At just around this time last year, the classic, Robert Stack-hosted episodes of Unsolved Mysteries began streaming on Amazon, Netflix and beyond. It was pretty much the best thing about 2017.
…but if you stopped paying attention after the big launch, boy, you’ve missed a lot. Amazon now has you covered through the show’s twelfth season, which I believe constitutes ALL of the Stack-led episodes. There might be a few segments missing, but for all intents, you can now stream the whole dang series!
To celebrate, I’ve put together another batch of tributes to the show’s creepiest segments. Some were only playfully macabre, but since others dealt with legitimately ghastly crimes, I’d advise you to be aware of your own “threshold” before seeking them out.
Hudson River Valley UFO
On Amazon: Season 5, Episode 1
Originally aired: September 1992
The UFO segments were my childhood faves, to the point where I’d get unreasonably mad if Robert Stack went a whole hour without mentioning space aliens. Some of those segments haven’t aged well, but this one has.
So, it’s 1983. We’re in Hudson River Valley, New York. Scores of people report sightings of an enormous alien spacecraft, and will continue to do so for years. Some even catch it on video.
Skeptics believe that these sightings were only of random planes flying in formation, but some witnesses were sure that what they saw was not of this world.
It was hardly the most gripping UFO story featured on Unsolved Mysteries, but I love how they recreated the events. Drawing inspiration from eyewitness accounts, the show’s crude, computer-generated UFO looked like a flying football field covered in Christmas lights. It also seemed to be hovering no more than 40 feet off the ground.
We tend to imagine alien spacecraft as these wee little things, but here we had this mile-long metal boomerang that looked like a Catholic Star Destroyer, flying so close that you could practically hit it with a rock.
SCARIEST PART: Much is made of the show’s chilling theme, but Unsolved Mysteries used incredible music within its segments, too. Here, a light drone accompanied by spooky strings made even the “nicer” parts reek of dread.
Backyard Bones (Monika Rizzo case)
On Amazon: Season 10, Episode 6
Originally aired: November 1997
This case isn’t just horrifying, it’s infuriating. In the court of public opinion, Leonard Rizzo killed his wife, Monika, and then spread her bones — which he’d apparently fragmented with a woodchipper — all across their backyard.
When the segment first aired, it was easier to keep an open mind. A DNA test of the bone fragments indicated that they belonged not to Monika, but to a bunch of random strangers… which pointed more towards a prank, if not a setup.
Problem is, further testing revealed that all of the bones did in fact belong to Monika. Somehow, there was still not enough evidence to convict Leonard. (Keep in mind, he’d never even bothered to report her disappearance.)
Leonard was interviewed at length during the segment. Suffice to say, many viewers were unmoved by his performance. During a DVD commentary years later, even the show’s producers expressed shock over Leonard’s willingness to appear on-camera with no lawyerly guidance.
SCARIEST PART: During the reenactment, Monika leaves work early, never to be seen again. The shot of Monika breathlessly walking out of her office was just so ominous.
Chupacabra (aka Puerto Rican Monster)
On Amazon: Season 8, Episode 18
Originally aired: April 1996
Unsolved Mysteries got in on the ground floor with the chupacabra, and why wouldn’t it? The first reported chupacabra sighting happened in 1995. By then, Robert Stack had already spent years gritting his teeth through sketchy cryptozoology segments.
Though evidence of Puerto Rico’s bloodsucking beast was purely circumstantial, the fact that we were dealing with a modern monster meant so much. In many of the show’s cryptozoology segments, we had to rely on accounts from long before we were even born. Somehow, the chupacabra’s freshness lent credence.
Also keeping things interesting was that the chupacabra was so freakin’ otherworldly. Many cryptids could be plausibly explained as relicts or evolutionary offshoots, but based on reports, the chupacabra could never be related to any known species. Picture a space alien mixed with a dinosaur, and then add a dash of Gill-man.
SCARIEST PART: Unsolved Mysteries went through the trouble of fashioning its own chupacabra. We were never given a well-lit view of the costume, but it was green and spiky, and it kinda looked like the Negaduck version of WWE’s Gobbledy Gooker.
Dial “A” For Abduction (Angela Hammond case)
On Amazon: Season 4, Episode 16
Originally aired: February 1992
This is widely considered to be one of the show’s scariest segments. Some even call it THE scariest.
In April of 1991, Angela Hammond called her fiancé, Rob, from a phone booth. After spying a suspicious man lurking nearby, she screamed. Then the line went dead. While zooming to the scene, Rob passed by an old truck… and heard Angela cry out to him from its passenger-side window.
Rob sped after the vehicle, but his car got busted in the process. When it broke down, he could only watch in horror as Angela and her abductor vanished into the night. Angela Hammond — who was four months pregnant — was never seen again.
It sounds almost impossibly terrible, but police quickly cleared Rob — who was naturally a suspect — of any wrongdoing. Consensus is that he was telling the truth. To this day, Angela has not been found, alive or dead.
SCARIEST PART: The entire segment, really. As a kid, I watched Unsolved Mysteries for “safe scares” about ghosts and sasquatches and space aliens, but it was really these sorts of segments that left me paralyzed.
If you forced me to pick just one part, it’d have to be the recreation of the high-speed chase. Watch close and you’ll notice that the actress portraying Angela flails helplessly in the car. It’d stab your insides even if it was fiction, but knowing that this actually happened is just brutal.
Men in Black
On Amazon: Season 9, Episode 17
Originally aired: April 1997
Even by Robert Stack’s admission, this segment only happened because of the Will Smith movie. I distinctly remember watching this back in ‘97… which means that I stuck with Unsolved Mysteries for a full ten years!
Some fans consider this to be among the show’s worst segments, thanks to its thimbleful of evidence. One woman’s interview literally amounted to: “I saw a guy on the street once, and he didn’t look right!” (Her interview was obviously truncated, but if we’re judging by the final cut, it’s one the flimsiest testimonies in Unsolved Mysteries history.)
But where others saw flaws, I saw a diamond in the rough. Take, for example, the suggestion that the Men in Black — most commonly believed to be government agents in slick uniforms — weren’t even human.
The aforementioned interviewee remembered one of them with weird, plasticky skin, with the implication being that they were extraterrestrials who kept checks and balances on what the public knew about them.
SCARIEST PART: With Unsolved Mysteries, it’s all in the sell. Take a look at the second pic up there. A random dude with slightly weird skin, walking in broad daylight. It shouldn’t be so scary, but with the right music, the right sound effects and the right crooked angle, it was. Even in 1997 — when I was bordering pretty close to adulthood — this segment made me sleep with the lights on.
Thanks for reading! Now go watch Robert Stack gush about ghosts and mayhem.