The JFK Assassination, pt. 15: Oswald’s personal effects

It should be clear how I use this blog as a mental scratch pad rather than for polished writing. And it should also be clear how I approach the JFK assassination as a great mystery and puzzle rather than a case that urgently needs solving. Reviewing the most recent post on this topic, however, I really thought it was poor, so this is the revised version.


Items on Lee Oswald when he was arrested, copied exactly from the Dallas PD Property Clerk’s invoice dated 12/30/1963 (and numbered by me for convenience):

1. Eighty-seven cents in money (1 half dollar, 3 dimes, 1 nickel, and 2 pennies)
2. Thirteen dollars in money (1 five-dollar bill, 8 one dollar bills)
3. Dallas County bus transportation coupon or ticket for transfer dated Nov. 22, 1963
4. Marine Corps, silver color
5. Chrome color ID bracelet with expansion band with the inscription ‘Lee’
6. Brass key marked “Postoffice Department Do not Dup.” #1126
7. paycheck voucher from American Bakeries Company dated 8/22/60
8. top of a small cardboard box with “Cox’s Fort Worth” printed on top

Not mentioned are a .38 revolver or a wallet containing two IDs with different names, but these would have been taken separately, as evidence, rather than being stored with personal effects.

We know that after leaving the Texas Schoolbook Depository, Oswald’s next location was his boarding house, where he spent just a few minutes before leaving for the Texas Theatre, where he would be arrested. He’s known to have picked up a light jacket at the house, despite the warm weather. What else did he do there? He must have gathered up some of these items as well, unless he had taken them all to work, which is unlikely.

Items 1, 2, and 6 are pretty ordinary things to carry, so I’ll skip them. Item 3 is not necessarily very exciting. Roger Craig claimed that he saw Oswald leave Dealey Plaza in a station wagon, but Craig could have been wrong and/or Oswald could have been dropped off to catch a bus afterward, and in either case the bus ticket is perfectly natural.

Item 4 is interesting. The invoice entry is not complete, but elsewhere this is described more fully as “Silver color Marine Corps emblem ring”. It’s hard to know if this was something he wore often or something he specifically picked up at the boarding house. I can’t find a photograph of him wearing it, but most of the existing photos are from times he wouldn’t have had it on.

Item 5: uninteresting, except that while “Lee” was his real first name, one of the IDs he was carrying had a different name. Item 6 is perfectly ordinary.

Items 7 and 8 are where it gets really interesting, and where the previous version was lacking.

Item 7 is a paycheck voucher issued three years before, and not to Oswald. At that time, Oswald was working in an electronics factory in the Soviet Union, not for the American Bakeries Company. A strange thing for anybody to carry, and extra strange for Oswald.

I initially thought the list would be fairly reliable, i.e. not falsified, because the officials never made a big fuss about it. If it were manipulated, it would have been for some purpose and it seems like they would have then used it as evidence. However, the history of the pay stub is more than a little curious. It was issued to one James A. Jackson of 214 W. Neely St. The date in the invoice is given as 8/22, although elsewhere it’s listed as “dated 8/22/1960 or 8/27/1960”—why the confusion? (The 22nd was a Monday, and the 27th was a Saturday, by the way.)

The W. Neely St. address is significant because it’s the location of the backyard photos, which supposedly show Oswald holding the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle used to shoot Kennedy. However, Oswald said the backyard photos were faked, denied owning the rifle, and denied ever living at that address, and no clear picture comes out of interviews with other residents at that apartment complex. James A. Jackson’s pay stub is significant because it’s supposed to connect Oswald to the Neely apartment, and thus to the photos and the rifle.

You can see the problem: why would he own this item at all, and why would he pick this item up during his brief stop? It doesn’t make sense. And there’s another problem. It’s not clear when the pay stub was discovered. It’s listed on the invoice, but other sources report it was found later, during a search of his home. This has an explanation: there were two pay stubs, both in Jackson’s name, discovered at different times.

This looks fishier and fishier.

Item 8, the box top, is also very strange. This seems to be some kind of spy novel stuff where two people can identify each other by putting together their torn box tops; this can’t be faked, so you know the other person is who he is supposed to be. I’m agnostic on this. I already thought Oswald was involved in intelligence work, so it would make sense, but it seems a little too much like fiction.

Taken all together, this collection of items is just too strange to be what a lone gunman would carry. I admit this is a probabilistic rather than definitive conclusion.

