But what are we to think when the core logic of a work is based on factual errors, tendentious interpretations, and wild speculation? That's the case with Ray and Mary La Fontaines' book Oswald Talked. The following are twelve central theses of the book: the building blocks on which the La Fontaines erect their conspiracy theory.
Authors' justification: (1) FBI agent Jim Hosty reopened the FBI's investigation of Oswald as a "security risk or potentially dangerous or violent"(2) individual on March 11, 1963, the day before Oswald ordered his Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, and (2) well, uh, it's just kind of weird that a potential assassin would order a gun through the mail, thus establishing a paper trail(3) -- therefore Hosty must have directed Oswald to do it.(4)
Problem: Oswald had also ordered a pistol through the mail two months earlier.(5) What evil government agent was behind that one?
Authors' justification: Former FBI employee William S. Walter claims that Lee Harvey Oswald was the FBI informant behind the seizure of an arms cache reportedly belonging to the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (DRE) on July 31, 1963, in New Orleans.(7)
Problem: The FBI informant behind the seizure of the arms cache (whose name is still classified) was a Cuban exile pilot and businessman reporting to the FBI in Miami, not New Orleans.(8) Walter has made other claims, none of which have ever checked out.(9)
Evidence: None. There is no evidence that Oswald was an FBI informant, there was no DRE organization in New Orleans to be infiltrated, there is no evidence that Oswald infiltrated any gunrunning operation of Guy Banister's, there is no evidence that Guy Banister was a gunrunner in the first place, and there is no evidence that Guy Banister himself had any association whatsoever with the DRE.(12)
Authors' justification: Speculation that Oswald was collaborating with the DRE through the organization's lone New Orleans member, Carlos Bringuier,(13) and was "linked" to Guy Banister through an office at 544 Camp Street, purportedly Banister's work address.(14)
Problems: (1) There is no evidence whatsoever of an Oswald-Bringuier collaboration. (2) The only witness who says that Oswald had an office at 544 Camp is a complete lunatic who changes her story frequently when she's not claiming to be "one of the very few, since the beginning of the world, who has ever read the sacred scrolls that God himself wrote and gave to the ancient Hebrews for placing in the Ark of the Covenant," possibly "the last person to see them." (3) 544 Camp Street was not Guy Banister's address, regardless of what one can read in hundreds of books; Jim Garrison simply made that up.(15) (4) No evidence exists that Carlos Bringuier and Guy Banister ever associated with one another.(16)
Authors' justification: According to an FBI report of November 29, 1963, Lucille Connell, an estranged friend of Silvia Odio, stated that Odio had spoken of having encountered Oswald more than once at anti-Castro Cuban exile meetings.(18) In addition to this, the authors speculate that Silvia Odio worked with the DRE.(19)
Problems: In 1976, Lucille Connell told House Select Committee investigator Gaeton Fonzi that she didn't remember Odio telling her any such thing. In fact, she said, she had never spoken to Odio at all with regard to Oswald; she had heard about Odio's story of Oswald, "Angelo" and "Leopoldo" from Odio's sister, Sarita.(20) Silvia Odio had no known connection to the DRE, which didn't even have a chapter in Dallas.(21)
Authors' justification: Martino allegedly "confessed" to involvement in the Kennedy assassination shortly before his death in 1975.(23) He allegedly told reporter John Cummings that there was a woman in Dallas "who knew a lot of things" about the assassination.(24) Cummings speculates this woman is Silvia Odio.(25)
Problems: (1) John Martino, though an associate of DRE backer William Pawley, had no more of a connection to the DRE than with any of the many other anti-Castro exile organizations with whose members he was involved in any number of ways.(26) (2) Martino had no known connection with Silvia Odio but for the fact that he once gave a speech in Dallas.(27) Martino's alleged "confession" lacks credibility; for example, Martino supposedly stated that Oswald was 'supposed' to have been killed in the Texas Theatre,(28) someplace Oswald was heading away from at the time he encountered Dallas police officer J. D. Tippit. (Martino also once claimed to have seen Oswald passing out Fair Play for Cuba Committee leaflets in New Orleans. Following the assassination, Martino was involved in spreading disinformation linking Oswald to Castro.(29)) The La Fontaines offer no evidence whatsoever to support John Cummings' speculation that the woman allegedly described by Martino is Silvia Odio.
