There are few things more annoying than losing your keys. But most of the time, the mystery ends when we find them in our pocket, or underneath a piece of paper on the kitchen table. But some mysteries aren’t so easy to solve, like these mind-blowing secrets locked away in vaults and tombs around the world. From the cursed grave of a Chinese Emperor to a billionaire drug lord’s lost stash, I’ll show you 10 strange mysteries hidden away, just waiting to be discovered.
Number 10: The World’s Richest Temple
In the state of Kerala in Southern India there’s a real-life story of treasure, ancient secrets and deathly intrigue. The temple of Sree Padmanabhaswamy in Trivandrum is the Holy shrine to Maha Vishnu – the most powerful Hindu deity. The entirely gold-plated temple was built in the 16th Century and was renovated a few hundred years later by the Kings of Travancore – one of India’s wealthiest ancient families.
According to local legends, the kings of Travancore had hidden their vast wealth within the stone walls and vault of the temple. Then in 2011, the Indian supreme court demanded a routine audit of the temple’s treasury.
Counting the treasure was harder than it sounds. Local religious leaders warned that opening the vaults would disrespect Maha Vishnu – leading to catastrophic heavenly punishment. The last time someone tried was in 1931, and legend has it a sudden plague of cobras sprang from the vault.
But despite protests and death threats from hardline Hindus, lawyer TP Sundarajan got permission to open it up for the first time in centuries. Not long later, TP Sundarajan and his team opened 5 of the 6 vaults. The findings were stunning. Inside the temple was a breath-taking hoard of crowns, weapons, bags of diamonds, rubies, gold statues, vessels made of gold, golden elephants, gold coins, even golden coconuts studded with jewels. In total, the value of the treasury’s contents was 1 trillion US dollars.
But one mysterious door remained locked – the vault named the Bharatakkon Kallara. A huge serpent figure on the door indicated danger, and temple priests and Vedic scholars insisted opening the final door would bring grave misfortune.
The only way to safely enter the vault would be if a Hindu priest or Saint performed a sacred rite known as the garuda mantra. The only problem is there’s nobody alive who knows how to do it.
Of course, some people doubt things like curses and superstition. But since the lawyer TP Sundarajan mysteriously died, nobody has dared open the final vault…
Number 9: The Smallpox Vaults
Smallpox is a deadly and highly contagious disease that has killed millions through the course of human history. It has been found in the tombs of the Egyptian mummies, and claimed the lives of Kings, Queens and peasants alike.
The disease causes a painful pus-filled rash to erupt all over the body and leads to haemorrhages, organ failure – and death. It’s been preventable since 1798 – when Edward Jenner discovered a vaccine – but it took until the 1960s for humankind to really tackle smallpox head on. But the good news is thanks to modern medicine – smallpox has now been eradicated.
Except… not completely. Tiny amounts of the disease live on, frozen inside top-secret military bioweapons facilities in both the USA and Russia. If either sample is ever unleashed, the disease could multiply and kill millions once again.
Many have argued for the destruction of the last remaining samples – but neither the USA or Russia seems willing to do so. They say it is so they could make better vaccines in case smallpox comes back, from some forgotten source or perhaps freshly engineered by terrorists. But some fear the USA is holding on it because the Russians have it, and that the Russians are holding onto it because the Americans still have it.
Both sides are using this deadly disease as an insurance policy in a new biological arms race. Well, whatever the truth – let’s all hope this locked vault is never opened again.
Number 8: Emperor Qin’s Secret Tomb
As the Roman Empire was in turmoil, ancient China, although an abode of strange mysteries, was enjoying an era of peace. Emperor Qin Shi Huang had united the seven warring states, and became the head of the first Imperial Chinese Dynasty.
This was an all-powerful leader who dreamt of living forever. He only came to power at the age of 13. But he started work on his tomb immediately to make his eternal afterlife fitting for a king. Well, an emperor.
And Emperor Qin didn’t mess around. His sprawling tomb complex was worked on by a total of 700,000 people across the country, many of whom built the world-famous Terracotta Warriors – 8000 unique life-size clay statues, ready to defend their emperor in the afterlife.
But the pictures we have of Emperor Qin’s vast army are just the tip of the iceberg. His tomb itself remains sealed, and we can only speculate what’s inside. Chinese archaeologists have warned the tomb is protected by booby traps and contains toxic mercury. The scale of the tomb is also huge – and it would be impossible to excavate with current technology.
Maybe one day mankind will see inside the Emperor’s final resting place… but don’t hold your breath, it might be another 2000 years.
Number 7: The Hall of Records
Now to Egypt, land of the Nile and ancient world wonders like the Sphinx – a huge lion with a Pharoah’s head – carved from a single gigantic piece of limestone.
There is no doubt that the Sphinx still hides secrets, and Egyptologists are still studying it in their search to solve the riddles of history. But no theory is too outlandish involving ancient Egypt. Following the discovery of empty spaces below the Sphinx by new ground-penetrating radar, some experts have claimed to have found the mythical Egyptian Hall of Records.
This would be a gigantic find and contain a trove of information and artefacts that would give us new insights into Egypt’s mysterious civilisation.
The most exciting prospect for conspiracy theorists is that the Hall of Records might prove their claims that aliens visited Earth during the times of the Pharaohs – and could tell us the location of the mythical city of Atlantis.
So why then are the Egyptian authorities blocking any excavations underneath the Sphinx? Could it be that the conspiracy theorists are right?
