The Roundhay Garden Scene Murders

by P-Francone

The frames of the first moving picture in 1888.

The Roundhay Garden Scene is the oldest surviving film in the world. It was recorded at Oakwood Grange in Roundhay, Leeds in Yorkshire, England on October 14, 1888. It features Adolphe Le Prince, Sarah Whitley, Joseph Whitley and Harriet Hartley in the garden, walking around and laughing. The film runs for almost 2 seconds and was recorded at 12 frames per second. All this information is very intriguing in itself, but the aftermath is what happened is even more interesting.

Only ten days after filming, Sarah Whitley died at the age of 72 and was buried at the nearby St. John’s Church. Two years later, just before patenting his invention, Louis Le Prince, the director of the scene and inventor of the video camera mysteriously vanished in a train between Dijon and Paris. He was supposed to head to the USA for a public viewing of the camera and movies, but of course was unable to make it there. Several theories have been devised as to where he and his luggage ended up, including suicide, as he was on the verge of bankruptcy. Other theories say that his family pressured him to disappear due to his bankruptcy and possible homosexuality. One of the most likely theories is that he was murdered as part of the patent wars that he was in with Thomas Edison.

Several years later, his brother Adolphe was in New York to testify against Edison in these patent disputes, and was discovered dead while duck hunting. Suicide was presumed, however this very well could have been part of the dispute with Thomas Edison.

All of Le Prince’s films are available in the public domain on YouTube, including The Roundhay Garden Scene, Accordian Player, Leeds Bridge and Man Walking Around Corner.

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