6 Famous Unsolved Mysteries That Have Totally Been Solved
One of our favorite pastimes here at Cracked is sucking the mystery out of life like the cream out of a Twinkie, leaving only the bland, dry sponge cake of reality behind. To that end, we've decided to list the often mundane solutions to some of the world's most enduring mysteries, and once again, you're welcome.
Note: As much as we like to act like we have all the answers, the truth is that we're probably even more freaked out by this weird-ass world than you are. After all, we've dedicated a sizeable portion of our site just to pointing out things that no one has been able to figure out yet.
But the weirdest thing that we haven't figured out is, ironically, what we haven't yet figured out. This Cracked Classic is about the misconceptions we have about what's actually mysterious. Are you still with us? What we're saying is that things you think of as simple mundanities are more likely to be mysteries than the things you think of as mysteries. Do you follow? There's nothing strange about Amelia Earhart and Atlantis -- that's our point. -Cracked
The disappearance of Amelia Earhart is probably the most well-known mystery in the world that doesn't involve Tom Hanks looking for clues in old paintings. In 1936, Earhart planned to reserve herself a page in the record books by flying around the world; a 29,000-mile journey. On the last 7,000-mile leg of her second attempt in 1937, she disappeared after giving her last radio transmission. The transmission was not anything helpful like, "I'm going to try to just fly through this mountain. I saw it in a cartoon once."
More has been speculated about her disappearance than has probably been written about her life. One of the more epic theories is that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, went down over part of the Japanese Empire and were captured, interrogated as spies and executed. Some assert that she was actually a spy for President Roosevelt, and that she secretly lived to the end of her days in New Jersey. Still others, with less imagination, think that she deliberately flew her plane into the Pacific because fuck it.
Maybe her gigantic head popped at high altitude.
Remarkably, we've pretty much had the Earhart mystery solved ever since partial remains were found on an island... in 1940. That's right, 70 years ago. Only four years after she vanished.
To be fair, half of the bones were carried away by giant crabs, and the rest have since been lost because nobody thought it was important or even curious that a skeleton should turn up on an island just southeast of where Amelia freaking Earhart was going. Neither did it strike a chord that the remains turned out to be those of a white woman with Earhart's measurements, or that they were found alongside a pocket knife, a broken cosmetics jar, a piece of glass from an airplane windshield and the same exact type of navigational system Earhart had been using. It's inconclusive, dammit!
The truth is out there. And we won't rest until we find it, or we get too drunk to remember how to spell "Eaerhurt."
Even though all of this evidence is circumstantial, it's a freaking slam-dunk compared to what we have been forced to swallow from conspiracy theorists, who rank Earhart's disappearance right up there with the mystery of the Mary Celeste.
Which reminds us...
The Ghost Ship Mary Celeste
In 1872, the ship was spotted off the Azores in the Atlantic completely intact and undisturbed, aside from its missing crew. Not a single person, alive or dead or undead, could be found, despite everyone's personal belongings still sitting undisturbed where they had been left. Even little things like valuables and piano music were right where they should have been. It was as if its crew had simply evaporated.
The strange case of the disappearing crew of the merchant ship Mary Celeste is not only the most famous maritime mystery in history, it is the episode which served as midwife to the Bermuda Triangle hysteria.
We are through the looking glass here, people.
So how did everyone just vanish? Ghosts? Aliens? Sea monsters? Dimensional vortex? According to the History Channel, yes. After all, the case has proven a tough one to crack. All the ship's papers were missing, but the logbook was still safe and sound. Piracy is unlikely since there were no signs of a struggle and no booty missing. The main hatch was sealed, and there were no storms or time/space disruptions reported in the area.
Reports of elevated Old One activity remain unconfirmed.
Scientists now point to the one baffling clue that the ship left us with: Of its cargo of 1,701 barrels of alcohol, nine were empty. We know what you're thinking: The crew threw their captain overboard so that they could get drunk off raw alcohol and take the lifeboat out for a joyride, which went splendidly until they crashed it into a whale. Sounds like one hell of an interesting weekend, but the truth is actually a billion times more awesome.
You all ready for this?
The single greatest maritime mystery in history is now believed to have been the subject of one of the most incredible explosions in the history of alcohol. Dr. Andrea Sella, a professor of chemistry at University College London, created a replica of the Mary Celeste's hold back in 2006 just so he could find a MacGyverish way to blow it up without leaving a single sign of a fire. He simulated a leak of the ship's nine barrels of alcohol and found that once the vapor was ignited, say by a pipe or a spark, it created a "pressure-wave type of explosion... There was a spectacular wave of flame but, behind it, was relatively cool air. No soot was left behind and there was no burning or scorching."
