"...information based in part on theory and conjecture."
April 23, 2012 10:42 AM   Subscribe

In 1973 and 1975, two one-hour television documentaries aired in the US: In Search of Ancient Astronauts (Parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) and In Search of Ancient Mysteries (Parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). The same producers also put out The Outer Space Connection (Parts 1 and 2) in 1975. All were narrated by Twilight Zone's Rod Serling. In 1976 a series was developed. Since Serling had passed away in 1975, popular actor Leonard Nimoy was chosen as host. In Search of... ran for six seasons, from 1976 - 1982, and was devoted to discussing unusual mysteries and phenomena. All 144 episodes can be seen on YouTube. Playlists: Seasons 1 and 2. Seasons 3 and 4. Seasons 5 and 6.
posted by zarq (51 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

 
My favorite was "In Search of Lost Time." Those French time-travel cookies are something else!
posted by rikschell at 10:44 AM on April 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


I remember eating these things up as a kid. Look, it's Bigfoot! Spock said so!

Good times, good times.....
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:46 AM on April 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Wikipedia lists a one line summary of all the episodes.
posted by zarq at 10:48 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


This would be nostalgic except for the frankly racist assumptions of the original In Search of Ancient Astronauts books and series.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:49 AM on April 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


I loved these things, despite my childhood skepticism (thank you, Amazing Randi!) because they were such magnificent theater. Leonard Nimoy's narration makes everything sound filled with dire portent.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:49 AM on April 23, 2012


In 1976 a series was developed. Since Serling had passed away in 1975, popular actor Leonard Nimoy was chosen as host.

Hate to be the exec who made that decision and tried to sleep at night.
posted by hal9k at 10:49 AM on April 23, 2012


Thanks for this! I loved watching "In Search Of..." and foresee many wasted hours watching them again.
posted by southpaw at 10:49 AM on April 23, 2012


I remember eating these things up as a kid. Look, it's Bigfoot! Spock said so!

Yeah, man, there is no other possible explanation for the Nazca lines than alien architects. It would be impossible for humans of the time to make those things. I just totally saw them say it on channel 38 right after Creature Double Feature so it must be true.
posted by bondcliff at 10:50 AM on April 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


There were 144 episodes of this? Wow. I thought there were only a tiny few and they kept repeating them frequently. Seems like very time I tune in, it's one of the same handful of episodes.
posted by hippybear at 10:51 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


There was that certain gravitas Mr. Nimoy brought to the table.
posted by hal9k at 10:53 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I remember looking up this series a few years ago and being amazed that there were so many episodes.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:53 AM on April 23, 2012


tangentially, Things Magazone recently posted a link to a lightly bitrotted list entitled 136 Creepy Wikipedia Articles, which I have been enjoying in a way similar to browsing that bible of dubious veracity, Strange Stories, Amazing Facts.
posted by mwhybark at 10:55 AM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have fond memories of watching this with my dad. We didn't have a lot of stuff we did together, but these do bring back a bit of the nostalgia.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:55 AM on April 23, 2012


Things Magazine.

Management regrets the error.
posted by mwhybark at 10:56 AM on April 23, 2012


hippybear: "There were 144 episodes of this? Wow"

Yeah, that totally floored me too.

KokuRyu: "This would be nostalgic except for the frankly racist assumptions of the original In Search of Ancient Astronauts books and series."

Yeah, the entire theory is racist. Here's the infamous 1974 Playboy interview with von Däniken. (SFW)
posted by zarq at 10:59 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Heh, I loved this show as a kid, and then I fell in love with by Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World, which I think is on YouTube as well, or at least it used to be. And then after that, there was Unsolved Mysteries with Robert Stack.

And then after that, I grew up and figured out it was all bullshit. But it's really fun bullshit, and I admit I still like watching this stuff even though I don't believe 99.9% of it.
posted by smoothvirus at 11:06 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I vaguely remember these shows as a child but somewhere out there must lurk an online repository of my favorite Discovery channel shows: Terra X, Beyond 2000 and The Next Step. My uncle, a brilliant but very short tempered engineer, I would bond over these shows and I felt like I was in the know on our technological future in my little indigenous city.
posted by nataaniinez at 11:11 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I loved the von Daniken books as a kid but even I really hated this show. Even if you lump fiction in with non-fiction there's a very low information density in there. I could get a lot more ancient astronauts and cryptozoology per hour via text.
posted by DU at 11:12 AM on April 23, 2012


It's things like this that make it worth dealing with all the other crap on the internet.

Thanks!
posted by freakazoid at 11:13 AM on April 23, 2012


Oh man, Beyond 2000. I used to LOOOVE that show until it started stretching into their "we'll see products in 3-5 years" timespan. When those products didn't arrive, the believability went down hard. (I doubt that show would be that believable now, but to a kid 20 years ago...)
posted by DU at 11:14 AM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


From the 136 Creepy Wiki Articles - Koro:

"Koro is a culture-specific syndrome from Southeast Asia in which the person has an overpowering belief that his penis (or other genitalia) is shrinking and will shortly disappear. Also known as shrinking penis, the syndrome is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders."

