(PART 952)


Gunshot residue was always present on the cheeks of men firing a rifle like the one owned by Oswald.


Dead wrong. And the above-quoted conspiracy myth was proven wrong by the FBI (and when firing Lee Harvey Oswald's C2766 rifle too, not just a similar Carcano)....

"There were negative reactions on both hands and on the cheek of the FBI agent who fired the assassination weapon. Thus, we had the other side of the coin: A negative reaction from the paraffin test did not prove that a person had not fired a rifle." -- Page 18 of "November 22, 1963: You Are The Jury" by David Belin (c.1973)


We need something other than a quote from one of the WC attorneys. We don't trust Belin any more than you trust Mark Lane. Please link to the actual report and an independent verification of same. Thank you.


From Page 165 of Vincent Bugliosi's "Reclaiming History"....

"To confirm that firing a rifle will not leave nitrate residue on the firer's cheeks, the FBI had one of their agents, Charles L. Killion, fire three rounds in Oswald's Carcano rifle. The result of the paraffin test conducted thereafter was negative for his cheeks and hands (3 H 494, WCT Cortlandt Cunningham;
WR, pp.561–562)."


Now let's go to Mr. Bugliosi's two sources for the above claim....

Mr. EISENBERG. Did you make a test with the exhibit, with the rifle, 139, to determine whether that left a powder residue on the right cheek?


Mr. EISENBERG. Will you describe that test?

Mr. CUNNINGHAM. Yes; this time we ran a control. We were interested in running a control to find out just what the possibility was of getting a positive reaction after a person has thoroughly washed their hands. Mr. Killion used green soap and washed his hands, and we ran a control, both of the right cheek and of both hands. We got many reactions on both the right hand and the left hand, and he had not fired a gun that day.

Mr. EISENBERG. This was before firing the rifle?

Mr. CUNNINGHAM. Yes, sir. That was before firing the rifle. We got no reaction on the cheek.

Mr. EISENBERG. Also before firing the rifle?

Mr. CUNNINGHAM. Yes. We fired the rifle. Mr. Killion fired it three times rapidly, using similar ammunition to that used in the assassination. We reran the tests both on the cheek and both hands. This time we got a negative reaction on all casts.

Mr. EISENBERG. So to recapitulate, after firing the rifle rapid-fire, no residues of any nitrate were picked off Mr. Killion's cheek?

Mr. CUNNINGHAM. That is correct, and there were none on the hands. We cleaned off the rifle again with dilute HCl. I loaded it for him. He held it in one of the cleaned areas and I pushed the clip in so he would not have to get his hands near the chamber--in other words, so he wouldn't pick up residues, from it, or from the action, or from the receiver. When we ran the casts, we got no reaction on either hand or on his cheek. On the controls, when he hadn't fired a gun all day, we got numerous reactions.


And the Warren Commission Report, pages 561-562....

"In a third experiment, performed after the assassination, an agent of the FBI, using the C2766 rifle, fired three rounds of Western 6.5-millimeter Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition in rapid succession. A paraffin test was then performed on both of his hands and his right cheek. Both of his hands and his cheek tested negative."


And here's the FBI letter sent by J. Edgar Hoover to the Warren Commission, dated April 2, 1964, concerning the paraffin tests mentioned above (Commission Document No. 787) ———> PAGE 1 --- PAGE 2


Geez, David. While you are correct in that the standard PARAFFIN tests for nitrates performed by the DPD would subsequently fall in disfavor, you miss that....

1) the FBI used the DPD's test to suggest Oswald's guilt both to the press in the aftermath of Oswald's murder, and to President Johnson in their 12-9 report (CD1), and that they only started denouncing the test after Mark Lane discovered the cheek test was negative. You, at the very least, should acknowledge their disingenuousness on this matter, even if you think the tests are meaningless.

Failing that, you should be willing to show us at least one time in history prior to the assassination that the FBI testified against the paraffin tests, and in defense of a suspect for whom the test was positive. (A final detailed study on the test was conducted in 1967, if I recall, that found that it was not conclusive, but that it was nevertheless accurate 3/4 of the time.)

2) most CTs incorrectly claiming the cheek test always showed gunshot residue when someone fired a rifle are conflating the tests performed by the FBI for nitrates with the tests performed FOR the FBI by the AEC (that are still considered scientific and accepted in court). These tests found that yessirree, gunshot residue was ALWAYS present on the cheek when one fired a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle.

This is discussed in far greater detail than anywhere else in chapter 4d of my website. It is, at least so far, the definitive study of this issue, miles and miles beyond anything Bugliosi would ever dream of.

3) Cunningham deliberately deceived the commission. He said that he PERSONALLY wouldn't expect to find gsr [gunshot residue] on a cheek, since rifles don't leak. This was utter--hoo-ha. Up until recent years, every rifle leaked gsr onto the cheek. There are studies online that demonstrate this. Cunningham's testifying on his PERSONAL expectation, moreover, gives away the game. FBI experts do not testify as to personal expectations...they testify as to tests performed by the FBI.

