The world can be a dark place. Sometimes, events are so odd that no one can figure out exactly what happened. Missing people, murders, secret societies, and even potential paranormal events have confused people for years.
Here are some of the facts we do know about these unsolved mysteries.
Facts About History’s Greatest Mysteries
1. Elisa Lam
On January 31, 2013, 21-year old Canadian Elisa Lam was on vacation at the Hotel Cecil in Los Angeles. Security cameras captured her on the elevator. In the video, she looked scared of someone–or something. She left the elevator, acting very strange…and disappeared. Weeks later, her body was found in the water tower on the top of the hotel. The Los Angeles Police department claimed her death was “accidental drowning”, but internet sleuths think that something more may be going on.
2. Cicada 3301
A strange image appeared on the website 4Chan in 2012. The anonymous poster claimed that they were from a secret group called Cicada 3301, and they are looking for intelligent people to join their organization. There was a secret message hidden in an image. This clue lead to dozens of other puzzles, which eventually showed that the group exists all over the world. No one is sure who or what CiWSBTWSBTcada 3301 actually is, but new puzzles appear in January of every year.
3. The Mary Celeste
In 1867, a beautiful ship named the Mary Celeste left the coast of New York. The captain was a man named Benjamin Briggs, and he brought his family and crew to transport 1,700 barrels of alcohol to Italy. They never made it to their destination. The boat was found floating safely in the Atlantic Ocean, off the Azores Islands, on December 5, 1872. This did not look like a pirate attack, because nothing was stolen, and all of the paper documents were still on board. The only thing missing was the people.
4. Stranger Than Fiction?
The mystery of the Mary Celeste might have been forgotten to history had it not been for the imagination of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. No, he didn’t put Sherlock Holmes on the case, but a short story he published offered a fictionalized first-person account of a crewman. His short story was published anonymously, and some details were changed (the name of the ship was given as “Marie Celeste,” and in the story, the boat is found intact, while in reality, a lifeboat was missing). The short story was mistakenly assumed to be true, and even reprinted as truth in the Boston Herald.
5. The Taos Hum
In a small town of Taos, New Mexico, there is no such thing as silence for some people. When townspeople quiet down, many citizens report they can hear a humming noise, similar to a diesel engine. In 1997, Congress decided to investigate the hum, and yet they could not come up with a rational explanation. The sound is undetectable by audio equipement.
6. Not Subtle
Of all things, you’d think a 42-ton (38-metric-ton) sculpture couldn’t disappear without someone noticing, but that’s just what happened to Equal-Parallel: Guernica-Bengasi, a 1986 sculpture by Richard Serra. The piece was deemed too large for the Madrid museum it had been in after a renovation and was moved to storage, but 15 years later, when the museum’s new director went to retrieve it, the giant sculpture was nowhere to be found.
No record of the sculpture—or the massive blocks of steel the sculpture was made of—could be found. Despite the mix-up, Serra graciously agreed to make a new version of Equal-Parallel: Guernica-Bengasi for the museum, only charging them for the cost of fabricating the copy.
7. Dennis Martin
The Martin Family was having a picnic at the Smoky Mountains National Park. Dennis Martin, who was only 6 years old, ran into the woods during a game and never came back. A search party of thousands of people looked for him for a week. No trace of him has ever been found.
8. The Frost Family Poltergeist
In 1921, the Frost family bought some coal for their fire in Hornsey, England. Shockingly, the coal began to explode, and fly across the room. Other objects like knives began flying through the air. They called the police, who investigated, and believed there may have been some tampering with the coal, citing the possibility of adding explosive elements. However, further investigation confirmed it was just normal coal. The family began to think that it was a ghost, so they called in a priest, who also witnessed the strange occurrences.
The events were so scary that the five year old daughter was literally “scared to death,” and their son had a nervous breakdown.
9. Skinwalker Ranch
The Sherman Ranch, AKA “Skinwalker Ranch” in Ballard, Utah is apparently a hotspot for paranormal activity. The owners of the ranch claimed that their cattle was being attacked by bullet-proof wolves, their bulls were crammed into storage containers, and a newborn calf was mysteriously mutilated within minutes. A wealthy millionaire named Robert Bigelow decided to buy the ranch to study it with his organization called the National Institute of Discovery Science.
The events of Skinwalker Ranch are unexplained, but many people blame it on aliens or other paranormal activity.
10. Ricky McCormick
In 1999, 41-year old Ricky McCormick was found dead in the middle of a field in Missouri. Inside of his pockets were two pieces of paper with strange writing that may actually be a secret code. The letters were in Ricky’s crude handwriting, but his family was confused because Ricky could not read. No one has found the killer, or figured out what his messages meant.
11. Margaret Foos
In the 1960’s, a young woman named Margaret Foos began showing a skill called “blind reading,” where she could touch books and read them without ever opening them. She claimed that this was due to her psychic powers. Scientists began to study her, blindfolding her and asking her to touch random books. Her case was also studied by the FBI, who could not find any proof that she was tricking them.
12. The Max Headroom Hijack
During the 1980’s, there was a popular artificial intelligence (AI) character was named Max Headroom. In 1987, a hacker dressed in a Max Headroom mask interrupted the cable station and appeared on the screen. He began screaming and saying strange, confusing things. No one knows who hacked the airwaves, or why they did it.
13. Jonbenet Ramsey
Six year old beauty pageant princess Jonbenet Ramsey was murdered in her home of Boulder, Colorado in 1996. Even to this day, no one knows who actually killed her. There are a total of 8 possible suspects, including her parents and brother.
14. The Green Children of Woolpit
According to historic records from the 12th Century, two children- a brother and sister with green skin appeared in a village called Woolpit in Suffolk, England. They wore strange clothes, and spoke a language that no one could understand. They only ate beans and refused to eat anything else for several months. The boy became sick and died. Once the girl grew up, her skin stopped being green, and she learned to speak English. She explained that they came from a place with other green-skinned people called St. Martin’s Land, which was an underground place where the sky was always twilight. There was a river, and a “luminous land” shining across the water.
