tv Strange Inheritance FOX News February 22, 2015 12:30am-1:01am PST
thank you for watching. >> send me an e-mail or go to our web site coming up next is "strange inheritance." thank you for joining us. announcer: 100,000 creepy crawlers. >> spiders that will cover your whole face. announcer: all collected from the far reaches of the world. talk about a bug's life. >> old is he wanted to buy the collection. announcer: there is a bigger story behind this request. >> that was a bigger eye-opening experience than the film. ♪ ♪ ♪ of. jamie: i am jamie colby, right
now i'm driving on the outskirts of colorado springs, colorado. i'm looking for a turn off to a strange inheritance which includes one of the most unique collections. and my marker is a giant beetle. >> hello, how are you? >> hello, my name is rj steer. in 2007 my grandfather passed away and left the largest privately owned collection of insects in the world. at the time, i didn't know what the rest of the family might want to do with it. jamie: houston this little museum, nestled in a small canyon. it's one of those classic american roadside attractions. of all the strange things you might like to inherit one day, a few thousand crores and canisters in cases is probably not on your list.
but what i can do is change your mind if i told you that it was was a priest for millions. >> you are sitting on money in terms of value. >> some of these insects have never been seen since and some are thought to be extinct but not confirmed, but the collection was assessed between five to $6 million. jamie: per bug? >> this whole thing feels like a time capsule. jamie: it's a priceless legacy for the may family. but it's also a scientific marvel. the museum inspired a childhood passion and paved the way for a career as an entomologist in high school biology teacher. >> i bring my biology classes here every year and we look at literally the best examples in
the world. jamie: this place is old school. hand written descriptions, the lamps, and a collection that includes many insect species that have never been seen again. >> i have never seen so many insects. >> each carries with it this incredible story about its niche and environment. jamie: and it spans the globe? >> absolutely. jamie: the story behind the collection is almost a spine tingling as the spider which happens to be where it begins. it was captured by the original benefactor of this strange inheritance in 1903. james may was a british national that thought in the second world war in africa and he was shot and wounded and left for dead. thankfully his life was saved by a tribe of zulus. then he passes away the hours of his convalescence enjoying a way
to pass time, but collecting. when he regains his health, he continues a life of adventure including his obsession with bugs. rj steer is his great grandson. >> he immigrated to canada, which was part of the british crown at the time and he worked as a park ranger in manitoba and hunted big game and also continue to actively collect. jamie: james got married and had sons, john born in 1915, shares his love for bugs. carla harris is his daughter. >> he went on trips around canada and he certainly supported his father that way and love the collection. jamie: when the great depression hits, money is tight. he loses his job as a park ranger. but his teenage son has a head for business and figures out how
tea turn his dad's unusual hobby into a moneymaking venture. as a traveling exhibit. >> they made these cases from a old german cabinetmaker that they hired. jamie: by 1930 the whole family is traveling with these displays of bugs, all headed up by john may. jamie: he was a teenager and had grown men working for them. >> yes, they were destitute. jamie: he helped a lot of people along the way and he also intrigued a lot of people two. >> yes. >> he wanted it to be interesting to the general public and i really think that he did a good job. jamie: by 1936 john started his own family and before you know it, three daughters join the entourage as they bounce from fairgrounds to exhibition halls with many of their shows drawing
standing crowds. >> i remember des moines iowa and topeka kansas were to big places. jamie: while john expanded the show, his father collects more specimens often by treating them by the mail. >> insect collectors relied on missionaries or the local postmaster in the middle of africa somewhere and they would just swap specimens. jamie: so it goes through the depression. by the early 1940s after more than a decade of living like nomads, the may clan is ready to settle down, especially john and vicki. >> he wanted a permanent museum so he wouldn't have to continue that send strenuous fair
circuit. colorado was the perfect location, so the specimens are preserved much better. the one true form, he made a museum that would be something he helped bill to preserve his father's collection. jamie: >> my grandfather figured out how to salvage and reuse and adapt to make this work. jamie: and he even tried to spam the roadside attraction. >> he even made sure that the water rides -- that they had a series of digits, six reservoirs, and all needing machinery to do so.
