Mysteries at the Museum (2010) s11e01 Episode Script

Dancing Plague, Tracking Santa and Annie Londonberry

A town gripped by a bizarre plague People were literally dancing themselves to death.
a deadly descent to the ocean depths The atmospheric pressure is going to crush them.
and a man who touched his own heart -- This could be the most important day of his life, or the last one.
These are the mysteries at the museum.
According to legend, the charming French City of Saverne once had its water supply purified by a unicorn's horn.
Today, the mythical creature is celebrated as the city's local mascot.
And visitors can learn more about the region's heritage at The Rohan Castle Museum.
Its collection includes gravestones dating back to the Roman occupation of Saverne, an iron furnace from 1780, and an array of 19th century swords.
But amongst these prized artifacts is an item that recalls one of the weirdest events in world history.
This artifact is 500 years old and it is in remarkably good condition.
It's 10 inches high by 15 inches wide.
It's made out of wood.
It's vibrantly painted.
It is of three adult figures and a child.
And one, very bizarrely, is in a cauldron.
WILDMAN: Despite its pious appearance, this elegant carving is linked to a diabolical phenomenon.
RUBENHOLD: The mayhem that erupted in relation to this icon has never quite been paralleled.
WILDMAN: 1518 -- Strasbourg.
This bustling city in eastern France is in crisis.
A crippling drought has left many of its residents in a desperate struggle for survival.
It was a time of famine, of crop failure, of disease.
They had terrible quality of life.
WILDMAN: But things are about to get even worse.
[ Crow caws ] On July 14th, a curious spectacle unfolds in the town square.
A woman was in the center of Strasbourg and just, for no apparent reason, started dancing in the street.
WILDMAN: But what makes the scene so odd is that there's no music playing.
RUBENHOLD: It was a strange sort of hopping and swaying motion.
It had no rhythm to it.
WILDMAN: And that's not all.
Not only are her movements erratic and unpredictable.
The woman's expression is strangely grim.
And when her husband tries to make her stop, it's to no avail.
Even by the next morning, she is still dancing.
She kept dancing, and she kept dancing and dancing.
WILDMAN: And then, something even stranger happens.
Other villagers also begin dancing uncontrollably.
In fact over the next 10 days, 50 more residents join in until most of the town is locked in this mysterious trance.
People were thinking there's something really wrong here.
WILDMAN: Area physicians are called in to help.
And they offer what they think is a plausible explanation for the bizarre behavior.
The doctors suggest that the region's unprecedented hot temperatures are to blame.
RUBENHOLD: The physicians' diagnosis was that these people were suffering from something called hot blood and this made them want to dance impulsively.
WILDMAN: And to cure this bewildering condition, these men of medicine prescribed a rather surprising remedy.
The physicians believed that the cure for hot blood was that the people should keep dancing because this would help them dance it out of their systems.
WILDMAN: On the doctor's advice, officials bring in musicians to play for the crowd.
But despite the doctor's orders, the situation only worsens.
People were collapsing.
People were dying of heart attacks.
People were suffering from heat stroke.
They were literally dancing themselves to death.
WILDMAN: With the dancers showing no signs of stopping, the villagers begin to fear that it is the work of a sinister force.
RUBENHOLD: People started to think this is a curse from heaven.
WILDMAN: The villagers believed the dancers have upset a well-known spiritual figure, St.
Although worshipped as a patron saint of healing, he also has a dark side.
When he is angry, St.
Vitus is said to unleash a particular form of punishment.
RUBENHOLD: He had the power to take over people's minds and force them to dance.
[ Crow caws ] WILDMAN: So, to break this spell, the town's people organize a pilgrimage to the nearby village of Saverne.
There, they will pray before statues of St.
Vitus, like this carved relief depicting the saint in a cauldron on display at The Rohan Castle Museum.
They pray for eight straight weeks.
Finally, the incessant dancing abates.
RUBENHOLD: There was great relief in the community, and things could start to go back to normal again.
WILDMAN: The so-called Dancing Plague of Strasbourg goes down in history as one of the most bizarre episodes of all time.
