Shatner Returns for More UnXplained

DATELINE: Great Escapes Explained!

For History Channel to bring back a series with such alacrity, you know it is a big winner. So, we are not surprised that William Shatner has returned for another batch of UnXplained.

His delivery is deadpan, hambone, hilarious. He has found another career at age 90—as robust as ever. His latest show opened with a look at “Greatest Escapes,” and the underlying notion is that some supernatural or paranormal power may be at work. Perhaps.

The first vignette put focus on Houdini and his inexplicable escapes from sure death under water. There is no explanation as he took it to his grave, only noting his “brain” was the “key.” Though Conan Doyle, of Sherlock fame, thought it was some supernatural psychic ability, Houdini dismissed that. Shatner raises the issue again.

Another anecdote is about a man who escaped a submarine 200 feet under the Mediterranean in a primitive pressure suit in 1941. No believed him until the wreck was found 50 years later with all the tangible evidence proved him right. And, there is the report of a Cuban escapee from Havana in 1969 who hid in a jet wheel well for nine hours, going into suspended animation, frozen.

All of these incidents are beyond science: and your usual History Channel expert, Dr. Travis Taylor, shows up again and again to tell us how this defies physics.

These relatively unknown, but documented cases, are always the backbone of the series, and they are handled with marvelous re-enactments, or archival footage.

Perhaps the most two fascinating episodes of the paranormal invoke the story of one of four survivors of the Twin Towers on 911. He was pushed to choose the only stairway unblocked to walk down 84 flights. Brian Clark is interviewed and explains how he has no idea who pushed him in the right direction.

And a little-known Alcatraz escape story involves Native American legends about positive spirits on the Rock leading the only 3 escapees to succeed in their plan. It seems gulls only land when the omens are good. And that was when the prisoners made their swim. Who knows?

Shatner is back, and that is all that matters.


Should You Watch The Falling Man?

DATELINE: Disturbing 9-11 Documentary

Falling Man

Many documentaries have come and gone about the horrific nightmare known as 9/11. Many we have simply skipped, avoided, refused to see, owing to its never-ending pain, its exhausting memory of a terrible day.

We deeply regret we chose to watch The Falling Man movie for reasons entirely personal. We cannot undo our decision, much as we may want.

Another in a long-line of disaster documentaries, this film drives home the horror: it is about one photo that shocked the world—and was censored from our consciousness for years thereafter.

The image of a man diving out of the 106th floor of Windows on the World restaurant made people angry like everything else on that day. Media chose not to show it for years thereafter.

This reverential movie, for those who can tolerate it, remains completely dedicated to the single horrific iconography, its emblematic importance, and an attempt to identify the individual who jumped (one of many).

We learn the New York City coroner’s office refuses to use that designation, “jumper.” In their eyes, people falling out of the World Trade Center were blow out by impact, were pushed, or fell by accident.

This movie will show you the image of the head-first dive, of one man frozen in time, half-way down the side of the WTC. It will show the image what seems 100 times in the course of an hour, and even uncover five or six other images of his descent, and even a close-up video version, showing his white shirt ripped away by the wind speed to reveal a yellow T-shirt.

Why? Well, they do finally have families whose relative likely was in the picture agree to look at the image—and one Latino family realizes to great relief that it is not their father, Norbert, a pastry chef, after all their heart-ache for more than a decade. They had never had the stomach to identify the man in the image until this movie. They realize it is someone else.

We will not show you that image in this blog, but it is available on the Internet.

The film discovers the likely identity of the jumper—and rationalizes that the entire film is meant, like a tomb for the Unknown Soldier, to represent all of a nation’s pain.

Like a proverbial train wreck, you cannot stop looking. The entire nightmare image will be ingrained on your brain forever.

You should think long and hard before watching this film. We cannot tell you not to watch.

We admire anyone who had the guts to jump.

We lost a former favorite student from our college teaching career on that fateful day. Peter Fry was likely up in the top-floor restaurant that morning having breakfast, and hearing about the conditions he suffered, even if he did not jump, is something we can never ‘un-see’ in our mind.

This open wound will never heal for those who lived through that hideous disaster. For the rest of the world, it is now simply history.