There are only a handful of mysteries in this world that simply cannot be explained. Most people like to believe that even the most impossible of puzzles can be solved given time, but that’s not always the case. Take these nine mysteries, for example. They have remained unsolved for decades (if not longer), mystifying experts and baffling all who encounter them. This is certainly the case for our first supernatural unsolved mystery. The Dyatlov Pass Incident is known to be the most bizarre, not to mention terrifying mysteries of the modern age.
The unfathomable deaths of nine Russian mountaineers whose cross-country skiing trip ended in a tragedy so horrifying and perplexing that it has mystified experts, and indeed the world ever since.
1. Dyatlov Pass Incident
On January 25, 1959, nine Russian students embarked on a journey across the Otorten Mountain range, which is nestled in the northern Urals, for a strenuous cross-country skiing trip. Eight days after they were due to arrive at their end destination a search party set out to find the missing mountaineers. On February 26, the search party came upon the flapping remains of a tent pitched on ski poles on an uppermost slope of Kholat Syakhl, or ‘Mountain of the Dead’ in the native language of northern Siberia.
The tent had been ripped apart, torn to shreds from the inside, suggesting that they had fled in panic. Footprints found around the outside of the tent indicated that those who fled into sub-zero temperatures did so in just their socks or barefoot, and in one case a single shoe. Two sets of prints led down a slope toward a densely forested area which would lead the searchers to the first bodies.
Besides the remains of a long burnt out fire, beneath a looming, ancient pine tree was the frozen bodies of two hikers. The searchers noted with bewilderment that both men were naked and shoeless, save for their underwear. They also noted that the branches of the pine tree had been snapped off up to a height of almost 15-feet, indicating that the pair had frantically attempted to climb the tree for safety.
Around 350 yards away lay the body of 23-year-old engineering student Igor Dyatlov. His name would later be given to the area where the tragedy took place. Nearby, the remains of three more bodies were discovered under four inches of snow. The bodies were found in a line, 200 yards apart, suggesting they had been trying to crawl behind each other back up to the shelter of the tent.
Two months after the initial search the remaining bodies of the group were found. Buried under 15ft of snow in a den they had desperately hollowed out for themselves before succumbing to the cold. Some had broken bones and terrible internal injuries but, strangely, no external wounds. Not even a scratch could be found upon their skin. Stranger still, odd bits of their clothing contained higher than normal levels of radiation.
The post-mortem examinations of the nine bodies also threw up a string of bewildering anomalies. What could cause nine experienced mountaineers to flee in terror into sub-zero temperatures? Why were some fully clothed, but others nearly naked? Most disconcerting of all was the body of Lyudmilla Dubinina, which was missing its tongue and eyes.
There are various theories concerning what happened in those dark and dreadful hours on the Mountain of the Dead. Possible explanations such as an avalanche or the Russian Military and secret experimental weapons testing have been blamed, even Yeti’s and alien abduction (the latter being the belief of Soviet investigators at the time) are also popular theories. However, the simple fact is no theory holds up to scrutiny, and so endures the legend of Dyatlov Pass one of the greatest unexplained mysteries of our time.
2. Bella in the Wych Elm
On April 18, 1943, four boys went poaching in Hagley Wood, England and came upon a wych-elm tree. Thinking it would serve as a good place to hunt for bird nests 15-year-old Bob Farmer climbed up to check but instead uncovered a grizzly mystery. Inside the hollow opening in the tree trunk, wedged tightly inside was a woman’s skeleton, entirely complete except for one missing hand.
Terrified, the boys swore a pact of silence and fled – but the youngest was so traumatized that he told his father. The police were dispatched to investigate and the body was found exactly as it had been described. Hair hung off the remaining flesh on the skull, and two crooked teeth gaped out of the mouth. The woman’s severed hand and items of clothing were later found buried near the tree. This gave rise to wild speculation that she had suffered a black magic execution and that a witches coven and Satanists were operating in the local area. After police analysis, the bones were determined to belong to a woman aged 35-40, who had been placed “while still warm” into the trees hollow where she had remained hidden for at least 18 months.
