November 22, 1963. The young president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, is traveling through the streets of Dallas in a convertible as part of an arranged motorcade. Cheering crowds line their route on every side. Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, wave and chat happily with Texas Governor John Connally and Connally’s wife, Nellie, who are also in the car. Then, all at once, the mood changes. Gunshots ring out. And by the end of the day, Jackie is a widow, and she’s left haunted by JFK’s final words.
How did this happen? Well, late in 1963, President Kennedy faced troubles in the Democratic Party in Texas. On the one side were liberals such as the unrelated Don and Ralph Yarborough, while on the other was the conservative state governor, John Connally. So at a June meeting with Connally and his vice president, Lyndon B. Johnson – a native Texan – JFK agreed to make a presidential visit to the Lone Star State.
The visit had three aims for the president. First, he hoped to gather donations for his next presidential campaign. Second, the head of state wanted to kick off that campaign. And, finally, JFK longed to try to bring together feuding Democratic factions in the state. So, on November 18, the officials decided upon a route through the city of Dallas and later shared the plans with the public.
The idea for the route that Kennedy would take was to let as many people as possible see the commander-in-chief as he traveled to lunch with top city and business brass at the Dallas Trade Mart. As planned, the motorcade would wind through Dallas for ten miles. It would first run down Main Street, take a couple turns leading onto Elm Street and then through Dealey Plaza toward the freeway.
On November 22, the train of cars set off with the president sitting alongside his wife, Jackie. She dressed in a pink suit from Chanel, topped with a pillbox hat in the same color. In her arms she held a massive bouquet of red roses that had been presented to her. It was this suit that later captured the fashion world’s imagination.
The presidential couple sat in the back of a 1961 Lincoln Continental, which was open to the air so that the crowds could see them. In the front was Connally and his spouse, Nellie. Kennedy was evidently enjoying the trip, smiling and waving to the throngs of people who lined the route of the motorcade.
But then the car took a left onto Elm and went past the Texas School Book Depository. Without warning, a noise like a firecracker was heard. Then another crack rang out. Most witnesses also heard a third sound – but this would become a matter of dispute afterward. In the moment, all that was certain was that shots had been fired at the president.
Connally heard the first shot and whipped round to check on JFK. After turning back, though, Connally was shot in the back. The governor didn’t know at the time that this would be the shot that ended the life of the president. On being hit, Connally shouted, “Oh, no, no, no. My God. They’re going to kill us all!”
Connally’s wife would later testify that she had heard a loud noise and turned to look at the president, too. She said she saw JFK raise his arms so that they were up in front of him. And the next thing she knew, there was a second shot and then a third. It also became evident that someone had been shot in the head.
For her part, Jackie wrapped her arms around her husband right after he had been hit. And then, after the second hit, Jackie crawled onto the car’s trunk, as if attempting to reach something on it. A second or two afterward, she went back to her seat, stunned. Later, she’d have no memory of doing this.
The car then sped off to Parkland Hospital so that the president could get urgent treatment. But half an hour later, doctors accepted that the end had come. JFK was only 46 years of age and had been in power for less than three years. What had begun as a pleasant trip through the streets of Dallas had ended in a haze of blood and the death of the planet’s most powerful man.
The world was stunned, and chaos reigned for a short period. No one was sure whether the United States itself was under attack, or if Vice President Johnson, who had also been in the motorcade, was unhurt. Around the globe, leaders made public statements of sorrow. Others wondered about the country’s future direction without its charismatic leader.
Throughout the United States, people were overwhelmed with shock and grief. Some cried; some prayed. In places, traffic stopped as the news passed between drivers. Schools sent kids home. Officials declared a national day of mourning. Yet the news didn’t upset everyone – all politicians have their enemies, after all, and JFK’s celebrated his end.
But what of his legacy? Well, while JFK’s legislative achievements are slim, he was an excellent orator, and his speeches inspire even today. Americans don’t hesitate to label him a great president, either, on a par with a Lincoln or a Washington. Certainly, the president faced tests of his leadership and emerged with a glowing reputation.
