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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Miracle on the Hudson

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The little known story

of America's most iconic monument...

SCANLON: Lady Liberty was literally all dressed up

with nowhere to go.

...A bizarre bogeyman lurking in the woods...

This is one of the creepiest creatures ever seen alive.

...And a plague of biblical proportions...

People thought this was a sign the end times are near.

...These are the mysteries at the museum.

WILDMAN: North Carolina holds a unique place in aviation history.

It was here in 1903

that the Wright brothers built and flew

the world's first engine-powered airplane.

And celebrating the region's high-flying heritage

is the Carolinas Aviation Museum.

Housed in a 40,000-square-foot hangar,

its collection includes

a rescue helicopter from the Vietnam War,

a 1930s yellow biplane used to train military pilots,

and a jet that set the world speed record in 1947.

But even among these hulking relics

is a massive aircraft that dwarfs them all.

It is over 40 tons.

It's red, white, and blue with patches of silver.

Parts of the item have been restored,

Other parts serve as a reminder of a traumatic event.

WILDMAN: This battered plane was involved in

one of the most amazing emergency landings

the world has ever seen.

[ Alarm sounds ]

But few know the incredible chain of events

that led to the Miracle on the Hudson.

The real story behind this plane's journey

is hard to believe.

WILDMAN: It's January 15, 2009, in New York.

U.S. Airways Flight 1549 takes off from LaGuardia Airport

en route to Charlotte, North Carolina.

Onboard are 150 passengers and 5 crew members.

At the helm is 57-year-old veteran pilot

Captain Chesley Sullenberger, known to most as "Sully."

WEATHERFORD: Sully had been an Air Force fighter pilot.

When he retired,

he became a commercial airline pilot.

So, by the time of flight 1549,

he was approaching 20,000 flight hours.

WILDMAN: With good weather and clear skies,

Sully expects this trip to be as routine as any other.

The flight from New York to Charlotte

is a very common flight.

It's actually a route

that is traveled several times within one day.

But just two minutes after takeoff,

disaster strikes.

[ Alarm sounds ]

[ All screaming ]

There's just a massive rumble of turbulence

that shook the entire plane.

WILDMAN: A flock of geese are sucked right through the engines.

Seconds later, the rumble stops,

and then there's total silence.

WEATHERFORD: The most eerie part was just the silence,

not hearing either engine going.

WILDMAN: Sully tries to restart the engines,

but it's no use.

The airplane has become a 70-ton glider

and begins a rapid 125-mile-an-hour descent.

Sully estimates the plane

will hit the ground in less than four minutes.

The terrified passengers fear the worst.

This was a complete nightmare scenario.

People were gripping their armrests.

People are starting to think

that this may be the last few minutes of their lives.

WILDMAN: Sully must find a place to land the plane and fast.

WEATHERFORD: The plane was going to go down.

A landing was going to have to be made somewhere.

WILDMAN: The pilot's first instinct

is to turn back to LaGuardia airport,

but there's no way he can make it there in time.

If he turns around,

the plane could crash in Queens,

killing everyone onboard

and countless civilians on the ground.

And making it to another local airport

like Teterboro or Newark is impossible.

They're simply too far away.

WEATHERFORD: The initial moments of decision making

were extremely important.

WILDMAN: Sully has only one option --

something that has never been done

in the history of aviation.

WEATHERFORD: The option was, look for an unpopulated area

large enough to land a massive aircraft,

and the Hudson River was it.

WILDMAN: With 155 lives on the line,

Sully steers the plane towards the river.

WEATHERFORD: This was the worst stomach-sinking moments

of his entire career.

WILDMAN: But as he lines up the aircraft,

Sully has a chilling realization.

Even if he can successfully land on the Hudson River,

the chances of survival after that are slim.

As the plane hits the river,

icy water will start to fill the cabin.

Getting everyone off before it sinks is no guarantee,

and they won't survive for long in the frigid water.

This was a true life-or-death situation

for him, his crew, and all of his 150 passengers.

WILDMAN: Then with only seconds before impact,

Sully remembers a crucial detail about the river

that just might save the day.

