting what the doctors said, he correctly quotes the FBI report claiming the fragment was behind the right frontal sinus, but then interjects "It should have said above." He then uses his re-interpretation of the location of the fragment removed at autopsy as a broad description of this fragment, even reporting that when asked about the largest fragment recovered during the autopsy, Humes immediately "referred to the fragment above the right frontal sinus." This completely disguises that Humes' actual testimony was that it was "up by the eyebrow" and "above and somewhat behind the President's eye" and that, while describing CE 388 before the Warren Commission, Humes pointed out the fragment behind the eye on the drawing and said the fragment removed at autopsy was in "precisely this location."
And this was not the only time Mantik misrepresented Humes' statements regarding this fragment. In his 2009 appearance at the JFK Lancer Conference in Dallas, Mantik presented a number of slides in which the forehead fragment was identified as the "7 x 2 Fragment Removed by Humes," even though, as we've seen, 1) there was no mention of a forehead fragment in any of the reports on the autopsy, 2) Humes never claimed this was the fragment he'd recovered, and 3) Humes claimed instead that the fragment he'd recovered was found behind Kennedy's eye.
To be fair, it certainly seems possible Mantik's slipperiness on this issue is not a deliberate ploy to mislead his audience, but is instead a byproduct of his unwarranted acceptance that the 7 x 2 mm fragment removed at the autopsy is the 6 mm long club-shaped fragment visible on the forehead in the x-rays. Apparently, it never occurred to him that a three dimensional crescent-shaped object such as the purportedly 6.5 mm fragment might be described by the length across the crescent, approximately 7mm, by the thickness of the fragment, approximately 2mm, and that, accordingly, the 6.5 mm fragment "discovered" by the Clark Panel could be the 7 x 2 fragment removed at autopsy.
In this, he was far from alone. In fact, I may have been the first to make this observation...
But, apparently. it never occurred to him that the "6.5 mm fragment" could be elsewhere in the skull.
And...apparently, it also never occurred to him to look for this fragment where the autopsists actually said it was: behind Kennedy's right eye, where what Mantik now claims is "probably a bone fragment" is readily apparent...
This mistake is less understandable...particularly in that the autopsists had claimed to have recovered a 3 by 1 mm fragment from the same location as the 7 by 2 fragment recovered at autopsy, and there are no fragments anywhere near this size by the club-shaped forehead fragment Mantik claims was recovered at autopsy...
Yes. You got it. This inconvenient truth offers us a possible explanation for Mantik's utterly false claim I deny the existence of the small fragments beneath the large fragment on the A-P x-ray. As previously discussed, and demonstrated, these fragments are apparent on the lateral x-ray as well, right behind the eye. By claiming I deny their existence, and then claiming he (and he alone) has seen these fragments on the lateral x-ray, only by the back of the head, he hides from his readers that my location for the fragment recovered at autopsy--behind the right eye--is consistent with the autopsy report's description of a second fragment being found at this location, while his location (the middle of the forehead) is not.
And that's not all he seeks to hide. From his 2009 appearance at the JFK Lancer Conference in Dallas, to his 2011 review of this website, and on through his 2018 appearance at the JFK Lancer Conference, Mantik has not only refused to acknowledge his mistake regarding the location of the fragment recovered at the autopsy, (I mean, this is no surprise), he has also failed to present the eyewitness support for my belief the fragment was really behind the eye.
Now, this is quite the oversight, wouldn't you say? Instead of explaining to his audience that I looked where the doctors said they found the largest fragment discovered at autopsy, and found a fragment that matches up perfectly with the largest fragment on the x-rays, Mantik pretends that little ole layman me taught he taw a putty tat, er bullet frag, and then tried to sell his pet theory (pun intended) to the research community.
Now, that would be bad enough. But it's worse than that.
In his 2011 review of this website, Mantik proclaims "The so-called “slice” that Speer identifies on the lateral X-ray is the ultimate “boner”...No expert has ever identified that site as a piece of metal...The discussion that follows from his misidentification should just be ignored--totally. The reader should simply ask himself a simple question: Who is likely to be correct--an amateur who has viewed only prints or zillions of experts, who have seen the x-rays? It is true that phrases (some by Humes, but others have contributed, too) have imprecisely located the 7 x 2 fragment...but the bottom line is simple: despite the semantic fog, there is really only one large metallic fragment under discussion--and it's not the 'slice' cited by Speer. His 'slice" is just a bone spicule, certainly not metal. It has nothing to do with the case, except that it might have resulted from trauma. The only authentic large fragment involved in the autopsy is the 7 x 2 mm one...which Humes removed." (NOTE: whenever Mantik writes "7 x 2 fragment" he means the club-shaped fragment in the middle of the forehead.)
Now, let's be clear. Mantik's claims regarding the fragment behind the eye are horse droppings of the smelliest kind. What Mantik claims is a "bone spicule" is whiter and wider than the "7 x2 fragment" he finds so compelling. It would quite obviously show up on the A-P x-ray. So where is it if it's not the large fragment on the x-ray? Even worse...by claiming that some "phrases" uttered by unnamed people have "imprecisely located the 7 x 2 fragment", Mantik hides from his readers that ALL the autopsy witnesses suggested that the large fragment was removed from where I claim it was and NONE of them suggested it was where he claims it was. This is particularly ironic in that Mantik has in both his study of the autopsy photos and Zapruder film upheld the recollections of the eyewitnesses over the filmed evidence. By pitting my observations against those of "zillions of experts," moreover, he proves himself a total hypocrite, as these same "zillions" have failed to acknowledge the bulk of his own observations.
Oh, wait... What "zillions"? While one can not deny that some of those studying the x-rays have asserted the large bullet fragment I propose was behind the eye was really on the back of the head, the most recent experts to study the x-rays, including Mantik himself (if one wishes to consider him an expert), have not. This suggests that at least a few of these "experts" would be open-minded to my identification of the fragment, should they ever become aware of it. Even worse, and even more embarrassing to Mantik, none of the radiology experts noting the club-shaped fragment on the x-rays, beyond Mantik himself of course, have claimed it was the fragment recovered at autopsy.
Don't believe me? Well, then, let's go through them...
The Clark Panel, who "saw" much more than everyone else, made no mention of the forehead fragment. None of the Rockefeller Commission's experts mentioned it, either.
And the HSCA's consultants weren't much better. Dr. Angel mentioned a "radiopaque mark" near a bullet exit on the frontal bone--a bullet exit Mantik justifiably fails to acknowledge--but never claimed this "mark" represented the fragment recovered at autopsy. Dr. Chase mentioned a "frontal fragment" that was slightly higher than the largest fragment on the A-P view, and may have been discussing this in connection with its being recovered at autopsy, or not... Dr. William Seaman failed to note any bullet fragments. Dr. McDonnel noted a fragment above the sinus, but never claimed this was the fragment recovered at autopsy. Dr. David Davis never even once mentioned this fragment in his report. The report of the pathology panel, on the other hand, asserted that there were a number of missile fragments apparent on the x-rays, with a number of them between 2 and 6 mm, with the largest of these present "beneath the skin in front." That's right. They noted the fragment. But nevertheless failed to claim this was the fragment recovered at autopsy. As they claimed this fragment was but 6 mm, moreover, it seems possible that they'd doubted it was the 7 mm fragment recovered at autopsy. I mean, who knows? Certainly not Mantik.
The ARRB's three consultants, in closing, never mentioned this fragment.
So what was Mantik thinking about? While I at first was at a loss, I later realized that the first two independent examiners of the autopsy materials, Dr. John Lattimer and Dr. Cyril Wecht, discussed the forehead fragment in their articles on their examinations, and suggested this was the fragment recovered at autopsy.
Lattimer actually went further than that. In the May 1972 article on his examinations, he depicted a "bullet fragment in front of brain" and asserted "The second largest fragment (7 mm x 3 mm, but crescentic) had come to rest in the front margin of the brain just above the top of the frontal sinus on the right." As the largest fragment collected at autopsy was reportedly 7 x 2, and adjacent to the frontal sinus, this undoubtedly fed the suspicion that the largest fragment on the x-rays--the one Lattimer claimed was on the back of the head--was not the one collected at autopsy.
