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Top 10 Fascinating Secrets Taken To The Grave

Blogball . . . Comments

Taking secrets to the grave is nothing new and eventually we will all most likely have a few secrets we take with us – perhaps to protect others or maybe to protect our own reputation or legacy. Some secrets, because of the historic consequences, or the attention given to them over the years, turn into a kind of mystery. This list consists of 10 such secrets that have been taken to the great beyond.


Axel Erlandson
1884 – 1964


Erlandson started as an alfalfa farmer and started grafting and shaping tree trunks as a hobby. He would later over a period of decades train trees to grow into shapes of his own design. He experimented with birch, ash, elm and weeping willows, making loops, hearts, chairs, spiral staircases, zigzags, rings, birdcages, towers, picture frames and ladders. Erlandson found his trees to be a popular amusement and decided to create his “Tree Circus”. Erlandson would not tell anyone the secrets of his techniques and would carryout his graftings behind screens to protect against spies. Erlandson died in 1964 along with his amazing secret procedure used to propagate his trees.

Interesting Fact: In 1985, after the Tree Circus went out of business the trees were bought by millionaire Michael Bonfante and were transplanted in his amusement park Gilroy Gardens in Gilroy, California.


1840 – 1912

183424 2

On Sept. 8, 1863 a fair-skinned stranger believed to be in his 20s was found by two fishermen at Sandy Cove in Digby County Canada. Both of the man’s legs had been freshly amputated and a jug of water and some bread had been placed nearby. The man was unable or unwilling to speak and is said to have uttered no more than two or three words after being found. One of the words was thought to have been Jerome and he was soon given that name. Jerome was filled with rage when certain words were spoken which led many to believe Jerome was carrying some kind of secret that he was not allowed to say. Jerome conducted himself with dignity and when offered money he would appear humiliated. There are many theories to who Jerome really was but no story has ever been proven. Jerome died April 19, 1912.

Interesting Fact: Jerome continues to be part of the collective psyche of the community where he was found. A residence for the handicapped has been named after him, songs have been written about him and he has also been depicted in paintings and a film.


The Female Stranger
1793 – 1816


During the fall of 1816 in Alexandria Virginia two people, a man and his wife walked into the Gadsby’s Tavern Hotel. The woman was ill and it was thought she was suffering from Typhoid fever. The woman’s condition continued to deteriorate despite being attended by one of Alexandria’s doctors. The husband then summoned the doctor and hotel staff and even the owner’s wife to the room to ask a very unusual request: He asked that everyone present swear an oath never to reveal their identities. All agreed and each took the secret to the grave. Several days after the oath was taken the Female Stranger died and to this day no one knows their identity. Before disappearing, her husband commissioned an extravagant headstone and buried her at St. Paul’s Cemetery in Alexandria Virginia.

Interesting Fact: The engraving on the headstone reads:

To the Memory of a
whose mortal sufferings terminated
on the 14th day of October 1816
Aged 23 years and 8 months.
This stone is placed here by her disconsolate
Husband in whose arms she sighed out her
latest breath and who under God
did his utmost even to soothe the cold
dead ear of death.
How loved how valued once avails thee not
To whom related or by whom begot
A heap of dust alone remains of thee
Tis all thou art and all the proud shall be
To him gave all the Prophets witness that
through his name whosoever believeth in
him shall receive remission of sins.
Acts.10th Chap.43rd verse


The Leather Man
circa 1839 – 1889

Cmyk Lman

The Leather Man was a wandering vagrant who traveled in an endless 365-mile circle between the Connecticut and Hudson rivers. He was Fluent in French but communicated mostly with grunts and gestures and dressed in crudely stitched leather from his hat to his shoes. He picked up cigar butts along his way and gratefully accepted offerings of fresh tobacco or cigars that townsfolk would give him as he walked silently through their villages. When asked of his background he would abruptly end the conversation. He was so reliable in his rounds that people would have extra food ready for him at a certain time every 34 days. It is unknown how he earned money, although one store kept a record of his order: “one loaf of bread, a can of sardines, one-pound of fancy crackers, a pie, two quarts of coffee, one gill of brandy and a bottle of beer.” After a blizzard in March 1889 the Leather Man’s body was found in his Saw Mill Woods cave in Sing Sing, NY. He died from cancer of the mouth most likely due to tobacco use. His bag was found next to him and contained leather working equipment such as scissors, awls, wedges, a small axe and a small prayer book which was in French.

Interesting Fact: The Leatherman’s tombstone reads, “Final resting place of Jules Bourglay of Lyons, France, “The Leather Man”. However the story published in the newspaper that claimed to know his real name was later retracted. According to researchers his identity still remains unknown.


Arne Beurling
1905 – 1986


Arne Beurling was a Swedish mathematician and professor of mathematics. In 1940 the mathematician broke the German code used for strategic military communications. This accomplishment is considered by many to be one of the greatest achievements in the history of cryptography. Using only teleprinter tapes and cipher text, he deciphered the code that the Germans believed impossible to crack in just two weeks. Beurling created a device that enabled Sweden to decipher German teleprinter traffic passing through Sweden from Norway on a cable. When Beurling was asked how he broke the code he replied, “A magician does not reveal his secrets”.

Interesting Fact: Beurling code breaking allowed Swedish authorities to know about Operation Barbarossa (The codename for Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union) before it occurred.


James Black
1800 – 1872

Ar Black James

James Black was an Arkansas blacksmith and the creator of the original Bowie knife designed by Jim Bowie. Bowie was already famous for knife-fighting from his 1827 sandbar duel. But his killing of three assassins in Texas and his death at the Battle of the Alamo made him, and the blacksmith’s knife, legends. Black’s knives were known to be exceedingly tough yet flexible. Black kept his methods for creating the knife very secret and did all of his work behind a leather curtain. Many claim that Black rediscovered the secret to producing Damascus steel which is a type of steel used in Middle Eastern sword making from 1100 to 1700 that could cut through lesser quality European swords. The original techniques to make James Black’s knife cannot be duplicated even today. Black died on 22 June 1872 in Washington, Arkansas.

