Mysteries at the Museum (2010) s11e05 Episode Script

Father of the American Cavalry, Rosa Parks of NY and Black Knight UFO

1 The secret that saved the American Revolution.
This mysterious soldier is Washington's last hope.
An otherworldly image ignites an alien conspiracy.
This may be technology that's even beyond the Earth itself.
And a woman who might be a medical marvel.
She's made an incredible claim, that she can give birth to rabbits.
These are the mysteries at the museum.
Washington, D.
, plays host to some of the nation's finest cultural attractions, from the Smithsonian Institution to the John F.
Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
It's also home to the largest literary archive in the world, the Library of Congress.
Its shelves and halls hold 160 million books and artifacts, including Thomas Jefferson's personal library, an 18th century map of the United States, and a copy of the Gutenberg Bible, one of the first mass-produced books in the world.
But amid these renowned relics is a little-known text that celebrates an unsung hero of American history.
It's 28 inches by 20 inches and about 3 inches thick.
It's hand-bound in red leather.
It looks like a great deal of time and effort went into constructing these artifacts.
WILDMAN: This book harkens back to a high-stakes moment that decided the fate of the nation.
LINEHAN: This is a story of courage, sacrifice, and the spirit of independence.
WILDMAN: 1777 -- Pennsylvania.
Two years into the Revolutionary War, General George Washington's army is struggling to defeat the British.
The fate of the fledgling United States of America is anything but certain.
LINEHAN: The Continental Army is very ill-equipped.
Washington's men are not fighting cohesively.
They are not fighting as one fighting force.
And for the past two years, they have known little victory.
Fire! WILDMAN: The general is desperate for a way to give his men the upper hand.
But help is about to arrive in a very unlikely form.
One day, while stationed at his camp near the Brandywine River, Washington is visited by a mysterious man on horseback, 32-year-old Polish freedom fighter Casimir Pulaski.
LINEHAN: Casimir Pulaski is a very talented soldier and a gifted horseman.
WILDMAN: Pulaski tells Washington that he had fought for his native Poland in a battle for independence from Russia.
But his brave uprising had been defeated.
Now, after emigrating to America, Pulaski is eager to help Washington's revolutionaries succeed where his own rebellion had failed.
LINEHAN: Pulaski sees a kindred spirit in these Americans.
If he can't free his own people, at least he'll be able to use his skills to free the American people.
WILDMAN: And Pulaski has an idea that he thinks can help defeat the British.
While the American army has horses, they are not used in any organized fashion.
Pulaski believes he can turn Washington's unskilled horsemen into the country's very first cavalry unit.
LINEHAN: An effective cavalry force can fight off armies of much larger numbers and can augment the infantry and the artillery.
And the Continental Army is missing out on all those advantages.
WILDMAN: Washington is impressed with the Polish freedom fighter.
But there's a problem.
No foreigner is allowed to command an American regiment without the approval of the Continental Congress.
Washington is reluctant to undermine Congress' authority, and so he has little choice but to reject Pulaski's proposal.
LINEHAN: Pulaski's skills are wanted.
His skills are needed.
But due to congressional bureaucracy, he's not allowed to fight.
WILDMAN: Washington returns to his camp, still without a clear strategy.
But soon the war takes a dark turn, which forces the general's hand.
On September 11, 1777, the sound of gunfire fills the air.
It's a surprise attack by the British.
And they're coming straight for the general himself.
LINEHAN: General Washington is in serious danger of being captured.
WILDMAN: If the British get their hands on Washington, it could spell doom for the revolution itself.
There is a risk that the entire American Revolution can end right then and there.
WILDMAN: Washington is desperate.
Defying protocol, he summons Pulaski.
LINEHAN: Washington recognizes the severity of the situation.
And without congressional approval, he asks Pulaski to round up anyone on horseback he can find to lead them in a charge against the British.
Pulaski is Washington's last hope.
WILDMAN: The Polish soldier springs to action.
He corrals the American horsemen and turns them to face the British.
He instructs them to use an old maneuver from his days of fighting in Poland.
