Chapter 12b: Bullshit and Beyond

Chapter 12b: Bullshit and Beyond

A micro-scopic look at some of the televised depictions of the single-bullet theory. It seems false advertising isn't restricted to the commercials.


In 2005, I was shocked to see one of my favorite shows defend the single-bullet theory. This show, appropriately entitled Bullshit, normally debunked marginal beliefs by shining a little logic in their direction. In its 2005 episode "Conspiracy Theories," however, the producers opted to lump all conspiracy theories together and conclude they all were bullshit. While this was ludicrous on its face, as conspiracies have been known to exist and as each theory should be judged on its merits, the producers revealed themselves by trying to prove Oswald acted alone. Not that cable TV programs are under any obligation to reveal the lineage of their creators, but they failed to tell their audience that the producer of their show, Mark Wolper, is the son of David Wolper, the producer of Four Days in November, an Academy Award-nominated film on Kennedy's assassination, made with the cooperation of the Johnson Administration.

So what did they do wrong? Well, one, they presented writer Jim Marrs as a spokesman for the research community, and then attacked him for his ideas about UFOs. I mean, that was just a cheap shot. It was bullshit, to use the nomenclature. And two, they showed Penn, the host of the program, rapidly cocking a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle. Now, this was supposed to prove Oswald could have fired the shots in the time allotted. But they left out that Oswald was purported to have been aiming at a a moving target at the time, and that the issue has never been whether or not someone could fire three shots in the time allotted, but hit two of three shots while aiming at a moving target in the time allotted. So, yeah, this was more bullshit. And, three, they shot a watermelon and made it roll off a table. Yeah, so? Well, they pretended this suggested the back and to the left movement of Kennedy's head after the fatal shot was related to the brain matter bursting forward from his head. And this was even more bullshit. Total bullshit. (This is discussed in detail in chapter 16.)

This brings us to number four. To demonstrate that the single-bullet theory works, they presented a photo from Warren Commission counsel Arlen Specter's May 24, 1964 test of the theory. Intriguingly, however, they hid the Warren Commission's involvement in this test. Instead of acknowledging that this was a test performed by men who have readily acknowledged that they needed this test to work, else the commission would implode, the program's creators chose to identify the photo as an "FBI re-creation." That made it sound all scientific and all. Well, what they forgot to tell their audience, if they'd even taken the time to find out, was that the back wound location depicted in that photo was not only higher than the mark originally put on the JFK stand-in's jacket, but two inches higher than the location proposed by the HSCA's medical experts for Kennedy's actual wound. There were also some problems with the angles overlay on the photograph. In short, the producers of Bullshit fed their audience...bullshit.

Unfortunately, such misrepresentations are commonplace these days.

Let's take a walk down Bullshit Lane.

Untru TV

In 2003, Court TV was guilty of some bullshit of its own. During the Forensic Files episode entitled JFK: Investigation Reopened they jumped on the deceptive animation bandwagon and defended the feasibility of the single-bullet theory. Of course, to do this they had to lift the back wound above the shoulder line.

They had a few other tricks up their sleeve, as well. The animated segment of the limousine on Elm Street began with the limousine driving straight down the right side of the middle lane. A moment later, however, just as the shot purported to hit Kennedy and Connally was fired, they portrayed the limousine swerving sharply to its left, briefly crossing the white lines of the lane. This brought Connally's armpit in line with the trajectory of a bullet fired from the sniper's nest and exiting Kennedy's throat. The car then swung back in the other direction. This allowed them to better align the location of the crack on the windshield with Kennedy's head and the sniper's nest at the moment of the head shot.

As no one testified to these swerves and as these swerves are not visible on any of the films, the creators of the animation, Hatchling Studios, were clearly of the mind-set that it was more important to have the shots line up than to accurately depict the path of the limousine. In an online press release dated November 17. 2003, Marc Dole, president of Hatchling Studios (AKA M2-3D), explained: "By combining the film with other data sources, including personal interviews with local JFK experts, we were able to create multiple animations-in only eight days-to yield an extensive recreation of downtown Dallas on that day. Now, for example, you can see a head-on view of the president's Lincoln in the motorcade, and you can draw a straight line from the sixth floor of the book depository to the back of Kennedy's head. We also produced a view of the president's limo from Oswald's perspective. It's dramatic, even a bit spooky, but it's also very useful and instructive data."

One can only wonder who these "local JFK experts" were, and one can only guess who they believed fired the three shots heard in Dealey Plaza.

The bias of this program was further detailed in The Official Forensic Files Casebook, by Paul Dowling (the creator of Forensic Files), published 2005. There, beyond lying to his readers and telling them "Forensic analysis found evidence the rifle was inside" the paper bag supposedly discovered next to the sniper's nest, Dowling claimed that "After creating the Dealey Plaza computer model, the chief animator, Marc Dole, placed the limousine into position at the moment the bullet passed through both the president and governor. He then placed the two animated figures inside the car, with the governor's position as shown in the Zapruder film." Dowling then admitted "Since President Kennedy was behind the street sign at this moment, we approximated his position using the first frame of film when he was in view."

Well, this was also a lie. Several times over. First, Dowling avoided that the last official body to study the film (the HSCA) had concluded Kennedy was hit before he went behind the sign in the film. And second, Dowling misrepresented the animation used in his program, presented on the next page of his book, which showed that the relatively upright posture of Kennedy as he came out from behind the sign in the film bore scant resemblance to the bent over posture they used to sell the single-bullet theory while he was behind the sign.

It was garbage-in/garbage out. Against the evidence, Dowling and Dole had decided Kennedy was hit while behind the sign in the film, and, against the evidence, they decided he must have been leaning forward while struck. They then pretended this was a forensic re-enactment, as opposed to a fantasy sequence.

