Historical Mysteries
Historical Mysteries
Have you ever read about a true mystery that stuck with you long after you had learned about it?

1. "Whatever happened to the Sodder children?"

"Whatever happened to the Sodder children?"

On December 24th, 1945, the Sodder family home caught on fire with ten members of the Sodder family inside. Jennie Sodder woke in the night to find her husband George's office completely engulfed in flames, at which point she woke her husband and the two rushed to wake the children. Though four of the Sodder children and their parents managed to escape their home, five children were assumed to have perished in the fire.

In the years since, many have speculated on the strange circumstances surrounding this event, and have begun to formulate their own theories on what actually happened that night. Though the official cause of the fire was deemed to be faulty wiring, some have actually argued that the Sodder family was the target of arson led by the Sicilian Mafia. George Sodder, an Italian immigrant, had been vocal in his opposition to dictator Benito Mussolini, leading a traveling insurance salesman to tell Sodder that his home would go "up in smoke", and that "your children are going to be destroyed" because of his comments.

Some, including the Sodder family, speculate that the missing children are actually still alive, due to the lack of human remains found in the rubble. Years after the fire, the Sodders received a photograph in the mail of a man, with the caption reading that it was their now-adult son, Louis, previously thought to have been dead.

 

2. "One of Australia's prime ministers just disappeared when he went for a swim in the ocean, so probably that."

On December 17th, 1967, Prime Minister of Australia, Harold Holt, disappeared during an afternoon swim off of Cheviot Beach, Australia. Holt was accompanied by six others, though only one joined him in the water while the others refused, citing unsafe swimming conditions. Those present recount watching Holt swim deeper and deeper into the sea until he swam beneath the waves and never resurfaced.

Once his companions lost sight of Holt and didn't hear any response to their calls, they quickly sought help from the Victoria police, who dispatched a search party. Over 340 personnel searched for Holt, including diving teams as well as helicopters searching overhead. On January 7th, 1968, the search for Holt's body was called off, and he was assumed to be dead by the public.

However, this hasn't prevented the number of theories that have spawned in the years since his death. Some claim that Holt's death was actually an assassination from the CIA due to a rumor that he intended to pull Australia out of the Vietnam War. Others have cited a lack of Holt's body as proof that he isn't actually dead, and has faked his own death.

 

3. "The missing minutes of the Watergate tapes. What happened during that time?!"

Though the Watergate scandal focused on the Nixon administration's involvement in stealing the information from the offices of the Democratic Party, President Nixon was also known to have set up recording devices around the White House to record his own and others' conversations. When authorities discovered the existence of these tapes, they ordered Nixon to turn them over, but when he did so, 18 1/2 minutes of the conversation were missing.

Nixon's secretary, Rose Mary Woods, said that she had been reviewing the tapes, and had accidentally recorded over this time when she reached around to answer a phone call and accidentally hit the record button on the tape. Because of the already secretive and scandalous nature of the Watergate scandal, many have spent decades since then speculating that this chunk of time had actually been intentionally erased.

4. "Whether Frank Morris, John Anglin, and his brother Clarence Anglin survived their escape from Alcatraz Federal Prison."

On June 11th, 1962, three Alcatraz prisoners escaped and were supposedly never seen or heard from again. The men, Frank Morris and brothers John and Clarence Anglin, had spent about six months carving a hole in their adjacent cells using knives from the mess hall and other tools. They had also built a makeshift raft, and after climbing through the ventilation shaft of the prison and making their way onto the roof, they climbed over the perimeter fence and set off into the water.

Later, police would find what they believed to be pieces of the raft floating in the San Francisco Bay, as well as what they believed to be the wallet of one of the Anglin brothers. Because of this, as well as the treacherous currents and conditions of the Bay, the FBI announced that the men had most likely died during their journey. However, their bodies were never recovered, with many believing that the men actually survived their escape, and are either living in Florida or South America. Some who know the Anglin family have actually reported seeing two people resembling the brothers attending their father's funeral.

 

5. "The murder of Olof Palme."

Olof Palme, the Prime Minister of Sweden, was murdered in Stockholm while walking home with his wife. At first, this case seemed open-and-shut, with the primary suspect Christer Pettersson being identified by a witness to the murder, Mrs. Palme, as the perpetrator.

Though Pettersson was at first convicted, he was later acquitted of the crime during an appeal, citing a lack of motive and an inability to find the murder weapon. Since then, no suspect has been tried, though several theories have been produced, including Kurdish rebels and the Yugoslavian secret service.

