The human mind loves a good mystery. It’s almost impossible to be presented with a puzzle and not want to try to solve it; that’s just the way our minds work. And while some mysteries are very simple, and some are nearly impossible, others are just completely unexpected and unbelievable. Sometimes the solution is even weirder than the mystery itself.
10. Irish Super Criminal Prawo Jazdy
In the early 2000s, Irish police had their hands full with a serial criminal named Prawo Jazdy. They weren’t violent, of course, but they did have a total lack of respect for the rules of the road. Jazdy had been issued numerous citations all across the country for speeding and parking violations. And he got away with it because every time he was caught, he gave the cops a different address and a new alias.
By the time over 50 traffic infractions had been racked up, Irish police started putting some serious effort into tracking Jazdy down and ending his reign of terror on the roads.
In the end, Irish police did manage to get to the bottom of how Jazdy had been evading them for so long while still somehow committing traffic crimes. It was because there was no one named Prawo Jazdy. Instead, Prawo Jazdy is Polish for “driver’s license” and every time an Irish police officer pulled over a Polish driver, they had been writing the wrong thing down as the driver’s name. An office employee noticed the problem and then went back through years of files to see how often the same mistake had been made.
Police issued a memo in the hopes of informing officers to not make the same mistake in the future.
9. The Village of Ganeshpur’s Mysterious Nighttime Power Outages
Few things are more annoying than your power going out but the village of Ganeshpur in India had to endure this on a regular basis as the power would go off for two or three hours at night. Neighboring towns were fine and there was never bad weather or anything you might associate with town-wide power outages normally, so people began to grow suspicious. What could cause short, regular power outages?
Residents grew suspicious and began to suspect a local electrician of being involved. So, the next time the power went out they tracked the man to a local school where he was secretly hooking up with his girlfriend under the cover of darkness. He’d been routinely cutting off power so they could meet each other without anyone knowing.
The townspeople were less than amused and apparently beat the man, then shaved his head, then forced him to marry his girlfriend.
8. How Deep Blue Beat Kasparov at Chess
When you’re a chess champion, people expect certain things of you. Or at least one thing, and that’s an ability to win at chess. Garry Kasparov was long considered the best of the best when it came to chess and when IBM invented a computer that could play chess at an expert level named Deep Blue, there was some definite doubt about whether or not a machine could best the man considered unbeatable. Kasparov himself said there was no way he could lose. But he did.
Deep Blue made a move that confused and delighted many observers midway through the game, at the 44th move. The computer moved a rook. And there was no reason for it.
The move was not offensive or defensive, really. It was, to most eyes, pointless. Some strategists saw it as the opening salvo of a long-term strategy, a sacrifice of a non-essential piece as a sort of defense-while-on-offense maneuver. And people generally agree that it rattled Kasparov. He couldn’t discern the computer’s intentions. There were even suggestions that a human master had intervened.
Kasparov won that first round but would go on to lose the second game, come to a draw for the next three and then lose the sixth, allowing the computer to claim the overall win.
Years later, one of Big Blue’s designers said that move that confused Kasparov was a bug and nothing more. The computer didn’t know what to do because a bug rendered it unable to choose the best move, so it went with a default move – a random one. But it threw Kasparov off enough, and made him think that the computer was vastly smarter than it was, that he never recovered.
7. The Extremely Long Life of Pierre Joubert
The world is fascinated by the extremely long-lived so when Pierre Joubert was found to be 113 years old, that was a hell of a feat. And this was back in 1814! The authenticity of his age was recorded by census takers with the Canadian government and it was believed to be the real deal. So how did a man get to reach 113 years of age in 1814? Well, he didn’t.
Turns out Pierre’s dad was also named Pierre. Documents got mixed up when determining junior’s age so he and his dad were turned into one person. His father had been born in 1701 but died when he was 65. The younger Joubert was born in 1732, meaning he would have died at 82. Which is old, to be sure. But it’s certainly not 113.
6. The Mother Who Failed Her Maternity Test
You don’t often hear about a woman failing a maternity test, but it can happen. And you might assume that means the woman was faking being a mother. That’s what Lydia Fairchild had to endure back in 2002. She had applied for social assistance which required proof that everyone in the family was related. But her DNA test showed her kids weren’t hers. They accused her of fraud and she almost lost her children. But she knew they were hers.
Turns out, Fairchild was a genetic chimera. Her mother had likely had two fertilized eggs which would have created non-identical twins, but one absorbed the other resulting in a second set of genetic material being located inside Fairchild’s body. She was able to prove her case in court and keep her children as a result.
