It’s Folklore Thursday again and time for another of my favourite mysteries. Last week I posted about The Voynich Manuscript and we decided in the comments that it’s probably a book of Vogon poetry. Don’t ever, ever let a Vogon read you poetry. Folklore Thursday: The Voynich Manuscript
Today’s mystery is sadder and, in many ways, even more compelling.
It started in 1948, when a man was found dead on Somerton Beach in Australia. He was unremarkable in appearance and around 45-years-old. He carried no ID and had apparently gone to some lengths to ensure he couldn’t be IDed: all the labels were removed from his clothes and he didn’t have a wallet on him.
What he did have on him was a page torn out of the Rubaiyat – a collection of poetry by the 12th century poet Omar Khayyam. The page contained only two words–the end of the last poem in the book–Tamam Shud, Persian words meaning ‘ended’. [N.B. The misspelling in my title is intentional. While the case was fresh the phrase was reported incorrectly as ‘Taman Shud’ so many times that it’s stuck.]
An autopsy was inconclusive. The Somerton Man’s dental records could not be matched to any known person. The pathologist suggested the cause of death had been poison.
An undetectable poison.
Already bizarre, right?
Then the coded message was found.