“Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don’t let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity”. Proving this true, more often than not, it is the unknown, rather than the known, which captivates and enthralls us. No doubt, what is shrouded in a cloak of mystery instills fear and awe in us, and at the same time captures our imagination. Sometimes, the unfathomable encompasses hard-to-crack codes and encrypted texts while at other moments, it’s a place that seems queer and weird. Occasionally, people vanishing for no rhyme or reason and leaving behind no trace or clues whatsoever seems wildly bewildering. Then there are those works of art or literature that leave us nonplussed. Of course, who could forget the paranormal? Anything that we find beyond comprehensible, we mull over incessantly, and end up asking ourselves certain perplexing questions. The questions are so challenging that even the brightest of detectives, scientists, cryptologists and historians would stumble to answer them, as more often than not the concern is why rather than how. Here’s our list of 20 biggest, unsolved mysteries of the world that has left us baffled.
1. The Aluminum Wedge Of Aiud
In 1974, a strange, heavy object was unearthed on the banks of the Mures River, lying about 2 kilometers away from Aiud, a city in Romania. It was found buried under 35 feet of sand, next to the bones of a mastodon, an extinct animal similar to the elephant. The excavated article was reportedly sent to the ‘Archeological Institute of Cluj-Napoca’, where researchers determined that its make was of an aluminum alloy, consisting of 12 different elements, surrounded by a thin layer of oxide. It resembles the head of a hammer, and the mastodon bones lying close by suggested that the object was more than 11,000 years old. Now you may be wondering what is so mysterious about such a relic. Surprisingly enough, aluminum wasn’t discovered until as late as 1808. Moreover, it was only in 1885, that aluminum was produced by man, thus making the wedge of Aiud, an age-old puzzle that scientists have not yet found answers to.
2. Voynich Manuscript
In 2009, scholars at the ‘University of Arizona’ employed the process of radiocarbon dating on a manuscript, written in an unknown language, to establish the fact that it was created in the early 1400s. This book is famously called the Voynich Manuscript, named after a Polish bibliophile, Wilfrid Voynich. For many years researchers have tried to decode the language but even after repeated attempts, the document is yet to be deciphered. Other than text, the script contains drawings of bizarre plants and celestial bodies, thus hinting that it may have been authored by medieval scientists. Some people are even of the opinion that it may have been created by aliens. After rigorous efforts to unveil the secret behind the manuscript, the only inference is that it is from Europe. Hence the complete story behind it still remains a mystery.
3. The Dyatlov Pass Incident
In February, 1959, a group of 10 students belonging to the Ural Polytechnical Institute (now called the Ural Federal University), set out on a skiing trip to the mountain named Otorten, in Russia. They were led by fellow student, Igor Dyatlov. After reaching a town named Ivdel by train, one of the members, Yuri Yudin fell sick and had to return home. The rest began trekking to the mountains. During the climb, a fierce snowstorm began raging, and the friends lost their way, taking a detour to the Kholat Syakhl, also called the “Dead Mountain”. Upon realizing their mistake, they set up their tents there, so they could rest and start off the following morning. When friends and family did not receive any news on and after February 12, they sent a search party for these young people. It was not before February 26, that the tents were discovered, but in a tattered condition. The tents had been cut open from the inside, as if in an attempt to escape a feared intruder. It took two months to find all the bodies, most of which had sustained skull injuries and multiple fractures in their bodies. What makes this incident almost supernatural is the fact that postmortem reports and investigations showed that other than the nine skiers, there was no one else in the entire vicinity of the region. The identities of the murderers haven’t been discovered yet, and the Dyatlov Pass Incident, named after the leader, remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries of the world.
4. Taos Hum
In the 1990s, residents of Taos, a small urban center in New Mexico, reported that they had heard the sound resembling the buzzing of bees, but much louder. After a preliminary search, they could not find the source of this noise. Curious, a professor working at the University of New Mexico set up expensive, state-of-the-art scientific apparatus, which would trap the sound and identify its origin. However, this attempt, and several more efforts that followed, failed to even record the sound which could otherwise be heard with the naked ear. This is the reason why, the Taos “hum” remains a strange and unsolved mystery even today.
