Why Did President Kennedy Rock Backward When He Was Shot From Behind?

On page 315 of his 1993 book Case Closed, author Gerald Posner writes: “But if the President was struck in the head by a bullet fired from the rear, then why does he jerk so violently backward on the Zapruder film, which recorded the assassination? To most lay people, the rapid backward movement at the moment of the head shot means the President was struck from the front.”

When Itek Optical Systems did a computer enhancement of the Zapruder film for a CBS documentary, it discovered that when the bullet (the final of the three fired by Lee Harvey Oswald) hit JFK, he first jerked forward 2.3 inches and then began his movement backward.

So why did the president jerk backwards when hit in the back of the head by a bullet fired from behind him? The bullet destroyed the President’s cortex. That caused a neuromuscular spasm. That sent neurologic impulses from the brain down the spine to every muscle in the body. “The body then stiffens,” said Dr. John Latimer, “With the strongest muscles predominating. These are the muscles of the back and neck.”

So that’s why when most people encounter a stimulus, their first reaction is to jerk their head back and down and to compress their shoulders. These muscles are the strongest. When they are activated by the brain, they automatically contract.

With Alexander Technique, we learn about this fear reflex. When this reflex becomes a habit, it tends to lead people to walk around with a head permanently tilted back, with the neck and shoulders compressed.

This makes movement (as well as emotions and thinking) awkward. Freedom comes from letting go of this fight or flight reflex by releasing the tendency to compress the neck and the shoulders and to consciously free the neck and to release the head forward and up (the opposite direction from the back and down fear reflex).

Zapruder 313 – This shows the head shot to John F. Kennedy
This frame was originally withheld by editors at Life.

Zapruder 335 – Connally is slumped into his wife’s lap. Kennedy, now mortally wounded leans toward Jackie.
Yes, that blob on the side of his head is his skull and scalp peeling outward and down.
This frame was originally withheld by editors at Life.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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