15 of America’s Most Enduring Mysteries

wwThe United States has a rich and storied history and is the setting of some of the world’s most fascinating mysteries. Unsolved murders, secret societies, people vanishing without a trace—many questions have remained unanswered to this day.

More evidence may be unearthed in the future that could point us to plausible answers. But for now, these mysteries that have endured years and even centuries will just continue being enigmas, shrouded in secrecy. 

Let’s take a look at the 15 most enduring mysteries in America.

15. The Disappearance of Flight 19

A group of Navy Men led by Lieutenant Charles C. Taylor took off from a Naval Air station in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on December 5th, 1945, at 2:10 pm. It was a routine training flight for five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers, collectively called Flight 19. It headed east off the Florida coast towards the Hens and Chickens Shoals for bombing runs. 

Things were going smoothly until they maneuvered north, and Flight 19 got disoriented, with Lt. Taylor reporting that their compass was glitching. It was thought that Lt. Taylor must have mistaken the islands in the Bahamas as the Keys. 

Over radio transmission, Lt. Taylor was heard preparing his men for a potential crash landing in the ocean. This was the last anyone heard of the flight. 

To add to the tragedy and mystery, the PBM Mariner flying boat sent to search for Flight 19 also vanished. It was thought to have exploded after takeoff, but neither bodies nor craft were recovered. 

Wild theories have surfaced since, from the Bermuda Triangle to alien abductions and parallel dimensions.

14. The New Orleans Axeman

From 1917 to 1919, the state was gripped with terror and hysteria as a serial killer, the New Orleans Axeman, was on the loose. The Axeman targeted and brutally murdered Italian immigrants in their sleep using their own axes.

His victims included many Italian grocery owners, including Joseph Maggio and his wife Catherine, Louis Besumer and his mistress, Harriet Lowe, Joseph Romano, and many others. Romano’s nieces, who lived with him, witnessed the assailant fleeing and described him as a dark-skinned and burly man. The last known attack was on October 27, 1919, and the victim was a grocer named Mike Pepitone.

The police investigated and arrested some suspects, but they were eventually released due to lack of evidence. The killer also sent a series of letters to local newspapers, where he claimed to be an ally of the Angel of Death. He also said that he loved jazz music and would spare those who play it from dying a bloody death. 

The New Orleans Axeman has never been apprehended, and the cases remain unsolved.

13. The Disappearance of the Sodder Children

On Christmas Eve of 1945, at around 1 am, a fire broke out in the home of the Sodders in Fayetteville, West Virginia. George, Jennie, and 9 of their ten children were asleep when the fire started.

The couple and four of their kids managed to escape. George tried to return to the house to save the other children: Maurice, 14; Martha, 12; Louis, 9; Jennie, 8; Betty, 5. 

He tried to go upstairs to their rooms, but it was impossible. The ladder that was always in its spot was missing, and his well-maintained trucks wouldn’t start.

The fire department crew came at 8 am, and the family assumed that the other children had already died. However, no remains were found. Fire chief Morris theorized that the children may have been completely burned up.

There were suspicious circumstances before, during, and after the tragic event: suspicious phone calls, a man in a parked car intently watching the kids after school, the missing ladder, the trucks glitching, reported sightings of the missing children after the fire, a private investigator gone missing, and a letter 20 years after the fire signed by ‘Louis’ with a photo resembling the 9-year-old son who had disappeared. 

To this day, it remains a mystery whether the Sodder children indeed perished in the fire or were actually abducted. 

12. D.B. Cooper Hijacking and Flying Off a Plane

In 1971, a man who referred to himself as D.B. Cooper hijacked a plane from Portland bound for Seattle, collected money and parachutes, and then jumped off the aircraft mid-flight. His body was never found. 

D.B. Cooper told one of the flight attendants that he had a bomb. He ordered the plane to land and negotiated with the authorities for $200,000 and a parachute in exchange for his hostages. 

He released the hostages but asked that the pilots fly the plane to Mexico. Mid-flight, he ordered the pilots to fly low. He then opened a door and jumped off the plane with the bag of money in his hands. 

Many speculated whether he survived his jump or died upon crashing to the ground. However, his body was never found. 

In 2024, a recovered microscopic metal fragment on the clip-on tie D.B. Cooper left on the plane was analyzed to potentially reveal his identity. Private investigator and researcher Eric Ulis revealed that the fragment could be traced to a metal fabric shop in Pennsylvania called Crucible Steel. Its workers often traveled to visit their contractor, Boeing. 

Ulis said his research has pointed to titanium research engineer Vince Peterson from Pittsburgh as D.B. Cooper. However, he admits that more concrete evidence is needed.  

11. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Theft

In the early dawn of March 18, 1990, two thieves posing as police officers were allowed into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to investigate a supposed disturbance. They handcuffed and gagged the two guards on duty and went on to steal 13 art pieces: 

  • The Concert (Johannes Vermeer)
  • Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee (Rembrandt van Rijn)
  • A Lady and Gentleman in Black (Rembrandt van Rijn)
  • Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Rembrandt van Rijn)
  • Landscape with an Obelisk (Govaert Flinck)
  • Chez Tortoni (Edouard Manet)
  • Three Mounted Jockeys (Edgar Degas)
  • Leaving the Paddock (Edgar Degas)
  • Procession on a Road Near Florence (Edgar Degas)
  • Study for the Programme (Edgar Degas)
  • Eagle Finial (Antoine-Denis Chaudet)
  • Gu (Shang Dynasty)

The stolen pieces were a mix of high and low-value artworks, and there were other valuable paintings on display left behind. Speculations about the motivation for the theft surfaced, like the mafia using it as a bargaining chip to free one of their members from prison. 

None of the pieces were recovered, and no suspect has been charged. It remains the single biggest property theft in the world, valued at around $500 million. A reward of $10 million is on offer for any information that will lead to their recovery. 

To this day, the museum keeps the empty frames up on the gallery walls in the hope that the paintings will one day be returned to their rightful place and to remind visitors of the loss. 

10. The Escape from the Alcatraz

Alcatraz was an isolated island prison facility in San Francisco Bay, and it stood above the water like an impenetrable fortress. However, in 1962, a group of convicted bank robbers, Clarence Anglin, John Anglin, and Frank Morris, did what was deemed impossible and made their way outside its walls. 

With only spoons and an improvised raft, they escaped via the prison vents into the Bay. The authorities launched a manhunt, but the escapees were never found. Police claimed that the inmates may have died in the cold, treacherous Pacific Ocean, but without evidence proving that theory, it remains one of America’s enduring mysteries. 

A letter supposedly written by 83-year-old Jon Anglin decades after his escape has since surfaced but remains unverified.  

9. The Zodiac Killer

According to law enforcement officials, the Zodiac Killer was responsible for five deaths across Northern California from the 1960s to the 70s.

The killer, however, claimed to have killed at least 37 people. His known victims include a teenage couple shot near their car in a remote area, another couple where the male victim survived, and a taxi driver.  

The culprit used cryptograms related to astrological symbols in messages sent to the press as his way of leaving crumbs and taunting the authorities.

Two of his ciphers have since been decoded. The 408 cipher partly said, “I like killing people because it is so much fun.” The 340 cipher, which was finally decoded in 2020, said, “I hope you are having lots of fun trying to catch me.”  

Some investigators believed that many other killings in the 1980s can be attributed to the Zodiac Killer. In 1990, they said the Zodiac Killer was Arthur Leigh Allen, who was imprisoned in 1975 for child molestation. These claims were not substantiated. 

Despite forensic evidence, decoding efforts, and intensive police investigation, the Zodiac Killer’s identity remains unknown to this day. 

8. The Phoenix Lights

The Phoenix Lights were among the biggest mass sightings of unidentified aerial objects. They were lights in V formation seen gliding across the Arizona skies on the night of March 13, 1997. Witnesses in Phoenix, Tucson, and Prescott caught them on tape. The lights moved about 400 miles per hour, while others said they saw these massive crafts hover over them at roof level. They glided slowly and quietly and stayed around for about 3 hours until they disappeared at intervals.  

The governor held a press conference and stated that the incident would be investigated. Actor Kurt Russell, who is also a licensed pilot, claimed in an interview that he had seen and reported the lights to the control tower at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. 

While there have been claims that this was a military exercise, there have been speculations about the flying objects possibly being extraterrestrial visits. 

7. The Bombing of Wall Street in 1920

It was one of the earliest cases of terrorism that remains unsolved to this day. It happened around noon on September 16, 1920. A horse-drawn wagon exploded near the J.P. Morgan & Company headquarters, killing 38 people and injuring hundreds in the high-traffic financial district. 

The police confirmed that the explosives consisted of a bomb made with TNT and iron sash weights, designed for deadly impact.

The motive behind the attack was not discovered. The investigators apprehended early suspects like lawyer, athlete, and mental patient Edwin Fischer, who predicted the bombing, Italian anarchist Luigi Galleani, and many other radicals at the time. However, there was not enough evidence to prosecute them.

The investigation was eventually dropped in 1940, making it one of the worst cases of terrorism in which justice has remained elusive. 

6. Bigfoot 

A wooly, 8-foot-tall creature appearing randomly in the woods of western North America is a mystery spanning generations. Indigenous and European settlers from the early 1800s to 1900s described Bigfoot as shy, reclusive, and intelligent. The legend consists of giant footprints, random appearances, and later sightings caught on grainy videos and photos. 

