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12 Things We Learned About Unsolved Mysteries from the Creators' Reddit AMA

Today, the creators of Unsolved Mysteries, Terry Dunn Meurer and John Cosgrove, sat down for a Reddit AMA to discuss their delightfully creepy show, which started as a series of specials and ran from the late '80s to 2002 with Robert Stack as host. (The show was revived in 2008 and ran until 2010; Stack, who died in 2003, was replaced by Dennis Farina.) Here are a few things we learned.

1. THE CREATORS KNEW WHAT THEY WERE LOOKING FOR IN AN UNSOLVED MYSTERIES STORY.

Meurer and Cosgrove wrote that they were looking for “a good mix of stories, murders, missing, wanted, paranormal, etc.” when deciding what to put on the show. Beyond that mix, they wanted mysteries that had more than one suspect or theory. Finally, they wrote, “we focused on stories we thought the show might be able to solve.”

2. THEY USED A NEWSPAPER CLIPPING SERVICE TO FIND STORIES.

Though the stories featured on the show came from a variety of sources—“we had viewers who sent in cases, law enforcement would contact us with cases, and we had a team of researchers constantly looking as well,” the duo said—they also used a newspaper clipping service with some grim keywords. “When we were producing the show, the internet didn't exist yet, so we had a newspaper clipping service that would send us articles from around the country keying off of words like ‘murder’ ‘missing’ ‘ufo’ ‘ghost’ etc.,” they wrote.

3. THE CALL CENTER FEATURED IN THE SHOW WAS REAL.

Unsolved Mysteries filmed host Stack in locations all over Los Angeles, including Griffith Park and the Hollywood Dam. Some shots also featured Stack walking through a call center. “That was a real call center with real people!” Meurer and Cosgrove revealed. “Cases actually did get solved during the broadcast of the show.”

4. A FEW CASES NEVER MADE IT ON THE AIR BECAUSE THE SHOW’S RESEARCHERS SOLVED THEM.

“Sometimes when our researchers would start investigating a story, they would solve the case themselves, especially a lost love type story,” the duo wrote. “So those cases were abandoned before they aired.”

5. THEY WERE DUPED BY HOAXSTERS ONCE.

Meurer and Cosgrove wrote that “Our researchers did a great job vetting stories to weed out the ones that seemed suspicious.” But that didn’t mean their process was foolproof; at least one fake story made it past them. “We did a UFO story in which 30 people did drawings that looked like the same UFO, and it was a very convincing argument they made,” Meurer and Cosgrove revealed. “Months later we found out that one of the key proponents had a made a model of the UFO and photographed it against a highway. All those people were fooled by it, and so were we.”

6. SOMEONE SENT THEIR MOTHER’S LUNG TO THE PRODUCERS.

When one Redditor asked for “any funny stories or WTF moments while working on the show,” Meurer and Cosgrove came back with a whopper. “Someone sent their mother's lung to us in the mail. He believed his mother had been murdered, and he wanted us to send the lung out for testing,” they wrote. “On the lighter side, one of our directors was absolutely convinced that they were being haunted during the filming of one of the stories.”

7. A FUGITIVE FROM ONE OF THE CASES WAS ON SET FOR FILMING.

When asked about “creepiest thing that ever happened to you over the course of filming a segment,” Meurer and Cosgrove responded with a story that will send chills down your spine: “There was a case where the wanted fugitive was on the set while we were filming the reenactment and no one knew initially. No one on the crew had seen his photograph yet.”

8. SOMETIMES LAW ENFORCEMENT ASKED THEM TO OMIT DETAILS FROM THE SEGMENTS.

Featuring active investigations on the show sometimes meant that Meurer and Cosgrove couldn’t reveal everything they knew. “Law enforcement would often ask us to hold back clues in a case that they could use to help identify a suspect's innocence or guilt,” they said. And sometimes, in interviews, Meurer and Cosgrove could tell who was lying: “We can't name names, but there were often prime suspects that we interviewed whose interview was in direct contradiction with what witnesses and law enforcement were saying. In many cases the people we interviewed were later convicted.”

9. SELLING THE SHOW TO SPIKE TV MEANT MAKING SOME STYLISTIC CHANGES.

Meurer and Cosgrove rebooted Unsolved Mysteries with host Dennis Farina in 2008. The pair explained that because Spike “appealed to a younger, male audience,” the network “requested a version of the show that might better suit their audience. There was an effort made to try to update the show with more contemporary elements.” That meant new music and high-tech elements like shots of Google Earth. “We were glad to have the opportunity to update the show,” they wrote. “It was sad that Bob had died, but we felt that Dennis would be a good choice. He was a wonderful man to work with.”