Authors' justification: (1) Masen was allegedly providing guns for a DRE anti-Castro operation to Fermin de Goicochea Sanchez, who "may well have been one of the persons involved in meetings with Oswald at Sarita and Silvia's apartments."(31) (2) In 1992, John Franklin Elrod claimed that Oswald was a cellmate of his; in 1964, John Franklin Elrod's story linked the cellmate to the Masen-Whitter-Miller gunrunning scheme.(32) The La Fontaines speculate that Oswald must have been the informant who tipped off the FBI to this operation.(33)
Problem: Point No. 1 is pure speculation. Point No. 2 relies upon an admitted alcoholic with several arrests to his name,(34) who did not originally include Lee Harvey Oswald in his story at all,(35) who now says he never told the FBI about anything involving guns,(36) and whose story includes nothing about Oswald having been an FBI informant. As is amply documented, Lee Harvey Oswald never had a cellmate in the first place.(37)
Authors' justification: "An entry in Oswald's notebook . . . has never been explained as anything but his record of a meeting with Hosty . . ."(39)
Problem: Marina Oswald explained it perfectly well, and Ruth Paine corroborated her testimony. The La Fontaines simply do not believe Marina, and would rather believe that she, Paine, Hosty, and the entire FBI are lying.(40)
Authors' justification: William Walter (see Claim No. 2, above) asserts that the FBI received advanced warning of the assassination on the evening of November 17, 1963.(41) A Dallas Morning News story claimed that Oswald had been interviewed by the FBI on November 16, 1963.(42)
Problems: (1) Not a soul on Earth -- not even his wife -- supports Walter's claim.(43) (2) The source for the Morning News story was a hearsay account from Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry. How would Curry know if Oswald had been interviewed by the FBI? The Dallas authorities, resentful of their treatment at the hands of the FBI, spread a great deal of misinformation about the Bureau following the assassination, including a rumor that Oswald indeed had been an FBI informant.(44) (3) Why on Earth would Oswald be informing the FBI about the assassination when, according to the La Fontaines, the case for Oswald's guilt is "stronger than most conspiracy theorists will concede," "in some ways even stronger" than it seemed in 1963?(45)
Authors' justification: The Masen-Whitter-Miller operation received its guns from the Terrell armory in Dallas;(47) the guns were allegedly "on loan" from Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.(48)
Problem: Oswald Talked presents no evidence that the guns came from Fort Hood. To date, the La Fontaines explicitly refuse to produce such evidence, despite numerous requests posted online.(49)
Authors' justification: (1) John Elrod once claimed his cellmate named Ruby as a fellow gunrunner;(51) now Elrod claims his cellmate was Lee Harvey Oswald, but denies telling the FBI anything about Jack Ruby or any gunrunning activities.(52) The authors speculate that Ruby was involved in gunrunning with Captain George Nonte, based upon Nancy Perrin Rich's testimony that Ruby apparently delivered funds to a gunrunning "colonel." The La Fontaines speculate that this "colonel" was Captain George Nonte.(53)
Problem: (1) Elrod, a witness of questionable credibility to begin with, discredited himself thoroughly with his new claims of 1992, including the claim that he appeared in police line-ups with Oswald. All participants in Oswald's line-ups are known, and John Elrod is not among them.(54) (2) There is no independent corroboration of Nancy Perrin Rich's story; the one person she named as a corroborating witness, Dave Cherry, denied knowing anything about the "colonel" or the other people of whom she spoke.(55) If her story is true, there is no evidence whatsoever that the 37-year-old Captain Nonte with the "handsome walrus mustache"(56) was Perrin Rich's 45-to-50-year old "colonel" with no distinguishing characteristics she could recall but baldness.(57) Rich was described by a former attorney of hers as "an habitual liar, who found it difficult to tell the truth . . . continually telling wild tales concerning her exploits or the exploits of others. These stories were so ridiculous that no one could possibly believe them."(58) (3) There is no convincing evidence that Jack Ruby was a gunrunner.(59)
Authors' justification: See above.
