Monday Mystery: The Riddle of the Autobahn

Günther Stoll was afraid.

In 1984, Stoll was unemployed, and suffering from paranoia. "They" were out to harm him, he told his wife. He had told her this before and nothing had come of it. She did her best to soothe him, as she always did. He subsided into thought for a while before abruptly sitting up in his chair and crying, „Jetzt geht mir ein Licht auf!” (lit., "Now the light dawns on me!"; coll. "I've got it!")

He snatched up a notepad and pen and wrote YOG'TZE. Or possibly YO6'TZE. No one is quite sure. He scratched the characters out as soon as he'd written them down, and told his wife he was going down the pub to have a drink.

She let him go. Perhaps she thought this was a comfortingly normal thing for him to do.

Stoll passed out cold at the bar. People do that from time to time, but usually they've had a few beforehand. Stoll had ordered a beer and then not managed to drink it before keeling over. He picked himself up off the floor and promptly left to drive two hours back to his hometown, where he woke up an older lady he'd known as a child. She wanted no part of his late night shenanigans, and told him to go home to his wife. He left, but not before telling her that something terrible was about to happen.

At about three in the morning, a couple of long-haul truckers spotted Stoll's wrecked VW Golf by the side of the Autobahn. Emergency workers arrived at the scene to find Stoll, naked and bloody, in his crumpled car. He claimed that four other men had been in the car with him and worked him over. The paramedics asked if the men were his friends. Stoll said no. He died en route to the hospital.

To this point, Günther Stoll's story sounds like just another unfortunate mental break that ended in tragedy. But then it got weird.

The official investigation came to the conclusion that Stoll had not died in the crash, nor had he died from the beating he claimed to have received. No. Stoll, already naked, had been had been run down by a completely separate vehicle, loaded into the passenger seat of his own car, driven back down the Autobahn, then strapped into the driver's seat and sent careening into the ditch where he was found.

The two truck drivers reported seeing a man in a white jacket -- so, definitely not the naked and bloody Stoll -- in the vicinity of the wreck, who had vanished by the time the cops arrived. Other drivers reported seeing a "hitchhiker" in the area. Neither of these figures has ever been identified.

Nobody has any idea what YOG'TZE was supposed to be. It's not a German word; German words don't start with Y. (Some loanwords do, but this isn't a loanword either.) If the middle character is a 6, then Stoll managed to write down the callsign for a Romanian radio station, although what that might have to do with anything is unknown, and there's no reason for the single-quote/apostrophe/whatever that tick mark was. A suggestion of unknown seriousness was that he was referring to a yogurt flavor called TZE.

As a meta-complication, for quite a while, the only known references to this case were on Wikipedia. The Wikipedia attitude towards fact checking is "eventually an expert will be so enraged by the mistakes in our article that they will log in to fix it", so the internets understandably wondered whether this was a real case or an urban legend. Eventually someone dug up the original reenactment on Aktenzeichen XY... ungelöst! -- Case Number XY... Unsolved!, a long-running German TV show that's sort of a cross between Unsolved Mysteries (US) and Crimestoppers (UK) -- from a few months after the original incident and uploaded it to YouTube, which put that question to rest.

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