30 Times People Straight Up Disappeared That No One Has Figured Out Yet

By Chantal JonesLast Updated Apr 18, 2020 9:19:39 PM ET
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Everyone enjoys a good spooky story. Tales of supernatural experiences, alien abductions and unexplained disappearances are designed to provoke fear and make great campfire stories. But did you know there are real-life, impossible-to-explain stories of people going missing or encountering strange phenomena? Even the most determined skeptics have a hard time ignoring the spooky shivers inspired by these stories.

These 30 disappearances from around the world range from ghost stories and murders to alien abductions and prison escapes. Read on to see if you can come up with your own theories for what happened in each case.

Lincoln Tunnel Abduction

Going through dark car tunnels might have a slightly eerie feeling to it, but usually there's nothing to worry about. However, that wasn’t the case for Martha and Jackson Wright. In 1975, the married couple was driving through the Lincoln Tunnel and pulled over to wipe off some condensation that had gathered on their car.

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Jackson took the front windshield, while Martha took the back. When Jackson turned to look for his wife, she had disappeared into thin air. According to his claims, he heard and saw nothing that indicated what happened to her. The investigation into her disappearance was never solved.

A Different Sort of Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle is one of the world's most well-known mysteries. A less known but equally mysterious triangle exists in Vermont. Known as the Bennington Triangle, it spans an area near Glastenbury Mountain and is notorious for a series of strange disappearances that were never solved.

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Some of the victims include a trail guide from 1945 who disappeared while he was leading a hunting party, a college student who disappeared from a hiking trail and a man who vanished from a bus headed for Bennington. Many of the disappearances happened in the 1940s, so some people believe they were victims of a serial killer, but the disappearances have continued, and the mysteries remain unsolved.

Escape from a Deserted Island

Most stories of escape from solitary islands are happy ones. Robinson Crusoe was certainly excited to leave his lonely home and return to civilization. This story, however, has a rather Napoleonic twist. In Utah during the late 1800s, a man named Jean Baptiste was convicted of grave-robbing.

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He was sentenced to the equivalent of solitary confinement — exiled to an island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake. Three weeks later, however, he disappeared, and authorities never discovered where he went or how he managed to escape his prison. The mystery remains unsolved to this day.

No Diplomatic Immunity Here

Being a diplomat comes with a lot of privileges, but those protections apparently have limits when you’re up against something mysterious. In 1809, a British diplomat named Benjamin Bathurst probably assumed his trip across Germany would be simple and hassle-free due to his diplomatic status. Unfortunately, he was wrong.

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While they were pulled over on the side of the road, he stepped into his carriage, just a few feet away from a colleague outside — and was never seen again. No one knows what happened to him, and there were no signs of a struggle and no evidence to indicate he simply ran away.

Unidentified Flying Object

Humans have been obsessed with the idea of UFOs for a very long time. Sometimes, however, innate curiosity gets people in a bit of trouble. Lieutenant Felix Moncla was a victim of his own curiosity. Stationed at Kinross Air Force Base in Michigan in 1953, he responded to a report of a UFO and took off in a plane to investigate.

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This kind of investigation should have been routine — an easy task to finish before clocking out for the day. Unfortunately, the universe had other plans. He never returned to base, and neither he nor his plane was ever seen again.

Never Join a Cult

Randy Leach attended a high school house party in 1988 and never made it home. He disappeared, and no one knows what happened. What makes the story even creepier is that in the days leading up to the party, there were rumors of satanic cult activity in the area.

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When investigators arrived at the party site to search for clues to explain his disappearance, the place had been thoroughly cleaned — perhaps too thoroughly. It then burned to the ground, forever hiding whatever secrets it held. In the years that followed, people who worked with investigators on the case were found dead. The case remains an unsolved mystery.

