Since the earliest days of civilization people have mysteriously vanished without trace. Many are presumably the victims of crime, accidents or simple bad-luck witnessed by no-one. In modern times, with the advanced investigative abilities of law enforcement these strange events continue to occur, and with the advent of flight and mass transportation in the last century another layer of inexplicable disappearances has been added to this unexplained phenomenon.
Tales abound of mysterious disappearances, many of them have been re-told numerous times with no new evidence being offered, and many of the more bizarre tales do not stand up to serious analysis and are more likely to be fictional tales and urban legends that have gained an air of believability over decades of re-telling. But there are a few disappearances, of individuals, groups and machines that have been thoroughly investigated over time, and yet still remain truly inexplicable. The following disappearances, all taking place over the last century or so, have been extensively investigated, yet they still remain the most enigmatic disappearances of all.
#10 – The Actress that Vanished – Jean Spangler
Jean Spangler was a dancer, model and occasional actress in Hollywood in the 1940’s, but one day in 1949 she disappeared without trace. Jean left her home in Los Angeles one evening, leaving her daughter with her sister-in-law and was due to meet her ex-husband and then go on to a film shoot. Jean never made it to the movie set, instead she disappeared after she was last sighted outside a store near her home, where she appeared to be waiting for someone. Her ex-husband was questioned and he had not seen her either. Investigating detectives were baffled until Jean’s purse was found in a park, with torn straps as if it had been ripped away from her. There was a note in the purse addressed to ‘Kirk’ that read ‘Can’t wait any longer, Going to see Dr. Scott’. It suggested that Jean had been planning an abortion, which was illegal at the time, and she had recently been seeing a boyfriend named Kirk, but he had never been seen by her friends. A long investigation, which even saw a $1,000 reward offered for information never revealed any further clues to Jean’s disappearance and she is still listed as missing and the case remains open to this day.
#9 – The Missing Prime Minister – Harold Holt
The name Harold Holt is barely known today, which is somewhat surprising considering that he was the 17th Prime Minister of Australia, serving in the role from 1966 to 1967. His term in office of only one year is because 1967 is when Harold disappeared without trace from Cheviot Beach, in Victoria, Australia and was never seen again. It is believed by some that Holt drowned at sea, which would be surprising considering his known proficiency as an exceptionally strong swimmer. He could possibly have been attacked by a shark, but many others believe the Prime Minister was murdered, possibly for his strong anti-war stance and opposition to the War in Vietnam. His time in office was also the subject of much controversy amid scandalous corruption allegations, and without a doubt there were many in Australian politics who were quietly glad when Holt vanished without a trace. Despite several researchers studying the facts, and witness statements from the many members of the huge search party that scoured the area after his disappearance, no clear proof has ever been forthcoming as to what actually happened to Harold Holt.
#8 – The Disappearance of Rebecca Coriam
Rebecca Coriam was a crew member on the cruise ship ‘Disney Wonder’ as it toured the coast of Mexico in the Pacific Ocean in March 2011. Although known for her cheerful demeanor and positive outlook on life, Rebecca disappeared from the ship early one morning after a mysterious telephone conversation that left her clearly distraught. Investigations by the police turned up no conclusive answer as to what happened to her, other than CCTV footage of Rebecca during the call and the suggestion that she had slipped overboard. Rebecca’s parents later heard from her bank that there had been activity on her credit card weeks after her disappearance, and her Facebook password had also been changed. Determined to find the truth a journalist made inquiries of the ships crew and claimed that many of them alleged Disney was complicit in a cover up of the true events of the case, with allegations that the entire ship was covered by CCTV cameras and Disney had a tape that showed exactly what happened. Despite further questions from the Coriam family the case remains confused and the official investigation appears to be perfunctory at best. Questions have been asked and Disney criticized in the British parliament over the case, but to date the full story is still shrouded in mystery.
#7 – Ambrose Brierce – The Missing Writer
Ambrose Bierce was a celebrated and sometimes controversial writer known for his cynicism and talented storytelling. He had witnessed incredible horrors in the American Civil War, where he had served with distinction and great honor for his acts of incredible bravery, but the experience left him sardonic, somewhat misanthropic and earned him the nickname ‘Bitter Bierce’. Also famed for his influential journalistic work Ambrose traveled to Mexico in 1913 at the age of 70 to experience the Mexican Revolution for himself, where he disappeared without trace within the year. All attempts to unravel his last actions have been left confused by a wealth of contradictory reports and despite several well-researched investigations, his disappearance remains one of the most famous in American history.
#6 – What Happened To Judge Crater?
Joseph Force Crater was a New York Supreme Court Justice who disappeared without trace from the center of New York City without trace one night in August 1930. Judge Crater was a well-known and controversial figure, occasionally embroiled in political scandal, who had left his wife and home in Maine upon getting a phone call. He told his wife that he needed to go back to New York City to work things out but he offered no further details. In New York the next day he spent time destroying some correspondence before he cashed two checks amounting to $5,150, equivalent to over $70,000 today. He had some food with a lawyer friend that evening, apparently in good spirits, left the restaurant, and simply vanished into thin air. Ten days later his wife reported him missing and a high-profile search for the Judge began, but after months, several inconclusive leads and a massive investigation no new evidence regarding his disappearance ever emerged. The case become one of the most high-profile missing persons cases of the 20th century but Judge Crater was never seen or heard from again, the case was eventually closed in 1979.
