15 Theories Surrounding Amelia Earhart's Disappearance That May Actually Be True

Who doesn’t love a good conspiracy theory? The name Amelia Earhart is almost synonymous with them, as millions (that’s a rough estimate but it’s possible) have tried to find out what really happened to the beloved pilot on her final flight. It was her second attempt to circle the globe at the equator. And Earhart made it clear she wouldn’t let her first attempt, that failed just a few months before, stop her from being the first person, male or female, to accomplish the daunting task.

From speculation that her navigator Frank Noonan had a drinking problem to ideas that he was her undercover lover, to rumors that she was actually an undercover spy and planned the elaborate trip to make her way to Japan, there are so many theories about Earhart’s disappearance. The telling notion, however, is that any of these could be true. It’s one of those things that we may just never know. Still, it’s intriguing to wonder what happened to the brave and determined pilot in July of 1937. Many have even suggested that they saw her after her possible disappearance and that she lived well into the early 80s. There is speculation that she faked her death (just like there are rumors that Tupac Shakur did the same thing – just want to point that out), but at the end of the day, it’s all just theories and speculation. So take a look at some of the most interesting theories about Amelia Earhart’s disappearance that could actually be true.


15 She Died A Japanese Prisoner

Yes, you read that correctly. One of the craziest yet completely realistic speculations about Amelia Earhart’s mysterious disappearance is that she was taken into Japanese custody as a prisoner. In fact, it was one of the most recent photos of Earhart that sparked rumors of this new controversy. It’s a black-and-white photo of a group of people that is said to include Earhart standing on a dock of the Jaluit Atoll in the Japanese Marshall Islands. It was discovered in a vault from the US National Archives. Talk about historic. Interestingly enough, the person who reportedly snapped the now iconic photograph was said to be a spy for the United States. And get this…the photo could also show a piece of the plane Earhart was flying when she allegedly vanished. Still, the notion of whether she was really in Japanese custody is a bit of a stretch without any more information. But it’s certainly an intriguing theory.

14 She Crashed Just Near Her Destination


This theory might be more realistic than the notion of Amelia Earhart dying as a prisoner on Japanese soil, but it’s certainly not as interesting. Nonetheless, word is Earhart’s plane crashed just short of her ultimate destination. If so, what a terrible way to go. I suppose it’s more than just “word is” considering it’s the official statement from the U.S. that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, simply ran out of gas before they could actually land at Howland Island. Having no other choice, it’s suspected that Earhart and Noonan landed in the Pacific Ocean instead, launching one of the world’s biggest disappearance mysteries. Itasca, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter who was at Howland Island to help Earhart, stated that the communication between the two wasn't clear thanks to radio issues. Still, Itasca was able to confirm that Earhart said she had an inkling that she was close to the island even though she couldn’t see it. She also revealed she was low on fuel

13 She Channelled Her Inner Tom Hanks

If this is true, it might be safer to say Tom Hanks channeled his inner Amelia Earhart. Another speculation is that Earhart died as a castaway on a deserted island. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, also known as the TIGHAR, is a group that is taking a look at this theory pretty closely. It suggests that Earhart and Noonan landed the plane on none other than Nikumaroro Island which is about 350 miles southwest of Howland. This is said to be their last resort after being unable to find their initial destination. TIGHAR said Earhart’s radio communication is evidence of this being a possibility. At 8:43 in the morning on July 2 she told Itasca, “We are on line 157 337.” The numbers suggest that if the two plane passengers missed Howland, they would go northwest or southeast in hopes of coming across it. In the northwest direction there is nothing but ocean water while southwest is Nikumaroro.

12 She And Noonan Settled In The Marshall Islands


Another theory is that Earhart and Noonan headed over to the Marshall Islands which the Japanese had reign of– it’s not clear if this was intentional. But some say the Marshall Islands could have been a back-up in case they didn’t make it to Howland Island. Retired U.S. Air Force colonel Rollin C. Reineck said, “If she couldn’t find Howland, Plan B was to cut off communications and head for the Marshall Islands and ditch her airplane there.” High school teacher Dick Spink has been pretty adamant about proving whether this is true. “The world needs to know this,” he said in an interview back in 2015. “I heard a consistent story from too many people in the Marshalls to dismiss it. They say, ‘She landed at Mili. Our uncles and aunts, our parents, and our grandparents know she landed there.’” Apparently he was so convinced he spent $50,000 to research the area.

