Chapter 19e:  Dr. Mantik's Flying Circus

Murder by numbers...

An ODious Distraction 

In June 2011, on the CTKA (later to become the Kennedys and King) website, Dr. Mantik addressed my doubts about the significance of his optical density (OD) measurements. After asking himself if he'd performed his measurements on the enhanced x-rays, he responded "No--definitely not. This is an eccentric charge by Speer." He reacted, of course, as though I'd "charged" him with performing his measurements on the enhanced x-rays when, in fact, I merely claimed his behavior "suggested the possibility." Well, okay, this is nit-picking on my part. By saying his behavior "suggested the possibility" I was undoubtedly raising questions about his behavior, which is nearly the same as charging him. Fair enough. In any event, he then attempted to explain his behavior. He asserted that he'd always shown his audience the enhanced prints when discussing the unenhanced x-rays "because the prints of the unenhanced x-rays do not accurately portray the extant x-rays" and that "In print format, the enhanced x-rays are closer in image content to the extant x-rays." 

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

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

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

My distrust of Mantik, unfortunately, appears well justified. In September 2011, while browsing through the Harold Weisberg Archive, I came across Authenticity of the JFK Autopsy X-rays, a June 23, 1995 monograph by Mantik in which he reversed himself (if only briefly) and argued that the x-rays in the archives were in fact unaltered. Well, near the end of this essay is a revealing passage...quite revealing, in my opinion. In this passage, Mantik notes that the x-ray tech at Kennedy's autopsy, Jerrol Custer, had been shown prints of Kennedy's x-rays, and had said that they do not look authentic. He then offers ""Custer has claimed that the x-rays do not look authentic. I suspect that what troubles him is the remarkable difference in contrast between the prints and the original X-rays. I know that several of us, who had repeatedly viewed only prints of the X-rays, have been somewhat surprised, when first viewing the X-rays, at the lesser degree of contrast seen there." 

Well, I'll be. In 1988, KRON broadcast an interview with Custer, in which he was shown the x-rays of Kennedy's skull, and claimed they did not match his recollections. He was, tellingly, shown the enhanced prints of the x-rays. In 1993, in his book The Killing of a President, moreover, Robert Groden published the largest and clearest images of the x-rays yet published, and reported: "Technician Jerrol Custer took the X-ray pictures on the night of the autopsy. These X-rays, purportedly of the President's head, do not depict the true nature of the President's wounds. Custer has stated that the pictures shown here are not the x-rays he took that night." These were, once again, the enhanced prints. There is no evidence that Custer had, by 1995, ever been shown unenhanced prints of the original x-rays. 

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

Quite obviously, he wouldn't. It seems clear, then, that Mantik's excuse for repeatedly and consistently showing his audience the wrong x-ray is something he just pulled out of thin air. Smoke.

But it's worse than that. Let's not forget that:

That Mantik's excuse was smoke, moreover, was subsequently confirmed by one of Mantik's biggest supporters, Dr. Michael Chesser. On November 17, 2017, Dr. Chesser made a presentation at the JFK Lancer conference in Dallas, and told the audience that the unenhanced images contained within the HSCA's report showed "much more contrast" than the original x-rays. In other words, he claimed that photographing and printing these images increased the contrast within these images. And this wasn't a one-time slip. A few weeks later, to be sure, Chesser posted a presentation he'd prepared for the November 2017 mock trial in Houston online. There, he presented an image of the unenhanced lateral x-ray from the HSCA's report, and noted that in comparison to the original at the archives, "the whiteness of the back of the head and darkness of the front are exaggerated." Well, Chesser had thereby slammed the door on Mantik's claim he'd been using the contrast enhanced x-rays published by the HSCA in his presentations because they more closely resembled the original unenhanced x-rays at the Archives than the published images of the unenhanced x-rays. 

Let's be clear. If the photographing and publishing of the unenhanced x-rays increases the contrast within those images, the photographing and publishing of the contrast-enhanced images would similarly increase the contrast within those images. It would, it follows, make them look even less like the original x-rays than the published images of the original x-rays, and not more like them. It's elementary, my good doctor. 

