We live in a weird world. While science does a good job at distilling some truth from many of its oddities, some events seem so unusual that they appear to avoid a rational explanation (at least at first glance).
Here's a selection of verifiable events that seem to be straight out of an unaired X-Files episode, despite the rational explanations that lurk behind them.
Cue the theme tune...
Salish Sea Human Foot Discoveries
Since 2007, severed human feet keep washing up on the shores of the Salish Sea, British Columbia. The first discovery occurred in August 2007 and the last report, the 13th foot in total, washed up in December 2017.
A popular theory among locals and Internet-dwellers is that the feet are the work of local gangsters, organ trafficking, a ritual, a prolific serial killer, a hoax, or – of course – aliens. However, those claims remain unsubstantiated.
Thankfully, there are some possible explanations for this surreal scenario. Forensics experts have determined that at least eight of the feet belonged to six individuals. Two of the feet have also been linked via DNA to people from North America who are believed to have committed suicide.
Another big clue: Many of the feet are found inside a sports shoe. The most promising explanation for this is that these shoes are buoyant and waterproof, meaning that the feet of the corpses float to the surface and remain relatively well-preserved, while the rest of the body decomposes. Meanwhile, a pattern of currents that flow around this part of the Canadian coast draws debris (including rogue feet) into the Salish Sea.
The Somerton Man & His Coded Message
In 1948, an unidentified man (pictured above) was found on a Somerton beach just south of Adelaide, South Australia. As explained in a newspaper clipping from the time, his body had not been in the water and his death appeared to have occurred during his sleep. He was approximately 40 years old, caucasian, well-built, clean shaven, and dressed in a suit.
The story smells suspicious already, but here’s where it goes from dubious to full-blown WTF: Inside a hidden pocket in the man’s waistband, Australian police later found a tightly rolled piece of paper bearing the words "Tamam Shud” printed in a distinctive font. The phrase originates from an 11th-century book of Persian poems, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and translates to "the end" or "finished”.
Police appealed to the public and eventually found the book from which the page had been torn. On the inside back cover, detectives found a handwritten local telephone number, another unidentified number, and a coded (or random) message.
“Perhaps if you took away anyone’s ID and left only a few clues behind, we’d all seem extraordinary and mysterious,” Derek Abbott, a biomedical engineer who has studied the mystery for year, told Buzzfeed News in 2016.
“The Toxic Lady”
In February 1994, Gloria Ramirez – aka the "The Toxic Lady” – was rushed to a hospital in California, suffering from the effects of advanced cervical cancer. Within a matter of hours, 23 of the 37 emergency room staff who had come into contact with her began to be hospitalized after falling acutely ill.
Remarkably, scientists think they know what caused this truly peculiar event (it wasn’t aliens).
Writing in the journal Forensic Science International in 1997, researchers explained that it could have been a chain of unlikely chemical reactions. Doctors noted that the woman had been using dimethyl sulfoxide as a topical homemade pain remedy. Oxygen administered by the doctors could have combined with the dimethyl sulfoxide to form dimethyl sulfone. Electrical shocks from her defibrillation could have then converted the dimethyl sulfone into dimethyl sulfate, a powerful poisonous gas.
Sounds unlikely? Perhaps so, but the truth is often stranger than fiction, so they say.
The Dyatlov Pass Incident on Dead Mountain
In February 1959, nine young skiers died in deeply suspicious circumstances within the Ural Mountains of the Soviet Union. Over a period of several months, investigators found their bodies scattered over the slopes of Kholat Syakhl, meaning "Dead Mountain" in the native Mansi language.
The whole story, known as the Dyatlov Pass Incident, is shrouded in mystery and conspiracy theories, but here’s what we do know about the event from old news reports and official investigations.
The tent of the team had been slashed with a knife and the group had left all of their possessions inside. Footprints, some socked and some wearing just one shoe, led towards the remains of a fire near a forest around 500 meters (1,640 feet) away. Here, two of the bodies were found dead wearing only their underpants and three were discovered halfway between the forest and the tents. Although one of the party appeared to have a fractured skull, the authorities declared they simply died of hypothermia.
Then, two months later, investigators found the partially dressed bodies of the other four members. One had a crushed skull, one had her tongue and eyes missing, and two of the bodies had two major chest fractures that appeared to have been caused by a force greater than a car crash.
There’s still no scientific explanation to the deaths. Theories have ranged for the utterly implausible, such as a UFO or Yeti encounter, to the sensationalist, such as a brutal attack by local Mansi tribesmen. However, the most plausible theories revolve around the theme of military tests gone awry.
Much of the story before the incident are known thanks to Yuri Yefimovich Yudin, who was lucky enough to fall ill in late January 1959 and leave the expedition early. In an interview in 2012, the year before his death, he said: “If I had a chance to ask God just one question, it would be, 'What really happened to my friends that night?’"
Mass Disappearances in US National Parks
Hundreds of people, including many children, have disappeared without a trace from federal land in the US.
The exact figures are not publicly disclosed. The National Park Service does keep a small roster of missing persons, however, and some estimates suggest that over 1,600 people have disappeared within a national park with little-to-no publicity. One of the more extensive unofficial inquiries into this phenomenon has seen the investigation of 411 missing people from national parks, with no answer. As Motherboard reported last year, the lack of disclosure about disappearances has only led to more controversy.
So, what is going on? Well, it’s important to remember that US National Parks encompass over 340,000 square kilometers (131,000 square miles) of land – that’s considerably bigger than the majority of countries. It’s also the wilderness, with more than its fair share of predators, natural dangers, and poor phone signal. Perhaps, statistically speaking, the chances are not that unusual.
Nevertheless, people continue to be confused and angered by the lack of answers.
Russia’s Ghost Radio
There’s an extremely creepy “ghost radio station” broadcasting out of somewhere in Russia (once again) ever since the Cold War, although its activity has actually increased since the fall of the Cold War.
UVB-76, aka “The Buzzer”, has occupied 4625 kHz frequency ever since the early 1970s. Its content consists of a strange repeated buzzing noise, interjected with the occasional message spoken in Russian or some kind of unknown code. It also faintly broadcasted a song from Swan Lake in 2010.
As you can imagine, you can find a bunch of theories about the buzzer, especially among Internet discussion boards. The most likely explanation is that it’s used by the Russian government to instruct spies all over the world. The government, of course, have never confirmed this.