Prayer Man in Darnell’s film.


Prayer Man is the unknown man standing close to the western wall in Darnell’s and Wiegman’s films. Sean Murphy [1] has demonstrated that the most logical explanation of Prayer Man’s identity was that the man in question was Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President Kennedy. The possibility of Oswald being Prayer Man has been opposed by several researchers arguing that Prayer Man was a woman of 5’3” or a man 5.6”; these two solutions assumed that Prayer Man or Woman stood on the top landing, in the shadow cast by the western wall.

To shed more light on the location of Prayer Man in Darnell’s film, I have reconstructed the doorway of the Texas School Book Depository in SketchupPro 15/16 (Trimble Navigation, Ltd., USA). The detailed 3D model of the doorway was encased into a schematic model of the first floor of the Depository building, and aligned with Dealey Plaza in GoogleEarth (Google Inc., USA). The alignment of the 3D model with the GoogleEarth map of Dealey Plaza allowed to reconstruct the exact doorway shadows cast by both the top and western wall on November 22, 12.31 hour.

To fit a human figure into the doorway to match Prayer Man in Darnell’s still, the spatial  landmarks have been extracted from Darnell’s still for two human figures, Mr. Buell Wesley Frazier and Prayer Man. The fitting of Mr. Frazier was important for both increasing the validity of the proposed solution and obtaining a useful landmark provided by Mr. Frazier’s figure [2].

My solution assumed the following for Mr. Frazier’s figure:

1. Mr. Frazier was 6’ tall. 2. Mr. Frazier stood on the top landing. This assumption is obvious based both on Mr. Frazier’s testimonies and interviews, and the analysis of Darnell’s still. 3. The left vertical rail of the middle door pane crossed Mr. Frazier’s body in the posterior part of his head. 4. Mr. Frazier had his head in the shadow. The shadow appeared to touch his left shoulder.

As far as Prayer Man is concerned, the following constrains have been obtained by inspecting Darnell’s still:

1. Prayer Man stood close to the western wall and had his head and trunk in the shadow. 2. The back of Prayer Man’s right hand reflected the sun light. 3. Prayer Man’s hands are flexed in elbow joints and form a prayer gesture. 4. The top of Prayer Man’s head aligns with Frazier’s neck. 5. The vertical corner rail of the door frame crosses Prayer Man’s head and body.

Solution 1. This solution assumes that Prayer Man was a man sized 5’9”, and matches Sean Murphy’s conclusion about Oswald being Prayer Man. Figure 1 shows a cropped view of the doorway in Darnell’s still (top panel) and the suggested solution matching all accepted constrains and assumption for both Mr. Frazier and Prayer Man. Figure 2 is identical to Figure 1, however, it also shows guidelines and markers allowing to check that the 3D doorway indeed matched the Darnell’s doorway.


Figure 1:  Top panel shows a cropped view of Darnell’s still zoomed on the doorway. This picture allows to check the constrains specifying Mr. Frazier’s and Prayer Man’s locations. The bottom panel shows both figures, Mr. Frazier in light colour polo shirt and Prayer Man in red-brown shirt in the doorway. The orientation and view of the doorway match the doorway in Darnell’s still.



Figure 2: The top panel shows the cropped view of Darnell’s still, and the bottom panel shows the 3D model with figures of Mr. Frazier and Prayer Man. The vertical blue lines numbered 1-5 cross the top picture at selected points that align with five markers: 1. the vertical corner rail of the door frame, 2. the  left (when viewed from the front) vertical rail of the middle door pane, 3. the right vertical rail of the glass door, 4. the left edge of the vertical column at the eastern side of the main entrance, 5. the right edge of the vertical column at the western side of the main entrance.

After aligning both doorways, a manikin representing Mr. Frazier has been placed on the top platform to match Mr.  Frazier’s figure in Darnell’s still. This has been achieved by first observing the alignment of  Mr. Frazier’s figure with the door rail in such a way that the vertical rail crossed Mr. Frazier’s head. The distance between the top of Mr. Frazier’s head and the horizontal rail in Darnell’s picture has been measured by filling the gap with  a yellow vertical bar; this bar has been then copied to the model doorway in the lower panel. This step allows to check that the vertical landmarks in both doorways also matched well. Finally, the shadows seen on Mr. Frazier’s head and shoulder in Darnell’s still and in the 3D model were compared.

