The Donner Party, Shoe Bomber, FDR's Cane

Don Wildman investigates artifacts from some of the most mysterious and shocking events in human history – the infamous Donner Party, the Salton Sea, the Crippen Case, the Kinross UFO and more.

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Betty Hill Dress
Betty Hill Dress

Betty Hill Dress

University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
In 1961, Betty and Barney Hill were allegedly abducted by aliens. This vintage, torn dress worn by Betty that strange fall night still carries a stain of an otherworldly nature. I’m afraid to ask.
960 1280

  

The Mars Spirit Rover

The Mars Spirit Rover

New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, Albuquerque, NM
It’s 2004 and our robot representative moves along on the Martian surface hobbled by a malfunctioning wheel. But the broken wheel scrapes away soil, leading to a major discovery: silica. Proof there once was water on the Red Planet.
960 1280

  

Sheet Music

Sheet Music

Circus World Museum, Baraboo, WI
July 6, 1944. A terrible fire consumes a Ringling Brothers’ circus tent, killing 168 people. The investigation turns up the problem: the tent was waterproofed using paraffin and gasoline. What were they thinking?
960 1280

  

The Flying Car

The Flying Car

Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA
The initial test flight of this machine must have been a terror. After all, cars should be driven, not flown (just one man’s opinion).
960 1280

  

Credit Card Machine

Credit Card Machine

Valdez Museum, Valdez, AK
On March 27, 1964 the second-largest earthquake in recorded history strikes Valdez, Alaska. Fifty years later this credit card machine from a gas station along the destroyed waterfront turns up in the weeds, a card still intact.
960 1280

  

Cher Ami, Hero Pigeon

Cher Ami, Hero Pigeon

US Army Signal Corps Museum, Fort Gordon, GA
In 1918, a homing pigeon named Cher Ami saved the lives of 194 US soldiers under a deadly barrage of friendly fire -- and this pigeon did it flying 25 miles after taking a bullet from a German sniper.
960 1280

  

Kittenger's Jumpsuit

Kittenger's Jumpsuit

National Museum of the US Air Force, Dayton, OH
In 1958, Capt. Joseph Kittenger wore this jumpsuit to test a new parachute system designed to save the lives of ejecting US pilots. But he would have to risk his own life, jumping from more than 20 miles above the earth!
960 1280

  

Pullman Car Lighting Brackets

Pullman Car Lighting Brackets

Seattle Museum of History and Industry, Seattle, WA
A devastating avalanche destroys a Great Northern Railway car stopped in the Cascade Mountains en route to Seattle. Decades later, these bent pieces of metal turn up, evidence of a tragedy that killed more than 100 passengers.
960 1280

  

Einstein's Stolen Brain

Einstein's Stolen Brain

Mutter Museum, Philadelphia, PA
When Albert Einstein dies in 1955, his brain is illegally preserved and dissected by the doctor who performs his autopsy. He mounts specimens of the brain on microscope slides -- and makes a valuable discovery.
960 1280

  

Spanish Treasure

Spanish Treasure

McLarty Treasure Museum, Sebastian, FL
In 1961, after a decade of searching, Kip Wagner realizes his dream and discovers buried Spanish treasure at the bottom of the sea -- worth about 20 million bucks then and a whole lot more today.
960 1280

  

Duffy's Cut
Duffy's Cut

Duffy's Cut

Bill Watson examines the 7 sets of human remains that were found buried in an unmarked grave near “Duffy’s Cut,” a stretch of railroad line in Pennsylvania. 960 1280

  

Duffy's Cut

Duffy's Cut

The bones, now housed at Duffy’s Cut Museum at Immaculata University in Pennsylvania, were said to be the remains of Irish immigrants working on the railroad who came down with cholera in 1832. 960 1280

  

Duffy's Cut

Duffy's Cut

But the bones bear evidence of brutal violence. Archaeologists now believe that the immigrants did not die of cholera, after all. 960 1280

  

Duffy's Cut

Duffy's Cut

The memorial sign that was erected near the mass grave of the 57 Irish immigrants who are said to have died of cholera. 960 1280

  

