Rain Senseless

"I made sure I greeted the north Main Street RainSensor with ‘Hi, spooks!’ and a wry grin towards the Federal Building, every time I walked down to the Plaza from my hotel."

Dr. John Costella The Great Zapruder Film Hoax (Pg. 232)

What kind of researcher talks to rain sensors and grins at buildings? From the above it appears Dr. John Costella does. He devotes eight pages of one of the latest Kennedy assassination books, The Great Zapruder Film Hoax (Chicago: Catfeet Press, 2003), to opine that the rain sensors installed in Dealey Plaza are not rain sensors at all. In his estimation they are listening devices placed by the government to eavesdrop on:

". . . those parts of the Plaza where researchers tend to congregate, being very much closer to the Zapruder pedestal, and particularly the picket fence." (Pg. 230)

I was surprised that Dr. Costella and his associate Jack White could reach unprecedented conclusions without studying the subject of the inquiry – the Wireless RainSensor™. Let’s look at some quotes found in the book and what my research revealed.

"We had a good laugh about this device, assuming it to be something used by the Dallas Weather Bureau for measuring rainfall throughout the city. Why choose the infamous grassy knoll as a measurement point? In any case, it provided us with some light humor." (Pg. 225)

Dr. Costella and Jack White had a "good laugh" because they were ignorant of the following facts:

  1. There is no such entity as the Dallas Weather Bureau.
  2. Weather-forecasters do not use rain sensors to measure rainfall. They use rain gauges.

"It did not hit me at the time (perhaps the thirty-odd hours of travel I had just completed had dimmed my brain a little), but this Wireless RainSensor was mounted in a curious position. Being mounted flat on the back of the sign, two thirds of the way down, even the slightest breeze from the east (emphasis mine) would cause any falling rain to hit the front of the sign itself, rather than enter the RainSensor. Moreover, the metal framework itself-the reason I had stopped to take a photograph in the first place-formed two effective "shelves" that ended right above the RainSensor, so that even the slightest breeze from the south (emphasis mine) would also cause the falling rain to be blocked before it could enter the RainSensor." (Pg. 226)

"Why put a RainSensor in a location that would prevent it measuring rainfall?" (Pg. 226)

"Why choose such a silly location for a RainSensor? (Pg. 226)

The above discussion comes from someone who hasn't investigated north Texas weather and is unacquainted with the area's weather patterns. Weather systems in this part of Texas move predominately from the north or northwest through Colorado and Oklahoma to the southeast. Based upon this normal weather pattern, the rain sensor mentioned is actually located in the ideal place on a large rectangular object such as this sign.

"As noted, none of this ran through my mind that Wednesday afternoon in Dallas. We thought it was something to do with the Weather Bureau, not realizing that such sensors were often also used for irrigation systems." (Pg. 226)

The use of the word "often" in the above quote is misleading. It implies the sensors are utilized for more than one purpose In fact, they are used only for irrigation systems. My research, during which I reviewed the manufacturer’s notes, shows the sole intent of the apparatus is to prevent irrigation systems from starting after certain levels of rainfall have been reached.

Rain sensors are fabricated by several companies including Hunter Industries, Nelson Turf Products, Rain Bird, and Toro. The sensors used in Dealey Plaza are manufactured by R & D Engineering, Inc. of Manasquan, NJ. Their product is identified as The Wireless RainSensor™. The installation and use manual, which can be obtained as an eight page Adobe Acrobat file from their web site, has some important considerations:

There are two components – (1) a transmitter and (2) a receiver and "The receiver SHOULD be mounted indoors or in a protective enclosure."

"The RainSensor can be adjusted to detect rainfall quantities of ⅛", ¼", ½", ¾", or 1"."

The receiver "should be mounted [to] receive unobstructed rainfall but high enough to avoid being hit by the sprinkler system."

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More quotes from Dr. Costella:

"OK, tell me why you need two RainSensors in Dealey Plaza?" (Pg.227)

"Regardless of their ostensible purpose, it was clear that there was absolutely no sense at all in having two such sensors only fifteen yards apart." (Pg. 228)

Dr. Costella has no understanding of irrigation strategy so I will answer both questions for him. Irrigation systems are laid out in zones. The zones are dependent upon such things as size of the lot, shape of the landscape, type of plantings, amount of watering required, and the sub-surface features under which the irrigation pipe is laid.

Installers often use paper grids to map the layout and a machine known as a trencher to cut a narrow path through the earth. While trenching, they may be forced to move the irrigation pipes over the grid. For example, when they were installing such a system in my front yard they ran into a large rock beneath the surface. If they removed the rock they would tear up a large portion of the lawn. Instead of extracting the rock, they moved the irrigation pipe around it. The installation crew then used varying types of pop-up sprinklers to completely cover the zones they established.

