Beverly Oliver claims to be The Babushka Lady in Dealey Plaza at the time of the JFK assassination
Beverly Oliver in the 1988 documentary "The Men Who Killed Kennedy" singing "Amazing Grace." Such a fine Christian lady. She wouldn't tell a bunch of fibs, would she?

Beverly Oliver: Babushka Babe? Or Bamboozling the Buffs?

One of the enigmatic figures in Dealey Plaza in the moments when John Kennedy was murdered was "The Babushka Lady," so named because she wore a scarf much like a Russian grandmother would wear (see below).

She appears to be filming the motorcade, perhaps with an amateur movie camera, but she did not identify herself to law enforcement on the day of the assassination. And in the days and weeks following the assassination, no person turned up claiming to be her, and no film shot from her position was discovered.

Babushka Lady in Dealey Plaza

In 1970 a woman named Beverly Oliver came forward, and in interviews with researcher J. Gary Shaw, claimed to have been the Babushka Lady. She was a dancer and singer (although apparently not a stripper) at the Colony Club, a strip joint that competed with Jack Ruby's Carousel Club. She claims to have spent considerable time in the Carousel Club, and to have known Jack Ruby well. Over the years, her story has been elaborated to include many elements which, if true, imply a conspiracy to murder Kennedy.

But how credible are her claims? The following table summarizes her claims, and evaluates them.

Claim Evaluation
Was in Dealey Plaza during the assassination No witnesses can corroborate her claim. The Babushka Lady in Dealey Plaza appears in several photos, and is older and stockier than Oliver was in 1963
Before presidential limo turned from Main to Houston, she took up a position near a man and his young son on the south side of Elm Street — a reference to Charles Brehm and his son Joe who are seen near the Babushka Lady at the time of the shooting Brehm and his son were not in this location, but rather at the corner of Main and Houston, and ran across the grass after the limo turned onto Houston
Was filming Kennedy with a brand new Yashica Super-8 Zoom movie camera No such camera existed until 1965
After years of claiming to have used Super-8 Zoom movie camera, backed off that story and denied to the Assassination Records Review Board that she had ever said that She in fact made the claim to several conspiracy authors, and in the 1988 documentary "The Men Who Killed Kennedy."
Saw Kennedy's head explode; it was like a "bucket of blood" thrown out the back of the limo Consistent with the conspiracy-book claims that the back of Kennedy's head was blown out, but flatly contradicted by movies of the head wound, and by all other Dealey Plaza witnesses.
When she returned to work on Monday evening, over 72 hours after the assassination, FBI men were waiting on the landing of the Colony club, and confiscated her film Vastly implausible that conspirators would allow her to keep the film for three days, risking her releasing it to the press, or investigators not part of a "coverup."
Identified FBI agent who took her film as Regis Kennedy Kennedy was in New Orleans on Monday, November 25th and was interviewing Dean Andrews in the evening
Claimed to the House Select Committee that one of the men who took her film identified himself as a CIA agent Absurd that any CIA agent in Dallas in the wake of the assassination would identify himself as CIA to someone like Oliver. Oliver dropped this element from later versions of her story
Two weeks before the assassination, in the Carousel Club, Ruby introduced Oswald to her as "my friend Lee Oswald of the CIA" Of course deep cover spooks go around telling people they are with the CIA
Dancer Jada (Janet Conforto) witnessed Ruby's introduction of Oswald to Oliver, and told newspaper reporters about it Not only do newspapers show no such claim by Conforto, she explicitly denied that she had seen Oswald in the Carousel Club when asked by Eddie Barker on KRLD radio on the evening of November 24th
Claimed to have talked to Jada at Carousel Club, where she was performing on the eve of the assassination Jada had not worked at the Carousel since October 31st, and was not there on November 21st.
Oliver saw David Ferrie around the Carousel Club so often that she assumed he must be an assistant manager None of the many Carousel Club employees corroborates this. Given Ferrie's bizarre appearance, it seems certain they could had he been there. Ferrie lived in New Orleans, and could hardly commute to Dallas
Oliver had dinner with Jack Ruby on the eve of the assassination, and he gave her a polkadot dress Ruby had dinner with friends on the eve of the assassination, and none of them mentioned Oliver in sworn testimony
Jack Ruby frequently expressed hatred of JFK Flatly contradicted by several witnesses who knew Ruby. Seems to be the result of Oliver's assumption that Ruby was a mobster and mobsters hated JFK
Claims to have seen "Raoul," shadowy figure supposedly part of a conspiracy to kill Martin Luther King, at the Carousel Club No evidence that "Raoul" ever existed. He appears to have been invented by James Earl Ray, King's killer.
Implied that "Jada" (Janet Conforto) supposed witness to Oswald in the Carousel club, died in a mysterious way.In fact, Janet Conforto died in a rather ordinary -- if tragic -- motorcycle accident.
Claimed that an English researcher had obtained frames from her film, which vindicated her story.Frames were from the Nix film, shot from a perspective radically different from that of The Babushka Lady.
Sources: J. Gary Shaw, Coverup, pp. 51-56; Jim Marrs, Crossfire, pp. 35-37, 189; Beverly Oliver with Coke Buchanan, Nightmare in Dallas; "Testimony of Beverly Oliver Massegee before the Assassination Records Review Board"; Gerald Posner, Case Closed (First Anchor Books Edition, 1994), pp. 357, 373-375.

