Unexplained disappearances

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Unexplained disappearance is the physical disappearance of people or other objects without apparent cause or reason.

Benjamin Bathurst[edit]

Benjamin Bathurst (born 1784) was a British diplomatic envoy who disappeared from the White Swan inn in the town of Perleberg, Germany, during the Napoleonic Wars. A reward of £1,000 was offered by the British government (a vast sum of money in those days - over £1.2 million in 2014) for information leading to his return and was doubled by Bathurst's family and even contributed to by Prince Frederick of Prussia, who took great interest in the case, to no avail. It was thought he may have been murdered by French espionage agents who were monitoring his activities, and Bathurst's family even went so far as to approach the Emperor Napoleon himself about the disappearance, who swore he knew nothing more about it than he had read in the newspapers. The town of Perleberg was also known to have a strong criminal element at the time and another theory was that he was snatched away and murdered, given that he was a man of obvious wealth. In 1852, forty-one years after Bathurst's disappearance, a male human skeleton with a fractured skull was discovered when a house some 300 m from the White Swan inn was demolished. Bathurst's sister travelled to Perleberg but was unable to identify the remains. Bathurst's disappearance is referenced in several works of science fiction and the paranormal, most of which describe him falling into a portal leading to some other place, time, or alternate timeline.

Mary Celeste[edit]

The Mary Celeste was a ship discovered in December 1872 abandoned and unmanned in the Atlantic. The crew were never seen or heard from again and what happened to them is the subject of much speculation. Their fate is regarded as one of the greatest maritime mysteries of all time.

Flannan Isles[edit]

The Flannan Isles mystery was the disappearance of three lighthouse keepers in 1900 who vanished from their duty stations, leaving behind equipment important to surviving the hostile conditions at that location and time of year. However, the official explanation for the disappearances was mundane, concluding that the men were swept out to sea by a freak wave.

Louis le Prince[edit]

Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince (born Metz 28 August 1841) was an inventor who shot the first moving pictures on paper film using a single lens camera. He has been heralded as the "Father of Cinematography" since 1930. He was never able to perform a planned public demonstration in the United States because he mysteriously vanished from a train on 16 September 1890.[1] His body and luggage were never found, but, over a century later, a police archive was found to contain a photograph of a drowned man who could have been him.[2]

Ambrose Bierce[edit]

Ambrose Bierce (born 1842) was an American editorialist, journalist, short-story writer and satirist. Today, he is best known for his short story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" and his satirical dictionary The Devil's Dictionary. In October 1913, the septuagenarian Bierce departed Washington, D.C., for a tour of his old Civil War battlefields. By December he had proceeded on through Louisiana and Texas, crossing by way of El Paso into Mexico, which was in the throes of revolution. After a last letter to a close friend, sent from there December 26, 1913, he vanished without a trace, becoming one of the most notable disappearances in American history. Investigations into his fate have proved fruitless and, despite an abundance of theories, his end remains shrouded in mystery.

Wallace Fard Muhammad[edit]

Wallace Fard, the founder of the Nation of Islam in the 1930s, disappeared in 1934. Sightings as late as 1976 in Chicago were reported.

Sir Charles Kingsford Smith[edit]

While attempting to break the England-Australia speed record, Charles Kingsford Smith together with his co-pilot Tommy Pethybridge disappeared in the Lady Southern Cross over the Andaman Sea in the early hours of 8 November, 1935. Their bodies have never been recovered.

Amelia Earhart[edit]

During an attempt to make a circumnavigational flight of the globe in 1937, Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island. Fascination with her life, career and disappearance continues to this day. No confirmed remains or debris have ever been found.

