When high-profile people disappear without a trace, it often enthralls fans and investigators. But sometimes, when everyday people disappear, it can be every bit as fascinating and puzzling. It’s also fascinating to us when ships or airplanes disappear. Here are some of history’s most mystifying disappearances, from public figures to normal citizens.
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1. Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart was already famous for her aviator skills when she decided to be the first woman to fly around the world. She completed a solo flight across the Atlantic in 1932, and in 1935, she flew alone from Hawaii to California. She and navigator Fred Noonan attempted to fly around the world in 1937. Their plane went missing over the Pacific Ocean and is still being searched for today.
2. Roanoke Colony
The Roanoke Colony, which used to be in what is now North Carolina, is well-known for disappearing without a trace. Governor John White established a community of 100 residents before returning to England for supplies. When he returned, everything was gone. There were no people or structures – they left only a tree with the mysterious word “Croatoan” carved on it. Was it an attack by Native Americans, a famine, or something more unusual?
3. Flight 19
Five Navy aircraft left U.S. Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Dec. 5, 1945, for a routine training flight. They were supposed to conduct bombing practice off a reef now in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and return to base after flying over Grand Bahama Island. Radio messages between the planes and the base reveal the pilots became confused and couldn’t find land. Their last message was, “It looks like we are entering white water… We’re completely lost.” Fourteen men on the planes died, and another 13 perished in the search for the planes.
4. D.B. Cooper
On Nov. 24, 1971, a man whose ticket said his name was Dan Cooper hijacked a Boeing 727 flying from Portland to Seattle. He ordered pilots to land at Seattle-Tacoma Airport, where he collected a ransom of $200,000 for the passengers and a parachute. He ordered the crew to take off again and jumped out of the plane at 10,000 feet. He was never seen again.
5. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The plane, passengers, and crew aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 were lost on March 8, 2014. It went missing soon after a normal handoff between air traffic control systems. Officials say that instead of going where it was supposed to go, the plane went back over the Malaysian Peninsula and toward the southern Indian Ocean. A multi-year, multi-country search occurred, but the plane was never found.
6. Ambrose Bierce
The stories of American author Ambrose Bierce partly inspired the first season of HBO’s True Detective. Bierce is the subject of a real-life riddle that will probably never be answered. Bierce told his friends and family in 1913, when he was in his 70s, that he was going to Mexico to join Pancho Villa’s movement. After writing a few letters from Mexico, Bierce was never seen or heard from again.
7. Jimmy Hoffa
One of the FBI’s longest-running organized crime investigations in Detroit began when prominent union leader Jimmy Hoffa vanished in 1975. His mysterious disappearance has fascinated the public for decades and inspired several Hollywood movies. But he hasn’t been seen in almost 40 years.
8. Lauren Spierer
The disappearance of Indiana University undergraduate Lauren Spierer is the worst nightmare of parents of college students. After a night of partying with friends at downtown Bloomington, Indiana, bars, the 20-year-old vanished in the early morning hours of June 4, 2011. Despite many dead ends, her family continues to employ investigators to find out what happened.
9. The Mary Celeste
On Dec. 4, 1872, the crew of a Canadian vessel, Dei Gratia, found the Mary Celeste floating unmanned on the Atlantic. The American ship still had all its cargo and most of its crew’s personal effects. It was missing a rowboat and a sail, and the last ship’s log entry was on Nov. 25. Despite many theories, it is still unknown what became of the crew of the Mary Celeste.
10. Lars Mittank
Lars Mittank is known as the “most famous missing person on YouTube.” Lars and his friends had flown from their home in Itzehoe, Germany, to the Bulgarian beach town of Golden Sands. There, he got in a fight and later began exhibiting strange behavior. He was injured in the fight, receiving a perforated eardrum and possibly a concussion. He had to stay back because the pressure changes in an airplane could further injure his ear. After checking into a hotel, he called his mother and told her he was being followed. He had to be cleared to fly by an airport doctor. He was nervous, shaky. He sprinted out of the airport and into the forest – CCTV video is the last time he was seen.
11. Barbara Bolick
Barbara Bolick, 55, and a family friend went on a trek in the Bitterroot Mountains in Montana on July 18, 2007. Jim Ramaker says he and Barbara, a fit and experienced hiker, went to an overlook for a snack, and then Barbara started back down the mountain while Jim took one final look at the scenery, and then she disappeared. Barbara has been missing for almost a decade, and nobody knows what happened to her.
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This article was produced by Our Woven Journey. Featured image credit: The Everett Collection