And Wecht built upon this suspicion. The caption to Wecht's depiction of the lateral skull x-ray, published in the April 1974 issue of Forensic Science, describes a "sizable fragment at the rear of the skull" and then asserts "Another sizable fragment is seen in the supraorbital region. A fragment from this location is reported to have been removed surgically and later subjected to spectrographic analysis." This fragment is depicted on the forehead above the right eye. As Wecht's report followed Lattimer's by almost two years, moreover, it seems reasonable to assume Wecht got this from Lattimer. Yep, irony of ironies, Dr. David Mantik has attacked me for not going along with what he claims to have been the conclusion of "zillions" of experts, when the actual provenance of this "conclusion" appears to have been the muddy mind of Dr. John Lattimer, not exactly a reliable "expert" on the Kennedy assassination medical evidence.
And it's not as if Mantik's assault on reason stopped with his review of this website in 2011... In his 2018 Lancer appearance, Mantik showed his audience the fragment I've noticed behind the eye, and claimed "Unfortunately for Speer, there's no metal anywhere near that site." He had, of course, failed to tell his audience that the fragment I'd noticed was just where the autopsy attendees said the largest metal fragment had been found. He had, of course, concealed that the "club-shaped" fragment on the forehead he heartily accepts as metal was even fainter on the lateral view--and less likely to be metal-- than the fragment I'd noticed behind the eye...and even more isolated!
Well, what can I say? Although Mantik's writings on the x-rays undoubtedly provoked my interest in this aspect of the assassination, many of his claims have not stood the test of time, and I have found his attempts at sidestepping my conclusions pathetic and embarrassing. His assertion that Humes removed the club-shaped fragment, when Humes never said as much, and in fact suggested otherwise, is nonsense, pure and simple. And he should stop repeating this falsehood.
I mean, it's not as if I'm the first or only person to conclude the fragment placed in the archives--the one purportedly recovered at autopsy--is not the club-shaped fragment on the x-rays. The man who's visited the archives and viewed the x-rays more than any other has concluded that they, in fact, are not the same.
The name of this man? You guessed it. It's David Mantik...
The Fragment Fragment
It's Only Make Believe
It was not until 2010--years after I'd first concluded the supposedly 6.5 mm fragment on the back of the head was really the 7 by 2 fragment removed from behind the eye, that I finally realized the obviousness of it all. It was while looking through a presentation by, no surprise, Dr. David Mantik. In this presentation-- while arguing that the fragment had been added to the x-rays, Dr. Mantik had repeatedly argued that the supposedly 6.5 mm fragment must have been added on, as it made no sense for an actual fragment 6.5 mm in diameter to end up on the back of the head, and it made no sense for an accidental artifact to be precisely 6.5 mm, the width of the bullets fired in the rifle found in the book depository.
Well, I thought, how do we know it was precisely 6.5 mm? Ding. Ding. Ding. Alarm bells sound. Hmmm...
We don't! The Clark Panel, the same experts who incorrectly re-located the entrance on the back of Kennedy's head...and the same experts who misrepresented the level of Kennedy's back wound in comparison to his throat wound...and the same experts who claimed there were two left lateral x-rays in the archives, but no right lateral x-ray, said so. That is all.
While the report of the HSCA's forensic pathology panel also noted that the "maximum diameter" of the "radiopaque shadow" on the back of the head "measures 0.65 centimeter," it made no mention of where they got this measurement, and it seems clear they simply pulled this from the report of the Clark Panel.
To refresh, that report claimed: "On one of the lateral films of the skull (#2), a hole measuring approximately 8 mm. in diameter on the outer surface of the skull and as much as 20 mm. on the internal surface can be seen in profile approximately 100 mm. above the external occipital protuberance. The bone of the lower edge of the hole is depressed. Also there is, embedded in the outer table of the skull close to the lower edge of the hole, a large metallic fragment which on the anteroposterior film (#1) lies 25 mm. to the right of the midline. This fragment as seen in the latter film is round and measures 6.5 mm in diameter immediately adjacent to the hole on the internal surface of the skull, there is localized elevation of the soft tissues. Small fragments of bone lie within portions of these tissues and within the hole itself. These changes are consistent with an entrance wound of the skull produced by a bullet similar to that of exhibit CE 399."
Well, as we've seen, these conclusions are far more precise and far more detailed than the conclusions of ANY expert or panel of experts to look at the x-rays, before or since...even AFTER the x-rays had been enhanced by a computer. NO other expert to study the x-rays, beyond those on the Clark Panel, ever gave an exact measurement for the large fragment, let alone claimed it was 6.5 mm in diameter, the exact diameter of a cross-section of the ammunition purportedly used in the shooting. It follows then, that, sure as snow in Minneapolis in January, the Clark Panel were blowing smoke. I mean, let's get real, they found a fragment on an x-ray and claimed the size of this fragment suggested the use of the presumed assassination weapon. The books on radiology I've studied have virtually all warned against this, and have claimed instead that you can not determine with precision the bullet caliber of a bullet on an x-ray...and are better off not even trying.
Should one doubt me on this, well, here's another passage by Dr.s James Messmer and B.G. Brogdon from chapter 18 of A Radiologic Atlas of Abuse, Torture, Terrorism, and Inflicted Trauma (2003): "There is a great temptation, always to be resisted, to estimate the caliber of a bullet or size of a shot by eyeballing the projectile on a radiograph. Any missile contained within the body will be magnified to some degree upon radiography, and only a small degree of magnification destroys any hope of accuracy. The actual difference in dimension between the caliber of weapons commonly used in both military and nonmilitary weapons is really quite close together in size. Moreover, the common designations of caliber are not really precisely accurate."
Let's recall here that the Clark Panel studied the photos and x-rays over the course of two days... in secret. They did not talk to the x-ray techs who created the x-rays, nor to the radiologist and autopsy doctors who'd studied them. As a result, there's no reason to believe they'd acquired the information necessary to even approximate the actual size of the bullet fragment.
But we can give it a shot, if only just to see if they were even in the ballpark. In 1978, during the testimony of trajectory expert Thomas Canning, drawings of Kennedy were entered into evidence that included the claim Kennedy's head measured 17.5 cm at its widest point. When one measures the supposed 6.5 mm fragment, and divides it by the measurement of the widest point of the skull on the x-rays, however, and then multiples this by 17.5, one discovers that the fragment would be about 7.4 cm wide...
Or so it would seem... Let's see if we can get to the bottom of this...
According to Joe Durnavich's article on the x-rays, published on the website of John McAdams, the face on Kennedy's A-P x-ray was magnified by 22% in comparison to the back of the head. This means that the widest point on the skull would not be above the ear, as one would normally expect, but at the side of the forehead. It follows then that, if the large fragment on the x-rays was behind the eye, as I propose, it was about 7.4 mm in its longest dimension.
IF this fragment was on the back of the head, as purported by the Clark Panel, however, the fit is not so nice. You see, the fragment gives the appearance of being 7.4 mm wide when one assumes the fragment is at the widest part of the skull. For this fragment to appear so wide, when it is actually on the back of the head, then, it would have to be wider than 7.4 mm. By a rough guesstimate (feel free to conduct your own tests on this matter) what appeared to be the widest part of the skull was magnified around 20% over the back of Kennedy's head. If so, this means that the supposed 6.5 mm fragment, if it was on the back of the head as purported, was actually about 8.9 mm in diameter, and not precisely 6.5 mm, as so widely believed.
That's right. If the 17.5 cm measurement for Kennedy's skull provided by the HSCA is correct, the supposedly 6.5 mm fragment supposedly on the back of the head was not 6.5 mm wide.
So where did this measurement come from? Did the Clark Panel just make it up?
Maybe. On the other hand, as the 17.5 measurement provided by the HSCA is far larger than what one would expect for a human skull, and would seem to be the measurement of the skull on the x-ray, on which magnification is apparent, the Clark Panel may have simply thought that "Heck, the skull on the x-ray has been magnified about 20% over its actual size" and then adjusted their measurement of the fragment to account for this magnification. This would reduce the size of the fragment down to about 6.2 mm wide, which they may have considered close enough to 6.5 mm wide.
If they did this, of course, they were incorrect. There was no magnification at the back of the head, and no adjustment was necessary.
Mantik Rides Again
On October 12, 2010, Dr. David Mantik, responding to my writings on this subject through Dr. James Fetzer, replied: "The 6.5 mm object lay at the very rear of the skull, so it should have been very close to the film. That means magnification was minimal. For the actual size of the 6.5 mm object on the film, my OD graphs are best: measurements were to within 0.1 mm. Is that precise enough?"
