Debunking the Dictabelt
Debunking the Dictabelt with 2020 Vision
(NOTE: the essay to follow was written in Spring 2020, during the coronavirus shutdown. I had studied the Dictabelt evidence several times before, but had not written much on it, because 1) several of my favorite researchers remained quite smitten with the Dictabelt evidence, and I had little desire to force my views upon them, and 2) I fully believed those still pushing the Dictabelt evidence in the 2000's would slowly realize their error, and slowly stop doing so. I was alarmed, however, in 2019, when I realized that Josiah Thompson, one of my favorite researchers, if not the favorite, was planning to not only voice support for the Dictabelt evidence in his upcoming book, Last Second in Dallas, but revive the public's interest in this evidence. What follows, then, is my presumably too-little, too-late attempt to dissuade him from doing so.)
Now, it's impossible for me to write about the Dictabelt evidence--and, more specifically, the role of H.B. McLain in this evidence--without venting some frustration, and writing run-on sentences. So, for that, I apologize in advance. I hope it's not too painful.
Let us begin. In 1978, a series of acoustics experts hired by the HSCA (the House Select Committee on Assassinations, created to re-investigate the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King) concluded that a Dictabelt recording made by the Dallas Police of transmissions made during the 11-22-63 motorcade in which President Kennedy was assassinated...suggested that the radio of a motorcycle officer riding 10-11 mph had picked up more than three shots during the assassination...and that at least one of these shots had been fired from a grassy knoll in front of Kennedy. Now, this was quite the discovery, seeing as previous investigations had concluded there were but three shots fired, and that all three had been fired from behind Kennedy, by a lone assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.
Now, for those hoping for more background, I'll offer up a key passage from pg. 108 of "A Study of the Acoustics Evidence Related to the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy," the March 1979 final report on the acoustics available in Vol. 8 of the HSCA's hearings. This passage comes from the January 1979 report of James Barger, Scott Robinson, Edward Scmidt, and Jared Wolf, representing the research firm Bolt, Beranek, and Newman. This was the report that essentially "sold" the acoustics to the House committee.
"A precise motorcycle location at the time of the third shot, calculated by Weiss and Aschkenasy, was found to be 5 ft southwest of microphone position 3(4). This location is marked in Fig. 22. The straight line that passes through this point, and best fits the eight other microphone locations that produced echo patterns indicating the other three shots, plotted in Fig. 22. This line is the estimated motorcycle trajectory on Elm St., and it indicates an average speed of 10.6 mph.
The complete motorcycle trajectory shows that the motorcycle traveled north on Houston St. at about 17 mph. It slowed to about 10 mph at a point about 40 ft south of the corner at Elm St., and then continued west on Elm St. at about 10 mph. This single diminution of speed is compatible with the single diminution of motorcycle noise about 3 sec before the first shot is heard (see Fig. 6). We conclude that the motorcycle trajectory determined by the gunfire detections is compatible both with the positions of a motorcycle shown in the Hughes film and with the loudness of the motorcycle noise as transmitted to the Dispatcher."
Now here's Fig. 22.
Now, if you can't make much sense of this, don't worry. You won't need to understand this to ultimately conclude the acoustics evidence is bunkum.
What's important here is to realize that these men, these scientists, thought they'd made an important discovery--that the Dictabelt had recorded four shots (or more) in Dealey Plaza during the assassination of President Kennedy.
But it was a discovery with a mystery. While these experts had identified the location of this motorcycle within Dealey Plaza at the time of each shot, and the speed of the motorcycle in the moments leading up to and after the shooting, they did not identify the officer riding this motorcycle.
This, then, led to a hunt for the officer whose radio had picked up the shots, and the subsequent conclusion it was one Hollis B. McLain.
So where do I stand on this issue? Well, to me, the specifics of the recording of the impulses, and the science behind the conclusions of these experts, which have so enamored many of those who've written on this subject, is at best a red herring...for when one looks at the basic facts surrounding the conclusions of these experts...the testimony of McLain and the photographic evidence demonstrating his whereabouts during the assassination--one finds they'd built their conclusions on quicksand.
Now I know that's a lot. So let's go back and look at the basic facts...
1. The HSCA's staff universally agreed that for the Dictabelt recording to suggest what the experts concluded it suggested, McLain would have to have been the officer to have left his mike on during the assassination. This is a problem. McLain testified that 1) he was not riding 10-11 mph near Houston and Elm when the shooting started, but nearly a half a block behind this location, and 2) he knew his mike was not stuck in the 'on' position during the assassination, as he'd heard communications through his radio immediately following the assassination.
2. The HSCA's staff countered this with the suggestion McLain was wrong about his actions, and that he'd heard the communications he recalled on James Courson's radio, and thought it was his own. This is incredibly insulting, if not dishonest. A motorcycle officer can tell a communication on his own radio as opposed to the radio of another jockey, especially if their bikes are traveling at different speeds. And yes, the photographic evidence makes it crystal freaking clear McLain and Courson were not traveling the same speed prior to 40 seconds or so after the shooting.
3. When played the Dictabelt tape, subsequent to his testimony, McLain only added to the problems brought to light by his testimony. He now claimed he recognized the transmissions on Channel 2, which had been reserved for broadcasts related to the motorcade, but not Channel 1, which had been reserved for non-motorcade-related broadcasts, and was the Channel to which the HSCA's staff had assumed he'd been broadcasting. He also claimed he'd turned his siren on after the shooting, but that his siren was not recorded on the Dictabelt. Now, McLain went public with these claims in January, 1979, scarcely a week after he'd testified. And yet, even so, the HSCA's staff barely touched this in their report, published months later. After reciting McLain's complaint, it concluded "The committee believed that McLain was in error on the point of his use of his siren."
To recap, then, McLain claimed: 1) he was not where the acoustics evidence needed him to be when he first heard shots; 2) his mike was not stuck in the "on" position; 3) his radio was on Channel 2, not Channel 1, the Channel on which the impulses (not actually shots, but impulses presumed to have been shots) were recorded; and 4) he turned his siren on after the shooting...
and the HSCA's staff concluded he was wrong on all four points...
