Every time we hear people talking about UFOs, cryptids, ghosts, conspiracies, or other nonsense to try and explain the world around us, it breaks our hearts. There is a world of incredible mysteries around us, all of which are amazing. Science and history just add to wonder and weirdness of the world around us.
These 17 mysteries are all very real, very wonderful, and don’t need the supernatural to explain them.
SETI announced that they were going offline due to a lack of funding. Our systematic search for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe has ended.
The Wow! Signal is the one instance where SETI found something, which unfortunately was never repeated or seen again. These six letters, circled and annotated “Wow!” have been the cause of rampant speculation and excitement, but remain elusive as to their meaning and origin.
It was a narrowband radio signal, sent for 72 seconds, bearing all the hallmarks of the extrasolar and extraterrestrial broadcast. It was never repeated. Nothing like it was ever spotted again. That may (or may not) have been the only contact with extraterrestrial intelligent life that we’ll ever see.
The Voynich Manuscript
Published in the early 15th century, this 240-page vellum book was handwritten and filled with intensely detailed scientific diagrams of plant life — in a script and of foliage that has never before been seen on the planet. 600 years later, and even though the attempts of hundreds of cryptographers — both professional and amateur alike — there has been no serious headway in deciphering it.
The manuscript has only really been noticed since it was purchased by a collector in 1912, at which point it was already missing another 32 pages, and it appears the order of pages has been shuffled multiple times throughout history.
There are around 20-30 letters, depending on how you count, which appear to match the statistical distribution of real languages, but match nothing in Europe. If it’s a hoax, it’s from that time period, and the most detailed and subtle one ever produced. It’s an intriguing book, and you can look through the entire thing, free online.
In 1997, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) repeatedly recorded a sound in an autonomous underwater recording station.
West of the Southern tip of South America, it was described as it “rises rapidly in frequency over about one minute and was of sufficient amplitude to be heard on multiple sensors, at a range of over 5,000 km.”
It’s incredibly loud and deep, but even weirder it matches the types of sounds usually associated with living creatures, despite being many times louder than any known organism. A number of people associated with the research firmly believe that it’s neither man-made or geologic in nature, instead an animal that we’ve not previously identified.
The place the sound was located? A mere 950 nautical miles from the sunken city of R’lyeh…just saying.
Linear A and Linear B were two ancient scripts found in Crete which hinted at the origins of written language for all of Europe. Linear B was eventually deciphered, but Linear A has eluded us to this day.
It appears to trace back around 4,000 years ago and was the official language of Minoan palaces and cults. And even though we’ve known about the script for decades, have found it across dozens of archaeological sites, and have excellent information about the vaguely related Linear B, we still can’t figure out what’s going on in the texts.
The current theories are that each symbol represents a syllable, and there are a handful of words that researchers think they’ve discovered, but even after thousands of manhours, we really have no clue.
Numbers stations are a staple of conspiracy stories the world over, due to their widespread nature and esoteric purposes. They’re short band radio transmitters that constantly emit a stream of information in a variety of different codes.
The name comes from the ones that send out numbers all the time, but some also do letters, words, morse code, or music. It’s pretty widely accepted that these are used by Governments to send information out to agents and spies who are in situations where they can’t easily receive data from their leaders. At the same time, it seems odd that there are so many of them broadcasting so frequently, and not being cracked.
With a relatively well-understood purpose, you think by now their code systems would have been busted open by savant listeners.
Max Headroom Broadcast Signal Intrusion
Back in the wild and wooly days of the late 80s, hackers and phreakers were very different from today, breaking into phoneboxes, building phreak devices, generally causing mayhem to telecommunication companies.
One of the most famous hacks was the Max Headroom broadcast signal intrusion, where they took over the signal for WGN-TV & WTTW in Chicago in 1987, broadcasting the video above. It’s bizarre and wonderful, and the FBI had no idea who had the knowhow, gear, and ability to do it. It’s a pretty early example of Anon style trolling and doing it for the lolz.
This guy thought he knew the story behind it, but it turned out he didn’t.
Dated to around the second millennium BC, this Minoan Greek disc is covered with pictographic stamps of unknown origin and meaning.
It’s definitely ancient, this isn’t a case of a modern hoax — it’s an incredibly old piece of pottery, but we have no idea exactly where it’s from or what the hell it means. There are 45 different hieroglyphs arranged in a spiral of 241 characters.
It could be the world’s first printing press, the very first example of movable type, but we don’t know if it has an alphabet, or if these are pictograms or anything about the system that’s used. Since it was discovered in 1908, the disc has been confounding professionals and amateurs alike.
The Missing Fabergé Eggs
Everyone knows what Fabergé eggs are, right? A masterpiece of a jeweler’s art, intense displays of wealth that wowed the Russian aristocracy in pre-Revolutionary Russia.
While thousands of little ones were made, there were 50 made for the royal family — immense objects of wealth and gaudy splendor. And only 42 of them survive.
Worth millions, it’s not thought the missing 8 imperial eggs were destroyed, but rather have just vanished. Of those 8, only 2 were ever photographed, and due to the madness of Soviet Russia, it’s not sure what happened to the others.
They may have been sold off for currency or may be on the mantelpiece of an aging plutocrat. Or they could have been stolen. We don’t know, but each of them is worth more than $10 million, and they just disappeared, despite being so distinctive.
