On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed as his motorcade drove through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas.
In 1964, after examining all available evidence, the Warren Commission determined that one man alone bore responsibility for the assassination: Lee Harvey Oswald.
In 1979, a Select Committee of Congress reexamined the question, and concluded that there must have been another person – or persons – involved. But the audio evidence of a second gunman cited by the committee was later shown to be flawed.
Still, no investigation, book, or article has ever succeeded in quelling the speculation that JFK was the victim of a conspiracy. The most recent polling suggests that 61% of Americans believe more than one person planned or participated in the assassination.
On October 26, 2017, we may get some new answers. Thats when the law requires the United States government to release the documents pertaining to Kennedys death, and President Trump has indicated that he intends to honor that deadline.
So, lets take a look at some of the theories that have occluded the death of the most iconic modern president for 54 years.
JFK was infamous for his sexual exploits, before and during his presidency. It was a different era, one in which some semblance of privacy was still possible – even for the most powerful man on earth.
Everyone knows of Kennedys affair with Marilyn Monroe, but he also carried on trysts with many less prominent women.
Eerily, the mistress he probably loved the most died in even more mysterious circumstances than he did.
Mary Meyer was an abstract painter with a fondness for marijuana and LSD. She was the ex-wife of a CIA officer, and moved in Washingtons elite circles, where she met John F. Kennedy. From 1960 until his death, the President often *ahem* entertained Meyer in the White House residence when his wife was away.
After her lovers assassination, Meyers intimates claim her response was surprisingly muted. This has led some to speculate that the events of that November day may not have been a surprise to her. She also expressed a strong belief that the Warren Report was a government cover-up.
Little did Mary Meyer know that her own days were numbered.
On October 12, 1964, Mary Meyer went for her usual afternoon stroll along the Potomac River. Along her route, she apparently encountered a jogger – 2nd Lieutenant William Mitchell, who was stationed at the Pentagon.
Some time later, Henry Wiggins and William Branch, a pair of auto mechanics, were in the process of towing an abandoned car on the other side of the canal when they heard gunshots.
According to Wiggins, when he looked across the river he saw a Black man standing over Meyers body. Wiggins and Branch returned to their garage and called the police. (Bizarrely, theres no evidence that the car the two men were working on existed. They were unable to produce any documentation when asked by the court.)
More bizarrely, the true identity of Lt. William Mitchell, the jogger who passed Meyer just before she was killed, remains obscure. It seems William Mitchell was a CIA alias, and the man in question may have been a covert agent. One retired Colonel referred to Mitchell’s record as a nightmare of discrepancy, uncharacteristic given the Army’s thoroughness.
The Black man who was seen in the park, Ray Crump, Jr., was tried for the murder, and acquitted for lack of evidence.
The case of Mary Meyer remains unsolved, but her ties to the CIA and to Kennedy have led many to speculate that her murder was more than an act of random violence.
Although Kennedy was killed in Dallas, a great deal of suspicion has fallen on Lee Harvey Oswalds friends and associates in his hometown of New Orleans.
Guy Banister ran a P.I. firm out of New Orleans. Shortly after the assassination, Banister employee Jack Martin came to suspect that one of his co-workers, David Ferrie, may have been involved.
Ferrie had served with Oswald in the New Orleans Air Patrol, and Martin told police that Ferrie had spoken of plans to kill the president.
On the day of the assassination, Martin and Banister got into a drunken argument. Martin claims he asked his boss, “What are you going to do—kill me like you all did Kennedy?” Banisters response was to pistol-whip Martin so badly that he had to be hospitalized.
Banisters secretary, Delphine Roberts, later reported that she had seen Oswald in the office several times, that he had filled out an application form, and that he seemed to be on familiar terms with Banister. Congressional investigators were unable to assess the plausibility of her claims.
But thats not all where New Orleans is concerned.
On the day after JFK was assassinated, New Orleans lawyer Dean Andrews received a suspicious phone call. As Andrews later told the FBI and the Warren Commission, the man on the other end of the line identified himself as Clay Bertrand. He asked Andrews if he would be interested in representing Lee Harvey Oswald.
As a result of this and other leads out of Louisiana, District Attorney Jim Garrison began an investigation into the alleged New Orleans connection. He eventually came to believe that the P.I. Guy Banister, his employee David Ferrie, various other far-right activists, and elements of the CIA had conspired to kill the president, using Oswald as a patsy.
The motive, according to Garrison, was concern over Kennedy’s desire to maintain a lasting peace in Vietnam and with Cuba. (Bannister and Ferrie were both involved in anti-Cuban surveillance activities, and were nearly hired as freelancers by the CIA in this line of work.)
The idea is that Oswald would have made an ideal fall-guy for a group of right-wing conspirators because he was an avowed communist.
A former marine, Oswald had defected to the Soviet Union in 1959 and lived in Minsk until 1962. When he eventually returned to New Orleans, he spent his time (and money) printing and distributing pamphlets favorable to the communist Castro regime in Cuba.
In fact, as Guy Banister’s brother later testified, Oswald used to hand out his pamphlets on the same block where Banister had his P.I. office; guy had mentioned it to his brother.
Garrisons investigation also led him to conclude that the Clay Bertrand who had called attorney Andres on Oswald’s behalf was in fact businessman Clay Shaw. (Garrison claimed that Shaw used the pseudonym Bertrand at a gay bath house he had frequented, occasionally in the company a young man called Lee, whose description matched Oswalds.)
