One of the ongoing debates amongst JFK conspiracy advocates is the question of whether or not the famous Abraham Zapruder film has been altered. To be honest, it’s an issue I try to keep away from. On the one hand, we have Jim Fetzer and his ilk vehemently arguing that beyond a doubt, the Zapruder film has been altered. On the other hand, we have Josiah Thompson and Robert Groden insisting the film hasn’t been altered. But what’s the point of arguing about it? If the Zapruder can be conclusively proven to have been altered, it will only demonstrate yet again that there was a conspiracy/cover- up behind the assassination. With a mountain of evidence already proving that to be the case, why waste time with the issue of Zapruder film alteration?
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not completely opposed to the idea of alteration - although I do find the notion that the entire film is a fake to be totally absurd. If the film can be conclusively proven to have been altered, then that’s fine by me. However, if it cannot be proven, I for one won’t be losing any sleep over it. Fetzer is well known for referring to fellow conspiracy advocates, who don’t support Zapruder film alteration, as being some sort of disinformation agent. Such behaviour is not only completely ridiculous, but extremely arrogant in my opinion, and it only reflects poorly on Fetzer’s character.
Although I don’t involve myself in Zapruder film alteration, there is one issue I do want to address. In the extant Zapruder film, we can all see the violent manner in which President Kennedy’s upper body and head is violently thrust backwards and slightly to the left, immediately following the head shot(s). Alteration advocates, such as Dr David Mantik, have been arguing this reaction was (if you can believe it) added into the film! Frankly, this has to be one of the silliest and most ridiculous arguments I have ever heard. Just think, the idea of altering the film is to obviously hide any evidence of conspiracy. Yet, whilst altering the film, the conspirators supposedly added the backwards head snap (indicating a shot from the front) into the film? I’m sorry, but WTF!
It actually pains me to say this, because I have a great deal of respect for Dr Mantik. I don’t agree with him that the autopsy photos and X-rays have been altered/faked, but I do admire the enormous amount of time and effort he has spent studying the assassination materials. Dr Mantik’s reviews of Don Thomas’s and John McAdams's books (on the CTKA.net website), were also very informative and impressive. See here, and here.
The claim that the backwards head snap/reaction was added in, is based on the alleged notion that no witness in Dealey Plaza recalled seeing it. To put it mildly, this is simply not true. At least four of the closet witnesses to the assassination, did recall seeing it! These witnesses include Secret service agents, Samuel Kinney and George Hickey (riding inside the secret service follow-up car), motorcycle officer, Bobby Hargis (riding to the left rear of President Kennedy’s limousine), and bystander, William Newman.Below are the relevant excerpts from their statements/testimony:
Special agent Samuel Kinney:
Secret service report:
“The first shot was fired, I glanced from the taillight of SS 100-X, at the President and it appeared that he had been shot because he slumped to the left. Immediately he sat up again. At this time the second shot was fired and I observed hair flying from the right side of his head. With this, simultaneously with the President's car, we stepped on the gas. I released the siren at that time. I did hear three shots but do not recall which shots were those that hit the President”
Special agent George Hickey:
Initial secret service report:
“Just prior to the shooting I was seated in the rear of SS-679-X on the left side. As 100-X made the turn and proceeded a short distance I heard what seemed to me that a firecracker exploded to the right and rear. I stood partially up and turned to the rear to see if I could observe anything. Nothing was observed and I turned around and looked at the President's car. The President was slumped to the left in the car and I observed him come up. I heard what appeared to be two shots and it seemed as if the right side of his head was hit and his hair flew forward.”
Second Secret service report:
“After a very short distance I heard a loud report which sounded like a firecracker. It appeared to come from the right and rear and seemed to me to be at ground level. I stood up and looked to my right and rear in an attempt to identify it. Nothing caught my attention except people shouting and cheering. A disturbance in 679X caused me to look forward toward the President's car. Perhaps 2 or 3 seconds elapsed from the time I looked to the rear and then looked at the President. He was slumped forward and to his left, and was straightening up to an almost erect sitting position as I turned and looked. At the moment he was almost sitting erect I heard two reports which I thought were shots and that appeared to me completely different in sound than the first report and were in such rapid succession that there seemed to be practically no time element between them.”
Motorcycle officer Bobby Hargis:
Article in the New York Sunday news, date: 24/11/63.