10. THEY BECAME CLOSE WITH THE PEOPLE FEATURED ON THE SHOW.

It might seem strange that family members would participate in TV segments about crimes involving their loved ones, but Meurer and Cosgrove pointed out that “when family members participated, it was a cathartic experience for them. And they felt good about doing something active to help solve the case. That was reason enough.”

“We got to know people very well when we did their cases, and we became attached to them,” Cosgrove said. The duo reached out to those featured on the show to update their cases, but that’s not where the contact ends: “I still get a Christmas card from a woman in England who had given up her baby for adoption, and Unsolved Mysteries helped reunite her with her daughter,” Cosgrove wrote.

11. FOR LEGAL REASONS, SOME SEGMENTS HAVE BEEN REMOVED FROM THE SEASONS THAT ARE STREAMING.

“We have a legal staff that keeps track of the cases to make sure that we do not infringe on anyone's rights,” Meurer and Cosgrove explained. “Sometimes a statute of limitations on a case has passed. We always try to be as respectful as we can be to the people who were featured in the segments.”

12. THEY’RE ACTIVELY TRYING TO GET UNSOLVED MYSTERIES BACK ON THE AIR.

“We are in the process of reaching out to networks to see if there is interest in ordering new shows,” Meurer and Cosgrove wrote. “Let's keep our fingers crossed!”

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10 Regional Twists on Trick-or-Treating
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Walk around any given American neighborhood on the night of October 31, and you’ll likely hear choruses of "trick-or-treat" chiming through the area. The sing-songy phrase is synonymous with Halloween in some parts of the world, but it's not the only way kids get sweets from their neighbors this time of year. From the Philippines to the American Midwest, here are some regional door-to-door traditions you may not have heard of.

1. PANGANGALULUWA // THE PHILIPPINES

Rice cakes wrapped in leaves.
Suman

The earliest form of trick-or-treating on Halloween can be traced back to Europe in the Middle Ages. Kids would don costumes and go door-to-door offering prayers for dead relatives in exchange for snacks called "soul cakes." When the cake was eaten, tradition held that a soul was ferried from purgatory into heaven. Souling has disappeared from Ireland and the UK, but a version of it lives on halfway across the world in the Philippines. During All Saints Day on November 1, Filipino children taking part in Pangangaluluwa will visit local houses and sing hymns for alms. The songs often relate to souls in purgatory, and carolers will play the part of the souls by asking for prayers. Kids are sometimes given rice cakes called suman, a callback to the soul cakes from centuries past.

2. PÃO-POR-DEUS // PORTUGAL

Raw dough.
iStock

Instead of trick-or-treating, kids in Portugal go door-to-door saying pão-por-deus ("bread for god") in exchange for goodies on All Saints Day. Some homeowners give out money or candy, while others offer actual baked goods.

3. HALLOWEEN APPLES // WESTERN CANADA

Kids trick-or-treating.
iStock

If they're not calling out "trick-or-treat" on their neighbors’ doorsteps on Halloween night, you may hear children in western Canada saying "Halloween apples!" The phrase is left over from a time when apples were a common Halloween treat and giving out loose items on the holiday wasn't considered taboo.

4. ST. MARTIN'S DAY // THE NETHERLANDS

The Dutch wait several days after Halloween to do their own take on trick-or-treating. On the night of November 11, St. Martin's Day, children in the Netherlands take to the streets with their homemade lanterns in hand. These lanterns were traditionally carved from beets or turnips, but today they’re most commonly made from paper. And the kids who partake don’t get away with shouting a few words at each home they visit—they’re expected to sing songs to receive their sugary rewards.

5. A PENNY FOR THE GUY // THE UK

Guy Fawkes Night celebration.

Peter Trimming, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Guy Fawkes Night is seen by some as the English Protestants’ answer to the Catholic holidays associated with Halloween, so it makes sense that it has its own spin on trick-or-treating. November 5 marks the day of Guy Fawkes’s failed assassination attempt on King James as part of the Gunpowder Plot. To celebrate the occasion, children will tour the neighborhood asking for "a penny for the guy." Sometimes they’ll carry pictures of the would-be-assassin which are burned in the bonfires lit later at night.

6. TRICKS FOR TREATS // ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

Kids knocking on a door in costume.
iStock

If kids in the St. Louis area hope to go home with a full bag of candy on Halloween, they must be willing to tickle some funny bones. Saying "tricks-for-treats" followed by a joke replaces the classic trick-or-treat mantra in this Midwestern city. There’s no criteria for the quality or the subject of the joke, but spooky material (What’s a skeleton’s favorite instrument? The trombone!) earns brownie points.

