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!