Mysteries at the Museum

Infamous Kidnapping, Sea Creatures, Earthquakes

Episode Summary

This episode was narrated by Jay Thomas. A vintage fire engine survived one of the nation's worst natural disasters, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. But what cataclysmic series of events really destroyed San Francisco on that fateful day? A semi-automatic rifle was used by one of America's most infamous criminals in a notorious bank robbery. But this was no ordinary villain. To her friends and family she was an innocent 20-year-old student named Patty Hearst. A majestic skeleton of a 10,000 year-old mastodon on display at the Harvard Museum of Natural History tells a shocking story of ambition, greed, and murder, inside one of nation's most esteemed universities.

Episode Notes

This episode was narrated by Jay Thomas.

A vintage fire engine survived one of the nation's worst natural disasters, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. But what cataclysmic series of events really destroyed San Francisco on that fateful day?

 A semi-automatic rifle was used by one of America's most infamous criminals in a notorious bank robbery. But this was no ordinary villain. To her friends and family she was an innocent 20-year-old student named Patty Hearst. 

A majestic skeleton of a 10,000 year-old mastodon on display at the Harvard Museum of Natural History tells a shocking story of ambition, greed, and murder, inside one of nation's most esteemed universities.

Find episode transcripts here:

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Episode Transcription


SPEAKER 1: A deadly weapon guards the truth behind one of the most infamous kidnappings of modern times.

These people were ready for a war. I mean, there's just no other way to describe it.

SPEAKER 1: A mysterious sea creature that holds an amazing secret.

It's the most opportunistic predator in the world.

SPEAKER 1: And the riddle of what caused one of the worst natural disasters in American history.
SPEAKER 2: Buildings collapsed streets were torn open. The city was devastated.
SPEAKER 1: Across the United States, in the nation's most revered institutions, our celebrated history is on display. Wondrous
treasures from the past, bizarre relics, but behind every amazing artifact, is another tale to be told, and a secret
waiting to be revealed. These are the "Mysteries At The Museum".
Los Angeles, California, the entertainment capital of the world. A city of glamour, sunshine, and dreams. That is
the ultimate destination for those in search of stardom, but LA also has a dark side. And at the Los Angeles Police
Museum, former LA cop, Glynn Martin, stands guard over a collection that chronicles the city's most infamous
criminal cases, from the Manson family murders to the Hillside Strangler.


There are, in fact, some of the most notorious and important cases in the entire history of the United States that
occurred here in Los Angeles.

SPEAKER 1: But one object in this collection tells a bizarre story unlike any other. It played a crucial role in the evolution of an
extraordinary criminal. This World War II era semiautomatic rifle is three-feet long, weighs 5.2 pounds, and can
unleash a devastating 1,200 rounds per minute.


It's an M-1 Carbine seized in the aftermath of one of the most notorious shootouts in United States history.

SPEAKER 1: Experts believe that this machine gun belonged to a legendary fugitive. A violent felon who called herself Tania,
and whose reign of terror gripped the nation, but this was no ordinary villain. To her friends and family, she was
an innocent, 20-year-old student. Her real name, Patty Hearst.


Patty Hearst was a newspaper heiress. Her father was Randolph Hearst, whose father was William Randolph
Hearst, the famous newspaper magnate. So she was a well-to-do young lady who was a college student at

SPEAKER 1: But in April, 1974, these images of a gun-toting Patty Hearst holding up a San Francisco bank shocked the nation.
What made Patty Hearst turn from a family girl into a gun-toting villain is one of the most enduring mysteries in
the history of modern crime. The story begins two months earlier on the night of February 4, 1974. Patty Hearst
is at home in her Berkeley apartment watching television with her fiancee when the doorbell rings. Three armed
criminals burst in. They beat up Patty's fiancee and drag Patty into the street.


Patty's stuffed into the trunk of her car, and the abductors drive off and vanish into the night.

