Secrets Only One Living Person Knows

These days, you can barely whisper a secret in somebody’s ear before every little detail spreads across Facebook like the plague. Every old family recipe, conspiracy theory, or plot twist of the next Star Wars movie hits the web before anyone can scroll down fast enough to avoid it. But the world is full of surprises, and despite the odds, there are still traditions, mysteries, and secret identities that only one person in the world knows the answer to. Here are some of the craziest ones.

How to make sea silk

The light, delicate material known as sea silk, or byssus, may be the most prized fabric in the world, with a history that goes back 5,000 years. Harvested from the saliva of clams (like the one above) in the Mediterranean, byssus was used to embroider the garments of Mesopotamian kings, Nefertiti wore sea silk bracelets, and Moses probably draped byssus on the altar. Perhaps the most amazing thing of all, as Eliot Stein writes for BBC, is that the art of harvesting, dyeing, and embroidering sea silk is now known by only one living human, 62-year-old Chiara Vigo.

Vigo lives on the Sardinian island of Sant’Antioco. She is the latest in a long matrilineal line of byssus seamstresses, with the secrets of sea silk production having been passed down in her family for over 1,000 years. She never sells her creations: They are offered as gifts, given to such visitors as women hoping to become pregnant or newlywed couples. This is because she, like her ancestors, lives by a sacred “Sea Oath” forbidding that sea silk ever be used for commercial purposes.

Chiara Vigo is the su maistu (the master) of her art, and there may only be one master at a time. The heir to this legacy is Vigo’s daughter, Maddalena, who knows most (but not all) of the byssus secrets, and is the only one who can — if she chooses to — continue this ancient tradition.

The top secret formula for the Farmer's Almanac

These days, where it seems like “seasons” are just loose suggestions instead of hard rules, predicting what the weather will be like in a mere ten minutes is enough to elicit mockery. Despite that, a publication known as the Farmer’s Almanac — written by a man named “Caleb Weatherbee” — still makes weather predictions over a year in advance. Now, whether these predictions are accurate is a whole different topic (meteorologist Jan Null says that the Almanac is only accurate about 20 to 30 percent of the time, according to the Wichita Eagle), but what’s interesting here is the method used to make these predictions: a 200-year-old secret formula, as advertised on their official site, which involves no satellites, computers, or modern technology. And whatever that formula is, ol’ Mr. Weatherbee is the only person in the world who knows it.  

Now, as you’ve probably guessed, “Caleb Weatherbee” is a pseudonym because that name is just a tad too convenient for real life. According to Mental Floss, the current Weatherbee is the seventh one so far, and he’s been writing the Almanac for about 25 years. Whoever this guy is, he’ll continue being Caleb until he dies, at which point the mantle will pass on to the next. So basically, Caleb Weatherbee is like a real-life Doctor Who.

How to speak the Yaghan language

If you’ve ever visited a foreign country where everyone speaks a different language, you know exactly how weird it feels when the sounds coming out of your mouth suddenly have no meaning to anyone but you. Now, imagine if you were the last person on Earth who knew how to speak in your language. According to the Santiago Times, this is the daily experience of an 89-year-old woman named Cristina Calderon, the only living speaker of the ancient Yaghan language of Chile.

There used to be about 3,000 Yaghans in Chile before the arrival of European settlers, but now, only 100 or so remain, living in the village of Villa Ukika. Calderon says that while some other Yaghans can understand the language (to a degree), she’s the only one who still knows how to speak it. The Yaghan language has no written form, making its preservation especially difficult. Due to her unique role in history, Calderon has been recognized by the government of Chile as a “living human treasure.” Today, she makes strong efforts to ensure that the legends, crafting skills, and traditions of her culture will be passed on before she dies.

The secret source of Lena Blackburne Rubbing Mud

Okay, get ready for one of the weirdest secrets in sports. When new baseballs first come out of the box, their surface is too glossy for pitchers to get a good grip, causing a safety hazard. That’s why ever since 1938, according to NBC, every single baseball in every single MLB game is rubbed with … mud. And not just any mud — special mud. It’s called Lena Blackburne Rubbing Mud, and it all comes from one regular guy named Jim Bintliff. Even weirder, the mud’s source is a top secret spot on the Delaware River that only Bintliff knows about.

