Tag Archives: mysteries

The Serpent Mound–Ohio’s Mysterious Effigy

A photo of the Serpent Mound, taken from an observation tower on the site.

A photo of the Serpent Mound, taken from an observation tower on the site.

The ancients achieved amazing feats of engineering with the most basic tools and techniques, leaving structures that their descendants would puzzle over for centuries to come. Many such structures come readily to mind—Stonehenge, the Great Pyramids of Giza, and the Nazca Lines are just three of the most famous.

However, the building of such structures is not often associated with the Native Americans of North America, with the exception of the massive pyramids built by the Aztecs and Mayans in Central America. Contrary to popular belief, the indigenous tribes of what is now the United States did engage in massive projects that could rival even those of the Old World. One of these massive structures is located in Adams County, Ohio. Dubbed the Serpent Mound, the huge effigy remains an enigma to this day.

The Serpent Mound is one of hundreds of mounds built by Native American tribes in Ohio. Most mounds are conical structures used to bury and memorialize the dead, while some of the more massive mounds are effigy mounds, meant to be representations in earth of various animals. The Serpent Mound is among the largest and best preserved of these effigy mounds. Measuring 1330 feet in length and 3 feet in height, the mound is a depiction of an undulating snake with a curled tail, possibly with its jaws open to swallow an egg. There is some dispute as to what the effigy is meant to depict, with some claiming it is not a serpent at all but rather a stylized depiction of a comet streaking through the sky. This is indeed an interesting interpretation, since there is a meteor crater nearby, but no one knows for sure.

The egg. Taken from the footpath circling the site.

The egg. Taken from the footpath circling the site.

“No one knows for sure,” is a phrase that seems to hover over the Serpent Mound, an effigy shrouded in mystery. Even its age is in dispute. When archaeologist Frederic Putnam studied the mound in the late 19th century, he found nothing in the mound itself that revealed who made it or why. However, conical mounds situated nearby contained artifacts belonging to the Adena culture, who lived in the area from 800 BCE to 100CE. So, Putnam concluded that the site was the work of the Adena. However, evidence uncovered in 1991 disputed this age when radiocarbon dating performed on charcoal found within the mound found it to be only 900 years old. This evidence suggested that the presence of the Adena mounds nearby was happenstance, and the earthwork really was the work of the so-called Fort Ancient culture, who lived in the area from 1000CE to 1500CE. But this finding was itself overturned when a study performed in 2014 found new radio carbon dates suggesting the effigy was constructed around 300 CE, putting it firmly within the time period of the Adena culture.

So which age is right? It is difficult to tell, and more work is needed to pin point the age of the Serpent Mound as closely as possible. However, the difference in the two dates could stem from maintenance performed by later tribes who continued to utilize the site after the Adena passed into history. So, it is possible that the Fort Ancient peoples rebuilt sections of the mound, leaving behind charcoal remnants that were found by the 1991 study.

An illustration of the Serpent Mound site.

An illustration of the Serpent Mound site.

If this is the case, it might explain the age of the effigy but it leaves many other questions. Why did the Adena build the mound in the first place, and what is it meant to represent? Clearly the mound served a ceremonial purpose rather than that of a burial place. Curves in the structure show different alignments with the sun, such as with the summer and winter solstices. Could the mound be a sort of gigantic calendar, meant to help Adena and later priests track the motions of the sky? And if it was ceremonial, what sorts of ceremonies were conducted there? These questions might never be answered, as the builders left no written language explaining their thinking. All that remains is the earthwork they left behind, a silent enigma among the green hills of southern Ohio.

 

Author’s Note: The photographs included in this post were taken by me when I visited the Serpent Mound in 2010. I wanted to include a bit about my own feelings and thoughts from visiting the site. Some report visiting this particular mound as a spiritual experience–in fact, I accidentally interrupted a very nice woman who was meditating on the site, who said it gave off good “energy.” I had no such feelings myself, but I did find myself in awe when I was standing up on the observation tower, visualizing the Adena using little more rudimentary tools to transport the dirt and build the mound. Keep in mind, they didn’t have the wheel nor beasts of burden. Everything they built was with sheer manpower. This must have been an extremely important site to warrant such an output of blood and sweat. The Serpent Mound had the feel of the sacred, and it is a unique experience I am glad to have had.

 

Sources:

https://www.ohiohistory.org/visit/museum-and-site-locator/serpent-mound

http://ancientearthworksproject.org/1/post/2014/07/new-radiocarbon-dates-suggest-serpent-mound-is-more-than-2000-years-old.html

http://archive.archaeology.org/9611/newsbriefs/serpentmound.html

The Strange Life and Mysterious Death of the Mad King, Ludwig II of Bavaria

Portrait of Louis II, King of Bavaria --- Image by © Stefano Bianchetti/Corbis

Portrait of Louis II, King of Bavaria — Image by © Stefano Bianchetti/Corbis

Dreamers and idealists exist in every profession and strata of society. With their heads in the clouds and their feet only occasionally on the ground, these people look at the world not as it is, but see it as it never was. Sometimes their idyllic ways are harmless, but other times they can lead to great trouble for both themselves and people who depend on them.

Among history’s most famous and tragic idealists is King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The ruler of Bavaria from 1864 to 1886, King Ludwig II believed in the ideals of a bygone age, where benevolent kings ruled over their subjects by the Grace of God. A romantic in every sense of the word, Ludwig found the world he lived in so far different from what he believed it should be that he renounced it and built a world of his own. His idealism would lead his country to deem him mad, and strip him of his throne. Soon after, he died under bizarre circumstances, the exact cause of his death remaining a mystery even 130 years later.

 

Upbringing and early life

Ludwig II as a boy, with his parents.

Ludwig II as a boy, with his parents.

Ludwig II was born August 1845 to Maximilian II of Bavaria and Marie of Prussia. The royal couple were aloof with Ludwig and his brother Otto. They were strict with their boys, emphasizing duty above all else. Despite this restrictive environment, Ludwig II showed early that he had a vivid imagination. He enjoyed playing dress up, play acting, and loved art. He was generous with his possessions as well. Ludwig tended to keep to himself, and already was beginning to see himself as a divine sovereign. These traits would shape and define Ludwig for the rest of his life.

In 1864, Ludwig II was crowned king at the tender age of 18, yanked out of his idyllic life into the rough and tumble life of politics. The unprepared boy king two years later found himself embroiled in the German War with his uncle, the King of Prussia, who promptly conquered both Bavaria and Austria. The king had gone from sovereign to vassal within two years.

