With Friday marking the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination, we take a look back at 30 conspiracy theories linked to that fateful day in Dallas.
The CIA: Conspiracy theorists believe there were such strong disagreements between the President and the agency, that it could have been involved in his assassination—even though President Kennedy’s brother Robert (then the U.S. Attorney General) had authority over the CIA. Sources say that among other things, JFK didn’t agree with the CIA’s policy of assassinating foreign leaders, such as Vietnam’s President Diem. But the CIA has staunchly denied the theory.
The Mafia: This theory holds that the Mafia was angry with JFK’s brother, U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, for his aggressive investigation into organized crime. So as payback, they killed the President. The idea also holds weight because Jack Ruby, who shot the President’s assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, had known Mob connections. Early in 2013, RFK’s son, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., told interviewer Charlie Rose that a conspiracy of mobsters, and not a lone gunman, probably killed the President. According to him, his father had also questioned the accuracy of the Warren Commission report about the assassination – which concluded Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, had done the deed.
George Bush Sr.
George Bush Sr.: In one of the more far-fetched recent theories, some believe former President George Bush Sr. was part of a plot to kill JFK using his connections with the CIA and the Mafia! Part of the alleged evidence is a November 23, 1963 memo from FBI director Edgar Hoover, revealing that a “George Bush,” a CIA officer, reported on Cuban exiles’ reaction to Kennedy’s death. But Bush claimed this wasn’t him but another agent, also named Bush. Some say Bush Sr.—who later became our 41st President, was also in Dallas on the day of the assassination. Bush hasn’t commented on the stories.
Jack Ruby: It’s popular to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald’s own assassin was involved with (or without) him in a conspiracy to kill the President. After all, why was Dallas nightclub owner Ruby be exactly in the right place at the right time to kill Oswald? Ruby’s murder of Oswald denied the accused assassin a trial and meant Americans were left with more questions than answers about JFK’s death. But there is still no convincing evidence Oswald was killed to be muzzled. Before his 1967 death, Ruby said he wasn’t part of any conspiracy to kill Kennedy and he acted alone in an impulsive act in killing Oswald.
Anti-Castro Cuban Exile Groups
Anti-Castro Cuban Exile Groups: Anthony Summers’ book The Kennedy Conspiracy purported to show how a group of Anti-Castro activists, funded by Mafia mobsters who had been kicked out of Cuba, might have assassinated the President. The author’s findings followed the 1976 House Select Committee on Assassinations’ conclusion that "individuals active in anti-Castro activities had the motive, means, and opportunity to assassinate President Kennedy.” Also, an unsubstantiated report held that Lee Harvey Oswald had met with a group of anti-Castro Cubans before the assassination.
Military-Industrial Complex: According to Oliver Stone’s hit 1991 movie, JFK, the military-Industrial complex within the United States instigated President Kennedy’s assassination mostly because he was threatening to withdraw U.S. military and financial support for South Vietnam, panicking owners of armaments and construction companies who would not get their profits, and capitalist ideologues who feared losing influence in the world. But critics charged that Stone bent the facts to suit his storyline.
Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson
Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson: Incredibly, the idea that JFK’s VP might have knocked him off to claim the presidency himself is one of the most widely believed conspiracy theories of all. According to those in favor of this one, tycoons allegedly paid for the assassination because Johnson’s policies would benefit them. Madeleine Brown, who claimed she was Johnson’s mistress, contends there was a conspiracy involving LBJ and several Texas oil men to murder Kennedy. Former Richard Nixon aide Roger Stone recently also implied Johnson could have been behind the assassination as he had allegedly micro-managed Kennedy’s route through Dealey Plaza.
UFOS: In one of the most off the wall theories, conspiracy junkies think President Kennedy was assassinated for showing too much interest in alien activity. A letter written by Kennedy to the head of the CIA ten days before his assassination showed that the president demanded to be shown highly confidential documents about UFOs. Was the president shot to stop him from discovering the truth about UFOs? Alien researchers say yes!
Cuban President Fidel Castro
Cuban President Fidel Castro: For years, rumors have swirled that Castro was involved in a plot to kill Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs debacle and Cuban Missile Crisis made the President and the Cuban dictator bitter enemies. A 2006 German documentary, for one, sought to prove Lee Harvey Oswald killed President Kennedy on behalf of Castro -- and that the Soviet Union’s KGB recommended Oswald to Havana as the man for the job.
