25 Most Mysterious and Unexplained Disappearances in History

Posted by , Updated on November 17, 2023

Every year, hundreds of families find themselves enveloped in uncertainty when a loved one goes missing. The statistics are shocking. In the US alone, over 600 000 people disappear annually. When looking at the rest of the world, those numbers skyrocket into the millions. And sometimes, it’s multiple people that go missing in one event. When Air Malaysia’s Flight 370 disappeared from the sky in March 2014, investigators could not provide answers to the tragedy, leaving more than two hundred families without closure. Sadly, these families weren’t unique. 

We’ve previously examined the strange disappearances of Amelia Earhart, DB Cooper, Maddie McCann, Jimmy Hoffa, and Mary Celeste’s crew, to name a few. Today we’re taking a look at 25 of the most mysterious and unexplained disappearances in history. For these families, closure remains unobtainable, and in many cases, even if we found the answers today, it would be too late.

25 Most Mysterious and Unexplained Disappearances in History


The Nina

The Ninahttp://www.oceansailingpodcast.com/my-adventures/2016/2/27/the-nina-goes-missing

The Nina was 85 years old when it mysteriously vanished in the summer of 2013. The boat had a long and illustrious history, including winning the “New York to Spain” race only a month after its debut. In 2013 the yacht was owned by David Dyche. He intended to transport his prized vessel from New Zealand to Newcastle, Australia. Dyche and his crew set out on their expedition in late May 2013. However, Nina never arrived at her destination. After several days of hoping that the wet and stormy weather caused the delay, New Zealand’s officials began the greatest maritime search in the country’s history. Despite the best efforts, all missions to locate Nina and her crew failed. The once-prized yacht is still officially missing. What is fascinating and noteworthy is the location of the disappearance. It is situated in the Bass Strait Triangle, a body of water that has “claimed” several ships since documented records of the area began.



Pickering’s Lost Boys

Pickering’s Lost Boyshttps://www.durhamregion.com/news/the-lost-boys-of-pickering-went-missing-28-years-ago/article_fcd9ec8c-8202-5a9e-9aea-656784662bc6.html

On March 17, 1995, six teenagers left a spring break party in Pickering, where they had drunk a significant amount of alcohol. It was the last time they were ever seen. Many thought the teenagers could have taken a motorboat from Frenchman’s Bay and headed out to Lake Ontario in their inebriated state. The theory was supported by a witness who informed police that the teenagers had told him they would ‘goof around’ on a boat. However, despite an extensive search, no bodies, boats, or clothing were ever discovered. In 2018, DNA testing revealed that a pair of Levi pants Jay Boyle was thought to have worn belonged to another missing teenager, providing no new clues about where the teens are or where their bodies may be.


Owen Parfitt

Owen Parfitthttps://www.historicmysteries.com/owen-parfitt/

The disappearance of Owen Parfitt from his sister’s front porch in the English countryside is not as well-known as Amelia Earhart’s disappearance in 1937, but it is undoubtedly more bizarre. In the summer of 1763 (or thereabouts – accounts disagree on the actual year), while living with his sister in the town of Shepton Mallet, the disabled 60-year-old Parfitt inexplicably vanished. He was last seen sitting on his favorite chair. He couldn’t have walked off as none of the farm workers across the field from the porch saw anyone come or go from Parfitt’s porch. He was there one second, and poof! Gone the next.


Barbara Bolick

Barbara Bolickhttp://missoulian.com/news/local/mystery-lingers-around-woman-s-disappearance/article_11cf437d-1f68-54f8-8277-e336dcd6e7f3.html

Barbara Bolick went hiking in the Bitterroot Mountains on July 18, 2007, with Jim Ramaker, a friend visiting from California. They were going to Bear Creek Overlook when Jim stopped to take in the scenery. Barbara was roughly 20 feet behind him at the time, but Jim reported that after turning away from her for less than a minute, he looked back and saw that she had vanished. A lengthy search of the area yielded no evidence of Barbara. Jim Ramaker’s story might seem ridiculous on the surface. However, he was reportedly very forthcoming with investigators, and because there is no indication that he did anything to Barbara, authorities did not consider him a suspect in her disappearance. It seemed reasonable that a guilty person would try to concoct a much better story than his victim simply disappearing into thin air. It’s been over 15 years, but officials have found no evidence of wrongdoing or any indication of what happened to Barbara Bolick.


