On Dec. 1, 1948, beachgoers came across a dead man on Australia’s Somerton beach. Well-dressed, and with no signs of trauma, his identity and cause of death eluded local police. Soon, investigators dubbed him the “Somerton Man.”
It looked as though he’d simply laid down for a rest and died peacefully in his sleep. But when police arrived and began examining the body, a baffling and disturbing mystery began to take shape.
The man had no obvious signs of trauma; someone had cut all the tags out of his clothing, and, most puzzling of all, he had a tiny slip of paper sewn into a hidden pocket in his trousers, which simply read "Tamam Shud.” The phrase, mystifying to investigators at first, is Persian for "it is finished” and the slip of paper was torn from a rare edition of poems by the 12th-century writer Omar Khayyam.