Infamous historic chilly circumstances get a scientific face-carry in The Curious Life and Death Of…, a new documentary collection from the Smithsonian Channel. Hosted by creator and medical historian Lindsey Fitzharris, every of the six episodes takes a contemporary look at a well-known loss of life with a thriller hooked up to it and sifts by way of the scientific clues to (hopefully) arrive at contemporary insights.
Per the official synopsis:
Author and medical historian Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris will use science, exams, and demonstrations to shed new mild on well-known deaths, starting from drug lord Pablo Escobar to magician Harry Houdini. Using her lab to carry out digital autopsies, experiment with blood samples, interview witnesses and conduct actual-time demonstrations, Dr. Fitzharris will put all the pieces about these mysterious deaths to the take a look at. Along the way in which, she’ll be joined by a revolving solid of consultants, together with Scotland Yard detectives, medical experts, weapons gurus and extra.
A famous science communicator with a massive Twitter following and a fondness for the medically macabre, Fitzharris printed a biography of surgical pioneer Joseph Lister, The Butchering Art, in 2017. (It’s a nice, if often grisly, learn.)
“I was a strange child and I kind of grew up to be a stranger adult,” Fitzharris advised Ars. “I’ve always been fascinated with the past and with death.” As she says in the trailer (embedded above), “I think the way people died tells us a whole lot about how they lived.”
Fitzharris has discovered that even individuals who sometimes don’t love historical past are typically fascinated by medical historical past, and that has grow to be her model, so to talk. “The space I try to fill is, what would happen if 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 collection. 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.
Halfway by way of manufacturing, the coronavirus pandemic hit, and the collection was placed on maintain for a few months. Eventually, the crew was in a position to full the required reshoots whereas taking all of the really useful precautions, though Fitzharris admits the expertise was a bit anxiousness inducing.
Each episode focuses on one well-known loss of life that also has a thriller hooked up to the departed, and over the course of the episode, Fitzharris and her crew revisit the proof, conduct their very own experiments, and finally come to a verdict based mostly on their findings. Each episode additionally contains small aspect segments, dubbed “Curious Case Files,” 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 stage was so excessive he miraculously survived the icy waters after the ship sank. ‘I wished to carry that sort of bizarre historical past [to the show],” she stated.
There’s a mixture of historic and modern circumstances, from Lizzie Borden, Harry Houdini, and the “Unknown Child” 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 at all times remained about whether or not she was truly responsible. Fitzharris will get bodily in the phase, taking a small axe to a ballistic gel physique and then analyzing the harm and blood spatter with Hook’s assist.
“They’re fantastic—they react just like human bodies,” she stated of the artificial cadavers, confessing, “It was a lot harder to break through the skull than I could 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, on condition that the murders have been dedicated in 1892. “People will debate this to the end of time,” she stated. “But one of the things that bothers me about Lizzie Borden is that, when she died, she requested that her body be buried next to her father, and in fact it is. So if she did [the murders], that is a very uncomfortable level of psychopathy.”
RIP Brittany Murphy
The relative recency of Brittany Murphy’s tragic loss of life in 2009 posed a totally different sort of problem. “I’m a historian used to dealing with the very dead, not the recently dead, and I wanted to ensure that we did this in a respectful way,” stated Fitzharris.
There’s extra of a debunking emphasis in the Murphy episode, together with a revelatory interview with Murphy’s mother-in-law. “There were so many conspiracy theories that sprung up, because she died under very strange circumstances,” stated Fitzharris. “And her husband died just a few months later under almost identical circumstances in the same house, in the same 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 Death Of… will get a second season, but when so, there are many different well-known circumstances Fitzharris is eager to revisit—just like the Old West outlaw Jesse James, for 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 contemporary angle.
“I’m not shocked that people are attracted to these kinds of stories, even today,” stated Fitzharris in regards to the human tendency towards morbid curiosity, significantly relating to surprising deaths. “We’re not really exposed to death in the same way that we once might have been, so there is a natural curiosity about it. We gravitate toward shows like this for that reason. But I hope it’s more than just your typical true-crime show. It’s a bit of forensic science, a bit of true crime, a bit of weird history. And hopefully we can give a much more nuanced view of each of these cases.”
New episodes of The Curious Life and Death of… air on Sunday nights at 9pm on the Smithsonian Channel by way of October 11, 2020. Episodes which have already aired can be found for streaming on Amazon Prime.
Listing picture by Smithsonian Channel