16 Mysterious Unsolved Deaths Throughout History

16 Mysterious Unsolved Deaths Throughout History

Shannon Quinn - August 30, 2018

Unfortunately, not every murder has a suspect that can be put behind bars. And for some missing people, there is always the question if they truly ran away, or if something terrible happened to make them disappear. Years before DNA evidence could help solve crimes, there were even more unsolved mysteries than there are today. These are 16 deaths surrounding mysterious circumstances throughout history.

16 Mysterious Unsolved Deaths Throughout History
The Sodder Children sign hung in their town for decades. Credit: Reddit

1. The Sodder Children Disappeared From Their Burning Home

The night before Christmas of 1945, when the Sodder home in Fayetteville, West Virginia caught on fire. One of the daughters rushed to a neighbor, asking them to call the fire department. But since it was Christmas Eve, there were no operators available. One of the neighbors finally rushed to the fire chief in person, but no one showed up to put out the fire until 8 AM the next morning.

George and Jennie Sodder had 9 children, and 5 of them slept on the second floor of their house. The parents and the children who slept downstairs were able to escape, but the five children upstairs were caught in the flames. However, when the fire was put out there were no bodies. The coroner believed that maybe the fire was caused by faulty wiring in the house, and maybe the children’s bodies were cremated. However, George Sodder claims that he got the wiring checked recently. Also, there would still be bones remaining, even if his children’s bodies burned. He believed that his children were kidnapped, and offered a $5,000 reward for their return.

George Sodder was Italian-American, and he was vocal about his dislike of Benito Mussolini and Fascism. This made a lot of Italian Mussolini supporters in the community hate him, and he apparently was threatened by people in the town on multiple occasions. Twenty years after their disappearance, Jennie Sodder received a photograph in the mail of a young man in his 20s, who they believed looked like one of their sons. The back of the photo had a very cryptic message. They sent a detective to Kentucky to investigate, but the man was never heard from again.

16 Mysterious Unsolved Deaths Throughout History
This was the last known photograph of the McLeod brothers. Credit: MysteriousUniverse.org

2. Willie and Frank McLeod Went Hunting For Gold And Never Made It Back

In Northwestern Canada, the land was originally inhabited by a Native American tribe called the Naha. During the gold rush, the tribe disappeared, and white settlers no longer saw the indigenous people. In 1908, two brothers- Willie and Frank McLeod, decided to become gold prospectors. Their family and friends had not heard from them for two years.

Their uncle, Charlie McLeod, thought this was suspicious. He had not received a letter from them for so long, he decided it was time to go looking for his nephews at the spot where they said they were going. Charlie McLeod found his nephews. Their skeletons were still laying in their sleeping bags near a creek, but both of their heads were missing. Nearby, there were journal entries that said “we found a fine prospect”- as in- they struck gold. Apparently, someone wasn’t too happy about that fact, and the McLeod brothers never lived to cash in their riches. Strangely, though, none of their valuables had been touched. Ever since that day, the story of the McLeod brothers was re-told so many times, the area got the nickname “Headless Creek“.

In 1931, a fur trapper named Phil Powers was hunting near the same location of “Headless Creek”. His cabin had been burned to the ground. His body was found outside of the burned cabin, and he had been firing his gun at someone…or something…coming towards him.

16 Mysterious Unsolved Deaths Throughout History
Natalie Wood was a popular movie starlet from the 1940’s through the 1980’s. Credit: The Wrap

3. Hollywood Starlet Natalie Wood Had a Dark Watery Grave

Child actress Natalie Wood landed starring role as a little girl in Miracle on 34th Street. When she was young, her mother took her to a fortune teller as a lark, where the woman told them to fear dark water, because that’s how she was going to die. In 1949, Wood was acting in another movie, and she fell off a rickety bridge into the ocean, breaking her wrist in the process. As a result of this, she formed a huge phobia of water, so much so that she didn’t even like washing her hair.

