In 1971, a hijacker known as “D.B. Cooper” committed one of the most famous crimes in history when he hijacked a commercial aircraft, collected a 200 thousand dollar ransom, and parachuted out of the plane with the money. For over 40 years, this has remained one of the world’s most famous and enduring unsolved mysteries, not only because Cooper hasn’t been found, but because no one knows who the guy was.
Sometimes a mystery will capture public attention because it involves someone whose identity is never revealed. The following mysteries hinge on discovering the identities of individuals who went to great lengths to stay anonymous.
On the morning of August 31, 2004, a nude man was found between two dumpsters behind a Burger King in Richmond Hill, Georgia. He appeared in his fifties and sported three depressions in his head, which seemed to indicate that he had been struck with a blunt object. He had no identification and could not remember his name or where he was from. When examined by doctors, they determined that the man had retrograde amnesia and was unlikely to regain his memory.
Since he was found behind a Burger King, the man was nicknamed “B.K.” and he soon chose “Benjaman Kyle” as his new name. He seems to think that the unusually spelled “Benjaman” is his real first name. Benjaman does have memory fragments of a distant past, which could provide clues about his true identity. He believes that he hails from Indianapolis and lived in Colorado for a time. Benjaman is also convinced that his birth date is August 29, 1948, and he seems to have a detailed knowledge of the restaurant business. Investigators have used many avenues to figure out who Benjaman really is, such as DNA testing, fingerprint checks, and numerous media appearances. But after nearly nine years, Benjaman Kyle remains a man without an identity.
On April 18, 1943, four boys from Stourbridge, England were poaching in Hagley Woods when they came across a large witch-hazel tree. When one of the boys climbed the tree, he discovered a human skull in the hollow trunk. After police were notified, they found an entire skeleton concealed in the tree–along with a shoe, gold wedding ring, and fragments of clothing. A severed human hand was also buried next to the tree. A taffeta was found in the skull’s mouth, indicating that the victim had died from asphyxiation. A forensic examination determined that the victim was female and had been dead at least 18 months. Coincidentally enough, a resident had reported hearing a female scream in Hagley Woods about 18 months beforehand.
Though the woman was never identified, her legend grew months later after mysterious graffiti messages started appearing on walls, which often read: “Who put Bella in the Wych elm?”. These messages all appeared to be written by the same unknown person, who may have had knowledge about what happened. This message last appeared in 1999 when it was sprayed on the 200-year old Wychbury Obelisk. It was theorized that the unidentified woman might have been the victim of black magic, or that she was a member of a spy ring and was giving secrets to the Luftwaffe about local munitions factories. After 70 years, there are still no answers about who “Bella” was or who put her in the Wych elm.
Over the course of several decades, the United States and the Soviet Union had no shortage of spies passing information to the other side, but one of the most prominent was never discovered. During World War II, the U.S. worked on the Manhattan Project, where they developed and produced the world’s first atomic bombs. At least three people who worked on the project—Klaus Fuchs, David Greenglass and Theodore Hall—were exposed as spies for the Soviet Union. However, in 1991, a Russian intelligence colonel named Vladimir Chikov published a series of articles claiming that the Soviets received important information about the project from an unidentified spy codenamed “Perseus”.
According to Chikov, Perseus was a high-level scientist who worked at the White Sands Missile Range and the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. He supposedly came aboard the Manhattan Project over a year before any of the other known spies, and the secrets he provided helped give the Soviets a head start in developing their own nuclear program. In 1999, Philip Morrison, a well-respected MIT physicist who had worked on the project, was publicly accused of being Perseus, but Morrison was able to produce a lot of credible evidence supporting his innocence. Some have speculated that Perseus did not exist, but if he was real, he has successfully gotten away with espionage for 70 years.