Now, on a personal note, I've met McLain, and believed what he had to say. I met him at the 2005 JFK Lancer Conference in Dallas and he surprised the heck out of me by not only not defending the Dallas Police and the proposition Oswald acted alone, but by saying he thought Kennedy was killed by more than one gunman. He even told me who he thought was behind it: the Mafia. When I asked him if he thought some of his fellow DPD officers could have been working with the Mafia, moreover, he surprised me a second time and said he wouldn't be surprised.
Well, to me, these weren't the words of someone who'd lie about having his microphone stuck in the "on" position...
Still, let's go back and put ourselves in the position of the committee...
They'd heard expert testimony claiming there were some impulses on a recording that, with a tweak or two, seemed to match up to the impulses that would have been recorded should someone have been in a specific spot in Dealey Plaza, at a certain time, and then traveled to another specific spot in Dealey Plaza at a certain time, and then traveled to another specific spot in Dealey Plaza at a certain time, and so on, while shots were being fired from the sniper's nest and grassy knoll...
And then they'd heard testimony and statements from the motorcycle officer whose microphone supposedly picked up these impulses, in which he denied his mike was open or even on the channel on which these impulses were recorded...
It was problematic to the extreme...but it was not insurmountable...should the photographic evidence indicate this motorcycle officer was in the specific spots at the specific times required.
And then, voila!, it happened! As acknowledged by HSCA Chief Counsel Robert Blakey (in his 1981 book The Plot to Kill the President), a film was located "after the Committee had completed its hearings" that showed "McLain rounding the corner of Houston and Elm at the precise time the acoustical analysis put him there."
The acoustics evidence had been accepted by the majority of the committee, and now, thanks to the discovery of this film (by HSCA Photographic Consultant Robert Groden, no less), it could easily be sold the public!
Yes, believe it or not, when a cropped frame from this film was published in the Final Assassinations Report (not the one now online but the one sold the public in 1979), it was accompanied by the following caption: "Enlargement of movie film shows McLain turning from Houston onto Elm, just where acoustics experts located him at about the time of the first shot."
Here, then, is a color re-production of the cropped frame published in the report. (To be clear, I have cropped a frame from the full-color film as available online, to match the crop of the black and white image in the report.)
It wasn't even a year, however, before the findings of the acoustic experts came under fire. A researcher, Steve Barber, acquired a copy of the Dictabelt recording and realized that a voice could be heard within the recording that was out of sequence. This suggested that the timing proposed by the experts had been off, and that the supposed shots on the recording had actually been recorded well after the shots in Dealey Plaza had been fired.
Barber's findings were then confirmed by a panel put together by the National Research Council, comprised of members of the National Academy of Sciences.
Now that should probably have put an end to the Dictabelt Delusion, but no such luck. Never mind, said the true believers, something was off with this thing-a-ma-jig and this created the illusion a voice was recorded out of sequence, or some such thing.
Now, I know that sounds flippant, if not downright insulting. And I suppose it is. But those still pushing there must be something to the acoustics evidence by the time of this writing (2020) need to realize how silly this appears to those coming after them--that to those with some perspective on this matter it seems crystal clear that if the shoe was on the other foot--that is, if the acoustic experts had said the tape showed three evenly-spaced shots and three evenly-spaced shots only, but were then completely blind-sided by the fellow whose mike had supposedly picked-up the shots--they'd have been the first to dismiss the opinions of the experts, and accept the recollections of the witness.
I mean, to have McLain insist it wasn't his mike that recorded the "shots"... and then have the National Research Council conclude these supposed "shots" were recorded after the shooting was over???
Well, that would have been both the last straw... and the final nail in the coffin... for the Dictabelt evidence... should this evidence have shown three shots and three shots only.
So... let's ignore our timeline... and set aside the Ramsey panel (the scientific panel concluding the purported "shots" were actually on the wrong part of the tape).
And let's pretend that no one since has argued the evidence is valid...even if the "shots" were--yessiree--on the wrong part of the tape.
No, let's not dive down into that mind-muck. Let's pick up where we left off, with the publication of the HSCA's Report...and see if what they'd offered made a lick of sense...
(I mean, really, it doesn't matter one bit if the acoustics experts were telling the truth about the impulses they'd detected matching the impulses one would expect if an open mike was at a specific location, if no open mike was at that location.)
So let's review the photographic evidence, to see if it supports the acoustic evidence...
The Hunt for McLain 2020
As stated, within the HSCA's report was an image of McLain "just where acoustics experts located him at about the time of the first shot." This location (as well as the location claimed for the four subsequent impulses detected on the Dictabelt) is shown on a plat of Dealey Plaza below, in an image published by Don Thomas in his 2008 article The Bike with the Mike. The first impulse is marked by the lower circle on the right. Note that this location is to the right of the top of the fountain.
Well, this is a problem. Frame 175 of the Zapruder film is presented below. This is the frame at which the first shot was fired, according to most current believers in the acoustics evidence. LBJ's back-up car--the car just ahead of where McLain is purported to have been riding at the time of the first shot--is turning the corner in this frame. And yet, lo and behold, McLain is nowhere in sight.
Still, this isn't surprising. There's a lot of people on that corner. It seems possible then that McLain was just behind the LBJ back-up car, and concealed by the crowd in frame 175. So let's look at frame 189, nearly a second later.
Nope, still no McLain. Well, then what about frame 194, a full second after frame 175? Don Thomas admits "The plotted trajectory of McLain's motorcycle has him arriving at this corner just ahead of Mayor Cabell's car" Mayor Cabell's car is the car right behind LBJ's back-up car. So McLain should appear any, uhh, split second, right?
Nope, he's still not there. And that's the last clear frame of the corner in the film. So, sad to say, there's no photographic support for McLain's being where modern day supporters of the acoustics evidence, such as Don Thomas, purport him to have been at the time of the first shot.
Now, these images, of course, also fail to prove he wasn't there. The Mayor's car is not captured in these images. It could be, then, that McLain is riding a few feet in front of the Mayor's car, just out of sight of Zapruder's camera in the image above.
But just barely out of sight... Recall that McLain was purportedly traveling 10 mph, and that he was purportedly 20 feet south of the corner, just to the east of the fountain--where hardhat Howard Brennan can be seen sitting on a wall in the frame above--when the first shot was fired. Well, if so, he would have traveled 15 feet--essentially the length of a car--between Z-175 and Z-194, and be but 5 feet south of the corner at Z-194. So, yes, if McLain was where current proponents of the acoustics evidence suggest he was, he would be just behind the group of people at very top of the corner at Z-194.
