The world is full of mysterious men that have made an impact on history, people who have followed a secretive lifestyle and died with unanswered questions about their true motivations. In many cases, these people are top secret spies, psychics, serial killers, government scientists, mafia members, assassins, or whistle blowers. The individuals have all been tainted by bizarre accusations and unsubstantiated claims. In response, conspiracy theories have emerged to describe the events. Here we examine the lives of 10 mysterious men that continue to fascinate people around the world.
10 Wolf Messing
In 1899, Wolf Messing was born in the town of Góra Kalwaria, which is located 25 kilometers (15 mi) southeast of Warsaw, Poland. As a teenager, Messing claimed to be a psychic. He could alter people’s perceptions and predict future outcomes based on mental telepathy and body language clues. During his shows, Messing would enter a trance-like state and attempt to find hidden objects. He performed in front of large crowds and became famous after World War II. Messing even caught the attention of Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud.
In 1937, Wolf Messing predicted that Adolf Hitler would die if he ever threatened Russia and “turned toward the East.” The message angered Hitler and caused Messing to flee to Russia, where he continued to perform his act. As the story goes, Messing was then forced to prove his psychic ability for Stalin by convincing a bank teller to give him cash with nothing more than a blank piece of paper. After the successful demonstration, Messing became a teacher for the KGB.
Messing’s life was chronicled in an autobiography titled About Myself. One quote from the book says, “My ability to see the future may seem to contradict the materialist understanding of the world. But there is not a particle of the unknowable or supernatural about precognition.” Wolf Messing died in 1974. Since that time, many facts attributed to his life have been questioned and deemed unsubstantiated by historical references—a fact which has only contributed to his mystery.
9 Adam Rainer
In 1899, Adam Rainer was born in Graz, Austria. When he was 19 years old, Rainer was medically tested and determined to be extremely short for his age. His height was said to be 1.4 meters (4’8″). However, another source says that he was only 1.18 meters (3’10.5″) at the age of 21. At this time, Rainer was thin, weak, and showed signs of dwarfism. Despite his short size, it was noted that he had large feet. In 1920, Rainer started to experience a massive growth spurt. His arms, legs, hands, and feet exploded in size and his health deteriorated. Rainer started to lose his eyesight, and it became hard for him to eat and walk.
By 1930, Adam Rainer was two meters (6’9″) tall. It has been suggested that he had a tumor in his pituitary gland, which caused an overproduction of growth hormone. Rainer developed a protruding forehead and jaw and thicker lips, which are all characteristic of acromegaly. In the early 1930s, it is thought that he had surgery to remove the tumor, but the operation didn’t stop the growth. Eventually, Rainer became bedridden and died in 1950 at a height of 2.34 meters (7’8″). The Guinness Book of World Records has listed Adam Rainer as the “most variable stature” in history. The entry says that he was the only person to be both a dwarf and a giant.
8 Raymond Lee Harvey
On May 5, 1979, a man named Raymond Lee Harvey was arrested by the Secret Service for concealing a loaded starter gun only 10 minutes before President Jimmy Carter was set to give a speech in Los Angeles. Harvey was arrested only 15.2 meters (50 ft) from where Carter was going to talk. After being interrogated by the police, Harvey admitted to being part of a four-man plot to kill the president. His role in the attack was to shoot into the air, while another assassin killed Carter. Harvey conspired with a 21-year-old named Osvaldo Espinoza Ortiz, who was arrested by the police. Ortiz admitted to being with Harvey, but denied a plot to kill the president.
Raymond Lee Harvey had a history of mental illness. His story was initially thought to be fabricated, however, after investigators found corroborative testimony, the claims were taken seriously. The assassination attempt was reported by the mainstream media, but then quickly disappeared. Many of the details surrounding Raymond Lee Harvey remain a mystery. After a series of revelations, Harvey and Ortiz were held on bond, but the charges were eventually dropped.
As you would expect, people have connected the fact that the potential assassin was named Raymond Lee Harvey and his conspirator was Osvaldo Ortiz. In Spanish, Osvaldo is the equivalent to Oswald, which makes the pair “Lee Harvey Oswald.” The coincidence has spawned a series of conspiracy theories that say the assassination attempt was fabricated in order to scare the Carter administration.
7 Karl Koecher
In 1934, Karl Koecher was born in Czechoslovakia. When he was 28, Koecher joined the Czech intelligence agency. In the mid-1960s, he moved to the United States and received a doctorate in philosophy from Columbia University. Koecher then obtained a position with the CIA and became a spy for the USSR. He is one of only a few people to have penetrated the CIA for the Soviet Union. A large percentage of information on his life has never been revealed.