Oliver on Jada Versus Jada On Jada

According to Oliver, Jada told the local Dallas media about seeing Ruby and Oswald together in the Carousel Club. In reality, Jada gave two television, one radio and one newspaper interviews within hours of Oswald's death. The radio interview, with KRLD news director Eddie Barker, included this:
Barker: Did you know Lee Oswald?

Jada: No, I didn't at all.

Barker: You never saw him in the club?

Jada: No, no I haven't worked there for about, uh, since Halloween night.

(Source: Reel 49. KDFW-TV Collection/The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.) No account of her saying she saw Ruby and Oswald together appeared in any newspapers, nor anywhere else. And she explicitly told the FBI that she had never seen them together.

Ever-Changing Camera

In testimony before the Assassination Records Review Board in Dallas on November 18, 1994, Beverly Oliver (now addressed by her married name, Massegee) denied that she had ever said that she carried a Super-8 movie camera to Dealey Plaza on the day of the assassination:
Dr. Graff: Ms. Oliver, were these still photographs?

Ms. Massegee: No, they were a movie camera [sic].

Dr. Graff: It was a movie camera?

Ms. Massegee: Yes. It was an 8 millimeter.

Dr. Graff: Eight millimeter movie camera.

Ms. Massegee: Yes, I have been accused of saying it was a Super 8, but I don't recall that, and to the House Select Committee investigator Jack Moriarty I, in 1977, March the 12th, I told him it was a movie camera, not a Super 8 movie camera. I just recently got my typed deposition. I was glad to see that.

Yet authors such as Gary Shaw (Coverup, p. 51) and Jim Marrs (Crossfire, p. 36), both of whom interviewed her, record her as saying it was a Yashica Super-8 camera.

And in Dealey Plaza on Nov. 22, 1993, Oliver was pitching her original story to the assembled crowd. She knew that a lot of people didn't believe the "Yashica Super-8" story. She had with her an employee of the Yashica Company — an assassination buff, apparently. It had been claimed that the camera was not available until 1967, but he had established that a prototype had been in existence as early as 1965. That, unfortunately was two years short of what Beverly needed. He said he was working on this issue, and hoped to establish that a prototype was in existence as early as 1963. (Source: witnessed by author).

Apparently, he failed to do so.

So a year later Oliver was denying that she ever said "Yashica Super 8" camera.

Bev's Blunder: Jada and the Carousel Club

The following is from Beverly Oliver with Coke Buchanan, Nightmare in Dallas, describing Beverly's actions on November 21st, 1963 — the night before the assassination:
Beverly parked her car and walked next door to the Carousel. It was around 7:45 PM. Entering the club, she saw Jack Ruby standing near the bar, talking intently with friends. Evidently he was not ready to go, so she went back to the dressing room to see Jada.

"Hello, pretty lady," Beverly said. Jada looked up as she was busy struggling with a loose sequin which was hanging down from her costume.

"Don't you look great. Your dress is very pretty," Jada said . . . "I'm glad you're here. I need help with my G-string. I have a sequin that's about to fall off." (p. 105)

The problem with this is that Jada hadn't worked for Ruby since the end of October, when they had an acrimonious break-up. Oliver has vividly recounted a scene that could not have happened.

Bev's Blunder: CIA Guy Confiscated Her Film

On March 12, 1977, Howard Gilbert and Jack Moriarty of the House Select Committee on Assassinations interviewed Beverly Massegee (Beverly Oliver). The following is an excerpt from that interview:
G: Now, what if anything did Ruby say about Oswald? For example, who he was employed by?

M: Well, when ever he introduced him, he said this is Lee Oswald, and he's with the CIA, which didn't register anything with me because I was just a stupid seventeen, sixteen year old kid.

G: You didn't know what CIA means?

M: No.

G: But you have a recollection that he did use the initials CIA?

M: Yeah, because in my mind I was trying to figure out what it was, but I wasn't going to show my ignorance by asking. (laughter)

G: I see. So you paid particular attention to it, because you were trying to figure out what the initials meant. Is that what you're saying?

M: Yeah, and he didn't really look like a typical business man and I didn't know what it was, so I just - just stuck in my mind.

So Beverly distinctly heard "CIA" and noticed the letters "CIA" but didn't know what that was. We now skip down to the part where agents confiscate her film.
G: Now, Kennedy was shot on a Friday. Can you tell us what happened to the film in the camera?

M: OK. To the best of my memory, I don't know for sure if our club was closed for one day or two days, but it seems like it was closed Firday night, and Saturday night, and we opened back up on Sunday. And our club was upstairs, it had two flights of stairs, you walked up a few stairs, and then there was a little platform thing, and then you walked up another flight of stairs when you entered into the club, and there was two men waiting there on that platform, and when I got up there, they asked me if I was Beverly Oliver, and I said yes I am, and they showed me some cards and introduced themselves, I don't remember their names, but they said they were from the FBI and the CIA, and that stuck in my mind, because I knew what the FBI was, but there was that CIA again.

