Unsolved Mysteries: More Than Just a Creepy Theme Song

Unsolved Mysteries was ahead of its time. It was one of the first reality television shows, and it was also interactive - viewers had the chance to call in with tips to help solve real-life mysteries. The show introduced host Robert Stack to a whole new generation of fans, caused more than one sleepless night with its creepy theme song, helped put lots of crooks behind bars, and reunited about 100 “Lost Loves” that had been disconnected by fate and time. So come along as we dig a little deeper and try to uncover the true story behind Unsolved Mysteries.

A History of Mystery

Most people remember long-time host Robert Stack walking through the fog, often illuminated by a car's headlights, armed with his signature trench coat and unmistakable raspy voice. But Stack was not the only person to ever host the show. In fact, he wasn't even the first.

The first host of Unsolved Mysteries was none other than Raymond Burr, star of the classic TV series Perry Mason. The first episode was only slated to be a one-hour special broadcast on NBC on January 20, 1987. But because it was such a huge hit, the network ordered additional specials. When Burr demanded too much money to return, the producers tapped Karl Marlden, a well-known film and television actor, whose role as a grizzled police lieutenant on the popular 1970s show, The Streets of San Francisco, helped solidify UM's crime-solving theme. After two more specials in 1987, Malden also asked for a bigger paycheck, and he was replaced by another TV cop, Robert Stack, who played Elliott Ness on The Untouchables. Stack's authoritative voice and stern demeanor became synonymous with the show, and to many people, it came to define his career.

But even Stack shared the stage during his tenure. From 1995-1997, Keely Shaye Smith, who would later marry James Bond (Pierce Brosnan), became an on-air correspondent for the show. After it was canceled, CBS picked it up in 1997. They added Virginia Madsen (pictured with Stack), future Oscar nominee for her role in Sideways, as a co-host to try to boost ratings. However, the show was canceled again in 1999, only to be resurrected by The Lifetime Network in 2001, this time with Stack as the lone host. He remained the voice of Unsolved Mysteries until it was once again canceled in 2002.

Stack passed away in 2003 at the age of 84, so when the show was brought back again in 2008 by SPIKE TV, Dennis Farina — best-known for playing mobsters and police officers in films like Get Shorty and Out of Sight — was brought on board. With Farina in tow, Unsolved Mysteries has is part of the Lifetime Network's daily afternoon line-up, proving that you just can't keep a good show down. These new episodes are little more than re-cut segments from the Stack-era with new voice overs and updated information on the cases shown.

That Song

For many fans, the theme song was either their favorite or the most terrifying part of the show. The music was composed and performed by Michael Boyd and Gary Remal Malkin, who also wrote the score for the 1984 classic cheese film, Breakin', which introduced much of America to breakdancing. The theme song won back-to-back American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) Film and Television Music Awards for Top TV Series in both 1992 and 1993. If you'd like to relive the memories (or maybe prevent yourself from falling asleep tonight), check out the theme song on YouTube:

Before They Were Stars

One of the highlights of Unsolved Mysteries was the dramatic reenactments. Many people wonder if any of the actors involved were ever wrongfully accused of being the actual wanted fugitive. While there's no evidence this ever happened, that doesn't mean the actors never got noticed. In fact, a handful of people who appeared on the show went on to bigger and better things.

One such actress is Stephnie Weir, who played a nondescript resident at a hotel in a May 1992 episode. In 2000, Weir joined MADtv and stayed there for six seasons, becoming one of the longest-running members of the cast. Another funny lady, Cheryl Hines, who would later star as Larry David's wife on Curb Your Enthusiasm, played a nurse in a 1997 episode. Fans of Lost will recognize a familiar face if they catch the 1991 segment on the murder of Su-Ya Kim. A friend of the victim's husband is played by Daniel Dae Kim, the actor that played Jin on the island, and is currently co-starring on the reboot of Hawaii Five-O. Perhaps the biggest name to have been featured on UM, though, is heartthrob Matthew McConaughey. McConaughey appeared in a 1992 episode as Larry Dickens, a man murdered in cold blood by Edward Howard Bell in 1978. As a precursor to the rest of his career (and personal life for that matter), McConaughey runs around with his shirt unbuttoned in the recreation. (Skip to 3:30 below.)

