In the hours and days following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, investigators would rely heavily on statements by spectators of the motorcade and, more importantly, those persons who were filming or photographing JFK when the shots were fired.
Once the movies and films were developed, law enforcement would use the subsequent images to try to piece together exactly what happened on the afternoon of November 22, 1963.
The photos and films were not necessarily of the best quality. In the excitement following the shooting, bystanders fled for cover and confusion reigned. As it was not immediately clear which direction the shots came from, people ran in every direction, running in to each other and fleeing towards whatever “safe” places they could find.
The days following the assassination were a whirlwind for investigators. There was clearly too much conflicting information and too many witnesses to wade through — but the outraged public were demanding immediate answers. The shooting of the main suspect, Lee Harvey Oswald, just added to the confusion.
Eventually, as the photographs and films were developed, yet another mystery of an already puzzling crime surfaced. Clearly shown in several photographs is a woman with what appears to be a camera of some kind in front of her face, pointing at the president’s motorcade when the shots were fired. She is standing somewhat close to the street, a very good vantage point for capturing the events surrounding the shooting. Over her hair she is wearing a scarf of a tan or light brown color — the headscarf earning her the nickname of the “Babushka Lady,” a reference to a similar Russian scarf. While she appears in several photos, probably the best and closest image of the woman is from a movie taken by Marie Muchmore, a spectator of the motorcade. Unfortunately, the mystery woman has her back to Muchmore, obscuring a clear identification. She appears in several other photographs, but never clearly enough to make some kind of identification.
The investigating officials were intrigued. If the Babushka Lady had been so close and had taken photos or movies, the law was eager to see them. Also intriguing is the fact that photographic evidence shows that instead of running away after the shots were fired, as many people did, the Babushka Lady continued filming the procession.
A call went out from the FBI to everyone who had been in the vicinity of the assassination and had been taking photos or movies.
The Babushka lady never came forward, despite evidence showing that she was capturing the tragedy in some way from a relatively good position.
Interestingly, a Dallas film developer later told FBI agents that he had developed a single color slide brought in by an unknown woman. The slide was somewhat blurry, but from the developer’s description, it matched up as being taken from the spot the Babushka Lady was standing — or very close to it.
The trail of the mystery woman seemed to come to a dead end until 1970, when a certain Beverly Oliver claimed to be the Babushka Lady. Oliver claimed that her camera had been confiscated by the FBI on the day of the assassination and never returned. At first this seemed to be the solution to the mystery, until Oliver identified the camera she had used, which was a model that had not been in production until several years after the assassination. Similarly, witnesses who had been standing near the Babushka Lady stated Oliver was not nearby. Additionally, analysis of the photos that included the Babushka Lady seem to indicate a woman much older and heavier than Oliver, who was 17 and slim in 1963.
Why hasn’t this enigmatic woman come forward? What does she have to hide? Could it be, as one theory suggests, that the object she was holding was not a camera but a set of binoculars and so she did not realize that the authorities were looking for her?
It is most likely too late for the Babushka Lady to step forward, even if she is still alive.
Over the subsequent years, countless theories and “facts” about the events connected to the assassination have surfaced. Grainy images of the Babushka Lady on film are just another puzzle in a very mysterious Dallas afternoon.