Notorious historic chilly instances get a scientific face-lift in The Curious Life and Dying Of…, a brand new documentary sequence from the Smithsonian Channel. Hosted by writer and medical historian Lindsey Fitzharris, every of the six episodes takes a recent have a look at a well-known demise with a thriller connected to it and sifts via the scientific clues to (hopefully) arrive at recent insights.
Per the official synopsis:
Writer and medical historian Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris will use science, exams, and demonstrations to shed new gentle on well-known deaths, starting from drug lord Pablo Escobar to magician Harry Houdini. Utilizing her lab to carry out digital autopsies, experiment with blood samples, interview witnesses and conduct real-time demonstrations, Dr. Fitzharris will put all the pieces about these mysterious deaths to the take a look at. Alongside the way in which, she’ll be joined by a revolving forged of specialists, together with Scotland Yard detectives, medical experts, weapons gurus and extra.
A famous science communicator with a big Twitter following and a passion for the medically macabre, Fitzharris printed a biography of surgical pioneer Joseph Lister, The Butchering Artwork, in 2017. (It is a fantastic, if sometimes grisly, learn.)
“I used to be a wierd youngster and I form of grew as much as be a stranger grownup,” Fitzharris advised Ars. “I’ve all the time been fascinated with the previous and with demise.” As she says within the trailer (embedded above), “I believe the way in which folks died tells us an entire lot about how they lived.”
Fitzharris has discovered that even individuals who sometimes do not like historical past are typically fascinated by medical historical past, and that has change into her model, so to talk. “The house I attempt to fill is, what would occur in case you had a toothache in 1792 or broke your leg in 1845?” she stated. That model caught the eye of the Smithsonian Channel, who tapped Fitzharris to host their new sequence. She’s joined on the present by former New Scotland Yard detective Brian Hook, in addition to forensic chemist Raychelle Burks and forensic pathologist Judy Melinek when their particular experience is required.
Midway via manufacturing, the coronavirus pandemic hit, and the sequence was placed on maintain for a couple of months. Ultimately, the staff was capable of full the required reshoots whereas taking all of the really helpful precautions, though Fitzharris admits the expertise was a bit anxiousness inducing.
Every episode focuses on one well-known demise that also has a thriller connected to the departed, and over the course of the episode, Fitzharris and her staff revisit the proof, conduct their very own experiments, and finally come to a verdict primarily based on their findings. Every episode additionally consists of small facet segments, dubbed “Curious Case Information,” to elaborate on smaller, quirky historic particulars—just like the urine wheels medieval physicians usually used for prognosis, or the legend of the chief baker aboard the Titanic whose blood alcohol degree was so excessive he miraculously survived the icy waters after the ship sank. ‘I needed to carry that form of bizarre historical past [to the show],” she stated.
There’s a mixture of historic and modern instances, from Lizzie Borden, Harry Houdini, and the “Unknown Little one” who died aboard the Titanic, to Rolling Stones co-founder Brian Jones, actress Brittany Murphy, and Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. The Borden case is, in fact, fairly well-known, and though Lizzie was acquitted, questions have all the time remained about whether or not she was really responsible. Fitzharris will get bodily within the section, taking a small axe to a ballistic gel physique after which analyzing the harm and blood spatter with Hook’s assist.
“They’re unbelievable—they react similar to human our bodies,” she stated of the artificial cadavers, confessing, “It was rather a lot more durable to interrupt via the cranium than I might have imagined.”
I will not spoil the “verdict,” however though Fitzharris takes her personal stand, she acknowledges that there’s little or no surviving forensic proof, provided that the murders had been dedicated in 1892. “Individuals will debate this to the top of time,” she stated. “However one of many issues that bothers me about Lizzie Borden is that, when she died, she requested that her physique be buried subsequent to her father, and in reality it’s. So if she did [the murders], that could be a very uncomfortable degree of psychopathy.”
RIP Brittany Murphy
The relative recency of Brittany Murphy’s tragic demise in 2009 posed a special form of problem. “I am a historian used to coping with the very useless, not the not too long ago useless, and I needed to make sure that we did this in a respectful approach,” stated Fitzharris.
There’s extra of a debunking emphasis within the Murphy episode, together with a revelatory interview with Murphy’s mother-in-law. “There have been so many conspiracy theories that sprung up, as a result of she died beneath very unusual circumstances,” stated Fitzharris. “And her husband died only a few months later beneath nearly an identical circumstances in the identical home, in the identical room.” She hopes the episode will assist put these crazier theories to relaxation.
It stays to be seen whether or not The Curious Life and Dying Of… will get a second season, but when so, there are many different well-known instances Fitzharris is eager to revisit—just like the Previous West outlaw Jesse James, as an example, or the labyrinthine conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963—assuming she will be able to uncover new information or a recent angle.
“I am not shocked that individuals are attracted to those sorts of tales, even right now,” stated Fitzharris concerning the human tendency towards morbid curiosity, notably in the case of surprising deaths. “We’re not likely uncovered to demise in the identical approach that we as soon as may need been, so there’s a pure curiosity about it. We gravitate towards exhibits like this for that motive. However I hope it is extra than simply your typical true-crime present. It is a bit of forensic science, a little bit of true crime, a little bit of bizarre historical past. And hopefully we may give a way more nuanced view of every of those instances.”
New episodes of The Curious Life and Dying of… air on Sunday nights at 9pm on the Smithsonian Channel via October 11, 2020. Episodes which have already aired can be found for streaming on Amazon Prime.
Itemizing picture by Smithsonian Channel