Over at the Maggie's Drawers Forum (sorry -- couldn't resist, what with being a mysogynist and all), the battle to best the Across the Pond Scum Forum in the Santayana Sweepstakes wages on and on and on ...
Once again its superstar correspondents are attempting -- with neither acknowledgment nor application of the first and arguably most important study of the phenomenon -- to quantify and qualify the gunfire-like sounds heard and testified to by Dealey Plaza bystanders.
The same ignorant charade was played a while back. At that time I teased them with reference to George Michael Evica's essay, "The Surrounding Silence: The Terrible First Sound in Dealey Plaza." Although I had the work in-hand, I feigned the inability to locate it and then provided a summary of its conclusions.
One after another they rushed up the gallow steps and went on record asserting that no such essay existed and/or that its database was an utter fabrication.
Once their self-applied, self-tightened nooses were firmly in place, I unveiled Evica's essay.
Not one of them -- not one -- displayed the character and forthrightness required to admit errors.
Then again, it's tought to type while hanging from a rope.
And now they're back for more circle jerking the trigger with a new thread, "Suppressor (Silencer) Fitted [sic] Rifle in the Dal-Tex Building?"
For the record, here is Evica's analysis in its entirety. Again.
The Surrounding Silence: The Terrible First Sound in Dealey Plaza
by George Michael Evica (Copyright 1993)
A terrible explosion tore the jubilant air of Dealey Plaza at 12:30 PM E.S.T on November 22, 1963. It silenced the cheering crowd at Main and Elm and froze JFK’s Dallas motorcade. At least 120 witnesses in Dealey Plaza reported (to Dallas Police, sheriff’s deputies, the FBI, the Secret Service, and both local and national media, and later, in testimony before the Warren Commission) that an ear-shattering roar (a bomb, cannot shot, explosion, backfire, fireworks, or loud “firecracker”) was the first “noise” they heard before the fatal flurry of shots entered the presidential car.
Simultaneously, many of these same witnesses (and others) saw a bright flash of light and a white cloud of smoke from near the top of the grassy knoll. When witnesses in the motorcade drove through this area, they reported smelling acrid “gunpowder,” that special chemical combination associated with blasting explosives (including so-called railroad torpedoes) and fireworks.
This presentation examines the testimony of 120 Dealey Plaza witnesses who experienced that initial terrifying roar and evaluates that “sudden, sharp, shattering sound” (Manchester 155), as part of a Dealey complex of sound and sight for what it tells us about the conspirators who planned the ambush and murder of President John F. Kennedy.
Apparently neither Sylvia Meagher nor Harold Weisberg were aware of the extraordinary number of witnesses to that first explosive noise heard in Dealey Plaza.
Weisberg examined the testimony of a few witnesses who reported the first loud noise, but he did not pursue the topic.
Meagher did include Jack Dougherty (TSBD worker) in her discussion of misreporting of evidence: FBI agents had stated that Dougherty told them he heard (according to them) a loud explosion coming from the first floor above him (Meagher 324-325). Dougherty, later questioned by Warren Commission counsel Ball, corrected the assassination record twice. He maintained he had not indicated the noise had come from above him; and he had “ ... told them [the FBI agents] it [the noise] sounded like car backfiring.” (6H 380: emphasis added) Recognizing that FBI agents were apparently attempting to misreport the source of the fatal rounds fired at JFK by distorting a statement summarizing the witness’s earliest sensory experience, Meagher, however, pursued an even more important lead: from where that sound came and what it meant. But Dougherty was quite clear: the noise sounded like a car backfiring; its source, therefore, if he were correct, could only have been the motorcade of cars passing at that moment below his vantage point in the TSBD.
Thomas Buchanan did the earliest sound analysis of what he called the “first shot”: “ ... [The] consensus of [both] policemen and civilians was that the first shot ... ‘sounded different [from the following shots]’ ... ” (Buchanan 81), but he offered no other evidence or insight beyond this provocative conclusion.
Harold Feldman (“Fifty-One Witnesses: the Grassy Knoll,” The Minority of One, March, 1965, pp. 16-25) helped to establish the source for the initial sound: the knoll, probably from the area of the bushes fronting the fence, but he did not differentiate the locus of the first noise from either any noise or any apparent weapons fire, regardless of sequence, so long as the witness indicated the knoll as a source. Josiah Thompson made the same categorizing error.
