#5 Man

by John Kelin

"The camera, I think, is actually going to be our best inspector."
--- President Kennedy, December 1962.

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Millions of television viewers have seen the image of what appears to be a gunman on the grassy knoll --- the so-called "badgeman" detail of a photograph taken by Mary Moorman on November 22, 1963. The image, which is a tiny portion of the photo, has been publicized and debunked by the PBS science program Nova. It has also been publicized, colorized, and given great credence by the British television program The Men Who Killed Kennedy, which in recent years has been broadcast annually in the United States on the A&E cable network.

As compelling as that image is, there is another detail of that same Moorman photograph that is far more identifiable as a human being --- an image which has been inexplicably underpublicized, even by those in whose interest it would seem to be to publicize it. That image is the topic of this article.

The Moorman Photo

The Moorman photo corresponds to Zapruder frames 313-4, the moment of impact on President Kennedy's head. Early researchers wondered: could the true assassins of JFK be seen somewhere in the photograph's murky shadows?

Scrutiny of the picture led to discovery of "#5 man," first detected by David Lifton in 1965. #5 man was the fifth, final, and clearest suspect image he identified in the photo. "He was definitely there, visible from the waist up," Lifton wrote years later in Best Evidence, "and he was holding something in his hands in a horizontal position." [1]

The original Moorman photograph was a Polaroid, so no conventional negative existed. But Lifton obtained a "copy negative" of the photo from the publisher of a commemorative booklet. "That negative I took to a photographer on Hollywood Boulevard," Lifton recalled. "He made many additional prints ... because it was now an actual neg, they were fairly clear." [2]

Intense study was underway. Lifton brought #5 man and other photo details to the attention of researcher Raymond Marcus, who like Lifton lived in Los Angeles and was engaged in the then-nascent field of assassination research. Today, Lifton says that the Moorman photo "absolutely dominated my life in May and June of 1965." That summer Marcus assembled a packet of this and other materials, and mailed it to about thirty journalists and public figures. "The response," Marcus would later write, "was minimal." [3]

Clockwise from lower left: "#5 Man" emerging

By 1967, Lifton was engaged in the medical research that would result in Best Evidence thirteen years later. But Marcus pursued the question of #5 man with remarkable determination. He continued his attempts to publicize the image, and documented the official stance that there was no one on the grassy knoll, writing Warren Commission attorney Joseph Ball and in reply, receiving Ball's blanket written statement to that effect.

Marcus also arranged, in 1967, for no fewer than twelve photographic experts to see a specially prepared display of the #5 man detail, and give their opinion of what they had seen. None were aware that what they were looking at was an assassination picture. Likewise, none were aware that the other experts were also rendering an opinion. Marcus later wrote about the results:

Of the twelve, ten promptly identified #5 as a man, and two said they were unable to discern anything they could recognize. Three of the former were employees of the Graphic Arts Service at M.I.T.; Richard Hefferan, Supervisor, Benjamin Poole, Coordinator of Photographic Work, and Robert Lyon, Photographer. These three, and Howard Tribe, supervisor of the UCLA bio-medical photo lab, made sketches of #5 and signed statements confirming their observations, again independent of each other. (I had drafted the statement, inviting each to make any changes to it they wished.) [4]

The ten who said the image was a man, Marcus wrote, also described him about the same way: he was visible from the lower chest upwards; was youngish, with a light-to-medium build; was balding or with light, thinning hair --- and appeared to be holding a straight object in his hands.

One expert declined to sign a statement, but did offer this comment: "You don't need an expert to tell you that's a man." [5]

So why has this image received so little attention? According to Marcus, and I have seen nothing to the contrary, no clear version of the #5 man detail was published in any assassination book until 1995 --- and then, in his own self-published Addendum B. The #5 and #2 images were written about by David Lifton in his best-selling Best Evidence, but were not included in the book's otherwise extensive photo section. (Lifton told Fair Play that including the #5 man detail "would take my book (which is a story of discovery of MEDICAL evidence that the wounds were altered) and focus instead on Dealey Plaza, on the question of 'who put the bullets into the body' rather than 'who took them out.'") [6]

But the #5 man image has not been entirely ignored. In its Nov. 24, 1967 issue (vol. 4 #47), The Los Angeles Free Press ran a front page article written by Marcus called "Blow Up!! November 22, 1963" that used the photo and discussed its implications in great detail. Two years earlier a Thomas Buchanen article, widely published in Europe, featured this detail.

Also in 1967, the CBS television network expressed interest in the work of Marcus, in conjunction with a planned four-part special on the Warren Commission. In spite of indications the program was biased in favor of the Commission, Marcus agreed to cooperate. In a preliminary meeting, a CBS producer who saw the #5 image agreed it was a man.

