Earthly enigmas persist in all corners of the globe.
Earthly enigmas persist in all corners of the globe. (El Coleccionista de Instantes/Flickr)

Cracks in Creation: A Round-up of Earthly Mystery

The Bermuda Triangle isn't the only place you might witness the unexplained.

Earthly enigmas persist in all corners of the globe.
Jason Daley

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Within Mexico's Mapimí Biosphere Reserve lies a vaguely defined area roughly 30 miles in radius that's known as the “Zone of Silence.” Believers claim all radio signals are lost, compasses go wild, meteorites pelt the ground, and minds go a little haywire there. Among other incidents, in 1970 a test missile fired near White Sands, New Mexico, traveled off course some 400 miles to hit the zone. Supposedly, the area is covered in magnetic pebbles and the plants and animals there grow to unnatural proportions. Despite stories of NASA, Mexican, and Canadian research teams scouring the place, no solid scientific data confirming its reputation for disrupting the natural order has been made public. How appropriate.

In the Indian Ocean, over the last century, ship's captains and crews have reported more than 100 incidents of giant, terrifying ocean light wheels rolling over the face of the deep. These phenomena, which range from a few hundred feet to a mile in diameter, typically have a series of eerily glowing “spokes.” In 1977 in the Strait of Malacca, off Malaysia, the crew of the Cardigan Bay watched in awe for ten minutes as one wheel metamorphosed into a row of giant V's, emitted a separate wheel, and, at one point, even slipped under the ship. German researcher Kurt Kalle believed the phenomena results from seismic-wave interference patterns stimulating bioluminescent plankton. But who ever heard of flying plankton?

Since the 19th century, boaters on Yellowstone National Park's Shoshone and Yellowstone lakes have reported mysterious water music, like that from a pipe organ, coming from nowhere. In 1893, Stephen Forbes, of the Illinois Natural History Survey, described it as “the vibrating clang of a harp lightly and rapidly touched high up above the tree tops, or the sound of many telegraph wires swinging regularly and rapidly in the wind, or of faintly heard voices answering each other overhead.” But maybe as ranger Neil Miner said after hearing the sound in 1937 it's just air moving over the water. Or ghosts.

Outside the town of Boulia, in the outback of Queensland, Australia, you may see the Min Min Lights‒eerie illumination with a particularly dark backstory. In the 1880s, one version of the story goes, citizens fed up with the sins of patrons of the Min Min tavern, a way station conveniently located near a graveyard, burned it to the ground. Ever since, locals have reported hovering balls of light near the ruins or in the distance. Some hardened outbackers have even been brought to tears when the lights invaded their homes. Neuroscientist Jack Pettigrew has said it's all a fata morgana, probably created by headlights during atmospheric inversions. But the sightings began decades before the Model T made it down under.

From Outside Magazine, Nov 2006 Lead Photo: El Coleccionista de Instantes/Flickr