11 She Was An Undercover Girl

I have to admit the idea of Amelia Earhart being an undercover spy definitely adds much more excitement to the already intriguing story of her disappearance. So it’s not a surprise that this is one of the major heavy-hitters when it comes to what could have really happened to the hometown hero. There are reports that while Earhart and Noonan were on the Marshall Islands, they were acting as spies for the United States. There is even speculation that she didn’t land on Howland Island on purpose but rather intentionally headed out to the Marshall Islands for an assignment to get information about the Japanese in the area. Reports go as far to say that then President Franklin Roosevelt gave Earhart and Noonan the greenlight for the alleged mission and that it was kept a secret even after the two supposed infiltrators were reportedly captured before being taken into custody.

10 She Was Alive All Along


Now, many of these reports suggest that Earhart lived for quite a while after the speculated plane crash. But this theory goes into even more detail of what Earhart could have done, not only after she survived, but after she returned to the United States – including reports that Earhart made it through the World War II events before coming back to the United States under the name Irene Bolam, who lived in New Jersey and worked as an investment banker. The theory even states that she lived all the way until 1982. One author, Joe Klass, states in his book, Amelia Earhart Lives, “Amelia Earhart was captured, taken first into Saipan and then to Tokyo where she was kept prisoner in the Imperial Place until 1945. But things with this theory went left when a woman who could have been the true Bolam sued the publishing company claiming the theory was 'utter nonsense' and 'a poorly documented hoax.'"

9 She Made Her Way To Guadalcanal

Allied airmen suggested that they spotted Amelia Earhart herself in Guadacanal. She was said to be working as a nurse in the area. But it looks like there was an Irene Bolam type of mixup again. Because there is also speculation that it was really a woman named Merle Farland, not Earhart. Apparently Farland looks a lot like Earhart and worked as a nurse in Guadacanal. Still, whether Farland was really Earhart or not, she definitely sparked up controversy as she was identified as the only woman in a large group of troops who were waiting to be transported, based on a book Lonely Vigil: Coastwatchers of the Solomon Islands, that was released in the late 1970s. As for the soldiers who claimed they saw her, there is said to have been a possibility that they were receiving treatment for major diseases at the time such as malaria. Interesting. Very interesting.


8 …Or Was It New Britain Island?


Another top speculation is that it was really Great Britain that Amelia Earhart called home after her legendary and iconic crash. Considering New Britain Island was one of the main spots in the final stages of Earhart’s worldwide flight, there is a question of whether she really crashed there instead. A statement that dates back to 1943 might confirm this one. Apparently an army corporal from Australia was monitoring the area and reportedly came across an aircraft engine. Its serial number turned out to be one of Pratt & Whitney. I’m sure it didn’t take you long to figure out that the engine in Earhart’s plane was also a Pratt & Whitney. Still, that wasn’t really something out of the ordinary when it came to the planes that were featured in the Second World War. Plus, the notion that Earhart would have traveled another 2,000 miles after she said she was running out of gas is also said to be unlikely.

7 Microphone Check, It’s Tokyo Rose

It looks like Amelia Earhart had more sass than many might have thought. One rumor is that Earhart became a voice known in many areas of Japan. Word spread that Earhart would put out Japanese propaganda over the radio under the name of Tokyo Rose. Still, Earhart’s husband George Putnam couldn’t confirm that the voice of the now infamous Tokyo Rose was really that of his famous wife’s, Amelia Earhart. Interestingly enough, it was reported that Allied troops in the South Pacific gave the name Tokyo Rose to any woman who spoke English and spread Japanese propaganda. It was also said a woman named Iva Toguri D’Aquino was the real Tokyo Rose and that she gave herself that name as she spread propaganda about the great U.S. of A. But she never actually called herself that during the war so who knows who Tokyo Rose really was. Maybe it was Earhart all along.

