9 People Who Killed John F. Kennedy, According to Conspiracy Theorists

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Keystone/Getty Images

According to a 2013 Gallup poll, 61 percent of Americans believe John F. Kennedy’s assassination was the result of a conspiracy. Among those who don't think Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, the same names keep popping up. On the 55th anniversary of JFK's assassination, here are nine people and groups who've been blamed for killing the 35th President of the United States.

1. Lyndon B. Johnson


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A big contributor to this theory is Roger Stone, who wrote The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ. But Stone, a longtime Washington insider, is better known for having worked for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and, most recently (and controversially), Donald Trump.

Stone believes that Lyndon Johnson hired hitman Malcolm Wallace to do the dirty work, which explains an allegation that Johnson ducked before any shots were fired. Stone also believes that Johnson confessed to the crime: “Johnson’s mistress of 21 years, Madeleine Duncan Brown, who bore him an illegitimate son, said that Lyndon Johnson told her on the eve of the assassination, ‘After tomorrow I won’t have to deal with those Kennedy SOBs no more.’”

2. The KGB

Ion Mihai Pacepa, who was a general for the secret police of Communist Romania, blames the KGB for orchestrating the assassination in his book, Programmed to Kill: Lee Harvey Oswald, the Soviet KGB, and the Kennedy Assassination. As for how the Soviet security agency got connected with Lee Harvey Oswald, theorists cite Oswald’s residency in the Soviet Union from 1959 to 1962. During this time, Oswald also met and married his Russian wife, Marina. Before the Kennedy assassination, Oswald wrote a letter to his wife that contained the assertion, “I believe that the Embassy will come quickly.” Pacepa believes this note is a piece of evidence that the KGB told Oswald they would take care of his family.

In another theory, the KGB is responsible for the assassination, but Oswald is not. According to JFK assassination expert Bryan Ghent, these theorists suspect that Oswald “was replaced by a Russian agent who looked like him in order to assassinate our president.”

3. Fidel Castro


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Theories about Oswald’s connection to Cuba vary in extremity, and some of these theories claim Fidel Castro was directly involved in JFK’s death. As for evidence, Oswald was arrested in 1963 for passing out pro-Castro pamphlets for the New Orleans Fair Play for Cuba Committee. The other primary basis for this theory is Oswald’s trip to the Cuban Embassy, around two months before the assassination, where he allegedly had a meltdown because he wasn’t granted a visa.

In 1963, Castro—Cuba's longtime Prime Minister-turned-President, who passed away in 2016—was questioned about JFK’s assassination, but the U.S. government determined he was not involved.

4. Woody Harrelson's Dad

In 1980, Charles Harrelson was convicted of shooting federal judge John H. Wood, Jr. He was arrested in September of that year after a six-hour standoff with police on the side of a highway. During the saga, Harrelson confessed to the assassination of John F. Kennedy in addition to Judge Wood. He later stated he had nothing to do with the JFK assassination, claiming he only confessed to the crime to ensure that he would live longer.

5. Secret Service Agent George Hickey

In 1992, Bonar Menninger released his assassination theory in the book Mortal Error: The Shot That Killed JFK. The book details a claim that one of Kennedy’s Secret Service agents, who was riding in the car behind the president, shot Kennedy by accident. Menninger worked with Baltimore ballistics expert Howard Donahue to compile the evidence.

“It is a ballistically unshakable fact that the fatal shot came from a position behind and to the left of the president," Donahue told The Sunday Sun Magazine in 1977. The two theorists concluded that the shooter was agent George Hickey, who reacted to Lee Harvey Oswald’s first shot by shooting his own gun and further injuring JFK.

Hickey did acknowledge the accusation. He sued Menninger after the book was released, but St. Martin’s Press, the publisher of the book, settled.

6. The Central Intelligence Agency

According to author Patrick Nolan, who wrote CIA Rogues and the Killing of the Kennedys, a group of rogue CIA agents killed JFK. Nolan names James Angleton, Richard Helms, E. Howard Hunt, and David Phillips as members of the responsible group. He cites disagreement with Kennedy’s approach to Cuba as the group’s motive.

As for evidence, the most compelling is E. Howard Hunt’s deathbed confession to his family. Hunt, who was also involved in the Watergate Hotel break-in, allegedly revealed that the group of CIA rogues invited him to have a role in the assassination, which was originally supposed to take place in Miami before it was moved to Dallas. His son, Howard St. John Hunt, relayed his father's message to the Los Angeles Times, “He told me in no uncertain terms about a plot originating in Miami, to take place in Miami.”

