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:
The still from the Alyea film showing the pop bottle:
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.