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.

The True Story Behind Gentleman Jack: 10 Facts About Anne Lister

Suranne Jones stars as Anne Lister in HBO's Gentleman Jack.
Suranne Jones stars as Anne Lister in HBO's Gentleman Jack.
Jay Brooks, HBO

Anne Lister was one of the 19th century's most intriguing characters: she was a businesswoman, a mountaineer, a world traveler, and a science enthusiast. But it’s her love life that she’s mainly remembered for today. Often described as the “first modern lesbian,” Lister had a number of same-sex relationships, as chronicled in her gripping, 26-volume diary. Due in part to her rather masculine fashion sense, Lister was nicknamed “Gentleman Jack.” Which also happens to be the title of a new HBO series based on her life, starring the brilliant Suranne Jones (Doctor Foster, Coronation Street). Here are 10 things you should know about Anne Lister.

1. Anne Lister used her love of books as a compatibility test.

“I love and only love the fairer sex, and thus beloved by them in turn, my heart revolts from any love but theirs,” Lister wrote in her diary in 1820. Before she eventually settled down with heiress Ann Walker, Lister won the hearts of numerous other women. Courting them wasn’t always easy, but Lister had her methods. While flirting, she used to gauge the other party’s interest by mentioning books or plays that dealt with LGBTQ issues—like the writings of Juvenal, a Roman poet who had some pretty strong opinions about homosexuality. By watching the listener’s reaction, Lister could often predict if her advances would be successful.

2. Traditionally “feminine” clothing just wasn’t Lister’s style.

Lister's era was one full of whalebone corsets and restrictive petticoats, yet her personal style emphasized function over form. Because she moved at a brisk pace and enjoyed long walks through the countryside (she reportedly walked 25 miles in a single outing on at least one occasion), she tended to wear thick, leather boots, which were generally deemed unladylike. She further defied convention by sporting lots and lots of black. Even though it was seen as a masculine color at the time, Lister filled her wardrobe with black bodices and long coats. She felt that the dark garments complimented her wiry physique, and in 1817, Lister—then 26 years old—declared, “I have entered upon my plan of always wearing black.”

3. She ran her family's estate for more than a decade.

Growing up, Lister would frequently visit Shibden Hall, the brick-and-timber mansion that was the home of her aunt and uncle, who had no children of his own. Lister moved into the estate in 1815, after the untimely deaths of all four of her brothers. When her uncle James passed away in 1826, the job of managing Shibden Hall (and its surrounding 400 acres) fell to Lister. She handled its finances, oversaw its coal deposits and quarries, profited off of the onsite canals and timber, and collected rent from its tenants right up until her death in 1840.

4. As an anatomy student, Lister once dissected a human head.

On one of her extended trips to Paris, Lister was often seen attending scientific lectures, where she deepened her knowledge of everything from zoology to mineralogy. According to Angela Steidele’s 2018 book, The Gentleman Jack: A Biography of Anne Lister, Regency Landowner, Seducer and Secret Diarist, the eager pupil cut open a deceased rabbit, a severed human hand, a disembodied ear, and “a woman’s head.” “It is not known where the head came from,” Steidele wrote. “Anne, who had kissed so many women, took on the dissection of the face. She preserved the bits in rectified spirits and kept them in a cabinet she obtained especially, which also contained a skeleton and several skulls."

5. She was an accomplished mountaineer.

In 1830, Lister earned the distinction of becoming the first woman to ascend Mount Perdu, the third highest mountain in the Pyrenees Range. (Its peak is 11,007 feet above sea level.) Eight years later, she became the first amateur climber to ever scale the Vignemale, an almost equally tall summit in the same range.

6. She and Ann Walker married in 1834 in what is often cited as the first lesbian wedding in recorded British history.


Portrait by Joshua Horner - GLBTQ Encyclopedia, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

On Easter Sunday, 1834, Lister married Ann Walker in what is often cited as the first lesbian wedding in recorded British history.

The women had been acquaintances for several years. Walker was 12 years younger than Lister and, by all accounts, a whole lot shyer. In 1834, she finally accepted Lister’s persistent proposals to join her in a union that would be “the same as a marriage” (as Walker described it).

After selecting a pair of rings, they took communion together on Easter Sunday, 1834, at the Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate in York. So far as Lister and Walker were concerned, the shared Easter service was their stand-in wedding ceremony. They never mentioned this to the church, and their marriage went unrecognized in the eyes of the law. But if you visit the house of worship today, you’ll find a rainbow-ringed plaque that reads, “Anne Lister 1791-1840 of Shibden Hall, Halifax Lesbian and Diarist; took sacrament here to seal her union with Ann Walker [on] Easter 1834.”

7. an angry mob once burned effigies of lister and walker .

Lister didn't make a lot of friends among her tenants. She used to pressure them into voting Tory and refused to rent land to people who didn’t share her political beliefs. Her notoriety only increased after she began her new domestic life with Walker. Lister took an active role in managing her significant other’s estate, which was located near Shibden Hall. Soon, a dispute broke out over a drinking well on Walker’s land. Although residents of the broader community depended on that well, Lister considered it family property. So to assert her control over the situation, she had a barrel of tar dumped into the water—making it unfit for consumption. In retaliation, effigies of both Lister and Walker were burned. (Ultimately, a magistrate ruled that the water belonged to the public, and that Lister’s actions were unjustified.)

8. Lister died while vacationing in the country of Georgia.

Throughout her life, Lister maintained a passion for traveling. In 1840, Lister and Walker toured eastern Europe. That autumn, the couple was out exploring present-day Georgia (the country) when Lister came down with a horrible fever, possibly as the result of a tick bite. [PDF] Lister died on September 22, 1840; she was only 49 years old. Walker brought Lister's remains back to England, where they were buried at Halifax Minster.

