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tv   Lou Dobbs Tonight  FOX Business  February 8, 2020 2:00am-3:00am EST

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he is 57 which puts mike bloomberg somewhere under 57. i guess not good for him. this little stat the u.s. is not elected to present s >> a notorious criminal. >> jesse james was never anything but an outlaw. >> an outlaw with a cult-like following. >> today, we'd call him a terrorist. >> that's a northern term. >> caught on a haunting image... >> this is a controversial photo. >> to his killer? >> it's either jesse james and bob ford or it isn't. >> it's her strange inheritance, and it could bring in a bounty. >> people questioned it. they wanted to see proof. >> we've heard everything from $50,000 to a half-million dollars. $15,000. now $20,000. $20,000. thinking about $20,000. ♪
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>> i'm jamie colby, just northeast of bellingham, washington, near the canadian border. beautiful isn't it? the woman i'm about to meet is the heir of a controversial relic that, according to family lore, connects her and her ancestors to jesse james and his notorious gang from the 1860s and '70s. >> my name is sandy mills, and i inherited a very old picture from my grandmother, isabelle. she said it was the infamous outlaw, jesse james. i believed it, but it didn't seem like anybody else really did. >> sandy. >> hi. >> i'm jamie. so nice to meet you, and i can't wait to hear your story. sandy explains that her roots go back to missouri, where her grandmother, isabelle, shared with her the family legend -- that their forebears occasionally aided jesse james. the outlaw jesse james. >> yes, ma'am. she would tell me the stories as i was growing up, how they would give them horses and food and shelter, just protect them. >> to prove it, grandma isabelle
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shows sandy this picture, known as a tintype. it's an early form of photography, using a chemical emulsion to transfer a direct positive image to a small metal plate. so each tin is unique, a camera original. when do you first learn about it? >> i was about 5 years old, and she would take out the tin and she would show it to me. >> who's in the picture exactly? >> it's jesse james and bob ford. he was the one that took his life. >> it seems very unusual for the two of them to be in a picture together. >> it is, and it's the only one. so, my family had it. >> is sandy's strange inheritance the real thing? if so, this image might be worth a bundle. one of the most valuable photos ever is this tintype of western outlaw billy the kid. it sells for $2.3 million, to billionaire bill koch in 2011. jesse james is no less a legend.
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like our heir, sandy, he hails from rural western missouri. >> jesse james was born in september 1847. >> missouri historian christopher gordon. >> his father was a baptist preacher, a hemp farmer, and he was a slaveholder. >> jesse and his older brother, frank, grow up as tensions are escalating across the u.s. over slavery... with neighboring kansas, a territory deciding whether to be free or slave, exploding in violence. >> the rhetoric is heating up how law-abiding missourians should be able to maintain the lifestyle that they want to lead. >> when civil war breaks out in 1861, missouri remains in the union but is bitterly divided. frank james joins a band of confederate guerilla fighters. at 14, jesse is too young to join, but he's spoiling for a fight. did the family pick sides in the war?
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>> oh, absolutely. >> freda cruse hardison is an author, whose latest book uses genealogical research to track thousands of local stories, going back to frank and jesse james. >> they were never anything but southerners. >> legend has it that, when jesse's 16 years old, the james farm is attacked by union soldiers, looking for his rebel brother, frank. >> from that point on, jesse james seems bent on revenge. he takes up with these guerrilla fighters and basically terrorized the western part of the state. >> when the south surrenders in 1865 and slavery is outlawed, the james boys return home. >> their farm had been decimated. they couldn't get a job. >> seething with resentment, the brothers figure they can still attack the yankees -- by stealing from them. james and his gang of ex-confederates plot a bold bank robbery in broad daylight, the
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first of its kind on american soil. on february 13, 1866, they enter clay county savings. >> everyone on the ground! >> now! >> get down! >> they seize 60,000 bucks. that would be 800 grand today. as they're fleeing, one of the gang guns down a witness in cold blood. there are more bank and train robberies, just as violent. today, we'd call him a terrorist. >> that's a northern term. >> they killed a lot of people. >> today, he would have been a good soldier, if he was on the right side, a terrorist if he wasn't. >> so we should feel sorry for him? >> no. he was good at what he did. it was still a way of life for them, a holdover from the civil war. >> journalists romanticize the outlaws, who move from one hideout to another, with help from the locals. >> it was at the home of southerners they stayed, and they would leave money for dinner or horses or whatever.
