Article: 25 Biggest Mysteries in History: HowStuffWorks
25 Biggest Mysteries in History
By: Lauren Lubas
Image: Wiki Commons by Unknown author, The Illlustrated Police News
About This Article
Although we like to see a linear history of the world laid before us in a way that we can understand, it's impossible to get those straight results in a manner that we can believe. For example, when you ask for a linear depiction of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, you realize that hundreds of people have their own linear history. With the human mind being flawed in a manner that inserts memories and vivid visuals (that aren't always accurate) into our recollections, it seems impossible to ever learn the truth about anything.
That's where mysteries come into play. Though many of the mysteries from our history are from a time when records weren't kept, there are some recent mysteries that make us question reality as a whole. Even though we can film someone getting murdered, questions are raised about trajectory, motive and tampered evidence.
This list isn't just about the mysteries you know. It's a deeper look at the mysteries in our history from around the world. From stone formations that seem to have been magically placed to murder mysteries people have been talking about for nearly 70 years, you will get a greater glimpse at the questions that are still circling the minds of historians and average folks alike.
Famous last words
While there is a lot of mystery surrounding the death of President John F. Kennedy, one mystery is the final words that Texas Gov. John Connally heard him say. "My God, I'm hit" were JFK's reported last words. However, reports from the Warren Commission as well as video footage from the Zapruder film show that a bullet exited Kennedy's throat before the fatal shot to the head. While there could be a few explanations for what Connally thought he heard, this just adds to the pile of questions people still have about the president's death.
Just another Croatoan in the wall
Disappearances and dead bodies are a part of history. However, when an entire colony of people disappears, it grabs the attention of researchers, archaeologists and historians alike. The settlers of Roanoke were the third group of British colonists to live on the island. When a supply ship returned to deliver provisions, the crew found an empty settlement, in complete ruins. The settlers were never found. However, archaeologists believe that they may have moved inland, as there is possible evidence of the colonists being excavated now.
Shhh! Do you hear that?
In various parts of the world, witnesses can hear a distinct humming sound. Often described as a truck engine in the distance, the humming sound is consistent. In Taos, New Mexico, this humming sound was so bad that local citizens voiced concerns and begged Congress for help. In 1997, Congress complied and sent a team of researchers to investigate where the sound was coming from. Over 12 years later, no scientist, researcher or citizen has been able to figure out where the Taos humming comes from.
We have an interesting obsession with serial killers in our culture. Who could calculate such crimes and decide to take lives? Of all the serial killers history has noted, no one can seem to get over Jack the Ripper. Though the Ripper killings occurred between 1888 and 1891, the killer known as Jack the Ripper has still gone unidentified and his crimes are still unsolved. Some believe that the actual killer was a woman while others theorize it was more than one person. Due to the time period of the murders, we may never know who actually committed them.
Cat got your Tunguska?
On June 30, 1908, a large explosion was heard over the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in Russia. Though the explosion hit an area with a considerably small population, three fatalities were reported. And though three were reported, there were none that were officially confirmed. The explosion completely decimated 2,000 square kilometers and was said to have a force of about 15 megatons of TNT. While no one knows exactly why it occurred or what caused it, some believe that it could have been an asteroid impact.
Do dictators die?
For decades after World War II, it was the common consensus that Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his bunker, then had his men burn his body. While some researchers still believe this to be the truth, there are other historians who find it hard to believe. It was clear that Hitler had an escape plan that led him to South America. Historians are confident that several high-level Nazi officers made their way to South America, and it wouldn't be a stretch to see Hitler on that end either. The question remains: Did Hitler really die in his bunker, or did he have the chance to escape?
Does not compute ... anymore
The Antikythera mechanism was found in the wreckage of a ship off the Greek island Antikythera. This device dates back to 87 BC and is considered the oldest computer. Alright, it's not an iMac by any means, but it does compute with a clockwork mechanism and bronze gears. The device is thought to be made by Greek scientists who wanted a way to predict astronomical positions. So, it's basically like a big star calculator. The mystery here is how did the Greeks get this technology, and how come more weren't made after this one was lost?
