Margaret Hamilton’s secret Sesame Street episode
Margaret Hamilton’s Sesame Street appearance is considered to be the Holy Grail of lost media, owing both to how difficult it was to find and how infamous it has been for decades. The story goes that Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch in the seminal classic The Wizard of Oz, wanted to meet Elmo and the gang to prove to children that she wasn’t really scary, as kids were constantly dashing out of her way and crying when they saw her even decades later.
Tragically, the episode was banned from syndication after being aired only once, with concerned parents, angry Christians and even incensed pagans all mailing PBS to complain. Not only that, but the episode only compounded Hamilton’s problem, as it showed her terrorising the Sesame Street residents! The episode remained lost from 1979 until 2019, when it was donated to the Library of Congress and then leaked by fans during a top-secret, exclusive screening.
Reverend Mosley’s lost message from R Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet
So much happens during R Kelly’s 33-part song Trapped in the Closet that you’d be forgiven for not remembering the Reverend Mosley subplot, wherein a preacher can be seen flogging his new book on television during a commercial break. Even more obscure than the ad itself is the ARG element that used to exist alongside it, as in the past you could call the number on the screen and hear Reverend Mosley explaining that all copies of his book were sold out.
Obviously, the number was discontinued after a while, which banished the message to the annuls of history. It was rediscovered in 2022, when a YouTube user revealed that he had saved the message to his voicemail way back in the mid-2000s, and had come across it when trying to clean out an old phone. Unfortunately, it seems the books are still sold out in 2022!
Jeopardy’s lost pilot
Jeopardy is one of America’s most long-running and beloved game shows, thanks to its originally revolutionary premise of flipping the script and asking contestants to give the question, rather than the answer. This format has gone from strength to strength ever since its pilot episode was shot in 1964, but you wouldn’t know it, because the first ever episode of Jeopardy has never been available to watch. Even the executives who commissioned it didn’t see it, as they agreed to shoot the show on the strength of its concept alone!
For lost media enthusiasts, this pilot has been a white whale ever since a 2002 Jeopardy anniversary episode showed a montage featuring shots from it, thus proving its continued existence. While other clips were included as Jeopardy DVD bonus features here and there, it took until 2022 for NBC to drop the whole pilot on YouTube, which they did seemingly without warning or for any particular reason.
Uncensored Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids’ episode
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids ran from 1972 to 1985 and aimed to teach children all sorts of lessons, all the way from dealing with stage fright and maintaining proper personal hygiene to the risks of STIs and the dangers of gun violence. However, it wasn’t the episodes about drug use, kidnapping or child abuse that got censored by the network, but the episode Busted, which dealt with car theft.
In the episode, the gang are made to walk around prison after accidentally riding in a stolen car. In the original broadcast, the inmates yelled curses like “ba***rd” and “h*ll” at the group, but these words were edited out of reruns and home video releases. It took until 2022 for someone to discover a VHS tape of the premiere with the curses intact, and arguments immediately erupted over whether the footage was indeed a home recording or a master tape, due to the lack of a channel watermark or commercials.
Spongebob Squarepants’ Got Milk advert
Many pieces of lost media are searched for for decades before finally being rediscovered, but the turnaround time is not always so lengthy. The existence of a SpongeBob SquarePants Got Milk commercial wasn’t even speculated about until 2020, and by 2022 footage of the ad had been sourced and uploaded to the Internet Archive.
The advert aired sometime during 2001 and centred on SpongeBob being unable to keep the iconic milk moustache due to his absorbent, spongey nature. The search ended in 2021, almost 20 years to the day after its premiere, when a home recording of the advert was posted to YouTube by an amateur archivist.
Homeward Bound deleted scenes
Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey is one of those movies that every single 80s and 90s kid has seen at least once, but has more likely seen more like 70 times. So when it became clear that hundreds of people were remembering the same scenes from the movie that couldn’t be found in any modern broadcast or on any DVD or VHS release, it seemed like something more was going on.
A grassroots search immediately erupted to find the scenes of Sassy the cat watching her temporary owner play the saxophone, Chance being washed after eating a birthday cake, and the pets all going on a car ride together. It took until April 2022 for a VHS recording of the original broadcast to surface, which proved the existence of seven deleted scenes in total. Unfortunately, uploads of this footage tend to be taken down quickly.
Terrifying 2001 Demon Lady health bar advert
One of the weirdest seemingly-universal childhood experiences is this: being unable to sleep, going downstairs to switch on the television in the early hours of the morning, and seeing a surreal, almost nightmarish advert that sticks in your brain for years or even decades afterwards. For many, the “demon lady carb bar” commercial continued to haunt them into adulthood, even though they couldn’t find proof that it had ever been real.
In 2016, forum discussions began bubbling up about an ad which saw a sweet lady turn into an angry demon due to someone else’s commitment to eating an energy bar. A commercial for Carb Solutions matching the description surfaced soon after, but the group agreed it wasn’t the one they remembered. It was in 2022 that a second ad was discovered with a similar premise except set on an aeroplane, and this turned out to be the commercial that had scarred hundreds of children.
1982 Macy’s Day Parade broadcast
Watching the Macy’s Day Parade on Thanksgiving is a storied American tradition, and has been ever since the debut parade way back in 1924. Therefore, it’s not surprising that people are constantly searching for the parade broadcast from the happiest or most nostalgic year of their childhood. Unfortunately for people whose happiest year was 1982, that particular parade was impossible to find, even in clip form, until very recently.
In April of 2022, a YouTuber uploaded a clip of a low-quality screen recording of the parade on his television, presumably being played from a VHS he had taped of the broadcast way back in the day. The YouTuber then sold the VHS tape on eBay, apparently not knowing how rare it was, and a full upload appeared on YouTube just days later, bringing the 40-year-long mystery to an end.
Bizarre Pennsylvania Perfection Subway advert
While some lost media searches are a group effort right from the very beginning, others begin as a valiant solo search. In 2018, one forum user began asking around about a weird, low-budget Subway advert that showed in Ontario, Canada from 1995 to 1996, but nobody involved with the Lost Media Reddit or the Internet Archive knew anything about it.
Infographics were created and shared widely, the search was picked up by other commercials enthusiasts and an entire mock-up of the advert was even created out of Legos and shot, but nothing came of it until January 2022. Weirdly, the advert wasn’t discovered due to the orchestrated search effort, and instead eventually surfaced when a random Instagram user uploaded it, saying: “Going through some tapes I got from someone in Pennsylvania and I saw this awesome super weird regional Subway ad! Any of you remember this?”
Recovered Godspeed You Black Emperor album
The most famous piece of lost media out there, or just the piece of lost media with the silliest name? Well, it turns out this is both! All Lights F***ed on the Hairy Amp Drooling is a 1994 experimental post-punk album released by Godspeed You Black Emperor, made legendary by the fact that only 33 copies were ever made and sold. Not only that, but the album was never released on Spotify or uploaded to YouTube, so having one of the 33 tapes was the only way to listen to it up until recently.
In 2013, a Reddit user claimed to have found a copy in his collection of demos, and even uploaded images of the case and recordings of the last two tracks to prove it. However, his post was met with scepticism and then deleted, so enthusiasts were forced to wait an additional nine years for someone else to post all the recorded files. After an anonymous 4chan user shared the entire album, the band themselves also uploaded the tracks to Bandcamp, proving the tracklists’ legitimacy and bringing the search to an official close.