Mysterious Events That Left Scientists Scratching Their Heads

There are lots of mysterious events that have left scientists scratching their heads. Let's find out about some amazing mysteries now!


The world of science is pretty good at providing explanations for some of our universe’s strange phenomena until it’s confronted with something it really can’t explain. From meat raining down from the sky to entire islands disappearing, let’s check out some mysterious events that left scientists scratching their heads.

River on Fire

In April 2016, a concerned Australian MP, Jeremy Buckingham, visited the Condamine River in Queensland after strange local reports that the water in the river was, surprisingly, on fire. Unlike most reports of bodies of water becoming flammable, there was no trace of crude oil in the area, which left residents and scientists baffled.

On closer inspection, Buckingham noticed huge bubble streams erupting from the riverbed. This is usually a natural occurrence when gas streams underground migrate to the surface. But when the amount of natural gas being released was tested, which in Australia apparently just means holding a lighter above it, the resulting fireball was so powerful it almost blew Buckingham off his boat!

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After inspecting the surrounding areas, it was discovered that a fracking site nearby was responsible for the disturbance in the underground rock’s natural containment of the gas below. As such, the gas was pushed upwards, polluting the river and making it flammable. As if Australia wasn’t filled with enough nightmare fuel already.

fracking causing gas releasing into river

The Cameron Village Sewer Creatures

Stories of sewer monsters and alien-esque creatures are nothing new to pseudoscience. But footage from a South Carolina sewer of giant lumps of what seems to be living, writhing flesh is enough to pique any real scientist’s interest.

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When this footage first emerged in 2009, it took the internet by storm. City officials had a hard time explaining what the undulating masses were until they brought the real experts in. Looking closely, you can see that this isn’t one living mass at all, but a huge lump made out of thousands of tiny Tubifex worms. Which, honestly, is just as bad.

Tubifex worms in fish tank

The worms generally live in aquatic habitats containing plenty of organic matter, like the bottoms of ponds, making sewers a perfect home. They likely entered the sewer accidentally and instinctively clung to each other like kids watching their first horror movie. Their entire mass contracts if any one of them senses a threat, giving them the appearance of a single, slimy, unified body. Another in the long list of reasons to stay out of the sewers.

Sudden Talent Acquisition

If you could go to bed and wake up with any new talent or skill, what would it be? If only it was that easy. But for some, it is. As many as 50 worldwide cases have been reported of Sudden Talent Acquisition, where a patient with some kind of head trauma wakes up with a brand-new skill.

Reported cases range from being able to play an instrument they’ve never touched before, to knowing a brand-new language. In October 2007, Derek Amato dove into the shallow end of a swimming pool and hit his head, resulting in a concussion. When he recovered, he could compose complex pieces for the piano despite never having had a lesson.

Sudden Talent Acquisition waking from head truama with new talent skill

In 2016, 16-year-old Atlanta resident Rueben Nsemoha woke from a coma after suffering a concussion to find he was able to speak fluent Spanish, despite only knowing a few basic phrases beforehand! Cases of Sudden Talent Acquisition have baffled psychologists, neurologists, and brain surgeons for years.

There are theories that after a significant brain injury, the brain re-wires itself to compensate and support damaged areas. Others even theorize that genius-level abilities lie dormant in everyone, just waiting to be triggered by the right circumstances. The precise mechanisms of how the brain manages to emulate complex new skills are still a total mystery.

Bermeja Island

Losing your keys or your phone is a pretty common occurrence, but it takes a special effort to lose an entire island. Back in the 16th and 17th centuries, Spanish explorers from multiple expeditions mapped out the northern coast of Yucatán, Mexico. All the maps of the time show a small island named Bermeja existing off the coast.

Bermeja Mexican phantom island map

But fast forward to a 1997 survey of the coast, and it was as if someone had simply scrubbed it off the face of the earth. No trace whatsoever of an island could be found at those original coordinates. In 2009, three in-depth searches with all the latest technology scoured the seabed to try and piece together what had happened, but there was no evidence that Bermeja ever even existed.

While there’s no definitive explanation for the island’s disappearance, some theorize the island was made of an easily erodible substance such as coral, which simply washed away over time.

But early descriptions of the tiny plot of land specifically described a sandy island, which draws this theory into question. Another theory suggests that cartographers in the 16th century used fake islands in their maps to confuse their enemies, and Bermeja was one such phony island.

Mysterious Events That Left Scientists Scratching Their Heads

But, considering the island was a mainstay of maps of the area up until the 19th century, why would the Spanish settlers cease to remember the island was faked centuries on? Could the knowledge of it being fake have just been lost like that? If they hadn’t already been dead for centuries, someone could be getting fired right now.

Kentucky Meat Shower

In 1876, in Bath County, Kentucky, a farmer’s wife was in her yard when, suddenly, chunks of meat began slapping down on the ground all around her. Hundreds of tiny pieces of meat measuring from 2 to 4 inches across pelted her home, having fallen from a completely clear sky.

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After reporting the incident, specimens like those in the preserved jar above were sent to top chemists around the US, but none could accurately confirm what type of meat it was. And, more importantly, none of them could explain how meat could possibly be falling from the sky in the place of rain!

As the years have gone on, one theory has emerged and remained a clear favorite: vulture vomit. It’s technically possible that a flock of passing vultures all vomited simultaneously after gorging themselves nearby.

Kentucky meat shower vulture vomit over house

Sounds fanatical, but in recent news, vultures have been documented gathering in large numbers and coating homes with foul-smelling vomit after feasting a little too heartily. The only other theory for the meat shower from the time was God’s Wrath so, vulture vomit it is! Or, as I like to call it, Kentucky Spewed Chicken.

