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Babushka Lady

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Dec 16, 2021

The Babushka Lady is an unknown woman present during the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy who might have photographed the events that occurred in Dallas‘s Dealey Plaza at the time President John F. Kennedy was shot. Her nickname arose from the headscarf she wore, which was similar to scarves worn by elderly Russian women (бабушка babushka – literally means “grandmother” or “old woman” in Russian).

Person of interest in the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy

The Babushka Lady was seen to be holding a camera by eyewitnesses and was also seen in film accounts of the assassination.[1][2] She was observed standing on the grass between Elm and Main streets and is visible in the Zapruder film as well as in the films of Orville Nix,[3]Marie Muchmore, and Mark Bell[4] (44 minutes and 47 seconds into the Bell film: even though the shooting had already taken place and most of her surrounding witnesses took cover, she can be seen still standing with the camera at her face). After the shooting, she crossed Elm Street and joined the crowd that went up the grassy knoll. She is last seen in photographs walking east on Elm Street. Neither she, nor the film she may have taken, have ever been positively identified.

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In 1970, a woman named Beverly Oliver told conspiracy researcher Gary Shaw at a church revival meeting in Joshua, Texas, that she was the Babushka Lady.[5] Oliver stated that she filmed the assassination with a Super 8 film Yashica and that she turned the undeveloped film over to two men who identified themselves to her as FBI agents.[5] According to Oliver, she obtained no receipt from the men, who told her that they would return the film to her within ten days. She did not follow up with an inquiry.[5] She reiterated her claims in the 1988 documentary The Men Who Killed Kennedy.[5] According to Vincent Bugliosi, Oliver “has never proved to most people’s satisfaction that she was in Dealey Plaza that day.”[5] Confronted with the fact that the Yashica Super-8 camera was not made until 1969, she stated that she received the “experimental” camera from a friend and was not even sure the manufacturer’s name was on it.[5]

Beverly Oliver’s claims were the basis for a scene in Oliver Stone‘s 1991 film JFK, in which a character named “Beverly” meets Jim Garrison in a Dallas nightclub.[6] Played by Lolita Davidovich, she is depicted in the director’s cut as wearing a headscarf at Dealey Plaza and speaking of having given the film she shot to two men claiming to be FBI agents.

In March 1979, the Photographic Evidence Panel of the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations indicated that they were unable to locate any film attributed to the Babushka Lady.[7] According to their report: “Initially, Robert Groden, a photographic consultant to the committee advised the panel as to pertinent photographic issues and related materials. Committee investigators located many of the suggested films and photographs, however, some items were never located, i.e. the Babushka Lady film, a color photograph by Norman Similas, and the original negative of the Betzner photograph.”[7]

On November 18, 1994, assassination researcher Gary Mack testified before the Assassination Records Review Board that he had recently been told by an executive in Kodak‘s Dallas office that a woman in her early 30s with brunette hair brought in film purported to be of the assassination scene while they were processing the Zapruder film.[8] According to Mack, the executive said the woman explained to federal investigators already at the film processing office that she ran from Main Street across the grass to Elm Street where she stopped and snapped a photo with some people in the foreground of the presidential limousine and the Texas School Book Depository.[8] Mack said that he was told by the Kodak executive that the photo was extremely blurry and “virtually useless” and indicated that the woman likely went home without anyone recording her identity.[8] After suggesting that the woman in the story may have been the Babushka Lady, Mack then told the Board: “I do not believe that Beverly Oliver is the Babushka Lady, or, let me rephrase that, she certainly could be but the rest of the story is a fabrication.”[8]

Also appearing that same day before the ARRB as “Beverly Oliver Massegee”, Oliver stated that she was 17 years old at the time of the assassination.[8] She told the Board that she was filming with an “experimental” 8 mm movie camera approximately 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 m) from Kennedy when he was shot and that the film was confiscated by a man who identified himself as an FBI agent.[8] According to Oliver, she handed over the camera because the man was an authority figure and because she feared being caught in possession of marijuana.[8]

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