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Humanity has a natural knack for the macabre. People love talking about murder and mayhem, and solving whodunnits as soon as they hear about them. That's what makes the best true crime books of 2018 so fascinating, and what makes people love to read about the most famous serial killers in history.
Most murders that have happened eventually get solved, whether due to sheer luck, a confession, or excellent teamwork by a crew of savvy detectives. Some, however, don't.
Whether it's due to serial killers that were never caught or evidence that just baffles everyone who examines the case, there are a handful of murder cases no one can explain away by normal reasons. Here are some of the more chilling ones we've found.
Bella and the Wytch Elm
Perhaps one of the most famous murder cases no one can explain comes in the form of a meme before the time of memes. In 1943, some boys were wandering around the British countryside when they noticed a hollow tree that they wanted to climb.
They approached the tree, and then noticed hair poking out of the tree's hole. Upon closer inspection, they found a skull, hair, and teeth jutting out of the tree's center. It was the body of a dead woman stuffed inside.
Though delayed going to the police out of fear of getting caught trespassing, one eventually did. Police found the body exactly where it was left and performed an investigation.
What they found was that it was a woman who had been smothered to death, then placed inside the elm. No leads were found and the case almost immediately ran cold. They called the body "Bella."
After a year or two, people started to graffiti, "Who put Bella in the Wytch Elm?" throughout England. Eventually, it morphed into a graffiti meme that lasted well into the 1970s. The case was never solved, and sadly, it seems Bella gained more fame in death than in life.
Jack the Ripper
Jack the Ripper might be one of the most elusive criminals of all time, one of the few who hand-wrote letters taunting police as a serial killer calling card, and one of the most famous serial killers that were never caught.
During the turn of last century, women of ill repute were being found dead in the street. Many of them had organs removed with surgical precision, having been raped shortly before they were murdered. Altogether, there were five women who were killed by this monster.
Every single victim had their throat slashed, seemingly "ripped open" by a knife. The women were chosen because they were heavy drinkers and ladies of the night, making them easy targets in a society that never paid attention to them.
The killings eventually stopped, but the killer ran free. To this very day, no one knows who Jack the Ripper was.
The Bizarre Death of William Desmond Taylor
William Desmond Taylor was one of the most popular Hollywood actors and movie producers of the 1910s and 1920s—literally. Not only was he absurdly successful in his career, but everyone seemed to like his mellow, affable nature.
So, one can only imagine the shock and horror that rippled through Hollywood when he was found dead at his apartment. A doctor who was part of the crowd that found him claimed he died of a swollen stomach.
The "doctor" was never seen again after that declaration, nor was his name obtained. A bullet was found in Taylor's back shortly after the strange man left the scene, proving that it was definitely not the "natural causes" ascertained by the stranger.
One might think that the murder was done as a part of a botched robbery, but that was not the case. Every last item in Taylor's apartment remained untouched, including his cash and jewelry.
Oddly enough, Taylor showed his accountant a large sum of money the day prior. That money was nowhere to be found, and it's uncertain who may have taken it.
Taylor himself was known for having memory problems, often suffering severe memory lapses that would leave him wandering around Hollywood in a daze. Could it have been someone who used his memory issues to get into his home and rob him?
Police had identified around a dozen suspects, but were told to "lay off" the investigation after tabloids went berserk. To date, no one knows who killed Hollywood's favorite actor.
The Murder of JohnBenét Ramsey
In the 90s, JohnBenét Ramsey was one of the biggest names in the beauty pageant circuit. The tiny young girl was a beauty queen who had talent, golden hair, a beautiful smile, and a winning personality that could have carried her into stardom as she got older.
She had a fine family, too. Her father, John Ramsey, was a well-respected and well-paid businessman in Boulder, Colorado. Her mother, Patsy, was always looking her best. Her brother was popular in school and generally well-liked.
Then, in December of 1996, JohnBenét was found to be missing. The parents had found a ransom note, asking for $118,000 in cash for the return of their little girl. Patsy Ramsey called 911 to report the missing beauty queen.
JohnBenét was found dead in her basement hours later, covered in trauma marks. She had been asphyxiated, tied up, gagged, and beaten to death all while family members slept in their upper class Colorado home.
Attention immediately turned to the Ramsey family, with tabloids constantly begging the question of who killed the little girl. As more and more evidence piled up, more and more questions arose—and quickly turned the case into one of the few 90s murder cases no one can explain.
Some of the stranger aspects of the tragic murder of JohnBenét Ramsey's case included:
- How did the family sleep through her murder? Multiple family members were at the scene of the crime, sleeping. Why did no one hear an intruder or hear her screams?
- Why were police sluggish about taping off the scene of the crime? When JohnBenét's family discovered her, the police didn't immediately tape off the home. This allowed friends and family to continue to wander about the area—thereby compromising the crime scene investigation.
- What was up with the ransom note? The ransom note was long, baffling, and asked for the same amount that John Ramsey's bonus added up to. When suspects were given handwriting tests, John's handwriting came up negative, while Patsy's came up inconclusive. Investigators also wondered why a ransom note was written on a paper that came from the Ramsey household, and why anyone would bother considering that JohnBenét would be dead in a matter of hours.
- The DNA evidence didn't match anyone in the house. The DNA evidence collected didn't match the parents, family friends, or housekeepers. So, who was it?
When people check into hotel rooms, there's really not much of a mystery going on with them. They present their IDs, pay with a card, do their thing, then leave. At the Hotel President in Kansas City, things took a turn for the strange.
A man who called himself Roland T. Owen checked in. He had brown hair, a scar, and a cauliflowered ear—suggesting that the alleged Los Angeles native may have seen some fights in his day. He had no luggage; just a comb, a toothbrush, and a hair brush.
Then, things got weird.
