It’s safe to say that everyone loves a good mystery. From pondering the meaning of life to uncovering details along with our favorite true crime podcasts, we can’t get enough of what we don’t know. But some mysteries have been waiting to be solved for centuries.
In the time of noble lords and massive castles, it’s no surprise the Middle Ages were packed with secrets. Here are just 10 of the biggest unsolved mysteries from the Middle Ages that will make anyone dream of becoming another Sherlock Holmes.
1. The Missing Royals: When Richard III took over the English throne in 1483, brothers Richard of Shrewsbury (the Duke of York) and Edward V (the King of England), who were nine and twelve, respectively, were sent to the Tower of London. Yet, by summertime, they’d gone missing…
Almost 200 years later, in 1674, a worker unearthed a strange wooden box with two child-sized human skeletons inside. Though the remains—which are kept in Westminster Abbey—have never been officially identified as the brothers, many people believe that is the case.
2. Greek Fire: Created during the 7th century, Greek Fire was a water-resistant incendiary substance that was created to defend the Byzantine Empire from attack. Its formula has never been found, despite considerable efforts…
Scientists and historians alike have tried to figure out what allowed the stuff to burn on top of water, which made it especially effective in naval battles. Yet, even with modern technology, the exact makeup of the famous fire remains disputed.
3. The Green Children of Woolpit: In the 12th century, the people of the village of Woolpit, located in Suffolk, England, were shocked when a mysterious young boy and girl—with green skin and speaking a bizarre language—suddenly appeared in town. After their skin color returned to a normal color, the boy passed away. What was the deal?
In short, no one knows. As the girl grew older, she learned English and told the villagers they came from a place where everything was green called “St. Martin’s Land.” While tending to their father’s cattle in a cave, they became lost and emerged in Woolpit. Experts have done their best to explain what happened, but to no avail.
4. Shroud of Turin: Many people have attempted to explain the origins of this cloth, which is said to bear the image of Jesus of Nazareth and supposedly was wrapped around him after he was crucified…
Several radiocarbon dating tests revealed it was made between 1260 and 1390, however. Rumors swirled that it was made for use in church plays about the Resurrection of Jesus during medieval times, but no one knows for sure.
5. The Norse in Greenland: Despite the Norse settling in Greenland for nearly half a century, their colony only ever grew to a few thousand people. By 1420, their populations were already in severe decline. Soon enough, everyone was gone.
Still, no one has any explanation as to what happened to them. Some researchers suggest they were attacked by Inuits, while others guessed a plague wiped them off the map.
6. The Vikings in North America: Because of modern archaeological digs, we know that small colonies of the Norsemen once lived in what’s now Canada’s L’anse aux Meadows and Baffin Island. But how far did they venture into the continent?
Some have suggested they reached as far as Minnesota. Unfortunately, much of the “evidence” for this has been proven false. Yet there’s always a chance we’ll find something that proves they made it farther than anyone ever thought!
7. The Vinland Map: In 1965, a group of scholars presented a 15th-century map depicting the parts of North America explored by the Norse. Its authenticity drew much criticism, however. Why, you ask? Well…
Chemical analysis of the map revealed the ink used to create it was from the 20th century. Nevertheless, some continued to debate its authenticity, and the Vinland Map can still be found on display at Yale University.
8. The dancing plague: During a sudden plague outbreak in Strasbourg, France, in 1518, people were alarmed when a woman started dancing uncontrollably on the street. It wasn’t long before hoards of people joined her—more than 400—with some of them dying from exhaustion or heart attacks…
To this day, no one knows what caused them to go berserk! What they do know is that local authorities encouraged the people to continue dancing, hoping it would help cure the mania that had spread. It, however, did not work.
9. The Voynich Manuscript: Experts have been baffled by this 15th-century illustrated manuscript written in an unknown language since its discovery in 1912. The more you learn about it, the stranger it becomes…
For example, no one has been able to decipher the meaning behind the bizarre astronomical signs and plant images in the book. Recently, one scholar used artificial intelligence to solve it, but his findings were still inconclusive.
10. Caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah: As ruler of Egypt and parts of North Africa and Fatamid Caliph from 996 to 1021, Al-Hakim drew much criticism from his enemies. Still, his reign was successful. During his final years in power, he took up abstinence by way of asceticism…
In 1021, when he was 36, he took off on a journey to the hills outside Cairo—but never returned. All that was ever recovered were his bloodstained garments and his donkey. No one ever learned whether he was killed or left of his own volition.
But the secrets didn’t stop in the Middle Ages. To this day, the Vatican is hiding thousands of mysteries that have yet to be solved. But that hasn’t stopped some sleuths from trying…
1. Have you ever dreamed of owning a device that helped you see any event in the past—and take pictures of it? Well, you’re in luck, because the Vatican is rumored to have such a device locked away in its top-secret vaults.
This device, called a Chronovisor, would give the church a ridiculously easy way to prove that Jesus existed. Of course, there’s no proof that the Chronovisor actually exists… or so we think.
2. Somebody get Mulder and Scully on the line, because the Vatican could be hiding extraterrestrial skulls! That’s right: it turns out aliens have been real this whole time and Rome is trying to keep it quiet… if you believe the whispers.
Apparently, the skulls were found by construction workers during a renovation of the vaults in 1998. Thus, a massive conspiracy that went all the way up to the Pope was hatched to make sure that no one ever found out about their existence.
3. For decades, conspiracy theorists have believed that the Illuminati has worked in tandem with the Roman Catholic Church, right down to being responsible for making all of the Church’s important appointments.
But the rumors go deeper than that. Some believe that the Illuminati actually keep records of future events in the Vatican’s vaults. In addition to controlling both the Pope and Beyoncé (allegedly), the Illuminati can tell the future.
4. Rumor has it that, deep inside its vaults, the Vatican has proof of something that could send the faithful running. It’s said that the Vatican actually has evidence that Jesus never existed! If this is true, it’s easy to understand why the Church wouldn’t want anyone to know.
However, the Vatican is so notoriously secretive that people aren’t exactly sure what this so-called “proof” could be. In fact, some speculate that the proof hidden in the vaults confirms that Jesus was real. Then again, wouldn’t the Pope be shouting it from the rooftops?
5. For reasons that totally escape comprehension, the Vatican is also rumored to have the largest collection of pornography hidden in its vaults. Naturally, it was all confiscated—but if that was the case, you’d think the Church would just destroy it rather than keep it.
This would prove problematic for the Church, of course, which has been beleaguered by sexual abuse scandals involving the clergy. So if the rumors of their porn stash were true, it makes sense that they’d work hard to make sure that it was kept secret.
6. There are plenty of conspiracy theories about how Rome responded to the Nazis during World War II. One of the most disturbing is the idea that Pope Pius XII struck a deal with Mussolini agreeing to turn a blind eye to anti-semitism in order to ensure his own protection.
Historian David Kertzer learned that proof of this deal is said to be hidden in the Vatican vaults. When he asked for permission to review documents from that time period, his request was denied. That doesn’t exactly put the rumor to rest, does it?
7. One of the craziest things hidden inside the Vatican’s vaults also happens to be one of the items that the Church actually admits it possesses. When you realize what it is, you might wonder how many of these rumored items could actually be real…
The Church actually keeps a silver hammer in its vaults to help determine whether or not a pope is dead. According to tradition, when a pope expires, he must be tapped on the head with the silver hammer three times before his death can officially be announced.
8. The Vatican is said to own many cloths that show off the imprint of major religious figures. One of these is rumored to be a cloth that Jesus gave to the King of Edessa as a gift. You’d think the son of God could at least afford a bottle of wine or something…
9. Unlike some of the other items on this list, the Vatican’s necropolis is real, and you can visit it when you travel to Rome. This ancient cemetery is located beneath St. Peter’s Basilica, and though it was eventually abandoned, it apparently holds the remains of St. Peter himself!
10. In the 1900s, the Virgin Mary was rumored to have visited three children and told them three critical secrets about the future. The secrets apparently predicted wars and even described what hell looked like. The true nature of these secrets is thought to be locked in the Vatican vaults…
11. If you ever visit Vatican City in Rome, you might want to pay a visit to the Gallery of the Bust. It’s a hilarious name for a place that contains a lot of stunning art. However, you might notice something odd when you’re there: none of the sculptures have eyes!