Number 6: Murder Hotel
Deep in the Canadian Rockies, in the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, is an unopened mysterious door that conceals a terrifying secret. In 1906, legend has it that an entire family was murdered whilst asleep in room 837. Housekeeping discovered their bodies the next morning, lying in pools of blood with bloody hand-prints all over the walls. Since then, the room has been boarded up and plastered over.
The hotel claims the room never existed, despite the regular sightings of ghosts walking around the corridors….
Number 5: The Taj Mahal’s Basement
Back to India and the world-famous Taj Mahal. Its familiar white dome is an Indian national icon, but some believe it hides a secret just beneath the surface.
© PX Fuel
Most people agree that the Mughals – a Muslim Empire that ruled India for over 300 years – built the mausoleum complex. The story goes that Shah Jahan built it to honor his favorite wife, who died giving birth to their 14th child. But some Hindus – who have a long-standing rivalry with Indian Muslims – have pointed to a series of mysterious locked rooms in the Taj Mahal.
They say these rooms could mean a religious cover-up, and the Taj Mahal was initially a Hindu temple, not a Muslim palace.
There are areas of the Taj Mahal that are off-limits, and doorways that have been bricked up. But is this for conservation like the authorities say? Or to hide something far more mysterious? What we do know if nobody has ever been let inside.
Number 4: Treasure under Machu Picchu
Built by the Incas, the citadel of Machu Picchu dates from medieval times, but was unknown to the rest of the world until 1911.
Inca kings used this secretive city high in the mountains as a fortress until its population fled from Spanish invaders and the smallpox they brought. But archaeologists say the Incas left behind more than ruins. Beneath Machu Picchu lie undiscovered tombs and cave systems. Radar analysis has shown the presence of metal – almost certainly gold and treasure – but the location of these chambers makes them impossible to reach.
Peruvians fear that archaeological intrusion will damage this sacred place and have refused to grant them permission. Who knows if we will ever find out what the Inca Kings hid down there?
Number 3: Onkalo Nuclear Waste Facility
How do you store highly dangerous nuclear waste? How do you keep it safe and prevent people from finding it – especially when it will stay dangerous for millennia?
A Finnish company thinks it has found an answer…by burying the waste in a huge underground facility, deep in solid granite bedrock. The repository is at the end of a 5-mile tunnel, and will one day hold thousands of highly radioactive fuel rods – capable of causing terrible suffering for another 100,000 years. That’s the same amount of time humans have been around on Earth. Experts say this is the safest way to store it – but with a time period that long, can they be sure?
Once the facility is operational, it’s huge steel doors will be closed forever. And let’s just hope forever means forever. The facility must lie undiscovered for thousands of years, and who can guess what will happen at that time? Civilizations will rise and fall, Earth will probably experience another Ice Age – maybe humankind won’t even exist by that point.
So, the question the Finnish now have, is should they just bury this waste and forget about it? Or leave some kind of marker at the surface to warn people to stay away? It can’t rely on language because nobody will be speaking English in 100,000 years time – so how do you say KEEP OUT?
Let’s hope they work it out because the mysterious doors at Onkalo Waste Facility must never be opened.
Number 2: Pablo Escobar’s Safe
Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar was notorious – gaining huge fame, wealth and power by smuggling cocaine from South America into the US. In the early 1990’s it was estimated his gang supplied 80% of the cocaine in North America, and Escobar was making a personal income of 21.9 billion US dollars every year.
But Escobar’s luck didn’t last forever, and he was shot dead by Police in his home in 1993. Escobar’s huge estate was sold off – including a beachfront mansion in Miami. A wealthy family of entrepreneurs bought the property and were living there normally until they decided to do a bit of renovation. Halfway through the building work, they stumbled across an underground vault. Inside, they found a huge metal safe.
Knowing Escobar’s reputation – the new owners of this 50-pound treasure chest were a little scared of what they might find inside… it could be drugs, guns, money…anything!
However, before they had a chance to open the safe… it was stolen. So far it has not been recovered, so we may never know what it contained. The Miami Police have not made any arrests, and besides, they don’t know what was stolen except an old safe. It seems Pablo Escobar still has the power to create mysteries, even from beyond the grave.
Number 1: The Preston Egg
And now to an unlikely location for our final mystery – the town of Preston in Lancashire, England. An unassuming safe deposit box sits in a bank vault in this sleepy town. Rumour has it that inside is a priceless Faberge Egg that used to belong to the Russian Tsars.
Faberge eggs are incredibly rare and valuable and were made for the Russian royal family out of gold and gemstones. 43 are held in museums and collections – the Queen of England has 3 of them – but seven are still missing, with only two of those thought to have survived the Russian Revolution. So how did one end up in Preston?
Well, the theory goes that a Dr Maxwell Wilcock, an eccentric explorer who traveled regularly to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, was actually a spy. He’s now dead, but his family claim he spoke of owning a gold egg and was friends with the jeweler who was last known to own it. When he died he left a trail of money and suspicious items behind – his family found thousands of pounds stuffed in his pajamas. The jeweler who last saw the famous egg didn’t realize it’s value and sold it for 1,250 pounds. In today’s money, it would be worth more like $38 million US Dollars.
Of course, Wilcock’s family are desperate to open his safe deposit box and reap the rewards of their enigmatic family member. But with no mention of it in his will, and with no other authorization, the bank is refusing to let them look inside. Let’s hope this is one mystery they’ll manage to crack!
So, would you risk an ancient curse to become fabulously wealthy? Maybe we should go after these strange mysteries to find the truth no matter what? Let me know in the comments!