Dec 24, 2022 I Brent Swancer

The Mysterious Death of a Man From Nowhere

In the annals of strange, unsolved deaths, among the strangest of these are those people who just seem to have appeared out of thin air. These are mysterious strangers that have shown up dead with no known identity or past, their deaths seemingly mourned by no one. They spin in their wake numerous odd clues and anomalies, but very rarely any real answers. Here we will look at one such individual, who appeared from the ether in Norway to become a profound unsolved mystery. 

At around 8 a.m. on September 22, 1987, a locomotive was chugging along the railway line near Oslo, Norway, between the towns of Kambo and Moss, when something was spotted on the tracks ahead and the train slowed down for safety. At first it was thought to be a bag of garbage, but as the locomotive drew closer it could be seen that it was in fact the body of a man, lying on his stomach on the left side of the track. The train was stopped, and when the conductor went to look it was found that the man was dead, his right arm and foot separated from the rest of the body and with noticeable injuries all over him. The authorities were notified soon after.

When investigators arrived on the scene they found that the dead man had been about 50 to 60 years old, and in addition to the removed arm and foot he had sustained grevious crushing injuries to his head and scrape marks on his back. The dead man had no identification on him, indeed no wallet or money at all, and nothing in his pockets except a white and brownish handkerchief, a Swiss army knife, and an almost empty pack of Camel cigarettes. When the clothes were checked, some oddities were noted. One was that every single article of clothing had had the labels meticulously removed except the underpants, which still bore the label of the brand “Elan Body.” There was also the fact that, although the man’s clothes were overall rather cheap and of low quality, his shoes were very expensive. When an autopsy was done on the body it was found that there were no drugs or alcohol in his system, and that he had died of traumatic injuries consistent with being hit by a train. 

The police made to notify the dead man’s family, but then they soon realized that no one could figure out who he was. He had been carrying no identification of any kind and the man’s fingerprints did not match anything in the database. Images of the deceased, fingerprints of the corpse and other important information such as height and weight as well as images of some of the garments were widely distributed to multiple agencies and were circulated across Europe, but not a single person came forward claiming to have recognized the mysterious stranger, and there were no missing persons reports that matched the man’s description. It was as if he were a ghost. 

The only thing anyone could figure at the time was that he was likely German, as he was wearing German made clothes and a style of jacket called a “Schimanski jacket,” which was popular among middle-age German men at the time. Other than that, no one had a clue as to who he was or why he had been at those train tracks. By this time the case was highly publicized, with the man being called “The Kambo Man” or also “The Cambodian,” but even the increased publicity brought forward no real leads. There were a few promising clues as to the man’s possible identity when several photos were found that highly resembled him, but these led nowhere, and police investigator Helge Jodalen would say of this:

There are several tips, including one that the man is like a person who was a German soldier in Norway during World War II. It turns out that this tip also doesn't match. Another tip refers to an ad in a so-called coupon sheet. A sheet where you can cut out coupons to order items. The man depicted in this ad is scary to the dead, but a right eye mole has a different location. Thus, the man in the ad cannot be "the Cambodian."

As for the death itself, it was thought that this was a simple case of suicide, that the man had gone to those tracks in order to end his life by being run over by a train. This made sense in that suicides by train were common in Norway at the time, but what was odd was that those usually occurred at or very near train stations and this body had been found at a remote stretch of track, so why would the man have trekked all the way out there to kill himself, especially if he was a foreigner? It seemed a bit odd. Despite this, the authorities pretty much just shrugged their shoulders, proclaimed it a suicide, and filed the case away, and it would remain virtually untouched since the late 1980s. At the beginning of the 1990s, the case was partly reviewed, without getting any closer to answers, and that seemed to be that. 