As a teenager, she starred in more iconic roles in Rebel Without a Cause and West Side Story. In 1981, her body was found floating face-down in the Pacific ocean. She was only wearing a nightgown, socks, and a jacket. This appeared to be an accident or even suicide. But considering how terrified she was of the water all her life, would she really have chosen this as a way to go?

On the night of her death, Natalie Wood was on a yacht with her husband, Robert Wagner, and her co-star, Christopher Walken, had all gone out drinking that night and went back to a yacht. Witnesses in nearby boats said that they could hear an argument coming from the yacht, and a woman screaming for help. A man replied in a mocking tone, “Okay honey, we’ll get you.” At 1:30 AM, Wagner called to report Natalie Wood missing. Her body was found a mile away. Strangely, the yacht dinghy was also floating nearby, which indicates that maybe she tries to climb into it to save herself. According to Dennis Davern, the captain of the ship, he heard Robert Wagner smash a wine bottle, and scream at Christopher Walken about flirting with Natalie Wood. The police found the broken glass on the floor, and Wagner lied, saying it was a rough sea that night, and it must have fallen over.

There are several theories about the cause of Natalie Wood’s death. Did she fall while trying to escape to the dinghy? Or was she pushed off the edge? Maybe it was an accident, and she was just ignored by her husband. We will never know.

16 Mysterious Unsolved Deaths Throughout History
After the death of his wife, Jack Kettlewell would sign autographs as if he was a celebrity. Credit: Toronto Star

4. The 8-Day Bride Died On Her Honeymoon

In 1947, the body of 22-year-old Christina Kettlewell was found floating in the Severn River. Nearby, the cabin where she and her husband Jack Kettlewell had been spending their honeymoon was burning to the ground. The cause of the fire is unknown.

Christina and Jack Kettlewell eloped very quickly, and decided to spend their honeymoon in a cabin in the woods of Severn Falls, Ontario. Strangely, they invited along Jack’s best friend, Ronald Barrie. It was later revealed that Christina was mentally unstable, and she was writing suicide notes about her obsession with Jack, saying that she was terrified that she was just a “passing fancy”, and if she can’t have him, no one can. Some believe that Jack and Ronald were actually in a homosexual relationship, and once that was revealed to Christina, she was pushed off the edge, burned the cabin down in an attempt to kill the lovers and killed herself.

Another theory is that Jack and Ronald were conspiring to kill Christina and make it look like a suicide. Jack had taken out a life insurance policy on Christina, which was paid out to him after her death. The two had done some shady insurance deals in the past, listing one another as the beneficiaries. Neither of them were ever arrested, and they were seen as victims of the fire. In a sick twist of events, the case became so famous, and Jack Kettlewell became a sort of celebrity, because he was very handsome. He seemed to enjoy the fame a little too much, because he gave out autographs to people who recognized him from the papers, even though he was only famous for having a dead wife. There are far too many unanswered questions to determine what actually happened to this “8-day bride”.

16 Mysterious Unsolved Deaths Throughout History
The Black Dahlia was an aspiring actress named Elizabeth Short. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

5. The Black Dahlia’s Killer Left Cryptic Messages

In 1947, the body of a 22-year-old actress named Elizabeth Short was abandoned on the lawn of a suburban neighborhood in Los Angeles. Her body had been drained of blood, and she had been cut in half. Her lips were cut on the edges of her mouth, as if to give her a very wide smile. (This would end up being the inspiration for The Joker in The Dark Night.) The woman’s identity was unknown, and the newspapers reported finding the body of a “Jane Doe”.

A few days later, the medical examiner received an envelope in the mail from the killer. They used words cut out from a magazine to send the message: “Los Angeles Examiner and other Los Angeles Papers- Here is Dahlia’s belongings. Letter to follow.” Inside the envelope were Elizabeth Short’s social security card, birth certificate, photos, and other personal identification. They rubbed gasoline over the paper to get rid of any fingerprints. From then on, the letters were signed “Black Dahlia Avenger“. Clearly, this murderer was mentally unstable, and they took a lot of joy out of killing and dismembering the body of this innocent woman, but the identity of this killer was never discovered, and probably went on to kill more women during their lifetime.