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hundreds of people had little tidbit stories. >> sympathetic southerners, like sandy mills' family. >> he cared about people. he helped out families as much as possible. it was just different back then. >> it wasn't the type of robin hood, "i give away the money. i rob from the rich and give to the poor. but i rob from the union and i sustain the southerner." >> that was kind of a thin veneer over his real intention. jesse james enjoyed the thrill of being a bandit. >> a bandit whose gang is responsible for more than 20 bank and train robberies and the murders of at least 17 people who stand in their way. >> missouri became known as "the outlaw state." it was really a public-relations disaster. >> by 1881, the governor of missouri has seen enough. >> he approaches the heads of the railroad. they come together and offer up
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a reward. it's $10,000. >> by now, 34-year-old jesse james is getting a little old for a life of crime. he takes on a false identity and moves his family to st. joseph, missouri, to start a new life. >> many of his friends were dead. >> but jesse wants another heist before he retires. he just needs a few new renegades. enter 22-year-old bob ford, who's thrilled to join forces with a legendary outlaw. but the newly formed kinship is about to turn sour. >> if bob ford couldn't be jesse james, the next-best thing would be to kill him. >> which could make this tiny tintype a valuable artifact of one of the most notorious murders in history. >> but first, our "strange inheritance" quiz question.
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the answer after the break. hi guys. this is the chevy silverado with the world's first invisible trailer. invisible trailer? and it's not the trailer right next to us? this guy? you don't believe me? hop in. good lookin' pickup, i will say that. oh wow. silverado offers an optional technology package with up to 15 different views - including one enhanced view that makes your trailer appear invisible. wow. - that's pretty sweet. - that's cool. oooohh! that's awesome. where'd the trailer go? i love it. it's magic.
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>> so, which legendary gunslinger later worked in hollywood? it's wyatt earp. he became a technical advisor on silent cowboy films and befriended a young john wayne. >> as sandy mills grows up, her grandmother, isabelle, promises that, when she dies, she'll leave sandy her tintype photo.
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grandma tells her it's a one-of-kind image of legendary outlaw jesse james and his killer, bob ford, whom she calls "the coward." the picture, she adds, is hugely valuable. >> she wanted me to have a good life, so she said, "this is jesse james and the coward, and this is now yours. go do something with it." >> so, when isabelle passes away in 2006, at age 85, the tintype becomes sandy's strange inheritance. but while there are tales of the family harboring the james gang, no one knows why they came to possess the picture, only that it dates back to sandy's great-great-great-grandmother, pauline roundtree. >> it's just passed on through all the ladies, and then my grandma gave it to me. >> sandy's now a single mom, living in washington state, with a young son to raise. >> i wanted to sell it because i could make a nice start for me and my son, you know, have a
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home and everything. >> so it could be a life-changer. is that what you're thinking? >> yeah. >> and here's why -- on april 3, 1882, jesse james is unaware that his new recruit, bob ford, has turned him in, hoping to collect a hefty $10,000 reward. he's with the ford brothers here, at his home in st. joseph, missouri, planning another bank robbery. >> this is the actual room. >> right here? >> right here. jesse had noticed that the cross-stitch was crooked. >> "god bless our home." >> so he stood on the chair, and that was when bob ford took the opportunity to shoot him in the back of the head. you see this spot over here? imagine jesse falling backwards out of the chair, onto the floor. >> i can see there's an indentation. >> it was originally a bloody spot on the floor, and souvenir hunters picked the bloody splinters away, to leave an
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indentation in the floor. >> unbelievable. hundreds of people scurry to the house to see the body. >> they took his chairs. they took clapboards off the side of the house. once they knew it was jesse james, they were immediately ripping apart the house. >> bob ford, who hoped to gain fame and a $10,000 fortune, receives a fraction of the bounty, then flees missouri in fear for his life. >> he wanted to be jesse. he wanted his life, and so he eventually took his life. he didn't get too much out of it...a lot of disrespect. >> now sandy hopes a collector will pay big bucks for the historic image of james and his killer. she makes dozens of calls, but there's a glaring problem. >> people wanted to see proof. they wanted to see authentication. they wanted to see forensics. >> there are plenty of family stories that so-and-so got handed this down, but there's no paperwork or genealogy. >> robb burley, owner of
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burley auction gallery in new braunfels, texas. >> old west relics -- there are so few real ones out there, so the ones that you can document, there's a built-in value. there's more people collecting them every year. >> sandy keeps looking for anyone who can help her attract the interest of those collectors. it's early 2015 when she comes across a news story about lois gibson, who authenticated yet another photo of billy the kid. >> she did billy the kid, and so that was another, "okay, she's done one already." >> turns out, lois is a renowned forensic artist, working for the houston police department. she holds the guinness world record for most criminals accurately i.d.'d. so sandy e-mails a scan of her jesse james-bob ford tintype to lois. lois, you hear from sandy, and you think what? >> i was just going to look at it and tell her, "no, it's not jesse james" and get rid of her. >> then she takes a closer look at the picture.
