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Where are the Sodder children?

Where are the Sodder children?
Wikipedia

The next unsolved mystery is similar to the Pollocks. George and Jennie Sodder of West Virginia were forced to cope not only with the immeasurable loss of their children but also with the mysterious circumstances surrounding that loss. After the Sodder home burned to the ground on the night before Christmas in 1945, five of the ten Sodder children were still alive and accounted for. But what about the other five? From all accounts, it would seem that they had vanished into thin air.

Notice how we don’t say “vanished into smoke”? That’s because, in the ruins of the fire, zero physical evidence of the children could be found, which is virtually impossible from a scientific standpoint. But that wasn’t all that smelled off about the events of that night. Apparently George tried to save the children who he believed were still trapped inside by using his coal truck, which strangely, was inoperable; the phone lines to the house were found to have been cut; a woman claimed to have seen all five missing children peering from a passing car while the fire was in progress; and a woman at a Charleston hotel who saw the children’s photos in a newspaper said she had seen four of the five a week after the fire. “The children were accompanied by two women and two men, all of the Italian extraction,” she said in a statement. “I tried to talk to the children in a friendly manner, but the men appeared hostile… and wouldn’t allow it.”

The Sodder family theorised that the children had been kidnapped, perhaps in an attempt to extort money, perhaps to coerce George into joining the local mafia (the Sodders were Italian immigrants), or perhaps in retaliation for George’s outspoken criticism of Mussolini and Italy’s fascist government. From the 1950s until Jennie Sodder’s death in the late 1980s, the Sodder family maintained a billboard on State Route 16, with pictures of the five vanished children and offering a reward for information. The last (known) surviving Sodder child, Sylvia, 69, still doesn’t believe her siblings perished in the fire.

What really happened to young Walter Collins?

What really happened to young Walter Collins?
Wikipedia

In 2008, Clint Eastwood’s film Changeling re-awakened interest in one of the most bizarre and tragic crime stories of the 1920s. Single mum Christine Collins (pictured) reported her nine-year-old son, Walter, missing in March 1928 from their home in Los Angeles. Five months later, the police brought “Walter” back to Christine, except it wasn’t Walter, and Christine knew it. But the LA police dismissed Christine’s concerns, going so far as to accuse her of terrible mothering and having her committed to a mental hospital. The real Walter Collins was never found, and over time, authorities came to believe he was one of the victims of convicted child-murderer Gordon Stewart Northcott, although Northcott’s mother offered a confession for killing Walter. Whatever happened to Walter Collins, his body was never found, and no one ever learned what really happened. Nor has it been established with any certainty why the police were so invested in covering up the boy’s disappearance that they brought a different child back to Christine and tried to convince her and the rest of the world that it was Walter.

The Disappearance of Paula Jean Welden

The Disappearance of Paula Jean Welden
Wikipedia

Paula Jean Welden, 18, was a sophomore at Bennington College on December 1, 1946, the day she told her roommate, Elizabeth Parker, she was going for a long walk but failed to return. A search focused primarily on Vermont’s Long Trail (a 435km trail that cut through Vermont to the Canadian border), where local witnesses reported having seen her.

The trial yielded no clues, however, and soon, what the Bennington Banner refers to as “tantalising and unquestionably strange leads” began to materialise. These include claims by a Massachusetts waitress that she’d served an agitated young woman matching Paula’s description. Upon learning of this particular lead, Paula’s father disappeared for 36 hours, supposedly in pursuit of the lead, but it was nevertheless a strange move that led to his becoming a prime suspect in Paula’s disappearance. Soon stories began circulating that Paula’s home life was not nearly as idyllic as her parents had told the police. Apparently, Paula had not returned home for Thanksgiving the week prior, and she may have been distraught about a disagreement with her father. For his part, Paula’s father posited a theory that Paula was distraught about a boy she liked and that perhaps the boy should have been a suspect.

Over the next decade, a local Bennington man twice bragged to friends that he knew where Paula’s body was buried. He was unable to lead the police to any body, however, let alone Paula’s, and with no evidence of a crime, no body, and no forensic clues, the case grew colder, and the theories grew stranger, including those linked to the paranormal. New England author and occult researcher Joseph Citro came up with the “Bennington Triangle” theory, which explained the disappearance as linked to a special “energy” that attracts outer space visitors, who would have taken Paula with them back to their world.

The Flannan Isles Lighthouse disappearances

The Flannan Isles Lighthouse disappearances
Wikipedia

In 1900, three keepers of the Flannan Isles Lighthouse off the west coast of Scotland disappeared under the strangest of circumstances. The lighthouse was manned by a three-person team (Thomas Marshall, James Ducat, and Donald MacArthur), with a fourth man rotating in from shore. On Boxing Day (December 26) of 1900, the relief keeper arrived to find none of the lighthouse keepers present. The only sign that anything was amiss was an overturned chair near the kitchen table. No bodies were ever found, which has led to endless speculation. Theories range from drownings to abduction by foreign spies, a ghost ship, or a giant sea monster. Whatever happened back in December 1900 at the Flannan Isles Lighthouse, we may never know.

The bridge at Overtoun that calls dogs to their maker

The bridge at Overtoun that calls dogs to their maker
Wikimedia

The Overtoun Bridge, near Dumbarton, seems to call dogs to leap to their death. A perfect spot for unsolved mysteries. Since the early 1960s, some 50 canines have perished, and hundreds more have jumped but survived, reports Slate via their Atlas Obscura blog, with some returning for a second leap onto the jagged rocks 15m below.

