Death is undeniable, and no one can escape it. However, typically when a person dies, the reason for that person’s death is known. Especially if a famous person dies, the end is usually well-documented, and apparent causes of death are also noted. But this fact may not be entirely true, as some deaths are still unsolved and mysterious. With historians and archaeologists revealing secrets from the past, there are still some secrets that are hidden.
Some of these famous yet mysterious deaths are discussed below, so hold tight because you are going to get really curious.
1. Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe disappeared for about six days, in 1849, after which he was found in Baltimore on October 3, 1849. According to Joseph W. Walker (the man who found Poe), he was in bad condition; Poe was “in great distress, and… in need of immediate assistance.” Seeing his worsening condition, Poe was then taken to the Washington Medical College, where he died after a few days on October 7, 1849.
During his stay at the hospital, Poe suffered from hallucinations and fever and kept calling the name of an unknown person called “Reynolds.” The official reason for Poe’s death was said to be cerebral inflammation or congestion of the brain. However, no autopsy was held, and the real cause of his death stayed a mystery. His death was also associated with his drinking habits, but the postmortem hair analysis declared that Poe’s body had no traces of the lead used in wine during the 19th century.
The Maryland Medical Journal blames rabies for the death of Edgar Allan Poe. It was because Poe suffered from almost all the potential symptoms of rabies, including coma, hallucinations, and delirium. While some believe that Poe died of a disease, others think he was poisoned by his fiancée’s brothers, who disagreed with their marriage.
Other than all these explanations, there can be one more explanation for Poe’s death. During the 19th century, voter fraud, also known as “Cooping,” was very common. Some gangs would kidnap people and force them to vote for the same candidate multiple times, wearing different clothes every time. This explanation seems more legit because the pub where Poe was found on October 3 served as a polling station for the Congressional elections of 1849.
Moreover, Poe wasn’t wearing his own clothes and was drunk (voters were given alcohol for voting at that time), making it believable that Poe was kidnapped and was a victim of cooping, which may have caused his mysterious death.
With all this being said, there is still no clear explanation for Poe’s death, as all of his medical records, including his death certificate, have disappeared.
2. Napoleon Bonaparte
The death of Napoleon Bonaparte has been a topic of debate. According to the autopsy that Francois Carlo Antommarchi (Napoleon’s personal physician) did, the cause of death was stomach cancer; however, Antommarchi never signed this report. Even though Napoleon had been complaining about stomach pain and nausea but during his last days, he wrote a will, in which he said, “I die before my time, murdered by the English oligarchy and its assassin,” this statement made his death complicated and mysterious.
The theory of poisoning Napoleon has a few explanations because when the body was transported to St. Helena for a reburial, it was reported that it was in very good condition. Some scientists believe that this unexplainable good condition of Napoleon’s corpse was because of the arsenic exposure.
In 1916, elevated levels of arsenic were found in Napoleon’s hair, which made the poisoning theory stronger. Other than arsenic, other toxic elements such as tartar emetic and calomel were also found in Napoleon’s body. Even though there are two theories regarding Napoleon’s death, the matter is still unsolved.
3. Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe was a famous poet and playwright of the Elizabethan era. It is believed that along with being a playwright and poet, Marlowe was also a spy. He was murdered at the age of 29 by a man named Ingram Frizer when both of them got into a fight. For a long time, this story of Marlowe’s death was believed to be true; however, it was quite suspicious.
It is believed that it could’ve been Marlowe’s atheism that got him killed. A few days before his death, a warrant was issued for arresting Marlowe under the charges of atheism after the heretical papers were found in his room. Some people also believe that Queen Elizabeth ordered Frizer to kill Marlowe, as she was angry over the heretical religious beliefs of Marlowe. It should be kept in mind that Queen Elizabeth pardoned Frizer just after a month of Marlowe’s murder.
There is another theory that says it was Audrey Walsingham who cause Marlowe’s death. Walsingham (Audrey’s husband) had employed Marlowe, and it is also believed that Marlowe and Walsingham had a sexual relationship. At the same time, others believe that Marlowe faked his death and continued writing poems and plays.
There is a theory called the Marlovian theory, according to which the author behind Shakespeare’s plays and poems was actually Marlowe. Whatever the cause of Marlowe’s death or reason may be, it is for sure that the mystery will never be solved.
