Forensic Files proudly advertises its standing as the longest-running true-crime series on TV. Originally narrated by the magnificent Peter Thomas, the series serves up perfect twenty-minute stories of crime and justice.
But not all the episodes focus on murder, or even crimes. A good portion of the early-season episodes focused on mysteries beyond the scope of human justice.
Below are 9 episodes from Seasons 1, 2, and 3 that actually didn’t feature murder:
1. “Legionnaires’ Disease” Season 1, Episode 7
It’s hard not to spoil the culprit in this early episode of the show: the mysterious respiratory virus known as “Legionnaires’ Disease”. An American Legion convention leads to a sudden emergence of a deadly, pneumonia-like disease. This classic medical mystery is retold as only Forensic Files and the just-dramatic-enough voice-overs of Peter Thomas can.
(I once went to an American Legion meeting, by accident. In fact, I crashed a member’s wedding trying to find a rest stop)
2. “Killer Fog” Season 2, Episode 3
An unusually dangerous road. A mysterious fog. A horrifying car accident.
This episode follows the quest of victims, and their lawyers, to learn the true source of an unnatural fog–and get justice from a local paper factory.
3. “Raw Terror” Season 1, Episode 13
The first season finale of Forensic Files profiles the unfortunate death of an Alabama pre-teen, from food-borne illness. Viewers follow investigators as they seek to isolate the pathogen and track down where it entered the path towards the dinner plate. In case you needed a reminder about food-safety.
4. “Outbreak” Season 1, Episode 11
As we’ve seen elsewhere on this list, the first season of Forensic Files could well have been titled Medical Mysteries, if not for the pesky murders that pop up between epidemiological investigations. Two communities find themselves stricken by thyroid ailments.
Like “Raw Terror,” “Outbreak” might have you questioning your grocery list a little more closely.
5. “Deadly Formula” Season 3, Season 8
This is not an episode for the faint of heart. An infant dies suddenly and is found to have high levels of ethylene glycol in his blood. The pregnant mother is arrested on the suspicion she poisoned the child with antifreeze.
However, while in custody she gives birth to another son who has the same symptoms, even while living with other caregivers. Authorities realize they have made a terrible mistake; they must race to discover the true cause of the children’s illness, before the younger brother is also poisoned by his bottle.
6. “Fatal Fungus” Season 2, Episode 7
Young children living in a lower-income Cleveland neighborhood turn up at the ER with an alarming symptom: bleeding of the lungs. CDC investigators set out to identify the cause and prevent more children from falling ill.
Yes, the title does give it away; but this fungus is much more sinister than the familiar toadstool. This isn’t the only case of children falling ill due to neighborhood conditions that the show profiles.
7. “Deadly Parasites” Season 2, Episode 13
Again, this episode doesn’t have the most creative title, but it does get right to the point. In Milwaukee, in 1993, something gets into the water supply. Soon, panic is also going viral in the community.
This episode will make you grateful if you live in a community with access to clean, safe water–and should remind you to advocate for those that don’t.
8. “Deadly Neighborhoods” Season 1, Episode 9
Similar to “Fatal Fungus,” this heart-wrenching episode follows two neighborhoods with unusual clusters of seriously ill children. Somewhat deviating from the one-case, one-episode formula of the show, this episode takes a comparative approach, and leaves viewers with more questions than answers.
“Deadly Neighborhoods” rounds out the non-criminal cases of the show’s first season. That’s a four out of thirteen episodes, a full third of the first season.
9. “Foreign Body” Season 3, Episode 4
By the third season, Forensic Files had taken a hard turn towards murder and misdeeds.
While the first and second season each spent about a third of their episodes on non-criminal investigations–four and three episodes each, respectively–by the third season only two such cases were featured: the heartbreaking “Deadly Formula” and the downright terrifying “Foreign Body.”
If there’s one thing I learned from putting this list together, it’s that going vegetarian is probably the safer option, because things can go seriously wrong with industrial
The deadly topic of this episode can be summed up in three words: Mad. Cow. Disease.
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Later on, I’ll look at the episodes from later seasons that weren’t about tracking down criminals.
Even though I’ve watched (and obsessively re-watched) all of these episodes, I still needed help jogging my memory about the titles and seasons of each. Thanks to the devoted fans who wrote the Wikipedia listings for each episode–you make life easier for the rest of us.
If you’re ready to binge the series (again), Forensic Files is on Netflix and posted, legally, on the FilmRise True Crime YouTube channel. (I’m NOT sponsored by either site)