But let's be clear, this exercise was not in vain. The HSCA concluded the first shot--the shot supposedly fired when McLain was near the top of the fountain and starting to turn the corner--occurred at Z-160. Should McLain have been traveling 10 mph between Z-160 and Z-194, he would have traveled 27 feet, and be 7 feet past the corner, at Z-194. These images thereby kill the HSCA's claim McLain was where he needed to be at frame 160. If he'd been beside the top of the fountain at frame 160, he would have turned the corner by frame 194. The HSCA's conclusion the first shot was fired around Z-160, and the claim this shot was recorded by McLain as he passed the northern end of the fountain, and that this is in keeping with the photographic evidence, is simply not true, and is essentially a lie.
No, it's worse than that. It's a damned lie. The Dorman film, the source of the cropped image published in the HSCA's report, shows a car other than the LBJ back-up car or Cabell car entering the intersection with McLain. Hmmm... Maybe this explains why the frame as published in the HSCA's report was cropped to remove most of this car... Just sayin'.
But it's worse than that. The film also shows a similar car entering the intersection just after McLain. This is shown below.
Well, even a cursory study of the assassination films proves the first of these cars was:
not a hard-top and therefore not the LBJ back-up car
followed by an identical car and therefore not the Cabell car
not blue or hard-topped and therefore not the press pool car behind the Cabell car
not followed by a blue car and therefore not camera car number 1
not blue and therefore not camera car number 2
not blue and therefore not camera car number 3
and that it was, in fact, the VIP car 6 cars behind the LBJ back-up car.
Mind the Gap
This only makes sense, moreover, seeing as McLain can be seen riding beside this car in the Hughes film taken a few seconds before.
This is shown below... McLain makes the turn. A split second passes. The first of two identical VIP cars makes the turn next to McLain.
Current proponents of the acoustics evidence admit, moreover, that the HSCA was mistaken about McLain's being in the Dorman film near the fountain when the first shot was fired, and accept that the image of the motorcycle officer making the turn in the Dorman film was created 13.5-15.0 seconds after the HSCA proposed the first shot was fired. They claim instead that 1) the first shot was fired a little less than one second after the HSCA had proposed--frame 175 (Z-175) as opposed to frame 160 (Z-160); 2) McLain raced up to the corner of Houston and Elm just after he was last shown in the Hughes film, and arrived in time to be just ahead of the Cabell car when the first shot was fired; and 3) one of the next pair of motorcycle officers in the motorcade--either Clyde Haygood or Jimmy Wayne Courson--quickly moved up to McLain's spot beside the VIP car, and that it is either Haygood or Courson who is seen in the Dorman film.
But this is nonsense. As the frame in the Hughes film depicting McLain at the corner of Houston and Elm matches up with Zapruder frame 160 or so, and 138 at the earliest, McLain would have at most two seconds to to race up to his purported position by the Cabell car at frame 175. That's around two hundred feet. In two seconds or less. That's like 68 miles an hour, on average, for two seconds, which begin and end with him traveling 11 mph. Well that means he would have to have accelerated up to 125 miles per hour for one second, and then braked back to 11 miles per hour within 1 second. When the motorcade in this stretch was traveling less than 11 miles an hour, and heading towards a sharp turn.
(We should not forget, moreover, that the acoustics experts, from listening to the sound of the engine on the recording, concluded the rider of the bike with the mike was traveling around 17 mph as he "raced" up Houston.)
So, yes, McLain's appearance at the corner of Houston and Main in the Hughes film should have been a deal-killer. Even if possible, it is totally illogical to believe McLain would perform the acceleration/deceleration necessary for him to reach the location required... Let's not forget that in the scenario pushed by the HSCA acoustics experts and Thomas, etc, no shots have been fired at this point. So why the heck would McLain race hog wild toward a ridiculously sharp turn?
If you're wondering, moreover, how the true believers get around this, well, they perform their best flat-earther impression, that's how. Don Thomas has convinced himself (and others) the Hughes frame showing McLain turning the corner at Houston and Main was actually recorded "six to seven sec prior to the first shot" (original article Hear No Evil, 2001), which he of course places at Z-175. This is ludicrous, IMO.
I mean, really. The gif below shows JFK's limo turning onto Houston in the Hughes film.
Note that the light-colored convertible on the far right of the gif is still a good distance from the corner at the end of the gif.
Now jump ahead to McLain's appearance in the Hughes film. This has gotta be 6 seconds or more later, right?
Let's try to keep this simple. In the Hughes film, McLain (follow the blue arrow in the image above) makes the turn onto Houston just as LBJ's Secret Service back-up car (follow the red arrow in the image above) begins its turn onto Elm. Well, this right here is a problem, as Zapruder frame 175--what Don Thomas claims as the moment the first shot was fired--shows the LBJ back-up car turning onto Elm. But it's worse than that. As Thomas claims the Hughes frame above was created 6-7 seconds before Z-175, he is simultaneously claiming it took 6-7 seconds (110-128 frames of the Zapruder film) for: 1) the back-up car (red arrow) to get halfway through its turn onto Elm, where it can be observed in Zapruder frame 175; and 2) the Cabell car (white arrow) to reach the location of the back-up car (red arrow)... He claims further, of course, that by the time the Cabell car (white) reached the location of the back-up car (red), McLain (blue) had not only caught up to it, but passed it.
Now this is obvious nonsense. Still, let's do the math. As shown in the frames of the Hughes film, the first VIP car turns onto Houston beside McLain. This means that there are 7 cars on Houston at this time--the LBJ back-up car at the top of the block, and the first VIP car at the bottom--with 6 gaps between these 7 cars. The cars are thereby spaced about 36 feet apart. If it takes the Cabell car (white arrow) 7 seconds to reach the location of the LBJ back-up car (red arrow), well, this means that it was traveling about 5.1 feet per second--3.5 miles per hour--for 7 seconds...starting from before it even reached the turn!