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The JFK Assassination, pt. 14: the fundamentals

In my first post on the topic of John Kennedy’s assassination I said the Zapruder film was the “fundamental starting point” of inquiry. At the time I hadn’t seriously studied or at least seriously considered that the film might have been tampered with. It’s possible, and therefore in retrospect I should call that an earlier error on my part. I blame my having watched the Zapruder film many times trying to learn something from it as my first real exposure to this whole topic; for me it was the contingent starting point rather than the fundamental starting point.

Having said that, even before I recognized the error my thinking slowly shifted more towards the testimony of the Parkland Hospital medical staff being the starting point. The film, even if unmodified and even when stabilized, just doesn’t give us the detail we need to be supremely confident. Many people including me think it shows the Big One as coming from the front right, and we have corroborating testimony like that of Officer Hargis, riding his motorcycle to the left of and behind Kennedy, that supports a rear exit wound:

Mr. STERN. Did something happen to you, personally in connection with the shot you have just described?
Mr. HARGIS. You mean about the blood hitting me?
Mr. STERN. Yes.
Mr. HARGIS. Yes: when President Kennedy straightened back up in the car the bullet him in the head, the one that killed him and it seemed like his head exploded, and I was splattered with blood and brain, and kind of a bloody water. It wasn’t really blood. And at that time the Presidential car slowed down. I heard somebody say, “Get going,” or “get going,“—

…but you could make the case that the film does not show a rear exit wound. Anybody who supports the official Lone Gunman explanation implicitly or explicitly does.

Even so, the testimony of the Parkland staff is not enough to convince everybody although I consider it very strong evidence for a rear exit wound and hence no Lone Gunman. To cover both of these points at once I offer this from Gary Aguilar:

In an interview with the HSCA’s Andy Purdy on 11-10-77 Marion Jenkins was said to have expressed that as an anesthesiologist he (Jenkins) “…was positioned at the head of the table so he had one of the closest views of the head wound…believes he was ‘…the only one who knew the extent of the head wound.’) (sic)…Regarding the head wound, Dr. Jenkins said that only one segment of bone was blown out–it was a segment of occipital or temporal bone. He noted that a portion of the cerebellum (lower rear brain) (sic) was hanging out from a hole in the right–rear of the head.” (Emphasis added) (HSCA-V7:286-287) In an interview with the American Medical News published on 11-24-78 Jenkins said, “…(Kennedy) had part of his head blown away and part of his cerebellum was hanging out.”.

Amazingly, in an interview with author Gerald Posner on March 3, 1992, Jenkins’ recollection had changed dramatically. “The description of the cerebellum was my fault,” Jenkins insisted, “When I read my report over I realized there could not be any cerebellum. The autopsy photo, with the rear of the head intact and a protrusion in the parietal region, is the way I remember it. I never did say occipital.” (Gerald Posner, Case Closed”, p. 312) Jenkins has obviously forgotten that in his own note prepared, typed, and signed on the day of the assassination, Jenkins said, “a great laceration on the right side of the head (temporal and occipital) (sic)”, and HSCA’s Purdy reported that Jenkins said “occipital or temporal bone” was blown out.

Aguilar’s piece makes it clear that the overwhelming consensus supports a rear exit wound. Parkland staff, those who received the body only minutes after the shooting—not operating under any assumptions about the source(s) of the shots—were virtually unanimous at the time (with only one bizarre outlier) and most maintained their original positions afterwards. Many at Bethesda also recalled a rear exit wound. Testimony from Bethesda is obviously not unanimous but must be considered less weighty than that from Parkland given that (1) explanatory scenarios were already being formed by investigative authorities and (2) after the conclusion of the autopsy itself the autopsy report went through several revisions offering different conclusions before settling on the one we now have as official.

The Zapruder film may or may not have been tampered with. Admitting this possibility means we need a different starting point. In my estimation the Parkland staff testimony is that starting point. It’s possible for all those doctors and nurses, minutes after the shooting, unconcerned with explaining the wounds, to be mistaken in essentially the same way, but it’s so unlikely as to be excluded from consideration. A rear exit wound ⇒ a shooter in front of Kennedy ⇒ Oswald could not have acted alone (even assuming he acted at all). The conclusion is the same for me as watching the Zapruder film but with less suspicion.

