If you’re anything like me, you got your youthful distrust in the world from watching Unsolved Mysteries. As a child of the 90s, holding out hope that one day you might solve a mystery is sometimes the only thing that gets you through the day.
If I could have chosen my own grandpa, it would have been that trenchcoat wearing badass Robert Stack, not even a question. I am the hyper-vigilant person I am today because of my longstanding UM addiction. I consider myself the foremost expert on all things Unsolved.
What you are about to read is not a news broadcast. I have compiled the ten most compelling Mysteries and the lesson to be learned therein. Also, I threw a bit of mysterious Stack trivia so salacious it might be the best Mystery of all.
1. The Circleville Letters
Why So Mysterious: In small town Ohio, this lady is just trying to drive her school bus and cheat on her husband; but an anonymous stalker just won’t live and let live. This person even went so far as threatening to broadcast her business over CB radio. That’s how you know shit is real.
By writing threatening letters, possibly creating an elaborate ruse that kills her husband, and then trying unsuccessfully to kill her; s/he pretty much succeeds in fucking up this poor woman’s world. Eventually her brother-in-law is wrongly accused and incarcerated. He is vindicated only when the actual responsible party starts up again and even threatens Unsolved Mysteries themselves. This is the only Mystery I know of in which UM is actively targeted by the antagonist.
The Lesson: “El sickos” is a great term that you should be using when you write threatening letters to those you stalk. Also, bitches be gossipin’ on CB radios, so watch your back.
Fun Fact: Conchata Ferrell, who stars on Two and a Half Men as Charlie Sheen and/or Ashton Kutcher’s maid Berta, is a notable Circleville resident. She is not a suspect.
2. Lois Duncan’s Daughter
She knows what you did last summer, but she does not know who shot her daughter and it’s pretty damn tragic.
Why So Mysterious: Lois Duncan, yes the Lois Duncan, does not know who killed her daughter Kaitlin. She does know that her daughter’s triflin’ ass boyfriend was allegedly involved in a shady Vietnamese gang who was perpin’ insurance fraud all around SoCal just prior the murder. It is believed by her family that Kaitlin may have been privy to/ possibly involved in these scams.
The situation gets even shadier when phone records reveal that someone was in Kaitlin and her man’s supposedly unoccupied apartment at the exact time of her death. Someone placed several calls to a Santa Ana paralegal that allegedly played a role in the fraudulent schemes while her boyfriend was at the hospital by her deathbed. The cops remain skeptical that this is related to the killing… but Lois Duncan believes that it is.
This family is still desperately searching to put this Mystery to bed more than two decades later.
The Lesson: If your man is staging car accidents for cash, he’s probably not the one.
3. Texas’ Most Wanted (Starring A Young Matthew McConaughey)
Why So Mysterious: One morning, this Texan broad finds a serious creeper in her upstairs bathroom. Luckily, she was packing heat and it ain’t no thang. Later she reads in the paper that the same creep she shot at from the john is wanted in Texas for murder. He was caught a few years prior trying to show his little Texan to some kids in Matthew McConaughey’s neighborhood. MM shut his ass down hard, but this douchewad was not to be outdone.
He proceeded to shoot our hero MM dead in his mom’s garage right in front of her and get into a high-speed chase with the local authorities. He was apprehended on the spot but later skipped on his bail.
Obviously this is just a character portrayed by Matthew McConaughey in a dramatic reenactment and not real life Matthew McConaughey. That would probably have been bigger news, but this is still some pretty crazy shit. The creeper, née Edward Bell, was apprehended while being shady in South America. He was extradited back to Texas and convicted of being the worst. He is up for parole this year, so let’s hope that doesn’t happen.
The Lesson: Although I am all for stricter gun control laws to keep firearms out of the hands of turds like this, the bad bitch in the beginning of this segment makes a strong argument for keeping a gun in the home.
Fun Fact: According to IMDB, this was Matthew McConaughey’s first acting role. He would go on to play a less sinister, but still kind of creepy Texan, David Wooderson, in Richard Linklater’s epic movie Dazed and Confused.
4. Scared to Death
Why So Mysterious: For six years, this Canadian woman named Cindy James reported hundreds of incidents of harassment and physical attacks against her to local authorities. The incidents, including two acts of alleged arson, left virtually no proof that the attacks were real and not staged. Her parents believe her (as does her psychiatrist, and her inexplicably old friend Agnus) but think she knows more than she is telling them; however the cops and one particularly smarmy journalist think she is full of it. She is eventually found hogtied and dead of a morphine overdose.
The evidence that she was simply nuts is pretty stacked, but who could do that to themselves for years on end? Also, no wonder we have such a stigma about mental illness in this country from the way they portray this poor women: rocking back and forth, all glassy eyed, locked up at the funny farm. If this were your life, you would be batshit crazy too. And can you really hogtie yourself while you’re on enough morphine to kill you? We may never know, as this case remains open. Her sister wrote a book profiling the case, and some of the evidence is available on her website.
