While many unusual forensic cases have been cracked, some unsolved crimes and criminal mysteries still raise lots of questions, even decades later.
Here are 9 unsolved crimes and forensic mysteries that will probably never be solved.
The strange death of Natalie Wood is the first unsolved crime we will discuss here.
On November 29, 1981, the body of Hollywood star Natalie Wood was found floating face down in the Pacific Ocean, about 700 feet from Blue Cavern Point on Santa Catalina Island.
She was wearing a nightgown and a red puffer jacket.
At the time of her death, Wood was filming for the production “Brainstorm” alongside actor Christopher Walken, who was on the yacht owned by Natalie Wood and her husband, Robert Wagner.
According to the yacht’s captain, Dennis Davern, the actress had fallen in love with Walken, which made Wagner extremely jealous.
On November 27, the two stars, along with Wagner and Captain Davern, boarded the boat. They were all in an advanced state of drunkenness after drinking alcohol since that morning.
According to reports, Wood had a heated argument with her husband on the night of the incident, prompting Davern to ask for Walken’s help. However, he refused to get involved.
Later, Natalie Wood asked the captain to take her back to shore, where she spent the night in a hotel room. The following day, she returned to the yacht.
Wood did not spend more than a few hours on the vessel and asked to be taken back to shore, this time with Walken. According to the captain’s statements, the two spent the better part of the afternoon at a local bar and left in a drunken state.
After sunset, Walken and Wood returned to the yacht. Later that night, around 10:00 PM, a Coast Guard patrol boat passed by and heard suspicious noises from the vessel.
But the Coast Guard did not intervene, thinking the noise was coming from a nearby party.
Wagner acknowledged that there had been an argument between him and his wife, but it did not involve any physical violence.
According to his statement, Wood went to bed and didn’t notice her absence until around 1:30 AM. When he noticed she was missing, Wagner alerted the police.
The coroner who performed the autopsy indicated two possible causes of death: drowning and hypothermia.
Based on the evidence found on the boat and during the autopsy, the police concluded that, most likely, before her death, Natalie Wood had consumed a large amount of alcohol and most likely tried to leave the yacht using the lifeboat, slipped, and fell into the water.
However, the actress’s family has repeatedly claimed that Natalie had an awful fear of water and that she would never have attempted to leave the yacht alone.
Regardless of the actresses’ family statements, the criminalists found no clues that suggested Natalie Wood had been murdered.
Her death remains a mystery to this day, making the Natalie Wood case one of the greatest unsolved crimes in history.
Teresita Basa’s murder was eventually solved, but the manner in which the perpetrator was identified remains a criminal mystery. This baffling case is 9th on the list of the greatest unsolved crimes.
In 1977, Teresita Basa, a therapist in Chicago, was murdered in her apartment. Her partially burned body was found beneath a mattress, with a knife plunged into her chest.
The police launched an investigation, initially theorizing that the crime was a botched robbery since multiple pieces of jewelry and other valuables were missing from the apartment. However, the leads investigators followed did not lead anywhere.
Furthermore, the criminalists did not find enough evidence in the victim’s apartment to link any suspects to the gruesome crime.
The entire investigation had stalled, and the situation seemed hopeless.
But then something strange happened.
Remy Chua, a colleague therapist of the victim, began having visions and nightmares about how Teresita had been killed.
At first, Chua only saw an incomplete picture – a man’s face behind the woman. But over time, the visions became more frequent and more explicit.
In the end, Chua sought the help of a medium, asking him to contact the spirit of Teresita.
During one of the seances, the victim’s spirit allegedly told her that a certain Alan Showery, a nurse at the same hospital where Teresita had worked, had offered to help the woman carry a television upstairs, then assaulted and killed her, and stole everything of value he could find in the apartment.
Although hesitant to share her story, her husband eventually convinced Chua to contact the police. Of course, the investigators were not delighted with the information they received, especially considering the source.
But at the woman’s insistence, one of the detectives visited the criminal’s aunt (as the contacted spirit had suggested). When the woman opened the door, the officer was dumbfounded to see one of the stolen necklaces around the woman’s neck.
The trial that followed was long and controversial.
The alleged murderer argued that he had bought the necklace from a pawn shop, and the lack of other concrete evidence prevented the investigators from obtaining a heavier sentence.