In the next, the figure of Prayer Man was fitted.  A number of preliminary solutions involving placing Prayer Man on the top landing have been tested and rejected because Prayer Man always appeared too tall relative to Mr. Frazier’s neck line (please see Solutions 2-3). A solution in which Prayer Man would stand with both his feet on the first step was unsatisfactory because his body would not align with the western wall. Eventually, the solution  in which Prayer Man stood with his right foot on the first step and with his left foot on the top landing (Figures 1 and 2) has been accepted as the only solution fulfilling all accepted constrains: 1. Prayer Man stands in the shadow cast by the western wall in such a way that his head and trunk are in the shadow. 2. A small part of Prayer Man’s right hand reflects the sun light. 3. Prayer Man’s arms in the 3D model form a prayer gesture comparable to the gesture seen in Darnell’s still. 4. The top of Prayer Man’s head aligns with Mr. Frazier’s neck and left shoulder.  A horizontal green line connects the top of Prayer Man’s head and Mr. Frazier neck line in both pictures to demonstrate the match. 5. The corner rail of the door frame crosses Prayer Man’s head and body at the entry point in Prayer Man’s left part of the head. To document further the match between Darnell’s still and the 3D model, two additional vertical yellow bars have been placed into Darnell’s still (Figure 2, top panel). These bars stand for the height of the horizontal pane and the distance between the top of Prayer Man’s head and the horizontal rail, respectively; both rectangles were copied and pasted at homologous places in the 3D doorway. The yellow bars of identical lengths at equivalent locations in both doorways provide further assurance that the figure of Prayer Man in the 3D model matched accurately. Finally, the red square next to Prayer Man’s right elbow joint and defining the distance to the edge of the red brick column has been first placed into Darnell’s still and then copied and pasted at equivalent location in the 3D model. Please note that Prayer Man in Darnell’s still has his sleeved rolled up which creates an impression that his elbow was further away from the red brick column in Darnell’s still than in the 3D model.

Detailed views of the preferred “one-foot-down-one-foot-up” solution are illustrated in Figures 3-6.


Figure 3:  A detailed view of Darnell’s doorway scene with Prayer Man and Mr. Frazier.



Figure 4:  A close-up view of Prayer Man and Mr. Frazier from a front view.



Figure 5: Full front view of Prayer Man and Mr. Frazier at their locations seen in Darnell’s film.



Figure 6:  Prayer Man and Mr. Frazier viewed through the transparent glass door.


Solution 2. This solution assumes that Prayer Man was a man 5’9” and stood on the top landing. Solution 2 matched all accepted constrains but one:  the relative height of the top of Prayer Man’s head and Mr. Frazier’s neck line. Figure 7 illustrates this solution in detail. Prayer Man was placed at a similar location as Prayer Man in the “one-foot-down-one-foot-up” solution but moved one step upwards. Placing a man 5’9” anywhere within the shadow area close to the western wall faced the same problem (not shown).


Figure 7:  Solution 2 assumes that Prayer Man was a man 5’9” and stood on the top platform. The horizontal green line crosses Mr. Frazier’s neck and left shoulder; this line aligns with the top of Prayer Man’s head in Darnell’s still (Figures 1 and 2) but not in Solution 2.

Solution 3  Prayer Man was a man 5’6” and stood on the top landing. This solution encountered a similar problem as Solution 2 – the man of this height would still be too tall relative to Mr. Frazier’s neck line (Figure 8).


Figure 8:  Prayer Man as a man measuring 5’6” and standing on the top landing. Similar to Solution 2, Prayer Man would be too tall relative to the line crossing Mr. Frazier’s neck and left shoulder. Thus, Solution 3 does not explain  Prayer Man’s location in Darnell’s still.

Solution 4:  Prayer Woman measuring 5’3” stood on the top landing. For the sake of comparison with previous solutions, the same manikin that was used in previous solutions was also used in this solution. The manikin was proportionally reduced to match the body height of 5’3”. Reducing proportionally the manikin’s figure entailed a reduction of the antero-posterior size of manikin’s body which meant that his arms have not been exposed to the sun light. To achieve the bright reflection on his hand, this manikin had to be moved slightly outwards.


Figure 9:  Solution 4 which assumes that the human form seen in Darnell’s still was a woman measuring 5’3”. Note that this solution also failed the height criterion which stipulated that the top of Prayer Man’s head would be aligned with Mr. Frazier’s neck line.