The story goes that famous baseball player Lena Blackburne first happened upon this exquisite mud himself, so he and his partner started selling it to the big teams. Jim Bintliff is the grandson to Blackburne’s partner, and thus the heir to the secret spot. He collects about 1,500 pounds of mud a year and sells it to professional baseball teams like the Red Sox and the Yankees for about $75 a tub. Apparently, the secret location isn’t even privately owned, so he just waits until no one is around when he wants to scoop it up.

Despite the fact that he’s the only man in the Major League mud business, South Jersey Biz reports that he only does it as a part-time job and actually makes his regular paychecks in the printing industry.

The true meaning of 42 (maybe)

There are two easy ways to spot a fan of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novels. One, they’ll probably be carrying a towel. Two, if you ask them what the meaning of life is, they’ll tell you it’s “42.” That’s because in the story, a supercomputer named Deep Thought says the number 42 is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything, thereby confusing everyone.

Now, why did the beloved author, now deceased, pick the number 42? As written by the Independent, Adams himself claimed it was just a joke, with no deeper meaning. But that hasn’t stopped fans from speculating, and to fan the flames, comedian Stephen Fry claims to know the truth, according to the BBC.

Fry says Adams told him the true meaning of 42 before his death, and that the answer is “fascinating, extraordinary and, when you think hard about it, completely obvious.” However, he claims that to honor Adams’ wishes, he must take the secret “to the grave.” It’s worth noting that Fry was friends with Adams, as well as the narrator for the Hitchhiker’s Guide audiobook, so his connections are genuine. On the other hand, at least one mutual acquaintance of both men told the Telegraph they’re “unbelievably similar,” so it’s very possible that Fry’s “knowledge” of 42 might be a practical joke to honor the legacy of his dear friend.

The true identity of Satoshi Nakamoto

In the world of comics, how does a billionaire playboy like Bruce Wayne keep his nighttime escapades as Batman a secret? Well, for a real-life example, just glance over at the billionaire inventor of Bitcoin, “Satoshi Nakamoto.” Who is he? What is he? No one knows, according to Business Insider, except Nakamoto himself.

Sure, there are plenty of crazy theories. Some think he’s secretly Elon Musk. Others have pointed at cryptocurrency expert Nick Szabo. An engineer named Dorian S. Nakamoto was accused once as well. Whoever Satoshi Nakamoto really is, his digital mask is affixed with super glue. Considering the billions of dollars he’s raked in from Bitcoin, chances are he has his own self-funded Bit-cave somewhere beneath Gotham City, and that he’s watching us all from his personal Bit-computer, amused by everyone’s guesses.

Even Hal Finney, one of Nakamoto’s early Bitcoin collaborators, admitted (before his death from ALS in 2014) that he had no idea who Nakamoto really was, though he did believe that Nakamoto was “a young man of Japanese ancestry who was very smart and sincere.” Some have speculated that Finney himself may have been Nakamoto, according to Forbes, but it doesn’t seem likely. Aside from Finney denying it, it’s also been shown that Finney and Nakamoto exchanged emails back in Bitcoin’s early days, which would have been an elaborate ruse if they were the same person. But definitely possible!

The recipe for Campari

If you’re getting tired of your buddies all slamming back PBRs at every party, and you want to class things up a bit with some mixed drinks, Campari might be your drink ticket. First made in the 1800s and shipped worldwide from Italy, Campari is a liqueur made with herbs, fruit, alcohol, and water. Word on the street is that it goes great with soda, but be warned, it’s definitely an acquired taste.

If you’re wondering how exactly those Italian wizards make this red concoction, well, mere mortals like us don’t get to know the recipe. According to Saveur, the exact herbs that make Campari into Campari are only known by one man, the company’s factory director. Secrecy is such an important part of the liqueur’s brand that some ingredients are shipped to the director in unmarked brown wrappers. Not even the company’s executives know the secret recipe, though when interviewed for the Saveur piece, one executive did explain that there’s a method for retrieving the secret in case something ever happens to the director. Probably a good idea.

