Two years ago I wrote about the newest (and possibly the only) tourist attraction in Irving, TX–the nondescript home in which Lee Harvey Oswald slept the night before he may or may not have killed President Kennedy.
Little did I know, even as I wrote that post, that there was another attraction marking the spot where Oswald slept for a much longer period of time.
In case you find cemeteries to be creepy, you’ll be happy to learn that you could have visited Oswald’s grave marker without even visiting his grave. And in case you find Texas to be creepy, you’ll be thrilled to discover that, while Oswald was buried in Ft. Worth, his tombstone was in Roscoe, IL.
In an automotive museum.
It seems that, in 1967, on the fourth anniversary of the JFK assassination, some fun-loving teenagers drove to Ft. Worth from Oklahoma specifically to steal the marker from the grave site because, hey, what else did wild and crazy Oklahoma kids do before the Internet?
The tombstone was quickly recovered by the police, who gave it to Marguerite Oswald, Lee’s mother, who did what any loving mother would do with her assassin son’s grave marker. She put it in her home’s crawl space. If her crawl space was anything like ours, she probably laid it down gently next to some empty boxes from electronics she no longer owned.
After Marguerite died in the 1980’s, the house was sold, evidently in a deal that included all lighting fixtures, appliances, window treatments and tombstones. That is how the slab wound up in the family of a fellow named David Card.
The marker was then passed around among Card’s relatives in much the same way many families pass around an elderly parent. It’s not clear how the 130-pound tombstone was transported, or what each relative did with it while it was in his or her possession. I’m guessing each Card hoped it would come their way around Halloween, because something like that would look really weird with Christmas lights strung on it.
Anyway, it eventually found its way into the home of David Card’s step-cousin’s wife, or some close relation like that, who promptly sold the thing for $45,000, which sounds like a lot of money to me, particularly since it wasn’t “Mint in Box.”
The buyer was the aforementioned automotive museum, the Historic Automotive Attractions museum in Roscoe. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “It’s an automotive museum. If it’s going to have highly-collectible JFK assassination memorabilia, shouldn’t it be a brain-stained convertible?”
Well, first, let me say that it’s really gross of you to think that. Secondly, you should know that the Historic Automotive Attractions museum does have the black Secret Service Cadillac that was behind Kennedy’s vehicle when he was shot, so it’s possible that there’s a brain fragment or two in the front grille of that. And thirdly, to satisfy morbid curiosity like yours, the museum has a replica of the actual car JFK and Jackie rode in, along with genuine lifelike replicas of JFK and Jackie themselves, pre-Oswald and un-brain-stained.
I’ve included a discount coupon above in case you want to visit.
The owner of the museum, Wayne Lensing, is a big fan of the assassination, and has created a whole non-automotive exhibit including a piece of the fence from the grassy knoll, a blood-stained envelope on which JFK’s personal secretary wrote “My beloved President’s blood, Nov. 22,” a swatch of blood-stained upholstery from JFK’s limo. and other items that the president bled on. There’s also the ambulance that took Oswald to the hospital after he was shot. Lensing considered buying Oswald’s coffin, but thought that would be too macabre for the exhibit.
(In 1981, Oswald’s coffin was exhumed by conspiracy theorists who suspected that Oswald’s body had been replaced by that of a Russian secret agent. When dental records confirmed it was Oswald, the conspiracy theorists suggested that maybe only the head had been switched. These were people who gave conspiracy theorists a bad name. Meanwhile the original coffin sold at auction for $87,468, hopefully without the contents.)
Now we return to David Card. (Remember him? He was very famous six paragraphs ago.) Card, who, in an eerie parallel to history, is a nightclub owner just like Oswald’s assassin Jack Ruby, was not happy with his step-cousin-in-law for selling Oswald’s tombstone, probably because it was almost his turn to to possess it, and just in time for his annual Easter egg hunt. So of course he took legal action. The case was settled out of court and, according to The New York Daily News, the marker was recently packed in a cardboard box and driven about 1,000 miles to an undisclosed location in Dallas in a Ford F-150 pickup. This is another eerie parallel with history, since the actual car Kennedy was riding in, a Lincoln Continental, is now at the Henry Ford Museum, and Lincoln was shot at the Ford Theatre, and Kennedy’s personal assistant, who wrote on his blood-stained envelope, was Evelyn Lincoln, and the Historic Automotive Attractions museum, which has the replica of the Lincoln Continental that is in the Henry Ford Museum, is in Illinois, where Lincoln was a lawyer before he became president, which was the very same position JFK had when he was shot, like Lincoln, by a gun.
So to sum up:
- We have Oswald’s grave in Ft. Worth, which does not contain the original coffin, and which is not marked by the original tombstone. It has a simple tombstone, placed there by Marguerite Oswald to replace the more elaborate one that was stolen almost 50 years ago.
- We have Marguerite herself, who is buried next to her son, and whose grave has no marker at all, so watch where you step.
- We have David Card, who has Oswald’s original grave marker, but no grave to put it on, since Oswald’s grave has a marker.
- We have a car museum in Illinois, which has lost its prized possession, which was not a car.
- And we have some Oklahomans in their 60’s who have probably never held decent jobs because they had criminal records stemming from their theft of a grave marker in 1967.
And I leave you now with a photo of Oswald’s tombstone in its former home. Not its first home, on Oswald’s grave, but in its display case at the Historic Automotive Attractions museum. In still another eerie parallel with history, the space may now be empty, just as Americans felt empty on that fateful afternoon of November 22, 1963, after a remarkably accurate shot was fired from a Dallas Book Depository window adjacent to the window now on display at the Historic Automotive Attractions museum. (Really.)
See you soon.