15 BEHIND THE SCENES SECRETS THAT MYTHBUSTERS KEPT UNDER WRAPS
MythBusters will forever be remembered as one of the greatest, most entertaining science shows of all time. Over 14 seasons, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, along with the help of their Build Team of Grant Imahara, Kari Byron, and Tory Belleci, tested the truth and plausibility behind everything from legends and tall tales, to internet videos and famous sayings, to big budget film and television franchises. It was a true scientific endeavor, one that fortunately for viewers required blowing up a lot of stuff.
However, sometimes the show’s experiments also blew up in their faces, because not all of them went according to plan. The results of those failures led to extremely dangerous, life-threatening situations. And while they were all trained professionals with years of experience, their paths to the show weren’t always smooth ones. Nor were all of their personal relationships on set.
There were also times when fans of the show tried to get out of trouble by blaming the series for their own mistakes. Adam and Jamie even faced pressure from their own network, as well as angry advertisers, about what they could and couldn’t do and say on the show.
Because behind all the fun, and the informative and thrilling investigations they undertook, not everything was always as simple as blowing up a truck full of concrete. So here are 15 Dark Secrets Behind MythBusters You Had No Idea About.
15. THEY DESTROYED ALL EVIDENCE OF AN EPISODE
Some fans would say the show was at its most entertaining when it was doing what it loved most: blowing up stuff. But when one myth they tested about an “easily available material and its supposed explosive properties” turned out to be true, and very dangerous, they decided they could never let the public know about it.
Whatever it was that Kari, Grant, and Tory were investigating was so problematic that the show destroyed all of the footage of the myth.
On top of that, everyone who was involved with the project promised to never talk about it. They didn’t stop there, because they also alerted the government about what they had found. DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) had asked for help researching homemade bombs they might not know about, so Adam Savage let them in on the secret of their shocking discovery.
14. ONE EXPLOSION BROKE WINDOWS AND SHOOK HOMES IN A NEARBY TOWN
In 2009, the show headed to Yolo County in California to see if they could knock the socks off a mannequin–literally, which they tried to do by igniting 500 pounds of ammonium nitrate. The explosion was much bigger than anyone anticipated, which rocked the homes of the nearby residents in the town of Esparto.
The local authorities, who were involved with the filming to make sure everything went off safely and smoothly, had elected not to tell residents about the show’s presence. They were worried too many people would try to come out and get a closeup look. Unfortunately that’s why those in Esparto thought something terrible like a plane crash or house explosion had taken place when their own homes shook and windows broke.
13. THEY ACCIDENTALLY SHOT A CANNONBALL THROUGH A HOME
MythBusters preached safety at the start of every episode and went to great lengths to make sure their experiments didn’t endanger anyone involved. But even with all of their precautions one miscalculation during a 2011 episode led to a test going horribly wrong, which resulted in a cannonball being shot through someone’s home.
While testing a myth about cannonballs at the Dublin range in Alameda County, they missed their target.
The cannonball then went 700 yards through a nearby neighborhood, traveling as fast as a bullet. It went completely through the home where a couple was sleeping, hit the roof of another house, and smashed into a window of a minivan before coming to a rest. Miraculously no one was hurt, but it did go to show how dangerous busting myths can be.
12. THEY WEREN’T ALLOWED TO SAY CERTAIN WORDS
The Discovery Channel gave MythBusters the freedom to do a lot of crazy things that were extremely risky, and yet they would not allow them to use a particular word to describe a fluid that males produce. While filming an episode about the legend of a Civil War soldier who was shot in a sensitive area, leading to the bullet impregnating a women, Discovery censored them from directly saying the scientific word for it. That forced them to get creative when talking about the myth, with terms like “genetic legacy” instead.
But as weird as that restriction might seem, the network was so happy they managed to keep the episode family-friendly, they trusted them to do an entire show about farts. Because apparently Discovery thought parents wouldn’t have a problem with talking about farts.