Interesting Fact: In 1839 shortly after Black’s wife’s death, he was nearly blinded when his father-in-law and former partner broke into his home and attacked him with a club, having objected to his daughter having married Black years earlier. After the attack Black was no longer able to continue in his trade.


Edward Leedskalnin
1887 – 1951


Edward Leedskalnin was a Latvian emigrant to the United States and amateur sculptor. Leedskalnin single-handedly built the monument known as Coral Castle in Florida and is also known for his unusual theories on magnetism. Leedskalnin was only 5-ft. tall and weighed 100-lbs and aligned many of his stones astronomically and integrated them into a grand architectural plan based on mathematical and astronomical data. Leedskalnin used only simple tools to cut, trim and assemble over 3 million pounds of dense coral blocks to build his castles. When asked, “How did you build the Castle?” he replied, “It’s not difficult really the secret is in knowing how.” When Leedskalnin moved his Coral Castle ten miles away to Homestead Florida he asked the trucker to look away when it came time to load and unload the coral stones. Leedskalnin died from malnutrition due to stomach cancer in 1951 at the age of 64 without ever revealing his secret.

Interesting Fact: Billy Idol wrote and recorded the song “Sweet Sixteen” and filmed the video in the Coral Castle. The song was inspired by the story of Leedskalnin’s former love, Agnes Scuffs, who is believed to be the main reason Leedskalnin built the Coral Castles.


Johann Bessler
1680 – 1745


Johann Bessler was born in Zittau, Germany and built a machine that he claimed was self-moving. By 1717, he had convinced thousands of people, from the ordinary to the most prominent that he had indeed discovered the secret of a self-sustaining mechanism. The machine underwent numerous tests and passed rigorous inspections. It was made to do heavy work for long periods, and in an official test it ran continuously for 54 days. The internal design of the machine was always closely guarded by its inventor. Plagued by paranoia and a nasty temper and with no patent laws to protect him Bessler destroyed the machines in a fit of anger and took his secret to the grave. The true motive power behind Bessler’s demonstrations, and the energy source which moved the wheel’s internal weights still remain unexplained. Obviously a machine like this violates the law of conservation of energy, which states that energy can never be created or destroyed but it should then be asked how did Bessler fool so many people for so many years?

Interesting Fact: Recently, a series of coded features has been discovered among various papers published by Bessler. He constructed a variety of codes from very simple to very complex which would in time could be collected together to reveal his secret. Some of these codes have been solved but many others remain un-deciphered.


Benjamin Franklin
1706 – 1790

Picture 1-52

Benjamin Franklin is one of the most well known Founding Fathers of the United States. Other talents included author, printer, satirist, political theorist, politician, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman and diplomat. In 1730 Franklin acknowledged an illegitimate and only son William. He was raised by his father Ben and his common-law wife Deborah Rea. Some of the many theories speculated is that the reason for not disclosing William’s mother is the couple was not married when William was born and Franklin wanted to take all of the blame so as not to allow any dishonor to come to Deborah. Other evidence suggests his mother was a prostitute. William’s mother official identity still remains unknown.

Interesting Fact: In 1752 when William was 21 he assisted his father in the famed kite experiment. William later became a steadfast Loyalist throughout the Revolutionary War despite his father’s role as one of the most prominent Patriots during the conflict, a difference that tore the two apart.


Antonio Stradivari
1644 – 1737


Stradivari was an Italian crafter of stringed instruments such as violins, cellos, guitars and harps. For centuries scientists and historians have tried to figure out Stradivari’s secret to his instrument making. Recently modern research tools and devices such as scanning lasers are aiding researchers in testing the theory that the careful shaping of belly and back plate, in order to “tune” their resonant frequencies could be an important factor. Glues and varnishes used by Stradivari have also been analyzed extensively and could also attribute for the sound and quality of his instruments. Experts concede there remains no consensus on the single most probable factor to explain the superior sound of the Stradivarius and most likely it is some combination of all, and something not yet recognized.

Interesting Fact: It is estimated that Stradivari made around 1100 instruments. Today only 650 instruments remain, including approximately 500 violins.

Contributor: Blogball

  • scarlet_tears

    great list..

  • sugen

    interesting piece…love it

  • lily

    thank god finally a bizarre list

  • scarlet_tears

    i would like to know how number 6 did it..

    number 8 gives me the creeps..

  • sharlu

    wow interesting list! never heard of any of these

  • gollum

    Number 6 could have been jesus and mary magdeline. i would like to be the leatherman but i would have done it naked.

  • Ash

    Interesting list
    Makes you wonder what other things we don’t know because people were stubborn enough to take it to the grave

  • The Dude

    i like lists like this!

  • faunadestia


  • Ella

    These are my favourite types of lists!

  • astraya

    Great list, Blogball! I’ve learned 9 new things in the last few minutes.

  • geronimo

    another very informative list….

  • downhighway61

    Kinda creepy.

    Sing Sing is a prison, Ossining is now the name of the town :)

  • Wildlifeman

    Interesting list. I saw a show on TV some time ago that ptheorized that Stradivari’s instruments unique quality was due to the wood he used. I can’t remember the details but I believe it had something to do with the closeness of the rings of the wood due to drought conditions in the years preceding Stradivari’s life. Apparently the ratio of wide and narrow rings in the wood used was the key (but not only) reason for his instruments standing apart from others. Hopefully someone else will remember what show it was and have a better recollection of the theory offered.

    • guest

      Actually you’re pretty close.

      The theory goes that around Stradivari’s time (a 100 or so years before) europe went through a mini ice-age, thus forcing the growth of the wood to be more compact, effectively tightening the annular rings of the wood during growth. Legend has it he used these particular trees when constructing his instruments, and as a guitar builder myself I can testify through a series of experiments that tighter-grained wood has a higher capacity of reflection of soundwaves (whereas looser grained woods have a higher propensity of absorbing vibration through air pockets) thereby increasing volume output and audible harmonic content.

      His method of varnishing his instruments is also revolutionnary, using a thin and incredibly solid varnish that minimally impacted wood vibration capacity, the constitution of which I would be unable to specify here. Also his glues were most likely self-made using tendons and cartilage of animals, mostly rabbit and deer and other indigenous, rapid-moving animals. Tendon and cartilage have extremely high tensile strength with low density and superior flexibility, making them an ideal base for creation of a polyvalent, lightweight and durable adhesive substance.

