We study the big wars of history, but there will always be things we don't know due to the chaos, death, and destruction all wars bring. Records and witnesses are hard to come by even in recent wars, but World War I was 100 years ago. Things we don't know about the Great War will most likely forever be shrouded in mystery. One of the more shocking of these mysteries is the case of Béla Kiss.
Béla Kiss was a Hungarian tinsmith who marched off to war in 1914. He left his home in the care of his housekeeper, along with his collection of seven giant metal drums. Townsfolk knew that he had been collecting gasoline in anticipation of wartime rationing, and when gasoline was needed, they cracked open the drums. Instead of gasoline, they were met by the stench of death.
A search of Kiss’ property revealed 24 dead bodies, 23 women and a man, who had been strangled and pickled in alcohol. Further investigation uncovered a secret room and stacks of letters between Kiss and 74 different women. Police discovered that he had defrauded countless women and had even been taken to court. They issued an arrest warrant for Kiss. He was almost apprehended in a Serbian hospital in October of 1916, but escaped at the last minute.
From there, Kiss vanished. Rumours circulated about a French Foreign Legion soldier who used his alias (Hoffman) and boasted about strangling people). Another alleged sighting occurred in New York City. But Béla Kiss’ fate – and his story in general – remains one of the more sinister mysteries of World War One. It’s also likely that not all of his victims were found.
That's one mystery that may never be solved. There are others, some with a glimmer of hope, that you can read about at Urban Ghosts.