20 Famous People who Mysteriously Disappeared

People go missing every single day, but some are more well-known than others; some are even more well-known because of their disappearance. Some may be victims of crime, some are met by an accident, and some may have taken off on their own. Despite efforts to find these missing folks, some are never found, leaving a mystery surrounding their last days and final disappearance. Some vanishings have been subject to massive search parties, media sensationalism, wild speculation, dead ends, wrong turns, false accusations, and some have even turned into television shows or miniseries. Here are 20 people who mysteriously disappeared in no particular order.

1. DB Cooper

If you’ve ever watched the comedy movie Without a Paddle or a number of other movies, TV shows plots, songs, and books have been based on by the legend of this man. On Thanksgiving Eve, 1971, DB purchased a ticket under an alias, Dan Cooper, and then proceeded to skyjacked Flight 305 of the Northwest Orient Airlines which was bound for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Right after the flight took off from on what only supposed to be a thirty minute flight, Cooper told a flight attendant that he had explosives in his possession and demanded two-hundred thousand dollars and four parachutes in addition to a refueling truck for when they would land at the airport they were originally headed for.

Authorities paid out the ransom and gave Cooper the parachutes. After refueling began, he then told the pilot and crew where he wanted the plane to take him, which was Mexico City. However, about thirty minutes into the flight, he jumped from the plane from ten thousand feet near Mount St. Helens in Washington state.

Not only was he never found, but Cooper’s real identity also remains a mystery and it’s not known whether he survived the jump. In July 2016, a two-part special was aired on the History Channel about DB Cooper, where they named Robert Rackstraw as the man behind the mystery. Nonetheless, the FBI declared in the same month that they were no longer pursuing him. Rackstraw, a seventy-two year man living on a boat in San Diego Bay claims he considered filing a defamation suit against the television channel, but it has never been filed. Whether or not he is DB Cooper remains a mystery.

2. Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart is probably the most famous missing person in history. As both a pilot and a passenger, her exploits into flying made her very well-known. In addition to her aviation popularity, she was also a teacher, author, fashion designer, magazine editor, and cigarette spokesman. Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan decided to embark on a trip around the world in 1937. However, on July 2, Earhart sent out radio message asking for help; apparently they were dangerously low on fuel over the Pacific Ocean. The US Coast Guard sent help in the form of a cutter, the Itasca, but they were unable to locate the plane. The cutter proceeded to send up smoke signals, hoping the pair would see the smoke, but it was no use. The plane nor the two aboard were ever found. Earhart’s husband funded a private search, but it failed to produce any results. In 1939, Earhart was declared dead in absentia.

There have been numerous theories as to what happened and the resulting searches become the most intensive and expensive in American history at the time. The most common belief is that her plane ran out of fuel and she had no choice by to ditch into the Pacific ocean, subsequently sinking after the crash. Even after the intensive searches at the time, in 2012, researchers spent another two point two million dollars trying to prove that Earhart had instead crashed on a tiny island. However, nothing was ever proven.

3. Harold Holt

Harold Holt was a prime minister of Australia, the seventeenth, to be exact. After serving in quite a few positions of cabinet, he became the leader of the Liberal Party, and subsequently became the prime minister in 1966. After being prime minister for less than two years, Holt went for a swim at one of his favorite swimming spots. Unfortunately, he never returned. A major search operation was put into action, but he was never found. In addition, no formal inquiry into his disappearing was ever brought forth.

At the time of the incident, Holt was taking pain medication for a shoulder injury. Even though Holt was a skilled swimmer, it is believed that he was either swept out to sea or that he was eaten by a shark. His death was eventually ruled as an accidental drowning; the location where he went swimming was known for strong rip currents. An exhaustive search yielded on results. His body was never found. A slang expression was coined after his disappearance, “do a Harry Holt”, which meant to bolt or disappear abruptly.

4. Jimmy Hoffa

Jimmy Hoffa was an union official presiding of the Teamsters for over ten years. He was corrupt and involved in organized crime, going to prison in 1967 while retaining his presidency over the Teamsters. However, he resigned his post in 1971 in order to gain release as well as a pardon from then President Nixon. Hoffa was last seen outside a Detroit restaurant where he supposedly met with two organized crime bosses. After disappearing, he was finally declared dead in 1982, but the circumstances which surrounded his disappearance and subsequent apparent death are still a mystery to this day.

