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Expedition Unknown – Search for Shangri-La – S02E21

imageAs we get to the end of Josh’s travels for the season, we’re off to Nepal in search of the famed Shangri-La. The term has come to represent a paradise, a mythical city of Utopia where people don’t seem to age, suffer from disease and the idea of war doesn’t exist. But is such a place merely the imaginings of a fiction writer or can there be such a place?

At first, as Josh meets with some monks, it appears Shangri-La may be another word for Shambala, which might not be a place you visit with your mortal body. It is more of a state of being, a state of consciousness achieved through meditation.

But there may be more to it as Josh is told of the Sky Caves in the Mustang Valley. Hundreds of caves have been carved into the rock walls and they are almost completely unexplored. However, there is a small fuel crisis to overcome and nothing says skirting the law like black market fuel and a helicopter.

With that problem solved, they meet with Mark Aldenderfer who has been studying the area for years. He believes there are around 10,000 cave openings and they have perhaps been able to explore 300 of them. Not only do they not have the resources to explore every  one of them, but each opening is over 50 feet off the ground. You don’t merely walk into one, you climb using rope and harness. So they’ve been able to locate the caves, but they are still undiscovered.

For the caves they are able to enter, Mark takes Josh into a monastery carved into the rocks. It’s complete with mummified snow leopards, hand carved statues and paintings. It’s an extremely intricate temple that very few have ever been able to see.

It would have been used as a place of worship as well as a place of healing, a hospital to create medicines as well as perform ceremonies for those who had passed.

The next stop is the small village of Chhoser, where Mark is able to secure some supplies and some additional workers. The supplies are a couple of ladders which they strap to the trucks and do their best to climb the steep, icy and crumbling paths they call roads.

At their destination, they lash the ladders together and make their way inside another set of caves. What they discover are walls covered in detailed paintings. The art is most likely 500 years old, but since it’s painted right onto the unstable sandstone, entire murals have slid off and turned to dust. Interestingly, some of the locals have seen identical paintings in temples hundreds of miles away. It would seem the people moved from location to location meditating and creating works of art on the walls.

As Josh says, it’s disappointing to know that within a hundred years, those paintings may be nothing more than dust on the floor, the messages and signs of the artists to disappear.

But is this Shangri-La? Is this the Utopia of legend? Perhaps not, but it does speak to the ideal of peace of meditation. In this type of seclusion, one could find harmony with the world. However, there is another stop on the journey that may be closer to a Utopia.

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Expedition Unknown – Nazi Atomic Secrets – Part 2

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When we started the episode, Josh was looking for evidence that Nazi Germany had taken possession of million of dollars worth of art and gold and hid them away in secret bunkers. While those treasures remain to be discovered, it’s becoming clear that the Nazis built a series of underground structures and the stories of treasures being buried and tossed overboard are true.

We pick things up on Lake Fuschl, where Josh and Wolfgang located what appears to be a champagne bottle. Wasting no time, they hook with a dive team and head into the water. The team quickly finds a bayonet blade, most likely from WW2, as well as a grenade. These are pretty spectacular finds and solidify the idea that relics were thrown into the lake to hide them from the Allies. But in a cruel twist of fate, Josh isn’t able to locate the champagne bottle they had in the grasp of the ROV. It was larger than life on the screen, but unfortunately will remain buried for the time being.

From Lake Fuschl, Josh heads to Gusen and a concentration camp with tunnels built using slave labor. It’s claimed there could be five miles of tunnels, but Andreas Sulzer disagrees and believes the number to be much higher at 25 miles worth. To prove his point, he shows Josh documents listing more pieces to the complex. He’s already found an entrance that many said couldn’t and didn’t exist. And with Josh in tow, they visit this entrance which lies just beyond the rifle range.

What we get is an entrance complete with stairs and rusty SS helmet. Unfortunately, it needs to be cleared, not only of debris, but the flooded lower levels. However, due to some legal snags with the government, Andreas is forbidden to do any more digging. The tunnel is at their very feet, but action is slow about what to do next. That is a crime in its own right.

Andreas takes Josh to another entrance and it is his strong belief that these tunnels are connected and go off in even more directions. Oddly, this entrance gives off high radiation levels so it’s not safe to enter. This radiation could be from the atomic lab believed to be housed here.

