Michael T. Griffith


@All Rights Reserved

Third Edition

Lone-gunman theorists maintain that the alleged JFK autopsy photos and x-rays are genuine, pointing to the fact that they were authenticated by two expert panels retained by the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in the late 1970s. However, those panels based their "authentications" on a few narrow criteria, and they did not explain the indications of fakery in the autopsy materials.

Indications that the autopsy x-rays and photographs are invalid are as follows:

* The HSCA admitted the following about the photographs:

- They are generally of rather poor photographic quality.

- Some of them were taken in such a manner that it is nearly impossible to anatomically orient the direction of view.

- In many of them, scaler references are entirely lacking, or, when present, are positioned in such a manner that it is difficult or impossible to obtain accurate measurements of critical features from anatomical landmarks.

- Not one of them contains information identifying the victim, such as his name, the autopsy case number, and the date and place of the examination.

- Due to their lack of documentation and poor quality, the defense could have challenged the use of these photos as evidence in a trial, and even the prosecution might have had "second thoughts about using certain of these photographs since they are more confusing than informative."

- The onus of establishing their authenticity would have rested with the prosecution. Harrison Livingstone correctly notes that this point and the previous one can rightly be seen as an admission that the photos would have been prima facie inadmissable as evidence in a court of law, and that the prosecution could have used them only after establishing their validity (Livingstone, High Treason 2, 315).

* Earl McDonald of the National Archives, who trained in autopsy photography under autopsy photographer James Stringer, has noted other oddities about the autopsy photos. McDonald has compiled a list of things that should appear in the autopsy photos but that are not found in them:

- There are no autopsy tags visible in any of the photographs.

- There are no whole body photographs in the collection.

- There is no photograph of the brain (at autopsy) immediately following removal from the cranium.

- There is no photograph of the inside of the skull following brain removal showing its condition.

- There is no photograph of the reassembled skull.

- There is no photograph of the chest cavity.

- There is no extreme close-up of the back wound.

- There is no wide-angle and/or medium field view of the cranium viewed from the outside. (I've taken this list from chapter four of Ed Dorsch's fine online book on the assassination. The book is available at

* The HSCA medical panel authenticated the x-rays partly on the basis of a right frontal sinus, but if the x-rays are composites, or if they are in fact the originals but have been altered, an authentication based on sinuses would not automatically prove authenticity.

* In the color versions of the right-profile and top-of-the-head pictures, there are three large bloody red stripes hanging down on top of Kennedy's hair, giving the appearance of a severe wound at the top of the head. However, in the black and white reprints of these photos the stripes are white or light gray. This is a photographic impossibility, if orthochromatic film was used. With such film, red turns to black, not to white or light gray. Professional photographer Steve Mills has said the following about this problem:

Orthochromatic film, unfiltered, records blue very lightly and red very darkly. This makes perfect sense in [autopsy photos] F1 through F5. Yet, here's a supposedly bloodied scalp in F6 and F7 recorded as light gray. This can be done with a red filter on ortho film, but the blood drops on the towel show me this is not the case. The scalp can't be gray and three bloody spots still be dark if a filter was used. It is common to use ortho film in forensic photography to show differences and details in red and blue areas. But this is no proof. The record declares one type of film, and the photos declare either another or fraud. (Livingstone, High Treason 2, 584)

Mills goes on to discuss indications of fraud in the Groden color autopsy photos in relation to the stripes and the scalp:

They [the autopsy photos] also show Groden's color shots to be frauds. Let me explain.

1) Let's say it was pan b/w. F6 and F7 would have to be shot with a blue filter to lighten the stripe. That would darken the supposedly bloody scalp. You can't have it both ways, i.e., light red and light blue, so there's no red filter either. This would not work. So, if it's truly pan film, then the scalp is not bloody skin but brain matter.

2) Let's say it's ortho film. The blue stripe will always be light and the red will always be dark. No filter is required if the scalp is really brain tissue, but a red one is still needed to lighten blood. But here the bloody spots prove this is not the case once again. So do the bloody marks on his shoulder.

So, here's the result: They probably used ortho film and no filtering of any kind. that is brain and not scalp. We can see that no combination of film and filtration can give you b/w photos that will jibe with Grodenís colors. they have to be fake. (Livingstone, HIGH TREASON 2, 584-585, original emphasis)

Furthermore, nearly all of the medical witnesses who have commented on the condition of the top of the head have said it was virtually undamaged (Livingstone, High Treason 22, 156, 182; Livingstone, Killing Kennedy, 254, 255, 256-257; Livingstone, Killing the Truth, 139; see also the discussion herein on the location of the large head wound). Numerous witnesses reported that the large head defect was not visible when the back of the head was lying flat on the table.

