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tv   Stossel  FOX Business  February 21, 2016 12:00am-1:01am EST

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oh. i'm jamie colby for "strange inheritance." and remember -- you can't take it with you. >> it stands in the way. >> it's just her house in the middle of the block. >> she won't sell out. >> the 84-year-old seen here turned down $1 million payout. >> he's caught in the middle. >> i promised her that i wouldn't let them take her away. >> that's a really big promise. >> what's "up" with that? >> people from all over the country and even around the world have stopped by this house. >> they put balloons on the house, and that's how it became the "up" house. >> it is amazing. i can't believe that she held out. [ door creaks ] [ wind howls ] [ thunder rumbles ] [ bird caws ] ♪ >> i'm jamie colby, and today,
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i'm in seattle, headed toward the ballard neighborhood. it's an upscale area once known for sawmills and commercial fishing, and just down the road is one man's strange inheritance and a story with a hollywood ending. >> my name's barry martin. i inherited a tiny, hundred-year-old house from a little old lady. if there ever was a real-estate niche, this is one. >> hi, barry. i'm jamie. >> hi, jamie. nice to meet you. >> i meet barry in front of this little house. yep, this is it -- his strange inheritance. it's just 600 square feet, and it's now surrounded by a huge shopping mall -- a mall that the unlikely heir in this story helped build. >> who leaves this to somebody? >> well, edith left it to me. >> edith? >> yep. >> love to learn more. >> okay. come on. >> barry explains that when this house was built over a hundred years ago, ballard, washington,
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was the shingle-mill capital of the world, with 20 mills producing 3 million shingles a day. >> there was fishing on elliot bay there, and the shingle-mill industry, all along shilshole avenue here. >> cass o'callaghan from the ballard historical society tells me more. did the neighborhood really change over the years? >> in about the late '30s, early '40s, the commercial district moved north and businesses moved out. nobody wanted to be here anymore. >> with the exception, that is, of edith macefield and her retired single mother, alice wilson. edith's early life is a bit mysterious. we know she was born in august 1921, and that her parents divorced shortly thereafter. during her 20s, edith disappears -- to england, she says, where she seems to have gotten married once or thrice. but, again, it's hard to tell fact from fiction. [ camera shutter clicks ]
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by the 1950s, she's back in ballard, single, and working as a store manager for spic 'n span dry cleaners. edith buys this house for her mother and the two name it whitewood cottage. edith is able to pay off the $3,700 mortgage in just a few years. in her off hours, she babysits for next-door neighbor gayle holland. hi, gayle. you know why i'm here -- to hear about edith. >> i've got a lot to tell you. come on in. our street was very quiet and edith would play games with us. >> so she was older, but she loved to hang out with children? >> oh, yes. everybody liked edith. she would play her saxophone or her trumpet outside. we would sit and listen to her, and she'd let us blow on her instruments. >> what a character! they ask her about her past, and, oh, the stories she tells. >> i know she had a son who died of meningitis.
