Fashions and fads swirl around the world of JFK conspiracy theories just as anywhere else. Today the most trendy, cutting-edge area of research is the Two Oswalds theory, which provides certain proof that some people may have too much time on their hands. The theory has been around in one form or another at least since Richard H. Popkin published The Second Oswald in 1966. But in recent years it has been refined, if that’s the word. It claims there were actually two people who, for around ten years, lived as Lee Harvey Oswald. One was the son of Marguerite Oswald who was born in New Orleans and grew up in Fort Worth, and the second, perhaps a boy from Hungary with physical features similar to Lee’s, was a plant by the CIA or some other powerful and secret organization who, at about age thirteen, began living a parallel life as Lee’s double. The attraction of this theory is that it fits neatly with any number of other conspiracy theories involving the CIA, the KGB, the FBI, and Castro. Any of them, the speculation goes, could have manipulated the Two Oswald situation to its benefit. How the doubles behaved when it came time to murder the president is murky, but in general, one Oswald, the plant, is left holding the bag (“I’m a patsy”) while the other Oswald, the son of Marguerite, ostensibly working for the CIA, gets away, his existence and involvement unsuspected.
The theory is so implausible that its popularity now might be taken as a sign that conspiracy research has at last hit a dead end. It’s one thing to believe that Oswald was involved in a plot; it’s another to believe that the plot began when he was thirteen. Who could believe this stuff and why? To answer those questions I spent two days in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this summer with John Armstrong, a 48-year-old contractor and oilman who is the leading proponent of the Two Oswalds theory. Armstrong is a relative latecomer to conspiracy research, getting into the game eight years ago after attending JFK assassination classes at the University of Texas at Arlington. He has since coauthored a book, Dead Witnesses (Consolidated Press); made numerous multimedia presentations on the Two Oswalds to groups, including the JFK Lancer and COPA (Coalition on Political Assassinations) conventions, the two conspiracy research assemblies that meet in Dallas every November; written for Probe magazine, which is published by the Citizens for Truth About the Kennedy Assassination; and devotes from twenty to forty hours a week to the subject, which has filled two studies in the home in suburban Tulsa that he shares with his family. He hardly fits the profile of a conspiracy nut. Rather, I found him to be a congenial, if sometimes obsessive kind of guy (it goes with the territory) who obviously isn’t in it