Evidence of Fakery in the Zapruder Film?

Was Mary Moorman Standing In Elm Street? - II

In this essay, Josiah Thompson further considers the thesis that Moorman was in Elm Street at the moment she took her famous photo. He critically analyzes a key piece of evidence proffered by Jack White — the ratio of two key dimensions in the photo.


The Moorman line-of-sight test performed in Dealey Plaza on November 25, 2001 has produced two results: (1) If you carefully follow the line-of-sight present in the Moorman photo it falls across the south curb of Elm Street at an elevation of 53 to 54 inches, an elevation matching the elevation of her camera as shown in the Zapruder film. (2) If you follow this line-of-sight out onto the roadway a few feet, it is 61 to 62 inches above the pavement. This would place her camera over her head if she took the photo while standing in the roadway.

These results are no surprise since they confirm the results of other tests carried out earlier by Gary Mack and Todd Vaughan. What is truly impressive, however, is the convergence of all three tests with the evidence of the Moorman photo.

In an attachment below, Craig Lamson has produced a visual comparing the Moorman photo, a photo from the Mack test, a photo from the Vaughan test, a photo from the Mack-Thompson test and a photo taken by Jack White (showing the intersection he calls "the cross.") It is clear that all but the Jack White photo show the same line-of-sight.

These results are confirmed by measurements carried out by Ron Hepler on the various photographs. He measured very accurately the percentage proportion taken up by two horizontal distances in the various photographs. His measurement of these photos yielded the following results:

Mack7.4% 92.6%

Notice how measurements of the test photos group closely with the Moorman photo while measurements of the White photograph are quite distinct. These figures confirm what the naked eye discloses in the Lamson graphic — the Moorman, Mack, Vaughan and Mack-Thompson photos are all evidence of the same line-of-sight while the White photo evidences a different line.

A Little Logic, Please!
The claim of Zapruder film fakery marks a stunning reversal of what conspiracy theorists said about the film for three decades following the assassination. Then, the film was said to show iron-clad evidence of a conspiracy. Conspiracists pointed, for example, to the "back and to the left" movement of Kennedy's head when it was struck by a bullet, and the fact that Connally appears to have been wounded several frames after Kennedy is hit. This would seem to demolish the Single Bullet Theory.

Lending plausibility to the conspiracists case was the fact that Time-Life Corporation, which owned the copyright to the film (as well as the camera original), refused to allow it to be shown or distributed, and refused to allow the use of stills from the film. It sure looked like a coverup.

But if the film was forged or tampered with in a high tech government laboratory in the hours or days following the assassination, the following questions arise:

  • Why allow the supposed evidence of conspiracy to remain in the film? If conspirators could do something as radical as moving Moorman back from the street onto the grass, why not remove the "back and to the left" movement?
  • If you have faked a film to conceal evidence of conspiracy, why hide it from people? Why go to the trouble and expense of faking a film, and then refuse to let the whole wide world see it?
  • Why tamper with parts of the film that have nothing to do with any conspiracy? If Moorman was in the street, why bother to move her back?
  • If the Zapruder film showed unquestioned evidence of a conspiracy, why not simply make it "disappear" entirely? Doing that would certainly cause suspicion, but hardly as much as rock-hard filmed evidence of conspiracy.
The whole business seems to reflect the compulsive desire of some latter-day conspiracists to find evidence of a "coverup" everywhere they look — never mind that the "evidence" fits no plausible scenario.

— John McAdams

The consequence of all this is clear. Jack White is using for his elevation measurements a different line-of-sight than Moorman, Mack, Vaughan and Mack-Thompson. This has been obvious to most from the beginning.

His published claim is made in a special section in Murder in Dealey Plaza and he has reiterated it many times since. It is really quite simple and could be put this way:

(1) Examination of the Moorman photo shows that the two points forming "the cross" [(1) the bottom right corner of the lowest window and (2) the top left corner of the Zapruder pedestal] line up exactly. They form a unique line-of-sight which can be used to exactly determine the position of the camera lens.

(2) When we follow this line of sight precisely, it measures 44.5 inches [corrected to 41.5 inches] above the ground at a distance two feet south of the curb of Elm Street.

(3) Since the Zapruder film shows Mary Moorman holding the camera at a much higher position, the Zapruder film has been altered. Mary Moorman was really standing in the street where the drop-off was sufficient to permit her to take her photo along the line-of-sight described.

There is no argument with (2) and (3) above. They are correct. If you go to Dealey Plaza (as I've done now twice), what Jack White says is obviously true. If you line up the points above as Jack White directs us to do, they constitute a unique and very clear line-of-sight. That line-of-sight crosses the south curb of Elm Street at a height much too low to fit the position of Moorman's camera as we see it in the Zapruder film. About all of this, there is no argument.

But Jack White made a mistake.

The two points he described do not line up in the Moorman photo. There is a gap between them. The nearer point (the top left corner of the pedestal) is below and to the right of the farther point (the bottom right corner of the lowest window).

How big is this gap? How much below and to the right is the top left corner of the pedestal?

Here you have to look at the Moorman photo itself. Please examine the full frame Moorman photo and an enlargement.

The dispute, then, is quite simple. If the two points White's talking about line-up in the Moorman photo, he's right. If they don't, he's wrong. The three tests cited above and the summary of their results contained in the Lamson graphic and Hepler's measurements show he's wrong.

What makes no sense at all is what has been called the White-Fetzer-Mantik "experiment." They set up a transit on White's "cross" and then measured the vertical elevation of this line-of sight at various points. Months ago it was emphasized that this line-of-sight was both non-controversial and irrelevant. It is simply one of an infinite number of lines-of-sight which don't exist in the Moorman photo. It may appear you're doing something scientifically important when you distribute photos of a transit with David Mantik earnestly looking through it. But you really aren't. You're simply dodging the central issue. Do the points line up or don't they? To answer this question it was unnecessary even to go to Dealey Plaza. All you had to do was look at the Moorman photo. The much vaunted White-Fetzer-Mantik "experiment" was an exercise in irrelevance.

I have been searching my mind for an analogy to the White-Fetzer-Mantik "experiment." Here's the best one I can come up with.

Let's say that a dispute erupts during an NFL game concerning whether the field is really one hundred yards long. Play is called and a team of "scientists" arrives with very sensitive measuring equipment. They stride onto the field and carefully set up their equipment. With exquisite care, they measure the width of the field at the fifty yard line. The fans boo. Some rush onto the field to tell the "scientists" of their error. Nothing avails. The "scientists" grandly announce the results of their "experiment" leaving the referees, coaches, players and fans all scratching their heads.

I wish to thank Craig Lamson and Ron Helper for their excellent graphics work on this. It has been a pleasure working with them. And thanks also to Gary Mack and Todd Vaughan for demonstrating so simply the correct Moorman line-of-sight. If they had not taken the trouble to go there and do what they did, we would not know what we know now.

Josiah Thompson