The two tenets of Intellectual History are that (a) (almost) all evidence is deposited in good faith, and that as a result (b) historians should, as their default position, accept that evidence in good faith too.
Yet for cases such as that of the Somerton Man, the jumbled fragments we have to work with appear oddly paradoxical and often contradictory. Can we fit every one of these resolutely square pegs into the uniformly round holes of a single narrative?
What I’m going to present here is an oddly inferential Somerton Man account, based on various difficult pieces of evidence that rarely get mentioned in Tamam Shud presentations, but which Intellectual Historians would surely advise us not to overlook.
20th November 1948 – Parafield
Gery Feltus reports that he has talked several times with the (even now anonymous) man in whose car the Rubaiyat with the torn end-page was found. The man specifically claimed that it had been left there around the time of the RAAF Air Display at Parafield – 20th November 1948.
However, because this seems ten days too early, Somerton Man researchers tend to dismiss it by asserting that the guy ‘must have’ misremembered that date. But staying with the Intellectual Historian methodology, I say: if that’s what the man said, let’s assume he was telling the truth.
It therefore seems likely to me that the Somerton Man was also in Adelaide ten or so days before he died, because the “Tamam Shud” torn from that copy ended up in one of his pockets.
Around 30th November 1948 – Glenelg
“An amazing coincidence was revealed […] when another Adelaide businessman called at police headquarters with a copy of the “Rubaiyat” which he had found in his motor car at Glenelg about the time the body was found. This book was a different edition.” If we also take this very specific newspaper article where the above claim appears in good faith, we now have two different Rubaiyats being left in the back of two different cars in Glenelg in the second half of November 1948. What can we infer from this hugely improbable coincidence? The only explanation I can think of as to why two copies of the same book would have been left in the backs of two strangers’ cars at roughly the same time is as a pre-arranged anonymous signal. Though spies knew this as a “dead drop”, criminals with more than a touch of paranoia used this too. It therefore seems highly likely to me that this second (but barely ever mentioned) Rubaiyat was also directly involved in the sequence of events that led to the Somerton Man’s death.
30th November 1948 – Adelaide Railway Station
The Somerton Man buys a train ticket for Henley Beach, but does not use it. He then leaves his suitcase at the Left Luggage department at Adelaide Station between 11am and noon; then catches a bus towards Glenelg at around 11.15am, but gets off at Somerton.
When you put these
three pieces together, I think the resulting implication is that he originally intended to meet someone in Henley Beach and leave his suitcase with them before going on to Somerton Beach; but that when this proved not possible or not desirable, he left that suitcase at the station and instead went straight to Somerton Beach on a bus instead.
(I originally proposed that this also meant that the person he was intending to meet in Henley Beach must therefore have owned or had access to a car or other vehicle: but Helen Ensikat notes that there may well have been a bus going South along the coast from there to Somerton Beach. If there was, then I agree with her that that coast road bus would be a more likely alternative scenario.)
1st December 1948 – Somerton Beach
The Somerton Man is found dead on Somerton Beach at around 6am. He has no hat, no id, no ration card, no wallet, and no money. His stomach contains traces of blood: yet there is no sign of vomit on his clothes or shoes or anywhere nearby.
The presence of blood implies that he would very probably have experienced convulsions and vomiting not long before his death. However, the absence of vomit implies that where he was found was not where he died.
The man’s body has a strong lividity at the back of his head: yet his body is found propped up.
This mismatch implies either (a) that he died right there on the beach but that his blood was prevented from pooling lower by some kind of blockage caused by the specific way he was laying (the theory espoused by Derek Abbott); or (b) that after he died, his body was left laid on its back for some time with his head tilted slightly backwards (i.e. making it the lowest point of his body) which was then carried to the beach and posed there as if he had died there.
While I concede that Derek’s (a) is conceivable, I contend that the evidence points strongly to (b).