Not that I was expecting to “solve the case” by visiting Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas this week, but I was indeed hoping for some additional clarification just by immersing myself in the surroundings. I personally believe there was a conspiracy, that Oswald was not the lone gunman, but that’s pretty much all I believe. I would love to say that I have all the answers, knowing something you don’t, but that would be false. Fact is, after talking to people or hearing them from a distance, the same dialogue from a slightly different perspective over and over again as I walked around Dealey Plaza, I realized that I think now, even after years of study, I know less about the assassination’s conspiracy theories than I did before I got there. Go online and you will find hundreds, from the believable like a team of assassins having mafia ties, to the outlandish such as Elvis or even Jackie Kennedy herself. No matter which way you want to lean, visiting the site of the assassination will likely leave you more confused than you ever thought you could feel.
In itself, the Plaza is something of a circus. As mentioned previously, by day, every inch is littered with loons hawking their self-published JFK assassination conspiracy books which are little more than pamphlets, and talking to anyone who will listen. Some of these people are informative and an asset to the experience, while others may need to see a doctor. I decided to listen to one the other day. He talked for over a half hour and was very engrossing. He claimed to have witnessed the assassination as a 13 year-old standing in front of the DalTex Building. I actually believed his account to be true, and still do, but then came his theories. Nothing he couldn’t have gotten from Oliver Stone’s film, which is overly exaggerated anyway. Still, I listened. Hell, it was entertaining…until he started going off on how it was Lyndon Johnson’s wife Ladybird who ordered the assassination! That was enough for me.
Another man claimed to have been arrested hundreds of times over the years “because the city doesn’t want people to hear what I have to say”. No, maybe its because you are soliciting money and trying to sell cheap souvenirs at a national landmark? Nah, its just a cover up. He also claimed the CIA tried to take him out while he was selling his book. Shot him in the neck with a .44 magnum, yet he’s still alive and has the “scar” to prove it. Apparently one of them sued the city and because the case is pending, they are allowed to sell. As a brief side-note, by night, Dealey transforms into a haven for homeless people (who have somehow memorized certain facts of the assassination and the various conspiracies) offering to give you a tour or take your picture by the kill-shot X in the street for the change in your pockets.
After analyzing the situation by listening to their “versions” of the story, and taking the smile-and-nod approach to every ounce of their gushing, I have concluded that the popular belief (not my own) among the local conspiracy theorists is that there was a team of four shooters, who fired a total of eight shots. I also heard the name James Files many times, who in the 1990’s, claimed he was the Grassy Knoll shooter working for the mob who fired only one shot: the “back and to the left” kill-shot. While his confession is quite fascinating, and he knew facts of the case that he most likely could not have known unless it was he himself who did the shooting, the overall belief from experts regarding him is that it is inconclusive to say the very least. Yet, everyone of these people uses the name James Files to advance their theories. He has become their savior and “proof”, when all it really is, is another unsubstantiated theory.
I met a couple from Illinois who was very nice, and who had been there before, and knew the one “witness” I ended up talking to from a previous dialogue they had with him days earlier. The witness (I’ll refer to him as that because I forgot his name) claimed he was friends of Robert Groden, former member of the US House Select Committee on Assassinations, which met in the 1970’s and decided that a conspiracy was “probable”. He is often seen at Dealey Plaza selling his book which this man was throwing in our faces. Groden is an author who has some credibility, so I am not quite sure if he actually knew this person trying to sell us, because he wasn’t there. Anyway, this couple was going to take a tour given by the witness, where they would actually get into his car and drive to different places in Dallas relating to the assassination, for $75 cash. If they wanted to see Oswald’s grave in Fort Worth, that would have been more money. Sketchy? Oh yeah. They offered to let me come for free, but I said no-thanks. All I needed was to get into a strange car in the land where 80% of COPS episodes are filmed while on my vacation.
