Sunday, June 26, 2005

In Search Of ... Answers

Not all that long ago the History Channel repeated a number of the old "In Search Of" episodes. These were interesting, not so much for the content, but because some of them were so out of date. Answers to questions that were once puzzling and mysterious have been found in recent years. The producers of the programs, in the 1970s when they were made, could not be expected to see into the future for these reports.

Take, for example, the story of Anastasia, one of the daughters of the last Russian Czar. History had told us that the Czar, Nikolai II (or Czar Nicholas if you prefer an anglicized version of the name), with the members of the royal family, had been assassinated by the communists in the summer of 1918. The bodies were taken from the murder site and buried miles away. The communists controlled all that information, and while we outside the Soviet Union were aware of the assassination, we knew very little about it.

Enter Anna Anderson (or Andersen, according to some information), a poor woman who was pulled from a canal in Germany about 18 months after the murders. Although her memory was faulty, she did suggest that she was Anastasia. She had been badly wounded during the assassination but she had survived. She spent her life trying to convince the world of who she was. Of course, surviving Romanovs, other relatives of the Czar living in other parts of Europe, thought she was lying about it. Former members of the royal house were split on the authenticity of Anderson’s claim. There were a few who believed her. She did seem to know things that only a member of the royal family would know, she did seem to have memories that confirmed her claim and she did have some scars that were like those on the real Anastasia.
So Anna found supporters, lived in the shadow of her former royalty but never really gained the wealth that the old European family controlled. She died more than two decades ago. With her, died her secret, or so claimed "In Search Of…" There was no way that we would be able to resolve the questions, now that Anna was dead.

The collapse of the Soviet Union, however, provided clues. Information that had been buried in state archives was now open for scrutiny. According to that new information, the royal family was awakened late at night, told to dress and then escorted to a basement room. There, believing that photographs were going to be made, the family arranged themselves in two rows.
Without warning, armed men entered the room and began to shoot. The Czar’s daughters might have survived the first shots because they had sewn jewels into their clothes. The Czar’s son might have survived as well, only to be shot in the head when he was heard moaning. Anastasia crouched in a corner, wounded but not badly. A maid who was not killed by the bullets was bayoneted. Anastasia was also bayoneted.

The assassins first took the bodies to a mineshaft and tossed them in. Later they were recovered, some were burned and others covered with acid. Eventually they were buried in a forest, the location hidden by the Soviet government.

There were rumors that one of the Czar’s children survived. In fact, several women claiming to be Anastasia appeared over the years. Anna Anderson is the most famous. Eugenia Smith was another but the lion’s share of the attention went to Anderson.

When Anderson was pulled from the water in 1920, she had no identification and she refused to give her name. She was transferred to a mental hospital where someone supposedly recognized her as a Grand Duchess. Not Anastasia, but Tatiana, one of her older sisters. She didn’t deny it, but she never said it either. When given a list of the Czar’s daughters, she crossed out all the names except Anastasia.

Trying to prove her identity, officials arranged for one of her mother’s ladies-in-waiting to visit her. Anderson hid and the lady-in-waiting declared she was an imposter. Anastasia’s tutor, Pierre Gilliard said that he thought she might be Anastasia but later said she was not.

Nikolia’s cousin, Grand Duke Alexander, after spending time with Anastasia said, "I have seen Nicky’s daughter." And a cousin, Princess Xenia (do you really think I could have not mentioned a princess with that name) was a supporter of the claim.

Anderson filed suit in a German court in 1938, attempting to prove her identity. Anthropologist Otto Reche testified that Anastasia and Anna Anderson were one in the same, or that they had been identical twins. The suit was finally settled in 1970, with the court ruling, not that Anderson wasn’t Anastasia, but that she had failed to prove that she was.

Then, of course, came the collapse of the Soviet Union. Included in the state archives, now available to researchers from around the world, was information about the gravesite. Excavations found that all but two of the Romanovs had been buried together. Missing, based on the evidence, were Alexei who would have become Czar and Anastasia. At least that was the consensus. Those other two had been buried somewhere else.

