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Unsolved: Historical Mysteries

4 of History's Strangest Unsolved Mysteries

Sketch of D.B. Cooper

There are hundreds of unsolved mysteries throughout history, but these four have managed to confuse and perplex even those trained to crack tough cases. Years later, many of these cases remain open, and dozens of theories are proposed by professionals and amateur detectives alike every year, although not many of them have panned out.

D.B. Cooper

"D.B. Cooper" was the name given to an unidentified man who hijacked a passenger plane between Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington in 1971. He managed to get $200,000 and a parachute before jumping from the plane into the wilderness. Despite an FBI investigation and a nationwide manhunt, Cooper was never located or identified. According to experts, it is not likely that Cooper managed to land safely and survive out in the wilderness, but his body was never recovered. A small portion of the ransom money was discovered near the Columbia River in 1980, but the rest of the money is still unaccounted for. Although the official investigation has been suspended, the FBI continues to request any evidence that might come up in the case.

The Mary Celeste

The Mary Celeste was an American merchant ship found floating in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872. She had set out from New York, headed for Europe with a cargo of denatured alcohol. However, she was discovered drifting in the Atlantic with her lifeboat missing before she reached her destination. All of the crew and passengers hand vanished, but their belongings were not disturbed. The last entry in the captain's log was dated nine days before she was found, giving the ship's position as near Santa Maria Island in the Azores—400 nautical miles from where she was found. Foul play, massive storms, and paranormal phenomena have all been blamed for the disappearance of the crew of the Mary Celeste, but no one can be sure of what happened or where all of the vanished crew members went.


The colony of Roanoke disappeared much like the Mary Celeste. Established in 1585 by the British, the colony eventually numbered 116 when a ship set sail for England, to claim more supplies and bring additional colonists to the New World. When the ship returned, however, the entire colony had vanished. There were no signs of a struggle or a battle, but also no sign of the settlers. The only clue was the word "Croatoan" carved into a fence post near the village, with the letters "CRO" carved into a nearby tree. Many historians theorize that the settlers, facing starvation, moved to join the Croatoan tribe living nearby. This has never been confirmed, even in an age of DNA testing, but seems to be the most likely explanation for the disappearances.

Wow! Signal

Ohio State University's Big Ear radio telescope was designed to search for signals of extraterrestrial life. It had begun listening to the universe in 1963, but it picked up its most interesting signal in 1977, coming from the constellation Sagittarius. Jerry Ehman, an astronomer with Ohio State, was so impressed that he circled the bizarre sequence, writing "wow!" next to it on the printout that the telescope had produced. The sequence, spelling out "6EQUJ5," represents the intensity variation of the radio signal over time, showing an intense pulse in the middle of what otherwise would be considered background noise produced by the universe. While the "signal" was not a message at all, the flash of energy that it describes has been deemed one of the most likely candidates for an extraterrestrial radio transmission.While both natural and man-made sources have been said to be the true source of the signal, none of the explanations adequately explain the results. Curiously, the 1420 MHz signal is within a bandwidth that terrestrial transmitters are not allowed to transmit in. It is reserved for astronomical purposes, meaning that it is not likely that the signal could have come from someone transmitting on Earth. While there is the possibility of the signal coming from a government operation, it is not likely. The true source of the Wow! Signal may never be revealed, but scientists will enthusiastically keep listening for another.

These mysteries may one day be solved by enterprising detectives and curious scientists, but for now, they remain mysteries for professionals and amateurs alike to dive into. While these mysteries may be solved eventually, new ones will surely pop up to continue to confuse and inspire people all over the world. 

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