If this is correct the overall task is now much harder. One of the nice things about the Lone Gunman scenario is its simplicity: Oswald was a lone nut communist who shot Kennedy, no other moving parts, case closed. If there’s a conspiracy, resolving it—enough to satisfy our curiosity but never completely—is orders of magnitude more difficult, but it seems that we have no other feasible choice.

The JFK Assassination, pt. 13: Buell Frazier’s denial

I’m currently watching the documentary The Day Kennedy Died (ably narrated by Kevin Spacey). Buell Frazier was Lee Oswald’s co-worker at the Texas School Book Depository and gave him a ride to work on the morning Kennedy was assassinated. He is one of the people interviewed for the documentary. At one point, Frazier says that chief interrogator Captain Will Fritz interrogated him angrily and even presented him with a typed statement implicating himself as an accomplice in the assassination. Of course, he refused, and after threatening him again Fritz left the room and that was the last Frazier saw of him.

Buell Frazier has frequently been interviewed on the subject and has never been considered as a suspect since that point. This seems to make Fritz’s confidence that he had the right man (in Oswald) quite a bit less credible, even for people who believe that Oswald was the lone gunman.

The JFK Assassination, pt. 12: the backyard photos

JFK assassination researchers have done a lot of analysis of the infamous backyard photos. Many insist they were forgeries, as Lee Oswald was alleged to have done. Many people, including most of the experts asked by the government to analyze them, believe that they are genuine. I’m not a photographic expert, and I don’t really have a position on this. The fact that they were found (or “found”) by the police only on their second search of the Payne house is a little suspect, but it could be true.

From my position, I don’t see that it really matters. I’ve discussed before how it seems that Oswald was engaged in some kind of deep cover infiltration of pro-Castro groups and how elements above him carefully planned to frame him for the assassination. His clandestine background would help them as long as only parts of it were revealed. These photos could easily form one of those parts—made so that he would appear to be a genuine communist agitator, when in fact that was simply a role he played on assignment. This would also explain the odd message on the back of the photo that George de Mohrenschildt’s widow gave to the HSCA.

In other words, the photos don’t present a challenge for what I think happened one way or the other. Sure, they could have been faked. Sure, they could be real. It doesn’t change my version either way.

The JFK Assassination, pt. 11: Things that don’t add up about Lee Oswald

Lee Harvey Oswald* is the central character in the official version of the John F. Kennedy assassination, but many things about him—in that story—don’t quite fit together.

1. To start with, the fact that he defected to the USSR and came back so easily. This has naturally led many to suspect he had some kind of intelligence connection. He is said to have announced to the US Embassy in Moscow that he wanted to renounce his US citizenship and that he would give the Soviets information he learned as a Marine. Despite this, he kept his citizenship and the US embassy later assisted his travel back to the US.

His wife Marina later said in an interview that he was a proud American and would talk about politics with her family, including speaking positively about the newly-elected Kennedy. Jim Garrison suspected that he was being trained by Naval Intelligence based on the fact that he was given a Russian language exam, a rare occurrence for a private in the Marines. Jim Garrison has been criticized on a number of points, but this particular question is worth pondering.

It’s clear that the worldwide Communist movement was the “security” establishment’s main concern during this period, and that considerable resources were spent on espionage, counterespionage, infiltration, monitoring, etc. Not all of this was done in-house, either. The CIA had a lot of employees on the beat, but beyond that was a huge network of allied organizations, informants, infiltrators, and enthusiasts. Specific movements, e.g. the anti-Castro movement, were full of people allied with but not technically in the employ of the CIA. John le Carré’s book The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is a great, if fictionalized account of somebody on the margins of government employ during this period.

Given these facts and this background, it’s hard to believe that Lee Oswald was not working for the US government when he went to the Soviet Union.

2. Next is the stumping for Castro period in New Orleans. Oswald was reported by many sources to be an “associate” of Guy Banister, who appears to have been one of the CIA’s point men for anti-Castro organization in the area. He is known to have been the founder and only member of a local pro-Castro group and to have distributed pro-Castro literature. He even went on the radio for this purpose. However, and this is very subjective, his manner when questioned does not suggest a man passionately devoted to the ideas he spouts. Given point #1 above, and his known association with Banister, and the information in Buddy Walther’s report about having files on “Cuban sympathizers” in his house, it seems that in this case too he was playing a role assigned to him by somebody else.

I’m fascinated by many of the specific stories about what Oswald did in New Orleans at this time, although I know that many of them are probably false. However the overall framework given here does not rely on any one witness being credible or any one story being faithfully reported.

