Pros: Based on fact; fascinating subject matter; level-headed presentation

Cons: Not as flashy or exciting as other similar shows

Following a six-episode first season that premiered in 2013, Science Channel’s The Unexplained Files returned on July 29, 2014 for a second season. This program probably has more in common with the classic Unsolved Mysteries series than with most of the more recent shows dealing with mysterious happenings, although it somewhat reminds me in its basic set-up of the outstanding Dark Matters: Twisted but True that also airs on Science Channel. One of the best things about The Unexplained Files is that the subjects discussed in this program, like those covered in Dark Matters, are both factual and compelling – it’s possible to do follow-up research on anything featured in this show if desired. Episodes in the first season dealt with a wide range of fascinating subjects including examination of the enigmatic , the under bizarre circumstances (i.e. aliens are involved), the in the American Southwest, and even the . Like many programs dealing with such subjects as the Loch Ness Monster, UFO’s or even Bigfoot, The Unexplained Files would be one of those shows that a viewer would be likely to keep watching if he stumbled upon it while channel surfing – there’s something inherently captivating about TV programing of this nature.

“Chupacabras” stalking rural Texas? One of many intriguing UNEXPLAINED FILES segments.

Episode one of the second season actually stood in my mind as being a little “blah” compared with some of the previous episodes – not necessarily a bad episode, but not quite as interesting to me as some of the others. This episode featured two stories, the first of which is a fairly lengthy investigation into the real-life story that inspired the novel and hence, classic horror film The Exorcist. In this segment, researcher and author Troy Taylor heads to St. Louis, MO to uncover the truth behind a that involved demonic possession. Amazingly, Taylor was able to track down one of the Catholic monks who actually was present during the exorcism ritual as performed on a young man and the elderly man was able to recount the unbelievable events that took place during the possession and exorcism. This entire segment is fairly well executed, providing a well-rounded investigation into the case which, aside from detailing the nature of demonic possession cases, also examines the possibility of mental illness or religious fervor having been the root cause of the incident.

The 1949 exorcism case discussed in this episode served as the basis for this award-winning 1973 film.

The second story here seems quite a bit more frankly inconsequential – it’s a tale about a New Mexico Fish and Game officer named Kerry Mower who in August 2013 discovered a herd of 113 wild elk who had suddenly and mysteriously died. First suspecting a sort of poisoning, Mower’s examination of the bodies eventually revealed that no known toxic agent had killed the animals, though the game commission is quick to declare that a toxic algae bloom had infected the creatures’ drinking water which led to the mass die-off. Officials jumping to this conclusion without any substantial evidence leads to – you guessed it! – notions of some sort of conspiracy, and an ex-sheriff starts his own investigation into the case, one which mainly revolves around the possibility of a connection to UFOs and cattle mutilations. Much as I could roll with the story about the deaths of this group of elk, this segment started to lose me a bit when it really pushed the alien angle. Even to my rather open mind, an outdoorsman’s story about elk being more or less abducted by an alien craft seems positively ludicrous. To each his own I guess…

dead elk
Dead elk everywhere, but what is the cause?

Narrated by Bruce Greenwood, this episode mainly kept on the straight and narrow, simply offering up the known facts in each case using interviews with experts and eyewitnesses to describe and analyze the scenarios and brief dramatized sequences to reinforce the stories. While I might have hoped for more actual evidence, the program does makes a pretty strong case based mostly on the testimony of those involved. It’s pretty hard for instance to argue with the 90-year-old former monk who’s about to die of cancer – what possible motivation would this guy have to lie about his recollections of the exorcism event? Though The Unexplained Files does seem to push certain agendas (the conspiracy angle relating to the deaths of the elk for example), it’s commendable that this show at least attempts to exhaust possible scientific explanations. To this end, not only were weather experts consulted to determine whether or not a lightning strike may have been responsible for the deaths, but the elk carcasses were also tested for anthrax, the deadly EHD contagion, and for contamination by toxic algae. It’s only after these potential causes were ruled out that the show pursues the more outrageous explanation dealing with flying saucers, crop circles, and alien experimentation, but ultimately, it’s left in the hands of the viewer to make sense of the information provided and come to his own conclusion.

On the downside, it’s apparent to me that this program is produced quickly and inexpensively. It isn’t nearly as flashy and attention-grabbing as other, vaguely similar shows, though in some ways, I think this is to the program’s credit. The Unexplained Files mostly allows the information it contains to speak for itself instead of impressing a viewer with graphics, flashy camerawork, or overblown and phony suspense sequences. It’s rather refreshing that this program neither rams its opinions and conclusions down a viewer’s throat nor assumes that its viewers are complete morons. In my mind then, The Unexplained Files is easily one of the more recommendable of the current wave of speculative documentaries airing on television, and for the viewer interested in these sorts of subjects, this would be one to check out.


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