Seven army ammunition trucks explode in Cali, Colombia, killing more than 1,000 people and injuring thousands more on August 7, 1956. The cause of the explosions remains a mystery.
The previous day, 20 trucks fully loaded with dynamite departed the Colombian city of Buenaventura. The trucks stopped in Cali and then 13 of the trucks headed toward Bogota, Colombia’s capital city. The remaining seven were headed to other destinations and were parked in downtown Cali overnight.
Just after midnight, all seven trucks suddenly exploded in a quick chain reaction. A nearby rail station was demolished, as was an army barracks. Five hundred soldiers in the barracks lost their lives in an instant. A three-block area of the densely populated city was absolutely razed. Virtually every window within several miles shattered. The trucks themselves were obliterated and a large crater was left in the ground. The heavy bronze doors of St. Paul’s Cathedral, more than 10 blocks away, were blown right off the church.
The president of Colombia, General Gustavo Pinilla, publicly charged that terrorists were to blame for the disaster, but no evidence was ever found that the explosion was deliberate.
The myths and mysteries of Colombia’s Las Lajas Sanctuary
The Las Lajas Sanctuary in southwest Colombia has made a name for its stunning architecture and a series of myths involving the appearance of the Holy Virgin and a mysterious mural of which nobody knows how it got there.
Located in the southwestern Colombian state of Nariño, the Las Lajas Sanctuary sits on a 130 feet tall bridge built over the Guaitara river at less than seven miles from the Ecuadorean border.
The neo-Gothic church was erected by worshipers between 1916 and 1953 and replaced a shrine first built in the mid-18th century.
The myth behind the church
According to popular belief, the Virgin Mary appeared to a woman and her deaf-mute daughter in 1754 at exactly the same place where the church is now standing.
The woman, Maria Mueces, and her daughter, Rosa, were passing by the Guaitara river when they found themselves hiding from a storm.
At that moment that Rosa shouted “Mum, the Virgin is calling me!” and pointed to the appearing virgin.
The woman kept quiet about the miracle until something even more incredible happened.
When Rosa died, Mueces returned to the place where they had seen Virgin Mary to pray for her daughter’s soul.
The virgin then miraculously revived Rosa, and mother and daughter could no longer keep the miracle a secret.
The first shrine in the honor of Jesus Christ’s mother was built a few years after the alleged virgin appearance, according to the journal of a friar who was traveling the region between 1756 and 1764.
Half a century later, in 1802, a bigger shrine was built and worshipers erected the first version of the bridge that now allows access to the church.
A church or mysteries
The miraculous appearing of the virgin is only the first of a number of myths and mysteries linked to the Las Lajas Sanctuary.
For example, nobody knows who made the image of the Virgin Mary that is at the end of the church, behind the altar.
According to some, the image was seen first when Mueces wanted to show a priest and other locals where her daughter had been revived. On arrival, the worshipers saw the image of the Virgin Mary and Jesus carved in a stone wall.
The image attracts thousand of pilgrims every year.
Las Lajas received canonical coronation from the Vatican in 1952 and then made a minor basilica in 1994.
10 He Stole Tombstones To Make His First Fortune
For Escobar, business always came before morals, and that was a rule he stuck by from the very beginning. Born December 1, 1949, in Rionegro, Colombia, and raised in nearby Medellin, he was a child of an era known as La Violencia, during which there was much political unrest and poverty. Escobar wanted a different life for himself it is said that one of his first illegal enterprises was robbing tombstones from local graveyards, sanding down the names, and selling them to Panamanian smugglers.  Escobar stated that by the age of 22, he would be a millionaire&mdashhe never had a doubt.
In the early 1970s, Escobar had developed a versatile criminal career working as a thief and a bodyguard. But, like many up-and-coming drug lords, he desired to be a cartel leader, and much bloodshed had to take place to get him there.