In fact, Josiah Thompson is the author of the most important and perverse analysis of the explosive first sound. As Meagher was looking in the direction of “misreporting,” and hence did not understand the full meaning of her data, so Josiah Thompson was looking for a ballistic reason for the reported shallow or non-transiting back wound to JFK as recorded by FBI agents Sibert and O’Neil at the Bethesda autopsy and therefore, like Meagher, missed the testimony of the scores of credible witnesses to the bomb-like sound as something other than a rifle shot (see throughout, but especially pp. 166-168) and argued that “Bullet [CE] 399 ... [was] an atypical projectile ... ” to explain JFK’s shallow back wound. Further, Thompson summarized his findings: “At lease fifty-two witnesses reported that the first shot sounded more like a ‘firecracker’ or ‘backfire’ than a rifle shot ... ” (Thompson 166) But then he proceeded to ignore the actual testimony available to him. Only one of his witnesses reportedly used a word that might have suggest a “short charge” (that is, “ ... a cartridge whose explosive power was far less than standard”) (Thompson 167). That single witness who also testified to Hearing “ ... a report like a firecracker ... ” (2 H 73) reportedly added the word “pop” to his testimony (2 H 73).
But every other witness available to both the Warren Commission and to the House Select Committee on Assassinations described the sound as a loud explosion, including Kellerman himself (the witness who reportedly used the word “pop”). Every Secret Service agent who reported hearing the initial sound described it as an explosion, a loud firecracker sound: 1. to differentiate that first sound from the following recognizable rifle firings, and 2. to establish the loudness of the sound they heard. Every Secret Service agent (including Kellerman) who had been in the motorcade, who made a Secret Service report, and who then testified to the Warren Commission, characterized the initial sound as an explosion, a bomb, or loud firecracker (see 18 H 742-782): see, for example, Secret Service Agent Kivett’s phrase: “... an extremely large firecracker.” (18 H 778)
Using the Thompson text (or borrowing the Thompson thesis) has gotten recent writers and researchers into trouble. For example, Milton S. Jones in his article “Skulduggery in Dallas” (The Third Decade, January 9, 1993, Volume 9, #2 18-21) apparently relying on Thompson (but without citation), states: “More than fifty ear-witnesses perceived the sound ... as being a ‘firecracker’ or something other than the sharp crack of a rifle [true, of course].” (Jones 18) (Thompson himself gives only twenty-five specific citations for his “ ... [at] least fifty-two witnesses ... ” . (Thompson 167 ) Like Thompson, Jones ignores what he himself reports, since his intention is identical to Thompson’s: to argue for a “short round” as the genesis of the reported non-transiting back wound to JFK. And so Jones quotes witnesses: “ ... this very loud report ... ”; “It sounded louder [than a rifle round] and [had] more of a bang ... ”; “ ... a firecracker or bomb ... ”; and “ ... a large firecracker ... ” (Jones 18) Jones, in fact, establishes that the first sound was both very loud and different from a rifle shot – and then argues, as Thompson did, against his own evidence.
John Fink, in a letter to The Third Decade, arguing apparently from the same (undocumented) source or sources, takes Thompson’s conclusion as evidence. Fink writes: “ ... the consistent testimony by witnesses [was] that the first shot ... sounded very weak ... a ‘pop’ instead of a ‘boom.’” (Fink, May, 1993, Volume 9, #4, 40). But no “consistent testimony” for a “very weak” first shot exists, and no documentation is given by Fink for this allegedly “weak” sound. Fink’s ultimate source is, of course, Thompson (or someone who has used Thompson without examining the basis for Thompson’s “short round” hypothesis).
Indeed, the reason the Dealey Plaza witnesses did not react to the first sound as if it were a weapon firing (as Jones himself argues in his letter) is that the origin of the explosion was not a firearm (other than possibly a cannon) but rather an explosive device (which may have been thrown into Elm Street).
Only Jim Marrs among the researchers has indicated that he read the Warren Commission’s material with close attention to the nature of the first sound in Dealey Plaza. Marrs interviewed Secret Service Agent Lawson who verified that, for him, the first sound was not a rifle “crack” but an explosive “bang”: a loud, “firecracker” explosion. Marrs conclude: “This description was to be reported by nearly everyone in Dealey Plaza ... ” (Marrs, Crossfire 14) Marrs does not offer documentation for his accurate conclusion, though I assume the supportive material is in his files. He does quote a score of witnesses on their perception of the loud noise.
My presentation is based on a linguistic content analysis. Only a handful of witnesses Only a handful of witnesses called the first sound they heard a rifle shot, and when they did, they characterized the “sound” as the result of a high-powered or automatic weapon (another version, in fact, of this paper’s explosion category; but these witnesses are not included in this analysis). A few Witnesses described the first sound (and subsequent sounds) as if they had heard a series of volleys of shots (these witnesses were also not included). But 120 witnesses gave their impression of the first sound as a “[loud] noise” or “explosion.”
