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Butte mystery revealed on PBS show Monday
Judy Spannagel, left, and “History Detective” host Elyse Luray are pictured with the miniature fiddle case from Butte that may have been an opium scale used by the Chinese back in the 1880s. Photo courtesy of History Detectives

The mystery of an artifact from Butte’s early years will be revealed Monday on national television.

The PBS series “History Detectives” will air a segment that was filmed in Butte last April about a mysterious object believed to have been used by early Chinese opium dealers.

“History Detectives” is an investigative series that delves into family legends, local folklore and stories behind interesting objects found in cities and small towns across America.

Monday’s episode centers on what appears to be a miniature fiddle case that may have been an opium scale used by the Chinese back in the 1880s. The scale was purchased in Butte in the 1960s by a Missoula woman, Judy Spannagel.

Elyse Luray, one of the hosts on the show, and a film crew spent a few days in Butte in early April shooting footage and conducting interviews. They interviewed Dori Skrukrud of the Mai Wah Society about the history of the Chinese in Butte, and filmed around the Mai Wah building at 17 W. Mercury St., Uptown Butte.

Luray, who also works as an appraiser for the “Antiques Road Show” and Christie's Auction House in New York, said last week she really found her time in Butte interesting.

“I was pleasantly surprised about what a great historical town Butte is. I learned a lot, not only about opium, but about the town’s history and the value it adds to our country. The people I met were great and proud of their heritage,” Luray said.

Reporter John Grant Emeigh may be reached via e-mail at or by telephone, 496-5511.

Don’t miss it The “History Detectives” episode featuring Butte will air at 9 p.m. Monday on PBS, which is cable Channel 10 in Butte and Channel 43 on the antenna. “History Detectives” is in its fourth season and is one of PBS’s top-rated shows.


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