SPEAKER 1: Patty Hearst has been kidnapped, but who the kidnappers are and what they want is a mystery. Then, eight days
later, a Berkeley radio station receives an anonymous audiotape. On the tape, is a message from Patty Hearst.


I'm with a combat unit that's armed with automatic weapons. They're perfectly willing to die for what they're


Through this tape, we learn that the people that kidnapped Patty Hearst were in fact the Symbionese Liberation

SPEAKER 1: The Symbionese Liberation Army, or the SLA, is a gang of left-wing extremists whose aim is to destroy capitalist

society by any means possible.


The SLA wasn't your run-of-the-mill leftist group from the late '60s or early '70s. They were highly militant.

SPEAKER 1: The group demands that Patty's family devote some of their vast wealth to feeding the poor, and Patty's father



Millions of dollars of food were set aside to feed the poor as directed.

SPEAKER 1: But Patty is still not released, then a shocking event transforms the case and leaves the nation reeling. On April
15, in San Francisco's quiet Sunset District, robbers burst into a bank, make off with $10,000 in cash, and shoot
two innocent bystanders in the process. At first, it seems to be another violent but run-of-the-mill bank job, but
when the FBI examines the surveillance footage, they make a startling discovery. The robbers are known
members of the SLA, and the dark-haired woman brandishing an M-1 Carbine is none other than Patty Hearst.


Hearst is caught on camera helping hold up a bank with her captors.

SPEAKER 1: The searing images of Hearst toting a rifle are broadcast on the nightly news. America is stunned. Was Patty
Hearst forced by her captors to take part in the heist, or has the young heiress willingly converted to the
revolutionary cause? The answer comes in the form of another audiotape.


For those people who still believe that I'm brainwashed are dead, I am a soldier in the People's Army.


That was a declaration that she was in fact a domestic terrorist. Patty was a member of the SLA.

SPEAKER 1: Law-enforcement agencies across the state launch a massive operation to catch the terrorist cell, and one month
later, they get their break. On May 16, 1974, police tracked the terrorists to a safe house in the Los Angeles
suburb of Inglewood. The gun battle that ensues is one of the most notorious in police history.


These people were ready for a war, and there's just no other way to describe it.


SPEAKER 1: The shootout rages for two hours before the gang's hideout goes up in flames.


In the ashes, police find the bodies of six SLA militants, and the M-1 Carbine they believe Patty Hearst used in the
bank robbery a month before. The young heiress is nowhere to be found, but the gun and the picture of her
wielding it will seal her fate in court.
Finally, after months of hunting, police get a tip and arrest Patty Hearst back in San Francisco. Two years to the
day after she was first kidnapped Patty Hearst is put on trial for armed robbery, and the evidence is stacked
against her. Photos of Patty holding the M-1 Carbine are central to the prosecution's case.


And suddenly, public opinion about Hearst has shifted from one of sympathy to one of ridicule and anger. They
feel betrayed by her.

SPEAKER 1: But Patty Hearst's defense team argues that she was brainwashed by her captors.

They claim anyone who may have been quarantined and raped or assaulted obviously will do whatever her
captors say in order to get out of that situation.

SPEAKER 1: But the jury doesn't buy it.

And a guilty verdict was returned, and Patty Hearst was sent off to federal prison.

SPEAKER 1: She is sentenced to 35 years behind bars, but some are sympathetic to Patty's plight, including President Jimmy
Carter. And after serving just 22 months, her sentence is commuted, and Patty Hearst is released and eventually
receives a presidential pardon. Today, for many people, the actions Patty Hearst took during her kidnapping
nearly 40 years ago remain an utter mystery. Was she brainwashed? Was she tortured, or did she convert
willingly to the SLA?
No one can say for sure, and although this weapons reign of terror is long over, inside the LA Police Museum, it
still bears witness to a young girl's bizarre transformation from college student to armed robber. Nearly a century
earlier, a very different kind of crime was committed in a most unexpected place, at the Harvard Museum of
Natural History in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This giant fossil lies at the center of a spine-tingling murder
mystery. Coming up next on "Mysteries At The Museum".