[ Horn sounds ]

Ferry boats run between Pier 79 in Manhattan

and Weehawken, New Jersey.

So, these ferries could be diverted

to go pick up the passengers of Flight 1549.

WILDMAN: Sully realizes what he needs to do.

Not only must he attempt

a daring and unprecedented water landing,

but he must also bring the 70-ton aircraft down

on a tiny sliver of the river

as close to the ferry routes as possible.

If he misses his mark,

there will be no time for the ferries

to reach the plane before it sinks.

Sully aims the plane towards the ferry route,

and then over the intercom,

utters three words no passenger ever wants to hear.

The passengers felt just absolutely terrified.

They ducked down, covered their heads,

and got ready for whatever was coming their way.

♪♪

WILDMAN: Captain Sully lands the aircraft on the Hudson River.

And he sees a welcome sight through his windows.

The plane is surrounded by ferries

ready to rescue the passengers.

Captain Sully's quick thinking and years of experience

have saved the lives of every single person onboard.

WEATHERFORD: Captain Sully is now remembered as a hero.

He is the person that made sure his entire plane full of people

got to walk away from this.

WILDMAN: Today, the Carolinas Aviation Museum

proudly displays the Airbus 320

from what became known around the world

as the Miracle on the Hudson.

It recalls the heroic pilot who pulled off

the greatest emergency landing of all time.

♪♪

Colmar, France.

This charming town boasts cobblestone streets,

renaissance-style houses,

and a network of intimate canals.

It was also home to the famed sculptor

Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi.

And his life and legacy are celebrated here

at the Bartholdi Museum.

Visitors can find models

of some of the artist's most acclaimed pieces,

including a terra cotta lion,

a depiction of a Roman warrior,

and a 360-ton horse head.

But amid these expertly crafted pieces

is one display that appears incomplete.

It's four feet tall and three feet wide,

and it's carved in plaster.

It depicts a huge human ear.

WILDMAN: This plaster cast was used to create

the most famous statue in the world,

but few know the epic story

behind the iconic landmark's creation.

This sculpture became

one of the most recognizable symbols of all time.

♪♪

WILDMAN: It's 1865 in Paris.

31-year-old sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi

has just been handed his first major commission.

The young artist has been asked to create a statue

that represents the ideals of liberty and equality

shared between France and America.

The funding for the project

will be split between the two nations.

How Bartholdi represents those ideals is up to him.

♪♪

For an artist whose career is just getting off the ground,

this is his chance to make a name for himself.

SCANLON: Bartholdi immediately saw this

as an opportunity to really make his mark.

WILDMAN: The sculptor gets to work

and comes up with an epic design

the likes of which hasn't been seen

since the days of ancient Greece.

Bartholdi proposes building a colossal goddess-like woman.

In her right hand,

she'll hold a torch representing enlightenment.

In her left,

she'll hold a tablet

bearing the date of American independence.

And around her feet,

broken chains symbolizing freedom and democracy.

SCANLON: He wanted this sculpture to become an iconic symbol,

so he decided that he would make the statue 150 feet tall.

WILDMAN: Bartholdi's idea is for his grand statue

to be positioned in New York Harbor,

where it will greet new arrivals to the United States.

And when the sculptor presents his design

to the French and American governments,

they're thrilled.

It's decided that France will provide the funds

for the construction of the statue itself,

and America will pay

for the massive base on which it will stand.

Bartholdi's plans are so ambitious,

it takes 20 years to construct his statue.

♪♪

Finally in 1884, it's finished.

He calls it Liberty Enlightening the World.

Bartholdi was absolutely delighted.

WILDMAN: But when it comes time to send Bartholdi's creation to America,

there's a problem.

The massive statue, clad in copper,

is much heavier than Bartholdi originally estimated.

And the base will cost $100,000 more

than the Americans have raised.

$100,000 nowadays would be several million dollars.

WILDMAN: With the U.S. still rebuilding

and paying off its debts from the Civil War,

the government cannot justify the added expense.

It looks like Lady Liberty may never leave France.

Bartholdi must have been feeling absolutely devastated

at this point.

Lady Liberty was literally all dressed up

with nowhere to go.