The first atom bomb in history, dubbed "the gadget," was detonated at the Trinity Site near Alamogordo, N.M., in 1945, exploding with a force of roughly 20 kilotons of TNT. Scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer later said that while he watched the test, he thought of a line from the Hindu scripture the Bhagavad Gita: "I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." Nuclear weapons later ended World War II and ushered in decades of fear of nuclear annihilation. Scientists recently found that civilians in New Mexico may have been exposed to thousands of times the recommended level of public radiation.
Jack Aeby took the only known well-exposed color photograph of the detonation (shown here).
The Mystery Behind The Ancient Statues of San Agustín
The UNESCO World Heritage site of San Agustín in the southern Colombian department of Huila is an archaeological mystery that has fascinated those studying it for years. Very little is known about the mysterious peoples who built the monuments, tombs, and statues that abound in the spectacular landscape of the region. A visit to San Agustín is a chance to experience firsthand the remarkable work left behind by a barely known culture.
At first glance, the small Colombian town of San Agustín appears little different to many other similar settlements dotting the Colombian Andean region: pleasant climate, picturesque cobbled streets, a few bars and restaurants, and very little else. However, San Agustín is unlike any other town in Colombia: it is the home of some of the most important archaeological sites in South America, the remnants of a mysterious ancient culture that flourished between the 1st and the 8th century BC.
Ancient ceremonial and burial sites are scattered over an area of roughly 250-square-miles, and visitors could spend weeks exploring all of the known sites. There are around 600 known statues and at least 40 monumental burial mounds dispersed throughout the Alto Magdalena region – around a third of the statues and half of the mounds are located within the boundaries of the San Agustín archaeological park, meaning that there is plenty to keep visitors busy.
The iconic statues range from tiny little monuments measuring less than half a metre, to giant, imposing figures of up to 7m high! They vary in style, depending on the period in which they were built. Some are highly abstract, depicting anthropomorphic figures, and some are much more realistic, with images of soldiers and mothers. Observers will spot images of sacred animals such as jaguars, frogs, and eagles. According to UNESCO, who named San Agustin a World Heritage Site in 1995, the San Agustin Archaeological Park, “bears vivid witness to the artistic creativity and imagination of a prehispanic culture that flowered in the hostile tropical environment of the Northern Andes.”
The real mystery of San Agustín lies in the identity of the skilled peoples who built these remarkable statues and burial sites. Archaeologists and anthropologists have been able to piece together some parts of their story: the earliest remnants of their culture date back to 3300 BC, and these archaeological sites were abandoned around 1350 AD. They were rediscovered in the 18th and 19th-centuries, and most of the burial sites were looted in search of gold (which turned out to be very scarce – the peoples of this region did not have much gold).
So very little is known about the ancient peoples of San Agustín or their culture: they had no written language and had already disappeared several centuries before Europeans arrived in this part of the world. But their legacy is sealed regardless of how much or little we can learn about them – after all, they were responsible for building “the largest group of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in South America.” This mystery is unlikely to be solved anytime soon, but a visit to San Agustín isn’t about solving mysteries, it’s about experiencing the wonders of a lost civilisation.
European Dolmens in Colombia - The Mysterious Ruins of San Augustin
The San Augustin region is located in the upper Magdalena River valley and is framed by the Central and Eastern Cordilleras, raising to 2000m (6560ft) high (1). There are several sites to explore in the San Augustin area covering some 250 square miles, but the most important one is Parque Archaeological, a 78-hectare site with around 130 statues on display. In the on-site museum, I was immediately struck by the likeness of the statues to some from Guatemala and the Olmec world, and even the ones in Chavin de Huantar, in Central Peru.
They were perfectly carved with exquisite skill and I soon discovered that the artistic signature was retained throughout the site and across several millennia. Whether they were carvings of 30-foot-tall Atlanteans, or tiny designs on intricate jewelry, this workmanship was of the highest order. The museum even had one particular statue that closely resembles an Easter Island Moai, suggesting there may have been trans-Pacific contact with the megalith builders there. Harold T. Wilkins in Secret Cities of Old South America said about the statues of San Augustin
"There is more than a suggestion of the strange monuments found in Easter Island and other Polynesian and Micronesian Islands such as Ponape, Malden, Pitcairn and the Marquesas. Indeed, the ruins appear to antedate even the Andes!"