3. Credible stories abound of Lee Oswald being observed in this or that place where he may not have been, perhaps most importantly Mexico City. Somebody went to a lot of trouble to create one or more narratives about Oswald before the assassination, and it had to be somebody with the resources, organization, and motive to do so and keep it quiet later. That sounds like the activities of an intelligence agency, or at least activities directed by an intelligence agency.

As further evidence, Marina Oswald said in an interview many years later that both she and Lee Oswald were observed in places around Dallas before the assassination that she never in fact went to. (This is one case where I am relying on one witness, because she seemed to me to be telling the truth. It doesn’t make sense why she would lie in that context, and I’ve never heard it disputed although I imagine it is somewhere.) Even if this is not true, the main point still stands.

[For the scope and thoroughness of reported incidents, however credible, see here.]

4. Now we come to the most notorious “fact” about Oswald: shooting Kennedy. As is written in numerous other places, even if he did shoot Kennedy it’s not physically possible that he was the only shooter. This is an important point but it is dealt with elsewhere so I will keep this point brief here.

5. Long recognized is another weak spot in the official story, the murder of Officer J.D. Tippit. Oswald’s guilt here was considered very important to the overall narrative, except that the eyewitness testimony pretty clearly did not clearly implicate Oswald at all. Witnesses variously described two shooters, or a short man with bushy hair, or another man who was not Oswald. The recreation of Oswald’s alleged journey down the street was inconclusive as well; it’s possible that there was enough time, but it’s not certain. Moreover, this episode might put Oswald heading in the wrong direction if it is to fit with the rest of the story. All told, somebody shot Officer Tippit but there’s no reason to believe that Oswald was that man, and various reasons to believe that he wasn’t. Oswald was eventually identified in police line-ups, though these police line-ups were manipulated in every way possible to produce that result, and lack any credibility.

6. Lee Oswald declared to reporters “I’m just a patsy.” Could that be true? Points 1 and 2 at least imply the possibility that he could have been a government operative of some kind. Point 3 indicates that somebody was setting him up for something. Point 4 demonstrates that the plot, whatever it was, was larger than just him. Point 5 indicates that somebody really wanted the crime pinned on him even to the possible extent of framing him for yet another crime and using that to relate him to the first.

Why wouldn’t he say more about it to reporters? This I can only speculate on, but it’s important to remember that he had a wife and small children. His mother was still alive. His relationship with his wife was not perfect, and I don’t know much about his relationship with his mother, but all of his neighbors in Dallas said that he loved his children and took great joy in being with them. Threats against them, even if they were only in his mind, would have been very effective in keeping him quiet. As he couldn’t have known he was going to be murdered only two days later, he may have hoped for a way to exonerate himself later without exposing his family to danger.

I could be wrong about any or all of this, but at each point I have taken the position that seems to me to make the most sense among the competing explanations. Taking a cue from public choice economics, I don’t make unrealistic assumptions about the behavior of government agencies; on the contrary, based on known evidence, these assumptions seem more realistic than the official version.

It goes without saying that there are many other things about Lee Oswald in the official story that don’t add up either. These are just an important few.


* I think the responsible thing for Kennedy assassination researchers and enthusiasts to do is to refer to him as Lee Oswald, not as Lee Harvey Oswald. It seems the full-name treatment is supposed to make him stand out in some weird way, which is already granting half of the case to the party line inventors. He did not go by Lee Harvey Oswald during his life, and whenever I can I write simply Lee Oswald.

The JFK Assassination, pt. 10: Keeping secrets

One of the mental blocks people have when thinking about JFK conspiracies is the fact that a great many conspiracy theories are patently absurd. Not just about the JFK assassination, but in general. There is always the risk in this line of thinking of running astray into nonsense. However, for reasons detailed in previous posts, I think there is ample evidence of conspiracy surrounding the JFK assassination, so it’s very different from aliens building the pyramids or similar things. For instance, it’s a fact that the CIA has been involved in overthrowing governments, assassinating people all over the world, and other related operations. We’d be foolish to think to that conspiracies never happen.

In the particular case of the Kennedy assassination, we have to keep in mind that when we study it now we are building on two generations’ worth of research. At the time of the assassination many different witnesses saw, heard, and did many different things, but there was no way at the time for them to all form a narrative together. This had to be constructed slowly, piece by piece, over many years. It would have been too obvious at the time if all this were known—but it was not even knowable at the time.

