Tag Archives: unexplained

The Mystery of the Flannan Isles

10 Apr

In the Outer Hebrides (a group of islands near Scotland), there is a small island chain known as the Flannan Isles. There are two main islands in this chain; Eilean Mòr and Eilean Taighe, and from 1895-1899, construction on a lighthouse took place on Eilean Mòr. No permanent residents have lived on the Isles since the lighthouse became automated in 1971. Overall, the island chain would be quite unremarkable if it hadn’t been for the mysterious and still-unexplained event that occurred only one year after construction on the lighthouse was finished.

Location of the Flannan Isles

Location of the Flannan Isles

After it was built, the lighthouse was operated by three men; Thomas Marshall, James Ducat and Donald Macarthur. Late in 1900, crew members of a passing ship noticed that something was amiss. The light was not on, which was especially strange given the poor weather conditions. They reported it to the authorities when they arrived at their destination, and a team was sent to the Flannan Isles to investigate. The team immediately realized that something was wrong when no one was there to greet them. All three of the lighthouse keepers had vanished.

The lighthouse on Eilean Mòr. Credit: Marc Calhoun (geograph.org.uk)

The lighthouse on Eilean Mòr. Credit: Marc Calhoun (geograph.org.uk)

The only other seemingly out-of-place thing was a chair that had been overturned in the lighthouse kitchen. Further investigation of the lighthouse and the island showed extensive storm damage to the west landing on the island, so at first, investigators thought that the men may have been washed away in the storm. However, they had kept logs of their activity right up until the morning that they disappeared (15th December), and the storm damage had apparently occurred sometime before this date.

The men were never seen again, and no bodies ever turned up.

Naturally, this strange occurrence led to wild speculation about what may have happened to the three men. Some alleged that one of the men had murdered the others, and then drowned himself out of guilt. It was also claimed that an enormous sea monster had taken them, while others blamed their disappearance on abduction by foreign spies. Some people also claimed that it was the work of malevolent ghosts, and modern theories mention alien abduction.

Some think that a giant sea monster took the men

Some think that a giant sea monster took the men

After an official investigation, the Northern Lighthouse Board came to the conclusion that the men must have been swept away by a freak wave while they were attempting to secure a box of equipment on the west landing, which was damaged in the previous storm (as recorded in their logs).

A more recent theory claims that a kind of geological formation known as ‘geos’ may have been to blame for the disappearance. A geo is an inlet or cleft in the face of a cliff, caused by wave erosion, and sea caves can form at their heads.

Eilean Mòr has many geos along its coastline, and the west landing of the island is actually situated in a geo. This geo terminates in a sea cave. In stormy weather, water could rush into the cave and explode out again. The theory holds that two of the men may have been securing the box on the west landing, while the other kept watch from the lighthouse. Noticing approaching waves, the watcher raced down to warn his colleagues of the impending danger, knocking a chair over in his haste to get out. Upon getting down to the west landing to warn them, he could have been washed out to sea by the water that exploded out of the sea cave, along with his two colleagues.

An example of a sea cave

An example of a sea cave

A very similar theory claims that one man may have been washed out to sea, and the other ran back to the lighthouse to get help. Upon attempting to rescue the man, both remaining men were washed out to sea by a second freak wave.

So, was the disappearance simply a combination of poor weather and bad luck, or did something far more sinister occur? We do know that when the men disappeared, the weather conditions were very poor, so I think that either one of the freak wave/geo theories would make sense. However, we will probably never know exactly what happened, so the mystery remains open to speculation.

What was the Tunguska Event?

28 Mar

Early in the morning of June 17th, 1908, an enormous explosion rocked a remote Siberian area of Russia known as Krasnoyask Krai. The explosion was so massive that it leveled an entire forest of 80 million trees, and it is estimated that it was more than 1000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima during World War II. The epicenter of the explosion was in a swamp near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River, so the event became known as the Tunguska Event.

Location of the explosion's epicenter in Russia

Location of the explosion’s epicenter in Russia

Luckily, despite the size of the event, it is thought that only one person was killed by the blast (although, not so lucky for the poor man who was killed). This was due to the sheer remoteness of the area that was hit. A lot of people did see it happen, though. Witnesses from areas much farther south claimed that they saw something extremely bright and pale blue moving across the sky, and a few minutes later there was a bright flash accompanied by a thunderous sound. A shockwave, which would have registered at 5.0 on the Richter scale, caused people to be knocked off their feet hundreds of kilometers away.

