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IN THIS EPISODE: (Dark Archives Double Trouble episode with stories from August 23-24, 2018) *** Was the unidentified man found dead on an Adelaide beach in 1948 a Cold War spy? (The Taman Shud Case) *** Two boys exploring the woods in Long Island, New York, found more than just the chestnuts they were looking for. (The Waldron Woods Mystery) *** One pupil discovers that Mystery Meat Monday isn’t the only thing to fear when heading to lunch at the school cafeteria. (The Student In The Cafeteria) *** It’s amazing the extraordinary lengths our world leaders will go to in order to cover up reports of alien aircraft sightings and the like. And we know they are covering them up, because occasionally they do come clean about it – as they did in the 1980s in Britain. (UFOs: When Governments Come Clean) *** A woman wake up to discover her husband has disappeared from the bed and she can’t find him. But after looking through the house, she finds something surprising waiting for her in the bedroom. (I Went Missing From Our Bed) *** Does the mysterious ancient “Crystal Skull of Doom” really have mystical, paranormal properties? (The Crystal Skull’sStare of Death) *** A man begins hearing strange noises – only later to discover something extraterrestrial embedded in his ear. (Alien Ear Implant) *** On a hot, sunny, summer Saturday in 1966, three young women in bathing suits left all of their belongings on crowded beach and climbed aboard a motorboat on Lake Michigan. They were never seen again. (Young Women Lost) *** A young boy braves a snow storm and walks miles to the nearest town to try and get medicine for his ailing mother and siblings. On the verge of giving up, a warm-hearted stranger walking his dog comes into sight. But who walks a dog in the middle of a winter snow storm? (A Warm Meeting in Deadly Winter) *** On a quiet street in California sits a stately brick house swarming with paranormal activity… so much so, that Whaley House has been deemed the most haunted house in America. (The Terrors of Whaley House)
STORY AND MUSIC CREDITS/SOURCES…
(Note: Over time links can and may become invalid, disappear, or have different content.)
“The Terrors of Whaley House” by Orin Grey: http://bit.ly/2P6AM3H
“The Crystal Skull’s Stare of Death”: http://bit.ly/2RCorWS
“Alien Ear Implant”: http://bit.ly/2P86a22
“Young Women Lost” by Troy Taylor: http://bit.ly/38m79mx
“A Warm Meeting in Deadly Winter” by Piper Lee, submitted directly to WeirdDarkness.com
“I Went Missing From Our Bed”: http://bit.ly/2Yw5Ahm
“The Taman Shud Case”: http://bit.ly/2LC2TFQ
“The Waldron Woods Mystery” by Robert Wilhelm: http://bit.ly/38pAH2C
“UFOs: When Governments Come Clean” by Nick Redfern: http://bit.ly/2RAoXVd
“The Student In The Cafeteria” by CR: http://bit.ly/2Yw5EO8
Background music provided by EpidemicSound and AudioBlocks with paid license. Music by Shadows Symphony (http://bit.ly/2W6N1xJ), Midnight Syndicate (http://amzn.to/2BYCoXZ), and Nicolas Gasparini/Myuu (http://bit.ly/2LykK0g) is also often used with permission from the artists.
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“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” — John 12:46 *** How to escape eternal darkness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IYmodFKDaM
It was New Years Day 1924 when seventeen-year-old Anna Mitchell-Hedges first saw it. An object of such awe-inspiring beauty and mystery that it would beguile the world for 70 years.
Lowered into the gloom of an ancient Mayan pyramid at Lubaantun, Belize, Anna saw a glimmer in the darkness. What she found was incredible — an exquisite life-size human skull, crafted in pure quartz crystal.
Anna was mesmerized by her discovery. The skull seemed to have an unearthly power and aura. The girl’s father, renowned adventurer and explorer Frederick Mitchell-Hedges, was certain it was old, very old.
Mitchell-Hedges had spent the previous year excavating the great thousand-year-old ruined Mayan city at Lubaantun and thought the skull, which he labeled the ‘Skull of Doom’, a sinister ancient artifact used in religious rites.
“It is at least 3,600 years old and according to legend was used by the High Priest of the Maya when performing esoteric rites”, he wrote in his autobiography in 1954.
“It is said that when he willed death with the help of the skull, death invariably followed. It has been described as the embodiment of all evil. I do not wish to try and explain this phenomenon”.
Mitchell-Hedges and his adopted daughter were not the only ones seduced by the skull’s immense beauty and sinister, mysterious power.
Later dubbed “the weirdest gem in the world”, those who have viewed the skull in person over the years attest to its strange ability to cast a spell on the beholder.
After Frederick Mitchell-Hedges’ death in 1959, the then middle-aged Anna would tour the crystal skull around the world, allowing private viewings for paying customers.
Countless TV programs, newspaper articles, and books would be produced exploring the enigmatic artifact. Principally through Anna’s tireless promotion, what was once an obscure curiosity would soon become one of the most famous strange objects in the world.
Supporters would even start to claim the skull had supernatural powers. Could it really read minds, heal the sick and predict the future? Was it, as some suggested, an ancient computer encoded with the wisdom of the lost civilization of Atlantis? Or even the work of aliens?
The legend of the skull was growing, fuelled by the enduring mystery of its origins. But despite Anna’s claims, a persistent group of skeptics had begun suspect the skull was a modern fake and Anna’s story a fabrication.
In 1970, in an attempt to dispel these doubts, Anna drafted in Hewlett-Packard to conduct tests on the skull. As one of the world’s leading experts in quartz crystal, the firm was best placed to determine just when and how the extraordinary object had been created.
Their findings were a sensation. The skull was so finely constructed and finished that even the most modern tools would struggle to replicate it. According to one member of the team, the skull shouldn’t even exist.
For many, this was proof that the skull had been produced by an advanced civilization lost to history, a culture with technology beyond what we have even today.
Anna seemed vindicated. Could it be she really was in possession of a mystical ancient artifact whose origins were lost in the mists of time?
In the 1960s, Anna Mitchell-Hedges entrusted the skull into the care of crystal expert Frank Dorland. Whilst quartz crystal itself cannot be dated, Dorland felt a microscopic study of the skulls workmanship might reveal more about its origins.
To that end, in 1970 Hewlett-Packard was called into to examine the skull. The computer and electronics giant had some of the world’s leading experts in quartz, as well as high-tech microscopes and x-ray equipment.
The firm’s analysis of the skull only seemed to deepen its mystery. According to their experts, the skull was made from a single piece of pure natural quartz and would have taken years to carve, even with the most advanced diamond tools.
But the firm felt it unlikely modern tools were used in its construction. Even under extreme magnification, they were unable to find any trace of machine tools. If it had been created using modern power tools, its maker had seemingly gone to great lengths to disguise it.
Furthermore, the skull appeared to have been carved against the quartz crystal’s natural grain, which they felt would have caused it to shatter if machined with powered tools.
Some of the skull’s other unusual electrical and optical properties also amazed the scientists at the firm’s Santa Clara labs.
The type of quartz used was piezoelectric silicon dioxide, today used widely in modern electronics. Indeed, the skull had positive and negative polarity and was capable of producing an electrical charge when under mechanical stress.
Even stranger was the skull’s optical properties. It was designed in such a way that light channeled from below would be focused out through the eye sockets. It also featured an internal prism that reflected the skulls surroundings inside of the crystal.
Hewlett Packard’s discovery of these unique qualities did much to cement the skull’s reputation as a deeply mysterious artifact.
Had the Mayans created it with some lost technology? Or had they merely inherited the artifact from a much earlier and more advanced civilization forgotten by history?
When Anna Mitchell-Hedges found the skull at Lubaantun, she says the Maya workers in the expedition immediately recognized it as a sacred artifact of their people.
Whilst no other crystal skulls have been found at any of the hundreds of well documented official Mayan or Aztec archeological sites, skulls were a recurring motif in ancient Mesoamerica, widely used in carvings and religious artworks.
The Mayan god of death, Ah Puch, was depicted as a skull on a body of rotting flesh and several Aztec gods are also represented as skulls.
The walls of Chichen Itza, a 1500-year-old Mayan city located in present-day Yucatan, are decorated with rows of carved skulls, replete with sinister grins. The Temple of the Skull at Palenque, another Mayan city, features a large carving of a toothy skull on one of its pillars.
Later Mexican cultures would use real human skulls inlaid with bright blue and black lignite, red oyster shell, and polished iron pyrite. The skulls were used to represent one of their most important creator gods — the Smoking Mirror Tezcatlipoca.
Today, belief in the power of skulls remains amongst what is left of the Mayan people. The Lacandon, still active around the ruins of Palenque, use crystal skulls in their religious rituals.
