Michael T. Griffith: Evidence of Alteration in the Zapruder film
June 19, 2015
The following is a summary of Griffith’s key points in his 1997 essay.
GRIFFITH’S KEY POINTS
What follows are some of the indications that the Zapruder film has been altered. By “altered” I mean that certain frames have been removed and that others are composites. Why was the film altered? To remove episodes and images that clearly showed there were more than three shots (at least one from the front) and therefore that there were multiple gunmen involved in the shooting.
The Limo Stop
* Numerous witnesses, over 40, including the escort patrolmen to the rear of the limousine, said the limousine stopped or slowed down drastically for a second or two. This event is not seen in the Zapruder film; in fact, the limousine never comes close to performing this action in the current film.
* In Z353-356 we see Malcolm Summers diving to the ground. Summers is to the right of James Altgens. In Z353 Summers’ left leg is extended most of the way out. But, in the very next frame, Z354, amazingly, the foreleg is bent markedly backward. Can anyone flex their foreleg to that degree so quickly? In 1/18th of a second?
* Another seemingly impossible action in the Zapruder film is the extremely rapid and precise movement of Charles Brehm’s son in Z277-287. In Z277 Brehm junior is standing behind his father. Then, from Z277-287, or in just over half a second, he bolts out from behind his father and comes to stand beside him, clapping his hands no less.
* Several witnesses said Kennedy was knocked visibly forward by a shot to the head, and Dan Rather reported seeing this event when he viewed the film the day after the shooting. No such motion of the head is now visible in the film, only the split-second forward movement from Z312-313, which no one could have noticed.
* Former FBI official and J. Edgar Hoover aide Cartha DeLoach recently provided further evidence of alteration in the Zapruder film (albeit unintentionally and unknowingly, I’m sure). DeLoach recalls in his book HOOVER’S FBI that he watched the Zapruder film at FBI HQ the day after the shooting and that he saw Kennedy “PITCHING SUDDENLY FORWARD” in the film. No such motion, of course, is seen in the current film.
* Special Agent George Hickey, riding in the follow-up car, said the final shot made Kennedy “fall forward and to his left.”
* William Newman, who was standing on the Elm Street sidewalk right in front of the grassy knoll and who had one of the best views of the shooting, tried to tell New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison that JFK was knocked forward and to the left as if struck by a baseball bat, but Garrison wouldn’t believe him because the event wasn’t in the film.
I believe the above is good evidence that the original Zapruder film showed Kennedy being knocked rapidly forward. How do defenders of the film’s authenticity explain this testimony?
The head snap
*The violent, dramatic backward head snap in Z313-323, which for so many years was thought to be concrete proof of a shot from the front, actually constitutes further evidence of alteration. It has been established that no bullet striking the front of the skull could have caused the backward head snap. However, no bullet striking from behind could have caused this motion either. Warren Commission supporters have put forth two theories to explain how a bullet striking from behind might have caused the head snap, the jet-effect theory and the neuromuscular-reaction theory. Both theories are untenable.
So if neither a bullet from the front nor a bullet from behind could have caused the head snap, what caused it? So how can we explain it? Dr. David Mantik, who holds a doctorate in physics, suggests that what we now see as the head snap was originally a much slower motion and was actually the action of Jackie lifting her husband back up to look at him.
* Seemingly impossible inconsistencies occur in the streaking of background figures in relation to the camera’s movement. Mathematician Daryll Weatherly’s vector analysis of image streaking constitutes powerful evidence of alteration in the Zapruder film.
* A white spot on the grass behind the limousine is seen to behave in an unnatural manner. When the spot’s width is measured in relation to the camera’s tracking, the spot should be at its smallest when the image is at the left edge of the frame. But it doesn’t do this. On some occasions, the spot’s width is two to three times what it should be.
* The head turn of the driver, William Greer, from Z315-317 is too fast–it seems to be well beyond human capability. His head turns about 165 degrees in six frames, or in only 1/3rd of a second.
Blood and brain splatter to the left rear
* At least four witnesses saw blood and brain from Kennedy’s skull blow out toward the rear of the limousine. Blood and brain splattered onto the left side of the follow-up car’s windshield and onto the driver’s arm. A considerable amount of blood and brain also splattered onto the two patrolmen who were riding to the limousine’s left rear. At least one of those witnesses specified that the brain matter blew out from the back of the skull, and dozens of witnesses, including doctors and nurses, saw a large hole in the right rear part of President Kennedy’s head. In the Zapruder film no blood or brain is seen to spray backward. (It cannot be said that the right frontal explosion of blood and brain, which is itself suspect, caused all the blood splattering. In the Zapruder film the right-frontal spray blows mainly forward, and also up and toward the camera, and quickly dissipates–in fact it dissipates in no more than three frames. This effusion of spray could not have caused all of the blood splattering that occurred.)
Right-rear head exit wound
*Kinney’s description of a large, blown-out right-rear exit wound matches the reports given by numerous Parkland doctors and nurses and by several witnesses at the autopsy. Also, his account of particulate matter exploding out the back of the skull and landing on his windshield and left arm agrees with Patrolman Bobby Hargis’s report that the head shot sent blood and brain flying toward him so fast that when it struck him he initially thought he himself had been hit and that the debris got all over his motorcycle and uniform (in an interview he gave a few years ago, Hargis described the head shot as an “explosion”). Hargis, of course, was riding to the left rear of the limousine.
