Unsolved Mysteries has made its triumphant return to television courtesy of Netflix and turned a whole new generation of viewers into amateur detectives in doing so.
The series presents a variety of unsolved criminal cases, from missing persons to murders, in a bid to track down people who may have crucial information that could finally get answers for those affected.
While it’s too early to tell whether the mysteries featured in the most recent season will be answered, producers are still seeing results from episodes aired decades ago.
Executive producer of Unsolved Mysteries Terry Dunn Meurer told Variety that a 30-year-old case is likely to be officially closed “in the next month or two,” with the help of an old episode of Unsolved Mysteries.
“There was a young man who committed suicide in a church in Idaho,” Meurer said. “He’s been a John Doe for 30 years. And the investigator in this police department of relatively new investigators decided he wanted to try and solve this case.
“My understanding is he went to the file, which was in a box, and the only thing that was in the box was a VHS copy of Unsolved Mysteries. He reached out to us and said, ‘Do you have anything? Do you have the note this man left behind? Do you have any of the details from the case?’
“And we actually had it, which was surprising to me after all these years. We gave him the information we had, and this investigator has been working on it. He just recently, in the last couple of weeks, reached out and said, ‘I think that we might have figured out who this man is.'”
But that’s not the only instance of Unsolved Mysteries reaping tangible benefits, as RadioTimes.com rounds up some of the other cases that have actually been closed by the programme.
The ‘Skeleton in a Box’ case
When an unnamed man left the town of Thermopolis, Wyoming, there was one thing he abandoned with a friend: a trunk with a lock on it, that was later revealed to have a human skeleton inside.
The man who the case belonged to took his own life not long after, meaning the identity of the remains was a complete mystery to police.
The macabre incident was featured on Unsolved Mysteries in 1993 and among the many viewer tips that came in, there was a woman who claimed her father was killed by her uncle in 1960.
She alleged that he then locked disposed of the body in a trunk exactly like that which was featured on the programme, providing a DNA test to back up her story.
The sample was indeed a match, identify the victim as one Joseph Mulvaney, born in 1923.
The children stolen by Georgia Tann
Stealing somebody’s child away from them must be one of the most heartless things a person can do, yet Georgia Tann did exactly that from the 1920s up to the 1940s.
She used her considerable resources to snatch children from low income families and unwed mothers, before selling them onto wealthy couples for a $750 adoption fee.
Tann was allowed to continue these unspeakable crimes for so long using her position as county director of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, as well as by paying off a number of judges.
Within eight months of Unsolved Mysteries revealing this shocking story, 50 victims of Tann’s actions were discovered and informed of their true heritage.
One such case was Alma Sipple, whose daughter, Irma, was taken by Tann under the pretence of a brief hospital check-up, but never saw her again for decades.
That is, until she learned the facts behind her tragedy from Unsolved Mysteries and was reunited with her now-adult daughter, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.
The woman who forgot who she was
In 1995, an episode of Unsolved Mysteries presented the story of “Gigi,” a woman with amnesia and absolutely no idea of her true identity.
Within a week of the programme’s broadcast, one of her colleagues called the show and identified her as a 31-year-old medical secretary named Belinda Lin, as reported by the Associated Press.
Yet this revelation was not the cause for celebration you might expect, as Lin did not regain any of her memories and felt no desire to return to her old life, insisting that people still refer to her as Gigi.
Lin’s parents told the press that she had been diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 18, but had not taken medication for the disorder for many years.
Her father told The Times-Picayune newspaper: “I’m not going to spend the money to go down there if she does not remember us. She is of legal age, and I don’t know if I want to bring her home when there are such emotional problems.”
Wrongful infanticide conviction
In 1989, the infant son of Patricia Stallings died shortly after high levels of ethylene glycol, a chemical typically found in antifreeze, were found in his bloodstream.
Doctors suspected he could have been poisoned and placed Patricia’s second son into protective custody the moment he was born, but still the exact same symptoms presented themselves.
The second-born was diagnosed with methylamalonic academia, an unusual condition which mimics ethylene glycol poisoning, but Patricia was sentenced to life in prison regardless.
However, when her story was featured on Unsolved Mysteries, it got the attention of a biochemist named William Sly, who was able to confirm that her first child has suffered from the same illness.
As a result, it emerged that the baby’s death had not been murder, but rather the tragic effects of a genetic disorder, clearing Patricia’s name and allowing her to be reunited with her surviving son.
A family reunited
In 1953, Eleanor Wozniak and John Elias fell in love and conceived a child, which should have been a cause for celebration.
However, due to the terrible racist attitudes of the time, Eleanor’s family were furious that she was pregnant with a black man’s child, ultimately threatening John out of her life and putting the baby up for adoption.
They reunited many years later wishing to find out who their child, Rose Marie, had grown into, getting in touch with Unsolved Mysteries in the hope of launching an appeal to find her.
The episode was seen by a friend of Rose Marie’s adoptive mother, who helped put the couple in touch with their now-37-year-old daughter.
The Unsolved Mysteries reboot is available to stream on Netflix – here’s how to watch the original Unsolved Mysteries. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our guide to the best TV series on Netflix and best movies on Netflix, or visit our TV Guide.