The past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation, of fulfillment in whatever form. Both are illusions.
ECKHART TOLLE, The Power of Now
Everybody is given a name at birth — yet there are thousands of people whose unidentified corpses are found from time to time, and despite efforts to find their killers and put their bodies to rest, investigators aren’t always able to solve these gruesome crimes. Known as John and Jane Does, these mysterious murder victims captivate the imagination of many. Who were they? What happened to them? Why did they die?
And most importantly, will there ever be any clues that lead to them being identified?
Let have a look at the bizarre world of mysterious individuals who have been never identified.
1 – The Tamam Shud Case
This case is considered as one of the most profound mysteries of Australia. It is also known as the ‘Mystery of the Somerton Man’ and is more than just an unidentified body. This case involves a cryptic coding which was found in the man’s possession and there is no clue about the killer.
On December 1, 1948, a man’s body was found on Somerton Beach in South Australia. A torn page from a book of poems entitled ‘Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam’ was found in his pocket. It carried a phrase, ‘tamam shud’ which means ‘ended’ or finished in Persian.
Police managed to locate the copy of the book from which the page was torn. Inside the back cover, there were some written indentations. On deciphering the indentations, they found a telephone number, but the other number seemed like some random text which is believed to be an encrypted message. Investigators could not trace the code or the man’s identity.
The discovery of the body was combined with the growing concerns of the Cold War. An increased public concern over the international espionage caused speculations like the man was a spy. However, the identity of the man remains a mystery just like the cause of his death.
2 – Bear Brook Murders
In 1985, a shocking discovery was made by a hunter at the New Hampshire’s Bear Brook State Park. At the park, he found the bodies of a woman in her mid-twenties or early thirties and a young girl. The bodies revealed that they were beaten and wrapped in plastic and stuffed in a metal drum. The police could not find out the identity of the victims, and the case went cold.
In May 2000, a detective decided to reopen the case and visit the crime scene. To everyone’s horror, two more bodies were found around 300 feet away from the first two victims. They too were in a concealed drum. Again, the cause of their death could not be determined. The death time revealed the same period as the first two victims.
In fact, the child was much younger than the first child victim. While the first child victim was between two and four years, the other was around one to three years of age. The DNA testing revealed that the children were maternally related to the woman and the third could be a paternal half-sister or cousin to other kids. There was no database to link the girls to a father, a missing person’s report or other family members.
3 – Beth Doe Found Under a Bridge
On December 20, 1976, three suitcases were found under the bridge in Carbon County, Pennsylvania. The bags were stuffed with the remains of a pregnant woman between 16 and 22 years. The woman was strangled, shot in the neck and completely dismembered. Her eyes, nose and even the breasts were removed. Among the remains of the woman, the remains of the unborn baby were also found.
The only clues that the police got were some numbers and letters that could have belonged to a license plate. The number was written on one of her hands. Investigators could not determine who she was and what the numbers meant. She was buried under the name ‘Beth Doe’, and her murder remains a mystery to this day.
4 – Orange Socks on the Side of the Road
On Halloween 1979, someone spotted a naked body lying alongside Interstate 35 in Texas. On inspecting it carefully, the body belonged to a woman who was wearing nothing but a pair of orange socks. Reports revealed that she was strangled to death and dumped over the guardrail. Other than a mother of pearl ring and the orange socks, there were no details regarding the woman. Police referred the lady as ‘orange socks’.
Investigators are of the opinion that she was a prostitute and drifter as she suffered from gonorrhoea. It seemed that she was using a towel instead of a sanitary napkin. Serial killer Henry Lee Lucas claimed that he picked her up hitchhiking, killed her and raped her corpse. But there is no evidence to support his claim and Lucas contradicted his statement quite some times during confession. Her real name remains a mystery.
5 – The Boy in a Box
On February 25, 1957, a boy around the age of six was stripped of his clothes, thrown in a box and left on the side of the road in Philadelphia. He was underweight, malnourished and badly bruised. The official cause of his death was blunt force trauma.
No one knew who he was. In fact, no missing person reports were matching his description, no fingerprints on file with the hospital. No one came forward even after the word of his discovery got out. Police went an extra mile to solve the mystery but in vain.
