10 Still-Unsolved Mysteries From Unsolved Mysteries

Film Rise
Film Rise

Unsolved Mysteries, which premiered in January 1987, captivated viewers with tales of peculiar cold cases, missing persons, and paranormal activity. Actor Robert Stack introduced reenacted segments—often while clad in a trench coat—and invited the audience to contribute tips and information to help law enforcement resolve their most baffling investigations. Thanks to their assistance, the series (later hosted by Dennis Farina) helped recapture numerous wanted fugitives, unite fractured families, and even exonerate a few wrongfully-convicted inmates.

However, many of the 1000-plus cases featured on the series are still awaiting resolution. We asked Unsolved co-creators John Cosgrove and Terry Dunn Meurer to share their picks for stories that have stuck with them over the years. In no particular order, here are 10 mysteries that still keep Cosgrove and Meurer up at night.

1. SALEM SECRETS (1989)

The Oregon state prison system didn’t have a great reputation in the 1980s. Allegations of employees smuggling drugs behind bars and stealing state property were rampant. To combat the perception of impropriety, then-Oregon governor Neil Goldschmidt invited Michael Francke to come in and clamp down on the activity as well as cure an overcrowding problem in facilities. Francke, who had previously worked within the New Mexico prison system, had a reputation for doing things by the book. He spent two years slowly building his case, but before he was able to point the finger at anyone publicly, he was found dead outside of his office in Salem on January 17, 1989—a victim of a knife-wielding assailant who had pierced his heart. Police pieced together Francke’s final moments and believed he was robbed and stabbed by a drug dealer named Frank Gable.

Although Gable was convicted, Francke’s family believed Michael’s death was related to his investigation into the prison system. One eyewitness said he saw multiple men running away from the crime scene on the night of his death, contradicting the Gable story. Oddly, no paperwork detailing Francke’s research was ever found—but several eyewitnesses saw employees carrying bags of shredded documents out of his office following his death.

Gable has thus far been unsuccessful in getting his appeals heard, despite several witnesses coming forward to cite police coercion during interviews and recanting their statements that he was at the crime scene. In 2016, a magistrate judge heard arguments for a new trial, including statements that deceased criminal John Crouse made to relatives in which he confessed to killing Francke in a car burglary gone wrong. Crouse revealed several key details of the crime, including the fact that he punched Francke in the face during the confrontation. Francke had a bruise on his face consistent with Crouse’s description. Though Gable is still considered the perpetrator, both Francke's family and the team at Unsolved Mysteries consider Francke's untimely death an open case.

2. A.W.O.L. (1993)

Soldiers who flee military enlistment without permission are known as being A.W.O.L.: Absent Without Official Leave. Private Justin Burgwinkel didn’t seem like a plausible candidate for stepping out on his responsibilities. He had worked hard and aspired to become an Army Ranger, which required specialized and intensive training at Ford Ord in Salinas, California; he seemed committed to a career in the military. And then he began acting oddly around his girlfriend, Iolanda Antunes. While visiting her, he would abruptly tell her he had to leave in order to meet unnamed parties. When she pressed for details, he told her it was a secret, hinting only that it might involve arms smuggling. She noticed he carried a briefcase full of shredded paper. Once, she answered the phone and was told to deliver Burgwinkel a message: “The mission” was being called off.

After three years in service, Burgwinkel simply vanished. His car was recovered at a motel three months after his disappearance, with all of his belongings—including his wallet, keys, and ID—inside. So were his military-issued dog tags, which he once told Antunes were useful in identifying the bodies of dead soldiers, adding "If you ever see these ... lying around, that means I’m dead." Some believe Burgwinkel suffered from a mental illness; others think he was involved in illicit activity that might have gotten him killed. No one has seen or heard from Burgwinkel since June 12, 1993.

3. DIAL H FOR ABDUCTION (1991)

Angela Hammond and her boyfriend Rob Shafer lived in Clinton, Missouri, and likely didn’t concern themselves much with the possibility of being victimized by the same types of crime that plagued larger cities. But on April 4, 1991, the worst-case scenario came true. While phoning Rob from a pay phone, 20-year-old Hammond remarked that a green Ford pick-up had been circling the block. Hammond said that a “filthy, bearded” man had exited and was using the phone next to hers. They talked for another few minutes—until Hammond screamed. Shafer raced to his car and drove to the phones, which were just blocks away. He told police he passed the pick-up driving away, with Hammond screaming his name. He tried to give chase, but his transmission failed, and he watched helplessly as the truck—which had a giant fish decal on the back window—disappeared into the night.