LINEHAN: Pulaski charges straight at them, down the center, to surprise them and to shock them into stopping, very much like a punch in the nose.
The British are caught completely off guard.
They have never encountered this kind of resistance on horseback before.
WILDMAN: Pulaski's offensive tactic allows Washington to evade capture.
LINEHAN: Pulaski's gamble pays off.
He saved the American Revolution.
WILDMAN: Shortly after, the Continental Congress approves Pulaski's application to command a new American cavalry.
The Polish immigrant is made a brigadier general.
And his innovative use of horses becomes a vital battlefield tool for the remainder of the Revolutionary War.
Pulaski is so successful that his compatriots give him an affectionate new moniker.
He earns the nickname "the Father of the American Calvary.
" WILDMAN: In 1926, Poland commemorates its long-standing relationship with the United States by giving the American people a 111-volume book entitled "The Emblem of Good Will.
" The book, now on display at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.
, celebrates the history of the two nations and honors Casimir Pulaski, the man who saved the revolution and created the first American cavalry.
New York City's sprawling subway system is the most extensive in the world.
If its rails were laid end to end, they would stretch for more than 600 miles.
And tracking the history of public transportation in the Big Apple is the New York Transit Museum.
Here, visitors can climb aboard a wooden train from 1908, take a seat on a refurbished bus, and peek inside a subway car built for the 1964 World's Fair.
But alongside these hulking relics is a much smaller object that recalls one of the city's most inspiring tales.
DESJARLAIS: The artifact is 28 inches high, about 9 1/2 inches wide.
It's a nice dark wood.
And it has a brass drawer at the bottom that collected money.
WILDMAN: An ordinary fair box like this one was at the center of an epic crusade that changed New York forever.
DESJARLAIS: This is the story of an absolutely pivotal moment in the history of civil rights.
WILDMAN: It's 1854 in Manhattan.
Slavery has been illegal in New York for nearly three decades.
But African Americans still face discrimination at every turn.
There was segregation in restaurants, in theaters.
Inequality still was the norm.
WILDMAN: Perhaps the most blatant form of segregation can be found on New York's vast network of horse-drawn streetcars, where African Americans are forbidden from riding on the same carriages as white passengers.
And this policy is rigorously enforced.
DESJARLAIS: African Americans had been forcibly removed from vehicles, [ Whip cracks ] whipped in some cases.
WILDMAN: But an unlikely passenger is about to challenge the status quo.
On July 16, a 24-year-old woman named Elizabeth Jennings is running late for her job as a church organist.
Elizabeth Jennings was born into a staunch abolitionist African American family.
She was a well-educated, strong-willed woman who had a lot of moxie.
WILDMAN: Jennings watches as a streetcar pulls up to the curb.
It's for white passengers only.
But the young woman is in such a rush that she makes a bold choice -- white or black, she's getting on.
DESJARLAIS: She decided she had every right to ride.
WILDMAN: Jennings places her money in the fair box just like this one on display at the New York Transit Museum.
But when the conductor looks up at his new passenger, he's outraged.
And he tries to remove Jennings from the streetcar by force.
DESJARLAIS: The conductor tried to physically remove Elizabeth from the streetcar.
WILDMAN: Jennings defiantly stands her ground.
DESJARLAIS: She was not getting off of this streetcar.
WILDMAN: Finally, the conductor gives up and agrees to let Jennings stay on.
The young woman is relieved.
But her struggle isn't over yet.
[ Horse neighs ] As the car heads uptown, it comes to a sudden halt.
DESJARLAIS: The conductor found a police officer.
And the policeman was going to settle this argument.
WILDMAN: The officer boards the streetcar.
He grabs Jennings and throws her to the curb.
The assault leaves Jennings battered and bruised.
DESJARLAIS: Her bonnet was crushed.
Her dress was soiled.
It was an assault.
WILDMAN: But in that moment, something inside of Jennings begins to stir.
DESJARLAIS: She'd never gone through something like that before.
She was shocked.
She was hurt.
She was angry.
