Update: The Tom Alyea Film Sequence Identified

Almost a month ago, I posted an entry on this blog concerning a post-assassination still photograph taken by Dallas Morning News photographer Tom Dillard and its possible connection to a segment of film taken by WFAA cameraman Tom Alyea. This entry concerned a possible human figure seen in the row of windows at the far western end of the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository Building. While it was not my personal belief that this photographic anomaly, visible at the far west corner of the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, is a human being, I found potential evidence in the Tom Alyea film that suggested a figure may have been in that location.

Alyea’s film is notable as it depicts the search of the Texas School Book Depository within minutes of the president’s assassination. Alyea’s film consists of various scenes taken on different floors of the building as authorities searched for evidence connected to the shooting of the president. This included not just the sixth floor, where the sniper’s nest was discovered, but also the fifth and first floor. Over the years, the Alyea film has been spliced into various configurations and the natural order in which the scenes were first filmed has been lost. Today, it is a challenge for researchers and historians alike to decipher which scenes (other than notable sequences such as the sniper’s nest itself and the discovery of the assassin’s rifle) were taken on which floor. Confounding matters further is the possibility that the “complete” Alyea film is lost and only truncated versions exist today.

While studying Alyea’s film, I made a discovery in a sequence depicting an investigator, holding a shotgun, looking out of one of the depository’s windows. Visible on the windowsill is a soda bottle. The version of the film that I studied and found the bottle in seemed to depict this sequence as occurring on the sixth floor as it was positioned between sequences of investigators searching for the assassin’s rifle. However, as I have noted in the previous paragraph, the Alyea film exists in various versions with varying orders of scenes.

In order to prove whether this scene was taken on the sixth floor (which would add weight to the theory that a man is visible in those windows in the Dillard photograph), I had to reference texts and find corresponding photographs of that same location taken on the same day. According to Richard Trask in his 1993 landmark book Pictures of the Pain, the footage showing the man with the shotgun was taken on the fifth floor of the depository building (p. 529). However, Trask only lists his source of this information as the Alyea Film itself. The amount of books or other printed material concerning films of the aftermath of the president’s assassination are scarce and need significant attention. Seeking further confirmation of the fifth-floor connection, I looked for photographs of the western corner of the sixth floor for comparison purposes.

Dallas-Times Herald photographer William Allen took several dramatic photographs of the sixth floor of the Depository Building several hours after the initial search of the building had ended. One of the pictures that Allen took on the sixth floor shows Dallas Police Lieutenant Carl Day pointing to the area to the area of boxes near the stairwell in which he had uncovered the assassin’s rifle. Allen’s original photograph can be found at this link: William Allen photograph of Carl Day on the sixth floor.

Seen over Lieutenant Day’s right shoulder are the windows visible in the Dillard photograph. One thing of note is that the sixth-floor windows in the area appear to be closed at this point. A comparison between this area and a still segment of the Alyea film could prove whether the image with the soda pop bottle is on the sixth floor or on the fifth floor of the building. I created a cropped version of the Allen photograph leaving only the areas relevant to this topic.

The Allen photograph cropped:

Day_6th_crop1

 

The still from the Alyea film showing the pop bottle:

Alyea_still_original

Comparison between the two photos reveals that the scene from the Alyea film was not taken on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. The boxes visible against the western wall of the sixth floor, as seen in Allen’s photograph, are not stacked as high as the ones visible in the Alyea film. There is not even one visible stack of boxes in the Alyea film that is taller than the man at the window in the Alyea film. This discovery immediately impeaches any connection between the alleged “assassin” in the Dillard photograph and the film taken by Tom Alyea inside the Texas School Book Depository.

So where to go from here? Some interesting thoughts can still be derived concerning the soda pop bottle visible in the Alyea sequence. The presence of the soda bottle on the fifth-floor indicates that a person was there at some point prior to (or even during) the assassination on Elm Street below. Could the soda bottle belong to witnesses that investigators know of on the fifth-floor (Harold Norman, James “Junior” Jarman, and Bonnie Ray Williams) or does it belong to someone unidentified? Also is there any connection between this soda bottle and the one recovered and photographed on the sixth floor? Despite having solved the issues between the Dillard, Alyea, and Allen photographs/films, more questions still remain and can be expanded on.

The point of this entry was not only to establish the correct location of the sequence from the Alyea film  but also to demonstrate that the films and photographs of the assassination are integral to understanding and providing new insight into one of American history’s most important events. All the films and photographs taken before, during, and after the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas have some form of evidentiary value or at least contribute to the over-arching timeline. It is important, and paramount, that the photographic evidence receives the attention and care needed to either bolster existing ideas or reveal new ones.

