Unsolved crimes attract true crime fans because they provide insight into our social structures and norms while at the same time addressing our worries and beliefs. Every crime covered on today’s list remains unsolved, with perpetrators flying below the radar and often disappearing into the ether of time.
The elements in unsolved cases can be described as unsettling, bloody, and violent, while others are downright weird. Whether it’s the gruesome murders of Jack the Ripper or the tragic disappearance of Madeleine McCann, these cases have captivated our attention and continue to do so as new leads into their investigations make headlines.
Delve into the enigma of 25 Mysterious Crimes that Remain Unsolved.
*These accounts describe real-life crimes that remain unsolved, and the content may upset some people.
An attractive medical student at the Ohio State University College of Medicine was celebrating spring break with a friend on April 1, 2006, when he disappeared. Brian Shaffer and William Florence were finishing their night out at the Ugly Tuna Saloona when Brian became separated from his friends. Brian can be seen on CCTV footage talking to two women outside the pub at around 2 a.m. before returning inside.
Investigators have been particularly perplexed by Shaffer’s disappearance because there were no additional publicly accessible entrances or exits to the bar at the time. Though foul play is expected, there is simply no footage of him ever leaving.
Dorothy Jane Scott
Dorothy Jane Scott was abducted from a hospital parking lot in Anaheim, California, on May 28, 1980. Dorothy received several anonymous phone calls from a stalker in the months before she was kidnapped, threatening to cut her up so she would never be found. A month after her abduction, a man called a local publication that had run a story about her kidnapping and claimed to have killed her. The man continued to phone and taunt her family for the next four years.
Dorothy’s remains were eventually discovered in August 1984. Her abductor had burned her body two years after kidnapping her, yet the phone calls continued for another two years.
The Monster of Florence
In the 1970s and 1980s, a serial killer suspected of killing at least 16 people walked the streets in Florence, Italy. Almost all of the victims were lovers who suffered knife wounds or were shot with a Beretta pistol. Six of the couples were murdered in their cars, with the majority of the murders occurring during or after the couples had sex. The genitals of many of the victims were removed, and the breast of Nadine Mauriot, one of the last known victims, was sent to the state prosecutor along with a taunting letter.
Five men would be arrested in connection with the case; one even confessed to being the killer, but while each was in prison, another murder occurred. The case remains unsolved.
Natalee Holloway went missing in May 2005 during a holiday with friends in Aruba. The beautiful 18-year-old was seen leaving a nightclub with three young men, Joran van der Sloot, Deepak Kalpoe, and Satish Kalpoe, on the night she disappeared. Natalee never made it back to her hotel room.
Joran Van der Sloot has made multiple false claims to authorities regarding Natalee’s disappearance, including promising to have sold her to human traffickers, only to recant the statement. Even though he is the number one suspect in this case, no evidence has ever been uncovered that would allow investigators to successfully prosecute him. He is currently serving time in a prison in Peru for the 2010 murder of Stephany Flores Ramírez.
In 2013, Elisa Lam, a 21-year-old student, disappeared while staying at the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles. After guests complained about the water’s dark color and taste, her body was discovered in the hotel’s water tank. The bizarre CCTV footage of the hotel that shows the last footage of Elisa is genuinely unsettling. She appears to be acting erratically, arguing with someone off-camera and looking behind her to see if she’s being followed.
Even though her death was eventually ruled accidental, Elisa was discovered naked, with her personal effects floating nearby. It also remains unclear how she could have gotten into the tank and replaced the 120-pound lid back on top of her.
Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon
A hiking expedition in Boquete, Panama, in 2014 resulted in the disappearances of two Dutch students – Lisanne Froon and Kris Kremers. They had planned the trip for six months and had been hiking in the jungle for several weeks before going missing. Their bodies were discovered in mysterious and disturbing circumstances more than two months later. Kris’ phone showed 77 attempts to contact emergency services and had various unusual pictures on it; even more bizarrely, some of their bones had evidently been bleached.
Opinions differ on what happened to the women; their murders could be cartel-related. However, over 50 women and girls have been reported missing in that specific area of Panama.
The Sodder Children
The Sodder home was destroyed by fire on Christmas Eve, 1945. Four of the nine Sodder children escaped the fire, but no trace of the other five could be found once the fire died out.
According to the local Fire Chief, the fire was intense enough to cremate the remains. Nobody could, however, cremate bones to ash in simulated settings. To make matters worse, multiple witnesses claimed to have seen the children following the fire. Several speculations swirled surrounding the inexplicable disappearance of the Sodder children. Were they victims of human traffickers, or did an irate insurance salesman play a role? Nobody knows for sure. It was their parents’ belief that their children were still alive. However, they never received any answers.
Little Jane Doe
On February 28, 1983, a decapitated female body was discovered in a derelict building in St. Louis. The body was initially considered to be that of a sex worker due to its state of undress. Still, it was soon determined that the victim was significantly younger than expected – between the ages of 8 and 11. According to the FBI, this was the only decapitation involving such a young person in the United States at that time.
