Chapter 19g: Reason to Doubt

Where the research community went wrong

Who to Believe?

Now, before we get sucked down the he said/she said rabbit hole, we should take a second and ponder if any of this makes sense. 

We have witness after witness viewing the assasination of a President and claiming they saw an explosion from the right top side of his head. Now, we know they weren't lying to support the official story because...well, they initially thought this was an entrance... And it makes no freakin' sense for people trying to sell the official story--that the shots came from behind--to prop up witness after witness saying things that suggest a shot came from the front. 

So...then...the thinking goes...that they weren't lying, but mistaken...

Well, that's as hypocritical as it gets--I mean, holding that the doctors viewing the body at Parkland could not possibly be mistaken in a fairly uniform manner,  but that the people viewing the actual explosion of his skull were all mistaken in a fairly uniform manner, well, that's just weak sauce, right? 

So, then, some say that they weren't mistaken--it's just that they--the Dealey Plaza witnesses--saw an explosion from the ENTRANCE wound on the front of the head, but failed to note the much much larger explosion from the back of the head. AND that, by some strange coincidence,  the Parkland doctors failed to see this entrance wound, as it was hidden behind a lock of hair, But did, of course, see a gaping hole on the back of the head...

Now, that's not weak sauce. That's bullshit. If the top right side of the head EXPLODED, as claimed by numerous witnesses, there would have been some sign of this at Parkland, yes? I mean, these doctors are, in the mythology of the assassination, brilliant observers. Well, how could they miss an explosive wound on the front of the head, when they spent 15 minutes or so looking at the man's face? 

Well, it's clear then that the Dealey Plaza witnesses and Parkland doctors were descrbing the same wound, in slightly different locations. (I say "slightly" because in the big picture they are largely in agreement. Head? Check. Right side of the head? Check. As we shall see, moreover, the distance between where the autopsy photos show the wound, where the Dealey Witnesses placed the wound and where the Parkland doctors placed the wound is but a few inches, approximately the length of your index finger.) 

So, who to believe? Right? I choose the Dealey Plaza witnesses. Their recollections are, after all, supported by the autopsy photos and x-rays, not to mention the films of the assassination. 

They saw one large wound and assumed it to be an entrance. Later, Dr. Humes found a small entrance on the back of Kennedy’s head and decided the large head wound was an exit. It was logical, and almost correct.  What isn’t logical is to accept that the body was changed between Dallas and Bethesda, or that the statements of the Parkland witnesses prove the autopsy photos a fraud. To trust the words of so many at Parkland Hospital that the only large head wound was on the far back of Kennedy’s head, after all, would mean (if one is to be consistent and trust the earliest witnesses, e.g. Newman and Zapruder) that the wound was first altered en route to the hospital, only to be changed back a few hours later on Air Force One en route to Washington. 

Bunkum. Let's remember the words of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. While many have used her statement "from the front there was nothing" as evidence the bullet erupted from the back of her husband’s skull, they largely ignore the context of her statements. When describing the fatal shot, she told the Warren Commission “just as I turned to look at him, I could see a piece of his skull, sort of wedge-shaped like that, and I remember it was flesh colored.” (The words "sort of wedge-shaped like that" were in the court reporter's transcript but never published. They are presumably a reference to the bone flap visible in the right lateral autopsy photos.) She then described cradling her husband in her arms, and getting a closer look at the wound. She said: “from the front there was nothing. I suppose there must have been. But from the back you could see, you know, you were trying to hold his hair on, and his skull on.” Her words do not describe the wound's exact location, and suggest merely that the gaping wound on President Kennedy's head did not extend as far as his face. They do not detail an exit on the back of his head, as mistakenly purported by Dr. James Fetzer in his January 12, 2010 radio interview of Doug Horne, in which he claimed she had testified that "she had a terrible time holding the back of his head and skull together," an assertion, by the way, to which Horne readily agreed. Still, one might wonder about the exact location of this wound.

Fortunately, only a week after the assassination, in a conversation with historian Theodore White, Mrs. Kennedy was far more descriptive. According to White's notes, released to the public in May 1995 and subsequently published in the September 1995 Kennedy Assassination Chronicles, she said: “I could see a piece of his skull coming off…this perfectly clean piece detaching itself from his head; then he slumped in my lap.” Now, this would seem to be a reference to the detachment of skull seen in frame 314 of the Zapruder film, and can be taken as an indication of the film's legitimacy. 

But that's not all she had to say. According to White's notes, she also said: "All the ride to the hospital, I kept bending over him saying, 'Jack, Jack, can you hear me, I love you, Jack.' I kept holding the top of his head down trying to keep the..."  White's notes then detail that when discussing her husband's condition at the hospital, Mrs. Kennedy said "From here down"--and here she made a gesture indicating her husband's forehead--"his head was so beautiful. I'd tried to hold the top of his head down, maybe I could keep it in...I knew he was dead."  Thus, according to White, she said the wound was at the "top" of her husband's head--not once but twice... 

And that wasn't the last time she described the wound in such a manner. In her interview with White Mrs. Kennedy worried that the history of her husband's Presidency would be written by the likes of AP correspondent "Merriman Smith, that bitter man," who, irony of all ironies, would soon thereafter win a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the assassination. This no doubt contributed to her subsequent decision to hire an historian of her own, William Manchester, to write an authorized book on the assassination. She was interviewed by Manchester on 4-7-64, 5-4-64, 5-7-64, 5-8-64, and 7-20-64. While Manchester's notes on these interviews have never been released, it's clear she told him, as White, that the fatal wound was at the top of Kennedy's head. In late 1966, she had a falling out with Manchester over his use of these interviews. His book could not be released without her approval. This, then, led to her reading a draft of his book, The Death of a President, and giving it her personal approval. Here is how the final draft described her husband's death: "The First Lady, in her last act as First Lady, leaned solicitously toward the President. His face was quizzical. She had seen that expression so often, when he was puzzling over a difficult press conference question. Now, in a gesture of infinite grace, he raised his right hand, as though to brush back his tousled chestnut hair. But the motion faltered. The hand fell back empty. He had been reaching for the top of his head. But it wasn't there any more."

Now this can't be any more clear. Mrs. Kennedy had told Manchester that the fatal wound she saw was at the top of her husband's head. 

That the descriptions of Kennedy’s head wound by the First Lady and the earliest descriptions of the wound and/or impact location by Newman and Zapruder and so many others match the wound seen in the Zapruder film, autopsy photos, and X-rays leads me to suspect then that the large head wound observed at Parkland was on the top of Kennedy's skull above his right ear, and not on the far back of his head as suggested by the Parkland witnesses...

We get letters...

Here is a typically friendly response to my mere suggestion that the Parkland witnesses could be wrong...and that the autopsy photos and x-rays of Kennedy are unaltered...

From a January 16, 2006 e-mail from David Lifton: 

Pat,

A professor friend of mine attended this past year's Lancer conference and was highly critical of your presentation. He was incredulous that people would pay money to fly to Dallas and stay in a hotel—being there because they wanted information about the conspiracy that took JFK's life--and then be presented with a lecturer who tells them that the body had not been altered, when, in this case, the alteration of the body is the key to the case. I had never heard of you before, but followed a link he sent. Either in your presentation or at your website, you stated something to the effect that "I think too much is made of the Dallas doctors' observations."… From my brief reading of your material, your entire analysis is based on these wrong-headed and mistaken notions; e.g., the notion that the Dallas observations can be dismissed. In addition, there are any number of other mis-statements that are made and follow from that false premise, or foundation. Of course, it’s a free country and anyone is free to assert whatever they wish about anything… My history professor friend was astounded that Lancer would present this sort of thing as a "serious" analysis of the medical evidence. I'm sure you won't be happy with these comments, but that's my opinion.

You say your background is in music. Were you to attend law school, and take a course in evidence, you would immediately see that you cannot approach the medical data as you do--you might still not agree with my analysis, but I don't think you would ever publicly present this sort of reasoning as the basis for a medical analysis in this case. In fact, contrary to your assertions, the primacy and importance of the Dallas doctors observations cannot be overemphasized.

DSL

 From reading the comments of Lifton, not to mention the hundreds of equally nasty emails and comments I've received in the years since for--gasp--daring to suspect that the observations of some doctors who didn't even take notes could be wrong, and that the Dealey Plaza witnesses, the Zapruder film, the autopsy photos, andthe  x-rays could be lright, one might assume I've violated some unwritten code among conspiracy theorists.

And indeed I have. By proposing that one can't simply cherry-pick one group of witnesses and say they are right, while ignoring both the first witnesses (the Dealey Plaza witnesses, the Zapruder film) and the best witnesses (the autopsy doctors, the autopsy report, autopsy photographs, and x-rays), I have shat upon the altar before which many conspiracy theorists genuflect. To conspiracy theorists of a particular bent, this is every bit as sacrilegious as my suggestion Dale Myers' animation is a fraud is to single-assassin theorists. 

I mean, let's be consistent. If there is an incident--let's say a fatal car accident--in which both the statements of those witnessing the event and the statements of the tow truck drivers removing the wreckage confirm that the event occurred at the location depicted in the police photographs, you assume the location in the photographs to have been correct, even if the paramedics and first police responders, when asked about it later, in some cases many years later, recall the accident as happening half way down the block.

So how is this any different?

Well, according to David Lifton, it's very different...

From a 1-27-11 post on the Education Forum (The atypical mis-spellings on this message are Lifton's, and are preserved for the sake of accuracy. Apparently he was falling asleep or in a hurry...or in a hurry to fall asleep.)

Pat: I do not have time to examine and critically analyze the full "chapter sized" postings you made, but just consider what you have written above. It is, in my opinion, easily refutable. Turn to Chapter 13 of BEST EVIDENCE, and just consider my December, 1966 interview with Dr. Paul Peters. "Dr. Peters emphazed that the head wound was at the back, that it was actually necessary to get to the back of the head to get a good view of it." Then, some pages later, and in the section under the breaker "What was visible through the wound," I dealt with all the testimony about the cerebellum, and here's what Dr. Peters had to say on that point, and I QUOTE:

"Dr. Peters gave me a most vivid description. . . . trying to impress upon me the locaton of the wound he saw, Dr. Peters said: "I'd be willing to swear that the wound was in the occiput, you know. I could see the the occipital lobes clearly, AND SO I KNOW IT WAS THAT FAR BACK, ON THE SKULL. I could look inside the skull, and I thought it looked like the cerebellum was injured, or missing, because the occipital lobes seemed to rest almost on the foramen magnum. . . [it] looked like the occipital lobes were resting on the foramen magnum." (For readers of this thread who may not be all that familiar with anatomic terminology, the "foramen magnum" is the hole in the base of the skull, in that part of the occiptal bone that wraps around and forms the base of the skull, through which the spinal cord enters and then connects to the brain.). It was as if something underneath them, [something] that usually kept them up from that a little ways, namely, the cerebellum and brainstem, might have been injured or missing." There can be no doubt about what part of the head Dr. Peters looked at, or how far down the back of the head the fatal wound he saw was located. Dr. Peters statement that he saw the occipital lobes resting on the foramen magnum was not the description of a casual observor."

Dr. Peters corroborated five Dallas doctors' testimony in the Warren Commisson records that erebellar tissue was visible in the sull wound. These observatons clearly indiated where the Dallas wound was located.

UNQUOTE

Pat: I do not understand how, with such vivid testimony spelled out in plain English, you can possibly deny the clear evidence of where the head wound was located--at the bottom of the back of the head. And then join that mis-conception, or misunderstanding (or mistake--however one wishes to characterize the manner of your analysis) --and then join that to the controversy re the Harper fragment, and state: " [it] is the height of hypotcriy to turn around and claim the Harper fragmebnt was occipital bone. For the Harper fragment to be occipital bone, there would have to have been a hole LOW on the back of JFK's head. NONE of the eyewitnesses to the shooting saw a hole there. . "

(Of course, do keep in mind that Dr. Jack Harper, who actually examined the bone, said it was occipital bone--and said so (as I recollect) on November 25, 1963, per the FBI interview.)

The problem with your analysis--and I now remember that I ran into this when I first emailed with you years ago--was your statement that you thought that entirely too much weight was given to the Parkland records, or some such thing. Immediately I understood then--and from your postings here I see that things have not changed all that much in the years since--that you simply do not understand or appreciate the legal and historical importance of statements made AT THE TIME (first of all); and secondly, you continually will equate, in importance, "the Parkland witnesses" with "the eyewitnesses to the shooting."

There is no comparison between an "eyewitness to the shooting"--who may have had a fleeting glimpse of the President (and his wounding), a glimpse lasting a few seconds, and the observations of someone like Dr. Peters, who was in the Emergency Room, and had a chance to observe the wounds at close hand (just inches away), and with the experience of a trained physician.

Yet you continually invoke the "Dealey Plaza witnesses to the shooting" as if their observations should (or do) carry the legal weight comparable to those of the doctors and nurses in the Emergency Room. That's just plain wrong. Its apples and oranges. You should not be doing that, yet you continually do so.

The proper and legitimate comparison should be between observations made in the Parkland Emergency Room (or even in the Parkland Hospital parking lot, if someone got a good look at JFK's wounds there) and the reports from Bethesda. That is reasonable and legitimate. But to start by creating (and then invoking, as you do) a data base consisting of "eyewitneses-to-the-shooting" observations, and comparing them to those of the doctors actually in the emergency room, is not just of dubious value; its completely wrong, and represents a very serious analytic error. No wonder your conclusions are so completely off the mark, if they are based on "reasoning" like that. I appreciate all the pretty graphics (obviously, you are talented in that regard) but its the reasoning that counts, and I find this kind of reasoning deeply flawed.

When I have more time, I'll try to critique the lengthy posting you have made (and addressed to me), but again and again, I find you traveling down this same false path, mixing apples and oranges, and drawing all kinds of unjustifiable inferences, based on this flawed methodology. That pervades your entire analysis of the medical evidence, and results in a mistaken view of what the President's body actually looked like, after the shooting; what wounds it contained; a flawed view of Dealey Plaza, and--perhaps most important of all--an inability to discern whether "the medical evidence" has been altered.

And that is really the key: because if your methodology is so flawed as to not be able to perceive the evidence that the wounds on the body were altered between Parkland and Bethesda, then you have lost sight of THE major issue in this case.

DSL

1/27/11; 11:50 AM PST

Los Angeles, CA

PS: Also remember what Dr. Charles Baxter (I think it was he) who said that the President's brain was "lying on the table." What veteran JFK researcher Wallace Milam concluded--decades ago (and I agreed with him)-was that this was Baxter's less than optimal way of describing the brain at the back of JFK's head (when JFK was lying face up) protruding through the wound, and touching the surface of the hospital cart. Again, more evidence as to the rearward location of the wound.

I share Lifton's posting in total so the reader can see what I was up against. In five years, I'd made absolutely no head-way with him. He still claimed the recollections of the Parkland witnesses are consistent and of prime importance and pretty much all that matters. He now added, however, that the recollections of the eyewitnesses to the shooting--who, from Lifton's perspective, uniformly noted a wound on the right side of Kennedy's head before it even existed--are of no importance and can be dismissed with the wave of a hand.

Well, this is pretty silly, wouldn't you say? The recollections of a patient's wounds made by emergency room personnel days, months, and even decades after observing the patient are of infinitely more value than the descriptions of the patient's wounds given by eyewitnesses to his shooting only minutes or hours afterward? Says who? Forensic pathologists are the doctors normally used in a court of law to establish the extent and location of a wound, not emergency room doctors and nurses, most of whose job it is to react, and not inspect...and who don't even take notes.

Now, IF the Parkland witnesses all claimed to get a good look at the wound, and all claimed to see a wound in the same location, and had all been willing to swear on a stack of Bibles that their recollections were correct and that the autopsy photographs were fake, I'd be tempted to change my mind.

But they didn't. And those telling you they did are as mistaken as those calling the single-bullet theory a "fact."

But I can't expect you to trust me on this. Not after mountains of malarkey have been dumped upon our heads for forty years...

So let's go through the statements of some of those considered key "back of the head" witnesses.

But first...

Fetzer's Folly

Now, to give Doug Horne some credit, he developed his theory, published his books, and then stepped back and let others figure out whether he was right or not. (Well, for a few years anyway...) Well, into this void stepped his #1 cheerleader, Dr. James Fetzer, to push his theory online, and bully his fellow conspiracy theorists into seeing the one true light--the light of James Fetzer and hs confederates. Here is but a small example of his bullying...

From an online discussion on The Education Forum:

QUOTE (James H. Fetzer @ Jan 17 2006, 04:19 AM)

I had heard you were arrogant but hadn't noticed myself until now. You are suggesting that you have the competence and the expertise to interpret X-rays; in particular, that your competence and expertise is even greater than that of David W. Mantik, M.D., Ph.D.? I am astounded. Let me ask: How many trips into the National Archives have you made? How extensively have you tested the "original" X-rays using optical densitometry? Have you ever even studied David's chapters on the X-rays in ASSASSINATION SCIENCE? And is your vast competence supposed to extend to issues of alteration of the Zapruder film as well? You must be some kind of mental giant! Why don't you explain to us how optical densitometry works and how David was able to ascertain empirically that the X-rays were altered? I would like to see a demonstration of your expertise. Believe it or not, I actually asked him to come to this forum and review claims that have been made about the X-rays. He has scanned many posts but has yet to find something that merits comment. So why don't you make a condensed case for your own views and I will share them with him, right after you show us the extent of your own competence to render these findings. Are you aware that David is Board Certified in Radiation Oncology? Are you Board Certified in Radiation Oncology? Frankly, I think all these issues are far beyond your competence, that you are completely out of your depth, but that some fantastic egoistic motivation drives you to pretend that you know things you don't and possess skills you never had. That is simply stupifying. And are you implying that you can understand the alteration issues with regard to the film WITHOUT studying Costella's work, which is visually displayed on my web site? You are truly an amazing guy! You appear to be ignorant of the most basic issues.

Now, the recipient of this blithering barrage (and dozens like it) was, of course, myself. 

Now note the irony. Fetzer's complaint of the day in this post was that I'd dared to doubt the briliiance of David Mantik on the x-rays and John Costella on the Zapruder film.  Well, this was ironic because at the time he himself Lord Jim was hawking his own "discovery" of a blow-out wound on an unaltered frame of the Zapruder film, which he claimed matched up with the white patch Mantik had pointed out on the x-rays. Yes, as shown above, he was pushing that those altering the Zapruder film screwed up and failed to remove the purported blow-out wound on the back of Kennedy's head from frame 374 of the Zapruder film, and held, furthermore, that the "cashew-nut-like shape" apparent on this frame "corresponds very closely to “Area P” (for “patched”) in Mantik’s analysis." Area P is, of course, the "white patch" identified by Dr. Mantik on the x-rays.

Well, this was not a conclusion endorsed by Mantik or Costella, not then and not ever, as far as I can tell. 

And for good reason. The "white patch" (which is really the wing of bone shown on the autopsy photos) and "cashew nut-like shape" (which is presumably the reflection of the sun on Kennedy's hair) are in fact inches apart. 

So, yeah, Fetzer was guilty of the crime of which he accused myself--second-guessing his favorite "experts"--and had fallen on his face. 

Now, I'm tempted to make a joke about this--something like "Fetzer's clearly nuts when he talks about the cashew nut-like shape," but such a joke would be in poor taste.

Or just plain bad...

And yet, in light of the fact that none of the closest witnesses to the shooting saw an explosion from the back of Kennedy's head, Horne's and Fetzer's belief the autopsy team conspired to hide such a wound is indeed a bit nutty. (Sorry, Doug.)

Putting bad jokes aside,  how did we get here? How did the research community become so obsessed with the Parkland witnesses, to the point of distraction, where no one but no one spent any time, I don't know, say, trying to determine what the official evidence...the films, autopsy photos, and  x-rays--actually showed. 

Essentially, some government employed and/or appointed  experts looked at this stuff in 1964 and said it proved one man fired the shots, and some government employed and/or appointed experts double-checked their work in the 1970's, and came to some slightly different conclusions, but nevertheless asserted one man fired the shots that killed Kennedy. 

And this led those believing it was more than one man to start searching for reasons to think the evidence was fake. 

They didn't pick up textbooks to see if the conclusions of these experts made sense. No, they spent years writing, promoting and selling books claiming the evidence was fake because, well,  it didn't show what they THOUGHT it should show. 

Now, I am a conspiracy theorist--so much so that I am not above wondering if those who'd distracted us with claims the evidence was fake were not part of a limited hangout--designed to get us looking behind corners for secret photo alteratuon labs and other suff that would never ever sway the public, or lead to a new investigation. 

But I am also a student of history, and feel that context is all-important.

And that we need to go back down that rabbit hole...to see what is down there...

Or, more precisely... WHO is down there...

This guy...

Mr. Livingstone, I Presume

When one looks at the history of the controversy over JFK's head wounds, that is, the history of the purported Parkland/Bethesda divide on the location of Kennedy's large head wound, one finds that much of it was stirred up by writers David Lifton and  Harrison Livingstone in the years 1979-1981. 

We will discuss Lifton a bit later, But we will start by focusing on Livingstone. 

The year is 1979. The HSCA has just published its report, which includes a tracing of an autopsy  photo of the back of JFK's head. Livingstone has coerced the Baltimore Sun into sending him to Dallas, so he can show this tracing to the Parkland witneses he knew--from their statements to the Warren Commission and HSCA--would be likely to reject this drawing. 

While the Sun never publishes a detailed article on these encounters, Livingstone does publish his version of the article in the 11-22-81 issue of The Continuing Inquiry newsletter. 

Here are the sections of the article on the witnesses:

It seems clear from this, then, that Livingstone was pushing an agenda in his article, and that he wasn't particularly interested in telling his readers the whole story. I mean, why else short-change the recollections of those "not fully" endorsing the photos, and emphasize the recollections of several others--including Mrs. Kennedy--whom he didn't even interview?

And here are some more reasons to believe he cherry-picked his quotes to push a fantastic theory he knew few would buy if he was more forthcoming...

First of all, he claimed, in the article, that "According to the recently interviewed medical witnesses, the president had been shot in the throat, from in front, in addition to the head shot." Well, this was just not true. Few of the witnesses interviewed by Livingstone even saw the throat wound before it was expanded by Dr. Perry, and those that did never told anyone else that the throat wound they saw WAS in fact an entrance wound...only that it appeared to be one. Now, this is an important distinction. These witnesses made observations, and formed recollections, and may or may not have formed opinions based upon these recollections. But Livingstone claimed they'd both presented these opinions as facts, which would have been thoroughly unprofessional, and universally shared the same opinion. It seems clear, then, that he was putting words in their mouths, and that he was exaggerating, or worse.

Secondly, a 6-11-80 article on Livingstone by Maureen Williams found in the Bangor Daily News suggests Livingstone was not a healthy camper. I know this seems a cheap shot, but stick with me here. This article was on Livingstone at a time virtually no one knew who he was, written in his local paper. The article, it follows, was his idea, or at least written with his full cooperation. And yet, look what it reveals: "The federal government has stipulated that certain sensitive material concerning the investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963 cannot be released to the public and media until the year 2039. One man who claims to be living in secrecy and fear for his life in eastern Maine, claims to have gotten some of that material through an underground source with connections in the Pentagon. Harrison Edward Livingstone, one of hundreds of private citizens who are involved in researching the assassination, carries his completed but rough manuscript of his book with him wherever he goes...He has kept on the move in recent years in several states, because he said he believes he's a 'hunted man.' In one of those states, he says, his car was fitted with an explosive device. In July 1979, a plane was to carry a team of reporters of the Baltimore Sun to Dallas, where they were to rendezvous with Livingstone. The plane was accidentally rammed by a jet fuel delivery truck on the airport apron. Livingstone says this was no accident. The incident caused the occupants to be confined in the plane for three hours, but what is stranger is that neither the newspaper or Livingstone could locate the investigative team for two days. In July and November 1979, the Baltimore Sun published two stories, containing purported new information and a lot of speculation, which Livingstone claims to have stimulated. 'But nobody read it...the wire services probably didn't pick it up, and one of the stories ran on a Sunday features page,' Livingstone said. Livingstone is convinced that some of the government's official autopsy photographs have been forged by an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency so they would be consistent with the so-called 'single-bullet, single-gunman' theory. Livingstone said that on July 30, 1979, he traveled to Dallas where he interviewed various physicians who attended the dying president at Parkland Hospital. In tape-recorded and transcribed interviews, Livingstone said, medical doctors Adolph Giesecke, Robert McClelland, Malcolm Perry, Charles Baxter, Fouad Bashour, Jacqueline Hunt, and Marion Jenkins, indicate that the official government photo shown them may have been fake, because it shows an entrance wound in the occipital-parietal section of the president's head. Livingstone says they all told him that when the president was wheeled into Parkland's emergency room for initial medical treatment, the wound they saw in the back of his head looked like an exit wound...Robert Groden of Hopelawn, N.J., a photographic consultant to the House Assassinations Committee, said 'My visual inspection of the autopsy photos and X-rays reveals evidence of forgery in four of the photographs..."

The article then proceeded to quote Jack White on the possibility the photos had been faked, and Dr. Cyril Wecht on the probability there was more than one shooter. It then reported: "On the other hand, Dr. Paul C. Peters, professor and chairman of the Division of Urology, University of Texas Health Science Center at Dallas, told the NEWS that he has never seen any of the official government autopsy photos. He was one of the many doctors and nurses who tried to revive the dying President 17 years ago. But after studying the forensic observations of Dr. John Lattimer, a retired Columbia professor, he believes that the gaping hole he saw in the right rear of the felled President's head should not be considered a true exit wound, but a 'tangential' wound, caused by a shallow bullet entry at the back of his neck."

Well, where do we begin? Hmmm... Livingstone had either presented himself, or had allowed himself to be presented, as a man on the run from dark forces--all because he had copies of the autopsy photos. He then hid that he'd received these copies from Robert Groden, by claiming he'd gotten them from some mysterious figure in the Pentagon. This allowed, as well, for Groden to serve as an additional source for the reporter. Well, this was pretty sneaky, no? And then there's the matter of Peters, who shot down the possibility the Parkland doctors' disagreement with the photos suggests a second shooter, by claiming single-assassin theorist Dr. John Lattimer had convinced him otherwise. Pretty wacky.

And from there it only got wackier. By June of 1981, Livingstone had convinced Ben Bradlee, Jr. of the Boston Globe to pick up where he'd left off, and interview the Parkland witnesses for himself. Bradlee's summary of these interviews can be found in the Weisberg Archives. They reveal that Bradlee focused on the recollections of 16 witnesses, and that 8 of the 14 he interviewed for the story cast doubt on the authenticity of the photos, and 6 largely supported their authenticity. This was a journalist at work, and not a theorist. And he believed barely more than half the witnesses suggested the photos were at odds with the wounds. This was far from the ALL claimed by Livingstone.

The witnesses Bradlee thought disagreed with the official description of the head wound were:

This, then brings us to the six witnesses Bradlee spoke to who "tended to agree with the official description of the head wound that emerged from the autopsy and Warren Report."

Let's reflect. Ben Bradlee and the Boston Globe interviewed 14 Parkland witnesses in 1981. Of these 14, 8 strongly questioned or rejected the accuracy of the autopsy photo showing the back of Kennedy's head, and 6 supported or failed to question the accuracy of the photo. This is indeed interesting. But what's just as interesting, and just as telling in the long run, is that NINE of these 14 rejected the accuracy of the McClelland drawing, which those focusing on this issue nevertheless propped up as a depiction of the one true wound.

Feel free to scream. And let's reflect that when ultimately reporting on these interviews, in his 1989 best seller High Treason, Livingstone and his co-author Robert Groden claimed that the "McClelland" drawing "was verified by every doctor, nurse, and eyewitness as accurate."

So, I ask again, were we conned?

I mean, it's not as if Livingstone didn't know these witnesses had discounted his theory. Here is  Bradlee's 6-21-81 article on the head wounds:

INVESTIGATIONS

Dispute on JFK assassination evidence persists

Eighteen years later, Dallas medical team disagrees: where was the President's mortal head wound?

By Ben Bradlee

Globe Staff

DALLAS — Burled in the mounds of books, official reports and investigative files on the assassination of John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, is a dispute about the medical evidence that has never been resolved. The crux of the issue is the precise location of the gaping head wound which all concerned acknowledge that the President sustained.

   The gaping head wound was seen by at least 12 doctors and four nurses who treated Kennedy at Parkland Memorial Hospital here minutes after he was shot. Fourteen of the 16 were interviewed recently by The Globe. Eight of those said that an official tracing of an autopsy photograph of the back of the President's head does not show the wound as they recall it. 

   What significance the dispute plays in unraveling the puzzle of the Kennedy assassination is uncertain: If the recollections of these doctors and nurses are correct, it could ultimately mean that the Warren Commission was wrong in its conclusion that Kennedy was shot from the rear by a single gunmen; or, it could be simply an indication that the doctors and nurses were wrong about what they think they saw. 

   Eleven of the doctors and three of the nurses (none of whom has seen the actual Kennedy autopsy photographs) were shown the tracing of the most pertinent autopsy photo. which was prepared for the House Select Committee on Assassinations and published in its final report in 1979. 

