The Curious and Mysterious Umbrella Man

Conspiracy theories raged around the identity of the “Umbrella Man.” Despite sunny weather in Dallas that day, a man was captured in photographs holding an open black umbrella over his head as Kennedy’s limousine passed by.

Some studying the Kennedy Assassination wondered if the umbrella was a signaling device or some kind of sophisticated weapon?

It’s that chaotic and sometimes eerie time of year again.  Let’s imagine you were in downtown Dallas on November 22, 1963, trying to get a glimpse of President Kennedy and his pretty wife.  Let’s say that as the limousine turned the corner, you saw a man with an umbrella on the north side of Elm waving a dark, opened, umbrella overhead several times, making wide arcs. 

There was no reason to do so, and, the strange activity was in line with the windows of the Texas School Book Depository building and in front of, and to the east, of the Grassy Knoll.   You couldn’t help but wonder what was going on, it was so unnatural. 

To make it more mysterious, there was no reason to even have an umbrella.  No one had one.  It had rained some in the last 24 hours, but that had ended and blown over and it was now a beautiful day.  The clouds that were in the sky were not of the ominous kind.  You might now ask if anyone along the parade route felt a touch of ominous in the atmosphere.   Most were so enchanted with the parade, they paid no mind to the spectators.

As you watched the motorcade creep along, you were jolted by a series of horrors that were too awful to comprehend, not only for you, but everyone bearing witness—either there in Dealey Plaza, or at home in front of television sets. 

You and everyone else sat numb for several days, unable to work, eat a good meal, or much of anything else.  There are others that ate constantly and nervously for days. Some tried to ignore the news stream and others were plastered to it.  I was one of the latter.  It was hypnotizing in a macabre way.  After the first wretched event, I seem to know others were coming.  It was in the gut.

As people started coming out of their dazes, the ones who had been in attendance downtown that day, started searching their own histories for unusual activity they may have witnessed.  Little tidbits began trickling down from the gray matter.  Eventually, some witnesses began to recall The Umbrella Man.  They even had The Umbrella Man on film and in photo frames. 

There he was, waving his umbrella, across the street from The Babushka Lady.  On a couple of occasions, he was just sitting on the grass, next to another man that seemed to have no connection to him.  His umbrella, now folded, was parked at his side but he had a firm grip on it.  It was like a couple of strangers had just gotten tired at the same time and sought out a spot on the turf.  They just happened to be next to each other, two odd spectators—or were they connected in some way?

Was the umbrella a signaling device, or some kind of sophisticated weapon?  It had to be one or the other.  It was too bizarre of an incident to not have a sinister purpose—man waving an open umbrella all about.

 Those who were making an official study of the JFK Assassination put out an all-call for The Umbrella Man.  Who was he?  He should come forward now and identify himself.  We will identify you sooner or later.  Make it easy on yourself.    They emphasized that they only had a few questions.

While they were waiting to see if The Umbrella Man came forward, technical people working behind the scenes, and many armchair detectives at home, were trying to figure out if the structure of the umbrella could have held a sophisticated firearm–one that had a barrel at a 90-degree angle to the handle?  It did not even have to fire a real round, it could have been a tranquilizer/stun gun.  They had been drawing up various designs.  Others wondered if he was working with a single shooter, and just signaling him about the position of the limousine, or some other pertinent information. 

In an earlier batch of my mysteries, I examined an Umbrella Man of the Cold War that had a poison pellet in the end of an umbrella that was propelled by a carbon dioxide canister.  He jabbed it into the thigh of a man waiting at a taxi stand.  It was planned of course.  He apologized to the man for hitting him on the leg with the end of the umbrella—the man did not know he had been injected until there was massive swelling, but it was a hit.  The victim came to the definite knowledge that he had been injected with a poison a few hours before he died.  He knew his fate was sealed.

A Louie Steven Witt came forward and identified himself to the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978.  The Rockwall man explained that he did not know he was being sought for questioning until that time.  He volunteered that he did not have the umbrella for rain, but that he did, in fact, want to heckle JFK by waving the umbrella at him.  A black umbrella is sometimes seen as a symbol of protest and he wanted to make the point that he was irritated about Kennedy’s father Joseph being a supporter of Neville Chamberlain.

That was all there was to it:  wanted to heckle Kennedy.  Why would anyone even think it okay to do this?  I guess umbrella-waving is a branch of Freedom of Speech.  We can only imagine what happened after that.  He was not charged or held, but I would say they kept an eye on him, along with many other suspicious people in Dallas that day.  Witt died in 2014.   In interviews, he admitted that he had done a very foolish thing.  

We can at least give him credit for coming forward.  The Babushka Lady is still a mystery.  There were pleadings for her to come forward with her camera and her valuable film, but she never did.  No neighbor or family member ever recognized her or persuaded her to contact authorities.  She is probably no longer with us or possibly has returned to another country.  

Sara Marie Hogg is the author of Curious, Indeed, a collection of true stories about the bizarre and unexplained. Please click HERE to find Curious, Indeed on Amazon.

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