The Paper Bag Revolver

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Second Gun or Second Guessing?

The Story of the Revolver in the Paper Bag

By Bill Adams

The AIB Discovers a Mystery

The FBI unleashed a controversy in 1978 when they released 100,000 pages of documents concerning its investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy. Within those 100,000 pages was a very intriguing FBI document. That same year the Assassination Information Bureau (AIB) reviewed the FBI document release and reported the discovery of various documents in the AIB's newsletter, "Clandestine America." One issue of the newsletter mentioned that a .38 caliber revolver was discovered "in a paper bag in the immediate vicinity of the assassination site."

Re-discovering a Mystery

In the Fall of 1991 I was reading through Paul Hoch's collection of "Clandestine America" when I came across the AIB article on the revolver [1]. I was intrigued by the potential implications of a second gun being found in Dealey Plaza. Over the next few months I contacted many assassination researchers and was disappointed to learn that none of them had ever heard of the revolver. Late in 1991 I finally located a copy of a document concerning the revolver. Researcher John Woods II had a copy of the document in a collection of documents he had obtained regarding the HSCA investigation into the assassination. The document contained the following information:

...For the information of the Boston office on the morning of November Twentythree, last, a snub nose thirty eight caliber Smith and Wesson, serial number eight nine three two six five, with the word quote England unquote on the cylinder was found at approximately seven thirty AM, in a brown paper sack in the general area of where the assassination of President Kennedy took place. [2]

I soon realized that this document was not the document mentioned by the AIB, as the article stated the revolver was found, "in the immediate vicinity of the assassination site." Wood's document, however claimed the revolver was found "in the general area of where the assassination of President Kennedy took place." Either there was more than one document or the AIB had misrepresented the contents of the revolver document.

FOIA Requests

At this point I decided to use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain any additional revolver documents that existed. During the last few days of 1991 I filed the first of many FOIA requests with the FBI regarding the revolver. My first request went to FBI Headquarters in Washington, DC. Two months later the FBI responded to my request by sending copies of "2 pages of preprocessed material." [3] I was making progress faster than I expected and now possessed three documents concerning the revolver. The new documents provided more detail about the FBI investigation of the revolver and claimed the revolver had been found "in [the] immediate vicinity of the assassination area." I now could confirm that the AIB and Woods did in fact have two different documents on the revolver. These documents had apparently also been released as part of the FBI's 1978 release but had not been reported by the AIB. Four years later, as I write this article, I am still awaiting the FBI's closure of this request and/or release of additional documents responsive to my request.

During the Summer of 1993 I gave up waiting for the FBI to complete my 1991 FOIA request. I filed a new FOIA request with each of the involved FBI Field Offices - Boston, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Springfield. Within a month I had responses from all four Field Offices. Springfield said they had no responsive documents but would refer me to FBI Headquarters. Both Dallas and Philadelphia referred me to FBI Headquarters as well. Boston however provided a bizarre response: they were "currently unable to locate [their] file pertaining to the assassination." Boston assured me that "when/if the file is located, processing of [my] request will continue and [I would] be advised of the results." Apparently they never did find their file as Boston has never sent another reply to my FOIA request.

The Release of a New Document

As a result of the Assassination Records Collection Act (ARCA) of 1992 the FBI files reviewed by the HSCA were released to the National Archives. One of these FBI files turned out to be a two page document concerning the FBI's attempts to trace the revolver. [4] This document also mentions that the revolver was "found in a paper bag in the immediate vicinity of the assassination area." I obtained this document from another researcher and now possessed four different revolver documents.

Nashville Assassination Attempt

During my search for the revolver documents I also was researching Thomas Vallee (a threat to JFK in Chicago in November of 1963) and his connections to a JFK visit to Nashville, Tennessee in May of 1963. A Canadian researcher, Sheldon Inkol, informed me of a tabloid newspaper carrying a story about an assassination attempt against JFK during his Nashville trip. I was able to obtain the original Nashville newspaper articles as well as the tabloid article concerning the new revelation. The following quote from the article was very interesting in light of my ongoing revolver investigation:

The Nashville Congressman - the son of the late Governor Frank Clement, the president's host during a May 1963 visit - said the incident at Overton High School was kept quiet in order to keep from encouraging similar scares. "At Overton High School there was a man who approached with a gun underneath a sack. He was grabbed by the Secret Service." [5]

Was it possible that an individual had planned to approach JFK in Dealey Plaza with the revolver in the paper bag just as had happened six months before in Nashville? My revolver research intensified. However I was dismayed to learn that the Nashville potential assassin has never been identified and no documents have ever been released regarding this individual. I was back where I started with only the four revolver documents to go on.

