An eastern Iowan who’s considered an expert on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln is presenting a lecture tonight in West Branch on the myths and mysteries that still surround the slaying of the 16th president. Doctor Blaine Houmes is a Cedar Rapids physician and calls himself an armchair historian.
His talk will cover the conspiracy, medical aspects, the aftermath and comparisons with our current War on Terror. Houmes says one persistent falsehood surrounds Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Houmes says, "There is the popular myth that he broke his leg after jumping from the theatre box in Ford’s Theatre when in reality, he probably broke it during his getaway when his horse fell on him."
While Booth was cornered in a tobacco shed in Virginia and fatally shot 12 days after Lincoln’s murder, rumors abounded for years that Booth actually got away and lived for many years under an assumed name. One rumor told that Booth died in 1903 and his supposed body was paraded around as something of a trophy. Houmes says that wasn’t Booth.
"There was an autopsy done on his body," Houmes says. "By then, it had been made into a mummy because it was traveling around on the side show carnival circuit for years and at the autopsy, they took several X-rays of his ankle which had, in theory, been broken and the X-rays show there was clearly no broken ankle."
While some historians believe Booth acted alone, Houmes says it’s more likely he had support from backers in the Confederacy who helped formulate the plot. If you think there are a lot of J.F.K. conspiracy theorists, he says there are also a sizeable number of people who continue to speculate the fine details of Lincoln’s assassination.
"A lot of it is part of our culture, that the person is the victim, that the president has become a myth, a martyr figure," Houmes says. "Part is because we tend to want to believe that there isn’t an assassination culture in the United States, that it’s always some one lone nut, and that isn’t always the case." The lecture runs from 7 to 9 PM at the Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch.