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:
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:
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:
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):
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.