The Wireless Rainsensor™
One Type of Trencher
Wireless Rain Gauge

Discussions with officials at Dallas Parks and Recreation (The department responsible for Dealey Plaza.) and a quick survey shows the plaza contains not two, as Dr. Costella queries, but four zones. For reference purposes I describe them as the North Pergola or "Grassy Knoll" zone, the North Infield zone (North of Main Street), the South Infield zone (South of Main Street), and the South Pergola zone.

Since there are four zones you need one rain sensor for each. Contrary to Dr. Costella’s claim, placement within the Plaza is irrelevant, as one sensor will control the irrigation system for each zone. The only criteria as stated in the manual is the receiver should be mounted as closely as possible to the transmitter.

". . . and he (Jack White) commented at the time that he had never noticed any sprinkler system running in any of his visits to Dealey Plaza." (Pg. 226)

The explanation as to why Jack White hasn’t seen sprinklers in operation is quite simple. Below you will find the City of Dallas mandatory watering guidelines. Please pay particular attention to items number 1 and 4.

1. Summer Watering Hours

From June 1 to Sept. 30, watering lawns or landscapes with an irrigation system or sprinkler is prohibited between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Watering with a hand-held hose or a soaker hose is permitted at any time.

2. Watch Where and When You Water

Don’t allow your sprinkler system to water driveways, sidewalks and streets. And do not water or irrigate lawns or landscapes during any form or precipitation. (Emphasis mine)

3. Sprinkler System Maintenance

Broken, missing or misdirected sprinkler heads and leaky sprinkler systems must be repaired before use.

4. Sprinkler System Rain Sensors and Freeze Sensors

These low-cost devices are now required on all irrigation systems installed on or after January 1, 2002. Systems installed before that date have until January 1, 2005 to add them.

5. Fines for Violations

Violations of the outdoor watering guidelines can now result in fines of $250 to $2,000 per incident.

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Because of the clay soils found in north central Texas, the best time to water is in the early morning just before sunrise. If you water just after dark the water sits on the soil and the soil may become waterlogged. If you water just before sunrise it permits most of the water to enter the soil while allowing the excess water to evaporate.

It is clear that the City of Dallas has a watering policy. So do other cities and towns within Dallas County and its’ neighbor to the west - Tarrant County. Both counties have watering policies because of the severe drought conditions. Water levels are currently at least 6 inches below the norm. As one can see the drought is so extreme that the City of Dallas can fine water policy abusers $250 to $2,000 per violation.

What is perplexing is that Jack White should know about this. He owns a home within the city limits of Fort Worth. Fort Worth is located in Tarrant County. I can’t believe he is unaware of the situation. Water restrictions and drought conditions are discussed at least weekly on the local TV stations.

The principal claim made by Dr. Costella is that the rain sensors are listening devices. He observes:

"The presence of this fourth device (rain sensor) answered many questions I had. Firstly, it completed the almost precisely symmetrical layout (emphasis mine) that I had known would be most efficient at eliminating background noise." (Pg. 230)

Almost immediately he adjusts this notion and indicates the rain sensors are listening devices because they have "a lack of symmetry."

"Remarkably that seemed to be exactly what we had found: two devices placed symmetrically, on either side of Main Street. However, the third device, down on the back of the Airports sign, seemed to be the "odd man out". Together with the first two, it would provide a much more substantial cover of those parts of the Plaza where researchers tend to congregate, being very much closer to the Zapruder pedestal, and particularly the picket fence. But its location still created an asymmetry, which would reduce somewhat the efficacy of any noise-reduction algorithm." (Pg. 230)

"Noise-reduction algorithm"? This is really just nonsense advanced by someone lacking knowledge of irrigation systems and in particular irrigation zones. He uses disputable "facts" to reach the unproven conclusion that the rain sensors are listening devices. He then tries to create a model for the layout that contemplates noise cancellation. When seeking to prove symmetry the location of the fourth sensor is crucial, but when lack of symmetry is required it disappears. Then, in a final effort to move to the asymmetrical, the third sensor becomes "the odd man out."

Dr. Costella’s rain sensor theory is shot full of flaws in reasoning and logic. I see others in this book. Most, if not all, depend upon the reader being unable to think critically.

Facts are nothing more than realities. You need to watch out for someone who reaches a conclusion without knowing or looking for the facts. Many people become so entrenched in their belief in an idea that they twist reality by creating false or non-facts. Then, the non-facts are used to support their conclusion.

