One of the greatest disservices Jack Ruby did when he killed Lee Harvey Oswald was to unleash a never-ending stream of conspiracy theories ranging from insane to slightly-less-insane. Most of these are benign, and in their own way entertaining; some, like deranged Orleans Parish District Attorney Jim Garrison's belief that respected businessman Clay Shaw conspired in the act, ruined lives.
If we were in charge of the world (we're still waiting to hear back about our application), we'd force all the loonies to read Vincent Bugliosi's exhaustive dissection of conspiracy theories in Reclaiming History, a work that, at 1,600 pages, also doubles as a barbell. Here are some of the kookiest conspiracy theories out there:
David Lifton and the Ol' Switcheroo
In his 1981 book Best Evidence, unhinged "researcher" David Lifton advanced his theory that, following the President's death, conspirators removed the corpse from the bronze casket aboard Air Force One and slipped it into a shipping casket. Why? Because the bullet entrance wounds would have shown that JFK was shot from the grassy knoll, and not from the rear. They needed to alter the wounds in order to frame their patsy, Oswald.
Upon landing at Andrews Air Force Base, the body was sneaked out of the side of the plane away from the television cameras focusing on the "decoy" casket. The body was then transported via helicopter to an unidentified location where evil doctors went to town, poking here and prodding there, sculpting the wounds to jibe with their plan.
Of this theory, Bugliosi writes, "One could safely say that David Lifton took folly to an unprecedented level. And considering the monumental foolishness of his colleagues in the conspiracy community, that's saying something."
Howard Donahue and Bonar Menninger and the Oops! Theory
Firearms expert Donahue is the one who came up with the cockamamie theory; Menninger is the dude who wrote Mortal Error, about said theory, which is: a Secret Service agent in the car following JFK's accidentally shot the President in the back of the head. Here's the deal: Oswald fired two shots from the Texas School Book Depository, but only one hit his target -- the bullet that struck both JFK and Governor John Connally. That's when agent George Hickey grabs the AR-15 on the floor of the follow-car and stands up to take aim at where he thinks the shots are coming from. But then he loses his balance -- it's unclear if this is because of all the stray banana peels in the car or a gust of wind huffed by a big bad wolf -- and Hickey falls over and accidentally fires the fatal shot to the President's noggin.
Amazingly, Hickey never responded to Donahue's request to be interviewed for the book. Was this because Donahue's theory is batshit crazy, or because Hickey had something to hide? YOU be the judge! The Umbrella Man
The mad genius behind this one -- which happens to be one of our faves -- may be lost to history, but somehow this tall tale has managed to stick around. This could be because this individual (or portions of his umbrella) appears in the Zapruder film and in still photos, so, whether he liked it or not, he's inextricably part of the case file. And why is this fellow so appealing to some of the theorists? Because he's the only person who can be seen holding an umbrella on what was a clear, sunny day.
As the President's car passed him, the Umbrella Man ("Brella" to his friends) opened his eponymous awning, held it above his head and waved it about. Theorists have interpreted this to mean he was either signalling unknown shooters or -- because the umbrella was really a James Bond-like gun -- firing a tranquilizer dart into JFK in order to make him a more stationary target.
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Apparently tired of hearing this nonsense, the House Select Committee on the Assassination in 1978 set out to find this most spectral of figures. Turns out the U.M. was a former insurance company supervisor named Louis Witt, a staunch Republican who was using the umbrella to heckle the President. Dude could've spared himself some infamy if he'd just flipped off JFK instead.
James Fetzer and the Zapruder Zig-Zag
Fetzer, a University of Minnesota-Duluth professor, has written extensively about how the famous Zapruder film was supposedly altered in furtherance of a conspiracy. He edited the unbelievably engrossing compendium of coo-coo, The Great Zapruder Film Hoax, in which he and other film fanatics dissect Zapruder's clip frame-by-frame, geometrically extrapolating the positions and angles and height of every person and their relationship to every blade of grass, deducing that, if the film is authentic, certain people would have to be over seven feet tall. We seriously cannot recommend this book enough.
Those are just a few of the kookier theories out there. Feel free to share yours, especially if they involve Bigfoot.