When I was assembling the Broken Hill + Somerton Beach timeline, one thing stuck out like a non-proverbial prominently-sticking-out-thing: Henley Beach. Why did the Somerton Man…

* …buy a single ticket to Henley Beach (but not use it)
* …instead catch a bus to Somerton Beach (where he later died)?

From this simple starting point, people have constructed all kind of spy-related narratives (usually involving the Somerton Man’s being followed and hence trying to shake off his tail, TV gangster-style). But I just don’t believe them: and Gerry Feltus’ Appendix 2 would seem to rule out almost all of them in a fairly comprehensive and common-sense manner.

Similarly, the suggestion that the unused train ticket was planted in the dead man’s pocket after his death seems just a bit too contrived, a bit too ‘Hollywood’: a somewhat melodramatic thesis, one might say. Hence I also think that this will prove to be well wide of the mark.

Finally, Gerry Feltus also passes along the suggestion that a planned (but never actually built) train extension from Henley Beach station to Glenelg may have been marked up on some of the maps at the station in 1948: and hence that the Somerton Man might possibly have mistakenly bought a ticket to Henley Beach thinking he could continue directly on to Glenelg. But, once again, this seems a bit elaborate and hopeful, and is somehow missing a simple ring of truth.

Gerry, ever keen to keep his text free from the blight of speculation, never offers his own explanation for Henley Beach, but instead asks a long series of hard-to-answer questions, presumably to try to help people proposing their own Henley Beach theory to stay at least a little grounded.

So what did happen? My own chain of speculation is that the Somerton Man…

* Arrived in Adelaide on a train that morning.
* Bought a ticket to Henley Beach, where he was planning to meet someone (and perhaps drop off his suitcase with them) before going on to Glenelg after lunch.
* This was only a single ticket because that person in Henley Beach had their own car (or was there perhaps a bus service running directly between Henley Beach and Glenelg? I don’t know, but please leave a comment below if you do).
* Probably went to the City Baths to get freshened up, have a shave etc.
* Tried again to telephone that person to confirm, but got no answer.
* Hung around at the station for a while, and perhaps tried to call again just before the 10.50am train to Henley Beach departed, but changed plan when that again yielded no response.
* Left the suitcase in Adelaide Railway Station left luggage just after 11am.
* Caught the bus to St Leonards (near Glenelg) at 11.15am.

All of which speculation may not mean much, but the upshot is that I now suspect that someone else knew who the Somerton Man was: a person who I expect lived close to Henley Beach and owned a car.

From my perspective, my belief is that biggest lie about the whole Somerton Man case will turn out to be the notion that nobody (or perhaps only Jessica Thomson) knew who he was.

Rather, I suspect that a fair number of people knew exactly who he was, exactly why he was in Adelaide, and exactly how it all ended up. Not a conspiracy of action as such, but rather a mutual wall of silence. Nobody said a word: for had they done so, surely no good would have come of it.

Everyone in that network had something to lose.

28 thoughts on “What was the Henley Beach connection…?

  1. welcome to the club ..

  2. Pete: perhaps the secret history behind this affair is something we all have to approach from different angles. A pincer movement!

  3. I’m even being nice to Derek, now that we’re on first name terms. And I’m all for pincer movements ..

  4. T Anderson on February 1, 2015 at 7:36 am said:

    I really doubt many people knew who he was. I say that because even decades after it happened no one let it slip to their family or friends? No stories after a few drinks at the bar? An anecdote like that would have come up by now. He was very sick, he could easily have just changed his mind or missed the ride or maybe he did know someone he couldn’t get ahold of living there, maybe he had known people there years before who had no idea he was in the area but he couldn’t get ahold of them just decided not to use the ticket.

    I’m not saying i KNOW you are wrong, i’m just saying that it’s easier for me to swallow assuming that if he knew others in the area, that they didn’t recognize him and had no idea that he died.

  5. T Anderson: all fair points. The overall idea I was trying to get across was that people tend to start from the assumption that he was unknown to everyone except the Thomsons: and yet the unused ticket to Henley Beach seems to point to the presence of someone else entirely.