Shafer was initially considered a suspect, but was quickly cleared. Despite the telltale window sticker, police were unable to locate the vehicle or Hammond. They believed her disappearance might have been connected to two other women who were abducted and murdered within 100 miles of Clinton, but no one has ever been charged with the crimes.

4. DREAMY DISAPPEARANCE (1981)

Cynthia Anderson worked as legal secretary in Toledo, Ohio, sometimes passing the time in her office by reading suspense or romance novels. In 1980, the 20-year-old told her mother that she had been having a recurring dream about allowing someone into her house who meant her harm. At work, she received harassing phone calls to the point her employers—lawyers Jim Rabbit and Jay Feldstein—had an emergency buzzer installed at her desk. When Rabbit arrived at their office the morning of August 4, 1981, they expected to find Anderson behind her desk. Instead, the front door was locked, and Anderson was nowhere to be found. The novel she had been reading was open to a passage describing a violent abduction. Her car was still in the lot.

A month later, a mysterious phone call came into police headquarters. A woman insisted Anderson was being held in a basement but wouldn’t give any specifics. She called a second time to tell police the house was occupied, but never contacted them again. Some theorize Anderson may have heard incriminating conversations involving a drug dealer who became concerned that she knew too much. To date, no one has been charged in connection with her disappearance.

5. FRIENDS TO THE END (1987)

In 1980s Arkansas, a popular (albeit illegal) activity among youth was “spotlighting,” a practice in which a hunter would freeze animals in their tracks by shining a flashlight in their eyes while their partner fired a weapon. That’s what teenage friends Don Henry (16) and Kevin Ives (17) set out to do the evening of August 22, 1987 in the small town of Bryant, Arkansas, near the train tracks that ran behind Henry’s house.

Hours later, a conductor named Stephen Shroyer was navigating his train through the area when he noticed the teens laying motionless on the tracks; they were covered by a green tarp. Shocked, Shroyer tried to come to an emergency stop, but it was too late. The train ran directly over their bodies. A coroner would later conclude that the boys were asleep on the tracks as a result of smoking 20 or more marijuana cigarettes, a finding that both sets of parents rejected. Owing to public pressure, the bodies were exhumed so another autopsy could be conducted. The findings revealed that the boys had had one to three marijuana joints, and that one of them was dead and one unconscious before the train ran over them. That, coupled with the fact that Henry appeared to be stabbed and Ives struck with the butt of his own gun, led a grand jury to conclude the case was a double homicide.

In 2018, the Ives family was still pursuing answers with the help of a private investigator. In a bizarre twist, former professional wrestler Billy Jack Haynes claimed he was a witness in the case. He came forward to assert that, at the time, he was involved in drug trafficking in the area, and had been called to the area to make sure a scheduled air drop happened without incident. (In 1988, a confidential informant told police the area the boys were in was used to drop drugs from passing aircraft.) According to KATV, Haynes claimed he was present when an air-drop of cocaine took place and that the boys had witnessed the drop. Haynes also said he helped lay the boys on the track. Police have not yet commented on his claims.

6. TUPAC SHAKUR (1996)

Both Cosgrove and Meurer have been unable to shake the puzzling details that led up to the murder of 25-year-old rapper Tupac Shakur. On September 7, 1996, Shakur was in Las Vegas to watch Mike Tyson in a boxing match against Frank Bruno, and was riding with rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight following the fight. Both men had run-ins with the law in their past and both flirted with danger in rap’s criminal element. Earlier that night, the two reportedly got into a physical altercation with members of the Crips street gang. Later, while driving, the men stopped at an intersection. A white Cadillac pulled up and opened fire. Knight was grazed by a bullet, but Shakur was hit four times—twice in the chest, once in the arm, and once in the thigh—and was in bad shape; he died of his wounds six days later. Of the many witnesses, only one came forward: Yafeu Fula, a backup singer for Shakur. Before he could try to identify any suspects or submit to further police questioning, Fula was gunned down at his home in New Jersey. No one has ever been arrested in connection with Shakur’s murder.

