5 Unsolved Mysteries To Stroke Your Chin Over
Listen, we know it's our responsibility to investigate every crime ever committed, but things have been hectic lately, and we've fallen behind. That's why the following crimes remain officially unsolved. We have a couple theories, though. (Warning: They're weird ones.)
Who Gassed The Furries?
In 2014, Midwestern furries held their convention in December, because while summer's the most popular convention season overall, winter works fine when you're wearing a giant animal costume. They met at a hotel by the airport in Chicago for three days of festivities, less than 20 percent of which involved furry sex. Then, late Saturday night, the smell of chlorine spread through the convention center. At first, everyone assumed this came from some vulpine body fluid, but it was poisonous chlorine gas, and 19 furries ended up hospitalized.
The building was evacuated, and attendees huddling outside wondered what possibly could have sent the gas their way. Maybe it was a leak from the air conditioning system? Unlikely, as AC systems do not carry chlorine gas. Maybe it came from pool chemicals? Also unlikely, as the hotel did not have a pool. Technicians investigated the hotel while wearing masks (gas masks, not animal masks), and they found the source: a broken mason jar containing white powder. Someone had released the gas intentionally, declared the police.
Ten years ago, you see, the internet generally agreed that furries were the absolute lowest lifeform and deserved every kind of scorn. And maybe that was just a meme and few people had strong actual feelings either way, plus anti-furry sentiment largely vanished by the middle of the decade, but for a while, the hate was evidently real in some people. The December 2014 attack was the most concrete example of what the community refers to as fursecution.
It was a difficult night, made slightly easier though by the presence of a large number of dogs from a K-9 convention held earlier that day. Police diligently spent weeks interviewing dozens of guests and staff as well as merchants who might have sold the chlorine powder, but the investigation bore no fruit. The furries will never know who gassed them that December. But in the years that followed, they used the experience to grow closer and bring new people into the community. Or became Nazis, whatever.
Who Shot The Swedish Prime Minister?
History offers us a handful of unsolved assassinations, but few were so weirdly out-of-nowhere as what happened to Olof Palme in 1986. Palme was the prime minister of Sweden, and unlike many future assassination victims, he didn't imagine he was a target of any kind. He liked to walk around Stockholm without any bodyguards. On February 28, he and his wife Lisbeth went to a movie theater with their son Marten. Afterward, they walked down the street, and a man appeared and shot both Olof and Lisbeth.
We are painfully aware that that sounds a lot like the origin of Batman, but we'd have to say substituting "prime minister" instead of "rich guy" makes the real-life version the crazier story. Also, instead of a dark alley, the murder happened here:
That meant, even at night, plenty of people were around. Afterward, 20 of them spoke to the police about whom they'd seen, many describing a man in a dark coat. Sounds like a promising start. Then one of the witnesses, Stig Engstrom, sheepishly noted that everyone seemed to be describing him instead of the killer, since they'd seen him running from the crime scene -- running into his office to fetch help from guards there.
And so followed decades of wild speculation on what happened, punctuated by the occasional announcement of a suspect but never ending in a conviction. One of the wilder theories involved a supposed telegram received by an advisor to George H.W. Bush three days before the murder, which read, "Tell our friend the Swedish tree will be felled." The sender of this telegram was Licio Gelli, the grandmaster of an Italian Masonic lodge that conspiracists link with a papal assassination and that actually did take over the government of Italy. This theory says George Bush and Margaret Thatcher planned Palme's assassination, and according to the CIA, it's a big bunch of bullshit.
Last year, Sweden formally ended the investigation. They'd interviewed 10,000 people over the years, with 134 suspects confessing to the murder but none confessing very convincingly. According to the chief prosecutor, though the case is closed, he believes he knows who did it: Stig Engstrom. Remember him, the man a bunch of witnesses described? It's possible he summoned those guards just to throw suspicion off himself. Stig would later lie about various details of that night, he had weapons experience (not so common in Sweden), and he'd expressed dislike of the prime minister.
We can't imagine Sweden will be charging Stig 34 years on, since he died in the year 2000. As for Palme's son, no, he did not grow up to be Batman, since you insist on asking. He ended up studying economics. Some say Bruce Wayne would have been better off doing that too.
Who Stole The Crown Jewels?
Not the English crown jewels, mind you. We're talking today about the Irish crown jewels, which weren't as extensive a collection but were automatically superior because they included an emerald shamrock. In 1903, the jewels went in a special safe, which was to be kept in a strong room, in a secure tower, in an ancient castle, guarded by the skeleton king, and we only made up that last part. It turned out, however, that the safe was too big for the door, so instead, they stored it in the office of this guy:
That's Sir Arthur Edward Vicars, the Ulster King of Arms, and based on the above posed portrait, he was a man well equipped to fend off any threat. The reality, though, was a little different. You see, Vicars had a drinking problem. One day, he even woke from to find someone had removed the jewels from the safe and draped them on his neck, which should have been the first clue that he needed to review security measures. Then came July 1907, when the King and Queen were coming to visit, and Vicars realized the jewels were gone.
Years passed without any clues about what had happened. Then in 1912, a newspaper reported that the culprit was actually Vicars' own mistress. He'd given her a duplicate key to the safe, and she'd absconded with the jewels to Paris. This was a major revelation. At least it would have been if the newspaper in question wasn't the bloody Daily Mail. Arthur took them to court, where they admitted they'd made up the story, the mistress never existed, and so they had to pay him 5,000 pounds for damages (about $130,000 today).