16 Mysterious Unsolved Deaths Throughout History
After Dennis Martin went missing, his father offered $5,000 for his return. Credit: StrangeOutdoors.com

6. Dennis Martin May Have Been Kidnapped By A Mountain Man

Six-year-old Dennis Martin was visiting the Smoky Mountains National Park with his family on Father’s Day Weekend of 1969. A man approached Dennis’ father, asking if their kids could play together in a game of “hide and go seek”. Mr. Martin agreed, but he kept his eye on Dennis from a distance. The boy went behind a tree to hide, but when it was time to come out, he never emerged. Mr. Martin immediately jumped up and started running. He continue to run for 2 miles down the Appalachian Trail screaming Dennis’ name, but he could not find his boy. He and the park rangers stayed up all night to look for him, but there were no clues about his whereabouts.

Over the next few days, thousands of people began to comb the Smoky Mountains National Park looking for Dennis Martin. Even the FBI and the green berets showed up to look through some of the most difficult areas to search. In the end, the only remains of Dennis they found were a single sock and shoe.

Years later, an investigator named David Paulides interviewed both Dennis Martin’s father, and potential witnesses in the case. The Key Family claimed that they were picnicking at the park on the same day, and they had witnessed “a hairy man” carrying something in his arms, and they heard a child’s scream. They tried to tell the police about what they saw, but they never put two and two together. Since they never found the boy’s body, it is very likely that he was kidnapped, but the description of this villain is terrifying, and only adds to the mystery.

16 Mysterious Unsolved Deaths Throughout History
The Borden House still stands to this day, and it was maintained as a museum. Credit: Smithsonian.com

7. Andrew and Abby Borden Were Chopped To Bits

One blazing hot summer day in 1893, Andrew and Abby Borden were brutally murdered with a hatchet in their own home in Fall River, Massachusetts. Andrew’s daughters, Lizzie and Emma, were in their 30’s and 40’s and yet they were still not married. They were living with their father and stepmother, and they were considered too old to ever have hope of finding a husband and leaving the nest, so they needed their father’s financial support. Their family had begun to argue a lot, because all of the father’s money was going to the stepmother, Abby Borden. Andrew Borden was very rich, but he was extremely stingy, and made a lot of enemies with people in town.

On the day of the murders, the only other people home at the time were daughter Lizzie Borden, the maid Bridget, and Lizzie’s Uncle, John Morse, who showed up unexpectedly the night before. The morning of the murders, he announced that he was leaving to visit nearby relatives, which became his alibi. Bridget, the maid, claimed that she took a very short 10-minute nap, and in that time span, Andrew Borden was murdered. They discovered that Abby Borden was killed roughly 3 hours before her husband in an upstairs bedroom. This means the killer was likely inside the house the entire time. However, Lizzie would have been covered in blood if she actually did kill her parents. She was only alone for about 10 minutes during the time when Andrew was killed, which would have not been enough time to clean up and hide the evidence, especially since the house did not have electricity or running water. This leans more towards the theory that one of her father’s enemies, or even her uncle, John Morse, could have killed them.

Lizzie Borden was taken to trial for the death of her parents. However, there was only circumstantial evidence, and not enough to convict her of murder. She was sent free, and she inherited a fortune from her father. There are nearly a dozen different theories about who killed the Bordens, but no one knows the full story.

16 Mysterious Unsolved Deaths Throughout History
The Philadelphia Police Department shared these images of The Boy in the Box in an attempt to find his parents. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

8. No One Knows Who The Boy in the Box Really Is

In 1957, the body of a small boy with blonde hair and blue eyes was found inside a box in a vacant lot in Philadelphia. The boy was between 5 and 7 years old, and he was stuffed inside a box used for a baby bassinet. He was naked, his hair had been recently cut, and he had several markings on his body, including several blows to the head. Images of his face circulated throughout the country in an attempt to find his true identity, and people with missing children from 10 different states came to visit the body, but no one ever came forward to claim him.

This case is so open-ended, there are several theories about his death, and potential leads. Some people believe that the child died from a tragic accident, and the parents disposed of their son’s body so they would not get in trouble.

