A Deep Dive into the JFK Assassination and Its Complex Web of Conspiracy Theories
By Jack Ripley | December 20, 2023
Oswald was shot on live television two days after the assassination.
On November 24, 1963, just two days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot and killed Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of the Dallas Police Headquarters. The shocking incident unfolded during a chaotic moment when Oswald was being transferred from one location to another. Ruby, known to have connections to organized crime, emerged from the crowd and fired a single shot at Oswald, who was in police custody for the murder of Kennedy. The shooting was captured on live television, adding to the already heightened national sense of disbelief and confusion. Ruby's motive for the shooting remains a subject of speculation and debate, with theories ranging from a desire for revenge to an effort to silence Oswald and prevent him from revealing any potential conspiracy behind the assassination.
Theorists believe that the Soviet Union was afraid of President Kennedy's plans to increase the number of American troops in West Berlin.
Following the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald for the assassination of President Kennedy, questions arose regarding the significance of Oswald's prior defection to the Soviet Union and his activities during his time there from October 1959 to June 1962.
To understand the context, it is crucial to examine the state of Soviet-American relations in the 1960s. During President Kennedy's tenure, tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union were palpable. The two superpowers found themselves in major confrontations, such as the Berlin issue, where the Berlin Wall became a symbol of division, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world dangerously close to nuclear war.
While a nuclear test-ban treaty in August 1963 provided a glimmer of hope for détente, tensions resurfaced in November as the Soviets engaged in provocations, including harassing American troop movements in and out of West Berlin. The Cuba situation remained a contentious matter as well. President Kennedy made it clear on November 18 in Miami that the United States would not tolerate the establishment of another Cuba in the Western Hemisphere.
The Warren Commission, tasked with investigating the assassination, considered the possibility of Soviet involvement but ultimately concluded that there was no evidence to support such claims. The Commission's report highlighted that this conclusion was shared by high-ranking officials, including Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, among others. Rusk testified before the Commission on June 10, 1964:
I have seen no evidence that would indicate to me that the Soviet Union considered that it had any interest in the removal of President Kennedy ...I can't see how it could be to the interest of the Soviet Union to make any such effort.
John F. Kennedy And His Wife, Jacqueline, Were In Dallas To Smooth Over Relations Between Liberals Ralph Yarborough, Don Yarborough, And Conservative Texas Governor John Connally
In November 1963, President John F. Kennedy visited Dallas, Texas, with the aim of fostering better relations between key political figures representing both liberal and conservative factions in the state. Kennedy sought to address tensions and bridge the divide between liberal figures Ralph Yarborough and Don Yarborough, and conservative Texas Governor John Connally. This visit held significance as it reflected Kennedy's efforts to promote unity and dialogue amidst a politically divided landscape in Texas, with the hope of finding common ground and fostering a more cohesive political environment.
The Texas School Book Depository, where the shots were fired from.
On October 15, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald began his employment at the Texas School Book Depository, situated along Elm Street, where the historic assassination of President Kennedy would occur. Some conspiracy theorists claim that Oswald's placement at the depository was a deliberate act and that the president's motorcade route was strategically designed to put Kennedy in Oswald's sights.
However, a thorough examination of the evidence refutes these speculations. To comprehend the circumstances leading up to that fateful day, it is essential to delve into Oswald's activities in the months preceding the assassination. Prior to his position at the depository, Oswald had faced dismissal from three menial jobs in Dallas and New Orleans, due to a track record of underperformance and strained interpersonal relations with colleagues and supervisors.
A week prior to the assassination, Oswald had come close to securing a job as a typesetter trainee at a printing company far removed from the path of President Kennedy's motorcade. Initially impressed by Oswald's qualifications, the prospective employer conducted a reference check with Bob Stovall, Oswald's former boss at Padgett Printing Co. Stovall revealed information about Oswald's negative demeanor, lack of dedication, and even hinted at his potential communist affiliations.
