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10 People Who Disappeared Without a Trace

people who disappeared

Every year thousands of people go missing all over the world. Some of them are found while some of them remain missing for long periods of time, and some forever. Among them, the most intriguing cases are those where people just disappear. In most of these sudden disappearance cases, there doesn’t exist a single clue and the person appears to have vanished into thin air. Here are 10 such people who disappeared without a trace.

1. Jim Sullivan

In 1969, a musician named Jim Sullivan recorded an album called U.F.O., which featured strange lyrics about leaving his family and being abducted by aliens. Sullivan disappeared six years later without a trace, the only piece of evidence being his abandoned car found on a desert road.

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American singer-songwriter James Anthony Sullivan (also known as Jim Sullivan) made headlines in 1975 when he disappeared under mysterious circumstances. On March 4, 1975, he left Los Angeles to drive to Nashville alone in his Volkswagen Beetle. The next day he checked into a motel in Santa Rosa, New Mexico but did not sleep there. The following day he was seen again about 26 miles away at a remote ranch owned by the Gennetti family. He’s never been seen or heard from ever again. His car was later found abandoned at the ranch and his guitar was in it.

The mysterious nature of his disappearance is amplified by his cryptic lyrics in the album U.F.O. In the album he talks about long highways, leaving his family behind, and being abducted by aliens in the desert. The lyrics have an eerie similarity to the actual situation leading to Jim’s disappearance.(1,2)

2. Fredrick Valentich

In 1978, pilot Frederick Valentich and his plane disappeared under mysterious circumstances. In his last radioed message, he mentions a strange aircraft hovering over him.

Fredrick Valentich
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On the evening of Saturday, 21 October 1978, pilot Fredrick Valentich was flying over Bass Strait in Australia. At 7:06 p.m., Valentich radioed Melbourne Flight Service and reported that an unidentified aircraft was following him at 4,500 feet. He was told there was no known traffic at that level. Valentich said he could see a large, unknown aircraft which appeared to be illuminated by four bright landing lights.

Valentich then reported that the aircraft was approaching him from the east. Then he reported that the aircraft was “orbiting” above him and that it had a shiny metal surface and a green light on it. Soon he started experiencing engine problems and he radioed, “It isn’t an aircraft.” After that his transmission was interrupted by an unidentified noise described as being “metallic, scraping sounds” before all contact was lost.

Soon, a sea and air search was undertaken, and the search encompassed over 1,000 square miles but proved to be of no avail. The last radioed message of Valentich has sparked speculation of an alien abduction.(1,2)


3. Madeleine McCann

Madeleine McCann, age 3, disappeared on the evening of 3 May 2007 from her bed in a holiday apartment in Portugal. Her disappearance was heavily reported by global media but still, her whereabouts remain unknown.

Madeleine McCann
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In May 2007, Madeleine McCann, her siblings, and her parents were in Portugal on a holiday. They were along with a group of family friends and their children. On May 3, 2007, her parents, Gerry and Kate, left their three children – including toddler twins Sean and Amelie – sleeping in their apartment while they dined at a tapas bar 120 meters away. At 10 p.m. that evening, Kate returned to check on the kids and discovered that Madeleine was not in her bed and was missing. Fearing the worst, Kate told her dazed husband and their friends that somebody had taken their defenseless three-year-old.

Patrol officers arrived at about 11 p.m. A search operation including both police and Ocean Club’s members proved fruitless. The disappearance of Madeleine gained huge attention and became one of the most heavily reported missing-person cases in modern history. Scores of theories popped up, and one witness even claimed to have seen a man carrying a child walking towards the beach. The McCanns were subjected to intense scrutiny and baseless allegations of involvement in their daughter’s death. Three-year-old Maddie’s whereabouts remain a mystery as even an £11 million police investigation has failed to provide answers.(1,2,3)

4. Ray Gricar

Ray Gricar, the American District Attorney originally assigned to the “Sandusky Case,” disappeared mysteriously in 2005. His laptop was later found in a river with its hard drive missing.

