About a year ago, I reported my discovery of a mysterious old safe at the back of a closet in the old house I'd just bought. After much fooling around with combinations and pointless gadgets in my spare time over the course of many months, you finally insisted I call in the professionals. I ignored this plea until you summoned them yourselves.
It took a little time to actually find one, though: the skills it takes to crack a 1920s safe are both uncommon and in-demand, and local locksmiths in Pittsburgh ultimately sent me on to master safecracker Gary Timchak.
He drilled a hole, slid a rigid borescope within, and had it open in minutes.
What was inside? Spoilers are below! Read the rest
Last year I blogged about the mysterious death of a man found on a remote English moor. Found with only a pocketful of pills and no identifying documents, "Dovestones" sent investigators hunting worldwide in search of answers. They found them: Dovestones was 67-year-old Londoner David Lytton.
Officers identified the smartly dressed man in CCTV footage from Ealing, west London, where he is believed to have started his journey on the morning of 11 December. He arrived in Manchester shortly after midday after taking a train from London Euston, then went to Greenfield, Saddleworth, and visited the Clarence pub at 2pm, where he asked the landlord how to get to the top of the 460-metre (1,500ft) Indian’s Head peak above Dovestone reservoir.
Despite being warned about treacherous weather conditions by the landlord, Mel Robinson, he left the pub and was spotted by witnesses walking up the hill at about 4.30pm.
His body was found the next morning by a passing cyclist on a boggy section of track. He was wearing slip-on shoes and had £130 in cash in his pockets, along with three train tickets, including a return ticket to London. He was carrying no documentation.
The mystery of how and why he died near a mountaintop remains. The suicide hypothesis, based reasonably enough on the presence of strychnine in his body, seems solid. But why travel all the way from Pakistan? Why there? Read the rest
Malaysia Airlines flight #MH370 pitched somewhere in the vast oceans west of Australia three years ago, the only evidence washing ashore thousands of miles away. The search for its remains, and those of hundreds of missing passengers and crew, has been called off.
Families of the victims of flight MH370 say a decision to halt the search for the Malaysian airliner that vanished in March 2014 is "irresponsible". ... More than 120,000 sq km (46,300 miles) of the Indian Ocean has been searched with no results. Pieces of debris have been found as far away as Madagascar. But only seven have been identified as definitely or highly likely to be from the Boeing 777.
It's 2017 and they still dress airline pilots up like commodores and let them turn off the transponders. Read the rest
In 2014, lawyer and eminent Sherlockian Les Klinger comprehensively won the legal battle to establish that Sherlock Holmes is in the public domain and available for anyone to use, abuse, alter, celebrate or mock; now with a new anthology of completely unauthorized Sherlock tales, Echoes of Sherlock Holmes, Klinger and co-editor Laurie R. King have shown just how much life there is in the old tales.
Read the rest
Ships in the Arctic Ocean report that an odd pinging sound emanating from the bottom of the sea can be heard through their hulls. The Canadian military, fortified with Scooby snacks, is on the case.
From The Guardian:
Read the rest
Several reports were passed to the military, which sent a CP-140 Aurora patrol aircraft to investigate on Tuesday under the mandate of Operation Limpid, a domestic surveillance programme designed to “detect, deter, prevent, pre-empt and defeat threats aimed at Canada or Canadian interests”.
In a statement, Department of National Defence spokeswoman Ashley Lemire said: “The Canadian armed forces are aware of allegations of unusual sounds emanating from the seabed in the Fury and Hecla Strait in Nunavut. The air crew performed various multi-sensor searches in the area, including an acoustic search for 1.5 hours, without detecting any acoustic anomalies. The crew did not detect any surface or subsurface contacts.
An old man lay by the path on a crag in the cold Peak District December. Dead, with a bottle of pills in his pocket and no identification, "Dovestones" sent investigators the other side of the world in search of answers. Who was he? Why strychnine? Why there?
The last person the man is known to have spoken to was the landlord of The Clarence pub in the village of Greenfield, where many walkers set off from.
He walked in at about 14:00 on the day before his body was found. “He just asked for directions to the top of the mountain,” says Melvin Robinson. “Just the top of the mountain.”
More, from William Atkins at The Guardian:
Read the rest
On 22 February, a routine toxicology report revealed an unusual alkaloid in his system: strychnine. Strychnine has been banned in the UK since 2006, when its only remaining legal use, in the killing of moles, was deemed unduly cruel. “There are very, very few deaths by strychnine poisoning,” Coleman says. “It’s a terrible death.” As a pesticide, it remains available in other countries, including Pakistan, where it is commonly used to cull feral dogs. When the empty thyroxine sodium bottle was analysed, it bore traces of the poison.
