10 of the Craziest Unsolved Mysteries in History

Robin Zlotnick - Author

Sep. 4 2019, Updated 11:24 a.m. ET

One night, I was standing on the balcony outside my apartment with my friend. All of a sudden, he points to something in the sky, and I look up. A round orb, almost like a dimmer, smaller moon, was hovering in the sky, floating right over our heads. It slowly bounced around for a bit, then zipped off in one direction and stopped. It hovered there for a second, lightly bouncing up and down, then zipped off in another direction and stopped again. The orb did this a few times before it stopped for the last time, slowly began to fade, and then disappeared. 

I swear, this happened. We both saw it. We both freaked out. We both to this day have no idea what it was. Sometimes, people have collective experiences — ones that really and truly happen — that they simply cannot explain. 

There have been more than a few fascinating stories and events throughout human history that remain mysterious to this day. 

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D. B. Cooper

On Wednesday, November 24, 1971, a man who'd only identified himself as D. B. Cooper hijacked a plane flying between Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. Right after the plane took off, he handed a note to the flight attendant that said he had a bomb. He then demanded $200,000, four parachutes, and a fuel truck standing by in Seattle. 

When his demands had been met, the plane landed in Seattle. Passengers and flight attendants were led off the plane as it refueled, and soon, the plane was back in the air with only Cooper, the pilots, one flight attendant, and a flight engineer on board. After takeoff, D. B. Cooper opened the door and parachuted out of the plane. Neither he nor the $200,000 (well most of it) were ever heard from again. In 1980, a portion of the ransom turned up in Tena Bar, near Vancouver, Washington.

The FBI's list of suspects was long, but they investigated the case without success until 2016, when they decided to suspend it. In the meantime, D. B. Cooper has become a sort of folk hero and legend, the subject of several novels, comic books, films, and TV shows. 

In 2018, a group of former FBI investigators claimed to have discovered the real identity of D. B. Cooper. They believe Cooper was actually Robert Rackstraw, a Vietnam vet and a suspect in the FBI's original investigation for a short time. 

For most, however, the case of D. B. Cooper remains inconclusive and probably always will. 

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The Voynich Manuscript

Linguists and historians have been able to translate so many different ancient alphabets and decode countless ancients texts. The meaning of the Voynich manuscript, however, continues to elude scholars to this very day. 

The handwritten manuscript has been dated to the early 15th century, the text seems to be written from left to right, and there are many illustrations and diagrams that seem to accompany the writing. But that's as far as we've gotten. No one — no cryptographer or codebreaker or linguist — has been able to decipher what it says. 

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It seems, from the illustrations, that the manuscript might have something to do with early medicine, but even botanists have had trouble identifying most of the plants drawn on its pages. 

Because it's so impossible to understand, some people have surmised that the whole thing might be a hoax or a work of art with an entirely made-up language. It's likely we will never know the real story behind the Voynich manuscript. 

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The Green Children of Woolpit

Two children with green skin appeared in the village of Woolpit in England at some point during the 12th century. They were brother and sister, spoke a completely unknown language, and only ate broad beans. 

Eventually, they lost their green hue when they started eating other foods. The girl explained that they had come from Saint Martin's Land, which she claimed was a subterranean community full of green people. 

Now, this very old story could be a myth, a fairytale told through the ages. But two separate writers reported the arrival of the green children when it happened. Sounds legit to me!

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The Dance Plague of 1518

Can you imagine starting to compulsively dance and not being able to stop yourself? Apparently, that's what happened to about 400 people in Strasbourg, Alsace in July of 1518. 

It began with Mrs. Troffea. The woman began dancing energetically in the streets for about five days nonstop. Within a week, 34 other people had joined her, and by the end of the month, nearly 400 people were dancing crazily and couldn't seem to stop themselves. Some even died from heart attacks, strokes, and exhaustion. 

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Theories include poisoning by a fungi known to have psychoactive effects, mass hysteria, and supernatural causes. 

Only one thing is certain. It would really suck to be struck with this. Dancing is fun and all, but this just sounds exhausting.

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SM U-28

This U-boat, which was used by the Germans in World War I, fired a torpedo at the British steamer SS Iberian on July 30, 1915. The ship sank under the waves, but then her boiler exploded and debris flew everywhere. That's not all that was sent flying, though.