Another theory comes from a woman who claimed that the boy was adopted by an abusive foster mother who paid his biological parents to purchase him, and that she abused and killed her adopted son while she was giving him a bath. She disposed of him in the box from the bassinet she purchased for one of the other foster kids. While this sounds like the most convincing theory, there is not enough evidence to prove this, and there are several ideas floating out there as to what actually occurred.

16 Mysterious Unsolved Deaths Throughout History
This sketch of Owen was made after his death to help people identify him. Credit: AllThatIsInteresting.com

9. The Mysterious Death In Room 1046

On January 2nd of 1935, a man named Roland T. Owen checked into the Hotel President room number 1046 in Kansas City. The maid, Mary Soptic, came in to clean, and Owen said it was fine, but to leave the door unlocked, because he was expecting a friend. The maid thought this was strange and uncomfortable, because the room was very dark, except for one lamp dimly lighting the room. Owen remained sitting in the shadows. On the bedside table, there was a note that said, “Don, I will be back in 15 minutes.” The next morning, the maid knocked on the door and gathered the dirty towels. She witnessed Owen talking to “Don” on the phone. Later, she heard two voices from inside the room, who told her to go away. A “Do not disturb” sign was then hung on the door, and no one heard anything from the guest for two days. When the hotel management tried to call the room, they discovered that the phone was off the hook, so they sent a bellboy to knock on the door and check. A voice from inside said, “Come in. Turn on the lights.” But the door was locked. One of the employees had to find a master key. He saw that Roland Owen was unconscious. The bellboy assumed he was drunk, laying on a “dark stain” on the bed, which was probably blood. He hung up the phone, and left.

A few minutes later, the phone was off the hook again. When employees came back up a second time to hang up the phone, they saw splatters of blood all over the hotel room, and Owen had been beaten over the head. He had markings on his neck, indicating strangulation, and he was stabbed in the chest several times. He was on his hands and knees, holding his head. By no small miracle, Owen was still alive. When a detective arrived to ask who else was in the room, he replied, “nobody,” and claims that he fell on and hit his head on the bathtub. Of course, that doesn’t explain the strangulation or the stabbing. Even though a lot of people heard Ronald Owen communicating with a man named “Don”, no one ever witnessed what he actually looked like.

After he died, detectives realized that “Ronald Owen” didn’t actually exist, and he had used a false name. Before his funeral, an anonymous letter filled with money for a proper burial, flowers, and a note that said “Love forever, Louise.” were sent to his burial. His portrait was published in a newspaper, and the mother of Artemus Ogletree came forward to identify that Ronald Owen was actually her son. He was only 17 at the time of his death. No one knows who killed him, why, or what he was even doing so far from home under a false alias.

16 Mysterious Unsolved Deaths Throughout History
Members of the rescue team found the tent belonging in the hikers. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

10. The Hikers of Dyatlov Pass Were Killed By An “Inhuman Force”

In 1959, a group of 9 friends were going on a ski trip in Russia. All of them had a lot of experience skiing on the mountain in the past, and they were confident enough to camp out for the night in a tent. For some reason, they became so scared of something, they ripped open the tent from the inside with a knife. Two of the bodies were found frozen, stripped down to their underwear. Later, the bodies of their friends were found bundled up in their dead friend’s clothes to keep warm, but they died as well. At first, it’s easy to pass this off as a case of hypothermia, but the strangest part about these deaths was that they were crushed by an “inhuman force”. All of their bodies were also riddled with radiation. The theories about what really happened to the hikers of Dyatlov Pass vary widely from avalanche, to getting caught up in a government experiment. People who believe in the supernatural also believe there is reason to believe that this was caused by aliens or a yeti.

16 Mysterious Unsolved Deaths Throughout History
The evidence was kept from the Atlas Vampire murder, and is held in
a museum in Stockholm. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

11. Was The Atlas Vampire A Real-Life Dracula?

In 1932 in Stockholm, Sweden, the body of a 32-year-old sex worker named Lilly Lindstrom was found in her apartment. She would invite strange men into her apartment so they could pay her for sex, but she unknowingly brought in a man who was a real vampire.