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she starts by comparing the tintype to this undisputed wedding photo of james. >> the area below the nose and the top of the lip is the philtrum. notice he dents in a certain way. >> strong dent. >> strong dent. and then the top of this lip shape -- his is like roof peaks, little pointy roof peaks. that's the same. >> lois agrees to perform a full forensic analysis. she compares the tintype to the official jesse james death photo. >> and then i got the final picture, the picture of him in his coffin. this was very important. in a computer program, you make them the same size, make one transparent, and lay it atop the other one. >> the resemblance between sandy's tintype and the deceased jesse james is remarkable. for lois, it's the clincher. >> i realized, "oh, my god. it is jesse james." >> if you went to court and had to testify about it? >> i'll be willing to testify in a court of law. it's either jesse james or it
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isn't, and it just darn well is. >> lois also says the other guy "darn well" is bob ford, based on other known photos of him. auctioneer robb burley knows a photo of jesse james and his killer would be an exceptionally compelling collectible. >> you don't see lee harvey oswald and jack kennedy together. that's how creepy that would be. >> but dealers like robb will want more proof. if that is james and ford, somebody should be able to trace the history of the tintype back to its origin and convincingly explain why sandy's ancestor ended up with it. help may be on the way. >> i saw it on the news. i was very intrigued immediately. >> here's another quiz question for you.
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the answer when we return. [caregiver 1] i was in the hospital with my son for 18 months.
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>> so, in which movie does clint eastwood play a missouri farmer who joins a band of confederate raiders? it's "the outlaw josey wales." eastwood's character is loosely based on jesse james. >> sandy mills has taken the first step in proving the vintage tintype she inherited is the only known photo of outlaw jesse james and his killer, bob ford, thanks to an authentication by a forensic artist in texas. >> it was amazing. she was absolutely certain. >> sandy sends her findings to auctioneer robb burley in new braunfels, texas.
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robb's impressed. but there are still questions of where the tintype came from and how sandy's family ended up with it. >> the value often is dependent upon how good the provenance is. >> provenance -- that's auctioneer talk for evidence that an artifact is exactly what you say it is. seems sandy hasn't convinced him yet. but, thanks to lois gibson's analysis, the tintype is now getting some buzz in the press. that's how freda cruse hardison, that local historian we met earlier, catches wind of the story. what was your first reaction? >> i was very intrigued immediately. the thing that popped out to me was the name of pauline roundtree, which was sandy's three-times great-grandmother. >> freda turns to her genealogy database. it maps the connections of nearly 15,000 people to the jesse james family. she types in the name -- "pauline roundtree."
