Weird things happen all the time on every scale. Usually there’s some kind of explanation, some scientific rarity or someone misinterpreting the situation or something that just didn’t occur to people at first. But sometimes there’s never an explanation–or at least, one that doesn’t reasonably fit. Weird things happen and sometimes, we never find out why. We may never know what happened to the princes in the Tower or what that sheriff in New Mexico really saw or who the actual Zodiac Killer is (even if we’re pretty sure it’s Ted Cruz).
And sure, some of these mysteries are kinda weird and fun to talk about, but many of them are also creepy. And not just kinda creepy, but like, Stephen King levels of creepy. Like the kind of creepy that keeps you up at night and gives you nightmares when you fall asleep. Like, what was even the motive behind the Hinterkaifeck murderer(s)? What causes the Brown Mountain Lights? What killed those hikers at Dyatlov Pass? And what the heck was up with Elisa Lam? So many mysteries with so few answers–and at this point, it doesn’t seem like we’ll ever get any. Maybe that’s a good thing–maybe the answers are creepier than none at all.
From missing persons to murders, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to compile a list of some of the creepiest unsolved mysteries out there. These mysteries have kept us up at night and we’re sure they’ll keep you up, too.
15. Brown Mountain Lights
If you’re driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway, chances are you might some see mysterious lights over North Carolina’s Brown Mountain. But what are they? Well, that’s a good question. The Brown Mountain Lights were first reported being seen in 1913, when The Charlotte Daily Observer interviewed a fisherman who said he saw red, circular lights over Brown Mountain every night. At first, his claim was dismissed as him having seen train lights, but others soon came forward saying that they, too, had seen the lights. In 1922, the US Geological Survey concluded that witnesses had misinterpreted the lights as electric lights or cars or trains–however, it has been pointed out that a massive flood had wiped out the area’s electricity and had flooded an automobile bridge–yet the lights still appeared.
So…what are they?
14. Dyatlov Pass
In 1959, nine hikers were found dead in Russia’s Ural Mountains. Soviet authorities determined that six of the hikers died of hypothermia (most of them were insufficiently clothed for the freezing temperatures), but three of them showed signs of major physical trauma. One had a fractured skull, one had brain damage, and another had her eyes and tongue ripped out. To this day, no one knows what killed the hikers. Everything from the indigenous Mansi people to an avalanche to the government testing weapons to tension within the group has been suggested, but none of these fit: the Mansi people have always been peaceful, there was no evidence of an avalanche, the injuries do not fit those of weapons testing, and the group had always gotten along exceptionally well. The most prevailing theory is that the hikers were attacked by a powerful, elusive creature: the Yeti. What really happened? We’ll probably never know.
13. Johnny Gosch
Johnny Gosch’s story is one we’ve heard before: one morning, while working his paper route, twelve-year-old Johnny Gosch went missing. He was one of the first kids to have his picture on a milk carton–unfortunately, he was never found.
In 1997, his mother, Noreen, claimed that Johnny, now 27, had appeared on her doorstep with a man she had never seen before. They talked for an hour and a half before leaving. In 2006, someone left photographs on Noreen’s front door depicting three boys bound and gagged. Noreen believed that one of these boys was her son Johnny. Whether or not either of Noreen’s claims is true, we can never say for sure. It’s always possible Johnny will come back home like fellow kidnapping victim Jaycee Dugard, but her case might be the exception to the rule; it’s been so long since he disappeared that it seems unlikely we’ll ever find out what really happened to Johnny Gosch.
12. Elisa Lam
A twenty-one old college student from Canada, Elisa Lam, disappeared while staying at the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles. Lam was missing for twenty days before her body was found. Guests had been complaining about the quality of the water–when hotel staff checked the water supply, they found Lam’s naked body. How she ended up there, no one knows. The last known footage of her is from a hotel elevator camera, which shows her behaving…oddly. You can see the video online, where she hits multiple buttons in the elevator, the doors of which do not close, hops in and out as if she’s talking to someone outside the elevator, and generally acts really oddly.
Lam suffered from bipolar disorder and took several medications, and many have argued that her erratic behavior is because of that, and that she may have committed suicide or accidentally fallen into the water tank. The problem, however, is that access to the tank was limited, and there is no way getting into the tank could have been an accident; her autopsy, too, ruled out suicide. So how did she end up in that water tank?
