Ten Bizarre Mysteries Across Time and Space
All through history and time people have been trying to solve unexplained phenomena and bizarre mysteries. As humans, we’re often fascinated and sometimes frightened by what we don’t understand. But try as we might to solve the puzzles, sometimes there is no obvious answer.
Cart Ruts at Misrah Ghar il-Kbir, Malta. (Lysy/CC BY SA 3.0)
The islands of Malta and Gozo in the Maltese archipelago are scarred with hundreds, if not thousands, of parallel lines seemingly cut deep into the stone. These ancient grooves have puzzled experts for centuries. Some of the strange tracks deliberately plunge off cliffs or continue off land and into the ocean. Who made these enigmatic tracks, and why?
The tracks are gouged into the rock, crisscrossing the islands, most notably at Misrah Ghar il-Kbir, a prehistoric cliff site on Malta. The so-called “cart ruts” of Malta are thought to be indications of transportation or industry—railways of the ancient world.
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These clearly man-made ruts are dual channels, parallel grooves etched into the limestone bedrock of the islands. The channels measure about eight to 15 centimeters deep, but can be as deep as 60 centimeters. Width between the tracks extends about 140 centimeters, but not in all instances. The tracks measured at the San Gwann site in Malta are said to be half a meter in depth, making them the deepest to be found – making it unlikely that a vehicle could have been dragged along them since the platform/axle would have to be a meter or two high.
Similar tracks can be found in Italy, Greece, Turkey, Spain, France, and Germany, but they’re not of the same origins and were created for different and known purposes. Some of those tracks were built purposefully with masonry, and some of the patterns were caused by natural erosion on wagon tracks. These differences make the Malta tracks unique in the world.
"Power in the palm of my hand." ( Matthew/Flickr)
Over the past 300 years, there have been more than 200 reports of Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC), which occurs when a person supposedly burns to death by a fire believed to have started from within the person’s body. Of the hundreds of accounts on record, there seems to be a similar pattern.
A solitary victim is often consumed by flame, usually inside his or her home. However, the extremities, such as the hands, feet, or parts of the leg often remaining intact. The torso and head are charred beyond recognition and, in rare cases, the internal organs of a victim remain unscathed. The room the victim was in usually shows little to no signs of fire, aside from a greasy residue left on furniture and walls. Often there is a sweet, smoky smell in the room where the incident has occurred.
The history of SHC can be traced back to medieval literature and some even believe there are several passages in the bible referencing it. There are several theories behind why it happens including: alcoholism, flammable body fat, acetone buildup, static electricity, methane, bacteria, stress, and even divine intervention.
The theory explaining SHC which is most approved by science is called the “wick effect.” It likens the body of an SHC victim to a candle. A candle is composed of a wick on the inside surrounded by a wax made of flammable fatty acids. Fire ignites the wick and the fatty wax keeps it burning. However, it doesn’t explain why the victims remain motionless during the episode of combustion and burning, nor does it provide enough explanation why surrounding furniture is so often unaffected by the fire.
Hand-colored woodprint by Samuel Coccius, Basle Switzerland 1566. August 7th many black globes moved before the sun at great speed and seemed to be fighting. Was this an ancient UFO sighting or celestial event? ( Public Domain)
The oldest recorded sighting of a UFO took place in 1440 BC. The incident was documented by the royal scribe of an Egyptian Pharaoh. Before the modern-era, UFOs were also recorded by ancient Greeks, Romans, Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Mexicans, and more. These sightings cannot be as readily explained.
The Romans accumulated a number of reported sightings made by such reputable historians as Pliny the Elder, Livy, and Plutarch. They are widely regarded as accurate (as far as the witnesses understood) because of the rigorous procedures Roman authorities demanded before any event could be recorded in the official annals. That being said, the incidences could be talking about meteorites or comets, which to ancient eyes would have seemed otherworldly.
It seems that throughout much of antiquity the UFO-like phenomena were merely recorded. The first known official investigation into a possible alien/time-traveler/UFO presence was carried out in Japan in 1235. Today, we only have the descriptions and analysis given by ancient historians. These are undoubtedly genuine accounts of things people witnessed but what exactly they saw may never be known.
The man from Taured. (lechemindeleveil)
The story of the ‘Man from Taured’ begins on a hot day in July 1954 when a man arrived at Haneda Airport, aka Tokyo International Airport. This man has been described as Caucasian-looking with a beard. His primary language is said to have been French, but he apparently spoke Japanese and other languages as well.
