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The Friday Five - My Favorite History Mysteries

By George, it's Friday and you're going to learn something! Or, I guess you could replace my URL with the one for LOL catz instead, but I'd prefer you learned something. Those furry little balls of cuteness aren't going anywhere.

Today, because I just cataloged a book about Roanoke, I'm going to talk about great mysteries in history. Great mysteries that would also make awesome novels, if you need a poke in the right direction. Not that there haven't been a lot of stories already done about these things, but hey, what's a few more, right?

#1) Roanoke - Oh, I love this one! Nothing pleases me more than an afternoon spent speculating what could've happened to the occupants of the Roanoke Colony. They settled here, the first Englishmen, in August 1585. In July of the following year, some of the settlers went home to get more supplies. Fifteen men stayed behind. They were never heard from again. They disappeared without a trace. The next batch of settlers arrived in August 1857 and cheerfully started rebuilding Roanoke. Good plan, y'all. Build where others mysteriously vanished. Because when supplies dwindled again, Governor John White went back to England and got waylaid for three years while England fought with Spain. When he got back, there wasn't a soul to be found. Only two mysterious carving in trees. One said 'Croatoan' and one said 'Cro'. Some speculate that the settlers moved inland to winter with the natives. Some speculate the settlers died at the hands of natives. When John Smith came over a handful of years later, Chief Powhatan admitted to murdering the settlers, but there's no conclusive evidence of this. Around the time of the 350th anniversary of Virginia Dare (the first English child born in the new world), the Dare Stones were 'discovered'. They were carved with messages from Eleanor Dare to her father explaining deaths, plans to move to Chesapeake, and attacks of the tribes. These have never been proven to be real.
What I think happened: I think they just wandered off. They vanished in the manner that we'd all sometimes like to make idiot tourists vanish in. No, really. One time when I worked a theme park, I was on my last break of the day. These tourists asked me where the park was. All I could do was stare at the sheer ignorance. These colonists got the asking annoying questions, the Indians said, "Over there" and the whole lot of them wandered off to their deaths. (Or the assimilated into the tribes, like this theory says.)

#2) Mary Celeste - A merchant ship en route to Italy was found abandoned on December 4, 1872. The weather was favorable for sailing. The belongings of the crew were found aboard, including valuables. There was six months worth of food on board. One lifeboat was missing. Mary Celeste was carrying about $35,000 worth of alcohol and insured for $46,000. Some speculate that it was the gas fumes from the alcohol that vaporized the crew. Pardon me while I sneeze--bull&$!%. Oh, I feel better now. It appears as though the occupants of the ship bailed in a hurry. You know, unless aliens got them. In which case, the aliens probably hauled them in in a hurry. They towed Mary Celeste to Gibraltar and an inquiry was done. They found no signs of foul play, so she was sailed back to America. All in all, she changed hands 17 times before she was run around and set on fire in an insurance scam that didn't work.
What I think happened: Gnarliest trick ever pulled. Someone was passing around a hallucinogen and the whole crew goes overboard. Or in a Winter's Bone-esque disappearance, the good captain owed someone money and it was time to collect. I only say that because when someone "disappears" in this neck of the woods, that's usually what happened. Mr. Woodrell was not kidding in that book.

#3) The Antikythera Mechanism - Reputed to be the world's first computer, the Antikythera mechanism was designed to help mankind chart the stars. Now we have TMZ and People Weekly to--no, no, wrong kind of stars. Carbon dated all the way back to the Hellenistic Period, this "computer" was lovingly crafted and highly advanced, which suggests that it's not the first of its kind, but probably one of the best working. You know, for back then. The movie made for TV movie, The Last Templar suggests the mechanism was used to find the lost scrolls of the Bible, hidden by (if I remember correctly, but I probably don't) the Knights Templar. Or the Catholics. I forget. Um, it was okay movie. Anyway, according to scientists, real ones, not the TV kind, one could input a date on a lever that's lost now, and calculate where the stars and heavenly bodies would be. It has over 30 gears and possibly a lot more, just like watches of the 19th century. Fall behind the times much? You know what, if it can't tell me the time, make a phone call, keep my blog and grammar check my latest WIP, it's not a whole lot of help to me.
What I think it is: I'm sure there are parts and pieces my eyeballs aren't privvy to. Or I didn't look hard enough for pictures. It looks pretty decrepit. How do they know for sure that it ever really did anything? Looks like some gears to me. But then, I'm not mechanically inclined. At all.

#4) The Carnac stones - What the--? A bunch of rocks in straight lines. Wow, that's helpful. What is the obsession with people from days of yore stacking or lining up rocks? This just me thinking and gathering from what I've read, but they're probably tombstones of a sort. Most of these rocks stacked on other rocks are tombs or over burial mounds. So probably it has something to do with dead people. For all we know, they say, Here lies Joe, victim of being eaten by a bog bear (are there bogs in France?). And people (I'm talking about modern people here) are too concerned with building roads and using these rocks for sheep sheds to care that poor ol' Joe is probably moldering away under there. Well, since some of them were put up around 3500 B.C. he's probably not moldering anymore. In thousands of years, our descendants will look at our cemeteries and go, what the--?
What I think it is: Tombstones. End of story.

#5) Atlantis - If Plato says it's true, it must be true. Except for that whole women aren't as good as men thing. Not cool, Plato. That aside, he wrote about the subject of Atlantis, the mysterious, purportedly sunken country that had technology of which we could only dream of way back when. There's a cool map on the Wikipedia site that shows the Atlantean control way up into the Midwest. Yes, of America. And even some parts of what appears to be Canada. They were a force to be reckoned with, rumored to have one heck of a navy as well as advanced technology. Plato believes the Atlanteans got a little too powerful for their pants and sank into ruin when they tried to attack Athens. Geologists say there can never have been any such place as Atlantis because of the shifting of the plates. They'd be able to see a sunken island. But... the technology thing kind of makes sense when you think about the Baigong pipes and the Baghdad battery.
What I think happened: They got too big for their ancient britches. It happens in history. Over and over again. You can be the biggest, baddest power going for centuries and then boom, you make one little mistake somewhere and it sets of the butterfly effect. There's no telling what kind of civilizations rose and fell that we don't even know about. Atlantis got smote by a bigger, badder force, sucked into their culture and forgotten about or died off in a manner so horrible the world chose to forget it. Or Plato was totally off his rocker to begin with.

Happy Friday!


  1. Awesome post!! Wow, I loved it. You know what I think Atlantis was--people from our future that discovered a time machine and then went back in time. But since they weren't supposed to go back in time--because they would screw up future events--I think future people followed them back in time and destroyed them. Yep, that's my theory, LOL.

  2. That is a really brilliant hypothesis. I love it!

  3. Thanks. Maybe one day this hypothesis could be turned into a book. But what sort of future weapon would be used....have to think on that.

  4. That's a great idea for novel. I'd read it in a second. Well, it'd take me longer than a second to read, but I'd read it for sure!

  5. I love your list of mysteries but I have to say that the Mary celeste was bigged up by the press and was not as romantic as it seems-low news week. Atlantis was Plato droning on and on about his ideas, if it was anywhere my money was on Santorini. Carnac-the people shaped the land for energy reasons, it was a rich society with work hours to spare and they used that surplus to express their relationship with the land. Roanoak-the people just died, no support systems anywhere near them. The Antikythera - interesting, wouldn't surprise me if someone had invented such a device, after all the Greek had a steam engine.
    My list of mysteries would be the age of the Sphinx, the Saxon Wyrd, and Neanderthal music.


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