Mantik was full of soot. 

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

Well, this is interesting. I had used the word “contrast” in order to be consistent with the General Electric guidebook, and most every other book in which "contrast" was defined. (Radiologic Science for Technologists, for example, declares "A radiograph that has sharp differences in density is called a high-contrast radiograph" and then presents a black and white photograph of a dog in which there are virtually no shades of gray as an example of a high-contrast image. It then confirms "High contrast radiographs...exhibit black and white in just a few apparent steps. Low-contrast radiographs produce longer scales and have the appearance of many shades of gray.") Perhaps, then, Mantik has at one time or another shared this radiologist's bass-ackwards interpretation of the word "contrast." 

If so, however, wouldn't he have insisted from the beginning that the original x-rays showed a greater degree of "contrast" (shades of gray) than the published prints, instead of the opposite?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hole in the Hole on the X-rays Argument

And a harsh light at that. Yes, on 4-7-21, in a presentation on the Future of Freedom Foundation website, Mantik presented a skull on which he'd recorded his OD readings, that proved his claim there is a hole on the back of the skull on the x-rays, is blithering nonsense, to be polite.

Here it is. 

Now, this perfectly illustrates Mantik's error on this issue, and his errors in general, as it demonstrates with flying colors his confirmation bias.

Note how the numbers towards the top of the skull are smaller than the numbers in the area Mantik designates as missing bone. This is yessirree an indication  more resistance to the x-rays and therefore more bone was present in this area than the area singled out by Mantik. Now note as well that the numbers at the top of the skull, and just below the area he claims is missing bone, have numbers similar to the area he claims is missing bone, and not the whiter area above it. Well, this proves the area Mantik presents as normal--the area above what he claims to be missing bone--is actually the anomaly. Now, what caused this? Overlapping bone? Thicker skull? I don't know. But the fact remains that what Mantik claims proves there was a large hole on the back of the head, in fact proves the opposite. 

And, should one doubt I am reading this correctly, and choose to believe that Mantik's claim there was missing bone in the area marked above is something that would be obvious to a doctor, well, then one needs to watch the 4-16-21 presentation of Dr. Michael Chesser on the Future of Freedom Foundation website. There, shortly after the 1:35 mark, Chesser pointed out where "we (Mantik, himself and presumably Horne) think the Harper fragment fit," while circling his arrow around  the darkest area on the back of the head. This is shown below. 

(The arrow pointing out the hole in this image is Chesser's. He ran this arrow in an approximately 2 inch oval centered near the location of the arrow in this image,. This oval, moreover, scarcely overlapped the location for the hole designated by Mantik on the x-ray above. In fact, approximately 2/3 of the hole pointed out by Chesser was below the bottom of the hole pointed out by Mantik. Well, it follows, then, that even Chesser has trouble understanding why we should believe there is a hole on the light area inches above the location of the dark area, but no hole in the location of the dark area.)

Well, then, what else can we learn from Chesser? 

Checking Out Chesser

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

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

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

Dr. Chesser's presentation was alarming in other ways, as well. He claimed that while the petrous bone on the right lateral x-ray is only slightly whiter and therefore more dense than Mantik's white patch at the back of the head, the petrous bone on the (never-published) left lateral x-ray is clearly less dense than the white patch on the back of the head. 

Now, let's think about this. Chesser's measurements supposedly confirmed Mantik's findings. And yet, for all his visits to the archives, and for all his measurements of the x-rays, Mantik had failed to notice such a thing. In his original monograph on the optical density data, found in the Weisberg Archives, Mantik claimed: "in the JFK x-rays, the transmission of the white area in the posterior skull was measured to be nearly as high as that measured through the extremely dense petrous bone, which surrounds JFK's ear canal." X-rays. Plural. Right and left. He made a similar claim in his 2007 review of Vincent Bugliosi's Reclaiming History, and then once again during his 2009 JFK Lancer presentation. When reviewing this website on the CTKA website in 2011, moreover, Mantik further claimed "the ODs of the White Patch are similar to those of the petrous bone (in the right lateral X-ray)" and then noted: "the White Patch and the petrous bone are not nearly so similar to one another (in OD) on the left lateral skull X-ray." 

