"At first, it sounded convincing. He was from around there as a kid, and had been told by a passing soldier that it was a secret satellite that fell. It seemed legit, and I began taking the info down. But he slowly began adding a detail here and there. About the certain project it might have been. About what it was there for. About mysterious happenings. When my supervisor came around, I was writing about how it was a program to destroy aliens. He said, 'Why are you writing this down?' [The caller] had so slowly built up to it I didn't notice."
But then in 2002, they did an episode about the Phoenix UFOs. Among all of the many calls declaring it the beginning of an alien invasion, Delilah got one from a guy claiming, in a rather convincing way, that it was a secret military project.
"I thought, 'Here we go,' but he introduced himself as someone from the military and explained that they were flares dropped during an exercise ... and told us to look into what the Maryland Air National Guard was up to that night."
It turned out that he was telling the truth. The mysterious lights were flares attached to balloons.
"It turns out it was an amazing tip, because it completely debunked the UFO, but we couldn't use it." Because the military had made no announcement to that effect, that caller got lumped in with the cranks. That's an example of the kind of signal-to-noise ratio you get with a show like this. But we should be clear: When it came to the actual criminals, they were way more effective than you'd think. Unsolved Mysteries tips caught about half the featured criminals, plus reunited over 100 families and released seven people who were falsely imprisoned. Though even they couldn't keep up with America's Most Wanted, which helped catch over 1,000 criminals during its run.
Ah, reality TV. You once had such promise for positive social change.