As a kid in the 70s, I LOVED 'In Search Of" with Leonard Nimoy. The show grew ouf of a couple TV specials: In Search of Ancient Astronauts and In Search of Ancient Mysteries, both hosted by Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone. I saw those, and others done around that time. When the series started, I devoured every episode, eagerly watching and believing the things they presented. The 1970s was a great era for the 'mysteries' being presented, with tons of books like 'Chariots of the Gods' and documentaries like 'In Search of Noah's Ark' all those Schick Sun Classic documentaries and the many alien visitation and 'real' monster books being pumped out almost daily by the cheap paperback press. 'True' ghost books, strange phenomenon, unexplained disappearances, all things 'paranormal' (a term I don't think existed then), I haunted the library to get them. Loved it, read it, wanted more.
Then, when I was older, I started looking into them myself. I looked past the 'gee whiz', booster press and looked to the original sources, scientists, archeologists and professionals in the field and found...
...it's 99.9% bullshit.
Okay, maybe not 99%, but like a spurned lover, I might be responding with more emotion than the subject justifies. I really felt lied to, misled and used. Most of the books were just people reporting sources, reporting other sources, reporting people who got it wrong in the first place. Shallow reporting on the shallow reporting of others. The Bermuda Triangle, Flight 19, Coral Castle, Amityville, Chariots of the Gods, all utter BS, explained by actually looking at the original sources rather than sensationalist books by authors churning out potboilers on deadline. I was betrayed by my own childhood ignorance.
I became more of a skeptic, and more skeptical, not quite the same thing; one is a worldview, one is more of a lifestyle. I call bullshit on most things until I can look at it myself. I click though to the sources, I look at the studies and who is doing them. I’m a pain in the ass to all my astrology believing friends. Don’ start that ‘we didn’t land on the moon, PizzaGate, Kennedy assassination’ crap around me unless you want a rundown of why it is… well, crap.
Yes, it all still goes on today, filling the modern need for 'mysteries'; Ghost Hunters. Ancient Aliens (god, what an incredibly racist show that is), Hunting for Bigfoot and the rest all fit snugly into this category. TV producers manipulating viewers with half truths and flat out lies. Politics have also found this and used it in more and more destructive ways.
I'm writing this because I came across my stacks of bootleg 'In Search Of' episodes (now officially on DVD, btw). I watched them all a couple summers ago, revisiting the 'mysteries' I marveled at as a kid but now with more knowledge. I find the producers misusing history, getting things wrong (probably relying on the sensationalist books of the day, and poor 'experts') and constantly hedging with 'we don't know if this is true, but were presenting it anyway...' but it's hella entertaining, and Nimoy gives it heft and gravitas. Entertaining, but mostly incomplete, relying on sketchy sources, and hopelessly dated (I do still like that Moog score). I loved it though, and it still casts something of a spell; I want to believe, but I can't. I'm not that child anymore. My mom’s National Inquirer collection holds no spell over me anymore.
It's all entertainment, of course, in the guise of a ‘documentary’. In Search Of aimed at the most human trait of wanting to know and hoping there is something beyond our own puny senses, but in the series, they’re trying to shoulder the mantel of 'seriousness' while relating nonsense. Poorly researched nonsense, with questionable ‘experts’ that seemed good at the time, but the passing years (and the internet ) have shown their credentials to be.. shaky (check out the first episode with the ‘talking to plants’ experts. Hoo boy. The mantel has slipped all the way to the floor today, but it's been picked up by others and carried on as 'truth'.
In Search Of is still fun and entertaining to watch (love the synthesizer score) but if you do, have your browser open as well, and put in the names of the experts that come up, or the topic followed by the word ‘explained’. https://skeptoid.com/ is a good place to start…
I know, I know, ‘taking all the mystery out of things…’ but hey! I’d rather know the truth and explore the real mysteries of life, than wonder whether the latest theory about Amelia Earhart (kidnapped by the Japanese! Lived to an old age under a secret name! Is still alive in suspended animation!) is the ‘real’ one.
*Seriously, if you’re not looking for Amelia Earhart on the bottom of the ocean somewhere, you’re looking in the wrong place.