This list comprises the most famous unsolved mysteries known to man that really defy rational explanation or are just outright strange.
The shroud of Turin is a linen cloth bearing the image of a man who had apparently died of crucifixion. Most Catholics consider it to be the burial shroud of Jesus Christ. It is currently held in the Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Turin, Italy. Despite many scientific investigations, no one has yet been able to explain how the image has been imprinted on the shroud and despite many attempts, no one has managed to replicate it. Radiocarbon tests date it to the middle ages, however apologists for the shroud believe it is incorrupt – and carbon dating can only date things which decay.
Prior to the middle ages, reports of the shroud exist as the Image of Edessa – reliably reported since at least the 4th century. In addition, another cloth (the Sudarium) known even from biblical times (John 20:7) exists which is said to have covered Christ’s head in the tomb. A 1999 study by Mark Guscin, a member of the multidisciplinary investigation team of the Spanish Center for Sindonology, investigated the relationship between the two cloths. Based on history, forensic pathology, blood chemistry (the Sudarium also is reported to have type AB blood stains), and stain patterns, he concluded that the two cloths covered the same head at two distinct, but close moments of time. Avinoam Danin (a researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) concurred with this analysis, adding that the pollen grains in the Sudarium match those of the shroud.
Mary Celeste was launched in Nova Scotia in 1860. Her original name was “Amazon”. She was 103 ft overall displacing 280 tons and listed as a half-brig. Over the next 10 years she was involved in several accidents at sea and passed through a number of owners. Eventually she turned up at a New York salvage auction where she was purchased for $3,000. After extensive repairs she was put under American registry and renamed “Mary Celeste”.
The new captain of Mary Celeste was Benjamin Briggs, 37, a master with three previous commands. On November 7, 1872 the ship departed New York with Captain Briggs, his wife, young daughter and a crew of eight. The ship was loaded with 1700 barrels of raw American alcohol bound for Genoa, Italy. The captain, his family and crew were never seen again. The ship was found floating in the middle of the Strait of Gibraltar. There were no signs of struggle on board and all documents except the captain’s log were missing.
In early 1873, it was reported that two lifeboats grounded in Spain, one with a body and an American flag, the other containing five bodies. It has been alleged that these could have been the remains of the crew of the Mary Celeste. However, the bodies were apparently never identified.
The taos hum
The ‘Taos Hum’ is a low-pitched sound heard in numerous places worldwide, especially in the USA, UK, and northern europe. It is usually heard only in quiet environments, and is often described as sounding like a distant diesel engine. Since it has proven indetectable by microphones or VLF antennae, its source and nature is still a mystery.
In 1997 Congress directed scientists and observers from some of the most prestigious research institutes in the nation to look into a strange low frequency noise heard by residents in and around the small town of Taos, New Mexico. For years those who had heard the noise, often described by them as a “hum”, had been looking for answers. To this day no one knows the cause of the hum.
In 1947 the body of 22 year old Elizabeth Short was found in two pieces in a parking lot in Los Angeles. According to newspaper reports shortly after the murder, Short received the nickname “Black Dahlia” at a Long Beach drugstore in the summer of 1946, as a play on the then-current movie The Blue Dahlia. However, Los Angeles County district attorney investigators’ reports state the nickname was invented by newspaper reporters covering the murder. In either case, Short was not generally known as the “Black Dahlia” during her lifetime.
Many rumours and tales have spread about the Black Dahlia, and the investigation (one of the largest in LA history) never found the killer.
Comte de Saint Germain
The Count of St. Germain (allegedly died February 27, 1784) was a courtier, adventurer, inventor, amateur scientist, violinist, amateur composer, and a mysterious gentleman; he also displayed some skills with the practice of alchemy. He was known as ‘Der Wundermann’ — ‘The Wonderman’. He was a man whose origin was unknown and who disappeared without leaving a trace.
Since his death, various occult organizations have adopted him as a model figure or even as a powerful deity. In recent years several people have claimed to be the Count of St. Germain. (Note that St Germain was never regarded as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church – the “st.” before his name refers to his alleged home).
The Voynich Manuscript is a medieval document written in an unknown script and in an unknown language. For over one hundred years people have tried to break the code to not avail. The overall impression given by the surviving leaves of the manuscript suggests that it was meant to serve as a pharmacopoeia or to address topics in medieval or early modern medicine. However, the puzzling details of illustrations have fueled many theories about the book’s origins, the contents of its text, and the purpose for which it was intended.