Some of the statues had incredible headdresses and many in fact looked Tiwanakan. The stone sarcophagi also has protruding 'buttons' like many of the sites in Peru and Bolivia, and looked similar to the Olmec ones on the Gulf Coast of Mexico. After photographing every artefact I could, I looked at three statues outside the museum, and the female cleaner pointed out the back of one of them, which clearly showed a huge Valentine 'heart'. I had no idea this was a symbol in use by the ancients.
Within a few minutes of walking up the path to the complex I was greeted by a monolith with two large serpents weaving around on it. This, I believe is the 'entrance stone' to the site and I wondered if this was a clue to the builders of the site as there are similar serpent carvings in Peru, Turkey (Gobekli Tepe), Egypt and within several other ancient cultures.
The most surprising aspect of the site was the European-looking dolmens or passage graves. They are exactly like the ones all over Europe and are built at a much deeper level than the other 'carved' stones on the site, and constructed with a different type of stone. It was as though the stone carving culture had stumbled upon this much older megalithic site and revered it to such a high degree, that they stayed there and built their temples next to it, even copying their style. There are also water channels and an amazing series of temples structures, but what became obvious as I explored the site was that the rough-hewn stones that made up the dolmens looked much older and were located at between 10 and 15 feet below the level of the classic San Augustin stonework.
Prehistoric Dolmen/Passage Grace
These look much older than the later carved monuments, and it is questionable if the original excavators placed the statues at the entrance to the older dolmens as if to hold them up. Originally they could have been 'classic' dolmens built by an earlier culture and these later reconstructions were unfortunately used all over the site. " But what was really the primary position of these statues ?" asked archaeologist and author Roger Joussaume, who quite rightly concludes in Dolmens for the Dead " It is not certain that they all stand today in their original positions " (ibid). The mix and match of the different constructions has left a confusing picture of the past here and even Serge Cassen, who was the first person to excavate the site said " one can conclude absolutely nothing, despite the interpretations of Colombian scholars, about the collective or non-collective nature of the large monuments " (ibid). Whoever built them, an alleged British Museum expedition between 1899 - 1902, lost many of the more elaborate statues and original photos of the entire complex " A boat was overturned in rapids on the Rio Patia, near Tumaco, and only one of the original statues, transported along the route of the Rio Magdalena, reached the British Museum " (2)
The other parts of the site are all equally weird fanged statues with frowning eyes, bizarre looking animorph figures and strange little men, some with elongated skulls, like the ones I had seen in Bogota Gold Museum (and the ones in Peru, Bolivia, Mexico etc).
Elongated Heads of Colombia
The lower-level dolmens or passage graves are evident throughout the site and are mostly flooded with water. I eventually made it up to the highest area of the complex that involved a strenuous walk up some steps I was not keen to climb. When I got to the top, a glorious view of the surrounding hills and valleys welcomed me. For the last two hours I had been struggling with the fact that the lower-level dolmens looked contemporary with those in Europe, but the official explanation dated them to 100 - 700AD. However, I was delighted when the metal sign at the entrance to Alto de Lavapatas area clearly stated that this part of the complex had carbon dating going back to 3300 BC, contemporary with the megalithic explosion in Europe, the first Pharaoh, and the beginning of the Mayan Calendar.
3300 year-old dolmen looking remarkably European!
Later dolmen at higher level, with strange carved statues holding it up
The ethnic history of the region has been interpreted based on two different chronologies. One of them, established by Luis Duque Gomez and Julio Cesar Cubillos, postulates the theory of continuous development separated into an Archaic period from 3300 to 1000 B.C, a Regional Classical period from 300 A.D. and a Recent period from 800 A.D. until the arrival of the Spaniards. At both San Augustin, and nearby (3km) Alto de los Idolos, the terrain was modified, by flattening hills and constructing earthwork causeways between the different mounds and platforms, which were abundant in archaeological artefacts (3).
