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Ghost Canyon

'Secrets of the Dead: Ben Franklin's Bones'
(DVD / NR / 2015 / PBS)

Overview: Just off the Strand in London, at 36 Craven Street, is an elegant, four-story Georgian townhouse with a very important place in the history of the United States. As the Colonial ambassador to the British Colony of America, Benjamin Franklin lived and worked here for nearly 20 years during the 18th century. But two centuries later, the Craven Street house revealed a shocking history when a group of U.S. historians bought it for a museum and builders started the renovation in the basement.

DVD Verdict: On February 11 1998, it was reported that the coroner was examining skeletons found beneath statesman Ben Franklin's former London house.

Amazingly workmen actually dug up the remains of ten bodies hidden beneath the former London home of Franklin, the founding father of American independence.

The remains of four adults and six children were discovered during the 1.9 million restoration of Franklin's home at 36 Craven Street, close to Trafalgar Square. Researchers believe that there could be more bodies buried beneath the basement kitchens.

The police were called and the house was cordoned off. Tests proved that the bones dated back to the mid-18th century to the time Franklin was in residence.

Most of the bones show signs of having been dissected, sawn or cut. One skull has been drilled with several holes. Paul Knapman, the Westminster Coroner, said "I cannot totally discount the possibility of a crime. There is still a possibility that I may have to hold an inquest."

Careful investigation of the bones determined these were not victims of a serial killer but of another sinister act, and that others were implicated. Franklin knew very well that while he was upstairs drawing up the blueprint for an American republic, an illegal anatomy school run by his great friend, the brilliant young anatomist William Hewson, was thriving in the basement.

'Secrets of the Dead: Ben Franklin's Bones' solves a modern mystery born in the dark fringes of the Age of Enlightenment, showing how illegal grave robbing practices taking place right beneath Benjamin Franklin's feet proved invaluable to the advancement of medical science. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.