From pilots, to murderers, to notorious mobsters, there are plenty of people whose mysterious disappearances have made national news. What happened of these people? The world may never know. But their memory lives on in the wake of their disappearance.
It is the nation’s only unsolved skyjacking, a plane heist that happened over 30 years ago. The infamous D.B. Cooper was a household name by 1971 when on Thanksgiving Eve that year, he was on a flight to Seattle to Portland under the alias D.B. Cooper. What should have been a short flight turned into one of distress when Cooper disclosed to a flight attendant that he was in possession of explosives. He threatened to use them unless he was given $200,000, four parachutes, and a refueling truck upon landing.
The plane circled for two hours before landing while Cooper’s demands were being met. Once Cooper was given the ransom and the parachutes, the passengers were released but he ordered the pilot and crew to take him to Mexico City. After the plane was refueled and took off, Cooper leaped from the plane at 10,000 feet over Washington State. His remains were never found and to this day, nobody knows who D.B. Cooper really is.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
French aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was also a writer and poet, most famous for authoring the children’s book, Le Petit Prince. Before joining the French Air Force at the start of WWII, he was a commercial pilot that flew airmail routes between Europe, Africa, and South America. In July 1944, Saint-Exupéry took off in an unarmed P-38 on a reconnaissance mission from Corsica, but he never returned. Soon, work of his disappearance spread and made international headlines. In September 1998, over 50 years later, a fisherman in the south of France found a silver ID bracelet that was engraved with the names of Saint-Exupéry and his wife, Consuelo.
She was an aviation pioneer and the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. By now, everyone knows about Amelia Earhart. But even more fascinating than her life and her accomplishments is the way in which she vanished. In 1937, she publicly announced her attempt to circumnavigate the globe and was given funding from Purdue University, where she was a visiting faculty member, to complete the mission.
Lockheed Aircraft Company built a Lockheed Electra 10E exactly to Earhart’s specifications. After her initial departure, her fist destination was Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean. After several failed communication attempts with a nearby ship, Earhart’s plane was never heard from again. The most common theory as to what may have happened is that the plane ran out of fuel and Earhart ditched the plane into the Pacific. She was declared dead in absentia in 1939.
Italian fashion head Vittorio Missoni was the CEO of the Missoni fashion house that was founded by his parents in 1953. While his two siblings handled the creative side of the family business, Vittorio was in charge of the business side of things, leading the marketing and manufacturing departments. He is credited with making Missoni a global brand after becoming the CEO in Europe and the United States. In January 2013, while vacationing in the Los Roques archipelago, his plane disappeared on its way to Venezuela and the search for it went on for six months. While the plane was found to have crashed in the Caribbean Sea that June, Missoni’s body has never been located.
The Zodiac Killer
If you were alive during the late 1960s and early 1970s, then you probably lived in fear of The Zodiac Killer. The Zodiac Killer was a serial killer based out of Northern California, who was notorious for informing the police of his crimes after they were done. In August of 1969, he even wrote three cryptic letters that were received by Bay Area publications, and he threatened to go on a killing spree if there weren’t published. The letters contained cryptograms that claimed to reveal his identity if solved. Somehow, despite his public taunts, he was able to evade the police every time. To this day, he remains unidentified and the San Francisco Police Department made his case “inactive” in 2004. The case was reopened in 2007 and it has remained open in other Bay Area counties as well as with the California Department of Justice.
Ambrose Bierce was an American journalist and author, who is most popular for his works of satire and sardonic view of human nature. He participated in the Civil War but became most known for his work in journalism in the late nineteenth century. In 1913, he traveled to Mexico during the Mexican Revolution. While there, he was an observer of Pancho Villa’s army and witnessed the Battle of Tierra Blanca. His last known communication was in a letter he wrote in December 1913 to friend Blanche Parlington, in which he wrote, “As to me, I leave here tomorrow for an unknown destination.” He was never seen or heard from again.
Jim Thompson was an American businessman who was known as the most famous American living in Asia at the time of his disappearance in the 1960s. A graduate of Princeton University and a former WWII spy, Thompson settled in Thailand after his service and was known for helping revive the Thai silk industry. In Thailand, he stayed at the “Moonlight” bungalow while visiting the Cameron Highlands. In March of 1967, he told his cohorts that he was going for a walk, but never returned that evening. An extensive search for Thompson began after the local police declared him lost. In 1974, he was declared dead in absentia by the Thai court and in 1985, researchers found bone fragments that may or may not belong to Thompson.
