It’s hard to let go the mysterious deaths that we will never be able to explain. While armchair detectives certainly can become obsessed, imagine the torment unsolved deaths inflict on the families and police closely connected to the case. Like a puzzle begging to be solved, it’s easy to think there’s one missing piece needed to solve it and crack it wide open. But, tragically, sometimes the puzzle will never be solved. The mystery will remain. And we’ll be left scratching our heads on what really happened. Be warned, these creepy unsolved deaths are quite grisly and explicit. So, naturally, viewer discretion is advised. Here are 25 Mysterious Deaths That We Will Never Be Able To Explain.
Blazing Car Murder
Being in serious financial debt, Alfred Rouse planned to fake his death and get out of town. He picked up a stranger on the side of the road and planned to have him killed by setting his car on fire. He beat him over the head and torched his car. Rouse was eventually caught and hanged for the crime. He even confessed but said he didn’t know the man’s identity. Around the same time, a man named William Briggs left his home for a doctor’s appointment and was never heard of again. People thought Briggs was the man Rouse killed, but recent DNA evidence concluded it wasn’t Briggs, which raises two questions. What happened to Briggs and who was the man in the car?
Edgar Allan Poe
On October 3, 1849 in Baltimore, Edgar Allen Poe was found lying in a gutter by Joseph W. Walker, a compositor for the Baltimore Sun. Poe was alive at the time but in disarray and delirious. Poe spent his next four days in fits of delirium and hallucinations. Officially, he died of phrenitis or a swelling of the brain. But, no one understands how he got in such a state. Theories abound, from murder and flu to rabies and alcohol poisoning. Few theories have stuck and nothing has overwhelmingly proved what happened.
A notable character actor with 110 credits under his belt, Albert Dekker spent most of his life in Hollywood, building a successful career. At 62-years old Dekker wrapped up his role in the classic western The Wild Bunch, a movie he never got to see. His fiance found him in his Hollywood apartment bathroom, naked and dead, hanging with a leather belt around his neck. He had a scarf around his eyes, a ball gag in his mouth, and his hands were cuffed behind his back. On top of that, he had dirty hypothermic needles in his arms and explicit images and language written all over his body with lipstick. Doctors ruled it accidental death by autoerotic asphyxiation. Except, here’s where it gets even weirder. The bathroom door was locked from the inside with a chain and there were no other exits. How could he have done all of that to himself without someone else and did he even lock the door?
The Black Dahlia
In 1947, Elizabeth Short, nicknamed The Black Dahlia, was a 22-year-old Hollywood hopeful. She worked as a waitress to support herself until she caught her big break, but unfortunately that break would never come. A woman found her naked body, posed completely severed in half and mutilated on January 15th near Leimert Park. Her killer had also completely drained the body of blood and cleaned it. Despite efforts by the LAPD and the FBI to hunt down the killer, their leads went dry and there was little to no hard evidence. While many have claimed to know the killer, nothing has been totally conclusive.
A famous landscape painter in the early 20th century, Tom Thomson loved to paint the scenery at Algonquin Park. He was in awe of its beauty. Tragically, it’s the same park that would take his life. On July 8th, 1917, his canoe was found turned over. It had some maple syrup, jam, and a rubber sheet, but the painter’s body was nowhere to be found. Since then, countless speculation has swirled about his mysterious death, including foul play and just bad luck, but no one really knows what happened to him.
Julia Wallace’s death in 1931 has fascinated crime writers for decades, with many claiming they figured out who killed her. Her husband William Wallace worked at Prudential Insurance as an insurance agent. On January 20th, he received a call from a man named R.M. Qualtrough to go to 25 Menlove Gardens East the following evening. Being an insurance agent, it wasn’t unusual, so he went to 25 Menlove Gardens, but discovered it had a North, South, and West, but no East. Realizing he had been pranked, he came back to his house to find his wife, Julia Wallace, brutally bludgeoned to death. Wallace had been tried and convicted of the murder with many believing he staged it. But, later he was exonerated as there wasn’t enough evidence to truly convict him. Only two others were considered suspects – Richard Perry, a man Wallace had gotten fired for messing with Prudential’s books, and Joseph Marsden, a man Julia Wallace was paying to have sex with her. Regardless, no one was convicted and the mystery remains.