Over the next month, I hope to return to Dealey Plaza in Dallas and expand on some research involving “the Black Dog Man” seen in the Willis and Betzner photographs. I’m also still working on locating more information concerning the Jimmy Darnell film depicting the immediate aftermath on Elm Street after the assassination. Thanks for reading and stay tuned.

Thurman Lee Storing

August 27, 2016, 6:34 PM CST.

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The Dillard Photograph and a Potential Discovery in the Tom Alyea Film

Searching the shadows for assassins has become somewhat of a cliche in the circuit of Kennedy Assassination research. Over the past fifty years, every photograph taken in Dealey Plaza during the horrific murder of President Kennedy has been scrutinized and mulled over in minute detail. The films and photographs practically serve as Roucharch tests. Some researchers see nothing but foliage or empty windows, while others see various gunmen taking aim on the presidential limousine. Famous examples are the views of the Sixth Floor sniper’s nest as the motorcade approaches the turn onto Elm Street in the Robert Hughes Film and the Mary Moorman Polaroid showing the grassy knoll a split second after the fatal shot had been fired. Needless to say, there are always claims emerging about finding new things in the various films and photographs taken on November 22, 1963.

One of the most famous conspiracy researchers who has made a career out of mining the photographic evidence for hidden assassins is Robert Groden. Active since the late 1960s, Groden is notable as the guy who “leaked” the Zapruder Film to the general public. Prior to the mid-1970s, the Zapruder Film was owned by Life Magazine who, aside from printing the frames in their own publication, had kept the film, what many researchers considered the best view of the assassination, under strict guard. Although the film had been available in the form of B&W still pictures available in one of the volumes of the Warren Commission report and illegally in 4th or 5th generation bootlegs after the Clay Shaw Trial of 1969, the general public as a whole was not privy to the full Zapruder film until Groden made an appearance on Geraldo Rivera’s “Good Night America” in 1975 with a “pristine” copy of the film that Groden had acquired while working as a photo technician. With Groden giving voice-over commentary (along with activist/comedian Dick Gregory), the film was aired uncut and uncensored. The public outcry was enormous as many felt the film obviously showed President Kennedy was killed by a bullet fired from the right-front, not behind the president. Groden’s showing of the film not only made Time Magazine sell the rights to the Zapruder Film but also helped in the formation of the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), which later ruled President Kennedy was “probably” killed as the result of a conspiracy. Groden would go on to sell books and documentary films about the subject and even worked as a consultant on Oliver Stone’s 1991 film “JFK.” Today, Groden can still be found almost every day selling his books and other publications behind the retaining wall of the North Pergola in Dealey Plaza.

Over the years, Robert Groden’s books have made many claims of supposed photographs (or still frames) showing assassins hiding throughout Dealey Plaza. One of the claims that Groden makes in his 1993 book The Killing of a President and his corresponding documentary of the same title is that a second person/assassin is visible on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository in the crucial seconds after the shots had ended. On pages 208 – 209 of his book, Groden presents a photograph taken by Tom Dillard of the Dallas Morning News. Dillard was following the presidential motorcade and was in Press Car #3 some several lengths back from the president. Dillard’s photograph depicts a wide-angle view of the Texas School Book Depository building. Although Groden’s book and documentary claim the Dillard photograph was taken “fifteen seconds” after the last shot had been fired, there is some contention to this claim.

In the book and documentary, Groden makes a claim that the uncropped version of the Dillard photograph of the Texas School Book Depository shows a man in the set of open windows on the sixth floor closest to the west side of the building. The sniper’s nest that Oswald (or someone else, given beliefs) had fired three shots from was located at the southeast corner of the building. Groden analyzes this section of the photograph and makes out what appears to be a stocky figure staring out the window, almost looking directly at the camera. The claim then becomes that if this is indeed a real human figure in this window then it couldn’t have been Oswald (or Oswald would have seen him) and that the trajectory of gunfire from this window would be consistent of the wounds present on Governor John Connally. Groden even points out one of the lights on the ceiling of the Depository’s sixth floor in the background.

This is a link to the video showing the segment of Robert Groden’s documentary relevant to the Dillard photograph:

JFK Assassination The Dillard Photograph

For years, I have questioned whether this figure is really a person or not. I fall more to the side that it’s not really a person but indeed try to keep an open mind about it. I feel that the figure is perhaps too large to be a human being. To me, it almost appears as if their head would have to be enormous to show up with detail. Another possibility that I’ve entertained is that it the figure may be a stack of cardboard boxes several feet behind the window ledge or, if it was a human being, it may be more their torso instead of a face and shoulders.

