Although the United States is a fairly young country, we have our share of secrets. In honor of Independence Day, here’s five of the nation’s weirdest mysteries and novels that reference them.

5. Brief Cases by Jim Butcher

Scotland has the Loch Ness monster, Mexico has the chupacabra, and we in the United States have Bigfoot: an ape-like beast thought by some to roam the more isolated corners of the Pacific Northwest. No one has ever found definitive evidence for the creature’s existence, but that hasn’t stopped plenty of people from looking. 

Professional wizard and magical troubleshooter Harry Dresden has taken several jobs from the sasquatch, or “forest people,” during his career. Jim Butcher’s collection Brief Cases includes three such accounts: “B is for Bigfoot,” “I Was a Teenage Bigfoot,” and “Bigfoot on Campus.”

4. Journal of a UFO Investigator by David Halperin

In the summer of 1947, townsfolk in Roswell, New Mexico reported the discovery of what appeared to be the wreckage of some sort of space craft. The government response was confusing, to say the least. Military personnel released a statement to the local press indicating they had recovered a flying disc of some sort. Later, they claimed that what had crashed in Roswell was a perfectly ordinary weather balloon. Needless to say, people have been arguing about what really happened ever since. 

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David Halperin’s Journey of a UFO Investigator is the story of a troubled teenage boy who constructs an elaborate fantasy life around the UFO craze of the 1960s. As he becomes more strongly enmeshed in his world of Roswell, Men in Black, and Unidentified Flying Saucers, the lines between real and unreal begin to blur. 

3. I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn

On June 1, 1937, pioneering female aviator Amelia Earhart set out to become the first woman pilot to fly around the world. She disappeared somewhere over the Pacific. Theories regarding her disappearance have come and gone. Recently discovered forensic evidence suggests that Earhart may have ditched her plane over the ocean and then survived a short while on Nikumaroro Island, but the mystery is far from settled.

Jane Mendelson’s I Was Amelia Earhart explores what might have happened had Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, had both survived the crash and started a new life on a nearby tropical island. As they adjust to island life, Earhart looks back on her life and the expedition that might have been her doom.

2. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

The Central Intelligence Agency is a pretty mysterious organization, but one of its biggest secrets is hiding in plain sight. Kryptos is a large outdoor sculpture composed of copper, granite, quartz, and wood featuring four encrypted messages. Three of them have been solved, but the fourth has thus so far stumped amateur and professional codebreakers alike.

Kryptos is one of several mysteries referenced in Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol: a suspense story set in the hidden chambers and tunnels of Washington, DC. While The Lost Symbol is fiction, there really are plenty of mysteries to explore in and around our nation’s capital city. Many of the Founding Fathers were Freemasons, and those guys really enjoyed their symbols and puzzles.

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1. Phantoms by Dean Koontz

In 1587, a little more than 100 English colonists arrived on Roanoke Island to found a new colony. After the colony was successfully established, its governor, John White, returned to England to fetch more supplies. When he returned three years later, he discovered it deserted. The only clue that might solve the mystery was a single word carved on a tree: “Croatoan.” White had no idea what it meant, and neither does anyone else. One of the more popular theories suggest that the colonists may have abandoned their settlement in favor of moving in with a nearby Native American tribe, the Croatans, and left the engraving to let White know. There are plenty of other possibilities, though, and this one isn’t going to be solved any time soon. 

Dean Koontz’s Phantoms features another disappearance that is eerily similar to what happened in Roanoke. Could the two incidents be related? What could possibly be responsible? (Hint: It’s not a friendly neighboring Native American tribe.)

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