Oh, Mummy! Daddy Shatner Tells All

Missing Booth Mummy, 1920s

DATELINE:  UnXplained Makes Dead Speak Again

 

After several dull weeks, the series UnXplained  now gives Shatner some outrageous narration—and he delivers as only he can. From his opening warning that the show will depict mummification and viewers are advised to be ready for the horror.

Mr. Shatner is never more amusing than when he must play archly ironic. Discussing bringing the dead back to life seems to energize him.

This wild episode casts a wide net. It begins with the most famous ancient mummy, King Tut, found in 1922 by Howard Carter, recapping that legend. It shifts to the self-mummification practice in Japan several hundred years ago when living Buddhist monks slowly poisoned themselves, in a drying out process, to become mummies.

Shatner’s onerous tones warn us several times about “disturbing imagery,” but it is likely the enhanced, colorized photos of the alleged mummy of John Wilkes Booth that might be rather startling.

Recounting the tale of how Booth escaped, and how he was mummified by arsenic by a local undertaker, his body was taken by Finis L. Bates, now called a carnival barker, who showed the body at the St. Louis World’s Fair. After that, it was displayed for twenty years before disappearing.

Other notable mummies are not to be outdone. Take Bernadette, born in 1844, who saw the Virgin Mary 18 times before she died. Once dug up, she was perfectly preserved to become a saint. However, they had to coat her body with wax and put her in a hermetically sealed glass coffin.

The same for Lenin is explored. He is systematically “recharged” every few years by scientists who make him look younger for public display.

Shatner takes some pleasure in explaining about cryogenics, or freezing dead remains for later reanimation. He also notes that an Egyptian mummy recently had its voice box enhanced to create his “voice” 3000 years after the fact.

All in all, this remains one of the most death-defying of all shows in the UnXplained series.

 

 

 

Mr. Stalin, You Have a Lovely Daughter!

DATELINE: Defector by Heart

 

svetlana Alleluyeva to You!

The only daughter of Soviet mass murderer and megalomaniac, Josef Stalin, is subject of a fascinating Australian documentary, called forthrightly Stalin’s Daughter.

Being the object of a doting father who is a psychopath could prove daunting to most people. Maybe Svetlana was different.

Stalin extended his ruthless exercise of murder to those in the closest orbit personally. His second wife was Lenin’s secretary, which made her attractive for many reasons, but her independence irritated the Red Despot.

Though Svetlana’s mother gave him two children, a son and daughter, she was quickly alienated from her husband and found dead of a gunshot wound to the head. The official cause of death was appendicitis. Svetlana learned of this by translating an English magazine as a young girl.

She was thought to be a princess, but not as spoiled as Vasily, her brother. As a girl, Svetlana was faced with a father who disapproved of her boyfriends: they ended up in gulags, if not with their families executed.

She was a prisoner of the Soviet state, never having true freedom. When her father died, she took her mother’s name Svetlana Alleluyeva. It wasn’t enough to escape the stigma.

In the 1960s, she married a non-Russian and took his ashes back to his home country: India. There in 1967, she went to the American embassy and defected. The CIA vouched for her.

Thus began true American celebrity. First, no one believed who she was—and then she spoke English fluently and wrote a best-seller that made her millions.  A media darling throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, she became increasingly erratic, like her father.

Her sad story ended with poverty, a nursing home in America, and a forgotten end in 2011. Who knew?

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