Oak Island, The Mary Celeste, Jack The Ripper, And How They Built The Pyramids

Man, I love a good ancient mystery! I’m talking about historical documentaries or really well researched books where somebody that’s done their homework has put in the time to nail down every facet of an explanation for really plaguing mysteries. I adore that kind of thing.

So I thought I’d recommend a few books for you, if that’s one of your things too. These are worth the time. No tinfoil hat conspiracies or aliens. Nothing weird or forcing you to make a fuzzy stretch, or even those incredibly irritating explanations that seem to answer the main points of a mystery but gloss over something pivotal. I wouldn’t recommend these to you if I didn’t feel these honestly put some of the biggest mysteries entirely to bed! I think they largely do.

First up: Oak Island

There’s an island off the Nova Scotia coast that bears a long-told story of buried treasure (or at least something precious) in a booby trapped money pit. They say that anyone over the couple of hundred years that’s dug for this treasure has dealt with flooded tunnels, mystery upon mystery, and even several deaths. There’s a History Channel show, The Curse Of Oak Island that is like mind-expanding crack to me. I pester my wife during its seasons every Tuesday, “Liiiiiisa….it’s Tuesday niiiiight…..you know what THAT means!” Seriously. Crack. It’s maddening how the clues they did up there point one way, then the other, and nothing ever resolves. But something fascinating happened on that island.

When I found Oak Island And Its Lost Treasure by Graham Harris and Les MacPhie, I was practically sold on their explanation. And I’ve read about this money pit since I was maybe twelve. I won’t spoil any of mysteries, by the way. But here’s a couple of folks that have done solid research, and step by step explain what has been found on the island, dispel the noise of the legends, and present a beefy case for where that treasure could have come from, who brought it, why they buried it, and why and how it was booby trapped, and why it may have stayed there. The show is in season 9 as I write this, and I worry that there seems to be evidence of a longer usage for the wharves and roads than this theory suggests, but I still feel it’s the best explanation I’ve seen to date.

Next up: The Mary Celeste

From the Amazon book description for Ghost Ship: The Mysterious True Story of the Mary Celeste and Her Missing Crew (by Brian Hicks):

On December 4th, 1872, a 100-foot brigantine was discovered drifting through the North Atlantic without a soul on board. Not a sign of struggle, not a shred of damage, no ransacked cargo—and not a trace of the captain, his wife and daughter, or the crew. What happened on board the ghost ship Mary Celeste has baffled and tantalized the world for 130 years. In his stunning new book, award-winning journalist Brian Hicks plumbs the depths of this fabled nautical mystery and finally uncovers the truth.

I’d say that’s about right. And honestly, though like Oak Island I’ve read about the Mary Celeste since I was a little guy, it’s a bit annoying looking back at how some of the Mary Celeste story is typically presented. If what Hicks suggests in this book was actually what happened, then a perfectly believable and mundane thing occurred that got swallowed up in people’s agendas and aspirations, ultimately packing on legends till it was unrecognizable. It’s embarrassing how quickly we get to talking about UFO’s and black holes and magnetic or gravitational anomalies when people need to sell books or get you to click on something. Yet when someone like Hicks puts in the time and lays out the case, it’s very much like finding out how the magician did their trick. I can’t really see any flaws in what this book lays out, and I consider this mystery solved.

Next up: Who Was Jack The Ripper?

I’m useless at solving murder mysteries. I’ve been to several dinner theater dealie-o’s, where the murderer is among you and a play happens over the course of the evening, of which you’re a part. Not once have I gotten the murderer correct. And one time he was even sitting at our table! But Jack The Ripper – that’s one of the big mysteries. That’s one almost everyone has heard of. And I’ve read countless attempts to crack this one, watched dozens of documentaries, even took the Jack The Ripper tour in London. My take is that Christer Holmgren and Nicolas Krizan are bloodhounds of the first degree and have soundly tracked down the killer. The book is called Cutting Point.

They lay out an entirely believable case, even going as far as explaining why the victims were killed where they were. They name him, and even better than that. I’m talking about details like several murderers happening along his regular walking route to work at the times when he would be doing so, and the occupation he held so any blood would be ignored. And a murder that happened off that route, but at a day when he’d likely be visiting family who lived near the scene of that crime. They explain why he’d be doing this sort of thing. Then to drive this all home more than maybe anything else…and this one is worth the price of the book to me…they find him in the newspaper. Their guy got dragged into an inquest and testified. We have his words. He was seen beside one of the bodies by a police officer.

Guys, I was blown away by the research and the coherent theory here. If you’re into Jack The Ripper lore and haven’t tried this one yet, you’re missing out in a big way. Agree or disagree, I suppose, but I’m sold.

Last up: How Did They Build The Pyramids?

The Great Pyramid is gorgeous. They all are, I suppose. They’re the ultimate mysteries, silently keeping their wondrous secrets in the desert for 4,600 years. Those people were farmers! There weren’t any stone buildings. There never had been. Yet somehow, they organized an entire supply chain for copper tools and varied building materials, highly skilled architects capable of planning two decades out, organizational and logistics structures to staff, feed, and direct incredible manpower, and made it all work. And like maybe thousands of people before me, I’ve got to ask…how did they build the pyramids?

I read The Secret of the Great Pyramid: How One Man’s Obsession Led to the Solution of Ancient Egypt’s Greatest Mystery by Bob Brier and Jean-Pierre Houdin and was left feeling like this question has been put to rest.

I know. I know. How many people have said that! But I promised you a set of books with solid research, no handwaving, no wild speculation. Houdin was the driver, and he spent a decade chasing an idea his dad provided that turned the ramp idea on its head and landed on entirely coherent explanations with technology available and even illustrated in hieroglyphics as in use at the time. This book lays out in detail where the tools and different types of stone came from and why they say that. It explains where the tools came from, and flavors what it would have been like to be part of the teams responsible for getting the requisite copper. It not only names the architect of the Great Pyramid (Khufu’s brother), but gets inside his head throughout the likely 20 years it took to get this masterpiece built…why he made certain decisions, how far in advance he’d have to have done the math, what he’d be worried about, and why he built three burial chambers for his brother.

I especially enjoyed the early bits where they lay out how they even arrived at the idea of a pyramid-shaped burial chamber with the bodies entombed in the pyramids themselves and not underground. Entirely logical progression, presented in clear and believable style.

You can watch a quick documentary here that covers the same info as the book (and see in motion some of their fantastic graphics to better illustrate how this all may have been done) here.

So there you go, guys! Four great reads. Four mysteries that may have been solved. Let me know if you come across any others that you feel fit the mold of actually putting a true and great mystery to rest. That kind of thing is gold to me.

Till next time.