“People don’t just love mysteries. They are obsessed with them—especially the kind that are never definitively solved”—Karin Slaughter
Throughout time, there have been occurrences in history and nature that seem completely unexplainable—whether it be a crime that seems unsolvable, an object of mysterious origin or events that just don’t make sense. With advances in science and technology, the world has become a less mysterious place, but fortunately for the curious, there are still many things that remain unsolved. Below are 42 facts about some of the things that, even in an enlightened world, we just don’t have all the answers for.
Mysterious Events Facts
40. Bizarre Mechanism
Antikythera, an island in the south of Greece, is home to one of the most fascinating archaeological finds in recent memory. In 1900, archaeologists salvaged a complex mechanism that demonstrates advanced workmanship that doesn’t fit with the time from which it seems to originate. The Antikythera mechanism has been called the world’s oldest gear-based machine and the oldest analog computer, and it was basically a complex astronomical clock. That in itself makes the device interesting, but the kicker is that it appears to have built in the late third century BC by Greek astronomers, nearly 2,000 years before one would expect such a complex mechanism to be exist. So how did the ancient Greeks create something that supposedly wasn’t possible for millenia? Scientists are still trying to figure that one out.
39. How’d He Do That?
When inventor John Hutchison attempted to follow in Nickola Tesla’s footsteps, he claimed that he stumbled on a way to cause objects to levitate, spontaneously fracture, and to make things that normally wouldn’t attract fuse together. He called this the Hutchison Effect, or the H-Effect, but the weird thing is that nobody, including Hutchison, has ever been able to replicate it. So how did he do it? Some skeptics believe that Hutchison rigged the whole thing to create a complex illusion—a claim that’s supported by previous admitted trickery on the part of Hutchison. Still, parlor trick or not, it certainly captivated both the scientific community and the world for a time.
38. A Cultural Misunderstanding
Michael Rockefeller, the son of then New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, was collecting indigenous art in Netherlands New Guinea in 1961 when he suddenly vanished. He and his companions were crossing the mouth of the Betsj River when their boat capsized. The official reason given for his death was drowning, but that didn’t stop the rumor mill from churning. Some believed he was hiding in the jungle, others that he’d been eaten by sharks, and, one of the wildest theories, that he’d been eaten by local headhunters. Despite his father’s formidable resources (they were Rockefellers, after all), no trace of him was ever found. Years later, Carl Hoffman, a reporter for National Geographic, traveled to New Guinea to investigate and heard a gruesome story. Michael had inadvertently stepped into the middle of a war between Dutch colonists and the Asmat tribe, and the Asmats scalped him, ate his brains, cooked his skin, and used his bones for tools. Then they covered themselves in his blood. The legend remains unconfirmed, but it continues to be passed down through the generations.
37. Rain Man
In 1983, a young man by the name of Don Decker claimed that he could make it rain anywhere he wished, at any time. Decker was an inmate at the Monroe County jail in New York when his grandfather passed away. He was granted leave to go to the funeral and spend a few days with family, and that’s when the strange events began occurring. The night of the funeral, Decker was staying with family friends when he was seized by a deep chill and he slipped into some kind of trance. While in the trance, water started dripping from the ceiling and walls, but there were no pipes in the area and no conceivable reason for the leaks. As soon as Don left the home, the house went back to normal. The same thing occurred in a pizzeria Don visited, leading the owner to think that he was possessed by the devil. When he returned to prison, the walls and ceiling of his cell started leaking, leading officers to conclude that Don was making it rain. Thanks to assistance from a priest, the rain stopped and never occurred again, but the cause of the incidents remains a mystery to this day.
36. Where’d it Go?
The Baychimo was a 1,322 ton steam ship owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company that frequently transported goods and passengers between Alaska and British Columbia. On October 1, 1931, the ship was returning to Vancouver with a full hold when it got trapped in ice in an unexpected burst of winter. By October 15, Hudson’s Bay had sent rescue planes to the ship, but they couldn’t hold everyone, so the captain and 14 members of the crew stayed behind with the ship and built a shelter on ice. Then, on November 25 after a blizzard, the remaining crew awoke to find that the ship had mysteriously disappeared. For the next eight years, the Bay received several eyewitness reports of a drifting ghost ship, but nobody ever caught up to it. The last sighting of the ship took place in 1969, and to this day, nobody knows what happened to it.