Today, I decided to look at the Tom Alyea film while doing research unrelated to the Tom Dillard photograph. Alyea was the only press cameraman who was able to make his way into the Texas School Book Depository before the building was sealed off by law enforcement. Alyea filmed police officers and detectives searching the sixth floor, examining the sniper’s nest, and discovering Oswald’s rifle hidden near the stairwell. I had decided to study the Alyea footage in order to create a timeline of what order each sequence was filmed. The Alyea film exists today in a variety of different versions in different lengths and scene orders; none of them complete. In fact, many scenes unused for broadcast from the Alyea film were likely destroyed the weekend of the assassination per station policy.

While examining versions of the Alyea film by pausing or slowing down different versions of the film, I happened upon a discovery that I hadn’t heard or read previously in books, film, or on the internet. After finding this discovery, it made me think immediately back to Groden’s book and video documentary and the segment about the “other” man on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository.

I found a decent/better quality version of the Alyea film contained in a Swedish documentary entitled “JFK Bulletin.” Here is a link to the clip relevant to this entry:

Excerpt from the Alyea Film

At exactly the twelve-second mark of the video, a scene familiar to many researchers who have seen the Alyea film is shown. This sequence depicts a detective with a rifle or shotgun looking out an open window of the Texas Book Depository. He appears to be looking out the window on the southwest side of the sixth floor down onto Elm Street and Dealey Plaza below. He then walks away hurriedly to search elsewhere. This segment of film footage may seem somewhat unremarkable. However, after pausing the film on this sequence, I noticed a detail that I hadn’t noticed the many times I had watched the film over the years.

Here is a still frame, cropped from the YouTube video above:

Alyea_still_original

There are two important details that can be culled from this still frame in relation to Robert Groden’s claims of a man in the window on the southwest corner of the sixth floor. The first is that the window that the man is supposedly visible in is now closed. Authorities searched the floors of the Depository building in the chaos after the assassination and made the discovery of the sniper’s nest around 1:00 PM, some thirty minutes after the president’s motorcade had passed through Dealey Plaza. Why this window was closed after the shooting is a mystery.

The second detail, however, is probably the most interesting. Here is the same frame again showing the discovery (if one hasn’t already noticed):

Alyea_pop_bottle

Visible, resting on the window seal of the area where Groden claims there was a human figure in the Dillard photograph, is what appears to be a soda pop bottle. A soda pop bottle (Dr. Pepper) along with a sack lunch was discovered on the sixth floor and photographed (Warren Commission Exhibit 484). However, the discovery of the Dr. Pepper bottle that was photographed in Exhibit 484 was in a completely different location on the sixth floor, a few windows over from the sniper’s nest, then the pop bottle seen in this segment of the Alyea film which is at the extreme west end of the building.

This discovery of the pop bottle in the Alyea film presents three interesting possibilities. The first possibility is that the pop bottle is actually the Dr. Pepper bottle that was later photographed on the floor, some feet from the sniper’s nest, and had been moved there at some point. From examining the still frame, it is hard to tell if the pop bottle is actually a Dr. Pepper bottle or more in line with being a classic Coca-Cola bottle. However, further study may reveal its brand. The second possibility is that this could possibly be confirmation that someone was at the window at some point prior or during the shooting. This is apparently the same spot as Groden’s “assassin” in the Tom Dillard photograph.

The third possibility, and the one that’s most related to the research that I have been focusing on the past few months involving the photographic evidence, is that this segment wasn’t even shot on the sixth floor but on the fifth floor. The Alyea footage contained in the YouTube clip posted shows this segment between several law enforcement officials taking the freight elevator and more detectives rummaging through boxes on the sixth floor. Examining still pictures taken of Dealey Plaza reveals that both windows in the far western area of the sixth floor remained opened up at least till 1:00 PM. The row of windows directly underneath, on the fifth floor, matches the windows seen in this segment of the Alyea. If this third possibility is true, then that means that the Alyea film exists in broken segments that are not unified by chronological order.

Studying films like this reveals that there are still many mysteries surrounding the Kennedy assassination. Many films exist in truncated and jumbled formats. Many photographs have different interpretations. Many of these films can be restored to give researchers, historians, and the general public a greater understanding of what exactly happened on that day in November. Proving whether Lee Harvey Oswald is guilty or innocent becomes unimportant when looking at the event as a means to create a rich and detailed historical record that serves no bias and is beneficial to the future. The Kennedy Assassination is more than a parlor game who-done-it. It’s authentic and important history that deserves our utmost attention and consideration at all times.