In 1922, an entire family was discovered dead in their home. The family, consisting of a farmer, his wife, their widowed daughter, her young children, and their maid, hadn’t appeared in town in several days and their neighbors became concerned. Recalling that the farmer had said he’d seen footprints leading from the woods to his home, hearing footsteps in the attic, the house keys going missing, and the last maid claiming that the house was haunted, neighbors went to check on the farm. The chimney was smoking and the cattle seemed fed, but the farmer, his wife, their daughter and her own daughter were found piled up in the barn, one on top of the other, while the maid and the baby boy were both found dead in their beds. The creepiest part? No one knows who did it. There were no clues, and so much time has passed that it would be impossible to establish a guilty party. Someone killed an entire family and no one knows why.
10. Gatton Murders
On December 26th, Michael Murphy and his sisters Norah and Ellen were returning to a dance that had been cancelled when they were assaulted and killed. Michael had been shot and bludgeoned, Norah had been strangled and bludgeoned, and Ellen had been bludgeoned twice. Both women had their wrists tied behind their backs with handkerchiefs and had been on their knees with their backs to each other when they were bludgeoned and killed. It also appeared that the two sisters had been raped, but as no semen could be found, investigators concluded that they had been raped by a brass-mounted whip handle.
To this day, we don’t know who did it. The investigation lasted for five months, but the killer was never discovered. It didn’t help that the prime suspect died less than two years after the incident, meaning that if he was responsible, any hope of learning the truth died with him.
9. The Lost Colony
People occasionally disappear, but in the case of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, an entire village disappeared. Established in 1585, Roanoke was Queen Elizabeth I’s attempt at forming a permanent settlement in the New World. John White, one of the organizers, sailed for England in 1587 and told the colonists that if they should encounter any trouble, to carve Maltese crosses in the trees before seeking safety. When White returned three years later, he and his men found Roanoke deserted. There were no Maltese crosses, but the word “CROATAN” (the name of a local Native American tribe) was carved into the trees. White and his men never learned if “CROATAN” meant that the colonists had fled Roanoke because of them or if they had gone to live amongst the Croatan. Rumors and reports from other settlers and from the Powhatan tribe have led to conflicting speculation about what happened to the colonists, but it doesn’t seem like we’ll ever know the truth.
8. JonBenét Ramsey
On December 26th, 1996, the Ramsey family phoned police to tell them that they had found a ransom note for their six-year-old daughter. JonBenét was found later that day in a closet in the basement. An autopsy revealed that she had been killed by asphyxiation and a skull fracture. There was some question as to whether or not she had been sexually assaulted–she showed no traces of semen, but her vaginal area had been wiped by a cloth and her underwear was stained with blood that was not hers.
No one has any idea who killed the little girl or why. Suspicion fell heavily on her mother and brother, especially since the handwriting of the ransom note was similar to her mother’s, but the Ramsey family believes that, because their daughter was a child beauty queen, a dangerous pedophile had entered their home and killed her. Though the case is still open, we’re no closer to finding a murderer now than we were twenty years ago.
7. SS Ourang Medan
In 1947, an Indonesian vessel was found with all but one of its passengers dead. And not just killed by an illness or anything like that: they were found with their eyes and mouths wide open, a look of pain on their faces. The scariest part of all? No one was able to determine the cause of death.
The only survivor reportedly told the missionary who found him that the ship had been carrying a “badly stowed” cargo of sulphuric acid, the fumes of which killed the rest of the crew. After telling this story, he died. The shipwreck was not recorded in any accident registration; the only evidence it happened are the Dutch articles written about it in the months following the incident. There has been some question as to whether or not the vessel even existed in the first place, or if it was just a legend that somehow became treated as fact.
6. Tamam Shud
On December 1st 1948, authorities in Adelaide, Australia found an unidentified man lying dead on the beach. A cause of death was never determined–he had suffered no injuries and there were no indications that he had consumed something toxic. He appeared to have simply died without cause. The man was determined to be in his forties, so natural causes seem unlikely…but then, what would have killed him?
