Mystery Files Presents 13 Cases

DATELINE:  Fake Controversies

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Well, prepare yourself for undercooked conspiracy theories and the usual suspects. It’s called without much originality, Mystery Files.

Amazon Prime gives us a British series from 2010 with thirteen traditional topics and claims they will solve the mystery behind the story.

We are inclined to give 30 minutes to a documentary series about the usual suspects. We also decided to sample the half-dozen topics for which we have an interest and have done some study. A few of them are actually people on whom we have written a book or two.

Mystery Files looks at Jack the Ripper, Leonardo da Vinci, Billy the Kid, Rasputin, Abe Lincoln, and the Romanovs, and the Man in the iron mask not necessarily in that order. We picked the names randomly to see what problem they intended to solve. We suspected that we would have the pedestrian, traditional mystery, but the series went out of its way to try to debunk something not often considered. The others we did not sample included Cleopatra, King Arthur, Nostradamus, and Joan of Arc.

Though the Leonardo show claimed it would look at his works like Mona Lisa, it actually tried to illustrate that Leonardo’s scientific reputation is largely based on plagiarized ideas from other seers of future technology.

They were going to identify the real Jack the Ripper, hinting that it was not one of the usual candidates, and they wanted to point out that Billy the Kid was not the violent serial killer dime novels claimed. (Yeah, he murdered only 4 people.) And, Rasputin may have been murdered, not by Russian nobles worried about the Czar, but by British secret service agents.

A double episode also looked at what happened to Anastasia and her sisters.

The findings all had a distinct British connection: even the Billy the Kid episode focused on his English friend John Tunstall and that the Kid was hell-bent on vindicating his murdered benefactor (avoiding the sticky issue of their consenting adulthood).

Prince Yousoupoof had an Oxford friend who worked for British intelligence and used the Czar’s relation as an excuse to stop Rasputin from convincing the Czar from brokering peace with Germany (to the detriment of England).

And, they wanted to prove that Abe Lincoln used mercury-laced pills to control his chronic depression and was poisoning himself. As for the Voltaire story, there seemed to be a prisoner in a velvet mask, not an iron one, in their assessment.

For the most part, their plans are grandiose, and not fully proven in half-an-hour, or worse they back down from the outrageous claims in nearly every case.

Yet, we give them credit for cram packing the episodes and trying to give us a different perspective.

Experience’s Billy the Kid

DATELINE: Westworld for Real

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When PBS tackles Billy the Kid (a moniker if ever there was), you have something tantamount to Fox News covering Donald Trump. Yes, Americans have a thing for serial killers and serial idiots.

You probably can find a gulf of differences between Trump and Bonney, but they are under the skin self-styled self-important American icons. One was rich and one was poor, but both saw themselves as Robin Hood. They took what they wanted.

For the second season premiere of American Experience, the show decided to do a one-hour special on the Kid. This is a distinct disadvantage in a visual age when there is but one recognized photo of Billy. We see it ad nauseum.

Don’t look for clips from your favorite Billy movie because this is a real history documentary. They eschew Audie Murphy, Emilio Estevez, and Robert Taylor, all of whom epitomized what the experts talk about in movies made a generation or two ago.

And, the show trots out the usual so-called experts on the West, all of whom now see Billy as a kindred spirit to the mistreated Mexicans and Navaho. Yes, he is a civil rights champion.

Billy picked up Spanish language quickly. He had a good ear, but the rest of his face was wanting. However, these experts show us the face of an ugly adolescent and call him “handsome.” You know you are not in Kansas, but in Lincoln County.

The episode also sets the Range War as a version of the War of the Roses: you have Irish immigrants versus British aristocrats with a hired army of mercenaries, including Billy fighting against his own Irish roots.

The legend escaped, but the boy was gunned down in a notorious bedroom shooting. No one mentions whether he was sleeping with a girlfriend, or boyfriend. He was a cop killer with bad press. Like Trump, he decided what law enforcement he approved and called his media following biased.

The short bio dismisses much in an effort to stay on target. Their target was out of range before this so-called documentary started.

Dr. William Russo is author of the historical fiction, When Billy the Kid Met Ben Hur, which examines the Kid’s relationship to Governor Lew Wallace.

 

 

 

 

Billy the Kid Up-ends His Tough Teen Movie Image

DATELINE: Way Outted West

Featured image Fops Out West

You probably have seen the newly confirmed photo of Billy the Kid.

He was the sociopathic killer and dime novel hero of the great American West.  As a dangerous desperado who shot 21 people down, at his minimal serial killer standard, he may have taken a hit to his image with the discovery of his picture playing croquet.

A few people have hinted that now it is clear that Billy was a pantywaist who murdered people to bolster his gun size. Others think he proves that the Old West was not a home for fashion plates.

The subject of 200+ movies, Billy wears a cardigan sweater like a Yalie on holiday at the dude ranch, the Yves Saint Laurent devotee looking like a fish out of water. We can hardly wait for the updated Billy western where he plies his wares with a croquet mallet.

Billy would not have passed muster as a model for Abercrombie and Fitch. His chin is big enough to hang a kettle on, and his acne seems to defy the New Mexico sunlight.

Of course, the news accounts are slightly wrong. There is at least one other photo of Billy, though some still dispute it, but the same points of facial recognition have been counted. He was not the most handsome of young men. And if you are not good-looking at 21, time has run out on the star meter.

Many are making a great deal of noise over the croquet mallet, which easily could become a club and weapon of choice in a robbery while playing the game most favored by matrons of elite 19th century leisure.

Imagine adding hustler to the litany of Billy’s crimes. Billy’s gang of male escorts? That’s why we love Americana.