Paula Jean Welden

Paula Jean Weldenhttps://www.newyorkalmanack.com/2022/09/1946-disappearance-of-paula-welden/

In 1946, Paula Jean Welden, an 18-year-old Bennington College sophomore, went for a walk and never returned. The search for Paula was centered around Vermont’s Long Trail but delivered no results. Unusual leads materialized: a waitress claimed she served a distressed girl that looked like Paula, and her father became a suspect himself after pursuing this lead. Several reports suggested Paula’s home life wasn’t as rosy as believed; she hadn’t returned home for Thanksgiving, possibly due to a fight. A local man later claimed that he knew where she had been buried – but couldn’t provide evidence. The case turned colder with time. As these things go, it wasn’t long before occult-related theories emerged, including the theories regarding the “Bennington Triangle,” even going so far as to suggest that extraterrestrial beings might have abducted Paula due to a unique energy in the forest.


James Edward Tedford

James Edward Tedfordhttps://medium.com/@yasminscherrer/how-could-he-vanish-into-thin-air-the-mysterious-disappearance-of-james-tedford-bennington-tri-81f6480b2c1a

After World War II, James and Pearl Tedford returned to Vermont. Upon James’ return to their rented residence after his second military stint in 1947, he discovered Pearl missing. His family only knew that she had last been seen walking to the store. Despite his searches, she was never found. Then, in 1949, James also vanished while on a bus passing through the Green Mountain Forest. All 14 passengers on the bus confirmed that he had been on the bus as they had all seen him sleeping. But he disappeared from his spot before their arrival while his bags remained stowed on the bus. The forest was known for creepy events, which added to the mystery of James Tedford’s disappearance.


First Lieutenant Alejandro Bello Silva

First Lieutenant Alejandro Bello Silvahttp://fly.historicwings.com/2013/03/more-lost-than-lieutenant-bello/

Believe it or not, there have been several accounts of people disappearing into strange white fogs or mist throughout our history. One such account is of Chilean Air Force pilot First Lieutenant Alejandro Bello Silva, who, in 1914, vanished into a weird mist and was never seen or heard from again. Witnesses saw the young but competent pilot taking part in exercises when his plane entered a “strange cloud formation.” They expected the plane to reappear seconds later, but he never reappeared. Despite an extensive search, neither the plane nor Silva was ever found. It was as if he had entered the cloud and vanished into thin air. The disappearance made national headlines in Chile, and the search for his aircraft was renewed periodically. Surprisingly, the story inspired a Chilean saying to describe persons who disappear while on their way somewhere – they are said to be “more lost than Lieutenant Bello.”


Lars Mittank

Lars Mittankhttps://www.crimeandinvestigation.co.uk/articles/vanished-lads-holiday-disappearance-lars-mittank

Lars Mittank holds the unfortunate title of “the most famous missing person on YouTube.” In July 2014, 28-year-old Lars Mittank of Germany traveled to Bulgaria to visit a friend. While partying on the beach, he got into a fistfight with some of the other tourists over football. Mittank ruptured his eardrum during the fight and was told not to fly home until it healed. During that time, Mittank found a room in a hostel in a poorer part of town and persuaded his pals to return to Germany without him. Mittank was terrified and paranoid after spending the night in the hostel. His mother received a frightened text from him, saying that he didn’t feel safe, that she should cancel his credit card, and that four unknown men were following him. According to the doctor, Lars arrived at his office for his appointment that day, but when he arrived, Lars jumped up and rushed out. He instantly headed to the airport and was caught on CCTV walking around the airport with his baggage. He walks off-screen, then is shown running out of the airport without his luggage, hopping over the fence, and fleeing into the forest. He was never seen or heard from again.



Frank Morris & The Anglin Brothers

Frank Morris & The Anglin Brothershttps://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-18404134

In June 1962, convicted convicts Frank Morris, Clarence Anglin, and his brother John Anglin joined a small group of men that escaped from Alcatraz. They escaped via ventilation ducts and used a makeshift raft to cross the water. Alcatraz, built in the mid-nineteenth century on a small island 1.25 miles off the coast of San Francisco, was initially used as a lighthouse and military jail. From 1934 through 1963, it served as a civilian prison, housing renowned figures such as Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly. During that time, 14 escape attempts involving 36 detainees were made. Six were shot and killed, 23 were apprehended, and four were verified drowned. No sign apart from bits and pieces of the raft and a few personal belongings of the men have ever been found. 


