Some mysterious disappearances and deaths seem to be surrounded by more bizarre clues than others. Whereas there are people who have died under baffling circumstances or stepped off the face of the earth without warning, in other cases there has shown to be demonstrated a series of weird, uncharacteristic and perplexing behavior and actions directly leading up to these instances that are every bit as puzzling as the crimes they link in to. What sort of clues does this inexplicable behavior offer us and what insights can we gain from it into these murky, inscrutable cases? Here are some of the most head-scratchingly enigmatic deaths and disappearances there are, orbited by a plethora of odd clues and a string of weird behavior preceding them.
One of the earlier and more well-known accounts of a mysterious death preceded by bizarre behavior is that of none other than the famous author Edgar Allen Poe. The whole strange affair began on September 27 of 1849, when Poe departed from Richmond, Virginia on his way to Philadelphia, where he had an editing business and was scheduled to edit a collection of poems by a well-known poet. However, Poe never made it to his destination, seeming to vanish off the face of the earth, that is, until he was found nearly a week later in Baltimore, Maryland, in a rather odd state.
October 3, 1849 was election day, and despite the poor, rainy weather at the time there was a relatively decent turnout at Gunner’s Hall in Baltimore, where the ballots were being cast. One of these voters was a man who worked for the Baltimore Sun newspaper named Joseph W. Walker, and he was to make quite a surprising discovery indeed. Walker found himself passing a man lying nearly unconscious in a gutter, dressed in worn-out clothes and apparently babbling and only semi-conscious. Thinking it to be just some nameless drunken vagrant, Walker warily approached and was shocked to realize that this shabbily dressed, pathetic man was none other than the missing Edgar Allen Poe, in obvious serious shambles and disarray.
The author seemed to be decked out it in filthy clothes that were not his own, and was quite delirious and confused, rambling nonsensically, during which time Walker gleaned the name “Joseph E. Snodgrass” from him. The disoriented and addled Poe claimed that Snodgrass was a magazine editor and had the medical training to know what to do. No Snodgrass would ever show up, and Poe would be attended to by a physician named Dr. John J. Moran, who was not able to discern from the author’s ramblings where Poe had been, where he had gotten those soiled clothes, or what had happened to him since his disappearance, as the author remained in a state of complete delirium and beset with potent hallucinations. No one had the faintest idea of what could be wrong with him, and on the day that he died, on October 7, he repeatedly called out for someone named “Reynolds,” whose identity has never been uncovered.
Although Poe’s official cause of death would eventually be proclaimed to be swelling of the brain, his strange disappearance and odd behavior in the days leading up to his death have long caused theories to swirl as to what really happened to him, and his death remains just as mysterious as any of his own tales of dark fiction. One idea is that he had been beaten by someone, either to rob him or steal his identity for voter fraud, or even willfully targeted for murder, leaving him in the rough state he was found, with his injuries leading to his nonsensical, crazed demeanor. There is also the possibility that Poe, famously unable to handle alcohol at all, had merely had too much to drink, and this had led to his bizarre, delirious behavior and death, that he had essentially drunk himself to death. This would not be so strange in and of itself, as a single glass of alcohol was said to get him totally, irrevocably smashed, but it still does not explain why he had gone missing for 5 days, or why he had remained incoherent in the days leading up to his death, plus the fact there was no forensic sign that he had been drinking or had any drugs in his system at all for that matter.
Other ideas include that he had a brain tumor, that he had encephalitis or meningitis, had incurred mercury poisoning, or even that he had contracted rabies, but there is no solid evidence to totally back up any of these, and none of them really explain everything. Why did Poe go missing for those days? How did a well-known author end up in a gutter in someone else’s clothes, and what caused his bizarre behavior in the days leading up to his strange death? Who was the mysterious “Joseph E. Snodgrass,” or “Reynolds?” We may never know, and Edgar Allen Poe’s puzzling death is still debated to this day.
In 1929 there was also the strange case of another author and occultist by the name of Netta Fornario. A member of an offshoot of the occult movement the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, called the Alpha et Omega Temple, and with a deep fascination with fairies and magical healing practices, Netta would perhaps be labelled as already quite odd by many people’s standards, but it was the days leading up to her mysterious death that would prove to be quite bizarre indeed.