The document contains illustrations that suggest the book is in six parts: Herbal, Astronomical, Biological, Cosmological, Pharmaceutical, and recipes.
Jack the Ripper
In the later half of 1888, London was terrorrised by a series of murders in the east end (largely in the Whitechapel area). The name Jack the Ripper was taken from a letter sent to a newspaper at the time by someone claiming to be the killer. The victims were typically prostitutes who had their throats cut and bodies mutilated. In some cases the bodies were discovered just minutes after the ripper had left the scene.
The police at the time had many suspects but could never find sufficient evidence to convict anyone. In modern times there has even been some speculation that Prince Albert Victor was the murderer. Even with modern police methods, no further light has been shed on the murders in recent times. To this day no one knows who the ripper was.
The Bermuda triangle is an area of water in the North Atlantic Ocean in which a large number of planes and boats have gone missing in mysterious circumstances. Over the years many explanations have been put forward for the disappearances, including bad weather, alien abductions, time warps, and suspension of the laws of physics.
Although substantial documentation exists to show that many of the reports have been exaggerated, there is still no explanation for the unusually large number of disappearances in the area.
The Zodiac Killer
The Zodiac killer was active in Northern California for ten months in the late 1960s. He killed at least five people, and injured two. He comitted the first two murders with a pistol, just inside the Benecia border. In his second shooting in Vallejo, he attempted to kill two people, but one survived despite gunshots to the head and neck. 40 minutes later the police recieved an anonymous phone call from a man claiming to be their killer and admitting to the murders of the previous two victims. One month three letters were sent to Newspapers in California containing a cypher that the killer claimed would give them his name. They cypher was decrypted to read:
“I LIKE KILLING PEOPLE BECAUSE IT IS SO MUCH FUN IT IS MORE FUN THAN KILLING WILD GAME IN THE FORREST BECAUSE MAN IS THE MOST DANGEROUE ANAMAL OF ALL TO KILL SOMETHING GIVES ME THE MOST THRILLING EXPERENCE IT IS EVEN BETTER THAN GETTING YOUR ROCKS OFF WITH A GIRL THE BEST PART OF IT IS THAE WHEN I DIE I WILL BE REBORN IN PARADICE AND THEI HAVE KILLED WILL BECOME MY SLAVES I WILL NOT GIVE YOU MY NAME BECAUSE YOU WILL TRY TO SLOI DOWN OR ATOP MY COLLECTIOG OF SLAVES FOR MY AFTERLIFE EBEORIETEMETHHPITI” The last eighteen letters have not been decrypted.
While Arthur Leigh Allen was the prime suspect, all of the evidence was against him being the killer. To this day the Zodiac murders have not been solved.
The Babushka Lady
During the analysis of the film footage of the assasination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, a mysterious woman was spotted. She was wearing a brown overcoat and a scarf on her head (the scarf is the reason for her name as she wore it in a similar style to Russian grandmothers – also called babushkas). The woman appeared to be holding something in front of her face which is believed to be a camera. She appears in many photos of the scene. Even after the shooting when most people had fled the area, she remained in place and continued to film. Shortly after she is seen moving away to the East up Elm Street. The FBI publically requested that the woman come forward and give them the footage she shot but she never did.
In 1970 a woman called Beverly Oliver came forward and claimed to be the Babushka Woman, though her story contains many inconsistencies. She is generally regarded as a fraud. To this day, no one knows who the Babushka Woman is or what she was doing there. More unusual is her refusal to come forward to offer her evidence.
The Creation of Man
This is probably one of the most well known and controversial of mysteries known to man at the moment. The basic mystery is where did we come from? Many people believe we were created by some kind of God, others believe were naturally came into being through the process of evolution, and some even believe we were put onto earth by aliens. Because there is no conclusive evidence for either argument, this subject remains our greatest mystery.
The concept of evolution states that through a series of adaptations and mutations from generation to generation, a creature can change dramatically over time. There are many arguments against evolution, mostly (in the West) from fundamentalist Christian bodies. The head of the largest Christian Church, Pope Benedict XVI, has recently said that evolution is not contrary to the teachings of the Church or a belief in God as long as it does not exclude God as the primary mover and organiser of the process.