Today, some historians have suggested that the incident was caused not by heat stroke or an angry saint but by the victims having eaten poisoned bread.
A fungus called Ergot can grow in flour and cause vivid hallucinations if ingested.
But this theory doesn't explain why the dancing continued long after the mold's effects would've worn off.
It seems the true cause of the Dancing Plague will remain a mystery.
Meanwhile, this carving of St.
Vitus is preserved at The Rohan Castle Museum.
It recalls the villager's part in a literal case of dance fever.
Colorado Springs is a vital hub for the U.
Armed Forces.
It is home to five military institutions, including the Air Force Academy, Fort Carson, and Peterson Air Force Base.
The region's storied history is celebrated here at the Peterson Air & Space Museum.
Its collection includes a World War II bomber jacket, an early aerial reconnaissance camera, and a propeller recovered from a crashed F-4 spy plane.
But one brightly-colored object looks like it was ripped straight out of a cold war thriller.
It is 5 inches wide and 4 1/2 inches in height.
It is red with a black circle in the center.
It is made of plastic.
There is a white label that reads "White House hotline.
" This device is definitely from another era.
WILDMAN: This phone recalls the unlikely story of a tough-as-nails military man and a famously jolly aviator.
This story involves an accident that has become a global and cherished holiday tradition.
WILDMAN: 1955 -- Colorado Springs.
Colonel Harry Shoup is the director of the Continental Air Defense Command.
And he has one of the most important jobs in the nation -- monitoring radar for signs of an incoming nuclear attack.
With the Cold War between Russia and the United States mounting, America must be prepared for a nuclear assault at any moment.
KNOTT: Colonel Harry Shoup was on high alert to defend the United States and the homelands.
WILDMAN: Should Shoup detect a Soviet attack, he must follow a strict protocol.
He is to immediately alert the Pentagon and the White House using a special, top secret telephone.
Shoup's hope is that he never has to use the hotline.
But one night in December, something unexpected happens.
[ Telephone rings ] The phone rings.
He was expecting somebody very important on the line.
Hello? WILDMAN: For a moment, there is an eerie silence.
Then, Shoup hears something that catches him completely off guard.
CHILD: Hello? He suddenly heard a little child's voice say very tentatively CHILD: Is this Santa Claus? KNOTT: He looked around the room and then said, "No, no, I'm not Santa.
" WILDMAN: Shoup can tell right away it's not the answer the caller wants to hear.
This child started getting upset.
WILDMAN: Shoup realizes the young child will be terribly disappointed if he doesn't get to talk to Santa.
So he decides to play along.
Ho, ho, ho, ho! Colonel Shoup, being a father himself, told the child that he was a representative for Santa and he would check the radar and tell the child where Santa was at.
WILDMAN: Shoup hangs up happy that he has brought a little Christmas cheer into the child's life.
The dedicated soldier returns to his critical assignment.
But just a few minutes later [ Telephone ringing ] the nuclear hotline rings again.
On the other end is another child who also asks to speak with Santa.
Shoup can hardly believe it.
He thought maybe somebody was playing a joke on him.
WILDMAN: Shoup grills his team for an explanation.
But it quickly becomes apparent that the calls are genuine.
[ Telephone rings ] His command center is soon deluged with calls from kids.
And all of them want to talk to Saint Nick.
[ Telephone rings ] So, what is behind this flurry of festive phone calls? It's 1955 in Colorado Springs.
Colonel Harry Shoup is in charge of monitoring America's skies for a Soviet nuclear attack.
If that happens, he has a special phone with a direct line to the Pentagon.
[ Telephone ringing ] But the Colonel has a problem.
His secret hotline is being bombarded with calls from children hoping to speak with Santa Claus.
Little does he know that this bizarre turn of events will inspire a worldwide holiday phenomenon.
Shoup asks to speak with the mother of one of the callers, and she reveals the source of the Christmas confusion.
There was an ad in the local Colorado Springs paper for the Sears department store, and it had a picture of Santa.
And it said, "Kiddies! Call me.
" WILDMAN: The printed ad had a phone number that children could call to speak directly with St.