Whoever the conspirators were, they were operating in the assumptions of their time. Nobody could have predicted the ways in which conditions would change. The conspirators—before and after the fact—had no way of knowing that one day there would be this thing called the internet by which people could assemble a bird’s eye view of the entire sequence of events. They had no way of knowing that Jim Garrison would launch an inquiry into the plot and bring it into public focus. They had no way of knowing that there would ever be a House Select Committee on Assassinations which would release a lot of secret government information about the assassination, autopsy, and investigation to the public. Even the old-fashioned ways of disseminating information available at the time (books, newspapers, magazines, and film) relied on information that was hard to come by. The Zapruder film wasn’t seen by mass audiences until 1975. The government clearly took as many precautions as it could get away with at the time to prevent people from talking. The shooters likewise had methods of keeping things secret; even after all this time, it’s still not conclusively known who they were. If these two groups were related, well, all the more reason to take whatever precautions they could.

On top of it all, there are many people are are faithful enough to the system and who lack creativity enough to ever question the official version. There are people and institutions whose very mission is to scoff at those who question official versions of anything. Even after all that’s been published on the subject, even after the HSCA’s investigation, you’d be hard pressed to find a serious treatment of the evidence for conspiracy in the JFK assassination in a major media outlet.

Many people hear some of the evidence and think it’s not possible that all this information could have been around right after the assassination without alerting the public to a conspiracy. All this information existed somewhere, but none of it existed everywhere.

The JFK Assassination, pt. 9: Review of Shots

One of the continuing mysteries about the assassination surrounds the number of shots fired in total. My take is not conclusive, of course, but we seem at least to have:

1. Kennedy’s back, from behind
2. Kennedy’s throat, from in front
3. Connally’s back etc., from behind
4. Kennedy’s head, from in front
5. the missed shot, from behind, debris from which hit James Tague
6. the windshield shot, from in front

These are the shots that to me are obvious, but are obviously disputed by a great many people. There are other possible shots as well:

7. a missed shot nearer to the presidential car, from behind
8. a separate headshot, from behind

As you can tell, the count is already too high for one shooter with a bolt-action rifle to make in just a few seconds, and physically impossible for a single shooter with all the time in the world firing from behind. As I’ve already written, we’re clearly dealing with a conspiracy.

I’m a little bit sympathetic to the belief that one of the shooters was in the Dal-Tex Building, but I wonder why more earwitnesses wouldn’t have indicated this. It certainly seems to fit the video evidence to have Connally and Kennedy hit from different rear angles. Based on the number of shots, three general angles of fire make as much sense as two.

Another thing that has troubled me is the hole in the windshield. It’s said to have come from the front, and while this isn’t conclusive there’s no testimony that I know of—except from the Secret Service and other agencies we already know we can’t trust—to suggest otherwise. If so, at what angle did it enter? It’s unlikely to have been made by the same bullet that made the throat wound, because this would involve yet another shooter at an angle never considered. Perhaps it was caused by the shot that hit the curb far in front of the motorcade and hit James Tague’s cheek. I really don’t have a good answer for this and haven’t seen anything that suggests a solution.

On a related but separate note, The Future of Freedom Foundation’s Jacob G. Hornberger has a great series of posts on the JFK assassination that can be read here. By the way, I met him a couple of times since I’ve been in the area, and he’s a nice guy.

The JFK assassination, pt. 8: Bonnie Ray Williams and the elevators in the TSBD

This is far and away the most searched-for post of my JFK assassination writings. You can see the rest here.

Continuing the theme from part 6, I want to speculate on the TSBD shooter(s). A handful of witnesses in Dealey Plaza stated that they saw two men on the sixth floor around the time of the assassination. This has been challenged, and frankly I’m not expert enough to really have a good opinion about it.

However, there’s still a question. Somebody fired a rifle from the sixth floor. Victoria Adams testified that when she and a colleague went down the stairs immediately after the shooting there was nobody else using them. The elevators were not working at this point. Officer Marion Baker encountered Lee Oswald on the second floor in a composed condition—not at all in the kind of condition somebody would be after shooting the president, running around stacks of boxes, hiding the weapon, and fleeing downstairs.

