Throughout history, events that we once considered “inexplicable” or “magical” have ultimately been explained through one scientific phenomenon or another. Things like giant squids, earthquakes, and even the sun were all once speculated to be of a supernatural nature.
Well into the 21st century, however, there are occurrences that still can’t be explained by any logic or facts. At least, not with 100 percent confidence. Here are the 20 most mind-boggling unsolved mysteries of all time. They’re even keeping the experts up at night.
1. Beginning in 2004, a small village in Sicily began experiencing a bout of seemingly inexplicable fires. Appliances randomly exploded into flames, and the situation got so bad that the town had to take some seriously drastic measures.
They evacuated the entire area and cut off power to the town. To this day, no one knows the true cause of the mysterious fires, but the government has said they were a result of high-power electromagnetic emissions. In layman’s terms, that means aliens.
2. In the 1940s, ships traveling in water outside of Malaysia received a terrifyingly cryptic morse code message: “All Officers, including the Captain, are dead. Lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead. … I die.”
One ship identified the source of the strange call and went to help the people onboard. Unfortunately, when they arrived, everyone was already dead, their faces frozen with looks of horror and no hint as to what had happened to them.
3. In 1945, tragedy struck the lives of the West Virginia-based Sodder family when their house caught on fire. Despite his best efforts, the patriarch failed to save the lives of his five children. However, none of their remains were ever recovered.
For 20 years, the grieving parents were forced to accept that they had no idea what had happened to their offspring. Then, one day, mother Jennie Sodder received an unmarked letter with a picture enclosed: an image of a young man with her son’s features, labeled only “Louis Sodder.”
4. In 2015, people in Kazakhstan began suffering from a confounding sleeping illness, wherein they would fall into a deep slumber for days on end, almost as if in a coma. When they awoke they had memory loss, migraines, and other highly troubling symptoms…
The most disturbing part about this entire series of events was that no one understood what the culprit could be. That is, until some clever individuals put two and two together and realized the plague was likely the result of uranium poisoning from a nearby mine.
5. Lake Lanier is not your average body of water. It’s man-made, meaning the government created it by flooding entire towns, and the remains of those lost neighborhoods remain in tact under the water. However, this isn’t even the creepiest thing about it.
The mysterious lake is also notorious for being host to a variety of eerie happenings, including drowning deaths and inexplicable car crashes. One local man’s body was found there after he woke up feeling strange. Rumor has it that the lake was calling to him.
6. In 1994 the Sherman family moved to Skinwalker Ranch in Utah, only to discover some truly strange sights there, including flashing lights, disappearing cows and dogs, mutilated animals and sightings of bizarre seven foot tall figures.
They left after two years, too frightened to remain. It later turned out that the Native Americans who had inhabited the land for thousands of years believed the region to be cursed and forbade anyone from stepping foot there.
7. In 2003, pilot Ben Padilla was in charge of a team tasked with refurbishing an old Boeing 727. Everything was going swimmingly, and the aircraft was almost ready to take flight. Then, one night during a routine engine test, things took a bizarre turn.
Without warning, the plane lifted off the tarmac and ascended into the sky, gunning towards the Atlantic Ocean. The Boeing’s design required three people to fly it, and Padilla didn’t have the necessary skills to fly it himself. Nevertheless, neither he nor the plane have been heard from since.
8. In the 1700s, a man named Tarrare had an appetite so voracious that he consumed things no other human could stomach. The unexplainable hunger led him to eat garbage, stones, and live animals. The most chilling feast, however, occurred after he was committed to a hospital.
Tarrare stayed in the facility for over a year due to his strange condition. He was eventually given the boot for attempting to snack on corpses, but not before an infant child mysteriously went missing. He really could eat anything.
9. In 1954, a man with a very strange passport tried getting through customs at a Tokyo airport. His documentation said he was from Taured, a country that did not exist. Becoming increasingly angry when officials questioned him, the man claimed Taured had been around for thousands of years.
Not knowing what to do with him, the government detained the man overnight at a hotel and confiscated his documents. In the morning, however, the man from Taured was gone from the guarded room — along with all his documents, which had been securely locked up.