jamie: on may 1, 1952, the may natural history museum opened its doors. the may family is finally home, only to lose their master bug collector when he died in 1956 at the age of 72 years old. >> probably have somewhere between 170,000 specimens. more or less his legacy is that he is the one that collected essentially all of it. reporter: the future of this strange inheritance is in the hands of john may who has even bigger plans for it. those plans include the biggest name in theme parks,. >> walt disney wanted to buy the collection to be one that is coming up next. announcer: first, our bird-eating quiz question. how long is the longest insect (cough, cough) mike? janet? cough if you can hear me. don't even think about it. i took mucinex dm
for my phlegmy cough. yeah...but what about mike? he has that dry, scratchy thing going on... guess what? (cough!) it works on his cough too. what? stop, don't pull me! spoiler alert! she doesn't make it! only mucinex dm packs 2 medicines in one pill to relieve wet and dry coughs for 12 hours. start the relief. ditch the misery. let's end this.
the collection. john may has argued build a museum in colorado to display his dad's bugs. but now it's with keen interest that he reads in the paper that the great walt disney is in colorado. john gets in touch and invites them to the museum with the idea that maybe he can lease part of the collection and it can be a hit at disney land which had opened the previous year. to everyone's delight, while disney agreed to visit. john's daughter carla harris, who is 13 years old at the time, if there when the legend arrives. >> walt disney went to the museum and dad took him through the collection and i trailed around behind watching this whole thing. he was very impressed and he wanted to buy the collection. jamie: john saw an opening and he and walt disney discussed terms. john wants to lease it with his father's name on it but walt disney stands firm, sell or no
deal. >> he said if we sell it, will we get credit. will there be a black and he said no, they don't give credit to anything in disneyland. it's all disney. jamie: the may family opens a second bug museum in a second park. he drives his beagle cross country. >> what did you think when you had this vague needle to transport on top of the car? >> it is a real traffic stopper. because there he is. you know, he thought that if we could lease and a good location, we could make a good situation and it was a major project to display. jamie: ultimately his venture onto the same problem that he faced with all disney.
>> abc piermont took over the park and they didn't want to do it privately,. jamie: he realizes that he needs more than this and he decides to put in a campsite. >> the original parcels 180 acres. in my grandfather -- eventually he built on the plateau and we ended up with 500 campgrounds. jamie: thank goodness that he tied up the water rights decades before and now his bug museum is not just a place for curious rogue servers or science buffs, campout and it's an overnight adventure. the hercules beetle is a huge
draw. there is a huge walking stick bug, and a moth with a huge wingspan, and the black widow spider that entomologist sam johnson says deserves its deadly rap. jamie: so the black widow is not just a myth? >> no, it is not, although the toxicity is individual to individual. they have killed a lot of people. i had a friend that was close to death before the ent doctor and save her life. reporter: jamie: these bugs or give me the creeps. so he even helped me try my hand at bug pinning. >> i just couldn't resist. jamie: luckily sam is joking and we move along to something
better. >> this is a butterfly. jamie: beautiful butterfly. >> it can spread its wings like that. and all we have to do then is to keep in and put a pin in there, this is how you do it, put the pin just like this. good. jamie: at least i got through one. jamie: for decades the museum with its quaint fashion displays continues to chug along with an aging john in charge and various family members working at it full time. but as the 21st century gets underway, interest in a museum in campgrounds steadily drop off. and after vicki, his faithful wife passes away, it becomes clear that running a museum in a campground isn't easy for an
octogenarian. >> he wante to do it himself, he didn't want to delegate authority. as he was declining he couldn't do those things anymore and during that time the ranch began to degrade. jamie: on november 4, 2007, john may dies at the age of 92 years old. >> i was in the kitchen quietly doing dishes. i could hear him breathing and then all of a sudden i heard my mother who had died in 2000, saying we're going to leave soon and walk into the room and he died. my feeling is that they were off to explore the universe. jamie: now john's easy on is there, but can it survive? >> mckinley was contending with in. >> here's another quiz question for you. a bubba called a maricopa harvester has the most toxic