Well, okay, Maybe I'm being unfair. By the time of his 2008 article The Bike with the Mike, Don Thomas had taken to claiming McLain had traveled 174 feet in 4 seconds between his last moment in the Hughes film, and Z-175, which he says requires "a speed of about 25 mph." But that's not much better, or accurate. First of all, 174 feet in 4 seconds is 29.7 mph, not "about 25 mph." Second of all, this puts Thomas at odds with Bolt, Beranek, and Newman's claim the bike with the mike was traveling 17 mph along Houston. Third, this fails to take into account the acceleration/deceleration involved. To average 29.7 mph for 4 seconds after turning a corner at 11 mph, tops, and then slowing down to this same speed or slower by the end of those 4 seconds, would require McLain to have reached 55 mph or so in between. Websites on Harleys show that newer and faster models than that driven by McLain will take 4-6 seconds to go from 0-60. Their mph increases roughly 15 mph per second. So let's say McLain's bike went from 11 up to 26 in the first second, and 25 back down to 10 in the last second. That's an average of 18 mph for those two seconds. That means he would have to have averaged 47 mph for the middle two seconds. Well, to average 47 after starting out at 26, and then returning to 25 after 2 seconds, he would have to have accelerated to about 68.5 mph in the middle of these two seconds. Well, that's a 42.5 mph jump in one second, almost three times the acceleration rate reported on websites on Harleys.
And should this acceleration problemo not dissuade you from Thomas' argument McLain's appearance in the Hughes film was 7 or 6 or 4 or whatever seconds before the first shot was fired at Z-175, there's always this: Z-175.
Recall that in Thomas' scenario, this image was taken 12-13 seconds after the limo disappeared down Elm Street in the Hughes film above. 12-13 seconds! To go, what? 90 feet, tops? That's 4-5 mph. For 12-13 seconds. After making the turn...
The Vanishing Motorcycle Rider
Now note the yellow convertible two cars ahead of McLain's position in the Hughes frame up above. This is Camera Car #1. Here it is in Zapruder frame 218, a little over two seconds after the first shot was fired, according to Thomas.
Now note that the acoustics not only has McLain catching up to this car in mere seconds, but racing past it, to the extent even that he was rounding onto Elm while this car was still mid-block on Houston.
And this is where things get very very interesting. Dave Wiegman, a cameraman in Camera Car #1, turned on his camera after he hearing a shot, and began filming. The image below comes from his film. This frame was taken roughly two seconds after the Zapruder frame above, and almost 4 1/2 seconds after the frame up above that--Z-175, the frame at which Thomas claims the first shot rang out. The car in front of Wiegman's car is the press pool car. The car in front of that is the Cabell car. McLain was purportedly just ahead of this car at the time of the first shot. But McLain is nowhere in sight.
Alright, okay, maybe he's to the left of this image, just out of frame.
Well, here is another frame from Wiegman's film, taken about 10 seconds later. The car off in the distance is the Secret Service back-up car for Vice-President Johnson. The motorcycle officer getting off his bike beside this car is Bobby Hargis. So where's McLain? Well, I've been told he was too far to the left to be captured in the first Wiegman image, above, and still too far to the left to be captured in this second image below. (Note that this frame has been synched up with Zapruder frame 447.)
But that's just desperate. Here's another frame from the film that comes a split-second later. Much more of the street to the left of the pool car is visible. And yet... still no McLain.
So where was he?
Now some might wish to believe Wiegman's car had passed McLain by the time of the frame above. Now, that's convenient.
But that's not what Don Thomas, the number one proponent of the acoustics evidence, will tell you. In his 2008 essay, The Bike With the Mike, Thomas acknowledges that "the acoustical evidence requires the bike with the mike to have an average speed of 11-12 mph during the shooting" and that, as a result, "the motorcycle is expected to pass the mayor’s car as it rounds the intersection."
So how does that rule out McLain's having been passed by Wiegman in the frame above?
Because the frame above was taken 11 seconds after Wiegman began filming, that's why. And around 15 seconds after Z-175... And from a location roughly 60 feet past the corner of Houston and Elm...
Well, think about it. The acoustics evidence places McLain about 20 feet shy of this corner at Z-175. If McLain was just behind Wiegman's position in the frames above, taken 15 seconds later, he'd have traveled roughly 90 feet in 15 seconds. That's 21,600 feet per hour...roughly...4.1 miles per hour!
Well, then, what if McLain was beside the pool car when Wiegman filmed the pool car, only on the far side of the left lane, and barely out of frame?
Hmmm...120 feet in 15 seconds is...28,800 feet per hour...roughly...5.5 miles per hour!
Now, look back at the last two frames above. Now realize...the car in which Wiegman was riding was going so slow that he was able to leap from it and start running without falling or dropping his camera. Yes, believe it or not, he was running down the street when he filmed these two frames.
It's clear from this, then, that the acoustic evidence requires McLain to have not only pulled past the mayor's car as it was rounding the corner of Houston and Elm, but to have cruised ahead and out of sight of Wiegman over the next ten seconds.
But how far ahead? Well, 10 mph (Bolt, Beranek, and Newman's estimation for the bike with the mike's speed along Elm) is 14.67 feet per second. 14.67 feet per second x 15 seconds = 220 feet. Bearing in mind that McLain would have to go 10 feet or so past the corner to round the corner, this would be roughly 190 feet past the corner. If Wiegman was 60 feet past the corner when he filmed the frames above, well, then, the front of the pool car would have to have been around 90 feet past the corner, and McLain would have to have been around 100 feet out ahead of the pool car, in the center lane, closing in on Bobby Hargis position on the left side of the road.
But that's not what Don Thomas will tell you... In his online article Sabato, Sonalysts and Sophistry (2014), he presented the following image.
Note that this is similar to the map we'd looked at earlier. Note now that within this image Thomas spells out that the triangles in the left-hand lane mark McLain's presumed location at one second intervals throughout the plaza. Well, this places McLain in the left lane about 130 feet past the corner and heading straight towards Hargis 15 seconds after the first shot. Oh, my. This is precisely where the Wiegman film proves he was not.
Now, let's be clear... There's not a shred of evidence McLain passed the mayor's car at the corner, and then pulled into the center lane. All evidence, in fact, suggests this didn't happen. To wit, when next seen, in frames from the Couch and Darnell films, McLain is riding in the far left lane, and the mayor's car, and pool car, are long gone.
