The Three Tramps in Dealey Plaza after the JFK assassination

JFK Assassination a Hobo Hit?

Three Tramps Photos Examined by Experts

A lot of people "look like" a lot of other people in photographs -- especially if you have a vivid imagination. If you want to go beyond vague "looks like" judgments, you get forensic anthropologists to carefully examine the photos. The tools of their trade are the analysis of "morphological" characteristics of human beings, and their "metric" characteristics. The following excerpt from Volume 6 of the House Select Committee on Assassinations shows exactly how these identification tools can be used in practice.

(e) The three tramps


(660) Immediately after the assassination, law enforcement officers conducted a search of the area behind the grassy knoll in which several railroad boxcars were situated. As a result of this search, approximately six to eight persons who appeared to be derelicts were taken either to the nearby Dallas County Sheriff's office, or to the Dallas Police Department for questioning. All were released without being booked, fingerprinted or photographed. (222) Among these "derelicts" were three men who, according to the arresting officers, had been found in a boxcar approximately one-half mile south of the assassination scene. (223) As the police led the three derelicts through Dealey Plaza to the sheriff's office, they were photographed by several press photographers. (224)

(661) When allegations of a CIA connection with President Kennedy's death emerged in the years following the assassination, these photographs received wide publicity in newspapers, television and in the April 28, 1975 issue of Newsweek magazine. (225) It was claimed that two of the derelicts or "tramps," as they had come to be called, bore striking resemblances to Watergate burglars E. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis respectively. (226) Allegations have been made that Hunt, who had been a CIA employee in 1963, Sturgis, who, while not an employee, had been involved in CIA-related activities, had been together in Dallas on November 22, 1963 and had participated in the assassination as part of a CIA conspiracy.

(662) In 1975 the Rockefeller Commission, investigating CIA activities within the United States and allegations concerning CIA complicity in the Kennedy assassination, requested the FBI to compare known photographs of Hunt and Sturgis, taken near the time of the assassination, with photographs of the tramp each was said to resemble. (228) After a photographic analysis of facial and statural characteristics of the men in question, the FBI concluded that "neither E. Howard Hunt nor Frank Sturgis appear as any of the three 'derelicts' arrested in Dallas, Tex., as shown in the photographs submitted." (229) In response to the 1975 Newsweek story, the CIA also conducted physiological comparison of the Hunt and Sturgis photographs with the tramp photographs, and reached the same conclusion as the FBI.

(663) Nevertheless, Warren Commission critics still view as unresolved and the identity of the three tramps is still regarded an important part of the conspiracy theories. (231) In addition to the Hunt and Sturgis connection, three other individuals, Thomas Vallee, Fred Lee Chrisman, and Daniel Carswell, who have been named as possible co-conspirators, have been suggested as likely tramp candidates.

(664) In an attempt to identify or exclude Hunt, Sturgis and these other individuals as one of the derelicts arrested by the Dallas Police Department, forensic anthropologists were asked to examine and compare photographs of the tramps and the suspected individuals.


(665) Can any of these individuals be positively identified or excluded as one of the three tramps?


(666) Three tramps.--A series of 8 by 10 black and white copy prints depicting one or more of the tramps were examined. (See figs. IV-50-IV-56.) These were taken by press photographers as the detainees were being escorted through Dealey Plaza by Dallas police officers. A number of enlargements of the heads of the three individuals were also provided.

(667) Photographs of the following individuals were examined and compared with those of the tramps:

(668) Daniel Carswell.--Two photographs, one an 8 by 10 black and white lateral view (1963) and the other a 3 by 3 color frontal view (1969), were reviewed.

(669) Fred Lee Chrisman.--The only available photograph was a single undated black and white 8 by 10 print.

(670) E. Howard Hunt.--Twenty-six black and white photographs that span the assassination period and vary widely in type, pose, and quality were examined.

(671) Frank Sturgis.--A series of 38 black and white photographs, ranging widely in quality and varying from casual snapshots to studio photographs, were studied. They are undated but, based upon the subjects age and clothing styles, they appear to span the period of the assassination.

(672) Thomas Vallee.--One 8 by 10 black and white frontal view was analyzed.


