Disappearances tend to play on many of the most primal fears that every person has. Something has happened that has left the fate of a beloved figure unknown to everybody. Their family and friends are left waiting for some bit of news that will never come, and with the passing of time, these individuals must realize that the missing will never return. After an appropriate amount of time has passed the family and friends can return to their routines, but the memories and search efforts wane with each passing day.
These mysteries have perplexed historians and experts, who find it implausible that people with such extraordinary skills could disappear without a trace. It is a fate that has befallen explorers and pioneers as well as the ultra-rich and cultural icons. These people have gone missing and have never been located despite the best effort of the some of the most influential groups in the world. It can be harrowing to realize that even with all the collective resources that humanity possesses, somebody can still disappear beyond reach.
There is something inherently unsettling about a disappearance. At first, the absence of clues to an individual’s whereabouts can give some hope that the individual is indeed alive. The Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 disappearance of last year showed once again that even with all of our technology, 239 people can vanish and never reappear. While plausible explanations can be put forward to give the public a narrative of events, the lack of physical evidence is disturbing and fuels the public’s curiosity. These individuals have left many questions left unanswered.
10 Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart is one of the most beloved aviation pioneers in history. She earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Earhart was a well-received author, who had written several accounts of her numerous journeys. In 1937, she attempted to become the first woman to circumnavigate the world by plane, but at some stage of her journey her plane was lost over the Pacific Ocean. Much speculation has surrounded Earhart since her disappearance, including theories that she adopted a second identity or was captured by the Japanese. The most popular theory remains that her Lockheed Model 10 Electra crashed and sank in adverse weather conditions, but the world will likely never know her true fate.
9 Henry Hudson
Henry Hudson was one of the greatest explorers during the Age of Exploration and is the namesake for the Hudson River and Hudson Bay. Hudson made two attempts to find the famed Northwest Passage to China, but was unsuccessful. After settling in for a winter on a beach in James Bay, Hudson wanted to continue pursuing this famed passage to the West, but his crew disagreed and mutinied. The crew wrested control of Discovery and set Hudson adrift on an open boat along with his son and seven crew members. Hudson attempted to pursue Discovery in the open boat, but the ship set their sails and outran the small craft. Hudson and his small party were marooned in his namesake Hudson Bay and never seen or heard from again.
8 Jimmy Hoffa
With a checkered past that included convictions for fraud, jury tampering, and bribery, it came as no surprise to many that Jimmy Hofffa made some enemies as a labor union activist. However, it may have been his involvement with organized crime through the International Brotherhood of Teamsters that led to his disappearance. Hoffa rose through the ranks and was eventually elected president of the IBT, but his illegal dealings led to an intense investigation from Robert F. Kennedy, and he was eventually sentenced to a total of thirteen years in prison.
Hoffa’s sentence was commuted by Richard Nixon after less than five years served, and he enjoyed nearly four years of freedom before disappearing from an affluent Detroit suburb on July 30, 1975. Hoffa was apparently scheduled to meet with two organized crime and Teamsters bosses. Despite the best efforts of law enforcement and investigative journalists, Hoffa’s fate remains unknown. Hoffa was legally declared dead seven years after his disappearance and speculation of his fate continues to this day.
7 D.B. Cooper
D.B. Cooper is one of the most infamous skyjackers of all time. Cooper is the media created identity assigned to a man that took control of a Boeing 727 in the airspace between Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington on November 24, 1971. Carrying an estimated $200,000 in a briefcase, Cooper jumped from the plane in midair and parachuted to his unknown fate below. Despite the best efforts of the FBI and local law enforcement, no evidence of his whereabouts has ever been recovered. As recently as 2011, the FBI has been following new leads in the case and it continues to fuel speculation to this day.
6 John Cabot
John Cabot is the legendary explorer credited with being the first European to reach mainland North America since the Vikings. Cabot was born Giovanni Caboto in Italy, although the exact location remains disputed. Cabot sailed for England and set sail on his first journey from Bristol in search of a lost island in the Atlantic Ocean and the valuable dyes that could be harvested. Cabot’s first journey was unsuccessful, but his second journey was an overwhelming success and Cabot landed at Cape Bonavista in Newfoundland. Cabot returned to England as a hero for claiming the new land for England. Cabot was given fame and fortune, but continued planning for a future voyage. In May 1478, Cabot set sail from Bristol once again with five ships in his party. A storm forced one ship to return, but the four remaining ships sailed on and were never heard from again.
5 Roald Amundsen
Roald Amundsen is regarded as being one of the most beloved explorers of the 20th century. He was a man capable of withstanding extraordinary suffering from the extreme elements that he faced while exploring Antarctica and the North Pole. Amundsen led the first exploration that reached the South Pole, and he led the first expedition to undisputedly reach the North Pole. He heroically set out along with a small party aboard a plane to search for members of a crashed airship from an Umberto Nobile. Amundsen and his crew vanished without a trace on their rescue mission. A recent 2009 Norwegian Navy expedition to find the wreckage returned nothing.
4 Glenn Miller
From 1939 to 1943, Glenn Miller was the best-selling recording artist in America, as the leader of his big band. At the peak of his success in the music industry, Miller made the decision to join the war effort by playing shows around the world to entertain American troops serving abroad. Miller convinced military officials to create the Army Air Force Band, and he was appointed leader and the rank of Major. The 50 piece band played over 800 performances, while giving a much needed update to the stiff marches typically found in the military. While flying from the United Kingdom to play for soldiers stationed in Paris, Miller’s plane disappeared over the English Channel. Miller is still listed as missing-in-action.
3 Andrew Carnegie Whitfield
Andrew Carnegie Whitfield was the nephew of American steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. He was a Princeton graduate and successful business executive that enjoyed a hobby as an aviator in his Taylor Cub airplane. Whitfield took off from a Roosevelt Airfield on Long Island and was scheduled to land about 20 minutes later in Brentwood, New York. Whitfield’s plane carried enough fuel for a 150 mile journey, but was never heard from again and the plane was never located. Evidence of him checking into a hotel under an assumed name exists and many of his personal effects, including passport and life insurance policies were uncovered.
2 Oscar Zeta Acosta
For many, Oscar Zeta Acosta will be remembered as Dr. Gonzo, the outlandish legal associate of Hunter S. Thompson in his famous Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Acosta was an accomplished author, Chicano activist, and attorney that had drawn the ire of the Los Angeles Police Department. He had an unsuccessful campaign to become sheriff of Los Angeles County, but still managed to receive 100,000 votes in the process. While on traveling in Sinaloa, Mexico, Acosta allegedly phoned his son just before disappearing and his location has never been determined. Thompson later said his friend suffered from an amphetamine addiction and his penchant for the drug may have led to his disappearance.
1 Jim Gray
Jim Gray is one of the greatest computer scientists and changed the way that computing takes place. In 1998, he was honored with the Turing Award, computing’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize, for his contributions in the field of database and transaction processing. On January 28, 2007, Jim Gray set sail aboard his yacht Tenacious to scatter his mother’s ashes near the Farallon Islands off of San Francisco, California. Emergency location beacons were never activated and no trace of him or his 40-foot yacht were ever found. An extensive search involving the U.S. Coast Guard and satellite imaging revealed nothing. In 2012, five years after his disappearance, he was legally declared dead.