It would not be until investigator Åsted Norge dusted off the case that any headway would be made, 30 years after the Kambo Man’s death. Norge went back and looked at the evidence, but although so much time had passed he hoped to glean some sort of physical evidence such as blood or DNA that could be analyzed with modern techniques. Unfortunately, the evidence had not been properly stored, and it was feared that any such evidence would have degraded considerably, and on top of this certain items were missing. Norge would lament:

In the box we find clothes and items. A jacket, a sweater, a shirt, a support stocking, a handkerchief, a sleeveless shirt, a Swiss army pocket knife, a belt, a pair of Mephisto brand shoes and a Camel cigarette pack. But some of the clothes the man wore when found were gone. The underpants and denim pants, as well as one of the support stockings are gone. The images from the autopsy show that the man wore this, but it has probably been thrown because of blood spill. All the clothes have been thoroughly washed. The material is by no means handled with regard to DNA and the type of thing. So that's the way the train has gone. The requirement to deal with this with today's thinking, it is not present, simply. The shoes and objects are therefore not removed from the plastic bags in which they are located. In 1987, DNA technology was still in its starting phase, and it was therefore not common to secure traces in the form of biological material. Therefore, the clothes were washed so that they could be used in a search. During the autopsy, blood was taken out of the deceased, but this has disappeared over the years. Thus, important tracks have been lost.

Despite this, remarkably they hit pay dirt when a tiny spot of blood was found on the shoe sole and some blood was found on the cigarette pack. It was a miniscule amount, but enough to perform a DNA test. With no known relatives to compare it to there was not much that they could do with it, but they could do an analysis to get an idea of at least where he originated from. Surprisingly, an analysis of the man’s Y-profile showed that he was very likely from Colombia, perhaps one of the many German immigrants to that country at the time, although this still did little to narrow down who he actually was or why he was on a stretch of remote train tracks in Norway. Another interesting discovery was made by Norge when they found a piece of evidence that had apparently been initially overlooked by police, of which he says:

On the inside of the left shoe we find a mysterious piece of paper that is taped. On the note is the number 15250. The police oversaw the note during the surveys in 1987. For the first time, we can also examine the shoes more closely. The blood stains that were on the shoes have been secured. We can therefore take them out of the plastic bag and study the shoes closer. Inside the left shoe there is a patch that is taped firmly. Below the faded tape we can see a number. 15250. It is certainly not the police that put it there. The patch has been overlooked during the surveys of the clothes in 1987. When the unidentified man was examined, they did not focus on the clothes. They also did not believe that the matter would be as great a mystery as it has become. The shoe has been tilted by the body, and it has not been looked into at it ... until now. But what does this number mean? Can there be numbering from a used store? Could it be a secret code? Could it be a number that the owner didn't want to lose?

What could this possibly mean? Who knows? There have been a few other tantalizing clues dug up by Norge as well. An Interesting lead came up during Norge's investigation when he came across a man named Roy Sandberg, who was in the area of the mysterious death at the time, in fact, he lived just over a mile away. At the time, he was doing a transport run by train when he heard a strange sound, and when he checked on it he found a hole cut out in the tarpaulin on one of the cars, just big enough for a man to fit through. He thought nothing of it until many years later, and now believes that the mysterious Kambo Man was a stowaway on his train. Another weird clue was a sighting of a man in the area at the time that matches the mysterious stranger's description, of which he says:

We have found a report that was written by Jernbaneverket's station manager who moved out to the scene of the collision between Moss and Kambo in 1987. In the report, the station manager writes that a locomotive on a freight train on his way to Moss observed a man with the same description as the man who was hit and killed. The man was just standing along the track. About half an hour later, the man is found dead by locomotive Svein Ivar Johannessen who runs the commuter train from Moss. I tracked down the forensic technician who was sent out by the police in Moss this September day in 1987. He says the first thing that struck him when he saw the scene was that the dead man might have tried to board the train. We have now perhaps got an answer to what the Kamboman did here on the deserted railway stretch between Kambo and Moss on the morning of 22 September 1987. It is less and less that indicates that it was a self-killing.

Does this have any connection to the case? All of these years later, no one knows who this man was or why he died, and in the absence of any real answers, there has been much speculation on who the Kambo Man was. One is that he was a spy, as the area was sensitive due to harboring a radar station that was part of the so-called Nike system. He also could have just been a drifter passing through, but no one knows for sure. The Kambo Man has never been identified, the strange clues about his clothing and other oddities never explained, and there is no consensus on how he got out there on those tracks to die. 

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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