Boston, Massachusetts, is home to one of the nation's first museums, the Harvard Museum of Natural History.
Over 21 million specimens crowd these halls and tell the dramatic story of life on Earth, but the most twisted tale
within these walls belongs to this beast. It weighs some seven tons, and its tusks are five-feet long. The fossilized
bones were unearthed in 1844, but the species died off 10,000 years ago.
This is the Harvard mastodon. This majestic creature plays a key role in a bizarre story. A tale of ambition, greed,
and murder inside one of the nation's most esteemed universities.
Boston, 1844, an ambitious Harvard medical professor named John Webster sees an opportunity to achieve
instant fame. He longs to purchase one of the finest mastodon skeletons in the world and donate it to Harvard
College. At the dawn of the Scientific Revolution, a race for bones was on and competition among intellectuals
was fierce.

SPEAKER 3: Collecting fossils was associated with the upper class or the social elite.
SPEAKER 1: For the driven Webster, the purchase of this mastodon is a chance to achieve glory and prestige.
SPEAKER 3: This specimen, in particular, was one of those rare, nearly-intact specimens. So it certainly would be a boon have

in Harvard's collection.

SPEAKER 1: But an obstacle stands in Webster's way. He cannot afford the specimens $3,000 price tag.
SPEAKER 3: $3,000 at that time, while it doesn't sound like much to us, was actually about the equivalent of $200,000.
SPEAKER 1: But a determined Webster will not be stopped. He solicits donations from friends and colleagues.
SPEAKER 3: Webster was known for living beyond his means, although he made a nice salary as a medical faculty. He made

some imprudent decisions about finances.

SPEAKER 1: Webster struggles to raise the funds and approaches fellow Harvard alumnus, George Parkman, for a loan on the

remaining sum.

SPEAKER 3: Parkman came from a very wealthy family. His main occupation was to take care of the estate of his father.
SPEAKER 1: Parkman's generous loan gives Webster the amount he needs. And finally, the mastodon goes on display. But
soon, Webster's debts grow out of control, and the story of scholarly triumph takes an ominous turn. In late

November, 1849, Webster's donor, George Parkman, mysteriously disappears. When police launch a missing-
persons investigation, they discover a curious piece of information.

The last place Parkman was seen was entering Harvard Medical College to visit Professor John Webster. Was
Parkman there to collect on his loan, and did Webster have a hand in Parkman's disappearance? The police aren't
the only ones to harbor suspicions about John Webster. The medical-school janitor, Ephraim Littlefield, has also
observed strange goings on in Webster's lab.

SPEAKER 3: He noticed odd behavior, including Webster locking his laboratory, which he wasn't known to do. The water was

apparently running constantly, and the furnace was blazing.

SPEAKER 1: The janitor, Littlefield, is convinced that behind closed doors, Webster's concealing something incriminating and
embarks on an investigation of his own. One night, Littlefield creeps through the tunnels under the foundations of
the medical school. The janitor approaches the wall under Webster's lab and begins to chisel through five layers
of brick. In the space between the walls, he finds a horrifying sight.
The dismembered remains of George Parkman.

SPEAKER 3: At the time, this was certainly big news, and in part, because of the gory details associated with dismembering a
human body, but also because it involved two well-educated members of Boston's high society. The city of
Boston is stunned, and Professor John Webster is arrested for murder. In 1850, Janitor Ephraim Littlefield's
damning testimony leads to Webster's conviction, and he is sentenced to death by hanging.

SPEAKER 1: The quest to display this fossil has taken the lives of two men, but the mastodon still stands among the fossils at
the Harvard Museum of Natural History telling its own version of the complicated story of life and death. Across
the country in San Diego, California, works another strange and powerful beast. One that is very much alive.

SPEAKER 4: It's the most opportunistic predator in the world.
SPEAKER 1: Next, on "Mysteries At The Museum".


