December 1: The Taman Shud Mystery

On the morning of tamam-shudDecember 1, 1948, the body of a man was discovered lying under a street lamp on Somerton Beach in Adelaide, Australia. Adelaide police assumed this would be just like any other case, but instead each clue detectives discovered only led to further mysteries. The case became known as the Taman Shud Case, and it remains unsolved to this day.

So, what makes this case so weird? Well, let’s start with the body itself. There were no external wounds, and an autopsy revealed that aside from some mild stomach congestion, he was perfectly healthy. Eventually, the cause of death was ruled simply “inconclusive.” While investigating the man’s clothing, police realized that every identifying label had been removed. Somehow, they were eventually able to trace the jacket to a manufacturer in the United States. However, no finger print or dental records in either the U. S. or Australia matched those of the mysterious dead man. A photo of the dead man was printed in newspapers around the world, but nobody came forward to identify the body.

Somehow, this story gets stranger. Namely, while re-examining the man’s clothing, detectives discovered a hidden pocket that had been sewn inside the man’s pants. Inside the pocket was a tiny piece of paper upon which were printed the words “Tamam Shud” (The case became known as “Taman Shud” because of typos in the media). Librarians were called in, and it was discovered that this was from a copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, specifically a very rare first edition copy of Edward FitzGerald’s translation of The Rubaiyat.

A man soon came forward and revealed that just a week before the body was found, he had discovered that someone had left a first edition copy of Edward FitzGerald’s translation of The Rubaiyat in the backseat of his car; and what do you know, somebody had torn out the words “Taman Shud” from that copy of the book. Oh, and also there was a strange string of letters written in the back of the book. It’s likely that the string of letters was a code, leading some people to theorize that the Taman Shud man may have been a spy; but even 65 years later, nobody has been able to break it. The South Australia Police Major Crime Branch still considers the Taman Shud Case “open.”

If you feel the need to try to solve the mystery, might I suggest you have a drink to get your investigative juices flowing? Since the Taman Shud Case happened in Adelaide, why not have an Adelaide Swizzle? This drink is actually the house cocktail of the Swizzle Stick Bar at Café Adelaide in New Orleans. Although it’s a pink drink, don’t let appearances deceive you; this drink is surprisingly dry and a little bit spicy.

Adelaide Swizzle

  • 2 ounces White Rum
  • 3/4 ounce Falernum Liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • 2 dash Peychaud’s aromatic bitters

Pour all ingredients into a highball glass filled with ice, and stir with a swizzle stick.

Tomorrow: Sherlock Holmes probably could have solved the Taman Shud Case; but who was the inspiration for Holmes?

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