There has always been a fascination for the unknown, for events that fall beyond the pale of usual experience. Whether it is grizzly murders or the perceived ability to converse with the dead, the public has always been hungry for seemingly unsolvable mysteries. On A&E a television series has taken up in the tradition of the penny novels, and campfire story tellers of the past, this series is Unsolved Mysteries. Hosted by the forceful presence and authoritative tones of Robert Stack, each episode explores the unknowable.
A batch of theme oriented DVDs are now being made available. I have received the screener copies of two of them for consideration here, Bizarre Murders and Psychics. While these screeners are only a representative sub set of what is actually on the retail four disc sets they demonstrate the commitment to excellence in production that has become the trademark of A&E and is carried on by First Look. Each disc provided a good representation of the original and having worked with screeners from them before I have no doubts that the actual products will be excellent.
In Bizarre Murders tales of brutal and senseless killings are explored. One episode concerned it self with the 1988 Colorado Cop Killers. Dale Claxton although middle aged was new to the police force of Cortez Colorado. One day on what should have been a routine traffic stop of a water truck on a lonely highway Dale was murdered when the truck stopped and people armed with assault weapons burst out and riddled Dale and his police car with an unimaginable number of bullets. This horrible event left behind Dale’s widow, their four children and a grandchild. As terrible as this was it would prove to be just the beginning. Deputy Jason Bishop was assigned the task of tracking down this truck when a yellow pickup pulled up behind him. In his rear view mirror he could see men in military dress aiming automatic rifles at him. Although he escaped with his life the yellow truck went on rampage targeting law enforcement agents where ever they could be found. By days end nine police vehicles where attacked with over 300 rounds fired directly at them.
In 1962 a serial killer would instill fear in the city of Boston. The Boston Strangler was on the loose killing innocent women in the seeming safety of their own homes. This was a shock all over the country, while more common place now this was America’s first serial killer, a first no one wanted to face, many of the earlier victims where older women, living alone in the once safe city of Boston. Soon, over the two year period of his activity no woman would be safe as age and social status became meaningless to him. The killer would strangle them with articles of their own clothing frequently tying a macabre bow around their dead necks. Not satisfied with just taking their lives the women where raped or sexually mutilated as well. When rapist Albert De Salvo confessed to the slayings it appeared that Boston could get back to normal. Many began to doubt whether this man was the actual Strangler. They felt that with nothing to lose it sought fame and a place in the history books. He may have also hoped to avoid prison, since the crimes where so heinous he felt he would certainly be sent to a much nicer hospital ward somewhere. After years of incarceration De Salvo called his former doctor wanting to tell the truth but he was murdered before the interview could be arranged. With new DNA evidence there is a lot of speculation that De Salvo was actually not the killer and the real Boston Strangler was never brought to justice.
The Murders set goes on like this with numerous tales of brutal killings, all of which may be considered still open. Some you will recognize, others are less famous but still true to the name bizarre.
The second set presented for review was Psychics. Many believe that there are persons with the ability to perceive beyond what our normal senses permit. Dannion Brinkley was a normal individual until a strange course of events in 1975 would alter him and his future. While at home in South Carolina with his wife Dannion was talking to a friend on the phone during a particularly intense thunder storm. A bolt of lighting cracks through the window hitting Dannion and literally knocking him out of his shoes. One hundred and eighty thousand volts of electricity passed through the man yet he survived. He remembers being out of his body, looking down at his wife desperate to bring him back to consciousness. He remembers traveling down a tunnel remembering his entire life. He had to confront the people he bullied over the course of his life. After being forced to judge himself he was pronounced dead. His friend went to where the body was kept and Dannion returns to his body, to the delight of his on looking friend. It took years until he could regain even the fundamental ability to feed himself. Dannion recounts that while he was clinically dead thirteen beings showed him over one hundred future events, including the election of President Reagan, the fall of the Soviet Union and the first Gulf war.
Each story presented in this collection is one of regular humans somehow obtaining the ability to see or at least gain knowledge of events they couldn’t possible know about.
The style and format of the show is what really made it so popular. Besides the fantastic voice of Robert Stack the producers inter cut somewhat realistic re-enactments of the events and talking head style interviews with people actually involved in the true story. Each tale is paced in such a way that exposition of recorded facts is woven with supposition leaving the audience always wondering about the tale.
First Look is releasing these four disc sets packaged according to what type of mystery you are interested in and beyond these two there is everything from UFOs to the hidden secrets of history, a little something for everyone. Are they true or not, you have to watch and decide for yourself.