History

25 Spooky Unsolved Mysteries

By Alex Conde - September 14, 2018
Credits: Wait, what? Image Source: NASA / Bill Ingalls

Since the mysteries are unsolved, we have absolute freedom of creativity when we try to think of solutions. After all, if nobody can prove a theory correct, often they can’t prove it wrong either, right?

The best unsolved mysteries of all are the spooky ones—the ones that make your spine tingle a bit; wondering just how much we don’t know about this world, and if something similar could maybe… one day… happen to you.

To ensure that you’re covered off for workplace water cooler and Slack channel conversations for the next little while, here is our list of 25 spooky unsolved mysteries.

1. Unidentified Feet Washing up From the Salish Sea

Credits: The Salish Sea keeps spitting out feet, but the reason might be all in the shoes.

Bodies washing up on shore are one thing. People die all the time, and most of the Earth is water, so you almost expect to hear a story about that now and again. But what about just feet washing ashore? In the Pacific Northwest of North America, in an area known as the Salish Sea, 14 separate feet have washed ashore in the last decade. Yes, just the feet.

Before you start worrying about a serial killer with a foot fetish, police and scientists do have a theory on what has been happening. Since feet can easily be separated from the body if the ankle decays (or is eaten by sea life), and the fact that most of the recovered feet have been in found wearing relatively buoyant athletic shoes, professionals working the cases believe the feet have simply washed ashore by the prevailing current after the people they belonged to died in or around the sea from a variety of causes (hiking too close to the water, boating incidents, etc.).So far, police have identified 8 of the 14 feet, belonging to six different individuals.

While this theory is quite compelling, and even logical, there are still six unidentified feet involved that could change the ending to this story, or simply add on another chapter.

2. The Marie Celeste Ghost Ship

Credits: The Marie Celeste left port stocked with six months of provisions. One month later it was found with nary a soul onboard.

Air travel, while incredibly convenient, has perhaps undermined the delicious creepiness of the idea of ghost ships. One of the most famous ghost ships, the Marie Celeste, was found afloat with not a single person on her and no evidence of why the crew might have abandoned ship.

A ship with a checkered past, the Marie Celeste had previously been involved in accidents, including the death of her first captain and attempted insurance fraud under a variety of names. However, there was no sign of funny business when the ship set sail on November 7, 1872, with six months of provisions and a destination of Genoa, Italy. The ship was found on December 5 of that year adrift 644 kilometers (400 miles) off the Azores. The Marie Celeste’s crew were gone, and while one lifeboat was missing there were no signs of damage or trouble that would have led anyone to abandon ship.

Was anyone from the ship ever found? No. Can anyone tell why they left? No. Was it even their choice to abandon the Marie Celeste? That’s still part of the mystery.

3. Area 51

Credits: What's exactly happening at Area 51? Photo: X51 / Wikimedia

No list of spooky unsolved mysteries would be complete without Area 51. America’s worst kept secret military base has been long established as a key element in the mythology of UFOs, dead aliens and other weirdness.

The isolation of the base and the intense security protecting it from prying eyes means that the base has been involved in numerous stories about the Roswell crash in 1947, unknown military experiments and rumors of whether or not the moon landing videos were faked in one of its hangers.

Regardless of what has or hasn’t actually occurred at Roswell, the intense secrecy about what goes on behind the gates of Area 51 means that it will continue to be featured in mysteries and conspiracy theories in years to come. After all, literally anything could be happening there and we just wouldn’t know otherwise.

4. The Pollock Twins

Credits: The twin mirrors of siblings tragically taken too soon.

Do you believe in reincarnation? If not, the Pollock twins might be enough to convince you to reconsider. Like many spooky stories, theirs starts with tragedy. In 1957 England, two sisters, Joanna (11 years old) and Jacqueline (6 years old) died in a car crash. Their parents were, of course, completely shattered. However, they didn’t give up on their hopes for a family. They moved to a new city, and on October 4 of the following year, the couple gave birth to twins: Jennifer and Gillian. This is where things started to get weird.

Interestingly enough, while Jennifer and Gillian were identical twins, they did have different birthmarks. Jennifer’s two birthmarks strongly resembled a birthmark and scar that her deceased sister Jacqueline had. From a young age, the two twins would ask for toys that their elder sisters had owned, with no prior knowledge that those toys even existed. Despite having never been in the city their sisters had lived in, they displayed a knowledge of landmarks that they couldn’t have ever acquired. They even had a fear of moving cars, stating that, “The car is coming to get us!”

Over time, the memories of their possible previous lives faded as the twins entered adulthood and forged their own independent histories.

