It's No Mystery: Rent Hike Kills Conspiracy Museum

Kennedy brothers i i

hide captionFor 13 years, the Conspiracy Museum let those who doubted the official versions explore alternate theories about who was behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy. It closes for good on Dec. 30.

Wade Goodwyn, NPR
Kennedy brothers

For 13 years, the Conspiracy Museum let those who doubted the official versions explore alternate theories about who was behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy. It closes for good on Dec. 30.

Wade Goodwyn, NPR
conspiracy tree i i

hide captionThis "conspiracy tree" is painted on the walls of Tom Bowden's museum. In the tree's roots are the FBI, the mob, the CIA and the John Birch society. On the right-hand side are the people Bowden terms "patsies:" Lee Harvey Oswald, Sirhan Sirhan (the man who shot Sen. Robert Kennedy), and James Earl Ray (Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassin).

Wade Goodwyn, NPR
conspiracy tree

This "conspiracy tree" is painted on the walls of Tom Bowden's museum. In the tree's roots are the FBI, the mob, the CIA and the John Birch society. On the right-hand side are the people Bowden terms "patsies:" Lee Harvey Oswald, Sirhan Sirhan (the man who shot Sen. Robert Kennedy), and James Earl Ray (Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassin).

Wade Goodwyn, NPR

In downtown Dallas, a small museum has dedicated itself to conspiracy theories surrounding the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. But after 13 profitable years, the Conspiracy Museum is shutting its doors.

The museum is the brainchild of former computer engineer Tom Bowden. He says the idea traces back to his childhood, when the circus came to town, displaying what was said to be the mummified body of John Wilkes Booth — the man who shoot President Abraham Lincoln. The memory of that exhibit lingered, and Bowden eventually got sucked into the world of conspiratorial history.

As an adult, he says, it was only natural for him to investigate conspiracy allegations about American's most notorious assassination: that of President Kennedy.

"The FBI was certainly involved," Bowden says, "because it required Hoover to do the cover-up and to feed the information to the Warren Commission." That panel investigated Kennedy's assassination, concluding that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing the president.

"The Warren Commission — most of those guys were not involved in the cover-up," he says. "They were patriots and they were told, 'We can't have a conspiracy.'"

And who told them that? "Lyndon Johnson," Bowden says.

The evidence supporting Bowden's theory of "what really happened" is attractively displayed around his museum: photographs, charts, diagrams and well-written explanations, and videos with former Texas Gov. John Connelly, who was also wounded in the attack on Kennedy.

The feeling at the Conspiracy Museum is unlike that at the Met or the Guggenheim. Its displays draw its patrons, complete strangers, into lively debates about whether Oswald was capable of carrying out the assassination by himself at the tender age of 24.

Appropriately enough, the museum is located just around the corner and down the street from the infamous Book Depository in Dallas' Dealey Plaza. Oswald shot Kennedy from the building's sixth floor.

Still, there's no mystery about why the museum is folding: the building landlord has decided to take Quizno's best offer to lease the space — an offer that Bowden can't match. The museum closes for good on Dec. 30.

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