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>> edith shares only a few sketchy details -- that the boy was born out of wedlock, that his father was jewish, that james macefield, a much older englishman, married her to help save the boy from the nazis. it's all very complicated. you see, edith was spying on hitler for britain at the time. is it all true? who knows? gayle just loves hanging out with her eccentric neighbor, until her family, like so many others, abandons the area. so, you left and edith stayed. >> yes. it was the early '60s when we moved away. >> in 1976, edith's mother, alice, passes away on the couch in the front room. not long after, edith retires and spends her days watching greta garbo videos and listening to big bands on vinyl. more and more, whitewood cottage stands apart -- her oasis amid
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urban blight. by the '90s, homeless -- living in parked cars -- provide an edgy backdrop for the grunge-rock scene. but all the while, developers are slowly gobbling up edith's neighborhood, says real-estate broker paul thomas. >> each time a parcel came up on the market, they'd just quietly acquire it and let it sit in an llc, and they assembled the whole entire block, except for her house. >> it's in early 2006 when edith gets the knock at her door. it's a representative of kg investment management, which wants to put up a shopping mall. the developer makes a proposal they think the 84-year-old can't refuse -- $750,000! what do you think the house was worth? >> $150,000. [ chuckles ] it wasn't worth very much. >> edith could buy five whitewood cottages. even so, she does refuse the offer. and the bulldozers roll around
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her. >> i have a picture when they tore everything down in the whole block and it was just her house in the middle of the block. >> reporters catch wind of the story and turn edith into a local folk hero -- a steadfast champion against yuppification, standing up for seattle's old neighborhoods, defying the encroaching chain boutiques, food courts, and those $6 lattes. that's how they portray edith. and that's exactly who barry martin expects when he becomes construction manager of the mall. how did you meet edith? >> i always go visit the neighbors and give them my card so that if they have any problems, they know who to get ahold of, and i walked past her yard and introduced myself. she was actually very pleasant and said she was looking forward to the activity. >> turns out, edith wasn't watching garbo flicks because she "vanted to be alone." that becomes clear with edith's
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beauty-shop appointment. she needs a ride, so she calls barry. not exactly what he was thinking when he dropped off his card, but what the heck? he drives her. they get to talking. >> a lot of people thought that she was against development, and that wasn't the case at all. it was more she just didn't want to go through the exercise of having to move. >> indeed, edith actually makes fun of the anti-development types, who, among other things, are trying to get landmark status for the local denny's. edith's view -- things get built, things get torn down. that's the way of the world. it wouldn't be their last car talk. soon, barry's co-workers call him "driving miss daisy." could you rattle off for me some of the errands you were asked to do for her? >> i would take her laundry out to be done. we would go get her lunch. i would take her to all of her doctor's appointments. >> she didn't pay you. >> no. she just needed it. >> you're not a saint.
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>> nope. >> but his wife and two high-school-age children surely have the patience of job, when barry spends more and more time at edith's. >> i made her meals three times a day, seven days a week. on the weekends, basically, i'd stay there, and if not, then i had made sure that somebody else was there. >> barry isn't there one night when edith falls and lands in the hospital with broken ribs and a platoon of social workers insisting she should no longer live alone. then tag-teaming executives from the development company show up again with a deed ready to sign and another big fat check. >> they offered her $1 million and actually offered to buy a house for her in ballard and she refused that, also. >> $1 million for a little old granny and a new house in her neighborhood, and she says no. >> yes. >> what would you have done? >> i would have probably taken
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the money and had somebody fanning me with big feathers and feeding me figs. >> the 84-year-old seen here turned down $1 million payout. >> it just adds to the edith macefield legend -- a story that can't help but go national. what's infuriating barry is that he believes he's cast as one of the black hats, trying to manipulate old edith into selling out. the truth, he says, is just the opposite. >> i promised her that, um, i wouldn't let them take her away and that she could stay there and die in her house. >> that's a really big promise. >> it is. and it became a lot bigger deal than, you know, i had originally anticipated. >> that's next. >> but first, our "strange inheritance" quiz question -- where was america's first indoor shopping mall built? the answer in a moment.
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if legalzoom has your back.s, over the last 10 years we've helped one million business owners get started. visit legalzoom today for the legal help you need to start and run your business. legalzoom. legal help is here. >> it's "b" -- minnesota. the southdale center in edina, the country's first fully-enclosed, climate-controlled mall, opened in 1956. >> in 2008, 86-year-old
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edith macefield and her whitewood cottage stand in the way of a shopping mall. barry martin's job is to build that mall. but he's also made it his life's work to keep edith in her home. barry didn't even know edith two years before. now he just doesn't know what to make of her. >> she had a lot of stories to tell and she never really finished a story. >> but, boy, the way she drops names, you'd think she's forrest gump. like hitler -- she met him several times, ended up in a concentration camp, and was sprung by the fuhrer himself. benny goodman -- her cousin, she claimed -- he gave her her clarinet. tommy dorsey, the band leader -- once, when he was short on cash, she bought his sax. mickey rooney -- she taught him dance steps. and so on. barry has one thought -- edith's a wack job. >> i was thinking "crazy old lady" for a while.