5. The Incident at the Dyatlov Pass

Credits: Nine experienced hikers walked into the woods, none came out.

It was January of 1959, when nine Soviet students hiking through the Dyatlov Pass died under some very mysterious circumstances. And, by mysterious, we mean creepy as hell.

The group of nine were experienced skiers and hikers, so while accidents do happen, they were familiar with the winter weather in the region. After the team failed to check in as planned, a search party sent out for them stumbled upon a scene that defied belief. The team’s tent had been cut open from the inside, with most of their possessions left still in place. The first five bodies were found dead from hypothermia (while also wearing nothing but underwear in incredibly harsh conditions); the other four students were discovered lifeless much further into the woods. Three of the bodies suffered major physical trauma, one specifically with chest injuries that could only be caused by the force of a major car crash – but there was no evidence of impact or damage on the surface of their skin. Most troubling of all, one of the students was missing her eyes, tongue, parts of her cheek and a portion of her skull.

There were no avalanches in the area, and the local tribesmen were largely peaceful. Aside from low level radiation found on the bodies there was no explanation for how the group came to meet their end or why.

6. The Tunguska Event

Credits: Maybe it was a meteor...but maybe it wasn't. Photo: Don Davis

The wilds of the former USSR are no stranger to odd circumstances. In the morning of June 30, 1908, an absolutely enormous explosion occurred in a largely unpopulated area of eastern Siberia. While no one was killed (officially), 2,000 square kilometers (770 square miles) of forest were flattened by the force of the event. It is estimated that the explosion’s shock wave would register at a 5 on the Richter scale and that it was capable of wiping out a large metropolis.

It took two decades for a sanctioned expedition to reach the site, at which point the cause of the blast was still a mystery. However, after extensive study, it is generally believed that the explosion was caused by a meteor that exploded in the atmosphere directly above; this would explain why there is no evidence of an impact crater. However, scientists today are still searching for possible missing debris from whatever caused the massive explosion, and without a literal smoking gun can we really close the book on this one?

7. The Big Grey Man of Ben MacDhui

Credits: It sounds like something from a George R.R. Martin tale, except this story is missing the dragons. Photo: Brocken Inaglory

Several hikers and travelers passing through the area near Ben MacDhui, the second-highest mountain in the United Kingdom, have reported a presence—since named—the Big Grey Man. While no direct sightings of the man have been reported, he has been described as a shadowy figure, or sometimes simply the sound of someone following hikers through the area.

Some theorize that the Grey Man is a combination of echoes plus a phenomenon known as “brocken spectre”: people climbing or hiking at high altitudes can cast a shadow upon the clouds or mist when sandwiched between them and the sun. Others believe that the Grey Man is a manifestation of the spirits and magic that pagans had attributed to Ben MacDhui and the entire Cairngorms mountain range.

Who do you believe?

8. The Hessdalen Lights

Credits: Nature just fooling around, or maybe aliens? Photo: Joe Thomissen / Wikimedia

In a valley along the River Hesja in Norway, there are mysterious lights that show up in the sky which can be seen for miles. The lights—often a bright yellow, red or white—can be the size of cars, and have been studied by scientists, UFO fanatics and everyone in between. Some of these skyward lanterns float around for hours, while others come and go in moments. Some are speedy; others seem to hover.

A new theory that holds some promise is that by a unique confluence of chemicals in the river and minerals in the surrounding rocks, a natural battery of sorts is formed that can discharge electricity randomly, forming this unique display. However, this is just one theory for a phenomenon that has baffled scientists for decades.

9. The Hornet Spook Light

Credits: Any guesses as to what's causing this light display? Anyone? Photo: Steve Baxter / Flickr

For well over a hundred years, an orange, fire-like ball has been reported nightly near the town of Hornet, Oklahoma. Descriptions vary, from it being the size of a baseball to that of a basketball, but when an appearance is made it never lasts for long. Legends tie the phenomenon to local murders, lost loves and even the tribes that traveled on the Trail of Tears.

The light has been studied by everyone from scientists to the Army Corps of Engineers, and no one has yet been able to conclusively determine what the cause is.

10. The Roswell Incident

Credits: If everything you read in newspapers is true, then of course Earth has been visited by aliens.

In 1947, the skies of the United States seemed to be a tourism hot spot for unidentified flying objects. Things only became more interesting in Roswell, New Mexico, with a crash site reported by a local rancher.

The rancher had seen crashed weather balloons before, and he clearly identified this as something that did not fit the weather balloon description. When he reported the find to the local police officials, the military came to investigate and cordoned off the site until it could be cleared. Things might have ended there but reports of UFOs and lights in the area before the crash was located and a series of odd circumstances after the cleanup led to decades of speculation about wayward UFOs, dead aliens and more than enough conspiracy fuel for Men in Black movies.

