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13 Eerie Unsolved Mysteries That Are Keeping Us Up At Night

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Vote up the mysteries that will make you lie awake at night theorizing.

The greatest unresolved mysteries of the world can almost sound like blockbuster movie plots: Secret treasure hunts, museum heists, and giant magnets in space are just a few of the unsolved cases that give us goosebumps. If you're looking for weird incidents that don't make sense to keep you up at night, look no further. From internet sleuths to history buffs, these head-scratching unsolved mysteries have left many frustrated, still searching for answers even centuries later.

Buckle your seatbelt and get ready for some of the strangest cases in human history, including a mysterious fog that made half the world dark for over a year in the sixth century, a murderer who secretly lived with the family he killed for six months, a missing boy who was returned to the wrong mother, and a pit of money left by pirates that supposedly curses anyone who tries to find it.

If you're the type of person who lies awake at night wondering, "What the heck happened to Amelia Earhart?" we've got plenty of rabbit holes for you to fall down.

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  • Bobby Dunbar Was Supposedly Kidnapped, Then Found, But The Boy Who Returned Wasn't Actually Bobby
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    1
    4,607 VOTES

    Bobby Dunbar Was Supposedly Kidnapped, Then Found, But The Boy Who Returned Wasn't Actually Bobby

    In the summer heat of August 23, 1912, the Dunbar family decided to cool off with a vacation to Swayze Lake in Louisiana. More swamp than lake, Swayze was full of alligators. At some point in the night when the family was asleep in their tents, Bobby Dunbar, the family's 4-year-old son, wandered off and disappeared, launching an eight-month-long search for the child. 

    A Louisiana newspaper from the time, The Caldwell Watchman, covered the search: 

    When [Bobby] was missed, a search traced him to the banks of Lake Swayze... At first, it was feared that he [had] drowned, but the lake failed to give up the body and the little boy’s hat was found some distance from the lake a day or so later.

    With hope of finding Bobby waning, the town continued to search for the boy, offering cash rewards equivalent to $125,000 today to anyone who could lead authorities to him.

    On April 13, 1913, police finally thought they found little Bobby Dunbar alive, traveling with a drifter named William Cantwell Walters in Mississippi. The only problem? The Dunbars didn't recognize him. 

    Regardless of the less-than-ideal reaction from the family, police matched up identifying markers like birthmarks to prove the boy was Bobby. The town celebrated the arrival of the missing boy, despite the Dunbars' doubts.  

    Meanwhile, the accused kidnapper William Cantwell Walters protested his arrest from jail, claiming the boy was the illegitimate son of his brother and his servant. Julia Anderson (pictured), the woman who claimed to be Bobby's real mother, paid a visit to the Dunbars to claim her alleged son, Bruce Anderson. After seeing the boy, she claimed he was, in fact, little Bruce, not little Bobby. After a public trial, it was decided that the Dunbars would keep Bobby and Julia Anderson would return to Mississippi. 

    Years later, Bobby Dunbar's granddaughter, Margaret Dunbar Cutright, received a scrapbook of articles about the mystery of her grandfather's identity. She allied with Linda Traver, granddaughter of Julia Anderson, and the two began searching for the truth. After uncovering letters and court documents, Margaret Dunbar Cutright convinced her father to give a DNA sample to finally put an end to the mystery. The DNA sample was compared to Bobby's younger brother Alonzo. The test proved that "Bobby Dunbar" was not the same boy who went missing in the swamp in 1912. He was the son of Julia Anderson all along. 

    What happened to the real Bobby Dunbar is still a mystery, as is the question of whether or not Bobby Dunbar's parents knew the boy was not really theirs.

    4,607 votes
  • The Unknown Culprit Behind The Hinterkaifeck Slayings May Have Been Living In Their Victims' Home
    Photo: Andreas Biegleder / Wikipedia / Public Domain
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    4,716 VOTES

    The Unknown Culprit Behind The Hinterkaifeck Slayings May Have Been Living In Their Victims' Home

    On March 31, 1922, six people were murdered at the Hinterkaifeck Bavarian homestead in Germany. This included the five members of the Gruber family - Andreas, his wife Cäzilia, their widowed daughter Viktoria, and her two children, Cäzilia and Josef - as well as their maid Maria Baumgartner. 