Not-So-Unsolved Mysteries

According to the official Unsolved Mysteries website, 47% of the wanted fugitive cases featured on the show have been solved thanks to tips reported by viewers. During that time, some pretty amazing stories have centered around the show and its successes.

The first case closed thanks to Unsolved Mysteries was the apprehension of Robert Weeks. Weeks was suspected of murdering three women, including his wife Patricia, and had become a fugitive before a solid case could be made against him. The night his segment aired, the woman Weeks was currently dating while living under an assumed name, called the 800 number to report him. The next day, Weeks was picked up and later convicted of all three murders.
Cheryl Holland holds the record for the shortest time from her television debut until her capture. Holland was accused of killing her aunt and uncle in Tennessee, and stealing money from them to partially pay off her debt to drug dealers. After the segment appeared on TV, she was arrested in Texas just 45 minutes later thanks to a viewer who called into the show.
Jerry Strickland and Missy Mundy were wanted for armed robbery, kidnapping and murder when their segment aired in February 1988. They watched the episode they were featured on at home—Unsolved Mysteries was one of Jerry's favorite shows. Afterwards, the couple went over to a friend's house and waited patiently until the police tracked them down the next morning.
Louis Carlucci has the honor of having been featured on the show twice. The first time was because he was on the run for committing fraud. After he got caught thanks to viewer tips, he jumped bail and disappeared again. UM ran another segment a year later and, once again, thanks to viewer tips, he was apprehended shortly afterwards.
A friend told Alexander Graham he was featured on America's Most Wanted earlier that night. When Graham confirmed that Most Wanted hadn't even been on, he figured the person was just fooling around. The next morning, he went into work as usual, but the federal authorities were waiting for him. Graham, whose real name was Gregory Barker, was wanted in connection with as many as 16 murders. A woman at the office building where he worked recognized him from the episode of Unsolved Mysteries (not America's Most Wanted) that she'd watched the night before, and called-into the show.
Perhaps the most astonishing story on Unsolved Mysteries was their 150th solved case – the case of Tony Miller. Miller had been eating at a restaurant with friends in Toledo, OH, in December 1983. Moments after they left, a man entered the restaurant and robbed it at gunpoint, then, during his escape, shot and wounded a police officer. The employees fingered Miller as the crook and the prosecution found a witness who said he saw a man who looked like Miller leaving the scene. A month later, police arrested another man, Joseph Clark, for an unrelated crime, who confessed to the robbery. But when pressed for details, he recanted his story. Instead, Miller was arrested, tried, and sentenced to serve 20 - 40 years in prison for the crime.

Eight years later, Miller was featured on Final Appeal: From the Files of Unsolved Mysteries, a spin-off attempt that lasted only six episodes in 1992. The short-lived show, also hosted by Stack, focused on people who claimed to have been wrongly convicted. Among the audience watching that night was the witness for the prosecution who said he saw Miller running from the scene. During the program, mug shots of Miller and Clark were shown side-by-side, giving the witness the first opportunity he'd ever had to see the two men together. He called the 800 number to say that his testimony had been wrong – the man he saw running away that night was actually Joseph Clark. Because the witness had changed his story, Tony Miller was released from jail just a few weeks later – almost nine years after he was convicted of a crime he didn't commit.
* * * * *
What were some of your favorite memories of Unsolved Mysteries?? Did the theme music keep you awake at night? Did you ever call into the show with a hot tip? Tell us about it in the comments below!


