12 Mysterious Disappearances That Still Have Historians Puzzled
When people suddenly disappear without a trace, these events quickly get surrounded by many legends. For some incidents, such as the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, researchers have subsequently found perfectly reasonable and justifiable explanations. But some cases, like that of Marie Empress, the silent film star, or Dorothy Arnold, the New York socialite, remain unsolved. These stories are still the subject of lively debate, and scholars never get tired of putting forward different versions of events.
Percy Fawcett disappeared without a trace during his search for a lost city
Fawcett organized several expeditions into the Amazon jungle and his adventures even inspired Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Lost World. During his wanderings through the Brazilian forests, the explorer often came across native tribes. He therefore decided that the lost land may contain the ruins of a vast city, which belonged to a great civilization.
After several unsuccessful attempts, Percy was finally able to set off in search of the mysterious metropolis. After passing the last known settlement, the group disappeared into the woods, never to return. Fawcett’s wife, to the end of her days, believed her husband hadn’t perished in the jungle. But even in the decades that followed, no trace of Percy or his group could ever be found. Now, however, scientists confirm the authenticity of Fawcett’s theory. They believe the ruins of ancient cities may be lurking in this region of the Amazon.
Amelia Earhart may have spent some time on a desert island
On July 2nd, 1937, the famous aviator and her assistant, Fred Noonan, set off for the small Pacific island of Howland. It was one of the last stages of their journey around the globe. However, Amelia never made it to the island, getting lost somewhere in the vastness of the ocean. Even though there was a massive search operation for the crew, no traces of the plane or crew members were ever found.
In 1991, a metal plate suspected to be from Earhart’s plane was found off the coast of the small uninhabited island of Nikumaroro in the Pacific Ocean. Scientists have recently been able to identify numbers and letters on it, using specialized analysis. With further study, they may be able to confirm that Amelia was able to land on Nikumaroro and may have even spent some time there.
Marie Empress vanished from a huge cruise liner
On the 27th of October, 1919, the cruise liner Orduña docked in New York. Among more than 1,000 passengers on board was Marie Empress, a silent movie star who was considered “the most beautiful woman in pictures.” Empress played femme fatale roles and drove many men crazy. She was eagerly awaited in New York, but the actress disappeared without a trace from the ship.
Empress could not have left her cabin and gone on deck unnoticed, as there were too many corridors. So, many thought that the actress had played a trick, disguised herself, and escaped incognito from the vessel. But many years later, she was still nowhere to be found. And so Marie’s fate remains a mystery.
The entire crew of the Mary Celeste disappeared, having abandoned cargo and provisions
The story of the vessel Mary Celeste has been the basis of several literary and cinematic works. The sail ship was discovered in 1872 without a single person on board, drifting freely 400 miles off the Azores. The ship was afloat, with her cargo virtually undamaged in the hold and almost all of the crew’s personal belongings still in the cabins. At first, the crew of the ship that found the Mary Celeste were suspected of having committed a crime.
Later, the crew’s disappearance was blamed either on pirates or sea monsters. However, modern researchers assume that the brigantine was caught in a storm and took on water after some of the onboard instruments broke down. So when the experienced captain saw land, he ordered everyone to abandon ship in a hurry. The fate of the crew remains unknown.
The mystery of the “lost cyclist” has been unsolved for over 100 years
In the 1870s, bicycles were mainly popular amongst wealthy young people. The less-than-comfortable design with a huge front wheel and a small rear wheel looked dangerous to the ordinary public. That all changed a decade later, when the old models were replaced by new ones, with identically sized wheels. At that time, an accountant from Pittsburgh, Frank Lenz, simply fell in love with cycling.
He first took a few trips around the United States, and then decided to take a cycling trip around the world. In those years, Lenz was considered a hero and the public followed his adventures intently. However, at one stage of his journey, Frank disappeared without a trace. Many people tried looking for him, including other cyclists, but they were never able to find Lenz.
Scientists still haven’t figured out what happened to the inhabitants of the Roanoke colony
In 1587, a group of 115 English settlers arrived on Roanoke Island, off the coast of North Carolina, to establish a colony. Soon the governor of the new settlement, John White, decided to go to the Old World for supplies. He left his wife, daughter and new-born granddaughter in the colony.