(673) Daniel Carswell, E. Howard Hunt, Frank Sturgis, and Thomas Vallee were not the tramp(s) with whom they were being compared. Fred Chrisman strongly resembles one of the tramps but, without analysis of additional photographic materials, no positive identification can be made.


(674) The three tramps have been arbitrarily identified "A," "B" and "C" according to their position, from left to right, in figure IV-50. All three are white males of medium stature and physique. Tramp A appears to be approximately 35 +/- 5 years old, tramp B about 30 +/- 5 years, tramp C, the eldest, about 50 +/- 10 years. Tramp B is the tallest, exceeding A and C (who are of approximately equal height) by about 3 to 5 inches. None of the men have any striking facial abnormalities or disfigurements. Their hands, shown in several photographs, display no abnormalities or amputations that might serve as clues to identification. Judging from his apparent gait, tramp A may have been slightly bow-legged. Tramp C appears to have been somewhat splayfooted.

(675) All three men arc shabbily dressed, befitting their apparent status as vagrants. Tramp A, however, is the better attired, wearing well-fitting jeans and a tweed-like sports jacket, although this, judged by 1963 styles, was several years out of date. Tramp B is wearing ill-fitting slacks and a double-breasted suit coat. Tramp C, from his battered fedora to his won-out shoes, has managed to achieve a sartorial effect similar to what one would expect had he been fired from a cannon through a Salvation Army thrift shop.

(676) While such clothing might be a disguise, their footwear seems consistent with their classification as vagrants. All three men are shod in worn, low-cut oxfords that appear to be leather-soled. Tramp C's shoes seem to be several sizes too large for him.

Tramp A

(677) Enlarged photos of this tramp were compared with those of Thomas Vallee who, a few weeks before the assassination, had been arrested in Chicago after making threats on the life of President Kennedy, Frank Sturgis, the anti-Castro soldier of fortune who participated in some of the illegal activities associated with the Watergate scandals, and Daniel Carswell. (See fig. IV-57, JFK exhibit F-172.)(1)

(678) Table I compares the facial indices of tramp A with those of Vallee, Sturgis, and Carswell. The figures enclosed in parenthesis along with indices of Vallee and Sturgis represent the difference between their indices and that of tramp A. Thus for the nasal index (No. 4), that of Vallee is 68, 3 points less than that of tramp A. This would suggest that Vallee had a slightly narrower nose (relative to its length) than that of the tramp. Nevertheless, when consideration is given to the possibility of variation in the index caused by the inevitable errors involved in taking measurements from the rather poor quality tramp photographs, such a difference is not too impressive. In contrast, the same index for Sturgis exceeds that of tramp A by 15 points, indicating that, compared to the tramp's his nose was much broader in relation to its length. This difference is considerable, and far outweighs any variation caused by technical error.

(679) When the differences in the other indexes of the series were similarly examined, it was determined that generally the values of Valle's indices more closely approximated those of the tramp than the indices of either Sturgis or Carswell. Four of Valle's indices differ by less than 5 points from tramp A's and the largest difference is 7 points. These results were indicative of a fair resemblance between Vallee and tramp A. Sturgis' indices vary between 2 and 15 points from those of the tramp. The average deviation of all seven indices is 4 for Vallee, 7 for Carswell, and 8.6 for Sturgis. Therefore, on the basis of metric analysis, Valleo's resemblance to the tramp is more impressive than that of either Sturgis or Carswell. An average deviation of 5 or less may be considered as evidence of a strong resemblance between the subjects of analysis.

(680) In addition to this facial index analysis, the subjects' morphological features were also closely examined. Strong differences in their features were discerned between those of tramp A and Vallee, Sturgis, and Carswell.


(681) 1. Hair.--Both Sturgis and Tramp A have dark hair with a strong transverse wave. Tramp A's bilateral recession of the hairline, however, is more advanced than is observed on any of the Sturgis photographs. Sturgis also has a short, low part line extending from apex of lateral hairline recession on the right side of the head-a feature not present in tramp A.

