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OswaldGhost.jpgOne day, while casting a reality show in Dallas Texas several years back, I happened to drive our rental car down Elm Street in Dealey Plaza. Thinking I was touring a random downtown street, I quickly recognized the distinctive white Bryan colonnade, infamous grassy knoll, and “Triple Underpass” bridge. When I glanced over my shoulder and caught sight of the sixth floor window of the former Texas book depository, a chill ran down my spine as I realized I was traveling the exact route JFK did the day he was assassinated some 40 years earlier.
My heart beat out of my chest and sweat beaded on my forehead, but why in the world was I having such an emotional reaction? As a JFK assassination agnostic–neither a die-hard Oswald-ostracizer nor conspiracy enthusiast–what was my connection to the events of that mythic day, considering that all of the main characters (President Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby) were all dead before I was even born?
Though I still don’t have answers to those questions, my curiosity has been both sated and ever more piqued with the recent DVD release of “Oswald’s Ghost,” a PBS “American Experience” documentary. Lee Harvey Oswald does, indeed, continue to haunt the American psyche, and this fascinating program revisits the chaos and confusion of the events of that November day while exploring the “tectonic shift” that happened in its wake.

Loaded with original, never-before-seen archival footage, this wonderfully researched and produced program kept me rapt for its entire duration. Although there is a little psychological profiling of Oswald, the documentary’s main, neutral thrust is on the wider implications of 11/23/63 and its ripples throughout American culture. From Norman Mailer’s change of opinion after decades of writing and investigating the case to my introduction to a cast of kooky characters like Marguerite Oswald, Lee’s mother, I learned more about the historical JFK assassination in those 90 minutes than I had in all my previous years.
Is there a clear answer to this 40-year drama? Does there even need to be? This program will give you ammunition for your gun regardless of your aim.
In terms of extra content, the DVD contains the fascinating special feature “The Zapruder Film and Beyond,” where, among other revelations, Dan Rather uses a deer-hunting analogy to explain why all the shots could have come from Oswald. Equally as insightful and interesting is “Interview with Robert Stone,” the writer/producer/director/co-editor. The other special feature, “A Visit to Dealey Plaza,” is just plain laughable, as a conspiracy theorist vendor stammers and stumbles through a ridiculously convoluted conspiracy web that some have chosen to weave.
Ultimately, questioning whether a conspiracy exists is akin to asking if God exists; people will always see what they want to see, be their vision clouded by faith or doubt, optimism or cynicism, clarity or prejudice. Given that 70 percent of Americans still believe in a conspiracy surrounding the JFK assassination, historical truth appears to be as relative as religious truth.
Lucky for me, “Oswald’s Ghost” will be haunting my DVD collection for years to come.

— Written by Todd Havens

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