Sitting Bull: the great chief who defied the US authorities and led the American Indians in a major massacre of US soldiers. Is this legend really true? Through examining the details of his so-called greatest crime, the Battle of Little Bighorn, and from new oral history passed down through generations to his great-grandson Ernie LaPointe, Sitting Bull's true story can be revealed. On 25th June 1876, Lieutenant Colonel George Custer and his 7th cavalry attacked Sitting Bull's village near the Little Bighorn River. Battle analysis with Bob Kershaw, author and military analyst, suggests the victory was not the result of Sitting Bull's military strategy...
Captain William Kidd is one of the most famous pirates in history. Tales of his cunning and his riches have spread over the centuries since his trial and execution in 1701. In more recent times, scholars have become polarized into those who thought he was wrongfully convicted and those who are convinced of his piratical actions. Detailed examination of the events that led to Kidd's death reveal an arrangement that reaches all the way to the king himself and government deals with a powerful global corporation. In 1695, Kidd is a reputable, married sea captain in New York society. His fall from grace starts when he takes up an English commission...
Lawrence of Arabia+
Lawrence of Arabia, immortalised in his own epic book "Seven Pillars of Wisdom," is seen by some as the great military mind of World War I in the Middle East; and by others as one of the greatest liars and charlatans of the 20th century. In this programme we chart the arguments for and against Lawrence being the key player in the Great Arab Revolt of 1916-18, the start of the battle over territory that has plagued the western world and Arab states ever since. The Great Arab Revolt Project (GARP) in Southern Jordan is an archaeological investigation of a battlefield on a dramatic scale. We reinvestigate evidence laid out in the Seven Pillars of...
Alexander The Great+
Alexander The Great is world-famous for being the military genius who conquered much of the known world. But to many people of antiquity he was far more than a mere general. He was a god. After his death, his body became one of the most sacred objects in history. Pilgrims, from common men to the most powerful emperors, visited and knelt before the remains of their god-King. And then suddenly, all trace of his tomb simply disappeared. What happened to Alexander's body? Did Christians intent on stamping out all trace of other religions destroy it? Or, as one historian believes, does it still exist, renamed and venerated as a saint in one of the...
Since the 13th century, Marco Polo has been described as one of the world's greatest travelers. He has gone down in history as the first European to have gone to China and returned with riches, and the secrets of ice cream and pasta. However, scholars today find little evidence of his long touted journeys. Did a man named Marco Polo ever actually exist? And if so, did he go to China? In this episode of Mystery Files, we will explore the legend of Marco Polo.
Zorro is one of the most recognizable heroes in popular legend. Tales of his double-life, his romancing and skill with a sword in defence of the helpless have become famous since his creation in the 20th century. But since first appearing as a fictional character in a series of books by American author, Johnston McCulley, and subsequently on film and television, scholars have debated if this fictional character was based on an actual historical figure - and if so, who? Was he a Mexican outlaw from California? Was he a Mexican version of Robin Hood? One fascinating new theory is that he may have been inspired by the real life trials of a 17th century...
The legend of Pope Joan has endured for centuries. Some medieval chronicles record that there once was a pope who was in fact a woman. She taught the liberal arts, and was well versed in a diversity of branches of knowledge. She wore the Holy robes for over two years before her deception was finally, and dramatically, revealed by giving birth in public in Rome. Her life was never doubted in the Middle Ages, and her story survived the Reformation to the 21st century. But could a woman really have become Bishop of Rome? Retracing her footsteps, and searching through the archives, we investigate the mystery of Pope Joan.
What made Hitler the monster he became? Why did he rise to such a dominating position of power over the German people? These are the enduring mysteries that occupy some historians today. So what happened to Hitler between 1914 and 1918 to make him take a fateful decision to go in to politics, someone who before the war was a directionless drifter? This programme uses the latest neurological research to evaluate Hitler's medical history following gas poisoning. It retraces his time as a frontline soldier, and then at a psychiatric wartime hospital. It explores a possible Nazi Party cover-up, and an American top-secret report from 1943. Some experts...
