Mystery of the Day: the Taman Shud case

March 27, 2010 at 10:01 am (cool things i've found) (, , )

On December 1st, 1948, a man was found dead on Somerton Beach in Australia.

He seems to have come from nowhere.

He was found with no visible signs of injury, wearing a suit with all the labels cut off of it, and no hat.  He had a cigarette tucked behind his ear and another one, half smoked, next to his head as if it had fallen out of his mouth.

In his pockets were a used bus ticket to the beach, an unused train ticket to Henley Beach, an American comb, a pack of Juicy Fruit gum, sixpence, an Army Club cigarette pack with Kensitas cigarettes in it, and a box of matches.  His body was found 250 meters from where the bus stop apparently let him off.

Apparently, a few people saw him the night before at the same spot- one couple saw him moving his arm around, and another saw him lying motionless on the beach.

When the autopsy was done, it was found that he had eaten a pasty four hours before his death.  And there’s more!

The stomach was deeply congested…There was congestion in the 2nd half of the duodenum. There was blood mixed with the food in the stomach. Both kidneys were congested, and the liver contained a great excess of blood in its vessels. …The spleen was strikingly large .. about 3 times normal size …there was destruction of the centre of the liver lobules revealed under the microscope. …acute gastritis haemorrhage, extensive congestion of the liver and spleen, and the congestion to the brain.

It was concluded that he most likely died of poisoning, but from what?  The Scottish Yard posted this guy’s picture everywhere, but there was no response.  They reasoned that the dead man might have been missing local man E.C. Johnson, but then E.C. showed up.  Many other possible IDs came up locally, but all were disproved.

A few months later, a suitcase was found at a nearby train station that had been checked in on the morning of Mystery Man’s death.  The suitcase’s label was removed, and inside it was a red-checked dressing gown, a pair of slippers, four pairs of underwear, pajamas, shaving gear, a pair of pants with sand in the cuffs, a screwdriver, a stenciling brush, a table knife that had been fashioned into a sharp knife, a pair of scissors, and a package of waxed thread.  All the labels on everything had been removed, but on several items of clothing it said “T. Keane”.  Police believed that someone purposefully left the Keane tag on the clothes knowing it was not the dead man’s name, because when they searched for T. Keane, they couldn’t find anyone of that name that was missing anywhere in the world.  There was one missing sailor named Tom Keane, but friends of his that viewed the body and the suitcase firmly believed that was not their friend.

Police were doing all sorts of searching and theorizing, and had started wondering if the body had been just dumped on the beach, when they found a secret pocket in the man’s pants.  Inside the secret pocket, a piece of paper with the words “TAMAN SHUD” typed on it.

Now this part is crazy.

Apparently this phrase came from the book The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and Taman Shud roughly translates to “the ending”.  They released this info to the media, and a man in the town where the body was found came forward, saying that on November 30th, the night before Mystery Man died, he found a copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in the back of his unlocked car, and the final page, which was supposed to read “Taman Shud”, was torn out.  Yup, Mystery Man apparently ripped out a page and shoved the book into a random car.

There was weird lettering on the front cover that looked like code, and a phone number, which was traced to a woman in the same town who once dated a man who was rumored to be a spy, but that man eventually surfaced, and his copy of the book still had that last page.

The man was buried, finally, and a strange woman was seen putting flowers on his grave several times.  An inmate in New Zealand revealed that he knew the name of the name of the dead man, but it could never be corroborated.  Mystery Man has been linked to more spy stuff, so much so that it prompted Australia to create its own anti-espionage task force, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

The man’s identity is still unknown.  Go to the Wikipedia to read WAY more about it, and then see if you can crack the case!

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  1. monkeearmada said,

    time travel is no mystery to those of us who have traveled through time

  2. Sean said,

    IM SO CLOSE I KNOW IT! GAB isnt part of the code It’s a signature they are the first three initials to the mans name and the code is a letter to someone! all the research I’ve done and what other people have told me. G.A.B( dead man) was deceived by someone with the name B.A.B not only that but it’s sounds like he knew he was going to die the letter was written before he died all i need to find out who B.A.B is and who was meant to read the letter!

  3. Daniel Brown said,

    Just a small thing someone on the Australian Broadcating Company forum pointed out: The note hidden in the pocket = TAMAM SHUD

    The first line of the Cipher = WRGOABABD.

    Okay, you say, So ? It’s a code; look what happens when we put the code line back wards and match it with the ‘Key’ phrase:

    D B A B A O G R W
    T A M A M S H U D

    See the ” BABA ” sequence lining up with the ” AMAM ” ?

    Could just be a coincidence…but there’s no such thing as coincidence.