“When I heard the first explosion, I knew it was a shot. I thought that Gov. Connally had been hit when I saw him turn toward the President with a real surprised look. The President then looked like he was bent over or that he was leaning toward the Governor, talking to him. As the President straightened back up, Mrs. Kennedy turned toward him, and that was when he got hit in the side of his head, spinning it around. I was splattered with blood”
Testimony before the Warren commission:
“I thought Governor Connally had been shot first, but it looked like the President was bending over to hear what he had to say, and I thought to myself then that Governor Connally, the Governor had been hit, and then as the President raised back up like that (indicating) the shot that killed him hit him. I don't know whether it was the second or the third shot. Everything happened so fast.”
Witness William Newman:
Testimony at the trial of Clay Shaw, in 1969:
"The only reaction that I can recall -- I don't recall whether his head went back or forward, but I do recall when the impact hit him that he just stiffened and he went to the left, real hard to the left and into her lap, and... He went away from me”
Interview with Jim Marrs:
"As he was coming straight toward us there was a boom, boom, real close together. I thought someone was throwing firecrackers. He got this bewildered look on his face and was sort of slowing moving back and forth. Then he got nearer to us, and, bam, a shot took the right side of his head off. His ear flew off. I heard Mrs. Kennedy say 'Oh, my God, no, they shot Jack!' He was knocked violently back against the seat, almost as if he had been hit by a baseball bat. At that time, I was looking right at the President and I thought the shots were coming from directly behind us. I said, "That's it! Get on the ground!"
As we can see, all four witnesses indicated the President’s body moved backwards as he was struck in the head. I mean, how else can “sat-up again”, “get up”, “straightening up”, and “straightened back-up” be interpreted, if not referring to the backwards head snap. Bill Newman did claim during his Shaw trial testimony, that he couldn’t recall whether the President’s head went forward or backwards. However, he did claim the President “stiffened”, which is exactly what we see with the backwards head snap in the Zapruder film.
Whilst there certainly were only a few witnesses who recalled the backwards reaction, it’s hardly surprising. Think about it. With the shock of seeing the President’s head explode from the impact of the bullet(s), would witnesses be paying much attention to how he immediately reacted? Not likely. Let’s also bear in mind, that with the speed of the backwards head snap (and the fact that President Kennedy was not leaning significantly forwards when struck in the head), it’s no surprise that many of the closet witnesses to the President, failed to recall the backwards reaction.
However, if we are to believe that Dr Mantik is correct, then we have to take the word of CBS news anchor, Dan rather, who claimed he saw President Kennedy’s head snap forward’s. But why should we? Rather has been a shameless cheer leader for the lone gunman myth from day one. We know of course that the media had already declared Oswald was the lone assassin - within hours of the assassination. So I’m certainly not going to take Rather’s word (or any other newsman’s word) on what the Zapruder film depicted. Let’s also remember the hideous lie Walter Cronkite told about Oswald’s paraffin cast from his right cheek testing positive for nitrates – when it was in fact negative!
In his review of Don Thomas’s book, Dr Mantik cites the claim by Cartha DeLoach, who was at one time J. Edgar Hoover’s loyal right hand man. DeLoach wrote in his book that he too had seen the Zapruder film, depicting a forward’s head snap. Honest to god, why should anybody take the word of a man who was loyal to a corrupt and racist scumbag, such as Hoover? It just defies belief.
As I said previously, I am not totally opposed to the notion that the Zapruder film was altered. Although, with the backwards head snap left unedited, I honestly don’t know what the conspirators concealed. The overwhelming majority of conspiracy theorists believe the right rear of President Kennedy’s head was blown out from a shot fired from behind the picket fence. However, as Pat Speer explains here, there is good reason to believe this was not the case.
After reading through Speer’s work, I have become convinced the back of President Kennedy’s head was intact. To be perfectly honest, at first I was adamantly opposed to Speer’s assertion. However, as I read through all the eye witness statements he cited, I no longer support the theory that the back of the head was blown out. Now if this is true, then it is a devastating blow to the theory that the Zapruder film was altered to conceal the hole at the back of the head.
As far as the conflicting eye witness reports on whether or not President Kennedy’s limousine came to a complete stop are concerned, I will leave that up to others to debate. I also have no intention of discussing any of the alleged photographic anomalies in the Zapruder film, as I frankly don’t have the required skills or knowledge to provide an opinion.
However, the garbage about the backwards head snap being added into the Zapruder film should stop, as it makes conspiracy advocates look incredibly foolish, in my opinion.