- One of the most gruesome phenomena of modern times is now likely solved.
The Salish Sea is a beautiful body of water between Canada and the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Yet, there’s a gruesome phenomenon has been taking place beneath the rugged cliffs and lush forests.
Severed human feet, still in shoes, keep washing up the shores of the Salish Sea.
More than 20 feet have been found around the Salish Sea between 2007 and 2019. The bizarrely frequent discoveries have spawned many theories about where the feet are coming from.
One of the more popular stories claims there’s an unidentified serial killer on the loose who keeps dumping feet in the sea. Yet, for a long time, the mystery went unsolved — even we recently featured it on our list of unsolved crimes and mysteries.
Now, though, it seems that we might need to revise our list. Research over the past few years has more or less explained why the feet keep showing on the northwestern shores.
It all comes down to three things — population, weather, and fashion. Let’s find out how these elements come together for a morbid spectacle.
What Are the Salish Sea Feet?
But before we get into explaining “how,” let’s take a look at the “what.” In case you’ve never heard of the Salish Sea feet, here’s a quick recap.
The first reported severed foot was found on August 20, 2007. A young girl picked up a washed-up shoe, only to be horrified to find a rotting human foot inside it.
Since then, more feet have turned up on a semi-annual basis. The most foot-filled year was 2008, when people found five feet, each from a different person.
It’s been hard to identify who the severed limbs belong to since they often come from non-criminals whose DNA isn’t on record. The feet are also often so badly decayed that it’s hard to tell anything about their owners.
The one thing connecting them is the footwear. Most of the feet have still been lodged in a sneaker or a hiking shoe of some kind.
More People, More Bodies
With that out of the way, let’s explain what’s going on. The first ingredient in this soup of mysteries is population.
Simply put, the number of people living around the Salish Sea has grown significantly over the last decades. Today, nearly nine million people call the area home.
And one true fact about all of those people is each of them will eventually die. Living by the sea, it’s also statistically highly likely that some of them will end their days in water.
Whether they drown in boating accidents, during swimming, or by jumping intentionally into the depths, it doesn’t matter. With a lot of people living around any body of water, it’s only logical that a lot of them will die in those same waters.
The second factor in the mystery is the weather. Strong winds regularly blow from the Pacific Ocean into the Salish Sea, moving air and water in a west-to-east direction.
The wind and currents will also catch any potential dead body floating in the water. It will then begin to slowly travel toward the shore.
But wait? Bodies float at first, but should they sink eventually?
Yes, yes they should. In fact, the colder the water is, the faster the body sinks.
But over the past few decades, seawater temperatures in the Pacific Northwest have been rising steadily. The warmer waters can more easily move heavy objects — such as intact or dismembered corpses — to the surface.
And once they’re floating, the wind kicks in.
Victims of Fashion
We then get to the third factor — fashion. Remember how we said most of the feet were still stuck in some kind of a sporty shoe?
Modern sneakers and hiking shoes are actually excellent flotation devices. They’re filled with porous, lightweight foam and cushioning that allows them to bob on top of the water.
Other types of shoes, like heels or dress shoes, don’t float as well. That explains why people aren’t finding them on the shores.
Sure, even sneakers are not strong enough to float a whole dead body. But that’s where as-of-yet unmentioned element comes into play.
Studies carried out in 2016 using pig carcasses showed that they can decay to a skeletal state in as few as four days in the Salish Sea. The same can happen to humans, and at that point, the feet disarticulate easily.
After all, your ankle is pretty much a collection of small bones that a bunch of ligaments hold together. Once those ligaments are gone, the foot can easily become separate from the shin bones.
And Their Shoe Size Is…?
And there you have it — the mystery is solved. The large number of dead body parts is simply due to the large number of people living around the Salish Sea.
Once some unfortunate soul drowns in the sea, their body will quickly decay. Their decayed ankle joint breaks and the foot floats to the surface, buoyed by a lightweight modern sneaker.
On the surface, the westerly wind blows in and pushes the floating, dismembered foot to the shore. Someone then finds it and the discovery makes headlines.
Multiple studies have shown that this is what happens — there’s no mysterious serial killer running amok.
As a result, police in the region now ask people making missing person reports to state the individual’s shoe size.
You know, just in case.