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"The Great Zapruder Film Hoax" Rings Very Hollow

by Martin Shackelford

Comments will be forwarded. Email: Clint Bradford

"You're going to find that many of the truths we cling to
depend greatly on our own point of view."

- Obi-Wan Kenobi

"You must unlearn what you have learned."
- Yoda

Jack White’s new video lasts 64 minutes, though it took me longer to watch. I wanted to study certain portions of it more closely. This was partly because I couldn’t believe that people as knowledgeable about the evidence in this case as Jack White and Jim Marrs could make some of the statements they do on this videotape. Also, I wanted to make sure that I hadn’t missed anything that might add credibility to the tape’s claims.

Jack begins the tape by announcing that the video we are about to see "proves" the Zapruder film has been altered, and has "no value" as a time clock of the assassination. He tells us that the film in the National Archives is not the camera original, and that it constitutes "the hoax of the century." He proceeds, for the next hour, to prove exactly none of these bizarre, unfounded and irresponsible claims.

The keystone of Jack’s case is the Mary Moorman photo, unquestionably authentic, which he argues is enough, by itself, to prove the Zapruder film was altered. This is based on the subordinate claim that Mary Moorman was standing in the street when she took her photo. What is his evidence for this? Exactly two things:

1) Jean Hill has reported in recent years that she and Mary "jumped out into the street," she called to JFK, and Mary took the photo. Don’t pay any attention to Jean’s contrary Warren Commission testimony, Jack tells us. Jean assures him that it was altered, too. Apparently, so were the Nix film, the Bronson film and the Muchmore film, none of which show Mary and Jean jumping into the street just before Mary took her photo—and they show the two after they are no longer visible in the Zapruder film. There is no evidence here that the Zapruder film was altered—and nothing that would make anyone believe that Nix, Muchmore or Bronson were altered, either. Jean has just added another unnecessary colorful detail to her growing story of November 22, 1963. As Canadian researcher Peter Whitmey (1) has documented in detail, she has taken a credible story, and re-told it until she turns it into a semi-fictional but more exciting tale of romance, adventure and intrigue.

2) Jack tells us that he has determined the exact level at which Mary’s camera lens was located, and has concluded that Mary was standing in the street, eight feet west of her position in the Zapruder film (he concludes that all frames showing Jean Hill and Mary Moorman are forgeries). There are, of course, several problems with this. The first is that Jack is assuming that Mary could not have moved between the time she passes out of frame in the Zapruder film and the time she took her photo. Why does he disregard this? Perhaps because of the Nix and Muchmore films, which show that she didn’t move eight feet. Did he calculate her location from the Nix and Muchmore films? If he did, he makes no mention of it. He only describes calculating her position from her Polaroid (in the process, he is kind enough to show us a superb Josiah Thompson copy of the photo). Are the Nix and Muchmore positions consistent with the Zapruder position of Moorman? He doesn’t say; perhaps he hasn’t checked. If the three are consistent, it would be clear that his analysis was dead wrong—the most likely of the available possibilities. Another alterationist, Michael Parks, has found enough distance in posture and camera design to account for the height discrepancy Jack has alleged. As he noted in a December 23 post, "There is just no evidence the MAM [Mary Ann Moorman] stepped into the street to take her picture."

The Moorman photo doesn’t prove anything about alteration. Jack’s keystone has crumbled to dust, his analysis incomplete and misleading.

In the course of telling us about Jean Hill’s report, Jack goes through a series of Zapruder frame stills, and gives us his interpretation of the film, one in which the head wound begins to "move around" and "the entire forehead is missing" due to "the obviously phony head wound." It is all very subjective, and makes an effort to substitute Jack’s opinion for real evidence of any of this. He also pauses briefly to promote his Badgeman thesis of the Moorman photo (2), though fails to establish the relationship of any of this to Zapruder alteration.

We also learn that he was assisted in his efforts to prove alteration by Robert Groden. He took the word of the Turner Broadcasting crew that they had correctly placed the replica limousine in the Z-313 position (which later turned out to be wrong—they had incorrectly placed it), and photos of the limousine at that position is used in a series of overlays to "prove" alteration. As the basic data was wrong, that whole section of the video has to be thrown out (3).