(682) 2. Forehead.--Tramp A's forehead is characterized by a strong vertical interciliary sulcus (frown line) that extends upward to a point about three-quarters of the distance between the level of his eyebrows and hairline. This sulcus is a little to the left of the midline of his forehead so that its lower end is located very close to the medial (inner) end of his left eyebrow. This wrinkle, of course, is probably somewhat accentuated by the tramp's deep frown. In several photographs of Sturgis shown in a similar facial expression, however, this deep furrow is not observed. Instead, Sturgis has a short, almost dimple-like vertical interciliary line situated slightly to the right of the midline of the forehead.

(683) 3. Eyebrows.--The eyebrows of both men are. similar in form (low, weakly arched). In the tramp, however, they are more narrowly separated than in Sturgis. In the former, they are heavy throughout their length; in the latter, the lateral (outer) half of the eyebrows is scantily haired.

(684) 4. Nasal form.-- Tramp A's nasal profile is straight, ending sharp and angular nasal tip. His nasal tip is horizontal or perhaps slightly depressed. Sturgis has a slightly convex nasal profile with full, fleshy, and slightly elevated tip.

(685) 5. Mouth--The Tramp has a relatively wide mouth with thin membranous lips. Each end of the mouth terminates in an oblique furrow (angulus oris sulcus). Sturgis' mouth is narrower with full lips; the angular furrows at the ends of the mouth are not as prominent as those of the Tramp.

(686) 6. Chin--The chin of the Tramp is low, moderately projecting and has a relatively narrow, slightly squared lower border. Sturgis' chin is very deep, strongly projecting with an extremely wide, square, lower border. It is also distinguished by a well-marked medium cleft-feature not observed in the Tramp.

(687) 7. Ears- The tramp's ears are more projecting than those of Sturgis. The ear lobes of the Tramp are attached; Sturgis has free lobes. In the Tramp, the intertragal notch is extremely narrow, whereas in Sturgis, it is wide..

(688) 8. Physique.---Throughout the numerous series of photographs, Sturgis is characterized by a massive, muscular body build with some suggestions of a tendency toward corpulence. The Tramp, while well-muscled, is thin and wiry. In somatotypic terms, Sturgis would be classified as an endomorphic mesomorph; the Tramp as mesomorphic ectomorph. Stated more plainly, Sturgis is built like defensive guard, the tramp like an offensive quarterback. No statural data on either man was available but if it were assumed that they were equal height, Sturgis would probably outweigh Tramp A by at least 20 to 40 pounds.

(689) To summarize, Frank Sturgis differs strongly from Tramp A in numerous metric and morphological features as well as in overall physique. Most of these features relate more to the underlying skeletal framework than to superficial soft tissues and, therefore, could not be effectively altered by disguise. For example, the massively squared, deep chin of Sturgis could not be altered into the low, more gracile chin of Tramp A. In conclusion, Frank Sturgis can be excluded as candidate for the identification of Tramp A.

(690) Vallee.--As noted previously, Thomas Vallee resembles Tramp A more strongly in facial indices than Sturgis. There are also some similarities between the Tramp and Vallee in morphorophical traits. Thus, the contour of the hairline, the projection and general shape of the ears (except for the lobes) and the height and contour of the chin are much alike. Offsetting these resemblances, however, are the following features:

(691) 1. Forehead.--The strong vertical interciliary farrow of the Tramp is not present in Vallee.

(692) 2. Eyebrows.--These are laterally sparse in Vallee, but are heavy throughout in the Tramp.

(693) 3. Mouth.--Vallee has a small month, whereas the Tramp's is relatively wide. The upper lip is longer in Vallee. The angular farrows marking the corners of the mouth in the Tramp are not present in Vallee.

(694) 4. Ears.--The Tramp has attached lobes, Vallee's lobes are free.

(695) 5. Nose.--The strongest morphological differences between Vallee and the Tramp are in nasal structure:

(a) Nasal root.--Very broad in Vallee, narrow in Tramp A.

(b) Nasal bridge.--Wide, low, and concave in Vallee; narrow, salient and straight in Tramp A.

(c) Nasal tip--Rounded and extremely elevated in Vallee; angular and slightly depressed in Tramp A.