San Diego, California, home of the world-famous Scripps Institution of Oceanography. This aquarium holds
175,000 gallons of water, and houses a wondrous display of aquatic life.
But behind the scenes, among the many thousands of specimens in the institution's research labs, is a curious
organism preserved in its various stages of life. At birth, it's smaller than a rice grain, but it doesn't stay that way
for long. With a voracious appetite, it rapidly transforms into a six-foot monster. Scientists at Scripps are
studying what is perhaps one of the most mysterious and misunderstood creatures in the sea.

SPEAKER 5: We're only skimming the surface on understanding their basic biology, let alone to understand how they're

changing over time.

SPEAKER 1: Some know this creature as a real-life monster of the deep. A vicious beast known as the Red Demon, or the
flying squid, but its real name is the Humboldt squid. Native to the waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean, the
Humboldt squid is far more common than its infamous cousin, the giant squid, and to some, it's even more
dreaded. It's rumored to pull fishermen from boats and drag them beneath the sea.
What makes the Humboldt squid one of the sea's most prolific and powerful predators, and is its ferocious
reputation deserved? In the quest to unmask its secrets, scientists at Scripps are studying the squids anatomy in
the safety of the lab, but they aren't the only ones seeking to unlock the squid secrets. Professional diver, Scott
Cassell, hunts down the beast in its lair, and his face-to-face encounters confirm the squid's monstrous strength.


As a diver, I've been attacked hundreds of times by Humboldt squid, and I'll tell you, they are a magnificently
powerful. I've had my right arm yanked out of its socket. I've had my wrist broken five times. I've had my
eardrum ruptured by being slapped upside the head. They are dangerous animals.

SPEAKER 1: Animals that are armed with a fearsome arsenal of weapons. Its tentacles are lined not only with suckers, but

razor-sharp teeth.


Once they are able to latch onto a prey item, they're able to dig into the tissue and hold on to it very securely.

SPEAKER 1: But perhaps the most deadly and distinctive feature of this animal is its beak.

All the squids are soft bodied, and yet the beak is a very hardened substance.

SPEAKER 1: The powerful beak is razor sharp so it can latch on to prey.

This enables the animal to use this wicked, blade-like structure to tear away the soft tissues of their prey.

SPEAKER 1: With this array of weapons, the squid is an unrivaled hunter.

Humboldt squid are basically eating machines. They're amazingly voracious predators.

SPEAKER 1: And when food is scarce, they will even resort to cannibalism.

It's thought that as much as 20% of the diet can be its own species.

SPEAKER 1: But is the Humboldt squid and indiscriminate killer, or is this monster somehow misunderstood? Scripps'
scientists studying the Humboldt squid have been part of an extraordinary discovery that may shed light on this
creature's behavior. The Humboldt squid is one of the fastest growing animals in the world.


Humboldt squid take between one to two years to mature.

SPEAKER 1: In this short period of time, it grows from a fraction of an inch to up to six feet in length. The bigger the animal
grows, the less likely it is to be eaten by another predator, and it is this rapid transformation that explains its
voracious feeding habits.
The reason why the Humboldt squid is such an aggressive Hunter is because it needs vast amounts of food just
to sustain its incredible growth spurt. As the squid grows bigger, so does its appetite, and its prey. But should
people be worried about this aggressive predator?


A Humboldt squid represent a threat only to the people who are unfortunate enough to have come in close
contact with them at a time when they're feeding or otherwise disturbed.

SPEAKER 1: With its stunning rate of growth, the Humboldt squid is brilliantly adapted for the challenges of life in the deep.
Here at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, researchers continue to study this awesome creature in their
quest to unlock the mysteries of the sea.

To the East, in the New Mexico desert, the tentacles of the Soviet KGB reach inside a US weapons facility, plunder
the nation's most guarded secret, and change the course of history. How did it happen? Find out when "Mysteries
At The Museum" returns.