5. The Green Children Of Woolpit
It is a popular folktale told to children in England, that in the 12th century, two children showed up in Suffolk’s Woolpit Village, speaking an unfamiliar language. What amazed the people was that both brother and sister had green-hued skin, and they refused to touch any food but beans. Gradually, they began eating what everyone else ate, and they even lost the green tinge from their bodies. The boy died owing to sickness, but the girl grew up to become a young woman, and when she learnt the local tongue, she claimed to have come from a place named St Martin’s Land. According to her, this region lay under the earth, with green-skinned inhabitants. Nothing more is known of the girl, and though many claim that the tale of the sibling is nothing but an imaginary legend, there are many who consider it an unsolved mystery.
6. The Pollock Twins
Florence and John Pollock, with their daughters Jacqueline and Joanna, were like any other happy family, till May 5, 1957. 6-year-old Jacqueline and 11-year-old Joanna lost their precious lives in a fatal car accident. The following year, Florence received a second chance at motherhood, when she gave birth to twins Jennifer and Gillian. The incidents that followed were inexplicable, almost to the point of being bizarre. Jennifer had birth marks identical to the deceased Jacqueline. Moreover, the twins kept asking for toys that they never knew of, but the earlier Pollock children had played with. Gillian and Jennifer also expressed their wish to visit a park they hadn’t heard of earlier. It was a psychologist, Dr. Ian Stevenson, who suggested that they were reincarnations of the dead sisters. This is a theory that might be comfortable to accept, but definitely seems improbable to the scientific community.
7. Shugborough Inscription
A structure, famously known as the Shepherd’s Monument was built in Staffordshire, England, during the late eighteenth century. It was designed by Flemish artist, Peter Scheemakers. Just below the carvings on the monument, an unknown person had inscribed the letters OUOSVAVV, in between D and M, which refers to ‘Dis Manibus’, translated to “dedicated to the shades”. The inscription thus read, DOUOSVAVVM. Since then many linguists and coders have been trying to decipher the meaning, but everyone proved unsuccessful, including the greats like Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens.
8. Cicada 3301
In 2012, the Internet was flooded with a cryptic message that said, “Hello. We are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them, we have devised a test. There is a message hidden in the image. Find it, and it will lead you on the road to finding us. We look forward to meeting the few who will make it all the way through. Good luck.” The message was signed 3301. Hoards of interested people began trying their luck at solving the puzzle, and recently, a man named Joel Eriksson claimed to have done it. According to him, he unearthed a phone number. When he called, an automated voice congratulated him on proving his intelligence, and gave him further set of instructions to what the Cicada 3301 is. However, he was too late in registering on the website, and finding out the face behind the encrypted messages. The puzzles continue each year, but what remains a mystery is not the riddle itself, but the individual or organization behind it.
9. Georgia Guidestones
In Elbert County, Georgia, lies a set of large stones, which has been hailed as the modern Stonehenge of America. These orthostats (standing stones) have new “commandments” etched on them. The tenets are not specific, and are sometimes evil. For instance, one such precept indirectly tells people that manslaughter is acceptable, when it states that human population should be restricted to 500 million. The incongruity lies not in the commandments, but in the question as to who built these menhirs and why.
10. The Death Of Elisa Lam
Elisa Lam, the 21-year-old daughter of Hong Kong immigrants living in Vancouver, and a student of the University of British Columbia, set out on journey to Southern California. This fashion enthusiast constantly kept in touch with her family, till she reached Los Angeles on February 19, 2013 and checked into an infamous hotel named The Cecil. The hotel has a dark past with several serial killers having rented rooms there, numerous guests having been murdered in the premises, and many having committed suicide in their rooms. Soon after arriving at The Cecil, Lam disappeared, and it was only when maintenance workers addressed guest complaints about the water, that her body was found in the tank on the terrace. She was reported to have committed suicide, due to the lack of incriminating evidence against a third party. However, the CCTV footage in the elevator of the hotel shows Elisa repeatedly entering and exiting the compartment, talking and gesturing to absolutely no one, and hiding from an unknown person. It gets weirder when you realize that only when she is inside, the elevator it stops functioning. The case remains unsolved, but the disturbing video suggests several theories, from bipolar disorder to paranormal activities, most of which sends a shiver down our spines.
11. The Loch Ness Monster
On December 6, 1933, a photo of what looked like a monster was published in an edition of the Daily Express. Apparently the “monster” was living in ‘Loch Ness’ lake of Scotland. Since then, several people have tried to catch hold of the creature which reportedly has a long snake-like neck. However, all attempts have been futile, and most sightings have been rejected as hoaxes. Though so many years have passed, it is still a mystery as to what the “Nessie” actually is.
