Watch Tuesdays, July 1 – 22, 2014 at 9pm on WMHT TV.
The HISTORY DETECTIVES SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS team brings cutting edge tools to some of our biggest historical mysteries. Each new hour-long episode asks probing questions behind a single iconic mystery from America's past. Three investigators team up to solve each case: Wes Cowan, an independent appraiser and auctioneer; Kaiama Glover, professor at Barnard College, Columbia University; and Tukufu Zuberi, professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. As the detectives unearth fresh evidence, sift through clues and crisscross the country in search of answers, they reveal new perspectives on stories we thought we knew.
Civil War Sabotage? | July 1, 2014 at 9pm
It was one of the worst maritime disasters in U.S. history. Officially, the death toll was 1,500. Unofficially, the count may have been far higher. When it mysteriously exploded on April 27, 1865, the Mississippi steamboat SS Sultana was packed with Union soldiers. The war had ended that month; at every stop more and more men clamored to board the homeward-bound ship, which blew up mid-river. However, the story of the sinking quickly vanished from the papers. What really sank the Sultana? Was it Confederate sabotage? Securing the original investigative report and its archives allows the team to forensically examine and scientifically test theories of the boilers’ failure. The team also researches the stories of a Confederate agent and spy who burned Union ships on the Mississippi and was an expert in using “coal torpedoes” and a former Union inspector’s deathbed revelation.
The Disappearance of Glenn Miller | July 8, 2014 at 9pm
One of the most celebrated, beloved entertainers of the wartime era takes off from England in heavy fog, heading to France to entertain troops. His plane vanishes. Glenn Miller’s disappearance is perhaps the biggest mystery and cold case of World War II. This HISTORY DETECTIVES investigation contains a great deal of new information: Miller’s pilot was a rank novice who had never flown over the English Channel, never mind in appalling weather; documents from a Lancaster bomber pilot support another possible accounting of the plane’s disappearance; and a 17-year old plane spotter’s notebook — discovered in 2012 at a UK Antiques Roadshow — answers a question that has long baffled investigators: which route did Miller’s aircraft take? In addition, the German-speaking Miller was working for the U.S. Army’s Psychological Warfare Division, recording German language propaganda broadcasts and musical performances.
Texas Servant Girl Murders | July 15, 2014 at 9pm
In 1885, six African-American servants and two white society women were killed in Austin, Texas — almost all bludgeoned with an ax, dragged from their beds and raped. As quickly as the killings started, they stopped. No killer was ever identified. Desperate to find someone to blame, the authorities first rounded up hundreds of black men. Later, they pointed the finger at a white man, James Philips, whom they accused of murdering his teenage bride. Although Philips was eventually acquitted, the trial was akin to the OJ Simpson trial, with sensational, lurid details spilling out in court. After the furor and panic died down, so did the memory of the killings. Can the History Detectives solve these murders? They pore over the records and apply cutting-edge police techniques to determine who killed the servant girls of Austin.
Who Killed Jimmy Hoffa? | July 22, 2014 at 9pm
In one of history’s most fascinating unsolved mysteries, former Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa went missing on July 30, 1975, never to be found. Hoffa, a hero to many working Americans, played a major role in the growth and development of the trucking union. But he fell afoul of the law, with allegations that the powerful pension fund was under mob control and used, among other things, to finance Vegas casinos. What exactly happened to Hoffa that day, and why? Recently declassified FBI files and interviews with people close to the story allow a detailed accounting of what likely occurred. The investigation is an exploration of Hoffa’s final days and hours and a revelatory window on power and corruption in the post-war era labor movement.