Unsolved Mysteries


tuesday tv

Prior to the 1990’s, if you were curious about reading up on a subject, you had to go look it up in your Funk & Wagnalls… or if you were one of those poor families who couldn’t afford a set of encyclopedias, and you didn’t mind the other kids thinking you were a nerd, there was always the library.  Learning about the world around us wasn’t as instantaneous as it is now thanks to Google and Wikipedia, but if we had the time to do a little digging, we could find out all kinds of interesting things on just about anything.


Check this out, Sully! Did you know librarians are all descended from the witches of Salem?

But if your family was really cool, you had access to the most awesome reference series out there.  No, I’m not talking about Disney’s Wonderful World of Knowledge yearly editions, I’m talking about Time/Life books!  They had a series on the Civil War, a set of Home Repair and Improvement books (shilled by the legendary Bob Vila!  Track lighting!!!), and of course, the crown jewel of them all was the late 80’s series Mysteries of the Unknown!

Twenty volumes in all... just to show you how much shit out there was still unknown to us in the 80's.

Twenty volumes in all… just to show you how much shit out there was still unknown to us in the 80’s.

This is the second post in a row that owes a debt of inspiration to Alice at Wonderland, as she mentioned the old series in a post last week.  And now, here is the first of several 120 second spots Time-Life ran for this intriguing series…

Gotta love the fascinating examples they use in this ad…

Chicago.  A man is about to get on a routine flight.  Suddenly he pauses.  He doesn’t know why, but he’s got to walk away.  An hour later, the plane goes down in flames.  It’s dismissed as CHANCE.

tsa patdown

I’d walk away from the TSA screenings too.

You can tell this was pre-9/11, because nowadays, that guy’s hunted down by the CIA and sent to Guantanamo Bay for “questioning” before he even has a chance to explain that he only had a psychic vision.  Oh, and thanks for sharing it with all of the other passengers at the gate there.  Their next of kin are eternally grateful that you only saved yourself…

Britain.  A woman has a sudden image of a black mountain that’s moving with children trapped underneath it.  Two hours later, a Welsh schoolhouse is buried under an avalanche of coal slag.  It’s dismissed as COINCIDENCE.

Lucy in the skyyyy with mountains.

Lucy in the skyyyy with mountains.

I’ve had some weird dreams before, but kiddie crushing mountains in motion?  This should have been dismissed as a bad acid trip…

Northern Texas.  An unidentified flying object is reported by at least a dozen people.  Although there were no storms in the area, it was dismissed as LIGHTNING.


Heat lightning!

Thanks to shows like “Unsolved Mysteries” and “Sightings” that were popular around this time, stories about UFO’s that everyone but the sheriff saw were a dime a dozen.  And the excuse was always something shitty like airplanes, mass hysteria, a weather balloon on fire, or my favorite “ball lightning”.  Ball lightning was the scientist’s equivalent of your mother’s “Because I said so!” or for those of you familiar with internet forums, Godwin’s Law.  It was the end all, stop the discussion, STFU answer.

The Midwest.  A mother feels a sharp pain in her right hand.  Far away at that exact same moment, her daughter screams as she touches a hot pan.  Just chance?

No, Community Chest.

No, Community Chest.

This one was so mundane and unextraordinary that even the experts didn’t bother to dismiss it as anything, so the narrator had to throw in his own rhetorical question at the end.  I’m only 38, but I feel sharp pains in many places quite often for no apparent reason other than I have the spine of a 58 year old.  We’re not going to bother wondering about the exact timing of the alleged shared psychic pain, but I’ll be the expert here and and help make a ruling on this case…


Stonehenge.  A visitor fashions a wire antenna in the shape of an ancient Egyptian symbol.  He points it at the stones, and a surge of power rushes through his arms, knocking him unconscious.  Was it all in his mind, or was it much more than that (Dismissed as IMAGINATION).

Two words for this one…



The only real mystery about this commercial is where in the hell Judy the Time Life Operator was.  Was she abducted by aliens?  Or electrocuted by throwing spare change at Mount Rushmore?  Was she on that flight the selfish bastard let everyone die on?

Well, that explains it...

Well, that explains it…

As great as this commercial was, Time-Life went to a whole new concept when the wonderful year of 1990 rolled around.  They brought in some dude named Ben Randall to push the Mysteries of the Unknown series.  Here’s Ben’s finest work, and the Mysteries of the Unknown commercial I remember best…

Ben Randall is that annoying guy you’ll run into from time to time who is far more intrigued by what’s going on than you’ll ever be… and the last thing you want to do is get him wound up or pretend to be interested in what he’s saying, because he’s going to educate you on his pointless knowledge far more than you ever intended to be.

Let me tell you about ancient squirrel drawings!  These were found on the wall of a cave near Lake Titicaca in... what are you doing with that gun, ma'am?

Let me tell you about ancient squirrel drawings! These were found on the wall of a cave near Lake Titicaca in… what are you doing with that gun, ma’am?

Whether you’re curious about aliens, ancient beliefs, ESP, or why Twinkies aren’t of this earth, there’s a book in Time-Life’s Mysteries of the Unknown series just for you!  While you can no longer order it with your major credit card via an 800 number (i.e., the online shopping of the 80’s), if you look around Ebay and such places, you can surely find a set somebody is willing to part with after they experienced one too many scary dream of 50 foot possums stomping on cars along country roads.  While we here at The Nest believe in the power of Rainbow Donkeys and talking squirrels, we do have a firm grip on science and probability, and do hereby render our verdict on all such phenomena….

I'll bet you knew I was going to say this...

I’ll bet you knew I was going to say this…


About evilsquirrel13

Bored former 30-something who has nothing better to do with his life than draw cartoon squirrels.
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17 Responses to Unsolved Mysteries

  1. merbear74 says:

    Opps we did it again…

  2. PigLove says:

    Snorts – oh this brings back so many memories for mommy. She laughed and said that she believes she has some of the books boxed up in the garage of the unknown – snorts. Yep, she is a fan of the unknown and mysteries of the dark. XOXO – Bacon

  3. I remember a parody of that commercial where the woman touches a hot pan and the daughter feels pain, so she touches it again, and again . . . hahaha. That would be pretty sweet, saying you disliked the person with the psychic link. I have to wait till I get home to watch those videos. Can’t wait.

  4. normalfornorfolkblog says:

    I am Ben Randell…….

  5. The Cutter says:

    I tried to get my mother to order these books, and she refused. I eventually ended up reading them at the library. Naturally, I spent a decent amount of time after that trying to perfect my psychic abilities. I was unsuccessful.

  6. reocochran says:

    As always a riot! But I wanted to agree on the more serious subject, I always like those Time/Life books along with the Encyclopedias, especially World Book. My parents like the Brittanica. take care, robin thanks for liking my stories…

  7. gentlestitches says:

    When I was 15, I very excitedly took some ESP tests with my friends. We failed them all. Not one of us could make a pencil move with our mind! We went back to obsessing about boys. More fun and more predictable. 🙂

  8. Lynda says:

    Hm, I have my own unsolved mystery involving a Time-Life book. When we first got married we had the complete set of the Time-Life Planet Earth, and because we were afraid someone would break into our shabby little apartment and steal it… we hid our mint condition silver certificate dollar bill inside the book on gemstones from the set…

    Several years later, forgetting about the Silver Certificate, I took the book to school to let another teacher there borrow it, and WoW! It’s a mystery for sure: “Where did that mint condition silver certificate get off to?” 😉

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