Now You See Them, Then You Don’t – WIF Mystery

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Unsolved Mass

Disappearing Acts

Missing persons cases can be difficult to crack. However, most people go missing one at at time. In the 10 cases below, multiple people disappeared at the same time. While there are some clues about how these people went missing, none of these cases have ever been fully unraveled.

Now you see them, then you don’t.

10. The Village at Lake Anjikuni

This one comes in at the bottom of our list because there is some doubt about whether there ever was a village at Lake Anjikuni, in Canada’s northern Nunavut region. As the story, which was first published in the Danville Bee in 1930, goes, fur trapper Joe Labelle returned to a remote Inuit village of about 25 people he had visited previously, only to discover that everyone was missing. The tents and villagers’ belongings were still there, but there was no sign of the inhabitants. According to this news account, Labelle reported, “The whole thing looked as if it had been left that way by people who expected to come back. But they hadn’t come back.” He also noticed signs that ancestral graves had been disturbed. While there were dog skeletons in the village, he could find no sign of human corpses.

However, there are some reasons to doubt this story, which entered the popular imagination when it appeared in Frank Edward’s 1959 book, Stranger than Science. When the Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigated the case in 1931, they determined “there is no evidence … to support such a story,” noting that a village of that size wouldn’t have feasibly existed in such a remote location and that local officers, trappers, and missionaries had reported nothing out of the ordinary.

9. The Sodder Children

When George and Jennie Sodder went to bed on Christmas Eve 1945, 9 of their 10 children were at home (the 10th was serving in the military). By the following morning, the Sodder house was burned to the ground. George, Jennie, and four of the children made it out. However, the other five children, who ranged in age from 5 to 14, were never seen again. Initially, everyone, including the surviving members of the Sodder family, assumed the children must have perished in the fire, despite their father’s desperate attempts to rescue them. Because it was Christmas Day, the fire marshal postponed a thorough inspection of the site, which was basically a basement full of ashes at that point. A few days later, George Sodder bulldozed several feet of dirt over the remains of his home, planting flowers there in memory of the family’s lost children.

As time went on, more details emerged that cast doubt on whether the five missing Sodder children had actually died in the fire. The family remembered some odd events around that time, meaningless in isolation, but suspicious in concert. Jennie had been awakened earlier in the night by a noise that sounded like something hitting the roof and the family had received what they thought was an odd prank phone call just after midnight the night of the fire. Additionally, a ladder had been moved from its storage area near the house to more than 75 feet away, hindering George’s attempts to reach his children’s upstairs bedrooms to rescue them. In another strange twist, the bones of the missing children were never recovered, despite the fact that the fire did not appear to have burned long enough or hot enough to destroy human bone.

The Sodders never stopped looking for their missing children, offering a reward for information, erecting a billboard near their house and hiring private detectives to follow up on reports of sightings, including a photo—of a young man bearing a striking resemblance to one of the missing children– which was mailed to the Sodders. Some suggested that the children could have been kidnapped in retaliation for negative remarks George Sodder, an Italian immigrant, had made about Mussolini or that the mafia could have been involved. Despite the many theories that emerged, no conclusive evidence of what ultimately happened to the five Sodder children has ever been found.

8. The Yemenite Children Affair

Following Israel’s founding in 1948, the state struggled to quickly absorb a rush of new immigrants. More than 50,000 Yemenite and other “Mazrahi” Jewish immigrants from the Middle East and Africa moved to the new state in its early years, and were often settled in chaotic transit camps, temporary tent cities were new immigrants were housed due a housing shortage.

In these camps, babies and toddlers were often taken from their parents to be cared for in hospitals or nurseries, which ostensibly offered better living conditions. Unfortunately, some of these babies—estimates range from 650 to more than 4,000—were never returned to their parents. Some parents were told that their babies had died, though most were not shown a body or a grave and many grieving parents weren’t given death certificates. Recent advances in DNA testing have proved that at least some of these supposedly deceased Yemenite babies never died at all, but rather, were placed for adoption with childless Ashkenazi (Jews of European descent) families. In 2016, one Israeli cabinet official who was part of a panel investigating the disappearances gave credence to activists’ claims that the children were systematically stolen and placed for adoption when he admitted that hundreds of children were taken from their families, saying, “They took the children, and gave them away. I don’t know where.”

