Skip Navigation
film film film film

The Reel World: Stranger Than Fiction

If you’ve been following the bizarre cases of Natalia Grace and Gypsy Rose Blanchard, then you know the adage “truth is stranger than fiction” is so, so true. The twists! The turns! The stunning revelations! Who could make this stuff up?   

These three riveting documentaries on an “alien” kidnapping, an unusual highway crash, and a teen murder spree will prove once again that bizarre and unusual events aren’t just for fiction. 

Abducted in Plain Sight

Abducted in plain sightStrapped down by her arms and legs, drugged and terrified, 12-year-old Jan Broberg could only listen in disbelief as the tinny voice in the box beside her told her, "you are an alien, you have a mission to perform, you must perform this mission, or your family will be hurt." The mission? Have a baby before she was 16. And the man she was to mate with? The charismatic sexual predator who had just kidnapped her and whom Jan had thought of as a second father. 

Charming and devious, the amiable Robert Berchtold befriended the Broberg family while both families were living in Pocatello, Idaho and attending the same LDS church. Fixated on the Broberg’s vivacious oldest daughter Jan, Berchtold manipulated both Jan’s parents into having sexual encounters with him to not only get better access to Jan but also for future blackmail purposes. After kidnapping Jan and marrying the 12-year-old in Mexico, Berchtold convinced the Brobergs not to press charges or he would reveal everything. 

Just when you think the bizarre story can’t get any stranger, I assure you, it does. It’s all utterly believable, though, thanks to the affecting interviews with Jan and her family. Jan shares what it was like to be a child preyed on by a “master manipulator.” Her tearful parents, wracked with guilt, describe how they were duped by a pedophile who played on their naivete. 

There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane

There's something wrong with aunt DianeOblivious to terrified drivers swerving out of her way, Diane Schuler serenely sped the wrong way down the Taconic Parkway in her borrowed red minivan loaded with five children. She smashed head-on into an SUV, killing the three men in the SUV, herself, her daughter and her three nieces. Only her young son survived the tragic crash. In the excellent, heartbreaking documentary There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane, filmmaker Liz Garbus tries to answer this question: why was Diane Schuler – a good, responsible person – driving the wrong way? 

A perfect wife. A loving mother. A woman who could have been voted “Mom Most Likely to Get Your Kids Home Safely.” This was Diane Schuler. So, imagine how inconceivable, how utterly beyond belief, when Diane’s autopsy revealed she had been drinking heavily and smoking marijuana shortly before the crash.  Surely the medical examiner got it wrong, tested the wrong DNA, didn’t look for medical reasons for her wildly out-of-character actions. It just couldn’t be true, could it? 

In interviews with family members and friends, medical examiners and police, investigators and journalists, filmmaker Liz Garbus pieces together the truth of what happened that dreadful day. The tension builds as Garbus traces Diane’s movements from the moment she buckled the kids into her van at the campground, to breakfast at McDonald’s, to a gas station to look for pain relievers, to her increasingly aggressive driving and bizarre phone calls, to the final, horrifying scenes of the crash that destroyed so many lives. 

The 12th Victim

12th victimCharlie was a pretty good boyfriend until he wasn’t. Oh, others might not have thought the hot-tempered high school dropout with a garbage route was cool, but he was five years older than Caril and knew how to have fun. Then Charlie got controlling and Caril had enough. She was through with Charlie, but Charles Starkweather was not through with her. 

After murdering Caril’s parents and toddler half-sister in January 1958, Starkweather terrorized Lincoln, Nebraska with a killing spree. Always one step ahead of the police, Starkweather, with 14-year-old Caril by his side, murdered a farmer, a pair of high school sweethearts, a prominent Lincoln family and their maid, and finally, a traveling salesman after they fled to Wyoming. 

There was no question of Charles’ guilt, he spewed multiple confessions. But was his young girlfriend a hostage or an accomplice? The 12th Victim, a Showtime docuseries, attempts to exonerate Caril Ann Fugate by showing how the police, prosecutors and judges in Lincoln were convinced of Caril’s guilt before she ever went to trial. 




CSS image size hack

Back to Top