Raoul Wallenberg[edit]

In 1945, Raoul Wallenberg, a 32-year-old Swedish diplomat credited with saving the lives of at least 30,000 Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust, was arrested on espionage charges in Budapest following the arrival of the Soviet army. His subsequent fate remains a mystery despite hundreds of purported sightings in Soviet prisons, some as recent as the 1980s. In 2001, after 10 years of research, a Swedish-Russian panel concluded that Wallenberg probably died (most likely was executed) in Soviet custody on July 17, 1947, but to date no hard evidence has been found to confirm this. In 2010, evidence from Russian archives surfaced suggesting he was alive after the presumed execution date.[3]

B-47 disappearance[edit]

On 10 March 1956 four B-47 Stratojets left MacDill Air Force Base in Florida for a non-stop flight to Ben Guerir Air Base in Morocco. They completed their first aerial refueling without incident. After descending through cloud to begin their second refueling, over the Mediterranean Sea at 14,000 ft, one of the aircraft, manned by Captain Robert H. Hodgin (31, commander), Captain Gordon M. Insley (32, observer), and 2nd Lt. Ronald L. Kurtz (22, pilot), failed to make contact with the tanker. Neither the aircraft nor wreckage from it was ever found.

The Beaumont children[edit]

On Australia Day, 26 January 1966, Jane (9), Arnna (7) and Grand (4) Beaumont, disappeared while on an outing at Glenelg Beach, a suburb of Adelaide in South Australia. Despite massive media exposure, at the time and since, and one of the most extensive and most prolonged searches ever undertaken, there has been no sign of the Beaumont children since the day of their disappearance.

Lord Lucan[edit]

Richard John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan, popularly known as Lord Lucan, disappeared in the early hours of 8 November 1974, following the killing of Sandra Rivett, his children's nanny, the previous evening; he was named by an inquest jury as Rivett's murderer the following year. Despite a world-wide hunt, he was never found.

Bas Jan Ader[edit]

In 1975, Dutch artist, Bas Jan Ader disappeared in the Atlantic Ocean while sailing from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Ireland. Radio communication was maintained for 3 weeks then broke off. Months later, the boat he was travelling on was found off the coast of Ireland.

Frederick Valentich[edit]

Frederick Valentich disappeared in 1978 while piloting a Cessna 182L light aircraft over Bass Strait to King Island, Australia. In his last radio contact, Valentich reported an unusual aircraft was following his. No trace of Valentich or his aircraft was ever found, and an Australian Department of Transport investigation concluded that the reason for the disappearance could not be determined.

The Springfield Three[edit]

Main article: The Springfield Three

Sherrill Levitt, her daughter Suzie Streeter, and Suzie's friend Stacy McCall vanished on June 7, 1992, in Springfield, Missouri. On June 6, 1992, Stacy, 18, and Suzie, 19, graduated from Kickapoo High School. They had planned to go to White Water, a water park in Branson, Missouri, the following day. The two girls planned to stay at another friend's house but changed their minds when the house became too crowded with out-of-town relatives. After a graduation party, the two girls arrived at Sherrill and Suzie's house at around 2:00 am. Earlier, Sherill had called a friend and was busy painting a chest of drawers at around 11:30 that night. That was the last time any of the three women were heard from. At around 9:00 a.m., a friend of Stacy and Suzie's came to pick them up to go to White Water but found none of the women. There was a shattered porch light, so she and her boyfriend cleaned it up as an act of kindness. They thought that they had already left the house, but they never showed up at the water park. Nothing appeared to be stolen from the house. The women's purses, makeup, cars, jewelry, and clothing were still there. Neighbors heard no strange noises coming from the area that night. Police have received 5,000 tips, scoured the area of the Ozarks, and made pleas to return the girls safely, to no avail. People from the area call this case the "three missing women."

Upali Wijewardene[edit]

Upali Wijewardene, a well-known Sri Lankan businessman, disappeared on 13 February 1983 on a flight from Subang international Airport (Malaysia) to Sri Lanka in his private jet.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370[edit]

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was a scheduled international passenger flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing that lost contact with air traffic control on 8 March 2014, less than an hour after takeoff. The aircraft, a Boeing 777-200ER, was carrying 12 Malaysian crew members and 227 passengers from 14 nations. There has been no confirmation of any flight debris and no crash site has been found.



Main article: Fairy

There are several tales of people vanishing at the hands of fairies, pixies and other supernatural folk. An example is the tale of Jan Coo, who was said to have vanished after being called away from his Dartmoor home by a mysterious voice. This story would appear to be a warning against wandering away from safety on the dangerous moor, woven into a tale involving the little people to make a better story.