The “sudden, sharp, shattering sound” (Manchester, summarizing his reading of the Dealey Plaza witnesses, 155) was heard throughout the Plaza. Those who experienced the sound and reported on it immediately after the shooting literally ringed the assassination site: from in front of the Texas School Book Depository to the DalTex Building to the crowd lining Main Street between Houston and the Triple Underpass to the top of the Underpass bridge to the people in the Texas School Book Depository, and finally from the occupants of the motorcade who were in the Plaza on Main Street when the terrible object exploded or passed through the area immediately after the blast.
The roar silenced the crowd, stopped the motorcade, and the explosion’s dying reverberations surrounded the now quiet Plaza.
With the presidential limo immobilized, the teams of shooters took deadly aim and killed JFK within seven seconds of the initial roaring sound which disoriented not only the cheering members of the crowd but also the president’s driver and all the rest of the Secret Service contingent who were following. The presidential car slowed, braking, and veered to the side of the road as it responded to the driver’s disorientation and concern.
In The Iron Sights, , the analyses of the Dealey Plaza sensorial complex – most strikingly marked by the first ear-shattering noise – is seen as nested in a series of macro-structures and accompanied by a group of micro-structures. The macro-structures (how JFK was brought South, then to Texas, making the Dallas trip inevitable, and how the motorcade was routed down Main Street and Then Elm Street, trapping JFK in the Dealey Plaza crossfire) frame the micro-structures, one of which is the examination of the awful noise.
In summary, all the witnesses’ sound and sight experiences, though momentarily disoriented, establish the locus of the boom sound as an area bounded by the fence on the grassy knoll, to the north top of the underpass, and down into Elm Street, just opposite the western part of the knoll and just below the underpass. The flash of light and puff of smoke are perceived by the Dealey Plaza witnesses at exactly the same area.
No group in Dealey Plaza was without witnesses to this sensorial event: in fact, a complete examination of Commission documents, Sheriff’s Office records, Dallas Police files, and still-withheld FBI and Secret Service materials will add (I believe) another seventy-five witnesses who heard the terrible sound in Dealey Plaza.
(Note: Thirty-four witnesses in this analysis chose to report an either/or sound: “firecracker or backfire,” for example. But in no instance was one of the alternatives a rifle shot. Many of the witnesses expressed uncertainty about the nature of the first explosion, but thereafter recognized the sounds that followed as weapons fire.)
My summarizing categories for the terrible noise are four: 1. firecracker; 2. “salute” or cannon; 3. explosion; and 4. backfire.
For category 1. “firecracker,” 70 witnesses reported; for category 2. “salute” or cannon fire, 9 witnesses reported; for category 3. “explosion,” 33 witnesses reported; and for category 4. “backfire,” 27 witnesses reported.
The Four Sound Categories
Fifty-six witnesses reported “firecracker” for the first sound; twelve more reported “firecrackers,” again for the first sound (a sub-total of 64); six more witnesses used the word “fireworks,” bringing the total to 76. Contextually, the plural “firecrackers” and the word “fireworks” both indicate the magnitude and quality of the sound. In this same first category are cherry bomb (1), bomb (2), railroad torpedo (1) and torpedo (1). I have not combined the two “torpedo” references because both “railroad” and “firecracker”/”fireworks” torpedoes exist – but they are detonated in different ways. Again, the words “cherry bomb,” “bomb,” and “torpedo” indicate the magnitude and quality of the sound. (Note that the three references to a “bomb” are not included in the explosion category primarily because they again refer to both the magnitude and quality of the experience, linking them most closely to the “firecracker” category).
Six witnesses characterized the first explosive noise as sounding like a celebrational or formal “salute” (as in the standard “21-gun salute,” where gun is an older linguistic alternative for cannon). Two witnesses thought the first sound they heard might have been the firing of a miniature, toy, or football cannon. In this second category, then, nine witnesses reported the first noise as a cannon-like blast.
Thirty-three witnesses described the first sound as a loud noise, boom, bang, blast, or an echoing explosion. Again, the magnitude and quality of the sound these witnesses reported differed significantly from the sounds they heard which followed; two witnesses, for example, thought the first sound was more like a shotgun blast than the sharp report of a rifle.
Twenty-seven witnesses reported that the first noise in Dealey Plaza sounded like a muffler backfire. Thirteen of those witnesses did not specify what kind of backfire, but eight others reported it sounded like a motorcycle backfiring and six heard what they thought was a car backfiring; finally, one witness implies it sounded like a truck backfiring. Again, for these twenty-seven witnesses, the magnitude and quality of the perceived sound differentiated it from the sharp crack of a rifle shot. One witness thought a motorcade has suffered a blowout, a sound not unlike a backfire.
