Historic Unsolved Mysteries That We Learned About In 2021

List Rules
Vote up the most unsettling unsolved mysteries.

We need to know the answer. If something in a story is not complete - a missing piece that would make it whole - we feel driven to seek it out and find it. If we can't find it, we theorize what it could be, what happened to it, and why it's not there. It will eat at us. This feeling is familiar to those of us drawn to mysteries. History is rife with unanswered questions, big and small, and over the course of 2021 we at Ranker encountered many mysterious stories.

The solved mysteries gave us a sense of relief. But it was those unsolved mysteries we kept coming back to as we tried to figure out what happened. These were the conundrums we encountered in 2021.

  • 1
    839 VOTES

    Security Cameras Caught A Missing Man Walking Into A Bar But Never Leaving

    In 2006, Brian Shaffer was a 27-year-old medical student at Ohio State University. In the early morning hours of Saturday, April 1, he walked into the Ugly Tuna Saloona with his roommate, Clint Florence, to celebrate the beginning of spring break. He was scheduled to take a trip to Miami with his girlfriend, Alexis Waggoner, the following Monday. 

    Around 2 am on April 1, closed-circuit TV footage showed Shaffer talking to two young women just outside the bar, then reentering. When the establishment closed, Florence tried calling Shaffer, with no luck, so he headed home without him. No one saw or heard from Shaffer all weekend. When he missed his flight to Miami, his family filed a missing person's report

    An investigation found that the cameras did not capture Shaffer leaving. Florence refused to take a lie detector test, and the two women Shaffer was seen talking to were never asked to take one. Shaffer's girlfriend tried calling his phone every day, but it went straight to voicemail. One day, it rang three times and then hung up, which could have been a glitch, according to the phone company, or possibly a clue. The phone pinged at a location 14 miles outside Columbus, but the exact location could not be tracked.

    Authorities, friends, and family are stumped by the disappearance. No foul play was indicated, and Shaffer didn't seem to be running away from anything. His phone and credit cards had not been used.

    There was some false hope in 2020 that a homeless American living in Mexico might be Shaffer, but the FBI ruled that out. Shaffer's younger brother - his only surviving family - still hopes for a break in the case of his disappearance. 

  • The Boys Of Yuba County Never Came Home
    Video: YouTube
    590 VOTES

    The Boys Of Yuba County Never Came Home

    In 1978, five California men with varying intellectual and psychological disabilities went to watch a basketball game and never came home. They all lived with their families. Their mental states were such that they were often called “boys” rather than men, although they were in their 20s and 30s.

    Inexplicably, the friends drove 70 miles east from the basketball game. Instead of going home, they drove to a mountainous, snow-covered road. There, they abandoned their car and disappeared into the night. Later, a snowstorm caused authorities to call off the search.

    In the thaw, authorities found the bodies of Bill Sterling, 29; Jackie Huett, 24; Ted Weiher, 32; and Jack Madruga, 30. The fifth man, Gary Mathias, 25, was still missing. Strangely, Weiher had starved to death in a trailer full of food and with an unlit propane tank heater. The other three bodies were outside. Two of their families were only able to recover bones.

    No one knows what happened to the "Boys of Yuba County" and why they perished in the snow. Mathias remains missing.

  • 3
    611 VOTES

    A British Woman Who Believed She Was A Reincarnated Ancient Egyptian Knew Where To Dig

    Over the course of her life, Dorothy Eady made what some media outlets felt was a compelling claim for reincarnation. Born in England in 1904, she suffered a physical trauma at age 3: she fell down a flight of stairs. Her injuries were so severe that a doctor declared her dead. Except she wasn't. The youngster was awake and alive again soon enough.

    The injury apparently jolted something else in Eady. She began to have visceral recollections of what she believed was her previous life in ancient Egypt. She claimed she was really Bentreshyt, an ancient Egyptian priestess who committed suicide for having a secret lover. After marrying an Egyptian university student and moving to Egypt, Eady started going by "Omm Sety," which meant "mother of Sety" (the name of her son). 