Later, CBS executive producer Les Midgley insisted he could not see anyone in the #5 detail. But after viewing an unrelated photo --- the assailant of civil rights activist James Meredith obscured in background foliage --- and again seeing the detail of #5 man, Midgley said, "Yes, that's the man who shot Meredith," inadvertantly revealing he did, in fact, see a human form in the #5 detail. [7]

Midgley was embarrassed. But he still would not concede that he saw anything human in the #5 image. Marcus' association with the CBS special was effectively over; the network went full steam ahead with its special, which raised no serious questions about the Warren Commission version of the assassination.

More recently, Richard Trask discussed the Moorman photo in Pictures of the Pain, his exhaustive (if flawed) book on assassination photographs. He recounts the discovery of the #5 man image, but immediately dismisses the question of what it may show by comparing David Lifton (and by extension, Marcus) to a 19th century astronomer who erroneously, but with the best of intentions, misrepresented the surface of Mars.

When illustrating the #5 man detail, however, Trask chose to use a sketch rather than the image itself. In an unpublished letter from 1998, Marcus said Trask's account of the discovery was "basically accurate," but added that the decision to use a drawing over the photo was not the objective approach one would expect from a disinterested commentator.

Finally, consider two comments by former Warren Commission attorney Wesley Liebeler. The first was made to David Lifton after he had embarked on the medical research that would lead to his body alteration theory. Liebeler said no one would believe that theory; Lifton wanted to know why not.

"Because it's relatively unbelievable," Lifton quoted Liebeler in Best Evidence. "There comes a point where, after all, the emperor may rely on his power to demand that he is clothed ... even if you were right, which I don't think you are, I think I could beat you in the argument."

"How?" Lifton wondered.

"Because of the presumption that the emperor is clothed." [8]

The second Liebeler comment was made to Raymond Marcus in either 1967 or 1968 (Marcus isn't sure which). This story is also recounted in Best Evidence (in Chapter 16); Marcus told the story in his monograph #5 Man, November 22, 1963, and in an unpublished letter from 1994.

Marcus met with Liebeler at UCLA, where Liebeler was then teaching. Marcus requested the meeting because "it was obvious for many reasons that the case was going to publicly collapse sooner rather than later," and he wanted to try persuading Liebeler to get on what so clearly was the right side of the issue.

At the meeting, Liebeler listened to Marcus' plea and studied the #5 image. "He did not attempt to contradict a single evidentiary item I presented," Marcus wrote later. Instead, after gazing at Marcus in silence for about half a minute, he said: "Mr. Marcus, sometimes we get caught up in things that are bigger than we are." [9]

Before going to print with it in Best Evidence, Marcus reminded Lifton that since there was no record of the conversation, Liebeler would very likely deny having made the statement. As of late 1999, however, Marcus said that to the best of his knowledge, Liebeler never has. [10]

So the image of a possible, if not probable, assassin looking down on the mortally wounded president, has been ignored for more than 35 years, in spite of its compelling nature. Marcus believes it has been deliberately, even systematically ignored, and the examples of CBS and Richard Trask, to name just two, seem to bear that out. Had CBS broadcast the #5 image in 1967, it would, in the words of Marcus, "been devastating to its entire effort in support of the official myth; for millions of viewers would then have recognized #5 as a man."

In his #5 Man monograph, Marcus concludes that only four things are necessary to appreciate the significance of the issues related in this article:

  1. The Warren Report says all shots came from the TSBD;
  2. Many witnesses believed one or more shots came from the grassy knoll;
  3. The Warren Report implicitly, and senior counsel Joseph Ball very explicitly, deny that #5 represents a human figure;
  4. Look at the enlarged photos of the #5 image.

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This article just skims the surface of the issue. Interested readers are directed to the available sources listed below, in particular the books of Mr. Marcus, which are available from the Last Hurrah Bookshop at (570) 321-1150.


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  1. Addendum B, by Raymond Marcus. Self-published, 1995.

  2. #5 Man, November 22 1963, by Raymond Marcus. Self-published, 1997.

  3. Unpublished letter, Raymond Marcus to Vincent J. Salandria, March 5, 1994.

  4. Unpublished letter, Raymond Marcus to Christopher Sharrett, July 30, 1998.

  5. Best Evidence, by David Lifton. Carrol and Graf edition, 1991. First published 1980.

  6. Email, David Lifton to John Kelin, January 13, 2000.

  7. Pictures of the Pain, by Richard Trask. Yeoman Press, 1994.

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1. Best Evidence, Chapter 1.

2. Email, David Lifton to John Kelin, January 13, 2000. Hereafter referred to as Lifton email.

3. "Dominated my life" --- Lifton email. "The response was minimal" --- Marcus, Raymond, #5 Man, November 22, 1963, p. 2. Hereafter referred to as #5 Man.

4. #5 Man, p. 81.

5. #5 Man, p. 82.

6. Lifton email.

7. #5 Man, p. 28.

8. Best Evidence, Chapter 32.

9. Letter, Raymond Marcus to Vincent J. Salandria, March 5, 1994.

10. Phone conversation, Raymond Marcus and John Kelin, December 1999.

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