Roanoke

The tale of the mysterious American colony is well known in historical circles, but it continues to puzzle scholars to this day. In 1587, more settlers arrived in the North Carolina colony, only to find it empty. Clothes and supplies were left intact in houses, and there were no signs of a battle, famine or disease. Even food was well stocked.

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The word "CROATOAN" was carved into a wooden gate post and served as the only clue to explain what happened. In actuality, it explained nothing, as the word is not from a known language and has never been translated. Historians have theories, but nothing definitive has been proven..

Ghost Stories

Disappearance stories usually involve people (and sometimes pets), but ghosts and monsters can disappear too. This story is about just such a case, although whether the disappearance involved a human or a monster is hard to say.

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In Massachusetts between 1939 and 1945, a small town was terrorized by a creature they called the "Black Flash." The humanoid creature, dressed all in black, would appear and growl menacingly before running away. It was also once seen leaping a 10-foot fence. One day, a man threw boiling water at the creature, and it ran away screaming, never to be seen again.

Unfortunate Retirement

Even World War veterans can disappear, and this particular disappearance is bizarre for a variety of reasons. Jim Thompson served his country as an OSS agent during World War II and retired to Thailand after his time in the military. That may seem like a relaxing and scenic place to spend your days, but the end of his story is murkier than expected.

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One day in 1967, Jim went for a walk in the Highlands, a seemingly innocuous and normal activity — but he never returned. Even after officials conducted one of the largest searches in the country, he wasn’t found, and the mystery of his disappearance is still unsolved.

Ghost Ship

When you hear "ghost ship," you probably think of pirate ships, but not all ghost ships belong to that historical era. One particular ghost ship existed a mere 64 years ago. The MV Joyita set sail in 1955 with 25 people on board, a combination of crew and passengers.

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She never arrived at her destination, and no one received a distress signal from the ship. Five weeks later, the ship was found with no one aboard, and no sign of anyone dying on board. The rescue crew found that the radio was tuned to the distress radio frequency but had faulty wiring. No other clues were found on the abandoned ship.

Mystery Train

"Moving pictures" are a part of daily life now, from movies to videos on Facebook and GIFs in text messages. The inventor of the very first technical moving picture, however, Louis Le Prince, doesn't get the credit he deserves, probably due to his untimely — and bizarre — disappearance.

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The Frenchman was a well-known inventor with a specialization in cameras from the 19th century. He created the first true moving picture. While on a train to Paris, he went into his cabin and never came back out. No one knows where he actually went or what could have caused his disappearance. His contributions to early film were lost along with him.

Amber

Although everyone is familiar with Amber Alerts, most people probably don’t know the story of the girl whose unfortunate fate led to the creation of the national system. Amber Hagerman was a 9-year-old Girl Scout in 1996 when she went for a ride on her bike and was kidnapped.

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A witness told police they saw a girl being forced into a black van, but the information didn't help authorities, and they searched in vain for the young girl. Her body was found several days later. Although Amber's killer was never found, her legacy lives on in the alert system that works to prevent more children from suffering her same fate.

Disappearance and a Murder

One tragedy is more than enough, but two tragedies in two days would be almost unbearable. That’s exactly what happened in South Dakota in 1994. Tina Marcotte got a flat tire on her way to work and called a friend to say her coworker, a man named Tom Kueter, was going to help her.

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She was never seen again, and no one knows what happened to her. Tom was questioned by police, of course, but he denied that Tina contacted him that morning. The very next day, Tom was found dead — run over by his own forklift. Some say it was a terrible coincidence, but others wonder if foul forces were at work.

A Sneaky Getaway

You would like to assume that once authorities have a criminal in custody, the criminal will stay in custody. That's not always the case, however. In 1993, Adam Emery was convicted of murder and was out on bail while awaiting formal sentencing. (What?!)

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Hours after his conviction, his car was discovered on Newport Bridge in Rhode Island. He was never found, although his wife's body was discovered in the bay nearly a year later. Some think the duo jumped to their deaths, but authorities believe Adam is still out there somewhere. Not surprisingly, he's not the only criminal to disappear while at large.