7. Carlos Marcello

Lamar Waldron has written multiple books accusing the mafia of killing JFK. He also believes the CIA had a role in covering up the assassination. In his theory, mafia boss Carlos Marcello hired hitmen to assassinate Kennedy because the president and his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, were too tough on mob-related crimes. In 1985, Marcello allegedly admitted to the murder, reportedly telling a fellow prisoner, “Yeah, I had the son of a bitch killed. I’m glad I did. I’m sorry I couldn’t have done it myself.”

8. Joe DiMaggio


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Even baseball legend Joe DiMaggio has been blamed for JFK's assassination. According to this theory, DiMaggio was sure that a member of the Kennedy family had had Marilyn Monroe killed. DiMaggio’s lawyer Morris Engelberg wrote that the Hall of Famer refused to go to events if there would be members of the Kennedy family there. DiMaggio apparently told Engelberg, “It’s in their blood, and what they did to me will never be forgotten. They murdered the one person I loved.” Even as crazy conspiracy theories go, this one's a little flimsy.

9. Alien Researchers

William Lester’s book, A Celebration of Freedom: JFK and the New Frontier, contains a letter from Kennedy to the CIA dated 10 days before the assassination. In the letter, Kennedy requested a “classification review of all UFO intelligence files affecting National Security.” Conspiracy theorists see a connection between this letter and Kennedy’s murder, blaming either a CIA cover-up or another alien research organization.

Lester maintains that the CIA gave him the letter, but government insiders believe the letter is a fake.

This article originally ran in 2013.

14 Revolutionary Facts About Bastille Day

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

On July 14, 1789, Parisian revolutionaries stormed the Bastille fortress, where Louis XVI had imprisoned many of his enemies—or those whom he perceived to be enemies of the state. For many, the place had come to represent nothing short of royal tyranny. Its sudden fall foretold the French revolution—along with a holiday that’s now celebrated throughout France and the world at large with cries of “Vive le 14 Juillet!

1. In France, nobody calls it "Bastille Day."

The day is referred to as la Fête Nationale, or “the National Holiday.” In more informal settings, French people also call it le Quatorze Juillet (“14 July”). "Bastille Day" is an English term that’s seldom used within French borders—at least by non-tourists.

2. Originally, the Bastille wasn't designed to be a prison.

The name “Bastille” comes from the word bastide, which means “fortification,” a generic term for a certain type of tower in southern France until it was eventually restricted to one particular Bastille. When construction began on the building in 1357, its main purpose was not to keep prisoners in, but to keep invading armies out: At the time, France and England were engaged in the Hundred Years’ War. The Bastille, known formally as the Bastille Saint-Antoinewas conceived as a fortress whose strategic location could help stall an attack on Paris from the east.

Over the course of the Hundred Years' War, the structure of the building changed quite a bit. The Bastille started out as a massive gate consisting of a thick wall and two 75-foot towers. By the end of 1383, it had evolved into a rectangular fortress complete with eight towers and a moat.

Such attributes would later turn the Bastille into an effective state prison—but it wasn’t actually used as one until the 17th century. Under King Louis XIII, the powerful Cardinal de Richelieu began the practice of jailing his monarch’s enemies (without a trial) inside; at any given time, the cardinal would hold up to 55 captives there.

3. The Bastille was loaded with gunpowder. 

In July 1789, France was primed for a revolt. Bad weather had driven food prices through the roof, and the public resented King Louis XVI’s extravagant lifestyle. To implement financial reforms and quell rebellion, Louis was forced to call a meeting of the Estates-General, a national assembly representing the three estates of France. The First Estate was the clergy, the Second Estate held the nobility, and all other royal subjects comprised the Third Estate. Each estate had a single vote, meaning two estates could defeat the other estate every time.

The Estates-General met in Versailles on May 5, 1789. Arguments between the Third Estate and the other two boiled over on June 20. King Louis responded by physically locking the common people’s representatives out of the room. The third estate, now calling themselves the National Assembly, reconvened on an indoor tennis court and pledged to remain active until a French constitution was established.

The King sanctioned the National Assembly on June 27, but then sent troops into Paris to deal with growing unrest. He made his problems worse by dismissing finance official Jacques Necker, who supported the Third Estate. The National Assembly and everyday citizens began to take up arms. On July 14, 1789, revolutionaries burst into a soldiers’ hospital in Paris and seized 3000 guns and five cannons. Then, they broke into the Bastille where a stockpile of gunpowder lay. 

4. The July 14 "storming" freed only a handful of prisoners ...

The French revolutionaries who broke into the Bastille expected to find numerous inmates. In reality, the prison was almost empty except for seven captives who seemed to be in relatively good health. We may never be certain of their identities. Some accounts claim that four of the prisoners had committed forgery, two were regarded as lunatics, and one was a disgraced nobleman. Other sources are less specific. A report penned on July 24 agrees that four were forgers and another came from an aristocratic family—but that the other two vanished before anyone could definitively identify them.