One priest, K’in Garcia uses such a skull during ceremonies to worship Hacha’kyum, the Mayan god of creation. The Lacandon elders believe the skull has mystical powers, can cure the sick and will stave off the deforestation that still threatens their people.
Hewlett-Packard’s discovery in 1970 of unusual electrical and optical phenomena in the skull encouraged much speculation about it’s paranormal and otherworldly qualities.
The timing was perfect. The late 60s and early 70s saw the birth of the New-age movement and the skull was seized upon as a possible relic of a distant lost civilization, even a repository of esoteric knowledge.
Several purported paranormal qualities have been attributed to the skull over the years. Anna Mitchell-Hedges herself once claimed it gave her a premonition of the death of President Kennedy in 1963. Others attribute mysterious deaths to the skull.
But the most common accounts are of visions and strange sounds. Frank Dorland, entrusted the skull by Anna in the late 60s, reported numerous odd experiences whilst in its presence.
He would see images of ancient temples in the skull’s eyes, Lubaantun at the height of the Mayan civilization. Alongside the visions he could hear metallic bells, singing, whispered voices and the sound of icy mountain streams.
Dorland, who started out as an engineer before becoming a noted art conservator, went on to write extensively about the powers of rock crystal. He believed the skull’s powers had a scientific explanation, something he called biocrystallography.
Dorland did not think the visions were paranormal phenomena, but a natural synchronicity between the crystal and the human brain — “the mass of crystal in some way triggered certain reflexes in the brain, to make you think that you were tasting things, hearing things or seeing things”, he said in 1988.
Could Dorland be right? Was some property in the crystal itself triggering hallucinations in those receptive to it’s energy?
Whilst exhibiting it in San Franciso in the early 70s, Dorland buttressed his theory by gathering accounts from dozens of other people who experienced similar visions.
However, many of those experiences did come from observers predisposed to the skull’s supposed supernatural powers, who were often deep in meditation and highly receptive to visions. Could it be they were simply bamboozled by the skulls curious optical qualities?
Anna Mitchell-Hedges’ romantic account of finding the awesome Skull of Doom amongst the ruins of an ancient Mayan city when she was just a girl captured the imagination of millions of people around the world
However, a cursory study of her claims reveal a terrible truth. At best her story is heavily embellished, and in all likelihood it was entirely fictional.
Fredrick Mitchell-Hedges makes no mention of the skull until his 1954 autobiography ‘Danger My Ally’, where he declines to state its origins. Mitchell-Hedges was a self-publicist and notorious teller of tall tales, so for him to fail to mention this most extraordinary of finds is somewhat curious.
In fact, no reference to the skull exists anywhere prior to a 1936 British anthropological journal, where it was reported to be not in Mitchell-Hedges’ possession at all, but that of an art dealer called Sydney Burney.
A note in the archives at the British museum states the skull was then put up for auction in 1943, failed to sell, but was eventually purchased in 1944 for the sum of £400. The buyer? Frederick Mitchell-Hedges.
Was the whole story of finding the skull in a ruined Mayan city twenty years earlier a fabrication?
None of the written accounts by those who took part in the Lubaantun expedition in the mid-1920s contains any reference to the presence of the teenage Anna or the discovery of the skull.
Indeed, Mitchell-Hedges himself, in his extensive writings and lecture tours following the dig also fails to mention Anna’s presence or the discovery of the skull. Likewise, a 1927 British Museum report on the dig also contains no reference to the skull or the presence of the teenaged Anna.
Whilst there are numerous photographs of Mitchell-Hedges, Thomas Gann, Lady Richmond Brown and other members of the expedition in and around the ruins of Lubaantun, not a single one features Anna or the skull.
The sad truth is Anna Mitchell-Hedges not only made up her incredible story about finding the skull in the ruins of Lubaantun, she was never there at all.
The genesis of her lie appears to begin not in the 1920s, but the 1960s, shortly after she came into possession of the skull and when she began to correspond with art restorer Frank Dorland.
It is in her letters to Dorland that the whole legend of the crystal skull is born. We find the first reference to Anna been present at the dig and the first reference to her finding the skull. After several further embellishments it eventually evolved into the one she would continue to tell for the rest of her life.
Why such an elaborate lie? One possibility is that Anna’s latter-day fiction about personally finding the skull was simply designed to re-enforce her ownership claims to the artifact in light of her subsequent attempts to sell it.
Another possibility is the abiding influence of Frederick Mitchell-Hedges himself. The archeologist was widely regarded as slapdash and reckless, and especially prone to gross exaggerations about his exploits. His writings are replete with absurd tales of Atlantis, giant sea creatures, and personally arm-wrestling gorillas.
Perhaps if nothing else, Anna, who Mitchell-Hedges adopted in 1919 when she was ten years old, was simply continuing her father’s habit of spinning outrageous yarns.
Like so much in her life, Anna Mitchell-Hedges attributed her amazing longevity to the power of the skull. On this point at least, she may have had a point. Outliving many of her critics, Anna finally died in 2007 at the grand old age of 100.
Shortly before her death, she gifted the skull to her young husband Bill Homann. Like Anna, Homann would continue to firmly believe in the skull’s authenticity.
But within a year, the matter would be settled once and for all.
Jane MacLaren Walsh, an anthropologist at the Smithsonian, had taken an interest in crystal skulls after one was anonymously gifted to the museum in 1992. Walsh felt it doubtful they were genuine Mayan or Aztec artifacts as there was no record of either culture working crystal.
Although the Mitchell-Hedges is by far the most beautifully worked crystal skull in the world, it is not unique. Similar skulls exist in the British Museum and the Musée de l’Homme in Paris.
What intrigued Walsh was she could find no reference to these artifacts prior to the second half of the 19th century, when they suddenly start appearing in the shop of a French antique and curio dealer with a penchant for Mexican art named Eugene Boban.
The Paris and British skulls were both, it turns out, from Boban’s shop. But had he acquired genuine ancient artifacts or faked them? The British museum and the Smithsonian teamed up to find out.
Like Hewlett-Packard in 1970, they were unable to date the actual quartz, but the team did have far more sophisticated tools at their disposal to determine how the skulls had been produced.
Using an electron microscope, X-ray crystallography, and CT scans, the results were definitive. Tell-tale tool marks showed the skulls had been produced using modern jewellers equipment, first available in the 19th century.
Trade in fake pre-Columbian artifacts was common at the time and it seems Boban had tried to cash in on the craze by commissioning the skulls, likely from artisans in Germany who specialized in working with quartz.
But what of the Skull of Doom? In 2008, Bill Homann, the skulls new guardian took it to the office of Jane MacLaren Walsh for her assessment. Whether this was brave or foolish is a matter of debate, but either way Homann did not like the answers.
Using the same advanced tests applied to the Paris and British museum skulls, Walsh was able to determine beyond any doubt that the legendary Mitchell-Hedges skull was also a modern fake, likely an improved copy of the London skull.
Science had finally solved one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century. But that wasn’t the end of the story for everyone.
Bill Homann’s faith, for one, remained intact. Homann reasoned that if the skull was made with modern tooling this was just evidence that the ancients had advanced technology unknown to history.
That’s the power of the Skull of Doom in a nutshell. Wherever it came from, however it was made, it’s ability to cast a spell on the beholder remains undiminished.
ALIEN EAR IMPLANT
El Paso, Texas – December 1, 2014 at approx. 1:30am: I was asleep in my bed on my day off from work. Suddenly, I got the sensation of floating above the bed. I awoke and instantly dropped to the bed. Upon awaking, I remembered hearing voices. I assumed that the voices were what woke me up and someone was outside (I lived on 7 acres and my house was far back from the road. In order to hear voices meant that someone was in my yard). I grabbed my gun and went to the window, which was open as it was a cool night and I didn’t want to run the A/C. I sat and listened for a few minutes, but heard nothing. I decided to check on my daughters to see if they were awake, so I placed my gun on the bed and crept back to their rooms. Both girls were asleep. I returned to my bed and slept with my gun by my side the rest of the night.
The next morning I awoke with discomfort in my chest, along the bottom of the sternum. It wasn’t painful, just felt like something was there. I know that when you reach your 40s the cartilage will ostracize. I felt my chest and felt a triangular shaped structure in my chest and just assumed that it had just fused strangely. I just never noticed this before as it was sticking out raising the skin around it. The discomfort lasted about 1 1/2-2 weeks and slowly dissipated during that time. I dismissed all of this as mere coincidence as I didn’t believe in this sort of thing.