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>> but in the winter of 2007, edith's health suddenly declines. just as suddenly, the construction manager finds himself doing things he really never signed up for -- helping edith shower, use the bathroom, take her medicine, including insulin shots. a big question occurs to barry -- what happens when the mall is done and he moves to another job? what happens if edith lives to 100? that won't happen. in april 2008, edith is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. she declines treatment and, knowing she'll soon need someone else to make her decisions, gives barry her power of attorney. it's a big responsibility. did you really want it? >> i didn't really want it, and i didn't really understand exactly what all it meant. >> uh-oh. >> yeah, uh-oh. i said, "do you understand the power you're giving me?" and she said, "why do you think i chose you?" >> did you know all along that you were going to get that house? >> no. i didn't know until after she
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asked me to become her power of attorney. then she said that she wanted to redo her will at that same time. >> barry's a bit sheepish, knowing many suspect him of angling for the house from the beginning. but that's her wish -- like her desire to die on the same couch as her mother three decades earlier. and on june 15, 2008, death does come -- as a friend -- to whitewood cottage. >> i promised her that i wouldn't let them take her away and that she could stay there and die in her house. >> does it make you emotional? >> it does. >> why? >> um... because i got to help her end her life the way she wanted to. >> the little house in the big mall is now barry's.
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but soon he'll discover that, thanks to a hollywood blockbuster, edith macefield fans will claim it as their own. >> there were people out on the sidewalk taking pictures and leaving little notes and putting up balloons with messages on them. >> that's next. >> here's another quiz question for you. you've met barry martin, the construction manager in this story. the answer after the break.
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it lets you switch seamlessly from your desk phone to your mobile with no interruptions. i've never felt so alive. make your business phone mobile with voice mobility. comcast business. built for business. >> it's "a", john ratzenberger. just a coincidence he's a dead ringer for barry martin, the heir in this
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"strange inheritance" story. >> it's spring 2009, and barry martin is trying to figure out what to do with his strange inheritance -- a house he helped build a mall around. the owner, edith macefield, had died the year before, and barry assumes memories of her will fade, too. but then disney comes a-calling. it's ready to release an animated feature called "up." it's about a crotchety old man who, just like edith, refuses to sell his house to a developer. disney wants to use edith's house to promote the film. >> they wanted to put balloons on the house for their premiere here in seattle, so they came out and put balloons on the house and took a picture and that's how it became the "up" house. >> did you think it was a good idea? >> i thought it was rather funny, myself, and then after i saw the movie, there's actually some photographs that look very similar to the picture in the movie. >> soon, edith's cottage and
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that of character carl fredricksen are associated as one. >> there were people out on the sidewalk taking pictures and leaving little notes and putting up balloons with messages on them. >> and inspirational, it sounds like. >> very. inspirational to different people for different reasons. kids loved it because they thought it was really the house from the movie. you'd see grown-ups crying on the sidewalk. >> she stuck to her guns, you know, even though she could have made a ton of money. >> this woman was kind of the last holdout. she wanted to keep her home, and that's huge. >> it's amazing. i can't believe that she held out. >> but by the time the movie "up" comes out, the nation is in a downer -- the great recession. and barry's real life is anything but a storybook fantasy. >> that was right about when we had our downturn. i was out of work. >> so, barry decides it's time to sell edith's house. she once turned down $1 million for the place, but the window on that offer closed long ago. >> did she tell you she would be
