We at Cracked aren't going to be satisfied until we've sucked every last mystery from the world like the final gurgling slurps of a milkshake. Thus, here are seven mysteries that have enthralled human imagination for decades -- if not centuries -- that were actually solved long ago. Hint: The solution never involves magic.
#7. The Shroud of Turin
It's the ultimate religious artifact of our times, considering we still haven't found the Holy Grail yet. According to legend, Jesus was wrapped in a burial shroud after his crucifixion, and it retained the ghostly image of his face.
The shroud, mentioned only vaguely in the Bible, resurfaced in the possession of a knight in Lirey, France, in the year 1390 and made its way across churches in Europe. It eventually ended up in a chapel in Turin, Italy, after a fire damaged it in 1532. It remains there to this day and has since become known as the Shroud of Turin.
Wow, upping the contrast on a coffee stain can really work miracles.
It's considered one of the most holy relics in existence, and Pope Benedict XVI has declared it the authentic burial robe of Christ.
Unfortunately, it appears that the Church has been taken in by a 600-year-old hoax. In 1988, Oxford University in England, the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, and Tucson University in Arizona performed radiocarbon dating and found that the shroud was dated to around the 14th century -- the same time that it mysteriously appeared.
Be honest. You all wish those hands weren't there so we could see what the King of Kings is packing.
But even if the shroud is a medieval hoax, how was it created? According to Luigi Garlaschelli, a professor of chemistry at the University of Pavia, it was pretty simple. Using a linen sheet laid over a volunteer and an acidic pigment (tactics and materials available to a 14th century forger), then artificially aging the cloth to make it appear a couple hundred years old, he and his students created a pretty damn impressive replica of the shroud in 2009.
If the messiah was Hulk Hogan.
That very same year, an authentic tomb from the actual time of Jesus was unearthed in Jerusalem, and archaeologists found a dead aristocrat wrapped in a shroud made from far less advanced a textile than the Shroud of Turin, which seems to use weaving techniques not found in the time of Jesus. So we'd have to believe that a really rich dude was somehow unable to afford the same super-shroud as a local carpenter who died a penniless criminal.
Oh yeah, and then there's the accusation that Church authorities in the 1300s knew the shroud was a hoax and actually had a confession from the unnamed artist who faked it.
"Also, keep spreading the word that Jesus was a white guy."
Generally speaking, auras are, you know, the manifestation of universal energy that, like, surrounds us all, man. And for a fee, professional aura readers who butcher the Papyrus font can take a look at your aura and tell you exactly what your spiritual malaise is based upon their handy color chart.
"I see sadness, and also that you need to replace your camera lens."
Those aura photographs can be taken with a kind of device that runs a current through your body. Not strong enough to kill you usually, just enough to bring out that spiritual energy. And for years, scientists didn't know what the hell it was. Maybe it was magic.
Turns out it's regular, old-fashioned sweat.
The electrical photographic method actually just brings out the outline of whatever it's observing in a beautiful neon glow. In the case of human beings, it also captures the cloud of sweat floating around the filthy, filthy hippie in question. The effect is much more dramatic if the subject is keen and nervous about, well, having an electric current shot through his body.
"Huh. Looks like you're feeling very apple today."
But there are some other explanations for why auras have featured prominently in iconography even before this neat camera trick. Visions of auras can be caused by defects in your own eye, brought to you by medical conditions such as migraines, epilepsy and eye burns. This is something even aura believers admit.
It also works if you rub your eyes really hard for about four minutes.
Still, there's something to be taken home from all this -- if you're into that sort of thing, you now have a way to know exactly what color your sweat is.
#5. The Ghost Ship Flying Dutchman
The legend of the Flying Dutchman dates back to the 17th century. It's about a ghost ship that sails the deep ocean, full of lost souls who can never make port. According to the story, the Flying Dutchman sank in a terrible storm, and since that day it has drifted aimlessly (because apparently when ships are killed they also become ghosts). If you see the Flying Dutchman, it's a sign that a terrible storm is coming to make ghosts of you and your ship, too.
As implied by the name, it actually flies. That's how you know it's a ghost ship and not just some regular ship you've mistaken for one -- it's the one that's hovering above the water. No non-ghost boat can do that.
"Phew! It's just a regular rotting ship haunted by the anguished souls of the dead."
Sailors who report seeing the Flying Dutchman have kept this legend alive for centuries because, come on, it's a flying boat that predicts storms. How many of them can possibly be out there?
Turns out this all makes perfect sense. No, seriously. They're just falling victim to an optical illusion called fata morgana. It's a form of mirage that plays with light and moisture in a way that can and often will cause faraway ships to appear as all sorts of terrifying apparitions that float well above sea level. The Flying Dutchman is heavily associated with the areas that have conditions ideal for fata morgana mirages, such as the North Sea (the phenomenon is most likely to occur in colder water temperatures).
Apparently, 17th century sailors aren't the best way to objectively assess nautical phenomena.
But what about the storms? How many optical illusions do you know that can control the weather? Actually, it's the other way around. Guess what kind of atmospheric conditions are perfect for creating the fata morgana mirage? If you guessed "the ones right before a storm hits," you win 12 Cracked points.
Cracked points are redeemable only for shotgun shells and expired peanut butter.
#4. Human Magnetism
Yes, we said "human magnetism." As in, there are people out there whose job description is "sticking metal objects to themselves." These are regular people like Aurel Raileanu and Brenda Allison, who display the uncanny ability to draw metal objects like a particular X-Men villain you may have heard of.
Seriously. They have entire tournaments in which these real-world Magnetos compete to find out who is truly the master stick-shit-to-himselfer. The current champion managed to lift, get this, a 92-pound slab of stone with his skin. This is particularly impressive when you consider that stone isn't noted for its magnetic properties.
Waaaaait, we can't see what his penis is doing here.
Skeptics such as James Randi have found that human magnetism is simply caused by a skin condition called not fucking bathing.
One of these years, Burning Man is going to suck a goddamn jet out of the air.
The stickiness of a suitably greasy skin and a certain amount of practice enables these people to use their skin for suction in a manner not unlike that of octopus tentacles, which also explains why they are able to attach technically non-magnetic objects to themselves.
Randi actually proved this theory on the field by rubbing talcum powder on human magnets, who instantly, magically lost their powers like it was Kryptonite.
It cost literally dollars to replace that TV.