WILDMAN: Jennings vows that she'll never allow such a humiliation to happen again to anyone.
DESJARLAIS: She was going to do something about this injustice and fight segregation on public transportation.
WILDMAN: So how will Jennings take up the battle for equality? It's 1854 in Manhattan.
A young African American woman named Elizabeth Jennings is forcibly removed from one of New York City's whites-only streetcars.
But her struggle for equality has only just begun.
Jennings goes home to nurse her wounds.
But as she recovers, she realizes she can use her experience to make a lasting change.
If she can inspire other African Americans to take a stand like she did, then together, perhaps they could end segregation on New York City streetcars for good.
She felt in her heart black New Yorkers could fight against the status quo.
WILDMAN: Jennings begins telling her story at every available opportunity.
She describes the detail of her violent assault to her church congregation.
She publishes her courageous account in a newspaper that caters to black readers.
And she crisscrosses the city, sharing her experience with leading figures of the African American community.
Jennings was determined that her story be told and that everybody heard.
WILDMAN: The organist's ordeal galvanizes her fellow citizens to take action.
DESJARLAIS: People were outraged at what happened to Elizabeth Jennings.
They were going to do something about it.
WILDMAN: Later that month, African American New Yorkers rally behind Jennings.
Scores of black passengers follow her brave example by demanding seats on whites-only streetcars.
The protests are a stunning success.
DESJARLAIS: Protesting really helped show black people and white people were going to ride together.
WILDMAN: In the wake of the demonstrations, city officials have no choice but to change the rules.
All streetcar lines in New York City were desegregated.
WILDMAN: But despite Jennings' successful campaign, segregation remains the law of the land in large swaths of America.
It isn't until 100 years later that another trailblazer also takes a stand for the right to travel freely.
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama bus.
Today, there's equality on transportation.
It really began with Elizabeth Jennings.
WILDMAN: And this fair box remains on display at the New York Transit Museum.
It serves as a lasting reminder of the long journey towards civil rights and the forgotten heroine who took a defiant ride towards freedom.
A helmet worn by the legendary aviator Amelia Earhart, an antique bottle of smelling salts, and a collection of rare books on mind-altering drugs are just some of the objects on display in the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections.
And among these varied artifacts is one that played a part in an altogether out-of-this-world mystery.
CARLSON: It's about six feet long.
It's blue, covered in pockets and zippers and Velcro.
There are a few patches on it.
One is an American flag, another, a red circle with a design in the middle of it.
WILDMAN: This jumpsuit is linked to one of the most baffling conspiracy theories of the modern era.
CARLSON: This is a story about an object that created a worldwide frenzy.
WILDMAN: 1899 -- Colorado Springs.
Famed inventor and pioneer Nikola Tesla is working late at night in his laboratory.
The scientist is monitoring electrical activity in the Earth's atmosphere when his equipment picks up a series of unusual signals, the likes of which he's never heard before.
[ Pulsing signal ] The signals pulsate at a steady rhythmic beat.
Intrigued, Tesla considers a range of possibilities to explain the strange phenomenon.
He theorizes that they could be an electrical current produced by the sun or a disturbance caused by the Northern Lights.
But neither of these things would produce such a steady, rhythmic signal.
In fact, he can't find any naturally occurring event on Earth that does.
Tesla is left with a seemingly incredible possibility.
This signal isn't coming from within the Earth's atmosphere at all.
It's coming from outer space.
CARLSON: This might be technology that's even beyond the Earth itself.
WILDMAN: Tesla even posits that the strange signal may be an attempt by an alien intelligence to communicate with Earth.
While many doubt the veracity of Tesla's findings, the theory is hotly debated by space buffs for decades after his death, with the most ardent supporters committed to proving him right.
And almost 100 years after his initial findings were made, it seems an answer may finally be at hand.
Stargazers around the world are captivated with NASA's latest mission, the space shuttle Endeavor's groundbreaking journey to the International Space Station.
CARLSON: The new and exciting thing is that we will have humans living in space long-term.
So this is a very big deal.