Duffy's Cut

Duffy's Cut

Some of the bones found in the mass grave at Duffy’s Cut. 960 1280

  

Buddy Holly's Sunglasses

Buddy Holly's Sunglasses

Buddy Holly's sunglasses on display at the Historic Auto Attractions Museum in Roscoe, IL. Some claim that Holly’s early and tragic death was the start of a sinister curse. 960 1280

  

Boston Fire Museum

Boston Fire Museum

An 1882 fire engine on display at the Boston Fire Museum. This antique steam engine was one of the first responders to the Boston Molasses Disaster in 1919. 960 1280

  

Boson Fire Museum

Boson Fire Museum

Boston Fire Museum curator Dan O'Neil with an 1882 fire engine. When a large molasses storage tank burst in 1919, the engine was one of the first on the scene. Despite the firefighters’ best efforts, the 2,300,000 gallons of molasses that rushed through the streets of Boston’s North End killed 21 people and injured 150. 960 1280

  

Newseum

Newseum

At the Newseum, John Fox takes out the hollow nickel for the crew to shoot. 960 1280

  

Newseum

Newseum

The crew shoots the hollow nickel on display at the Newseum. Designed by an international spy, the seemingly ordinary coin splits in half and was used to transmit covert secrets among Soviet spies operating in the US. 960 1280

  

American Mountaineering Museum
American Mountaineering Museum

American Mountaineering Museum

On display at the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum is a weather-beaten, metal oxygen tank. 960 1280

  

Replica oxygen tank

Replica oxygen tank

This replica oxygen canister is a lasting testament to a fearless adventurer’s tragic end that remains shrouded in mystery to this day. 960 1280

  

American Mountaineering Museum

American Mountaineering Museum

Learn more about George Lee Mallory’s daring climb at Golden, Colorado’s American Mountaineering Museum. 960 1280

  

American Fur Company Store

American Fur Company Store

At the American Fur Company Store and Dr. Beaumont Museum on Mackinac Island, MI, the yellowing pages of a tattered antique book tell of a astonishing medical affliction and the secrets of human anatomy that it revealed. 960 1280

  

Putnam County Historical Museum

Putnam County Historical Museum

At the Putnam County Historical Museum in Unionville, MO, is a twisted piece of metal, a remnant from a catastrophic disaster in the sky. 960 1280

  

Piece of metal from Continental Flight 11

Piece of metal from Continental Flight 11

On March 22, 1962, Continental Airlines flight 11 exploded in the sky while en route to Kansas City, MO, killing all 45 passengers and crew on board. 960 1280

  

Wreckage of Continental Flight 11

Wreckage of Continental Flight 11

The FBI eventually learned that a man named Thomas Doty had smuggled dynamite onto the plane and exploded it mid-air. But why did he do it? 960 1280

  

Houdini's wooden box

Houdini's wooden box

At the Salon De Magie in Loveland, OH, visitors to the private collection can marvel at a strange wooden box that was once used in a chilling ritual said to summon spirits of the dead. 960 1280

  

New Brunswick Public Library

New Brunswick Public Library

At the New Brunswick Public Library in New Brunswick, NJ, visitors can see a tattered hat on display, which harkens back to the brutal murder of a pastor. 960 1280

  

Photos

Betty Hill Dress

Betty Hill Dress

University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
In 1961, Betty and Barney Hill were allegedly abducted by aliens. This vintage, torn dress worn by Betty that strange fall night still carries a stain of an otherworldly nature. I’m afraid to ask.
960 1280

  

The Mars Spirit Rover

The Mars Spirit Rover

New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, Albuquerque, NM
It’s 2004 and our robot representative moves along on the Martian surface hobbled by a malfunctioning wheel. But the broken wheel scrapes away soil, leading to a major discovery: silica. Proof there once was water on the Red Planet.
960 1280

  

Sheet Music

Sheet Music

Circus World Museum, Baraboo, WI
July 6, 1944. A terrible fire consumes a Ringling Brothers’ circus tent, killing 168 people. The investigation turns up the problem: the tent was waterproofed using paraffin and gasoline. What were they thinking?
960 1280

  

The Flying Car

The Flying Car

Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA
The initial test flight of this machine must have been a terror. After all, cars should be driven, not flown (just one man’s opinion).
960 1280

