Since we’re all getting stir crazy, why not discuss mysteries that involve eerie isolation with a touch of mass hysteria? These seven perplexing cases are sure to take your mind off the current situation.
The Lead Masks Case
On August 20, 1966, the bodies of two men were found on Vintém Hill in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They were identified as Manoel Pereira da Cruz and Miguel José Viana who had been missing since August 16th. First responders arrived at a very strange scene; both men were wearing formal suits, lead eye masks, and waterproof coats. Police found an empty water bottle, towels, and a notebook with an inscription that translates to, “16:30 be at the specified location. 18:30 ingest capsules, after the effect protect metals await signal mask.” There was no sign of a struggle or bodily injuries. By the time an autopsy occurred, the internal organs were too badly decomposed for toxicology tests. The cause of deaths have never been confirmed.
The Dyatlov Pass Incident
This is probably the most well-known on the list, yet the more you think about it, the weirder it becomes. In 1959, eight men and two women set out for a ski-hiking expedition of the northern Urals in Sverdlovsk Oblast, Soviet Union. They were led by Igor Dyatlov and all in attendance were experienced skiers and Grade II hikers. In fact, each member of the group would be qualifying for Grade III hiking certificates upon their return, which required 190 miles of hiking.
The eventual rescue party found an unexplainable scene. Their torn tent was found filled with everyone’s shoes and belongings. Investigators determined it had been cut from the inside. The bodies of Georgiy Krivonischenko and Yuri Doroshenko were found near the remains of a fire dressed only in underwear. A tree next to them had branches that were broken up to five feet high, as if someone had climbed to get a look. The bodies of Dyatlov, Zinaida Kolmogorova, and Rustem Slobodin were found spread out, roughly 1,000-2,000 feet from the campsite. It looked like they were trying to return to the tent.
The last four skiers were discovered two months later, and the scenario became even more confusing. Nikolai Thibeaux-Brignolles had serious skull damage. Lyudmila Dubina and Semyon Zolotaryov were found with major chest fractures. The force required for this extensive injury would have been similar to a car crash. There were no external wounds to their fractures. Dubina was missing her tongue, eyes, part of her lips, and a fragment of skull bone. Zolotaryov was missing his eyeballs and Aleksander Kolevatov was missing his eyebrows.
Obviously, this case is a breeding ground of conspiracy theories because it doesn’t make any sense. Some surmise that the group was attacked by the region’s Indigenous People. Others point to parachute mine military exercises. There’s even speculation of katabatic wind, which is a rare occurrence of wind carrying high-density air down a slope, occasionally reaching hurricane force. You could spend an entire day diving into all of the theories. The cause of deaths were officially ruled as a “compelling natural force.” In 2019, the case was reopened but officials said they will only be considering the possibility of an avalanche, “snow slab” avalanche, or a hurricane.
Yuba County Five
On February 24, 1978, five men disappeared after attending a basketball game at California State University, Chico. Gary Mathias, 25, was an Army veteran who was discharged due to psychiatric issues. At the time of the incident, he was said to be doing well in his outpatient treatment. The other men were Bill Sterling, 29; Jack Huett, 24; Tedd Weiher, 32; and Jack Madruga, 30. The latter were all reported to have learning disabilities. The group were close friends who often went to sporting events together. They all lived with their parents and only Madruga and Mathias had driver’s licenses. Madruga drove them to the game, which they decided to attend on a whim.
Madruga’s abandoned car was found on February 28th near the Sierra Nevada mountains. This was 70 miles from Chico and not on the route back to the men’s homes. Their parents couldn’t think of a reason they would have travelled this way. The car seemingly got stuck in the snow, but police noted that five healthy men could have easily pushed it out. The door was unlocked, a window was down, and the keys weren’t present. An officer hotwired the car and found that the gas tank was a quarter full. Two employees at a store 30 miles away contacted police claiming the men had come in a couple days after disappearing. They recognized them from the missing persons fliers and family confirmed that the mannerisms described by the employees were consistent.
On June 4th, Weiher’s body was found in a trailer with the front window broken out. A search commenced and Madruga and Sterling’s remains were found on the opposite side of the road from where the car was parked. Autopsies showed that they died from hypothermia. Huett’s bones were found 2 miles from the trailer. Gary Mathias has never been found.
The trailer where Weiher was discovered belonged to the Forest Service and it was stocked with heavy clothing, matches, and there were plenty of items that could have been burned. Yet no fire had been set in the trailer’s fireplace. Empty C-ration cans were found, but a stockpile of dehydrated foods were left untouched. It was enough to feed all of the men for a year.
Weiher had clearly lived for sometime after the disappearance. He had lost 100 pounds and had substantial beard growth. His shoes weren’t found and his feet were so severely frostbitten that they were almost gangrene. The case remains unsolved and it’s often referred to as the “American Dyatlov Pass.”
The Jamison Family
In 2009, Bobby and Sherilynn Jamison, along with their 6-year-old daughter Madyson, disappeared in Red Oak, Oklahoma. The family was checking out a 40-acre plot of land that they were considering buying. When their truck was found, police discovered that the family’s dog was still inside, severely malnourished by then. Their cell phones, IDs, wallets, GPS, and $32,000 in cash were also found in the truck. In 2013, the Jamisons’ skeletal remains were found only 3 miles from where the vehicle was recovered. They were too decomposed to determine cause of death.