   A 12th doctor who treated the late President refused to be interviewed and a fourth nurse could not be reached by The Globe. But both are on record as having placed the head wound in an area which is not consistent with the official tracing,

   Neither the Warren Commission nor the House Assassinations Committee, which concluded that President Kennedy was "probably" assassinated as part of a conspiracy, attempted to resolve the discrepancies by showing the autopsy photos to the Parkland doctors and nurses. Critics have called this a fundamental flaw in both investigations.

   A majority of the doctors and nurses interviewed this year (five of the doctors, three of the nurses) say they recalled seeing a large wound in the right rear of Kennedy's head. The tracing of the autopsy photograph shows what appears to be a flap of bone protruding from the right side of the head but the back of the head shows no gaping wound. 

'There's a definite conflict'

   "There's a definite conflict," commented Dr. Richard B. Dulany when shown the official tracing. "That's not the way I remember it." 

   "It's not true." added Doris M. Nelson, nursing supervisor of the Parkland emergency room the day of the assassination, when she examined the official tracing. "There wasn't even hair (in the back of the head) ... it was blown away. All that area was blown out." 

   In testimony before the Warren Commission or in earlier written reports. all the Dallas doctors and nurses who made specific reference to the location of the head wound either said it was squarely in the occipital area (back of the head) or that it extended from the right parietal area (side of the head) into the occiput.

   If these doctors were precise in their application of the terms occipital and parietal. Why isn't such a wound visible in the autopsy photograph taken of the back of the head? 

   One possible explanation is that the doctors and nurses, considering that they were more concerned with saving Kennedy's life than observing his wounds, were mistaken in their observations, or were imprecise in describing what they saw. However, the Dallas doctors and nurses who dispute the accuracy of the official tracing told The Globe they are firm in their recollections. 

   Critics of official investigations into the Kennedy assassination have advanced two other possible explanations: 1) that the photo in question has been doctored to eliminate evidence of a gaping exit wound in the back of the head to make the evidence conform to the official theory that Kennedy was shot from the rear by Lee Harvey Oswald. acting alone; or 2) that the President's head wounds were surgically altered before his body arrived at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland for autopsy.

 NOTE ON SOURCES

   The autopsy and its failures have been discussed in books and articles such critics as Edward Epstein, Harold Weisberg, Sylvia Meagher, Vincent Salandria and Cyril Wecht.

   Harrison Livingstone, a Baltimore researcher, first showed the official tracing of the autopsy photograph of the back of President Kennedy's head to several of the Dallas doctors, and elicited doubts from them as to the tracing's accuracy.

   Kennedy is officially said to have sustained two wounds: one which entered in the lower back of his neck and exited at his throat, and one which entered the back of his head and exited at the right side of his head, creating a gaping wound. The most detailed description of the large head wound given the Warren Commission was furnished by Dr. Robert N. McClelland. a surgeon who treated Kennedy in the Parkland emergency room. But McClelland put this large defect in the back of the head, not the side. 

   McClelland told the Warren panel he stood at the head of the operating table and thus was in "such a position that could very closely examine the head wound, and I noted that the right posterior portion of the skull had been extremely blasted. It had been shattered, apparently, by the force of the shot so that the parietal bone was protruded up through the scalp and seemed to be fractured along its right posterior half, as well as the occipital bone being fractured in its lateral half, and this sprung open the bones that I mentioned in such a way that you could actually look down into the skull cavity itself and see that probably a third or so, at least, of the brain tissue, posterior cerebral tissue and some of the cerebellar tissue, had been blasted out."


Controversial artist's drawing

   One of the many amateur investigators of the assassination who has published a book about the event, Josiah Thompson, a former professor of philosophy at Haverford College. commissioned an artist to prepare a drawing based on the McLelland description. The drawing, approved by McClelland prior to its publication in the book, depicts a fist-sized wound with edges scored out in the lower right rear of the head. 

   McClelland reaffirmed in a recent telephone interview that the drawing was what he "vividly remembers" the head wound looking like. 

   Some Warren Commission critics and other researchers have erroneously cited this drawing as representing the Dallas doctors' and nurses' sole view of the head wound. 

   Actually, according to Globe interviews, they are not unanimous in their opinions or recollections. Five of the doctors and nurses agree with McClelland on the drawing and strongly assert that the wound was in the back of the head; four other doctors say that the tracing of the autopsy photograph shown them by The Globe Is "consistent" with their recollection of the head wound. 

   Two doctors lean toward this official view, while five others tend toward the McClelland view that the wound was in the rear of the head, but fall short of giving it a blanket endorsement. 

   Of the six doctors who said that they agree or tend to agree with the official tracing showing no gaping wound extending into the occipital region, five have, at one time or another, gone on record as saying that the wound did extend into the occiput.

   For example. Dr. Charles J. Carrico, the first physician to treat Kennedy, testified twice before the Warren Commission, first describing the head wound as "a large, gaping wound located in the right, occipital-parietal area," and then as a "five by (seven) cm. defect in the posterior skull, the occipital region ..." Carrico was not Interviewed by The Globe, but in a letter sent in response to questions, he said the official tracing of the autopsy photograph showed "nothing incompatible" with what he remembered of the back of the head. 

   The sixth doctor supportive of the official tracing, Dr. Robert G. Grossman, now a professor and chairman of the department of neurosurgery at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, was working next to the senior neurosurgeon present, Dr. Kemp Clark. at Kennedy's head. Grossman told The Globe that he observed two separate wounds: a large defect in the parietal area above the right ear, and a second wound, about one-and-a-quarter inches in diameter, located squarely in the occiput. Grossman. the only physician to report seeing two such distinct wounds, was never called to testify before the Warren Commission or the House Assassinations Committee. Nor were Dr. Dulany or Nurse Patricia Gustafson, one of those who said that Kennedy's gaping wound was in the back of his head. 

Disagreement on wound's visibility

   In interviews, some doctors doubted the extent to which a wound to the rear of the head would have been visible since the President was lying supine with the back of his head on a hospital emergency cart. 

   But others, like Dulany and Grossman. said the head at some point was lifted up, thereby exposing the rear wound. Added Gustafson: "One of the doctors asked me to put a pressure bandage on the head wound and I tried to do so. (but) there was really nothing to put a pressure bandage on. It was too massive. So he told me just to leave it be." The wound, she said, was in "the back of the head." 

   "Definitely in the back?" she was asked.

   "Yes," she said. 

   To critics of the official investigations, it is inconceivable that the presumably skilled Dallas doctors, conversant with anatomical terms, would consistently misuse words like "cerebellum" and "occipital" and say that the wound extended into the back of the head if, in fact. it did not.

   But speaking to the occipital question, Grossman. a neurosurgeon. suggested that part of the confusion surrounding the location of the head wound could be the result of the imprecision with which the term "occipital" is used. While the occiput refers specifically to a bone in the lower back section of the head, Grossman said many doctors loosely use the term to refer to "the back fifth of the head .. . There is this ambiguity about what constitutes the occipital and parietal area ... It's very imprecise." 

   Until now, to critics, the most plausible explanation for the discrepancy between the Dallas observations and the autopsy photograph of the rear of the head was that the photo was a forgery. 

   Some of the critics, notably the House Assassinations Committee's own photographic consultant, Robert J. Groden of Lodi. N.J., have argued that the failure of the Warren Commission and the House committee to show the autopsy photographs to the Parkland doctors and nurses cast doubt on the House committee's conclusion that the photos were authentic. The question of authenticity was not addressed by the Warren panel.

   In a little-noticed dissent published in one of the appendices to the House committee report, Groden, who did the original optical enhancement work of Abraham Zapruder's now-famous home movie of the assassination, asserted that four.of the autopsy photographs (two In color, two In black and white) showing a similar view of the back of the President's head had been altered to eliminate evidence of a gaping hole in the back of the head. 

   Based on the recent doubts voiced by most of the Dallas doctors and nurses, The Globe last month received permission from the Kennedy family to view the autopsy photographs at the National Archives in Washington. This was done with the aid of three independent photo-optics experts to determine the validity of Groden's allegations.

   All of the photo consultants concluded that the photographs were authentic. (See accompanying article). 

   Author David Lifton, in his new book, "Best Evidence." published by Macmillan, advances a different, far more radical explanation for the discrepancies between the observations of the Dallas doctors and the autopsy photographs: that between the time Kennedy's body left Dallas and the time it arrived in the autopsy room at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland some six hours later, the wounds on the corpse were surgically altered to change the evidence concerning the number and direction of shots, as part of a plot to support the single-assassin theory. 

   Lifton cites an FBI report prepared by two agents who attended the autopsy. James Sibert and Francis O'Neill. The report, declassified and released years after the Warren report was published, states that "... it was also apparent that a tracheotomy had been performed, as well as surgery of the head area, namely in the top of the skull." No surgery other than the tracheotomy was performed by the Dallas doctors. In subsequent memoranda. Sibert explained that his statement was based on remarks made at the time by the lead autopsist, Dr. James J. Humes. 

   The 700-page book, whose thesis Lifton himself admits strains the imagination, is nonetheless a thoroughly researched account based largely on public documents and buttressed by new evidence in the form of statements from several Bethesda hospital technicians and military bystanders who were eyewitnesses to the movements of Kennedy's body. 

   Concerned that some of these witnesses might later retract what they told him. Lifton recorded their statements on videotape which has been viewed by The Globe. Lifton said he was moved to interview the Bethesda attendants after reading a statement in one of the volumes of the House Assassinations Committee report issued in 1979, saying that Kennedy's body had arrived at Bethesda in a body bag. This conflicted with the testimony of many witnesses who told the Warren Commission the body left Dallas wrapped in sheets. 

   Lifton located witnesses who told him that Kennedy's body first arrived at Bethesda in a plain gray shipping casket, not the bronze casket it left Dallas in, and that the body was inside a zippered body bag. 

   In a telephone interview, retired Brig. Gen. Godfrey McHugh. President Kennedy's Air Force aide who said he was with the President's casket for all but five minutes or so that day, castigated Lifton's book as "absolutely absurd. It's full of lies and false implications." When he wasn't with the casket, McHugh said, Mrs. Kennedy, aides or the Secret Service always were. He said he saw the President's body taken out of the bronze casket inside the Bethesda morgue, but he conceded he could not attest to the fact that the body was inside that casket from the time it left Parkland Hospital until it reached the morgue. 

   Besides photo forgery, rejected by The Globe panel, and the more radical Lifton thesis of surgical alteration, there is a third, quite innocent, possibility advanced by some, including the House Assassinations Committee. as an explanation for the discrepancies between the Dallas and Bethesda observations: that the Parkland physicians, concerned chiefly with trying to save Kennedy's life rather than observe his wounds, simply were mistaken In what they saw.

   A variation of the mistaken hypothesis is that, as Dr. Grossman suggested, the Dallas doctors erroneously described the head wound. The autopsy photograph of the right side of Kennedy's head, seen by The Globe at the National Archives but not shown to the Dallas doctors, depicts a massive wound which extends about two inches behind the ear toward the back of the head. It is possible, according to Grossman, that the doctors loosely used the word "occipital" in describing a wound that extended to the back fifth of the head, or that they assumed, without lifting up the head, that the defect did reach the back. 

   Whatever the answer, it is likely that few will be satisfied, and that The Globe's Dallas interviews add up to another mysterious footnote to the Kennedy legacy. 

The Blame Game

Well, Bradlee's article was quite fair, wouldn't you say? It described the controversy without taking sides. Still, that wasn't good enough for Livingstone.

Here is the bulk of a press release (found in the Weisberg Archives) prepared by Livingstone on June 27 1981, attacking Bradlee's June 21, 1981 article:

"I, Harrison E. Livingstone, mentioned in the article as first interviewing the Parkland doctors concerning the autopsy photos, motivated the Globe and prepared them for their 'investigation", during which time I was severely mistreated by them. The Globe claims that the majority of doctors and nurses whom they interviewed disputed the autopsy photos.( as did the autopsists themselves 7 HSAC), but that some doctors say that the photo is consistent with the wounds as they recall them. This is doubtful or not true. The Globe has perhaps-one witness of the 14 they interviewed that might positively say this. The Globe has not documented their work, not named the doctors whom they claim support the picture. The reason is that we proved that the doctors did not tell the Globe this, but that the Globe in an excess of zeal tried to get each witness to change what they said to the Globe, to the Sun previously, and to me. Previously, 100% of all witnesses interviewed by the Sun and myself said the pictures did not show the wound as they recall them. Both myself and Sun reporters have re-interviewed some of the Globe witnesses whom the Globe said agree with the pictures and find that this is simply not true. One of the doctors whom the Globe counted as reversing his testimony to me, then wrote me after the Globe visited him, and repeated what he told me, that the large gaping hole in the back of the-head extended into the occipital area. My original tapes of him and the other doctors are in the JFK Library. The Globe attempted to tell people that what I said was on the tapes was not on them, but then discovered that the Sun and the Library and others have these tapes and that they are valid and unassailable. Nevertheless, the Globe counted among their negative witnesses several of mine. Why they have fabricated evidence in this case, I do not know. I am sorry I went to them. It has taken me two years to try to establish this major evidence in this case. It was clear to me from an early stage that the Globe's intent was to either destroy my evidence, and Bob Groden's claim that the pictures are forged, or water it down. They could only water it down by the use of fraud.The doctors and nurses made no mistake as to the wounds. The nurses had plenty of time to study the body as they washed it."

Livingstone then added: "I ask that the above not be printed until I have completed certain work. The Globe has promised to allow me to listen to all of their tapes, and state that they will be placed in the JFK Library soon. I forced them to do this. I have also been able to trap these papers into doing some sort of an investigation. The Baltimore Sun has major evidence in the case, has in fact had access to the autopsy photos in 1979, as they admitted in an article Nov 18, 1979 by Steve Parks, and the Globe knows this and has talked to Parks. Why have they lied about so much? The Sun is working on the case now, and does not like both the Globe's fabrications and private accusations that the Sun has lied about the testimony it took, which both Groden and I are familiar with."

Well, this is pretty clear. Livingstone felt Bradlee had burned him, and had picked up his story in order to water it down, or destroy it. What he needed to do, then, in order to prove Bradlee incorrect in claiming nine witnesses rejected the accuracy of the McClelland drawing, was listen to Bradlee's tapes, and show where Bradlee had turned some of these witnesses against him, and misrepresented what they had said about the McClelland drawing.

He would have to do as much, or something equally dramatic, before he could possibly claim every doctor had verified the accuracy of the McClelland drawing, correct?

Above: Harrison Livingstone (L) with Robert Groden (R), when promoting their 1989 best-seller High Treason.

Circumnavigating the Globe

Wrong. Let's explore then how Livingstone handles Bradlee's 1981 interviews in High Treason, co-authored by Robert Groden, and published in 1989... In a footnote on Bradlee's article, he relates "I am grateful for the work that the Globe people contributed to this investigation, and for turning it over to me. I earned it."

Hubba..whaa? Did Livingstone forget how their work helped undercut his own?

Or had he decided to just ignore the interviews they'd obtained that ran counter to his thesis?

Neither, actually. In High Treason, it was advanced that "Livingstone, The Baltimore Sun, and Ben Bradlee, Jr. of The Boston Globe have compiled the testimony of a number of additional witnesses, and the startling conclusion of their work is clear: the autopsy pictures are fake" and that, furthermore, "upon seeing the official government autopsy photograph of the back of the head for the first time, each witness independently denounced it."

Well, heck, that's quite a statement, particularly in that Bradlee thought the evidence inconclusive, and far from "clear." So what was Livingstone up to?

Apparently, a good old-fashioned whitewash...

Here's how he explained the Globe's failure to replicate his results... He offered "Just prior to Ben Bradlee's Boston Globe trip to Dallas, the evidence he was about to gather was subject to a powerful negative influence, which changed the results he might otherwise have collected. A book was published by David Lifton--Best Evidence--which revolved around the question we are dealing with in this book: why the alleged autopsy photograph does not show the wounds as they were described by all of the witnesses. In addition to the theory it propounded, the book gave the erroneous impression that there was a flap of scalp on the President's head which covered up the large hole in the back. This book promptly became a best-seller for five months. The flap of scalp story convinced some of the doctors co-author Livingstone and The Baltimore Sun had interviewed to change their feelings about the picture..."

Yes, you read that right. Rather than acknowledge the obvious--that the Parkland witnesses were not in total agreement--Livingstone claimed David Lifton had convinced "some of the doctors" that the hole they'd seen was covered up by a flap by the time of the autopsy, and that the autopsy photos were therefore authentic, but misleading. Well, this avoids the inconvenient truth these witnesses not only said the photos looked legit, but also said the McClelland drawing was inaccurate.   

I mean, really... As if these doctors would have claimed the photos were fake if that spoil-sport Lifton hadn't convinced them otherwise... This is silly in the extreme... There's no evidence any of the doctors interviewed by the Globe ever subscribed to Lifton's theory, or looked to him for guidance when interpreting the autopsy photos...

Feel free to laugh...

And observe how Livingstone further dispenses with the Globe's article in High Treason...and scream...

(His words in bold.)

"On June 21, 1981, the Globe published an article based on taped testimony basically corroborating the authors' findings. It appears that the Globe editors attempted to water down this powerful evidence, discrediting the secret autopsy pictures by quantifying their results on a scale of 1 to 10. They had to literally change--or loosely interpret--the testimony of some witnesses. Although the Globe found overwhel,ng evidence that the pictures are false, the evidence they claim supports the autopsy photographs appears very weak when we realize that all the doctors they cite as-SUpportdng the picture had previously denounced it.

Ben Bradlee, Jr. wrote co-author Livingstone, "Dear Harry: Here is the story as it appeared yesterday. It is not as I wanted it, as the enclosed copies of my original drafts will attest. There was so much haggling over the piece, however. I was glad just to be done with it and get it in the paper. Note your acknowledgement at bottom left. Thanks for the book. Best regards, Ben."

Of all the many witnesses, the Globe counted four who they felt supported the picture. Three of the four had made strong statements denouncing the picture at one time.

(Note: it wasn't four; it was six.)

The Globe wrongly interpreted the data on doctors Giesecke, Jenkins, Perry, and Carrico, for they all had been led to believe--after their interviews with the author and the Sun-- that there was a flap of scalp on the back of the head which was pulled down to show an alleged entry wound. We have already seen that the autopsists hotly denied that there had been an entry wound in that region, and they said, like many other Dallas witnesses, that there was no scalp there to be pulled down, Lifton's theory notwithstanding.

(So, Livingstone had decided to ignore Baxter and Grossman... His failure to acknowledge their statements supporting the photo to The Globe is indeed suspicious. Baxter's Warren Commission testimony described a "temporal parietal plate of bone laid outward to the side" and he told The Globe the tracing of the autopsy photo "did not conflict with his memory." And yet, in his 1981 article describing his interview with Baxter, Livingstone had at first misrepresented Baxter's testimony before the Warren Commission, claiming he'd told them "There was a large, gaping wound in the back of the skull," when he'd actually said "There was a large gaping wound in the skull," and then claiming he "questioned" the photos. Elsewhere in High Treason, Livingstone claimed that when he interviewed Baxter in 1979, Baxter told him that "without question the back of the head was blown away" (his interpretation of Baxter's words), and that Baxter had actually said "It was a large gaping wound in the occipital area." Well, hold it right there. Livingstone's article on his 1979 interviews reported merely that Baxter had "questioned the autopsy photos," and not that he'd said the wound was in the occipital area--which would have been a change from his Warren Commission testimony. It seems likely then that Livingstone was lying and trying to hide that Baxter was not a "back of the head" witness--I mean, why not admit that Baxter had told The Globe the photo didn't conflict with his memory? As for Grossman, well, he said that the large wound of exit was in the parietal area--where it is depicted in the autopsy photos. This was, of course, most inconvenient for Livingstone and Groden's position this wound was low on the back of Kennedy's head.)

Dr. Giesecke confirmed to The Globe that the back of the head was missing, but he had been told—after Livingstone had spoken to him and before The Globe's visit--about the alleged flap of scalp. The Globe erroneously interpreted this as meaning that he no longer felt there was a large hole in the back of the head. Trying to explain this, Dr. Giesecke later wrote co-author Livingstone: "in doing so (pulling down the flap), the underlying bony defect is obscured,'" making clear that the large hole was still there.

(This hides that Giesecke placed the wound at the top of the back of the head, and not low on the back of the head where Livingstone claimed it was, and that Giesecke had told The Globe the McClelland drawing was inaccurate.)

The Boston Globe completely ignored the evidence co-author Livingstone had obtained from Dr. Jenkins, and claimed that the doctor agreed with the autopsy photographs (without being shown them by the Globe). Dr. Jenkins is not quoted or mentioned in the Globe article, but the following statement is used by him to discredit what Jenkins had said before: "I thought it was cerebellum, but I didn't examine it." They wrote in their notes that he was therefore mistaken in his statements concerning the hole in the back of the head, and they presumed that he had never looked at the back of the head. It was this, and only this, that the Globe used in their rejection of Jenkins' clear position that the large hole was above and posterior to the right ear, which he in fact pointed out to Bradlee, whom he made lie down for the demonstration.

The House Assassinations Committee interviewed Dr. Jenkins in November 1977. He told the investigator that he "was the only one who knew the extent of the head wound." "His location was customary for an anesthesiologist. He was positioned at the head of the table so that he had one of the closest views of the head wound. Regarding the head wound, Dr. Jenkins said that only one segment of bone was blown-out--it was a segment of occipital or temporal bone. He noted that a portion of the (lower rear brain) cerebellum was hanging out from a hole in the right--rear of the head."' They did not show him the autopsy photographs.

(This was a bit silly. Why would any paper accept "the evidence" obtained by someone else, while working for another paper, and ignore their own interviews? Jenkins said he didn't see cerebellum, and that he'd never looked at the back of Kennedy's head. That was a retraction from his earlier statements, and confirmed that he'd rejected the accuracy of the McClelland drawing. If he'd pointed to a spot on the parietal bone slightly behind Kennedy's ear, when the wound in the photos was slightly in front of Kennedy's ear, it was of little matter. Livingstone could no longer claim him as a "back of the head witness." And his attempt at keeping him in the flock reeks of desperation.)

The Sun published the fact that Dr. Malcolm Perry hotly denounced the picture, but The Globe, although they did not interview him, said that he supported the autopsy photograph. They did not print the denial or any reference to this doctor. In any event, The Sun's intensive interview with Dr. Perry was conducted in front of witnesses, and the results corroborated the testimony of every other witness who had been interviewed up to that time.

The Assassinations Committee interviewed Dr. Perry in 1978, but did not show him the autopsy photographs. Perry told the interviewer that he had looked at the head wound and that it "was located in the 'occipital parietal' region of the skull and that the right posterior aspect of the skull was missing." It does not make sense that Dr. Perry and the only other two Parkland doctors (Jenkins and Carrico) the Committee interviewed would have somehow changed their observation that the back of the head was missing for the Boston Globe.

In addition, the testimony of Dr. Perry to the Warren Commission, and his extensive first-hand experience with the wounds, makes any later retraction attributed to him not credible.

(This was equally silly. Livingstone asserts that Perry's retraction can be ignored because he--Livingstone--finds it not credible. Perry was Kennedy's main physician at Parkland, and Livingstone's claims we can dismiss his most recent recollections on the wounds are nonsense.)

The fourth witness, Dr. Carrico, made such contradictory statements to the Globe that it would be inaccurate to count him as supporting the picture. Dr. Carrico told the Warren Commission: "The wound that I saw was a large gaping wound, located in the right occipitoparietal area. I would estimate it to be about 5 to 7 cm. in size, more or less' circular, with avulsions of the calvarium and scalp tissue. As I stated before, I believe there was shredded macerated cerebral and cerebellar tissues both in the wounds and on the fragments of the skull attached to the dura.""

When interviewed in January 1978 by the House Assassinations Committee, Dr. Carrico repeated the same thing: "The other wound was a fairly large wound in the parietal, occipital area. One could see blood and brains, both cerebellum and cerebrum fragments in that wound....The head wound was a much larger wound than the neck wound. It was five by seven centimeters, something like that, 2 1/2 by 3 inches, ragged, had blood and hair all around it, located in the part of the parietal occipital region...above and posterior to the ear, almost from the crown of the head," that is, just where the small entry wound shows in the alleged autopsy photograph. It would have been impossible for this to be true without showing on the photograph.

Dr. Carrico was not interviewed by the Globe, but he wrote them two contradictory letters. In nearly all other cases, the witnesses have just as clear a picture of the events of November 22, 1963 today in 1988 as they did then.

(Livingstone thereby demonstrates his lack of understanding of a topic he really should have studied: the reliability of eyewitness testimony. In reality, the clarity of the picture has almost nothing to do with the accuracy of the picture.)

The first spontaneous, emotional response of a witness is the most credible. In legal terms, such evidence bears the indicia of truth and reliability, before the witness has a chance to be subjected to conflicting influences and pressures, and/or reflect on his own self-interest. Eyewitnesses can be very wrong, depending on the circumstances, but the medical witnesses at Parkland, the President's wife--who held his head in her lap--and other officials and agents present in Dallas cannot all be wrong.

(More nonsense. Mrs. Kennedy's statements did not suggest a wound on the far back of her husband's head. And the part about emotional responses being the most credible--is GARBAGE!)

Dr. Robert Grossman, now a Professor and Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, had just joined the staff at Parkland at the time of the assassination as an Instructor in Neurosurgery. He never testified to the Warren Commission or to the Assassinations Committee. He said that he saw two large holes in the head, as he told The Globe, and he described a large hole squarely in the occiput,' far too large for a bullet entry wound, which would have shown in the disputed picture. It does not.

(Seriously? Grossman said the large hole was at the top of Kennedy's head, exactly where it is shown in the autopsy photos. Livingstone and Groden's pretending the entrance wound he claimed to see on the back of Kennedy's head was the same wound described by others, and proof the photos are fake, is deceptive, to say the least.)

Since the Globe did not take into account the previous testimony taken by Livingstone and the Baltimore Sun, it would seem that by their own standards, any testimony or position on the issue of the validity or lack of validity of the autopsy photographs should be discounted--especially if they did not actually speak to the witness. The Globe and Ben Bradlee, Jr. had no contact whatsoever with Dr. Kemp Clark or Nurse Diana Bowron, yet the Globe placed them on their chart ranking as 9s on a scale of 1 to 10, ten meaning total disagreement with the autopsy photographs.

(This is a bit bizarre. He's attacking the Globe for doing exactly what he did in his article for the Sun--including the statements and testimony of witnesses before the Warren Commission that SUPPORT the possibility there was a large wound on the back of the head. And his description of the interviews he'd conducted for The Sun as "testimony" is both self-serving and deceptive.)

Dr. David Stewart wrote Livingstone on DeCember 11, 1981: "I enjoyed our phone conversation and I appreciate your sending the material. I'll try to answer your questions as well as I can.

"On the Joe Dolan radio show, I meant to indicate that there was no controversy concerning the wounds between the doctors in attendance. I was with them either separately or in groups on many occasions over a long period of time.

"Concerning exhibit F-48, there is no way the wound described to me by Dr. Perry and others could be-the wound shown in this picture. The massive destructive wound could not remotely be pulled together well enough to give a normal contour to the head that is present in this picture." We would have to say that if Dr. Stewart did not actually see the wound, then this is hearsay evidence insofar as what he saw or did not see. What is admissible in evidence here is what he was told by Dr. Perry, the wound described to him.

Dr. Jackie Hunt, like Dr. Bashour, was not interviewed by The Globe, but Livingstone showed her the picture in 1979 and she instantly denounced it. She did not see the back of the head because she was standing directiy over the President, but she insisted that the back part of the head was blown out and rejected the official picture. "That's the way it was described to me," she said, saying that the back of the head was gone." Had the large defect been anywhere else, she would have seen it and described it. Dr. Akin said that if you looked directly down on Kennedy, you could not see the large hole." Therefore, Dr. Hunt's testimony is significant.

Dr. Hunt responded to Livingstone's question: "So, the exit wound would be in the occipital-parietal area?" "Yeah, uh-huh. It would be somewhere on the right posterior part of it...." She pointed to the sketch from Six Seconds In Dallas: "That's the way it was described to me." "I went around this way and got the equipment connected and started--but I saw the man's face like so, and I never--the exit wound was on the other side--and what was back there, I don't know. That is the way it was described to me," she said, pointing to the sketch showing the large hole in the back of the head. "I did not see that. I did not see this part of his head. That would have been here," she said, and put the palm of her hand on the back of Livingstone's head. She did this before Livingstone showed her the sketch from Thompson."

(Well, that's a bit deceptive, wouldn't you say? Livingstone included the statements of two witnesses who admitted they'd never seen the wounds they were describing and that what they were saying was hearsay. Well, no one--most certainly not The Globe--disputed that some of the doctors thought the wound was on the back of Kennedy's head, and that others thought that at one time but had now changed their minds. So what was the point in finding a witness to their saying so, beyond skewing the numbers and giving the impression a higher percentage of the doctors thought the wound was on the far back of the head? I mean, REALLY? We're expected to dismiss the most-recent statements of Jenkins, Perry, and Carrico--three doctors who'd actually worked on Kennedy--and accept the second-hand recollections of Stewart and Hunt, who didn't even see his wounds? And speaking of Hunt, let's recall that in his rejected article for The Sun, Livingstone claimed that she didn't "fully endorse" the autopsy photos. Well, no wonder. She hadn't even seen Kennedy's wounds!)

