You know how there's always that one guy who said he did that one insane thing in high school? Like he swam across an alligator-filled lake with a hand tied behind his back or fought off a cougar with nothing but a lit cigarette and a condom wrapper? The recurring theme of these stories is that you'll just have to take his word for it, because -- wouldn't you know it? -- his mom lost the proof when she threw out his memorabilia box.
Well, sometimes history is like that. There are amazing accomplishments, conspiracy theories and outlandish claims that are all supposedly out there waiting to be proven true, if only we could find ...
#5. The RFK Assassination Photos
If you've only had room in your heart for one Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory and JFK sealed the deal years ago, we'll have to ask you to reconsider, because the death of Robert Kennedy also had some pretty shady business going on.
The story we were told was that RFK wrapped up a victory speech after winning the California primary election for the Democratic nomination. He walked with his entourage through the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel when the unfortunately named Sirhan Sirhan shot him. The end.
You have to remember, shooting people was considered rude back then.
At least that's what The Man wants you to believe. Conspiracy theorists have a few different stories. One is that high-level CIA operatives were identified at the hotel that night, one of whom was later quoted as saying, "I was in Dallas when we got the son of a bitch and I was in Los Angeles when we got the little bastard." Yikes. That's ... an awful and strangely specific thing to say. Then there's the whole gunshot problem. Audio experts swear they hear 13 shots in the footage of the assassination, but Double Sirhan's gun could only shoot eight. Dun dun dunnnn. Then again, there are always conspiracy theorists out there starting shit.
If only there were more pictures of the assassination that might shed some light on the mystery ...
No, that doesn't count.
The Missing Photos:
In 1968, 15-year-old student photographer Jamie Scott Enyart was at the hotel taking pictures of Kennedy and inadvertently photographed RFK at the exact same moment the shots were fired, making Enyart the only photographer there to actually do that. The LAPD snatched the pictures up in the chaos that followed, claiming that the photographic evidence was necessary for catching the assassin. Fair enough. The trial came and went, and Enyart was told that the film had to be sealed away for 20 years, presumably so no other would-be assassins would use the pictures as a tutorial.
"Guns are much better weapons than candy canes. I was a fool."
So 20 years passed, and Enyart marched himself back to LAPD to get his pictures. He was told they were lost. It wasn't until a year later (when the now-middle-aged former photographer got ready to sue the city of Los Angeles) that the hunt for the negatives really began. And guess what? It took six years, but they found them! Yay!
Finally, in 1996 a courier was assigned to deliver the prints and the negatives to Jamie Scott Enyart. Unfortunately, the courier had a flat tire on the way to make his delivery. So he stopped off at a gas station for a few seconds, and BAM.
The car was broken into and the pictures and negatives were stolen.
"Don't mind me. I am just an ordinary thief and am in no way a government official."
What the hell, man?
#4. Evidence of the First Controlled Flight
Have you ever wondered what made the Wright brothers' 1903 flight so damn special?
The big deal is that theirs was the first controlled sustained flight that we know of. Lots of inventors were tinkering around with planes at the time, and plenty of them claim to have made it into the air before the Wrights did. But since not everyone was walking around with camera phones and a constant need to photograph every minor second of their lives back then, documentation was scarce.
But there's at least one maverick who was apparently shut out of history because he didn't have Instagram.
And his mustache was furious.
The Missing Document:
Back in 1901, Bavarian-born Gustave Whitehead was in a bind. He couldn't keep himself from building flying machines that kept crashing into buildings, even though he'd been repeatedly warned by police to stop. So when he finally did succeed at getting a controlled plane into the air in August 1901, he was compelled to keep it on the down low. That didn't stop the local newspaper from reporting the flight four days later along with an illustration of the BATPLANE:
Which ironically looks like something the Penguin would fly.