December 3, 2016 – 1:37am: I was asleep in my bed. My wife had moved back in with me (we had been separated for about 8 years) along with her two dogs (Chihuahuas; Alex-the white one who slept between us and CC-the black one who slept on my wife’s side of the bed). I awoke suddenly to the sensation of floating above the bed. Immediately I felt the drop and landed on Alex, who was under the covers (both times, I landed above the covers). She yelped very loudly and woke everyone up in the house. My wife asked, “what happened?” “I don’t know,” I replied. “I landed on the dog. Was I floating above the bed?” She replied that she didn’t know as she reached for Alex to comfort her.
The next morning, I felt this discomfort in my ear which lasted about 4 1/2 weeks. Once again it didn’t terrible, it just felt like a mild earache that wouldn’t go away.
November 30, 2017 – 7:30am – Tucumcari, NM: I am a truck driver and I stopped at the Loves Travel Center for the night. My younger daughter was riding with me. We got up in the morning, went in to take showers and get breakfast. We returned to the truck to eat our breakfast and as I began to say a prayer for the food, I heard this beeping noise and stopped praying. I told my daughter, “I think your watch is beeping.” She looked at her watch and said, “No, my watch is on silent.” I told her that I could hear a beeping noise from somewhere in the truck. She stated that she didn’t hear anything. I noticed that as I moved around the truck, trying to find what was beeping, that the aspect to the sound never changed, nor the intensity of the noise. I told her, “I think it’s coming from my ear.” She had been getting over a cold, but still had a cough. She coughed kind of loud and my ear rang very loud. I jammed my finger in my ear while exclaiming, “Ahh!” She asked what happened and I told her that when she coughed, it made my ear ring. I told her that when she was talking, it was making my ear ring also. It literally sounds like someone speaking into a microphone while standing too close to the speakers. We had a load to pick up in Los Lunas, NM going to a Walmart in El Paso and then we were going to take a few days off. I told her that when we get to Walmart, I was going to pick up some ear plugs because the ringing was bad.
We made our delivery and went into the store to get ear plugs. As we were walking through the store, they announced something over the PA. My daughter was on my left side, and I grabbed my ear and bent down. My ear rang out really loud. My daughter asked, “what happened?” “I don’t know. When they got on the intercom, it made my ear ring.” She asked, “Is that what that noise was?” “What noise?” I asked, not believing she could hear the noise from my ear. She mimicked the noise and I exclaimed, “how can you hear what is going on in my ear?” she replied, “I don’t know, but I heard it.” I told her that I needed to buy one of those scopes that the doctors use to look in my ear. She told me that Walmart sells them over in the pharmacy section.
We bought an otoscope, and when we got home she looked in my left ear and found a very shiny metallic object just above the eardrum attached to the ear canal with three legs on each side. I have shown this to many people and no one knows what it is. I am hesitant to see a doctor for fear that they may be required to report this. The beeping is constant (24 hours a day). It is driving me crazy and I have to carry ear plugs with me in case I go to a loud area and it begins to ring. I am looking for help to determine what this device is for and who put it there.
YOUNG WOMEN LOST
The Indiana Dunes Disappearance of 1966
On a hot, sunny, summer Saturday, three young women in bathing suits left all of their belongings a crowded beach and climbed about a motorboat on Lake Michigan. It was noon on July 2, 1966 at Indiana Dunes State Park, about an hour around the lake from Chicago.
A couple whose beach blanket was beside the young women’s watched at the motorboat glided away, then waited all day for them to return. They didn’t know the girls, but thought it was odd that they would leave their purses unattended on a day when the park was packed with more than 9,000 holiday weekend sunbathers and swimmers. When the couple left at dusk, they pointed out the abandoned blanket to a park ranger. They told him that the young women had left on a boat that was operated by a young man with a headful of dark, curly hair. The ranger bundled up the belongings and store them away.
A day and a half later, on July 4, Park Superintendent Bill Svetic took a call from a Chicago man inquiring about his daughter, Patty Blough, 19. She had not been heard from since leaving home for Indiana Dunes with two friends Saturday morning. Svetic opened the blanket bundle that had been left on the beach and found Blough’s wallet, keys and clothing. He also found clothes and purses belonging to Blough’s friends, Renee Bruhl, 19, and Ann Miller, 21. Miller’s 1955 Buick was still sitting in the beach parking lot. Svetic assured Harold Blough that his daughter would turn up – she’d probably just had a little bit too much fun over the holiday weekend.
But Patty didn’t show up. And neither did her friends. An investigation began belatedly as scuba divers scoured the lake and searchers on foot and horseback combed the sprawling sands and woods of the park, which stretches along 45 miles of the Indiana coastline.
But no sign of the young women was ever found. In fact, they remain missing 48 years later and their fate remains one of the enduring unsolved mysteries of the region. What happened to the three young women? No one will probably ever know, but it’s possible that there are still some clues that might stand out when we trace their movements on the day of their vanishing – and even in the days that came before.
On the morning of July 2, Ann Miller drover her four-door Buick and picked up Patty Blough from her family’s home in Westchester, Illinois around 8:00 a.m. Patty told her mother that they planned to return home early in the evening since their friend Renee Bruhl was coming with them and she needed to be back in time to make supper for her husband. Ann and Patty picked up Renee from her home on West Fulton, on Chicago’s West Side, and then stopped at a drugstore to pick up some suntan lotion. The women arrived at the Indiana Dune State Park at approximately 10:00 a.m. Ann parked in the lot and the women hiked to a spot that was about 100 yards from the Lake Michigan shoreline.
The nearby couple stated that the girls left their belongings on the beach at noon and they entered the water together. The witnesses then saw them speaking to an unidentified man who was operating a 14- to 16-foot long white boat with a blue interior and outboard motor. They were unsure of the time when this man approached them. The couple described all this to the park ranger around dusk, when they noticed that the women’s belongings were still sitting on the beach. The women had gotten on the boat, they said, and had headed west with the driver.
Ann, Patty and Renee have never been seen again.
Renee Bruhl left a large beach towel, shorts, blouse, cigarettes, suntan lotion, 25 cents and her purse, which contained about $55 in checks, sitting on the beach. The other women also left clothing, purses and personal items in the sand. Those belongings were collected by the ranger on the night of their disappearance and stored in the park superintendent’s office until July 4, when Patty’s father called the park, searching for his daughter and her friends. The park rangers soon learned that missing person’s reports had been filed for all three women over the weekend in Illinois by their families. The rangers searched the park and located Ann’s Buick in the parking lot. Her car keys had been left with her purse on the beach, but other items of clothing and personal effects were still inside of the car. The car was still parked in its original spot from July 2 – no one had moved it.
The park rangers soon got other law enforcement agencies involved, including the U.S. Coast Guard. The search was in full swing by July 5, three days after the girls had vanished. Other witnesses who were in the park that day came forward with conflicting stories but authorities came to believe that the first witnesses’ reports were the most reliable – the three women were seen boarding a boat and they did not return to the beach.
The search for the three women continued around the clock. It was extended to a six-mile stretch of beach west of the state park, near Ogden Dunes, later in the week. More witnesses came forward that substantiated the initial report that the women got into a boat with an unidentified man. Later accounts claimed that he was in his early twenties with a tanned complexion and dark, wavy hair. He was wearing a beach jacket at the time. A beach-goer who was taking home movies on July 2 offered his films to investigators. The search was narrowed down to two boats after the detectives watched the footage. One of them was a 16-foot runabout with a three-hulled design, which was operated by a man who fit the description of the man seen with the girls. Three women who matched descriptions of the missing girls were seen aboard the boat in the footage. The second boat was identified as a 26-foot cabin cruiser with three men and three women aboard. The cabin cruiser was seen at around 3:00 p.m., three hours after the women got aboard the smaller boat. After reports came in that Ann, Patty and Renee were seen walking on the beach and eating after this time, investigators came to believe that they had been dropped off on the beach west of the state park by the driver of the smaller boat while he drove back to retrieve his two male friends and the cabin cruiser.
While on the second beach, the girls were reportedly approached by another unidentified man, who accompanied them to the cabin cruiser. Witnesses stated that this second boat was equipped with a radio / telephone antenna, but apparently did not have a name painted on its stern. This final sighting has never been confirmed, but the authorities did consider it reliable.
The search went on, but lead after lead went nowhere. A psychic that was brought into the case claimed to have a vision of a Lake Michigan cabin where the women’s bodies were buried. An extensive search of the property believed to be the place seen by the psychic did not uncover any evidence. However, detectives did point out that the shifting sand dunes may have buried any possible evidence deeply under the ground.
