Who was Jack the Ripper, what happened to the Mary Celeste, and did Richard III really murder the princes in the Tower? These are some of the biggest historical mysteries of all time. Here, after scouring 1,000 years of public records at the National Archives in search of answers, Dr David Clarke, the author of Britain’s X-traordinary Files, charts nine of the greatest unsolved puzzles of modern times
1) The Mary Celeste
What became of the crew and passengers of this British-American brigantine remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the sea. The name has since become synonymous worldwide with derelict ‘ghost ships’.
The Mary Celeste was found drifting 400 miles east of the Azores by the crew of another cargo-carrying vessel, the Dei Gratia, on 5 December 1872. The leader of the boarding party told a British board of inquiry at Gibraltar he found the ship was “a thoroughly wet mess”, with possessions left behind and the lifeboat missing.
No trace of Captain Benjamin Spooner Briggs, his wife and their young daughter or the seven experienced crew members has ever been found. Many ingenious theories have been put forward by writers such as Arthur Conan Doyle to explain what happened to them. My favourite comes from a 1965 episode of the BBC series Dr Who, where the frightened crew jump overboard when the Daleks materialise on the ship while chasing the occupants of the TARDIS.
2) Jack the Ripper
The true identity of this Victorian serial killer continues to elude us 126 years after the gruesome killing spree in London’s East End in 1888. In the latest development…
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