12. This might not be creepy, but it is a bit of a secret (unless you know where to look): the Vatican has a “zoo” made of up of hyper-realistic carvings of animals made in marble. This menagerie practically looks alive!
13. In 1633, astronomer Galileo Galilei was condemned to live under house arrest for saying that the Earth moved around the sun. The vaults supposedly contain papers from that era by other scientists who agreed with Galileo—scientists whom the Church ignored.
But the Vatican is the only one with age-old secrets; we’ve got some mysteries our own right here in America at Fort Knox that the government has been covering up for decades.
Fort Knox houses the largest amount of gold in the world, but some conspiracy groups—the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee in particular—that believe the gold doesn’t even exist. They think the bars are actually just tungsten bricks painted gold!
Only a handful of people (besides the employees at Fort Knox) have actually seen the gold kept inside. The last visit took place in August 2017, and it included the United States Treasury Secretary and a few other politicians. The most recent visit prior to that was in 1974!
The United States Mint refuses to reveal how much gold is actually kept at Fort Knox despite numerous inquiries. Presidential candidate Ron Paul called for an audit of Fort Knox in 2008, but he was unsuccessful.
The building itself is virtually impossible to approach unannounced without facing serious consequences. Along with motion detectors, video cameras, and secret microphones, there’s a literal mine field and electric fence surrounding it.
The massive door to the gold vault weighs 22 tons! It leads into a room comprising 16,000 cubic feet of granite and 4,200 cubic yards of cement. The roof is bomb-proof, and the vault can withstand any type of incendiary device.
The last time Fort Knox was audited was in 1954 under the Eisenhower administration, but for whatever reason, only a mere five percent of the gold bricks were tested for purity. This has led to numerous theories about the legitimacy of the gold.
Not anyone can become a guard at Fort Knox; the officers are carefully chosen by the United States Mint, and they go through rigorous training. However, military troops from all over the world also train at the base.
In order to keep them safe during World War II, important American documents such as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were moved into the vault in case of an attack on the nation’s capital. In 1944, they were returned to Washington.
In 1937, shortly after Fort Knox was built, it started to receive its first shipments of gold. Due to the weight of the gold bars, everything was transported by special trains equipped with machine gunners in case of an attempted attack.
The United States went off the gold standard back in 1971, which means the gold at Fort Knox is really only a Treasury Department commodity to be traded with other countries. This potentially means the amount of gold at Fort Knox doesn’t even matter.
During the Unites States’ campaign against Hitler and the Nazis during World War II, the gold at Fort Knox was seen as a symbol of strength. It was used to play up democracy and encourage foreign politicians to show support.
You might wonder why the base was named Fort Knox to begin with. In 1918, the government set up an artillery training facility called Camp Henry Knox in Kentucky. It was named after the first Secretary of War, Henry T. Knox; eventually, it was changed to Fort Knox.
Fans of the James Bond films might associate Fort Knox with the charming protagonist, and for good reason! Certain parts of the movie Goldfinger were actually filmed on the premises.
Gold might be beautiful, but if you’ve ever held even a small piece of it, you know it’s more than that—it’s extremely heavy! One single gold bar at Fort Knox weighs 27-and-a-half pounds! That’s a lot of weight resting inside that vault.
Because of the secret nature of what goes on behind the doors of the Army post, visitors are barred from entering. The most they can do is stand outside the gates and snap as many pictures as they’d like.
Conspiracy theorists love the mystique surrounding Fort Knox, and there have been all sorts of crazy guesses as to what the base holds other than gold. Some people believe the bodies of deceased celebrities and (in)famous figures are kept there, such as Jimmy Hoffa.
More extreme conspiracy theorists believe there could very well be “otherworldly” beings kept at Fort Knox, like aliens. Some believe the extraterrestrials recovered from the Roswell crash site were brought to the base.
In addition to the ground-defense systems in place to protect the base from an attack, there are also several satellites orbiting the Earth that can help identify intruders and attack remotely if need be.
Although the use of toxins during war is banned and considered a war-crime if used, many people firmly believe Fort Knox is a massive artillery storage space—and it houses a multitude of biological weapons.
Along with the defense systems in space and a variety of weaponry situated around Fort Knox for protection, the base also features corridors designed to immediately flood with thousands of gallons of water if an intruder is detected. Phew!