25 Mysterious Disappearances Throughout History

Posted by , Updated on March 23, 2024

In this vast and expansive world, individuals can swiftly vanish without leaving behind any signs. It’s as if they are executing their own magical act. One instant they are present, and the next they’re nowhere to be seen. We can formulate theories and educated assumptions about their disappearance, but ultimately, we can never truly be certain of what transpired. One thing that stands out though, these cases are always truly intriguing. Let’s delve into 25 Mysterious Disappearances Throughout History.


Felix Moncla

Felix Moncla JrSource: http://www.nuforc.org

In November 1953, Felix Moncla was a United States Air Force pilot on assignment in Michigan at Kinross Airforce Base. One day, he was sent to check on an unidentified aircraft flying over Soo Locks in Lake Superior, which is restricted airspace. When he flew out there to check things out, the radar showed Moncla and the unidentified aircraft overlapping each other at one point. However, soon after, only one remained, and the UFO flew north and disappeared from the radar. No trace of Moncla or his aircraft remained and the encounter has been a mystery every since.


Richard Halliburton

Richard_HalliburtonSource: http://www.smithsonianmag.com

Richard Halliburton was a traveler, adventurer, and author much in the same vein as Amelia Earhart. He swam across the Panama Canal and traveled to exotic locations. For his last trip, he salvaged an old Chinese junk ship and planned to sail it from Hong Kong to San Francisco. However, during his travels, he mysteriously disappeared at sea. The US Navy undertook an extensive search and rescue mission but to no avail. In his last communication, he indicated he was facing a heavy storm. It’s likely the ship didn’t stand a chance.


Percy Fawcett

Percy FawcettSource: http://www.history.com

A well-known archeologist and British explorer, Percy Fawcett became obsessed with what he called “The Lost City of Z,” an ancient city buried deep in the Amazon. In 1925, with his son and son’s best friend, Fawcett set out to find what he considered his El Dorado. Tragically, all three mysteriously vanished without a trace. Many later explorers tried to track down Fawcett but with no luck. In recent years, one explorer discovered a tribe in the jungle had kept an oral tradition of a white man meeting with them. They warned him not to go any further because of another dangerous tribe, but he ignored them. They believe he was attacked by this tribe.


The Roanoke Colonists

RoanokeSource: http://www.history.com

In 1587, a large group of 115 British colonists landed at Roanoke Colony off the Island of Roanoke which is in modern day North Carolina. Commissioned by Sir Walter Raleigh, John White was the governor of the colony. Later that year, John White sailed back to England to get new supplies, leaving behind his wife, daughter, and granddaughter. When he reached England, his ship was commandeered by Queen Elizabeth I because a major naval war broke out between England and Spain. He couldn’t return until 1590, three years after he left. When he arrived, the colony was gone. The only thing left behind was the word “Croatoan” on a wood post. Theories abound of what might have happened, including disease, migration, and being abducted or killed by nearby native tribes.


Ambrose Bierce

Ambrose bierceSource: http://articles.latimes.com

An author and satirist known for The Devil’s Dictionary and An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, Ambrose Bierce’s work was dark and cynical, confusing many around him. His witty tongue, sarcastic nature, and mockery eventually caught up with him, isolating him from friends and family. At the age of 71, he crossed the Rio Grande and was never seen again. His fame exploded during his disappearance, but no one figured out what happened to him. One theory claims he was murdered by Poncho Villa during the Mexican Revolution.


Heinrich Müller

Heinrich_MüllerSource: https://www.archives.gov

As Hitler’s Gestapo Chief in Nazi Germany, Heinrich Müller was a horrific monster, carrying out horrible crimes against humanity. Last seen in Hitler’s bunker a day after Hitler comitted suicide, very little evidence has been found to his whereabouts afterward. The CIA and Israeli intelligence conducted decades of investigations and raids but never found Müller. Many believe Müller changed his identity and went into hiding, most likely in Brazil.


Raoul Wallenberg

Raoul_WallenbergSource: https://web.archive.org

A Swedish diplomat in Budapest at the end of World War II, Roaul Wallenberg was responsible for saving upwards of 100,000 Jewish lives. He set up safe houses and issued protective passports to Hungarian-Jews at the time. However, outside of Budapest, he was taken by the Soviets and never heard from again. Years later, Soviets admitted to taking Wallenberg but claimed he died of a heart attack. His family and several authorities in Sweden dispute these claims and believed he may have lived much longer under their custody. Their reasoning was that the Soviets thought Wallenberg was a spy for the West and wanted him for information.