(d) Nostrils--In Vallee, the margins of the, nostrils recede upward to such an extent that their interiors are fully exposed. This condition is sufficiently extreme to be classified as a disfiguring trait. The nostril margins are of normal configuration in Tramp A.

(e) In Vallee, two wart-like growths are present in the nasal region. The smaller is located just, above the lower margin of the left nostril; the larger growth is on the cheek immediately adjacent to the margin in of the left nostril. Neither feature is observed in the photographs of Tramp A, although the larger of these two structures is sufficiently sharp to allow visualization if it were present in the photograph.

(696) In conclusion, despite some strong metric resemblance between these two individuals, they are sufficiently dissimilar in morphological features to exclude Vallee as being Tramp A.


(697) Of the three men who have been proposed as Tramp A, the resemblance between the latter and Carswell is the least impressive. As noted previously, they diverge in facial index values by an average of 7.0 points. Carswell's face is relatively long and narrow; Tramp A's is short and broad. This length difference is especially expressed in the lower face with Carswell's chin and upper lip bring very long when compared to the Tramp's. Carswell's nose is also much longer, relative to its breadth. Differences in ear structure are also striking. In the Tramp, the lobes are attached whereas in Carswell the lobes are "welded" -- that is, they attach to the sides of cheek with no discernible lobe at all. The antihelix of the ear (the elevated ridge just in front of and parallel to the outer margin of the ear) is well developed in Tramp A, but very poorly developed in Carswell.

Tramp B

(698) Photos of Frank Sturgis and Daniel Carswell(2) were compared with those of Tramp B. (See Figure IV-58.) Table II compares the facial indices of Tramp B with those of Sturgis and Carswell.


(699) In terms of these indices, Sturgis most closely resembles Tramp B in mouth height relative to lower face height (No. 5), the length of his ear lobe relative to the total ear length (No. 6), and the total ear length relative to face height (No. 7). He is more divergent in the remaining indices. The average deviation between the six facial indices analyzed here is 4.0 points. This is low enough to make it impossible to rule out Sturgis on the basis of metric traits alone.

(700) The following morphological differences, however, between Sturgis and Tramp B indicate that they are not the same person:

(701) 1. Hair.--Sturgis is a very dark brunette with strongly waved hair; Tramp B has medium-dark hair with a slight wave.

(702) 2. Hairline.--The hairline of Tramp B shows more bilateral recession than is observed in Sturgis.

(703) 3. Nose.--Tramp B has a concave nasal profile with a rounded, slightly bulbous, nasal tip. Sturgis' nasal profile is slightly convex and the nasal tip is less bulbous than that of the Tramp.

(704) 4. Chin.--The most striking difference between the two men is the form of the chin. Sturgis' is massive and square; Tramp B has a small and rounded chin.

(705) 5. Ears.--Tramp B's ears are considerably more projecting than those of Sturgis which are rather close set.

(706) 6. Physique.--Tramp B appears to be considerably more linear in body build than Sturgis, who is broad and stocky in physique.


(707) Carswell's resemblance to the Tramp based upon the facial indices was not nearly as impressive. Two of his facial indices, forehead height relative to total face height (So. 1) and lobe length relative to ear length (No. 6) differ from those of the Tramp by 12 and 13 points, respectively. These differences strongly exceed any divergence that might be introduced by technical error. The average deviation between the values of all six indices is 5.8 points. This deviation is sufficiently high to exclude Carswell as Tramp B on metric features alone.

(708) Strong differences in morphological features are also observed between Carswell and Tramp B. Carswell has a longer face relative to its breadth than the Tramp. Carswell's nose is thin with a sharply defined tip whereas the Tramp has a short, relatively broad nose with a rather bulbous tip. Carswell has a longer chin than the Tramp. The most striking difference between the two men is in the shape of their ears. Carswell's are essentially lobeless, that is, the lower margins of the car attach directly to the cheek; Tramp B has well-developed lobes. In Carswell, the antihelix (the elevated ridge just in front of and parallel to the outer margin of the ear) is very weakly developed; in the Tramp, this structure is strongly developed and prominent.

(709) In conclusion, both Carswell and Sturgis can be excluded as being Tramp B.

