I’m not picky about which form of media I consume when learning about murder. Like I mentioned before, I recently discovered a great podcast called “My Favorite Murder.” I’ve also seen some good documentaries (but actually haven’t watched “Making a Murderer” yet!) and read countless articles.
However, one of my favorite ways to learn about creepy unsolved murders and other odd cases is “Buzzfeed Unsolved.” Sadly, there are only 10 videos, but I included my favorite one above. This 20 minute analysis of the Zodiac killer is incredibly in-depth and one of the longer videos the two Buzzfeed employees who created the series, Brent and Ryan, have done.
In every video, Brent and Ryan start by explaining the crimes concisely but creatively before moving on to previously held theories, what the police thought at the time, where the evidence leads and then discuss which theory they each agree with most. They explain the crime briefly but well so that people who already know the story, like myself, are still interested but those who haven’t heard of the famous murder or serial killer they’re discussing don’t feel alienated.
What I like about the format of the “Buzzfeed Unsolved” videos is that they do incredibly detailed research and have the visuals to back it up. Each video includes photos of anyone mentioned, from victims to suspects. There are also original crime scene photos, but never anything too graphic. Just enough so you get the feel for what happened in the moment. In this specific video, they also have scans of letters the Zodiac killer wrote to the San Francisco Chronicle. Obviously I have the internet and know how to use it, but it’s great to have all that information neatly packaged in an easily accessible video that I can watch while I fold laundry or eat a snack.
There is footage of Brent and Ryan, but most of the videos are comprised of voiceovers, mostly Ryan’s, meshed with key phrases written on screen, photos and video footage. In some of the videos, like the Zodiac one and their Black Dahlia video, Ryan and Brent have the opportunity to go to the actual crime scenes (well, the spots that were crime scenes 40-50 years ago). The Zodiac video starts with them at the first Zodiac crime scene, which immediately sets the stage. I don’t know about you, but I’m more likely to keep watching a video with an opening like that than an opening of someone sitting at a table with pages of notes in front of them.
Many key phrases and quotes, like lines Ryan picks out of the Zodiac letters, appears on the screen in an easy to read and large font. When talking about suspects, there are often bulleted lists shown next to either photos or drawings of said suspect. Comprehensive closed captions are also available, which makes the video accessible to anyone. Between the captions and photos, it is possible to watch the “Buzzfeed Unsolved” videos without sound if necessary.
I’m not a big Youtube commenter – I don’t want to get stuck down a rabbit hole – but these videos have thousands of comments from others regarding theories. Viewers also suggest other cases for the pair to cover, give feedback on the video format and more. The videos also have exponentially more “thumbs up” than “thumbs down” – the Zodiac video has over 90,000 upvotes versus 800 downvotes – and upwards of three million views each.
The presentation is a perfect combination of multiple elements and much more engaging than just watching one person sit at a desk and spout theories. Ryan and Brent are obviously friends as well as co-workers, with Brent often being the logical straight man to Ryan’s more imaginative nature and tendency to grasp at straws or believe the likely impossible. I also appreciate that casual language (and occasional swearing), because I feel like I could be friends with these guys. Especially when they mention the “Ted Cruz is the Zodiac killer” meme. In fact, if they need another member for the team, they need look no farther.