Mysteries at the Museum is a series on The Travel Channel that travels to various museums and tells the story behind one of the artifacts; the more bizarre and mysterious, the better. Now in its fourth season, Mysteries decided to do a segment on Ellis Parker and to tape it at the Burlington County Prison Museum in Mt Holly, New Jersey.
Each of these segments features an expert “talking head” to comment on the story and since I wrote a book about Ellis Parker,(Master Detective), they asked me to do it. (You don’t write a book because you’re an expert, you become an expert because you wrote a book!) After carefully considering for about two seconds, I agreed and headed north.
The Prison Museum, a brutal looking stone building that looked like the secret police headquarters in some old Eastern European country, is a gloomy place in the best of circumstances, but on a rainy day, all it needs is Dracula. Anyway, the MAM crew arrived, fresh from their previous shoot at the Voodoo Museum in New Orleans. (I didn’t want to ask what the artifact was.) They set up the interview in an upstairs room with an ominous corridor as a backdrop and the taping was on. They set up the lighting on one side of my face, making me look like the someone telling ghost stories around the campfire. Between breaking for lunch, holding up the taping when a noisy truck passed by, and sending for a replacement camera from Philadelphia, I was interviewed for over three hours.
Ellis Parker didn’t leave a whole lot of artifacts behind, let alone mysterious ones, so they settled for one of his pipes, supplied by grandson Andy Sahol. (See picture above) With a little dramatic lighting, it will probably look mysterious enough, especially if they hint that he might have smoked it while pursuing the kidnapper of the Lindbergh baby.
Update: The show aired and they did a pretty good job. My almost three hours of interviews yielded about two minutes of talk in a seven minute segment. I left enough on the cutting room floor for another book. Still, it was a great experience, if a little humbling. Now I know what they mean when they say talk is cheap.