The shooter (or shooters, though I will just say shooter for now) left the sixth floor somehow and was not apprehended at the TSBD. Bonnie Ray Williams testified to the Warren Commission that at least just before the shooting, the elevators were stopped on the fifth floor. After running to a window on the west side of the building, Williams, James Jarman Jr., and Harold Norman went down the stairs. Williams testifies that although they heard shots directly above them, and although Harold Norman said he could hear shells hitting the floor, they did not hear any movement above them after that. As they were running to the west side of the building, they made quite a lot of noise themselves.

Victoria Adams would have been on the way down the stairs then, and almost immediately afterwards Marion Baker would have arrived. Oswald would already be downstairs at this point in the timeline. Also, the elevators would have resumed working but then stopped working again, as Luke Mooney testified.

What I am getting at is that it’s highly unlikely the shooter could have gotten off of the sixth floor a) by the stairs and b) before law enforcement officers arrived in the building. The Marion Baker situation makes it unlikely that Oswald was even the shooter, although it is still possible. Are we then dealing with a shooter hiding in the building, or taking the elevator out when the law is on the stairs? The TSBD’s elevators were the cargo type that do not hide the inside from view, making this risky. The various agencies combed the building in what I’m sure was a thorough enough way that hiding would be extremely difficult.

This leaves me in an uncomfortable position, and I don’t as yet know a reasonable solution.

The JFK Assassination, pt. 7: The secrets of speech

One of the reasons I find the Kennedy assassination so interesting is that it’s one of the greatest mental puzzles ever. We have the official story, but it’s so full of holes that it obviously conceals more than it tells. Then what is the real story? Occam’s Razor tells us not to assume complexity unless we have to, and in this case we have to. It becomes almost a game of how many parts we can mentally juggle until we can fit them all together just so.

I swear I wasn’t going to post about the Kennedy assassination. I was just going to watch the documentary “Secrets of Body Language” for kicks now that I have some free time. It’s about, well, the secrets of body language and speech, and it mostly focuses on politicians. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, it’s definitely worth a watch.

And then, right there at the end (beginning around 1:24:40), they had some voice analysis done on the Lee Oswald press conference. They use some kind of sophisticated software to determine if someone is stressed, telling the truth, saying something probably false, etc., with numbers indicating the degree. Clearly, Oswald was highly stressed during the whole interview, and this shows. His statement “I know nothing more than that.” is indicated as false. I don’t doubt this.

My impression of Lee Oswald during that interview is that he knows he’s in over his head. Even if he were one of the shooters—but why would he be?—he could not have acted alone either in the act itself or in the planning beforehand. His intelligence connections are shrouded in (possibly intentional) mystery. It requires a too much suspension of disbelief to think that he had no knowledge at all about the plot, so what we’re left with is his being unwilling or unable to say all that he knew. This fits perfectly well 1) with his behavior during the interview and 2) with the voice analysis in this documentary.

I wish they would have focused more on that voice analysis instead of simply assuming the Warren Commission narrative, but that would have been outside their scope.

[UPDATE: At the time I thought this was very intriguing, but I later learned this technology is considered highly suspect. If this were a book, this section would have to be cut out—maybe not, considering the low quality of so many JFK assassination books, but let’s aim high—but since this is a blog I’ll leave it here.]

The JFK assassination, pt. 6: The TSBD’s electricity

According to the official version of the assassination of John Kennedy, Lee Oswald shot from the “sniper’s nest” in the southeast corner of the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, wiped his fingerprints off the gun and then hid it among stacks of boxes (although he left three shell casings in the “sniper’s nest”), then left the sixth floor by the stairs in the northwest corner down to the second floor. Nobody saw him going down the stairs. He was then encountered by Officer Marion Baker and TSBD Supervisor Roy Truly in the lunch room on the second floor. Baker was the first policeman into the building after the assassination, and Truly went with him to show him around the building. Because the elevator was not working, they took the stairs. In the lunch room, Truly identified Oswald as an employee to Baker, who then went on, leaving Oswald temporarily free from suspicion and allowing him to leave the TSBD. Truly and Baker recount this here.

I emphasized that Oswald took the stairs rather than the elevator. We have no way of knowing if he tried to take the elevator or if he purposely wanted to take the stairs (assuming the official version is correct that he was the shooter on the sixth floor). But it’s worth thinking about the elevator for a moment. Four witnesses, two policemen and two employees of the TSBD, said that the elevator was not working. Another employee says that it was not moving, which is different from saying that it was not working but at least does not contradict this idea.