Dan Kitwood, Getty Images
25 Royals in the Line of Succession to the British Throne
Dan Kitwood, Getty Images
Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

Between the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcoming their third child on April 23, 2018 and Prince Harry's upcoming marriage to Suits star Meghan Markle in May, the line of succession to the British throne has become a topic of interest all over the world. And the truth is, it’s complicated. Though Queen Elizabeth II, who turned 92 years old on April 21, shows no signs of slowing down, here are the royals who could one day take her place on the throne—in one very specific order.


Chris Jackson/Getty Images

As a direct result of his mother being the world's longest-reigning monarch, Prince Charles—the eldest child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip—is the longest serving heir to the throne; he became heir apparent in 1952, when his mother ascended to the throne.


Tolga Akmen - WPA Pool/Getty Images

At 35 years old, odds are good that Prince William, Duke of Cambridge—the eldest son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana—will ascend to the throne at some point in his lifetime.



On July 22, 2013, Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge welcomed their first child, Prince George of Cambridge, who jumped the line to step ahead of his uncle, Prince Harry, to become third in the line of succession.


Chris Jackson/Getty Images

On May 2, 2015, William and Catherine added another member to their growing brood: a daughter, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge. Though her parents just welcomed a bouncing baby boy, she will maintain the fourth-in-line position because of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which went into effect just a few weeks before her arrival, and removed a long-held rule which stated that any male sibling (regardless of birth order) would automatically move ahead of her.


 Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge depart the Lindo Wing with their newborn son at St Mary's Hospital on April 23, 2018 in London, England
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

On April 23, 2018, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcomed their third child—a son, whose name has yet to be announced, but who has already pushed his uncle, Prince Harry, out of the fifth position in line to the throne.


Chris Jackson/Getty Images

As the second-born son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Prince Harry's place in the line is a regularly changing one. It changed earlier this week, when his brother William's third child arrived, and could change again if and when their family expands.


Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Prince Andrew is a perfect example of life before the Succession to the Crown Act 2013: Though he’s the second-born son of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, he’s actually their third child (Princess Anne came between him and Prince Charles). But because the rules gave preference to males, Prince Andrew would inherit the throne before his older sister.


Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for WE

Because Prince Andrew and his ex-wife, Sarah, Duchess of York, had two daughters and no sons, none of that male-preference primogeniture stuff mattered in terms of their placement. But with each child her cousin Prince William has, Princess Beatrice moves farther away from the throne. If Beatrice looks familiar, it might be because of the headlines she made with the Dr. Seuss-like hat she wore to William and Catherine’s wedding. (The infamous topper later sold on eBay for more than $130,000, all of which went to charity.)


Princess Eugenie of York arrives in the parade ring during Royal Ascot 2017 at Ascot Racecourse on June 20, 2017 in Ascot, England
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Though she’s regularly seen at royal events, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson’s youngest daughter spends the bulk of her time indulging her interest in fine art. She has held several jobs in the art world, and is currently a director at Hauser & Wirth’s London gallery.


 Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex leaves after a visit to Prince Philip
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Like his older brother Andrew, Prince Edward—the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip—jumps the line ahead of his older sister, Princess Anne, because of the older rule that put males ahead of females.


 James, Viscount Severn, rides on the fun fair carousel on day 4 of the Royal Windsor Horse Show on May 11, 2013 in Windsor, England
Danny E. Martindale/Getty Images

James, Viscount Severn—the younger of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Sophie, Countess of Wessex’s two children, and their only son—turned 10 years old on December 17, 2017, and celebrated it as the 10th royal in line of succession. (The birth of the youngest Prince of Cambridge pushed him back a spot.)


Lady Louise Windsor during the annual Trooping the Colour Ceremony at Buckingham Palace on June 15, 2013 in London, England.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Because the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 wasn’t enacted until 2015, Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor—the older of Prince Edward’s two children—will always be just behind her brother in the line of succession.


