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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

"JFK Revisited" Misleads on the Autopsy Photographs of JFK, Part Two

Screen shot from JFK Revisited

Oliver Stone's so-called documentary, JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass alleges that there are autopsy photographs of JFK that have disappeared. Here is an excerpt from a transcript: (56:42)

Dr. David Mantik: Saundra Spencer worked at the Anacostia facility, a Naval Photographic Center, which was quite separate from the Bethesda lab. And that weekend, she received film.

Douglas Horne: The photographs that Saundra Spencer developed which never made it into the official record. The only evidence we have of them is her testimony. Saundra Spencer was visibly upset when she looked at the official autopsy photographs, because she said, "I developed pictures of him and his family for almost three years, and he never looked like this." She said, "he looks terrible in the photographs."

Douglas Horne: She started to cry.

Oliver Stone: In front of the Review Board?

Douglas Horne: Yes, she started to cry in front of [ARRB General Counsel] Jeremy [Gunn] and I and the person from the Archives, and she said, "he did not look this bad in the photographs I developed on Sunday. He was very cleaned up, he was very respectable." And in one of the photographs she developed, there was a brain, an intact brain, sitting next to the body, the nude body of the President. Strange, first of all, that it's intact, because FBI agent Frank O'Neill told the Review Board that over half of the mass of the brain was missing.

Screen shot from JFK Revisited

Saundra Spencer was at the Naval Photographic Center at Anacostia from 1960 until six months after the assassination. She was in charge of the White House Photo Lab which was responsible for color still photography. She claimed that on November 23, 1963, a Federal agent went to the lab with film holders that she then developed.

Her recollections were that the autopsy photographs showed no measuring devices; had no identification tags; and there were no instruments. She remembered that the body of Kennedy was "clean," and that there was "no blood and no gore" visible. She also believed the photographs showed "no damage to the right side of President Kennedy's head" and that "the top of the head was not visible in the photos." She also saw a circular wound in the front of Kennedy's neck, "about the size of person's thumb," and a wound in the back of Kennedy's head which she said was a "blown-out chunk," about 2 to 2.5 inches wide.

This sounds like a very strange set of autopsy photographs. How on earth could she have seen a circular wound in President Kennedy's throat? Because by all accounts it had been obliterated by a tracheotomy. And autopsy photographs with "no blood and no gore"? The body was "clean"?

Spencer was asked about the agent who brought the film to the lab:

Spencer is referred to Secret Service agent James K. Fox. Interestingly, Fox managed to make a bootleg copy of black and white photographs from JFK's autopsy. Those photographs are nothing like what is described by Spencer.

Spencer remembers a very clean body:

She also saw a brain next to the body:

Spencer claimed to have seen a photograph showing the wound in Kennedy's throat:

And perhaps the most important question of the day.

Saundra Spencer looked at the photographs for about 10 to 15 seconds. And that was while she was stacking them after taking them off the drum.

Now does this sound like an autopsy?

A "reverent laid out arrangement."

Spencer was then shown the actual autopsy photographs of JFK.

They asked her to look again at Image 29:

The body was pristine? Doesn't sound like an autopsy photograph.

Spencer was then shown pictures of JFK's head:

She seems to be describing the kind of pictures you would see at a funeral home rather than at an autopsy.

Spencer is shown further images of Kennedy's head:

Spencer's photographs apparently did not show Kennedy's tracheotomy:

The photographs shown to Saundra Spencer were not the photographs she developed in 1963:

Spencer then claims the photographs she developed were taken after reconstruction of the body.

And the brain that she supposedly saw lying next to the body was not as damaged as the actual autopsy photographs.

Is a less damaged brain consistent with the other claims made in JFK Revisited? After all, they claim the actual autopsy photograph of the brain is of a different brain because only the right hemisphere is disrupted.

What to make of all this? Spencer's sequence of events is at odds with the Secret Service record. The autopsy film was developed on November 27, 1963 rather than one or two days after the assassination. Fox brought the film to the NPC with Robert Knudsen. Black and white negatives were developed and "color positives were made from the colored film." All processing was done by Lieutenant Vincent Madonia.

A few days later, additional black and photos were made by James Fox at the White House, He had to go back to the NPC to make color prints. They returned to the NPC on December 9, 1963, to made color prints from the internegatives they had made. Here is his HSCA interview:

He mentions that "two women in drying room passed out when [the photos] came through." Was Saundra Spencer one of the women?

The real issue regarding Saundra Spencer is memory. She made these allegations thirty-three years after the assassination. The ARRB discussed the issue of memory in its final report:

Memories fade over time. A very important figure in the chain-of-custody on the autopsy materials, and the living person who perhaps more than any other would have been able to resolve some of the lingering questions related to the disposition of the original autopsy materials, is Robert Bouck of the Secret Service. At the time he was interviewed he was quite elderly and little able to remember the important details. Similarly, the records show that Carl Belcher, formerly of the Department of Justice, played an important role in preparing the inventory of autopsy records. He was, however, unable to identify or illuminate the records that, on their face, appear to have been written by him.

Finally, a significant problem that is well known to trial lawyers, judges, and psychologists, is the unreliability of eyewitness testimony. Witnesses frequently, and inaccurately, believe that they have a vivid recollection of events. Psychologists and scholars have long since demonstrated the serious unreliability of peoples’ recollections of what they hear and see. One illustration of this was an interview statement made by one of the treating physicians at Parkland. He explained that he was in Trauma Room Number 1 with the President. He recounted how he observed the First Lady wearing a white dress. Of course, she was wearing a pink suit, a fact known to most Americans. The inaccuracy of his recollection probably says little about the quality of the doctor’s memory, but it is revealing of how the memory works and how cautious one must be when attempting to evaluate eyewitness testimony.