I kid you not. In the Official Forensic Files Casebook, Dowling actually claimed that they lined up their figures as best they could, and that, after doing so "To my surprise, the wounds of Governor Connally and the president were in a straight line back to the sixth-floor window of the depository, the alleged sniper's nest." But this was bullshit, pure and simple. Dowling admitted his animation was influenced by Failure Analysis Associates' 1991 animation. And he admitted he was impressed with Gerald Posner's book Case Closed, which relied upon this animation. So how could he have been surprised when the results of his re-enactment, which essentially mirrored FAA's re-enactment, mirrored its results?

This whole section of Dowling's book, when one thinks of it, seems designed to hide what he dared not admit--that 1) the location on the street of the limousine, 2) the location of Kennedy and Connally within the limousine, and 3) the location of the wounds on Kennedy and Connally, in the animation featured on his show, were all reverse-engineered to sell the single-bullet theory. There's a saying in real estate that what matters most is "Location. Location. Location." And I suppose the same goes for the animated re-enactments one finds on TV.

In 2007, Court TV changed its name to Tru Tv. As Tru Tv's new motto was "Not Reality. Actuality," I anxiously await their defense of the "actuality" of their animation.

“Beyond the Magic Bullet” Magic

In 2004, the Discovery Channel began running a new program entitled JFK: Beyond the Magic Bullet. While appearing authoritative, using scientists and experts to simulate the shooting in Dealey Plaza, the program was rife with errors and/or distortions. Ultimately, it demonstrated reasons to disbelieve the magic bullet theory, but then turned around and claimed the opposite!

They simulated the shots from the sniper's nest by placing their shooter on on an elevated platform, at a distance of 180 feet, the distance they claim the HSCA claimed for the second shot. Well, there are two problems with this: one is that the HSCA claimed the shot came at around Z-190, which according to the Warren Commission’s recreation, would make it roughly 160 feet, and two is that the Dale Myers animation they used as evidence depicted the shot at Z-224, which would make it roughly 190 feet. It’s unclear where they derived their 180 foot measurement, but the Warren Commission, which failed to pick an exact moment for the shot, estimated the length of the shot to be 180 feet.

They then shot through a gelatin block simulating Kennedy's back and neck to see if the exiting bullet would leave an elongated entrance like the one they claimed was on Connally. (Following the well-worn path of Dr.s Lattimer and Baden, previously discussed, they incorrectly believed the bullet was traveling sideways upon impact with Connally). When the bullet headed straight through the gelatin with scarcely a wobble, they decided to add rope into the gelatin to better simulate the "dense sinu" of the human neck. There is a huge problem with this: Dr. Humes et al testified that the bullet striking Kennedy's neck passed between the strap muscles, and not through them. Their second try, not surprisingly, created the wound desired. They then expanded their test to include two gelatin blocks representing Connally's chest, and were similarly pleased with the results.

They then began to shoot at simulated human torsos. After shooting on some empty shells, they placed a target on a fully-simulated torso of the President at a point several inches to the right of the wound seen on the autopsy photos. They claimed this placement came after “triple-measurement.” What they failed to mention was that the autopsy measurements reflected the distance from the shoulder and from the back of the head and that their torso had no head. The HSCA and Clark Panel made estimates as to the distance from the spine, which they clearly ignored. Even so, the shooter missed this target and actually hit the torso very close to where the wound is depicted on the autopsy photos. (See Exhibit 1 on the slide above.) I’d like to think this “miss” was on purpose.

But this was just the beginning of their troubles. Since their “magic bullet,” after traversing simulated torsos of both Kennedy and Connally, failed to explode the simulated wrist to the extent Connally’s was damaged and actually bounced off the simulated thigh, they had to look for it in the surrounding brush. They found a clearly deformed bullet several yards to the right of the torsos. (See Exhibit 2 on the slide above.)

During a slow-motion replay of the shooting, moreover, the narrator stated as a matter-of-fact that the bullet “struck Kennedy in the neck.” Someone should have told the writer that that particular lie, although an all-time favorite, died with the HSCA. At this point, the direction of the program became obvious. While one of the great controversies surrounding the single-bullet theory is whether or not a bullet striking Kennedy in the back from above would exit his throat as purported, the program failed to show a close-up of the bullet's exit from the Kennedy torso. Nevertheless, the profile shot of the bullet's path made it clear the bullet exited from the Kennedy torso's chest, and not its throat. (See Exhibit 3.)

They then conducted a post-mortem to see what went wrong with their simulation. After taking the Connally torso to a doctor for a cat-scan, they concluded that the bullet struck two of Connally’s ribs instead of the one struck by the “magic bullet” and that this was why their bullet was more damaged. Still, the cat-scan revealed more than the producers of the show could possibly have desired.

The cat-scan (Exhibit 4 above) revealed that the two damaged ribs on the Connally torso were the 8th and 9th ribs, some distance below the entrance on Connally’s 5th rib. This demonstrated once again that the bullet trajectory from the sniper's nest didn't quite line-up with Kennedy's and Connally's wounds.

But this wasn't all the cat-scan revealed.

Astonishingly, (and as seen in Exhibit 5) it also revealed that the simulated ribs on the Connally torso were not even connected to the sternum! This meant that there was no bones in the front of the Connally torso to slow or damage the “magic bullet” before it struck the simulated wrist.

Since the purpose of the simulation was purportedly to see if a bullet creating Kennedy's and Connally's wounds might emerge as undamaged as the "magic" bullet, CE 399, removing bone from the purported path of the bullet was undoubtedly deceptive and dishonest.

