There are those who doubt Byrd's tale -- those who have
photographic evidence right in the museum that proves the
window on display is not the real sniper's perch, those who
have spent months studying the discrepancies.
And there is at least one man who claims to own the window
First, there is Barkley and his band of conspiracy theorists,
including James Bagby, another former security guard at the
museum. After overhearing some museum visitors question the
authenticity of the window last March, Bagby studied the
window for himself. He first noticed that the one-inch thick,
salmon-colored smudge of paint and putty on the display
window isn't apparent on an old picture of the real window.
The smudge, which is on what would have been the outside of
the glass, matches the color of the wooden trim on the outside
of the window. A note on the exhibit points out that the "paint
on the exterior trim is original to the time of the assassination."
After studying pictures of the real window taken the day of the
assassination, Bagby also noticed the distinct markings on the
wooden sash along the bottom of the window that do not
appear on the window on exhibit.
Bagby first brought these discrepancies to the attention of
museum archivist Gary Mack eight months ago.
"'What you've discovered is quite important,'" Bagby says
Mack told him. "'But I wouldn't be telling anyone about this.'"
Jeff West, executive director of the Sixth Floor, and Mack
now admit they have questions about the authenticity of the
window -- no, make that doubts.
"We have concerns," West says. "It definitely bears scrutiny."
"It's a corner window," Mack adds. "Whether it's the window
where shots were fired, we're not sure."
What makes all this speculation significantly more intriguing is
that Conover Hunt, the museum consultant who helped put the
Sixth Floor Museum together, knew from the beginning that
there was someone else out there who claimed to own the real
His name is Aubrey Mayhew, a music producer from Nashville
who may be the one person who can repair this jagged puzzle
-- or bust the whole thing into a million pieces.
The tale of the sniper's perch is not only a whodunit, but a
whogotit. And with any mystery, perhaps it's easier to begin at
the beginning, during those moments just as the echo of gunfire
began fading in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963, and
Dallas police ran inside the brick building at the corner of Elm
They were directed there by witnesses who thought they saw
what appeared to be the barrel of a rifle jutting out of a
half-opened window on the sixth floor of the building, which
housed the Texas School Book Depository, one of two
textbook distribution sites for the state.
On the cavernous sixth floor, filled with stacks of book-filled
boxes, police said they found three shell casings in front of the
open window in the southeastern-most corner of the building.
They also claimed to find a rifle, which Oswald was said to
have bought through mail order, stashed under boxes
diagonally across from the window.
Until the end of the 1960s, the Texas School Book Depository
Company remained in the building, which was owned by Col.
D. Harold Byrd. Byrd was an oil millionaire and husband of
Mattie Caruth, whose family once owned most of the land from
downtown Dallas to Park Lane. The Caruth family, after whom
Caruth Haven Road is named, donated all the land for
Southern Methodist University and leased the land for
Afraid that curiosity seekers would carve off pieces of the
sniper's-nest window, Byrd instructed his employee, Buddy
McCool, to remove the window six weeks after the
assassination, according to interviews with McCool and Byrd
filmed in the early 1970s.
Whether McCool removed the right window is the question at
the heart of this mystery.
The location of the sixth-floor sniper's perch is among the most
infamous points of interest in the whole world. Yet it's
conceivable that six weeks after the assassination, Byrd's
lackey could have been confused about its exact location.
There is no one alive who can verify which window McCool
took out that day.
Byrd obviously took it on face value that he had the right one.
He decorated the bottom half of the window with newspaper
clippings of the assassination and postcard pictures of
Kennedy, Dealey Plaza, and the book depository; then he had
the whole thing framed.
He hung it in the banquet room of his Vassar Street mansion --
later bought by oilman T. Boone Pickens -- next to photos and
mementos of his long, colorful career, which included
co-founding the Civil Air Patrol, drilling numerous wildcat oil
wells in East Texas, and funding the Antarctic explorations of
his cousin, Admiral Richard E. Byrd, who named an Antarctic
mountain range after the Texas colonel.
Byrd held onto the former book depository building until 1970,
when he auctioned it off to a Nashville music producer named
Aubrey Mayhew. Mayhew was a Kennedy memorabilia
collector who planned to turn the structure into a commercial
museum commemorating Kennedy's life. Still reeling from the
fallout of the assassination that branded Dallas as "The City of
Hate" and placed the blame for Kennedy's murder on Dallas'
hostile environment, local city fathers recoiled at the idea of a
museum that would consecrate the town's darkest hour. They
also found Mayhew's intention to profit off the tragedy distasteful.
Mayhew tried several times to get city permits to start building
his museum, but he was repeatedly turned down. A group
called Dallas Onward, formed to protest turning the building
into a national Kennedy landmark, helped thwart Mayhew's
By 1973, Mayhew defaulted on his loan, and Byrd
repurchased the building after the bank foreclosed on it. He
immediately put it back up for sale, this time asking $1.2 million
for it. At the time, he said, he hoped whoever purchased the
site "would use the building in a way that would not be a slam
on Dallas...that would not blame Dallas for having the right
environment for causing Kennedy's death," according to a
filmed interview with Byrd.
The city passed an ordinance preventing the building from
being torn down. Several city leaders, including real-estate
developer Ray Nasher, were conducting their own campaign to
create a private, nonprofit museum and monument to Kennedy
on the site.
In 1977, Dallas citizens voted to use bond money to purchase
the building from Byrd. The first five floors were refurbished for
Dallas County administrative offices.
But little did anyone know that before Aubrey Mayhew
vacated the premises, he hired two carpenters to remove two
windows from the southeast corner of the sixth floor and
replace them with windows from the north side of the building.
He says he sneaked off with the sniper's-perch window -- "the
ultimate piece of Kennedy memorabilia" -- while no one
Or so he claims.
If there is anyone to blame for this predicament, perhaps you
should look no further than Conover Hunt.
A museum consultant from Marshall, Hunt first got involved
with converting the sixth floor into a museum in the early
1980s. Hunt immediately noticed the sniper's-perch window
The entire casement that contained the two windows on the
southeast corner had been replaced with windows from the
north side of the building. She wasn't sure she would ever get
her hands on the real ones.
Then, in 1987, two men contacted her, both claiming to have
possession of the sniper's perch window. Caruth Byrd called
Hunt and told her he had inherited the window from his father,
who had died the previous year. Caruth said he stashed it
behind some drawers in his house on a sprawling ranch in Van,
just east of Canton. Hunt says she asked Byrd to send her
proof that he had it, but he wasn't forthcoming.
Still, Hunt says she was inclined to believe Caruth, because she
knew several people, including Joe Dealey Sr., late publisher of
The Dallas Morning News, who had seen the window
hanging in Colonel Byrd's house.
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