The victim was found dead at 6:30 am, December 1, 1948, under a street lamp at Somerton Beach in Australia. And with that, we have exhausted everything we know about the man. It's the things we don't know that have been baffling authorities ever since. Including the meaning of the apparently uncrackable secret code he left behind.
But more on that in a moment. Things first started to lurch towards the creepy when police noticed that all his clothes' identification marks had been removed. They were eventually and painstakingly able to place a jacket to America, which was strange because his dental records and fingerprints didn't match anyone who'd ever lived there... or anywhere else in the world. It was like the guy had never existed.
So the cops must have been half expecting it when the coroner returned with the cause of death: "Sudden, acute onset of damned if I know." The autopsy revealed exceptional health, a half-digested pasty in his stomach, and congestion in his brain and stomach that would have been consistent with poisoning if, you know, they'd found even a trace of poison anywhere in his body. For good measure, his spleen was three times too big.
Every breakthrough seemed to increase the mystery. They discovered a brown suitcase that had apparently belonged to the man, but that only revealed more clothes with the tags removed, and the aforementioned jacket.
The cops also discovered a secret pocket in the man's pants, which contained a scrap of paper with the words "Tamam Shud" printed on it (the words meaning "ended" or "finished").
The text looked like it was a scrap torn from a book. And it turned out it was; from a collection of poems called The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. And not just any Rubaiyat, but a specific translation, and an extremely rare one at that.
This was pointed out after police did an Australia-wide search as if the book was the ark of the goddamn covenant, presumably braving Indiana Jones-esque temples and solving ancient aboriginal riddles before some dude mentioned he found a copy of that exact book in the back seat of his car right around the time and location of death.
Sure enough, "Tamam Shud" was missing from the books pages. Instead of a library card with the dead man's name printed on it or something even a little bit helpful, the book contained the clue that would take the mystery from "spooky" to "officially starting to piss us off."
It Gets Weirder:
In the back of the book, the cops found this code: Five sets of seemingly random letters, the second of which is crossed out. So, what does this code tell us? Nothing. Nothing at all. To this day it remains unsolved.
Was the code the result of a disturbed mind, or chronic boredom, perhaps? Turns out, no. The most recent attempt to solve the case found the letters aren't random, just some mysterious cipher nobody was familiar with. Can you solve it? If so, you're about to be famous, considering people have been trying for more than 60 years.
In 1966, a Brazilian boy flying a kite happened upon the bodies of two engineers lying next to each other in the grass. There was no sign of how they had died before the boy stumbled across them and he claimed he found them that way. We're sure the cops took a good hard look at him to make sure he wasn't like that murderous magical kid from The Twilight Zone who could kill people with his mind.
Anyway, before long the hill was crowded with policemen, scratching their heads at an utterly baffling crime scene--if it was a crime at all. The two dead men were dressed for their funerals in fancy suits and impermeable coats. There was an empty water bottle nearby. There were no signs of violence on either of them.
Why is it called the "Lead Masks Case"? Well, that's the baffling part. The dead men wore lead masks, a type used to protect against radiation.
The two guys were identified as electronic technicians from the area.
The police gathered evidence and eventually created a reconstruction of the day of their deaths. In it, the men buy their raincoats and go to a bar to buy bottled water. Whatever the reason, one of the men appeared rather nervous, and when they left the bar they went straight to the hill the boy found them at, then spontaneously dropped dead. Case closed.
It Gets Weirder:
A notebook was found at the scene. The notes inside translate to:
16:30 be at the agreed place.
18:30 swallow capsules, after effect protect metals wait for the mask sign
Well, they swallowed "capsules," so obviously that's what killed them, right? The problem is the note seems to imply they were waiting for something to happen after the capsules took effect, which means if they were poison, the two guys didn't know they were. Also, the men had a coupon to return the water bottle when they were finished with whatever they were doing, which also seems to imply they didn't plan on dying on that hill.
Toxicology tests could not be taken due to the victims' organs not being properly preserved (they were apparently left in storage too long, but we like to think the investigators took the idea of heart volleyball and ran with it).
So, what in the hell convinced them to go out to a hill, strap on radiation protection and swallow some strange capsules? What effect were they waiting for? What were the masks protecting them from? Was there some third party who convinced them to do all of this, saying the pills would, what, make them travel back in time? Or give them super powers? Was it all part of some 60s Brazillian version of Punk'd?