Fuente de Lavapatas Waterfall
An English researcher called Inti who lives near San Augustin showed me a photo of a site called Petroli that has a carving of the classic prehistoric ‘spiral’ pattern that can also be found at Tiwanaku, Britain, Malta and around the world. Is this the symbol of the ‘serpent people’ I wondered?
The next day Inti took me and some fellow researchers out in his incredibly hardy four-wheel drive truck. The roads don't get paved in this part of the world, even if the local government receive subsidies to do so.
This type of corruption affects every walk of life in Colombia. We visited two other sites the next day including El Tablon and El Pelota, that included more carved monoliths, but it was La Chaquira that inspired me the most. Trekking through the hills to reach a cliff-top overlooking the Magdalena River and valley, we eventually reached several carved stones that looked like representations of ancient divinities looking out into the wilderness and probably the night sky. It also has unusual relief carvings of animals in 3D. Our last stop was El Purutal, where several of the stone statues still have red and yellow paint on them. Again, this site has two different levels of construction with the 'classic' dolmen or passage grave at a lower level and the more sophisticated carved stonework on the higher levels.
There are suggestions from people who live in the area that the early inhabitants of San Augustin were of the Shamanic persuasion. The traditional psychedelic brew of that area is Ayahuasca and when exploring the strange stone designs around this area, you could imagine they must have been ingesting something that altered their consciousness. It is known that the Olmec of Central America were fond of psilocybin mushrooms, and 5-meo DMT extracted from Bufo Marinus toads. The inhabitants of Chavin de Huantar in Central Peru, were know to have regularly used San Pedro in their ceremonies, so one must wonder why these megalithic temples seems to have this 'psychedelic connection'. Perhaps the ancient 'gods', Viracocha in South America, and Quetzalcoatl in Central America introduced these as they travelled, sharing their wisdom, technology and shamanic knowledge. Bochica is the Colombian version of these two deities, who shared the same knowledge, and was a bearded traveller who was hugely influential, again related to ‘serpents’. Those who ingest Ayahuasca often have visions of serpents. Were these three deities the same person, travelling through the America’s, building megalithic sites, and leaving a legendary legacy that has continued into modern times?
Evidence of the Olmecs of Mexico also turns up in extended areas of South and Central America and there does seem to be an ancient connection between these two areas, and all areas in between. At Bogota museum there is Olmec-looking head-gear made of gold San Augustin has intricate stonework resembling the Olmec style, and references to the 'serpent' and shamanic influences cannot be explained away easily.
Gold has also been found at San Augustin and the surrounding area, along with other unusual artefacts, but unfortunately bones get decayed quickly by the humid climate, so the archaeologists are at a loss to determine who actually lived here. Giant skeletons have been found in other parts of Colombia such as Tolima and Nueva Granada, suggesting they may have been the builders of these incredible monuments. Harold T. Wilkins believed survivors from Lemuria (Mu) came to San Augustin when a great cataclysm occurred tens of thousands of years ago. This is just as good as any other explanation given so far by archaeologists, historians or academics. The enigma of who built these sites and why they were built is still a mystery to be uncovered. I intend to go back to Colombia to explore the more remote sites around San Augustin and may have that chance when we return to Peru and Bolivia in November 2014 with our group of hardened megalithomaniacs.
Hugh & Big Stone Face at San Augustin
1. Dolmens for the Dead , Roger Joussaume. Guild Publishing 1987. p.291
2. Secret Cities of Old South America, Harold T. Wilkens 1952. AUP Reprint p.18
3. Dolmens for the Dead , Roger Joussaume. Guild Publishing 1987. p.290
6 San Bernardo Mummies
Surrounded by the Andes mountains, a town named San Bernardo in Colombia is known for a strange mystery of its own. Seemingly just like any other small town on the outside, there is a secret in its core that has yet to be fully explained by scientists. 
In 1957, a flood swept through the cemetery in the area, leading to grave workers having to move the remains to a new location. While searching through the remains, they were astounded to find that many of them were completely free of decay and decomposition, even though the bodies had been there a very long time.