The siblings said they climbed into a mysterious cave, and on the other side, there was blinding sunlight, and they were somehow in England. Modern-day historians believe that these children were actually Flemish immigrants, while others believe they may have been aliens from another planet, or beings from another dimension.
15. Maurice Dametz
At 80 years old, Maurice Dametz had difficulty walking. He drove into the woods of Colorado with a younger friend who helped him hunt for topaz gemstones. Maurice’s friend left him alone for only 15 minutes, and walked a mere 150 yards away. When he came back, the old man was gone. No one has been able to find him since.
16. The Atlas Vampire
A female sex worker was found dead in Stockholm in 1932. Her body had been drained of blood, and there was evidence that her killer was drinking it. The murderer was never found, and became known as “The Atlas Vampire”.
17. Genghis Khan’s Tomb
Just before he died, the terrifying ruler, Genghis Khan, ordered his soldiers to make sure no one could find where he was buried. It is said that anyone who helped build his tomb was killed and a river was diverted to flow over the burial site. Over 10,000 volunteers tried to look through digital maps to try to find his burial site in Mongolia.
Researchers still cannot seem to find where this ancient leader was buried.
18. The Voynich Manuscript
A beautiful book was discovered from the 1400’s. It has illustrations of plants that do not exist, and it is written in an unknown language. Some people believe that the Voynich Manuscript is in code, but no one has been able to figure it out. Theories surrounding the book point to witchcraft, but no one really knows who wrote it, or why.
19. The Count of St. Germain
Throughout the 1700’s, a man who is only known as the Count of St. Germain was traveling throughout Europe. He was spotted many places, and yet he always seemed to appear to be the same age. No one knew where he came from, but he could speak multiple languages, and was talented in just about everything. He was also an alchemist–one of the people who was studying the secret to immortality. On paper, he died in 1785.
However, there are records of him being alive afterwards–still looking just as young as he was years before. Some believe he actually figured out how to live forever.
20. The Black Dhalia
On January 15, 1947 the body of Elizabeth Short was found in a vacant lot in Los Angeles. She’d been cut in half, drained of blood, and three gashes had been cut into the corners of her mouth, imitating an eerie smile in the style of a “Glasgow smile.” The gruesome murder quickly became a sensation, but in spite of one of the largest police investigations in history no charges were ever filed.
Most mysterious? Despite the fact that the killer drained Short of blood, there was no blood on the scene.
21. The Men in Black
Many people who study UFO’s claim that they were approached and questioned by “men in black”, and that encounters have been documented throughout history. While this may seem far-fetched, security camera footage actually captured The Men in Black in Maryland in 2008. They had identical faces, as if they were twins- including the fact that they didn’t have eyebrows. Hotel staff described them as having abnormally huge blue eyes, and that they never blinked. They also wore identical suits and trench coats with old fedora hats. The men were asking for Shane Sovar, the hotel manager who had recently reported seeing a UFO.
Thankfully, Shane wasn’t working that day, and the two men questioned the staff and left.
46. From Hell
In London, 1888, at least five women were killed and dismembered in what became known as the Whitechapel murders. The identity of the killer, known only as Jack the Ripper, has been the subject of fevered puzzlement and speculation ever since, inspiring countless theories and works of fiction. The name came from a series of letters (signed “Jack the Ripper”) sent to the police, taunting them over their efforts to find the killer.
The five murdered women who definitively share characteristic marks from the Ripper are called the “Canonical Five.”
23. The Babushka Woman
When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, many people began to run away from the scene, except for one woman, who was wearing a scarf around her head. She was filming the entire time. Since this was during The Cold War, the woman was given the nickname “Babushka Woman,” since the scarf was similar to what Russian grandmothers would wear. The FBI searched for this woman because they wanted to question her and get the footage from her camera. One woman came forward to say she was the Babushka Woman, but she could not keep her story straight.
Authorities believe she lied for the attention. The true Babushka Woman has yet to be found.
24. Hae Min Lee
It was 1999 in Baltimore, Maryland, and a teenage girl named Hae Mi Lee was murdered. Her death was blamed on her boyfriend, Adnan Syed, and he was sent to jail. However, there is a significant amount of proof that he did not commit the crime. The events of Hae’s death are so complicated, that it inspired a podcast called Serial, which walks the audience through all of the facts of the case. Fans of the podcast have come up with multiple theories on who the murderer actually is, but the mystery is still unsolved.
25. The Yogurt Shop Murders
Four young girls were working in an Austin, Texas yogurt shop in 1991. When the shop burst into flames, firefighters rushed to the scene. When the fire was out, they found the bodies of the four girls tied up inside of the building. Police have not been able to prove who committed this crime.
26. The NJ Ghost Sniper
In the 1920’s, cars and homes were being shot at. No one could see where the shots were coming from, but they heard crazy laughter somewhere in the distance. The strangest part about this was that no one could find any bullets. The “ghost sniper” traveled all over South Jersey and Philadelphia, and after years of terrorizing people, he disappeared as quickly as he came.
27. The Dyatlov Pass
It was 1959, and 9 people in their 20’s decided to go on a skiing trip through the Ural Mountains in Russia. They never returned. It took three months for the rescue team to find all of their bodies. All of them appear to have died at different times, from different causes. In their diary, one of them had written, “From now on, we know that snowmen exist.” One of the men in particular rushed out of his tent without any snow gear, but was holding his camera, urgently trying to photograph something. He died of a head injury.
The damage found on the other bodies was so bad, it was said that their bodies looked like they were in a car crash. They were killed by some force that a human would not be powerful enough to do. To top off an already strange story, their clothing had high levels of radiation.