But even as this was going on, Ludwig II was seemingly more engrossed in his fantasy world than the harsh realities of life at the head of a constitutional monarchy. He became fascinated by the works of Richard Wagner, a composer whose operas and music presented an idealized vision of ancient Germany and brought to life the ancient stories of his homeland. When he became king, Ludwig became Wagner’s friend and patron, helping the composer to reach new heights of fame.

 

Castles, madness, and the death of a king

Photochrom print of Neuschwanstein Castle, from 1890.

Photochrom print of Neuschwanstein Castle, from 1890.

King Ludwig II never felt like he was a “real” king. Kingship in the 19th century was far different than kingship in the medieval era Ludwig idolized. Bavaria was a constitutional monarchy, with many legal restrictions placed upon monarchical power. Ludwig was frustrated by these constrictions on what he felt was the divine rule of a king. In his mind, he envisioned an ideal holy kingdom, much like that of King Arthur and his knights, which far from being a story for Ludwig was a historical fact and the blueprint for what a kingdom should be. Since reality was far from this ideal, Ludwig isolated himself more and more in a world of his own creation.

He began grand construction projects of so-called “fairy tale” castles, magnificent structures built to evoke romantic feelings of a bygone era of chivalry.  He began in 1875 to sleep during the day and to wake at night. He receded more and more into his dream land of chivalric ideals, identifying with one of King Arthur’s knights, a man named Parzival (also spelled Percival) who was so pious and faithful that he became the Grail King.

A pious man himself, Ludwig deeply identified with his fictional counterpart’s struggles with sin and sensuality. Particularly, Ludwig struggled with homosexual urges. He had been engaged to his cousin, Duchess Sophie Charlotte, in 1867. He repeatedly pushed back the date of the marriage, but eventually broke it off completely. He never married and remained, so far as anyone knows, a celibate bachelor the rest of his life. Driven by his struggles and piety, Ludwig went as far to remodel his own castle, Neuschwanstein, to make it into the Castle of the Holy Grail, bringing his fantasy of being Parzival into the real world.

However hard the king tried to isolate himself from the world, he could not escape the hard realities. The king had squandered his fortune on the castles and the other trappings of his fairy-tale world, and was squandering the state coffers as well.  The Bavarian government intervened in 1885. He was declared insane and deposed from the throne. The former king was interned in Berg Palace while the government decided what to do with him. Only a day later, Ludwig II was found floating in the lake, dead, along with this psychiatrist Bernhard von Gudden.

 

What happened to the Mad King?

Ludwig II’s death was a mystery from day one. The king, who was a strong swimmer, was found floating in waist deep water. The Bavarian government claimed that the king had killed himself by drowning, and his psychiatrist ad died trying to save him. Few have bought this explanation, given the king’s piety. Many believe he was murdered by an assassin. Some fishermen on the lake claimed they heard gun shots that day, along with his psychiatrist who witnessed the killing. In the 21st century, some want to exhume the king’s body and use modern technology to examine him, but the House of Wittelsbach, his family, refuses and claims the murder allegations are false. Unless and until they relent, the mystery of who killed the Mad King Ludwig II will remain unsolved.

 

Sources:

“King Ludwig II of Bavaria,” neuschwanstein.de. 3/6/16. Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlosser Garten und Seen. http://www.neuschwanstein.de/englisch/ludwig/biography.htm

 

Paterson, Tony. “Murder mystery of mad King Ludwig.” Independent.co.uk. 11/9/2007. Independent. 3/6/16. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/murder-mystery-of-mad-king-ludwig-399742.html

 

“The Death of King Ludwig II.” Lib.cam.ac.uk. 2009-2011. University of Cambridge. 3/6/16. http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/deptserv/german/spotlight4.html

 

 

The Ghost Blimp

An L-8 blimp.

An L-8 blimp.

Ghost ships have been a facet of history since humans first began to explore the world’s vast oceans.  Vehicles lost under mysterious circumstances, ghost ships evoke a sense of mystery and loss. One such lonely vessel haunted the Arctic for decades, before being lost to the endlessly churning icebergs. There are hundreds of similar stories, ships and crews lost to the enigmatic waters.

But ships are not the only vehicles that can become ghosts. One of the strangest stories of ghostly vehicles comes out of World War II.  Blimps were used for a variety of purposes during the war, from reconnaissance to anti-submarine patrols to protection from dive bombers.  They were useful because they could hover in place for long time periods and could also fly for long distances without needing to refuel.

In 1942, one such blimp, an L-8, went on a patrol off the California coast, never to return. What happened to the blimp, and her crew, remains an enduring mystery to this day.

 

A foggy morning

The morning of Sunday, August 16, 1942 was a foggy one. When the Navy blimp was set to take off from Treasure Island, her crew was reduced from three to two, owing to the increased weight caused by the mist that had settled on the skin of the balloon. So, Lt. Ernest DeWitt Cody, the pilot, and Ensign Charles E. Adams took off that day, while Aviation Machinist’s Mate Third Class James Riley Hill remained on the ground. The decision would save Hill’s life.

When the L-8 took off on its anti-submarine patrol, everything seemed normal. An hour and a half into the flight, Lt. Cody radioed back to base saying that they had seen a possible oil slick that warranted investigation. No further communications were heard from the doomed blimp.

At 11:15, witnesses saw the blimp floating in from the ocean, near San Francisco. The blimp drifted further to Daly City, where it was losing altitude. It hit a bluff, and dropped a depth charge on a golf course. It hit roofs and a car before settling down on Bellevue Avenue. When rescuers rushed to assist the stricken crew, they found the cabin empty.

 

An enduring mystery

Investigators found that the life raft and parachutes were still in the cabin. The life jackets were missing. For some unknown reason, the pilot had set the motor to idle, and propped open the door. The radio still worked, so there was a mystery as to why, if something went wrong, the pair didn’t call for help. Some believed that they were captured by an enemy submarine. Others believed the crew got into some sort of fight and fell out of blimp. Still another story was that one member of the crew fell and accidentally pulled his would be rescuer down into the ocean.

Whatever the case, neither man was ever found, and they were officially declared dead. The blimp continued to serve in the Navy as a training vessel. After the war, it was returned to Goodyear, where it was put into storage before eventually being rebuilt in 1968 as one of the famous Goodyear Blimps, where it flew over Houston, Texas until it was retired in 1982.

