“What a disgrace it is to writers and writing, to publishing and to our country, that, when this President was killed and rushed off to a publicly tended but officially dishonored grave, there was not one of the well-known and wealthy, not one of the successful writers or publishers, who would perform this nigh to sacred function.” Harold Weisberg Photographic Whitewash
In early August I took a trip up to Dallas, my first in many years. I decided to drive down to Dealey Plaza and see if it had changed much in the something like twenty years, since when my visits were more frequent. I pulled into the parking lot behind the stockade fence, with some apprehension, for this was the place where Wesley Frazier and Lee Oswald must have parked when going to work forty-seven years ago. Now it is pay parking spots and the tower where Lee Bowers once observed the suspicious activity just doesn’t look the same.
Yes, this historic location has changed a great deal. The historiographic record of John Kennedy’s Assassination shares this same property as these aging buildings in Dealey Plaza. As you move further in time from 1963 the reactions (tone and content) contained in conspiracy articles, films and books to JFK’s death and the official investigations, experience a great deal of change themselves.
It’s disconcerting that no historian or writer has thought, so far, to write an accurate account of this historiographic record. A comprehensive review would be a monumental project, since literally hundreds of books and articles have been written. Conspiracy films and videos should perhaps be separated out as a separate project altogether. Just an observation, but even a selective annotated bibliography of these aging gems would be welcome!
I did find one article from 1996, A History Of Assassination Literature by Art Simon. I’ll link it for you at the end of my piece. I’m not an authority on the history of the JFK conspiracy literature by any means. However, through the years I have read and studied most of the titles that I would consider to be classics. I will admit to a grave omission in my checklist, and that’s Mark Lane’s Rush To Judgment. I pay homage to it here and confess that I was unable to locate a copy anywhere.
Furthermore, I must admit that the film Rush To Judgment, directed by Emile de Antonio and written by Mark Lane, was a source of inspiration for me. The testimony of S.M. Holland is probably what sealed the deal for me. Holland saw a puff of smoke hover over the trees on the Grassy Knoll right after the fatal headshot. S.M. Holland was unwavering in his convictions about what he saw.
So here’s my humble offering of ten masterpieces of JFK conspiracy literature. I only barely scratched the surface, but if you haven’t read some of these works, please make a point to do so. There’s a new cover-up in place today that would prefer if you overlooked these relics.
1. SIX SECONDS IN DALLAS A Micro-Study of the Kennedy Assassination By Josiah Thompson Published by Bernard Geis Associates Distributed by Random House 1967
I believe that Josiah Thompson’s book, Six Seconds In Dallas is the most important work written on the JFK Assassination over the past 47 years. Josiah Thompson made an attempt to understand exactly what happened to Kennedy during those six seconds when his motorcade drove through Dealey Plaza. Thompson concluded that it was impossible for Oswald to get off the three shots, that he is said to have fired, from the antiquated Italian Mannlicher-Carcano bolt action rifle.
Thompson relies on the Zapruder Film to provide a blue print of the exact progression of shots during those six seconds. One might argue that this study was scientific. Thompson concluded that there were three shooters, coming from three different locations. Two shots came from the Depository Building, one shot came from behind the stockade fence, and one came from the Records Building.
Josiah also argues for the possibility that Oswald was unlikely even the shooter in the Depository. Carolyn Arnold saw Oswald on the first floor at about 12:13 PM. At the same time Arnold Rowland already had observed a man standing at a window with a rifle, this would be the southwest window of the sixth floor. This alone proves that someone else was involved.
Thompson proves that John Connally was hit from a different shot than the president. This alone refutes the single bullet theory. It would be impossible for Oswald to could get off another shot, the one that hit Connally, after the first shot that hit the president in the back. Therefore, there were at least two shooters. I’d say, the brilliance of Six Seconds in Dallas, is the way Josiah Thompson coordinates the testimony of witnesses to the particular frames of the Zapruder film.
2. COVER-UP: The Government Conspiracy to Conceal the Facts About the Public Execution of John Kennedy By J. Gary Shaw and Larry R. Harris Self-Published (Out of Print) 1976
I initially came in contact with Cover-Up up in Dallas, around 1978; I would read it on the sly, sequestered away at an obscure table at the Walnut Hill Branch of the Dallas Public Library. I felt as if I was doing something illegal as I soaked-up every harrowing detail, which are most plentiful in this groundbreaking monograph. That it was out-of-print by 1986 only redoubled the irony of it all. My earliest emotions of outrage, that could quickly morph to enlightenment, when pondering JFK’s awful death, were first felt during these covert readings of Cover-Up; I encountered the full dimensions of the conspiracy to kill our 35th President for the first time during those slippery days back in 1978.