7. ME DA PARA MI CALAVERITA // MEXICO

Sugar skulls with decoration.
iStock

While Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is completely separate from Halloween, the two holidays share a few things in common. Mexicans celebrate the day by dressing up, eating sweet treats, and in some parts of the country, going house-to-house. Children knocking on doors will say "me da para mi calaverita" or "give me money for my little skull," a reference to the decorated sugar skulls sold in markets at this time of year.

8. HALLOWEEN! // QUEBEC, CANADA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
iStock

Trick-or-treaters like to keep things simple in the Canadian province of Quebec. In place of the alliterative exclamation, they shout “Halloween!” at each home they visit. Adults local to the area might remember saying "la charité s’il-vous-plaît "(French for “charity, please”) when going door-to-door on Halloween, but this saying has largely fallen out of fashion.

9. SWEET OR SOUR // GERMANY

Little girl trick-or-treating.
iStock

Halloween is only just beginning to gain popularity in Germany. Where it is celebrated, the holiday looks a lot like it does in America, but Germans have managed to inject some local character into their version of trick-or-treat. In exchange for candy, kids sometimes sing out "süß oder saures"—or "sweet and sour" in English.

10. TRIQUI, TRIQUI HALLOWEEN // COLOMBIA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
Rubí Flórez, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Kids in Colombia anticipate dressing up and prowling the streets on Halloween just as much as kids do in the States. There are a few significant variations on the annual tradition: Instead of visiting private residencies, they're more likely to ask for candy from store owners and the security guards of apartment buildings. And instead of saying trick-or-treat, they recite this Spanish rhyme:

Triqui triqui Halloween
Quiero dulces para mí
Si no hay dulces para mí
Se le crece la naríz

In short, it means that if the grownups don't give the kids the candy they're asking for, their noses will grow. Tricky, tricky indeed

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11 Thrilling Facts About Dial M for Murder
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Warner Home Video

In 1953 Alfred Hitchcock was looking for a new project after a film he’d been developing fell through. Sensing a need to go back to his safe space of murderous thrillers, he opted to adapt a stage play that had already proved to be a hit on British television. Though he had no particular attachment to the project, Dial M for Murder would ultimately become one of Hitchcock’s best-known—and best-loved—classics.

From the film’s use of 3D to the debut of Grace Kelly in Hitchcock’s filmography to a pivotal murder sequence that made the director lose weight from stress, here are 11 facts about Dial M for Murder.

1. IT’S BASED ON A STAGE PLAY.

Dial M for Murder is, in terms of locations and number of characters, a relatively sparse film that barely leaves its primary set. This is because it was based on a stage play by Frederick Knott, which premiered as a BBC TV special in 1952 and later opened at London’s Westminster Theater and, eventually, Broadway. After seeing the BBC production, producer Sir Alexander Korda purchased the rights to make the film version, and later sold them to Warner Bros. for $75,000.

2. ALFRED HITCHCOCK THOUGHT HE WAS “COASTING” WHEN HE MADE THE FILM.

By 1953, when Dial M for Murder arrived at Warner Bros., Hitchcock was developing a project called The Bramble Bush, the story of a man who steals another man’s passport, only to find out that the original owner is wanted for murder. Hitchcock wrestled with the story for a while, but was never satisfied with it. When Dial M for Murder landed at the studio, Hitchcock knew the play had been a hit, and opted to direct it. As he later told fellow director François Truffaut, he found the film to be “coasting, playing it safe,” as he was already known as a thriller filmmaker.

3. IT’S HITCHCOCK’S ONLY 3D FILM.

In the early 1950s, the 3D movie craze was raging, and Warner Bros. was eager to pair it with the fame of Hitchcock. So, the director was ordered to use the process on Dial M for Murder. This meant Hitchcock had to work with the giant cameras necessary for the process, but there was also a trade-off that makes the film fascinating—even in 2D. In order to make the film look appropriately interesting in 3D, Hitchcock added a pit into the floor of the set, so the camera could move at lower angles and captures objects like lamps in the foreground. As a result, the film looks like no other Hitchcock ever shot, particularly for the infamous scissors murder that’s the film's thrilling centerpiece. Unfortunately, by the time Dial M for Murder was released in 1954, the 3D fad was dying out, so the film was shown in 2D at most screenings.