Now, at first I took this as a claim that Dr. Mantik's measurements showed the fragment to be within 1 mm of 6.5 mm wide, and that the fragment therefore was most logically 6.5 mm in diameter.
This led me to claim that, if this was true, then the skull on the x-ray was not 17.5 cm, as claimed by the HSCA. Because the proportions just aren't right. 6.5mm /17.5 cm = .0371, while the skull fragment on the x-ray represents .0422 the apparent width of the skull. For the fragment to be 6.5 mm on the x-ray, moreover, the skull would have to be 15.4 cm wide on the x-ray. Since the skull was magnified on this x-ray, by about 20%, this would mean the skull was about 12.8 cm in width before magnification--too small. Still, perhaps the magnification was not as great as I've been led to believe. But if the skull was actually 14-15 cm wide, and appeared to be 15.4 cm wide on the x-ray, then from where did the trajectory panel pull this 17.5 cm measurement? Hmmm... Either Mantik is incorrect or the HSCA trajectory panel pulled this measurement from its collective rump.
But then I re-read Mantik's words. He is clearly deferring to his OD graphs. These graphs were published in Assassination Science.
Here is his OD Graph for the A-P x-ray.
Now, even by a conservative interpretation of the data, whereby the fragment starts around the 2 mm position and ends around the 9.5 mm position, the fragment is larger than 6.5 mm, and is about 7.5 mm. As Mantik believes the magnification of this fragment was minimal, moreover, it certainly appears that he is acknowledging that the supposedly 6.5 mm fragment was really not 6.5 mm, and is more in line with the 7.4 mm fragment I'd proposed.
Thank you, Dr. Mantik.
Or not. In June 2011, in the by-now much-mentioned article published on the CTKA website, Dr. Mantik responded to my many criticisms of his research and analysis. This article, sadly, was filled with a multitude of dubious boasts and claims, some of which we've already discussed. Among these claims was Mantik's strange assertion the fragment on the x-ray was really 6.5 mm even though his measurements showed it to be 7.4 or so. When asking himself if the 6.5 mm object was actually that size on the A-P x-ray, Dr. Mantik actually claimed "of course it was. This size was cited by both the HSCA and the Clark Panel." Well, I could stop right there. For Mantik to claim these panels as unimpeachable sources on anything was strange enough. But from there things only got stranger.
Yes, welcome to Strangeland. Although Mantik failed to dispute my 7.4 mm measurement for the shape on the OD graph above, he nevertheless insisted that my "measurement technique" was "highly unorthodox" and that "Most scientists would measure from the halfway point (between minimum and maximum ODs) at either end of the curve."
What silliness! If, for some reason, it was known that the object on the x-rays was flat and directly facing the x-ray, this might make sense. But since the object was instead a 3D object, which would almost certainly be turned a little (or a lot) from the x-rays, measuring from the halfway point between minimum and maximum ODs along its edges would only serve to under-report the true size of the fragment.
P.S. Since Dr. Mantik's measurements suggest that the fragment was roughly 7.4 mm wide on the x-ray, we can go ahead and assume the HSCA's 17.5 measurement was taken from the A-P x-ray, with its magnified skull. This means then, that, should the fragment be behind the right eye, as I presume, then the fragment would not be its apparent size of 7.4 mm, but be about 6.2 mm. Since the fragment behind the eye would, in my correlation, be angled away from the film, moreover, it follows that its actual size would be a bit more than 6.2 mm, and approximately that of the 7 mm fragment removed at autopsy.
The Inside on the Outside
Now, for those still struggling with my identification of the so-called 6.5 mm fragment as the fragment removed at autopsy, and still holding to the widespread belief the "forehead" fragment was the fragment removed at autopsy, there's one last something you need to consider. This is quite a big something, in my opinion.
So here it comes... The "forehead" fragment is not where it needs to be to even be considered a candidate for the largest fragment removed at autopsy. The fragment removed at autopsy was removed from "the surface of the disrupted cerebral cortex"...IOW, the brain. The "forehead" fragment, on the other hand, was almost certainly in or on the frontal bone, and not in the brain.
This is, admittedly, a bit hard to grasp. But 1) the location of the fragment on the A-P x-ray demonstrates that it is above Kennedy's right eye, 2) an overhead view of your typical skull demonstrates that the frontal bone tapers back above the right eye, and 3) the location of the fragment on the lateral x-ray demonstrates that it is just back of the forward-most line of the frontal bone. Well, hello, this suggests the fragment is on the outside of the skull above the right eye. It is most certainly NOT in the cerebral cortex beneath the frontal bone, beneath the dura (the lining of the skull), above the right eye.
While I initially thought I was breaking new ground with my thoughts on this issue, I later realized I was not the first to wonder if this fragment was actually on the outside of the skull. During a Q and A discussion at the JFK Lancer Conference in Dallas on 11-22-96, an unidentified member of the audience asked Dr. David Mantik if this fragment was the one Dr. David Davis told the HSCA was actually in the scalp. Mantik said probably...which is kinda weird when you think of it, seeing as Mantik has long claimed this is the fragment removed from the surface of the brain.
Before I began this project I knew virtually nothing about x-rays. After reading about some of the controversies involving the Kennedy assassination, I eventually decided it was time to get my feet wet and learn a thing or two. The first thing I read was an online article by Joe Durnavich entitled “Making Sense of the Head X-rays,” available on Professor John McAdams’ JFK site. I was extremely impressed with this article, particularly its identification of the "wing" of bone on the lateral x-ray. When I tried to use Durnavich’s location on a comparison between the x-ray and right lateral autopsy photo for this presentation, however, I learned something unexpected. Durnavich, and just about everybody else who’s written on the x-rays, was wrong. When one matches the wing of bone in size and angle in Durnavich’s analysis with the wing of bone on the right lateral autopsy photo one is at first amazed. Holy smokes, that’s the bone alright. When one aligns the wings in the x-ray and photo vertically, however, it becomes apparent that the x-ray extends way behind the skull in the photo. Even though the photo is at a slight angle, when one turns the face in the photo to be in perfect profile in one’s mind one can see the back of the head does not align with the x-ray. A closer look and one realizes, moreover, that the wing on Durnavich’s analysis is in front and above the spongy-looking bone on the x-ray; this is the mastoid process and it signifies the location of the ear. The photo, on the other hand, demonstrates that the wing is above and behind the ear. When one uses an inverted view of the left lateral photo and matches it with the un-enhanced x-ray this becomes even more apparent. When one finds the right tilt for the skull, and lines up the skull dimensions, and projects the wing in Durnavich’s analysis onto the photo of Kennedy’s profile, it becomes clear that Durnavich’s “wing” begins almost on Kennedy’s face. Well, the "wing" in the photo is at last an inch and a half back in his hair. When one looks at the un-enhanced x-ray, moreover, one finds that Durnavich’s wing is located over a considerable amount of black space. When one considers that the wing of bone overlay intact skull, and that this means the x-rays penetrating it would have to penetrate three skull walls instead of two, then it’s really hard to understand how the wing could show up as black.
When one looks on the x-ray where the wing is on the photo, however, it all becomes clear. For the location of the wing on the autopsy photo--draping down behind the ear almost to the table—is the very location of the mysterious white area we discussed on the optical density slide. The “wing” is the white area!! This makes perfect sense as it represents three walls as opposed to two. As Custer and Reed did not allow for this extra level of density in the skull—it’s doubtful they even discussed it since the doctors had not yet examined the body—they would have set the levels as if they were x-raying a skull with only two walls. The area with three walls would therefore go largely un-penetrated, and remain white. This unexpected overlay of bone, furthermore, distorted the relative density of the entire x-ray.
Ironically, Dr. David Mantik, who was to conclude that the white area “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,” was on the verge of solving this mystery before his suspicious nature got the best of him. In Assassination Science (1998) Mantik discussed the white area in less paranoid terms. In the script to a talk entitled Optical Density Measurements of the JFK Autopsy X-Rays, dated 11-10-93, Mantik wrote: “On close inspection, this remarkable white area is distinctly wider on one lateral view than the other. This implies that it was located closer to the right side of the skull.” This echoed, moreover, what Mantik had written in a more detailed monograph bearing the same name (which I found on the Weisberg Archives website). There, he reported: "This remarkable posterior white area is somewhat wider on the left lateral (the side nearest the X-ray film). If this white area represents tissue which was actually present in the body as it was originally X-rayed, then its higher magnification requires that it be located closer to the right side of the skull (farther from the film)."