WILDMAN: So, how will this colossal statue

take her place in history?

It's 1885 in Paris.

Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi

has created one of the most incredible sculptures

the world has ever seen --

A 150-foot statue titled Liberty Enlightening the World.

The monument is intended to be placed

in New York City's harbor,

but when she winds up being heavier than anyone expected,

the Americans can't afford

to pay for the base on which she's meant to stand.

Little does Bartholdi know

Lady Liberty is about to get a lift from an unlikely source.

1885 -- New York City.

Newspaper mogul Joseph Pulitzer is at his wit's end.

The readership of his publication,

the New York World,

is falling off by the day.

He's desperate for a big story to turn things around.

Then he hears of a little known French sculptor

named Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi

with a huge problem.

Pulitzer learns of the massive amount of funds

needed to complete the pedestal

on which Bartholdi's statue is meant to stand,

and the patriotic publisher comes up with an audacious plan.

Pulitzer decides to ask the public for donations

towards the cost of the statue's base.

Those who contribute will get a mention in the New York World.

He said anyone who donated any amount of money,

even if it was a penny,

would have their name printed in the newspaper

with a short comment about themselves.

But Pulitzer's plans aren't entirely altruistic.

He hopes that people will buy the paper

to see their names in print.

If it works,

Bartholdi will get his base

and Pulitzer will save his newspaper.

On March 16th, Pulitzer launches his campaign.

For five months,

the New York World publishes the appeal.

And it's wildly successful.

Americans everywhere

eagerly read every story about the fate of Lady Liberty.

The New York World

becomes the most popular newspaper in the country,

and Pulitzer raises the extra $100,000

needed to complete the base for Bartholdi's master work.

Bartholdi was absolutely elated.

WILDMAN: In June, the statue arrives from France.

And on October 28, 1886,

it is finally unveiled in New York Harbor

to great fanfare.

It was met with absolute enthusiasm by the Americans.

WILDMAN: Bartholdi becomes one of the most famous sculptors

in the world.

And his statue soon earns herself a nickname --

the Statue of Liberty.

SCANLON: The Statue of Liberty is undoubtedly a symbol

that cuts through language and cultural barriers

and has become a recognizable symbol around the world

for the American ideals of democracy and liberty.

WILDMAN: Today, this early plaster model of Lady Liberty's ear

is on display at the Bartholdi Museum

in Colmar, France.

It stands as a testament

to the visionary sculptor and the tenacious publisher

who proved that no dream is ever too big.

A 1920s horn machine,

a phonograph designed by Thomas Edison,

and a coin-operated miniature orchestra

are just a few of the musical gadgets on display

at the DeBence Antique Music World museum

in Franklin, Pennsylvania.

And amidst these little-known oddities

is one instrument that every music fan will recognize.

CAVATORTA: The artifact is 48 inches wide and 29 inches deep.

It's made out of beautifully crafted wood.

It has two keyboards and a row of buttons.

It is almost 80 years old,

but it is in perfect working condition

and it sounds beautiful.

WILDMAN: This is a 1935 Hammond organ.

Its unique sound can be heard on countless hit songs.

[ Electric organ music plays ]

But what few realize

is that this celebrated instrument

owes its existence to an outlandish scheme

that almost got the whole world dancing to the same tune.

CAVATORTA: This is a story about one man

who had an idea that changed the entire future of music.

♪♪

WILDMAN: The early 1900s --

It's an era of great innovation.

Americans enjoy an array of new technologies

like escalators, typewriters, and dishwashers.

But in Washington, D.C.,

there's one man who thinks

he has the most unique idea of all --

26-year-old inventor Thaddeus Cahill.

CAVATORTA: Cahill's idea was to create

the world's first electronic streaming music service.

WILDMAN: Cahill's concept is to give people

the ability to listen to live music

in their living rooms...

[ Telephone rings ]

...just by making a telephone call.

This would be a subscription service.

You'd go to your telephone and ask to be connected,

and the room would be filled with music.

And the subscribers in their homes

could turn the music on and off just like water in a tap.

WILDMAN: If it works,

the service would be like nothing

the world has ever heard before.

