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Four More Creepy Mysteries

Updated on October 12, 2014
The citizens of Mattoon, Illinois, were terrorized by a poison gas spraying maniac in 1944...or were they?
The citizens of Mattoon, Illinois, were terrorized by a poison gas spraying maniac in 1944...or were they? | Source

The world is not as mysterious to us as it must have seemed to ancient people. Many events and phenomena that were baffling in the past are easily explainable with today's science and technology. Still, there are some enigmas that confound anyone seeking a definitive conclusion. These cases may seem ripped from the tabloid headlines, but they are all real.

This is the fourth installment in a series about some of the world’s most unusual mysteries. All of these bizarre cases have baffled investigators for decades. Here are four more enigmatic events that defy explanation.

Newspaper headline about the first gas attacks
Newspaper headline about the first gas attacks | Source

The Mad Gasser of Mattoon

Panic and fear gripped the residents of Mattoon, a small central Illinois town, in 1944. A mysterious attacker was spraying gas into residents’ homes, making them feel nauseated. The gas caused fits of vomiting and even temporarily paralyzed some victims. The crazed attacker would spray gas through open windows and then run away. From August 31 to the middle of September, about twenty-five people became victims of the mad gasser. Some witnesses claimed to have seen the attacker. He was usually described as a tall, thin man dressed entirely in black. Local police were baffled and the FBI was called in to investigate. Soon, however, the police began to deemphasize their investigation of the attacks. They claimed that the town had been caught up in mass hysteria and that the gas could be attributed to industrial pollution. There was a diesel plant nearby, and the police theorized that wind had transported its gases into residents’ homes. Workers at the plant vehemently rejected this explanation. On September 13, a witness named Bertha Bench claimed that she had seen a woman dressed as a man run away from her home after spraying gas through her bedroom window. Footprints made from high-heeled shoes were found at the scene. After this attack, the Mad Gasser of Mattoon was never seen again.

There was also a similar series of attacks in Virginia in 1933. No attacker was ever apprehended in that case, either, and police attributed all of the alleged attacks to mass hysteria. Although they caused a great deal of fear and apprehension, no one died or suffered long-term injury or illness as a result of the attacks.

Theories –

-The Mad Gasser never existed. He/she was a textbook example of mass hysteria. Fear-mongering by the local media led witnesses to imagine and exaggerate the incidents. The “attacks” were caused by pollution that was transported through the atmosphere.

-The Mad Gasser was a real flesh and blood human being who successfully eluded the law.

-The attacks were a secret experiment by the U.S. government to test the effects of poison gases.

-The Mad Gasser was a supernatural or paranormal entity, perhaps an alien or a being from another dimension.

The eerie and bizarre Cumberland Spaceman photograph
The eerie and bizarre Cumberland Spaceman photograph | Source

Cumberland Spaceman

In 1964, a man named Jim Templeton took a photograph of his young daughter while visiting Burgh Marsh in Cumberland, a county in northwest England. After Kodak developed the picture, Templeton was stunned to see what appears to be a white figure standing behind his daughter. Templeton claims that he did not see anyone in the background while he was taking the photograph, but does recall that some animals in the area were behaving strangely at the time. Kodak investigated the film and did not find any evidence of tampering. Templeton claimed that he was later visited by two government agents in dark suits (similar to the “men in black” tales often associated with alleged witnesses of UFO’s). They supposedly attempted to intimidate him into admitting that his photo depicted nothing unusual. The picture quickly captured the public’s imagination. Jim Templeton died in 2011 at the age of 91, still insisting that the photo is genuine. Who, or what, is the figure depicted behind young Elizabeth Templeton?

Theories –

-Templeton hoaxed the photograph. A friend or family member dressed up in a costume and stood behind his daughter.

-The photo depicts someone wearing a cloaking device, possibly as part of a secret government experiment.

-The spaceman was an alien, a ghost, or an entity from a parallel universe.

Marfa Lights observation deck
Marfa Lights observation deck | Source

Marfa Lights

So-called ghost lights, also known as spooklights, have been reported in many parts of the world. One of the most famous havens for ghost lights is the rural town of Marfa, Texas. Sightings of the Marfa Lights reportedly go back as far as the 19th century. They have been witnessed by countless people and studied by scientists. There is no doubt that the Marfa Lights exist, but what causes them? The television program “Unsolved Mysteries” featured a segment about the lights and conducted an on-screen interview with a man who had seen the lights at a remote Marfa army base during the 1940’s, when there was no significant traffic in the area. Despite this, the most common conventional explanation for the Marfa lights (and most ghost lights) is that they are caused by car light reflections. There are also many other theories, ranging from scientific to paranormal.


-The lights are caused by automobile light reflections. Proponents of this theory usually dismiss all pre-traffic sightings as hoaxes and lies.