By interfering with neurotransmitters that moderate nerve function, strychnine causes muscles to contract uncontrollably. It is partly the violence of its effects that accounts for the poison’s regular appearance in Agatha Christie’s novels. The ultimate cause of death, which does not come quickly, is asphyxiation.
The US Farm Security Administration commissioned hundreds of thousands of photos in the 1930s and 40s, representing an unparalleled record of the times. Unfortunately, as revealed in an exhibition curated by Bill McDowell, many of the shots were badly damaged with hole punches. The results are an unsettling, inadvertent commentary on the depression and the lives it ruined – and also an incredible challenge for photoshoppers.
Easy mode (Five-bedroom house, Meridian Homesteads, Mississippi, 1935)
Hard mode (Mr Tronson, farmer near Wheelock, North Dakota, 1937)
Read the rest
Moving into the house we just bought, I found to my delight a mysterious locked safe at the back of a closet. I've asked a few people how to get into it, and the consensus is either to use powerful microphones to listen in on the tumblers (apparently stethoscopes don't really cut it) or to see if the hinges are weakened by time and can be removed by force without damaging the door or the mechanisms.
Before I get cracking, though, what do you think? I asked the previous owners for the code, but they don't know. They just assumed it was empty. It's a Yale safe.
I know that it's probably full of air, but you never know.
Read the rest
A 1968 memo from Paramount producer Robert Justman to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry reports on the sad state of the show's hairpieces, which had gone missing in great number.
Read the rest
In the 1980s a nine-year-old boy found an elaborate belt buckle on a Phoenix street. It had a chef's hat, a frying pan with eggs (painted yellow and white), a corkscrew, and a toaster with tiny pieces of toast that pop out when you flick a tiny switch. Truly a magical thing for kid to find in a gutter. The belt buckle was inscribed with the name "Hans Jordi." The boy gave the belt buckle to friend, and that friend hung on to it for decades.
The Mystery Show Podcast is a show that helps people solve everyday mysteries. I love it. In this episode (which ran in June) host and co-producer Starlee Kine helps her friend, the person in possession of the belt buckle, attempt to track down Hans Jordi and return the belt buckle to him. It's wonderful, emotional story, and I'm not going to say anything more about it. I think it might be the best single podcast episode I've heard.
Mystery Show Case #3: Belt Buckle
Read the rest
Piled neatly by road markings in Eisenhower State Park, Texas, a vast number of gently writhing worms grace the asphalt. At first mistaken for spaghetti by rangers baffled at their regularity, it soon became clear something stranger was afoot.
Seen in photos posted to Facebook by staff from Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, the mystery has baffled biologists, ABC News reports. But two theories are emerging:
Park officials have two theories about the worms’ bizarre behaviour.
The first is that the ground become so wet that the worms were forced to move to the dryer parts. The second is that rain may sound like predators, so the worms moved and clumped together to avoid them.
My hypothesis: escaped gnomes put there there. Read the rest
Kate Milford made a name as a young adult writer able to tap into a rich Bradburian vein of lyricism with the Boneshaker
-- now she shows us that she's an expect mystery writer as well, in Greenglass House
, an illustrated middle-grades novel that will keep you guessing.
Marcela Telehanicova, of Ivybridge, England, woke last week to find an army of gnomes neatly arranged in formation in her front yard, thirty rows deep.
In a story headlined "Call Gnomeland Security," The Plymouth Herald reports that the statuettes were placed there sometime between 9.30pm on June 1 and 1.30 am on June 2.
“I had a second look, thought ‘What is that?’” she said. “Then I realised they were little people.”
Marcela, who lives with her young son, says the figures were made of plastic and moulded into the shape of little workmen.
“I was in hysterics, I found it really funny,” she said.
“It’s the best, most bizarre thing that has ever happened to me.
Local police suspect that an equivalent number of gnomes may well be missing from other people's yards. "No gnomes have been reported missing," a police spokeswoman said. "The question is whether they are stolen, as opposed to being gnomeless." Read the rest
Wikipedia: "Cicada 3301 is a name given to an enigmatic organization that on three occasions has posted a set of complex puzzles and ARGs to recruit capable cryptanalysts from the public.
Read the rest
The 1982 treasure hunt book, The Secret, has clues to 12 hidden gems. Only two have been found. James Renner is on a quest to discover the others, and he invites you to join the hunt.
There was no such epoch as “before the big bang,” because time began with the big bang, says physicist and astrobiologist Paul Davies.