At this point, I ran a quick replay. I went back to the beginning of the program where they created the torsos and noticed this time that the Kennedy torso had no spine, and that neither torso had shoulder blades. While these bones may have been left out because the producers believed the real “magic” bullet missed these bones, the exclusion of Connally’s front ribs, where the bullet made its exit, was inexcusable. That this was no mistake is confirmed by the statements of their wound ballistics expert. When they were preparing for their torso shoot by shooting at two gelatin blocks simulating Connally's chest, he said "The thorax is not one piece of muscle. It is a piece of muscle, some bone, then an airspace--the lung--and then another piece of tissue after that." It's almost certain he knew perfectly well that the bullet exiting Connally's chest exited through his fifth rib, and not through just "another piece of tissue".

It then became clear. Rather than testing if a bullet hitting the President in the assumed location would go on to hit Connally in his armpit, wrist and thigh, and come out largely unblemished, the program’s creators were testing if such a bullet, after missing Kennedy’s spine, which is doubtful, after exiting Kennedy’s throat, which is doubtful, and after hitting Connally’s ribs in only one place, which is doubtful, would go on to create the other wounds and appear unblemished.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the program’s creators neglected to tell their audience the significance of that which they did discover. That the tumbling bullet in their re-enactment hit two ribs while the bullet striking Connally stuck but one suggested that the bullet striking Connally was not tumbling. This supported the statements of Dr. Robert Shaw, Connally’s doctor, who said the entrance wound was only 1.5 cm long. It was, however, in direct contradiction with all too many single-assassin theorists, including the HSCA’s Dr. Baden, who cite the fact (which is not a fact) that the bullet was tumbling as evidence that the bullet first struck Kennedy. These single-assassin theorists, and the Discovery program under their influence, repeat like a mantra that the entrance in Connally’s armpit was 3 cm, the size of a bullet traveling sideways, and ignore Shaw’s statements that the wound was but 1.5 cm and the inconvenient fact that the corresponding tear in Connally’s jacket was only 1.7 cm. (As discussed in the Ovoid? Oy Vey! section of chapter 11.)

In any event, instead of telling the audience the significance of the bullet hitting two ribs, the Beyond the Magic Bullet program cut to some supposed expert stating that their simulation had taken the “magic” out of the “magic bullet”.

But the program wasn’t over. For their final act they took an autopsy report reflecting the wounds incurred by their simulated torsos to an L.A. County Coroner. Surprisingly, the face sheet created for the Kennedy torso revealed that the bullet exited not from the torso’s throat but from its left chest, and that it probably would have hit its spine (if it had one) and must have hit its sternum (if it had one). (Exhibit 6 above.) Even worse, a probe poked through a skeleton by the doctor to depict the path of the bullet exploded the program’s assertion of replicating the magic bullet, as the probe passed below the clavicle and first rib. (Exhibit 7.) A bullet traveling on such a trajectory would not have bruised the President’s lung, but pierced it, and would have exited far below his throat.

Cheat Sheet

We should keep in mind, however, that the trajectory through the chest proposed by the coroner was based upon his study of the face sheet prepared by the program's Australian experts. It seems possible, then, that these experts simply screwed up and placed the throat/chest exit too low on the face sheet.

A quick replay of the shooting of the torso, however, reveals this not to be the case, and that, in fact, the chest exit was FAR LOWER on the chest than as presented on the face sheet. Yes, when one compares the face sheet shown the coroner with the footage of the shooting of this torso, it becomes clear the program's creators falsified the wound location on the face sheet, and moved it much, much, closer to the throat. That it was still too low to support the single-bullet theory, one might rightly conclude, speaks volumes.

And that wasn't the last problem apparent in this part of the program. A close-up on the autopsy report reveals that the simulated Connally back wound, in which two ribs were struck, measured 50 mm x 45 mm. The doctor then describes it as a "keyhole" entrance. This is a far cry from the reportedly "ovoid" entrance on Connally, measuring roughly 38 by 16 mm (1.5 X 5/8 inches). This suggests, then, that the bullet striking Connally was not tumbling a la the bullet in the re-enactment, and that the magic bullet theory is suspect.

In conclusion, one might state that the Discovery Channel did recreate the magic bullet, if one is to acknowledge that magic is deliberate deception designed to create the illusion that fantastic events have taken place.

Dr. Zimmerman’s Magic Bullet

In March 2006, after being told for the third time in as many months by a friend or relative just how impressed they were by Beyond the Magic Bullet, I re-watched the program for the third time. Well, maybe the third time’s the charm, because on this viewing I noticed that one of the worst segments in the program involved a man with whom I’d come in contact via the alt.assassination.JFK newsgroup: Dr. Chad Zimmerman. I decided then to review the segment and note its inaccuracies and/or deceptions, and record Dr. Zimmerman’s responses to my observations. I thought it might prove informative to those wondering just how deceptive TV programs get made and how suspicion and distrust can be spread by these programs.

At the beginning of his segment, Dr. Zimmerman attaches a marker 4 inches from the collar of a striped shirt. This represents the entrance on Kennedy’s shirt. Dr. Zimmerman then x-rays his JFK stand-in while the man is supposedly wearing this shirt. Problem: the shirt is now a solid color. When asked about this, Dr. Zimmerman explained that it was the same shirt but that the camera couldn’t pick up the stripes from more than a few feet. On this I suspect he is correct. On 3-14, however, he volunteered: “We took many takes of almost everything we did. Let me explain further. For instance, when he (the director) asked me to glue the marker to the shirt, I didn’t know he just wanted me to act as though I was. I actually did it. So, to retake the shot, he had me use a portion of the tail of the shirt in close up to get a shot of me marking the shirt.” Thus, while the casual viewer would assume that the marker on the x-rays is the marker they just saw placed on the shirt, this is not so. The marking sequence has been re-staged. There is, in fact, nothing to indicate the marker on the shirt has been placed 4 inches down from the collar. The only shot of the stand-in getting x-rayed in this sequence shows the stand-in from the front with a jacket over the shirt.