28. Travis Walton
A man named Travis Walton was a logger in Arizona in 1975. Travis was at work cutting logs in the woods with chainsaws with 6 other men in his crew. All of them claim to have seen a UFO, and Travis suddenly disappeared. The men called the police to report him as a missing person. Five days later, Travis reappeared on his own. He claims that he was abducted by aliens who attempted to study him, but that he managed to escape.
29. Jeanette DePalma
In 1972, a dog walked into Springfield, New Jersey holding the arm of a dead girl in its mouth. It belonged to teenager Jeanette DePalma, whose body was found on the top of a mountain. Rumor has it that she was sacrificed for some kind of cult.
30. Isidor Fink
In 1929, a man named Isidor Fink returned home to his New York apartment. Moments later, screaming was heard coming from inside. However, the doors were locked from the inside, and the windows were nailed shut. After prying the boards off of the windows, the police actually needed to send a small child to unlock the front door, because the window was too small for an adult. When the police went inside, they saw that Isidor was dead, with three bullet holes in his chest.
They could not find a gun. Nothing was stolen. There were no fingerprints, and there should not have been a way for a murderer to escape the apartment.
31. The Panchen Lama
In Tibetan Buddhism, there is a belief that the leaders of the religion are reincarnated. In 1995, the Dalai Lama discovered a 5-year old boy named Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who he claimed was the reincarnation of Choekyi Gyaltsen, the previous Panchen Lama. He was destined to become the new leader once the Dalai Lama dies. Only three days after the announcement of the new Panchen Lama, Chinese authorities kidnapped the little boy. They chose their own Panchen Lama- a boy named Gyaltsen Norbu, who is the son of Chinese government officials.
The government claims that they are still holding Gedhun captive in China, and that he is safe. However, no one knows where he is, and there is a possibility that he has died.
32. The Kecksburg Incident
The sleepy town of Kecksburg, Pennsylvania was shaken up one night in 1965. People in the town noticed a ball of fire falling from the sky. It landed in the woods, and witnesses described it as being a huge “acorn shaped” UFO. Once it was reported to the police, NASA showed up and took the object away. They never explained to the public what the object actually was. In 2002, a journalist filed information on the Kecksburg Incident through the Freedom of Information Act, and eventually had to take NASA to court to release the documents. When she won the case, NASA handed over documents, but it was clear that pages were missing.
To this day, there is still no answer about what the object actually was.
33. The Colonial Parkway Murderer
In the 1980’s, couples were being ripped out of their cars and murdered from the Lover’s Lane near the Colonial Parkway in Virginia. At least 8 people died under similar circumstances, meaning that there was a serial killer that has never been found.
34. Alexander Grant
In 2011, a 19-year old college student named Alexander Grant was at a party. He disappeared into a back room. When police broke up the party, Alex’s friends could not find him. Security camera footage spotted Alex at a local train station. Later, cameras found him breaking into the basement of a building in town. He was missing pieces of clothing, even though it was winter. He seemed to be scared, trying to run from something. After hiding for about thirty minutes, he leaves the building and begins to run. The next day, his body was found frozen under a sheet of ice in the river.
At first, the police claim that he was just drunk, and it was an accident. However, after learning more strange facts about the case, the police have reopened the investigation as an unsolved mystery.
35. The Forrest Fenn Treasure
An elderly man named Forrest Fenn claims to have hidden a $2 million treasure in New Mexico. He wrote clues on how to find it in a poem. So far, two people have died trying to find the treasure. Fenn refuses to take any responsibility for these deaths, saying that the treasure is actually simple to find, and that no one should die from their search.
36. Seed Showers
In 1979, a man named Ronald Moody noticed that seeds were falling from the sky. The seeds were covered in a jelly-type substance. There were no trees or birds up above that would explain the phenomenon. Soon enough, his neighbors began bringing up similar reports. There were so many seeds, that Ronald was able to fill up 8 buckets. He decided to plant the seeds in his garden. The next year, they grew into corn, beans, cress, and mustard.
37. The Tunguska Blast
Siberia, Russia, is so cold, that it is one of the least populated places in the world. In 1908, there was an explosion so powerful, that trees were bent over flat for 800 square miles. Thankfully, no one was killed, except for some unlucky reindeer. It shook the ground so much, it was felt all the way in England, and the sky lit up all over the world. NASA says that this blast was caused by a meteoroid.
However, there was no hole in the ground where it should have fallen, and and no evidence of a meteor was ever found. Many people have theories that something else may have been going on.
38. The Connecticut Jabber
In 1928, someone was stabbing women in their breasts and buttocks in public places all over Bridgeport, Connecticut. A total of 26 women reported being attacked, but since it was done in crowded places, no one ever saw who did it.
39. Angelique Cottin
In 1845, a fourteen year old French girl named Angelique Cottin began to show signs that she had super powers. She could make objects move by holding out her hand towards them. When people came near her, they would get electric shocks. Scientists studied her, explaining that she had a special ability that they had never seen before. Her parents wanted to make money from their daughter’s powers, so they began to put her on exhibit in front of an audience.
A few months later, Angelique claimed that her powers went away, and she went back to living a normal life.
40. Richard Colvin Cox
West Point is one of the top military academies in the United States. In 1950, Richard Cox was only 21 years old as a cadet at West Point. He told his roommates that he was going to have a dinner meeting with a man named George. Richard left in full uniform that night, and he was never seen again. The FBI opened an investigation, and while there are many theories, no one knows the true story of what happened to Richard.
41. The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine
In the Superstition Mountains of Arizona, there is a legend of a gold mine that can make anyone rich, if they find it. However, the people who go looking for the goldmine usually end up missing, or dead.
