Those of us who are a certain age probably remember watching Unsolved Mysteries growing up. With its eerie reenactments, foreboding tone, and creepypasta-before-creepypasta sense of witnessing something real, it was often scarier than most of the horror TV that we had access to back in the day. Plus, because the mysteries were unsolved, that meant they were still going on—the killer might still be out there, the missing person might still be missing, that thing in the sky might really have been a UFO.
Thankfully, over the years, some of the show's mysteries have since been solved. Here are nine of the eeriest, most haunting, and most bizarre cases from Unsolved Mysteries that have since been solved, though sometimes those solutions leave behind more questions than answers…
Joseph Mulvaney: The Mystery of the Skeleton in the Box
When Newell Sessions’ friend moved away from Thermopolis, Wyoming, he left some stuff with Newell, including an old army footlocker. The trunk was locked, and Newell left it alone for six years before finally opening it to see what was inside. He was surprised to find a human skeleton.
Newell contacted his friend, who claimed to have bought the trunk at a yard sale and never opened it himself. Newell called the sheriff, who examined the bones and found a bullet lodged in the skull, evidence that he was looking at the remains of a murder victim. Questions arose: Who was the person in the trunk? Who murdered this person, and why?
Originally featured on a 1993 season five episode of Unsolved Mysteries, this strange case wasn’t solved until 2017. It was at this time that the remains were identified thanks to a woman who believed the skeleton might belong to her deceased grandfather, Joseph Mulvaney. The woman claimed that Mulvaney was murdered by his brother in Iowa and his body was then buried in a trunk. Forensic experts conducted tests, comparing the DNA samples from the skeleton with the DNA samples from the tipster's mother. Their tests resulted in a 99.99% match, proving that the skeleton likely belonged to her murdered family member.
Patricia Stallings and the Murder That Wasn’t
In 1989, three-month-old Ryan Stallings died of what appeared to be ethylene glycol poisoning—the main ingredient in antifreeze. His mother, Patricia, was arrested for his murder. At the time of her arrest, she was pregnant with her second child, who was born in February of 1990.
David Stallings Jr., as the baby was named, was placed in protective custody immediately after his birth, yet tests also found high levels of ethylene glycol in his blood, even though he’d had no contact with Patricia after his birth—the result of a rare genetic disorder called methylmalonic academia (MMA) that mimics the effects of ethylene glycol poisoning.
In spite of this, Patricia was still found guilty of the murder of her first child, and it wasn’t until the story was originally featured on a 1991 season three episode of Unsolved Mysteries that a biochemist and molecular biologist at St. Louis University performed additional tests on Ryan’s blood and found that he had died of MMA, not poison. Patricia was cleared and released from prison, and David was reunited with his parents in a fairly rare happy ending.
The Tragic End of Susan Bachman
Unsolved Mysteries ran for 14 seasons across multiple networks, but by the time Susan Bachman disappeared in 2014, the show was off the air. It was still uploading new mysteries to its website, however, which featured her story.
Suffering from anxiety and depression, Bachman agreed to voluntary committal at a psychiatric facility in Pennsylvania. On the way there, however, the 37-year-old jumped from her parents’ moving car while it was traveling at around 50 miles-per-hour. After tumbling off to the side of the road, witnesses saw her flee into the surrounding woods.
The police brought in a search-and-rescue team that failed to locate Bachman. They did, however, find her wallet and phone in an abandoned barn. It wasn’t until March of the following year that police found her purse and clothes in the woods where she was last seen—and then searched the woods with cadaver dogs, where they found her skull. The coroner ruled that her death was likely the result of injuries she sustained when she jumped out of the moving vehicle.
Michael Henley Jr.: Who Is the Boy in the Photograph?
In 1988, nine-year-old Michael Henley Jr. went camping with his father and a family friend in New Mexico. Just twenty minutes after they arrived at the campsite, however, he disappeared. A year later, his case was originally featured on a 1989 season two episode of Unsolved Mysteries.
In June of 1989, a woman in Port Saint Joe, Florida noticed a white van parked next to her car as she went to the store. When she came back, she found a photograph where the van had been, showing a young woman and a boy, bound with tape over their mouths. The young woman was identified as 19-year-old Tara Calico, and Michael Henley’s parents thought the boy might have been him.
In June of 1990, however, human remains were found just a few miles from the campsite where Michael had disappeared. Dental records confirmed that the remains belonged to the young boy, and medical examiners determined that he likely died of hypothermia. The whereabouts of Tara Calico and the real identity of the boy in the photograph remain unknown to this day.
Kari Lynn Nixon: A Face in the Crowd
16-year-old Kari Lynn Nixon disappeared in her own neighborhood, on her way home from getting groceries. She disappeared in 1987, and her case first appeared on a 1989 season one episode of Unsolved Mysteries—it was also featured in the TV series Nightmare Next Door.