I’ll continue to study this matter of the soda pop bottle in the Alyea film. Stay tuned and thanks for reading.

Thurman Lee Storing

Sunday, July 24th, 2016. 9:45 PM CST.

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Cut ‘N Paste: Missing Segments of Film in the Kennedy Assassination.

We’ve all heard the cheesy saying that “a picture tells a thousand words.” The assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963, was one of the most photographed murders in history. The focus given to the various photographs and films, shot by both professional photographers and novices, is one of the cornerstones of assassination research. Often, budding researchers cut their teeth by pouring over the numerous slides and frames taken in and around Dealey Plaza, before and after the shooting, searching for mysterious or potential assassins in shadowy and blurry areas that people have combed through over the past fifty years. Although, this approach may seem an exercise in futility to some, the photographic evidence provides researchers and historians with a vivid interpretation of the events of that day in November and still yields interesting, and even vital, information about the mechanics of the shooting and actions of witnesses in the immediate vicinity of what would become history.

With the numerous amounts of photographs and films that were taken at the time of President Kennedy’s murder in the area of Dealey Plaza, there is often talk in the research community about missing frames or photographs that fell through the cracks and disappeared into obscurity. It is a known fact that several frames of the Zapruder Film were damaged in the position of Life magazine and those damaged frames are now missing from the camera original. The camera original Nix Film, taken across the street from Zapruder, has been missing since at least 1992 and only 1st generation duplicates exist. Orville Nix, the man who shot the Nix Film, would claim that federal investigators returned his original film with frames missing. These are just two examples of important films, both captured during the assassination, of films that are possibly incomplete. However, the word incomplete doesn’t satisfy all assassination researchers. Some believe that edits to the films serve a more nefarious purpose.

While the films that depict the actual assassination of the president are most often the subject of intense scrutiny by researchers and historians concerned with missing frames and segments of the films, there does exist several other films that are perhaps more in need of attention when concerning editing or cutting. The films that I am referring to are those taken in the aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination by professional photographers, many of which were in the presidential motorcade. These witnesses and their films are often neglected for study due to their images and actions not being directly related to the actual shooting in progress. Three press photographers (Dave Wiegman Jr., Jimmy Darnell, and Malcolm Couch), who were part of the motorcade and following the presidential limousine, took valuable footage in the seconds and minutes after the gunshots had ceased. Another news photographer (Tom Alyea) was lucky enough to get inside the Texas School Book Depository before it was cordoned off by Dallas Police and filmed the search and discovery of the “sniper’s nest” and rifle on the Sixth Floor.

So what do all these films shot by professional cameramen at the scene of the Kennedy assassination all have in common? They all exist today in highly edited or jumbled versions. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that the news stations and organizations that the cameramen worked to cut the films down for airtime on television. The editors deemed what was relevant and aired the segments on television. However, exceptions do exist as NBC apparently aired the Wiegman Film in an alleged unedited form in the immediate coverage following the president’s death. Also, news studios at the time often discarded footage that wasn’t concerned relevant and destroyed these segments; this is a possible fate for several missing segments of the Alyea footage showing detectives scouring the Texas School Book Depository.

Although some researchers may find the completeness of these films to be a waste of time as they have little relevance to the mechanics of the actual assassination, I find their merits to be a worthy addition to creating a reliable timeline of the events in the immediate aftermath of the assassination. These films also allow researchers and historians a means to gauge and study eyewitnesses, as well as compare their behavior on film to that of their Warren Commission (or other) testimonies. Creating a complete picture of what occurred before, during, and after the assassination will aid future research and may even present a means of seeing the same sequences in a much different light.

Over the next few weeks and months, I am focusing my research on these films (I have also been working on a project concerning the infamous “Black Dog Man” that will be posted shortly).  I hope to not only locate missing segments of the films shot by these professional photographers but to also assembly these missing segments into the existing films to create a “super cut,” thus placing in the segments back into the films at the most accurate points as they were originally filmed. I also wish to track down the highest quality version of these films as they are an essential aid to understanding the events in the chaos of Dealey Plaza. If anything, I hope this is research and work that can be built off of by not only my own contributions but also those in the research community.

My first posting about these missing films will be about the Jimmy Darnell Film. Darnell was a local NBC cameraman who was riding in the third press car of the motorcade and took footage of both the Texas School Book Depository in the seconds after the fatal shot as well as witnesses rushing the Grassy Knoll in its aftermath.

