If you missed the news, Unsolved Mysteries is FINALLY available in its ORIGINAL form. The first season is now streaming on Amazon Prime, and it’s totally free if you’re a Prime member.
As a huge fan of the series, I can’t overstate how big this is. Until now, seeing Unsolved Mysteries as it was originally broadcast was damn near impossible, with even the official DVD releases using modernized music and graphics.
While what’s available on Amazon is being presented as “the first season,” it’d be more accurate to call it a season’s worth of curated episodes. (The segments are neither in their proper order nor all present, but considering that we were blessed with 24 hours of vintage Unsolved Mysteries, it’s hard to complain!)
This show was and remains my #1 jam, and it’s such a thrill to see it in its original state. The old intro music! The funky ‘80s graphics! ROBERT STACK IN FRONT OF BOOKCASES!
It hasn’t lost a step. I’ve had to sleep with the lights on all week. As fascinating as the show was, Unsolved Mysteries was uniquely creepy, and I honestly can’t think of anything else that’s given me so much pause for so long a time.
If you enjoy being freaked out, go on and watch it. (Even if you don’t have Amazon Prime, the episodes only cost a buck a piece.)
Below are summaries of five of the spookiest segments currently available on Amazon. If you’re new to the series and want to experience it at maximum panic, these segments will get the job done.
A warning, though: These aren’t “fun” stories. They’re about absolutely ghastly crimes. Stop reading now if you only come to Dino Drac for fluffy stuff, because you ain’t gonna leave this article laughing.
Satanic Panic (Kurt McFall case)
On Amazon: Season 1, Episode 2
“Satanic panic” was all the rage in the ‘80s, and Unsolved Mysteries had more than one segment that preyed on the public’s fear of the occult.
In this case, a young man named Kurt McFall turns up dead on a beach. Detectives subscribe to an “accidental death” theory, but Kurt’s father is convinced that it had something to do with Dungeons & Dragons.
Some speculated that Kurt became involved with a satanic cult, and was murdered for “knowing too much.” Reading between the lines, it’s obvious that Kurt’s personal life was even more complicated than his father discovered. Though Mr. McFall seemed to blame an older man who’d befriended his son, the cops couldn’t even categorically state that Kurt was murdered, let alone by who.
(That older man, who identified as a magician and clearly lived unconventionally, was actually interviewed in the segment. I’d like to think that we know better than to judge books by their covers in 2017, but by ‘80s standards, I can only guess at what viewers thought of the guy.)
While it’s impossible to know exactly what happened on that Saturday evening back in ’84, it’s almost as impossible to watch this segment and not think “foul play.” Course, I doubt it had anything to do with Dungeons & Dragons, let alone satanic cults.
SCARIEST PART: There was an interview with one of Kurt’s friends, who believed that Kurt’s death really was tied to satanism. His insistence on being filmed in the dark didn’t lend credence to the story, but it sure made for a spookier visual.
The ATM Murder (Matthew Chase case)
On Amazon: Season 1, Episode 12
This segment is often cited for having one of the creepiest images in Unsolved Mysteries history.
In 1988, a young man named Matthew Chase went missing, with the only potential clues left in a series of confusing ATM transactions, plus one chilling video from a security camera. In the footage, we see Matt alone at an outdoor ATM before another man creeps into frame, right over his shoulder.
The darkest of the theories postulates that Matt was abducted by the mystery man and forced to withdraw funds at several ATMs. Detectives even speculate that Matt intentionally tried to withdraw impossible amounts, hoping to arouse suspicion.
The segment is doubly soul-crushing, as Chase’s family hadn’t yet learned the whole truth when it first aired. Chasing an “amnesia angle” at homeless shelters, the family held out hope that Matthew was at least alive, if not well.
Sadly, one of those spooky “updates” confirmed that Matt’s body was later found. Cause of death: Gunshot wound. To give you some idea of how the story played out, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that it was the inspiration for David’s abduction on Six Feet Under.