The maids stopped by his room, Room 1046, to clean. He seemed agitated. He shut the blinds quickly, paced around, then said he was "waiting for a friend."
Soon after, a note appeared on the door saying, "Don, I will be back in 15 minutes. Wait." Then, he stayed inside.
The morning after, the door was locked from the inside. Maids asked him if he wanted to eat. Through the telephone, Owen replied that he didn't want breakfast and that he had already ate—despite not leaving the room.
A motorist by the name of Robert Lane later picked up a man sharing Owen's description. Owen had told him that he was about to kill someone. Soon after, Owen was found lying in a pool of his own blood in Room 1046.
Surprisingly, he was conscious when he was found. It was clear he was tortured and that he didn't have much time left on this Earth. When asked who did this to him, he replied with one word: "Nobody."
It was later revealed that Owen didn't exist, that a mysterious woman sent flowers to his grave, and that his real name was Artemus Ogletree. No one came forth with any more information about "Owen" and what he was doing in the room.
To date, this remains one of the most bizarre murder cases no one can explain. Was it the mafia? Why was he so agitated? What the hell happened?
The Texarkana Phantom Killer
Texarkana was a small, sleepy town that had a reputation for being safe, sitting on the Texas-Arkansas border. Then, a string of viciously violent attacks struck shockwaves through the town's collective psyche.
Around five people were killed in a 10-week span. Some of the women were sexually molested. Some of the men were beaten. The attacker, or attackers, all seemed to vanish into thin air, earning them the name "the Phantom Killer."
The attacker was always described the same way: a man with a white sheet for a mask, with holes cut for his eyes. No other details were ever found.
Just as quickly as the attacks happened, they ended. No one knows why they happened or who caused the killings to occur.
One lead suggested that a man by the name of Youell Swinney did it, and his wife even claimed he did. However, the story has been recanted and Swinney died in 1994—taking whatever secrets he may have had with him to the grave.
The Bizarre Murder of Blair Adams
Blair Adams was once known as a very, very paranoid man. The man began to get increasingly agitated and nervous as he grew older, claiming that someone was trying to kill him despite living a pretty normal life otherwise.
Due to the mood swings he was having, people assumed that Blair was suffering from mental illness, and that he was a man on the verge of a meltdown. No one believed him.
One hot day in early July of 1966, Adams took out the majority of his money from his bank account. He then took jewelry with him and tried to cross the border from America to Canada. He was assumed to be a drug mule, and was turned away.
He then bought a ticket to Germany that he didn't use. Rather, he chose to go to Seattle, where he then hopped onto a plane that took him to DC, then rented a car to get to Knoxville.
Some time around 3AM, someone bludgeoned him to death with a club—proving that someone was, in fact, out to get him. Who, why, and how he knew of this remains to be seen.
The Unknown Man of Somerton Beach
Many murder cases no one can explain have one thing in common: they're cold cases that involve unidentified victims.
In the case of the Somerton Beach man, the John Doe in question was a very well-dressed 40-year-old man with strange features like wedge-shaped toes, muscular calves, and pinpoint pupils.
According to forensic investigators, it's possible that he may have worn high heels on a regular basis due to the nature of his build. That, however, doesn't explain why he was found as a dead body on the beach.
An autopsy showed that he had a lot of blood in his stomach, suggesting poisoning. Yet, no poison was found in his system. The man's waist pocket had a small scrap of paper that said "Taman Shud," Persian for "it's done."
Police found a bizarre code on the page, written in invisible ink, with a message that remains undecipherable to this day. The paper itself came from a rare edition of a 12th century book called The Rubiyat.
Later on after the war, another man's body, with a copy of the book, was found in similar condition.
When police traced the book, they found out something equally bizarre. The book was traced to a store in Australia where the bookseller had some interesting news. Only five editions of the book were published; the one they held claimed to be the seventh edition.
So, who was this man? How did he get his hands on a book that didn't exist, and how did he die?
Little Lord Fauntleroy
Imagine being a parent to a young child that goes missing. Wouldn't you want someone to find him, or someone to know who you're looking for? In the case of Little Lord Fauntleroy, that didn't really happen at all.
In 1921, people found a young boy's body lying out by a pond near a factory in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. The boy was well-dressed, clean, and seemed to have died fairly recently.
An alarm was quickly sounded, and police begged locals for any information anyone could have on the boy's identity. No one came forth, and due to the boy's resemblance to a character in a popular storybook, they began to call him Little Lord Fauntleroy.
Soon after, a very distraught woman and a male escort came by the pond asking if they had seen a young boy. They got no answers, and were never seen or heard from again.
The unidentified boy was given a funeral that was paid for by a local woman named Minnie Conrad. After his public burial, a woman was seen visiting the gravesite, clearly grieving while wearing a veil that hid her face.
Examiners believe that the boy may be Homer Lemay, who died in a car accident around the same time the boy was found. However, Homer's parents claimed that their son died in a car accident in South America—despite no record of the accident ever being found.
So what happened here? Who was this boy?
The Lady of the Dunes
The Lady of the Dunes is one of the more grisly murder cases no one can explain, and it actually makes you wonder what could cause something like this to happen. Out near Race Point Dunes, a woman's body was found on the side of the road, her auburn hair sprawled out as if she was tossed from a car.
Both her hands and a forearm were missing. Her bandana and her Wrangler jeans were found underneath her head. Two of her teeth were missing, and her body was clearly sexually assaulted after she was killed.
Though it has never been totally confirmed, people believe her to be an escaped convict by the name of Rory Gene Kesinger—a bank robber who was never caught by police. Another potential lead was a gun moll who hung out with mobster Whitey Bulger, a man known for removing victims' teeth.
No one knows who killed her, and no one knows why. All we can hope is that she finally found rest.