7. THE KECKSBURG UFO INCIDENT (1965)

Steven Spielberg couldn’t have scripted a better opening. On the evening of December 9, 1965, thousands of eyewitnesses reported seeing a strange light appearing over parts of the northeastern United States and Canada. Citizens of Kecksburg, Pennsylvania saw it, too, but they also witnessed a lot of commotion coming from what looked to be a crash site. Local law enforcement was said to have been quickly ordered out of the area by government officials who crowded around an acorn-shaped spacecraft embedded into the ground. Reports of the crash being a meteor or some kind of space debris circulated, but UFO researchers have long insisted the incident was extraterrestrial in origin. Others believe it was a spy satellite that the United States wanted to disavow. Neither NASA nor the Air Force has responded to civilian inquiries about what may or may not have landed in Kecksburg that night.

8. ONE MINUTE MILLION (1989)

On April 19, 1989, an armored car in Eden Prairie, Minnesota was besieged by a gang of armed robbers who quickly and efficiently relieved them of $1 million in roughly 60 seconds. While two stood guard with machine guns, a third put a (fake) bomb on the hood to encourage cooperation. The explosive rig was similar to one used in a robbery in Baltimore three years earlier. A year after the Eden Prairie heist, they struck a third time. In each case, no one was able to follow in pursuit, and the thieves were never caught. The FBI believed they were far from common criminals: Their protocol was so precise that authorities suspected they might have been heavily trained in ambush or attack scenarios, possibly as a result of entering the military.

9. ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ (1962)

Of the many notorious prison escapes of the 20th century, none proved as unbelievable as the three men who fled from the isolated Alcatraz, located on an island in San Francisco Bay, on June 11, 1962. Anyone who could successfully navigate past their cells, armed guards, and fences would then have to swim miles to shore. Inmates Frank Morris and Allen West hatched a plan to do exactly that, and enlisted brothers John and Clarence Anglin to come along with them. West had discovered that access to the outside was possible if the prisoners pulled out the entire ventilation shaft under the sink in their cells rather than trying to cut through the bars blocking the shaft. By burrowing into the opening, they could make their way behind the cell wall and up to the roof by using the plumbing to climb up.

After eight months of surreptitious digging, the men (minus West, who had trouble getting into the ventilation shaft) had created paths to the roof. They placed dummy heads—made from soap and concrete, plus hair swiped from the prison barber shop—in their beds so that guards wouldn’t notice they were gone. Once on the outside, they blew up a raft they had made from raincoats using a concertina, an instrument similar to an accordion. Then they vanished. 

The next morning, their bunks were discovered to be empty, and authorities began a manhunt. The raft was found, along with some personal effects, but no bodies were ever recovered. The case was closed in 1979, but got renewed attention in early 2018 when it was revealed a man claiming to be John Anglin had written to the San Francisco police department in 2013 claiming to be alive but in need of medical attention for a cancer diagnosis. Handwriting analysis and DNA testing on the letter were inconclusive. If it’s genuine, then perhaps so is Anglin’s claim that both his brother and Frank Morris made it to shore alive, living decades as free men before Frank died in 2005, followed by his brother Clarence in 2008.

10. D.B. COOPER (1971)

Year after year, snippets of information continue to trickle out about “D.B. Cooper,” the alias for the man (or woman) who successfully hijacked a plane bound for Seattle on November 24, 1971. Cooper—who politely and calmly informed the stewardess that he had a bomb and demanded $200,000 in cash when the plane landed—got his money and jumped out of the aircraft with a parachute. Though traces of his ransom have been found and numerous people have told stories of people in their lives they suspect of being Cooper, authorities have never been able to nail down a single suspect. In 2018, an amateur sleuth and codebreaker named Rick Sherwood came forward to state that he had analyzed letters believed to be from Cooper and read the cryptography that indicated the criminal was identifying himself as Robert Rackstraw, a Vietnam veteran with parachuting experience. One letter hinted at three separate military units that Rackstraw belonged to. The FBI hasn’t made a specific comment on Sherwood’s claim. Neither has Rackstraw, who is still alive and was reportedly questioned by the FBI back in the 1970s.