My life had been changed forever. I’d like to thank Gary Shaw personally for opening up the windows of truth to this appalling crime, that if it were not for Gary’s work, may have been sucked into an abyss of obscurity. That is, the cover-up would be consummate. In the mid-1970s the voice of dissent (especially in Dallas) had but a weak pulse. And in this regard, I’m sorry to report, not one single copy of Cover-Up can be found here in Austin. The University of Texas General Libraries don’t even have an archive copy stored in their Rare Book Collections.
As such, I must rely solely on memory to reconstruct the salient contents of Cover-Up. An analysis of Alternative Views (a very groovy Austin public access television program, with Douglas Kellner and Frank Morrow as your hosts), which interviewed Gary Shaw in 1988 is preserved on YouTube, and this has been a big benefit to me in reconstructing some of the shocking revelations contained in Cover-Up. Memories of three significant scenarios in the book, at least, came back to me. Those are the Babushka Lady’s story, the Railyard Tramps’ fiasco, and the Umbrella Man account.
The Babushka Lady was in reality Beverly Oliver, who at one time had worked at Abe’s Colony Club as a stripper. Beverly was an eye-witness in Dealey Plaza and her film camera had been confiscated by ‘agents’ just minutes after the shooting. She was quite positive that shots emanated from behind the picket fence that lies upon The Grassy Knoll. Ms. Oliver also witnessed a clandestine meeting between Lee Oswald and Jack Ruby at the Carousel Club just a few days before the assassination. Quickly, the Railyard Tramps were part of the Hit Squad. Umbrella Man was signaling the assassins by pulling down his umbrella right as the motorcade entered the Kill Zone.
3. FORGIVE MY GRIEF Volume I By Penn Jones Jr. A Critical Review of the Warren Commission Report on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy Copyright, The Midlothian Mirror, Inc. May, 1966
“In the climate of fear and cover-up that still surrounds the Kennedy assassination. Penn Jones, Jr. is almost alone in Texas to challenge publicly the tenuous conclusions of the Warren Report. We owe a debt to this tough-minded country editor for saying out loud what many Texans have been whispering privately for some time.” RAMPARTS MAGAZINE
This pithy quote from the new-left publication, Ramparts Magazine (1962-1975), which was one of the first critics of the Vietnam War (1966), appears at the bottom, back cover of Forgive My Grief Volume I. I own a personally signed, pristine copy of this self-published book, which re-publishes a number of Penn Jones’ stories that first appeared in The Midlothian Mirror. There were two printings in 1966; I cannot definitely confirm whether my copy comes from the first (7,500) or second printing (15,000).
Penn wailed on his lonesome with his unrelenting conviction that a conspiracy and a cover-up had transpired in the killing of President Kennedy. The ‘mainstream media,’ as we call it today, was fully in support of these simplistic theories espoused in the Warren Report. But Penn was a local and lived in the Dallas area; he committed himself to primary research, which came the hard way, by knocking on doors and interviewing frightened witnesses, who feared retribution from the government or from the perpetrators of this wicked deed.
Penn is credited with coming up with the theory that an awful lot of witnesses were meeting an untimely demise, perhaps as a result of seeing something they ought not to ‘ave seen. One such story is recalled in entry 6. Craig vs. Fritz, pages 30-35. County Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig saw a man, who he later identified as Lee Harvey Oswald, run down the Grassy Knoll, about fifteen minutes after the shooting, and get into a light green Nash Rambler station wagon. This conflicts with the account that Lee took a bus after fleeing the Depository. Roger Craig died (from a gunshot wound) under mysterious circumstances in 1975.
It was a first for me (around 1978) when I read in Forgive My Grief the hair-raising testimony of Julia Ann Mercer. The Warren Commission didn’t bother to mention her account in The Report, even though it was buried away in the Twenty-Six Volumes, that are the armchair of this fallacious Report. Fifteen minutes before JFK’s motorcade took its doomsday sojourn through Dealey Plaza, Julia Ann Mercer saw a man get a case, which looked like a rifle case, out of a pick-up truck that was parked on Elm Street. The man then walked up the Knoll towards the railroad trestle overpass, which is just west of the picket fence and the white pergola arcade.
4. WHO WAS JACK RUBY? By Seth Kantor Everest House 1978 The startling, until-now unrevealed about Jack Ruby’s ties to the FBI, the CIA, and organized crime.