 It should be noted, however, that Livingstone is more of a zealot than a snake-oil salesman. In the years since High Treason, to his credit, he has published interviews with witnesses that ran counter to his previous claims. In Killing the Truth (1993), he published the transcript of an interview he'd obtained from long-lost Parkland nurse Diana Bowron, in which she told him Kennedy's head wound was "basically almost the size of a saucer, and sort of from the occiput. So there was quite a reasonable amount missing from the top as well." She then drew a top view of Kennedy's head, which Livingstone also published. It had an area on the right side stretching from above the ear on back marked "missing." Well, this was totally at odds with the "McClelland" drawing Livingstone previously had championed.

It seems likely, in fact, that Livingstone has come to doubt the accuracy of the "McClelland" drawing. In High Treason 2, published 1992, he cited a 7-21-81 interview of Parkland Nurse Doris Nelson conducted as a response to The Globe's article the month before, in which she firmly rejected both the autopsy photo of the back of Kennedy's head and the "McClelland" drawing. She told Livingstone: "All I saw was missing skull and brains on the back of his head right there...There wasn't any bone there where that entry hole shows in the picture." When then shown the McClelland drawing, she claimed "It looked like that, but it's too low. It was where the cowlick is in this picture. There was nothing there...The hole in the drawing was too low. It was right there, in the right rear." Well, heck, this confirmed for Livingstone what she'd previously suggested to Bradlee--that the McClelland drawing was inaccurate.

But it's worse than that. When discussing Nelson's rejection of the McClelland drawing, Livingstone added "She said the same thing about that drawing which Dr. McClelland had told me." Oops. Keep in mind that this interview was in 1981 and that High Treason, co-authored by Robert Groden, was not published until 1989. In High Treason, Livingstone (and Groden) claimed Nelson disputed the accuracy of the autopsy photo, but said nothing of her opinion of the McClelland drawing. In it, they claimed McClelland had told the Baltimore Sun and Boston Globe the drawing was "accurate." In the photos section of High Treason, moreover, they claimed that the "McClelland" drawing "was verified by every doctor, nurse, and eyewitness as accurate." Now here was Livingstone, in 1992, admitting that this claim was untrue, and that at least two of the witnesses he'd interviewed in '79 and '81 had told him the wound in the drawing was too low. It's also of interest, then, that Livingstone's 1981 article on his 1979 interview with McClelland claimed "Dr. McClelland said that it (the drawing) accurately portrays what he 'vividly remembers' seeing on the operating table after the president was rushed into emergency." Perhaps, then, Livingstone (and Groden) considered a witness' saying the wound in the McClelland drawing resembled Kennedy's wound a "verification" of its accuracy, even if they said it was in the wrong spot.

If so, then, well, this was something they should have told their readers.

We can assume, moreover, that their failure to share this with their readers was by design, as both men continued pumping out books for decades after they teamed up for their best-seller, and were never known to admit the witnesses they discussed were less than certain the wound was where they (Livingstone and Groden) presumed it to have been. 

And YIKES! This inattention to detail or willingness to deceive--take your pick--is, if anything, more prominent in Groden's subsequent works than Livingstone's. 

JFK and the Unthinkable

Let's recall...

In his best-selling and highly-influential book High Treason, published 1989, Robert Groden held that the wound location depicted in the "McClelland" drawing "was verified by every doctor, nurse, and eyewitness as accurate," and that these witnesses described an "exit wound... almost squarely in the back of the head (the occiput)."

In his more photo-intensive follow-up, The Killing of a President (1993), moreover, Groden appears to back up this claim. The photographs of 18 witnesses pointing to their heads are presented, accompanied by the following text:

"The Parkland Hospital doctors were the best eyewitnesses to the President's wounds. They had at least 20 minutes, and some had longer, to examine the President's injuries immediately after the shooting. The doctors' oral and written statements provided the only reliable clues to the snipers' locations and bullet trajectories..."

From this one might assume the witnesses presented were at Parkland and had 20 minutes or more in which they viewed the President's wounds. But this is far from the case. Only 10 of these witnesses were at Parkland and very few of these witnesses got much of a look at the President.

When one studies the photos of these witnesses, moreover, there's a bigger surprise. Many of these purported "back of the head" witnesses are not actually pointing to a wound location on the back of their heads, as one would guess, but are instead pointing out a wound location on the top or side of the head, at locations just as close or closer to the wound location depicted in the autopsy photos and x-rays as the wound location depicted in the so-called "McClelland" drawing...the drawing they'd purportedly "verified."

(Although Groden, in The Killing of a President, claims Dr. McClelland himself made this drawing, he is clearly mistaken. In June, 2010, Josiah Thompson, who first published the drawing, wrote me and confirmed that while this famous drawing--which has come to represent the "actual" location and appearance of the president's large head wound to many, if not the majority, of conspiracy theorists--was based upon Dr. McClelland's description of the large head wound to the Warren Commission, Dr. McClelland had in fact "had nothing to do with the preparation of the drawing.")

And it's not as if Groden is the only one making false claims about these witnesses... In Murder in Dealey Plaza, published 2000, Dr. David Mantik claimed "virtually every eyewitness described...a large (orange-sized) hole at the right rear of the head...just above the hairline." When given the chance to co-write an article with Dr. Cyril Wecht for The Assassinations (2003), moreover, he repeated this nonsense. He wrote: "The compilations of Gary Aguilar, M.D., have convincingly shown that the Parkland Hospital physicians and nurses, and even the Bethesda autopsy personnel themselves, almost unanimously recalled a large hole at the low right rear of Kennedy's head." And, as if to prove their calling this wound "low" was not a mistake, Mantik and Wecht later asked "Was cerebellum missing at the low right rear, where the Parkland medical witnesses (including six physicians) saw massive trauma?"

Now, look back at the photos in Groden's book reproduced on the previous slides... Is it a true statement that these witnesses "almost unanimously" pointed out a wound location at the LOW right rear of their heads? NO. NO. And HELL NO.

Let's count then and make it official.  First of all, we need to define our terms. For a wound to be LOW on the back of the head, it would have to be at the level of the ear or below, in the location of the wound in the "McClelland" drawing, correct? So let's run back through the photos and note which ones show someone pointing out a wound below the top of their ear.

Beverly Oliver points out a large wound at the level of the ear and above. She represents 1 witness whose recollections are consistent with a wound at the low right rear.

Phil Willis points out a wound above the level of his right ear. This means only 1 of 2 witnesses so far discussed have had recollections consistent with a wound at the low right rear.

Marilyn Willis points out a wound on top of her head. This lowers the ratio to 1 of 3 witnesses.

Ed Hoffman points out a wound at the top of the back of his head. This lowers it further to 1 of 4 witnesses.

Ronald Jones points out a wound above and in back of his ear. This means the recollections of but 1 of 5 witnesses so far discussed are consistent with what Groden, Aguilar, Mantik, and Wecht have been feeding us.

Charles Carrico points out a wound on the back of his head above his ear. The ratio drops to 1 of 6 witnesses. 

Richard Dulaney points out a wound at the top of his head. It spirals downward to 1 of 7 witnesses.

Paul Peters points out a wound above his ear. It's clear now that only 1 of 8 witnesses had recollections consistent with what so many have long claimed.

Kenneth Salyer points out a wound on the side of the head, by the ear. It bottoms out at 1 of 9 witnesses.

Robert McClelland points out a wound on the back of his head, both below and above the top of the ear. This means but 2 of 10 witnesses so far discussed had recollections consistent with a wound at the low right rear.

Charles Crenshaw points out a wound mostly behind the ear. He lifts the ratio back to 3 of 11 witnesses.

Audrey Bell points out a wound at the level of her ear. The ratio soars to 4 of 12 witnesses...1 in 3. 

Theran Ward points out a wound by the ear. It drops back to 4 of 13 witnesses.  

Aubrey Rike points out a wound on the back of the head above the ear. The ratio drops to 4 of 14.

Paul O'Connor points out a wound behind the ear. The ratio rises back to 5 of 15 witnesses. 

Floyd Riebe points out a wound behind the ear. Now, 6 of the 16 witnesses have depicted a wound at the low right rear.

Jerrol Custer points out a wound behind the ear. Now, 7 of the 17 witnesses have depicted a wound consistent with the wound described in the conspiracy literature.

Frank O'Neill points out a wound on the back of his head above the ear.

So there you have it. Only 7 of these 18 witnesses can honestly be claimed to have described a wound at the "low right rear" a la Mantik and Wecht, at the "bottom of the back of the head," a la Lifton, or in the location depicted in the "McClelland" drawing, a la Groden. 7 of 18, need it be said, is not the "almost unanimous" claimed by Mantik and Wecht, based on the research of Aguilar, nor the "every" purported by Groden.

But it's actually worse than that... FAR worse than that.  Now, let's go through Groden's "witnesses" again, taking into account circumstances and statements not provided those relying on Groden's book. 

Groden starts out with the photos of four witnesses who claimed to have seen the shooting.

While Beverly Oliver claims to have been one of the closest witnesses to the shooting, many if not most long time researchers doubt her claims, as she only came forward years after the shooting, and told some pretty wild stories. Even so her description of a wound on the back of the head is in keeping with the wound described by Dr. McClelland, and the drawing prepared by Phillip Johnson. Back of the head witness.

Although Phil Willis made several statements over the years indicating he thought the fatal shot blew out the back of Kennedy's head, he was clearly repeating what his wife and daughters had told him. You see, he'd testified before the Warren Commission that he was not looking at Kennedy at the time of the head shot. Not actually a witness.

Although Marilyn Willis, Phil's wife, was a witness to the head shot, and said the wound was on the "back" of Kennedy's head, and that "brain matter went out the back of the head; it was like a red halo," when ultimately asked to point out the location of the wound she saw from 50 yards or so away, she pointed to a location high on the top of her head above her right ear. Top of the head witness. 

While deaf-mute Ed Hoffman only came forward years after the assassination, and while his stories of watching the shooting from a nearby freeway and then seeing Kennedy's wounds as the limo passed underneath were never fully accepted, he was at least consistent on one point: he always placed the head wound on the top of Kennedy's head. Not always in the same way, mind you. While the photo in Groden's book shows Hoffman with his hand over the crown of his head, and his fingers over the wound location shown in the autopsy photos, other photos found online show him with his hand forward of this location, and more in line with the wound seen on the autopsy photos. Top of the head witness.

Groden then presents the photos of ten witnesses observing Kennedy's wound at Parkland Hospital.

The Impersistence of Memory

As one might expect, the head wound location pointed out by Dr. Robert McClelland is fairly consistent with the head wound location depicted in the so-called "McClelland" drawing. It's fairly consistent but not fully consistent. McClelland's hand in the photo is, in fact, on the back of his head almost entirely above his ear. The front margin of this wound is about two inches higher and further forward than the wound in the drawing. This is not surprising. As previously mentioned, Josiah Thompson, who'd arranged for the drawing's creation, insists that while the drawing was based upon Dr. McClelland's testimony before the Warren Commission, he'd in fact had "nothing to do with" its creation.

What is surprising, however, is that, shortly before Dr. McClelland pointed out the wound location in the image used by Groden, he had pointed out the wound location for the 1988 documentary The Men Who Killed Kennedy, and had at that time placed his hand on the top of his head, above and behind his right ear, an inch or two to the rear of the wound's location in the autopsy photos, but at least three inches forward of its location in the so-called "McClelland" drawing. (That McClelland's placement of his hand above his ear was not a "mistake" is confirmed, moreover, by a drawing he made for the program. Here's the drawing, as posted online by Anthony Marsh.)

Now compare the location of the wound as actually drawn by McClelland to the location of the wound as pushed by men such as David Mantik and Doug Horne. (Here's Horne showing his proposed location for the wound in an interview conducted for Killing Oswald, 2015):

The wounds barely overlap. Approximately 2/3 of the blow-out wound as proposed by Horne lies on a section of the skull McClelland believes was intact.

So yeah, McClelland's recollections of the head wound location are not exactly supportive of the occipital wound pushed by so many in the research community.

And that's being generous. Although he stood at the head of Kennedy in the ER at Parkland and was thus well-positioned to note his fatal wounds, McClelland's initial report claimed the fatal wound was on Kennedy's left temple, and not his right. While he would later claim he wrote this after Dr. Jenkins led him to believe there was a separate entrance on the left temple, this fails to explain why Dr. McClelland wrote that "The cause of death was due to massive head and brain injury from a gunshot wound of the left temple." By writing "of the left temple," as opposed to "to the left temple," McClelland had failed to indicate there was any wound anywhere but on the left temple. This suggests that, perhaps just perhaps, Dr. McClelland actually thought the large head wound was near Kennedy's right temple, and that he'd confused his right with his left after looking at Kennedy upside down.

Now, this might seem unfair. Dr. McClelland appears to be a very nice man, and has been most helpful to researchers and writers. But some of his claims are clearly wrong. On November 4, 2009, he told Canadian radio personality Brent Holland that the "massive" wound on the back of Kennedy's head was "at least five inches in diameter." Such a wound would, of course, envelop the entire head. And the large nature of this wound was no accident. In his 10-17-13 videoconference appearance at the Wecht Conference in Pittsburgh, the wound described by McClelland continued to expand. He now insisted "The whole right side of his skull was gone." And, as if to prove this wasn't a mistake, when describing the shooting itself, McClelland claimed Kennedy "was initially hit from a bullet fired from the sixth floor that went through his back and out through his neck.The next injury was caused by somebody behind the picket fence on the grassy knoll firing a shot that blew out the right side of his head."

So, yeah, feel free to read that again. McClelland, who most conspiracy theorists claim as a hero, and an unshakable teller of truth, believes both that the bullet hitting Kennedy in the back exited his throat (which serves as the foundation of the single-bullet theory) and that the right side of Kennedy's head was blown out, and not just the back. Well, let's think about this last bit. By saying the right side of the head was blown out, McClelland was in effect saying that he recognizes the wound at the top of Kennedy's head shown in the autopsy photos as a wound he saw in Dallas, and that his problem with the back of the head photos is that he thinks the wound extended further back on the skull.

And no, I'm not twisting his words to make it seem so. November 2015 saw the release of Jacob Carter's book When History Dies, which contained yet another interview of McClelland. Fortunately, however, Carter knew which questions to ask, and was able to force McClelland to clarify his views. As to whether McClelland thinks the autopsy photos are at odds with his recollections, and were designed or altered to hide a wound on the back of the head, he replied: "Well, I think it's only that one picture. I discounted that picture because I thought someone was pulling the scalp over it, but someone told me they weren't, but it sure looked like they were. I think they were, so I was not mystified by saying it doesn't look like what I saw. The wounds that I saw when that flap is not covering them were just the kind of same wounds that I had seen in Trauma Room One. That picture where they are pulling the flap up was the only one out of several photos, which didn't jive with what I saw."

So, yes, you read that right. While McClelland believes he saw a wound on the back of the head that is not apparent on the back of the head photos, he also believes this wound extended up on top of the head, and that the rest of the autopsy photos accurately reflect this wound.

Well, that's not what most of those citing McClelland as a hero believe, now is it? They think there was a large wound on the back of the head, that was somehow covered up and made to appear as a large wound on the top of the head in the photos. So, yeah, McClelland--whose recollections are constantly cited as proof the wound on the top of the head in the photos is a fake--believes he saw this wound.

A close look at McClelland's statements, moreover, show this wasn't just something that slipped out of his mouth late in life.

When discussing the drawing made for Thompson with the ARRB in 1998, for example, McClelland noted that "the edge of the parietal bone was sticking up through the scalp. And that's not on this picture" and that the location of the wound in the drawing compared to its actual location was "a little bit lower or it doesn't indicate that there was still a - you know, maybe a shelf of bone left below that." He also made a monstrous gaffe, explaining "but what we were trying to depict here was what the posterior part of the wound looked like. In other words, it's not the entire wound. It's simply the posterior part of it and what I thought of as the critical part of it at that time and still do." Yep. That's right. Dr. McClelland had admitted both that the wound stretched further forward than depicted in the drawing, and that it was not as low on the back of the head. And had added as a bonus that he'd helped create the drawing.

It's actually worse than that. Since at least his appearance in the 1988 Nova program Who Shot President Kennedy?, McClelland has claimed a connection to the "McClelland" drawing that simply does not exist. (In the program McClelland claims "I find no discrepancy between the wounds as they're shown very vividly in these photographs and what I remember very vividly" but then observes that, on the autopsy photos he'd just studied in the archives, "there doesn't seem to be any sort of wound in the area where I had drawn the picture that showed this large hole.") Now, admittedly, that statement by itself is confusing.

But his subsequent statements and actions are not. In Robert Groden's 1993 documentary JFK: The Case for Conspiracy, McClelland holds up a copy of the drawing for the camera and declares "This is the drawing I had made for Josiah Thompson's book." In 1994, even worse, he signed a copy of the "McClelland" drawing for researcher Brad Parker and indicated that he'd personally created the drawing. According to Thompson, of course, McClelland had nothing to do with the drawing's creation. He did not draw it. He was not consulted on its creation. Nada... Ouch.The impersistence of human memory.

And the persistence of human greed. In 2018, I became aware of some drawings actually made by McClelland, in which his recollection of Kennedy's wounds were depicted. These drawings were being sold online, for as much as $10,000.

Well, surprise surprise, they depicted the large head wound on the back of the head, where it's depicted in the drawing made for Thompson, and not where McClelland had long since said the wound was actually located...

As a reminder, here's where McClelland said the wound was located in The Men Who Killed Kennedy (presumably filmed in early 1988). It's at the top right side of the head, above the ear.

And here is where he said the wound was located in Who Shot President Kennedy? (presumably filmed in mid-to-late 1988). It has slipped a bit, and is now both directly above the ear and at the back of the head at the level of the ear. Note that as he points this out, Dr. McClelland says the wound was on "the lateral or the side part of the head, and the back part of the head." This proves his placement of his fingers above his ear, with his right pinky stretched almost to his hairline, is not a mistake. 

Now look where he placed the wound in the drawings later put up for sale...

These wounds were at the level of the ear on the far back of the head. 

Well, something smells, right? The wound location depicted by McClelland in early 1988 was above the right ear and largely corresponded with the wound as depicted in the autopsy photos, but the wound locations depicted in his subsequent drawings were on the far back of the head, and totally at odds with the photos. Hmmm... They were thereby more controversial, and...more valuable on the open market.

Hmmm... Someone was making money off McClelland's liquid memory... And I hope it wasn't him... 

Now I know some will take that as my impugning McClelland's integrity or some such thing... So let me be clear.  I believe McClelland to have been a well-intentioned person, trying to do what was right. But his recollections were all over the place, and he was NOT a reliable witness, at least not as to the exact location of the head wound. I mean, here he is in 2013, pointing out the wound location where he placed it back in 1988--above the ear. 

Now look where Clint Hill placed it when interviewed in 2023...

It's pretty much the same place, right? And yet my fellow conspiracy theorists wil assure you that Clint Hill was a coward and a liar, and Robert McClelland was a courageous truth-teller. And that makes me feel kinda sick. 

In any event, McClelland was a...

Back of the head witness who, when put on the spot, does not support the accuracy of the McClelland drawing, and presumes the authenticity of the autopsy photos.

Now back to our regular programming...

Dr. Paul Peters, as McClelland, tried to have it both ways. Although he is reported to have claimed the wound he saw was in the "occiput" or the back of Kennedy's head, he also told the producers of the PBS program Who Shot President Kennedy?, after viewing Kennedy's autopsy photos in 1988, that the autopsy photos were "pretty much as I remember President Kennedy at the time." 

Here he is in The Men Who Killed Kennedy, released earlier that year, pointing out the location of Kennedy's large head wound. Note that he pointed to the top of the back of his head...the "parietal" region. 

And here he is in Who Shot President Kennedy?

In Groden's book, of course, Peters is shown pointing out a lower location. But we have reason to believe Groden's use of this photo was deceptive, or that Peters had had a momentary lapse of memory. 

He confirmed his support for the legitimacy of the autopsy photos, after all, by telling Gerald Posner in 1992 that the "head wound is more forward than I first placed it. More to the side than to the rear." His 4-17-95 letter to Harrison Livingstone, reprinted in Killing Kennedy (1995), then clarified this point. There, he claimed he saw a "large hole in the occipitoparietal area, estimated about 7 cm, on the right side" and further suggested that he did not see the the cowlick area (which many if not most CTs presume was missing at the time). To wit, he offered "Certainly, none of us attending President Kennedy at the time picked up his head" and that, as a consequence, "I have no idea whether the autopsy pictures which they showed me at the Archives were the real ones or not." When interviewed by the ARRB in August, 1998 and given yet another chance to claim the autopsy photos and x-rays were fake, moreover, he claimed instead that "I was amazed when I saw the first x-ray of the skull — the lateral skull--of the extent of the fragmentation of the skull. I did not appreciate that I think because a lot of it was covered by scalp at the time we worked on him. We were doing a resuscitation, not a forensic autopsy." He had thereby deferred to the accuracy of the x-rays. When discussing the location of the wound in the McClelland drawing, for that matter, he shared: "It looks a little further down in the occiput in this picture." When trying to explain the intact back of the head in the back of the head photo, on the other hand, he claimed: "It was my thought exactly that they just kind of pulled that flap back into place and took a picture so they could show how it looked with things restored as much as possible and it just -- a flap just kind of -- had been torn back and now they were just kind of putting it back and snapping a picture. For what reason, I don't know. But I'm certain there was a hole there, too. I walked around right and looked in his head. You could look directly into the cranial vault and see cerebral injury to the cerebral cortex and I thought at the time to the cerebellum. So I know the hole was big enough to look into. I estimated it at seven centimeters at that time, and I don't know what the actual measurements were when they took the radiographs, but I thought just exactly what Bob, did. They were probably making a series of pictures and they had just pulled that flap back up there to cover it up and took a picture of that to show the head with the flap restored, so to speak, for whatever reason. I'm sure there were many other pictures that were made at the same time." And this wasn't the end of Peters' to and fro, Two months later, in October, 1998, he sent researcher Vince Palamara a drawing of the head wound that shows the wound to be at the back of the head...at the TOP of the back of the head. Here it is...

It's heard to reconcile this drawing with the so-called "McClelland" drawing. Top of the back of the head witness who does not support the accuracy of the McClelland drawing, and presumes the authenticity of the autopsy photos.

Fortunately, Dr. Kenneth Salyer was more consistent than Peters. From his Warren Commission testimony to the present day, Salyer has always claimed the wound was primarily a temporal wound...on the side of the head. The photo in Groden's book, moreover, shows him grabbing the side of his head, just above his ear, an area at least as suggestive of the wound in the photos as the one in the "McClelland" drawing. And this wasn't a coincidence. I was in the JFK Lancer conference audience on 11-21-15 when Salyer made his position on these issues more than clear. He said that Kennedy "had a massive injury of the right temple. It was a massive, large, gaping wound." He was then asked if he thought this shot came from the front and said "No."  He later touched on this again, and said "there was a hole, a massive loss of tissue in the right temporal area." Side of the head witness who supports the accuracy of the autopsy photos.

Dr. Charles Crenshaw, of course, became a star witness for the supposed wound on the "back of the head" when he wrote a book on his experiences in the early nineties. The problem with Crenshaw as a witness, however, is that, not only did he fail to see Kennedy for more than a few seconds, his recollections were not recorded prior to the publication of the "McClelland" drawing showing him how other Parkland witnesses purportedly recalled the wound. Back of the head witness.

Dr. Ronald Jones, as Peters, has claimed many times over the years that the wound was on the back of Kennedy's head. In the photo in Groden's book, however, he points to a wound location slightly to the side of the wound on the "McClelland" drawing. In 1992, even stranger, he described the wound as a "side wound." In 1997, in a letter to researcher Francois Carlier, Jones tried to explain his confusion; he insisted that although he observed a wound on the "posterior aspect of the skull," he was "unable to observe the exact extent or dimensions of this wound" because of his "position at the table on the left side of the President below his arm" while the President was lying "flat on his back." When interviewed by the ARRB in 1998, for what's worse, he offered more excuses, insisting "it was difficult to see down through the hair," and admitting "All my view was from the President's left side." He then clarified this position to researcher Vincent Palamara, first admitting that he really didn't have "a clear view of the back side of the head wound. President Kennedy had very thick dark hair that covered the injured area" and then offering "In my opinion it was in the occipital area in the back of the head." He had thereby confirmed that he'd failed to see the large hole missing scalp and bone depicted in the "McClelland"drawing. Back of the head witness who does not support the accuracy of the McClelland drawing, and defers to the accuracy of the autopsy photos.

As the first doctor to inspect Kennedy upon his arrival at Parkland, Dr. Charles Carrico would certainly have been in good position to accurately note the wound location on Kennedy's head. While the wound location he points to in Groden's book is actually a bit too high for anyone to claim he confirmed the "McClelland" drawing, it's really academic. You see, on January 11, 1978, Dr. Carrico was interviewed by the HSCA staff, and specified that the head wound was "five to seven centimeters, something like that, 2 1/2 by 3 inches, ragged, had blood and hair all around it," and was "located in the part of the parietal occipital region...above and posterior to the ear, almost from the crown of the head." Uhhh, this is clearly NOT the wound depicted in the McClelland drawing. In 1981, when the Boston Globe asked him specifically about the "McClelland" drawing, moreover, Carrico replied  "it was a very large wound as indicated in the drawing. However, I do not believe that the large wound was this far posterior since, one thing I can be certain of, is that we were able to see the majority, if not all of this wound, with the patient laying on his back on a hospital gurney. The location of the wound represented in the drawing suggests that it would barely have been visible, if visible at all, with the patient laying in such a position." When asked to comment on the HSCA's tracing of the back of the head photo, in which the back of the head is intact and the wound is above the ear, moreover, he told them there was "nothing incompatible" between what he remembered and the drawing. Well, that oughta seal it, but if that's not enough, Dr. Carrico eventually made his rejection of the "McClelland" drawing's accuracy crystal clear. In 1992, he told single-assassin salesman Gerald Posner that if he and his colleagues had initially claimed the head wound was in the occipital bone, instead of the parietal bone, they "were mistaken." Yep. It's a slam dunk case. Dr. Carrico rejected the accuracy of the McClelland drawing, and deferred to the accuracy of the autopsy photos. Back of the head witness who does not support the accuracy of the McClelland drawing, and defers to the accuracy of the autopsy photos.

Although Dr. Richard Dulaney made a number of statements over the years suggesting the large head wound was on the back of Kennedy's head, the wound location he points to in Groden's book and video is up at the top of the head...as close to the wound depicted in the autopsy photos as the one depicted in the "McClelland" drawing. Only making matters worse for those claiming him as a "back of the head" witness, moreover, is that, in 1988, after viewing the autopsy photos, he told the producers of the television program Nova "I don't see any evidence of any alteration of his wound in these pictures from what I saw in the emergency room." Top of the head witness who defers to the accuracy of the autopsy photos.

Nurse Audrey Bell is similar to Dr. Crenshaw in that, while she has been consistent in her claim that the wound was on the back of Kennedy's head, there is no record of her making this claim prior to the 1980's, long after the "McClelland" drawing was published in Six Seconds in Dallas. Back of the head witness.

Justice of the Peace Theran Ward is also similar to Dr. Crenshaw, in that he really didn't get much of a look at the head wound. Even so, when one looks at the interview with Ward in Groden's Case for Conspiracy video, and in the image on the slide above, it's clear that Ward, much as Dr. Salyer, felt the wound was on the side of Kennedy's head, and not the back. Side of the head witness.

This brings us to the final Parkland witness presented in Groden's book. And he wasn't even a witness... While ambulance driver Aubrey Rike claimed he felt a hole in the back of Kennedy's head (above his ear) as he helped put Kennedy's body in a casket, he always admitted the head was covered at the time, and that he never actually saw the wound. When one looks at his earliest statements, moreover, it seems clear the "hole" Rike felt was actually not a hole of both scalp and bone, as pushed by so many, but shattered skull beneath the scalp. To wit, he told the audience at a 1991 conference put on by Harrison Livingstone that it was "real mushy" at the top of the back of the head, but that he could nevertheless feel "pieces of bone sticking in his hand."  Not actually a witness.

We now move to the Bethesda "back of the head" witnesses... The statements of these witnesses, purported to confirm the Parkland doctors' account of the wounds, should seal the deal if there was really a wound on the back of the head behind the ear.

Unfortunately, they do no such thing. While radiology tech Jerrol Custer made many statements over the years indicating that he thought the autopsy photos and X-rays were faked, he actually told the ARRB, after having finally been shown the original X-rays, that they were indeed the ones he took on 11-22-63, and that he had been in error. He even specified that the x-rays showed an absence of bone in the parietal region and the temporal region behind the right eye, but a presence of bone in the occipital region. Now, some will say "But of course he caved, he was scared to death" but they really haven't done their homework. Custer told the ARRB a number of things which defied the official story of the assassination. He just didn't tell them what so many conspiracy theorists wanted him to say.

