|The Acoustic Evidence: A Personal Memoir||By Steve Barber|
In August 1979, I was leaving Ohio for a week's vacation in Dallas, Texas. I was going to meet assassination eyewitness Charles Brehm. The day I was leaving Ohio, the Gallery magazine featuring the infamous "paper record" hit the news stands. I rushed out and bought a copy. J. W. Burke -- then publisher of The Grassy Knoll Gazette -- briefly mentioned in the May 1979 edition that this particular issue of Gallery was going to feature a recording of the Dallas police radio frequency, with the "stuck-open microphone sequence." I was thrilled to hear this!
Not long after I returned from Dallas, I began listening to the recording. Contrary to popular opinion, I was not convinced there were gunshots recorded on it, because I could not hear any. But I accepted the word of the computers and the experts who ran them.
I was convinced that Dallas Police motorcyclist H.B. McLain, who was riding in the Presidential motorcade that day, had had the open microphone. I had no problem with it. That is, until I bought a copy of R. B. Cutler's book, Mr. Chairman: Evidence of Conspiracy. In it was a published article from the Dallas Morning News by Earl Golz. In the article, Richard E. Sprague (photo consultant) mentioned that the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) asked him to locate a motorcycle in the films and photos taken before, during and after the assassination. He reported to them that not only could he not find one, but he said that there were none to be found within 120-150 feet behind the limousine. The HSCA didn't like this news, so they asked HSCA photographic consultant Robert Groden to search for someone. He erroneously located McLain. When I listened to the Gallery record forthe first time, I was totally confused. I'd had a portion of a Dallas radio program that researcher Gary Mack appeared on in Dallas. (Mack was credited by the HSCA for bringing the tape to their attention and, who worked for a local Dallas radio station) The portion of the tape he was describing to the listeners of the radio program was about two minutes prior to the location at which the Gallery record stated the shots were located, but Mack was describing both of what we were hearing; the radio program and the Gallery record. I was totally confused as to why he is in two completely different sections on the same tape, saying there are 7 shots in one location, and 4 in another.
Earlier that year in 1978, a portion of the tape was played on the CBS Evening news. This was the same section that is used on the Gallery record. However, this was featured on the news long before Gallery magazine was released.
After I listened for approximately 4 months, I discovered that the sounds of the motorcycle did not fit with what officer McLain stated he did enroute to Parkland hospital, where President Kennedy was taken after being shot. The sounds seemed to fit with what Dallas police motorcycle escort B.W. Hargis was doing. The motorcycle engine sounds do not fit at all with someone who is traveling at a high rate of speed, (around 70 miles per hour) and there are all sorts of stops, idling, accelerations, decelerations, etc. which Officer Hargis did immediately after the shooting. This then caused me to question the tests performed by Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN) and this started me down the right path.
I disproved my "Hargis theory", when I discovered the voice of Sheriff J.E. "Bill" Decker on the same recording September 12, 1980. Not only did I find Decker as a part of the "crosstalk, but Hargis as well. "Crosstalk" is when one police radio transmission is being picked up by a microphone tuned to another radio frequency-and is rebroadcast over the other radio channel.) Hargis is also crossing over onto channel one from channel two during the transmission he made at 12:34 over channel two.
I immediately contacted my friend Todd Wayne Vaughan, who had expressed an interest in the acoustics. Also Dick Sprague, and Cutler. Cutler thought I was nuts and "needed a break". Todd was very impressed, and Sprague took my word for it, obviously because he never believed in the McLain scenario anyway.
Several months later it was announced on an NBC-TV show called "Speak up America" that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) was about to be funded x-amount of dollars to reexamine the HSCA acoustics evidence for the Justice Department. The next day I phoned the local Library, and asked them for the Academy's address. I sent the NAS my research. I also sent a letter to J. C. Bowles, (at the time a Captain for the Dallas Police force--now Dallas County Sheriff) telling him what I had discovered. I also wrote the FBI in Washington, DC and explained my findings to them. I also assembled and submitted exhibits consisting of transcripts of the tape portions in question to the FBI.