Jim Thompson

Moonlight_bungalowSource: http://time.com

Known as the Thai Silk King, Jim Thompson had an interesting life. Starting out as an architect, he failed his exams four times before deciding to join the war effort abroad. Eventually, he was assigned to the OSS (the early CIA) and sent to Thailand. After leaving the OSS, he started a silk business. After producing the silk for the musical The King and I, his business boomed. In 1967, while at his “Moonlight” bungalow in Panang, he left for an afternoon stroll. He vanished soon after. An extensive search was conducted, but no one found his body. Many believed he was kidnapped, murdered, or left voluntarily to do secret business in Vietnam. Another theory speculates he was killed on a hit-and-run and the driver buried the body in an unmarked grave.


JCP Williams

Williams_syndromeSource: http://www.nytimes.com

A New Zealand cardiologist, J.C.P. Williams discovered what is now called Williams Syndrome, a developmental disorder affecting growth, size, and proportion in many parts of the body. With his breakthrough discovery, he was offered a position at the Mayo Clinic but failed to show up and disappeared entirely. London was his last known location.


Marvin Clark

Marvin_A._ClarkSource: http://www.nbcnews.com

Marvin Clark is one of the oldest unsolved missing person cases in US history. A resident of Tigard, Oregon, Clark got on a bus on Halloween, 1926 to visit his daughter in Portland. He never arrived. A search went underway to find him with no results. Years later in 1986, some loggers in Portland discovered a skeleton with some old belongings. Next to the body was also a gun and a bullet. They ruled it a suicide and the case went cold again. Recently, a researcher discovered that same skeleton could potentially be Marvin Clark. DNA analysis is currently underway to identify the body.


Jesse Evans

Jesse EvansSource: http://www.legendsofamerica.com

Notorious wild west outlaw Jesse Evans made quite a name for himself in New Mexico and Texas with his gang he called “The Boys.” Originally a cowhand on a ranch, he turned to cattle rustling and armed robbery with the likes of Billy the Kid. When the Lincoln County War broke out, he was forced to pick sides. He and his gang became enforcers in the area. After a price was put on his head, he fled to Texas. Eventually, Texas Rangers tracked him down. After killing a Texas Ranger, he was thrown in prison in Huntsville but escaped in 1882 and vanished.


Cheryl Grimmer

Cheryl GrimmerSource: http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Born in 1967, Cheryl Grimmer was only three when she disappeared. At Wollongong Beach in Australia with her family, she was at the showers and refused to come out when her older brother called to her. Frustrated, he left to get his mom for thirty seconds and came back with her. But when they got to the showers, Cheryl was gone. Witnesses claimed a man grabbed her and took off, but they never found him and the case went cold until a suspected was recently arrested.


Glenn Miller

Glenn_MillerSource: https://www.usatoday.com

A Big Band music icon of the 30’s and 40’s, Glenn Miller lead a music revolution before joining the United States war effort in World War II. Despite the poor weather, Miller went against his better instincts and boarded a plane for Paris to be with his band. He never arrived and vanished without a trace. Many believe the storm took down the plane into the English Channel.


Theodosia Burr Alston

Theodosia_Burr_AlstonSource: https://www.historicmysteries.com

Theodosia Burr Alston was the daughter of United States Vice President Aaron Burr. (The same Aaron Burr who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel.) Theodosia was a rarity of her time as Aaron Burr made sure to classically educate her. After taking a trip to Europe, she returned on The Patriot, a ship used during the War of 1812, but it disappeared and was never found again. Some believe it was attacked by pirates, and she was forced to walk the plank.


Boston Corbett

Boston CorbettSource: https://www.washingtonian.com

Called “Lincoln’s Avenger,” Boston Corbett helped hunt down John Wilkes Booth, the notorious assassin of President Abraham Lincoln. However, he also did one more. He shot and killed Booth, disobeying direct orders. However, he was considered a patriot and hero by the media and wasn’t court martialled. What happened next surprised many as Corbett went insane and was put in an asylum until he broke out and disappered. Many believe he settled in Minnesota and died in the Great Hinkley Fire, but there’s little proof to the theory.


The Mary Celeste

Mary_CelesteSource: http://www.smithsonianmag.com

The Mary Celeste was an American ship found near the Azores Islands off the coast of Portugal. She had left New York for Genoa but never arrived. When they finally found and boarded the ship, they found it was entirely empty with everything intact except a life boat. The last log date was ten days prior. None of the crew or passengers were ever seen again. Many theories exist on what happened to the people on board including seaquakes, waterspouts, alcohol fumes, and giant squids. Nothing has been proven, and the mystery lives on today.