Ghost Town

You might picture a "ghost town" in the middle of the Wild West, full of tumbleweeds and phantom cowboys, but dry desert wastelands aren’t the only kind of ghost town in the real world. One ghost town, in particular, exists in the opposite type of landscape.

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Now known as the "Roswell of the North," an Inuit village was discovered by a fur trapper — except the village was completely empty. Food and clothing were still inside each home, suggesting that the people didn’t plan to leave, but there were no people to be found. The mystery of what happened to all the people who lived there is still unsolved.

An Unfortunate Family Outing

When one person disappears, it's a tragedy. What does that make it when a whole family disappears? One family in Oklahoma disappeared in 2014 after driving out to look at a piece of land they were interested in buying. The Jamisons' truck was found a few days later with their dog still inside, along with their wallets, IDs and more than $30,000 in cash.

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About a month later, their bodies — two parents and a daughter — were found by hunters in the woods. Despite discovering the bodies, authorities were unable to determine a cause of death. Numerous theories, from witchcraft to the witness protection program, have spread like wildfire, but no one knows exactly what happened to this family before they disappeared into the forest.

Gone Driving

Strange disappearances don't just affect normal, everyday people. High-profile people are also at risk, and their position doesn't necessarily lead to better outcomes for the investigation. In 2005, a district attorney from Pennsylvania named Ray Gricar called his girlfriend to tell her he was going for a drive.

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And that's about all anyone knows. If he mentioned where he was planning to go, no one could recall. One thing is certain: He never made it home. Some people suggested he could have been the victim of an enemy he made in his career. Regardless, his fame didn’t help him, and his disappearance was never solved.

Alien Abduction

Many alien abduction stories take place in a forest or in the countryside, where no one is around to witness the event. This potential abduction story is a little different, however. An Australian Air Force pilot named Frederich Valentich was on a routine flight in the fall of 1978, when he reported seeing an unidentified object in the sky above him.

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His superior officers were probably curious about the object, but, unfortunately, they never figured it out. Frederich disappeared after reporting the object and was never seen again, leaving his family and friends to wonder what happened.

Missing Child

Hearing the words "missing child" conjures a nightmare for parents everywhere. Even non-parents flinch away from the phrase. You hope to never hear the phrase related to your own loved ones, but one mother, in particular, was not so lucky.

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Young Paul Jepson, only eight years old, was playing by a pig stye on a farm when his mother left him for a few moments to continue some work she was doing. She returned quickly, but her son was gone. The child was never heard from again, and no one ever found out what happened to him.

Mystery Bodies

An unsolved disappearance typically means someone has gone missing and is never found. Sometimes, however, a body is found, but the disappearance still goes unsolved because no one can identify it. That’s what happened in a small town in North Dakota in 1915.

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Six bodies of people who had been bludgeoned to death were discovered in the attic of a man who had been sent to a mental hospital several years before and died in 1911. No one knows who the bodies were or why they were killed. The mystery remains unsolved to this day.

One Last Pack

If you were to imagine the last thing you would buy before disappearing off the face of the earth, would cigarettes make the cut? For 15-year-old Rachel Garden, a pack of cigarettes was the last thing she bought before disappearing forever — although she surely didn’t know it at the time.

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In 1980, the teenager was seen buying a pack at a local store in New Hampshire and was never seen again. She told her family she had plans with a friend, but the friend claims she didn’t know anything about any plans. No clues were ever found to explain her disappearance.

Prison Break

Alcatraz prison is widely known for being escape-proof, but that doesn't mean people haven't tried. In fact, many prisoners have attempted to break out — and many have died in the process. In the history of Alcatraz, only three prisoners’ fates remain unknown.