6. "What Pope Leo said to Attila the Hun."

When Attila the Hun attempted to invade Italy in 452, Emperor Valentinian III sent three representatives to negotiate with him, including Pope Leo I

After these negotiations, Attila agreed to withdraw, prompting many to assume that it was Leo's presence and encouragement that convinced him to do so. However,  is no record of these negotiations, so many have often wondered what words were exchanged between the parties. 

7. "I want it to be solved, but it's seemingly more and more unlikely each day: DB Cooper."

Perhaps one of the most well-known unsolved mysteries, this case revolves around a man who hijacked a Boeing 727, demanding $200,000 before jumping out of the plane with the money, never to be seen again.

Though the FBI spent years searching for D.B Cooper, some agents told the public that it was still unlikely that he survived the fall, despite the fact that he was equipped with a parachute before he jumped from the plane. In 1980, an 8-year-old boy discovered a portion of the ransom money along the Columbian River while on vacation with his family.

The mystery involved in this case is not only where D.B Cooper is, but who he is as well. The authorities have considered a variety of suspects, though none with enough evidence to actively pursue a criminal case.

 

8. "What happened to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum paintings?"

In 1990, two men disguised as police officers broke into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, restrained the night guards, and proceeded to steal thirteen priceless artifacts before escaping. At the time, the haul was worth about $200 million, but this estimate has since been raised.

In more recent years, the FBI has made it known that they believe the thieves to have ties to a criminal organization, specifically a "criminal organization with a base in the Mid-Atlantic states and New England". However, early investigations even looked to the actual security guards on patrol that night, though they were quickly cleared. To this day, there has been no sighting of any of the paintings or artifacts that were taken from the museum.

 

9. "Mystery of the Somerton Man also known as the Tamám Shud case."

In December of 1948, an unidentified man's body was found on Somerton Park Beach in Australia. Though a natural death seemed unlikely, the coroner was unable to properly assert what had killed him. Strangely, the man had no items on his person that were able to provide his identity. 

Upon further examination, a piece of paper with the Persian phrase "Tamám Shud" was found in a sewn pocket on the man's trousers. This phrase loosely translates to "It is finished.", further prompting the public's belief that foul play was involved in the Somerton Man's death. This has also led many to believe that the man was actually a spy.

Though no identity has ever been confirmed, the Somerton Man's body was exhumed in May of 2021, so we may hopefully have more information on this case soon.

 

10. "The fate of the Mary Celeste's crew."

On December 4th, 1872, Captain Morehouse of the Dei Gratia was on a voyage to Portugal when he noticed another ship in the distance, the Mary Celeste. When the Dei Gratia approached, Morehouse noted that there was no one on deck, and when his crew climbed abroad the Mary Celeste's, they found no one aboard. While there was water along the floor of the ship that had flooded in, the ship was in good condition (Aside from the fact that it was unmanned in the middle of the ocean). Stranger still, the crew noticed a captain's log entry from Captain Benjamin Briggs just nine days earlier.

On November 5th, 1872, Captain Briggs, his wife and child, and 7 other crew members set sail from New York Harbor, only to never be seen or heard from again. Some suspect a natural disaster might have taken the crew, such as a waterspout, but this is highly unlikely given the near-perfect state of the ship. Others theorize that the crew of the Mary Celeste was actually killed by Captain Morehouse, who then claimed to have found the ship abandoned in an effort to collect on the insurance.

 

11. I'd have to say a mystery from where I'm from, New Zealand. It's the disappearance of Kirsa Jensen, a 14-year old who went missing in 1983 while out riding her horse

Kirsa Jensen disappeared on September 1st, 1983. After a search party was dispatched, authorities were able to locate her horse, Commodore, but were unable to find Kirsa. The last sighting of her places her near the mouth of the Tutaekuri River, with witnesses describing seeing her with a bloodied face, and when questioned, she told them that she had fallen from her horse and that her parents would arrive soon to pick her up. Others recall her speaking to a man in a white van before she disappeared. 

A man named John Russell previously confessed to murdering Jensen, but later retracted it before killing himself. 

 

12. "That damn Amber Room."