But apparently, this phone number had one number wrong.
WILDMAN: By pure chance, the printed error matches the number of Colonel Shoup's top secret hotline.
Shoup is amused by the simple mistake.
And then, he's struck by an idea.
Perhaps he can ease the nation's fears about the Cold War by giving the country something to cheer about.
So he decides to keep the ruse going.
He establishes a new hotline to the Pentagon but keeps accepting calls to Santa on the original line.
And on Christmas Eve, he phones into a local radio station and announces on the air that his Command Center's radar has detected Santa's sleigh.
KNOTT: Colonel Shoup directed all the rest of his crew to help answer any other calls to track Santa as he was making his magical journey around the world.
WILDMAN: Throughout the evening, the Colonel and his team update listeners on St.
Nick's location.
The stunt captures the public's imagination.
KNOTT: It was in the holiday spirit and provided a more human aspect to the military during the height of the Cold War.
WILDMAN: The response is so positive that Colonel Shoup convinces his superiors to track Santa again the following year.
[ Jazzy "Deck the Halls" plays ] In 1957, Colonel Harry Shoup's department is renamed the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD.
And it keeps the holiday tradition going to this very day.
Millions of people literally around the world track Santa with NORAD every year.
From those very small and humble beginnings to today, it has become a global phenomenon 'cause everyone loves to be in the holiday spirit.
WILDMAN: Today, this colorful red telephone is on display at the Peterson Air & Space Museum in Colorado Springs.
It's a festive reminder of a simple mistake that put Christmas cheer on the radar.
Londonderry, New Hampshire, has a unique claim to fame.
It was the first place in North America to grow potatoes.
And the region's heritage is preserved at the Londonderry Historical Society's Morrison House Museum.
On its grounds are perfectly preserved 19th century buildings including a farmhouse, a blacksmith shop, and a dairy barn.
But set apart from these large structures is one small artifact with a heroic tale to tell.
It's a rounded vessel made of stoneware.
It is affixed with a small handle.
The blue lettering says "Londonderry, N.
" It looks like it's from another time, but it's been well-preserved.
WILDMAN: This ceramic bottle is linked to a trailblazing woman who pedaled her way into the history books.
ZHEUTLIN: This is the story of an unlikely hero who did something no other woman had done before.
WILDMAN: The 1890s -- Boston.
It is a period of great innovation.
Machines like the typewriter, the camera, and the bicycle are transforming lives throughout the nation.
But so far, these new innovations have mostly benefited men.
Women's lives remained limited by strict social codes.
They are expected to wear heavy, full-length dresses.
They lack many basic rights and are generally considered to be inferior to men.
But one woman is determined to change that.
Her name is Annie Kopchovsky.
Annie was a woman with a lot of what we call, in Yiddish, chutzpah, a lot of nerve.
WILDMAN: Annie thinks she can show that women are just as good as men.
And she knows exactly how to do it -- become the first woman to ride a bicycle around the world.
There'd been one previous trip around the world by bicycle made by a man.
So this was really about whether or not women could take their place as equals among men.
WILDMAN: Annie intends to ride from Boston to Chicago and then continue to the West Coast.
From there, she'll travel by boat to Asia before getting back on her bike and continuing her journey.
She estimates it will take 15 months from start to finish.
To make the trip, she acquires a bicycle made specifically for women.
ZHEUTLIN: It was made so that a woman could get onto the saddle in her long skirts, and it weighed about 42 pounds.
WILDMAN: Although it's twice as heavy as a man's bike, Annie believes her determination will power her to the finish line.
Even today, a journey like Annie's would be extremely demanding even for a well-trained athlete.
WILDMAN: As her departure date approaches, Annie announces her plans in a Boston newspaper.
It creates an immediate sensation.
Before long, the entire city is buzzing with excitement.
She sparks so much interest that a successful company in the northeast, the Londonderry Lithia Spring Water Company, offers to sponsor her trip.
But the deal has one very specific condition.
She's going to have to ride under the name Annie Londonderry.
WILDMAN: To which Annie agrees.
And on June 25, 1894, Annie Londonderry prepares to depart on her unprecedented journey.
