(Unfortunately, these Unsolved Mysteries clips have been removed from Youtube – Gill)
It’s hard to believe that it has been over a full year since The Back Row started up and of the many columns that I’ve written for this website during that time, I’d say one of the most popular was “Robin’s Top 10 Favourite Unsolved Mysteries Segments”. Since today is officially the first anniversary of that column, I definitely think a “Next 10 Favourite” list is in order. In the past year, my column has been analyzed in the Gossip Rocks forum, drawn an E-mail from a gentleman who acted in a re-enactment during one of the segments on my list, and my seventh favourite unsolved mystery even wound up having a major development in the case for the first time in over 25 years! Who knows? Maybe the good luck will rub off and one of the mysteries I profile on this list will be solved sometime in the future. Anyway, considering the hundreds of Unsolved Mysteries segments that are available for viewing on Youtube, it was very difficult narrowing down the selections on my original list to just ten, and if I had written that column on another day, any of the segments featured here could have easily wound up on the list instead. So, without any further ado, I have selected my “Next 10 Favourite Unsolved Mysteries Segments” and have presented them here for your viewing in no particular order. Cue the scariest theme music in the history of mankind…
It’s interesting to watch some of these older Unsolved Mysteries segments and ponder that some of them may have never become unsolved mysteries in the first place if cell phones had been more prevalent at the time. Such was the case with Angela Hammond, a 20-year old from Clinton, Missouri, who was abducted from a phone booth by an unknown assailant while in the midst of a conversation with her boyfriend, Rob Shaver. Rob would hear this mysterious man utter one of the most chilling lines in the history of the program, “I didn’t need to use the phone anyway”, and instantly jumped into his car and raced into town to investigate. Rob soon passed a pickup truck and could hear Angela screaming his name from inside, so he instantly turned around to pursue them. Unfortunately, he wound up damaging his transmission, causing the car to break down, so Rob could only watch as Angela and her abductor disappeared forever. Of course, these days, he would have been able to use a cell phone to call for help immediately and Angela might never have even used that phone booth to begin with, but alas, this was 1991, so Angela’s abductor had just enough time to escape and this mystery remains unsolved 20 years later. As you can imagine, this story sounds almost too unbelievable to be true, making the police initially suspect that Rob could have been responsible for Angela’s disappearance, but he was cleared pretty quickly and you can tell he looks genuinely devastated during his interview. Not surprisingly, Unsolved Mysteries‘ presentation of this terrifying story is as frightening as it sounds and will make viewers grateful that we live in an age where one doesn’t have to stop to use a phone booth in the middle of the night.
Even if you’ve never watched an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, you have probably heard the name D.B. Cooper at some point, as his story has become of most enduring and popular mysteries of the past century. In 1971, a mysterious man who gave his name as “D.B. Cooper” purchased a ticket for a Boeing 727 flight from Portland to Seattle. After take-off, he revealed to the flight crew that he had a bomb inside his briefcase and would blow up the plane unless a ransom of $200,000 was paid to him. After the plane landed in Seattle, Cooper was eventually provided with the money and four parachutes, and soon after they took off again, he parachuted out of the plane into the forests of Washington state. To this day, no one knows if Cooper survived the jump and even though $5880 was eventually found buried near the Columbia River, the rest of the ransom money has never been found. Of course, given Cooper’s notoriety, it was only natural that this was one of the very first cases that Unsolved Mysteries covered. Their segment is excellent, but of course, this story is so legendary that there’s no way they could possibly cover all the information pertaining to the case. Reading up on D.B. Cooper can become a very addictive experience. There are just so many theories out there about who he was and what happened to him, but just when it seems they may have discovered his true identity, they can never conclusively prove it. I think people still remain fascinated by this case after 40 years because it’s the type of crime that could never be pulled off in today’s post-9/11 world and since nobody was actually harmed by his actions, it is tough not to admire the brashness and ingenuity of Cooper’s scheme. This is one of those rare unsolved mysteries that some would prefer to remain that way forever since solving it would almost destroy its mystique.
