I’ve never seen the show “Unsolved Mysteries,” but what better way to start off this identically-named blog post, than this:
(If there is a better way, I have no idea what it is.)
I like to think about mysteries, as I’ve mentioned before. Skilled detectives — who pay attention in the moment and who use all their resources to solve puzzles and sometimes even right wrongs — have definitely been heroes of mine, throughout my life.
For this blog post, I would like to share a personal, recently experienced mystery.
THE SPECKLED SHIRT
by Ann Koplow
On our penultimate day in Scotland, my son and I were in our hotel room, when I heard him cry …
I looked over, to see him standing by his open and yet unpacked suitcase, holding up one of his favorite shirts. Safe in the assumption that my son knew what a shirt was, I waited for him to say more. And he did.
What the heck???
Look at these red marks, all over my shirt!!!
I moved closer to son’s outstretched arms and the shirt, dangling lifeless and forlorn — perhaps as the unknown but deliciously fresh fish I had just eaten at a nearby restaurant had recently dangled from a Scottish fishhook.
As I inspected the shirt — my son’s continuing cries of “What the heck?” ringing in my ears — I noticed these:
Tiny splashes of red, covering his shirt. The more I looked at the shirt, the more of these I saw.
What were they?
Could they be ….
Nope. Wrong color red.
Could they be …
RED LIQUID HE HAD SPILLED WHILE WEARING THIS SHIRT?
Nope. He hadn’t worn that shirt in days. And he had seen that shirt, unspeckled, lying on top of his opened suitcase, yesterday, in the bonny town of Edinburgh.
Could the speckles be …..
THE BLEEDINGS OF ANOTHER GARMENT, ONTO THE SHIRT?
Nope. He had only one piece of red-colored clothing in his suitcase, which was (1) the wrong color and (2) had not been packed anywhere near the now-speckled shirt.
My son and I used the best parts of our inquiring brains, exploring different possibilities.
We were stumped.
So we decided to reach out for help and consult with experts who might
- solve the mystery and/or
- save the shirt.
First, we spoke to the people at the front desk at the hotel.
The helpful woman at the front desk looked at the shirt and, like us, was mystified. She immediately ruled out foul play by the hotel staff. While cleaners had been in our room since the the last time the shirt had been seen unspeckled … all cleaning fluids at this hotel were colored clear, not red.
While she would have been happy to clean the shirt for us, all laundry had already gone out for the day. Waiting for the next pick-up would mean the shirt could not return in time to leave with us on our return passage to the United States.
What to do?
She sent us on our way to consult with other experts, a little ways down the street, who might be able to help:
The two laundresses there inspected the shirt carefully, as we told them all we knew about The Speckled Shirt. I watched as confusion, concern, and other emotions flickered across their fresh, young faces.
This must have been caused by some kind of spray! Look at that pattern!
I suspect the cleaning staff at the hotel. Even if their cleaning liquid aren’t red, this could definitely be a chemical reaction.
We would be happy to clean this for you, but I’m afraid we might not get these out. Look at all of them!
Following the advice of these two laundry experts, we trudged back to the hotel, speckled shirt in tow. I recited, unemotionally, just the facts of what we had been told, in the tradition of another famous American detective.
A manager was summarily called, who assured us the hotel would take care of the Speckled Shirt, in time for our departure, as best they could.
Wondering about all the confusing and conflicting evidence we had heard, recognizing we could not sort it all out, we put shirts and speckles out of our mind, and enjoyed another day in beautiful Edinburgh.
Several hours later, after we returned to our hotel and got off the lift onto our floor, I was surprised to see, at that precise moment, a dapperly dressed gentleman rushing towards us, holding a hanger with a beautifully pressed shirt.
At first, of course, I leapt to this conclusion:
It’s the return of the shirt, speckled no longer!
However, this hope was quickly dashed by the gentleman moving swiftly by us and leaping onto the lift, apparently in pursuit of urgent business on other floors.
I said to my son, marveling at the coincidence. “Did you see that man? There are other people in this hotel with Shirt Issues today.”
Minutes after we returned to our room, there came an urgent knock on the door.
As I opened the door, I discovered that same rushing man with shirt, now standing quite still. Said he,
Here is your shirt. I had the wrong room number. My apologies.
And just like that, he was gone, leaving behind my son’s shirt, pressed and virtually speckle-free.
Let me ask you this, dear readers: Is that a mystery to you, that we did not recognize that shirt, rushing by us, as we left the lift?
Well, I guess that speaks to many things, including the sometimes dubious nature of eyewitness testimony.
Now, as I bring this humble tale of The Speckled Shirt to an end, perhaps you may have noticed something else.
While the shirt was restored, with almost all tell-tale evidence removed ….
The mystery was never solved.
It now enters the realm of other unsolved mysteries I’ve experienced, including the first one I can remember.*
It’s difficult to tolerate the unknown, especially for important things.
In the meantime, I will do my best, trying to solve mysteries and accepting that, for some, I may never know.
Thanks to broox09, who posted that first “Unsolved Mystery” video on Youtube; detectives everywhere; the shows, books, movies, and people who have helped me get through some difficult times; and to you, for participating in this mystery today.
* Who killed President John F. Kennedy?