G: So, this was the second time you'd heard CIA within a couple of weeks.

M: Yeah.

Let's suppose, just for the sake of argument, that it's possible the CIA had an agent in Dallas working with the FBI to confiscate films like the one Beverly supposedly shot. This is a stretch, because it would invite a huge amount of suspicion, and there is no evidence of such a thing. But let's assume it just for the sake of argument.

That any CIA agent would identify himself as CIA to someone like Oliver is absurd.

If Beverly had just tossed off "CIA" to an interviewer, that would not have been so bad. She might have been confused or have misspoken. But in the interview Oliver insists that she was paying attention to the initials "CIA" and had been sensitized to "CIA" by her supposed meeting with Oswald.

Taking Up a Position on Elm Street

In Nightmare in Dallas, Coke Buchanan (Oliver's "coauthor") describes how she entered Dealey Plaza and "selected a spot near a young boy and his father, leaving room in front of her. . . ." She did this well before the President turned off Main Street and onto Houston Street (p. 121). This seems to accord well with the photographic evidence from the time of the shooting, which shows the Babushka Lady right behind Charles Brehm and his son Joe on the south curb of Elm Street. No other male child was on the infield of Dealey Plaza except Jeff Franzen, and he was with both his parents (not just his father), and was a considerable distance away, southwest of the Babushka Lady's position.

Unfortunately, however, Oliver could not have "selected a spot" near Brehm and his son when she said she did, since Brehm was not there when she said she took up her position. According to a November 25, 1963 FBI interview with Brehm:

He took a vantage point on the northwest corner of the intersection of Main and Houston Streets and from that point, he was able to watch the car in which the President and Mrs. Kennedy rode, making a right turn from Main Street into Houston Street.

After the President's automobile had rounded the corner into Houston Street, he picked up his five-year-old son and ran across the grass from Main Street over to the downhill curved portion of Elm Street which leads from Houston Street to the Stemmons Expressway. He and his son stood right at the curb on the grass and saw the President's car take a wide swing as it turned left from Houston Street into Elm Street. (CE 1425, 22H837)

Brehm told the exact same thing to the Dallas Times Herald ("Who Did It? Witnesses Still at Odds," Nov. 22, 1966), and to Mark Oakes in a videotaped interview in May, 1992 ("Eyewitness Video Tape").

So it seems that Oliver has given an account that one might give if one has looked at the photographic evidence showing the Babushka Lady near Brehm and his son at the time of the shooting. Unfortunately, it's not the account one would give if one was in Dealey Plaza.

Did Oliver's Film Resurface?

John Hunt, Jr., saw Beverly Oliver make a striking claim at the 1999 JFK Lancer conference.
Beverly Oliver took the podium and announced to the crowd that "her" film had been found. She said she was provided with four frames of the film to prove its authenticity. Of course a hand screamed into the air, the question being, can we see the picture. She said "No" with great definiteness. She said she could not show the pictures as part of the deal to obtain the film. Sounds reasonable to me.

I was seated towards the front of the conference room the next morning. The conference had already started when Oliver came in. I was not surprised when she chose to sit at the table and chair opposite mine. She shuffled papers from her bag onto the table. She held four photo close to her chest like a poker player with the winning hand. She ever so carefully laid the photos face down on the table. As she shuffled the paper around, one of the photos fell off the table and landed face up on the floor. Of course I looked. Very quickly she scooped up the photo and returned it to the pile. After Oliver was done shuffling the papers and photos she motioned for me to come close. I knew I was about to see a photo. I was excited. I leaned over to her and she said pull your chair close. I did. She said that she was going to show me the head shot from this newly discovered film. She did. She also quickly showed me the other three. I was stunned! They were the head shot from the Nix film. I immediately recognized the frames.

It is not often at all that I am speechless. . . . I was speechless at that moment, however.

At the break, Oliver showed one of the photos to Doug Horne as he was answering question from those who had approached the speakers table at the head of the room. She made sure that only he could see that frame, yet let her words freely be heard. She reiterated a point she made the day before, and I quote: "it must be my film 'cause I ain't in the frames."

I talked to Oliver during that break. I said the film was taken from a point too far to the west to be the Babushka film. She said "I was running as I filmed and you can see that in the Zapruder film." I was stunned again, but not speechless. I thought she might be talking about panning the camera to follow the limo and had chosen her words poorly.

I said, "Oh, you mean you were panning along with the limo."

She said, "No, I was running as I filmed and you can see that in the Zapruder film."

Even a cursory viewing of the Z-film shows that not to be the case. I was, and still am, confused by these statements.

Later, as she was sitting on the south side of Elm Street just west of where Hill and Moorman stood on 11-22-1963, I tried to demonstrate to Oliver that the film was taken from the wrong perspective to be the Babushka film. She dismissed me with a wave of the hand and these words, and I quote: "you have to understand the physics of it." She did not want to hear what I had to say.

Click here for a fuller account of Hunt's encounter with Oliver.

Gary Mack, L. Kirkham, and John Hunt brought key documents discussed here to this author's attention.
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