5. The Simultaneous Explosion of Dozens of Sea Mines Near Vietnam
In 1972, dozens of sea mines in the water off the coast of Vietnam exploded at the exact same time. Pilots in the area saw nothing at all that could have triggered the mines, but the sheer number that went off at the same time indicated it must have been something big. The cause remained a complete mystery for years.
Fast forward to 2018 and scientists came up with an explanation. Those sea mines relied on magnets as part of the triggering mechanism as magnets would allow them to attach to boat hulls and explode. A suitably powerful solar storm could have interfered with the magnetic triggers, setting them all off simultaneously.
Research indicates there had been heightened sun activity in the days before the explosions, and other countries suffered magnetic interference as well. The military had even suggested a solar storm as the cause before burying their research.
4. The Mystery Tomato of Surtsey Island
One of the cool things about a volcanic island is that, if you get to investigate a newly formed one, you’re literally discovering new land. That’s almost impossible to do these days. So when scientists got to a volcanic island in 1969 that had only existed for a few years at that point, you can imagine there was some excitement there. And that turned to serious confusion when a tomato plant was discovered growing there.
A handful of scientists found the plant which had no business growing there and called in Ágúst Bjarnason, whose job was to monitor plant life on the island to the southeast of Iceland. He arrived and noticed it looked like a tomato, but couldn’t have been because the two-year-old island couldn’t have native tomatoes.
Bjarnason investigated further, moving rocks to discover the tomato growing out of something soft which he then poked before realizing what had happened. A scientist on the island had eaten tomatoes at some point and then, on that very spot, had gone to the bathroom. A seed passed undamaged through their digestive tract and managed to go and Bjarnason had just poked a poop pile. He bagged up everything and left.
3. The Mysterious Smoke Alarm That Brought Down a 747 Plane
Emergencies in the air are especially harrowing. You never want to be on a plane when something goes wrong that puts people’s safety in jeopardy. So when a Boeing 747 on route from Sydney, Australia to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia back in 2015 experienced a buildup of mysterious smoke in the cargo hold, the pilots had to take it in for an emergency landing for obvious reasons.
The plane touched down in Bali after smoke alarms went off. The alarm came from the cargo hold where the plane was transporting a whopping 2,186 sheep. When authorities went to investigate, there was no fire to be found and, as it happens, it wasn’t actually smoke that set the alarm off. Instead, the airline discovered that if you seal over 2,000 sheep in a metal tube with little ventilation, the methane from their farts can be volatile enough to set off a smoke alarm, and that’s exactly what happened.
It took a couple of hours to effectively clear the air and get the plane ready to go once more.
2. The Blue Honey Produced by French Bees
If you’re really into honey, then you know there are a number of different kinds you can buy. From clover honey to buckwheat honey to manuka honey and so on. They’re the result of the honey bees harvesting nectar from different kinds of plants and the end result can bring noticeable differences in color and flavor. But those variations are not usually very dramatic and the color differences range from light yellow to deeper yellow to brown.
When bees in France started producing blue honey, it was definitely a mystery as historically that wasn’t a thing bees were known to do. The honey started showing up in 2014 in Alsace and there was some fear that maybe pesticides or other chemicals were at work.
Beekeepers and other researchers had to investigate the area, and they managed to discover the source about 2.5 miles away from where the apiaries were located. A plant that processed waste from a Mars facility, in this case the colorful candy shells of old M&Ms, was being raided by the bees who were feasting on the candy shells and producing the colorful but totally unsellable honey as a result.
1. The Too-Fast Tempo of Beethoven’s Handwritten Music
For many years, musical experts and historians puzzled over the tempo of Beethoven’s music. The tempo markings on his sheet music don’t really make a lot of sense and many people ignore them. Nearly half of his 135 original music sheets have a recorded tempo that’s so bizarre most people consider it just wrong.
How could one of history’s greatest musicians have been so adept at composing and writing music and yet screwed up his own tempo so completely? After some years of investigating the answer seems to be that Beethoven didn’t mess up his tempo, the metronome did. As in, he probably just had a broken metronome, or he was just misreading it.
Part of this problem likely came from the fact that metronomes didn’t exist when Beethoven started writing music. But after their invention, he loved the idea so much he went back and added tempo marks to his older symphonies and those seem to make no sense at all, indicating the music should be far too fast. If the metronome was off, or Beethoven just didn’t understand how to read the relatively new invention, then his tempo marks would be meaningless, which seems to be the case