Had Oswald secured employment at the printing company, his name might have faded into obscurity, and President Kennedy's visit to Dallas could have unfolded without incident.
Lee Harvey Oswald was quickly captured after firing from the book depository.
Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy, was a figure shrouded in intrigue and controversy prior to that fateful day in November 1963. Born in New Orleans, Oswald had a complex history marked by various struggles and clashes with authority. He defected to the Soviet Union in 1959, spending over two years there before returning to the United States with his Russian wife. Oswald's political leanings and possible connections to the Communist regime fueled speculation about his motivations. Prior to the assassination, Oswald had encountered trouble in his personal and professional life, facing multiple job terminations and garnering a reputation for his volatile demeanor. These factors have contributed to the enduring mystery surrounding Oswald and the events that unfolded on that tragic day in Dallas.
Some people believe that the "Umbrella Man" is a key person to watch in the Zapruder Film
The presence of an individual known as the "umbrella man" on the day of President John F. Kennedy's assassination has sparked significant speculation and intrigue. This person stood out as the sole individual seen carrying and opening an umbrella on a sunny day. Positioned close to Kennedy when he was initially shot, the "umbrella man" raised the umbrella above his head and proceeded to spin or pan it from east to west as the president's motorcade passed by. Curiously, after the shooting, the "umbrella man" and another man referred to as the "Dark Complected Man" calmly sat down on the sidewalk before the "umbrella man" eventually walked towards the Texas School Book Depository. This unusual behavior has prompted suspicion and various theories regarding the role and motives of the "umbrella man." Early speculation by assassination researchers Josiah Thompson and Richard Sprague proposed that the umbrella's opening and subsequent gestures could have served as coded signals to coordinate further action among other potential gunmen.
The grassy knoll, where a second gunman was allegedly waiting
One of the enduring conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is the belief that there was a second gunman positioned on the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza. According to this theory, in addition to Lee Harvey Oswald, another individual was involved in the shooting, firing from a different location. Proponents of this theory point to eyewitness accounts of hearing shots coming from the knoll, as well as the perceived trajectory of the bullets. They argue that the official explanation of a lone gunman fails to account for all the evidence and suggest a broader conspiracy to assassinate the president. However, investigations conducted by government agencies and independent researchers have concluded that there is no credible evidence to support the existence of a second gunman on the grassy knoll, and the official account attributing the assassination to Oswald acting alone remains widely accepted.
Some people believe that Jack Ruby was a patsy who was set up to kill Oswald.
There are some assassination skeptics that believe Jack Ruby was set up to shoot Lee Harvey Oswald through an intermediary, either the military or a federal agency, and possibly through the mafia. Because the real story has never come out there's no way to know the truth, but a letter written by Ruby to fellow inmate in Dallas County Jail in Thomas E. Miller states:
I hope you remember these names you have. There is one person you must warn, because Johnson hates his guts…his name is Bruce Alger, he was a former congressman, and no one knows how he was beaten in the last election but I’m sure Johnson had something to do with his losing...
Oh the way I [screwed] up this world who would ever dream that [Lyndon Johnson] was a Nazi, and found me as the perfect setup for a frame. It was perfect for them. Remember they had the president killed, and now with me in the picture, they'll make it look as though Castro or the Russians had it done. Anyone in their right mind would know that the Russians or Castro would never do something like that…it would only create worse hostilities. After it was done they would only put another man in office to take Kennedy’s place. Remember the only one who had all to gain was Johnson himself. Figure that out.
Jack Ruby destroyed his life when he entered the JFK story
Jack Ruby, born Jacob Rubenstein, was a businessman in Dallas who owned strip joints and dance halls and had some associations with organized crime. He had connections with several members of the Dallas Police Department, engaging in a mutually beneficial relationship where he provided favors in exchange for leniency regarding his establishments. Ruby's name became intertwined with theories surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy, and a common belief is that he murdered Lee Harvey Oswald to prevent him from exposing a broader conspiracy.