And it's not as if he changed his statements for the ARRB. Custer was interviewed by Tom Wilson in 1995. As quoted in Donald Phillips' book on Wilson's research, A Deeper, Darker Truth (2009), Custer told Wilson there was a "King-sized hole" in the top right region of Kennedy's head, and that Kennedy's skull was like "somebody took a hardboiled egg and just rolled it around until it was thoroughly cracked...Part of the head would bulge out, another part would sink in. The only thing that held it together was the skin. And even that was loose."

It should come as no surprise, then, that Custer pretty much repeated this in his 1997 testimony before the ARRB. He recalled: "The head was so unstable, due to the fractures. The fractures were extremely numerous. It was like somebody took a hardboiled egg, and just rolled it in their hand. And that's exactly what the head was like...This part of the head would come out. This part of the head would be in...The only thing that held it together was the skin. And even that was loose." He then described "a gaping hole in the right parietal region" and specified that "none" of the "missing" bone was occipital bone.

Don't believe me? When testifying before the ARRB, Custer added lines to an anatomy drawing of the rear view of the skull. The slanted lines represented the area of the skull that was unstable but extant beneath the scalp when he first viewed the body. Here it is:

The occipital bone was intact beneath the skin.

To wit, when asked by Jeremy Gunn if the wound on the back of the head stretched into the occipital bone (where Gunn's assistant Doug Horne and Horne's close associate David Mantik, among others, place the wound), Custer replied "The hole doesn't" and then clarified that the occipital region from the lambdoid suture to the occipital protuberance (basically the upper half of the occipital bone which Horne and Dr. Mantik claim was missing) "was all unstable material. I mean, completely." "Unstable" isn't "missing."

And this wasn't just a short-lived thing--a quick retreat before, and during questioning, by the government. In 1998, Custer was interviewed by William Law for his book In The Eye of History. When asked about the supposed wound on the back of the head, Custer corrected: "Here's where a lot of researchers screw up. Not the back of the head. Here's the back of the head (Custer then pointed to the area of the head in contact with the head holder in the left lateral autopsy photo). The occipital region. The defect was in the frontal-temporal region. Now, when you have the body lying like that, everybody points to it and says, 'That’s the back of the head.' No! That’s not the back of the head." He then pointed to the top of the head on the left lateral autopsy photo: "That’s the top of the head!" Law then asked Custer how, if the wound was where researchers claim it was, the head could have rested on the head holder used in the autopsy. Custer then specified: "Because the back of the head wasn’t blown out. This was still intact." (As he said this, he pointed to the lower portion of the back of the head in the left lateral autopsy photo). He continued: "It may not have been perfectly intact, there were fractures in there of course with all the destruction. If the back of the head was gone, there would be nothing there to hold the head up...The (head holder) would have been all inside."

Now this, of course, was years after the publication of Groden's book. Even so, when one watches Groden's video, JFK: The Case For Conspiracy, one can see that Custer was never really a "back of the head" witness, as he does not point out a wound on the back of Kennedy's head, as suggested by the frame used in Groden's book, but drags his hand across the entire top of his head while claiming the wound he saw stretched "From the top of the head almost to the base of the skull..." He was thereby describing the wound's appearance after the scalp was reflected, and the brain was removed. (In support of this proposition, it should be noted that he'd also claimed there was no brain in the skull that he could remember.)

Now I know this comes as a shock to many readers. Custer is a hero to those claiming the back of Kennedy's head was missing. Even though he is actually one of the strongest witnesses supporting that it was not missing. Just think of it. When preparing to take the A-P x-ray, Custer lifted Kennedy's head up to place it on the cassette holding the x-ray film. IF the back of Kennedy's head was missing, Kennedy's brain would have rested directly on this cassette. Custer would undoubtedly have noticed such a thing, and almost certainly have remembered such a thing. And yet Custer not only never mentioned such a thing, he actively disputed that such a thing occurred.

Not a back of the head witness. Defers to the accuracy of the autopsy photos and x-rays.

(It's unfortunate, in retrospect, that Custer died before he got the chance to shoot down some renegade theories. Custer died in 2000. The 2003 book The Assassinations featured an article by Dr. David Mantik and Dr. Cyril Wecht in which they discussed the ramifications of the optical density data accumulated by Mantik while Custer was still alive and answering questions. They concluded from the lateral x-rays that Kennedy's brain was torn loose from the dura--and that it had settled down onto the back of the head. They then used the optical density of a "dark band on the frontal x-ray just below the right orbit, where posterior bone appeared to be absent" to approximate the amount of brain remaining on the right side. Well, heck, if this posterior bone was indeed absent, as subsequently claimed by Mantik, this puts the brain directly on the cassette, at worst, or on inexplicably intact scalp, at best. Nope, not going for it.)

So let's be clear. Neither Jerrol Custer nor Edward Reed, the radiology tech who assisted Custer on the night of the autopsy, saw a big ole hole low on the back of Kennedy's head at the beginning of the autopsy. Custer, as we've seen, denied seeing such a hole in his 1997 ARRB testimony. And Reed did the same. When asked about the head wound by Jeremy Gunn, Reed testified that it was in the "temporal parietal region, right side...slightly anterior" to the ear. In other words...just where it is shown in the autopsy photos.

This brings us to Paul O'Connor. While O'Connor, as Custer, had made many statements over the years suggesting the autopsy photos and X-rays had been faked, his credibility, seeing as he'd depicted the wound location in the upper right quadrant of the back of the head in a drawing he'd created for the HSCA, and then moved it to beneath the top of the ear years later, was questionable. In Groden's video The Case for Conspiracy, moreover, O'Connor repeated Custer's performance almost word for word, stating there was "an open area all the way across into the rear of the brain right there," while pointing out the dimensions of this hole--basically the dimensions of the hole after Kennedy's scalp had been reflected, and his brain had been removed. O'Connor, as Custer, also claimed no brain was in the skull when he observed the large defect. He was thereby, like it or not, supporting the accuracy of the autopsy photos and the official story of the wounds. And this wasn't a one-time thing for O'Connor. When interviewed by Noel Twyman for Twyman's book Bloody Treason, O'Connor claimed "I observed a huge gaping hole in the side of the president's head...The right side of the head. It went from above the hairline on the right side through the parietal and the occipital area and down and around to the right temporal area of the skull...It was a very irregular jagged wound. And what astounded me is when I looked at it, I had never seen anything like it in my life. And it looked like a bomb went off inside of his head. We noticed when we lifted him onto the table that the rest of the skull that was supposed to be attached was all fractured to pieces too... Comminuted. Like somebody takes a hard-boiled egg and drops it on the floor..."

The image below, to be clear, was created by O'Connor for researcher Kim Reinholt and published in the November 2004 issue of The Dealey Plaza Echo. 

In sum, then, O'Connor was probably blurring together his recollections of the skull as first observed and as observed after the removal of the brain. In any event, he was not describing the wound low on the back of the head depicted in the "McClelland" drawing. (It should be noted, moreover, that the wound described by O'Connor resided entirely on the right side of the head and that his recollections of the wound thereby stands in stark contrast to the "blow-out" on the middle of the back-of-the-head proposed by Mantik and Horne.) Entire right side of the head witness.

And then there's Floyd. Much as Jerrol Custer, Floyd Riebe made many statements suggesting the autopsy photos were fake--in Groden's book, he even pointed at the location of the wound in the "McClelland" drawing. Once shown the original photos by the ARRB, however, he, too, deferred to their accuracy. Back of the head witness who defers to the accuracy of the autopsy photos.

This leaves us with Frank O'Neill, one of the two FBI agents to observe Kennedy's autopsy. While O'Neill told pretty much anyone with an interest--the HSCA, the ARRB, and a string of independent researchers from the 80's to the 00's--that the large head wound included part of the back of Kennedy's head, he always placed this wound at the top of the back of the head, inches above the wound in the "McClelland" drawing. He also claimed, in his official report on the autopsy, that a "high velocity bullet had entered the rear of the skull and had fragmentized prior to exit through the top of the skull." Presumably, he thought this wound was both an entrance and an exit. On 1-10-78, he spoke to the HSCA and further confused things. The contact report on this discussion revealed: "the autopsy doctors felt that the bullet that entered the head struck the center, low portion of the head, and exited from the top, right side, towards the front." Hmmm... That doesn't sound like a back of the head witness, now does it? On April 4, 1992, finally, O'Neill participated in a panel discussion before an audience at the Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, New Hampshire, and both confirmed that he thought this wound was both an entrance and an exit, and explained why he thought a large section of the wound was on the back of Kennedy's head. (A transcript for this discussion was placed online by Allan Eaglesham. Thanks, Allan.) O'Neill reported that "during the autopsy, later stages of the autopsy" the Secret Service brought in a fragment "of a skull, which was found in Dallas in the car. And it turns out that it could be matched perfectly with part of the missing, part of the missing skull in the head—and there’s beveling on that which coincides with the beveling on the eh, the eh, on the back of the president’s head here." He then pointed to the back of his head, by the EOP.

Well, this was where the autopsy report placed a through and through entrance wound. According to their initial reports and testimony, the doctors found exit beveling on the fragment found in the car, and this confirmed to them that the exit wound was at the top of the head. This convinced them then that the bullet entered low and exited high. Apparently, however, O'Neill was never told of the through and through entrance wound by the EOP. As a result, he couldn't properly understand how the doctors came to the conclusion the bullet entered low and exited high. Presumably, then, he came to conclude that the beveling on the late-arriving fragment completed the entrance wound by the EOP. And this, in turn, led him to believe the late-arriving fragment derived from the back of the head.

While this is undoubtedly intriguing--particularly in that, from the seventies on, Dr. Boswell remembered a fragment fitting into the skull in the same manner--it also underlines the reality of O'Neill's recollections. The man felt certain the wound was entirely above the EOP, and felt sure it was both an entrance and exit wound, NOT an exit wound for a bullet hitting Kennedy on the front of his head.

This screen shot presents O'Neill's depiction of Kennedy's large head wound as observed on 11-22-63. It comes from a 1992 video entitled Witness v. Research, in which O'Neill vehemently defended the integrity of Kennedy's autopsy, and argued against the possibility Kennedy's body was altered. There is very little overlap, moreover, between the wound location depicted by O'Neill and the wound location depicted in the "McClelland" drawing.

And yet a large sector of the "research" communtiy continues to cite O'Neill as evidence for the accuracy of the "McClelland" drawing! Uhhh... STOP THIS. Top of the head witness.

So now a final tally... Of the 18 witnesses presented by Groden to demonstrate that the bulk of the Parkland and Bethesda witnesses believed there was an exit on the far back of the head--an exit purported to be centered in the occipital bone--2 never saw the wound, 2 depicted a wound encompassing the entire right side of the head, 2 depicted the wound on the side of the head, 4 depicted the wound on the top of the head, and 3 depicted a wound on the back of the head, but apparently came to accept they were mistaken, and deferred to the accuracy of the autopsy photos. This means that only 5 witnesses actually believed the wound was on the far back of Kennedy's head, and 2 of these--Peters and McClelland, were inconsistent in their statements but ultimately claimed they believed the wound to be further forward than in the "McClelland" drawing. This means that but 3 witnesses felt comfortable asserting the large head wound was really behind the ear in the occipital bone, as purported by most conspiracy theorists and as presented in the "McClelland" drawing: Crenshaw, Bell, and Oliver. 

Well, Crenshaw, Bell and Oliver never described the wound location until many years after the "McClelland" drawing was published. And Oliver, when describing the wound to Robert Groden for his video, JFK: The Case for Conspiracy, told him "The whole back of (Kennedy's) head went flying out the back of the car," something no one--not even Groden--honestly believes.

This leaves Crenshaw and Bell as the only two witnesses presented by Groden who can reasonably be taken as confirming the wound depicted in the "McClelland" drawing. 

And their credibility--already questionable due to the many years between the time of the shooting and the time they first began describing the wound--was pretty much eradicated by the ARRB. 

Credibility Check

It is important here to recount Dr. Crenshaw's previous descriptions of Kennedy's head wound. (Most of these were drawn from  JFK: The Medical Evidence Reference, by Vincent Palamara but the first was brought to my attention by Micah Mileto in 2024.)

Our first Crenshaw sighting comes on 11-22-83, when an article put together for the 20th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination is publshed in the Philadelphia Daily News. This article, written by Debbie Price, is fairly short but does share the memories of two of the doctors involved in Kennedy's treatment--Dr. Charles Baxter, who testified before the Warren Commission, and Dr. Crenshaw,  who was at this time unknown to all but a few researchers on the case. While Crenshaw is not quoted directly on the President's mortal wound, other than to say it was "a mortal wound,", writer Debbie Price fills in the blank by sharing "the right side of Kennedy's skull and brain were gone, a certain indication that he had been killed instantly, althought there was a faint pulse when he arrived at Parkland, the doctors said." The doctors--plural--said...! So here in his first recorded comment on the President's head wound, Dr. Crenshaw says nothing about the wound's being on the far back of the head, and is purported to have described the wound in a similar fashion as Baxter, i.e. to have placed it on the right side of the head, . 

Years pass before we have another Crenshaw sighting. Perhaps he reads a book or two or three on the assassination in this period. In any event...

In 1992, Dr. Crenshaw's book Conspiracy of Silence arrives on the scene and claims that the "entire right cerebral hemisphere appeared to be gone...From the damage I saw, there was no doubt in my mind that the bullet had entered his head through the front, and as it surgically passed through his cranium, the missile obliterated part of the temporal and all the parietal and occipital lobes before it lacerated the cerebellum." Well, this doesn't sound like the exit wound on the back of the head purported by most conspiracy theorists, now does it? It sounds more like a giant wound enveloping a large portion of the top, side, and back of the head.

But, if so, this impression didn't last long. On April 2, 1992, Crenshaw appears on ABC's 20/20 news program, and points to his hairline above his right eye, and explains that, in his opinion, the bullet went "from here through," whereby he points to the back of his head below and behind his ear. He then finishes the interviewer's sentence, explaining that this bullet took out "The back or the occipital part--the back of your head." He then reiterates, while pointing to a location behind and well below the top of his right ear that "This was gone, in our view. And we could see the cerebellum." He then explains that if the bullet had come from behind, it would have exploded from the top of Kennedy's head, whereby he points out the wound location shown on the autopsy photos and Zapruder film. This makes it clear he recalled no such wound. 

Within days, however, he makes a number of appearances which draw into question just what he recalls. As demonstrated in a video later put up on YouTube, Crenshaw makes an appearance on a Philadelphia news program called Evening Magazine. When describing the President's wounds, to be clear, he slurs: "The wounds that I personally saw was a small anterior entrance wound here in the throat, and the large avaultered (sic--I think he meant avulsed) hole in the right part of the back, including part of the parietal, the temple, and all of the occipital bone."

As he said this last part, moreover, he points to the location of the wound he was describing--Kennedy's large head wound--the one presented at the level of Kennedy's right ear in the supposed McClelland drawing, you know, the drawing supposedly proved accurate by Crenshaw's recollections. And yet the wound location Crenshaw points out here is roughly THREE INCHES above where it is presented in the supposed McClelland drawing. THREE INCHES. (This is shown below, in a comparison between the location pointed out by Crenshaw on 20/20, Evening Magazine, and The Killing of a President.)

A few minutes later in the program, moreover, Crenshaw only adds to the confusion. Claiming he eventually got a chance to inspect the President's head wound, he describes: "The bullet had come in--gone through the parietal, some of the temple, and occipital--and out. And below that the cerebellum--this is a small part of the brain, that is protected by the cerebral hemisphere--and all of this brain tissue was gone. This was a huge cavity." 

So why was this confusing? Let's be clear. Crenshaw had just claimed the bullet entered the front of Kennedy's skull and exited the back of his skull above his ear. And now he seems to be saying this bullet had essentially obliterated Kennedy's cerebellum in its passage. Except...the location of the exit wound, as pointed out by Crenshaw, is inches above the location of Kennedy's cerebellum.

It's all clear as...mud...

Now things get even muddier, which is to say, real real muddy. This same month, April 1992, Crenshaw writes a letter to writer Harrison Livingstone, in which he claims the bullet striking Kennedy "to the right rear side of his head, obliterated part of the parietal, part of the temporal, and all of the occipital area. This resulted in a gaping hole, the size of a baseball, in the back of the head, and the cerebellum was hanging on a thread of tissue outside the wound." This letter was read at an April 30, 1992 press conference called by Livingstone. Note that Crenshaw has now retreated from his conjecture the bullet entered the forehead. Note also that he has stopped musing on the damage to the parietal and temporal lobes of the brain, which could not be readily observed through the hole on the back of the head. 

In June, moreover, Crenshaw spoke at the First Midwest Symposium, a conference on the Kennedy assassination. Here, he reports that the wound he saw was in the "parietal occipital area" and was "an obvious exit wound." He even points out its location as he speaks...

Well, this was slightly above the wound he described on 20/20. But it was also well below where he placed the wound for Evening Magazine. Perhaps, then, Dr. Crenshaw had decided that the first location was too low and the second too high, and had decided to settle on some place in the middle. 

On July 22, 1992, Dr. Crenshaw is finally interviewed by the FBI. The report on this interview asserts that Dr. Crenshaw claimed that "The head wound was located at the back of the President’s head and was the approximate size of Doctor CRENSHAW’s fist. It extended from the approximate center of the skull in the back to just behind the right ear, utilizing a left to right orientation, and from a position a couple of inches above the right ear to the approximate middle of the right ear utilizing a top to bottom orientation." The report further explained that Dr. Crenshaw’s "description which indicates that the wound extended from the hairline back behind the ear and to the back of the head was ‘poorly worded'" in his book and that "The correct description indicates that the wound was located entirely at the rear of the head behind the right ear.” Okay, so here we finally get some clarification. Crenshaw has indeed retreated from the descriptions of brain damage in his book, and is now claiming, in opposition to what he told 20/20, that the wound stretched from the right top of Kennedy's head behind his right ear to the middle of the back of his head.

On September 4, 1992, furthermore, the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association calls a press conference, and challenges Dr. Crenshaw's recollections and overall credibility. Crenshaw is then interviewed on radio station WBAI. (His comments were transcribed by researcher John DiNardo, and saved for posterity and re-posted for our edification by Bernice Moore.) Here Crenshaw clarifies that "The head wound was tangential in nature, coming in over the right side, above his ear, and leaving a large exit area, avulsed area in the right-rear part of the head. There was loss of part of the parietal, temporal and most of the occipital lobe of the right cerebral hemisphere, with exposure of the cerebellum. It was about two-and-a-half to two- and-three-fourths inches in diameter. It was more or less circular." Well, this pretty much supports what he told the FBI, and is pretty much what the other Parkland witnesses remembered. Gone is his earlier suggestion the bullet entered Kennedy's forehead above his right eye. Gone is his earlier claim the exit on the back of the head was below the top of his ear. He saw but ONE WOUND on Kennedy's head, which he assumed to be of entrance and exit, with avulsed, or inside-out skull.

He has thereby described the wound shown on the autopsy photos, only inches further back.

He has retracted his claims in smaller, less noticeable, ways as well. While he'd previously said "all" the occipital lobe and "all the occipital area" were obliterated, he now said there was a loss of "most of the occipital lobe."

Now, perhaps Crenshaw's memory was not at fault. Perhaps, instead, he was merely prone to exaggeration. One notes that the damage that had once engulfed part of the temporal, all of the parietal and all the occipital has over a fairly short time morphed into damage engulfing part of the temporal, part of the parietal, and most of the occipital.

Still, this doesn't make Crenshaw so unreliable that one can readily dismiss his claim some occipital was involved, does it? This last description, after all, was fairly consistent--meaning within an inch or so--with the wound location presented by Crenshaw in The Killing of a President, which is itself fairly consistent with the McClelland drawing.

So, what's the problem?

Credibility Gap

The problem is that, in 1997, when asked by the ARRB to mark the head wound location on an anatomy drawing of a skull viewed from behind, Crenshaw placed this wound almost entirely on the occipital bone, behind and almost entirely below the top of Kennedy's ear. This is about two inches below and further back from the location he'd described to the FBI. More telling, when asked to mark the wound location on a lateral drawing of the skull, Crenshaw placed the wound on the occipital and parietal bone, an inch or so lower, and perhaps as much as two inches forward, from the location he'd marked on the drawing from behind. 

Now, something is just wrong here. While the upper margin of the wound location depicted by Crenshaw in The Killing of the President was roughly at the level of the middle of the forehead, the upper margin of the wound on this lateral drawing was roughly at the middle of the eye socket. This raises serious, and I mean serious, questions not only about Dr. Crenshaw's memory, but his grasp of basic anatomy.

But what about Nurse Audrey Bell? Well, first of all, there are reasons to doubt she even saw Kennedy's head wound.  To be clear, there is nothing in the Warren Commission's records indicating she saw the wound or even attended the President in Trauma Room One. She filed no report saying so. And no one known to be in the room mentioned her as someone who'd been in the room. Now, she did come forward in a November 1967 article in the AORN Journal (AORN = the Association of Operating Room Nurses) that was re-published in The American Association of Industrial Nurses Journal the next April. But she failed to describe Kennedy's wounds outside of saying she'd  noticed "a massive head wound" after cutting Kennedy's shirt from his right arm and positioning a tracheotomy tray for Dr. Perry. And she was similarly vague when speaking to David Lifton in 1982. According to Lifton, she said the head wound was so localized on the back of the head that she couldn't see it from Kennedy's right hand side. 

So why should we doubt her? Well, by 3-20-97, when she was interviewed by Jeremy Gunn and Doug Horne of the ARRB, Bell's story had morphed into her arriving after Dr. Perry had performed the tracheotomy, and to her then spending 3-5 minutes in Trauma Room One, during which she asked Dr. Perry the location of the head wound, and he showed her the wound by turning Kennedy's head to the left.  Now, to repeat, not one of the doctors and nurses filing reports on Kennedy's treatment  in the immediate aftermath of the assassination, or testifying before the Warren Commission, mentioned her presence in the room in their intial reports and testimony, or verified she'd been there when she later came forward. And yet here she was, making out that she not only got a glimpse of the head wound, but that she was shown the head wound by the handsome Dr. Perry. Because, you know, doctors tasked with saving the lives of important people will put their efforts on hold to show the patient's wounds to nursing supervisors. (Now, I'm sorry if this sounds insulting to nursing supervisors, but I am the son and brother of former nursing supervisors--heck, as my sister is my stem cell donor, I partially AM a nursing supervisor--and they would be the first to tell you that while a supervisor might get roped into helping out in an emergency, that supervisor would be totally out of line to ask a doctor in the middle of trying to save someone's life...to show them the patient's wounds.)

So, yeah, Bell's story smells right there.  But my ding ding ding bullshit detector really goes off when we look at Bell's related statements. While she claimed she'd  taken custody of a "bullet fragment" removed from Connally and gave this to The Department of Public Safety (The Texas Highway Patrol) in her 1967 article, she told the HSCA in 1977 and the ARRB in 1997 that she'd taken custody of multiple fragments, four or five, and three to five, respectfully, and gave them to an FBI or Secret Service agent. Well, this caused quite the stir. Who took these fragments, and why did only one end up in the record, etc? And why were we told the fragments had been given to a Highway Patrolmen, instead of the FBI or Secret Service? Were "they" hinding the deliberate disappearance of these frag In any event, Bell's own words prove her to have been, at the very least, spreading fresh manure on an already shit-stained carpet when she claimed she'd handed multiple fragments over to the FBI or SS. Well, it only follows then that her even-later-in-life claims she was shown the President's head wound, and that it was on the far back of the head in the location depicted in the so-called McClelland drawing...was another blast of BS. We'll never know for sure, of course. But we just can't believe her. 

And not just her. In 2024 I spoke about Bell with veteran researcher Gary Murr, and he told me something surprising. It turns out that in 1999 he'd found a receipt for the fragment Bell had handed off to the Texas Highway Patrol, just sitting there in the archives. It was signed by her, and signed by Bobby Nolan, the Texas Highway Patrolmen to whom she'd given the fragment. It was, to all appearances, legitimate. So he tried to ask her about it. He wrote four letters by his count asking her about this and other issues--such as why her recollections of the appearance of the "fragments" she now claimed she'd handled had bore no resemblance to the fragments apparent on Connally's x-rays. But she ignored Gary and ultimately refused his letters. Now that's not all that surprising. A lot of witnesses prefer to be left alone. 

Now here's the surprising part. He also found a memo from ARRB analyst Joe Freeman to ARRB chief Jeremy Gunn...alerting him to this receipt, in the lead-up to Gunn's questioning of Bell about what happened in Dallas. Well, why didn't Gunn or his assistant Doug Horne ask her about this? Did they feel sorry for her? Or was Gunn so scared of confronting an old woman,  and Horne so anxious to support his pet theories, even if it meant propping up a witness he knew to be a problem,  that they decided not to pursue the matter? Call me curious. 

Okay, more than curious...suspicious. In 2009 Doug Horne published an account of Bell's testimony in his book Inside the Assassination Records Review Board. Here, he held Bell up as an important witness--not just for her claims about the fragments and head wound, but for her similarly suspicious claim Dr. Perry had confided in her on the morning of 11-23 that he'd been hounded all night by people from Bethesda Hospital, the site of the autopsy, trying to get him to change his impression of the throat wound. Well, if true, this would undermine Dr. Humes' claim he didn't know there was a throat wound until talking to Perry the next morning. So, of course, Horne--who believes Humes was part of a dark and mysterious plot--embraces it as gospel, even though it could very well be a 40 years' later recollection distorted by time, of Dr. Perry's telling her he received a call that morning, in which Dr. Humes had said they (the autopsy doctors) thought the wound was an exit. In any event, after using Bell to spin his tale of suspicion, Horne pronounces Bell "an unimpeachable witness of sterling character with tremendous credibility." (Now this is where we cough into our hands and mutter "Bullshit...Bullshit..." Keep in mind that this was ten years after Murr had found the receipt for the fragment--singular--that Bell would later insist was fragments--plural.)

Anyhoo... When asked by  Gunn and Horne  to depict the wound location on an anatomy drawing of a skull viewed from behind, Bell depicted the wound even lower on the occipital bone than Crenshaw. She depicted it so low, in fact, that, it was in clear contradiction with the earliest reports and statements of Dr. William Kemp Clark, the only doctor at Parkland to actually examine the wound, and even Dr. McClelland, who told the Warren Commission that "the parietal bone was protruded up through the scalp and seemed to be fractured almost along its right posterior half." 

And it gets worse... Much as Crenshaw, Bell couldn't even be consistent from one drawing to the next. While she depicted the wound both above and below the level of the External Occipital Protuberance on the anatomy drawing presenting the skull as seen from the rear, she presented the wound entirely above the EOP on the drawing of the lateral view. (This can be seen both in Volume 1 of Doug Horne's Inside the ARRB and on the slide above.)

NOT on the Back of the Head Witnesses

Still, even if one were to pretend Crenshaw and Bell were credible, one can't simply assume the wound was where they said it was, when so many equally or more credible witnesses, when later put to the test and asked where they saw the wound, either pointed to a location NOT on the far back of the head behind the ear, OR deferred to the accuracy of the autopsy photos. 

Or, to put it another way... For years people have been getting away with insinuating that all witnesses describing a large head wound different than the one seen in the autopsy photos were really describing the wound on the back of the head in the location of the wound in the "McClelland" drawing, a wound on the occipital bone from which cerebellum flowed....when in reality many of these so-called "back of the head" witnesses were "NOT on the back of the head" witnesses.

Now, I am far from the first to notice this. Not only have single-assassin theorists such as John McAdams taken the time to point out that many of the Parkland witnesses described a wound not on the back of the head, but conspiracy theorists such as the late Hal Verb have done so as well. In fact, in 1998, Verb aroused the ire of the same clique as I when he pointed out in a series of articles and letters in the assassination journal The Fourth Decade that the eyewitnesses suggested there was in fact no blow-out on the back of the head.

I do suspect, however, that I am the first to point out that the photographs of the witnesses pointing out the wound location--the very photographs purported to PROVE there was a wound on the far back of the head--prove no such thing. And, thankfully, I'm no longer the only one noticing this.

On December 12, 2010, on the Education Forum, my contention that the location of the wound described and depicted by the witnesses failed to match the descriptions of the wound location provided by most conspiracy theorists received some much appreciated support. In response to a post by Dr. James Fetzer, in which he claimed I was wrong and that the "McClelland" drawing really was drawn by Dr. McClelland, Six Seconds in Dallas author Josiah Thompson wrote:

"It is one of the oldest mistakes in JFK research to ascribe the the sketch in Six Seconds[u] to Dr. McClelland. I've been telling people for years that McClelland had nothing to do with the preparation of this sketch. I took a Polaroid photo of the right back of my head and sent it to a medical illustrator in Philadelphia. I included the actual text of McClelland's description of the Kennedy back of the head wound and paid the medical illustrator to draw it. Hence, it is just false that Dr. McClelland made the sketch. I never even asked him for his opinion on the sketch. The sketch then is the interpretation of a medical illustrator of what Dr. McClelland described.

