This article goes out to all our true crime junkies! Everyone loves unravelling the mysteries of online Roulette but for many of us, the amateur sleuthing goes way beyond working out how to land a win. Documentaries about serial killers and other known criminals are fascinating, but is there anything more enthralling than learning about cases long gone cold, and trying to solve them yourself?
A growing group of people dedicate their free time to cracking unsolved mysteries. There are plenty of threads dedicated to the pastime on Reddit, as well as hundreds of other websites. Often, an ordinary civilian will trawl the cold case files of their local police department to see if they can imbue them with a little new warmth.
If this sounds interesting to you, you’re in luck! We’ve assembled our 5 favourite unsolved crimes for you right here. There are plenty more to discover but we think these ones are especially tantalising. Read on to see if you agree.
1. America’s Unknown Child
On 25 February 1957 a boy who was later estimated to be between 4 and 7 years old was discovered in a cardboard box in Philadelphia’s Fox Chase section. His hair was crudely cut, he was naked and bruises covered much of his malnourished body. Incongruently, perhaps, his nails were very neatly trimmed.
Police in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley were quickly galvanised into action, and everyone hoped their efforts would result in a speedy conclusion to the investigation. They didn’t. Over the years several theories and leads have been discounted, and even those that hold up to most scrutiny have a few problems.
However, interest in the case continues. Among other examples, the television show America’s Most Wanted has profiled it twice, and DNA evidence has been gathered. Most poignantly, the little body was exhumed from a Potter’s field and reburied in Philadelphia’s Ivy Hill Cemetery in 1998. The boy endures as a symbol of the plight of lost youngsters, and is commonly known as America’s Unknown Child.
2. Former Child Actor Joe Pilcher
Unlike the Unknown Child, Joe Pilcher was already a star in the first few years of his life. There are even pictures of him with fellow child actor Frankie Muniz, who shot to fame with the series Malcolm in the Middle. He moved back to his hometown of Bremerton in Washington to finish high school, and in 2005 he graduated.
Joe planned to work for a year until his top braces were removed, and then relocate to Los Angeles in 2006 to continue his acting career. He never got the chance. After a night of drinking games with friends, he disappeared without a trace. Agitated phone calls and a letter from Joe point to suicide, but this has never been confirmed and his family still insists that their golden boy would never take his life.
3. A Vermont Vanishing
Brianna Maitland was just getting her life on track in 2004. At 17, she’d been described as a “restless young woman” but she had just earned her GED and was working 2 jobs to make money. On 19 March she met her mother to have lunch and run errands. Later, her mother would report that Brianna had suddenly seen something and become anxious enough to ask to leave the store.
Through a series of assumptions and miscommunications, Brianna was only reported as missing on 23 March, 4 days after her last known sighting as she was leaving her job as a dishwasher at the Black Lantern Inn in Montgomery County, Vermont. Her Oldsmobile was found a mile outside Montgomery, with all her possessions still inside it. To date, there have been no more developments in this disappearance of a teenager with a bright future.
4. The Drowning of Elisa Lam
Elisa was a college student from Vancouver’s University of British Columbia. In late January 2013 the 21-year-old travelled by herself to Los Angeles. She was staying at the Cecil Hotel, a cheap establishment already notorious for several suicides and murders. Her parents reported her missing after she failed to contact them, as expected, on 31 January.
Security footage of Elisa gesturing and appearing strangely, apparently interacting with someone else who cannot be seen, has only deepened the mystery. She was eventually found in one of the hotel’s water tanks, and it seems obvious that she drowned. What is not so clear is why she was there in the first place. She was known to have bipolar disorder, so was she in the throes of a manic or psychotic episode? Or was she hiding from an attacker?
5. The Black Dahlia
Her real name was Elizabeth Short, and she was also a young woman with her whole life ahead of her. Like Joe Pilcher, she dreamed of making it big in Hollywood. In 1947, she was 22, living in Los Angeles and working as a waitress while she waited for stardom. She was nicknamed The Black Dahlia because of her fondness for sheer black clothes.
Her mutilated body was found on 15 January in a vacant lot. Though there was an in-depth and lengthy police investigation, it only resulted in false murder confessions and increasingly outlandish theories. In the end, Elizabeth’s wish to be famous was granted, through the infamy of her death.