Author George S. Bryan explores this question in the book The Great American Myth. Apparently, it depends on who is asked. Estimates of the distance range from seven to fourteen feet. Bryan notes that Laughlin gives fourteen feet. An eyewitness named Miss Chapman says “some ten feet.” Dr. Taft, another eyewitness, concludes that it was twelve feet. D.H. Bates reports it at “about seven.” A man very familiar with Ford’s Theater named W.J. Ferguson, settles on twelve feet-as Dr. Taft submits. Major Rathbone, in his affidavit, states “about ten or twelve feet.”
So what is the best answer in all this? It would have to be that the range was from nine to twelve feet! Did no one think to actually measure the distance after the murder? Are there no blueprints of the theater recorded somewhere to detail what the distance was? A few years after the assassiantion the interior of the theater was ruined in a fire. Yet, the current theater is supposed to be exactly the same in specifications as the one in Lincoln’s day.
On a personal note: As a kid living and growing up in Detroit, it was not uncommon to jump off the roof of the garage (in play) in the backyard onto the lawn -which was about ten feet. That was a pretty good distance, as I remember. I can only imagine that it was also a good distance for Booth, as well-and he was not landing on soft turf. Even though he had made similar jumps before in his theatrical performances-this one was under very stressful circumstances. I don’t think it unusual that he lost his balance.
How far was the leap? Who knows! Its another one of those Lincoln assassination story mysteries, I guess.Mail this post