Northern New Mexico. Nearly 70 years ago in this desert, scientists at Los Alamos National Labs changed the
course of history by detonating the first nuclear bomb. Today, the Bradberry Science Museum honors the work of
these groundbreaking government scientists, but some of the most explosive items in this collection cannot be
found on the museum floor.
They're held in a special-collections archive. Carefully preserved in between sheets of plastic are 18 cards, two
inches wide by two inches long. These are security passes that granted exclusive access to the top-secret Los
Alamos Labs, but one of these passes stands apart from the others. It tells a story of intrigue and betrayal that
sent shockwaves all the way to the Kremlin and the White House.
Its owner was a man named Klaus Fuchs. What he did changed the world forever. July, 1945, World War II is over
in Europe, but fighting against the Japanese rages in the Pacific. In New Mexico, government scientists are
working on a secret weapon that they hope will win the war for the US. Code name, the Manhattan Project.
SPEAKER 6: The Manhattan Project was a national effort to build the world's first nuclear weapons. Everything about the
project was top, top secret. Security was enforced at every location in the project. Any breach of that would have
horrified the administrators.

SPEAKER 1: But as scientists in New Mexico prepare the first nuclear weapon to be dropped on the Japanese city of
Hiroshima, US intelligence agents fear that America's enemies are trying to steal the bomb's secrets. Since the
early days of World War II, US officials, deeply distrustful of Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, have been poring over
Russian communications searching for evidence of Soviet spies within the United States.

SPEAKER 6: At the end of World War II, there are allies, but we knew that the Soviet Union was going to be an adversary of

some sort moving forward into the future.

SPEAKER 1: But it isn't until 1948 that US codebreakers decipher a series of secret Soviet communiques known as the Venona


SPEAKER 6: The Venona papers not only confirmed people's worst suspicions, but it confirmed that things were worse than

they ever possibly imagined.

SPEAKER 1: The transmissions reveal that the Manhattan Project has been infiltrated. The communiques are littered with the

names of secret operatives working within the United States.

SPEAKER 6: Of the different codenames, there's one prominent name in particular, and that name is REST.
SPEAKER 1: Some in US intelligence believe that the operative known as REST may have passed the secrets of the nuclear
bomb to the Russians, but the identity of REST and where he is hiding is a mystery. In the summer of 1949,
American investigators working with their British counterparts close in on a suspect. A former Los Alamos
scientist and communist sympathizer named Klaus Fuchs.

As a theoretical physicist working on the Manhattan Project, Fuchs had access to highly-sensitive information
relating to the inner workings of the atomic bomb itself. In 1950, Fuchs is arrested. Under interrogation, he
confesses that he is the spy code named, REST, and reveals the details of his stunning betrayal.

SPEAKER 6: We know the Klaus Fuchs met with his contact in Santa Fe. They would set a location to meet. Fuchs would get in

his car with the contact, and that's where they would have their conversation.

SPEAKER 1: Fuchs meets his KGB contact at least eight times from 1943 to 1945, leaking information that had the power to

destroy human civilization in the blink of an eye.

SPEAKER 6: Klaus Fuchs gave detailed drawings with exact dimensions for parts of the bomb. He gave them all sorts of
technical theoretical information about the bombs, the type of explosives used. Because of Klaus Fuchs, the
Soviet Union had a playbook for developing their own nuclear-weapons program.

SPEAKER 1: Fuchs is tried and convicted of espionage and sentenced to 14 years in prison, but the treachery of this atomic

spy would shape the world for generations to come.

SPEAKER 6: It really ratcheted up the Cold War. It led to the rushed development of the hydrogen bum to the McCarthy era in

this country and really changed the way that people thought in this country.

SPEAKER 1: And at the heart of Klaus Fuchs' betrayal is this security pass. Without it, he could never have betrayed this
country and passed nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. It stands as a reminder of how the actions of just one
person can fundamentally change the world forever.
A half century before the genesis of man-made weapons of mass destruction, San Francisco was annihilated by a
devastating natural disaster, and this horse-drawn fire engine was a witness to the apocalypse. What happened?
Find out next on "Mysteries At The Museum".