The Circleville Letters:
Sometimes, Unsolved Mysteries will present a story that’s so baffling, no writer could possibly dream it up if they tried. In fact, when word spread that Unsolved Mysteries was going to be covering this story, their offices received an anonymous postcard warning them not to do it! This case is far too bizarre and convoluted to properly summarize, but I’ll do my best. In the small town of Circleville, Ohio, a woman named Mary Gillispie received a mysterious letter, warning her to stop conducting an affair with the school superintendent, and things would spiral completely out of control from there. Without getting into the specifics, I’ll just say that Mary’s husband would soon wind up dead in a mysterious car accident and she would eventually find a crude booby trap with a gun inside which was intended to kill her. Because the gun belonged to her brother-in-law, Paul Freshour, he was charged with attempted murder and accused of being the writer of the mysterious letters, even though the word “flimsy” doesn’t even begin to describe the evidence against him and the unprofessional actions of the town sheriff are beyond suspicious. Everyone seemed certain that Paul was the Circleville Writer, but just when you thought things couldn’t get any stranger, the bizarre letters continued to be sent to people after he was in prison when there was no possible way for him to have mailed them! You really need to watch this segment for yourself to try and make sense out of this whole thing! Since Paul Freshour was the only resident of Circleville who was willing to appear on Unsolved Mysteries for an interview, this whole thing reeks of being some really bizarre small town conspiracy. The Circleville letters have since stopped, but no matter how hard you search online, it’s difficult to find any hard documented information about this case. I personally think that Paul Freshour is innocent and was not the Circleville Writer, but I’ll be damned if I could tell you who was or what their motivation could have been. If I made a list of Unsolved Mysteries cases where I most wanted to learn the full backstory, this would definitely rank near the very top!
Unsolved Mysteries featured more than its fair share of stories that barely even qualified as unsolved mysteries. These are the cases where you just know who was responsible for someone’s murder or disappearance, but there isn’t enough evidence to prove it. The show featured a lot of guilty-looking suspects who were willing to be interviewed in attempt to proclaim their innocence, but very few of them came across as badly as a weaselly little man named Paul Pollis. Paul claims that after taking his two kids on errands for several hours, he returned home to discover that his wife, Charlotte, had mysteriously gone missing. However, there are many suspicious holes in his story, not the least of which is a neighbour claiming she saw Paul in his driveway during the time he was supposedly out with his kids. There are many indications that Paul may have killed his wife and spent all that time disposing of her body, such as when Charlotte’s sister notices footprints in the snow leading to a locked shed in the backyard and Paul absolutely refuses to open it for her. And when asked why he and his parents would feel compelled to clean the entire house from top to bottom the day after Charlotte disappeared, Paul simply responds with the priceless line: “I like to live in a clean house”. You’d think it would be impossible not to sympathize with a victim’s family in a situation like this, but what really makes this segment stand out is that EVERYBODY seems a little off! Charlotte’s mother comes across as pretty screwy, especially when she mentions that she usually called her daughter 10-14 times a day! For her part, Paul’s mother does her best to try and outdo Charlotte’s mother in the weirdness department, as her melodramatic reaction to the implication that she helped Paul cover up the crime has to be seen to be believed! Anyway, this story has taken a lot of weird turns over the past decade, as Charlotte’s mother apparently kidnapped her granddaughter and went on the run to keep her away from Paul, and Paul has wound up serving time in prison for other crimes such as embezzlement. In spite of all these soap opera dramatics, the sad thing is that no trace of Charlotte Pollis has ever been found. And while we’re on the subject of someone making an awkward attempt to defend themselves on Unsolved Mysteries…
