Lots of faces but no names make for an online mystery

ON BLOGS

June 18, 2006|By TROY MCCULLOUGH | TROY MCCULLOUGH,SUN COLUMNIST

Nick Osborn has a mystery on his hands, and he's turned to the Internet masses for help.

Osborn, a collector of vintage snapshots that he has scavenged from flea markets, garage sales and eBay, said he came across an odd batch of slides a few years ago, and they've intrigued him ever since.

"I've never been able to figure out just what is going on," Osborn wrote in his recent appeal for assistance on Swapatorium (swapatorium. blogspot.com/2006/06/faces.html). "There are about 50 slides in all - all dating from between 1959 and 1969 and all of young women. Some ... have letters written on their foreheads, others have press type [badges] with their names on it affixed to either their temples or foreheads."

The sample photos that he posted are eerie, mug shot-style pictures. The subjects appear to be in their teens. All have empty, expressionless looks on their faces. And then there are the forehead markings: "KP" written on one, "LO" on another, "DK661" on a third, and on and on.

Osborn said he suspects an innocuous explanation - perhaps some long-forgotten medical study - but he'd like to know for sure.

So far, hundreds of people have responded with their theories, opinions and observations.

One prevailing idea - based on the distinctive noses of many of the subjects - is that these were early rhinoplasty candidates.

One person claiming to be a rhinoplasty surgeon says the photos are most certainly from such a study. But another person, also claiming to be a surgeon, expresses doubts.

"The similarity of the noses is quite striking," someone noted.

But other theories were plentiful, and they were all over the board.

"Could it have been some sort of sorority initiation thing?" asked one person.

"They have some facial characteristics that might suggest fetal alcohol syndrome," said another.

"This could be something from a mental institution, or a wayward girls home type thing," said a third.

The more people stared at the photos, the more their imaginations seemed to wander.

"Wild guess, but given the time period, 1959-1969, they could be pictures of Hungarian or East German immigrants, perhaps taken before the trip and after," an inventive observer suggested. "The initials on the foreheads could be there to serve as identification should anything happen."

"I wouldn't rule out the fact that the person taking these photos might be a pedophile of some sort or maybe had a mental illness," an even more inventive observer mused. "This could be part of his own personal experiment."

"Many of them look very masculine," noted another. "Like men with longer hair. Maybe [they're] going through some hormone study?"

One person, at least, seemed to have all the answers: "These photos were taken as part of the first Red Headed Gender Reassigned Teenage Super Soldier experiments of the late 50's and early 60's. The letters are the initials of their code names."

Another person didn't have any answers but offered this observation: "I've got to be honest - these pictures creep me right out."

Despite the best efforts of the Internet hive mind, the origin of Osborn's odd photo collection remains a mystery.

And the theories continue to grow.

troy.mccullough@baltsun.com

Listen to Troy McCullough's podcasts at baltimoresun.com/onblogs.

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