The Flight of the Hargis
Here's a frame from the Darnell film, with some initials added for easy identification. McLain is off in the distance, and is pointed out by an HM. The other initials are for fellow motorcycle officers James Courson, Clyde Haygood, and Bobby Hargis.
Now, I have matched up this particular frame with a frame from the Couch film (the film made by newsman Malcolm Couch, not a film of a couch) for a reason. In Hear No Evil (2010), Don Thomas presents this frame from the Darnell Film as proof McLain was the only officer in position to have recorded the shots as proposed by the acoustics experts. He then claims this frame was taken around "15 seconds after the shooting," which he says took 8.3 seconds. So, 23 seconds after the first shot.
But this is really wrong. Dave Wiegman started filming around 4 seconds after Z-175--what Thomas proposes as the moment of the first shot. Wiegman's frame of the pool car facing the overpass--the frame shown up above--was taken around 11 seconds later. (Let's recall that this frame showed Bobby Hargis getting off his motorcycle on the left side of the road.) Now look at Hargis in the Couch film. He is now heading back across the road from its right side.
What happened in the interim?
Mr. STERN - Do you recall your impression at the time regarding the source of the shots?
Mr. HARGIS - Well, at the time it sounded like the shots were right next to me. There wasn't any way in the world I could tell where they were coming from, but at the time there was something in my head that said that they probably could have been coming from the railroad overpass, because I thought since I had got splattered, with blood--I was Just a little back and left of--Just a little bit back and left of Mrs. Kennedy, but I didn't know. I had a feeling that it might have been from the Texas Book Depository, and these two places was the primary place that could have been shot from.
Mr. STERN - You were clear that the sounds were sounds of shots?
Mr. HARGIS - Yes. sir: I knew they were shots.
Mr. STERN - All right, what did you do then? You say you parked your motorcycle?
Mr. HARGIS - Yes, uh-huh----
Mr. STERN - Where?
Mr. HARGIS - It was to the left-hand side of the street from---south side of Elm Street.
Mr. STERN - And then what did you---
Mr. HARGIS - I ran across the street looking over towards the railroad overpass and I remembered seeing people scattering and running and then I looked.
Mr. STERN - People on the overpass?
Mr. HARGIS - Yes ; people that were there to see the President I guess- They were taking pictures and things. It was kind of a confused crowd. I don't know whether they were trying to hide or see what was happening or what-and then I looked over to the Texas School Book Depository Building, and no one that was standing at the base of the building was--seemed to be looking up at the building or anything like they knew where the shots were coming from so---
Mr. STERN - How about the people on the incline on the north side of Elm Street? Do you recall their behavior?
Mr. HARGIS - Yes; I remember a man holding a child. Fell to the gound and covered his child with his body, and people running everywhere, trying to get out of there, I guess, and they were about as confused as to where the shots were coming from as everyone else was.
Mr. STERN - And did you run up the incline on your side of Elm Street?
Mr. HARGIS - Yes, sir; I ran to the light post, and I ran up to this kind of a little wall, brick wall up there to see if I could get a better look on the bridge, and, of course. I was looking all around that place by that time. I knew it couldn't have come from the county courthouse because that place was swarming with deputy sheriffs over there.
Mr. STERN - Did you get behind the picket fence that runs from the overpass to the concrete wall?
Mr. HARGIS - No.
Mr. STERN - On the north side of Elm Street?
Mr. HARGIS - No, no; I don't remember any picket fence.
Mr. STERN - Did you observe anything then on the overpass, Or on the incline, or around the Depository? Anything out of the ordinary besides people running?
Mr. HARGIS - No; I didn't. That is what got me.
Mr. STERN - So, at that point you were still uncertain as to the direction of the shots?
Mr. HARGIS - Yes, uh-huh.
Mr. STERN - Then, what did you do?
Mr. HARGIS - Well, then, I thought since I looked over at the Texas Book Depository and some people looking out of the windows up there, didn't seem like they knew what was going on, but none of them were looking towards, or near anywhere the shots had been fired from. At the time I didn't know, but about the only activity I could see was on the bridge, on the railroad bridge so----
Mr. STERN - What sort of activity was that?
Mr. HARGIS - Well, the people that were up there were Just trying to get a better look at what was happening and was in a haze and running, Or in a timed fashion, and I thought maybe of them had seen who did the shooting and the rifle.
Mr. STERN - Then what did you do?
Mr. HARGIS - Then I got back on my motorcycle, which was still running...
So let's get this straight. Hargis claimed he raced across the street, raced up the grassy knoll, looked all around and saw nothing, and then raced back to his bike. The Wiegman frame shows him getting off his bike around 15 seconds after Z-175. (Note: sticklers worried about my use of "about" can relax; Dale Myers' more elaborate analysis of this frame places at Z-447, 272 frames--or 14.86 seconds--after Z-175). Now plugging ahead...The Couch frame, supposedly taken 23 seconds after Z-175, shows him more than 3/4 through this journey. Well, are we to believe only 8 seconds transpired from the time Hargis dismounted his motorcycle, until he raced back across the road to his bike? And that the sum total of time he spent looking around on the knoll was, what, -3 seconds, right? Because it would have taken him at least 7 seconds to get across the street and up to that "little wall," right? And another 4 seconds to get back down to the street..
Now, I know some are wishing there was a better angle on this.
Well, guess what? There is.
Behold Bond 4 (the 4th photo taken by Wilma Bond in Dealey Plaza on November 22).
Note that in this image Hargis is just getting back to his bike. Well, this proves the photo was taken three seconds or more after the Darnell and Couch frames above. Now note the location of Officer Courson, riding in the middle lane. He has just passed Bill and Gayle Newman (laying on the grass on the north side of Elm), and Jean Hill and Mary Moorman (laying on the grass on the south side of Elm). This puts him within a few feet of where Kennedy was struck at Z-313. Now note the location of McLain, on the left edge of the photo.
Now let's put on our thinking caps. Researcher Mark Tyler has synched up the photos and films taken just before and just after the shooting. (His analysis, a work-in-progress, is available here: https://www.marktyler.org/mc63.html.)
This is his take on Bond 4. I have added some letters to designate the locations of Zapruder (Z), Courson (C), McLain (M), the sixth floor sniper's nest (SN), and what the acoustics evidence requires to be McLain's location at the time of the first shot (MAFS?). Note that Courson is directly in front of Zapruder. This confirms that he is within a few feet of Kennedy's location at Z-313.