      His implementation of standard luthier techniques was spot on, and he even further developed techniques by experimenting and rigorously testing different internal and external bracing patterns (the bridge, in strict acoustic terms, is considered a brace.).

      Hope this shines some light!

  • Nicosia

    Awesome list! Number 9 is the most perplexing to me…

  • Pyderz

    Good stuff, first one is my favorite Axel Erlandson.
    Think thats amazing, i was look at some of the other trees on google, wow.
    Werid how nobody else knows how still in this day and age.
    Good list.

  • Tricia

    This is an awesome list. Theres a huge part of me though that’s going to wonder who the female stranger was. Has anyone tried to figure out who she was? Are there any theories?

  • londonafter

    i’d kill anyone for a stradivarius violin!!

  • Hayley_Will


  • Kris

    I was surprised to not see something about Alexei Ivanovich Abrikosov. He embalmed Vladimir Lenin’s body (and that of a young girl, if I’m not mistaken) and if my memory serves, no one knows how he did it. Lenin’s body is still on display at the Lenin Mausoleum.

    Still, great list. Cool stuff.

  • sugen

    lodonafter: please don’t…

  • Fairy

    Interesting list and great choice of images. Number 9 is particularly amusing. It must be really challenging to get these lists together..
    Keep up the good work :)

  • Black-Yami-Cat

    Awesome list! I liked the “identity” secrets better than the stuff that people made, although that’s probably just me being odd. Still, the Leather Man was interesting.

    Around where I live, there’s a guy with dreadlocks who, every 2 weeks, on the dot, asks everyone he sees for £1.50 for a pie. We think he’s great.

  • Ghidoran


  • RavinDave

    Dega took to his grave a recipe for a fixing agent that he applied to his pastels. Modern fixers tend to discolor — even ruin — pastels drawings.

  • MT

    Nice list. I learned a few new things from it.

  • Arnaud

    I really thought you would mention Pierre de Fermat and his famous theorem (If an integer n is greater than 2, then the equation a n + b n = c n has no solutions in non-zero integers a, b, and c.)

    In 1637 he wrote in a book: “I have a truly marvellous proof of this proposition which this margin is too narrow to contain.”

    But never told what his proof was…

    It was only in 1995, more than 350 years after, that Fermat’s theorem was properly proved by Andrew Wiles.

  • Kreachure

    Wow. Fascinating list indeed. I hadn’t heard of most of these, even though they’re so mysterious and mind-boggling (which is right up my alley :D ).

    I was particularly impressed by Johann’s perpetual motion machine, since it seems so legitimate (for a machine that’s impossible to build!). Also, I knew about the great sound quality of a Stradivarius, but I didn’t know it defied modern explanation as to how exactly it provides such quality.

    If you ask me, this is one of the best lists of the year. Thanks, Blogball! :)

  • Ernmas

    And to think, I live close to the Gadsby’s Tavern and never knew this story. I guess I’ll have to stop in and check it out along with the cemetery. I always see the sign for the Tavern/Museum from the highway when driving into Washington DC.

    I knew of Leedskalnin and his Coral Castle but had no idea that Billy Idol filmed a video there. How interesting. I learned a lot from this list. Great job, Blogball!

  • jake ryder

    Very nice. I feel smarter today.

  • khen913

    It’s list like this that got me into this site! Great list, very fascinating!

  • Kalyan

    I was looking for an entry about Alfredo Salafia who preserved the body of Rosalia Lombardo. Surprised it was missing from the list.

  • Quiana

    Awesome job. Now I can get to work.

  • charlimara

    interesting list. mysteries of the unexplained and fascinating facts are my favorite kind

  • Biggings

    Great list! Also did you know that when Napoleon went over to Egypt with his troops, going in a pyramid alone he saw something he could not believe, and coming out all shocked his troops were wondering what he saw but he didn’t tell them. On his deathbed whwn some of his troops asked him what he saw in the pyramid, he thought about telling it but said “what’s the point, you’ll never believe me anyway’s.”

  • Saruka
  • postman

    I would’ve thought that Casper Hauser would’ve been on the list.

  • Lauren

    Awesome list! Number 9 is the most interesting to me.

  • Wally

    Sick list Blogball. One of the best lists I have seen in months on this site!!

    Postman** He is on a couple of other lists already

  • kiwiboi

    In 1637 he wrote in a book: “I have a truly marvellous proof of this proposition which this margin is too narrow to contain.”

    Arnaud – I don’t know about you, but I always thought that Fermat was having a little(?) joke, and that he never had a proof. Of course, he may, mistakenly have thought he had one.

    But, there’s no denying that Fermat was indeed a genius.

  • steve d

    What is the movie about #9, Jerome, called? When was it made? Sounds interesting. Great list. Thoroughly researched.

  • sugen
  • EricB

    I’ve heard that the Little Ice Age that took place near Stradivari’s life had something to do with his work. If I remember right, the unusual weather conditions of that time made the wood he used grow in unusual ways leading to his unique instruments.

    Good list though. Love these historical ones.

  • Andree

    Thanks blogball!

  • robbiedigital

    Here’s the kite experiment(#2 – Ben Franklin) re-enacted by Jack Black. Historically accurate… least as I liked to think it happened.

  • sugen

    I believe Fermat had a solution no matter what people might think. How was the Pyramids of Egypt built, who built them, what technology was behind it…there are a lot of things we do not understand now, which took place thousands of years ago. So why not Fermat…we can argue that there was no solution because he died with it. However, if he had presented it we clearly would have understood. Besides, there are more ways to prove a theory, aren’t there?

  • XxXImagineXxX

    Loved the list, thought it was cool

  • Jayme

    What about Jack Daniels’ 7 on all his bottles. I took the tour at the Jack Daniels place in Tennessee and they said no one knows what the meaning of that 7 is. Some say it is how many children he has, wives, or how many tries it took to make the famous whiskey. It is not how many ingredients.

  • logar

    I remember seeing a couple of these on “In Search Of” when I was small. I remember Edward Leedskalnin in particular- his story always fascinated me.

