One of our personal favorite unsolved murder mysteries here on Ways to Die is the Tamam Shud Case, which is also known as the Mystery of the Somerton Man and is also incorrectly referred to as “Taman Shud”. This is as bizarre and intriguing as it gets and if you are new to this case then we can guarantee that you will be as hooked and as creeped out as we are by the time you finishing reading this article.
What is the Tamam Shud Case?
The Tamam Shud case revolves around the death of a man whose body was found on Somerton beach in Adelaide Australia, in 1948. What began as a simple murder mystery unravelled into something much stranger as police delved a little deeper.
Firstly, the words “Tamam Shud” come from the Persian words for “Finished” and were printed onto a piece of paper that was found in the pocket of the man’s trousers. This page had been torn from a book by a 12th century poet. Once this book had been tracked down, detectives discovered an unidentified number and what appeared to be an encrypted message, which to this day has still not been deciphered.
Who Was the Somerton Man?
This is another one of the many mysteries of the Somerton Man: no one knows who he was. In fact, there is very little that we actually do know about him. International authorities were contacted, including the FBI in the United States and Scotland Yard in the UK, but they had nothing on record that could identify who the Somerton Man was.
One of the things that made this such an interesting case is that it occurred during the Cold War, just before tensions escalated between the United States and the USSR. There are beliefs that an undetectable poison was used and that The Somerton Man was a spy or double agent who was basically hushed by either the Soviets or the Americans.
In this theory, the code left in the book could be a code that was meant to be relayed to an intelligence agency. However, this doesn’t really explain why the body was found in South Australia, a long way from the major intelligence agencies involved in the Cold War.
Taman Shud Theory
There have been many theories, with the main ones revolving around spies, double agents and cults. There is nothing to prove this, but there is nothing to disprove it and that’s why such theories exist.
One of the few tangible pieces of evidence to come from the Tamam Shud case is the phone number taken from the book. This belonged to a nurse who lived in the area and police tracked her down. But she claimed to not know who the man was and she wasn’t helpful.
It is worth noting, however, that later interviews regarded this nurse to be evasive, acting like she didn’t want to talk about it. This could be taken to mean that she was hiding something, but it could also be that she was just sick of being asked questions about a case she knew nothing about.
Apparently, when she was first shown a plaster cast bust of the dead man she was “Taken-aback”, turning away and not looking back. She also asked that her name not be used on permanent records less her reputation be forever tarnished. The police agreed.
Taman Shud Code
The following is the code taken from the Somerton Man and known as the Tamam Shud code:
The second line of this code had been crossed through and all of it was handwritten. This code has yet to be deciphered because it is very difficult to decipher a code of such short length when you have nothing to base it on. Longer codes can be deciphered using basic cryptography methods because it’s easier to find patterns and to convert them.
For instance, we know that letters such as “E” and “A” are two of the most common in the English language. If these letters have been exchanged for a single symbol and there is a lot to go on, then a simple tallying up of the symbols and their related regularity can give the decoder an idea of what symbol represents what letter.
This is the basic idea of code breaking and obviously more complex codes can’t be deciphered with such simplicity, but the idea that more is better still applies and such short codes can be near impossible to crack.
Has the Somerton Man Case Been Solved?
No, not yet. There have been a few apparent explanations over the years, but these have yet to materialize into anything concrete and they are often disputed straight away. Not long after the Tamam Shud case began, a local newspaper reported that they had discovered who the Somerton Man was and went as far as to name him as E. C. Johnson, only for Mr. Johnson to show up at the police station a few days later, no doubt baffled as to why the local news was telling the world’s media that he was dead.
There were close to a dozen identifications of the Somerton Man in the 2 years following his death. Witnesses came forward to say they knew him, some suggested that they had shared a drink with him. He was thought to be a military man and he was thought to be man who died at sea, but the former couldn’t be proved and the latter was disproved by friends of the supposedly deceased man.
Like the Zodiac Killer, Jack the Ripper and many other unsolved cases, this has the feel of a case that will never be solved. The problem is, the fact that it has been over 70 years since the death of the Somerton Man means that anyone involved with the murder and cover-up, as well as any real witnesses, are probably dead. So, unless there is a confession hiding in the databanks of some clandestine agency just waiting to be uncovered, we will probably never know the truth about the Tamam Shud case.
Cases Similar to Taman Shud
If you love a good creepy unsolved mystery, then make sure you take a peek at our article on one unbelievable creepy forest in Japan. It is known as the Suicide Forest or the Death Forest, for reasons that will quickly become clearly once you start reading. Just make sure you don’t read too close to your bedtime, otherwise you probably won’t be getting any sleep tonight.
As always, you can check in with our Unsolved Serial Murders article and section as well. Here we cover some gruesome serial murder cases that you might never have heard of (including the Tylenol Murders), which is made all the more creepier when you consider that they were never caught and that some of them may still be out there.