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SM U-28's captain, chief engineer, navigator, helmsman, engineer officer, and a seaman all saw a giant, crocodile-like sea creature shoot into the sky and writhe in the air among the ship's debris. They estimated the creature to be about 65 feet long, with four limbs with webbed feet, a long pointy tail, and a pointed head. It was only airborne for a few seconds, so they weren't able to take a picture, and the sea creature was never seen again. 

Now, maybe this is made up, like the time when I was walking around Boston with my friend and we saw a sad, flattened bird on the sidewalk, so we decided to tell our group of friends that he'd accidentally stepped on it and it exploded. And then they believed it for like six years because we forgot to tell them it was a joke. But I don't think so. 

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The Oakville Blobs

This is a recent one! In 1994, a resident of Oakville, Washington observed that strange gelatinous blobs had rained down during the night. In the next three weeks, there were five more incidences of raining blobs. Within a day or so of the blobs falling, many people in proximity to them fell violently ill. 

The samples collected were tested by a doctor who said that the blobs contained human white blood cells, but they had no nuclei.

And that was that! We still don't know what these mystery blobs were. Theories include the idea that they were waste from an airplane toilet or dead jellyfish that somehow made their way into the sky. But we'll probably never know. 

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The WOW! Signal

On August 15, 1977, Ohio State's Big Ear radio telescope received a super strong signal that seemed to come from the constellation Sagittarius and indicted to those studying it that we are not alone in the universe. Astronomer Jerry R. Ehman wrote "Wow!" next to the recorded data, and since then, it's been known as the Wow! Signal. 

The signal lasted 72 seconds and has not been detected since. While many have tried to explain away the origin of the signal, saying it must have come from Earth somehow, no theory has been proven correct so far. 

That's it! The only explanation is aliens. 

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The Baghdad Battery

The Baghdad Battery is a set of three artifacts that were found together in modern-day Iraq. The artifacts are a ceramic pot, a tube of copper, and an iron rod. It is believed the objects date back to the Parthian period, between 250 BC and AD 224, but that has yet to be confirmed.

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Some hypothesize that the object was a galvanic cell, a type of primitive battery that could have been used for electroplating or electrotherapy. This would be extremely impressive, seeing as electricity wasn't widely harnessed for practical use for a couple thousand years. 

But we just don't know if that's really the case. Another theory speculates that the Baghdad Battery was simply used as a way to store scrolls, which is way less exciting.  

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The Tamám Shud Case

Unsolved crimes really fascinate me, and the Tamam Shud case is no exception. On December 1, 1948, a dead man's body was found on the beach in Australia. In his pockets, there were several train and bus tickets, a comb, a pack of Juicy Fruit gum, a cigarette pack, and some matches. The labels had been removed from his clothes, he carried no ID, and his dental records didn't match any living person. 

An autopsy found that his spleen was very large, his kidneys and stomach were congested, and there was excess blood in his liver's vessels. While poisoning was the main conjecture, there was no foreign substance found in his body, 

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A little while later, a little piece of rolled-up paper was found in the fob pocket sewn into the man's pants. The piece of paper said, "Tamám Shud," which means "ended" or "finished." The phrase is found on the last page of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The police tracked down the copy of the book from which the paper was torn. 

They called a telephone number written in the back of the book and got ahold of Jessica Thompson, a nurse who claimed she didn't know the dead man and wanted to be left out of the investigation. Seems to me like maybe she knew more than she was letting on, but police agreed to leave her out of it. 

While there have been many different theories and a number of positive identifications of the body, none have been conclusive. It seems to me like this case is "Tamám Shud."

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The Mothman

You may be aware of the Mothman from The Mothman Prophecies or any other numerous pop culture examples, but do you know how the legend of the Mothman started?

In November of 1966, five men who were digging a grave in a cemetery in West Virginia claimed to see a Pan-like figure with wings fly over their heads. Shortly after, two couples from Point Pleasant in West Virginia also claimed to see the creature. They described it as gray with red, glowing eyes. 

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Sightings began to increase in the area, and then on December 15, 1967, the Silver Bridge collapsed and killed 46 people. Over time, many started to connect the bridge collapse to the Mothman, and a true legend was born. 

Some believe even the initial reports of Mothman sightings were hoaxes. True believers think it's an alien or a supernatural being. We might never know the real origin of the Mothman, but at this point, does it even matter? It's a staple of pop culture, a larger-than-life entity, and a super spooky character.

But also, people around Chicago have been seeing the Mothman as recently as last year, so maybe it's still out there...

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