Tales from Urban Dilettantia

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Mystery Man

Over the past few weeks I’ve managed to read far more random Wikipedia pages than anyone needs to read, and as a result, have become a little obsessed with a most peculiar mystery.
In December 1948, the body of a man was found on Somerton Beach in Adelaide, South Australia. The identity of the man remains unknown. The investigation encompassed a code, two copies of a rare copy of a book of poetry, an unnamed nurse and the paternity of her child, a mysterious poison, spies, wild speculation, a stored suitcase, and ultimately many more questions than answers.
If you wish to appreciate this baffling time-drain with me, here are some good places to start:

1. The Wikipedia article on the Tanam Shud case.

2. A fascinating set of pages from Honours students at The University of Adelaide, focusing on students’ attempts to understand and crack the code associated with the mystery. They also include a great timeline, a list of common misconceptions about the case, and a list of known facts about the dead man.

3. 2009 and 2010 videos from the University of Adelaide students relating to the case.

4. Parts 1, 2 and 3 from an ABC Inside Story documentary on the case produced in 1978. (Includes footage of the suitcase and clothing discovered in storage, which were subsequently lost by police.)

5. Some clarification and amended statements from a witness originally interviewed for the 1978 documentary.

6. Parts 1 and 2 from an ABC Stateline report on the case in 2009.

I have no further insights to add to the content linked above, but I hope you enjoy puzzling over this very strange tale as much as I have!

Edit: Wandering by this post seven years later, I note that there have been many developments. The Wikipedia article is quite a good place to start.

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