 

Sources:

Levy, Joan, “Daly City’s ‘Ghost Blimp’ remains mystery.” Archives.smdailyjournal.com. December 19, 2005. The Daily Journal. January 17, 2016. http://archives.smdailyjournal.com/article_preview.php?id=52401

Price, Mark J. “’Ghost’ blimp mystery lingers.” Chron.com. August 18, 2002. The Chronicle. January 17, 2016. http://www.chron.com/news/nation-world/article/Ghost-blimp-mystery-lingers-2106611.php

 

The Arthur’s Seat Coffins

The Arthur's Seat Coffins By Kim Traynor - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The Arthur’s Seat Coffins
By Kim Traynor – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Arthur’s Seat, a hill near the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, is a place that inspires mystery and wonder. Cited by legend as a potential site for  Camelot, the hill has long had a place in local Scottish folklore, but perhaps the strangest story surrounding Arthur’s Seat is very much rooted in reality.

In June of 1836, five local boys were hunting for rabbits when they stumbled across something bizarre hidden in a rocky recess in the northeast side of the hill—17 tiny coffins, containing carved figures dressed in customized clothing.

No one at the time—or since—knew what to make of the odd figurines. The Scotsman, reporting on the story soon after the discovery, postulated that the figures were used in some malevolent witchcraft ritual. The Edinburgh Evening Post took its own stab at an explanation, claiming that the dolls were laid to rest by a modern practioner of an ancient custom from Saxony of burying effigies of friends who had died in far off lands.

None of these explanations were quite satisfactory, though. In time, the figures were forgotten. Of the 17 initially discovered, only about 8 survived, the rest having been destroyed by the boys themselves. In 1901, these remaining eight were donated by a private collector to the Musuem of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and then to the National Museums of Scotland. The conclusion these august institutions reached were in line with that of the Edinburgh Post—they were some sort of proxy burial. Who the effigies were meant to honor, no one knew.

While the mystery of why the coffins were made remained, in the 1990s more research into the dolls themselves shed more light on the circumstances of their creation. The figurines themselves were all created in the same style, probably by the same person, probably as a set. Their swinging arms, flat feet, and stiff bearing suggest they were originally crafted to be toy soldiers, while their open eyes suggest they were not intended to be corpses. This is further reinforced by the fact that some of the figures are missing their arms, which were in all probability removed so they could fit in the diminutive coffins. This led to the inference that the person who made the dolls and the person who made the coffins were two different people. The fabric the figures are clothed in is from the early 1830s, so they couldn’t have been buried much more than six years before they were discovered.

None of this shed any light on exactly why the little bodies were laid to rest on Arthur’s Seat. One more modern explanations is that the figures were tied to the infamous duo Burke and Hare, who killed 17 people in Edinburgh and sold the bodies to a medical school for dissection. The thinking goes that the figures were laid to rest in honor of those killed by the duo. The only real relation between the killings and the figures is the fact that they are close to one another chronologically—other than that, there is no relation between the two. In the end, two hundred years later, the mystery of the Arthur’s Seat is no closer to being solved.

Sources:

McLean, David. “Lost Edinburgh: The Arthur’s Seat coffins.” Scotsman.com. March 17, 2014. The Scotsman. March 28, 2016. http://www.scotsman.com/news/lost-edinburgh-the-arthur-s-seat-coffins-1-3342913

“The Mystery of the Miniature Coffins.” Nms.ac.uk. The National Museum of Scotland. March 28, 2016. http://www.nms.ac.uk/explore/collections-stories/scottish-history-and-archaeology/mystery-of-the-miniature-coffins

 

The Mystery of Skeleton Lake

Roopkund Lake By Schwiki - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35324114

Roopkund Lake
By Schwiki – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35324114

The soaring heights of the Himalayas have long sparked the imagination of human beings. While Everest is the highest peak among the massive mountain chains, and has in the last one hundred years become the site of a bleak open graveyard, there are other, stranger places tucked among the peaks who have no less of a grisly history. One such place lay among the Garwhal Himalayas, at a dizzying height of 16,000 feet. There is a lake, Roopkund Lake, that has played host to a macabre mystery that has gone unsolved for 1200 years, until now.

Surrounded by glaciers and bleak stretches of rocks, the approximately six foot deep lake is generally covered in ice and snow most of the year. When the snow melts in the warmer months, it reveals a gruesome secret: skeletons, hundreds of them, scattered in and around the lake. Some of the bodies still have bits of flesh and hair stuck to the otherwise bare bones.

Explanations of where the unfortunates came from have varied over the years. Some believed the dead were victims of some strange ritual murder performed on the shores of the high lake. Others believed attendees of some ritual were perhaps killed by a sudden epidemic, or perhaps killed themselves in a suicide ritual. In the 19th century, some speculated that the bodies belonged to the army under General Zorawar Singh of Kashmir, who disappeared returning from the battle of Tibet in 1841.

All seemed plausible, until 21st century technology revealed several details about the mystery bodies. A team with the National Geographic magazine retrieved several of the skeletons and took them to the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, India, where genetic tests were run. The results were revealing. The skeletons were made up of men, women, and children, and all were of Indian descent, and dated from 850AD. Some were Brahmins from the region of Maharashta.  The lake has long been the site of a pilgrimage every twelve years called the Nanda Devi Raj, where the devout worship the Goddess Nanda. Judging by the diversity of the skeletons and the probably presence of Brahmins amongst the dead, it is likely that the victims were a group of such pilgrims.

Examinations of the bones showed that the victims were struck a killing blow to the head by something round. The lack of injuries to any other parts of the bodies ruled out deaths by violence or avalanche. Researchers then concluded that the victims died when huge hailstones fell on them from above in what must have been a freak hailstorm.

There are more mysteries to be solved about what exactly happened at Skeleton Lake. The site is in danger from the hundreds of hikers who visit it every year. Bones have a tendency to disappear, or they are rearranged or otherwise desecrated by visitors.