In the summer of 1929, Netta suddenly and without explanation left her home in London and made a journey out to the small, quiet Scottish island of Iona, where she took up lodgings with a local named Mrs. MacRae. Considering that she had packed a large amount of her belongings, it was clear that she had intended to stay on the island for quite some time, but no one really knew why she had gone there in the first place. Once there, Netta began to display very weird behavior indeed. She began to wander around the island aimlessly during the day trying to contact the “spirits” she believed to be living there, and by night she would go into deep trances, which she would come out of claiming that she had received communications from the spirit world. As the days went by, the increasingly spooked Mrs. McRae also claimed that at one point Netta’s jewelry went from silver to a dark black in color overnight for no apparent reason.
This went on until autumn, when Netta sent a cryptic message to her housekeeper in London stating that she had a “terrible case of healing” that she felt she had to perform, and that she would be gone for longer than expected. However, on November 17, she flew into a panicked frenzy and began frantically packing her bags to leave. When Mrs. MacRae asked her what was wrong, Netta allegedly claimed that she was under severe telepathic assault and had to return to London at once. When Mrs. MacRae calmly told the distraught woman that there was no boat running to the mainland that day, Netta apparently became enraged and locked herself in her room. Oddly, she would emerge a short time later in a much calmer state and proclaim that she had decided to stay on the island after all, before going out for one of her walks. She would never return.
That evening when Netta still had not come back, Mrs. MacRae became concerned because it was not like her to stay out so late and the night was getting quite cold. A search was launched the following day and despite the island’s small size it would take 2 days to finally find Netta dead upon a “fairy mound” near Loch Staonaig. The crime scene and state of the body were odd to say the least. A large cross had been etched into the turf on the ground with an ornamental knife that was found lying nearby, upon which Netta’s body was sprawled out, dressed in nothing but a thin black cloak. The body itself was covered with myriad scratches and the soles of her bare feet feet were bloody and raw, perhaps because she had been frantically running over rough, treacherous ground.
A further examination of the body did not provide any more answers. The coroner was not able to ascertain just how or when she had died, finally settling on the explanation that she must have died of hypothermia considering the frigid temperatures and the fact that she had not been dressed for the cold. Fellow members of her occult order would disagree and claim that she had been killed by a potent psychic attack. The island is very small, with few residents who all know each other, and no one was found to be a suspect, leaving everyone wondering who could have done such a thing. What happened to Netta Fornario? Why was she out there running around barefoot with merely a thin cloak on such a cold night? What had caused the scratches on her body and why had her feet been so torn up? Had she been running from someone or something? What was the reason for her incredibly odd behavior upon reaching Iona? It remains a mystery to this day.
Such well-known mysterious deaths have continued up until more modern times as well. One intriguingly weird case concerns a man named Charles C. Morgan, who owned an escrow company in Tucson, Arizona. On March 22, 1977, Morgan left for work as usual and proceeded to vanish without a trace. No one had any idea of where he could have possibly gone, and he was considered a missing person until he suddenly wandered back to his house in the middle of the night 3 days later with a decidedly bizarre story to tell.
Morgan, who was missing a shoe and had a plastic handcuff around one ankle and another set around his hands, gestured for a piece of paper and pen, apparently unable to speak. He wrote upon the paper that he indeed could not talk and that his throat had been “painted with a hallucinogenic drug,” which he claimed would slowly drive him insane and possibly kill him. When his wife suggested calling the police he adamantly refused to do so, claiming that they would all be killed if they did. He wouldn’t even let her take him to a hospital. So far, so weird, but things would get stranger still in the coming days.
As he began to regain his health, the still delirious Morgan communicated things that seemed to suggest that he had had a secret life as an undercover agent for the U.S. Treasury Department, and that he had been working for them for 3 years, much to the utter surprise of his wife. After that, he refused to talk about it, but nevertheless showed various signs of deep paranoia, such as keeping a constant eye on his daughters and wearing a bulletproof vest at all times. This would go on until he vanished yet again 2 months later. The only hint about what had happened to him came with a mysterious phone call to his wife from a woman calling herself “Green Eyes,” who merely said, “Chuck is all right. Ecclesiastics 12, 1 through 8,” before hanging up.