42. Rashawn Brazell
In 2005, 19-year old Rashawn Brazell was murdered. His body parts were scattered in different parts of the New York Subway system. Every year, on his birthday, Rashawn’s family receives messages with clues about his death. However, the killer has never been caught.
43. DB Cooper
In 1971, a man called DB Cooper hijacked a Northwest Airlines flight by claiming that he had a bomb in his briefcase. He forced the plane to land in Seattle, and kept the passengers hostage. He demanded $200,000 and parachutes. Once he got what he wanted, he told the pilot to fly towards Mexico. They were being followed by police airplanes, but DB Cooper still somehow managed to jump out of the back door with a parachute.
No one saw him jump, and he was never seen again. The FBI opened an investigation on him, and still found nothing.
44. Riddle Me This
By far the largest statue that has survived from the ancient world, the Great Sphinx of Giza has been perplexing archaeologists for many years. The sphinx was only re-discovered in 1905; before that, it was covered in sand, and we have no way of knowing what its creators called the statue.
45. Dance the Night Away
In July 1518, a woman named Frau Troffea turned onto a narrow street in Strasbourg and was suddenly compelled to start dancing. This convulsive, involuntary dancing fever gripped her for days, and then began to grip others. About 400 people were infected with the so-called “dancing plague” over the next month. This was all totally groovy until people started to collapse from exhaustion or die from heart attacks and strokes.
This went on until September, when the dancers were taken to a mountaintop shrine to pray for absolution.
Written sometime in the 15th or 16th Century in central Europe, this mysterious folio is painstakingly illustrated with strange plants, astrological charts, and naked ladies bathing in some kind of green liquid. Its script is written in an indecipherable language that has eluded historians and cryptographers to this day.
One recent purported solution claims the manuscript was a women’s health manual, but this claim has been criticized.
48. James McGrogan
In 2014, a doctor named James McGrogan went on a winter hiking trip using split snowboards on the snowy trails of Vail, Colorado. He brought his fully charged cell phone, a GPS, and survival gear–not to mention two friends to hike with. James was athletic, so he got farther ahead on the trail. His friends could not find him. Despite the fact that there was snow on the ground, no one could find any sign of James’ tracks. A week later, James’ body was found… but he would have had to climb several mountains and many miles to get there.
When the rescue team found his body, they discovered that his phone still worked and he should have been able to call for help.
49. The Princes in the Tower
In the summer of 1483, two young boys, Edward V of England and Richard of Shrewsbury, were locked in the Tower of London and never seen again. Thought to have been murdered, they were the sons of Edward IV and his Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, and the prime suspect has always been their uncle, Richard III, although evidence has always been circumstantial.
In 1647, Tower workmen unearthed a box containing two small skeletons that were presumed to belong to the princes. However, new evidence suggests that these skeletons were not related to Richard, creating one more mystery.
50. Crystal Clear
Crystal skulls exist. This real-life archaeological enigma isn’t just the kooky brainchild of Spielberg and Lucas. Long rumored to have originated in Maya and Inca civilizations, there are some who claim that these carved objects have healing qualities or are caches of ancient wisdom. Scientific research has concluded, however, that they were most likely produced in Europe in the 19th century, but by whom and for what purpose remains a mystery.
Built between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago, Stonehenge is one of the most enigmatic ancient monuments in the world. Presumably built and used for ceremonial purposes, the exact function of the monument remains a mystery, as does the question of how those huge stones were transported 260 kms across prehistoric Britain.
However, new research shows Stonehenge was likely a part of a complex of ritualistic structures including ancient burial mounds and processional routes.
Located south of Lima, Peru, the stunning geoglyphs of Nasca cover an astounding span of land and can only really be appreciated from the air. The geoglyphs depict distinct animal shapes and other enigmatic figures, and we still don’t know how and why they were created.
53. Men in Tights
He’s the archetypal outlaw with a heart of gold, but we have no idea if a real Robin Hood ever existed at all. Several men could have been the inspiration for the legend, and the historical evidence puts him all over the map. Maybe even the hardest to trace? “Robert” was a common name at the time, and both makers and wearers of hoods were often called “Hood.” Personally, I’ll continue to think of him as a talking fox.
54. Mysterious Re-Appearance
Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, the last sovereign of Russia, was presumed to have been executed along with the rest of her family on July 17th, 1917 during Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution. Rumors of her escape circulated, and even though remains presumed to be hers have been found, skeptics and conspiracy theorists still surmise she may have escaped. What’s more, several women have come forward over the years claiming to be the deceased Duchess.
The most famous was Anna Anderson, who surfaced in 1920. She devoted her life to a lengthy legal battle trying to prove her “identity,” which became the longest-running court case in German history, from 1938 to 1973. She was never able to establish her identity as Grand Duchess Anastasia.
55. A Different Kind of Adventurer
The Irish Crown Jewels were stolen from Dublin Castle in 1907, and would be worth about $20 million today—if we could ever find them. The mystery remains unsolved, although a relative of the renowned explorer Ernest Shackleton was a chief suspect.
56. The Bronze Age Collapse
Between 1200 and 1150 BCE, every major culture in the Eastern Mediterranean basin collapsed into ruin, marking the start of what has been called the Greek Dark Ages. Thing is, we have no idea what happened. Many theories have been put forward to determine the cause of the collapse, from volcanic activity to climate change to advanced weaponry. All we know for sure is that this wasn’t a great time to be alive.
In 1799, a man name McGinnis discovered a sinkhole in the ground in Oak Island off of Nova Scotia. Believing there could be buried treasure, he began digging and discovered layer of flagstones. This kicked off a two century-long tradition of treasure seeking in the area, and just enough evidence has been found to keep people digging. Among the discoveries were a set of stone inscriptions, which allegedly translated as “forty feet below lie two million pounds.” No treasure has been found despite all this, but the hunt continues to this day.