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okay with you selling it? >> oh, yeah, and she told me to hold out until i got my price. >> what did you sell it for? >> i sold it for $310,000. [ cash register dings ] >> what did you do with the money, may i ask? >> paid for my kids to go to school. i invested the money and got money back monthly, and it made my house payment. >> that's not nothing. plus, barry says the new owners planned -- in the spirit of "up" -- to raise edith's house 20 feet off the ground and make a public tribute to her below. but they run out of money, and the house falls into foreclosure. >> what was your role in all this? >> i was hired by the bank to sell the house for them. >> the bank includes a provision in the face of pressure from local community groups who want an homage to their folk hero. >> one of the terms of the sale was that each person was required to memorialize edith in some way. >> 38 offers come in, but it's the 39th that wins --
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at $450,000. [ cash register dings ] the buyer? the same folks who offered edith $1 million years before -- kg investments, now the manager of the shopping mall. they plan to knock the house down, eventually. so, ultimately, edith's house went to the organization that wanted to buy it all along. >> well, it's kind of neat in a way because she got what she wished for and the shopping center ended up being able to buy the property at a lot lower price than they originally had offered. >> will they do anything to remember edith? >> the ownership has committed that they'll put up a brass plaque that memorializes edith. >> it will be just one more way the ballard community pays tribute to its folk hero. there's also an annual edith macefield music festival. ♪ you can even get a tattoo of edith's house with the legend underneath -- "steadfast." for the heir in this "strange inheritance" episode, that's further proof edith was
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misunderstood. maybe even, he'd discover, by himself. >> you must have learned an awful lot about edith once you started to go through her things. >> i learned a lot more than she had let me know. that's next. what's your "strange inheritance" story? we'd love to tell it. send me an e-mail or go to our website --
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>> now back to "strange inheritance." >> barry martin doesn't just inherit edith macefield's home, but everything else she owned. >> wow, you must have learned an awful lot about edith, once you started to go through her things. >> i learned a lot more than she had let me know. >> and enough to question whether all her stories were as wacko as he once thought. >> did she have a vivid imagination, or do you think most of it was real? >> i'm a little -- i'm not quite -- >> you still don't know.
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>> i still don't know. exactly. >> what did you find? well, evidence that she was benny goodman's cousin -- this album, inscribed "your cousin, benny goodman." and quite personal notes from a-list actors -- clark gable, katharine hepburn, spencer tracy, and errol flynn. >> there's charlie chaplin. there's tommy and jimmy dorsey. >> okay, okay -- nothing about meeting hitler or being a spy. still, it dawns on barry that the most valuable thing edith bequeathed to him could be her story -- now his. >> i had an agent contact me about writing a book, and she actually talked me into doing it. >> you ever write a book before? >> no, never written a book before, and she got me a ghostwriter, and we did it that way. >> what's the story? >> the story is basically about edith and myself and our little adventure and then the lessons that i learned. >> "under one roof" gets barry a
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$75,000 advance from the publisher. and that's not all. >> actually in the process of making a deal with fox searchlight. >> did you ever think you'd be making a book and a movie about all this? >> no. i just about fall down on the floor laughing because it's hysterical to me. >> i think it could work. i'm picturing a "driving miss daisy" type of guy meets a female forrest gump and they go on a real-life "up" adventure. and definitely got to give john ratzenberger the lead. there's a scene in the movie "up" that sounds exactly like one edith might have had with barry. carl fredricksen, the man whose house the real-estate company wants to buy, says to the construction foreman, "tell your boss he can have my house." "really?" asks the foreman. "yeah, when i'm dead," growls carl and slams the door. i'm jamie colby for
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"strange inheritance." thanks so much for watching, and remember -- you can't take it with you. >> ♪ john brown's body lies a-moldering in the grave ♪ >> to some, he's an insane killer who sparked civil war. >> if the revolt at harpers ferry had not occurred, the south probably wouldn't have seceded from the union. >> ♪ glory, glory, hallelujah ♪ glory, glory... >> to others, he's a saint, a martyr, a prophet. >> john brown believed that god had brought him to this earth for the purpose of delivering nearly four million enslaved people into freedom. >> what he touches become relics. >> the local people were producing fake pieces of the rope, fake pieces of the scaffold. >> what about his strange inheritance? >> somehow john brown was able