Even more confusing was the scrap of paper found in his pocket some months later. The scrap read Tamam Shud, which means “finished’ or “ended” in Persian. Authorities were able to find the book that the paper was torn from–inside they found the indentations from where someone had written two phone numbers and an encryption which no one has been able to decipher.
5. Black Dahlia
On the morning of January 15th, 1947, a mother walking her three-year-old daughter found what she thought was a disposed store mannequin lying in a parking lot. It turned out to be the mutilated body of Elizabeth Short. Cut in half at the waist, drained of blood, naked, a Glasgow smile carved onto her face, she would come to be known as the Black Dahlia–a play on The Blue Dahlia, a popular film at the time of Short’s death. Though the press painted Elizabeth Short as a risque call girl and Hollywood adventuress, the truth is that she was living with her father and lived in Los Angeles because the warm weather was good for her chronic bronchitis. So, if not a Jack-the-Ripper-esque client…who killed her? Police have connected The Black Dahlia to the Cleveland Torso Murders and the Lipstick Murders, but each time the suspect died or they did not have enough evidence to make a conviction.
4. Beaumont Children
Prior to 1966, it was not unusual for children to wander around town without adult supervision. All of that changed after the disappearance of the Beaumont children. Ten-year-old Jane, eight-year-old Arnna, and five-year-old Grant had made one of their usual day trips to the beach when they disappeared and were more than likely kidnapped. Witnesses report seeing the children talking and laughing with a man. Other, possibly related, sightings report a man taking three children (two girls and a boy–the same as the Beaumont children) to an empty house and later chasing down the little boy.
As of today, over fifty years later, police are still investigating leads as to the whereabouts of the Beaumont children, and they have reported hundreds of calls about the children on a monthly basis. Their disappearance had an enormous impact on children everywhere, and they are a large reason why parents today rarely let children go anywhere without a trusted adult.
3. Salish Sea Feet
All kinds of weird things wash up on the beach, but the beaches of British Columbia and Washington win the prize for all-time weirdest–sometimes, feet wash up on these beaches. Since 2007, at least sixteen feet have been found off the coast of the Salish Sea. Some of these feet have been matched up, but some of them are still missing a mate. No one knows why feet specifically are showing up and no other body part, or how these bodies ended up in the sea in the first place. Boating accidents, suicides, and plane crashes have all been suggested, but the feet don’t always meet that criteria. Furthermore, while it is possible that feet may detach from the ankles after being in water for too long (possible, but very unusual), they are not naturally buoyant, so how they are able to float is another mystery. All we know for certain is that something fishy is definitely…afoot.
2. Mary Celeste
Like the SS Ourang Medan, we will never know what exactly happened to the crew of the Mary Celeste–unlike the Ourang Medan, those crew members may have survived. In 1872, the ship was found by the captain of another nearby vessel. The captain, his wife and infant daughter, and the crew were all missing, as was the ship’s only lifeboat. There was some water, but not a threatening amount, in the cargo hold, and the sails had been furled. A phial of oil was upright, indicating that there had been no rough weather or collision that might account for the missing crew. All of the captain’s papers were missing. An investigation argued that there must have been foul play–possibly a mutiny against the captain, or the captain and crew had been paid to abandon ship as a means of insurance fraud. A more likely explanation is that the captain thought the cargo of denatured alcohol was releasing fumes or might ignite and had ordered the ship’s evacuation. That’s all well and good, but then, what happened to the crew? We may never know.
1. Sodder Children
The disappearance of the Sodder children is one of the saddest and strangest events in the twentieth century. On Christmas Eve, 1945, a fire destroyed the Sodder home in Fayetteville, West Virginia. George and Jennie Sodder and four of their children escaped; the other five children, however, did not. Initially, the Sodders believed that their children had not escaped, but when the wreckage was examined, the bodies were never found–which was unusual, considering that the fire did not burn long or hot enough to completely incinerate human bodies. George Sodder began to believe that because of his outspokenness against Mussolini, the Sicilian mob had set fire to his house and kidnapped his children. It is possible the children were kidnapped, as witnesses claimed to have seen them watching the fire from a car while another said they came to her hotel with a group of men. In the 1960s, the Sodders received pictures of a man they believed to be one of their boys, now an adult. While it’s possible that the children really did burn to ashes, it’s scientifically unlikely, which begs the question: where did they go?