In 1991, Kari’s mother saw a young woman that she thought was her daughter in, of all places, a New Kids on the Block music video. The video featured concert footage that had been taken in 1989, and Mrs. Nixon was sure that her daughter was in it. The New Kids on the Block even got involved, personally asking the young woman in the video to come forward.
Unfortunately, the story ends in tragedy. The woman in the video did come forward, but it wasn’t Kari Lynn Nixon. In fact, Nixon’s remains were found in a shallow grave just a few miles from her home. It turns out that she was abducted, raped, and murdered by Robert Jones, who confessed to the crime as part of a plea deal in 1994 in order to get a reduced sentence for his wife, who had driven the getaway car in a bank robbery that Jones had committed.
KROQ Murder Hoax: Confess Your Crimes
Kevin Ryder and Gene "Bean" Baxter were two morning DJs at a Los Angeles radio station who hosted a morning show called “Confess Your Crimes.” The idea was to call in and confess the bad things you’d done—like cleaning the toilet with your roommate’s toothbrush.
In 1990, however, Kevin and Bean got more than they bargained for: a rambling confession of murder. The case twice made its way onto Unsolved Mysteries, the followup update aired during a 1991 season three episode. The LA police were inundated with tips—according to the Los Angeles Times, police spent weeks sorting through as many as 400 leads, including calls from the families of missing persons.
There was only one problem—the murder wasn’t real. An internal investigation by the radio station found that the two DJs had faked the call with the help of a colleague from another state as part of a publicity stunt for the morning show. The two DJs were ultimately fined $12,170 for the hoax.
Rod Ferrell and Scott Anderson: The Case of the Vampire Cult
By the time the murders of Naomi Ruth Queen and Richard Wendorf was originally covered on a 1997 season nine episode of Unsolved Mysteries, the case was already all-but solved. Just weeks after the brutal murders, 16-year-olds Rod Ferrell and Scott Anderson were arrested in Louisiana, along with the Wendorf’s 15-year-old daughter, Heather, and two other members of their “vampire clan.”
The kids met in an abandoned building on the outskirts of town that they called the “Vampire Hotel,” which one local sheriff referred to as a “chilling place.” There, they drank one another’s blood and engaged in “vampire rituals.”
Police were already investigating the “clan” before the murders, after Ferrell broke into a nearby dog rescue shelter and attacked more than fifty animals, killing two outright and ripping the hind legs off a third that was later put to sleep. Shortly after the case was featured on Unsolved Mysteries, Ferrell confessed to breaking into the Wendorf home and bludgeoning his victims “to pulp” with a metal bar.
He said that he did it because Heather Wendorf hated her parents and wanted them dead, a claim that she later assiduously denied. Heather was ultimately cleared of wrongdoing in the case, but Ferrell—who had once racked up a $30 late fee for keeping Interview with the Vampire out from the video store for two weeks—became the youngest person on death row. His sentence was later commuted to life in prison.
Monika Rizzo and the Chilling Case of the Backyard Bones
This chilling case, which was originally covered in a late-1997 season 10 episode of the show, remains only partially solved. On May 5, 1997, forty-year-old Monika Rizzo left her job in San Antonio, Texas with no explanation, leaving behind her purse. She never returned. A week later, her boss called her at home, and she said that she had been sick and would be out for the rest of the week.
It wasn’t until June 5 that the police received an anonymous phone call claiming that Monika had been murdered and that her bones were in the backyard of her house. The police went to investigate, interviewed Monika’s husband, Leonard, but found no sign of Monika at the property.
One month later, the anonymous tipster called again. Working from this second call, police found a skull and a bag containing human flesh. A team of archaeologists were brought in to excavate the backyard, and what they found was terrifying. The yard was littered with fragments of human bone, most of them less than three inches long.
DNA testing later revealed that the bone fragments—which authorities believed must have been fed through a wood chipper—belonged to Monika, but Leonard maintained his innocence and authorities lacked sufficient evidence to convict.
A couple of years later, Leonard was arrested for attacking his girlfriend at the time and was shot and injured by police following a standoff. His girlfriend said that he had threatened to kill her and “chop her up.”
Brook Baker: A Running Faucet
When 19-year-old Brook Baker was found raped and stabbed to death in her off-campus apartment in 1997, one detail stuck out to investigators—the bathtub faucet had been left running. The case was originally featured on a 1999 season 11 episode of Unsolved Mysteries (though it's listed on Amazon under season 10), where several theories were put forth.
Baker, a journalism major, had been running a piece about a date rape that had occurred at a frat house, and had received threats from members of the fraternity. She had also reported that her landlord would enter her room without permission.
The mystery was solved in 1999, when Erika Norman, another student at the same college, went missing. Investigators found a crime scene almost identical to the one in Baker’s apartment—complete with running faucet—but no body. When the police arrested Brian Jones, who had been the last person seen with Norman when she was alive, his DNA matched semen taken from Baker’s body. Once police found Norman’s body as well, Jones confessed to both crimes in a plea deal to avoid the death penalty.
Featured photo of 'Unsolved Mysteries' via Cosgrove/Meurer Productions