Murder Maps–Life and Crime in London

image I just stumbled across an interesting series from the History Channel – Murder Maps, which chronicles some nefarious crimes that took place in London right after it’s dark period of the Jack the Ripper murders. As you may recall, conditions in certain parts of London were pretty atrocious, with poverty and crime running rampant. Also keep in mind that the police force was almost a volunteer service with little training, no budget and no real tools for solving and cataloging crimes.

What we see from these grim tales is more of an effort put into the police force and their methods. We begin to see pathology and science playing a larger part in solving murders. We have the beginnings of using and recording fingerprints as well as the beginnings of forensics. In many ways we see Scotland Yard go from bungling the crime scenes of Jack the Ripper to a highly trained organization that would bring together its resources to capture criminals. The order and method of Sherlock Holmes is becoming a reality.

Listed below are the four episodes from this series and even by today’s standards, they are devious crimes. These stories also showcase how hampered the police force was in capturing criminals. Unlike today, you can’t simply post a picture and it’s seen by millions. There was no way to easily alert neighboring towns to be on the lookout. You couldn’t consult security cameras or have people standing around with their cellphones recording every minute of an event. Social media and newscasts didn’t exist. The best you could do was have someone render a sketch, transfer it to the newspaper and hopefully it looks close enough fora citizen to send a letter or come down to the station to make a comment about it. The public really had to go out of their way to help. Bit of a different mindset back then wasn’t it?

The Bermondsey Horror
In 1849, a man suddenly disappeared in Bermondsey. The discovery that he had been brutally murdered enraptured the press and the public. Even Charles Dickens was totally engrossed in the story of the sinister Marie Manning.

A couple has a gentleman over for dinner, then he disappears. They begin by saying they have no idea where he is, but soon it all goes wrong and his body is found under their kitchen floor. The couple ends up going their separate ways to stay ahead of the law, but ultimately turn against each other when facing the gallows. And it is indeed the gallows. As noted, Charles Dickens witnesses the hanging and makes note of the vulgar mob mentality it inspires.

In the Shadow of Jack
At the time of Jack The Ripper, London was home to some of the most terrible individuals the city has ever seen. One of the very worst was the elusive Borough Poisoner, George Chapman.

George Chapman comes across as the respectable owner of a public house. But there is something else going on as his wife gets sick for reasons the doctor can’t explain. When admitted to the hospital, she gets better, but when back in George’s care, she’s back to being sick. In a departure from the norm, we have a man doing the poisoning and for reasons that are shockingly mundane.

Finding Dr Crippen
Having killed his wife and buried her in the basement, Dr Crippen believed he had escaped on a ship to Canada. But the police managed to hunt him down and bring him to account for his terrible crime.

Dr. Crippen is at odds with his wife. He’s looking to change careers and perhaps make a new man of himself. His wife plods along as no-talent opera singer. But then fortunes change as Mrs. Crippen disappears. At first she has gone on holiday, then she’s taken sick, then she’s believed to be dead in America, then finally Cripped admits he made up the whole story because he was embarrassed over his wife leaving him.

Enter the young woman who moves into his recently vacated house under the guise of a new housekeeper. But everyone is getting suspicious and soon Crippen and his companion are on the run. It’s time to hit the high seas for boat chase to Canada and some clever use of the on-board telegraph.

The Brides in the Bath Killer
George Smith had many aliases. He needed them for his many wives who he would soon murder in order to claim the inheritance. Catching this chameleon would be a gargantuan challenge.

George Joseph Smith seems like a very good catch to ladies that are falling outside the prime of their marriage years. But instead of marital bliss, they are treated to a hot bath that ends in their death. One wife dies on her honeymoon, another a few weeks into the marriage. And there is a third drowning victim with the same MO as the first two. Same man? Terrible coincidence?

The police force has become much more savvy and has more resources at their disposal. They’re able to investigate and deduce with greater accuracy and are soon on the trail. When they have their man, they come to trial with a slew of evidence that mystify and astound the court and the public.

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Expedition Unknown – Kalahari Desert Lost City – S02E13

image For this episode, Josh is pulling out all the stops to look for the Lost City of the Kalahari. At first glance, this comes across as a laughable story told by Guillermo Farini, a circus performer and showman. While out on the plains of Africa, he came across a city buried in the sand. To prove his claim, he brings back sketches, pictures and stories, but the map is geographically incorrect, Farini is known for exaggerating the truth and giving it a bit of flair and he has no real evidence to show the city. His claim is largely dismissed and even though others have gone out into the desert to search for the city, nothing has been found.

Josh starts his trek by sailing into Cape Town, South Africa. He visits the National Library of South Africa where he talks with Michael Main to get more information. Farini was a showman, prone to oversell the truth, but he was by no means an idiot. In fact, according to Main, the parachute and the folding theater seat can be attributed to Farini.

Farini was a high wire performer and while looking for bigger and better acts for the circus, he hears about the Pygmies of South Africa and feels it’s the next big thing. He heads off with his son to locate them. In the library, Josh is able to see the book Farini published of his travels, photos he brought back, sketches and even the transcript of the lecture he gave to the Royal Geographical Society. It claims to be a 1000 mile journey that took Farini all the way to what is now Botswana.