*Another example is the account of surveyor Chester Breneman, who was allowed to study enlargements of Zapruder frames to aid him in determining locations and distances. Breneman insisted that on some of the frames he saw a blob of blood and brain blow out from the back of Kennedy’s head. No such event is visible on the current film. (As mentioned, some witnesses in the plaza likewise saw blood and brain blown backward.)
One frame right-frontal explosion
* The bloody spray from the right-frontal explosion that is seen in the film blows upward, forward, and also toward the camera, and is really clearly visible for only one frame, and dissipates in two to three frames–or in no more than 1/6th of a second. Yet, in films of two ballistics tests the resulting spray is visible for multiple frames. In other words, the right-frontal effusion in the Zapruder film seems to disappear too quickly, with unnatural speed.
* There is a “remarkably symmetric” plus sign at the center of Elm Street in Z028 (Z28). This might have been used as a register mark for aligning the film when it was being copied by those who altered the film.
* There are magnification anomalies in the film for which there appears to be no credible natural or innocent explanation. One clear example of this is the measured width between the two posts on the back side of the Stemmons Freeway sign from Z312-318. This distance increases by over 12 percent in only six frames. Yet, from Z191-207 the interval remains constant.
Location of start of film
*Abraham Zapruder told CBS News that he began filming as soon as the President’s limousine turned onto Elm Street from Houston Street, as one would logically expect him to have done. But the present Zapruder film begins with the limousine already on Elm Street at Z133. On the day after the assassination, Dan Rather of CBS News watched what was quite possibly an earlier version of the film. Rather reported that in the film he watched that day the limousine “made a turn, a left turn, off Houston Street onto Elm Street.” Again, no such event is now seen in the film.
Why forge the rapid head snap?
Before I conclude, I would like to address two questions that have been raised by those who deny alteration: Why would the forgers, who were presumably trying to conceal or remove evidence of multiple gunmen and of shots from the front, produce an altered film that included the rapid backward head snap seen in the current film? And, why would the forgers have produced a film that contained indications of more than three shots? My answer to both of these objections is twofold:
One, they do not explain the evidence of alteration. If there is scientific proof of alteration, then these philosophical objections must be rejected.
Two, I do not believe the forgers were at all satisfied with the results of their tampering. I think they had to create the backward head snap because they had to remove images that were even more unacceptable and problematic.
We must keep in mind that the Zapruder film was suppressed from public view for over a decade. In short, I believe the forgers concluded that even after all of their editing the film was still unacceptable, and that this is why the film was suppressed for so long.
A strong case can now be made for extensive editing of the Zapruder film. In fact, the conclusion seems inescapable–the film was deliberately altered. No other explanation is in the same league, in terms of explanatory power, for the myriad of anomalous characteristics that are seen everywhere in this case. Many frames were excised, some individual frames were extensively altered, others were changed only enough to fill in for missing frames, and others were left alone. . . .
Too many anomalies to dismiss
Even if some of the apparent technical anomalies in the Zapruder film can be explained, strong indications of tampering would still remain. To put it another way, if opponents of alteration are able to explain the absence of background streaking in certain frames, the magnification anomalies, the odd behavior of the white spot, and other seeming difficulties, would this establish the film’s authenticity? No.
Do we dismiss..
1-the witnesses who reported the limousine stopped or slowed drastically?
2-the witnesses who saw blood and brain blown visibly to the rear?
3-the fact that the backward head snap is physically impossible according to everything we know about physics and the human body?
4-the fact that Zapruder said he filmed the motorcade from the time it turned onto Elm Street?
5-the fact that Brehm’s son is positioned behind his father one moment but half a second later is standing calmly clapping at his side?
6-the fact that the 12/5/63 Secret Service survey placed the last shot at Z358 and that this placement matches the testimony of Emmett Hudson and James Altgens regarding the explosive head shot?
The numerous indications of alteration in the Zapruder film naturally raise some disturbing questions. The answer to the question of why the film was altered is fairly apparent–to conceal obvious evidence of a frontal shot, of multiple gunmen, and of more than three hits. But, who performed the alteration? Whoever they were, they were very well connected (so as to gain access to the film) and had at their disposal considerable technical expertise. It would seem self-evident that those who altered the Zapruder film were either working with or following orders from the men who were responsible for the assassination of President Kennedy.
Doug Horne (Chief ARRB Analyst for Military Records)
The following post contains a link to an essay by Doug Horne and to a video on the Z-film chain of custody.
Horne interviews Dino Brugioni (a photo interpretation expert) who viewed the original Zapruder film on the weekend following the assassination. http://assassinationofjfk.net/the-two-npic-zapruder-film-events-signposts-pointing-to-the-films-alteration/
“As discussed earlier in this paper, Dino Brugioni opined during his July 9, 2011 interview with the author that the head explosion seen today in the extant Zapruder film is markedly different from what he saw on 11/23/63, when he worked with what he is certain was the camera-original film. The head explosion he recalls was much bigger than the one seen today in frame 313 of the extant film (going “three or four feet into the air”); was a “white cloud” that did not exhibit any of the pink or red color seen in frame 313 today; and was of such a duration that he is quite sure that in the film he viewed in 1963, there were many more frames than just one graphically depicting the fatal head shot on the film he viewed in 1963. Mr. Brugioni cannot, and does not, accept frame 313 of the extant Zapruder film as an accurate or complete representation of the fatal head shot he saw in the camera-original Zapruder film on the Saturday evening following President Kennedy’s assassination”.