Problem: Did anyone so much as bat an eyelash when it was made public that Jack Ruby had been an FBI informant?
Authors' justification: A 1964 FBI report states that a Rev. John Basinger was informed by his brother Rex he had recently been Jack Ruby's cellmate (!), and Ruby had told him about the alleged invasion plan. Contacted by Mary La Fontaine, John Basinger denied having ever spoken to the FBI in his life, but allegedly affirmed the tale about his brother.(63)
Problems: Jack Ruby had been removed from the Dallas City Jail prior to the time Rex Basinger was incarcerated there on a vagrancy charge. Basinger was released by the DPD "with [the] notation, 'lunacy." Basinger would later be diagnosed by a doctor at Parkland Hospital as "probable psychosis, possible brain syndrome."(64) The La Fontaines would seem to have an unfortunate weakness for crackpot witnesses.
1. Ray and Mary La Fontaine, Oswald Talked, 6, see also 167-71, 181, 352, 391.
2. Warren Commission Report, 435.
3. La Fontaine, 168.
4. La Fontaine, 167-71, 181.
5. Warren Commission Report, 174.
6. La Fontaine, 6, see also 7, 145-84, 300-10, 352.
7. La Fontaine, 6, 183-4, 300-10, 352-3.
8. FBI from SSCIA 157-10007-10104, NARA 124-10236-10075, cited at A. J. Weberman Web site, Nodule 12. FBI Report of William Mayo Drew, Jr., August 8, 1963, p. 2, NARA 180-10076-10241, cited in Jerry Shinley, newsgroup post of August 23, 2001.
9. Please see my article, Garrison Ripples.
10. La Fontaine, 183.
11. Please see my article, Garrison Ripples.
12. Please see my article, Garrison Ripples.
13. La Fontaine, 152-62.
14. La Fontaine, 59, 145-89, 310-2, 352, 369, 390-1.
15. Please see my article, Garrison Ripples for details.
16. The La Fontaines refer to this so-called "Banister/DRE lair" (Ibid., 183) as a place where apparently such events as "a mammoth Banister/Bringuier brainstorm" (Ibid., 179) can be theorized to determine the course of Western civilization.
17. La Fontaine, 7, see also 237-80, 312, 354.
18. La Fontaine, 257-8.
19. La Fontaine, 237-80.
20. House Select Committee Doc. 180-10101-10283, Box 233, Memorandum dated April 5, 1976 from Gaeton Fonzi to Dave Marston; also see House Select Committee Hearings Vols. IV, 478; X, 34 fn. 126. The La Fontaines claim that the FBI report with Connell (Warren Commission Exhibit No. 3108 [Warren Commission Hearings Vol. XXVI, 738]) is corroborated by Burt Griffin's memorandum on an interview with Odio's onetime psychiatrist, Dr. Burton C. Einspruch (Document No. 179-40002-10171, Griffin memo to Slawson dated April 16, 1964). It isn't, and Einspruch would later affirm his opinion of Silvia Odio's truthfulness in sworn testimony before the House Select Committee. (Also see Steve Bochan's 1996 interview with House committee investigator Gaeton Fonzi. Please click here for a detailed evaluation of the La Fontaines' allegations about Silvia Odio.)
21. Please click here for a detailed evaluation of the La Fontaines' allegations about Silvia Odio and the DRE.
22. La Fontaine, 7, 237-80, 311-12, 354, 362.
23. La Fontaine, 278-80, 311-2, 362.
24. La Fontaine, 362.
25. La Fontaine, 278-80, 362.
26. For numerous examples, see A. J Weberman's Web site.
27. La Fontaine, 7, 265, 271-2, 354, 359. The La Fontaines claim that Martino would also speak "privately with some or all of the Odio sisters, explaining that he is a friend of their imprisoned father, whom he met during his own captivity" on the Isle of Pines" (Ibid., 354). However, earlier in their book, the authors state that Martino was "a prison friend of Silvia Odio's father who met with her sisters in Dallas" (Ibid., 280; emphasis added). Repeated searches through Oswald Talked have failed to uncover a source for either of these claims, which would appear to be based on Silvia Odio's statement to the Warren Commission that Martino "was one of the men who was in Isle of Pines for 3 years. And he mentioned the fact that he knew Mr. Odio, that Mr. Odio's daughters were in Dallas" at "that meeting" in Dallas attended by a onetime friend of hers, Lucille Connell, among many others (Warren Commission Hearings Vol. XI, 380). Attempts to verify a personal connection between Martino and the Odio sisters in other sources has, as yet, failed to confirm the La Fontaines' assertion. Even if this apparently fictitious statement were true, would it even so much as hint at a conspiratorial association between Martino and "some or all of the Odio sisters," much less Silvia herself?
