Vanishings - Mysterious Cases Of Missing People
People who vanish
Where have they gone? What is their fate?
Every year, all over the world, there are thousands of people who go missing - children, teenagers, adults and the elderly.
Most cases are resolved quickly. However, there are cases of missing people from the past to the present day that remain a mystery.
In addition the circumstances surrounding their disappearance are, in some cases, bizarre.
Ballad of Flannan Isle
The Flannan Isles Mystery
The Flannan Isles, Outer Hebrides, Scotland.
The Flannan Isles is a beautiful location off the North West coast of Scotland. They are part of the larger group of Islands known as the Outer Hebrides. The Flannans are also known as the ‘Seven Hunters’.
Apart from the lighthouse, the islands are mainly a habitat for wildlife. However, it’s the lighthouse that gave rise to one of the most puzzling mysteries in the UK’s missing files.
The year is 1900 and one week before Christmas. Not one person went missing from the isolated lighthouse but three - James Ducat, Thomas Marshall and Donald MacArthur.
It was a ship on route from Philadelphia to Edinburgh that raised the first alarm. On passing the lighthouse the ship’s crew noticed that the light was not working and reported the matter as soon as they docked.
Finally, a relief boat - The Hesperus - arrived at the island on December 26th 1900. Captain Jim Harvie had the whole island searched in addition to the lighthouse. However, the men could not be found.
The search party began a more exhaustive investigation, searching for any clues that would point to the source of the keepers' disappearance.
Looking in all areas of the lighthouse they noticed nothing out of place. The work for the 15th December had all been completed - machines cleaned and oiled, lunch plates, pots and pans washed, kitchen tidied.
These observations pointed to the fact that the men probably disappeared sometime in the afternoon after they had eaten lunch; as no further cooking had been carried out for the evening.
A search of the sleeping quarters showed that their beds had not been slept in. The clocks in the light house had all stopped. The doors and windows were secure and showed no sign of damage. The mystified search party completed a report on their findings and left the island.
The main theory then put forward was that a recent savage storm had been responsible in some way, for their disappearance. However, one of the last logs made by the lighthouse keepers – dated 15th December – was at least 24 hours after the storm had ceased.
Another of the lighthouse keepers had also recorded in the log what outside damage had been caused by the ferocious gale force winds. This obviously proves that the men were still alive after the storms.
When the news broke that the keepers were alive after the storm, all manner of theories and rumours erupted.
Some of theories given were:
- Despite the date, the storm was in some way responsible - the most likely theory was that the keepers had been swept out to sea.
- A freak wave or other natural phenomena had caught the keepers off guard - most likely causing them to be drowned.
- One of the keepers had murdered the other two and then committed suicide. Although there doesn't seem to be any reason to think that the keepers were other than friendly with one another.
- A sea serpent or other monster was seriously considered. Up until this time there had been hundreds of reports from all over the world about huge sea serpents/monsters that could swallow ships whole. Most of these accounts have proved to be misidentifications.
- The light house keepers had been kidnapped by spies. This is unlikely as no ransom money or any other demand was made for the men’s' return.
- The light house keepers had been murdered by persons unknown. One theory put forward was that the murders were committed by a ghostly crew from a phantom ship! Leaving the spooks aside, if murder was the cause then it was the cleanest one ever committed. There was no sign of trauma, blood or violence of any kind. In addition, robbery is highly unlikely as nothing was taken.
It might have been expected that at least one of the bodies would have shown up - either washed ashore or discovered in another location. However, no trace of the men was ever found.
So intriguing is this mystery that not only songs and poems have been written about it, but an opera was also composed.
Vanished Into Thin Air?
Is it possible for human beings to be there one moment and then gone the next?
Most of us, quite rightly would conclude that this is not possible. And yet if we research this subject it is surprising how many stories there are, seemingly by credible witnesses, who claim this is exactly what has happened. One of the most remarkable cases of one such disappearance - if not into thin air - was certainly while in the air.
Bass Strait, Australia - 1978
The disappearance of a young man named Frederick Valentich on October 21st 1978 is still one of the most mysterious and frightening.
Frederick was flying his Cessna 182L aircraft over an area called Bass Strait in Australia. It was a straight forward journey to pick up some friends from King Island.
During the flight Frederick was in two-way radio contact with the Melbourne Flight Service Unit. It’s these recorded conversations that give the last chilling details before Frederick and his plane vanished.
