There are many theories associated with the Kennedy assassination, but one of the most persistent has been the notion of the true shooter being situated on “the grassy knoll”, an area in the Dealey Plaza which overlooked the roadway where President Kennedy was shot.
The “grassy knoll” term was coined by senior White House correspondent for UPI, Merriman Smith, in one of many statements issued shortly following the murder. At the time, and for almost a year after the assassination, it wasn’t a source of much interest. Only after the Warren Commission found that the killing was the work of a lone gunman did people start seriously hunting for alternatives.
Much of that was caused by the Zapruder Film, which shows the President’s head move in a way that seems to contradict the official theory. I say “seems to”, because it has been demonstrated to actually bolster the single-shooter idea. This has recently been confirmed again through a complex physics modelling analysis by Nicholas Nalli, a senior research scientist for I.M. Systems Group, as reported by History.com. It’s been covered before, with less hard science and more practical data, by people such as Penn & Teller.
Setting physics aside… and only in the worlds of conspiracy theory and politics does that phrase regularly appear… the questions then move to who was in the grassy knoll, and why people swarmed over there so quickly if there was no gunman.
The swarm is fairly easily explained from testimony and video. A motorcycle policeman who had been in the procession, Clyde Haygood, came onto the scene a minute or two after the shots, trying to determine what had happened. He saw some other officers and ran to them, assuming they would have information. People saw an officer running, thought he was chasing a suspect, and joined in behind him.
But then, who were the people on the knoll?
Generally speaking, nobody. There are a few who are postuated: “Classic Gunman”, “Badge Man”, and “Classic Gunman.”
The first to draw international attention was “Classic Gunman”, who can be seen in another film taken by a man named Orville Nix. The discovery was considered proof, in 1967, that there was a “second shooter”. Only after it was demonstrated that the same shadow pattern occurred on every sunny day did theorists reluctantly admit that it was likely just the shadow of the bush.
“Badgeman” was also demonstrated to have been in a perfect spot, and because of his badge, was very possibly a member of law enforcement. That person was discovered in 1982 by JFK museum curator Gary Mack, and it spawned interest. The first problem is that Badgeman isn’t clearly defined and is instead an interpretation based on different shadows. That is not enough to call it impossible, however. What is enough to call it impossible is when math is used to calculate the position of Badgeman. Based on the image sizes, if Badgeman were to have shot JFK, he’d have needed to do so from about 14 feet behind the fence, making a strange decision to get farther away from the scene of his pinpoint sniping.
Oh, and he’d be either be hovering about four feet in the air or he’d stand just about ten feet tall. Either way, it’s reasonable to assume someone might have noticed.
That leaves Black Dog Man. Who… apparently existed. More to the point, two people were reported to be on the scene in the area where a blurry image shows an outline of a person who seems to be bending over, creating a visual akin to a black dog.
Reports from people on the scene established that there was a black couple having a picnic in the area, who apparently fled when shots were fired. The most notable of them came from Zapruder’s secretary, Marilyn Stitzman, who described the couple in her public testimony. It would also explain why the police evidence found in the area afterward – because the whole of Dealey Plaza was searched – included a lunch in a paper bag and a receipt for some buns from a local grocery store.
So, that’s the Grassy Knoll. It’s not much smoke and absolutely no fire, but it’s still generated enormous interest over the years and it has thousands upon thousands of devotees who insist that something happened there.
Here’s another scenario, equally as likely as the most prominent ones explained above.