28. La Fontaine, 312.
29. See A. J. Weberman Web site, Nodule 10.
30. La Fontaine, 277.
31. La Fontaine, 354.
32. August 11, 1964 FBI report on Elrod, posted by Steve Bochan.
33. La Fontaine, 5-6, 39-42, 308-9, 358-64.
34. La Fontaine, 15-6, 28.
35. See the August 11, 1964 FBI report on Elrod, posted by Steve Bochan.
36. Transcript, Hard Copy, November 16, 1993; see note 52.
37. Click here for information. Also see Russ Burr's Did Oswald Talk?ml">here.
38. La Fontaine, 226-34, 391.
39. La Fontaine, 391. This refers to the fact that a November 1, 1963, entry in Oswald's address book contains Hosty's name and license plate number. Marina Oswald testified to the Warren Commission that she had obtained the license plate number herself on that date while Hosty was talking to Ruth Paine, and that she passed the information along to her husband. Lee had asked her to write down the license plate number of any FBI agent that should approach her. For Jim Hosty's side of the story, see Steve Bochan's 1996 interview with Hosty or Hosty's book, Assignment: Oswald.
40. La Fontaine, 226-30. The authors jump on the fact that "[m]ore than a decade later," Marina told her biographer, Priscilla Johnson McMillan, that she had obtained the license plate number during Hosty's later visit of November 5, not November 1. Even if this is accurate -- and there's no reason to believe it is -- it's awfully meager evidence that Oswald was an FBI informant.
41. La Fontaine, 296-7, 300-10, 316, 357.
42. La Fontaine, 296-300, 307, 309, 312, 316, 357, 360.
43. Please see my article, Garrison Ripples.
44. Ironically, the rumor was unwittingly midwifed by the La Fontaines' detested Hugh Aynesworth; Larry Sneed, No More Silence, 31-2; see also Harold Weisberg, Whitewash IV: JFK Assassination Transcript.
45. La Fontaine, 367. Then again, they also write, "The case against Oswald was, from its inception, a house of cards" (Ibid., 50). Oh, those inscrutable La Fontaines!
46. La Fontaine, 283-88, 290-3, 297-9, 312, 315, 355, 369.
47. La Fontaine, 20-2, 32, 298, 307, 356.
48. La Fontaine, 356, see also 298.
49. This is not to say that Nonte and Masen were not engaging in illegal activities, as evidence suggests they may well have been (cf. La Fontaine, 283-88, 290-3, 297-9, 312, 315, 355, 369).
50. La Fontaine, 5, 34-6, 359.
51. August 11, 1964 FBI report on Elrod, posted by Steve Bochan.
52. Transcript, Hard Copy, November 16, 1993: "Today when confronted with the FBI report, John Elrod admits he told the FBI that Oswald was his cell mate, but he says he never told them anything about guns, gangsters, or Ruby."
53. La Fontaine, 286.
54. Click here for an article by Ian Griggs on the subject of Oswald's line-ups.
In comparison to the eminently impeachable claims of John Elrod, it's interesting to note that, in order to explain the corroborated testimony of Silvia and Annie Odio -- whose story the authors call a "transparent hoax" (La Fontaine, 8), the La Fontaines advance a theory that compares the two sisters to self-proclaimed UFO abductees Betty and Barney Hill:
Annie's statement to the FBI was strangely reminiscent of the poor Hills of New Hampshire, who were rounding a turn one night in 1961 and ended up being sperm- and egg-counted (or some such) by aliens -- who then rewarded the interracial couple for their good behavior by showing them a 'star map' of their true home. The Hill incident was followed by a gradually increasing number of reported abductions, all of which were characterized by supposedly forgotten alien abductions that were later 'retrieved' under hypnosis. The Hill case was interesting, however, in that it was not only the first of the pattern, but uniquely a dual abduction -- as, in a sense, the Silvia-Annie collaboration (unwitting on Annie's part) appeared to be.The La Fontaines do not cite sources or discuss specific parallels between the evolution of the two cases. The Hills' story developed over a period of several years, in a series of amply documented steps, involving numerous details demonstrably incorporated from contemporaneous cultural sources, not to mention intensive use of hypnosis on both parties for the purpose of "recovering" memories. In other words, the Hill case bears no resemblance whatsoever to that of the Odio sisters.
