Graveyard Shift
6.1k readers

Teenage Arsonists Taped Themselves Burning Down Homes, And It's One Of The Most Haunting Things You'll Ever Witness

Updated June 1, 2019 6.1k views11 items

In 1989 a motorist found a VHS tape on the side of the ride near Stockton, CA, that offered a window into the mind of two teenage arsonists who’d been working in the area for awhile. On the tape, a house burns while an unseen voice narrates the destruction in haunting tones.

After the tape was discovered, investigators sent it to Unsolved Mysteries, leading to one of the many times the TV show helped solve a crime. The tips that came in helped officials find the two young men, whose decision to capture their crime on tape turned out to be their downfall.

Finding the Stockton arsonists based on very few crime facts was definitely a long shot. The footage didn't show any visible landmarks, and unlike most crimes caught on camera the video didn't include any visible evidence of a perpetrator. But although creepy stories of arson often go unsolved, this time the culprits didn't get away with their burning crime.

  • Photo: Unsolved Mysteries / FilmRise

    The Arsonists Weren't The Only People Filming The Fire

    A strange break in this case came after a local fire chief came forward with his footage from the evening in question. He'd been filming the fire for training purposes and his video almost perfectly matched up with the video filmed by the teen arsonists.

    By matching up the two videos, investigators discovered that the fire occurred on August 15, 1988, in Redwood City, CA.

  • Photo: Unsolved Mysteries / FilmRise

    Tips Flooded In After The TV Episode

    After footage from the tape aired on Unsolved Mysteries in 1990, tips began to pour in from viewers who lived in or around Redwood City who remembered a fire in their neighborhood from 1988. According to investigators, they received 1,600 calls from viewers after the episode aired.

    The tips led police to arrest a 17-year-old and a 19-year-old who were not named due to their status as minors. The 19-year-old admitted to burning the house and speaking on the video.

  • The Teens Set Multiple Fires Before Getting Caught

    The 1988 fire in Redwood City was just one in a series of arsons that rocked Northern California in the late '80s. Redwood City police said the teens were also linked to 11 other structure fires and multiple grass fires across Redwood City and San Mateo County in 1987 and 1988. The damage to four structures alone cost more than $2 million. 

    Police said there was "no motive" for the fires. 

  • Some Investigators Believed The Fire Was A Satanic Ritual

    On the video recorded in 1988, the narrator refers to an "ancient spirit of evil." He also says, "Look at it Omar... this is what I've been doing all week's vacation... I said I'll do it, I said I'll do it." These phrases jumped out at investigators.

    The narrator's call to an "ancient spirit," along with a fake human skull and mortar and pestle found with the tape, led investigators to believe the fires were part of a Satanic ritual. After the teens' arrest, however, investigators didn't find any information linking them to Satanism.