The Definitive Guide to All the Cats in Cats

James Corden, Laurie Davidson, and Francesca Hayward star in Tom Hooper's Cats (2019).
James Corden, Laurie Davidson, and Francesca Hayward star in Tom Hooper's Cats (2019).
Universal Pictures

Regardless of whether you were impressed, confused, or downright frightened by the trailer for Tom Hooper’s upcoming film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic musical Cats, it’s safe to say that the star-studded cast and “digital fur technology” generated strong reactions all around. And, if you didn’t grow up listening to the soundtrack or watching performers in the 1998 film version purr and prance in furry, feline bodysuits, your shock is completely understandable.

Cats is light on plot, heavy on characters, and sprinkled with words that T.S. Eliot made up for his 1939 poetry collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the basis for the musical. To familiarize yourself with all the eccentrically named cats—and find out who’s portraying them in the film—here’s a comprehensive list of every "romantical, pedantical, critical, parasitical, allegorical, metaphorical, statistical, and mystical" cat you’ll meet.

Admetus

admetus cats film 1998
Really Useful Films

Played by: Eric Underwood

Admetus is a ginger and white chorus cat with no spoken lines, but plenty of strong dancing sequences—perfect for former Royal Ballet soloist Eric Underwood. Though some musical productions have renamed Admetus as Plato (both names are mentioned in “The Naming of Cats”), the film will feature them as two separate characters.

Alonzo

Played by: Bluey Robinson

Alonzo is another chorus cat, identifiable by the black patches of fur on his face and the black-and-white stripes on his head. Apart from his ensemble appearances, he has intermittent solo lines and also assists Munkustrap during the fight against Macavity. Since singer/songwriter Bluey Robinson will portray him in the film, it’s possible that Alonzo will dance less than he has in stage productions.

Asparagus, the Theatre Cat

Played by: Sir Ian McKellen

Nicknamed “Gus,” this elderly, trembling tabby has an impressive acting history, which he recounts at length during his song (along with a few disparaging comments about how the theater isn’t what it once was, and kittens these days aren’t properly trained). Who better to play one of the Jellicles’ most well-respected thespians than one of the humans' most well-respected thespians, Sir Ian McKellen?

Bombalurina

Played by: Taylor Swift

Though Bombalurina is only mentioned by name once (in “The Naming of Cats”), she’s pretty hard to miss: the slinky, red-coated cat helps introduce Jennyanydots, the Rum Tum Tugger, Grizabella, Bustopher Jones, and Macavity. She most often sings with Demeter, her duet partner for “Macavity the Mystery Cat.”

Bustopher Jones

Played by: James Corden

Known as “the Brummell of cats,” this black-and-white, epicurean dandy frequents gentlemen’s clubs, wears white spats, and weighs a whopping 25 pounds. Jones’s genial manner endears him to just about everyone—not unlike James Corden.

Cassandra

cassandra in 1998's cats film
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Played by: Mette Towley

With her sleek brown coat and her regal, mysterious manner, Cassandra seems like she might’ve been worshipped by ancient Egyptians in a past life. You might recognize Mette Towley, a member of Pharrell’s dance group, The Baes, from her appearances in 2019’s Hustlers and Rihanna’s “Lemon” music video—and you can be sure that she’ll uphold Cassandra’s legacy as one of the most eye-catching chorus cats.

Coricopat and Tantomile

Played by: Jaih Betote and Zizi Strallen

These striped twin tabby cats always move in unison and boast psychic abilities. Though the roles are sometimes cut from theatrical productions, we’ll get to see them in the film, played by hip hop dancer Jaih Betote and Zizi Strallen, best known for her work as Mary Poppins in the recent West End revival.

Demeter

demeter in 1998's cats film
Really Useful Films

Played by: Daniela Norman

This multicolored, slightly skittish cat usually duets with Bombalurina, and together they perform “Macavity the Mystery Cat” in full. It’s often implied that Demeter has a complicated romantic past with Macavity, who tries to abduct her during his attack. British ballet dancer Daniela Norman will star opposite Taylor Swift’s Bombalurina in the film, and you can also see her in Netflix’s upcoming ballet drama series Tiny Pretty Things.

