Unsolved Great Mysteries

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 3rd August 2010.

One of my fondest memories of childhood was going to stay at my grandmother’s house every Saturday night whilst my parent’s went to work at the family restaurant. My Nanna spoilt my brother and I, feeding us whatever we wanted and giving us free reign of the television. I remember staying up late to giggle my way through Hey Hey It’s Saturday when it was a late night show (and funny). It later moved to an earlier six thirty timeslot, creating a major dilemma for a young lad. Do I watch Daryl and Ossie or Young Talent Time?

VCRs weren’t readily available in the mid-80’s so I usually compromised by watching YTT which ran for an hour, switching over to Channel Nine just in time to catch Red Faces.

My all time favourite Saturday evening show was Great Mysteries of the World. Airing in the five thirty timeslot on Channel Seven, the series was essentially a repackaging of the US show In Search Of, which originally aired between 1976 and 1982, bookended with an introduction and final thoughts from Australian TV personality (at the time) Scott Lambert. With narration by Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy, I was transfixed to the tube by spooky investigations into UFOs, Bigfoot, The Loch Ness Monster, ghosts and The Bermuda Triangle.

My love for the paranormal continued with Unsolved Mysteries, an American series which ran from 1987 until 2002, hosted by The Untouchables star, Robert Stack. Unsolved Mysteries featured a mix of stories on unexplained phenomenon and crimes (including dodgy reenactments). I was always perplexed as to why Mr Stack implored Australian viewers to “contact the FBI or your local law enforcement authority” in regards to crimes which took place over 15000 kilometres away.

I’ve recently rediscovered two memorable television specials which some sad person has preserved and uploaded to youtube. UFO Cover Up Live was hosted by Mike Farrell of M*A*S*H fame who introduced the world to anonymous government informants Condor and Falcon. Airing live in the US in 1988, this was the first televised mention of Area 51, an air force installation in Nevada which is supposedly where the US government stores crashed alien spacecraft. This prime time special is fondly remembered within UFOlogy circles as the program in which it was revealed that aliens have already made contact with our governments and more importantly, love strawberry ice cream.

In 1991, Bill Bixby, from The Incredible Hulk TV series, hosted an investigative special called Is Elvis Alive? Focusing on photos allegedly of The King after his death and the fact that Elvis’ tombstone spells his middle name as “Aaron” whilst his birth records document it as “Aron”, the show is great fun. A follow-up special, The Elvis Conspiracy, followed in 1992, which basically rescinded all of the allegations of the first show. For the record, the image of “Elvis” from 1984 only looks like him in newsprint and The King sought to change his surname to the more biblical Aaron towards the end of his life.

I’ve since moved onto such spooky TV fare as Ghost Hunters and Most Haunted on pay TV, where brave (or stupid) people lock themselves in supposedly haunted buildings with only a camera crew for protection. There is much amusement to be had witnessing these investigators scaring themselves silly in the darkness whilst never actually capturing any real evidence.

Despite my love for a great paranormal mystery on TV, I wouldn’t exactly consider myself a believer. I’m more of a bemused spectator. To me, shows about unexplained phenomenon are modern society’s way of passing along legends, much in the same way that our ancestors would’ve told stories around the campfire, but with far fewer ads for funeral insurance plans.

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