We will never solve all the mysteries out there. Not only will many historical enigmas remain unsolved, but many more will arise in the future. The MH370 Malaysian plane is a good example. With nothing conclusive after weeks of searching, will we ever discover its fate? On this list are some of the world’s lesser-known mysteries, which nonetheless remain impossible to solve.
In 2009, 28-year-old Shanyna Isom was rushed to an emergency room in Memphis, Tennessee after experiencing an asthma attack. The doctors on call treated her with a dose of steroids and sent her home.
Soon after this, Shanyna began experiencing an itching sensation which worsened despite medical treatment. Then, alarmingly, she noticed that her legs were turning black. Doctors became convinced she had a staph infection or some type of eczema-like skin disorder. More treatment was given, but things just went from bad to worse. Scabs were forming all over her body and she was losing weight rapidly.
The doctors in Memphis were dumbfounded, telling Shanyna and her family that she would probably have to live with this strange disease for the rest of her life. Two years later, still looking for answers and a cure, Shanyna visited Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore. Specialists there determined that she was suffering from an unknown condition that caused her to produce 12 times the normal number of skin cells in her hair follicles. This was essentially causing her to grow fingernails instead of hair.
Doctors at Johns Hopkins are still trying to figure out the cause of this strange disease. Isom is currently taking 25 different types of medicine but is still no closer to being cured.
9The Patomskiy Crater
In 1949, geologist Vadim Kolpakov set off on an expedition to Siberia, not realizing that he was about to discover one of the strangest unsolved mysteries in the world: the Patomskiy crater. As Kolpakov traveled deep into almost uncharted territory, the local Yakut people warned him not to go on, explaining that there was an evil place deep in the woods that even the animals avoided. They called it the “Fire Eagle Nest” and claimed that people would start to feel unwell near it—and some would simply disappear without a trace.
A man of science, Kolpakov was not put off by these stories. But even he was at a loss to explain what he found deep in the Siberian forests. A giant crater, the size of “a 25-story building,” reared up out of the trees. Up close it resembled a volcano mouth, but Kolpakov knew that there had been no volcanoes in the area for at least a few million years. This crater looked relatively newly formed—Kolpakov estimated it as around 250 years old, a figure supported by later studies of nearby tree growth. Interestingly, the trees also seemed to have undergone a period of accelerated growth similar to that seen in the forests around Chernobyl.
Since the discovery of the crater, there have been many theories as to what (or who) could have created it. Some people, including Kolpakov, have speculated that it might have been formed by a meteorite, although the crater does not resemble any other known meteorite site. Others are convinced that it was indeed a volcano. Many even think that there is a UFO hidden underneath the crater. In 2005, an expedition was launched in the hopes of finding some answers—but then tragedy struck. The leader of the expedition died of a heart attack just a few kilometers away from the site. The locals were convinced it was the “evil” crater that led to his death.
8The Taulas Of Menorca
The taulas are ancient megaliths that stand on the Spanish island of Menorca, quite similar in appearance to the more famous Stonehenge. While it is thought that the taulas were erected by the ancient inhabitants of the island at some point after 2000 B.C., there is no concrete evidence as to why the structures were built or why they are found only on Menorca and not on neighboring islands.
Naturally, theories abound. Some believe that the stones symbolized a temple of some sort. Waldemar Fenn, a German archaeologist, has pointed out that the taulas all faced south, leading him to speculate that they were erected as a religious monument to measure the movement of the moon. His theory became known as the Taula Moon Theory.
Unfortunately, Fenn’s theory could only be applied to 12 of the 13 intact taulas. It did not match the megalith found on the northern side of the island. The real reason for the taulas’ construction remains unknown.
In 1690, French traders unexpectedly came across a mysterious settlement in southern Appalachia. They reported that the people there lived in log cabins and had unusual olive skin and facial features reminiscent of Europeans. Since they resembled the North African merchants that the French had done business with in Europe, they assumed they had stumbled on a colony of Moors.