Several young girls mysteriously disappeared in Toronto during the 1980s and early 1990s. Despite massive police searches and heartfelt appeals, all hope would be crushed when their little bodies were eventually discovered.
Nicole Louise Morin left her West Mall apartment early on July 30, 1985, to meet her best friend in the lobby for an afternoon of swimming. However, she never made it to the pool. Between her apartment and the lobby, Nicole vanished. Despite one of the largest and most comprehensive investigations in Toronto police history, no clues have been found in the case of the missing 8-year-old girl for the last 35 years.
The Ocean Snuff Film
In 2014, a 10-minute slow-motion snuff film taken on a mobile camera made the headlines. It features a group of unarmed men being slaughtered one by one by a semiautomatic weapon, after which one of the perpetrators proudly poses for a few celebration selfies.
The case demonstrated the difficulty of prosecuting crimes on the high seas. In the clip, we can see at least four ships on the scene, but no one was compelled by law to report the killings – and no one did. Law enforcement is restricted in the open ocean, and jurisdiction is problematic. It remains unclear who the victims were or why they were shot.
Tara Calico borrowed her mother’s pink bike for a ride on September 20, 1988, in Belen, New Mexico. The outgoing student never returned. It wasn’t until a year later that a picture of a young woman her age and a boy, both gagged, were found outside a Junior Food Store in Florida that any leads turned up. Michael Henley, nine, also mysteriously disappeared in the same area as Calico in April 1988. The two appeared to be in the rear of a vehicle, with a copy of a book by Calico’s favorite author, V.C. Andrews, lying beside the girl.
Sadly, Michael Henley’s body would be discovered in the Zuni Mountains in 1990, and Tara’s parents would die, never knowing who had kidnapped their daughter.
The cruise ship industry has steadily grown in popularity and revenue since the 1980s. However, there is a dark underbelly in this watery world of leisure and luxury. There have been 313 documented occurrences of persons going missing from cruise ships since 2000, with just around 10% of those cases being resolved.
One of these is Rebecca Coriam, a young British cruise ship staffer who mysteriously disappeared at sea on March 22, 2011, while employed on the Disney Wonder Cruise Ship. Many people believe she was sexually assaulted, murdered, and thrown overboard and that the crew and administration covered it up to prevent bad publicity.
On June 4, 2010, Terri Horman, Kyron’s stepmother, took him to Skyline Elementary School. She reported leaving the school around 8:45 a.m. and last saw Kyron heading down the hallway to his first class. However, apart from a photo taken by Terri in front of the school that morning, Kyron was never seen again.
Terri’s statements to the police suggested that she performed multiple errands that day before going to the gym. Despite her emphatic denial of any role in his disappearance, Kyron’s stepmother has always been the number one suspect, and many believe she knows where he is or what happened to him. The criminal investigation remains open.
The Severed Feet
21 severed human feet have inexplicably washed up on the Pacific Northwest’s Salish Sea coastlines. The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office claimed in 2017 that the foot of Antonio Neill, who was reported missing at the age of 22 in 2016, was the 15th human foot to wash ashore in a decade. Some believe the feet belong to victims of an unknown serial killer, while others believe they belong to victims of human trafficking.
While most of the severed feet have been identified, the reason they wash up on this particular shoreline remains speculative at best. They usually belong to men, and in many instances, the men disappeared a few years before the discovery.
Clint Eastwood’s 2008 film Changeling reignited attention in one of the 1920s’ most unusual and depressing crime stories. Christine Collins, a single mother, reported her nine-year-old son, Walter, missing from their Los Angeles home in March 1928. Several months later, the police returned “Walter” to Christine, but it wasn’t Walter. Christine’s objections, however, were rejected by the LAPD, who accused her of lousy mothering and placed her in a mental facility.
Whatever happened to Walter Collins, his body was never discovered, and no one ever discovered the truth. We also don’t know why the police were so committed to covering up the boy’s abduction that they presented a different child to Christine and tried to convince her and the rest of the world that the stranger was her son.
The Chicago Strangler
For some reason, the Chicago Strangler remains a relatively unknown serial killer despite amassing an astounding body count. For the past 20 years, starting in 2001, strangled women have been discovered in various alleyways, parking lots, and abandoned buildings throughout Chicago. The Chicago Strangler has murdered at least 51 women to date. The majority of the women were of African-American ethnicity and were sex workers.
In one particularly heinous incident in 2007, the Strangler murdered two women in a single day.
From 1987 until 1990, a vicious child rapist tormented young families in Melbourne, Australia. The man entered the girls aged 10 to 13 houses, tied up their relatives, and abducted them while wearing a terrifying balaclava. The girls would be released after experiencing terrible ordeals. In 1991, the body of a fourth victim was discovered.