He was so close and yet so far.
In the script to Mantik's 1993 talk (published in Assassination Science, 1998) he continues: "On the frontal x-ray, such an extremely dense object should have been as visible as a tyrannosaurus rex in downtown Manhattan at noon. However, when I looked at the frontal x-ray, there was no such beast to be seen.”
But he was dead wrong on this issue.
The “wing” of bone visible in the autopsy photos has proven to be another source of confusion. Upon first study, it seems to move from photo to photo and change shape. After much thought, however, I believe I have an explanation for these changes. When one looks at the Zapruder film, one can’t help but notice the large opening on Kennedy’s skull apparent in the frames after 313. This opening appears to begin just in front of his ear. When one looks at the right lateral autopsy photo one sees exposed bone behind his ear, however, and in a location where there was reportedly no missing bone or scalp. This is a clear indication that this bone was dislodged from someplace else. And yet it’s still attached to scalp... Hmm...After some consideration I realized that when the scalp exploded downwards, the skull bones that were attached to it began to peel away. One large fragment peeled all the way and crashed to the floor. (It can be seen flying down in the frames after 313.) A section of bone lower down on Kennedy’s skull, however, possibly including his sphenoid bone, didn’t finish peeling away from his scalp. It was, instead, left dangling by a thread of scalp by Kennedy's ear. (The shape of this bone can be seen in shadow in frame 323.) When Jackie Kennedy tried to close her husband’s head wound, moreover, she failed to flip this “wing” of bone back around to match up with the scalp, and left this “wing” dangling inside out back behind Kennedy’s ear.This is apparent in the right almost-lateral autopsy photo. Not surprisingly, the shape of this wing matches the shape of the shadow in frame 323.
When one looks at the back of the head photo, obviously taken a few minutes later, as Kennedy is now lying on his side, however, one can see that the “wing” of bone has suddenly changed. It is now far forward of the ear and of different proportions. I believe this is because it’s no longer a “wing” of bone, but a “wing” of scalp, the stubborn scalp that held the wing in place for so long. The dimensions of this scalp flap can be seen in frame 337.
It seems likely, then, that the wing of bone had either fallen to the table or been removed when the scalp and skull were more closely examined. This is not pure speculation, for that matter, as Dr. Humes testified that, early in the autopsy, when he and Dr. Boswell "moved the scalp about" while looking for metal fragments within Kennedy's skull, bone "fragments of various sizes would fall to the table..."
This so-called "wing of bone" becomes important when interpreting the x-rays. If the x-rays are Kennedy's, and were taken before the photographs, as purported, then the wing should be readily visible.
So where is it?
Where is the "Wing"?
In Search of the Great Red Spot
For the longest time, I suspected that the “slice” on the x-ray was embedded at the back of Kennedy’s head in the location of the red spot. With my discovery of the “slice” on the lateral x-ray, however, I avoided making such a sorry claim on this website. (Only time will tell how many other sorry claims remain.) Anyhow, when you align the A-P x-ray with the back of the head and mystery photos, it becomes clear that the bullet “slice” was in fact, considerably to the right of the red spot. This is in keeping with the HSCA radiologists who said the fragment was to the right of the purported cowlick entrance.
So what was the red spot? For a brief period, I was tempted to conclude the red spot was merely the dried blood Dr. Humes suggested it was. But then I remembered that, when I matched up the neck lines in the back of the head photo with those in the mystery photo, the hairline wounds were suddenly in the same position as the one measured at the autopsy, and the red spot suddenly aligned with the beveled exit on the mystery photo. This seemed way too much a coincidence. This led me to conclude the red spot represented an impact location on the inside of Kennedy’s skull created by an exploding bullet fragment. Close-ups of the scalp reflected from the beveled bone in the mystery photo reveal a small dimple on the underside of the scalp, far too small to represent the exit of a full-sized bullet.
But I now think my analysis on the slide above was in error, and that I was wrong on this as well. Starting in 2010, I have gradually shifted away from my position the beveled bone in the mystery photo is on the back of the head, by the cowlick. Instead, I have come to believe the photo was taken from above the head and slightly behind. If so, this means the beveled bone is not below the crown of the head, as I'd previously proposed, but just forward the crown of the head. And that it has nothing to do with the red spot, and everything to do with the large defect at the top of the head.
A Tale of Two Densities
As shown above, an avulsed skull fragment, if draped down the side of the head during the creation of the x-rays, can have a significant impact on the ODs of the lateral x-rays, while having minimal impact on the ODs of the A-P x-ray. To be clear, it would add 50% more bone to what was already the whitest part of the skull, save the petrous bone, on the lateral x-ray, while at the same time barely showing up on the A-P x-ray, due to its being outside the skull, and being side by side with both the right wall of the skull, where the skull overlaps significantly, and the lower right half of the skull, comprising two layers of bone and significant brain.
Now, here's another dose of irony. It was Mantik himself who made this clear to me, with his insistence that the dark areas of the skull x-rays had as much (or more) to do with missing brain as skull. The fragment draped down on the side of the skull creating the white patch on the lateral views had air on both sides on the A-P view, and no brain. And that is why it is barely visible on the A-P view. This is Radiology 101 kind of stuff.
But no, by the time I came along, it was too late, and Mantik was wed to his mistake... On November 21, 2009, I saw the concluding question and answer session of Mantik's presentation at the JFK Lancer conference in Dallas. As I struggled toward the back of the room, I was stunned to see half the audience turn to look at me. As I sat down and looked up, moreover, I saw that Mantik, too, was looking at me. As the questioner in the front row resumed his question, however, I realized why. Someone had asked Mantik if the overlapping bone and missing bone on the x-ray could significantly alter the density range. He called it "Speer's theory." Mantik, however, refused to acknowledge that this would have much of an effect, and summarily dismissed "Speer's theory" with the claim I was a layman and didn't know what I was talking about, and that my theory was so unscientific that he felt testing the density range of a skull damaged as badly as Kennedy's to be a total waste of time.
But it wasn't the theory of a layman. Oh no, far from it. Dr. David Davis, in his 8-23-78 report on Kennedy's skull x-rays for the HSCA, noted a "fracture fragment inferior to the absent bone, with the corner of the fragment extending down to the parietal squamosal suture, and this fragment is displaced from its normal position as indicated by overlap of the infero and posterior aspects of the fracture fragment." Although the location of the overlapping bone identified by Davis was more in keeping with Durnavich's location for the "wing" than my own, Davis had nevertheless confirmed my premise--that overlapping bone is readily apparent on the x-rays.
And he wasn't alone. When discussing the large defect apparent on Kennedy's x-rays, the final report of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel similarly noted "The displacement of the residual fracture fragments in the right temporoparietal region, with consequent overriding of several margins of the residual bony defect..." Yeah, what they said...
And that wasn't the end of it. On 10-21-97, Edward Reed, one of the two x-ray techs to assist in the autopsy of President Kennedy, testified before the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB). When examining the lateral x-rays, Reed noted "The dark spot that I am pointing to right now is a less dense area. There's hardly any bone there. And there's only one side intact. Whereas here, posteriorly, where I'm pointing to now is--the white area--is where the bones overlap."
Reed's words presented a serious challenge to Mantik's theory. Not only did they pre-date my development of "Speer's" theory by seven years or so, but they show that one of Mantik's biggest supporters, Doug Horne of the ARRB, was fully aware of my argument against Mantik's theory before I'd even stumbled on it.
So how does Horne deal with this in his book? In Volume 2 of his five volume opus Inside the Assassination Records Review Board, Horne devotes 33 pages to a discussion of Reed's testimony. Curiously, however, while he skips right over Reed's common sense explanation for the "dark spot" and "white area" of the x-rays, he finds the space to point out repeatedly that Reed was just an x-ray tech, and not qualified to interpret any x-ray, let alone the x-ray of a gun shot victim. This overlooks that Mantik, to whom Horne frequently defers, is but a radiation oncologist, and has almost certainly never worked with x-rays like the ones made of Kennedy, let alone interpreted them.
