Mysteries of the Missing
There is a horrifying mystery going on in the U.S. and around the world. This mystery is only rarely spoken of, and yet thousands of families go through anguish every year because of it. It is a problem that doesn't seem to have a solution, or any reasons why. A few writers have tackled the subject, and have speculated on the possible causes, but many of the possible answers make the subject even more mysterious. And despite modern technology it still happens over and over again. These mysteries are mentioned in the press for a few days, then fade and are forgotten.
The mystery we are speaking of is the fact that people disappear. Hundreds of thousands vanish every year. Most of them are simply seeking a quick escape from the law, the IRS, or spouses. They are usually easily found in short order. Others sadly are victims of foul play. The majority of them are found pretty quickly. But there seems to be a third grouping of people who simply seem to melt away.
Most of these people are never found. And on the rare occasions that they are found, often the circumstances of finding them is as strange as the disappearance. Many of these unfortunate folks vanish in rural areas such as forests, and in National Parks.
After a disappearance, a giant search and rescue effort takes place. Experienced searchers who know the terrain hunt for clues often with tracking dogs. The fact that in many of these cases they find nothing is perplexing. Occasionally when they do find the missing person, it is even more perplexing. A large number of small children have disappeared from yards in extremely rural forested areas. When some of these children have been found, it has often been miles from where they disappeared.
Many times they are found in places they could not have reached on their own such as swamps, and up the sides of steep hills and mountains. How did they get there? And if someone took them there, how did that person manage to avoid the massive search going on around them. Finally, there are classic reports of disappearances. Stories of the missing that, despite the passage of time have never been adequately explained.
What Happened to Bart Schleyer
Bart Schleyer was an outdoorsman, and an expert in animal behavior, specifically bears. He was a well known hunter and wildlife enthusiast. Schleyer was the man you called when you area was having problems with predators. He was not some one you would worry about when he was out in the forest. On September 4th, 2004, Schleyer traveled by float plane to an isolated place in the Yukon in the Reid Lakes area. These lakes are difficult to get to, and the plane is the easiest way to get there.
Schleyer was there to do some bowhunting. When the float plane returned to pick him up a few days later, the pilot couldn't find him. When friends (and later RCMP) came to search for him, they retraced his steps from his basecamp across the lake where his inflatable raft was. The searchers traveled up a path about 60 feet or so, and found his bag of supplies which he had obviously been using as a seat. His bow rested against a tree. But there was no Bart Schleyer. They searched further and found Schleyer's pants turned inside out as if he (or someone else) had peeled them off. Eventually they located his skull, a few small pieces of bone, a camera, and a balaclava and camouflage mask he had been wearing. A small amount of blood was found on the camouflage mask but that was it.
Schleyer had likely been sitting on his bag making moose calls when he was overwhelmed. It was believed that he was overpowered by something big, fast, powerful, and silent. A bear would have eaten Schleyer clothes and all, and there was no sign of a struggle. A bear (or wolves) would have left a bloody mess, but there was only the tiny amount on the mask. A predator would have likely made their way back to his camp to eat the food that was stored there. The food was still there. Schleyer didn't even have time to grab his bow. What happened to Bart Schleyer?
Missing on a Mountainside
Jim Carter was an expert skier, and a veteran mountaineer who traveled up Mount St. Helens with a climbing party in May of 1950. At one point he stated he would ski down a ways and photograph the skiers as they came down. However when the skiers got to where Carter should have been, he was missing. Search parties went to find him, but what they found was perplexing.
They found a film box at his last known location, but Joe Carter wasn't there. Then they found the spot where he had apparently been startled by something, as he took off headlong down the mountain. According to a searcher “taking chances that no skier of his caliber would take, unless something was terribly wrong or he was being pursued,". Finally Carter reached a cliff and went over the side, however once searchers reached the bottom of the cliff they found nothing. The searchers also complained of being watched. Nobody ever saw Jim Carter again. What exactly was chasing this man to make him go on a death defying trip down a treacherous mountain side. We will likely never know.
Into the Void
On March 5, or March 6, 1957, William and Margaret Patterson who owned a photo supply store in El Paso Texas left their home, and everything in it and never returned. Where they went has intrigued researchers for decades now. The only thing that is known for sure is that the couple were never seen or heard from again. They left behind their automobile, their possessions, and the family cat. Their didn't seem to be any indication that the Pattersons were planning to go on any trips. The couple simply went out for a walk (or were picked up) and never returned.
Early on while the police were looking into the disappearance, an associate of the Patterson suggested that they had went on an extended trip to Florida. That odd bit of information was expanded upon a few months later when the same associate stated that they would not be returning. The El Paso police along with the FBI had no luck finding them in Florida or anywhere else. A strange letter arrived purportedly from William Patterson leaving all his properties to three business associates, although Patterson had living family members.
Meanwhile the rumors swirled that the couple were Russian spies who were told to drop everything and head back to Moscow. Or that they were kidnapped. More believable is the theory that William and Margaret Patterson were murdered. In the 1980s a man came forward and stated that he had been hired to clean the home and found blood and part of a human scalp in the garage. He hadn't reported it at the time because he was an illegal immigrant and frightened that he would be deported. However without a body there was no way to know for sure. The case has never been solved.
The fact that people disappear is hardly a new development. Men, women, and children have been vanishing for a long, long time. Here are a few classic cases of missing persons. None have ever been solved.
On December 12, 1910, heiress Dorothy Arnold left a bookstore and turned up 5th avenue heading towards Central Park. She was never seen nor heard from again. A massive search uncovered little, and rumors swirled about being kidnapped, or vanishing to make a new life. The man she was quietly seeing without her parents knowledge was as mystified as everyone else. Miss Arnold was 25 years old when she vanished off the face of the earth.
Joseph Force Crater was a well known New York judge who became arguably the most famous missing person of all. On August 6th, 1930, Judge Crater left a restaurant, stepped into a cab, and was never seen again. The cabbie who gave him a lift was never located. Judge Crater had pulled over $5,000 out of an account just before the disappearance which brought up the possibility of being blackmailed. Either way the police were unable to find “The Missingest Man in New York”. For decades afterward “to pull a Crater” was a phrase which meant to vanish.
A Final Word
People continue to go missing all over the U.S. Some will eventually be found, but a small amount will vanish forever. A mention must be made of the Missing 411 books by David Paulides. They chronicle hundreds of missing persons in national parks and forests. many of those reports are extremely strange.
Churchill, A.- (1960) They Never Came Back-The True Accounts of Eight People Who Vanished Without a Trace: Doubleday & Company
Paulides, D.- (2014) Missing 411-The Devil's in the Detail: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Paulides, D.- (2012) Missing 411-Western United States & Canada: Unexplained Disappearances of North Americans that have never been solved: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Hudnall, K.- (2007) Spirits of the Border: El Paso: A City of Secrets: Omega Press