    A week earlier, Andreas had noticed footprints leading towards the farm from the woods, but there were no returning prints. Prior to this, Andreas had been complaining to friends and neighbors for months about hearing creaking and footsteps in the attic, as well as finding a newspaper in his home that he hadn't purchased. He also revealed that the keys to his tool shed had gone missing, which happened to be the place his pickax - which eventually became the murder weapon - was stored. 

    Months prior to the slaying, the Grubers' previous maid had quit, claiming the house was haunted by ghosts after hearing mysterious voices and footsteps.

    Not until April 4, after young Cäzilia was absent from school and the mailman reported the mail piling up, were the police told to check on the Hinterkaifeck farm. Investigators interviewed over 100 suspects, some as recently as 1986, and eventually came to the conclusion that the culprit was likely living in their house for at least six months prior to the killings. There was never enough conclusive evidence to close the case, so almost a century later, it remains unsolved. 

    Perhaps even more unsettling is the fact that livestock were still being fed, and neighbors saw smoke coming from the chimney between March 31 and April 4, indicating that the culprit remained in the house for a few days after they did away with the family.

    4,716 votes
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    3,798 VOTES

    The Skeleton Of An Unidentified Woman Was Found Stuffed In A Tree In 1943

    In 1943, four teenage boys found a woman's body stuffed in a tree in the Hagley Woods in Worcestershire, England. During WWII, food rations were tight, and the boys were out hunting in the hopes of finding some game to supplement their family's diet. One climbed a wych elm, named for its spooky appearance, in the hopes of finding a bird's nest, but discovered something far more sinister instead. 

    A woman's skeleton had been stuffed into the center of the tree. The boy quickly realized the remains were human by the pieces of hair still attached to the skull. Seventeen-year-old Tom Willetts alerted the authorities, the incident weighing heavily on him.

    Once the body was located, Professor James Webster served as the medical examiner, estimating the woman to be 35 years old and only 5 feet tall. There were rags of clothing on her bones and fabric stuffed in her mouth, leading him to believe she may have been suffocated. He also noted that it was likely she had at one time given birth and had been deceased for around 18 months when she was found. Stranger still, her hand was missing, and the bones were later discovered to be scattered around the tree.

    Webster concluded that the woman was murdered since the way her body was stored indicated it could not have been an accident or suicide. He also concluded that the body was put in the tree before rigor mortis caused the body to stiffen, indicating that the murder happened close to where the skeleton was found. 

    In the investigation that followed, police contacted every local dentist, hoping to find dental records that matched the body, along with digging through missing person reports. The mysterious case went cold until six months later, when graffiti began to appear near the tree. 

    The first chalk writing read, “Who put Luebella down the wych elm?” This led investigators to name their Jane Doe "Bella." More and more chalk graffiti appeared with similar sentiments, making it unclear whether they were clues or taunts. 

    Anthropology professor Margaret Murray hypothesizes that Bella was a victim of an occult ritual; the way her hand was severed from her body appeared similar to a ritual called the "Hand of Glory." Another theory was that Bella could have been a German spy, captured and slain by UK soldiers. 

    Bella's identity and the reason for her demise remain a mystery.

    3,798 votes
  • 4
    3,142 VOTES

    No Trace Of Amelia Earhart’s Plane Has Been Found, Despite Extensive Searches

    On July 2, 1937, the great aviator Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan were leaving the ground from New Guinea to finish their mission of flying around the world. Their next stop was a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean: Howland Island. The plane never arrived. Somewhere between points A and B, their radio transmission was lost, likely from overcast skies, and their fuel was dangerously low. 

    One of the largest searches in American history followed. The US Navy and Coast Guard scoured 250,000 square miles of the Pacific, but they never found Amelia Earhart, Fred Noonan, or their plane. 

