Mountainside "suicide" baffles investigators in England

Photo: Geoff Widdall

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:

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.

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Photos of 1930s rural America ruined with hole punches, creating the greatest photoshop challenge ever


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)

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I found a locked safe hidden at the back of a closet in my new house


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

Doctor Who's real name is d³∑x²


Honestly, some parents. What on Earth were they thinking?

The Doctor's real name revealed in 1980 comic book. Credit to u/swanzie for image. [r/doctorwho] Read the rest

What happened to all the Star Trek hair? Shatner didn't take all of it home, did he?


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

Best podcast episode ever - Mystery Show Case #3: Belt Buckle


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

Thousands of worms found in neat piles on road


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's Greenglass House: lyrical, tense YA mystery

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.

Gnome mystery as 107 statues appear overnight in garden


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

Cicada 3301 is a mysterious organization seeking "highly intelligent individuals"

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 quest to find 12 hidden treasures from a 1982 treasure hunt book

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.

What came before the big bang?

There was no such epoch as “before the big bang,” because time began with the big bang, says physicist and astrobiologist Paul Davies.

Mysterious coded messages at university library

.picture { background-color: #FFFFFF; font: 12px/1.5em Arial; color:#888888; sans-serif; } .picture img { vertical-align:middle; margin-bottom: 3px; } .right { margin: 0.5em 0pt 0.5em 0.8em; float:right; } .left { margin: 0.5em 0.8em 0.5em 0; float:left; } "All the letters are in black, except for the leaf symbol which is green. The letter appears to be colour laser printed. The physical leaf is made of plastic and has two paint splotches on it - one red, one cyan. I'm not sure what the grey pillow-shaped object is supposed to be." - Mike Moffatt

Someone is leaving coded messages and items such as a plastic leaf with paint dots inside envelopes between the pages of books at Western University. “It’s completely baffling!” says assistant professor Mike Moffatt, who has been tracking the messages on his blog. Read the rest

A crowd-sourced effort to find missing Malaysia Air flight

A satellite imaging company is looking for volunteers to help comb through satellite pictures for evidence of Flight MH370. Read the rest

The 727 that vanished without a trace in 2003

The ocean is big and deep. The most likely scenario, right now, is that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 crashed into the water and no one has yet looked in just the right place to find evidence of that crash. (You can read more about losing planes in the age of GPS in a post Rob made earlier today.) But the case made me curious about other lost planes — cases where an aircraft just "vanished" and nobody ever found a crash site or debris.

Naturally, Wikipedia has a list for that ... Read the rest

Voynich Manuscript partially decoded, text is not a hoax, scholar finds

The 600-year-old, strangely-illustrated Voynich Manuscript (which resides at Yale University) has been called the most mysterious manuscript in the world. Not a single word of the secret language has been decoded, at least not until now. Stephen Bax of the University of Bedfordshire says he has decoded ten words from the Voynich Manuscript. This seems to indicate that the document is not a hoax filled with nonsense words, as some scholars have concluded.

Stephen Bax, who teaches at the University of Bedfordshire, has produced a paper and a video where he details his theories on the text and provides translations of ten words from the manuscript, which are proper names of various plants that are depicted in the manuscript. Professor Bax explains, “I hit on the idea of identifying proper names in the text, following historic approaches which successfully deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs and other mystery scripts, and I then used those names to work out part of the script.

I have not yet watch Bax's 47-minute video, above.

Voynich Manuscript partially decoded, text is not a hoax, scholar finds (Thanks, Gareth and Syd!) Read the rest

The secret to SIDS might be in the ear

Nobody knows what causes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. There are a many factors linked by correlation and lots of things that, again, correlate to a reduced risk. But the actual cause (or causes) have been elusive. Fascinatingly, research from Seattle Children's Hospital suggests that inner ear dysfunction and hearing impairment might play a role in some SIDS deaths. Sleeping mice with inner ear problems have a harder time waking themselves when they're positioned in a way that makes it hard to breathe. Meanwhile, a surprising number of SIDS victims were diagnosed with hearing problems. Read the rest

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