It's actually worse than that. In September, 2010, I finally took a look at the Power Point presentation Mantik delivered in Dallas the year before. On one of his slides, The White Patch: Evidence of Its Absurdity, it is noted that "No such white patch was seen in 19 cases of death due to gunshot wounds to the head, in x-rays collected by Douglas DeSalles, MD from forensic files." If I'm reading this correctly, it means that the OD measurements Mantik boasts prove the lateral X-ray a forgery were established not through his own intensive study of hundreds of x-rays, as one might guess, but through the study of but 19 x-rays collected by Dr. Doug DeSalles, a fellow researcher. Well, were these x-rays taken with the same kind of portable x-ray machine used to make the x-rays of Kennedy? Did they depict high-velocity gunshot wounds to the head? Did they depict skulls with missing fragments, set side by side with overlapping skull? I'd bet the farm they did not.
And you should, too. On another one of his slides entitled The White Patch: Impossible to Explain via Overlapping Bone, Mantik further revealed his lack of credibility. He claimed "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." Yikes. How could he have missed that Reed and myself had argued that the White Patch was three layers of bone, and that the Dark Area was one layer of bone, and that the White Patch had therefore represented 300% as much bone, and instead claim that we believe the White Patch was three layers, and the Dark Area two, and that the White Patch had therefore represented but 50% more bone?
While I'd prefer to believe Mantik was above blowing smoke, I must admit that if I'd discovered a single-assassin theorist misrepresenting my theory in such a manner I'd have stood up from the crowd and corrected him. Hmmm... Maybe this explains Mantik's nervousness when I approached him after his presentation. I don't know.
On October 12, 2010, however, Dr. Mantik responded to some of my claims, and gave me reason to believe he just isn't thinking clearly. In a post on the Education Forum, Dr. James Fetzer related some comments from Mantik. One of these comments dealt with Mantik's "white patch," and my assertion it did not overlay the wound location proposed by most conspiracy theorists. To this, Dr. Mantik responded: "The original lateral X-ray probably showed missing BRAIN in the current area of the WHITE PATCH. It was the missing brain, not missing skull, that likely led to the WHITE PATCH. This is one of my older points: on the lateral X-ray, it is missing brain that typically produces obvious dark areas, not missing bone!"
Hmmm... I hope I'm reading this right. If I'm not mistaken, Mantik is claiming that the dark areas on the x-ray reflect missing brain, and not missing bone, and that an extra layer of bone would have little impact on the appearance of an x-ray. If so, he fails to appreciate the obvious--that the un-enhanced x-rays show skull fractures on the intact skull that have nothing to do with missing brain and everything to do with missing bone. He overlooks that, should one of the skull fragments on the back of the head be absent, the dark lines designating the fractures on the skull would be expanded to fill the gap, and become a "dark area." I mean, this isn't exactly rocket science. If a hole or gap on a skull does not "typically" show up much darker on an x-ray than the surrounding bone, as Mantik seems to be saying, then the skull fractures apparent on the x-rays must be some sort of illusion.
That the dark and light areas on skull x-rays are more typically related to the thickness of the skull, than the condition of the brain, is confirmed, moreover, by Roentgenological Technique (1947). On page 134, it informs: "The thickness of the skull varies in different localities and since the density of the bony structures is in large part the determining factor in the production of the roentgenogram, those variations in thickness cause a pronounced difference in the density of the shadow produced. Owing to this localized thinning of the bone, five normal dark areas are seen in the skull corresponding to the thinner parts." It then lists these five "normal dark areas": Number one on this list is the "frontal bone on its lateral aspect just anterior to the coronal suture." This is the location of the "dark area" on Kennedy's x-ray Mantik finds so puzzling.
But no matter. We'll discuss Mantik in more detail later. Much more detail, unfortunately. We were discussing the deleterious effect of Mantik's mistakes on Horne. Such an impact becomes clear when one reads Horne's book's appendices. Yep, once again, the reports Horne wrote on his 1996 meetings with the ARRB's three consultants on the medical evidence undermine his subsequent conclusions. Forensic Anthropologist Douglas Ubelaker, upon viewing the lateral x-rays, noted "overlapping bone fragments" in the "temporal-parietal region of the lateral x-rays." This is almost certainly a reference to the white area noted by Mantik. More specifically, however, Forensic Radiologist John J. Fitzpatrick, a man with far more expertise on these matters than Mantik, confirmed that "overlapping bone is clearly present in the lateral skull x-rays" and that "the red flap above the ear" in the autopsy photos "equates with the overlapping bone in the lateral skull x-rays." (Well, I'll be. Although Mantik summarized the findings of Ubelaker and Fitzpatrick in his presentation, he failed to report that they'd both foreshadowed and offered strong support for what he chose to call "Speer's theory." It's hard to believe this was an oversight.)
And from there it only gets worse... Near its conclusion, Horne's report on Fitzpatrick admits: "after reviewing some brief summaries of the independent research efforts of...Dr. Mantik...He did not find the work...to be persuasive, and did not concur with (his) findings..." (While Mantik did report Fitzpatrick's lack of approval, he presented it to his audience as a mystery, and failed to discuss the reasonable probability that Fitzpatrick did not concur with his findings at least in part because he believes Mantik's White Patch to be overlapping bone... what Mantik chose to call "Speer's theory.")
In any event, I'm not the first to make the observation that the wing of bone or red flap on the autopsy photos represents the white area on the x-rays. Fitzpatrick had done so in 1996 and Edward Reed had done so in 1997. When one goes back to 1978, in fact, one can see that HSCA radiology consultant William Seaman, working with the un-enhanced x-rays, had also noted "overlapping skull pieces," much as the ARRB's anthropology consultant Ubelaker. That only makes sense. But what does not make sense is Doug Horne's being told, as far back as 1996, of a common sense explanation for the white area on the lateral x-ray...and then failing to raise this issue with Mantik...
Oh, wait, it does make sense. Perfect sense. Sometimes even the best of us are so stuck on our theories -- or so enamored with our favorite expert or witness -- that we fail to look beyond them.
Lateral X-ray Comparison
Newly armed with this information that the “white area” on the lateral x-ray was in fact the “wing” of bone, we can look at the lateral x-ray with a fresh perspective. One thing one notices immediately is that the lower occipital fracture leads directly into the white patch, and appears to re-emerge on the far side of the “wing.” If these fractures are indeed one fracture, with a short distance of its length blocked off by the “wing”, it suggests the EOP entrance preceded the top of the head exit.
Or does it? When one compares the location of the HSCA in-shoot to this same location on a pre-mortem x-ray of Kennedy, one can easily conclude there is a dark shape on the bone in this location. But is this the bullet's entrance, or just damage to the skull at the location of the red spot? And what of the entrance location by the EOP observed at autopsy? Despite the HSCA’s insistence there were no signs of this entrance to be found, a dark shape almost certainly signifying this entrance is readily identifiable on the post-mortem x-ray, when compared to the pre-mortem x-ray. , This dark shape is far more prominent than the shape in the cowlick, and is precisely where Humes said it was!
And yet, the fracture line on the occipital bone appears to start (or end) just north of this location. Well, assuming this is so, it seems more probable this fracture came from the top of the head and ended in the occipital region, and that one can't readily discern which of these wounds came first.
Lateral X-ray/Back of the Skull Comparison
Since there are so many who believe the open-cranium photograph and the lateral x-ray are in complete disagreement, I decided to put them side by side and size them, to see if this was so. After careful study, I have concluded they represent the same skull at different points of an autopsy. Apparently, the source of the confusion lies in Dr. Boswell’s measurements of the head wound, which are quite large and stretch from the back of Kennedy’s head to its front, and are in accordance with the photograph, but in disagreement with the x-ray and the other photographs with Kennedy’s scalp intact. What people seem to miss is that Boswell’s measurements were performed on the skull after the scalp was peeled back and the brain removed. This was some time after the lateral x-ray was taken, and before any incisions were performed on the body. That the wound changed shape when the scalp was peeled back is confirmed by Dr. Humes’ testimony, both before the Warren Commission and afterwards, where he recounts how large chunks of skull fell to the table when he peeled back the scalp, and how he had to break off even more pieces of skull to remove the brain. When one compares the x-ray and photograph, one can even make out these large chunks of skull.
