It’s a haunting thought that we live in a world where groups of several people can go either missing, or be murdered, and we do not have a scrap of evidence to figure out what actually happened. How can whole villages just disappear? Who is capable of killing an entire family and getting away with it?
These following mind-blowing, unsolved criminal cases and disappearances often leave us wondering if we really know everything about this planet we live on…
11. The Hinterkaifeck Family Murders
On a small farm in Hinterkaifeck, located between the Bavarian towns of Ingolstadt and Schrobenhausen, north of Munich, six members of the Gruber Family were murdered, on March 31st, 1922. The victims were farmer Andreas Gruber, his wife Cäzilia, their widowed daughter Viktoria, and Victoria’s children; Cäzilia and Josef, and the maid, Maria Baumgartner. They were all slaughtered with a mattock – a hand tool used for digging, quite similar to a pickaxe – and the crime still remains unsolved.
Before his death, Andreas Gruber had already confided in neighbors that he began discovering footsteps leading from the surrounding forest to the farm, but none leading back. He also claimed to have heard footsteps coming from the attic and other unfamiliar items on the farm – such as a newspaper he didn’t recognize – although he never reported any of these events to the police.
Six months previous to the murders, their maid fled the farm claiming it was haunted and the date their new maid, Maria Baumgartner, arrived, was also the date of her death. Nobody knows exactly what happened during the events that followed. According to investigators, family members were “lured” to the barn one by one, where they were killed with the mattock. The killer then went into the house and killed young Josef and Maria in their bedchambers.
Over 100 suspects were questioned, even as recently as 1986, but to no avail. There were no signs of robbery as a large amount of money in the house had not been taken and even more mysteriously, the perpetrator appeared to have stayed at the farm for several days – feeding the cattle, building a fire and eating food from the kitchen.
10. The Dyatlov Pass Incident
On February 26th, 1959, a search party was sent to look for a group of nine hikers in the northern Ural Mountains of Russia. The mountains are now named Dyatlov Pass after the group’s leader, Igor Dyatlov. The search party found the group’s tent abandoned and badly damaged, Mikhail Sharavin, a student who joined the search, said “the tent was half torn down and covered with snow. It was empty, and all the group’s belongings and shoes had been left behind.”
What made the site even more mysterious was the tent had been cut open from the inside and footsteps belonging the group was found leading from the tent to the edge of the nearby woods. All the footprints appeared as if the group was wearing only socks or completely barefoot despite the temperature being around −25 to −30 °C (−13 to −22 °F) with a storm blowing.
When they investigated further, the searchers found the first two bodies dressed only in their underwear and up above branches were broken which suggested they had climbed the tree to either look or hide from something. Three more corpses were found, their bodies were also uncovered and it appeared they were attempting to return to the tent from which they had run from.
The bodies belonging to the other four hikers took more than two months to find. They were buried under four meters of snow in a ravine 75 meters from the campsite. They appeared to have swapped clothes, leaving the last one to die to wear the most clothing to keep warm.
After a legal inquest took place, the medical examiners found the cause of death for all nine hikers was hypothermia. They could have survived by just staying warm in the tent but something had driven them to flee wearing no clothes – choosing to freeze to death instead of returning to the camp.
9. The Disappearance of Hoer Verde
How does an entire village disappear? In 1923, in the village of Hoer Verde, Brazil, more than 600 people vanished. Travellers who went through the town noticed that despite the village being well built – all the buildings, taverns and homes were derelict. There was not a single person to be seen. After the police arrived, they found very little evidence of an ambush or kidnapped – instead just a blackboard in a school which had “There is no salvation” written in chalk.
A manhunt began for the villagers. One newspaper printed a theory that under the current political climate of Brazil in 1923, it was considered possible the villagers fled so they could avoid conflict with guerrillas. But surely 600 people could be found elsewhere?
Not even the most imaginative of conspiracy theorists have been able to find a reasonable explanation for this.
8. The Wolf Family Murders
Jacob Wolf, a German immigrant from Russia, lived on a farm with his wife, Beata, their six daughters and a young boy who worked as the farmhand, three miles north of Turtle Lake, North Dakota. Then in April 1920, they were all found murdered, except for 9-month-old Emma, who was unharmed in her cradle.
John Kraft, a neighbor, became suspicious when he noticed the family had left washing on the line during bad weather. When he entered the farm, he discovered the bodies of Jacob and two of his daughters, covered by hay. He then gazed down through a trapdoor leading to the basement of the house, where five more bodies – belonging to Jacob’s wife, his three daughters, and the farmhand – all lay mutilated. He found baby Emma weak and hungry in her cradle and took her to safety.