11. The Ancient Puebloans and Their Empty Cities

Credits: No one knows why for certain, but something caused these people to not bother packing and leave town as quickly as possible. Photo: Rennett Stowe

Known for their adobe and sandstone buildings along cliff walls and mesas, the ancient Puebloans were a leading New Mexico civilization in and around the period of 1160 to 1340. With complex settlements and highly evolved customs, the tribes were highly advanced and utilized farming and cultivation practices instead of hunting and gathering.

Then, in almost the blink of an eye, most of their cities were abandoned. Some archeologists and historians attribute these actions to a drought that swept the area at the time, which made larger settlements based on agriculture unfeasible.

However, the archaeological treasure trove of items left behind raises questions as to how the cities were abandoned. Did people expect to be returning as soon as the drought finished? If so, they never came back to their beautiful homes, and the era of the ancient Puebloans came to an end.

12. Bermuda Triangle and the Dragon’s Triangle

Credits: If anyone asks you to travel anywhere that has 'triangle' in the name, you might want to take a pass.

We couldn’t even think of touching upon spooky unsolved mysteries without mentioning the Bermuda Triangle and its sister in mystery, the Dragon’s Triangle (located in a dangerous area off the coast of Japan). Whether it be because of hexagonal cloud vortices, killer giant waves, Atlantean technology, aliens, or just plain hype, these regions have definitely garnered a spooky reputation.

Some people argue that these fabled expanses have no more airplane disappearances or missing ships than other ocean areas. In an era of high technology, the idea that ships and aircraft could just vanish — without a trace, mind you — will always strike a bit of a scary tone in our minds.

13. The Tomb of Genghis Khan

Credits: The body-less mausoleum of Genghis Khan in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China. Photo: Fanghong / Wikipedia Commons

The impact of Genghis Khan is hard to overstate. He led troops to conquer almost the entire known world (of his day), ruled one of the largest empires in history and is reputed to be the ancestor of approximately 1 out of every 200 people currently alive.

Weirdly enough, for all that fame, we don’t know where his body is buried. He asked for a simple burial in Mongolia, and folklore tells a fantastic tale of why his body hasn’t been found. Some stories say that a river was diverted over his grave. Others, that thousands of horses stamped over the area to mask the site, while some indicate a forest was planted over his grave. Most accounts do agree though that all the witnesses to his burial were killed to preserve the secret of the location.

However they did it, they did it well. Millions of dollars spent searching and the best of high-tech archeology have yet to find the mysterious tomb of this legendary figure.

14. The Identity of Jack the Ripper

Credits: When you like to cut out the organs of your victims, they call you the Ripper.

One of history’s most famous serial killers, Jack the Ripper has been eclipsed in terms of body count by many people, but when it comes to sheer random violence and mystery, the Ripper holds a special (twisted) place in people’s minds. Noted for attacking in the impoverished areas of London, the Ripper not only killed his victims, he had a fondness for removing their internal organs. This led some to think he had a basic surgical knowledge and was perhaps a scholarly gentleman of some sort.

With five generally accepted victims to his name, the Ripper has been studied by media, historians and fans of the macabre for over a century. Despite all their efforts, we still don’t know who the man (or woman) dubbed Jack the Ripper may have been.

15. Mystery (And Perhaps Treasure) of Oak Island

Credits: Where's there's possible treasure, there's going to be danger.

Off the East Coast of Canada lies Oak Island, a place with a great deal of repute in both treasure hunter and mystery circles. Stories say that Oak Island is the home of incredible wealth, buried deep within. The potential plunder has been attributed to groups ranging from pirates to the Knights Templar. Theories hold that it is a vast store of gold, royal jewels, religious artifacts—even the original writings of Shakespeare.

Despite huge efforts over the past century to uncover what lays at the bottom of the “Money Pit,” searchers have failed to uncover anything of note. A treasure tale would be remiss without a curse and this island’s reputed to have one such affliction, stating that seven people must die before the treasure will be found. The hunt for riches has already claimed a number of lives over the years… maybe it’s secrets will be revealed after the curse claims its full tally of lives? Let’s at least hope the body count doesn’t have to increase any further.

16. The Dancing Plague

Credits: Dancing is fun. Until it kills you, of course.

As far as plagues go, a dancing plague sounds like something that won’t keep you in an infirmary. In the year 1518, however, it was something much more terrifying. In the city of Strasbourg, Alsace, people started dancing and they just didn’t stop. In fact, they couldn’t stop. Over a period of several months, 400 people were reported to have contracted the dancing plague—dancing for up to several days straight. Some of the afflicted died of exhaustion and others from heart attacks.