Next, Jack seeks to use the yellow curb stripes on Elm to prove that the backgrounds in Zapruder film images were enlarged to 130%. Part of this is still based on the Turner positioning of the limousine, which Jack uses in his overlays. The Zapruder stills also seem to have been enlarged too much before being overlayed (a problem with the overlays earlier posted on the Queenbee newsgroup—apparently there was no correction made). Whether this is pure hoax or simple ineptness, it is worthless as evidence of anything, much less alteration.

Alteration Argument Number Three is the "fact" that a pickup truck in frames 402-417 of the Zapruder film has an empty bed, but in the Cancellare photo (4) there is a man and a large object in it. I am fairly certain that the man is behind, not in, the pickup truck, but it doesn’t matter, as the two images were taken twenty seconds apart, and there is no "object" in the back of the truck. Apparently Jack has convinced Jim Fetzer that such an object is present, but to people with only ordinary vision, there’s no sign of it. There is no evidence of alteration here at all.

Apparently not satisfied with resurrecting fresh corpses, Jack digs up one that’s been deservedly dead for quite a while now—even Jack threw some dirt on the grave. It’s the "apparently motionless people" standing on the North side of Elm in frames 133-196 of the Zapruder film. Two years ago this month, I pointed out that thirteen distinct motions can be identified in the film (5)—later Ron Hepler added two more. When I first pointed out these motions, Jack conceded that the crowd wasn’t really "motionless." For a while, he began using the phrase "almost motionless," then argued that motion had been "added back in" to a still image of the crowd. He has mostly abandoned these pathetic substitutes (though at one point he uses the term "almost totally motionless"), and returned to simply declaring the people "motionless" period (even "perfectly motionless"—which reminds me of ads for "revolutionary new hair products" and Jack’s background in advertising—the expertise he seems to be drawing on most in this videotape). In fact, he says "motionless" so many times in this section of the video that it begins to sound like a mantra. It is false, no matter how often repeated. The crowd is not "motionless."

In the course of all this, Jack repeats the claim that Zapruder didn’t stop filming after the motorcycles approach, estimates that as much as 30 seconds of film is missing, and cites Zapruder (6) as saying he filmed the limousine beginning when it turned the corner (which contradicts the idea that as much as 30 seconds are missing, but internal consistency is not one of Jack’s strengths here). He ignores Zapruder’s testimony under oath in New Orleans that the film we have today is identical to his original film, testimony which led to the film’s admission as evidence in the Clay Shaw trial, and it’s first public showings as a film (7). Even without the further support of Roland Zavada’s technical studies (8), the claim of deleted footage that showed the limousine earlier is as phony as a three dollar bill.

He uses this as a springboard to speculate about "what was hidden" by deleting the footage, though he knows as well as anyone that the limousine was filmed throughout that period by other photographers (Hughes, Towner, Bell and Martin), and we don’t have to guess what happened while the limousine was on upper Elm (9). As this has been repeatedly pointed out to Jack, it is difficult to dismiss this as an honest mistake.

Another dishonest trick follows this one almost immediately. Jack compares the "motionless" crowd in the early Zapruder film to several photos (Willis, Bronson and Altgens) taken at later points in time. This discrepancy, too, has been repeatedly pointed out to him, but it ended up in his video anyway. In addition, Jack compares the clothing of several people, completely ignoring the obvious color differences between the two images he’s comparing (most blatantly obvious in his Zapruder-Bronson comparison).

At this point in the video, Jack sums up, and throws out a list of other "anomalies," without offering details, hoping this laundry list will be mistaken for evidence, too. It shouldn’t be. Among the "anomalies" listed are "ghost images" in the sprocket hole area. Both Anthony Marsh and Roland Zavada have fully explained these, but to Jack they remain "suspicious."

