Humans just have to have answers. We’re obsessed with the unknown, with mysteries, with solving puzzles. It was recently reported that a decades-old case from Philadelphia known as the Boy in the Box was partially solved. He’d been unidentified since being found in 1957, and authorities were able to determine who he was based on DNA. Many old cases have been solved using DNA. There’s even one from my hometown of Tacoma, Washington that was solved in this manner, one that I had a personal connection to. A young girl named Jennifer Bastian disappeared in 1986. She was found murdered a couple weeks later. Her killer was ultimately caught many years after the fact, in 2016 to be precise, largely because of DNA evidence. How, might you ask, could I be connected to this horrific crime? Her parents bought their house from the parents of a childhood friend of mine; they lived two blocks from me. Her sister and I went to the same school; she was a year or two ahead of me, Jennifer was a bit younger. I was passingly acquainted with them both. The story was all over the news for weeks and months, as one would expect, but for years it was a cold case, a mystery, until DNA caught the psycho who did it.
Why do I mention these two sad and depressing cases? Because they are indicative of how the need to solve a mystery can lead to… I hate the word closure. Nothing is ever closed, neatly sewn up and put away, for the families of murder victims, as that word implies. I’ll say finalized instead. Maybe that’s not exactly the right word, but I like it better than the over-used, and in my opinion inaccurate, closure. Pardon the digression; back to our topic. The examples I cited display outcomes that most people would probably consider favorable, if not exactly happy. But there are others that are more innocuous, more mundane but in their own ways maybe equally as sensational.
How about the Titanic? Does anyone remember the time before it was found resting on the bottom of the Atlantic? I do. It was a famous shipwreck, sometimes seen on old tv shows like 'In Search Of', but not much more than that, and it certainly wasn't the global phenomenon it became after its discovery and the subsequent eponymous movie. All that aside it was a mystery that people felt needed to be solved, and a group of explorers finally did.
Ever heard of the Voynich Manuscript? It’s a famous illustrated codex purportedly from the early fifteenth century. It’s written in an unknown language that baffled code breakers and academics for decades, even centuries. Many have claimed to have deciphered all or parts of it, with varying degrees of academic acceptance. Whether or not it has been decoded accurately is for others to decide. What I find interesting is that so many have tried over the years. It’s another mystery that humans cannot stop themselves from trying to solve.
There are mysteries everywhere. From the Challenger Deep to the edge of the known universe, we are searching for answers to questions. How were the pyramids built? Is there life on other planets? Does God exist? Who really killed Kennedy? When the hell is that guy going to publish Blackfire 3?
There’s an old adage: Curiosity killed the cat; satisfaction brought it back. I hope there never comes a time where every puzzle has been solved, every question answered. The world is much more fun with a bit of mystery in it.