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Cold cases

Cold cases
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If you get chills from learning about cold cases, you’re in luck. Every single one of these cases is soooo incredibly cold, it makes us shiver just thinking about them.

Mary Rogers

Mary Rogers
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On the night of July 25, 1841, Mary Rogers, who lived in New York City, told her mother and fiance she was spending the evening visiting relatives in New Jersey. The 21 year old left and never returned home. Three days later, her badly beaten body turned up floating in the Hudson River near Hoboken, New Jersey. No one could imagine who might have had a motive to harm Mary – other than her fiance. However, he had an airtight alibi. Mary attracted a slew of admirers, who knew her as the “Beautiful Cigar Girl,” from her job working in a downtown cigar emporium. No one seemed to suspect a stalker might be involved in her disappearance. The only witness claiming to have seen Mary that night told a story involving an illegal abortion ring that didn’t seem to fit and couldn’t be corroborated. Within a year, the case had gone cold and Mary’s fiance committed suicide by overdosing on a type of opium on the very shores her body had washed up. The whole tragic tale might have faded from history, except that author Edgar Allen Poe, who had become obsessed with the case, memorialised it in The Mystery of Marie Rogêt. Similar to its real-life counterpart, the tale ends with the trail going hopelessly cold.

Jack the Ripper

Jack the Ripper
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Between August and November 1888, five prostitutes turned up dead on the streets of London’s Whitechapel neighbourhood. All were found within a mile of one another – two on the same night – and all had their throats slashed from left to right. The lead investigators on the case suspected the killer was left-handed. All but one had been gutted with precision, leading investigators to suspect the killer might have been trained as a butcher or surgeon. The killer managed to commit these murders and escape undetected, which suggested the killer was familiar with the rhythms of the neighbourhood. The murderer, whom the press referred to as “Jack the Ripper,” was never identified. Perhaps, Jack the Ripper died before he was able to carry out any additional murders? Or perhaps his killings evolved over time, as other murders occurred in Whitechapel over the next three years, which bore some similarities to Jack’s work. In either case, Jack the Ripper is now long gone, and it appears he has taken his identity with him to the grave. Of course, that doesn’t stop us from speculating as to who he might have been.

Here are more iconic figures whose identity remains a mystery. 

Belle Gunness

Belle Gunness
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Wherever turn-of-the-20th-century Norwegian immigrant Belle Gunness went, people had a habit of turning up dead, especially well-insured people – including several of her husbands, boyfriends and children. Still, it took a quarter-century and at least 40 kills for anyone to even suspect Belle might have been the common denominator. But before a solid case against Belle could be put together, Belle’s farmhouse burned to the ground on April 28, 1908, and Belle’s remains were thought to be found inside by investigators. With no other viable suspects, all the murder cases with respect to which Belle was under investigation went cold. But that’s not the only case that went cold that day. Turns out the fire was arson, and Belle’s hired hand, Ray Lamphere, was convicted of setting the fire. He was acquitted with regard to Belle’s resulting death when he convinced the jury Belle wasn’t dead, but, rather, she had hired him to start the fire to help her fake her death. As such, Belle’s “death” remains unsolved.

Check out these other forensic crimes that have frustrated investigators and will likely continue to do so indefinitely.

Hinterkaifeck

Hinterkaifeck
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On March 31, 1922, five members of the Gruber family, along with their maid, were murdered at the Gruber family farm, Hinterkaifeck, in Bavaria, Germany. It was nearly a week before the massacre was discovered – due in part to the remoteness of the Hinterkaifeck farm and to the patriarch’s unpopularity in the community. He was known as a bully and a wife-beater and had spent a year in prison after being convicted of incest with his widowed daughter, Viktoria, who was also one of the victims. The delay, which gave the perpetrator a significant head start in escaping, may have been a significant factor in why, despite a lengthy investigation and the identification of at least 100 suspects, the case was never solved. In addition, circumstances, including strange footsteps in the snow and strange noises coming from the attic, suggest the perpetrator may have been living – unknown and undetected – in the Gruber house for at least six months. That would have given the killer either ample time to plot the crime meticulously or sufficient familiarity with the property to escape undetected, even if the crime was committed impulsively. Still another theory is the killer was Viktoria’s husband, who, according to the theory, wasn’t dead at all but living elsewhere under an assumed name, conveniently, since no one ever suspects a dead man of murder.

