The Grassy Knoll

Conspiracy Theory Hallowed Ground 

When the fatal head shot was fired at President Kennedy, there was a slight grassy incline to the front-right of the Presidential limousine on Elm street. At the top of this small hill was a picket fence under a canopy of shady trees. When the President was hit and the motorcade sped down Elm towards the triple underpass, a number of witnesses and a Dallas motorcycle police officer ran across the street and up the incline to investigate. Although no gunman was found at the top of the hill and subsequent investigations concluded that all the shots were fired from the Book Depository behind the President, theories have persisted that the fatal head shot came from behind the picket fence. This area of Dealey plaza has become known as the “Grassy Knoll” and a variety of conspiracy theories center around just what happened behind that picket fence. In fact, the Grassy Knoll has become one of the most infamous cultural touchstones in American culture with countless books, television programs and films speculating as to who was behind that fence and what they were doing.

Jean Hill

Jean Hill had a clear view of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy as his presidential limousine cruised down Elm Street. Across the road, local dressmaker Abraham Zapruder films the route of Kennedy’s limo, and Hill can be seen in the background of his framing. Around frame 313 of Zapruder’s footage, a mortal head shot blasted apart the President’s skull, sending a terrifying spray of blood into the air, onto celluloid, and into history.

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The “Last Dissenting Witness”

Jean Hill, one of the most visible, and perhaps the most famous eyewitness of the Kennedy Assassination has said many things over the years about what she saw that day. In a TV interview shortly after the assassination she noted “I didn’t see any person fire the weapon.”  In her sworn deposition later that day she claims to have seen “some men in plain clothes shooting back but everything was such a blur.” In this same statement she mentions hearing five to six shots fired. Testifying before the Warren Commission, the government sponsored body which eventually concluded that three shots were fired at Kennedy from the sixth floor of the nearby Texas School Book Depository, she states “I frankly thought they [the shots] were coming from the knoll.”

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This discrepancy between her testimony and the Commission’s conclusions concerning the origin and number of shots fired at Kennedy have caused Jean Hill to be known as the “last dissenting witness” of the assassination. This dissenting testimony has been used as the basis for the countless theories which contend Kennedy was killed by conspirators rather than a lone gunman firing from the depository. Other eyewitness testimony corroborates fairly conclusively that someone was firing from sixth floor of the depository, and various independent and government-sponsored research teams have concluded that only three shots could have been fired from the depository during the 5.6 second timeframe of shots established by the Zapruder film. Conspiracy theorists therefore posit that if Hill’s testimony is also accurate, there must have been at least two shooters, and by the most basic definition a conspiracy. Over the years, Hill seems to have subscribed to this theory. In subsequent interviews she definitively states to have seen this second gunman on the knoll, which clearly contradicts her original statement that she “didn’t see any person fire the weapon.” In a feat of circular logic, Hill has made statements which have been used to form widely-believed theories, which in turn Hill has confirmed to be what she saw. Since this is a dubious and contradictory assertion, it can be most accurately described as what she believes to have seen.

Should we therefore regard the testimony of Jean Hill as that of a lucid, first-hand witness, or did what she came to believe about the assassination inform what she eventually claimed? Did Hill simply get caught up in her place in history?

Badge Man

Some  ear-witnesses claim to have heard shots coming from a location other than the book depository. This has led many to believe that another shot might have been fired from the Grassy Knoll, an incline to the right front of the fatal headshot.

The above picture was taken by Mary Moorman moments before the fatal head shot. See any shooters on the knoll? Me neither. But someone played “Magic Eye” with the photo and stared long and hard until they made out this blurry image, known as Badge Man.

To some, it looks like a police officer firing a rifle. The image was sharpened and creatively colorized to produce the shocking effect below.

An interesting part of the assassination lore, but is this a case of someone staring hard enough until they finally saw what they wanted to see?

The infamous grassy knoll has become a tourist attraction.

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