El Dorado Jane Doe
While her killer is known and convicted, the identity of El Dorado Jane Doe, also known as “Mercedes,” remains a big mystery. We do know she was an exotic dancer and prostitute in Arkansas who supposedly sent money back to her two kids. The only person who knows her true identity is both her lover and her killer, James “Ice” McAlphin. He gunned her down in a seedy Arkansas motel, but he won’t talk. We don’t even know if she really had kids or if she made the story up.
In 1875, a barrister named Charles Bravo married Florence Ricardo. Both had been involved in extra-marital affairs and Florence’s late husband Alexander Ricardo died of mysterious circumstances. The Bravos had a rocky relationship from the very start with rumors of Charles being abusive, demanding, and controlling. He especially hated that his wife was wealthier than him and wanted control over her money. Four months in and Charles was rushed to the hospital and died of poisoning. The three suspects were Florence, the housekeeper Mrs. Cox, and Dr. Gully. Mrs. Cox had three children and Charles once threatened to sack her. On the day of his death, police noted she was oddly evasive and even lied about Charles, saying he wanted to commit suicide, which he did not. Dr. Gully was one of Florence’s former lovers and was upset over her marrying Charles. A court determined Charles Bravo was murdered, but there wasn’t enough evidence to point to a specific person. While all three suspects were released, they were either professionally ruined or died soon after.
The Somerton Man
Found washed ashore on Somerton Beach in Adelaide, Australia in 1948, the Somerton Man, as he would later be called, has perplexed police and researchers for decades. The deceased man was clean-shaven, well-built, and wearing a suit and tie. He had nothing to identify him and even the tags on his clothes were removed. Police found a secret pocket in the man’s pants with some bizarre items. First, they found a piece of paper tightly wrapped up that read “Taman Shud,” a phrase from an 11th-century book of Persian poems called the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The phrase roughly translates “the end.” Later, a businessman came forward with the book that he claimed was thrown into his car. At the end of the book, the phrase “Taman Shud” was ripped from the pages. On the back of the book were five lines of letters and a phone number. Police tracked the phone number down and spoke with a young nurse, but she claimed to not know the man despite looking suspicious. In the end, the case went cold and hasn’t been solved since.
The Isdal Woman
Unsolved for 46 years, the Isdal Woman continues to perplex and fascinate people in Norway. The Isdalen Valley in Norway is also called “Death Valley” for its long reputation of suicides and falling accidents. But, that name took on a new meaning when a man and his two daughters found a burnt, dead body in an out of the way spot. Oddly, her body was burned on the front and not the back. Later, police found objects, like a watch and jewelry next to her placed in a ceremonial formation. Her clothes had the tags cut off. Anything indicating her identity was removed or erased. Then, they found unclaimed suitcases at Bergen’s luggage department. Suspiciously, all the labels on the items inside that could have identified her inside were removed as well. They found out she used the name Fenella Lorch at a hotel, but learned it wasn’t her real name. She had been using several names with several passports. Witnesses claim they saw her speaking to two German military officers. People at that point theorized she may have been a spy, but with little evidence to back it up, police reached a dead end. Her autopsy concluded she committed suicide, but many find that hard to believe. For instance, who, then, removed the tags on her clothes and the identifying labels on the items in her suitcases?
The Grimes Sisters
It was 1956 in Chicago, just a few days after Christmas, when the Grimes sisters, Barbara, 15, and Patricia, 13, begged their mother to let them go on a bus trip to see Love Me Tender, Elvis Presley’s first movie. They were huge fans so their mother agreed. A month later, a construction worker driving down a road in Willow Springs, Ill. discovered their dead, frozen bodies. After the autopsy, they found no stab or bullet wounds. They concluded the girls died from freezing temperatures. Rumors swirled about what the girls had been up to, including going out drinking with secret lovers and hanging out with drifters. It had been determined from the autopsy Barbara had sex, but they couldn’t know if it was consensual. The case grew cold as time went on. Before their bodies were found and the hunt was on to find them, Elvis Presley sent a personal message to them, “If you are good Presley fans, you’ll go home and ease your mother’s worries.”