The concept of creationism states that God made the Universe in the form in which it exists today. It attempts to explain away potential theological problems like dinosaurs, carbon dating, and the fossil record in general. Creationists generally believe the earth to be several thousand years old.
The Bimini Road
Everyone has heard the story of the lost city of Atlantis, but what about the Bimini Road? In 1968 an underwater rock formation was found near North Bimini Island in the Bahamas. It is considered by many to be naturally made, but because of the unusual arrangement of the stones, many believe it to be a part of the lost city of Atlantis (first spoken of by Plato).
Another curious element of this mystery is a prediction made in 1938 by Edgar Cayce: “A portion of the temples may yet be discovered under the slime of ages and sea water near Bimini… Expect it in ‘68 or ‘69 – not so far away.” In a more recent expidition, amateur archeologist Dr Greg Little discovered another row of rocks in the same formation directly below the first, leading him to believe that the road is actually the top of a wall or water dock.
One possible natural explanation is that the “road” is an example of tessellated pavement, a natural phenomenon. Concretions of shell and sand form hard sedimentary rock which over time fractures in straight lines and then at ninety degree angles. They are quite common and a popular tourist attraction on the island of Tasmania.
The Roanoke Colony
In 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh dispatched an expedition to the East Coast of North America as Queen Elizabeth I had given him permission to colonise Virginia. He returned from the trip with two American Indians and samples of animals and plants. Between 1585 and 1587, two groups of colonists were left on Roanoke Island (part of present day North Carolina) to establish their settlement.
Following fights with the local native tribes, the first colony were low on food and men to defend the settlement, so when Sir Francis Drake visited after a raid in the Carribean and offered to take them back to England, they accepted and left. In 1857 121 new colonists arrived and found the local natives (the Croatans) to be friendly. The first English child born in the Americas was the daughter of one of these colonists. The group tried to befriend some of the other tribes that the previous colonists had fought with which resulted in the killing of George Howe. The remaining members of the group convinced the leader to return to England to get help. The leader (John White) returned to England leaving behind ninety men, seventeen women, and eleven children.
When White returned in August 1590, the settlement was deserted. There were no signs of a struggle and no remains were found at all. The only clue was the word “Croatoan” carved into a post of the fort and “Cro” carved into a nearby tree. The settlement became known as the Lost Colony and no members of it were ever seen again. Some speculation exists today which suggests that the settlers left and merged with some of the nearby tribes. This is supported by the fact that many years later some of the tribes were practising Christianity and understood English.
The Marfa lights are unexplained lights (called ghost lights) that have been appearing on Mitchell Flat east of Marfa, Texas. The first published account of the lights was given in 1957, but Robert Reed Ellison (born 1880) reported them to his family and accounts of their appearances were spread by word of mouth. There are no verifiable written reports from before the 1950s.
The lights are described as being the size of a basketball, floating in the air at around shoulder height. Colors are usually described as white, yellow, orange or red, but green and blue are sometimes reported. They usually travel laterally but have been seen to move rapidly in various directions. The lights sometimes appear in groups. Sightings are rare but there is a large amount of photographic and video evidence.
Skeptics generally consider the lights to be related to traffic passing on the nearby US Route 67, or to be electric by-products of the predominantly quartz hills in the area. Because they usually appear in private property with terrain that is difficult to travel over, there are almost no reports of people being able to get close to the lights.
Jimmy Hoffa was an American labor leader, and criminal convict. As the president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, Hoffa wielded considerable influence. After his conviction, he served nearly a decade in prison. On July 30, 1975, Hoffa dissapeared from a parking lot in Detroit and was never seen again. He had been due to meet two Mafia leaders, Anthony “Tony Jack” Giacalone from Detroit and Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano from Union City, New Jersey and New York City.
According to Donald Frankos (a convicted Mob hitman), Hoffa was shot in the house of Giacalone and his body was then buried in the foundations of the Giants stadium. While that is the most popular belief, another mobster, Bill Bonanno, claimed that hoffa was shot and put in the trunk of a car that was then put through a car compactor.
No one will ever know the truth about Hoffa, but the MythBusters team dug in the part of the Giants stadium that is generally where Hoffa is considered to be buried and found nothing.