11. GRANT IMAHARA FACED BACKLASH FOR DOING ADS FOR MCDONALD’S
In 2014, shortly after he left the show, Build Team member Grant Imahara was hired by McDonald’s to explore the truth behind how the company makes its Chicken McNuggets and other menu items. The campaign was designed to help improve decreasing sales, especially after controversy over whether or not the fast food giant’s recipes included “pink slime.” The extended behind-the-scenes videos were presented to look like an episode of MythBusters and ended with Grant sitting in a McDonald’s declaring the food both safe and tasty.
While he thought McDonald’s food was “good,” fans of MythBusters did not feel the same way about him being involved with the company.
10. JAMIE HYNEMAN LEFT HOME AT 14 AND HITCHHIKED AROUND THE COUNTRY
Jamie Hyneman was always presented as the most serious member of the show. With his walrus-like mustache, black beret, no-nonsense approach, and stoic face, it’s hard to imagine a time in his life when he wasn’t in total control. However, that wasn’t always the case and it led to a very difficult time during his teenage years.
In a 2010 interview, Hyneman was asked if a “hands on” approach to science as a child led to him getting in trouble with his parents and teachers. Rather than sharing an expected story or two about setting things on fire like Adam Savage did, Hyneman described himself as a “problematic kid” who left home at only the very young age of 14 to hitchhike around the country. Who knows how much that difficult time period led to him becoming the serious adult viewers came to love on the show.
9. A CONTESTANT FROM THE SPIN-OFF SERIES WAS ARRESTED FOR MAKING A DANGEROUS OBJECT
In 2017, the Science Channel decided to reboot MythBusters by finding two new hosts to lead another generation of the show, which it found with its reality series contest MythBusters: The Search. One of the show’s most memorable–and most peculiar–contestants was Christopher Hackett, who didn’t win, but definitely left a lasting mark with his strange work and personal habits.
Even though Hackett did build some dangerous machines while on the show, he didn’t seem intentionally harmful.
That’s why it was shocking when he was arrested in Brooklyn after police found him carrying an object that resembled a bomb in a suitcase. His lawyer said the non-working, non-explosive piece was an art exhibit, but either way, when it comes to the myth of whether you can carry around something in public that only looks like a bomb, this one’s busted.
8. TORY AND GRANT LIVE TWEETED A CRAZY MOMENT
In 2013, a gunman opened up fire inside Terminal 3 at LAX, Los Angeles International Airport, taking out one TSA agent and injuring several others. Among the witnesses who were there that day were Build Team members Tory Belleci and Grant Imahara. The two didn’t just duck for cover during the shooting though, they live-tweeted what was happening on their personal Twitter accounts, providing some of the earliest reports from the scene.
Belleci, who said he was sitting at a gate right around the corner from where the shooter began firing, described the horrible events as “like my worst nightmare,” adding, “It felt like an eternity, but was probably just matter of minutes.”
7. TORY WAS ALMOST ARRESTED AT 19
Long before he witnessed that horrible crime at LAX, Tory Belleci was almost arrested for his own. Because at the age of 19 he made a homemade pipe bomb that nearly resulted in him ending up in jail. Belleci, who was so fond of testing his own explosives as a kid his mom said, “He used to scare me to death,” went too far when he set off a pipe bomb he had made himself close to his parent’s home.
When police responded to reports of fireworks being set off, he was saved from serious repercussions thanks to his well-known previous attempts at blowing stuff up.
Neighbors described him as a special-effects junkie, which led police to determine he had made a mistake and wasn’t a threat. Instead of a pair of handcuffs he was given a strict warning about safer, more acceptable ways to explore his obsession.
6. A COLLEGE STUDENT IN FLORIDA WAS ARRESTED FOR MAKING SOMETHING HE SAID HE LEARNED ABOUT FROM THE SHOW
At the start of every MythBusters episode, they remind viewers they were trained professionals with decades of experience and warned against trying to recreate anything they saw them do on the show. However, that didn’t stop one 19-year-old student from the Florida Institute of Technology from making his own version of a bomb he learned about while watching the show.
