There are plenty of stories of people who have ventured into the wilderness, and have come back out alive. Hell, I go camping many times each year, and have still managed to escape with little more than a hundred black fly and/or mosquito bites….maybe some sore muscles from paddling.
There are those who venture out, and end up having to sever their arm with a pen knife in order to escape…but they do escape after enduring the most intense pain ever. But there are still many who journey into the wilderness and are never heard from again. And it’s a whole lot more common than you might like to think.
Below are some incredible stories of people who went into the wild…and either never returned, or were never seen again. This includes a would-be bomber, an attempted axe murderer, a six year old boy, a nine month old girl, a 58 year old woman, a group of frozen hikers with brain damage, a group of cannibalistic explorers…and it also includes murder, suicide, flying, canoeing, climbing, aliens, dingoes, photos, and a tree-cutting tree-hugger.
15. A Last Moment Photo
In 1991, a 12 year old boy by the name of Jared Negrete, went on an outing with his Boy Scout troop. Climbing Mount San Gorgonio, Jared had, at some point, strayed from the group. When they went searching for the boy, there were plenty of items to follow. Shoe prints, candy wrappers, beef jerky…there was plenty of evidence to suggest that Jared had simply wandered off. Everyone assumed that Jared had become lost, and eventually died from exposure to the elements…until they found his camera. After developing the film, there was an interesting discovery. Sure, there were plenty of beautiful landscape shots, but the final photo was of the boy’s face, seemingly very frightened. No one ever found the boy, and no one really knows what happened to him. But whatever it was…we can assume it was not pleasant.
14. Pigs Will Eat Anything…
In 1985, David Tyll and Brian Ognjan went for a hunting trip in northern Michigan. At first it was assumed that they had got lost in the woods, after heading out from Tyll’s cabin. But their truck was nowhere to be found either, which led authorities to believe that they never made it there in the first place. According to an alleged eyewitness (who came forward in 2003), the two men were beaten to death outside of a bar, as they begged for their lives. The Duvall brothers, who supposedly murdered Tyll and Ognjan, apparently cut the bodies up, and fed the bits to their pigs. Both Duvall brothers were sentenced to life in prison, in spite of the lack of physical evidence linking them to the murders. And if they were fed to the pigs, there’s not likely to ever be physical evidence.
13. The Mysterious Axe Murderer
Terri Jentz and Avra Goldman embarked on a cross country cycling trip in 1977. They stopped in at Cline Falls State Park, in Oregon, to set up camp on their journey. In the middle of the night, their tent was hit by a truck. Miraculously not being run over by the machine, they got out to investigate…only to find a man approaching them with an axe in hand. He attacked them, hopped in his truck, and drove off. One of the girls managed to make it to the main road to flag for help, and both the women were rescued. The axe man, however, vanished. There were some leads, and suspects, but no one was ever convicted. So far as anyone knows, there’s a wandering (attempted) axe murderer in Cline Falls State Park. And if he’s ever caught, and proven to be the attacker, the statute of limitations for attempted murder in Oregon will see that he never goes to prison.
12. Bomber Man!
In 1971, a man boarded a plane in Oregon, headed to Seattle. While on the plane, he ordered a bourbon, and passed a note to the flight attendant directing her to sit next to him; it informed her that he had a bomb on his person. When she sat, he showed her the bomb, and said that $200,000 must be waiting for him when they landed. The attendant relayed this to the pilot, who then passed on the info to the authorities. Sure enough the money was there when they landed. Ordering the crew to refuel, and fly on toward Mexico, D.B. Cooper (the bomber) jumped out of the plane with a parachute pack, and the money strapped to his legs. Jumping out into 200mph winds of a thunderstorm, over top of the southern Washington wilderness, Cooper was never heard from again…though a kid found some of his money nine years later.
11. The Franklin Expedition…A Disgusting Diet
Searching for the Northwest Passage back in the 19th century, the Franklin expedition was screwed right from the start. Both of his ships Erebus, and Terror were lodged in ice, forcing the crew to venture on foot. Three men died before they ever really set out from the ice block. They were at least buried, graves marked. The rest of the crew vanished. Search parties went after them after three years of silence. Stories from locals, and natives in the north told of a band of white men wandering the snow, eating their own people to survive. Explorer John Rae was shunned by the British people for suggesting such an appalling end to the expedition. But nearly two hundred years later, evidence of cracked human bones with knife and burn marks seem to suggest he was right.
10. Maybe A Dingo Ate Your Baby!
Alright, so everyone knows of this joke, which is actually a misquote from a Meryl Streep film. And that film was based on the real life story of a fairly traumatized Australian couple. Azaria Chamberlain, who was only nine weeks old, was carried away into the Outback, by a wild dog (or dingo). When the parents reported the incident, they were immediately suspected. The mother was even tried and convicted to a life sentence for the murder of her daughter. She only served a few years, once an item of Azaria’s clothing was discovered in a dingo den. But it took from 1980 to 2012, to fully exonerate both the mother and father of this very unfortunate little girl. So the next time you poke fun at a dingo eating someone’s baby…just know that it has actually happened.
9. The Dyatlov Pass Tragedy
Here’s a rather strange one. In Russia, in 1959, nine hikers went up into the mountains…and never returned. When the search parties came looking for them, they came across their camp first. And there was evidence that the group had ripped their way out of their tents in an attempt to escape…something. Since they scurried out of their tents in the night in a panic, they didn’t have time to dress properly. It was agreed that six of them had died of hypothermia. The other three were a different story. One had head trauma. Another had brain damage, but no trauma. And another had both eyes, and her tongue missing. The theories range from animal attack to avalanche, and from aliens to secret Soviet weapons…but it seems no one will ever know just what happened.