J. Edgar Hoover
J. Edgar Hoover: According to some conspiracy theorists, hardnosed FBI director Hoover was enmeshed in a plot to kill Kennedy, either helping organizing the assassination or knowing about it ahead of time and doing nothing to stop it. In his book Act of Treason, Mark North wrote that out of his hatred for Kennedy, Hoover told no one about a plot masterminded by Louisiana Mafia chieftain Carlos Marcello to kill the President. Another version of the story has it that Hoover gave the orders to a CIA-led hit team, and helped guide the Warren Commission to its lone gunman conclusion.
The KGB: The Soviet Union’s secret police hated Kennedy after the humiliating conclusion of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, but did it lead them to murder the U.S. President? Some believe Lee Harvey Oswald was recruited by the KGB, as he lived in Russia for a time, married a Soviet woman, and made contact with Soviet diplomats. Some researchers also believe that the KGB was responsible for the death of one of JFK’s alleged mistresses, Mary Pinchot Meyer, who may have been able to expose their role in the assassination.
Israel: Israel’s motive for eliminating JFK was allegedly their anger over the President’s refusal to allow them to build nuclear weapons. And according to theorists, Israel’s then prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, disliked President Kennedy’s father, Joe, believing him to be an anti-Semite who favored Hitler during the ‘30s and ‘40s (when Joe served as U.S. Ambassador to England). In addition, ex-Israeli spy Mordechai Vanunu has said that Israel was behind the assassination.
Gay Thrill Kill: According to former New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, homosexual deviants, including pilot David Ferrie, plotted the President’s death for the fun of it. “It was a homosexual thrill-killing, plus the excitement of getting away with a perfect crime,” said Garrison. “John Kennedy was everything that Dave Ferrie was not – a successful, handsome, popular, wealthy, virile man. You can just picture the charge Ferrie got out of plotting his death."
Richard Nixon: Some conspiracy theorists think it’s fishy that the future president and Kennedy political foe was in Dallas on the day of the assassination. Nixon himself didn’t help matters later by being evasive about his Dallas trip, in which he’d met with right-wingers and executives from the Pepsi-Cola company and given an anti-Kennedy interview to the Dallas Morning News. Recently, former Nixon aide Roger Stone added to the questions about his former boss by claiming Nixon and Lyndon Baines Johnson had a documented relationship with Jack Ruby, Lee Harvey Oswald’s killer, years before Ruby shot Oswald at Dallas police headquarters.
John Birch Society
John Birch Society: Harry Dean, an undercover agent for the FBI, alleged that he infiltrated the right wing John Birch Society in 1962—and that the group had hired two gunmen, Eladio del Valle and Loran Hall, to kill President Kennedy. According to this theory, members felt Kennedy was too lax regarding the Communist threat and wanted to kill him so that Johnson, who was John Birch Society approved, would take over.
The Driver: Even the limo driver has come under suspicion when it comes to the Kennedy assassination! This wild theory would have you believe that William Greer, the Secret Service agent driving the limousine carrying President Kennedy, the First Lady, the Governor of Texas, the Governor’s wife, and another Secret Service agent, simply turned around and shot JFK in the head. The believers claim that in the famous Zapruder film of the assassination, you can see Greer shoot Kennedy. However, skeptics say all that can be seen is sunlight reflecting off the hair of the other Secret Service agent.
The Umbrella Man
The Umbrella Man: Conspiracy theorists have gone wild ever since they found out JFK’s limo passed by a man who opened a black umbrella on the sunny November 22, 1963 day. They assert the mysterious man shot Kennedy with poison darts – or, he used the umbrella to signal other gunmen to carry out the assassination. In 1978, however, Louie Steven Witt came forward and claimed he was the umbrella man—and he’d wielded it to make a statement against Kennedy, whose father supported Nazi appeaser (and black umbrella fan) Neville Chamberlain before World War II.
The Motorcade: Author Bonar Menninger wrote in his 1992 book Mortal Error: The Shot That Killed JFK about marksman Howard Donahue’s theory that Secret Service agent George Hickey, who was riding in the motorcade behind the President’s limo, accidentally fired his gun, shooting Kennedy. But Hickey sued the book’s publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for libel and later settled on undisclosed terms.