Three frames from the Zapruder film, which captured the assassination on film
The Zapruder film is a significant piece of visual evidence that captured the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Taken by Abraham Zapruder, a Dallas dressmaker, the 26-second film provides a clear and detailed account of the tragic events that unfolded in Dealey Plaza. The film shows the motorcade, the fatal shots fired at President Kennedy, and the immediate aftermath. Its release to the public had a profound impact, allowing viewers to witness the shocking reality of the assassination and sparking extensive analysis and debate about the sequence of events. The Zapruder film continues to be a crucial historical document and a key element in understanding the events surrounding President Kennedy's untimely death.
Jack Ruby Claimed That He Was Emotionally Damaged When He Shot Oswald
During his trial, Jack Ruby maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty, claiming that his overwhelming grief over President Kennedy's assassination had triggered an unconscious act due to "psychomotor epilepsy." However, the jury found him guilty of the deliberate murder of Lee Harvey Oswald and sentenced him to death.
In October 1966, the Texas Court of Appeals overturned the conviction due to the improper admission of testimony and concerns about a fair trial in Dallas. A new trial was scheduled to take place in Wichita Falls. However, before the retrial could proceed, Ruby passed away in January 1967 from lung cancer while being treated in a Dallas hospital.
Was the umbrella man sending signals? Or was he another gunman?
One theory proposed by conspiracy theorist Robert B. Cutler and supported by Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty suggests that the umbrella may have been utilized to discharge a dart containing a paralyzing agent at President Kennedy, rendering him vulnerable and easier to target for an assassination.
Journalist Penn Jones Jr. was approached by an individual who mentioned the name Louie Steven Witt. After locating Witt, he displayed reluctance to engage with journalists but expressed a willingness to testify before the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA). Witt's initial statement claiming he only held up the umbrella did not align with his actual actions during the moment of the shooting, as he was observed manipulating the umbrella.
The HSCA speculated that the umbrella could have been wielded as a symbolic form of protest, representing discontent with the US government's failure to provide adequate air support, metaphorically an "umbrella," during the Bay of Pigs invasion.
President Kennedy, Jacqueline, Texas Governor John Connally, and his wife, Nelly Connally moments before the shots rang out
On the fateful morning of November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was in Dallas, Texas, en route to deliver a speech at a luncheon held at the Trade Mart. Throngs of enthusiastic onlookers gathered along the streets, eagerly waving to the President and his wife. At approximately 12:30 p.m., as the motorcade passed through Dealey Plaza, a sudden eruption of gunfire shattered the tranquility of the scene.
Tragically, the bullets found their mark, striking President Kennedy in the neck and head, causing him to slump towards Mrs. Kennedy. Simultaneously, Governor John Connally sustained a gunshot wound to his back. Recognizing the gravity of the situation, the presidential vehicle swiftly raced to Parkland Memorial Hospital, a mere few minutes away. Despite the immediate medical attention, it became clear that little could be done to save the President's life. A Catholic priest was summoned to administer the last rites, and at precisely 1:00 p.m., John F. Kennedy was officially pronounced deceased. Although severely wounded, Governor Connally would ultimately recover from his injuries.
Some people believe that the assassination was planned by the Cuban government, who was angry at President Kennedy for the Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961
Following the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas in November 1963, the initial suspicions naturally fell upon his adversaries. With Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin, revealing his attempt to travel to Cuba in September of the same year, many began to suspect the involvement of Fidel Castro and his government in the assassination.
During the fall of 1963, there was evidence indicating that informal efforts for improved relations between the United States and Cuba had been authorized by President Kennedy. Discussions between officials from both nations at the United Nations were being considered, and publicly, the United States had refrained from endorsing anti-Castro raids following the missile crisis. However, covert actions by the United States had not ceased, catching Castro's attention, and the tense rhetoric suggested that another crisis could erupt at any moment.