William Cantelo

Maxim machineSource: http://www.dailyecho.co.uk

William Cantello was a highly respected man in Southampton; he was the landlord of the Old Tower Inn. Underneath the inn was his workshop where he invented things and worked specifically on an early machine gun project with his sons. When he completed the project, he told his family he had to go on a holiday for three months, but then he’d return. He never returned. Strangely enough, most of his money was transferred. When his family hired private investigators, they discovered he had traveled to America but after that, the trail went cold. Years later, Cantello’s sons heard of an inventor in America who created the machine gun. When they saw a picture of this man, they immediately believed it was their father. Except, this man went by the name of “Hiram Maxim.” When Cantello’s sons approached Maxim while he was on a trip in England, Maxim wanted nothing to do with them. The Cantello family said they also believed it was William because he loved maxims and kept a book of them with him at all times. However, it was never proven Cantello and Maxim were one in the same. The mystery of Cantello’s disappearance remains a mystery.


Lionel Crabb

Lionel_CrabbSource: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

Lionel “Buster” Crabb served in World War II in the Royal Navy. Later, in 1956, he was recruited by MI6 to help them do reconnaissance of a Soviet cruiser. He suited up in his scuba gear and went to work right away. However, once he dived into the water, he disappeared completely. Some time later, a body floated ashore without its head or hands, wearing scuba gear. They tried to determine if it was Crabb, but no one, not even his family, could identify the body. Many theories have floated around about his disappearance, including that the Soviets got him and killed him or threw him in the gulag.


The Springfield Three

Springfield_ThreeSource: http://www.news-leader.com

It was June 6th, 1992 and Suzie Streeter and Stacy McCall had just graduated high school and wanted to party it up. So, they did late into the night. They went home in the early hours of the next day to Streeter’s house, where her mother Sherill Levitt lived. Streeter, McCall, and Levitt were never seen again. More troubling was what the police found at the house. Nothing. There was no sign of a struggle, their purses were all at the top of the stairs, and McCall had left her migraine medication. All of their cars were still parked in the driveway. For 25 years, police have received various tips about their disappearance, especially from prisoners trying to cut a deal. But nothing has come of it.


John Ruffo

John_ruffoSource: http://www.npr.org

A high-powered businessman, John Ruffo defrauded many US banks out of $350 million. After he was convicted and sentenced to 220 months in prison, he disappeared. US authorities have been hunting him down every since. His last appearance was at an ATM getting money. He’s believed to have overseas connections to provide him with money, a new identity, and the ability to stay off the grid. He’s been at large since 1998.


Forrest Schab

DY rapperSource: http://theboombox.com

Canadian rapper Forrest Schab, whose stage name is DY, had just signed to CP Records and planned to record a follow-up to one of his singles. After he traveled down to Mexico, he vanished without a trace. His family hasn’t seen or heard from him again. Many believe his disappearance could be related to drugs and being involved in organized crime.


Jim Sullivan

White SandsSource: http://www.npr.org

A local musician in Malibu, California, Jim Sullivan released his album U.F.O. in 1969. Despite hanging out with movie stars and others musicians, fame never came his way. Though, he almost got his big break when some recording producers wanted to make a new album with him in Nashville. He picked up his guitar with only $120 in his pocket, got in his truck, and headed out to Nashville, leaving behind his wife and son. He never arrived. His truck was found in the desert of New Mexico, abandoned. Even his guitar was left behind, which his family said was strange. Adding to the mystery, his album U.F.O. is all about driving off into the desert, leaving his family behind, and getting abducted by aliens.


Sigizmund Levanevsky

Sigizimund_LevanevskySource: https://www.adn.com

In 1937, Moscow was holding an event to celebrate the launch of a new bomber plane. Stalin did something different, inviting Western media to come and see the event. Russian pilot Sigizmund Levanevsky got into the cockpit, fired up the engine, and took off, to the delight of the people watching. He flew east toward Alaska and was never seen again. The wreckage was never found though some think he crashed along the Alaskan coast.


Henry Hudson

HudsonSource: http://www.livescience.com

Henry Hudson was the brave explorer mapping most of Northern America. He was hired to find a Northern passage to Asia but was never able to find it. Instead, while sailing in the New World, he faced a mutiny from his crew. After a harsh winter, most of his crew wanted to turn back, but Hudson refused and wanted to push forward. That was the last straw for the crew. No one truly knows what happened to Hudson. Many believe the crew abandoned him in the Canadian wilderness while others think he was murdered. There’s no evidence pointing to either, making it a continuing mystery.


Charles Kingsford Smith

CEK SmithSource: http://www.australiangeographic.com.au

Also known as “Smithy,” Sir Charles Kingsford Smith was a popular and charismatic aviator in early days of flight. He did a lot of “firsts,” including crossing mainland Australia, flying from Sydney to London, and Australia to New Zealand. However, in 1935, on his way back from London to Australia, he crashed near Myanmar. They discovered the undercarriage of the plane and trees snapped in half, but no other wreckage or the pilot’s body was found.

Love mysteries? Of course, you do! Check out these 25 Unsolved Mysteries That Will Make Your Head Spin

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