On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in broad daylight in Dealey Plaza in Dallas TX, in broad daylight and in front of numerous witnesses. The overwhelming majority of those who were close to the shooting or who saw anything that was of importance were identified immediately and gave statements to investigators. Many were interviewed by police almost immediately. Comprehensive testimony was recorded by the Warren Commission.
There were three motion pictures taken that show at least part of the assassination: the Zapruder, Nix and Muchmore films. There were more than a dozen more films that were taken either immediately before or after the shooting took place. More than one hundred photographs were also taken in the plaza on that day. These films and pictures were examined as evidence and are now part of the historical record.
But one remains absent
A woman can be seen in the Zapruder film and on other films and photographs taken at the time. She was standing just north of Elm street, slightly behind witness Charles Brehm and his son. This would have made her one of the closest witnesses to the fatal shot. She appears to be wearing a long coat, perhaps a raincoat. She wears a distinctive pink headscarf, like those worn by older women in Eastern Europe. Her appearance has earned her the name “The Babushka Lady.” The Term Babushka means “old woman” in Russian.
After the shooting, witnesses and photographs show that she moped around the area she was standing for a minute or two before crossing Elm Street and ascending the steps on the grassy knoll, toward the retaining wall. Shortly after (around 12:40) she is seen as part of a crowd of people who had gathered on the south side of Elm Street. Her movements are consistent with many of those in the area. Those who saw the shooting were shocked or confused and most seem to just be talking and trying to get a handle on what had happened. Some, who had a clear view of the events, such as Charles Brehm spoke to reporters or to members of the public, describing what happened. At some point, a few of those in the crowd brought out transistor radios and others congregated around them to listen for reports.
Finally the Babushka Lady is seen walking east on Elm Street. What happened to her after that is unknown. She has never been identified or come forward.
What may be most important about the Babushka Lady is that she appears to have been taking a movie or photograph(s) at the time of the assassination. In the Zapruder film and other films, she clearly has a camera to her face. The fact that she holds it there for a period of time might imply that it is a motion picture camera, but it could also be a still camera.
Many conspiracy theories hing on the claim that there was a shooter in front of the motorcade, with the most common location cited being on the grassy knoll or behind the stockade fence, just south of Elm Street. A photograph of this area, at the time of the assassination could well prove this to be true or put the issue to rest. Unfortunately, the photos that exist are not adequate. There is one photograph, taken by Mary Moorman, at almost exactly the time of the fatal shot, which shows the area of interest. H0wever, the Muchmore photograph is a Polaroid and lacks the quality and range to show anything definitive. There is also the film taken by Orville Nix, but the Nix film was taken on stock intended for indoor shooting, and not well suited for the lighting conditions. In the Nix film, the area of interest is obscured by shadows. The Babushka Lady’s film or photograph may well have captured the area and could, quite possibly, be of sufficient range and quality to prove or disprove claims of a gunman in the area.
The photo has never been found. However, a tantalizing clue comes from assassination researcher Gary Mack, who testified before Congress in 1994, recounting a story he’d been told by a retired Kodak employee about an unknown film of the assassination.
What I have found living here and talking with people is that there are a lot of people in the Dallas area who, for one reason or another, just would prefer not to come forward. I learned a story just a few weeks ago. A retired Kodak executive remembered that while they were processing Abraham Zapruder’s film out in the Dallas office out by Love Field, that a woman had come in, and this was a woman in her late 30s, a brunette, who had taken a picture at the assassination scene, and her picture was the first one out of the processor, and they were working on this because it was quicker to do stills than it was moving film.
He didn’t catch her name, but he stood next to her while she was explaining her story to some of the Federal investigators who were already there. She was running from Main Street up to Elm Street across the grass, realized she wasn’t going to get there close enough, stopped and took a picture. In the foreground were some people standing on the south curb of Elm Street. The Kennedy limousine was directly behind them, directly behind the limousine was the Book Depository Building. When the picture came out of the processor, the first thing they noticed was the exposure was terrific but the focus was way, way off. It was virtually useless, and she was told that. Well, she apparently went home and whether anyone even got her name or that is unknown.
If this story is true, and I have no reason to doubt it, the man – we sought him out, he did not seek us out, today if we can locate that slide, and this is a color slide, computer enhancement can return it literally to almost the best clarity you could have had at the time. Of course, back in those days nothing like that existed. The Kodak executive’s name is Jack Harrison. Jack said they were pushing the technicians very hard to do whatever you can to sharpen this picture and approve it, and they just said, hey, there is nothing we can do.
There is one individual who has come forward, claiming to be the Babushka Lady. Beverly Oliver was a singer and dancer at a strip club at the time of the assassination. She claims to have been the Babushka Lady and to have taken a film of the assassination. She has made some other claims, including that she was approached by FBI or Secret Service agents shortly after, who confiscated the film and never returned it. Her claims cannot be backed up by anyone else and there’s no apparent documentation of this story before 1970.
Many mainstream assassination experts flatly dismiss the stories about Beverly Oliver being the Babushka lady. I would tend to agree.
Even today, identifying this woman could turn out to be a breakthrough in historical documentation of the assassination. With 51 years having passed, it’s likely she is no longer alive. Even if she is, a decades old recollection isn’t likely to do much for the historical record. But that photograph certainly could. It’s impossible to know what kind of image could be extracted without seeing the photo. Certainly, modern technology could provide at least some level of correction for bad focus.
Somewhere in Dallas, there is likely someone who would recognize this woman. Perhaps she was their mother, aunt, grandmother, neighbor or family friend.
Unfortunately, the only photos we have of the Babushka lady show her from behind. The exception to this is the Zapruder film. However, in the Zapruder film, she is holding a camera up to her face, obscuring most of her features. Zapruder also moved his camera to track the car.
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