    Love the list- it’s ones like these that keep me coming back!

  • YogiBarrister

    Great list! How about Edward de Vere. The man wrote most of the plays, and all of the sonnets that we attribute to William Shakespeare.

  • damien_karras

    Tell me the secret to the perpetual motion machine!!! I will mow your lawn and shovel your driveway for this information

  • Carrie

    I’ve seen the Circus Trees (#10) at Gilroy Gardens a couple times. They’re really cool. Pictures don’t do them justice, you have to see them close up.

  • Sharki


    That could make a great list itself, “The Top Five Alternate Theories for the Authorship of Sheakspears works”

  • Joss

    Wonderful list! I can’t wait to google these…

  • Mom424

    Great List Blogball! Fascinating and original. Keep ’em coming.

    I saw the PBS special about the violins too; I do recall that the ring/growth pattern of the wood was unique, but they still couldn’t get it perfect. Something to do with the way the wood was cured/dried is part of the continuing mystery.

  • Yan Ohayon

    You COMPLETELY missed Tesla. My g-d now there is an inventor that took his secrets to the grave!

  • Brickhouse

    Wonderful list! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I love tree-shaping and I’m definitely Googling #10. It’s also fascinating to now know why Stradivarius violins are so sought after. Thanks! :D

  • smurff

    Ive been a dedicated LS for quite a while now – but this list is one of the best Ive seen in a long time.

    Good research


  • jadism

    nice list.

    dip out on work and stumble across this little gem…

  • guy

    i was watching something about number 4 and this edward guy was saying stuff like “i know how they built the pyramids and stuff” it was pretty cool.
    good list.

  • that guy

    Great list! It seems like such a waste and loss that some of these great secrets for metal, stone and wood working should be lost to all of humanity due to one person’s stubborn nature. Think of the good that a perpetual motion machine (if that’s what it truly was, and I’m dubious) would be.

  • em

    Very cool list!
    This site has pics of #4 lifting the coral with a “tripod”.

  • em

    Whoops! Here’s the proper link…

  • Christine

    Awesome list Blogball, I love these mystery ones! I love them even though they drive me nuts because we don’t know the answers… *sigh* haha..

  • thuss

    great list

  • flibbertigibbet

    Very interesting list, though a little maddening. I’ll be wondering about them all day, especially #9. On #8, though, unless I’m mistaken, the mystery is who she was? The man made them promise not to tell? It’s an odd one to me, because if they had been just anybody, you’d barely remember them now. The second the guy says “swear not to tell”, it becomes this huge mystery. It’s one of those things that you know for a fact would be a complete disappointment if you learned the truth.

  • Wonderful list, Blogball. I learned some things, and found some things to delve into. That makes a perfect list for me.

  • Realist

    Probably the best list published on this site in a while.

    Very well done. Thank you.

  • Festus

    Fascinating list, but the genius of Nikola Tesla has been overlooked, yet again. Much of his work with electricity and magnetism is still not understood by today’s scientists. His mysterious “black box” is one of his most interesting experiments that has never been explained. This is a very interesting list, but it is incomplete without the enigmatic genius Tesla.

  • Tickles

    I agree that Tesla is missing. Thomas Edison saw his as a threat and a rival but could never equal nor replicate much of Tesla’s work. We always hear about Edison, while Tesla is often thought of as the name of a bad 80’s hair band.

  • Jackie

    66) I think a lot of the mystery is why the heck did they care so much about their identities not being revealed?

  • Jackie

    oops that was for flibbertigibbet I didn’t make that clear

  • Shibari Hime

    Number 1 has ALWAYS interested me. I am a Luthier and used to work for a family owned luthier buisness in Hilo Hawaii called Melody and Harmony Creations. Though now retired we sold Ukuleles and guitars world wide. Some of the ones I created have even been used in live concerts in Japan which I think is pretty cool. ^_^ We made the Pulelehua Ukuleles and guitars. We also fixed a wide range of stringed intstruments. I can say from experinece in crafting such tings from blocks of wood that the shape, density, glue and laquer all play a vital part in sound quality. As does wood choice, bone choice, strings and virtually ever part of the stringed instrument help it to produce a different and unique to that 1 instrument kind of sound. It baffles me at the quality produced and time involved in making these instruments in his life (1644-1737). It may take YEARS for 1 instrument to be finished to the masters liking. Not to mention they did not have the benifit of power tools!! It is time honored labours of love like those in the arts that are slowly wilting out of our societies. I feel everyone should learn how to create something they never thought they could at least once in thier life. You will appreciate the learning of it more then you can anticipate right now. ^_^ Whod’a thunk an Alaskan girl would make Ukuleles after all? See ANYONE can be ANYTHING if the try hard enough….. well almost anything…. I still haven’t sprouted a cats tail. **giggles**

  • Ben

    I read this list expecting Tesla to come in at #1. Needless to say I was a bit disappointed. Nevertheless a nice little list.

  • Blogball

    Thank you Listversers for all the positive comments! I really learned a lot of neat stuff from doing the research on these people and some others that I left off. Yan Ohayon , Festus , Tickles & Ben, believe it or not I almost included Tesla but the more I read about the “black box” to power his car the more it seemed like it was more of a tall tale than fact.
    There may be other Tesla secrets that are legitimate but I couldn’t find anything particular that still remains unknown from all of his great work.
    Poor Tesla …he seems to always get left off of the Listverse lists. :-(

  • Perplexed

    Very interesting list. I wondered about Tesla as well but did he take his secrets with him or did someone take his inventions and papers after his death?

  • Worldbeing

    Some pretty interesting people…
    But where on earth was Fermat?

  • unca

    Once again, Blogball comes through with a fascinating and well-researched list. Nice job.


    brilliant list…so compelling…so enlightning

  • g

    My violin professor plays a Stradivari and it is one of the most beautiful things i have ever heard in my life! One interesting explanation I have heard is that the mini ice age that was going on during that time period caused trees to grow slower and thus yield denser wood.