Texas Star: Chorioactis Geaster

The Devil’s Cigar may sound like something only legal in California, but its real identity is so much stranger. The Devil’s Cigar, formally known as Chorioactis Geaster, is actually a kind of fungus. When it wants to reproduce, the fruit body of the fungus opens with a distinct hissing sound and releases a smoky cloud of spores that looks similar to cigar smoke. Hence the name.

Chorioactis Geaster Devil's cigar fungus

But that’s not even the mysterious part. This extremely rare kind of fungus is found exclusively in two places across the globe: Texas and Japan. If you’re wondering how it’s possible for the only known instances of this species to exist almost 7,000 miles apart, join the club! Scientists have been wracking their brains for an answer to this for decades.

The two populations have been separated for about 19 million years, and there’s nothing to indicate humans were responsible, as we only arrived on the scene about 2.5 million years ago. One clue to this puzzle is that the environments in which they grow lie at roughly the same latitude. But other than that, scientists continue to clutch at straws to solve this fungal mystery.

Meteor Blamed For Mysterious Illness In Peru

Here’s a question: what causes nausea, headaches, vomiting, and digestive problems? Technically, many ailments meet those criteria, but the illness that struck locals near Lake Titicaca in Peru in 2007 was far from your typical bout of food poisoning. In September of that year, a meteorite landed off the edge of Lake Titicaca, leaving a 32-foot-wide crater, from which boiling water began to spill, alongside fetid, noxious gases.

Meteorite crater 2007 edge of Lake Titicaca

Within days, as many as 200 residents of the area were complaining of horrible ailments, with symptoms ranging from skin damage to severe diarrhea. Police who went to visit the site also came down with the same symptoms, and the deaths of nearby livestock were reported.

As you’d expect, the internet flared up with reports that alien microbes were responsible. But intrigued scientists chose to dig a little deeper. They proposed a string of other theories, with the most convincing being that the superheated meteorite struck an underground water supply tainted with arsenic.

Mysterious Events That Left Scientists Scratching Their Heads

The area was known for its large arsenic deposits, and the resident’s symptoms aligned with arsenic poisoning. But, if I were one of the locals, I’d proudly refer to it as "that crazy time I caught meteoritis".

Crooked Forests

While most trees grow upwards, these amazing anomalies, found on the Curonian Split in Russia, like to do things a little differently. The aptly named Dancing Forest was planted back in the 1960s, and since then, the trunks of the trees have been noted for their unusual curvatures.

dancing forrest Tantsuyushchiy les twisted trees

What causes them to bend like they’re dancing to Shakira? Some believe it to be caused by the tree-nibbling activities of a local caterpillar species, but there’s no definitive answer. But while the Dancing Forest looks like complete anarchy, Poland’s Crooked Forest is more like organized chaos. Located just outside of Nowe Czarnowo in Poland, these trees were planted around the 1930s.

crooked forest

While some speculate the strong winds of storms may have blown the trees into these unusual growth patterns, others assert that human influence is the most likely cause. The trees’ growth may have been guided by human tools, to make curved timber for furniture or ship-building. But, with next to nothing known for certain about their cultivation, their origins remain rooted in mystery.

Bubbling Sand

It’s not uncommon to see bubbles rising from the sand at the beach, but bubbles in the sand of a desert certainly raise a few eyebrows. The following video taken in Gaza clearly shows bubbles erupting through the dry sand beneath the onlookers’ feet.

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At the center of a high-conflict area, this was initially met with suspicions of bombings causing underground cavities, which caused quite a panic at first. However, we have seen bubbles rising through the earth before; it looks like gas is back at it again!

According to a 2012 report from Israeli scientists, gas springs emerged off the northern coast in no less than 700 spots, revealing a gas deposit of 72 square kilometers on Israel’s continental shelf. So even though it looks like hell is bubbling over chances are it’s the equivalent of the earth letting off a silent-but-deadly one, if you catch my drift!

Ball Lightning

You may have heard of Ball Lightning before. These mysterious, floating spheres of electricity are occasionally spotted during thunderstorms and are a common explanation for UFO sightings. But with most of the video evidence of the phenomena being second-rate CGI jobs and low-quality footage, ball lightning has proven notoriously difficult to study.

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From the few official accounts available, however, its reported properties are incredibly bizarre. For example, the US Air Force officially documented a case of ball lightning passing through the cockpit of a cargo plane in the 1960s. Oddly, it had no apparent effect on anything in the craft.

Ball Lightning cargo plane cockpit US Airforce

Theories regarding the phenomenon range from lightning striking silica-rich earth and forming burning balls of gas, to atmospheric static electricity causing plasma to form out of the air. But, as with many other phenomena of this kind, a definitive explanation is about as hard to grasp as ball lightning itself.

Cloud Fall

Is the sky falling? The following video certainly seems to suggest so. The footage, captured in the United Arab Emirates back in 2011, claims to show a singular cloud floating towards the ground.

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Despite clouds being composed of water vapor, the cloud manages to get snagged on a fence. Either the sky is really falling, or we need to take a look at other similar occurrences to get to the bottom of it. Like this footage from Doukkala, Morocco back in 2016, where you can see similar cloud-like structures but in greater numbers.

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Seeing where Doukkala is on the map, it’s not too far-fetched to assume that these could just be masses of sea foam blown inland by the wind. Alternatively, both examples may be potentially harmful chemical foam by-products from water-treatment facilities or chemical factories. Either way, if you ever come across one of these, probably best to keep your limbs out of it!

I hope you were amazed at these mysterious events that left scientists scratching their heads. Thanks for reading!

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