However, it’s been established that he was killed by mobsters the day he disappeared, although a body was never found. There were many stories circulating about his disappearance and according to one mob source, Hoffa was put in a shallow grave on a vacant lot about twenty miles from where he was last seen. The source claims this was supposed to have been a temporary location, but that Hoffa’s body was never moved. Nonetheless, this has never been proven.

5. Henry Hudson

Henry Hudson was a famous English explorer for which towns, bridges, rivers, bays, straits, and others have been named for, even though it seems he must have not been a very nice fellow to work for. While exploring, his crew, who was starving, half-frozen, and homesick, become so restless that they mutinied due to being unwilling to continue the search after being trapped for several months in ice. The crew put Hudson, his teenage son, and seven other crewmen who were loyal to Hudson in a small boat left adrift. They were never seen again after the ship left them behind.

What remaining crewmen who made it back to England were both arrested and charged with murder of Hudson, but they escaped without being punished due to lack of details surrounding their captain’s death. However, it’s generally believed that he and the eight others who were marooned with him died while aboard the open boat, a scenario which was immortalized by the painter John Collier.

6. Azaria Chamberlain

Perhaps the most infamous missing persons case in Australian history is that of Azaria Chamberlain. You’ve probably heard the famous phrase, “a dingo ate my baby” and this is the case which made it famous. In 1980, Azaria Chamberlain, who was only nine weeks old, disappeared while her parents were camping in the outback. The mother, Linda Chamberlain, was actually tried and convicted for murdering her young infant daughter and was subsequently sentenced to life in prison. However, after serving three years, a piece of the baby’s clothing was found in a dingo’s lair, completely by chance. The lair was located close by the campsite from which baby Azaria went missing from.

Eventually, the mother’s conviction, as well as charges against her husband Michael, were overturned two years later and the charges were dropped. Nonetheless, it wasn’t until 2012 that Azaria’s death certificate was legally changed, when a coroner issued an amendment to back the Chamberlains’ initial claims that their baby girl had been taken from their tent by a dingo in the middle of the night to be carried off and killed. The famous phrase is actually from 1988 and the movie in which Meryl Streep played Linda Chamberlain. The phrase is a misquote, however, the line was actually, ”the dingo took my baby.”

7. Sean Flynn

Sean Flynn was the son of actress Lili Damita and Errol Flynn. Flynn attempted several different careers, such as musician and actor, before settling into photojournalism. It was as a photojournalist that Flynn seemed to have found his calling. Searching for extraordinary images, Flynn often traveled with special forces units as well as irregulars who operated in remote areas. He was known for going to extreme lengths, including dangerous ones. In April of 1970, during the Vietnam War, Flynn was on assignment in Cambodia with another photojournalist, Dana Stone. Stone had a similar reputation as Flynn for going to extra lengths in dangerous places.

The two were apparently captured by communist guerrillas, but what happened after that is a mystery to this day. Flynn’s mother paid huge amounts of money trying to locate him, but to no avail. Neither man was either seen or heard from again. Flynn, at his mother’s urging, was eventually declared dead in absentia in 1984.

8. Oscar Zeta Acosta

Oscar Zeta Acosta was a controversial writer and activist. He’s best know for being friends with another controversial writer, Hunter S. Thompson, both of whom were veterans of the US Air Force. Acosta was well known for his novels written in the early 1970s and his portrayal in Thompson’s book “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” as Dr. Gonzo.

Acosta disappeared while traveling in Mazatlán, Mexico in 1974. His son Marco was probably the last person to have talked to him. Marco says his father phoned him from Mazatlan, saying he was about to board a boat that was “full of white snow.” Marco further speculated that knowing his father and those who he was with, he probably got smart or mouthy with the people he was with, which then resulted in a fight, and his subsequent death and disappearance.

According to Thompson, Acosta suffered from an amphetamine addiction, in addition to a predilection for LSD. Various beliefs about his disappearance include that Acosta was either killed by drug dealers, that he was politically assassinated, that he overdosed, or had a nervous breakdown.

