The Myth of the Mystery Man
in the Pyracantha Bush in Dealey Plaza
by Bill Miller
Did Abraham Zapruder film someone hiding in the bushes on the grassy knoll?
Abraham Zapruder famously filmed the murder of President John Kennedy from a concrete "perch" facing Elm Street. He continued to film as the limousine drove by him and passed under the triple underpass. Years ago JFK assassination researchers viewing copies of the Zapruder film found what seemed to be an image like the back of a helmet or hat within the bushes on the grassy knoll that Zapruder filmed as he panned the limousine with his movie camera. Could this be a mystery gunman? Researcher and author Robert Groden was one of those early critics that thought so as late as 1993, even though the House Select Committee studied the image photogrammetrically in 1978, and found that although it was a human head, it was actually in front of the bushes --- not behind them and the person had to be on the sidewalk of Elm Street. (The details are in the photo panel's report to the HSCA:
Zapruder film frame 413 showing image through bush.
Later in his 1993 book, Groden put forth the idea that the Black Dog Man (BDM, a dark shape seen in both the Willis and Betzner photos at the corner of the retaining wall) may have be that same individual seen through the pyracantha bush in the Zapruder film. Perhaps this BDM was a mystery shooter? (see illustration below)
Critics of Groden's theory right away claimed that the image in the pyracantha bush was just leaves and lighting tricks created by the sun. A few years ago I addressed this with Robert Groden and told him how I could show that both he and his critics were wrong. It was obvious to me that the image of this alleged mysterious individual was actually outside the walkway area and I established this by cross referencing the Betzner, Willis and Moorman photographs and lining up the angle of Zapruder's view from Zapruder's pedestal. I was able to then determined without any doubt that the mystery man seen through the pyracantha bush was actually assassination witness and Dealey Plaza groundskeeper - Emmett Hudson. (see below)
Polaroid photo by witness Mary Moorman-overlaid with recent photo in Dealey Plaza.
I started out by first asking Robert to take a position near the corner of the wall where he thought BDM would be seen through the pyracantha bush. Robert chose a spot right up against the "south dog leg", as I call it. The south dog leg would be the part of the concrete wall along the walkway above the knoll that turns inward towards the steps and runs parallel with the street directly below. (see Robert Groden inserted in Zapruder film frame 413 below)
Zapruder film frame 413 showing the image in the pyracantha bush overlaid with recent photo of same view.
Next I had Robert Groden move to a position that matched the distance from the camera that the figure seen through the pyracantha bush would equal.. That position took Robert out on the knoll and down on the steps where Emmett Hudson stood during the shooting of President Kennedy. (see Robert Groden inserted in Zapruder film frame 413 below)
I then checked what some critics had said about the image possibly being a combination of light and shadow against the background of the passing limo below. By stabilizing the appropriate Zapruder frames, I could see that the figure pulls away from the foliage as he tracks the limo passing below and that this had nothing to do with a combination of light and shadows creating an illusion. This provided me with reasonable grounds to conclude that this individual is turning his head from left to right in correlation with the limo passing by on the street below him. (see image below)
Zapruder film sequence showing image through bush.
By then going to the Nix film and watching the men on the steps to see just what they did during those few moments in time, it was obvious to me that only Emmett Hudson in his light colored cap was the figure seen through the pyracantha bush and just as Emmett is going off screen in this version of the Nix film ... we can see him turning back and watching the limo pass by below him. This is the same thing the figure seen through the pyracantha bush in the Zapruder film was doing. (see the Nix film clip below)
The final analysis was that Robert Groden was mistaken about who the mystery person seen through the pyracantha bush was. Robert had failed to see the depth at which this individual had to be over the knoll combined with the distance needed for him to be from Zapruder's camera to appear the way he does in the Zapruder film.
Regardless, it is important to settle the matter.
(Thanks to Gary Mack for the HSCA Photo Panel's report link)
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