At least in my YouTube recommended videos, lost media has become a popular topic. I was never really interested until a handful of weeks ago, and since then I’ve been all-in in learning more about the topic and various pieces of lost media, as well as some of their restorations. Since it could technically be counted as my latest obsession, I figured this would be an excellent topic to write an introduction on!
Let me answer the most obvious question first: what exactly is lost media? As the official lost media wiki states: “whether it be video, audio or otherwise (of either a fictional or non-fictional nature), if it’s completely lost or simply inaccessible to the general public, it belongs [to the lost media wiki].” The term lost media casts a wide net on what it includes, but what comes to my mind immediately is scraped content from shows or video games that have never been accessible to the public before, or content that’s only been shared in stills or small clips.
In my mind, lost media is the slightly less creepy younger sibling to true crime, and indeed some pieces of lost media are intertwined with true crime and other real events. However, it also covers things like lost pilots of children’s shows, lost episodes of older television shows, lost audio and music and a myriad of other things.
I think what I find the most interesting is the mystery aspect of some of these stories. I started watching a few videos from the YouTuber blameitonjorge before noticing he covered lost media, and soon became enamored with his videos “The Search For Clockman: Nickelodeon’s Mysterious Lost Short” and “The Bizarre Search For Cracks: Sesame Street’s Lost Nightmarish Short.” Both shorts were considered lost media for a time, since no one was sure they even existed apart from a few people who a) may not have been talking about the same short and b) may have been lying about what they’d seen and experienced concerning the shorts.
Yeah, I did say that this was “slightly less creepy.” I did not mean that. To me, lost media is one of the things I turn to when I want to be scared by something I can’t explain. There’s just something about lost media that creeps me out, especially some traditionally creepier things detailed in the same YouTuber’s review of the lost media iceberg. Beware, though; a lot of the entries in that have been stuck in my head since watching, and not really in a good way.
There are, as you can imagine, many ways for a piece of media to become lost. One of the most common, especially in the cases of older shows without home media releases, would be the wiping and reusing of tapes by television stations. Since there wasn’t as big a push for preserving media back then, studios would wipe video tapes all the time to reuse them instead of getting new ones, thus losing many, many hours and even days’ worth of taping. And since a lot of those did not have home media releases, the only way to recover that media would be on the off chance that someone recorded the episode at home and still has access to the tape it’s on. That’s detailed a lot on the review of the lost gameshow media iceberg.
There are also cases in which a product is advertised, then certain scenes are changed for some reason and aren’t released to the public. Or, even more, the product isn’t released at all. One of the cases I’m most interested in would be concerning A Charlie Brown Christmas: a version was produced using a laugh track, but was never released. I didn’t even know about this until I perused the lost media wiki myself. Media that hasn’t been released in any capacity is sure to remain lost unless whoever owns it one day decides to make it public.
Additionally, there are cases where the media straight-up never existed at all, therefore making it sort of like an urban legend. This video could explain one of the most famous cases better than I ever could.
I think I should take a moment to tell you about the categories of lost media, because there are quite a few. First, of course, is completely lost media, which is media that has been lost in full. Then, on the other side, is found media, lost media that’s been found in its entirety one way or another. There’s also partially found media, “media that’s had up to half of its content found,” and partially lost media, “pieces of media have had over half their content found,” which sounds mostly the same to me now that I think about it, but is fundamentally different in how much has been found.
Then there’s media whose existence is unconfirmed: “media whose existence is contested by various sources or is claimed to exist with minimal/questionable proof.” Additionally, there’s non-existence confirmed, which is just as it sounds – it’s media confirmed to not exist at all. The lost media wiki also details historical lost media, as well as lost media categorized before the lost media wiki moved to its own website.
Lost media can be really intense, and warrant huge searches for media of interest to the masses, but it can also be smaller and more casual. Or, in my case, it can be something I watch to create uneasy feelings, since I can’t handle horror movies or many horror videos games. Still, there’s something intensely interesting about trying to find something more tangible that may or may not exist, kind of like Bigfoot but almost more within reach in some cases.
I highly recommend looking into the topic more with the videos I’ve linked and the lost media wiki if you’re interested, or think you might have access to a piece of lost media. You never know!