History Stories

From Einstein's missing brain to Alcatraz escape attempts, this week's featured collection, Breaking History, digs deep into history's greatest unsolved mysteries.

The federal prison on Alcatraz Island in the chilly waters of California’s San Francisco Bay housed some of America’s most difficult and dangerous felons during its years of operation, from 1934 to 1963. Among those who served time at the maximum-security facility were the notorious gangster Al “Scarface” Capone and murderer Robert “Birdman of Alcatraz” Stroud. More than a dozen known escape attempts were made over the years, yet no inmate ever successfully escaped “The Rock,” as the prison was nicknamed—or did they? In 1962, John Anglin, Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris broke out of Alcatraz. Presumed dead, their bodies were never found. Could they have survived the cold, shark-infested waters surrounding Alcatraz? Examine the ultimate maximum-security prison in Inside Alcatraz: Legends of the Rock and explore the legendary 1962 escape attempt in Alcatraz- Search for the Truth.

The origins of one of America’s oldest unsolved mysteries can be traced to August 1587, when a group of approximately 115 English settlers arrived on Roanoke Island, off the coast of what is now North Carolina. Later that year, it was decided that John White, governor of the new colony, would sail back to England in order to gather a fresh load of supplies, leaving behind his own family and the other colonists. But just as he arrived, a major naval war broke out between England and Spain, and Queen Elizabeth I called on every available ship to confront the mighty Spanish Armada. In August 1590, when White finally returned to Roanoke after three long years, he discovered that its entire population had vanished. He found no trace of the colony or its inhabitants, and few clues to what might have happened, apart from a single word—Croatoan—carved into a wooden post. Investigate the mystery in Roanoke: Search for the Lost Colony.

When Albert Einstein died in April 1955, his request to have his body cremated was ignored. Instead, in a bizarre incident, Princeton University pathologist Thomas Harvey removed his brain during the autopsy and kept it in the hope of unlocking the secrets of his genius. After winning reluctant approval from Einstein’s son, Harvey had the brain cut into pieces and sent to various scientists for research. In Secrets of Einstein’s Brain, follow the path of Einstein’s physical specimens around the world and explore the story of the Nobel Prize-winning physicist.

Get the stories behind history’s greatest unsolved mysteries in Breaking History. Watch on HISTORY Vault, available on your computer at historyvault.com, Roku players, iOS devices and Apple TV (4th Generation).

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