Holy. Cow.

(Thanks for the link, btw.)
posted by marienbad at 11:23 AM on April 23, 2012


"There were 144 episodes of this? Wow."

They were very cheap to make. No sets, no SAG actors, no complicated effects, no story through-lines, so you can pick it up at any point.

It was like a deep cable show akin to Deadliest Catch, only in pre-cable syndication. They must have turned a massive profit margin.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:24 AM on April 23, 2012


We had Arthur C Clarke's Mysterious World - Crystal skull!
posted by Artw at 11:31 AM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Will somebody please, please get to work on putting all of the Jack Palance Ripley's Believe it or Not episodes on YouTube?
posted by usonian at 11:39 AM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


It was like a deep cable show akin to Deadliest Catch, only in pre-cable syndication.

Now that they have cancelled Cash Cab, I want to to see In search of Mystery Cab -- random people, getting into a cab, will be confronted by Leonard Nimoy, who will show them pictures of Bigfoot, UFOs, crop circles, and the like until they get to their destination.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:52 AM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


They left out the famous Flying Saucer Shrine on Hokkaido. Great mural of the flying saucer, with beams radiating out to Ainu priests. As far as I know, the space guys haven't come back to get them. Maybe they got lost over Nazca.
posted by mule98J at 11:54 AM on April 23, 2012


Bah, the links for William Shatner's Mysteries of the Gods are down...
posted by Artw at 11:59 AM on April 23, 2012


Artw: "Bah, the links for William Shatner's Mysteries of the Gods are down..."

This works! It's a single link. :)
posted by zarq at 12:07 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I checked out the Amelia Earhart episode on youtube and the opening titles seem to have been changed from the version I recall as a kid. Dissapoint.
posted by werkzeuger at 12:29 PM on April 23, 2012


Great post! my ten year old self is still creeped out by the tone of In Search of Ancient Astronauts and Chariots of the Gods. I remember having the books and being pretty into it back then, until a moment in either the film or the series, that simply scared the shit out of me. My skeptical self, that had already turned from my parents' religion and was beginning to explore Azimov and Clarke and Heinlein, put van Danikan away and could never get into the later series, but Rod Serling's over that creepy music just sends a chill to this day.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:30 PM on April 23, 2012


I'm fully expecting the music to still creep me out, decades later, in ways that horror movies can only hope to. Thanks for this!
posted by kimota at 12:34 PM on April 23, 2012


usonian: "Will somebody please, please get to work on putting all of the Jack Palance Ripley's Believe it or Not episodes on YouTube?"

Not to mention his ad for The Old West series of Time-Life Books.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:03 PM on April 23, 2012


Dang, today's woo just doesn't have the class of yesterday's woo.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 1:14 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


In search of... the slender man
posted by Artw at 1:24 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yay, thank you! I grew up with In Search Of... and am looking forward to rediscovering them, and I'll be interested to see whether my adult scepticism will destroy the wide-eyed wonder of seeing them as a kid.

"In Search Of cameras are travelling the world, seeking out these great mysteries." Hee.
posted by andraste at 1:38 PM on April 23, 2012


Oooh, just found the Frederick Valentich one. Scared the crap out of me as a kid.
posted by andraste at 1:44 PM on April 23, 2012


I loved In Search Of, loved it, but I remember always being disappointed when it turns out they were going to do an episode on something that wasn't clearly hokum. In Search of Dracula? That's just a documentary on Vlad the Impaler and the fictional character Dracula; it might be interesting, but why waste Leonard Nimoy on that?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:59 PM on April 23, 2012


Real fun bullshit indeed. I loved the beginning pilot "In Search of Ancient Astronauts" with Serling and later "In Search of..." as a boy growing up in the San Fernando Valley in the seventies and early eighties! It was always wonderfully creepy. First, the film always seemed kind of grainy by today's standards, and interviews were often badly lit. Nimoy's voice (basso-profundo?) with its gravitas as well was hypnotic. I also have great nostalgic feelings for it because I identify it with what I grew up around with my older siblings, a seventies California stoner culture with a bit of trickled-down new-ageism thrown in. My sister dated an anthropologist at the time who was really into saline isolation tanks. Then there was the Kirlian photography of ripped leaves still showing auras to prove the soul existed. The book "The Secret Life of Plants" was big too, even mentioned by my fifth grade science teacher where the guy hooked up a lie detector to plants and picked leaves off or something and the plants seemed to scream on the detector. The music for the show was done by a couple of disco songwriters with old school synthesizers adding haunting flourishes. My favorite episodes are "The Abominable Snowman," which has some interview with this erudite English Lord mountain climber in his manor, "Angel of Death" which as a boy made me absolutely terrified with certitude Josef Mengele was around the corner somewhere in Sherman Oaks ready to do experiments on me, and the numerous super-creepo "Life After Death" episodes. For some reason I wasn't as into the Bermuda Triangle and King Tut Curse ones even though at the time it seemed the TV wouldn't shut up about these things. The show had various time slots but at one point was on Sunday nights and later would be Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom which also had grainy film and Marlin Perkins. I still have this funny nostalgic reaction to the part of Wild Kingdom where they would have Marlin Perkins at a counter in some laboratory set. That set and Marlin seemed to me then and now emotionally perfect little diorama of a world where all feels very serene and safe. Aaaaaah. Good times!
posted by CarsonDyle at 2:14 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Von Däniken is still around, gulling people with idiot "Mayan 2012" nonsense. He's got a new book out on the subject.
posted by Fnarf at 3:21 PM on April 23, 2012


