It’s significantly difficult in this day and age to conceal your identity, your historical background, and even your tastes and interests, where surveillance, data tracking, and DNA research grow more complex and competent with every passing second of our lives. It can all be as simple as tapping a few words into a web browser and hitting “enter” to unlock a realm of limitless information where secrets can be uncovered and mysteries can be stumbled upon and even solved. Or maybe you just want to go to Wikipedia to help you with your college essay that’s due in about ten minutes. Either way, for better or worse, science and technology is constantly and consistently making the game of hide-and-seek that much harder to play.
However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. There are some individuals in our planet's history that have successfully eluded these tools of the future. Some have no historical records of note, others haven’t been properly identified, and there are even accounts that sound like they come from another dimension entirely. Whatever the case or reason, one thing is for certain: the fabric of their lives have been woven into the enigmatic tapestry of history. Good luck trying to unravel it.
15 Kaspar Hauser
It is the 26th of May in Nuremberg, Germany; the year, 1828. A young teenage boy aimlessly wanders the streets, clutching a letter in his hand, with the words “From the Bavarian border / this place is unnamed / 1828” as the heading, addressed to a Captain von Wessenig. The letter states that the boy was taken in as an infant in 1812, was taught to read and write, but was never allowed to “take a single step outside.” It also stated that the boy become a “cavalryman, just like his father was” and instructed the captain to either take him in or hang him.
When interviewed, the boy, naming himself “Kaspar Hauser”, said that he spent his life in a “darkened cell” that measured 6 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 4 ½ feet high, with only a straw bed and three toys carved out of wood to play with. After telling his story, he spent the next few years jumping from household to household, where, on December 14th, 1833, Kaspar was found with a stab wound in his chest. He had a small violet purse on him, containing a letter that said:
"Hauser will be able to tell you quite precisely how I look and from where I am. To save Hauser the effort, I want to tell you myself from where I come _ _ . I come from from _ _ _ the Bavarian border _ _ On the river _ _ _ _ _ I will even tell you the name: M. L. Ö."
Kaspar Hauser died of his wounds three days later, leaving behind little else.
14 The Green Children of Woolpit
Imagine, if you will, that you live in Suffolk, England, in a small village called Woolpit in the 12th century. While harvesting crops, you come across a pair of children huddled in an empty wolf den, their skin tinged green, their language incomprehensible, wearing indescribable clothing. You take them into your home, where they refuse to eat anything but raw beans, according to several witnesses.
After eventually learning to speak English, eat different foods, and having their green color fade away, one of the children, a boy, became sick and died shortly after. The surviving child, a girl, explained that they came from “St. Martin’s Land”, a “world of twilight” where they were watching over their father’s cattle, heard a shrill noise, and found themselves in the den that they were found in. Later in her life, she married a man from King’s Lynn, never being heard of or from again.
13 The Somerton Man
On December 1st, 1948, police found the body of a man on Somerton beach in the town of Glenelg, Australia. After taking him to the coroner, it was discovered that all the labels and tags on his clothes were removed, had no wallet or identification, and his body was clean-shaven. Even his dental records matched any person alive at the time. They literally could not find anything to properly identify this man.
After conducting an autopsy, the pathologist concluded that he was “certain that the death could not have been natural” and suggested that the man was poisoned, despite the fact that there wasn’t any trace of a deadly substance in the body. Aside from his hypothesis, the doctor could not conclusively identify the deceased, the cause of death, nothing. Perhaps the most mysterious part of this case was that the dead man had a page torn from the Rubaiyat, with the words “Tamam Shud” written on it. In Persian, “Tamam Shud” translates to “ended” or “finished.” The man, to this day, still hasn’t been identified.
12 The Man From Taured
In Tokyo, Japan, 1954, at Haneda Airport, thousands of travelers and passengers from around the world shuffle in and out of the terminals going about their everyday lives. One passenger, however, seemed to stick out. For some reason, this normal-looking man in a business suit attracted the attention of airport security, who detained him for questioning. The man spoke French, but spoke several other languages fluently. He had a passport that had stamps from across the globe, including Tokyo. But the oddest trait of this man was that he claimed to be from a country called Taured, which was nestled between France and Spain. The only problem was that Taured wasn’t located on any map that they had produced to him, instead having the country of Andorra in its place. This made the man very upset, saying that the country had existed for centuries, and that he even had stamps on his passport from that location.