5. ... and the Marquis de Sade was almost among them.

You probably know him as the man whose conduct and erotic writings gave rise to the word sadism. In 1784, the aristocrat was transferred from another prison to the Bastille, where he languished for the next five years. Within those walls, de Sade penned several books—including his notorious novel One Hundred and Twenty Days of Sodom.

He surely would have been freed when the Bastille was stormed. But on June 2, de Sade started yelling at the passersby beneath his window, claiming that people were being maimed and killed inside and begging the people to save him. The episode got de Sade transferred once again—this time to an insane asylum outside Paris. His removal from the Bastille took place on July 4, 1789. Ten days later, rebels stormed inside.

6. Thomas Jefferson donated money to the families of the revolutionaries.

As America’s minister to France (and a big fan of revolution), Jefferson took a lively interest in the Bastille incident—which broke out while he was living abroad in Paris. Although Long Tom didn’t witness the event firsthand, he eloquently summarized everything he’d learned about the siege in a detailed letter to John Jay. On August 1, 1789, Jefferson wrote in his diary, “Gave for widows of those killed in taking Bastille, 60 francs.”

7. A huge festival was held exactly one year after the Bastille was stormed. 

By July 14, 1790, the Bastille had been destroyed, its pieces scattered across the globe by souvenir collectors. France now operated under a constitutional monarchy, an arrangement that divided power between King Louis XVI and the National Assembly. Meanwhile, hereditary nobility was outlawed.

To honor these advances, the government organized a huge event called the “Festival of the Federation,” which was to take place on the first anniversary of the Bastille showdown. As July 14 approached, French citizens from all walks of life came together and set up some 40,000 seats in preparation. When the big day finally arrived, King Louis arrived with 200 priests and swore to maintain the constitution. The Marquis de Lafayette—who’d famously helped orchestrate America’s revolution—stood by the monarch’s side. Later on, Queen Marie Antoinette got a huge cheer when she proudly showed off the heir apparent. Among the spectators was dramatist Louis-Sébastien Mercier, who later said, “I saw 50,000 citizens of all classes, of all ages, of all sexes, forming the most superb portrait of unity." 

8. Several different dates were considered for the French national holiday.

Here’s a trick question: What historical event does Bastille Day commemorate? If you answered “the storming of the Bastille prison,” you’re both right and wrong. In 1880, France’s senate decided that their homeland needed a national holiday. What the French statesmen had in mind was an annual, patriotic celebration dedicated to the country and her citizens. But the matter of choosing a date turned into an extremely partisan ordeal: Every available option irked somebody in the senate on ideological grounds. For instance, conservatives were dead-set against July 14 (at least at first) because they felt that the 1789 Bastille incident was too bloody to merit celebration.

Alternatives were numerous. To some, September 21 looked attractive, since the original French Republic was created on that day in 1792. Others favored February 24, which marked the birth of France’s second republic. Another option was August 4, the anniversary of the feudal system’s abolishment.

Ultimately, though, July 14 managed to win out. After all, the date marks not one but two very important anniversaries: 1789’s attack on the Bastille and 1790’s peaceful, unifying Festival of the Federation. So by choosing July 14, the senate invited all citizens to decide for themselves which of these events they’d rather celebrate. As Senator Henri Martell argued, anyone who had reservations about the first July 14 could still embrace the second. Personally, he revered the latter. In his own words, July 14, 1790 was “the most beautiful day in the history of France, possibly in the history of mankind. It was on that day that national unity was finally accomplished.”

9. Bastille Day features the oldest and largest regular military parade in Western Europe.

This beloved Paris tradition dates all the way back to 1880. In its first 38 years, the parade’s route varied wildly, but since 1918, the procession has more or less consistently marched down the Champs-Elysées, the most famous avenue in Paris. Those who watch the event in person are always in for a real spectacle—2015’s parade boasted some 31 helicopters, 55 planes, 208 military vehicles, and 3501 soldiers. It’s also fairly common to see troops from other nations marching alongside their French counterparts. Two years ago, for example, 150 Mexican soldiers came to Paris and participated.

10. In France, firemen throw public dances.

On the night of July 13 or 14, people throughout France live it up at their local fire departments. Most stations will throw large dance parties that are open to the entire neighborhood (kids are sometimes welcome). Please note, however, that some fire departments charge an admission fee. Should you find one that doesn’t, be sure to leave a donation behind instead. It’s just common courtesy.