Dr. Zimmerman then shows the result of this x-ray. The marker rests at the level of T2/T3, far down Kennedy’s back. This supports that Dr. Zimmerman has indeed placed the marker 4 inches down from the collar. He then has his stand-in sit down in a chair and elevate his elbow in an attempt to replicate Kennedy’s position in the car. Things get strange, however, when he x-rays the stand-in in this position and puts the x-ray up on the light box.For when the camera zooms in on Zimmerman examining the x-ray, it appears to be a different x-ray than the one he just put up on the light box! Furthermore, the marker on the x-ray has jumped from T2/T3 on the “standing” x-ray to C6/C7 on the “sitting” x-ray, a difference of more than two inches! Does it make sense that the clothing in the middle of a man’s back would rise almost 2 inches higher than the flesh beneath it, just by his lifting his elbow a bit? (The Anatomy of Deception slide will examine this more closely.)

Dr. Zimmerman then announces that the marker has been lifted to the “very lower cervical or neck portion of the spine. This is the same point that the House Select Committee on Assassinations placed the entrance wound.” Oh really? Dr. Humes’ autopsy report, to which Zimmerman usually defers, asserted that the wound was in “the upper right posterior thorax.” (Thorax means “the part of the body between the neck and the diaphragm”, last I checked; thus, by definition it is not the neck, but below the neck). Furthermore, the HSCA medical panel never wrote that the bullet entered in the lower neck and all the drawings they created showing the back entrance, HSCA Figure 24, HSCA Exhibit F-46 (Figure 12 in the final report), and HSCA Figure 65 depict the wound on the thorax, at the level of T1. When I pointed this out to Dr. Zimmerman, he responded “The entrance, imo, was at the junction of the neck and upperback-C7-T1. Conceivably, one could say lower neck or upper back to reduce confusion to the viewer/reader. This is based on the known autopsy findings and the x-ray findings.” Wishing doesn't make it so. There is no report of a C7-T1 entrance on any of the HSCA radiology reports that I can find. Radiology consultants McDonnel and Davis both noted air in the tissues around C7-T1 and a fracture of the T1 transverse process, but never mentioned observing an entrance at C7/T1.

Back to the program. At this point, the “standing” and “sitting” x-rays are shown side by side, demonstrating how far the marker has climbed with the slight lift of an elbow. But there’s a problem. The “after” x-ray is not the one Dr. Zimmerman just examined, but the one he originally put up on the light box. (This is discussed in more detail on the Pareidolia slide.) Dr.Zimmerman then attaches a marker to his stand-in’s throat. While his stand-in appears to have a longer neck than Kennedy, the placement of this marker appears to be accurate. Dr. Zimmerman then attaches (or appears to attach) a marker on the outside of the stand-in’s jacket. The stand-in’s hand blocks us from seeing whatever Zimmerman is doing. In any event, when next we see the jacket, there is a large piece of tape across its back. Zimmerman then takes a lateral x-ray of his JFK stand-in in the sitting position. (This is discussed in more detail on The Anatomy of Deception slide.) He then places a ruler below the locations of the jacket, shirt and throat markers on this x-ray. The ruler is at a 19 degree angle on the TV screen. The x-ray, however, is at a 2 degree angle on Zimmerman’s light box, meaning the downward trajectory on the x-ray is really only 17 degrees.

Zimmerman then says “If we were to draw a line on those 3 points we would get a line consistent with a trajectory published by the Warren Commission Report, and in a very similar portion of the neck.” As Zimmerman says this, however, the x-ray he’s discussing is inverted and presented side by side with a drawing from the HSCA’s trajectory analysis! This is undoubtedly confusing. The only depiction of the single bullet theory in the Warren Report, CE 385, depicted a 13 degree descent; the HSCA trajectory analysis, on the other hand, portrayed a much steeper 25 degree descent. Even worse, with the inversion, Zimmerman’s x-ray has been compressed laterally, so that the 19 oops 17 degree descent has now become a 30 degree descent. Even stranger, the HSCA trajectory drawing is depicted at an angle, so that its 25 degree descent now appears to match the x-ray’s 30! When asked what he meant by saying that the x-ray matched the trajectory published by the Warren Report, Zimmerman responded “I never said it was the same as they drew. It was very close to the angle published in the WC from the sniper’s nest at frame 225. I wasn’t citing a drawing as proof of anything. The angle measured and published by the WC was 20 degrees. Subtract 3 for the decline of Elm St. and you get 17 degrees, which is very near what the x-ray demonstrated. Certainly, there is an allowable degree of error since we weren’t trying to exactly duplicate anything.That would be impossible.” When I asked him why the program’s creators over-dubbed his comment about the Warren Commission onto an HSCA trajectory, he responded “Talk to them. I didn’t have anything to do with the editing process. Not sure that it really matters, it appears to be quibbling over minutae (sic).”

(This issue would surface again years later. On March 25, 2008, when asked by Robert Harris on the alt.assassination.JFK newsgroup the simple and relevant question of why the producers didn't show the back of the shirt or jacket as the stand-in sat down, so that the audience could see the upward movement of the marker for themselves, Zimmerman had a similar response: "Bob, perhaps you should write the Discovery Channel a letter. I wasn't doing the directing or filming, nor did I have anything to do with editing. Do you understand that?" When a persistent Harris countered by asking why such a "complex ritual" was performed to show the lifting of a marker as a man sat down, Zimmerman once again deferred "Ask the producer, Bob. I didn't have anything to do with the filming whatsoever.")