  

Credit Card Machine

Credit Card Machine

Valdez Museum, Valdez, AK
On March 27, 1964 the second-largest earthquake in recorded history strikes Valdez, Alaska. Fifty years later this credit card machine from a gas station along the destroyed waterfront turns up in the weeds, a card still intact.
960 1280

  

Cher Ami, Hero Pigeon

Cher Ami, Hero Pigeon

US Army Signal Corps Museum, Fort Gordon, GA
In 1918, a homing pigeon named Cher Ami saved the lives of 194 US soldiers under a deadly barrage of friendly fire -- and this pigeon did it flying 25 miles after taking a bullet from a German sniper.
960 1280

  

Kittenger's Jumpsuit

Kittenger's Jumpsuit

National Museum of the US Air Force, Dayton, OH
In 1958, Capt. Joseph Kittenger wore this jumpsuit to test a new parachute system designed to save the lives of ejecting US pilots. But he would have to risk his own life, jumping from more than 20 miles above the earth!
960 1280

  

Pullman Car Lighting Brackets

Pullman Car Lighting Brackets

Seattle Museum of History and Industry, Seattle, WA
A devastating avalanche destroys a Great Northern Railway car stopped in the Cascade Mountains en route to Seattle. Decades later, these bent pieces of metal turn up, evidence of a tragedy that killed more than 100 passengers.
960 1280

  

Einstein's Stolen Brain

Einstein's Stolen Brain

Mutter Museum, Philadelphia, PA
When Albert Einstein dies in 1955, his brain is illegally preserved and dissected by the doctor who performs his autopsy. He mounts specimens of the brain on microscope slides -- and makes a valuable discovery.
960 1280

  

Spanish Treasure

Spanish Treasure

McLarty Treasure Museum, Sebastian, FL
In 1961, after a decade of searching, Kip Wagner realizes his dream and discovers buried Spanish treasure at the bottom of the sea -- worth about 20 million bucks then and a whole lot more today.
960 1280

  

Duffy's Cut

Duffy's Cut

Bill Watson examines the 7 sets of human remains that were found buried in an unmarked grave near “Duffy’s Cut,” a stretch of railroad line in Pennsylvania. 960 1280

  

Duffy's Cut

Duffy's Cut

The bones, now housed at Duffy’s Cut Museum at Immaculata University in Pennsylvania, were said to be the remains of Irish immigrants working on the railroad who came down with cholera in 1832. 960 1280

  

Duffy's Cut

Duffy's Cut

But the bones bear evidence of brutal violence. Archaeologists now believe that the immigrants did not die of cholera, after all. 960 1280

  

Duffy's Cut

Duffy's Cut

The memorial sign that was erected near the mass grave of the 57 Irish immigrants who are said to have died of cholera. 960 1280

  

Duffy's Cut

Duffy's Cut

Some of the bones found in the mass grave at Duffy’s Cut. 960 1280

  

Buddy Holly's Sunglasses

Buddy Holly's Sunglasses

Buddy Holly's sunglasses on display at the Historic Auto Attractions Museum in Roscoe, IL. Some claim that Holly’s early and tragic death was the start of a sinister curse. 960 1280

  

Boston Fire Museum

Boston Fire Museum

An 1882 fire engine on display at the Boston Fire Museum. This antique steam engine was one of the first responders to the Boston Molasses Disaster in 1919. 960 1280

  

Boson Fire Museum

Boson Fire Museum

Boston Fire Museum curator Dan O'Neil with an 1882 fire engine. When a large molasses storage tank burst in 1919, the engine was one of the first on the scene. Despite the firefighters’ best efforts, the 2,300,000 gallons of molasses that rushed through the streets of Boston’s North End killed 21 people and injured 150. 960 1280

  

Newseum

Newseum

At the Newseum, John Fox takes out the hollow nickel for the crew to shoot. 960 1280

  

Newseum

Newseum

The crew shoots the hollow nickel on display at the Newseum. Designed by an international spy, the seemingly ordinary coin splits in half and was used to transmit covert secrets among Soviet spies operating in the US. 960 1280

  

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