Mr. Cruel painstakingly washed his victims and left no trace evidence at any crime scenes when forensic science was still being refined and developed. He threatened the families with a knife and a gun, and most disturbingly, he videotaped his actions with a camera or camcorder. Despite the efforts of multiple task forces, Mr. Cruel has yet to be identified.
The Hinterkaifeck Murders
In 1922, the Hinterkaifeck murders occurred in Germany. All six family members on the farm died from massive head trauma as their heads and faces were repeatedly struck with a mattock (a pickaxe-shaped farming tool). After that, the killer placed them on top of one another underneath hay in the barn. The maid and two-year-old baby suffered the same fate, but their remains were found inside the house.
After discovering the remains, it was clear that someone had been staying at the farmhouse for several days after the murders. Creepy… Despite over a hundred interviews, which included traveling salesmen and people from neighboring towns, no one was ever charged with the murders.
JonBenét Ramsey was a six-year-old child beauty queen when she was murdered in her Boulder, Colorado, home in 1996. She’d been hit on the head, sexually assaulted, and strangled. The most prevalent theory at the time of her murder was that her brother or parents were involved. However, DNA evidence officially absolved them in 2008.
In December 2003, DNA was obtained from blood found on JonBenét Ramsey‘s clothing, and a DNA profile of her attacker was generated. The profile was entered into CODIS (the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System) to keep a record of it. To date, there have been hits on it. Since JonBenét’s murder, police have followed up on over 21,000 tips, letters, and emails, and they have flown to 19 states to question or talk with over 1,000 people. Unfortunately, her murder remains a mystery.
The Zodiac Killer
Between the 1960s and 1970s, the Zodiac Killer was linked to five killings and two attempted murders, although he claimed credit for at least 37, sending coded letters to newspapers describing how he killed his victims. Numerous movies have been made about the Zodiac Killer, including “Zodiac” and “Dirty Harry,” taking inspiration from the ongoing investigation.
The Case Breakers, a group of independent detectives, alleged to have uncovered the identity of the Zodiac in 2021. However, according to the San Francisco Police Department, the investigation is still ongoing.
The Women of Ciudad Juaréz
It appears that someone is raping and killing young women in Juarez and leaving their bodies in the desert to rot. Since 1993, hundreds of young women have vanished from the Mexican border city of Juarez, many of them teens who came to work in the town’s factories known as “maquiladoras.” The official death toll for women since 1993 is 260, but local women’s groups say the figure is much closer to 400. At least 76 of the victims seem to have been murdered by the same individual. They were tied up, raped, and mutilated.
The killers appear to have a type, as all the victims were slender, with long brown hair and brown eyes. Almost all of the victims were assaulted on their way home from work.
Jack The Ripper
No list of unsolved crimes would be complete without mentioning Jack the Ripper, famous for his murder spree in London’s impoverished Whitechapel neighborhood in 1888. His victims were usually female prostitutes whose necks were slit before they were severely brutalized and mutilated. Because of the removal of specific organs from his victims, it was widely assumed over the years that Jack the Ripper had some form of anatomical experience, whether as a butcher or a doctor.
There have been many theories about his identity over the years, but none could be established beyond a reasonable doubt. As time passes, the likelihood of ever learning his true identity becomes less and less likely.
One of the greatest unsolved crimes in FBI history began on the afternoon of November 24, 1971, when a nondescript guy named Dan Cooper hijacked Northwest Airlines Flight 305. While in flight, Dan Cooper claimed to be carrying a bomb, demanded a $200,000 ransom, and asked for four parachutes upon landing in Seattle.
Upon landing in Seattle, he Traded the passengers for the cash and the parachutes before the aircraft took off again. A little after 8:00 p.m., somewhere between Seattle and Reno, he leaped out of the plane with a parachute and the ransom money and vanished into the darkness. Even though some of the money was found in 1980, it failed to reveal anything new about the hijacker’s identity or whereabouts, and the case remains unsolved.
The Black Dahlia
The infamous murder of 22-year-old Elizabeth Short made headlines in 1947, with tabloids later branding her the “Black Dahlia” because of her stunning dark hair and an apparent fondness for black attire. Short was bled dry before being dumped in an empty lot in a Los Angeles residential neighborhood. According to FBI records, her body had been expertly dissected, and one breast had been removed.
Several persons have claimed responsibility for the high-profile murder. However, it always seemed to be a case of the usual nutcases seeking fame through infamy. Her murder remains unsolved.
More than 15 years have elapsed since Madeleine McCann’s disappearance, and the missing toddler’s fate remains unknown. Madeleine, aged 3, vanished from the bed she was sleeping in at her family’s vacation apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, on May 3, 2007.
In mid-2020, German officials named Christian Brueckner, a man in his forties, as their prime suspect in the case. Brueckner, a convicted pedophile and rapist who lived in the area in 2007, allegedly told his then-lover, “I know what happened to little Maddie.” Ultimately, despite prosecutors’ opinion that Brueckner murdered the young girl, they have been unable to prosecute him concerning Madeleine’s disappearance due to a lack of evidence.