Nicole Morin

Nicole Morinhttp://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2010/08/01/nicole_morins_disappearance_still_haunts_her_family.html

Eight-year-old Nicole Morin left her mother’s penthouse apartment in the West Mall apartment building in Toronto, Ontario, on July 30, 1985. Nicole had arrangements to swim in the building’s pool with a friend after collecting the mail from the lobby area at 10:30 a.m. She greeted her mother and exited the apartment, but her friend buzzed the door again 15 minutes later to find out why Nicole hadn’t arrived. Nicole’s disappearance prompted one of the most extensive police investigations in Toronto history, but no trace of her was ever found. The most plausible explanation was that Nicole was abducted shortly after she left her apartment. Still, the building was 20 stories high, making it extremely difficult to get her out of there unnoticed. Authorities have never found any credible evidence to identify what happened to Nicole Morin nearly 30 years later.


Walter Collins

Walter Collinshttps://stmuscholars.org/the-disappearance-of-walter-collins-a-mothers-undying-hope-the-wineville-chicken-coop-case/

Clint Eastwood’s film Changeling, released in 2008, reignited attention to one of the 1920s’ most bizarre and heartbreaking crime stories. Christine Collins, a single mother, reported her nine-year-old son, Walter, missing from their Los Angeles home in March 1928. Five months later, the police returned “Walter” to Christine, but it wasn’t Walter, and she knew it. However, the LAPD rejected Christine’s complaints, even accusing her of bad mothering and placing her in a mental hospital. The actual Walter Collins was never found, and officials eventually concluded that he had been one of the many victims of convicted child murderer Gordon Stewart Northcott. It remains unclear why the police were so intent on covering up the boy’s disappearance that they delivered a different child back to Christine and tried to persuade her and everyone else that it was Walter.


Wallace D. Fard

Wallace Fardhttps://www.metrotimes.com/arts/mystery-man-2175649

The Nation of Islam (NOI) founder, Wallace D. Fard, ascended from being a silk vendor on Detroit’s streets to being a preacher and self-proclaimed saviour of all African American people. From 1930 until 1934, he had a short but very influential stint as NOI leader in Detroit and several run-ins with the law during this period. Though various myths about his origins abound, there is very little recorded biographical information about him. He claimed to have been born in Mecca, but the FBI’s investigations showed that he was born in New Zealand and lived the life of a juvenile scofflaw after he reached the United States. He vanished in 1934. The Nation of Islam celebrates him each year on February 26. They refer to him as “the Prophet” and believe him to be the incarnation of Allah.


Ben McDaniel

Ben McDanielhttps://www.scuba.com/blog/happened-ben-mcdaniel-unanswered-questions/

On August 18, 2010, Ben McDaniel, a thirty-year-old scuba diver, went diving in the underwater cave at Vortex Springs. He attempted to enter a risky cave area by tampering with a gate that restricted uncertified divers. Two employees were diving at the same time and saw what he was doing but decided to let him in. It took the employees two days to discover his vehicle hadn’t moved since he went diving, and they contacted the police. Recovery divers searched every nook and cranny of the cave but couldn’t find him. McDaniel’s parents offered a $30,000 reward to any diver willing to risk his life to go deeper into the cave in search of their son. Many believe that McDaniel drowned and his body had been buried under the sand. Others think he committed suicide and pressed himself into a tiny area beforehand, ensuring that no one would ever get him out.


Disappearance Of Harold Holt

Harold Holthttps://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-01/disappearance-harold-holt-inside-search-operation-australia/12817236

On December 17, 1967, all of Australia was bewildered by the disappearance of their prime minister, Harold Holt. Holt had gone swimming at Cheviot Beach near Melbourne and never returned. The Australian authorities launched one of modern history’s largest search and rescue missions. Holt was 59 years old and in good mental and physical health at the time of his disappearance. However, he fainted earlier in the year during a parliamentary hearing. People close to him also said Holt had a shoulder injury. Some speculate that Holt drowned in the Cheviot Beach riptides. Others think the prime minister was depressed and opted to end his life. Other conspiracy theories suggest that Holt was kidnapped by the Soviet Union or a Chinese submarine since he supported the Vietnam War. 