In 1901,

Cahill builds a prototype instrument

that uses magnets and electric currents

to create music

that can then be broadcast through the telephone lines.

The revolutionary device weighs 14,000 pounds.

He calls his creation...

the Telharmonium.

The Telharmonium was full-scale Frankenstein-style endeavor.

He made it a gigantic hive of little electrical switches

and big electric keyboards.

WILDMAN: To demonstrate his grand creation,

Cahill organizes a party of moneyed businessmen and bankers.

♪♪

The guests gather around a table where a telephone is set up...

...and as they lean in, a strange sound fills the room.

[ Electronic music plays ]

CAVATORTA: Out poured this loud electronic music

like they'd never heard before.

[ Electronic music plays ]

Beeps and strange sine waves and odd harmonies.

♪♪

WILDMAN: The audience is stunned.

Cahill explains that the song

is being played on an electric keyboard

located 30 miles away,

and if they want to hear more of this unique sound,

all they have to do

is pay a nominal subscription fee.

They were blown away,

and they lined up to hand him money.

[ Applause ]

WILDMAN: Word of Cahill's unparalleled music service spreads,

and in 1906, the Telharmonium goes live.

Thousands of people rush to subscribe to the service.

It appeared to be a gigantic success.

Everybody loved the Telharmonium.

But the growing popularity of his device

is about to cause the young entrepreneur

an unexpected problem --

One that threatens to silence the Telharmonium for good.

CAVATORTA: Cahill did not anticipate

how difficult this venture would really be.

WILDMAN: So, what will become of Cahill's incredible invention?

[ Indistinct conversations ]

It's 1906 in New York.

Inventor Thaddeus Cahill has taken the country by storm

with his invention, the Telharmonium.

It is a brand new electric instrument

that streams live music into people's homes

through the telephone lines.

But little does Cahill realize

his runaway hit is about to go off-key.

One day, Cahill gets an unwelcome call

from the phone company.

They say that Cahill's music service

is wreaking havoc on the telephone system.

People having normal conversations

are being interrupted by the Telharmonium.

[ Indistinct conversations, Telharmonium plays ]

CAVATORTA: An ongoing problem throughout the Telharmonium's run

was cross talk on the lines.

So, you'd be talking

and trying to understand one another,

and this loud music would come over the line

and it would stay there.

[ Music plays ]

Is that music?

WILDMAN: The telephone company says it has no choice

but to cut off Cahill's access to their phone lines.

The entrepreneur is devastated.

In 1908, the Telharmonium plays its last tune.

Cahill is forced to shut down his operation

and declare bankruptcy.

He put everything he had into this.

This was a failure.

WILDMAN: But this isn't the end of the Telharmonium.

♪♪

The ideas and the vision in the instrument lived on.

WILDMAN: In the 1930s,

another inventor named Lawrence Hammond

applies Cahill's design

to build a new type of instrument --

the Hammond organ.

Similar to the Telharmonium,

the Hammond generates sound by creating current

from a rotating metal reel and an electromagnet.

It was really like a tiny Telharmonium.

WILDMAN: Its unique sound

is used in a slew of new American musical genres.

It's used in all kinds of hits,

including the Grateful Dead's "Bertha,"

Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone,"

and Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry."

So much popular music today is possible and inspired by

Thaddeus Cahill's invention and the Hammond organ.

[ Electric organ music plays ]

WILDMAN: This Hammond electric organ

at the DeBence Antique Music World museum

recalls the brilliant invention

that struck a major chord in music history.

♪♪

♪♪

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Known as the steel city,

this metropolis still bears the fingerprints

of its most famous resident --

steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

Today, his legacy is celebrated

at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

On display are life-sized dioramas

of North American mammals,

a reconstructed Egyptian tomb,

and one of the world's greatest collections of dinosaur fossils.

But hidden deep in the archives is a specimen that's linked

to one of the most bizarre phenomena in American history.

REIDY: This artifact is about eight inches tall.

It's about four inches in diameter.

It's a cylindrical vessel made of glass.

Inside is a pile of green slimy creatures.

WILDMAN: These preserved frogs

recall a terrifying scourge

of seemingly biblical proportions.