It wasn't until January of 1981 that a Scientist from Harvard University, Paul Horowitz (who was a member of the NAS panel) contacted me and requested that I send a tape of the segments of the crosstalk originating from channel two. This I did right away. Not long after this, the FBI asked me to send them everything i.e. tapes, transcripts and all. I informed them that I had already submitted everything to the NAS scientists. Digressing a little, I should mention that J. C. Bowles, was unconvinced of my discovery. He sadly misunderstood what I was trying to point out, and informed me by letter the mechanics of the radio equipment used November 22,1963, and how much in poor repair the equipment was. So he was a little hard to convince. We exchanged two or three letters. But I didn't push it. About a month had passed and Paul Horowitz sent 8x10's prints of the voice spectrograms of both channels one and two crosstalk highlighting the areas in which they matched both Decker phrases from channel two (where it originated from) and Channel one where it was rerecorded by the stuck open microphone. He expressed to me that they were "very impressed" with what the voice spectra had shown them. They also sent the other crosstalk segments that I told them I discovered which occurred within three or four minutes of Decker phrase. Since these others were much more audible they could use them as reference points to show how the crosstalk worked on the spectrograms.
The debate over the acoustics worsened when the report was finally released. Gary Mack was attacking the NAS scientists, Todd Vaughan, and myself. Todd has done some outstanding work on this case. (The understatement of the century to say the very least!) Todd and I had uncovered some important details concerning the motorcycle officers in the motorcade.
Gary was writing heavily for the Penn Jones newsletter "The Continuing Inquiry," and in nearly every issue after the NAS study was announced, he discussed it. Eventually these discussions grew into outright blasts against everything they were doing. He seldom listed any sources to back up what he was saying.
He continued to argue with me that it was "not Decker speaking", that J. C. Bowles had said that it was a police officer saying something pertaining to "Pecos Street" in Dallas.
His attempt to try and get me to back down failed largely. I finally wrote and told him that it was silly for him to be taking such desperate measures to make me look bad, and that nearly everyone in the case acknowledge that they can hear Decker, so I asked him what his problem is: If he has access to all that audio equipment, why doesn't he put it to use?
Sometime thereafter, he sent a note about two lines in length saying something like acknowledging that he could hear the Decker voice. Next, he decided he was going to try and locate officer McLain in the Zapruder film. He palled up with Robert Groden, and they decided that they found McLain's motorcycle wheel at the intersection of Elm and Houston streets. At first it was reported by Mack and Groden in the "Continuing Inquiry" that they found McLain's helmet. Sometime later he changed it to McLain's motorcycle wheel, (according to Greg Jaynes). He then wrote another story in the "Continuing Inquiry" describing how he has explained to the NAS scientists the information about McLain in the Z film. (Which turned out to be nothing). When the NAS report was released on May 14, 1982, Gary, who by this time worked at Dallas station KXAS-TV as their announcer, was confronted about the NAS study by a KXAS staff reporter. Gary claimed that within two weeks BBN would rebut the NAS report, and that it would be "scuttled." To this day, there hasn't been a public rebuttal to the NAS study by either BBN or the two Queens college professors Mark Weiss and Ernest Aschkenasy (who confirmed BBN 'a study in 1978). In the spring 1996 Gary met Todd Vaughan when Todd and Dale Myers went to the Sixth-Floor Museum, where Gary is now employed. (Myers made the excellent video "Secrets of a Homicide")
Mack still says the DPD tapes are "dubs, not the originals", and that the crosstalk was edited in by someone at a studio somewhere in Oklahoma, where the recordings were supposedly sent for study following the assassination.
This was effectively disproved when Harrison Livingstone traveled to Dallas and spoke with Sheriff Bowles. Bowles destroyed Mack on several points in the discussion, and denied ever saying some of what Mack claims he said. (See Killing The Truth by H.E. Livingstone, 1993 Carol and Graf) In "The Kennedy Tapes", released in 1983 and broadcast on WFAA-TV during the twentieth anniversary, you can hear channel one DPD radio in the background during an interview by program director Jay Watson with Bert Shipp a WFAA station cameraman. (They are just a couple of minutes away from the Tippit killing at that point).