The test performed by the AEC for the FBI used an FBI shooter--RF--who was almost certainly Cunningham's partner, Robert Frazier. This test showed that in opposition to Cunningham's testimony, gsr was apparent on the shooter's cheek after firing an M/C rifle. This test was confirmed, moreover, by a series of tests run by the AEC without FBI involvement, and then reported to the FBI. (This gave the FBI plausible deniability--where they could deny their role in these tests should they become public.) These tests were performed by Dr. Vincent Guinn. These tests confirmed that the amount of antimony--a component of gsr--found on Oswald's cheek was far less than one would expect, should he have really fired a rifle three times. They supported Oswald's innocence. Which is why the FBI tried to pretend these tests were not conducted.

It was fortunate for us, then, that Dr. Guinn told his colleagues about the tests, and that this got reported in the media. The FBI and the WC then went into panic mode. They dragged FBI spectrography expert John Gallagher out to testify as the last witness for the Warren Commission. It was just Gallagher and Norman Redlich, with Gallagher reading from a report and pretending it was testimony. Gallagher obfuscated repeatedly, and regularly, to hide from the public what they weren't supposed to know. This is discussed in detail in chapter 4d.

Do some reading, will ya?



All of that stuff you just wrote above is all very nice and tidy (and probably very accurate).


The fact remains, just as my thread title suggests, that paraffin tests are totally unreliable when it comes to proving whether or not someone fired a gun.

And the absolute proof that the paraffin tests are not reliable is contained in my thread-starting post (and in Commission Document 787), wherein it is revealed that the various tests conducted by the FBI resulted in a number of false positives AND false negatives. You don't deny the veracity of those FBI tests, do you Pat? Or do you?

But, yes, Pat, I do definitely agree with you about one thing you said. And that is when you said this....

"The FBI used the DPD's test to suggest Oswald's guilt both to the press in the aftermath of Oswald's murder, and to President Johnson in their 12-9 report (CD1), and that they only started denouncing the test after Mark Lane discovered the cheek test was negative. You, at the very least, should acknowledge their disingenuousness on this matter, even if you think the tests are meaningless."
-- P. Speer

I agree completely with your above statement, Pat. The DPD (and probably the FBI too) was not telling the complete story to the public about the inherent unreliability of the paraffin tests when Chief Jesse Curry told the press (and the world) on live television on 11/23/63 that a positive paraffin result on Oswald's hands positively indicated that he had "fired a gun" (see the video below).

That statement by Chief Curry, particularly the way he phrased it when speaking to the press, is just not 100% accurate due to the unreliability of such nitrate/paraffin tests. And surely Curry knew that fact when he spoke with the reporters in the DPD hallways numerous times on November 23.

Plus, I have voiced my displeasure with my favorite "LN" author, Vincent Bugliosi, concerning this "paraffin test" topic in the past too. In my opinion, Vince should definitely not have included in his book Oswald's positive paraffin result as one of his "53 pieces of evidence" that lead to Oswald's guilt. And I said so eight years ago when I wrote this....

"In [the "Summary Of Oswald's Guilt"] chapter, Vincent Bugliosi lists every one of his "53 pieces of evidence" that point toward Lee Harvey Oswald's guilt in the JFK assassination. The only item on Vince's list that I think really doesn't belong there is #41, where VB talks about the results of the paraffin test on Oswald's hands being positive.

[EDIT: Since writing the above words in 2007, I've added one more thing that appears on Bugliosi's list that I don't think belongs there--item #23 about Oswald changing his pants. (Which is something I don't think happened at all anyway, but even if it did, it shouldn't be on Vincent's 53-item list, IMO.)]

In my opinion, it was a mistake for Vince to have placed that particular item on his list because he knows that paraffin tests are not considered very reliable. And VB even discusses the unreliability of such tests on page 164 of [his] book.

However, in VB's defense of including the paraffin test results on his 53-item list, I'd like to add this .... While it is, indeed, true that paraffin tests are inherently unreliable (since the presence of nitrates on a person's hands can be caused by various other things besides just gunpowder residue) -- I'd also ask this question with respect to Lee Oswald's "positive" paraffin results in this case:

What do you suppose the odds are of something OTHER than gunpowder residue causing that "positive" result in his paraffin test when we also know that Lee Oswald was CARRYING A GUN ON HIM when he was apprehended in the Texas Theater on November 22nd, 1963?

I'd say, given these circumstances (plus the fact that the very gun Oswald had on him when he was arrested was determined beyond all doubt to be the weapon that killed Officer J.D. Tippit), the odds would be pretty doggone low that something other than gunpowder resulted in that positive paraffin conclusion.

I think Vince Bugliosi should have probably included the above "What are the odds?" argument as an addendum to his 41st item on page 965 [of "Reclaiming History"], but he did not include any such addendum."
-- DVP; June 2007


Date: 6/8/2015 (4:03:46 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time)
From: Gary Mack
To: David Von Pein


Hi Dave,

It's always interesting to me to see what folks leave out of their posts in an effort to make a point. The "sophisticated" test the AEC did on Oswald's cast was, of course, not available to the DPD which conducted the first study. And why did DPD do the test to begin with? So they could intimidate Oswald by telling him, honestly, that they could run a nitrate test to see if he "fired a gun so you might as well confess."