Christian Barnes Duke was arrested after setting off his homemade explosive device inside the stairwell of his dorm. When police arrested him, he said he had learned how to make it out of household items after seeing it on MythBusters. His lawyer said he was just experimenting and had no intention of hurting anyone or causing any damage, but that wasn’t enough to prevent Duke from getting busted by the cops.
5. A MAN SUSPECTED OF DUI REFUSED A BREATHALYZER TEST BECAUSE OF THEM
In 2012, Dustin Carpenter was pulled over by police in Fort Pierce, Florida for suspicion of driving while intoxicated. He reportedly had blood-shot eyes, and had difficulty speaking and standing upright. However, when officers tried to administer a breathalyzer test, he refused by saying he was “not taking no sobriety test” because “I done seen it on the MythBusters.”
They did do an episode about breathalyzers and found there was no way to cheat them.
That might be why Carpenter didn’t want to take one, since he was afraid he would fail it. Unfortunately for him “I done seen it on the MythBusters” is not a viable legal defense in any state–that myth is definitely busted–as was Carpenter who was taken into custody.
4. CREDIT CARDS COMPANIES PRESSURED DISCOVERY TO PREVENT AN EPISODE ABOUT HACKING RFID CHIPS
While Discovery might have prevented the MythBusters from using particular words during an episode, they still let them explore the myth. However, the network was once pressured by advertisers to stop them entirely from testing out if it was possible to hack RFID chips in credit cards. When some of the biggest credit card companies in the world found out the show was researching the technology behind the chips and whether it could be circumvented, lawyers made it clear if they went forward with the episode it would be the end of their relationship with the network.
Adam Savage said Discovery was “way, way outgunned” and the network “backed way down” because they greatly depended on ad revenue to be profitable and couldn’t afford to lose the business. That’s why the myth about hacking RFID chips never even made it past the testing stage.
3. KARI BYRON BECAME AN ATHEIST IN THE 2ND GRADE
The fact that Build Team member Kari Byron is an atheist isn’t shocking, but the reason behind how and when she came to that decision is.
That’s because she said she lost her faith as a little girl after a conversation with her grandmother.
In a 2011 interview, Byron, who was born to Catholic parents and said she started off life religious, talked about how she began pulling away from God in the second grade after a conversation with her grandmother. They were discussing one of Byron’s young friends who was a Buddhist and her grandmother told her the girl would never get into Heaven because she was Buddhist. “I just couldn’t rationalize that this little girl wouldn’t go to Heaven because she believed in something else,” Byron said, which led to her question her religion entirely at such a young age.
2. JAMIE AND ADAM WERE NEVER FRIENDS AND DON’T GET ALONG PERSONALLY
Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman worked together on MythBusters for 14 seasons from 2003 until 2016 and they had previously worked together even before the series. However, despite spending two-and-a-half decades together and working together wonderfully on MythBusters, the two were never friends.
“We don’t get along very well together on a personal level,” said Savage as the show was coming to a close, “In 25 years we’ve known each other, we’ve never had dinner alone together. We do not choose to hang out if we don’t have to be in proximity.”
Despite the surprising reality that two people who worked together so closely for so long didn’t actually like one other personally, Savage said their respect for each other, similar approaches to problem-solving, and lack of egos allowed them to achieve professional success.
1. ADAM SAYS HE’LL NEVER WORK WITH JAMIE AGAIN
Since Jamie and Adam can obviously overcome their personal issues to produce great, compelling television, some fans might be hoping to see the two team up again in the future. Sadly for fans of MythBusters, Adam Savage says that’s unlikely to ever happen.
“No, I don’t think Jamie and I will continue to work together on other projects,” he said, “Jamie and I don’t get along very well.”
Because while he said the two men respect one another, they also “drive each other batty.”
That’s why Savage said he thought they were both genuinely enjoying being apart after their run on the show ended. That’s probably not what viewers want to hear, but, if they ever do decide to work together again, the myth that they wouldn’t would be one very satisfying one to call “busted.”