Clearly, the data available in Dealey Plaza witness testimony establishes and explosion apparently timed to catch the JFK limo opposite the knoll and convert that vehicle from an already slow-moving target to (at least momentarily) a stationary one.
The trip south, to Dallas, and finally the motorcade route was all carefully planned; JFK was to die in Dallas in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963, 12:30 PM E.S.T.
The motorcade was frozen in place with the detonation of an explosive device whose sound was extremely loud and unlike a rifle report. But the device was not only loud: its detonation was accompanied by a brilliant flash of light and a white cloud of smoke.
The explosive device may also have been thrown through the bushes from behind the picket fence; elements of the device may have landed in Elm Street in front of JFK’s limo: a significant number of noise witnesses used a version of the word “thrown” when they described their experience; many said that actually saw something thrown out of the bushes or from the knoll at the moment of the shattering noise.
The explosion was disorienting because a specific auditory source was difficult to pinpoint. The magnitude of the sound meant it was immediately followed (as scores of witnesses corroborated) by echoing waves which bounced under the Triple Underpass bridge and against the buildings in Dealey Plaza. But the overwhelming consensus of the Plaza witnesses placed the sound’s source on the knoll or below the knoll on elm Street, not as a rifle shot but as an explosion, a cannon firing or bomb, a loud firecracker, or a backfire.
The explosion was intended 1. probably to disorient the crowd, certainly to disorient the president’s security and especially disorient JFK’s driver; 2. to slow further if not stop the already slow-moving presidential limo; and (therefore) 3. to set up the president in a murderous crossfire in the Plaza. It accomplished its primary purposes. Whether any shots actually came from the grassy knoll subsequent to that terrible noise, the vast majority of the witnesses knew where the explosion had originated, and an extraordinary number of witnesses, including police officers and sheriff’s deputies, headed for that point.
Before the witnesses could be influenced by newspaper reports, police or intelligence interrogators, or reports of each others’ perceptions, the witnesses in Dealey Plaza knew what they had initially heard and seen.
The explosion occurred at (approximately) frame 160 of the Zapruder film. What occurred at that moment was not the result of a missed shot. The loud noise resulted in a noticeable reaction in the presidential car, including JFK’s. The brake lights were applied (verified by examination of the Zapruder, Nix, and Muchmore films), bringing the JFK limo almost to a complete stop.
This new evidence establishes, therefore, that the first heard sound was not a “missed shot” but the noise of a deliberately detonated device intended to disorient in general and slow or stoop the presidential limo in particular.
Like the so-called floor-laying crew in the TSBD (whom I suspect of being framed as accessories before the fact by agreeing to a request to participate in a test of the president’s security), I believe some of the railroad underpass bridge witnesses were collusive in a fraudulent test of presidential security. Still, this group of witnesses remains evidentially important, since as a group (whether we focus on the noise, the light, or the smoke), all of its members located the detonation below them and to the left: that is, on the north side of the knoll or in Elm Street just below them.
This new evidence is also the inverse of Gerry Patrick Hemming’s stunning suggestion to Stan Szurzon while they observed Oliver Stone’s Dealey Plaza shooting for JFK. Hemming called the heard sounds theatrical, intended by the assassins to be observed as part of a public spectacle. He suggested that the president may just as well have been killed by unheard guns, for example, the highly-accurate silenced .22s which were the favorite assassination weapons of both CIA hitmen and Syndicate-hired anti-Castro Cubans. The “surrounding silence” as a metaphor for the presidential murder then takes on even ironic meaning.
The reported sequence of witness response was: 1. the auditory registration, most often its painful or frightening magnitude; 2/ disorientation: a. ‘What was that?’ b. ‘From where did it come?’; followed by 3. an attempt at a sensorial definition and location: that is an explosive noise coming from either the north knoll or Elm Street.
Whether intended or not, the magnitude of the sound was, in fact, closely related to its ability to disorient, since the physiology of both human auditory responses and the maintenance of human balance (orientation) are both located in the inner ear.
I submit that this fact alone gives us a significant measure of those who plotted the assassination. They intended to disorient the witnesses and the motorcade and to freeze the action in Dealey Plaza. They achieved all simultaneously with the terrible explosion in Dealey Plaza.
Whether or not the president was actually threatened by assassination attempt in Chicago and Miami (both of which would have pointed to false sponsors), or whether or not the potential incidents were to illustrate the president’s need for greater security (and hence the faked security test in Dallas), the pattern of events leading to November 22, 1963 excludes either coincidence or randomness.
JFK was brought south, then to Dallas, and finally Dealey Plaza, where his limo was brought to a stop with a terrifyingly loud, disorienting blast so that several teams of hired assassins could murder him on November 22, 1963.