Lindstrom’s body was found lying face-down on her bed. Her killer was having sex with her at the time of her death, because she was naked, and they left behind the condom. They beat her over the head, and then drained her body of almost all of its blood. The police found traces of saliva on her neck, and a blood-stained gravy ladle in the apartment. This lead the police to believe that the killer was drinking her blood. Lilly Londstrom’s regular clients were interviewed, as well as her friend who lived in the apartment below her, and yet no one had seen the man who killed her. The evidence is still on display in a museum in Stockholm.

16 Mysterious Unsolved Deaths Throughout History
The James Kidd case has fascinated people for years after his death. Credit: Bullion Plaza Cultural Center and Museum

12. James Kidd Created a Contest To Inherit His Fortune

A copper prospector named James Kidd got in his car and drove away from his home in Arizona in 1949 to go to work, but he never arrived. Without evidence of a car crash or any disaster, and there was never anybody recovered near his copper mine. Everyone assumed that he ran away from home, or he fell down a canyon. Either way, he was never seen again. After years of being missing, he was presumed dead in 1956. Before he disappeared, he had been very obsessed with spiritualism and the occult.

His family began to go through his belongings. They found his will in 1971, which stated that his fortune would go to anyone who could come up with scientific evidence proving the existence of the human soul. It turns out that he was hiding a treasure worth $270,000. In the 1940’s, during the time he was saving up that money, that is more like the buying power of $4 million, after inflation.

This sparked what was remembered as “The Great Soul Trial”. For years, scientific institutions fought over getting the money, but it dwindled away with legal fees. Eventually, after 26 years, the American Society for Psychical Research was awarded what was left of the money in 1971.

16 Mysterious Unsolved Deaths Throughout History
The Villisca Axe Murder house has been turned into a museum, where the family’s belongings are exactly how they left them on the night they died. Credit: The Occult Museum

13. The Villisca Axe Murders Shook A Small Iowa Town

In the year 1912, The Moore Family was brutally murdered by an intruder with an ax in Villisca, Iowa. Both parents, Joe and Sarah Moore, their four children, and two friends who came to spend the night were killed one by one by the same murderer. The front door was left unlocked, which was not uncommon back then. So the murderer was able to quietly tiptoe through the dark house with an oil lamp and chop them to bits in the middle of the night.

Some people believe that the murderer must have known the Moore Family, because it would have been incredibly difficult for a stranger to figure out the layout of a house at night, with only a handheld oil lamp for light. After he chopped up his victims, he covered the faces of every person with sheets and clothing. The also covered all of the windows and mirrors with blankets, and washed his hands before leaving the house.

This was years before police were putting up yellow caution tape around crime scenes, so over 100 townspeople showed up to take a look at the Moore house, which we now know would have completely defiled any possible evidence that may have been there. The killer was never found. Today, the Moore House has been kept as a museum. Some visitors believe that the house is haunted.

16 Mysterious Unsolved Deaths Throughout History
After the murders in Chicago, Tylenol was taken off of shelves around the world, costing the company $100 million. Credit: AllThatIsInteresting.com

14. In the 1980’s, People Were Dying From Taking Poisoned Tylenol

On September 29th, 1989, seven people in Chicago all died on the same day a few minutes after taking Tylenol that they had purchased from a pharmacy. Someone was opening bottles of Tylenol and replacing the pills with poison. Tragically, three people in the Janus family died from the pills, because the father died first, and they assumed it was an age-related illness. Siblings Stanley and Theresa Janus both took Tylenol after coming home from the hospital, and they died, too. The family finally realized that the pills were poisoned, and the police were able to figure out that this was linked to the other deaths in the city.

An investigator realized that the pill bottles from the homes of both victims had the same control number, meaning that they were all from the same batch made in the factory. It was discovered that the pills had been filled with lethal doses of potassium cyanide. That same day, Johnson & Johnson recalled 31 million bottles of their product from store shelves, to make sure no one else died. They encouraged anyone who had already purchased a bottle of Tylenol to throw it away, and they will get a bottle for free. They also offered a $100,000 reward for anyone who could help identify the killer. None of the bottles ever had any fingerprints that would lead to the killer, and there was not enough evidence to prove their identity.

