Read the bone-chilling accounts of these 6 unsolved deaths and then cast your vote in our poll as to your opinion on which theory holds merit. Not for the faint-hearted!
1) Kendrick Johnson
On January 11, 2013, student Kendrick Johnson’s body was found in the centre of an upright mat propped against the gym wall at Lowndes High School Valdosta, Georgia.
Theory: Accidental Death
A preliminary investigation and autopsy concluded that the death was accidental. They stated that Kendrick had died from suffocation: it was hypothesised that Johnson had fallen into the mat while looking for a shoe and died after being unable to get out (apparently it was common for some students to store their shoes behind or under the rolled up mats – Johnson was not wearing shoes when he was found).
Johnson’s family maintain he was murdered. The family, together with civil rights activists, were able to have the body exhumed. In a normal autopsy internal organs are taken out, examined and then replaced. However Kendrick’s new independent autopsy found that all his internal organs were missing and replaced with newspaper. In fact, every organ from pelvis and skull, including the brain and heart, were missing.
Whatever the case, someone is trying to hide evidence: 290 hours of surveillance tape from 35 cameras that covered the gym area was released to CNN following a court request. A forensic analyst found that tapes from two cameras are missing footage: cameras which covered the entrance into the gym before Johnson’s arrival would have shown who (if anyone) had entered before him.
What do you think?
2) Gareth Williams
Gareth was a Welsh mathematician and a spy – he was an employee of GCHQ seconded to the Secret Intelligence Service, and he was found dead in suspicious circumstances at a Security Service safe house flat in Pimlico, London, on 23 August 2010.
Mr Williams’ naked, decomposing body was found in the bath of his flat in Pimlico, London after colleagues noticed he had not turned up for work. The locked handles of the holdall had been fastened with Velcro and there was no sign of him struggling to escape. The bag was found in the bathtub but there were no signs of a break in. No finger, foot, palm prints or DNA belonging to Mr Williams were found on the rim of the bath, padlock or zipper and he was not wearing any gloves. The key to the padlock was underneath his body, which was curled into a foetal position inside the bag, and the heating in the flat had been turned up, even though it was the middle of the summer.
One theory, proposed by former intelligence officer Boris Karpichkov, claims Gareth was murdered by Russian hitmen who blackmailed him with compromising sexual photographs, then have him a lethal injection in the ear and put into the holdall. A Russian double agent had apparently set his sights on recruiting Mr Williams to work for the former KGB – this agent, known as Orion, and befriended Mr Williams then on a night out, spiked his drink: photos were then taken of Gareth in bed next to a man and woman and were used in an attempt to force him to cooperate. The theory goes that this attempt failed when Gareth said that he retaliated by threatening to expose Orion as a double agent which led to his murder.
Theory: Accidental death
Proposed by the UK police in 2012, Mr Williams had got into the bag by himself and died after failing to get out again. A confined spaces expert who gave evidence at the inquest, disagreed, after failing to do so himself 300 times. Also in theory whilst it may be possible, there is no way Gareth would have been able to padlock himself in without leaving DNA traces in the bath. Indeed, MR Williams’ family have maintained that he was murdered. Although authorities had originally said that it was suspicious, they then mysterious changed tack.
Theory: Sex Game gone wrong
Another bizarre theory – that his death was a solo sex game gone wrong. £20,000 worth of women’s clothing had been found in his flat and he was reported to have visited bondage sex websites and was seen browsing for ladies’ clothes at exclusive stores in central London.
What do you think?
Gareth Williams: I think it was
- Blackmail (58%, 125 Votes)
- Sex Game gone wrong (38%, 83 Votes)
- Accidental death (4%, 8 Votes)
Total Voters: 216
3) Manoel Pereira da Cruz and Miguel José Viana
The pair had been working as electronic engineers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil when their bodies were found in 1966, partially covered in vegetation.
They were bizarrely dressed identically in suits, each wearing trench coat style weather resistant jackets and, covering their eyes, lead masks designed to protect one from exposure to radiation. The masks they had sculpted themselves in their workshop. There were no sign of a struggle.
