Christmas is a time of peace, joy, love, and, for many people, one of the happiest days of the year. It is a time when families come together, enemies put aside their differences, and, of course, children open up the presents they have waited all year for. For some people however, the last couple days of blistery cold December is a great deal darker. Christmastime is just as susceptible to dark and mysterious events as any other time of the year, and to prove it here are 25 Disturbing Unsolved Christmastime Mysteries.
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The Pleasant Valley Jane Doe
On the morning of December 18th, 1996, an unidentified woman’s body was found in the Pleasant Valley Memorial Park in Annandale, Virgina. The woman had apparently committed suicide by tying a plastic grocery bag over her face, and her only possessions included some cash, a portable cassette player and comedy tapes, and a small 8″ Christmas tree adorned with ribbon and golden ornaments. The woman had a small note on her body, claiming her death was a suicide and that she wanted to be cremated with no autopsy. The note was anonymously signed “Jane Doe”, and nearly 20 years later today no advancements have been made in uncovering her identity.
The Death of JonBenét Ramsey
JonBenét Patricia Ramsey was a six-year-old American child beauty queen who was killed in her family’s home in Boulder, Colorado on December 25, 1996. The girls father, John Ramsey, found her body in the basement with a broken arm, fractured skull, and a garrote tied around her neck. A lengthy ransom note was also found, however many suspicious investigators believed this was placed by JonBenét’s parents after they killed her themselves. Despite this, the family was never charged, and DNA samples later taken from JonBenét’s clothing showed that of an unidentified male.
The Hit-And-Run Of Kevin Showalter
A 20-year-old college student named Kevin Showalter was driving with his girlfriend on Christmas Eve, 1973, when their car got a flat tire. While attempting to swap in the spare, Kevin was struck and killed by a passing vehicle, however the car did not stop and Kevin’s girlfriend never saw the driver. Many suspects were investigated, but due to shoddy detective work, questionable confessions, and a potential police cover up, nobody was ever charged and the case was left open.
Tommy Ziegler was accused of murdering four people including his wife and her parents inside his furniture store in Winter Garden, Florida, on Christmas Eve in 1975. He was subsequently found guilty of quadruple homicide and sentenced to death row. However Tommy and those close to him have fought the conviction ever since, claiming that a key witness lied under oath to implicate him and that evidence was handled poorly. Tommy has many times been denied DNA testing, and the general populace remains divided on whether he actually committed the murders.
Los Feliz Murder Mansion
On the night of December 6, 1959, in a mansion that sits on a Los Feliz hilltop in Los Angeles, Dr. Harold Perelson killed his wife with a hammer and severely beat his 18-year-old daughter before ending his own life by drinking a potent acid. Nobody knows what caused Dr. Perelson to do what he did, as he seemed perfectly normal and reasonable up until he snapped. His surviving children moved out of the house after the attack and, since then, the building has remained unoccupied and unchanged. Even many of the Christmas decorations are still up and unmoved to this day.
The Warminister Thing
Christmas of 1964 ended up being a quite unnerving time for the residents of Warminister, a small town in West Wiltshire, UK. Many people found themselves forced awake suddenly by loud, unidentified noises ranging from pounding vibrations to earsplitting whines. In one personal account, a middle aged woman even reported being knocked to the ground and immobilized by what she described as “invisible fingers of sound”. Although the source of the noises was never revealed, the large number of paranormal events and UFO sightings in the years that followed lead many people to believe the occurrence was extraterrestrial.
The Disappearance Of Patty Vaughan
On Christmas Day, 1996, 32-year-old Patty Vaughan left her home in La Vernia, Texas and never returned. Patty’s van was found some ways away with a flat tire and traces of blood inside, however no other signs of a struggle or damage were found. Many people suspected her estranged husband, J.R. Vaughan, was responsible for the death after the two had broken up two months earlier and were seen arguing shortly before Patty’s disappearance, still no evidence was found connecting him to the case and not long afterwards he left the state with the couple’s two children.
The Murder of Rhonda Hinson
On December 22, 1981, nineteen-year-old Rhonda Hinson was driving home from a Christmas party when she was the victim of an unknown assailant. Using a high-powered rifle, the assailant was able to put a bullet through the trunk and drivers seat of Rhonda’s car before it pierced her heart, killing her. Rhonda’s car was found abandoned and her body was discovered a short distance away, having clearly been dragged. Today the circumstances of why she was killed remain a mystery, along with the identity of her murderer.
