Crossing Your Heart on Oak Island

 DATELINE:  Medieval Cross Amazes Hunters

lagina's cross

Rick Lagina crosses our hearts.

 

You may be surprised that we are up to Episode 10 of the fifth season on Oak Island. They have hit a plateau with the boring stuff.

Yes, their 50” drill, supposedly to be used with great care, has fallen through some vault and down 10 feet without meeting any resistance. So much for smashed objects.

There really is no where to go but down.

While waiting for more water (they are out of water on an island?) that is used to sift through the debris located at 150 feet to locate more bones, pottery, or whatever else is down there, Rick Lagina and Gary Drayton, the Australian metal detector guy, went to a rocky beach area at low tide.

With the expensive metal detector, Drayton made one of the more intriguing discoveries of a season of odd items. He located a rough-hewn cross made of lead.

Rick Lagina immediately recognized it as resembling the crosses he had seen from Knights Templars—and Drayton was convinced, without any other confirmation, that the style of the cross meant it could be from as early as 1200.

The Templars were wiped out as heretics in the early 1300s.

There is no way to know if the cross came to Oak Island, improbably, years after it was made, lost off a ship, brought by waves to its present location. No, we suspect it was dropped there by a visitor. But, jumping the gun becomes the norm when your patience is at a nadir. We want some official inspection by experts.

We feel the long wait may be about to pay off on Oak Island.

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Lagina Brother Will Always Have Paris

DATELINE:  Oak Island S5 Provides Rest Area

 Paris Sites?

If you are a big fan of the Curse of Oak Island, you probably love the idea of the past few weeks that it’s gone 75 minutes for each episode. They’ve done this by having extended previews after the “initial episode”.

You might even say finally there is too much of a good thing. The two longest episodes of the season so far have been the dullest. They have struggled for any newsworthy item.

Gone are the days in which brother Marty complained about the expense of conducting the treasure hunt and saying there was only so much money they had to allocate.

Now they have money to burn. That’s what big TV ratings do for your bank account.

It also allows you the luxury of having what in politics we call a “junket.”  That’s an all-expenses paid trip to some exotic location on somebody else’s nickel. On Season 5 Rick Lagina took his two nephews Alex and Peter to Paris, looking for clues about Knights Templar and the French nobility. We did not see them take in the Folies-Bergère.

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Now there were two problems with this luxury trip to Paris. First, nobody in his right mind wants to go to Paris with Rick Lagina. And two, the results of the research trip could’ve been accomplished by WiFi. They learned one word on a map had been mistranslated, and they found graffiti on the wall that could’ve been photographed and sent to them in a text message.

A nickel well spent? Hardly. Maybe History Channel can get its money back.

We are happy the Lagina nephews got to go to Paris. As for the rest of us, we must wait while the equipment bores down 150 feet, which probably will take another week. The boring part is taking its toll on the audience.

Season 3 Episode 1 Looking in All the Wrong Places

DATELINE:  Reich or Wrong?

baer & kennedy Looking Askance

If you learned anything from the first episode of the new series, Hunting Hitler: The Final Evidence, it’s that the search from the first two seasons was off-base and out-of-country.

Yep, instead of South America, Bob Baer and his crackerjack team start looking back at the old Fuhrerbunker to see if they missed something.

Sure enough, they did.

It now appears that Hitler left his Berlin hole in the wall two weeks before the purported suicide—and Einsenhower even had such reports secretly delivered.

Baer is now wearing glasses (not sure if it’s attitude or real glass), all the better to find clues on his big computer screen. And, he ditched UN Researcher John Cincech, who is now demoted to the Tracking Oswald show. So, the ‘yes, man’ is now replaced with a ‘yes, woman.’

Her name is nothing that matters:  Nada Bakos, some kind of CIA profiler who tells Bob he is right every time.

The team now figures Hitler went south with the snowbirds and discover he had a 3-mile island of tunnels under his hometown hideaway. Leave it to Tim Kennedy to go through mucky holes and dive into heavy water U-boats.

And Gerrard Williams challenges the fashion police by continuing to wear an untied ascot.