Theory: Suicide (to time/space travel)
A waitress who seen them last said they seemed nervous and kept checking the time. Police noticed a number of strange items near the bodies: a bottle of water, a packet containing two towels, and a notebook with a bizarre and cryptic message scribbled inside “16:30 be at the agreed place. 18:30 swallow capsules, after effect protect metals wait for mask sign.” Perhaps the pair went to the location together and killed themselves with these capsules. What was the effect they were waiting for as identified in the note? What was the mask sign? And why did they need protection from radiation?
Why would they have wanted to kill themselves anyway? Some suggest the pair thought they were time travellers, and that they believed they had discovered a wormhole of sorts through which to travel. Perhaps the coats and lead masks were protective gear meant to shield their bodies – but that still leads to the question as to why they would have taken capsules to kill themselves. Others state the pair were looking to make contact with aliens – friends had said they were both said to be very intrigued by space ships had even built a small laboratory for that very purpose. The place they were found had been a UFO hotspot with strange hovering crafts being seen on a regular occurrence by locals. Perhaps the lead masks designed to protect them from alien radiation. But again the capsule question remains.
The suicide theory seems likely but unfortunately no toxicological exams were never conducted – the coroner’s office at the time was so backed up that the victim’s organs were merely left to rot, making the testing of them useless for traces of poison or other contaminants. Furthermore various clues suggest that they were not setting out to kill themselves : a coupon to return the water bottle for a deposit and newly purchased electrical components among their personal effects.
One theory is that the men were lured to the location by an unknown third party and murdered. There were spelling and grammatical errors on the cryptic note, possibly because there were dictated by someone else in an attempt to take advantage of these men’s gullibility in order to rob them. Also the pair were found without any money on their persons as if this had been stolen.
What do you think?
Manoel Pereira da Cruz and Miguel José Viana: I think it was
- Suicide (to time or space travel) (70%, 131 Votes)
- Murder (30%, 55 Votes)
Total Voters: 186
4) Tamun Shud
In 1948, an unidentified man was found dead on Somerton Beach in Australia. Tucked into his pocket was a scrap of paper ripped out of a book, containing the Persian phrase “Tamam Shud” (“It Is Ended”, or “The End”).
This was recognized as being the final words of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, a popular book at the time. Some months later, a particular copy of the Rubaiyat surfaced with part of the final “Tamam Shud” page removed. A local telephone number written faintly in the end of this book led to a nurse called Jessica Thomson who said she knew nothing about the body
This is a simple case of an unknown man committing suicide.
Despite no knowledge of the victim’s identity or what the murder weapon was (if indeed it was a murder), or who the perpetrator was, the body was found with his head propped up against the sea wall, blood pooling at the back of the head, suggesting that his body had spent some considerable time after dying with the head in a quite different position (i.e. lying on its back face up, yet with the head slightly below the rest of the body). Also, there was a half-smoked cigarette in his mouth on the beach, would suggest that the corpse had been actively posed by person or persons unknown.
Theory: Spy-related murder
In a 2013 Jessica Thomson’s daughter revealed that her mother had known more about the Somerton Man, but had not revealed it to police. She said mother could speak Russian, leaning some to believe that she and the victim were involved in spy-related activity.
What do you think?
Tamun Shud: I think it was
- Spy-related murder (52%, 97 Votes)
- Murder (31%, 58 Votes)
- Suicide (18%, 33 Votes)
Total Voters: 188
5) The Grubers
In 1922 at an isolated farm near Munich, lived a family called the Gruebers: husband Andreas, his wife Cazilia, their middle aged, widowed daughter Viktoria, and their two grandchildren Cäzilia (7) and Josef (2).
Andreas Grueber was known to beat his wife and it was also rumoured Josef was the result of an incestuous relationship between Adreas and his daughter Viktoria. In May 1922 as the family had not been seen or a while so the townspeople checked and found the family in the barn in a pool of blood: their bodies had been carefully stacked on top of each other and covered with hay. Josef was found dead in his cot and the maid, Maria, was also found killed in her bed.
