WASHINGTON, April 15, 2018: Terror, said author Stephen King, is “when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel it breathe against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there.” Today, we can certainly encounter such things whenever we choose to risk the experience. With cable and satellite services offering hundreds of channels, there is little want for paranormal-centered entertainment. But there’s always room for more. Especially if it’s the successful series Buzzfeed: Unsolved. Three seasons are now available for streaming on Amazon Prime.
Buzzfeed: Unsolved, in short, is a smart and funny adventure through the strange, the unusual and preposterous world of conspiracy theories and preternatural happenings.
A millennial match
Ryan Bergara and Shane Madej are the perfect hosts for this show. Of the two, Ryan is the true believer when it comes to ghosts, demons and space-alien visitors. But he oddly draws the line at Bigfoot. On the other hand, Shane is the skeptic of the pair. But he concedes that Bigfoot and extraterrestrials are at least plausible.
Many of the haunted sites the co-hosts visit on Buzzfeed: Unsolved will be familiar to the paranormal enthusiast. But it’s the banter between the believer and the skeptic that makes this show worth watching.
Crazy Sarah’s mansion of many rooms
On one adventure, the pair visit the Winchester Mystery House in San José, California. According to legend, from 1889 to 1922 Sarah added nearly 500 rooms to her Queen Ann style mansion. A psychic told her this would appease the angry spirits of Native Americans killed by her late husband’s Winchester repeating rifle.
Inside this bizarre house – today known as the “Winchester Mystery House” – stairs lead to nowhere and doors open to reveal brick walls. One door located on the second level exposes a sheer drop to the garden below. The home’s architectural twists and angles only fuel the visitor’s unease.
Ryan is decidedly creeped out. It is evening, and the pair sit in Sarah Winchester’s darkened bedroom, near the very bed in which she died.
“I assure you,” says skeptic Shane, “in about half of the places we’ve been, people have died there. People probably died in the Chipotle we just ate at.”
“Let me ask you straight out,” says Ryan, “do you think ghosts are real right now?”
“Ah, no,” Shane says authoritatively.
“Why do you not believe ghosts are real?” asks Ryan insistently.
“Ah, I’ve never seen one.”
But Ryan is not ready to give up,
“Okay. I mean, there’s a lot of things that you can’t see that… are real.”
“What can’t I see?”
“You can’t see gravity. That’s real,” Ryan asserts triumphantly.
“Yeah,” says Shane with all the certitude of Sir Isaac Newton, “I can drop an apple.”
The devil’s flashlight?
And then, there’s the Sallie House in Atkinson, Kansas, the site of another Buzzfeed: Unsolved visit. Paranormal fans consider the Sallie House one of America’s “most haunted.” In fact, some say that a demon resides within.
As Ryan opens the home’s creaking front doors, fear etches its way across his face.
“All they need is some WD-40,” Shane reassures his friend.
As a local paranormal investigator gives Shane an introductory handshake, the skeptic blurts out with a congenial smile,
“I think this is all bullshit.”
The investigator places a small flashlight on a kitchen counter and Shane attempts to engage the home’s evil entity.
“If you like us turn it [the flashlight] on.”
He crouches closer to the Maglite.
“If you don’t like us, turn it on.”
The flashlight comes alive.
Ryan screams uncontrollably. He eventually calms down, reminding Shane of the advice given them by “Vatican-approved exorcist” Father Gary Thomas.
“We should never have talked to it, dude.”
Later in the basement, Shane rests on the cement floor where a satanic pentagram was once scrawled.
He’s clearly not done taunting the demon.
“If you want to eat my heart, turn that light on. If you want to eat Ryan’s heart, turn that light on.”
The light goes on.
“Turn it off for Ryan’s sake.”
The light goes off.
Undaunted, Shane smiles, chalking up the evening’s happenings to “coincidence.”
Artful proof of ancient aliens?
One of the best exchanges between believer and skeptic occurs over the subject of “ancient aliens.” Ryan shows Shane a photo of a funerary relief sculpture dating from 100 B.C. The image appears to depict a cherub presenting a laptop computer to a seated lady.
“How did they charge it?” asks Shane.
“I don’t know,” answers Ryan.
Shane is not done.
“Why are there USB ports on it if they don’t have thumbnail drives?”
“I don’t know. I’m just what…”
“What are they looking at? There’s no Internet. Do they have Photoshop?”
Shane delivers the final coup de gras.
“Art is not proof.”
As an incensed Ryan later exclaims,
“Your unrelenting skepticism is exhausting. It drains me of all happiness and energy and I… I hope you know that.”
Buzzfeed: Unsolved is currently available for streaming and binging on Amazon Prime. (Available by subscription via Amazon.com.
Top images: Ryan Bergara (right) and Shane Madej attempt to entice Bigfoot with a can of beer. Screen capture from an episode of Buzzfeed: Unsolved available via Amazon Prime.