Dr. Andrea Sella.
That's right, the Mary Celeste was likely subject to a freaky ghost explosion powerful enough to blow open all the hatches, but ultimately leave everyone and everything on the boat completely unharmed. The crew, however, would have experienced a freakout akin to when the Nazis opened the Ark of the Covenant.
It appears the missing crew were so utterly horrified that they piled into the ship's lifeboat without any useful things like food or water, eventually sinking or dying of thirst and exposure. Yes, the Mary Celeste would have still looked perfectly fine as they sailed off into Death's open arms, but ask yourself: Would you have volunteered to go back onto that ship?
The Fate of Atlantis
Atlantis sure is one hell of a tantalizing story. First documented by the ancient Greek philosophers, it serves constantly as a warning for modern society against every possible threat from war to climate change to alien invasion, where applicable. They were the most advanced civilization on Earth, but even they couldn't stop whatever catastrophe managed to sink their island into the Atlantic. For centuries we have dreamed about finding this lost city and unlocking the secrets to its fate, so that we might prevent the same thing happening to us!
And make an Indiana Jones video game with a better plot than two of the movies.
Unfortunately, the search for Atlantis has yielded exactly no results ever. Plato is pretty much all we have to work with, and he's too dead to return any of our calls. However, this hasn't stopped proponents of the theory of the lost city to draw fancy maps of it, which sure does feel like a step in the right direction for some reason.
The fact that they avoided Oklahoma is clear evidence of their status as a super-advanced society.
Nevertheless, Atlantis has turned into a bit of a super-conspiracy theory which absorbs just about anything you throw at it, and has served as a tentative answer to basically every other mystery in this article.
Atlantis is not a thing.
First of all, our knowledge of plate tectonics rules out the possibility of sunken mystery continents. But there's a far more convincing reason than even this: That is, Atlantis was something that Plato completely pulled out of his ass just so Socrates could have something to talk about, and he specifically mentions in his writing that Atlantis is a completely hypothetical city.
"No one will take this 'Atlantis' shit seriously. They'd have to be even more drunk and ignorant than ancient Greeks."
This is part of the reason why Atlantis was not taken seriously until modern times. Most ancients actually took Plato's dialogues as the thought experiments they really were.
What's more, the book that mentions Atlantis, the Timaeus, is fewer than 100 pages long. This is shit you can seriously knock out while you're killing time at the bus station. Though it should not come as much surprise that countless books and god knows how many hours of the History Channel have been dedicated to asking a riddle as easy to solve as looking up a word in the dictionary. It's pretty damn easy to pass yourself as an expert in a book that most people have never actually read past the first few pages.
The History Channel: For People Who Hate Reading.
The Tunguska Explosion
On June 30, 1908, a mysterious explosion occurred several miles in the air over a spot of land known as Middle Of Nowhere, Siberia. That's right, because real life falls short of the spectacle demanded in disaster movies, this explosion pancaked over 80 million trees over an area comparable to Rhode Island but failed to decapitate a single Statue of Liberty.
Tough luck, Michael Bay.
Eyewitnesses as far off as Great Britain reported that the skies lit up like the Fourth of July, and since an event as awesome as the Tunguska explosion had flooded the human imagination with countless questions, thousands of hypotheses have been offered surrounding this phenomenon. Suspected culprits ranged from meteorites and natural gas to a natural H-bomb explosion, antimatter, black holes, aliens and Nikola Tesla.
Winner of Cracked Awards in "Mad Science" and "Coy Grins."
It took over 100 years and god only knows how much bullshitting, but in 2009, some researchers at Cornell University finally found something else to brag about besides being researchers at Cornell University.
Just because they didn't pay for their degrees in cocaine and lap dances they think they're somehow better than us.
Those bright skies over Britain? It turns out they were noctilucent clouds, which are like the plumes of cigarette smoke that a comet would puff out after a wild weekend playing hot and cold with Mother Earth. They realized this entirely by accident after watching a space shuttle launch create the exact same effect, and because these clouds are only produced by comets and space shuttles, it considerably narrows down the list of culprits for a phenomenon that occurred in 1908.
As spectacular as Hollywood likes to portray the idea of an honest-to-god comet collision, the reality is decidedly more mundane. No New York tsunami, no ragtag team of deep-core drillers; just a mere 5.0 on the Richter Scale.
Stonehenge, The Pyramids and Ancient People Moving Huge Stones
Stonehenge in Britain and the Pyramids of Giza have mystified millions of people for something like one trillion years. The purpose of these giant piles of rocks have only ever been hypothesized, but the greater mystery has always been how they were built at all: How do primitive people, with not so much as a single bulldozer, move stones that weigh tons each?
