7 Famous 'Unsolved' Mysteries (Science Solved Years Ago)

#3. Men in Black

Getty

The Mystery:

If you only know the term "Men in Black" from the Will Smith movie, you should know that the mythology of the MiB predates it by decades. According to paranormal researchers, particularly UFO believers and conspiracy buffs, men dressed in black clothing show up after an encounter with the unknown. They're either government agents or entities posing as government agents, who make vague threats and attempt to intimidate people into keeping quiet about what they saw.

Getty
"It's like the Will Smith movie, but with less mind-erasing and more summary executions."

They're always dressed in neatly tailored black suits, drive large, black cars and often seem otherworldly or somehow not human.

The Solution:

MIBs were introduced into the public consciousness by way of a UFO researcher named Gray Barker. Barker was a credible journalist -- and by "credible journalist" we mean the exact opposite of both of those things.

Amazon
Apparently the Blues Brothers are involved somehow.

Turns out, Gray Barker was actually a closet skeptic, and tended to refer to his UFO writings as "kookie books." In fact, he frequently played pranks on other UFOlogists because he felt like they were taking things too seriously. After his death, his own sister called him out for mostly being interested in cash, saying he once told her, "There's good money in it."

science.howstuffworks
That's a man who's not revealing what's happening to his lower half at that precise moment.

Barker based his book about Men in Black on interviews with UFOlogists who had simply claimed to have been visited by government agents who asked them to take it down a notch. This might not actually be far from the truth. At the time, the government didn't want people getting too worked up over UFOs because they knew the craft were actually experimental spy planes, like the U-2 spy plane.

Wikipedia
"Man, that's not a UFO either. Guess we still haven't found what we're looking for."

To further impugn Barker's record, he and his friend James Moseley once got their hands on some blank government stationery and sent a hoax letter to a fellow UFOlogist.

Getty
"The alien king of Xibitu has recently come into a great sum of money and needs my help?"

Then in 1970, he published a book titled The Silver Bridge, an account of the "Mothman" sightings in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, which he admitted to his friend John Sherwood contained fictitious and exaggerated accounts. Five years later, UFOlogist John Keel based his book The Mothman Prophecies (which became a film starring Richard Gere) heavily on Barker's book and prank phone calls Barker made to Keel. That's right, the Mothman was invented by Barker, too. Holy shit, we wouldn't be surprised to learn that he invented Bigfoot.

#2. The Belmez Faces

The Mystery:

Back in 1971, the Pereira family of the rural town of Belmez, Spain, found a mystery inside their very home: They woke up one day to find there was a face on their floor. Not a real one, of course -- that would've presented a very different kind of dilemma. This face, which would be known by ghost freakouters throughout the world as La Pava, was a terrifying ghost face that had appeared out of nowhere in the actual concrete.

teoriaalien
If we were ghosts with droopy skin, we sure wouldn't showcase it.

Scrubbing and cleaning did nothing to remove it. The Pereiras were understandably a bit freaked out by this turn of events, and before long decided to chop that part of the floor away and pour some new concrete in. But as soon as the new floor was ready, La Pava grew right back. The only difference was, its expression was now slightly different, as if leering. Soon, more faces started to appear.

nevemoon
The paranormal's impressionist period.

The public and the media, of course, went apeshit over the phenomenon. The initial reaction by many was to call bullshit on the whole thing, but research found no evidence whatsoever of paints or dyes. One scientist even dubbed the Belmez faces the best-documented and "without doubt the most important paranormal phenomenon in the 20th century." Do a simple Google search today and you get a whole bunch of sources claiming this is still a huge mystery.

nevemoon
We're calling the old dead-bodies-buried-in-the-concrete trick.

The Solution:

What you don't hear so much is that the mystery of the Belmez faces was solved pretty much the day after it happened.

A study commissioned by the Spanish Ministry of the Interior -- the very same one that found no traces of paint -- broke down all the substances found in and around the faces. The scientists found that the faces' chemical composition strongly resembled stains left by an oxidizing agent. It's almost as if someone had clumsily reproduced old photographs by painting them on the floor with an acidic substance (like, say, vinegar with some soot mixed in). Once ready, the pictures could easily be manipulated with a cleaning agent, such as, say, the concrete stain removal product readily available at the local pharmacist.

teoriaalien
Ghosts don't scrub away.

But who would have the chance to execute such a blatant hoax, with all the paranormal investigators and parapsychology advocates, not to mention the lady of the house, who seemed to be the center of the phenomenon, hanging around all the time?

Oh, right.

#1. The Crystal Skulls

Wikipedia

The Mystery:

Here's something that might have gotten obscured by the cloud of complaints that swirled around the last Indiana Jones film: the crystal skull mentioned in the title is actually based on a real thing. Said skull has gotten a very spooky reputation as one of the world's more mysterious artifacts.

science.howstuffworks
While Indiana Jones 4 just has the reputation of having Shia LeBeouf.

It was found in Belize in 1924 by Anna Mitchell-Hedges, daughter of explorer F.A. Mitchell-Hedges, on a collapsed altar in an ancient Mayan temple. Anna and her father later discovered that the skull was 3,600 years old, and was concisely called "The Skull of Doom." It was used by Mayan priests to wish death upon their enemies. Mitchell-Hedges came to believe that the skull had been polished by hand from a single chunk of crystal using nothing but sand over a period of 300 years. She even claimed that the skull has mysterious powers.

world-mysteries
Here's a man communicating with the skull because he claims it's operating on a human level. Obviously.

Modern-day skull followers say that the skull is related to the Mayan 2012 doomsday prophecy, and that bringing the 13 crystal skulls from all around the world together before 12/21/12 is the only way for humanity to survive. Yes, there are more -- six have been found. One is in the British Museum in London, three are in the Quai Branley Museum in Paris, one is in the Smithsonian and the Mitchell-Hedges skull is the last, and said to be the most powerful. We have just over a year to find the other seven. Oh man, we're doomed.

world-mysteries
This fetch quest is going to be EPIC.

The Solution:

But there are so many unanswered questions! Why did Mitchell-Hedges and his daughter never mention the skull until 30 years after the expedition? Why did nobody else who went with them ever say anything? Oh wait, turns out he just bought it at a Sotheby's auction in 1943.

Wikipedia
The Apocalypse Temple in The Fifth Element was way better.

But hey, just because F.A. Mitchell-Hedges was full of shit about where it came from doesn't necessarily rule it out as a fake, right? It could still be thousands of years old and made by ancient Mayans or aliens or whatever.

Sure, except in 2008 Anna Mitchell-Hedges' widower, Bill Homann, brought the skull to Jane Walsh, an anthropologist at the Smithsonian. Using a scanning electron microscope, she found that the skull hadn't been polished with sand, but with a high-speed diamond-tipped rotary tool, which, if you're keeping score at home, would not be a thing ancient Mayans would have. In fact, Walsh thinks that the skull was probably carved sometime in the 1930s. As far as the five other skulls? Yeah, they're all modern fakes, too.

But the other parts of the movie were true, right?

philipcoppens
Man, are the aliens going to be disappointed when we've scienced every mystery to death.

To read more from Ashe, check out Weird Shit Blog and Film School Rejects. Pauli has a blog and is a member of the Wordplague writers' community.

For things that we already knew, check out 6 Famous Unsolved Mysteries (That Have Totally Been Solved) and 6 Famous Unsolved Mysteries (With Really Obvious Solutions).

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