On the morning of October 11, 1945, police found an unidentified African-American teenager wandering the streets of Jacksonville, Illinois. The young man was mute and deaf and was unable to communicate. He was eventually brought before a judge, who sentenced him to the Lincoln State School and Colony. Because he was the 24th unidentified man to be put into the state’s mental health system, he forever became known as “John Doe No. 24”. At the time, state institutions were notorious for being brutal and dehumanizing, so John was subjected to many years of abuse.
To add to his hardships, he eventually went blind. However, in spite of his rough existence, John Doe No. 24 somehow managed to maintain a positive attitude and sense of humor. After remaining in the mental healthcare system for over 30 years, he was eventually transferred to a nursing home in Peoria. John often scribbled down the name “Lewis”, providing a possible clue to his true identity, but no one discovered who he really was. He was believed to be 64 years old when he died of a stroke on November 28, 1993. After learning of his story, musician Mary Chapin Carpenter decided to purchase a headstone for his unmarked grave and immortalized him in a song called “John Doe No. 24”.
Notorious serial killer Rodney Alcala currently sits on death row at San Quentin State Prison. He became known as the “Dating Game Killer” after appearing as a contestant on The Dating Game during the midst of his murder spree. After he won, his potential date made the wise decision to not go out with him. Alcala was convicted of seven murders, but authorities have always suspected there were more. The mystery was heightened after Alcala’s arrest in 1979 when investigators searched a storage locker he had rented in Seattle and found trophies of his crimes, along with over 1000 disturbing photographs.
These photos feature numerous unidentified young women and teenage boys, most of whom are pictured nude or in sexually explicit poses. Alcala often passed himself off as a professional fashion photographer in order to lure people into his home to pose for him, and authorities fear that some of the individuals in his photos might be undiscovered victims. Most of the photos are too sexually explicit to be published, but in 2010, 120 of them were released to the public in order to seek their assistance. Thus far, over 20 women have been identified. Some people believe they have recognized a missing loved one in the photos. While none of these individuals have been positively identified as a missing person or unsolved homicide victim, there may come a time when they are realized as casualty of the Dating Game Killer.
While conducting a murder investigation, Pakistani authorities questioned a man named Ali Akbar, who had made a videotape showcasing that he had a mummy on sale for 600 million rupee ($11 million). On October 19, 2000, the mummy was located inside a gilded wooden coffin at the home of a tribal leader named Wali Mohammed Reeki, who claimed he had received the mummy from an Iranian who found it after an earthquake in Quetta. One week later, a press conference was held to announce that the mummy had been identified as a Persian princess from around 600 B.C.
However, suspicions were immediately aroused when American archaeologist Oscar White Muscarella claimed he had previously been sent photographs of this mummy on behalf of a Pakistani dealer who was attempting to sell it. A piece of the mummy’s coffin had been sent to a carbon-dating lab for analysis and was discovered to be only 250 years old.
Upon further investigation, it was eventually determined that this so-called “Persian princess” was actually a female in her twenties who had died in 1996. She had possibly been murdered after a blow to the neck with a blunt instrument, and her body had been filled with powder after her organs were removed. The whole thing was exposed as a hoax and the woman finally received a proper burial in 2008, but her true identity is still a mystery.
Britain’s longest-running rape investigation is code-named “Operation Eagle” and has been going on for 22 years. Authorities have spent that time attempting to catch an unidentified sexual predator who is responsible for at least 17 attacks, all but one of which have taken place within the city of Bath. The assailant first struck on May 21, 1991, when he attacked a 36-year-old woman returning home in her car. His modus operandi consists of attacking women in their vehicle and forcing them to drive to a secluded area at knifepoint, where he then proceeds to rape them. After one unsuccessful attack in 1999, the assailant left behind a hat with the Batman logo on it, which led to him being dubbed the “Batman Rapist”.
One of the rapist’s most bizarre characteristics is an apparent tights fetish. He will often force the victim to remove their underwear and put their tights back on, so that he can rip through them to rape her. On one occasion, the victim wasn’t wearing tights, so he forced her to put on a pair he had brought with him. In 2000, he even attempted to abduct a woman who had her seven-year-old daughter in the car, but she managed to get away. During the mid-nineties, there were a few long gaps when the rapist was inactive, leading authorities to suspect that he has attacked other victims who never came forward. There is currently a substantial reward for the capture of the Batman Rapist, but his identity still remains unknown.