He apparently was not alright, because the next time he would be seen was sprawled out near his car in the middle of the desert with a bullet hole in the back of his head, with the .357 magnum which had dealt the fatal shot lying next to him not far away. Some oddities that popped up were one of his own dislodged teeth that he was found to be carrying around in his pocket, a pair of sunglasses that were not his own, and a map to the site where his body was found written in Morgan’s own handwriting. Most bizarrely of all was a 2 dollar bill found clipped inside his underwear bearing some Spanish names beginning with the letters A through G, a hastily drawn map leading to the towns of Robles Junction and Salacity, the names of the signers of the Declaration of Independence numbered one through seven, and the words “Ecclesiastes 12:1-8” scrawled upon it, the last being the same words “Green Eyes” had said over the phone.
This was all very odd evidence to be sure, and none of it seemed to make any sense at all. Despite the obvious suggestions of foul play, police at first deduced that it had been a suicide. This is a very strange conclusion to come to, as not only had Chuck Morgan been shot in the back of the head, which would have been very difficult to pull off on one’s own and rather pointless for a suicide, but it seems that his company had had some perhaps shady dealings with the mafia concerning money laundering. Indeed, Morgan had been considered a possible witness in a state-run fraud investigation into mob activities in the Tucson area. One journalist who investigated the case by the name of Don Devereux strongly disagrees with the suicide theory, saying of Chuck Morgan’s death:
I’ve never seen, in all my years as a journalist, a fellow take himself out in the desert wearing a bulletproof vest and shoot himself in the back of the head. He was around the edges of a couple of very large organized crime groups in Arizona at that time. It was very easy to get in over your head, and I suspect that over the years, Mr. Morgan was in that kind of situation. He was doing, perhaps, upwards of a billion dollars of escrow work in bullion and platinum. These were transactions that only existed on paper. He was a straight businessman that probably got a little a too close to the flame.
As to the possibility of Morgan being a secret operative for the government, as some of his previous statements suggested, Devereux has said of the matter:
There is a great likelihood that Mr. Morgan was, in fact, doing something with the government. I think this was a guy who was extremely naïve about a lot of things. I think somebody blew his cover and he got killed. I think the $2 bill provided the basis for some kind of a code. What seemed to be missing, however, was the document that the $2 bill would unlock. If he was quietly providing assistance to the U.S. government and monitoring the activities of one or more major organized crime families, then he wasn’t a villain. He was a good guy.
Adding to the whole mystery was also a strange visit that Chuck’s wife got from two men claiming to be from the FBI, who wanted to come inside and look for something, although they wouldn’t divulge what it was they were after. The men apparently searched the entire house, wrecking the place and terrifying Chuck’s wife in the process, before finally leaving without a word. Who were these men and were they really from the FBI? Devereux investigated this lead as well, and came to some more strange findings, of which he said:
When I made a Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI, they had never heard of Mr. Morgan, despite the fact that they obviously opened an investigation, despite the fact the FBI interviewed Mr. Morgan’s attorney. They were all over this thing like a blanket for a while. But now they’ve never heard of the guy. He never existed. No card, no file, no nothing.
Additionally, there was a call received by the police 2 days after Morgan’s death, from the woman calling herself Green Eyes. She told authorities that she was the same person who had called Chuck’s wife, and claimed to be a friend of his. She told police that she had met up with him at a motel the night before his death, where he had shown her a briefcase stuffed with cash that he claimed was for the purpose of buying off an assassin he said was out to kill him. This suggests that he had perhaps gone out into the desert to meet with this unidentified hitman and there had been some complication that had ended with Chuck’s death.
Despite this seemingly promising lead, the mysterious woman was not heard from again and no further evidence turned up, making the case grow ice cold. Questions continue to orbit the case to this day. What happened to Chuck Morgan during the time of his first disappearance, and what was the explanation for his odd behavior afterwards? Why did he disappear again? Was Chuck Morgan really some sort of secret agent working for the government? Or was he in fact working with the mafia? Why had he died, and was he murdered or was it a suicide as the authorities have suggested? If he was murdered, then who was the killer and why had they done it? Additionally, what was the significance of the notes and names written on that 2 dollar bill and just who in the world was “Green Eyes?” No one knows.