By the time President Kennedy was tragically assassinated on November 22, 1963, the general overview of recent U.S.-Cuban relations, if not the specific details, were known to the average American who occasionally followed the news. Consequently, when speculation arose regarding potential conspiracies, Fidel Castro and his Communist government became natural suspects. While rationality may have dismissed the involvement of the Cuban government, the recognition of Castro as one of the late President's most prominent adversaries led to such conjecture.
Some believe that the mafia assassinated Kennedy because they lost a significant amount of money in Cuba
Following Fidel Castro's communist revolution in Cuba, the mafia faced significant financial losses in the country. Frustrated by President Kennedy's perceived failure to overthrow Castro during the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion and motivated by Attorney General Robert Kennedy's relentless pursuit of organized crime, the mafia sought a change in leadership.
According to theories, Lee Harvey Oswald was designated as the scapegoat, with Jack Ruby assigned the task of silencing him. Some speculate that Ruby, known to have connections to the mafia, found himself indebted to the organization and resorted to killing Oswald as a way to repay that debt. During his 1964 interview with the Warren Commission, Ruby repeatedly expressed concerns about his personal safety. He expressed a desire to tell the truth but claimed he could only do so from a secure location. However, lacking police powers, the Commission was unable to provide him with the necessary protection.
Ruby passed away from a pulmonary embolism in January 1967, taking any undisclosed truths to his grave. G. Robert Blakey, Chief Counsel and Staff Director to the House Select Committee at the time, later concluded:
The most plausible explanation for the murder of Oswald by Jack Ruby was that Ruby had stalked him on behalf of organized crime, attempting to reach him on multiple occasions in the forty-eight hours before permanently silencing him.
The Warren Commission, which concluded that Oswald acted alone
The Warren Commission, formally known as the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, was established in November 1963 to investigate the tragic events surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the commission consisted of seven members and was tasked with conducting a comprehensive inquiry into the circumstances of the assassination and the subsequent killing of Lee Harvey Oswald. Over the course of almost a year, the commission reviewed extensive evidence, heard testimony from numerous witnesses, and examined various conspiracy theories. In September 1964, the Warren Commission released its final report, concluding that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the assassination and that there was no evidence of a broader conspiracy. The report's findings have been subject to ongoing debate and scrutiny, leading to further investigations and alternative theories over the years.
Was the Warren Commission a cover up?
The Warren Commission conducted a comprehensive investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and produced extensive documentation. This included a 888-page report and twenty-six volumes of testimony, all of which pointed to Lee Harvey Oswald as the perpetrator of the crime. However, there are lingering concerns about the transparency of the investigation, as a significant amount of information, including classified government files and unpublished materials, remains inaccessible to the public. Attorney Mark Lane has argued that the report may have been a cover-up due to the existence of undisclosed evidence and information.
Black Dog Man remains a fixture for some theorists
There is speculation surrounding the identity of a mysterious figure known as the "black dog man" seen in photographs and film footage of the Kennedy assassination. In the Willis and Betzner photo, the figure appears at the corner of a retaining wall. Marilyn Sitzman, in an interview with Josiah Thompson, mentioned seeing a young black couple on a nearby bench, suggesting that the "black dog man" could be one of them.
Robert Groden, in his book The Killing of a President, argues that the figure can be seen in frame 413 of the Zapruder film, located within a pyracantha bush. However, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that the head seen belonged to an individual in front of the bushes, not behind them. Bill Miller posits that the individual may be the eyewitness Emmett Hudson. The role, if any, this person played in the assassination remains unclear.
Is Badge Man a sniper or a smudge?
The Mary Moorman photograph taken during the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dealey Plaza has sparked theories about the existence of a figure known as the Badge Man. Conspiracy theorists claim that this figure, supposedly wearing a police uniform with a bright spot resembling a badge on the chest, is a sniper positioned on the grassy knoll, firing at the president.