The sequence of events then differs. In one version, this man hands over his passport to be stamped, and the Japanese immigration officer notices something strange – the passport looked authentic, but the country where it was issued, ‘Taured’, was recognized as non-existent, indicating that the man should be taken away for interrogation. In another version, the man mentioned that he was from Taured, and when the immigration officer did not believe him, he showed him / her his passport.
The man tried to convince the immigration officers that Taured does indeed exist. According to the traveler, Taured was located between France and Spain, in the area of Andorra, and had by then been in existence for 1000 years. Eventually, the man was held by the officers, as they were suspicious that he might be some kind of criminal. They brought him to a nearby hotel for the night and continued their investigation.
Two guards were placed outside his room, but the next morning when the officers went to the man’s room, they realized that he had simply vanished. There were no signs of his escape and all of his personal documents, which may serve as evidence for the story’s validity, had apparently disappeared as well, making this strange story unsolvable.
A famous Acámbaro figurine depicting a human apparently riding a dinosaur. ( Creative Commons)
In 1944, the German shopkeeper Valdemar Julsrud claimed to have stumbled upon mysterious figurines while on horseback near Acámbaro in Guanajuato, Mexico. He said that he found over 30,000 of them with the help of a farmer. The figurines depict dinosaurs and humans living together and strange figurines that many people say resemble flying saucers and even aliens. Their authenticity has been debated ever since.
Those who believe that the artifacts are genuine are: cryptozoologists who say that the figurines are evidence of a relict population of dinosaurs in the region who happened to come into contact with humans, those who believe that the figurines were left behind by interdimensional aliens who could travel back to the time of the dinosaurs and bring knowledge of them to Central American peoples, and young earth creationists who claim that humans and dinosaurs had to coexist to fit in with their interpretation of Genesis chapters 1-11 in the Bible.
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Thermoluminescence dating was used on some figurines between 1969 and 1972 and produced a date of about 4500 years BP (Before Present), placing the age of the artifacts around 2500 BC. However, studies in 1976 and 1978 revealed that the figurines did not meet the temperature conditions required for reliable thermoluminescence dating. The dates that could be attained revealed that the objects were from the late 1930s or early 1940s - shortly before they were “discovered”.
Book cover and illustration from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
On December 1, 1948, authorities were called to Somerton beach in Adelaide, South Australia. They found a dead body on the sand of a middle-aged man in top physical condition, smartly dressed in a suit, tie, and polished black shoes. Despite the hot weather, he wore a knit pullover and suit-jacket.
His corpse revealed no obvious cause of death. Nobody knew who he was or where he had come from. After collecting the body, police examined his possessions and clothes for a hint of who he was, but the tags and labels had been carefully removed, leaving no trail.
Investigators were perplexed when they found what appeared to be a secret message stuffed in his trouser pocket. The words Tamam Shud were printed on a rolled-up scrap of paper. They found that the scrap was torn from the last page of a rare copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Eerily, Tamam Shud is a phrase meaning "the end" or "finished.”
In 1949, a copy of The Rubaiyat was recovered bearing the tear-marks that matched the scrap found on the body. It had been placed in the backseat of an unlocked car which had been parked along a jetty a week or two before the body was found. The car owner turned the book in to police, but requested to remain anonymous.
Under close inspection, the book revealed letters scrawled on the back cover, grouped together in no recognizable language. Detectives determined it was a secret code, and due to the tense times of the Cold War, speculated that Somerton Man was a Soviet spy murdered by unknown enemies. No governments or intelligence agencies have ever admitted to knowing the man. The Rubaiyat code was made public and many have tried to decipher it in vain - it remains uncracked.
Human Skeletons in Roopkund Lake, aka Skeleton Lake. (Schwiki/CC BY SA 4.0)
Covered in ice and surrounded by rocky glaciers, Roopkund Lake appears to be a typical, albeit beautiful, natural wonder in the Indian Himalayas. However, during one month of the year, when the ice melts away and the bottom of the shallow lake becomes visible, 300 human skeletons can be seen.
The first reports of the skeletal remains date to the 19th century, but the remains were re-discovered by Nanda Devi game reserve ranger H K Madhwal in 1942. No one knew who the remains belonged to, how long they had been there, or what had happened to them, but since the skeletons were rediscovered during World War II the first assumption was that they were Japanese soldiers who had died from exposure to the elements while traveling through India. Investigations quickly found that not to be true – the remains were far too old.
Frigid temperatures and dry, cold air allowed bits of flesh, nails, and hair to be preserved as well. In addition, pieces such as wooden artifacts, iron spearheads, leather slippers, and jewelry were discovered. Radiocarbon dating shows that the remains are from 850 AD.