In another spot Andreas knows of, there are some sandstone tunnels, a whole network of them. And as they push forward, the radiation levels continue to climb. Do these tunnels link into a massive series of structures built under the camps? Were they close to putting together atomic bombs? From the little bit we get to see, there is certainly a lot that needs to be excavated and cataloged. These tunnels lead to something and it would be amazing to see what it is.

While Josh hasn’t uncovered stolen art, or trains full of gold bars, it certainly cements the idea that the Nazi war machine worked overtime to build bunkers for suspect projects and house stolen goods. It’s hard to know for sure what the intent was, but it’s a pretty safe bet, none of them were used for the betterment and advancement of mankind.

I thought this was a fascinating look at what they’ve been able to uncover and what’s left to explore. It’s not about finding gold or returning stolen art, it’s about understanding the past so hopefully we never make these kinds of mistakes again.

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Expedition Unknown – Nazi Gold Train – Part 1

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As the Expedition Unknown journey continues, we find ourselves in Munich, Germany on the hunt for hundreds of millions, perhaps even billions of dollars worth of lost treasure, stolen by none other than the Nazi regime and secreted away in miles worth of underground tunnels and bunkers.

The story goes, during the reign of Hitler, countless pieces of gold, jewelry and art were stolen to find the war machine and enrich the lives of the Nazi elite. Recently, in the apartment owned by an art dealer working for Hitler, a cache of stolen goods was recovered with an approximate worth of $700 million. It is believed that several billion dollars worth are still unaccounted for, including a vanished train car full of gold and truck loads of gold headed for Austria.

It’s also believed Hitler worked on secret projects such as constructing nuclear weapons. To be honest, it all sounds scary as hell.

Josh begins his investigation in the ruins of Project Riese, a series of underground structures. At first, it seems a little on the “Hollywood” side, a little Indiana Jones, but this stuff is real. Josh goes to where the gold train disappeared and low and behold, there’s plenty of man made structures. The team he is with lowers a camera down one of the shafts which drops straight into a mine tunnel.

They can’t enter this tunnel, but within another we can see left over machinery and a guard station. Much of the complex hasn’t been mapped so they’re not sure what they’re dealing with. They have found closed off rooms and pipes that lead nowhere, which sounds a little bizarre and sinister. Are these torture rooms, heavily fortified storage, or something completely mundane?

What we can see is a series of off-shooting tunnels and remnants of rail tracks. A huge amount of effort went into making and using this complex for the long term. If they put down carts and tracks, they were storing something pretty heavy.

Josh heads to Austria where he drives the best car he’s ever been given on these shows. But he’s off to investigate a more serious matter and it’s the idea that high ranking German officials used the lakes to hide their personal fortunes. Lake Fuschl could be the resting place of Hitler’s personal books, plus jewelry and gold. A fortune in wine and champagne might also be in the drink.

Using an ROV, Josh helps Wolfgang take sonar images of the area. It seems a little far fetched, but the ROV picks up something. There is a small boat on the bottom of the lake. As the ROV moves in for a closer look, they snag a champagne bottle. Not just some wayward bottle tossed in, but a full champagne bottle with cork intact.

What started out sounding like the stuff of Urban Legend and stories surrounding the myth and mystery of the Nazis, turns into some tangible evidence to support the truth of it all. Josh has definitely found buildings and tunnels that fit the stories and now he might have discovered proof of riches dumped into the lake to keep them from the Allies.

But it’s not over yet, Josh continues his investigation in Part 2 of this adventure. And it gets pretty damn interesting.

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Ghost Adventures – The Haunted Museum (Old Wengert Mansion) – S12E13

imageFor this investigation, Zak goes no further than his own recently purchased museum, the one we saw featured in his series, Deadly Possessions. The original 33 room mansion was built in 1938 by the Wengert family. At the time, it would have been the largest home in the area and a prominent landmark. It’s now on the historical register, but went through a couple of hands before coming to Zak.

During the renovation, several workers decided they’d had enough of the paranormal shenanigans and walked off the job. Feeling their might be some strange energy associated with the house, he performs an overnight lockdown investigation to see what he and the team can discover.

