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  • Secrets of the Dead (Cannibalism in the Canyon/What Happened To The Hindenburg?/The Lost Vikings/Catastrophe!) [VHS]
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Secrets of the Dead (Cannibalism in the Canyon/What Happened To The Hindenburg?/The Lost Vikings/Catastrophe!) [VHS]

141 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Number of tapes: 4
  • Studio: Pbs (Direct)
  • VHS Release Date: August 1, 2000
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00004U54Y
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #305,956 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Why did the great airship Hindenburg explode? Why did Greenland's Vikings disappear? What happened to the peaceful ancient Pueblo civilization of the American southwest? Did a cataclysmic event plunge humankind into the period known as the early Dark Ages?

Amazon.com

This boxed set from PBS Home Video presents four very different stories that have a common thread: They detail mysterious happenings that can now be explained thoroughly by clever investigators who diligently employ tools of modern science. The mystery behind a thriving colony of Vikings on the coast of Greenland, thousands of people who simply vanished sometime in the 1400s, is plausibly explained in a documentary in which archaeologists find tiny clues that tell a big story of a society's demise. In another documentary, a controversial theory about ancient people practicing cannibalism in what is now New Mexico is examined thoughtfully, as are the ethical implications of scientists advancing such damning claims. The fiery demise of the airship Hindenburg, immortalized in famous newsreel footage, is seen, after some careful investigation, to have been caused by something few had ever before considered. And in a fascinating documentary that involves research into sources as diverse as ancient manuscripts and a rumbling volcano, the idea that the Earth was suddenly cooled by a bizarre and massive event about A.D. 530 is examined in great detail. Each separate tape is well produced and tackles a fascinating subject, and together they combine to provide a fascinating look at the scientific process. --Robert J. McNamara

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By William Holmes VINE VOICE on November 13, 2001
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
This video is part of the "Secrets of the Dead" series, which originally aired in Britain and more recently appeared on PBS. This particular episode is based on the work of David Keys, whose theories are set out in more detail in his 1999 book "Catastrophe."
In a nutshell, Keys and others believe that a disaster, possibly an asteroid strike or a huge volcanic eruption, happened sometime around 535 AD. The aftermath was worldwide drought, flood, famine, plague and the collapse of ancient civilizations around the world.
The first half of the video reviews the evidence for what happened: tree ring studies, ice core samples, evidence of volcanic eruptions, and historical records all point to a major climate-changing event in the year 535. The second half explores the effect that this event had on the world, including the decline of the Roman (Byzantine) Empire and the rise of Islam. The upshot is that this little-known catastrophe may have had an enormous effect on the course of history and that, more chillingly, there is absolutely nothing to prevent a similar disaster from happening again.
The episode itself features a lot of dark, moody shots of ancient buildings and mist-shrouded forests, all of which are in keeping with the "Secrets of the Dead" motif. In a nod to the "X-Files," changes in location are announced in a typed script that scrolls from the left side of the screen. Location shots feature actors dressed in period costumes (presumably for ambience), and interviews with Keys and others are interspersed throughout. The overall effect is a bit creepy, and at times it's a bit much for an event that is plainly not supernatural.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By "kelticmist" on October 6, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
I came into the middle of these series when PBS aired them originally, and after watching all of them, realize exactly what I missed the first time! The stories spun here are fascinating, and a little bit creepy (it was a bit hard to turn off the lights after watching and go down the hallway in the dark) The only thing I didn't quite like is that three of the four episodes dealt with ancient people, and the fourth dealth with more modern. I would have preferred to see one series on the ancients and perhaps a second on more modern times. Still, it remains something I would highly recommend.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Z Hayes HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on January 14, 2012
Secrets of the Dead is an intriguing series as it explores events that occurred in the past ,recreating historical happenings around the world, and providing fact-based explanations. One of my favorite episodes is the episode titled Escape from Auschwitz which recounts how two inmates at the Auschwitz concentration/ extermination camp managed to escape the camp and fulfill their mission - that is to inform the world about the atrocities occurring in the camp, i.e. the systematic murder of European Jewry (and others, including gypsies) through gassing and other deliberate means. It is a horrific tale, and quite disturbing.

The show also features interviews with survivors of Auschwitz who provide first-hand accounts of some of the atrocities committed there, as well as interviews with an academic who provides detailed information on the men, Rudolph Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, who managed the impossible - to escape in the hope of telling the world what they had witnessed in Auschwitz.

This is recommended viewing for those who appreciate quality documentaries that explore the past, especially significant historical events.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lawrance Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on January 22, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
The "Catasatrophe!" that is the focus of this first volume in the "Secrets of the Dead" series is a cataclysmic event that some scientists believed occurred around 535 A.D. Apparently, the early Dark Ages were called that for a reason: a natural disaster literally reduced the amount of sunshine. The starting point for this scientific inquiry are the record of tree rings from the period that show abnormally small growth rates for several years during that time span. Focusing primarily on the work of science writer David Keys, this documentary eliminates extraterrestrial sources (asteroids, comets, etc.) for this natural disaster and searches for a volcanic explosion as the triggering device. However, that becomes only the first half of this endeavor as the case is then made for the significant effects this catastrophe had for human civilization. Viewers will be fascinated to learn that the Mongol invasion of Europe, the rise of the bubonic plague, the fall of the great Mexican city of Teotihuacan, the victory of the Anglo-Saxons over the Celts, and even the rise of Islam can be linked to the massive volcanic explosion.
The strength of "Catastrophe!", which is narrated by actor Roy Scheider, is the chain of scientific reasoning it lays out for the audience, both in determining what happened and in laying out the case for the specific results this particular volcanic explosion caused in human history. However, at two hours in length it is a bit overlong and I think the documentary could have benefitted from some better editing to help pick up the pace (I would think PBS would not have a big problem with the 90 minute format, but maybe that was problematic in 2000 with regards to this series). Still, this videotape should prove most instructive in the classroom since it provides a detailed case study of how scientists and historians arrive at their conclusions. Whatever the specific case study at hand, that is a lesson well worth the learning.
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