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It's a Photo of a Bearded Dead Man. Could It Be Priceless?

Some experts believe the dead man is Abraham Lincoln
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 1, 2020 12:40 PM CDT
Updated Oct 4, 2020 7:31 AM CDT

(Newser) – The image is haunting, depicting a gaunt-faced man with a familiar beard, staring ahead lifelessly. The right eye is bulging and appears disfigured from an unseen wound. Some experts believe the man is Abraham Lincoln, captured hours after the nation's 16th president succumbed to an assassin's bullet on April 15, 1865, in a heretofore unknown photo of incalculable emotional and historic value. Others dismiss the mere possibility. The original ambrotype image is locked away in an Illinois safe deposit box, the subject of court fights and accusations of robbery and, on Sunday, a Discovery network documentary that attempts to unravel the mystery behind it. If The Lost Lincoln even airs. As of Thursday, it wasn't entirely sure it would. The man who currently owns the photo has asked a California judge to stop it, a lawsuit Discovery dismisses in court papers as "patently frivolous." The AP has the fascinating backstory:

  • "In the world of authenticating, this is like finding the Holy Grail," said Whitny Braun, a California investigator whose effort to determine if the photo is real is traced in the documentary.
  • Braun learned about the image two years ago when she was cold-called by Jerald Spolar, the Illinois dentist who claims ownership. She didn't believe the story. At first glance, the face looks different—thinner, smoother—than the image most Americans are familiar with.
  • After looking into it for two years, Braun said she's 99% convinced the photo is genuine.
  • Discovery, meanwhile, is putting its reputation on the line. The network is either telling the world of a historic treasure or producing the 2020 version of The Mystery of Al Capone's Vaults, Geraldo Rivera's laughingstock 1986 special that revealed an empty safe.

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