On July 30, 2002, Joseph Newton Chandler III, an elderly hermit from Eastlake, Ohio, committed suicide with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. An autopsy discovered the presence of colon cancer in his body, which likely motivated his decision to take his own life. When probate courts attempted to work out the man’s estate, they tracked down his surviving relatives. They were shocked to discover that nine-year-old Joseph Newton Chandler III had actually been killed in a car crash in Texas in 1945!
It turned out this unidentified man had been using Chandler’s identity for decades. In 1978, he had requested a copy of Chandler’s birth certificate and used it to apply for a Social Security card. Many theories were formed about who this man really was. Crime buffs began to speculate that “Chandler” might have been the Zodiac Killer since he bore a resemblance to the suspect’s composite sketch. They also noted that “Joseph Chandler” happened to be the name of an investigator who found one of Jack the Ripper’s victims. The man also bore a striking resemblance to Stephen Craig Campbell, a fugitive who had been wanted for attempted murder since 1982 and was never caught. However, there is no conclusive evidence to prove any of these theories, so no one knows the real story behind the man who stole the identity of Joseph Newton Chandler III.
In 1973, William Peter Blatty’s bestselling novel, The Exorcist, was adapted into one of the most successful movies of all time. It told the story of a young girl being possessed by a demon, and believe it or not, it was actually inspired by a real-life incident. In 1949, a 13-year-old boy from Cottage City, Maryland was supposedly possessed by a demon and subject to an exorcism. To protect his identity, he has only been publicly referred to as “Roland Doe” or “Robbie Mannheim”. After the death of his spiritualist aunt, Roland reportedly became obsessed with using a Ouija board to contact her. Soon afterward, the family’s home was plagued by strange noises and unexplained supernatural activity.
The family’s Lutheran minister feared that Roland might be possessed, so two Catholic priests–Father Raymond J. Bishop and Father William J. Bowdern–were brought in to perform an exorcism on him at Georgetown University Hospital. The exorcism was performed 30 times over the course of several weeks. Roland reportedly exhibited violent behavior and often spoke Latin in a demonic voice while words like “evil” and “hell” mysteriously appeared on his body. After the exorcism was complete, the family experienced no more problems and Roland grew up to live a normal life. There has been much debate about whether Roland was actually possessed or if a lot of these stories have been fabricated and the boy was merely experiencing psychological problems. Since his true identity is still a secret after all these years, the full truth may never be known.
In April 1990, a young woman named Tonya Dawn Tadlock was killed in a mysterious hit-and-run accident in Oklahoma. The prime suspect was her much older husband, Clarence Hughes, but it turned out they were both living under pseudonyms. Hughes was actually a former convicted felon named Franklin Delano Floyd. However, no one could uncover the young woman’s identity. Floyd claimed to have taken her in as a child in the early 1970s after she was abandoned by her real family, though authorities have always suspected she was abducted. Before they were married in 1989, Floyd raised the girl as his daughter, subjecting her to constant abuse. Over the years, they lived in different states under different names and she was also known as “Suzanne Davis” and “Sharon Marshall”.
On March 21, 1988, she had given birth to a son named Michael. Shortly after her death, Floyd was arrested and Michael was placed in foster care. A blood test would later reveal that Floyd was not Michael’s biological father. After being released from jail in 1994, Floyd abducted Michael from his school in Oklahoma. When he was arrested two months later, Michael was nowhere to be found, though it’s believed that Floyd murdered him. Floyd would be convicted of Michael’s kidnapping and another unrelated murder and currently sits on death row in Florida. To this day, he refuses to divulge any information about what happened to Michael, who Michael’s real father may be, or the true identity of the mysterious girl he raised as his daughter.