In order to disguise the flaws in the theory created by incomplete investigation and/or reasoning:

  1. They substitute speculation and suspicion for facts.
  2. They attempt to prove they have superior intellect and/or credentials.
  3. They want you to believe their superior intellect and/or credentials allowed them to discover something important. Something nobody else had the ability to do.
  4. They often claim their discovery is of such magnitude that they are in danger. This danger is usually ascribed to unnamed or unknown dark forces.
  5. When their claims are challenged they often become derisive alleging their adversaries are in league with these unnamed or unknown dark forces in some cases the government.

Let's use some logic and quotations from The Great Zapruder Film Hoax to illustrate the above 5 points.

1. They substitute speculation and suspicion for facts:

    Jack White and John Costella speculate there is a sinister use for at least one of the Dealey Plaza rain sensors. They have a suspicion the devices are microphones used by the government to eavesdrop on people visiting the "Grassy Knoll."

    During their research they never tried to determine exactly what rain sensors do. They never checked with the City of Dallas Water District, the Dallas Parks and Recreation Department, irrigation system installers, or weather forecasting services. Do you think it might have been advantageous for these "researchers", one with a Ph.D. in theoretical physics, to have at least telephoned one or two of the over thirty-five irrigation system installers or one of the two weather forecasting services shown in Dallas area phone books?

2. They attempt to prove they have superior intellect or credentials:

    John Costella:

    "After graduating at the top of his class with honors degrees in both electrical engineering and the sciences from the University of Melbourne, he completed a Ph.D. in theoretical physics, specializing in high energy physics, Einstein's theory of relativity, and classical electrodynamics, which is the mathematical analysis of the physics of moving objects and the light they emit. After three years of postdoctoral research and lecturing at the University, he took a position as a teacher of Mathematics, Physics, and Information Technology at Mentone Grammar, a leading private boys' high school in suburban bayside Melbourne. He has undertaken the most sophisticated analyses of the Zapruder film in the history of the study of the assassination, where he is making extremely important scientific discoveries." (Pg. 494)

In the advertising business terms, such as "most sophisticated" and "extremely important" are known as puffery.... that is, exaggeration for promotional purposes. Dr. Costella is a high school math teacher in Australia with a Ph.D. degree in physics from the University of Melbourne. Additionally, it would seem he has a history of rushing to judgement. He admits that his flawed study, research, and commentary concerning the Moorman photograph led to a "monumental blunder" on his part. (Pg. 151)

    Jack White:

    "A leading expert on photographic aspects of the assassination of JFK, he produced The Continuing Inquiry for the celebrated investigator, Penn Jones, with whom he worked for three years. He served as an advisor on photographic evidence for the House Select Committee on Assassinations during its reinvestigation of 1977-78 and for Oliver Stone in producing his motion picture, "JFK". He has produced many documentaries on the assassination, including his own video, "The Great Zapruder Film Hoax", which includes an interview of William Reymond by Jim Marrs in which Reymond describes another-more complete-film that he has seen. His research on the photographic record appears in Assassination Science (1998) and in Murder in Dealey Plaza (2000)." (Pg. 494)

    Did Mr. White serve "as an advisor on photographic evidence for the House Select Committee on Assassinations"? Not really. He appeared as a private citizen and gave his opinion as to what he considered were discrepancies with respect to some of the photographic evidence. At the end of his testimony before the HSCA, White said: "Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to present this as a private citizen who has no budget to work with. I am just an ordinary person who has observed a lot of things and I am really here to present questions rather than answers." (Emphasis mine)

(HSCA II. p. 345)

    Did Mr. White serve "as an advisor on photographic evidence... for Oliver Stone in producing his motion picture, JFK"? Not really. An alphabetical list of technical advisors for the film can be found on page 590 of JFK – The Documented Screen Play. Mr. White’s name is not listed among them.



3. They want you to believe their superior intellect and/or credentials allowed them to discover something important. Something nobody else had the ability to do:

    ". . . and he (Jack White) commented at the time that he had never noticed any sprinkler system running in any of his visits to Dealey Plaza." (Pg. 226)

    "After my extensive tour of the Sixth Floor Museum (where I learned how to edit and selectively display the film and photographic evidence in order to make the Warren Commission’s version of events sound vaguely plausible)" (Pg. 227)

    "It was patently obvious that the devices were not RainSensors – or more to the point, they may well be genuine RainSensors, but being employed for other purposes." (Pg. 228)

4. They often claim their discovery is of such magnitude that they are in danger. This danger is usually ascribed to unnamed or unknown dark forces.