35. Shroud of Silence
Imagine an entire town rising up to take down a violent criminal and alleged child molester in broad daylight in the middle of town. It sounds like something out of a movie doesn’t it? Well this is exactly what happened in Skidmore, Missouri in 1981. Ken Rex McElroy was indicted 21 times for various horrible crimes, but was only ever convicted for one—the murder of the town’s 70-year-old grocer. After being released on bond, he returned to the town, and he showed up in the local tavern armed and threatening to kill the town’s minister. The following day, McElroy was shot in the middle of the day while sitting in his pickup truck. The murder took place in front of a crowd of between 30-46 people, but even 37 years later, nobody has been charged because not a soul has spoken up. As far as unsolved crimes go, this one might be less of a mystery.
34. Phantom Barber
In June 1942, the town of Pascagoula, Mississippi was haunted by a man whom the press coined as the “phantom barber.” On Monday and Friday nights, under complete darkness, the man would slit open window screens, sneak inside houses and cut the hair of a sleeping occupant. He especially seemed to have a thing for blonde girls, beginning with two girls in the convent of Our Lady of Victories. Women were understandably freaked out, the police were completely mystified, and men rushed out to arm themselves. And still, the phantom barber continued his trimming spree. Two months later, a man broke into the home of Mr. and Mrs. Terrell Heidelburg and assaulted the couple. The police automatically assumed that this was their guy, but he swore he wasn’t the barber, and the MO just didn’t fit (the barber only cut hair, never attacked people). No other ties were ever found between the assaulter and the phantom barber, and one day the break-ins just suddenly stopped. Maybe he ran out of blondes?
33. Unbreakable Code
When the decomposed body of Ricky McCormick was found in a field in St. Charles County, Missouri in 1999, two handwritten notes were found on his body that appeared to be a series of coded messages. If the guy had been a cryptographer or experienced in creating ciphers the codes would have been totally understandable, but Ricky was a 41-year-old, unemployed high school drop-out with heart and lung issues. The guy was pretty much illiterate, so how did the coded messages get there? Another strange fact was authorities were unable to pinpoint a cause of death (it didn’t appear that he’d been shot or stabbed) and he was found 15 miles from his home—also strange considering that he didn’t drive or own a car and there wasn’t any public transit in the area. In 2011, the police officially ruled his death as a murder and asked for help deciphering the code. So far, nobody’s been able to break it, and his death remains a mystery. Sounds like a job for Alan Turing!
32. 1600-year-old Pillar
A mysterious pillar sitting in the middle of an empty square in Delhi, India is odd enough, but one made of exposed iron that’s 1,600 years old is even more unusual. Based on what we know of iron smithing at the time it was built, the pillar should have disintegrated centuries ago, and yet it still stands. A study of the pillar has shown that whatever Indian iron smiths built it were far more advanced that we previously thought possible. Yet while we’ve explained how the pillar still stands, it’s ended up being labeled as an OOPArt, or Out of Place Artifact, which are objects that seem to be too advanced for their time (you can bet the Antikythera mechanism is on that list as well). While science has come up with an explanation for how the iron has lasted this long, the pillar itself is a remarkable feat that was 100% ahead of its time.
31. Hanging Car
On May 2, 2018, morning commuters in Toronto were startled to spot a car dangling off of a bridge. The car, a burnt out blue sedan, was secured with a winch system, and it was found suspended over an area that’s popular for hikers and dog-walkers. At first, police thought it was part of a movie shoot, but it was later confirmed that there was no authorized shoot that day, making it an even bigger mystery. All that’s known for sure is that the car was put there on purpose and that whoever did it knew what they were doing. As to who and why, we can only speculate, but you kind of have to admire his/her ingenuity!