A month after the news of these murders went public, copycat killers began to poison medicine in pharmacies all across the country. Because of this case, pharmaceutical companies began to add safety seals on bottles of pills so that customers know if they had been opened already.

16 Mysterious Unsolved Deaths Throughout History
Posters were hung all over Glasgow looking for Bible John. Credit: The Daily Record

15. Bible John Killed In The Name of God

In the 1960’s, The Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow, Scotland was a lively dance club where young people went on dates. It was an open secret that Thursday nights were designated for single people to meet and hook up. This was scandalous, of course, so most people did this as discreetly as possible. But one by one, the bodies of women who went to the Barrowland Ballroom on Thursday nights were found. Patricia Docker, Helen Puttock, and Jemima McDonald were all killed after going out dancing.

Witnesses saw each one of the girls leave with a tall, thin red-headed man, who is clearly their killer. The bartender remembers speaking to this man, who ranted about how “sinful” the Barrowland Ballroom was, and that everyone was going to Hell. Serial killers usually target women who look the same, but the one thing these three ladies had in common was that they were menstruating. In The Bible, Leviticus 15:19-33 says that women on their period are “unclean”, and they should not be touched. Police nicknamed this man “Bible John”.

The Glasgow Police Department has a prime suspect named Peter Tobin, who was arrested in 1993 for killing two 14-year-old girls. When comparing photographs of young Peter Tobin to the sketches of Bible John, it is easy to see why they believe he is the killer, especially since serial killers don’t usually begin killing at a later age in life. But they do not have enough evidence to prove that he really was Bible John.

16 Mysterious Unsolved Deaths Throughout History
The Grimes sisters left to go to the movies, and never came back. Credit: NYDailyNews.com

16. The Grimes Sisters Died For Their Elvis Fandom

A few days after Christmas of 1956, two teenage sisters, Barbara and Patricia Grimes begged their mom to go to the premier of the new Elvis movie, Love Me Tender. Their mom agreed to let them go alone to a theater in Chicago. Sadly, they never came back home. At first, the police believed that the girls ran away. Their disappearances led to a nationwide manhunt, and even Elvis Presley himself spoke on the radio begging the Grimes sisters to return home to their worried mother. Sadly, the girls never heard the message from their idol.

After a month of searching, their bodies were found murdered and dumped in a ditch. According to the coroner’s report, the girls had been killed within just a couple of hours after leaving their home. The police suspected one man of killing them, because he was a drifter. He confessed, but it was later revealed that this man was mentally disabled, and he had been forced to falsely confess to the crime. The police were never able to find their real murderer.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

The Mysterious Disappearance of the Sodder Children. Buzzfeed. 2016.

What Happened to Toronto’s Eight Day Bride? Toronto Star. 2017

Haunted Hikes: Spine-Tingling Tales and Trails From North America’s National Parks. Andrea Lankford. Santa Monica Press. 2006.

New Information on Disappearance of Grimes Sisters, Chicago’s Most Infamous Cold Case. Ray Johnson. ChicagoNow.com. 2012.

The Strange Drowning of Natalie Wood. Buzzfeed. 2017

The Dennis Martin Case/Missing 411/. Art Bell. 2015.

What Happened to Toronto’s ‘Eight-Day Bride’?. Vjosa Isai. The Star. 2017.

The Chilling Mystery of The Black Dahlia. Buzzfeed. 2016.

The Mysterious Death of the Boy in the Box. Buzzfeed. 2017.

Bible John. Wikipedia.

Sweden’s Most Bizarre Unsolved Murder Was Maybe Committed By a Vampire. Cheryl Eddie. Gizmodo. 2015.

James Kidd (Prospector.) Wikipedia.

The Villisca Axe Murder House. Katie Serena. AllThatisInteresting.com. 2018

The Mysterious Poisoned Pill Murders. Buzzfeed. 2017.