Listen long enough and you’ll hear how it was the mafia…or the CIA…or both. All working together. Possible? Yes, given it is well known that the CIA worked with the mob to try to kill Castro, and many of the politicians of the day had mob-ties. But, as always, where is the proof? Whenever you would ask one of them for something concrete, for something a little bit better (a question such as, “Well, how do you know for sure?”), they quickly fumble through the $20 pamphlet they are trying to sell you and point to a random picture and start going off on something else, or twist it in a way that you think they are answering your question. Be sure, they do indeed have an answer for everything. They are good at what they do. One theorist even went so far as to say it was JFK’s own father who initially started the talks of getting him killed, since his son would not honor any of the favors he promised to mob-boss friends. And again, as I said earlier, the witness who I talked to, who actually made the most convincing push, lost me when he suggested it was Ladybird Johnson who ordered the assassination.
One purported theory says a shooter hid in a storm drain and fired from the gutter under the street. One says that Oswald wasn’t a shooter at all, and there were two shooters (one on each end) of the sixth floor of the School Book Depository. Another says Oswald was one of the shooters, but of course wasn’t alone. A fourth one said that officer J.D Tippet was in on the plot as a member of the mob, and was sent out to kill Oswald by his home, but because Oswald got scared after realizing he was the fall-guy, killed Tippet instead. The man with the umbrella? He was signaling the death squad to get ready. In any event, they were all covered up in a synchronized effort between the CIA and the FBI’s director J. Edgar Hoover.
Then there was the guy who said Jack Ruby was much more involved then I ever heard from anywhere else, even helped plot the assassination. Oh, why did the car’s driver, Bill Greer, slow down after he heard shots instead of speeding up? Maybe he was in on it too. Also, they all seem to agree that every single important mobster on the planet was in Dallas on that day. Then there’s George H.W Bush (or “Daddy Bush” as I call him) who was in Dallas and could have ordered the murder. Hmmm. MAYBE THEY WERE ALL IN ON IT? Yes, the mafia, CIA, FBI, Oswald, Tippet, Hoover, Ladybird Johnson, Lyndon Johnson, Jackie Kennedy, Joseph Kennedy, Files, Bush, and even aliens! Yeah, maybe them too.
My favorite quote may be, “Them people up in that Sixth Floor Museum won’t tell you nothing!”. Actually, there are a good two or three display boards devoted to the possibility of a conspiracy. One explains the Select Committee’s formation and decision of a probable conspiracy in the 70’s, and another lists all the popular conspiracy scenarios. Its a lot more than I ever expected to see on that subject within that building. So, the loons are wrong there. I can perfectly understand from a business and historiography standpoint why they cannot acknowledge a conspiracy. Even though the air of secrecy is strange, it just doesn’t work that way.
The one thing I did find interesting, though, was that the famous window is enclosed in glass and is nearly covered with school book boxes so that you can hardly see where Oswald allegedly fired the shots, and certainly cannot see the view he would have had. No pictures were permitted. The window on the floor above which you are allowed to stand near and photograph makes you wonder about that gigantic tree in front of the building, and how it would appear to be blocking the view of the sixth floor window. Maybe that is a sliver of admission there? Maybe they don’t want you to be able to look out the window and put two and two together? Or maybe they just want to avoid such questions entirely? But who really knows?
Case in point: all we know is that we know nothing. Conspiracy theories are fun and I enjoy researching them. Again, I believe there was one here, but given people’s inability to keep their mouths shut, some grand web and scenario would likely not have been possible. Would I believe in a team of three or four hit-men? Sure, but give me some proof. Answer my questions. The internet is a wonderful thing, but in an age of Photoshop and misinformation, its damn near useless for researching this stuff unless you can get something proved to be authentic from multiple sources. I had hoped a visit to Dealey Plaza would help, but it didn’t.
Anyway, if you live in Dallas and you’re looking for a quick buck, you might as well get in on all the fun and start hawking your stuff. The line between legal and illegal is a little fuzzy, but the hordes of crazies don’t seem to be deterred. Hell, getting arrested might even help to further your cause because it makes it seem like you are threatening the status quo and adding to the whole cover-up feel. Too bad its all just a bunch of malarkey.