Investigators began looking into the backgrounds of the three women in an attempt to discover if their disappearances could have been voluntary – and it was there that things got ever murkier and stranger.
In Renee Bruhl’s purse, the authorities found a letter addressed to her husband, Jeff. The couple had been married for just 15 months in July 1966, but in the letter she asked for a divorce. She said that she felt her husband spent too much time working on cars with his friends and didn’t seem to have time for her. Her husband, though, told the police that he was not aware of any problems in their marriage at the time of his wife’s disappearance. Her family agreed with the statement, telling investigators that they believed that Renee had written the note in a moment of anger and never gave it to Jeff because she had changed her mind about the divorce.
But that might not have been all there was to the story…
All three women were friends, drawn together by their love of horses. Patty and Ann met while boarding their horses at the same Illinois stable. Renee was a classmate of Patty’s at Proviso West High School in Maywood, Illinois and she had completed a one-year course in medical technology after graduation. The women often rode together and often met at a tavern in Hodgkins, Illinois after their outings. According to a theory created by Dick Wylie, a reporter and photographer who chased crime in northwest Indiana for the Gary Post-Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times during the 1950s and ’60s, the events leading to their disappearance began there.
Both Patty and Ann were single and Wylie believes that fell for married men they met at the tavern and both got pregnant. Later, statements from some of Ann’s friends claim that she was three months pregnant in July 1966 and mentioned going to a home for unwed mothers prior to her disappearance. But did she have plans to end the pregnancy? And what about Patty? Was she pregnant as well?
Abortion was illegal in Illinois in 1966. According to Dick Wylie, some Chicago women who found themselves in trouble visited a house just across the state border in Gary, where a husband-and-wife team, Helen and Frank Largo, performed backroom abortions. Wylie has linked the Largos, now dead, to a floating abortion mill that operated on a houseboat offshore in Lake Michigan. He believes Ann and Patty had arranged abortions on that boat on July 2, and they were ferried there by Ralph Largo, Jr., a nephew of Helen and Frank Largo. He was seen at the park that day and matched the description of the man last seen with the girls on the beach.
Wylie believes that the women got to the larger boat, but something went wrong with one of the procedures and the other two were killed so that no witnesses would be left behind. The girls had left their belongings on the beach because they expected to be back in 90 minutes, Wylie said. The theory has never been confirmed – the younger Largo died in 2009 – but it is plausible. However, unless a body turns up, it’s likely to always remain just a theory.
And it’s not the only one, of course. There have been many unconfirmed sightings of the three women over the years, but no solid leads have ever surfaced. The boats that they were allegedly on in July 1966 have never been located and the men operating them have never been solidly identified. But people have continued to speculate, especially when it comes to their connection with horses.
Ann, Patty and Renee often rode at the Tri Color Stables in Palatine, Illinois, which were owned by George Jayne and his brother, Silas Jayne, who were involved in fraudulent activities, murders and worse in the mid-1960s. Cheryl Ann Rude, a young woman associated with the horse market, was killed at the Tri Color Stables in June 1965 by a car bomb that had been meant for George Jayne. George had asked Cheryl to move his Cadillac from the stable entrance and the bomb exploded. Some believe that perhaps Patty, Ann and Renee (or one or any combination of them) may have witnessed the bomb being planted. However, this does not explain why anyone would have waited an entire year before silencing them. Or does it? In March 1966, Patty received a facial injury that she never explained. One of her friends claimed she made an off-handed remark about it and mentioned trouble with “syndicate people.” But no proof of any trouble exists.
There was a connection between the Jaynes and the missing women, though. Both men’s telephone numbers were found in their belongings after their disappearance. There is no question that the two men were deeply involved in crime. George was shot to death in 1970 and Silas was later convicted of conspiracy in his brother’s murder and sent to prison. He died in 1987. He is also a suspect in the disappearance and probably murder of candy heiress Helen Brach (See my blog about this unsolved case by following this link). In 1997, a man named James Blottiaux was charged with planting the 1965 car bomb that killed Cheryl Ann Rude at the Jaynes’ stables, but neither he, nor the Jaynes, have been positively linked to the disappearances of Ann, Patty and Renee.
It’s hard not to speculate, though, that any of them might have been involved in some way. Silas Jayne reportedly told a sheriff that he had three bodies buried beneath his residence after the 1966 disappearances. Investigators took his claim seriously and planned to search the property, but the sheriff involved was killed in a farming accident before the search took place. For whatever reason, it was not pursued after that, leading some to wonder if the claim was true.
What happened to three pretty young women in July 1966? We’ll likely never know. The case is not unsolvable, but without any bodies or any solid new leads, it’s unlikely that the truth will ever be known.
A WARM MEETING IN DEADLY WINTER
(By Piper Lee)
My Grandmother told me this story that happened to her father when he was a boy of 8. It was the winter of 1909 in the deep woods of Maine that my Great Grampa Jack lived with his parents and 3 younger siblings. His father was away for work for a few weeks so Jack had become the man of the house. He was responsible for helping his beautiful Mother, Ellie care for the younger kids and keep the fire burning strong in the woodstove. On this day, he was helping her hang wet laundry to freezdry on the line. Ellie wasn’t feeling well so Jack took over for her. Later when he entered their modest, tiny cabin, he found her passed out on the floor. Ellie had become ill and in the next few days so did Jacks siblings. She told him that he must go to town to fetch a doctor and get them medicine. The town was miles away and he would have to walk as they had no form of transportation. It was bitter cold and the snow was somewhat deep on the long, narrow road to town. But He had no choice, he had to bring back help somehow. Jack bundled up as warm as possible and packed food and water for his early morning journey. As he prepared to leave, he felt the desperation in his mother’s straining voice. “Be careful my sweet boy, I love you.” She cried. Jack was a strong boy and the first few miles seemed somewhat easy but before long his feet became numb and cold as the fluffy white snowflakes began to gather on his shoulders. Jack pushed on for what seemed like hours until exhaustion hit him hard. His toes, fingers and nose were now frozen. So he rested himself on a broken tree trunk and tried to nibble the food he had packed slowly. He painfully wanted to take a nap but was told by his mother that sleep would bring death out there in the winter forest. Suddenly he spotted a large golden dog who ran to his side and nudged his leg for a pat on the head. Behind the dog a very tall man stepped out from the woods and gave Jack a big smile. ” Hello there” the man shouted. Jack felt instant relief deep inside. He greeted the handsome redhaired man jumping to his feet with excitement! They quickly began to chat away although Jack said later that he didn’t really remember what they had discussed on the long journey ahead. The man told Jack his name was Sam and his dog was Jo Jo. They walked at a quick pace through the storm, sharing several conversations for a long while but yet Jack no longer felt tired or even cold at all. He actually felt quite warm. The snow was coming down hard from the darkening sky. Jack thought it strange so that Sam only wore a leather coat with strange fur around the neck. Hardly winter attire. He felt so at home with Sam and knew somehow that he was safe. Finally the town appeared faintly in front of them and Jack exclaimed ” We’re finally here!!!” He watched as Jo jo ran quickly ahead and then turned to Sam in excitement. But Sam had unbelievably vanished. Jack was completely stunned and deeply confused but he had to keep walking forward. He made it into to town thinking all the while about Sam disappearing so suddenly and not even saying goodbye. He soon found a doctor but unfortunately the storm delayed them for several days. Sadly upon Returning home he discovered his mother and siblings had passed away. Jack was absolutely devastated as was his heartbroken father who ended up raising him alone to adulthood. Eventually he met my Great grandmother and married soon after falling head over heels with her. This is where the story gets stranger. Their first born son was named Sam after the unforgettable man that saved my Grampas life as a child. He was a gorgeous redheaded man as was my grandfather. He was incredibly kind in many ways and adored his sister, my grandmother, to pieces. Sam loved to fly planes but was forbidden to do so by his mother. So secretly he trained to be a pilot and in 1941 died on a solo flight at the young age of 20. My Great Grandmother could never speak his name again until she claimed to see him while on her death bed many years later, he was smiling at her.
Was Sam the guardian the same person as Sam the pilot? If so how is that possible? This story always fascinates me. I hope it fascinates others as well.
Located at 2476 San Diego Avenue, the Whaley House may not look like anything special, but it’s twice been called the “most haunted house in America,” once by Time Magazine, the other by the Travel Channel series America’s Most Haunted. So what makes this unassuming, two-story brick house in historic Old Town San Diego such a locus of supernatural activity?
