The 4 Most Bizarre Unsolved Mysteries

2009 August 17

We loved Unsolved Mysteries as kids. You may think that the show is a weird thing for a child to be watching, but we were always fascinated by these bizarre, mysterious cases that nobody could solve. Plus, the acting was always top notch…or maybe not.

Here are a few of our favorite unsolved mysteries:

Black Dahlia

In January 1947, the nude, mutilated body of 22-year-old Elizabeth Short was discovered in a vacant lot in the Leimert Park area of Los Angeles. The body of the “Black Dahlia” had been neatly severed in half, gutted and drained of blood. Her face had also been very brutally cut from ear to ear in a grin.  She was the worst case of a sex crime in the history of Los Angeles County.

Like so many other young women, Elizabeth went to Hollywood with dreams of becoming a star. Her career was going nowhere and she was running out of cash. According to some, she eventually drifted into prostitution.

Men who were involved with Elizabeth were interrogated, but each had an airtight alibi. The authorities were completely stumped. Then a mysterious package was mailed to a local newspaper—a package from the killer, which contained Elizabeth’s address book—most certainly her client list. One of the pages in that book was missing. And it is probable that upon that page was the name of the man who actually had killed her.

The case had many of the same features as the Torso Slayings in Cleveland. Between 1934 and 1938, no less than 13 mutilated bodies were discovered in the surrounding areas of Cleveland. The victims were all prostitutes or drifters. The killer had dismembered most of the bodies with surgical precision, just like The Black Dahlia case, nine years later.

Police determined that Elizabeth had been tortured for several hours before being killed.  She had been tied up and had rope burns on her neck, arms and legs—exactly the same type of marks as the Cleveland victims. Also, the Dahlia’s body had been arranged in a sexually suggestive position, just like the Torso slayer’s victims.

To this day, the murderer’s identity remains a mystery.

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart first earned attention in 1928 when she became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. She was only a passenger on that trip, but she soloed across the ocean on May 20–21, 1932, setting a record time of 14 hours 56 minutes for the passage from Newfoundland to Ireland. In the intervening years she had set other records, including a speed record of 181 miles an hour in a Lockheed Vega and an autogiro altitude record of 18,451 feet.

In March 1937, when she was just shy of 40 years old, Earhart embarked on the most challenging flight of her career: an effort to fly around the world along the equator. On arriving in Hawaii on the first leg of the trip, heading toward that greatest of great circles, she suffered a crash when the landing gear failed. It took two months to repair her specially fitted Lockheed Electra, after which she and navigator Fred Noonan headed in the opposite direction, flying to Puerto Rico. There, speaking to reporters, she prophetically said, “I have a feeling there is just about one more good flight left in my system and I hope this trip is it. Anyway, when I have finished this job, I mean to give up long-distance ’stunt’ flying.”

A month and a half later, Earhart and Noonan were in New Guinea. From there, they set out for Howland Island, a coral atoll 1,650 miles southwest of Hawaii that was then used as a refueling station for planes flying to and from the United States and Australia. A few hours before they were scheduled to land, Earhart radioed ahead and reported that she was flying into a pretty violent storm. That was the last anyone heard from her.

Conspiratorially minded scholars have advanced several theories concerning Amelia Earhart’s disappearance. Some suggest that her trip was a front for espionage: she had been photographing Japanese military installations and ship movements and had been taken prisoner, held on the island of Saipan and then executed.

Others agree that she was a prisoner but that she was confined within Emperor Hirohito’s palace in Tokyo. After the war, according to one book, she wound up living in Bedford Village, New York, under the name Irene Bolam, whose name “appeared to be a code which spelled out in degrees and minutes of latitude and longitude the precise location of a tropical beach where Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan crashed after being shot down.”

Still, others hold that the disappearance was staged, either to afford the U.S. Navy an excuse to poke around some of those distant islands or to give Earhart the chance to retire. And still others argue that Earhart and Noonan survived the crash and found shelter on an uninhabited atoll, where, it is variously said, they died of exposure, thirst or food poisoning.

Muriel Earhart Morrissey, Amelia’s sister, said that she believed that her sister had simply gotten lost in the storm, ran out of fuel and crashed into the ocean without a trace.

D.B. Cooper

On Thanksgiving Eve, 1971, a man who identified himself as D.B. Cooper walked into the airport in Portland, Oregon. He was your typical businessman, a suit, tie, a raincoat, carrying an attaché case.

D.B. Cooper bought a one-way ticket to Seattle.  He took his seat while the 727 began taxiing to the runway. He handed a flight attendant a note that read, “Miss, I have a bomb in my briefcase. I want you to sit beside me.”

The flight crew immediately notified air traffic control about the hijacking. Cooper wanted $200,000 in cash in a knapsack and four parachutes.  He identified the parachutes as two front pack parachutes and two backpacks and he specified that the airline remain in the air until the money and the parachutes were ready at Seattle.