So we have even more proof piling up against the "official version" of the shots being on the recording, and yet, some are still trying to find ways to discredit highly professional Nobel prize winning Scientists Norman Ramsey and Luis Alvarez, and all the other highly trained men on that committee.
The critics were hostile towards Alvarez because he performed an analysis on the Zapruder film in the 1960's and found "jiggles" made by Zapruder reacting to the sound of gunfire caused by Zapruder's physical reaction to the sound of gunfire, which caused the camera to jerk whenever a shot was fired. This is why he refused to be chairman of the NAS committee. He was being very cautious so the critics wouldn't claim that the panel was biased because of his previous work on the case. (You can read about this in the book Alvarez: Adventures of a Physicist by Luis Alvarez) . After the release of the NAS report, I asked Professor Ramsey if he would make copies for me of the recordings they used for their study. They had confiscated the original channel-one dictabelt, and channel two gray audograph disc used to record all the voice transmissions made by the DPD on November 22, 1963. He obliged me, and I received a copy from Bowles' copy, plus a copy made right from the dictabelt itself. The original dictabelt has aged and is full of bubbles and cracks but it still plays. At the time, Ramsey didn't have a copy of channel two from the audograph disc, so referred me to Richard Garwin of IBM in New York (who helped with the NAS study) Garwin sent a reel of tape containing the channel two radio transmissions. The channel two tape I received shocked me, and it was on this recording that I discovered another error made by the BBN/HSCA study. It had been stated by BBN that a "carillon bell" tolled sometime around the time of the assassination. I had stated in my correspondence with Ramsey and others, that I felt that this "carillon bell" was nothing more than electronic noise, interfering with the DPD radio frequency . The sound occurred just three seconds after Decker said the words "get there" from the "Hold everything secure .... channel two radio transmission. I knew that the only copies of channel two in existence that we could obtain were the copies made by Mary Ferrell back in the 70's. These were like a recording of a phonograph record that skipped, and repeated. Sometimes the voice on the recording would repeat the same thing over and over two, three times, and sometimes the needle would skip completely over what was actually recorded. Thankfully, this didn't happen when the audograph disc player was recording rather, this only occurred when the recording disc was played back.
When they took the original channel two recording disc to Washington DC, the NAS scientists played it on a high quality turntable and the disk played back each and every word recorded on 11-22-63 without any skipping, or repeating. Each and every word recorded that day was rerecorded onto new tape.
When I received this channel two tape, I discovered that since the recording made on grey audograph equipment is recorded at linear speed, and turntables play at RPM's -- this causes a problem as the tape progresses the faster the speech became. After a certain point, it sounded like you were listening to a recording played at 78rpm's.
The tape recording Garwin sent was a recording directly off the playback on the turntable-not grey equipment. There was no way I could listen to this tape, and get anything out of it without slowing it down. What I did then was take two portable cassette players, plug one into the other. I took one of them apart, applied pressure to the pinch roller with my thumb, harmonized the 60 hz hum on the recording with the hum emanating from the speaker from the cassette player by slowing the recording down until they were in perfect harmony (remember -- I'm a musician) thus allowing us to hear the speech at the real speed it was recorded that day, instead of too fast or too slow.
Needless to say, I had one sore thumb when I was finished. I sat in one spot, pushing harder and harder on the roller until the recording was finished.
Totalled up, it was about 43 minutes. This however, gives us a totally new recording of channel two without the words and phrases missing and/or skipping/ repeating, and/or speed distortion. But the fun wasn't over yet!! The sound that BBN said was a "carillon bell" on channel one was also occuring on channel two-in the same time sequence-three seconds after Decker finished speaking . However, on channel two it was much louder. It happened at the time on the "Ferrell copy" of channel two (with the skips) when the disc skipped at that point, cutting off this sound plus four words spoken by the dispatcher at DPD headquarters . It proved to me that it was nothing more than interference on the police radio frequency. Not only did this sound occur at 12:31 but a similar sound occurs at 12:45/46 on channel two, again while the dispatcher is speaking into his mic.