Fallen trees after the explosion, taken in 1927 by Leonid Kulik's expedition to the area

Fallen trees after the explosion, taken in 1927 by Leonid Kulik’s expedition to the area

So, what actually caused this massive explosion? There are several theories. Some have claimed that it may have been caused by the release of natural gases from the Earth’s crust, and others proposed that the explosion may have been a nuclear one; caused by deuterium in a comet undergoing nuclear fusion as it entered the Earth’s atmosphere. Another theory claimed that it was caused by a black hole passing through Earth. And, of course, a lot of people have brought up theories involving UFOs and aliens, especially since as the event is referenced in pop-culture quite a lot.

However, the most widely-accepted explanation is that a large meteoroid or comet caused it, exploding just above the Earth’s surface. This would explain the lack of an impact crater in the area. If this is true, then it was the largest impact event on or near the Earth in modern history. Chemical analysis of soils in the region showed that parts of it contained materials of extraterrestrial origin, further supporting this impact theory.

Meteor. Credit: Navicore

Meteor falling to Earth. Credit: Navicore

Despite the fact that the Tunguska Event is still technically unexplained, I would agree that the impact event theory seems to be the most likely. I think it would be even more interesting if there were a more mysterious explanation, though! It’s also very fortunate that it happened in such a remote area, because if it hit a populated area, then the aftermath would have been far worse.

The Mysterious Hinterkaifeck Murders

26 Mar

In Germany, 1922, the murders of six people at the Hinterkaifeck farmstead shocked the nation. This wasn’t just because of the gruesome nature of the case, but also because the case was so incredibly weird, and it remains unsolved to this day.

Here is a photo of how the farm appeared back then (it has since been demolished):


Photo credit to Andreas Biegleder

Now, for some background to the case; the Gruber family, consisting of Andreas and Cäzilia Gruber, their daughter Viktoria, and her two children Cäzilia (7) and Josef (2), and their maid, Maria Baumgartner, lived permanently at Hinterkaifeck, which was situated next to a forest. Maria was new to the farm, having only just arrived that day as a replacement for another maid. Interestingly, the previous maid had left claiming that she thought the farm was haunted.

Whilst no one is certain as to exactly what happened, it appears that on the night of March 31st, 1922, someone managed to lure all of the family members (except Josef and the maid, Maria) into the barn, one by one, and murdered them all with an axe. Horrifyingly, the autopsy showed that young Cäzilia had been alive for quite some time after being attacked, tearing her own hair out as she lay dying in the barn. The killer then went into the house and killed Josef and Maria in their beds.

The family was noticed as missing several days later when none of them had been seen for a few days, and young Cäzilia had not attended school.  Neighbors went to check on them and discovered the bodies. After extensive police investigations, a viable suspect was not found. And, as if the situation wasn’t already horrible enough, it actually gets worse.

Neighbors recalled that just a few days before the murders, Andreas Gruber had mentioned a strange occurrence to them. He claimed that he had found footprints in the snow, leading from the forest’s edge to the house, but there were no footprints leading back. He also thought he had heard strange sounds coming from the attic. A particularly terrifying theory that stems from this is that someone may have sneaked into the house, lived undiscovered up in the attic for a few days, and then come out to murder the house’s occupants. To further add to this theory, in the days that the bodies were certainly lying dead in the barn, neighbors reported that they had seen smoke rising from the chimneys. Also, someone had been feeding the farm’s cattle. So, if someone had done this, it also seemed as if they had stayed for several days after the murders to take care of the place.

This theory leads to many questions.  Was it just one person, or more? Why did this person (or people) want to kill the family? How did they sneak into the house? How did they lure the family into the barn, one by one? Why would they stay for several days later, and take care of the farm?

Overall, taking these questions into account, the case of the Hinterkaifeck murders is terrifying to comprehend, and it remains as one of Germany’s most mysterious unsolved cases. It is unlikely that we will ever really know what happened, which seems to make it even scarier.

For more reading on this case, check out http://armchairdetective.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/hinterkaifeck/

What really happened at Dyatlov Pass?

22 Mar

In terms of unexplained incidents throughout history, the ‘Dyatlov Pass Incident’ is probably one of the scariest. To this day, no one is entirely sure exactly what happened that fateful night, but there are a few theories. So, for those who haven’t heard of it, what exactly was the Dyatlov Pass Incident?