San Francisco, California. The Paris of the West. This spectacular modern city was founded on the riches
unearthed during the famous 19th-century gold rush. At the San Francisco Fire Museum, veteran firefighter Paul
Barry and his crew maintain the equipment that's been used to fight fires in the city for 150 years.
PAUL BARRY: Engine 10. Engine 10. Engine 10. It took a lot of guys to pump this thing. There's usually six on each side, and
after about a couple of minutes, you're pretty well exhausted. This thing itself will go about 100 feet or so.
SPEAKER 1: Of all the vintage fire engines in the collection, one stands out above the others. It weighs over 5,000 pounds. It's
made of wood and steel with the ability to pump 550 gallons of water per minute. This workhorse put out
countless fires in its day, but this state of the art LaFrance fire engine would be no match against a disaster that
brought San Francisco to its knees.
A cataclysmic series of events that razed 50% of the city's buildings to the ground and claimed over 3,000 lives.
It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in American history, but what really destroyed San Francisco on that
fateful day? The answer may surprise you. April 18, 1906, as the sun rises, no one has any idea what horrors are
about to be visited upon the city.

SPEAKER 2: It was a calm morning, just like any other, until about 5:12 when disaster struck, and San Francisco was hit with
the biggest earthquake the world had known up until that time. The earthquake was magnitude 8.1. It lasted
about 42 seconds. The city was devastated. Buildings collapsed. Streets were torn open.

SPEAKER 1: But the earthquake was not the only disaster to befall San Francisco on that day. The greatest calamity lay


SPEAKER 2: The earthquake ruptured gas lines all throughout the city which was a recipe for disaster.
SPEAKER 1: Gas leaks out of the broken lines and quickly ignites. Before long, many of the buildings that had withstood the
earthquake are ablaze. The courageous firemen of the San Francisco Fire Department's Company 26 rush to the
scene. With the help of this LaFrance engine, they battle the growing inferno.

SPEAKER 2: They were doing the best they could with what they had, but nobody up until that point had ever experienced

anything like that.

SPEAKER 1: But an even worse shock is in store for the heroic firemen. The gas mains were not the only pipes to be damaged

by the earthquake.

PAUL BARRY: As the firemen went to connect their hoses to the outlet of the hydrant, nothing came out because the water lines

had all broken.

SPEAKER 1: Firemen can only watch in horror as fires spring up across the city, spreading from street to street. Company 26's
LaFrance engine, the department's best weapon, sits idle and powerless as the fires merge into one giant inferno.

PAUL BARRY: Once they ran out of water, the fight was over.
SPEAKER 1: The situation seems utterly hopeless. By day's end, the earthquake is a distant memory dwarfed by the firestorm
engulfing the city. It takes days for Company 26 and the rest of the city's embattled fire department to finally
prevail. They use Van Ness Avenue, a 100-foot-wide thoroughfare as a natural firebreak and extinguish the blaze.
The great fire has leveled the city and claimed over 3,000 lives.

SPEAKER 2: Though most people might be familiar with San Francisco in 1906 because of the great earthquake, it was the

fire that caused 90% of the damage to the city.

SPEAKER 1: In the aftermath, hope and renewal emerge from the ashes. San Francisco quickly rebuilds and soon regains its
status as the dominant city of the West. In 1917, nearly 10 years after the disaster, Company 26 buys its first
motorized fire engine, and their LaFrance steam engine, which fought in vain against the biggest fire the city has
ever known, is retired. Today, this engine is one of the few surviving relics that recall one of the worst natural
disasters in American history.
It is a testament to the brave men who responded to an earthquake and an even more devastating fire that they
and their equipment could not contain. While a disaster tested the will of a city's fire department, across the
country on Ellis Island, a simple test would determine the fate of thousands. How did desperate immigrants
outwit an exam designed to keep them out of America? The answer is coming up on "Mysteries At The Museum".

About a mile from Manhattan across the Hudson River stands one of the nation's most iconic landmarks. It is the
epicenter of the greatest migration in modern history, Ellis Island. Today, millions of Americans have ancestors
that landed here. The Ellis Island Immigration Museum tells the story of this legendary site, and the 12 million
people who pass through these halls. Barry Moreno is the museum's curator.