Harold Holt was prime minister of Australia during the time of his disappearance. In December of 1967, he was near Portsea, Victoria at Cheviot Beach when he decided to go for a swim from which he would never return. For two days, authorities searched for his body to no avail, until they decided to presume that Holt was dead.
In 2005, almost 40 years later, a coroner determined that the cause of death was an accidental drowning. Many believe that Holt was either swept out to sea—as his last known location was known for strong rip currents—or that he was eaten by a shark. Holt was actually a skilled swimmer which is why his disappearance boggled many. He wasn’t even the prime minister for two years before he was mysteriously gone.
Sean Flynn is the only son of Australian-American actor Errol Flynn and his first wife, actress Lili Damita. Flynn first followed in his parents’ footsteps when he began acting at the age of 15, but by 1964 he grew tired of the profession and went to Africa for big-game hunting. He eventually became a freelance photojournalist, having his work featured in Paris Match, Time Life, and United Press International. Flynn and fellow photojournalist Dana Stone traveled on assignment in Saigon to document the war. They chose to travel by motorcycle and when they heard there was a checkpoint run by the Viet Cong, they chose to travel there so they could get a picture of it. That would be the last time any Westerners saw or heard from Flynn and Stone. They were known to be captured by the Viet Cong, but their fate afterward is unknown. Flynn’s mother had him declared dead in absentia in 1984.
Jimmy Hoffa was the corrupt leader of the Teamsters labor union. He was presumably taken out by the mob after disappearing from a restaurant parking lot in Detroit in July 1975. Eight years later, he was declared dead in absentia. But the real mystery revolving around this case is the fact that his body is nowhere to be found. There are numerous legends about where and how he was disposed of. While some believe he was buried beneath the driveway of a suburban home, others believe more outrageous things like that fact that he was crushed in a car compactor.
Glenn Miller was a big band musician, composer, and bandleader of the swing era in the early 1940s. During his prime, he released hits such as “Moonlight Serenade,” “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” and “At Last.” In 1942, Miller wanted to join the war effort and enlisted in the Army to “be placed in charge of a modernized Army band.”
While in the army, he attempted to modernize army music and was even quoted as saying, “America means freedom and there’s no expression of freedom quite so sincere as music.” He had so much support that he traveled to Europe to entertain U.S. troops. In December 1944, he was traveling from the United Kingdom to Paris on a single engined UC-64 Norseman to make arrangements for his entire band to be moved there. But he was never heard from again as the plane disappeared over the English Channel. The most common theory as to what may have happened is that the plane crashed due to a faulty carburetor.
Henry Hudson is a famed British navigator and the namesake of the Hudson River and the Hudson Bay. He was apparently such a fervent navigator that he would forgo the comfort of the crew to complete his travels. He reportedly got himself and his crew trapped in ice for several months, leaving them starving and homesick. Eventually, a mutiny by disgruntled crew members forced Hudson, his son, and his loyal followers adrift on an open boat in what is now Hudson Bay. The castaways were never seen or heard from ever again. Many believed that Hudson met his demise on that little boat and the returned crew members stood trial for murder in England.
Oscar Zeta Acosta
Oscar zeta Acosta was a Texas-born Mexican-American attorney, who was known to be good friends with writer Hunter S. Thompson. In his line of work, Acosta was also a political activist and wrote novels about the plight of marginalized peoples during the Chicano Movement. In May of 1974, Acosta traveled to Mazatlán, Mexico. Before his disappearance, Acosta contacted his son Marco, who believes he was the last person to have contact with his father, who told him he was “about to board a boat full of white snow.” Later on, Marco told authorities, “The body was never found, but we surmise that probably, knowing the people he was involved with, he ended up mouthing off, getting into a fight, and getting killed.” Hunter S. Thompson later investigated the disappearance and wrote a piece titled “The Banshee Screams For Buffalo Meat” that was published in Rolling Stone.
In 1980, Azaria Chamberlain was just a nine-week-old baby when she disappeared near her parent’s campsite. The case was determined a murder at the hands of her own mother, Lindy Chamberlain, who was sentenced to life in prison, despite her claims that a wild dingo took her baby out of their tent and dragged her away. Husband Michael Chamberlain was also convicted on suspicion of being an accessory to murder. Three years later, the convictions were overturned when a piece of Azaria’s clothing was found in a nearby dingo lair by chance. 32 years later in 2012, the now-divorced couple were exonerated after a coroner ruled that their daughter’s death was caused by a wild dingo.