Baer is using the same supercomputer that helped his track down Oswald’s movements, and they do have some quite intriguing discoveries along the way. The result appears to be the same: Hitler escaped and gave the world the air.

We love this stuff, but continue to be a bit uneasy that the Fourth Reich was, and is, still out there.

Hunting Hitler: Season Three Preview

DATELINE: Historical Adventures Continue

 hitler logo

Back again, Bob Baer starts off his final, third season of the true fate of Adolph Hitler with a special episode. Hunting Hitler is another jewel in the crown of detective mystery reality shows.

History Channel apparently cannot get enough of Baer. So, he has re-assembled his team of Tim Kennedy, Gerrard Williams, Mike Simpson, and John Cencich, many of whom have been trying to find Lee Harvey Oswald over the past few weeks on another series.

This time Baer is presenting an anatomy of a manhunt. In other words, he is providing an opportunity to catch up, or recall, what happened over the past two seasons. If you are new to the chase, it is a quick overview of the successes of the series. This time he allows his team to have some of the limelight.

Baer calls his technique ‘asset mapping’ and once again tells us that his CIA background will make him more successful as a privateer than a half-dozen government agencies that have failed to deliver the goods.

The methods of the series are pure detective 101, but give us proven results. The team has found how Hitler fled the bunker before the Russians arrived—and perhaps faked Hitler’s death, or perhaps a few others too.

With help from Franco of Spain and Peron of Argentina, Nazis were able to re-create their homeland with impunity.

We presume the trail is not cold yet after 70 years—as aging children of witnesses give testimony to their parents’ dubious behaviors.

All this is fascinating, and even if it is bunk from the bunker; it is mind-boggling history revised. The series begins in earnest next week, and we’ll be there. It’s right after we deal with pirates on Oak Island.

Baer Finds His Goldlocks in Oswald

DATELINE:  Tracking Oswald

oswald Can there be more to him?

Former CIA investigator Bob Baer was back on History Channel with updates on his Kennedy Assassination theories. Updating his shows, Baer offers us JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald.

Last year History Channel unceremoniously dumped the series after two episodes and never offered a word of explanation. Now, with the release of the remainder of the secret files on the Kennedy Assassination, History has decided to update and re-release Baer’s now-affirmed mini-series in six episodes.

Baer prefers a cold case that is not too hot and not too cold, but somewhere in between. His Goldilocks is Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who slept in every political bed.

With the recent release of documents under seal for 50 years, Baer called in his anonymous and unseen friends who were former CIA and FBI agents to annotate the discrete files that seem unrelated with new evidence. They find more treasure than you might dig up at Oak Island.

He neatly tied together that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. Of course, the bottom line is that Oswald remains the prime suspect, now hints coming forth that he was trained in Louisiana in improved shooting techniques by his friends from Cuba.

Baer suggests that rogue elements of the CIA may have used pro-communists to advance their anti-communist agenda. Oswald neatly fits into both camps as some kind of bizarre double agent, or double patsy.

Though Baer comes across as a CIA apologist on the order of Gerald Posner, he has been lumping the agency into the mix of rogue enablers. His complete assessment is welcome, for that reason alone. The miniseries is worth more than a cursory reconsideration.

Oak Island Confounds and Taunts Its Treasure Hunters

DATELINE:  Season 5 Puzzles

affluenza sufferer  Move over, Greed

History buffs had a night to confound and impress with the latest fifth season episodes of The Curse of Oak Island.

Every wild theory found more evidence for its support and together all the most shocking hints combined to create a true treasure trove.

Oh, there were the usual dead ends:  finding a large square of earth that hinted at a treasure chest was immediately set upon by the hunters—only to reveal a big hole with nothing in it. The conclusion of the treasure seekers was that something was there once, but had been dug up and removed back in the distant past. They suggest it was black American expatriate Sam Ball who died in 1846 after becoming wealthy.

Adding to the general weirdness was another historian who revealed that Sir Francis Drake might be buried on Oak Island in a metal coffin filled with preservative mercury. The remains of the privateer of the first Queen Elizabeth has never been found. Might the metal pieces discovered belong to his casket?

