Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Mystery of the Somerton Man and Why my OCD Slows my Writing

So April's just around the corner--hopefully with some warm weather in tow--and my next story scheduled for publication is coming along with it. The story, called TAMAM SHUD, will be published by Padwolf Publishing as part of their anthology Lucky 13.

When the editor contacted me a year ago, I was invited to write a Mystery/Noir story for them. "What, me? Mystery? But... but I write horror..." I said. To myself, of course. There was no way in freaking hell that I'd reject this opportunity, right? I mean, this was only the second time a venue asked me for a story! My short answer to them was "When do you need it for?"

And so began my struggle to find a non-paranormal story worth telling. Now, I like to have nuggets of historical facts in all of my stories. If you do it right, the combination of fact and fiction lends itself to a "Blair Witch Project effect" where the reader starts to wonder what came out of the writer's mind, and what did actually happen. And that's a lot of fun, but very hard to pull off. And time-consuming.

I jumped into two week-long, fifteen-hours-a-day internet search for just the perfect mystery that tickled my fancy. By day four I was exhausted and stressed out of my mind.

Then, when I was about to lose my faith, I found a blog about The Mystery of the Somerton Man. Angels sang in a chorus, and a ray of heavenly sun touched my screen. Considered one of the biggest mysteries of the last century, it has inspired volumes of books, blogs, and millions of house-bound sleuths. And because I know what kind of a creepy-stuff-lover you are, here are the facts to that story.

Also known as the Tamam Shud Case, it began at 6:30 in the morning of December 1st, 1948 in Somerton Beach, Australia. Police were called after the body of a man was found lying on the beach under a street lamp. The dead man was wearing a dress shirt, black suit pants, no jacket, and neither his shoes or socks had any sand on them.

Did I tell you he was found on a beach? And I don't mean on the edge of the beach where you sit to smoke a cigarette and enjoy the view, but way inside the beach where you go to work on your tan. Wearing work clothes.

But it gets better...

Police found no wallet or ID, only a used bus ticket and an unused train ticket. While the forensic team worked on the autopsy, police went to that train station and retrieved a single piece of luggage the man had left in consign. No luck finding a person to identify him.

Upon their return, police learned that all of the tags from the man's clothes had been previously cut. There were no signs of a violent death or any other apparent cause for the man to stop breathing. The only clue found was a piece of paper hidden inside a secret pocket on the man's trousers. It said TAMAM SHUD, which is Persian and means "Finished" or "Ended". Inside the suitcase they found the missing jacket, yet again with the tags removed and no means of identification.

Eventually investigators found out the piece of paper was actually from a very rare copy of an old Persian book of poems called The Rubaiyat by Omar Kahyyam. The rest of the book was found on the back seat of a car. The car owner didn't even know the book was there. He had driven around the beach area on the evening before, searching for a friends house. Inside the book, a note was scribbled. In code. No one has ever been able to decipher it.

Think you can crack it? Fame can be yours!
But what was the cause of death? Well poisoning, maybe. A half digested pastry was found on the man's stomach, but when tested for every poison known to man, the lab came back with a resounding "Heck if we know."

And now you see why this creepy and baffling mystery was the perfect inspiration for my first Mystery/Noir tale.

If like me you have to know everything there is to this case, follow the link. There's plenty more mysteries I didn't write here. Maybe later you can share with me your theories...


Lexa Cain said...

Congrats on being invited to submit a story! I've come across this story once before. I was as puzzled then as I am now. o_o

Great topic for a story! Good luck! :)

shelly said...

Yay for you! Great true story, too.

Hugs and chocolate!

Julie Luek said...

There have been news stories like that which totally captured my imagination. What happened? What was going through minds? Why did they choose a behavior? Very fascinating.

Georgina Morales said...

Thanks Lexa! This is a truly fascinating story with tons of questions. As far as I know the spy avenue was considered (the man being a spy) but never came to fruition. So wild!

Georgina Morales said...

Thanks Shelly! As time goes by and I find more stories like this, I become more and more convinced that there is no fiction that can win a weird out contest with reality.

Georgina Morales said...

It is so totally fascinating! I can see why people have invested years trying to solve a case like this. Sometimes people just baffle us.

Nicole said...

Congrats on the story! Great news.

Georgina Morales said...

Thanks Nicole!

Michael Pierce said...

Congrats on finding your inspiration. It is an unusual and creepy tale, and solving the mystery offers so many exciting possibilities. Best of luck in finishing it up!

Georgina Morales said...

Thanks Michael! I think I'll need all the luck I can get, as the deadline looms closer ;-)