11. The Louvre celebrates by offering free admission.

If you’re in Paris on Bastille Day and don’t mind large crowds, go say bonjour to the Mona Lisa. Her measurements might surprise you: The world’s most famous painting is only 30 inches tall by 21 inches wide.

12. Bastille Day has become a truly international holiday.

Can’t get to France on Bastille Day? Not a problem. People all over the world honor and embrace the holiday. In eastern India, the scenic Puducherry district was under French rule as recently as 1954. Every July 14, fireworks go off in celebration and a local band usually plays both the French and Indian national anthems. Thousands of miles away, Franschhoek, South Africa, throws an annual, two-day Bastille celebration—complete with a parade and all the gourmet French cuisine you could ask for.

Then there’s the United States, where dozens of cities organize huge festivals on this most French of holidays. New Orleans hosts a doggie costume contest in which pet owners are encouraged to dress up their pooches in handsome French garb. Or maybe you’d like to visit Philadelphia, where, at the Eastern State Penitentiary museum and historic site, Philly citizens re-enact the storming of the Bastille while guards keep the rebels at bay by hurling Tastykakes at them.

13. A huge solar flare once took place on Bastille Day.

NASA won’t be forgetting July 14, 2000 anytime soon. On that particular day, one of the largest solar storms in recent memory caught scientists off guard. An explosion caused by twisted magnetic fields sent a flurry of particles racing toward Earth. These created some gorgeous aurora light shows that were visible as far south as El Paso, Texas. Unfortunately, the particles also caused a few radio blackouts and short-circuited some satellites. Astronomers now refer to this incident as “The Bastille Day Event.”

14. You can find a key to the Bastille at Mount Vernon.

The Marquis de Lafayette, 19, arrived in the new world to join America’s revolutionary cause in 1777. Right off the bat, he made a powerful friend: George Washington instantly took a liking to the Frenchman and within a month, Lafayette had effectively become the general’s adopted son. Their affection was mutual; when the younger man had a son of his own in 1779, he named him Georges Washington de Lafayette.

The day after the storming of the Bastille, the Marquis de Lafayette became the commander of the Paris National Guard. In the aftermath of the Bastille siege, he was given the key to the building. As a thank-you—and to symbolize the new revolution—Lafayette sent it to Washington’s Mount Vernon home, where the relic still resides today

This story originally ran in 2016.

The Washington Monument Is Transforming Into a Full-Scale Saturn V Rocket for the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

The Saturn V rocket takes off on July 16, 1969.
The Saturn V rocket takes off on July 16, 1969.

Where better to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing than in front of a revered national monument that also happens to resemble a giant rocket?

Next week, DCist reports, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum will project an image of the 363-foot-tall Saturn V rocket that launched Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins into space on July 16, 1969, onto the 555-foot-tall Washington Monument. Underneath the monument, flanked by screens playing a 17-minute program about the Moon landing, will be a 40-foot-wide replica of the iconic Kennedy Space Center countdown clock that NASA has called “one of the most-watched timepieces in the world.”

Illustration of the Saturn V rocket projected onto the Washington Monument
An illustration of what the Saturn V projection will look like on the Washington Monument.
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Projecting an image onto an irregular object is a little more complicated than doing so on a run-of-the-mill, rectangular movie screen. The process is called projection mapping, which uses augmented reality to conform the projection to the object, making it seem like the projection is actually just part of the object. 59 Productions, the company behind this program, also created the video design for London’s 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony and won a 2015 Tony Award for the video design of Christopher Wheeldon’s stage revival of An American in Paris.

So who exactly has to approve transforming one of our nation’s most famous monuments into a really tall, skinny optical illusion? In this case, the House of Representatives, the Senate, the secretary of the interior, and the president himself. Both houses of Congress unanimously passed the bipartisan resolution, H.J. Res. 60 [PDF], in mid-June, and the president signed it on July 5.

According to Ellen Stofan, director of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the larger-than-life nature of the setting befits the occasion. “The Washington Monument is a symbol of our collective national achievements and what we can and will achieve in the future,” she told DCist. “It took 400,000 people from across the 50 states to make Apollo a reality. This program celebrates them, and we hope it inspires generations too young to have experienced Apollo firsthand to define their own moonshot.”

You can see the Saturn V projection from 9:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on July 16, 17, and 18. The best view is on the National Mall in front of the Smithsonian Institution Building (also known as the “Castle”) between 9th and 12th streets. The entire program, titled “Apollo 50: Go for the Moon,” will run at 9:30 p.m., 10:30 p.m., and 11:30 p.m. on Friday, July 19, and Saturday, July 20.

[h/t DCist]

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