In February 1959, ten Russian ski hikers, most of them university students, decided to trek across the northern Ural Mountains together. They were led by Igor Dyatlov (the mountain pass in question is now named after him). One of the hikers had to return home due to illness, and it was lucky that he did, because he would be the only group member to make it home alive. The group was expected to make contact with their sports club once they had returned to Vizhai, a far-north Russian town. When nothing was heard from them for an extended period of time, friends and relatives began to worry, and a rescue operation consisting of students and teachers was dispatched. Not long after that, the police and military became involved. On February 26th, the hiker’s tent was discovered on the eastern shoulder of a mountain, now ominously known as Kholat Syakhl (Mountain of the Dead).

The hiker's tent as it appeared on the day it was found - 26th February, 1959

The hiker’s tent as it appeared on the day it was found – 26th February, 1959

The tent appeared to have been cut open from the inside, and all the hiker’s belongings were still in it, including their shoes. This probably meant that something had caused them to flee in the middle of the night, without even stopping to put their footwear on despite the intense cold. Footprints, made by sets of both barefoot and sock-clad feet were found, and these footprints headed down the mountain to the other side of the pass, where there was a forested area. Unfortunately, after a short distance the footprint trail was covered in too much snow to be of any more use.

On the edge of the forest, the rescue operation found evidence of a campfire, along with the bodies of two of the hikers. They were barefoot and clad in only their underwear. Not far from these bodies, three more bodies were found, and all looked as if they had been heading back towards the camp. The other four hiker’s bodies were not found for several more weeks, as they were buried under a few metres of snow in a nearby ravine. They were dressed in more clothes than the others, and it looked like they had taken clothes from the previous five after they had died, in an attempt to keep themselves warm.

Medical inquests found that six of the hikers had died of hypothermia, and the other three had sustained fatal injuries; one had a crushed skull and the other two had chest fractures. The chest fractures were said to have been caused by some kind of massive pressure, akin to the force generated by a car accident. Strangely, one of them was also missing a tongue. Whilst it was initially suspected that they may have been killed by local indigenous Mansi people, there was no evidence of any other people having been in the area at the time. Along with this, the medical report claimed that humans couldn’t possibly cause the kind of damage seen on the victims, stating instead that the hikers had died from a ‘compelling natural force’.

There were other more controversial claims about the case:

1.)    Apparently, forensic tests also showed high levels of radioactive contamination on the hiker’s clothing.

2.)    An attendee at the hiker’s funerals stated that their skin seemed to have a ‘deep tan’

3.)    Some people who had also been hiking in the area came forward to claim that on the night that the incident occurred, they saw orange glowing spheres in the sky (later found to be missile launches)

4.)    Others claimed that there was a big military accident cover-up going on, as evidenced by the large amount of scrap metal in the area.

5.)    The reports on the incident were allegedly hidden by the government and revealed only in the 1990’s, with parts still hidden.

These more controversial claims have generally been dismissed; however, the actual cause of the incident is still unknown. Many people have posited the theory that an avalanche was responsible. This makes a lot of sense; the hikers may have been awoken by the sound of an approaching avalanche, cut the tent open and ran as fast as they could, not even bothering to take shoes or clothes with them in their hurry to escape. Being hit by an avalanche could also explain the massive force exerted on the three hikers who sustained fatal physical injuries, and even the missing tongue. However, an avalanche would probably have covered the footprints leading away from the tent, but they were still highly visible. There was also no avalanche damage seen in the area.


Avalanche – Courtesy of Scientif38

Thus, no one is entirely sure what happened to these poor hikers. I think that what may have occurred is this: they were all asleep, and awoken by the sound of the missile launches or perhaps a plane passing overhead. Sleepily mistaking the sound for the booming of an impending avalanche, they cut the tent open and raced away as quickly as they could. Once they realized that there was no avalanche, they started to make their way back to their camp, but by this stage six had perished from hypothermia due to the exposure to the freezing elements. This explains why three of the bodies were found in various stages of making their way back to the tent. The other four took their clothes to keep warm, and ended up falling into the ravine that they were later found in. The heavy fall could explain the bodily trauma. As for the missing tongue, it’s possible that an animal could have scavenged it, especially seeing as the bodies were lying in the open for quite some time before being discovered.