  • fudrick

    I already knew about the Ben Franklin thing, considering “William” is thought to be my greatx7grandfather on my mom’s side, William Hewson’s wife’s son with Ben Franklin. This would make Ben Franklin my greatx8grandfather, or however you say that. I think that’s pretty cool.

  • Shelly

    I’m happy to see Edward Leedskalnin made the list. Of all the mysteries I know of, his intrigues me the most. This man more than likely knew the secret to how the pyramids were really built.

    Fascinating list!

  • Rising Falls

    8 and 5 are the best in my opinion. Number 8 could involve a woman of very high status. I would have liked to know James Black’s secret too. Always wanted to cut through other people’s swords. But really, would be awesome to know.

  • dole

    Ok, ok already. This is a good list but not the best list ever. I admit the last few list have been a little bland but just because a bunch of some weird stuff is printed doesn’t make blogball a genius.

  • Blogball

    dole, just for that I’m taking the secret I used to create this list to the grave. :-)

  • Pudding4me

    This list is awesome, I think the most interesting one was Arne Beurling.

    But you missed one HUGGGGGGGGE one:

    Grigori Rasputin. I mean how did he heal Alexi? How did he not die after consuming enough cyanide to kill 4 men, shot 4 times, thrown into an icy river, stabbed and beaten?
    The way he lived and the way he died to day is still a mystery

  • Hannah

    Fascinating list!

  • dole

    That was funny. Have you been waiting for just the right time to use that line. You know that “kill ’em with kindness” bit gets me every time. Perhaps you are smarter than I thought.

  • astraya

    Rasputin might not have known.

  • tobbytoy

    7 and 9 don’t belong on this list. they are potentially not even secrets taken to the grave at all if the person allegedly holding the secret has no recollection of who he or she was. The rest of the list was interesting though.

  • dunderminion07

    Actually, the strativari instruments were believed to have been made with wood that had breen preserved from the ice age.

  • ebmg333

    You forgot James Smithson, the British scientist who, in his will, awarded his entire estate and fortune to become the Smithsonian Museum. The mystery is why he left his fortune to America. He had never traveled to the United States and had no correspondence with anyone there.

  • Nat

    Interesting list. You should have included the man in the Iron mask perhaps :3

  • jhoyce07

    great list jfrater..more! more! ü

  • Bacon

    The story of Jerome creeps the hell out of me.

  • bootlicker

    Great list! As others have said, this kind of list is what attracted me to listverse in the first place.

    I would add Lee Harvey Oswald. Only he knows if he acted alone.

  • addy

    Very similar to #5 was F.J. Richtig, the village blacksmith of Clarkson Nebraska. He had a method of making knives that allowed him to hammer them through nails, pieces of an anvil, parts of rail road ties, etc. and they would still remain razor sharp. This was featured in a Ripley’s believe it or not book.

    Since he had no apprentice and his son was uninterested in his fathers craft the secret died with Richtig.

    There are still a lot of his knives floating around the midwest still in use. His kitchen knives were rather crude in appearance but his custom made hunting knives are considered quite valuable and sought after.

  • Great list.

  • Precision

    Fascinating list, really makes you wonder about how much information has been lost to humanity over the centuries. It’s a little sobering to think that there are still some relatively simple concepts and ideas out there that we still have no idea about.

    My favourite entry was the perpetual motion machine. I’m naturally sceptical about the existence of such a device, but IF it did exist…wow. The amount of theory regarding conservation of energy that would be rendered invalid is simply mind boggling.

  • rafterman

    “The original techniques to make James Black’s knife cannot be duplicated even today.”

    If this is implying that modern steel still can’t compare to James Black’s steel he created, it is completely false. The tensile strength and ductility of today’s steel is not even a comparison.

  • evilk8

    i wish i’d read this when we did a crossword the other day. I could for the life of me remember who was considered to make the best violins!

  • candi-sue

    My favorite list ever…

  • Tricia

    Bootlicker: Some would say if Lee Harvey Oswald acted at all. It was never published, but my US history teacher in high school wrote a book that talks about all the theories that surround JFK’s death. I never got a chance to read it but would have liked to.

  • TheLordsCanary

    Cool list! I think I saw one of the remaining Stradivari violins in a museum when I visited Spain over the summer. It was a beautiful instrument (from what I could tell on the other side of the glass), but I had no idea it was so shrouded in mystery.

  • Idreno

    This is an awesome list! I have three to contribute:
    1) Who was Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved. Maynard Solomon, in his wonderful biography, makes a convincing argument that it was Antonie Brentano…but it is something we will never know for certain.

    2)Mozart’s death. His cause of death is still disputed by scholars and historians. One fact is known, Salieri had nothing to do with it (The play and movie, great as they are, Amadeus, are not historically accurate).

    3)Tchaikovsky’s death. It was always believed that he died of cholera…but there is much evidence to support that he committed suicide because he was blackmailed to do so. Apparently evidence of his homosexuality had leaked to some important figures in Russia and he was given two choices…death or exile from the land that he adored so much. His brother, Modest, was his biographer and is believed to have created the scenario for his brother’s death…although there are over 10 extremely different accounts of when Tchaikovsky drank the so-called fateful glass of unboiled water. Clearly there was a cover up!

    I hope there will be a part 2 of this list soon!!

  • jahblum

    Nice list, what about the man who could turn water into wine.

  • Teapixie

    What a completely fabulous list. I love a good enigma.

  • SteFoster

    Great list. Very interesting

  • V.E.G.

    Angelo Faticoni never did reveal the secret in how he became the Human Cork and he received his buoyancy.
    Agatha Christie never told anyone about her missing 11 days.
    Alexander Hanos from Craig, Colorado never told anyone his secret recipe for the salad dressing.

  • V.E.G.

    Thomas Jefferson Beale’s remaining two ciphers remains a mystery.
    James Michener’s heritage remains unknown (he could be part Jewish or part African-American or part Muslim or part Russian or part Irish or part Native American or part Mexican or part Puerto Rican or part Spanish or part Portugese, or part Greek or probably not Oriental or part German or part French or part Swedish or part Norwegian or part Finnish or part Danish or part Bulgarian or part Belgian or part Dutch.)

  • Dana

    Absolutely Fascinating!

