Thursday, May 9, 2013

Review: Monumental Mysteries

Monumental Will Hook You (Despite Its Overused Angle)

The first thought you may have watching tonight's premiere of Monumental Mysteries (Travel Channel, 9pm) is, "Oh, it's that guy." That guy is host Don Wildman, the deep-voiced host of Travel's Mysteries at the Museum.

In Monumental, Don introduces real-life bits of fascinating, kinda-forgotten American history. Each has a tie, sometimes a loose one, to a monument or landmark of some sort.

In tonight's premiere, the most fascinating segment revolves around a gravestone. On it is the name of Mercy L. Brown. It turns out, hundreds of years ago, the teenager became the foundation for what we think of today as vampires. She was then, too.

Mercy was seemingly healthy one day, then just weeks later - coughing up blood - she wasted away to nothing. She had tuberculosis. It also claimed the lives of her mother, a sister and, later, a brother. At the time, her Rhode Island village feared she was sucking that brother's blood from the mausoleum where her body had been stored for the winter.

The town's folk exhumed her body for clues. What they found inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula. And, to this day their findings haunt our collective mind. Mercy did not decompose. And her heart was filled with blood - sure signs of her being a vampire.

The tale is intriguing and well told in Monumental. It's also the best of tonight's segments. Although, each one is good. They include a story about a New York City conman whose deceitful ways led to the expression, "If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn."

Monumental is an entertaining way to learn about little-known histories. It's also just a fun hour of TV.

It stumbles here and there. Notably, the monument angle feels strained at points. And there are moments where you may wish Don's deep voice could go falsetto for a second. But these are minor points in a pretty good show that may just teach us a thing or two.

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