Zimmerman’s segment then comes to a close. While a downward angle is drawn across a photograph of Kennedy, the narrator declares: “The angle of trajectory is clearly downward. It fits with a shot that came from the sixth floor of the depository.” The problem with this is that the angle of descent drawn across Kennedy’s photograph is 13 degrees, only slightly smaller than the 17 degree descent indicated on Zimmerman’s uncompressed x-ray, but far smaller than the 30 degree descent just shown. Even worse, the back entrance depicted in this photo is just below Kennedy's collar, and almost on his neck. This is confusing when one considers that the program began with Zimmerman telling the audience that the entrance was 4 inches BELOW this collar. When I asked Dr. Zimmerman about this 13 degree trajectory, he was dismissive of its relevance. He wrote “Again, does that really matter that much? Not really.”

Throughout our exchanges, he continued to defend the program, first writing about how good it was, and then, when I was able to point out how inconsistent it was, writing that these inconsistencies didn’t really matter. On 3-8, he wrote “Trying to replicate something exactly is almost impossible. However, they’ve taken the closest look at it that I’ve ever seen and it certainly appears feasible, if you actually look at all the factors that explain why something happened on the show the way it did.” On 3-13, he continued to defend the program, but in more muted tones, stating “They were just illustrating a concept of a downward trajectory.” When I asked if he felt the mistakes and/or deceptions were deliberate, he said “Mistakes, probably. All programs have them. Deceptions? That is up to the viewer. Your (sic) quibbling about a couple of degrees here and there…I seriously doubt that anything was done to intentionally mislead the viewer. After all, how many are going to sit with a protractor and measure angles? Perhaps just you.” He could very well be right on that point.

The Anatomy of Deception

Perhaps Zimmerman’s right. Perhaps I’m quibbling over minutiae. But there are segments in the program and Zimmerman’s segment in particular that just look wrong to me. So let this be a test. I’ll present some things that look wrong to me, and I’ll let you be the judge if I’m being too picky or not. This slide then can serve as either an examination of Beyond the Magic Bullet’s deliberate deceptiveness, or my own susceptibility to self-deception, depending on your perspective.

Possible deception #1: when I compare the image of the JFK stand-in preparing to receive the lateral x-ray, with the actual x-ray, my smoke and mirrors detector goes off. While the pre-x-ray photo depicts the stand-in at a slight angle, and the stand-in’s back is slightly closer than his front to the camera, the resultant distortion should be relatively minor. When one compares the distance from the collar to the middle of the tape in the photo to the distance from the collar to the marker visible on the x-ray, however, it seems clear that the marker is either above the tape or near the very top of the tape; it is certainly not in the middle. When I project the 5 3/8 inch distance from the top of the collar to the bullet entrance onto the stand-in’s jacket, moreover, it appears that the entrance on the clothing should, in fact, be near the bottom of the tape. Meanwhile, the throat marker appears to be the marker aligned with the middle of the tape. If this is so, then this is an indication that there was a flat trajectory through Kennedy, with the exit on his throat at the same approximate level as the entrance on his back. This was, of course, the finding of the HSCA medical panel. Did Dr. Zimmerman and the producers of JFK: Beyond the Magic Bullet “re-interpret” their results? Is the unnecessarily large piece of tape a device to fool us into believing the marker’s beneath the middle of the tape? Or am I deceiving myself?

Possible deception # 2: when I compare the A-P (front to back) x-ray of the JFK stand-in in the sitting position, with the lateral x-ray of him in this same position, my smoke and mirrors detector goes off once again. Here we have two x-rays purportedly taken with the Kennedy stand-in wearing the same clothes and in the same position, and yet the collars apparent on the x-rays reside at drastically different levels. While the A-P view depicts the top of the collar at roughly C-5, the lateral view depicts it at C-3. From this one might assume someone pulled the collar up to the stand-in’s hairline for the lateral view. In the set-up of this x-ray, Dr. Zimmerman is shown standing directly behind the stand-in, with his hands on his shoulders. When I asked Dr. Zimmerman about the variations in collar level between the two x-rays, he explained: “we filmed several series of setups and they did not show the same setup series as was x-rayed, hence the difference between them. However, I don’t recall the collar being up in the hairline.” I asked about x-rays and he answered about set-ups. Even so, is Zimmerman really admitting that the jacket didn’t always “bunch” up the same distance, and that this distance varied from set-up to set-up? Doesn’t that undercut the credibility of Zimmerman’s experiment? Or am I deceiving myself?

(A 3-25-2008 discussion on the alt.assassination.JFK newsgroup confirmed that, at least in this instance, I'm not deceiving myself. When Robert Harris asserted that Zimmerman's marker and x-ray experiment, if performed by someone else, would have had a different result, Dr. Zimmerman readily agreed, admitting "The little metal marker didn't only have two locations that it could snap into. We weren't using Lego markers, Bob. Therefore, depending on any particular take, it could've ended up at a near infinite amount of locations from about C6 to T2-3. Do you actually believe that there were only two spots that the marker could end up?" By admitting to such a wide range of marker locations, Zimmerman thereby undercut the value of his experiment. Perhaps, in Zimmerman's mind, his experiment was designed to show only that it was possible to elevate the amount of clothing necessary for the single-bullet trajectory to align. But this was not communicated in the program, which implied the amount of clothing elevation depicted was the expected result.)

