In Search of... is a syndicated documentary television series that was broadcast weekly from 1977 to 1982, devoted to mysteries and phenomena. It was created after three successful one-hour TV documentaries, In Search of Ancient Astronauts in 1973 (based on the book Chariots of the Gods? by Erich von Däniken), and In Search of Ancient Mysteries and The Outer Space Connection (both of which were written into popular paperbacks by series-creator Alan Landsburg) in 1975. All three feature narration by Rod Serling, who was the initial choice to host the series. After the death of Serling, Leonard Nimoy was chosen to be the host of the spin-off series.
The series conducted investigations into the controversial and paranormal (e.g., UFOs, Bigfoot, and the Loch Ness Monster). Additionally, it featured episodes about mysterious historical events and personalities such as Anna Anderson/Grand Duchess Anastasia, the Lincoln Assassination, the Jack the Ripper murders, infamous cults (e.g. Jim Jones), and missing persons, cities, and ships (e.g., Amelia Earhart, Jimmy Hoffa, D. B. Cooper, the Mary Celeste, the Titanic, The Lost Colony of Roanoke, the Bermuda Triangle). Because the show often presented offbeat subjects and controversial theories, each episode's opening credits include a verbal disclaimer about the potentially conjecturable nature of the evidence and theories to be presented:
Compare and contrast with the various series hosted by Arthur C. Clarke (Mysterious World, World of Strange Powers, Mysterious Universe) that covered many of the same topics but did so in a more scientific manner, usually debunking the various theories or providing scientific explanations for phenomena instead of holding up any and all random explanations as equally valid, legitimate answers.
In 2002, a reboot began airing hosted by Mitch Pileggi on Sci-Fi Channel, but only lasted for eight episodes; in 2018, another reboot began on the History Channel (which used to air reruns of the original) hosted by, funnily enough, Zachary Quinto, who played Nimoy’s iconic role of Mr. Spock in the Kelvin Timeline Star Trek movies.
Not to be confused with The Search for Spock, despite Nimoy's involvement.
This show provides examples of:
- 20 Minutes into the Future: The episode "Future Life" focused on predicting how people would live in the twenty-first-century. The progress of space travel and medical science is wildly overestimated while the phenomenal future predicted for computers is mostly accurate if a bit vague. The only really specific computer prediction is still rather fantastical, however, with its suggestion that Neural Implanting could lead to a Transhuman.
- Alien Abduction: At least one episode on UFO sightings also discusses stories of abduction by little green men.
- Ancient Astronauts: At least one episode is devoted to the subject, while other episodes on ancient wonders like the Pyramids, the Nazca lines, etc pose the question of outside "help".
- Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and Yeti: An episode is devoted to this and includes the perpetually famous Patterson–Gimlin footage.
- Captured by Cannibals: Discussed in the episode "Michael Rockefeller".
- Dated History: Quite a few of the mysteries aren't so mysterious anymore.
- For instance, they had an article about Carlos the Jackal as "The Most Wanted Man in the World." In 1994, the Sudanese government was convinced to give him up and he was arrested in 1994 and now is serving a life sentence in prison.
- Likewise, they did a story on Josef Mengele. He died in 1979 and his grave was found in 1985. Now that Mengele's identity while living in South America is known, the dramatic tales of Mengele's narrow escapes from Nazi Hunters related in the episode have turned out to be bogus.
- In the same episode, the death toll of Auschwitz is given as five million, which is even higher than the inflated Soviet number of four million. The "four million" figure was, contrary to the claims of Holocaust deniers, never accepted by credible Western historians, although it was used by the Auschwitz State Museum in then-communist Poland at the time the episode aired. Five million is about the number of Jews who were killed in The Holocaust, so it's possible the episode fallaciously conflated Auschwitz with the entire Holocaust.
- The episode on Eva Braun features David Irving, who is presented as a respectable historian. At the time this episode was made, Irving was already a very controversial writer with a reputation as a Hitler apologist. Later, as a result of his libel lawsuit against Deborah Lipstadt (reenacted in Denial), he would be exposed as a full-blown Holocaust denier and historical falsifier.
- Other subjects covered like astrology, dowsing, communicating with the dead, the predictions of Nostradamus, etc. have been thoroughly discredited as utter nonsense by modern scientific skeptics. Not that they had any scholarly support in the 70's, either.