There are theories for why this strange behavior occurred, from ergot fungi (which forms on rye and can react like LSD in the body) to mass hysteria. However, no explanation completely ticks all the boxes, so we are left only with mysteries, the theories and no proof. Involuntarily dancing yourself to death sounds like a very spooky way to go.

17. Roanoke Island

Credits: What did the word "Croatoan" mean to the residents of Roanoke Island? Image Source: Bohemian Baltimore / Wiki Commons

In 1590, Roanoke was an island settlement of about 100 people in what is now known as North Carolina’s Dare County. Everything seemed to be going fine for the settlement, that is, until it disappeared. The governor of the colony went on a supply trip to England, returning to find the settlement deserted.

There were no signs of violence, and the only clue was the word “Croatoan” carved into a palisade wall. Thinking this meant the settlers had moved south to the nearby Croatoan Island (known today as Hatteras Island), searchers went looking for them but found no sign of the colonists. Theories are that a drought forced people to leave the settlement, but exactly where they ended up remains unknown.

18. The Atlas Vampire

Credits: If the Atlas Vampire did indeed drink the blood of his victim, he must have been extremely thirsty.

Jack the Ripper is far from the only murderer to capture people’s imaginations and find a place in their nightmares. The Atlas Vampire has only one kill to his (or her) credit, but it is a notable one. In Sweden, the year was 1932 and Lilly Lindestrom, a prostitute, was found dead in her room.

Evidence pointed to her having had sex with her killer, and while the scene was relatively clean of bodily fluids there was a bloody ladle left behind. The killer’s nickname came from the fact that investigators initially believed that the ladle had been used to by the culprit to drink Lilly’s blood. Did we mention her body had been drained completely of the red stuff?

While many suspects were investigated, no one was charged with the crime.

19. Spontaneous Human Combustion

A regular tool in stories, spontaneous human combustion is almost designed to get your brain feeling spooked. The idea that human beings (alive, or recently deceased) could spontaneously burst into flames is more than a bit horrifying.

Scientists have spent almost as much time thinking about this as mystery lovers. Many believe the causes of these fires are far from spontaneous. Some contend that people might follow high-fat diets, be consuming large amounts of alcohol, or the more obvious misfortune of having flammable substances spilled on them. There is also belief that most, if not all, reported cases of spontaneous combustion have an overlooked ignition source.

However you try to explain it, the possibility of suddenly bursting into flames isn’t something that sets the stage for a good night’s sleep.

20. The Patomskiy Crater

Credits: Some rock formations are harder puzzles to solve than a Rubik's Cube. Photo: Dmitry Semenov

Another eerie Russian rock formation—this time, found in the Irkutsk Region of Southern Siberia—the Patomskiy Crater is comprised of a large mound of shattered limestone blocks, jutting out of the surrounding forest. Its convex cone shape and large funnel recess sports a rounded hill in the center, giving the mound its nickname: “Fire Eagle’s Nest”.

Thought to weigh about one million tons, no one knows quite how this 40-meter-high (131 ft), 160-meter-wide (524 ft) crater got to be where it is. Speculation persists that it might be due to a meteorite strike (with it possibly being directly linked to the meteor that could have caused the Tunguska Event—even though the crater is thought to be much older), the escape of natural gas, or some other geographic phenomenon.

Despite the surrounding trees growing at a much faster than average rate, the crater’s shifting form as it rises and falls and the highly dense iron content thought to be resting at its center, no trace of meteorite impact has been found and no concrete explanation has yet been given for this strange formation.

21. The Hungarian Suicide Song

Credits: No one thinks composing a song with 'gloomy' in the title is ever going to lead to people getting bummed out, right?

Music has a power over people—that much we all know and can accept. Music can raise you up, get you excited, build tension, or make you smile. But can it make you commit suicide? Apparently yes, and this brings us to the Hungarian suicide song. Titled “Gloomy Sunday” (or Szomorú Vasárnap), it has been linked to over a hundred suicides in its different variations, including that of the song’s composer, Rezso Seress.

Reportedly written by Seress in1933 after his girlfriend left him, it was given Hungarian lyrics by his friend, the poet Laszlo Javor. The song initially created little attention, but after another Hungarian artist, Pál Kálmar, re-recorded it in 1936 it was allegedly connected to a number of suicides in Hungary. As a result, the song was reportedly banned — not just in Hungary but in England as well. England’s logic for the ban? The song was deemed to be “too upsetting.” The story of Gloomy Sunday is a fascinating one, and the tune has been covered by everyone from Billie Holiday to Sarah McLachlan.