Possible deception #3: when I compare the marker in the two “sitting” x-rays, something smells wrong again. Even though the collar in the A-P x-ray rests at C-5, and the collar in the lateral x-ray rests at C-3, the markers are each at C-7! How can this be, if the position of the marker is related to the upwards “bunching” of the collar? When one considers that the marker in the A-P x-ray resides but a vertical inch or so below the collar, and that this marker is purportedly 5 3/8 inches BELOW the top of the collar, then one should rightly wonder if this marker is even attached to the jacket. For how can 5 3/8 inches of material be crammed into 1 inch of vertical space while draped along a sitting man’s back, without the material doubling over? (We know the material didn’t double over because Kennedy’s shirt and jacket each had but one hole.) When one looks at the clip of the stand-in in this position, moreover, there is no “bunching” of material at the back of his neck visible. Either what appears to be a collar on the A-P view is not in fact a collar, or the marker was not 4” below the bottom of the collar. Some sort of deception has occurred. Or am I deceiving myself?


Pareidolia is, according to The Skeptic’s Dictionary “a type of illusion or misperception involving a vague or obscure stimulus being perceived as something clear and distinct.” When I compare the “sitting” x-ray examined by Zimmerman on Beyond the Magic Bullet with the “sitting” x-ray shown side by side with the “standing” x-ray, I notice clear and distinct differences: the collar in the x-ray used in the comparison is at a much greater angle; the marker in the x-ray used in the comparison is slightly higher and of a different shape; the marker on the comparison x-ray is also further from the corner of the collar, proving that the x-rays are not the same x-rays seen at a different angles. Furthermore, when one rotates the x-rays to make the collars match, one finds that the lower ribs no longer align with one another.The question then is whether these differences are real or purely in my mind. Perhaps the appearance of a pen in the photo of one x-ray but not the other set off my suspicious nature, and led me to micro-inspect the x-rays, and notice things that simply aren’t there.

When I mentioned on alt.assassination.JFK my suspicion that these x-rays were not the same, researcher Anthony Marsh commented that this was “Misdirection.” Dr. Zimmerman then responded to Marsh that “The truth is Pat doesn’t really know what he is talking about here.” Later, he responded directly to my suspicion by stating “Again, this is the difference of distance and the automatic controls of the camera. We took one AP neutral and one AP with the arm raised. They are the same film. However, the MA on the machine was different between the two exposures and one turned out lighter than the other. This produced problems with the camera when looking at the both of them. There was no trickery with the x-rays.” When one compares the “standing” x-ray shown earlier in the program with the “standing” x-ray used in the program’s comparison, one can see what Dr. Zimmerman was talking about: the comparison x-ray was indeed darker than the other. But this doesn’t explain why the content of the two “sitting” x-rays differs, does it? The two “standing” x-rays, outside of the difference in contrast, appear to be identical. When one looks at them closely, however, one notices something else that is suspicious: there is no collar visible on this x-ray. Is this just a coincidence? Having a collar visible on the “standing’ x-ray in a nearly identical location as the “sitting” x-ray would certainly have undercut Dr. Zimmerman’s assertion that the jacket material bunched up two inches with the change in position…

On 3-14 2006, Dr. Zimmerman responded once again to my prodding. Apparently confusing my assertion that the collars in the AP and lateral “sitting” x-rays were at different levels (as discussed in The Anatomy of Deception section above) with my assertion of there being two AP “sitting” x-rays, he wrote “Since I don’t have the films handy, I am not sure what you are talking about. However, clothing moves, Pat. That was the point of the demonstration.” When I pointed out that I was not referring to the different collar levels of the AP and lateral x-rays, but to the differences between two separate AP “sitting” x-rays, he wrote “I don’t know what you’re talking about. We didn’t take a plethora of x-rays. My guess is you aren’t interpreting something correctly." When I asked if the producers took multiple takes of him examining the x-rays, some with a pen and some without, he responded: “I would assume so.We took many takes of almost everything we did…. As far as I recall, we only took a total of 4 x-rays. 2 AP—one neutral and one with the arm raised, 2 lateral films, one with the clothing bunched and one without. The one that did not have the clothing bunched was not used as we were testing the bunching theory.” If Dr. Zimmerman had honestly forgotten what procedures he performed for a TV program only a few years before, then we should all be skeptical of the specific memories of the many witnesses to the President’s body, both in Parkland and Bethesda. If, however, you believe, as he does, that the two “sitting” x-rays are the same, there’s a word you can use to describe my contention that they are not…

Pareidolia: a type of illusion or misperception involving a vague or obscure stimulus being perceived as something clear and distinct.

The Zimmerman Confirmation

Since political science professor John McAdams, the creator of Google's favorite website on the assassination, endorses Dr. Zimmerman’s work on the single-bullet theory, writing “Zimmerman has done some very interesting and informative work on this issue,” I decided to go to Zimmerman’s website and read all his articles on the subject. I was surprised to find, however, that the articles were filled with as much misleading information as his TV appearance. In fact, when one looks closely at these articles purporting to support the single-bullet theory, one finds they make a better argument against the single-bullet theory. That McAdams and other defenders of the single-assassin theory fail to see this is undoubtedly discouraging.

In Zimmerman’s 2004 article The Shirt Experiment, for example, he details how he attached a nut to the back of his shirt at the approximate distance from the collar of the bullet entrance found on Kennedy’s shirt. He then took an x-ray of himself and found that this nut rested at the vertical level of his second thoracic vertebra (T2). Zimmerman then raised his arm into the position he assumed Kennedy’s arm was in and found that the nut now rested at the level of the seventh thoracic vertebrae (C7). This means the nut was lifted an inch and a half or more simply by Zimmerman’s raising his elbow a short distance. (Clearly, these results impressed the producers of Beyond the Magic Bullet and led to Zimmerman's appearance on the program.)