Should one believe that the measurements were taken before the scalp was peeled back, one should ask oneself how accurate measurements could have been taken with Kennedy’s long blood and brain-matted hair in the way. That the hair was not shaved is confirmed by everyone present.
Especially remarkable when one makes this comparison is that the bullet hole visible on the autopsy photo appears to match up perfectly with the shadow apparent on the x-ray. This shadow almost certainly represents the small entrance in the occipital bone described by Humes. But is it apparent on the A-P?
A-P X-ray Comparison
According to the report of the HSCA radiology consultant Dr. G.M. McDonnel, he inspected the x-rays on March 7, 1978, and made suggestions to Aerospace Corporation, El Segundo, California, as to what portions should be digitized and enhanced for further analysis.
One of the reasons cited for this procedure was that “enhancement permitted analysis or elimination of artifacts on the images.” (This makes me nervous already. Since so many of the mysteries of the x-rays have been interpreted as “artifacts”, one can’t help but wonder what “artifacts” were “eliminated” in this “enhancement,” and whether any valuable information was lost in the process.)
His report goes on to say he re-examined and discussed the (now-enhanced) x-rays on April 6 and 7 with the photographic evidence panel and again on his own at the National Archives on June 2. What is suspicious about this whole sequence of events, however, is that when one compares the un-enhanced and enhanced x-rays it is startlingly obvious that the lower back of the head has disappeared from the enhanced x-ray! While one might say that McDonnell simply didn’t find that area relevant, this would be akin to calling McDonnel a moron. The area in question is where the autopsy doctors said there was an entrance. The area in question was closely studied on the photographs. While the area on the x-rays may well have revealed nothing, the failure to enhance this area revealed all. To me it is a clear indication the HSCA’s panelists and consultants had a pre-disposition to support the conclusions of the Clark Panel and assert the president was killed by a shot entering near his cowlick. Even if this meant damaging the reputations of the autopsy doctors. Even if this meant ignoring the truth…
A-P/Lateral X-ray Comparison Comparison
It was while comparing the un-enhanced and enhanced A-P x-rays that I noticed something mighty peculiar. The transverse fracture line presumed to have been in the occipital bone was wider on the un-enhanced x-ray than on the enhanced x-ray. Since the fracture itself would have to be the same in both exhibits, I gathered from this that there was air surrounding the fracture, and that this air became less apparent in the enhanced version.This puzzled me a bit, in part because this fracture seemed like a very sharp line in the lateral x-ray, but even more so because I couldn’t figure out what tissue was holding this air. I couldn’t imagine the President’s brain, as devastated as it was by the bullet striking him near his temple, to have the consistency necessary to contain the air by the occipital fracture. It was then that I realized the transverse fracture was significantly wider in the A-P view than in the lateral view. This made no sense, as a fracture at the back of Kennedy’s head should, due to the substantial magnification of Kennedy’s face in the A-P view, appear smaller than the lateral fractures when the skulls were made to match.
This led me to roam the internet for a night or two in search of lateral and A-P x-rays of fractures at the back of the head. And I found what I should have suspected all along--that fractures of the occipital region do not show up clearly on A-P x-rays--and that, by golly, that is why there are so many different views of the skull.
The necessity of obtaining different views of the skull is perhaps best explained in the chapter Skull Trauma, by Dr.s Bergeron and Rumbaugh, in Radiology of the Skull and Brain (1971). It relates: “Most radiologists obtain, at a minimum, right and left lateral views, anteroposterior and posteroanterior views in the Caldwell projection, and anteroposterior and posteroanterior Towne views.” The Towne view, the view prescribed for identifying fractures on the occipital bone was, of course, not even attempted on Kennedy.
The difficulty in capturing these fractures even when using the Towne view, moreover, was demonstrated in Brock's Injuries of the Brain and Spinal Cord (1974). It noted "A temporoparietal fracture will usually be easily seen on the lateral films (stereoscopic best) and not visualized on the anteroposterior or posteroanterior projections. A fracture of the occipital bone (Fig.6) (usually vertical) may be seen only on the Towne View."
It then presented Fig. 6.
A look at Dr. Boswell's drawing of Kennedy's skull further supports that the supposedly occipital fractures on the A-P x-ray were actually fractures of the right orbit. In the forehead area of this drawing, created during the autopsy, there is a notation reading "19cm." When asked in his ARRB testimony if this notation referred to the length of a scalp laceration, Boswell replied "there was an incised wound up there that extended into the right eye socket and then back across his temporal and frontal bone" and then explained further "The bone was all fragmented for that distance, 19 centimeters across the frontal bone." When one follows the line from the fractured floor of the eye socket on the drawing, furthermore, one can see that it rises up and curls over to the left side of the skull. This mirrors the fractures on the x-ray supposedly radiating from an entrance wound on the back of the skull. That the fractures purported to be on the back of Kennedy's head were in fact in his eye sockets is further supported by the not surprising fact that, in Boswell's drawing, there are NO fractures starting low on the back of the skull and curling over to the left side. Let's recall here the precise words of chief HSCA radiology consultant Dr. G. M. McDonnel. He concluded there was: "A metallic fragment on the outer table of the right occipital bone 9.6 cm above the mid-portion of the External Occipital Protuberfance (EOP). 1 cm above the metallic fragment is a depressed fracture from which stellate type fractures "radiate" into both occipital bones, the right parietal bone and the right temporal bone.These are vividly and convincingly displayed in the enhanced images, specifically the "anteroposterior" (AP) projection of the skull." From this it seems clear his incorrect belief the fragment was on the back of the head fed into his belief these fractures were on the back of the head. He'd compounded his mistake by twisting the evidence to support it. Or maybe he was just covering up. In any event, he was not alone. The other HSCA radiology consultant shown the enhanced x-rays, Dr. David O. Davis, also came to the conclusion there was a bullet fragment on the back of the head and that fractures radiated outwards from this fragment. While McDonnell had noted "fracture lines through the anterior and posterior aspects of the right frontal sinus," moreover, Davis noted that the right orbit was fractured in the roof, right side and inferior rim. One can only wonder then which fractures on the A-P x-ray they'd connected with the occipital fracture and which ones with the sinus and orbital fractures. Still, it seems likely Davis associated the fracture lines around the outside of the orbit with fractures of its roof, right side and rim, and the fractures cutting across the orbit and heading to the left side of the skull with fractures in the occiput. If so, then one can only wonder if he'd ever been shown the drawing made by Boswell at the autopsy, which clearly depicts the fracture just below point 2 on the slide above in the eye socket, and the fracture line connecting point 2 with point 3 on the left front of Kennedy's head, and no fractures radiating from the cowlick area.
And, should one continue to doubt that the HSCA's radiology consultants were pressured or deceived into concluding that the large fragment and transverse fractures on the A-P x-ray were on the back of Kennedy's head, when they were really behind Kennedy's eye, one need only read the ARRB reports on their meetings with their own consultants. Dr. Douglas Ubelaker, their forensic anthropology consultant, could not find an entrance on the back of the skull on either the A-P or lateral x-rays, and noted no fracture lines on the A-P x-ray, but nevertheless related that "the orbit of the right eye appears displaced on the A-P x-ray." Dr. John J. Fitzpatrick, their forensic radiology consultant, also saw no entrance on any of the x-rays, and also failed to note fractures on the back of the head in the A-P x-ray, and similarly noted that "the orbit of the right eye is cracked and displaced." And, finally, Dr. Robert Kirschner, their forensic pathology consultant, completed the trifecta--he noted no entrance wound on any of the x-rays, noted no fractures in the A-P x-ray, and related instead that "The rear of the right orbit was observed to be missing."
That's three for three. Three consultants, all of whom failed to note fractures on the back of the head in the A-P x-ray, and all of whom offered that the damage visible in the A-P x-ray was in the orbit.
And oh, by the way, on this point, I am not at odds with Dr. Mantik. In an unpublished manuscript written before he was allowed to view the x-rays, and measure their optical density, Dr. Mantik discussed other aspects of the x-rays which he considered of interest. This manuscript was excerpted in Harrison Livingstone's 1993 book Killing the Truth. Even so, in 2011, while looking back through the book, I was astounded to find that Mantik had observed, long before I, that the fracture lines the HSCA's panel thought derived from the cowlick entrance did not actually come from that location, and that "On the contrary, based on the radiographs and on Boswell's diagram, several of these obvious fracture lines may lie in the inferior orbital rim and not on the posterior skull at all." He then proceeded to quote Dr. Seaman in support of this analysis.