The house has a long—and at times tragic—history. Over the years it has acted as a granary, San Diego’s first commercial theatre, and the county court house, in addition to housing the Whaley family from 1857 until 1885 and again between 1909 and 1953. Built by family patriarch Thomas Whaley with bricks from his own brickyard, the Whaley House was the first two-story brick building in San Diego and remains “a classic example of mid-19th century Greek Revival architecture.” In 1960, it was added to the state’s register of historic landmarks and opened to the public as a museum.
To find the origins of the Whaley House hauntings, you have to go back farther than the house itself. Before the first bricks were laid, the ground where the Whaley House would be built was used as a makeshift gallows. In 1852, James “Yankee Jim” Robinson was convicted of attempted larceny and hanged in the back of a wagon over the spot where the house now stands.
According to newspaper accounts of the time, “Yankee Jim” kept his feet on the wagon as long as he could, and when he was finally pulled off, “He swung back and forth like a pendulum until he strangled to death.”
Thomas Whaley witnessed the execution, but didn’t let that deter him from buying the property to build his family home in 1857. Almost as soon as the family moved in they began to hear heavy footsteps moving through the house, which Thomas Whaley said sounded like they were made by the “boots of a large man.” Eventually, the family concluded that these footsteps were the work of the ghost of “Yankee Jim.”
“Yankee Jim” wasn’t the last death that the Whaley House would see. The Whaleys’ infant son Thomas Whaley Jr. died of Scarlet Fever in the house when he was only 18 months old. Years later, in 1882, the Whaley daughter, Violet, married a man who turned out to be a con artist who left in the midst of their honeymoon.
A dejected Violet returned to San Diego, without her husband. She never fully recovered from the scandal, and in 1885 she committed suicide in the house by shooting herself in the chest with her father’s gun. She left behind a suicide note composed of lines from the Thomas Hood poem “Bridge of Sighs”: Mad from life’s history/Swift to death’s mystery/Glad to be hurled/Anywhere, anywhere, out of this world.
Over the years, plenty of visitors to the house have encountered ghostly phenomena within its walls. Thomas Whaley’s ghost is often seen, especially on the upper landing. Other encounters include his wife Anna Whaley in the downstairs rooms or garden. Even the Whaley’s dog, Dolly, gets in on the act, with one parapsychologist claiming to see a dog running down the hall into the dining room, while another visitor felt something brush against his leg.
The Whaley House and its attendant hauntings have been featured on a variety of television series, including America’s Most Haunted and Ghost Adventures, and the list of people who claim to have witnessed spectral phenomena extends to celebrities. Comedian Tom Green called out to the spirits in one room and was answered by a child’s voice, which was caught on tape, while Regis Philbin visited the Whaley House in 1964 and saw what he thought was the ghostly presence of Anna Whaley, a “filmy white” apparition that appeared in front of her portrait. The television personality was later said, “You know a lot of people pooh-pooh it because they can’t see it. But there was something going on in that house.”
In 2012, the horror film The Haunting of Whaley House used the house and its history as its basis, though the movie was actually shot at the Bembridge House in Long Beach. The Whaley House and “Yankee Jim” are even mentioned briefly in the second Hellboy animated movie Blood and Iron.
These days, the Whaley House is a museum that provides plenty of historical information for believers and skeptics alike. Yet the Save Our Heritage Organization that currently operates the property doesn’t neglect its haunted history, either. Late night ghost hunting tours are offered on the last weekend of every month, with extra tours available around Halloween.
TAMAN SHUD CASE
The story begins on the morning of December the 1st 1948 at a beach near Glenelg, seven miles from the South Australian city of Adelaide. Local jeweller John Lyons had become concerned about a man he had seen the previous evening laying fully clothed on the sand propped up against the sea wall.
Lyons had initially dismissed the slumbering figure as a drunk sleeping off a rough session, but the next morning he was still there. Cold and pale, an extinguished half smoked cigarette resting on his shirt collar, the man was clearly dead.
Lyons alerted the police; If this unfortunate soul was a drunk his hangover had proven terminal. But it seemed unlikely even at first glance, the man was clearly no vagrant as he was well dressed in a suit, pullover and tie and what looked like freshly polished shoes.
What initially might have been something relatively straightforward like illness or suicide quickly became a whole lot more complex and puzzling by the troubling details of the man’s death.
Somerton man, as he became known for reasons about to become clear, was about 45 years old, in excellent physical condition, with unusually well defined and muscular calfs and smooth well-manicured hands.
Found on his person was some Juicy Fruit chewing gum, a couple of combs, a box of Army Club cigarettes with more expensive Kensitas cigarettes inside, a used bus ticket to Glenelg and an unused train ticket to nearby Henley beach.
The trouble for the police was that was it. Aside from this small assortment of items, the body was entirely and utterly anonymous. No wallet, passport or identification documents. Strangest of all, the labels in his clothing had been deliberately removed.
Whoever Somerton man was, he either wanted to remain anonymous or somebody had stripped the body of any form of identification. If the case wasn’t already difficult enough for the Adelaide police, no cause of death could be ascertained either.
There were no marks on the body or signs of a struggle and the autopsy revealed he had not died of a heart attack or other natural causes. There was, however, signs of damage to his organs – the brain, stomach and liver were congested with blood leading the pathologist to suspect he had died as the result of hemorrhaging caused by poison.
The pathologists were puzzled. It was the only explanation for his death they could come up with but even this made no sense. Absolutely no traces of poison were found in the man’s body and there were no signs of convulsing or vomiting at the scene.
If this was a poisoning then it was a very sophisticated one, using a rare poison that left no trace, odd for small town Australia in the 1940s. It also looked like murder rather than suicide as the body’s peaceful and undisturbed state when discovered suggested it had been moved into position after the poison had taken effect.
Whatever the case, it appeared the work of professionals. The stripping of identification from the body, the removal of all the tags from his clothing, the signs of a sophisticated, traceless poison; it all pointed to the world of espionage. Was Somerton man a spy?
A few scant leads emerged. A couple of locals suggested he was a man named E.C. Johnson, but when Johnson promptly walked into Adelaide police station alive and well that possibility evaporated. All other enquiries proved fruitless. Even searches as far afield as the UK and US returned nothing.
Just days after Somerton man’s discovery, the case was as cold as the body on the slab. No name, no clues, a dead end. On December 10th the body was embalmed, the first time anyone could remember this happening to an unidentified person.
For the next six weeks, Somerton man was little more than a local curiosity, all enquiries exhausted. Then, on January 14th 1949, a breakthrough was made when staff at Adelaide train station finally made a connection between media reports of the mystery man found at Somerton and an unclaimed suitcase that had been resting in their cloakroom since December.
Inside the suitcase police found clothes similar to those Somerton man had been wearing. The dates checked out too, as it had been deposited at the station the day before the man’s body had been found. A distinctive yarn of orange barbour waxed thread inside the suitcase clinched it – the same orange thread had been used to repair the pocket of Somerton man’s trousers.
It was his suitcase alright; were police finally about to solve the mystery? Unfortunately, the contents of the suitcase were of little help in identifying Somerton man. If anything, what was inside only deepened the mystery.
It was mostly the kind of mundane stuff you’d expect in a suitcase – a dressing gown, a pair of trousers, a pair of slippers, underpants and pajamas, shaving equipment, pencils, envelopes and stamps. More interesting was a knife and scissors, a square of zinc and a stencilling brush of the kind used by seaman to mark cargo on merchant ships.
Perhaps Somerton man was a foreign sailor? It certainly seemed he was not Australian, or if he was he was a frequent traveller abroad. Both the barber thread and the man’s coat were of a kind not sold in Australia.
Ominously, like the clothes the man was wearing, almost everything in the suitcase had had its label deliberately mutilated. There were, however, a couple of notable exceptions. A washbag bore a label with the name ‘T. Keane’ on it and the name ‘Kean’ was found on a singlet.
Whilst this was an important clue, investigating detectives Lionel Leane and Len Brown were confused. Why had all the other labels been so meticulously removed yet these left intact? They felt the distinct possibility that somebody was deliberately trying to mislead them.
Regardless, a search for T Keane and Kean in missing persons records in the whole English speaking world returned nothing. One possibility was the man was from the Eastern Bloc, whose records were off limits to Western investigators with the onset of the Cold War.
Again, it looked like the police had reached another dead end. After six months with no further leads, a coroner’s inquest into the mystery man’s death finally commenced on June 7th 1949. With little new evidence to go on it came to much the same conclusion reached back in December.
Pathologist John Burton Cleland stated, “I would be prepared to find that he died from poison, that the poison was probably a glucoside and that it was not accidentally administered; but I cannot say whether it was administered by the deceased himself or by some other person.”
Despite the inconclusive verdict, a major discovery was made at the inquest; initially missed by the pathologists was a small scrap of paper hidden inside the fob watch pocket of Somerton man’s trousers. It would change the whole complexion of the case.