James Risen's CIA sources

It’s often been said that the free press is the cornerstone of democracy, an important belief that recently inspired Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award-nominated film The Post. Only a free press can hold government authority in check, and this requires that reporters shouldn’t be punished for writing about things the government might prefer to keep under wraps. In 2006, according to NPR, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James Risen published details of a confidential — and embarrassing — botched CIA operation in Iran. In response, federal officials ordered him to disclose where he had gotten his information. Risen refused because unmasking his sources would risk their personal safety, not to mention being a huge breach of journalistic etiquette.

This resulted in Risen undergoing a six-year struggle against the Department of Justice, according to the LA Times, with public opinion siding strongly against the aggressive overtures of federal officials. Risen faced the very real threat of imprisonment, but throughout this process, he made it extremely clear that he would never reveal who his sources were, no matter what punishments he faced as a result. Risen’s legal battle eventually ended with a victory, as the case was eventually dropped.

The combination to the safe that holds the original KFC recipe

Love it or hate it, the entire Kentucky Fried Chicken brand is built on secrecy. It’s kinda their whole gig. Colonel Harland Sanders’ original recipe, with its trademark 11 herbs and spices, is the stuff legends are built on, and KFC goes to some pretty insane lengths to make sure no one ever finds out the secret: At any given time, only two people in the world know what exact herbs and spices go into the recipe. If you’re wondering how a giant corporation in this day and age can pull off such a feat, well, KFC actually employs two separate companies to make different halves of the recipe, then uses a computer processing system to blend them together. Weird.

But wait, that’s not all. First off, as Gizmodo reported, the original recipe itself is kept in what might be the most bland safe in existence. And as if this wasn’t extreme enough, if executives ever need to open the vault and retrieve the recipe — the end of the world! — then there’s only one human being who knows the combination. Hopefully this person’s memory is good.     

So yeah, even if that KFC-style chicken recipe you find online seems to taste like the real thing, chances are it’s missing a few herbs.

The missing Guardians of the Galaxy Easter egg

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy movies are amazing for all kinds of reasons, including the fact that director James Gunn successfully propelled both a humanoid tree and a tough-talking raccoon into being worldwide icons. One aspect of the movies that comic fans love the most is Gunn’s penchant for sneaking in numerous Easter eggs, from an appearance by 1970s character Howard the Duck to the scene where Stan Lee meets with the Watchers.

The most famous Easter egg of all, though, is the one no one knows about. No one but James Gunn, that is.

Since the first Guardians of the Galaxy came out, Gunn has perpetually teased fans about a major hidden Easter egg which he claims no one out there has ever noticed, though “someone came close.” Fans have created numerous theories, but so far, no luck. As Bleeding Cool shows, he’s even willing to put his money where his mouth his, offering a $100,000 reward to anyone who finally figures it out. However, Gunn has made it clear the secret might follow him to the grave, once posting on Twitter that, “I will never reveal it. Maybe on my deathbed.”

Who Tommy Wiseau is or why he has so much money

Tommy Wiseau is a cult icon with an adoring fan base, but he’s also such an enigma that many have pondered whether he’s actually an alien visitor pretending to be an Earthling. Now that James Franco’sThe Disaster Artist has brought the myth of Tommy Wiseau to the mainstream, the question of “Who is Tommy Wiseau, exactly?” looms bigger than ever.

For those who might be scratching their heads, “Tommy Wiseau” is the supposed name of a man who wrote, directed, produced, and starred in a cult flick called The Room, which is often described as the worst movie of all time. Anyway, Tommy is notoriously vague about everything pertaining to his identity, as described by Vulture. For a long time, Tommy claimed to be from New Orleans, but he’s recently admitted he’s from somewhere in Europe. His age is totally unknown. Most bizarre of all is his massive fortune, which enabled him to not only single-handedly fund the $6 million production of The Room, but also afford apartments in both San Francisco and Los Angeles at the same time.

So what’s the true story? Who knows? There’s some evidence that he may be from Poland. He claims his wealth came from selling Korean leather jackets, but others theorize he was in a car crash with a powerful Hollywood producer, resulting in an out-of-court settlement. One thing is for sure: The only person who knows the secret is Tommy Wiseau himself, and he likes it that way.

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