Upon discovering this, I immediately called my friend Todd Vaughan and played it over the telephone for him. I Then informed professor Ramsey about it, since in the final chapter in the NAS report, in the "Possible further studies" section, they mention that further testing should be done on the "carillon bell" sound to see if it could be determined what the sound actually is . When I informed Ramsey of this, he responded by stating that he "qualitatively confirms" that it was electronic noise, and people from IBM in New York were going to perform some data testing on the sound.
I was then contacted in October of 1982 (4 months later) by Ramesh Agarwal at IBM in New York who had helped with the NAS study, along with Burn Lewis, and Richard Garwin, They performed some tests on the sound, and determined that I was correct in my discovery of electronic noise. They compared the sound at 12:31 (Three seconds after the Decker phrase on both channels one and two) with the sound at 12:45/46, and said that it was frequency noise. Nothing more. BBN's second mistake. This has somehow gone unnoticed though.
The work I did on the channel two tape was included in a report by IBM under the title "Signal processing: The Kennedy assassination tapes". By Richard Garwin, Burn Lewis, and Ramesh Agarwal.
They were kind enough to send a copy with the inscription on the cover "We are indebted to the educated ear of Steve Barber, for making this report possible". After I discovered that the "carillon bell" sound was not only on channel one, but channel two as well, I wrote Gary Mack, to tell him that I had made a new copy of channel two, and offered to make him one for $10.00.
At the time, I had to rent equipment to make good clear copies, as I didn't own a dual cassett player/recorder -- so $10.00 was just to cover the costs. I explained everything to him that I had found concerning the "bell" sound, in the letter, and also, since I had taken all of his crap -- I dished some out to him by asking him how he can explain this huge mistake that BBN made, and still have so much faith in their findings?
As I recall, he wrote back a brief note, telling me that he was giving this info over to Jim Barger (at BBN). And that was all I heard from him. He was not the least bit interested in having my new copy of channel two-which no one else had become privy too-until I started selling it through "The Continuing Inquiry" for Penn Jones. I was selling copies of both channels one, from my 3rd generation copies -which came directly from Bowles' copy (which came from the dictabelt) -- and the new copy of channel two, both for $15.00.
Incidentally, as I recall it, Greg Jaynes mentioned to Gary how I made the copy of channel two and Gary's typical response : "That's not very scientific." Yet on the other side are two of the world's most notable scientists, Norman Ramsey, and the late Luis Alvarez. Both of them had a hand in developing the atom bomb!!! They didn't question my "unscientific" method of remaking the channel two tape, they commended me for it!
When I questioned whether or not the officer on channel one (just three seconds before the "first shot") is saying "Allright, Jackson" -- which was apparently what Mark Weiss said he was saying, Gary informed me that if I doubted this, my credibility was at stake, because Weiss specialized in speech tones. I clearly hear the word "Chaney" -- not "Jackson". The "A" is long, and the last syllable is definately not "un." Slowed down, you can clearly hear it, but I didn't have to slow it down to hear it, rather, I heard this in 1978 when CBS played this portion of the tape on the Evening News during the HSCA's investigation hearings, well before the Gallery magazine hit the market. My mentioning the "allright Chaney /Jackson" segment to the NAS scientists, sparked enough interest to list it in the "Possible further studies" section of their report. Ramsey et al. agree with me that it's "Allright, Chaney", but it still needs to be examined. To me, it sheds no light on the subject, it was just another example where I feel that the authenticity of the experts hired by the HSCA could be questioned.
In a nutshell, I guess this chapter in my life opened my eyes and allowed me to see that there is more to this case than people who say they want the truth to surface. That is, they also want to boost their egos, and see their names in publications. "Truth" has little to do with it. I don't think they would know the truth if it came up and hit them in the face!!. If it didn't happen the way they say it happened (or didn't happen) then it isn't the "truth".
There is only a small handful of people who really want the "truth" to surface. You can tell this by the reaction you get when you gather evidence to the contrary of their preconceived beliefs that Oswald didn't kill President Kennedy.
They easily fly off the handle, become infuriated, defensive, arrogant, belligerent, and some times downright violent. In the words of my colleague Greg Jaynes, it's "JFK: The game." And, in the words of Dallas county Sheriff Jim Bowles, "This case wouldn't go to court because of what the researchers have done with the evidence." And with this, I rest my case.
Stephan N. Barber