30. The House with a Face in Its floor
One August Day in 1971, Maria Gomez Pereira was in her kitchen when she noticed a stain forming on her kitchen floor. The stain, which seemed to have no evident cause, formed a face. This totally scared the bejeezus out of her and her family, and when she couldn’t remove it, her husband and son took a pick-axe to the floor and laid down a new one. Problem solved right? Nope! The face reappeared about a week later. Being a small town, gossip about the face spread, and the mayor got involved. The face was removed and the kitchen was excavated to try and get to the bottom of the mystery. It turned out that a bunch of bodies had been buried ten feet beneath the floor! Creepier still, some of the skeletons, which were dated to be around 700 years old, had no heads. They filled in the floor again and they thought that was that. Wrong! A few weeks later, multiple faces began to appear on the floor. This led to a full-scale investigation, and the kitchen was totally sealed off. When they officially unsealed it, the faces had moved and evolved. Some people thought that Maria was behind the mysterious faces, but since they continued to occur after her death in 2004, that no longer seems likely. This incident has been called “without doubt the most important paranormal phenomenon in the [20th] century” by paranormal researchers, but has also been decried by skeptics as a hoax perpetrated by the Pereira family.
29. Hollywood Murder
It was a California winter day in February when police discovered the body of Hollywood director William Taylor Desmond in his Los Angeles home. The police were called to respond to a natural death, but when they got there, they discovered actors, actresses and studio executives going through the dead man’s things. When they examined the body, they discovered that he’d been shot in the back, so natural causes was off the table right of the bat. Evidence pointed to the mother of a young starlet who was in love with Desmond, but nobody was ever prosecuted, and the case is still officially unsolved. Those stage moms can be deadly!
28. Nautical Mystery
The Carroll A. Deering set sail for Rio de Janeiro in September of 1920 with a crew of ten Danish sailors and a shipment of coal. Six months later, the ship was found totally abandoned, with the crew nowhere to be found. When authorities boarded, they found evidence of a meal being prepared, but they found no trace of the crew—not even fingerprints. It was almost as if nobody had ever been there at all. One theory blames the ship’s proximity to the Bermuda Triangle for the mysterious occurrence, but other explanations suggest that Russian pirates stole everything on the ship—even its crew. You wouldn’t think pirates would have been able to completely erase the crew, but maybe they were a bunch of Russian Dexters?
26. Who’s that Boy?
On March 8, 1921, the body of a young boy estimated to be about five to seven years old was found floating in a pool of water by a quarry worker on the grounds of the O’Laughlin Stone Company in Waukesha, Wisconsin. The boy was found to have a head wound caused by a blunt object, and the medical examiner concluded that he’d likely been thrown in the water to drown and that he’d been there for weeks before he was found. The boy was dressed in expensive clothing, and other than the fact that he was dead, he appeared to be well cared for. This led police to speculate that he came from a wealthy family and so the press dubbed him Little Lord Fauntleroy (after a popular children’s story of the time). An investigation revealed that a few weeks earlier, a couple had turned up at the quarry asking about the boy, but they soon left and were never heard from again. Nobody ever came forward to shed any light on his identity, but there were reports that a woman visited the boy’s grave multiple times, leaving flowers. Years later, police guessed that the boy was Homer Lemay, who had gone missing around the same time. According to Lemay’s father, the boy had been on a trip to Argentina when he read in the newspaper that his son had died in a car accident. The father also said that a young couple by the name of Norton were supposedly caring for Homer on the trip, but police could find no evidence that anyone of that name had ever lived in Argentina. Were the two boys one and the same? 97 years later, nobody really knows.
In December 1948, a man’s corpse was found resting up against the seawall on a beach in Glenelg, Australia. Police quickly realized that there was more to the story than a drunken bum, for the man was well-dressed and in excellent shape. In his pockets, police found a variety of items, such as gum and cigarettes, but what they didn’t find was a wallet or any other form of ID. To make things even more complicated, they couldn’t pinpoint a cause of death. Damage to his organs suggested poison, but no traces of poison were found in his system. All of these bizarre clues led people to speculate that he was a spy. At the inquest in June of 1949, a pathologist discovered a crucial piece of evidence: A torn-out page from a book of poetry with the phrase “Tamam Shud,” which means “ended” or “finished” in Persian. The book it belonged to was found by a man on the backseat of his unlocked car, which had been parked near where the body was found. Inside the front cover of the book were faint letters that seemed to be some sort of code, only adding to the mystery. To this day, no one knows who the man was or how he died.