-They are will-o-the-wisp, St. Elmo’s fire, refracted starlight, or swamp gas.

-They are a mirage caused by the area’s atmospheric conditions.

-They are ball lightning.

-Witnesses are seeing campfires in the distance and mistaking them for something unusual.

-The lights are UFO’s. Apparently, the aliens have been flying in the same area for several decades. They must be pretty bored by now.

-The lights are the spirits of the dead. There is a Native American legend that the ghost of an Apache chief still haunts the area. There are also local legends in many spooklight areas about a man who was decapitated in a train accident. The ghost light is supposedly the lantern his spirit uses to search for his severed head.

Painting of the Mary Celeste
Painting of the Mary Celeste | Source

Mary Celeste

The Mary Celeste was a merchant ship that was found abandoned and drifting in the Atlantic Ocean in December 1872, about a month after it left port in Staten Island. Its destination was Genoa, Italy and it was discovered near the Strait of Gibraltar. The ship was found in solid condition and there was no sign of a struggle or any other problems. What could have caused Captain Benjamin Briggs (who had brought his wife and young daughter with him) and his experienced seven member crew to abandon the ship? The captain’s log did not contain anything unusual, and the crew’s personal items were found on board. One lifeboat was missing, however. An investigation was launched, but no conclusive explanation for why the ship was abandoned could be found. The ultimate fate of Benjamin Briggs, his family, and the ship’s crew also remains a mystery.

Theories –

-The ship was carrying a dangerous cargo of barrels filled with pure alcohol. Nine of the barrels were mysteriously found empty. The crew may have believed that alcohol vapors were about to destroy the ship and abandoned the Mary Celeste in a panic. They presumably died at sea.

-Another theory was that a mutiny occurred within the crew. In this scenario the crew murdered Captain Briggs and his family before attempting to escape in the lifeboat. Another version of this theory suggests that the crew killed the Briggs family in a drunken stupor after drinking the missing alcohol. However, there was no sign of violence on the ship and both Briggs and his crew had good reputations. None of them were considered likely to commit unscrupulous behavior, let alone be capable of murdering Briggs, his wife, and their two year old child.

-Perhaps pirates had boarded the Mary Celeste and thrown everyone overboard. This theory is likely discredited by the fact that the ship’s goods were still on board when it was discovered. Surely pirates would have stolen these items.

-Wilder theories involving alien abduction, sea monsters, and the Bermuda Triangle (although the ship was not in the Triangle’s area) have also been offered.


Which mystery is the creepiest?

See results


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    • nanderson500 profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Thank you! Yes, it's definitely an interesting and creepy picture.

    • wildbluefrontier profile image

      Nathan M 

      3 years ago from Tucson

      I always found it interesting that the Cumberland spaceman seems to be looking towards the camera area, but it's arm is set as if it's back is to us. Interesting article.

    • nanderson500 profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      That's very cool! Yeah I have heard that they are well known in Texas. It would be fun to see them!

    • DeborahDian profile image

      Deborah Carr 

      4 years ago from Orange County, California

      We used to live in Texas and frequently heard about the Marfa lights. We never heard a reasonable explanation, but they were fascinating. Wish I could say I saw them once, but I never did.

    • nanderson500 profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Yeah the Marfa Lights are a very interesting mystery. It would certainly be nice to know what really happened to the Mary Celeste as well. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 

      4 years ago from North Carolina

      These are 4 good mysteries, nanderson500. You lay out the possibilities and speculations well. I do now the Cumberland Spaceman has been debunked. The Marfa Lights have definitely not been explained. And your right on target with the Mary Celeste theories. That one, too, remains an unknown.

    • nanderson500 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Miller2232 - That's a good point!

    • Miller2232 profile image

      Sinclair Miller III 

      6 years ago from Florida

      The only thing I will say to investigators is be careful with your investigating because they could end up being a part of a mystery as well.

    • nanderson500 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Thanks! I'm really not sure about any of them, especially the first two. For the Mary Celeste, the alcohol emissions theory seems plausible. The Marfa Lights are probably some sort of natural phenomenon that is not yet fully understood by science. I don't think they are all just headlight reflections.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Cool! Lived this one! What do you think happened after researching them??

    • nanderson500 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Wow, that is interesting! The spaceman is such a weird case but it's interesting other people have experienced similar things.

    • Geekdom profile image


      6 years ago

      I liked the Cumberland Spaceman. Mostly because it reminds me of a similar experience I had as a child as well as my father. Mine involved a ghost and my fathers involved the Virgin Mary.

    • nanderson500 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Hope it doesn't give you nightmares, Sunshine! Can't blame ya if it does though, that is some creepy stuff!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Eerie and interesting. I like the spaceman/ghost photo. I think it was a ghost of some sorts. I'd stick with that story. Thanks for the entertaining hub that will likely give me nightmares tonight! :)


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