Pat Speer "comes up with this stuff" by doing what a good researcher ought to do: asking questions and getting direct answers from people who are in a position to know.

His analysis of the various descriptions of damage to the back of Kennedy's head is quite illuminating. He should be praised for not accepting the usual superficial interpretations of these witness reports. So fume as much as you like, but Pat Speer is 100% correct and you are 100% incorrect.

Josiah Thompson "

SO...let's be honest here. The mythical wound at the "low right rear" of Kennedy's head is not the only deception regarding the medical evidence cultivated by sellers of conspiracy. For years, conspiracy theorists have been misled into believing not only that the statements of the "back of the head witnesses" were incredibly consistent, but that the location for the wound they were describing overlay the "white patch" on Kennedy's lateral skull x-ray, the shadowy area on the back of Kennedy's head in the Zapruder film, the location proposed by Dr. Cairns for the Harper fragment, and the hole seen in the "McClelland" drawing. This just isn't true. 

Beyond that many of the purportedly back of the head witnesses were actually describing a wound on top of the head, and that some of these witnesses, including head nurse Doris Nelson, who told researchers the wound was on the back of the head but then pointed to the location shown on the autopsy photos when posing for Life Magazine (as shown here), were clearly unreliable, the head wound described by most witnesses was toward the top of the head, mostly above the white patch on the x-ray, and the purportedly painted-in area on the Z-film frames. This area, moreover, was largely on the parietal bone, above the area depicted in the "McClelland" drawing, and inches away from where the Harper fragment purportedly exploded from the occipital bone.

This, then, raises a question...have we been conned? Have those claiming elements of the government conspired to deceive us about the President's head wounds been involved in a conspiracy of their own, namely, to make us think there was a large hole low on the back of Kennedy's head?

The Case For Conspiracy

When one compares the interviews presented in Robert Groden's 1993 video JFK: The Case For Conspiracy with the synopsis of these interviews presented in his 1993 book The Killing of a President, moreover, one can find clear-cut evidence for deception. In the video, Dr. Paul Peters points out his recollection of the head wound location. As shown on the slide above, it was at the crown of Kennedy's head. So why does Groden, in his book, present a photo of Peters pointing to the far back of his head, barely above his ears? Was Groden pulling a fast one in order to help sell that Peters' recollections were consistent with the proposition the Harper fragment was occipital, and that the "McClelland" drawing was accurate? 

If so, then the irony is palpable. David Lifton, in the 2011 forum post cited above, cited Peters' 1966 recollection of looking down into Kennedy's wound and seeing cerebellum as evidence the wound was low on the back of Kennedy's head on the occipital bone, and the Harper fragment was occipital bone. Lifton hates Groden...so much so that he wrote a near-book length article on Groden's deceptions for the 2003 book The Great Zapruder Film Hoax.. Well, here was Peters, in a 1993 Groden video, claiming the head wound was 4 inches or so above where Lifton still claims Peters thought it was. This blows Lifton, who boasted, after all, that "There is no comparison between an "eyewitness to the shooting"--who may have had a fleeting glimpse of the President (and his wounding), a glimpse lasting a few seconds, and the observations of someone like Dr. Peters, who was in the Emergency Room, and had a chance to observe the wounds at close hand (just inches away), and with the experience of a trained physician" completely out of the water.

The irony, then, is that Groden, in his book, presents an image of Peters (from apparently the same interview as the one shown in his video) pointing to the far back of his head, suggesting the possibility Peters DID say something to indicate the wound was on the far back of his head at one point in the interview.

Of course, if he HAD actually pointed to the far back of his head in the interview, and indicated this was the exit location, it only makes sense that Groden would have used that footage in his video. The likelihood, then, is that Peters was, in the image used by Groden, pointing out the occipital region of the skull, and NOT where he thought he saw the exit wound...and that Groden pulled a switcheroo.

That Groden would willfully misrepresent Peters' recollections is not just speculation, by the way. In Groden's previous book, High Treason, he and his co-author Livingstone told their readers that the accuracy of the "McClelland" drawing had been verified by every doctor. Seven pages later, they presented a photograph of a 1979 letter from Dr. Peters to Livingstone, accompanied by a copy of the "McClelland" drawing with an "X" marked on it by Peters. In his letter, Peters explained "I have marked an 'X' on the picture which more accurately depicts the wound, although neither is quite accurate. There was a large hole in the back of the head through which one could see the brain." Twenty-four pages later, Groden and Livingstone discussed this letter. They reported: "Co-author Livingstone first showed the official picture to Dr. Peters in 1979, along with the sketch approved by Dr. McClelland. He returned them, marking with an X the sketch of a large exit wound on the back of the head as being accurate, and rejected the official picture."

Yep. You read that right. Peters told Livingstone the drawing wasn't "quite accurate," and Groden and Livingstone turned around and claimed he'd verified its accuracy.

The next two deceptions have already been touched upon and are slightly more nebulous.

In the interviews presented in Groden's video, Jerrol Custer and Paul O'Connor demonstrate on themselves the dimensions of  a wound stretching from the right front of Kennedy's head across the top and down along the back of Kennedy's head. Where Custer starts the wound and where O'Connor presents the wound at its widest is presented on the slide above. In Groden's book, however, he presents an image from the interview with Custer grabbed just as Custer's hand reaches the base of his skull to demonstrate the lowest part of the wound. He then quotes Custer, not quite accurately, saying that "From the top of the head almost to the base of the skull, you could see where that part was gone."  Well, this is quite deceptive. When put right next to the photo of Custer with his hand at the base of his skull, Custer's use of the word "top" implies the top of the back of the head, not the front of the head, as shown in the video. 

Groden's presentation of O'Connor is even more suspicious. While the quote attributed to O'Connor in The Killing of a President comes directly from the interview presented in Groden's video, the photo of him pointing to the back of his head comes from a different interview entirely. This suggests that a decision was made not to use an image from the interview in which O'Connor depicted the dimensions of the wound with his index fingers, and to instead present a photo of O'Connor pointing to the back of his head. This, of course, is deceptive. While the reader has no idea what O'Connor was saying when he pointed back behind his ear for that photo, it's clear he was NOT saying there was a fist-sized wound back behind the ear, a la Dr. Crenshaw, whose placement of the wound would otherwise appear to be identical.

From "mistakes" such as these, in which Groden misrepresented the statements of Custer and O'Connor to insinuate that the wound they saw was similar to the one observed by Crenshaw, it's easy to see why Lifton, whose own theory requires they saw a quite different wound, holds Groden in such low regard.

Head Scratcher #1001

Here's a quick aside, which I believe to be both informative and entertaining. On May 17, 2011, while discussing Kennedy's head wounds on the Education Forum, an online forum to which I regularly contribute, I posted The Case for Conspiracy slide above to demonstrate Groden's misrepresenting the recollections of the witnesses to suggest there was little difference between the recollections of the Parkland and Bethesda witnesses. This met with the following response from Dr. James Fetzer: "The man is perpetrating a fraud. O'Connor and Custer were describing the wound AFTER HUMES HAD ENLARGED IT. Peters and McClelland were describing it AS IT WAS OBSERVED AT PARKLAND. David Lifton selected the wrong target when he went after me about 9/11. He should instead be gutting this guy regarding JFK!" 

Well, the "man" in the post was me. Fetzer had misunderstood the slide and had thought it was I who was proposing the descriptions matched, and not Groden. Well, this was incredibly ironic. You see, the "fraud" I was accused of perpetrating--trying to convince people the wound descriptions of the Parkland and Bethesda witnesses were actually quite similar--was one of the main thrusts of a 43 page article by Dr. Gary Aguilar in Murder in Dealey Plaza, a book conceived and edited by...Dr. James Fetzer!

Yep... On page 187, before describing the statements of the many witnesses, Dr. Aguilar claims "In sum, on the location of, if not the exact size of, the major portion of JFK's skull defect--right rearward--there is NO disagreement between the autopsy report and both the Dallas witnesses and the autopsy witnesses."

And, should one thnk this a typo, on page 197, after discussing a few of the Parkland witnesses who'd recently changed their story, he claims that the early accounts of these witnesses "were ONE with the reports of over 40 witnesses who saw JFK both at Parkland Hospital and in the morgue at Bethesda." (Emphasis added).

And yet this was all news to Fetzer, who ultimately undermined the authority of his book (and indirectly himself) by insisting Aguilar was perpetrating a fraud when he supported Groden's position Kennedy's wounds were not altered before the beginning of his autopsy.

Sleight of Hole?

Unfortunately, however, it appears that Groden really was perpetrating...something...

As discussed, in his best-selling and highly-influential book High Treason, Groden held that the wound location depicted in the "McClelland" drawing "was verified by every doctor, nurse, and eyewitness as accurate," and that these witnesses described an "exit wound... almost squarely in the back of the head (the occiput)." Now, as we've seen, the photos in his subsequent book, The Killing of a President, prove this wasn't true.

But I guess that never sunk in... By the time of the interview presented in the 2008 documentary, Frame 313: The JFK Assassination Theories, Groden's story had sprouted wings. Where his claims had once had a kernel of truth--the witnesses he spoke to did indeed think the wound was further back on Kennedy's head than shown in the autopsy photos--he now claimed that of the witnesses he'd spoken to "Every single one--not one, not two--more than 20 have said the photographs that show the rear of the head intact are forgeries." Well, this wasn't true. While Groden may have come to believe from the statements of these witnesses that the photos were forgeries, most of them never said anything about the photos being forgeries. Many of them, in fact, specified that they thought the photos were accurate depictions of Kennedy's wounds, and that they were simply mistaken about what they'd remembered.

And yet, as recently as his 11-18-10 appearance on Black Op Radio, Groden was still claiming that he'd interviewed about 20 Dallas doctors, and that "every single one of them, without exception, said that the shot that killed the President--the fatal shot--came from the right front--entered the right temporal area--and blew out the back of his head."

Well, hell's bells. He's just wrong. Very very wrong. Wrong as wrong can be. Not only did few if any of these witnesses claim the official autopsy photos are forgeries, very few if any of these witnesses described an exit wound that anyone could honestly claim was "almost squarely in the back of the head" and NONE of these witnesses said they saw an entrance wound in the right temporal area. 

Now, to be fair, Groden's not the only one spreading this nonsense. In his 2010 book Hear No Evil, Don Thomas claims "The opinions of the Parkland Hospital doctors that Kennedy was shot in the right temple was based largely on the blown out condition of the occiput, which they knew to be characteristic of an exit wound."

But Groden, who has only been studying the case for fifty years, and has spoken to the Parkland doctors, ought to know that none of these witnesses saw an entrance by Kennedy's right temple, and few, if any, have ever said they suspected there'd been such an entrance.

Now, one might take from this that the man's a big liar...

But when one watches his video, JFK:The Case for Conspiracy, it's hard not to conclude that he's simply stuck in a groove, and that he's a much better salesman than truth-teller. 

In this video, to be clear, Groden pulls off quite a trick. First, while the "McClelland" drawing is shown the audience, the narrator claims "The doctors from Parkland Hospital ALL described a massive exit wound on the President’s head…" A skull sculpture showing a wound from front to back is then shown, and the narrator finishes “…behind the right ear and extending into the occipital area which is at the extreme rear of the head.” Hmmm…Groden can't be trying to imply the Parkland witnesses saw a wound this massive, can he?

Groden then proceeds to discuss Dr. Cairns' conclusion the Harper fragment was occipital bone. He  shows his viewers where this would place the wound--on the far back of his head. Then, while discussing Jackie Kennedy's testimony about holding her husband's skull on, he puts his hand to the back of his head at the level of his ear in the occipital region. Well, this suggests the large head wound was in this location, correct? Low on the back of the head in the occipital bone...

Uh, not entirely... Only moments later, after discussing the statements of the Bethesda witnesses, two of whom, Custer and O'Connor, described a wound stretching from the front of Kennedy's head to the back and down to the base of his skull (in other words, the state of Kennedy's head AFTER the scalp was reflected and skull fell to the table) Groden officially introduces the sculpture of Kennedy's damaged skull briefly shown earlier; this sculpture depicts a large head wound stretching all the way from the right temple to the occipital bone. Well, this is a bit strange. This sculpture, in effect, combines the wounds apparent on the Zapruder film and autopsy photos with the wounds described by the Parkland witnesses--the wounds most believe are in conflict. Groden then tells his audience “A bullet striking the president in the right temporal area would have exited in the occipital region in the rear of the head, and this would be completely consistent with the wound seen by the Dallas doctors.” Yikes. Is he really suggesting the wound observed at Parkland--which the witnesses for the most part claimed was on the back of the head--was the massive wound described by Custer and O'Connor? Apparently, so. Never mind that none of the Parkland witnesses saw an entrance in the right temporal area. Never mind that none of them recalled seeing the large wound in front of the ear described by Custer and O'Connor, and depicted on the sculpture.

But I digress. Back to Groden's trick. After presenting a few more interviews with "back of the head" witnesses such as Robert McClelland and Charles Crenshaw, and showing some of them an autopsy photo with a wound added-in on the back of Kennedy's head in the parietal region, and getting them to AGREE that this was close to what they saw, Groden sums up their statements by presenting an autopsy photo of the back of the head and claiming "Everyone said the area within this circle was gone." Hmmm...now what area was this, you might ask? Well, as shown on the slide above, the area within the circle--the area Groden was NOW claiming was, according to the Parkland witnesses, missing--was an area on the right side of the back of Kennedy's head, mostly above his ear, primarily in the parietal region, stretching almost all the way to the large defect in front of Kennedy's ear. It was not "almost squarely on the back of Kennedy's head," as Groden had long claimed. It was not a wound primarily on the back of the head, as depicted on the autopsy photo with the wound added-in. It was not a wound beginning in front of the ear, where Groden had implied it was in his video only minutes before. It was not even centered in the occipital region, and consistent with a blow-out of the occipital bone, where Groden had implied it was before that.

So, what's the trick? Well, think about it. Whether by accident or design, Groden had presented a few Parkland witnesses claiming Kennedy's head wound was toward the back of his head, mostly above his ear, and mixed them in with a few Bethesda witnesses describing a much larger wound, and somehow ended up convincing tens if not hundreds of thousands of people (at one point including myself), this wound was 1) a large wound stretching from the front of the head to low on the back of the skull, 2) consistent with the wound seen in the Zapruder film, and 3) consistent with a blow out low on the back of the head in the occipital bone, when it was really 4) none of the above.

He had, in effect, presented three different versions of the wound--an occipital wound from whence the Harper fragment exploded, a mostly parietal wound of the back of the head seen by the Parkland witnesses, and the large wound on top of the head shown in the Zapruder film and seen at Bethesda -- and convinced his audience the witnesses presented in his video supported all three...when they did not. Not even close.

Mr. Groden's Wild Ride

Now, to be fair, it seems more than likely that Groden, in his pretending the wound described by Custer and O'Connor was the wound observed at Parkland, did not think he was deceiving anyone, and that no one has been more victimized by Groden's deceptions than Groden himself. 

I write this, in part, because I've met the man, and believe him sincere. For many years, on weekends and holidays, he has stood on the grassy knoll, talking to tourists and those with an interest in the assassination. He has spent much of this time correcting misconceptions about the assassination. Apparently, however, he has spent so much time and energy defending his own take on the medical evidence, that the facts have, for him, become somewhat blurred. While he once noted inconsistencies between what the Parkland witnesses described and what is apparent in the Zapruder film, he has, over time, come to ignore these inconsistencies. Perhaps to simplify things for those looking for a quick explanation... Perhaps to simplify things for himself...

This is best demonstrated by retracing Groden's steps. In his first book on the assassination, JFK: The Case For Conspiracy, published 1976, before he'd gained access to the autopsy photos, Groden and his co-writer F. Peter Model followed Josiah Thompson's lead and proposed that Kennedy had been hit twice in the head, first from behind and then from the front, and that the difference between the head wound as described by the Parkland doctors and Bethesda doctors was largely a difference of perspective, with the Parkland doctors describing the large hole on Kennedy as an exit on the back of the head, and the Bethesda doctors describing this same hole as an exit on the top of the head. 

With the publication of Lifton's Best Evidence in 1981, and its focus on the incongruity of the Parkland and Bethesda descriptions of the head wound, however, such a position was no longer practical. So, with High Treason, published 1989, Groden and his co-writer Harrison Livingstone presented a bit of a compromise. As shown on the slide above, they presented the "McClelland" drawing created for Thompson as a depiction of the ONE WOUND observed at Parkland, as the exit wound of a bullet entering at the large defect in front of Kennedy's ear shown on the Zapruder film and autopsy photos. They claimed the autopsy photos failing to show this wound had been "forged." They claimed, furthermore, that the top of the head wound shown on the Zapruder film was "easily overlooked" by the Parkland doctors after Mrs. Kennedy closed up her husband's head. Now, when one looks at the autopsy photos showing a gaping hole at this location, this claim is awfully hard to believe. But they had an explanation for this as well. Yes, in the photo section of the book, in a caption to the autopsy photo of the top of Kennedy's head, they asserted, "The conspirators sawed off the top of the head and removed the brain and bullets before the autopsy." 

Well, this, right there, revealed the incredible sloppiness of Groden and Livingstone's theories. When discussing the "back of the head" photo, they reported that all the witnesses said it failed to show what they remembered, and that the photo must therefore be a fake. They then wrote that the failure of "some" of the witnesses to stand by their earliest impressions the photo was a fake, was because they'd become aware of David Lifton's theory the body had been altered, and had concluded the hole on the back of Kennedy's head had been covered by a flap for the photo. They then spent two whole pages (49-51 in the paperback) explaining why Lifton's theory made no sense, in large part because they'd spoken to Kennedy's friend, David Powers, and he'd assured them that he and others loyal to Kennedy had kept watch on Kennedy's casket for the whole trip from Dallas.

So when, exactly, did THEY propose "the conspirators sawed off the top of the head?"

In any event, with The Killing of a President, published 1993, Groden further distanced himself from Lifton's "body alteration" theory, and wrote it off as an "assassination myth." This left him with no explanation for the Parkland witnesses' failure to note the large hole on the top of Kennedy's head seen in the Z-film. No matter. None offered. Second, where he once presented a drawing showing two large head wounds--an entrance on the top of the head by the temple, and a blow-out in the occipital region--by artist Ed Chiarini, as a depiction of "what the head wounds looked like," he now presented a sculpture by Chiarini of one large wound stretching from front to back. Never mind that none of the Parkland witnesses described such a wound. Never mind that the Bethesda witnesses describing such a wound were almost certainly describing the wound after the scalp was reflected, and skull fell to the table.

From these changes then, I think it's fair to assume that Groden, like so many of us, has trouble making sense of all this, and that his deceptions are rooted in his fervent desire to reconcile the Parkland eyewitness evidence with the Zapruder film, the recollections of the Bethesda witnesses, and his understandable reluctance to accept Lifton's "body alteration" theory.

This is perhaps best illustrated by taking a closer look at one of his more consistent claims.

From High Treason to the present time, Groden has repeatedly claimed there is a "volcano-shape" on the back of JFK's head apparent in the Zapruder film. He claims, furthermore, that this "volcano-shape," apparent for but a fraction of a second, represents a blow-out on the back of JFK's head. In The Killing of a President, moreover, he falls prey to exaggeration, and claims that the "McClelland" drawing depicting a blow-out wound mostly below the top of the ear "exactly matches the volcano image appearing in Zapruder frames 335 and 337" mostly above the top of the ear.

What he fails to perceive or acknowledge, however, is that this "volcano-shape" only becomes apparent when Jackie Kennedy runs her hand across her husband's back, from his right shoulder back toward his head, and that the "volcano-shape" is almost certainly an illusion created by her white glove blocking out part of her husband's head. (This is shown below, in two images posted online to prove this very point, by someone using the name Ashton Gray.)

Here's frame 326. Note that Mrs. Kennedy's right hand is in the air on its way to her husband, and that no "blow-out" is apparent on the back of her husband's head.

And now here's frame 335, taken a half a second later. Her hand has now landed on the back of her husband's head. The whiteness of her glove stands in contrast to her husband's hair above, and creates the illusion--subsequently pushed by Groden--that the back of her husband's head comes to an abrupt end.

Now, this error by Groden--his thinking a blow-out is apparent on the Z-film and that the statements of the Parkland witnesses are therefore not at odds with the film--is highly suggestive that he is prone to suggestion, and has a desperate desire to believe both that the film is accurate and that the head shot came from the front.

Now, to be fair, Groden's far from alone in seeing things in the film that really just aren't there. In Head Shot, published 2010, research physicist G. Paul Chambers once again demonstrated what we should already know--that having an education is not all it's cracked up to be. In his effort to demonstrate that the medical evidence is hopelessly conflicted, and therefore of little help in understanding what actually happened, Chambers both ignores important evidence and makes a number of strange claims about the evidence he does acknowledge. Astoundingly, not only does he fail to mention that the Dealey Plaza witnesses supported the accuracy of the Zapruder film and autopsy photos, he insisted that the Zapruder film, autopsy photos and autopsy report were in conflict, as the Zapruder film failed to show a wound on the top of the head.

This is nonsense of a supreme order. While watching the film, or while looking at the Gif file above, a disruption of the outline of the top of Kennedy's head is painfully obvious. A bone flap angled down near his face is even more obvious... Well, where does Chambers think this bone flap came from? Amazingly, the side of Kennedy's head. Yep, while discussing Zapruder frame 333, taken 1/9 of  a second prior to the frame above, he not only claims that "No visible damage of any kind is apparent at the top of the head, from the right ear to the top of the sagittal crest" but that "The only visible damage is to the right side of the head."  

Chambers' clear mistake puts Groden's mistake in context. One might even venture that everyone to study this case in detail has come to have a theory, and that having a theory has led them to seek support for their theory, and occasionally see things that just aren't there.

The Slippery Slope

Groden's mistake regarding the "volcano-shape" would be less troublesome, however, if Groden hadn't also--through his presentation of Ed Chiarini's sculpture in The Killing of a President, and in his pamphlets for sale in Dealey Plaza--suggested what anyone who's studied the case knows just isn't true: that the large head wound above and in front of the ear shown in the Zapruder film was readily observed at Parkland. This just ain't so. None of the Parkland witnesses described an entrance on the front of Kennedy's head, and none of them noted the large defect in front of Kennedy's ear readily apparent in the Zapruder film.

Not that Groden will admit as much. Nope, in one of his worst mistakes or biggest lies, take your pick, Groden implies in The Killing of a President that the wound shown on the Zapruder film was observed at Parkland, by claiming "Dr. McClelland, who had been called to the Trauma Room when Mr. Kennedy was admitted to Parkland Hospital, said that the cause of death was attributable to 'a massive head and brain injury to the right temple.'" Right temple. He wrote "right temple." Only that's the wrong temple. Yep. As we've seen, McClelland, in what he would later admit was a mistake, actually wrote "The cause of death was due to massive head and brain injury from a gunshot wound of the left temple." Groden had completely misquoted him, and changed the meaning of his words.

While I suspect McClelland did see the wound shown on the Zapruder film, and meant to say the wound he saw was on the right temple, Groden certainly should not have presented him saying as much in an exact quote, and his doing so is highly deceptive. His presenting Jerrol Custer and Paul O'Connor in his book as witnesses to a wound on the far back of the head when they in fact described a wound stretching from the front to the rear is, of course, also problematic. A more conservative researcher/writer would not have written, as Groden did in The Killing of a President, that the wound seen at Parkland was a "large hole in the right rear of the head," and then offer that "The autopsists also described the wound as such, but larger," without admitting that the recollections of the Bethesda witnesses actually differed substantially from the Parkland "back of the head" witnesses. A more conservative, and reliable researcher, for that matter, would NEVER present a colorized version of an autopsy photo--with a large head wound added onto the photo stretching from front to back--and then claim this was the "original" photo, "according to nearly thirty witnesses," as Groden does in a pamphlet for sale in Dealey Plaza. I mean, that's just not true.

And it wasn't a simple typo, either. In his 10-17-13 appearance at the Wecht conference in Pittsburgh, Groden claimed that he'd now discussed Kennedy's head wounds with 88 witnesses, and that all of them had said the wound was on the rear of the head. He then warned the audience that he was about to show them some autopsy photos, which were pretty gruesome. The first of these was the so-called right profile photo, which is indeed pretty gruesome. The second of these was the photo on which Groden had added a wound in order to show how he believed Kennedy's head had actually appeared. Well, this would have been fine except...he showed this without comment, letting his audience believe it was the real deal.

So, geez Louise. That's not kosher. One can only wonder, then, how many of those buying or even browsing through Groden's pamphlets and seeing this photoshop of horrors have walked away from Groden's table in Dealey Plaza thinking they'd seen the original autopsy photo without realizing that none of the Parkland witnesses Groden implies had verified this photo had actually done such a thing.

Absolute Proof

And that's not the end of Groden's deceptions. In November, 2013, Groden released Absolute Proof, an expensive collection of analysis and assassination-related photos. Included among these photos was a purportedly previously unreleased photo of Kennedy on the autopsy table. Researcher Vince Palamara claimed he'd asked Groden about this photo, and that Groden told him it was a photo taken by assistant autopsy photographer Floyd Riebe, that had been exposed to light by the Secret Service. Palamara said Groden told him he'd painstakingly restored the photo, so that one could finally make out JFK's image. There was a HUGE problem with this, however. JFK photo buffs on the JFK Assassination Forum immediately recognized this photo as a photo of a wax dummy created for Oliver Stone's film JFK, on which Groden served as a consultant. Photos of this dummy were posted online, and yessiree, Groden's purportedly previously unpublished photo of Kennedy was exposed as a photo of the dummy made for Oliver Stone. Shame on Groden.

And shame on me. I wrote the last paragraph without ever looking through Groden's book. When I finally did so, in September 2014, at the 50th anniversary of the Warren Report conference in Bethesda, Maryland, I realized that while Groden shows the dummy photo in his book, he fails to say it is an actual autopsy photo, and says instead that the autopsy photos taken by photography assistant Floyd Riebe and exposed to light by the Secret Service look like this photo. It seems possible, then, that Palamara had misunderstood what Groden had told him. 

But I tend to believe Palamara. And I'll tell you why. When Groden spoke at the 50th anniversary of the Warren Report conference later that day, he showed his audience a previously unseen autopsy photo, and let them believe this was an autopsy photo of Kennedy.

This photo, however, was not of Kennedy.

And yet, it did look strangely familiar...

Groden's Wound Transplant

As shown above, the photo was, in fact, the source material for the wound Groden had added onto the back of the head photo back in 2008.

Now, this must have been a mix-up, right?

Nope. Within months, I received word from a researcher (M.D.) that Groden had personally assured him the photo revealed at Bethesda was a brand new previously-unseen autopsy photo of Kennedy.

So let me be clear. The ever-growing list of outrageous claims coming out of Groden's mouth has led me to believe that, in his desperation to prove Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy, he has slipped a bit, and is not above deceiving his audience.

Now he's not alone in this. I have engaged in thousands of discussions of the JFK medical evidence, and have found that a large percentage of researchers, and readers, have convinced themselves most everyone to see Kennedy's body was a back-of-the head witness, whether they would admit to it or not. 

Now, l have spent far too much time looking into this, and am sad to report that the bulk of these claims are embarrassing nonsense. 

Example 1a: Dr. J. Thornton Boswell...


Boswell and Johnson

Now, to be clear, David Lifton never claimed Boswell as a "back of the head" witness...

Lifton held, 'til his passing, that the hole on the back of Kennedy's head observed at Parkland had somehow been repaired by the time Dr. Boswell saw his head at Bethesda, and that a wound in front of Kennedy's ear had been added.

In postings found online, in fact, he made it more than clear he had little respect for researchers, such as Robert Groden and Dr. Gary Aguilar, who cite a number of Bethesda "back of the head" witnesses as evidence the wounds were unaltered between Parkland and Bethesda.

And he actually had good reason to be angry. As we have seen, the descriptions of the Parkland "back of the head" witnesses differ from those of the Bethesda "back of the head" witnesses on a number of key points.

But that's a bit complicated... For now, we need only realize that the use of Dr. Boswell as a "back of the head" witness is a bit bizarre on its face, seeing as he signed off on the autopsy report in which no substantial scalp lacerations on the back of the head were noted, and seeing as he never ever said anything indicating he'd seen an entrance wound on the front of the head.

But when one looks at his statements to the ARRB--the statements usually quoted by those claiming him as a "back of the head" witness--it becomes even more bizarre.

Here is one of the key statements used by back-of-the-head wound theorists to sell Boswell as a "back of the head" witness:

BOSWELL: There was a big wound sort of transverse up like this from left posterior to right anterior. The scalp was separated, but it was folded over, and you could fold the scalp over and almost hide the wound. When you lifted the scalp up, you could really lay it back posteriorally, and there was a lot of bone still attached to the scalp but detached from the remainder of the skull. And I think these parts back here probably reflect that.  

And here is Boswell's response to a follow-up question by Jeremy Gunn:

GUNN: When you say the left posterior, what do you mean?

BOSWELL: The left occipital area, and that wound extends to the right frontal area. And what I meant was that the wound in the scalp could be closed from side to side so that it didn't appear that there was any scalp actually--scalp missing.