With a clear reference point, Josh gets his hands on a sweet truck, tricked out with goodies such as stove, shower, refrigerator and sleeping accommodations and sets out to meet Adam Cruise. Adam has been on the trail of Farini for some time and not only believes the lost city is real, but that people are looking in the wrong place.

Josh first heads to Upington, to visit the archives. This is a location Farini was known to be in and they can confirm some of the landmarks from the photos. Their goal is to follow in his footsteps and confirm the places he actually documented.

Josh is able to find newspaper articles from the day which say very little about the discovery of a lost city. After being in the desert for 8 months, Farini glosses over these details as though they will come later once he’s had time to get his story straight. A story he was planning to publish on his own.

At this point, the story seems a little far fetched. They have dodgy source material, almost no details about the discovery from the man himself and it all stems from the word of a man who has made a living from his gift of exaggeration. But undaunted, they press on because Adam has an idea.

As they move away from the city they begin to see some landmarks referenced in Farini’s journals. He speaks of the crumbled wall of a city and low and behold, Adam and Josh find what looks to be a match. However, up close, it’s jujst rocks in the desert. But they both agree, that from a distance, they look to be man made and match Farini’s description. This tells them they’re in the right area where Farini would have been traveling.

With this in mind, Adam explains that he doesn’t believe Farini went as far into the desert as he claimed. The calculations don’t add up for him to travel that distance in the amount of time mentioned and with the supplies in tow. Adam believes they need to look much closer to the starting point and only slightly into the interior of the Kalahari.

It sounds perfectly reasonable and they are soon able to locate a couple of other landmarks from the pictures taken on the journey. Since Adam believes this is the area they need to search, he’s made arrangements with a crew to use radar to take aerial scans. Josh and one pilot go up in a gyro copter looking for the landmarks Farini described. Adam and the pilot will follow in the plane and scan the respective areas.

They find a crescent shaped area and what appear to be man made structures. They mark the areas and investigate on foot. The main landmark was a waterfall and they find one which matches the photos. The head in and find what is essentially an oasis. This would be an ideal location for a settlement.

Without much trouble, they find the crescent shaped walls and a hut or other small enclosure. Regardless of their intent, these clearly aren’t natural and are part of some settlement. The aerial scans showed a more defined settlement close to their location, so hoping to meet some settlers they head in that direction. Out of nowhere, as is the way of these things, they meet two men traveling back to their village. Josh and Adam ask about other structures in the area and are taken to see the remnants of a road or at the very least, a pathway. Again, more man made features.

Adam also realizes the trees in the area match those in Farini’s photographs. They bring one out to compare and it’s the same kind of tree, with the same kind of background and the same kind of features. From all the signs, they are in the same place the picture was taken. And at this point, Josh asks if there is any other evidence of an old town. Sure enough, Lionel points them toward stone etchings depicting the animals of the area and turn out to be around 1000 years old.

It’s pretty clear they’re in what used to be an ancient settlement, inhabited by hunters who had the basics to build structures. It’s a pretty reasonable conclusion this is the Lost City and while Farini was prone to exaggeration and boasted of traveling much further than he did, it seems clear he did indeed find a lost city in the Kalahari. So even though Farini comes across as Mr. Crazy Pants, he was telling the truth the whole time.

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Expedition Unknown – The African Gold Hoard – S02E12

image For our next exciting adventure we’re off to Africa in search of gold. Josh is on the trail of gold coins that were buried at the behest of Paul Kruger when he fears the loot will fall into the hands of the invading British. To secure the wealth of his fledgling republic, Kruger stashes the coins on a train wherein the gold and all records of it are lost. But there are a few new leads and several new groups out looking for the gold which could be worth nearly a billion dollars in today’s money.

Paul Kruger was the president of a small republic in the very early 1900s. His group had found a wealth of gold in Africa and had been using it to mint coins. Trouble erupted in the area which ultimately lead to the Boer’s War. Sensing trouble and not wanting to lose his newly minted wealth, the coins are loaded on a train so that Kruger and the lootcan exit the country. They leave Pretoria by train and head for Machadodorp. That was the last time the gold was scene. Kruger leaves the country, but he never meets up with his gold reserves.

The first order of business is to follow the money. Josh follows the route to the last place the gold was scene. The landscape and the train station have changed to the point where Josh heads to the old track and tunnel to have a look around. Pretty much a den of junk with no significant signs the gold would be hidden inside. A vagrant, yes, gold, no.

With the end of the line being the real end of the line, Josh heads to the mint to see how the coin would have been made as well as get some insight about a recently authenticated coin. Turns out Kruger stamped his own money with his own image and it had some exacting details. The coin will have a specific weight and gold content. Any coin they find will have to match in order to be authentic.

Josh then heads out to meet another treasure who has chosen to investigate a cave system where he’s found Kruger era artifacts and weapons. There is some evidence to suggest the gold was hidden within the caves, so Josh suits up to get down and dirty. Dirty indeed as he slugs his way through all sorts of much and narrow spaces. With nothing more than a face full of mud, and perhaps an old coin, Josh makes a layover in an impressive safari hotel.