Each bill was photographed and the serial numbers recorded. Cooper also insisted the plane be refueled immediately once it landed in Seattle. No passengers were to be released until all of his demands were met. He also instructed that once it landed, the plane should stay on the runway rather than taxi up to the terminal.

At 5:43 pm, Flight 305 landed at the Seattle airport. The plane taxied in and parked in a remote area of the field. Then the bags of ransom money were brought aboard.

Finally, the passengers were allowed to deplane. Cooper demanded that the flight crew and one attendant stay on board. Cooper ordered the pilot to fly from Seattle all the way to Mexico City, at a height of 10,000 feet, and a speed of only 200 miles an hour. He agreed to refuel in Reno, Nevada.

At 7:37, Flight 305 took off again. The Seattle control tower alerted all other aircraft to remain clear. Cooper’s 727 had the sky to itself. Cooper then told the remaining flight attendant to go into the cockpit. Later in the cockpit, the light flashed indicating that the hijacker was attempting to operate the door. At 8:12, the pilot told the crew that they were experiencing a rapid change in the air pressure.

Somewhere over the forest of Washington state, Cooper jumped.

Upon landing in Reno, Nevada, every inch of the 727 was examined for clues as to who D.B. Cooper really was. But he left behind no identifiable fingerprints, no personal items and no clue to his identity.

The crew felt that Cooper had jumped somewhere near the southern tip of Washington state. It was believed he would be found in the area bordered by Lake Merwin and ending 20 miles north of Portland.

The search for D.B. Cooper continued with no new clues. Then, in November 1978, a hunter deep in the Washington forest discovered a plastic sign from a 727.  It had been ripped from the lower stairwell of Flight 305.

On February 10, 1980, a family was preparing a barbecue on the shore of the Columbia River, 20 miles southwest of Cooper’s supposed jump point, when they dug up stacks of water logged bills totaling $5,880. Of the 294 bills found, all of the serial numbers are on the ransom list.

To this day, no one knows the true identity of the man who called himself D.B. Cooper or if he survived his daring parachute leap from 10,000 feet. The case remains the only unsolved skyjacking in the world.

Bermuda Triangle

In 1945, five navy Avenger torpedo bombers took off on a routine training mission known as Flight 19. There were fourteen men on board. Five hours later, the entire squadron vanished without a trace.

It has been called “The Triangle of Death,” “The Hoodoo Sea” and “The Graveyard of the Atlantic,” it is more commonly known as “The Bermuda Triangle.” Some researchers claim that since the early 1900s, over 100 ships and planes have disappeared in this region. But the Triangle’s most famous victims were the five Avengers of Flight 19.

It was the afternoon of December 5th, 1945.  Lt. Charles Taylor was assigned to command Flight 19, and the crew of Flight 19 was briefed on the routine training exercise. Just before takeoff, Lt. Taylor made a strange request: he wanted to be removed from the flight. He said he wasn’t feeling up to it. But Taylor was the only instructor on base that afternoon, so he had to fly. The five planes lifted off and headed out over the Atlantic.

Their plan was to fly 123 nautical miles southeast, practice a bomb run, push 73 miles northwest and head 120 miles back to Fort Lauderdale.

The men successfully completed the practice bomb run. On the second leg of the flight, Taylor’s compass began to malfunction. He asked another airman what his compass reading was. The airman reported 330 degrees. When he looked down and saw a string of small islands, Taylor assumed they must be over the Florida Keys. But Taylor had made a critical mistake. Flight 19 was not in the Gulf of Mexico. It is assumed that the squadron was actually flying over the Abaco Islands in the West Atlantic, 300 miles northeast of where Taylor thought he was. From the air, the two island chains look very similar.

Taylor ordered the planes to fly northeast, then due east. If they had been over the Keys, this route would have taken them safely home. Instead, it took them further out to sea.
By 5:00 PM, the sun was setting and the weather was getting worse. Flight 19 was headed east, away from their base, when they began losing radio contact.

Fuel was low and time was running out. Taylor finally listened to his crewmen and headed west towards the Florida coast.

The remaining four pilots then made one other fatal mistake. They were only seven minutes away from the Florida coast, but they still had not spotted land. They began to think they perhaps they were flying over the Gulf of Mexico. So they once again reversed their course and headed east. This took them back out to sea, where they disappeared.

No trace of the planes or the fourteen missing men was ever found.

In 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded after liftoff from Cape Kennedy. Some of the debris fell in the exact location it was believe the first plane crashed. The Challenger salvage team reported a wrecked plane submerged in 400 feet of water.

After the arduous task of retrieving the submerged plane, the crew members recorded the serial numbers from parts of the recovered aircraft.  Several of these numbers partially matched those of one of the lost Avengers from Flight 19. But, unfortunately, the team was unable to positively identify the recovered aircraft.

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