works. single novell. ♪ announcer: now the answer to our quiz question. what is a maricopa harvester? the bug with the most toxic venom in the world? is a killer spider, killer ant, killer bee? it is a killer ants. then a more powerful than any insect. jamie: john may died and he leaves behind a strange inheritance. many bug specimens are rare and some extent. the museum collection has been appraised between five and
$6 million. but with dwindling attendance, the may family is doubtful that the museum can survive. >> since the 70s there have been a lot of changes and so i knew that i needed to increase my electric service and build new patent tables. i had a thousand things i wanted to do and i couldn't because of time and finances. jamie: the in the structure is not the only thing that has been declining. >> what needed the most improvement in the way that he ran the business. >> everything was tied together and convoluted area and and that was quite a transition throughout the inheritance trees. >> even more challenging in the fall of 2008, americans are told that we are on the verge of a second great depression. over the next couple of years, business slows to a crawl.
by early 2012 it's painfully clear that something has to be done. >> my mom and cousin continued doing what they had before, but it created a bunch of stress. jamie: from the time of the first great depression when her grandfather and great-grandfather took the show on the road, the bugs had supported the may family. was it time to fold up the tent? >> i asked each person in turn what they thought they wanted to see happen to the existing operation and what they wanted out of it. that was an eye-opening experience all of their own. jamie: finds -- find out what hs in the financial gusher that makes them think twice. >> whiskey is does your carpet ever feel rough and dirty? don't avoid it. resolve it.
of the patriarch of the family john may, the natural his green museum that bears his name is limping along. during a family meeting in february of 2012, the family has to decide what to do. should they close the land or close the bug museum? how are they going to get it back in shape if they keep it open to that is when they realize a true genius, tying of those water rights decades ago when he purchased the land for his museum in campgrounds. >> there is a joke in colorado that whiskeys for drinking and water is for fighting because water is so valuable. jamie: the estimated value of the land with that water is $25 million. so what would you do? millions from the water, millions from the land. millions from the bug collection as well. i'm with you, i'm thinking it's time to take the money and run. the heirs take a vote.
the water money would be used to keep the operation going. >> all eight of us said the same thing, nearly word for word, it and with such a unanimity, it was really no question that it was worth a shot area rj steer, grandson gives of his career to have the operation. jamie: did you think will take t going to be easy? >> we are standing in one man's effort and creation, it takes a lot to dust yourself off and finding the need improving. jamie: the may legacy will soon be filled by a fourth generation with all of these crazy crawly
bugs. >> many times people start fighting about it, or they run it into the ground. all of us are invested in keeping the business open, open for people to enjoy. jamie: the heirs to this inheritance recalled her grandfather, james mann, trusty butterfly net in hand, fascinating them with his stories and adventures of insect hunting. they say that most of the bugs were big enough to easily get a hold of, like this hercules beetle, it can let 850 times its own weight, making it the strongest creature on earth for its size. try finding a roach motel big enough for those. i am jamie colby with "strange
inheritance." member that you can't take it with you. do you have a strange inheritance for the you'd like to share the map send me an e-mail or go to our website at us?ail or go to our website at go to our website, strangeinheritance.com. hello, and welcome to "justice." i'm katie in for judge jeanine. thanks so much for being with us. tonight the latest on the 21 christians brutally murdered by isis, the hunt to track down their killers and what's being done to protect christians in the middle east. another obamacare blunder. this could have their tax returns delayed. first, this week the white house finally held their big countering violent extremism summit but there seems to be a lot of meetings and we know there are a lot of speeches but there's one giant thing that was missing. any mention of islamic extremism. take a look. >> countering violent extremism begins with political, civic,