As skeptics explained the dynamics of the Hill phenomenon, Betty, the dominant personality, 'imprinted' a dreamed or otherwise mistaken perception on her younger and more passive husband. As their 'memory' of the event was refined through repeated discussions, neither was aware that it was Betty who was really telling the story, while Barney was only rephrasing it. (He remained convinced till his death in 1969 that he had undergone an alien experience.) Whether, like Barney, the helpful Ursuline student Annie was consciously or unconsciously led in her postassassination memory retrieval by the dominant personality of her dazzling twenty-six-year-old sister, Silvia (as Annie essentially admitted to the FBI), it is evidence that this partial presence of a second malleable witness does not provide the collaboration that Silvia's hallway claim requires. The claim remains today essentially a one-person account (La Fontaine, 250).
For a chronology of the Hill story, see John G. Fuller, The Interrupted Journey. Two online articles that I have found valuable in researching the La Fontaines' claims are UFOs: The Hill Abduction (based exclusively upon Fuller) and Betty and Barney Hill's Alien Encounter (based upon Fuller and several secondary sources). The latter article is more specific about certain details of the story's evolution, but also uncritically conflates "recovered" memories with the Hill's contemporaneous observations in a way that does not allow the reader to distinguish between the two.
For analysis of cultural influences upon the Hill's story, I highly recommend two online articles by Martin Kottmeyer: Entirely Unpredisposed: The Cultural Background of UFO Abduction Reports and The Eyes That Spoke. (Other relevant online articles of interest include a transcript of NOVA: Kidnapped by UFOs?; Peter Brookesmith's recent Interview with Betty Hill; and C. Leigh Culver, Researching Alien Abductions.)
It would be interesting to see the La Fontaines apply their analogy to their two star witnesses, John and Lindy Elrod.
In 1963, John Elrod told the Dallas Police Department he was "unemployed, states he has been in Dallas for two weeks. Lost his job last week at El Fenix," a restaurant owned by members of Elrod's family (La Fontaine, 28).
In 1993, Elrod's brother Lindy told the La Fontaines that John Elrod "made a 180-degree turnaround and left me in the lurch -- never came back to his job" (Ibid., 39) -- a job where Elrod seems to have been retroactively awarded an extra week's attendance.
The La Fontaines do not state whether John Elrod quit his job in the middle of November 1963 or whether he was fired. The La Fontaines seem to be extremely cautious overall about releasing information on these two witnesses, both of whose whereabouts they keep secret -- ostensibly to protect the brothers' privacy. Of the interviews the La Fontaines videotaped of John and Lindy Elrod, only seconds -- literally -- have ever been shown to the public.
In 1963, Elrod stated to the Dallas police that "he has been arrested for theft and DWI" (La Fontaine, 28). FBI records obtained later would also show an assault charge (Ibid., 18).
The La Fontaines' 1996 book says that John Elrod was arrested twice for DWI, and that the case of theft that appears on Elrod's FBI record -- independent of Elrod's own admission to the DPD on November 22, 1963 -- "probably" refers to someone else entirely, a "James F. O. Elrod" (Ibid., 399 fn. 4).
The La Fontaines do not explain why, in 1963, John Elrod would have admitted to this arrest if it had actually happened to someone else.
The La Fontaines state that following his release from the Dallas jail, John Elrod was so terrified over what he had allegedly overheard in his cell (which, according to the La Fontaines themselves, was "the kind of thing a man could get killed for just knowing" (La Fontaine, 41), that he "dropped out" and "returned to the safe obscurity of his mother's home" (Ibid., 41). Brother Lindy says, "He went home to mama" (Ibid.).
