Tales of the un­ex­plained

PRE­SENTED for your puz­zle­ment – five bizarre, un­ex­plained mys­ter­ies that prove real life re­ally is stranger than fic­tion.

People (South Africa) - - Contents -

The Mys­tery Of The Lead Masks

ON Au­gust 17, 1966, elec­tri­cians Miguel Viana and Ma­noel da Cruz from Cam­pos dos Goy­ta­cazes, Brazil, left town say­ing they were go­ing to buy a car. Three days later their bod­ies were found on Vin­tem Hill in Rio de Janeiro. Both were wear­ing suits, wa­ter­proof coats – and lead masks, the kind used to pro­tect one­self from ra­di­a­tion. An empty wa­ter bot­tle, two tow­els and a note­book lay nearby. Trans­lated from the Por­tuguese, the sole en­try read: “16h30 be at agreed place, 18h30 swal­low cap­sules, af­ter ef­fect pro­tect met­als wait for mask sig­nal.” No money was found on the men. The suits sug­gest the men were meet­ing some­one, the lead masks that they were ex­pect­ing ra­dioac­tiv­ity. But no ra­di­a­tion was de­tected at the site. Per­haps they were to meet some­one at Vin­tem Hill and then go on to some­where else?

What of the cap­sules men­tioned in the note? Most sources say tox­i­col­ogy tests turned up noth­ing be­cause the or­gans were not prop­erly pre­served. So we don’t know if the men took the cap­sules or what they con­tained.

A pos­si­ble so­lu­tion is Miguel and Ma­noel were the vic­tims of a scam, lured into buy­ing ra­dioac­tive ma­te­rial. The wa­ter­proof coats, the cap­sules and the lead masks (to put on at a spe­cial sig­nal) would pro­tect them from ra­dioac­tiv­ity, so long as the ‘ma­te­ri­als’ were kept safe (pro­tected) in a spe­cial con­tainer – which doubt­less the sell­ers were pro­vid­ing. Not that such mea­sures were ne­c­es­sary as the ma­te­rial up for sale was prob­a­bly any­thing but ra­dioac­tive. Th­ese were all de­tails in­tended to make the scam more be­liev­able – and lure the two men to the site with a siz­able amount of money…

Who Put Bella In The Wych Elm?

IN 1943, near Birm­ing­ham, four boys made a grisly dis­cov­ery: the skele­tal re­mains of a woman in­side a hol­low tree. Her hand and shin bones were buried nearby. She was never iden­ti­fied and the case soon went cold. Then graf­fiti started pop­ping up around the area, ask­ing, “Who put Bella in the wych elm?”

In 1953 an anony­mous in­for­mant ap­proached a Bri­tish news­pa­per, claim­ing the woman had been killed by a Ger­man spy ring dur­ing World War

II. The the­ory wasn’t as far-fetched as it sounds. De­clas­si­fied doc­u­ments show that Ger­man agent Josef Jakobs was ar­rested af­ter parachut­ing into Cam­bridgeshire in 1941. Be­fore that, back in Nazi Ger­many, he’d had an af­fair with ac­tress and cabaret singer Clara Bauerle, who was con­nected to the up­per ech­e­lons of the Nazi party. Pho­to­graphs of them to­gether proved Jakobs and Bauerle knew each other.

Had she also been sent to Eng­land? Was she the woman in the tree? Cer­tainly, she was never heard of again af­ter 1941.

Into The Woods…

SOME­TIME af­ter 02h30 on

Fe­bru­ary 13, 2000, O’Bryant

De­gree was awak­ened by the sound of his older sis­ter

Asha’s bed squeak­ing in the room they shared in

Cleveland County, North

Carolina. Think­ing she was sim­ply rolling over, he went back to sleep.

How­ever, Asha was get­ting dressed and pre­par­ing to leave the house with a back­pack she’d filled with clothes and other items.

At about 04h00 a num­ber of mo­torists spot­ted a girl fit­ting Asha’s de­scrip­tion walk­ing down a nearby road. It was rain­ing and one driver turned his car around to check on the girl, only for her to run off into the woods.

That was the last time any­one saw Asha De­gree. A search of the woods re­vealed a shed that held sweet wrap­pers, pen­cils and a Mickey Mouse hair bow iden­ti­fied as Asha’s. Her back­pack was found wrapped in rub­bish bags and buried 30km away. Asha was just nine years old when she van­ished.

The Miss­ing Moche

THE Moche civil­i­sa­tion ex­isted along the north­ern coast of Peru be­tween 1AD and 800AD. Ac­cord­ing to ar­chae­o­log­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies, when they weren’t of­fer­ing up hu­man sac­ri­fices the Moche were fairly so­phis­ti­cated metal work­ers and farm­ers. The pop­u­la­tion reached about 25

000 – then van­ished!

For a while it was be­lieved a su­per-El Niño event be­tween 560AD and 650AD ex­posed the Moche to 30 years of rains, fol­lowed by 30 years of drought, dev­as­tat­ing their agri­cul­ture and bury­ing their mon­u­ments and homes in mud. Then, new dis­cov­er­ies in the 1990s sug­gested the Moche had ac­tu­ally sur­vived the ‘cli­mate change’ and had started build­ing sig­nif­i­cant ‘de­fen­sive struc­tures’, im­ply­ing a pe­riod of vi­o­lence. And since the only weapons dis­cov­ered at the sites were all Moche-made, it seems they were fight­ing each other.

Were the Moche made all but ex­tinct by the weather, or did they de­stroy them­selves? We’ll prob­a­bly never know.

Maura Mur­ray

THE baf­fling dis­ap­pear­ance of

Maura Mur­ray on

Fe­bru­ary 9, 2004, has spawned a six­part TV doc­u­men­tary se­ries and an on­go­ing pod­cast with more than

60 episodes at the time of writ­ing.

Here’s the short ver­sion: nurs­ing stu­dent Maura Mur­ray, 21, e-mailed her pro­fes­sors at the Uni­ver­sity of Mas­sachusetts Amherst that she would be miss­ing class due to a death in her fam­ily. This was a lie. She packed a bag, took $280 out of an ATM, spent $40 of that at a bot­tle store and started driv­ing.

Be­tween 19h00 and 19h30 Mur­ray skid­ded off the road into a snow­bank and got stuck. A school bus driver stopped to ask if she needed help.

She said no, but he called 911 any­way. The po­lice ar­rived 10 min­utes later. They found Maura’s text­books in the car, to­gether with a spilt bot­tle of wine and a print­out of MapQuest di­rec­tions to Burling­ton, Ver­mont. But there was no wal­let, no keys, no cell­phone – and no Maura…

Miguel Viana and Ma­noel da Cruz O’Bryant De­gree Asha De­gree Moche - Peru Maura Mur­ray

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