Arson Video Tape Segment
Unsolved Mysteries investigates a video tape made by an alleged arsonist.
This is one of my personal favorite segments of the crime/drama series Unsolved Mysteries. In September 1990, at the beginning of its third season, the late host Robert Stack gives viewers an in-depth look at what goes through an arsonist's mind as he sets a home on fire, and from a distance, captures footage of his own diabolical work.
On August 15, 1989, a family of farmworkers, whose car overheats on a scorching hot summer day, pulls over on the side of a highway near Stockton, California. The father and son decide to walk to a nearby telephone to call for roadside assistance. While walking along side the road, they discover a camouflage jacket with an unlabeled VHS tape along with several audio cassettes of heavy metal music. They take the video tape with them home, and when they pop it into the VCR and press play, they see a house on fire on their TV screen with shaky camera movements and hear a whispering, heavy breathing narrator in the background.
"Look at the fire! Look at it! This is, my domain! The whole sky is black with smoke!"
"Look at it Omar! This is what I've been doin' on your week's vacation!"
"I said I'll do it! I said I'll do it!"
"The fire department's trying to put it out! What a laugh!"
"Look at the flames! Listen to the coyotes yell!"
Horrified at what the family saw on the tape, they take it to the authorities who investigate it even further. Because the footage was shot at night time, the police are unable to figure out the exact location of the house. They are also concerned about this alleged "Omar". Omar is believed to be a demonic character running through the arsonist's mind. A ceramic death skull and pestle at the site where the video tape was found, each indicate clues of satanic rituals and worship. The date the arsonist gives on the tape is August 15, 1988, exactly one year prior to the tape's discovery on the side of the highway.
After the original airing of the segment, several viewers phone into Unsolved Mysteries to identify the location of the house burning on the tape. Coincidentally, the firefighter who helped douse the fire that night had also recorded the fire for training and investigation purposes. Some of the calls even lead to the apprehension of two troubled teenage boys, ages 17 and 19. After the boys are arrested, the police find a video diary of newspaper clippings, chronicling all the boys' devastation from 1987 to 1988 in Redwood City, California. Both teenagers plead guilty to one count of arson, and are each ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment.
Without the discovery of the tape or any of the other clues, the case would never have been solved. What would have been even creepier is if the raw uncut footage from both the Arson video tape as well as the newspaper video diary appeared on youtube nearly twenty years later.