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>> i already had her, knew who she was and what the relationship was. >> what was it? >> she was married to robert stevenson, who was a cousin of annie ralston, frank james' wife. frank was jesse's brother. >> so it makes complete sense that sandy's ancestor would have a picture of her infamous in-law. did sandy know any of this? >> she knew none of it. it was her three-times great-grandmother's first husband, not the line she was from. so she had just totally missed what the relationship was. >> she did all the proof going down and wrote about the family-tree lines, which was really cool. >> freda even pinpoints the most likely photographer in st. joseph, missouri, rudy uhlman. so, how'd you figure out he's the photographer? it doesn't have his name on it. it doesn't even have a date. >> he's the only photographer of any standing in "saint joe" at that time, and he ended up taking the death photo. >> freda believes bob ford and
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jesse james posed for the tintype at uhlman's studio just weeks before his death, while the ford brothers were holed up at the outlaw's home in st. joseph. auctioneer robb burley is now convinced the item's ready to sell. your dream team -- you got lois, a historian, and you have an auctioneer. that must have been a relief. >> yeah. yes, it was. >> the question is -- how much could it fetch? >> we've heard everything from $50,000 to a half-million dollars. we really have no idea where it's going to land. $15,000. now $20,000. $20,000. thinking about $20,000. now $25,000. >> what's your "strange inheritance" story? we'd love to tell it. send me an e-mail or go to our website, when you think of miami you
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think of,you know,rich,glamour but 5 miles away from the beach there's people who have never seen a beach. i was confused why somebody was in this situation especially in america. ♪music:oooh,oooh,oooh
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so when i started joshua's heart foundation it was a key thing to be able to engage youth in the foundation. to help them participate. ♪music:oooh,oooh,oooh i think passing on the torch and lighting a new flame in another person to do good is probably the point of the bigger missions i have. ♪music:aha,aha,aha so we are each making a bigger difference. ♪music:oooh,oooh,oooh that's it! just giving back and producing love for everybody. "strange inheritance." >> in january 2017, this vintage tintype of american outlaw jesse james, along with his
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killer, bob ford, hits the auction block at burley auction gallery in new braunfels, texas. >> we really had no clue where it was gonna go. >> in addition to sandy's tintype, robb burley's auctioning a large collection of texas ranger guns and badges. over 100 people have shown up, along with plenty of phone bidders. >> today, you'll have everybody from the buyer that's here looking for a beer stein to the ones that are looking for an antique colt, from the $100 buyer to the $1 million buyer. >> which one will bid on sandy's strange inheritance? or will it be someone in between? [ auctioneer calling ] just after noon, it's time for the jesse james picture to test the marketplace. >> lot number 150 is a photograph attributed to jesse james and bob ford. we got a call from sandy mills, from up in washington state. told us about how her family had handed it down through generations from her grandmother.
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so, here you go. we're gonna start it cheap enough that everybody can bid, everybody can play. where do y'all want to start? >> it starts at $5,000 -- not so promising. >> i got $5,000. now $10,000. $5,000 here. now $10,000. $10,000. $10,000. $10,000. now $15,000. $15,000. >> at 15k, all but three bidders drop out. >> now $20,000. $15,000 here. now $20,000. $20,000. thinking about $20,000. $20,000. now $25,000. >> now it's 25k. how long before someone blinks? >> now $30,000. i'm at $25,000. $30,000. now $35,000. now $40,000. i'm at $35,000. now $40,000. sell it your way! >> sold for $35,000. not exactly the payday robb once thought possible, but that's the auction business. the proof is always in the bidding. >> i wish it would have brought $1 million. you know, it didn't, but i'm happy with what it brought. >> the buyer, texas collector terry verburgt, is really happy. he thinks he got a steal. >> i think i got an extremely
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good deal, rare deal, and i don't think it will ever be sold that cheap again. >> as for the heir in this strange inheritance story, she can live with the result, even if 35k isn't the life-changer she had hoped for. >> i actually wanted to maybe buy a bed-and-breakfast and do gardens and just raise my son the most, best way that i can come up with, and this would be it. >> no regrets on selling it? >> i have no regrets. it's sold and we did good and it's out there now. i want it to be in history books. >> controversy just seems to be the rule for all things related to jesse james. fittingly, after the notorious outlaw's death in 1882, there was speculation he had faked his own murder. the rumor circulated until 1995, when scientists dug up the grave and performed a dna test that proved the body was, indeed, jesse james. i'm jamie colby.
