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Top 10 Strangest Theories About Mysterious Occurrences

by Louisa Naruskiewicz
fact checked by Jamie Frater

With the rise of internet sleuths, true crime podcasts and videos, and discussion forums, it’s safe to say that many people love speculating about real-life mysteries. Social media has allowed people from around the world to connect and share ideas on bizarre occurrences that have puzzled investigators. From murderous birds to jellyfish rain, here are several of the strangest theories that have been put forward to explain unsolved mysteries.

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10Kathleen Peterson Was Killed By An Owl


On December 9th, 2001, novelist Michael Peterson made an emergency call to report that he had found his wife, Kathleen, unconscious at the bottom of a staircase in their mansion around 2:40 a.m. Kathleen was dead when authorities arrived and an autopsy would later show that she had died from blood loss about two hours after her fall. There were also injuries on the back of her head consistent with blunt force, and the coroner stated that he believed she had not died from a fall, but may have been beaten. Alcohol was also found in her system. Police turned suspicion onto her husband, who they believed may have attacked her with a fireplace poker.

But there was another possible murderer considered: an owl. Several microscopic owl feathers were found in Kathleen’s hair. In court, three experts backed the possibility that an owl had attacked her and caused a deadly fall down the stairs. They also stated that the cuts on her scalp may have been caused by the owl’s talons. Pine needles and clumps of her own hair were found in Kathleen’s hands, which also point to a potential entanglement. If the owl did do it, then he got away with it, as Michael Peterson served eight years in prison for his wife’s death.

9The Dyatlov Pass Incident Was Caused By A Soviet Weapons Test


In January of 1959, ten college students decided to go on a hiking trip in the Ural Mountains of the Soviet Union. One member named Yuri Yudin turned back early because of joint pain. The team was supposed to come back by February 12th, and a search party of their classmates and teachers were sent out to look for them on the 20th. Six days later, the search party found the campsite with nine sets of footprints and two bodies nearby under a pine tree. They continued on and found three more bodies in the snow. It took until May to find the last four hikers at the bottom of a ravine. The evidence at the scene was strange from the beginning. Three bodies had head and chest injuries consistent with intense force similar to that of a car crash. One was missing a tongue. The tent was sliced open from the inside. Several hikers were only in their underwear.

Soviet authorities investigated and decided that six died from hypothermia and three from trauma. They maintain to this day that all the hikers died in an avalanche, but their quick sealing of the case has raised eyebrows and led to alternate theories. Yuri Yudin stated that he believed there was an explosion, possibly from a weapons test, and cover-up by the Soviet military. Strange orange orbs were sighted by other nearby hikers around the time of the incident that some believe could have been a type of bomb. Trace levels of radiation were discovered in the campsite and a scrap of cloth from a military jacket was also found at the scene. The parents of the trip leader Igor Dyatlov also agreed that the military was involved in hiding the students’ deaths.

8Rey Rivera Was Thrown From A Helicopter


On May 24th, 2006, 32-year-old financial writer Rey Rivera was found dead in the conference room of the Belvedere Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland. He was last seen eight days earlier when a houseguest watched Rivera take a phone call and run frantically from his house. The crime scene quickly puzzled authorities. The roof above Rivera’s body had a small hole that suggested he had smashed through at an almost vertical angle, but there was no clear area he could have jumped from. Despite the extensive injuries to his body, Rivera’s glasses and cellphone were found next to him undamaged. A search of his house turned up a bizarre note taped to the back of his computer, which contained quotes from Freemason texts, lists of movie titles, and names of Hollywood figures.

At the time he died, Rivera seemed to be happily married and pursuing his dream of becoming a screenwriter. One of the most interesting theories is that Rivera was dropped through the roof of the hotel by a helicopter, possibly because of his work cleaning up the public image of his childhood friend Porter Stansberry. Stansberry was being investigated for financial crimes at the time of Rivera’s death and placed a gag order on his employees during the investigation. Authorities have disputed the helicopter idea because there was no noise reported at the time, the location was too low to allow helicopters in the airspace, and the nearby harbor would have been a better location to dispose of a body. However, a former hotel employee endorsed the theory and said that helicopters were known to fly low over the hotel, despite the airspace rules.