And so, yes, surprisingly, on this point, Dr. Artwohl, Dr. Mantik, and myself, agree. As do the far more qualified and presumably impartial consultants hired by the ARRB...
Anyone out there still convinced these fractures were on the back of the head, and not in the orbit, should feel free to chime in... But you're wrong.
When one compares the deaths of President Lincoln and President Kennedy, there are many striking similarities. In both cases, for example, there was a dispute regarding the direction from which the fatal bullet was fired. Dr. Joseph Woodward performed Lincoln’s autopsy and reported that a round bullet lodged above Lincoln’s left eye. Surgeon General Joseph Barnes reported that it lodged above his right eye. Lincoln’s family physician Robert King Stone took notes at the autopsy, for that matter. These notes were published almost a hundred years later. They largely backed up Woodward.
Another similarity is that both men suffered fractures of both their eye sockets. This is not all that surprising. The bones at the back of the eye sockets are particularly thin and prone to collapse from increased intra-cranial pressure. Dr. Vincent J.M. Di Maio writes “The production of secondary fractures of the skull in gunshot wounds of the head is dependent on two factors: the range at the time of discharge and the kinetic energy possessed by the bullet. The most common sites for secondary skull fractures are the paper-thin orbital plates. These are extremely sensitive to a sudden increase in intra-cranial pressure such as that produced by a bullet entering the cranial cavity.”
Now, let's compare… The bullet striking Lincoln in the back of his head and causing his eye socket fractures weighed approximately 6.7 grams or 103 grains and was traveling at approximately 400 fps. The bullet purportedly striking Kennedy at the back of his head weighed approximately 10.4 grams or 160 grains and was traveling at approximately 1800 fps. Since the basic formula for estimating energy release in tissue is mass x speed x speed, this means that Kennedy’s skull was subjected to an impact over 30 times as great as Lincoln’s. (While the actual amount of energy released into Kennedy’s skull would be substantially less than this amount, as pieces of the fatal bullet exited the skull before depositing all their energy, it remains clear that the amount of energy deposited in Kennedy’s skull was substantially greater than the amount of energy deposited in Lincoln’s.)
Well, it follows from this that Kennedy's eye sockets were not just fractured, but badly fractured. Until someone can explain why these fractures would not be apparent on the A-P x-ray, then, there is no reason to believe that the fractures on the A-P x-ray supposedly on the back of Kennedy’s head were anywhere but his eye sockets.
While some might say “case closed”, the fact is that, for me, the case will remain open. I have created this webpage, in part, to encourage a more open and intelligent discussion of the medical evidence related to the assassination of President Kennedy. I don't pretend to be an "expert" on any of the topics discussed in these chapters. And yet it seems I’ve uncovered many issues not addressed by the so-called experts.
I await the response and criticisms of those more familiar with this subject matter than myself, and will update this webpage accordingly.
So where were the fractures in Kennedy’s eye socket on the A-P view actually located? Well, since they appear to be in his eye socket, I thought I’d start by checking there. Although Dr.s Gary Aguilar and Cyril Wecht, in Trauma Room One (2001) claimed Kennedy's eye sockets were undamaged, this clearly was an error on their part, one of several in the volume. Let’s recall, then, the words of the doctors in the autopsy protocol (I’ll do my best to translate): “There is edema and ecchymosis of the inner canthus region of the left eyelid measuring approximately 1.5 cm in greatest diameter. There is edema and ecchymosis diffusely over the right supra-orbital ridge with abnormal mobility of the underlying bone.” (There is swelling and bruising on the inner part of the left eyelid. There is swelling and bruising and a noticeable bone fracture above the right eye socket.) Now let’s recall that Dr. Boswell’s drawing of Kennedy’s skull on the back of the face sheet, entered into evidence as part of HSCA exhibit F-44, depicts a shattered eye socket with the notes “Globe rt. Eye” and “fracture through floor.” (A globe fracture is a structural collapse of the eye.) Well, these are indications that the President’s eye sockets were fractured, correct? When asked by the ARRB to explain his notes on the skull drawing, moreover, Boswell stated: the “fracture through the bone extended from the frontal bone and through the floor of the orbit.” Case closed. Kennedy had fractured orbits (eye sockets). So why didn’t the HSCA’s chief radiology consultant, Dr. G. M. McDonnel, mention any fracture lines visible in the orbits on the A-P view? The A-P view, after all, portrayed the face 20% larger than the back of the head and the fractures should have been readily apparent.They were certainly apparent to others. In a March 1993 defense of the single-assassin theory published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Robert Artwohl, while trying to refute those believing the X-rays showed the right side of Kennedy's face to be missing, claimed "The swollen and ecchymotic right orbit seen in the autopsy pictures and Humes' description of the instability of the face in this area correspond precisely to the extensive right orbital fracture and frontal bone fractures seen on the available roentgenograms." He later expanded on these comments in a September 11, 1994 e-mail to a JFK assassination newsgroup, reporting that "The right orbit is fractured in several places." Similarly, a 2-27-78 HSCA contact report with one of their consultants, Dr. Norman Chase, entered into evidence as Exhibit F-34, claims that when shown the x-rays, Dr. Chase “noted fracture of the right orbit.” Chase's appraisal, moreover, supported the analysis of the other radiologist contacted by the HSCA on 2-27-78, Dr. William Seaman, who told them that "Fractures were evident through the upper part of the right eye, including the top and bottom of the right orbit," and that, in addition, "The bottom of the frontal sinus was fractured." Even further back, Dr. Fred Hodges, in his 1975 report to the Rockefeller Commission, observed "multiple extensive fractures involving the cranial vault and orbits" and then specified that fracture lines "reached" into the left orbit, thereby implying that these fractures started elsewhere, like the right orbit.
These statements led me to wonder if what McDonnell thought was a transverse fracture on the occipital bone in the A-P view could instead be the fractured right eye socket noted at autopsy, and then subsequently noted by Dr.s Hodges, Chase, Seaman, and Artwohl.
My wondering came to an end with the discovery of an x-ray depicting a blow out fracture of a man’s left orbit. This fracture created the wide air-filled shape apparent in Kennedy’s original A-P x-ray in the exact same place on the skull. The Merck Index defines a blow-out fracture as: “fracture of the orbital floor caused by a sudden increase of intraorbital pressure due to traumatic force; the orbital contents herniated into the maxillary sinus so that the inferior rectus or inferior oblique muscle may become incarcerated in the fracture site, producing diplopia on looking up.” That air had filled the maxillary sinus (a sinus—cavity—below the eye socket) would seem to explain the air surrounding the supposed occipital fracture apparent when one compares the un-enhanced x-ray to the enhanced x-ray. That air was in this sinus, and that this proved the orbit was damaged, and this "fracture" on the face, was not just my opinion, moreover, as the chief radiology tech at the autopsy, Jerrol Custer, claimed as much in his ARRB testimony.
But what of the other fracture lines apparent in the A-P view? While reading about blow-out fractures, I found a number of drawings depicting what are known as Le Fort fractures. These fractures appeared similar but not identical to Kennedy’s fractures. An online article by the Skull Base Institute entitled Craniofacial and Skull Base Trauma states: “forceful impact to the skull can cause a fracture along the weak points of the orbit….Le Fort III fractures…progress laterally along the entire orbital floor and extend to disrupt the zygomaticofrontal suture…Le Fort III fractures result in complete craniofacial dysjunction because the facial bones and structures of the middle third of the face become totally separated from the cranium…Since most facial trauma consists of blows from the side or slightly off center, ideal, symmetric Le Fort I, I, or III patterns are rarely followed. Most Maxillary fractures are more comminuted on one side than the other. Thus Le Fort fractures may be seen in any combination.” I took from this article that a Le Fort fracture would help explain the “abnormal mobility of the underlying bone” discussed in the autopsy report. It also convinced me that Kennedy’s fractures need not look exactly like the drawings of Le Fort fractures, and, in fact, shouldn’t look exactly like these drawings, due to the fact his fractures came from behind and were created in part by an actual impact of a missile on the orbital rim. But I needed a second opinion.