Vicars had lived with Francis Shackleton, brother of famous explorer Ernest Shackleton, and he himself thought Shackleton was behind the theft. Shackleton and his lover Richard Gorges, so goes the theory, had got Vicars drunk then stole the jewels together. Shackleton would later go to prison for check fraud, while Gorges went to jail for shooting a cop who came to arrest him for sodomy.
But no one wanted to follow this lead too carefully. Apparently, Shackleton was also sleeping with the brother-in-law to the king, so poking too hard into his life would mean scandal for everyone. Or, as the official parliamentary record put it, investigators looking into castle goings-on kept uncovering so much buggery that it was impossible to stay on-task, so let's move on, they're just jewels, let's forget them and go get a drink.
Who Killed Betsy In The Library With The Knife?
On November 28, 1969, someone offered this worrying instruction to a librarian at Penn State: "Somebody better help that girl." This someone immediately vanished, never to be identified, and the librarian turned his attention to the girl in question, 22-year-old grad student Betsy Aardsma. Betsy had had a difficult life up to this point, because due to her surname, she had always had to go first during class presentations. Today, though, things were even worse than usual because she had apparently collapsed with a seizure.
No one had seen her fall, but those in the library now acted, giving Betsy mouth-to-mouth to try to revive her. Nowadays, doctors actually advise laypeople not to attempt mouth-to-mouth, but people are often keen on trying their hand at it, for some reason. Betsy wound up in an ambulance and was declared dead on the way to the hospital. Not till she was examined in the hospital did doctors realize she hadn't had a seizure. She'd been stabbed through one breast and cleanly into the heart. Though you'd think that would be a super obvious injury, the red dress she was wearing hid the blood.
It's been fifty years now, and this murder is still unsolved. But we can tell you a bit about the most likely suspect: geology student Richard Haefner, who dated Betsy for a while. When he wasn't dating Betsy, he was more interested in boys, and by "boys," we don't mean "college guys," we mean 12-year-olds. Some years after the murder, with Richard now a professor, he'd serve two weeks of a month-long sentence for molesting two kids. That may sound like a light sentence, but he had Penn State magic on his side.
Other shady highlights from Haefner's life include multiple incidents of stealing valuable rocks, which is one of the worst crimes you can commit as a geologist, other than child molestation and murder. As for the evidence against him, we have some suspicious comments from him after the murder, and also his mother later said he did it. That third-hand accusation isn't ironclad proof, but it's something. Still, even if we guess who did it, that leaves open the mystery of why he would choose to murder his victim in such a ludicrously public place. We'd ask Haefner, but he's been dead 20 years now. He had a heart attack. In the desert. While searching for more rocks.
Who Crashed The Flying Titanic?
The first reason there should be a movie about Pan Am Flight 7 was just how luxurious air travel could get back in 1957. Aside from its official designation, the plane we're talking about had a name: Romance of the Skies. It served you seven-course meals. It gave you five feet of leg room. It flew from San Francisco to Hawaii as the first leg of a round-the-world tour. The 38 passengers included business tycoons, fashion designers, and one Air Force spy. All of them were presumed dead after -- and this is the second reason there should be a movie about Pan Am Flight 7 -- the plane diverted from its planned path and crashed.
Romance of the Skies lost contact with the mainland seven hours into a ten-hour journey. Dozens of naval vessels went out in search of the downed plane. A week later, they found the wreckage and the bodies, some wearing vests or strapped in, as passengers had been preparing for impact with the water. Maybe this was a case of mechanical failure -- one theory involves a propeller shattering. But that's not what insiders at Pan Am thought. They thought one of their own brought the plane down, on purpose.
Eugene Crosthwaite was the purser for the flight and had a bit of a strange track record at Pan Am, guilty of such antics of purposely dropping airplane food on the floor for lulz before serving it. Then his wife died, and he became depressed. A few days before the flight, he showed off some blasting powder to his father-in-law, for unclear reasons. Then the very morning of the flight, he changed his will. His stepdaughter, named in the will, testified that she thought Crosthwaite killed himself and took the rest of the plane with him "because he was too chicken to go alone."
Insurance investigators also looked into the crash, and they thought they spotted a different bomber onboard: William Harrison Payne. Payne owned three separate life insurance policies, having taken out two new ones just days before the flight, and one of these paid double for accidents. His trip was suspicious -- he was supposedly going to Hawaii to collect on a debt, but the debt was less than the cost of the flight. Payne had been a demolitions expert in the Navy and bragged of his bomb-making skills. He once blew up a road to keep police from chasing him.
So, why would he kill himself? Maybe he didn't. His body was never found, and as a Navy frogman, he had a better shot at surviving a crash than most. In the months that followed, his wife Harriet received anonymous care packages from abroad. Someone (not her) burned down an inn the couple owned, leading to another big insurance payout. Harriet did remarry, and her new husband said he always believed Payne was still alive and might hunt him down.
This definitely seems ripe for an FBI investigation, on top of the required aviation board investigation that ended inconclusively. But once the wreckage and corpses were dragged ashore, the FBI and aviation authorities fought over who got first dibs on them, and the feud got so exhausting that the feds said to hell with it and decided they wouldn't investigate at all.