The theme song and logo. Robert Stack in his trench coat. The re-enactments and frustration of knowing stories on “Unsolved Mysteries” are featured for a reason.
“Unsolved Mysteries” originally began airing in 1987. It has seen various incarnations in the decades since, the latest being on Netflix, which picked up the reboot in 2020. The show explores mysteries related to missing people, crimes and the paranormal.
And now we can say we know someone who’s been on the show – but in a good way.
Artist and 2017 Fort Lewis College graduate Kayla Shaggy can be seen in the series’ most recent season (Season 3) on Netflix.
In Episode 5, “Paranormal Rangers,” viewers are introduced to Navajo Rangers Stan Milford and Jonathan Dover, who in 2000 were assigned to the “Paranormal beat”: The two were tasked with looking into reports of possible Bigfoot, UFO and shapeshifter sightings and other paranormal activity on the 27,000-square mile Navajo Reservation. The episode features Shaggy’s charcoal drawings accompanying the stories, and even has shots of her working on the pictures.
Shaggy said she first got an email out of the blue from “Unsolved Mysteries” in November 2021 and at first thought it was spam.
“It was honestly really surprising. I thought it was a joke, but then I checked who sent the email and I was like, ‘Oh no, this is legit,’” she said. “They said, ‘We found your art online on Instagram and we found your website, and we feel like you would be a really good fit as an artist for an episode we plan to do.’”
And so she got to be on “Unsolved Mysteries.”
“Yeah, it’s amazing! I love the show, I watched it a lot as a kid, and I really like the paranormal segments, especially the art. So getting to be a part of that, what a great experience,” she said.
Shaggy said she worked on the drawings for the show in December and January, about 40 to 50 pieces. “Unsolved Mysteries” specifically requested that all of the images be drawn in charcoal.
“The story producer told me that when they were looking at my website they really liked the feel and the texture of the charcoal pieces and felt that would be the best medium to use to convey the creatures and the spooky feeling of the stories,” she said.
After that, at the end of January, she went to the show’s production studios in California for filming.
“That was another dream come true because I really love behind-the-scenes stuff,” she said.
For Shaggy, who now lives in Phoenix, the paranormal stories shared on the episode hit pretty close to come, having grown up on the reservation and witnessed things that don’t have easy explanations.
“It is funny because both experiences were with my dad. I’ve always been able to kind of like sense this type off stuff, sometimes see things and hear things,” she said. “I would say the biggest experiences were when I was younger, me and my dad came home late and it was pitch black, because it’s on the rez, there’s no lights out there. I was taking a while to get out of the truck to go inside, and my dad’s just like, ‘Kayla! Kayla! Get out of the truck, get out of the truck right now!’ and he had this real urgency to his voice that I never heard before, that made me even more scared, so I did, and he’s like, ‘Look! Look over there!’ And I look and there’s just this huge flying object in the sky with lights going down it, and we’re just looking at it, and it’s moving so slowly and silently in the clouds, but we could tell it’s just huge, the size of a cruise liner in a way. And we watched it, I think, for maybe less than a minute, and it just disappeared.”
When it came to the show’s producers, Shaggy said they were very respectful of and sensitive to the Navajo culture, and that gave her and everyone else involved the opportunity to tell their stories as only they could.
“I remember during the beginning, they told me, ‘if you don’t want to do anything, to do any art about the shapeshifters, you don’t have to.’ ... I really actually deliberated on doing that, but then I realized this would be a perfect chance for Navajo people to tell their own stories about their own experiences – paranormal and stuff like that,” she said. “Because with horror, it’s always non-Native and they’re not very respectful, so I felt that with this chance having the rangers and the people who shared their stories and then there’s me who’s a Navajo artist, this would be a great chance to tell our own stories on our own terms. And ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ was very respectful of that. And I think they did it in such a great way that I hope it sets the standard for other related projects.”