National Geographic's Buried Secrets/Skeleton Crew DVD Review

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The National Geographic Channel's outstanding Buried Secrets/Skeleton Crew miniseries DVD features forensic anthropologists exploring mysteries of the past. Featured are the episodes Hardin Cemetery Disaster, Infamous Colorado Cannibal, Mass Graves of Gua

Buried Secrets is one of the National Geographic Channel's more offbeat miniseries. The show employs experts in history, forensics, anthropology, law enforcement and archaeology to solve past and present mysteries. Buried Secrets was first aired in 2006 under the title Skeleton Crew, with Timeless Media Group releasing the four-hour DVD in 2009. The National Geographic Channel (NGC) still airs Skeleton Crew today via reruns.

Buried Secrets: Hardin Cemetery Disaster

National Geographic's Buried Secrets a.k.a. Skeleton Crew kicked off the series with episode number one "Hardin Cemetery Disaster." During the Great Flood of 1993, rising waters from the nearby Missouri River inundated the small farming community of Hardin, Missouri, in Ray County. The floodwaters not only destroyed homes, businesses and farms, but also wreaked havoc on the local cemetery, where many residents' loved ones and ancestors call their final resting place.

National Geographic expertly chronicles what happened next, as the rampaging waters literally unearthed cemetery vaults and caskets, scattering these cryptic human time capsules all over Ray County and beyond. Initially tasked with rounding up the wayward coffins and their dispersed remains was the county coroner, who was quickly overwhelmed. State assistance was then brought in, followed by a special mortuary unit of the federal government, the latter of which specializes in identifying remains from airplane crashes, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and 9/11-type disasters.

"Hardin Cemetery Disaster" is like something out of Edgar Allan Poe or Stephen King, as we literally see caskets floating down flooded streets and farm fields. When the governor does a flyover of the scene, he mistakes a floating coffin for a Dumpster. The real work begins once the floodwaters have subsided, revealing a scene of cryptic horror as caskets and human remains litter Ray County.

The citizens of Hardin apparently revered their cemetery and the people buried there, with the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT) out of Washington, D.C., conducting a mammoth effort in gathering, identifying and eventually repatriating the remains. One of the first bodies recovered is that of a military veteran, with an American flag once again draped in honor across his coffin. Also found are Civil War veterans, whose bodies are remarkably preserved as that era had introduced the first modern-day embalming techniques.

One couple, who had lost their baby son at birth, are especially distraught. Amazingly, the baby's small coffin is eventually found, resting in a field not far from a rural road. The baby is reburied, granting his parents closure once again.

Although DMORT does a super human job in recovering the caskets and remains, many of the latter go unidentified for lack of definitive data. Thus, they are reburied with a headstone simply reading "Unknown." The Missouri River created a lake where the original Hardin cemetery once sat, so a new cemetery is built elsewhere.

"Hardin Cemetery Disaster" is perhaps one of the most bizarre episodes ever aired on the National Geographic Channel. The sight of coffins and burial vaults being spirited away by floodwaters is like something from a horror movie, begging the inevitable question: Cremation, anyone?

Caskets litter a road in Ray County, Missouri, in "Hardin Cemetery Disaster" - St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Buried Secrets: Infamous Colorado Cannibal, Mass Graves in Guatemala, Music Hall Bones

The three remaining episodes in the Buried Secrets DVD are "Infamous Colorado Cannibal," "Mass Graves in Guatemala" and "Music Hall Bones." None of these segments, it should be noted, is for the squeamish.

"Infamous Colorado Cannibal" examines the case of Alferd Packer, who in 1873 was the lone survivor of a group of 21 prospectors looking for gold in Colorado. Packer, who admitted to eating the remains of one man, was later convicted of second-degree murder and sent to prison for 40 years. The graves of five prospectors were unearthed in 1989, with forensic anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth Murray now examining the bones and trying to scientifically determine what actually took place.

"Mass Graves of Guatemala" follows forensic anthropologists as they head to Latin America. Mass graves from a brutal civil war in Guatemala of over three decades ago litter the countryside, with the scientists coordinating a massive government effort to find, identify and rebury the dead.

"Music Hall Bones" takes place beneath an old 19th century building which now serves as the home of the Cincinnati Symphony Music Hall. In 1988 a construction team broke through to reveal an underground crypt which was littered with skeletal remains. Enter forensic anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth Murray, who examines the skulls and other bones, trying to solve the mystery. Jeez, no wonder the place was haunted.

Buried Secrets or Skeleton Crew – whatever the name – don't miss this one. "It all begins with the bones," but it certainly doesn't end there...

National Geographic's Buried Secrets DVD - Timeless Media Group

Top Image

  • Welcome sign to Hardin, Missouri, scene of the "Hardin Cemetery Disaster" during the Great Flood of 1993 - City of Hardin

Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved. 


Mark Feldt
Posted on Feb 28, 2012
carol roach
Posted on Feb 26, 2012
James R. Coffey
Posted on Feb 26, 2012