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to bequeath these shackles to my great-great-grandfather. >> really? >> is it a genuine piece of history? >> what does it feel like to hold them in your hands? >> i just go, "wow." >> it is a "wow." i'm jamie colby, and i'm heading into buhl, idaho, today to meet a man with a really strange inheritance. it's a link to a figure out of the history books who remains as divisive as the day he was hanged for murder and treason. >> my name is john boling. in 2010, my mother died, leaving behind a very unusual relic that had been in the family for over 150 years. >> hi, john. i'm jamie. >> hi, jamie. welcome to beautiful, bucolic southern idaho. >> thanks for having me. >> well, we got a lot to talk
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about. come on inside. >> john boling is a paramedic and the youngest of four children. >> okay. >> ladies first. >> thank you. his strange inheritance comes from his mom's side of the family -- a long line of congregationalist ministers dating back to the 1800s. but it's not until john's 18 years old and his air force dad retires to oregon that he first sees the coveted heirloom. >> i knew about the shackles for years and years, but i had never seen them. they were "in storage," this mythical place. >> mythical. that seems as good a word as any for this eight-pound set of iron leg shackles handed down by john's great-great-grandfather, minister hezekiah atwood. >> the story was that he had ministered to john brown while john brown was in prison. >> the abolitionist? >> the abolitionist, exactly. and that john brown had somehow bequeathed these shackles to him. >> so john boling's ancestor was given these shackles by one
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of history's most consequential antislavery crusaders, who wore them to his own hanging -- an execution that hurtled the united states toward civil war. but is it true, this story john's parents recount so proudly? >> if they had been alive in john brown's day, my parents would have been abolitionists too. so that meant something to me. [ people humming spiritual ] >> the abolitionist movement starts in the 1830s. by the 1850s, however, john brown rejects those who believe moral suasion alone can end slavery. his decision to take up arms against the government is fateful for the country and why his story would resonate throughout history. >> letters, words, talk! the time has ended for that. strength and action are wanted now. >> he felt that slavery was an evil, that he needed to
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literally go to war against that evil institution. >> author dennis frye is an historian with the national park service. >> john brown believed that god had brought him to this earth for the purpose of delivering nearly four million enslaved people into freedom. >> brown's violent crusade begins in the kansas territory. >> kansas was not yet a state. and at that time, congress adopted a law that allowed settlers to go to kansas and determine for themselves whether it would be a slave state or a free state. john brown went to kansas to ensure that it would always be a free state. >> "bloody kansas" erupts. on may 21, 1856, brown and a group of followers go on a rampage, dragging five proslavery men from their homes and hacking them to death. >> brown was a wanted man. the united states government
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wanted him. >> but while president buchanan puts a price on brown's head, newspapers in the northeast call him a hero. >> brown decides to take his fight to the south. in october 1859, he and his men head for harpers ferry, virginia, plotting to spark a slave insurrection. >> jamie, we are standing at the location of the united states arsenal building. >> on this footprint. >> on this footprint. you, in fact, are actually on the foundation of the structure as it was. we had 100,000 weapons stored here and in an adjoining building. brown needed these weapons to start this war against slavery. >> pretty ambitious. >> he's successful in seizing the bridge to get into town. he actually seizes the armory and the arsenal. but then it all falls apart. >> eight people are killed, including two of brown's sons. brown holes up in this old engine house until he's captured by u.s. army colonel
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robert e. lee. >> history changed here inside this building. >> brown is charged with treason, murder, and inciting a slave rebellion. >> this is, jamie, the building where john brown would be brought and tried. >> was it standing-room only? >> the courtroom was just jammed. brown's popularity had expanded way beyond the rather narrow field of abolitionism. >> as his trial focuses the nation, his conviction and death sentence irretrievably divide it. who supported him? >> he was referred to by people like henry david thoreau and ralph waldo emerson as "saint brown the just." >> a saint? >> but, in the south, he was seen as the devil. he was seen as a terrorist. as a result of john brown, people were now willing to go to war either to defend slavery or to end it.