Second Guessing

It is amazing how fast a "new discovery" or the "re-discovery" of assassination information gets spread through the researcher community. It is also very disappointing to see how a story "gets better" each time it is told and passed on. I began telling the story of the revolver and my analysis of the documents to anyone who would listen. I felt the terminology used in the documents could safely be interpreted to mean the revolver was at least found in the area of Dealey Plaza but not necessarily the area of the Texas School Book Depository (TSBD) or grassy knoll. In 1994 Anthony Summers interviewed me for an article he was writing for "Vanity Fair" magazine. He had heard of my research concerning the revolver and asked for copies of the documents I had uncovered. Summers had told me he had heard the revolver was found by the TSBD. I made it clear to Summers that there was no known documentation to support the conclusion that the revolver was found by the TSBD -- however I did feel the documentation supported the conclusion that the revolver was found in Dealey Plaza. Summers must have had another source as to the location of the revolver, as is shown in the following quote from his "Vanity Fair" article of December 1994:

... So a revolver was found near the Book Depository -- "In THE IMMEDIATE VICINITY," according to other FBI reports. [italics added] [6]

Nigel Turner visited me in November 1994 and also told me he had heard the revolver was found by the TSBD. Both Turner and Summers must have had another source that they did not identify. Had someone found the missing document that disclosed the location where the revolver was found? Why had my FOIA requests not produced this apparent document? I then began to hear rumors that a couple of Dallas area researchers had been on the local TV and/or radio claiming the revolver was found behind the fence on the grassy knoll. In fact, Larry Howard may have even stated he feared for his life because of his knowledge of the revolver shortly before he died of a heart attack. Speculation was rampant regarding the revolver. What had I missed? How could Anthony Summers and Nigel Turner have proof the revolver was found by the TSBD while other researchers claimed it was found behind the fence on the grassy knoll? I intensified my search for the documents these researchers must have found and I had failed to discover.

Well, I was very disappointed when I discovered the apparent source used by Summers, Turner and the other researchers. It involved the unpublished manuscript, "A 'Smoking Gun' for the Grassy Knoll?", by J. Gary Shaw and Larry Ray Harris. [7] This manuscript should never have been used as a source for the location of the revolver. The manuscript relies on speculation to imply the revolver was dropped by a blonde woman, who may have been one of Ruby's strippers, near the TSBD. Let us analyze a few of the implications in the unpublished manuscript:

1) The revolver was dropped in a paper bag near the TSBD

The manuscript provides the following quote from Warren Commission Document number five, page 127 to support it's implication that the revolver was found near the TSBD:

. . . Weitzman stated that during the time he was running from the intersection of Main and Houston, he observed a blonde woman, 20 to 25 years old, drop a lunch sack at a point about half a block west of the Texas School Book Depository Building, but thought nothing of it at the time. . .

The authors of the manuscript fail to mention the obvious -- there were hundreds of people in Dealey Plaza and the surrounding buildings who were at lunch at the time of the assassination. Might we assume there were dozens if not hundreds of paper bags in Dealey Plaza and the surrounding buildings? Several other paper bags are mentioned in assassination documents and literature: (1) the paper bag carried by Gus Abrams (one of the three tramps); (2) the paper bag allegedly used to transport the rifle; (3) the TSBD sixth floor "chicken lunch" paper bag; (4) the paper bags carried by the black couple behind the concrete wall on the grassy knoll.

2) The blonde woman was one of Ruby's strippers

The manuscript provides the following quote from Warren Commission Document number five, page 127 in support of it's implication of involvement by one of Ruby's strippers:

. . . he observed a blonde woman, 20 to 25 years old, drop a lunch sack. . .

