Zavada Refutes Lifton's Hearsay Claim

Josiah Thompson


        Twenty-some years ago, David Lifton offered the extravagant theory that the President’s body had been altered by persons unknown prior its reaching the autopsy table in Bethesda Friday evening.  As the years passed, the theory has become less and less likely.  In addition, the Zapruder film is at odds with it.  Hence, Lifton needs a faked Zapruder film in order to sustain his body alteration theory.  He admits as much in this volume:
        The consequences of all this for my first book, Best Evidence, are also clear.  If it can be shown definitively that the Zapruder film in evidence is an optically edited forgery, then the sequence of film frames showing a “Bethesda-like” head wound on the President’s body in Dealey Plaza is, once and for all, impeached as “best evidence” of what JFK’s head looked like in Dallas, and the primacy of the Dallas doctors observations are restored. (403)

        Lifton wanders all over the place in his garrulous piece on the Zapruder film. He is 86 pages into his contribution, however, before he offers his single reason for believing the Zapruder film has been altered.  He makes the claim that experiments by Roland Zavada showed conclusively that the same make and model of the camera used by Zapruder would not produce an image “full flush left” between the sprocket holes.  According to Lifton, “By going flush left, the  — the forgers — did something the camera can’t do.”

        Lifton never explains how this purported anomaly would follow from an alteration of the film.  More importantly, he fails to cite either Zavada or Zavada’s long report as the basis for his claim.  Instead, Lifton cites the hearsay report of an ARRB staffer (Doug Horne) who allegedly spoke to Zavada.  When shown Lifton’s claim, Zavada pointed out it was based on a simple misunderstanding by the ARRB staffer.  Since the penetration of the image into the intersprocket area is a function of available light, shots made in the studio failed to fill the area while shots made outside (like in Dealey Plaza) did.  The staffer simply confused the later with the former and Lifton passed on the confusion.  Pointing out that his own published report makes this clear, Zavada wrote:
        Under the correct circumstances of lens and light  —   yes, [emphasis in original] the image can fill the area between the sprockets.  See my test shots; Study 4, figure 4-28 and Study 3, Figure 3-12... I have no idea why a respected author [Lifton] needs to revert to hearsay to support his arguments.  The tests referenced above are described on page 41 of Study 4  — including the reason for the limitation of full intersprocket penetration (we simply didn’t have enough light available)....

There is no detectable evidence of manipulation or image alteration on the “Zapruder in-camera-original” and all supporting evidence precludes any forgery thereto.  [emphasis in original]

        The “test shots” cited by Zavada show flush left image penetration into the intersprocket area and are shown below:



Lifton could have saved himself this mistake by calling Zavada, whom he knows personally.  Alternatively, he could have read Zavada’s report which contains the illustrations shown above. He did neither.

See Roland Zavada's Zapruder Film Hoax Comments for Zavada's full reply.