A related experiment was conducted for the HSCA. As we've seen, the HSCA trajectory analysis report says that forensic anthropologist Dr. Clyde Snow conducted “laboratory tests on men of similar build” as Kennedy and that “Because the Zapruder film showed that Kennedy had raised his right shoulder slightly as to place his elbow on the side of the limousine, the resulting movement of skin at the in-shoot location was also assessed. It was found that the wound was approximately 0.1 centimeter higher and 0.2 centimeter closer to the midplane than the post-mortem photographic observations by themselves indicated.”Taken in conjunction with Zimmerman’s experiment, then, we can use Snow’s results to safely assume that while the lifting of Kennedy’s elbow may have lifted his clothing, so that the bullet entrance may have been as high as C7, this entrance would have overlay an entrance on the body 0.1 cm lower and .2 cm further from the spine at autopsy than the bullet's actual trajectory. Zimmerman’s experiment thereby confirmed that the bullet hole on Kennedy’s body, if consistent with the holes on his clothes, would have been at the very highest the level of C7. In Zimmerman’s 2002 article Anatomy of the Back Wound he asserted that the wound was most likely at the C7/T1 level but appears slightly higher in the autopsy photos due to rigor mortis. Okay. To me the wound is clearly more in line with the T1 theorized by the HSCA pathology panel than C7, but we'll play along.

Zimmerman runs into a heap of trouble, however, when he attempts to prove that an entrance at this level supports the single-bullet theory. In his 2004 defense of the theory he introduces a profile of the neck taken from an anatomy book. He places an arrow descending at 22 degrees across this profile. Zimmerman writes “A bullet entering at the C7-T1 level of the spinous processes, at a downward angle of 22 degrees, will cross just below the C7 disc and out of a point in the neck and exit at the T1 disc.” This description doesn’t match the trajectory on the profile, however, as the arrow on the profile crosses the spine at T1 and exits just below T1. Even worse, this profile only shows the front half of a person. When one projects Zimmerman’s 22 degree angle back from the exit through a complete profile, one finds that the entrance of Zimmerman’s trajectory is really at C5, considerably higher than where Zimmerman’s analysis of the back wound placed the wound and considerably higher than where Zimmerman’s analysis of the bullet holes in the clothing placed the wound.

If you fail to believe that Dr. Zimmerman’s 22 degree trajectory actually tracks back to a C5 entrance, and not C7, you should consider that it was Dr. Zimmerman himself who convinced me of this. In his 2003 article The Case of the Bunched Jacket, Dr. Zimmerman presents Kennedy’s left profile autopsy photo (inverted) with a 22 degree trajectory through the neck. He does us the favor, furthermore, of adding in the levels of the cervical vertebrae. These demonstrate that the entrance proposed by Dr. Zimmerman, as well as our old friend Dr. Artwohl, is on the horizontal plane of C5/C6.

Somehow, he failed to notice this. Instead, beneath his proposed trajectory through Kennedy he writes “This wound track measures a downhill angle of 22 degrees, similar to a shot from the sniper’s nest in the TSBD building. An entrance at C7/T1 is easily conceived and fits perfectly with the description of the wounds in the autopsy report.” What? While one can "easily conceive" that this 22-degree trajectory entered at C7/T1, and not C5/C6, one can not do so without lowering the exit to Kennedy’s chest. And why, if Zimmerman wants his readers to conceive of a C7/T1 entrance, does he have his trajectory start at C5/C6? Is he being deceptive? Or is he actually contending that this C5/C6 entrance is at C7/T1?

Another intriguing aspect of Zimmerman’s shirt experiment is the left-right movement of the nut on his x-ray. While the photo with the nut at the T2 level shows the nut to be near the middle of Zimmerman’s spine, the x-ray of the nut in this position shows the nut to be noticeably further to his right. As the x-ray depicting the level of the nut after Zimmerman lifted his elbow demonstrates beyond a doubt that the nut was pushed closer to Zimmerman’s spine as his shirt “bunched” (a movement confirmed by his segment in Beyond the Magic Bullet), one can only wonder where the nut in the original photo would have moved. This makes me suspect that Zimmerman took the photos and the x-rays and then re-did the x-rays when the nut in the initial experiment ended up directly over his spine. After all, if the dramatic “bunching” of Kennedy’s clothes that Zimmerman asserts took place would also have lifted the entrance hole on the clothes to a spot overlying Kennedy’s spine, it destroys Zimmerman’s contention that a bullet entering at C7 could have exited Kennedy’s throat without striking bone.

Zimmerman Vs. Zimmerman

There are still other problems with Zimmerman's The Case of the Bunched Jacket.

In the beginning of the article, when Zimmerman is attempting to demonstrate that a man’s collar rests higher up on his neck than is often believed, he performs a study of various pictures of Kennedy, with blue lines representing the approximate level of the second cervical vertebrae and pink lines representing the approximate level of the fourth cervical vertebrae (C4). Later, he presents the (inverted) left autopsy photo with inserted levels of the cervical vertebra. This image demonstrates that a 22 degree trajectory would need to enter near C5/C6 to exit from Kennedy’s throat wound. A few pages later, so he can show where the approximate entrance was on the jacket, Zimmerman presents this autopsy photo with a super-imposed jacket. Zimmerman then writes “With the base of his collar near the C4 level, about 3 inches of fabric would be between the base of the collar and the entry (the bullet entry on the clothes). However, we see that some 4 inches are needed. If the fabric had bunched up only an inch, which is highly probable given the photos we see of Kennedy in the motorcade, then it can be expected that the bullet would go through the suit some 4 inches below the collar and impact at the C7-T1 level.”