The book Chariots of the Gods had quite an impact on me as a kid.
posted by spbmp at 5:04 PM on April 23, 2012


Another piece of childhood uncovered. Nice post
posted by Sailormom at 7:01 PM on April 23, 2012


Artw, and today we have Dan Akroyd's Crystal Skull Head Vodka! It's... paranormal!
posted by mwhybark at 7:38 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Never let it be said that the Akroyd family left a chance to challenge the unknown, and make a buck, unexplored.
posted by Artw at 7:43 PM on April 23, 2012


My mother-in-law was living in Los Angeles in the early 1970's with an undergraduate degree in English from Berkeley and a master's degree in journalism from UCLA. She wound up a "researcher" on "In Search Of..." for several episodes. I guess the job market must have really sucked.

But then the producers needed an actress or two for an episode and didn't want to pay SAG people and, well, you can guess what happened next...

Ladies and gentlemen of MeFi, I give you my awesome mother-in-law, starring in The Mummy's Curse! (She's the one in red.)

(She's also a non-religious, very pragmatic sort of person, so I find it funny that she worked for such a woo-woo TV show.)
posted by Asparagirl at 8:29 PM on April 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


My favorite was the "In Search Of" parody at the start of The Simpsons "Springfield Files" episode:
Hello, I'm Leonard Nimoy. The following tale of alien encounters is true. And by true, I mean false. It's all lies. But they're entertaining lies, and in the end, isn't that the real truth? The answer...is no.
posted by rochrobbb at 4:09 AM on April 24, 2012


The new Prometheus movie is very, very loosely based on the von Danniken theories, iirc.
posted by gen at 6:22 AM on April 24, 2012


Or At The Mountains of Madness, which may well be the ur-document of ancient astronauts creating human life.
posted by Artw at 6:27 AM on April 24, 2012


Jason Colavito, who's been debunking fringe science and revisionist history for some time has a 7 part (!) review of the 1974 von Daniken interview in Playboy:
In 1974, ancient astronaut theorist Erich von Däniken sat down with the science writer Timothy Ferris for three days of interviews for Playboy magazine. This was one of the rare occasions when an ancient astronaut theorist submitted to questioning from a well-informed skeptic, something that almost never happens today. I am reviewing this extraordinary interview in segments.
The History of Ancient Astronauts: Playboy's Von Däniken's Interview (Pt. 1)

Playboy's 1974 von Däniken Interview (Part 2)

Playboy's 1974 von Däniken Interview (Part 3)
Playboy's 1974 von Däniken Interview (Part 4): Admitting Fraud

Playboy's 1974 von Däniken Interview (Part 5): More Fake Evidence


Playboy's 1974 von Däniken Interview (Part 6): The War on Truth


Playboy's 1974 von Däniken Interview (Part 7): Bananas of the Gods

posted by gen at 6:50 AM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


gen, that's fantastic. Thanks for posting it!
posted by zarq at 7:56 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


gen: "The new Prometheus movie is very, very loosely based on the von Danniken theories, iirc."

David Brin's Uplift series cleverly introduces a group of humans who are followers of Von Danniken. The series of seven books is set in a galaxy crowded with alien species, each of whom has been "uplifted" into sentience by another, patron species. Humans appear on the galactic scene, claiming to have naturally evolved sentience without a patron, contrary to accepted galactic science.

There's an entire plot line covering two books, centered around a small group of Von Danniken's philosophical followers. They believe that humanity was uplifted to sapience by an unknown patron, then abandoned to develop without guidance or further genetic modification. They're still dismissed as heretics by most humans. But the theory persists.
posted by zarq at 8:07 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Charioteer of the Gods - An investigation into H.P. Lovecraft and the invention of ancient astronauts. Which basically pins all of Von Daniken on Lovecraft via The Morning of the Magicians, which appears to be one hell of a crazy mystical conspiracy mash-up in itself.
posted by Artw at 9:04 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


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