Early on the morning of December 1, 1948, police were called to Somerton Beach in Adelaide, Australia. There, they found a sharply dressed middle-aged man, his head resting against the short sea wall, a half-smoked cigarette resting on his collar. He had been dead for several hours.
Once it was made public, the case immediately drew the public’s attention because of the man’s strange physical characteristics and inexplicable belongings. For one, the man was dressed in heavy clothing on a fairly warm day, and oddly all the tags on his garments had been removed. He was wearing new, freshly polished shoes and inside a false pocket sewn into the man’s pants, they found a tiny rolled-up piece of paper with two words printed on it, “Tamam Shud."
Aside from the weird things the unknown man had on him, and in a suitcase later linked to him, the autopsy revealed the body of the unknown man itself had a few bizarre characteristics: his feet were pointed, like that of a person who wore pointed and heeled shoes. His feet were of normal size, but the autopsy report points to the fact that his hands were abnormally huge. His calf muscles, too, were high and pronounced, like that of a dancer. He was also missing 18 teeth - 9 on the bottom, and 9 on top.
But back to that strange piece of paper. Detectives recognized the two words, “Tamam Shud” as being written in Persian, and torn out of the last page of a book called “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam." Desperately searching for more information, Australian police asked for the public’s assistance in finding the book from which the phrase had been torn out. Unbelievably, a man came forward claiming he had found a first edition copy of “The Rubaiyat” in the back seat of his unlocked car just a few days before the body was found on the beach the copy was missing the words “Tamam Shud” from the last page. Inside the book, police found a series of letters and characters, which formed a cypher that to this day, no one has been able to decode. They also found a phone number scribbled on the copy which belonged to an area nurse named Jestyn, who claimed she had given the copy of the book to an army lieutenant in 1945, but was unable to recognize the Somerton Man’s body as anyone she had ever seen before. The army lieutenant was found to still be alive.
- Harold McCluskey : The Atomic Man
- Harold McCluskey : The Atomic Man
So where does that leave us today? With some crazy theories. In the 64+ years since the strange discovery, throngs of scientists and amateur sleuths have attempted to crack the case. Despite careful analysis during the autopsy, doctors were unable to determine the cause of the death, though blood in his stomach and liver pointed to death by poisoning. No detectable poison was found in his system, however. Most people believe that the man was a Russian Spy, killed by a poison not yet known in Australia. The strange cypher scribbled in the book, a final communication to the homeland that was never made. Others believe the man simply committed suicide, pointing to the phrase “Tamam Shud," which means, “the end” as a sort of cryptic suicide note. More imaginative armchair detectives believe he was a man from New York who had gone missing 11 years before and had simply traveled the world until he found his resting place on the beach. Or maybe, just maybe, he was a time traveler, killed by a poison not yet invented, leaving behind a code in a language not yet spoken.
Sadly, we might never know. In 2011, Australia’s Attorney General denied a request by an Adelaide University professor to exhume the body in order to conduct DNA testing. Fans of the unsolved mystery even started a change.org petition to demonstrate the public’s interest in the investigation, but with only 344 signatures, it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting answers any time soon.