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Science Channel’s ‘Mysteries of the Abandoned’ explores more recent history, including (of course) Nazis

Not to mention Soviets and cowboys!

In episode 4 of Science Channel’s Mysteries of the Abandoned, there isn’t much of a theme surrounding each featured location, unless you count exploring the myriad ways people damage their fellow man and the world around them in the reach for money and power. This episode focuses on four locations across the Western world, with abandoned sites in the U.S., Poland, England, and Germany.

The first location looks like a movie set, a perfectly preserved Old West ghost town in Bannack, Montana. There are even whiskey glasses and poker tables remaining in the saloon. It feels like Billy the Kid could step out at any moment.

The mystery of this town wasn’t very surprising to me, due to the location – yeah, it’s gold. What set this town apart was the level of violence that happened here, even for the Old West.

The second location features our perennial Abandoned pals, the Nazis. I think what this program has shown me is the breadth of building and strategic planning the Nazis performed across Europe as they forged their path of destruction.

This location, called Der Reise “The Giant,” was essentially an underground concentration camp. The way the direction captured the dank and desperate feeling of the underground tunnels was very evocative, and the whole thing was disturbing to think about.

In beautiful and bucolic Cornwall, England, the third featured location hits on another common theme in this show – how much the Industrial Revolution destroyed nature. As soon as they said the time period and that mining was involved, I knew environmental havoc must have been wreaked.

The fun (?) twist with this location is the addition of a by-product of mining tin – arsenic! As a costume designer, I know a little about the history of arsenic, and how it was used in the production of dyes and paints is part of my research. But how the miners and the area around the mines were affected by the production of the poison was new and horrifyingly fascinating.

Finally, we come back to the Nazis, with the added bonus of Soviet squatting in Wunsdorf, East Germany. I hadn’t connected the dots (though it’s very obvious when you think about it) of how the Soviets took places the Nazis had built and used them for their own purposes. Add some paint and Soviet iconography and you’ve renovated for the ’50s and ’60s!

 

Mysteries of the Abandoned doesn’t need a theme for every episode. It’s always interesting and beautifully shot, and as I get more into the series, I’m finding myself getting excited when my favorite experts appear for segments. Dr. Lynette Nusbacher is so good at providing the context around World War II-era activity. Here’s hoping for more!

AiPT! Science is co-presented by AiPT! Comics and the New York City Skeptics.

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