JFK Assassination | 60 years since the event, what have been the conspiracies around JFK’s murder?

Despite the publication of the Warren Commission report, there are still conspiracy theories regarding the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

It’s one of those questions people of a certain age are asked, and today seems a very poigniant time to ask it once again; where were you when you found out John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, had died after being assassinated in Dallas, Texas 60 years ago? Many can recall it, much like some of my age can remember where we were when we found out Kurt Cobain had died - it’s one of those moments in both history and popular culture that has become a watershed moment.

But after receiving an answer, there is every possibility that you’ll also get a post-script conversation regarding the numerous conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of JFK. Some may tell you that his body was switched out to have an open-casket funeral (which is false) or discuss the “magic bullet” theory. Some might even tell you that, along with Elvis Presley and Kurt Cobain, JFK retired to a quiet life on an island in the Bahamas (which has also been disproven). 

But the assassination of JFK has been one of history’s most discussed and dissected moments in time, and the raft of conspiracy theories continues to this day. For each new president that takes office in the United States, there are calls for transparency regarding what happened on that day - despite the Warren Commission dispelling numerous theories when it was published in 1964.

But what have been some of the prevailing, dare I say it “enduring” conspiracy theories regarding that day in Dallas, Texas? From a second shooter to the accusations that Woody Harrelson’s dad was involved, NationalWorld takes a look at five of those conspiracy theories that, despite that commission report, still seem to be regaled to this day. 

What are some of the long-lasting conspiracies regarding JFK’s assassination?

The shooter on the Grassy Knoll

The view from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas, from which Lee Harvey Oswald is thought to have assassinated President John F Kennedy, 22nd November 1963. This photograph was taken approximately one hour after the assassination. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)The view from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas, from which Lee Harvey Oswald is thought to have assassinated President John F Kennedy, 22nd November 1963. This photograph was taken approximately one hour after the assassination. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The view from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas, from which Lee Harvey Oswald is thought to have assassinated President John F Kennedy, 22nd November 1963. This photograph was taken approximately one hour after the assassination. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The "grassy knoll" theory is one of the many conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. This theory suggests that in addition to Lee Harvey Oswald, who was positioned in the Texas School Book Depository, there was another gunman or a group of gunmen situated on a grassy knoll located to the right front of the presidential motorcade.

According to supporters of the Grassy Knoll theory, this alleged second gunman or shooters played a role in the assassination and fired shots at Kennedy's motorcade. The belief in a conspiracy involving a shooter on the grassy knoll is often based on eyewitness accounts, acoustic evidence, and the trajectory of the fatal headshot that killed President Kennedy.

The Grassy Knoll theory points to witnesses who claimed to have heard shots or seen smoke in the vicinity of the Grassy Knoll at the time of the assassination. Additionally, some argue that the direction of Kennedy's head movement at the moment of impact suggests shots coming from a different angle than Oswald's position in the Book Depository.

The Umbrella Man

Assassination of JFK aftermath at Dealey Plaza; The Umbrella Man is sitting next to the road sign (the man on the right side) (Credit: Public Domain)Assassination of JFK aftermath at Dealey Plaza; The Umbrella Man is sitting next to the road sign (the man on the right side) (Credit: Public Domain)
Assassination of JFK aftermath at Dealey Plaza; The Umbrella Man is sitting next to the road sign (the man on the right side) (Credit: Public Domain)

This theory centres around a man seen holding an open umbrella on the sunny day of November 22, 1963, near the site of the assassination in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas. The Umbrella Man, later identified as Louie Steven Witt, was initially considered suspicious due to what was considered odd behaviour of holding an umbrella on a clear day. Some conspiracy theorists speculated that the umbrella was a signal or a weapon and that the man might have been involved in a conspiracy to signal other conspirators or to obscure the view of witnesses.

However, Witt came forward in 1978 and explained that he brought the umbrella to express his political protest. The umbrella was a reference to a political incident in 1938 involving British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who carried an umbrella as a symbol of appeasement during a meeting with Adolf Hitler. Witt intended the umbrella as a form of protest against Kennedy's father, Joseph P. Kennedy, who supported appeasement policies before World War II.

Woody Harrelson’s dad did it

The conspiracy theory involving Woody Harrelson's father, Charles Harrelson, suggests his involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Charles Harrelson was a hitman and a convicted murderer, and some theorists have speculated that he may have played a role in the Kennedy assassination.

The theory primarily relies on Charles Harrelson's criminal background and connections to organized crime figures. However, there is no credible evidence linking him to the Kennedy assassination, and official investigations, including the Warren Commission, did not implicate him in any way. But Woody Harrelson has publicly addressed and dismissed these conspiracy theories, emphasizing the lack of concrete evidence and the speculative nature of such claims. Charles Harrelson was convicted of the murder of a federal judge in 1979 and died in prison in 2007. 

JFK’s crackdown on organised crime prompted a “hit.”

Picture dated 22 November 1963 of US President John F. Kennedy's murderer Lee Harvey Oswald during a press conference after his arrest in Dallas. Lee Harvey Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby on 24 November on the eve of Kennedy's burial. AFP PHOTO (Photo by STRINGER / AFP) Picture dated 22 November 1963 of US President John F. Kennedy's murderer Lee Harvey Oswald during a press conference after his arrest in Dallas. Lee Harvey Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby on 24 November on the eve of Kennedy's burial. AFP PHOTO (Photo by STRINGER / AFP)
Picture dated 22 November 1963 of US President John F. Kennedy's murderer Lee Harvey Oswald during a press conference after his arrest in Dallas. Lee Harvey Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby on 24 November on the eve of Kennedy's burial. AFP PHOTO (Photo by STRINGER / AFP)

There have been conspiracy theories suggesting an alleged involvement of organized crime in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Some theorists propose that Kennedy's administration's crackdown on the Mafia, led by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, angered organized crime figures who then conspired to have the president killed. Jack Ruby's killing of Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin of President Kennedy, has also been the subject of speculation. Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner with known connections to individuals associated with organized crime, shot Oswald on live television two days after Kennedy's assassination.

However, these theories lack substantial evidence, and the official investigations, including the Warren Commission's report, concluded that Oswald acted alone in assassinating President Kennedy. There is no credible evidence supporting the idea that organized crime played a direct role in the assassination or that Ruby's actions were part of a larger conspiracy orchestrated by organized crime figures.

The CIA executed JFK

This theory, rooted in dissatisfaction with Kennedy's handling of events like the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis, posits that individuals within the CIA orchestrated the assassination due to perceived failures in foreign policy and national security matters. Some versions of the theory also involve anti-Castro Cubans who were dissatisfied with Kennedy's response to the Bay of Pigs invasion, proposing that sympathetic elements within the CIA may have collaborated with them.

Despite the persistence of the CIA theory in the realm of conspiracy theories, official investigations, including the Warren Commission, concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating President Kennedy.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.