In Praise of Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World

Throughout life, there are certain experiences and events, which on the surface may appear to have no discernible effect on an individual but which, at a deeper, unconscious level, have a profound influence in shaping that individual’s future path.  Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World was one such event for me.

The autumn of 1980, I was a suggestive teenager when the programme was first shown on TV.  By the winter of the same year, I was a closet but committed cryptozoologist.

The concept of Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World was to take a scientific lens to instances of unexplained phenomena from around the world.  The programme had a grading system for the different kinds of mysteries it investigated: Mysteries of the First Kind were defined as those that had puzzled our ancestors, but which through modern scientific advances we could now fully explain; Mysteries of the Second Kind were mysteries that still held a certain puzzlement for us, but where science had suggested possible solutions; and Mysteries of the Third Kind were ones where, frankly, no one had an effing clue.

Although the programme was attributed to ACC, the famous science fiction writer only actually appeared briefly at the beginning and end of each episode, speaking from his home in Sri Lanka, usually providing an optimistic introduction and a balanced conclusion to each broadcast.  ACC was a great advocate of scientific advancement, particularly in the field of space exploration, but even he was apt to be sceptical of certain mysteries: I recall he only gave the poor old Sasquatch a 10% chance of existence.  Pretty generous odds, IMHO.

The teenage me lapped up each episode, enthralled.  It seems extraordinary now to realise that the running time of each show was only half an hour in duration (shown on ITV, that running time included adverts as well).  In my memory, it seemed as though the programme lasted the entire evening; such was both its significance for me and, also, the length of time I spent afterwards lost in contemplative reflection of its content.

Back then, the shows that had me most gripped were, perhaps predictably, the ones, which featured unexplained beasts of myth and legends: Nessie; the Yeti; the Mokèlé-mbèmbé.  If juvenile will power alone could have summoned these legendary cryptids into life, then they would have all existed in abundance.

One other episode, though, is a teenage standout: Out of the Blue.  The episode featured a phenomenon that Clarke classified at the time as a Mystery of the Third Kind.  The phenomenon was frogs raining from the sky.  Of course, these days, we have a scientifically-proven, rational explanation for the bizarre event.  Nevertheless, such was the show’s power that I still always make a close scrutiny of the heavens before venturing out.

© Bradley Dunbar

bradley-dunbar-ducking-frogs

Bradley Dunbar remains vigilant at all times.

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