* The autopsy photos were supposedly taken at the morgue of the Bethesda Naval Hospital, but some of the medical technicians who worked there--and who also assisted with the autopsy--have stated that the background in those pictures is not that of the Bethesda morgue. Among other things, these technicians argue that the instrument tray shown in the F7 top-of-the-head photo is not the kind of tray that was used at the Bethesda morgue.

Additionally, the left-profile picture shows a black phone on the wall beside the table, but these autopsy technicians say there was no phone at that position at the morgue.

* The x-rays of the skull show two-thirds of the right side of the brain to be gone. All that remains is a torn and flattened base. Yet, the x-rays also show a trail of tiny metal fragments across the top of the head on the right side, from the alleged entrance point in the rear to the forward margin of the supposed exit wound in the right front. How can this be? What is supporting the metal if there is no brain in that part of the head?

The fragments in the right frontal lobe are particularly problematic. Dr. Richard Lindenberg, an expert consultant for the Rockefeller Commission, noted that in the skull x-rays the entire right frontal lobe is missing. But the x-rays show bullet fragments in that lobe. What is supporting those fragments if the lobe is not there? One cannot have the right frontal lobe missing and still have fragments seen in it on an x-ray.

* Floyd Riebe, one of the two autopsy photographers, stated in a filmed interview for KRON-TV in 1988 that the autopsy x-rays and photos had been doctored in some way, and that the photos did not show the wounds that he saw on the night of the autopsy. Riebe said he recalled seeing "a big gaping hole in the back of the head." The other photographer, James Stringer, stated in a taped interview that he did not take the photos of the back of the head, which show that area intact, contrary to the testimony of literally dozens of credible witnesses. Who, then, took the back-of-the-head pictures?

* In the skull x-rays, according to government-hired experts who have examined them, there does not appear to be a large defect in the right rear part of the head. Similarly, in the autopsy photographs of the back of the head, this area of the head is intact. However, numerous medical professionals and federal agents who saw Kennedy's body have stated there was a large hole in that part of the skull. Some of these witnesses include the following:

- Audrey Bell, a nursing supervisor at Parkland Hospital.

- Diana Bowron, Parkland Hospital nurse. Nurse Bowron actually cleaned the large defect and packed it with gauze squares in preparing the body for the casket. She vividly remembers that the large head wound was in the right rear part of the skull.

- Dr. Kemp Clark, Parkland Hospital.

- Dr. Charles Crenshaw, Parkland Hospital.

- Dr. Richard Dulaney, Parkland Hospital.

- Dr. John Ebersole, Bethesda Hospital radiologist. In an extensive interview with his hometown newspaper in 1978, Dr. Ebersole said, "When the body was removed from the casket there was a very obvious horrible gaping wound in the back of the head" (Lifton 543).

- William Greer, Secret Service agent, who drove the presidential limousine.

- Clint Hill, a Secret Service agent who was taken to the morgue for the express purpose of viewing the President's wounds and who was also in the Parkland trauma room when the President was being treated. It was Agent Hill who climbed onto the back of the limousine to get Jackie Kennedy to return to her seat. Hill testified that as he was lying over the top of the back seat "I noticed a portion of the president's head on the right rear side was missing and he was bleeding profusely." Hours later, when Hill was taken to the morgue for the express purpose of viewing the President's wounds, he again reported seeing a large defect in the right rear area of the skull.

- Patricia Hutton (now Patricia Gustaffson), a nurse at Parkland Hospital, who placed a bandage against the wound in the back of the head.

- James Curtis Jenkins, a Navy lab technician at Bethesda Hospital who was present at the autopsy.

- Dr. Robert Karnei, Bethesda Hospital, who was present at the autopsy.

- Roy Kellerman, a Secret Service agent who was present at the autopsy.

- Dr. Robert McClelland, Parkland Hospital.

