Have you ever lost a close relative or a friend you loved deeply? Chances are you have because death is one of those occurrences that must happen to everyone who is alive regardless of health, age, race, religion, or social standing. The worst thing about death is the lack of assurance of what lies on the other side and the perceived permanent separation between the dead and those who are still alive. In such moments, an individual’s faith plays a big role in giving him or her hope that the departed loved ones have gone to a better place and one day they will meet.
When someone goes missing, close family and friends immediately do everything they can to search for them, hoping to find their loved one safe and sound. After a period, the authorities and professional investigators come into the picture to help track down the missing individual, following every possible lead and looking into the possibilities of foul play. The first few hours and days are usually the most intense because when days turn to weeks, people slowly go back to their normal routines and start adjusting to life without their missing loved one.
The friends and family members of a missing person never like to think of a possibility where their loved one is dead, but the thought is always at the back of their minds. When weeks turn into months and months into years, even the professionals give up and authorities declare the missing person dead.
However, some people go missing for decades and mysteriously show up alive, and in most cases well, when almost everyone had lost all hope and thought they were dead. Here are 15 people who everyone thought were dead, but were found alive after decades.
15. Lucy Johnson (Over 51 Years)
Lucy Johnson’s disappearance was weird since although her neighbor last saw her alive back in September of 1961, her husband didn’t report the case until May of 1965. Of course, it doesn’t make sense why her husband would wait for close to four years before reporting that his wife was missing unless he had something to do with it. Her husband was the prime suspect in the case and they evacuated the family’s yard in an attempt to discover her remains, but they didn’t find anything to prove he was guilty.
In 2013, the Surrey RCMP listed Lucy’s missing persons’ case in a series they called “Missing of the Month.” Lucy’s daughter, Linda Evans, felt the desire to find her mom, and after finding some of her old documents, she approached Yukon News and placed a plea for help in locating her mother. Owing to the details she gave, a woman named Rhoda replied to her message, claiming to be Lucy Johnson’s daughter.
Despite everyone thinking she was dead, Lucy was indeed alive after 51 years, living with a new family with four more children. She claimed her first husband used to abuse her, and he didn’t allow her to take her children with her since she couldn’t live with him anymore.
14. Melvin Uphoff And Jacquelyn Rains-Kracman (44 Years)
This is a painful missing person’s case because of the families left behind and everything about it. In September 1965, when Rains-Kracman was 18 years old, she left her parents’ home claiming she was off to attend a friend’s wedding in Iowa for the weekend with a female friend. At the time she was a mother of two children, a two-year-old and a six-month-old baby, and she was going through a divorce with her then husband.
Melvin Uphoff, on the other hand, disappeared from his home, one month after Rains-Kracman left, and members of his family never heard from him again. By the time he was leaving, he had a wife and children, since he had a three-year-old daughter at the time he abandoned his family. Melvin was Rains-Kracman’s husband’s boss, and people believed these two had run off together because the two were believed to be having an affair back in 1965.
In 2009, the authorities tracked down the couple and spoke to them. They were living together as a couple and they claimed to have left willingly, so their case was closed. They requested the authorities to respect their privacy and didn’t even want to be reunited with their families.
13. Lula Gillespie-Miller (42 Years)
Lula Gillespie-Miller was 28 years old when she gave birth to her third child. According to her, she was too young to be a mother, so she signed over custody of her children to her parents and fled in 1974. Apart from a letter she sent to her family the following year postmarked Richmond, Indiana, Gillespie-Miller appeared to never make any attempt to contact her family.
In 2014, The Doe Network reached out to Indiana State Police Detective Sergeant Scott Jarvis, who had taken over the case in an attempt to help solve it. Jarvis’s investigations led him to find out about a woman who matched the description of Gillespie-Miller who resided in Tennessee in the 1980s and later moved to Texas. With this information, Jarvis expected that Gillespie-Miller must be living under an alias and possibly still lived in Texas.
True to his assumptions, Gillespie-Miller was living under an alias in Texas and was found by police 42 years after she had been declared missing. Since she hadn’t committed any crimes, the police didn’t disclose the name she is living under, but they gave her daughter her contact information for a reunion of sorts.
12. Lula Cora Hood (40 Years)
Lula Cora Hood went missing back in 1970, and her family thought she was dead at some point since they even held a memorial service and tried to move on. Before she left, she was the mother of four, two girls and two boys, but owing to her inability to take care of her children, she let her sister adopt them and she visited them often. However, Lula and her sister had a quarrel, and she was told to leave and she did and never looked back.
In 1996, the skeleton of a woman found in East Galesburg, Ill. led the police to think she had died since the skeleton belonged to a woman her height and it was just across where her parents lived. However, the police kept these remains until a time when DNA testing had improved, and at such a time in 2008, the remains proved to belong to someone else.
An online search led the investigators to a woman matching Lula Cora’s first two names and social security number. The police tracked down an 84-year-old Lula Cora living in Jacksonville, who answered their questions correctly confirming it was her. The family and the investigators were so happy to find her, even after forty years.