For years, many people dismissed earthquake lights as a fabrication without any real evidence to back them up. Who really believed that the clouds and sky changed colors near tectonic activity?
It wasn’t until photographic evidence began to pile up in the 60s that the larger scientific community accepted this was happening, and started trying to figure out why that was. They can appear before, during, or after earthquakes, and look something like the northern lights. They can last up to several minutes.
The funny thing is, we still don’t know why in the world they happen. Some think it’s an electric phenomenon from quartz grinding against itself underground or a local disruption to the ionosphere — but it’s bizarre either way.
Cooper’s story is legendary in its own right, partly due to the sheer ballsiness of what he did, and partly due to its mysterious nature.
In 1971, he hijacked a flight between Portland and Seattle, grabbed $200,000 in ransom, and parachuted out of the plane, never to be seen again. The FBI still has an open casefile on the guy and is still looking for him, but I’m guessing he just vanished into obscurity, enjoying his fat wad of cash.
By all accounts, DB Cooper wasn’t the typical terrorist hijacker. He wore a neat suit, spoke calmly and eloquently, and wasn’t at all nervous. The plane landed at the destination, he got the money by letting the passengers go, the plane took off again at his demand, and he jumped out.
He knew a hell of a lot about the plane, the route it needed to take, and what he needed, too. The dude was a freaking MIB.
The Lost Cosmonauts
Everyone knows Yuri Gagarin was the first human in space, right? Right? Well, it pays to remember that Soviet Russia was very big into shouting its triumphs and hidings its mistakes, and there are a lot of people out there who think that there may have been a lot more cosmonauts than the Kremlin admits, ones who died during the process.
They believe two more missions were launched prior to Gagarin’s, and that the pilots didn’t survive the process. It was only because Yuri was successful that they released the information. This would be in keeping with the USSR’s propaganda views, but there’s not much evidence supporting it.
Any time you see a knife or blade that is advertised as Damascus steel, here’s a hint: it isn’t. It’s just wavy.
Damascus steel is a methodology of crafting that has been lost to the mists of time and produced the strongest, sharpest, and most flexible swords in the medieval age.
Used in the Middle East from 300BC to 1700AD, the technique harnessed some of the inherent impurities in the special Wootz steel from India and Sri Lanka. We think that there were impurities of tungsten or vanadium that were needed to make the forging happen, as well as very specific controls of the thermal cycling during the creation.
Swords made through this method have been analyzed and found to have carbon nanotubes throughout the length, which helps explain the incredible strength and flexibility.
The Baghdad battery is one of those wonderful objects which everyone thinks they know what it was used for, but that’s not strictly true, despite Mythbusters showing that this setup could have produced an ancient charge, and used for electroplating.
However, there’s no contemporary evidence of electroplating in the region, and the charge produced by the battery would be absolutely minute. This isn’t an ancient battery, it’s way too weak. Sure, you could generate a current, but it was far too small to be of use. What’s far more likely is that it was used to preserve scrollwork, but where’s the fun in that?
Iron Pillar of Delhi
The Iron Pillar of Delhi is something utterly tremendous in the field of ancient metallurgy — it’s almost pure iron, yet has sat in the open air and weather for 1600 years almost without corrosion. By now it should be a mass of rust and rubble, but instead, it stands tall, all 7 meters and six tons of it.
The reason it lasted so long? Well, it’s a dense and scientific explanation, but let’s call it a combination of excellent ancient skills, a unique set of impurities in the iron, and the conditions around it. I’m sure there are plenty of people who would love to figure out an easy way to stop their metal from rusting.
The Kryptos sculpture is located at the CIA headquarters in Virginia and is made up of four heavily encrypted sections.
Three of them have been decoded, but the fourth remains unsolved from its 1990 installation and is one of the most fiercely chased quests of modern codebreaking. All four sections are meant to then form a riddle, which has to be solved.
We don’t think there’s any prize, apart from being a BAMF for breaking codes. The three solved sections are part treasure map instructions, part poem, part discussion. When it’s finally solved, we can’t wait to see where it leads.
An Italian architect and designer drafted and wrote the Codex over around 30 months in the late 70s, creating an encyclopedia for another world of alien biology and strange text which has never been deciphered. Borges would be proud.
At 360 pages and 11 sections long, it’s logically laid out and batshit bonkers, and every attempt to figure out what the writings say has hit nothing but walls. It would appear further down the list, but author Luigi Serafini recently admitted it was untranslatable.
While it has a real number system (in base 21), the words are meant to have an obvious form and function, but not be understandable, and he wanted “ the alphabet to convey to the ‘reader’ is the sensation that children feel in front of books they cannot yet understand, although they see that their writing does make sense for grown-ups.”
Oak Island Money Pit
Update: The case of the Oak Island Money Pit has been solved.
The Oak Island Money Pit is almost certainly not what everyone wants it to be, and after hundreds of years of people excavating it, they’re still certain that a treasure remains at the bottom.
This immense shaft going into the earth was discovered in the late 1700s, and the people digging down it allegedly found wooden platforms regularly, and a stone plate with a cipher that was said to state there was a treasure even lower.
Unfortunately, the stone disappeared, and centuries of digging haven’t found anything and destroyed any evidence that it was man-made to begin with. The promise of two million pounds, though? That’s enough to keep people going with their pickaxes, even through cave-ins and floodings.