7. Flight 19

Flight 19 didn’t consist of a single plane, but rather a group of five planes–US Navy TPM Avenger bombers—which took off from Fort Lauderdale Naval Air Station for a training mission between the Bahamas and Florida on the afternoon of December 5, 1945. The planes, and the 14 experienced airmen on them, never returned to shore.

The pilots of the group of planes, which would become known as the “Lost Patrol,” could be heard conversing with one another, and sounded disoriented by the fact that at least some of the pilots believed their compasses were malfunctioning and the worsening weather, which made assessing their position difficult. The lead pilot made the decision to fly east, believing they were in the Gulf of Mexico, a course the planes apparently stuck to until one pilot’s last transmission: “All planes close up tight … will have to ditch unless landfall. When the first plane drops to 10 gallons we all go down together.”

Two flying boats were dispatched to look for the missing patrol. One of those boats also disappeared from radar and, along with its 13-man crew, never returned. A passing merchant spotted a fireball in the sky, and saw evidence of an oil slick in the water, suggesting it likely fell victim to an explosion. Despite an extensive search by the Navy, bodies and debris from the missing patrol and the missing rescue mission were never located. A team of Navy investigators ultimately attributed the loss of Flight 19 to “causes or reasons unknown.”

6. The Mary Celeste

On November 7, 1872, the Mary Celeste, a 282-ton brigantine, set sail from New York City, bound for Genoa, Italy. It carried cargo of 1,700 barrels of industrial alcohol, seven crewmen, Captain Benjamin Briggs, his wife, and his 2-year-old daughter. When the ship was next spotted, almost a month later, 400 miles east of the Azores, the ship’s cargo and provisions were largely intact (though the lifeboat was missing), but there was no one aboard. The Mary Celeste was in reasonably good shape, other than some water in the bottom of the ship, and the crew of the ship that discovered it, the Dei Gratia, were able to sail it on to Gibraltar.

So what happened to the 10 people on board? There is no definitive answer to that question. Some suspected foul play, laying the blame on the crew of the Dei Gratia, who had applied to receive the salvage value of the ship. However, after a salvage inquiry was conducted, there was no evidence that this had occurred (there also wasn’t a whole lot of evidence that this had not occurred). Other theories, including mutiny, an explosion caused by the Mary Celeste’s boozy cargo, or an irrational decision by the captain also appeared unlikely. Anne MacGregor, who created a documentary film dedicated to unraveling the mystery, believes the evidence suggests that a faulty chronometer, along with a failing water pump aboard the ship, prompted Captain Briggs to believe the ship was in danger of sinking, and to give the order to abandon ship when the islands of the Azores were in sight. Since the lifeboat never arrived at the Azores, nor was it ever recovered, the definitive fate of the 10 souls aboard the Mary Celeste remains a mystery.

5. The Dyatlov Pass Incident

In late January 1959, a group of nine students of the Ural Polytechnic Institute and a ski instructor, set off for a skiing expedition to Mount Otorten in the northern Urals. Only one of them, Yuri Yudin, who had to turn back early due to health problems, ever returned from the trip.

When the other nine didn’t make contact as planned, a search party set out to locate them, and uncovered a grisly mystery. The first thing the rescuers located was the students’ tent, which had been sliced open from the inside. Most of the group’s belongings were still inside the tent, which appeared to have been abandoned in a hurry. Investigators found footprints showing that the group had fled the tent barefoot, in socks, or wearing a single shoe. The bodies of two of the students, dressed only in their underclothes were found near the remains of a campfire. Three more bodies were found between the fire and the tent. All five were determined to have died from hypothermia. A couple months later, the four remaining bodies were found at the bottom of a ravine, and showed signs of crush injuries and the tongue of one had been ripped out. Tests on their bodies showed trace amounts of radiation.

The Soviet military looked into the incident, somewhat vaguely determining that the group had died from a “natural force they were unable to overcome,” and classifying the materials related to the investigation.  In early 2019, Russian prosecutors announced they were reexamining the case, though they were only considering theories associated with natural phenomena. Said the spokesman for Russia’s Prosecutor General, “Crime is out of the question. There is not a single proof, even an indirect one, to favor this (criminal) version. It was either an avalanche, a snow slab or a hurricane.”

4. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

On March 8, 2014, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members took off from Kuala Lampur, Malaysia bound for Beijing. It never arrived. A months-long international search yielded only a few pieces of the plane, found thousands of miles from where the flight veered off course, but the bulk to the plane’s fuselage, along with the (presumed) remains of those aboard has yet to be located. The disappearance, and the lack of clarity about why or how the plane went missing shocked the world. As Miguel Marin, chief of operational safety at the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Air Navigation Bureau put it, “It was inconceivable that in this day and age we would lose an airplane that big without a trace.”

There are a few clues about the plane’s disappearance. The plane turned sharply off its planned flight path, a maneuver experts suggest would have had to be carried out manually (versus via autopilot) and the aircraft’s responder stopped transmitting (possibly due to a malfunction, but more likely because it was turned off). While the pilot’s home simulator did show some flight paths similar to that undertaken by the flight shortly before it disappeared from radar, an investigation of the captain’s private life failed to turn up any signs of the sort of disturbance that would provide a motive for suicide (and the more than 200 innocent deaths that would accompany it) and the Malaysian government has dismissed this theory, and suggested a “mass hypoxia event” rendered all aboard unconscious, while the plane flew on autopilot until it ran out of fuel and crashed. More definitive evidence about what happened on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 may yet turn up, as the plane’s Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder have, as of mid-2019, not been located.

3. The Flannan Isles Lighthouse Keepers

On December 26, 1900, a small ship made its way to a remote Scottish island. It carried a replacement lighthouse keeper, who would rotate in for a stint among the island’s three lighthouse keepers, and its only human inhabitants. However, when the ship arrived, no one emerged to greet it, even after the horn was sounded and a flare was fired. When the replacement lighthouse keeper rowed ashore and climbed to the lighthouse, he quickly discovered something was wrong. The lighthouse fireplace looked like it hadn’t been lit for a week and, while everything was in place, the three lighthouse keepers were nowhere to be found (although, oddly, one of them had left his protective oilskin coat in the lighthouse).

The official explanation suggests that the men were swept out to sea by a large wave as they attempted to secure some gear on a cliff during a storm. While it was against protocol for all three men to leave the lighthouse at once, one theory suggests that the third lighthouse keeper ventured out to help or warn his colleagues about an impending large wave (perhaps leaving his coat behind in haste) and was also swept away.

2. The Students of Iguala

One night in September 2014, a group of about 100 university students from a rural teachers college in Mexico headed out in the city of Iguala to commandeer several buses to carry their group to a march in Mexico City a few days later. According to reports, stealing buses was something of a local tradition, and neither the bus companies nor the authorities were particularly alarmed when this happened.

After an altercation at a local bus depot, the students headed out on five buses, trailed by police, some of whom started firing on the buses. Forty-three students on two of the buses were eventually taken into police custody; they were never seen again. Only one of the students’ bodies has been identified. The official account (disputed by international investigators and friends and families of the missing students) is that the students were kidnapped by local police officers, who turned them over to a drug gang, which then killed them and burned their bodies. International investigators were brought in 2015, but when they failed to support the government’s version of events, the hostility and stonewalling they encountered led them to abandon the inquiry, though a federal court ordered another investigation conducted in late 2018. As of mid-2019, there was no conclusive evidence on the fate of the missing students.

1. The Lost Colony

In 1587, a group of 115 English settlers founded the Roanoke Colony on an island off the coast of North Carolina. Later that year, John White, the colony’s governor, sailed back to England to secure additional supplies for the fledgling settlement. However, just as White arrived in England, a naval war broke out between England and Spain, and every ship was ordered to participate in the war effort. By the time White made it back to Roanoke, it was three years later, and there was no sign of the settlers.