11. Bakhretdin Khakimov (33 Years)
Bakhretdin Khakimov’s story is a bit weird. He went to Afghanistan as part of the invasion by the Soviet forces in December 1979 to make it into a modern socialist state, but he ended up injured and saved by the locals. The military stalemate led to the Soviet leaving in February 1989, largely defeated and having lost so many men. This resulted in over 1.5 million civilian Afghan deaths with five million leaving the country and two million internally displaced.
The Red Army believed Khakimov had succumbed to the injuries he received in 1980 in battle, but they didn’t know the locals had rescued him and nursed him back to health. Thereafter, he adopted the name Sheikh Abdullah and married an Afghan woman, who later died. Khakimov practiced herbal medicine in Herat and had adopted a semi-nomadic lifestyle.
When a veterans’ organization started a search for its missing soldiers, they found Khakimov in Afghanistan, and his memory was intact since he could identify his parents, siblings, and even other soldiers. He was excited to be reunited with his relatives once again.
10. Arthur Gerald Jones (32 Years)
In the case of Arthur Gerald Jones, the police were after him, not to reunite him with his family, but to make him face the law for the crimes he had committed. After missing for 32 years and everyone assuming he was dead, he was found working in a casino in Las Vegas and fined $90,000. Most of this money was in the form of fines since the Social Security Administration had paid his family some money after he was declared dead in 1986, and he was to pay $11,400 to the man whose identity he stole.
Although his jail time was suspended, he had to pay the fine. What made authorities catch up with him was when he applied for a driver’s license. By the time the police got to him, he had worked in the casino for a decade.
Jones left his family in 1979 voluntarily, citing unemployment, a troubled marriage, and a desire to begin a new life as the main reasons for leaving. Earlier on, the police had thought someone had killed him owing to the debts he had since he had a gambling problem.
9. Petra Pazsitka (31 Years)
Petra Pazsitka’s disappearance has to be one of the weirdest cases on this list. When she was just 24 years old, Petra disappeared from her Braunschweig university hostel in Germany without a trace, back in 1984. All the attempts by police to track her down proved to be futile, and they feared someone had killed her. Five years after her disappearance, the German authorities pronounced she was dead because there were no signs of her whereabouts or signs she was alive.
However, 31 years after she disappeared, Petra was found alive and well, having lived in different parts of Germany under a different name. She didn’t have any form of identification on her, a bank account, or even insurance and she did everything she could to stay away from family and even the neighbors she was living next to.
The authorities found her following a burglary at her apartment, which led them to ask her a few questions concerning her identity. Although she tried to hide her identity, she finally admitted she was the student who disappeared 31 years before then and the authorities were shocked. She also told them she planned everything to do with her disappearance, simply because she just wanted to be alone. Although her family wanted to contact her and see her again, she didn’t want anything to do anything with them at the time.
8. Edgar Latulip (30 Years)
In September 1986, Edgar Latulip, who was 21 years at the time, disappeared from the hospital and none of his family, friends, or hospital staff knew where he went. The fact that he was in a hospital in Kitchener, Ontario receiving treatment after attempting suicide was bad enough since most people assumed he would succeed the second time around. Since Mr. Latulip’s cognitive abilities were those of a child, the authorities believed he boarded a bus to Niagara Falls and possibly ended himself there.
However, Mr. Latulip was living about 80 miles from the hospital he had been admitted to, in St Catharine’s, Ontario. It’s likely he got an injury at some point during his journey to Niagara Falls, which made him forget everything about whom he was and where he was from.
After 30 years, he started remembering who he was, he approached a social worker who searched the name he gave her and found his missing persons poster with his name and image. A DNA test proved who he was and his mother was contacted. The authorities and the family were thrilled to close this case in such a wonderful way.
7. Richard Hoagland (23 Years)
Richard Hoagland and Linda Iseler were living a comfortable life with their two children in Indianapolis. Linda was Hoagland’s second wife, marrying her after divorcing his first wife. His huge and steady income afforded them a big house, had several cars, and they used to go on exotic vacations, which is the reason his departure was such a shock to the family.
The day he disappeared, he called his wife and told her he had to go to the emergency room because he was unwell, and he couldn’t wait for her. That was the last time they talked. His wife searched every hospital but couldn’t find him. The police found his car abandoned at the airport but he didn’t take a flight since there was no record of it. The following summer, he sent his children birthday cards, each with $50 and a message inside, and he never communicated again.
However, after 23 years, Richard Hoagland was found living under the name Terry Symansky. Apparently, Richard stole Symansky’s death certificate and assumed his identity. He even married a woman called Mary, bought a house in Florida, and the two had a child together. The authorities got to him after the real Symansky’s nephew did some research on his family history and discovered how his uncle got married two years after they buried him.
6. Gabriel Nagy (23 Years)
On January 21, 1987, Mr. Gabriel Nagy called his wife at home and told her he would be coming home for lunch, but this conversation was the last she would share with him for 23 years. Nagy, a father of two, an 11-year-old son and a nine-year-old daughter, didn’t come home that night, and he was the kind of person who always told someone whether he was coming home or not. The following day, people found his car burnt out at the side of the road, and this was a sign something wasn’t right.