This is a huge animal-like creature that is believed to have been spotted in the mountains of Canada and the United States. According to those who claim to have seen it, the animal resembles a gorilla at first sight; the way it walks is more like that of man. No explanation has yet been given for this creature, which is popularly known as Sasquatch or Bigfoot, and most scientist claim that this could be nothing more than folklore. However, until it is explained, Bigfoot remains a mystery.
13. Bermuda Triangle
Anyone interested in the world of the bizarre, is expected to know of the Bermuda Triangle. This triangular region, lying between Miami, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico, is a feared spot, because of the uncountable fatalities that have occurred in this area. Several ships and aircrafts with their passengers have miraculously disappeared right in the middle of the triangle. Scientists are still trying to find an explanation for the phenomenon, but aliens, ghosts and gas bubbles are no longer satisfactory answers. Remember the famous USS Cyclops vanishing act in 1914? Right, it disappeared at the Bermuda Triangle. Bone-chilling, isn’t it?
Stand outside the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and you will definitely see a statue with coded engravings on the surface. Award-winning artist, Jim Sanborn created the sculpture, and presented it to the CIA. According to the sculptor, the Kryptos is meant to prove to the world that everything on earth can be decoded with the help of patterns. However, the tricky statue continues to puzzle the most brilliant of minds, and the message is yet to be deciphered.
The Easter Island in Chile is famous for its 887 bust sculptures (also called the moai). It is in this UNESCO World Heritage site that a set of hieroglyphs have been excavated. Named the Rongorongo, these mysterious glyphs still need to be construed. Cryptologists however, harbor hopes that one day the Rongorongo will shed some light on the moai sculptures.
16. Nazca Lines
Around 400 to 650 AD, in a barren, dry plateau in Peru, the people of the Nazca civilization began displacing some of the red stones that covered the ground, revealing the underlying white surface. What resulted from this action was a set of drawings, spread across the entire region. These large drawings, sometimes individually stretching for 200 meters, were nothing short of accurate descriptions of animals and birds including monkeys, fish and llamas. Of course, the ‘Nazca Lines’, as they are famously known as, deserve to be marveled at, but what still remains an unsolved riddle is how the people achieved this level of precision without the means of getting an aerial view.
17. Beale Ciphers
People often tell the story of an individual who buried treasure worth 63 million dollars, somewhere in Bedford County, Virginia. According to the legend, a man named Thomas Beale gave three coded scripts to his friend before disappearing forever. Amongst the three cipher texts, only the second has been decrypted. It gives detailed description about what the treasure contains. The first text, which supposedly tells where the treasure lies, and the third, presumably revealing the names of the rightful owners, are yet to be interpreted. Till then, the Beale Ciphers continue to intrigue the entire world.
18. Severed Foot Beach In British Columbia
If you thought nothing could be more gruesome than dead bodies getting washed up on the shores of the sea, imagine isolated feet. Yes, just severed feet, and not the rest of the body. The Salish Sea beach in British Colombia has been experiencing this sight for many years now, and despite several attempts made by the cops to identify the killer or the victims, no concrete answers have been arrived at.
There is a mansion in Wisconsin, which has a very endearing name—“Summerwind”. However, the stories associated with the house are far from pleasing. It is said that this building, constructed in the 1920s, has reported apparitions and hauntings for many years now. The first owner noticed what looked like a ghost, and terrified he escaped with his wife. For the next 40 years, no one wanted to live in Summerwind. When new people shifted in, they began experiencing paranormal occurrences, like moving shadows and unfamiliar voices, almost immediately. In fact these occupants found the corpse of a small girl, but on double checking the body went missing. Ghost hunters or scientists haven’t yet been able to explain the phenomena, and hence this mansion still remains a mystery.
20. Tara Calico
On September 28, 1988, Tara Calico, a 19-year old girl went missing when she ventured out from her home in Belen, New Mexico for bike riding trip. For almost a year, no clues could be gathered, and her case was soon forgotten. It was on June 15, 1989, that a woman came across a Polaroid photo in the parking lot of a departmental store in Port St. Joe, Florida. According to her, a white van had been parked there previously. The photo showed a teenage girl, who resembled Tara, along with a small boy, who was speculated to be a certain Michael Henley. Michael’s remains were found soon after in New Mexico. Later, the sheriff of Valencia County openly stated that he believed Tara had been killed in a hit-and-run case, but there were no evidences to make arrests. So, either Tara Calico is still missing, or if we take into account the sheriff’s version, we are plunged into a more disturbing question—who are the gagged children in the picture?