The United States frequently generates sensational and disturbing crimes that make headlines all over the world. The Kennedy assassination, the Manson Family murders, and the OJ Simpson trial are just a few of the media spectacles that became recognizable worldwide. Typically, Americans are not as aware of crimes that occur outside our borders, even when those crimes mystified and terrified the local population. But these crimes are no less compelling because they occurred outside the American media spotlight. Here is a list of some of the world's most baffling and sensational crimes that aren't as recognizable in the United States - yet.
"Tamam Shud," the World's Most Mysterious Cold Case
On the evening of November 30, 1948, a couple was walking along Somerton Beach, a resort area near Adelaide, Australia. They noticed a well-dressed man about 20 yards away, propped up against a concrete barrier in the sand. He motioned erratically toward them but then was still. The next day, other passersby noticed the man in the same position and one finally checked on him. He was now dead, a cigarette butt positioned as if it had fallen out of his mouth.
Police were called and the body was transported to the morgue. Although his pockets contained transit tickets from Adelaide, a pack of cigarettes, matches, gum, and combs, there was no wallet, cash, or ID. His behavior suggested intoxication or even poisoning, but an autopsy turned up nothing. His suit had no name tags and even had the brand names removed with one exception. His calves were abnormally well-developed and his feet had a peculiar pointed shape that lead to a theory that he might have been a ballet dancer.
Police circulated fingerprints worldwide, tried to connect the corpse to known missing persons and checked hotels, lost and founds, and dry cleaners for any relevant material until they found a suitcase in the local railway station's checked luggage office. They connected thread from the suitcase with repairs done on the man's pants' pocket. But any items that would identify the suitcase owner's identity seemed to have been deliberately removed.
Months after the investigation began, a small pocket in the waistband of the pants was discovered. Inside was a tiny rolled-up slip of paper with the words "Tamam Shud" printed on it. Eventually this scrap of paper was linked to an edition of The Rubiyat of Omar Khayyam, a popular, 12th century book of Persian poetry. Translated, the words mean "It is ended."
The actual book that the slip of paper came from turned up in the backseat of another individual who had been at the beach, most likely tossed there by someone else. When police examined this book, they found a phone number that they ultimately connected to a man named Alfred Boxall. However, Boxall was still alive and still had his own, intact copy of The Rubiyat. He received it from a woman only identified by her first name, "Jestyn." When confronted with the likeness of the unknown dead man, Jestyn practically turned white, but claimed to have no knowledge of who the man was.
Theories concerning espionage and murder have been floated for decades in Australia, but no one has ever identified the mysterious Somerton Beach Man, and why and how he died there.
The Severed Feet Mystery of British Columbia
Since 2007, numerous severed and decayed human feet began to surface on the coastline of British Columbia. These decayed body parts, sixteen in all, were typically found encased in running shoes or hiking boots. The location of these discoveries concentrated around the Salish Sea area roughly near the city of Vancouver, with some found on Vancouver Island. Only five feet and four people have been identified from these remains; the rest are from unknown individuals and some include feet that came from children.
There are several theories concerning these discoveries, most centering around the concept that a decaying body in water will eventually separate with sneaker-clad feet remaining preserved and eventually breaking off the from the rest of a decomposing cadaver. Some feet have been linked to individuals who were known to be depressed and probably jumped from any number of nearby suspension bridges.
Another theory is that these are remains from the Asian Tsunami of 2006. But the sneakers on these feet have typically been linked to products sold in British Columbia, not Asia.
While there is no conclusive answer as to the source of these feet, they keep turning up- the latest was discovered in February 2016. Because only feet have been found, it is impossible to rule out foul play as a source of these discoveries.
The Brutal Murder of the Al-Hilli Family in the French Alps
On September 5, 2012, four people were killed in a shooting near the French Alpine town of Chevaline, on Lake Annecy. The location of the murders seemed utterly unlikely, a small parking area at the end of a remote 3 km-long road.
One set of victims were members of the Al-Hilli family: Saad, 50, an Iraqi-born British citizen; his wife Iqbal, 47; her mother-in-law, Suhaila al-Aliaf, 74; and a local French cyclist, Sylvain Mollier, 45. The bodies were discovered by another cyclist who happened on the scene, first discovering Al-Hilli's seven-year-old daughter stumbling around the parking lot before she collapsed. She had been shot in the shoulder and brutally pistol-whipped. Her 4-year-old sister hid underneath her mother's skirt and was not found until hours later, unscathed physically but traumatized by the incident. Initially, an estranged brother was suspected to have committed the crimes over a dispute involving their father's estate. He was eventually not charged due to lack of evidence.
Revelations that Al-Hilli possibly had connections to bank accounts linked to Saddam Hussein, that his wife had a secret ex-husband in the US who died on the same day as she did, and that Al-Hilli was involved in complex security technology has only added to the mystery and speculation surrounding the case. It is believed that Mollain may have unfortunately stumbled onto the scene of the murders.
Although media has discussed several potential suspects (the most recent, a Belgian suspected of a similar 30-year-old murder in Brittany and attempted murder of some of his own family members), no definitive solution has emerged in this high-profile, baffling case.
The Lead Masks Case of Vintem Hill, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
In August of 1966, an individual was flying a kite on Vintem Hill in Brazil when he found two adult male dead bodies. The men were identified as Miguel Viana and Manuel Pereira Da Cruz. Strangely, they were dressed in suits and raincoats, with crude lead masks covering their eyes. Police noted an empty water bottle nearby and a small notebook with a cryptic message inside in Portuguese: "16:30 be at the agreed place. 18:30 swallow capsules, after effect protect metals wait for mask sign.”
An autopsy turned up no trace of anything inappropriate; however, there was a long delay before the autopsy that might have invalidated any testing that was done. Further investigation turned up the fact that both men were UFO enthusiasts and clearly were on the verge of ingesting something that might be dangerous. There were rumors of UFO sightings in the area, which might explain what drew the men there. The masks turned out to be homemade by the men themselves.
What happened to these two men remains a mystery to this day.