#5 – The Missing Sodder Children
On Christmas Eve 1945, the family home of George and Jennie Sodder erupted into flames. Forced to escape the inferno, the couple had no choice but to leave five of their ten children to perish in the blaze as the stairway was blocked. It was a terrible tragedy, but for George and Jennie Sodder it was the beginning of a nightmare lasting until the end of their lives. When the volunteer staffed local fire department eventually damped down the smouldering ashes the following morning, no remains of the five younger children could be found and their parents became convinced that they had been kidnapped by persons unknown. George was a vocal opponent of Benito Mussolini and his strongly worded views had earned him several enemies in the tightly knit Italian community of Fayette, West Virginia. On the night of the fire several strange events had occurred such as an unusual telephone call and strange banging noises on the roof, George also believed that the fire, attributed to electrical faults despite his recent re-wiring of the property was a clear case of arson. Until their respective deaths in 1969 and 1989, George and Jennie turned the site of their former home into a memorial garden and put up a billboard offering a reward for information about the missing children, but all to no avail. The last surviving member of the household, Sylvia Sodder Paxton continues to search for the truth about her missing siblings to this day.
#4 – The Kinross Incident
Pilot Lieutenant Felix Moncla Jr. and his radar operator Lieutenant Robert L. Wilson were sent to intercept an unknown radar return over Lake Superior on November 23rd 1953. Air Defense Command watched as Moncla’s F-89C Scorpion jet closed on the object, and then appeared to merge with it. Suspecting that the Scorpion had either flown above or below the object they expected to see the Scorpion’s presence on the radar re-appear on the other side, but it never did. Fearing a possible collision a large-scale search and rescue operation was launched, but no trace of Moncla’s plane was ever discovered. The US Air Force investigation claimed that the unknown blip was a Canadian C-47 Skytrain that was travelling off course, but the RCAF denied that possibility strenuously. Despite many searches no trace of the Scorpion has ever been found, and the events of that day remain completely unexplained.
#3 – The Plane that Vanished – Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
Flight M370 disappeared en-route from Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia to Beijing, China on March 8th 2014 in unusual circumstances with 239 passengers and crew on board. The Boeing 777-200ER is known to have veered considerably off course before the transponder that enabled the plane to be tracked was mysteriously turned off. Despite a search lasting almost three years that has extensively looked for remains of the plane over a quarter of a million square miles, only a few small pieces of wreckage have been found, and the events that led up to the planes disappearance remain a perplexing mystery. In January 2017 Authorities in Malaysia announced that the search, that had so far cost over $50 million dollars was to be ended, to the protests of the relatives of those on board still desperately searching for answers.
#2 – The Missing Scientist – Ettore Majorana
True intellectual giants are rare and remarkable, but Ettore Majorna, born in 1906, was without a doubt an exceptionally outstanding scientist. The young Italian physicist studied under Enrico Fermi, who compared his brilliant genius to Galileo and Newton, he worked with Heisenberg and Niels Bohr in Germany and was considered by all who met him as an incredible pioneer of theoretical physics. His genius was so far ahead of his time that even now his theories are still yet to be confirmed, yet in 1938, aged just 32 Majorana disappeared on a boat trip from Palermo to Naples. He sent an enigmatic note to a colleague explaining that he intended to disappear and was subsequently never seen again. Several explanations for his actions have been offered ever since, ranging from suicide, to murder to stop his collaboration in the construction of a nuclear weapon, but no-one knows for sure what happened to the incredible academic. In 2011 evidence was uncovered that suggested Ettore may have fled to Venezuela to live a life of quiet study and devotion to his work, but the true story of his eventual end will probably never be conclusively known.
#1 – Where Did Flight 19 Go?
Probably the best known case on our list is the disappearance of ‘Flight 19’, a term used to describe the group of five planes and a total of fourteen servicemen that disappeared without trace on December 5th 1945. The training flight of five Avenger Torpedo bombers left Fort Lauderdale, Florida and headed to the Bahamas region for a practice bombing run. The group, headed by Lieutenant Charles Taylor, an experienced World War II veteran pilot who had seen extensive combat in the Pacific Theatre during the war and with over 2,500 flying hours under his belt soon encountered difficulties. Compasses on the bombers stopped working and the group became lost, Taylor believed he was flying over the Florida Keys and ordered the men under his command to fly East to reach Florida, but the group never appeared back at base and soon radio contact was lost with Flight 19. Eventually a PBM-5 Mariner carrying thirteen crew left Fort Lauderdale to search for the missing planes, but it soon also lost radio contact and was believed to have inexplicably exploded in mid-air. Despite extensive investigations by both the Navy and independent researchers ever since, the exact reason for the disaster remains unclear, and the incident, that cost the lives of twenty-seven men soon led to the area now known as the Bermuda Triangle gaining it’s fearsome reputation.