    I think it’s safe to conclude that he was, at the very least, an out-of-towner; and that he probably arrived that morning from out of state. But to me, Gerry Feltus’ title of “The Unknown Man” gets in the way of the discourse here, because the Somerton Man was known: we just haven’t yet found a way in to the knot or group of people who happened to know him. 🙁

  6. working on it …

  7. .. and working on it so successfully I’ve been warned (again) on reddit. Derek does not like the corner he has been backed into. I would recommend a visit for anyone interested in how pincers squeeze.
    I do believe he might have to change some of his presentation.

  8. What if it’s all much simpler – he felt life was no longer worth living and meant to walk off into the water and not come back. Left his socks and shoes by the water’s edge.. changed his mind, or was stung by a blue-bottle – anyway came back, but socks had drifted away. Put on shoes.. and died. I’d like to know whether he got the cigarettes from someone else and – if so – who?

  9. Yes, in rare instances, people can die from bluebottle toxin:
    Mark R Stein et.al., ‘Fatal portuguese man-o’-war (Physalia physalis) envenomation’, Annals of Emergency Medicine, Volume 18, Issue 3, (March 1989), pp. 312–315.

    Note for o.c. readers – What is known in Australia as a bluebottle jellyfish is known elsewhere as the ‘Portuguese Man-o-war’. It’s not actually a jellyfish, true – but it is also true that the old ‘blue bottle’ used in laundries used to reduce the pain. So (I’m told) did urinating or pouring vingegar on the affected area, but I’ve only witnessed the latter tried and it certainly made little difference.

  10. A spy would buy two tickets at two outlets just to keep the other spies off his tracks – it’s in the manual.

  11. Diane – He was found dead with socks and shoes on.

  12. To clarify…He had socks on but from the Coroner’s Inquest report, he did not have socks in his luggage.

  13. Helen Ensikat on February 5, 2015 at 4:37 am said:

    Nick, based on a 1945 article in The Advertiser (available on Trove) it seems likely that there was a bus route that operated between Port Adelaide and Glenelg, passing through Henley Beach and terminating on the corner of Moseley St and Jetty Rd.

    Port Adelaide – Glenelg Bus (The Advertiser – 30 Nov 1945)

    A bus service between Port Adelaide and Glenelg will begin tomorrow morning, under a licence granted by the Municipal Tramways Trust. The route will be through Ethelton Grange, Kirkcaldy, Henley Beach and West Beach.

    The starting point from Port Adelaide will be the Black Diamond Corner and the Glenelg terminus will be at the corner of Moseley street and Jetty road. The following schedule has been arranged – Leaving Port Adelaide – 10.15 a.m., noon, 2.30 p.m., end 4.30 p.m. Leave Glenelg – 11.5 a.m.(?), 1.30 p.m., 3.30 p.m., and 5.30 p.m. The journey will occupy three-quarters of an hour each way.

    (If there happens to be a box of transit-related ephemera material in the SA library, that might be a good place to look for timetables and old route maps for the relevant year.)

  14. I know I’m only new to this enigma, but I’ve been wondering why more hasn’t been made of his original intended destination ie Henley Beach.

    Also does anyone know what transport services would have got him to the Adelaide Train Station at the time he got there. I’m presuming he got there from some overnight spot atleast as he wanted to wash upon arrival. Not likely if he has left from somewhere close to the rail station

    Also on Trove, there was mention of another male being found in the area with death put down to poison by one of the poisons SM was meant to have died from.
    Difference in that man was thought to have been attacked by a shark too. But was within a couple of years of SMs death.

  15. Yuri on July 7, 2015 at 12:24 pm said:

    I would assume that the Henley Beach stuff was either a mistake (perhaps thinking it was close enough to Glenelg to walk) or was changed after a phone call that changed meeting location or something like that (I can’t imagine the Adelaide-Glenelg journey would be convenient enough to choose with transfers even for an out-of towner).