Brief discussions of other "anomalies" follow: a black trapezoid that Jack says appears in only one frame (but he doesn’t tell us which frame); a figure Jack calls "Stickman" (who appears thinned due to rapid camera movement as Zapruder follows the accelerating limousine—Jack doesn’t offer evidence of anything here—apparently he thinks it enough to offer a cute label—unless calling the figure "unreal" constitutes evidence); and shadows which Jack insists are inconsistent (but appear in other photos of the Plaza, too—Jack has had some difficulty even keeping his own supporters on board on this one). He wraps this up by repeating—again—the delusional claim that the Moorman photo is all that is needed to prove the Zapruder film was altered. Maybe he should tell that to Josiah Thompson, from whom he got his best copy of the photo. Thompson, like Jack’s friend and Dealey Plaza assistant Robert Groden, continues to firmly believe the Zapruder film authentic.

In a postscript, Jack mentions a new book by French writer William Reymond, who claims to have seen a copy of the "original" Zapruder film, far different from the one that Zapruder testified under oath was authentic. In excerpts from an interview, M. Reymond refers to four "new" sequences:

1) The film shows the limousine making a "very wide turn" onto Elm Street, consistent with Roy Truly’s testimony that Greer almost hit the curb. (PROBLEM: the turn appears in the Hughes and Towner films; the immediate aftermath appears in the Towner, Bell and Martin films. Nothing like this happened, so Zapruder’s film could not have contained this.)

2) The nonexistent erratic turn throws off the assassins, one of whom hits JFK in the throat instead of the head, and this is visible in the film. (PROBLEM: If there was a visible reaction during this period, it should also appear in the closer Towner film—it doesn’t.)

3) Another effect of the nonexistent erratic turn was a missed shot that visibly struck the Stemmons Freeway sign, throwing off material. (PROBLEMS: If this resulted from the "erratic turn," the damage occurred before Z-202, and should be visible in the very clear image of the Stemmons sign in the Phil Willis photo taken at that instant. It isn’t. But let’s assume, for a moment, that the damage from a firearm to a wooden sign wasn’t a hole, but only damage to the rear of the sign, not visible in the Willis photo. The rear of the sign appears in many frames of the Zapruder film after that point—again, no visible damage. "But," Jack will surely sputter, "the Zapruder film is a fake," even though he has failed to come close to proving it. Time to dust off his photo collection and take a look at knoll photos by Clint Grant , Richard Bothun - which blew an earlier alteration claim--and Art Rickerby, all of which offer crystal-clear views of the rear of the Stemmons sign—without a scratch. The front of the sign is again visible in Wilma Bond’s ninth slide. The rear again appears in two Plaza photos by James Murray, one of which Jack shows in his video.

The front of the sign also appears in clear frames of the David Wiegman film.

In short, there is no evidence at all of the damage which was allegedly dramatic enough to be apparent in an 8mm film.)

4) The limo came to "nearly a complete stop," which M. Reymond later refers to as "the stop," and JFK was hit in the head. If we consider the "nearly," this is no different from the film we all have.

In his summary, of course, Jack says M. Reymond reported a limo stop. He also says that Reymond’s sources claim the Secret Service was involved, and Greer hit the brakes when he realized Kennedy hadn’t been killed yet. One of the shooters is identified as the "Frenchy" tramp, firing from the fence, and described as "the best rifle shot in the world." In conclusion, Jack again states that he has proven the Zapruder film a hoax, but by this time the boast rings very hollow.

BONUS TIME: At the end of the film is what is described as the "complete" interview with M. Reymond, though the obvious editing contradicts this claim. M. Reymond said he learned of the "real" Zapruder film in 1995 from a retired mercenary (part of an organization which included Christian David (10)) who told him the limousine stopped, and there were two head shots. Later, two others told him the same story. By then, he had viewed the commonly shown Zapruder film, and mention that the film showed the turn onto Elm caught his attention. He asked if the film could be viewed, and was introduced to a former leader of France’s Far Right, the film’s owner, who reportedly obtained a copy of H.L. Hunt’s copy, "a perfect copy of the original." He was unwilling to show it publicly, apparently because he knew some of those involved in the assassination. Hunt, he said, had purchased the film from Zapruder two or three hours after the assassination.