Adding to the already baffling mystery, local’s named the unidentified woman Bella after graffiti began appearing across the region asking “Who put Bella down the wych-elm?” No-one came forward with information and Bella’s true identity and her death remain unsolved.
3. The Pollock Twins
In 1957, two sisters Joanna (11), Jacqueline Pollock (6) and their friend Anthony were tragically killed in a car accident as they walked to their local church in Northumberland, England. Their parents were left grief-stricken, John and Florence hoped and prayed their daughters would come back, and it seems their prayers were answered. One year later twin girls Jennifer and Gillian were born.
The Pollock’s were surprised to find that Jennifer, the younger twin, had birthmarks on her body and face in exactly the same place as Jacqueline had. With that, began a series of uncanny similarities between the twins and their dead sisters. At the age of two, the twins started to ask for toys which had once been owned by Jacqueline and Joanna. The girls, their parents claimed had never seen or heard about the toys before. At four, they began to recognize places they had never seen or been to before. One time they pointed to a school they claimed to be their school and that they remembered playing in the playground behind it. The school was the one Jacqueline and Joanna had attended.
A well-respected psychologist at the time, Dr. Ian Stevenson studied the case and concluded that the twins were indeed the sisters reincarnated. Then just as suddenly as it started, when the girls turned five years old their memories vanished and they both went on to live happy, ordinary lives.
4. Dutch SS Ourang Medan
According to widely circulated reports, in June of 1947 multiple ships sailing the trade routes of the straits of Malacca, which is located between Sumatra and Malaysia, claimed to have picked up a series of SOS distress signals. The unidentified ship’s message was as simple as it was terrifying; “All officers including captain are dead, lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead.” This was followed by a burst of indecipherable Morse code, then a final message “I die.” This cryptic proclamation was trailed by an eerie silence.
The distress call was picked up by two American ships as well as British and Dutch listening posts who managed to triangulate the source of the broadcasts and deduced that they emanating from a Dutch freighter known as the SS Ourang Medan. The American merchant ship Silver Star was first to arrive on the scene. Boarding the ship the recuse party discovered a horrifying sight awaited them.
The decks of the vessel were littered with the corpses of the Dutch crew. All of the bodies lay with their eye’s wide open, with terrified expressions on their faces and arms stretching out in front of them as if to shield themselves from something monstrous. As the Silver Star tried to tow the ghost ship back to port, the crew noticed ominous billows of smoke pouring up from the lower decks. The boarding party scarcely had a chance to cut the towline and make it back to the Silver Star before the Ourang Medan exploded. The doomed ship slowly sank beneath the ocean waves, leaving in its wake the most chilling of maritime mysteries.
5. The Wow! Signal
Two Cornell physicists, Philip Morrison and Giuseppe Cocconi, famously tried to imagine how an intelligent alien civilization might try to signal Earth. We should look, they said, for a radio transmission. 18 years later their prediction came true.
Jerry Ehman was a volunteer researcher for Ohio State University’s now-defunct “Big Ear” radio observatory for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). He was tasked with scanning radio waves from deep space, in hopes of finding a signal that bore hallmarks of being sent by an intelligent lifeform. On August 15, 1977, Ehman saw his measurements spike.
The signal lasted for 72 seconds. It was loud and appeared to have been transmitted from the constellation Sagittarius near a star called Tau Sagittarii, 120 light-years away. Ehman wrote the words “Wow!” on the original printout of the signal, thus its title as the “Wow! Signal”. All attempts to locate the signal again have failed, leading to much speculation and mystery about its origins.
6. Frederick Valentich
On October 21, 1978, Frederick Valentich left Melbourne, Australia to begin a 125-mile training flight to King’s Island. He was flying a single engine Cessna. At a just after 7:06 pm Valentich made radio contact with air traffic controllers to inquire if there were any other aircraft known to be flying in the area. The answer from Melbourne was no, an answer that was confirmed again during the odd communication that followed. Seven minutes later all radio contact was lost and Valentich was never heard from again.
During the puzzling exchange with air traffic control, Valentich claimed he saw something flying near him. When asked if he could confirm that it was an aircraft, he said that he could not, a statement that he repeated several times. He described the object as having at least four lights and one green light; he also said it was an elongated cigar-shaped craft which was “all shiny on the outside.”