The only clues were the word “Croatoan” carved into a fencepost, and the letters CRO carved into a tree. “Croatoan” was the name used for what is now called Hatteras Island, as well as the name of the Native American tribe that populated the area. Reportedly, White had agreed with the colonists prior to heading back to England that if the group needed to leave Roanoke under duress, they would carve a Maltese cross symbol into a tree; no such sign was found at the site. Despite several contemporaneous and modern investigations, the fate of the colonists remains a mystery. The most likely theory is that the colonists moved locations (perhaps splitting into multiple groups), possibly assimilating with local Native American tribes. Other theories suggest the colonists were killed by Native Americans, killed by Spanish settlers, or tried to sail back to England and were lost at sea. While research is still ongoing, and some hope that DNA analysis will at last unlock the mystery of the colonists’ fate, the “Lost Colony” has managed to remain lost to the world for more than 400 years.


Now You See Them, Then You Don’t

WIF Mystery

High Sea Hijinks – WIF Haunted Travel

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Ghost Ships

That Still

Haunt the Seas

Ghost ships, or phantom ships, make up a big part of the seafaring lore that has been passed down by sailors and fisherman throughout the years. The ships are said to be spectral apparitions that materialize on the horizon before quickly disappearing, and they are believed to be a sign of bad things to come. The term is also used to describe abandoned vessels that are found adrift with no crew or passengers, often under frightening and mysterious circumstances. Whether real stories of these derelict ships or legends about phantom craft trawling the seas, the following are the ten most famous ghost ships that continue to provoke speculation and mystery in the nautical world.

10. The Caleuche

Image result for The Caleuche

One of the most well known legends of the Chilota mythology of southern Chile describes the Caleuche, a ghost ship that appears every night near the island of Chiloe. According to local legend, the ship is a kind of conscious being that sails the waters around the area, carrying with it the spirits of all the people who have drowned at sea. When spotted, the Caleuche is said to be strikingly beautiful and bright, and is always accompanied by the sounds of party music and people laughing.  After appearing for a few moments, the ship is then said to disappear or submerge itself under the water. According to Chilota mythology, the spirits of the drowned are summoned to the ship by the Sirena Chilota, the Pincoya, and the Picoy, three Chilota “water spirits” who resemble mermaids. Once aboard the phantom ship, the drowned are said to be able to resume their life as it was before they died.

9. The SS Valencia

SS Valencia in 1904.

SS Valencia in 1904.

The SS Valencia was steamer ship that sank off the coast of Vancouver, British Columbia in 1906. The ship had encountered bad weather near Cape Mendocino, and after drifting off course, struck a reef and began taking on water. The crew quickly began lowering lifeboats holding the ship’s 108 passengers into the water, but several of these capsized, and one simply disappeared. The Valencia eventually sank, and only 37 of the roughly 180 people on board survived. Five months later, a fisherman claimed he had found a life raft with 8 skeletons in it in a nearby cave. A search was launched, but it found nothing. Thanks to its dramatic end, the Valencia eventually became the source of numerous ghost ship stories. Sailors would often claim they could see the specter of the steamer drifting near the reef in Pachena Point, and to this day the ship is the source of frequent wild theories and ghost ship sightings. In a bizarre twist, 27 years after the sinking of the Valencia, one of its life rafts was found floating peacefully in nearby Barkley Sound. The “ghost raft” was said to be in remarkable condition, and even still had most of its original coat of paint.

8. The Ourang Medan

Image result for Ourang Medan

The story of the Ourang Medan begins in 1947, when two American ships received a distress call while navigating the Strait of Malacca, off the coast of Malaysia. The caller identified himself as a member of the crew of the Ourang Medan, a Dutch vessel, and supposedly claimed that the ship’s captain and crew were all dead or dying. The messages became jumbled and bizarre before trailing off and ending with the words: “I die.” The ships quickly raced to the scene to help. When they arrived, they found that the Ourang Medan was undamaged, but that the entire crew—even the ship’s dog— was dead, their bodies and faces locked in terrified poses and expressions, and many pointing at something that was not there.  Before the rescuers could investigate further, the ship mysteriously caught on fire, and they had to evacuate. Soon after, the Ourang Medan is said to have exploded and then sank. While the details and the overall veracity of the Ourang Medan story are still widely debated, there have been a number of theories proposed about what might have caused the death of the crew. The most popular of these is that the ship was illegally transporting nitroglycerin or some kind of illegal nerve agent, which was not properly secured and seeped out into the air. Others, meanwhile, have claimed the ship was a victim of a UFO attack or some other kind of paranormal event.