Tramp C

(710) Photographs of Fred Lee Chrisman, a right-wing activist implicated in the Garrison investigation, and E. Howard Hunt, a principal figure in the Watergate burglaries and an employee of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency at the time of the Kennedy assassination, were compared with Tramp C. (See fig. IV-59.) The indices of Hunt, Chrisman, and Tramp C are compared in table III.

(711) In comparing Hunt with Tramp C, the average difference in the six indices of the two men is 9.0, a value sufficiently high to suggest no particularly strong resemblance in facial proportions. In addition, in comparing the photographs of the Tramp to those of Hunt taken in the late 1950's and early 1960's, the following morphological differences were noted:

(712) 1. Forehead.--Tramp C has several well-developed transverse frontal sulci and a strong vertical interciliary sulcus. These are not observed in Hunt who, even in photographs taken in later years, has only slightly developed transverse frontal and interciliary furrows.

(713) 2. Nose.--The Tramp has a relatively broad nose with a bulbous, fleshy nasal tip. The nasal tip is not depressed. Hunt has a narrow nose with a salient nasal bridge and an angular, moderately depressed nasal tip.

(714) 3. Mouth.--Tramp C has thick, full membranous lips; Hunt is thin-lipped.

(715) 4. Cheek.--Tramp C has well-developed nose-labial folds whereas in Hunt these are only incipiently developed in his photographs taken at about the time of the assassination.

(716) 5. Ear.--From his photographs, it is apparent that Hunt underwent surgery to correct his rather projecting ears. The date of this operation was not determined but from the photographs, it would appear to have been within a few years before or after the assassination. In degree of projection, the Tramp's ears appear to more closely match Hunt's pre-surgical condition.

(717) Two features not influenced by the surgery are strongly different in the two men. One of these is the helix, the fold of flesh that forms the outer rim of the ear. In the Tramp, this fold is wide and prominent whereas it is narrower and more weakly developed in Hunt. The second difference is in the antihelix, the secondary fold that roughly parallels the helix inside the ear. This structure is strongly developed in the Tramp and, in fact, its lower portion appears to extend beyond the helix. In Hunt, the antihelix is weakly developed.

(718) 6. Scars.--In the Tramp there, is a pit-like, ovoid scar, about 1 centimeter in diameter located immediately above the lateral end of his right eyebrow. This feature is not observed in any of the Hunt photographs provided for examination.

(719) 7. Age.--In general facial tone, age lines and other features, Tramp C appears to be at least a decade older than Hunt.

(720) From the observed differences in metric and morphological features, E. Howard Hunt can be confidently excluded as being Tramp C.

(721) Chrisman.--A comparison of a single undated full-face photograph of an individual identified as Fred Lee Chrisman was also made with those of Tramp C. His mouth is slightly open and he appears to have been speaking at the time the photograph was made. The subject is a white male who appears to be about 60 +-5 years of age. In general, the index difference between Chrisman and Tramp C is low, ranging between two and six points with a mean difference of four index points. This is less than one-half the average index difference (nine) observed between E. Howard Hunt and Tramp C. Such a low value suggests a strong resemblance between Tramp C and Chrisman in general facial configuration.

(722) Tramp C appears to be approximately a decade younger than Chrisman.(3) The similarities in morphological traits between Tramp C and Chrisman are nevertheless impressive.

(723) 1. Hairline.--Although Tramp C is wearing a hat, it is positioned far enough back on his head to reveal his hairline. It appears to be continuous and uninterrupted by a part or any strong recession due to balding. It is thus of the same general configuration observed in Chrisman.

(724) 2. Forehead.--Both Chrisman and Tramp C are characterized by several strongly developed transverse frontal sulci "worry lines". These are 1 more accentuated in Chrisman as would be consistent with his apparent greater age. Unfortunately, these wrinkles are not shown with sufficient clarity in the Tramp to allow a detailed comparison of their pattern. Differences observed in this region include the circular, pit-like scar located immediately lateral to the outer end of the left eyebrow of Tramp C and the strong vertical interciliary sulcus of the Tramp, neither of which are discernible in the Chrisman photograph.