Let's put some numbers to this. 

But first, an explanation... OD readings reflect the level of whiteness of an x-ray. They are expressed as a logorithm, where 1 means 1/10 of the light is transmitted, 2 means 1/100 of the light is transmitted, and 3 means 1/1000 of the light is transmitted. A lower number corresponds to a whiter area of the film, and thus an area in which the x-rays met more resistance. In other words, a denser substance. 

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

Well, heck, this suggests that, in Mantik's analysis, the white patch on the left lateral x-ray was less white and dense than the petrous bone. And this means his results were not in alignment with Chesser's, in which the white patch on the left lateral x-ray was more white and dense than the petrous bone. 

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

According to Mantik, then, the petrous bone on the left lateral x-ray was considerably more white and dense than the white patch. Although Mantik, in a letter published in the January 2015 issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, claimed that: "The optical density (as measured at the National Archives and Records Administration) of a posterior whitish area on both lateral skull radiographs matches the optical density of the petrous bone (the densest bone in the body)" his actual data--the numbers strangely absent from his letter--prove this wasn't true.

And now look again at Chesser's numbers for the left lateral x-ray: .32 petrous, .24 white patch. These numbers don't remotely resemble Mantik's numbers. They both have a "point" followed by two digits. But other than that...

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, yes, this is something on which Mantik and I agree. In 2017, on the final slide of a presentation prepared for a mock trial in Houston, Mantik addressed an observation by Jim DiEugenio and Albert Rossi. They'd observed that the OD measurements provided by Mantik for a bullet fragment he claimed was inauthentic, were nearly identical to the OD measurements provided for a thin slice of a Mannlicher-Carcano bullet Mantik had added to the back of a skull.

Here was his response: "On these two lateral X-rays, the ODs (in the center) of the JFK fragment and the control M-C cross section are almost the same. That does not mean that their physical thicknesses were almost the same. On the contrary, that is a coincidence. In fact, the two films represent two quite different exposures."

Well, I'll be! Mantik had thereby confirmed that there was nothing inherently unusual about the level of whiteness of JFK's x-rays, as this could be explained by their being over-exposed.

So why won't he admit that the apparent contrast of these x-rays--that is, the range between white and black on these x-rays--is also subject to change by the twiddling of a knob?

Or even that variations in contrast within an x-ray image (or radiograph) are commonplace, even when the object being X-rayed is of a consistent width?

And yes, you read that right. Articles on radiology make clear that one shouldn't expect the optical density of an x-ray image to be consistent throughout the image, seeing as the energy transmitted from the x-ray tube is stronger on the cathode side than the anode side. These articles note. furthermore, that this "anode heel effect" is more noticeable on x-ray machines with shorter subject to image receptor distances (such as the portable machine used at Bethesda), and  that the energy dispersed from an x-ray tube can vary from 120% of the energy setting on the cathode side, to 75% of the energy setting on the anode side. Well, this means that the dark area near the front of the head could have been blasted with 60% or so more x-rays than the white area near the back of the head, and that the petrous bone could have been blasted with 20% or more x-rays than the white area as well, and that, gee, this may help explain the inconsistent OD ratings on Kennedy's x-rays.

It seems likely, then, that Mantik was drinking from a pool of his own confirmation bias when he concluded the optical density readings of Kennedy's x-rays were a clear sign of conspiracy. 

But one needn't trust me on this. 

From Mantik's own measurements, there is reason to believe there was nothing unusual about the white patch in comparison to the petrous bone... 

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

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

Mantik's Most Important Evidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well this is an embarrassment to Mantik, who has long insisted he was shown the "original" copies. 

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

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

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

ENOUGH Already. (Drops mike.)