The Lesson: If you know something, say something. Especially if you are the one being victimized. Also, if are being stalked and harassed, maybe don’t go out and walk your dog late at night.
5. The Allagash Abductions
Why So Mysterious: Four manly dude bros/artist types (it’s really hard to tell what they are going for here) are camping in the wilderness of the Allagash Waterway. They build a large fire one night and then go out for a late night canoe trip. They notice a light in the sky that begins to follow them. Naturally, they start to freak out a bit. They end up on shore with foggy memories of what they agreed to have been only a twenty minute excursion… only to find that they huge campfire they built to last all night had burnt out.
They spent the next ten days camping and discussing what they believed to be a UFO and left it at that. Though as time passed, they each begin to have nightmares of being abducted and examined thoroughly by aliens in a freaky ass futuristic sky lab. They come together to undergo hypnosis and find that their individual recollections match.
Some expert guy tells them that they are each exhibiting signs of “a classic abduction experience” — whatever that means. From the excerpts of their actual hypnosis sessions, it is something awful that involves being stripped nude and forcibly, intrusively examined in front of your helplessly sedated friends. So, like, not your typical fun Friday night.
For his part, Robert Stack weighs in on the Allagash Abduction as “either the greastest hoax in human history, an unprecedented mass hallucination, or perhaps, the single most important event since the dawn of civilization.”
Some people are, of course, skeptical — and who can blame them? It does sound pretty hokey… but the slight possibility of it being real is still scary as shit. And if these dudes are lying, they really stand to gain nothing from it. Being a noted alien rape victim isn’t really something to aspire to.
I am not sure if it’s real, or even if it’s a more important event than, like, the creation of the iPhone, but I do know that it freaks me the fuck out.
The Lesson: This one is pretty clear: don’t even think about going to the Allagash Waterway. Unless, of course, getting weird with aliens is a fantasy of yours — in which case, go on with your bad self.
6. The Bordello Murders
Why So Mysterious: Call me a freethinking, pro-sex, feminist (seriously, do it) but sex workers in this country have it rough. When Salt ‘n’ Pepa proclaimed “If she wanna be a freak and sell it on the weekends, it’s none of your business,” it spoke to me. For few years in the early 90s the ladies of the night in a small Kentucky army town were able to operate semi-publicly at the New Life Massage Parlor… until a group of corrupt cops ruined it for everyone. This is why we can’t have nice things, you guys.
The cops were protective of New Life at first in exchange for some financial kickbacks, as well as a few other services. But when at least one of the local officers got a little too greedy, Madam Tammy Papler granted this particular officer persona non grata status. A couple of nice working girls ended up dead during their shifts at the massage parlor shortly thereafter.
Ed Carter, the banned officer, admitted to being at New Life on that night but claimed he left before the murders occurred. His own wife contradicted his story’s timeline, as well as his claim that he did not own the same type of gun used in the murders. But Carter’s former roommate led the investigation so, of course, he was never charged. Both men later resigned from the force. This is not enough for Madam Tammy though. She wants justice, and rightfully so.
This Mystery takes a delicious twist when Madam Tammy takes her case before the town’s City Council. It turns out that one of the councilwomen used to work for Madam Tammy at New Life. It’s like Pretty Woman meets Leslie Knope meets a brothel with a name that sounds like an evangelical Christian church in a strip mall.
Unfortunately the dickhead former cops have yet to be charged in this case and still reside in the area.
The Lesson: Let’s just legalize the world’s oldest profession already. And let sex-workers unionize. Also, corrupt cops suck. Just ask a prostitute.
7. The Other Intern
Why So Mysterious: We all remember Chandra Levy: the big hair, the mom jeans, the Gary Condit sex scandal that ruined his career. We know now that he didn’t have anything to do with her death but there was a time when we were all pretty sure he did. And, of course, we all remember Monica… but at least she got out alive. You probably haven’t heard of poor Joyce Chiang but Monica got off easy in comparison.
Joyce never returned home from a late night Starbucks run just four blocks from her apartment. Shortly thereafter, her belongings and torn clothing started turning up near the Potomac River where her body would be found much later. Because she was badly decomposed, the cause of death could not be determined. Rumors of suicide were rampant in the community despite the arguments from her friends and family and obvious clues of foul play.
Shortly thereafter, an ominous message reading “Good day JC, May I never miss the thrill of being near you” appeared on a wall in the area in which she was last seen. Her family was all like “Okay, WTF?” but the case essentially went cold until Chandra Levy turned up missing.
The women lived in the same neighborhood, shared a lot of physical characteristics, and had both at one time held jobs in the same building. The mystery is made even deeper when it is discovered that a third woman with similar characteristics was also raped and murdered in the area around that time. Is there a serial killer in the capitol?
Well, not exactly. The murder of Joyce Chiang’s untimely demise was solved in 2011. Although one of the men accused has committed a similar crime before, someone else was convicted of Chandra Levy’s murder. The murder of the third women was committed by yet another serial rapist/murderer who remains at large to this day.