Well, what's wrong with that, you ask? Only that Zimmerman's "C7-T1 entrance" on his trajectory, which he acknowledges is 3 inches below the collar at C4, is at the same level as the level of C4 and C5 on his other images! When one looks at the Kennedy profile with the inserted cervical vertebrae, moreover, one can project an entrance just below the C7 level onto Kennedy’s clothed autopsy photo and see that a bullet descending at 22 degrees and entering at the C7/T1 level would exit from Kennedy’s chest, inches below his throat. Not coincidentally, this is where the bullet exited from the Kennedy torso in the re-enactment performed for Beyond the Magic Bullet. The argument can be made, therefore, that Zimmerman’s work and Beyond the Magic Bullet jointly demonstrate beyond any doubt that the single bullet trajectory does not work and can only be made to work if Kennedy was leaning forward to a greater degree than can be supported by the photographic evidence.

What’s so upsetting about Zimmerman and his inconsistencies is that his website (which strangely went down as my reports on its inconsistencies went up, but which was revived by John McAdams in 2015) and TV appearance have deceived thousands upon thousands--perhaps millions--of people with an interest in the case, and have driven the two sides of the conspiracy issue further and further apart.

That Darned Rib!

Well, why would Zimmerman consistently misrepresent the level of the back wound in his writings and on his trajectories? Why not just pretend there was no problem with an entrance at T1, and that Kennedy was slumped forward when shot, a la the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel? Well, as discussed in the last chapter, on The Portable Hole slide, such a trajectory smacks right into Kennedy's first rib.

Zimmerman undoubtedly knew about this rib, and almost certainly understood its significance. At one point, in his segment of JFK: Beyond the Magic Bullet he points to the exit location on a skeleton in his office. And there it is...right in the path of a trajectory heading from an entrance at the level of T1, the first rib. (That a bullet traveling this trajectory could not have passed lateral to this rib is confirmed by HSCA Exhibit F-376, as well as every other reasonable depiction of a human skeleton.) Zimmerman, a chiropractor by trade and thus one well familiar with the spine and ribs, certainly knows the impossibility of this trajectory, and would find it necessary to believe the bullet entered above this rib before he could let himself get seduced by the single-bullet theory. (Thus, his constant assertion of an entrance at C7/T1 when the HSCA's exhibits make it clear the entrance was at T1.)

Apparently, Dr. John Lattimer was of a similar mind. In his book, Kennedy and Lincoln, Dr. Lattimer used a skeleton to depict his single-bullet trajectory. Strangely, however, the skeleton seems to be missing the problematic first rib. Just as curious, this would not be the only time problematic bones disappeared from a Lattimer simulation.

In 1994, Dr. Lattimer wrote an article for The American College of Surgeons in which he claimed to have duplicated the lapel bulge apparent on Governor Connally’s jacket at frame 224 of the Zapruder film. He described an exacting re-enactment using a simulated neck for Kennedy, a clothed rib cage for Connally’s chest, and an “array of radiuses (arm bones), encased in simulated forearms.” He fired a 6.5 mm Mannlicher-Carcano bullet through these figures, filmed Connally’s jacket bulging outwards, and compared the exiting bullet with CE 399, the so-called “magic” bullet. They appeared quite similar. He compared the damage to the rib cage and wrist of Governor Connally to the damage to his simulated rib cage and wrist. They were also roughly similar. He then fired a bullet through the “Connally jacket and thorax preparation without running it through the model neck first.” Not surprisingly, he discovered that as this bullet exited the Connally torso, the bullet did not tumble and the jacket did not bulge. He took from this that in order for Connally’s jacket to bulge as it did in Z-224 the bullet would first have had to have struck Kennedy. He then concluded “The bulge and the lapel eversion of the jacket worn by Governor Connally, starting in Zapruder frame 224, does indeed establish, beyond any shadow of a doubt, the exact moment when bullet 399 went through him…It also permits us to establish that there was plenty of time (three and one-half seconds) between the first two shots (frames 160 and 224) and even more time (five seconds) between the last two shots (frames 224 to 313), for Oswald to reload, reacquire his target (the head of President Kennedy) plus two full seconds to lock onto it.”

Lattimer was grossly overselling his results, of course. For one, as demonstrated in chapters five through nine, there is nothing to indicate the first shot was fired at frame 160. For two, Lattimer is clearly insinuating he’s proved the likelihood of the Single Bullet Theory merely because he shot straight through a clothed rib cage and its jacket didn’t bulge! There’s no evidence that either of the bullets striking the rib cage in Lattimer’s experiment struck it in a manner similar to the bullet striking Connally. In fact, as 10 cm of Connally’s rib was shattered and as the first bullet fired in Lattimer’s experiment shattered only 4.5 cm, it would appear they did not.

Lattimer's description of the second shot offers further confirmation of his simulation's inaccuracy. He writes: “With the bullet going straight ahead, wounds to the rib, shirt and jacket were punctuate and the rib fragments were not enough to bulge out the front of the jacket.” This “punctuate” entrance is a clear indication that the bullet was not fired in an effort to recreate Connally’s wounds, as a bullet striking Connally at the angle required for a bullet to travel along his rib, as proposed by his doctors, the WC, and the HSCA, would not be "going straight ahead" and would be unlikely to create a “punctuate” entrance under any circumstances. It’s clear, then, that Lattimer had no idea whether a bullet striking Connally in the manner he was actually struck without first striking Kennedy would have created a visible bulge on his jacket, and had no desire to actually find out.

Final support that Lattimer’s article was designed to sell the single bullet theory without actually testing it comes from his description of the simulated neck: “A size 16 neck simulation was created, using fresh pork muscle, with the bone removed and the skin still in place.” Thus, having the right-sized neck was important, but accurately representing the internal structures of the neck was not. Perhaps Lattimer was afraid of a bone even more problematic than the problematic first rib: the spine.

But as deceptive as Lattimer's work and Zimmerman's work have been, they come in a distant 2 and 3 to the number one myth-maker of recent times, and the number one salesman for the single-bullet theory: animator Dale Myers.