When it comes to the mysteries of life, there’s a sprawling ocean of questions that haven’t been yet been answered. Still, as a species we’re great at seeking solutions and answers – from the mysteries of the universe, to where we put our keys. And the study and practice of science and philosophy aim to solve those enduring mysteries and answer those persistent, niggling questions about how the world works around us.
As the timeline of human existence progresses, we’ve made incredible advancements in our knowledge of ourselves and the world around us. Yet, with all our modern science, there have been thousands of puzzling events and discoveries which have left us universally baffled.
From natural phenomena to disappearances to murders to miracles, certain mysteries remind us that we still don’t have all the answers. But as technology progresses and there are more breakthroughs in the field of science, we’re stepping closer to solving some of the stickiest mysteries that have impacted the last few centuries. The follow are 15 such mysteries that have left us perplexed for years, but the answers to these are on the tips of researchers’ tongues right now.
13. Magic Hills
Countries all over the world have “magic hills”, as they’re known to the Anglophone world. They have been the inspiration for countless local urban legends and myths.
If you park your car or put a magnetic object at the bottom of a magic hill, it will roll upwards, thus defying the laws of physics… Or so we tend to think. In truth, scientists have lately concluded that it’s nothing more than an optical illusion. Our eyes tend to perceive these ‘hills’ as tilting upwards due to the fact that in mountainous areas, it’s hard to see the horizon, and it’s the horizon which tells us whether trees are vertical and whether we’re heading up or downhill.
12. Shroud of Turin
The Shroud of Turin is a piece of linen that bears the image of a man who seemed to have died from a crucifixion-like death. For years, it was believed that the Shroud was the cloth used to cover Jesus upon his death.
It has become one of the most studied artifacts in history thanks to this myth. But recently, with the help of carbon dating amongst numerous other studies, it has been concluded that the cloth is much more recent than suspected, dating back to just 1260 AD. The origins of the image of the man is still being studied.
11. Moving Huge Stones
There has been endless speculation about some of the greatest wonders like the pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge. Construction technology is, of course, believed to have been primitive during the periods when these wonders were built, so these structures have become some of the world’s biggest mysteries.
Theories about their construction ranged from assistance from aliens to magic. However, in recent years, people have come forward with their own experimental constructions approximating these wonders. One man named Wally Wallington built his own Stonehenge imitation using stones, wood, and his personal strength. We’re not saying that Wallington’s method was the exact method used to build these structures, but this example certainly suggests that they could feasibly have been built by hand.
10. The Ocean Bloop
Hydrophones went nuts across the Pacific Ocean in 1997 when they picked up a sound at an ultra low frequency at 5,000 km apart. Speculations as to the source of the sound ranged from the Loch Ness Monster to some other giant deep sea monster as yet undiscovered by humans.
However, researchers at NOAA tirelessly worked and discovered that the sound was most likely not coming from an animal, but was instead the sound of an iceberg breaking off near Antarctica. Cryptozoologists were very disappointed, and there are some out there who believe that the “explanation” is a government cover up. Others hold that the mournful sound is terrifying all by itself, speaking as it does of the inexorable melting of the icecaps.
9. Franklin Expedition Ship(s)
After 170 years of remaining a mystery, the fate of the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror is nearly solved. These two ships were lost in 1846 in the Arctic near Nunavut’s King William Island.
Based on testimony from Inuit tribe members at the time, and land-based graves of the crew being discovered, it was safe to assume the ships sank or became trapped in ice, but no one knew where they were until September 2014 – when a sonar image of one of the ships popped up as a remote vehicle floated over the wreckage. The next step for the Canadian government, in light of one of the greatest maritime discoveries of the century, is to work on dives and get access to the vessel.
8. The Lost Colony
The “Lost Colony” of North Carolina’s Roanoke Island remained a mystery since the colony, who arrived in 1587, completely disappeared in 1590. The only clues left were the words “Croatoan” etched into the fort’s gatepost and “Cro” etched into a tree. When a colony of people just disappear without a trace, leaving their homes and belongings as if they just popped out for a stroll, people obviously seek answers.
Historians and researchers have, in recent years, come to the conclusion that the colony was hit with some sort of disease or hardship that caused them to either perish or disperse into smaller groups and leave the colony rapidly. It’s not watertight, but it’s brought us a bit closer to understanding this mysterious disappearance.
7. Sailing Stones
In a remote location in Death Valley, California, there is a dried up lake called the Racetrack Playa where several heavy rocks seem to move across the lake by themselves. People have blamed space aliens and pranksters, but no one has ever seen the rocks move to confirm exactly what is moving them, or causing them to “sail”, so to speak.
In 2006, a scientist by the name of Ralph Lorenz started studying the rocks, and came to the conclusion that when temperatures drop in Death Valley, enough water and ice forms under the rocks to cause them to “float” across the river, leaving a trail of mud behind them.
6. Richard III
Richard III lived from 1452 to 1485, only ruled for two years, and was the last king to die on the battlefield. He has been portrayed in varying ways in English literature throughout the centuries, and while fascination with this historical figure endured, the location of his remains were a mystery.
But in 2012, researchers located a skeleton under a car park in Leicester. The remains were ascertained to be those of King Richard and anthropologists and forensic scientists were finally able to figure out exactly how he met his demise. It was discovered that Richard suffered numerous fatal blows that killed him.
5. Bermuda Triangle
The Bermuda Triangle has been getting a bad rap since the days of Christopher Columbus. In 1492 when the adventurer was sailing the body of water between Florida, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda his compass began to act strangely; since then, the area has thrown up a number of alleged disappearances and mysterious trends.
In the 1950s an article about the mystery of the area was even published in the Associated Press. Some believe – of course – that the unexplained disappearances credited to the area are down to aliens, and others believe it was a government experiment that went wrong.
But in recent studies, it has been shown that the Bermuda Triangle hasn’t in fact experienced any more disappearances than other parts of the world, and magnetic issues with compasses are something that sea-going folks are very familiar with.
The story of the Romanov family is both tragic, and mysterious. Czar Nicholas II and his family were brutally dethroned and executed during the Russian Revolution. The remains of the large family were all found… Except for the remains of daughter Anastasia Nikolaevna.
This absence of course led to speculation that she was still alive; if she was, people wondered whether she was too young to remember her royal origins. Throughout the years, numerous women came forward claiming to be Anastasia, and the hype inspired numerous books and movies. However, in 1991, previously undiscovered remains were uncovered near where the Romanov family was killed – although research at the time couldn’t confirm that this belonged to Anastasia. In 2008, however, DNA technology finally confirmed it was indeed Anastasia and she was able to be laid to rest – both figuratively and literally – with her family.
3. Mary Celeste
In 1872, the Mary Celeste was spotted in the Atlantic Ocean off the shores of the Azores. The ship was perfectly intact, except the crew had seemingly evaporated. It wasn’t pirates, because there was no sign of a struggle, and all the ship’s valuables were still there. There was no sign of the crew, yet everything was left in place besides some missing paperwork.
However, Dr. Andrea Sella at UCL in the UK conducted an experiment which has led to a convincing explanation: The ship had over 1700 barrels of raw alcohol, which could have created an invisible explosion that caused the crew to go mad and abandon the ship in the lifeboats.
2. Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart made headlines in the 1930s as one of the most ambitious and successful female pilots of her time. She attempted to make it into the record books by completing a 29,000 mile trip, and in the last 7,000 miles in 1936 she disappeared after her last radio transmission, along with her co-pilot Fred Noonan.
She completely vanished, without a trace. Theories of where Amelia had ended ranged from speculation that she was captured by the Japanese, that she returned to the US under witness protection, or that she was living on a deserted island. Thanks to imaging technology and sonar equipment, in October of 2014 it was believed that a part of her plane had been discovered off the coast of an island. Back in 1940, human remains were found in a similar area, but the corpse’s identity was inconclusive.
1. Jack the Ripper
The story of serial killer “Jack the Ripper” has been one of the most complicated mysteries in British history. Theories on the killer’s identity have ranged from the poor to royalty. Recently, a bloodied shawl was discovered which had made its way down the generations of the family of the policeman who recovered it from one of the Ripper victims, Catherine Eddowes.
The living descendants brought the shawl to auction where Russell Edwards bought it for testing. He tested the DNA of Eddowes using her descendants’ blood and compared blood on the shawl with that of longtime suspect, Polish man Aaron Kosminski. Edwards believes he has found the link between Kosminski and the victims. Scientists aren’t quite convinced as the history of the shawl’s interaction through the years could have contaminated it.