M. Reymond stated that Michel Roux was not involved in the assassination, and that Michel Mertz acted only as a lookout (11). Two of the tramps were French (the "old man" was an American, unidentified), with Frenchy being Max, "the best sniper in the French army" (not quite Jack’s "the best rifle shot in the world," but similar in its grandiosity), who later "defected" and worked for the U.S. The kill zone, said M. Reymond, was supposed to be on upper Elm, but Greer’s (fictional) wide turn resulted in the throat and freeway sign shots. Altogether, he said, there were 8 or 9 shots.

It seems to me that M. Reymond was conned by professionals—unless he, himself, is conning us. Jack bought the whole charade. You can buy it, too—for only $25 from [company name deleted - no longer in existence], [address deleted - no longer valid].

Martin Shackelford, 12/98


1. For further details, contact:

Peter Whitmey
A149-1909 Salton Road
Abbotsford, British Columbia
Canada V2S 5B6
Whitmey's research article, Jean Hill - The Lady in Red,
is available online.

2. Jack believes the Moorman photo shows a policeman firing from the grassy knoll, with a badge and smoke from the gun.

3. Jack has inserted a disclaimer in the video case:

"My narration notes that the replica JFK limo placed in the Z313 location by professional surveyors is provably about 8 feet too far east, which also places Mary Moorman too far east by the same amount. I do not know whether this egregious error resulted from faulty furnished documentation, human error, or some unknown motive by Turner Network Television, producers of a documentary which hired the surveyors. My use of limo photos in this slightly errant position has no significant effect on my research or conclusions, but you should be aware of the surveyor error. Jack White."

4. See, for example, upper right on p. 50 of Robert Groden, The Killing of a President. A Zapruder frame showing the pickup truck bed at upper left can be found on pp. 193 and 195 of the same book.

5. Here is a summary of the motions:

1) A brown-haired woman at the far left turns her head slightly toward the right.
2) The dark-haired woman next to her does the same, more obviously.
3) There is some motion in the light scarf of the next woman.
4) The second light scarf woman moves her head.
5) The woman in the red scarf shifts her position and her head moves.
6) The woman with the black head scarf shifts slightly.
7) The man to her right begins to turn his head, and his legs move farther apart.
8) The man in the hat turns his head more to the right.
9) The woman in the blue coat shifts position.
10) The next two women turn their heads slightly.
11) The next woman applauds.
12) There is a changing of shadows on the woman in blue, and she waves.
13) The next woman’s blue head scarf blows in the wind, and her arm moves.

6. Jack refers to Zapruder’s Warren Commission testimony, but Zapruder didn’t tell the Warren Commission that he filmed the limousine turning the corner. He said: "I started shooting—when the motorcade started coming in, I believe I started and wanted to get it coming in from Houston Street." (7H571). Nowhere is he any more specific, and as the film of the limousine begins, it is "coming in from Houston Street." Later (7H573), he is shown frame 185, and says: "Yes, that—there is Elm Street there—this is a corner." And "Yes. This is where he came in from Houston Street and turned there." He is clearly pointing out the corner in the image, not saying he filmed the turn.

7. During the Clay Shaw trial testimony on February 13,1969, Zapruder was asked, "What did you see as you took your films in Dealey Plaza that day?" And replied: "I saw the approaching motorcade of the President coming from Houston Street, turning left on Elm Street and coming down towards the underpass." Alterationists avoid citing this testimony, even though it suits their claims better than Zapruder’s Warren Commission testimony, because of what else Zapruder said that day:

"Q [Alvin Oser] What is contained on this roll of film, is that the same as you saw it from the developed original on November 22, 1963?

A [Zapruder] Yes, sir."

The film was then projected in the courtroom, and this exchange followed:

"Q Mr. Zapruder, from having seen what was projected on this film, can you tell the Court whether or not it appears to be the same as you viewed your original film on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas?

A Yes, it does."

And the result?

"THE COURT: I rule the film may be shown to the Jury."

8. My Summary of the Zavada Report can be found on the Web at: http://www.pe.net/~atd/mshack1.htm

9. A still from Towner, for example, can be found on p. 18 of Groden, op. cit.

10. David’s alleged role was explored in the "French connection" portion of television and video series "The Men Who Killed Kennedy" (1988, Nigel Turner).

11. Two more of the "French connection" group mentioned in the previous note.

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Please email: Clint Bradford