First Person: Gordon Holmes on why mysteries are best left unresolved

Gordon Holmes
Gordon Holmes

I like a good mystery. Whether it’s film or book, nothing beats a suspenseful story that keeps you guessing and forces you to work those mainly dormant little grey cells.

And true life mysteries are even more intriguing.

So I was interested to read that homicide detectives in Los Angeles are to re-open the case into the death of movie star Natalie Wood.

On November 29, it will be 30 years since the body of the star of such films as ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ was found bobbing in the waves off Catalina on the California coast.

For those unfamiliar with the tragedy, the official investigation at the time concluded that the 43-year-old had likely fallen into the water while trying to board a dinghy attached to the private yacht she was staying on with husband Robert Wagner and their guest, fellow actor Christopher Walken.

But when revelations emerged later that the two men had a booze-fuelled argument that night about her and that Natalie had fled to her cabin to get away from it, and that she was found wearing just a nightgown and socks, speculation grew that there was more to the ‘accident’ than at first met the eye.

Foul play

However, there was no evidence to back up any suspicion of foul play and the sad death of Natalie Wood remained one of Hollywood’s most enduring mysteries.

But now it appears police have been contacted by ‘persons’ with additional information about the drowning, which clearly was legitimate enough for them to take another look at events of three decades ago. It will be fascinating to find out if any new theory or explanation comes from it.

Of course, there are any number of unsolved mysteries which still give good copy for articles and books.

Arguably the most famous in this country is that of Jack the Ripper, and despite numerous theories and claims as to the murderer’s identity, it is one mystery that is unlikely to ever be solved.

Which is good in a way because, while there would be a certain amount of satisfaction in finding out the truth, the great joy of mysteries, especially enduring ones, is digesting all the possibilities and forming your own conclusions.

Therefore, we don’t actually want to know what happened to Lord Lucan or Shergar, why the Mary Celeste was found floating abandoned, her crew vanished, or that the Loch Ness Monster and Big Foot are just timeless folk tales.

Methane gas

And it would be particularly disappointing to know that the strange events in the Bermuda Triangle have a perfectly logical scientific explanation to do with methane gas expulsions from the sea.

But then, you can also get mysteries on a much smaller scale, as I can testify following some weird occurrences this past week.

Mystery number one concerned the disappearance of Holmes Jnr’s rather fetching winter hat which, while he was out with his mother, vanished never to be seen again.

The following day, it was the turn of one of the straps on his buggy to go missing, again without apparent explanation or reason, and again, no amount of searching could find it.

I should point out at this juncture that these two events happened at pretty much exactly the same location, at the same time of day.

Which made we wonder, like the ‘Triangle’, do we have an area of Kirkcaldy from which things disappear without reasonable explanation?

Then I realised, that, of course, we already do - it’s called the High Street shopping precinct…

There’s also the ongoing mystery of where the Raith Rovers team of last season have disappeared to, and the peculiar appearance of garish, colourful lights on some walls in the town…

Mind you, the biggest mystery of all remains… how I’m still getting away with writing this nonsense after more than 15 years…

* Gordon Holmes is the deputy editor of the Fife Free Press in Kirkcaldy