Last night, the History Channel H2 aired another new episode of Brad Meltzer′s Lost History. The story of JFK′s missing brain led the parade of mysteries, followed by the story of the lost violin from the Titanic violinist, Wallace Hartley and the case the Great US Mint Robbery of 1901, allegedly performed by Walter Dimmick. You knew that sooner or later, the story of the JFK brain would be told. It is the center piece of perhaps some of the best conspiracy theories ever told.
So, as most of us already know, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. He was taken to Parkland Hospital and was pronounced dead after doctors attempted to save his life. The Secret Service then quickly removed the body, against the law and protests by the local coroner, and taken to Bethesda Naval Hospital near Washington, DC. An autopsy was performed by a group of doctors, none of whom had ever done a forensic autopsy on a gunshot victim before. The JFK brain was placed into a stainless steel container filled with formaldehyde. For a short while, the brain was kept at the White House, then moved to the old Executive Office Building across the street, then finally to the National Archives.
On April 26, 1965, Evelyn Lincoln, JFK′s secretary, was at the National Archives cataloging Kennedy′s papers and other items stored there. She was the last person to recall seeing the stainless steel container, which she placed into a foot locker and locked it. In 1972, forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht petitioned the National Archives for access to the brain. But the brain was missing! Lincoln recalled that Bobby Kennedy and requested the foot locker be moved to another part of the Archives and sent his secretary, Angela Novella, to move it. But when questioned, Novella did not recall anything about the foot locker nor the brain. So, who stole JFK′s brain? Was it conspirators covering up the greatest crime of the 20th Century? Or did RFK take it and had it buried with his brother at Arlington? Nobody knows.
One thing we do know is that the RMS Titanic sank on April 15, 1912 after striking an iceberg during the night. That one of the more memorable stories from the tragedy was how the band played on as passengers and crew tried to get aboard too few lifeboats. Wallace Hartley was the violinist for the Titanic band, working his way to America. Legend says that the last song they played was ″Nearer, My God, To Thee″, though many accounts claim otherwise. Some two weeks after the sinking, the body of Hartley was found floating in the Atlantic and was taken back to England for a hero′s burial. There was no official record of his violin being recovered. But, in 2006, a man approached an auction house in London claiming to have Hartley′s violin.
The mystery is taken up by Craig Sopin, a Philadelphia lawyer who owns one of the largest collections of Titanic memorabilia. His search to authenticate the violin leads to a diary from Hartley′s fiancee, Maria Robinson, where she noted in July of 1912 that she thanked those whom had recovered the violin. She died in 1939 and her sister gave the violin to a Major Renwick of the Bridlington Salvation Army. At some point, the violin wound up with a music teacher and was kept by her family for some 70 years. In 2006, the grandson, an amateur musician himself, found the instrument in a case marked ″W.H.H.″ in his grandmother′s attic. Authenticated, the violin sold at auction for $1.7 Million dollars in 2013.
Finally, we get to the case of the Great US Mint Robbery of 1901. Due to the gold rush in California, the US Mint decided to build a facility in San Francisco in 1854. The Mint was almost a fortress, with plenty of safes and guards to protect the gold coins being made there. At first, miners were paid with $10 ′Eagle′ gold coins for the gold ore they brought in. But there was so much gold that soon, the Mint began making $20 ′Double Eagle′ coins. On June 29, 1901, Chief Clerk of the San Francisco Mint, Walter Dimmick, reported that six bags, containing some 1,500 $20 coins minted in 1900, were missing. Some suspicion was cast on the tally clerk who recorded the coins and placed them in a safe some 6 months earlier. But then Dimmick, himself, became the prime suspect.
On April 23, 1902, Dimmick allegedly admitted guilt. But, during the court hearing, Dimmick′s defense attorney tried to get the testimony of the Secret Service agent who claimed that Dimmick confessed thrown out. A year later, Dimmick was convicted and served time for his crime, but the gold coins were never found. Then, in 2013, a California couple were hiking in an area known as Saddle Ridge well east of the Bay. They found 8 cans filled with some 1,400 gold coins! At first, some believed that this might be the same coins stolen by Dimmick. However, upon examination, the coins were not the same, as they were a mix of both $10 and $20 gold coins, all from before 1900. The coins were auctioned off, netting the lucky finders some $11 Million dollars. A very happy ending!