Yep. That's right. Those pushing Boswell as a witness for the wound described by the Parkland witnesses--a gaping EXIT wound of both scalp and skull on the RIGHT back of the head--are using Boswell's latter-day recollection of a scalp LACERATION on the LEFT side of the head as evidence. 

Now, even if one were to accept the ridiculous notion that his statements support there was a gaping wound missing both scalp and skull on the right back side of the head, how reliable are Boswell's recollections to the ARRB?

Not remotely reliable, as it turns out. 

As we've seen, Boswell claimed the scalp laceration stretching from left back to right front could be closed from side to side so that one could not tell any scalp was missing. Well, this is totally at odds with the autopsy protocol signed by Boswell two days after the shooting in which he claimed the large defect was of both scalp and skull.

And there's also this:

GUNN: Do you recall whether there were tears or lacerations in the scalp?

BOSWELL: Right across here and--

GUNN: Approximately across the midline?

BOSWELL: What I previously described, post-occipital, and on the left, across the top, and then down to the right frontal area, and then the laceration extended into the right eye.

GUNN: Okay. Could you make another drawing--and we'll put Line No. 2 on this--to show the approximate direction of the large laceration that you just referred to?

BOSWELL: Well, it's not a--I can't say what direction, but--and then this came on down like so, and--actually, I think it came right into here.

GUNN: Okay. I'm going to put a 2 in a circle right next to that line, and the 2 will signify the approximate direction and shape of the large laceration. Would that be fair?

BOSWELL: Mm-hmm.

GUNN: Just so I'm clear--and we'll be looking at the photographs in a few minutes, and you can maybe clarify it there. But at least with some of the photographs, is it your testimony that the scalp was pulled in a way different from how it was when you first saw it in order to better illustrate either wound of entry or exit?

BOSWELL: Yes. The scalp was essentially loose. In the usual autopsy, you have to cut underneath the scalp in order to reflect it. In this case, the scalp was mobile so that you could pull it forward to obscure the wound or pull it back to make the wound completely lucid.

GUNN: Okay. Was the hair cleaned in any way for purposes of the photographs?

BOSWELL: No, I don't think so. There was not a lot of blood, as I remember, and I think he had been pretty well cleaned up in the operating--in the emergency room. And I don't think we had to do much in the way of cleansing before we took photographs.

Well, wait right there. Boswell spoke to the ARRB in 1996. When asked the preceding questions by Jeremy Gunn he had not been shown the autopsy photos since 1977, and had not been shown the establishing shots taken at the autopsy--the photos showing Kennedy lying on the table before an inspection of his wounds had begun--since 1967. Clearly, he had forgotten that these first shots show the President's hair to be matted with blood and brain. His response then shows that he lacked a clear recollection of Kennedy's original appearance when interviewed by the ARRB. He was in his seventies, after all, discussing something he'd seen more than 30 years before. So why should we believe his latter-day recollections are accurate?

We shouldn't. The scalp laceration stretching to the left occipital region suddenly recalled by Boswell 33 years after performing the autopsy was not only not mentioned in the autopsy protocol, it was specifically ruled out by Boswell in his 9-16-77 interview with the HSCA pathology panel.

When asked about the red spot the HSCA panel presumed to be the bullet entrance, and which Dr. Humes presumed was dried blood, Boswell replied:

"It's the posterior-inferior margin of the lacerated scalp." When one of the HSCA panel, Dr. Petty, expressed doubt about this, Boswell then repeated: "It tore right down to that point. And then we just folded that back and this back and an anterior flap forward and this exposed almost the entire--I guess we did have to dissect a little bit to get to."

If, in Boswell's mind, the scalp laceration ended at the red spot, high on the back of the head on the parietal bone, in 1977, there was no way it could possibly have stretched all the way to the occipital bone 19 years later. It seems clear, then, that Dr. Boswell was seriously confused.

But those pushing Boswell as a back of the head witness will never admit this.

Let's take, for example, Doug Horne. In an April 15, 1999 letter to the Chicago Reader, Dr. David Mantik boasted that he'd helped prepare the questions asked the autopsy doctors by the ARRB. Presumably, he gave these to Doug Horne, (who by his own admission had pursued a job with the ARRB in hopes of proving fraud in the medical evidence). In any event, Horne then fed these questions to ARRB chief counsel Jeremy Gunn, who may or may not have known the questions came from Mantik.

We have reason to suspect the former. On 2-10-17, David Lifton told the Education Forum that, during the ARRB, he was "working very closely with the ARRB, and with Doug Horne, speaking to Horne multiple times per week (and recording all of our conversations, with full permission) and speaking with Gunn, too." Well, if Gunn was taking questions from Lifton we can only presume he'd extend this courtesy to Mantik.

In any event, on page 111 of his opus, Inside the ARRB, Horne quotes Boswell's response after being asked if his 17 by 10 measurement for the large skull defect reflected missing bone or fractured skull. Boswell responded: "Most of that space, the bone was missing. There were a lot of small skull fragments attached to the scalp as it was reflected, but most of that space, the bone was missing, some of which--I think two of which we subsequently retrieved."

Now look what Horne writes but four pages later, when discussing Dr. Boswell's approximation of the borders of this defect on a skull model: "The 3-D skull drawing by Boswell was critical, because his autopsy sketch of the top of the skull had by its very nature not shown the condition of the rear of the head. Boswell's 3-D skull diagram completed the rest of the picture. And he wasn't depicting fragmentation or areas of broken bone, he was depicting areas of the skull denuded of bone. It was electrifying." 

What? Where does Horne get that Boswell wasn't depicting fragmentation? Boswell had just told him that part of the area depicted was where small skull fragments remained attached to the scalp. He had previously told him that upon the reflection of the scalp "there was a lot of bone still attached to the scalp but detached from the remainder of the skull." He had told writer Harrison Livingstone on 9-1-91, furthermore, that "a pretty good size piece of the frontal and right occipital portion of the skull had separated and were stuck to the under-surface of the scalp. So when that was reflected, then it was true; there was a big bony defect in the right side of the skull. And with the (removal of these) fragments--I think the brain was largely removed through that defect. But, the scalp was somewhat intact overlying that, so that, that just superficially, externally, you couldn't tell that there was a big hole in the skull."

And should that not be clear, Boswell soon followed that up with "His head just--the bullet exploded inside his skull, and just sort of blew the top of his head off..." Boswell had thereby made it clear: while the skull was badly fractured at the back of the head, there was no blow out wound on the back of the head. 

Why does Horne ignore this? And why did he tell Oliver Stone in an interviewed published in 2022  that  Boswell had told him that "All the bone was missing on the right side of the cranium, in the back of the head"?

Here's why:

GUNN: Just one last point that I would like to just clarify in my one mind is: On the piece for the markings for the 10 by 17 centimeters that were missing, would it be fair to say that when you first examined the body prior to any arrival of fragments from Dallas, the skull was missing from approximately those dimensions of 10 by 17?

BOSWELL: Yes.

Yikes! The word "approximately" is, in this instance, tragically vague. It allowed Horne to presume the back of Kennedy's skull was missing--as in gone--when the bulk of Boswell's statements over the years make clear it was badly fragmented and attached to the underside of the scalp. It bears repeating that NONE of the other back of the head witnesses described so much skull missing. Clearly, Boswell had no idea how big the hole on the skull was before the scalp was peeled back. Clearly he measured the skull defect after the scalp had been pulled back and skull had fallen to the table. Clearly, the best indicator of the size of the hole on the back of the head, then, would be the x-rays, which fail to depict a large hole on the back of the head where Horne and others presume there was a hole...where the Parkland witnesses purportedly told them there was a hole...

But, wait, some of those believing Boswell to be a back of the head witness have found a novel way to undermine the credibility of the x-rays...provided, not surprisingly, by Gunn's questioning of Boswell:

GUNN: Were any skull fragments put back into place before photographs or before X-rays?

BOSWELL: I think before we took the--the ones that came from Dallas were never put back in except to try and approximate them to the ones that were present. But I think all the others were left intact.

GUNN: So, for example, was there a fragment that had fallen out at any point that you then put back into its place before a photograph or X-ray was taken?

BOSWELL: Yes.

GUNN: What size fragments and where did you place them at the--

BOSWELL: Well, the one that's in the diagram on Exhibit 1, that 10-centimeter piece I'm sure was out at one time or another. And I think maybe some of these smaller fragments down at the base of that diagram also were out at one time or another. But those were all put back.

So, from leading the clearly elderly and confused Boswell through a series of strange questions designed to support or refute the body alteration theory of David Lifton, Gunn got Horne the answer some conspiracy theorists were looking for...that bone was put back in the skull BEFORE an x-ray or photograph was taken. Never mind that Boswell at first specified that the large pieces of missing bone were not put back in the skull, and only said so after being asked the same question a second time. Never mind that the bone Boswell thinks they are talking about did not arrive until near the end of the autopsy, and that NOT ONE witness to the autopsy--let alone, x-ray tech or radiologist--recalled a skull x-ray being taken after the beginning of the autopsy. And never mind that x-ray tech Jerrol Custer told Gunn (in his own ARRB testimony) that he took the x-ray machine and all the cassettes with him when the morticians took over, and began the reconstruction of Kennedy's skull.

And, oh yeah, never mind that Horne himself dismisses this possibility... That's right, in Volume 2 of his 5 volume opus Inside the ARRB, Horne concludes that by the time the skull was reconstructed, the only men able to operate the portable x-ray machine had been sent home, and that no x-rays were taken during or after the reconstruction of Kennedy's skull.

Even worse for those trying to twist Boswell's ARRB testimony into something it was not...Horne also concludes the skull x-rays were taken as a series at the beginning of the autopsy.

And it's no wonder. In The Assassinations, an anthology published in 2003, Dr. Cyril Wecht and Dr. David Mantik jointly confirmed that the brain, although badly damaged, is nevertheless apparent on the skull x-rays. This means the x-rays were taken at the beginning of the autopsy, not the end.

Dr. Mantik, to whom many, including Doug Horne, defer on all matters x-ray, has also concluded in his many papers and articles that the bone at the back of JFK's head in his post-mortem x-rays is consistent with the bone at the back of his head in his pre-mortem x-rays.

As a result, one can not reasonably propose, a la some of the wilder conspiracy theorists, that Boswell's confused testimony suggests that the 10cm fragment recovered from the floor of the limousine was placed back into Kennedy's skull to hide a hole on the back of his head on the x-rays and autopsy photographs. The presumed hole was, after all, in the occipital region. The 10cm fragment was, on the other hand, parietal bone (according to the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel), or frontal bone (according to Dr.s Angel and Mantik).

So why play with Boswell's words to suggest such a thing?  

Let's be clear. Mantik has concluded that the skull in the lateral x-ray is JFK's, but that a white patch has been super-imposed on the right side of the skull on the x-rays. Horne accepts this conclusion. Horne also accepts the possibility the back of the head photos are unaltered, and that the hole he believes should be shown in the photos was obscured through some clever manipulation of the scalp by the autopsy doctors. Neither Mantik nor Horne, then, believe, nor indicate in any of their writings, that a hole on the back of the head was disguised through the insertion of a piece of recovered bone, nor that doing so would create the white patch apparent on the x-rays.

It should be pointed out, for that matter, that Mantik believes the hole on the back of the head was the former home of the Harper fragment, and that the Harper fragment wasn't discovered until the next day in Dallas.

And it should be pointed out as well that Horne thinks Boswell was not telling the truth when he described a massive wound on Kennedy's head, and that his claiming as much was part of a "con job" designed to hide that the wound at the beginning of the autopsy was actually a wound confined to the back of the head...

So why do some theorists, purportedly impressed with Mantik's research, Horne's analysis, and Wecht's credentials, suggest that the intact skull on the back of the head on the x-rays and back of the head photos reflects not that the back of the head was intact, or even made to look intact via manipulation of the scalp, but that the x-rays and back of the head photos were taken towards the end of the autopsy, after the recovered bone fragments provided by the Secret Service were stuffed back into the skull?

I mean, that's not only silly, it's in opposition to the findings of the most prominent members of the "hole-in-the-back-of-the-head" gang. It is, in other words, too out there for men not remotely scared of being out there.  

But there's a reason for this silliness. And that's that Boswell himself provided the fodder for this silliness. In his 1977 interview with the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, Dr. Boswell revealed that he now remembered the story told the Warren Commission of the doctors' pairing up the internal beveling on the small wound on the back of the head with the external beveling on the largest fragment found in the limousine to conclude the bullet traveled from back to front, as them matching up a beveled semi-circle of entrance on the smallest fragment with beveling on the intact skull. While discussing the back of Kennedy's head and the bone fragments brought in during the autopsy, he said: "this bone was all gone and actually the smaller fragment fit this piece down here-there was a hole here, only half of which was present in the bone that was intact. and this small piece then fit right on there and the beveling on those was on the interior surface."

In 1994, when asked by Dr. Gary Aguilar if Rydberg drawing CE-388 shows the largest of the late-arriving fragments (the one with the beveling) placed back on the skull, moreover, he said: "Yeah, the eh -- that fragment -- the defect -- the wound of entrance was at the base of that defect and, eh, the shelving on the inner surface of the bone was half on the intact portion of the skull and half on that fragment that we received from Dallas and replaced."

Well, heck. Boswell had thereby revealed the source of much of his (and subsequently our) confusion: in his old age he'd come to believe the beveling on one of the fragments brought into the autopsy was entrance beveling--which was at odds with the autopsy report he swears by--and this, in turn, led him to think this fragment derived from the back of the head. There is no corresponding blow-out on the back of the head on the x-rays, of course. And this, in turn, led Boswell to muse that the x-rays were taken with the largest skull fragment flown in from Dallas placed back into the head. 

By the end of his 1996 ARRB testimony, for that matter, Boswell had confirmed this explanation for his confusion. 

GUNN: In your answer to a previous question, you made reference to the exit wound in the skull. Did you ever see any evidence of any beveling in the skull at the point where you determined there was an exit wound?

BOSWELL: At the time of autopsy we didn't. But then when we reviewed the photographs, some of that beveling in the skull is equivocal, and obviously we weren't able to tell.

GUNN: So would it be fair, then, to say that you determined during the course of the autopsy where the beveling was at the entrance wound, but you could not determine any beveling at the exit wound?

BOSWELL: That's true.

Note that Boswell fails to mention what he and his fellow doctors had claimed since day one--that they had studied the fragments brought in during the autopsy and had concluded the largest one had a beveled exit, which they then cited as evidence the large defect was an exit. 

So there you have it. Over time, Boswell had come to remember the beveling discovered on a late-arriving fragment as entrance beveling, not exit beveling. 

Well, this is refuted by the autopsy protocol both signed by Boswell and upheld by Boswell as the only document related to the medical evidence worth spit.

If ONLY someone had stepped in and reminded Boswell that the beveling on this largest fragment was, according to both the autopsy report he swears by, and his colleagues, EXIT beveling, not entrance beveling, a lot of confusion could have been avoided. But, alas, most interviewers see their job as recording the recollections of aged observers, and not correcting them (or giving them the chance to correct themselves) when they've strayed far far far from the well-worn path.

Still, Boswell is not the only purported back of the head witness whose muddy recollections have been further muddied up and then spun into conspiracy gold. 

(Above: Dr. John Ebersole, the radiologist at Kennedy's autopsy.  He got his start working on nuclear submarines, and his death was possibly connected to the radiation he'd received while doing so. )

The Two Johns

Heck, Boswell wasn't even the only member of the autopsy team to have his words cherry-picked in such a manner. On March 8, 1978, radiologist John Ebersole was interviewed by Gil Dulaney of the Intelligencer Journal of Lancaster (Pa.). He was quoted as saying "It was the back of the head that was blown off." And this wasn't a one-time slip-up. According to writer David Lifton, who was shown a transcript to this conversation by Dulaney, Ebersole further described the wound as "a very obvious horrible gaping wound at the back of the head." Well, that's all it took for some to claim Ebersole as a back of the head witness. Never mind that he, as Boswell, had signed off on the authenticity of the autopsy photos and x-rays in 1966. Never mind that the full context of Ebersole's statements to Dulaney ran counter to the narrative pushed by those claiming a bullet entered from the front and blew out the back of Kennedy's head. According to the March 9, 1978 AP article (found in the Gadsden Times) on Dulaney's interview of Ebersole, Ebersole claimed "I would say unequivocally the bullet came from the side or back. The front of the body, except for a very slight bruise above the right eye on the forehead, was absolutely intact. It was the back of the head that was blown off. There is no way that I can see on the basis of the x-rays that the bullet came from anywhere in the 180-degree angle to the front, assuming Kennedy was facing forward. It looked to me like an almost right to left shot from the rear." And never mind that Ebersole repeated these claims in his 3-11-78 testimony before the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel. When discussing Kennedy's wounds on 11-22-63, he offered that "The back of the head was missing..." After being shown Kennedy's x-rays and asked if he could identify an entrance location for a bullet, however, he asserted: "In my opinion it would have come from the side on the basis of the films. I guess that is all that can be said about the films at this time... I would say on the basis of those x rays and x rays only one might say one would have to estimate there that the wound of entrance was somewhere to the side or to the posterior quadrant." When then shown an autopsy photo and asked if the head wound depicted correlated with his recollections, he answered "You know, my recollection is more of a gaping occipital wound than this but I can certainly not state that this is (not) the way it looked. Again we are relying on a 15 year old recollection. But had you asked me without seeing these or seeing the pictures, you know, I would have put the gaping wound here rather than more forward." When then shown another photo and asked to compare the location of the wound in the photo to his recollections, he replied that the wound in the photo was "More lateral. Much more lateral and superior than I remembered."

Note that he was consistent in claiming there was no entrance wound on the front of the head. Note as well that he had said nothing about an entrance wound by the EOP. Ebersole had recalled one wound, and he had recalled it as residing further back on the head than it was shown to be on the x-rays and autopsy photos, to which he deferred.

An article in the 7-22-78 issue of The Continuing Inquiry provides further illumination. Built around an interview with Art Smith on 3-28-78, 3 weeks after Ebersole had spoken to Dulaney, the article relates that Ebersole was by then claiming that when he told Dulaney "It was the back of the head that was blown off," he "really meant the side of the head." According to Smith, Dr. Ebersole stated further "that the wound was located on the side of the head above the ear, approximately 2 x 3 inches in diameter" and that "no bone in the back of the skull was missing." Of course, that wasn't good enough for all too many, including Smith. In his article, Smith sought to undermine Ebersole's credibility by writing that when he confronted Ebersole with his statements to Dulaney about the back of the head, that Ebersole claimed "It was a misquote. I really meant side of the head." Smith then claimed he'd called "Delaney" to see if he had misquoted Ebersole, and was assured by "Delaney" that the conversation had been taped, and that Ebersole had not been misquoted. Smith then argued that Ebersole, if he really thought he'd been misquoted, had had plentiful opportunity to complain to "Delaney" about the misquote prior to Smith's call, but had failed to do so.

This, however, was grossly unfair. Smith made a tape of his phone call to Ebersole, which he shared with writer David Lifton. This tape, as quoted in Lifton's book Best Evidence, shows that after Ebersole said he'd been misquoted about the back of the head, Smith asked "That was a misquote?" It shows further that Ebersole then replied "Yes. Misquoted" but then corrected himself and said "I really, ah, I may have said that--what I meant was, the side."

Ebersole had not denied that he'd told Dulaney the wound was on the back of the head. And Smith knew it before writing his article suggesting as much. Ebersole had said the word "back" instead of "side" before being shown the x-rays and autopsy photos he had long claimed to be authentic (and continued claiming were authentic up through his final interview on 11-2-92), and that was all it took for some to paint him as a "back of the head" witness, who'd tried to lie his way out of it.

(Above: autopsy photographer John T. Stringer, who repeatedly claimed the photos of the back of Kennedy's head in the record were photos he'd taken on the night of the autopsy...that accurately reflected Kennedy's wounds.)

Autopsy photographer John Stringer's statements and testimony have been similarly mislabeled. Stringer, we should recall, signed the November 1, 1966 inventory of the autopsy materials--along with Dr.s Boswell, Ebersole, and Humes. This inventory was purported to list "all the x-rays and photographs taken by us during the autopsy." Now this is important. Although Stringer and the others would later admit that they actually believed some x-rays and photos were missing, they would never once waiver from their claim the x-rays and photos of Kennedy's body they'd observed at the archives were authentic, and were ones they'd had created. 

Now, to be clear, Stringer contributed to the confusion surrounding his statements. In 1996, while testifying before the ARRB, Stringer failed to recognize the photos of Kennedy's brain as photos he'd taken at the supplementary examination. He thought he would have done a better job identifying the photos themselves when taken; he thought he'd have used a different kind of film; and he didn't remember taking one of the views. Well, this, of course, is interesting.

But conspiracy theorists of all stripes have taken from this that the photos were switched out to hide a hole on the back of the brain, a hole proving once and for all that the shot killing Kennedy came from the front and blew out the back of his head. Many assert that this makes Stringer--yep, you guessed it--a "back of the head" witness...

And that's just nonsense. I mean, if in 1996 the 78 year-old Stringer could tell just by looking at the photos that they were not his creation, wouldn't he have been much better able to tell this in 1966, just a few years after they were taken, when he was but 48?  Well, then why didn't he say so, or remember his thinking so?  The thought occurs that by 1996 Stringer's memory had slipped a bit.

(Note: this is more than a passing thought. Stringer's obituary, found online, notes that he died on 8-17-11, at the age of 93, and that his wife of 51 years had died in 1993. Well, sadly, men widowed at such an age often start to slip. Only making this possibility more likely, moreover, is that Stringer's obituary further stated that memorial contributions could be made to the Alzheimer's Association of Vero Beach, Florida. So, yeah, the accuracy of the man's memories in 1996 are open to question.)

Now, to be clear, it's hard to say just when Stringer's memories started fading. In 1977, the HSCA asked the then 59 year-old Stringer to go to the archives and look at the autopsy photos. The report on his doing so reflects that, while he was uncertain he'd taken the black and white photos of the brain, the brain itself gave the appearance of the brain he'd photographed, and that the brain, as Kennedy's brain, was not sectioned (cut into quarters). So, hmmm, Stringer was uncertain about the photos...but felt the brain in the photos was quite possibly Kennedy's brain.

It's hard to see, then, how one can stretch his statements to include that the back of the head was blown out. 

While some, including Doug Horne and writer Jim DiEugenio, are fond of pointing out that Stringer told the ARRB that autopsy photographers who objected to things, such as rushing through the autopsy, didn't "last long," this by no means suggests that, in 1966, he would have readily gone along with someone switching out his photos to hide the true nature of Kennedy's wounds.

That just goes too far. By 1996, when Stringer was first contacted by the ARRB, his memory had faded so badly that he couldn't even remember being contacted by the HSCA in 1977, let alone visiting the archives on their behalf. It follows then that the confusing aspects of his ARRB testimony may simply have been a reflection of his age, and the passing of time. It makes little sense, after all, to assume Stringer would readily admit what all too many now perceive as as an important truth--that he did not take the brain photographs--but then lie about the nature of Kennedy's head wounds in order to "get along." What, are we to believe Stringer was so stupid he didn't realize his disowning the brain photos was bound to raise some questions? 

And yes, you read that right. Those holding that Stringer was a bold and fearless truth-teller when discussing the brain photos inevitably hold he was a cowardly liar when discussing Kennedy's head wounds.

Consider... When first contacted by Doug Horne on behalf the ARRB, and asked to describe the large head wound, Stringer told Horne "there was a fist-sized hole in the right side of his head above his ear...It was the size of your fist and it was entirely within the hair area. There was a sort of flap of skin there, and some of the underlying bone was gone." When under oath in his ARRB testimony, moreover, Stringer further confirmed that, no matter who took the brain photos, there was NO large blow-out wound on the back of Kennedy's head. When asked to describe Kennedy's head wounds, he at first described a small wound on the occipital bone near the EOP, "about the size of a bullet, from what you could see." He then described the large head wound: "Well, the side of the head, the bone was gone. But there was a flap, where you could lay it back. But the back - I mean, if you held it in,  there was no vision. It was a complete head of hair. And on the front, there was nothing - the  scalp. There was nothing in the eyes. You could have - Well, when they did the body, you wouldn't have known there was anything wrong."

He was thereby describing the wound depicted in the autopsy photos and not the wound on the far back of the head proposed in books such as Horne's. Which only makes sense... Stringer had, after all, signed the aforementioned inventory in 1966 in which it was claimed the autopsy photos were those he'd taken, and had, upon studying these photos a second time in 1977, confirmed this by explaining to the HSCA's investigators what he was trying to portray as he took each shot. He had, moreover, told an interviewer from the Vero Beach Press-Journal in 1974 that the fatal bullet "had entered the right lower rear" of Kennedy's head and had come "out in the hair in the upper right side, taking with it a large chunk of his skull."

While Mr. Stringer had also intimated (in a 1972 phone call with David Lifton) that the "main damage" was on the "back part" of Kennedy's skull, it's not entirely clear that Stringer was describing the damage to the skull apparent before the reflection of the scalp, or after. It's fortunate then that Stringer got a chance to clarify this issue in his ARRB testimony. He explained that when he first saw the skull, the scalp at the back of the head "was all intact. But then they peeled it back, and then you could see this part of the bone gone." 

Now, should one believe I'm cherry-picking here, and wrongly accepting Stringer's latter-day recollections over his much earlier statements to Lifton, one should go back and read the transcript of Stringer's conversation with Lifton, as released by the ARRB. It's confusing to say the least. After Stringer told Lifton the wound was on the "back part" of the skull, Lifton sought further clarification. He asked "In other words, there was no five-inch hole in the top of his head?" To which Stringer replied "Oh, it was...ahh some of it was blown off--yeah. I mean, ahh...towards out of the top, in the back, yeah." Apparently unsatisfied with that answer, Lifton later returned to this question, and re-framed it in one of the most confusing series of questions I've ever read. He asked "If you lie back in a bath tub, just in a totally prone position and your head rests against the bath tub, is that the part of the head, you know, is that the part of the head that was damaged?" To which Stringer replied "Yeah." (Now, I'm already lost. If you're laying back in a bath tub, you're not really prone, are you? Does Stringer's response then indicate that the top of the head was damaged? Or the back of the head?) Lifton then sought further clarification--with an equally confusing question. He asked "the part that would be against the tile of the bathtub?" To which Stringer replied "Mm-hmmm." (I'm still lost. Isn't the "tile of the bathtub" normally the tile on the back wall of a bathtub? And, if so, doesn't Stringer's response suggest the crown of the head was damaged, and not the back?) Lifton then tried again: "Whereas the part that would be straight up ahead, vertically in that position--was undamaged?" To which Stringer replied "Oh, I wouldn't say--undamaged--no. There was---some of it was gone--I mean--out of some of the bone." (Now, I'm not exactly sure what this means. But it seems clear, nevertheless, that Stringer thought he'd observed a hole on the top of Kennedy's head, where so many assume no hole was found. And that's not all that seems clear. In his book Best Evidence, Lifton re-writes this last question, and changes the context of Stringer's reply. He claims he asked Stringer "about the part of the head which in that position would be straight up and down, the vertical part, the 'top.' Was that undamaged?" His actual words, of course, were not so clear. According to his transcript, he not only failed to specify that he was talking about the top of the head, but said "straight up ahead" instead of "straight up and down." And that's confusing as heck. There is reason to believe then, that Stringer was confused by Lifton's questions, and just played along to get him off his back, not realizing his answers would be quoted in a best-selling book some 9 years later, and cited as evidence for a massive conspiracy.)

And should one still have doubts Stringer failed to see a large hole on the back of Kennedy's head where conspiracy theorists believe it to have been, Stringer explained under further questioning by the ARRB that the occipital bone was "intact" but fractured, and that he could not recall any of it missing upon reflection of the scalp.

So, yes, it's clear. Those believing Stringer to be honest and credible when telling the ARRB he didn't take the brain photos, and then using this to suggest there was a blow-out wound to the back of Kennedy's head, are behaving like the Warren Commission in reverse: taking snippets of someone's testimony, propping these snippets up as proof of something, and then finding ways to hide or ignore that the bulk of the witness' statements suggest something other than what they are trying to prove. 

Now, this is fairly common behavior, on all sides of the discussion. But what is unusual in this circumstance is the strength with which those pushing this view hold onto two mutually exclusive ideas: 1) Stringer is a brave truth teller, and PROOF the brain photos are not of Kennedy's brain, and 2) Stringer is a gutless liar, out to protect the status quo by pretending there was no hole on the back of Kennedy's head. 

I trust I'm not alone in finding this a problem. As far as Doug Horne, not only does he push in his book that Stringer lied about Kennedy's head wounds to the ARRB, he asserts that Stringer first publicly reversed himself from the descriptions he'd provided Lifton (in the 1972 phone call) in 1993. This avoids that in the 1993 article cited by Horne, Stringer's 1974 comments, in which he'd accurately described the wounds depicted in the autopsy photos, were discussed, as well as the fact that a TV crew inspired by Lifton's book interviewed Stringer in 1988, only to shelve the footage when Stringer told them the autopsy photos were accurate depictions of Kennedy's wounds. This, then, raises as many questions about Horne's integrity as Stringer's. That Stringer was describing the wounds shown in the autopsy photos as early as 1974, after all, cuts into Horne's position that Stringer reversed himself on the nature of these wounds as a response to Lifton's book, published seven years later, in 1981.