Nagy withdrew some money from his account after two weeks and bought camping supplies in a Newcastle store, the last clue they would get as to his whereabouts. Since he didn’t communicate for so long, his family started to believe he was dead. Before the state declared him dead, Senior Constable Georgia Robinson happened to discover a Medicare record in Nagy’s name.
After doing odd jobs and sleeping on the streets for a long time, a pastor saw something in Nagy and decided to give him the job of a caretaker in his church. The pastor helped Nagy get a Medicare card in his original name, which is how the authorities got to him. He had suffered a serious injury at the back of his head, which was the possible cause of the amnesia. The good news is Nagy was connected with his family back in 2012, and he was delighted to restore his relationship with his family.
5. Carlos Sánchez Ortiz De Salazar (Still Missing After 20 Years)
Carlos Sanchez Ortiz de Salazar used to be a doctor from Spain, who disappeared from his home in 1996 and no one knew where he was. In 2010, the authorities formally declared him dead. Interestingly, mushroom pickers in the forest of Tuscany discovered him in 2015 by chance, where he was living in solitude. Carlos Sanchez told them his story and allowed them to take photos of his worn out documents as well as his university library card, documents that proved his story was true.
The people who found him immediately contacted an Italian missing persons charity organization called Penelope, which got in touch with his parents. However, when Carlos’ parents got to where the mushroom pickers saw him, he had already moved on to a different location. Although his parents never got to talk to him or embrace him, they were relieved to know he was still alive, and although they truly wanted to see him, they were willing to give him the space he needed.
4. Richard Wayne Landers Jr. (19 Years)
Richard Wayne Landers Jr.’s case of disappearance is unique since some people can call it kidnapping while others can call it bold protection. Since he was born, his parents kept on fighting and he ended up staying in a homeless shelter for a while. The child welfare services intervened owing to his mother experiencing developmental disabilities. Since his father was no longer in the picture owing to divorce, his grandparents were awarded temporary custody over their grandchild until everything was sorted out.
After a while, the court restored Wayne to his mother, but his grandparents weren’t for the idea. His grandparents withdrew a lot of money from their account and fled with their grandson. For over 19 years, his mother and detectives were searching for him until they found him living in Long Prairie, a town in central Minnesota.
3. Judith Bello (18 Years)
In 1993, when Judith Bello was 28 years old, she was married and had two children. However, one day when she was supposed to pick her son up from daycare, she never showed up and her family and friends never got to know where she was for the next 18 years. Her relatives were convinced she ran off because her husband abused her often, but so many years passed and people couldn’t help but think she was dead.
One day, Judith came across a deck of cards with missing persons on it, and she came across her profile. She contacted the authorities and told them she was safe and that her case was solved. Judith was living in Fontana under a new identity, she was married, and had three children. Although her family was shocked to realize she had moved on and had another family of her own, they were excited to know she was alive and well.
2. Denise Bolser (17 Years)
Denise Desruisseaux Bolser disappeared in January 1985, and everyone feared the worst since a kidnap note written “We’ve got your wife” was found in her home. Her husband’s pickup truck was found abandoned in Boston at Logan Airport, with her birth certificate, Social Security card, and other charge cards neatly arranged therein. Although friends and family thought she was kidnapped and was probably dead, the police suspected she was afraid and was therefore on the run.
The following year she was accused of stealing almost $12,000 from a company she was working before as a bookkeeper. The charges were dropped in 1993, but the then State Trooper Roland Lamy wasn’t willing to give up looking for her since he was a close friend of Denise’s parents.
A licensed private investigator named Shirley Casey happened to look into Denise’s case because she had a close connection with New Hampshire. Her investigations led her to a Denise living in Florida, whose date of birth was the same as the Denise they were looking for. She forwarded her findings to the authorities and they found her. She had a very emotional reunion with her family. The reason for her disappearance was a threat from a man working with her then boss to steal over $100,000 from a business, who told her he would kill her in two days.
1. Rachel Elkayam (68 Years)
Rachel Elkayam is on this list because in 1947, when she was just 16 years old, she left her family and they never heard from her for 68 years. Before leaving, her family used to live in Haifa, a mixed Jewish-Arab city but then moved to Tel Aviv believing they would be safer in the center of Israel. The insecurity was because Israel was to be declared an Independent state the following year, and so a full-scale war had erupted.
Elkayam was a rebellious child back then, and she was in love with an Arab man called Faud and was pregnant with his baby. Faud and his family came for her in Tel Aviv, the two got married in a ceremony her parents never knew about, and from that time, she didn’t communicate with any member of her family for 68 years.
Even before giving birth to their son, a sniper shot Faud in Haifa and he died at the local hospital. His family moved to Syria together with Elkayam, and she had no choice since she was carrying their grandson. After she had delivered her son, her late husband’s family told her she could leave without her son, but she wasn’t willing to leave him behind since she loved him so much. She was later married off to one of Faud’s brothers and with him bore another seven children.
Her parents died having never heard of her and thinking she was dead. She desperately wanted to go home but she could not, owing to the hostilities between Israel and Syria. However, in 2015, she was reunited with what was left of her family, now a great grandmother.
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