In 1967, Clay Shaw became the only person prosecuted in relation to President Kennedy’s death (Oswald having been shot by Jack Ruby before he could stand trial). Shaw was acquitted.
I guess this is as good a time as any to talk about Jack Rubys role in all this, and his place in the firmament of JFK conspiracies.
Ruby was the owner of two Dallas nightclubs, and also, reportedly, a figure of some stature in the citys underworld. In 1956, an FBI informant suggested that Ruby was involved with the smuggling and distribution of narcotics. A police officer also testified that he believed Ruby had sex workers operating in his clubs.
After Oswald was arrested for killing Kennedy, Ruby turned up at the police station where he was being held on several occasions, blending in with the press.
On November 24, when Oswald was brought out so that authorities could transfer him to the county jail, Ruby emerged from a gaggle of reporters and fired a single shot into Oswalds gut. The wound would kill him later that afternoon.
So, why did Ruby kill Oswald?
The answer Ruby gave on his own behalf is that he couldnt bear to see Jackie Kennedy put through the further torment of a trial. (Although he also apparently admitted that was what his lawyer told him to say.)
Some conspiracy theorists see Rubys actions in a slightly different light. Rather than reading him as a misguided patriot who wanted to avenge a fallen president, sparing his widow some anguish, they see Ruby through the lens of his alleged underworld connections.
If Ruby was connected to organized crime, the theory goes, its possible he murdered Oswald on their instructions. And if organized crime had a hand in Kennedys undoing, as some speculate they did, they wouldnt want the assassin to be captured alive.
E. Howard Hunt was a CIA officer, writer, and convicted criminal. During his years in government, he fell in with the darker side of the Nixon administration, and ended up spending 33 months in jail for his role in the Watergate break-in.
In the 70s, he also began to draw interest as a potential conspirator in the JFK assassination.
This theory emerged from the observation that Hunt bore a faint resemblance to a man pictured near the Texas School Book Depository shortly after the assassination.
In 1973, author Tad Szulc claimed that Hunt had been acting as chief of the CIAs Mexico City station when Lee Harvey Oswald visited that city in September of 1963, implying that the two may have met. The Warren Commission concluded that there was no evidence the CIA had any involvement in killing the president.
The Hunt conspiracy was further debunked by an unlikely source: a former Soviet spy.
A former archivist of the KGB, Soviet intelligence, revealed in 1999 that the Hunt conspiracy was actually created by the Russians in an attempt to undermine the CIA. The archivist claimed that the KGB forged a letter between Oswald and Hunt and sent it to conspiracy theorists.
Theres an interesting post-script, however. Before Hunt died, two of his sons recorded him making a deathbed confession about his involvement in the Kennedy assassination. Hunts story implicated President Lyndon Johnson and Mary Meyers ex-husband in the conspiracy, among others.
But other members of Hunt’s family claim that his sons simply manipulated their father during his mental decline, and pressured him into making a false confession so that they could sell the story after his death.
One of the greatest anomalies surrounding the assassination was the so-called Umbrella Man.
In the photo below, you can see that this erstwhile unidentified figure was one of the closest witnesses to JFKs demise.
The question that immediately comes to mind is, Why is that man holding an umbrella? It had indeed been raining earlier in the day, but by the time President Kennedys motorcade was snaking its way through Dallas, the sky had cleared.
This led to all kinds of theorizing as to the mans identity, and his motive for holding an umbrella aloft when it wasnt raining.
Some even went so far as to suggest the Umbrella Man could have been the alleged second gunman, using a hidden weapon concealed in his umbrella.
It took 14 years before the man in the image finally came forward and agreed to testify about his unusual behavior on that day.
In 1978, Louie Steven Witt admitted that he was the elusive Umbrella Man, and agreed to testify before Congress.
In his testimony, Witt explained that he had opened his umbrella in a misguided attempt to heckle Kennedy. You see, JFKs father had been a supporter of appeasing Nazi Germany before WWII. Black umbrellas had become the symbol of appeasement because British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was seldom seen without one.
And so, Witt waving his umbrella around was, according to him, a very obscure diss directed at the presidents father. Witts intention was to mildly annoy Kennedy – not kill him.
Said Witt: I think if the Guinness Book of World Records had a category for people who were at the wrong place at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing, I would be No. 1 in that position, without even a close runner-up.
Lee Harvey Oswald and the Cubans… Jack Ruby and organized crime… Some guys in New Orleans… Theres certainly no lack of suspects who might have planned the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
But we should end this strange journey the way we began it: by asking some unnerving questions about the CIA.
All of the government investigations into JFKs death have reached the same conclusion: Lee Harvey Oswald had no relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency.
But Gaeton Fonzi, a journalist and investigator hired by Congress, reached quite the opposite conclusion.
He claims that a CIA agent named David Atlee Phillips, who was working with anti-Castro Cuban groups, did indeed have repeated contact with Oswald prior to the assassination.
Former Army intelligence and NSA official John M. Newman has also published evidence that he says proves that the FBI and CIA have both tampered with their Oswald files. He also claims that both agencies withheld intelligence that would have flagged Oswald as a threat to the presidents life.
Whatever the truth is, whether Oswald acted alone or had guidance, the sad reality is that well probably never know the whole story – no matter what the government releases.