6 Oh, Emirau Island


Go ahead and add Emirau Island to the list of speculated places Earhart’s journey ended after her plane landed who knows where. The isle, which is right off of New Guinea, is said to be way too far for Earhart to have traveled when compared to the spot of her last radio communication. But a crew member of the U.S. Navy in the Second World War claimed he saw a snapshot of Earhart inside of a hut that belonged to a local. Earhart was reportedly standing with a Japanese military officer, a missionary, as well as a young boy. The Navy member told authorities and Earhart’s photo was quickly snatched from the hut – despite the owner’s wishes to keep it there. Interestingly enough, the photo has not been rediscovered. But on the flip side, many Europeans experienced shipwrecks near the island so it’s also possible the woman could have simply looked like Earhart. I have to say, she certainly has lots of look-a-likes.

5 Let’s Blame Noonan

This list wouldn’t be complete without the theory that it was really Mr. Noonan’s fault all along. I mean, once you’re done trying to figure out where Earhart could be, you realize there was a whole second person on board of the unsuccessful flight. While this piece of speculation was a late bloomer (it didn’t really spark until the 1960s following the release of Frederick Goerner’s The Search for Amelia Earhart), it certainly is quite a juicy one. Apparently there were rumors that Noonan had an issue with drinking too much. While there are conflicting reports of what happened with his position at Pan American (he either resigned after reaching the ceiling of opportunities there or was fired), there are theories that he was hung over before the infamous flight. But this theory has been shut down time and time again as footage shows that Noonan was completely coherent and in his right mind.

4 Was It Love?


This theory sounds just as credible as the one about Noonan being too drunk to fly. But it is one that makes you go “hmmm…” So there are rumors that Earhart and Noonan faked their death so that they could elope and run (or fly) off together. I have to say if true, then both of these guys went to great lengths for it. But if not, it certainly sounds like a Lifetime movie in the making. Either way, there is no evidence or proof that backs up this theory like the other ones suggest. But it’s certainly worth talking about because it actually gives Earhart a bit of personality. Still, considering she was married, this theory is a pretty ugly one. Nonetheless, it’s one that made its way around news outlets long before Facebook, Instagram, and our beloved Snapchat. I can’t imagine Noonan and Earhart doing this but hey, the streets are talking.

3 The Dragon’s Triangle? Yikes!

So there is a myth about an area called The Dragon’s Triangle (not to be confused with old Bermuda) that is said to be a spot where lots of planes vanish never to be seen again. Apparently this spot has been to blame for many parts of planes just malfunctioning without a cause. Interestingly enough, it certainly has been compared to the Bermuda Triangle and has reportedly produced nearly just as many fatal accidents and victims. Two of these victims are reportedly Earhart and Noonan. But it’s really hard to tell considering more than 1500 ships and possibly just as many aircraft have vanished within this area since World War II alone. (This is where the “Yikes” part comes in, just in case you were wondering.) Still, word is that this area is even what made Earhart’s radio malfunction. I must say it’s hard to tell if this is one of the more realistic theories. However, it’s still a theory nonetheless.

2 Will We Ever Find Out?


Possibly not, thanks to a group of crabs. Yes, readers. Just when you thought you heard it all, there are rumors that crabs got to any proof of what happened to Earhart, and that’s why we (or anyone who has tried before us) have yet to find and discover a solid explanation. If Earhart really did crash and land in the Nikumaroro Island area, it’s safe to say she probably died after not getting anything to eat or drink for days. But even though there was a piece of a skeleton that many thought was Earhart in the area, it was also reported that all of the bones were not found because a group of coconut crabs got to them first. While the idea of crabs being strong enough to haul off this body is a bit extreme, keep in mind that they are pretty big and they can crack through coconuts.

1 Was She Ready For The Voyage?

While Amelia Earhart was ready to make history, was she ready to do it this way? There are reports that Earhart really wasn’t knowledgeable enough to take such a long journey. There’s a possibility that what could be found and recovered of her plane was taken back to California for what is considered dramatic repairs. People who saw Earhart do her highly anticipated takeoff said that she first did a ground loop and landed the plane. Word is that one of the tires came off while she was lifting off for the actual trip. It could be just as simple as Earhart not being experienced enough, paired with whatever mechanical issue arose, that caused her trip to be an unsuccessful one. Still, the attempt was brave and she is certainly considered a part of not only American but world and international history as well. Cheers for Amelia!


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