Many of those tests grew out of the tensions caused by the Cold War, of course. Conflict with communist nations simmered throughout JFK’s short time in office. In fact, Kennedy sent many “advisers” to Vietnam and ordered the Bay of Pigs invasion. And although he considered a full invasion of Cuba, he was able to end a crisis over Russian missiles that had taken the States to the brink of nuclear war.
At home, JFK also established the Peace Corps and was a strong supporter of the civil rights movement. This saw the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, and the law wasn’t to be his only legacy. For while Kennedy did not live to see his dream of an American on the Moon come true, the 1969 Apollo 11 mission can be considered among his greatest triumphs.
In the end, the authorities charged Lee Harvey Oswald – who had served as a U.S. Marine – with the murder of JFK. It didn’t take long after the assassination for police to capture Oswald, either. Yet while the cops were convinced that they had their man, Oswald claimed that he had not performed the assassination – and that he had been used as a fall guy.
But Oswald wouldn’t get to face a jury. That’s because he was in turn assassinated. Dallas club proprietor Jack Ruby shot Oswald live on TV as he was being moved between jails. Officials took Oswald to the same hospital as JFK – but to no avail. He too succumbed to his wounds. Ruby later claimed that he had done it to spare Jackie Kennedy the pain of a trial.
Ruby received a death sentence for killing Oswald, but he was later granted an appeal. Yet the appeal was never heard because Ruby died of cancer before it could come before the courts. And even though Ruby acted on his own, suspicions surrounded him because of his connections to organized crime figures. Consequently, he was central to many conspiracy theories.
The role that Oswald played in JFK’s assassination has also been questioned. But the discovery of a Carcano rifle on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository pointed to the simple fact that Oswald was the lone gunman. A host of forensic evidence on the gun would show that it was both the weapon that had killed the president and that Oswald owned it.
A week after the shooting, though, Johnson set up an official body to look into the president’s murder. It would become known as the Warren Commission. The group took almost a year to reach its conclusion, which was that Oswald was a lone gunman. After its work, the Warren Commission published a report of almost 900 pages. But, for some, the issue was not settled, and disputes have rumbled ever since over its methods and findings.
Yet while the commission’s report might be long, the record of the investigation runs to roughly five million pages. And even though a law passed in 1992 that said this archive should be opened to the public in 2017, the report remains closed. Not that those interested don’t have plenty of evidence to work with – given that there have been several other investigations over the years.
The FBI conducted the initial investigation, for instance, reporting to the Warren Commission in December 1963. And straight away there was a divergence in conclusions, with the FBI disagreeing with the commission as to which of the three shots fired hit their targets. Other commissions looked into aspects of the assassination, too, and they also sometimes differ with the Warren report’s conclusions.
Among those inquiries was the 1978 House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA). This indicated the likelihood of a conspiracy. However, although it was sure about that, the HSCA was not at all conclusive about who or why. But the HSCA did decide that there had been two gunmen – although it was unable to identify either of them.
The HSCA quashed several conspiracy theories, too. For instance, Cuban exiles had been noted in the run-up to the November shooting as being strongly opposed to Kennedy. Yet the HSCA said that neither the Cuban state nor groups of Cubans who hated Castro had killed the president. Still, the committee didn’t rule out the possibility of a Cuban national getting involved in a personal capacity.
The HSCA couldn’t quell speculation, of course, and many theories have popped up about the Kennedy slaying. Some pointed fingers at the Mafia, for example, suggesting that mob boss Carlos Marcello’s links to Ruby are suspicious. And the CIA has also been accused of arranging the assassination and covering it up afterward.
Among the key elements of most conspiracies is that Oswald was not a lone gunman. The “grassy knoll” that sits in Dealey Plaza has become a byword for shadowy dealings. According to some, this is one of the places from which shots came. It features in theories that suggest two or more men fired at the president on November 22.