Another online article, Orbit Fractures, by Antonio Pascotto on the eMedicine website, discussed Le Fort III fractures in a similar manner: “This fracture rarely results in a single segment of bone; more commonly, the break is comminuted, with varying combinations of zygomatic, nasoethmoid, and orbital fractures. (Translation: fractures involving the cheek bone, nose, and eye sockets.) The fractures may not be symmetric on both sides, and minimal mobility may be present… Orbital emphysema, when detected on plain images, is frequently from a blow fracture of the medial wall…an air-fluid level in the maxillary antrum suggests an orbital floor injury…Unilateral base opacification of the ethmoid air cells would suggest a medial wall fracture.” While I still haven’t figured out exactly how to detect “unilateral base opacification of the ethmoid air cells” the line about orbital emphysema intrigued me, as both of Kennedy’s eye sockets appear to be darkened in the A-P view. In Radiology of the Skull and Brain I found an x-ray depicting such emphysema (air) in the eye sockets and found that, as on Kennedy’s x-rays, the air collects at the top of the eye socket.
Another eMedicine article entitled Facial Trauma, Maxillary and Le Fort Fractures by David W Kim confirmed much of what I’d already read: “In reality, the Le Fort classification is an oversimplification of maxillary fractures. In most instances maxillary fractures are a combination of the various Le Fort types. Fracture lines often diverge from the described pathways and may result in mixed type fractures, unilateral fractures, or other atypical fractures. In addition, in very high energy blows, maxillary fractures may be associated with fractures to the mandible, cranium, or both.” (Maxillary fractures are, by the way, fractures involving the Maxilla, the bone stretching from the upper jaw to the lower eye socket.) In Kim’s discussion of Le Fort III fractures I noticed something new, however: “Intanasally, a branch of the fracture extends through the perpendicular plate of the ethmoid, through the vomer, and through the interface of the pterygoid plates to the base of the sphenoid.” What I noticed was this reference to the Vomer bone, a small bone underlying the nose. Included in Dr. Boswell’s notes on the back of the face sheet are two words that have always intrigued me: “Vomer crushed.”
Crash Go the Consultants
I even looked through the old General Electric guidebook on x-rays I’d found to see if it described the use of A-P views to inspect the occipital bone. I found that yes indeed there was such a projection, but it entailed the patient tucking his chin while x-ray beams were sent through his skull at a 35 degree angle from above. This was, of course, the Towne View.
No such view was attempted on Kennedy.
Even so, the HSCA radiologists insisted the fractures visible on the A-P view of Kennedy were on the occipital bone. Dr. G.M. McDonnel stated that from the metal fragment he believed to be on the back of Kennedy’s head “stellate type fractures radiate into both occipital bones, the right parietal bone and the right temporal bone.” Hmmm... Since he was wrong about the fragment, perhaps he was wrong about the fractures as well.
But he wasn’t alone. Dr. David Davis told the HSCA: “There is a sharply defined linear fracture extending laterally from the metallic fragment into the left side of the calvarium, around the parietal bone to the lateral aspect of the skull.” He continued: “two linear fractures extend inferolaterally from the metallic fragment, one into the occipital bone, about 3 cm from the midline, and this fracture crosses the lambdoid suture. The other one is more lateral, and extends down toward the lateral sinus, probably above the lambdoid suture.”
Now, here's no surprise... On this point, the report of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel agreed with their consultants. It proclaimed: “there is a sharp disruption of the normal smooth contour of the skull…with fracture lines radiating superiorly and inferiorly…at this point there is an irregular, radiopaque, sharply outlined bullet fragment…The location of the missile fragment and transverse fractures of the occipital region of the skull is also apparent in the anterior-posterior x-ray view of the skull…The defect in the skull and the inward beveling thereof provide definite evidence of an entrance wound of the head at a point corresponding to that noted by the panel in the upper back of the scalp.”
Wow. This was far from convincing.
I decided to match up the back of he head with the A-P view as best I could. Since I’d already matched up the forehead fragment (on the Believing is Seeing slide) and since Joe Durnavich had convinced me the forehead in the A-P x-ray was 20% larger than the back of Kennedy’s head, due to magnification, I increased the comparative size of the A-P x-ray in that comparison by 1.2 in order to match up the occipital regions on the two x-rays. I then compared this larger skull to the lateral x-ray and I found what I was afraid I’d find. The transverse fracture in the A-P x-ray is not low enough on Kennedy’s skull to be the transverse fracture in the occipital bone on the lateral x-ray. Even worse, when I projected the relevant angles onto Kennedy’s pre-mortem lateral x-ray, I saw that the dense petrous bone by Kennedy’s ear would be likely to obscure most of his occipital bone in the A-P projection. I concluded that the fractures apparent on the A-P view were almost certainly not in the occipital bone. This would explain why the fractures along the back of Kennedy’s head in the A-P view were either invisible or in the wrong place on the lateral view.
The more I thought about it, the more I accepted this possibility. While the fracture in the lateral view disappears into a sinus at the back of Kennedy’s head, this sinus is inexplicably invisible in the A-P view. Upon closer examination, the fracture heading into the left side of the skull also fails to match. Along with the other fractures supposedly radiating from the fragment in the A-P view, where are these fractures in the lateral view? The transverse fracture nearest the level of the depressed fracture seems to be on the right side, as it ends at a fracture coming from the large defect by the right temple. The angle that this fracture heads forward seems wrong as well. While it curves downwards in the lateral view it soars upwards in the A-P view. If one is to argue this fracture is not seen on the lateral, because it is on the far side of the skull, then one should explain why the occipital fracture would be so clear on the A-P view. Finally, as this fracture is reportedly a depressed fracture, shouldn’t there be a white line reflecting the overlap of bone? According to Skull Trauma by Bergeron and Rumbaugh “the roentgenographic characteristic of the depressed fracture is the line or shadow of increased density caused by overlapping of bony margins or fragments.” Keep in mind that when talking of x-rays, white areas are often called shadows. Black is white and white is black. In February, 2006, I decided to take my findings on the x-rays to an online radiology forum. While my online presentation received hundreds of hits as a result, I received very few comments, positive or negative. (I took this as a positive; if my findings had been totally off-base, I think these professional radiologists would have told me about it, or at least recommended a book I should read so I could learn what the heck I’m talking about.) Anyhow, I did receive a confirmation for one of my claims—that Kennedy’s A-P view would not show his occipital fractures. This confirmation came from a medical radiation technologist. He/she agreed with the official interpretation that Kennedy’s head was tilted back considerably in the A-P view but responded to my prodding by stating: “I don't think that a modified Waters view would help with a view of the occiput. You would probably throw the jaw and the teeth over the structures in the occipital region. The cervical spine would also be superimposed on top of the midline of the occiput. The best view would have been the angled down Towne's view...as shown in your photograph. That would toss the face below the level of the occiput and showed the entire bone. In clinical radiography that view is almost always taken. In forensic or autopsy radiography, usually only two views are done--the AP and lateral.” I received an e-mail response from a radiologist which offered additional insight. He said “much of the theory about how to shoot AP or PA plain films of the skull and facial bones is designed to get the dense petrous pyramids out of the way…The occipital view for example is designed to throw the petrous pyramids below the foramen magnum.”
Years later, when re-reading Harrison Livingtone's book Killing the Truth, moreover, I realized that Livingstone had been in contact with Dr. Donald Siple, Chief Radiologist at Maryland General Hospital, and that Siple had told him much the same thing. In an April 16, 1993 letter, reprinted in the book, Siple told Livingstone that a large defect visible on an A-P view would have to be in front, as occipital defects "did not shine through."
This is further confirmed by Manual of Roentgenological Technique (1947), which, while listing the prominent features to be studied on an A-P x-ray, listed only features of the front of the skull, such as the orbits (aka the eye sockets), the frontal sinus, and the frontal bone; it failed to even mention the occipital region.
So there you have it. There are good reasons to believe the fracture line low on the A-P view is not on the occipital bone.
Fractured Orbit Analysis
Well, heck, this fracture looks nothing like the supposed fracture on the back of Kennedy's head...supposedly visible on the A-P x-ray.
The Skull Trauma chapter in Radiology of the Skull and Brain was also helpful in that it included a number of A-P and lateral x-rays taken of the same skulls. As suspected, there wasn’t one instance where a posterior fracture was larger in proportion on the A-P view than on the lateral view. In several instances, large fractures across the back of the skull could not even be seen on the A-P view.
I probed further in order to verify my suspicions.
Optical Illusion Analysis