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History's mysteries part 1

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People love good mysteries and history is replete with them. Sometimes, they evolve into conspiracy theories such as the death of Pope John Paul I. However, a good mystery does not need a conspiracy to challenge the mind. The following are some of the great mysteries of the modern era. This is the first installment of the top 10 mysteries in modern history.

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1. NEW WORLD VOYAGES: Christopher Columbus rediscovered America in 1492. The Vikings arrived five centuries before Columbus. Did anyone else “discover” America prior to the Vikings and after Asians migrated to the New World? The evidence is scant and controversial. An ancient skull displays the hallmark of Western Europe. Rocks off California’s coast look like Chinese anchors. Olmec stone heads look African. Rock inscriptions resemble Phoenician writing. Do these represent Asian, African, and European expeditions to the Americas or are researchers simply seeing what they wish to see?

2. ROANOKE: The English attempted to colonize the New World in 1585 with a colony at Roanoke, Virginia. In 1587, John White led 150 people to the Chesapeake Bay, but circumstances forced his return to England. White prepared to return to the colony, but England and Spain went to war. The two-year delay meant White could not return until 1590. No one greeted the relief ships. White investigated and found “Croatan” carved fence post. The governor assumed it meant the colony moved to Croatan Island. A storm forced the mission to return to England before they could investigate.

3. DAVY CROCKETT'S DEATH: Davy Crockett joined forces with William Travis and Jim Bowie at the Alamo. The trio fought a losing battle against Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. All three died along with nearly 600 of their comrades. Americans believed Crockett died fighting the Mexicans. In fact, the most famous depiction of the battle shows Crockett wielding his rifle like a club as the enemy overwhelmed him. However, a firsthand account by a Mexican soldier indicates Crockett surrendered and was executed by Santa Anna.

4. THE MARY CELESTE: The Mary Celeste docked in New York City in 1872. It took on some cargo and loaded six months of supplies for the cross Atlantic trip. The merchant ship left port on November 5 with eight men plus the captain’s wife and 2-year-old daughter. It was discovered without the crew on December 4 in perfect condition. The ten people were missing and the cargo and personal items remained untouched. The crew left the ship, but no one knows why. Theories range from the logical to the absurd. Did the crew leave the ship because of toxic fumes from their cargo? Was it mutiny or piracy? Others have postulated alien abduction and sea monsters. Whatever the cause, people believed the Mary Celeste cursed.

5. JACK THE RIPPER: A serial killer butchered five women in the Whitechapel district of London in 1888. The murderer mutilated his victims and then disappeared after his spree. He might have toyed with the authorities while the manhunt intensified. Someone sent a letter to the press claiming to be the killer. The Jack the Ripper moniker originated with this correspondence. More letters were sent to the press and Scotland Yard. One included a kidney purported to be from one of the victims. The murders stopped mysteriously, but a number of similar crimes in Whitechapel in 1891 were ascribed to Jack the Ripper, but an actual connection to the 1888 killings was never made.

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