6 – Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm?
In 1943, a group of English boys discovered the skull of a woman while playing in Stourbridge. The body of the woman was stuffed into a hollowed trunk of a Wych Elm. Reports revealed that the body was almost a year and a half.
Soon after this episode, someone wrote “Who put Bella in the Wych Elm” on the walls of a nearby town. Some people said that the body belonged to a prostitute by the name Bella who went missing a few years ago. Ten years later, after the discovery of the body, a woman named Una Mossop accused her cousin Jack Mossop of helping a Dutchman named Van Ralt who put the woman in the tree.
According to Una, the woman was drunk, and the two men thought it was a funny way to scare her. He died at the hospital before the discovery of the body. Jack Mossop was said to be haunted by the dreams of the woman’s dead eyes staring at him from inside the tree trunk. There is no evidence to prove the authenticity of Una’s story.
7 – Many Identities of El Dorado Jane Doe
On July 9, 1991, in El Dorado, AR, a woman’s body was found beaten and shot in her room at the Whitehall Motel. According to her ID card, the name read as Cheryl Ann Wick. However, it was soon found that the real Cheryl was alive in Minneapolis. This mystery woman had many names. Her boyfriend and killer, James Roy McAlpin didn’t even know her true identity.
She had led lives in many cities like Dallas, Shreveport, Florida, Houston and Little Rock. She was known as Kelly Lee Carr, Shannon Wiley and Mercedes in different cities. She was referred to as an exotic dancer, prostitute and was even arrested many times. Her real identity remains a mystery. The only personal items that the police found was a Bible with names scrawled inside. The names were of the people with whom she stayed but had no further details of El Dorado Jane Doe.
8 – Lady of the Dunes
A young woman’s body was found brutally murdered and half buried in the dunes of Cape Cod in summer of 1974. The woman was believed to have been between 25 and 49 years of age. To hide her identity, the killer removed her hands and many of her teeth. Her skull was severely crushed in and was detached from the rest of her body. She laid decomposing for more than a week when a teenage girl walking her dog spotted the body.
The body had to be exhumed many times throughout the years. DNA speciliats, dentists and even psychics could not identify this woman. Serial killer Hadden Clark confessed to the murder, but many believe that his confession was a lie owing to his reputation of lying. The identity of this woman has not been discovered yet.
9 – Little Miss X
A badly decomposed body of a young girl was found on October 31, 1958. In spite of many attempts, the authorities could not identify her.
The remains were found on a desolate road near the Grand Canyon. They were out for so long that her skeletons were the only thing left on her body. The body had personal items like toiletries but nothing useful in determining her identity or lead us to the killer. The remains revealed that the girl was not more than 14 years of age and was possibly as young as 11. Her clothes were found near the body which proves that she was stripped naked and possibly sexually assaulted before her death. Her remains were in the desert for almost nine months. The cause of her death can never be determined.
10 – Maury County Jane Doe and Her Loyal Dog
The skeletonized remains of a young black woman were found on Valentine’s Day 1975 near a highway in Maury County, Tennessee. The woman was around 15 and 25 years of age and weighed around 127 to 137 pounds. The physical traits could not be determined because of the decomposition. The only thing which was unique was the presence of an extra upper tooth.
No one came to identify her and authorities could find nothing on the crime scene. There were no missing person details to locate her identity. She had multiple fractures; possibly this was a hit and run case. Police are of the opinion that she could have been intentionally run over. Reports reveal that she has been dead for almost nine months. Strangely enough, remains of a dog were found along with hers.
11 – Penny Doe Was Left To Die In Pennsylvania
The body of an unidentified woman was discovered in the Clarion County, PA in 1990. Inside her pockets, she had two pennies and hence was nicknamed as Penny Doe. The woman was between the age of 15 to 22. Investigators believe that she might have attended a rock concert before her death. Reports revealed that she was beaten to death.
Several attempts were made by the police to solve the case. But in spite of receiving an anonymous letter from someone who was familiar with the body, police could not figure out Penny’s real identity or trace her killer.