Strange and Unusual

Who Was the Babushka Lady?

The late United States president, John F. Kennedy speaking in a microphone, with two men behind him

There are still many things people don’t know about history – both its unusual accounts and grim chronicles. Despite the modern technological advancements in documentation and interrogation, there are still some moments in history that remain a mystery to the world. Despite being caught on the photograph, video, or written accounts, these moments continue to become strange realities and pose huge questions even up to this day – with objects still unknown, acts still a big question, and people who remain unknown.

One of the world’s most infamous mysteries is the Babushka Lady’s identity, a woman best known for being a mysterious figure during the grim day of the assassination of the late United States president, John F. Kennedy.

Details in Limelight

It was November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. Then US President John F. Kennedy had a motorcade passing by Dealey Plaza. Videographers, photographers, and even just ordinary citizens had their cameras focused on the moment to capture the scene.

At 12:30 PM, the US president was shot. The moment rang across the country and in the entire world.

The footages of that exact moment of the president’s assassination were collected as the investigations started. In several footages, an old woman wearing what seemed like a Russian scarf called babushka was standing on the grass between Elm and Main Streets. After the shots were fired, the woman, unlike the rest of the crowd, continued to have the camera covering her face. After a few moments, she disappeared in a certain direction. Her identity remains unknown, and her footages were never recovered. She is now known in history as the Babushka Lady, named after the headscarf she was seen wearing, one that was typical worn by Polish and Russian women.

Publicized Footages

As that particular moment in history was a shock, not only to the United States but to the majority of the world, as well, it became a topic of interest to some filmmakers and documenters to produce materials that aim to shed light on that one unfortunate moment in American history. The assassination gave birth to documentary and movies such as the 1988 documentary The Men Who Killed Kennedy and Oliver Stone’s 1991 film JFK.

While this footage and documentation’s initial focus was the assassination details, people started paying more attention to the Babushka Lady’s mysterious presence in the footage. Her mystery garnered enough attention that the search for her identity became almost as significant as the assassination.

A statue of former United States President John F. Kennedy

The Zapruder film grants a frontal view of the mysterious woman, but the camera she held in front of her face made it impossible to make out her face. In Marie Muchmore’s film, the Babushka Lady was seen standing behind a man identified as Charles Brehm, and his 5-year-old son, Joe. In this footage, the Lady was identified as wearing a long tan coat and arms up by her face. On the other hand, Mark Bell’s documentation revealed an interesting detail about her – that while others ran in commotion, the Lady remained standing, as if nothing happened.

Conspiracy Theories

Because of the keen curiosity and mystery surrounding the Babushka Lady’s identity, conspiracy theories started emerging, trying to answer the question of the woman’s true identity.

In 1970, a woman named Beverly Oliver stepped forward, claiming to be the infamous Babushka Lady. Oliver was a former burlesque club performer. According to her, she took photos of the assassination using her Yashica Super 8 camera. However, her claims were debunked for conflicting statements, such as that the Yashica Super 8 camera she mentioned was manufactured only six years later in 1969. Besides, she would have been a slender 17-year-old back then, which did not seem to convince investigators since the Lady was described as ‘old’ and quite wide in stance.

Up to this day, Oliver’s claim remains one of the well-documented attempts to claim the Babushka Lady’s identity.

More conspiracy theories emerged, stating that she was a spy from Russia, that she was the real assassin holding a gun that looked like a camera, that instead of a camera, she was holding binoculars explaining the position of the item in front of her face, or that she was a man who appeared as an old woman.

But these remained mere theories. The identity of the Babushka Lady would go down as one of the trickiest mysteries in history to stay unsolved since, despite the existence of several footages that caught her presence, the well-trained investigators of the United States were still not able to find out who she truly is. Perhaps she will be known in time, not only as of the Babushka Lady but also as the woman who defied history with her mysterious identity.

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