On top of that, so to speak, is the shoe leather, later revealed through microscopic examination to be bookbinding. Did Drake’s close associate, Francis Bacon, bury secret and unknown Shakespearean manuscripts on Oak Island? That too is now in play.

Two distinct and separate human bones discovered at 160 feet below the ground in the same place were from two different men: one European—and one from the Middle East, according to DNA.  Middle Eastern body parts suggest Knights Templar and the long lost Ark of the Covenant—and perhaps other relics of the New Testament, which would alter history.

All these weird details hint at a treasure trove of unmitigated mystery coming closer to solution and discovery.

This leaves greedy sorts who want only gold of the Aztecs on the periphery of the treasure hunt.

Of course, everything is in shards and tatters, perhaps destroyed by hunting techniques that have left them unprotected two hundred feet below the surface.

We shall see if history is about to be upended.

1974’s Murder on the Orient Express

 DATELINE:  Another Christie Version

1974 all-star murder

Before we tackle the newest Orient Express by Branagh, let’s look at the oldest version.

The star-studded Sidney Lumet version took Agatha Christie out of the hands of  1960s-style Margaret Rutherford and Miss Marple.  Murder on the Orient Express is bumpy in the night.

Indeed, the cast is spectacular, one of the last gasps of Old Hollywood gone mad. The suspects are so rococo and bizarre that they make Albert Finney’s weird Poirot look positively like Sam Spade crossed with Richard III.

As the names of stars pass in the opening credits, your jaw may drop. Bacall, Bergman (Bogart’s leading ladies), Perkins, Connery, Gielgud, Redgrave (later to play Christie herself), Widmark, and stellar second bananas too, like Balsam, Bisset, and let’s catch our breaths! Wow.

Lumet is not so much interested in atmosphere as glamour.

If Margaret Rutherford had not died the year before the film, she likely would have been cast in it too. Christie never liked the idea of Miss Marple joining forces with Hercule—but in this sort of movie, you almost expect it.

The new auteur Kenneth Branagh version cannot touch the sheer aristocracy of actors in this film. You have to savor each little gem from Lumet’s cast, as these great stars finally can play it to the hilt one last time and first time as an ensemble.

Agatha Christie was the Shakespeare of crime plots—and so we will have more remakes. After all, we have seen about seven great Hamlet movies. Christie cannot be far behind.

We do condemn the music score that lightly sounds over the credits at the end—which is completely wrong for the mood of the film.

Fincher’s Movie Zodiac in Contrast to History TV

DATELINE:  Docudrama Versus Reality TV

 Fincher style Gyllenhaal & Downey Play Detectives

The new series on History inspired us to go back to 2007 and see what David Fincher did in his big budget, all-star movie called Zodiac.

Suffice it to say, there is some overlap: and the series claims to have discovered an earlier killing by Zodiac at UCLA that was shown ten years earlier in the Fincher film version.

Of course, Fincher uses poetic license to personalize victims and their final conversations; we have no idea what was really said, but his version is fairly likely.

The movie uses big stars in rotating coverage: the newspaper cynical reporter is Robert Downey, Jr., who calls Zodiac a latent homosexual—and then fears for his life that he will be a target.

Mark Ruffalo is the San Francisco detective in full 1960s fashion mode, and quite amusing. Brian Cox steals every scene playing flamboyant attorney Melvin Belli.

The most important character is Jake Gyllenhaal’s Chronicle cartoonist who is an amateur sleuth and is equal to the trivia that Zodiac was fond of using. He notes that Richard Connell story, “Most Dangerous Game” that Zodiac admires—but the movie never did its homework. The story was a short story, not a book.

You may well wonder at the enormous stupidity of everyone at the newspaper, passing around evidence and ruining fingerprints, etc., with nary a thought. And you may wonder why a cartoonist is at the high-level meetings. Described as a “retard” and “Boy Scout,” throughout the film, Gyllenhaal looks like he is auditioning for his next role as a gay cowboy.

If you haven’t had your fill of demented serial killers (called mass murderer in the movie), then you might want to annotate the TV series with a first-rate movie.

Hunting for Zodiac Killer: History (s1) for Openers

DATELINE: Armchair Detectives

 zodiac killer Purported Zodiac Killer

Whether you’re hunting for Hitler or cursing Oak Island, you know you must have clicked onto the streaming History channel.

