Should I read The Great Zapruder Film Hoax?

After the Zapruder Film Symposium held in Duluth Minnesota in May 2003, it was clear that there was enough new evidence to warrant a book dedicated to the issue of the alteration, and indeed wholesale fabrication, of the Zapruder home movie of the JFK assassination. The Chair of the Symposium, Professor James H. Fetzer of the University of Minnesota Duluth, served as Editor of the new volume, The Great Zapruder Film Hoax, a natural follow-on from the two volumes on the assassination that he previously edited, Assassination Science (1998) and Murder in Dealey Plaza (2000). The Great Zapruder Film Hoax was published in September 2003, and will shortly go into its second printing. The videos and DVD’s of the Duluth Symposium itself will also be available shortly.

In late October 2003, a website was publicly announced by opponents of Zapruder alteration research, purporting to provide a critical review of The Great Zapruder Film Hoax. This announcement was made at a time when the JFK research community was trying to unite to counter an ABC (US) special, reported by the Associated Press to be due for airing on 20 November 2003 (two days before the 40th anniversary of the assassination), which attempts to “prove” that the Warren Commission was correct all along—that Oswald acted alone to kill President John F. Kennedy. Efforts to counter this shameless propaganda exercise by a major US television network were underway at the time.

The website attacking The Great Zapruder Film Hoax appears substantial and convincing at a glance. It is nicely laid out and well-written. However, a scratch of the surface shows that it is superficial, and short on substance. In what is now a trademark tactic, the authors ignore the vast bulk of The Great Zapruder Film Hoax, and concentrate their efforts on selected and isolated aspects of the book. (As one particularly important example, they ignore completely the simplest and most powerful evidence of fraud—the missing blur in Frame 232 of the film—which they have later claimed they “overlooked”!) They assert that errors have been made in these isolated fragments. But a closer examination shows that their “refutations” are overwhelmingly either erroneous, or are simply statements of contrary opinions on points of contention. Among the latter are several indirect and laborious “scientific” constructions—performed, apparently, because the critics were either unable or unwilling to comprehend the direct scientific proofs demonstrated in The Great Zapruder Film Hoax—with which they convince themselves (as if they weren’t already convinced) that they can find no mistake with the Zapruder film. This is undoubtedly true. It takes care and scientific skill to construct concise, irrefutable proofs in which the number of unknown variables is minimised; and the best of these have been selected for publication in The Great Zapruder Film Hoax. In contrast, it is quite easy to construct more complicated analyses, with a larger number of uncertain variables, which do not permit one to discern any discrepancies in the film. We are fully willing to accept that this is, indeed, true.

The reader of a book review generally does so in order to decide whether it is worth purchasing or borrowing the book for their own reading. Whether they choose to ignore a book completely will depend on their level of trust in the reviewer—that they have agreed with their opinions in the past, are knowledgeable and qualified enough to review the book, and so on. In cases of doubt, the only way to know for sure is to read the book yourself. If you happen to have an interest in the JFK assassination, and the Zapruder film of it as one particularly important piece of evidence, then The Great Zapruder Film Hoax may be of interest to you. We hope that you read it and form your own opinions, unless you trust the judgment of the critics of the book so completely and implicitly that you feel that you cannot bring yourself to open its pages.

By all means, after you have read The Great Zapruder Film Hoax, consider in detail the criticisms that have been put up against it. For your convenience, we lay out the criticisms here, arranged in various ways.

To view the critics’ website in its original structure, click here. This is a snapshot of their site, taken at the time of its announcement. I have done this for definiteness, so that my comments are applicable to, and linked to, a definite critique, in the same way that their website is a response to the first printing of The Great Zapruder Film Hoax, which was a snapshot of the manuscript at the time of initial publication. When the second printing of The Great Zapruder Film Hoax is published, the critics will undoubtedly wish to review and possibly revise their own critique. At that time I will take a second snapshot of their site, and respond to their modifications accordingly. (If you instead wish to view their website live, click here. My comments, however, do not apply to any changes or additions made since the initial snapshot.)

Instead of viewing their website in its original structure, however, I have provided below an alternative way for you to consider their attacks. After some general observations below, I have listed the chapters of The Great Zapruder Film Hoax. When you click on a chapter, you will find a summary of the topics covered in that chapter, together with the critics’ response to each topic, with links to the relevant pages of the snapshot of their website. You will also be able to read my own personal responses to their criticisms, together with a couple of pieces that have been given to me by the other co-authors. My discussions aren’t in any way comprehensive; they’re just my first thoughts, and I have not sought the approval of my co-authors in making them (but of course they have read some of them). You, of course, will have your own take on the situation. But I have at least tried to make you aware of some of the more serious faults and sleights of hand that have been dealt out by the critics. You will then be in a position to judge for yourself whether they have qualified themselves as worthy and capable of refuting the arguments carefully laid out in the book.

But at the end of the day, there is no substitute for a direct comparison. Hold The Great Zapruder Film Hoax in one hand, and the criticisms of it in the other, and decide for yourself which is credible. The U.S. government, its agencies, and their “assets” have been trying to tell you for 40 years what to believe about the assassination. We just want to give you some alternatives.

John P. Costella, Ph.D.
16 November 2003

Some general observations

“The Gang”

The title of the website

The difference between errors and points of contention

The Great Zapruder Film Hoax
Deceit and Deception in the Death of JFK


Preface by the Editor, James H. Fetzer, Ph.D.


Fraud and Fabrication in the Death of JFK, James H. Fetzer, Ph.D.

Part I: Zapruder Film Anomalies

Which Film is “The Zapruder Film”?, James H. Fetzer and Scott A. Lederer

Mysteries of the JFK Assassination: The Photographic Evidence from A to Z, Jack White

Part II: How the Editing was Done

Technical Aspects of Film Alteration, David Healy

A Scientist’s Verdict: The Film is a Fabrication, John P. Costella, Ph.D.

Part III: The Moorman Controversy

Was Mary Standing in the Street?, Jack White

Mary Moorman and Her Polaroids, John P. Costella, Ph.D.

Part IV: Reassessing the Evidence

The Dealey Plaza Home Movies: The Reel Story or the Real Story?, David W. Mantik, M.D., Ph.D.

Pig on a Leash: A Question of Authenticity, David S. Lifton


Distorting the Photographic Record: “Death in Dealey Plaza”, James H. Fetzer, Ph.D.


(A) Murder in Dealey Plaza: A Critical Mass of Evidence, George Costello

(B) The Zavada Summary, Roland Zavada

(C) The NPIC Report, Douglas P. Horne

(D) The Zapruder Film Chronology, Noel Twyman

(E) The DellaRosa Report, Rich DellaRosa

(F) The Thompson ARRB Statement, Josiah Thompson, Ph.D.

(G) The Mack ARRB Statement, Gary Mack

(H) Lifton on the Zavada Report, David S. Lifton