Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mysteries Among Us #1

Welcome to "Mysteries Among Us," one of our rotating Thursday features. In this feature, our sleuths will share mysteries that have caught our attention or intrigued us recently. They could be mysteries we've uncovered in the news or heard about in our own communities. They could be mysteries from the past that continue to haunt us. Mysteries are everywhere! Maybe some of what we've found will spark ideas for fictional mysteries. We'd love to know what mysteries you've come across lately too!

Diana Renn:
Thanks to a friend on Twitter, news of a literary/artistic mystery recently came my way. Throughout this year, beautiful paper sculptures have been mysteriously appearing in libraries and other cultural institutions in Scotland. The unsigned sculptures are accompanied by notes stating that they are gifts, and also stating they celebrate libraries, books, words, and ideas. These are exquisite, elaborate works of art, made from cut up books and paper. Several sculptures have been made out of books by bestselling crime novelist Ian Rankin, though that is not the case with all of them. I love the idea of this mystery because it reminds me not to fall back on obvious mysteries, e.g., objects that have disappeared. This is the reverse: art is appearing. And the motive of this guerilla artist appears not to be malice, but love. Here's the link to a full article about it, and lots of wonderful photos of the mystery art!

L.R. Giles:
The Lost Colony of Roanoke is a creepy historic mystery that's local to my region. In the 16th century an entire colony disappeared from an island off the coast of North Carolina leaving only a single clue behind, the word "Croatan" carved into a tree. They were never heard from again. There are a ton of theories about what happened to them. Some suggest mild circumstances--the colony simply dispersed and was absorbed by other nearby colonies. Others go as far as to suggest witchcraft or other paranormal activity. This is the type of story that has always intrigued me and informed my writing. And of the wide range of explanations, of course I gravitate to the supernatural end of the spectrum. That's just more fun!

Laura Ellen:
One of my favorite unsolved mysteries is that of DB Cooper, the guy who hijacked a plane and after he got the money he requested, skydived out of the plane with the money, never to be heard from again.

Kristen Kittscher:
I'm always fascinated by Los Angeles history, especially the scandals that rocked Hollywood in the 1920s and 30s. Even though I've lived in L.A. for thirteen years and formerly worked at a Hollywood studio, I'm always stumbling across new stories about crimes of passion, corruption, and greed. One of the more interesting old Hollywood murder mysteries is the unsolved murder of silent film star and director William Desmond Taylor. No less than 12 suspects were named in the case, including two well-known leading ladies, a studio boss, several possible male lovers of Taylor's, including his ex-con valet who feigned a fake Cockney accent much of the time, and an actresses' fame-obsessed stage mother. Add the sensationalized newspaper reports and the false confessions, and this case can really set your mind reeling! It's not one for kid's books, but the characters involved do inspire me, anyway. As a side note, the "Norma Desmond" character in Sunset Boulevard is named after William Desmond Taylor and actress/suspect Mabel Normand in order to evoke the memory of Hollywood scandals past.

Elisa Ludwig:
Right now I'm really intrigued by the Toynbee Tile Mystery. These are plaques with cryptic messages referring to Stanley Kubrick and David Mamet. They have been embedded in the asphalt in cities all over the U.S. and South America over the past 30 years. A recent film called Resurrect Dead explores the phenomenon and the various theories about who is behind the tiles. It won the director's award at Sundance and has been renewing interest in this bizarre story.

W.H. Beck:
My "mystery" is much more local. It came from my house! This summer, we tackled sorting through things in our attic. As we finally got back to the stuff that was left here when we moved in seven years ago, we came across three framed pictures. Upon closer inspection, we realized they were the original blueprints for our house. We poured over them for ages, squinting at the owners' notes about hallway measurements and where to position doors and toilets. We didn't find any big surprises--we've already discovered the "hidden passage" between the attic and garage storage areas. But it got us thinking. What if there was a secret room, a secret space, that we never knew about? What would be in there? Why would someone need it? We had so many ideas sparking we could have fueled a week's worth of campfire nights. I guess for us, sometimes the possibility of mystery is mystery enough.

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