There were many blonde women in Dealey Plaza and the surrounding buildings. There is absolutely no basis for implying the woman who dropped the bag was one of Ruby's strippers.

Therefore, I was back where I started with four revolver documents and nothing more. My search for answers continued into 1995.

The Answers are Rediscovered

Early in 1995 Paul Hoch sent me a copy of another AIB discovered document concerning the revolver. He discovered this document while looking for other material I had requested, unrelated to the revolver investigation. This document was also apparently included in the 1978 FBI document release. This document was a new fifth document that I had never seen before and my FOIA requests had not uncovered. The document provides the missing piece to the revolver puzzle. The document not only reveals where the revolver was found but who found it. The following quote from this document shows just how wrong I and other researchers were:

On 11/23/63, Patrolman J. Raz brought into the Homicide and Robbery Bureau, Dallas PD, a brown paper sack which contained a snub-nosed .38 caliber Smith & Wesson, SN 893265 . . . had been found . . . near the curb at the corner of Ross and Lamar Streets and was turned in by one Willie Flat . . . [8]

The corner of Ross Avenue and Lamar Street is several blocks north of the TSBD. The location is not "by the TSBD" or "behind the fence on the grassy knoll."

"Immediate Vicinity"

Another example of misleading wording in documents and researcher speculation and assumptions involves the report of two men sighting-in a rifle.

. . . The police have interviewed a witness who has stated that a man fitting subject's description in company of another man were observed by this witness on 20 Nov 63 in the immediate vicinity of the place where President Kennedy was killed. These men were observed sighting-in a rifle at two silhouette targets . . . [9]

This document also appears to have been incorrectly interpreted by various researchers who have reported the men were seen sighting-in a rifle on the grassy knoll. The following quote from an FBI document clarifies where the alleged incident took place.

. . . had heard on Friday afternoon, November 22, 1963, while at the Dallas Police Department that the Police Department had received a call Wednesday at night regarding two men sighting-in a rifle on Continental Street . . .

Continental Street crosses over Stemmons Freeway beyond the area of Dealey Plaza and is no where near the grassy knoll.

Questions Still Unanswered

There are still several questions to be answer regarding the revolver and the FBI investigation.

  • Who was Willie Flat?
  • Was he interviewed by the DPD or FBI?
  • Where are the documents regarding Willie Flat?
  • Where are the teletypes from 11/23/63 through 11/29/63 that originally informed FBI Headquarters of the revolver?
  • Where is the revolver now?

"2nd Guessing"

I hope this article will serve as a warning to other researchers. Assumptions can lead you into false conclusions, and speculation turned into fact will lead to embarrassment and ridicule by other researchers and the public at large.


  1. Assassination Information Bureau, " ", Clandestine America Volume 2, Number 1, 1978
  2. FBI Dallas Field Office [89-43-???] to FBI HQ [62-109060-485] and Boston Field Office, November 29, 1963.
  3. FBI Springfield Field Office [89-23-???] to FBI HQ [62-109060-858; 42-24016], November 30, 1963; FBI Philadelphia Field Office [157-916-???] to FBI HQ [62-109060-638], Dallas Field Office, Springfield Field Office, and Boston Field Office.
  4. FBI Boston Field Office [89-43-???] to FBI HQ [62-109060-857], Dallas Field Office, Philadelphia Feld Office, November 29, 1963.
  5. Nashville Banner, January 25, 1992, pg A-1.
  6. Anthony and Robbyn Summers, "J.F.K.: Case Reopened," Vanity Fair, December 1994.
  7. J. Gary Shaw and Larry Ray Harris, "A 'Smoking Gun' for the Grassy Knoll?", Unpublished manuscript, 1994.
  8. FBI Dallas Field Office SA [89-43-636] to FBI Dallas Field Office SAC, November 25, 1963.
  9. 112th Army Intelligence Group, Spot report #419, November 22, 1963; FBI Dallas Field Office [89-43-23818B].

Copyright Bill Adams 1996

Reprinted with permission of the author.

The Truth is Redacted Website
Bill Adams
The page last updated 7/5/97

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