- Doris Nelson, a chief nurse at Parkland Hospital. Nurse Nelson, who got a very good look at Kennedy's head in the trauma room at Parkland Hospital, balked when shown the alleged autopsy photos of the back of the head:

Doris Nelson, the supervising Emergency Room nurse, carefully inspected the body. Ben Bradlee, Jr., asked her, "Did you get a good look at his head injuries?" "A very good look," she replied. "Oh, I did see it. When we wrapped him up and put him in the coffin. I saw his whole head." She was then asked if the alleged autopsy photos were accurate. "No. It's not true. Because there was no hair back there. There wasn't even hair back there. It was blown away. Some of his head was blown away and his brains were fallen down on the stretcher." (Groden and Livingstone 454)

- Aubrey Rike, an ambulance driver and funeral home worker in Dallas. Rike was called to Parkland Hospital soon after the shooting and assisted in placing the President's body in the casket. Rike could actually feel the edges of the large wound in the back of the head.

- Tom Robinson, the mortician who had the job of putting the President back together after the autopsy in case the family wanted to take one last look at him. Robinson, of course, had to spend a good part of his time handling the President's head. He saw and felt the large wound in the right rear.

- Jan Gail Rudnicki, a lab assistant at Bethesda Hospital who was present at the autopsy.

- Roy Stamps, a Fort Worth newsman who saw Kennedy lying in the limousine before he was moved into Parkland Hospital. Said Stamps, "I rushed up and saw Kennedy lying in the car. . . . The back of his head was gone" (Marrs 362).

- Dr. David Stewart, Parkland Hospital.

It should be noted that according to some private experts, the anterior-posterior (AP) x-ray does indicate some missing bone in the occipital region.

* The skull x-rays show a large 6.5 mm fragment in the outer table of the skull below what government-hired experts have described as an entrance hole in the top part of the back of the head, in the cowlick area. However, neither the autopsy doctors nor the radiologist reported seeing this fragment in the skull x-rays that were taken on the night of the autopsy (Livingstone, Killing the Truth, 131-133, 622, 630). When the chief autopsist, Dr. James Humes, testified before the Warren Commission, he discussed at length the fragments he observed in the skull and in the skull x-rays, and he mentioned that he and the other doctors were looking for fragments to retrieve, yet he said nothing about seeing a 6.5 mm fragment anywhere in the rear part of the skull (see, for example, 2 H 351-355, 358-360).

Additionally, ballistics expert Howard Donahue pointed out that it is highly unlikely that the 6.5 mm fragment could have come from a bullet fired from the alleged sniper's nest. Defenders of the x-rays speculate that the fragment "sheared off" from the bullet as the missile entered the skull. But Donahue observed that a bullet fired from the TSBD, and thus entering the skull at a downward angle, should have deposited a sheared-off fragment above the entrance point, not below it. He further notes that he has never heard off a fully metal-jacketed bullet shearing on impact (Menninger 68, 160). Detective Shaun Roach, an Australian forensics expert, agrees, saying, ". . . due to the inherent strength of the 6.5 mm Carcano jacket, I also believe that it would not shear off a fragment upon entering the head, then deposit that fragment on the outer table of the skull, either above or below the wound" (Livingstone, Killing the Truth, 57). In fact, forensic science knows of no case where a fully metal-jacketed bullet deposited a sheared-off fragment in the outer table of the skull after striking the skull.

Moreover, the alleged entrance hole in the x-rays, near which the 6.5 mm fragment appears, is a staggering four inches HIGHER than the entry point described in the autopsy report. It is extremely hard to believe that the autopsy pathologists mislocated this wound by a whopping four inches, especially since one of them, Dr. J. Thornton Boswell, in effect triangulated the wound to the external occipital protuberance (Livingstone, Killing the Truth, 129-130).

* Dr. Mantik has concluded the x-rays are abnormal. Dr. Mantik reached this conclusion after studying the radiographs at the National Archives with sensitive light-measuring equipment. Dr. Mantik has noted that the measured light in the large white area on the right lateral x-rays is "a thousand times the maximum seen in any other x-rays" (in Dateline Dallas, April 12, 1994, p. 13; see also Livingstone, Killing Kennedy, 79-87). (For the record, Dr. Mantik, B.S., M.S., Ph.D., M.D., is a board-certified radiation oncologist and the Director of Radiation Oncology at Eisenhower Memorial Hospital. He was formerly an Assistant Professor of Radiation Science at Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, California, and is the author or co-author of several scholarly publications in these fields. Dr. Mantik's Ph.D. is in physics.)

