By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
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By Kyle Swenson
Over the years, the experts have enlarged and analyzed pictures of scads of mystery figures who show up in photos and films taken November 22. Some have dropped off the charts. You don't hear much about Black-Dog Man any more - a shadowy, canine-looking "blob" who in a couple of photos appears on a concrete wall midway up the grassy knoll - but he was a star during the House Select days. The bigger fish now are Umbrella Man, the Accomplice, Badge Man, and Hard-Hat Man. U.M. is a slender white male who is seen pumping a black umbrella while JFK's limo glides into the killing zone. The Accomplice is a dark companion who looks to be holding a walkie-talkie. Dallas insurance salesman Louis Witt told the House committee he was the U.M., but among the many critics who don't believe him, three theories compete. Buff Gary Shaw, of Cleburne, Texas, has said U.M. was mocking JFK for failing to authorize an umbrella of air support at the Bay of Pigs. Others say he provided coordinating signals for scattered gunmen. The boldest theory is by Robert Cutler. He argues in his self-published monograph, The Day of the Umbrella Man (1980), that U.M. held a spy umbrella, which fired darts tipped with a toxin that paralyzed JFK for the head shot.
Badge Man shows up in extreme blowups of a famous Polaroid shot taken by Mary Moorman just as JFK was fatally hit. Since 1983, Fort Worth researchers Gary Mack and Jack White have said that it shows a man in a Dallas policeman's uniform firing a rifle from a locale behind the stockade fence. Beside him is a man in a hard hat, and in the foreground is a figure who appears to be (at least in the colorized version) a soldier taking a home movie. This fits the account of Gordon Arnold, who came forward a few years back and admitted he was there that day, in uniform, with a movie camera. He says a shot whistled past him, and that a Pushy Man confiscated his film. Mack and White say the Badge Man image will soon benefit from state-of-the-art computer enhancement by a top group of experts in Europe, whom they aren't at liberty to name at the moment.
Mack's and White's archfoe, Larry Howard, of the Dallas JFK Assassination Information Center (Stone retained the center with a $80,000 consulting fee), says the theory is bogus: Badge Man's line of fire would be blocked by the low concrete wall. Mack and his ally, Dave Perry, are getting in licks of their own, with an attack on Howard's pet theory, the Ricky White story. At a press conference last August, the JFK AIC introduced its candidate for the stockade rifleman, Roscoe White, a deceased Dallas policeman who served in the Marines with Oswald. His son, Ricky, said he found a diary in which his father confessed, "I was Mandarin, the man behind the stockade fence who fired two shots." This story has caused a huge rupture in the research community. Among other problems, Ricky doesn't have the diary any more (he claims the FBI stole it). Perry is about to publish a hot debunking in The Third Decade, a journal of assass-buff opinion published at Fredonia State College in New York state.
Also still rumbling around: The Babushka Lady and Three Tramps. B.L. is the zaftig woman who shows up in photos, clearly shooting a home movie that would have showed the TSBD, the grassy knoll, and the fatal shot. Beverly Oliver, a born-again Christian once married to a Dallas hood, claimed several years ago that she was the B.L. She said the FBI snatched her film. Many researchers don't believe her, including young-turk Canadian Sheldon Inkol, who points to her claim that she used a Super-8 Yashica camera. "Those weren't publicly available until years later," Inkol scoffs.
The Tramps are three hobos or winos, captured either shortly after or 90 minutes after the shooting (it depends on who's talking) in a railroad yard. The problem is that they don't look hobo enough - they have hobo clothes, but nice haircuts and passable shaves. Buffologists' attempts to ID two of the tramps as E. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis have been refuted. Shaw is working on a book that will "definitively" identify the short tramp. Weisberg considers the Tramps one of the lamest "mysteries" of the case.
"They were winos pure and simple," he snorts.
Many GOP-haters still say Nixon's the one, with help from Ford and Bush. This theme was bigger in the Seventies, of course, but lately it's been making a comeback. An enthusiast discussed it last summer in The Realist, and High Times ran with it this past fall. The theory relies on weird connect-the-dots associations and a nagging suspicion that Nixon somehow still controls everything. (An often-cited source is H.R. Haldeman's The Ends of Power, which reveals that Bay of Pigs was Nixon's code phrase for the JFK assassination.) A few theorists even think Dan Rather knows more than he's saying. This dates back to the Day Of, when Rather, then working for CBS in Texas, went on the air and wrongly reported that the Zapruder film showed JFK's head move forward at the moment of impact. The September 1990 issue of the Third Decade had a piece called "Dan Rather in Dallas," which brooded on key discrepancies in The Camera Never Blinks, Dan's autobiography, and his known movements during the assassination weekend.