Somerton Beach Man
- Unsolved Mysteries
- It all began on 1 December, 1948, when the body of an unknown man was found, resting against a sea wall, at Somerton Beach, Adelaide.
An autopsy showed that deceased had been very fit, with broad shoulders, muscular legs and healthy organs.
He had no identification on him, but in his pockets were found an unused second-class rail ticket from the city to a nearby beach, an Army Club cigarette packet (containing a different brand of cigarettes – which in itself is unusual), a used bus ticket from the city centre, a narrow aluminium American comb, a quarter-full box of Bryant & May matches, a hanky and half a packet of Juicy Fruit chewing gum.
He was dressed very fashionably for the time, wearing a singlet and jockey shorts, a white shirt with a narrow, red, white and blue tie, a brown knitted jumper, a brown double-breasted suit coat, socks and highly polished brown shoes. Which was all very well and good, but totally inappropriate for the weather. He was dressed for mid-winter, when in fact, it was the middle of summer.
The investigation into who this man might be then began in earnest. It was reported that a man, fitting the same description, was seen at the beach, in the same place where he was later found dead, the previous night. He was ignored as people thought he was drunk. At one time somebody saw him lift his arm before dropping it. No trace of alcohol or poison was found in his blood.
In attempting to identify the body, the two newspapers in Adelaide posted a photograph of him. That’s when 251 people came out of the woodwork, and claimed to know who he was. Every single lead was squashed by trivialities, such as that he couldn’t possibly be the woodcutter “Mr Walsh” as it was abundantly clear by the state of his hands that he had not cut wood in at least eighteen months. The only real, good clue they had to his identity was the expensive clothing he wore.
Police thought a breakthrough had occurred when the Adelaide Railway station found a suitcase in the station cloakroom. It had been checked in after 11am on 30 November and was assumed to have belonged to the dead man. It contained many things of interest, including clothing, shaving kits, a screwdriver, an American comb and a stencilling brush - among others.
All identifying marks, such as brand tags etc had been removed from the clothing. Well, all except “T. Keane” which was found on a tie. There was also “Keane” mentioned on a laundry bag, and “Kean” on a singlet. It is believed that whoever removed the tags did so purposefully and left the “Keane” tags on, knowing full well that the dead mans name was NOT Keane… yes, quite sordid.
The most intriguing thing of all is what was found in a small, fob pocket of the dead man. It is this which has had code breakers around the world stumped for the past 65 years. On this paper were printed the words “Taman Shud”. Expert translators were called in, and it was found that the words “Taman Shud” is a phrase meaning “ended” or “finished”, and found on the last page of the “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam”.
In a bizarre twist, a week before the inquest, a man who wished to remain anonymous came forward to advise he had found a copy of the first edition of the book “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” in the back seat of his unlocked car. At the time, his car had been parked in Jetty Road Glenelg, about a week or two before the body was found. Tests authenticated that the paper had been removed from this copy of the book.
There was also some handwritten text on the back of the book. This text is now referred to as ‘The Taman Shud Code’ (although the proper spelling is Tamam Shud for some reason most places go with the mispelling). It remains unbroken to this day, so if you fancy yourself a code breaker, see if you can make anything of this:
W [or possibly M] RGOABABD
MLIAOI (crossed out)
In another twist, on 6 June 1949, 6 months after the Somerton man had been found, the body for two year old Clive Mangnoson was found about 20 kilometres away from Somerton. His body was in a sack, and lying next to him was his father, Keith Waldemar Mangnoson, who was unconscious when found.
The father, Keith, was sent to a psychiatric hospital after medical treatment from exposure. Apparently both father and son had been missing for four days and it was estimated that young Clive had been dead for 24 hours. They were found by a man named Neil McRae who claimed he had seen where they would be in a dream the previous night.
During the autopsy, the coroner could not find a cause of death for Clive, but did rule out natural causes.
The boy’s mother, Roma, reported that she had been threatened by a man wearing a mask. This man was driving a cream car and he nearly ran her down outside her home. The car stopped, a man with a khaki handkerchief over his face yelled at her to ‘keep away from the police or else.’ Roma fully believed that the entire situation, of being threatened, of her son’s death and her husband’s psychiatric state were all related to her husband’s attempt to identify the Somerton Man. Perhaps he got a little too close?
The secretary of the Largs North Progress Association also received telephone calls, threatening that Roma Mangnoson would ‘meet with an accident’ if he interfered at all. And the acting Mayor of Port Adelaide also received three anonymous phone calls, stating that an ‘accident’ would occur if he ‘stuck his nose into the Mangnoson affair’.
Although the police suspect the phone calls to be a hoax, you never do know! The coincidences are great.
This man, who still, to this day, is unidentified, was buried in a simple grave with the inscription “Here lies the Unknown Man, who was found at Somerton Beach, 1 Dec. 1948.” Theories range from him being a spy, to a mobster, and anywhere in between. Was he Australian? American? We will never know.
In 2011 a woman came forward, in possession of a 1918, US-issued seaman’s identification card. It was for a British man named H. C. Reynolds. According to experts, although the image on the card, and the image of the dead man are not identical (or even very much alike), there are similarities between the two, such as the ear. There also appears to be a mole on the cheek of both men.
Could it be that it was H. C. Reynolds who has created so much intrigue over these past 65 years?
By Peet Banks from APPI - Australian Paranormal Phenomenon Investigators
Picpost by Ashley Hall 2013
Main: The Somerton Beach Man.
Upper: The funeral for the unidentified man.
Lower: The Taman Shud code.
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