While undeniably morose, does the song have such power over people’s hearts and souls that it can lead to death? That part remains a mystery.

22. The Bouvet Island Lifeboat

Credits: A lonely island with an even more lonely lifeboat.

Imagine it: you visit an island almost at the end of the Earth and you find… a lifeboat and some gear on shore?

Bouvet Island is about as isolated as you can get and still stay on planet Earth. The nearest land is 1,750 km (1,087 miles) away, and that land is the coast of Antarctica. The island is relatively small; only eight km (5 miles) long and a little less than five km (3 miles) wide, it is mostly covered in ice. There is a small lagoon on the island, and that was where the boat was found in 1962, holding water but still entirely seaworthy.

The lifeboat held no national markings. How did it get there? Did it drift, insanely far, and find the only place on the island where it wouldn’t smash against the rocks? Or was it paddled there by an unimaginable feat of seamanship? The gear on the shore suggested humans were involved with the ship’s time on the island at some point, but searchers found no signs of them. How did the lifeboat get to a place where there should have been no human lives?

Many believe the lifeboat was left by an expedition from several years earlier, with the boat miraculously managing to stay afloat until the next visitors found it. Subsequent expeditions don’t mention the lifeboat, with it presumably finally succumbing to the violent seas in the southernmost parts of the world.

23. The Assassination of John F. Kennedy

Credits: The death of JFK is one the world refuses to forget.

Ranking right up there with UFOs, the assassination of John F. Kennedy is one of the great conspiracy mysteries of the modern age. This might be due, in part, to the fact that this event happened recently, in the modern age, and technology recorded the entire thing.

While the official culprit for the killing is Lee Harvey Oswald, he denied responsibility and was himself killed soon after.

While the case has been thoroughly investigated by law enforcement officials, for historians and conspiracy hobbyists a number of questions still remain unanswered. Eye-witness accounts and on-site documentation of the shooting (including the famous Zapruder footage) suggest that the official explanation doesn’t tell the full truth about events.

Perhaps the spookiest part of this mystery might be the idea that if something is being hidden, the lengths being taken to keep the truth buried must be truly massive.

24. The Death of Elisa Lam

Credits: Captured reality can be chilling.

Looking from a historical mysterious death to a more recent one, we can consider the passing of Elisa Lam in 2013. Elisa, then 21 years of age, was found naked and floating face-down in a 3-meter-tall (10-foot) water tank on top of the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles, where she had been staying. This might be considered just another unfortunate tragedy if not for elevator footage that sparked the imaginations of people across the world.

Lam’s death has been ruled an accidental drowning, but the footage of her in a hotel elevator suggests something else at play. In the elevator, Lam is shown acting bizarrely, appearing to interact with things that aren’t there.

The obvious potential cause for Lam’s behavior is drugs, but her autopsy showed no signs of either narcotics or alcohol in her system. Another theory suggests she was sick with tuberculosis, which was plaguing the area at the time, but bloodwork showed no signs of that either. A bizarre side note to add to this situation: the test for TB is known in the medical profession as LAM-ELISA.

It gets even more interesting—access to the roof was controlled (the elevator didn’t go up that far), and there was no evidence as to exactly how Elisa got up there. Also, the Cecil Hotel has a reputation as an extremely haunted building?

Whether Elisa’s death was a result of a mental breakdown, or for those that believe in that sort of thing an extension of the building’s haunted history, we will never know. Perhaps one more ghost is now roaming the Cecil Hotel’s halls…

25. The Devil’s Footprints

Credits: Tracks in the snow aren't always weird, but when they looked like they've been burned into the ground and come up to your door then that's when alarm bells go off. Photo: Peter van der Sluijs / Wikipedia Commons

In Devon, England, the night of February 8, 1855, was a snowy one. The next morning though, the residents awoke to a surprise that they would never have suspected.

The ground around their homes was covered by sets of hoof-like footprints, each about 10 centimeters (four inches) long and 7.6 cm (three inches) across. The footprints were in a single line, which is how the footprints of a two-legged creature appear. This means they weren’t created by an errant farm animal—they came from something… different.

The people of Dover believed that the devil had come for them. The footprints even came up to some doorsteps, which terrified people even more.

This wasn’t a short number of footsteps either. The prints covered as much as 160km (100 miles) of trails. The prints were made by cloven hooves, and some people even reported that the prints looked like they had been burned into the snow.

To date, no explanation has been found for who (or what) came knocking on the doors of Devon that fateful night.