58. The Devil’s Footprints
Early on the morning of 9 February 1855, residents of Devon country, England awoke to find a single line of cloven hoof-like marks in the deep snow, almost as if they’d been burned there. The marks were found over a distance of 100 miles. People speculated that it could have been any number of different animals, or rain, or a weather balloon dragging an implement, but the more superstitious among them preferred to believe that the footsteps were left there by the devil himself. There were even reports that the hooves stopped right on the threshold of people’s houses.
Between November 12, 1966 and December 15, 1967, numerous sightings of a huge bird-like creature with glowing red eyes were reported near Point Pleasant, West Virginia. The creature was dubbed the “Mothman” and some residents claim to be haunted by it ever since. Skeptics have dismissed the Mothman as a hoax or a mass illusion, while others have claimed that the creature was linked in some mysterious way with the collapse of the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant in December 1967 that killed 46 people, including some mothman witnesses.
60. The Zodiac Killer
Famous for goading the police with cryptic letters supposedly containing information leading to his identity, the Zodiac Killer murdered at least five people in North California in the 1960s and early 1970s. Arthur Leigh Allen was a prime suspect, but the evidence didn’t stack up; to this day the killer’s identity remains a mystery. During the killer’s spree, police actually unknowingly crossed paths with the murderer but failed to recognize or detain him.
Led by governor John White, more than 100 settlers arrived at Roanoke Island, North Carolina in 1587 to establish the first permanent English colony in the New World. White departed for England for more supplies later that year, and when he finally did come back in 1590, nobody was home. The entire colony had vanished without a trace, leaving only a message that read “CROATOAN” etched into a post and the letters “C-R-O” carved into a tree. Archaeologists have suggested that the colony was assimilated into the native tribes; “Croatoan” was the name of both an island and a tribe in the area.
62. Roses Are Forever
History remembers First Lady Dolley Madison as a visionary. After all, she almost single-handily made Washington D.C. what it is today. The question is, though, did she ever stop?
When Dolley first reached D.C. (for the inauguration of her husband, James Madison), the town was little more than a haphazard collection of buildings nestled against a dirty swamp. But it didn’t stay that way for long. First Lady Madison immediately set upon a campaign of upgrades which would transform the ramshackle settlement into the fashionable political capital we know today. She even worked with an architect, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, to perfect the design of the White House.
Dolley eventually died in 1849… but according to many stories, not even death stopped her from caring for her life’s work. Case in point: when Woodrow Wilson’s wife tried to remove Dolley’s precious Rose Garden, the ghost of the First Lady is rumored to have appeared, again and again, to spook the unfortunate gardener away.
63. The Final Flap
Olive Thomas was one of America’s first (and most notorious) flappers. Her reputation persists as America’s most flamboyant ghost…
She reportedly haunts New York City’s New Amsterdam Theatre, flaunting what she’s got (or had?) in a bright green beaded costume and clutching a blue bottle. Thomas reportedly comes in, flirts with any men present (of course), and then disappears. In fact, Thomas is such a revered guest among the living members of the theater, it’s a practice to say “Goodnight, Olive!” as you exist. After all, she was a star.
64. Where in the World Is Anne Boleyn?
By some accounts, Anne Boleyn’s ghost is a full-fledged frequent flyer.
The executed wife of Henry VIII has been spotted in Hever Castle, her childhood home; Blickling Hall, her assumed birthplace; the Tower of London, where she died; Hampton Court, her honeymoon palace; Salle Church in Norfolk, where her body was allegedly moved to be reburied with ancestors; and even Marwell Hall in Hampshire, a house owned by Seymour family, whose daughter replaced Anne as queen. And, of course, she’s often headless.
For those of us who don’t get to travel much, the whole thing is a little bit embarrassing. The Lady Boleyn isn’t letting even death stop her from seeing the sights. And meanwhile, I think of as a trip across down as a big excursion.
65. Disappear Like Water
The first recorded mysterious disappearance is that of Lao Tzu (also spelled Lao-tse or Laozi). A figure of legend, the details of his actual life are unclear and unverifiable. Lao Tzu is credited as the founder of Daoism (also spelled Taoism) and writer of the religion’s foundational text, the Tao Te Ching and its central tenet, wu wei, which can be translated as “not doing anything,” “not forcing,” or “flowing with the moment.” His teachings favored inner knowledge and balance with the universe, thus he never established any formal school and was anti-authoritarian. It is said that as he saw his society become more and more corrupt, he dressed as a farmer and rode across the border on a water buffalo, never to be seen again.
66. Maybe The Tooth Fairy?
We’ve heard of losing one’s baby teeth, but this is ridiculous. In 1981, the National Museum of American History discovered that a set of George Washington’s false teeth were missing from their collection. The teeth of America’s first President were on loan from the Maryland Dental School and had been kept in a locked storage room at the time they disappeared. The bottom plate dentures showed up a year later, in an employee-only area, but the top half remains missing to this day. Contrary to popular lore, Washington’s dentures were not wooden, but instead were made of gold and ivory—this means that, beyond their historical value, the teeth had material value and may have been melted down to be sold as scrap.
67. Queen of Mystery
In 1926, the queen of mystery herself, Agatha Christie, mysteriously disappeared. Christie’s mystery novels featuring detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple have made her the world’s best-selling author of fiction, according to estimates that have her neck and neck with William Shakespeare. She was already absurdly famous when she drove away from her home one evening and didn’t return. Police at first suspected her husband of foul play—he had only days earlier confessed his love for another woman. Over 1,000 police officers and 15,000 volunteers were put on the case.
68. Mystery Solved
Eleven days after her mysterious disappearance, Christie was discovered in a hotel several hours away, where she had checked in under the name of her husband’s lover. While it has been suggested that she intended to fake her own death and frame her husband, Christie’s biographers have since come to the conclusion that the trauma of her husband’s infidelity sent her into a depressive episode, as after she was found she claimed to have been suffering from amnesia during her disappearance. Christie recovered and went on to write many more mystery novels.