The Sodder Children

The Sodder Childrenhttps://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-children-who-went-up-in-smoke-172429802/

The Sodder family’s home was destroyed by fire on Christmas Eve, 1945. George and Jennie escaped with four of their children, believing the remaining five had perished in the fire. However, when firefighters arrived and investigated the house’s ruins, they discovered no evidence of the five missing children – no bones, teeth, or any other remains. There were several strange discoveries concerning the Sodder house. Their phone line, which was supposed to have been destroyed in the fire, was found to have been cut beforehand. In the days that followed, neither of their trucks would start. Officials suspected tampering. According to experts, the fire was not intense enough to incinerate bone. All the facts pointed to premeditation and, potentially, kidnapping. The surviving children of the Sodders have always maintained that the five missing children were kidnapped and are still alive.


The Inuit Community of Anjikuni Lake

Inuit Community of Anjikuni Lakehttps://www.historicmysteries.com/lake-anjikuni/

In November 1930, Joe Labelle came upon an Inuit community near Anjikuni Lake in Nunavut, Canada. There was no sign of the 30-person community, even though their food, fish supply, and possessions remained full and untouched. Labelle notified the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) at the nearest telegraph office. They dispatched a unit to the remote settlement. They stopped at the home of Armand Laurent, who eerily enough told them about an odd glimmering object that had flown over his land a few nights before heading toward Anjikuni Lake. When the RCMP made it to the Inuit community, they discovered it had been completely abandoned. On top of that, the graves on the outskirts of the village all appeared broken open and were missing their respective bodies. The police team eventually concluded that the Inuit had been absent almost eight weeks before Labelle arrived.


Lauren Spierer

Lauren Spiererhttps://www.wthr.com/article/news/local/saturday-marks-12-years-since-lauren-spierer-disappearance/531-8941a516-8a48-499e-b6d1-39249682e895

Twelve years ago, the disappearance of Indiana University student Lauren Spierer sent shockwaves across many American colleges. Authorities say the 20-year-old went missing after spending the early hours drinking at a downtown bar in Bloomington, Indiana. Her disappearance launched a national manhunt, prompting several celebrities, including comedian Stephen Colbert and reality star Kim Kardashian, to use social media to raise awareness about the young woman’s disappearance. Three lakes and two forests were sought out by the searchers, not to mention ninety-nine percent of all the Monroe County roads as well as the majority of publicly accessible land inside a 114-square-mile radius. However, investigators are still unable to trace her today, and countless leads have led to dead ends. 


The Sarah Joe

The Sarah Joehttps://www.historicmysteries.com/sarah-joe-mystery/

In February 1979, five friends left the shore of Maui on a small boat called the Sarah Joe for a fun day of fishing and motored into one of Hawaii’s most significant storms on record. When they did not return, a massive search was launched, but nothing was uncovered. A tragic story, but not unusual in the case of a maritime disaster. Then things got strange: a decade later, the Sarah Joe was discovered shipwrecked on the shores of one of the Marshall Islands, close to the grave of one of the five men. How did the man end up there? Who buried him? And where is the rest of the group? We may never know the answers.


The Missing 5th Batallion

Missing Regimenthttps://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofEngland/The-Lost-Sandringhams/

During WW1, an entire battalion of the British Army mysteriously vanished during a battle, leaving no trace behind. In 1965, a fellow soldier, Frederick Reichardt, shared his account of the strange brown cloud that lay in front of the soldiers as they marched into the forest. As the cloud moved away, there was only empty ground instead of the expected sight of hundreds of British soldiers. Hundreds of soldiers had seemingly disappeared without any noise or struggle. As you can imagine, his account led to weird theories on mass alien abductions. The most plausible explanation is that Colonel Beauchamp and the Sandringham unit were overwhelmed by their Turkish adversaries. As the Turks did not take prisoners, they were likely killed and then buried.


The Village Of Hoer Verde

Missing Village Hoer Verdehttp://www.unexplainable.net/info-theories/the-village-that-vanished.php

Some of the most unnatural disappearances are those that include whole groups of people. In February 1923, the 600 inhabitants of the Brazilian village of Hoer Verde vanished overnight. If they left their village willingly, they did so without taking any of their belongings or food. A small group of tourists discovered the abandoned village and contacted the local police, who found no trace of anyone or any indication of where the residents might have gone. The story doesn’t end there, however. The police did find a gun which was later confirmed to have been recently fired, as well as a puzzling note on a blackboard inside the school that read, “There is no salvation!” Apart from a few wild theories regarding mass alien abductions, most people believe that Brazil’s political situation and the ongoing revolution in some way led to their sudden disappearance.