The 6 minute transcript details Frederick's description of an unidentified craft he was observing. He was asked on several occasions by Melbourne to identify the craft but he could not. At one stage Frederick reported that "it was playing games". The object would disappear for a few seconds the return from a different direction. Frederick could still not identify the craft because of the speed it was traveling at. He then reported that the object was approaching him again. A few seconds later he reported that it was now above him, but also that his engine was playing up. Then he spoke his last words:
"It's not an aircraft!"
A massive search and rescue mission was launched but neither the craft nor the pilot's body was ever recovered.
The Australian Department of Transport's conclusion of the investigation stated that the reason for the disappearance of the pilot and his craft could not be determined.
A number of theories were put forward to explain what happened to the young pilot but all remain, understandably, inconclusive.
The well respected and experienced researcher Dr Richard Haines, who worked for NASA, took a keen interest in the case and came up with four possible conclusions:
1. Pilot disorientation - this particular conclusion was not favoured by Dr Haines.
2. Deliberate hoax/suicide - Dr Haines, Frederick's family and friends all state categorically that this would be out of character for the young man and there is no evidence to suggest a hoax or that Frederick was attempting suicide.
3. UFO and/or UFO in-flight abduction - Dr Richard Haines did not feel that this was the most likely reason for the pilot's disappearance but other reputable researchers have concluded that it is possible given the observations made by the pilot.
4. Military Weapons' Test - this is the theory most favoured by Dr Haines as being the most likely given the evidence. However, a number of other researchers feel that this conclusion is based purely on speculation rather than fact.
To this day, Frederick's disappearance remains a mystery. Theories will continue to be put forward, but this seems to be one modern case destined to remain unsolved.
The disappearance of a paralysed man.
Shepton Mallet, Somerset - England.
One of the most baffling disappearances has to be that of the retired sailor, Owen Parfitt from his home in 1763. Parfitt lived with his older sister in the small country town of Shepton Mallet. In his younger days he was a sailor.
There were also many rumours about Owen Parfitt. The gossip declared that he was involved in a number of dubious practices such as - piracy, smuggling and black magic.
He was also a known womaniser. There are references to a scandal that broke out, involving his much younger cousin called Dorothy.
It's not known exactly when Parfitt suffered a stroke. However, the condition left him unable to move on his own and he was cared for by his sister. She was assisted by a friend at night, because two people were needed to get the, now 60 year old Parfitt, in and out of bed.
Frequently during the day and in the evenings, Parfitt would sit outside the house wearing just a nightshirt and was kept upright by placing his old great coat underneath him.
However, on one particular evening he simply vanished. While many farm hands were working in the fields next to the house and his sister was inside, Parfitt mysteriously disappeared.
The alarm was raised when his sister's friend came to help her put Parfitt into bed. The two women went outside to assist him in, but there was nothing there except the great coat. Helped by the farm hands a thorough search was made in the area, but no trace of him was found.
His sister maintained that he was spirited away by the Devil because of his lurid past. Other rumours suggested that he was kidnapped and made to reveal the hiding place of buried treasure he had stolen during his days as a pirate.
As it happened, kidnapping was ruled out as neither his sister nor the many farm workers close by, had heard any noise of a struggle and there was no evidence of violence.
Moreover the place where Parfitt was sitting was not disturbed - his great coat that was used to keep him upright, was still in the same position as his sister had placed it earlier that day.
The mystery seemed to have been solved however, when in 1813 alterations were being made to a property close to Parfitt's home. Behind the fireplace a skeleton of what was reported to be 'a crippled old man' was found. Conversely, on examination the skeleton was found to be that of a young woman.
This of course is another mystery as foul play was suspected in her case. Even more intriguing is the fact that the building was once the house belonging to Parfitt's young cousin Dorothy - the same lady he allegedly had an affair with many years previously.
Investigations into the case continued right into the 20th century - 1933 being the last recorded investigation - but the case remains a mystery to this day.
Which of the three cases do you find the most baffling?
There is no doubt that people will continue to vanish in mysterious circumstances.
Throughout the world, there are thousands who go missing every year – many of these cases are bizarre and remain unsolved.
In addition, there are some factors that may point to the unsettling conclusion that forces may be at work other than natural explanations. If true, what these forces are remains unsolved at the present time.
© 2011 Helen Murphy Howell