Perhaps just as perplexing is the case of 31-year-old Blair Adams, of Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. A friendly, cheerful and easygoing foreman for a construction company, things began to get strange in the summer of 1996, when Blair suddenly experienced a dramatic change in his behavior. The normally cheerful and amiable man became morose, sullen, and withdrawn, became increasingly paranoid, and showed unusual erratic mood swings. When asked about what was bothering him, he said that he didn’t want to talk about it, and there were suggestions that he felt he was being followed by someone who wanted him dead, although he gave no details as to who this could be or why. His mother, Sandra Edwards, would say of his sudden change of behavior:
Something was obviously very much the matter. He hadn’t been sleeping well. Something was wrong. I asked him numerous times what was wrong. And he said, I don’t think I should tell you about ‘it.’ And to this day I don’t know what ‘it’ is.
In the wake of this escalating bizarre behavior, on July 5, 1996, Blair suddenly emptied his safe deposit box of $6,000 in cash and jewelry and gold, and headed for the Canadian-American border, where he was seen as suspicious and turned away. The following day he went to work and promptly quit his job, before inexplicably purchasing a ticket to Frankfurt, Germany on a flight scheduled to leave the next day. Despite having bought this expensive ticket, Blair once again made a beeline for the border, this time trying to enlist the help of a friend, who he told that someone was trying to kill him. The friend was unable to help, and the next day Blair missed his flight to Germany and tried yet again to get into the United States, this time managing to succeed, making it to Seattle, Washington.
In Seattle, his bizarre behavior would continue unabated. He immediately bought a one-way ticket to Washington D.C. Upon arriving in D.C., he rented a car and began driving towards Knoxville, Tennessee for reasons still unknown. In Knoxville things would continue their spiral into the weird when Blair wandered into a gas station and told the attendant that his car wouldn’t start, which turned out to be because he had the wrong set of keys. He then hitched a ride and ended up at a hotel, where he proceeded to promptly creep everyone out. One employee would say of Blair:
The best way to describe him would be paranoid. He just was very nervous, agitated, expecting someone to come in on him even though there wasn’t anybody there. I don’t know who he was looking for, but he was waiting for somebody to walk in for him.
Blair would also walk in and out of the lobby 5 times before actually paying for his room, and when he finally received his key he simply walked out the door and never came back. He would also never be seen alive again. 12 hours later, Blair’s body was found naked from the waist down and without shoes in a parking lot less than a mile from the hotel, surrounded by $4,000 worth of scattered bills of American, Canadian, and German currency, as well as thousands of dollars more worth of gold and platinum just lying out in the open. The only thing on the lower half of his body were his socks, which were turned inside out, and the missing clothing was nowhere to be seen. An autopsy report showed that his body displayed injuries consistent with trying to fight someone off, and that he had been ultimately killed by a powerful blow to the stomach.
There are so many oddities about this perplexing case that it is hard to even know where to begin. First of all, why did he think someone was trying to kill him? He had no known enemies and was reportedly well-like by his friends and co-workers. Also why did he buy a ticket to Germany and what was with his obsession with getting to the United States? Once there, how do we explain the circuitous route he took? Why fly to Washington D.C. and then drive 500 miles out of his way south to Tennessee? The ticket he bought to D.C. itself has become a bit of an enigma as well, as a round-trip ticket would have been half the price. Concerning Tennessee, no one can figure out why he would have been headed there in the first place, with on investigator saying:
I mean why go to D.C. to turn around and come back to Knoxville? He had no reason to be in east Tennessee. He had no reason to be in Knoxville. He knew no one in east Tennessee or the eastern United States.
There is also the fiasco with the car keys and his erratic behavior at the hotel, as well as the state his body was found in. Why had his pants been taken and his socks turned inside out? Why would the cause of death be a blow to the stomach, of all things? The blow has been speculated to have come from a very powerful individual, as it was enough to totally rupture the stomach, but was this killing intentional or the result of an altercation? If so, why? Indeed, who was it that had dealt the blow? No one has the answers to any of these, and the bizarre case of the mysterious death of Blair Adams has remained one of the most baffling cold cases there is.