After a cold beverage and a good night’s sleep, Josh meets up with some hunters who found an authentic Kruger gold coin. They are searching across the plains of the Kruger National Park, a nearly 8000 square mile reserve. But you can’t just go walking in and digging holes, you need to ask permission. With that, he’s off to meet the tribal chief. After a brief talk and Josh getting a tribal spear to protect himself with, he’s back on the road and heading deeper into the park.

Not only does Josh meet the treasure hunters, but their armed and military trained entourage. This is no joke, these guys have a heavily armed anti-poaching force coming along for the ride and they armed with enough weapons to make you pucker. Their goal is to stop poachers who still slaughter rhinos for their horns. Not to mention protecting the team from wandering animals. Although, I’m quite convinced they won’t shoot the animals.

During the evening, the hunters launch an aerial drone with sensitive cameras to locate metal objects heated by the sun. The military team is also at the ready as this is a prime time for poaching. While there are some noises to be heard under the cover of darkness, everything goes without incident, which is good, because Josh will spending the night out there.

In the morning, the team goes to each GPS marked location to see what the drone spotted. They pull out a horseshoe, part of a bridle and even an old pistol. They collect quite a few relics from what they believe to be a British used during the Boer War. Not quite the pot of gold they’re looking for, but great museum pieces and proof they’re looking in the right place.

Is the gold going to be found on plains of the Kruger National Park? Or is it hidden in a cave? Did it still exist at all? It certainly did at one point, there is no doubt about that, but considering the lack of details and the area they need to look in, it seems an almost impossile task to find it. But the lure is millions, possibly billions, so you know they are going to keep at it. And perhaps, if it keeps people out in the plains and thwarts the efforts of poachers, then the hunt won’t be in vain.

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Expedition Unknown – The Sultan’s Heart – S02E11

image Well, this is a strange story indeed. It involves Suleiman the Magnificent, who died in 1566. That unto itself isn’t all that noteworthy. Nor is it all that noteworthy he died while his troops were attempting to besiege the fortress of Szigetvar. What is noteworthy is that he was considered such a beloved leader, that his heart was removed, placed in a sacred box and buried on the site where he died. That’s one way to express love I suppose.

Suleiman was the longest ruling sultan of the Ottoman Empire and expanded it’s reach and influence during his time. The taking of Szigetvar was the last piece of the puzzle, but alas, his troops were held back. While not killed in battle, he died while the battle was underway. His death was kept from the troops, but his body was prepared for burial; which included removing his organs most notably the heart. His body was then embalmed and prepared for burial in another location. The heart was buried in Turbek, but through additional warfare, Turbek has been erased off the map. And with the city gone, so is the heart. Thus begins the hunt for the sacred treasure box containing the heart of Suleiman the Magnificent.

The first stop on the hunt is Istanbul where Suleiman, minus his heart, is buried in a massive mosque. Josh gains some background on Suleiman and learns the heart is considered a holy relic. It is even said, once the heart is found, it can resurrect and live on.

Josh then heads to Budapest where Suleiman actually died. Like many other cities, there is a network of tunnels beneath the streets where the heart could be hidden. Down into the tunnels they go where they find some interesting artifacts like the tooth of a mammoth as well as dozens of human remains. It actually looks like they’re wandering around in an over populated crypt. It’s also said these tunnels were used by German soldiers as a communications outpost. While extremely interesting, there are no signs of relics related to Suleiman. But you never know, there could be paintings and other tidbits the Germans stashed away. They were kind of known for hiding away treasures.

Josh makes a side trip to the National Archives of Hungary, where they have a drawing of the city from 1664 that may show where the original gravesite in Turbek used to be. With that, it’s off to visit the fortress of Szigetvar where Suleiman made his last stand.

Suleiman thought Szigetvar would be an easy target as he marched on it with 100, 000 troops. To his surprise, he was thwarted by an army of a mere 2300 soldiers, bringing the expansion of his empire to a shocking end. There is currently an excavation going on at the site and Josh is able to unearth a battle axe from that very encounter. Lots of neat weapons, but still, no heart in a box.

While the Szigetvar fortress is easily identifiable, Suleiman’s battle HQ isn’t. It is believed to be 4.2 miles away which is now occupied by private vineyards. Just like Szigetvar, there is a team investigating the site who have found plenty of fragments most likely from walls of the former city.

When not enjoying grapes picked from the vine, Josh makes an observation about an exhaust vent a few feet away from where they get a large hit on the ground penetrating radar. It’s right in the spot they need to dug, perhaps it will give a better clue about what might be buried there. The owner gives permission to enter the wine cellar where they unearth a large piece of sandstone. This could be part of the tomb, part of a wall, or part of a building relating to the lost city of Turbek.

Even though they haven’t found anything that pinpoints the city let alone the heart, this team seems right on the cusp of discovering something interesting. Clearly something is buried there, they just need permission to start digging.
In fact, their find is shown as part of the closing credits and if you search for Suleiman the Magnificent, you’ll see reports all but confirming the location. Looks like this sacred relic will be unearthed any day now.

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