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thanks so much for watching "strange inheritance." and remember -- you can't take it with you. >> abracadabra! >> oh, my god, it's my card! >> 400 years of magic secrets... >> did he ever tell you how he did any of those tricks? >> as many times as i asked, he'd never tell me. >> ...hidden in these dusty volumes. >> a lot of them were seen as occult books, and people were a little scared of them. >> the collector himself a closed book. >> so your dad is some man of mystery. >> he's a man of many mysteries. >> it's smoke, mirrors, and money. >> lot 250, "a magician among the spirits," by houdini. we will start the bidding at... [ door creaks ] [ wind howls ] [ thunder rumbles ] [ bird caws ] >> i'm jamie colby in chicago
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today with a story about magic, but also about something magical that happened between a father and son many years after the father was gone. >> my name is rex conklin jr. my dad died when i was in high school and left me a huge collection of magic books. some were old. others were ancient. many held the secrets that magicians have guarded for centuries. >> i meet rex at the magic lounge, one of chicago's best-known spots for magic lovers. hi, rex. i'm jamie. >> hi, jamie, pleasure to meet you. >> i understand that your inheritance is magic, but it's this? >> it's all about magic. my dad collected books, posters, going all the way back to the 1500s. >> 1500s? that's right out of harry potter. cool! rex's father, rex conklin sr., is born in 1904 on detroit's southwest side. what do you know about your dad's childhood? >> i knew he grew up very poor
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in detroit. his father was a conductor on the streetcars and didn't bring a lot of money home. >> for entertainment, in an era before movies were big, little rex is drawn to a type of performance then sweeping the nation -- magic shows. >> as a very young boy, probably about six or seven, he saw a performer named howard thurston perform in detroit, and that's what really ignited his interest in magic. >> step up, girls and boys, and see how easily it is for your eyes to be deceived. >> thurston amazes little rex. billed as the "king of cards," he's seen here doing a show outside the white house. >> howard thurston was the most successful magician from about 1908 to 1936. >> magic historian gabe fajuri. >> he made his reputation as a card manipulator. that's how he started out in vaudeville. >> did he have a signature move? >> actually, yeah -- one called "the rising cards." >> howard thurston's magic still
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mystifies... >> we're going to do one of my favorite tricks. >> bill cook, a professional magician, is going to show me that signature trick of thurston's, "the rising cards." >> go through that half, pick out a card that you like, a card that calls to you. >> that would be me. >> queen of hearts. >> yes! >> i like that, okay. this is the easy part. >> okay. >> you picked the queen, and we'll put the cards back inside the box. watch. up. all the way. come on. >> you're talking to the card, and she's moving up. is it still the queen? >> of course it is. >> oh, my god. it's my card! >> all the way. >> what little kid wouldn't be enthralled? as a teen, rex dabbles in magic himself, then gets a job as a streetcar conductor, like his dad. when the great depression hits, he loses it and takes odd jobs to get by. things don't turn around for rex until the early '40s, when he opens his own lead-parts-manufacturing shop in
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milwaukee. >> i think he was starting to become somewhat successful, and he had, you know, a little bit of money. >> "a bit of money" for the bachelor to indulge his childhood fascination -- magic. he becomes a card-carrying member of the society of american magicians and makes a name for himself, not as a performer, but as an important collector. by the late 1950s, he's acquired a pretty impressive library of magic books, going back centuries. that's when doris pagliasotti, 21 years his junior, suddenly appears. the couple marry in 1959. >> when they were married, my father was 55, and my mother was 34. >> at their ages, children weren't likely "in the cards," but rex has found the love of his life. >> i don't think he had any plans to start a family at that age, but he was very excited. >> then, presto! doris is pregnant.
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in june 1960, rex jr. arrives. but the really big surprise comes 30 minutes later -- his sister, connie. you're twins? >> my mother didn't know she was having twins. >> they had no idea. >> they didn't know. >> do you think that was life-altering for your dad? all of a sudden he's a dad with twins. >> oh, absolutely. >> rex jr. and connie grow up in this house in a suburb of milwaukee. did dad do tricks? >> he did small tricks, card tricks, and things with coins. >> did he ever tell you how he did any of those tricks? >> he would never tell me, as many times as i asked. >> nor does he fill his son in on the hundreds and hundreds of magic books around the house. >> i had built-in bookcases in my bedroom, and they were full of magic books, and then we had a breakfront in our living room where the books were all under lock and key. >> hands off. >> hands off, except when he opened the case and stood with me while i looked at the books. >> son and father never
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explore the secrets in those pages. in 1977, rex sr. suffers a stroke and dies. he's 73. rex jr. is just 17. >> i never had the opportunity to know him as an adult, which i really missed. >> but his strange inheritance, that library of magic, will make his father reappear in ways he could never imagine. >> i found out so much from this one letter. >> but first, our "strange inheritance" quiz question... >> the answer after the break. hi guys. this is the chevy silverado with the world's first invisible trailer. invisible trailer? and it's not the trailer right next to us? this guy? you don't believe me? hop in. good lookin' pickup, i will say that. oh wow. silverado offers an optional technology package with up to 15 different views -
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including one enhanced view that makes your trailer appear invisible. wow. - that's pretty sweet. - that's cool. oooohh! that's awesome. where'd the trailer go? i love it. it's magic.
