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The Somerton Man Mystery

Home > Adelaide > Free | Memorials | Outdoor | Places of Interest | Walks
by Paula McManus (subscribe)
Photography obsessed writer and urban explorer. Lover of nature, art and long weekends. Adelaide, South Australia. https://www.facebook.com/paula.mcmanus1
Published November 12th 2018
Unsolved After 70 Years
This December 1st will mark the 70th Anniversary of the unknown man who was found dead on Somerton Beach in Adelaide.

Somerton Man
Somerton Man, West Terrace Cemetery (©paula mcmanus)


It's a mystery that has remained unsolved to this day and the man's identity and his exact cause of death are still unknown. With no name to go by, he has been known simply as the 'Somerton Man' for the past 7 decades.

In what would make a great crime novel plot, the story of the Somerton Man has intrigued generations of South Australians.

He was found on the beach at Somerton Park and was fully clothed in a suit. He was clean shaven and carried no identification on him. Not even his clothes held a clue as all of the tags had been cut off. But, in a pocket, a slip of paper was found. The paper had 2 words - "Tamam Shud", which means "ended" or "finished" in Persian. The case is known mostly by 2 names - the Tamam Shud case and the Mystery of the Somerton Man.

Who was this man and how did he come to be found dead on one of our city beaches? An exhaustive television and newspaper search across the country failed to bring forward anyone who knew him. He wasn't reported missing and it became a possibility that the man wasn't a local and that he could have been an international visitor. Why was he here? How did he get here? When did he arrive in Adelaide and where had he been staying? There were a million and one questions - many that still have not been answered to this day. The University of Adelaide compiled a list of the facts that we do know - you can read that very extensive list here.

Somerton Man
Somerton Man, West Terrace Cemetery (©paula mcmanus)


The police found that the man had been poisoned. Was he murdered? If yes, then the question of why and by whom is raised too. Was he a spy - here to get information from and about the weapons research in Woomera which opened in 1947? His physique suggested that he could have been a professional dancer - was he part of a visiting ballet troupe? Or was he a sailor who met with foul play? Or, was he a man in love who followed his heart to Australia to be with his girl?

There are many theories that surround this most baffling case. Science and technology are improving every day - forensic science has come a long way since 1948. I wonder if we'll ever know who he was? In the meantime, each year the Somerton Man receives many visitors to his grave site at the West Terrace Cemetery.

The West Terrace Cemetery is full of history and if you haven't been for a visit and walking tour, then you really must. There are many different tour types - guided and self-guided, daytime, twilight and night-time as well as group tours.

Somerton Man
Somerton Man, West Terrace Cemetery (©paula mcmanus)


The self-guided tours are free and you can do these at your leisure 365 days of the year.

You'll find the Somerton Man on the "Stories of the Everyday" self-guided tour which takes you to 20 different sites and is an easy 2km loop walk.

All you need to do is get in touch with the Adelaide Cemeteries Authority for a map and other details.

If you're wanting to pay your respects to the unknown man, you can find his gravesite located at Plan 3, Row 12, Site number 106. If you're not able to access a map - turn left once you're through the main gate from West Terrace and drive parallel to West Terrace. At the end of the road, you'll see a gardeners/maintenance shed. If you look to the road, you'll be near the merging of Anzac Highway and West Terrace. Park there and walk back a few rows. The Somerton Man's grave is in that area.

The West Terrace Cemetery is open to the public every day of the year and is one of Australia's oldest capital city cemeteries. Entry is free.

Somerton Man grave site
Somerton Man grave site. Photo courtesy Adelaide Cemeteries Authority


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Why? This December 1st will mark the 70th Anniversary of the unknown man who was found dead on Somerton Beach in Adelaide. It's a mystery that has remained unsolved to this day and the man's identity and his exact cause of death are still unknown.
When: Open every day of the year
Phone: 8139 7400 or email events@aca.sa.gov.au
Where: West Terrace Cemetery
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Great article Paula, the National Trust do regular tours about this too through Adelaide Tours. Details: https://www.facebook.com/events/258187754864627/
by Dave Walsh (score: 4|11075) 25 days ago
What a sad ... but interesting story, Paula!
by Elaine (score: 3|5708) 28 days ago
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