Pros: segments well produced, good stories for the most part, tribute to Robert Stack
Cons: not enough investigation
Before the explosion of television networks on cable where it seems you can find just about any content you can imagine, there only was the networks. Before reality television shows, there wasn’t much of a drive for content that had some basis in reality. Other than Cops and America’s Most Wanted there wasn’t much out there except for a show on Wednesday nights titled Unsolved Mysteries.
Hosted by Robert Stack, the show featured three of four segments about events that couldn’t be explained or certain true-crime cases. The show featured re-enactments of stories along with some real investigations and testimony from those who are involved or have witnessed some of what's described.
On these four discs, many of the segments aired over the years that have to do with ghosts or alleged haunting have been gathered together. Some of the cases are familiar, either through the years of being talked about as legends or from being brought into the public eye from being on other Ghost Hunting shows. This helps make Unsolved Mysteries seem a bit ahead of its time.
Most of the cases that are really interesting are the ones that are more familiar, such as the Myrtles Plantation in Louisiana, the Queen Mary, Lizzie Borden’s house, and the Black Hope Curse which is believed to be the inspiration for the film Poltergeist. There are plenty of other segments that are stories that aren’t as well known, such as Ghost Boy, Gordy’s Ghost, Ghost Writer, and Always, Karen.
Most of the segments are straightforward recreations of the stories and legends that have been told. If there is any attempt to investigate the claims, it’s done half-heartedly with more of a tendency to sensationalize certain aspects of the story to make it more compelling. That’s one part of the show that really doesn’t hold up as well - there’s no real de-bunking of the claims people make. Of course, when you are dealing with a grieving family who is taking comfort from what they believe are signs that their loved one is still around them, is that something you want to do? Frightened Family is the only segment that shows anything close to what I’ve come to expect from a paranormal investigation.
I think, though, there were some that could have used more critical examination such as Ghost Lights, Mystery Hum, and Lake Wales Haunting. Ghost Lights could be some sort of natural phenomenon and yet there’s no indication that anything resembling a serious investigation was done. Mystery Hum was something I would have liked to have had a follow-up on to see if anything was determined as to what it could be, especially since I don't think it has anythign to do with the paranormal. The Lake Wales case cries out for investigation by a paranormal group, even if they were a bit less sophisticated in their methods and technology at the time this show aired.
Many of the stories recreated were told by people who are obviously not telling these stories as cries for attention. They are well-respected people in their community who are often professionals or businesspeople and display some reluctance and disbelief about the events themselves. This is when the segments are best - when the audience gets a look at the people behind the story and can assess the situation. Granted, it’s based on a few moments of a 15-minute segment, but it’s something.
The DVD is mostly just the segments. They haven’t really been cleaned up for the digital world but this seems to have been made from a clean print. There is commentary on a couple of the segments and I would have liked to have heard more from the crews involved in putting these segments together to get their opinion of the situation. There are a couple of special features on the final disc about the show, the best of which is a tribute to the late Robert Stack.
With all of the modern shows about paranormal activity and investigating, there are shows out there that are better quality and more critical in how they look at these claims. However, Unsolved Mysteries: Ghosts makes for good stories on a dark, rainy night with the lights out and the wind howling outside. This is one of those shows where it was okay to break it up into segments grouped together by theme and it works pretty well.
Friendly Ghost - On Pawley's Island in South Carolina, there have been multiple reports of a mysterious man sighted just before hurricanes strike. Legend has it that he's the ghost of a man who died just days before his wedding. The first person to report getting a warning about a hurricane was the man's fiancee.
Resurrection Mary - South of Chicago, a cab driver offers a ride to a woman walking by the side of the road. She asks to get out by Resurrection Cemetery, and promptly vanishes. This is a story reported by numerous people throughout the decades.
Matchmaker Ghost - On a Mississippi paddlewheel boat, a spirit that's believed to be that of a former owner seems to be present on the boat. Events surrounding her spirit bring the two together who are now married. They believe they have the former owner to thank for it.
Queen Mary Ghosts - Numerous reports of ghosts on this ship permanently anchored in Long Beach, California are looked at. The stories are told and a team of investigators and psychics are brought in. Commentary by John Cosgrove & Keva Rosenfeld.
Grace's Ghost - At a resort in the Adirondacks, employees employees report seeing a vision of a woman. She is believed to be a young woman who was the inspiration for the film "A Place in the Sun" who was murdered by her lover.
Voice from the Grave - A woman is killed in Chicago and her apartment torched to cover up the crime. A co-worker at the hospital where she works tells the story of several encounters with the dead woman's spirit, including one where she names her killer.
Ghosts Go to Court - When the owners of a farmhouse in England sue the former owners for selling them a house they believe is haunted, the former owners counter that it's just a ploy to get out of paying for it. Commentary by David Vassar.