[ All screaming ]

REIDY: Many people thought this was a sign

that end times are near.

[ Frogs croak ]

WILDMAN: It's 1952 in Oconto, Wisconsin.

Residents of this pleasant hamlet

on the shores of Lake Michigan

are going about their day when something odd happens.

People in the town square notice that the grass

appears to be moving.

REIDY: They heard rustling in the grass.

There was something lurking in the underbrush.

WILDMAN: As they look closer,

they realize that they are surrounded

by dozens and dozens of slimy green frogs.

There were frogs everywhere.

WILDMAN: The people of Oconto

have never seen this many frogs together at the same time.

People in town were a little curious.

This was a frog army.

[ Frogs croaking ]

WILDMAN: Residents return home

thinking the sudden invasion

is little more than a curious anomaly.

But the next day,

the situation goes from bizarre to terrifying.

Masses of frogs start to appear all across town

in people's yards, lining the sidewalks,

and covering the streets.

People had to literally shovel them to move anywhere.

WILDMAN: The massive number of frogs

brings all human activity to an abrupt halt.

People are trapped in their homes,

city services suspended,

businesses are shuttered.

By the end of the week,

authorities estimate the frog population

has swelled to almost 200 million.

This was a plague of frogs.

WILDMAN: With no end in sight,

many fear they'll have to abandon Oconto.

Residents were concerned that nature was taking over.

[ Frog croaks ]

WILDMAN: As the town descends into bedlam,

one man vows to put a stop to this amphibious assault --

A local scientist named Carl Richter.

He was very concerned about

the effects of the frog invasion on his beloved hometown.

WILDMAN: Richter suspects the source of the plague

might lie in the marshes just outside the city limits.

So, what's behind this amphibious invasion,

and can it be stopped?

It's July, 1952, in Oconto, Wisconsin.

This small town

is enduring a plague of biblical proportions --

an infestation of nearly 200 million frogs.

No one knows what's behind it,

but a scientist named Carl Richter

thinks he can figure it out.

So, can Richter save the day,

or is Oconto doomed to an amphibious annihilation?

As Richter travels deep into the nearby wetlands,

he notices something strange.

At this point in the summer, the marshes are typically dry.

But for some reason,

the water levels are unusually high.

Richter theorizes

that recent strong winds on Lake Michigan

pushed extra water into the marsh.

This would have created the perfect environment

for frogs to spawn,

leading to the birth

of hundreds of millions of tadpoles,

and when those tadpoles grew into frogs...

...they had to go somewhere.

These frogs needed to find food

and they needed to find it fast,

so they all traveled to the closest town, Oconto.

WILDMAN: Richter suspects that as the water levels drop,

the green hordes will eventually die off.

Sure enough, within a month,

the army of webbed invaders begins to recede.

The frogs either die from starvation

or find their way back to the marsh.

The plague was finally over.

[ Frogs croak ]

WILDMAN: Life in Oconto returns to normal.

People even realize the frogs provided a vital service.

Oconto had the lowest number of mosquitoes

for any summer in recorded history.

WILDMAN: Today, these preserved frogs

at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History

recall an amphibian plague

that drove a small town hopping mad.

♪♪

Portland, Maine --

This classic New England city boasts rugged coastlines,

exquisite Victorian-style architecture,

and world-famous lobster.

But those looking for something a little more offbeat

can visit an unusual institution

dedicated to the stranger side of science and biology --

the International Cryptozoology Museum.

Here, visitors can marvel at depictions of bizarre beasts

that have allegedly roamed the American landscape.

But among these freakish exhibits

is an item that at first glance can be easily overlooked.

COLEMAN: It's four inches wide, five inches across,

and weighs three pounds.

It looks like a softball that's been punched around.

WILDMAN: This granite rock may look plain,

but it played a key role in a supernatural mystery

that terrified a small New England town.

[ Creature growls ]

COLEMAN: This item is connected

to one of the creepiest creatures ever seen alive.

April 22, 1977 -- Dover, Massachusetts.

It's a quiet spring morning

in this quaint town just outside Boston.

Suddenly, the peace is shattered.