Nothing more was heard of the strange settlers until 1784, when the frontiersman John Sevier visited what would later be known as Hancock County, Tennessee. Sevier discovered a colony of people he described as having European features and dark skin. Although the settlers themselves claimed to be Portuguese, Sevier apparently did not believe them, also concluding that they were Moors.
By the 1800s, the mysterious settlers had spread out from Tennessee into isolated areas of Virginia and Kentucky. Neighboring communities called them the Melungeons and took every opportunity to degrade and discriminate against them. Appalachian mothers would scare their children with tales of the dark people in the mountains.
The origins of the Melungeons remain unknown. The most common theory is that they are a mixture of white, black, and Native American ancestors. Others have suggested that they are the descendants of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, shipwrecked Portuguese sailors, ancient Phoenician settlers, or even one of the Lost Tribes of Israel. The official census records have varied wildly, labeling the Melungeons as white, Portuguese, Native American, or “mulatto” at different points in history.
In 1999, new evidence emerged that the Melungeons may have been among the earliest Old World settlers in North America. According to Dr. Brent Kennedy, of Virginia’s Wise College, the Melungeons may be the descendants of Ottoman Turks, brought to the new world as servants and abandoned in the area by Sir Francis Drake after he captured them from the Spanish. The term “Melungeon” may have come from “Melunn-Jinn,” Arabic for a cursed soul abandoned by God. Since this is still just a theory, the origins of the Melungeon people remain a mystery.
6The Bouvet Island Lifeboat
Lying deep in the South Atlantic, Bouvet Island has been described as among the most isolated places on Earth. The nearest land mass is Antarctica, more than 1,700 kilometers (1,100 mi) further south. No has ever inhabited the island and since plant life is unsustainable there, it is likely that no one ever will. Yet when a British expedition arrived from South Africa in 1964, they discovered an abandoned lifeboat in a lagoon on the island. Not far from the boat were oars, wood, a drum, and a copper tank. The boat was in a good condition, but the expedition party could find no trace of any passengers. The boat had no identifiable marks on it and therefore could not be traced back to any nation or shipping company.
Even more strangely, when another expedition was sent to Bouvet Island two years later, the lifeboat had vanished. All of the other objects found near it had also disappeared. To date no one knows how the boat got there—or what happened to the people that were in it.
5The Hessdalen Lights
In 1997, Harald Dale was camping with his family in the valley of Hessdalen, Norway. Just after 6:30 one evening, Harald went outside to brush his teeth when he noticed something strange—three lights in a triangle formation were flickering in the darkening sky. The lights just floated there, the intensity of their glow changing with every flicker. Harald ran inside to call his kids to come and look. A few minutes later, the lights disappeared. Harald had become one of many people to witness the mysterious phenomenon known as the Hessdalen Lights.
Records of the lights date back to the 19th century. They have been reported to glow in many different colors, including blue, red, and yellow, and have been observed floating just a short distance above the ground or streaking across the sky at great speeds. The lights were particularly active during the 1980s, with up to 20 eyewitness reports coming in per week.
Scientists have been studying the lights for years, but have yet to come up with a widely accepted explanation. Theories include ionized dust, combustible particles in the air, and—naturally—UFOs.
4The Mayerling Incident
In January 1889, the discovery of two bodies in a rural hunting lodge outside Vienna shook the world. The Archduke of Austria-Hungary, Prince Rudolf, and his lover, Baroness Marie Vetsera, lay side by side in a cabin in the village of Mayerling. They had been shot to death.
The mystery surrounding their deaths started when Prince Rudolf’s father, Emperor Franz Josef, put out an order that the tragedy be covered up. This was most likely because Rudolf was having an affair with Vetsera despite being married to a Belgian princess. In order to keep the affair under wraps even after the two lovers died, Marie Vetsera’s body was whisked away and buried in secret.
Since the church would not allow a proper funeral for a suicide victim, nobody even mentioned that this was a possibility. Instead, a rumor was spread that Rudolf had been poisoned by his enemies. However, the Emperor later told the Pope that he suspected Rudolf must have killed himself and Vetsera during a bout of temporary insanity. The Pope allowed a Catholic burial.