Nonetheless, Alan Showery was given 14 years in prison.
Although the case was eventually solved, it raised numerous questions.
Did the victim’s spirit truly provide the information that led to the criminal’s capture? Did Remy Chua know more about the crime than she let on? How did the investigators discover that the criminal’s aunt had kept some stolen jewelry from the apartment?
The case of Teresita Basa is a prime example of a case that was initially considered unsolvable but was ultimately solved by unconventional means.
The case continues to baffle investigators and researchers, leaving many questions unanswered.
Ghost ships are not usually categorized as great criminal mysteries; however, the SS Ourang Medan is a wholly different story and one of the greatest unsolved crimes in history.
It all began in 1947 when a fishing vessel, the Silver Star, traveling through the Malacca Strait (located between Sumatra and Malaysia), heard an alarming distress call:
S.O.S! S.O.S! The captain and officers are dead in the conference room and on deck. All crew members are dead. There is only me left behind. Oh, what a nightmare vision… I don’t want to die. Please help me!
The vessel responded to the distress call and found the SS Ourang Medan drifting without any signs of life on board.
The fishermen boarded the “ghost ship,” where they discovered horror scenes. On deck were dozens of corpses, contorted unnaturally.
Other human remains were covered with a viscous substance, giving them the grotesque appearance of wax statues. The faces of the dead sailors were frozen in terror.
The captain’s body was found in his cabin, while the communications officer was still at his post. His cold fingers were still pressing on the telegraph.
The same terrifying scenes awaited the fishermen in the engine room, where another dozen contorted corpses were heaped near the boiler as if desperately trying to keep warm, even though the temperature in the room exceeded 140°F.
Retreating in horror on their vessel, the fishermen decided to tow the SS Ourang Medan to the nearest port.
But as soon as they attached the tow cable, thick smoke began to rise from the ship.
A few moments later, a powerful explosion shook both boats, and the SS Ourang Medan tilted and sank into the ocean’s depths.
The official version of the authorities investigating the case was that the SS Ourang Medan was carrying dangerous chemicals, and one of the containers had fractured, releasing the toxins.
But any vessel carrying hazardous substances is obliged to record the transport. Yet, in the case of the SS Ourang Medan, there is no information about the cargo.
The SS Ourang Medan still lies on the bottom of the ocean, somewhere near the Marshall Islands, but most vessels avoid the area, perhaps out of superstition or out of fear.
Those who dare to pass close to the scene of the tragedy say that sometimes their radio equipment goes haywire, and behind the static, they can hear the voice of a man pleading for help.
Ghost ship or not, the SS Ourang Medan remains one of the greatest unsolved crimes in history.
The Hinterkaifeck murders remain one of the most perplexing criminal mysteries in history.
On the evening of March 31, 1922, the Gruber family, including the two owners of the Hinterkaifeck farm, Andreas and Cäzilia Gruber, their daughter Viktoria Gabriel, and her two children Cäzilia and Josef, along with their maid Maria Baumgartner, were all brutally slain with a mattock.
Josef, the youngest victim, was found lifeless in his crib, while Maria was killed in her bedroom. The rest of the family members’ bodies were found stacked in a barn.
What’s even more shocking is that, according to the police, the killer stayed at the farm for six more days after committing the horrific murders.
The individual fed the animals, had dinner every night, made fires in the stove, and even tied the family’s dog to a pole when the postman was due to deliver mail.
Adding to the macabre nature of the case, Maria Baumgartner had been hired on the same day she was killed, replacing the previous maid who had resigned after only six months, citing the farm being haunted.
The former maid had informed police that she had heard footsteps and voices coming from the attic during her time at the Gruber family farm.
She had expressed her concerns to Mr. Gruber, but he had not taken her seriously.
Over time, the noises from the attic intensified, accompanied by other unusual occurrences, such as the disappearance of a set of house keys, the appearance of an unknown newspaper on the living room table, and scratches noticed on the door to the tool shed, as if someone had been trying to open the lock.
Additionally, Viktoria had observed a pair of unknown footsteps leading from the forest to the house’s back entrance a few weeks before the murders.
Although police had multiple suspects and made numerous arrests, the real murderer was never caught. The case remains unsolved to this day, providing a tantalizing enigma for criminologists and amateur sleuths.
In the early hours of the day of December 1, 1948, a corpse was discovered on Somerton beach in Glenelg, Australia.