Wearing her finest dress, she appears before a large crowd in the middle of Boston and poses with the company's water bottles, like this one now on display at the Londonderry Historical Society.
Then, she hops on her bike and sets off.
At first, she makes good progress.
One reporter described that she sailed away down Beacon Street like a kite and it was quite a spectacle.
But outside of the city, things get rough.
Dirt roads make riding difficult, especially when rain turns them to mud.
And her bike turns out to be remarkably unsuited for such an arduous undertaking.
ZHEUTLIN: Annie was on a very heavy bicycle wearing clothes that we would not consider at all suitable for even a short bicycle ride.
WILDMAN: Annie finally reaches the outskirts of Chicago three months later than she had planned.
She was worn out at that point.
It had been far more demanding than she had bargained for.
WILDMAN: Unable to pedal another stroke, Annie makes a decision that shocks her supporters.
ZHEUTLIN: She was going to abandon this attempt to go around the world.
WILDMAN: Is this the end of the road for Annie Londonderry? It's 1894.
A Boston woman named Annie Londonderry is attempting to prove that women are equal to men with a dramatic stunt -- riding her bicycle around the world.
But by the time she reaches Chicago, she's exhausted and ready to throw in the towel.
So, can Annie somehow shift gears and get back on track? Just when the cyclist is at her lowest point, she is struck by a radical idea.
She'll need to ditch her heavy woman's bicycle and ride one made for a man.
There's just one problem.
ZHEUTLIN: A men's frame bicycle had a post running from the saddle to the handlebars.
WILDMAN: The bar makes wearing her long skirts impossible.
So to give herself more freedom of movement, Annie does something even more scandalous -- She wears pants.
This was a really outlandish thing for any woman to do.
WILDMAN: In October, Annie resumes her adventure.
She heads east to avoid the coming winter.
And this time equipped with a new bike and more suitable riding attire, Annie Londonderry is unstoppable.
Annie rode back to New York City.
From New York, she sailed to the north coast of France, rode south through France.
She made her way across Asia, eventually landing in Japan, and then took a steamer back to San Francisco, got back on her bike, rode south to Los Angeles, east to El Paso, north to Denver, and then east to Chicago.
WILDMAN: On September 12, 1895, Annie returns to Chicago, completing her epic journey and proving her detractors wrong.
The trailblazer leaves a lasting legacy.
ZHEUTLIN: For many women, I think she did become an inspiration of what women were capable of.
WILDMAN: Today, in the Morrison House Museum of the Londonderry Historical Society, this small stoneware jug remains on display.
It recalls the free-wheeling adventurer and her quest to change the world.
Washington State's Olympic Peninsula is home to more than 1,500 species of wildlife, making it one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet.
So, it's no surprise that, in the nearby city of Seattle, there's an institution that's dedicated to the wonders of the natural world, The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.
On display are the 10,000-year-old bones of a Mastodon, wooden Polynesian effigies, and masks carved by the native peoples of the Pacific North West.
But amidst these earthly relics is one item that has no place on dry land.
MASLENIKOV: It is about 6 inches long, about 3 1/2 inches wide.
There is a rod coming out of the forehead with this glowing object at the end of it.
And it has some very large teeth.
WILDMAN: These frightening creatures once roamed unseen in the darkest depths of the ocean until they were brought into the light by one of the most incredible and dangerous expeditions the world has ever witnessed.
This story tells us about the amazing impossibilities when we explore the unknown.
WILDMAN: 1925 -- Bermuda.
48-year-old explorer William Beebe is one of the world's most highly respected biologists.
Throughout his career, he has discovered countless rare and exotic bird species.
But now the scientist is planning his greatest adventure yet.
He wants to unlock the secrets held in the darkest depths of the earth's oceans.
The ocean is this vast, undiscovered frontier.
And for Beebe, here was the chance to really make his mark in a whole new way.
WILDMAN: But that's easier said than done.
The most advanced diving suits of the day can only reach a depth of 500 feet.
Anything below that, and the diver inside would be crushed by the pressure of the water.
But Beebe is undeterred.