Reddit – Beiez
10. National parks are beautiful places to explore the United States’ natural wonders, but they also have been the sites of more than 1,000 disappearances over the last century. This is especially odd, given that these areas are so closely monitored by the government.
To make matters worse, a large chunk of those missing were children…at least they were when they disappeared. For a reason that no one understands, the government hadn’t even begun tracking the incidents until 2013. Something is definitely up.
11. Jodi Huisentruit: When this Iowan news anchor didn’t show up for work, police immediately set out to find the local celebrity. Outside her front door, they were puzzled by a strange palm print and Jodi’s possessions scattered about. They never located her, nor her assailant.
12. Ben McDaniel: When this scuba diver disappeared in 2010, his family assumed he’d drowned in an underwater cave. However, search parties never found Ben’s body. This revelation led many to wonder if there was foul play, or if he faked his own death.
13. Heather Teague: A sunny day in Newburgh Beach, Kentucky, turned into a nightmare when onlookers witnessed an unkown man with a gun pop out of the woods. He pointed it at Heather and dragged her away, never to be seen again.
14. Ray Gricar: This Pennsylvania prosecutor went missing in 2005, with his car and personal effects being found in a parking lot. It’s likely he either started a new life or committed suicide, though some theorize he was murdered by a criminal he put behind bars.
15. Maura Murray: This college junior emailed her professors about a week-long absence due to a death in the family — except there wasn’t one. She drove her car a few miles from campus before crashing it. There’s been no trace of her since.
16. Asha Degree: Nine-year-old Asha packed a bag and ran away from home in 2000. Drivers later spotted her along the highway, though she got scared and fled. An extensive search effort located her pack at a construction site, but no sign of the girl.
17. Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon: After these Dutch hikers disappeared in Panama, a woman came across Lisanne’s backpack. It contained a phone that called multiple emergency numbers. Weeks later, police found a few bones of theirs, but there were no clues indicating foul play.
The Daily Beast
18. Yuba County Five: These five friends, all of whom suffered from mental issues, vanished after going to a basketball game. Months later, four of their bodies were found in and around a trailer. The last man was never found, though police did find his shoes.
19. Bobby, Sherilynn, and Jamison: This family of three went missing after they reportedly set out to buy a large plot of land in Oklahoma. Authorities eventually located their truck, which contained their cell phones, wallets, $32,000 in cash, and their starving pet dog.
Friends and family wondered if they’d met a grisly end, or perhaps entered the witness protection program. But four years later, hunters came across a pile of bones that matched the Jamisons. However, medical experts could not figure out the cause of death.
Latimer County Sheriff
20. Brandon Lawson: Following an argument with his girlfriend, this Texan drove off. He called his brother around midnight and said he ran out of gas. Minutes later, Brandon contacted 9-1-1, asking them to hurry to his location, as he was badly bleeding. They found his vehicle, but no sign of Brandon.
Missing Brandon Lawson
21. Amy Lynn Bradley: While on a family cruise, she vanished right as the ship docked in Curaçao. The crew doubted she fell overboard, and purported sightings of her in Mexico supported their view. An anonymous photo suggests she may have been sold into sexual slavery.
Crime Junkie Podcast
22. Lauren Spierer: A student at Indiana University, Lauren went missing after a night of debauchery. Her pals and boyfriend had conflicting stories about her exact whereabouts, which caused some to think that they disposed of her body after she overdosed on drugs.
23. Elisa Lam: During a trip to Los Angeles, this Canadian student became a media sensation once she disappeared. Security footage from her hotel elevator showed her talking to herself and moving around in a strange way. Then, another guest noticed something off.
A hotel guest complained that the water was darkened and tasted awful. This led police to a rooftop water tank, where they found Elisa’s body. However, they couldn’t figure out how she got there. Was she murdered, or perhaps under the influence of drugs?
24. Sodder Children: In 1945, an electrical fire destroyed the Sodders’ home — and five of their children disappeared amid the destruction. Eerily, police found signs of arson and a cut phone line to the house. Nobody knows if the Sodders were wrapped up in a tragic accident, kidnapping, or covered-up murder.
