4 Famous Mysteries in United States History

The history of the United States is short when compared to that of other countries. Nonetheless, there are many mysteries. Assassinations, disappearances, murders and more have left history experts and buffs baffled. When it comes to the following famous mysteries, even when there seems to be proof that leads to one answer, something does not fall into place and we are left with questions.

The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy

President John Kennedy or J.F.K. was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963, at about 12:30 p.m. He sat next to his wife when a bullet struck him in the neck. The second shot hit him in the right side of his head. He was declared dead half an hour later. The nation was shocked. America still sees this as one of the most tragic events and one of the most famous mysteries in United States history to this day.

Famous mysteries

John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office, July 11, 1963. Source: Flickr, CC, US Embassy, New Delhi.

Later on that day, a man named Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the murder of the president and a police officer who attempted to question him. Oswald worked for the Texas School Book Depository, from which the shots appear to have come. A rifle and three shell casings were found near a sixth-floor window in the building. Oswald maintained his innocence while in custody, though the evidence against him was, and is, strong. He never did get the chance to stand trial. He was murdered by Jack Ruby on November 24. Ruby shot Oswald while he was being transferred by police.

Many questions remain regarding the murder of this beloved president. Did Oswald do it? If so, (and it seems so) did he act alone? Was there another shooter? Was Oswald part of a conspiracy? Some evidence points to another shooter and/or a conspiracy. Jack Ruby claimed all sorts of heroic reasons for killing Oswald. Nonetheless, he comes off as an unsavory character, the type who would murder a man to keep him quiet. Alternatively, he could have murdered him because he was paid to do so. None of these questions has suitable answers. It could be that Harvey did act alone. It could be that he was just a piece of a much larger puzzle.

The Black Dahlia Murder

famous mysteries

A mug shot of Elizabeth Short (AKA: Black Dahlia)

On January 15, 1947, a body was found by the side of a road just outside of Hollywood. The body belonged to the victim of a particularly gruesome murder. Her name was Elizabeth Short and she would become known as the Black Dahlia.

Short had been cut in half, her lips sliced from the corners up her cheek on either side, giving her a grotesque grin, she had been disemboweled and there was bruising on her wrists and ankles. This is just a glimpse of the many ways she was reportedly defiled. Pictures of her poor, brutalized body hit the papers and the nation was enthralled. Of course, they were also terrified.

A large-scale investigation into the murder was conducted, but it turned up nothing useful. To this day, the murder has not been solved. In fact, the case has gone cold and police refuse to reopen it. There was so much hype that the investigation was severely impeded. Even now, people come forward claiming that they have clues regarding the murder. Sadly, Beth’s murderer will never be brought to justice. Chances are he or she is long dead, along with the struggling actress whose life was ended at the age of 22.

The Lost Colony of Roanoke

Another of our famous mysteries was the disappearance of the Roanoke Colony. On July 22, 1587, a group of settlers from England arrived at the island of Roanoke in what is now Virginia. They were led by a man named John White – the only settler whose fate is known. Shortly after they arrived, they concluded that they did not have the resources to survive in the hostile territory. John White decided to return to England for help. He was unable to return for three years.

famous mysteries

Baptism of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in North America 1880 lithograph. Source: Wikimedia.

John White arrived at Roanoke on August 18, 1590. Not one settler remained. John Whites daughter and granddaughter were among the missing. There was no sign of foul play and no suspicious remains. The only clue was two carvings, one in a post, and the other in a tree. The first read Croatoan. The second read Cro. Croatoan was a nearby island, where the settlers might have gone. Unfortunately, John was unable to investigate. No one is sure where the settlers went, if anywhere.

Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart was a beloved and exceptionally famous aviatrix. She was a dynamic go-getter and record-setter. Therefore, when she attempted to be the first person to fly around the world, it was a highly publicized event. It was not as highly publicized as her disappearance, however, which went on to become one of the most famous mysteries of all time.

famous mysteries

Amelia Earhart in Hawaii with Duke Kahanamoku, 1934 or 1935, public domain.

During the last leg of Amelia Earhart’s flight, she vanished somewhere near Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean. Her last transmission went out on July 2, 1937. She, her plane, and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were never seen or heard from again. Her plane was low on fuel and Howland was the only land in the area. Chances are she and Fred went down in the ocean and died as a result of the crash or from drowning. Some believe that she survived and ran off. This is highly unlikely, given the circumstances of her disappearance. She was declared dead in 1939.

Unsolved Famous Mysteries

There is something sad about famous mysteries like these going unsolved. That may be why each of these mysteries has been written about, made into movies and talked about since they occurred. There is something discomforting about a sad story going unsolved. We would like to see all the heroes’ deaths avenged, and we would like their bodies to have a proper burial. We would like to know the fate of families just trying to make their way in strange new lands.

Amelia Earhart Biography, retrieved 8/28/10.
Scheeres, Julia, Black Dahlia, retrieved 8/28/10, trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/famous/dahlia/2.html
Krajicek, David, JFK Assassination, retrieved 8/28/10, trutv.com

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Shelly Barclay writes on a variety of topics from animal facts to mysteries in history. Her main focus is military and political history. She is a writer for the Boston History Examiner, Military History Examiner and the Boston American Revolution History Examiner. She also writes for a local historical society newsletter. Shelly was a professional cook for 10 years and still has a passion for food. She cooks and writes about cooking nearly every day. She produces a wide variety of content, on top of her niches. Shelly is a stepmother, a former military, current veteran wife, sister of four and aunt of seven (so far).

Historic Mysteries