Check out 6 of the most intriguing unsolved mysteries. These cases drive even the greatest minds to distraction…
The Mary Celeste is arguably the most famous seagoing mystery. In early December 1872 the vessel was found adrift and abandoned by British craft Dei Gratia – Latin for “By the Grace of God”. Was such grace involved in the crew’s disappearance?
Supposed to be on board were Captain Benjamin Briggs and family, together with 8 seagoing men. The Mary Celeste had been on the waves just shy of a month. A lifeboat was missing. The sails were up and the boat was a few hundred miles east of the Azores. Provisions were left behind.
Did the situation point to something beyond human comprehension? History.com writes about the ship’s background: “Originally christened Amazon, it was given a new name after a series of mishaps (including the sudden illness and death of its first captain and a collision with another ship in the English Channel).” Some believe a sea monster was involved!
12 years later it was beached as part of an insurance scam. The book has long been closed, but as Reader’s Digest writes, “Commentators generally agree that to precipitate the abandonment of a seaworthy ship, some extraordinary and alarming circumstance must have arisen.”
Most people’s knowledge of the 1908 Tunguska Blast is a throwaway line from Ray Stantz in ‘Ghostbusters’ (quoted there as happening in 1909). Yet this was no scriptwriter’s invention! An epic explosion occurred that decimated a 770 square mile section of forest in Siberia.
Reader’s Digest writes: “The phenomenon… has been classified by scientists as the largest ‘impact event’ (which means a recordable impact between two astronomical objects, such as an asteroid and the earth) in recorded history.” Sounds incredible. One slight snag however… nobody saw it. Or indeed heard it.
The absence of a crater is also puzzling, leading experts to speculate an object fell from the sky and blew up over the woods before impact. An imperfect solution to a truly unexpected problem…
It isn’t the most well known of afflictions, but “encephalitis lethargica” strikes dread into the heart of experts. The mysterious condition is rare these days, but between 1916 and 1930 there was an outbreak that spread from Europe. Half a million were apparently affected. Approx a third are said to have perished.
So what did it do? Neurology Live notes there wasn’t “a unified diagnosis” at first. The site goes on to describe the symptoms, such as “Strange neuropsychiatric behaviors and an overwhelming lethargic sleepiness, which induced a coma like state, as well as muscle rigidity”.
That muscle rigidity was a particularly worrying feature, meaning whilst some survived the disease, they suffered greatly. “Though occasionally capable of limited speech, eye motion, and even laughter, they generally appeared as living statues” Reader’s Digest says, “totally motionless for hours, days, weeks, or years.”
Cases have been mercifully few since, but the so-called “sleeping sickness” left its mark on medical history…
3.Dyatlov Pass Incident
In 1959 the bodies of 9 hikers were found over 3,000 feet up in the frozen conditions of “Dead Mountain”, Russia. An appropriate name – though the grisly discovery is known as the Dyatlov Pass incident, after the man in charge Igor Dyatlov.
He and his fellow explorers were traveling through the Ural Mountains, headed for Mount Ortorten, but never reached there.
On the night of February 2nd a snowstorm hit the site. For some reason the group’s tent was cut open from the inside, and they ventured out into the ice with no protective clothing. Hypothermia set in, part of which involves taking clothes off because the victim is fooled into thinking it’s getting hot. The first couple of victims found were in their underthings.
That’s the official explanation. However this mystery is far from resolved. Some had fractured ribs and skulls. Burnt hands. And worst of all a tongue had been removed from one of the young hikers. The group’s footprints were visible but nothing else. No sign of an attacker. Most intriguingly of all, their remaining clothes carried high levels of radiation.
What happened that extraordinary night? Files were released in the 1990s but were incomplete. So people have supplied their own theories, everything from mountain monsters to UFOs.
Another possible explanation is infrasound. Reader’s Digest explains this as when “wind interacts with the topography to create a barely audible hum that can nevertheless induce powerful feelings of nausea, panic, dread, chills, nervousness, raised heartbeat rate, and breathing difficulties.” Feelings that can also be created reading this mysterious tale…
The impenetrable Voynich Manuscript looks like a movie prop. Yet for experts it’s all too real. Discovered in Rome by book expert Wilfrid Voynich from Poland, it’s a small and perfectly formed codex. Yale University host the strange and unusual item, which measures approx 20 x 16 cm and contains 240 vellum pages.
What’s on those pages? There’s the odd recognizable word, but apart from that the text is written in a highly obscure language. Not to mention plenty of eye-opening illustrations that wouldn’t look out of place in a Studio Ghibli release.
“There are floating castles, disembodied heads, flowers that bear no relation to anything you can find on Earth,” reports History Extra, adding there are “strange creatures that resemble jellyfish, and lots of naked women bathing in water.”
In 2009 it was radiocarbon dated and the vellum was found to be from the 15th century, making the codex Medieval. When Voynich acquired the manuscript there was a letter with it, stating it was the former property of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II. Famous names that attempted to get to the bottom of the mystery include iconic code cracker Alan Turing.
No-one has worked out what the book actually means. A hoax hasn’t been ruled out. Though a controversial theory was suggested in recent years, deeming the manuscript a medical manual of sorts for women. The more people investigate, the curiouser it gets…
1.Flannan Isles Lighthouse
There are few things spookier than a lighthouse. And that’s just the location for an eerie mystery. 1990 saw a crew land on Eilean Mor, part of the Flannan Isles in Scotland. There they expected to find experienced keepers Thomas Marshall, James Ducat and Donald McArthur. However there was no sign of the men.
They’d seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth. Inside the lighthouse, a chair was turned over. A meal was abandoned and the clock wasn’t ticking. The log book revealed the island had experienced a nasty storm, even though nothing was reported in the area. Accounts state the men were in a strange mood.
Mental Floss writes that “Superstitions and rituals—like circling the church’s ruins on your knees—were adopted by those passing through”. It adds “many considered Eilean Mor to have an indefinable aura that could not be ignored.”
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A logical deduction was made, based on storm damage to Eilean More’s west landing. Were the keepers swept away whilst going about their business in rough conditions?
Naturally there are other, scarier stories concerning unnatural forces. The lack of concrete answers helps construct a powerful and mysterious narrative…