The Taman Shud Mystery
I’ve decided just for fun to write about a few historical mysteries. Unsolved crimes in particular. Why? Just for fun. I’ll start with the Taman shud case. That’s him above. OK, not exactly, we don’t know who this is. That’s the mystery, or at least the core of it. The man pictured above was found dead on a beach in Australia in 1948. European look, 40-45, excellent shape, muscles and bones consistent with a runner or ballet dancer. Good clothes, although all of the labels had been removed. No hat, unusual for a suited man in 1948. No wallet. In his pockets he had a rail ticket, a bus ticket, gum, matches, a comb, and a cigarette package where cheap cigarettes had been replaced by quality cigarettes. His fingerprints and dental records were of no help in identifying him. No cause of death could be established. Despite massive publicity in Australia, no one came forward and was able to identify who this man was. And Australia was a small country at the time, only eight million people lived there.
Six weeks later a suitcase belonging to the deceased man was found in a l,ocker at the local train station. The label from it had been removed. It contained a number of items, none of which shed any real light on the mystery. There was an item that is usually used by merchant seamen. Some of the clothes may have come from the United States. While the suitcase shed a little more light on his movements the day before he was killed, it went no further in determining who he was. A coroner’s inquest didn’t help much either. They noted that his shoes were freshly polished, which was odd since it appeared he had been walking around all day the day before he was killed. The inquest concluded he had been poisoned by some unknown toxin. And that his body might have been dumped where it was found, though eyewitness testimony contradicts that. (The contents of the suitcase are listed here.)
It gets weirder. In a pocket in the man’s clothes was a hand sewn inner pocket. In it a tiny piece of rolled up paper with the words “Taman Shud” printed on it. It was eventually determined to have been torn out of a rare book that had been left in a man’s car the night of our mystery man’s demise. The words are from a book of poems and mean “ended” or “finished.” When the book was examined it was found to have five lines in faint pencil markings:
What do they mean? Who knows. The best cryptographers haven’t been able to make sense of it. There was also a telephone number that led to a woman who seemed to know who the deceased was. He was a man named Alfred Boxall, a seaman. She claimed to have given him a copy of the rare book of poems. It seemed like case closed until Alfred Boxall showed up, alive and well, with a copy of the book of poems that indubitably came from the woman. How had her phone number ended up in the mystery man’s copy? Again, no one knows. Some feel that she knew more than she let on. Sadly she wasn’t investigated further, and the case’s one promising lead was never followed up on. Some think that it was a suicide. Some think Cold War cloak and dagger espionage was involved. I tend to think he was a mentally disturbed person who killed himself. We may never know. A recent investigation tried to get him dug up for a DNA sample, but a judge decided (rightly so) that something other than idle curiosity was required for an exhumation.
And that’s that. Well, the core of it at least. Like so many things, if one wants to dig into it further, there are all sorts of other minor hints and clues. And some of the above may be wrong, as this site attests. There’s all sorts of websites on the case as a Google search of Taman Shud reveals. Will the case ever be solved? Maybe. Does it mean anything? Probably not. Why did I write about it? Because it’s a weird and interesting case. I think the only real conclusion that can be reached is that he wasn’t from Australia. It just seems unlikely with all the publicity the case got that no one in Australia recognized him. Even that’s not completely firm. Maybe he was a recluse. Maybe he altered his appearance before his death. Is there any connection to UFOs or ancient aliens? I don’t think so.
In any event I am sorry I have posted so infrequently lately. I sometimes have these interludes that interfere with blogging, it’s called my life. They tend to be brief so i am sure I will be back soon. Have a great week everyone.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, is arguably a historic image, and I got it off Wikipedia. He’s still in the news, here’s a recent article on the case with lots of pictures and recent developments.)