69. Based On a True Story
You may have heard of Solomon Northup from the 2013 movie 12 Years A Slave, based on his life and memoirs. The story chronicles the life of Northup beginning in 1841 when he was living in New York state, a free man with a family. He was attacked, captured, and taken to New Orleans, where he lived as a slave for twelve years until he was able to regain his freedom. In 1853, he returned home and became an abolitionist advocate, speaking publicly and becoming involved in the Underground Railroad to help other escaped slaves find freedom. What the memoir and the film don’t tell you is that after 1863, Northup mysteriously vanished after struggling with money and losing his property.
The whereabouts of Solomon Northup may have been unknown, but during the publicity surrounding the film, The Hollywood Reporter rounded up Northup’s descendants. 47 of his grandchildren spanning five generations were interviewed and photographed for an editorial in the magazine highlighting Northup’s lasting legacy.
71. The Great Escape
Some disappearances are downright triumphant. It’s hard not to root for the underdog during a prison break, and the story of “The Great Escape from Alcatraz” is one of the most fascinating of those stories. Frank Lee Morris, plus brothers John and Clarence Anglin, vanished from their cells in the island prison of Alcatraz on June 11th, 1962. The prisoners were never caught, though an unidentified body washed up on shore nearby shortly after. It’s not known whether the trio managed to survive to find freedom—but the family of the Anglins has never had any doubt the brothers were alive and well.
72. Ingenious Plan
After their escape was discovered, Alcatraz authorities pieced together the brilliant and complex plan that enabled Morris and the Anglins to escape. The trio used crude handmade tools made of pilfered spoons and saws to burrow through the prison walls and left behind lifelike dummy heads resembling themselves, which were made of papier-mâche, painted flesh-colored with prison art kits and decorated with human hair from the barbershop. With such attention to detail, it’s no wonder the three convicts were able to elude detection and successfully escape from one of America’s most impenetrable prisons.
Picnic At Hanging Rock is a 1975 Australian film based on a historical novel of the same name. Both film and book explore the story of female students from an Australian school in 1900 who were taken on a field trip picnic, where two of them vanished without a trace. In the novel, the girls are never found. Despite featuring Hanging Rock, a real place, and incorporating many details, the story is thought to be fiction, though author Joan Lindsay has been cagey about whether it is in fact based on truth. Said Lindsay, “Well, it was written as a mystery and it remains a mystery. If you can draw your own conclusions, that’s fine, but I don’t think that it matters.”
The story has certainly captivated public attention in Australia. Tourism to the area described in the book continues to this day, and a museum has been built on the site. In 1980, a book called The Murders at Hanging Rock was published speculating as to what really happened on that fateful, if fictional, day.
In 1931, an American teenager named Everett Ruess set off on a donkey through the wild country of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado, looking to eschew society and commune with nature. He adopted the name “Nemo,” a reference to Jules Verne’s isolationist hero in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. For three years, Ruess explored the American West, learning Navajo and writing letters about the beauty of the unexplored country.
75. One With Nature
In 1934, Ruess departed Escalante, Utah with supplies and two donkeys. His camp was discovered soon after, with the animals were in good health, but Ruess was never seen again. Mystery lovers suspect he may have fallen off a cliff or drowned in a flash flood, though there are some who suspect that Ruess adopted a new identity and lived out the rest of his days in obscurity. Jon Krakauer chronicled Ruess’s journeys in his 1994 book, Into The Wild, along with those of another wanderer, Chris McCandless.
78. Into The Wild
The story of Chris McCandless as told by Jon Krakauer in Into The Wild begins not with a disappearance but a discovery. In September 1992, the body of an unidentified man was found inside an abandoned bus deep in the Alaska wilderness. The body was finally identified as 24-year-old Chris McCandless, of Washington, DC, who had set off on a journey several months earlier but who hadn’t spoken to his family in over two years. Krakauer pieced together the story of McCandless, who discarded social norms in favor of living free and self-sufficient in the wilderness, despite the dire consequences.
79. Modern-Day Thoreau
Krakauer’s book, Into The Wild, became a blockbuster and McCandless was hailed as a hero for trying to live a life of freedom by his own ideals. McCandless was heavily influenced by Thoreau, who preached self-sufficiency and freedom from society. McCandless brought only a ten-pound bag of rice with him into the wilderness, surviving by eating roots and seeds of wild plants, and by hunting moose, grouse, squirrel, and other creatures and birds. At the time of his departure, he told no one where he was going and lived completely free from human contact.
80. His Own Demise
McCandless was also scorned and harshly criticized by those who thought it cruel to abandon his loving family, and irresponsible to head into the Alaska wilderness so ill-prepared and uneducated about the realities of living off the land. McCandless survived over 185 days in the Alaskan wilderness but eventually succumbed to starvation. The book remains divisive to this day. A fictionalized film version of Into The Wild was released in 2007.
81. Search for the Lost City
The story of Percy Fawcett’s disappearance was also made into a film in recent years, called The Lost City of Z. The film is based on David Grann’s book of the same name, which charts Fawcett’s explorations deep into the Amazonian jungle, searching for a lost city he’d heard about while mapping the border between Brazil and Bolivia for the Royal Geographical Society. The lost city was said to have been the ruins of an ancient complex civilization. Fawcett made seven mapping expeditions between 1906 and 1920, and one solo expedition in 1920 specifically to look for the city’s ruins.
82. Swallowed by the Jungle
In 1925, Fawcett made a final expedition to the jungle in Brazil to search for a lost city he called “Z”. He brought with him his eldest son, Jack. The pair mysteriously vanished and were presumed murdered or dead by natural causes. Fawcett’s compass was found in 1927, but neither their remains nor the lost city they searched for has been found.
