The 13 most famous unsolved disappearances of all time

Step into the captivating world of mysteries with our article on the 13 most famous unsolved disappearances of all time.

Unsolved disappearances have always captivated our imagination, leaving us with more questions than answers. These mystifying cases seem straight out of a suspense novel, with clues that lead nowhere and protagonists who vanish without a trace. From famous historical figures to ordinary individuals who vanished into thin air, the world is filled with unsolved mysteries waiting to be unraveled. In this article, we delve into the 13 most famous unsolved disappearances of all time.

The 13 most famous unsolved disappearances of all time 1

1 | Where (who) is D.B. Cooper?

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FBI composite drawings of D.B. Cooper. (FBI)

On November 24th of 1971, DB Cooper (Dan Cooper) hijacked a Boeing 727 and successfully extorted $200,000 in ransom money – worth $1 million today – from the US Government. He drank a whisky, smoked a fag and parachuted from the plane with the negotiated money. He was never seen or heard from again and the ransom money was never used.

In 1980, a young boy on vacation with his family in Oregon found several packets of the ransom money (identifiable by serial number), leading to an intense search of the area for Cooper or his remains. Nothing was ever found. Later in 2017, a parachute strap was found at one of Cooper’s possible landing sites.

2 | Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart. Wikimedia Commons

More than 80 years after Amelia Earhart vanished while trying to fly around the world, historians and explorers are still trying to solve the vexing disappearance of the pioneering American pilot. Earhart had already broken barriers as the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean when she and navigator Fred Noonan embarked on what they hoped would be the first around-the-world flight in 1937.

The pair had set off for a remote island in the Pacific Ocean called Howland Island from Lae, New Guinea, travelling more than 22,000 miles and completing nearly two-thirds of the historic trip before running dangerously low on fuel. They disappeared somewhere over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937.

Rescuers looked for the pair for about two weeks, but Earhart and her companion were never found. In 1939, despite a lack of major breaks in the case, Earhart was officially declared dead by a court order. To this day, her fate remains a mystery and a topic of debate.

3 | Louis Le Prince

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Louis Le Prince. Wikimedia Commons

Louis Le Prince was the inventor of the motion picture, though Thomas Edison would take credit for this invention after Le Prince disappeared. Was a patent-greedy Edison responsible? Probably not.

Le Prince mysteriously disappeared in September 1890. Le Prince had been visiting his brother in Dijon, France, and boarded a train to go back to Paris. When the train arrived in Paris, Le Prince did not get off the train, so a conductor went to his compartment to fetch him. When the conductor opened the door, he found that Le Prince and his luggage were gone.

The train made no stops between Dijon and Paris, and Le Prince could not have jumped out the window of his compartment since the windows were locked from the inside. The police searched the countryside between Dijon and Paris anyway, but never found any trace of the missing man. It seems he just vanished.

There is a possibility (which the police never considered) that Le Prince never boarded the train in the first place. Le Prince’s brother, Albert, was the one who took Louis to the train station. It is feasible that Albert could have been lying, and he actually killed his own brother for his inheritance money. But at this point, we’ll likely never know.

4 | The crew of the Navy Blimp L-8

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The Navy Blimp L-8. Wikimedia Commons

In 1942, a Navy blimp called the L-8 took off from Treasure Island in the Bay Area on a submarine-spotting mission. It flew with a two-man crew. A few hours later, it came back to land and collided into a house in Daly City. Everything on board was in its proper place; no emergency gear had been used. But the crew?? The crew was gone! They were never found! Read

5 | The disappearance of Jim Sullivan

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In 1975, Jim Sullivan mysteriously disappeared in the desert. Image courtesy of Chris and Barbara Sullivan /Light In The Attic

With an affinity for the open road, 35-year-old musician Jim Sullivan set out on a road trip alone in 1975. Leaving behind his wife and son in Los Angeles, he was en route to Nashville in his Volkswagen Beetle. It’s reported that he checked into La Mesa Hotel in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, but he didn’t sleep there. Then the next day, he was spotted nearly 30 miles away from the motel at a ranch, but was seen walking away from his car that contained his guitar, money, and all his worldly possessions. Sullivan vanished without a trace. Sullivan had previously released his first album titled U.F.O. in 1969, and conspiracy theorists all jumped at the idea that he got abducted by aliens.