9. Altogether, Lister wrote more than 7000 pages of diary entries.

Lister left behind a 26-volume diary encompassing a grand total of 7722 pages and roughly 5 million words. She started documenting her fascinating life in 1806, when she was just 15 years old. Around one-sixth of the preserved pages were transcribed in code. Those cryptic passages included some vivid descriptions of Lister’s sex life.

10. Some of those diary entries had to be decoded—twice!

The code Lister used was an odd, punctuation-free mixture of ancient Greek letters and algebraic signs. Toward the end of the 19th century, John Lister, one of her surviving relatives, successfully cracked the code with the help of his friend, Arthur Burrell. But once he figured out what the documents actually said, John hid them away, lest they attract a scandal. When Lister’s journals were subsequently rediscovered, a writer by the name of Helena Whitbread managed to unravel the code again in the 1980s. Whitbread then published decoded editions of the diaries, and the rest is history.

10 Fascinating Facts About Ella Fitzgerald

Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Pioneering jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald—who was born on April 25, 1917—helped revolutionize the genre. But the iconic songstress’s foray into the music industry was almost accidental, as she had planned to show off her dancing skills when she made her stage debut. Celebrate the life of the artist known as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz, or just plain ol’ Lady Ella with these fascinating facts.

1. Ella Fitzgerald was a jazz fan from a young age.

Though she attempted to launch her career as a dancer (more on that in a moment), Ella Fitzgerald was a jazz enthusiast from a very young age. She was a fan of Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby, and truly idolized Connee Boswell of the Boswell Sisters. “She was tops at the time,” Fitzgerald said in 1988. “I was attracted to her immediately. My mother brought home one of her records, and I fell in love with it. I tried so hard to sound just like her.”

2. She dabbled in criminal activities as a teenager.

A photo of Ella Fitzgerald
Carl Van Vechten - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Fitzgerald’s childhood wasn’t an easy one. Her stepfather was reportedly abusive to her, and that abuse continued following the death of Fitzgerald’s mother in 1932. Eventually, to escape the violence, she moved to Harlem to live with her aunt. While she had been a great student when she was younger, it was following that move that her dedication to education faltered. Her grades dropped and she often skipped school. But she found other ways to fill her days, not all of them legal: According to The New York Times, she worked for a mafia numbers runner and served as a police lookout at a local brothel. Her illicit activities eventually landed her in an orphanage, followed by a state reformatory.

3. She made her stage debut at the Apollo Theater.

In the early 1930s, Fitzgerald was able to make a little pocket change from the tips she made from passersby while singing on the streets of Harlem. In 1934, she finally got the chance to step onto a real (and very famous) stage when she took part in an Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater on November 21, 1934. It was her stage debut.

The then-17-year-old managed to wow the crowd by channeling her inner Connee Boswell and belting out her renditions of “Judy” and “The Object of My Affection.” She won, and took home a $25 prize. Here’s the interesting part: She entered the competition as a dancer. But when she saw that she had some stiff competition in that department, she opted to sing instead. It was the first big step toward a career in music.

4. A nursery rhyme helped her get the public's attention.

Not long after her successful debut at the Apollo, Fitzgerald met bandleader Chick Webb. Though he was initially reluctant to hire her because of what The New York Times described as her “gawky and unkempt” appearance, her powerful voice won him over. "I thought my singing was pretty much hollering," she later said, "but Webb didn't."

Her first hit was a unique adaptation of “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” which she helped to write based on what she described as "that old drop-the-handkerchief game I played from 6 to 7 years old on up."

5. She was painfully shy.

Though it certainly takes a lot of courage to get up and perform in front of the world, those who knew and worked with Fitzgerald said that she was extremely shy. In Ella Fitzgerald: A Biography of the First Lady of Jazz, trumpeter Mario Bauzá—who played with Fitzgerald in Chick Webb’s orchestra—explained that “she didn't hang out much. When she got into the band, she was dedicated to her music … She was a lonely girl around New York, just kept herself to herself, for the gig."

6. She made her film debut in an Abbott and Costello movie.

As her IMDb profile attests, Fitzgerald contributed to a number of films and television series over the years, and not just to the soundtracks. She also worked as an actress on a handful of occasions (often an actress who sings), beginning with 1942’s Ride ‘Em Cowboy, a comedy-western starring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.

7. She got some help from Marilyn Monroe.

“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt,” Fitzgerald said in a 1972 interview in Ms. Magazine. “It was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the ’50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him—and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status—that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard … After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman—a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”

Though it has often been reported that the club’s owner did not want to book Fitzgerald because she was black, it was later explained that his reluctance wasn’t due to Fitzgerald’s race; he apparently didn’t believe that she was “glamorous” enough for the patrons to whom he catered.

8. She was the first African American woman to win a Grammy.

Ella Fitzgerald
William P. Gottlieb - LOC, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Among her many other accomplishments, in 1958 Fitzgerald became the first African American woman to win a Grammy Award. Actually, she won two awards that night: one for Best Jazz Performance, Soloist for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook, and another for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook.

9. Her final performance was at Carnegie Hall.

On June 27, 1991, Fitzgerald—who had, at that point, recorded more than 200 albums—performed at Carnegie Hall. It was the 26th time she had performed at the venue, and it ended up being her final performance.

10. She lost both of her legs to diabetes.

In her later years, Fitzgerald suffered from a number of health problems. She was hospitalized a handful of times during the 1980s for everything from respiratory problems to exhaustion. She also suffered from diabetes, which took much of her eyesight and led to her having to have both of her legs amputated below the knee in 1993. She never fully recovered from the surgery and never performed again. She passed away at her home in Beverly Hills on June 15, 1996.

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