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,
[ 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.
This charming town boasts cobblestone streets,
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,
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 --
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.