Thursday, January 12, 2012

In Search Of

Thinking about the self-inflicted demise of The History Channel (a Swamp People marathon tonight. Really? On the History Channel?), my mind wandered to that most awesomest of shows from my youth: In Search Of.

I’ve spoken about it often here at the Hopper. Next to the original Battlestar Galactica series, it was probably the only thing I regularly watched on night-time teevee at that age. True, when slightly younger, me and the family would watch Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Chico and the Man, and, of course, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, on Sunday nights. Around age eleven, I suddenly became too cool for such fare. But not for In Search Of.

In fact, In Search Of was downright creepy. Also, downright awesome, if you forgive the repetition. That opening synthesizer and wah-wah theme song; the psychedelic, moody, oppressive background music; Leonard Nimoy and everything about him – voice, moustache and/or goatee, those loud 70s suits and fat ties; and best of all, the topics. The paranormal, extranormal, abnormal, anti-normal. Strange sightings, cryptids, histories mysteries, edge-of-science-stuff, vanishings, legends true, false, and middling. Every week I looked forward with goosebumped anticipation. Thank God my dad was into this, too (at least, I guess; I don’t think I had the foresight to plan out these viewings).

Each 22-minute episode focused on a single, sole topic aimed directly at the imagination of eleven-year-old boys all across America. Occasionally the show veered into the hokey, to small degrees, but it always maintained a somewhat objective scientific mien. That, coupled with the dignity Spock brought and exuded with his superhuman vocal chords, gave the show a seriousness that you just couldn’t shake. Many episodes focused on respectable “mysteries” – mysteries of literature, historical events, people and peoples of ages past.

So, scanning my memories, I tasked myself to come up with a top-ten of greatest In Search Of episodes. Now, we all know memories are leaky things, quite malleable and often possessing agendae of their own. If I err somehow, well, take it in the spirit that it’s offered: Creepy Nimoy goodness!

10. The Dogon tribe

An African tribe that somehow knows of the existence of Sirius and its smaller stellar companion – invisible to the naked eye. Though I didn’t grasp the significance back then, I somehow have never forgotten this episode.

9. Jack the Ripper

My first encounter with this serial psycho from 1880s England. The sheer violence shocked me, truth be told, I, who loved swords and sorcery and science fiction mayhem at this point. I still can’t get interested in this historical mystery due to the gore factor.

8. The Shroud of Turin

Hey, I’m currently reading a book about this! Again, my first encounter with a historical mystery. Never completely escaped my mind. Well, it did for a few decades, but lately I’ve been thinking about it!

7. Michael Rockefeller

Okay, I don’t remember seeing this as a kid. Saw it in a rerun about ten years ago, and this truly never really left my mind. Youngling of the beyond-wealthy and uber-powerful clan, he seemingly chucked all that wealth and power … to study primitive cultures as an anthropologist. However, hubris must be passed along genetically, as he ran afoul of a particularly nasty tribe (allegedly) and – disappeared without a trace. What happened to him?

6. The Amityville Horror

Vaguely remember this, and rewatched it on youtube around Halloween (you can see most In Search Of episodes on youtube). Man, was I into this back around 78 or 79. Scary stuff. Drew me like a moth to flame.

5. The Oak Island Money Pit

Buried treasure. Just beyond your grasp. Many tried to dig it up. All failed. Some died. Every ten feet down, a sign. An elaborate trap? Otherworldly engineering? Who knows? Something I’d love to. Learn more. About.

4. Amelia Earhart

In a similar vibe with Michael Rockefeller, these types of mysterious vanishings toy with my obsession buttons. Many years later I skimmed through a book about her. Lots of alternate theories of what happened to her (captured by Japs, starved on a distant island, etc), but I think she and her co-pilot just plain veered off course and crashed into the ocean. I don’t want to think of what happened after that.

3. Ogo-Pogo

A sea serpent, or rather, a lake monster like the Loch Ness critter. I recall some footage from the episode. Interesting, intriguing. What caught me most, though, was the name of the dang monster. It’s gotta be of Indian derivation, but there’s a spookiness in a million-year-old modern brachiosaur named Ogo-Pogo.

2. Bigfoot!

As every eleven-year-old boy was in the late 70s, I was completely enamored by Bigfoot. Read tons of books on the cryptid, watched anything and everything I could on the subject. This episode held my first viewing of the Gimlin-Patterson film footage, of which I have never made up my mind. I think I’m of the opinion that there’s a fifty-percent chance the creature exists. Still, though, the possibilities are so intriguing I am completely amazed and dumbfounded a decent horror movie has never been made about the beast. Aside from The Legend of Boggy Creek, of course.

1. UFO abductees

This was before the whole abduction phenomenon began in the mid-80s. So I was treated to learned about Travis Walton primarily. Some other stuff, too, but I can’t quite remember what exactly. However, I do know that this was the very first episode of In Search Of that I ever watched! And I was hooked, baby, hooked!

Here’s that theme music –

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