Ray Gricar
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On April 15, 2005, attorney Ray Gricar took a day off. At 11:30 a.m., he called his girlfriend Patricia Fornicola to say he was taking a drive on Route 192. When Gricar failed to return home late that evening, his girlfriend reported him missing. The following day, investigators identified the car driven by Ray Gricar in an antique store parking lot in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. The car contained his cell phone but not his laptop computer, nor his keys, nor his wallet.

On July 30, 2005, fishermen discovered Gricar’s laptop computer in the Susquehanna River beneath a bridge between Lewisburg and Milton. Analysis of the laptop showed that its hard drive was missing. Two months later, someone recovered a hard drive on the banks of the Susquehanna River about 100 yards from the location of the laptop. Investigator believed it to be the hard drive of Gricar’s laptop, but it was badly damaged and all attempts to recover the data failed.

Later, investigators revealed that a search of his home computer yielded a history of Internet searches for phrases like “how to wreck a hard drive.” Some believe that his disappearance is related to the Sandusky Case in which Gricar had chosen not to prosecute the then-Penn State assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, after reports surfaced that he had inappropriate interactions with a boy.(1,2)

5. Jim Gray

Jim Gray, a Microsoft scientist & Turing Award winner, left San Francisco Bay by sailboat to scatter his mother’s ashes at the Farallon Islands. He was reported missing when he failed to return later the same day. Despite one of the most thorough search and rescue missions, neither  Gray nor his yacht were ever found.

Jim Gray
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On Sunday, January 28, 2007, American computer scientist Jim Gray took what should have been a short, solo sailing trip to the Farallon Islands near San Francisco to scatter his mother’s ashes. At 10:30 a.m., he called his wife, Donna Carnes, from his 40-foot yacht Tenacious. A couple of hours later, his sailboat was spotted by a naturalist from Southeast Farallon Island. Then Gray and his boat vanished.

The Coast Guard received no Mayday call. Even Gray’s EPIRB, an emergency radio beacon designed to broadcast a homing signal if it sinks, stayed silent. No sailors in the area reported seeing the boat adrift, and not a single life vest, flashlight, or scrap of debris belonging to Tenacious washed up on local beaches. After being missing for five years, Gray was legally assumed to have died at sea on January 28, 2012.(1,2)


6. Louis Le Prince

Louis Le Prince, who filmed the first ever motion pictures, disappeared without a trace in 1890. Thomas Edison soon took credit as the first and sole inventor of the cinema and even took Le Prince’s son to court to establish that. A few years later, the son also died under mysterious circumstances.

Louis Le Prince
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Popularly known as the “Father of Cinematography,” Louis Le Prince, was a French-born inventor. On 14 October 1888, he shot the world’s first motion picture, Roundhay Garden Scene, with a single-lens camera that he created and patented.

In September 1890, Le Prince was preparing to go back to the UK to patent his new camera, to be followed by a trip to the US to promote it. Before his journey, he decided to return home and visit friends and family. On 13 September, he took a train to visit his brother in Dijon, and on 16 September, he boarded the Dijon–Paris express. But when the train arrived in Paris, Le Prince was not on board. Neither his body nor his luggage was on the train.

The last person to see Le Prince alive was his brother. No one saw Le Prince on the Dijon–Paris express after he was seen boarding it; neither was there any strange behavior or aggression reported aboard the Dijon-Paris express. The French police, Scotland Yard, and the family conducted exhaustive searches, but the mysterious disappearance case of Le Prince was never solved.(source)

7. Brian Shaffer

Brian Shaffer, a 27-year-old medical student, went missing on April 1, 2006, at the Ugly Tuna Saloona, a bar near his campus. CCTV records show Brian entering the bar, but he is not seen leaving, and there was no other publicly accessible entrance to the bar at that time.

Brian Shaffer
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Brian Shaffer was a medical student at Ohio State University. To celebrate the beginning of spring break, with he went out with his friends on the night of March 31, 2006. After bar hopping, they went to a bar and seafood restaurant called the Ugly Tuna Saloona. There he separated from his companions and was never seen by them again. When the bar closed at 2 a.m., Brian’s friends waited for him outside the bar. But when Brian was not among the departing crowd, they assumed he had gone back to his apartment without letting them know. His friends called him over the weekend, but he did not answer. On April 3, 2006, he was reported missing after he missed a flight to Miami planned by his friend.