MASLENIKOV: He wanted to get deeper and deeper.
So Beebe decides that the only way he's going to get down there is if he builds a vessel.
WILDMAN: So Beebe teams up with an engineer named Otis Barton.
Barton is this young engineering student.
For him, it was all about going down as deep as they could.
WILDMAN: Together, they come up with a simple yet brilliant design.
MASLENIKOV: They knew that it had to be a sphere because a sphere will distribute the pressure evenly.
WILDMAN: For years, the men worked tirelessly to build their vessel.
In 1930, it's finally ready.
The craft is made of more than two tons of cast steel and features two solid-quartz windows, oxygen tanks, and a spotlight to illuminate the murky water.
It's been carefully welded together so it won't leak.
And it's only opening is a 400-pound door.
If all goes well, it should be able to withstand depths of up to 4,000 feet.
Beebe and Barton name it the bathysphere, Greek for "deep sphere.
" It was surprisingly small.
It was only 4 1/2 feet across.
WILDMAN: On June 6, 10 miles off the coast of Bermuda, Beebe and Barton squeeze into the bathysphere.
The vessel is lowered into the ocean via a cable attached to a barge.
A telephone line keeps them in constant communication with the ship's crew.
They were so excited and so scared.
They were alone in this steel sphere lowered where no one had ever been.
WILDMAN: Inside the bathysphere, Beebe and Barton begin their descent.
To their relief, the design appears to be working perfectly.
But when they reach 300 feet, something goes terribly wrong.
The door suddenly starts to leak.
Trapped inside this sphere, the men could drown.
If this situation is not solved, they will die.
It's 1930 off the coast of Bermuda.
Explorers William Beebe and Otis Barton are attempting an unprecedented journey beneath the sea in a new type of submersible.
But when they reach the depth of 300 feet, disaster strikes.
Water is suddenly seeping into the craft.
So, can they survive this deadly breach? As the water pours in from the door, Beebe proposes an unbelievable solution.
Beebe decides that, rather than go back up to surface and try and solve the problem, they should go down and fast.
He believes that at a greater depth, the increased water pressure will actually push the door tight enough to stop the leak.
It's a bit counterintuitive.
You'd think you need to go up.
But if you go down, the pressure will actually then compress where that problem is and seal the crack for you.
WILDMAN: Beebe and Barton wait with baited breath as they descend deeper into the ocean.
To their relief, the leak stops.
With the crisis averted, Beebe and Barton are able to reach a record depth.
MASLENIKOV: They made it down to 800 feet.
And that was the deepest that any human had ever been alive.
WILDMAN: The explorers spend an hour below the surface before being pulled safely back up to the ship.
Over the next several years, Beebe and Barton complete a series of deeper and deeper dives.
They eventually reach the staggering depth of 3,028 feet.
Far beneath the surface, Beebe is able to observe deep-sea creatures in their natural environment, including the extraordinary anglerfish.
He was so excited when he looked out that window and, for the first time, saw the anglerfish.
WILDMAN: Today, this anglerfish remains preserved at the Burke Museum of Natural History in Seattle.
It recalls a historic journey beneath the sea and the two daring men who exposed a brand-new world.
Cleveland, Ohio.
In 1879, this Midwestern metropolis became the first city in the world to be lit with electric street lights.
But a different kind of innovation is celebrated here at the Dittrick Museum of Medical History.
Its displays include a defibrillator from the 1940s, a 1927 X-ray table, and a pump used to treat tuberculosis.
But amid these complex devices is one very simple object.
SHILLACE: It's about a foot long but very small in diameter.
It's hollow, narrower at one end than the other, and made of a red rubber substance.
It looks like it's from another era.
WILDMAN: This humble looking rubber tube is linked to a death-defying experiment that changed medicine forever.
SHILLACE: This is the story of a fearless young doctor who risked his life for the sake of science.
WILDMAN: It's 1929 in Germany.
Werner Forssmann is a brilliant surgeon working at a small hospital outside of Berlin.
SHILLACE: Forssmann is an ambitious guy.
He's 25.
He's bold -- maybe fearless.