I am now a proud owner of the most important monograph on the eccentric character known as “Sparky” from Chicago. My education on Jack Ruby’s role in Dallas begins and ends with Seth Kantor’s 1978 probe into these affairs, Who Was Jack Ruby? The thing that strikes me about this book is the care and accuracy that’s been put into it. Seth is a professional journalist and it shows; his search for the truth is relentless and he comes as close as he could come to proving why Jack did what he did 47 years ago. Something was pushing Seth here too, he has an agenda, I suspect it is because the Warren Commission said he was mistaken in stating he saw Jack at Parkland Hospital just one hour after the President was shot.
The Warren Report denies that Ruby can be tied in with Organized Crime. Chapter 6, Put That In Your Pipe & Smoke It dispels this faulty conclusion contained in The Report. This chapter summarizes Jack’s early days in Dallas dating back to 1947 when he operated his first club in Dallas, the Silver Spur. Ralph Paul and Joe Bonds were two of Jack’s associates in these early days. Ralph Paul provided financial backing for Jack’s clubs, which would include the Carousel. Joe Bonds took a little day trip to Huntsville.
Things really get sticky with Chapter 8, Cuba. You know where this goes. Ruby was doing his patriotic duty and running guns to Fidel Castro, who was hunkered down up in the hills, about to make his move. The Syndicate believed that the transition from Batista to Castro would be a smooth one, gambling operations in Havanna would continue uninterrupted. They didn’t figure on Castro converting to a Communist.
For me, the most nail-biting aspect of Who Was Jack Ruby?, is Kantor’s probes into the behavior of the Dallas Police Department throughout this whole sordid affair. I grew up in Dallas and I’m familiar with how these people operate. Mind you, this was back in the 1960s. The Dallas Police played a pivotal role in the Assassination; one of those officers opened a door for Jack so he could get into the basement and shoot Lee Oswald. Seth has eased the way for us to accept this startling truth.
5. PHOTOGRAPHIC WHITEWASH suppressed Kennedy Assassination pictures By Harold Weisberg self-published 1967
Harold Weisberg is my favorite and I think the most gifted of the JFK conspiracy writers. His lines have a level of gravitas to them that test our times and resound with a bitter skepticism towards our national institutions. I would compare his scathing rhetoric to Cicero of ancient Rome, who warned of Caesar’s overarching ambitiousness. Here’s another polished line of Weisberg’s from the introduction of Photographic Whitewash, which signalizes a facility with words.
“So it falls to those of us who were previously unknown to do this unpleasant thing. Because we were unknown and because in our doing we, in silence and without intent, point accusing fingers at those who are really accused by their own silence, because we are criticizing, exposing the nakedness of government cloaked only in its cellophane Report that we have been told we must, as an act of faith, regard as finely tailored garments, we are defamed.”
That’s great writing; a touch of William Shakespeare courses through the lines. I didn’t get around to reading the original Whitewash until last summer. The University of Texas had it in public circulation this summer, but switched it to Library Use Only just this fall. This must be due to the book’s frailty; Whitewash is self-published and should now be classified as a rare book. Preservation should be a priority here. Harold had to photograph each page, I believe, and make a plate to take over to the publisher. This labor intensive process is extinct in our day and age.
As Weisberg points out, the problems that exist with the photographic evidence are overwhelming. I mean of course the ways in which the Warren Commission misinterpreted the many photos that came into their possession. The disquieting case of Mrs. Elsie T. Dorman is discussed on pages 49, 50 and 51. Elsie took many pictures from the fourth floor of the Texas School Book Depository Building, but her photos were never brought in as evidence by the WC. Moreover, Elsie Dorman said the sound of the shots seemed to emanate from the Records Building; she was quite clear about it.
6. ACCESSORIES AFTER THE FACT The Warren Commission, The Authorities, And The Report By Sylvia Meagher The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. 1967
No one has better command of The Warren Report and the Twenty-Six Volumes of raw testimony and exhibits, that are the basis for The Report, than Sylvia Meagher. In 1966 she created an index for the Twenty-Six Volumes, so that researchers could handily locate relevant documents on topics that may have activated their curiosity. Otherwise, revealing data was incapable of detection, buried as it was in these disorganized compendiums.
Sylvia Meagher’s command of the facts of the JFK Assassination, which acts as a razor-sharp negation to the ‘official report,’ is the best I have ever seen. Proof of Oswald’s guilt, or the lack of it, lies in the details of reconstruction of what happened at the Depository Building before, during, and after the shooting. This morning I picked up my UT Library copy of Accessories After The Fact, and reread the subsection of Chapter 2. (The Book Depository), which is titled: The Short, Bulky Package. Meagher dedicates 19 pages of text to flesh-out the puzzlements of the brown paper bag.
