JFK: Conspiracy theories

 Convicted Watergate conspirator E. Howard Hunt was the subject of one conspiracy theory. Photograph: Keystone/Getty Images

Convicted Watergate conspirator E. Howard Hunt was the subject of one conspiracy theory. Photograph: Keystone/Getty Images


The Three Tramps
Shortly after Kennedy’s assassination, several news photographers took pictures of three transient men being shepherded into police custody by the train yard near Dealey Plaza. A lack of records, combined with their relatively clean-shaven appearance, led to years of speculative identification.

The most popular suspects included Watergate burglars E. Howard Hunt (above) and Frank Sturgis, as well as Charles Harrelson (father of actor Woody), a convicted assassin who once confessed to the killing while intoxicated (a claim he later withdrew). The vagrants’ identities were finally revealed in 1992 when a journalist discovered the original arrest reports, confirming their innocence.

The Secret Service
Footage showing Kennedy’s limousine slowing after the first shot, with driver William Greer looking back twice, has long been a source of suspicion. Some claim the Zapruder film shows Greer reaching over his shoulder with a gun, though critics contend this is merely a reflection of light.

Others believe the fatal shot was fired by agent George Hickey, riding in the car behind Kennedy, when he panicked and accidentally discharged a gun he was unfamiliar with.

The House Select Committee on Assassinations determined that the Secret Service was not involved but felt the agency did not provide sufficient protection, was inadequately prepared and failed to utilise relevant information.

Two Oswalds
Conflicting witness reports and question marks over Lee Harvey Oswald’s (above) movements have led to several Oswald “imposter” hypotheses.

In 1981 his body was exhumed to verify a theory advocated by Michael Eddowes, a British barrister and writer, that a Russian assassin had been substituted for the real Oswald following his defection to the Soviet Union.

The reasoning rested on discrepancies between Oswald’s physical description and that of the assassin, but medical and dental records confirmed the exhumed body to be Oswald’s.

Badge Man and the Grassy Knoll
Enhancement of a photograph taken just as Kennedy was struck reveals a fuzzy image some believe could be a gunman wearing what resembles a police uniform. A detailed reconstruction of the photograph confirmed that, while “Badge Man” would have had a clear shot on Kennedy, the figure would have measured 2.88ft (88cm) in height.

Despite eyewitness accounts of suspicious activity around the grassy knoll, reports of confiscated cameras and interpretations of acoustic evidence, none of it has stood up conclusively.

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