More Unsolved Mysteries of American History

More Unsolved Mysteries of American History

More Unsolved Mysteries of American History

More Unsolved Mysteries of American History

Synopsis

Praise for Unsolved Mysteries of American History

"The facts are presented clearly and concisely, and the answers have been thoroughly researched using the most up-to-date sources."
-Newark Star Ledger

"Everything that would make a great detective story. It has intellectual twists and turns, alleyways and dead ends; it has politics, espionage, intrigue, murder, cowardice, greed, courage, battles, liars, and frauds."
- New Strait Times

"Stimulating and pleasurable, fair and objective... recommended for both the history buff and the fan of true-life mysteries."
-Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Unsolved Mysteries of History

"Draws intelligently and entertainingly on respected-and disputed-primary volumes.... Reading a chapter aloud to a group would almost guarantee a lively evening."
-Baltimore Sun

"Unerring good sense and... well-paced prose."
-Petersburg Monitor

"Solid speculation... full of clever advice."
-Associated Press

"Aron's latest offering proves again that history can be fun and as strange, at least, as fiction."
-Booklist

Excerpt

In October 1985, a series of bombings rocked Salt Lake City. One killed a businessman named Steven Christensen. Another killed Kathy Sheets, the wife of Christensen's business partner. Detectives suspected the murderer was a disgruntled investor in Coordinated Financial Services, the troubled Christensen-Sheets business. Many of the investors were from Las Vegas, raising suspicions of a Mafia connection.

It turned out the murders had nothing to do with the business or the Mafia. Christensen and Sheets were killed because of their connection to the ostensibly quiet world of rare document dealers. Christensen had just bought the newly discovered “salamander letter,” purportedly written more than a century before by Martin Harris, the first disciple of the Mormon Church. The letter described how Joseph Smith, the religion's founder, found the golden plates from which he claimed to translate the sacred Book of Mormon. “I found it 4 years ago,” Smith supposedly told Harris, “with my stone but only just got it because of the enchantment the old spirit come to me 3 times in the same dream & says dig up the gold but when I take it up the next morning the spirit transfigured himself from a white salamander in the bottom of the hole & struck me 3 times & held the treasure & would not let me have it.”

For devout Mormons like Christensen, the letter was devastating. The problem was not the lack of punctuation, but the lack of the angel who, as Smith later told it, guided him to the golden plates. In the salamander letter, the prophet sounds much like a common treasure hunter, and his story is steeped in the common folk magic practices of the 1820s. Fearing it would undermine the already tenuous credibility of the official church version, Christensen forked over $40,000 to make sure the letter never saw the light of day. Then the bombs exploded.

And so it was that the historical mystery surrounding the origins of Mormonism was interrupted by a modern murder mystery. The story of both can be found in chapter 7. More often, murder is the starting . . .

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