SCARIEST PART: Duh, the security photo. It may have just been one of Matthew’s friends, but given how things went, the mind wanders…
Where’s Kari? (Kari Lynn Nixon case)
On Amazon: Season 1, Episode 24
This is easily among the most heartbreaking segments in the show’s history. Ugh.
When sixteen-year-old Kari Lynn Nixon goes missing after a routine trip to the market, everyone fears the worst. Clinging to the hope that their daughter “merely” ran away, Mr. and Mrs. Nixon later meet a woman who swears that she saw Kari long after the date of her disappearance.
It gets weirder. Kari’s parents were eventually tipped off about a suspicious crowd shot from — of all things — a New Kids on the Block concert. Indeed, a young girl in the audience looked so much like Kari that even authorities had to admit that there might’ve been something to it.
In fact, members of NKOTB actually appear in the segment, with Jordan and Jonathan pleading with Kari to return home!
Unfortunately, as the hastily tacked-on “update” confirms, all of the leads were false. Kari Lynn Nixon’s murderer confessed and led police to her remains. I won’t go into the full details here, but they’re as brutal as imaginable. As of this writing, her killer is still in prison.
SCARIEST PART: The “update” at the end of the segment acted like a horrible twist ending. With multiple leads suggesting Kari’s relative safety, finding out that she was the victim of such a heinous crime was an unbelievable punch to the gut.
The Boys on the Tracks (Don Henry and Kevin Ives case)
On Amazon: Season 1, Episode 5
Of all the segments featured here, this one freaks me out most. After a conductor spots two seemingly lifeless bodies on the tracks ahead, he can’t slow his train down fast enough, and the bodies are horribly mangled.
The victims were two young boys from Arkansas, who we learn were out hunting late at night. (A common-enough Arkansan activity in those days.) An early toxicology report suggested that Don Henry and Kevin Ives had merely passed out on the tracks, oblivious to their doom thanks to all the dope they’d been smoking.
It was a preposterous conclusion that the respective families never bought. Additional investigations showed that the boys weren’t nearly as stoned as originally believed (not that it would’ve mattered), and that the case was indeed a double homicide. They were dead before the train hit them.
I’ve learned through additional research that the boys’ parents not only believe that their sons were murdered, but that there was an active cover-up in the case. In an unreal twist, both Don Henry and Kevin Ives later became part of the immensely controversial Clinton Body Bags list. (At the time of their deaths, Bill Clinton was the governor of Arkansas.)
The case was never solved.
SCARIEST PART: It’s gotta be that reenacted shot of the bodies on the tracks. Ghoulish as the focus was, the wide open wilderness bathed in darkness made it a hundred times worse.
Premonition (Katherine Hobbs case)
On Amazon: Season 1, Episode 16
Katherine Hobbs spent much of her youth holding to an “irrational” belief that she would die before age 16. Her fears turned out to be hauntingly justified. While Katherine did make it to 16, it would be her last birthday.
Vanishing into the Vegas night after a trip to the store, it became clear that Katherine had been abducted. Nine days later, her body was found.
Later, an anonymous tipster claimed to have seen the abduction, yet said nothing that could lead police to any suspects. Though it wasn’t part of the original broadcast, Katherine’s death was ultimately attributed to a serial killer who’s since been executed, albeit for an entirely different murder.
What set this case apart was Katherine’s eerie premonition. Her mother later found letters that she’d written to the family — a month before her sixteenth birthday — more or less stating that she knew she was going to die, and that she didn’t want her family to blame themselves.
SCARIEST PART: The anonymous tip, originally left on a police hotline, was played during the broadcast. Whether a legitimate tip or an awful prank, the idea that someone saw Katherine’s abduction and then waited months before saying anything certainly raises suspicion. (And reminds me to lock my doors.)
Thanks for reading. Now go kiss your loved ones and hide under a blanket.
(Or maybe watch the first season of Unsolved Mysteries on Amazon. Your call.)