7. The Carroll A. Deering

Carroll A. Deering as seen from the Cape Lookout lightship on January 28, 1921. (US Coast Guard) This image is a work of a United States Coast Guard employee, taken or made during the course of an employee's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

Carroll A. Deering as seen from the Cape Lookout lightship on January 28, 1921. (US Coast Guard) This image is a work of a United States Coast Guard employee, taken or made during the course of an employee’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

Perhaps the most famous ghost ship of the Eastern Seaboard is the Carroll A. Deering, a schooner that ran aground near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina in 1921. The ship had just returned from a commercial voyage to deliver coal in South America, and had last been spotted just south of Hatteras by a lightship near Cape Lookout. It ran aground in the notorious Diamond Shoals, an area famous for causing shipwrecks, and sat there for several days before any help was able to reach it. When they did arrive, the Coast Guard found that the ship was completely abandoned. The navigation equipment and logbook were missing, as were the two lifeboats, but otherwise there were no signs of any kind of foul play.

A massive investigation by the U.S. government followed, which discovered that several other ships had disappeared under mysterious circumstances around the same time. Several theories were eventually put forth, the most popular being that the ship fell victim to pirates or rum-runners. Others suggested that mutiny might have been the cause, as the Deering’s first mate was known to bear some animosity toward its Captain, but no definitive proof has even been discovered. The mystery surrounding the ghost ship has encouraged wild speculation, and many have argued that paranormal activity might have been responsible, citing the ship’s passage through the infamous Bermuda triangle as proof that some kind of otherworldly phenomena might be to blame.

6. The Baychimo

Cargoship Baychimo somewhere in Canada.

Cargo ship Baychimo somewhere in Canada.

One of the most amazing cases of a real-life ghost ship concerns the Baychimo, a cargo steamer that was abandoned and left to drift the seas near Alaska for nearly forty years. The ship was owned by the Hudson Bay Company, and was launched in the early 1920s and used to trade pelts and furs with the Inuit in northern Canada. But in 1931, the Baychimo became trapped in pack ice near Alaska, and after many attempts to break it free, its crew were eventually airlifted out of the area to safety. After a heavy blizzard, the ship managed to break free of the ice, but it was badly damaged and was abandoned by the Hudson Bay Company, who assumed it would not last the winter.

Amazingly, the Baychimo managed to stay afloat, and for the next 38 years, it remained adrift in the waters off Alaska. The ship became something of a local legend, and was frequently sighted aimlessly floating near the frozen ice packs by Eskimos and other vessels. It was boarded several times, but weather conditions always made salvaging it nearly impossible. The Baychimo was last sighted in 1969, again frozen in the ice off of Alaska, but it has since disappeared. The ship is believed to have sunk in the intervening years, but recently a number of expeditions have been launched in search of now nearly 80-year-old ghost ship.

5. The Octavius

Although it is now considered more legend than anything, the story of the Octavius remains one of the most famous of all ghost ship stories. The tale dates back to 1775, when it is said that a whaling ship called the Herald stumbled across the Octavius floating aimlessly off the coast of Greenland. Crewmembers from the Herald boarded the Octavius, where they discovered the bodies of the crew and passengers all frozen solid by the arctic cold. Most notably, the crew found the ship’s captain still sitting at his desk, midway through finishing a log entry from 1762, which meant the Octavius had been adrift for 13 years. According to the legend, it was eventually discovered that the captain had gambled on making a quick return to England from the Orient via the Northwest Passage, but that the ship had become trapped in the ice. If true, this would mean the Octavius had completed its passage to the Atlantic as a ghost ship, its crew and captain long dead from exposure to the elements.

