48 Years After JFK Was Shot, a Look at the 'Umbrella Man'

He serves as a 'cautionary tale,' explains Josiah 'Tink' Thompson
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 22, 2011 10:42 AM CST
48 Years After JFK Was Shot, a Look at the 'Umbrella Man'
Umbrella man.   (New York Times video screenshot)

(Newser) – It's been 48 years to the day since that fateful day in Dallas— so what can possibly be said about John F. Kennedy's assassination hasn't been said a thousand times before? How about these three words: "the Umbrella Man." His existence is far from new—John Updike wrote about him as long ago as 1967, and he appeared before the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978. But his story gets new meaning thanks to Oscar-winning filmmaker Errol Morris, who interviewed Kennedy expert Josiah "Tink" Thompson and shares the clip with the New York Times.

The interview centers around the story of a lone man beneath a black umbrella. "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood," explains Thompson, which made the appearance of this sole umbrella user—standing "where the shots began to rain into the limousine"—so odd. "Can anyone come up with a non-sinister explanation for this?" Conspiracy theories abounded, included one that the umbrella housed a weapon beneath it. The Umbrella Man came forward in that 1978 appearance in DC, where he testified that the umbrella was a protest—of JFK's father's appeasement policies when he was ambassador to the court of St. James in 1938. "It was a reference to Neville Chamberlain's umbrella," explains Thompson. "Wacky!" he declares. "What it means is, if you have any fact which you think is really sinister ... forget it man, because you can never on your own think of all the non-sinister, perfectly valid explanations." Click to watch the fascinating video. (Read more John F. Kennedy stories.)

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