The name Saladin will always have a near-mythical ring. Born in 1136 CE, Saladin would rise, through good fortune, charisma and military prowess, to unite much of the Muslim world, defeat the Crusaders in battle, and build an Arab empire never before seen. How did he manage to unite the disparate groups of Muslims and form a formidable force to defeat the Crusaders? And why did his legend as a great fighter and an honourable leader spread to Europe? Saladin was one of the greatest military commanders of all time. This episode will explore the details of his victories and how his legend spread.
Since its completion in the 17th Century, the Taj Mahal has been shrouded in mystery. What we do know is that it is both a tomb and one of the world's greatest monuments to love, built by the heartbroken Mughal ruler Shah Jahan, to house the remains of his beloved wife Mumtaz. Now 350 years on it has spawned numerous myths and stories, the most famous of which is that Shah Jahan planned to build a black marble twin of the Taj. This structure was to be his own magnificent mausoleum built within sight of his wife's. But did he ever intend to build such a building? Using archaeological evidence and historical analysis, the Mystery Files put the myth...
The Birth of Christ+
The Christmas Story is familiar to most of us. Joseph and Mary travel from Nazareth to their home town of Bethlehem to answer a census issued by the Emperor Augustus. In Bethlehem, there is no room at the inn and Joseph and Mary are offered shelter in a stable, where Mary gives birth to Jesus, watched by a friendly ox and ass. Herod, King of the Jews learns of the new king and orders his soldiers to kill all newborn males. Using archaeological evidence, close analysis of the Gospels and a reexamination of the original languages of the bible, this programme reveals that much of what we think we know of the Nativity is more the result of misinterpretation,...
Isaac Newton, renowned 17th-century scientist and mathematician, the man credited with the explanation of gravity. Surprisingly, Newton's advances in science may have been of less personal importance to him than his extensive alchemical work and his outlandish religious beliefs. An in-depth exploration of Isaac Newton's writings modifies the image of the logical, considered scientist, whose brilliant mind changed the face of physics forever. Newton is revealed as secretive, paranoid and obsessive, spending a great deal of his life trying to break Bible codes and hunting for the Philosopher's Stone. One modern psychiatrist suggests that this man,...
The Virgin Queen+
She was the 'Virgin Queen' of England and one of the most celebrated royals in history, but Elizabeth I wasn't as lily white as she was portrayed. It was rumoured that the relationship with her courtly favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was more than just professional, and shortly after the gossiping started, Dudley's wife Amy died in extremely dubious circumstances, breaking her neck in a fall down some stairs. Mystery has surrounded Amy's death ever since. Was it an accident, suicide, or perhaps murder? And if it was murder, who was behind it? Dudley and Elizabeth? Or perhaps one of Dudley's enemies, trying to frame him? Modern crime...
Robin Hood is one of the first super heroes. Stories of the band of Merry Men robbing the rich and giving to the poor are legendary. Now evidence has been discovered to prove that Robin was a real person. Unpicking the folklore to separate fact from fiction, historians are exposing the man behind the myth. With evidence culled from ancient manuscripts and historic sites this mysterious figure begins to step out of the shadows.
Arthur Legendary King of the Britons. From his castle at Camelot, Arthur and his knights in shining armour become the ultimate symbol of chivalry and honor. Its a fantastic story passed down through the ages. But did a King Arthur ever really exist? Piecing together clues buried in long lost ruins and fragments of surviving documents dating back 1500 years, Mystery Files investigates if a real King Arthur ever did exist.
On July 17th 1918, Russia's Tsar Nicholas II, his wife and five children, are reported to have been brutally executed. Then in 1991, a grave is uncovered but two of the children are missing raising the possibility of them surviving. In 2007, a second burial site is unearthed. Can its contents finally reveal the true story of what happened to the lost royal children? With unique access to previously unpublished secret reports on rescuing the Tsar's family and to leading forensic scientists striving to extract evidence from severely degraded bones.