7The Oakville Blobs Were Vaporized Jellyfish


In 1997, residents of Oakville, Washington were shocked by a strange gelatinous material falling from the sky. Known as the “Oakville blobs”, this transparent jelly fell in tiny droplets half the size of rice grains over a period of three weeks and reportedly sickened local people and animals with a flu-like illness. An investigation by local scientists found human white blood cells in the material, leading to the idea that the blobs were at least once a living material. Residents speculated that it could be human waste dumped from passing planes, which could explain why it made people sick, but airlines quickly disputed this because plane waste is dyed blue. Others were concerned it could be a strange science experiment that had been released on the town.

But the most interesting theory is also the most cartoonish. Some people have pointed out the similarities of the blobs to jellyfish, and have brought up the idea that the blobs could be somehow related to the creatures. Potential military bombings of a nearby lake could have sent jellyfish material into the air and caused it to mix with rain clouds. The town reportedly jumped on this theory, selling a vodka gelatin “jellyfish” drink at the local bar.

6The Sodder Children Were Kidnapped By Fascists


On Christmas Eve, 1945, a fire quickly overtook the home of the Sodder family. George and Jeannie Sodder were Italian immigrants who lived with their ten children in Fayetteville, West Virginia, an area with many other Italian families. At 12:30 a.m. Jeannnie answered a phone call from a woman who claimed to have a wrong number. At 1:00 a.m., she heard an object hit the roof and roll but she went back to sleep. Half an hour later, she woke up to smoke filling the house. Jeannie, George, and four of the children escaped. Multiple calls to the fire department did not get through. George’s ladder was missing. He tried to pull his truck around to climb to the second floor, but it would not start. It took the fire department hours to respond and by then the house had burned completely to ash. The fire was ruled an electrical accident.

George and Jeannie believed that their five missing children did not die in the fire, as noo bones or other remains were found. The Sodders put up a billboard with their children’s pictures and continued searching for them for the rest of their lives. There were multiple reports from locals that they had spotted the Sodder children in the years following the fire and a letter came to the family in 1968 claiming to be from a surviving son. It contained a photo with a strong resemblance to him, but the lead went nowhere. Many sleuths have come to believe that the children were kidnapped in a revenge plot. George Sodder was known for openly expressing his hatred for Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, which upset some of his neighbors. Two months before the fire, a traveling salesman had argued with George and told him that his “house would go up in smoke” and his “children would be destroyed” because of George’s anti-Mussolini statements. A private investigator discovered that the threatening salesman had been on the jury that decided the fire was an accident, further adding to suspicion that the case was more than an accident. If the children were kidnapped, they may not have come forward to protect the rest of their family from harm.

5 Elisa Lam Was Playing A Deadly Game


Surveillance video of Elisa Lam shows bizarre behavior

Canadian college student Elisa Lam checked into the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles on January 28th, 2013. She initially shared a room with strangers, but was moved soon after when the other girls complained about her strange behavior. The hotel itself has had a spooky reputation for decades as the site of several suicides and connections to several murders. But Lam’s case is one of the most bizarre. Lam’s family asked the police to look for her after she failed to contact them during her trip. Police released strange footage of Elisa ducking in and out of an elevator at the hotel shortly before her disappearance. Lam appeared to be hiding from someone in the hallway or potentially suffering a mental crisis of some kind. It was later discovered that she was being treated for bipolar disorder, but had it under control for several years.

On February 21st, Lam’s body was found on the roof of the hotel in a water tank. Her death was ruled an accidental drowning. Questions were immediately raised over how she made it to the locked rooftop and how she replaced the heavy lid from inside. The most commonly discussed explanation for the death is that Lam suffered a mental health crisis. However, a shopkeeper saw her the day of her disappearance and reported that she seemed happy and calm, picking up souvenirs for her family. But the strangest theory is a supernatural idea. Lam’s strange behavior in the elevator has led some to believe that Lam was playing a Korean elevator game. This urban legend, similar to the Bloody Mary mirror game, involves pressing elevator buttons in a certain order to travel to a different dimension. The truth behind Lam’s death, however, remains a mystery.