The Black Dahlia

The Black Dahlia
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Aspiring actress Elizabeth Short was just 22 years old when she was found murdered in a vacant lot in Los Angeles, USA on January 15, 1947. The “Black Dahlia” case led to a lengthy investigation that included a roster of more than 150 suspects. What was lacking, however, was any hard evidence or even a remotely reliable witness. Today, the Black Dahlia murder remains one of the oldest cold case files in Los Angeles, as well as the city’s most famous, according to Biography.

The good news is all of these unsolved mysteries actually stand a chance of being solved in the next decade.

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The Somerton Man

The Somerton Man
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One morning in December 1948, a well-dressed, well-muscled middle-aged man was found dead on Somerton beach in Adelaide, Australia. The “Somerton Man,” as he became known, carried no identification, and all the labels on his clothing had been systematically removed. The only clue was a piece of paper found in one of his pockets with the words, “Tamam shud” printed on it, which is Persian for “It is ended.” The paper was traced to a book of Persian poetry found in a nearby parked car, from which the last page had been torn. Scribbled in the book was the phone number of a local woman, who, when questioned, claimed she didn’t know the man. Also scribbled in the book were a few lines of cryptic text no one has ever been able to decipher. No one ever came forward to identify the man, whom the coroner concluded had been poisoned.

The Beaumont children

The Beaumont children
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On January 26, 1966, Nancy Beaumont allowed her three young children, ages nine, seven, and four, to travel, unsupervised, by local bus to nearby Glenelg Beach in Adelaide, Australia. Since such unsupervised travel was the norm of the day, Nancy had no reason to think her children were in any danger. She was wrong. The children didn’t return home that afternoon and a frantic search ensued. Investigators learned the children had been interacting pleasantly and, seemingly, with some level of familiarity, with a tall, blonde man in his mid-30s, both at the beach and at a nearby food shop, where the man apparently gave the children money to buy meat pies. There was some hope the mystery might be solved in 2013 after two brothers told police they had spent that January weekend in 1966 digging a hole at a factory at the request of the factory owner, Harry Phipps. But the site was excavated and no bodies were found, so the mystery continues.

The fugitive case

The fugitive case
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On July 4, 1954, 31 year old Marilyn Sheppard was beaten to death in the Cleveland, USA home she shared with her husband, Sam, while their seven-year-old son lay sleeping in his bedroom down the hall. Sam claimed the killer was a “bushy-haired” intruder who had also assaulted him – leaving him with serious injuries. However, the evidence didn’t support this, and jurors believed the prosecution’s theory that Sam killed Marilyn to get out of the marriage. Sam, who was distrusted and reviled by the general public, spent ten years in prison before the US Supreme Court found excessive publicity had deprived him of a fair trial. On retrial, Sam was acquitted and spent the rest of his life trying to find Marilyn’s killer. Sam’s determination inspired the television show, The Fugitive, as well as the film of the same name.

The "Love Me Tender" murders

The "Love Me Tender" murders
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On the night of December 28, 1956, teenage sisters Patricia and Barbara Grimes went to a local Chicago, USA, movie theatre to see the film, Love Me Tender. When they never returned home, a frantic search ensued. Although the police received a number of tips, none panned out, and a month later, the girls’ bodies were discovered by the side of a nearby road. Unfortunately, their bodies yielded so few clues, investigators weren’t even able to settle on time or cause of death. Nevertheless, several suspects emerged, the most promising of whom was a teenage boy who actually confessed to killing the girls. However, since his confession was elicited illegally through a lie detector test that the law said the boy wasn’t old enough to be subjected to, the boy couldn’t be tried for the crime. Whether or not the boy was the killer, the case remains unsolved to this day.

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