A 17-year-old named William Bartlett

rushes up to a group of friends.

He's breathless

and says he has a harrowing tale to tell.

The frantic teenager claims that the previous night,

he was driving down a dark road

when he spotted something in his headlights...

...A strange-looking animal climbing over a low stone wall.

COLEMAN: It was a creature that he had not seen ever before.

He couldn't really believe what he was seeing.

WILDMAN: The young man describes being so terrified

that he hit the gas

and drove home as fast as he could.

There, he felt compelled

to draw a sketch of the creature.

Bartlett says the being was about four feet tall

with orange skin, a watermelon-shaped head,

and huge glowing eyes.

But what stood out the most

were its long, spindly arms and legs.

His drawing of a scraggly, spindly thing

was bizarre and terrifying.

WILDMAN: Bartlett's friends are skeptical.

They didn't believe that this had happened to him.

WILDMAN: But their doubts are about to be put to the test.

Within days, two more witnesses come forward.

Both report seeing

a strange bulbous-headed, straggly creature

with glowing eyes.

It seems their encounters occurred

within hours of the first sighting.

And one of them also made a sketch of the bizarre beast.

Amazingly, it's almost identical to Bartlett's.

COLEMAN: It was an exact replica.

This was so unusual, so unexplainable.

WILDMAN: News of the sightings spreads around town,

and the story is picked up by the press.

Reporters give the creature a hair-raising nickname --

the Dover Demon.

When people heard about this, they were scared to death.

WILDMAN: So, what's the truth

behind this frightening bogeyman?

It's 1977 in Dover, Massachusetts.

This quaint New England town is rocked by reports

of a strange and terrifying creature lurking in the woods.

This bizarre being is said to have a bulbous head,

orange-brown skin, and spindly limbs.

The press dubs it the Dover Demon.

So, what is this fearsome fiend?

Speculation runs wild.

Some say that reports of unusual beings

in the woods of Dover

are nothing new.

In fact, such stories stretch back centuries.

In the 1600s,

settlers claim that the woods were haunted

by something called a púca --

a mythical goblin figure with origins in Ireland.

Like the Dover Demon,

púcas were said to have bright orange eyes

and long, spindly fingers.

They were remarkably similar looking

in terms of creatures.

WILDMAN: Most scholars, however,

accept that púcas are nothing more

than an old Celtic fairytale

made up to deter wayward children

from venturing into the woods.

Others outside of Dover dismiss the reports

as nothing more than elaborate conspiracy

to boost tourism.

COLEMAN: Some people tried to say

that Dover was interested in

having a bigfoot-type monster in their midst.

WILDMAN: But town residents have disputed this theory.

They argue that their community has never profited

from anything related to the Dover Demon.

They tried to bury the story as opposed to really promote it.

There were no souvenirs, there were no Dover tours.

It was never part of tourism.

WILDMAN: So, if the Dover Demon

wasn't a mythical goblin or an elaborate hoax,

what was it?

Over time, a more scientific explanation emerges.

There is an animal native to Massachusetts

known for having an oversized head,

orange-brown fur, and long, spindly appendages.

But it's no demon.

One theory was that this was a newborn moose.

WILDMAN: In the dark woods,

it's possible that a moose calf

could be mistaken for a monster.

And the reflection of a car's headlights

could make a baby moose's eyes appear to glow.

But even this plausible explanation has its skeptics.

There have been no moose reports in Massachusetts,

and wasn't the right time of year

for a moose to be born.

WILDMAN: Whatever the truth,

the Dover Demon goes down

as one of the great unsolved mysteries

in Massachusetts history.

Today, this rock

from the stone wall where William Bartlett

first reported seeing the creature

is on display at

the International Cryptozoology Museum.

It's a chilling reminder of the strange being

that may still be lurking in the New England woods.

New York's Little Italy neighborhood

is famous for its bustling shops and authentic Italian food.

And located in an old tenement building

is an institution

that celebrates the proud immigrants

who have made this city and the country their home --

the Italian American Museum.

On display is an organ grinder from the 19th Century,

a blade sharpener that belonged to a local butcher,

and a bank safe used by some of the first Italians

to arrive in New York.