This is a very unique case in which a murder suspect actually called in to Unsolved Mysteries and asked them to cover his story. In 1983, an elderly woman named Terri McClure was found shot in the head inside her car in the parking lot of a Carson City casino, and her son, Tim, became the prime suspect in the murder. Now, out of all the segments on Unsolved Mysteries featuring an interview with a murder suspect, this is the one I’m most unsure about. Unlike many other people on the show who’ve been accused of murder, Tim McClure does look like a nice enough guy on the surface, seems pretty genuine when talking about his mother, and it’s difficult to believe that a guilty person would decide to contact Unsolved Mysteries in order to bring her case into the spotlight again. However, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a person look more uncomfortable during a television interview and Tim’s attempts at proclaiming his innocence are a train wreck of epic proportions. Either this guy had an incredibly rotten run of bad luck or he is one of the dumbest criminals of all time! To start with, Terri’s murder took place on Tim’s wedding night and one instantly becomes suspicious when Tim’s alibi is that he was gambling alone in a casino for two hours! Um… gambling alone ON HIS WEDDING NIGHT?! Not to mention that no witnesses could remember seeing him that night even though he looked like this:
I mean, my God, Billy Ray Cyrus would bow down at Tim’s feet over that mullet! Anyway, there were a lot of bizarre things Tim did to draw suspicion to himself, not the least of which was allegedly cancelling one of his mother’s credit cards before she was found dead! Tim claims that the lady at the credit card company simply wrote down the wrong date and I’d certainly like to believe him… probably because I’d prefer not to think that a criminal who’d do something THAT stupid could successfully get away with murder for nearly 30 years! On the basis of this segment, it would be very easy to think Tim is guilty, but it’s worth noting that police eventually did try to charge him with his mother’s murder and that the charges were dismissed “with prejudice” by the district attorney. That pretty much means that he can never be charged with the crime again, even if new evidence does turn up. So I guess it’s possible that Tim McClure is just a very eccentric, socially awkward individual who has a tendency to make people suspicious, but this is still just an extremely baffling unsolved murder where it’s very difficult to come up with an airtight solution.
The Blind River Rest Stop Murders:
Many Unsolved Mysteries segments are scary and many are disturbing, and then there are some that just really, REALLY bother you! Unsolved Mysteries has managed to give many viewers a permanent phobia of rest stop areas because a lot of really bad things have happened to people at those places on the show (for another terrifying example, watch the Connecticut River Valley Killer segment from my previous list). In Blind River, Ontario, an elderly couple named Gord and Jackie McAllister decided to spend the night in their RV at a deserted rest stop when a psychopath posing as a police officer showed up and uttered some of the terrifying words you could ever hear: “I’m going to rob you, then I’m going to kill you”. Even after handing over all their valuables and begging for their lives, the psycho would blast Jackie with his shotgun and wound her husband. Gord managed to escape from the RV and hide underneath it just as another poor victim named Bryan Major pulled into the rest stop and was also shot by the killer. The assailant drove away and Gord wound up surviving, but judging by his heartbreaking interview on the show, he practically did die that night. You can tell that losing his wife of 39 years pretty much destroyed his will to live and sadly, he would pass away only a few years after the segment aired. This is undeniably one of the most terrifying stories ever presented on the show. An ex-cop named Ronald Glenn West, who is currently in prison for two other murders, has long been suspected of being the Blind River Killer, but it’s never been officially proven, and as a fellow Ontario resident, it’s scary to think that this psycho might still be out there. The actor they hired to play the killer in the re-enactment was pretty damn creepy, but just when you think the segment couldn’t freak you out any more, they reveal what has always been one of Unsolved Mysteries‘ scariest elements: the police composite sketch. However, instead of a mere drawing, the police in this case were able to create a 3-D computer-generated image of the killer and, well…
Forgive the brief diversion, but I just want to take this moment to mention how much I FUCKIN’ HATE the new version of Unsolved Mysteries that was re-launched on Spike TV a few years ago! Their entire formula is basically taking old cases from the original version of the show and “modernizing” it with fancy graphics, choppy editing and stylish visual effects. They’ve obviously done this to appeal to the A.D.D. generation, but they’ve only resulted in stripping away all the creepiness of the original show. Most blasphemous of all, they don’t even use the show’s original theme music and generally just play a bunch of hard rock and techno garbage over the segments instead! I also find it really lame that they show Dennis Farina hosting the show inside a “call center” when they don’t even have a hotline anymore and ask all their viewers to submit their tips via E-mail! For a perfect example of how badly they’ve fucked this up, just compare the old version of the Blind River Murders to this tacky “modernized” version. They’ve taken one of the most terrifying things ever seen on television and turned it into a god damn C.S.I. episode!
