The world is an unfathomably large place, and it makes sense that strange things go missing every day. But losing a pen lid under the couch is far different from misplacing an entire room gilded with amber, or a priceless jewelled egg worth billions.
Throughout history, there’ve been several strange things like these that simply vanished without a single trace. For some of these strange things, it’s meant an ongoing, global search spanning decades.
Some have even gone missing as recently as 2019 — and with how advanced technology has become, that’s a truly impressive feat.
From missing diamonds to lost treasures, we take a look at the most incredible and strange things people have lost over the centuries.
The Amber Room
The Amber Room was the pride and joy of Russia throughout the 18th and 19th century. It was a beautiful room decorated with intricate amber pieces on display first in the Catherine Palace, and later taken to the Berlin City Palace.
Wherever it went, people marvelled at the beauty of the room. Estimates place its worth in the $180 to $650 million range — but if you wanted to sell it, you’d have to find it first.
During World War II, Nazis ransacked Russia’s palaces and the entire city of Königsberg. While there was an attempt to hide the walls of the room, it didn’t escape detection and was reportedly dismantled and carried away to be stored elsewhere.
What happened after is a complete mystery. Some claim it was loaded on German ships and sunk beneath the ocean, or that it was carried away on trains, but the truth remains unknown and the investigation continues to this day. After 1941, it was never seen from again.
Multiple Fabergé Eggs
There are multiple decorative Fabergé eggs in existence across Europe thanks to the skill of Russia’s House of Fabergé. This jewellery maker is well known for its jewelled, gold encrusted eggs which often served as gifts for royal households. The most famous of the eggs are the Imperial set commissioned by Russian tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II. 52 of these eggs were made, but only 46 now survive.
Many of the eggs have been lent out to museums across the world, which might explain some of the disappearances. But some haven’t been seen since the 1800s.
Others have been spotted more recently at the height of World War II, but at least 8 from various sets are currently unaccounted for. It could be that some of these eggs went the way of the Amber Room, but we don’t know how they were lost along the way.
D.B. Cooper was a ‘gentleman thief’ who hijacked an airplane between Portland and Seattle in 1971. He took hostages, claimed he had a bomb and demanded a briefcase full of cash and a parachute for their survival. When the terms of his arrangements were met he allowed the plane to land, the passengers departed and he took off again with a reduced flight crew.
Halfway through the journey, D.B. Cooper disappeared from the plane with his money and was never seen again.
The tale of D.B. Cooper has long fascinated historians and investigators because of the high improbability of his act. Nobody on the plane saw him leave, yet no body was found on the ground. Most agree Cooper was able to land safely, but there’s no evidence either way.
Given the recentness of the heist, it’s likely Cooper could still be alive, living large in a place where nobody knows his name.
The Antwerp Diamonds
The Antwerp heist was a bold endeavour carried around in 2003 that saw thieves break into a secure vault in the Antwerp Diamond Centre and make off with over $100 million worth of jewels in the process. But it wasn’t just a petty theft. This heist was planned out over 18 whole months, with Leonardo Notarbatolo establishing himself in the Centre as a legitimate diamond broker for over a year before he and his team made a move. Each had codenames and particular jobs in the heist — but only Notarbatolo was ever actually caught.
The diamonds that were stolen by the four other men in the robbery were never recovered, and remain missing to this day. The whole thing reads like a chapter out of Ocean’s Eleven and you can bet there’s a new film adaptation of the Antwerp heist in the works somewhere.
While the process of the robbery is now well understood, the location of the diamonds remains a wild mystery.
After the autopsy of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy was undertaken, a certain piece of the puzzle went missing: his brain. According to popular lore, the theft was noticed three years after Kennedy was assassinated, although when it actually vanished is still up in the air.
This, of course, led to much debate and conspiracy theories with some suggesting the government took the brain to prevent the ‘truth’ that Kennedy wasn’t shot in the back of the head from emerging.
Originally labelled as ‘mislaid’ (and how you lose a brain is anyone’s guess) the brain remained entirely shrouded in mystery until 2018. That’s when reports emerged stating the brain was taken by Robert Kennedy, JFK’s brother, so it would never be put on display and exploited for its historical value. A brain is a strange thing to claim, but if this report is to be believed, that’s exactly what Robert Kennedy stole.
The exact location of the brain doesn’t appear to be confirmed by official sources, so its disappearance remains an intriguing mystery.
Dresden Castle’s Treasures
The Dresden Castle heist is the most recent entry on this list, taking place in November 2019.
During the course of a single night, artefacts estimated to be worth over €1 billion were lifted from the Green Vault within Dresden Castle in Germany. Items stolen included a 49-carat white diamond, a breast star of the Polish Order of the White Eagle, a diamond-encrusted hat clasp, intricate epaulettes and a scabbard-and-hilt set also studded with diamonds.
It was a major haul and involved some of Dresden’s most priceless artifacts and treasures. Investigators believe there were up to seven suspects involved, but none have been named and no evidence of the items have emerged since. While security experts claimed they were being sold on the dark web in 2020, these claims were later rejected and nothing new has emerged since. They’re likely to join a list a strange things that’ll simply never be recovered.
It’s not every day that a country loses its leader, but in 1967 that’s exactly what happened to Harold Holt, Australia’s then-Prime Minister.
Holt was a prolific swimmer and enjoyed popping down to the beach to relax — and on the morning of December 17, that’s exactly what he was doing. According to eyewitnesses, Holt went out for a swim and the water ‘simple engulfed’ him. What’s assumed to be a dangerous rip carried him out to sea and he was never seen or heard from again.
Despite an extensive recovery operation, Holt’s body was never found. Naturally, this led to an abundance of conspiracy theories. Some believed he was taken and carried off by submarines, while others believe he escaped to live another life away from the duties of Prime Ministership. The more simple explanation is his disappearance was a horrible accident — and one Australians will never forget.
His legacy lives on in the appropriately-named Harold Holt Swim Centre in Victoria, named for his love of the beach. A strange thing to do, but a very endearing gesture all the same.
Stay tuned to Gizmodo Australia as we bring you more weird and wonderful finds from world history, tech and entertainment.