As we previously discovered, America still has plenty of bizarre and unnerving mysteries in its past waiting for a solution. And so does Canada. Now, it is time to explore the history of Australia and find out what peculiar skeletons still hide in its closet.
10. The Pyjama Girl Mystery
In 1934, a man walking down a road in Albury, New South Wales, came upon a gruesome sight – it was the burnt body of a young woman dressed in yellow silk pajamas. Besides being doused in kerosene and lighted on fire, she had also been badly beaten and shot in the neck.
The horrible murder immediately sent shockwaves throughout the country as New South Wales police were desperate to identify the victim. They were unable to do this so, after their initial investigation, they put the body in a bath of formaldehyde to preserve it in the hopes of getting a lead later on.
As the years went by, the “Pyjama Girl Murder,” as it came to be known, became the most notorious unsolved crime in New South Wales. Fast-forward ten years and authorities were able to finally identify the body as Linda Agostini by analyzing her teeth, a new and innovative forensic technique at the time. Police arrested her husband who confessed to killing his wife. He was convicted and the case was closed and heralded as a landmark moment for forensic dentistry.
Maybe not so fast…Over the years, especially in recent times, some people have come to doubt that the “Pyjama Girl” was actually Linda Agostini. Some of the physical discrepancies included different eye color, nose shape, and bust size. Then there were also inconsistencies in the husband’s confession, such as saying that he used petrol when, in fact, the body was covered in kerosene, and that he shot her with a revolver when, in reality, it was a pistol. There was also no mention of beating her up even though the skull of the victim had extensive trauma.
Although most people agree that Antonio Agostini likely killed his wife, identifying her as the Pyjama Girl may have been the work of a heavily criticized police force, desperate to close its most notorious case.
9. The Disappearance of Frederick Valentich
“It’s not an aircraft… It is flying past. It is a long shape. I cannot identify more than that. It’s coming for me right now… It seems to be stationary, I’m also orbiting and the thing is orbiting on top of me also. It has a green light and a sort of metallic light on the outside… It is not an aircraft.”
Those extracts came from the last transmission of Frederick Valentich, a 20-year-old pilot who disappeared on October 21, 1978, while flying over the Bass Strait. As you might expect, his words sent the ufology world into a frenzy as many believed he was abducted. Valentich himself was a “flying saucer enthusiast” and his disappearance, complemented by reports of spaceship sightings on that same night, solidified his place in the annals of UFO lore.
As a counterpoint, it was exactly because Valentich was into UFOs that others believe he staged the whole thing, starting a new life somewhere else in order to create this everlasting mystery around his disappearance.
Lastly and, unfortunately, the most likely explanation was that Valentich crashed and died somewhere in the ocean. He was an inexperienced pilot with only 150 hours of flying time and other veteran pilots believed it was entirely possible he became disoriented and flew upside down, mistaking his own lights reflected in the water for the lights of the reported UFO. Until someone finds his plane or his body, we’ll never know for sure.
8. The Marree Man
Back in June of 1998, a pilot flying over a remote plateau in South Australia looked down and saw something unexpected – a geoglyph of an indigenous man holding a stick or a boomerang. A geoglyph is a large-scale design made on the ground from natural materials like rocks or earth, best viewed from above.
There are a lot of mysterious and ancient geoglyphs on our planet, probably the most famous being the Nazca Lines in Peru. But make no mistake about it – this geoglyph known as the Marree Man was a modern creation. There was satellite imaging of the same area taken just the month before and there was nothing there, so the Marree Man was created between late May and early June, 1998.
It started to fade away after a few decades, but locals liked it so much that, in 2016, they restored it. Of course, there is still one big mystery surrounding the Marree Man – who made it? Nobody has come forward to claim authorship, but many point the finger at Bardius Goldberg, an artist who made works of art visible from the sky. He always denied it and passed away in 2002, seemingly taking the secret with him, but a friend of his came forward in 2018 claiming that Goldberg admitted to him in private that he created the Marree Man. If he truly did, he left behind no evidence indicating his implication.
7. The Vanishing of George Bass
Earlier, we mentioned Frederick Valentich who disappeared while flying over the Bass Strait. Now we talk about the man who gave his name to the strait who, fittingly, also vanished without a trace.
His name was George Bass. Born in England in 1771, he became a naval surgeon and an explorer who traveled and charted much of Australia, usually alongside Captain Matthew Flinders.
Bass and his entire crew disappeared in February 1803 when they left aboard the Venus on a voyage to South America. Officially, he was on a mission to purchase supplies, but, according to rumors, he also intended to bring in contraband. Because of this, a story soon started spreading, saying that Bass had been arrested in Chile and sent to work in the silver mines. This remained nothing but an unproven story, even when the Spanish released all their British prisoners a few years later. The English Admiralty officially declared George Bass as being lost at sea.
6. The Mahogany Ship
Somewhere in Armstrong Bay, a few miles off the coast of Victoria, lies the wreck of a vessel known as the Mahogany Ship. At least, that is what 19th century sailors would have us believe. The first known account of it comes from a group of whalers in 1836 and a few other fishermen claimed to have seen it, too, in the decades that followed. However, all scientific attempts to locate the wreck have failed, with three separate expeditions taking place over the last four decades. For a while, there was even a A$250,000 reward for locating the wreck, yet the Mahogany Ship remained as elusive as ever.
There is a reason why some scholars and historians have a special interest in this particular vessel and it is because they believe it is evidence of a controversial claim that the Portuguese were, actually, the first Europeans to discover Australia. This comes from 19th century descriptions of the Mahogany Ship that make it appear to be a Portuguese caravel from the early 16th century. If any of this is true, then it would lead to a complete rewrite of the history of Australia but, until that day, the Mahogany Ship remains a maritime legend.