25. Rico Harris: This one-time Harlem Globetrotter was about to move in with his girlfriend, but never completed the drive. Police located the the 6’9″ man’s car, and they even found footprints belonging to someone his size. But the trail stopped cold, in the middle of nowhere.
Los Angeles Times
26. Angela Hammond: In 1991, Angela’s fiance Rob reported her abduction. Apparently, she called him from a pay phone, saying some creep in a truck was tailing her. Rob then heard her scream. Police never found Angela, though they suspect a serial killer may have been the culprit.
27. Jennifer Kesse: Her 2006 disappearance left authorities almost no evidence, until they found her car abandoned in a parking lot. Security footage caught an unknown person leaving it there, but police couldn’t get a clear view of the stranger’s face.
28. Bobby Dunbar. In 1908, Percy and Lessie Dunbar welcomed their firstborn son, Bobby. Soon after, they added another son to their growing little family. But it was on an outing with their children four years later that truly turned their lives upside down.
The Dunbars were looking for a reprieve from the sweltering Louisiana summer. What better way than cooling off in the shady moss-covered banks of the Bayou? They packed up their boys for a weekend retreat at Swayze Lake.
Beaches and lifeguards didn’t greet them. Instead, the family pitched their tent in the midst of swamplands crawling with alligators. It certainly wasn’t Disneyland. Still, the Dunbars were unprepared for the events that unfolded not long into their trip.
On August 23rd, 1912, the Dunbars, worn out from a full day of fresh air, fell fast asleep. Their dreams were accompanied by a chorus of crickets and bullfrogs. So no one noticed as four-year-old Bobby quietly woke up and crawled out of his blankets.
What actually took place that night is a truth only Bobby Dunbar could ever confirm. He left the tent and appeared to have wandered in the direction of Swayze Lake. By daylight the next morning, he’d vanished.
Police and volunteers swarmed the swamp immediately, hoping to locate Bobby. The clues looked grim. Given the setting of his disappearance, authorities suspected a drowning or animal interference. But one piece of evidence kept the Dunbars unconvinced.
Local newspaper, The Caldwell Watchman, reported, “At first, it was feared that he’s been drowned, but the lake failed to give up the body and the little boy’s hat was found some distance from the lake a day or so later.”
Though the public and the police combed through every lead during an eight-month search, and their hearts broke for the Dunbar’s, Bobby’s trail went cold. Percy Dunbar, though, refused to give up hope. He offered a $1,000 reward for the return of his son.
Converted to today’s values, that reward was the equivalent of around $25k. The town contributed another $6,000 to the bounty, stretching the total to over $158,000 in 2019 equivalents. Still, the phones remained silent.
Their terror was broken on April 13, 1913, when police informed the Dunbars they’d arrested a suspect in Bobby’s disappearance. In Mississippi, they’d booked and charged one William Cantwell Walters.
Better yet, police delivered staggering news — they believed they’d rescued Bobby. Walters garnered suspicion by traveling with a blonde blue-eyed boy who bore an uncanny resemblance to the image of Bobby plastered on “missing persons” posters. They only needed the Dunbars to confirm his identity.
For eight agonizing months, the Dunbars had prayed for Bobby’s safe return, but when they flung open the door to welcome him home, Percy and Lessie hesitated. They didn’t immediately recognize the child standing in front of them.
Surely, Bobby’s features couldn’t have changed so drastically in less than a year. Nevertheless, this peculiar uncertainty was short lived. After examining the boy for identifying marks, the Dunbars agreed their boy was finally home.
News that Bobby was safe at home spread fast. The town saw fit to celebrate. A parade, including a brass band, marched through the town, commemorating the Dunbar’s miracle. Before they could cut the welcome home cake, though, the case got hairy.
William Cantwell Walters maintained his innocence from behind iron bars. He claimed the boy was his nephew Charles “Bruce” Anderson. Crying out for some semblance of justice, he pleaded that the police contact Bruce’s biological father, his brother, or the boy’s mother, Julia Anderson.