The Amber Room was a room in the Catherine Palace of Tsarskoye Selo, a town in Russia that typically housed the imperial family and surrounding nobility. The room was considered an architectural beauty, adorned in amber panels and gold detailing, and was home to a number of carvings and pieces of artwork. During the invasion of the Soviet Union beginning in 1941, the Amber room was disassembled by the German Army to be sent to Prussia, where it was available for viewing. After the end of the war, no one saw The Amber Room again. 

Many believe that the Amber Room was again disassembled before being placed into a steamer, but was taken out before it could reach its destination, which would mean that the remnants of the Amber Room are at the bottom of the ocean. Others believe that before the Nazis were captured, they had already disassembled the Amber Room, and had already hidden it away someplace secret.

In 1979, the Russian government decided to attempt to reconstruct the Amber Room. As of 2003, the room is available for viewing, still in Tsarkoye Selo.

13. "The missing men of Bermagui, NSW, Australia. Five men disappeared in the 19th century, completely vanished off the face of the planet, with some very confusing things left behind."

Lamont Young, a geological surveyor, was conducting on-field work in Bermagui, Australia with his assistant and two friends in 1880. The group hired a boat driver, Thomas Towers, to take them out to continue their work, where all five men seemingly disappeared. The boat was later found deserted against a series of rocks, abandoned.

 

14. "Who really was the man in the iron mask?"

The Man in the Iron Mask was an unknown man who spent over 30 years in a series of French prisons, forced to wear a mask to conceal his identity to all those who saw them by his jailer, Bénigne Dauvergne de Saint-Mars. Though rumors and art often depict the prisoner wearing a mask of iron, witnesses claim that the mask was actually made of black velvet.

Many in years past and present have been curious about the identity of this man, fueled by the lengths to which his captors went to in order to conceal his identity. Some believe that the man is the illegitimate son of King Louis XIV, or perhaps his brother. Others believe that he was the disgraced son of some nobility, imprisoned to prevent future blunders.

15. "Einstein’s last words. Big lack of foresight there lol."

Before falling asleep, Albert Einstein looked up at the nurse attending to him, uttered what would be his final words, before falling asleep and passing away peacefully. But when prompted, the nurse later said that she had no idea what Einstein had told her, as it had been in his native German, and she did not know the language. I sure hope it wasn't anything important!

 

16. "The various dancing plagues between 1374 and 1518."

Otherwise known as "Dancing Mania", the dancing plague was a strange phenomenon in Europe in which people would uncontrollably begin dancing, and would be unable to stop. Many times, the affliction would only end when those dancing passed out due to exhaustion. 

Fits of Dancing Mania occurred over centuries and has commonly been diagnosed by modern scholars as a mass psychogenic illness, meaning that it's likely there was nothing physically wrong with those dancing, rather a social phenomenon that convinced them that there was. But others have claimed that the dancing was potentially the effects of spider bites, or even ergot poisoning.

17. "Who put Bella in the Witch Elm?"

In April of 1943, four boys discovered a human skull in the hollow trunk of a wych elm tree in Worcestershire. After investigating, police found the skeleton of a woman in the tree but were unable to identify her. The next year, graffiti was found around the area, reading "Who put Bella down the Wych Elm?", identifying the missing woman to the police and public only as "Bella"

Though many are confident that Bella was murdered, the cause often varies. Some believe that she was killed by a lover, while some argue that she served as an occult sacrifice

18. "What information there was in the Library of Alexandria?"

The Library of Alexandria, named for it's location in Alexandria, Egypt, was considered to be one of the largest and most impressive libraries of its time. Not only did it hold a mass of reading materials, it was also one of the few libraries that also contained works from beyond Egypt, as many travelers often brought back works from far countries to be read in the library.

Accounts vary on how the library was destroyed. Though many agree that Julius Caesar was responsible, researchers are unable to determine if he had done so intentionally or accidentally. At any rate, the fire first began near the docks and quickly spread to the library, reducing it to rubble.

19. "The Max Headroom broadcast intrusion."

On November 22, 1987, two television stations in Chicago, Illinois were hijacked by a man wearing a mask resembling Max Headroom, an AI well known in Britain. The hijacker first took over WGN-TV for about 28 seconds, swaying erratically but not speaking before the signal cut off and the original broadcast was able to resume. 

Later that night at 11:20 P.M, the hijacker appeared again, this time on a local PBS station. This broadcast lasted about 90 seconds, and the hijacker spoke this time, with quick comments that included singing and showing his naked behind. Though the hijacker was never located, some believe that they might be an underground hacker, or perhaps even an employee of the WGN-TV.

 

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