Hell, it even looks cooler than the Wright brothers' version. The only problems were that no photos were made public and there were only two eyewitnesses, one of whom later retracted his report and the other of whom disappeared. Then, two years later, the story got around that pictures of the flight were in fact displayed at a hardware store, of all places, and in 1906 another photo was displayed at an aviation exhibit. Those pictures later disappeared. And so did the picture allegedly taken by a sea captain.
So by 1903, the story was already set in stone ... in favor of the Wright brothers. Especially since the Wright estate eventually secured a secret contract with the Smithsonian Institution, one where the museum would get to display the Wright's Flyer only if they promised to acknowledge the 1903 Kitty Hawk flight as the hand-to-God first one ever. Don't believe us? Here's the contract -- that black ink is blood:
Via Wikimedia Commons
"Any person making such claims shall be called fat and/or stupid by his peers in a court of law."
Pretty fishy, right? Why would the Wright brothers go through the trouble of a secret agreement if their legacy was rock solid? And it didn't help that Whitehead was of German descent. Despite the sworn affidavit of a person who claimed to have flown with him and the modern replicas that have totally flown successfully, Whitehead's legacy is not much more than a crap sandwich.
Unless someone can find those pictures.
#3. The Photos From (Possibly) the First Summit of Mount Everest
There's something about reaching the summit of Mount Everest that's irresistible to the type of people who are addicted to accomplishing really difficult yet ultimately pointless things. Expert climbers attempted expedition after corpse-making expedition for 32 years before the summit was finally reached in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary. And here's the thing about accomplishing this particular feat: If you don't have evidence that you reached the top, no one will believe you did it. Especially if you die on the way down the mountain.
Pfft. Doesn't look so hard.
Which is (maybe?) what happened to British adventurer George Mallory and his climbing buddy Sandy Irvine in 1924. It's entirely possible that they beat Hillary to the top by nearly three decades, but we'll never know until we find their damn Kodak camera.
The Missing Photos:
In 1924, British mountain climber George Mallory and his ridiculously handsome climbing friend Sandy Irvine ...
Via Wikimedia Commons
He must break you.
... were part of the second expedition to attempt to reach the mountain's summit ... ever. Along with their bottled oxygen, Sherpas, business suits and hipster hats, they brought along a camera so they could record their certain victory and take ironic yet kickass pictures. The one using another human as a footrest is George Mallory himself:
There is every possibility that he thought that guy was Mount Everest.
Unlike other sports like football or water polo, whole teams of people can't summit Everest together. For that last leg of the climb, you can go in pairs, but that's about it. So when Mallory and Irvine made their bid for the top on June 8, 1924, they went alone.
Here's where things got tricky. Later that afternoon, another member of the party claimed that he saw two black dots climbing the Second Step -- the last big ridge before the peak. Were those dots Mallory and Irvine, or a trick of the eyes? Or Yetis? We'll never know, because Mallory and Irvine disappeared later that day. After searching for a few days and a few more futile attempts to get to the top, the rest of the team went down, never to see Mallory or Irvine again, and never knowing if they shouted "First!" upon reaching the top.
"Now I can die satisfied! Also: in terrible pain."
Until Mallory's ice-mummified body was surprise-found by an expedition in 1999, that is. And they knew it was Mallory because his shirt said "G. Mallory" on the tag. It would take a pretty sneaky suicide case to pull off that level of a hoax.
But it's what was missing that was most important. Mallory wasn't carrying his picture of his wife, and his still-intact snow goggles were in his pocket, not on his eyes. The picture of his wife is significant because Mallory had said that if he reached the summit, he'd leave her picture there. And the absence of his goggles was important because in those days you only took your snow goggles off when you were descending the mountain.
And the last thing missing? The camera. Which probably meant Irvine was carrying it ... and Irvine's body hasn't been found yet. Except that a Chinese climber reported seeing it in just about the right location back in the '70s. And get this: If anyone ever found that camera, Kodak says they could possibly still develop the film, perhaps proving that these lucky lads beat the Everest record by 29 years.
And also proving that they did not fuck around when they made cameras in the 1920s.
So what are you waiting for? Go get that film! We'll wait here.