5. The Lady of the Swamp
Margaret Clement was born into luxury. She was the daughter of a Scottish immigrant who became a successful mining magnate in Australia and left his family a fortune. Consequently, in 1907, Margaret and her sister, Jeannie, bought Tullaree Mansion in Gippsland, a remote, swampy area in Victoria.
The two siblings wanted to turn it into a farm, but they did not have the savvy to run a successful business. Between their extravagant lifestyles, their poor decision-making, and their employees taking advantage of them, the ladies soon found themselves in financial trouble. By the 1920s, they had to mortgage the mansion.
It wasn’t until 1950 when Jeannie died that people found out just how much the once-wealthy family had fallen. Police and press arrived on the scene and found Tullaree Mansion in a state of complete neglect and disrepair. Margaret Clement had become a recluse and she was known as the “Lady of the Swamp.”
Two years later, she disappeared. Some said that her neighbors killed her, while others pointed the finger at her nephew. Some think it is possible she died in the swamp while walking her dog, but the ultimate fate of the “Lady of the Swamp” remains a mystery to this day.
4. Lasseter’s Lost Reef
Here is another mystery that has been pervasive throughout Australia for over a hundred years, one that involves the hidden gold treasure of Lasseter’s Reef.
In 1929, a middle-aged man named Harold Bell Lasseter wrote about a discovery he had made in his younger days, back in 1897. It was a quartz reef located somewhere in Central Australia that was fabulously rich in gold. And, just for the sake of clarity, a “reef” is a mining term referring to a vein of ore or minerals, it has nothing to do with the ocean reef. Ever since that time, he had tried in vain to obtain the funds for a mining expedition.
A year later he reiterated his story, although the details were changed, and even managed to secure an expedition to travel to the remote area where this gold reef was supposedly located. However, he got lost. The other members of his party labeled him a charlatan and returned to civilization. Lasseter carried on alone and died of malnutrition and exhaustion, refusing to share the location of the gold with anyone else.
This determination and sacrifice made people think that maybe Harold Lasseter was not lying and that there truly was a gold treasure waiting to be mined out there. Since then, Lasseter’s Reef has become the stuff of legends.
3. The Identity of Mr. Cruel
One of Australia’s most heinous criminals who has evaded justice for decades is a child rapist and probable murderer known as Mr. Cruel.
As far as we know, his crime spree started in the late 1980s when he abducted and molested three girls from various suburbs of Melbourne. They were all eventually released, but his fourth victim wasn’t so lucky. In 1991, 13-year-old Karmein Chan was abducted and later killed with three gunshots to the head. Some investigators don’t believe this fourth abduction was committed by the same culprit, while others think that Karmein might have inadvertently seen her kidnapper’s face. Mr. Cruel remains the prime suspect in her murder, as well as in a few other earlier crimes going back to 1985.
As far as his identity is concerned, after tens of thousands of interviews, police whittled down their list to seven suspects they thought viable. One of them was even Joseph DeAngelo, the American murderer better known as the notorious Golden State Killer. The two criminals had similar methods but, once GSK was discovered, investigators were able to rule him out conclusively. The identity of Mr. Cruel, however, still eludes us.
2. The Mystery of the Somerton Man
It might be over 70 years old, but the case of the Somerton Man, also known as the Tamam Shud case, remains one of the most baffling criminal mysteries in Australian history.
On December 1, 1948, people found the body of a man on Somerton Park Beach, south of Adelaide. He was dressed in a suit and tie, and had a scrap of paper in his pocket which had been torn from a book. On it, there were the words “Tamam Shud,” which is Persian for “it is ended.” It appeared that the man was killed by poison, although the toxin was not identified.
In a surprise twist, somebody actually found the exact book that the scrap was torn from, but this only served to raise more questions. On the book were scribbled an unlisted phone number and a series of letters that appeared to be a code. The phone number was a dead end while the message remains a secret, despite efforts from countless codebreakers, both amateur and professional.
That was just the start of a case that has been going on for seven decades. Multiple people were identified as the Somerton Man, but all of them turned out to be wrong. Just last year, scientists were finally granted permission to exhume the body to obtain a DNA sample, so it is possible that, in the future, we might actually see this mystery get solved.
1. The Bogle-Chandler Case
For fans of scandal and mystery, the Bogle-Chandler Case of 1963 had it all – two intellectuals who engaged in swinging were found murdered by the side of the road, poisoned with an unknown substance for an unknown reason. Here we are 55 years later and we still have no idea what happened that night.
Gilbert Stanley Bogle was a physicist and former Rhodes Scholar who worked at the University of Sydney. He frequently had extramarital relationships and, at the moment of his death, he was engaged in one with Margaret Chandler, the wife of one of his colleagues.
On New Year’s Eve, 1962, Bogle and the Chandlers went to the same party. In the subsequent investigation, Margaret’s husband, Geoffrey, said that he and his wife had an “understanding” so, eventually, he left to meet with his own lover while Gilbert and Margaret departed early in the morning and headed for Lane Cove River, a popular lover’s lane.
That is where their bodies were found. They were half-naked, but both were covered with items – Bogle with a carpet and Chandler with a cardboard box. Both threw up and excreted before dying. It was clear they had been poisoned but, because it was New Year’s Day, tests were delayed and no traces of any identifiable toxin were found.
Some believe that the couple were killed by a scorned lover. Others think that Bogle was the primary target because he was working on secret military research. A recent documentary posited the notion that they were poisoned accidentally by hydrogen sulphide in the river. A lot of ideas have floated around, but none to conclusively show what happened that night.