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Digital Subscriptions > History Revealed > June 2017 > Introduction

Introduction

In history, there are rarely any clear answers. It’s up to us to piece together what evidence we have to draw the most likely conclusions about objects, events and people, in much the same way that a detective solves crimes. This gets especially difficult when there are no photographic or written documents to refer to – but then again, sometimes even video footage can’t be trusted. Here are 50 of history’s most perplexing mysteries…

Pictures supplied by Alamy, AKG Images, Bridgeman Images, Getty, Historic Environment Scotland, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Press Association, Rex/ Shutterstock, Topfoto, US National Archives

50 SS OURANG MEDAN

Rumour has it that in June 1947, an SOS signal was sent by SS Ourang Medan, a Dutch freighter sailing near Sumatra and Malaysia. “All offcers including captain are dead, lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead. I die”. The decaying bodies of the entire ship’s crew were found strewn across the decks, uninjured but with faces twisted in horror. Were they, as some have suggested, victims of biological weapons, or was it something more sinister?

“LEGENDS STATE THAT THE STONE WAS THE PEDESTAL FOR NOAH'S ARK”

49 THE WEIGHT OF THE SOUL

In early 19th-century Massachusetts, Dr Duncan MacDougall weighed six dying patients – five men and one woman. To his astonishment, the moment life left each of the patients, their weight reduced by 21 grams, something that didn’t happen in subsequent experiments on mice and dogs. Is this 21 gram difference, as MacDougall concluded, the weight of the human soul?

48 THE LOST REGIMENT

On 12 August 1915, during the World War I Gallipoli campaign, the 5th Battalion Norfolk Regiment was advancing against Turkish lines when a strange fog allegedly came down over them. When it lifted, the men were nowhere to be seen. The fate of the missing men remained a mystery for the rest of the war, with Turkey denying their capture, but in 1919 their remains were finally identified, scattered over an area of about one square mile.

47 THE ‘GHOST’ BLIMP

August 16, 1942: A US Navy blimp crewed by Ernest Cody and Charles Adams prepared for take-off from San Francisco Bay in search of Japanese enemy submarines. An hour into the flight, the pair radioed to say they were going to examine a possible oil spill. The blimp was next seen crash-landed in Daly City, with no sign of its crew. Cody and Adams were never seen again.

46 THE STONE OF SCONE

Weighing 152kg with a roughly incised cross on one surface, the Stone of Scone has been associated with the crowning of Scottish kings since at least 847, but no one knows why. According to legend, the stone – also known as Lia Fáil (the speaking stone) – was lent to the Scots by the Irish, but it was never returned. Other legends state that the stone – now in Edinburgh Castle – was used by Jacob as a pillow at Bethel or, in Jewish tradition, was the pedestal for Noah’s ark.

Iron rings on either side of the stone help with transportation
ROHONC CODEX PUBLISHED WITH THE PERMISSION OF THE LIBRARY AND INFORMATION CENTRE OF THE HUNGARIAN ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, BUDAPEST

45 THE ROHONC CODEX

Discovered in Hungary in the early 19th century, the Rohonc Codex is a 448-page illustrated book containing text in an unknown language and writing system, mixing runes with what seems to be Old Hungarian. The book also contains 84 illustrations depicting military battles, landscapes, and religious icons, which has led to theories that it is a religious or historical text. Another possibility is that it was a hoax by Sámuel Literáti Nemes, a well-known 19th-century forger.

44 SHAKESPEARE’S STOLEN HEAD

In the chancel of Stratfordupon-Avon’s Holy Trinity Church lies the grave of England’s most famous playwright: William Shakespeare. But is all of him there? In 1879, Argosy magazine put out the story that in 1794, the Bard’s head had been stolen. A story often dismissed as fiction, recent examination of the grave with ground-penetrating radar has found that Shakespeare’s head does appear to be missing from its resting place, perhaps stolen to order by a fan of his work, or sold on by chancing grave robbers.

“RADAR HAS FOUND THAT SHAKESPEARE’S HEAD DOES APPEAR TO BE MISSING”

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About History Revealed

Find out how close the King of England came to conquering medieval France, as we take a look at the Hundred Years' War. Was bad weather really to blame for the English defeat? Elsewhere, uncover the shocking true story of the Nazi spies who managed to infiltrate New York, and meet the man who inspired The Mummy villain, Imhotep. Plus, don't miss out on the FREE pull-out magazine inside, which investigates the 50 greatest mysteries in history - from the Stonehenge to the Princes in the Tower.
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