He wants to do something that's never been done before.
WILDMAN: And he thinks he knows how.
The physician wants to solve one of the most important problems in medicine -- how to successfully treat heart disease.
At the time, open-heart surgery is impossible, and doctors have no way to effectively administer medicine directly to the organ.
Doctors weren't sure how they could get to the heart without killing the patient.
WILDMAN: But Forssmann has an idea that he believes will revolutionize cardiology.
He thinks he can insert a thin rubber tube called a catheter, like the one at the Dittrick Museum of Medical History, into a patient's arm and thread it through a vein all the way to the heart.
He was utterly convinced that this would work.
WILDMAN: Forssmann asks his superiors for permission to attempt the procedure on a live patient, but he is flatly denied.
He was absolutely forbidden to try this experiment.
His superiors were convinced that he was going to kill someone.
He was going to open a vein.
Someone was going to bleed to death.
WILDMAN: Forssmann is told that if he goes forward with the experiment, he will lose his job.
And as word of his radical idea spreads throughout the hospital, the young doctor is ridiculed by his peers.
Nevertheless, Forssmann refuses to back down.
So he comes up with an unorthodox way to test his idea.
Forssmann needed to find someone to do his experiment on.
And he had one person particular in mind -- himself.
WILDMAN: Forssmann recruits a surgical nurse to assist him and begins putting his bold plan into action.
He'll perform the procedure and then take an X-ray to prove the rubber catheter reached his heart.
The doctor estimates it will take 23 inches of tube.
This could be the most important day of Forssmann's life -- or the last one.
WILDMAN: The nurse stands by as Forssmann injects himself with a local anesthetic.
He makes an incision in his left arm.
Then he carefully threads the tube into his vein.
He felt no pain, just a warm sensation as it continued to creep its way closer to his heart.
WILDMAN: For several agonizing minutes, he feeds the tube through his body.
And when he suspects that he has reached his heart, he tip-toes out of the O.
and heads towards the imaging room.
If he's going to convince people that this worked, he has to have proof.
WILDMAN: But when he arrives, there's a doctor standing in his way.
MAN: What are you doing? DR.
SHILLACE: There's another doctor there, and this doctor knows Forssmann and understands immediately what it is that he's tried to do.
MAN: Take it out.
WILDMAN: To Forssmann's dismay, his colleague refuses to let him take an X-ray.
Forssmann realized that this could be the end of his entire experiment.
WILDMAN: So, have all of Forssmann's efforts been in vain? It's 1929 in Germany.
A heart surgeon named Dr.
Werner Forssmann has come up with a revolutionary hypothesis that a catheter inserted in the arm of a patient can be fed all the way to the heart.
But his colleagues ridicule the idea.
So, to prove them wrong, he'll perform the experimental procedure on himself.
Having successfully threaded the catheter all the way to his own heart, Forssmann needs to take an x-ray to prove it.
But when he arrives, there's a doctor standing in his way.
Take it out! Desperate to stop Forssmann, the doctor lunges at him.
Forssmann can't let this end his experiment.
So, he did the only thing he could do under the circumstances.
WILDMAN: Forssmann fights back.
Finally he subdues his colleague and completes his experiment.
He laid down on the X-ray table, and they took photographic evidence that he had in fact put a catheter in his own heart.
WILDMAN: Forssmann is thrilled.
He did what everyone said was impossible, what people told him he was crazy to attempt.
WILDMAN: Word of the doctor's successful experiment spreads throughout the medical community.
For the rest of his career, Forssmann continues to develop and perfect his procedure.
His studies eventually lead to treatments for life-threatening conditions including heart attacks and irregular heartbeats.
And in 1956, Dr.
Werner Forssmann is awarded the Nobel Prize for his advancements in the field of medicine.
SHILLACE: Because of his risk and daring, at the age of 25, Forssmann forever changed the way we treat the heart.
WILDMAN: Today, this rubber tube at the Dittrick Museum of Medical History in Cleveland recalls the courageous man who touched his own heart for the sake of science.
Boulder, Colorado.