Confused and concerned, officials had him stay in a hotel room with two armed guards outside the door while they dug up more information on the man. Suffice it to say, they came up completely empty. When they returned to the man’s hotel room, he had disappeared without a trace; the door had not been opened, no movement was noticed in the room, and the high floor that he stayed on made it impossible for an escape attempt via the window. To make matters even more eerie, all of his belongings vanished from the airport security room where they were kept.
The man, simply put, dove into the abyss, and never came back.
11 The Babushka Lady
The 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy was a horrendous moment in American history. Of course, it was also infamous for giving birth to a seemingly neverending avalanche of conspiracy theories and claims from an innumerable amount of people. Out of all of the strange and macabre details surrounding this event, one arguably stands out as the most mystifying: The Babushka Lady. This woman was captured on numerous cameras and photographs before, during, and after the shooting, seen wearing sunglasses, an overcoat, a babushka (or a Russian scarf), and actually filming the entire incident with her own camera.
When the FBI called for the woman to come forward with evidence, after failing many times to find and identify her, not a single person came forward, nor did the film that she possessed. Think about it: this woman was in broad daylight, in full view of the assassination recording it as it happened from a completely different perspective, had appeared in almost every film and photo taken during the event by at least 32 witnesses, and yet not one person has identified her, not even the FBI. Not to this day.
10 D.B. Cooper
It was inevitable that the man under the pseudonym “D.B. Cooper” would arise in this category, and even less surprising that it’s the only unsolved piracy crime in aviation history. The crime occurred in November 1971 at the Portland International Airport where a man, using the name “Dan Cooper”, boarded a plane to Seattle, a black briefcase tagging along with him. After takeoff, “Cooper” gave a flight attendant a note, saying that he had a bomb in his briefcase and demanded $200,000 and four parachutes. After complying, the attendant informed the pilot, who then contacted authorities of the situation.
After landing at the Seattle Airport, all of the passengers were released, the demands were met and the exchange completed, and the plane took off once again. When flying over Reno, Nevada and remaining in a very calm and collective state, “Cooper” told the staff onboard to stay in the cockpit, where he then opened the passenger door and leapt into the night sky. Although there were many suspects and eyewitness accounts, “Cooper” was never found again, with the exception of a portion of the ransom money found in a river in Vancouver, Washington.
9 The Monster With 21 Faces
In in May of 1984, the Japanese food corporation named “Ezaki Glico” ran into a bit of a problem; their president, Katsuhisa Ezaki, had been kidnapped from his home, held in an abandoned warehouse for ransom, only to have the president escape his captors soon after. Then, a letter was sent to the company stating that it had coated their products with potassium cyanide and would distribute them to the public. This threat forced Glico to remove all of their items from multiple stores, resulting in the loss of $21 million as well as letting go of 450 workers. Brandishing the name “Monster With 21 Faces,” the entity sent out letters mocking the police, going so far as to give them clues to their identity and methods, and later stating in another message that they had “forgiven” Glico and the harassment ceased.
Not content with toying with one corporation, the “Monster” laid its eyes upon their next prey: Morinaga and various other food companies. They did the same routine as before; threaten to poison the company's’ products, only this time demanding money to prevent them from doing so. During a failed sting operation at the time of the money exchange, a police officer almost captured the criminal responsible, later describing the person as having “the eyes of a fox.” Superintendent Yamamoto, who was in charge of the case and was wracked with guilt and disgrace for not being able to find the “Monster” committed suicide by setting himself on fire.
Not long after, the “Monster” sent their last message to the media, mocking the officer’s death before finally signing off with the line: “We are bad guys. That means we've got more to do other than bullying companies. It's fun to lead a bad man's life. Monster with 21 Faces.” They were never heard from again.