Geneva Hine was an employee at the TSBD, and her testimony to the Warren Commission can be found here (quote on page 395).

Miss HINE. Yes, sir: I was alone until the lights all went out and the phones became dead because the motorcade was coming near us and no one was calling so I got up and thought I could see it from the east window in our office.

Elsewhere in her testimony she says that she was covering the phone for some of the other employees so that they could go outside and see the president, so she’s believable when she says that the phone wasn’t working. She also says “the lights all went out”. All. Nowhere is it given that this is standard procedure when a presidential motorcade drives by. She later said that when she returned to the building there were telephone calls beginning to come in again.

[EDIT: I wanted to add a little extra here. A commenter to this post suggests this probably means the lights on the switchboard went out, i.e. nobody was calling, which is consistent with the quoted part of Hine’s statement. I gave this a lot of consideration, but something still seems fishy to me. As Jerry Organ notes, “[t]he Texas School Book Depository…was a privately-owned company charged with fulfilling book orders from schools all over the Southwest.” There’s no reason why phone calls would stop coming in from “all over the Southwest” on account of the motorcade. It’s fair to assume most callers wouldn’t have had any idea the president was near the building at that time.]

Luke Mooney was a deputy sheriff, one of the early responders to the building. He first ran from approximately the intersection of Main and Houston towards the grassy knoll, believing the shots to have come from there, and once he was up at the railyard he was ordered to the TSBD. His testimony to the WC can be found here (quote from page 284).

Mr. MOONEY. It was a push button affair the best I can remember. I got hold of the controls and it worked. We started up and got to the second. I was going to let them off and go on up. And when we got there, the power undoubtedly cut off, because we had no more power on the elevator. So I looked around their office there, just a short second or two, and then I went up the staircase myself.

This is slightly different. Assuming everybody remembered correctly and told the truth to the WC, the power came back on and then went back off. He doesn’t say anything about the lights, however, which he surely would have noticed.

Victoria Adams was another employee at the TSBD. She observed the assassination from the fourth floor with three other women, and then she and one of them went down the stairs. Her testimony can be found here (quote from page 389).

Mr. BELIN. Let me ask you this. As you got to the stairs on the fourth floor, did you notice whether or not the elevator was running?
Miss ADAMS. The elevator was not moving.
Mr. BELIN. How do you know it was not moving on some other floor?
Miss ADAMS. Because the cables move when the elevator is moved, and this is evidenced because of a wooden grate.
Mr. BELIN. By that you mean a wooden door with slats in it that you have to lift up to get on the elevator?
Miss ADAMS. Yes.
Mr. BELIN. Did you look to see if the elevator was moving?
Miss ADAMS. It was not; no, sir.
Mr. BELIN. It was not moving?
Miss ADAMS. No.

She remarks she did not see anybody while they were going down the stairs. She also says she did not hear anybody on the stairs either. Certainly somebody fleeing a crime scene would make some kind of noise. She makes no mention of any power outage, but notes that the elevator was not moving.

This excerpt of the Alyea film shows the elevator in motion at 0:36. This video shows a light on in the entrance to the TSBD at the 2:03 mark. This same light is not on a few minutes prior in the Altgens photo, taken during the assassination. This is consistent with Geneva Hine’s testimony.

What does this all add up to? It’s mighty strange that the power wasn’t working when somebody on the sixth floor was busy assassinating the president. This could be a lucky coincidence for the shooter (or team, or however it played out), making it even less likely that somebody would come upstairs in time to witness the act. It becomes more eerie when one learns that the building was owned by D.H. Byrd, an associate of Lyndon Johnson’s, although this by itself is not necessarily significant.

If it’s unlikely that Oswald would have had time to shoot, clean, and hide the gun, and run downstairs quickly enough to be calmly drinking (or purchasing) a Coke when Officer Baker found him in the second floor, it’s even less likely that he would have had time to do all that and get away unnoticed by the police when he also had to throw the power off and on. Perhaps the TSBD just had a bad electrical system, although the implication of Hine’s testimony is that this was not a common occurrence.

Since it’s clear that there was at least some minimal kind of conspiracy, as I noted in a previous post, I could see this fitting in. Maybe not. I wouldn’t make too big a fuss about it, but it’s strange and worth taking note of. The shooter, whether Oswald or someone else, had a little extra insurance during the act and then afterwards. The odds of that happening without somebody making it happen are pretty slim.