4The Havana Noises Were A Sonic Weapon


In 2016, diplomatic staff in Cuba began to experience a strange illness. Dozens of Americans and Canadians reported hearing an odd sound for twenty seconds to a minute at a time. Some experienced a pressure sensation in their ears along with the noise. Over a period of two years, various staff reported hearing loss, nausea, and memory loss connected to these sounds. In September of 2017, the U.S. government pulled all of their non-essential personnel and discouraged all travel to Cuba. In 2018, the Canadian government found evidence of brain damage in their diplomats and pulled them from the country as well.

The American government stated that they believed Cuba was responsible for the events. Experts have speculated that Cuba or a third party could have been testing a sonic weapon. Acoustic or sonic weapons have been in development since at least the 1990s and certain types have been used around the world to disperse crowds and protesters. The long-term effects of these kinds of devices remain unknown. Thousands of Cuban scientists and officials investigated the case at the time and the country denied any involvement with a potential attack, but many people remain unconvinced.

3Gloria Ramirez Accidentally Created A Deadly Chemical


In February of 1994, 31-year-old Gloria Ramirez was rushed to Riverside General Hospital with a racing heartbeat and abnormal breathing. She was sedated and then defibrillated by doctors, who noticed that her body was covered in an oily sheen. Medical staff also noticed a strange fruity garlic scent on her breath and manila-colored particles floating in Ramirez’s blood. The nurse who drew the blood quickly fainted, and soon two other people in the room passed out. Twenty-three people eventually reported symptoms. The hospital was evacuated except for a few people staying to help Ramirez, but she died forty-five minutes after she arrived at the hospital from complications of cancer.

An initial investigation from the California Department of Health and Human Services concluded that the mysterious symptoms of the hospital staff were a case of mass hysteria, which the affected professionals heavily disputed. The most severe case required two weeks of hospitalization. A second investigation from Livermore National Laboratory came to a different conclusion. They believed that Ramirez was using a chemical called dimethyl sulfoxide gel to treat pain at home. The material has a garlic smell and oily sheen. When oxygen was added, it could have become dimethyl sulfone, forming the crystals in Ramirez’s blood. Then with an electrical shock from the defibrillator, it could have become dimethyl sulfate, a toxic chemical that could have poisoned the staff.

2The Overtoun Bridge Has A Strange Scent


A relatively unassuming bridge in Scotland holds a dark secret that has haunted the city of Glasgow, Scotland for years. Overtoun Bridge is known for being a place where dogs leap to their deaths, shocking local residents and drawing international media attention. Up to 600 dogs may have died this way, prompting theories that a supernatural presence may be at play. In 1994, a man threw his own son from the bridge under the belief that the child was the devil, further adding to Overtoun’s dark reputation.

Investigations by scientists, however, have resulted in another theory. The strong scent of mink musk may be too tempting for the pets to resist. This hunting desire could combine with the layout of the bridge and the surrounding plant life to give the appearance of solid ground, confusing the animals into thinking there is no drop off. Nests of small animals including minks have also been found near the bridge, adding to this theory. Whatever the true reason, Overtoun Bridge now has signs installed warning owners to keep their pets on leashes during their walks.

1Rodney Marks Was Murdered By A Crewmate


If there’s one place where you don’t want to have a medical emergency, it’s the remote tundra of the South Pole. Rodney Marks was a 32-year-old astrophysicist doing research for the University of Chicago. He and his fiancée were both spending the winter at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station with forty-eight other crewmates. On May 11th, 2000, Marks visited the station’s doctor three times feeling ill and they attempted to ask for medical advice by satellite, but Marks died the next day. It took six months before the body could be removed and autopsied, when it was determined that Marks had died of menthol poisoning.

There was immediate speculation that Marks drank menthol intentionally, perhaps driven by depression over the desolate polar environment. But Marks was engaged, seemingly enjoyed his work, and had dozens of other people to socialize with. He also sought medical attention immediately, which made a suicide attempt even more unlikely. Some people believed he may have poisoned himself accidentally by attempting to home-brew alcohol, but this theory was quickly disproved by the fact that the station had a well-stocked bar available. The only remaining theory for many people is murder, and unlike most murders, this one has a very specific number of suspects. However, the unique environment also means that the United States, New Zealand, and Australia all share jurisdiction, which prevented significant investigation from taking place. The world’s only Antarctic murder mystery remains unsolved.

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fact checked by Jamie Frater