Top 10 Enigmatic People in History

Script written by Matthew Thomas These people are riddles wrapped in mysteries inside enigmas. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 enigmatic people in history. For this list we’ve chosen famous figures whose identities, background or activities are not known or 100% confirmed to this day. Special thanks to our users jkellis and Bobby Joe for submitting this idea through our Suggest Tool at WatchMojo.comSuggest
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Script written by Matthew Thomas

Top 10 Enigmatic People in History


These people are riddles wrapped in mysteries inside enigmas. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 enigmatic people in history.

For this list we’ve chosen famous figures whose identities, background or activities are not known or 100% confirmed to this day.

#10: Harold Holt

The 17th Prime Minister of Australia, Holt went out for a swim in the water at Cheviot Beach near Victoria in 1967 and was never seen again. The thing that has mystified followers of the incident ever since was the fact that zero trace of him was ever recovered, despite the fact that one of the largest search operations in Australian history commenced shortly after his disappearance. Speculations that Holt may have either killed himself or faked his own death persist to this day, and – even more sensational – some theories suggest he ran away with his mistress or was actually a Chinese spy.

#9: William Shakespeare

Despite being undoubtedly one of the most well-known and highly regarded literary figures in history, there are very few details of the man’s life or work that are actually agreed upon. His birthday is celebrated as April 23rd, but likely only because some 18th-century academic wrote it down wrong. He was probably educated at King’s New School in Stratford but there are no surviving records to back that up either. The largest question of them all, of course, is whether he actually wrote the works that led him to become famous to begin with.

#8: Babushka Lady

No presidential assassination has resulted in more conspiracy theories than John F. Kennedy’s. Of the people present on that fateful day, questions persist about two figures, the first being the supposed second gunman and the second being a little old lady wearing a scarf around her head. That piece of headwear resulted in the nickname we know her by today. The reason she’s a shrouded in speculation is that she can be seen filming footage of the events that afternoon but her identity and film have never been recovered. Could the information she captured confirm or put to rest the conspiracy theories surrounding the event? It seems likely at this point that we’ll never know.

#7: Nikola Tesla

The Internet’s favorite inventor, Tesla’s expansive list of discoveries and theories – which includes the Tesla coil and alternating current – has resulted in a reputation as a mad scientist. And, when you discover that he created both a death ray and a supposed earthquake machine, allegedly experimented with time travel, and believed he knew how to make a building crumble if he could just discover the correct pitch through trial and error, it’s not hard to understand why. Seemingly fearless about the potential dangers his creations may’ve posed him and humanity as a whole, the image of him sitting alone working while electricity crackles around him have turned the man into an almost mythical figure – and the loss of many of his notes only increases that.

#6: Aleister Crowley

An English occultist, artist, ritual magician and religious leader who is a heroic figure of freedom for some, but was also labeled the wickedest man in the world during his lifetime, Crowley is a unique figure. Considered by some a Satanist who was rumoured to be a cannibal and murderer of children, the extreme fashion in which he lived led many to demonize him. The founder of a religion known as Thelema, it seems like at one time or another every evil deed was attributed to Crowley, and as a result the line between what the man did and didn’t do is almost completely blurred.

#5: D.B. Cooper

On November 24th, 1971 a man identifying himself as Dan Cooper bought a one-way plane ticket to Washington. After the flight took off, the man in question politely told a flight attendant that he had a bomb and he proceeded to hijack the flight. He demanded $200,000, four parachutes and that a refueling truck be waiting for them when they touched down. When his demands were met, they landed and the man allowed all other passengers and nonessential personnel to debark before they took off again. Once they were back in the air, all remaining people other than Cooper were placed in the cockpit, and the calm polite man presumably jumped from the plane with his ill-gotten gains, never to be heard from again.

#4: The Man in the Iron Mask

The man identified as Eustache Dauger is possibly the most famous prisoner of all time. Purportedly spending 24-hours-a-day wearing a mask – sometimes described as velvet, often categorized as iron – this inmate spent over three decades imprisoned, with guards taking many special precautions with his care. Yet, despite his fate, he was never said to be angry or to complain to his jailers. There are several theories as to the true identity of the prisoner, but the most popular calls him out as a relative of the king at the time, Louis XIV, who would have threatened his claim to the throne. Whatever his true identity, his life will always be shrouded in mystery.

#3: The Zodiac Killer

The person known as the Zodiac Killer is a serial killer that terrified California during the late-1960s and early-1970s, and then stopped his attacks as quickly as they started. Confirmed to have killed five people and to have injured another two, The Zodiac claimed another 37 deaths were attributable to him in letters he sent to newspapers and investigators. In those letters, he gloated about his superiority over those who were looking for him and even provided police with a cryptogram that he claimed would provide them with his identity if solved. When the code was eventually cracked, that was proven false; but it’s those types of theatrics that made it all the more surprising when the letters and killings stopped unexpectedly.

#2: Grigori Rasputin

The man known as the “Mad Monk” was the focus of mystery. Recognized by many as a central figure in the collapse of the Russian Monarchy and the Romanov Dynasty due to his weakening of the Tsar’s credibility, he was said to have mystical powers of healing and prophecy. The Russian people felt Rasputin wielded complete control over the entire royal family, which allowed the population to blame him for their country’s ills. Just like his life, Rasputin’s death is also the subject of conjecture, as some accounts claim he survived poisoning and being shot in the back and head, before he was finally drowned. Most historians reject this version of the story, but it’s a great example of the myths that landed Rasputin in the second position on this list.

Before our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
- Tank Man
- Green Children of Woolpit
- Tamam Shud Case [aka Mystery of the Somerton Man]
- Sidney Gottlieb

#1: Jack the Ripper

Between August 31st and November 9th, 1888, five prostitutes were murdered in the Whitechapel district of London in grisly fashion, sparking the legend of Jack the Ripper. Remarkably similar to the story of the Zodiac, The Ripper also sent letters to authorities taunting them and providing them with evidence that could’ve led to his capture – in one case, even including what’s believed to be part of one of his victim’s kidneys. Despite the combined brainpower of millions of amateur detectives in the years since his crimes, the closest anyone has come to identifying Jack the Ripper came in 2014, when one armchair detective claimed DNA evidence identified him as Polish hairdresser Aaron Kosminski. But the conclusiveness of that test was called into question, so it’s still anyone’s guess.

Do you agree with our list? Who do you think is the most mysterious figure in history? For more pop culture Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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