Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Loch Ness monster sighting, and 10 other mysteries of history.

Recently, satellite images have surfaced of a large shadowy figure under the water’s surface in Loch Ness in Scotland.  About 100 feet long with a big head and two flippers, the images are reinvigorating speculation about the Loch Ness monster and even leaving skeptics scratching their heads at an explanation.  Is it the real thing?  A natural coincidence, like images formed by clouds?  Or another elaborate hoax?  Half the fun is in the guessing the true answer.

Throughout human history, there have been mysterious events and strange phenomena that can’t be explained.  Even as modern technology, scientific advances and DNA testing reveal more accurate pictures of our past, some things remain far from our understanding.

Here are 10 other mysteries from history that puzzle our intellects and spark our imaginations.   

1. The Marfa Lights.
For the last 100 years, a mysterious field of floating lights has appeared on the Mitchell Flat near Marfa, Texas.  They’re reportedly about the size of a basketball and float about 5 feet off the ground, zipping around rapidly in all directions.  Observers have even caught them on photo or video, but naysayers claim they are just traffic lights from the nearby highway or electrical charges from an adjacent quartz mine. 

2. The Mary Celeste Ghost Ship.
Back in 1872, the sturdy and seaworthy Mary Celeste left the port of New York on route to Italy.  It was sailed by the experienced Captain Briggs and also held his wife, daughter, and an eight-man crew.  However, the Mary Celeste never showed up to Italy, though it was later found floating in the middle of the Straight of Gibraltar.  No one was aboard.  There were no signs of any trouble or a struggle.  Everything was perfectly intact and operable…except the Captain’s log.

3. The Bermuda Triangle and Vile Vortices.
A large roughly-triangle shaped area of water between Florida and Puerto Rico has seen the demise of an inordinate number of airplanes and ships over the decades, known as the Bermuda Triangle.  But there are also 11 other geographical areas around the world, called the Vile Vortices, that have become graveyards for an alarming number of disappearing vessels.  The Algerian Megaliths south of Timbuktu, the Indus Valley in Pakistan, and the Devil’s Sea in Japan are a few.  Scientists have tried to explain the vanishings as victims of bad weather patterns, electromagnetic activity, and methane gas bubbles, but none of these have been scientifically confirmed.

4. DB Cooper; Dead or alive?
On November 24, 1971, an American man hijacked a commercial flight, a Boeing 727.  He collected $200,000 in ransom and a parachute and then jumped out the back of the plane.  Incredibly, the authorities couldn’t locate him and DB Cooper was never heard from again.  Did he fall to his death?  Surely his body and parachute would have been located by now.  Instead, the theory is that he made a clean getaway and has been living in isolation since, though $200,000 won’t get you as far these days as in 1971!  To add to the puzzle, several thousands dollars with serial numbers matching his ransom money were found along the Colombia River years later.

5.  Is the Lost City of Helike the real life Atlantis?
None other than the famous Greek philosopher Plato documented a grand and amazingly advanced civilization that existed anywhere from 9000BC to the 1st century AD.  The capital city was a worship center to honor Poseidon, god of the sea.  It’s formidable navy conquered territories all the way from Europe to Africa but failed to sack Athens.   Not long after, it “sank into the ocean in a single day and night of misfortune.”  Historical records match the ancient city of Helike to this this description, where a huge earthquake leveled the city and a tsunami washed it away in an alarmingly fast catastrophe.  Atlantis – and the whereabouts of the sunken city of Helike – has remained a mystery, but in 1861 an archeologist found a bronze coin from that city that had the head of Poseidon on it.  In 2001, a team of archeologists actually found ruins of Helike buried beneath mud and gravel off Greece’s coast, which are currently being excavated to see if they are indeed, the real life Atlantis. 

6. The Voynich Manuscript.
This medieval tome was written in an unknown language by an author of unknown origin.  Studied intently over the last century, the language still has not been identified or even seen before and no code has been deciphered.  Based on its illustrations, the Voynich Manuscript is believed to be an early pharmacopoeia or medical guide. 

7. Spontaneous Human Combustion.
One of the most bizarre and well-documented phenomena in human existence is that of spontaneous combustion – when a living, otherwise healthy person suddenly bursts into flames.  There have been dozens of cases of this in recorded history and one as current as this year in Ireland.  What makes it so unique is that the person ignites in a fire so hot it reduces their body to charred ashes, with no accelerant and no outside fire source, but the flame burns from the inside of their body, out.  Usually the hands and feet are still spared and there is little fire damage to the surrounding area.  Scientists over the centuries have tried to find similarities among the cases, like alcohol consumption, but still can’t pin down a reason human beings suddenly ignite in 2000-degree temperatures from the inside. 

8. The disappearance of Amelia Earhart.
As we know all too well these days, missing flights are a sad reality, but none was more mysterious than the disappearance into thin air of flight pioneer Amelia Earhart in 1937.  Trying to become the first female to make a circumnavigational flight around the globe, she disappeared somewhere over the Pacific Ocean near Howland Island after her last radio transmission.  Her remains or plane were never found and the official story was that she crashed and was lost at sea, though rumors grew that she was actually captured by Japanese forces or part of a plot to fake her own death and then serve as a CIA spy.

9. The Roanoke Colony.
In 1587, Englishman John White arrived in present day North Carolina with 121 passengers, establishing the Roanoke Colony.  They settled in but soon conflicts with the local Native American population escalated, leading John White to set sail back to England to secure reinforcements.  He returned several years later to find Roanoke Colony completely disserted, without one man, woman or child present.  Of course it was thought the indigenous population attacked them but there was not one sign of a struggle, disturbance, or even migration – all of their possessions were in place; not a weapon unsheathed or a teacup out of place.  They just vanished into thin air and were never seen or heard of again.

10. The unexplained Babushka Lady and the JFK assassination.
When John F. Kennedy Jr. was assassinated in Dallas, Texas in 1968, most photographs show his motorcade and the horrible scene of the bullet hitting him.  But there are other photographs from the scene, none more cryptic than the revelation that there was an unknown woman standing very close by.  She was wearing an unseasonable brown overcoat and a Babushka, the traditional Russian scarf worn as a headdress, concealing her identity, and snapped photos of the assassination.  She disappeared out of public view and when the FBI saw her in photos and requested she come forward, she never did.  The presence of this “Babushka Lady,” adds to the swirling conspiracies of CIA plots and Soviet involvement.  

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