2015 has turned out to be a remarkable year for news. In the United States, we’ve seen a lot of buzz (and controversy) building as we lead up to another election year, as well as political upheaval in parts of Europe and, of course, Middle Eastern countries. We’ve also seen a number of unique scientific advancements, which includes the possible discovery of a brand new particle, which some scientists (unlikely though it remains) think could upturn the Standard Model of particle physics.
However, with all the news that has come and gone in the last twelve months, there have been a few stories that have made headlines here at Mysterious Universe that have certainly held our attention, and that of our readership. It’s hard to pick favorites, honestly, but among the most interesting, as well as the most significant and, at times, purely the strangest stories we’ve seen, below are five that have certainly had an impact on the study of the unexplained in the world around us.
Bryan Sykes Brings DNA Analysis to the Study of Bigfoot, Yeti and “Anomalous Primates”
Bryan Sykes, a Fellow of Wolfson College and former Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Oxford, published a paper late last year titled, “Genetic Analysis of Hair Samples Attributed to Yeti, Bigfoot and Other Anomalous Primates.” The paper, which appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Society in August, 2014, was recognized as the first legitimately scientific, large-scale DNA survey of anomalous primate evidence. Sykes’ previous work included publication of the first-ever report on extracting DNA samples from ancient bones.
This year, debate over Sykes and his work erupted into a full-blown storm. Granted, although the results of his DNA test failed to “prove” that any anomalous ape species existed through DNA analysis, doubt was also thrown over Sykes’ own conclusions—that some of the samples matched a polar bear that existed 40,000 years ago—when independent studies failed to reach the same conclusions.
While the press played up the story of Zana, an alleged “ape woman” from the late 19th century in advance of Sykes’ book, The Nature of the Beast: The First Genetic Evidence on the Survival of Apemen, Yeti, Bigfoot and Other Mysterious Creatures into Modern Times, Sykes states in the book that Zana had been, “a slave woman brought from southern Africa, perhaps suffering some kind of deformity, apparently mute, and a victim of horrible mistreatment.
Despite New Leads, MH370 Mystery Remains Unsolved
The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 remains, quite arguably, one of the greatest mysteries of the new millennium, let alone having held our attention throughout 2015. The airliner vanished while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014 during clear weather, and no distress signal was received around the time the plane disappeared from radar tracking systems. A massive search was launched, but the Boeing 777 has yet to be found, with all 239 people on board presumed to be dead.
2015 saw some significant breakthroughs in the search, however. Debris finally was discovered in July of this year at Reunion Island, consisting of a portion of a wing called a flaperon that French officials, after weeks of deliberation, confirmed to have belonged to the plane. CNN reported at that time that “a series of numbers found inside the plane’s flaperon matches records held by a Spanish company that manufactured portions of the component.”
Among the latest theories as to the cause of the disappearance had been an Australian study, which suggested a sudden electrical failure on board the aircraft.
The Roswell Mummy: A Dark Day for Roswell “Truthers”
A group of UFOlogists promoting a grainy photograph which they felt might offer “proof” of alien bodies recovered at Roswell, New Mexico, were in for a rude awakening earlier this year, when an image leaked from an event based around the affair was proven to be the mummified remains of child. The event, held in Mexico City, was hosted by UFO promoter Jaimie Maussan.
A group of primarily skeptical UFO researchers, called “The Roswell Slides Research Group” used commonly available digital de-blurring software to enhance the leaked image, revealing text that offered clues to the photo’s subject, and its origins. Soon, a match was found online, in an excerpt from Mesa Verde Notes in the September 1938 issue, Volume VIII, Number 1, which read as follows:
“A splendid mummy was received by the Park Museum recently when Mr. S.L. Palmer Jr. of San Francisco returned one that his father had taken from the ruins in 1894. The mummy is that of a two year old boy and is in an excellent state of preservation. At the time of burial the body was clad in a slip-over cotton shirt and three small cotton blankets. Fragments of these are still on the mummy.”
Despite the conclusive identification of the mummy depicted in the leaked slide, at least some of the individuals that were involved with promotion of the event have maintained the slide’s legitimate connection to a purported UFO crash that occurred in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947.
What Were the Mysterious Black Orbs That Fell Over Spain This Year?
In early November, Spanish goat farmers in Spain discovered a strange, round object in their fields near Calasparra, Murcia. Within just a few days, two more of these odd, round objects appeared, which were variously described as resembling satellites, or perhaps fuel tanks belonging to some aircraft or orbital object.
With anticipation leading to the release of J.J. Abrams new Star Wars: The Force Awakens film, some also claimed the objects “bear a striking resemblance to a torture droid appearing in the Star Wars film series, known as the IT-O Interrogator.”
Researchers have guessed that the objects may have been “a pressurized gas container, which fell to earth from space.” However, it remains unclear why three of the objects had fallen to Earth, and why several would be confined to such a geographically exclusive area.
Skull Unearthed at Arkaim, Russia’s Stonehenge, Displays Cranial Deformation
Arkaim is an ancient site in Russia’s Bredinsky District, on the Southern Urals steppe. Famous for being one of the most curious and enigmatic locations in all of Russia — and perhaps the entire world — the site dates back to around the 17th century BC, and likely coincided with the period during which the Sintashta-Petrovka culture had thrived in the region. The site at Arkaim was eventually abandoned, and like many others around the world, forgotten for centuries.
Earlier this year, a body uncovered at the site, believed to be around 2000 years old, depicted cranial deformation resembling the famous “elongated skulls” discovered near Paracas, Peru. The remains belonged to a woman who may have undergone the cranial modification according to tribal traditions.
The cause of the odd shape is well understood by scientists, and recognized as having been the result of a mechanical practice of skull-elongation that was continued by numerous cultures around the world until as recently as the last century. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the discovery, however, has to do with reasons why so many ancient cultures in different parts of the world (presumably with little or not contact betwixt them) taught themselves this process, and carried out such a strange tradition.
The headlines we’ve featured here not only highlight some of the most unusual stories of the year, but in a few cases, also show how science is helping unravel a number of mysteries typically relegated to the realms of the “paranormal”. There have also been a number of lessons learned (particularly the case with the so-called “Roswell Slides” fiasco.
Thus, these remain a few of our favorites… what are yours? Let us know what stories grabbed your attention this year, and in the meantime, we’ll be looking forward to seeing what 2016 has to offer in the way of new scientific and historical discoveries, as well as the downright unusual stuff that gets our attention from time to time.