By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
If Don Wildman is not careful, he’s going to step on toes and piss off the wrong people (living or dead) in Buried Worlds. Before joining Travel Channel, he was the voice behind the series Cities of the Underworld and Mysteries at the Museum. With this latest series at its halfway point, the formula is firmly established. It sends this host into the field, getting involved in seances and perhaps meeting people that he really shouldn’t in the quest for answers to well-known unsolved mysteries.
He better be careful in what he digs up. It may not be pleasant not only for the viewer, but also those better versed than him when dealing with the occult.
The first episode “Vampire Hunt” suggests that these bloodsuckers’ natural form is that of a disembodied spirit and what everyone doesn’t know is that the classic form of folklore was much scarier before the advent of Dracula. The corpses they inhabit and how they rise from the grave gave us the legends we know of today. In the old world, “hunters” who look for them throughout Eastern Europe do more than bust ghosts. sometimes the undead life is of their own making.
“Dark Magic” delves into a world I’ve been fascinated with since studying the folklore of the Mississippi Delta. The Vodou mystery religion is far more complex to which this series is not properly representing. Each region has its own distinct segregation and focus. It’s also not just about zombies, but rather in each individual’s connection with that greater divine force. The fact it has a syncretic association with the Roman Catholic faith says something about its role in mysticism too.
I question the Taíno connection. It’s not connected to the spirituality of the Haitians and this episode is only scratching the surface of a world that deserves its own documentary, zombie creation notwithstanding!
“Demon Woods” is perhaps the spookiest of the three episodes broadcast so far. I’m not 100% sold on its connection with the Lost Colony of Roanoke. When John White left for home to gather the needed supplies for the second attempt at a new establishment and returned to find them gone, the speculation is that they left for unknown reasons. The only clue was the mysterious words CROATOAN left etched to a tree.
The theory presented in this episode is that they were murdered or they sailed home, only to be lost at sea. Although far fetched, another alternative theory has emerged to say these people made a deal with the devil; much like Faust, after a period of time, he would return to claim everyone’s souls.
Although, in the latest episode to be broadcast, “The Nazi’s Supernatural Weapon,” it would seem Heinrich Himmler is far loonier than the Third Reich’s leader. He led the party’s quest to steal a lot of this world’s best treasures and also locate eldritch artifacts said to help this party win the war. Whether that would be with the Holy Grail or Ark of the Covenant like in the Indiana Jones movies, there’s a lot more this episode neatly reveals. When news broke that an unnamed SS officer kept a diary giving cryptic clues to where a lot of these treasures are hidden, interest was renewed to seek out these treasures and return them to their original owners. A Polish organization known as the Silesian Bridge holds this document while the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage is waiting to authenticate it proper.
I do question how easy it is to get permission to present individuals holding grande secrets to the world in this program. Even more odd is the ability to witness sacred rituals to television viewers. They are meant to be practiced behind closed doors, and to have a program reveal all feels counter-intuitive.
Coming up next is “Temples of Doom.” To debunk the rituals Indiana Jones saw in his accidental visit to India is not this episode’s focus. Instead, it’s in what Wildman is going to find in his visit to Peru. The pre-Colombian world was a bloody one, hence the title, and is ripe with just as much rich folklore for horror films to delve into. I have to ask if this episode will deal with the recent discovery of mass child sacrifice. If it does, I feel this program is at least doing the service of staying current with recent discoveries–however grim as they may be.
As for what’s next, this short season will end after two more episodes––”The Devil’s Swamp” and “Curse of the Druids”––if the current listings are any indication.