However many people were involved, though, what is certain is that JFK was hit in the shooting. And Jackie would have nightmares about the look that had crossed the president’s face after the first shot. Biographer Christopher Anderson reported that she said, “He looked puzzled. He looked as if he had a slight headache.”
The whole way to the hospital, too, Jackie kept talking to the stricken president. She would remember her words to him in an interview shortly afterward. Leaning over her husband as he lay in the back of the car, she said, “Jack, Jack, can you hear me? I love you.”
But doctors confirmed that JFK could not reply, such were the extent of his injuries. So even though his final words have been reported as, “My God, I’ve been hit,” JFK was certainly unable to speak after he had been shot. The last words that he spoke were much less dramatic and – in the circumstances – rather ironic.
You see, historians have been able to research JFK’s final moments thoroughly. And according to these experts, the last words that the president spoke were, “No, you certainly can’t.” But why was this curious phrase on the president’s lips just before he was gunned down?
Well, it turns out that he had been chatting with the governor’s wife. She had said to him, “You certainly can’t say that the people of Dallas haven’t given you a nice welcome.” And JFK, smiling at the heaving crowds who’d come to salute him, replied, “No, you certainly can’t.”
But no sooner were the words out of the president’s mouth than Oswald – or whoever was on the grassy knoll – put the lie to them. JFK was then rushed to the hospital, getting there within ten minutes, Jackie ignoring the blood to stay by his side. Yet when the president got there, it was already too late. The hospital trauma team believed that he had no hopes of survival.
Having gotten to the hospital, Johnson’s wife, Ladybird, suggested to Jackie that she might like to change out of her blood-covered clothes. But Jackie wouldn’t have it. She said, “I want them to see what they have done to Jack.” He had been shot once in the head and once in the back.
A few days after his passing, JFK was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery following a mass. And three years later, as many as 16 million mourners had paid their respects at his grave. In 1967, though, the president’s remains were shifted to a permanent memorial. An “Eternal Flame” burns nearby.
After a period of grieving for JFK, Jackie would go on to marry shipping billionaire Aristotle Onassis in 1968. Onassis died in 1975, and Jackie departed the world in 1994. Jackie was buried in the same place as JFK, along with her two children – Arabella and Patrick – who died in infancy.
After the assassination, Jackie kept her clothing, unlaundered. And although the suit would likely gather crowds were it put on view, a condition of its donation to the National Archives by Jackie’s daughter was that it should be kept away from public view until 2103. This was to spare the president’s family further grief and to avoid dishonoring JFK’s memory.
In 1993 the National Park Service made several parts of Dealey Plaza Historic Districts. It’s still possible for visitors to go to the park in the plaza and even to stand on the grassy knoll themselves. Elm Street is a busy road in downtown Dallas, and if you go there, you can see a red X that marks the spot where JFK was hit. Many tourists also go to the book depository, which houses a mockup of the area from where Oswald fired on the sixth floor.
The happenings of November 22, 1963, made an indelible mark on Americans. For people of a certain age, the question, “Where were you when you heard about President Kennedy’s assassination?” often leads to a heartfelt conversation. And the president is memorialized by New York’s busiest airport and the space center that would host the launch of the mission that took man to the Moon.
So JFK is unlikely to be forgotten. And speculation will likely continue to surround his passing. After all, polls show that most people believe there was a conspiracy around the assassination. But what is certain is that for all the wonderful oratory in his life, JFK’s final few words were simple, friendly chatter.
It’s not just JFK who remains a fascinating figure in American history, though. In fact, Jackie Kennedy holds a special place in many people’s hearts. For example, Skorpios is known across the world as the idyllic private island belonging to Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle “Ari” Onassis. The retreat even hosted the billionaire’s 1968 wedding to former first lady Kennedy. But the island is no longer in the public eye thanks to the introduction of strangely strict security measures.