One of the grave diggers, Eduardo Cifuentes, alerted the authorities, and subsequent examination of the bodies revealed that not only were they mummified in some natural, unexplained manner, but their clothes were also in very good condition. Other corpses in the cemetery were reduced to mere bones as was to be expected, but the mummies remained pristine, despite showing no evidence of having been embalmed.
Theories for the cause of this phenomenon range from the diet of the locals, which includes unique fruits called the guatila and the balu, to the weather and high altitude of the area. However, it doesn&rsquot explain why the clothes of the corpses would also remain in good condition and why San Bernardo is the only town in the area where the mummies were found. Some of these bodies are now on display inside glass cases in a museum. The museum does not have any measures in place to preserve corpses, yet the San Bernardo mummies still refuse to yield to rot and decay.
Mysterious “Explosions” in New Jersey Have an Older, Stranger History
These days, it seems reports of so-called “mystery booms” are an ever-present source of oddity and intrigue in the news.
With the recent landing of the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B mini-shuttle in Florida, part of the intrigue had been the sonic boom created as the aircraft broke the sound barrier upon reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, as it returned from its two years in orbit. While the cause of this boom is certainly no mystery, the specific mission of the X-37B, an unmanned ‘space plane’, is not public knowledge.
Elsewhere, there are booms occurring that can’t be tied to such things as aircraft, leading to a lot of speculation as to what their cause may be.
In Randolph county, New Jersey, residents have been kept awake by loud booms of mysterious origin, which some believe could be the work of explosives being set off outside of local noise ordinances.
The Randolph Reporter discussed the incidents earlier this month, noting that the booms appear to be increasing:
Once only heard occasionally, the noise is now occurring several times a week, and at random times from early evening to after midnight.
But whether it’s coming from a residence or on public property behind her residence, however, is hard to tell, she said… Swenson said the noise at times “sounds like gunfire. Sometimes, it’s a louder ‘boom.’”
She added a neighbor’s child was “afraid we’re going to war,” while another neighbor, a military veteran, could be traumatized by it.
Swenson said she spoke with police, but they can do nothing about it unless the culprits are caught in action.
In a history of recent mystery boom reports featured at my Mystery Booms website (dedicated to understanding the scientific causes underlying these “mystery” booms, and the varieties of conditions that can cause them), we see that unusual booms have been occurring in and around New Jersey for decades:
In late October 2014, media outlets in the northeast reported that residents in the community of Lower Township, New Jersey, had experienced what they believed to be a small earthquake. In some reports, the shaking had been accompanied by a loud “boom”, although the U.S. Geological Survey indicated that no earthquakes had been registered in the region at that time. Some believed that sonic booms caused by Navy aircraft drills might account for the noises, and though a Navy exercise had in fact been underway around that time, it preceded reports of booms and shaking by several days.
Only a few months earlier, similar reports of “mystery booms” in the northeast had appeared to correlate with seismic activity. In June 2014, the USGS had designated a small quake in the Hudson Highlands area near Garrison, in Putnam County, New York, as a category 5 earthquake. Loud booms were reported in conjunction with this incident, and despite the noticeable tremors, the location of the quake did not coincide with any nearby fault lines such as the Ramapo Fault, according to seismologist Leonardo Seeber with the nearby Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. It is worth noting that numerous other reports of “booms” and possible related phenomena exist for this region, including reports dating as far back as 1996.
Nearby, even older stories of the famous “Seneca Guns” go back for centuries, stemming from New York and the surrounding region (more on the Seneca Guns and other long-term regional “booming” phenomena can be read about here).
As for the causes of unusual loud “booms” such as those being reported in New Jersey, it may be that there are natural reasons for the sounds, rather than anyone setting off explosives.
Sonic booms from aircraft have been associated with various “mystery booms” over the years.
“Superbolts,” a variety of lightning often accompanying upper atmospheric storms, have been known to be associated with loud booms, even in some instances where no visible storm activity had been occurring. Another natural cause underlying some boom reports involves “frost quakes,” also known by their scientific name, cryoseisms. Yet another natural cause (albeit a strange one) which might explain at least some reports of loud booms occurring at night involves what is called “Exploding Head Syndrome”, although this can easily be discounted in cases where several members of a community report the unexplained sounds. Finally, sonic booms from aircraft can also be associated with some boom reports.
