Series: Unsolved Mysteries
The 1988-1993 logo.
This article is about Unsolved Mysteries. Whenever possible, the actual family members and police officials have participated in recreating the events. What you are about to see is not a news broadcast.
Join me. Perhaps you may be able to help solve a mystery.
Robert Stack's intro for the first few seasons.
This TV show ran from 1987-2002, with intermittent breaks in between, and was hosted for most of its run (which Channel Hopped
from NBC to CBS and then Lifetime) by Robert Stack. It was revived from 2008-2010 on Spike TV, hosted by Dennis Farina.As the show's name implies
, this series delves into a variety of mysteries, showing dramatic re-enactments of each. They can range from typical missing persons cases
and stories of lost loved ones to the paranormal: ghost stories, UFO's, the Loch Ness Monster, and all that good stuff.
Although it's presented like a piece of fiction, most every mystery is real. In fact, roughly 400 of this show's mysteries have been solved. It is believed to have originally directly competed with America's Most Wanted
. All versions of the show have a telephone hotline set up that you can call if you have any information, while the current version only has a website
. Some of the mysteries presented back then have remained unsolved to this day.
These are true tropes, from the files of TV Tropes.org:
- Alien Abduction
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In the segment on Ira Einhorn and Holly Maddox, her sister described him as being rude, overbearing to Holly, and as having poor hygiene.
- Catch Phrase: "This is a true story, from the files of Unsolved Mysteries."
- Cool Old Guy: Robert Stack, and how.
- Creepy Monotone: Dear God, Robert Stack's voice gives off nightmares
- Distant Finale: Sort of. While many cases were left unsolved, some cases did get a resolution on other programs years later. The murder of Dorothy Donovan, for example, an elderly woman who was killed by a mysterious hitchhiker, that the woman's son had encountered earlier in the night, was solved on Forensic Files. The murderer was a drug-addicted drifter who broke into the woman's house thinking it was abandoned.
- Downer Ending: Some mysteries. Sadly, most of the "Updates" regarding missing person cases were usually finding the person's remains. A lot of the victim's families will consider it at least partially a Bittersweet Ending, saying that the closure of knowing is better than not knowing anything.
- Ghost Ship: The show covered its share of these. And, in one case, a ghost blimp.
- Ghost Story: One of the draws of the original show, presented to horrifying effect.
- He Knows Too Much: Frequently very ominously implied as the reason behind the deaths or disappearances of the topics of the segments. One segment takes this Up to Eleven—not only was the victim probably murdered because of what he knew, but a witness who finally worked up the nerve to confess to his role in the crime was killed before he could.
- History Marches On: Quite a few of the high-profile mysteries aren't so mysterious anymore.
- Unsolved Mysteries aired a segment about the then-unknown Unabomber. Several years later, he was identified as Ted Kaczynski. The show later floated the idea that Kaczynski was also the Zodiac Killer.
- It also aired a segment fingering William Stevens, a petty criminal and all-around creep, as the Green River Killer. Five years after the episode aired, Gary Ridgway was identified as the Green River Killer through DNA evidence. Stevens is no longer considered a suspect in the case.
- A 1996 segment covered the unsolved 1975 murder of Martha Moxley. Seven years later, Michael Skakel was convicted of the murder.
- Then-fugitive James Bulger was featured in an episode. By the time he was finally caught, an update was added to the episodes that were now being shown on Spike TV.
- For a while, reruns of the show were aired on Lifetime (before the network began to get new episodes of it's own). Very often, updates were provided and specifically designated as "Lifetime Exclusive", meaning that even after all these years, these now cold cases were still being solved thanks to viewership (for example, Jesse James Hollywood).
- Infant Immortality: Sometimes averted and, in the case of some of the miracle stories, played straight.
- Make It Look Like an Accident/Never Suicide: Probably the most common type of case during Stack's era involved someone being found dead, with Stack always introducing the segment by saying "the police ruled it a suicide, but the family says...MURDER." In many cases it WAS pretty obviously a suicide and the family was clearly just in denial, but the show would always side with the family.
- And to be fair, some were so obviously not a suicide, complete with multiple types of blood being found at the crime scene, or victims that were bound with packing wire before being dumped into incinerators, that it made you wonder just who the police thought they were fooling.
- The Men in Black: An episode dealing with UFO sightings also talked about them
- New Kids on the Block: One of the cases featured a missing teenage girl who was supposedly seen in one of their concerts and caught on tape. It also included a brief interview with Jonathan and Jordan Knight, in which they asked for any info about her.
- Offing the Offspring: The case of Darlie Routier, convicted of murdering her own children, despite her insistence (as well as some evidence showing) that she is innocent and that an intruder took their lives. There is some evidence suggesting that she did in fact kill her kids (crime scene appearing staged, Darlie's indifferent behavior after the murders, etc.) She currently sits on death row.
- Uncancelled: After a whopping six years!!!
- Unintentional Period Piece: The heavily synthesized music and the graphics used in the various introductions are hopelessly stuck in the 80's/early 90's, but arguably not to the shows detriment. The fashions and attitudes in the cases themselves are also obviously of their time.
- The Unreveal: Everyone realized that the truly unexplained paranormal mysteries were never going to be solved. It didn't make their episodes on them any less awesome.
- Some of the more infamous crime based cases the show covered, such as the harassment of Bill and Dorothy Wacker or the Circleville Letter Writer, will likely never be solved since in the former case both of the victims are now dead, and in the latter case the only remotely plausible suspect has already served a prison sentence and still actively denies he had anything to do with it.
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