- A 1981 episode was about the search for the Titanic. The wreck was found just four years later. Of course, the episode repeats as truth the then-current theory that the Titanic sank in one piece, which was disproved when the wreck was found in two pieces. (Hence the reason pre-1985 Titanic films portray it sinking in one piece.)
- An episode covers the real account of The Amityville Horror, which has now been debunked as a hoax.
- Noah's Ark and the great flood is explored. Noah's flood being a myth has been the consensus of the geological community since the late Victorian era, so technically history had already marched on when the show was made. The episode acknowledges this and challenges the "nineteenth-century scientists" who disbelieved in the flood with the "twentieth-century scientists" who do. One of the "twentieth-century scientists" interviewed for this show is Henry Morris, founder of the modern creationist movement who revived literalist claims about the idea (and was also an engineer rather than a scientist). There is a slight zig-zag here though: Since the 1990s, it has been proposed that the flood myth was inspired by a deluge that happened when the Black Sea was connected to the Mediterranean and filled to its current levels. If this happened, it would have happened in the 8th or 9th millennium BCE, so humans would definitely have been around to observe it; whether it actually did go down this way is highly controversial, though the hypothesis is still within the range of respectable geological opinion.note However, this is much more limited than the "Genesis flood" explored in the episode.
- There's an episode about Anastasia Romanova, including an interview with an ancient-but-still-living Anna Anderson. In 2007, DNA testing disproved the idea that Anastasia could have survived the Russian Revolution. Anderson's DNA was preserved in part of her intestine that was removed in an operation and tested against that of the Romanovs', proving definitely she wasn't a Romanov.
- Dracula: There was an episode dedicated to him, complete with Stock Footage from Nosferatu being used to illustrate the Bram Stoker version of the character. There isn't really a mystery as such, since the episode mostly just relates the history of Vlad the Impaler. Although the episode itself leans towards Hammer and Sickle Removed for Your Protection, it's interesting to note that it was filmed on-location in Romania at a time when that country was ruled by the more modern tyrant of Nicolae Ceaușescu (who admired Vlad the Impaler, although that viewpoint is hardly uncommon among Romanians of all ideologies, who generally regard him as a national folk hero).
- Insane Troll Logic:
- And it doesn't just come from the crackpots interviewed on the show; Leonard Nimoy narrator himself uses it in spades. Almost every other sentence he utters consists of "Could this mystery be explained by ghosts/magic/aliens/telepathy?"
- At one point he asks how ancient Native Americans could draw pictures of elephants since they couldn't know what an elephant was, conveniently leaving out the fact that frigging MAMMOTHS AND MASTODONS lived alongside humans in the Americas until 10,000 years ago, which was common knowledge even at the time of the series.
- Landmark of Lore: And there are many!
- The Pyramids
- The Bermuda Triangle
- Nazca, Peru
- Easter Island
- The Great Wall of China
- Mundanger: In addition to the standard episodes about the supernatural and extraterrestrial, every season had at least one episode about unambiguously real natural disasters, like earthquakes, tornadoes, and volcanic eruptions, and the "mystery" of predicting and mitigating their effects. (Although the "Earthquakes" episode did include the debunked theory that planetary alignments can produce earthquakes.)
- Pirate Booty: The Oak Island treasure pit mystery.
- Scary Stinging Swarm: The episode "Killer Bees" is dedicated to the Africanized honey bees which escaped from a Brazilian laboratory in 1957. Impressively, the episode predicts that Africanized bees would arrive in the United States in about 1990. In fact, it was in October of 1990 that the first Africanized beehives were found in Texas.
- The '70s: While it technically continued into the early '80s, this is a '70s show through and through.
- Shout-Out: When the subtitle of the third Star Trek movie was announced, many viewers and reviewers noticed the similarity between it and this series.
- Stock Unsolved Mysteries: While not a work of fiction, the show presents well known mysteries and then offers practically every single wild theory under the sun as a possible explanation for them.
- Talking Heads: Every episode has a significant chunk of time devoted to interviews with eyewitnesses and "experts" using this format.
- Who Shot JFK?: The KGB, and the FBI covered it up because they didn't want to admit the Soviets outsmarted them. The show also alleges that "Oswald" was actually a Soviet lookalike (this is a real but less popular theory).
- Wild Mass Guessing: All over the place, to the point where the show has an opening disclaimer about it.