There is no shortage of people who have mysteriously vanished without a trace, or of deaths which have remained perplexing and unsolved to this day. Yet while in most of these cases we are left to grasp for the scant clues left behind or to wander about blindly in shadows of mystery and doubt trying to piece together what happened with nothing to go on, sometimes there are striking, chilling clues left to us in the form of calls or transmissions made by the vanished or deceased, often right before or even as they are disappearing or worse. Although their mysteries may remain unsolved, their deaths evading closure, we still have these voices reaching through the veil of enigmas surrounding them, taunting us with possible clues and often serving to further deepen the mysteries surrounding their owners.
One of the creepier and more mysterious of transmissions related to missing people certainly has to be the tale of who has come to be known as Lost Boy Larry. In August of 1973, CB radio operators in California were shocked to receive a mysterious transmission from what seemed to be a young boy pleading for help over the airwaves. The transmissions were at times difficult to understand because the boy was often crying or sobbing uncontrollably, and this, combined with the generally poor signal and ample static, often made the messages nearly incoherent. What could be understood was that the boy called himself Larry, and claimed that he had been out with his father rabbit hunting in New Mexico when they had been in an accident. Larry stated that the red and white pickup truck they were in had overturned and gone careening into a gully, in the process trapping both of them inside when the doors were jammed shut by rock walls. The terrified boy said he thought his father had suffered a heart attack or had been severely injured and was possibly dead, as he was apparently slumped over the wheel of the vehicle and had not moved since the crash. He also claimed that he had no food or water and had no idea where they were.
The transmissions continued over several days, and were picked up by numerous CB operators around New Mexico, California, and even as far away as Wyoming and parts of Canada. Despite the general difficulty in understanding what the boy was saying, making matters worse was the fact that he often abruptly changed channels, which could have been out of fear or panic, or simply due to the fact that he did not know how to properly operate the CB equipment. The signal was also fading in and out and often beset with static, either from some sort of atmospheric interference or just due to low batteries. Not helping were the various operators out there who began mimicking the distress messages as some sort of sick joke.
Thinking that there was a missing boy out in the New Mexico wilderness trapped in a truck slowly starving to death, concerned CB operators contacted authorities. A search party was organized consisting of hundreds of people on the ground as well as numerous civilian and military aircraft, who scoured some remote areas of New Mexico from where it was thought the transmissions could be originating, but they turned up nothing. In the meantime, the story was picking up momentum in national news, with the chilling story of the transmission from a lost boy stuck in a car out in the wilds with time running out capturing the public imagination. However, the search was failing to find any trace of a red and white pickup truck like the one described and no evidence that there was even a Larry at all. At the same time, Larry’s signal gradually faded and became more distorted with static until it ceased altogether.
The authorities not long after called off the search. Just in case, directional finding stations were set up in the area to pick up any more potential messages that might happen to emerge from the airwaves, but there was only silence and although they could not be sure, the official prognosis was that it had all likely been a hoax. Not only had a thorough search of the region turned up no trace of the alleged pickup truck and its mysterious occupant, but no one by the name of Larry had been reported missing the entire time, indeed no father and son had been reported missing by any name. However, despite the official stance of hoax, some of those who had spoken to Larry insisted it was all genuine, including one Army sergeant who claimed to have spoken with Larry for nearly 3 hours and said that the boy seemed to be in real trouble. Additionally, if it was all an elaborate prank, then no one has ever come forward claiming responsibility for it. Was this all just a joke, or did a young boy really die out there alone as his radio signal and life dwindled away just as surely as his tennuous last hold on the outside world? We will probably never know, and the case remains an unsolved mystery.
Although we can’t be sure if he ever really even existed or not the case of Lost Boy Larry joins a long list of strange phone calls from those who have gone missing who we know did. Some of the spookiest of these have been related by the researcher David Paulides, who includes several such accounts in his Missing 411 books, and in particular the book Missing 411: A Sobering Coincidence, which is one volume within a series of similar such books delving into the often bizarre world of mysterious disappearances. According to Paulides, it is not particularly uncommon for people who have vanished to have made calls right before they did, which are sometimes cut off to vanish just as surely and suddenly as the person who made them. Paulides said of the phenomenon:
Sometimes the people get out a sentence. Sometimes they say something like, "Oh my God, where are you." The people that disappear, their cellphone either goes dead right as they're disappearing, or many times they're found with a dead battery on the cell phone, or they don't have the cell phone on them... and they're missing clothing, or they're missing shoes.