The main building is the iconic building. This is where all the immigrants had to come through, and you get that
sense in the building, how it was intended for large crowds.

SPEAKER 1: Despite the sheer numbers of people that arrived at Ellis Island, not everyone was allowed into America. In the
early 20th century, as more and more immigrants came to the US, authorities implemented a simple but
daunting exam designed to keep illiterate immigrants out. In the museum's collection is a relic of that dreaded
test. This simple three by five inch card is inscribed with a short piece of text. It's called a literacy card. Its
function? To determine whether a new arrival could read.
In theory, the test should have prevented thousands of poor, illiterate immigrants, mostly from Eastern and
Southern Europe, from gaining entry into the US, but it didn't because what the immigrants lacked in literacy,
they made up for in cunning and guile. So how did they get past the Ellis Island literacy test and make it into the
USA? January, 1892, New York Harbor. The very first ship load of immigrants makes landfall at Ellis Island. After
their long and grueling ocean voyages, the aspiring Americans line up and await inspection.


And as they entered, the first person they met to examine them was a physician dressed in a military uniform.
The doctor quickly examined each person approaching him. He would look at your face, your skin, your eyes for
sign of any disease or illness.

SPEAKER 1: While a few are turned back, the vast majority of arrivals make the cut. Before 1900, Ellis Island is processing
some 5,000 people every day. They are mostly English, Irish, German, and Scandinavian. These new arrivals are
vital to the success of the young nation.


There were lots of companies that were popping up that needed workers so they were desperately urging people
like the Irish or the Germans to come to work in mills and factories and mines across the country.

SPEAKER 1: News of golden opportunities in America spreads back across the Atlantic, and a steady stream of immigrants
becomes a flood. This new wave is made up of people from Southern and Eastern Europe seeking to escape the
crushing poverty of their homelands. These people look and sound different from the previous generation of


Many were alarmed by the huge numbers of Slavic, Jewish, and Latin peoples from different parts of Europe.

SPEAKER 1: Some Americans feel that the population is growing too large, while others worry that this new wave of
immigrants will pose a threat to their jobs. Opportunistic politicians pander to these concerns and come up with a
new way to limit immigration in 1917, Congress passes the Literacy Act.


The Literacy Act was part of a whole group of laws that they were devising to block immigration from Europe. It
was to keep out certain types of people.

SPEAKER 1: Now, those in search of a new life must prove that they can read before they are allowed into the United States,
and this card will determine the fate of many. It contains text written in their native language, often religious
passages from the Bible. The instructions are simple.


You would just, you know, read it to the inspector to see if you could read.

SPEAKER 1: For many of the poor, uneducated immigrants, this is a daunting challenge. Failure means a heartbreaking return

back to the land they are fleeing.


The fear that it must have touched the heart of an immigrant standing there when the inspector handed him or
her one, they have a huge cultural historical weight.

SPEAKER 1: But many desperate and determined immigrants soon figure out ways to beat the test.

Well, Ellis Island immigrants are known to be very cunning.

SPEAKER 1: Often younger, more educated family members who had already taken the test would tip off the older

generations as to which religious verses were printed on the cards.


Actually, a lot of these people knew these prayers, but they just didn't know which ones were written down.

SPEAKER 1: For many parents and grandparents, years of religious devotion now pays off.

These people came from a world of oral tradition, so many of them had no trouble catching on and knew the
prayer already once they were tipped off.

SPEAKER 1: For those who passed the literacy test, the land of opportunity awaits, and soon these newcomers have the
chance to offer their skills and energy to the growing nation. In the decades ahead, politicians will implement
straightforward quotas to limit the flow of new arrivals. Traffic to Ellis Island slows, and by 1954, immigrant
processing moves into Manhattan, and Ellis Island, the gateway to America, closes for good.
Today, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum stands as a beacon of hope, and this small three by five card is a
reminder of the determination and cunning of the many immigrants who came to pursue a better life in America.
Fossils and fire engines. A tale of survival and triumphant arrivals. A stunning betrayal, and magnificent
creatures of the sea. Wondrous objects each with a gripping story to tell. These are the "Mysteries At The

Other adaptations make these squid some of the Pacific Ocean's most versatile hunters.