It is unclear what tipped the CIA off that Koecher was a double agent, but in 1984 he was arrested and accused of being a spy. The CIA attempted to make him turn against the USSR, but Koecher was eventually deemed to be unreliable. After the FBI made mistakes in his case, Koecher was set free. On February 11, 1986, he was part of a spy exchange that involved Anatoly Shcharansky. Upon his return to Czechoslovakia, Koecher was named a hero and given a job with the government.
In 1989, it was suggested that Koecher was involved with the Velvet Revolution, but he denied the claims. After the fall of communism in the USSR, little information was published on his life. However, he has been accused of being connected to the CIA. It was alleged that Koecher was involved in a defrauding scheme that provided Mohammed Al-Fayed with false documents that supported the conspiracy surrounding the deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed.
6 Lawrence E. King Jr.
Lawrence E. King Jr. is the man who was at the center of the child sex ring allegations involving the Omaha, Nebraska, branch of the Franklin Community Federal Credit Union (FCFCU) that emerged in the late 1980s. Despite the high-profile case, little information has been published on King’s activities. In 1988, Lawrence King was an active Republican politician that managed the FCFCU, which was a credit union used to help the poor. After several tips, it began to emerge that $38 million was missing from the organization’s funds, which spawned an investigation that found evidence of physical and sexual child abuse.
The sources of the reports were initially deemed credible, and information emerged that young boys and girls from foster homes were being transported around the country by plane in order to provide sexual favors for rich people. A large number of victims came forward and said that they were sexually molested. The reports were examined by the Executive Board of the Nebraska Legislature, and many cases of sexual abuse were recorded. It was speculated that the abuse was performed by prominent political figures in the Republican Party.
The allegations were investigated by two different grand juries, who found the information to be a “carefully crafted hoax.” Many people were shocked by the decision; they thought the accusations were “scripted by a person or persons with considerable knowledge of the people and institutions of Omaha.” After the decision, a Nebraska Senator called the grand jury release “a strange document.” The second grand jury also found the material unsubstantiated and sentenced an alleged victim, Alisha Owen, to 9-15 years in prison for perjury. Eventually, Lawrence King was convicted of embezzling over $38 million and served 10 years in prison. The scandal produced a large number of conspiracy theories that include tales of devil worship, political sex parties, cannibalism, CIA gun smuggling, and the first Bush administration.
5 Arnold Paole
In the early 18th century, people in southeastern Europe started to believe in the existence of vampires. They were seen as a major problem to society, especially in Transylvania. People took to digging up graves and staking dead bodies that were deemed to be vampires. Some individuals even reported seeing their dead relatives walking the streets and attacking living people. The panic spread around Europe, and many publications speculated on the phenomenon. Two of the most famous examples of vampires from this time are Peter Plogojowitz and Arnold Paole.
In 1726, Arnold Paole died in the village of Meduegna, which was near the Morava River. Immediately after his death, people started seeing his undead body. The situation caused panic in Serbia and officials called for the help of two Austrian military doctors, Glaser and Flückinger. The investigation and report produced by Flückinger was named Visum et Repertum and confirmed the existence of vampires.
The report said that Arnold Paole’s dead body was responsible for the deaths of four separate people. His corpse was dug up and found to be “quite complete and undecayed, with fresh blood from his eyes, nose, mouth, and ears.” Based on this, it was concluded that Paole was a vampire. His heart was staked and his body burned. Five years after the initial outbreak, the deaths of 17 people were attributed to Paole and vampirism. His story was published in the London Journal on March 11, 1732, in which it was proclaimed that vampires were drinking the blood of the living in Hungary.
4 Walter Haut
In the summer of 1947, Walter Haut worked as a public information officer for the U.S. 509th Bomb Group in Roswell, New Mexico. On July 8, 1947, he was ordered to issue a press release announcing that the U.S. Army had recovered a “flying disc” in the desert. The statement was given, but immediately retracted by the U.S. military. Haut was told to promote the idea that the debris was nothing more than a high-altitude weather balloon. The explanation caused criticism by the national media and spawned the Roswell UFO conspiracy theory.
In regards to the initial press release, Haut said: “When that hit the news wires, the world came to an end, as far as I was concerned. My phone rang and rang and rang.” For the remainder of his career, Haut worked for the U.S. government. He claimed to know nothing about the wreckage and that he had simply provided a mistaken press release. However, in the early 1990s, after he retired, Haut changed the story. In 1997, he said: “I think it was an extremely well-planned cover-up.” For the last 15 years of his life, Haut proclaimed that he had witnessed an alien craft and bodies in Roswell.
In 2002, Haut signed an affidavit that described his experience with aliens, including details about the UFOs and extraterrestrial bodies. He claimed to have witnessed an egg-shaped craft and several dead aliens with elongated heads. In 2007, after the death of Haut, the information was published in the book Witness to Roswell: Unmasking the 60 Year Cover-Up. It has been suggested that Haut remained silent about the true events in Roswell out of respect for his friend Colonel William Blanchard. The reliability of the affidavit remains questionable.