The door that had remained slightly open was quickly closed. The "In Search Of…" program predated the discovery of DNA "fingerprinting" and DNA mapping. It predated the research that is so common now, that proves paternity in so many cases, and solves so many crimes. It was used to confirm that the Czar, his wife and three of his daughters, along with four others, servants, maids, and a doctor were buried together.

Samples of Anna’s DNA (thought of as hair and blood samples so long ago) had been preserved. DNA of the Romanov family line existed in the members of that royal family. And with the majority of the bodies found, other DNA sampling was possible. The conclusion, based on the DNA evidence, was that Anna was an imposter. She was not the sole surviving member of the Czar’s family. The real Anastasia died with the rest of her family.

But as is so often the case, the believers simply would not let go. The hair sample, which came from a North Carolinian who had outbid others for some cartons of books owned by Jack Manahan, who had married Anna Anderson late in life was challenged. In the box, packed by Althea Hurt, one of Jack’s relatives, was a sample of hair. There is no positive way to link it to Anderson, other than the box came from Anna’s husband and it was deduced that it was Anna’s hair. The provenance of it is somewhat shaky.

The second sample is a section of intestine that had been kept at the Martha Jefferson Hospital. Here the provenance is better. The sample was sent from Charlottesville to England where the testing was done. Although mailed, it required special handling so that it could be tracked the entire way. The provenance, and a chain of custody because it had to clear customs, has been preserved.

Believers suggest that the Romanov family, which has much to gain if Anna was proved not to be Anastasia, might have intercepted this package along the route and switched it for another DNA sample. One that surely would not match.

But here we move into conspiracy a little too deeply. We have the definitive evidence in the form of DNA. We have the evidence from the Russian archives. We have the testimony of the men who carried out the assassination, in the form of careful reports made in 1918. Reports that were detailed enough that the majority of the bodies were found. Clearly there is no longer a doubt that Anna Anderson was not Anastasia.

And as if that wasn’t enough, it seems that the DNA proved that Anna Anderson had been Franziska Schanzkowska, a Polish factory worker who disappeared the night that Anderson appeared. A factory worker, by coincidence who had been injured by a grenade that detonated in the factory where she worked and therefore having some scares that matched, generally, those of the real Anastasia. (And no, I’m not going to wonder how they managed to get a DNA sample of this woman for comparison. I’ll merely note that it seems a tad bit incredible.)

So, while the producers of "In Search Of…" in the 1970s believed that the question of Anastasia might not be resolved, it seems that it was. The documentation found in the Russian archives and the DNA evidence proves that Anna Anderson was not Anastasia.

12 comments:

Kyle said...

Hi Kevin -

Great post! I was a huge fan of "In Search Of...", primarily due to the unique subject matter, but also due to the "gravitas" lent the series by Leonard Nimoy's seriously melodramatic intros and connecting epilogues.

From the Loch Ness Monster to the Lincoln assassination, Noah's ark to Kirlian photography, In Search of... sparked the imagination of this wide-eyed youth.

Some of those stories, as you assert, have not "traveled well", but the serious treatment of such matters subtly changed the TV landscape.

Subsequent series such as Unsolved Mysteries and Sightings began to take a more scientific approach and treating the issues as more than ratings opportunities or hokey "little green men" stories.

Thanks!

Kyle
uforeflections.blogspot.com

Lesley said...

I have loved "in search of" since I was a kid. Even though I live in NM, watching it was where I first learned about Roswell when I was around 7. I still enjoy it bunches!

The Bigwig Debunker said...

"According to that new information, the royal family was awakened late at night, told to dress and then escorted to a basement room."

They must have been frightened beyond belief thinking that they were going to be shot to death! Well, maybe not... The lighting in the basement might have been just right for a family portrait...

"There, believing that photographs were going to be made, the family arranged themselves in two rows."

There you go! Still, I bet there might have been some suspicious family members. I bet that all those that thought they were going to have their picture taken were in the front row. All those that thought they were going to get shot were 'right behind them.'

"Without warning, armed men entered the room and began to shoot."

I guess that places Anastasia in the back row...

This conspiracy stuff is fun!

I seen 'em, I'm tellin' ya!!! ;-)

susanne-louise said...

