The Greatest Unsolved Mysteries

April 2, 2014

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At press time for the Idea Peepshow, the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was still going on.

It seems unfathomable that in 2014 an airplane carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members could simply vanish. I keep thinking there must be a logical explanation, but every day that passes leads us closer to the reality that we may never truly know what happened.

The plane disappeared March 8, meaning its black boxes could stop pinging from their location by this time next week. If that occurs, we may end up with an all-time unsolved mystery on our hands.

It’s one of the saddest stories I can remember because of the hundreds of families left in limbo, waiting to learn the fate of their loved ones. But it’s also one of the most fascinating. The media coverage has been unique — with daily twists and turns, but no concrete answers.

Over the years, there have been many bigger news stories, but they typically come with some resolution. Sure, there will always be conspiracy theories, but we have answers about things like 9/11, the JFK assassination, Oklahoma City, Columbine, Space Shuttle Challenger, etc.

It got me thinking: What are the most significant stories of all time that don’t have an ending? And how would they have been different with today’s technology and 24/7 news cycle? Here’s a top five:

Honorable mention: The Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman Murders — Obviously, this was a massive story that led the news for about a year. Nobody has ever been convicted of the killings. But I think we have a pretty good idea of what took place, right?

5) Jimmy Hoffa — This one had it all. Politics, mob ties and murder. The former Teamsters president disappeared in 1975 after a scheduled meeting with some mafia types. He’s been rumored to be buried everywhere from a Florida swamp to the concrete foundation of old Giants Stadium in New Jersey. He was declared legally dead in 1982, but authorities are still searching for the body, digging as recently as last year outside Detroit.

4) Amelia Earhart — Another aviation mystery here. She disappeared in 1937 while attempting to fly around the world. She likely crashed into the ocean, but a search party led by the U.S. Navy tried to locate her for two weeks. And there were multiple reports of radio communications coming from her frequency after the plane had either crashed or crash landed somewhere in the South Pacific. The story captured the world’s attention at the time, when the only source for information was radio and daily newspapers. If this happened today, we probably would’ve been watching her via live stream thanks to an energy drink sponsor and we would’ve seen it all play out in real time.

3) Alcatraz Escape — In 1962, three men escaped from the inescapable prison by using spoons to carve holes in their cell walls over the course of a year. They fabricated life-like dummy heads out of soap, toilet paper and real hair to fool guards doing bed check as they slipped through the holes into a service corridor, climbed through a ventilation system and made it to the roof. From there, they shimmied down the side of the prison, scaled a fence and then built a raft out of inflated raincoats before shoving off into the bay. Remnants of the raft and some personal items were found on a nearby island, but the prisoners were never seen again. That’s a tale straight out of Hollywood. Did they make it to freedom or did they die in the water? We may never know.

D.B. Cooper

D.B. Cooper

2) D.B. Cooper — Shortly after takeoff on a flight from Portland to Seattle in 1971, “D.B. Cooper” passed a note to a flight attendant saying he had a bomb in his briefcase and that he wanted $200,000 and four parachutes. The plane landed in Seattle to refuel and authorities met the man’s ransom demands. He then gave the pilot specific instructions about how and where to fly the plane before opening a door and parachuting out mid-flight, never to be found.

1) Roswell Incident — You think there were a lot of theories about who the Yellow King was on HBO’s “True Detective”… what if somebody found a crashed “flying saucer” in 2014 instead of 1947? And what if an Army public information officer issued a press release saying they had recovered a “flying disk” before the U.S. military later explained that it was debris from the crash of an experimental high-altitude surveillance balloon and the “bodies” found at the site were actually crash test dummies? And then what if all the information was “classified” and everything was hidden behind closed doors in a secret military base? This story probably would’ve broken the internet.

What have I missed and where will the Malaysian jet rank on the list of unsolved mysteries if we never learn the truth?