 

Sources:

Alam, Aniket, “Fathoming the Ancient Remains of Roopkund,” thehindu.com. June 29, 2004. The Hindu. January 15, 2016. http://www.thehindu.com/2004/06/29/stories/2004062905461200.htm

“National Geographic expos solves Roopkund skeleton mystery,” archive.deccanherald.com. October 20, 2004. Deccan Herald. January 15, 2016. http://archive.deccanherald.com/Deccanherald/oct302004/n12.asp

“Roopkund lake’s skeleton mystery solved: Scientists reveal bones belong to 9th century people who died during heavy hail storm,” indiatoday.intotoday.in. May 31, 2013. India Today. January 15, 2016. http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/uttarakhand-roopkund-skeleton-lake-mystery-solved-bones-9th-century-tribesmen-died-of-hail-storms/1/277681.html

 

An Enduring Cold War Mystery–The Assassination of Georgi Markov

"Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov" by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia -

“Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –

The Cold War was a strange, tumultuous time in our history, full of odd happenings and intrigue. Some real-life incidents are stranger than anything concocted for a James Bond film. Perhaps the most infamous of these incidents was the assassination of the Bulgarian writer and political dissident, Georgi Markov, who died in September 1978, three days after an assassin injected a ricin laden pellet into his leg using an air powered gun concealed as an umbrella. The event spawned a mystery that even the legendary Scotland Yard has yet to solve: who killed Georgi Markov?

 

A Veil of Secrecy

In order to understand the assassination, it is important to get at least some idea of what went on in Communist Bulgaria, particularly the culture of secrecy and paranoia that would make such a heinous act possible. This is difficult, as many records from that time period are gone, up in smoke in the wake of the collapse of Communism in the early 90s.

Still, some facts are well known. Bulgaria was among the most repressive of the Warsaw Pact nations, and it had close ties with the Soviet Union. The dictator running the show at the time of the assassination was a die hard Communist by the name of Todor Zhikov, who ruled his country with an iron fist. Like most paranoid dictators, he crushed any opposition ruthlessly.

"Bundesarchiv Bild 183-B0115-0010-066, Berlin, VI. SED-Parteitag, Warnke, Shiwkow - Zhivkov" by Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-B0115-0010-066 / Schaar, Helmut / CC-BY-SA. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Commons -

Tidor Zhivkov “Bundesarchiv Bild 183-B0115-0010-066, Berlin, VI. SED-Parteitag, Warnke, Shiwkow – Zhivkov” by Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-B0115-0010-066 / Schaar, Helmut / CC-BY-SA. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Commons –

This is where Georgi Markov enters the picture. Markov was an author and playwright who was well regarded in Communist Bulgaria for his works. However, as time wore on and the abuses of the regime became more apparent, Markov’s work became increasingly critical of Communism in general and Zhivkov in particular. The writer began receiving death threats from Bulgarian security forces, and was the victim of at least two assassination attempts.

Markov defected to the West in 1969. He moved to London, where he began to work for the BBC World Service. He also did work for Radio Free Europe. a radio station that broadcast across the iron curtain, where he continued to criticize the Zhivkov regime.

Nine years after defecting, on September 7, 1978, Markov was waiting for a buss on Waterloo Bridge when his old enemies caught up with him in the form of an unidentified assailant who jabbed him in the leg with the tip of an umbrella, squeezed a hidden trigger, and injected the unsuspecting author with a tiny pellet of ricin, one of the world’s deadliest poisons. He died three days later in a London hospital.

 

A Twisted Web

800px-New_Scotland_Yard_sign_3The easy answer to the question of who killed Georgi Markov is that the Bulgarian state was responsible. While this is true, it does not get to the specifics of the case–who actually pulled the trigger? Who supported the trigger man? Who made the weapon, especially the poison?

In the 30+ years since the killing, the Bulgarian state has done little to advance the investigation. Obviously, Communist Bulgaria was not going to fess up to killing a dissident on foreign soil. Modern Bulgaria is looking to move on from its dark past, and would rather forget the whole killing even happened.

The investigation then has been left to Scotland Yard, and various journalists who have taken an interest in the case. However, their efforts have been hampered by the actions the Bulgarian secret services took on the wake of the collapse of Communism. Many records related to the killing were destroyed by the former Bulgarian intelligence chief, General Vladimir Todorov, who served 16 months in prison for the crime. Still, vigilant investigators have managed to uncover an astonishing amount about who was involved in the crime on that September day. They even managed to discover the identity of a man closely linked to the killing; he may even be the killer himself.

In the immediate years after the fall of Communism, two Soviet spies came forward with information regarding the Markov case. The first was a Russian-British double agent named Oleg Gordievski. He claimed that the weapon used in the killing–both the umbrella and the ricin itself–was supplied by the Soviet Union’s spy service, the KGB. He went on to claim that the murder itself was conducted by Bulgarian agents. The second former spy, a man named Oleg Kalugin,  made the claim that non other than Todor Zhikov ordered the assassination. Naturally, the former dictator never admitted to any part in the killing.

 

A Viable Suspect?

While these revelations cleared away some of the fog surrounding Markov’s death, they shed no light on the identity of the killer himself. However, in 2005, a Bulgarian journalist struck gold after doing six years of research in the old security service archives. He found files implicated a man named Francesco Gullino, a Danish citizen originally born in Italy, as a suspect. Gullino was arrested at the Bulgarian border in1970 for smuggling drugs. From these dubious beginnings, Gullino was recruited into the Bulgarian spy apparatus. He used his antique business as a front for his clandestine activities, and received the equivalent of thousands of dollars in payouts from the Bulgarian government during the years he served. His code name was “Agent Piccadilly.”

Records show that Gullino flew to London three times in 1977 and 1978. He left the city on a flight for Rome the day after Markov was poisoned. The same records indicate that Gullino was the only Bulgarian agent present in London at the time. This would strongly suggest that he was the trigger-man, although other investigators claim that Gullino was not trained to kill but rather acted to facilitate the killing by transporting the weapon. According to this theory, as many as five people were involved in the assassination.

For its part, Scotland Yard remains mum on the matter, refusing to comment on an open case. Gullino himself, who lives in a small Austrian village, also refuses to speak much on the matter. He does admit that he was working for the Bulgarians at the time of the killing, however. While not an admission of guilt, it does build up the case against him.

Even so, there is still hope for a resolution to this mystery. The statute of limitations for the murder in Bulgaria ran out in 2008, so any murderer would not be brought to justice in Markov’s homeland. While the Bulgarian government itself has no interest in justice for Markov, the Bulgarian people have a renewed interest in the matter. His literary works and principled stand against Communism have attracted new notice in Bulgaria, and new interest in his chilling end. Perhaps this new interest will spur the Bulgarian government to make a new effort to solve the case and remove this particular stain from the country’s tattered history. There may yet be justice for Georgi Markov.