  • Great list! But like a pp mentioned, I won’t be able to stop thinking about these for a while … frustrating! But in a good way ^_~

  • specialk

    As an addendum to number 7, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam wrote a song about The Leatherman, appropriately entitled “Leatherman”. It never made it onto any album, but was B-side of a single released in 1998.

    They play live from time to time and has become a fan favorite of sorts among the more loyal followers of the band.

    Here’s a link to one of the live performances of the song:

    And here’s the lyrics:

    I heard about a man to whom I may be related.
    He’s leatherman.
    Died a long time ago in the 1880’s. Leatherman. Leatherman.
    Covered with leather but it wasn’t tight.
    Underneath a moon in the woods at night.
    Making the rounds ten miles a day. Once a month they’d spot him and here’s what they’d say.
    “Here he comes. He’s a man of the land. He’s leatherman
    Smile on his face. Axe in his bag.
    He’s leatherman. Leatherman. Leatherman.”
    Comes out of the caves once a day to be fed.
    He wasn’t known to stay much but, “Thanks for the bread.”
    So, modern day I walk my way with my jacket faded just like a man of leather to whom I may be related.
    Rolled cigarette for which he’d ask for a light.
    Appear to be an animal. Yet, so polite.
    Making the rounds ten miles a day. Once a month they’d spot him and here’s what they’d say
    “Here he comes he’s a man of the land. He’s leatherman
    Smile on his face. Axe in his hand.
    He’s leatherman. Leatherman. Leatherman.”
    Leatherman. Leatherman.
    Shake his hand. He’s leatherman. Bake some bread. He’s leatherman.
    Shame he’s dead. I saw his bed.
    It’s all that’s left of leatherman. Leatherman.
    Give me some skin Leatherman.

  • specialk
  • JFisagod

    Re: Johann Bessler

    Perpetual motion machine solution? There was a GUY inside the machine!

  • Paul

    what about einsteins last words? he might have revealed the secrets of the universe and we’ll never know cause his nurse didn’t speak german

  • redhawt

    Ahh Jerome. Growing up in Nova Scotia, where Digby County is located (and the province should have been listed in the fact), we’ve all heard about this story. :)

  • Hillery

    I went from the most recent list (top badasses), hit the stumble button, and here I am! What a coinci-dink.

  • LadyPit

    This is really an excellent list with “secrets” I didn´t know.

  • LadyPit

    Here is another secret:
    Naples’ Cappella Sansevero is a Baroque explosion mourning the body of Christ, who lies on a soft pillow under an incredibly realistic veil. It’s also the personal chapel of Raimondo de Sangro, an eccentric Freemason. The monuments to his relatives have a second purpose: to share the Freemason philosophy of freedom through enlightenment.
    Giuseppe Sammartino’s Veiled Christ.
    Giuseppe Sammartino’s Veiled Christ.

    Study the incredible Veiled Christ in the center. Carved out of marble, it’s like no other statue I’ve seen (by Giuseppe “Howdeedoodat” Sammartino, 1753). The Christian message (Jesus died for our salvation) is accompanied by a Freemason message (the veil represents how the body and ego are an obstacle to real spiritual freedom). As you walk from Christ’s feet to his head, notice how the expression of Jesus’ face goes from suffering to peace.

    Raimondo de Sangro lies buried at the far (altar) end. An inventor, he created the deep-green pigment used on the ceiling fresco. The inlaid M.C. Escher-esque maze on the floor around de Sangro’s tomb is another Freemason reminder of how the quest for knowledge gets you out of the maze of life.

    To the right of the altar, the statue of Despair struggles with a marble rope net (carved out of a single piece of stone), symbolic of a troubled mind. The Freemason symbolism shows how knowledge — in the guise of an angel — frees the human mind. On the opposite side of the altar from Despair, a veiled woman fingers a broken plaque, symbolizing…something.
    It was never found out how the veil – whioch covers the completed marble figure – nor the net were done. some think it could have done by draping a real veil over the figure and petrifying it with chemicals, but the sculptor never revealed his secret.

  • Cubone

    Awesome list!!
    One of the best!!

  • Sammi


  • Tid Miste

    I was hoping that J.F. Byrne would make it on the list for his infamous Chaocipher machine that encrypts (and decrypts) long strings of words. He died without giving out his secret, except for a couple of hints in his book.

    I really like this list though. I also thought that Albert Einstein would be on here, for what he spoke before he died. He spoke in German, and the nurse taking care of him couldn’t understand him.

  • spitfire111

    i think someone rediscovered Axel Erlandson secret of tree shape manipulation….

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  • Vera Lynn

    They’re not fascinating, but I have secrets that I’ll take to the grave with me. I think many of us do.

  • Not me, Vera Lynn, I’m going to bore the living daylights out of everyone by telling everyone, everything.

  • wispering—“rosebud….”

    naw, just joking

    I luv the list Blogball. Right up my alley.
    some nice ones i hadn’t heard before. (applause).

    A time ago, I had a “famous hobos and vagabonds” list with The Leatherman included. —Never will see the light of day.

    These wonderful enigmatic stories have me thinking of the revealed side of long withheld treasures.
    Like great hoaxes as magic tricks in a way like they used to be—until the end.
    the fog lifting around death time for some.

    Patterson/Gimlin and
    The Wallace Footprints
    comes to mind

  • Shanise822

    I really liked this list. Can you do a follow up with more secrets?

  • fif1189

    Can anyone tell me where to find some stuff on Jerome? Google gave me nothing but the early church saint.

  • Polly Odyssey

    Awesome! Awesome!

    “Jerome” was definitely the most interesting one.

  • Randall


    I agree about the Patterson Bigfoot film. Good point. While I keep an open mind about Bigfoot (which is tough to do, given not only the unlikelihood of such a creature, but the number of hoaxes which have been associated with it) I lean in the direction of believing that the film was faked. I certainly hope that we find out one way or another, someday, for certain. Because I’d also like to know HOW they did it–it’s a good suit (assuming it is a suit) and yet I don’t buy these rumors and theories that it was built in Hollywood or made by John Chambers and so on. Furthermore, if it’s a fake, Patterson’s choreography was very good, and the guy will still deserve a place in history for what was surely the greatest engineered hoax of all time–which doesn’t mean he COULDN’T have engineered it–it just means he did a hell of a job, if he did, and deserves congratulations for it.