Interestingly, there were numerous UFO and/or strange light sightings in the King’s Island and the Bass Strait area on the night that Frederick Valentich disappeared. The last words that air traffic controllers officially heard Frederick Valentich speak were “It is not an aircraft.” Extensive searches for the pilot were conducted but no sign of Frederick or the Cessna was ever found.
7. The Man Who Vanished into Thin Air
Author and war hero Ambrose Bierce is probably more famous for his disappearance than his writing. In 1913, Bierce wrote to friends that he was traveling to Mexico “with a pretty definite purpose which is not at present disclosable” then vanished off the face of the earth. The logical explanation is that he ran afoul of soldiers in the Mexican Revolution. However, prior to this trip, Bierce had been researching strange and bizarre disappearances. One such case was that of Charles Ashmore.
The story goes that in 1878, Ashmore left the family farmhouse near Quincy, Illinois, to go fetch fresh water from the spring a short distance away. When he did not return his family went in search of the boy. A new snow had just fallen and Charles’ footprints were plainly visible as they went out the back door and started across the yard. His father followed his trail for a short distance but after going about 75 yards, he saw that the trail abruptly ended. Beyond the last footprint was nothing other than smooth, unbroken snow – the boy’s tracks simply came to an end, vanishing without a trace.
Bierce theorized that people could fall into dimensional holes and be trapped forever, suspended between life and death. Is this what happened to Bierce? Did he prophesize his own fate? Nobody knows, and to this day his disappearance remains a puzzling mystery.
8. San Francisco Satanic Beheading
On February 8, 1981, transient Leroy Carter Jr. was sleeping rough in the Golden Gate Park, San Francisco when he was brutally attacked. After police arrived at the grisly scene the next day they noted that Carter’s head had been cut off. And that it was missing. One of the only clues left behind at the scene was a headless chicken, part of which had been stuffed into Carter’s body at the neck.
Quickly realizing that this gruesome case needed a specialist, the San Francisco Police department brought in an Officer Sandi Gallant who specialized in the occult and satanic murders. According to Gallant, the murder was likely to be part of a dark ritual involving “Palo Mayombe”, a black magic offshoot of the religion Santeria. Gallant believed whoever had committed the crime did so to make a ritual brew from Carter’s brains and perhaps the ears and the nose. She also predicted that the head would be returned to the crime scene after 42 days to complete the ritual.
True enough, right on schedule, the head was returned 42 days later. However, despite having been called in, the occult detective was not taken seriously, and no one was watching the crime scene to make the arrest. The murderer escaped justice and the case remains unsolved.
9. The Baffling Case of Little Pauline Picard
Little Pauline Picard, aged two, disappeared from her family’s farm in Brittany, France in April 1922. After an exhaustive search failed to find her, several days later police received news that a little girl who matched Pauline’s description had been found wandering in the town of Cherbourg, roughly 300 kilometers away from the Picard farm. Her mother identified her via a photograph and the police officer who found her was satisfied it was the same girl. The mystery of how a toddler could find herself several hundred miles away from home was brushed aside in the wake of relief of her safe return.
About a month later, a neighboring farmer walking near the Picard farm stumbled upon something horrifying: the mutilated and decomposing body of a young girl next to her neatly folded clothes. He alerted the authorities, who arrived at the gruesome scene along with the town’s inhabitants, among them Pauline’s parents. Although the young girl’s face could not be identified, the Picard’s made an unsettling realization: the folded clothes were exactly what Pauline had been wearing on the day she disappeared.
The area where the remains were found had been searched thoroughly when Pauline first disappeared, which suggests that someone had placed the body there fairly recently. The case became even more perplexing when the skull of an adult male was discovered next to Pauline’s body, adding a second potential victim to the case.
The police were baffled. If the body in the woods was Pauline, as the evidence suggested, then what had happened to her? How was the unidentified skull related to Pauline’s murder? And who was the little girl from Cherbourg who had been living with the Picards? The answers to these questions were never discovered, the mysterious doppelgänger was returned to Cherbourg (what happened to her next is lost to history) and the strange case of little Pauline Picard remains one of France’s greatest unsolved mysteries.
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