 

Sources:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/9949856/Prime-suspect-in-Georgi-Markov-umbrella-poison-murder-tracked-down-to-Austria.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/poison-umbrella-murder-case-is-reopened-851022.html

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2005/jun/06/nickpatonwalsh

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=221821881

Death, Drugs, and Aliens: The Enduring Mystery of the Lead Masks Case

Manoel_Pereira_da_Cruz_e_Miguel_José_VianaHistory is rife with mysteries, some stranger than others. What happened to the Amber Room, lost in the chaos and confusion of the biggest war in history? Where did Bela Kiss disappear to after revelations of his horrible crimes came to light? And who made the Costa Rica’s giant stone balls, and why?

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you see things), the answers to these and other long standing mysteries of history will probably never come to light. However, it is possible to make educated guesses that, while not revealing exactly what occurred, probably get as close to the truth as possible.

One such case were that sort of speculation is possible is the Lead Masks Case. On August 17, 1966, two electronic repairmen named Miguel Jose Viana and Manoel Pereira da Cruz, from Campos dos Scytacazes in Brazil, set out on a bus trip at 9am with three million Cruzeiros in their pockets. They stated that they were on a trip to buy a used car and supplies for their repair business. They arrived at their destination at 2pm, purchased a pair of identical raincoats, and then  stopped at a nearby bar to get a bottle of water. The bartender later reported that Miguel was in a hurry, repeatedly checking his watch. The pair kept the receipt for the water bottle so that they could claim a refund on it later. Three days later, they were found dead on a nearby hilltop, with crudely cut lead masks laying next to their bodies. Who, or what, killed them? No one knows for sure, and in fifty years no one has gotten any closer to a definitive answer.

 

A hunting trip leads to a terrible discovery

At 3:15pm on August 17th, Miguel and Manoel set off on foot up Marro do Vintem, a hill outside of town, dressed in suits and their raincoats. At about 5:00pm, a local boy named Jorge de Costa Alves saw the men sitting at a higher point of the hill. He returned the next day to find the two men laying on the ground. He thought they may be asleep, so he left them alone.

On Saturday August 20th, Jorge was hunting birds on the very same hill when his nostrils were assaulted by a putrid odor. The boy told his friends about the men’s strange behavior the days before and now the stench that permeated the hill top. His friends relayed the story to the police. Officers found the two bodies neatly dressed in their suits, and still wearing their rain coats. A lead mask, a lead square with a slit cut in it, lay next to each body.

Adding to the strangeness of the scene, notes were found next to the bodies. Some were simple electrical formulas. One mysterious note read:

“Sunday, one capsule after lunch; Wednesday, one capsule at bed-time. Be at the place arranged at 16:30. Take capsules at 18:30. After feeling effects, protect half the face with lead masks. Await the agreed signal.”

Police found no capsules on the bodies, nor any signs of physical trauma. The coroner’s office, claiming it was too busy, never ran a toxicology report. Cardiac arrest was ruled the probable cause of death for both men. The case became known as the Lead Masks Case.

 

UFO, Spiritualism, and the search for the truth

The mysterious deaths generated a lot of speculation, both then and now. At the time, a popular theory was that the men were robbed and killed, perhaps due to their role in an electronics smuggling ring gone bad. However, none of the evidence points to this. There was no physical trauma on the bodies, and each man had bags of money stuffed in the pockets of his suit. In addition, there was no evidence based upon their movements before climbing the hilltop that they even attempted to buy any electronics, let alone engaged in any smuggling operation.

Another popular idea is that Miguel and Manoel ran afoul of beings from another world. The cryptic wording of the messages lead some to believe that the pair attempted to contact beings from another world, and that the meeting did not go as planned. As strange as it sounds, this explanation is probably close to the truth, although not because aliens landed on the hilltop and stopped Miguel and Manoel’s hearts.

To understand how an attempt to contact otherwordly beings may have contributed to the two men’s deaths, it is useful to pull back and look at a couple of odd incidents that preceded the event. Two months before they died, according to tabloid reports from the day, Manoel and Miguel, along with a friend and fellow electronics technician named Elcio Gomes, built a device of some sort, meant to facilitate communication with intelligent beings on Mars, in Manoel’s garden. The device exploded as soon as it was activated.

Even more intriguingly, two years before the Manoel and Miguel died, another electronics repairman, was found dead on a hilltop with a lead mask next to him. Although details on this case are sketchy, the similarities are enough to infer some sort of connection between the cases.

What, then, was going on among the electronics repair community in Brazil more than fifty years ago? It appears, based on police investigations after the deaths, that Miguel, Manoel, and Elcio Gomes were involved in a group of “scientific spiritualists,” who believed they could communicate with beings from other worlds (as they attempted to do with the experiment in Manoel’s garden.) Police found scraps of lead and metal cutting tools in Manoel’s home. They also found books on spiritualism, which referred to “intense luminosity” associated with contacting spirit beings, which the lead masks were evidently supposed to protect against.

Another facet of the belief system seemed to involve the ingestion of drugs to help facilitate contact with spirits. These drugs were probably psychedelic substances of some sort. Perhaps the  men got a hold of a bad batch of drugs, and died on that hilltop performing some sort of odd ritual. Or, they simply overdosed. It is impossible to know for certain, but this is a reasonable guess. Still, with the lack of any forensic evidence, the exact cause of death in the now infamous Lead Masks Case will forever remain a mystery.

 

Sources:

Barclay, Shelly, “The Lead Masks Case.” HistoricMysteries.com. October 27, 2011. Historic Mysteries. July 12, 2015. http://www.historicmysteries.com/the-lead-masks-case/

Bowen, Charles. “The Mystery of the Morro Do Vintem.” Flying Saucer Review, March-April 1967. Volume 13, No. 2. pgs 11-14. Retrieved from: http://www.noufors.com/Documents/Books,%20Manuals%20and%20Published%20Papers/Specialty%20UFO%20Publications/Flying%20Saucer%20Review/FSR,1967,Mar-Apr,V%2013,N%202.pdf

Dunning, B. “Solving the Lead Masks of Vintem Hill.” Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, Inc., 21 Jan 2014. Web. 19 Jul 2015. <http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4398>

 

When Hell Came to Earth: The Axeman of New Orleans

An illustrated map of the sites of the Axeman's crimes.

An illustrated map of the sites of the Axeman’s crimes.