8 The Man in the Iron Mask
Unlike the 1998 film bearing the same name, the actual masked man did not have one, instead bearing the number “64389000” as indicated in the prison records. In 1669, the minister of Louis XIV sent a letter the the governor of a prison in the city of Pignerol, France, saying that a prisoner would soon arrive at the complex. The minister ordered the governor to create a cell with multiple doors to prevent eavesdropping, to provide the man with any immediate needs, and finally, should the prisoner ever speak of anything else, to kill him without hesitation.
The prison that the masked man was sent to was noteworthy for housing the “black sheep” of noble families and government alike. The most peculiar thing about the masked man was the treatment that he received; his cell was reportedly well-furnished, unlike the others, and he had two soldiers stationed at the cell door, who were ordered to kill the prisoner if he took his iron mask off. This imprisonment continued for the rest of the man’s life until his death in 1703. His belongings followed suit, with his furniture and clothing being destroyed, the walls of his cell scraped and washed, and having his iron mask melted down.
This amalgamation of events has led many historians debating on the identity of the prisoner, suggesting that he was a relative of Louis XIV, thrown into obscurity for reasons that create even more questions than answers. That’s probably all we’ll ever get from the man in the iron mask.
7 Jack the Ripper
Arguably the most notorious and mystifying serial killer in history, the Whitechapel Murderer gained traction in the media in England for the butchering of five prostitutes in the city of London, year 1888, though many speculate their were as many as eleven victims. Aside from being prostitutes, their grisly demise was the main trait that the victims shared; all of their throats were slit, one even had been cut to the spine; they had at least one organ removed from their body; their faces and body parts mutilated almost beyond recognition.
Most suspiciously of all, the women were not killed by a “common” or “amateur” murderer. The person who committed these crimes knew what they were doing. The incisions and removal of vital organs were seemingly done by someone who knew the human anatomy very well, leading many to come to the idea that the killer was a doctor or physician. The stand-out in all of this madness were the hundreds of letters sent to the police, mocking them for their incompetence, and infamously beginning one letter with the signature: “From Hell.”
Countless suspects, conspiracy theories, and manhunts have failed to reveal the phantom called “Jack the Ripper.”
6 Agent 355
One of the first spies in the history of the United States, and a female one at that, the anonymity of “Agent 355” has not been pulled back ever since her inception during the American Revolution. Working for George Washington in the “Culper Ring”, or a spy organization, this woman was integral in providing vital information about the British army and their tactics, including diversion and ambush plans that would’ve otherwise crippled Washington. She was even responsible for revealing Benedict Arnold as a traitor.
Supposedly, after exposing Arnold, she was arrested in 1780 and sent aboard a prison ship, where she gave birth to a boy who was named Robert Townsend, Jr, and eventually died later on. However, historians have shrugged off this synopsis, claiming that females were not placed in prison ships and that there was no evidence of childbirth. Others have also thrown around the idea that “Agent 355” does not refer to a single woman, rather any woman that provides useful information. If only that effect was used to identify the agent, we would more than likely add another hero to the pages of history.
5 The Zodiac Killer
Another serial killer that fled into the shadows, the Zodiac was practically the “American Jack the Ripper,” albeit bearing at least a hint of subtlety when it comes to murder, but being just as incompetent with grammar in his letter. Beginning his spree in December, 1968 in California, he shot and killed two teenagers on the side of the road and attacked five more people the next year, with only two surviving. One victim described the attacker wearing an executioner’s hood with a white crosshair on the forehead and brandishing a pistol.
As with “Jack the Ripper,” the Zodiac also sent letters to the press. The difference this time was that the killer had created ciphers and cryptograms along with mad ramblings and threats, and ended each letter with the now-iconic crosshair symbol. During this time, many people came forward saying that they were the Zodiac, but all were dismissed. The only prime suspect was a man named Arthur Leigh Allen based on circumstantial evidence, but it was never proven due to the man conveniently dying of natural causes weeks before standing trial. The Zodiac has never been identified.