Another neighbor Henry Layer, who had last been seen arguing with Jacob Wolf about a dog biting his cow, signed a confession. This confession was later thrown out the trial as it was said to be signed under “reason of threats, duress or fear made, imposed or caused” by the officers who arrested him. Layer claimed that there was an angry mob waiting outside the prison for him after officers had announced he was guilty of the crime. He was told the safest place for him to hide until everything died down was in the state penitentiary where he could change his plea afterward. With Layer’s confession now useless – the real culprit who murdered the Wolf family is still unknown.
7. The Disappearance of Lake Anjikuni Inuit Village
In 1930, a small Inuit village off Lake Angikuni, in the Kivalliq Region, Nunavut, Canada had completely disappeared. Many fur trappers would pass through the village, but when one trapper Joe Labelle made a visit he found an abandoned village left entirely untouched. The Eskimo camp held 6 tents and there were 25 men, women and children who had vanished. Seven sled dogs had been found dead of starvation and a grave had been dug in the ground – but left empty.
Labelle reported the missing villages to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who conducted an investigation but got nowhere. Possibly out of the frustration, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police then took a dramatic U-turn and claimed the case was nothing more than an urban legend and no such village had ever existed. Which still doesn’t explain why they began their search in the first place.
Whatever happened to the villagers – nobody really knows.
6. The Keddie Murders
Glenna “Sue” Sharp had been staying in her cabin at Keddie, California, with her five children, when a quadruple homicide took place. On the night of April 11th, 1981, Sue was at home in Cabin 22, with her oldest son, John, his friend Dana Wingate, and her daughter Tina – her two youngest sons were staying the night with a friend at Cabin 28, and her oldest daughter, Sheila, was staying with a friend at Cabin 27.
Around 7.45am the morning after on April 12th, her daughter, Sheila, returned from her friend’s cabin to discover the bodies of her mother Sue, her brother John, and his friend Dana on the floor of the living room. All three victims had been bound with medical tape and electrical wire. There was also a bloody hammer, a table knife and a 7″ butcher knife found on a nearby table. Investigators had to quickly determine who had been in the cabin, and who had been staying elsewhere, and it was then they discovered the youngest daughter, Tina, to be missing.
Forensics found all members of the family had been bludgeoned with heavy objects and stabbed to death, but with no further leads, the case went cold. Then in 1984, a small portion of a skull had been found roughly 29 miles from Keddie. An anonymous phone call, made to the Sheriff’s office, claimed that the skull belonged to Tina, who had been missing since the night of the murders. After the area was searched, they found a jawbone and a dozen more bones which were later confirmed as belonging to Tina.
Most mysterious of all, a recording of the anonymous call made to the Sheriff, which claimed the skull was Tina’s, had been handed over to an undisclosed member of law enforcement, so the tape could be released to the media in hopes someone would recognize the voice. Both recordings went missing. The case still remains unsolved.
5. The Missing Crew Of The USS Cyclops
The USS Cyclops was one of four Proteus-class colliers built for the United States Navy several years before World War I. The exact date is unknown, but some time after March 4th, 1918, the ship including 306 crew and passengers disappeared without a trace within the area known as the Bermuda Triangle. June 1st, 1918, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt declared Cyclops to be officially lost and all those onboard deceased. This became recognized as the largest loss of life in U.S. Naval history which did not directly involve combat.
There are many speculative theories, including one which is that the ship was sunk by a German raider or submarine. Other theories are that the ship sunk during a storm despite no previous naval warnings of dangerous weather. Also, no wreckage belonging to the ship had ever been discovered.
This disappearance also contributed to the legend of the Bermuda Triangle, known as the Devil’s Triangle, which is a region in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean. A number of aircraft and ships have disappeared here all under mysterious circumstances. Many believe this is down to paranormal or UFO activity. The Navy refuses to acknowledge such an area exists and in 2013 the World Wide Fund for Nature identified the world’s most dangerous waters for shipping, but the Bermuda Triangle was not listed.
4. The Missing Crew of Sarah Joe
On February 1979, five friends, Peter Hanchett, Benjamin Kalama, Ralph Malaiakini, Scott Moorman and Patrick Woesner decided to sail a seventeen-foot Boston whaler called the Sarah Joe from the coast of Maui, Hawaii for a pleasant fishing trip.