Also left out is the very simple fact that there was no way [to] test the specific shooting circumstances by a nitrate or any other kind of test. Maybe the swirling wind at the Elm/Houston intersection blew any gases away from Oswald's cheek as he pulled the trigger? I don't know, nor does Speer or J. Edgar.

Those and other explanations (ink, urine or other chemicals on the skin) explain why Hoover properly deemed the paraffin tests unreliable. All one could reasonably hope to achieve was an indicator of some sort to be used as the investigation continued.

There, and I did it in less than a chapter! :)



My thanks to Gary Mack (as always) for the useful information he continues to provide on all matters "JFK" related.


Subject: Paraffin Tests
Date: 6/8/2015 (9:13:43 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time)
From: Gary Mack
To: David Von Pein


As for DPD comments about the paraffin test results, they were made hours and hours after Oswald, based on other evidence police possessed, had already been charged with killing JFK. As is very clear from media recordings, Curry merely said the test "only showed that he fired a gun."


Right. And that is NOT an accurate statement, because a paraffin test will not reliably tell you that information. That's the whole point of the discussion I started---the tests are not reliable. They can swing in all directions.

So when Curry told the press (and millions watching on TV) that the paraffin test "showed that he fired a gun", he was not really telling the whole story. He should have said it this way:

"It only shows that he MIGHT have fired a gun. But that kind of test is never conclusive one way or the other, so we can't say for sure."

But I suppose we could surmise that Curry was just playing things a little "dumb" because he didn't want a softer statement (like the one above) to somehow make its way to Oswald's ears (and there seemed to be no way to keep the reporters from shouting out anything they wanted to shout at Oswald during his many trips through the DPD hallways during those two days at City Hall).

Is that what you think Curry could have been doing? Was he using a bit of psychology by not telling the whole truth to the press about the uselessness of paraffin tests? I don't know. But I do know the statement he made to the press on 11/23 was not an accurate one.

Another possibility (however remote) is that Curry was just plain ignorant about paraffin test results. Maybe he really DID think that a positive result positively meant that Oswald "fired a gun". ~shrug~

It's hard for me to believe that the POLICE CHIEF in a huge U.S. city could truly be that ignorant of the facts about paraffin tests, however.


Gary Mack is conflating the goal hoped to be achieved from two separate tests. The police often employed the technique of suggesting that a LIE DETECTOR TEST be administered in order to elicit a confession. Of course, lie detector tests have never been admissible in court, but paraffin tests were. There is a vast difference between the two tests. The paraffin test reveals the presence or absence of a substance. The lie detector test is wholly dependent on human interpretation of the result.


Subject: Paraffin Tests
Date: 6/9/2015 (3:15:53 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time)
From: Gary Mack
To: David Von Pein


Hi Dave,

Well, Dave, looks like Burnham's the one who is "conflating", for lie detector tests are always admissible in court as long as the prosecution and defense agree to do so. Besides, when the DPD told Oswald on 11/22 that they could run a paraffin test to determine if he fired a gun, neither he nor they were in court. One was in jail and the other was gathering evidence.

And as I recall, not only did Oswald agree to allow the test, he taunted the officers by saying they'd just have to do the test instead of him confessing. What Oswald didn't know, and what Curry certainly didn't want the public to know, was that DPD knew full well that the test results might or might not be conclusive. That is why he said what he did to the press once the paraffin test results came in....and what he told them was accurate. What he left out of his statement was that the test might have been positive for some other reason.



No. What Curry told the press about the paraffin test results was not completely accurate. He was stretching the truth, because he very likely knew the positive test result did not NECESSARILY mean what he told the press (and the world) it DEFINITELY DID mean -- i.e., that Oswald had "fired a gun".

He was misleading the press on that topic--without question. Although I agree that his motive for misleading them was likely a valid and legitimate one, versus it being a dastardly and underhanded "cover-up" motive on Chief Curry's behalf.


God forbid I should be the one to defend Jesse Curry, but here goes. Policemen, by and large, trusted the paraffin test at the time of the shooting. Curry's saying "gun" was to correct the impression the test had shown Oswald had fired a rifle. He knew the paraffin test for the cheek had been negative. He was trying to be accurate. But this was to no avail. Shortly after he spoke, the media started claiming the tests proved Oswald had fired a rifle. Go figure.


But Curry's "fired a gun" remark was still NOT totally accurate. And that's because Curry surely knew that paraffin tests were not reliable tests. Period. But via his remark, he left the impression that there was no doubt at all that Oswald HAD definitely "fired a gun" based on the positive paraffin result on LHO's hands.

Can there be any doubt at all that after listening to Curry saying "it only shows he fired a gun", millions of people got the impression that the paraffin test was CONCLUSIVE and therefore had proven that Oswald HAD, indeed, "fired a gun" based on that test? Of course that's what anyone would think after hearing Curry's remarks to the press on 11/23/63. How could they possibly NOT think such a thing (unless they worked in a police crime lab)?

David Von Pein
June 7, 2015
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June 11, 2015