The Disappearance of Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman
On December 29, 1999, Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman were celebrating Ashley’s sixteenth birthday at her mobile home in Vinita, Oklahoma when the house caught fire and supposedly killed all inside. However, once the flames were put out police could only find the body of Ashley’s mother. Ashley, her father, and Lauria were nowhere to be found. Investigators quickly theorized that the father had killed his wife and kidnapped the girls, however that theory was put to rest when his body was later found shot in the head. No suspects were ever charged, and two anonymous confessions turned out to be false.
The Murder of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope
Ben Smart and Olivia Hope were two young adult New Zealanders who went missing in the early hours of January 1st, 1998. They had been celebrating the new year when a stranger told them he could give them a ride home on his sailing yacht, an offer which they accepted readily. Ben and Olivia disappeared after boarding the stranger’s boat, and police later assumed they were murdered, though no evidence or bodies were found even with extensive searching. The police later charged a man known as Scott Watson with double-homicide, however he continued to plead innocent and his yacht was different from the one Ben and Olivia were seen boarding.
The Spontaneous Combustion of Matilda Rooney
In 1885, a young farmhand known as John Larson spent Christmas evening with his employers Patrick and Matilda Rooney in Illinois. When he woke up on Christmas morning, he found Patrick dead in his room, while the elderly wife had disappeared. Larson searched the house for Matilda, but all he could find was her severed foot next to a pile of ash in the kitchen. It was later determined that Patrick died from smoke inhalation, although no signs of a fire could be found. Investigations concluded that Matilda was a victim of spontaneous human combustion, although why remains a mystery.
The Murder of Tracy Mertins
In 1994, 31-year-old Tracy Mertins was attacked in her home in Rochdale, England, where she lived with her boyfriend Joey Kavanagh. Two nights before Christmas, two strange men broke into her house looking for Joey and, after finding he was not home, turned their sights on Tracy. Tracy was brought, gagged and blindfolded, to a small church where she was bound to a chair, doused with gasoline, and set on fire. Tracy was still alive when the police arrived and, though she was severely burned, she managed to explain the events that transpired before dying. Regardless, police could never identify the culprits or their relation to Joey, though drugs are thought to be involved.
The Disappearance of Melissa Brannen
On December 3rd, 1989, Tammy Brannen was attending a Christmas party with her five-year-old daughter Melissa. Late that evening, as the two were leaving the party, Melissa ran back inside to grab some snacks for the road. After waiting for an unusually long time, Tammy went to find her daughter, except Tammy was nowhere to be found. Handyman Caleb Hughes was later found guilty of the kidnapping, however Melissa’s body was never found, she was never confirmed dead, and no murder charges were ever filed.
The Miyazawa Family Murders
On the night of December 30, 2000, an unidentified man broke into the Miyazawa family home in the Setagaya ward of Tokyo before killing the entire family of four. The killer stayed in the house for much of the rest of the night, eating food from the refrigerator and even leaving many of his personal items behind when he finally left in the early hours of the morning. Despite having a good idea of the man’s appearance as well as DNA samples and articles of clothing, the Tokyo police have still made little to no progress in finding the identity of the family’s murderer.
The Disappearance of Samuel Todd
Samuel Todd was attending a New Years Eve party in New York City with his younger brother and some friends when he left the party for a quick minute and was never seen again. Leaving both his jacket and wallet at the party, and being visibly drunk at the time, investigators believe he may have left the party for some fresh air and been attacked outside. There is a possibility that Samuel was never kidnapped but instead was struck on the head by his assailant, causing him to develop amnesia and wander off.
The Head of Anthony Michalowski
The decapitated head of Anthony Michalowski was found on the 27 of December, 1988, in a dumpster behind a shopping plaza near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Over the course of the following days, investigators also uncovered a detached lower jaw, a lung, and several loose teeth scattered around the surrounding areas. A reconstructed photo was shown on TV, allowing Anthony’s surviving family to confirm his identity, however coroners could never figure out how or why he was killed, and no suspect was ever identified or confirmed.
The Fort Worth Missing Trio
The Fort Worth Trio were three young women; Rachel Trlica, Renee Wilson, and Julie Moseley, who were abducted on December 23, 1974, from a shopping center in Fort Worth, Texas. There were no witnesses of the kidnapping, however the day after their disappearance a letter from Rachel was received by her husband, saying that her and the girls were headed to Houston for a week. The letter was later tested by forensic scientists and DNA on the letter did not match Rachels. None of the girls have been seen nor heard of since the disappearance.