At first, police reviewed the footage from a security camera installed outside the Ugly Tuna Saloona. The footage shows Brian entering the bar, but it did not record him leaving it. He could not have left through any other exit as the only other exit, a service door, led to a construction site that was difficult to walk through while sober, much less intoxicated. Officers also looked to the footage from other bars to see if cameras there could explain how Brian had left the Ugly Tuna. However, footage from cameras at three other nearby bars showed no trace of Brian.(source)


8. Joseph Force Crater

Judge Joseph Force Crater was last seen exiting a restaurant on August 6, 1930, and was never heard from again. The investigation of his disappearance led to a purge on New York City corruption from the Tammany Hall political machine.

Joseph Force Crater
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Joseph Force Crater was a New York State Supreme Court Justice who vanished amid a political scandal. On August 6, 1930, he had dinner with his mistress and a lawyer friend. His dining companions claimed they last saw Crater walking down the street outside the restaurant. No one saw him afterward, and the 41-year old judge vanished on the streets of Manhattan near Times Square.

News of Crater’s disappearance broke on September 3, triggering a dramatic manhunt and investigation. During the investigation, it was found that on the morning of August 6, the judge destroyed various documents. He had also moved two locked suitcases to his Fifth Avenue apartment and arranged for $5,000 to be withdrawn from his bank account. Detectives discovered that the judge’s safe deposit box had been emptied and the two briefcases that Crater had taken to his apartment were missing. Despite massive publicity, the case was never solved and was officially closed 40 years after he disappeared.(1,2)

9. Harold Holt

Harold Holt, an Australian Prime minister, went for a swim at Cheviot Beach and just disappeared in the water. No trace of Holt was found, even after one of the largest search operation.

Harold Holt
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Harold Holt was the 17th Prime Minister of Australia but held the title only for 22 months before he disappeared while swimming. On the morning of Sunday 17 December 1967, Holt drove down from Melbourne along with his neighbor and her family. They were going to see the lone British yachtsman Alec Rose sail through Port Phillip Heads. Around noon, they drove to one of Holt’s favorite swimming and snorkeling spots Cheviot Beach on Point Nepean near Portsea, on the eastern arm of Port Phillip Bay.

That day the surf was high and fierce, yet Holt decided to go for a swim. While swimming, he suddenly disappeared from view. Fearing the worst, the others raised the alert. Soon, a large contingent of police, divers, helicopters, army personnel, and local volunteers began one of the largest search operations in Australia’s history. Even though Holt was a strong swimmer and an experienced skin-diver, no trace of the Prime Minister was found.(source)

10. Bison Dele

Former Bull’s player and NBA Champion Brian Williams (Bison Dele) mysteriously disappeared in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. His boat was brought back alone by his brother, who attempted to assume his identity and money.

Bison Dele
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Starting in 1991, Bison Dele played basketball for five NBA teams, and in 1997 he helped the Chicago Bulls win a championship. He retired from basketball in 1999 at the age of 30. After retirement, he learned to sail and purchased catamaran to sail the seven seas.

On July 6, 2002, Bison Dele, along with his brother Miles Dabord, boarded the catamaran in Tahiti with two others on board. The only person who returned alive from the trip was Dele’s brother, Miles Dabord. Dabord brought the boat into Tahiti on July 20, 2002, and he was the only person onboard. On September 5, 2002, police found out that Dabord had used Dele’s passport as identification and also forged his signature to buy US$152,000 worth of gold. About the same time, Dabord phoned his and Dele’s mother, Patricia Phillips, telling her that he would never hurt his brother and that he could not survive in prison.

Later, Dabord, the only person to know about the case, intentionally overdosed on insulin and slipped into a coma. He died on September 27, 2002, leaving the mystery unsolved as to what happened to Bison Dele and the two others on board the boat.(source)


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