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>> so, which pop singer was granted a patent for a magic trick? it's "b," michael jackson. in 1993, jackson and his co-inventors got a patent for their "lean shoe," which attached to pegs in the stage floor, so performers could lean beyond their center of gravity. >> "the years of our life are 70, or by reason of strength, 80," says the bible. by that measure, rex conklin sr., 73 when he dies, has a pretty fair run. but his 17-year-old son can't see it that way. nor can he see much wonder in his strange inheritance -- shelves upon shelves of books
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about magic. it's not until he becomes a father himself and moves the collection to his home that he revisits the dusty, old tomes. is that what drives you? "now that i'm a dad, i want to know more about my own dad"? >> sure, because i wanted to get a better understanding of who he was, for myself, obviously, but also for my children. what's the legacy that i'm going to pass along? >> book by book, rex jr. explores his father's ancient texts, magicians' handbooks, and bizarre diaries of the occult. between the pages, rex finds a copy of a letter his dad wrote to a fellow magic enthusiast. he always knew the great magician howard thurston inspired his dad to dabble in magic. now, from this one letter, he learns that the great magician also started him collecting. >> he talked about how howard thurston gave him his first book. >> so, now you get a little
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nugget. >> i did. that was really one of my first clues. >> rex has little clue about the importance of his dad's acquisitions. to understand that, you'd have to be well-versed in the dark arts. >> a lot of them were seen actually as occult books, and people were a little scared of them. ray ricard, a rare-book collector, says rex's inheritance includes some of the oldest magic books in existence. >> some books actually had handwritten prayers that were put in the front of the book that were required to be read before you could actually open the book. >> like "the history of magick," published in 1657... >> the spelling of the word "magic" is m-a-g-i-c-k, which indicates books that are related to the occult, if you will, so superstition, some spiritualism, witchcraft. there's also "hocus pocus in perfection," published in london in 1789... and "the conjurer unmasked" from 1785. but the rarest of them all?
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a first edition of reginald scot's "the discoverie of witchcraft," from way back in 1584! >> reginald scot's "discoverie of witchcraft" is considered the first book in english published on magic. he decided that people weren't really witches. they were just clever tricksters and the book itself was issued to try to show people that they were not actually performing weird rituals or killing people. they were simply performing clever conjuring tricks. >> that same letter reveals the book had been in his father's sights for years. >> he wrote that he spent 20 years searching for a good copy of the book. >> what did he pay for it? >> he paid about $1,200 at the time, so in today's dollars, maybe $21,000. it was a substantial amount of money. >> how relevant is the book today? >> it's an important book in the history of the art. some people say that with the tricks that it describes, you could, to this day, make a living as a magician. >> this i have to see to believe. magician bill cook volunteers
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to show me a trick straight from the pages of "the discoverie of witchcraft." >> pick a walnut, any walnut. >> the one that speaks to me? >> put it on top of the book. i'll come back to it in a little while. do you have a finger ring or something special i could borrow, a necklace? >> i'm actually wearing a ring of my grandmother's. >> really? can i borrow that? >> are you gonna give it back? >> well, i'll be nice today, and i'll give it back. oh, it's very pretty. >> it's very sweet. >> i need you to hold onto it, underneath the cloth, right there at the top if you would, please. hold it out, a little farther away, and don't let it go until i tell you to. >> okay. >> like now, let go. >> [ gasps ] >> and that's when the ring vanishes. now, i had you pick a walnut earlier. >> yes. >> i brought with a walnut cracker. would you pick up the walnut and put it inside of the, uh... yeah, all the way. >> i hope my ring is in there. >> listen, you can actually hear it break. [ walnut crunches ] >> [ laughs ] >> awesome. that should be enough. take a look inside the walnut. >> i hope you didn't swap the
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stone. wow, that really is it. >> yep. >> i got to think about this one. i can't figure it out. that's great, bill. >> that's one of the oldest tricks in recorded magic history. >> so, rex's father basically was acquiring the hogwarts library, book by book. and as rex sifts through it all, a question occurs to him -- why did dad stop? the answer comes at the end of that telling letter that his father wrote to one of his collector friends all those years ago. what did it say? >> he says, "most of these books have become valued and highly treasured friends. however, the time has come in my life when the spiritual call is greater than the material, and my interest in the really great rare and scarce works of magic is waning." >> what year was it written? >> in 1960, shortly after i was born. >> so, what do you interpret that passage to mean, in terms of his life changing?