Dorothy Arnold was an American socialite of a wealthy family in early 1900s New York City. An aspiring writer, she mysteriously disappeared in December 1910 while walking on Fifth Avenue in the city. When she didn’t return for dinner that night, her family started to get concerned. For fear of social embarrassment, they didn’t notify the police for weeks. They contacted all of Arnold’s friends who had no idea of her whereabouts. Clerks at stores she visited that day said they noticed nothing out of the ordinary. To this day, the mystery remains unsolved. Some speculate that she eloped and moved to Europe or that she was murdered. Another speculation is that she went to have an abortion at an underground clinic that many women have visited before disappearing. It turns out, when the procedure wasn’t successful, the women died and they were burned in a furnace. This could be the fate of Dorothy Arnold but the world will never really know.
Jean Spangler was a Los Angeles-based dancer and model, who also did bit-part acting in Hollywood films at the time of her disappearance in the 1940s. One night in October 1949, she left her daughter with her sister-in-law, saying that she was going to see her ex-husband for child support, then go to work at a night shoot. After she never returned, her sister-in-law informed the police. Her ex-husband claimed he hadn’t seen her in weeks and police also found that no Hollywood studios were even open on the night of her disappearance. Her purse was found in Griffith Park with a mysterious note, with leads to a “Kirk” and “Dr. Scott” who the police couldn’t uncover. Rumor has it that Spangler was pregnant at the time and was seeking an abortion, which was illegal back then. To this day, the Los Angeles Police Department has not closed the case and she is still listed as a missing person.
In 2005, Natalee Holloway made headlines all across America with her disappearance. She was on a high school graduation trip with her senior class in Aruba. On May 30th that year, she never appeared for the return flight home and her packed luggage and passport were sitting in her room. Classmates said they last saw her leaving an Aruban bar and nightclub with a 17-year-old Dutch student named Joran van der Sloot and his two friends in the early hours of the morning. Numerous arrests were made and trials were had, but by 2012, she was declared dead in absentia, but the crime remains unsolved.
Jeremy Bright was a teenager who disappeared in August 1986. He and his younger sister were staying with their stepfather in Myrtle Point to attend the Coos County Fair for a few days. On August 13, he arranged for his mother to pick them up and take them home two days later. That evening, he went to a tavern owned by his grandmother, where his stepfather was, so that he could have more money for the fair. The next day, Bright parted ways with his sister at the fair and the two planned to reconvene later that afternoon, but it would be the last time anyone saw or heard from him. Many rumors as to where he might have gone include the possibility that he ran away with the traveling carnival or that he died from an overdose at a party. Others say they last saw him in the truck of a former babysitter, who was later charged with the stabbing of a woman, so authorities believe that the babysitter had a hand at killing Jeremy. But to this day, the truth remains unknown.
Born Brian Carson Williams, Bison Dele was an American pro-basketball player who played center for the Orlando Magic, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago Bulls, and Detroit Pistons throughout the ’90s. In July 2002, he disappeared along with his girlfriend and the skipper of a catamaran that they were on while sailing in Tahiti. Dele’s brother, Miles Dabord, was also with them, but he mysteriously arrived in Tahiti alone on the boat. Many people believe that Dabord had a hand in the murder of Dele and the other passengers, but he slipped into a coma and passed away before they ever learned the truth. Since they were in the middle of the ocean, authorities believe that the missing bodies will never be found.
Richey Edwards was a Welsh musician who was known for his songwriting and lyricism as a part of the alternative rock band, Manic Street Preachers. While he was known to not have very much musical talent, he is credited with contributing a lot to the band’s lyrics with bassist Nicky Wire. In February 1995, he and the band’s lead guitarist, James Dean Bradfield, were scheduled to fly on a promotional tour throughout the United States, but he wouldn’t make the trip. In the weeks leading up to his disappearance, he was exhibiting strange behavior by withdrawing copious amounts of money from his account. About two weeks after his disappearance, a car registered to Edwards received a ticket, but police determined it was abandoned. It was parked next to a bridge, so many speculate that Edwards might have committed suicide, although that contradicts Edward’s previous statements that he would never do that.