Of course, Stringer's not the only witness to be abused in such a manner.

Harper, Lee, and Tom Robinson

Nor the most ridiculous. One of the strangest "back of the head" witnesses, in my opinion, is Tom Robinson, one of Kennedy's morticians. The stealth with which conspiracy theorists, in an attempt to acquit Lee Harvey Oswald, present Robinson's words to suggest Kennedy was shot from the front, is truly a wonder to behold.

Now,  we've already discussed how David Mantik and Doug Horne have twisted Robinson's recollection of some small wounds--which were not entrance wounds--on Kennedy's cheek--into his getting a good look at a an entrance wound high on the forehead--an entrance wound that had escaped the attention of those tasked with noticing such a wound. 

But they are far from alone in such nonsense. 

This is how researcher Michael Griffith presents Robinson in his online essay The Head Shot from the Front.

Tom Robinson the mortician. He reassembled the President's skull after the autopsy. He reports that there was still a visible defect in the back of the head even after the inclusion of some late-arriving skull fragments from Dallas.

After discussing Dr. Burkley's claim the bullet entered Kennedy's temple, and pretending that Burkley's words suggest a separate exit on the back of the head, Griffith further discusses Robinson: "This was very probably the same small temple-entry hole that was described by some of the Parkland doctors and that was filled with wax by Tom Robinson."

Well, this suggests that Robinson not only saw an exit on the back of the head and an entrance on the front, but that the Harper fragment--the only large bone fragment not recovered by the end of the autopsy--was occipital bone, correct?

Well, maybe, but what Griffith presents is not a fair presentation of Robinson's words.

When asked, on 1-12-77, by HSCA counsel Andy Purdy if he could tell what percentage of the large hole on the back of Kennedy's head he'd observed had been caused by bullets, as opposed to the doctors, he responded: “Not really. Well, I guess I can because a good bit of the bone had been blown away. There was nothing there to piece together, so I would say probably about [the size of] a small orange.”

Now, that's pretty vague, right? We know Robinson saw the skull at the end of the autopsy. And yet he has to "guess" how the wound was different at the end of the autopsy than how it was at the beginning of the autopsy? Now, one might "guess" from this that he really didn't get a good look at the head wound prior to the morticians' coming over to the body and, among other things, re-constructing Kennedy's skull. 

And one would be right if one did "guess" such a thing. Consider the summary of Robinson's 1996 interview with the ARRB, written by Doug Horne. It reveals: "Robinson said he had a '50 yard line seat' at the autopsy...He said the President's head was to his right, which means that he was on the anatomical left of the president during the autopsy. He said that most of the pathologists and their assistants were opposite him, on the anatomical right of the president during the autopsy."

Well, it's clear, then, that Robinson didn't get a good look at the President's head wound during the autopsy. And this means that Robinson's recollection of a wound the size of a small orange on the back of Kennedy's head was based upon what he saw towards the end of its re-construction.

Well, jeez. Robinson didn't even factor in that three large bone fragments had been retrieved by the Secret Service and added back into the skull during its re-construction.

He also assumed the reconstruction was accurate. Morticians are not forensic anthropologists. They are not trained to piece shattered skulls back together. They are cosmeticians. They stretch and sew torn scalp together to hide head wounds. They use packing material and rubber to reconstruct skulls, not super glue. In this case, moreover, they were hired to make the body presentable at a State Funeral. So, OF COURSE the hole left over at the end of the initial phases of reconstruction -- which Robinson did not even perform, nor pay much attention to--was on the back of the head (where it could be hidden in a pillow should the President have been given an open-casket funeral), and not the right top side of the head, from whence the Harper fragment almost certainly derived.

There is support in the historical record, moreover, that the reconstruction of Kennedy's skull was a cosmetic reconstruction, and not a forensic reconstruction. The notes on the HSCA's 8-29-77 interview of James Curtis Jenkins, Dr.s Humes and Boswell's assistant at the autopsy, reflects that he recalled watching "the mortician trying to arrange the small skull fragments in the head" and that "the embalmers replaced some of the tissue and used some type of plaster molding to close the head wound." Now, this head wound may or may not have been where it was when Jenkins first saw the body.

It is fortunate then that Jenkins later clarified this matter. While speaking at a 1991 video-taped conference in Dallas, Harrison Livingstone handed Jenkins a mannequin head marked on the low back of the head and said "This area, when the head came in, you said was opened up." Jenkins responded "Yes, the tissue was attached and the scalp was attached to bone fragments in all of this area." Note that Jenkins insisted that scalp was attached to the bone in "this area," and that there was thereby no blow-out wound in "this area." "This area," as claimed by Jenkins, moreover, is shown below. It is the back of the head, precisely where most conspiracy theorists assume there was a blow-out wound.

Jenkins was then asked to show where the wound was when he first saw the body. He put his hand on the top right side of his head, above his ear, and said "If I place the palm of my hand a little superior and anterior to the ear, it would encompass the circle of fingers." (This is shown at left below.) He then moved his hand back three inches or so and curled up his fingers to approximate the size of the "silver dollar or half-dollar" sized wound he said remained after reconstruction, and said "It was in approximately in this area, is where the final hole was--after everything had been drawn back and the body had been prepared for burial."  (This is shown at right below.)


Now, should that be too hard to make out, a GIF of this sequence of the interview was put online by a daft person, who insisted I was somehow misrepresenting what Jenkins hqd told Livingstone.So here it is... Note how Jenkins' hand drops dramatically at the end when showing where the hole was at the end of th autopsy. It is inches below where he first places it, exactly as I've claimed.

That the wound as first observed by Jenkins (at the top of the head) was not where Tom Robinson saw it at the end of the skull's reconstruction (near the middle of the back of the head) is supported, for that matter, by Robinson's statements to Harrison Livingstone that same year. As reported in High Treason 2, Robinson recalled that, after performing the reconstruction of Kennedy's skull: "A lot of the scalp in the back was gone. We used a piece of rubber there, in the back...No one could see the hole on the pillow...no hairpiece was used. We didn't have to, because the part of the back of the head where the scalp was missing was placed on the pillow...and no one could see it. There was a hole in the pillow to take care of the leakage, and that covered the missing area..."

I mean, think about it. How could this pillow have concealed the location of the hole on Kennedy's head, if the hole on Kennedy's head was where Jenkins claimed it was when he first observed the body? It couldn't. It seems probable then that Jenkins was telling the truth when he indicated the location of the wound at the end of the skull's reconstruction was in a different location than where it was when he first observed the wound.

But that's not the only reason to doubt the hole in the middle of the back of the head seen by Robinson was the exit wound seen at Parkland. For one, he said this hole on the skull was "circular." Well, who believes the triangular Harper fragment--as stated, the only large bone fragment still missing by the end of the autopsy--would leave a circular hole on the skull? No one. When asked by Doug Horne and the ARRB in 1996 to further describe this hole and mark the location of this hole on a drawing, moreover, Robinson contended that he believed this hole was an entrance wound, and placed it in the middle of the occipital bone, inches away from where conspiracy theorists Robert Groden and David Mantik have claimed the Harper fragment resided.

The strangeness surrounding Robinson's testimony, or at least most theorists' interpretation of his testimony, however, is best illustrated through a discussion not of Robinson's ARRB testimony, but Saundra Spencer's ARRB testimony. In Volume 2 of his 5 volume opus, Doug Horne writes: "Before the photograph that Saundra Spencer developed was exposed, a head-filler...was used to restore shape and structure to the severely damaged cranium; after a 'rubber dam' was located to help seal the large cranial defect and prevent body fluids from leaking from the cranium inside the casket, the remaining scalp was stretched back into place as much as possible and sutured together (as well as into the rubber dam material) outside the now hardened and reconstructed skull. The two-inch diameter 'wound' that Saundra Spencer recalls seeing squarely in the middle of the back of the head in one photograph, high in the occipital bone, simply represented the small area that the undertakers could not repair and close."

Robinson's fellow mortician John VanHoesen described a similar hole on the back of the head. According to Horne, VanHoesen claimed "it was roughly the size of a small orange...located in the center of the back of the head." Horne then proceeds to assert that VanHoesen, as Spencer, was describing the small hole remaining after skull reconstruction.

(Now, should one be fooled for a second into believing Horne is clear-headed on these matters, one should absorb the following fact: in his 4-9-21  presentation on the Future of Freedom Foundation website, Horne displayed Spencer's drawing of a wound on the back of Kennedy's head--a wound he believes is a depiction of the wound as seen after the skull's reconsruction--and asserted that this drawing lets us "know for a fact something is wrong with the photographs of the back of JFK's head in the official collection." Uhh, what??? How does a drawing depicting a hole on the back of the head after the skull was reconstructed prove there is something wrong with photos taken before the skull was torn apart and re-constructed? I mean, he can't possibly believe the morticians remembered what the skull looked like at the beginning of the autopsy when they re-assembled it hours later...,could he? And, if he does think that?...why? Were the morticians invited over to study the skull before the beginning of the autopsy? No... Were the morticians given notes and/or drawings telling them how to reconstruct the skull? Hell, no.... I mean, Horne acknowldeges there was a gaping hole on the top of the head when the morticians began their reconstruction. And he acknowledges as well that they reconstructed the skull to conceal this from the public. So how could he possibly think the photos described by Spencer--which he assures us  were taken after the skull was re-constructed--can tell us anything about the true nature of  Kennedy's wounds? It simply makes no sense.)

In any event, Horne claims Van Hoesen and Spencer, who described a small orange-sized hole on the back of Kennedy's head, were describing the wound after reconstruction.

And yet he maintains that Robinson, who described a hole in the exact same location, in nearly identical terms, (it was the size of a "small orange") was describing the head wound at the beginning of the autopsy! Well, where does he get that?

He gets that from Robinson's HSCA and ARRB interviews, and his claim the head wound was enlarged by Dr. Humes to remove the brain (something Humes actually testified to). Apparently, Horne assumes Robinson's description of the wound prior to being enlarged was based upon an independent observation, and not on speculation derived from its appearance during reconstruction. Apparently, Horne assumes Robinson was incorrect in claiming this enlargement was done because "The brain had to come out" and that, instead, this was done to conceal the nature of Kennedy's wounds. 

And no, I'm not misrepresenting Horne's views (I went back and checked). In Volume II of Inside the Assassination Records Review Board, Horne discusses Robinson's statements to the HSCA and ARRB, and then proclaims (I kid you not)

"AN EPIPHANY: THE POST MORTEM SURGERY TO THE THE HEAD WAS PERFORMED AT BETHESDA NAVAL HOSPITAL AFTER THE BODY ARRIVED, NOT ELSEWHERE PRIOR TO THE BODY'S ARRIVAL"

He then explains: "During this procedure the large exit wound in the rear of the skull, a blowout resulting from a frontal shot, was surgically enlarged to four or five times its original size, and expanded in both a lateral and superior direction on the skull, in order to facilitate access to the brain, and the removal of evidence, prior to the taking of skull x-rays by Custer and Reed. The purposes of this post mortem surgery would clearly have been threefold: 1) to remove bullets or bullet fragments from the brain that would have provided proof of a shot from the front, leading inevitably to a conclusion of crossfire, and therefore evidence of conspiracy, and to do so prior to the taking of x-rays, and prior to later removing what was left of the brain during the autopsy, after 8:00 PM; 2) to attempt to change the physical appearance of what was clearly noted to be an exit wound in the back of the skull when the body arrived at the morgue, to a much larger head defect that could be represented as a 'blowout' or exit wound chiefly in the top and right side of the skull, caused by a hypothetical shot from behind; and 3) to remove any forensic evidence on the body of an entry wound in the front of the head, and also to remove any brain tissue that may have contained an obvious bullet track indicating a shot from the front." 

Well, gulp, that's quite an "epiphany." Unfortunately for Horne, however, none of his supposed witnesses to this presumed pre-autopsy surgery to the head (e.g. Robinson) saw such a thing. Robinson claimed he saw the doctors open up the skull and pull out the brain. He said nothing about them opening up the skull and digging around awhile looking for pieces of metal to remove, without the benefit of x-rays, etc. He said nothing about them calling in the x-ray techs only after they'd completed this task, and then officially starting the autopsy, etc. 

And it's worse than that. Horne and Mantik have presented their findings to the research community as a unified theory, when they are in fact grossly at odds. Mantik has long-claimed the x-rays and autopsy photos reveal the former location of the Harper fragment, that is, the location on the back of Kennedy's skull from where it had been dislodged. Well, how can this be if these x-rays and photos were taken AFTER Humes and Boswell had "surgically enlarged" the supposed blowout on the back of the head "to four or five times its original size, and expanded" this wound "in both a lateral and superior direction on the skull"

One or more of them is wrong. Probably both. I mean, seriously, Horne claims Ed Reed saw Humes performing post-mortem surgery on JFK's head BEFORE the x-rays were taken when Reed specified that he saw Humes cutting AFTER the x-rays were taken. These x-rays, moreover, show a hole on the top of the head and and an intact back of the head (where Mantik claims there is an invisible hole.) And yet Horne claims Humes only removed bone during this post-mortem surgery, and did not add any bone--that he expanded the wound on the back of the head to become a giant wound from front to back. And Mantik has said something similar in an email to Education Forum moderator Sandy Larsen. 

But how can this be if the bone at the top of the back of the skull on the x-rays (which they claim were taken after the wound had been expanded) is authentic, as claimed by Mantik and Horne???? 

While their theories are inconsistent, they are consistently incoherent. 

If the presumed hole on the back of Kennedy's head started out as orange-sized, and was then expanded for the taking of the autopsy photos, and then reconstructed after midnight with the addition of the three large skull fragments flown in from Dallas, after all, how could it be orange-sized at the end of the reconstruction, as claimed by VanHoesen, and, as Horne presumes, Spencer? (Oh, wait, that's right--Horne and his disciples claim this was a hoax--and that the fragments supposedly flown in from Dallas were really fragments removed by Humes before the official beginning of the autopsy--and that they were paraded back in during the official autopsy to fool those in attendance...)

In any event, it seems near-certain that the orange-sized hole recalled by Robinson was the hole he saw at the end of the skull's reconstruction, and not before the beginning of a super-secret pre-autopsy surgery observed by Reed (who insisted this "surgery" was performed AFTER the taking of the x-rays) and Robinson himself (who insisted this surgery was performed to remove the brain--the brain Horne claims was not removed until later). 

So...yikes. Horne and Mantik hold Robinson up as a star witness--who observed 1) a bullet hole on Kennedy's forehead, 2) a blow-out wound on the back of the head, and 3) pre-autopsy surgery to alter Kennedy's wounds.

But in fact they hold him to be a terrible witness--a blitherng idiot, even. He said he saw small wounds on the cheek and they say "NOPE it was really a bullet hole in the forehead." And he says he saw a blow-out wound on the side of the head and they say "NOPE that was done by the doctors--the wound you saw on the back of the head after the skull was reconstructed was the only blow-out wound at the beginninig of the autopsy and was the one you saw before the pre-autopsy surgery," and he said Humes cut into the skull to remove the brain and they said "NOPE he didn't remove the brain when performing the pre-autopsy surgery you witnessed--that was later."

But it's worse than that, of course. Horne, we shouldn't forget, claims Tom Robinson, his star witness, drove Kennedy's body to Bethesda so this presumed pre-autopsy surgery could be performed...and then concealed this from the record.  

Horne's "epiphany" is, in reality, noxious smoke.

No. Nothing strange there. And the strangeness of Horne's use of Robinson to prove the bullet exploded from the back of Kennedy's head gets even stranger when one considers that Horne's interviews with Robinson and VanHoesen established that the reconstruction of Kennedy's skull was performed by a never-interviewed third man, Ed Stroble. Now, to be fair, Stroble was long-dead by the time of the ARRB. But that hadn't stopped Horne and the ARRB from interviewing the friends and relatives of other long-dead witnesses, such as George Burkley and Robert Knudsen, to see what they had to say. 

We can be grateful, then, that on 11-25-13, the (Illinois) Herald & Review published an article on Stroble. This article reprinted a 1964 letter from Stroble to a friend named Linda Gobengeiser. It read “I was simply astounded that you had ever heard about my being the one to embalm Pres. Kennedy, or rather to put him back together. I’m under orders from the White House, Secret Service and the FBI not to discuss any factors relating to points of entry of bullets, nor their effects. So I can’t tell you anything that would be interesting evolving from natural curiosity. I can, however, tell you that it took all my knowledge and acquired skills to make him presentable. That along with a lot of good luck. The good luck part, only an embalmer would understand." Beyond Gobengeiser, the article also quoted Lynn Kull, a friend of Stroble's and a fellow mortician. According to Kull, Stroble visited his family's funeral home in December 1963, to show them the check he'd received for working on the President. According to Kull, Stroble was indiscreet during this visit, and told them that the president had been "shot in the very top of the cranium" and was also "hit about the seventh vertebrae in his back." According to Kull, Stroble also stressed that "Kennedy’s face was not marred."  

The "very top of the cranium," not the back of the cranium. While Kull is a second-hand witness reporting what someone told him 50 years before, he nevertheless has more credibility than some of the "back of the head" witnesses propped up by the wilder conspiracy theorists. 

But that's getting ahead of ourselves...

Well, then, what about the entrance on the front of the head observed by Robinson? Certainly, Robinson's recollection of THAT wound is important. Well, WHAT entrance on the front of the head? He saw no such thing.

Here is his discussion with Purdy of the wound he observed.

PURDY: Did you notice anything else unusual about the body which may not have been artificially caused, that is caused by something other than the autopsy?

ROBINSON: Probably, a little mark at the temples in the hairline. As I recall, it was so small it could be hidden by the hair. It didn't have to be covered with make-up. I thought it probably a piece of bone or a piece of the bullet that caused it.

PURDY: In other words, there was a little wound.

ROBINSON: Yes.

PURDY: Approximately where, which side of the forehead or part of the head was it on?

ROBINSON: I believe it was on the right side.

PURDY: On his right side?

ROBINSON: That's an anatomical right, yes.

PURDY: You say it was in the forehead region up near the hairline?

ROBINSON: Yes.

PURDY: Would you say it was closer to the top of the hair?

ROBINSON: Somewhere around the temples.

PURDY: Approximately what size?

ROBINSON: Very small, about a quarter of an inch.

PURDY: Quarter of an inch is all the damage. Had it been closed up by the doctors?

ROBINSON: No, he didn't have to close it. If anything, I just would have probably put a little wax in it.

When asked later what he thought caused this wound, moreover, he claimed "I think either a piece of bone or a piece of the bullet. Or a very small piece of shrapnel." When then asked if that was the only place he thought a bullet could have exited, he repeated "It was no bullet. It was a fragment or a piece of the bone." When then asked yet again--for once and for all--what he thought caused the wound, he reiterated "A piece of the bone or metal exiting."

So, Robinson did not call this wound an entrance, nor think it was an entrance. No, he believed it to have been an exit for a very small fragment of some sort, or perhaps even a mark created by shrapnel. This is NOT the description of an entrance hole for an explosive round, nor a high-velocity bullet hole of any kind.

Heck, it was a wound so small that Robinson wasn't even sure he put wax in it.

So why pretend otherwise?

I mean, Griffith, a fairly conservative person, has presented the exact same nonsense spewed by the far from conservative James Fetzer in his online posts, and has indicated that Robinson saw 1) an exit on the back of the head (when he in fact said he thought it was an entrance), and 2) an entrance on the front of the head (when he in fact said it was to his mind an exit for a small fragment, and possibly even a nick from shrapnel).

And he is far from the worst abuser of Robinson's testimony. In a video-taped interview posted on the Dealey Plaza UK video channel on 6-25-19, Dr. David Mantik claimed the
"small hole" on Kennedy's temple described by Robinson was "probably right above the lateral orbit right where the hairline is" (at which point he pointed out a wound above the eye, and not on the temple). He then added that "It's just the right size for a bullet hole." Well, no, a bullet hole of entrance would have been a bit larger and had an abrasion ring and not looked like a small shrapnel wound. And Robinson knew it and had insisted to Purdy that what he saw was not a bullet entrance. Not that Mantik admitted this, of course. He not only pretended Robinson was describing a bullet entrance he pretended Robinson was describing a bullet entrance above the right eye, where he, Mantik,  had just so coincidentally taken to claming, along with his conferates Doug Horne and Mike Chesser, a bullet hole was located. 

As we've seen, moreover, the widespread abuse of Robinson's statements is not an isolated case. Robinson is in fact far from the only "back of the head" witness whose stories fail to support what is claimed of them.

The James Jenkins Flip-Flop

Sadly, this list now includes James Jenkins...

The earliest record of James Jenkins' recollections is an 8-29-77 HSCA memo written by Jim Kelly and Andy Purdy (ARRB Medical Document 65). This document reflects that the head wound observed by Jenkins resided "in the middle temporal region back to the occipital." While this is a bit confusing, as the temporal bone is on the side of the head, one must realize that Jenkins is quoted as saying "temporal region" and not "temporal bone."

Well, a quick google search demonstrates that the temporal region includes but is not restricted to the temporal bone, and stretches up onto the parietal bone.

Here, then, is a depiction of "the boundaries of the temporal region," found online. The temporal bone itself is in red.

Well, think  about it. The wound, according to Jenkins, went back to the occipital. This suggests it resided on the right side of the head, presumably the right top side of the head, but did not stretch onto the far back of the head, below the level of the ears. 

On this point, moreover, Jenkins remained consistent. He was next interviewed by author David Lifton on 9-23-79. As recounted in Best Evidence (1980), Jenkins told Lifton that the large head wound was "situated toward the rear" and that "the general way the fragments were distributed--the way scalp with bone attached seemed to have been exploded outward and to the rear" convinced him "that the shot must have come from the front" (Note: these are Lifton's words and are not direct quotes.) Lifton then repeated that Jenkins told him that the large defect "extended toward the rear...with fragments that seemed to be hanging on."

Lifton then quoted Jenkins with a more precise description of the wound's location: “I would say the parietal and occipital section on the right side of the head---it was a large gaping area, even though, I think, as we put it back together, most of the skull, the bone itself was there. It had just been crushed, and kind of blown apart, toward the rear…I’m laying my hand on the back area of my skull. And my hand is probably five to six inches from the span of my little finger to the tip of my thumb. So if I spread my fingers and put my hand back there, that probably would be the area that was missing.”

Well, this is a bit confusing. Jenkins described a large gaping area, but acknowledged that most of the bone itself was there. It seems probable, then, that when he described a five to six inch area where bone was "missing," Jenkins meant "missing after the scalp was reflected," and not "missing before the beginning of the autopsy."

Well, then, what about the gaping hole of missing scalp and bone as first observed? Where, exactly, was that?

Almost certainly on the top and side of the head--and not on the far back of the head. Note that Lifton never quotes Jenkins as saying there was a gaping hole on the back of the head. As Lifton's theory held that someone had restored the hole on the back of the head with the intent of deceiving the doctors and creating a false photographic record, this only makes sense. Because that's where the wound is shown in the photos. 

But there's more to it that that. In the 2000's I got to know Lifton a little, and he mentioned his distrust of Jenkins' recollections on multiple occasions. In 2024, for that matter, I obtained a copy of Lifton's notes on Jenkins, which he'd created in 2001 to record just why he thought Jenkins was unreliable. In any event, in a key admission, IMO, seeing as he'd failed to mention this in his book Best Evidence, Lifton acknowledged in these notes that he'd shown the Ida Dox tracing of the back of the head photo (an HSCA exhibit showing what appears to be an intact back of the head)  to Jenkins in a filmed interview, and that Jenkins had told him "Yes, that's how it looked."

So, long story short, there is no evidence Jenkins believed the back of the head was missing in the 80's. 

But then things slipped a bit. But just a bit. 

In High Treason 2, author Harrison Livingstone reported that he spoke to Jenkins on 10-8-90, and that Jenkins told him “Everything from just above the right ear back was fragmented…there was (an absence of scalp and bone) along the midline just above the occipital area…this (wound) would not have been low enough to have gotten into the cerebellum.”

So...okay. He was now saying there was a hole on the back of the head but it was above the occipital area, and did not overlay the cerebellum. This puts it at the top of the back of the head, presumably on the right side.

And, sure enough, this is where Jenkins placed the wound when asked to show its location in a 1991 video-taped interview with Harrison Livingstone. Here it is again.

When speaking to William Law in 1998, for that matter, Jenkins said much the same thing. When asked to estimate the size of the head wound, Jenkins told Law: "It would be difficult to estimate because a lot of the hair was still attached to the skull fragments--the skull was fragmented. But I would say that if you take your hand and you put the heel of your thumb behind your ear, that would cover the basic part of the wound with the open hole approximately in that area." Law filmed this interview, moreover, and this showed that Jenkins' hand --the location of the "open hole"--was entirely above the highest tip of his ear, on the parietal bone, and not on the back of the head below the highest tip of his ear, the location of the occipital bone, and cerebellum.

Here, then, is Jenkins, as he said "open hole."

Now, in 2024, I was attacked online by someone claiming I had deliberately presented a darkened image to confuse people or some such thing. So here is this image from William Law's book, In the Eye of History. (It is a clearer image, from apparently a split second later, when Jenkins' hand has chanaged position. But the point is moot as he is still clearly pointing to the top of his head, and not the middle of the back of his head, where people like this someone would like to believe he pointed.

I, myself, had a chance to discuss this with Jenkins on November 22, 2013. In focus group discussions at the JFK Lancer conference in Dallas he told a group of people, including at one point Dr. Gary Aguilar, Dr. David Mantik, and myself, that a common "misconception is that that there was actually skull missing" on the far back of Kennedy's head. He explained that "the skull was fragmented from here (he pointed to the top of his head) to here (he pointed to the low back of his head), but it was intact." He later re-iterated "All of this back here (he pointed to the back of his head between his ears) was attached" and still later, in a second discussion close to midnight, that "The only thing keeping the skull structure intact was the scalp" and that it all collapsed when they pulled the scalp back.

This last point, as we've seen, and shall see, was supported by the words of Dr. Humes and Jerrol Custer. 

Now, for some, Custer's numerous statements regarding the head wound in the 1990's and Jenkins' supporting statements to Law and others, including myself, would be the end of the blown-out hole low on the back-of-the-head theory. But not for David Mantik. Not only did he turn around and report that Jenkins' recollections didn't jive with the official autopsy photos, but his representation of Jenkins' statements led Doug Horne to post a widely-disseminated post on his blog about Jenkins' supporting his and Mantik's claims the occipital bone was blown out. Horne then used this to support his theory holding that Dr. Humes performed a pre-autopsy on the body to conceal this from the bulk of the witnesses.

It was to my relief, then, that I got a second chance to talk to Jenkins on 11-20 and 11-21-15. He was once again in attendance at the JFK Lancer Conference in Dallas--this time to help promote a Blu-ray disc put together from a group interview conducted a decade earlier. David Mantik was another participant in this interview. As a consequence, he was on the panel on which Jenkins spoke.

In an effort to avoid a confrontation, then, I talked to Jenkins first, out in the hallway, on 11-20, and then second, after his appearance on a panel the next evening. On this second occasion I went over to him with a young researcher named Matt Douthit, and the two of us engaged in some friendly talk with Jenkins before asking him some key questions. When we asked him about the location of the large head wound, he once again specified that it was above the occipital bone, and did not involve the cerebellum. When we told him that this was in direct opposition to Dr. Mantik's recently-released e-book, in which he insisted, despite all the evidence, that the Harper fragment was occipital bone, and that the cerebellum was blasted, Jenkins responded with a shrug and said something like "Well, people are gonna believe what they wanna believe." (Not a direct quote) When we then explained to him that Mantik and Horne were trying to shoehorn all the evidence into their jointly-developed theory, and then sell this to the research community, and that their theory holds both that the Harper fragment exploded from the occipital bone, and that the missing bone on the top of the head had been removed by Dr. Humes in pre-autopsy surgery, right there in the morgue, he looked at me in disbelief, and told us that he was with the body from the moment it was taken from the casket, and that there was no pre-autopsy surgery. We then asked him if he was willing to state for the record that Mantik and Horne's theory was nonsense, and he gave me an uncomfortable look, and finally allowed that "If it happened, it was not in the morgue I was in." (And yes, that is a direct quote.) Spotting a loophole, I then asked him if the body could have been altered in some other room down the hall. He then corrected me, and said there was no other room in which it could have taken place, and that he meant that if it occurred, it would have to have taken place somewhere else entirely.

