Where Did They Go? Mysterious Disappearances That Still Puzzle the World

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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. 

1. Amelia Earhart 

Amelia Earhart
Image Credit: The Everett Collection | Canva.

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

Elizabeth II Replica - Roanoke Colony | DP
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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 

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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

D.B. Cooper
Image Credit: U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Public domain.

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

Malaysia Airlines
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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

Ambrose Bierce
Image Credit: Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature.

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

Jimmy Hoffa
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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

Lauren Spierer
Image Credit: Official Lauren Spierer Page.

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 

old sail boat
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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

Image Credit: Sachverhalt_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
Image Credit: Missing People in America.

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.

Most Dangerous Cities in the World, Ranked: Know Before You Go

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These are 10 most dangerous cities in the world, where stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage collide with alarming crime rates. We’re not saying don’t travel to these locations, but it’s important to be aware in order to stay safe.

Most Dangerous Cities in the World, Ranked: Know Before You Go

10 of the Most Dangerous Countries for Women Traveling Solo

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Sadly, there are still places where female travelers face a heightened risk of violence and harassment. As a result, it’s more important than ever to prioritize the safety of women on the road. To help you plan your next adventure with confidence, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 most dangerous countries for solo female travelers to avoid.

10 of the Most Dangerous Countries for Women Traveling Solo

7 Most Dangerous Countries to Travel With Your Kids Today

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Traveling worldwide is one of the most incredible experiences adults can give to children in their families. Interacting with other cultures is a priceless gift that creates memories for years to come.

Unfortunately, there are places where tourist travel is unsafe, especially with children, because of geopolitical concerns, crime, climate, and gang activity. So, if planning a family trip abroad, be wary of traveling to countries with high tourist safety risks.

7 Most Dangerous Countries to Travel With Your Kids Today

Could You Have Done What Lewis and Clark Did? Probably Not and Here’s Why

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Lots of people are into hiking, although very few have the stamina to do what Lewis and Clark did. Can you even imagine making an 8,000-mile cross-country trek into unchartered territory? Take a minute to explore these 12 riveting realities of the Lewis and Clark expedition that will leave you questioning your own survival skills.

Could You Have Done What Lewis and Clark Did? Probably Not and Here’s Why

Facts About the “Greatest Generation” That Prove How Much We Owe Them

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Every generation leaves its mark on history, but the Greatest Generation—those who faced the challenges of the early 20th century head-on—did more than just that. They carved out the world as we know it today. We owe them a lot, not just for their courage and resilience but for setting a precedent that still guides us when dealing with life’s obstacles.

Facts About the “Greatest Generation” That Prove How Much We Owe Them

Featured image credit: The Everett Collection

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Karee Blunt is a nationally syndicated travel journalist, focused on discovering destinations and experiences that captivate and inspire others through her writing. She is also the founder of Our Woven Journey, a travel site focused on inspiring others to create memory-making adventures with their loved ones. Karee is passionate about encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and live the life they dream of. She is the mother of six kids, including four through adoption, and lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. You can learn more about Karee on her about me page.