A look at photos from Nov. 22nd, 1963


2741 days ago
by PWJ

The early Zapruder footage

east arcade by zapruder

A minute or fifteen before Abraham Zapruder shot the film that would make him famous, he took a second’s worth of footage (well that’s what is available) of the Hesters sitting on the far eastern steps of Bryan Pergola. In the early frames the background at the top right contains what looks like a man. At first I thought he was heap of branches, but I ran him through Mark Turner’s sketchup model of Dealey Plaza anyway.


This took quite a while as I’d thought Zapruder was at ground level when he took this footage, but that doesn’t work. His assistant Marilyn Sitzman was quite a tall woman from what I can find. If so, her head could not have appeared below the window at the top left. So I went away and calculated the height of that window sill from other photos (the black line). I put Zapruder up on his usual perch on the plinth without Sitzman (who later had to hold onto him due to his vertigo). Alignments between the model and the photo were much improved.1

View from above
Bird’s eye view

early zapruder footage
GIF animation may take a while to load fully

He could have been any passerby, but I took a closer look. The man in the background is set well back. Apart from facial features, the colours in the area are different – greys and skin tones. He is close to a car parked behind the shelter, and there are thing obscuring part of his face and his lower body. I have placed Bryce, the default sketchup guy, at various depths to try to see if mystery man is the right height to be a man at all. It starts to work when he’s placed off the kerb a few steps back into the street. For mystery man’s head to be at that height, he’s either quite short (1.6m) or he is bent down a little.

The cardboard-coloured “packages” could be branches, but there is no tree right there (one is slightly to the left), and the Yapoun trees don’t have enough girth to match. The man is moving slightly for the few frames we’re able to see him. He could be wearing a light coloured shirt and possibly overalls or a vest. He may have his right arm in front of his face.

Thinking of short people, I recalled Chauncey Holt’s 1991 confession (it’s long, so search “pickup”). He was apparently 5’4”, and had a forehead and hairline that seem to match – especially the widow’s peak. Holt said he dropped documents (including fake IDs) into a pickup in the parking lot, close to the tower. Contemporary pictures of him can be found here.

Holt / Zapruder overlay
Zoomed GIF animation

I wouldn’t stake money on it being Holt, but found it an interesting resemblance. Thoughts?

1 Researcher Jack White also came to this conclusion in 2010. Link

2744 days ago
by PWJ

Clint Hill's swing time

Secret Service agent Clint Hill quickly ran forward from the follow up car, just before the head shot at Z-313. He mounted the limousine then fell back, but managed to hold onto the rear bar (designed for agents standing on the rear running board). He recalled that if he let go and fell to the ground, he would have been run over by the follow-up car. Then followed a famous superhuman dash to get back on the limo. Analysing AntdavisonNZ’s panoramic Nix footage, his footfalls occur at the following Zapruder frames:

hill's run

348 lands back on ground after first attempt to mount limo
349 left foot forward, right leg back
350 left leg planted, moving right leg forward
351 legs passing
352 legs together right slightly forward?
353 right leg forward
354 right foot planted, left leg back
355 right foot down, left leg back
356 legs together
357 left foot moving forward right foot leaving ground
358 left leg planted right leg back
359 left leg planted right leg moving forward
360 legs together
361 left leg back right leg moving forward (obscured)
362 right leg planted, left leg back
363 legs together
364 left leg back right leg obscured
365 left leg back right leg obscured
366 left leg back leaving ground right leg obscured
367 right leg on car left leg rising
368 right leg on car left leg rising
369 right leg on car left leg rising
370 right leg on car left leg dragging close to ground (hopping?)
371 right leg on car left leg dragging close to ground (hopping?)
372 obscured
373 obscured
374 right leg on car left leg dragging close to ground (hopping?)
375 right leg on car left leg dragging close to ground (hopping?)
376 right leg on car left leg dragging close to ground (hopping?)
377 right leg on car left foot on ground ground (hopping?)
378 right leg on car left leg raising
379 right leg on car left leg raising
380 both feet on car

I might have the left and right legs mixed up as it’s hard to tell which is which, but that doesn’t change the number of footfalls. He manages a footfall every four frames. Nix’s camera was running at 18.5 frames per second, or one frame every 0.054 seconds. This means Hill was completing a leg swing every 0.21 seconds.

In 1998 Harvard biology student Deborah Sternlight decided to look into what limits human running speed. Long story short, it’s a human limitation – we can only swing our legs so fast…

“To Sternlight’s amazement, whether people ran fast or slow, or whether they ran uphill or downhill, everyone had approximately the same swing time at top speed. Those running 14 miles an hour and those running 27 miles an hour both took between 0.37 and 0.40 second to swing one leg in front of the other.”
Harvard Gazette April 30, 1998

It would seem that Hill’s leg swing rate is physically impossible for a human. This leaves three possibilities. Either Nix’s film rate was about 9fps (I doubt it), or he wasn’t human (I’m assured he was), or frames have been cut from the Nix film in this sequence.

The latter hunch is supported by the work of many others over the years analysing the various films as well as witness testimony stating that the limousine slowed almost to a stop during the final head shot at Z313. Hill’s fancy footwork didn’t finish until at least Z362, suggesting that the limousine ambled for at least 2.5 seconds afterward the main head shot.

Whatever the reason for the frame deletions (perhaps just embarrassment that the limo had become a sitting duck?), it means that at least half of the Nix frames from this sequence are missing. If the Nix film is missing frames, then the concurrent Zapruder film could be too, as Costella has reasoned, as part of his claim that the film has been recreated.

This post was added a few days ago to the JFK Assassination Forum. Go there for a suggestion from Gayle Nix Jackson that a contributing reason could be that the film might not have been wound correctly. So I will look at the effect of over or underwinding on frame rates and what that might mean…


Blenner’s Nix film frames: link
AntdavisonNZ Nix vs. Zapruder: youtube link