9. Theodosia Burr Alston

The eldest child of former US Vice President Aaron Burr was who was disgraced after being formally accused of committing treason was Theodosia Burr Alston. In addition, she was also married to the South Carolina’s Governor at the time, Joseph Alston. Five years after the fall of her father, she lost her son. She went into such deep mourning that it affected her health. The only bright spot for her was that her father was to be allowed to return to the US after being exiled to Europe.

In 1812, Alston boarded the Patriot, which was a schooner with an intended destination of New York. She was to be reunited with her father on that New Year’s Eve. She traveled alone due to her husband, who had only recently been sworn in, was unable to accompany her due to his duties as governor. However, the schooner never made it to where is was supposed to go. Some believe the vessel capsized or sank due to a major storm which had been documented to be in the area at the time and others believe it was captured by pirates. Whatever happened to it, the vessel, nor its passengers were ever seen again.

10. Solomon Northup

Soloman Northup was believed to have been born in New York sometime in the early 1800s. Although he was black, both his parents were free; his father had at one time been a slave, however. Northup married a woman by the name of Anne Hampton sometime in the late 1820s and the two had three children. Years later, in 1841, Northup believed he had been offered work as a fiddler in Washington DC, albeit temporarily. However, it turned out to be a ruse, and he was kidnapped and sold into slavery.

After more than ten years of slavery, Northup finally gained his freedom again due to assistance he’d received from a sympathetic carpenter from Canada. Northup turned his experiences as a slave into a memoir and titled it “Twelve Years a Slave.” In addition, he also became a traveling lecturer, supporting the abolition of slavery. It was during this time that he had gone to Canada in 1857 where he disappeared. Some believe he was again kidnapped, sending him back into slavery. Others argue he would have been too old by then and was more likely killed for his beliefs and subsequent lectures in favor of abolition.

11. Heinrich Muller

Heinrich Muller is considered to be among some of the most disgraceful people of the twentieth century, if not of all time. He joined Nazi Germany’s state police, the Gestapo, in 1933. He quickly moved up the ranks to chief and in 1939, he formally joined the Nazi Party. Part of Muller’s acts include helping to advance false information used in the justification of invading Poland as well as helping to carry out the Holocaust.

Muller was last observed on May 1, 1945, which was a day before Hitler took his own life. No one knows what happened to him, but most believe he died around that time. Hitler’s pilot, Hans Baur claimed Muller had said that he knew the Russians’ methods and that he had no intention of allowing them to take him prisoner. From that day on, there hasn’t been any sign of him. He is the highest ranking member of the Nazi party who wasn’t known to be captured or killed, his whereabouts remaining a mystery.

12. Glenn Miller

Glenn Miller was the best-selling recording artist from the late 1930s to the early 1940s, making him one of the most iconic big band leaders ever. Miller volunteered to join the US Navy after the US entered World War II, but he was turned down. He then tried to volunteer for the army and, eventually, was accepted into the Air Force. On December 1944, Miller and two others were to fly to Paris, France in order to make arrangements for his band to play concerts for US troops.

However, his plane disappeared while flying somewhere over the English Channel. Neither Miller and the other two occupants nor the plane was ever found. Later in an article by the Chicago Tribune reported in 2014 that the most likely cause of their disappearance was due to a plane crash caused by a faulty carburetor. The carburetor in question was said to have been defective when used during cold weather and had a history of icing up and causing crashes, although it was proven to be definite.

13. Dorothy Arnold

Dorothy Arnold was a Manhattan heiress and socialite who disappeared in New York City in December 1910. She was twenty-five years old at time. On the morning of December 12, Arnold communicated to her mother she was going to go shopping for a dress to ear to her sister’s upcoming party. Her mother suggested she go with her, but Arnold declined her offer, saying she would call if she found an appropriate dress. She left her family home around eleven that morning.

After doing a bit of shopping, she stopped to chat with a friend for a moment before excusing herself, saying she was to meet her mother for lunch. This was shortly before two in the afternoon and it was the last time anyone ever saw her. By dinner time when she’d still not returned home, the family became worried; Arnold never missed family meals without reason. Her parents began calling her friends, but to no avail. Fearing unwanted media attention, the couple chose not to call the police concerning her disappear until weeks later. However, they did contact their lawyer and family friend, John S. Keith who hired detectives to look for Arnold. When they had no luck, Keith persuaded Arnold’s father to call the police at last.