Without any evidence of a nearby settlement, it is believed that the individuals were traveling when they died. In 2013, researchers concluded that it likely that the individuals had been killed in a hailstorm. The injuries on the remains indicate that each person was killed by one or more blows to the head, neck, and shoulders. But it is still a mystery who they were and how their remains came to be at the bottom of the lake.
[Top] Fiji Mermaid, in the Folklore section at the Haus der Natur (House of Nature), a natural history collection in Salzburg, Austria. ( CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 ) [Bottom] P.T. Barnums Feejee mermaid ( Public Domain )
The story of the Fiji mermaid in the United States begins with the arrival, in the middle of July 1842, of an Englishman by the name of ‘Dr. J. Griffin’ (who was actually Levi Lyman, an associate of P.T. Barnum’s), a supposed member of the ‘British Lyceum of Natural History’, in New York. Griffin, it seems, brought with him a mermaid, which was claimed to have been caught near the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific.
News of Griffin’s arrival, along with his strange specimen was known by the press, and reporters went to Griffin’s hotel, demanding to see the mermaid. When he had given them a glimpse of what he had brought with him, they were convinced that it was real.
The Fiji Mermaid was displayed in 1842 by P.T. Barnum in Barnum’s American Museum, New York and attracted many curious visitors. It would later be revealed that the Fiji mermaid was actually the top half of a juvenile monkey sown onto the bottom half of a fish.
This creature is thought to have been made in Japan around 1810, where this was allegedly a traditional art form amongst fishermen. Barnum’s mermaid is said to have been destroyed in a fire, however some people claim the mermaid was rescued from (either one of) the fires, and is still being displayed today.
The Eilean Mor lighthouse, Scotland. ( CC BY SA 2.0 )
In 1900, shortly after the one-year anniversary of the Eilean Mor lighthouse’s completion, something changed on the quiet little island. A captain who was passing by the area on route to Leith, Scotland, on December 15, noticed that the lighthouse’s lamp was not shining. He sent a wireless to the Cosmopolitan Line Steamers (CLS) headquarters to report the outage but, CLS failed to notify the Northern Lighthouse Board because other more pressing matters caused it to escape from memory.
Bad weather delayed the arrival of the fourth attendant who was going to replace one of the three men attending the lighthouse on December 20; he could not make the sea journey until things cleared up on December 26. That day the relief attendant was sent ashore to investigate why things seemed strange at the lighthouse.
He found it unlocked, and no fire was lit to ward off the damp coldness, the beds were unused, and the clocks had stopped. The man became worried about his fellow keepers and, returning with help, he searched the lighthouse from top to bottom. He also discovered that the light was in working order.
Three volunteers offered to stay with the fourth attendant and conduct an even more thorough search of the small island the next morning. The captain headed to the nearest telegraph station, on the Isle of Lewis, and sent a message to his employer: “A dreadful accident has happened [...]” Even now, the mystery of the lighthouse keepers disappearance remains just that, a mystery.
A painting of the Mary Celeste as Amazon in 1861. (Public Domain)
The Mary Celeste was a merchant brigantine captained by Benjamin Briggs, a man said to be a staunch abstainer from alcohol, a brave man, and a devout Christian. The first mate, Albert Richardson, was also considered fit to command, and was hand-picked by Captain Briggs. Additionally, Captain Brigg’s wife, his infant daughter, and six other crew members were on board the ship when the loading of the ship’s cargo – 1701 barrels of poisonous denatured alcohol took place in the end of October 1872.
On November 7, the ship left New York Harbor and sailed into the Atlantic. On December 4, the British brigantine Dei Gratia discovered the Mary Celeste sailing aimlessly between the Azores and Portugal. Upon closer inspection, the Dei Gratia crew discovered that there was no one on board the Mary Celeste and the last entry in the ship’s daily log was written on November 24 . In spite of this, the ship was still in seaworthy condition, her cargo still largely intact, and her food and water supply sufficient for six months.
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It seems the crew left the ship in a panic. The ship’s only lifeboat, as well as its chronometer and sextant, were missing. Oddly, the main halyard, a sturdy rope about 8cm in circumference, was found to be broken and hanging over the side of the ship.
Nevertheless, there has not been any real consensus as to the cause of Captain Brigg’s panic, and numerous theories have been put forward why the ship was abandoned– ranging from fire to a giant squid, to the lucky discovery of a derelict ship containing treasure that led to the desertion of the Mary Celeste, and a happy ending in Spain for all who were on it.
Top image: Ancient mysteries (Fyle / Adobe Stock)