The deposition transcripts and other medical evidence that were released by the Review Board should be evaluated cautiously by the public. Often the witnesses contradict not only each other, but sometimes themselves. For events that transpired almost 35 years ago, all persons are likely to have failures of memory. It would be more prudent to weigh all of the evidence, with due concern for human error, rather than take single statements as “proof” for one theory or another

Jeremy Gunn gave a speech at Stanford University in 1998. He mentioned the issues regarding the autopsy materials. But right after that Gunn said something interesting:

One of the things that is crazy about the JFK assassination is that people come up and say all kinds of nutty things. The number of people who claim to be former CIA officers who were present in Dallas on November could fill a stadium with them. And what do you do when somebody says, `I was a CIA officer or somebody told me that they were a CIA officer and they were instructed to go to Dallas on Nov 22nd.' You know, that's possible. How do we find that out? And so we have chased down a lot of leads by that. By, we go to the CIA, we go through the filing system, we go through the record system and try to identify people. One thing that you end up believing, if nothing else, is that people are not reliable about what they say about what they have done in the past and what they saw and what they observed. In some case because they are just outright con people, not con men, but con people and sometimes they don't know or sometimes there is just a little bit of exaggeration of the story. Anyway we tried several different things on that.

An interesting juxtaposition.

One possibility, raised by Vincent Bugliosi, is that White House photographer Robert Knudsen took some post-reconstruction photographs, and that these were the photos that Saundra Spencer developed.(see Endnote 428 in Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy):

And since Knudsen's family said he was extremely close to JFK and took his death very hard, it makes sense that he might have wanted to take photos of the president when Kennedy once again approximated the handsome, dynamic leader he once knew, and that could only have been after the embalming process.

I am not saying that is what happened, only that it is a possibility -- an innocent explanation that escapes the producers of JFK Revisited.

In their zeal to 'prove' that there are additional autopsy materials that have been kept secret, the writers and producers of JFK Revisited continue to ignore the issue of memory. And Saundra Spencer's supposed autopsy photographs themselves are at odds with their interpretations of the wounds of President Kennedy.

Previous Relevant Blog Posts on JFK Revisited

Oliver Stone's so-called documentary tries to make the case that a White House photographer took photos at the autopsy. The only problem is that there is no evidence he was actually there.

Stone misspeaks on the Joe Rogan show about JFK's brain.

Stone misspeaks on the Joe Rogan show and I present a challenge to conspiracy theorists.

Tracy Parnell dissects Morley's article on JFK assassination documents and "JFK Revisited"

Did President Kennedy actually say that he was going to shatter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the wind?

David Talbot claims that JFK told the French Ambassador that he was not in full control of his entire government. There is no evidence he ever said that.

Oliver Stone's so-called documentary claims the CIA supported the 1961 coup attempt against French President Charles de Gaulle in 1961. The only thing missing is evidence.

Max Boot: Oliver Stone just can't stop spreading lies about JFK's assassination.

Did Gerald Ford really disclose to French President Valery Giscard D'Estaing that the JFK assassination was a conspiracy? Perhaps not.

Robert Kennedy, Jr. believes in a massive conspiracy regarding Covid and the intelligence agencies.

While Gerald Ford edited some language in the Warren Report, he did not change the location of the back wound. Autopsy photographs show exactly the location of the back wound.

Oliver Stone's so-called documentary alleges that Oswald was "moved" to Dallas and "placed" in the Texas School Book Depository. This is totally ridiculous.

The preponderance of the evidence indicates JFK's throat wound was one of exit.

There is no evidence that there was actually a plot against JFK in Chicago.

Gochenaur's writings don't back up his allegations in JFK Revisited.

Oliver Stone's so-called documentary claims that Guy Banister gave Oswald a room at 544 Camp Street. The evidence does not support the allegation.

Dr. Robert Kirschner's consultation with the ARRB explains a mystery in the documentary.

JFK Revisited makes a big deal about the weight of JFK's brain and ignores a non-conspiratorial explanation.

Oliver Stone's so-called documentary makes it sound like the autopsy photographer said that he did not take the photos of JFK's brain that are in the current inventory,

Oliver Stone took to Twitter last weekend to bemoan the fact that the mainstream press is ignoring his so-called documentary, JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass.

There is something really obscene about Oliver Stone once again going after Clay Shaw.

You won't learn everything you need to know about Connally's position on the shots from Oliver Stone's so-called documentary.

Oliver Stone tries to make it seem like Marina Porter has denied taking the backyard photographs of Lee Harvey Oswald.

Oliver Stone once again raises the issue of the legitimacy of the backyard photographs of Lee Harvey Oswald.

This post debunks every witness that ever claimed Shaw was Bertrand.

He cannot imagine any sort of non-conspiratorial explanations for any of the suspicious pieces of evidence in his film.

No, Clay Shaw was not a "contract agent."

Steve Roe Blog Posts on JFK Revisited

"Stone/DiEugenio hatch another Bogus Mystery with Sinister Strap/Sling Mounts on Oswald's Rifle"

Oliver Stone claims that Oswald could not have been in the sniper's nest on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Steve Roe exposes Stone's mistakes.

In an interview on RT [Russia Today], Oliver Stone says that the throat wound might have been made by a flechette.

Steve Roe presents some examples of Oliver Stone's 'creative' abilities.

Oliver Stone distorts the testimony about Oswald's palmprint on the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle.


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