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>> he's probably thinking about, "okay, you know, my children were just born, you know, twin babies. i'm in my mid to late 50s. by the time they're out of school, i'll be an elderly man. so, what's important to me in life right now?" i found out so much from this one letter. >> then he finds this one, written ten years later -- a note from father to son, tucked into the pages of one of the magic books rex jr. will inherit, to be delivered at a time and place of fate's choosing. >> he says, "it's 11:30 at night. you've just finished your third day in fifth grade. i'm so proud of you. you're everything i always wanted in a son. you're my pride and joy of my heart. you're so big and strong, the greatest boy i've ever known. i hope you never change." >> oh, what a passionate, considerate letter you'll have
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forever. >> yeah. >> he wasn't in good health at that time, and i think that's why he wrote this note. >> for decades rex jr. just enjoys having his strange inheritance around. he's a marketing consultant in his 50s, living near atlanta, georgia, married, with three daughters, when opportunity knocks. >> a friend of mine told me that there was an upcoming sale at christie's, and it featured some books on the occult. >> rex thinks, "why not?" more than 400 magic books fill his shelves. he takes the oldest -- that 1584 first edition of "the discoverie of witchcraft" -- and puts it on the auction block. what are we talking? >> the world record. >> here's another quiz question for you... the answer when we return. as a struggling actor,
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i need all the breaks that i can get. at liberty butchemel... cut. liberty mu... line? cut. liberty mutual customizes your car insurance so you only pay for what you need. cut. liberty m... am i allowed to riff? what if i come out of the water? liberty biberty... cut. we'll dub it. liberty mutual customizes your car insurance so you only pay for what you need. only pay for what you need. ♪ liberty. liberty. liberty. liberty. ♪
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can you help keep these iguys protected online?? easy, connect to the xfi gateway. what about internet speeds that keep up with my gaming? let's hook you up with the fastest internet from xfinity. what about wireless data options for the family? of course, you can customize and save. can you save me from this conversation? that we can't do, but come in and see what we can do. we're here to make life simple. easy. awesome. ask. shop. discover. at your local xfinity store today. some people say that's ridiculous. i dress how i feel. yesterday i felt bold with boundless energy. this morning i woke up calm and unbreakable. tomorrow? who knows. age is just an illusion. how you show up for the world, that's what's real.
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>> so, which famous general was a member of the international brotherhood of magicians? it's "c," desert storm commander norman schwarzkopf jr., who is said to have practiced his magic tricks to relieve stress during the war. >> in june 2015, rex conklin jr. puts his rare, first-edition copy of reginald scot's "the discoverie of witchcraft" up for sale at a christie's auction in new york. why'd you pick that one to sell? did you know it was valuable? >> i definitely knew that it had value, and, you know, i thought it would be fun to have a book in a major auction. >> collector ray ricard is following the sale online and
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bidding on the book. >> it was definitely going up in price, second by second. the value went very quickly from the low estimate right up through $30,000 before you knew it, so i dropped out. >> bids continue to climb -- $35,000, then $40,000. $45,000! when the hammer falls... what are we talking? >> it sold for $55,000. [ cash register dings ] >> the sale is a new world record for any copy of the book. it gets rex thinking about the more than 400 remaining items he inherited from his father. >> i've enjoyed having his collection for many years now, but i'm at a similar point right now where, you know, the material is a little less important to me. >> in chicago, he approaches gabe fajuri, president of potter and potter auctions, which specializes in magic sales. gabe tells me rex has plenty of gems left. >> the first one is a book by houdini. it's the second book he wrote, "the unmasking of robert-houdin."
