Unsolved Mysteries: The Devil’s Backbone

The scariest figure in my childhood wasn’t a Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers.  It wasn’t a monster at all, just a simple man narrating tales of the unexplained.  I’m talking of course about the host of Unsolved Mysteries, Robert Stack.

To this day, I’m not sure if it was the subject of the show that made Robert Stack so fright inducing, or if it was Robert Stack that added the extra layer of dread to Unsovled Mysteries.  I lean towards the latter, but either way, it was a match made in heaven, or hell if you were an impressionable young child in the early 90’s.  This week I’ll be taking a look back at some Unsolved Mysteries segments, so enjoy.  I should note some of these segments appear incredibly dated, but Robert Stack’s delivery is just as unsettling as always.

Here’s your link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tff8-AmiXY

I did no research whatsoever when it came to picking this segment, so I’ve got no idea what it’s about.  But judging by the first three seconds, I’d say we’ve got a winner.

A few quick cuts between interviews and hyper saturated shots of the wind blowing shit around, and it’s clear that we’re apparently dealing with ghosts.  Just to drive a point home, here’s one apparently doing the old Harpo Marx mirror routine with some random redneck.

I never forget a face, but in your case, I’ll make an exception.

It takes 40 seconds, but finally Robert Stack arrives to fill us with dread and explain just what the hell is going on.  The Devil’s Backbone is an area of central Texas that according to Stack is rivaled only by Purgatory in terms of ghosts per square mile.  What a strange statistic to know offhand.  If you’d like to know how to get to The Devil’s Backbone, you go south out of Austin about 50 miles and “some 200 years.”  Those directions aren’t helping?  Here’s a map.

200 years back? Well shit, my DeLorean is in the shop.

It’s borderline criminal that we have to wait more than a full minute for Robert Stack’s first appearance on screen, but finally he arrives.  This time, wandering through a forest, dressed like a private investigator from the 1950’s as always.   The story behind the Devil’s Backbone is that it was a popular hang out for particularly brutal Conquistadors, as well as the site where a group of renegade gold hunting Confederate soldiers met their end.  But, legend has it, their spirits remain.  Did I say legend?  I meant some guy named Bert Wall.

He looks like the sheriff from Sons of Anarachy

In case your wondering, dramatic re-enactment Bert Wall looks like this:

He, however, does not.

Anyways, Bert was up late one night writing about this history of Texas, I presume, when he looked up from his work and saw a Spanish monk standing at his window.

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Of course, after a few seconds the monk disappeared and there was no sign of him when Bert checked outside.  I wish I there was more to say about the monk, but that’s it.  It is not however, the last of the spirits found in the Devil’s Backbone.  Next we meet John Meirs, a friend of Bert’s who visits his ranch to go deer hunting.  Here’s real life John.

And dramatic re-enactment John:

Yeah, you wish buddy.

Now, John was minding his own business, sitting in a tree, when he heard footsteps all around him.  As you can probably guess, he couldn’t see who those footsteps belonged to.  John remained in the tree until sundown, and then packed up and headed back home, but not before encountering a strange Indian.  It was in fact, a strange, shirtless Indian, remarkable because according to John, it was a very cold night.

My god. His nipples are so hard, they could cut glass.

The Indian is apparently just as surprised by John as John is of him.  He then begins walking parallel with John, giving that picture at the beginning of the article some much needed context.  John has to go and ruin the moment by taking a few steps towards him, and just like that, the Indian disappeared.  Just in case you’re wondering, according to John, to disappear into thin air like that meant it had to be a ghost.  Thanks for that analysis.

Next up, we visit the bunkhouse, where the ranch hands, like Lynn Gentry resided.  Here’s real life Lynn:

Lynn portrayed popular Looney Tunes character, Yosemite Sam in his younger days.

And here’s dramatic re-enactment Lynn, who could never possibly look more unbelievable than real life Lynn:


Lynn was awoken one night to the sound of horses galloping and opened his door to see a group of Confederate soldiers ride by.

Of course no one believes Lynn Gentry, because he looks like this:

Lynn portrayed popular Looney Tunes character, Yosemite Sam in his younger days.

As always, Unsolved Mysteries saves the best for last, as we’re treated to the story of John Villarreal.  John was hiking with some friends in an area known as “The Haunted Valley” when he was set upon by the ghost of a wolf.  Even more amazing, John claims the ghost possessed him.  Even more amazing still, is the resemblance John bears to Gary from Are You Afraid of the Dark?

John’s friend Corey is also on hand to corroborate his story.  Except here “corroborate” means to confirm that he saw absolutely nothing and John is the only witness to his crazy ghost wolf encounter.  He does however tell us that it was really cold in the car on the ride home, a well known side effect of ghost wolf possession, and certainly not due to an air conditioner.

When they arrived back at the ranch, the fun really began.  John lapse into a trance and began speaking in a deep baritone about Indian massacres and all sorts of other little known details about the history of Devil’s Backbone.  Unsolved Mysteries lets me down here by not giving us a full re-enactment of John’s Barry White-esque crooning about murdered Indians.  Instead we get a reenactment of a gust of wind blowing through the house to symbolize the spirit leaving John’s body.

The episode draws to a close with Bert Wall explaining that he believes the Devil’s Backbone is haunted because it is loved.  He also believes he’ll haunt it when he dies, because he loves the place so very much.  Well that’s…comforting.

Well, we ended up with a bit of a softball episode here, but a good start nonetheless.  Perhaps next time I’ll actually do some research before selecting a segment.  If you’ve got a favorite segment you’d like to see me cover, leave a comment here, or shoot me a tweet @myrottingbrain.   If you desperately need more Unsolved Mysteries right this second, then head on over to X-Entertainment and read his 7 Scariest Unsolved Mysteries segments.  And if you’re still bored after that, go follow me on Tumblr and like my page on Facebook.

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5 thoughts on “Unsolved Mysteries: The Devil’s Backbone

  1. Pingback: I like to move it, move it. « My Rotting Brain

  2. And people wonder why Unsolved Mysteries episodes are no where to be found. They are worse than (not) Finding Bigfoot and are definitely made of ” special effects” hocus-pocus !! Thanks for the excellent review.

  3. You should definitely check out the documentary/found footage horror movie that was made by Bert’s son Jake. It’s amusing to say the least.

  4. This is pure gold. Your writing style is entertaining an hilarious at the same time.

    Furthermore, I too am a man who was a much younger impressionable man in the 1990’s.

    Unsolved Mysteries along with Sightings were a great way to kill time and entertain yourself.

    Well done.

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