The confusion surrounding the brown paper bag, that Oswald supposedly used to wrap the rifle in and bring it into the Depository, has been broken down into its component parts. The mysteries of the ‘brown paper bag’ are kaleidoscopic! The Dallas Police never bothered to photograph it, in its undisturbed state. It was purported to have been sitting on one of the book boxes in the Snipers Nest, but the testimony of the Dallas detectives is contradictory.
The Report said Oswald constructed it at the Depository Building, then carried it to Irving on that Thursday prior to the fatal day. The bag was necessary in order to sneak the rifle into the Depository Building the next day. But Wesley Frazier never saw the bag with Lee Thursday night, when Lee caught a ride with Wesley back to Irving. Could Oswald have made the bag at Ruth Paine’s house? Neither Ruth nor Marina ever saw him do so
7. THE KILLING OF A PRESIDENT The Complete Photographic Record Of The JFK Assassination, The Conspiracy, And The Cover-Up By Robert J. Groden Viking Studio Books 1993
Anyone who wants to study the JFK Assassination, even mildly or with a slacker attitude, must accompany their research with beaucoup photographic evidence. In fact, one might argue that an approach to the killing of our 35th President, which takes only an a posteriori position, is your best option. Photographic evidence is primary and does not lie.
This is where Robert Groden makes his entrance into the picture; he restored the Zapruder film in the early 1970s, then showed it to the American people on Goodnight America (in February of 1975). The cat was out of the bag. The Killing Of A President is a must have. I’ve spent many hours marveling over it.
Each page is jam-packed with shocking evidentiary photographs that tell you exactly what happened, if you have the clarity of mind to discern it. I’ll give you one good example. A black and white picture on page 49 shows clearly, that right after the shots were fired, witnesses flocked over to the stockade fence and to the railroad overpass. This was their immediate response. I feel certain that the man by the tree, with a fedora hat, black suit, and white socks is none other than Jack Ruby.
8. CONSPIRACY-A-GO-GO November 1988
To this day only a dearth of copies yet endures of this sacrosanct, self-published effort from 1988. My files, notes, Xeroxes and Pristine Plates are now stored safely in an archive box over in my dear mother’s garage, for the sake of perennial posterity. The contours of this coffee table keepsake, produced by this author and a coterie of competent confederates, are sealed away to time in a vault of mystery and intrigue, which is the fortuitous fingerprint card of the Assassination itself.
Memory is a fickle tool for this aging fellow, who prefers to voice our ancient heritage with plainspoken guilelessness, yet is utterly guilty of divulging the black and white, naked underbelly of Sheer Truth, which bristles with an ambience of ugly consequence, muddying the translucent curtain of history, which sequesters the mysteries of those achromatic mishaps. As troubling as it is, the evidence itself causes this undesirable effect.
True, that’s convoluted! Initially, we sought only to write a lucid account of these transient structures and immortal misdeeds. But as we sorted through the grab-bag of confounding indicia, a maelstrom of confusion snowballed us into submission! If walls have eyes to see with and throats to speak with, we were True Believers of the Fiendish Bedevilment of Conspiracy Most Foul!
The content of Conspiracy-A-Go-Go, as best I remember it, associates select architectural edifices (that were still standing in 1988) in Dallas, which played a role (either primary or secondary) in the Kennedy Assassination, with the flurry of activity, connivance and commotion that swept across the stage, which Dallas became on November 22, 1963. By standing on the actual hallowed ground where the deeds were done (say, 1026 N. Beckley), history comes alive!
Conspiracy-A-Go-Go is both intellectually taxing and aesthetically gratifying! In the final analysis, CAGG functions as pleasing eye-candy and as pithy gray-matter simultaneously. This passerby of the ‘hard copy era’ is not a has-been, it’s a must have, out-of-print as it is. A tour accompanied the coffee table book as well. After 1988, I noticed many of these pop-tours displayed their ugly faces. CAGG was the first JFK tour in Dallas-period.
9. CONSPIRACY By Anthony Summers McGraw-Hill Book Company 1980
I have seen copies of Conspiracy by Anthony Summers at the big Half Price Books on North Lamar here in Austin. They actually have a JFK Conspiracy book section now, partitioned off in their American history area. I would love to own this book; for the first time in print, the tentacles of the plot are fully elaborated. Details of the roles played by the CIA, the Mafia, and Anti-Castro Cubans, along with their interlocking interactions, are given ample coverage.