Only not so fast. Dr. Mantik prepared a presentation for the November 2017 mock trial in Houston. This was subsequently placed online. There, he repeated his claim "no emulsion is missing" from the T-shape on the left lateral x-ray, and that the x-ray is therefore a copy. He even listed this as one of the "three major anomalies of the x-rays," with the other two being the (previously-explained) "white patch" and "6.5 mm object." He made no mention of Chesser's viewing of an x-ray in which the emulsion was missing. 

And Chesser? Well, he prepared his own presentation. And made no mention of his only being allowed to view the original left lateral x-ray after he pointed out that no emulsion was missing from the copy provided by the Archives.

Mantik is unwilling to admit Chesser viewed the original left lateral x-ray, and he did not. 

And Chesser is covering for him. 

Yes, sadly, in 2018, Mantik and Chesser performed back to back presentations at the JFK Lancer Conference in Dallas, and their joint deception was made more than clear. Mantik repeated his bit about there being no missing emulsion over the T-shaped inscription on the left lateral x-ray and Chesser covered for him by inaccurately claiming he knows he and Mantik were shown the same images because their OD measurements matched "perfectly."

Well, as we've seen, this was bull-pucky. Mantik claimed the left lateral x-ray OD measurements were .73 for the petrous bone, and .99 for the or the white patch, and Chesser claimed the OD measurements for the left lateral x-ray he was shown were .32 for the petrous bone, and .24 for the white patch.

Now, here, should someone doubt me about all this--that Mantik would continue to claim no emulsion was missing over the T-inscription on the "original" left lateral x-ray for years and years after his number one cheerleader, Michael Chesser, had informed him that he'd pointed this out during his own visit to the Archives and HAD been shown what he presumed WAS the original left lateral x-ray, on which emulsion WAS missing, is a slide from Mantik's 4-27-21 presentation on the Future of Freedom Foundation website, in which he repeats the myth the "original" left lateral x-ray is not missing emulsion, and conceals what Chesser discovered.

And  this wasn't a one-time thing. In 2022, James DiEugenio published JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass--the screenplay to a recent film by Oliver Stone accompanied by transcripts of interviews performed for the fim. Well, DiEugenio's interview of Dr. Mantik is among those published. When asked if Kennedy's  x-rays were authenticated by the HSCA, moreover, Mantik spun a tall tale, by once again repeating his nonsense about the emusion that should have been missing, but was not. He responded: "They used Gerald McDonnell of Los Angeles...One of the things he missed was that emulsion (should have been) missing under (note: he means over) a T-shaped inscription on the lateral x-ray...So I looked closely while I was at the Archives to see if the emulsion was scraped off at that site. Well, it's not.  How is that possible? The only way that can happen is if somebody made a copy of the original X-ray. That way the T-shaped area would show up on the copy. But the emulsion would stil be there on the copy." 

Yikes! Shouldn't someone have reminded him of Chesser's claim he he saw a lateral X-ray...in which emulsion was missing? 

Apparently, Mantik can't fathom that anyone has viewed materials that were never shown to him, and finds it easier to believe McDonnell authenticated copies, and Chesser was mistaken, than that he himself was never shown the originals (which of course he believes are not originals...). 

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

Now, what was the point again?

Oh, yeah. You can't rely on Mantik and Chesser...not one bit...

And yet I keep making excuses for Mantik and his clear pattern of deception.

The Extremely Myopic Mantik?

Perhaps it's 'cause I've met the guy, and have seen him embraced as a leading light in the research community. Or perhaps I simply feel sorry for him. In any event, it's just hard for me to accept that Mantik could serve up such a steaming slice of deception pie...on purpose. Perhaps Mantik, like so many others, has a blind spot, or two, or three. People--even those who fully believe they are fully committed to learning the truth--settle into certain ways of thinking--and this groove, or rut, leads them to dismiss other ways of thinking--without ever seriously considering what it is they are dismissing. 