3 Alexander Solonik
In 1960, Alexander Solonik was born in Kurgan, Russia. In the late 1980s, he was arrested for rape and sent to prison. In jail, he became targeted for death due to his association with the police. However, Solonik fought off multiple attacks and earned the respect of his fellow inmates. After escaping from prison in April 1990, Solonik became one of the most infamous Russian assassins in history. He murdered a large number of organized crime figures and gained the nicknames “Alexander the Great” and “Superkiller.”
The exact number of people Solonik murdered is a mystery, along with much of the details surrounding his life. In the early 1990s, he gained a reputation for being a lethal contract killer who had the ability to shoot ambidextrously. Solonik confessed to killing a large number of criminals, including Viktor Nikiforov, Valery Dlugach, Vladislav Vinner, and Andrey Rura. In 1994, he was arrested at Moscow’s Petrovsky marketplace. He was taken to Detention Center 1 in Moscow, but eventually escaped.
Solonik fled to Greece and set up a criminal organization in the area. He purchased a large amount of real estate in Athens and was placed on Russia’s Top 10 Most Wanted list. In 1997, a Greek newspaper reported that a Russian mafia boss had been found dead 15 miles from Athens. The man had been strangled to death and it was concluded that the corpse was Alexander Solonik, despite the fact that his fingerprints in the Interpol database were not accurate. The Greek authorities insisted that the body was not Solonik. However, he was officially declared dead. He’s never been heard from since, and the true influence of Solonik’s criminal network during the mid-1990s remains unknown.
2 Sidney Gottlieb
In 1918, Sidney Gottlieb was born in New York under the name of Joseph Scheider. He received a PhD in chemistry from Caltech and became an expert on lethal poisons. In 1951, Gottlieb joined the CIA and was given a job on the top secret biological warfare program MKULTRA. Project MKULTRA was a now-infamous series of experiments used to study human mind control and modification. During the project, Gottlieb organized experiments in which humans were used as guinea pigs. For this reason, he was given the nicknames “Black Sorcerer” and “Dirty Trickster.”
Gottlieb helped organize Operation Midnight Climax, which was a program where the CIA purchased houses in San Francisco, Marin, and New York in order to watch people. For the project, the CIA hired a large group of prostitutes that lured subjects back to a house, drugged them, and then had sex while Gottlieb and others observed from behind two-way mirrors. The experiments gave results in sexual blackmail, surveillance, and mind-altering drugs. Gottlieb was also involved with the Cuban Project, in which he developed ideas to poison Fidel Castro.
During his career, Gottlieb worked for Lockheed, DARPA, the Department of Defense, and the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence. In one incident, he attempted to contaminate Iraq’s General Abdul Karim Qassim’s handkerchief with botulinum. He was also involved with the Phoenix Program, in which the U.S. performed mind control experiments on the Vietcong during the Vietnam War. In 1960, he played a role in America’s attempt to kill the Prime Minister of the Congo, Patrice Lumumba. On November 28, 1953, biological warfare specialist Frank Olson died under mysterious circumstances while working under Sidney Gottlieb.
1 Sergei Tretyakov
Sergei Tretyakov was a Russian spy who defected to the United States in October 2000. During his time in Russia, Tretyakov was a colonel in the Russian intelligence service (S.V.R.) and oversaw covert operations in New York City and at the United Nations. Starting in 1997, Tretyakov became a double agent and passed secrets to the Americans. After moving to the United States, he was given a package worth $2 million and placed in the Witness Protection Program. In 2008, Tretyakov provided information about the SVR. He said that the Russian intelligence program is just as active today as ever. Tretyakov warned that the world should “wake up” to the danger.
He told NPR that his “defection was a major failure of the Russian intelligence.” Some of his revelations include the suggestion that Eldar Kouliev was an SVR spy. He said that U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott, was influenced by Russia, along with Canadian Alex Kindy. According to Tretyakov, the KGB fabricated the nuclear winter story to stop the development of the Pershing missiles in Europe. He said that the SVR developed a list of influential political figures that were assassinated in order to bring Vladimir Putin to power. He also recounted a conversation in which a man (Vladimir K. Dmitriev) discussed privately owned nuclear weapons.
Sergei Tretyakov also exposed the Russian warfare program known as Active Measures. The program uses misinformation, propaganda, hoaxes, and political persecution to influence world events. Active Measures has been called the “heart and soul of Soviet intelligence,” and is being used to discredit the United States. Some have speculated that Russia orchestrated the Edward Snowden media leak in order to create anger in the United States and Europe, specifically Germany. On June 13, 2010, Sergei Tretyakov died at his house in the United States. The medical examiner reported that he suffocated after choking on a piece of meat. However, rumors persist that he was assassinated by the SVR.