Section III, CUBA The Key to the Crime, pages 253-344, goes directly to the heart of the matter. This is why I must own this book, not merely to check out a copy from some public library, that I am obligated to return. As a resource, its vitality is not in question. And as far as the plot goes, the entanglements of the CIA and the Mafia are as complex as one could possibly imagine. A command of the history of the Cuban Revolution is strictly requisite, as is knowledge of the doings of the Kennedys going back to the 1950s.
Anthony Summers has this level of control over these continuous histories. It’s in Conspiracy where I first learned about the puzzling U.S. intelligence officer, Maurice Bishop. There are strong suspicions that Maurice Bishop was a cover identity used by a CIA officer, David Phillips. Maurice Bishop was trying to frame Lee Oswald by linking him to the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City. In this way suspicion would shift in the direction of Fidel Castro. Summers interviewed Antonio Veciana, who had several disturbing encounters with Bishop. David Phillips was in charge of the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City, so it’s likely that he could have manipulated the evidence surrounding Oswald’s murky trip to the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City, October of 1963 (this would include both the ‘Double Oswald photo’ and some doctored sound recordings).
It was from Summers that I first learned of the photograph that was amongst Oswald’s possessions, a faded black and white shot from the infamous Imperial Reflex camera that shows the back of Edwin A. Walker’s house. In the photo a 1957 Chevrolet’s license-plate number has been cut out. A dark-complected man was seen driving a 1957 Chevrolet by Walker’s house just a few days before the shooting attempt on the right-wing general. Marina testified that the license plate had never been cut out. Proof that Marina was right is contained in Jesse Curry’s book, which shows a photo of Oswald’s possessions that include this Walker photo; the license plate is blurry, but it’s certainly not cut out.
10. CONTRACT ON AMERICA The Mafia Murder of President John F. Kennedy by David E. Scheim Shapolsky Books 1988
It is utterly unbelievable to fathom this lie today, 46 years after the Warren Report was issued, their assertion that Jack Ruby was ‘unconnected’ to Organized Crime. The Warren Commission had to employ drastic measures in order to untangle this web of intrigue. One perfect example of the extrication of evidence is on pages 174 and 175 of David E. Scheim’s book, Contract On America.
The official Commission Exhibit 1536 has deleted a section of Commission Document 84, which is stored in the National Archives. This section connects Jack Ruby with Joseph Civello, a major figure of the Mob in Dallas. “Ruby was also a frequent visitor and associate of CIRELLO and LA MONTE.” The fact that Scheim publishes side by side these contrasting Federal Bureau of Investigation documents in his book is real proof of the cover-up.
David E. Scheim has done the hard work for us. He has siphoned off the relevant information that connects Organized Crime to the JFK Assassination, from the voluminous documents that reside in disparate archive centers. I’m not privy to his exact research methods, but I sense that he has crystallized and formalized the groundbreaking work of G. Robert Blakey, chief counsel for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, who is quoted as saying: “I am now firmly of the opinion that the mob did it. It is historical truth.”
No, the case is not closed. The words of these writers still speak to us today. Why a new cover-up comes into play today, I cannot say. The Warren Report had so many flaws, too many to even mention. Yet, why have the voices of these great conspiracy writers been silenced today? The past 47 years have shown a pattern of moving between pro-conspiracy, then back to pro-single bullet theory. An odd Hegelian dialect that defies logic.
A revival of the historigraphic record is in order today. I heard that Six Seconds In Dallas will be published again. This is welcome. And film people need to restore all the many quality conspiracy films that have seen the light of day these past 47 years. One valiant effort of preservation over the past few years is the release of Oswald’s Ghost (Robert Stone) in 2008. Two things: 1. A volley of conspiracy books fly through space, providing you with a visual record of conspiracy writing. 2. The footage of Oswald and that weekend has been restored. Pick up Oswald’s Ghost, if you don’t have it!
So much work needs to be done. Historians, writers, videographers, archivists, slackers, conspiratoricians of the world UNITE! Let’s preserve, protect and revive these vital records. We owe it to President Kennedy to let all the records be known. They cannot get away with it. A recent return to the single bullet theory is a troubling sign of less than democratic forces returning into play in our society. I’ll leave you with a line I composed a few days ago, that reflects my philosophy of this entire controversy, that has spanned my lifetime.
Conspiracy writers exposed, for the first time, an inherent duality between what really happened, and what was reported in the news. *(My work is unfinished, but if you show me that you take an interest, I will resume work on this project.)
A History Of Assassination Literature by Art Simon
Gary Shaw on JFK Assassination Conspiracy Theories (1988)