However, analysis by the House Select Committee on Assassinations found no evidence of hidden figures in the photograph. In 1983, curator Gary Mack obtained a higher-quality copy and observed what he believed to be the Badge Man upon enhancement. Yet, experts in photography assert that the image lacks the necessary resolution to definitively identify the figure as a human. Critics like Vincent Bugliosi and analyst Dale K. Myers question the Badge Man interpretation, citing proportional discrepancies and proposing alternative explanations such as optical distortions or different background elements. No other photographs or eyewitnesses support the presence of the Badge Man.
The "Three Tramps" were just unhoused men who landed in Dallas on the wrong day
The "three tramps" refer to three unidentified men who were photographed under police escort near the Texas School Book Depository shortly after President Kennedy's assassination. Since the 1960s, various claims have surfaced regarding their identities and alleged involvement in a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy. However, Dallas Police Department records later revealed their names as Gus Abrams, Harold Doyle, and John Gedney.
The allegations linking these men to a conspiracy gained traction through theorist Richard E. Sprague, who compiled the photographs in the late 1960s and shared them with Jim Garrison during his investigation of Clay Shaw. Garrison, appearing on The Tonight Show in January 1968, presented the photo of the three men as potential suspects in the assassination.
Theorists believe that the Three Tramps were in disguise
In 1992, journalist Mary La Fontaine uncovered the November 22, 1963, arrest records released by the Dallas Police Department in 1989. The records indicated that the three men were apprehended in the railroad yards shortly after President Kennedy's shooting. Described as unemployed and passing through Dallas, they were categorized as "investigative prisoners" and released four days later.
Despite the Dallas Police Department's identification of Doyle, Gedney, and Abrams as the three tramps in 1989, and the absence of evidence linking them to the assassination, some researchers have persisted in proposing alternative identities for the tramps and speculating on potential connections to the crime.
Babushka Lady saw more than anyone, but no one knows what she saw
The Babushka Lady refers to an unidentified woman who was present during the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas's Dealey Plaza. It is speculated that she may have captured photographs or filmed the events that unfolded at the time of the shooting. The nickname "Babushka Lady" comes from the headscarf she was wearing, reminiscent of scarves worn by elderly Russian women.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing the Babushka Lady holding a camera, and she can also be spotted in various films documenting the assassination. She was observed standing on the grassy area between Elm and Main streets, among the onlookers in front of the Dallas County Building. The Babushka Lady is visible in iconic footage such as the Zapruder film, as well as in films by Orville Nix, Marie Muchmore, and Mark Bell. In the Bell film, at around 44 minutes and 47 seconds, she can be seen still standing with the camera at her face, even after the shooting had occurred and others around her sought cover.
Some Speculate That Oswald Was A CIA Agent
Gaeton Fonzi, an investigator for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, claimed that there was pressure to avoid investigating the relationship between Lee Harvey Oswald and the CIA. According to Fonzi, CIA agent David Atlee Phillips, using the alias "Maurice Bishop," had prior involvement with Oswald through anti-Castro Cuban groups before the Kennedy assassination.
While investigating the Kennedy assassination, the Warren Commission in 1964 and the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1979 addressed allegations linking Oswald to the CIA. The Warren Commission's thorough investigation found no evidence supporting Oswald's employment or any connection to the CIA. Similarly, the House Select Committee on Assassinations reported that Oswald's CIA file revealed no indications of contact with the agency. Based on their findings, both commissions concluded that the CIA was not implicated in President Kennedy's assassination.
Did the military take out Kennedy?
Certain conspiracy theorists assert that President Kennedy became a target due to his alleged plans to disengage the United States from the Vietnam War. These theorists claim that entities with a vested interest in continued military involvement, such as the Pentagon and defense contractors, orchestrated the assassination as a means to protect their interests.
Author James W. Douglass contends that Kennedy's pursuit of a negotiated peace with the Soviet Union and his shift away from Cold War ideologies ultimately led to his assassination. Douglass argues that this kind of leadership was not aligned with the preferences of the CIA, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the military-industrial complex, who sought a different direction for the nation's policies.