But less than a year later, Elrod was living in Memphis, Tennessee -- not in his Arkansas hometown, where his parents still lived (Ibid., see also FBI Report of August 11, 1964), nor on Mississippi River island, north of Memphis, where he is said to reside today (Ibid., 15). Elrod was separated from his wife Jackie (Ibid.), staying in "Harbor House, a Memphis home for alcoholics" (Ibid.) and employed as a cook (FBI Report of August 11, 1964).
Most significantly, John Elrod told the La Fontaines in 1993, "I was in a cell with Oswald" (Transcript, Hard Copy, November 16, 1993), and Lindy Elrod told the La Fontaines that "John told me that day [the day he was released from jail] he was in the same cell with Lee Harvey Oswald, and that he knew Oswald didn't kill Kennedy" (La Fontaine, 39).
However, according to Alton C. Gilless of the Shelby County Sheriff's Office, on August 11, 1964, John Elrod approached him with "information concerning the murder of Lee Oswald" (Ibid, 39, emphasis added), and according to Shelby County Sheriff's Capt. R. G. McEllroy tells FBI agent Joseph M. Brewi that Elrod "claimed he had information re the death of Oswald . . ." (Robert Harris, Newsgroup post of May 27, 1999, emphasis added)
When Elrod was interviewed that evening by the FBI on 8-11-64, their report mentions Jack Ruby's name four times, does not mention Lee Oswald (except in reference to his murder by Jack Ruby), and states several times that Elrod could not identify the cellmate from whom he'd allegedly heard about Ruby (FBI Report of August 11, 1964).
Interestingly, researcher David Perry notes that the Texas Attorney General's file on the Elrod case (Folio 21454) contains what appear to be notes made by Ned Butler of the Attorney General's office. One note referencing John Elrod states, "Elrod says [presumably referring to Lawrence Miller and Donnell Darius Whitter] they got money from Ruby." There is no indication that this information came from the President's accused assassin, or that Oswald was Elrod's cellmate (David B. Perry, A Few Words from an "Amateur Sleuth").
In 1993, John Elrod stated that when Oswald got killed, "It scared the hell out of me."
"Because I knew Jack Ruby" (Transcript, Hard Copy, November 16, 1993).
The above contradictions have never been addressed by Ray and Mary La Fontaine, who do not state at any point in their book why they find John and Lindy Elrod to be more credible than Silvia and Annie Odio.
55. Warren Commission Exhibit No. 3059 (Warren Commission Hearings Vol. XXVI, 618); House Select Committee Hearings Vol. IX, 188.
56. La Fontaine, 286.
57. Warren Commission Hearings Vol. XIV, 348.
58. Warren Commission Exhibit No. 3059 (Warren Commission Hearings Vol. XXVI, 617); House Select Committee Hearings Vol. IX, 188. Dallas police detective Paul T. Rayburn called her a "'psychopathic liar,' who got great delight out of telling wild tales" (Warren Commission Exhibit No. 3059 [Warren Commission Hearings Vol. XXVI, 618]; House Select Committee Hearings Vol. IX, 188). Sergeant Carl Dahl, Commanding Officer of the Intelligence Section, Oakland, California Police Department, said that Rich had previously "volunteered 'fanciful' information" to the department, information that "had no substance and apparently a product of Perrin's imagination. . . . He advised he would place little credence in anything furnished by Perrin. . . He advised that in retrospect, he must consider Perrin to be emotionally unstable" (Warren Commission Exhibit No. 3058 [Warren Commission Hearings Vol. XXVI, 617]). Dave Cherry stated that he believed Perrin to be "mentally deranged" (Warren Commission Exhibit No. 3059 [Warren Commission Hearings Vol. XXVI, 618]).
59. Rumors of Ruby's alleged gunrunning career seem to be based upon his alleged admission to have made a onetime shipment of guns to Cuba, and upon the testimony of Nancy Perrin Rich.
60. La Fontaine, 6.
61. La Fontaine, 215-8.
62. La Fontaine, 219.
63. La Fontaine, 219-20.
64. La Fontaine, 219.