The Lesson: There are an awful lot of creeps in Washington DC… and some of them aren’t even politicians.
8. The Ellender Murders
Why So Mysterious: These anti-establishment buttholes that call themselves the S.K.A.T.E.R.S. (a lame acronym which stands for Satan’s Kids Against The Establishment and an RS at the end that is apparently meaningless) dropped some acid one night. They were tripping so many balls that they decided to break into an innocent couple’s home, shoot them dead, and leave their infant child abandoned in the home. And that’s just the beginning of the awful.
After the murders, the super cool S.K.A.T.E.R.S. decided to host a drug party at the house. They invited several unsuspecting guests, with the bodies and live baby hidden away in the bedroom. Then people allegedly molested the bodies on videotape because the late 80s equivalent of YOLO. It’s a good thing Marilyn Manson rose to fame several years after all this shit went down or he would have never heard the end of it. And thank GOD it was years before Instagram.
The couple’s vehicle was found the next day being driven by a group of geniuses that were later implicated in the crime. The driver of the vehicle made a full confession, stating that he enjoyed the murders very much, and promptly committed suicide in jail. The cops considered it a closed case but the murdered woman’s parents continued to dig up accounts of the sordid details of what allegedly happened in the house that night.
Many people were implicated in the murders in some way, all of the pointing fingers at each other. A tape recorded confession from a girl who claimed to have witnessed the murders and saved the baby from being killed lead to charges being filed and (later dropped) against her. Three other people have been arrested and charged in conjunction with this crime: two as accessories and the other for second-degree murder.
The Lesson: Jesus Christ, you are never safe, ever. Also dumbasses + drugs = bad ideas, so choose your choices kids.
9. Marie Hilley
Why So Mysterious: Oh man, this bitch. From the outside she seemed like a great wife and mother, but she was really just a good actress and a huge asshole. She ‘innocently’ took out hefty life insurance policies on her two children and husband, and then began to poison them to death slowly. Her attempt to poison her eldest son failed when he left for college before she could succeed. She turned her sights to her husband, and this time it worked.
No one was suspicious quite yet; so when the life insurance money ran out she turned to her younger daughter. An arrest over a bad check while her daughter was on her deathbed ended up being the girl’s saving grace. The truth came out while she was in custody: arsenic poisoning. Her ex-husband was exhumed at her son’s request. Murder charges were filed. Marie went on the lam.
She fled to Florida and concocted some insanely tall tale about being a wealthy widow with a brain tumor. She remarried… only to boldly kill off her character while “out of town” and return to her husband as her own “twin” sister. I mean, clearly this guy was a jackass, but still. This bitch has some kind of audacity.
Oddly, she was picked up by the feds because they thought she was someone else all together (???) but they soon figured out she was a noted sociopathic murderer. She was charged with the murder of her first husband but escaped before she could face the music. Karma eventually caught up and she froze to death while on the lam once again. I mean… this bitch.
The Lesson: Go hug your mom. She’s not that bad.
And now, for the ultimate Unsolved Mystery:
10. Voice from the Grave
Why So Mysterious: Robert Stack has heard it all. When he called a Mystery “unbelievable and compelling,” you better listen up. This story has become one of epic urban legend status. Several websites and television shows have featured the story. There is a book written about the case. I even read about it next to a Batboy story in Weekly World News one time. But the reason this is now a famous case is due largely to its profiling by none other than Unsolved Mysteries.
The Teresita Basa case has everything a good UM needs: a shady murder with little to no clues as to what the hell happened, a paranormal experience, a hard nosed but dedicated cop at the end of his rope, the element of the unexplained. When a hardworking professional Filipino immigrant with seemingly no enemies turns up murdered in her apartment, the Chicago police are baffled by the lack of clues as to what happened. The case goes cold until a doctor comes forward and claims that the ghost of the dead woman named her own killer through the body of his sleeping wife, who happened to be a co-worker and acquaintance of Terasita. She also offered up evidence in the form of her stolen jewelry, which lead to the arrest and subsequent confession of her killer.
Say what you want about the actors who participate in these reenactments, but the way that woman whispers the name “Teresita Basa” gives me chills to this day.
The Lesson: Perhaps, you might be able to solve your own Mystery.
So there you have it: the nine most compelling stories to ever be profiled by Unsolved Mysteries as told to you by me, the foremost expert on all things Unsolved. We’ve come a long way together: through crazy Canadians self-harming to alien rape in the Allagash to the ghost of a murdered healthcare professional seeking justice… but there is still one mystery to unveil.
I give you the mystery of the actress, the president, and the mystery tv show host:
According to a new book published on Elizabeth Taylor, she shared a steamy encounter in a pool between two men. If it were Wild Things, she would be the Matt Dilon in the situation. One of the men would go on to be the leader of the free world, and one of the freakiest US presidents at that: JFK. The other would go on to wear trench coats and beckon TV viewers to help him solve a Mystery: one Robert Stack. The man himself. You go, my imaginary Grandpa.