Investigators believe drug dealing is a possibility based on the large amount of cash and reportedly erratic behavior prior to the incident. In addition, Bobby had been involved in a lawsuit with his father, Bob Dean Jamison, during 2008. He claimed Bob Dean had struck him with a car, threatened his family, and was involved with drugs and gangs.
The Unknown Harasser of Bill and Dorothy Wacker
Beginning in 1984, Bill and Dorothy Wacker became the victims of a mysterious stalker. Their Massillon, Ohio home had already been ransacked on three separate occasions when the terror amplified in July of 1985. Dorothy was home alone recovering from heart surgery when a man knocked on their door. He said his car had broken down, so she allowed him inside to use the phone. After the man was thought to have left, Dorothy was bludgeoned from behind. Once she regained consciousness, the bound and gagged Dorothy managed to get a neighbor’s attention through an open kitchen window. A composite sketch of the perpetrator was drawn and Bill realized several pricey items had been stolen from the home, including a .22 caliber revolver. A message was written on their kitchen wall in crayon, “Cheaper, but will do.”
After the incident, the Wackers received threatening phone calls and sometimes their tormentor would just breathe into the phone. Bill and Dorothy would occasionally be woken by someone pounding on the exterior of their home. After installing security lights, Bill found a note on the porch that said, “Your lightz are a laugh.” One morning, the stolen gun turned up on their front porch concealed in a shopping bag. Eventually all of the long lost items were returned in this manner.
Dorothy was attacked again in 1993 and treated at the hospital for skull lacerations. This prompted a stakeout to try and stop the torment once and for all. The Wackers’ son-in-laws parked down the street while Bill hid in a trailer in the driveway. After four hours of waiting, they called the surveillance off. Late that night, they heard banging on the porch and found a note reading, “get the message.”
The Wackers’ stalker was never identified, but many suspect it was a close friend or family member.
Flannan Isles Lighthouse Keepers
In December 1900, a ship arrived at the Eilean Mor lighthouse in the Flannan Islands carrying the replacement lighthouse keeper. The ship was due to arrive six days earlier, but had been delayed by bad weather. When no one came out to greet the ship, the captain blew the horn and even lit a warning flare. Still, the three keepers didn’t come out, so the replacement lighthouse keeper, Joseph Moore, rowed to shore.
It was immediately clear that something was wrong. The door was unlocked and two of the three jackets were missing from the entrance hall. There was uneaten food in the kitchen and an overturned chair, as if somebody had jumped out of the seat. Strangely, the kitchen clock had also stopped.
Investigations found peculiar entries in the lighthouse’s log. On December 12th, the second assistant, Thomas Marshall, wrote that there were “severe winds the likes of which I have never seen before in twenty years.” He also said the Principal Keeper, James Ducat, had been very quiet and the third assistant, William MacArthur, had been crying. MacArthur was an experienced seamen and a known brawler. There were no reported storms in the area until December 17th.
The final log was dated December 15th. It said, “Storm ended, sea calm. God is over all.” Ropes that were normally kept on a supply crane 70 feet above were found along the landing platform. Investigators couldn’t understand why one of the keeper’s had left their oilskin coat behind if they ventured out in the freezing cold.
The official reports concluded that the staff were most likely trying to retrieve the fallen ropes when a wave washed them out to sea. But it’s hard to wrap your mind around three experienced lighthouse keepers being scared of a storm from 150 feet above sea level, leaving their posts unattended, and not noticing an incoming wave. And those journal entries…
Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake
Technically, investigators have deemed this an open and shut case. But there may be more than meets the eye. Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake were well-known, successful artists when they ended their lives in 2007. Duncan’s blog had a large following in addition to her being a game designer and rising filmmaker. Blake was a digital artist and painter, with work featured in Punch-Drunk Love and Beck’s album Sea Change. The couple had been together for 12 years.
They moved from New York to Los Angeles in 2002, and this is when many acquaintances noticed a change. They often ranted about the Church of Scientology, claiming they were targets. Their relationships and achievements dwindled due to the paranoia. Eventually, they were evicted from their L.A. home when neighbors contacted the landlord in fear, ready to seek police protection from an onslaught of bizarre outbursts.
They returned to New York in 2007 and moved into an apartment at St. Mark’s Church. Frank Morales, a leftist priest that the couple befriended, put in a good word for them and helped secure the residence. But the odd behavior persisted. In July, Duncan committed suicide by ingesting a lethal dose of alcohol and Tylenol PM. Seven days later Blake went missing off Rockaway Beach. His body was found and the cause of death was presumed to be suicide by drowning.
Documents were discovered that showed Blake was planning a lawsuit against the church. In it, he accused Tom Cruise of shutting down production on Duncan’s film Alice Underground, which had initially been picked up by Fox then turned over to Paramount. Duncan asserted that Beck, who is affiliated with Scientology, had agreed to be in the film but unexpectedly backed out. Beck has long denied these claims.
The most comprehensive reporting on the couple was written by Nancy Jo Sales for Vanity Fair. In an unusual coincidence, Sales is the ex-wife of Frank Morales, which allowed her a more intimate position for her story. Did we mention that Morales is friends with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones? And interestingly, the piece was originally assigned to John Connolly, a Vanity Fair editor that was later reported to be a paid informant for the church.
Folie á deux (or shared psychosis) has long been considered a factor in the couples’ suicides. But given what we’ve learned about Scientology in recent years, it certainly makes you wonder.