    Significantly after SM there were many buses that would go to Glenelg along all sorts of interesting routes. One of them (which might have loosely been alluded to above) was what (in the 1990’s or 2000s) the 340/345. This route went from Port Adelaide to West Lakes (via Webb St and frederick Rd) out onto Military Road, onto Seaview Rd (just before Grange Railway station) [I think Military rd had 2 more nearby rauilway stations, one near the corner of Grange Rd, and the terminus a little further along (although perhaps Grange Rd was the terminus). It continued along Seaview Rd and military rd with a few deviations to Glenelg and beyond (but some of the deviation, such as HarborTown were definitely added well after SM). I think this route was based on the 33 series which used to go from Port Adelaide to a number of place (including Glenelg) presumably mainly via Military and/or Seaview roads…..
    But the point remains why would you plan a trip to Glenelg with transfers at Henley when you had bus and tram options that would be direct (other than you didn’t have to leave the station). I think it’s more likely that he planned to go to Henley to meet someone (or do something) and for whatever reason decided to change his plans and head to Glenelg…..

    These days, Adelaide’s ticketing allows transfer between bus, train and tram (so had SM lived today he would have been able to use any part of the entire network on his original ticket (ie his change of heart these days would have had him use the train ticket on the bus)).

    I really don’t think Henley Beach is that significant….more an out-of-towner making a mistake….but of course, could be wrong….

  16. Yuri: my main point about “the Henley Beach connection” was simply that even though we don’t know what the Somerton Man’s connection to Henley Beach was, I think we can be reasonably certain that he did have some kind of connection to Henley Beach. And this rather runs counter to the whole romantic he-was-an-out-of-towner-who-didn’t-know-anybody angle that is often proposed.

    Given that, I think we should bear it in mind as something that everything else needs to be consistent with, rather than something that will likely prove vitally important in and of itself. 🙂

  17. John sanders on May 23, 2016 at 3:02 am said:

    I’ll go out on a limb and profer that SM called in at the crippled kids home and might even have signed a visitors book. He may have been looking for Jo or perhaps his own kid was there who knows. Its still not to late to find live eye witnesses who were at the home as the kids would only be in their seventies or early eighties now. Those kids spent lots of time swimming or looking towards the beach from their balcony and they may never have been questioned. A well known historian was one such child albeit just before the relevant time but she would be a good contact nonetheless

  18. Sue d'Nimh on May 23, 2016 at 10:33 am said:

    I thought the connection was JETTY ROAD.
    There is a Jetty Road at Henley Beach, and one in Glenelg.
    Moseley Street is off Jetty Road. Perhaps he asked someone how to get to Jetty Road and was given directions to the wrong one.

  19. nickpelling on May 23, 2016 at 10:51 am said:

    Sue d’Nimh: it’s a reasonable suggestion, one that certainly chimes well with the notion that the Somerton Man may well have been an out-of-towner.

  20. Sue d'Nimh on May 23, 2016 at 11:01 am said:

    My only issue with the Somerton man being an out-of-towner is the Rubaiyat.
    If the Rubaiyat had been found by ‘Mr Francis’ around the time of the Parafield Airshow, when his car was parked on Jetty Road, then the Somerton man must have been in Adelaide prior to when he supposedly arrived by train. Unless of course he dropped the book into the car at the airshow?

  21. nickpelling on May 23, 2016 at 11:04 am said:

    Sue d’Nimh: ah, now you’re starting to ask good questions. 😉

    I’ve got a large post on this backed up waiting to be finished, so I’m going to have to try your patience for a few more days before answering properly. 😐

  22. milongal on May 23, 2016 at 10:41 pm said:

    @Sue and Nick – There’s no Jetty Road at Henley Beach. There’s one at Grange (the next Jetty North from Henley), however Henley Jetty is at the end of Main St, rather than Jetty Road (search Henley Square or Ramsgate Hotel on googlemaps). That said, it’s possible that the Henley train followed what is now the Grange line (there used to be 2 stations visible along Military Road, one near Grange Road, and one probably closer to Main St), however I thought I read somewhere that there used to be a train up Henley Beach Rd (which would suggest the Grange line didn’t connect to Henley) – but not sure on time frames. There is also a Jetty Rd at Brighton, which is a suburb or two SOUTH of Somerton Park, which itself is a couple of suburbs South of Glenelg (and I’m guessing suburbs have changed a lot in that area since the 50’s).

