This Day in History, April 21, 2017: The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vault

Stacy Sammul

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Geraldo Rivera has a long history of on-screen screw ups, some just plain old ridiculous and others providing profound consequences. Rivera had a desire to tackle controversial topics in his reporting and on his trashy talk show. Some of the more memorable moments in his career are the time that he decided that it would be a promising idea to bring different racist groups together for a heart to heart talk about their differences which resulted in John Innis, a black activist and former National chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and John Metzger, a white supremacist and son of the founder of the White Aryan Resistance, getting into an on-stage battle. After being called an “Uncle Tom” by Metzger, Innis stood up and grabbed Metzger by the throat leading to the entire studio breaking out into one large brawl. Rivera, audience member, and crew were all throwing punches and chairs. Eventually Rivera was struck in the face by a chair and broke his nose.

Rivera was well known for getting down and dirty on the job. After the end of his talk show, Rivera went back to his passion, investigative reporting, which still provided for some crazy TV moments. One of his famous moments was when was reporting on the war in Afghanistan in 2003 and revealed the US army’s location and details of a secret mission on live TV. Despite his many epic fails on TV, Rivera keeps plugging along.

Today, we remember his most famous fail. We have all seen some sort of parody of this event that happened on this day in 1986, the day that Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone’s tomb on live TV. Rivera had planned to uncover an urban legend in Chicago that tells of a secret vault underneath the old Lexington Hotel in the downtown area that held some of Capone’s fortune or possibly the bodies of those that had crossed him. Rivera came prepared with medical examiners and IRS employees as experts if either scenario was to be found true. Fans across the US and in 14 other countries watched the live excavation of the underground tunnels in Chicago anxiously waiting for what was behind those walls to be revealed. The actual excavation was fascinating, explosives were used to access the vault and Rivera was pumping us up with his own excitement.

After all the buildup, the vault was opened and all that Rivera found was 2 empty gin bottles and lots of dirt. Although they found nothing, Rivera insisted on continuing the dig in hopes that something would be found so that he could save some face, but after 2 hours of letting it drag on, he finally gave up. On the live video, he admits that he had a bet going with somebody and had to sing on camera if he was wrong, he honored that promise and sang a partial line of a song. In 2016 during an interview on Fox News’s show, The Five, he said that right after filming ended, he to a nearby bar and got “tequila drunk” and put the “do not disturb” sign on his hotel room door.

Despite the public embarrassment he has suffered over the years, Rivera is still at it, he is currently reporting for Fox News and has his own Podcast called Geraldo Rivera The Podcast. He wrote a book in 1991 called Exposing Myself where he describes how he overcame this hurdle in his career, “My career was not over, I knew, but had just begun. And all because of a silly, high-concept stunt that failed to deliver on its titillating promise.”

If you would like to see the full video of The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vault you can go to

Other important events on this day in history:

1789: John Adams becomes the first US Vice President

1855: The first train to cross the Mississippi River does so on the Rock Island-De Moines bridge.

1908: Frederick A. Cook claims to reach the North Pole and lied.

1918: The famous German fighter pilot known as The Red Baron was shot down over France by a Canadian pilot named Roy Brown

1995: The FBI arrests Tim Mc Veigh for the Oklahoma City Bombing

1996: The Chicago Bulls win a record-breaking 72 games

Celebrated holidays on this day:

San Jacinto Day (Texas)

Grounation Day (Rastafarian movement)

National Tree Planting Day (Kenya)

Vietnam Book Day (Vietnam)

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This Day in History, April 21, 2017: The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vault