Later in the day, Peter’s father, John Hanchett, grew concerned that a storm was coming in and he decided to look for the friends and their boat. Three days later, his search party, which now included marine biologist John Naughton and Coast Guard Jim Cushman became even more concerned. They never found the boat or the friends.
Then in 1988, in a deserted area known as Taongi, approximately 2000 miles from where the friend’s boat had set sail, a small boat was discovered beside a shallow grave which also contained a human jawbone. The boat was identified as Sarah Joe and dental records showed that the jawbone belonged to Scott Moorman – one of the missing friends.
One prominent theory is that the boat made it to the Taongi Island within three months but the local government only conducted a survey of the island every ten years. The missing friends could have been shipwrecked. But this doesn’t explain the mysterious way Moorman’s jawbone had been positioned – it was found buried with cryptic papers and tin foil like a Chinese burial ritual which represents good fortune and money in another life. Also, no other bodies had been discovered.
Whatever happened to the friends – we may never know.
3. The Disappearance of The Sodder Children
On Christmas Eve, 1945, the Sodder family celebrated at their home in Fayetteville, West Virginia. George Sodder and his wife, Jennie, allowed their nine children to stay up later than the usual bedtime. Then at 12.30am, the phone rang and when Jennie answered she heard a voice she didn’t recognize, asking for a name she was not familiar with. She told the caller they had the wrong number and she remembered hearing her “weird laugh” before she hung up.
At 1 am, Jennie woke again to the sound of a large object hitting the top of the roof with a bang, she went back to sleep and thought nothing more of it. Then half an hour later, she woke again smelling smoke and found that the office used by her husband was on fire. She woke him, and they managed to escape with only four of their children. They could not rescue the other children as the house was now fully in flames.
45 minutes later the entire house had collapsed, they assumed the five children trapped inside the house had now died. The fire department, who were understaffed, did not call into the following morning – they were devastated by the loss. When they finally did arrive, they found no bones or remains belonging to the children. The children were assumed missing.
The parents paid for a giant billboard, displaying the faces of their missing children, in the hopes that someone would find them alive and well. They also suspected the arson was a cover-up, with their leading theory being that the children had been taken by the Sicilian Mafia in retaliation for Italian-born George’s outspoken criticism of Benito Mussolini and the Fascist government of his native Italy.
2. The Disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
On March 8th, 2014, an international passenger Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370/MAS370) was scheduled to fly from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia, to the Beijing Capital International Airport in China. The Boeing 777-200ER flight was carrying 12 Malaysian crew members and 227 passengers from 15 different nations before it disappeared.
The pilot last made contact with air traffic control less than an hour after takeoff at 01:19 MYT, March 8th (17:19 UTC, March 7th) as the plane flew over the South China Sea. The flight then disappeared from air traffic controllers’ radar screens at 01:22 MYT. Malaysian military managed to track the plane as it changed flight path and crossed the Malay Peninsula but at 02:22 (MYT) they lost signal.
Searches then began in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea where the signal was last tracked but on March 24th, the Malaysian government concluded that the final signal received was too far from any possible landing sites and that “flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.” The following phase of the search, which began October 2014, was the largest and most expensive in history, a comprehensive survey of the sea floor about 1,800 kilometers (970 mi) south-west of Perth, Western Australia. The main aircraft has still not been located, prompting many conspiracy theories about the disappearance of the flight.
1. The Mary Celeste
On December 4th, 1872, the Mary Celeste ship was found adrift and deserted in the Atlantic Ocean off the shores of Azores Island. The ship’s condition was disheveled and not one person was found on board. The last entry in the captain’s log had been made ten days earlier.
The ship had set sail from New York City, heading to Genoa, on November 7th. All the cargo on the ship, mostly alcohol, was undisturbed. Those on board – the Captain, his wife, their two-year-old and a crew of seven – had abandoned the ship but their personal belongings were all left behind. Some theories were that Mary Celeste’s crew had staged a mutiny, or that pirates had come aboard the ship but no evidence supporting any of these claims could be found.
There have been many more theories over years with some claiming the ship’s passengers had become drunk from the alcohol fumes and fell overboard, others believe that seaquakes (caused by submarines) or giant squids were to blame.
The Mary Celeste continued to sail until 1885 when her new captain deliberately wrecked her on the coast of Haiti as part of an attempted insurance fraud. The real story of her voyage though is still a mystery.