Preliminary autopsies done on the bodies showed that all of the victims had been killed with blows to the head. The perpetrator was familiar with the use of a pickaxe, since all of the wounds had been precise and confidently delivered. Creepily, the date of death was determined to be Friday March 31st, but witnesses had seen smoke coming from the chimney over the entire weekend, suggesting someone had been home. The house also had evidence that someone had only recently eaten meals there, and one of the beds appeared to have been slept in not long before the bodies had been discovered. Also, all of the cattle and livestock were well fed and had recently eaten, none of the animals on the farm had been harmed in any way. It implied that whoever had killed the family had done their dark deed and then stayed around for several days feeding the cattle and making themselves at home before fleeing the scene. Why would anyone do that? Nobody knew.
Theory: Murdered by Karl Gabriel
Some say Viktoria’s ex-husband, Karl Gabriel, carried out the murders. Although he had supposedly been killed in the trenches of World War I, his body had never actually been found – perhaps he may have come back for his wife upon hearing of Viktoria’s supposed incestuous relationship with her father or involvement with another man. Perhaps he snapped and murdered them all in a crime of passion. This theory was fuelled by the reports of two people who came forward claiming to have met a Russian soldier after WWII who had claimed to be the “Hinterkaifeck Killer.” Some say this is Gabriel who had originally faked his death to be free of his wife, but had changed his mind and come back only to be less than pleased with what awaited him at home.
Theory: Murdered by Lorenz Schlittenbauer
As the baffled police went about struggling to find a motive, suspicion fell on a man by the name of Lorenz Schlittenbauer who had been a suitor of Viktoria’s. It came to light that Viktoria had been on the verge of suing Schlittenbauer in order to pay child support for Joseph who she claimed was his,before the murders. Since he had been remarried with another child at that point, who had sadly died at a young age, having to pay for alimony payments for a child he couldn’t even be certain was really his when his own had died may have been a trigger for the violence. Schlittenbauer also happened to be one of the members of the original search party who had gone to the farm to look for the Gruebers after they had gone missing and had seemed to be remarkably unperturbed by the sight of the bloodied bodies unstacking the bodies in the barn without showing any sign of disgust before the police arrived to investigate.
Theory: Malevolent spirits
Others have pointed to the seemingly paranormal elements of the case: before the murder the first maid had suddenly quit her job and wished to leave immediately explaining that she that she had been hearing strange voices and other noises in and around the house, as well as the sound of disembodied footsteps emanating from the attic.
In the past Andreas had discovered odd footprints in the snow but found no further footprints and no sign of an intruder. One night he was awoken by strange noises coming from the attic. He checked but found nobody hiding there. Not long after that, a set of keys to the house mysteriously disappeared and could not be found anywhere. In his search for the keys, Andreas came upon the disturbing discovery of scratches on the lock to the tool shed, as if someone had tried to pick it.
These signs may point to a murderer but these events were happening long before the murders took place. If the original maid who quit on the grounds of a haunting had in fact been hearing the murderer, then that would mean the culprit would have been hiding out undiscovered on the property for a full 6 months. In addition, why would the murderer stay nearly a week after the killings, have meals, and even feed the cattle? A creepy ending to this tale is that the six victims were eventually buried without their heads since those had been sent to Munich for analysis and had never been returned. The skulls are thought to have been lost sometime during WWII and no one is really sure what happened to them. To this day, not a single suspect has ever been apprehended for the crimes.
What do you think?
6) Dyatlov Pass Incident
In 1959, a strangely frightening incident claimed the lives of nine ski-hikers while camping on Kholat Syakhl, a mountain in the northern Urals (Russia). They were found dead on the mountain, after some inexplicable event had frightened them from their tents, forcing them partially unclothed onto the frigid mountain.
In a desperate attempt to survive the cold after fleeing their tent, a fire was built, the remains of which was found alongside the bodies of two hikers, both clad only in their underwear. Other bodies, were found closer to the tent, having possibly attempted to return to the campsite. Gruesomely, one of the hiker’s eyes and tongue were found to be missing. Several others had suffered internal injuries, despite there being no evidence of external attacks reflected by cuts, bruises, or abrasions. Photographs recovered from cameras the party had been carrying help chart their progress, but no photos, let alone any surviving witnesses, remained to tell of what precisely occurred that fateful night. Each of the bodies were said to have acquired “a deep brown tan.”