24. Treasure Island
The story of the Oak Island Mystery begins in 1795 in Nova Scotia: When a 16-year-old Daniel McGinnis found a a 13-foot depression in the ground with an old tackle block hanging directly over it, he did what any curious teenager would do—he grabbed his two buddies and came back with picks and shovels, anxious to see what was buried there. At 25 feet down, they realized they could no longer continue alone, so they re-covered the pit until they could come back. In 1803, work on the dig started in earnest. As the crew dug further and further down, they found curious marks at around every ten feet that appeared to be made during some earlier excavation. Eventually, after digging around 30 feet deep, they abandoned their work, allegedly because they felt a “superstitious dread.” Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries there were continued attempts to excavate the pit—some people have even died trying. Though many have reported finding curious evidence in their excavations, seawater has as of yet always stopped anyone from reaching the bottom. So who built the shaft, and what did they want to protect? Theories range from Blackbeard the pirate to the Holy Grail. Some even suggest that it could have been pre-Columbian Viking explorers or the Mi’kmaq who once inhabited the island. It’s entirely possible that nothing at all is down there, but until someone actually manages to get to the bottom, we’ll never know for sure!
23. Eerie Premonition
Chicago firefighter Francis Leavy was dedicated to his job an loved by his peers, which is why his co-workers were understandably puzzled when his demeanor suddenly changed on April 18, 1924. Gone was the friendly, ever-smiling man, and in his place was a silent, unsmiling guy who avoided everyone. Later that day, Leavy announced that he had a premonition that he was going to die that day. Just as the words left his lips, they were called to a fire, and lo and behold, Leavy was killed when the building’s roof caved in. The next day, while his fellow firefighters mourned him, they noticed a handprint smudged on the glass of the window that Leavy had been washing the day before. No matter how many times they tried to clean the window, the handprint remained. The print stayed on the window for nearly 20 years before a paper boy smashed it with a newspaper, leaving the mystery unsolved.
22. Explosion out of Nowhere
On a summer morning at the end of June 1908, an explosion 1,000 times more powerful than Hiroshima occurred in the Siberian wilderness, instantly destroying 80 million trees. On the morning of the explosion, the few people who lived in the region woke up to see a column of bright blue light in the sky. The light was followed by a giant boom that shattered windows and physically knocked people off their feet. Researchers decided that the event must have been caused by a falling meteor, but Soviet scientists were unable to find any sign of a crater that surely would have been left by a meteor. What they did find was a ring of burnt trees with their branches torn off, and a butterfly shaped area of trees that had been burnt and knocked flat. Over the years, many alternate theories about the cause of the so-called Tunguska event have emerged, but 110 years later, scientists still don’t have all the answers.
21. Alien Satellite
Of the 100,000 satellites currently orbiting the earth, one of them is believed by some to be alien in nature. The Black Knight Satellite is in a near-polar orbit (meaning it orbits the earth in a North/South trajectory), which at one time uncommon for man-made satellites. NASA claims it’s simply a thermal space blanket that was lost during a space mission, but some conspiracy theorists argue that the space agency is trying to cover up the Black Knight’s extraterrestrial origin.
20. Geoglyphs in the Desert
More than 1,000 years ago, in the South Peruvian desert, a series of lines were carved into the ground. These geoglyphs (ground drawings), known as the Nasca lines, can only be seen from the air and seem to form in various geometric designs, with some clearly depicting animals. Scientists widely believe that the lines were made by the Nasca people who lived in the area between 1 and 700 AD, and that they could have been ritualistic, perhaps leading to places where rituals were performed. However, most of what we know about the origin of the strange shapes is conjecture, and the exact reasons for their creation is still a mystery. Some conspiracy theorists argue that there’s no way the Nasca could have created such accurate designs without seeing them from the air. They argue that the Nasca communicated with aliens to create the shapes, so these ancient extraterrestrials could use them as a landing guides. While most scientists will admit they don’t know everything about the Nasca lines, they probably wouldn’t buy that explanation. But, to be fair, the conspiracy theorists would argue that that’s what they would say.