6 | James E. Tedford

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The bus on which James was travelling home. Wikimedia Commons

James E. Tedford mysteriously vanished in November 1949. Tedford boarded a bus in St. Albans, Vermont, United States, where he had been visiting family. He was taking the bus to Bennington, Vermont, where he lived in a retirement home.

Fourteen passengers saw Tedford on the bus, sleeping in his seat, after the last stop before Bennington. What doesn’t make sense is that when the bus arrived in Bennington, Tedford was nowhere to be seen. All his belongings were still on the luggage rack.

What is even stranger about this case is that Tedford’s wife also disappeared some years earlier. Tedford was a WWII veteran and when he returned from the war he found his wife had vanished and their property had been abandoned. Did Tedford’s wife find a way to bring her husband into the next dimension with her?

7 | Flight 19

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Flight 19 was the designation of a group of five Grumman TBM Avenger torpedo bombers that disappeared over the Bermuda Triangle on December 5, 1945. All 14 airmen on the flight were lost. Wikimedia Commons

On 5th December of 1945, the ‘Flight 19’ – the five TBF Avengers – was lost with 14 airmen, and before losing radio contact off the coast of southern Florida, the flight leader was reportedly heard saying: “Everything looks strange, even the ocean… We are entering white water, nothing seems right.” To make things even stranger, ‘PBM Mariner BuNo 59225’ had also lost with 13 airmen on the same day while searching for ‘Flight 19’, and they all have never been found again.

8 | The Flannan Isles lighthouse incident

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Flannan Isles Lighthouse. Pixabay

In 1900, the captain of the Archer steamboat, passing the Flannan Islands, discovered that the fire of the Eilean Mor lighthouse had disappeared. He reported this to the Scottish Coast Guard. But because of the storm, it was impossible to find out the cause of what happened. By that time, Thomas Marshall, James Ducat and Donald MacArthur were on duty at the lighthouse. They all were experienced rangers who faithfully performed their duties. Investigators suspected that some kind of a disaster had occurred.

However, Joseph Moore, the main lighthouse keeper, managed to get to the island only 11 days after the tragic event took place on December 26th. He stumbled upon the tightly locked door of the tower, and there was a dinner left untouched in the kitchen. All things were intact in their conditions except for an upturned chair. It was as if they were running from the table.

After conducting a more detailed examination, it became clear that some tools had disappeared, and there were not enough jackets in the wardrobe. When studying the log-diary, it turned out that a storm was raging in the vicinity of the islands. However, there was no evidential report of such strong storms in the region that night. Since the employees were gone, Moore himself kept a watch for about a month. After that, he regularly kept talking about the voices calling him.

According to the official version, the storm rose, two employees rushed to strengthen the fencing, but the water level rose sharply to unprecedented proportions, and they were washed away into the water. The third one hastened to help, but he suffered the same fate. But legends of unknown power still shroud the islands.

9 | Sodder Children just evaporated

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Sodder Children. Wikimedia Commons

On Christmas Eve of 1945, the house belonging to George and Jennie Sodder burnt to the ground. After the fire, five of their children were missing and presumed dead. However, no remains were ever found and the fire had produced no smell of burning flesh. The fire was ruled an accident; faulty wiring on Christmas tree lights. However, the electricity in the house still worked when the fire started. In 1968, they received a bizarre note and photo, supposedly from their son Louis. The envelope was postmarked from Kentucky with no return address. The Sodders sent a private investigator to look into the matter. He disappeared, and never contacted the Sodders again. Read More

10 | What happened to the crew of Mary Celeste?

