On November 22, 1963, exactly fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy was gunned down while parading through Dallas, Texas. The official story, according to the 1963-1964 Warren Commission investigation, is that Lee Harvey Oswald killed the president using a sniper rifle from a sixth-floor window of the Texas School Book Depository, acting alone. He was arrested just over an hour after the assassination, hiding out in the Texas Theatre. Two days later, a local nightclub owner, Jack Ruby, shot and killed Oswald as he was being escorted by the police to the Dallas County jail. Ruby was sentenced to death and died of a heart attack while awaiting a retrial.
While many thought this official story sounded fishy from the moment it occurred, later investigations cast a much more questionable light on this chain of events. In 1976, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) was formed to investigate the murders of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. In their final report, the committee concluded that his assassination was very likely the result of a conspiracy.
The HSCA concluded that governments like the Soviet Union or Cuba and organized criminal groups were not involved. Instead, they argued, the event was caused by several individuals acting on their own. They claimed that there could have been a second shooter situated at the top of the grassy knoll, who fired a fourth shot that missed its mark and then melted into the post-assassination chaos. However, the evidence for a second shooter, while compelling, has mostly been criticized as weak or insubstantial.
At various times in history, up to 80% of the American population have believed that there was a conspiracy involved in the JFK assassination. Most of the details are ambiguous at best, and witnesses can’t agree on anything from the direction of shots to even the number of bullets that hit those seated in President Kennedy’s convertible top car. It is true that the mysterious nature surrounding these events and the subsequent investigations have spawned numerous conspiracy theories. Here are a few of the most thought-provoking:
It Was the Mob!
Although the HSCA ruled out any overarching organized crime involvement in the assassination, they admitted that the individuals involved could have had some ties to the mafia. Some believe that American crime syndicates were so upset by President Kennedy’s involvement in Cuba that they ordered a hit on him in revenge. Others believe the CIA, which had known ties with the mafia and had worked with them to try and kill Fidel Castro, could have ordered a hit on the President themselves. Another theory suggests that the mafia actually had ties with both the CIA and with the Cuban government, and that they carried out the work of the highest bidder. In any case, Jack Ruby, the man who killed Lee Harvey Oswald two days after the assassination, had known connections with the mafia.
It Was the Soviet Government!
In the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviets seem like an obvious group of suspects for the assassination. One high-ranking Soviet official who later defected to the United States, Ion Mihai Pacepa, claimed that he had once talked with a politician who had described ten different world leaders that the Soviets had killed or tried to kill, including President Kennedy. This theory was not investigated further by any governmental group, although Pacepa did release a book about his theory in 2007, called Programmed to Kill: Lee Harvey Oswald, the Soviet KGB, and the Kennedy Assassination.
It Was the Federal Reserve!
The government does not print any United States money; since 1913 a non-governmental group with a confusingly governmental-sounding name, the Federal Reserve, has carried out the printing of money. The government then buys that paper money from this organization. Some individuals involved with the Federal Reserve have grown enormous fortunes because of this. President Kennedy had just issued an Executive Order to transfer some of the printing power to the Department of the Treasury.
Though this was said to be a temporary thing, some say that Kennedy was in reality hoping to permanently restore the government’s power to print money. This supposedly upset some powerful people whose wealth depended on the current balance of power, and as a result some say they ordered the attack on the President. You can read more about this theory in the book Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy by Jim Marrs.
There are many different theories about what really happened to Kennedy, and in the fifty years since his assassination they have spurred countless investigations, books, and documentaries. There’s even a Wikipedia page all about the myriad of theories that exist, pointing the finger at everyone from Lyndon B Johnson to the Israelis to the CIA. Only one thing is certain: we’ll most likely never know exactly who was involved or what group organized the assassination, but we can entertain all kinds of theories, believable or bizarre as they may be.