"Having determined, to my satisfaction, the reason for the existence of the devices, I gave them no more thought during my visit to Dallas. Even before the incident with the two "suits", I had expected to be under surveillance; and, although the RainSensors added a new twist for American citizens visiting Dealey Plaza (photographs taken by Jack White demonstrate that the devices have been there for at least a year, perhaps far longer), as a foreign national I didn't have any reason or inclination to complain about rights that I most likely didn’t have in the first place." (Pg. 231) (Emphasis mine)

There is more. Dr. Costella believes that while he and Jack White were visiting Dealey Plaza, they were placed under surveillance by two members of "U.S. intelligence." (Pp. 226-227)

Later, while traveling to a symposium in Minnesota, they concluded they were shadowed by a "gentleman in a suit" during the flight and while waiting for their connection in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport terminal. He is convinced, that while on this same trip, suspicious individuals placed "small puncture holes near the left under-arm of each (of his) shirt(s)." (Pp. 234-235)

Furthermore luggage inspectors discharged the battery in his electric razor and damaged the Mentone Grammar School's digital camera docking station and memory card. (Pp. 235-236)

Upon his return to Australia we discover his replacement teacher, who he describes as an American "ultra-right-wing" propagandist coincidentally from Minnesota, lasted only one day spending "almost the entire time searching my (desk) drawers, rather than teaching or assisting students." (Pg. 236)

"Nine years ago this month an unsuccessful assassination attempt was made on me, putting me in the hospital for 22 days. There is no proof that it was connected to the JFK case, but it was very suspicious. It could be interpreted that an attempt was made to "set up" another JFK researcher as a patsy; the would-be killer stole my car and abandoned it about 100 yards from the workplace of another researcher. I find that too odd to be coincidence, in a city as big as Fort Worth. Some of these stalkers may do it just for "fun". They probably also paint graffiti in public places. They may not be paid by the CIA, but their activities put them in the cover-up camp."

Jack White - Internet posting July 4, 2000

Mr. White leaves out significant points that might allow the reader to reach a different conclusion with respect to this episode. The details are found in the July 15, 1991 Fort Worth Star Telegram article by Bill Teeter:

  1. The attacker was completely nude.
  2. The assault occurred around 5:30 AM
  3. The intruder demanded money and the keys to the car parked in the driveway.
  4. The man took the car and hit a retaining wall during his escape.

I find White’s claim that the attack "was very suspicious. It could be interpreted that an attempt was made to ‘set up’ another JFK researcher as a patsy" is just ludicrous. It should be noted that the researcher potentially being "set up" is Gary Mack who, at the time, worked at television station KXAS. To put the "set up" in perspective, it was the television station NOT Gary Mack's house that was located in the vicinity of Jack White's home. I doubt KXAS security would allow the naked criminal, who was the subject of a widespread police manhunt, into parking lot let alone the station. Jack White has never explained his theory as to how this obviously disturbed individual was to achieve the "set up" or exactly what the "set up" was.

5. When their claims are challenged they often become derisive alleging their adversaries are in league with these unnamed or unknown dark forces in some cases the government:

"During the past twenty years I (and possibly other researchers) have experienced a series of ‘stalkers’ whose sole activity seems to be to PURSUE ME PERSONALLY and CHALLENGE ME on ANYTHING I SAY. I can name about 20 of these peculiar people. I do not (in most cases) claim that these are paid disimformation agents."

Jack White - Internet posting July 4, 2000

"Most of the time, something doesn’t tie down tightly enough – there is enough uncertainty that a devil’s advocate (or more to the point, a disinformation agent could "weasel out" of an airtight conclusion, based on a scientific possibility (even if it’s not at all a likely probability). But once in a while all of the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle slide together without even a molecule of weasel room, and then I bring the jaws of the bear trap together and that’s it – hasta la vista, Baby – you’re out and that’s the end of the game, my friend, the end of the lie. It happens as quickly as that." (emphasis in original)

"Most of the pieces of evidence can’t be picked out and held up as irrefutable individually; indeed, refuting them, individually, out of context, away from the corpus, is what the disinformation agents spend most of their energies on."

(Pg. 156)

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I believe my research shows that Dr. Costella’s claim that Dealey Plaza rain sensors are listening devices is just another piece of paranoid conjecture. Actually, the twisted logic adopted by Dr. Costella can be used to "out" individuals like Dr. Costella and Jack White as "disinformation agents" in the blink of an eye. Why?

Think for a moment.

One could argue that this type of person who claims they are the subject of continued governmental surveillance and are the ongoing victims of disinformation agents might in actuality be a disinformation agent working to sabotage the assassination research of others. What better way to hinder real investigations into John F. Kennedy’s assassination than to get self-professed "highly respected researchers" to constantly present preposterous and eccentric theories?

Dave Perry

November 12, 2003

Copyright © 2003 by David B. Perry All rights reserved

Wireless RainSensor™ Photos
The "Grassy Knoll" RainSensor
Irrigation Control Box
The North Infield RainSensor