In which wych elm is the witch?
While four boys in Hagley Wood of Worcestershire, England were bird-nesting in 1943, one attempted to climb a wych elm tree. What he didn't know is that the tree had a hollow trunk. In it, the boy found a human skull. Because the boys were illegally on the land, they decided not to tell anyone about what they had found. However, the youngest boy broke and told his parents. Upon investigation, police found an entire human skeleton along with a shoe, a gold ring and pieces of her clothing. Unfortunately, there were so many missing person cases during the war, it was difficult to properly identify the woman, and her death remains a mystery to this day. This grafitti appeared a year later, hinting that someone in that area may have known more.
Who plucked the Black Dahlia?
Murder mysteries in the United States are not uncommon, but when those murders are especially heinous and especially mysterious, people tend to pay more attention. When Elizabeth Short was murdered in 1947, some wrote her death off as another Los Angeles murder. However, the condition of her body drew in reporters, researchers and historians. Short was found cut into two pieces at the waist. No one knows who did it, why they would have done something like this or how, but Short will forever be known as the Black Dahlia to historians and true-crime researchers.
They were seen after the fire.
The story of the disappearance of the Sodder children is filled with tragedy, mystery and wonder. On Christmas Eve in 1945, the Sodder home of Fayetteville, West Virginia went up in flames. The entire home was destroyed. George and Jenny Sodder, along with nine of their children, lived in the home. During the fire, George and Jenny escaped with four of the children, but five went unaccounted for. After the flames went out, the bodies of the five children presumed to still be in the house were never found. While some eyewitnesses claimed to have seen the children in the days after the fire, the children were never actually found. To this day, the mystery of the Sodder children remains.
They didn't even finish their dinner.
In the Flannan Isles west of Scotland, three lighthouse keepers disappeared. While there had been several mysterious happenings on these islands, the disappearance of three men still mars the islands today. The keepers were dropped off at their station, and when a relief vessel returned 19 days later, the men had completely disappeared. According to witness records, there were still plates of unfinished food on the table.
It wasn't his real name.
In 1971, a man highjacked a Boeing 727 in the Pacific Northwest. He identified himself as D.B. Cooper and demanded a ransom of $200,000. When he received that ransom, he made the plane take off again. Flight attendants reported seeing him parachute out of the plane. However, he was never found and the money was never recovered. Though many have speculated that Cooper didn't survive the jump, others think he's still living off of his ransom money.
Snitches get ... away.
One of the most heartbreaking mysteries of World War II is who actually turned in the Frank family. Anne Frank's diary detailed a life in hiding that was terrifying and depressing. Knowing that hers was not the only family that suffered such atrocities adds to the discomfort and terror that her words brought to us. Though we know of Anne from her diary, no one knows what happened to get her thrown into the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. It is clear that her family was ultimately turned in, but no one really knows what happened.
We can't make out the words.
Archaeologists find ancient texts all over the world. The majority of found texts have been deciphered and translated. However, the Voynich Manuscript is a text all its own and has never been successfully translated. The manuscript itself has been carbon-dated back to the 15th century. It is a hand-written text with crude drawings in it. Though many consider its origins to be Italy, others say that's up for debate.
A Grave Search
The search for Jimmy Hoffa has been going on since 1975. Though he disappeared back then, no one has found his remains ... anywhere. People have investigated this disappearance for decades, and only come up with various theories and unreliable witnesses. Some say that he was buried in the foundation of a football field while others say he's at the bottom of a lake. Still others think that Hoffa faked his own death and disappeared on his own.
Was it the aliens?
Though many conspiracy theories surround the building of the Egyptian pyramids, this wasn't always the case. For a long time, it was agreed upon that the pyramids were built by slaves in ancient Egypt. However, closer inspection of these great structures raises more and more questions. Considering it would be difficult to build a pyramid with the technology that we have today, scientists, archaeologists and historians are all asking the same question: How could a civilization with minimal technology undertake such a large task? Some even believe that extraterrestrial beings with space technology helped.
