Some inconsistencies with regard to the Somerton Man’s personal effects.
The first is his use of a waxed Barbour’s thread in the repair of a pocket on a pair of trousers found in the suitcase, some buttons on the trousers he was wearing and repairs to a coat collar that had given away.
Waxed thread is not usually employed for clothing repair, other than wet-weather gear, sou-westers and the like as it is stiffer and thicker than plain linen thread and the repairs tend to be a lot more visible to the naked eye, nevertheless and due to the constraints on availability of many items due to rationing, abolished only months earlier in June ’48, it’s use as such is understandable.
However, you would have expected to find a sewing needle or two somewhere amongst his possessions, possibly of the heavy duty type in order to handle the heavier waxed thread.
Like in the green soap dish that was found in his suitcase, which he obviously used for storage as it was found to contain 1 hairpin, 3 safety pins, 1 front and 1 back stud, 1 button, 1 tea spoon, 1 pair of broken scissors and the card of thread. (GF 156).
But no sewing needle(s).
The Somerton Man’s suitcase held a collection of various items of clothing, as follows:
4 pairs of underpants.
But no spare socks. Nothing to replace the heavy knitted pair he was wearing.
The state of the Somerton Man’s shoes was most remarked upon, as follows:
“He was wearing clean brown lace-up shoes.” PC Moss.
“The shoes on the body were remarkably clean, they looked as though they had just been polished.” Professor Cleland.
“The shoes now are roughly in the same condition as they were when found. They are practically new and very clean. They looked as though they had been polished that morning.” DS Leane, as per his evidence and inquest report.
But no polishing cloth was found either on his body or in his suitcase.
When the Somerton Man’s pockets were searched only two tickets were found when there should have been three.
1 second-class train ticket to Henley Beach was found.
1 bus ticket to Glenelg Beach was found.
But the third ticket wasn’t found, being the bottom section of luggage ticket G 52703 as handed to him by Ralph Craig the Cloak Room Assistant. However this ticket, being redeemable, may have been kept in SM’s wallet, mentioned below and also missing.
Next are the 8 large and 1 small envelopes found in his suitcase.
But no writing paper or pen – assuming that using a pencil was not satisfactory then as it is now with regard to addressing correspondence intended to be sent through the post.
And finally, it would have been reasonable to expect that if a man was effectively living out of his suitcase – in that it contained both his street clothing and nightwear, including his dressing-gown and slippers – he might have packed a face washer, towel and a bar of soap. No doubt some hotels and boarding houses supplied these needs, but if a man was travelling over a number of days he may well have needed to carry his own, either that or taken a liberal view of the ownership of similar items made temporarily available in previously visited hotels and boarding houses, a habit some find hard to resist.
Other items that can reasonably be considered as missing are his wallet, watch, ID documents – official or unofficial, hat and teeth, and of course not forgetting a box of matches, as PC Moss was adamant in saying that no matches were found on the body. Which was passing strange, he added, as the dead man appeared to have been a heavy smoker, what with a pack in his pocket, one half-smoked under his chin and nicotine stains on his fingers.
The challenge here is not to supply an explanation for just one of these inconsistencies, it is to explain them all.
Clive, You remarkied that SM’s suitcase may have been left unlocked, which I have always thought as unlikely seeing as the case was reported as being almost new. That might be too much of a temptation for some. But if a fellow had the luggage ticket stub there wouldn’t be a problem in retrieving the case, if only for half an hour or so before handing it back in, after all it was a 24 hour ticket.
Hello, whilst not addressing the concept in total as requested, I can relieve the workload a smidgeon by dropping the envelopes out and just leave them as “to who”. These envelopes were just a flat piece of blueish paper about A4 size that were printed with mailing details on one side. The other side was left clear. They were then heavily pressed into the envelope shape BUT NOT GLUED. You could buy them for your 4p or 3p or whatever and get them home and write your letter on the blank side once you unfolded it. You would write down the blank page and quite often onto the bottom flap then using the side flaps if required. Fold it back up and stick it down somehow and drop it into the Post Office. As these were generally personal, and not for business, most were written in pencil. They were awkward to use as you had to hold the 3 flaps out of the way when writing on the main face.
Thanks Alan, any chance you might indicate where, or how I might find an image of one of them?
I don’t think I can attach but I will email.
Did you forget about the Royal Sovereign pencils, three of which were (if I remember correctly) H?
Hello, email sent with photos, but they won’t be of any surprise. At the time this played out there was not a skerrick of writing paper to be had anywhere in Oz and the governments (state and feds) were actively encouraging any paper recycling that could be done. They placed ads in the classifieds to encourage writing on the insides of envelopes where possible. My view is that the envelopes (including the letter card) were all the writing resources that may have been available.
Thanks Alan, appreciated.
The tickets are inconsistent with each other to begin with. I don’t think “he bought a Henley ticket and never travelled” is a sufficient explanation. But you would expect the ticket stub for the suitcase (if it was his) and you might expect a ticket for the baths – which people used to say he must have gone to. Although, as you point out, the wallet was missing (if it ever existed).
It does look rather a thick thread to repair pants (and the wax coating would make it difficult to work with, I imagine) – and yet the analysts said it was a potential match to what had been used to repair a trouser pocket.
One thing we’re not at all sure of is how SM got to Adelaide, plane bus or train. Either way it wouldn’t be unusual for a recent arrival to use the railway station luggage office for short term suitcase lodging given they were probably the only facility in the city for providing such a service, particularly if a visitor’s accommodation had yet to be sorted.