Juan Martinez

Juan Martinezhttps://spainsnews.com/and-the-boy/

On June 25, 1986, a Volvo F12 truck carrying sulfuric acid had a tragic accident on Somosierra Mountain Pass in Madrid, Spain. The truck’s brakes failed, leading to a collision with an oncoming truck. The acid ended up spilled on the road. The cabin contained a man and woman, later identified as Andres Martinez and Carmen Gomez, who were both deceased. The couple had a 10-year-old son named Juan Pedro Martinez. Despite searches of the area, Juan Pedro was never located. Although it has been speculated that the acid disintegrated him, experts disagree, noting that traces of his body would have remained. The truck’s tachometer showed scheduled stops, but odd short stops occurred during the pass ascent. A witness saw a white Nissan van with a man and a blonde woman near the accident; the woman had claimed to be a nurse. Another account mentioned a Nordic-looking couple collecting something from the wreckage. 


Percy Harrison Fawcett

Percy Harrison Fawcetthttps://www.discoveryuk.com/mysteries/what-happened-to-colonel-percy-fawcett-and-the-lost-city-of-z/

Percy Fawcett went down in history as the man who vanished in the Amazon while looking for an ancient city called “z.” During preliminary explorations, Fawcett, his son Jack, and Raleigh Rimell, Jack’s close friend, discovered several promising discoveries. They set out from Cuiaba, their hometown. When they were about 250 miles from their starting point, Fawcett told his Brazilian assistants to return home and deliver a letter to his wife. Nothing was ever heard of Fawcett, his son, or Raleigh ever again. After a few years, a Swiss man claimed to have met Fawcett, now an elderly man. He assembled a group of reporters and led them to the location – only for the whole group to disappear. Many additional expeditions have been dispatched to look for traces of Fawcett and the others since, but they have all come up empty-handed.


Solomon Northup

Solomon Northuphttps://www.wsj.com/articles/BL-SEB-77834

Solomon Northup’s story is one of terrible adversity and incredible determination. Northup was born free in New York in 1808, but in 1841 he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. He was “owned” by a series of heartless owners until 1852 when he found a way to deliver messages to his family. His freedom was formally restored in 1853, and Northup went on to co-write the best-selling memoir Twelve Years a Slave. Fame waited around the corner, and Northup soon gave lectures all across the United States. Despite being charged with his kidnapping, his kidnappers were later cleared of all charges. It was at this point that Northup disappeared from the public eye. It has been speculated that he might have joined the Underground Railroad; however, his ultimate whereabouts and any details about his death were never discovered.


The Madagascar and its Passengers

The Madagascarhttp://maritime-connector.com/the-mysterious-ship-disappearances/

The Madagascar merchant ship journeyed from Melbourne to London in 1853 when it vanished. It was ferrying both passengers and cargo during its final journey. There are quite a few theories about what happened to the Madagascar, as with any missing ship. However, the story of the Madagascar is fascinating not only because it vanished but also because of events that transpired before the ship left Australia. The Madagascar was carrying 110 travellers, wool, grains, and two tons of gold when it went missing. On the day it left port, three passengers were suddenly arrested. Many believe they were part of a larger group of pirates that ultimately hijacked the ship and murdered the other passengers. To this day, the fate of the Madagascar remains unknown.


The Anasazi

Mysterious and Unexplained Disappearanceshttp://www.ancientpages.com/2015/09/20/the-anasazi-mystery-sophisticated-civilization-that-disappeared/

The Anasazi civilization is recognized as one of the oldest and most sophisticated cultures on the North American continent. In the late 13th century, the Anasazi abruptly abandoned their settlements, which included five-story buildings and up to 800 distinct rooms. The tribe simply vanished. Legend has it that the Anasazi disappeared because they were “going home!” The disappearance of these mystery people is of tremendous interest to those who believe in ancient alien theories, not least because of the associated myths and legends. These theorists also point to unusual patterns on the ruins of old Anasazi sites, such as circular lines resembling a spiral. According to mainstream research, the markings depict the Sun. Those who accept the traditions of the Anasazi “going home” believe the markings are gateways or stargates, which could explain how the group vanished.

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