WILDMAN: Astronauts send pictures and video from the mission back to Earth on a regular basis.
And for the first time in its history, NASA can share the images with the public instantly thanks to the growing use of the Internet.
CARLSON: NASA, being a public organization, posts a lot of this stuff on the Internet for the public to view.
So there's a lot of attention surrounding the release of these photos and videos.
WILDMAN: Some of the photos depict daily life in orbit while others offer stunning views of Earth from space.
But one set of astonishing images truly catches the public's attention.
In a series of six photographs, an unidentified black object can be seen floating in space.
It's just very strange looking.
It has protrusions on it.
Parts of it are shiny.
It's very mysterious looking.
WILDMAN: The pictures have no captions and NASA offers no explanation as to what the unnamed object might be.
CARLSON: Questions arise.
What is it? Why is this object not labeled? What does the government know about it? WILDMAN: Then, as the debate intensifies, NASA dumbfounds everyone by removing the pictures from their website without warning.
The sudden removal of the images ignites a firestorm of speculation.
CARLSON: When the photos disappeared from NASA's website, it just stirred the controversy.
Why did they take these photos down? WILDMAN: NASA refuses to comment.
And in the absence of further evidence, a stunning theory emerges.
Some say the mysterious black object is the source of the radio signal Tesla detected in 1899.
So what's the truth behind these startling images? It's 1998.
NASA has just released a series of puzzling photographs to the public.
Several pictures from their latest mission reveal bizarre images that some believe are proof of an alien spacecraft hovering just above the Earth's atmosphere.
So what's the truth behind this otherworldly phenomenon? With speculation running wild, one man vows to settle the debate once and for all -- a former NASA employee named James Oberg.
CARLSON: James Oberg is a retired NASA scientist.
And he decides to prove to people what the object really is.
WILDMAN: Oberg's 22 years of experience at the space agency make him ideally suited to solve the mystery.
CARLSON: Oberg goes back to the original photos and the original videos from this mission.
And he even goes so far as to interview some of the astronauts himself.
What Oberg is able to conclusively show is that this strange object is actually just a thermal blanket.
WILDMAN: Oberg publishes his findings online.
According to his report, one of the Endeavor astronauts was attempting to attach a large cover called a thermal blanket to the exterior of the space station when it accidentally slipped away.
CARLSON: Oberg's explanation is very detailed.
He shows quite conclusively that this mysterious object really is just a lost thermal blanket.
WILDMAN: Most accept that the odd object seen in the photos was little more than space junk, leaving the question of what Tesla detected over a century ago an ongoing topic of debate.
Today, this flight suit worn by an astronaut aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor is on display at the Purdue University Library.
It's a reminder of an unsolved mystery and the truth that is still out there.
Paintings by Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, and Leonardo Da Vinci are just some of the stunning masterpieces on display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.
But tucked away from these classic works of art is an obscure creation with a bizarre tale to tell.
GRAWL: It's about 8 inches by 11 inches.
It's yellowed with age.
And it depicts a scene of a woman in the throes of giving birth.
But as you look closer, you realize she has given birth not to a bundle of joy but to a bundle of bunnies.
WILDMAN: This strange image was inspired by a mystifying event that spawned a wave of fear and fascination.
This is a "hare-raising" story of a shocking medical mystery.
WILDMAN: 1726 -- England.
Renowned surgeon Dr.
Cyriacus Ahlers is investigating one of the oddest cases of his professional career.
A young peasant woman named Mary Toft says she can do something extraordinary.
GRAWL: Mary Toft has made an incredible claim, that she can give birth to rabbits.
WILDMAN: The very idea seems preposterous.
But several other doctors swear they have witnessed the woman's unlikely ability firsthand.
They believe that she truly is a medical marvel.
WILDMAN: But while the medical establishment is fascinated by the weird phenomenon, the public fears that Toft's strange affliction could be contagious.
GRAWL: People are very afraid that if Mary Toft is giving birth to rabbits, this could happen to them as well.