8. Frozen To Death? Or Abducted?
I don’t know what it is with so many wilderness disappearances in Oregon, but all the same Derrick Engebretson joined that list at the very young age of eight. Hiking with his father and grandfather in Winema National Forest in December of 1998 (the year of the infamous ice storm), Derrick got separated from his family. A snow storm had blown in, and the father and grandfather could not find a trace of the boy. Searchers found some blood, a bookmark from the boy’s school, and a little shelter made of fir boughs…but no Derrick. A convicted child rapist confessed to the crime years later, but after he pointed out where the body was (and searchers found nothing) he recanted his confession. Still to this day, no one truly knows what happened to Derrick Engebretson.
7. The Tree-Cutting Environmentalist
Grant Hadwin, an extreme environmentalist, cut down a very rare tree in British Columbia, in protest of clear-cut logging in the area. Cutting down a tree to protest the cutting down of trees may seem a little stupid but…yeah there’s no real defense I can think of here. Either way, Hadwin really pissed off both the locals, and the natives by cutting down the especially rare, 300 year old tree. Fearing harm by driving or flying to his court date, Hadwin decided his best means of survival would be to paddle the Hecate Strait. He never made his court date. Five months later, his kayak and belongings were found. But no one ever heard from Hadwin again. The area he was paddling was known for dangerous waters…but he could have very well been murdered as well.
6. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
This park, which borders Tennessee and North Carolina, has been the location of several wild disappearances. In ’69, a six year old boy went missing, after playing a prank with a few friends. Some say they heard screams, or saw a rough man running out of the same forested area around the time. Skeletal remains were once allegedly found, but vanished before authorities could get to them. A 16 year old girl on a school hike got split from her group and was never seen again. A 58 year old woman, walking ahead of two friends over a hill was never to appear again. In 2012, Derek Leuking abandoned his car and belongings in the park, and left a note that read “Don’t try to follow me”…and he also was never seen again. A place where people go to disappear…
5. High Flying Conspiracy
Most of you should have at least some idea of who Amelia Earhart is…or was, rather. If not, the important thing you need to know is that she decided to attempt flying around the world (something that had not yet been done at that point in time). Oh, and the other important thing you need to know is that she disappeared well before making it all the way around. Realistically, she probably ran out of fuel, and ditched in the Pacific Ocean (which is its own kind of wilderness (even without woods). But that hasn’t stopped the conspiracy theories. Some think she was hired by F.D.R. to spy on the Japanese. Others think she made the voyage, then changed her identity, in order to get out of the spotlight. More money has been spent on researching this disappearance than any other, it seems.
4. The Disappearing Poet
1924, southern Utah, Everett Ruess traveled Davis Gulch, after riding from the High Sierra, Arizona, and New Mexico. As he traveled he painted beautiful pictures, and wrote vivid poetry of all that he saw, and experienced, and thought. But once he reached Utah, he wrote a letter home, stating “I don’t think you will ever see me again, for I intend to disappear.” And he well and truly did disappear. In 2009, a witness to a murder led authorities to the skeleton of a man with Ruess’ description. But DNA evidence proved it was not him after all. Considering it was his final statement to disappear, I’d say that Everett Ruess really kept true to his word. Maybe someday someone will dig up a painting or some poems stashed next to a skeleton in the middle of nowhere Utah.
3. The Infamous Hudson Bay
For any of you Americans who don’t know, the Hudson Bay is a very large body of water in northern Canada. And it is named after Henry Hudson (some of you may know of the Hudson Bay Company). During his exploration of northern Canada (in the very bay that carries his namesake), Henry was cast away by his mutinous crew. They had been freezing, and starving while their ship was encased in ice for months. They got fed up, and put Henry, his teenage son, and several ill or loyal people into a small boat, and left them to their own devices. There is a theory that Hudson was instead murdered while still aboard his ship. But this has yet to be proven. The mutinous crew (those who lived to make it back to England), were tried and charged for the death of Hudson, but they all avoided punishment. Hudson was never found.
2. Kentucky Explorer Vanishes
James Harrod, an American explorer, decided to go on a hunting trip, after founding the first settlement in Kentucky: Harrodsburg. There are a number of theories as to just what happened to this explorer. Some think he simply wanted to escape his wife and family, and traveled further south, undetected. Others believe that he was in search of a silver mine with two accomplices. One of those men, known as Bridges, was seen after the disappearance, with silver buttons that matched Harrod’s shirt. Friends of Harrod also found skeletal remains, with a shirt that had missing silver buttons. But Bridges vanished, and the body was left, and never confirmed to be Harrod (though surely his friends must have assumed it to be him). But no one really knows.
1. Tom Thomson’s Last Canoe
Some of you may be familiar with the famous Group of Seven: a band of painters who had a particular style of capturing beautiful scenes of natural beauty. A great influence on this group of artists was Tom Thomson. He was never officially a member of the group, though people often assume so. At any rate, Thomson was a skilled artist, as well as outdoorsman. But something happened while he paddled Canoe Lake in the massive Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. No one knows just what happened, but he was discovered eight days later, having drowned in the lake. Many theorize that Thomson committed suicide for either lack of recognition, or because of a love affair gone wrong. Others believe that he died in a fight on the lake, or that poachers had shot him down.
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