Gone Without A Trace: 10 People Who Vanished Into Thin Air

Gone Without A Trace: 10 People Who Vanished Into Thin Air

In 2016 alone, an astonishing 830,000 people were reported missing in America. Most of them are runaways who are eventually found, but sometimes people vanish without leaving any clues as to their whereabouts. It is a terrible feeling when someone close to us goes missing. It is particularly hard for us to endure and to include ourselves in the search for them when there is virtually nothing to work with. Without proper information, there have been thousands of cases that have gone cold throughout history. Here are 10 such cases of people and situations in which no one saw anything and no obvious explanation was found. These cases are still unsolved to this day, as the people seemed to have simply vanished into thin air.

1. Frederick Valentich

On October 21, 1978, Frederick Valentich was flying a Cessna 182L light aircraft on a 125-mile (235 km) training flight over Bass Strait in Australia, when he went missing.

People that vanished without a trace.
Image Source: Wikipedia/Wikimedia

Valentich was a 20-year-old pilot who, during his disappearance, left nothing behind except a mysterious radio transmission. His disappearance has sparked an interest among many famous historians as well as UFO enthusiasts. On the night of October 21, 1978, Valentich planned to fly from Moorabbin in Victoria to King Island. He left Moorabbin at 6:19pm and made initial contact with air traffic control in Melbourne at 7:06pm. His first question to the air traffic controller was,

“Is there any sort of aircraft in the area?”

Valentich reported a large unknown aircraft that flew over him.

“It seems to be playing some sort of game. He’s flying over me. It’s not an aircraft.”

Until 7:12pm, Valentich kept contact with the control room before he vanished into thin air. Authorities searched for him and the Cessna plane for four days but failed to find any clues. Many theories exist to what had happened to him. One such theory that is popular among officials is that Valentich was flying upside down and became disoriented by which he was confused with the reflection of his own flight.

2. Harold Holt

Born in Sydney in 1908, Harold Edward Holt was elected to the Federal seat of Fawkner in 1935. Holt became the Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Party of Australia in January 1966.

Harold Holt vanished while swimming
Image Source: Wikimedia 1, 2

On December 17, 1967, Holt went swimming at the Cheviot Beach near Portsea, Victoria. Friends and family members saw him swim into the beach but never saw him return. The Royal Australian Navy and Air Force immediately conducted an intensive search to find their missing president. Nevertheless, the search yielded no results and authorities finally declared him dead.

A variety of theories have been circulating about what had actually happened to him. One of them suggests that the incident could have been an accident. Holt, who was suffering from shoulder pain, was advised not to swim or lift. A joint report by Commonwealth and Victoria Police states that the turbulent conditions (high winds, rough seas and rip tides) overpowered him.

3. Frank Lenz

There have been several reported cases of people disappearing while attempting to fly around the world. Frank Lenz’s case however is unique in every manner. He disappeared during an attempt to cycle around the globe.

Frank Lenz vanished without a trace
Image Source: Wikimedia

The 25-year-old from Pennsylvania gained fame at a young age for his cycling abilities. Lenz wanted to take his skills to the next level and attempt a bicycle trip around the world. According to his calculations, the entire trip would have taken him two years to complete. On May 25, 1892, Lenz began his trip in Pittsburgh and spent the next few months travelling across North America. On May 1894, Lenz was cycling through Tabriz, Iran with the next destination set on his mind. His projected destination was 450 kilometers (300 miles) away in Erzurum, Turkey, but Lenz never arrived there.

Even though he was on a journey throughout the world, Lenz always wrote and kept in touch with his family. After not hearing from him all summer, his concerned family and friends decided to conduct a search for him. Their search efforts lasted for several months but any information regarding Lenz was limited. William Sachtleben was another cyclist who traveled to Erzurum in search of Lenz. Sachtleben was able to uncover information that his family and friends weren’t capable of. He found out that Lenz, while passing through a small Turkish village, insulted a Kurdish chief. In retaliation, the chief had his bandits murder him and hide his body. Though the Turkish government paid compensation to the Lenz family, his body was never found, questioning the foundation of the story. Nevertheless, Lenz vanished without a trace and no one knows for sure what had happened to him.