Alibi for Chrisman

Although the Forensic Anthropologists of the House Select Committee were unable to exclude Fred Chrisman as one of the three tramps, the Committee's investigators did. A footnote to the Committee's Report notes that "During 1963-1964, Chrisman was employed at Rainier Union High School in Rainier, Oreg. The committee obtained the affidavits of three teachers at that school, Marva Harris, Norma Chase, and Stanley Perloom, that Chrisman was teaching school in Rainier on November 22, 1963 (JFK document 013925)."

(725) 3. Eyebrows.--In both men, the eyebrows are low and weakly arched. In the Tramp, however, they appear to be more widely separated than they are in Chrisman.

(726) 4. Eyes.--Both men have heavy medial eyefolds which tend to obscure the upper lids, lending their eyes a "hooded" aspect. Also both display well-developed oblique palpebral sulci that gives them a somewhat "baggy-eyed" appearance.

(727) 5. Nose.--In Tramp C, the nasal root appears to be somewhat broader than in Chrisman. In both men, the lower nasal region is characterized by a full, fleshy tip.

(728) 6. Mouth.--Both men have relatively small months. The membranous portion of Chrisman's upper lip appears to be extremely thin whereas that of the Tramp is moderately full. The nasolabial fold is strongly developed in Tramp C but not present in Chrisman.

(729) 7. Chin.--Both men have prominent chins with squared lower margins. In both, platysmal folds have developed to give them a rather "jowly" appearance.

(730) 8. Ears.--No morphological inconsistencies in the ears of the two men are observed.

(731) In brief, Chrisman resembles Tramp C rather strongly in both metric and morphological features. These similarities, derived from the analysis of a single undated photograph of Chrisman, are in no way sufficient to establish a positive identification. Nevertheless, they are strong enough to suggest that further analysis, based on more fully documented Chrisman photographs, should be considered, unless independent evidence excludes Chrisman's presence in Dallas on November 22, 1963.


No. and index (Times 100) Tramp A Vallee Sturgis Carswell
l. Forehead height: Total face height 31 37(6) 33(2) 28(3)
2. Nose length: Lower face height 47 46(1) 33(14) 42(5)
3. Chin eminence height: Lower face height 20 23(3) 31(11) 27(7)
4. Nose breadth: Nose length 71 68(3) 86(15) 76(5)
5. Mouth height: Lower face height 33 34(1) 40(7) 36(3)
6. Lobe length: Ear length 22 29(7) 30(8) 42(20)
7. Ear length: Total face height 36 29(7) 33(3) 30(6)
Mean deviation 4. 4.0 8.6 7.0


No. and index (times 100) Tramp B Sturgis Carswell
1. Forehead height: total face height 41 33(8) 28(13)
2. Nose length: Lower face height 40 33(7) 42(2)
3. Chin eminence height: Lower face height 27 31(4) 27(0)
4. Nose breadth: Nose length -- -- --
5. Mouth height: Lower face height 38 40(2) 36(2)
6. Lobe length: Ear length 30 30(0) 42(12)
7. Ear length: Total face height 36 33(3) 30(6)
Mean deviation 4.0 5.8


No. and index (times 100) Tramp C Hunt Chrisman
1. Forehead height: Total face height 29 42(13) 33(4)
2. Nose length: Lower face height 35 46(11) 41(6)
3. Chin eminence height: Lower face height 20 30(10) 18(2)
4. Mouth height: Lower face height 40 50(10) 34(6)
5. Lobe length: Ear length 30 32(2) 27(3)
6. Ear length: Face height 36 28(8) 33(3)
Mean deviation 9.0 4.0

1. Originally Sturgis was compared only with tramp B (see HSCA JFK hearings, vol. IV, pp. 374-77); the anthropologists were later asked to extend their comparison to include tramp A.

2. Originally, Carswell was compared only with Tramp A (see HSCA-JFK Hearings vol. IV, pp. 374-77); the anthropologists were later asked to extend their comparison to Tramp B.

3. Therefore, to obtain a more definitive interpretation, it would be helpful to establish the date of the Chrisman photograph.

Back to Three Tramps Page
Back to Dealey Plaza Page
Back to Kennedy Assassination Home Page