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Forensic Anthropology


Duke Lane
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In another thread ("Dorothy Kilgallen ..."), I had commented as follows:

Any photo experts out there, who can prove that the skeletal structure of the face does not change with age?

The person someone would want to consult on this question is a forensic anthropologist, one of those people who put faces back onto skulls. They would be able to provide much better advice on this than any "photo expert out there."

Speaking of which (forensic anthropologists), I spoke with one in Virginia some years ago, attached to the Virginia State Police or the Chief Medical Examiner's office, I forget which (if the latter, I forgot to ask to speak with Kay Scarpetta!). What he told me was interesting.

I'd asked how someone could identify a person if all they had was, say, half of a skull or half of a photo. He explained to me that the prevailing presumption or rule of thumb is that one half of a person's face (or facial structure) is very nearly a mirror image of the other.

With that in mind, I took the photo that Jack White made famous, the "Alex Hidell" photo he posited was an amalgam of two faces, pasted together on a diagonal axis. I cut the full photo on the axis Jack had suggested and then made two copies of each half on transparency "paper," then put the two corresponding "halves" together (e.g., the upper-right half with the upper-right half reversed), and found two very different-looking men. With one, I had to draw in a chin, and the other had a pie-slice out of the top of his head, but it was not difficult adding those details to the renderings.

What I then did was to take both composites to the Fairfax County (VA) Police Department and spoke briefly with a detective there. I showed him the "Oswald" half (the upper right portion, as I recall) and asked him who it looked like. He said "Oswald." I told him that that's what I'd thought, too. I asked him if I had other similar questions, could I visit with him, which he (somewhat resignedly) said "sure." Whatever made me happy, I guess.

I came back a couple of weeks later and showed him the "Hidell" half and asked him who he looked like, and again he said "Oswald." I then showed him the first composite and asked if the two images were of the same person and he said that, no, it didn't appear that they were, although there was a similiarity. Clearly, the "Oswald half" was in fact Oswald, he opined, and the "Hidell half" was someone who resembled Oswald.

I then showed him the original "composite" and asked him who it was. Again, he said it looked like Oswald, but it could be someone who merely looked like him. I showed him a photo that was unarguably Oswald (I don't remember now which one), and he again said that the subject of that photo was clearly the same person as the "Oswald half."

Then I explained my conversation with the forensic anthropologist - he agreed, based on his limited knowledge, that that had always been his understanding (both sides of a person's face being basically the same) - and then how I'd made each of the two "photos," from one "official photo of Oswald." He asked for a copy of the original and the transparencies, said he found them interesting, and promised to get back to me.

Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, (at least, as Jack would like to think) The Company (or did I mean "my company?") transferred me back to Texas and I never heard from the detective again (nor did I seek him out, and no longer remember who he was).

Nevertheless, there's your answer: contact a forensic anthropologist ... who is not akin to a Warren Commission apologist, despite the homophonic similarity!

Jack was recently kind enough to post the photo in question to this form (the "Replying to Duke Lane ..." thread), and I've used it to reproduce what I had described above. Some of my earlier details were wrong (e.g., which quadrant of what side, etc.), but the gist was ok.

Below is the "de-composited" Alek Hidell photo. You'll have to use your imagination to fill in the "slices" of white as I am NOT an artist! I have nothing to add other than the photo ....

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