The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has sent representatives to investigate but to no avail. In terms of scientific truth, it is debatable, if not incredibly unlikely that dogs are capable of forming an intent to die. Yet, something is luring dogs off that bridge, often from the very same spot, and always on sunny, dry days. Many theories have arisen, including that the bridge is haunted (this was a popular theory after a local man threw his baby son to his death from the bridge in 1994); a mink is marking the area with an almost irresistible scent; and a sound anomaly exists at the bridge that only dogs can hear. Whatever is causing this phenomenon, dog owners would be wise to take heed and keep their dogs on leashes.

The Big Grey Man

The Big Grey Man
Wikipedia

The Big Grey Man is an inhuman creature that is said to haunt the summit and passes of the second highest peak in Scotland, Ben Macdui (in the native Scottish tongue, the creature is known as Am Fear Liath Mòr). Like the Yeti of the Himalayas and Big Foot (also known as Sasquatch) of the American Pacific Northwest, the Big Grey Man has been seen by few eyewitnesses. What makes the Big Grey Man particularly frightening is that his physical characteristics don’t resemble that of a bear, and thus sightings can’t be dismissed as bear-sightings.

Those who have seen the Big Grey Man describe it as extremely tall (over ten feet) and human-like, with short hair, broad shoulders, and long arms. Nearly all reports of sightings include the sound of gravel crunching beneath footfalls. Scientists haven’t been able to come up with an explanation for the sightings and the accompanying sounds, although psychologists have proposed that those who have supposedly seen and heard the Big Grey Man have been in a state of physical and mental anguish brought on by exhaustion and/or isolation.

For now, the Big Grey Man remains a mystery, but if you go to Scotland, let us know if you run into the Big Grey Man. Check out some strange urban legends that turned out to be true.

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The lost colony of Roanoke

The lost colony of Roanoke
Wikipedia

In 1587, John White led a group of people from Britain to found an English colony, settling on Roanoke Island, one of a chain of barrier islands now known as the Outer Banks of North Carolina. White left for more supplies, but on his return three years later, found the colony meticulously abandoned, with all houses and fortifications dismantled with care. Before he’d left the colony, White had instructed the colonists that if they were taken by force, they were to carve a cross into a nearby tree; but there was no cross. The only clue was the word “Croatoan,” the name of a native tribe allied with the English, which was carved into a post. White took this to mean that the colonists had moved to Croatoan Island (now known as Hatteras).

Ensuing investigations turned up claims that the colonists had been slaughtered by the Powhatan tribe, but there is no archaeological evidence of this, and a recent re-examination of the primary sources indicates that any massacre that occurred was not of this particular group of colonists, but rather a group of colonists who had arrived earlier. More enduring theories involve integration between the colonists and the Croatoans or other local tribes, but so far, no DNA evidence has positively identified any descendants of the colony.

The Circleville letters

The Circleville letters
Pixabay

In 1976, residents of Circleville, Ohio, began receiving hate-mail that has wreaked havoc ever since. The letters, postmarked from Columbus, were invasive and accusatory, highlighting a supposed affair between school bus driver Mary Gillespie, and the school superintendent. One letter addressed to Mary’s husband Ron, threatened his life if he didn’t put a stop to the affair. By 1977, the husband was dead, the result of a suspicious one-car crash involving shots fired. When the Sheriff ruled the death an accident, however, residents began receiving letters accusing the Sheriff of a cover-up. The letters continued throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, and even after Ron’s sister’s husband, Paul Freshour, was convicted of writing the letters and attempting to murder Mary via a booby-trap-rigged pistol.

Even with Freshour in prison, however, the letters continued. He even received one himself. In 1994, Freshour was released, and he maintained his innocence until his death in 2012. The true identity of the Circleville Letter Writer remains unknown. Some still believe it was Freshour. Others believe it was Mary, herself, and that she used the letters to concoct and support the perfect murder of her own husband.

Now check out this chilling true crime story of manipulation, torture and a most unexpected criminal.

The Tunguska event

The Tunguska event
Wikipedia

On the morning of June 30, 1908, 1240 square kilometres of forest in Siberia, Russia were flattened by what would have appeared to have been an explosion, except that there were no witnesses and no other evidence. The phenomenon, known as “the Tunguska event”, has been classified by scientists as the largest “impact event” (which means a recordable impact between two astronomical objects, such as an asteroid and the earth) in recorded history. Yet no “impact crater” has ever been found (which would be an important earmark of an impact event). Thus, scientists can only surmise what may have happened, which may be that an asteroid exploded over the earth, and the destruction that ensued beneath it in Siberia was the result of after-effects.

Check out these 14 crazy facts about earth you never learned in school.

The disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370

The disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370
Wikipedia

The last of this collection of unsolved mysteries took place on March 8, 2014, while flying from Malaysia to China, a Boeing 777 carrying 239 passengers and crew members seems to have vanished into thin air. The multinational search effort, the largest in aviation history, has turned up a mere 20 pieces of aircraft debris. The Prime Minister of Malaysia has declined to comment other than to say that the aircraft disappeared over the Indian Ocean. The lack of closure has engendered multiple theories, many of which are considered “conspiracy theories,” which, according to Harvard professor Cass Sunstein, are a natural product of “horrific and disastrous situations, because such events make people angry, fearful, and looking for a target.”

Theories include hijacking, capture by the United States, crew suicide (it was reported that the pilot was having marital problems), a fire aboard the aircraft, vertical entry into the sea, a meteor strike, and even alien abduction.

Notwithstanding the passage of several years and the expenditure of $160 million scouring thousands of square kilometres of ocean, the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 and the 239 people aboard remains a mystery.

Next, check out these 12 science trivia questions people always get wrong.

This article first appeared on: RD.com

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