What an interesting post!

But UFO sightings have been around far longer than the tragic history of Duchess Anastasia and her imposter Anna, perhaps even harkening back to the dawn of humankind.

I don't think we'll know, anytime soon, just what UFOs definitively are.

Renee said...

Still, how does one explain the fact that Anna Anderson had the same foot deformity as the Grand Duchess and that her ears and handwriting were both identical to those of the Grand Duchess as verified by various experts. Additionally, Franziska Schanzkowska was reportedly taller than Anna Anderson and had dark hair.

rey said...

Hi,

I was a neighbor and friend of Jack and Anna Manahan, and at one time wrote of them for their hometown newspaper in Charlottesville, VA. Two things - one minor, one not - should be noted about this write-up.

1. Althea Hurt was not a Manahan relative. She was the daughter of an important local sub-division developer. Althea befriended Jack in his late years, so Manahan left his lands and fortune to her.

2. It was stated above: "The second sample is a section of intestine that had been kept at the Martha Jefferson Hospital. Here the provenance is better. The sample was sent from Charlottesville to England where the testing was done. Although mailed, it required special handling so that it could be tracked the entire way. The provenance, and a chain of custody because it had to clear customs, has been preserved."

That is misleading. It was sent as any other mail, "tracked" as any routine small package. It did not receive in any way the special handling required of evidence. Anyone seriously interested in tampering with the tissue sample could have gotten to it in transit. Why might they? For if Anna Anderson could be shown by DNA to be Anastasia, it could alter the ownership of valuable Romanov family possessions and cause enormous turmoil among powerful and influencial families.

rey said...

Sorry about the repeat post. If one wants to read more about this matter, see

http://www.freewarehof.org/manahans.html

Bugsy said...

I knew Jack and Anna Manahan and frequented they're farm about twice a week. I was a UPS driver and would see Mr Manahan wearing o Scottish kilt hitchhiking from PVCC comm college back and forth from his farm on several occassion even giving Mr Manahan a ride in bad weather on occassion. Between all of the cats, a fire and rantings from Anna each trip proved interesting at best. I hasd also know Mr Manahan from his residence on University circle, He was rather a flamboyant resident of that theatre as well. I think of these encounters often an would be happy to share or fill in some blanks if asked. I also attended High School with Theo Hurt and would love to share memories with her as well
Bugsy

SvartKatt said...

"According to that new information, the royal family was awakened late at night, told to dress and then escorted to a basement room."

That was hardly new information. When Anna Anderson in 1921 told Nurse Malinovski that she was Anastasia, she also told her exactly the same thing. She also told her about the jewelry that was sewn into their clothing.

"it seems that the DNA proved that Anna Anderson had been Franziska Schanzkowska, a Polish factory worker who disappeared the night that Anderson appeared. A factory worker, by coincidence who had been injured by a grenade that detonated in the factory where she worked and therefore having some scares that matched, generally, those of the real Anastasia."

Francisca S. did not disappear the same night that Anna A. was found. Her brother, Felix, celebrated his birthday on the very same day, and almost two weeks later, he received a card from his sister Francisca, excusing her tardiness which was due to a big workload. Sometime in March, her landlady reported her missing and contacted her family. Francisca also did not receive any wounds in the explosion at the AEG where she worked, and she had no scars on her body. This is confirmed in medical reports and also by members of her family. She also did not have Hallux Valgus on both feet, something that Anastasia and Anna Anderson had in common.

qwadro said...

Hi Kevin -

Great post! I was a huge fan of "In Search Of...", primarily due to the unique subject matter, but also due to the "gravitas" lent the series by Leonard Nimoy's seriously melodramatic intros and connecting epilogues.

From the Loch Ness Monster to the Lincoln assassination, Noah's ark to Kirlian photography, In Search of... sparked the imagination of this wide-eyed youth.

Some of those stories, as you assert, have not "traveled well", but the serious treatment of such matters subtly changed the TV landscape.

Subsequent series such as Unsolved Mysteries and Sightings began to take a more scientific approach and treating the issues as more than ratings opportunities or hokey "little green men" stories.

Thanks!

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