The lifeless body of a 40-45 aged man was impeccably dressed, but the clothing labels had been removed. There were no visible injuries, making it impossible to determine the cause of death.
The victim had no identification, but the police found a crumpled piece of paper with the words “Tamam Shud” in his secret pocket.
Authorities initially speculated that the man died of a heart attack or an unknown poison. However, the autopsy revealed no traces of poison.
The police were stymied since the fingerprints they obtained were not in any database that investigators had access to.
Even a picture of the man was published and a substantial reward was offered for information leading to his identification, but the efforts came to nothing.
Forensic investigators concluded that the ticket found in the secret pocket had been torn from a rare copy of “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam,” a collection of poems attributed to Persian polymath Omar Khayyam (1048-1131), where “Tamam Shud” meant “finished” or “ended” in old Persian.
The case was at a standstill until eight months later when an informant entered the police station with new information.
According to him, on the day the body was discovered, someone left him a copy of the “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” in his parked car near Somerton beach.
The police examined the book and discovered a missing piece of paper that matched the one found in the victim’s trousers. Moreover, they found a mysterious code that had never been deciphered.
They traced the phone number on another page to Jessica Thompson, a woman who lived nearby.
When questioned, Jessica Thompson was evasive and even fainted at the sight of the mysterious man’s picture.
Although she denied knowing him, she admitted selling a copy of the “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” to a man named Alfred Boxall. The police quicked tracked down Boxall, who it turned out he had an undamaged copy of the book.
The Tamam Shud case remains a mystery, and despite various theories, no one has solved it. The case is one of the few criminal mysteries that remain unsolved to this day.
D. B. Cooper is one of the greatest criminal mysteries of all time and one of the most mysterious disappearances in history.
On Wednesday, November 24, 1971, a man identifying himself as Daniel Cooper bought a one-way ticket on Northwest Airlines Flight 305, departing from Portland, Oregon and arriving in Seattle, Washington.
The airport employee who sold Cooper his ticket described him as in his 40s or 45s, wearing an expensive-looking suit, brown loafers, a white shirt, and a black tie. He also carried a black leather briefcase.
During the flight, D. B. Cooper told a flight attendant that his briefcase contained a bomb, demanded a ransom of $200,000 (equivalent to about $1,400,000 today), and asked for four parachutes upon the plane’s arrival in Seattle.
After the passengers were released at the Seattle airport, Cooper instructed the flight crew to refuel the plane and take off for Mexico City, with a brief stop for refueling in Reno, Nevada.
About thirty minutes after takeoff from Seattle, D. B. Cooper opened the plane’s rear door, took the money bag, deployed the emergency slide, and parachuted into the night, somewhere above the state of Washington.
In 1980, a small part of the $200,000 received by D. B. Cooper was found along the banks of the Columbia River.
The discovery of the money renewed the public’s interest in the mysterious man’s disappearance. Still, it provided no additional information about his identity or fate, and the remaining money has never been recovered.
For 45 years, the FBI kept the case open and built up a substantial dossier, but D. B. Cooper was never identified, apprehended, or found.
His crime remains the only unsolved case of air piracy in the history of commercial aviation.
The Black Dahlia case is one of the most bizarre unsolved crimes in history.
On January 15, 1947, the remains of 22-year-old Elizabeth Short, also known as “The Black Dahlia,” were found in a park in Los Angeles, California.
The corpse was cut in half and so pale and drained of blood that the woman who found it initially mistook it for a mannequin. The flesh was cut with surgical precision, without generating any trauma to the internal organs and bones.
Her face had been slashed from mouth to ears, leaving a gruesome smile.
No trace of blood was found on the ground, suggesting that the odious crime had been committed elsewhere and the criminal moved the body.
Nine days after the terrible discovery, a package containing a letter written with letters cut from newspapers and some of the victim’s personal belongings arrived at the “Los Angeles Examiner.”
The package included a social security card, a birth certificate, some photos, and an agenda with missing pages. All the objects had been cleaned of fingerprints with gasoline.
The letter read:
For The Los Angeles Examiner and other Los Angeles newspapers. Here are the personal belongings of the Dahlia. I will come back with a new letter.
On March 14, a suicide letter was discovered hidden in a shoe under a pile of men’s clothing on the beach near Breeze Boulevard in Los Angeles.