Joe DiMaggio: One of the more colorful assassination theories is that the late baseball icon Joe DiMaggio killed Kennedy because the President was responsible for the death of his ex-wife. Believers point to DiMaggio’s ability as a duck hunter and his obsessive love for movie star Monroe, whose death has also raised questions.
Jackie Kennedy: It sounds crazy, but there are proponents of the idea that the First Lady killed the President because he cheated on her – or because she wanted to eliminate him in order to marry billionaire Aristotle Onassis. Some say Jackie could have concealed a gun in her bouquet of flowers. And on the web site jackiekilledjfk.webs.com, one intrepid theorist writes that the First Lady’s odd behavior in the limo as well as the trajectory of the bullets implicate her.
The Three Tramps
The Three Tramps: Soon after the assassination, the police arrested three tramps in the railway yard behind Dealey Plaza, not far from where President Kennedy was shot. After photos circulated of the men, conspiracy theorists claimed they were CIA operatives or criminals who killed Kennedy. Oliver Stone’ movie JFK featured this theory. Even though a journalist proved that the men really WERE three vagrants, this theory dies hard. It is also untrue that one of the men was Woody Harrelson’s father Charles Harrelson, who killed a federal judge.
Storm Drain Shooter
Storm Drain Shooter: According to Tony Gambino of the New York Gambino crime family, the JFK assassin somehow hid in a storm drain in Dallas to shoot the President and make a getaway. Ballistics researchers have embraced this idea, believing the trajectory of the fatal bullet could ONLY have been fired from a storm drain in front of the Presidential motorcade.
Black Dog Man
Black Dog Man: Various theories involve assassins hiding out in the so-called “Grassy Knoll” area up a hill above Kennedy’s motorcade route. A grainy Polaroid photo taken after Kennedy was shot shows what appears to be a human shape that looks like a canine and has thus been dubbed “Black Dog Man.” Theorists are convinced it shows one of JFK’s assassins
Badge Man: Another supposed grassy knoll shooter has been called “Badge Man” because a Polaroid photo allegedly shows a uniformed man who has just fired a gun, leaving a puff of smoke in the air. Some think it’s a Dallas police officer who shot Kennedy. But after careful analysis of the photo, an assassination researcher says even if it is a real man, the firing position would have been impossible to kill Kennedy.
Sandy-Haired Man: According to another theory, a sandy-haired man can be seen in a picture taken of the opposite end of the Texas School Book Depository from where Lee Harvey Oswald was located. Some think this alleged man could have been a second assassin, but other than that, there’s little to support this idea.
Decoy Hearse and Wound Aleration: Author David Lifton’s 1981 bestseller Best Evidence: Disguise and Deception in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy promotes the scenario that conspirators on Air Force One removed the President’s body from its original casket and put it in a different one. Kennedy’s body was then secretly smuggled away from Air Force One after it landed in Washington—and the corpse surgically altered to make it seem he was shot from behind. But others argue it would have been impossible for JFK’s body to be spirited away from the well-lit airfield.
Coca Cola: According to a bizarre theory from the editor of an organic gardening magazine, Lee Harvey Oswald did indeed kill Kennedy. However, the reason was that Oswald had an addiction to refined sugar. The evidence? He needed to drink a bottle of Coca Cola after the assassination!
Edwin Walker: The U.S. General narrowly avoided being killed on April 10, 1963 when an unknown gunman shot at his Dallas home. The attack was later assumed to be Lee Harvey Oswald’s dress rehearsal for the Kennedy assassination. But in the 2002 book The Kennedy Mutiny, author Will Fritz makes the unbelievable claim that Walker planned the JFK killing and then framed Oswald for the crime.
Roscoe White: In 1990, Ricky White, the son of the late Dallas policeman Roscoe White, came forward and claimed his father was involved in murdering JFK; he was backed up by his widowed mother who said White left a diary saying he was one of the snipers. Author Matthew Smith detailed the story in his 2002 book JFK: The Second Plot.
Triple Underpass Shooter
Triple Underpass Shooter: In another vague theory that has little evidence to support it, many believe a frontal shot that hit JFK came from atop the triple underpass past Dealey Plaza. The trouble with the underpass theory is that two Dallas policemen and some railroad workers had been up there to watch the Presidential motorcade and yet no one saw this suspected shooter.