The Somerton Man Code

The Somerton Man Code

In this article we will be covering one of Australia’s greatest unsolved mysteries – the Somerton Man Code. Who was the unidentified man found deceased on a beach in 1948 and what were the strange codes he carried?

Let’s take a closer look…


The Gruesome Discovery

On the on 1st of December, 1948, the body of a man was found on the Somerton Beach, in Adelaide, leaning up against a sea wall. When the body was searched, no identification was found.

Instead, the pockets of the deceased contained a second-class train ticket from the city to a nearby beach (which was unused), a Army Club cigarette packet, a city bus ticket (which was again unused), a comb, a box of matches and a packet of chewing gum (some reports claim it was the Juicy Fruit brand).

body somerton beach

The following autopsy gave results which proved the man was very fit, with a muscular build and healthy organs. He was dressed in extremely fashionable clothing, but it was suited to the Australian mid-winter weather…not the hot summer weather at the time of his discovery.


The Investigation

When the investigation began, numerous people came forward and admitted seeing the man on the beach the night before he was found. Most of them assumed he had consumed too much alcohol and was simply sleeping it off against the sea wall.

A handful of people also claim to have seen him when he was still alive. Apparently he was trying to raise his arms but was having difficulty (again, they thought he was drunk!).

The local papers picked up on the case and tried to lend a hand to authorities, by posting a picture of the dead man. A number of people came forward with suggestions on his identity, but most of them were squashed by trivialities.

somerton beach mystery

The police eventually located a bag in a nearby railway station that was checked in after 11 am on the 30th November – they believed that this bag could possibly have belonged to the dead man.

In it they found numerous items such as a screwdriver, American comb and a stenciling brush. They also discovered a lot of well made clothing.

The tags on this clothing had been tampered with, brand names completely removed. But someone had gone to great pains to leave the name ‘T. Keane’, ‘Keane’ and ‘Kean’ on certain items of clothing.

It is thought that this name is nothing more than a red herring – left there to confuse authorities into believing the man’s name was Keane.


The Somerton Man Code

A strange code was eventually found inside the fob pocket of the dead man – it is now a very famous code which has had well known ‘code breakers’ stumped for well over half a century.

On the coded paper, the words ‘Taman Shud’ were printed. Experts discovered that ‘Taman Shud’ is a phrase meaning ‘ended’ or ‘finished’, and found on the last page of the The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

The Somerton Man Code

It was later reported that an anonymous man had come forward, a week before the inquest, claiming to have found a copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam on the back seat of his car. This copy was actually a rare first edition.

Tests were carried out, and it was determined that the coded paper was a sheet taken from this actual copy of the book.

They also found a further code on the back of the book, which is now referred to as ‘The Taman Shud Code’…and it has never been broken.


The Somerton Beach Man

The body of this mysterious, unknown man, now lies in a unnamed grave with the inscription ‘Here lies the Unknown Man, who was found at Somerton Beach, 1 Dec. 1948’ above it.

The code has never been broken, and there are no clues to who this man was, or why he died.

If you have any thoughts or opinions on the Somerton Man case, please leave them in the comment section below.

12 comments on “The Somerton Man Code

  1. Thank you for covering this. I’ve found this mystery fascinating since I first heard about it. It still baffles me how someone can end up so totally unknown like that. Kinda sad really, but very interesting!

  2. What a story, a dead man, a code and nothing could be found out. As a detective I would like to know how the man died, was he drunk as many people claimed that saw him?

    He looks very ordinary, ok quite fit for the age and well dressed. But that after all this time in the whole world not a single person would recognize him, that really is a mystery.

    A strange code too, no idea what all this can mean 🙂

  3. Hi 

    It is an just an intriguing story…I’m surprised with today’s computers and AI they haven’t been able to break the code.

    But you must feel a tinge of sadness for this person. He died and there was no body to claim his body! to be all alone in this world is a terrible thing!

    Has anyone wrote a book on this mystery like a historical fiction novel? I bet you can do so much with this story. If not maybe I should!

    Thanks for getting my creative juices following…I’m gonna bookmark your blog! come back here when I have writes block 🙂

    1. It’s certainly a head-scratcher of a code Tarun! 

      I’m not 100% sure about a book on the subject, but it’s definitely something I’ll look into now you’ve mentioned it (I’m curious!). 

  4. This is so interesting… Stories like these just leave you wanting answers even though it has nothing to do with me, human nature I guess. Sometimes I wonder if these sorts of things were all just placed in order to throw people off the scent and maybe it was a murder of some sort. I mean, just my opinion on the subject anyway!

  5. Hi! This is a very intriguing story. It has been suggested that this man was a spy.

    In an Australian version of the U.S. television program called 60 Minutes, the daughter of a lady interviewed back in 1948 gives some insight on this supposition. This daughter claims that her mom and this man probably knew each other. And she describes some evidence that points her mom was a spy.

    1. That’s a good angle Henry – I’ll have to look into this Australian program! Do you remember the title of the episode?

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