While this sounds more like a myth than a mystery, cryptozoology organizations are said to have found evidence that proves Bigfoot’s existence. The fascination and curiosity over this creature are prevalent to this day.

5. Area 51

Area 51 is an active U.S. Air Force installation in Groom Lake in southern Nevada. It is said to be used as a testing facility and has become widely associated with aliens and alien studies. It has been depicted in many extraterrestrial-themed movies and TV shows largely due to its enigmatic existence and accounts of residents near the area.

In 1989, a witness named Robert Lazar said in an interview that he worked on extraterrestrial technologies in Area 51.

According to Lazar, he has personally seen autopsy photos of aliens and claims that the U.S. government uses the facility to reverse engineer recovered alien spacecraft. He said he was employed as a physicist to work on the mission. 

The U.S. government discredited his claims and, in recent years, released classified information about the project. The alleged UFO sightings were said to be test flights of the U-2. All other military aircraft and planes were used by employees to fly in and out of the facility. 

There have been polarizing opinions regarding Lazar’s claims primarily due to a lack of corroborative evidence. Area 51 has continued to fascinate and intrigue people’s imagination about its real purpose and possible cover-ups. 

4. The Disappearance of the Roanoke Colony

An entire village vanishing without a trace will undoubtedly raise questions even hundreds of years after it supposedly happened. Such is the case of the Roanoke Colony in North Carolina, established by Sir Ralph Lane in 1585.

The settlement had just over 100 residents. The two previous colonial settlements were for exploration and military excursion, with the last one driven out by native tribes because they were taking up much of the land. 

The third group was for settling as a community in the New World. Lane returned to his motherland, England, to join Queen Elizabeth’s forces against Spain. Upon returning to Roanoke, the community was completely gone. The only clue left was the words “Croatoan” carved into a gatepost and “Cro” etched into one of the trees. 

Speculations as to what happened to the community included being wiped out by a disease, getting annihilated by a tribe’s violent rampage of the group, or simply leaving the area and integrating into other communities because of external threats. The prevailing theory is that the community abandoned Roanoke to travel 50 miles south to Hatteras Island, known at the time as Croatoan Island. However, no evidence pointing to any of these theories has been found. 

3. Union Leader Jimmy Hofa Vanishing

Jimmy Hoffa’s climb to the top as President of the influential Teamsters Labor Union was paved by ties to the mafia in the United States and many shady characters in the community. 

He was jailed for bribery and tempering in 1964 and released in 1971 for good behavior. On July 30, 1975, Hoffa disappeared without a trace. Investigations did not lead to any actionable evidence, and he was declared dead by the authorities after seven years.  

Many assumed his death was related to his being resolute not to step down as Teamster’s President despite the mafia wanting someone else to take his post. To this day, it’s speculated that he was murdered by the same group that supported him before their fallout. 

2. Mass Bird Death in Arkansas

This mystery involving around 5,000 birds frantically flying into buildings, dying on impact, and then falling to the ground still baffles many Americans to this day. It happened on New Year’s Eve of 2010 in the small town of Beebe, Arkansas. It was initially dismissed as a case of frightened birds reacting to the fireworks during the festivities, but a year later, the same thing happened.

On New Year’s Eve of 2011, around 2,000 birds flew into a frenzy and died the same way. This incident could not be attributed to fireworks since they had been banned after the previous year’s incident.

This mysterious mass bird death concentrated in a small town has sparked debates: some believe it’s because of wildlife diseases caused by environmental issues, while others think it’s the result of government experiments.

Local officials and wildlife researchers have yet to come up with a plausible explanation for the two mass bird deaths in two consecutive years.

1. Amelia Earhart’s Disappearance

Amelia Earhart, one of America’s aviation heroes and pioneers, was ahead of her time: she was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932. Her record-setting speeds and altitudes made her an illustrious aviator, causing the new aircraft technology to gain popularity thanks to her courage to break barriers.

On March 17, 1937, she attempted to circumnavigate the world. She took off from Oakland, California, with her co-pilot, Freed Nooman. Somewhere over the Central Pacific, they disappeared and were never found again. 

An extensive search was conducted, but no wreckage or bodies were found. Some have theorized that their aircraft crashed into the sea, while others think they missed their refueling landing site, Gardner Island, and landed on a remote island where they eventually died. Another theory is that they may have crash-landed on enemy territory and were captured. 

None of these theories have been substantiated, making her disappearance a subject of speculation to this day.

The Quest for Answers

The world has not given up on finding answers to questions surrounding these mysteries. With the advancements in forensic science and research, some answers may just be within reach—or maybe not. 

Whether light will be shed on these mysteries in the near or far future is something we will be looking forward to: for closure and perhaps even more questions. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top