Another intriguing character in Dealey Plaza at the time of the assassination of President Kennedy was the Babushka Lady, so called because of the babushka-like head scarf she’s seen wearing. In multiple photos, she seems to be holding a camera to her face. Who is she? No one has credibly come forward to identify herself as the mysterious woman. There’s Beverly Oliver, a former nightclub dancer who claims she was there, but her story’s got some problems to say the least. Who was the real Babushka lady? Did she take another photo or film of the assassination that provides the missing puzzle piece solving the mystery of the Kennedy assassination? If so, does the film still exist or was it destroyed? Whether her film proved conspiracy or not, Babushka lady must have certainly believed it did, and that’s probably why she never came forward. Would you have?
For seven years after the assassination, no individuals came forward claiming to be the mysterious woman in the head-scarf. Researcher Gary Mack† testified before the Assassination Records Review Board that a brunette woman in her early thirties came into the Dallas Kodak office with a roll of film that she claimed had a photograph of the assassination. However, when the photo was developed it was supposedly so blurry that no valuable information could be gleaned from it. Mack claims that he was given this information by an executive from Kodak. If this version of the story is true, perhaps the Babushka lady simply did not feel as though she had any useful information or photographs to provide the authorities and therefore felt no need to come forward. If this is the case, the legendary Babushka lady may simply be another example of an innocent action that has taken on a mysterious allure due to the heightened circumstances of the Kennedy assassination.
The tale of the Babushka lady took an interesting turn in 1970 when a woman named Beverly Oliver stepped forward and announced that she was the Babushka lady. Oliver was a local performer who claims that she filmed the assassination with a Super-8 Zoom camera but the film was confiscated by members of the FBI whom she claims were part of a conspiracy or cover-up related to the President’s murder. According to her story, she refrained from coming forward for fear of her own safety. Since opening up about this experience, Oliver has appeared in several documentaries and even written her own book on the subject. Oliver herself is a deeply patriotic woman of faith and seems earnestly dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Kennedy assassination. However, there are several problems with her story that make it difficult to accept her claims.
First of all, the camera she claims to have used to photographic the assassination was not invented in 1963. The Super-8 Zoom camera would not hit the market until four years later in 1967. Additionally, Beverly Oliver was only 17-years-old in 1963 which is inconsistent with the description of the Babushka lady from the Kodak executive as well as the woman’s appearance in the photographic record. The Kodak employee described a woman in her 30s, not a teenager. The images of the Babushka lady at the time of the shooting and in the frenzy that ensued after the shots were fired depict a woman that is older and stockier than Oliver was at the time. Also, the man Oliver identified as the FBI agent who strong-armed her into giving up her film of the assassination was actually in New Orleans at the time she claims the encounter took place.
Did Beverly Oliver simply mix up some of the details of a real experience or was the whole story fabricated to achieve some form of modest celebrity in the JFK research sphere? Many conspiracy theorists and conspiracy debunkers seem to dismiss Oliver’s story but she remains a prominent and respected figure in some circles.
† Gary Mack is a unique figure in the assassination research community. He began his research career as a conspiracy theorist, popularizing the theory that an assassin disguised as a police officer fired at Kennedy from the Grassy Knoll. He now promotes the official version of the assassination in his role as curator of the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas. Mack has expressed that he does still harbor some doubts about the lone gunman interpretation of the assassination.