Even more recently, the year 2009 brought two separate such unexplained cases. The first was at 1:37 p.m. on July 26 of that year, when a woman named Diane Schuler drove her car, and her 5 young passengers, to go recklessly speeding for over 2 miles against traffic on the busy Taconic State Parkway in the U.S. state of New York. This mad dash ended in a head on collision with an SUV that would kill Schuler, 4 children on board, 3 others in the SUV, and would shock the nation. An autopsy seemed to make the whole accident appear open and shut, as Shuler was found to have alcohol and THC, the active ingredient of marijuana, in her system, but the timeline of events doesn’t seem to really fit.
That morning shortly before the accident, Schuler was reported as being completely sober, and as not having had anything to drink or smoke at all. Then, just 10 minutes later Schuler was seen by the side of the road vomiting and one of the children in the car, Schuler’s neice, suddenly called her brother not long after that stating that her aunt was having trouble seeing and speaking. During this weird call Schuler herself got on and claimed that she couldn’t see or figure out where she was, to which her brother responded by telling her to stay put and wait while he came to pick her up, before the line went dead. Further attempts to call her back remained unanswered and all of this culminated in the fatal accident. The cellphone was later found to be abandoned some distance from the crash site.
The question here is that is has been ascertained that there was only a 30 minute window between Schuler being completely sober and being totally disoriented and apparently blind. Her alcohol level was stated as being equivalent to being 10 drinks, so could she have really gotten so drunk and had that much to drink that fast? Also, no one saw her drinking or smoking marijuana and even if she had why would she go completely blind and not even know where she was? Why would she not stop to wait for her brother and instead go roaring up the freeway against traffic? Why did she throw away her phone? Is there something more going on here than authorities are letting on? It is all very strange to be sure. The odd incident and its many eccentricities were the focus of a documentary called There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Diane.
Also in 2009 was the curious behavior leading up to the death of 24-year-old college student Mitrice Richardson. In September of 2009, Mitrice embarked on a drive up the coast of California from Long Beach to Malibu, along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway, which meanders along the sea. At some point after arriving in Malibu she went to a fancy restaurant and immediately baffled people with her incredibly strange behavior. First she exited her car and went to go sit in a valet’s car. When she was confronted about this she mumbled nonsensically about a woman named Vanessa with tattooed arms and asked the valet if he knew her. When asked why she had gotten in the car to begin with, she merely stated “It’s subliminal,” and went on into the restaurant to continue her weirdness.
She ordered a very expensive meal, but rather than eat she instead wandered over to the next table and began trying to elbow into the group’s conversation, spouting all manner of nonsense about Michael Jackson’s death and astrology, and asking them if they knew the mysterious tattooed “Vanessa.” She kept bouncing back between her own table and the one beside her as her ramblings became increasingly more confusing, and she began to giggle uncontrollably. When her dinner was finished, she tried to leave with the group without paying for her own meal, and when she was stopped by the staff she said that she was from the planet Mars and would pay her bill with sexual favors. It was all very odd considering that Mitrice was a well-educated honors psychology student at Cal State Fullerton and had never been known to do drugs or engage in such bizarre behavior, although she did have a case of bipolar disorder.
Police were called in, who found that there were empty bottles of alcohol and signs of marijuana in Mitrice’s car, and this plus her aberrant behavior was enough to get her booked, but she was found to be completely sober and released that same night. Her car, which still had her identification and cellphone in it, was impounded and she set out on foot from the police station. After her release the strange behavior continued, as one resident in the area reported the woman going around peering through windows into people’s homes. Then, she simply disappeared off the face of the earth and could not be located despite intensive searches.
It would not be until nearly a full year later, on August 9, 2010, when Mitrice’s decomposing and partially mummified body would turn up in a secluded, rugged wilderness area called Dark Canyon, tucked up within the Santa Monica Mountains around 7 miles from the station from which she had been released. Considering that there were no signs of blunt trauma or stab wounds, authorities concluded that there was no sign of foul play and that she had probably fallen to her death or been injured and died of exposure, but it was not conclusive and the official cause of death was listed as “undetermined,” which was partially due to the fact that Sheriff’s deputies had moved the remains without following usual procedures, asking for permission from the family, nor even waiting for the coroners to arrive.