Overlooking this picturesque city are the Flatirons, a jagged rock formation that towers 1,400 feet high.
And in their shadow is an institution that celebrates the region's history, the University of Colorado Heritage Center.
It displays an array of artifacts that honor the university's alumni, from a marching band uniform from the 1940s to an astronaut's jacket, and a vintage jukebox.
But there is one item in its collection with a story that goes far beyond the school's campus.
SPRAGG: It is made of brass.
It has a tubular shape that widens at the end.
This was a well-used and well-loved object.
WILDMAN: This trombone once belonged to a musical legend who was caught up in a bizarre tale of scandal, deception, and espionage.
SPRAGG: The story about his disappearance remained a mystery for many generations.
WILDMAN: It's 1944.
[ Gunfire ] Europe is at war, and U.
soldiers are marching across the continent.
The war-weary troops are desperate for any entertainment that raises their morale.
[ Big-band music plays ] And one of their favorite performers is the beloved American musician Glenn Miller.
SPRAGG: Glenn Miller was the most popular band leader in the nation but walked away from his entire career to entertain the forces in Europe.
WILDMAN: But on December 24th, his fans across the world wake up to tragic news.
Glenn Miller is missing.
According to reports, Miller was flying from England to Paris when his plane disappeared.
Although no wreckage has been found, the musician is presumed dead.
SPRAGG: The immediate public reaction around the world was complete shock.
WILDMAN: In the aftermath, the public demands to know what happened to Glenn Miller's plane.
But strangely, the Army remains tight-lipped and refuses to release any information.
SPRAGG: There was no plane, and there were no people, so there were a lot of rumors and speculation about what might have happened.
WILDMAN: Then, there is a shocking development.
German national radio announced that the allies were lying, that Glenn Miller had been killed in Paris.
WILDMAN: The incendiary report sparks rumors of a conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of the U.
SPRAGG: People thought the United States government was covering up what had happened to Glenn Miller.
WILDMAN: So, what's the real story behind the disappearance of America's favorite band leader? It's December 1944.
En route from England to France, a plane carrying beloved big-band leader Glenn Miller mysteriously vanishes without a trace.
Military reports suggest it was a plane crash.
But the Germans claim the U.
government is lying, sparking rumors of a cover-up.
So, what happened to Glenn Miller? Rumors swirl that Glenn Miller's responsibilities extended far beyond entertaining the troops.
SPRAGG: People thought Glenn Miller, the most important musician in the world, was a secret agent.
WILDMAN: A theory emerges that the musician was on a classified assignment for the U.
It was a mission that some say could have ended the war.
Some people believe that General Eisenhower had selected Glenn Miller to fly to German held territory and meet with the German high command, who were going to surrender to the Allies.
WILDMAN: According to this theory, instead of brokering peace, Glenn Miller was murdered by the Nazis, leading the army to concoct the plane crash as a cover story.
To the surprise of many, the military refuses to refute the claim.
And with no evidence to prove or disprove the theory, Glenn Miller's disappearance becomes one of the most enduring mysteries of World War II.
But over 60 years later, in 2009, an author named Dennis Spragg resolves to uncover the truth once and for all.
Spragg begins by checking historic weather reports for Bedford, England.
On the date Glenn Miller's plane took off, it was freezing.
Next, he combs through declassified documents relating to the plane Miller was on when he disappeared.
And Spragg finds what he believes is the answer -- a report that states the engine on the plane may have had a problem performing in the cold.
There is documented evidence that these airplanes were prone to the carburetors icing up.
If ice formed in the carburetor, the engine would seize up and stop running.
WILDMAN: In light of his discovery, Spragg concludes that Miller's plane most likely crashed in the middle of the English Channel.
The occupants really had no chance of survival.
In the end, Miller's death was a tragic accident.
WILDMAN: Today, most accept this theory and consider the case to be closed.
And the musician's old trombone, which remains on display at the University of Colorado Heritage Center, is an enduring symbol of the iconic artist who lost his life while serving his country.
From a dancing plague to a pedaling pioneer, a creature from the deep, to a holiday tradition -- I'm Don Wildman, and these are the mysteries at the museum.