Illustration by Ellen Budell of the Netflix show Unsolved Mysteries
"Unsolved Mysteries" is a guilty pleasure that inspires action. (Illustration by Ellen Budell, Benedictine College)

‘Unsolved Mysteries’ Proves That the Allure Of Unsolved Crime Is Timeless

Netflix’s recent reboot taps into people’s fascination with unresolved cases in the hopes of getting justice for victims and their families.

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Illustration by Ellen Budell of the Netflix show Unsolved Mysteries

Netflix’s recent reboot taps into people’s fascination with unresolved cases in the hopes of getting justice for victims and their families.

No matter the time or place, one thing is certain: People are fascinated by unsolved crime.

Netflix’s recent reboot of “Unsolved Mysteries” is perfect for a true crime-obsessed era. Despite having first premiered in 1987, the premise of the show is still as captivating as ever.

As the title indicates, each episode follows a mysterious occurrence that has yet to be solved. Most of the stories center on murder victims whose killers are still free. The documentary-style episodes emphasize that victims and their families have not received any sort of justice due to the lack of resolution.

The true crime genre has become increasingly popular over the past few years. Unsolved crime is particularly skilled at grabbing people’s attention. But why is this? We would hate to start a book knowing the final chapter is missing, so why do we love learning about crimes whose conclusions remain unfinished?

Fear From Afar

Psychological experts explain that true crime fascinates us because it allows us to explore the sinister side of human nature from the comfort of our own homes. The genre grants us a chance to delve deep into the evil capabilities of the human psyche from a distance and without feeling guilty about it.

Consuming true crime, therefore, is a safe and socially accepted way of satisfying our curiosities regarding horrific human behavior. We can watch shows like “Unsolved Mysteries” knowing we are not in danger or alone in our fascination with real murder mysteries.

The unsolved aspect of these crimes adds an extra layer of fear to already scary stories. While we might not like to admit it, it is thrilling to watch a murder mystery unfold. The fact that the murderers in these stories are still on the loose magnifies that already intense true crime adrenaline rush. Consequently, we find unsolved crime even more riveting than regular old crime stories.

“Unsolved Mysteries” plays into this phenomenon and brilliantly demonstrates how unsolved crime is interesting not in spite of, but because no one knows how the story ends. Learning about unsolved mysteries could easily leave people feeling frustrated. However, the show highlights the possibility that cases could still be solved so as to ensure the stories remain enticing.

The series will often emphasize that someone out there knows what happened to these murder victims. If only the right people came forward, their cases could come to a close. The possibility that justice could eventually be served makes up for the disheartening reality that the cases have yet to be solved.

The Case of Alonzo Brooks

Take the story of Alonzo Brooks, for example. Brooks attended a party in 2004 where he is believed to have become the victim of a fatal hate crime. Brooks’ body was found a month after he disappeared, but nobody was ever arrested in connection with his case.

The episode explains that at least some people who attended that party must know what really happened to Brooks. It even suggests that the identity of Brooks’ murderer is a widely known but well-kept secret in the small Kansas town where his death occurred. Circumstances like these intrigue audiences by demonstrating that, with more investigative efforts, the cases really could be solved.

“Unsolved Mysteries” audiences have become so enthralled by the prospect of solving these crimes that they have taken it upon themselves to help authorities find answers. Their efforts have certainly not been in vain. For example, the FBI has received countless tips about Brooks’ death due to the exposure the show has given his story. These tips have led them to a renewed interest in investigating the case as a murder. Rather than leaving them feeling hopeless, audiences are energized to help solve the unsolved mysteries on the show.

Crime and Intrigue

Another reason that “Unsolved Mysteries” captures people’s attention is because the crimes are often committed under complicated circumstances.

For example, the show covers the death of Rey Rivera, a finance writer who was found dead at Baltimore’s Belvedere Hotel in 2006. The police assumed it was a suicide, but a closer examination of the facts revealed that he was most likely murdered.

Rivera was working for his longtime friend, Porter Stansberry, at the time of his death. Stansberry refused to speak to investigators after Rivera’s death and legally forced everyone in the company to do the same. The show speculates that Rivera may have been involved in a situation that lost a fellow employee money, later leading to his murder.

Additionally, Rivera’s wife discovered a perplexing note taped to his computer that referenced Hollywood stars, movies and even the Freemasons. Rivera’s involvement in potential financial mishaps and connection with a bizarre note make his story much more compelling than the average murder mystery.

Getting Justice

Most importantly, “Unsolved Mysteries” does a great job of underscoring the human cost of unsolved crime. The families of these victims have experienced no closure. They must live their lives every day knowing their loved one’s killer is walking free. The show makes it clear that it is not at all interested in exploiting people’s painful stories to draw in hungry true crime audiences. Instead, “Unsolved Mysteries” wants viewers to feel empathy for the families who have experienced unspeakable loss and do not have an ounce of justice to show for it.

The show’s creators, Terry Dunn Meurer and John Cosgrove, have commented on their hope that crimes on the show can be solved with the help of its audience, as has happened in the past. Throughout the years, over 260 of the cases covered on “Unsolved Mysteries” have been solved. As more people know about the cases, investigators have a better chance of receiving helpful information to solve them. In turn, families have a better chance of receiving justice and closure.

Whether it’s 1987 or 2020, a mystery is a mystery. We are fascinated by unsolved crime because it provides the opportunity to explore our darkest curiosities and deepest fears. “Unsolved Mysteries” intelligently takes advantage of this fascination in order to give exposure to victims’ stories with the hope that they can one day get the justice they deserve.

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