* The Select Committee's medical panel claimed that in the lateral skull x-ray fracture lines radiate outward from the proposed cowlick entry site and correspondingly from the 6.5 mm fragment that now appears in the skull radiographs. But Dr. Mantik points out that these lines do not actually radiate from this location:

On the AP [anterior-posterior] view, however, these lines do not actually extend to the proposed entry site; they stop short of it. Dr. David O. Davis [an HSCA consultant] was careful to choose his words: ". . . the linear fractures seem to more or less emanate from the embedded metallic fragment." Unless they unequivocally extend to this 6.5 mm object they cannot represent fracture lines caused by a posterior skull bullet. On the contrary, based on the radiographs and on Boswell's diagram, several of these obvious fracture lines may lie in the inferior orbital rim and not on the posterior skull at all. The inferior orbital rim fractures were confirmed by radiologist Seaman [another HSCA consultant]: "Fractures were evident through the upper part of the right eye, including the top and bottom of the right orbit." If these fractures lie on the anterior skull surface they cannot, of course, represent fracture lines emanating from the proposed cowlick entry site, and therefore, they cannot be used as evidence of a cowlick entry. (Livingstone, Killing the Truth, 613)

* Dr. Humes, the chief autopsist, removed a large bullet fragment behind the right eye's supraorbital ridge. Humes told the Commission that this fragment was "visible by x-ray just above the right eye." In other words, Humes removed this fragment after it had been x-rayed in the skull. Moreover, to further complicate matters, Dr. Wecht and Dr. John Lattimer have stated that the large right-eye fragment did appear in the skull x-rays that they examined a few years later at the National Archives (i.e., after the Clark Panel completed its work).

* So far the 6.5 mm object seen in the skull x-rays has been referred to herein as a "fragment." However, Dr. Mantik discovered that this "fragment" is really not a bullet fragment! After direct study of the x-rays, coupled with optical density measurements, Dr. Mantik found that this object is composed of an artificial image that was superimposed over the image of a smaller, genuine bullet fragment. Dr. Mantik has even duplicated the process by which the image of the 6.5 mm object could have been created. This image could only have been added to the x-rays after the autopsy. Dr. Mantik discusses these important findings in the recent book Assassination Science: Experts Speak Out On The Death of JFK (Chicago: Catfeet Press, 1998), edited by Professor James Fetzer of the University of Minnesota.

* Bethesda x-ray technician Jerrol Custer has stated that on November 23, the day after the autopsy, he was instructed by his superiors to tape bullet fragments to pieces of skull and then to x-ray them. At the time, Custer was told these x-rays were for a "bust" of JFK's head, but no such "bust" has ever surfaced. Custer suspects the radiographs he was ordered to take on November 23 were used to make the autopsy x-rays (Livingstone, High Treason 2, 219, 554).

* According to Dr. Lattimer, the photographs of the President's brain show the cerebellum "to be intact." However, several Dallas doctors reported that the cerebellum was badly damaged.

One Dallas doctor after another testified that the cerebellum--a structure at the bottom of the back of the brain--was damaged. It was "macerated," said Dr. Carrico; "blasted out," said Dr. McClelland; "present . . . on the cart," said Dr. Baxter; "herniated from the wound," said Dr. Jenkins; and "damaged and exposed," said Dr. Kemp Clark, the neurosurgeon. (Lifton 504)

In all, seven of the Dallas doctors, all of whom got a good look at the large defect, reported seeing considerable damage to the cerebellum (Livingstone, Killing the Truth, 631-632). It should be noted that cerebellar tissue is easy to distinguish from other brain tissue. Even Dr. Humes noted damage to the cerebellum. Dr. Humes examined microscopic sections taken from seven areas of the brain, including the cerebellum. He said that ALL of the sections were "essentially similar" and that they showed "extensive disruption of brain tissue with associated hemorrhage" (WCR 545, emphasis added). How, then, could the cerebellum have been intact?

* In the autopsy photos of the back of the head, the occipital region is undamaged. But there is considerable evidence that these pictures have been doctored, or that they are entirely fake. For example:

- As discussed above, there is massive eyewitness testimony that there was a large defect in the right occipital-parietal area.

- The AP x-ray of the skull indicates, or suggests, missing bone in the occipital area (Livingstone, Killing the Truth, 630, citing a letter from Dr. Gary Aguilar, Dr. Wayne Smith, Dr. Anthony White, Dr. Patricia James, and Dr. Mantik).

- Two of the autopsy pathologists, Dr. Humes and Dr. Pierre Finck, reported that the large defect extended into the occipital region.

- The autopsy report itself says the large wound extended "somewhat into the temporal and occipital regions" (WCR 540).