The message seemed to contain a confession of the crime:
For whom it may concern: I have waited for the police to catch me for the Black Dahlia crime, but they haven’t. I am too much of a coward to surrender, so this is the best way out for me. I couldn’t help it. I am sorry, Mary.
The pile of clothes had been spotted by a beach caretaker, who immediately reported the discovery to the captain of the lifeguards, John Dillon. In turn, Dillon reported to the West Los Angeles police station.
The clothing included a blue tweed coat and pants, a brown shirt, white shorts, brown socks, and a pair of brown moccasins.
The criminalists found nothing on the clothes that could help identify the owner.
Although several individuals were suspected, investigators were not able to identify the killer of Elizabeth Short, and the case has remained unsolved for more than 70 years.
The “Black Dahlia” case continues to be one of the greatest unsolved crimes of all time.
Jack the Ripper is the most famous killer in history. His unsolved crimes and his true identity still fascinate and intrigue detectives and criminal investigators, even today.
Jack the Ripper attacked and killed prostitutes who lived and worked in the slums of East End, Spitalfields, and Whitechapel.
The police found the victims’ corpses with horrific mutilations, including the removal of internal organs, leading investigators to suspect that the killer had knowledge of anatomy and surgery.
The name “Jack the Ripper” originated from a letter, now believed to be a hoax, sent by an unidentified person claiming to be the killer.
The letter, “From Hell,” accompanied a well-preserved human kidney that the writer claimed to have taken from one of the victims.
The press published the letter in all the newspapers in the kingdom, giving Jack the Ripper an international notoriety that persists to this day.
The Scotland Yard investigation failed to link all the crimes committed in East End, Whitechapel, and Spitalfields between 1888 and 1891 to Jack the Ripper.
Only five victims – Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly – were attributed to the notorious killer. At the same time, several other killings were said to be “indigo crimes” committed by other assassins.
The real identity of Jack the Ripper was never discovered. Over time, legends around his name turned into an assortment of historical facts, folklore, and pseudoscience, captivating the public’s imagination.
Undoubtedly, the biggest unsolved criminal mystery of all time is the identity of the Zodiac Killer.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a serial killer known as the “Zodiac Killer” terrorized Northern California.
He was attributed to at least five murders, though he claimed responsibility for up to 37 killings through multiple letters he sent to local police and the press.
On December 20, 1968, the Zodiac Killer claimed his first victims, the 17-year-old David Faraday and the 16-year-old Betty Lou Jensen. Both teenagers were shot in a car parked on Lake Herman Road in Vallejo.
Betty died instantly, while David died en route to the hospital.
The next attack of the Zodiac Killer took place on July 4, 1969, just a few miles away from the parking lot where the first attack happened.
Here, in Blue Rock Springs Park, using the same modus operandi as before, the killer shot two other teens, 22-year-old Darlene Ferrin and 19-year-old Michael Mageau.
Darlene died at the hospital, but Michael survived and described the shooter as a short and obese caucasian male, aged 26-30, with curly hair and a disproportionately large face.
On August 1, 1969, three local newspapers – the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Francisco Examiner, and the Vallejo Herald – received handwritten letters from someone claiming to be the Zodiac Killer.
The letters contained specific details about each attack, proving that the author was familiar with the cases. All three letters were signed with a circle with a cross inside, the symbol that would become known as the “Zodiac Killer’s Sign.”
Each letter also contained a code and the request for all three codes to be published in the newspapers. The killer threatened that, otherwise, more attacks would follow.
On August 8, the code was broken by a couple from Salinas, California, revealing the following message:
I like killing people because it is so much fun. It is more fun than killing wild game in the forest because man is the most dangerous animal of all.
In the following months, the Zodiac Killer continued his killing spree. He also left more taunting breadcrumbs for the police, including coded letters, anonymous phone calls, and the crossed circle painted on the victims’ cars.
On January 29, 1974, the Zodiac Killer sent one last letter containing the code “Me=37 SFPD=0”.
This last code has never been deciphered.
The killer’s true identity remains a mystery to this day, making the case of the Zodiac Killer one of the biggest unsolved criminal mysteries of all time.
At Ancient Theory we only use trusted sources to document our articles. Such relevant sources include authentic documents, newspaper and magazine articles, established authors, or reputable websites.
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