In an effort to avoid a confrontation, then, I talked to Jenkins first, out in the hallway, on 11-20, and then second, after his appearance on a panel the next evening. On this secnd occasion I went over to him with a young researcher named Matt Douthit, and the two of us engaged in some friendly talk with Jenkins before asking him some key questions. before we asked some  with When I asked him about the location of the large head wound, he once again specified that it was above the occipital bone, and did not involve the cerebellum. When I told him that this was in direct opposition to Dr. Mantik's recently-released e-book, in which he insisted, despite all the evidence, that the Harper fragment was occipital bone, and that the cerebellum was blasted, Jenkins responded with a shrug and said something like "Well, people are gonna believe what they wanna believe." (Not a direct quote) When I then explained to him that Mantik and Horne were trying to shoehorn all the evidence into their jointly-developed theory, and then sell this to the research community, and that their theory holds both that the Harper fragment exploded from the occipital bone, and that Dr. Humes concealed this from the record via pre-autopsy surgery, he looked at me in disbelief, and told me (and my fellow questioner, Matt Douthit) that he was with the body from the moment it was taken from the casket, and that there was no pre-autopsy surgery. I then asked him if he was willing to state for the record that Mantik and Horne's theory was nonsense, and he gave me an uncomfortable look, and finally allowed that "If it happened, it was not in the morgue I was in." (And yes, that is a direct quote.) Spotting a loophole, I then asked him if the body could have been altered in some other room down the hall. He then corrected me, and said there was no other room in which it could have taken place, and that he meant that if it occurred, it would have to have taken place somewhere else entirely.

So there you have it, from the best witness still living...the best evidence available. The Mantik/Horne theory is nonsense.

And TOXIC to the credibility of the JFK research community...

Now it pains me to write this, but it seems clear Jenkins was subsequently convinced to play along with the Mantik/Horne charade. In 2018, he released At the Cold Shoulder of History, a book on his experiences and recollections of the autopsy. For this book, he made some appearances, most notably, the JFK Lancer Conference on 11-17-18. In this appearance, he was asked by an audience member to show the location of Kennedy's large head wound. And complied. A screen grab showing this follows...

Well, this wasn't the middle of the back of the head, where the Horne/Mantik tribe needed him to point. But, assuming he was pointing it out with his fingertips, it appeared that he'd nevertheless lowered his impression of the wound's location.

Or not. On this same trip to Dallas, Jenkins and his co-writer William Law were locked in a room with Mike Chesser and David Mantik, and a video was released of their encounter entitled A Meeting of the Minds. (That's called sarcasm. The bit about beng locked in the room...) It starts off with Jenkins telling his story but before long he starts telling what he thinks happened based upon what some conspiracy writer told him, etc, and it goes downhill from there.  By the end, believe it or not, Mike Chesser, who had recently visited the archives and viewed the autopsy materials,  is telling Jenkins what he ought to believe and assures him that he cannot rely upon the materials publicly available, as they have been altered or cropped in suspicious ways. In other words, he's telling Jenkins "Trust me, and I will answer your questions." In any event, at one point in this video someone decides that Jenkins should point out the large head wound's location on Mantik's head. And, oh my, look at what he did...

 Now it's a bit hard to make out, but he is pointing out a section on the back of the head that is inches to the rear of where he'd pointed out a wound to William Law years earlier. But look again. This section is still entirely above the ear and presumably the occipital bone, where Mantik and Horne claim the wound was centered.

So, no, Jenkins' recollections do not surpport their theories....no matter how hard they try to convince us they do.

Days later, on 11-22-18, an interview of Jenkins with Patrick Bet-David showed up on Youtube. Well, in this video, Jenkins once again demonstrated just where there was a gaping hole on the skull, and where the skull was fractured but intact. 

And, guess what? What his Lancer appearnce only suggested, this interview confirmed. He'd flip-flopped from his earlier representations!

Here, see for yourself. About half-way through the video, Jenkins picks up a rubber skull, and says "The wound was here, approximately where my finger is. It was about 3 1/2 inches long and about 2 inches wide. That is where the missing bone was."

Well, yikes, this stretches down into the occipital region--precisely where Jenkins had previously claimed the skull was fractured but intact beneath the scalp.

He then added, while pointing at the following location... "This area was fractured but it wasn't gone--it was still being kept intact by the scalp."

Well, gulp, this is exactly where Jenkins said there was an "open hole" years earlier.

Now, after viewing this video, I downloaded Jenkins' recently released e-book, At the Cold Shoulder of History, to see if he'd flip-flopped on the head wound location before or after its writing.

I found my answer. Before. Early in the book, Jenkins describes his first impressions of the head wound. He writes: "As Dr. Humes removed the wrappings from the head, the wound gaped open along a laceration that ran forward along the top of the head...The first appearance of the head wound was deceiving..." Well, maybe. But, if so, why did it take Jenkins more than 50 years to see through this deception, and realize the hole was really on the back of the head?

A bit later, Jenkins asserts "The scalp was torn and macerated with fractured bone fragments still clinging to the scalp. The entire area was covered with matted hair and dried blood. This made it difficult to determine the true extent of the wound." He then claims "after the scalp was reflected back from the skull, the wound that had been missing scalp and bone appeared to be more consistent with the shape and dimensions previously described by Dr. McClelland." He then describes: "The wound, missing bone and scalp, was a large gaping wound in the occipital-parietal area of the right posterior side of the head. It looked to be about 2.5 to 3 inches (5 to 7 cm) by 1.5 to 2 inches (3 to 5 cm) in size with a rounded border at the top traveling downward in an elongated rectangular/triangular shape with irregular margins."

Well, my God! Someone--seemingly Jenkins himself--but quite possibly Jenkins under the influence of his co-writer, William Law--has tried to make Jenkins' description of the wound align with the so-called McClelland drawing, and the latter-day descriptions of the wound by Dr. Robert McClelland...but has failed to note that the wound described by Jenkins is far smaller! To wit, the wound described by Jenkins could be as small as 2.5 by 1.5 in (or 3.75 sq in) and as large as 3 by 2 in (or 6 sq in) while, as of 2012, McClelland has taken to claiming the wound missing scalp and bone on the back of the head was 4 by 5 in (20 sq in--3 1/3 to 5 1/3 times as large!)

Now, to be clear, there's some confusion on this point... Jenkins returns to the subject of the wound's size later in his book, and admits "I think it is only fair to say that my given measurements--2.5 to 3 inches (5 to 7 cm) by 1.5 to 2 inches (3 to 5 cm)--of the wound, missing bone and scalp area, are approximations and not measured ones, even though the difference between 3 inches and 5 inches is obvious to most people." Well, this is curious. This reference to "5 inches" might be a reference to McClelland, and his approximation of the wound's size. But I doubt it. In the context of the sentence, it seems far more likely the "3 inches and 5 inches" was supposed to read "3 cm and 5 cm."

In any event, it's clear from the measurements provided by Jenkins that his flip-flop--his movement of the open hole he'd previously described at the top of the head to the far back of the head--was not performed in close coordination with Dr. Mantik and Doug Horne. Horne, after all, proposed that Dr. Humes expanded the size of the head wound observed at Parkland, and that the wound observed at Bethesda by those not in on this clandestine pre-autopsy surgery to the head (including Jenkins) was 4 to 5 times as large as the wound observed at Parkland. And this was nothing new. Long before Horne, Lifton had proposed that the wound seen at Bethesda was more than 4 times as large as the wound seen at Parkland. And yet, here's Jenkins, claiming that the wound he observed at Bethesda was but 1/5 as large as the wound observed by Lifton and Horne's star witness, Dr. Robert McClelland, at Parkland!

So, yeah--EEGADS--the numbers don't lie. The "open hole" described by Jenkins was roughly 1/20 as large as it needed to be to support Lifton and Horne's theories!

Now, I know, for some this is hard to believe. So, here's Horne's theory as summarized by Horne to Dick Russell in On the Trail of the JFK Assassins (2008): "Dr.s Humes and Boswell...performed the post-mortem surgery that so drastically altered the head wound--enlarging it to four to five times its original size in an attempt to make it appear more or less consistent with a large exit wound caused by a shot fired from behind. In altering the head wound they not only dramatically expanded the size of the rather localized exit wound in the rear of the head seen in Dallas, to encompass the top of the skull and part of the right side, but also surgically removed from the body evidence of an entry wound in the right front of the head."

Now let's compare this to Jenkins' latter-day claims... 1. He says he was with the body from the beginning and failed to observe any pre-autopsy surgery performed by Humes and Boswell. 2. He says the open hole he saw at the beginning of the official autopsy was small--far smaller, in fact, than the wound currently described by Dr. McClelland. 3. He says he saw a bullet entrance on the right side of the head, and that this was not removed from the "body evidence" by Humes and Boswell, but, instead, briefly studied by Finck and Humes, and then ignored.

In short, then, Jenkins' recollections are thoroughly at odds with what Lifton and Horne have proposed. Central to Lifton and Horne's theories (i.e. JFK body alteration theories in general) is that Kennedy's body was altered before the beginning of the autopsy to disguise the direction of fire on the skull and that a wound on the back of the head was expanded to include the top of the head. Jenkins, however, says that at the beginning of the autopsy there was an exit wound on the back of the head, and that the wound expanded on its own to include the top of the head once the scalp was reflected. And he says as well that an entrance wound was apparent on the right side of the head.

And no, I'm not the only one to notice that Jenkins' statements are incompatible with Lifton and Horne's theories. Jenkins spoke at the 2018 JFK Lancer conference, and said, to the horror of a at least one member of the audience, James Fetzer: "The wound that I saw was pretty much in agreement with the Parkland doctors." Well, this caused Fetzer to scream at Jenkins from the audience, and insist (because David Lifton and Doug Horne said so) that the wound at Bethesda was much bigger than the wound Jenkins saw at Parkland. Jenkins then offered that "when the scalp was reflected, bone adhering to the scalp fell away and fell into the cranium, which gave the wound an appearance of being larger than it really was." 

So, yes, Jenkins refused to support Lifton and Horne's theories holding that the head wound he first  observed at Bethesda was many times the head wound observed at Parkland. 

And yet, this divide between the theories of Lifton and Horne, and Jenkins' 2018 recollections, is largely invisible to those prone to swallow the body alteration theory. Jenkins has come to believe the brain he infused at autopsy was not Kennedy's actual brain, and had somehow been switched. And Jenkins has come to disown the bulk of the autopsy photos, and come to suspect they were taken in a morgue other than the one at Bethesda. And that's mighty interesting.

But it does NOT support the theories of Lifton and Horne, which hold that the body was altered before it was viewed by Jenkins, so that the photos would reflect a different shooting scenario than the scenario apparent at Parkland.

The theories are, in fact, mutually exclusive. If Jenkins is to be believed, then Lifton and Horne are wrong. Period. No one manipulated the wounds. Period. While Jenkins supports a whole new possibility--that the autopsy photos are, yessirree, fakes, taken at some other morgue--this doesn't align with the presumption of Lifton and his followers that the photos were taken at Bethesda after the body had been altered en route to the hospital. Nor does it align with the presumption of Horne and his followers that the body was altered at the hospital, by the men Jenkins was tasked with assisting, Dr.s Humes nd Boswell. 

Jenkins says he was in the morgue almost without break from 3:30 in the afternoon until 9 the next morning. He would have noticed if his bosses, the men he was charged with assisting, had cut large pieces off the top of Kennedy's head upon his arrival at the morgue, prior to the taking of the x-rays. But he didn't see this. And he didn't see this because it never happened. It is, in fact, a hoax. 

Of course, this doesn't stop Jenkins (and presumably his co-writer William Law) from trying to have it both ways, and make out that Jenkin' recollections of the large head wound align with wound shown in the "McClelland" drawing, which most CT readers accept as gospel. 

In his book, Jenkins continues: "My given measurements also approximated more closely the diminutions given by Dr. McClelland at Parkland as he observed the wound in the emergency room than those listed in the official report." (Well this is a bit deceptive, seeing as Jenkins admits he believes the size of the wound described in the official report is the size of the wound AFTER the scalp was pulled back, and the brain removed.) The so-called McClelland drawing (which is shown on the Boswell and Johnson slide, above, and the JFK and the Unthinkable slide, below) is then shown the reader, after which Jenkins claims "This closely matches the wound that I saw after the scalp was retracted from the skull. The area shown was the area where both bone and scalp were missing." (Now, this, too, is deceptive. Jenkins has long claimed that fragments of skull stuck to the scalp and/or fell to the table as the scalp was retracted, and that, in any event, the wound changed appearance as the scalp was retracted.) Jenkins then tries to explain how the "McClelland" drawing of the wound (before retraction of the scalp) could match his recollections of the wound (after retraction of the scalp): "While some bone was separated from the scalp as it was being retracted, you could still readily see the true area where there was an absence of bone and scalp." He then admits "My original thought when I first saw this drawing was that the wound appeared to be a little more caudal, toward the neck, and lateral, than the wound seen at autopsy. This may be (mis)perception on my part due to the slightly turned head in the drawing." He then closes "The position of the wound in the drawing correlates well with the wound that I saw at autopsy after the scalp was retracted."

So what happened? Why did Jenkins, after decades of claiming the hole was at the top of the head,  suddenly find it necessary to make his recollections of the large head wound align with the wound as depicted in the "McClelland" drawing? And why didn't anyone tell him that a number of witnesses--including McClelland himself--had long-since acknowledged the inaccuracy of this drawing?

I mean, it doesn't add up. Probably the most interesting part of Jenkins' book is a transcript to a 1993 interview for which he'd been hypnotized. There, 30 years after Kennedy's autopsy, Jenkins described his first impression of the head wound when viewing Kennedy's body as it was laying flat on its back on the table: "From where I am standing...from the top of the head, I don't see any holes or anything. I just see tissue and scalp, actually scalp that looks like it's intact--It's kind of pressed in. Right in front of the ear, back toward the back of the head...Now, they are lifting the body up for--I can see the wound on the side. It's fairly extensive. It's fairly high in the back of the head. Really the gaping starts toward the center, back behind the ear. It's a lot of scalp and tissue. It's being held together by--a lot of the bones were held together by scalp."

Now, this doesn't match up with Jenkins' 2018 description of the wound, now does it? The "fairly high in the back of the head" open hole best viewed from "the side" above an area where the bones were  held together by scalp had become a small hole low on the back of the head not visible from the side below an area where the bones were held together by scalp.

Of course, we already knew this--that Jenkins had pulled a switcheroo--based upon his '91 interview with Livingstone, and '98 interview with Law, and numerous discussions with researchers, including yours truly in 2015.

So...I repeat. What happened? What, or who, happened to Jenkins as he was preparing to write his book?

Well, Jenkins made numerous mentions of a "neurologist friend" in the interview conducted by Bet-David. This "neurologist friend," moreover, had recently been shown the autopsy photos. Well, this could only be Dr. Michael Chesser, Dr. Mantik's head cheerleader, and the only doctor selected by Jenkins to write a chapter for his book. In his 2018 appearance at the JFK Lancer Conference, for that matter, Jenkins said flat-out that he had met Mike Chesser at the 2015 conference, had worked with him for years, and that the two had engaged in a lot of "back and forth" while working on Jenkins' book.

So, yikes, let's refresh. In 2013, James Jenkins came forward at the urging of William Law, and began speaking to the research community. At that time he was insistent the back of the head was intact beneath the scalp--something he had maintained for decades. Nevertheless, David Mantik and Doug Horne pounced on his statements as support for their theory the back of the head was missing when Jenkins first saw the body.  But he puttered on, and continued to claim the back of the head was intact, as late as 2015. He was then befriended by Mantik's number one acolyte, Michael Chesser, and--VOILA--he suddenly started claiming the back of the head was missing when he first saw the body. 

We don't need to connect the dots because they form a straight line....

Above: A Meeting of the Minds. No, not a joke. This is a screenshot from a video entitiled A Meeting of the Minds, a video in which sadly no minds are met. Tellingly, the video starts off with James Jenkins telling his story but gradually shifts to Jenkins saying what he's come to believe after immersing himself in conspiracy literature, and then fully devolves into Mike Chesser telling Jenkins what to believe. From L to R: Mike Chesser, James Jenkins, William Law, and David Mantik. 

The Who/What/Why on the WTF???

In 2024, I finally realized just what was going on with Mantik/Horne/Chesser and Jenkins. Jenkins had long said he thought the top of the back of Kennedy's  head was damaged or missing when first viewed at the autopsy. But that didn't support Horne's theory holding that the middle of the back of the head was blown out when first viewed at Bethesda, so Horne/Mantik/Chesser pressured him into claiming it was the MIDDLE of the right side of the back of the head that was missing, and not the top. Okay. But it gets worse. Jenkins had also long claimed he saw a a gray smear--an indication of a bullet's entry-- by the right temple. Now this corresponds with Mantik/Chesser/Horne's claim a bullet entered in this area and blew out the back of Kennedy's head, where the hole observed by Jenkins was located. And yet, there was Horne, in the 2023 film JFK: What the Doctors Saw, claiming Jenkins saw an entrance wound high on JFK's forehead

Now I know I've discussed this before, but it failed to register at that time WHY Horne was so determined to lie about what Jenkins saw. 

I mean, why not just take what the guy said and run with it? Why pretend he said something else or convince him to say something else when what he said was plenty?

I mean, WTF? 

Well, while re-reading all this stuff I came across a series of quotes pieced together by Matt Douthit, which I will now share with you.

In short, James Jenkins' recollections are TOXIC to Doug Horne's pet theory, and Horne knows it, and knows that the only way around it is to LIE LIE LIE about Jenkins' actions and recollections... 

Consider...
One of the first to interview Jenkins was author Harrison Livingstone. Well, In his 1992 book High Treason 2, Livingstone described Jenkins' actions or quoted him directly as follows...

And this wasn't a one-time thing. When interviewed by William Law years later, Jenkins said something similar. 

Law: Were you asked not to leave the morgue?
Jenkins: I did not leave the morgue...We were not allowed to leave.

Now, as stated, this is TOXIC to Horne's theory, which holds that Dr.s Humes and Boswell performed post-mortem surgery on Kennedy's cadaver in the very morgue where Jenkins worked,. So Horne needed to convince his readers that Jenkins, whose credentials among the research community had already been established, was in and out of the morgue that night and failed to see what Humes and Boswell were up to. 

Here's Horne in his Magnum Opus Inside the Assassination Records Review Board: 

Now, it should come as no surprise that Horne's persistent lies about Jenkins did not stop with his book. On 11-26-13, he blogged about Jenkins, saying: "I have concluded that it was during this 85-minute interregnum—a period of almost an hour and a half—that the clandestine surgery took place. O’Connor and Jenkins were clearly excluded from the morgue at the time, otherwise they would also remember the modified “skull cap” performed by Humes, just as Robinson and Reed did...“ He then concluded: "James Jenkins and Paul O’Connor were not in the morgue, before 8:00 PM.”

My God! Talk of your circular reasoning! Horne's theory is a mountain of circles, which is to say it's built on nothing. Ed Reed says he saw Humes cut on the head AFTER he took x-rays showing frontal bone to be missing, but Horne says Reed actually saw Humes cut on the head and remove frontal bone BEFORE the x-rays were taken. And Tom Robinson said he saw Humes cut on the head to remove Kennedy's brain, and Horne says no no no, Robinson saw him cut on the head to remove frontal bone. And now he gives the same treatment to Jenkins. Jenkins says he was in the morgue for hours before the arrival of the body, and never left the morgue until after the body's departure, and yet Horne says he must have left for an extended period or else he would have witnessed the surgery Humes performed on the head--surgery, that is, that was not recalled by anyone working on the body, and only vaguely remembered by a couple of second-string witnesses...years and years after the autopsy. 

Now, as stated, Matt Douthit, who was quite a young man when I first met him, shared many of these quotes with me back in the day, back when I assumed Horne's nonsense would dry up and blow away like a 2012 Trump for President bumper sticker. 

So, yeah, I didn't care much about Horne's deceptiveness at the time. I was more interested then and am still more interested in the deceptiveness of men like Arlen Specter and John Lattimer. But as of 2024 it's apparent that Horne's influence is growing and that he's going back and covering his tracks. Essentialy, he now realizes his claim Jenkins was held out of the morgue till 8:00 P.M. is untenable. As discovered by Horne's one-time mentor, James Fetzer, at the 2018 Lancer Conference, the size of the head wound described by Jenkins is far too small to support Horne's claim this wound was drastically expanded by Humes in pre-autopsy surgery BEFORE Jenkins viewed the body. So Horne needed to find a way to convince his followers Jenkins' descriptions are not actually TOXIC to his theories. So he has mixed things up a bit. It appears his buddy Chesser has convinced Jenkins to describe the large head wound in a manner consistent with what Horne claims was the appearance of the wound BEFORE Humes performed post-mortem surgery. And this opened the door for Horne to claim Jenkins saw the bullet hole high on the forehead--a bullet hole that Horne claims was removed by Humes before the beginning of the official autopsy. 

These shifts and new claims, then, served a purpose, and allowed Horne to claim the reason Jenkins' descriptions of the wounds failed to align with Horne's claims of their appearance after the official begining of the autopsy, was that Jenkins' recollections were of the wounds before Humes altered the body. Horne could then claim Jenkins stepped out for a bit while Humes and Boswell got to cutting. 

It's too little, too late...I hope. 

The James Jenkins Non-Flip-Flop

Here's Matt Douthit's account of our November 20, 2015 questioning of Jenkins at the JFK Lancer Conference, (This varies slightly from my own recollections of this same discussion, but is identical in its substance..)

"I asked Jenkins directly: “Before the autopsy started, did Humes take a saw and start, like, cutting into the forehead, the head, doing surgery to it before the autopsy started?”“

NO!” Jenkins emphatically stated, his face aghast.

“How do you know?”

“I never left the morgue.”

“The reason I ask is because, literally, this is the current trending theory right now. That Humes altered the wounds before the autopsy.”

 “It couldn’t have happened at Bethesda.”

“Have you told this to, like, Mantik and Horne?”

“Yes.”

“I mean, this is THE current trending theory right now. But you’re a living testament!” (

Shrugs) “I can’t speak for them.”

“I’m pretty sure everyone in this room thinks it too.”

(Shrugs again) “What are you gonna do? People are gonna think whatever they want to think.”

END

Well done, Matt!

And here is James Jenkins himself in At the Cold Shoulder of History (2018):

(Douglas) "Horne is adamant about surgery to the head and believes that the surgery was done in the morgue by Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell. The only problem with this theory is that I was present in th morgue all the time from approximately 3:30 P.M. Friday until 9:00 AM Saturday, the following morning. If Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell did Mr. Horne's 'illicit' surgery then it would have had to have been done outside the morgue at another facility...I have no direct knowledge of whether Dr. Humes or Dr. Boswell performed Mr. Horne's 'illicit" surgery. The only thing I know for sure is that it was not done in the Bethesda morgue between 3:30 P.M. and 9:00 A.M. the following morning."

Well, one can see then why Horne would concoct lie after lie about Jenkins. And why those friendly with both Jenkins and Horne would try to massage Jenkins' recollections to accomodate Horne's theory.

The viability of Horne's theory, and his reputation, depends on it. 

So yes, Virginia, the "research community", is oftentimes the "theory-selling community," and is not above misrepresenting the statements of primary witnesses, and/or convincing these witnesses to change their recollections. 

Still...some of these "witnesses" bear the bulk of the blame..

Above: former U.S.  Information Agency photographer Joe O'Donnell. Note that he is surronded by photos of John F. Kennedy and his family. He told people he took these photos. In many cases, he didn't.  It turned out that at the time of this photo, he was sufferiing from dementia and spewing nonsense like a firehouse. 

O'Donnell? Oh, Really?

Now, the worst "back of the head" witness, beyond doubt, is Joe O'Donnell. Now, to be clear, O'Donnell, a former photographer for the U.S. Information Agency, never claimed to see Kennedy's body. But, starting in the early nineties, he did claim that a friend, White House photographer Robert Knudsen, showed him autopsy photos of Kennedy within days of the shooting, and that these photos showed a large grapefruit-sized wound on the back of JFK's head and another much smaller wound in JFK's forehead above his right eye... Now that would have been the end of it--an old man telling tall tales. But the ARRB's Doug Horne, hearing of this story, helped arrange for an official interview of O'Donnell in 1997, and O'Donnell repeated his claims. 

Horne found support for these claims, moreover, when the family of the no longer available Knudsen told him that yessirree, he'd claimed he'd taken photos of the autopsy. Horne even found an article on Knudsen from 1977 in which Knudsen claimed he'd taken photos of the autopsy. His claim was dubious at best, however, as he claimed he was the only photographer at the autopsy--an assertion no one, including Horne, believes.

But that's as far as it goes. From there it dissolves into nothing.

You see, Knudsen was interviewed for the HSCA in 1978, well after the article in which he claimed he'd taken the autopsy photos had been published. He told the HSCA he'd helped DEVELOP the autopsy photos, and confirmed he'd not been present at the the autopsy itself by admitting he'd first became aware of the photos the morning after the autopsy. There is NO evidence he was at the autopsy. Not one person known to be present at the autopsy, including those suspecting a conspiracy, such as Paul O'Connor and Floyd Riebe, had any recollection of his being at the autopsy. Knudsen was a White House photographer--who took pictures of Mrs. Kennedy shaking hands and that sort of thing. He didn't belong at the autopsy and he clearly wasn't there.

Well, okay, then perhaps he showed the photos he'd developed to O'Donnell.

Unfortunately, that collapses, too.

You see, O'Donnell murdered his credibility by also telling Horne he'd been friends with Mrs. Kennedy and that he had personally convinced her to bury her husband at Arlington National Cemetery. He said, as well, that he'd held a private screening of the original Zapruder film for Mrs. Kennedy a few weeks after the shooting. Just the two of them, of course, calmly watching the murder of her husband when it was undoubtedly the last thing she'd want to watch... But it gets worse. He also told Horne that Mrs. Kennedy had convinced him to edit TEN FEET from the film, to remove the halo of debris from around the President's head at the moment of the fatal head shot. Well, golly. The entire length of the known film is about six feet. 

Then, in 2007, after O'Donnell died, the other shoe dropped. The papers printed his obituary, along with a list of some of the famous photos he'd taken. They then got letters from men claiming that no, they had taken these photos. This led to a brief investigation, and an article in The New York Times. It was then revealed that O'Donnell had been suffering from dementia since the early 1990's, and that he'd claimed he'd taken many famous photos of the Kennedys, including the famous one of John-John saluting his father's casket--and that he had even been selling prints of these photos at galleries--but that he, in fact, had taken none of them. As you can imagine, this caused quite a ruckus in the photo world.

I became aware of this ruckus, and posted several articles on this scandal on JFK Forums--hoping word would spread and that conspiracy theorists would stop citing O'Donnell's claims as evidence for anything. In one of these articles, it was revealed that Cecil Stoughton, the main White House photographer at the time of the assassination and a close colleague of Knudsen's, had said he'd never heard of O'Donnell, and had doubted O'Donnell's claim his job as photographer with the U.S. Information Agency had brought him into regular contact with Knudsen. As O'Donnell had, admittedly, never met Knudsen's family, this left conspiracy theorists with NO support for O'Donnell's claims. None that he'd seen photos. None that he'd even known Knudsen. For all they knew, he'd read the 1977 article on Knudsen somewhere or had simply remembered his name from his days with the USIA, and had invented his story from whole cloth. O'Donnell was a proven liar...who'd told numerous lies in which he'd placed himself close to the Kennedys...and who, in the interview in which he described the autopsy photos showing a wound on the back of the head, had told a couple of whoppers--which few, if any, conspiracy theorists take seriously--including one in which he and Jacqueline Kennedy were the best of pals and where she convinced him to edit the Zapruder film.

And so, in December 2009, when I first received my copy of Doug Horne's Inside the Assassination Records Review Board Volume 2, I immediately turned to the section on O'Donnell. And was aghast. Horne wrote that he was "personally inclined" to accept O'Donnell's recollections, and presented him as support for the possibility Knudsen took a second set of super secret autopsy photos never put into the Archives. No mention of O'Donnell's dementia. No mention of his obvious obsession with the Kennedys. No mention that, oh yeah, by the way, there's a strong likelihood this old guy's story is bullshit.

Horne had either fallen asleep for two years, or had thought his readers need not know that O'Donnell--a man whose story had gained quite a bit of traction among those thinking Kennedy's body had been altered--was, quite literally, demented.

In November, 2014, sadly, I came to suspect the latter--that Horne had made a conscious decision not to tell his readers about O'Donnell's non-existent credibility. This was now seven years after O'Donnell's death. In part two of a five-part video series posted on the Future of Freedom Foundation website, Horne repeated O'Donnell's claim he was shown a photo depicting a bullet wound entrance on Kennedy's forehead, and a blow out wound on the back of his head. He then said O'Donnell was "highly credible." My jaw dropped. I mean, Horne had previously acknowledged there were problems with O'Donnell's statements. He'd then said he was "personnally inclined" to accept them. And now he was claiming O'Donnell was "highly credible," meaning by extension, that we should ALL accept the clearly demented O'Donnell at his clearly demented word? And no, this wasn't a one-time thing. In May, 2015, a 75 minute interview of Horne appeared on Youtube under the title JFK--The Medical Cover Up. There, he continued to push O'Donnell's bona fides, and cited him as an important source proving there was an entrance wound on Kennedy's forehead at his hairline. 

When you wanna sell the legend print the legend... 

Still, he's far from alone in this. No, scratch that. He's actually in the middle of a crowd on this. 

Let's see if we can break it up.