History is littered with mysterious assailants who appear from the dark shadows and terrorize the community, only to disappear almost as fast as they came. Many of these mystery figures were products of mass hysteria, such as the gas-wielding madman who stalked Mattoon, Illinois during World War II. The origins of other shadow attackers are less clear cut. The London Monster, who allegedly attacked women in 18th century London, was likely not a single individual but rather a collective delusion generated by similar style attacks committed by many individuals. The Phantom Barber of Pascagoula snipped the hair of several women. While this case may well have been a case of collective delusion on the order of the London Monster, the causes remain unclear.

However, a case in New Orleans in 1918 leaves no doubt that a mad man was on the loose. An assailant only known as the Axeman cut a swath through the Italian community of New Orleans, leaving fear and death in his wake. There is no doubt that the Axeman was a real figure and not an artifact created  from common belief. Even so, his identity and motivations remain a mystery until this day.

 

The Killings Begin

The Axeman first materialized on May 23, 1918, leaving death in his wake. Joseph Maggio and his wife were butchered in their apartment, which was above the grocery they owned and managed together. Police found that a panel on the rear door had been chiseled out. An axe, coated with blood, was found in the apartment. Nothing else in the apartment was touched. The only other clue was a message written in chalk near the victim’s home that read: “Mrs. Joseph Maggio will sit up tonight. Just Write Mrs. Toney.” (check)

As the investigation progressed, police discovered more murders of Italian grocers, these from 1911. The killings bore a striking resemblance to the Maggio murders: the killer chiseled out a door panel and killed the victim with an axe he found in their home. Police suspected a mafia connection. For their part, residents barred their doors, held their families close, and prepared for more carnage.

The phantom killer struck again a month later. Louis Bossumer and his common law wife, Annie Lowe,  were found by neighbors, covered in blood and bearing terrible gashes made by an axe, which the assailant left in the bedroom. A panel on the kitchen door had been chiseled out. Again, nothing was stolen.

Annie Lowe later claimed the assailant was a young, dark man. But she changed her story and claimed that Bossumer himself was the culprit. Police dismissed this story as nonsensical, since no person in their right mind would take an axed to their own face. The killer remained at large, with no real clue to his identity.

Lowe and Bossumer both survived their injuries. His next victim, Mrs. Edward Schneider, who described her attacker as tall and phantom-like, also managed to survive. The next victim, who was attacked in August, was not so fortunate. Joseph Romano, another Italian grocer, died of his injuries.

 

A Letter From Hell

The attacks left panic in their wake. People began to see the attacker in every shadow and around every corner. Some said he was a tall, thin man, while others claimed that he was a man dressed in women’s clothes. Still others claimed that the killer was a woman, or that he was a man but a midget. Otherwise, how could he fit through the small hole of a chiseled out door panel? Others whispered even stranger tales, that perhaps the killer was not of this earth. A vengeful spirit perhaps, or even the Devil himself come to Earth to punish New Orleans for her sins.

Whatever the attacker’s identity, he or she went mostly dormant through September. A few residents reported attempted break ins, and others fired shots at lurkers in the dark. After September, there were no more such reports. As suddenly as he had come, the Axeman was gone. The crisis, it seemed, was over.

Or so it seemed. But on March 10, 1919, the Axeman perpetrated the most gruesome crime yet. in the town of Gretna, near New Orleans, an assailant in dark clothes attacked the Cortimiglia family. Charles Cortimiglia struggled with the attacker, but was overcome by his wounds and died. The attacker then turned on Rosie Cortimilgia and her two year old daughter, Mary. despite Rosie’s pleas, the Axeman struck, killing the two year old and severely injuring her mother, who ultimately survived the ordeal.

The bloody attack set the city into a panic, which was only stoked by a letter received by the editor of the New Orleans Times Picayune on Friday, March 14, 1919:

Hell, March 13, 1919

Esteemed Mortal:

They have never caught me and they never will. They have never seen me, for I am invisible, even as the ether that surrounds your earth. I am not a human being, but a spirit and a demon from the hottest hell. I am what you Orleanians and your foolish police call the Axeman.

When I see fit, I shall come and claim other victims. I alone know who they shall be. I shall leave no clue except my bloody axe, besmeared with blood and brains of he whom I have sent below to keep me company.

If you wish you may tell the police to be careful not to rile me. Of course, I am a reasonable spirit. I take no offense at the way they have conducted their investigations in the past. In fact, they have been so utterly stupid as to not only amuse me, but His Satanic Majesty, Francis Josef, etc. But tell them to beware. Let them not try to discover what I am; for it were better that they were never born than to incur the wrath of the Axeman. I don‘t think there is any need of such a warning, for I feel sure the police will always dodge me, as they have in the past. They are wise and know how to keep away from all harm.

Undoubtedly, you Orleanians think of me as a most horrible murderer, which I am, but I could be much worse if I wanted to. If I wished, I could pay a visit to your city every night. At will I could slay thousands of your best citizens, for I am in close relationship with the Angel of Death.

Now, to be exact, at 12:15 (earthly time) on next Tuesday night, I am going to pass over New Orleans. In my infinite mercy, I am going to make a little proposition to you people.

Here it is:

I am very fond of jazz music, and I swear by all the devils in the nether regions that every person shall be spared in whose home a jazz band is in full swing at the time I have just mentioned. If everyone has a jazz band going, well, then, so much the better for you people. One thing is certain and that is that some of your people who do not jazz it on Tuesday night (if there be any) will get the axe.

Well, as I am cold and crave the warmth of my native Tartarus, and it is about time I leave your earthly home, I will cease my discourse. Hoping that thou wilt publish this, that it may go well with thee, I have been, am and will be the worst spirit that ever existed either in fact or realm of fancy.

The Axeman

That night, the people of New Orleans partied as if their lives depended on it. Clubs and music houses were packed, and neighbors gathered in homes to play music. The city was alive with the strains of Jazz music. Joseph Davilla, a local composer, composed a song called “The Mysterious Axeman Jazz,” which became a hit in the city. That night, no one died at the hands of the Axeman.

Sheet music for the Axeman's Jazz.

Sheet music for the Axeman’s Jazz.

Last Gasp and an Enduring Mystery

The Axeman’s fury seemed to have dissipated with the night of music. Months went by without incident. It seemed the city had appeased whatever dark soul, human or otherwise, that had decided to torment it.

That is, until the night of August 3, 1919, when the madman attacked a girl named Sarah Laumann in her home. Laumann survived, but this new atrocity marked a change in the Axeman’s behavior–Laumann was neither a grocer nor Italian. New Orleans was horrified to realize that no one was safe from the Axeman’s wrath.