To get some background, he brings in Rachel Vosko, who used to sneak into the house through the basement in the 70s. She claims there was a pentagram drawn on the floor, enclosed in a circle with streaks of blood around it. Zak invites her to go into the basement where she feels something is clinging to her legs. While recording this segment, Billy claims he gets the words, "I need help" in the voice of a little boy. It is supposed this could be James Wengert who died when he was 8 years old.

Another visitor to the house is Erika Monasco, who says she felt negative energy. She also says her husband indicated her personality changed during her time at the house. As she began to feel somewhat uncomfortable with the house, she poured salt around the room she used as an office.

And then as if on cue, Erika has a bit of a breakdown. She says an icy force swept over her, then has an attack of shortness of breath and a crying spell. Moments later, the feeling passes and she is fine again. However, she later sends Zak a text message that contains the picture of her hand with a large scratch across it.

Finally, they have Shirley Shupe, one of the Wengert children, over for a visit. Her family moved into the house when she was 5. She has no reports of anything odd or unusual, but does convey that her mother died in the house. There is nothing dubious or sinister surrounding her death, she simply died at home. And in a wee bit of scrying, Zak has Shirley sit in front of a mirror and talk about her mother. She gives a rather nice talk to the point she thanks Zak for taking over the house.

Zak then gives Shirley a short tour of the place showcasing what he plans to do with the place. Oddly, Shirley’s old room now houses the Kevorkian VW Bus. I’m sure she wasn’t expecting to see that in there.

As they start the investigation, a cuckoo clock that has been silent this entire time, begins to tick. As Zak shows the movement and how it takes force to get it to start and stop, they claim to hear a child’s laughter. As they look around using the SLS camera, a figure appears and leads them to the room of the VW Bus, wherein the SLS crashes and shuts off. But not before they see the making of a head peering out of from the corner of the frame.

Since they are next to the stairs leading to the basement, they claim to hear the sound of hissing. With the recorder running, they feel the words, "Zak Bagans" comes through.

They then use the SB7 Spirit Box in other parts of the house, but don’t pick up anything until they move into the doll room. They get the word, "play" when asking what the doll wants to do, as well as the word "England" when Zak asks where the doll wants to go. Things get a little strange when Zak asks the doll what’s possessing it and gets the response, "Drop it." They also pick up a growl and a doll from the Villisca Axe Murder House, says the word "Villisca".

There is more strange doll behavior as Zak takes one of the dolls to the basement and surrounds it with rem pods. When Billy goes to check on the doll, it says, "hello there" and the pods start going off. Things get a little unruly as Aaron says he’s having some negative feelings to the point where he wants to punch or stab Billy in the throat. Whether it was Aaron’s statement or the basement itself, but Billy needs to take a break and head outside.

We’re then given a couple additional details such as Aaron got the word "witches" when he was down in the basement and when Zak asks what do the spirits see in the basement, they get the word "secret". Aaron ties these two things together about witches and their secrets.

Finally, they set up cots and sleep in different parts of the house. Zak feels something touch him during the night while the camera watching over Jay seems to move three different times before finally getting unplugged and shutting down. Further, his bed has seemingly moved a couple inches in the night and bunched up the carpet around the feet of the cot.

Not all that long ago, the Ghost Hunters did something similar to this with their Spalding Inn. The claimed it was haunted too. But you have to admit, a haunted hotel will bring in more tourist money than a regular hotel and a haunted museum of curious oddities will bring in more visitors than being in a regular house.

While the blood soaked pentagram in the basement makes for a great story, let’s not get carried away. During that time period people were putting pentagrams on just about everything including album covers. And not everything that has 5 points is a demonic symbol despite the conclusion people like Zak jump to. And I’m sure any bit of red paint or red wax will look like blood to a teenager breaking into the basement of a massive house. To me, that is using an old cliche to say the place is haunted. Just think what Zak would have done if he’d been told they’d found a Ouija board in the basement?

And the bit at the end with the camera moving? Pretty nifty to be sure, but I don’t think paranormal machinations are the only explanation for that.

The house is certainly interesting, but really, do we expect Zak and his crew to say the place isn’t haunted? I mean, how would that look?

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