Fifty-five years ago, Harper Lee’s novel To Kill A Mockingbird gave the nation a glimpse of the deep south. Soon afterwards the author and the town that inspired the classic book disappeared from public imaginations. Today, we take a look at the conflicted history of a town that produced two great American authors. Then, the skill, planning, and access required to successfully dupe the art world easily captivates the public imagination. We’ll explore the meticulous effort behind some of the greatest art frauds. And, few people realize the danger works of art can face while safely housed inside a museum – from docents.
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Paul Theroux is a journalist, travel writer, and novelist whose new book Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads comes out in September. He went down to Monroeville, Alabama to see the town where Harper Lee and her friend and collaborator Truman Capote grew up. He wrote about his visit for Smithsonian magazine.
In the 1940's, someone - or something - was prowling around Mattoon, Illinois spraying knock out gas into people's homes in the middle of the night. The “Mad Gasser of Mattoon” terrified the town…the problem was, he didn’t exist. Memory Palace producer Nate DiMeo has the incredible story of one of the most peculiar cases of mass hysteria in U.S. history.
Listen to this story again at PRX.org.
Anthony Amore is chief investigator at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and author of Stealing Rembrandts and more recently, The Art of the Con: the Most Notorious Fakes, Frauds and Forgeries in the Art World.
When it comes to guiding patrons and tour groups, most museums supplement their professional staff with volunteer docents, but sometimes the free help is not so helpful. Ellen Gamerman wrote about “Docents Gone Wild” for the Wall Street Journal.