So why is this significant? Well, it provides a sense for the distance McLain has traveled down Elm at Bond 4. The measured distance for the sniper's nest to Kennedy's location at Z-313 is 265 feet. Courson is thereby roughly 265 feet from the sniper's nest. The width of Elm Street is 40 feet. McLain is roughly that distance in front of Courson. He is thereby roughly 305 feet from the sniper's nest in Bond 4. But that's when going through Courson's position--it's more like 300 feet in a straight line. As the measured distance to the sniper's nest is the distance through the air, to a window 60 feet above the street, and as the sniper's nest is a bit further along the ground from McLain in Bond 4 than his supposed location at the time of the first shot, we can conclude then that the distance from McLain's position in Bond 4 to his supposed location on the ground at the time of the first shot is less than 300 feet. I've measured it using the 40 foot width of the street as a scale, and I think it's pretty close to 270 feet. So let's say 270.
So how fast was he traveling? Well, for that, we need a clock. As none is available, however, we can use a film. Let's look once again at the Bond photo. On the north side of the street, two cameramen are filming the Newmans spread out on the grass. The one partially obscured behind the street lamp is Dave Wiegman.
Now, here's a closer look at Wiegman in a photo taken by Frank Cancellare, 2 seconds or so after Bond 4. Wiegman has now pulled his camera off the Newmans. In the background, Courson has gained on McLain. Hargis is out of frame to the left.
Now, to be thorough, here is Tyler's take on Cancellare 1.
Now see if this makes sense. Wiegman started filming after hearing the first shot. He leapt from his car after it had turned the corner, and continued filming as he ran towards the grassy knoll. Once there, he filmed a number of subjects, including Charles Hester and his wife Bernice on the ground by the arcade. He then filmed the Newmans, and Doris Mumford, who was crouched down on the grass to the east of the Newmans. He then raced back to his car.
Now here's the thing. The moment captured by the Cancellare photo--when Wiegman stopped filming the Newmans--came about 20 seconds after Wiegman filmed the pool car facing the underpass, which was itself around 11 seconds after Wiegman began filming. As Wiegman began filming about 4 seconds after Z-175, then, it appears he stopped filming the Newmans, and was captured on film by Cancellare, around 35 seconds after Z-175.
Well, that means Bond 4 was taken about 33 seconds after Z-175. 270 feet/33 seconds = 8.2 feet per second. 8.2 feet per second x 3600 seconds per hour = 29,520 feet per hour. 29,520 feet per hour = 5.6 miles per hour.
Well, that's not the 11 miles per hour of the motorcade, is it? Or, to be more precise, the 10 miles per hour Bolt, Beranek, and Newman claimed for the bike with the mike's speed along Elm.
But wait, it's worse than that. A close study of the Wiegman film reveals that he was facing north while filming the Hesters, (who were crouched down on the ground near the white pergola at the top of the knoll), and that the next frame shows the sidewalk along Elm, well behind his location while he was filming the Hesters. The point of view of the camera then spins off the sidewalk and centers on the Newmans. Well, this proves there's a break in the film. Wiegman could not have turned from north to south in 1 film frame, 1/24 of a second. As the Newmans were not near the Hesters, moreover, it appears Wiegman shut off his camera for the few seconds it took him to race from the Hesters to the Newmans. We'll say 3 seconds, but it could be more.
(Note: it could very well be more. This addition of 3 seconds lifts Hargis' return to his bike in Bond 4 to 36 seconds after Z-175, which in turn lifts his appearance in the Darnell frame to roughly 33 seconds after Z-175. This is reasonably accurate, seeing as a Couch/Darnell film sync-up shows Officer Baker hitting the front steps of the school book depository a few seconds before McLain is shown in the Couch and Darnell films, and it is widely believed Baker reached these steps 30 seconds or so after the first shot. But this three second adjustment could still be too little. As we can see Hargis leaving his bike in the Wiegman frame taken 15 seconds after Z-175, this still gives him just 21 seconds from bike to knoll to bike. As at least 14 of these 21 seconds would have been him running up to and back from the little brick wall on the knoll, moreover, this leaves Hargis but 7 seconds to scan the area before racing back to his bike. I suspect it was a bit more, but am willing to stick to this scenario in order to show how that even the best-case scenarios debunk the acoustic evidence. Now, should one doubt me on this, they should study the image below. It's a mash-up of frames from the Bell film, showing the approximate route of Hargis' journey. He parked his bike (on the left), then ran across the street to the little brick wall (at center), then ran over to the light post (on the right), then crossed the street back to his bike (on the left). The middle frame shows Hargis walking back to his bike, moreover, as McLain passes in front of him. So what is the point of all this? Well, to prove Hargis didn't run straight over and straight back, but took a circuitous route...)
So let's back up and try again. The addition of 3 seconds puts Cancellare at 38 seconds after Z-175. The Bond photo was thereby taken 36 seconds (or more) after Z-175. A motorcycle traveling 10 mph for 36 seconds travels 528 feet. The underpass, at Elm Street, is roughly 500 feet from Houston Street. McLain's presumed location on Houston Street at the time of the first shot was roughly 20 feet short of Elm. But one would need to go 10 feet or so past the curb to turn down Elm, right? So...McLain oughta be 2 feet from the underpass by the time of Bond 4, and 27 feet or more under the underpass by the time of the Cancellare photo...if the acoustics analysis was spot on, and McLain traveled 10 mph across the plaza.
But Mclain hasn't even reached the underpass in these photos, has he? He's hundreds of feet away.
Alright, alright, let's try again... Bond 4, taken at least 36 seconds after Z-175, shows McLain around 240 feet past the corner of Houston and Elm. The Wiegman frames, discussed above, fail to show McLain at all. And yet, since we we know they were taken around 15 seconds after Z-175, the acoustics evidence necessitates McLain's being around 190 feet past Houston in these frames.
Well, what the heck happened? Did McLain enter a worm hole, and travel but 50 feet in 21 seconds (or more)? Around 1.6 miles per hour? For 21 seconds? Really? He would have to have stopped. Right? I mean, the idling speed for a Harley is like 5 mph. Could he really have maintained a 1.6 mph clip for 21 seconds...without putting his foot on the ground?