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  • Floyd

    Who was the first man to summit Everest?? Both Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary died without revealing who made it to the top first… As a NZer I thought you would have added this to the list

  • Sometimes all the chips fall in the right place.

    Not to say perfection doesn’t exist (well, all right, I’ll say it, “perfection doesn’t exist”), but if one can imagine accidental occurrences (within possible staged situations)that “blur the lines” in a convincing manner, then the initial false becomes enough or even more of a plausible reality.
    What might not start out as a “Grandest of all Grand” hoax, may become such- and years on down the line the original truths get scattered and help generate a larger mystery.

    Today, it may not be considered a good suit by makeup artist standards or a good performance by a guy or gal in a suit. for that matter (it seems the same questions regarding the alien autopsy film were repeated in regards to artificial manufacturing) but the current image/video/film enhancement tools add a compelling layer of detail that, although unavailable at the time, does not reveal a definitive “zipper” or multi ape suit parts(ie: gloves, mask ,ect.) . The fact that time allows within our psyches, to place media within a sense orientation value from which a reliance is sometimes based, to me, is like a distraction.

    I love the Chambers rumor/coverup/wavering possibility/legend, and the article by M.Chorvinsky is damn intriguing, but I am led to believe that Chambers wasn’t directly involved…Although there still is that wavering possibility, which is just great! I love it.
    I wonder if Rick Baker ,“monster maker”, really knows or if he just happened to unwittingly spread the rumor.
    It’s funny to me that you brought up Chambers and that there is a direct connection to director John Landis. This makes me chuckle because he made a film recently about Don Rickles.

    Your use of the word “engineered” and “choreography” is apt in regards to how the shaky camera and objective viewpoint has become a contemporary self-aware option with “reality style” video or the MTV hipster party look, replicating COPS, ect. The effect is to create an faux immediacy and spontaneous response to active “unplanned” situations.

  • bigski


  • astraya

    Floyd: As a NZer, you’ll be pleased to know –

    ‘Tenzing and Hillary were the first people to conclusively set their feet on the summit of Mount Everest, but journalists were persistently repeating the question which of the two men had the right to the glory of being the first one, and who was merely the second, the follower. Colonel Hunt, the expedition leader, declared, “They reached it together, as a team.” Tenzing stressed the unity of such teams and of their achievements. He shrugged off the allegation of ever being pulled by anyone, but disclosed that Hillary was the first to put his foot on the summit. He concluded: “If it is a shame to be the second man on Mount Everest, then I will have to live with this shame.”‘ (wikipedia)

  • Jade

    Awesome list, definitely one of the best!

  • Takaiwa

    In addition,the appreciation of Japanese sword was developed strength inspection of non-destruction.It is big defference compared to Damascus sword. And wave pattern on sword surface is made not only by forging but also by quenching.
    And also beautful wave pattern is controlled by raw material”tamahagane”.So tamahagane is made by ancient steel making “tatara” which Hitachi Metals deal with.

  • gabi

    Great list! I’ve heard of one recently…it’s more magic trick than anything else but I found it fascinating and the man died over ten years ago without telling anyone how he did it.

    One evening Harry was in a London hotel and decided to visit the Puzzle Museum the next morning. When he and his friends had finished their bottle of wine, he took the bottle up to his room. He then filled it with a book of matches, menu, and the pack of cards as a gift for us. This is a particular favorite as he assured us that the only tools he had were a pencil and rubber bands.

    Here’s the complete link with some really interesting photos.

  • jan

    Edward Leedskalnin is fascinating! Hah, it’s hard to believe that even with all the technology and ‘engineering’ we have today no one has figured out how he did it. His work is a great example that nothing is impossible–if we think something is impossible, it means we just don’t understand how such a thing can be.

    I think also Alfredo Salafia belongs to this list, no one else knew his techniques to preserve a corpse so life-like! Take a look at the body of Rosalia he embalmed, after 200 years …

  • jan

    jahblum, i like your comment :) i think though… it’s not really a ‘secret’… he revealed it ;) “if ye have faith as a mustard seed, say unto this mountain….” ….

  • 139. jan:…Take a look at the body of Rosalia he embalmed, after 200 years…
    uh, jan, that’s 89 years. Rosalia Lombardo died in 1920. I’m not real good at math, either, but this was sort of glaring.

  • jan

    oh my bad! i remember ‘200 years’ from somewhere but that must be referring to something else.. thanks for the correction :)

  • bluewitch

    How about KASPAR HAUSER? There is also the case of the dead man on the bench. I forgot some of information. This guy was found dead in a bench. There were a lot of theories about his identity such as he was a secret agent from Russia or Germany. His body was neat and well-groomed.

    I checked Rosalia Lombardo’s case and as of Wikipedia, Dr. Alfredo Salafia’s written formula was found.

  • fermat

    Pierre de Fermat should be on this list. He said “It is impossible to separate a cube into two cubes, or a fourth power into two fourth powers, or in general, any power higher than the second into two like powers. I have discovered a truly marvelous proof of this, which this margin is too narrow to contain.” He died without publishing a proof. Andrew Wiles came up with a proof but it used methods unknown to Fermat.

  • dbrownl

    love this list…

  • Matt

    D.B. Cooper didnt make it on here

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  • AzureLioness

    This one’s my favourite!!! :)

  • tripsyman

    excellent list. I think I will make up some mysterious secret and tease people with it until I snuff it – then leave the suckers mystefied

  • Carie

    Hey nice list. I came to this website actually looking for how the sculptures in sanserevo were made. I saw them on an episode of rick steves today and was awestruck! how is the statue David so famous? there is a net carved of stone, and a veil of stone… and they are hidden in the basement of and old italian church. I just cant believe it.
    But those trees were pretty cool too. seems easy enough when you read how the basics of construction were carried out. lol i want to try to make a peace tree but i just wouldnt have the patience to wait for it all to grow

  • Redisca

    Judging from descriptions of Jerome here and that I have been able to Google, it’s quite possible he was autistic. Of course, it’s difficult to diagnose someone who is dead, and I am not a doctor, but the tell-tale signs are there: near inability to verbalize, severely impaired communication skills, sensitivity to certain sounds and words, temper tantrums, lack of interest in any hobby or “normal” activity (he would sit for hours on the porch or by the fire doing absolutely nothing); the difficulty of gauging his reactions to speech (some said he did not seem to understand language at all, others said that he seemed to understand SEVERAL languages, and he likely did). In the photo, which I believe is the only one of him, he isn’t looking into the camera, which would also be consistent with autism.