    I like better what someone else dug up that Prosper was (or had been) connected to (12?) Marlborough St Henley Beach, and that a meeting place had been changed at the last minute (or something, possibly SM found the address in Marlborough St in the phone book, and later by telephone found Glenelg/Somerton a better place to meet (or something)). Imagine doing all this organising without mobile phones 🙂

    Just to be a little silly, if we apply Ricky McCormick’s phonetic dyslexia theory to SM then MLIABO could be a bastardisation of Marlborough… jk.

  23. Sue d'Nimh on May 24, 2016 at 6:57 am said:

    @milongal: Grange to Henley Railway Line, following Military Road, in between Main Street and South Street.

  24. nickpelling on May 24, 2016 at 8:07 am said:

    Sue d’Nimh: there’s definitely a Jetty Street in Grange (near the jetty there) a bit further North, but nothing I can see in Henley Beach that looks like Jetty Road?

    Here’s a link to a map from 1950 1940: https://mapshop.net.au/fullers/images/full1940/map11.gif

    I still think it’s a nice hypothetical explanation (that the Somerton Man bought a ticket to the wrong jetty), but would also point out that Marlborough Street is halfway between Henley Beach and Jetty Street. 🙂

  25. Sue d'Nimh on May 24, 2016 at 8:38 am said:

    It’s still a work in progress, but I am slow building up the site.

  26. nickpelling on May 24, 2016 at 8:41 am said:

    Sue d’Nimh: that’s a lot of work there!

  27. milongal on May 24, 2016 at 10:47 pm said:

    yeap, actually the map Nick posted is what I’ve seen before and it confused me…..the thicker black and white line along HB road is a BUS route, not a train route, and you can see the trainline (on the current course) through the golf club, and there’s actually 3 stations beyond Grange (wit Grange being on military road, obviously), North of Grange Road (the Western side of which was apparently Kircaldy Rd (I was vaguely aware that part of Grange was once called Kircaldy) – until recently (last 10 years or so) you could still see the platform on the Western Side of the road), North of Marlborough St (about where Star of the Sea Primary School would be now), and the terminus just North of Main St (about where the bottleshop and police station face each other).
    This is more consistent with what I thought, however the map previously had me thinking the train came in from the other side – and I assumed the platforms along Military Rd came later (let’s face it, a train from City to Grange via Woodville sort of makes sense, although it still goes a bit far NOrth, I think, but to Henley routing through Woodville seems a big a deviation).
    NB: The city is basically due East of Henley Beach Rd, with HB Rd turning into Grenfell St as it crosses the city boundary of West Tce – and Adelaide’s grid-like design means it’s a pretty straight road, save for the S-Bend you can see on the map.

  28. milongal on May 24, 2016 at 11:34 pm said:

    NB2: How certain are we that the St Leonard bus used North Tce? Glenelg buses today use Grenfell/Currie St (actually, there’s also some services (26xs) that use King William St – and run up the Anzac highway). North Terrace at the railways station is only serviced by 15x services (Port Road to Port Adelaide, Largs and West Lakes) and 28x services (Henley Beach via Port Road, West Thebarton Road and Ashley St).

    I’ve wondered whether there might have been some confusion, because:
    1) The baths were on King William St where the Festival Centre is today (I think)
    2) The Festival Centre hadn’t been built yet, so what is now stops A1, A2 and A3 (outside Government house) would have been kind of “across the road” (and a mainly vacant block) from the railways station and ARE serviced today by Anzac Highway buses (263, 265, 266 – King William, Right Victoria Sq (Grote St), Left West Tce and onto Anzac Hwy.
    I know little to nothing of Public Service at that time, but I’ve never known a Glenelg-bound bus to travel North Tce near the railway station – and all the bus maps I’ve seen suggest that Grenfell/Currie was already being used by buses from earliest times (I could be wrong, because in recent history both the 167/8 and 275 used to travel North Tce as far as Pultney St – and for the 167 it suggests a possibility of a bus that used to do North tce, and was later re-routed but still had to service the RAH on Nth tce)

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