Grizabella, the Glamour Cat

Played by: Jennifer Hudson

This aging starlet is now decrepit, depressed, and shamefully rejected by the rest of the Jellicles—think Sunset Boulevard’s Norma Desmond with more self-awareness and very raggedy fur. Even if the Cats original cast recording wasn’t the soundtrack for your childhood road trips, you might have heard Grizabella’s song “Memory;” it’s been covered by Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Barry Manilow, Glee’s Chris Colfer, and more. American Idol alum (and general ballad-belting powerhouse) Jennifer Hudson will bring her Academy Award-winning talents to the role of Grizabella in the film.

Growltiger and Griddlebone

Played by: Ray Winstone and Melissa Madden Gray

Growltiger, a rough-riding sea captain cat, and Griddlebone, his fluffy white lover, appear during “Growltiger’s Last Stand,” during which Gus reminisces about having played the part of Growltiger in a stage production long ago. The characters have been left out of some productions, including the 1998 film, but Hooper’s version will feature them, where they'll be played by British actor Ray Winstone and Australian performer Melissa Madden Gray (whose stage name, fittingly, is Meow Meow).

Jellylorum

Played by: Freya Rowley

Named after T.S. Eliot’s own cat, Jellylorum is a maternal calico who cares for Gus and also helps introduce Jennyanydots and Bustopher Jones. Though sometimes portrayed as older and more mature than some of the other cats, Freya Rowley (who performed as Tantomile on the UK tour of Cats) will likely bring a younger energy to the character.

Jennyanydots, the Old Gumbie Cat

Played by: Rebel Wilson

Jennyanydots is a goofy old tabby cat who lazes around all day and spends her nights teaching the basement vermin various household skills, etiquette, and performing arts. Under her tutelage, the mice learn to crochet, the cockroaches become helpful boy scouts, and the beetles form a tap-dancing troupe. Rebel Wilson is a perfect match for such a multifaceted, eccentric, and amusing gumbie cat (whatever gumbie is).

Macavity, the Mystery Cat

Played by: Idris Elba

The show’s main antagonist is a tall, thin criminal cat with sunken eyes and dusty ginger fur. While the Jellicles are plainly terrified of this “monster of depravity,” they also seem eerily impressed by his ability to elude capture and conviction. Historically, Macavity hasn’t done any speaking, singing, or dancing—he only shows up briefly to kidnap Old Deuteronomy during a rousing cat fight—but here’s hoping that Hooper has broadened the role for the film so we get to hear at least a good growl or two from Idris Elba.

Mr. Mistoffelees

Played by: Laurie Davidson

Laurie Davidson, who played Shakespeare in TNT’s Will, will take on the role of Mr. Mistoffelees, an affable tuxedo cat who peppers his magic tricks with plenty of high leaps and pizzazz. He’s generally beloved by the rest of the cats, and he also saves the day by conjuring Old Deuteronomy from wherever Macavity had hidden him.

Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer

Played by: Danny Collins and Naoimh Morgan

These two roguish calicos describe themselves as “knockabout clowns, quick-change comedians, tightrope walkers, and acrobats.” They’re also partners in petty crime, notorious for smashing vases, stealing pearls, and generally wreaking havoc upon their posh family in Victoria Grove. British dancer Danny Collins will join Naoimh Morgan—who actually played Rumpleteazer in the Cats international tour—to bring the spirited rascals to life in the film.

Munkustrap

Played by: Robert Fairchild

Without Munkustrap, viewers would have little hope of understanding what’s actually happening in this vaguely plotted musical. Though there’s no song to introduce him, the striking, silver cat is still arguably the most important character: He describes the function of the Jellicle Ball, narrates the action as it unfolds, and leads the charge against Macavity’s attack. It takes a certified musical theater machine to play such an integral part, and Hooper has surely found that in Robert Fairchild, former New York City Ballet principal dancer and Tony Award nominee for An American in Paris.

Old Deuteronomy

Played by: Dame Judi Dench

In the gender-swapped role of our dreams, Dame Judi Dench will play Old Deuteronomy, the revered (usually male) town elder who chooses one lucky kitty at the annual Jellicle Ball to ascend to cat heaven, the Heaviside Layer, and be born again. It isn’t Dench’s first time in the junkyard: She was preparing to appear as both Jennyanydots and Grizabella in the original 1981 West End production of Cats when she snapped her Achilles tendon and had to pull out.