The Ghosts of the Queen Mary:
Ah, back to the classic, old-school Unsolved Mysteries I know and love! Some Unsolved Mysteries fans loved the show for its crime stories, but were complete skeptics when it came to stories about the supernatural and just did not care for those segments. Personally, I love myself a good ghost story and believe that no one ever did a better job at presenting them than Unsolved Mysteries. I’ve already discussed their famous “Tallman’s Ghost” segment, which is undeniably the scariest ghost story they’ve ever done on the show. It was originally aired on a Halloween special that told four separate ghost stories and even though they gave me nightmares, all the segments were so excellently produced that I eventually wound up wearing out my original VHS copy of the show. Anyway, they did a segment on the Queen Mary, an ocean liner that is now permanently docked in Long Beach as a tourist attraction and has been the source of numerous reported hauntings, supposedly by the spirits of those who have died aboard the ship. This segment contains some chilling re-enactments of the ghost sightings, particularly one involving the spirit of a young girl who is heard splashing in the ship’s pool and winds up leaving wet footprints on the deck. It also features the first appearance of the renowned parapsychologist, Dr. William Roll, who would appear in numerous ghost segments on the show. In the segment’s creepiest moment, he leaves a tape recorder running overnight in the Queen Mary’s bow area, which had been the location of a tragic accident in World War II after the bow crashed into a British cruiser and caused the deaths over 300 men. The show then plays the actual tape recording, where for a two-minute period, the sounds of loud banging and water rushing suddenly appear! YIKES! Even if you’re a skeptic and don’t believe in ghosts, you have to concede that Unsolved Mysteries can still do a damn good job at scaring you and make you think twice about ever wandering through the Queen Mary alone.
Note: The quality of this clip isn’t the best and it has very low sound, so you’ll probably need to watch it with headphones on, but trust me, it’s well worth your time!
I’m always fascinated by cases where an individual is found dead under mysterious circumstances in a location they would have no reason to be in (hence why the Aileen Conway case made the #1 spot on my previous list), and you can’t get much weirder than a guy from Surrey, British Columbia being found dead in Knoxville, Tennessee! This is one those segments where most of the way through, you think you’ve figured out the mystery, but then it will just throw you a curveball and leave you screaming “WTF?!”. Anyway, Blair Adams seemed like an ordinary, everyday construction company foreman until he suddenly started exhibiting signs of bizarre paranoid behaviour and became convinced people were trying to kill him, so he inexplicably jumped on a plane to Washington D.C. before renting a car to drive down to Knoxville. For most of the segment, it’s easy to assume that Blair had simply suffered a complete mental breakdown and his belief that people were after him was just an elaborate fantasy that he created in his mind… but then they reveal the circumstances of how he died! His apparent cause of death was a violent blow to the stomach, and he is found on the ground with his pants down and $4000 worth of different currency scattered around his body! Um… what? It’s really hard to imagine Blair being the victim of a random crime or a robbery when all that money is left untouched on the ground. It seems unlikely that he committed suicide by punching himself in the stomach and why exactly were his pants down?! To make things even more perplexing, there’s an exchange between Blair and a gas station attendant where Blair can’t get into his Toyota rental car because he inexplicably has the key for a Nissan. But what’s found on the ground next to Blair’s body? The key for the Toyota, of course! It seems like Blair was killed in a fashion that was deliberately intended to leave a message of some sort, but the obvious question is: WHY?! This is truly the working definition of an unsolved mystery where you desperately want to know the answer.