Unfortunately, unforeseen circumstances detained White in Europe, and he only returned three years later. To his amazement, there was no trace of the settlement or its inhabitants on the island. Nor were there any clues as to where the people might have disappeared to, other than the inscription “CROATOAN” (the name of the neighboring island) carved on a pole. Over the centuries, scientists have been unable to discover what fate befell the colonists from Roanoke.
James Tedford vanished into thin air while travelling by bus
James Tedford, a resident of Bennington, was visiting his relatives in St. Albans. When his family accompanied him to the bus station, they had no idea that this was the last time they would see him. According to eyewitnesses, Tedford boarded the bus and was still on board at the stop before it arrived in Bennington.
James disappeared on the last leg of the journey, with his belongings left in the luggage compartment and a timetable on his seat. How and where Tedford might have gone remains a mystery. In addition to him, four other people vanished in the town between 1945 and 1950, giving the area the name of “Bennington Triangle.”
A famous cardiologist went missing after being rejected by author Janet Frame
John Cyprian Phipps Williams worked as a cardiologist in New Zealand and became famous for the discovery of Williams-Beuren syndrome, which was named after him. In 1967, Williams met author Janet Frame in London and a warm relationship developed between them. At some point, John decided to propose to her. Janet was dumbfounded, as she had not expected such a development, and fled the city.
When she returned to London, Williams was no longer there and no one knew where he had gone. Friends and acquaintances later saw him in various European cities, but the police were never able to trace the cardiologist. Williams was reported missing in 1988. However, author Michael King reported that John contacted him in 2000. It’s still unknown whether the cardiologist is alive, or where he may be.
Johann Salvator of Austria may have decided to get lost in South America
Johann Salvator was a descendant of one of the branches of the Habsburg dynasty, but at some point gave up all his titles and privileges. In 1889, he married the artist Milli Stubel and decided to travel with her to South America. He purchased the ship Santa Margareta, and the couple used it to cross the Atlantic.
The ship was last seen near Cape Tres Puntas, after which it disappeared without a trace. The official version of the story is that the Santa Margareta suffered a shipwreck near Cape Horn. But some believe that Johann Salvator wasn’t swept away, but simply changed his name and decided to start a new life in South America.
The disappearance of three workers from Flannan Isles Lighthouse brought it ill fame
On the 15th of December, 1900, a ship’s crew noticed that the lights on Flannan Isles Lighthouse weren’t lit. This was strange, as there were three keepers on duty at all times. The captain reported this to the authorities, who sent a rescue boat to the island. A rather grim picture was discovered at the scene.
The doors to the building were closed, the beds had not been made and the clock had not been wound. There was no trace of the three workers in the lighthouse itself or anywhere on the island. The investigating team assumed that they had most likely been washed out to sea during the storm. But since none of the keepers were found, the lighthouse was shrouded in dark legend from then on.
Yda Addis went missing after a difficult divorce process
Yda Addis moved to Los Angeles in 1873 and quickly charmed the local community with her wit. She proved to be a talented writer, contributing to newspapers and translating Mexican legends into English. Unfortunately, she was not so lucky in her personal life. Yda’s marriage to influential lawyer Charles Storke ended in a bitter divorce.
One day, Addis disappeared. No one asked the authorities to declare her missing, but in the press, which used to pay her a lot of attention, any mention of Yda was wiped clean. Some scholars speculate that Yda changed her name, fled to another state, and took up social activities there.
A socialite went shopping for a new dress and disappeared
Dorothy Arnold, daughter of a successful perfume company owner, was a well-known social figure at her 26 years of age. Renowned for her beauty and charm, she was the lifeblood of the social scene and the hero of the local press. On December 12th, 1910, Dorothy said to her family that she was going shopping for a new outfit for a party. She took $25 with her, but no other possessions.
On her way to the shop, she met several acquaintances and went into a sweet shop and a bookstore. She was seen for the last time leaving the latter. Arnold literally disappeared in the middle of the day right in the middle of New York City. Neither relatives nor police, or the private detectives who were hired to find her, were able to find any trace of the young woman. All the witnesses said that Dorothy had been in a cheerful and upbeat mood that day, so many speculations of what had happened seemed unfitting.