The Babushka Lady

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.

Babushka lady is on the left, close to the road and wearing a scarf.

Babushka lady is standing on the left, close to the road and wearing a scarf.

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.

Babushka Lady”, Wikipedia, pulled 11/30/11
Is Beverly Oliver the ‘Babushka Lady?”, John McAdams website, pulled 11/30/11

Doug MacGowan lives on the San Francisco peninsula with his wife, a dog, and far too many cats. He has published three books on the topic of historic true crime. In his free time he enjoys reading.

  • Ammoguy

    Bush knows

  • There are plenty of other people, who’s faces can be distinguished, sometimes also carrying a camera, who have also remained anonymous and elusive. Looking at all of the known images of her, she’s is most likely a woman (nice legs), somewhere in her late twenties, early thirties, brown hair, possibly wearing glasses and about 5 feet and 2 inches tall. She took several pictures, of the motorcade and of the TSBD and was in Dealey Plaza on her own. She might have returned two days later, when people were laying flowers, together with friends or family.

    After the conclusion had been broadcast on 22/11/63 that Lee Oswald, a communist sympathiser, had killed the president without any assistance of others by shooting him from the TSBD, many witnesses (who had conflicting testimonies to share) decided to keep their information to themselves. Some have shared their information eventually. New photographic material pops up every now and then.

    Please Babushka, we want to know you!

  • Maybe seeing the President of the United States killed right in front of her had such a profound impact that the Babushka Lady doesn’t want to be reminded of the whole incident, and thus has remained out of the public eye since then.

  • BW

    Could it be she is not holding a camera but instead just some binoculars??

    • William Read

      Interesting idea, but would binoculars be of any value so close to the motorcade?

  • bonesaw69

    Could it be that she was connected to the assassins?