Their first season of Hunt for the Zodiac Killer delivers exactly what you come to expect from the cable TV’s pop history purveyors. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you like your reality stars always self-congratulating each other for their brilliant detective skills.

If The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer sounds like one of those fake news documentaries, you probably would be right. Yet, it is a cold case and being insoluable should not mean it is not ripe for re-examination.

Fifty years after the legendary1960s serial murderer unofficially killed 37 innocent people and left a calling card of cryptological taunts with a unbreakable code, the network has assembled a reality show with a formula that can’t miss entertaining fans of psycho monsters running amok.

These researchers give Zodiac his due—and find even more victims to offer History Channel and history buffs.

When you put two retired homicide detectives in the field doing legwork like Sam spade and Philip Marlowe, then match them with a couple of cryptographical scientists and nerds with computers, you stir deliberately.

You have suddenly a fascinating show.

The gum shoes and the nerds play ping-pong with the clues. We keep telling ourselves that a supercomputer that has been programmed to think and act like a serial killer is not a good idea.

We keep wondering when the computer will turn into the Forbin Project supercomputer  or HAL from 2001. Then again, the Zodiac maniac seems even brighter than Carmel, the computerized serial killer finder.

Before you know it, you may be hooked on the revelations. Several police departments refused to cooperate, at their own peril. They look like impediments to the crime solving.

By turning the zodiac killer into a mad genius, the show has a winning formula – and a frightening one.

 

Among the Missing on Oak Island

 DATELINE:  Treasure Near?

Oak Island treasure?

 

If anyone is missing around Episode 6 during this new season of Curse of Oak Island, we would become alarmed. You might not see your “favorite” treasure hunters. This week we looked in vain for Dan Blankenship, Alex Lagina, and even Gary Drayton, our Australian metal detective. They are not present.

We did not expect to find the leader of the show, Rick Lagina, calling in sick. Described as a man who had not visited a doctor in 50 years, he came down with some mysterious illness. Heaven forefend that it reminded us of the Curse of King Tut taking down Lord Carnarvon.

Marty Lagina was suitably distraught that his brother did not show up at the dig site for an important event. It appeared he was suffering egregiously from headache and a variety of issues, related to a bull’s eye rash on his back.

You guessed it: the outdoorsman who spends most of his time traipsing through the Nova Scotian woods on Oak Island seemed to be bitten by a lyme disease tick.

Under medication and forbidden to expose himself to sunlight, he was notably absent. However, he returned under medication to reveal the first step of testing to odd objects located at 165 feet into the latest dig spot:  they have found human bone that belonged to two, count’em, two different people.

As one bone still had skin and hair attached, it is hoped that DNA will reveal a great deal about who and when.

Additional instruments from another scientist indicated that they were near some strange place where book parchment, yes, old leather, like on a Shakespearean manuscript has been located.

 

 

 

 

Hardy Boys 2: Ghost Farm Mystery, 1957

DATELINE:  Disney Fails Second Time Around

still wonderful

Tim Considine & Tommy Kirk epitomize sibling rivalry.

In 1957 Disney decided to do a second series of Hardy Boys episodes. With two extremely popular young stars lighting up the big screen (Tommy Kirk and Tim Considine would be in the Absent-Minded Professor, The Shaggy Dog, Old Yeller, Swiss Family Robinson, etc.), the two young stars signed on for another mystery.

They were growing more adolescent (and admitted it in a prologue that was a long preview of the upcoming shows), but that only made them more appealing to young fans. The second series would be called The Mystery of Ghost Farm.  Don’t look for it among the 60 or so stories of the canon of Hardy Boys books because it isn’t there.

Disney was growing as much as its stars—and now they found their own formula for stories was better controlled by something original. As a consequence, the second series borders on the overly cute use of standard Disney tricks (like irksome farm animals) and a completely non-scary ghost.

The boys were catnip to young girls—and Considine was allowed to be the Romeo (even accused of being as much by Kirk as his younger, jealous brother). They even wrestle on the ground after Frank calls Joe “stupid,” once too often.