One fairly well-known case is the strange call made by a 19-year-old college student named Brandon Swanson. On the evening of 14 May 2008, Swanson had been out partying with friends in Minnesota, and on the way home he managed to crash his car into a ditch. Since he was unable to get the car out by himself and had no transportation, he called his parents at around midnight asking for them to come pick him up. The parents went out to go get him like he had requested, but soon found that his car was not where he had said it was, near a small town called Lynd.
They called Brandon and asked him to explain where he was, but even when they arrived at where he claimed to be they were unable to locate him, even after they both unsuccessfully tried flashing their headlights in order to try and hone in on each other’s locations. After driving around and talking on the phone for around 45 minutes without locating him, Brandon proclaimed that he was just going to head to Lynd and crash at a friend’s place for the night. They stayed on the phone a bit longer and Brandon said he could see the lights of the town in the distance and also that he could hear running water. Then he suddenly exclaimed “Oh shit!,” and the line went dead, with numerous attempts to call him back remaining unanswered. Brandon Swanson would never be seen again.
A search was launched involving hundreds of people and trained dogs, which would go on for around 4 months meticulously going through a 100 square mile area without finding the missing man or even any trace whatsoever of where he had gone. Police were able to find the young man's car, but it was nowhere near where he had told his parents it had been. Authorities were also a bit perplexed, as the route Brandon had been traveling was very familiar to him and that he had always taken a very specific route to and from school each day, so it was a mystery as to how he could have gotten so hopelessly lost and how his car had ended up so far off of that path. It was determined that there was no evidence at all that he had met with foul play or that he had had any desire to want to suddenly run away.
A lot of theories have been proposed as to what became of Brandon, such as that he fell into a river and was washed away or that he met with some sort of foul play, but one interesting factor to consider is that in his last moments on that phone the call seems to have ended because the phone was deliberately hung up. There is “Oh shit”” and then the line is ended, with no sounds of a struggle, being dropped, or of a rushing river or some such incident. It simply ends. Efforts to call back also reached a seemingly operational phone that was simply not being answered. He may have dropped the phone and dislodged the battery, but it is weird nevertheless. Subsequent searches over the years have also failed to find any clue as to what happened to Brandon Swanson, with all tips that have come forward likewise leading nowhere, and he has seemingly vanished into thin air. We will perhaps always wonder what provoked the “Oh shit!” that were perhaps his last words ever.
Another weird case covered by Paulides concerns a man named William Hurley. Originally from North Carolina, Hurley had moved to Quincy, Massachusetts, which is a suburb of Boston, to be with his girlfriend Clair. On October 8th 2009, Hurley attended a Bruins game with a friend, Brendan Venti. After the first period, Hurley suddenly complained that he was tired from work and was going to have his girlfriend pick him up to take him home. After leaving the stadium, he called Clair and told her to come and get him. She asked him where he was, to which he responded, “Ok, I’m not 100% sure where I am,” after which a person walking by could be heard to say “you're at 99 Nashwood street.” Shortly after that, Hurley told his girlfriend that his phone battery was about to die and sure enough the phone went dead. He would never be seen alive again.
Although Clair was right where he had said he was, and the phone had gone dead pretty much right as she turned the corner to his location, she could not see Hurley anywhere. She drove around the area a bit and asked people if they had seen him, but no one had. It was odd as she had been right on top of his location and had just spoken to him moments before, yet he was just gone as if he had simply ceased to exist. Clair notified authorities, who were also unable to find the missing man, and were only able to discover one chilling clue; Hurley’s cellphone, which had been smashed to pieces to the point that it had to be identified by its serial number. No other evidence or leads were found and the authorities were apparently quite tight lipped about the whole case. On October 14, Hurley’s body was found in the Charles river, bobbing about around 25 feet from shore. Since he had his wallet and cash on him and no visible sign of injury, foul play or a mugging was ruled out, but it remains a mystery just what had happened to him.
Continuing the strangeness was a series of calls made by a 22-year-old Todd Geib. On June 12, 2005, Geib attended a bonfire party at an apple orchard in Casnovia, Michigan, which was located just about a mile and a half from where he lived with his cousin. In the early morning hours, Geib left the party and told everyone he was going to walk back to his cousin’s place, which no one really though much of since it was nearby and he was familiar with the area. From between12:47 a.m. and 12:57 a.m., Geib made a series of phone calls that were a bit odd to say the least. In one he called a friend and simply said “I’ve had enough.” In another, he simply said “I’m in a field,” before the phone went dead. The concerned friend called back and the phone picked up, but all she could hear was what sounded like either heavy breathing or the rushing of wind before the call cut out again. According to reports, the phone was not used again after that and no further calls went through.