4. The Joyita

The Joyita was a fishing and charter boat that was found abandoned in the South Pacific in 1955. The ship, along with its 25 passengers and crew, were en route to the Tokelau Islands when something happened, and it was not until hours later that the Joyita was reported overdue and a rescue attempt launched. A massive air search was undertaken, but it failed to find the missing ship, and it was not until five weeks later that a merchant ship stumbled upon the Joyita drifting some 600 miles off its original course. There was no sign of any of the passengers, crew, cargo, or life rafts, and the ship was damaged and listing quite badly to one side. Further inspection by authorities found that the ship’s radio was tuned to the universal distress signal, and a search of the deck uncovered a doctor’s bag and several bloody bandages. None of the crew or passengers was ever seen again, and the mystery of what happened has never been revealed. The most popular theory is that pirates killed the passengers and threw their bodies overboard, but other claims have included everything from mutiny and kidnapping to insurance fraud.

3. The Lady Lovibond

The UK has a long tradition of legends about ghost ships, and of these the Lady Lovibond is perhaps the most famous. As the story goes, the Lady Lovibond’s captain, Simon Peel, had just gotten married, and decided to take his ship out on a cruise to celebrate. He brought his new bride along—going against a longstanding seafaring belief that bringing a woman on board a boat is bad luck—and set sail on Feb. 13, 1748. Unfortunately for Peel, his first mate was also in love with his new wife, and after watching the celebrations, the man became overwhelmed with rage and jealousy and intentionally steered the boat into the deadly Goodwind Sands, a sand bar notorious for causing ship wrecks.

The Lady Lovibond sank, killing all those aboard. As the legend goes, ever since the wreck the Lady Lovibond can be seen sailing the waters around Kent every 50 years.  It was sighted in 1798 by a few different ship captains, as well as in 1848 and 1898, when it supposedly appeared to be so real that some boats, thinking it a vessel in distress, actually sent out life rafts to help it. The Lady Lovibond was again seen in 1948, and while there were no confirmed sightings on its most recent anniversary in 1998, it continues to be one of the most well-known ghost ship legends in Europe.

2. The Mary Celeste

Brigantine Amazon entering Marseilles in November 1861. In 1868 she was renamed Mary Celeste. She was found drifting with nobody aboard in November 1872, and is the source of many maritime "ghost ship" legends.

Brigantine Amazon entering Marseilles in November 1861. In 1868 she was renamed Mary Celeste. She was found drifting with nobody aboard in November 1872, and is the source of many maritime “ghost ship” legends.

Undoubtedly the most famous of all the real-life ghost ships, the Mary Celeste was a merchant ship that was found derelict and adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872. The ship was in a seaworthy condition, with all its sails still up and a full store of food in its cargo hold, but its life boat, captain’s log book and, more importantly, the entire crew, had mysteriously vanished. There was no sign of a struggle, and the personal belongings of the crew and cargo of over 1500 barrels of alcohol were untouched, seemingly ruling out piracy as a possible explanation. In the years since its bizarre discovery, a number of theories have been proposed regarding the possible fate of the Mary Celeste’s crew. These include that those aboard were killed by a waterspout, that the crew mutinied, or even that eating flour contaminated with fungus led all the passengers to hallucinate and go mad. The most probable theory remains that a storm or some kind of technical issue led the crew to prematurely abandon the ship in the lifeboat, and that they later died at sea. Still, the mystery surrounding the Mary Celeste has led to much wild speculation, and others have proposed everything from ghosts to sea monsters and alien abduction as possible explanations.

1. The Flying Dutchman

In maritime folklore, no ghost ship is more famous than the Flying Dutchman, which has inspired numerous paintings, horror stories, films, and even an opera. The ship was first mentioned in the late 1700s in George Barrington’s seafaring book Voyage to Botany Bay, and since then its legend has continued to grow, thanks to numerous sightings of it by fisherman and sailors. As the story goes, the Flying Dutchman was a vessel out of Amsterdam that was captained by a man named Van der Decken. The ship was making its way toward the East Indies when it encountered dangerous weather near the Cape of Good Hope. Determined to make the crossing, Van der Decken supposedly went mad, murdered his first mate, and vowed that he would cross the Cape, “even if God would let me sail to Judgment Day!”

Despite his best efforts, the ship sank in the storm, and as the legend goes, Van der Decken and his ghost ship are now cursed to sail the oceans for all eternity. To this day, the Flying Dutchman continues to be one of the most-sighted of all ghost ships, and people from deep-sea fishermen to the Prince of Wales have all claimed to have spotted it making its never-ending voyage across the oceans.


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