Now, this reminds me of a quote from Maya Angelou: "When someone shows you who they are, believe them..." In his articles and presentations, Dr. Mantik frequently offers his extreme nearsightedness, or myopia, as an explanation for his unique observations regarding the x-rays. In this instance, it seems to me, we should take him at his word. The root words for myopia, myein and ops, mean "to shut the eyes" and "sight," respectively. This translates then as seeing with one's eyes shut. From Wikipedia:"The terms 'myopia' and 'myopic' (or the common terms "short-sightedness" or "short-sighted", respectively) have been used metaphorically to refer to cognitive thinking and decision making that is narrow in scope or lacking in foresight or in concern for wider interests or for longer-term consequences. It is often used to describe a decision that may be beneficial in the present, but detrimental in the future, or a viewpoint that fails to consider anything outside a very narrow and limited range."

So, perhaps Mantik simply lacked the vision to see the big picture.

The Linus Defense

But I think there's more to it. It occurs to me that--and this may be the most disturbing thought I've had in relation to the assassination--those pushing theories (of any breed) are often blind not only to the possibility someone else could be correct, but to the possibility they themselves could be wrong. Perhaps when our theories are challenged to such a degree we feel we are under attack, some sort of self-defense mechanism kicks in that allows us to reconfigure the facts, so we can avoid what to us would be a form of death--an acknowledgment that our pet theory is not house-broken. Perhaps, then, we should give Mantik a break, and assume he was so bent on defending his position that he began presenting what he wanted to be true as the truth, and subconsciously protected himself from anything that would suggest that his supposedly important discoveries are nonsense.

Yep, I now think of Mantik as Linus, Charlie Brown's pal, sitting in the pumpkin patch on Halloween night, waiting for the Great Pumpkin to arrive. The longer he waits for the Pumpkin, the more sure he is that he's coming, and that all the kids out trick-or-treating will soon see their mistake.

Yeah, I know that's kinda silly... But the more one studies cognitive psychology, the more the Mantik/Linus analogy makes sense. Voodoo Science (2000), by physicist Robert Park, for one, supports my suspicion there is a mechanism within the brain that prohibits people of strong belief from seeing the errors of their ways. According to Park:

"A belief begins when the brain makes an association between two events of the form: B follows A. The next time A occurs, the brain is primed to expect B to again follow...Information gathered by the senses is normally routed through the thalamus, a small subsection deep within the brain, to the sensory cortex, which analyzes it in detail to decide how much weight it should be given...Sensory information processed by the cortex finally reaches the amygdala, almond-shaped structures in the temporal lobes. Part of the amygdala, for example, are involved in fear...Whether a belief is retained depends on how significant B is--how frightened we were, for example--and whether the association with A gets reinforced...The belief may also be permanent if the information entering the thalamus coincides with a high state of emotional arousal, such as fear or the thrill of victory. The chemical messengers of emotion cause the thalamus to bypass the sensory cortex and route the information directly to the amygdala...By the time a child reaches adolescence, beliefs tend to be enmeshed in an insulating matrix of related beliefs. The belief process becomes decidedly asymmetric: the belief engine is generating beliefs far more easily than it erases them. Once people become convinced that a rain dance produces rain, they do not lose their belief in years the drought persists."

So it seems possible Mantik's emotional attachment to his theories has hijacked his ability to reason, at least when it comes to the JFK assassination medical evidence.

Dr. Gary Aguilar made an appearance at the 2014 AARC conference in Bethesda, Maryland, in which he discussed this exact problem, albeit in the context of those defending the single-assassin conclusion in the face of all the contrary evidence. Here was his description of what I presume is Mantik's ailment... (Although uncredited in Aguilar's presentation, I believe he took this from an online post by someone named Michael Walker): "Confirmation bias occurs when people actively search for and favor information or evidence that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses while ignoring or slighting adverse or mitigating evidence. It is a type of cognitive bias (pattern of deviation in judgment that occurs in particular situations - leading to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, or illogical interpretation) and represents an error of inductive inference toward confirmation of the hypothesis under study."

Yep, that's Mantik, alright. 