4. IT WAS HITCHCOCK’S FIRST FILM WITH GRACE KELLY.

Of all of the iconic blonde stars Hitchcock cast in his films, the most famous is almost undoubtedly Grace Kelly, the actress-turned-princess who first joined him for this film. Hitchcock once described Kelly as a "rare thing in movies ... fit for any leading-lady part,” and it was said he had the easiest working relationship with her of any star. They worked so well together that they went on to make two more films, Rear Window in 1954 and To Catch a Thief in 1955.

5. IT TAKES PLACE ALMOST ENTIRELY INDOORS.

Because Dial M for Murder is based on a stage play, the original script had very little in the way of outdoor set pieces. Hitchcock wanted to keep it that way, as he later explained to Truffaut:

“I’ve got a theory on the way they make pictures based on stage plays; they did it with silent pictures, too. Many filmmakers would take a stage play and say, ‘I’m going to make this into a film.’ Then they would begin to ‘open it up.’ In other words, on the stage it was all confined to one set, and the idea was to do something that would take it away from the confined stage setting.”

Hitchcock wanted to keep the confinement intact, so almost all of the action in the film takes place indoors, largely in the Wendices' apartment. This adds to the intimacy and tension.

6. HITCHCOCK PERSONALLY CHOSE EVERY PROP.

Hitchcock was always known as a meticulous director obsessed with detail, but on Dial M for Murder he was particularly detail-oriented, in part because the 3D cameras were going to capture objects in a way his other films hadn’t. As a result, he selected all of the objects in the Wendice apartment himself, and even had a giant false telephone dial made for the famous “M” close-up in the title sequence.

7. KELLY’S WARDROBE GROWS DARKER ON PURPOSE.

Grace Kelly in 'Dial M for Murder' (1954)
Warner Home Video

Hitchcock’s exacting eye also led to an elaborate “color experiment” to portray the psychological condition of Kelly’s character. As the film begins, the colors she wears are all very bright, suggesting a happy life in which she doesn’t suspect anything is wrong. As the film grows darker for her, to the point that she’s framed for murder, the wardrobe grows darker and “more somber,” as Hitchcock put it.

8. KELLY WON A PARTICULAR WARDROBE ARGUMENT.

For the scene in which Swann (Anthony Dawson) attempts to murder Margot (Kelly) by strangling her (until she manages to stab him with a pair of scissors), Hitchcock had another exacting wardrobe request. He had an elegant velvet robe made for Kelly, hoping to create interesting textural effects as the lights and shadows played off the fabric while she fought for her life. Kelly reasoned that, since Margot was alone in the apartment (as far as she knew) and was only getting out of bed to answer the phone, she wouldn’t bother to put on a robe.

“I said I wouldn't put on anything at all, that I'd just get up and go to the phone in my nightgown. And [Hitchcock] admitted that was better, and that's the way it was done,” Kelly later recalled.

9. HITCHCOCK WAS SO NERVOUS ABOUT THE PIVOTAL SCENE THAT HE LOST WEIGHT.

Dial M for Murder was shot in just 36 days, but the director took special care with one scene in particular: the murder sequence in which Margot stabs Swann with the scissors. Not only was it a key scene in the film, but it was also a moment that required particular care to make the 3D effects work. Hitchcock agonized over the scene to such a degree that he apparently lost 20 pounds during filming.

"This is nicely done but there wasn't enough gleam to the scissors, and a murder without gleaming scissors is like asparagus without the hollandaise sauce—tasteless,” he reportedly said after one take.

10. HITCHCOCK MAKES HIS CAMEO IN A PHOTOGRAPH.

Hitchcock became known throughout his career for making cameos in his films, ranging from the very subtle (you can see his silhouette in neon outside the window in Rope) to the more elaborate (missing the bus in the opening sequence of North by Northwest). In Dial M for Murder, his cameo falls somewhere in between. He appears in a class reunion photo in the Wendice apartment, seated at a banquet table among other men.

11. IT’S BEEN REMADE FOUR TIMES.

Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow in 'A Perfect Murder' (1998)
Warner Bros.

Dial M for Murder was a film adaptation of a stage play that had also already been adapted for television in Britain, and it proved popular enough that four more adaptations followed. In 1958, NBC broadcast a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, in which both Anthony Dawson and John Williams returned to play Swann and Chief Inspector Hubbard, respectively. A 1967 ABC television production of the play co-starred Laurence Harvey and Diane Cilento. A television movie starring Angie Dickinson and Christopher Plummer was produced in 1981, and in 1998 the play served as the inspiration for the film A Perfect Murder, starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow.

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