    Her recollections appeared to be convincing. Working in Egypt, she helped archaeologists make discoveries based on her recollections, including the site of ancient gardens. Her work and expertise earned her the respect and admiration of Egyptologists. 

  • 4
    634 VOTES

    'The Toxic Lady' Inadvertently Sickened Healthcare Workers While Seeking Treatment

    Gloria Ramirez was admitted to a hospital emergency room in Riverside, CA, in February 1994 for a possible heart attack. Soon after healthcare workers began attending to her, they noticed her body was emitting strange odors. Suddenly, they started fainting - the fumes from Ramirez's body were sickening them. One worker was even hospitalized for two weeks due to complications.

    What were the toxic gasses? Experts still don't know for sure what happened, although it's likely that a rare chemical reaction caused the event. Ramirez had advanced cervical cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy; the chemo may have interacted with drugs the ED team deployed to help stabilize her. She may also have been using a dangerous organosulfur compound to self-medicate.

    Ramirez didn't survive, and experts still don't know for sure what caused the toxic fumes or why they sickened healthcare workers.

  • What Happened To The Crew Of The Ghost Ship 'Mary Celeste'?
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    361 VOTES

    What Happened To The Crew Of The Ghost Ship 'Mary Celeste'?

    The Mary Celeste, which departed New York City on November 5, 1872, was bound for Genoa and had 10 people on board: Captain Benjamin Briggs and his seven crewmen, plus his wife and daughter. 

    A month later, the crew of the Dei Gratia spotted the Mary Celeste drifting near Portugal. Alarmed, they approached the ship and found it empty. They also determined the ship was seaworthy - evidently, Briggs's family and the crew hadn't abandoned it because it was sinking, and the last Captain's log indicated no issues. Where had everyone gone, and why?

    The Briggs family and the Mary Celeste crew have never been found. Although it's likely everyone on board escaped on a lifeboat - which was missing - it remains unclear why they abandoned ship and what happened to them in the Atlantic. As Briggs and his wife had a son back in New York, who they presumably would have contacted if they survived the ordeal, it's highly likely their lifeboat never made it to land. 

    Many theories of what transpired have been proposed over the years, ranging from sea monsters to pirates. Initial investigations looked into foul play and possible mutiny, but there's little evidence to support this. Among the more credible explanations: A chemical explosion may not have damaged the ship, but it could have been enough to spook everyone off it. Additionally, while the ship wasn't sinking, a low level of water was onboard. Another theory holds that the ship may have encountered a waterspout. Due to a malfunctioning pump, Captain Briggs could have thought the ship was taking on water much faster than it actually was.

    Every theory seems to have some holes, however, and no one can say for certain what happened to the 10 people on board. Whatever it was, it seems Captain Briggs - who was by all accounts a solid and rational captain - would have needed to feel extremely panicked to abandon the ship so suddenly.

  • At the end of September 1849, Edgar Allan Poe left Richmond, VA, to travel to Philadelphia, where he planned to help a client edit her collection of poems. But he never made it. After Poe had not been seen or heard from for five days, Joseph Walker, who worked for The Baltimore Sun, found the writer in a disorderly state in a street gutter in Baltimore.

    Walker sent for help and noticed some unusual things about Poe. His clothes did not appear to be his own, and he was overcome with hallucinations, slipping in and out of consciousness, starting on October 3 when Walker found him. As a doctor stood by his side until he perished on October 7, the only coherent word he muttered was "Reynolds."

    The official cause of death was swelling of the brain - but why was Poe lying in the street in soiled clothes that didn't belong to him? What sent him into a state of delirium?

    One hypothesis is that he was beaten, perhaps running into the wrong crowd after drinking. Another theory suggests a practice called "cooping," in which someone is assaulted, then forced to vote, usually several times under various names, for a particular candidate. Because Walker found Poe on an election day near a polling place, this proposal has gained legitimacy over the years, especially because cooped people were often rewarded with alcohol, which could explain Poe's state of delirium.

    Other theories have included alcohol intoxication, carbon monoxide poisoning, heavy metal poisoning (such as mercury), an undiagnosed brain tumor, or rabies.