Oh, wait, we've forgotten something. A comparison of Bobby Hargis' location in the Darnell frame studied earlier, and Bobby Hargis' location in the Bond photo, proves the Darnell frame was taken at least 3 seconds earlier. Well, 3 seconds at 10 mph is 44 feet. If McLain was 240 feet from the corner in Bond 4, taken around 36 seconds after Z-175, well, then, he was around 196 feet from the corner in the Darnell frame, taken at least 33 seconds after Z-175.
Only...yikes...we've just seen that he would have to have been around 190 feet past the corner in the Wiegman frames taken around 15 seconds after Z-175.
So... Did McLain travel but 6 feet in the 18 seconds or more between the Wiegman frame of the pool car, and the Darnell frame in which McLain can actually be seen? Because that's around 0.22 miles per hour...
Now, here's the good news...that's roughly the speed of a Galapagos Tortoise...
Now, I know some are thinking I've pulled some sleight-of-hand, some Jedi mind-trick. And that the reason none of this adds up is that I've made some incorrect assumptions, such as McLain's being out in front of Wiegman in Wiegman's frames of the pool car.
Well, okay. I'll play along. Let's pretend the acoustics does not require McLain to have been out in front of Wiegman in those all-important frames. Where else could he have been?
I'm sorry to have to do this, but here's some more math. 10 mph = 14.67 feet per second. 14.67 x 21 (the seconds elapsed between the Wiegman framing showing the pool car and Wiegman's appearance in Bond 4) = 308. Well, this tells us McLain should have traveled 308 feet or so in the 21 seconds or more between the Wiegman frame featuring the press pool car, and Bond 4.
Now, let's remember that McLain's location along Elm in Bond 4 is approximately 270 feet from his purported location at Z-175. Well, 308 feet back from that would place him about 38 feet behind his purported location at Z-175.
If one assumes Wiegman averaged 10 mph over those 21 seconds, then, it follows that he started from a location behind his purported location at Z-175--and that he'd somehow traveled backwards in the 15 seconds before this 21--that is, in the 15 seconds between Z-175, and the frames of the pool car on Elm.
I mean...we have ourselves a dilemma, don't we? If McLain was 20 feet shy of the corner at Z-175, and continued across the plaza at 10 miles per hour afterwards, he would have to have been out in front of Wiegman's position on the street when Wiegman took his famous frames 15 seconds later. But if he was out in front of Wiegman when Wiegman took his famous frames, and traveling 10 miles per hour, he would have to have been further along the street than he is in the Bond photo showing Wiegman in the background, not racing towards the knoll but...yikes...already on the knoll...filming the...Newmans (Give this your best Jerry Seinfeld impression.) Newmans!
Yep, the acoustics evidence requires both that McLain 1) pass the mayor's car at the corner of Houston and Elm and be out in front of that car at the time Wiegman filmed the pool car 15 seconds or so after Z-175, and 2) travel 308 feet or more in the next 21 seconds or more leading up to Bond 4. And both can't be true. I mean, he can't be in two places at once, can he? McLain may have had some talents, but he most certainly can't be 130 feet or so in front of Wiegman at the exact same time he's 98 feet or so in back of Wiegman.
Well, it follows then that McLain was either not 20 feet shy of the corner at Z-175, or that he did not travel 10 miles per hour across the Plaza!
Now, to be clear, Don Thomas agrees with this, and has decided to ignore Bolt, Beranek and Newman's (presumably no relation to the Newmans on Elm) claim the bike with the mike traveled 10 mph along Elm, and has convinced himself McLain began to slow down just before the first shot...and pretty much crawled across the plaza after the last shot. To wit, in Sabato, Sonalysts, and Sophistry (2014), Thomas wrote that during and after the shooting "McLain was traveling at idling speed, taking 40 seconds to travel 270 ft." Well, 270 feet in 40 seconds is 4.6 miles per hour, even slower than idling speed. Now this is bad.
But it's also confusing. In The Mike on the Bike (2008), Thomas explains the open dots on his map of the plaza as follows: "The open dots are the hypothesized location of the motorcycle at one second increments between points (a) and (c). Built into the hypothesis is the fact that the time between the first and last shot on the police recording was 8.3 sec and the distance from the first to the last circle, about 135 ft requires an average speed of 11-12 mph and thus there are nine open dots (8 spaces) covering that sequence. Also, just two seconds before the first putative shot the motor noise decreased sharply (75%), indicating that the officer had released the accelerator, and idled for the next 40 sec before the motor is heard to rev-up again. In accord with this evidence the motorcycle is depicted as slowing through the sequence beginning as it approached the first circle."
Now, that's a lot to take in. First, note that Bolt, Beranek, and Newman had claimed the motorcycle had decelerated from 17 to 10 mph over the 3 seconds before the first shot, and that Thomas switched this to McLain's releasing the accelerator two seconds before the first shot. Now note that Thomas has the bike slowing down to idle speed after the shots, and maintaining this speed for the next 30 seconds or so. Well, this makes little sense, seeing as the bike was heading downhill on pretty much a straight-away at the very time Thomas has it slowing to a crawl.
But it's worse than that. Here, for the third time, is Thomas' depiction of McLain's trajectory in the aftermath of the shooting.
Now note that Thomas admits location "c" is the location of McLain in the Bond photo. Now count the arrows leading up to that location, staring with the arrow in the second circle on Houston, which Thomas purports to be McLain's location one second after the first shot. I count 34. Seven seconds leading up to (b) and another twenty-seven seconds leading up to (c).
Now lets's remember that Thomas has McLain releasing the accelerator two seconds before the first shot. So that's 36 seconds. So, hmmm, apparently, Thomas believes McLain continued riding his bike at idle speed for 4 seconds beyond his arrival at location "c".
But that's a bit odd. Location "c" was around 270 feet beyond where McLain is purported to have been at the time of the first shot. And Thomas has McLain riding his bike for 6 seconds (2 seconds before and 4 seconds after) beyond this distance, while traveling at an average clip of 4.6 miles per hour. Well, yikes that's another 40 feet.
For McLain to have traveled but 270 feet in 40 seconds, then, it would mean that the distance from location "a" to location "c" was but 230 feet. And that's freakin' Fruitloops.