Four different solutions each attempting to explain the location of Prayer Man in Darnell’s film have been examined in this article. None of the solutions assuming Prayer Man (Woman) standing on the top platform of the Depository doorway fulfilled all four criteria which are evidenced in Darnell’s stills. All three solutions placing Prayer Man on the top landing failed the height criterion which required that the relative height of Prayer Man’s head was at the level of Mr. Frazier’s neck line. The only solution which met all criteria including the height criterion was the “one-foot-down-one-foot-up” solution (Solution 1). Please note that Prayer Man could not stand with both his feet on the first step as his body would be orientated in parallel with the plane of the glass door rather than with the plane paralleling the western wall. Further, should Prayer Man stand with both feet on the first step, his left shoulder would be exposed to the sun light.

My analysis shows that Prayer Man was most likely a man measuring 5’9”, which was the body height of Lee Harvey Oswald. Further, my analysis suggests that the “one-foot-down-one-foot-up” solution explains Prayer Man’s location better than any alternative solution. Does this mean a proof for the claim that Prayer Man was Oswald? A 3D model remains a model – an approximation of reality. The value of the model is in the visualisation and evaluation of alternative solutions, and highlighting the most likely solution. However, every model needs to be validated empirically before it is accepted as a truthful representation of reality. Empirical validation would entail shooting Darnell’s scene with a camera of identical or similar focal length and from the exact point at which Darnell had stood whilst filming the doorway. People matching the height of Oswald, Mr. Frazier and perhaps a man 5’6” and a woman 5’3” should pose in the doorway at locations suggested by the 3D model. If the reenactment pictures would accord the predictions of the 3D model, the validity of the proposed solution would be strengthened beyond any doubts.


The position of the left forearm in the 3D model appears to differ slightly from the one seen in Darnell’s still. It is possible that Prayer Man held another object in his left hand and his hands did not touch each other as alluded to in my model. I will investigate this point further, and would update the solution if new evidence would emerge allowing to decide about the object(s) in  Prayer Man’s hands.


[1] Sean Murphy published a number of original research notes in his posts at Spartacus Educational Forum, thread “Oswald leaving the TSBD? in 2013.

[2] This research appeared earlier at Spartacus Educational Forum, thread “Prayer Person-Prayer Man or Prayer Woman? Research Thread.”, post 137, dated April 5, 2016. I am grateful to Mr. Sandy Larsen and Mr. Ray Mitcham from the Spartacus Educational Forum for their comments which helped, in an important way, to refine the preferred solution.


Deletion of my previous posts

Dear Visitor:

I decided to delete my previous two posts dated December 23 and 25, 2015,  which analysed the doorway of Texas School Book Depository in Altgens6 picture. After posting both articles I started to reconstruct the doorway scene using 3D modelling, and realised that the critical figure of Doorman could have been located either on the top landing or on the first step. My theory presented in the article “From Doorman to Prayer Man and Back” would only be valid if Doorman stood on the first step. As there is some  degree of uncertainty in my methods, I decided to withdraw both articles and to re-post them after the 3D analysis of all doorway scenes (Hughes film, Altgens6, all Wiegman film frames)  would unequivocally confirm the location of Doorman in Altgens6.


1500 g.

1500 g. This was the weight of President Kennedy’s brain during the pathological examination made at the Bethesda Naval Hospital on December 6, 1963 [1]. The brain weight figure allows to infer on the weight of President’s brain at the time of autopsy. Unfortunately, the Bethesda pathologists did not weigh President’s brain during the autopsy in spite of this procedure being a routine part of every autopsy [2].

A three week formalin fixation has been shown to increase the brain weight by 50 g on average [3]. More recent data suggest a variable percent increases in brain weights due to the formalin fixation with an average weight increase of 8.8% over the period of few weeks [4]. If we apply the swelling factor of 8.8%, the estimated weight of President Kennedy’s brain at the time of autopsy was 1373 g.