    If this was the true nature of his condition, then his legs were probably amputated by whoever had been taking care of him. Maybe he had a tendency to wander off. Which would make it less of a mystery and even more of a tragedy.

  • OnetimeBlueboy

    What about the identity of “Mrs. Calabash”?Jimmy Durante ended every appearance by wishing her “Good night, wherever you are…”, yet never revealed who she was…

  • platinum ninja

    number 4——- should it be:

    Edward Leedskalnin was a Latvian IMMIGRANT to the United States and amateur sculptor


    Edward Leedskalnin was a Latvian emigrant FROM LATVIA and amateur sculptor

    lol. I’m sorry for being OC. That’s my job. I’m a proofreader for english books and dictionaries. :)

    • Oui

      No, you’re not a proofreader, you’re a ninja. Ninja don’t even speak English.

  • anon

    Number 2 sucks.
    Shouldn’t be on the list.

  • MacDimples

    As for the female stranger could anyone rule out Anastacia, the Russian Princess? If it was going to be someone famous it would have to be someone they all knew, globally, at the time.

  • Twyst

    Stradivari constructed his instruments about 60 years after the little ice age. This period of great cooling led to trees slowing their growing process, and resulting in the most dense wood on record. Using this wood gave the great resonance to the instruments.

  • gothic

    One of the most fascinating secrets is the electric car invented by Nikola Tesla in 1931.

  • iamsocruel

    this is the main theory/answer to number 8 on the list

  • Dropshot004

    They’re missing greek fire for sure

  • Lee06

    It seems like they solved Jerome’s mystery.
    Edward Leedskalnin

  • Lee06

    Sorry copy and paste fail. Just go on youtube and look up Jerome Mystery.

    They say he was traumatized in a blizzard or something and he got his legs amputated to save his life. But the people in the town didn’t want to take care of him so they gave these people money to ship somewhere else. They ditched Jerome and left with his money.

  • Kenji

    I heard the strat violins were made like that because the wood at the time was different. The trees he got them from were from the ice age and therefore didnt get enough sun? or something….

  • zark169

    In relation to 6, I believe the device the Nazis were using existed elsewhere in the world because it was made by a British inventor in the 30s. If cryptography was part of Arne’s career I find it more likely he was aware of the device or its functionality and really only took the time to recreate its workings.

  • First?.. Lol!

    Awesome list, Blogball!

  • anna

    Why dind't that scientist is included that had the secret recipie of turning the things into gold?

  • TheCJ

    I really wish number 10 would have wrote down how he did it, somewhere. I can just imagine if he had today there would be parks with heart-shaped trees and tree-shapped entrances and seating. It would be like a wonderland! I would enjoy it very much, that much I know. How better to make the world a more aesthetic place to live?

    Why Axel, why? >:

  • L

    the stradivarius great sound quality is a mystery.

  • Marin

    What about Nikola Tesla…? The inventor of the first induction motor, ultimately AC electricity.

    He claimed he was able to efficiently transfer power wirelessly over distances in the ranges of football fields, wheras currently wireless power transfer is efficient to only a few centimeters. He also had a plan to harness energy from the ionosphere…

    I think he should be on the list.

  • nana

    What about Einstein's daughter?

  • donnadon

    Interesting articles. I apreciate all these famous people. Good job.

  • I'm suprised you didn't include the infamously genius Nikola Tesla.
    2/3 of his patent are all in his brain while the rest is locked away in the FBI Files.
    If he share his secret,the world would be… more advanced.

  • joez

    The tree one is a well known technique, no secret.
    A lot of these can be explained by people who are escaping their past, which happens today, murder?, affairs.

    But the worst mistake this list made is bessler's, a well known hoax…. and especially strads violins, which were only particularily good because of the way the climate at the time affected the trees he used to make instruments from….. srsly, look it up and stop being lazy and sensational.

  • Don

    You may have to remove #7 Leatherman soon. Researchers have gotten the court's permission to dig him up and perform forensic tests on his remains in the spring of 2011. I think it's shameful, what about you?

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  • Unclhubertlvsya

    I think you should have included Nikola Tesla. He is very mysterious and took many secrets with him.

  • Oui

    This surely the best list I’ve ever read on this site. No shit.

  • Mr. Name Surname

    I wish you would call these ’10 things….’ instead of ‘Top 10 things…’

  • steve

    number 6! It was the mans sister! it must have been a incestual marriage and for that reacson they did not disclose their identities!
    there are clues in the engraving on the tombstone!
    “to whom related or whom begot”
    through “his name” as in they have the same name, and that he asks for forgivness of his sins!

  • bgfbkrd

    “Edward Leedskalnin was a Latvian emigrant to the United States and amateur sculptor. Leedskalnin single-handedly built the monument known as Coral Castle in Florida and is also known for his unusual theories on magnetism”

    This was copied word for word from wikipedia.

    Also, the Bessler machine is known to be a hoax.

  • You must be kidding

    Crappy list and, as the rest, very US-centered. These obscure characters might be interesting for a narrow tunnel-vision American point of view but to be honest, most of us in other countries couldn’t give a fig for them. You call these mysteries?

  • An instrument maker has discovered that violins made from tree logs that were resting at the bottom of swamps (or lakes) have greatly added to the tonality of the instruments. So, it may have been the treatment of the wood, including the stains or varnishes, that made Strats so unique.

  • Edut

    I’ve been to Gilroy Gardens and they grow new circus trees year round. They even will tell you how to do it. No secret there!! The original trees are amazing though. They are huge now an look fake bc they are so amazing

  • Ramses II

    i wonder what the leather mans real name was

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