But there's one artifact here

that while seemingly innocent,

tells a story of violence and brutality.

This object dates back to about 1900.

It's 11x14 inches,

it has very bright colors,

and a large black hand.

Almost looks like a cartoon.

WILDMAN: This colorful lithograph

recalls a brave crusade

to end one of the most notorious criminal enterprises

the nation had ever seen.

SCELSA: He was just one man,

but he was determined to take these criminals down.

[ Gunshot ]

WILDMAN: It's February, 1909, in Rome, Italy.

NYPD Detective Joseph Petrosino

is in the capital on a critical mission.

He's traveled from New York

to gather intel on a vicious group of criminals

that are tormenting the Big Apple.

These vile crooks employ a sinister tactic

to bleed New Yorkers of their hard-earned cash.

They send letters to unsuspecting victims

threatening to kidnap their kids,

burn down their houses, or kill them

unless they hand over a hefty ransom.

If the targets don't pay up, it's lights out.

These thugs would stop at nothing.

They would murder you in cold blood

if you didn't pay the ransom.

WILDMAN: The criminals sign their notes

with the image of a black hand holding a bloody knife,

earning them their menacing nickname,

the Black Hand.

SCELSA: When Italian immigrants heard the name Black Hand,

they would make the sign of the cross

and pray that nothing would happen to them.

WILDMAN: According to Petrosino's investigation,

the Black Hand originated on the Italian island of Sicily,

where members attacked and swindled residents

before extending the tentacles of its criminal enterprise

to New York City.

So far, the NYPD has only been able to capture

low-level members of the Black Hand.

So Petrosino has traveled to Italy

to find the group's leaders.

Petrosino knew he had to go to Italy

in order to get to the root of the problem.

WILDMAN: Petrosino assumes a false name and goes undercover.

[ Train whistle blows ]

He quietly travels across Italy

looking for informants

who can tell him about the Black Hand.

SCELSA: He spent a lot of time looking over his shoulder,

making sure he wasn't being discovered,

because he knew if he was, the mission would be blown.

WILDMAN: On March 12th, his diligent sleuthing pays off.

He's contacted by a man

who claims to know the names

of the top Black Hand agents in New York.

He says he wants to meet Petrosino at a public square

in the city of Palermo on Sicily itself.

SCELSA: Petrosino was really excited.

With this list,

he could get rid of the Black Hand in New York.

WILDMAN: Later that night,

Petrosino arrives at the public square as instructed.

SCELSA: This was the moment he was waiting for.

This information could put an end to the Black Hand

once and for all.

WILDMAN: What happens next

will forever change organized crime in America,

just not in the way Petrosino had hoped.

It's 1909 in Palermo, Italy.

NYPD Detective Joseph Petrosino is on a mission to bring down

a ruthless criminal syndicate known as the Black Hand.

An informant has agreed to provide information

on the shadowy organization's top brass.

So, can Petrosino stop the Black Hand?

Petrosino anxiously waits for the informant

in the middle of the square.

Then out of the darkness, he sees two men approaching.

The detective senses something is wrong.

SCELSA: He realized it was a trap.

The men were not informants.

They were Black Hand hit men sent to kill him.

WILDMAN: The assassins pump Petrosino full of bullets

and flee into the night.

SCELSA: He must've known in his last moments

that he had been duped.

It has been said that he was found

with his eyes wide open and anger on his face.

WILDMAN: News of the detective's death

shocks his fellow New Yorkers,

and Petrosino's assassination has tragic consequences.

The Black Hand continues its reign of terror

in the United States.

Over the years,

the nefarious organization flourishes

and eventually transforms

into the deadliest criminal syndicate of all time --

the Mafia.

SCELSA: We may never know how different the Mafia would have been

if Petrosino had been successful,

or if it would have been in existence at all.

WILDMAN: Today, this lithograph at the Italian American Museum

is a reminder of how one man nearly brought down the mob.

From a towering statue

to a terrifying demon,

a biblical plague,

to a miracle on the Hudson,

I'm Don Wildman,

and these are the mysteries at the museum.

The Description of Miracle on the Hudson