They held a press conference, offering a reward for any information leading to her whereabouts. However, nothing became of it. After approximately seventy-five days of her missing, the police ended the investigation. One of the prevailing rumors was that Arnold died due to a botched abortion. In fact, when an illegal abortion clinic was raided by police in 1916, the doctor testified that Arnold had indeed died there from severe complications experienced after an abortion. Her father, however, adamantly denied these rumors, believing his daughter had been kidnapped and killed shortly after her disappearance. When he died in 1922, he left no provisions for his daughter, believing her to be dead, but his wife held out hope until her own death in 1928. After the death of Arnold’s mother, Keith confessed that he thought she had actually committed suicide due to her failed writing career.

14. Jean Spangler

Jean Spangler was an American model, dancer, and small-part actress in early television and Hollywood movies. Her career began in 1948, but she disappeared under the following year under mysterious circumstances. In fact, her case still remains open to this very day.

Spangler left her home in Los Angeles on October 7, 1949 around 5 pm, leaving her daughter with her sister-in-law. She claimed she claimed to have plans for meeting with her former husband concerning child support which was late and afterward would be heading to work on a movie which was doing a night shoot. She was last seen by a store clerk near her home. The clerk verified that Spangler appeared to be waiting on someone. She was never seen again. Her sister-in-law reported her missing the very next day, filing a report with the police.

What’s strange about this case is that her ex-husband had no plans for meeting her; his new wife stated they were together at the time and neither was there any movies filming that night, nor even had work in progress at the time. These would point towards her lying about where she was going. However, two days after her disappearance, her purse was found near a Griffith Park entrance with the straps torn loose as if someone had ripped it from her arm. Over a hundred and sixty people, including sixty policemen, searched the area, but nothing else was found.

The only clue to be found was in her purse, an unfinished note addressed to “Kirk”, saying she was going to “Dr. Scott” and that this was what was best while her mother was away. Her friends had stated to police that Spangler was pregnant and perhaps had sought to get an abortion, although they were illegal at the time. Other rumors reported her fleeing the country with Mickey Cohen, who was a known mobster. None of these were ever proven to be true and her case remains open and unsolved.

15. Frank Morris

Of the thirty-six inmates who had tried escaping Alcatraz over the twenty-nine years it was in operation as a federal penitentiary, five are listed as missing, but they are presumed to have drowned, although no bodies were ever found. Of the others, twenty-three were captured, six shot/killed, and two drowned. Of the five were went missing, Frank Morris is one of the most famous.

Morris grew up an orphan, spending most of his formative years in foster care. At thirteen, he was convicted of his first crime. He continued to break the law and was arrested for many crimes by the time he reached his late teens, such as armed robbery and narcotics possession. Morris was considered extremely intelligent at the time, ranking in the top two percent of the general population with an IQ of 133. He served time in several prisons and was eventually sent to Alcatraz in 1960. His inmate number was AZ1441.

Morris and three other inmates planned their escape, but only Morris and two brothers, John and Clarence Anglin, were able to carry out their plans. Prison officials believe the three drowned, but evidence over the years points to their survival. In fact, a letter was sent in 2013 by the San Francisco Police Department, claiming the writer was John Anglin. He went on to claim that he, his brother, and Morris had all escaped from Alcatraz in June 1962, albeit barely. He said he was eighty-three years old and had cancer. He went on to explain that Morris had died in 2008 and that his brother had died in 2011. However, the letter was couldn’t be verified, but it’s been proven that an escape could have succeeded at the time.

16. Jim Thompson

Jim Thompson was an American businessman who revitalize the silk industry from Thailand in the 1950s and 60s. He disappeared while on a walk in Malaysia along the Cameron Highlands on Sunday, March 26, 1967. After church that day, he decided to go for a walk and never returned. An extensive search was conducted, declaring Thompson so be lost. More than five hundred people aided in the search, which officially lasted eleven days. Nonetheless, he was never found, nor any clues to his disappearance.