Disney also brought back a couple of actors from the first year. Florenz Ames, aka crazy old Applegate, returned for a small part as an advisor to the young detectives. They also brought in Andy Clyde as another crazy old man. Sarah Shelby as Auntie Gertrude had a larger role this time around, as did Carol Ann Campbell as Iola, Joe Hardy’s female nemesis (never girlfriend), much to Joe Hardy’s dismay. Russ Conway as the boys’ father found his role much diminished.

The second show had to be the last because the stars were moving on to the bigger careers. Tommy Kirk was especially going big, whereas Considine was settling into a steady hit TV show (My Three Sons and later wound up being slapped silly by George C. Scott in Patton).

The series also went short and cheap on episodes, down to 13, as if the boys had only limited time to film the new season with so many projects beckoning them elsewhere. The writing is slipshod and the mystery is moribund, as if this production couldn’t be done fast enough.

Yet, we are lucky to have them again as perfectly matched brothers, no matter that the story and mystery are less compelling the second time around.

Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover

DATELINE: 1977 A-I Grand Production

 

Broderick Crawford Crawford as Hoover

If Director Hoover were still running the FBI, you know the shenanigans at the White House and during the Trump campaign would be dead in their tracks.

The Private Files of J.Edgar Hoover, 1977’s film by Larry Cohen is still surprisingly relevant today: from Hoover’s dealings with immigrants, terrorists, and campaign laundering of money. You might be amused to hear that Hoover was on the side of right, according to this marvelous little film. In many ways it is more amusing than Eastwood’s version.

Young Hoover is played by James Wainwright—and his best friend is his mother, actress June Havoc in a cameo. The best of the stunning cast includes Jose Ferrer as a dubious underling to Hoover. However, the G-Man couple of the century, Hoover and Clyde Tolson, are played by Broderick Crawford and Dan Dailey, no strangers to whispers and innuendos themselves.

Hoover must deal with Franklin Roosevelt (Howard da Silva) and Bobby Kennedy (Michael Parks).  AG Kennedy especially tried to drive Hoover to retirement with great disrespect, but Hoover was a wily old fox. He handled Kennedy and seemed ready to blackmail Martin Luther King (Raymond St. Jacques).

If you like hooting through a movie, this old American International flick has gunfights with Dillinger and mobsters, and TWA hijackers.

The rumors that Tolson and Hoover were a romantic couple is among the highlights of the film, hinting they might have been brave pioneers in gay rights, no less. However, there is no scene of Edgar in a dress.  Sorry.  All this is secondary to a grandiose performance by the never-shy Broderick Crawford as the Top Cop (never saying 10-4) and his aide-de-camp Dan Dailey.

His secret files kept many people in their place. He had dirt on everyone over 50 years and managed to convince Lyndon Johnson (Andrew Duggan) to extend the retirement age to accommodate the FBI oldster.

More salacious info would come out after the making of this film, but this semi-forgotten movie will do as a bang-up tribute to Edgar.

 

Running in Place at Oak Island, Again, During Season 5

 DATELINE:  Oak Island Without Pity is the Pits

Wayne Herschel map Author Wayne Herschel’s map

Episode 4 of the fifth season of The Curse of Oak Island covered a two-week lull in treasure hunting.

This development came about after one of the power hoses, dredging at 200 feet exploded, injuring one of the drill company employees. It gave the Lagina brothers a chance to insist that safety comes before treasure.

Almost simultaneously, the metal detector expert, Gary Drayton, out looking for objects with the younger generation of searchers, came across a boy’s cap gun from the 1950s.

Not much detective work was needed to come to the conclusion that only one child was on the desolate island during that era. His name was Ricky Restall, younger son of one of the casualties of the hunt.

In 1965, modern searching came to an ugly conclusion with the death of four men: Robert Restall and his teenage son, and two others who tried to rescue them. The cause of death was asphyxiation from gases seeping from their shafts into the so-called Money Pit.

Though doubtful that the booby traps on Oak Island would include sophisticated gas leaks, we are not so sure it was not part of the grand scheme to keep the treasure, or whatever is down there, from being excavated.