Typical tales of fairy kidnapping are told by William Butler Yeats in his book, Mythologies.[4] Yeats describes how many stories of fairy kidnappings involve newborn babies or newlyweds being carried off by the fairies. In one such story, a young newly-wed man met a band of fairies who had stolen his wife for their chief to marry. The fairies appeared at first to be mortal men, but the young man realized the truth when he saw them carry his wife away.


Many accounts of mysterious vanishings contain a similar narrative, and a similar lack of evidence that those involved ever existed, and can in many cases be dismissed as new versions of older hoaxes or variations on fictional accounts.[5]

David Lang and Oliver Larch[edit]

The disappearance stories of David Lang and Oliver Larch are commonly cited hoax examples.

According to the stories surrounding him, on 23 September 1880, Lang, of Gallatin, Tennessee, was walking across the grounds of his farm to meet "Judge" August Peck, who was approaching his farm in a horse and buggy, when Lang vanished midstep and in full view of the judge, his wife Chanel and two children, and the judge's brother-in-law. The ground around where Lang had been walking was searched in case he had fallen into a concealed hole, but no trace was found. The story further states that Lang's children later called out to him and heard a disembodied voice calling as if from a great distance.[6][7]

The story of David Lang was published in Fate magazine by journalist Stuart Palmer,[8] who claimed that he had been told the story by Lang's daughter. However, no trace of David Lang or his family (including his apparent daughter) was ever found in any records of that period, and the entire article was later determined to be a hoax likely inspired by the short story "The Difficulty of Crossing a Field" by Ambrose Bierce (1909), collected in his book Can Such Things Be?.[5] In 1999, the modern composer David Lang based an opera on Bierce's story.[9] (The story has also become a popular urban legend).

The story of Oliver Larch (sometimes known as Lerch or Thomas) follows a pattern similar to that of David Lang. According to the narrative, Larch was on his way to collect water from a well one winter when he vanished, leaving nothing behind but a trail of footprints in the snow which terminated abruptly and a series of terrible cries for help such as "Help, they've got me!" that appeared to come from above. Larch's story was later found to be a variation on "Charles Ashmore's Trail" published in 1893 by Ambrose Bierce. In some versions, Larch's story is set in late 19th century Indiana; in others, it is set in North Wales.[10] One particular recurring variation was of an Oliver Thomas of Rhayader, Radnorshire, mid-Wales, with the date given as 1909.


American paranormal researcher and ufologist Jerome Clark notes that some areas, such as the Bermuda Triangle, which have a reputation as sites of frequent vanishings, do not in fact have significantly more instances than other areas with similar geographic, tidal or meteorological conditions.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ BBC Education – Local Heroes Le Prince Biography, BBC, archived on 1999-11-28
  2. ^ "Pioneers of Early Cinema: 1, AIMÉ AUGUSTIN LE PRINCE (1841-1890?)" (PDF). www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk. p. 2. Retrieved 2012-11-25. "... it has been claimed that a photograph of a drowned man in the Paris police archives is that of Le Prince." 
  3. ^ "Archives Throw Doubt on Wallenberg Death Date". The New York Times. April 1, 2010. Retrieved July 3, 2012. 
  4. ^ Yeats, William (2003). Mythologies. Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger Publishing. pp. 70–76. ISBN 0-7661-4500-X. 
  5. ^ a b c Clark, Jerome (1993). Unexplained! 347 Strange Sightings, Incredible Occurrences, and Puzzling Physical Phenomena. Detroit: Visible Ink Press. ISBN 0-8103-9436-7. 
  6. ^ Wilkins, Harold T. (1958). Strange Mysteries of Time and Space. 
  7. ^ Edwards, Frank (1959). Stranger Than Science. ISBN 0-8216-2513-6. 
  8. ^ Palmer, Stuart (July 1953). "How Lost Was My Father?". Fate Magazine. 
  9. ^ Eric Valliere, "The Difficulty of Crossing a Field" Andante Magazine
  10. ^ Strange Disappearances website