Situated on the Ionian Sea, Skorpios is one of the Greek Islands. It lies to the west of the mainland and east of Lefkada island. And while the private retreat is unusual in its shape, it roughly covers an area of 3,280 feet by 4,921 feet. Today, it boasts sandy beaches and thick forests. This, however, wasn’t always the case.
That’s because Skorpios was largely barren when Aristotle “Ari” Onassis purchased it as a private retreat back in 1962. The Greek shipping tycoon bought the land for 3.5 million drachmas, which is the equivalent of around $12,000 in today’s money. And Ari soon set about transforming the arid island into an inviting idyll.
In order to create a tranquil retreat, then, Ari imported more than 200 types of trees to Skorpios. He then established great forests running the whole length of the island to make for a leafy landscape. And alongside helping to create widespread woodlands, he also made East Beach with sand taken from Greece’s Salamis Island.
But it wasn’t until 1968 that Skorpios would come to the attention of the wider public. For it was then that Ari tied the knot with Jackie Kennedy on the island. The Greek businessman and the former first lady of America had been long-term friends before then, of course. But romance had developed between the pair following the assassinations of her first husband, John F. Kennedy, and her brother-in-law Robert F. Kennedy.
The assassinations in fact left Jackie fearing for her family’s safety. And following the death of Robert in 1968, the concerned mother stated, “If they’re killing Kennedys, then my children are targets.” As a result, Jackie said of the U.S, “I want to get out of this country.”
So in Ari, Jackie seemingly found love and some semblance of security, and the couple married in October 1968. At the time of their wedding, the shipping magnate was 23 years older than his new bride. Yet despite Ari also being one of the richest men on the planet, his nuptials with the former first lady were surprisingly intimate.
The couple actually married in a traditional Greek Orthodox service. Jackie’s children – Caroline and John Jr. – were both involved in the celebration, as was Lee Radziwill, the bride’s sister. The nuptials were also attended by approximately 40 guests who were largely family members and close friends of the pair.
And following the couple’s wedding on Skorpios, they and their guests boarded the businessman’s super yacht Christina for the reception. The island would therefore remain a special part of the pair’s lives and formed one of their six residences. Aside from the private island, you see, the newlyweds owned homes in Paris, Manhattan, New Jersey and Athens — and they also lived on board the Christina.
So thanks to the couple, Skorpios became one of the best known private islands on the planet. The retreat’s fame, however, came at a cost to the pair’s own privacy. In 1971, in fact, Jackie was snapped sunbathing naked on one of the island’s beaches. The photographs were subsequently published in Italy in 1972, provoking outrage in the States.
It turned out that Settimio Garritano had taken the revealing nude photographs of Jackie. The Italian paparazzo had actually managed to gain access to Skorpios by pretending to be a gardener. And after learning that the former first lady sometimes sunbathed naked, he took a boat to her preferred spot and hid the vessel behind some undergrowth.
From Garritano’s concealed position, then, he leered on as Jackie undressed until she was completely nude. In 2009 the photographer confessed that he’d struggled to believe the rumors about her habits at first. He told The Telegraph, “It didn’t seem possible.”
But as Garritano had peeked out from behind the undergrowth, he had seen Jackie laid bare with his own two eyes. He later revealed, “Suddenly, she appeared and wandered around the patio area. I concentrated on just taking the pictures, not composing them. It was a matter of moments, not even minutes.”
At first, though, Garritano had struggled to sell the nude images that he’d captured of Jackie. That’s because a number of editors had simply refused to print them. However, the snaps then appeared in a 1972 edition of Italian magazine Playmen. And while the decision to print the pictures caused a stir in the former first lady’s native U.S., her husband seemed unconcerned by the uproar.
Following the furor that the naked photographs created, you see, Ari reportedly said, “Sometimes I take my clothes off to put on a bathing suit. So does my wife.” The images were eventually published by the American magazine Hustler in 1975 too. That edition consequently became the publication’s all-time best-seller.