The Villisca Axe Murders
A little over one hundred years ago in the small town of Villisca, Iowa, a man with an ax came into the Moore residence with brutal intent. It was midnight and the man came through the unlocked back door, quietly slipping past two sleeping girls and went up the stairs to where Jay Moore slept next to his wife. The man first bludgeoned Jay’s head and quickly did the same to his wife. While they were dead or dying, he calmly went over to their children’s rooms and killed them with the ax as well. Finally, he went downstairs and kill the two other girls that were sleeping. Rather than leaving, he stuck around, going back up and beating Jay’s head with the ax 30 more times and did the same with the rest of the family. It’s believed he stayed in the house for hours, until leaving around five in the morning, locking the door behind him. Several suspects went to trial, but no conviction was made. It remains a mystery to this day.
David Bacon was a rising star in Hollywood in 1943, but his star fell fast and hard when witnesses saw his car careening off the road and into a bean field. When they went to help him, they saw his car was soaked with blood. He begged them for help, and they asked him what had happened, but he died before they got any answers. He’d been stabbed to death with a 6-inch blade. No one knows how or why it happened.
After leaving a dance hall in a Parisian suburb, Laetitia Toureau headed for the bus on May 16th, 1937, leading her down a path she’d never return from. She arrived at the Porte de Charenton and boarded the first-class car bound for central Paris. It was empty, while others were full. Barely a minute later when it arrived at another station, passengers came aboard the first-class car to find Toureau dead, stabbed in the neck with a 9-inch dagger. Police discovered the striking woman of 29 who worked at a glue factory was also an informant for a detective agency called “Agence Rouff.” When police raided a terrorist organization’s hideout, those arrested claimed they knew Toureau and had her killed. However, the mystery remains why the police never arrested them for the crime and how anyone killed her when her train car was totally empty?
When Karen Silkwood got a job as a metallography technician at Cimarron plutonium plant, little did she know where it would lead. Not soon after, she joined the Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers Union and became part of the bargaining committee, put in charge to investigate health and safety issues. In 1974, she testified to the Atomic Energy Commission that she found serious violations of health and safety issues. This is where it gets weird. Not soon after, she discovered she had 400 times the legal limit of plutonium in her system even though she never handled dangerous items as part of her job. She decided to go public with all her findings and was en route to see a New York Times reporter when her car went off the road and hit a culvert, killing her. While Quaaludes were found in her car and bloodstream, indicating she fell asleep at the wheel, supporters noted the skid marks in the road and questioned how she could have fallen asleep if she hit the brakes. Even more suspicious, the documents in her car she was going to show the New York Times reporter were gone. A federal investigation of the plant proved Silkwood’s claims to be true. The plant shut down in 1975.
Born in 1953, Eugene Izzi started writing novels, and after getting passed over six times, finally got a book deal on his novel The Take. With each new book, he was selling more books and making a name for himself. He and his family moved out to Chicago with the hope of a new, great career. To research for his new book, he’d infiltrated an Indiana militia. Soon after, he started getting phone calls threatening his life. On December 7th, 1996, Izzi was found hanging out of a window with a rope around his neck, fourteen stories above Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Initially, authorities considered it a suicide, but he had a bulletproof vest on. Inside the hotel room, he had $481 in cash, brass knuckles, three discs with his latest unpublished novel, and an unused .38 caliber pistol. Inside the unpublished manuscript was a scene of a Crime writer who gets thrown out of a window with a noose around his neck by the Indiana militia. Did he commit suicide? Or maybe he was experimenting with the story and took things too far? Or, maybe, the Indiana militia killed him just like he wrote in the story? We’ll never know.
Multi-millionaire Harry Oakes was a noted philanthropist and gold prospector, but he also did everything he could to keep his money and evade taxes. Oakes is said to have had many “personal demons” and those demons came for him on July 7th, 1943. He was staying in the Bahamas during a violent tropical storm when someone murdered him. His dead body was discovered by friend Harold Christie. It had been doused in gasoline and set aflame, but the winds from the storm through the window blew it out so that he wasn’t entirely engulfed. He was covered in feathers and four puncture wounds were above his left ear with the blood running the opposite direction, indicating he wasn’t murdered lying down. Corruption and a sloppy investigation allowed for the killer to get away, and while there were plenty of suspects, no one was ever caught.
Swedish diplomat and UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold was called “the greatest statesman of our century” by John F. Kennedy. Tragically, at age 56, he was killed in a plane accident while en route to Ndola in 1961. He was going to help negotiate peace in the province of Katanga. While the plane crash was thought to be pilot error, many disagreed, saying it was an assassination. With little evidence to prove the theory, the case went cold, that is, until recently. UN officials have reopened investigations to further examine the case.