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and america divided. and john brown produced the ultimate divide. >> december 2, 1859. knowing full well his belongings are being sought after as relics, he gives them to his guards. he also entrusts one with a handwritten prophecy. >> i, john brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land can never be purged away but with blood. >> brown is "a man inspired, the grandest character of the century," writes one of the thousands who witness the hanging -- the actor john wilkes booth. and as brown shuffles to the scaffold he is -- or is not -- wearing this set of leg irons, which 150 years later become john boling's strange inheritance. >> these may actually have been the shackles that bound john brown in his last months on earth before he was hanged in
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1859. >> it will soon fall to the heir to find out the truth. >> but first... decades before harpers ferry, president john quincy adams appointed john brown to what federal government position? was it... the answer when we return.
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>> president john quincy adams made brown a postmaster in pennsylvania. brown held the job for seven years. >> ♪ john brown's body lies a-moldering in the grave ♪ ♪ but his soul goes marching on ♪ >> less than a year after abolitionist john brown is hanged in 1859, abraham lincoln
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nd our heir's strange inheritance story. >> somehow john brown was able to bequeath these shackles to my great-great-grandfather. >> john boling's father, jack, dies in 1988, his mother, judy, in 2010. he's executor of her estate, which includes hundreds of items she collected over the years. >> she said, "john, i want everybody to come out of this with equal value." and we're not talking sentimental value, we're talking monetary value, which was the way mom looked at life. mom would want me to balance those books literally to the penny. >> and that becomes john's mission. he determines the value of every object to be divided among the four boling children. well, make that almost every object. >> now, we have an exception. >> the shackles. >> yeah, unfortunately.
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>> john's brother jim offers him 500 bucks for them. what did you think they were worth? >> i had no idea what they were worth. and i said, you know, "i think we need to find out." >> soon he's questioning that murky family history. >> now, you've got to think, "oh, come on. how can a prisoner give away the prison's property?" >> you would think it would be documented somewhere. >> it was family lore. >> but he'll learn much of that family lore is wrong. >> ♪ amazing grace >> here's another quiz question for you. the answer after the break. ♪
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>> ♪ amazing grace ♪ how sweet the sound >> a former slave trader, john newton, in 1754. he had renounced his ways after nine years of captaining a slave ship. >> in 2010, john boling is trying to figure out what to do with his strange inheritance -- a set of iron leg shackles that, according to family lore, were used to restrain abolitionist john brown before he was hanged. some say brown's unsuccessful raid on the u.s. arsenal here at harpers ferry was the unofficial start of the civil war. >> he brought us to a point where no longer were we simply going to have discussion about slavery. >> john boling wants to find out if the shackles are the real
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deal and just how much they're worth. he starts with those family stories. >> we thought john brown was able to bequeath these shackles to my great-great-grandfather. now, you've got to think, "oh, come on. how can a prisoner give away the prison's property?" well, heck, we were little kids when we first heard this story. >> john learns that his great-great-grandfather, hezekiah atwood, could never have ministered to brown. brown famously declared he didn't need spiritual guidance and only wanted to be ministered by slave children, a scene captured in paintings like this. >> the story that was handed down through the family doesn't agree with the story that i've found in the historical record. >> so john takes a new look at the shackles themselves. >> you've got a heavy iron "u" with a bar across the opening of
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the "u." >> he notices some identifying marks -- "d2" and "er." john scours the internet and finds a small but avid world of collectors of handcuffs and other restraints. turns out that "er" is the mark of elijah rickard, a virginia blacksmith of some distinction in the 1850s. >> his shop was right near the prison where john brown was held. >> do you think he would be shackled during the trial? >> brown was shackled the whole time. there was lots of rumors of as many as 9,000 people mobilizing in the north to come and rescue john brown. >> so the pieces are coming together? >> so the pieces were coming together. >> this 1893 newspaper article squares the circle. it reports that hezekiah atwood was in fact given the condemned man's leg irons, but not by brown. it seems the upstanding