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In 1872, the crew of the brigantine “Dei Gratia” noticed that a certain ship was drifting aimlessly for several kilometres. The captain of the ship, David Morehouse, gave a signal according to which the crew of the noticed vessel had to answer the sailors. But there was no reply or reaction. David Morehouse decided to approach the ship when he read the name “Mary Celeste”.

Strangely, the two ships departed from New York with one week apart, and the captains knew each other. Morehouse, with several members of his ship’s crew, boarded the Mary Celeste when he realized that there wasn’t a soul on her. At the same time, the cargo transported on the ship (alcohol in barrels) was untouched.

However, the sails of the ship were torn to shreds, the ship’s compass was broken, and on one of the sides, someone made danger sign with an axe. While there were no signs of robbery on the ship, the cabins were not turned upside down. The wardroom and in the galley were orderly decorated. Only in the cabin of the navigator, there were no documents other than the ship’s log diary, in which, the entries ended on November 24, 1872. The crew of the ship were never found and what really happened in the ship that remains an unsolved mystery to this day.

11 | Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

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Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

In what is perhaps the most baffling and tragic aviation mystery of all time, more than 200 people on board Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 appeared to vanish mid-air on March 8, 2014. Despite government officials setting out on what they called an “unprecedented” search by air and sea that involved multiple countries and spanned at least three years, the aircraft and the remains of the 239 passengers remain missing. It’s also still unclear what caused the commercial plane to suddenly veer off course.

The trip began as usual when the Beijing-bound Boeing 777 aircraft departed as scheduled from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, carrying 12 crew members and 227 passengers. But it went missing soon after a routine handover between air traffic control systems. Instead of heading to its planned destination, the aircraft flew back across the Malaysian Peninsula and made its way to the southern Indian Ocean, officials said.

During a news conference last summer, after the release of the latest safety investigation report into the incident, lead investigator Kok Soo Chon said no cause could be confirmed or ruled out. “Due to the significant lack of evidence available to the team,” he said, “we are unable to determine with any certainty the reason that the aircraft diverted.” At some point, the aircraft systems were manually turned off.

But Kok said signs did not appear to indicate that the flight’s pilots had maliciously cut off communication. (Some aviation experts had contradicted this conclusion in a 60 Minutes Australia special in May 2018.) There was also the possibility that a third party illegally interfered, investigators said. However, Kok pointed out the unusual fact that no one has since claimed responsibility for the act. “Who would do it just for nothing?” he said.

12 | The strange disappearance of Frederick Valentich

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Frederick Valentich

On 21 October 1978, when Frederick Valentich, a 20-year-old Australian pilot, was flying from Melbourne, he disappeared without a trace. He reported that a giant metal circular object was hovering above his plane and Air Traffic Control told him there was no other traffic on that route. Radio cuts out after a loud metal screeching sound and he was never seen again.

The Australian government scrapped the documents of the event and the radio recording after it was accidentally aired on public radio, they told Frederick’s father that they will allow him to see his son’s body on the basis that he never tells anyone about what happened, and the media made up a fake story that the guy was obsessed with aliens thus taking away his credibility for what he reported. Read More

13 | Disappearance of Roanoke Colony

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An English rescue team arrived on Roanoke in 1590, but found only a single word carved in a tree by the abandoned town, as depicted in this 19th-century illustration. Archaeologists hope to pinpoint the site of the long-elusive town. SARIN IMAGES/GRANGER

Also known under the name of “Lost Colony,” the Colony of Roanoke is located in the US state of North Carolina. It was founded by English colonists in the mid-1580s. There were several attempts to found this colony. However, the first group left the island, being sure that it is simply impossible to live here due to its adverse natural conditions. The second time 400 people went to the land, but when they saw an abandoned village, they went back to England. Only 15 volunteers remained who chose John White as the head of their colony.

A few months later, he went to England for help, but having arrived back in 1590 with a hundred people, he did not find anyone. On the pillar of the picket fence, he saw the inscription CROATOAN ― the name of an Indian tribe that lived nearby region. Without this, they didn’t find any clue about what happened to them. Therefore, the most common interpretation is that the people were abducted and killed. But, by whom? And why?