And, more importantly, fucking why?
The popular theory about the Pyramids is the one that we saw in The Ten Commandments, that is that Charlton Heston and a massive Hebrew slave force painstakingly threw them together one block at a time. The problem with that theory is that it would have taken forever, and the project would probably still be going on to this day if nobody ever told the Jews they could stop working.
Hey guys, wandering around in the desert for decades will TOTALLY be more fun than drinking heavily and moving blocks.
Of course, just about every major structure on the planet built before Green Acres has at least one nutjob who believes that no less than three aliens helped build it. Pseudohistorians since time immemorial have sworn that the only way these buildings could have come into being is with the assistance of E.T., or at the very least, Predator.
Then again, these theories all rely almost entirely upon the baffling conclusion that people were incapable of moving stones in the Stone Age.
"A Giant did it" is the answer to a surprising number of ancient mysteries.
Not too long ago, some guy decided that he would build his own Stonehenge in his backyard just for the hell of it. His name is Wally Wallington (a name that only Stan Lee could appreciate) and all he used was observational physics, wood, stones and his own strength to recreate a somewhat sorry-looking but nonetheless impressive imitation of Stonehenge. Oh, but the best part: He did this all by himself.
People who fail to respect the ingenuity of our ancestors MAKE HIM ANGRY.
The architects of millennia past actually had some pretty damn spiffy techniques for moving enormous objects from one place to another, and none of them involved just throwing as many Jews at the project as possible.
For one, the Egyptians actually used independent contractors just like the Empire did when they built the Second Death Star. Researchers have found that small teams of professional laborers could have done much more with a little ingenuity than hundreds of thousands of peons, no matter how hard you whipped them. It's very probable that they simply put the rocks on barges and towed them along the Nile to their destination.
But how did they stack them so high, you ask? Well, fortunately, the Pyramids happened to have a pyramidal shape, which was ideally-suited for a system of ramps. That's right, it was an astounding coincidence that the shape of the building happened to also be the easiest possible way to move the stones up that building.
The incredible worldwide proliferation of the pyramid is due to simple human laziness, not the Predator.
Of course, this still doesn't explain the location of Stonehenge, especially since that whole "middle of nowhere" touch to it always added to the mystique. Why drag the stones hundreds of miles to that particular spot? Aliens, right?
Well, a whole bunch of Ph.Ds found out that Stonehenge was actually a short distance outside the largest Stone Age settlement in Britain, making it about as isolated from civilization as the Chrysler Building.
Did Anastasia Nikolaevna, youngest daughter of Czar Nicholas II and heir to the Russian monarchy, survive the massacre of the Romanov family during the Russian Revolution? This question has been the subject of more than one dozen movies and countless storybooks since it was pretty much the story of a real Disney princess.
We're pretty sure having your entire family gunned down by Bolsheviks is more than a "low level" of violence, but hey.
The speculation began in the early 1920s when a woman named Anna Anderson claimed to be the Romanov princess, and that she had been living in exile. Her story drew a huge amount of publicity, and Anderson stuck by it until her death in 1984, at which point CSI was finally able to get close enough to determine that she wasn't even Russian, let alone Queen of the Russians. Still, they didn't take back the Academy Award that Ingrid Bergman won for playing Anderson in 1956.
Also known as bullshit.
In fact, at least 10 other women, and probably some men, have since come forward to claim the title of the real Romanov princess, and nobody ever seemed to find it fishy that most of them were suffering from mental illnesses.
Only one claimant to the Russian throne has provided compelling evidence that she may be the real Anastasia, and that is a corpse who was found buried with the rest of the Romanov family in 2008.
The main reason why the mystery of Anastasia persisted for so long was because it took one hell of a long time for Anastasia's body to be recovered. For most of the 20th century, researchers had that whole "Cold War" thing blocking their access to the Romanov gravesite, and even when they finally got to dig up the bodies in 1991, conspiracy theorists were tantalized by the fact that they still seemed to be missing a couple of stiffs, including that of the mysterious princess.
Nicholi's fabulous mustache remains unaccounted for to this day.
Then, almost two decades later, they went back and found them about 200-feet away. Well, shit.
In 2008, 21st century DNA technology confirmed that these were really the remains of Anastasia, proving that the long-lost princess was, in fact, very dead. But at least they got to make some decent movies.
Still better than Hercules.
For more mysteries we've sucked the fun from, check out 6 Famous Unsolved Mysteries (With Really Obvious Solutions). Or learn about what still has Science scratching its head, in 6 Insane Discoveries That Science Can't Explain.
And stop by Linkstorm (Updated 08.31.10) to discover the true origins of the Internet. (Al Gore only invented 4Chan.)
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