WILDMAN: Desperate to put the public at ease and suspecting there's more to the story than meets the eye, Dr.
Ahlers pays a visit to the peasant woman.
Ahlers is skeptical about Mary's claim.
But he's interested in getting to the medical truth of what Mary Toft is doing.
WILDMAN: But shortly after arriving at Toft's home, Ahlers is met by a stunning sight.
GRAWL: Mary seems to give birth to a rabbit right before his eyes.
WILDMAN: Ahlers is astonished.
Yet he still thinks there must be a rational explanation for the phenomenon.
GRAWL: He doesn't believe it's possible that she could be giving birth to rabbits.
Ahlers suspects that Mary's bizarre bunny-birthing antics must be the result of some kind of clever trick.
So he resolves to prove that Mary Toft is nothing but a fraud.
The young woman is placed inside a locked room all by herself.
And Ahlers keeps her under close observation round the clock.
GRAWL: The hope is that isolating Mary and watching her constantly will finally reveal how she is pulling off this incredible feat.
WILDMAN: Mary remains under confinement for days.
And just as Dr.
Ahlers suspected, she fails to produce any rabbits.
Ahlers is feeling vindicated.
He finally has evidence that these rabbits did not originate inside of Mary Toft.
WILDMAN: But then something incredible happens.
Ah! She's making noises.
It seems as though she's going into labor.
WILDMAN: So can Mary Toft really give birth to bunnies? It's 1727 in England.
A doctor named Cyriacus Ahlers is investigating an extraordinary incident.
A peasant woman has apparently given birth to rabbits.
So is this incredible claim for real? Or is it just a hare-brained scam? Toft's apparent labor pains last for days.
But nothing is happening.
She's yet to actually give birth to a rabbit.
WILDMAN: Then the truth is finally exposed.
One evening, a porter is caught sneaking into Toft's cell.
The man appears to be concealing something furry.
GRAWL: And what he has is a rabbit.
WILDMAN: The young woman has been caught red-handed.
At this point, Mary knows the jig is up.
She finally confesses that this has all been an elaborate hoax.
WILDMAN: The poor peasant explains that her outrageous deception had a simple motivation -- money.
With no other way to elevate her station in life, Mary devised a scheme that she thought would turn her into a one-woman phenomenon.
GRAWL: Well, she could travel around England, birthing bunnies for crowds.
She might've been able to become quite wealthy.
WILDMAN: To pull off her cotton-tail con, she would hide rabbits in a secret pocket in her dress.
Then, when doctors weren't looking, she would move the animals into position and feign labor.
GRAWL: And she would pretend to birth that rabbit, giving the illusion of this incredible marvel.
WILDMAN: Once she was locked up, Toft had no choice but to have someone smuggle in a rabbit.
Mary Toft returns to her life as a peasant and never profits from her incredible scheme.
Today, this etching at the National Gallery of Art depicts one of Toft's legendary births.
It recalls the medical marvel that in the end turned out to be a piece of fluff.
Colorado Springs.
This area was the site of one of the largest gold strikes in American history.
So it's no surprise that it's now home to an institution that showcases the history of wealth -- the Money Museum.
Its collection includes a stone once used as currency in the 18th century, America's first steam-powered mint, and a rare $50 coin.
But there's one item on display that represents the seedier side of money.
MUDD: The artifact is about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
It's round and quite thin.
And it's a white-silver color.
WILDMAN: This weathered token recalls a harrowing tale of greed, forgery, and a famous figure's little-known quest for justice.
This is an amazing story about a legendary scientist and his attempts to catch a notorious criminal.
WILDMAN: 1696 -- England.
51-year-old physicist and mathematician Isaac Newton is hailed as the greatest thinker of his time.
MUDD: Newton is at the top of his field.
He's invented calculus.
He's talked about the laws of motion, the laws of gravity.
This guy was a superstar in the scientific field.
WILDMAN: But one day, Newton receives a surprising request to take on a new role as the warden of the Royal Mint.
MUDD: He's offered the job because he is a scientist.
He knows how to look at metals and come up with solutions for improving the coinage.