The Loch Ness Monster
Loch Ness is the most voluminous fresh water lake in Great Britain. For centuries people have reported seeing a large creature living in the lake – the earliest account comes from the life of Saint Columba (565 AD). Although sightings of the creature on land around the loch reputedly date back to the sixteenth century, modern interest in the monster was sparked by a 22 July 1933 sighting, when Mr George Spicer and his wife saw ‘a most extraordinary form of animal’ cross the road in front of their car. They described the creature as having a large body (about 4 feet high and 25 feet long), and long, narrow neck, slightly thicker than an elephant’s trunk and as long as the 10-12 foot width of the road; the neck had a number of undulations in it. They saw no limbs because of a dip in the road obscuring the animal’s lower portion. It lurched across the road towards the loch some 20 yards away, leaving only a trail of broken undergrowth in its wake.
Not only has the Loch Ness Monster been photographed repeatedly, it has even been caught on videotape – as recently as 2007, and on sonar equipment. Unfortunately, however, the footage and photos are never clear enough to give a definite answer as to what the creature is. Some speculate that it may be a plesiosaur that survived the rest of the dinosaur population.
Bigfoot, also known as the Sasquatch, is depicted as an ape-like man who inhabits forest areas of the pacific north-west and parts of the Canadian province of British Columbia. Over the years there have been many sightings and photographs of Bigfoot but no conclusive proof exists to verify his existence.
Most experts on the matter consider the Bigfoot legend to be a combination of folklore and hoaxes, but there are a number of authors and researchers who do believe that the stories could be true. There is some speculation that, like the Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot may be a living remnant of the time of the dinosaurs – specifically a Gigantopithecus blacki – a supersize ape. The earliest accounts of bigfoot are from 1924 though reports of a similar type of creature have appeared as early as the 1860s.
El Chupacabra (Goat Sucker) is mostly associated with Latin American communities in the USA, Mexico, and Puerto Rico (where it was first reported). It is supposedly a heavy creature, the size of a small bear, with a row of spines reaching from the neck to the base of the tail and it takes its name from the fact that it is supposed to attack animals and drink their blood – especially goats.
While the legend began around 1987, there are many similarities to the Vampire of Moca, the name given to an unknown creature to killed animals all over the small town of Moca in the 1970s. The vampire of Moca left the animals completely devoid of blood which had apparently been removed by a series of small circular cuts.
The most common description of Chupacabra is a lizard-like being, appearing to have leathery or scaly greenish-gray skin and sharp spines or quills running down its back. This form stands approximately 3 to 4 feet (1 to 1.2 m) high, and stands and hops in a similar fashion to a kangaroo. In at least one sighting, the creature hopped 20 feet (6 m). This variety is said to have a dog or panther-like nose and face, a forked tongue protruding from it, large fangs, and to hiss and screech when alarmed, as well as leave a sulfuric stench behind. When it screeches, some reports note that the chupacabra’s eyes glow an unusual red, then give the witnesses nausea. For some witnesses, it was seen with bat-like wings.
D. B Cooper
D. B. Cooper (aka “Dan Cooper”) is a pseudonym given to a notorious aircraft hijacker who, on November 24, 1971, after receiving a ransom payout of $200,000, leapt from the back of a Boeing 727 as it was flying over the Pacific Northwest somewhere over the southern Cascades.
Cooper has not been seen since and it is not known whether he survived the jump. In 1980, an eight year old boy found $5,800 of soggy $20 bills washed up on the banks of the Columbia river. The serial numbers matched those of the ransom money which had been noted to make it easier to track Cooper later.
Cooper escaped from the plane by jumping off the rear airstair with a parachute leading aviation authorities to add stricter measures about the design of planes to prevent it from happening again. In addition, this event caused airports to install metal detectors for the first time.
Mothman is the name given to a strange creature reported in the Charleston and Point Pleasant areas of West Virginia between November 1966 and December 1967. The creature was sporadically reported to be seen before and after those dates, with some sightings as recent as 2007.
Most observers describe the Mothman as a winged man-sized creature with large reflective red eyes. It often appeared to have no head, with its eyes set into its chest. A number of hypotheses have been presented to explain eyewitness accounts, ranging from misidentification and coincidence to paranormal phenomena and conspiracy theories.
The Mothman was first spotted in 1926 by a young boy. At the same time, three men were digging a grave in a nearby graveyard when they saw a brown human shape with wings soaring out from behind trees. Both incidents were reported independently of each other. There have been numerous sightings of Mothman though no photographic evidence exists at all.