One source claims that the Secret Service didn't go out of their way to save Kennedy
There are differing opinions on the level of Secret Service protection provided to President Kennedy during his visit to Dallas. Some argue that the President himself requested discreet security measures. However, Vince Palamara, who interviewed several Secret Service agents, disputes this claim. According to Palamara, Secret Service driver Sam Kinney stated that requests such as removing the bubble top from the limousine and reducing the number of motorcycle outriders were not made by Kennedy.
In his book The Echo from Dealey Plaza, Abraham Bolden, the first African American on the White House Secret Service detail, claimed to have overheard agents discussing their reluctance to protect Kennedy from potential assassins.
Concerns regarding the transparency of the Secret Service were raised in the 1990s when the Assassination Records Review Board, established by the JFK Records Act, requested access to Secret Service records. The Review Board was informed by the Secret Service that protective survey reports covering JFK's trips from September 24 to November 8, 1963, had been destroyed in January 1995, potentially violating the JFK Records Act.
The HSCA claims that the Secret Service didn't live up to expectations
The House Select Committee on Assassinations conducted an investigation into the alleged complicity of the Secret Service in the assassination of President Kennedy. The committee concluded that the Secret Service was not involved in the assassination. However, the HSCA did find deficiencies in the agency's performance of its duties. The committee identified several areas of concern, including inadequate protection provided to President Kennedy in Dallas, insufficient analysis and utilization of available information by the Secret Service, and a lack of preparedness among Secret Service agents in the motorcade to safeguard the President from a potential sniper attack. The HSCA stated:
No actions were taken by the agent in the right front seat of the presidential limousine Roy Kellerman to cover the President with his body, although it would have been consistent with Secret Service procedure for him to have done so. The primary function of the agent was to remain at all times in close proximity to the President in the event of such emergencies.
Many Americans believe that LBJ had something to do with the assassination
According to a Gallup poll conducted in 2003, around 20% of Americans harbored suspicions that Lyndon B. Johnson played a role in the assassination of President Kennedy. Critics of the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination, have accused Johnson of being involved due to his reported dislike for the Kennedys and concerns that he might be dropped from the Democratic ticket for the 1964 election.
The potential motive for Johnson's alleged involvement stems from the fact that President Kennedy was reportedly considering replacing him as Vice President with North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford if Kennedy decided to run for re-election in 1964. This revelation is mentioned in Evelyn Lincoln's book, "Kennedy and Johnson," published in 1968. According to Lincoln, President Kennedy informed her on November 19, 1963, just three days before his assassination, that Johnson would be replaced as Vice President.
One theory posits that Johnson's alleged assassination plot was funded by an oil magnate
In 2003, researcher Barr McClellan published the book Blood, Money & Power, presenting a controversial theory surrounding President Kennedy's assassination. McClellan alleges that Lyndon B. Johnson, driven by concerns of being dropped from the Kennedy ticket in 1964 and the desire to conceal various scandals, orchestrated Kennedy's murder in collaboration with his associate Edward A. Clark, an attorney from Austin.
The book points to a partially smudged fingerprint found in the sniper's nest, suggesting it could belong to Johnson's associate Malcolm "Mac" Wallace and implicating his presence on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository at the time of the shooting. McClellan further claims that wealthy oil magnates, including Clint Murchison and H. L. Hunt, financed the assassination as it allowed the preservation of a lucrative 27.5 percent oil depletion allowance, which remained unchanged during Johnson's presidency. According to McClellan, this resulted in significant financial benefits exceeding $100 million for the American oil industry.
The Legacy of the JFK assassination
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, left an indelible mark on American history and sparked numerous conspiracy theories that continue to captivate the public's imagination. JFK's untimely death and the subsequent investigations into his assassination have fueled speculation about hidden agendas, multiple gunmen, and government cover-ups. Despite the official conclusion of the Warren Commission that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, doubts and questions persist, leading to a proliferation of alternative narratives and theories which reflect the ongoing fascination with the events surrounding his death and their impact on American society and politics.