The history of mankind is riddled with the weird and the wonderful; bizarre people, strange places and odd events. For centuries, we’ve told each other fantastic stories around campfires and in darkened rooms. Tales of ghosts, UFOs, and conspiracies, but are these stories exactly that: Stories? There’s only one way to find out! Join me as I dive down the rabbit hole and into… the Unexplained Files.
On the topic of my book Jane Doe: A Northwoods story, I’d like to share a quirky little synchronicity. I was listening to a podcast (re-listening actually. I’d heard it before and put it on again just for something to fall asleep to. The joys of insomnia!) and the topic was something I was familiar with, but I hadn't realised it may have subconsciously inspired my Jane Doe story. While there are plenty of YouTube videos on the topic, finding anything written on the subject is not so easy, so I’ll do my best to give you the nutshell version of one of the strangest phenomena in modern paranormal study - The Missing 411.
Retired police detective David Paulides was asked to look into strange missing person cases in US National Forests and Parks. According to the park ranger, they would talk amongst themselves about how often people would actually go missing and how nothing ever came of it. Not only that, the stories had similar connecting themes and bizarrely creepy circumstances. It took little digging for him to find instances of missing people were far for prevalent than anyone would care to admit.
Paulides reached out to the the various National Parks about these missing persons to ask for a list of current cases. Being a former police officer, he was familiar with police protocols for missing person cases, knowing you could walk into any precinct, ask for the information, and they’d be happy to hand a list over to you hoping to get a hand solving and therefore closing an open case. He was expecting the same for National Parks. He was wrong.
According to Paulides, he asked Yosemite for their data and they told him they’d be happy to put a list together. For $34,000…
In the end he filed a Freedom of Information request to get his hands on as much data from as many National Parks as he could. Fair enough. However, it was soon thereafter he received a call from a lawyer from the National Park service to tell him they don’t keep a list, but instead rely on the memories of their staff to keep track of these cases. They don’t keep files. They don’t keep lists of people who have gone missing in their parks. He can’t have a list because one doesn’t exist.
Now the dogged investigator was really interested.
Hundreds of interviews and thousands of hours later, Paulides found 411 cases of missing persons in US National Parks. And the rangers were right, some of the similarities were indeed creepy. Some of the people were never heard of again. Some came back. Their stories are stranger still.
Here are a few of these unusual cases…
February 1977. 24-year-old Steven Kubacki was cross-country skiing through the snow near Lake Michigan. Upon reaching the edge of the lake, he removed his skis for a short rest. When it came time to go, his tracks were gone and he got lost.
His footprints were found leading up to the lake and it was presumed he’d committed suicide in the icy waters. He had not.
Lost in the snow, the last thing he remembers is getting tired, dizzy, and blacking out. When he came to, he was in a grassy clearing in a forest in clothes that were not his. It was spring.
Baffled, he headed for the nearest town and asked a local where he was. The answer left him more confused. He was in Massachusetts. SEVEN HUNDRED MILES from where he’d gone missing. Perhaps more bizarrely, he knew the name of the town he was in. He had family there. An aunt. He went to her and she asked where he’d been. Steven had no answer. The aunt told him that he’d been missing for 14 months.
1952. Ritta, Oregon. Two-year-old Keith was playing outside his home in the Oregon winter. When he went missing, a search party was formed and, because it was winter, a trail was soon found. However, after a while the little footprints just… stopped. There were no animal or adult prints nearby, nothing to suggest the boy’s life was in any imminent danger, just… nothing.
Nineteen hours later, Keith was found, face down in the snow on a frozen pond. He’d been out overnight in the snowy winter weather, and yet, miraculously, the boy was alive. The pond was 12 miles from where he’d gone missing. 12 miles over two mountain ranges, fences and creeks. At night. A toddler.
2014. Vale, Colorado. While split-snowboarding along a popular trail with friends, James disappeared into thin air. Equipped with GPS, James set off ahead of his friends and told them he’d meet them at the next stop. When they arrived at the next stop, James was not there. Nor was he at any of the other stops along the trail. What’s strange is, there were no prints leading away from the trail. (See “thin air” above.)
Five days later, over four miles away, at the bottom of a frozen waterfall, James McGrogan’s body was found. The area had been searched multiple times and despite the fact James was wearing a helmet, his skull had been crushed as if he’d been dropped from a great height. While he was still wearing his ski-suit, he was barefoot. His boots were never found.
February 2018. Danny told friends on a ski trip in New York that he wanted to go for one more run down the mountain before taking a lunch break. By 4PM, Danny had failed to return. Naturally, his friends were worried by this and alerted authorities. A search party of over one hundred people was hastily assembled but sadly, Danny was nowhere to be found.
Six days had gone by when his wife got a strange phone call. The voice was faint, the line muffled by static, but the voice was Danny’s. He was confused and after a short time and making little sense he ended the call. His wife quickly called back and pleaded with him to call 911. Thankfully, he did just that.
Unable to give information as to his whereabouts and only able to describe his surroundings, it took police a while to find where he was calling from. When they got there, they found Danny bewildered, still in his ski gear. He had with him a brand new i-phone, suggesting he could have called home at any time. In the intervening days, Danny had had a hair cut.
He was found in California. 3000 miles from where he’d gone missing.
Those odd stories are actually quite typical of cases from the files of the Missing 411. David Paulides noted a few similarities between the cases.
Many of the younger children among the 411 are found after days of failed searching, at distances miles from where they vanished, distances which they could never have traveled due to the terrain. The children showed barely any injuries and their clothes were strangely neat, even when the weather during the interval had been inclement.
Although in most cases people literally vanish into thin air and are never seen again, in the handful of cases where missing persons are found alive, they are in a state of numb confusion, at a great distance from where they had disappeared. In these cases they cannot account for where they have been or what they were doing for this lost period.
There is an overlayed map of missing persons and cave systems which does seem to line up pretty well, but that would only explain part of the mystery. Theories abound, from aliens, to Bigfoot, to space-time wormholes, but nobody, not even Paulides and his thousands of hours of study, has any real notion as to what is going on with the so-called Missing 411.
Since his initial study, the total of number of missing individuals is now over 1400.
But it was more than subconscious influence that drew my attention to this. After doing the research to write this post for you, I found similarities to my Jane Doe story I was previously unaware of.
Stranger than fiction indeed...
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In this blog I'll be bringing to you short tales of things that go bump in the night, true stories of weird and unexplained events, and the real-life news of all things odd and macabre, and entertain you along the way.