4. The Tamam Shud Case
The Tamam Shud case is also known as the Mystery of the Somerton Man. The case of this unknown man’s death is still unsolved.
In 1948, a corpse of an unidentified man was found near Somerton Park Beach, Australia. The body had no injuries and was in perfect condition; however, the labels of the clothing were all missing. Months after the body was found, a scrap of paper was discovered from a secret pocket of the dead man’s trouser. This piece of paper had the words “Tamam Shud” printed on it. The words are Persian, and they mean “is over” or “is finished.” The paper was torn out of a copy of a book called “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.”
After discovering this scrap of paper, a police appeal was made, which led the police to the copy from which the scrap was torn. The book had a telephone number, an unidentified number, and a text that looked like an encrypted message on its back cover. However, the code was never interpreted or decoded enough to satisfy the investigation. The case was called “one of Australia’s most profound mysteries,” and no one ever got to know who that man was and how he died.
Some people believe that the unidentified person may be a spy, while others believe it was suicide. However, there has been no further investigation into this case, and until there may be some break in the case, the gravestone of the Somerton man will remain reading “Here lies the unknown man who was found at Somerton Beach December 1, 1948.”
5. The Jeannette DePalma case
Jeannette DePalma was a 16-year-old school-going girl whose death was never solved. Most people believe that DePalma was killed by a coven of witches who used her as human sacrifice. Her body was found on a cliff in Springfield covered with occult symbols after a dog brought a decomposed forearm home.
The details of this case were lost because of a flood. However, the local newspapers report that police couldn’t find anything because of the badly decomposed body. It is believed that DePalma might have provoked a Satanist group while trying to evangelize them. But it is still not confirmed whether it was a coven of witches, Satan worshippers, or some other killer who killed DePalma.
6. Elizabeth Short (Black Dahlia)
Elizabeth Short was a Hollywood hopeful who worked as a waitress to support herself until she caught her big break, but that day never came. In 1947, the 22-year-old was found naked and lying feet away from the sidewalk, whose body was severed cleanly in half with not one drop of blood on her. A resident who found her dead body initially thought it was a discarded store mannequin as her skin was pallid white. Her corpse was even “posed,” with her hands over her head, elbows bent at the right angles, and legs spread apart.
Her killer has completely drained her body of blood and cleaned it. Medical examiners determined that she had been dead for about 10 hours before the discovery. The lower half of her body was positioned a foot away from the upper, and her intestines were tucked neatly beneath her buttocks. It was a truly gruesome murder that generated various theories and public speculation.
Several dozens of people have claimed to have committed the crime, but none of them appeared to be telling the truth. Despite efforts by the LAPD and the FBI to hunt down the killer, their leads did not conclude anything, and there was little to no hard evidence.
Short’s unsolved murder and its details had a lasting cultural intrigue. Her murder is usually cited as one of the most notable unsolved murders in American history and has been credited as one of the first major crimes in America to capture national attention after World War II.
7. Julia Wallace
One of the most baffling crimes in British history, the brutal murder of Julia Wallace in 1931, was a crime that was never solved. It was described as Liverpool’s impossible murder, with details tying investigators up in knots.
Julia’s husband, William Wallace, worked at Prudential Insurance as an insurance agent and was attending a chess club at a local café. He received a message left with the club’s captain, requesting him to go to an address: 25 Menlove Gardens East the following night at 7:30. Wallace attended the chess club only occasionally, but the caller seemed to know that he would be there that night. It was also normal for him to receive calls like that because he worked as an insurance agent. When he got to the address, he couldn’t find it because there were North, South, and West Menlove Gardens, but no East. As time passed by with no sign of his destination, he eventually gave up and returned home, where he found his wife brutally bludgeoned to death in their living room.
Wallace was a prime suspect in the murder, and he had been tried and convicted of the crime, with many believing he staged it. But later, he was exonerated as there wasn’t enough evidence to keep him in jail. Two others were considered suspects: Richard Perry, a man Wallace had gotten fired for messing with the company’s books, and Joseph Marsden, a man Julia was paying to have sex with her. Regardless, the murder remained a cold case still lying open on the police’s list of unsolved murders.
Death is inevitable but dying without leaving a trace of what killed you is surely horrific and mysterious. No one would ever want to die in a place or in circumstances where the death would become a mystery, and the gravestones wouldn’t be able to tell the name of whoever lies there or the reason for their death.