4. D.B. Cooper

D.B. Cooper, a saga of a brazen air pirate, is an unidentified man who purchased a ticket under the alias of “Dan Cooper”. The gentleman then skyjacked Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305 bound for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

D.B. Cooper vanished from Portland
Image Source: Wikimedia/flickr

Thirty minutes after the flight departed from Portland, Oregon, Cooper informed one of the flight attendants that he was in possession of explosives. He then demanded $200,000 (equivalent to $1,180,000 in 2016), four parachutes and a refueling truck upon landing at Sea-Tac. While authorities scrambled to get everything ready for the hijacker, the plane circled around for two hours before landing at Sea-Tac. When authorities handed over the ransome, along with the four parachutes, Cooper released Flight 305’s passengers. After the refueling process began, Cooper informed the pilot to fly to Mexico.

30 minutes after the flight departed at 7:40 p.m., Cooper wore one of the chutes and jumped with the ransom money from the plane’s aft airstair at 10,000 feet. He vanished into the night over southwestern Washington, near Mount St. Helens; never to be found again. To this day, his whereabouts are unknown. It’s not even clear whether the man survived the jump. The FBI conducted a massive search for years but failed to determine the true identity of the air pirate.

5. Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart was a pioneering aviatrix, author, teacher, magazine editor, celebrity fashion designer and cigarette spokesperson. During her 39 years on this planet, Amelia Earhart managed to grab everyone’s attention with her impressive skills.

Amelia Earhart vanished while flying
Image Source: flickr/Wikimedia

Amelia Earhart, the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, mysteriously disappeared while attempting a round-the-world flight. On July 2, 1937, Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan were flying over the Pacific Ocean before they vanished into thin air. The duo were en route to Howland Island but never made it to the destination. Their disappearance resulted in the most intensive and expensive search effort in American history at the time.

Since neither the plane they were flying on or their bodies were ever discovered, Earhart was declared dead in 1939. Authorities believe that while in transit, Earhart ran out of fuel and ditched the plane into the Pacific. In 2012, researchers conducted a $2.2 million expedition to prove that Earhart did in fact crash her plane on the tiny island of Nikumaroro. To this day, her body has never been recovered nor is there any evidence to suggest as to what had happened to her.

6. Bobby Dunbar

Bobby Dunbar and his disappearance is one that is almost more terrifying than a murder mystery. The story circulates around a young boy who went missing in a swamp. Eight months after his disappearance, a boy who looked similar to him was snatched from the arms of an innocent mother.

Bobby Dunbar vanished without a trace
Image Source: Wikipedia

The truth about Bobby Dunbar was not discovered until his death. Bobby Dunbar was playing in a swamp in Louisiana before his parents realized that he went missing. The story caught the attention of major news outlets and spread around the country like wildfire. Eight months into his disappearance, a young boy who looked similar in appearance was spotted with a drifter named William Walters. Authorities quickly snatched the boy and jailed Walters. When Dunbar’s parents went to see the boy, they were thoroughly convinced that it was in fact their missing child.

However, a woman named Julia Anderson came forward, claiming the child to be hers. A trial was set to determine who gets authority of the child. Since Anderson wasn’t capable of appointing a lawyer, she lost the trial. The Dunbars raised the child as their own and he lived a happy life until his death in 1966. In 2004, Bobby Dunbar Jr. was subjected to a DNA test, where the results showed that he had no blood relation to the Dunbars. The real Bobby Dunbar was never discovered since authorities stopped searching for him when the boy matching his description was found.

7. Jim Sullivan

Born on August 13, 1940, James Anthony Sullivan was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. He was well known for his songs about UFO’s but became popular worldwide after mysteriously disappearing without a trace in New Mexico.

Jim Sullivan vanished
Image Source: Screengrab/Vimeo

In 1975, the disillusioned singer’s life was beginning to fall apart. Sullivan was convinced that other artists were stealing his songs and ended up developing a drinking problem. This prompted him to pack his bags and drive to Nashville in search of work. Sullivan promised his wife Carol and son Chris that they could reunite once he earned some money. Unfortunately, that was the last time they would ever see him.

Records indicated that the founder of the music blog ‘Light in the Attic’, was driving in his Volkswagen Bug and checked into a motel in Santa Rosa, New Mexico the next day. In the early morning hours of March 5, he was pulled over outside Santa Rosa for swerving. The police officer took him to the station, where Sullivan passed the sobriety test. The swerving was caused by the 15-hour drive from L.A. He then checked into the La Mesa Motel but police reports indicated that the bed was never slept in. In fact, the room was locked with the keys inside the motel itself. His Volkswagen was found 26 miles away from the motel. The car was packed with all of his belongings; including his wallet, guitar and clothes. Sullivan was never found and his whereabouts are to this day, unknown.