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and this one is from houdini's library, so it has his bookplate, a beautiful autographed postcard of houdini inside. it's also inscribed "a friend of houdini for 35 years, howard thurston." >> houdini's such a big name. you have another houdini book. >> mm-hmm. this is the last book he wrote, "magician among the spirits." >> what else? >> a copy of henry dean's "hocus pocus, the whole art of legerdemain." this is a bestseller from the time it appeared in print, first in 1722. >> good condition? >> i mean, if i look this good when i'm this old, yeah, i'll be very happy. this is a book that actually does a trick and... >> okay, i'm ready. >> so, when you flip through, you may see some pictures of some soldiers. >> i do. >> you breathe on the book, and when you flip through it again, you may see some different pictures, perhaps of flowers. >> upside down? >> and when you breathe through it again, most of the pages are blank. >> gabe says no single book will top rex's previous record-breaking sale. but with 400 volumes on the
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block, he hopes to "conjure up" an even bigger payday. >> fair warning...sold! 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." >> it's december 2016 in chicago, and rex conklin jr. is ready to auction off more than 400 rare magic books from the collection he inherited from his father. >> at $750. $750, we have... >> i feel my dad in this room today, you know. all his prized possessions are around me. it's almost like having him here. >> and now a copy of houdini's "magician among the spirits," including a beautiful photograph of houdini. looking for $1,500. $1,600 right here. looking for $1,700. fair warning at $1,600.
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sold! [ cash register dings ] >> remember the other houdini book gabe showed me? the one signed by howard thurston, the legendary performer who sparked rex sr.'s love of magic? it hammers home at $2,600. oh, and "the history of magick" -- with a "k"? >> $2,000. i need $2,600 is next. sold! >> $2,800! >> lot 159 -- henry dean, "the whole art of legerdemain, or hocus pocus in perfection." fair warning at $3,200. sold for $3,200. >> the big numbers keep rolling in. that french "blow book" that gabe demonstrated? it fetches $3,200. >> warning at $850. >> a signed photo of famed magician harry kellar? $3,400. and this book from 1785, "the conjurer unmasked"? $4,200.
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it's a steady beat of the hammer, and guess what? $1,500 here, $2,000 there -- it starts adding up. by the end of day, the total is an expectations-beating $105,000. >> overall, i thought it went really well. i'm pleased. it is emotional for me today, to see his things that i've lived with for so many years, but it's another chance to say goodbye and flip a new page. >> but i got to tell you what makes this strange inheritance story so magical for me. i've come across collectors of all sorts of things that were so obsessed, their families wondered if anything else meant as much to them as their stuff. but rex's dad set aside all his "highly treasured friends" the moment his children were born. and the strange inheritance he left his son leaves no doubt what he valued most in life. >> "i know i haven't much longer to live. my final advice to you is never
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be afraid to admit your mistakes. never miss mass on sundays. be kind to your mother and sister and your wife when you find the right girl. play life's game straight, be a good boy, and a just man. [ exhales ] love, with the depth of my heart, daddy." he was from, you know, a different generation, but he also had a very big heart. >> did you know he loved you that much? >> i did, yeah. rex jr. has sold most of his father's books and mementos, but he's keeping three rare and valuable howard thurston posters. his plan is to leave one to each of his three daughters, a reminder of how the magic started for their grandfather all those years ago. i'm jamie colby. thanks so much for watching "strange inheritance."
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and remember -- maybe you can take it with you. >> a regular old dad... >> all he said was, "who's gonna buy something from bill wagner?" >> turned art scene heavyweight. >> he went from very clean-cut to start wearing brighter-colored shirts, and then his hair grew long. >> how important a name is he? >> there are no comparables. >> he leaves behind a puzzle. >> oh, the sun is shining. or it's an egg. are you sure these go together? >> it's always a mystery. >> this is all your dad's? >> it's a very small portion of the art that he produced. >> how do you handle an 8-ton inheritance? >> every single day, i've thought, "what am i going to do with it?" [ door creaks ] [ wind howls ] [ thunder rumbles ] [ bird caws ]


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