Only after the Emperor died in 1916 did the true details of the couple’s deaths come to light. By then, many outlandish rumors about the incident were doing the rounds. More than 100 years later, the speculation has not stopped. Theories include murder-suicide, a politically motivated killing, or a cover-up after Vetsera’s relatives shot Rudolf to death during a drunken brawl. It is likely that the only two people who knew the truth died in that lodge.
3The Redpath Mansion
Another century-old cold case concerns the 1901 murder of Ada Maria Mills Redpath and her son, Clifford, in their luxurious Montreal mansion. Ada was an extremely wealthy widow who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis. Her son, on the other hand, was as healthy as a horse and in the process of preparing to take the Canadian bar exam. One newspaper speculated that Clifford couldn’t handle the stress of the exam and murdered his mother before shooting himself. Another paper claimed that the widow Redpath suffered from such severe insomnia that she tried to take her own life. When her son intervened, he was accidentally shot to death by his own mother.
Strangely, the coroner wrote his report on the case from details given by a doctor who wasn’t even at the murder scene. On such evidence, his report concluded that Clifford was an epileptic and must have had an episode of temporary insanity on the day he and his mother died. Even stranger is the fact that police were never called to the mansion. The tragedy happened on a Thursday evening and less than 48 hours later the burials were done and dusted. In a matter of weeks, life in the neighborhood resumed as usual. No one mentioned the murders again.
The Redpath Mansion murders remain one of the most fascinating mysteries in Canadian history.
The term “foo fighters” was applied to various UFO sightings that occurred during the Second World War. During the war, fighter pilots and crews on warships noticed strange lights in the sky and silver objects that looked like discs zipping overhead.
In late 1942, a Royal Air Force pilot was flying a Hurricane fighter plane over France when he noticed two strange-looking lights flying toward his aircraft. He assumed they were tracer fire—until he realized that the lights were actually following him, repeating all the moves he made while in the air. No matter how hard he tried, the pilot was unable to evade the lights. He also noticed that they kept an even space between them while pursuing him. Only after several miles did they finally disappear from view.
This strange incident came just four months after Marines in the Solomon Islands reported seeing a formation of over 150 silver-colored objects racing through the sky. The marines noted that the objects made a strange noise and that they didn’t have tails or wings as airplanes do.
All mention of the sightings was suppressed until the war neared its end. The first reports of “foos” didn’t hit newspapers until December 1944.
1The Eilean Mor Lighthouse Mystery
In 1900, the only living souls on the Scottish island of Eilean Mor were three lighthouse keepers, alone in the vast ocean.
The day after Christmas, a supply ship arrived at the island. To the crew’s surprise, the lighthouse keepers were not waiting for them on the island’s small dock. After blowing the ship’s horn and sending up a flare, there was still no activity on the island. A replacement lighthouse keeper named Joseph Moore was eventually sent to investigate.
As he climbed the narrow, rocky stairs leading up to the lighthouse, Moore recalled being struck with a sense of nameless dread. As he neared the door, he saw that it was unlocked. Stepping carefully inside, he also noticed that two of the three waterproof jackets usually kept in the hall were missing. Reaching the kitchen, he found the remains of a meal and a chair lying on the floor. The clock in the kitchen had stopped working. The lighthouse keepers were nowhere to be seen.
A further investigation revealed the disturbing final entries in the lighthouse log. The entry for December 12 was written by a keeper named Thomas Marshall. In it, Marshall claimed the island had been struck by severe winds, worse than anything he had experienced in his career. Even though the lighthouse was solid enough to outlast any storm, Marshall wrote that the Principal Keeper, James Ducat, was very quiet. The third keeper, William McArthur, was an experienced sailor and a famously tough tavern brawler. The log entry ended by noting that he had been crying.
Further entries recorded that the storm continued to rage for a few days. Secure in their lighthouse, the three men had nonetheless begun praying. The last entry stated: “Storm ended, sea calm. God is over all.”
Though the lighthouse was visible from the nearby island of Lewis, no storms were reported in the Eilean Mor area during the days noted in the log entry.