SPEAKER 5: They have excellent vision. They're very fast, motile creatures that can move quickly and locate their prey, and

they also have the ability to withstand very low oxygen concentrations.

SPEAKER 1: But these members of the cephalopod family are also equipped with advanced communications and other



They color flash their skin with saturations of red to communicate.

SPEAKER 1: Chromatophores, specialized cells in the squid's skin, allow it to instantly change colors. A feature that helps it

not only to camouflage, but scientists believe it is also used to attract mates and warn away rivals.


They're more alien than anything you can imagine, but they're also potentially one of the smartest animals in the

SPEAKER 5: Humboldt squid use ink as a means to cloak their escape from predators or other sources of danger. They have
the ink and then a small ink sac. They extrude it out quickly, and of course, disappear in the other direction.

SPEAKER 1: And underwater, Scott Cassell has witnessed squid using ink in another way.

They'll grab onto a prey item, and then they'll ink all around it so that other squid don't see what he's eating, and
so the ink in the water is like a dinner bell to a Humboldt squid. They will really just fly into that ink with their
arms open just testing to see what's inside that ink cloud. If a swimmer is inside of an ink cloud, he's in a really
bad place. It's kind of like being around a whole bunch of feeding sharks in a pool of blood.

SPEAKER 1: But then, US soldiers from a local army base come to the aid of the firefighters. They put forward a daring new

plan to halt the blaze, create a firebreak.

SPEAKER 2: The army that was based nearby in the Presidio came to the aid of the fire department by coming up with an

alternative plan, and their plan was to use explosives, like dynamite, to create firebreaks.
SPEAKER 1: They rig buildings that are adjacent to the fire with dynamite and blow them up.
SPEAKER 2: By creating a firebreak, the fire would be stopped in its tracks because it would no longer have fuel to burn.
SPEAKER 1: But the plan is a spectacular failure. The dynamite only ignites new fires, and the inferno rages out of control.
SPEAKER 2: The explosives, unfortunately, ignited other fires because sparks would travel from building to building igniting
fires as it went. The dynamite backfired because the people who placed the explosives weren't thoroughly trained
in explosives. They had never had to do this kind of thing before. The army and the fire department did the best
that they could. It just didn't work as planned.

SPEAKER 1: If they pass the physical exam, immigrants must then answer a series of questions about their past and prove

their worth.


You couldn't come in broke, without a dime, without a shilling. You had to have some kind of funds. Another thing
was that you couldn't be a criminal, a convicted felon.

SPEAKER 1: Inside the Ellis Island Museum are some of the original podiums where fresh arrivals came face to face with the

person who would finally decide their fate.


This desk is pretty fascinating to look at it. It's like a regular podium, and then it slants down, the remainder of
the desk, towards the man standing there, and it was to lay the passenger list that bore the names of all the
immigrants on a vessel, and this is the desk the immigration officer stood before and interviewed an immigrant.
So standing before him were crowds, long lines of these passengers.
One of the great myths about Ellis Island is the changing of immigrants names deliberately by immigration
inspectors. And of course, this didn't happen. The immigrants' names were recorded by the purser in Europe
when the immigrants bought their steamship tickets. Huge numbers changed their names because no documents
were given to them to leave here. So you could call yourself whatever you liked.
SPEAKER 1: In its first two decades of operation, Ellis Island was largely open to all comers.

Most immigrants found that their fate was decided at standing in front of that desk. In most cases, the
immigrant's case was decided on the spot right there. The inspector would admit you to the United States. You
were fine. Your questions were all OK. You weren't suspicious. You had nothing against you, and your health was
fine, and so you were admitted right there.