The Mary Morris Murders:
In Houston in 2000, a middle-aged woman named Mary Lou Morris, a person who didn’t seem to have an enemy in the world, was found dead inside a burning car. Incredibly, three days later, another woman from Houston named Mary McGinnis Morris was murdered in her car via a gunshot to the head. After hearing this scenario, I’m guessing you think this is the most likely suspect…
But actually, it seems the most plausible theory for this situation is that a contract hit was put out on the second Mary Morris, and the killer may have murdered the first Mary Morris by mistake. One of the possible culprits is a creepy co-worker of Mary Morris#2 who was constantly harassing her, but a lot of suspicion can also be directed towards her husband, Mike Morris, who may have wanted her dead in order to collect on a $700,000 life insurance policy. Mike also made a four-minute call to his wife’s cell phone after she was believed to have been murdered and he doesn’t seem to have a logical explanation for it. Anyway, this is definitely one of the strangest murder cases Unsolved Mysteries has ever presented and remains unsolved to this day, but the extra drama this story has caused on the Internet is even stranger. I’ve previously mentioned an Unsolved Mysteries message board that I like to frequent to discuss these cases, and the Mary Morris murders have become quite infamous there for all the wrong reasons. The creepy co-worker actually started posting on the board to proclaim his innocence and throw some accusations around, and wound up getting into a heated argument with members of Mary McGinnis Morris’ family! Things got so bad that the Houston P.D. actually stepped in and ordered that all discussion about the case on the message board be ceased because it was hindering their investigation! Anyway, while I don’t believe the co-worker was actually responsible for the murders, he does seem like an incredibly weird person and posted one of the most priceless lines I’ve ever read when he offered a $50,000 reward for solving the case: “The stipulation is that the conviction must not result in my arrest or conviction but someone else”.
Charles Morgan, Danny Casolaro & Doug Johnson:
As bonus to you fine folks, my last selection on this list is going to be three segments for the price of one because this trio of Unsolved Mysteries cases are all connected together in a very bizarre fashion. We start with the weird 1977 death of a Phoenix businessman named Charles Morgan, who was discovered to be secretly laundering money for the mob and may have been doing undercover work for the government. After being kidnapped and given a hallucinogenic drug that rendered him unable to speak for a few days, Morgan was eventually found shot in the head and his death was ruled a suicide even though he was wearing a bulletproof vest at the time! There are just too many strange elements of this case to describe, and in itself, it would make for one of Unsolved Mysteries’ most baffling stories, but it doesn’t end there. We move to the mysterious 1991 death of a reporter named Danny Casolaro:
Casolaro was an investigative journalist who claimed he was close to breaking a story about corruption in the U.S. Justice Department that involved a sprawling criminal network that he called “The Octopus”. He was soon found dead in his hotel room with a suicide note and his wrists slashed a dozen times, but many were skeptical that he actually committed suicide, particularly since he was a very squeamish person who wouldn’t have able to stomach cutting his wrists like that. Like the Morgan story, there are implications of a massive conspiracy to cover up his death and just too many bizarre elements for one to believe that Casolaro killed himself. The scene where an unidentified military man shows up at Casolaro’s funeral and places a medal on his casket (even though Casolaro never served in the military) before walking away is one of the biggest “WTF?!” moments in Unsolved Mysteries history! And it gets even weirder! Not long afterward, Unsolved Mysteries would cover the strange death of a Phoenix computer draftsman named Doug Johnston.
Unlike Morgan and Casolaro, Doug Johnston was just an everyday family man without any ties to organized crime or government conspiracies, so what possible reason would anyone have to kill him? Well, you may have noticed a reporter named Don Devereux being interviewed in the Charles Morgan segment, who had been investigating Morgan’s dealings ever since his suspicious death. Turns out that Danny Casolaro had contacted Devereaux about sending him information about Morgan’s case, but Casolaro died before that could happen. And it also turns out that Doug Johnston’s murder took place in a parking lot that was across the street from Don Devereux’s house and both men just happened to drive the same kind of car. Therefore, it would appear that someone may have ordered a contract hit on Devereux and wound up killing an innocent man by mistake! Anyway, you’ll be glad to know that Don Devereux is still alive and well and continues to work as an investigative journalist today. Going on Unsolved Mysteries probably saved his life as murdering him after his appearance on the show would have drawn way too much attention. Nevertheless, the whole scenario is just terrifying to think about, and like the Mary Morris murders, it’s scary to think that an innocent person with no enemies can be murdered simply because they were mistaken for someone else. I know many people out there are skeptical about conspiracy theories, but put together, these three cases do compel you to look back over your shoulder.