I’d never been to Texas until the past May 17, when I flew into Austin for an event. As I was driven up to Dallas on May 19, about a three hour drive, I didn’t even know we had headed into downtown Dallas. Then, unexpectedly, out of the corner of my left eye, I saw it:
“Oh my God,” I said to my girlfriend and her cousin who was driving, “It’s Dealey Plaza!”
It’s haunted me my entire life. It’s been calling to me to visit my entire life. The setting, Dealey Plaza. It’s the background in the eerie grainy film footage shot by dress manufacturer Abraham Zapruder. He almost left his camera home, that Friday, Nov. 22, 1963 in Dallas.
Instead Zapruder went home to retrieve his camera when the morning rain gave way to a beautiful sunny day. He then went on to captured the definitive footage of when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
In an instant a president was dead, history was forever altered and Dealey Plaza became part of the historical lexicon.
When me and my late Spooky Things Online co-founder Maria Traska, started this blog in 2012, I wrote up our “About The Blog” section. It’s since expanded from that a little, maybe even become a little eclectic. Among our initial goals was for anyone who visited a reputed haunted location to write their experiences up and share them to us.
Now to be sure, there is nothing I’ve ever read about Dealey Plaza or the Six Floor of what was the Texas School Book Depository ever being haunted. But, it is an eerie place that’s haunted with, to quote 2002’s “The Time Machine,” by those two most terrible words: “What if?”
Kennedy’s death was bigger than the man himself. Whereas Abraham Lincoln had finished his monumental task of saving the Union and freeing the slaves, if he had lived history might not have been all that different (although Reconstruction may have gone much better). But, there is a fair amount of reason to believe if JFK had lived, we may not have had the Vietnam War. And just maybe those over 58,000 men who died in it, and the countless wounded, would have lived full and healthy lives.
Think about that number, in terms of real human beings: 58,000 plus.
Lee Harvey Oswald (or whoever killed JFK for any conspiracy theorists) may well have taken the life of far more than that of just of a president, man, husband, and father.
The Particulars of Dealey Plaza
Dealey Plaza was named for a prominent Dallas civic leader and newspaper publisher George Bannerman Dealey (1859-1946). Can you imagine if Dealey would have known his name will live on but not because very many even know who he was (did you?)
Construction for what we know as Dealey Plaza began in 1935 although what was the book depository building seems to have already been there.
Wikipedia tells us that the monuments outlining the Dealey Plaza honor previous prominent Dallas residents and predate JFK’s assassination by many years.
The first thing that struck me about Dealey Plaza was how it looks exactly the way I’ve seen it in movies like “JFK” and documentaries. It’s like you are in a time machine, transported back to that Friday, Nov. 22, 1963.
In 1993 The Dealey Plaza Historic District was named a National Historic Landmark. I have read some areas of Dealey Plaza have been restored to look exactly as it did on the day of JFK’s assassination but from what I can tell, it never changed all that much. I’m sure the city of Dallas knew they had to preserve it.
On the first day I visited Dealy Plaza it was sunny and warm, not a cloud in the sky. It’s the same way it was at the time of the assassination so I got to really see it as it was, as opposed to visiting it on a cold or rainy day.
Dealey Plaza is maybe just a little smaller than I thought. And if you remember the movie “JFK” we took that “unusual” turn on to Elm Street several times, and it is unusual.
The first time we did so we parked in a parking lot adjacent to the side of the former Book Depository. As we got out, I said to my girlfriend Marni and her cousin and our host Laurie, “wow, we are behind the picket fence.” Yes, for those of you who don’t know, it’s from behind the picket fence somewhat adjacent to the Grassy Knoll that conspiracy theorists feel a second assassin fired the fatal shot.
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
For any of you who don’t also know, the official government investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was conducted by a group of prominent government individuals, led by then Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren. It’s known as the “Warren Commission” and they concluded in 1964 that Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvery Oswald, who fired three shots from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository at around 12:30 pm on 11-22-63.
Today that structure is a government building, and everything you could want to know about the assassination is at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. I took the tour and it is incredible. I highly recommend it. Their website is also incredible and here’s a video from them that will tell you alot:
The most eerie part for me of the tour, was seeing the area and recreation where Oswald shot from. It’s encased in glass so people don’t disturb it. A moment in time where in an instant, so much changed.
When you visit Dealey Plaza, and the Sixth Floor Museum, JFK quotes are abundant.
Remembering Pres. John F. Kennedy
JFK called on Americans to sacrifice for each other. He stood up for Civil Rights, to the Soviets and for peace. His words are remembered.
One of my favorites quotes of JFK’s comes from his 1961 Inaugural Address, directed to authoritarian regimes. He said: “Remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger, ended up inside.”
That’s a Chinese proverb and a great metaphor for lots of things.
And yes, that’s me. Pondering at Dealey Plaza.
Until next time, Michael
For related posts, see out one titled “Haunted by the President? Oh, wait – it’s Honest Abe.”
And remember “A Spooky Call To Action: Share Your Experiences With Us.”
Here’s a Youtube video that’s quite good, it’s 13:34 in duration: