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The Mysterious Times

Mystery in History
Handling questions involving past events.

Historical mystery is actually very common and there can be a great deal of controversy involved, yet new books and articles leave the questions unanswered. Generally new works tend to propose new theories, new wrinkles on old ones, or just rehash the same old questions. Even some of the events you learned in school are less definitive than you might think. History is far from a static, dead element in life and it changes with our perspective and access to information about it.

Generally, three groups of individuals create history:

  • Historians; the subset of academia that retains data about history and presents it to the general public. They tend to believe their personal perspective has special significance and their judgement as being definitive about historical events they have researched.
  • History Makers; the people who win conflicts or who have power during a segment of history. These people tend to write it their way because they can. They cover up or forget to mention events or elements that they feel are unimportant or that might diminish their image or affect their later success.
  • Average people; they write diaries, letters, and sometimes reports that define what they saw happen or experienced. They can provide valuable clues to what occurred, but the data they provide has a much smaller scope than the event. To use this information to understand the larger event, you must first put it into a more global perspective.

As we get older, we learn more about history, especially those events where we were personally involved. We understand that an understanding of the past can mean fewer mistakes in the future, so we learn a few things. We learn more about the events we are interested in, so weavers tend to learn about weave patterns and technology used in the past while most of us never get so deep into it. Uncertainty in history can generate great public interest and provide topics for many conversations around the kitchen table, and the attention given can teach history. You question what happened, go out and research the facts and possibilities, and, in so doing, learn a great deal about it. Answering each question gives you a deeper understanding and exposes new mysteries. The process goes on throughout your life.

We must never forget that history is defined by the survivors, the winners, the people who now control the media that establishes history. It is usually to their benefit to conveniently forget about mistakes, indiscretions, or slips in someone's or some group's morale standing. Any political machine can be guilty of attempting to whitewash or sanitize events. It is our responsibility to never accept anything less than the most accurate data we can get, and never blindly accept accounts based solely on trust.

A powerful force that is independent of reality also shapes history. Reporters, historians, witnesses are all people and have the natural frailties that humans carry, and can only report what they see or experience from the perspective they had at the time. What they capture and express is always limited to things that exist within this perspective. Things that are outside of it are invisible and perhaps unimaginable. From our viewpoint looking back, we may not even see that clearly, because we have our own perspective. It tends to make the past difficult to understand well. That breeds uncertainty.

Usually historical mystery can be separated into two large groups:

  • (1) events where there is not enough known detail to be sure what really happened, and
  • (2) events that might include elements that are not conform to our current understanding of the universe.

Academics and scientists would probably consider the latter group to have been paranormal or occult. The academic community tends to ignore that second group, disdainful of the lack of certainty and the perceived content from outside of established scientific theory. However, the core questions of what happened in what might have been paranormal events is important, since finding an answer might have scientific benefits as well as historical ones.

Historical questions are researched using one of two perspectives: (1) historian, or (2) visionary. Historians use structured methods to research and analyze facts and physical artifacts. They build and analyze models based on the data sets they have available. Visionaries might go out and look for facts that support a vision or theory that may or may not have any association with reality. In a sense the professional historian attempts to build off what we know, extending the knowledge we have. Visionaries attempt to make sudden jumps in theory and knowledge based on a vision. How they work together defines the success we have in finding new knowledge or in defining new perspectives of the past.

Significance and Fame

The list of famous mysteries of history would list some that have special significance towards later events, but would probably include many more that have captured some portion of the public consciousness for other reasons. Some mysteries are still remembered today because they involved famous people or the media coverage made them visible. Some happened at just the right place and time to allow them to capture a segment of the public psyche. Times of war or natural disaster tend to create mystery, since people are more involved in survival than in documenting things. When strong forces in politics or business are involved, people tend to assume some conspiracy was involved that attempted to 'clean up' the event on behalf of the 'big money' or 'big power' organization involved. At times, the winner in some political or social battle has attempted to write history in their favor. That has not always worked.

What became known as the 'Black Dahlia' murder has become somewhat notorious. The reason why we still discuss it today has a lot to do with the continuing state of the mystery involved. There doesn't appear to be any true sequels (no other murders by the same killer), and the woman was not well known prior to the murder, so we must assume that it was the murder itself and the question of who killed her that has kept it alive. The murder was considered as horrendous by the reading public and sold quite a lot of newspapers in 1947, but the mystery of who killed her has continued to grip those who read about it. Many others were murdered in 1947, but it is the 'Black Dahlia' icon we still remember.

Questions of history do not become famous based on significance. Rather, they become famous because of chance factors and how successful the media has been in promoting them into public consciousness. Amelia Earhart's disappearance probably had very little effect on history, yet many books have been written about it. People read the books because they want to know what happened, not because it was truly important. Answering many of the questions of history only provides distraction from the problems of the day. However, some questions are significant and providing an answer would have strong value to society; as an example, finding out whether an unknown creature is actually living in Loch Ness would have strong value to general scientific enquiry, biology, associated sciences, not to mention the tourist industry in and around the Loch.

On this web site, we will not differentiate between those deemed significant and those that might be less so. We will cover those that have proven to be interesting to the general public. If we can find a reasonable answer, it will provide value to those who care. In the final sense, we might never be completely sure what has happened in the past, but we will try to get pretty close, as close as we can.

As time goes on we will add content to the site, sometimes detailing the question and possible answers, sometimes pointing you to other sites or sources of data. Whether or not you agree with what I have to say, please feel free to make comments. In that way, I can fine-tune the article, correct inaccuracies, and perhaps together we can get a little closer to the answers.

If you want to suggest a topic for discussion, email me.

by Sherman A. Meeds, Jr.
Copyright 2009 by Sherman A. Meeds Jr.

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