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