No, it's worse than that. (Fruckin' Fruitloops?). Let's recall that Thomas has McLain travel the 135 feet between the first and last shot at 11 mph, and travel at an even faster clip for the 2 seconds before that. So that's at least 167 feet of what Thomas claims was a 270 foot journey that was eaten up in the first 10 seconds of that journey. Oops. For Thomas to be correct, then, it would mean that McLain traveled the last 103 feet of this journey in 30 seconds...at roughly 2.3 miles per hour, less than half the idling speed of a Harley!
And while going downhill!
So, wait, what? Was McLain actually walking his bike?
I'm being facetious, of course, but the facts are that a number of Thomas' postulations are really really questionable. Really.
The Stroll of the Hargis
Here's yet another example... As we've just seen, he has McLain reaching his location in the Bond 4 photo 34 seconds after the first shot. Now, okay, not unreasonable--I have him reaching this location at 36 seconds after the first shot.
Except....oops, let's not forget that, oh yeah, Thomas simultaneously has McLain reaching his location in the Darnell film 23 seconds after the first shot!
So what's the problem?
Let's recall Hargis' position in these images. Here he is in Darnell (marked with a BH).
And here he is in Bond 4, just approaching his parked bike.
So yes, within Hear No Evil (2010), Don Thomas postulated that the Bond photo (above) was taken 11 seconds after the Darnell frame (directly above that). That's 11 seconds for Hargis to cross the street, er, most of the street. Well, that's faster than a Galapagos Tortoise, but slower than most grandmas.
Now note that, beyond Hargis, McLain (HM in Darnell and at far left in Bond) and Courson (JC in Darnell and at right in Bond) have not moved much between these images. While this, according to Thomas, was near the end of McLain's putt-putt period, no one has made such a claim for Courson. And yet, here he is, traveling--what? a hundred feet?--in 11 seconds? 6.2 miles per hour?
Thomas was clearly incorrect in his assessment of the Darnell Film.
The Bond that Divides
When one really thinks about it, moreover--and by "really thinks about it" I mean thinks about it more than one probably should--this problem with the acoustics evidence--that McLain had not been where the HSCA's acoustics experts needed him to have been at the time of the first shot--was obvious from the get-go, and readily apparent to anyone who actually gave a hoot.
Let's go back to Bond 4, and look at the big picture. Or should I say the bigger picture? Yes, years after studying the images above--in which McLain is cut in half on the left of edge of the photo--I took a look back through the Life magazine in which Bond 4 was first published and realized that, oh my, great-gosh-a-mighty, he was intact in the original image. So why not just post that photo, you might ask? Because Life, in its infinite wisdom, published the photo on two pages, with the McLain portion on the left page and the rest of the photo on the right page, and a sliver of the photo missing in between.
So, yes, let's go back to Bond 4. And look closely at the hybrid photo below (I added a segment from another published image of the photo as a bandage onto the photo as published in Life). McLain is on the street, 50 feet or so past the location of the Newman family, spread out on the grass on the north side of Elm. Two cameramen are filming the Newmans. These cameramen, Dave Wiegman beside the Newmans, and Thomas Atkins back behind him, have jumped from a car two cars BEHIND the supposed location of McLain at the time of the first shot, and then raced towards the knoll.
Yeah, okay, I know some are willing to believe McLain putt-putted forward while these newsmen raced after him, but the acoustics evidence, according to everyone who's studied it, requires McLain to have been riding 10 mph or more as he turned the corner and began crossing the plaza. So, how the heck could two men carrying movie cameras run past McLain when he was going 10-11 miles per hour across the first part of the plaza, and had a 60-70 foot head start?
But wait, it gets worse. Wiegman's film proves he'd been on the knoll for 15 seconds or more before Bond took her photo. Well, that means he was on the knoll, and filming, 12 seconds or more before McLain raced past him (should McLain have been traveling 10 mph or thereabouts).
Let's go back to Thomas' map. Note that at 15 seconds after the first shot, Thomas places McLain 130 feet or so down Elm, beginning to pass the grassy knoll on his right. At this point, remember, Wiegman was on foot about 60 feet past the corner, sprinting to the grassy knoll. So, yeah, even Thomas acknowledges Wiegman was 70 feet or so behind McLain at this point. And yet, by the time he was captured in Bond 4, 21 seconds or so later, Wiegman had been filming on the knoll for 15 seconds or more. Now, McLain was just past Wiegman in Bond 4, but no more than 60 feet past him. Well, think about it. Should McLain have been traveling at idling speed (5 mph) after passing Wiegman, he would have passed Wiegman roughly 8 seconds before Bond 4 was taken. Well, this would mean that Wiegman ran so fast over a stretch of 6 seconds or so that he not only caught up to McLain on his way to the knoll, but that he blew past him at such a speed it took McLain 7 seconds to catch up.
So, what makes more sense to you? That a supersonic Wiegman somehow passed McLain on his way to the knoll? Or that McLain, in accordance with his subsequent statements to J.C. Bowles and Larry Sneed, stopped on the side of the road behind the cars in which Wiegman and Atkins were riding, started up again after the shooting was over, and only caught up to them when they stopped to photograph the Newmans?
In sum, then, it's just bizarre that Thomas and others whom we can respect continue to cling to the acoustics evidence, when there are so many ACTUAL reasons (many of which, to be fair, are pointed out by Thomas in his book Hear No Evil) to suspect a conspiracy in the assassination of President Kennedy.
I mean, the acoustics evidence has been debunked, numerous times, by people who don't agree on much of anything, such as Dale Myers, David Mantik, and myself... And yet it keeps popping back up with new claims, new excuses. It is, essentially, criticism-proof, in that no matter what one demonstrates, those wishing to believe it find some reason to dismiss what has been demonstrated.
It is, in this manner, a kissin' cousin to the SINGLE-BULLET THEORY. (Egads. We can't have that.)
The photographic evidence debunks the acoustics evidence. And it doesn't just debunk it, it smashes it to bits. The acoustics evidence doesn't add up because something is wrong, and that something is, quite clearly, that McLain was not where he would have to have been to have his supposedly open mike pick up the supposed shots recorded on the Dictabelt.
The "science" suggesting McLain's mike recorded shots in the plaza is...junk science, folks...
And it's time it was junked!