Just wonderin’

the lady in red / is dancing with me / cheek-to-cheekThe Kennedy assassination bores me to tears. So, while I should be studying, I am instead reading some of the various assassinationrelated articles on wikipedia.

I just wanted to know, is anyone aware of who coined the phrase “magic bullet“? The magic bullet is the one that hit JFK in the neck, before passing through the chest of fellow convertible-passenger Texas Governor John Connally, shattering one of his ribs. It then somehow managed to pass through Connally’s right wrist, before finally hitting his left thigh. It was mysteriously found, barely damaged, in a stretcher used to carry the Governor in Hospital. It is necessary for one bullet to have done all of this, otherwise the official version is open to question on account of there being more than three shots and probably more than one person firing these shots. That is, a conspiracy.

I wager that the name “magic bullet” is one reason why so many people doubt this version of events. I mean, the version of events is kind of implausible, but I think the name alone accounts for a lot of the skepticism. From a conspiracy-buff’s point of view, it’s a pretty effective name in that it puts any reliance on the bullet’s trajectory as outside the bounds of sensible debate. After all, what rational person would believe in something called a “magic bullet”?

My limited research suggests that the words do not appear in the Warren Commission’s Report; they wisely go with the less-loaded “single bullet“. The Report’s index does not contain an entry for “Bullet, Magic”, which I guess is hardly surprising, even if a little disappointing.

So does anyone know who came up with it? I was just wonderin’.

Also, for your viewing pleasure, you can download the Zapruder film here, and look at some frames from it here.

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15 Responses to Just wonderin’

  1. Mork says:

    I believe that the author of the “magic bullet” phrase + theory was one Arlen Specter, who was counsel to the Warren Commission and is now a Republican senator from Pennsylvania.

  2. John says:

    The term was used earlier as a description of Salvarsan, the first effective treatment for Syphilis, though I think Paul Ehrlich, the discoverer, actually used the phrase “silver bullet” familiar from its folkloric use against werewolves.

  3. Geoff Honnor says:

    I think John’s on the money. The term has longevity in terms of pharmaceutical application and “zapping” analogies used therein.

    I think part of the continuing fascination with the grassy knoll is the whole disbelief thing that someone as great as JFK could be killed by some loser like Lee Oswald. But he was.

    There’s also the ‘love of conspiracy/”dark forces” lobby. You can pick them by their predilection for knitted underwear and cult religions….

  4. Dave Ricardo says:

    What is the non-conspiratorial explanation of the magic bullet?

    In 40 years, someone must have demonstrated that the bullet could have had that trajectory.

  5. Geoff Honnor says:

    What is the non-conspiratorial explanation of the magic bullet?

    just an ordinary bullet doing extraordinary things Dave.

  6. Dave Ricardo says:

    Geoff, I accept you are not a ballistics expert, but that is the kind of response that encourages conspiracy theorists.

  7. bargarz says:

    Debunking the “magic” bullet theory. Here you go.

    There’s also a book out that conclusively nails the various conspiracy theories called Case Closed.

    IMO, the conspiracy theory lives on for the same reason that other myths do – it fills a psychological need.

  8. bargarz says:

    Trivia note: Author C.S Lewis also died on November 22 (1963)

  9. Alan says:

    If you google ‘Case Closed’ Kennedy you’ll find a surprising number of people who still seem to lack closure. The first closure claim was the Warren report, and like that report, this one seems to be unravelling.

  10. who coined the phrase “magic bullet”?

    Presumably whoever came up with the title of this film.

  11. bargarz says:

    Thanks Alan. I haven’t done the google yet but I did have a look through the reviews of Case Closed at Amazon’s US site. Many of the reviewers who rated it poorly (one star) seemed to believe that SHOUTING in caps is an acceptable alternative to an argument based on logic.

    I’ll have to check it out myself.

  12. Richard says:


    Having shot the odd kangaroo and pig in my youth, and as a result seeing the end result to both animal and bullet, I found the story of the “magic bullet” most difficult to believe. Bullets just cannot travel the path described and come out the other end in mint condition. They suffer deformation. Seperately, in the film(s) of the event, Kennedy’s head snaps back as a result of one of the shots (an unlikely physical result from being shot in the back of the head), leading me to believe there may have been two shooters, one from the rear (Oswald) and one from the front (the grassy knoll). But I guess we will never know.

  13. bargarz says:

    More informative links on the conspiracy theories as well as the inaccuracies in Oliver Stone’s movie here.

  14. Heather says:

    owswald did kill jfk but he had help from the goverment.

  15. Heather says:

    owswald did kill jfk but he had help from the goverment.

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