Everything happens for a reason.
This popular platitude epitomizes our enlightened society. Everything has a purpose and explanation. We count on science and brainpower to decipher every puzzle, and if we can’t figure something out, we believe we must only apply logic and reason like Sherlock Holmes to solve the mystery. The longer some intractable mysteries endure, the more they grow into folklore and legend in our collective minds. We still don’t know how three prisoners escaped from Alcatraz and whether or not they survived the frigid waters of San Francisco Bay in 1962. We may forever debate whether or not the Air Force is keeping aliens on ice and the Roswell UFO in storage at Area 51 in the Nevada desert.
However, some of the greatest mysteries that have captured our imaginations have indeed been solved. Here are three:
The Bermuda Triangle
In 1974, author Charles Berlitz scared the collective crap out of 20 million readers by publishing a bestselling book, The Bermuda Triangle, which examined the eerie history of ships and airplanes that disappeared without a trace in the ocean between Florida, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico. The “Devil’s Triangle” became the focus of conspiracy theories about extraterrestrials, demons, and even the lost city of Atlantis. Many still believe that malevolent forces haunt this stretch of sea.
Nonetheless, scientists and investigators determined shortly after The Bermuda Triangle book was published that bad weather and accidents explained these incidents. The U.S. Coast Guard pays no attention to this myth, and every day scores of ships and planes travel safely through the “Devil’s Triangle.” If you’re still unsure, consider that the insurers at Lloyd’s of London don’t think that area poses greater risk of liability than any other stretch of water on earth.
She was almost a superhero. In 1928, she was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, despite the fact that she was the back seat passenger on that flight. Still everyone called her “Lady Lindy” and showered her with international fame and affection. Worldwide adulation continued a few years later when she succeeded in flying solo across the Atlantic. But in 1937, when Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, set out to fly around the world in their Lockheed Electra, they came up short. At least, the plane did. She and Fred lost contact and disappeared, never landing on Howland Island, their Pacific island destination.
Since then, many have speculated about what could have happened to the brave aviatrix and her partner. Other than the mundane possibility that the plane ran out of gas and dropped into the sea, rumors surfaced that after surviving a crash landing the Japanese captured, imprisoned, and/or executed her. Another theory suggested that a navigational error led her to some remote island, where she lived in secrecy to a ripe, old age.
While it’s unclear exactly what happened to Amelia Earhart, one thing is certain: she died.
In 2018, the journal Forensic Anthropology confirmed with 99% certainty that bones found on the Nikumaroro atoll in 1940 belonged to Amelia Earhart.
The famous Bigfoot film
We’ve all seen it – that famous, grainy, homemade film of a man-sized, furry creature sauntering through a clearing in the woods and casually looking to his right to glance at the camera.
If anything could prove that Bigfoot and his equally dubious cousins, Sasquatch and Yeti, existed, this was it. Finally, someone caught the big cheese on celluloid.
Except that it was a hoax.
In 1967, a man named Bob donned an ape suit and took that legendary stroll in front of the camera in the woods in the hopes of raising money for another hoax-perpetrator, who was suffering from cancer. In 2016, three investigators, who wrote books that exposed the ruse, participated in a radio show broadcast called Hoax of the Century, which also included discussions with Bob Heironimus, the ignominious “ape,” and Philip Morris, the man who sold the costume to him.
Bigfoot, if you’re real, you still need to show yourself to a camera.
If everything happens for a reason, maybe it’s to remind us to keep our iPhones handy.
Ann K. Howley is the author of the award-winning memoir, Confessions of a Do-Gooder Gone Bad. She writes a monthly feature for Pittsburgh Parent Magazine and her essays have also appeared in publications nationwide, including skirt Magazine, Bicycle Times Magazine, and Pittsburgh Post Gazette. She teaches writing-related classes for CCAC’s community education program. An entertaining and thought-provoking speaker, Ann loves to convince people that their lives are worth writing about.
Confessions of A Do-Gooder Gone Bad is a humorous coming of age memoir about a well-intentioned “problem child” raised by conservative, evangelical Christian parents in Southern California during the Sixties and Seventies. As she naively stumbles through her youth and young adulthood, one misadventure after another, she also struggles to reconcile her ultra-Christian upbringing with women’s liberation, prejudice, protest and poverty during this turbulent era, eventually gaining a different perspective of faith in a world more complicated, funny, terrifying and wonderful than she expected.