6 Pop Culture Mysteries That Were Solved by Fans

#3. Mathematician Solves Beatles Mystery Chord

The Mystery:

Something about the instantly recognizable TWANG! that opens the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night (the song, the album and the movie) has eluded music fans for decades. More specifically, what the hell is it?

Think about it: These are the Beatles we're talking about. Every single note in every one of their songs has been analyzed and memorized by someone, somewhere over the past 50 years, and every single one of their albums has been thoroughly combed for clues that Paul was killed and replaced by an android in 1966 ...

We still think there might be something in their single "Paul Was Killed and Replaced by an Android in 1966" (1967).

... and even then, the exact opening chord of one of their best known songs still managed to remain a mystery. George Harrison admitted which notes he was playing shortly before his death, but he didn't know about the others. In the end, the mystery may prove to be just as enduring as the Beatles' legacy, baffling cover bands and Internet lyric databases for all eternity.

How They Solved It:

And by "for all eternity" we mean "until 2004," when a professor at Dalhousie University nailed this beast using a highly advanced method known as "math."

Science 2.0
Math is that stuff they sell in Breaking Bad, right?

Professor Jason Brown, a lifelong Beatles enthusiast, used a mathematical operation to split the mystery chord into the exact 29,375 frequencies that compose it. Brown then spent the following six months trying to reconstruct the exact notes used by the Beatles from those frequencies, but something strange happened -- some of them didn't match up to George's lead guitar, or John's rhythm guitar, or Paul's bass.

Or Ringo's whatever.

It turns out that the Beatles threw everyone a curveball by having their producer George Martin play a fourth chord on a piano, which accounted for the extra frequencies in Brown's readings. It was that or Ringo crying.

#2. Alice in Wonderland Fan Finds Out Why a Raven Is Like a Writing Desk

The Mystery:

One of the biggest dick moves in literature is the moment when the Mad Hatter from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland poses Alice with the riddle "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" ... and then never gives the answer. So he's not just mad, he's downright evil.

After the novel was first published, Lewis Carroll received so many letters asking him for the answer to the riddle (along with hundreds of others that said, "Please stay away from my daughter") that eventually, in the 1896 re-edition, he decided to settle the matter once and for all. According to Carroll, the riddle "as originally invented" had "no answer at all," but he offered the following one anyway: "Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is never put with the wrong end in front."

This answer was ... less than satisfying, and we're pretty sure the second part doesn't even make sense. Since no one liked Carroll's half-assed solution, other writers offered ones of their own: Aldous Huxley wrote, "Because there's a 'B' in 'both,' and because there's an 'N' in 'neither,'" while puzzle genius Sam Loyd offered, "Poe wrote on both."

Industrialization Edgar Allan Poe
This sounds pretty cool until you realize he means that Poe wrote on the poem "The Raven," not on an actual raven.

For the longest time, "no answer" seemed like the best answer. But then ...

How They Solved It:

In 1976, over a century after the book was first published, Denis Crutch from the Lewis Carroll Society of North America discovered that the real answer was in a long forgotten typo. Crutch found out that in 1896, Carroll originally wrote: "Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front." Later editions corrected the word "nevar" -- not realizing that Carroll clearly meant to write "raven" backward. As in, "It is raven put with the wrong end in front."

"Hm? Oh, um, yeah, I totally meant that ..."

Yeah, that's not exactly what we were expecting, either, but at least it does sound like something Lewis Carroll would have come up with.

#1. YouTube Commenter Solves Chaplin Time Traveler Mystery

The Mystery:

In case your attention span is even shorter than ours, the Charlie Chaplin time traveling clip was one of the biggest non-rainbow related viral videos of 2010 (that wasn't a remix of the Trololo guy). Skip to about 1:35 for the interesting part:

It turns out that in the footage of the 1928 premiere of Chaplin's The Circus (included as a DVD extra in a recent collection), a woman can be seen talking on what appears to be a contemporary mobile phone. The uploader points out that it could also be a man in drag, but either way, the Internet soon decided this person had to be a time traveler.

Blog Chaplin
Genders as we understand them no longer exist in the year 3074.

Obviously not everyone bought it, but no one seemed to be able to provide a satisfying explanation. Radios of this size weren't available until the '50s, and walkie-talkies didn't even exist until the '40s (and even then, they were huge). So what the hell is it? Guess we'll never know for sure ... until someone sends her back to that moment, that is.

How They Solved It:

And then a YouTube commenter had to go ahead and ruin everything for everyone.

And for once, we don't mean with racism and poor grammar.

YouTube user Crennycrenshaw shattered the dreams of millions of sci-fi fans and Charlie Chaplin groupie wannabes simply by replying to the video with the following: "Go to Siemens hearing aid website and then click the link to view their history of hearing aids. The 1924 model has a picture that illustrates how it was held and it explains this mystery." Here's a comparison:

Is that a zebra?

Hell, it could easily be the same guy in the video, a little older and dressed in women's clothes. As for why she's talking to herself -- have you ever seen an old person trying a hearing aid for the first time? They'll spend at least a day getting used to the fact that they can now hear themselves.


Jacopo would like to thank Rob Ager for his extensive research into 2001: A Space Odyssey and asks that you check out some more of his film analyses over at Collative Learning.

For more ways fans have made things better, check out 6 Insane Fan Theories That Actually Make Great Movies Better and 5 Movie Fan Theories That Make More Sense Than the Movie.

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