The Entity - Three friends purchase what they hope will be a hunting ranch in Texas. As soon as they move in, they begin hearing strange noises, including very heavy footsteps throughout the night.
Ghost Boy - In a house in Connecticut, a boy has an encounter with a ghost. His mother learns that the apparition appears to be that of her grandfather, dead since she was ten. The ghost claims to be protecting his grandson from other spirits in the home who are not as benevolent as he.
Black Hope Curse - In what sounds like the inspiration for the film Poltergeist, a couple moves in to a house in a development outside of Houston, not realizing that there is more to their property than they realize. As they are making plans to add a pool to the property, they learn that their backyard was once the site of several graves, purportedly of former slaves and poor African Americans. Theirs is not the only home with strange happenings in the development. Commentary with Director John Cosgrove.
Tallman's Ghost - A bunkbed brought from a second-hand store seems to be connected to strange events in a home. Even the Pastor of their church seems to sense that there's something wrong in the house.
Ghost Blimp - A blimp used to patrol the California coast during the second world war. The crew is nowhere to be found and no one can figure out what became of them.
Gordy's Ghost - A young girl named Heidi in Georgia apparently can talk to the dead. One of her visitors calls himself Gordy. The spirits seem to be kind until Heidi's mother becomes pregnant again. Commentary with Director Bob Wise.
Highway Vision - In the high Sierra's a highway that connects Sacramento and Lake Tahoe is the site of a woman's disappearance with her son. A driver a few days later sees what appears to be a naked body by the side of the road. When the police investigate further in the daylight, they find the missing woman's car. She is dead, but her three year old son is still alive.
Civil War Ghosts - In California, barracks which once housed Union troops before being dispatched to the war in the East seems to be haunted by the men who didn't return.
Profiling the Paranormal - Clips from a real exorcism are shown.
Ghost Lights - In Texas cattle country, mysterious lights have been seen for more than a hundred years.
Lizzie Borden's House - The house where Lizzie Borden's parents were found murdered is open as a bed and breakfast.
Tatum's Ghost - A couple near Atlanta build their dream house only to find they have something or someone else there with them. A series of strange incidents seems centered around the female resident of the house.
Ghostly Attraction - A woman has recurring dreams of a house she has never seen. When the family moves to Florida, she finds the house that is in her dream. Strange things happen, which lead the family to believe the house is haunted by the spirit of a former resident who died under mysterious circumstances.
Ghost Writer - A woman begins compiling a memory book for her mother's 80th birthday. One night she is awoken by the ghost of her father in her room who wants to dictate a letter for the book.
Mary Celeste - A ship departs New York for Europe in the late 19th century only to be found weeks later, still on course, but apparently abandoned. There were no signs of theft or other disturbances.
Comedy Store Ghosts - Reports of spirits haunting popular club The Comedy Store in Los Angeles. Both staff and performers have seen the strange occurrences.
Myrtles Plantation - a familiar story to me as it's been investigated on Ghost Hunters. A mansion in Mississippi has been converted to a bed & breakfast and is one of the most haumted places in the country. Many violent deaths occurred on the property. Commentary on episode with Director David Vassar.
General Wayne's Inn - An inn in Philadelphia is the site of mischievous occurrences for which there is no explanation. Commentary with Directors John Cosgrove & Keva Rosenfeld.
Devil's Backbone - In Central Texas an area known as Devil's Backbone is the site of numerous ghostly occurrences.
Disc 4 - Scariest Ghost Stories
Gettysburg Ghosts - Fifty thousand casualties on the fields of this Pennsylvania town might have left behind so much emotional energy that they often appear, especially to those performing re-enactments on the fields. Commentary track by Executive Producer/Writer John Cosgrove & Director Raymond Bridgers
Frightened Family - In Cleveland, Ohio a family has experienced strange occurrences for years. Shows an investigation such as they were at the time. Interesting to compare this to shows like Ghost Hunters.
Moss Beach Ghost - South of San Francisco, a former speakeasy turned restaurant experiences more than its fair share of strange phenomena.
Lady In Black - A mysterious woman in black seems to have saved a man struck by lightning.
Bullock's Deadwood - In the town of Deadwood, South Dakota, history meets with the modern age. Could the town's original sheriff still be watching over the place?
Lake Wales Haunting - A house in this Florida town is the scene of some strange occurrences attributed to a spirit in the home.
Mystery Hum - A steady humming seems to plague people across the world for some unknown reason. It's not Tinnitus which is a high-pitched sound, but a very low-level, bassline hum. Commentary by Director Bob Wise.
Always, Karen - A beloved daughter succumbs to cancer, leaving behind a devastated family and boyfriend. However, there are signs that her spirit is still watching over her loved ones.
• Creator Introductions
• Behind the Scenes: The 200th Solve
• Robert Stack Tribute
© 2009 Patti Aliventi