Stay tuned and thanks for reading.

Thurman Lee Storing

Monday, July 18, 2016. 8:10 PM.

 

 

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Past is Prologue

Yesterday marked a historic day. November 22, 1963. It was a Friday. 52 years ago, the world was altered. 52 years after, we’re still arguing about what exactly happened.

Perhaps it’s odd that someone of my age took any interest into the Kennedy Assassination. I wasn’t alive 53 years ago. I have to hand it to my father, who has always been my biggest influence as far as research is concerned. I remember being a kid and finding my dad’s stack of books about the Kennedy Assassination. I remember thumbing through a copy of David Lifton’s Best Evidence and being fascinated with the black & white picture insets included. Some of it was pretty gory since it contained the autopsy pictures but the pictures that really grabbed me were the ones taken during and after the shooting. The panic in Dealey Plaza. A lot of these pictures were blurry, mysterious. They almost seemed as if they were grabbed directly from someone’s hazy, aging memory. There was something distinctly dreamlike about it.

I remember talking to my dad about it from time to time. I remember him analyzing the Zapruder Film on VHS tape and taking notes. He’d pick out tiny details that would seem absurd. I used to think that the purpose of this whole assassination research thing was to find the shooters or some direct evidence of other shooters. However, I recall my dad writing in a notebook and, instead of pointing out inconsistencies in the Warren Commission Report, they’d be direct observations. The notes would contain single sentences like “man with coat (?) over wall” and “Babushka Lady visible in these frames” or “object in grass after 313” and “where are men on steps?”. As a teenager, I didn’t really get it, but later it made sense. The event is not exactly a murder mystery, it’s history. Historians document even the smallest details in order to fill out the larger picture. There are still many faucets in the JFK Assassination that have yet to be considered or even explored.

I didn’t really dive into serious research until 2010. Before that I did a few research papers and presentations in high school and in college comp courses but it was mostly rudimentary exposition. The first book that got me hooked was, incredibly, Best Evidence which was the book that had really grabbed my attention in the first place. I actually borrowed it from my father and read it. I remember not being able to put it down. Despite its rather outrageous central thesis, it was riveting and well-researched. From that point forward, I began buying more books and videos and now have an extensive library of assassination materials. I made my first visit to Dealey Plaza in March 2013 and have been back three times since. Being able to stand in front of the North Pergola on the Grassy Knoll or standing next to the sniper’s nest on the sixth floor of the former Texas School Book Depository was particularly revelatory. At times, my visits were even poignant seeing the looks on the faces of people visiting Dealey Plaza who were alive at the time that President Kennedy died and the realization that human history took a dark turn at what’s essentially a peaceful little park in the heart of America.

When I started my research, I bought into almost any conspiracy theory that appeared. I used to imagine shooters hiding around every corner of Dealey Plaza. However, as I read and researched more, the more outrageous and outlandish theories evaporated and some five years later, I find myself with a completely different series of findings and beliefs than I did when I first began this journey. The history of the event is hazy, such as those photographs I saw all those years ago, but it doesn’t have to be any longer. New information and witnesses has come forward. Technology has helped enhance the fading films and photographs. All of this evidence is connected and researchers need to cooperate and look at the information in different lights to pull the threads together. I believe we all seek the same results: the truth.

This website will serve as my primary blog detailing my continuing research into the death of our youngest president. I did have another blog but will most likely transfer, and even reassess, those entries and publish the updated versions here. I think it’s smart to revisit and update previous information to match with the latest information available. Also, I will publish book and video reviews of assassination related material.  I hope to return to Dallas sometime next month (December 2015) when the Fall semester ends. As a sneak preview, I’m focusing on movements of witnesses in Dealey Plaza before, during, and after the shooting. I think it’s important to figure out were everyone was because (unfortunately) the official record can be somewhat lacking. I promise, there’s a lot of information coming.

In closing today, I want to personally thank everyone who reads this. I felt it was important to establish some background before diving into the more academic side of things. I sometimes feel that the point gets lost that the information we know about the Kennedy Assassination today is the result of the years and hard work of thousands of men and women. The title of this blog derives from a note I found written on the inside cover of a first edition copy of Mark Lane’s Rush to Judgment. It simply read “To my parents, in search of veritas. Christmas 1966.” Veritas is the Latin word for truth. I think its important to always remember the human contribution to our history  and the ultimate cost of those contributions to our present and our future.

52 years ago, the world was altered. 52 years later, we still question what happened. Let’s change that starting today.

Thurman Lee Storing

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

 

 

 

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