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In 1962, Frank Morris, John Anglin and Clarence Anglin escaped from their cells by drilling tunnels through the wall. That is all anyone knows about their escape. Their bodies were never found, but no trace of them was ever found on the mainland, either. Nearly 60 years later, the truth of what happened to the three men remains a mystery.

Gone Around a Bend

For most people, walking around a corner doesn't mean you could disappear off the face of the planet. If someone follows you around that corner, they would just expect to see you walking along on your merry way, right? This particular case proves there are exceptions to the rule.

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Witnesses saw Paula Welden walk around a bend on Long Trail in Vermont, but when they reached the bend themselves, she was gone. Nothing was ever discovered about her disappearance, even after an investigation took place, and she was never found.

A Man Most Unwanted

With all the press around the FBI's "Most Wanted" list and all the technology available, it’s hard to believe criminals can still run away from the law. Even when their information is publicized to the public and to the authorities, it still happens. Robert Fisher, for example, has seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth.

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In 2001, he killed his wife and children and has been on the run from the law ever since. Some people think he committed suicide, but more believe he simply disappeared to evade the authorities for the past 18 years.

An Investment in Death

This story might sound like something out of a movie, but it remains one of Alaska's biggest unsolved mysteries. In 1982, a large fishing boat called The Investor was seen in flames near the coast. When help arrived, the bodies of the owners, their daughters and their crew were found in the water.

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What was even more disturbing was the victims had been shot. Investigators attempted to prosecute a suspect for the ghastly crime, but they could not prove guilt. The case remains unsolved to this day, and the identity of the madman and the reasoning behind the attack may never be known.

Unhappily Ever After

Many people would like to believe that good things come to good people, and once someone has "made it," they are free and safe for life. Unfortunately, life has a way of reminding everyone this isn’t true.

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Solomon Northup, the author of Twelve Years a Slave, is known to have spent time on a book tour in 1857, but he disappeared sometime around 1863 without a trace. Theories include he was murdered for his abolitionist stance, killed while helping slaves escape on the Underground Railroad or sold back into slavery. However, no one knows the real reason he disappeared from public life.

No Safety in Numbers

You might think that being with your friends would provide some relative safety — or at least provide witnesses if something happens to you. Unfortunately for three friends in Missouri in the summer of 1992, that was not the case.

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Sherrill, Stacy and Suzie left a party to go to a friend's house and arrived there safely. However, they disappeared after that, and there were no witnesses to provide any inkling of what happened to them. Their belongings were found, but there were no clues as to where they went.

Disappearing in a Crowd

Despite what you might think when you’re in public, most people aren't paying that much attention to you — good news in some cases. Still, you would think people around you would notice if you got off a moving bus.

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As this story goes, that's not always the case. A man named James Tetford disappeared from his seat on a crowded bus, with plenty of passengers claiming to have seen him when the journey began. At their destination, however, he was nowhere to be found.

Conspiring to Abduct

Most conspiracy theories sound pretty outlandish, and the people propagating them seem a little off key. Every once in a while, however, a theory pops up that seems a little more believable than the rest. It certainly helps when there's some solid proof to corroborate the story, of course, and that's what happened in New York in 1826.

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At that point, the mysterious Freemasons had gained some influence in the United States, and a man named William Morgan was a rather outspoken author against them. One day, he simply disappeared. Most presume he was abducted by the very group he was critiquing, although nothing was ever proven. Sometimes, there are just too many coincidences to treat it like a conspiracy theory.

Trial By Fire

You might think finding a burned body is a fairly open and shut case of someone dying in a fire. Usually, that's correct, but not for one woman in Florida in 1957. Mary Reeser's body — or at least what remained of it — was discovered in her apartment, burned almost completely to ashes. Only pieces of her spine and lower leg remained.

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Now, here’s the weird part: The rest of her apartment was untouched by fire. Even the newspapers next to her body were unharmed. So how exactly was she completely cremated — a process that takes hours in an extremely hot fire — in her own home?