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The Strangest Solved Mysteries

Updated September 23, 2021 232.6k views12 items

The phrase "unsolved mystery" brings up connotations of dedicated research, dangerous archeology, and that TV show from the '80s. But sometimes, these "unsolved mysteries" actually get solved—in fact, some of them were explained a long time ago. While the explanations for these crazy mysteries are often much less salacious than the mysteries themselves, they're no less interesting.

Whether they're phenomenon thought to be ancient or extraterrestrial, or crazy detective stories that ended tragically, a solved mystery is worth reading about, especially since they offer that "creep factor" generally sought-after in these types of narratives. They can involve centuries-old building techniques, natural occurrences, or the disappearances of people. And they bedeviled professional and amateur investigators for years or decades, only to be cracked.

Here are some of the strangest solved mysteries, and what really happened in these cases.
  • The Death of Anastasia

    The horror of the October Revolution hit home in 1918, when Russia's Tsar Nicholas II and his entire family were executed by Bolshevik secret police. Among them was 17-year-old Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna— better known simply as Anastasia. Because the bodies of the Tsar and his family were never found, rumors abounded that Anastasia had somehow escaped—rumors fanned by nearly a dozen women who claimed to be missing duchess.

    The most prominent was Anna Anderson, a German woman who claimed to be Anastasia in 1921, while living in an asylum. She claimed to have no memory of her escape. While Anderson managed to fool some people, survivors of the Romanov dynasty rejected her. Still, the story was made all the more intriguing by the fact that Anastasia's body was never found.

    The plot thickened in 1991,when a grave site was unearthed that contained the skeletons of nine of the eleven executed Romanovs, but not Anastasia. However, in 2007, two burned skeletons were found in a pit near the same site, and DNA testing confirmed that one was the Grand Duchess. She died in 1918, as had been suspected all along.

  • Why the Mayans Vanished

    It's one of the most prominent societal collapses in human history. The Mayans seemingly abandoned their complex civilization and disappeared into the Central American jungle. For centuries, people puzzled over the disappearance, theorizing everything from an internal peasant revolt, to conquest by an outside and unknown people, to a UFO holocaust.

    It wasn't until 2005 that a legitimate theory was put forward to explain what happened, a theory confirmed in 2012. The Mayan civilization collapsed due to a self-created environmental disaster. The Mayans chopped down too many trees, which reduced the land's ability to absorb solar radiation. This made rainfall more scarce, which caused a crippling drought. The Mayans abandoned their land not due to aliens or revolt, but to find food.
  • The Kidnapping of Carlina White

    Photo: Public Domain

    On August 4, 1987, Carlina White, just 19 days old, was rushed to New York's Harlem Hospital Center. Suffering from an infection and high fever, Carlina was admitted, but disappeared during an early morning shift change. Witnesses described a heavyset woman dressed like a nurse who had been hanging around the NICU, and who left shortly after the shift change. But because the hospital's video surveillance wasn't working, nobody knew what she looked like. The incident was the first non-parental infant abduction in New York history. A reward was set up for White's return, but she was never found. The parents sued the hospital, won a settlement, and eventually split up. The case remained cold for decades.

    For the next 23 years, Carlina was raised under a new name by Connecticut resident Annugetta "Ann" Pettway. After becoming suspicious of her mother's inability to provide birth documents, as well as the lack of resemblance between the two, Carolina began researching on the Internet, and found baby photos that resembled her likeness as an infant.

    She called the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and was reunited with her birth parents in 2000. Pettaway disappeared, but eventually turned herself in and pleaded guilty to kidnapping. She's currently serving a 12 year sentence.

  • The Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot Film

    Video: YouTube

    Shot in Northern California in 1967, the Patterson-Gimlin Film is almost certainly the most well-known piece of footage purporting to show Bigfoot. While the authenticity of the film is still debated by cryptozoologists and skeptics alike, they needn't bother: a 2004 book by author Greg Long revealed the entire thing as a hoax.

    A local laborer named Bob Heironimus wore a suit, and freely admitted to Long that he'd done so. Roger Patterson never paid anyone involved with the film, had charges filed against him to get him to return the camera he used, and likely did the whole thing as a stunt to provide for his family, as he was sick with cancer.