19. Jazz Murderer
From 1918-1919, New Orleans was terrified by a serial killer known as the Axe Man of New Orleans. The Axe Man would steal axes from his victims’ homes and chop them to bits. One day, a letter coming from someone claiming to be him was sent to the local papers. In it, he claimed to be a lover of jazz, and promised to kill anyone whose home did not contain “a jazz band in full swing” on the night of March 18. You can believe that the people of New Orleans partied like their lives depended on it that night, and true to his word, no one playing jazz died that evening. On the night of October 27, 1919 he killed his final victim, and after that, he was never heard from again. Who was the Axe Man? If you asked the superstitious people of New Orleans, he was a supernatural creature from Hell. That’s definitely much more interesting than any ordinary music critic!
18. Sacrifice to the Devil
In 1972, a dog uncovered the decomposed forearm of a missing teenager and brought it back to his owner. The man called the police, and they were able to locate the rest of Jeanette Palma’s remains. Several strange objects were found near the body, stirring rumors that she was murdered by a coven of witches. Others believed she was murdered as part of a satanic ritual. Sounds crazy right? Well the people in the community didn’t think so. 30 years after the murder, when some journalists tried to write an article about the crime, people in the town still refused to talk about it. They also all refused to allow their real names to be used, as did the local police. Leads came in the form of anonymous letters, one of which claimed a local coven of witches had planned to murder a child on Halloween. After the initial frenzy died down, there was nothing but crickets, and the murder has never been solved.
17. Bloody Stumped
Just before midnight on September 8, 1987, 77-year-old Minnie Winston was horrified to discover what appeared to be blood splattered on her bathroom floor. A further search revealed the substance on the lower walls, in the kitchen, in the living room, in the basement, and even under a television set. At first police refused to take the mystery seriously, but once the lab results proved that it was in fact blood, they were completely flummoxed. The blood didn’t match either one of the Winstons, and with no other leads to explain the occurrence, they dropped the investigation. I probably would too, I’ve seen The Shining.
16. Super Sinkholes
Sinkholes are terrible enough as it is, but somehow, opening up in a place that literally means “the end of the world” makes them all the more terrifying. In Siberia’s Yamal peninsula, a 115-foot sinkhole was discovered after a mysterious explosion. Shortly after, two more sinkholes opened up in Northern Russia. The scientific theory is that gas explosions beneath the surface caused them, but that has never been proven. In November, 2014, scientists climbed down into the sinkholes to study them, but they were unable to come up with any answers. At least they came back up!
15. Into Thin Air
One beautiful day in 1966, the three Beaumont children hopped a bus for a five minute jaunt to the beach, and seemingly vanished into thin air. Witness sightings of the children were varied and bizarre. One witness claimed that the children were seen playing with a tall blonde man. Another spotted the eldest girl buying a snack she’d never eaten before with money she didn’t have. The mail carrier claimed to have seen the children walking towards home several hours later, but they never turned up. Decades later, the case has become ripe for conspiracy theorists who claim everything from an abduction by a religious cult to a literal human centipede like story. Now how exactly would that have worked?
14. Ineffective Exorcism
When Eleanor Zugun was 12, some pretty freaky stuff started happening to her. While she was visiting her grandmother at her cottage in Romania, stones started smashing against the homestead, pins and needles flew across the room and lodged in her arms, and dishes broke seemingly on their own. Zugun’s grandmother was convinced that she was possessed and sent her to a monastery for an exorcism. When that didn’t work, the priests sent her to a mental institution. Soon after that, she was invited to live with the Countess Zoë Wassiliko-Serecki in Vienna, but the attacks only got worse, and the poor girl basically became a lab rat. By the time she turned 14, the phenomena stopped and everything went back to normal, but before then, she had been studied by many respected researchers, at least one of whom outright confirmed that the things happening to her were indeed supernatural in origin.
13. The Hum Hardly Anyone Can Hear
In the town of Taos, New Mexico, there’s a mysterious hum known as the Taos hum. Interestingly enough, only 2% of the population can hear it. Those who do describe it as sounding similar to a car’s idling diesel engine. Not so bad right? Well it might sound like nothing much, but the hum has made almost every single one of the few people who can hear it extremely depressed, with some describing it as “a kind of torture.” Some think that the hum is caused by alien spaceships sending signals to earth, while others believe that it’s some kind of electromagnetic radiation that only certain people can hear. Whatever the cause, if moving isn’t an option, maybe a pair of earplugs would help?