8. Henry Hudson

Henry Hudson was a famed British navigator who has a river, bay, town and bridge named after him. The determined navigator and his crew became trapped on an ice shelf for several months – resulting in the crew being homesick and unwilling to keep exploring.

Henry Hudson vanished
Image Source: Wikipedia

Hudson studied navigation at an early age and became widely known for his extreme skills and knowledge of Arctic geography. The Muscovy Company of London saw the potential in him and funded his ideas to find an ice-free passage past the North Pole. This was in fact a path to connect the rich markets and resources of Asia. In Spring of 1607, Hudson sailed with his son John and 10 companions. Upon reaching the Svalbard archipelago, the crew hit ice and were forced to turn back. In April 1610, Hudson and his crew endured harsh winter conditions with no outlet to the Pacific. The 55-ton ship known as Discovery had no way to move forward.

Hudson, his son and the crew were in fact stuck in present-day Hudson Bay. Since he wanted to continue with the expedition, three of the crew grew restless and hostile. They abandoned Hudson, his son John and the seven loyal crewmembers in a small open boat with limited supplies and set sail back to England. The crew, upon reaching England, were charged with treason for abandoning their captain. They were arrested and faced trial but did not serve any jail time. Meanwhile, there was no record of Hudson, his son and the seven crewmen. Some say that mutiny took over and the crewmen ended up killing the captain along with his son. Others say that all of the men froze to death. To this day, there’s no physical evidence that suggests what had actually happened to them.

9. Gedhun Choekyi Nyima

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was born on April 25, 1989. In May 14, 1995, he was elected as the 11th Panchen Lama of Tibetan Buddhism. Dalai Lama himself recognized Nyima as the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism.

Panchen Lama vanished
Image Source: Wikimedia 1, 2

More than two decades ago, at the age of six, Gendun Choekyi Nyima was named the Panchen Lama. The decision was made by the government in a bid to win the hearts and minds of the Tibetans. As soon as China got a whiff of the news, they took him into custody, never to be seen again. The Chinese then elected a boy named Gyaincain Norbu as the Panchen Lama. The Tibetans and the Buddhist community did not recognize the newly elected boy as their Panchen Lama. According to a Chinese official, Nyima is still alive and wishes to live a secluded life. Though, there hasn’t been any evidence provided to conclude whether the statement is true or not. To this day, many organizations as well as locals, fight for the truth as to what actually happened to him.

10. Granger Taylor

Granger Taylor, a Vancouver resident, disappeared without a trace in 1980. The only clue he left behind was a note which was attached to his bedroom door. More than thirty years later, the mystery surrounding his disappearance is still unknown.

Granger Taylor
Image Source: 1, 2

Granger Taylor grew up on Western Canada’s Vancouver Island. Taylor was smart in every way but his desire to succeed was different than most. He dropped out of school in 8th grade and taught himself mechanics. By the age of 14, he built his own car and at 17, he rebuilt an entire bulldozer that was being scrapped. His parents saw the potential in him and always encouraged him and his work. As Taylor grew older, he became more interested in airplanes and then UFO’s. He built a life-sized replica of a UFO out of scrap metal and spare parts, which was fully furnished; along with a TV, couch and wood-burning stove inside. Then one day, Taylor told one of his friend’s that he had received a telepathic message. According to his friend,

He said it happened when he was in bed. He lay there and got mental communications with somebody from another galaxy…He said it was like they were talking to him and to his mind. He was asking questions about the means for powering their crafts. The only thing they would tell him was it was magnetic.

Of course no one believed him but Taylor took it very seriously. Several days passed by before Taylor informed his friend of an extraterrestrial offer (a 42-month trip through the solar system) he received. On November 28, 1980, Taylor packed his bags, left a note to his parents and went to Mount Sicker. He then vanished into thin air.

The note his parents received read,

Dear Mother and Father,

I have gone away to walk aboard an alien ship, as recurring dreams assured a 42-month interstellar voyage to explore the vast universe, then return. I am leaving behind all my possessions to you, as I will no longer require the use of any. Please use the instructions in my will as a guide to help.



More than 30 years after his disappearance, the story of Taylor remains unsolved.

Also read: The Bloody Benders: America’s First Serial Killers Whose Crimes Still Fascinate Us Today

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