It was also odd since no one could figure out why she would have wound up out there in the mountains in the first place or where she had been in the year since she was last seen, and there was also the mysterious fact that her clothes were found to have been removed and placed around 100 feet from the body, but there was no sign of sexual assault and the clothes seemed to have been taken off normally. According to authorities, the removal of the clothes was attributed to scavengers, even though there were no signs of bite or scratch marks on the body, the belt had been unfastened before being removed, and indeed the clothes were also undamaged. The case held other mysteries as well, such as why the body had become mummified and why the clothes seemed to not show signs of wear consistent with having been in the elements for 11 months. The position of the body’s arm was also an anomaly, as it had mummified across the chest at a weird angle, and one forensic investigator named Clea Koff said of this:
The left arm’s flexion could not have been created by the environmental conditions where the body was found. There was nothing present to hold the arm in such a position—it was defying gravity.
Also, why hadn’t the authorities kept her for longer rather than releasing an obviously troubled woman back out into the night on her own, despite the fact that the young woman’s mother had specifically requested that police keep her overnight when contacted? The mishandling of the body, the eyebrow-raising official prognosis, and Mitrice’s early release from detention were indeed suspicious enough to the family of the victim to suspect that law enforcement officials might have had a hand in the whole odd disappearance, and they pushed for the FBI to look into the department while filing several wrongful death lawsuits against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The FBI would eventually refuse, as the case was not within their jurisdiction. Indeed there has never been any internal investigation or probe into the department and there has been very little action at all taken since the discovery of the body on the part of authorities, and it is still treated as a death rather than a homicide, despite the family’s objections, leading to accusations that this stems from the fact that Mitrice was African American. As far as mishandling of any potential evidence goes, no one involved with the handling of the case has ever been prosecuted. A family friend named Ronda Hampton thinks that there is some form of cover-up going on, saying, “I think some people were negligent. I think some are willfully involved in a cover-up, protecting their own.”
Mitrice’s inexplicably bizarre behavior leading up to her vanishing, her 11 month absence, her release from detention on the night she was brought in, her death, the state of her body when found, and her presence in the Santa Monica mountains are all impenetrable mysteries that have never been solved. Just what is going on here and do authorities have any role to play in any of this? The case of Mitrice Richardson has become an enduring and puzzling case, and was covered in a documentary by Chip Croft called Lost Compassion: Someone Knows.
The same year that Mitrice Richardson was found also saw the mysterious death of senior military official and chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, John P. Wheeler III, in the wake of the equally mysterious mass deaths of thousands of birds and fish in Arkansas in 2010. In late December of 2010, Wheeler was seen by several witnesses to be acting in a rather bizarre fashion. On December 29 he was seen stumbling about the parking garage of the New Castle County courthouse wearing only one shoe and rambling incoherently, and he was seen at several other far-flung office buildings on the 30th wandering about aimlessly and acting extremely out of character. On December 31, his body was found at the Cherry Island Landfill, near Newark, Delaware, with the cause of death determined to be from blunt trauma to the head.
In the days after his odd behavior and subsequent death, there was a conspiracy theory formed based on a supposed report from Russia that claimed that Wheeler had been preparing to expose a military chemical weapons test that had resulted in the mysterious mass animal deaths in Arkansas. According to the report, a tanker aircraft had been on its way to deploy the deadly chemical phosgene in Afghanistan, but had experienced technical difficulties that had accidentally engaged its spraying mechanisms, killing scores of birds and fish in the process. According to this theory, Wheeler had allegedly found out about this tragic mishap and threatened to go public with it, leading to his murder. This has been vehemently denied by the U.S. government, of course, and it still does not explain his weird behavior in the days before his death. What happened to John P. Wheeler remains a mystery.
All of these various cases have some common threads running throughout. In all of them we have a death surrounded by strange clues, sometimes with a vanishing thrown into the mix, that has baffled all who have attempted to try and understand it, and in each and every one the victim has displayed uncharacteristic bizarre behavior directly beforehand. Why is this? What is the significance, if any, of this behavior to the fates of those who displayed it? Will we ever know for sure? One wonders what was going through these people’s heads in those last moments, why they acted as they did, and indeed if anyone other than them will ever know the truth behind their mysterious ends.