Digging Deeper into Ben Franklin’s Past

DATELINE: Electrifying Discovery

Franklin Re-enactor Not $50, Counterfeit Ben!

The first episode of the first season of Secrets of the Dead did not disappoint. Called “Ben Franklin’s Bones,” this historical documentary examined a horror story that seemed to emerge in the 1990s when excavators started to dig in the cellar of a Westminster house where Ben Franklin lived in for fifteen years.

Located in London, where he was an ambassador to Parliament for the colonies around 1760, Franklin rented rooms from a “second family” as he called them.

Police and detectives were called to the cellar where workers discovered a treasure trove (if that’s a bonanza) of many human bones. They needed a medical examiner to tell them how old these were, and if they died mysteriously.

Of course, the bones dated from the time that Franklin lived in the house. The noted Renaissance American was active in all kinds of research, membership in the Royal Society as part of his life of scholarship in London. However, no one thought he could be a serial killer. Call in the forensic experts.

And he wasn’t. The bones belonged to people (men, women, and children, birds and turtles) that were already dead. The bones were finely sawed—including the tops of skulls.

It seemed a bit creepy that Franklin could have anything to do with this: yet, the daughter of the household had married a doctor named Hewson who was a noted surgeon. He had presented papers on his research using mercury and turtles—both of which were in the cellar hole. The house, once renovated, became a museum to Franklin’s years in London.

Franklin was a close friend of the doctor and had sponsored his entry into the Royal Society. It would seem that even Ben Franklin had been connected to “Resurrection Men,” the notorious body snatchers of the era of Enlightenment. They provided cadavers stolen from cemeteries to medical men.

It wasn’t a crime to steal a body, only its clothes or jewelry.

The tease of indicting Franklin made for an alarming, if not suspenseful, study of life on Craven Street where the great man resided. All in all, this was a delightful look at a little-known facet of Ben’s amazing life.

 

 

Secrets of the Dead? WWII Pep Pills!

DATELINE: Deadline Pep!

james holland Holland Invades Germany!

We never heard of this PBS marvel of history documentaries. It sounds like a bad show from the History Channel, something morbid about ghosts or Egyptian mummies.  It is entitled Secrets of the Dead!

Of course, it is none of the above. It is an intelligent look at historical events, uncovering little known information and formulating new theory.

For this episode from Season 17, it is called World War Speed. It is about the shocking notion of amphetamine usage during the second World War!

Who knew?

What’s worse, who suspected that the governments of England, United States, and Nazi Germany, condone and required drugs to stimulate the soldiers.

We’d like to think that only craven Hitler demanded his soldiers take amphetamines to remain awake for days: like good Aryan supermen.

However, Generals Montgomery and Einsenhower learned of the practice and decided it was a good strategy. You see, not only did it keep men awake but made them act out in deranged, but heroic ways. Men would volunteer for death missions and do utterly suicidal actions.

Hitler had experimented on victims of concentration camps to see how the pep pills effected people who were starving to death. However, even Hitler decided the side-effects were too grave to continue on his army. Not so with the American and British.

They gave pep pills to men in tanks that were deathtraps. It gave them courage beyond logic. We are horrified to think that this show, hosted by James Holland who most recently worked on the History Channel “Hunting Hitler”—and he has not lost his yellow journalism style here.

It is appalling to think that innocent young men had no idea that “pep pills” drugged them out of their minds.

We may tune into this series again. It is a shocker and provides teachable moments.