It was torn out from a page of a book of poetry called the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and contained the phrase ‘Tamám Shud’. The Rubaiyat itself is concerned with the themes of seizing every day and leaving behind no regrets. Tellingly, Tamam Shud means ‘ended’ or ‘finished’ in Persian. The implication that Somerton man had used the book as an impetus to suicide is obvious.
Police went to the media with the new finding in the hope that somebody would be able to identify the book the scrap had been torn from. They were soon contacted by a man, who wished to remain anonymous, who had found a rare 1859 Edward FitzGerald translation of the Rubaiyat on the back seat of his unlocked car which had been parked in Glenelg around the time the body was found.
Forensic experts matched the torn scrap to a page from the book, but nobody had any idea why it had been ripped out or indeed why it had been sewn into the man’s trousers. None of it made any sense.
It is probably the discovery of the book more than anything else that ensures we’re still talking about Somerton man 70 years later. It would turn an obscure John Doe case into one of the most baffling and intriguing mysteries of the entire Cold War. And like many great mysteries, this one had a secret code.
Aside from the torn out scrap, the forensic experts also found very faint letters written in pencil on the book’s inside cover. It looked like some kind of code or cipher:
WRGOABABD MLIAOI WTBIMPANETP MLIABOAIAQC ITTMTSAMSTGAB
Also written in the book was something less cryptic, an unlisted telephone number that belonged to a local nurse named Jessica Thomson. Thompson lived less than a mile from where Somerton man’s body was found and was clearly connected to the dead man in some way.
At the time of the police inquiry, Thompson requested and was granted anonymity by the police, and was referred to for many years only by the name ‘Jestyn’.
The detectives who interviewed Thompson noted her evasive manner, seeming reluctant to offer up any information about what, if anything, she knew. Most startling was her reaction when shown a plaster cast of the dead man’s face. Thompson was visibly shocked and was described by detectives present as “completely taken aback, to the point of giving the appearance that she was about to faint.”
Despite this extraordinary reaction, Jessica Thompson claimed not to recognize Somerton man, but did tell police that she too had once owned a copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Thompson had worked as a nurse in Sydney during WW2 and recalls giving her copy of the book to an army lieutenant she had met there called Alf Boxall. Was this a tale of an old love tracking down his wartime sweetheart in the hope of a reconciliation?
Hoping they might finally be closing in on the solution to the mystery, and the identity of Somerton man, police attempted to track Boxall down. Unfortunately for them but fortunately for Boxall, they found him alive and well and living in Syndey.
Boxall still had his copy of the Rubaiyat, complete with the intact page bearing the phrase Tamam Shud and signed with ‘Jestyn’, Thompson’s pseudonymous name. Boxall claimed no knowledge of the dead man and said he had not had any contact with Thompson after 1945.
Clearly Thompson and Boxall were not been entirely honest. Two copies of a book of poetry, owned by two men, both inscribed with direct references to the same woman. There had to be a connection and some of the detectives’ long held suspicions about the case began to become manifest.
The code, the missing labels and the air of mystery surrounding the dead man raised the possibility his death was espionage related, and he himself may even have been a spy. Did Thompson and Boxall know more than they were letting on? Were they both spies themselves, unable to tell police what they knew because it was top secret?
That there might be darker forces at work here was reinforced by the discovery of another similar death in 1945 were a Sydney man named George Marshall also died, supposedly from poisoning, clutching a copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Was the book some kind of standard issue for spies? Was it used for identification or as a book cipher?
Australia in the post-war period was thick with espionage. The UK and US both suspected the Soviets of operating agents in the country, which housed such highly sensitive installations as the top secret British rocket and nuclear test base Woomera, 300 miles north of Somerton.
The spying thesis was clearly credible, and the suspicious silence of those involved only reinforced the idea. But after failing to get anywhere with Boxall, and with Thompson no help, the case eventually went cold. Interest would periodically be revived, with dozens of people over the years coming forward claiming to know who Somerton man was, but on every single occasion the leads amounted to nothing.
Much later, in the 1970s, Alf Boxall would be interviewed on Australian TV. Whilst admitting he had been involved in intelligence during the war, he denied there was any spying connection in the Somerton man case, stating, “It’s quite a melodramatic thesis, isn’t it?
But Boxall’s attempts to downplay the idea have had little effect on its enduring popularity and the case has never been far from the public consciousness in Australia. Rumours that this was an untold and still untellable story of Cold War intrigue persists to this day.
Was the nameless, mystery man found on Somerton beach really a spy, killed in the course of some clandestine mission?
Several aspects of the Somerton man case are suggestive of spying. Whilst innocent interpretations can perhaps be found for each, when taken as a whole it’s difficult to justify an alternative explanation.
As discussed, the lack of documents and the removal and mutilation of the man’s clothing labels look like an attempt to obfuscate his identity. However, it seems unlikely Somerton man himself would have done this. If he was a spy or undertaking some kind of criminal activity, it would have been necessary to assume a false identity rather than be entirely anonymous.
Instead, it seems the stripping of Somerton man’s identity was done by a third party seeking to ensure the man’s death would leave a dead end for investigators. Clearly, there is a strong likelihood whoever did this was also responsible for his death.
In the pre-DNA era and with the absence of any witnesses, an anonymous victim would be almost impossible for the police to identify. This also ensures no motive for the death can be ascertained and no possible likely perpetrators.
The method of the man’s death also signals this case out as something more than a regular suicide or murder. The original investigators in 1948 were sure he had been poisoned but were unable to ascertain exactly how and with what substance. The murder had been committed with such skill and with a poison that was sufficiently obscure and untraceable that it singled out the perpetrators as professionals.
A more recent examination of the case in 1994 reasoned the poison was probably digitalis. John Harber Phillips, Chief Justice of Victoria and Chairman of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, reviewed the case to determine the cause of death and, noting the engorgement of the man’s organs, concluded that “There seems little doubt it was digitalis.”
However, other experts are skeptical that digitalis was used in this instance. Whilst it is possible to use digitalis as an ‘untraceable’ poison, this is mainly due to its ability to mimic a heart attack coupled with its widespread use as heart medication. This had led to some murders been overlooked by pathologists as overdoses of legitimate prescriptions.In actual fact, digitalis is not innately difficult to detect and would have probably been discovered in Somerton man’s case as his death was suspicious and unexplained. If he was poisoned it was, therefore, more likely to be something more obscure and esoteric that would not be detected without prior knowledge of its use.
Since the 1920s, the KGB had been experimenting with producing exactly such poisons. The infamous Laboratory No 12 was originally set up by Lenin in 1921 and expanded its remit under Stalin in the 1940s. It was specifically tasked with producing unique and untraceable substances, often by combining known poisons in unusual ways with the specific intention of mimicking natural causes and baffling forensic investigators. Undoubtedly, the western agencies had similar departments.
Was Somerton man killed by one of these exotic poisons? Perhaps the mystery man was a double agent whose treachery had been discovered by the Soviets or even a Soviet agent whose operation in Australia was discovered by Western intelligence. Even the suggestion a country had been penetrated by foreign intelligence could do so much damage that it would routinely be covered up, providing a satisfactory explanation as to why Somerton man had been stripped of all identification.
It is perhaps the book and cipher that is most redolent of spying, evoking as it does countless fictional tales of espionage. The five line, 50 character message has prompted endless debate over the years, with many amateur code breakers and even department of defence cryptologists attempting to discern its meaning. So far all have failed and it’s true purpose and intent remain unknown to this day.
Some have speculated it is not a cipher at all, but some kind of mnemonic or acrostic. If the message is in English, then linguistic analysis of the text conducted by Professor Derek Abbott at Adelaide University reveal its more likely that the letter frequencies of the message correspond to the first letters of English words rather than normal English text.
Others believe the text is merely gibberish, the fevered product of a disturbed mind. Whatever the case, its placement in a book of poetry is almost more interesting. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is clearly significant as it appears three times in this story. Was it being used as a book cipher?
When the Australian Navy cryptographic department examined the letters, they came to just that conclusion, “a reasonable explanation would be that the lines are the initial letters of words of a verse of poetry or such like.”
A book cipher has been a common spy technique as long as books have existed. The essential principle is that the key to the code in question is a section of text in a book or other commonly available published material. If a book is used, it is usually required that both sides of the communication use the same edition.
In the American Revolution, Benedict Arnold used such a book cipher, known as the Arnold Cipher, with Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England acting as the key.