December 17th 1916, St Petersburg, Russia. Grigori Rasputin self-styled mystic and confidant to Tsar Nicholas II is fatally shot in the back of the head. His Russian assassins fear Rasputins control over their ruling family has gone too far. The facts of Rasputins murder have gone unchallenged for almost a century. But documents reveal he had other enemies who wanted him dead. Historians now reinvestigate the official autopsy photographs and use advanced ballistic evidence to unravel who really held the smoking gun.
Joan of Arc+
France in the 1420s: a teenage girl hears voices - words only she can hear. And she says they come from God. Joan of Arc then embarks on her holy quest: to defeat the English and win the crown of France for her king. Divine messenger, witch or warrior: how could a 19 year old have overcome the extreme pain and suffering she endured? Searching for the truth with rigorous scientific and psychological analysis, the miraculous life of Joan of Arc is re-examined.
Desperately searching for ways to make sense of the 9/11 catastrophe, there are those who quickly connect the falling of the Twin Towers with the predictions of 16th-century astrologer Nostradamus. Famous in his own lifetime - European royalty heeded his warnings - his legend has grown over the centuries. Yet controversy shrouds not only his prophecies but Nostradamus himself. Could this mystical man from another time have really seen into the 21st century? Was he a genuine seer or a clever charlatan who has repeatedly bluffed a gullible public? Putting Nostardamus predictions to the test and unraveling the methods behind his uncanny powers takes...
Jack The Ripper+
One of the greatest unsolved murder cases of all time, in 1888 Jack the Ripper terrorizes the city of London, killing 5 women in gruesome attacks. Still the most infamous name in English criminal history, Jack is an enigma. Using modern crime scene analysis, Mystery Files explores the possible culprits.
In or around 1483 the rightful king of England, England Edward V, and his 9 year old brother disappeared from the Tower of London amid rumour of murder - an mystery that altered the course of British history. It changed the royal bloodline, and led to a break from the Catholic Church. Their young sovereign's uncle, who eventually became King Richard III, has long been accused of the crime but investigative techniques have thrown his guilt into doubt, exposing multiple other suspects.
Leonardo Da Vinci+
Leonardo da Vinci. Perhaps the worlds most celebrated artist, 600 years ago he invented machines that belong in the modern age: the tank, the diving suit, the helicopter. His advancements in the field of flight were truly ahead of their time. He broke the mold of medieval thinkers. Or did he? Evidence suggests that Leonardo was not the revolutionary engineer that legend has portrayed him. Using cutting edge laser technology to analyse what lies behind the Mona Lisa, Leonardos most famous painting, this investigation delves deep into the genius of da Vinci.
Man In The Iron Mask+
In 17th-century France, King Louis XIV, afraid of the threat his twin brother poses to his crown, sentences him to a terrible fate locked inside an iron mask. This is the shocking story that continues to mystify and fascinate historians and the public alike. But is there any truth to it? In an investigation which ranges from the darkest dungeons of 17th century France to the highest echelons of Louis court, experts attempt to reveal the truth.
Billy The Kid+
Its the late 1870s. One of the most infamous outlaws of the American Wild West is Billy the Kid… a teenage killer who terrorizes New Mexico. His life of crime comes to an end when he is gunned down by his onetime friend and lawman Pat Garrett. This is the legend of The Kid. But closer analysis and new forensic evidence reveals his history is very different. So who is the real boy behind the legend?
Abraham Lincoln. The man who rises from obscurity to become Americas 16th President and arguably its finest. But on April 15th 1865 he becomes the first US President to be assassinated, leading to the creation of a legend that obscures his true personality. Through in-depth historical, psychological and medical analysis, his character is laid bare, and the extraordinary impact of his early life as a rural farmer on his later actions as President, revealed.
Cleopatra lived in turbulent times. The Roman empire was going through one of the biggest upheavals in its history and civil war spilled into Egypt. How did Cleopatra manage to survive for so long in this chaotic and violent world? The answer was to seduce and enchant Romes power-players. Popular legend says she achieved this because she was extremely beautiful. But now scholars are investigating a range of other factors that made her so successful. Amongst them is the suggestion that Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony - some of the most powerful and successful men in the Roman world - might have actually believed that Cleopatra was really a living...