Bones were later found in 1985 in an area close to Cameron Highlands, but the remains were missing a skull. One researcher believes Thompson was the victim of a hit and run, with the perpetrator burying him in a shallow grave. However, the bones were never proven to be connected to Thompson’s disappearance.

17. Richey Edwards

Richey Edwards was a Welsh musician in an alternative rock band called Manic Street Preachers in which he was both the lyricist and rhythm guitarist. He was cited by many as being the leading lyricist of his time. Edwards disappeared on February 1, 1995, the same that he and a fellow band member were to fly to the US for a promotional tour.

Edwards was reportedly seen several times over the next two weeks by fans who weren’t aware that he was missing. On February 14, his abandoned car was found in a parking lot with a dead battery. Police say there was evidence that someone had been living in it, but it was never proven whether or not it was Edwards. In addition, the parking lot was close to a bridge famous for people having committed suicide by jumping from it, but most believe that Edwards wasn’t capable of taking his own life.

Other sightings have been reported over the years, but nothing concrete has been discovered. He was list as officially missing until 2008 when he was presumed dead.

18. Philip Taylor Kramer

Philip Taylor Kramer was an American bass guitar player who played for the rock band Iron Butterfly and who later became an inventor and computer engineering executive. Kramer was supposed to have drove to the airport in LA to pick up a business associate and his wife, but called them instead to go directly to their hotel. He told them he would meet them later. However, it appears that he was at the airport for almost an hour, but no one understands why. On his way back from the airport, he called his wife, telling her that he was going to kill himself. He was never seen or heard from again.

His disappearance led to a massive search which included many news reports as well as talk show episodes, including Oprah, The Unexplained, Unsolved Mysteries, and American’s Most Wanted. However, nothing led to any discoveries as to his whereabouts, although there have been many conspiracy theories. His father was reported as saying his son would never commit suicide, saying that Kramer had told him a long time ago that if he ever said those words, that it meant he needed help due to threats.

19. Bison Dele

Bison Dele was an American professional basketball player, playing at center for teams such as Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls, LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets, and Orlanda Magic. Dele was a party to the Bulls championship in 1997. It is believed that he was murdered by his older brother in 2002 while out to sea. Dele and his girlfriend, a skipper, and his brother sailed on July 6, 2002 on Dele’s catamaran from Tahiti. Dele’s brother, Miles Dabord was the only one who was seen or heard from after July 8. Dabord brought the boat back to Tahiti on July 20, but he was the only one left aboard the boat.

Dabord intentionally overdosed on insulin, slipped into a coma, and later died on September 27 of the same year. He was the only one to have any information as to what had happened while they were out to sea. In his account, he and Dele had gotten into an argument. Then Dele’s girlfriend accidentally fell, hitting her head and dying. The skipper wanted to report the death; Dele panicked and killed him. Dabord then killed Dele in self-defense and threw all the bodies overboard. However, this account of events is not believed to be what actually happened. Whatever did happen is a mystery now that the one person who did know is dead.

20. Natalie Hollaway

Natalee Holloway was an American teenager, her disappearance making international headlines when she mysteriously disappeared on May 30, 2005 while on a trip to Aruba with her graduating class. Her disappearance caused a media sensation across the US, but the case has never been solved. Hollaway was supposed to fly home from the Caribbean on May 30, but she never appeared for her flight. She was last seen the night before outside a restaurant in a car with three local residents, including Joran van der Sloot. The three men were questions, but claimed they had dropped her off at the hotel and didn’t know what had happened to her.

An extensive search was conducted by Aruban investigators along with hundreds of volunteers as well as divers who searched the ocean floor. No evidence was ever found. Eventually, it came out that Hollaway had actually been dropped off at the hotel with Sloot, but that’s where the rest of the story becomes hazy. Sloot said at one point that she went into convulsions and became unresponsive. Nothing could be proven, however. Later Sloot extorted Hollaway’s family by telling them he knew where her body was and demanded money in order to reveal where it was. He was later indicted on charges of extortion and wire fraud.

In addition, Sloot was later found guilty of murdering another young girl in Lima, Peru, leading authorities to believe he had something to do with Hollaway’s disappearance as well, but no proof has even been found. Holloway was declared legally dead in absentia on January 12, 2012 at the request of her father.


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