Traumafession:: Jose Cruz on Unsolved Mysteries

When I was in the heart of my youth, I was fascinated by Unsolved Mysteries. Afternoons would never be complete without hearing that iconic theme play on the TV, soon followed by Robert Stack’s deep, grave voice informing us of the latest case that had come his way. The show served as a sort of gateway into the strange and bizarre that I loved so much, but the dark allure of Unsolved Mysteries was that all the stories were true. They had happened in real places and to real people. Was that even possible? Could such things as alien abductions and hauntings really happen to people?

Well, according to Robert Stack, yeah, they could.

Those segments concerning said abductions and hauntings traumatized me plenty. The idea of being snatched away from this world, suddenly and inexplicably, to be studied and examined by cold, calculating hands was very scary for a kid. And the ghost stuff? Fuggedaboutit. I did and still am immensely disturbed by the notion that people who die can have the power to come back for… whatever reason. There was one segment in particular that burned its way into my memory and still stirs a shiver out of me when I think about it.

It was “The Devil’s Backbone” story, and I will always see that dreadful apparition as I did that day from behind a shaking pillow. It was that damn cloaked monk-figure, standing outside a window, looking in at the occupant, at ME, with eyes of ice. And worst of all, there was this horrible scream, one that sounded like pure torture, the torture I would surely face if the ghost monk laid his dead hands on me. It was absolutely horrifying, and I’ve never forgotten it.

But it wasn’t the worst part.

The real bad stuff was saved for the homicide and disappearance segments. There was no story or case in particular that clung to my mind. What was so terrifying to me at the time (and still now) were the pictures they showed of the victims. Smiling, cheerful portraits of mothers, of children at baseball games, old men who had been peacefully living in their Florida homes until they (suddenly and inexplicably) disappeared. Or were murdered, their bodies found in river banks, in the desert, or in their beds. Those pictures held so much terror for me… knowing that these people had been taken out of existence was my first introduction into just what a strange and bizarre world this really was.

There was a story I read in a childrens’ book about scary legends that was about a nasty woman who, as a punishment by God, was swallowed up by the earth, never to be seen again. That’s why those pictures were so disturbing to me. They were of happy and loving people… swallowed up by the earth.

UNK SEZ: Thanks for this haunting traumafession Jose! Folks you can unearth more of Jose at his main hangout MEPHISTO’S CASTLE!

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michael (@michael)
9 years ago

One of my favorite things about Unsolved Mysteries is that they’re still running the old show and they’re still giving updates on the stories. But now they’re so old you’ll be watching a story thinking, “Boy, I hope they caught this guy” and the update will say, “This guy was caught, tried, convicted, served his sentence and is now free.” Great.

Harry (@harry)
9 years ago

Oh man, Jose. You’ve brought up some good memories for me. I’m a huge fan of Unsolved Mysteries, from way back; in fact, when I first saw the original TV version of ‘A Haunting in Connecticut’, the main reason it appealed to me was because it was a feature-length supernatural program done in the Unsolved Mysteries format. Good stuff.

Your whole point about horrible things happening to ordinary people resonates with me too; that’s something I always find intensely disturbing. (For example, as much as I liked ‘The Descent’ in general, the hardest part for me to watch was the prologue, where everything goes from idyllic to tragic in the space of minutes. The rest of it was sort of– pardon the pun– downhill for me after that.)

Wow, I really want to spend my Sunday watching an Unsolved Mysteries marathon now. Thanks for annihilating what little motivation I had to accomplish anything worthwhile today…

I haven’t read your blog yet, Jose, but I’ll be following it now!

Chuckles72 (@chuckles72)
9 years ago

@Jose –

“Unsolved Mysteries” had some pretty good ghostly tales – I recall the “Devil’s Backbone” story well but, IMHO, none surpassed the “Tallman’s Ghost” episode for sheer horror. The “Devil’s Backbone” ghosts are like Casper compared to the flaming demons of “Tallman’s Ghost”. I think that I was in high school when I saw the “Tallman’s Ghost” episode and it still gave me the chills. I have heard other people say that it was the scariest thing on “Unsolved Mysteries”, so I’m not alone. Check it out:

Harry (@harry)
9 years ago

(Update: Just hearing Robert Stack’s voice is giving me chills. This does not bode well for productivity today.)

Taylor (@joshacid37)
9 years ago

I always stop on Unsolved Mysteries when I’m flipping through channels, but I always move on to something else whenever I hear Dennis Farina’s voice rather than Robert Stack’s. Nothing against Farina, it’s just that Robert Stack IS Unsolved Mysteries.

Nathan (@nathan)
9 years ago

Bonus points for the DeFeo family snapshot.

Sarah Jane Young
Sarah Jane Young (@fb100001041567253)
9 years ago

The heck you guys have to remind me of this…

The Devil’s Backbone

Not as pants soilingly scary as when I was nine but still….shiver.