Secrets of the Dead: Death at Jamestown

Has anyone other than me seen the PBS program “Secrets of the Dead: Death at Jamestown”?

A medical doctor theorizes that the first colony at Jamestown in Virginia failed, not because of death from disease, cold, or starvation, but rather because of arsenic poisoning. He compares historically recorded symptoms with current information about poisoning. It is a persuasive argument.

But then the good doctor takes his logic a bit further. He posits that the poisoning was a deliberate attempt by Catholics to destroy the Protestant colony. He cited historical evidence for this, too. He lost me there. Before the presentation was ended, I had begun to conclude that the man must be with the Ku Klux Klan.

I haven’t seen the show, but I live not far from Jamestown and have been fascinated by its history for most of my life. I’ve never heard the arsenic theory before, and this doctor’s leap of logic to blame the colonists’ death on Spanish Catholics is just ridiculous. I’d love to see his ‘evidence.’ Those settlers died of starvation and possibly plague, nothing more (unless you count the occasional encounter with the wrong end of an arrow from the Powhatan tribe!).

I think he was relating it to a historical court case (or more than one) of a Catholic (or group of them) being accused and convicted of poisoning for religious reasons. To my mind, just as the Inquisition involved many false charges and convictions and unjustified executions, this poisoning case was probably also trumped up as it occurred during a time of intense persecution against Catholics.

I think if there was arsenic from rat poison used on the ships, it could have come from the rats that contaminated food before succombing to the poison and before or after it was left for the settlers. And it could also be that someone was accidentally seasoning food with a toxic herb because they didn’t know the local flora.

It’s hard to think about that conspiracy theory with a straight face. It’s now among the top five funniest conspiracy theories I’ve heard.

For a minute I was confusing Jonestown with Jamestown, and thinking this guy must be nuts - Jones instructed them to put arsenic in the koolaid.

Weird, the name similarity.:eek:

:rotfl:I hadn’t noticed the similarity.

Spanish Catholics laying out their plans to destroy all non Catholics! Are you sure this isn’t a [Jack] Chick-Flick! :rotfl:

I am glad you are laughing. I worried that this documentary will foment active anti-Catholicism in this country.

The name similarity–are you referring to “town” at the end of those two words?

And I suppose the fact that they’re both two-syllable, nine-letter words of which only the second and third letters are different and and the third letters are consonants frequently confused in speech and the second letters are diphthong vowels, and the first segments of both names are masculine name-surname eponyms. :shrug:

Don’t worry. I did the same thing. When i saw the name jamestown i automatically thought of jonestown.

I haven’t seen that particular episode so I can’t really comment. However, I did see a rather ridiculous notion suggested in an episdoe of Secrets of the Dead before. It was the episode Amazon Warrior Women pbs.org/wnet/secrets/previous_seasons/case_amazon/about.html and the scientist was looking for evidence that a tribe in Mongolia was related to a some warrior women from Russia. Long story short her conclusion was based upon seeing a blond girl among the Mongolians (whom she noted did not look like her siblings) and the DNA for both matching. The thing is the scientist went on and on about looking for a blond ad nauseum you had to see it to believe it. Why didn’t she use DNA from the girls sibling or other members of that tribe? Fifty bucks the little girls mother had an affair with a Russian soldier.

Did anyone who saw this PBS episode think that it would stir up a dangerous anti Catholic sentiment that might lead to overt persecution of Catholics?

I thought the same thing too :o

Arsenic poisoning is a not implausible theory - if memory serves it was commonly used in certain paints and dyes in past centuries, for example, which the settlers might have had in their clothing and the like.

It is thought that Napoleon may have died as a result of poisoning by arsenic leaching from the painted wallpaper in his house on St Helena.

Which, of course, is not to say that if the Jamestown settlers (or some of them) WERE killed by arsenic that it was as a result of a Catholic or any other plot.That idea is a little :whacky:

IMO, PBS has put some very crazy theories forth and it’s kinda scary that ‘public’ television airs this stuff. A few years ago they had a show about how the salem witches were supposedly people gone mad due to some sort of poisoning in their bread. The proof they used was a body they dredged out of a swamp that showed signs of elevated toxin levels. It was a huge leap and rotten science. Yet, people watch that and take it as the truth.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.