He struck again that August, and in September he tried to strike again but was thwarted by a homeowner with a gun. The final attack came in October, when the Axeman slaughtered Mike Pepitone in his bed as his wife and six children slept in the next room. Police found all of the now familiar signatures of the Axeman, but still had gleaned no clues to his identity. To this day, no one can say for certain who the Axeman was.

There is, however, a tantalizing lead in the case. A year after the last killing, a man named Joseph Mumre was shot and killed on the Pacific Coast by Mike Pepitone’s widow, Esther Albano. She claimed Pepitone had killed her husband. There is some circumstantial evidence to suggest Mumre’s involvement in the killings. Mumre had taken part in a group of blackmailers who preyed on the Italian community. He was sent to prison in 1911, just after the first killings attributed to the Axeman. he was paroled in 1918, around the time that the killings began again. Mumre left for the coast around the time that the Axeman killings ended in 1919.

While the timeline syncs up, there was no physical evidence linking Mumre to the crimes. His death erased any chance for police to question him and ferret out his involvement in the case, if any. The only real lead died with him. Since those terrifying two years, the Axeman has passed into legend, and enduring and macabre figure in the folklore of a city steeped in bizarre happenings.

Sources:

Smith, Kalila. “Axe Murder in New Orleans.” CrimeMuseum.org. November 11, 2011. Crime Museum. December 30, 2014. http://www.crimemuseum.org/blog/axe-murder-in-new-orleans

Rumsland, Katherine. “The Axeman of New Orleans.” CrimeLibrary.com. December 30, 2014. http://www.crimelibrary.com/serial_killers/weird/axeman/index.html

Taylor, Troy. “The Axeman’s Jazz.” Praireghosts.com. 2004. Ghosts of the Prairie. December 30, 2014. http://www.prairieghosts.com/axeman.html

 

 

 

 

The Mystery of the Amber Room

The modern reconstruction of the Amber Room.

The modern reconstruction of the Amber Room.

While the Nazis stormed across Europe, their storm troopers raided museums and art galleries, stealing priceless works of art to be taken back to their fatherland to celebrate the greatness of the German Third Reich. Looting during war is nothing new of course; since time immemorial, the victors have stolen valuables from those they’ve defeated. Point of fact, a good argument can be made that theft of land and resources is the point of most wars in the first place. However, the Nazi’s looting was on a massive scale, and most notable for the priceless artworks that were stolen.

Nothing stolen in Western Europe was as precious as the Amber Room. Constructed in the 18th century in Prussia, part of Germany, for the King of Prussia Friedrich I, the room consisted of panels built of amber, backed with gold leaf, and encrusted with precious and semi-precious stones. The opulent room caught the eye of Peter the Great, Czar of Russia, on a visit to Prussia in 1716. Frederick William I, then King of Prussia, gave the Czar the room as a gift, a symbol of Prussian-Russian friendship.

The panels were packed into 18 large boxes and shipped to Russia. They were initially installed in the Winter House in St. Petersburg. There they remained until 1755, when Czarina Elizabeth ordered them moved to the Catherine Palace in Tsarkoye Selo (the Czar’s Village.) The room was renovated by an Italian designer named Bartolomeo Francesco Rastreilli, who used additional amber from Berlin to expand the room in a larger space. These final renovations expanded the Amber Room to cover 180 square feet. Altogether, the work utilized approximately six tons of amber and semi-precious stones. The beautiful room served alternatively as a meditation chamber, a banquet hall, a trophy space, and a museum.

Adolf Hitler ordered the invasion of the Soviet Union, dubbed Operation Barbarossa, to begin on June 22, 1941. It was an unprecedented military maneuver, both in scale and savagery. Three million Germans streamed into the Soviet Union, shoving back Soviet forces and looting as they went, stealing thousands upon thousands of treasures even as they slaughtered millions and millions of Soviet citizens.

For their part, the Nazis coveted the Amber Room, believing it was made by Germans, for Germans (the work was actually a collaboration between Dutch and German artisans.) Knowing that the Germans would steal the priceless panels, officials at the Catherine Palace on the outskirts of Leningrad (previously known as St. Petersburg) tried to hide them, but found that the amber was beginning to crumble. Instead, the officials put up wallpaper, hoping to disguise the priceless artifact as an ordinary room.

The trick failed. German soldiers tore down the Amber Room within 36 hours. It was packed into 27 crates and shipped to Konigsberg, where it was installed in the Konisberg castle museum, where it remained for the next two years. In late 1943, the room was once again crated up and tucked away. In August 1944, the Allies bombed Konigsberg into the ground, leaving the castle as a heap of ruins. The Amber Room disappeared in the chaos of bombings and the destruction that swept over Germany in the final year of the war. Since then, the priceless work has been lost to history.

Since the chaotic final years of the war, various theories have cropped up seeking to explain what happened to the Amber Room. They range from the obvious to tin-hat level conspiracy. The simplest, most obvious, and therefore most plausible explanation is that the Amber Room was destroyed in during the bombings that leveled Konigsberg in 1944. Given the level of destruction unleashed by the bombings, this explanation certainly makes sense. But others aren’t satisfied to let the mystery end there. Some claim the treasure was hidden somewhere in Konigsberg (now known as Kaliningrad), remaining to be found. Others believe it was loaded on a ship, which was promptly sunk, and now resides somewhere on the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Another theory holds that the treasure was shipped to Austria, where it was sunk to the bottom of Toplitz Lake, which is believed to hold other Nazi treasures that were hastily hidden when the war’s endgame became apparent. The most extreme theory veers into the realm of conspiracy. It claims that Stalin had foreseen the German’s desire for the Amber Room and had a dummy version constructed, while the real Amber Room was safely carted away to the Soviet interior.

No one knows for sure. Bits of amber claiming to be from the Amber Room do appear from time to time, but they are difficult to substantiate as legitimate. Cases are still working their way through German courts regarding pieces that owners claim are part of the lost room. It is no wonder though that the mystery of the Amber Room has so intrigued the imagination for the 60+ years since it disappeared. The work is estimated to be worth $142 million in today’s money, an amount that makes any intrepid treasure hunter tempted to take a crack at finding the lost treasure.

