I haven’t felt the same relief that I felt going into winter break for a while. No Zoom meetings, no assignments, only a little bit of work, and no accumulation of these things to overwhelm me to a breaking point? I haven’t felt so at-rest since the summer, and even that point in time was iffy, with COVID-19 being at a peak, and my anxiety spiking with it. While I’ve had my daily doses of YouTube content in the form of Among Us streamers (Corpse Husband, Sykkuno, Disguised Toast, Valkyrae — the whole gang) throughout the semester, there’s nothing I adore more than something engaging, factual, and maybe slightly horrifying. I’m talking about true crime — specifically that in the form of unsolved cases researched by Buzzfeed journalists Ryan Bergara and Shane Madej. The two of them host a YouTube show called Buzzfeed Unsolved, in which they explore haunted places, narrate true crime stories, and put together other bone-chilling videos.
I like to actually be engaged with shows like Buzzfeed Unsolved so that I’m taking in as much information about these gruesome-but-oddly-fascinating cases as possible, which is exactly why I haven’t been able to sit down and watch a BUN episode since the middle, or so, of summer. Over break, though, I finally returned to my favorite true-crime junkies, and I binge-watched every single episode they’ve released over the three-ish-week break we had. Thus, I will introduce my top 10 Buzzfeed Unsolved episodes, both from their True Crime and Paranormal seasons.
This is the first Buzzfeed Unsolved episode that featured someone around Bergara and Madej’s age — meaning that the haunting they were investigating was happening now, not hundreds of years ago. It was fun to watch Madej try to hold back jokes about the existence of spirits when Hannah Williams recounted experiences of her haunting. (That has gotten Madej into some trouble before, such as when he laughed at someone’s brutalized dog.) It was also quite funny to see Bergara scare himself while putting on a brave front — a recurring theme throughout the show.
This iconic episode of Buzzfeed Unsolved is parent to Shane Madej’s infamous line: “Hey there, demons. It’s me, ya boy.” (Yes, I do have the shirt.) Madej was also particularly antagonistic towards the demons that supposedly haunted the bar they explored in this episode. He was giving Bergara, who is particularly afraid of demons, a really hard time, which only made for more laughs as we stared down what is known as the portal to Hell.
The title screen of this episode is immediately quite captivating, including the phrase “Shark Attack or Murder.” I knew I was in for an interesting story, but it got even weirder than I anticipated. Madej’s reactions in this episode were not only funny but mirrored the reactions I had to Bergara’s storytelling. Unfortunately, I can’t get the case or its uncomfortably disturbing details out of my head, but at least I can get a bite of humor out of it when I rewatch this episode.
Honestly, this episode felt ridiculous to me, but in the best way. This adventurous search for the Mothman felt like a quest one would take to search for Bigfoot (which, by the way, Bergara and Madej have done). For some reason, mythical creatures like Bigfoot and the Mothman are far less believable to me than ghosts or demons, so these two episodes felt almost pointless. The Mothman still gave me a laugh, though — especially when Madej tried to imitate what he thought it would sound like.
A lot of my favorite Buzzfeed Unsolved episodes made it into this list because of the banter between Bergara and Madej (that is what most of the show’s viewers tune in for, after all), but this particular episode is one of my favorites because of the case itself. McElroy represented everything I hate in a man, so hearing how he went from the terror of the town to a man murdered in broad daylight was, for lack of a better word, fascinating. (I won’t say he deserved what happened to him, but I wouldn’t argue with someone who did).
This video posted to the Buzzfeed Unsolved Network is not technically part of either of Buzzfeed Unsolved’s series, and is actually sort of a mix of paranormal and true crime despite its title. Still, I felt it needed to be put on this list because, once again, Madej is hilarious, and their guest stars for this episode, Father Thomas and Pepe Hernandez, became iconic references throughout the show. This is also the episode where Madej scares the pants off of Bergara (12:24 in the video, for reference), which is one of my favorite Buzzfeed Unsolved moments. Despite its 45 minutes in length, I’ve watched this video multiple times, and I have yet to get bored of it.’’
This episode creeped me out to my core, all thanks to the content of the case. For some reason, Bergara and Madej’s banter did not deflect all the horror of whatever truly happened in Room 1046. I admit: this isn’t even the most gore-y or otherwise scary true crime case I’ve ever heard of, but it was still highly unsettling (I literally had goosebumps the whole time I was watching it). Every true crime geek has one or two cases that chill them to their core in a way that other cases do not. Room 1046 is one of mine.
It’s always quite the treat to see Shane Madej get so into a true-crime tale that he starts praising the villain. Luckily, in the Buzzfeed Unsolved episode about D.B. Cooper, the villain is not a murderer (though Madej has — somewhat jokingly — praised murderers for their style before). Watching Madej flip a pair of sunglasses on his face and bear a striking resemblance to the FBI’s composite sketch of D.B. Cooper will never get old.
Bergara was kind enough to offer viewers “one demon episode per [paranormal] season,” and there was enough Bergara panic and Madej humor packed into their Goatman adventure to hold us over until the next demon escapade. Between Bergara flaunting a water gun filled with holy water and Madej storming “the Goatman’s Bridge” claiming it as his own (which led to a mass of people changing the Wikipedia page for Goatman’s Bridge to Ryan Bergara and Shane Madej’s Bridge), this is one of the funniest episodes Buzzfeed Unsolved has to its name and one that I return to regularly.
This is where Shane Madej starts praising murderers. (Don’t worry: it’s all in fun.) This is one of the first Buzzfeed Unsolved episodes I’d ever watched. It’s a great way to get started with the series: it’s a true crime case, Madej is hilarious, as always, and Bergara is getting comfortable in his role as a narrator. It also gives a taste for what to expect from these two (Madej making fun of a murderer, Bergara speculating that ghosts or other spirits are involved), which is exactly why it’s at the top of my list.
What I appreciate most about Buzzfeed Unsolved is the balance between Bergara (a complete believer in the spiritual world) and Madej (our beloved science nerd). It’s lovely to be able to watch a show about blood, gore, and ghosts without feeling uncomfortably tense the whole time. Many of my reviews of these episodes focused on Madej for this reason — he’s the comic relief that us ghost-believers need — but Bergara is just as essential to these episodes. He does most of the research, carries out the narration, and forces Madej to visit haunted places or sit in on the narration to commentate on the true crime cases. Really, the balance and chemistry between the two is the best part of Buzzfeed Unsolved. Hopefully, if you’re on the quest for a new show to watch, you can tune in to Buzzfeed Unsolved and appreciate the hard work that these two men put into sharing true and often gruesome stories with us.
Featured Photo Courtesy of Michigan Daily/Buzzfeed