Plato and Socrates

Played by: Larry and Laurent Bourgeois (Les Twins)

Though Plato is a chorus cat mentioned in “The Naming of Cats” and included in some stage productions, Socrates was created specifically for Hooper’s film to make room for both halves of Les Twins, also known as Larry and Laurent Bourgeois. The French hip hop duo gained mainstream recognition after Beyoncé featured them in her 2018 Coachella set and subsequent Netflix concert film Homecoming.

Rum Tum Tugger

Played by: Jason Derulo

The Rum Tum Tugger is a perpetually fickle feline with a lot of rock-n’-roll flair and a pair of hips that he seems to have stolen from Mick Jagger himself. In addition to his own song, Tugger also sings “Mr. Mistoffelees” and features in a few other numbers. With Jason Derulo taking on the role for the film, there’s a good chance we’ll see a modernized, moonwalking version of this swoon-worthy cat.

Skimbleshanks, the Railway Cat

Played by: Steven McRae

Skimbleshanks is a charming Scottish cat who looks like a friendly tiger and ensures that all is in order on the night trains, which includes everything from patrolling for mice to reminding the guard to ask passengers how they like their tea. With his flaming red hair and graceful precision, Royal Ballet principal dancer Steven McRae definitely has a couple things in common with his character.

Syllabub/Sillabub/Jemima

Played by: Jonadette Carpio

This kitten’s name varies from production to production, but she’s usually characterized by her playful, innocent manner and her willingness to accept Grizabella when the other Jellicles try to shun her. Jonadette Carpio, Philippines native and member of the all-female Krump crew Buckness Personified, will bring her street dance background to the role in the film.

Victoria

Played by: Francesca Hayward

Though lithe, light-footed Victoria doesn’t sing any lines of her own in the original musical, her gleaming white coat and balletic dance solos still make her a standout—so it’s only fitting that Royal Ballet principal dancer Francesca Hayward will bring her to life in the film, where the role has been expanded into a main character. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Taylor Swift even collaborated on a new song called “Beautiful Ghosts” that Hayward will sing in the movie.

Miscellaneous Chorus Cats

Because theater companies vary in size and scope, certain chorus cats are sometimes omitted from productions—or members of the ensemble just aren’t assigned specific characters. At this point, Bill Bailey, Carbucketty, Electra, Etcetera, Peter, Pouncival, Quaxo, Rumpus Cat, Tumblebrutus, and Victor are all chorus cat names that haven’t been given to anybody in the film, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see extra cats in the shadows. According to Dance Spirit, Corey John Snide and Kolton Krause, who played Coricopat and Tumblebrutus on Broadway, respectively, have both been cast as ensemble members in Hooper’s film.

Pandora Released a Harry Potter-Inspired Jewelry Collection

PRNewsfoto/PANDORA Jewelry
PRNewsfoto/PANDORA Jewelry

As if we didn’t have enough Harry Potter accessories, a new jewelry collection has dropped that seems worth a bunch of galleons. After collaborating with Disney for their Lion King, Aladdin, and other themed collections, Pandora took a train to Hogwarts to satisfy all the Potterheads who love bling.

The Harry Potter x Pandora collection features a total of 12 hand-finished products, including charms, pendants, and a bracelet—each piece inspired by the characters and symbols seen in the Harry Potter films. All four Hogwarts houses will be represented, so all fans will find something to love.

"Through our Harry Potter-inspired jewelry, Pandora and Harry Potter fans can express their love for magic, fantasy, bravery, and the power of friendship," Pandora's chief creative and brand officer Stephen Fairchild said in a press release. "Pandora fans have asked for this collection for years, and we are really excited that it is here."


PRNewsfoto/PANDORA Jewelry

Among the included pieces are a Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry charm, a Dobby the House Elf charm, and a Hogwarts Express charm as well as a Golden Snitch bangle (which is an updated version of Pandora's popular Moments bangle, this one featuring a Quidditch symbol at the clasp).

The Harry Potter x Pandora collection is now available in stores and online worldwide.

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