There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. ~ Hamlet, William Shakespeare
This baffling world of ours is filled with mysteries and unexplained phenomena. Some are the result of nature, others human design; still others cannot be explained at all. Here are some enduring mysteries to ponder with your morning cup of java.
The disappearance of the SS Waratah
Sometimes referred to as “Australia’s Titanic”, the Waratah, named after the emblem flower of New South Wales, was a luxurious 500-foot steamer ship for both cargo and passengers, specializing in speed, luxury and unsinkability. It disappeared off the face of the earth in July of 1909, en route from Durban to Cape Town with 211 passengers and crew aboard. The ship had a surplus of lifeboats and no radio, the exact reverse situation of the Titanic. The Waratah had 100 first class cabins, eight state rooms and a luxurious salon and music lounge.
The most popular theory concerning the ship’s disappearance is an encounter with a ‘freak’ or rogue wave. In a very odd twist of fate, when the Waratah reached Durban, one passenger, Claude Sawyer, disembarked because of a recurring nightmare about the ship sinking (something similar happened on board the Titanic). The fate of the Waratah remains one of the most baffling nautical mysteries of all time and to this day no trace of the ship has ever been found.
2-The Sargasso Sea
Sometimes referred to as an “oceanic desert,” the Sargasso Sea is unlike the other seas of the world because it has no coastline. A free-floating sea completely surrounded by water, the Sargasso Sea is known for the vast amounts of seaweed that forms the basis of its ecosystem. Named sargaco by the Portuguese, which means grapes, the form the seaweed most resembles, the sea is very calm with little wind.
The Sargasso Sea is rich in plankton, but can only support small marine animals such as shrimp, crabs, and octopus, which are directly dependent upon the floating seaweed. The Bermuda Triangle lies within the Sargasso Sea and many ships have been found abandoned in this body of water including the Rosalie in 1840, the German ship, Meta, the James B Chester in 1857 and the Mary Celeste in 1872. The mysteries of the abandoned floating ships have never been solved.
3- Frog rain
Four times in history, frogs have dropped out of the sky for no apparent reason. In 1873, Scientific American reported that Kansas City, Missouri, was blanketed with frogs that dropped from the sky during a storm and in July of 1901, Minneapolis, Minnesota, was pelted with frogs and toads. In May of 1981, Naphlion, a city in southern Greece, was inundated with small green frogs falling from the sky. Weighing just a few ounces each, the frogs landed in trees and plopped into the streets. Authorities surmised they were picked up by a strong wind, but the species of frog was native to North Africa! In 1995, Nellie Straw of Sheffield, England, was driving through Scotland when during a severe storm, hundreds of frogs suddenly pelted her car.
4- Fish rain
Reports of raining fish have occurred in different parts of the world. Following an earthquake in February of 1861, residents in different parts of Singapore reported a rain of fish. In 1948, a group of golfers in Bournemouth, England, had their game interrupted by a shower of herring! In 1966, Father Leonard Bourne of North Sydney, Australia was running through a downpour across a courtyard when a large fish plopped from the sky and landed on his shoulder. The priest reached for it as it slid down his chest but it fell to the flooded ground and swam away!
Probably the most unusual report about fish rain comes from Chilatchee, Alabama, where in 1956, a woman and her husband watched as a small dark cloud formed in the sky. It soon released it contents; rain, catfish, bass and bream; all alive! The dark cloud turned to white and then disappeared.
5- Pink or red snow
Snow that looks red or pink is a phenomenon that has been observed since the 1800s. Reported by Arctic explorers off Greenland and as recently as 2004, by hikers in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, long streaks of snow, sometimes covering entire mountainsides have been reported and photographed. Microscopic reddish-colored algae that live only in cold climates cause it.
6- Ghosts of flight 401
On December 29, 1972, Eastern Airlines Flight 401 crashed in the Everglades killing more than 100 people. Among the dead were Captain Bob Loft and flight engineer, Dan Repo. The cause of the crash was officially listed as a combination of pilot error and equipment failure. Salvageable parts from the crash were collected and used on other company planes.
Soon after, pilots and crews on various eastern flights reported seeing the ghosts of the two men, most often on Plane Number 318. A serious investigation later was hampered by an unwillingness of employees to talk and the odd occurrence of a reported series of missing log sheets from the plane. But one chilling fact remains; many of the parts salvaged from Flight 401 were later used on Plane #318.
7- The self-propelled coffin
The series of events involving the coffin of Charles Coughlin, a Canadian actor who died in Galveston, Texas, in 1899 are very odd indeed. The next year, a hurricane devastated the area and its cemeteries, and his as well as many other coffins floated away with the tide. For eight years, the coffin bobbed along undisturbed in the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, eventually making its way into the Atlantic Ocean, where the prevailing currents carried it north along the Carolinas and the New England coast.
In 1908, a fishing boat off the coast of Prince Edward Island discovered the coffin awash in the tide. A copper nameplate revealed the contents of the box that had washed ashore less than one mile from the church where Coughlin was christened! The remains were buried a second time, at the onset of his journey that had started so many years and miles before.
8- The slow but sure bullet
This amazing enigma comes from Honey Grove, Texas, where one day in 1893, Henry Ziegland walked out on his girlfriend and her brother shot him. Ziegland was lucky as the bullet left a scar but only grazed him, embedding itself in the trunk of the tree in front of which he was standing. The brother then shot himself with the same gun, and until 1913 all went well for Henry Ziegland. One day, he decided to remove the tree from his property, which he did by using dynamite. In the ensuing explosion, the bullet became dislodged and catapulted into Ziegland’s head, killing him instantly.
9- An odd murder suicide
In the 1960s in New Delhi, India, a woman discovering that her husband was cheating traveled to his office to confront him. She lost her nerve and decided to take the elevator up to the roof of the building and end her own life instead. She jumped off the roof and landed smack on her husband who was returning to the office from lunch and was instantly killed. She recovered, but needless to say felt that she couldn’t do anything right for the rest of her life!
10-The archduke’s ill-fated car
Can cars be jinxed? So it would seem in the case of the open limousine in which Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne and his wife were assassinated. This led to the outbreak of World War I. Austria’s General Potiorek took over the car and was subsequently disgraced in battle and later went insane. A captain on his staff assumed ownership of the car and was killed nine days later when the vehicle swerved into a tree. The governor of Yugoslavia was the next owner of the car, and he had four wrecks in four months and lost an arm. A doctor was the next owner, and he was crushed to death when the car overturned in a ditch. A wealthy jeweler then purchased the car, fixed it up and committed suicide.
Two other owners died as well and the last owner, Tibor Hirschfeld, while returning from a wedding with four friends had another accident in which his friends were all killed.
Currently the Archduke’s car is in a Viennese museum where it can’t hurt anyone (unless of course, someone tries to drive it).
So it would seem that Shakespeare was right. There are more things in heaven and earth that we may never understand even if our name isn’t Horatio.
Sleep well, dear reader.