I can hear it now.. literally. As I type this, it's playing in the background on another tab on my lap top.. But honestly, it never left me. I doubt there is another television show that has ever had such an impactful theme song. You already know what I'm talking about. And if you grew up in the 90's, it's pretty likely that just the mere mention of it is enough to bring back that flood of anxiety and excitement you felt as a kid the second the Unsolved Mysteries music came on.
There is something about those sinister, ominous tones just sort of ambling along at a sorrowful pace that draws you in like some hapless chump, mesmerized by the strange melody. And when that wailing synthesizer kicked in to give the indescribable sense of urgency and sheer terror, it was enough to send more than a few of us seeking the safety of cover from a blanket or pillow...
Can you hear it?
And when that was all over with, it somehow got worse: The deep, thundering voice of a stoic man in a trench coat standing on a dark street in a cloud of misty fog, staring through you with a sideways smirk and saying shit like:
"Ghosts. Specters. Menacing, shadowy apparitions that shock and terrorize the unsuspecting. Are the spirits of the dead really capable of seeking vengeance from the living?"
Give me a fucking break! For a little kid, it was enough to make you shit a brick. And if I'm honest, I still get chills when I hear that song. It was definitely a key part of the soundtrack of my youth. I loved it then, and I love it now. So, imagine my surprise when I found out that the man who played such a prominent role in my childhood was in real life, interested in my greatest passion: Hot rods.
Stack in his roadster
The man in question is of course, Robert Stack. And while you may remember him from Unsolved Mysteries, which he hosted from 1987 to 2002, our buddy, Bob had a long-running cinematic career spanning from the 1930's until his death in 2003. But all the while, he secretly had grease under his nails.
This dude was a heartthrob in his day
In addition to acting, Stack was from an early age interested in going fast. His father passed away when Bob was just nine years old, leaving him with an enormous void in his life. This void was quickly filled by family-friend, and movie star, Clark Gable. With "The King of Hollywood" as his surrogate father, young Stack soon found himself rubbing elbows with the most powerful, influential and wealthiest members of Hollywood's elite. And a favorite pastime of these stars was, you guessed it, cars.
Cooling off at the dry lakes
In a MotorTrend interview given in 1998, Stack recalls watching in awe as these actors and bigwig Hollywood agents hired professional drivers to pit their Mercedes and Duesenbergs against one another, often times betting enormous sums of money on the outcome. For a barely-double-digit Robert Stack, it left an instant and lasting impression.
Clark Gable and Robert Stack later in life
But it would be a chance encounter with ace mechanic and race car driver, Al Jepsen, that pushed Stack's interest in speed into a full-blown obsession. This meeting eventually led to the creation of a wicked Model A Roadster sporting a Cragar OHV-equipped Model B motor with dual Winfield carbs and nasty Winfield cam. Impressively built and purportedly sporting an unbelievable 13-1 compression ratio on 100 octane and methanol, the Roadster, piloted by Robert Stack, raced to an impressive 115 MPH at Muroc Dry Lakes in 1938.
Al Jepsen and Bob Stack
Just a little later, Stack would find himself a champion hydroplane boat racer, piloting the first three-point-hull on the West Coast to victory again and again with an Al Jepsen-built Flathead Ford V8. Oh, all the while, he also happened to be an expert marksman, and eventually became a world record holding Olympic skeet shooter.
Bob and his wife, Rosemarie at a Hot Rod Magazine press party
Before long, Bob's acting career took the lead role in his life, and cars took somewhat of a back seat. (two puns in a row, how do ya like that?) But as we all know, when you have motor oil pulsing through your veins, it's not something that just goes away, and it never did for Robert Stack either. His interest in cars and racing of all kinds continued up to the time of his death in 2003. Along his journey he became close friends with fast-car-influentials that ran the gamut, such as Robert Petersen, (Petersen Publishing) Ed Winfield, Steve McQueen and countless others.
Stack in his speedboat, "Thunderbird"
So, the obvious question is: What ever happened to Bob's Model A Roadster? The short answer is, we don't know. It was a very distinctive car, having the rear wheel well openings smoothed, a chopped and heavily-leaned windshield, '32 commercial grill, and an exhaust pipe running all the way down the passenger side of the car. Despite this, after Stack had his fun with it on the dry lakes, it was sold off and as far as we know, never seen again. A fitting non-ending. Some might say, an unsolved mystery.
Robert Stack and his roadster at Muroc