For its part, the Soviet Union gave up looking for the lost room in 1979, opting instead to simply rebuild it. This proved to be a tall order, as many of the skills utilized in its construction had to be rediscovered. These included methods for carving and dyeing amber. The project took 25 years and $11 million to complete. Upon completion, the room was dedicated by President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Shroder, becoming once again a symbol of peace between two nations. The replica can be seen at the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve outside of St. Petersburg, Russia. As for the original? More likely than not, no one will ever know for sure. The mystery will remain.

 

Sources:

“Amber Room hunt makes lake the Tsar Attraction.” Scotsman.com. April 15, 2006. The Scotsman. November 4, 2014. http://www.scotsman.com/news/world/amber-room-hunt-makes-lake-the-tsar-attraction-1-1411018

 

Blumberg, Jess. “A Brief History of the Amber Room.” Smithsonianmag.com. July 31, 2007. Smithsonian.com. November 4, 2014. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/a-brief-history-of-the-amber-room-160940121/?all&no-ist

 

Varoli, John. “Amber Room, Lost to War, Is Recreated.” NYTimes.com. January 23, 2000. The New York Times. November 4, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2000/01/23/arts/art-architecture-amber-room-lost-to-war-is-recreated.html?src=pm&pagewanted=1

 

 

The Pedro Mountains Mummy

The_San_Pedro_Mountain_MummyCecil Main and a fellow prospector were prospecting for gold in the Pedro Mountains, 60 miles southwest of Casper, Wyoming in June of 1934, when they used explosives to break into a sealed cave. What they found inside was not the valuable mineral they sought, but something infinitely stranger. There, on a small rock shelf, sat a bizarre set of mummified remains that have captured the imagination and stirred debate in the 80 years its discovery. The human mummy was frozen in a seated position, preserved in the dry air of the cave. It stood only 7 inches tall, and weighted about three-quarters of a pound.

 

Muddled origins

Casper Main swore to the discovery two years later in a signed affidavit dated November 13, 1936. However, there is confusion as to who exactly discovered the remains and when. Some newspaper articles place the discovery in 1932, a full two years earlier than when Main claimed to have found the mummy. Others claimed that Main was not the discoverer at all; rather, the mummy was found by an unnamed shepherd.

What is certain is that the tiny mummy was found, and that it traveled a long, strange path before its disappearance some 20 years after its discovery in 1950. When Main swore to his affidavit, he claimed that the mummy was owned by a man named Homer F. Sherrill, and was being kept in the Field Museum in Chicago. However, the Field Museum has no existing record of the mummy ever being in its possession.

More likely is that the mummy made the rounds in Casper, where Main and his fellow prospector showed off the remains in Casper as a curiosity. The remains reportedly were bought and displayed in a drugstore for some time, reminiscent of how Elmer McCurdy’s remains were put on display by the embalmer who mummified him.

What is more certain is that, around 1950, a Casper businessman named Ivan Goodman acquired the remains. He took the mummy to Dr. Harry Shapiro, curator of biological anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The scientist examined and x-rayed the mummy. He sent the x-rays to George Gill, a professor of biological anthropology at the University of Wyoming. The scientists found that the remains were likely those of a child, stillborn or dead soon after birth, who suffered from anencephaly, a congenital defect characterized by the absence of most of the brain.

Shortly after the examination, Goodman made a second trip to New York, where he gave the mummy to a man named as Leonard Wadler, who claimed to want the mummy for study. Goodman died later in 1950, and Wadler hung on to the remains. They have not been seen again for 60 years. Some believe Wadler was a con man, who sought to use the mummy to make money. They believe he took the remains to Florida, where they remain to this day. However, in the absence of a paper trail or any evidence, it is hard to tell for sure.

 

Little People in the mountains

While the Pedro Mountain Mummy is no longer with us, the photographs and x-rays remain. These photos have sparked the imagination for decades, leading people down strange rabbit holes. Native American legends from the Pedro Mountains region claim that a race of tiny humans live there. These Little People could be friends to humans or foes, depending on their mood and how people behaved toward them. To believers, the mummified remains confirm that the Little People exist. Still others believe that a race of pygmies lived in the Pedro Mountains, but that they were of a less supernatural origin. They seek the Pedro Mountain Mummy to examine it in hopes of overturning conventional evolutionary explanations for human origins. They believe the mummy was millions of years old, far older than the current understanding of evolution can account for.

Others seek the little mummy for less psuedo-scientific reasons. Dr. Gill remains intrigued by the remains, wanting to rediscover the mummy whose x-rays he examined so long ago. The doctor did an interview with Unsolved Mysteries in 1994, hoping to stir up interest in the matter. A Wyoming rancher saw the episode and brought another mummy found in the Pedro Mountains. The remains were of a little girl, in a similar state as the Pedro Mountains Mummy. Gill examined the mummy and found evidence that the child suffered anencephaly. The remains were carbon-dated, revealing that they were 300 years old, not the million plus that advocates of the human pygmy hypothesis believe.

These tiny remains point to a little known part of history. Whose remains are they? Likely they are Native American. Was the practice widespread, and what sorts of rituals and religious meanings were attached to the act of mummification. Sometimes mummification is accidental, but most often there is a religious component to the practice. For example, Europe’s bog mummies were likely a mix of the two; many were likely ritual sacrifices to the spirits and gods in the bogs, while their sacrificial location incidentally preserved them. However, the two known mummies from the Pedro Mountains appear to have been deliberately placed in the caves, and both were ancephalitic. If others were found, it could point to a little known ritual practice performed by Native Americans in the area that today has been lost to history.

But that is all speculation. The Pedro Mountains Mummy remains lost. Only its photos remain to tell the sad story of a child born with a hideous genetic disease that stole it from its parents far too soon. Barring future discoveries, or the discovery of Pedro itself, how and why it was mummified will remain a mystery.

 

Sources:

Burke, Brendan. “Man offers $10,000 for Pedro Mountain Mummy.” Trib.com. February 3, 2005. Casper Star Tribune. November 3, 2014. http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/article_c77f7c03-6169-5f9f-b3a8-4350c70b8966.html

 

Hein, Rebecca. “The Pedro Mountain Mummy.” WyoHistory.org. Accessed November 3, 2014. http://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/pedro-mountain-mummy

 

Peterson, Christine. “Did a mummy prove the legend?” Trib.com. October 31, 2010. Casper Star Tribune. November 3, 2014. http://trib.com/lifestyles/weekender/did-a-mummy-prove-the-legend/article_89ec3ff7-852a-52b1-a235-78fe97cd4b1a.html