    Earhart was announced legally deceasaed in January 1939, over a year after her disappearance. There are many theories as to what may have happened to the great aviator. 

    On the morning of her disappearance, Earhart said over the radio, "on the line 157 337... running north and south," indicating she was, in fact, en route to Howland Island. This led to the popular hypothesis that inclement weather caused Earhart and Noonan to miss Howland Island and continue on, possibly running out of fuel and landing on a tiny island. Some even believed the two survived, living on the island as castaways. 

    In 1940, a partial human skeleton was found on Nikumaroro, a tiny atoll - a ring of coral reef formed from an oceanic volcano. A medical examiner immediately concluded from the measurements of the bones that they belonged to a man. 

    However, in 1987, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) revisited the case, launching a mission to find any evidence Amelia Earhart may have left behind. Twelve years later, in 1998, they reexamined the skeleton found on Nikumaroro with forensic science far more advanced than what was available in 1940. Scientists concluded the human remains belonged to a woman of European descent who was the same height as Amelia Earhart.

    In 2018, the remains were examined yet again, and the University of Tennessee, in conjunction with TIGHAR, concluded that there was a 99% chance the bones belonged to Amelia Earhart. What happened to her plane and Fred Noonan is still unknown.

    3,142 votes
  • The Author Of ‘The Secret: A Treasure Hunt’ Passed Before His Riddles Were  Solved
    Photo: ibooks.com
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    2,574 VOTES

    The Author Of ‘The Secret: A Treasure Hunt’ Passed Before His Riddles Were  Solved

    In 1982, Byron Preiss published The Secret: A Treasure Hunt, a book of 12 mind-bending riddles and paintings by fantasy artist John Jude Palencar. Each riddle is paired with a painting to reveal a location in a North American city. Once the treasure hunter finds the location, they will find a bejeweled box buried 3.5 feet under the ground with a key inside. The key can be exchanged for a jewel, collectively worth about $10,000.

    In 1983, the first of the jewels was found by three teenagers in Chicago, who paired the fifth image with the 12th verse:

    Where M and B are set in stone
    And to Congress, R is known
    L sits and left
    Beyond his shoulder
    Is the Fair Folks’
    Treasure holder
    The end of ten by thirteen
    Is your clue
    Fence and fixture
    Central too
    For finding jewel casque
    Seek the sounds
    Of rumble
    Brush and music
    Hush.

    Hidden in the image was a backwards outline of the state of Illinois, as well as several Chicago landmarks, like the Water Tower. An image of a bowman pointed to a statue near Grant Park, while where "L sits" referred to a statue of Abraham Lincoln within the park. The treasure hunters used two intersecting lines of trees to locate a spot under a section of fence (the fence is also hidden within the image) where the treasure was hidden. One of the teens, Eric Gasiorowski, wrote up an explanation of how they managed to solve the complex riddle. A full solution can also be found here

    While many believe they have identified the cities each treasure is located in, only three of the 12 riddles have been solved. Treasure hunters all over the country continue the search, even though Byron Preiss passed in 2005, taking the secret locations of the remaining gems to his grave.

    2,574 votes
  • The Voynich Manuscript Was Written During The Renaissance In A Cryptic, Previously Unseen Language
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    6
    2,558 VOTES

    The Voynich Manuscript Was Written During The Renaissance In A Cryptic, Previously Unseen Language

    The Voynich Manuscript is a 250-page book filled with cryptic written language and illustrations of plants no one can identify. The book has been carbon-dated to the 1400s and is named after the Polish book collector who purchased the book in 1912. Prior to that, its only other known owner was Georg Baresch, a Czech alchemist and collector who passed in 1662, and who claimed the book was "taking up space uselessly in his library" in a letter he wrote to a fellow academic in 1639. 

    Since Baresch's passing, the book has made occasional appearances throughout history; each person who finds it is as baffled as the next. The mysterious manuscript has been studied by countless historians, scientists, archaeologists, and alchemists. Not a single person has been able to figure out the origin of the language and drawings, nor decipher its meaning.

    2,558 votes