But naked photographs weren’t the only scandal that Jackie became embroiled in during her marriage to Ari. In 1973, for instance, the shipping magnate’s son, Alexander, died aged 24 following a plane crash. But prior to his death, both he and Christina, his sister, apparently disapproved of their father’s marriage to the former first lady.
That’s because Alexander and Christina had reportedly hoped that Ari would reunite with their mother, Tina, following his affair with the famous Greek opera star Maria Callas. However, their father’s subsequent relationship with Jackie prevented such a reconciliation. Alexander even later attacked the couple, stating, “My father loved names, and Jackie loved money.”
Following Alexander’s untimely death, then, Christina’s dislike of Jackie seemingly intensified. And as Ari’s health deteriorated in the wake of his son’s passing, Christina sought to convince her father that the former first lady was cursed. She even pointed to the assassinations of Robert and John F. Kennedy in order to support her claims.
Interestingly, though, the so-called Kennedy curse has been a topic of fascination in the media for years. The idea came about, of course, after the prominent political family were dogged by a number of deaths and tragedies. Aside from the assassinations of John and Robert, you see, many members of the famous family have suffered early deaths in a range of unfortunate circumstances.
In relation to the Kennedy curse, though, skeptics have pointed out that many of the events experienced by the family could be considered normal. And in a large family like theirs, people say, it’s entirely possible for tragedies to occur at such a seemingly high frequency. So it therefore doesn’t mean that some kind of supernatural influence is at play.
At least one member of the family has publicly addressed the Kennedy curse, though. In 1969, in fact, Ted Kennedy accidentally steered his car off a Massachusetts bridge in an occurrence known as the “Chappaquiddick incident.” Though Ted himself escaped unscathed, the event led to the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, his passenger.
And following the crash in Chappaquiddick, Ted failed to report the incident to authorities for several hours. As a result, he subsequently pleaded guilty to causing personal injury by leaving the scene of an accident. In a statement following his court appearance, too, the Senator questioned “whether some awful curse did actually hang over all the Kennedys.”
It’s not clear what Jackie herself thought of the Kennedy curse, though. Yet she has been accused of transferring the hex to the Onassis family by marrying the shipping magnate. Christina, for one, certainly believed that her father’s new wife had brought them bad luck. And her suspicions surrounding the former first lady must only have been intensified when her mother died in 1974 following an alleged drug overdose.
The Onassises’ string of bad luck continued when the family’s business empire ran into difficulties too. And at the same time, Ari’s health continued to fail. Soon, he too reportedly came to believe that Jackie had brought the Kennedy curse to his family. And as a result, the businessman apparently looked into divorcing his wife. He also changed his will to reduce the payout she’d receive in the event of his death.
So when Ari died in Paris in March 1975, Christina was named as his sole heir. However, Jackie contested her late husband’s will, and – after a couple of years of negotiations – she accepted a $26 million settlement from her estranged stepdaughter. Meanwhile, the shipping magnate was laid to rest on his beloved Skorpios — where his son also lies.
Sadly, the misfortunes that the Onassis family experienced didn’t end with Ari’s death and Jackie’s subsequent estrangement. Tragedy in fact struck again in 1988 when cardiac arrest claimed Christina’s life at just 37 years old. The former first lady herself also died at the relatively young age of 64. This was in 1994 after she’d contracting Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer.
Following Christina’s death, though, she was buried alongside her father and brother on Skorpios. The island and the rest of Christina’s share in the Onassis assets then passed to her only child, Athina Onassis Roussel. Athina subsequently became one of the world’s richest women. However, the heiress rarely frequented Skorpios. She in fact moved to Sao Paulo after marrying the Brazilian showjumper Àlvaro de Miranda Neto.
Given that Athina seemingly had little interest in Skorpios, then, the private island reportedly caught the attention of Giorgio Armani and Bill Gates. It’s rumored that both men even expressed an interest in buying the retreat at one time or another. However, Athina eventually sold the idyll to Russian heiress Ekaterina Rybolovleva in 2013.