Dance until you die.
Of all of the unexplained events that have ever happened in history, the 1518 dancing plague might be the most fun-sounding one. It began when a woman began dancing uncontrollably in the streets of Strasbourg, part of modern-day France. Soon, the fever struck 400 others, who began dancing and couldn't stop. Witness reports state that they danced for days without stopping, eating or drinking. Some died of strokes and heart attacks while others died from simple exhaustion. The plague lasted about a month, and never happened again ... anywhere in the world.
If you look at maps dating back before 1846, you will see a very small island named Bermeja Island. It was located off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico. Every mapmaker before 1846 to see the island drew it in the same shape and in the same location. However, every map made after 1846 completely erases this small island. It doesn't seem to exist anymore. Though some claim mapmakers simply drew an island that wasn't there, no one can explain how it ended up on every map before its disappearance.
Over 90% of the people in this world believe that we are not alone in the universe. Therefore, it's not uncommon to hear first-hand accounts of what people believe to be alien connection. However, in 1977, astronomer Jerry Ehman seemed to discover a possible communication from space. The signal lasted over 70 seconds, and presented as a communications signal, even though he was monitoring space. While some nonbelievers try to explain the signal as a man-made communication, others believe it was an attempt at contact.
Where did the lovers go?
Despite decades of searching, no one has any clue where to find Cleopatra's tomb. Although she was supposed to be buried next to her lover Antony, no one has been able to find her remains. Considering she is one of the most iconic women in history, the disappearance of her tomb is a little odd. Could there be another mystery buried with her, or is she simply somewhere no one thought to record?
Ooh la la! This castle was built out of oolite limestone. It's a gorgeous man-made formation that remains one of the biggest mysteries that Florida has to offer. So, what's so mysterious about it? Well, according to sources, this entire structure was built by a single man. Over the course of 28 years, Latvian-American Ed Leedskalnin moved, sculpted and cut into over 1,000 tons of coral to create the park that still stands today. He did it on his own, with only hand tools and the knowledge passed down to him by his ancestors. To this day, no one knows how he did it.
Da plane! Da plane!
Alien and UFO sightings happen daily across the globe, and the majority of these sightings have explanations. However, on March 13, 1997, a mass sighting occurred in Phoenix and it is still not explained to this day. This wasn't just a sighting by a few guys driving through the desert. Thousands of witnesses saw the monstrous and silent lights fly overhead. While the government tried to explain that it wasAir Force-related, no one could deny the otherworldly sighting that is still not fully explained today.
When the sun danced
It's difficult to believe in mysterious occurrences with only a handful of eyewitnesses. That is why the Miracle of the Sun mystery is one that resists denial. There was a prophecy that in Fatima, Portugal, the Virgin Mary would reappear and perform miracles on Oct. 13, 1917. A large group formed to see if there was any truth to this prophecy, and they got more than they bargained for. Photographers, reporters and people from around the country gathered and witnessed what they could only describe as the sun dancing. It made zig-zag motions through the sky and emitted radiant colors. The event was said to last approximately 10 minutes. It has not happened since, and it cannot be explained to this day.
Low voltage high science
During excavations in Baghdad, archeologists found what can only be described as an ancient battery. It was composed of a ceramic pot that looked like an average piece of pottery, but inside were a copper tube and an iron rod. Scientists who recreated the battery and filled it with electrolyte-rich grape juice found that the battery could produce two volts. The battery itself dates back to 250 BC. The questions remain: Who created this battery? What was it used for and why weren't more created?
Yonaguni Monument, was it man-made?
While the ocean is a part of this planet, we still know very little about it. However, in 1987, when a diver by the name of Kihachiro Aratake found underwater ruins off the coast of the Japanese island Yonaguni, he realized that there was more to civilization than what was above water. Nearly 15 meters under the water, the ruins show a vast civilization with pyramid-like structures that are close in appearance to those at Machu Picchu. The mystery behind where these structures came from and what happened to the civilization still plagues archaeologists.
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