12. Sleepy Village
We’ve all had days where we’ve been suddenly overcome with exhaustion and fallen asleep somewhere we shouldn’t (thank goodness for cubicles), but in Kalichi village in Kazakhstan, many residents suddenly started falling asleep in the middle of the day, even when they weren’t tired. They reported being out for anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days, and some experienced memory loss, vertigo and nausea when they woke up. Medical experts have yet to figure out why this was happening, and they haven’t been able to offer the residents any advice on how to prevent it from happening in the first place. The village has been tested for radiation, but the levels were normal. In 2015, the village was found to have high levels of carbon monoxide which could theoretically explain some of the symptoms, but scientists still haven’t reached any definite conclusions. Hopefully they have a good supply of Redbull at least.
11. Sinister Station
Somewhere in the middle of Russian swampland just outside of St. Petersburg sits a rusty iron gate. On the other side of the gate is a series of radio towers, abandoned buildings and powerlines bordered by a stone wall. What could possibly be of interest in this deserted spot? A radio-station. The area is thought to be the location of the MDZhB station that has been on the air since 1982, but that nobody claims to run. Tens of thousands of people listen to the station, commonly known as “The Buzzer,” online, but the only thing they hear is a monotonous tone, with a second sound similar to a foghorn joining in every few seconds. A couple of times a week, somebody reads out a couple of meaningless words in Russian, but that’s about it. The fans willingly confess that they have no idea what it is they’re listening to, and neither does anyone else. The frequency is believed to belong to the Russian military, but if it does, they’re not saying. It’s also been theorized that it exists as a means to warn the network of Russian spies and military in remote areas if Russia is ever invaded. Let’s hope we never find out!
10. Dead in the Mountains
Finding a bunch of dead skiers/hikers up in the Russian mountains is not necessarily that unusual. Tragic yes, but quite within the normal bounds of possiblity. Not so for the members of a nine-man ski-hiking expedition, who were found weeks after they’d gone missing on Kholat Syakhl, a name that literally translates to “dead mountain.” Go figure! A snowstorm forced the group to pitch a tent on the eastern slope of the mountain on February 2, 1959. When they were found, the scene was completely bizarre. Their tent had been sliced open from the inside and abandoned, with their belongings left behind. Even more puzzling was the location of the bodies. One skier was found almost a mile from the tent, buried under 13 feet of snow. Investigations also revealed that most of the group were either barefoot, wearing socks, or a single shoe, and some were only partially dressed. There were no external injuries, which rules out an animal attack, but since the Russian government basically classified the results of the investigation, we can only guess what happened that night and why the expedition decided they had to leave in such a hurry.
9. No Body, No Clues
In March 2017, a 27-year-old PHD student from the University of Michigan named Xin Rong rented a Cessna airplane and went out for a spin. Rong was a member of the Ann Arbor flight club, so he wasn’t exactly inexperienced, but the plane ended up crashing in the forest somewhere in Ontario. When workers located the crash scene, there was no sign of Rong’s body, nor were there any footprints in the snow, so where did he go? If he’d died on impact, his body would have been with the plane or somewhere nearby. If he survived and went for help, there should also have been some indication of that. Seven months after the crash his wife asked that he be declared dead, but he seems to have literally vanished off the face of the earth!
8. Behind the Mask
The tale of the man in the iron mask was popularized by the French writer Alexandre Dumas’ 1840 novel, but the story had already been around for nearly two centuries at that point. The man was a French prisoner jailed in the Bastille in 1669/1670 by Benigne Dauvergne de Saint-Mars, and he remained there for 34 years until his death. Supposedly, Saint-Mars refused to allow anyone to see his face, leading to tremendous speculation about his identity. The French philosopher Voltaire and Dumas believed that the prisoner was King Louis XIV’s illegitimate brother, but history has kept his identity pretty well hidden, so we will probably never know for sure.
