Mystery is one of the concepts that makes the world go around – it is the essence of you checking out every great film or book, trying out new flavours.
Mystery is one of the concepts that makes the world go around – it is the essence of you checking out every great film or book, trying out new flavours, and can evoke a whole range of emotions from fear and intrigue to hope and obsession.
The mystery, and lack of any definitive answers, is why this list of unsolved murders remains in the public consciousness decades after they happened. The reasons for this are tenfold – gruesome details, the high profile of the victims, and continual public awareness via film, TV, and books ensure that we are constantly forced to remember and think about what has gone unsolved for so long.
Below we list some of the most famous unsolved murders to happen in recent history, looking at the reasons they remain such an active part of the public imagination. Could you help solve any of the mysteries?
The Jack The Ripper Murders
Perhaps the greatest unsolved murder in history, and one that continues to intrigue and influence the public to this day, Jack The Ripper’s reign of terror lasted throughout 1888 in the Whitechapel district of London as he murdered five female prostitutes in an increasingly gruesome manner. Due to the fact all of the victims had their throat slit and then their abdomens mutilated and organs removed, theorists and investigators have long believed the murderer had some sort of anatomical knowledge and was a doctor or butcher.
In the 100+ years since the murders, a variety of speculations on the identity of Jack The Ripper have been made, with one of the most popular and intriguing theories being that the serial killer was Sir William Gull, Queen Victoria’s royal surgeon, and that the murders were perpetrated to conceal the birth of an illegitimate royal baby fathered by Prince Albert. Just a couple of months ago the Daily Telegraph ran a story wondering if the identity of the serial killer had finally been revealed as Francis Spurzheim Craig, a court reporter who was married to one of the victims. The previous year, the Daily Mail mused on his identity as that of Polish immigrant Aaron Kosminski after DNA extraction from a shawl found near one of the victims. The intrigue goes on and on…
The mystery of the serial killer, as well as the location and time period of the murders have proved to be a great source of inspiration for everything from graphic novels, films, computer games and TV shows, ensuring that Jack The Ripper remains in our minds to this day.
The Black Dahlia
The Black Dahlia murder took Hollywood by storm in 1947, when Elizabeth Short – a 22 year old struggling actress – was found cut in half, mutilated, and drained of blood in the streets of LA. With a whirlwind of press coverage, Short’s murder became the epitome of a media circus as several people came forward to confess to the murder hoping to gain some sort of publicity before all being released due to lack of evidence. This ensured the LAPD task force became overworked and overwhelmed, and due to Short’s promiscuous private life it became impossible for them to identify potential suspects, and eventually the enthusiasm and furore for the case quietly died down and to this day remains unsolved.
Much like the Jack The Ripper case, the Black Dahlia has proved to be a source of inspiration for a variety of films and books, with the most famous being James Ellroy’s crime noir novel which draws from the murder to explore themes of obsession and revenge.
The Zodiac Killings
Want to make a series of murders more intriguing and mysterious? Add encryption to the mix. Throughout 1969 the Zodiac terrorised San Francisco, beginning with the murder of a couple who were sitting in a car and making out. Zodiac would strike again and again throughout the year – shooting a couple in a park, tying and stabbing a couple who were picnicking lakeside and shooting a taxi driver point blank, all while toying with the police and reporters after every killing.
Calling in to confess to the murders and sending in coded letters to various newspapers in San Francisco, the killer used a crosshairs symbol as his sign and though the investigation went on for years, with many suspects detained and questioned, no one ever confessed or was arrested. Of the four cryptograms sent to the newspapers only one has ever been definitively solved and the obsession with decoding the letters and uncovering the murderers identity drove Robert Graysmith, a former cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle, to devote 13 years of his life to attempting to solve the mystery, leading to the eventual publication of a best-selling book on the subject.
As with the other unsolved murders on the list, the intrigue and mystery surrounding the facts of the murder and the identity of the murderer have led to a variety of mentions and adaptations in pop culture – from being the basis for the first Dirty Harry film to mentions in song by metal band Machine Head, and an intense look at the men behind the initial investigation in David Fincher’s film, Zodiac.