WILDMAN: Officials hope the illustrious thinker can solve a growing crisis -- counterfeiting.
Forgers are shaving the edges off silver coins and melting them down to create new ones.
As a result, England is being flooded with bogus currency.
And the country is on the road to financial ruin.
MUDD: Up to 10 percent of the coinage in circulation at the time was counterfeit.
This could sink the economy of England as a whole.
WILDMAN: Newton has no experience in criminal investigation.
But the government hopes he can use his analytic mind to track down the counterfeiters.
The scientist is eager to take on the challenge.
MUDD: Newton had already solved the mysteries of the universe.
But this is a great opportunity for him to do something new.
WILDMAN: Newton starts by cultivating a web of informants.
With their help, he hopes to infiltrate London's criminal underworld and trace the fake money back to the counterfeiters.
MUDD: What he's looking for through these informants is, where are these coins being made, how are they being made, and who was involved? WILDMAN: Newton's informants soon tell him of a vast counterfeiting operation with one man at its head.
And it's someone no one could have expected.
The ringleader is a man named William Chaloner, a former advisor to the Royal Mint itself.
And it seems he used his unique access to the illustrious institution to undermine it.
MUDD: William Chaloner had been used by the Royal Mint to help them come up with anticounterfeiting practices.
WILDMAN: Newton learns that although Chaloner plays the role of an upstanding ex-government advisor in public, London's seedy underworld knows him very differently.
He is actually a notoriously shrewd criminal who takes great pride in staying one step ahead of the law.
MUDD: Chaloner is a straightforward, honest man as far as anybody knew.
But Newton becomes certain that Chaloner is at the center of all this activity throughout the city.
WILDMAN: But despite a number of witnesses who point the finger at Chaloner, Newton can find no concrete evidence linking him to the counterfeiting ring.
MUDD: He doesn't have the proof he needs to make this accusation stick.
WILDMAN: Nonetheless, the dogged investigator refuses to give up.
MUDD: Newton has determined to bring Chaloner to justice.
WILDMAN: So how will the scientist turned crime-fighter get his man? It's the 1690s in London.
As Britain's newly appointed Warden of the Mint, scientist-turned-sleuth Isaac Newton is determined to bring down a master forger named William Chaloner.
But the criminal has made sure there's no hard evidence linking him to the crime.
So can Newton somehow deduce a way to bring this counterfeiting crook to justice? Newton realizes that he'll somehow need to outfox the wily Chaloner.
It's then that the scientist learns that the counterfeiter has a weakness -- he's a notorious show-off.
MUDD: William Chaloner is an expert criminal.
But he also liked to brag about his activities to the right people.
WILDMAN: Newton cooks up a crafty scheme.
Despite a lack of concrete evidence, he has Chaloner arrested and locked up in the city jail.
Newton then arranges for three undercover informants to share a cell with the counterfeiter as he awaits trial.
The plan is to trick the man into confessing.
MUDD: Newton wants to have Chaloner implicate himself.
So by putting Chaloner in a cell with other prisoners, he figured that they could get him to talk.
WILDMAN: Sure enough, it doesn't take much for Newton's spies to get Chaloner boasting about his exploits.
MUDD: Chaloner wants to impress them.
So all sorts of information comes out about what he had done, where he had done it, where the equipment was.
And this was the lynchpin that just sealed his fate.
WILDMAN: Newton finally has the evidence he needs.
In March of 1699, William Chaloner is convicted of counterfeiting and sentenced to hang.
MUDD: With this success, Newton reduced the amount of counterfeiting and improved the reputation of English coinage.
WILDMAN: And that's not the famous scientist's only contribution to currency.
As Warden of the Mint, Newton introduces the practice of adding ridges to the edges of coins to make them more difficult to counterfeit.
The process, known as milling, is still in use throughout the world today.
In the end, Newton's legacy was one of improvement.
He effectively made a positive difference in our lives at a very fundamental level -- the money we use every day.
WILDMAN: Meanwhile, this milled English coin, which dates back to 1700, is preserved at the Money Museum.