This figure appears to be too large relative to the amount of damage to the President Kennedy’s brain. The damage to the right hemisphere and the associated loss of brain tissue has been estimated by Mr. David Lifton to be as much as 70% in the right hemisphere [5]. If a normal brain would suffer such loss of tissue, it could not weigh 1373 g. To provide some approximation of the weight of intact and injured Kennedy’s brain, normative data obtained in large cohorts of people can be used. The study by Debakan et al. (1978) [6] analysed the post-mortem brain weights in 2773 males and 1963 females in 23 age categories. The mean weight of a male brain in the age range of 40-50 years was 1430 g (standard deviation 20 g). As President Kennedy was tall (72.5 inches, 184 cm), and since brain weight correlates with body height and weight [6], it is reasonable to estimate that the weight of Kennedy’s brain would be in the upper range of the normal distribution of brain weights in his age category. The upper weight value corresponding to the top 5% brain weights for males aged 40-50 years, estimated using the Z-scores method, would be 1496.2 g (rounded to 1496 g). If Kennedy’s brain sustained a loss of 70% of brain tissue in one hemisphere [5], his brain at the time of autopsy weighed only 972 g. However, even if we accept a smaller than 70% loss of brain tissue of 50% in one hemisphere, the brain weight at the time of autopsy would be only 1122 g. After correcting these brain weight estimates for swelling due to immersing the brain into a formalin solution, Kennedy’s brain during the pathological examination on December 6 was expected to weigh 1058 g or 1221 g for a 70% and 50% loss of tissue in one hemisphere, respectively.

These calculations suggest that the brain examined on December 6, 1963 was different from the brain removed from President Kennedy’s skull during the autopsy on November 22, 1963. Further, this finding sheds a new light on the omission to weigh the brain during the autopsy [2]. The following two explanations need to be considered:

  1. The pathologists were stressed out and confused during the autopsy itself and forgot to measure the brain weight. This would be an unlikely but honest error.
  1. The pathologists intentionally skipped weighing the brain during the autopsy either to conceal the real loss of brain tissue, and/or to be able to use a different brain in further examinations. The correct brain weight data at the time of autopsy might have prevented the use of a different brain as the other brain would have been weighed during the follow-up pathological examination of the fixated brain, and the discrepancy in the autopsy and post-autopsy weights would be evident. If this explanation is correct, it is also conceivable that the generals and some unknown civilians present in the autopsy room [5] couched or ordered Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell not to weigh the brain.

As my calculations suggest that other than President Kennedy’s brain was examined on December 6, I am inclined to accept the latter explanation. The calculations and the conclusion accord a previous note by Mr. Doug Horne (2006) that the weight of 1500 g would be too large for the brain showing extensive tissue loss [7].


[1] Appendix IX. Commission Exhibit 391. Supplementary report of autopsy number A63-272.

[2] During his deposition for the ARRB, the interviewers asked Dr. Humes about the lack of the weight figure in the autopsy form. Dr. Humes had a difficult time to explain (ARRB deposition 1996, pp. 74-75):

  1. I’d like to draw your attention to a few items on the first page of this document. Right next to the marking for brain, there’s no entry of a weight there. Do you see that on the document?
    A. Yes, I see that it’s blank, yeah.
    Q. Why is there no weight for the brain there?
    A. I don’t know. I don’t really–can’t really recall why.
    Q. Was the fresh brain weighed?
    A. I don’t recall. I don’t recall. It’s as simple as that.
    Q. Would it be standard practice for a gunshot wound in the head to have the brain weighed?
    A. Yeah, we weigh it with gunshot wound or no. Normally we weigh the brain when we remove it. I can’t recall why–I don’t know, one, whether it was weighed or not, or, two, why it doesn’t show here. I have no explanation for that

[3] Frýdl V, Koch R, Závodská H. The effect of formalin fixation on several properties of the brain. Zentralbl. Allg. Pathol. 135:649-55 (1989)

[4] Itabashi, H.H., Andrews, J.M., Tomiyasu, U., Erlich, S.S., Sathyavagiswaran, L. Forensic Pathology: A Practical Review of the Fundamentals. Academic Press & Elsevier, 2007, p. 22.

[5] Lifton, D. Best Evidence. Disguise and Deception in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy. Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., New York, Fourth Edition, 1989, pp. 470-472.

[6] Debakan, A.S., Sadowsky, D. Changes of brain weights during the span of human life: relation of brain weights to body heights and body heights. Ann. Neurol., 4: 345-356, 1978.

[7] Spartacus Educational Forum, thread: Cover-up of medical evidence. Post by Doug Horne, dated May 16, 2006, No. 3.