There is nothing more fascinating than an unsolved mystery. It’s those small missing details — just out of reach — that draw us in. We start taking a second look at our surroundings, double-checking the things we know to be true, and beckoning our inner Sherlock Holmes. Plus, who doesn’t love a good horror story, one that sends a shiver up your spine?
Put on your deerstalker caps, ladies and gentlemen — it’s time for some sleuthing.
1The Mystery of the Somerton Man
A man was found dead on Somerton Beach in South Australia in December of 1948. The cause of death was deemed unknown, though poison was suspected in later investigations. The man was clean-shaven and dressed to the nines, but he was not identified by Australian authorities. The man’s image was sent out internationally, following a trail of clues which led to the conclusion that he may not have been Australian. The man was never identified.
In his pocket, police found a rolled scrap of paper that read “Tamum Shud,” the final words of Omar Ahayyám’s Rubáyát. The exact edition of the page’s source was identified, and the exact copy was located nearby after police issued a public appeal.
The man’s identity was never discovered, but some theorists believe he may have been a spy. When the exact copy of Rubáyát was located, police found indentations on its back pages. Investigating the indentations, a UV light message was revealed with a telephone number, an unknown number, and text that appears to be an encrypted message.
The telephone number was traced to a woman named Jo Thomson, who had been a nurse. She claimed she did not know the dead man, though in a 2012 interview with 60 Minutes, her daughter believed that she did. A plaster cast was made of the man’s shoulders and face, and when it was shown to Thomson, the police sergeant reported that she was “completely taken aback, to the point of giving the appearance that she was about to faint.”
No conclusion was ever derived from the case, and the man’s identity remains unknown. It is believed that an undetectable poison killed him, but it is not known whether he committed suicide or was murdered.
Multiple investigations have since been launched into the case, but have been limited by the little DNA evidence that remains. One forensic investigator discovered that both Jo Thomson’s son and the unknown man both possess a genetically rare trait that affects the appearance of their ears. The likeliness that this fact was a coincidence was placed at one in 10,000,000 and one in 20,000,000.
2The Dyatlov Pass Incident
On a February day in 1959, nine ski hikers set up camp on a slope in Russia’s Ural mountains. During the night, the campers mysteriously left their tent and fled the campsite without their snow gear. All nine were found dead. The Soviet investigation reported that six of the victims died of hypothermia, but the other three had gruesome physical trauma. One had a fractured skull, one had brain damage (but no signs of physical injury), and another had her tongue and eyes ripped out.
The investigation’s conclusion: “An unknown compelling force” was the cause of the deaths.
A group of hikers not far from the accident scene reported strange orange spheres in the sky that night, and various other independent witnesses reported those same spheres.
Some believe the group were the victims of an avalanche, an animal attack, or mere hypothermia. Others put forth more gruesome and odd explanations. Some believe a Russian Yeti was to blame, some assume military experimentation and testing, and others blame odd scientific phenomena. The conclusion: no conclusion.