In recent weeks, similar booms have also been reported in San Diego Country California, another region with a long history of boom reports.
It is believed that atmospheric refractions, in addition to the possibility that certain USAF training exercises involving supersonic aircraft, may have been linked to several of these Western reports over the years.
Know what they heard
Despite the lack of physical evidence, Sharps Chapel residents in and around the Norris Shores development know what they have heard.
The dilapidated picnic table is evidence that Island F in Norris Lake gets visitors, but lately residents of nearby Sharps Chapel are trying to figure out where explosions are coming from on the island. (Photo: Steve Ahillen / Knoxville News Sentinel)
“It was huge,” said resident Rhonda Parks, who said she saw smoke after one blast. “It was kind of like the pictures of when you see a bomb goes off and the cloud gets bigger and bigger.”
Sharps Chapel residents say they often hear gunfire from the island area as well.
But the explosions are something new.
“We just heard it. We didn’t have the rattling or anything like that,” said Margo McCaffery, another resident. “It’s a lot more than firecrackers. It sounded like an explosion.”
"I have heard plenty of fireworks over my years, but never anything like this," said McCaffery's husband, Tom, who is chairman of Sharps Chapel's Firewise chapter and captain on the town's Neighborhood Watch. "The closest thing I can think of to the sound is cannon fire."
Speculation on what the explosions are ranges from everything from just "rednecks shooting off pipe bombs" to military procedures to stolen explosive material from Y-12 being set off.
Returning to flight and retiring the space shuttle program
The shuttle's external tank was redesigned, and other safety measures implemented. In July 2005, STS-114 lifted off and tested a suite of new procedures, including one where astronauts used cameras and a robotic arm to scan the shuttle's belly for broken tiles. NASA also had more camera views of the shuttle during liftoff to better monitor foam shedding.
Due to more foam loss than expected, the next shuttle flight did not take place until July 2006. After STS-121's safe conclusion, NASA deemed the program ready to move forward and shuttles resumed flying several times a year.
"We're still going to watch and we're still going to pay attention," STS-121 commander Steve Lindsey said at the time. "We're never ever going to let our guard down."
The shuttle fleet was maintained long enough to complete construction of the International Space Station, with most missions solely focused on finishing the building work the ISS was also viewed as a safe haven for astronauts to shelter in case of another foam malfunction during launch. A notable exception to the ISS shuttle missions was STS-125, a successful 2009 flight to service the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe initially canceled this mission in 2004 out of concern from the recommendations of the CAIB, but the mission was reinstated by new administrator Michael Griffin in 2006 he said the improvements to shuttle safety would allow the astronauts to do the work safely.
The space shuttle program was retired in July 2011 after 135 missions, including the catastrophic failures of Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003 that killed a total of 14 astronauts. NASA developed a commercial crew program to eventually replace shuttle flights to the space station, and brokered an agreement with the Russians to use Soyuz spacecraft to ferry American astronauts to orbit. The first commercial crew flights were delayed several years due to developmental and funding delays. As of late 2017, the companies SpaceX and Boeing both planned to start test commercial crew flights in 2019. (NASA is also working on a deep-space program called Orion that could bring astronauts to the moon, Mars or other destinations.)
“El Penon De Guatape.” By Dlan Thuras (N.D.). Atlas Obscura. Available at: http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/el-penon-de-guatape
“Geology” by David Bushnell and Rex A. Hudson. Colombia: A Country Study (Library of Congress). Available at: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/pdf/CS_Colombia.pdf
“El Penon De Guatape Is The Most Epic Way To Take The Stairs” by Suzy Strutner (2014). The Huffington Post. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/25/el-penon-de-guatape-staircase_n_5699287.html
Caleb Strom has a bachelor's degree in earth science and a minor in anthropological archaeology. He has participated in an archaeological field school and archaeological excavations in Greece and San Diego. He is especially interested in classical Greek history and. Read More