Had the Rubaiyat of Omar Kayam been used as the key in some spy ring operating in Australia? The book crops up no less than three times – the copy linked to the dead man by the scrap of paper bearing the phrase Tamam Shud, the copy Jessica Thompson says she gave to Alf Boxall, and the copy found clutched to the dead body of George Marshall in Sydney in 1945.
Whilst this collection of 11th-century Persian poetry is a common one, the editions in this case were far from ordinary. The Somerton man edition was an extremely rare 1859 translation by Edward Fitzgerald. So rare in fact, that when author and former policeman Gerry Feltus led an exhaustive global search for other copies the closest he was able to get was a similar Whitcombe & Tombs version that was published in a squarer format.
The George Marshall version was even stranger, not so much rare as apparently none existent. His copy claimed to be a seventh edition published in London by Methuen, but records reveal no such edition was ever produced, the Methuen run ending at the fifth.
George Marshall’s curious death also provides a link to the third copy of the book. Marshall died of an apparent suicide by poisoning in Sydney in 1945, close to where Jessica Thompson and Alfred Boxall were working at the time and the same year Thompson gave her copy of the Rubaiyat to Boxall.
It looks far more than coincidence that the book crops up so often and that the editions involved are so peculiar and suspicious. Could it be they were actually not genuine copies of the book at all but espionage paraphernalia designed to be used as book-ciphers or one-time pads?
A one-time pad is an additional, entirely random one-off key that makes a cipher essentially uncrackable. They were often employed in the Cold War by Soviet spies operating in America to secretly communicate with their Russian embassies and consulates. There is not a single instance of any of the American intelligence agencies managing to crack such a code.
Jessica Thompson and Alf Boxall’s role in the story of Somerton man have also caused many to suspect their involvement in espionage. Boxall admitted in the 1970s he was involved in intelligence during the war and in recent years, Thompson’s daughter Kate has stated she now believes her mother was a Russian spy.
“She had a dark side, a very strong dark side,” Kate told Australian current affairs show 60 Minutes. “She said to me she, she knew who he was but she wasn’t going to let that out of the bag so to speak. There’s always that fear that I’ve thought that maybe she was responsible for his death.”
Kate Thompson also revealed how her mother spoke Russian and would hint that the Somerton man mystery was “above state police level”. If Kate Thompson’s suspicion about her mother are correct they have particularly dark implications considering both Somerton Man and George Marshall died in strange circumstances within a mile of where Jessica Thompson was living at the time.
There are many examples of Russian sleeper agents living normal lives in the West for years and decades entirely unsuspected by those around them. The Portland spy ring in the UK in the 1950s involved several Soviet agents conducting normal lives as British citizens and American couple Richard and Cynthia Murphy lived in suburban New Jersey for 15 years before been exposed as Russian spies Lydia and Vladimir Guryev in 2010.
Was Jessica Thompson such a sleeper agent, operating silently in Australia for decades?
Although far from the Western theatre of the Cold War, Australia was a hotbed of espionage activity in the post-war period, with it playing a key strategic role for both the US and the UK in the period following WW2.
Both countries were concerned about the security of intelligence in the country. Shortly after the war, the joint US-UK counterintelligence programme Venona discovered a leak operating out of Canberra which was passing sensitive government secrets back to the Soviets.
Because of this and other incidents, a dedicated Australian intelligence organisation was formed – the ASIO, closely modelled on the FBI and Britain’s MI5. The latter agency was especially influential, providing much of the initial personnel and expertise on ASIO’s formation.
It was around the time of Somerton man’s death that the MI5 team was in Australia to consult over the creation of the ASIO, and the new agency operated an office out of Adelaide close to where the body was found. Was there a connection?
Some of the MI5 delegation such as Roger Hollis and Robert Hemblys-Scales were suspected of been Soviet agents themselves, and the ASIO would later have its own problems with Soviet moles. The ACP – Australian Communist Party, was also viewed with suspicion by the Americans due to its susceptibility to Russian infiltration.
The ASIO orchestrated defection of Soviet diplomat Vladimir Petrov in 1954 also provided a great deal of new intelligence about Russian spying in both the United States and Australia, including the long suspected spy ring operating from the ACP.
With the country playing such an important strategic role for the Western powers, initially as the home of the UK’s top secret nuclear and rocket testing base at Woomera, then as a key part of the Cold War Five Eyes surveillance programme, it’s inevitable there were active intelligence networks been run by both sides in the country.
Whether Somerton man, Jessica Thompson and Alf Boxall were some small cog in those operations we may never know. Whilst much of the evidence is circumstantial and suggestive, there are enough fingerprints of espionage in their story to suspect they were.
An alternative way to look at the strange case of Somerton man is not as a story from the pages of spy fiction but one from the pages of romance. At least some of the evidence can be fit into a scenario of unrequited love, a WW2 dalliance that ended in tragedy on Somerton beach three years later.
There is some reason to believe somebody was looking for Jessica Thompson the day before Somerton man died. A witness who came forward several years later recalled a man knocking on her door the day before Somerton man was found.
Since we know Jessica Thompson was in the habit of giving copies of the Rubaiyat to men she knew, and Somerton Man’s copy contained her unlisted telephone number, it’s safe to assume the two were acquainted. It’s possible the man was a foreign sailor judging by the stencilling brush found in his suitcase, an item used to stencil cargo on merchant ships.
At some point in the previous few years the pair may have and had a romantic liaison. For some reason they were parted and Thompson gave Somerton man a copy of the Rubaiyat as a keepsake of their time together.
An intriguing additional possibility is that Somerton man fathered Thompson’s young son Robin, who was 18 months old in 1948. Several investigators have pointed to a couple of unusual features of the man’s ears, an enlarged upper cymba and a diagonal ear crease, clearly present in the morgue photos and drawings of his corpse. These features are present in only around 1% of the population and are also evident in Robin. Was Somerton man his father?
The main issue with this scenario is how and why Somerton man ended up dead. Although the pasty found in his stomach was dismissed at the time as the cause of the man’s death, Nick Pelling on his blog ciphermysteries.com suggests the excessive sulphites used as preservatives in baked goods in 1948 may have caused an extreme allergic reaction.
This might initially seem far-fetched, but it was clear from the autopsy that Somerton man was probably recovering from a serious illness when he died. His enlarged spleen is unlikely to have suddenly occurred on the day and is more suggestive of him having recently suffered from something like mononucleosis or malaria.
Pelling theorises that in his already frail state our man became ill after consuming the pasty at Jessica Thompson’s house, lay down to try and sleep it off and died. This scenario fits the autopsy evidence which noted the lividity at the back of the man’s neck, something unlikely to have occurred if he died whilst sat propped against the seawall where he was found.
It’s possible Thompson then persuaded a male friend to move the body onto the beach to make it look like he died there, presumably to save the embarrassment and difficulty of having to explain how a strange man was found dead in her house. A witness who came forward much later in the 1950s did indeed claim to see a man on the beach carrying another man over his shoulder at some point on the evening before Somerton man was found dead, so there is some corroborating evidence for the idea.
Whilst clearly speculation, the general scenario has some merit and cannot be discounted. The main objections are the lack of credible explanations for the book and code, and the inability to ever identify the dead man. If this was simply an innocuous domestic incident then why has Somerton man resisted identification for nearly 70 years?
In recent years, a new theory has emerged as to the identity of Somerton man. In 2011, a woman approached Adelaide based biological anthropologist Professor Maciej Henneberg with an old military service card that had belonged to her father. The US seaman’s ID card featured the picture of an 18-year-old British man named H.C. Reynolds.
According to Henneberg, the man pictured on the card is probably the same man found on the beach at Somerton. “It’s not just about an exact image…there is a close similarity of the ear, and ears don’t change.”
Henneberg noted several other similarities in the nose and lips, but was particularly convinced by a mole on the man’s cheek. “Such moles change little with age, though size may slightly differ,” he said. “Together with the similarity of ear characteristics, this mole, in a forensic case, would allow me to make a rare statement positively identifying Somerton man as H. C. Reynolds.”
Whilst this may look convincing on the surface, there are problems. As with several other witnesses in the case, H.C. Reynolds’ daughter has requested to remain anonymous and her claims have proven difficult to verify. Searches conducted by the US National Archives, the UK National Archives and the Australian War Memorial Research Centre have failed to find any records relating to H.C. Reynolds.
Other researchers have found possible civilian candidates named H.C. Reynolds, but the closest match died in 1953, not 1948.
Like so many leads in this case, this could prove to be yet another dead end, leaving us no closer to the solution to the mystery. All we really know is a man died; alone on a beach, unknown, unclaimed, perhaps unloved.