Some of the tourists were wearing very little clothing: it is known that people undress when their body is undergoing hypothermia. The body, sensing that it is close to death, goes into self-preservation mode and uses muscles to restrict blood flow to extremities in order to keep the body’s core warmer. This can make the person feel overheated, and disoriented. However not all the victims were undressed: some of the victims were wearing the other victim’s clothes having torn them off with a knife as if they were taking clothes from their deceased comrades to try and keep themselves warm.
A small avalanche can do a great deal of damage and would have been enough to frighten the hikers and possibly injure them as well, explaining why they fled their tents. However, an avalanche probably would have killed them on impact: the victims had walked down the mountain in a rather orderly fashion and there was no sign of an avalanche. The tent was still secured to the ground, but some still posit that the hikers thought there was going to be an avalanche (although this doesn’t explain why they didn’t return to their tents when an avalanche failed to materialise).
A filmmaker who has spent time researching this mystery now claims that a “repetitive wind event” very likely produced an infrasound phenomenon that caused erratic behaviour among the hikers. The Dyatlov Pass landscape could have produced the proposed infrasound anomaly: , where soundwaves too low to hear subtly affect the minds of those in its vicinity. Low-frequency sounds are comprised by tones lower than 20 Hz, which is typically the lower-limit of the human audible range, though some individuals can hear tones as low as 10 Hz. Even when infrasound-level tones cannot be heard, it is believed that the effects could nonetheless be felt as vibrations within the body. Furthermore, studies carried out in 2003 found that controlled experiments involving popular music “laced” with infrasound tones produced, “a range of bizarre effects in people including anxiety, extreme sorrow and chills. Such infrasound could be produced by storms, seasonal winds and weather patterns and some types of earthquakes.
Theory: Nuclear Testing
There were reports of strange lights in the sky: given the year of the events it is possible that the government were testing out some sort of weapon – nuclear or otherwise – covertly. It is usual for such test to happen without anyone else knowing about it but the military has designated areas like these where these sorts of secret tests are carried out. Additionally, this was a time, known as the “thaw,” where the repressed Soviets were finally able to throw off the stiff oppression of Stalin’s rule so politically this would be likely.
Theory: Spy-related activity
Theorists have looked at the possibility of death by undercover spies: one member of the group had no ties to the rest of the group had switched to their expedition at the last minute. Some say he was a secret KGB double agent who had switched to Dyatlov’s expedition in order to get to a specific location in the mountain. The theory goes that he was supposed to take discreet photographs of U.S. spies a that location then leave this camera in a designated place on the mountain for KGB officials, but that US spies found out and waited until the group was settled into their tent for the night before getting rid of them: they ordered the group to march into the wilderness, expecting them to freeze to death. When it became clear that not everyone would die this way they had to dispose of the rest: one victim was found with a foamy discharge from his mouth, which can be caused by a pressure to the chest cavity a torture method widely-used among military units around the world. Secret agents would most likely be trained in expert ways to kill a human. Then they buried those with the most distinct injuries under the snow, hoping that it would take longer to discover these bodies and that by the time they were found decomposition would mask the presence of an outsider. However some do not believe this theory because there was no sign of anyone else present at the campsite and surrounding areas. Why would spies have left any bodies/evidence behind at all?
Theory: Local Tribe Massacre
Investigators were also highly suspicious of a local indigenous tribe called the Mansi – perhaps the tourists mistakenly wandered onto some sacred ground – although some say the tribe would more likely to help someone they found on the mountain rather than kill them also there were no native places nearby that held any sort of sacred meaning for the Mansi. Another murder theory states that prisoners from one of the nearby gulags (Stalin’s prison camps) had escaped and murdered the tourists. However, the closest gulag was quite a distance away and no prisoners were reported missing during this time.
What do you think?
If you can’t get enough of unexplained deaths, watch the last moments of the infamous case of Elisa Lam on video. What was she doing just before she died?