Brad Meltzer decodes history's greatest mysteries

Best-selling author Brad Meltzer uncovers world’s greatest unsolved mysteries in History’s new series “Brad Meltzer's Decoded.” Photo: HISTORY

OKLAHOMA CITY — Everyone loves a mystery.  What’s better than an ancient secret, buried in code, hidden for ages?  Why, the actual truth behind the mystery.  That’s precisely the goal in author Brad Meltzer’s new series for History called “Decoded.”

Brad Meltzer (History Channel)

Recent pop culture interest in “The Da Vinci Code” and the “National Treasure” movies has set off a wildfire of interest in history’s hidden stories that has spread from niche interest to full blown genre.

From the secret societies, to underground tunnels, coded messages hidden in plain sight, unraveling the world’s greatest secrets is no easy task.  “Good story is good story. Whether you’re talking about Thomas Jefferson writing in secret code or other great mysteries, finding the truth is the best part,” explains best-selling author and star of “Decoded,” Brad Meltzer.

In 1792, the very first piece of the White House was laid down in a Masonic ceremony. Within 24 hours, it mysteriously went missing.  For over 200 years, everyone from Harry S. Truman to Barbara Bush has looked for it, but to no avail.   

Truman literally tore up the White House looking for it. He went as far as gutting the entire interior of the presidential home to search for the long lost relic.  “It’s the first piece of the White House and how is that no none knows where it is,” asks Meltzer.

What was so special about the first cornerstone?  Was it hollow? I so, what was inside, a time capsule or maybe something of even more historical significance?

The series premiere attempts to answer those riveting questions. And there’s even an appearance by history’s most notorious secret society, the Masons.

The Freemasons are central to the plot of the premiere episode, and it was an idea that grew out of the suggestion from the head of the network.  “I owe the whole show to the Masons.  The head of the History Channel read my book (“The Book of Fate”) and said, ‘we should do a show about this,’” recounts Meltzer.

“What I want to accomplish with ‘Decoded’ is to separate what’s truth and what’s myth. Freemasons are always portrayed as bad guys but they were incredibly helpful, they couldn’t have been easier to work with,” recalls Meltzer.

Along for the historical cold case adventure is an investigative field team of comprised of an attorney, Scott Rolle, a mechanical engineer, Christine McKinley, and a journalist, Buddy Levy.  Meltzer appears in more of an explanatory and narrative role while the research team beats the streets for clues.

“I didn’t want to be on TV at all. Who wants to see me?  Trust me, there’s no one nerdier in regards to geeky historical mysteries than me, you don’t need me on screen,” explains Meltzer.

The subject matter of each episode increasingly gets better and better with upcoming stories about the mummified body of John Wilkes Booth, secret codes transmitted between Thomas Jefferson and Lewis and Clark and the true meaning behind the torch of the Statue of Liberty.

At the conclusion of the interview I asked Meltzer if he had any juicy mysteries he couldn’t fit into the show’s first season, and he left me with the greatest mystery yet. “I have a great one, but I just can’t prove it. I really believe it to be true but I just can’t find the right pieces to prove it,” teased Meltzer.  Of course, he didn’t dare reveal the subject matter.

The series kicks off with a bang on Thurs. Dec. 2, at 10 p.m. EST on History with the curious tale the missing White House cornerstone.

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Craig Sanger

A broadcast journalism graduate of University of Central Oklahoma, Craig Sanger is film critic for Oklahoma City FOX affiliate KOKH-TV, morning radio host on KATT-FM, and staff writer at distinctly Oklahoma Magazine. 

Craig is a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

Follow Craig on Twitter.

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