Maybe the most fitting epitaph to this story comes from the book at the center of the mystery, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:
“Realise this: one day your soul will depart from your body and you will be drawn behind the curtain that floats between us and the unknown. While you wait for that moment, be happy, because you don’t know where you came from and you don’t know where you will be going.”
WALDRON WOODS MYSTERY
Two boys looking for chestnuts in Waldron Woods near Astoria, Long Island, found the body of a man lying dead with a wound on the right side of his head on October 10, 1866. Three men hunting in the woods also went to look at the body. No one recognized the dead man.
The man was about 5 feet 7 inches tall, about 35 or 40-years-old, with black hair, a smooth face, and a slender build. The little finger of his right hand was missing to the second joint. He was well-dressed, wearing a ribbed cassimere coat and vest and a black silk neck handkerchief. In his pocket were a box of percussion caps, a comb, a knife, a dozen buckshot, a brass key, a rosewood pipe, as small oilstone, and a steel tobacco box labeled “James Maher.” He was also holding a pistol.
Another man, who no one recognized joined the party viewing the body and picked up the pistol. The unknown man went into Astoria and while drinking at Cooke’s Sunnyside Hotel, showed the pistol and said that the man in Waldron Woods had shot himself.
But the dead man had not shot himself, the wounds to the side of his face had been made by a hatchet—the man had been murdered. Detectives went to work trying to identify the body, learn the identity of James Maher, and find the mysterious man who took the pistol. He had become the chief suspect, but he could not be found after leaving Cooke’s.
An inquest was held, but there was very little evidence. The coroner’s jury quickly returned a verdict that the deceased had been murdered “by some person or persons unknown.”
While the inquest was in session, the body of another unidentified man was found in Waldron Woods. This time the dead man had shot himself in the head. There was nothing to indicate that the two deaths were related.
It does not appear that the two dead men or the man who took the pistol were ever identified.
Contrary to what some have said, the U.S. Freedom of Information Act has led to the release of genuinely intriguing UFO reports. It’s certainly not the case that all the “good” reports remain hidden behind closed doors. Yes, many probably do remain classified. But, that does not take away the fact that there are some fascinating, once-classified, files on UFOs in the public domain. However, let’s focus on some of the files that the British Government declassified back in the 1980s. They too demonstrate – to an amazing degree – that at times government agencies are prepared to reveal to us accounts of a very extraordinary type.
In September 1952, a notable UFO encounter occurred at Royal Air Force Topcliffe, a military base in Yorkshire, England. One of the witnesses, Flight Lieutenant John Kilburn, said of the incident: “Sir, I have the honor to report the following incident which I witnessed on Friday, 19th September, 1952. I was standing with four other aircrew personnel of No. 269 Squadron watching a Meteor fighter gradually descending. The Meteor was at approximately 5000 feet and approaching from the east. [Flight Officer R.N.] Paris suddenly noticed a white object in the sky at a height between ten and twenty thousand feet some five miles astern of the Meteor.”
“The object was silver in color and circular in shape, it appeared to be traveling at a much slower speed than the Meteor but was on a similar course. It maintained the slow forward speed for a few seconds before commencing to descend, swinging in a pendular motion during descent similar to a falling sycamore leaf…After a few seconds, the object stopped its pendulous motion and its descent and began to rotate about its own axis.
“Suddenly it accelerated at an incredible speed towards the west turning onto a south-easterly heading before disappearing. All this occurred in a matter of fifteen to twenty seconds. The movements of the object were not identifiable with anything I have seen in the air and the rate of acceleration was unbelievable.”
Five years later, specifically on March 26, 1957, there was yet another amazing encounter. And again the U.K. Government handed over the files to ufologists – and with not a hassle in sight. The document states in part: “A report was received from Royal Air Force Church Lawford on 26th March, 1957 of a sighting of an unusual nature. The object moved at a speed timed at exceeding 1400mph. This in itself was unusual as the object had accelerated to this speed from a stationary position. No explanation has yet been found for this sighting but a supplementary report, including a copy of the radar plot, was requested and has been received from Church Lawford this afternoon.”
A little more than a week later, there was yet another incredible encounter. April 4, 1957 was the date on which an extraordinary wave of UFO activity occurred in Scotland, much of it involving the staff of a military facility called Royal Air Force West Freugh. Nothing less than a squadron of huge, unknown aircraft were recorded flying in the U.K.’s airspace. The Air Ministry ruled out a convention explanation. Instead, as the now-declassified files show, the Air Ministry was of the opinion that…
“It is deduced from these reports that altogether five objects were detected by the three radars. Nothing can be said of physical construction except that they must have been either of considerable size or else constructed to be especially good reflectors. There were not known to be any aircraft in the vicinity nor were there any meteorological balloons. Even if balloons had been in the area these would not account for the sudden change of direction and the movement at high speed against the prevailing wind.The incident was due to the presence of five reflecting objects of unknown type and origin. It is considered unlikely that they were conventional aircraft, meteorological balloons or charged clouds.”
Of course, this is an extraordinary revelation. And when the files were declassified back in the late 1980s, more than a few U.K. ufologists were surprised by the government’s decision to release them, particularly given the fact that their content practically screamed out that UFOs were real.
If anyone ever tells you that governments always hold back all the “good stuff,” you can tell them they’re wrong.
STUDENT IN THE CAFETERIA
It was in the early 90’s. My friend and I sat at a round table in a State University cafeteria to have lunch. My friend sat almost exactly in front of me. Suddenly, I saw a student wearing a backpack, a dress and light clothes colors. She stood next to our table, her eyes looked in the open space, her face seemed quite sad. I could see her and her outfit vividly, but I could not see her legs from the about the knees down. My instinct told me she was not a there physically. In just in a blink; as I took my eyes off her, to look at my friend, this student vanished! I asked my friend if she saw the student; the answer was no!
As I described the student’s clothing, in details, a chill ran down my friend’s spine with goose bumps all over her body. I tried to pacify her by saying that people of the other world are around us invisibly, and for some reason, that student appeared in front of my eyes. I must have had some connection with that student to see her while nobody else saw her.
I WENT MISSING FROM BED
At approximately 1:15 AM on 11/20/04 my wife & I retired to sleep on the second level of our Boca Raton, Fl home after watching TV in our first floor den. As I often do, I put on our TV in our room which helps me to get to sleep. As I watched a National Geographic special I became groggy. Knowing that keeping the TV on all night bothers my wife, I grabbed the remote and switched off the TV and quickly fell into a deep sleep. In what seemed an instant after doing so, I was awakened by my wife who questioned me as to where I was. My immediate response was “in our bed.”
My wife then explained to me that she awoke because she sensed that I was not in bed with her. She then stated that she searched the whole house and even walked to the guard house in her pajamas of our community to see if anybody had been permitted to drive to our residence to pick me up. She was told nobody had come into the community.
Upon her return, she burst into the room and found me in our bed. She stated that my car was in our driveway, and that my wallet, cell phone and money was just as I had left it in our kitchen when we went upstairs, which further upset her. She knows me well enough to know that if, in fact, I left our home for some reason, I would have taken these items with me. We do not live near any stores or establishments that one could walk to.
As I awoke, she further explained that the covers in our bed on my side looked exactly as if I had pushed them down and left the bed. Realizing that she was not kidding, I informed her that I just turned off the TV and fell asleep. She then reconfirmed that she searched our entire residence and that I was not physically present.
I glanced at the clock and it was about 2:30 AM when she stormed into our bedroom and awoke me with this shocking news.
I tried to comfort and console her at this point and confirmed that to my knowledge I had not left our bed, not even to use the bathroom.
Not really sure what had happened, we went back to bed. When I awoke, I asked her to confirm what had happened and that either her nor I were dreaming. She confirmed it.
Somehow, I do not think either of us actually accepted this event as reality because we awoke and did not talk about it. As a believer, I felt that I needed to let soembody know and help me to understand what might have happened. So I searched the web and found this site to report incidents. I called and was instructed to file this report as I am.
I consider myself of sane and sound mind and am a local business owner.
I was also instructed to have my wife file an incident report which will be done first in the AM. I am also willing to have this event scrutinized by any means required to validate it including onsite investigation, cameras, lie detectors anything.
It almost seems like something out of the ‘Twilight Zone’ and I feel more confused than anything.
I am not sure what really happened. The evidence has it that I was somehow physically missing from my home for 45-60 minutes without my knowledge.
I was told to examine myself for any marks, and did not find any. However, from the base of my throat to the middle of my chest it is mildly red, as if I had been exposed to the sun. I can tell because when I press the area, a brief mark appears such as when one gets a sunburn and presses the affected area with a finger. The rest of my body is unaffected.