Of course, this is just my speculation. For all I know, some other terrifying ‘compelling force’ may have scared the hikers into running away in the middle of the night, and this ‘force’ may have been responsible for the massive trauma found on three of the bodies.

So, did something sinister cause this incident, or is there a logical explanation? Anyone with their own ideas or theories is welcome to comment below. For more information and some (quite gruesome) photos associated with the incident, check out http://www.ermaktravel.com/Europe/Russia/Cholat-%20Syachil/Kholat%20Syakhl.htm

The Mystery of Bouvet Island

22 Mar
Picture showing the west coast of Bouvet Island.Credit to François Guerraz

Picture showing the west coast of Bouvet Island.
Credit to François Guerraz

The freezing subantarctic Bouvet Island is literally in the middle of nowhere; located in the South Atlantic Ocean, it is known for being the most remote island in the entire world. A Norwegian dependency, it is a very small, uninhabited island, and is now classified as a nature reserve after a weather station operated on it for a few months during 1978 and 1979. Aside from its unfathomable isolation, there doesn’t seem to be anything all that special about this island at first glance.

In 1964, British Lieutenant Commander Allan Crawford and a team were sent to Bouvet Island by helicopter, to research a new piece of land that had popped up on the island due to volcanic activity. Here’s where it gets a bit weird. When they arrived, they found something very unusual. On this new patch of land, which had only been there for around ten years, the team came across an abandoned lifeboat, floating in a lagoon. The oars were on the shore, along with a copper tank.  There were no signs of any people or bodies, and the boat was unmarked and thus unidentifiable as belonging to anyone in particular. Unfortunately, the team did not have much time to look around, but before they left they snapped this photo:

Picture taken of the abandoned lifeboat

So, where did the boat come from? It’s possible that it came from a ship in distress, but that theory has been seen as doubtful because of the sheer remoteness, minuscule size and lack of visibility of the island due to the harsh weather. Even if it was a shipwreck victim, where did they go? As mentioned previously, there were no signs that anyone had tried to camp near the lifeboat, or attempted to use it as a shelter. It’s also possible that it just happened to wash up near the island, coming to rest in the lagoon after floating in from a shipwreck hundreds of miles away, but this doesn’t explain the oars and other equipment on the shore.

From here, the mystery deepens. Another expedition to the island a couple of years later found no traces of the boat, the oars or the copper tank. Did the owner of the boat come back to fetch it? This seems unlikely, again due to the general remoteness of the island, coupled with the fact that retrieving a lifeboat would mean lifting it out with a helicopter or dragging it back out to sea and placing it on a ship; both just seem like way too much effort to go to for something as insignificant as a lifeboat.The whole thing is very mysterious, and quite creepy to think about. I have two theories:

  1. The lifeboat did belong to a shipwreck victim who had simply happened to come across the island by pure chance. Landing on the shore, he left the boat (which was obviously too heavy to carry around) and went to look for some kind of food and water sources. The severe climate may have been too much for him to handle, and he could have collapsed and died elsewhere on the island whilst doing this. As stated above, the team that found the boat didn’t have time to search much further than the shore where the boat was, so this seems like a logical explanation. There are still several questions remaining, though. Were there any shipwrecks in the general vicinity of the island at the time? If so, why didn’t anyone come forward to claim the boat and say it was from their ship? Where did the boat disappear to? Maybe the boat somehow floated back out to sea, or simply sank into the lagoon. Unfortunately, there is no real way of knowing.
  2. A larger ship was in the area on an expedition, and sent a team with a couple of smaller boats to land on the shore. When they landed, they noticed that one of the boats was slightly damaged, and the team all headed back on the good boat, got back on the ship and left, after exploring the island. This would explain why there were no signs of any camping activity or human remains. As the team who found the boat in 1964 spent very little time on the island, perhaps they didn’t notice the boat was slightly damaged. This still doesn’t explain where the boat disappeared to, though, and again, if this theory is correct, why didn’t anyone come forward to say that it was their boat?

Either way, the mystery of the boat on Bouvet Island remains unsolved. I doubt anyone will ever know the exact reason behind it, but anyone with other theories is welcome to list them in the comments below.

For more in-depth information on this topic, please see http://allkindsofhistory.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/an-abandoned-lifeboat-at-worlds-end/.

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