Ekaterina is the daughter of billionaire businessman Dmitry Rybolovlev. She was, in fact, just 24 when she acquired a long-term lease of Skorpios, and the deal struck between the two women was reportedly worth $150 million. However, it was not immediately clear what the heiress would do with the island.
Yet one of Ekaterina’s first moves after acquiring Skorpios was to prevent tourists from coming to the private island. Visitors had previously been permitted, you see, although their access was confined to a couple of the retreat’s small coves. Under the new owner’s tenure, however, it seemed that outsiders would not be tolerated at all.
To ensure that no one could access Skorpios, in fact, Ekaterina employed a specialist team of bodyguards from the United States and France to patrol the island around the clock. They also apparently use advanced surveillance equipment. The heiress reportedly wanted to enlist a team of frogmen to guard the waters surrounding the retreat as well.
Yet it’s believed that those strict security measures were put into effect on Skorpios without permission from the Greek police. But in any case, they seemingly worked in deterring people from visiting the private island. In the years following Ekaterina’s purchase, mind you, a number of ghost stories have emerged from the tightly guarded retreat.
Following the sale of Skorpios, for example, a number of unexplained sightings were reported on the island. And they involved a silhouette of a man who apparently looked like Ari. This led to a spine-tingling tale. In his will, people said, the shipping magnate stated that the retreat must remain in the Onassis family. And so it was rumored that the businessman had started haunting his former home — maybe as a direct result of Ekaterina’s purchase.
Two such sightings were, in fact, apparently reported by a security guard who worked for Dmitry Rybolovlev. The unnamed man allegedly told Greece’s Espresso newspaper that he first came across the strange shadow while patrolling Skorpios in 2016. The figure had seemingly worn a black suit and held a cigar in one hand.
The security guard reportedly said he had not seen the man before and had tried to approach him. But as he walked towards the silhouette, he apparently said, the shadow vanished into thin air. While on another occasion, the same man had allegedly noticed flickering lights inside one of Skorpios’ villas. But there had been no one in the residence, he seemingly said. And in an even spookier development, an electrician supposedly later confirmed that there had been no issue with the building’s power supply.
So, following these two unsettling experiences, the alleged security guard in question apparently realized that the man he’d spotted resembled the island’s late former owner. The incident had reportedly scared him so much, in fact, that he quit his job and never returned to Skorpios. Others who’ve frequented the island can also attest to a strange presence at the location.
For instance, another person who believed they’d seen Ari’s ghost on Skorpios was a fisherman from the nearby island of Lefkada. Speaking to Keep Talking Greece, he revealed that he’d seen a figure dressed in black approaching one of the villas. At first, he said, he’d believed his eyes had deceived him. But after hearing about the security guard’s spooky experiences, the angler then became convinced that he’d encountered the island’s former owner.
The rumored sightings of Ari’s ghost on Skorpios hit headlines in Greece in May 2018. Of course, there’s no way of knowing if the shipping tycoon is indeed haunting the private island. Given the wishes that he outlined in his will, however, there’s a chance that he wouldn’t have been happy about the new owner’s plans for Skorpios — which emerged in September 2018.
For it was around then that Sergei Tsernitsin, a representative of Dmitry Rybolovlev, thanked the Ionian Island Regional governor, Theodoros Galiatsatos, for helping a proposed development on Skorpios. Yes, Dmitry is reportedly planning to build a luxury resort on the island. This would consist of at least 12 villas and a number of restaurants and spas as well as a marina.
The project proposed by the Rybolovlev family would be the only luxury resort in Greece. It would also become the latest in a select number of destinations situated on private islands. As an official EU Natura site, however, Skorpios is protected. This means that buildings can only be erected on five percent of its acreage. Ari’s legacy on the retreat, then, shouldn’t be totally threatened after all.