Unexplained disappearances: Wikis


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

Numerous hypotheses surround unexplained disappearances, ranging from the mundane, such as a simple hoax, to the extraordinary.


Famous disappearances


1809: Benjamin Bathurst

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) 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 activity, 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 of the day. 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.

1872: Mary Celeste

The Mary Celeste was a ship famously discovered 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.

1900: Flannan Isles

The Flannan Isles mystery was the disappearance of three lighthouse keepers 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.

1914: Ambrose Bierce

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. In Ciudad Juárez he joined Pancho Villa's army as an observer, and in that role participated in the battle of Tierra Blanca. Bierce is known to have accompanied Villa's army as far as the city of Chihuahua. After a last letter to a close friend, sent from there December 26, 1913, he vanished without a trace, becoming one of the most famous disappearances in American literary history. Several writers have speculated that he headed north to the Grand Canyon, found a remote spot there and shot himself, though no evidence exists to support this view. All investigations into his fate have proved fruitless, and despite an abundance of theories his end remains shrouded in mystery.

1937: Amelia Earhart

During an attempt to make a circumnavigational flight of the globe in 1937, Amelia Earhart disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island. Fascination with her life, career and disappearance continues to this day.

1945: Flight 19

Flight 19 was a United States Navy training flight from Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers and 14 airmen were forced to ditch in the Atlantic in high winds and heavy seas after becoming disorientated and running out of fuel at night. A PBM Mariner flying boat which exploded in midair and its 13 crew were lost during the search for Flight 19. No bodies were recovered, nor wreckage from either aircraft. The disappearance of Flight 19 is popularly associated with the Bermuda Triangle.

1978: Frederick Valentich

Frederick Valentich disappeared 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, and his last words were "It is hovering and it's not an aircraft". 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.


Mary Rose

Mary Rose is a play by James M. Barrie (author of Peter Pan) which tells the bizarre fictional story of a girl who vanishes twice. As a child, Mary Rose's father takes her to a remote Scottish island. While she is briefly out of her father's sight, Mary Rose vanishes. The entire island is searched exhaustively. Twenty-one days later, Mary Rose reappears as mysteriously as she disappeared ... but she shows no effects of having been gone for three weeks, and she has no knowledge of any gap or missing time. Years later, as a young wife and mother, the adult Mary Rose persuades her husband to take her to the same island. Again she vanishes: this time for a period of decades. When she is found again, she is not a single day older and has no awareness of the passage of time. In the interim, her son has grown to adulthood and is now physically older than his mother.

Picnic at Hanging Rock

Picnic at Hanging Rock (and its successful film) is about a group of schoolgirls who disappear in mysterious circumstances is often thought to be a true story. This belief was propagated by Joan Lindsay, the author of the fictional book: there are no newspaper accounts of the event, nor any record of search parties. Neither had anybody searched for the girls between the supposed disappearance and the book's publication - a gap of over sixty years.

[1]; "When hearing the news that the story never really happened, people have broken down in tears and thrown hysterics. "They obviously can't handle the truth," says one website [2]. There is obviously, in some people, a need for mystery."

The Unreals

The Unreals, a 2007 sci-fi/fantasy novel by Donald Jeffries, begins with the mysterious disappearance of the main character's grandfather, and the subject of disappearances in general is central to the story (with Ambrose Bierce playing a prominent role).

The X-Files

Samantha Mulder, sister of Fox Mulder, is one of the central characters in the TV series The X-Files, and her disappearance plays a central role in the mythology of the series. Much of Mulder's obsession with the paranormal, particularly aliens, is explained by reference to Samantha's disappearance and his belief that she was abducted by aliens. The mystery of her disappearance is also used as a recurring plot line with Mulder occasionally forming, and then usually rejecting, different theories about the true nature of her disappearance.



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.[1] 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.


There are also many tales of sailors and fishermen being seduced or abducted by mermaids which are said to lure men away from land by singing. The mermaid of legend perhaps dates back to Classical times (c.f. Aphrodite rising from the sea), and the comb and mirror are stated in Anna Franklin's The Encyclopedia of Fairies (Paper Tiger, 2004) to signify the vulva. Thus the sexual nature of the mermaid seems a long-running theme, perhaps linked to the possibilities of temptation while at sea.

A very similar scenario is noted in the modern Egyptian folklore tale Al Naddaha.

Celtic legends exist of the Kelpie. This is a horse which, once harnessed or mounted, leaps into the nearest body of water, taking its human captor with it - never to be seen again. Similar stories appear in Scandinavia.


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.[2]

David Lang and Oliver Larch

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 mid-step and in full view of the judge, his wife Chanel and his 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.[3][4]

The story of David Lang was published in Fate magazine by journalist Stuart Palmer[5], who claimed that he had been told the story by Lang's daughter. However, no trace of David Lang nor 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 Difficulties of Crossing a Field" by Ambrose Bierce (1909), collected in his book Can Such Things Be?.[2] In 1999, the modern composer David Lang based an opera on Bierce's story.[6] (The story has also become a popular urban legend).

The story of Oliver Larch (Sometime known as Lerch or Thomas) follows a similar pattern 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.[7] One particular recurring variation was 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.[2]

The Norfolk Regiment

The story of soldiers disappearing into a strange cloud during the battle of Gallipoli in 1915 is a tale of spurious origin. According to the story, three observers from the New Zealand Army claimed that on an almost cloudless, breezy day, a loaf-shaped cloud stayed stationary over Hill 60, partly obscuring it. They watched the unit (usually said to be the "1/4th Norfolk Regiment") , march into the cloud. The observers waited for almost an hour, and then the mist seemed to rise, almost vertically, and joined the rest of the clouds in the sky. The soldiers who entered were gone, leaving no trace of their presence.[8]

However, the truth is more prosaic. The unit that took Hill 60 ( actually the 1/5th battalion of the Norfolk Regiment) did not vanish into a cloud, but went on to attack Turkish positions in the woods beyond Hill 60. They were cut off, and those that were not killed died later as prisoners of war; there were no survivors. This was indeed "a mysterious thing" in 1915; however their fate was ascertained in 1919, when the Graves Registration Unit searched the battle site.[9] The remains of 115 men of the battalion were found and buried in Azmak Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery.