It is clear, however, that if I'm to let Mantik off the hook for his deceptive claims and presentations, then I should be equally forgiving of Vincent Guinn, Thomas Canning and Larry Sturdivan for their deceptive manipulation of data to sell the single-assassin conclusion, and equally forgiving of Dr. Lattimer for his deceptive claims and presentations, and equally forgiving of Dale Myers for his deceptive animation, and so on...

And I'm just not ready to do that...

And so... Sloppy or slippery (or both--sloppery?), it no longer matters to me. Mantik's findings and writings are, in my considered (more like tortured) opinion, a huge distraction to those researching the Kennedy assassination. They are in essence thick black smoke at a crime scene. There's something there, but it's hard to see, what with Mantik's many pals waving this thick black smoke in your face.

And no, I'm not done. I will continue this rant for the next few chapters. 

Because Mantik is just one symptom of a much larger illness within the JFK research community.

And this illness can only be stopped from advancing by exposing its causes to light.

Let's refresh. 

Some witnesses to JFK's assassination thought shots were fired from in front of Kennedy as he passed the Texas School Book Depository. Some smoke was seen near the picket fence just ahead of Kennedy when these shots were fired. Some doctors thought the wound was on the back of JFK's head. 

It followed then that the shots came from the front, and that the government had covered this up.

Years passed. A tracing of an autopsy photo was then released, and copies of this photo were then circulated throughout the research community. This showed the back of the head to be intact at the beginning of the autopsy. But did anyone change their religion? No, of course not. The research community, which was already divided on subjects such as Jim Garrison's investigation, the HSCA's investigation, and the dictabelt recording, grew even more divided, with a large faction claiming the body must have have been altered to hide a wound on the back o f the head, and another large faction claiming the photos must have been altered or orchestrated to hide a wound on the back of the head. Now realizing the Zapruder film, which had long been held up as proof of a conspiracy, failed to show a wound on the back of the head, moreover, the proponents of this first faction then began claiming the film was faked, and began searching for reasons to think it was faked.

Enter David Mantik. Among his earliest writings were claims the Zapruder film was faked, and that we knew this because it failed to depict the limo stop, or Mary Moorman standing in the street. Both of these points were summarily refuted by men like Anthony Marsh and Josiah Thompson. You see, Mantik had cherry-picked statements to fool the reader into believing a large number of witnesses had said the limo stopped, when in reality most of these witnesses had said either that the limo slowed or that the motorcade--the vast majority of which was behind the limo--stopped... So, yeah, these statements when taken as whole actually supported the "official" story, and were consistent with the Zapruder film. As far as Moorman...well, she said she was in the street BEFORE the moment Mantik claimed she'd said she was in the street. So, yeah, Mantik's efforts in proving the Z-film fake were an epic fail.  

But he persisted. You see, he had a secret weapon--he'd gained access to Kennedy's x-rays in the archives and had studied these x-rays using an optical densitometer. Well this allowed him to claim these OD readings (measurements of light and dark) were off the charts and proved the x-rays to have been altered. He never published his full results, mind you. Nor did he ever publish the results of his controls, the number of which was negligible (his supporters claim he'd studied 19 non-Kennedy x-rays before coming to his conclusions when I have it on good word it was more like 2). In any event, his secret numbers allowed him to claim the back of the head was blown out but then covered up by a white patch. Only--OOPS--it turned out this white patch did not stretch to the far back of the head, where he claiimed skull was missing. So, first, he changed it to be that the white patch covered up where brain was missing--brain, not skull. And then he changed it to be that, oh yeah, upon closer inspection, his secret numbers actually suggest there WAS a hole on the back of the head on the x-rays...that was invisible to the naked eye. 

Now I know a lot of this is re-hash of what was discussed in the last two chapters. But it bears repeating because we need to understand why Mantik and so many others have gone to such great lengths to lead us nowwhere. So here's my take on "why"....

All claims of body alteration and photo alteration and film alteration are built upon two cherished myths--that those observing JFK's body in Dallas observed a blow-out wound on the back of the head that is not apparent in the autopsy photos, and that the wound apparent in the autopsy photos was not observed in Dallas. 

Well, these myths, as all myths, contain a kernel of truth, but are, in fact, false.