Ever since it first aired back in 1987, Unsolved Mysteries has become a staple for fans of true crime and the paranormal. Though the show has had a bumpy ride at times—it was cancelled in 1999, and again in 2002 and 2010—it never failed to deliver on the haunting, unsolved cases that fans love and expect. In very exciting news, Netflix decided to pick up a 12-part reboot of the series. The 15th season of Unsolved Mysteries premiered on July 1, 2020, with the second volume of the reboot dropping in October.
With well over 500 episodes in the long-running series available for streaming, there’s plenty of binging material for the seasoned viewer. But if you’ve already torn through the entire show, plus the Netflix reboot, what’s a dedicated fan to do?
Not to worry. There are plenty of other programs out there that emulate the seminal show’s haunting tone and habit of getting straight to the point, without sugarcoating the facts. Some focus on true crime, as many episodes of Unsolved Mysteries did, while others venture more into paranormal territory, dealing with hauntings, UFOs, cryptozoology, and other esoteric subjects.
So what ties all of these series together? A fascination with the unknown and a desire to take viewers to a dimension, to borrow a phrase from The Twilight Zone, “not only of sight and sound but of mind.” These shows like Unsolved Mysteries will leave you watching long into the night. Most importantly, they’ll satisfy your curiosity about the unexplained phenomena that might be happening in your own backyard.
Drawn to the small coal mining town of Hellier, Kentucky by reports of hobgoblins and a plea for help, a group of paranormal investigators search for the secrets behind a string of strange synchronicities in and around the town in this docu-series that was first released on YouTube in January of 2019. Since then, more than a million people have been drawn into the mystery of Hellier, Kentucky. The show launched a second season, this time on Amazon Prime Video, in November of 2019.
Though Mindhunter is a drama series that employs actors, it actually dramatizes real FBI agents and serial killer cases, showcasing the early days of behavioral psychology and criminal profiling. And since the show is set in 1977 through 1981, you’ll get your realistic period fix with that glorious ‘80s Unsolved Mysteries feel. Not to mention that David Fincher executive produces and directs several episodes, and there are few filmmakers who do true crime on celluloid with more gritty atmosphere than he does.
Hosted by Christopher Walker, Disappeared follows a similar format to Unsolved Mysteries, featuring interviews and reenactments of real missing persons cases. As any aficionado of true crime can tell you, a dead body is one thing, but a disappearance is a mystery of a whole other order. By focusing exclusively on these eerie and heartbreaking cases, Disappeared gives you a big dose of the same nagging puzzlement that fans of Unsolved Mysteries can’t resist exploring.
These days, the role that Unsolved Mysteries once filled in the entertainment landscape has largely been replaced with scary podcasts. And one of the most popular is Aaron Mahnke’s Lore podcast, which explores nonfiction scary stories. In fact, it’s so popular that it gave rise to its own Amazon Prime Video original series, which follows the podcast’s anthology format. The Amazon series keeps Mahnke on as narrator to discuss horror stories and their real-life origins.
Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction (1997-2002)
Hosted by none other than James Brolin in its 1997 original season, and by Star Trek: The Next Generation’s own Jonathan Frakes thereafter, Beyond Belief was one of the many, many Unsolved Mysteries-esque shows that dominated the airwaves for a time. Its particular gimmick was that each episode was presented as factual at the start, with the audience invited to guess which tales were actually true and which ones were imagined. At the end, the answers were revealed, making for a particularly engaging watch and a reminder that truth is often stranger than fiction.
Tiger King (2020)
You probably don’t need us to tell you to watch Tiger King. Released just as the COVID-19 pandemic was getting underway, the Netflix series was watched by over 30 million people within 10 days of its release, making it one of the streaming service’s most popular shows of all time. If you haven’t already checked out this twisty docu-series about a murder-for-hire plot among a rogue’s gallery of larger-than-life figures in the world of private zoos and big cat ownership, you’ll definitely want to get on board before the rumored TV series version starring Nicolas Cage hits screens.
Most Haunted (2002-2019)
Now there are scores of ghost hunting TV shows, but Most Haunted was one of the earliest and most popular forays into the genre. The British docu-series ran for 24 seasons and nearly 300 episodes, following paranormal researchers as they investigate purportedly haunted locations all over the world. The long-running series covered hauntings in Romania, Italy, the United States, and the Czech Republic, to name just a few. Although the last episode of the original series aired in 2019, the show is still active on YouTube, where bonus content continues to be released.
Frank Olson was a scientist who was unknowingly dosed with LSD as part of the CIA’s Project MKUltra, and plunged to his death from a hotel window just days later. For years, the government claimed that his death was a suicide, and later admitted that it was probably an accident. His son believes that he was murdered. What a perfect subject for an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, right? Well, while the show may never have covered Frank Olson’s death, documentarian Errol Morris did in this 2017 Netflix docu-series, which switches between historical reenactments of Olson’s final moments in 1953 (with Peter Sarsgaard portraying Olson) and contemporary interviews with Olson’s son.
Buzzfeed Unsolved (2016-)
Web series Buzzfeed Unsolved stars co-hosts Ryan Bergera and Shane Madej, who discuss true crimes, alleged hauntings, and bits of weird history. Bergera spins wild conspiracy theories, while Madej remains a staunch skeptic. This Mulder/Scully chemistry has helped to make the series a hit for Buzzfeed, and should also help you scratch your Unsolved Mysteries itch.
Forensic Files (1996-2011)
This long-running American docu-series clocked nearly as many episodes as Unsolved Mysteries in its day. The show focuses on how forensic science can be used to solve previously unsolvable crimes, identify the cause of mysterious accidents, and even track outbreaks of illness. While most episodes revolve around solving crimes, not every episode is necessarily about catching a killer. In fact, several have focused on using forensic evidence to exonerate individuals who were wrongly convicted. Forensic Files originally aired from 1996 to 2011, and is currently enjoying a revival, called Forensic Files II.
Ultra Q (1966)
And now for something completely different! Well, okay, maybe not completely. This 1966 Japanese series from Godzilla co-creator Eiji Tsuburaya may have more in common with The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, and is perhaps best known in the West as the springboard for Ultraman. However, its stories of regular folks investigating strange and unexplained happenings have more than a little of Unsolved Mysteries in their DNA, as well. Unsolved Mysteries may never have had this many “kaiju” (giant monsters), but is more kaiju really ever a bad thing?
Featured still from "Unsolved Mysteries" via Lifetime Television