- We now know from recently released files that Dr. Ebersole, who was the radiologist at the autopsy, told HSCA investigators that a sizable occipital bone fragment arrived late that night from Dallas (Livingstone, Killing Kennedy, 259). Understandably, Dr. Ebersole said the photos of the back of the head did not show the large defect as he recalled it (Livingstone, Killing Kennedy, 41-42). When shown one of the back-of-the-head photographs, Dr. Ebersole told HSCA investigators that his recollection was that the large defect was in the occipital region, and that he "certainly" could not state that the image seen in the photo was "the way it [the back of the head] looked" (Livingstone, Killing Kennedy, 41).

- Similarly, Dr. Boswell made it clear to the HSCA that part of the rear entry wound, which he and the other pathologists said was located in the middle of the occiput, was contained in a piece of missing bone that didn't arrive until late that night. Thus, according to Dr. Boswell's detailed description to HSCA investigators, that late-arriving bone fragment would have had to be mostly or entirely from the occipital area.

Perhaps the above evidence explains why Saundra Kay Spencer, who processed the autopsy photos that Secret Service Agent James Fox brought from the autopsy, told the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) that she did not process any of the autopsy photos now in evidence, i.e., that the autopsy photos that she processed were different from the autopsy pictures now in evidence. She also told the ARRB she did not process any black and white photos, only negatives and color positives. This suggests the black and white autopsy photos were processed elsewhere, and that there were two sets of autopsy photos

Joe O'Donnell, who worked with White House photographer Robert Knudsen, told the ARRB that Knudsen showed him autopsy photos that showed a grapefruit-sized hole in the back of the head. This is yet another witness who saw a sizable wound in the rear of the skull.

In light of this evidence, how can any credence be placed in the alleged autopsy photos of the back of head, which show no damage to the occipital region, especially since these photos were allegedly taken prior to the start of the autopsy?

Some experts assert that the x-rays are authentic but that they have been misinterpreted by the government-hired consultants and pro-WC doctors who have examined them. For instance, Dr. Randy Robertson, a radiologist who has examined the x-rays at the National Archives, says they show that two bullets struck President Kennedy in the head, and that one of them entered from the front. Dr. Joseph Riley has likewise concluded the skull x-rays show that two bullets struck Kennedy's head. And, Dr. Mantik and others maintain that the AP x-ray at the National Archives gives indications of a sizable right-rear defect.

Much of the controversy surrounding the skull x-rays could be cleared up if the originals were to be released for detailed, prolonged examination by independent experts. In the meantime, the conflicts between the x-rays and the photographs remain, and the photos that show the back of the head intact are strongly contradicted, not only by the AP x-ray, but by the huge amount of eyewitness testimony that there was a large, gaping wound in that area.


Dorsch, Ed, The Kennedy Assassination For The Novice, online book at

Fetzer, James, editor, Assassination Science: Experts Speak Out On The Death Of JFK, Chicago: Catfeet Press, 1998.

Groden, Robert and Harrison Edward Livingstone, High Treason: The Assassination Of President Kennedy and the New Evidence of Conspiracy, Berkley Edition, New York: Berkley Books, 1990.

Lifton, David, Best Evidence, New York: Carroll & Graf, 1988.

Livingstone, Harrison Edward, High Treason 2, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1992.

-----, Killing Kennedy and the Hoax of the Century, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1995. Must reading.

-----, Killing The Truth: Deceit And Deception in the JFK Case, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1993.

-----, Stunning New Evidence in the JFK Case, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1999.

Marrs, Jim, Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1989.

Menninger, Bonar, Mortal Error: The Shot that Killed JFK, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992.

Posner, Gerald, Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK, New York: Random House, 1993.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Michael T. Griffith holds a Masterís degree in Theology from The Catholic Distance University, a Graduate Certificate in Ancient and Classical History from American Military University, a Bachelorís degree in Liberal Arts from Excelsior College, and two Associate in Applied Science degrees from the Community College of the Air Force.He also holds an Advanced Certificate of Civil War Studies and a Certificate of Civil War Studies from Carroll College.He is a graduate in Arabic and Hebrew of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and of the U.S. Air Force Technical Training School in San Angelo, Texas.In addition, he has completed Advanced Hebrew programs at Haifa University in Israel and at the Spiro Institute in London, England.He is the author of five books on Mormonism and ancient texts, including How Firm A Foundation, A Ready Reply, and One Lord, One Faith.He is also the author of a book on the JFK assassination titled Compelling Evidence (JFK Lancer, 1996).