83. Right Before Our Eyes
On April 8, 1983, magician David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear. Or, at least he made it appear to disappear. The televised performance dazzled a live audience who were mystified when a raised curtain was dropped, revealing the statue to have vanished. But how did he pull it off? We could tell you, but it would ruin the mystery.
84. The Mystery Revealed
Okay, we’ll tell you. Copperfield didn’t actually make the Statue of Liberty disappear—he just moved it out of sight. Or rather, he moved the audience. When a curtain between two pillars was raised, obscuring the statue, the platform holding the audience rotated slightly so that when the curtain was dropped again, the statue would be blocked by one of the pillars, out of sight. A configuration of spotlights that shone on the statue was replicated, so the sight seen by the audience as they looked between the pillars made it appear as though the statue had disappeared. Likewise, radar showed nothing in front of them — because the actual statue was now off to the side. Clever, huh?
85. Around the World
One of the most famous mysterious disappearances is that of Amelia Earheart, whose aircraft vanished in July 1937 as she attempted to circumnavigate the globe. Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan departed from Miami in a Lockheed Electra airplane and made it all the way to Papua New Guinea before mysteriously vanishing on their way to Honolulu.
86. Into Thin Air
There has been much speculation in the 70+ years since Earhart’s disappearance, and the search for her airplane continues to this day. Artifacts and human remains found on islands near Japan and in the South Pacific have been attributed to Earhart and Noonan, but no conclusive evidence of the pair has been verified. Their plane likely crashed into the Pacific Ocean and sank, though many conspiracy-theorists believe otherwise.
87. Still a Mystery
Even in years as recent as 2017, evidence of Earhart’s crash and/or survival has been scrutinized. A photograph showing an American man and woman in the Marshall Islands was reported to perhaps be of Earhart and Noonan, though it is far from conclusive. Other theories are that Earhart was captured and interned by the Japanese, that she was abducted by aliens, or that she completed her flight in secret and simply changed her name and moved to New Jersey. Why pick New Jersey over a balmy tropical South Pacific island? Maybe that’s the real mystery.
88. A Faked Death?
William Cantelo, an inventor, disappeared after developing a new type of machine gun. When his sons saw a similar gun on the market, they thought that they’d found him, but they were shocked to discover that although the inventor bore a striking resemblance to their father, he had proof of his origins. The whole story is a doozy. After Cantelo’s disappearance, his sons hired a private investigator who traced Cantelo to America and noticed a large sum of money missing from his bank account.
When the brothers found a man calling himself Hiram Maxim, who was selling a “Maxim Gun” almost identical to that of their father’s, they thought they’d solved the case. A photograph of Maxim closely resembled their father. The pair assumed their dad didn’t want to share the profits from his invention and took off mysteriously—but did he? They staged an ambush of Hiram Maxim when the inventor made a tour of Britain, expecting to surprise their father. But was it the same man? Maxim had documents “proving” that he was born and had grown up in the United States—including census records and church registrars—and claimed that there was an impostor in the USA claiming to be him.
The mystery of William Cantelo was never solved. Did he sell his patent to Maxim? Did the two identical men invent an identical gun at the same time? Maxim never allowed the two boys to visit him again, though he did relocate to the UK. Hiram Maxim became a British subject in 1899 was knighted in 1900. William Cantelo, on the other hand, was never heard from again.
89. Gone Like Hoffa
“Jimmy Hoffa” is practically synonymous with “mysterious disappearance”, though unlike Amelia Earhart, his disappearance was almost certainly due to foul play. Hoffa served as President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, one of the largest labor unions in North America from 1958 to 1971, and had proven mob connections. The mafia was suspected of ordering the hit, and Hoffa’s remains were rumored to have been buried under Giants Stadium in New Jersey.
90. Mob Rule
Hoffa’s presidency over the Teamsters’ union saw the labor group become more powerful than ever, though his tactics were hardly commendable. Hoffa was convicted of jury tampering, bribery, and fraud at two trials, in 1958 and 1961. Hoffa had close ties to the mob, so when he vanished in 1975, the mob were the first suspects. However, the FBI had discovered two weeks prior to his disappearance that millions of dollars were missing from a union pension fund—so perhaps he vanished of his own accord. Searches of the ground under Giants Stadium have never shown any trace of human remains, and the mystery endures to this day.
91. Missing Moolah
Losing a $20 bill is upsetting enough, and hard to do. So it’s jaw-dropping that the United States government lost a whopping $6.6 billion in Iraq after the Gulf War. The misplaced money is presumed stolen and came not from taxpayers (thank goodness) but from a special fund set up with money withheld from the Iraqi government by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York during economic sanctions.
92. International I.O.U.
The money was flown into Iraq as cash, in blocks of $100 bills, and presumably, somebody (with very strong arms) carried it off unnoticed. A total of $12 billion was air-lifted into Iraq on military cargo planes by the Bush administration. In 2005, a series of hearings on fraud and waste during Iraqi post-war reconstruction was held, at which time the theft was discovered, and in 2011, Iraq threatened legal action against the United States in order to recoup the money. Said Rep. Henry A. Waxman, at the time the head of the House Government Reform Committee, “Congress is not looking forward to having to spend billions of our money to make up for billions of their money that we can’t account for, and can’t seem to find.”
93. Missing Plane
On March 8, 2014, an airplane flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing vanished with 239 passengers and crew members aboard. Despite carrying a flight recorder, or “black box”, the exact whereabouts of the plane—and its passengers was a mystery to authorities. At the time of the disappearance, no reports of bad weather or mechanical difficulties had been registered by the airplane’s crew. In 2015 and 2016, 20 small pieces of debris from the flight were recovered from the water, but the location of the rest of the wreckage is still unknown.
