In the light of day (and adulthood), it's hard to pinpoint why certain, seemingly random things scared you as a child. But you definitely remember the feeling.
I was the kind of kid who would read scary books before I went to sleep, but had to turn them upside-down on my floor so I wouldn’t see any of the covers while I was in bed. I remember being afraid of the billboards in Fremont, Wisconsin advertising Jellystone Park, because of the giant, looming visage of Yogi Bear in the night sky (which is too weird to be made up). I remember seeing commercials for Time/Life's Mysteries of the Unknown book series and darting out of the room.
Despite these fears, curiosity always got the best of me; my terror always took a backseat to discovery. I read every book, watched every movie and took in every TV show that frightened me. I couldn’t help myself (still can’t). My jam was the Paranormal. Anything unsolved. Serial murderers on the loose. And wouldn't you know it, the late-80s blessed us with all of that and then some in the form of Unsolved Mysteries, the scariest television program ever made.
Unsolved Mysteries was pitch-perfect nightmare fuel. The opening disclaimer. The iconic music. The haunting voice of Robert Stack. The last known photograph-looking reenactments that used the actual survivors of the crimes and events themselves. The dead-eyed police sketches of dudes who were probably prowling my backyard as I watched. The way they swayed between journalism and pseudoscience in a way my childlike brain couldn't differentiate. Unsolved Mysteries was the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of scaring the shit out of me. The Netflix reboot is plenty good, but the classic episodes (streaming 24/7 on Pluto) continue to deliver.
In early 1990, Unsolved Mysteries did a two-hour special on nothing but paranormal cases, and it jumpstarted my already burgeoning relationship with insomnia. I couldn't sleep properly for days. It knocked something loose, presumably forever.
It was this special that wrung not one, but two more classic books out of me in February of ‘90. So turn down the lights, close the blinds and pull those covers to your chin, because a bone-chilling double shot of pure terror is coming your way. I present to you: Mysteries of the Unknown and All About UFO’s.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I like this cover. It was some sort of reflective card stock. I’m also pretty proud of myself for spelling ‘mysteries’ and ‘unknown’ correctly. As you’ll soon see, spelling was pretty touch-and-go.
Boom! Bet you weren’t ready for this jump scare. It’s almost too much paranormal activity for one person to handle. Yargg!
Quality setup, Zeinert. Reel ‘em in.
Tell me you’re not intrigued. Heads popping out of nowhere? Lunchboxes flying through windows? It was scary, buddy. Scary and funny.
This is the funniest thing I’ve ever written. Read it again. No reason to continue, let’s wrap it up.
That’s it, get ‘em on board for the sequel. And…
Nailed it. Don’t touch another hair on its head. Stitch it, bind it and slap rubber cement on this baby, because it’s a hit. I regret to inform you that Mysteries of the Unknown II has been lost to time.
Damn it, I forgot to talk about UFO’s. Not to worry.
Pretty cover. Unassuming. Almost beckoning you to come forward. And then…
Boom! Another terrifying how-do-you-do. I was slapping away art school scholarships left and right.
Thank you, Cory. Wherever and whoever you are. ‘Introduction’ has never been more improperly spelled.
This part is rooted in reality. My Grandma and Grandpa Zeinert did tell me they saw a UFO in the 50s. Grandpa was prone to humorous bullshit, but Grandma didn’t just say stuff like this for no reason. I would make them tell me the story over and over again. They were also stationed in Germany after WWII, and I made them tell me that story maybe two times. My priorities were, let’s say, skewed.
This is the funniest thing I’ve ever drawn. Way funnier than King Kong with a ski mask on from last month. Here we have a proverbial amuse-bouche of misspellings, including ‘mystriys’ (mysteries), ‘secan’ (scene), ‘elieans’ (aliens) and ‘nightmears’ (nightmares).
Bet you didn’t see that twist coming; I’m a skeptic all of a sudden? I also appreciate that we descend into a rumination on cognitive dissonance. How can I believe two conflicting viewpoints at once? I don’t know! I’m 8!
Guess what, 8-year old Ryan? You still do, bud.
Don’t be afraid of anything.