It's a valuable reminder of a scientist-turned-sleuth who left his indelible mark on the country's loose change.
Torquay, England.
Stunning beaches and a mild climate have earned this region the nickname "the English Riviera.
" And just a short distance from the town's busy marina is the Torquay Museum.
Its varied collection includes a recreation of an English farm from 1860, a child's coffin from ancient Egypt, and a fur coat which belonged to legendary mystery writer Agatha Christie.
But amid these eye-catching displays is one artifact that recalls a struggle for survival in one of the harshest environments on Earth.
The subject is made of brass and steel.
It's 3 1/2 inches in diameter.
It has a dial.
And it is more than 100 years old.
WILDMAN: This delicate object belonged to a fearless and rugged adventurer who some say inspired a beloved Hollywood hero.
[ Whip cracks ] CHANDLER: This compass may be the only surviving artifact from an epic expedition.
WILDMAN: 1906 -- Bolivia.
Englishman Percy Fawcett is one of the greatest explorers in the world.
And he is in the middle of his toughest challenge yet -- mapping the dangerous and impenetrable jungles of Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia.
To do it, he has to navigate uncharted rivers and hack his way through dense rainforest.
At each stage of his journey, he faces countless perils, from intense heat and disease to unforgiving terrain and deadly jungle predators.
CHANDLER: He describes spiders the size of dinner plates.
He was attacked by a giant anaconda.
You couldn't let your guard down for a moment.
A million things can kill you in the jungle.
WILDMAN: Fawcett and his team carry a load of essential supplies, including food, rifles, and this compass, now on display at the Torquay Museum.
Their only nonessential item is an accordion carried by a crew member who entertains them when they stop to rest.
The music takes their minds off the grueling conditions.
But one day, something happens that puts the entire mission in jeopardy.
The men are heading downriver when disaster strikes.
They are bombarded by a volley of arrows.
On the riverbank is a group of angry native tribesmen.
CHANDLER: They were vastly outnumbered by a hostile indigenous community.
There didn't appear to be a way out of this one.
WILDMAN: So will Fawcett and his men survive? It's 1906.
Intrepid explorer Percy Fawcett is leading an expedition to map out the darkest reaches of Bolivia.
But deep in the heart of the jungle, he and his men are attacked by a band of hostile natives.
So how will Fawcett make it out alive? The men quickly load their rifles, but Fawcett orders them to hold their fire.
Rifles were the last resort for Fawcett.
He wanted to meet the indigenous peoples and learn from them.
WILDMAN: Fawcett has to think fast.
Suddenly, he remembers the accordion.
And he orders his crew member to start playing.
He started to go through a repertoire of songs.
Fawcett hoped, because it was such an unusual sound, that it might just arouse their curiosity and overcome their hostile feelings.
WILDMAN: As the sounds of the accordion fill the jungle, the natives are stunned.
This must've been a very tentative moment, knowing that this could go wrong any time.
WILDMAN: Then the tension breaks.
CHANDLER: Everyone roared with laughter.
The accordion saved the day.
WILDMAN: The natives lower their weapons and welcome Fawcett and his men into their camp for the night.
It was one of the only nights that Fawcett actually slept in the jungle on their expedition without real fear of attack.
WILDMAN: The next day, the tribesmen help Fawcett get further downriver, enabling him to make one of the first complete maps of the region.
But that's by no means his only legacy.
Following his return from the jungle, Fawcett compiles his journals into a book.
It's believed to be the inspiration for a legendary Hollywood hero, Indiana Jones.
There are many similarities between Fawcett's explorations and Indiana Jones.
Fawcett was involved in wars.
He was afraid of snakes.
He traveled through South America, which features in the last Indiana Jones film.
WILDMAN: And today, in the Torquay Museum, this small brass compass is a reminder of a legendary explorer and his larger-than-life legacy.
From a hare-brained scheme to an out-of-this-world conspiracy, a brave freedom fighter to a scientist-turned-detective, I'm Don Wildman, and these are the mysteries at the museum.