Additionally, there are no official mentions of any kind of strange cloud during the battle; the New Zealand observers, if they were even there, were over four miles from the area; the wrong battalion is named, and called a regiment; the date is given as 21 August instead of the true date nine days earlier; and the story is not even told until 50 years after the war. [10]

The story probably has its origin in a paragraph from The Final Report of the Dardanelles Commission:

By some freak of nature Suvla Bay and Plain were wrapped in a strange mist on the afternoon of 21 August. This was sheer bad luck as we had reckoned on the enemy's gunners being blinded by the declining sun and upon the Turk's trenches being shown up by the evening sun with singular clearness. Actually, we could hardly see the enemy lines this afternoon, whereas to the westward targets stood out in strong relief against the luminous light.

The "Vanished Battalion" of the Norfolks (including men from Sandringham, the royal estate near King's Lynn) were the subject of a BBC feature-length drama All the King's Men in 1999. Russian heavy metal band Aria composed the song "Farewell Norfolk" ("Прощай Норфолк"), based on this story, for Krov za Krov album.


Unexplained disappearances are often assumed, by some, to have paranormal or supernatural explanations. In some cases, people are said to have disappeared into thin air in full view of witnesses, while in others, witnesses have reported finding evidence related to a missing person, such as a trail of footprints that suddenly ends inexplicably.[2]

The existence of the phenomena of paranormal vanishing is debatable. Many cases have been shown to be spurious, and other incidents are open to interpretation. The idea of paranormal vanishing is a popular trope, and many examples of it can be found in folklore and fiction.

Alternate dimension hypotheses

Writer John Keel theorized that many alleged paranormal disappearances might be the result of tears in the fabric of reality, with people or objects somehow passing through a hole out of our known set of dimensions and into another, causing them to become out of step with our world in terms of time or space, and thus causing them to appear to vanish.[2][11] Keel's perspective is shared by Hungarian writer Nandor Fodor, who related the phenomena to alleged incidents of teleportation, and loosely described the process as "falling into the fourth dimension".[12]

In his book Paradox Nicholas R. Nelson proposes that there are certain locations around the globe that are linked to magnetic vortexes, or where the boundaries between our set of dimensions and unknown dimensions are thin enough for people to pass through given the right conditions, accounting for disappearances and other alleged paranormal events. Nelson named the Oregon Vortex and the Bermuda Triangle as two such locations.[13]

Implausibility of alternate dimension hypotheses

The Earth rotates on its axis a rate equal to about 1000 miles per hour (mph) at the equator, and it travels through space at over 67,100 mph (108,000 kilometers per hour) while circling the Sun. In addition, the entire Solar System, with the Sun, is traveling through space at 137 miles per second, or about 492,000 mph (220 kilometers per second), while circling the Galactic core. Furthermore, the Galaxy itself, and our Solar System with it, is moving through space at 373 miles per second, or about 1.34 million miles per hour (600 kilometers per second), roughly speaking. Therefore the Earth travels at that speed (373 miles per second) in addition to all of the other speeds at which it moves through space with the Sun, around the Sun, and in its own rotation. So, our planet is looping around the Galaxy while simultaneously hurtling through space at 373 miles per second while whizzing around the Sun and spinning like a top. The notion that certain locations on the surface of this planet can be "linked to magnetic vortexes" in another dimension is so implausible as to be essentially ludicrous. (See related articles on Earth, Solar System, and Galaxy).

Time slip hypotheses

A time slip is an alleged paranormal phenomenon in which a person, or group of people, travel through time through supernatural (rather than technological) means. As with all paranormal phenomena, the objective reality of such experiences is disputed.

See also


  1. ^ Yeats, William (2003). Mythologies. Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger Publishing. pp. 70–76. ISBN 0-7661-4500-X.  
  2. ^ a b c d e Clark, Jerome (1993). Unexplained! 347 Strange Sightings, Incredible Occurrences, and Puzzling Physical Phenomena. Detroit: Visible Ink Press. ISBN 0-8103-9436-7.  
  3. ^ Wilkins, Harold T. (1958). Strange Mysteries of Time and Space.  
  4. ^ Edwards, Frank (1959). Stranger Than Science.  
  5. ^ Palmer, Stuart (July 1953). "How Lost Was My Father?". Fate Magazine.  
  6. ^ Eric Valliere, "The Difficulty of Crossing a Field" Andante Magazine
  7. ^ Strange Disappearances website
  8. ^ World War 1
  9. ^ Vanished Battalion Sandringham 1/5th Norfolk
  10. ^ Paul Begg: "Lost, Believed Kidnapped" in Out of this World ISBN 0-356-17959-1
  11. ^ Keel, John (1971). Our Haunted Planet. Fawcett Crest. ISBN B000EIKKJY.  
  12. ^ Fodor, Nandor (1962). Mind Over Space. The Citadel Press. ISBN B0007E1Y1I.  
  13. ^ Nelson, Nicholas R (1980). Paradox a Round Trip Through the Bermuda Triangle. New Horizon Printing. ISBN 0-8059-2707-7.  


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