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minister cut an under-the-table deal with an elderly african-american woman at the jail to purchase brown's shackles for $8. the news story also attests to the powerful symbolism those shackles held for opponents of slavery, including the famous abolitionist preacher henry ward beecher. >> beecher used a set of shackles which he stated were the shackles that had bound john brown. he "trampled them at the pulpit." the historical record indicates that my great-grandfather's brother lent those shackles to beecher. >> certain the shackles are brown's, john's duty is now to find out what they're worth. and he knows how do that. >> there's no better way to gauge the true fair-market value of anything than to put it up for a public auction. >> so john sends photos of the
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shackles to heritage auctions in dallas, which has some expertise in this area. in 2007 it sold an oil painting of john brown for $17,000, and in 2010 a steel pike from the harpers ferry raid for $13,000. don ackerman specializes in antebellum artifacts at heritage. >> i don't doubt that these are the shackles that were used on john brown. these were quite unusual intrinsically just as a set of shackles because they're marked by the maker, but the association on them is really what makes them important. >> that's the theory. but you're about the meet the top bidder on this strange inheritance, and the legacy of john brown was hardly the first thing on his mind. what do you tell people? >> well, most people just don't quite understand it. >> what's your "strange inheritance" story? we'd love to tell it. send me an e-mail or go to our
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>> now back to "strange inheritance." >> it's june 22, 2013, and john boling of buhl, idaho, has put on the online auction block his family's precious heirloom -- these shackles, now authenticated as having restrained radical abolitionist john brown after his harpers ferry raid. the opening bid of $5,000 brings a measure of relief for the dutiful executor. >> it vindicated me, for one thing, for not having let them go to a sibling for $500. >> vindication turns to elation as the bidding climbs to $10,000, then $11,000. within minutes an anonymous phone bidder snatches them up for $13,145. finally time for john boling to close the books on his mother's
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estate. >> it meant that mom would be happy. >> why? >> because i did my due diligence. and in this case, that due diligence paid off. >> the last twist in this story -- who was that anonymous buyer? it took a little digging, but we found the guy, here in chicago. i'm jamie. you have something we want to see, and we found you. can i take a look? >> yes, it's in the house. >> i assumed all along that the buyer of john brown's shackles would be a civil war buff, an historian, or a civil rights activist. gordon gluff is none of those things. rather, he's an amateur magician, escape artist, and collector of handcuffs. >> these were owned by houdini. >> and houdini busted out of these? >> yes, and the jail cell that he was in at the same time. >> and these are john brown's. >> yes, they are.
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>> were you more interested in the fact that they were manufactured by this manufacturer, or did you want specifically john brown's shackles? >> first, because they were made by rickard's, without a doubt. i'm a handcuff collector. john brown, that was frosting on the cake. i look at them, and i just go, "wow." >> it is a "wow." >> yeah. i was driven to have them. these might never come around again. >> that realization's now sinking in for john boling, the great-great-grandson of an abolitionist minister who passed down the grim but powerful relic to his descendants. your family was the custodian of a significant piece of history for a very long time. >> yeah, but no family is going to keep something like this forever. >> you did a good job of being custodian. >> well, my parents did. let's chalk one up for them.
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[ chuckles ] [ "the battle hymn of the republic" playing ] >> the civil war john brown helped spark seemed to put a curse on harpers ferry. north and south battled over this spot for years. in september 1862, confederate general stonewall jackson bombarded the town, capturing 12,000 union men before joining robert e. lee's army moving north. but just days later and only 20 miles from here, union forces stopped lee at antietam. that bloodiest day in american military history claimed 23,000 dead or wounded. president lincoln seized the moment to issue his emancipation proclamation, freeing the slaves in rebel-held territory, and so many observed john brown's soul did go marching on. i'm jamie colby for "strange inheritance."
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thanks so much for watching, and remember -- you can't take it with you. >> the people's house -- a family's legend. >> i can remember being a little kid and asking my father what it was. >> a century-old mystery. >> he said, "it's from the white house." and i go, "talking about d.c. white house?" i was just stunned. >> the white house neither confirms nor denies... >> what do you see? >> gold! [ laughs ] >> let's investigate! >> i scrape the paint layers down to the wood. >> and when you heard what it was worth? >> and sold! [ door creaks ] [ wind howls ] [ thunder rumbles ] [ bird caws ] >> i'm jamie colby, and today i'm in boston to meet an heir


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