    (and yes, I’m driving myself crazy trying to break out the other letters of the Code ! )

    • o'day said,

      brilliant, save for the part where the paper in his pocket read “tamaN shud”; tamam is the more accurate transliteration but in the rare first edition of Fitzgerald’s translation the deprecated form “taman” was used, which breaks the mapping of AMAM to BABA and decomposes the substitution.

      I don’t mean, in any way, to denigrate your work, In fact, I’m glad someone else is churning it over too…

      • knowitall said,

        nope – it reads “Tamám Shud”

    • Aram said,

      I don’t quite understand your reasoning for applying “the ‘Key’ phrase”.
      I assume you’re treating it as a one-time padded string, using “KEY” as the one-time pad. In that case the result cannot have “BABA” lining up with “AMAM” because of the pad you’re adding. Maybe an example will explain it better.

      “DBABAOGRW” translates into the following numbers (according to the alphabet):
      4 2 1 2 1 15 7 18 23

      If you apply the key (“KEY” = 11 5 25) that will turn into:
      15 7 26 13 6 14 18 23 22

      Which in turn translates back to:

      Not reversing the strange text decrypts to “HWFZFALGC”. And switching the algorithm around, starting with subtracting the numbers, the text still makes no sense (at least not to me). The results are now SWBQVPVMX and LMHDVCPWE, respectively.

      To summarize, the one-time pad implementation is probably a lot more complex or the pad isn’t something as simple as “KEY”.

  4. El caso de Taman Shud [ENG] said,

    [...] El caso de Taman Shud [ENG]…  por defrias hace 2 segundos [...]

  5. Dr No One said,

    Looks like there was some romance involved in this case; the last entry of the timeline implies that Jestyn (the lady who’s number was in the book) had a son to the Somerton man. apparently she was quiet a looker too. Honey pot maybe?

  6. Stephen Thorne said,

    1. Is it possible that the Somerton man could have been an officer who enjoyed horse riding I think this because of his condition i.e pride in his appearance (hair neat) physically fit, strong leg muscles (he could have gotten this through riding a horse using only the front of his feet in the stirrups) his feet consistent of wearing riding boots (wedged toes) and the brown shoes (officers wore highly polished brown shoes possibly still do) his hands ( some officers wore leather gloves) and feet showed little or no signs of manual labour (officers don’t need to do manual labour) quality clothing and no labels some people even to-day remove these as they can irritate while wearing. I also think he served abroad maybe south east asia as the numbered sequence found with his body is: 4(mang) a language of vietnam, 8 (pi) the square root of?(not much idea on that,) 15 (khien) progress and success the superior man 16 (yu) chinese emporer from the xia dynasty 23 (po) petty officer or pilot officer 42 (yi) The Yi people (own name in the Liangshan dialect: ??, official transcription: Nuosu (??), IPA: [n??s?]; Chinese: ??; pinyin: Yízú; the older name “Lolo” or “Lu?lu?” (??) is now considered derogatory in China, though used officially in Vietnam as Lô Lô and in Thailand as Lolo [??-??]) I’m not sure what bearing the written clue (the note found via the secret pocket concerning the Tamam Shud) has because I think had he been murdered there was a doctor & nurse involved (both having the knowledge and means to collect & administer the poison) the note may had been written by either of these as no comparison to anybodys handwriting was mentioned could have been added to throw the police off in a different direction. Maybe he was trying to retrieve a lost love (yeah i know) and she may have gotten romantically involved with another and found his presence unwelcome? or maybe he already knew he was dying and went to find what was possibly his child before he died? I don’t know the reasons why but i do believe he was an officer in the armed forces. It’s seems no-one else has considered this option as all the interest in this case seems to be centered on the written note and not the number sequence, Just a thought maybe the numbered sequence could do with looking at a little more closely maybe even with the note.

    • A functioning brain said, is not a valid source of information and 4 8 15 16 23 42 are the numbers from LOST. So, your theory in trying to identify him is about as useful as pulling names out of a modern telephone directory.

  7. Stephen Thorne said,

    Does anybody know if the initial of the doctors last name who found the book was D ???

  8. said,

    QC on the fourth line points to Queens Councel's_Counsel

  9. A mystery for the indexers out there? The Taman Shud case | A Searching Librarian said,

    [...] Mystery of the day : the Taman Shud case / Emily,, 27.03.2010, viewed 21.08.2011, [...]

  10. A functioning brain said,

    Can everybody stop, point and laugh at Stephen Thorne for a moment? Obviously you have been reading the article on as that is the only place where the numbers 4 8 15 16 23 42 are connected to the Taman Shud case. As a parody of the fact that a code is involved. Because 4 8 15 16 23 42 are the numbers from the hatch on LOST. Dumbass.

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