7. Dracula’s Forest
Transylvania is the setting for several scary stories (most famously Dracula), and rightly so. The region is home to Hoia Baciu, which is believed to be the most haunted forest in the world. The trees are bent and twisted in strange ways, and visitors have come back completely freaked out. They claim that burns and rashes mysteriously appeared on their bodies and that time passes more quickly than usual there. Many of the locals are convinced that there are ghosts hanging out inside and won’t even go near the forest, especially not when there are persistent rumors of floating heads and voices. Definitely not a dream vacation!
6. Gotta Dance
In July 1518, the citizens of Strasbourg, France were overcome with a dancing plague. Yes, you read that right. As many as 400 people suddenly found themselves with a desperate and uncontrollable need to dance. It all started with Frau Troffea, who one day just suddenly started dancing in the street. She kept it up for about a week, with more and more residents joining in. The doctors thought it was caused by hot blood and basically told them to dance it out. The town hired a band, professional dancers and even constructed a stage. Eventually, exhaustion caused some of the dancers to collapse, and some died from strokes or heart attacks, but the dancing continued into September. As for what caused these people to dance ‘til they dropped, many people have pointed to St. Vitus, the patron saint of dancers. Famine and disease were running rampant at the time, and stress and fear could have heightened their superstitions to the point of hysteria. It’s like some kind of reverse footloose—people in this town couldn’t not dance!
5. A Shift in Language
Sometime in England, between the time of Chaucer and Shakespeare, the English language underwent a change in how long vowel sounds were formed. Basically, the Great Vowel Shift, as it was dubbed, affected spelling and pronunciations of several words. The shift took place over 200 years, which sounds like a lot, but is actually considered a pretty short time for that drastic a change to have occurred in a language. Why and how it happened is unknown, but we have that to thank for how we speak English today.
4. Water Tank Wonder
On Feb 19, 2013, the body of Canadian student Elisa Lam was discovered by maintenance workers in a water tank on top of the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles. The circumstances surrounding this death were particularly odd. Footage from an elevator security camera was extremely strange. It showed her exiting and re-entering the seemingly broken elevator while talking and gesturing oddly. Occasionally, she seems to hide inside the elevator, though no one else is visible. As they do, the video went viral, and people were understandably freaked out by what they saw. To make things even more strange, Lam was found naked, but her clothes and personal effects were strangely found floating nearby. The autopsy report ruled the death as accidental, but an examination of all the evidence suggests that something just doesn’t add up.
3. Are You Talking to Me?
Edgar Allan Poe’s cause of death remains disputed. A few nights before he died, Poe was found wandering the streets groggily, wearing clothes that were not his own, and repeatedly shouting “Reynolds.”
2. Alien Dagger
When King Tut’s tomb was unearthed, researchers found an iron dagger that was still remarkably sharp thousands of years later. Having a sharp dagger is not strange in itself, but the dagger’s origin is quite mysterious. Scientists have tested the metal and determined it came from a meteorite, and the ancient Egyptians most likely didn’t have the technology to craft a weapon from meteorite debris, so it either came from another more advanced civilization (the most likely explanation) or, as some are convinced, it might have been left behind by aliens.
1. Mystery at Mayerling
In 1889, the 17-year-old Baroness Marie (Mary) Alexandrine von Vetsera was found apparently shot to death alongside her lover, the married Prince Rudolf of Austria, at their Mayerling country hunting lodge. His shooting partner had gotten worried and broke down the door with an axe, only to find Rudolf slumped at the bed with blood at his mouth. His mistress Marie was lying on the bed, also stone-cold dead. It was an apparent murder-suicide; but to this day, the sequence and chain of events leading up to their deaths remain ambiguous. Although some assumed the prince killed his lover, recently discovered letters from the Baroness to her mother indicate that she was planning to die alongside the prince “out of love.”
The mystery doesn’t end there, however! In 1959, Mary’s remains were inspected. Shockingly, the examining doctor, Gerd Holler, found no bullet hole in her skull, but evidence pointed to death by violent blows to the head. Holler was now obsessed with the case. He went through the archives of the affair and found that only one bullet had ever been fired. As a result, he theorized that Mary died in an accident (perhaps from an abortion), and that Rudolf subsequently shot himself in his grief. The full story, however, goes with them to their graves.