When someone dies, it’s either from natural causes, a traumatic accident, or someone took their life into their own hands. Regardless, death can’t always be explained.
Adding to the mystery, there are those cases that are so baffling, even the savviest of all investigators are left scratching their heads in wonder. There’s always something about puzzling murder cases that makes us more interested about the real story.
So, if you’re on for a bit of murder mystery, here are five of the most controversial and inexplicable deaths of all time.
Morgan Dana Harrington
Twenty-year-old Virginia Tech University student Morgan Dana Harrington from Charlottesville, Virginia, is first on the list. Her story started in 2009.
It was in October 17, 2009, when Morgan decided to go out with her friends to see the American heavy metal band Metallica. When the show was just starting, Morgan excused herself to go to the bathroom. She told her friends she had to do her business before Metallica could perform, so she wouldn’t miss any of their songs.
But, she was gone for quite a while and even when Metallica already started performing, Morgan still hadn’t returned. This made her friends frantic with fear. So, they gave her a call, and she answered it. When they asked where she was, she said she tried to come back in, but was not allowed because of a “no re-entry” policy. What’s strange about it was the fact that there were actually toilets inside the venue, but Morgan still went outside.
Morgan’s friends recalled that she told them to just enjoy the rest of the concert without her and that she’d just go home on her own. Because they trusted her, the group remained and enjoyed the full concert. What they didn’t know was that Morgan was already in peril.
Some concert attendees did spot Morgan outside the venue, but they all said that she was on her own. If anyone saw her with someone else, they said that she was with her friends. This made her exit from the venue even more puzzling. One witness said that Morgan was hiking along the side of the road that same night, but she was still on her own.
Several weeks later, a farmer living miles away from the concert hall found skeletal remains of a young woman near his property. After a thorough examination, the remains were found to be Morgan’s. Based on the results, her death was believed to be extremely brutal. There were even signs of rape.
Why Morgan left the concert venue when it was known to everyone that there were toilets inside the venue and how she ended up dead in a faraway farm remain a mystery to everyone, even until today.
Within the walls of downtown Los Angeles, there lies the notorious Skid Row area. It is where the largest stable population of homeless people in the United States can be found. It is also where the death of our next victim happened, one of the most mysterious cases the twenty-first century has ever witnessed.
Before February 19, 2013, guests at the Cecil Hotel in Skid Row had already been grumbling about the water in the facility. They said it had an odd color, foul smell, and an inexplicably weird taste. At times, it even turned black.
To address the issue, the hotel staff went up to the tank to find out the cause only to find something in it that left everyone in shock: a corpse. In other words, for more than two weeks, all the guests in the hotel, which were estimated to be hundreds, were brushing their teeth, bathing, and even consuming water that came from a tank with a rotten human body inside.
The body was confirmed to be that of twenty-one-year-old Canadian college student Elisa Lam, whose death was quite mysterious. Days before her body was found in the tank, Lam was staying at the hotel, but went missing a few days after. She was last seen on January 31, 2013.
On the day that she disappeared, the hotel released a CCTV footage of Lam getting inside the elevator. In the video, she looked like she was hiding from someone. She pressed all the buttons on the elevator, except for the 14th floor. People believed she was on that floor as this was where her hotel room was located.
Then, Lam started waving her hands in a strange way, like she was talking to someone. After 2 mins and 30 secs, she disappeared. The elevator closed, and she was never seen again.
Nineteen days later, her body was found in a water tank at the hotel’s roof. What’s strange about this was the fact that while there were fire exits, there was no other way one could go to the rooftop. It would have been possible if Lam were able to get through a series of stairs and locked doors, but the keys and passcodes to these were only given to the employees of the hotel.
These doors were also designed with an alarm. If anyone tried to get through them without the key, the alarm would be set off. But, it seemed that Lam successfully got in without setting anything off.
Moreover, the tank was 2.4 meters tall and had no fixed access. A ladder would’ve been needed to climb to the top of the tank, but strangely enough, no ladder was found anywhere near the scene.
Another weird fact was that Lam managed to lift the heavy lid by herself, got in, and lifted it again to close it. Even the hotel staff found it difficult. The police had to drill a hole just to get her body out because the tank was tightly sealed.
Lam’s mental health gave birth to more stories. She was said to have suffered from bipolar disorder. And, in one of her Tumblr posts, she wrote, “Would I become psychotic and want to off myself? I doubt that very much, yet there’s a huge risk that will happen. I wouldn’t do anything rash like actually jump off a bridge. I’m too much of a coward. Instead, I’ll just lie in my bed and let the days pass by. That’s my physical manifestation, sleeping for days in bed.”