4 Tank Man
One of the most recognizable and iconic anti-war photographs ever taken, this snapshot of a protester facing down a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square also contains a mystery: the identity of the famed protester, a.k.a. the Tank Man, has never been realized. During the government suppression of the Tianamen protests, as the aforementioned tank squad barreled down a city street, a man ran out to the middle of the street, blocking their advance.
Trying in vain to drive around the protester, the tank commander shut off the engines. This prompted the man to climb aboard the tank and speak through the vents, with a crew member climbing out to face him. After a while, the protester climbed off, and continued to standoff against the tanks until two figures in blue carried him away. People still have no idea what happened to the man, suggesting that he was killed by the government or just went into hiding.
3 The Isdal Woman
In Bergen, Norway in 1970, a naked woman was found dead along a hiking trail, surrounded by a collection of oddities. About a dozen sleeping pills were found as well as a lunch bag, an empty liquor bottle, and to plastic bottles that reeked of gasoline. When an autopsy was performed, it was revealed that she had succumbed to severe burns and carbon monoxide poisoning, in addition to consuming over 50 sleeping pills and potentially receiving a blow to the neck. If that wasn’t enough, her fingerprints had been sliced off, and when the police found her luggage in a nearby train station, all her clothes had the labels removed.
Digging deeper into the investigation revealed that the deceased had a total of nine pseudonyms attributed to her, a number of various wigs, a collection of suspicious diaries, and spoke four different languages. Her sketchy background did little to advance the case forward until a witness came forward stating that five days before the body was found, he spotted a woman on the trail who wore fancy clothes and seemed to have an aura of terror hanging over her, with two men in black coats trailing her to the same area where the crime scene originated.
While telling his side of the story, a policeman reportedly told the witness to “forget her, she was dispatched. The case will never be solved.” How very optimistic.
2 The Grinning Man
Usually, paranormal events are hard to take seriously, and a good number of them get debunked almost immediately. This incident, however, seems to have a certain credibility to it. Beginning in New Jersey in the year 1966, two boys were walking along a road at night towards a turnpike when one of them noticed a figure behind a fence; a towering man wearing a green suit that shimmered in the streetlight, having a wide grin and beady eyes that followed them until they were out of his eyesight. When interviewed separately, their stories still matched up.
Not long after, there were multiple sightings of the man around West Virginia that matched the same description, including an encounter that Woodrow Derenberger had with the figure. Naming himself “Indrid Cold”, the Grinning Man asked Derenberger about UFO sightings in the area, and was reportedly fascinated with the paranormal. Fittingly enough, the Grinning Man was usually spotted around areas where paranormal events and the infamous “Mothman” sightings would later occur. This all came to an end when the Silver Bridge collapsed in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, where he was never seen again.
Perhaps no other figure in history can stack up against the living, breathing enigma that was Grigori Rasputin in terms of rumors, legends, complexity, and mystique. His background is so profound and cryptic, that even professional historians have difficulty making heads or tails of credible accounts. Born in January of 1869, Rasputin grew up in a family of peasants in Siberia, where he eventually became a religious wanderer and “healer” after claiming of a deity giving him visions. In a controversial and bizarre turn of events, he was called upon by the Imperial family to cure their dying son of hemophilia, in which he succeeded. From that point onwards he gained immediate power and access to the family.
The most noteworthy aspect of Rasputin was the numerous failed attempts on his life. Seen as a symbol of corruption and evil, conspirators had him stabbed by a woman disguised as a beggar, almost disemboweling him. After surviving the assault, he was later invited to a dinner at a politician’s mansion and was poisoned via cyanide in his drink, which also failed. Frustrated, one of the assassins drew their pistol and shot Rasputin once, in which he tried to escape, making it to the courtyard outside before being shot twice. Presuming him dead, the assassins then wrapped him in sheets and dumped his body into an icy river. However, it was later discovered upon finding the body that Rasputin had died of hypothermia, not bullets, and had managed to partially claw his way out of the wrappings before dying.
Sources: latimes.com, nymag.com, mentalfloss.com
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