Listening to the Zapruder Film

by Martin Shackelford

This January, as I reviewed witness testimony before the House Assassinations Committee, portions of the Connally testimony caught my attention:

Mrs. Connally: I...saw the President clutch his neck...John had turned to his right also when we heard that first noise and shouted "no, no, no."

Gov. Connally: I thought it was a rifle shot...I was trying to see if anything had happened in the was a bit later when I said "Oh, no, no, no." This was after I realized I had been hit, and then I said "My God, they are going to kill us all."

I made a note to myself to compare Connally's words and facial expressions with his expressions in the Zapruder film.

Soon after, it occurred to me that a good lip reader might be able to determine from the film when Gov. Connally said both statements. In February, I met Bay City (Michigan) researcher Jerry Charbonneau, and mentioned the idea to him. He said he knew someone who might be able to help.

This month, at his home, Charbonneau introduced me to James and Kimberly Petrimoulx, both experienced lip readers, and their son Jimmy, who provided valuable rapid translation. We used a videotape copy of the Zapruder film for general context, and for facial detail we studied high-quality complete sequences of Zapruder frame slides. Even with these, there were limitations to what could be learned from the film, but three hours of close and repeated study produced some results which may be of interest to our colleagues:

225Although Mr. and Ms. Petrimoulx had not previously studied any of these materials, they noted immediately that President Kennedy was already shot when he emerged from behind the Stemmons Freeway sign.
about 236Gov. Connally begins to show a startled, frightened reaction, but no sign of pain; then he seems to be shot.
242 to 250 Gov. Connally is talking, saying "No, no, no, no." turning to his right, in obvious pain.
255 to 287 Gov. Connally is screaming and talking (his face is in shadow; he may be saying, "My God, they're going to kill us all," based on what can be seen of his expressions); President Kennedy, meanwhile, is fainting.
302Gov. Connally is clearly in intense pain.
312 to 320sGov. and Mrs. Connally seem to be talking (his mouth is moving; she testified "John said nothing" after he slumped back into her lap).
320s Gov. Connally's mouth seems to be forming the word "Go."

Nothing earth-shattering here, but more information to aid the on-going effort to study the details of that day in Dealey Plaza....

To see additional articles written by Martin Shackleford, check out his archive on Deanie Richard's JFK Place.
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