The Atlas Vampire
In 1932, Lilly Lindström was a Swedish prostitute who did most of her work in her small and dark apartment, typical of what you might expect in her Atlas neighborhood of Stockholm. Lindström’s neighbor Minnie, also a sex worker, was the last to see her when she came asking for condoms. Days later, Minnie called the police when her friend hadn’t shown up again. Inside her apartment, the police found a grisly scene. Laying on her bed naked, she was face down with all her clothes folded neatly on a chair next to her. She died from numerous blows of a blunt object to her head. But, even more disturbingly, her entire body was drained of blood and saliva was found on her neck. They also found a gravy ladle stained with her blood. Police feared it was used to drink the blood. No one ever found the killer and he had since been named “The Atlas Vampire.”
Mary Money’s dead body was found at 10:55 pm on Sunday 24th, 1905 near Merstham Tunnel in England. Her body was horribly beaten, bruised, and mutilated. Initially, authorities thought she went there to commit suicide, but the rag down her throat ruled that out. Police then turned to boyfriends and the men in her life but the more they questioned people closest to her, they found out she had none. Since her purse was gone from the scene, some speculate she had been robbed and the struggle led to her death. We’ll never really know.
Günther Stoll was a paranoid man living in Germany, constantly talking about how “they” were out to get him. He, of course, never explained who “they” were. One day in the presence of his wife, he stands up and says, “I got it! Now I understand! He writes down YOGTZE and leaves. After visiting a bar, falling over, and hurting his face, he shows up at an old lady’s house at 1 am, wanting to talk to her. He said, “Horrible incidents will take place tonight.” Of course, she didn’t let him in, but oddly, enough, what he said came true. Two hours later, a truck driver found Stoll’s damaged car in a ditch off of Autobahn 45 near Hagen-Süd. The truck drivers called for help and went to investigate the wreck. Stoll was naked inside and said there were men with him, but they left. They were not his friends. Unfortunately, he died at the hospital. Later, they found out he had been driven over to the car he was found in by another car while he was naked. No one knows who killed him, who the men were, or more importantly, what YOGTZE means.
Up in the cold Antarctic tundra, Australian astrophysicist Rodney Marks suddenly and mysteriously died at Amundsen–Scott Station in the year 2000. The station is a research base located at the South Pole. Since the winter flights are dangerous, his dead body was kept frozen until they could fly him home. When his dead body arrived in New Zealand, an autopsy report found he had died of methanol poisoning. After investigating and interviewing 49 people who had been at the scene, police concluded his death wasn’t a result of suicide or accidental poisoning. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough evidence to determine a killer and many have called it the first murder at the South Pole.
Danny Casolaro was an investigative reporter with tons of friends. At face value, his death looks pretty straightforward. He was found in a bathroom with his wrists slashed with a razor blade in a bathtub full of blood. He even left a suicide note and the room showed no signs of forced entry or struggle. However, his family wasn’t notified of his death for two days, and they mentioned that he was afraid of needles and blood tests. He also told them he was close to breaking a big case that would reveal massive corruption in the Department of Justice. And all those documents and papers he had that proved his case? They were nowhere to be found. While investigating the department, he uncovered a massive network of corrupt agents that he called “The Octopus.” But, they were on to him and began calling him with death threats. A week before he died, he told his brother Tony about it and that if there was an “accident,” he shouldn’t believe it. So, did he commit suicide or was so-called Octopus involved?
It was 1938 in Kingston, Pennsylvania, when Margaret Martin went missing. She was just 19-years-old, graduating from Wilkes-Barre Business College, and wanting to get a secretarial job. She landed an interview with a sandy-haired and slightly overweight man. The last anyone saw her alive was when she entered a black sedan. When she didn’t return from her appointment, her parents reported her missing. Four days later, a hunter 25-miles from Kingston found a body in a burlap sack. It was Margaret Martin. She had been tortured and sexually assaulted. Despite numerous rumors and theories, no one ever found the murderer.
Daughter of a 1937 diplomat, Pamela Werner had been found dead and mutilated in China near a watchtower by Old Peking. Lying half-naked, her skull was crushed, her torso cut open, and most of her major organs removed. No blood was at the scene because she had been entirely drained of her blood. Despite Chinese inspectors’ best efforts, little was discovered of the murderer because of the Second Sino-Japanese War and a flood of refugees flooding the country.