Top 10 People Who Took HUGE Secrets to the Grave

Script written by Matthew Manouli.

There are a lot of fascinating unsolved mysteries out there, and in some cases it’s because people died withholding important information. Whether Benjamin Franklin never revealing the identity of his son’s mother, Ludwig van Beethoven writing letters to an anonymous “Immortal Beloved,” or Maurice Ward inventing a heat-resistant plastic called Starlite but never revealing the formula, these are HUGE secrets people took to the grave. WatchMojo counts down ten of biggest secrets we’ll never get the answers to.

Special thanks to our user urbanwatch69 for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top%2010%20People%20Who%20Died%20With%20Huge%20Secrets


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Script written by Matthew Manouli.

Top 10 People Who Took HUGE Secrets to the Grave

Believe it or not, some secrets never get out. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 People Who Died with Huge Secrets.

For this list, we’re looking at famous people who died taking either a personal or scientific secret to the grave.

#10: Benjamin Franklin

This founding father had a bit of a reputation with the ladies, and in the process ended up with a son of mysterious origin: William. Franklin was very secretive about who William’s mother was. Some suspect that he was born before Ben married Deborah Read, making him illegitimate. Another theory posits that he was the result of one of Franklin’s many escapades with prostitutes. William Franklin did make a name for himself by helping his father in his famous kite experiment, opposing him in the Revolutionary War, and eventually settling in England. Even so, his mother’s name was never released.

#9: Capt. William Thompson

In 1820, during the Peruvian War of Independence, the city of Lima needed to keep its riches secure, and decided to move the fortune to Mexico. Captain William Thompson and his crew were to transfer the treasure, valued at around $208 million. But, they went rogue, killing the guards and priests onboard, and snagging the loot for themselves. They supposedly buried it on Cocos Island – near modern-day Costa Rica – but were then captured. Thompson and his first mate were allowed to live if they showed the treasure’s location to the Spanish. When they got to the island though, they escaped and were never heard from again, taking the secret of the treasure’s location with them.

#8: Maurice Ward

Back in the 1980s, ex-hairdresser Maurice Ward invented something that could’ve changed the world. After the Manchester Air Crash, Ward was inspired, and began mixing non-toxic, heat-resistant plastics. Eventually, he produced a material with amazing heat dissipating properties. This invention, named Starlite by his granddaughter, could withstand blowtorches and lasers. Although numerous companies contacted him regarding the formula, Ward declined to sell, believing Starlite to be too valuable. He unfortunately passed away in 2011, taking his secret with him. Not even his wife or kids seem to know how to replicate it, and so it seems Starlite has faded into the night.

#7: Johann Bessler

Many inventors have tried to create a perpetual motion machine, but most have failed. Hundreds of years ago however, Johann Bessler, aka Orffyreus, may very well have done it – or so he claimed. Back in 1712, the German innovator showed off a self-spinning wheel that was able to lift weight off the ground and keep going. By 1717, word of his invention had spread, captivating scientists and common folk alike. Bessler’s wheel was said to have spun for 54 days straight with no energy source. Being extremely paranoid however, he destroyed the machine, and in 1745, Bessler fell off a windmill to his death.

#6: Pope John Paul II

In the Catholic Church, the Pope appoints cardinals. However, on rare occasions, cardinals are named in pectore, signifying “in the breast.” This means the Pope names them in secret, a move typically made when the clergyman in question is from a hostile country where such a position could put them in danger. During his lifetime, Pope John Paul II appointed and later revealed in pectore cardinals from China, Ukraine, and Latvia. A fourth was appointed, but John Paul II passed away before the cardinal was made public. As a result, this cardinal’s appointment technically expires, and we’re left to guess who the Pope had selected.

#5: Ludwig van Beethoven

After famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven died in 1827, a love letter addressed to the German’s “Immortal Beloved” was found. Beethoven had written the 10-page letter around 1812. But who was his “beloved”? Scholars suggest it could have been Antonie Brentano, despite Ludwig being good friends with her husband. Others propose Josephine Countess von Brunsvik as the most likely candidate. Beethoven had written her many love letters, but because he was of lower social standing, she could never be open about their relationship, and eventually pulled away. Theorists have suggested other potential recipients, but only Beethoven knew the real answer.

#4: Antonio Stradivari

No one could make ‘em like Stradivari. Literally! Italian Antonio Stradivari was known for crafting stringed instruments – violins in particular – that produced exceptional sound. But how did he craft these remarkable instruments? Well, Stradivari died without leaving any notes, so his secret is lost to us. Scientists believe it was a mix of the shape, the resins, glues, and varnishes, but haven’t been able to replicate it. Stradivari made around 1100 instruments, but only 650 are still around – and they fetch exorbitant prices. His Messiah Stradivarius, made in 1716, is valued at an estimated $20 million! Clearly, everyone’s mad for Strads.

#3: Arne Beurling

This is code-cracking at its finest. Back in 1940, as part of their expansion, Germany set their sights on Norway. As a countermeasure, Russia was trying to take Finland. Sandwiched in between, the neutral Swedes feared for their safety. Listening to the German Siemens & Halske T52 secret teletypewriter, they attempted to decipher what was considered the most impossible code to crack at the time. Then, only two weeks after being assigned the task, mathematician Arne Beurling solved the riddle using nothing more than paper and pen. Having cracked the code, Beurling enabled the Swedes to create a device to decipher the code. What he refused to divulge, however, was HOW he cracked it.

#2: Jerome of Sandy Cove

This man was basically one big secret. He was found on a beach in Nova Scotia, but proved incapable of speech, possibly due to brain injury. When asked his name, he reportedly responded with something that sounded like “Jerome” and that stuck. That’s not all though... he was found with both legs amputated to the knee, but bandaged. Some suspect that he was a sailor who got his legs chopped off for mutiny. One historian tied him to the story of a European man who suffered from gangrene in New Brunswick. He was moved from family to family, and died in 1912 without ever telling his story.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Jan Sloot
Advance in Data Compression

- Edward Leedskalnin
Moved Tons of Stone with Little Equipment

#1: Nikola Tesla

Inventor and engineer Nikola Tesla wanted to change the world by providing wireless energy across the globe. To do this, he would build the Wardenclyffe Tower – financed by J. P. Morgan – and use Earth’s atmosphere as a conductor to make the dream a reality. Unfortunately, he faced scepticism from investors and the press. With J. P. Morgan refusing further funding, and Tesla himself in debt, the project fell apart, thus marking the beginning of the end for Nikola Tesla. When he died in 1943, his plans for global wireless electricity and countless other concepts died with him.

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