94. Airborne Tragedy
The loss of Malaysia Flight 370 and the 239 lives on board represented the deadliest incident involving a Boeing 777 ever. The cause of the plane’s disappearance is still a mystery, as the only debris found has been off the coast of Africa, far from where it would be expected. Theories have been proposed as to what caused the crash: was it mechanical error, or did the pilot intentionally crash the plane? Was the flight shot down by North Korea, as some have claimed? Unfortunately, the cause of the disappearance is entirely unknown.
95. The Search Continues
A US-based company called Ocean Infinity signed a deal with the Malaysian government in late 2017 to look for the wreckage of Flight 370. The deal will net them $90 million—but only if they find the plane within three months. As it’s unknown what caused the flight to go down, be it mechanical error or human mischief, the families of victims have not been able to gain any closure or financial compensation for their loss.
96. Don’t Ring This Neighbor’s Bell
The Bell Witch was probably known in life as “Kate Batts.” The 19th century Tennessee woman did not get along with her neighbor, John Bell Sr. This feud did not abate with her death. The Bell family made reports of children being beaten in their sleep by an invisible force, and objects allegedly moved on the house on their own rights. Being people of the 1800s, they naturally held a séance and concluded it was their darn late neighbor, Kate! When Mr. Bell eventually died, they of course cited poison by the dead witch, whom they said to be heard singing merrily at his doom.
97. Dear Theodosia
On New Year’s Eve 1812, the young Theodosia Burr (yes, daughter of Aaron Burr) left to visit her father up north via ship. Unfortunately, a storm struck the vessel, and neither the boat nor Theodosia was ever seen again. Decades went by and in 1869, a woman who lived by Nags Head reportedly called a doctor from Elizabeth City to attend to her, saying he could take any item in her house as payment. When the doctor tried to claim a portrait on the wall, the sickly woman sprang straight up, and yelled, “It is mine! You shall not have it! I am on my way to visit my father in New York, and I am taking this picture of his darling Theodosia!”. She then, apparently, snatched the painting, ran into the ocean, and—like Theodosia—was never seen again.
98. In the Flower of Her Youth
On December 20, 2009, the actress Brittany Murphy died at the tragically young age of 32. While the cause of death was originally listed as natural causes, a subsequent report blamed her death on “a combination of pneumonia, anemia, and prescription and over-the-counter drugs.”
Five months after Murphy’s death, her husband, Simon Monjack, died in the same bedroom that Murphy had been in. In a disturbing coincidence, the cause of his death was also listed as pneumonia and anemia.
One reason for the abrupt deaths of Murphy and her husband has been brought forward by Murphy’s mother, Sharon. Sharon maintains that her daughter and son-in-law died due to a presence of toxic mold in their house.
99. Mad King Ludwig
Though he was a pretty ineffective ruler, King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s popularity never wavered. He was broodingly handsome and frequently rode the countryside in disguise, giving gifts and large sums of money to the kindlier and more hospitable farmers he met along the way. To the Bavarians, Ludwig was the ideal romantic hero.
To those who really knew him, Ludwig’s true nature was much darker.
In 1867, Ludwig became engaged to his cousin, Duchess Sophia of Bavaria. Sophia was the sister of his beloved friend, Elizabeth. After several postponements, the engagement was finally broken off in October of that year. While no reason was ever announced, Ludwig claimed in a letter to Sophia, “your cruel father has torn us apart!”
Ludwig II’s crowning achievement was Neuschwanstein Castle. Sitting at an elevation of more than 2,000 feet on a hill overlooking the village of Hohenschwangau, Neuschwanstein notably provided the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland. Construction of Neuschwanstein began in 1868, and was not completed by the time of Ludwig’s tragic death in 1886.
Despite the years and years of planning and labor, not to mention the incredible personal debt he accumulated, Ludwig only spent 11 nights in his beloved Neuschwanstein Castle.
Fearing for their ruler’s health (and desirous of his power) after his castle spending spree, Ludwig’s ministers ended up assembling a team of psychiatric assessors led by Dr. Bernhard Von Gudden, who quickly ascertained that Ludwig was mentally unsound. Though they never spoke with Ludwig personally, they compiled a list of observations that confirmed the king’s mental state. The list included his habit of wearing a coat in summer but eating outdoors in winter, his rough manner with his servants, and, obviously, his exorbitant and reckless spending.
With Ludwig declared mad, the ministers were free to depose him, and sent a commission to arrest Ludwig and place him in the custody of Dr. Von Gudden. Ludwig holed up in Neuschwanstein with a private army for two days while 36 armed guards surrounded the castle. He was finally caught trying to escape the premises.
When arrested, he said to Von Gudden, “How dare you declare me insane? You’ve never examined me before!” Insane or not, Ludwig had a point.
Von Gudden took Ludwig to rest at Berg Castle just south of Munich. On the evening of June 13, 1886, the two men took a walk together along the shore of Lake Starnberg. No one knows what happened next. The bodies of Ludwig and Von Gudden were found that night floating in the lake. Neither had water in their lungs, but Von Gudden’s body showed signs of strangulation and bludgeoning. The mystery has never been solved, though modern historians suggest that Ludwig and his doctor may have been murdered by Ludwig’s enemies while he was attempting once more to escape.
100. Is This a Dagger I See Before Me?
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.
As a result, it either came from another more advanced civilization or, as some are convinced, it might have been left behind by aliens.
101. Bad Omens
You may be familiar with the legend of the Bermuda Triangle—the small area of the Atlantic ocean that seems to be responsible for more unexplained disasters than anywhere else. What you may not know is that the “discoverer” of the New World himself, Christopher Columbus, had his own weird encounter with this spot, perhaps setting the tone for its future visitors right off the bat. According to records from the time, Columbus reported seeing a giant flame, a mysterious light in the distance, and unusual compass readings while passing through the area.