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Mysterious Dead Bodies That Were Never Identified

Updated July 23, 2020 658.3k views12 items

What's even creepier than a case of someone taking a life? One where the body of the victim is never identified. Unexplained and unidentified corpses are found from time to time, and despite efforts to find their perps and put the victims to rest, investigators aren't always able to close these unsolved cases. Known as John and Jane Does, these mysterious victims captivate the imagination of many: Who were they? What happened to them?

The task of figuring out who these people are is often hard and fruitless. Authorities trying to crack cases with unidentified victims face uphill battles when trying to find a resolution. These cases involve men, women, and children - of all ages and races across the world. Police utilize age progression technology to create composite sketches of victims, allowing organizations like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to promote posters in the hopes of identifying the lost but not forgotten. While nameless, these victims live forever in their mysteriousness. 

  • The Tamam Shud Case

    Photo: South Australia Police / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The "Tamam Shud" case is considered by many as one of Australia's most profound mysteries. The case, also referred to as the "Mystery of the Somerton Man," is about more than just an unidentified body. It's about the cryptic coding found in the man's possession, and that no one knows what actually ended his life. On December 1, 1948, a man's body was spotted in Somerton Beach in South Australia. In his pocket was a page removed from a book of poems entitled Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. On it was the phrase "tamám shud" meaning "ended" or "finished" in Persian.

    Police located the copy of the book the page was ripped from, and inside of the back cover were written indentations. They deciphered a telephone number, but the other number and seemingly random text are believed to be an encrypted message. Investigators were never able to figure out the code or the man's identity.

    The discovery of the body coupled with the growing concerns of the Cold War and an increased public concern over international espionage caused some to speculate the man was a spy. No one ever figured out who the man was, what his code means, how he passed, or what he was doing in the first place.

  • The Bear Brook Barrels

    Photo: CarlK90245 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    In 1985, a hunter out in New Hampshire's Bear Brook State Park made a shocking discovery. He found the remains of a woman in her mid-20s to early 30s and a young girl, both beaten, wrapped in plastic, and stuffed into a metal drum. Police were unable to identify the two victims and the case went cold.

    In May 2000, a detective decided to reopen the case and visit the scene. To everyone's horror, two more victims were found about 300 feet away from the first two. They, too, were concealed in a metal drum, and while their COD was undetermined, it did date back to the same time period as the first two victims.

    They were much younger than the first child, one was between 2 and 4 years old and the other was only 1 to 3 years old. DNA testing concluded that two of the children were maternally related to the woman, the third could have been a paternal half-sister or cousin to the other children. The identities of the family remain unknown. There was nothing in the database to link the girls to a father, a missing person's report, or any other family members.

    Then, in 2016, DNA connected convict Terry Peder Rasmussen to one of the toddlers unearthed back in 2000. At the time of discovery, Rasmussen - referred to as a "Chameleon" - went by many aliases, including "Bob Evans." He is suspected in more than half a dozen missing person cases but passed while incarcerated in 2010.

    In June 2019, authorities announced the identies of the woman and two of the children: Marlyse Elizabeth Honeychurch, and her two children, Marie Elizabeth Vaughn and Sarah Lynn McWaters. Librarian and amateur sleuth Rebekah Heath broke the case by cross-referencing missing persons databases. The third girl remains unidentified, though she is the daughter of Rasmussen. Authorities hope to identify the girl's mother, but they feel confident, given his previous convictions and ties to Honeychurch, that Rasmussen is responsible for her and her daughters' demises.

  • Beth Doe

    Photo: Carbon County Police Department / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    On December 20, 1976, three suitcases were found under a bridge on Interstate 80 in Carbon County, Pennsylvania. Inside were the remains of a pregnant woman believed to be between 16 and 22-years-old. The woman had been strangled, shot, and then completely dismembered. Among the discovery were also the remains of her unborn baby.

    The only lead police had was numbers and letters that could have been a license plate number written on one of her hands. Then, in 2014, new technologies allowed experts to compose a DNA profile of the woman, determining that she is from eastern or central Europe. However, investigators never determined who she was or what the numbers meant. She was buried under the name "Beth Doe," and her case remains unsolved to this day. 

  • The Boy In A Box

    Photo: CarlK90245 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    On February 25, 1957, a horrific discovery was made. A boy that couldn't have been more than 6 had been stripped of his clothes, thrown in a box, and left on the side of the road in Philadelphia. He was severely underweight, malnourished, and was badly bruised. His official COD was blunt force trauma.

    Not a single person knew who he was. There were no missing person reports matching his description, no fingerprints on file with the hospital, and no one ever came forward after word of his discovery got out. Police went so far as to enlist the help of a psychic to help solve this mystery, but the identity of the "Boy in the Box" still remains a mystery.