Nevertheless, some said that this wasn’t enough to back up the strange happenings that shrouded her death. These circumstances drove people to conclude that her death is as baffling as it gets.
Because of insufficient evidence, Lam’s death was ruled accidental. It remains a mystery to everyone who knew about it, until today.
A locked-room murder is an extremely rare case because the events surrounding such cases are seemingly impossible. This is largely due to the fact that these events usually take place in a room, where only the victim is inside, no murderer, no witness. It’s unbelievable, but these cases do happen in real life, and one instance was the death of Laetitia Toureaux.
One night in 1973, Toureaux was seen in Porte de Charenton in Paris. She boarded a metro train where she was believed to have been the only person in the first-class carriage. It was around 6:27 in the evening. One minute and twenty seconds after, the train stopped at the next station. Together with it was Laetitia Toureaux, who’s now lifeless and with a dagger in her neck. Her body was found at exactly 6:28 p.m.
Witnesses’ accounts revealed that no one was seen to have entered or left Toureaux’s train compartment. The train passed two stations, but not a single person went to see Toureaux at both stops. The passengers in the adjacent compartments shared that they saw no one enter the area where the victim’s body was found.
Investigators of the case weren’t able to solve it. They asked help from Paris’ best detectives, but they, too, failed to give a logical explanation. No one knew how someone could have gone in Toureaux’s compartment without being noticed and how the woman was stabbed to death in just a span of a minute.
When the Second World War started, Laetitia Toureaux’s case was left forgotten. Even after many attempts by famous mystery novel writers, nobody was ever able to present a solution to this most infamous locked-room murder.
This next story stars one of the most famous cyclists in the world, Ottavio Bottecchia. His fame was well established in 1924, when he became the first Italian to win the world-renowned Tour de France competition. Bottecchia was also a legend as he was the first-ever Tour de France racer to maintain the lead from start to finish.
Although he was well received by everyone, Bottecchia’s reign was short-lived. He grabbed his second Tour de France victory in 1925, but there was no way Bottecchia could have grabbed a third one, because in January 1927, he was found dead at the side of a road in Poenis, Italy, just miles away from his residence.
With the presence of his bicycle in the crime scene, it was first assumed that it was a bicycle crash. However, when it was checked, the bike was a few meters away from his body, undamaged and not a single scratch was seen on it. And if there had been a crash, there should have been skid marks, but none were found in the area. There was also no sign of collision or if Bottecchia was forced from the road. But the cyclist was left drenched in blood, with a smashed skull, twenty broken bones, and a snapped collarbone.
Well, here’s what made everyone’s eyebrows raise. The authorities in charge of the case concluded that Bottecchia died of a sun stroke. No one knew if the police were informed about what a sun stroke is, but they did say that the reason behind the cyclist’s smashed skull, snapped collarbone, and broken bones was none other than Mr. Sun.
Because of the suspicious police reports, people believed that Bottecchia’s death was a case of government assassination. The cyclist had spoken out against PM Benito Mussolini. And to cover the real story behind his death, the police had to make up another reason for his demise.
As to what really happened to the legendary cyclist, no one has a single clue about it.
Who Put Bella in the Witch Elm?
After a group of four boys poached in the Hagley Woods near Wychbury Hill in Stourbridge, England, the most famous question for the year 1943 was born: “Who put Bella in the Witch Elm?”
It was April 13, 1943, when Robert Hart, Thomas Willetts, Bob Farmer, and Fred Payne came across a large elm tree. Because the kids believed there was a bird’s nest above the tree, one of them climbed up. But when he looked down, he found a haired skull with teeth in the tree’s hollowed-out trunk.
The boys immediately reported it to the police. The officers came to check the area, and what they found shocked all of them. Inside the trunk of the Wych elm was a whole skeleton. With it were a gold wedding ring, parts of a clothing, a shoe, and a severed hand. These were all buried deep down the area near the tree.
The remains were submitted to forensic examination and it was found out that it was of a female who had been dead for an estimated 18 months. It was concluded that she died of asphyxiation because of a piece of taffeta fabric found in her mouth.
A year after the body was discovered, things started to take on a strange note. Graffiti began to appear in random places near the Wych tree. The first one was spotted in the Upper Dean Street, Birmingham. Over the next few decades, more of these graffiti were seen. The last one was seen in August 1999 on the side of Wychbury Obelisk, a 200-year-old obelisk. This obelisk was actually situated in Wychbury Hill, Hagley, close to where the body was found.
If that doesn’t send chills up your spine, take this – every graffito said only one thing: “WHO PUT BELLA IN THE WITCH ELM”. The whole case was just so baffling that until today, no one knows who the murderer was, the name of the victim, and who drew those graffiti.