Princess Anne, Princess Royal, visits the Hambleton Equine Clinic on October 10, 2017 in Stokesley, England
Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Princess Anne, the Queen and Prince Philip’s second-born child and only daughter, may never rule over the throne in her lifetime, but at least she gets to be called “The Princess Royal.”


Peter Phillips poses for a photo on The Mall
John Nguyen - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The eldest child and only son of Princess Anne and her first husband, Captain Mark Phillips, stands just behind his mother in line. Interesting fact: Had Phillips’s wife, Autumn Kelly, not converted from Roman Catholicism to the Church of England before their marriage in 2008, Phillips would have lost his place in line.


Savannah Phillips attends a Christmas Day church service
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

On December 29, 2010, Peter and Autumn Phillips celebrated the birth of their first child, Savannah Anne Kathleen Phillips, who is also the Queen’s first great-grandchild. She’s currently 15th in line.


Princess Anne, Princess Royal, Isla Phillips and Peter Phillips attend a Christmas Day church service
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Less than two years after Savannah, Peter and Autumn Phillips had a second daughter, Isla, who stands just behind her sister in line. It wasn’t until 2017 that Savannah and Isla made their Buckingham Palace balcony debut (in honor of their great-grandmother’s 91st birthday).


 Zara Tindall arrives for a reception at the Guildhall
Hannah McKay - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Not one to hide in the background, Zara Tindall—Princess Anne’s second child and only daughter—has lived much of her life in the spotlight. A celebrated equestrian, she won the Eventing World Championship in Aachen in 2006 and was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year the same year (her mom earned the same title in 1971). She’s also Prince George’s godmother.


Mike Tindall, Zara Tindall and their daughter Mia Tindall pose for a photograph during day three of The Big Feastival at Alex James' Farm on August 28, 2016 in Kingham, Oxfordshire.
Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images

Zara Tindall’s daughter Mia may just be 4 years old, but she’s already regularly making headlines for her outgoing personality. And though she’s only 18th in line to the throne, her connection to the tippity top of the royal family is much closer: Prince William is her godfather.


David Armstrong-Jones, 2nd Earl of Snowdon

David Armstrong-Jones, the eldest child of Princess Margaret, isn’t waiting around to see if the British crown ever lands on his head. The 56-year-old, who goes by David Linley in his professional life, has made a name for himself as a talented furniture-maker. His bespoke pieces, sold under the brand name Linley, can be purchased through his own boutiques as well as at Harrods.


Margarita Armstrong-Jones and Charles Patrick Inigo Armstrong-Jones
Chris Jackson-WPA Pool/Getty Images

David Armstrong-Jones’s only son, Charles, may be 20th in line to the throne, but the 18-year-old is the heir apparent to the Earldom of Snowdon.


Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) talks with Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones (C) as her father David Armstrong-Jones (L), 2nd Earl of Snowdon, known as David Linley

Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones, the youngest child of David Armstrong-Jones and his only daughter, is also the only granddaughter of Princess Margaret. Now 15 years old (she'll turn 16 in June), Lady Margarita made headlines around the world in 2011 when she served as a flower girl at the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.


Lady Sarah Chatto, the daughter of Princess Margaret arrives for her mother's memorial service

Lady Sarah Chatto, Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones’s only daughter, is the youngest grandchild of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. In addition to serving as a bridesmaid to Princess Diana, she is Prince Harry’s godmother.


Lady Sarah Chatto (L) and her son Samuel Chatto (R) leave a Service of Thanksgiving for the life and work of Lord Snowdon at Westminster Abbey on April 7, 2017 in London, United Kingdom
Justin Tallis - WPA Pool /Getty Images

The first-born son of Lady Sarah Chatto and her husband, Daniel, has a long way to go to reach the throne: He’s currently 23rd in line.


Arthur Edwards, WPA Pool/Getty Images

For better or worse, Sarah and Daniel Chatto’s youngest son Arthur has become a bit of a social media sensation. He's made headlines recently as he regularly posts selfies to Instagram—some of them on the eyebrow-raising side, at least as far as royals go.


Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester makes a speech during the unveiling ceremony of London's first public memorial to the Korean War on December 3, 2014 in London, England
Carl Court/Getty Images

At 73 years old, Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester is the youngest grandchild of King George V and Queen Mary. Formerly, he made a living as an architect, until the 1972 death of his brother, Prince William of Gloucester, put him next in line to inherit his father’s dukedom. On June 10, 1974, he officially succeeded his father as Duke of Gloucester, Earl of Ulster, and Baron Culloden.

20 Black-and-White Facts About Penguins

To celebrate World Penguin Day (which is today, April 25), here are a few fun facts about these adorable tuxedoed birds.

1. All 17 species of penguins are found exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere.

2. Emperor Penguins are the tallest species, standing nearly 4 feet tall. The smallest is the Little Blue Penguin, which is only about 16 inches.

emperor penguin

3. The fastest species is the Gentoo Penguin, which can reach swimming speeds up to 22 mph.

Gentoo Penguin

4. A penguin's striking coloring is a matter of camouflage; from above, its black back blends into the murky depths of the ocean. From below, its white belly is hidden against the bright surface.

penguins swimming in the ocean

5. Fossils place the earliest penguin relative at some 60 million years ago, meaning an ancestor of the birds we see today survived the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.

emperor penguins

6. Penguins ingest a lot of seawater while hunting for fish, but a special gland behind their eyes—the supraorbital gland—filters out the saltwater from their blood stream. Penguins excrete it through their beaks, or by sneezing.

penguins swimming in the ocean

7. Unlike most birds—which lose and replace a few feathers at a time—penguins molt all at once, spending two or three weeks land-bound as they undergo what is called the catastrophic molt.

molting penguin

8. All but two species of penguins breed in large colonies of up to a thousand birds.

king penguins

9. It varies by species, but many penguins will mate with the same member of the opposite sex season after season.

chinstrap penguins

10. Similarly, most species are also loyal to their exact nesting site, often returning to the same rookery in which they were born.

maegellic penguin nesting

11. Some species create nests for their eggs out of pebbles and loose feathers. Emperor Penguins are an exception: They incubate a single egg each breeding season on the top of their feet. Under a loose fold of skin is a featherless area with a concentration of blood vessels that keeps the egg warm.

penguin eggs

12. In some species, it is the male penguin which incubates the eggs while females leave to hunt for weeks at a time. Because of this, pudgy males—with enough fat storage to survive weeks without eating—are most desirable.

emperor penguins

13. Penguin parents—both male and female—care for their young for several months until the chicks are strong enough to hunt for food on their own.

Penguins nest

14. If a female Emperor Penguin's baby dies, she will often "kidnap" an unrelated chick.

penguin chicks

15. Despite their lack of visible ears, penguins have excellent hearing and rely on distinct calls to identify their mates when returning to the crowded breeding grounds.

16. The first published account of penguins comes from Antonio Pigafetta, who was aboard Ferdinand Magellan's first circumnavigation of the globe in 1520. They spotted the animals near what was probably Punta Tombo in Argentina. (He called them "strange geese.")

17. An earlier, anonymous diary entry from Vasco da Gama's 1497 voyage around the Cape of Good Hope makes mention of flightless birds as large as ducks.

18. Because they aren't used to danger from animals on solid ground, wild penguins exhibit no particular fear of human tourists.

19. Unlike most sea mammals—which rely on blubber to stay warm—penguins survive because their feathers trap a layer of warm air next to the skin that serves as insulation, especially when they start generating muscular heat by swimming around.

20. In the 16th century, the word penguin actually referred to great auks (scientific name: Pinguinus impennis), a now-extinct species that inhabited the seas around eastern Canada. When explorers traveled to the Southern Hemisphere, they saw black and white birds that resembled auks, and called them penguins.


More from mental floss studios