Oh, the joy of returning to pets and family while in post-vacation bliss. But what if you never came home again?
Travel is always a gamble, particularly when boarding an airplane or traversing rough terrain. But the assurance of returning to the comforts of home makes the trip worth seeing through. We take for granted that every vacation is a round-trip experience. But what if it’s a one-way ticket into disappearance?
Read these stories of a dozen people who went on vacation and somehow and mysteriously disappeared. Were they abducted or fell victim to the wrath of Mother Nature? Or could have they disappeared on purpose and living a life in seclusion? Despite investigations by police, park rangers and the FBI, not to mention surviving family members and friends, the lives of the vanished remain just as much a mystery as their (assumed) deaths.
WHERE: Escalante, Utah
How a 20-year-old printmaker and poet disappeared in the Utah wilderness in 1934 captivated David Roberts, who wrote the biography Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer, with a forward penned by “Into the Wild” author Jon Krakauer. After graduating from Hollywood High School, Ruess set off to the wilderness of Utah and rode burros and horses into national parks. He was a seasoned hiker; he set off on excursions to the wilds of Utah and Arizona since he was in his teens. However, the Utah hiking trip was supposed to last two months…but after three months had gone by, his family became alarmed. Ruess’ body was never found but the burros he rode were. Many believe he fell off a cliff or was murdered.
WHERE: Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
While camping at Rocky Mountain National Park in 1938, four-year-old Beilhartz strayed from his family and siblings on a hike along Fall River and—despite a land and water search, and even the acute scent of bloodhounds—he was never seen again. Did another camper or hiker abduct him or could he have drowned? As the youngest of 10 siblings, his disappearance on that tragic Fourth of July weekend left a gaping hole in the family tree, with many unanswered questions.
Audrey Bruce Currier
WHERE: Flying From San Juan, Puerto Rico to ST. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
An American heiress (granddaughter of financier Andrew W. Mellon and a descendant of Nathaniel Currier who headed the American printmaking firm Currier and Ives), Currier vanished into thin air at the age of 33 while flying from San Juan, Puerto Rico to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. That was in 1967 and neither the Harvard grad’s body nor the plane ever resurfaced. Her husband, who was also on the plane with her, was never found either.
Sean Flynn, a 19-year-old actor and freelance photojournalist with notable connections in the entertainment industry (his father was the late actor Errol Flynn), disappeared while on assignment for TIME Magazine. Flynn was a seasoned traveler to Cambodia and Vietnam and frequently returned to the United States between assignments to take on acting roles. While covering the Vietnam War in Cambodia in 1970, he was captured by guerillas as he was riding on a motorcycle to Saigon. Because Flynn was never seen or heard from again, his mother had him declared dead in absentia in 1984. His saga inspired The Clash song Sean Flynn on the Combat Rock album.
WHERE: Calabogie, Ontario, Canada
A family fishing trip sounds like a tranquil time away…until something goes horribly wrong. In 1972, five-year-old Adrien McNaughton wandered off while on a family fishing trip to Holmes Lake in Ontario, Canada. Decades later, the search for McNaughton—who would be in his early fifties—still continues. In a 2016 episode of the podcast Someone Knows Something, cadaver dogs picked up a scent near the site. The question still remains: What happened to Adrien McNaughton?
Oscar Zeta Acosta
WHERE: Mazatlan, Mexico
Oscar Zeta Acosta, a 39-year-old attorney who was an activist for the Chicano Movement and a friend of journalist Hunter S. Thompson, went to Mazatlan, Mexico in 1974 and never came home. According to reports, he called his son, Marco Acosta, in the United States to say he was “about to board a boat full of white snow,” which has led many to surmise he was murdered by drug dealers south of the border. Or did Acosta—a frequent user of drugs—accidentally overdose? His body was never found.
WHERE: Driving From Los Angeles to Nashville
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.
The disappearance of John Brisker, a 31-year-old professional basketball player, remains a mystery. After traveling to Uganda in 1978 with supposed plans to open an import/export business, the last anyone heard from Brisker was a phone call to his girlfriend in Seattle. Investigators could never verify he actually flew to Africa and his family declared him legally dead in 1985 to settle his estate. There were speculations that he was possibly executed by the Ugandan military or traveled there as a mercenary (participating in military conflict).
Ian Mackintosh was a British Royal Navy officer, a screenwriter, and an author of spy novels. On the evening of July 7, 1979, he was flying in a small plane over the Gulf of Alaska with his girlfriend, a friend and the pilot (who was a seasoned British Airways captain). What started out as an exciting adventure turned south when the plane sent out a distress signal and crashed. Although the signal was picked up by the United States Coast Guard, no sign of plane wreckage or of the missing persons were found. Was Mackintosh’s mysterious disappearance a mirror of the fiction he wrote?
WHERE: North Queensland, Australia
A case that garnered mass media attention, the 1982 disappearance of backpacker Tony Jones (then 20 years old) continues to haunt the people of Perth and the media to this day. During the final stages of a backpacking trip around north Queensland, Jones planned to meet his brother, Tim Jones, in Mount Isa. He kept in contact with his parents, brother, and girlfriend and informed them that he’ll be hitchhiking from Townsville to Mount Isa. But he never made it. Tim claims to know who murdered Tony, which is not far-fetched as investigators closed the case with a homicide ruling, despite the fact that a body was never found.
Soviet-born and U.S. citizen Boris Weisfeiler was a math professor at Penn State. At the age of 44, he was hiking alone in the Andes Mountains of Chile and vanished. According to the Chilean government under military dictatorship, officials suggested that Weisfeiler had drowned. Other reports suggested that he hiked towards the isolated colony, Colonia Dignidad, (infamous for torture, murder, and its cult-like atmosphere under the leadership of German fugitive Paul Schafer and backed by General Augusto Pinochet) and was captured. Some “witnesses” report seeing him in the colony years after his disappearance, others say he was assassinated as a Soviet spy—regardless, his whereabouts continued to be a mystery.
WHERE: British Columbia, Canada
Camping in British Columbia, Canada, sounds like a dreamy getaway. At age 20, Charles Horvath-Allan went on a hiking and backpacking excursion across Canada in 1989. He was due to meet his parents in Hong Kong a few months after his trip, but he remained in contact with them during the duration of his trip. His last means of communication to his parents was by fax—and nothing after. Horvath-Allan was last seen cashing a check in the city of Kelowna, within the Okanagan Valley. His belongings were found at a campsite, but Horvath-Allan was not. The case is still an open investigation.