From the Zodiac Killer to the Babushka Woman: 10 Famous People We Know Nothing About

These people are so well known around the world that it's hard to believe that we have no idea who they really were.

Here are ten historical figures who have been immortalized as iconic images, yet somehow remain unknown and unidentified:

The Tiananmen Square Guy

Back in 1989, when the world’s greatest anticipation was the destruction of the Berlin Wall, China was experiencing the first hints of a large scale protest that threatened to turn into a full-scale revolution for democracy. China sensed the impending furor and swiftly crushed any and all hints of protest and demonstration when they brought their army out on to the streets to quell the rebellion. Everything about this incident, save for this one image, has been erased from the history. This lone protestor stood in front of the oncoming tanks, blocking their path. The man even made them halt for a few minutes before he was taken away by the authorities, never to be heard from again. Who he was and what became of him was never determined. Some say he was a university student, though China denies this.

The Zodiac Killer

From the Zodiac Killer to the Babushka Woman: 10 Famous People We Know Nothing About
Source: Wolfman12405/Wikimedia Commons

In California, between the late 1960’s and the mid-1970’s, there was a series of gruesome and mysterious murders. The peculiar thing about these murders is that the the Zodiac Killer was never caught nor identified. This serial killer killed only couples, though later killings became less selective. Although the authorities could confirm only five murders and two injured, he claimed to have killed dozens. His modus operandi of sending cryptic clues in letters and victim names in cryptograms is what makes him truly, grimly intriguing. He was spotted only twice, once in a hood and once without it. Such was the level of cluelessness in the police that the first suspect wasn’t named until 1991 -- and he was acquitted as quickly as he was named.

Hiroshima Step Shadow

From the Zodiac Killer to the Babushka Woman: 10 Famous People We Know Nothing About
Source: Yoshito, Matsughige/Wikimedia Commons

World War II was brought to an end by the US detonating two nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombs generated heat energy equivalent to 63 terajoules each, enough to vaporize everything in its vicinity and leave nothing behind but creepy shadows on the object surrounding them. This was probably an old man trying to climb these stairs on a stick when at that very instance disaster struck incinerating him and thousands others instantly. This person might have been a nobody before and there is no way to determine his identity anymore, but he was immortalized as a reminder of the horrors of a nuclear war.

The Falling Man

On September 11, 2001, the worst terrorist attack in the history of the United States took place when two airliners crashed into the world trade center’s twin towers. As many as 2000 people died and the towers collapsed within an hour of the collision. To imagine the plight of the civilians trapped inside the towers as they crumbled and fell is the stuff of nightmares. Perhaps that is what this falling man in the picture chose to plummet to his swift death. Unidentified and unknown like the others on this list, he has become synonymous with human plight in the atmosphere of fear and despair.

D.B. Cooper

From the Zodiac Killer to the Babushka Woman: 10 Famous People We Know Nothing About
Source: U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation/Wikimedia Commons

D.B. Cooper is the pseudonym used by one of the most notorious criminals in American history. On November 24, 1971, a man traveling under the alias of Dan Cooper (later erroneously printed 'D.B. Cooper' in the media) hijacked a Boeing 727 mid-flight and took the crew and passengers hostage by telling a flight attendant that he had a bomb in his briefcase. He asked the pilot to contact air traffic control in nearby Seattle and demand that they ready $200,000 in cash, 4 parachutes and a refueling truck for when the plane landed. The authorities complied, and Cooper released the passengers in Seattle, keeping only the cockpit crew on board. The plane took off again with a course towards Mexico City, but at some point during the flight Cooper lowered the aircraft’s rear staircase and parachuted out of the plane. Despite a huge FBI manhunt commencing around the area where Cooper was presumed to have landed, no trace of the man or his parachute was even found. A portion of the cash was found downstream in the Columbia River four years later, but no other material evidence was ever discovered and the FBI investigation is still ongoing.

The Babushka Lady

Though many people claim to remember exactly what they were doing when America’s one of the most beloved president was assassinated on November 22, 1963, nobody seems to be clear on the identity or whereabouts of this women in Babushka(Russian for scarf). Why is she so significant? In the decades since, full of conspiracy theories and investigatory commission reports based on footage and images captured by the bystanders, nothing could be conclusively determined as to how and why this assassination was carried out. Many theorists suspect that the babushka lady might have some insight. The Zapruder footage of the assassination shows a woman wearing a headscarf standing on the other side of the President’s motorcade. Crucially, this ‘Babushka Lady’ was seen carrying a camera and she had a perfect view of the infamous grassy knoll. This woman was never heard from or seen ever again despite numerous attempts, and no one could identify her to this day.

The Man from Taured

In 1954, a man landed at the Tokyo International airport claiming to be from the country of Taured. When the officials asked him to indicate his country on the map he pointed towards Andorra. What followed was even more bizarre -- he claimed his country has been in existence since 1000 years ago, and he didn’t know what Andorra was at all. His claim was backed up by all the authentic documentation he carried. In the 1950s, there was no internet or even home computers so it seems very unlikely that this was a prank or stunt. He was made to stay at a nearby hotel but he vanished the next morning without a trace and was never seen again. To this day the origin, the identity of the man is a puzzling mystery.

Jack the Ripper

From the Zodiac Killer to the Babushka Woman: 10 Famous People We Know Nothing About
Source: Polize Gazette/Wikimedia Commons

In 1888, London, there was a series of gruesome murders. Characteristic of these murders was that every victim was a prostitute and the bodies had been cut open to remove all important organs. The precision of incisions on the victim bodies suggest that the perpetrator had an in-depth knowledge of human anatomy. The police received many letters from the aforementioned Jack during the investigations but nothing could be traced to be anyone. One popular conspiracy puts a midwife in the role of Jack with the knowledge of human anatomy due to their profession and their frustration against prostitutes substantiating the claim, though nothing ever was determined as concrete and the Ripper still stays a mystery and a myth.

The Children of Woolpit

From the Zodiac Killer to the Babushka Woman: 10 Famous People We Know Nothing About
Source: Rod Bacon/Geograph

In the 12th century, a brother and sister appeared in the Suffolk village of Woolpit with unusual green skin. They spoke an unknown language, though they learned the English language. The green color of their skin also disappeared with time. To add to that bizarreness, they claimed to come from St. Martin’s Land, a place where the sun never rose and everything was covered in greenery. The children claimed that St. Martin's Land was located underground. Nobody could ever determine their true origin, and the boy died shortly after their appearance due to sickness.

The Last Jew In Vinnitsa

From the Zodiac Killer to the Babushka Woman: 10 Famous People We Know Nothing About
Source: nitroglicerino/Flickr

The Last Jew in Vinnitsa’ is a photograph found in the scrapbook of a German death squad soldier following the Second World War. These words were written on the backside of the photograph. A man can be seen kneeling over a mass grave containing corpses of numerous Jews and behind him stands an Einsatzgruppen (death squad) officer surrounded by fellow German soldiers as he holds a pistol to the back of the man’s head. The photograph is a testament to the numerous carnages rained down by the Nazis on the Jews during World War II. The blank face of the executioner and the haunting gaze of the man to be executed are a horrifying reminder of the Nazi monstrosity during the War. Neither man has been identified to date.

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