UFOs, psychics, Bigfoot, a young Matthew McConaughey, and crime: the original Unsolved Mysteries had it all. The long-running TV series is returning to Netflix — but with a few differences. While the 12-episode Netflix reboot keeps the original’s creepy, chilling vibe, each episode focuses on one mystery, and there isn’t a host.
The original Unsolved Mysteries hinged on the unusual and the unresolved, as if The X-Files were a newsmagazine. It aired more than 500 episodes in 14 seasons across NBC, CBS, Lifetime, and Spike from 1987 to 2010 with hosts Robert Stack, Raymond Burr, Karl Malden, Virginia Madsen, and Dennis Farina. The series mainly focused on criminal cases, people trying to reunite with lost loved ones, unexplained moments in history or conspiracy theories (like Kurt Cobain’s death), and the paranormal. Segments featured reenactments (that’s where McConaughey comes in) as well as victims’ family members and authorities.
While the series detailed very real stories, it was quick to remind viewers during its tenure on NBC that it wasn’t a newscast with a disclaimer. Viewers were, however, invited to submit tips that could potentially solve any of the cases.
If you’re looking for more after Netflix’s reboot — or want to prime yourself on some classics before diving in — here are some of the best episodes from the original Unsolved Mysteries, all of which are streaming on Amazon for free with ads, or for 99 cents an episode. Unsolved Mysteries is also on Hulu.
Rainman (Season 5, Episode 18)
Don Decker is probably one of Unsolved Mysteries’ strangest cases. In 1983, Decker was granted furlough from the county jail to attend the funeral of his grandfather, who had physically abused him, in Stroudsburg, PA. Decker apparently felt the “evil” in his life had left him. That night, he entered a trance-like state as water began inexplicably dripping from the walls. The water wasn’t just coming down, either — it was also rising from the floor and even horizontally. It happened again several times, leading many to believe Decker was possessed.
Edward Bell (Season 5, Episode 12)
The case of Edward Bell marked McConaughey’s acting debut in 1992. McConaughey played Larry Dickens, a youth counselor staying with his mother and sister in Pasadena, TX, in 1978. He was mowing the lawn while his mother saw a pickup truck park in front of their home and Bell exit, naked from the waist down. Dickens’ mother called the police and warned Dickens. He retrieved the keys from the truck and Bell shot him several times. Bell was apprehended after trying to escape but later released on bail and never showed up for his hearing. The case was eventually solved thanks to tips from two viewers.
The Circleville Writer (Season 7, Episode 6)
In 1976, several residents in Circleville, OH began receiving unusual letters featuring personal information. Mary Gillispie, a bus driver, was accused of having an affair. Her husband, Ron, received a letter stating his life would be in danger if he didn’t stop the affair. The writer threatened to go public, but stopped after Ron’s brother-in-law, Paul, sent a letter claiming he knew who the writer was. Ron then received a phone call from the alleged writer, confirming his suspicions. The case spiralled from there, including an unusual car crash, booby traps, an intense trial, and a postcard to the Unsolved Mysteries P.O. box from the writer.
The Bermuda Triangle (Season 3, Episode 2)
The Bermuda Triangle episode dives into an unexplained history rather than a particular case. The area has a history of disappearances but theories didn’t gain popularity until five Navy planes known as Flight 19 vanished in 1945. The episode focuses on the hunt for one of the five missing planes. Several bomber planes have been discovered off the Florida coast over the years, but none of them have matched the ones from Flight 19.
Craig Williamson (Season 6, Episode 23)
Craig Williamson’s case is a prime example of how mysteries can develop after airing. In 1990, Williamson married Christine Reinhard after only knowing her for a month. Several weeks after suffering a concussion in 1993, he went on a trip to Colorado Springs. Reinhard had last heard from him two days after he left, and began investigating his disappearance. This alone is fascinating, but the events after the episode aired are, well, mysterious to say the least.
Roswell (Season 2, Episode 1)
Most of us are probably familiar with the Roswell crash, thanks to The CW: in 1947, after Roswell, NM experienced an intense electrical storm, a rancher went out in his fields to survey the damage, only to discover debris of an unfamiliar object. He tried to burn the debris, bend it, and even smash it, but it wouldn’t budge. The episode features interviews with the rancher’s neighbor, the son of a military responder at the site, and an officer who wrote a press release about it.
Mary Celeste (Season 7, Episode 7)
When it comes to ghost ships, the Mary Celeste takes the cake, er, sea. In 1872, Capt. Benjamin Briggs, his family, and crew members embarked on a voyage from New York to Europe. Thousands of valuable barrels of pure alcohol were stored below the deck, a risky move due to how flammable they were. The ship was found abandoned more than a month later off the coast of Portugal, with no one onboard but money, jewelry — and the cargo — left undisturbed. Conspiracy theories emerged, naturally.
Teresita Basa (Season 2, Episode 26)
The Teresita Basa case features a bit of both worlds: a violent crime and the paranormal. In 1997, Basa’s body was discovered at her home under a burning mattress, a knife in her chest. Months later, a co-worker told a detective she was having dreams and visions where Basa was pleading with her to explain what happened. According to the co-worker’s husband, a voice even possessed her twice, naming the killer. The case was solved before the Unsolved Mysteries episode aired but inspired the 1996 film Voice from the Grave.
The Men In Black (Season 9, Episode 21)
No, we aren’t talking about Will Smith here (though this episode did air the same year as the first Men in Black movie). Ray Muniz and Collette Peters claim they had encounters with men in, well, black, who appeared after UFO sightings. Are they part of a secret government agency or aliens in disguise? It’s a mystery!
Coral Polge (Season 3, Episode 11)
Coral Polge, a “psychic artist,” can draw dead people without seeing them — before their deaths. The episode explores how Polge discovered her talent and helped grieving families The drawings and photos of the deceased need to be seen to be believed: Polge’s depictions are accurate and uncanny.