Decades later, the younger son Richard Restall returned to the Island, as much for cleansing his spirit of the horrors as any other reason. He was rewarded with a reunion with his lost childhood toy gun.

The episode held us in place while awaiting with less and less patience for something to happen in terms of uncovering the mystery. If anything seemed settled, it was that the Island was not exactly friendly, or willing to share its mystery.

After hundreds of years of frustrating searches, this is not news. Perhaps the personification of Oak Island’s resistance, near stubbornness, convinces us that some larger force is indeed at work in Nova Scotia’s strange island.

 

Catching Up on Endeavour

DATELINE:  Better Late Prequel

shaun evans Shaun Evans

The only episode of the British detective series Endeavour we have missed until now was the “Pilot” (so-called), the opening episode that set the tone and introduced most of the key characters back in 2012.

Of course, fans of PBS mystery series know that Endeavour is a prequel of sorts to the popular detective show Morse (starring John Thaw) as a non-conformist police detective in the Oxford academic community.

Shaun Evans is the whelp twenty years earlier—showing all the qualities of the curmudgeon detective decades later. Making the show the Zeitgeist of the 1960s in England is not easy, largely ignoring the Beatles.

Roger Allam quickly inserts himself as the lead detective Fred Thursday who takes young Endeavour under his wing after seeing some impressive, if not scholarly, detective insights.

Some of our favorites show up in their young and younger incarnation—including Abigail Thaw as the hard-driven newspaper editor who is Endeavour’s resource and James Bradshaw as the unorthodox medical examiner Max. Each provides delightful scenes in the series.

Evans manages to carry it off as the boyish Oxfordian gone copper. He is not well-to-do as the stereotype accepted by others follows him. He is, in fact, working class with exceptional knowledge and artistic appreciation. It surely puts him out of place in both worlds of town and gown at Oxford.

The opening episode has Morse involved with a charming opera singer, wife of a don, played by Flora Montgomery. Endeavour starts to see dark clues of a child sex ring of young girls and high-ranking officials, which may drive him from the police force before his career truly starts.

We were delighted with performances from Harry Kershaw and Patrick Malahide as suspects in murder. It’s just high-brow enough to delight with its intelligence and charm. The only true reference to John Thaw occurs when Evans looks into the rear-view mirror to see Thaw’s eyes in 25 years.

Fill in the Blanks for “P***y”

 DATELINE:  Vocabulary Lesson for Jerry Jones & Media

3some

This week Jerry Jones has tested our ability to play both Scrabble and do crossword puzzles. The owner of the Dallas Cowboys, mired deeply in a feud with Roger Goodell, reportedly called fellow owner Robert Kraft a mysterious name in regard to the Patriots owner’s inability to stand up to Goodell on Deflategate.

The media has given us a maddening clue by leaving out key letters of the word.

The media has also plastered the word over the airwaves, cable wires, and water-cooler discussions for men who live dangerously around women nowadays.  For those who are fans of President Trump, the word may ring familiar, as he used the epithet (if that’s what it is) during his campaign against women.

In case you are wondering what the cryptic word is, we have gone to our cryptologist’s handbook to discern “P—y.”

In some more colorful stories the spelling is “p***y.”  We always opt for the asterisk over the hyphen as part of our training as a literary critic.

We didn’t have to run to our crossword puzzle dictionary for the Sunday New York Times to be able to figure out what Jerry Jones and President Trump have said.  The options are clear.

It is likely that Mr. Jones called Kraft “pasty.” This is ironical, if only because Jones is even more sun-deprived than Kraft, playing as it were mostly indoors at his stadium. We think Kraft is fairly pasty on his own too.

Another option is “puffy.”  We have heard Sean Combs has discarded this sobriquet lately—and it is available to be put on Kraft who takes a paternal interest in his players, hence “Puffy Daddy.”

However, we realize soon enough that the best likelihood is another word: “Putty.”  Yes, Kraft was putty in the hands of Goodell, and is pliable to the whims of the fans.

You say tomato, and we say “tomahto.” You say “P***y” and we say, “Putty.”  Let’s call the whole thing off before our vocabulary descends into the tone-deaf style of NFL fans in general.