The Disappearance Of Nikole Betterson
Nikole Betterson was only two-years old when her mother, Susan Klingel, died in a car accident. Her father, Jarrett Betterson, later became involved with a woman named Barbara and soon afterwards the new couple took Nikole and moved away without telling friends nor family of their destination. Jarrett and Barbara were found nearly twenty years later in Las Vegas, however Nikole was nowhere to be seen. When questioned, Jarrett promised to confess Nikole’s fate to authorities, however before he did so Jarrett and Barbara were found shot in their home. Jarrett and Barbara’s assumed suicide was only a few days before Christmas, on the anniversary of Nikole’s disappearance.
The Murder of Latricia White
Latricia White, a 38-year-old resident of Lockhart, Texas, was spending Christmas with her boyfriend Lee “Dub” Wakerhagen and his 9-year-old son Chance when she mysteriously lost connection with her friends and family. White was found dead after being shot 6 times in her bed, Dub and Chance were nowhere to be seen. A warrant was put out for Dub’s arrest, and his pickup truck was found abandoned some ways away. Neither Dub nor Chance were ever seen again, however four months after their disappearance Chance’s maternal grandfather received a mysterious phone call saying only “help me” and sounding, to the grandfather, exactly like Chance.
The Death of Debbie Wolfe
Debbie Wolfe was a nurse who vanished from her home in Fayetteville, North Carolina after coming getting back from work on December 25, 1985. After a thorough search of the house and surrounding area yielded no clues to Debbie’s whereabouts, her family went to the police who said they wouldn’t do a search until she had been missing for at least three days. It was five days later that they started searching. The police seemed suspiciously adamant that there was no need to search the pond behind Debbie’s home, but it wasn’t until the unconvinced parents hired their own divers that Debbie’s body was found stuffed in a barrel in the lake behind the house. The police were quick to rule her death an accidental drowning, however her family is sure that there was something more sinister behind Debbie’s death.
The Mineral, Washington Murders
On August 14th, 1985, hikers found the body of Steven Harkins in the Tule Lake area of Washington state, near the remote community of Mineral. Later that year, on December 12th, a man named Mike Riemer took his girlfriend Diana and their 2-year-old daughter Crystal to the area to get a Christmas tree. That afternoon Crystal was found wandering alone and, when questioned, the only thing she would say was “Mommy is in the trees”. Two months later, Diana’s body was found deep in the forest, not far from Mike’s abandoned truck. Because of his disappearance, Mike was initially blamed for Diana’s murder, as well as that of Steven Harkins and another woman named Ruth Cooper who died in the area. Mike was later cleared of all charges after his skull was found in 2011, meaning that the killer was still unknown.
The Sodder Children
On the eve of Christmas 1945, the West Virginia home of George and Jennie Sodder burnt to the ground in a fire of mysterious origin. The sodders occupied the house with 9 of their 10 children, however only four escaped the house before its destruction. Betty, Maurice, Martha, Louis, and Jenny Sodder were all assumed to have perished in the blaze, however when the ruined remains of the house were searched in the following days no bodies or signs that the five children had been inside during the fire could be found. A coroner’s jury still ruled that the children had died in the fire, still George and Jennie remained unconvinced and lived the remainder of their lives believing that the five kids had been kidnapped, and the fire started to cover their disappearance.
A Visit from Saint Nicholas
Nearly everyone knows of the Christmastime poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’, however its history remains shrouded in mystery. Originally titled ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’, this old poem was submitted anonymously to the Troy Sentinel, a newspaper in New York, in 1823. Many people came forward to claim authorship, however all were found to be inauthentic until an English professor named Clement Clarke Moore came forward many years later. Although Clement has since been cited as the author, another poet Henry Livingston Jr. has just as strong a claim, and some personal accounts even claim he recounted the poem some 15 years before it’s publishing date. To this day, the true author of the beloved Christmas poem remains unknown.
The Rendlesham Forest Incident
Late in December, 1980, a number of strange lights and alleged UFO sightings were reported around the Rendlesham Forest region of Suffolk, England. The first notable even occurred on December 26th when a security patrol noticed a series of strange lights descending into the forest. Initially fearing it was a downed aircraft, servicemen attempted to investigate the site, though before they could get close the object moved further into the forest and was lost. Signs of burnt branches and triangular markings were found at the landing site, and more lights were sighted later in the week.
The Lawson Family Murders
On Christmas Day of 1929, Charlie Lawson, a tobacco farmer in Germantown, North Carolina, killed his wife and six children with a shotgun before shooting himself in the head. His reasons for doing so remain a complete mystery, although some of the more popular theories claim that he had suffered brain damage in his work or perhaps had an incestuous relationship with his oldest daughter, Marie, who may have become pregnant. His oldest son, Arthur, had been sent into town earlier that day and had therefore been spared.
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