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The True Story Of The 'Umbrella Man' From The Umbrella Academy

Contains spoilers for The Umbrella Academy season 2

Netflix's time-hopping tale about a maladjusted family of dysfunctional super-siblings born on the same day to mothers who were never pregnant has always had a complicated relationship with the past. Along with Five's (Aidan Gallagher) career as a literal fixer out of time, we've had a few hints along the way that Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) and his Academy may have been implicated in some of history's most notorious events.

The most obvious example of this intersection between fantasy and history is the Dallas assassination of President John F. Kennedy — an event that has been so mythologized in popular culture as to make it rife for fictional treatment. The Umbrella Academy isn't the first literary-turned-cinematic work to make hay of this American tragedy, but it's certainly one of the most interesting.

As it turns out, the JFK plot line from The Umbrella Academy season 2 is actually grounded in a real-world conspiracy that may have even been the inspiration for the series' ongoing visual motif of the black umbrella. The "Umbrella Man" conspiracy is one of the more esoteric pieces of Kennedy-assassination fan fiction that has wormed its way into our collective consciousness. Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá no doubt intended their story to resonate with this conspiracy, though they couldn't have possibly imagined the unlikely TV adaptation of their work would arrive at a time when the Umbrella Man had reemerged with new relevance.

Here's the true story of the Umbrella Man, the Kennedy assassination, and the connection to a new protest movement in 2020.

The Umbrella Man was present at the Kennedy assassination

Per the short documentary above, produced in 2011 by The New York Times' Errol Morris, generations of conspiracy theorists have obsessed over a mysterious figure pictured at that fateful Kennedy motorcade in Dallas — the one standing there beneath the ominous black umbrella. As the conspiracy theory goes, the Umbrella Man's presence on that sunny day in Dallas stood out both because he could not be identified and because he had no observable reason for hiding beneath the opaque umbrella. Obviously, these unexplained mysteries provide enough evidence for some to go so far as to implicate the Umbrella Man in Kennedy's assassination. In some versions of the theory, the umbrella was used to signal a shooter on the famous grassy knoll. In others, it concealed an actual gun.

Per heavy., The Boston Globe published the alleged identity of this Umbrella Man 15 years after the event — after the man came forward and volunteered himself. Louie Steven Witt told the Globe that he was, in fact, the Umbrella Man, and that he had brought the unnecessary accessory with him to heckle Kennedy. Apparently, Witt was still worked up over Joe Kennedy's policy of appeasement toward Hitler in the run-up to World War II, a policy that ultimately cost the Kennedy patriarch any chance he might have had of serving as president himself. Witt brought the black umbrella because it was a signature accessory of the former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain — another notorious appeaser. Presumably, he thought JFK would catch a glimpse of the umbrella and immediately make the connection between his dad's worst political mistake and Neville Chamberlain's wardrobe? 1960s heckling was super high concept.

Needless to say, some people still don't buy Witt's story, even though the man ultimately testified under oath at a congressional committee hearing. Of the conspiracy he allegedly inspired, Witt said, "If the 'Guinness Book of World Records' had a category for people doing the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong place, I would be No. 1 in that position, with not even a close runner-up."

The Umbrella Man returned to escalate the Minneapolis uprisings

Because life is full of synchronicities, the Umbrella Man conspiracy broke back through into pop culture in 2020 during the Minneapolis uprisings that were largely a response to the police killing of George Floyd. This was just a few months before The Umbrella Academy season 2 landed on Netflix.

As some of the protests over police brutality turned violent, a mysterious White man holding a black umbrella was seen dispassionately shattering windows at a Minneapolis AutoZone. Some reports suggest that this man was the first to damage any property during the otherwise peaceful protests. As with the original Umbrella Man, people wondered why this enigmatic figure elected to carry a black umbrella on a bright, sunny day.

According to The Minneapolis Star Tribune, police have identified the new Umbrella Man thanks to an online tip, though the paper admits it could not verify the police account and elected not to name the person of interest in the investigation. So far, the department has issued a search warrant for an individual with a substantial past criminal history that includes domestic violence and assault. He also has known ties to White supremacist organizations, which squares with reports that far right groups were attempting to co-opt the Minneapolis uprisings to sow discord.

So the new Umbrella Man conspiracy seems as likely to have a mundane ending as the first, though we're sure that won't stop conspiracy theorists from theorizing — nor will it stop the Hargreeves from attempting to meddle with time.