To avoid the death penalty, William pleaded to the press: “I know by now you have decided. You are wrong,” he said. “It is very likely I will lose my life. On account of that, and if I do, the Great God will hold you accountable.”
As the trial geared up, William was sent a savior in the form of Julia Anderson. She arrived in Louisiana and fully corroborated that Bruce was indeed her son. It became obvious rather quickly that her words meant little.
Julia faced criticism for allowing her son to travel with his uncle, though she’d only agreed to a two-day trip. Her unmarried status, that she was a field hand for the Walters family, and her confirmation that her “son” Bruce was illegitimate, didn’t win over the conservative public — nor the jury.
Apart from her reputation, Julia herself had a tough time picking Bruce out of a lineup. She, too, was allowed to examine the boy for identifying marks, then felt firm he was hers. It came down to a tug of war between two protective mothers over one timid five-year-old boy.
NYT / David Alan Harvey
Financially and emotionally exhausted, Julia’s pleading to take her son home was totally ignored. She was forced to give up and left for Mississippi childless. Even if the boy wasn’t Bobby Dunbar, that’s the life he was about to live.
In the 90 plus years that followed, generations of Dunbars staunchly towed the family beliefs. The lore and legend surrounding Bobby’s identity made for hot after-dinner gossip, but eventually, it was the boy’s future granddaughter that broke the case wide open.
In 1999, Margaret Dunbar Cutwright first thumbed through old press clippings of her grandfather’s unusual kidnapping. Her fascination with the case grew to a full-fledged investigation, which was covered in a 2008 episode of the This American Life titled ‘The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar.”
Journalist Tal McThenia reported, “Margaret went on an obsessive quest to small-town libraries, archives, and courthouses all over the South.” She’d received a membership to the Library of Congress for her birthday. The more Margaret learned the more she doubted.
It was time for the two opposing sides to compare notes. Margaret tracked down the granddaughter of Julia Anderson, Linda Traver, to find out what the Bruce Anderson camp had to say.
Unlike the Dunbars, Linda learned early on that her uncle Bruce was stolen in bizarre a slippery slope stamped with the word justice. “Margaret was totally convinced that it was Bobby Dunbar all along,” Linda said. “I was totally convinced that it was Bruce Anderson all along.”
This American Life
Eventually, Margaret agreed her point of view could be skewed. The two descendants of the boy in question poured over the case files from William Walters’ trial. Not to mention the treasure trove of letters from Julia Anderson pleading for the return of her son Bruce.
In their deep dive, they found many more curious statements that had been hushed up. One letter, in particular, penned under the elusive title “The Christian Woman,” struck a chord with Margaret and left her questioning the family version of events.
It read, “Dear sir, in view of human justice to Julia Anderson and mothers, I am prompted to write you. I sincerely believe the Dunbars have Bruce Anderson and not their boy. If this is their child, why are they afraid for anyone to see or interview him privately?”
Almost like a flip of a switch, Margaret fully realized the ramifications of the possibility that the Dunbars were mistaken about little Bobby/Bruce. She knew the only way to resolve the mystery and heal both their families was with hard scientific facts.
Margaret had pressed her father before about his taking a DNA test, and every time, he absolutely refused. In the light of her alliance with Linda, however, Bobby Junior finally agreed to provide a sample.
Now there was no turning back. Using a sample from her great Uncle Alonzo, the laboratory compared it to Bobby Junior’s DNA to finally settle this identity debacle. Margaret braced for the phone call, but it took a month before they called with the results.
When the phone rang, Margaret wasn’t ready for the indifferent delivery of the tech on the other line. They simply told her that her entire family history was all a lie.
The truth of the news resulted in mixed reactions among the rest of the Dunbar family. Most of them were on the verge of a full existential crisis. They’d been loyal to their family, but all along, the boy was actually Bruce Anderson.
After nine decades, Margaret swallowed her pride on behalf of her frustrated family. When she delivered the news to Linda Travers, the long-awaited response she received was an emotional hug.