A massive search was mounted to try and find Geib, including around 1,500 police and volunteers, as well as aircraft, who scoured the orchard and the area around the party sight, as well as the stretch of road where he was expected to have walked along to get home but they found nothing even after thoroughly searching the area three times. It was as if Geib had vanished off the face of the earth. On July 2, 2005, three weeks after he had gone missing, Geib’s body was found, but it was odd for several reasons. First was that the body was found in a pond right in the middle of the area that the search had completely and thoroughly combed. Then there was the fact that the body was reported as being discovered “standing” upright in the water, with the head and shoulders breaking over the surface.
An autopsy was conducted on Geib’s body and it was found that he had no external injuries but had a blood alcohol content of .12, leading authorities to rule it an accidental drowning while under the influence of alcohol. The case was closed, but of course there are those who do not buy the official ruling. The man’s family questioned why he would have suddenly decided to take a swim in the pond while fully clothed, and an independent investigation by forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Sikirica found by careful analysis of the photos and autopsy data that while Geib had been missing 3 weeks, he had only been dead for 2 to 5 days. It was also determined that Geib had had no water in his lungs, and that there were many clues that pointed to the body being placed in the water after death. This was corroborated by other experts, and all strongly points to the possibility that Geib was in fact murdered, yet the Michigan State Police have never reopened the case, much to the consternation of Geib’s family. We may never know just what happened to Todd Geib, or what his last calls really meant.
Continuing with mysterious phone calls, disappearances, and deaths, we come to the strange case of Cullen Finnerty. In May of 2013, the former star college football player was away on a Memorial Day weekend fishing trip on the Baldwin River in Michigan. At one point during his trip, Finnerty made a bizarre call to his wife, in which he claimed that he was being followed and that he was frightened. He was also breathing heavily and made the rather weird proclamation that he was taking his clothes off without giving any reason why. Shortly after, the phone went dead. This would be the last time anyone spoke with him.
Finnerty did not return from his fishing trip as planned and a search was launched. Oddly, according to Paulides, during the search efforts Finnerty’s phone was pinged several times to try and find his location, and each time the phone was pinged it was found to be far away from where it had been in the previous location, suggesting he was on the move. Search efforts were unable to locate the missing man, and then on May 28, 2013, Finnerty was found dead in the dense woods, around 1 mile from the location of his fishing boat and not far from a busy road. The body showed no signs of trauma or external injuries and he had been well dressed for the conditions, notably and oddly not nude as one would expect from what was implied in that last call, making death from the elements seem unlikely.
An autopsy was conducted but the original results were inconclusive, only able to ascertain that he had no signs of drugs and negligible amounts of alcohol in his system that would not have impaired him, and that there were no external injuries such as cuts, scratches, or bruises. Later autopsies conducted by the Kent County Medical Examiner's Office would come to the conclusion that Finnerty had likely died from a complicated combination of factors. Since he was a football player, he had sustained numerous concussions throughout his career, which had led to a condition known as “chronic traumatic encephalopathy,” the symptoms of which can include disorientation, confusion, and memory loss, which may have contributed to the strange call he had made and his death. He was also found to be taking the pain killer oxycodone for a back injury. The final autopsy results were that he had most likely become scared, panicked and confused alone out in the woods, which had been exacerbated by the oxycodone and his brain trauma, and that at some point he had inhaled his own vomit, which had led to his death. It still remains unclear what his final call meant, who he thought had been following him, or why he had been about to take his clothes off, making his death still more than a little mysterious.
Perhaps even more bizarre is the case of 30-year-old social worker Kayelyn Louder, who went missing in Murray, Utah, in September of 2014. The case is surrounded by weird calls. In the days leading up to her disappearance, Louder made several strange 911 calls. In one, she called 911 and excitedly claimed that there had been a fight at a wedding involving guns, but which was later determined to be an incident that had never actually happened.
Even stranger still was a call placed to 911 in which she claimed that there were intruders in her apartment, and in which she can be heard screaming at them to get out of her house. The interesting thing about this call is that her roommate was at home too and can clearly be heard trying to convince Louder that no one is actually there. During the call, Louder tells the 911 dispatcher that she cannot see the intruders, but can hear them talking to each other. The roommate tells Louder that the bolt is still locked and that no one could have possibly broken in, but Louder is adamant that someone is there, saying that they must have a key, to which her roommate replies that the door is still locked. Throughout the call, no matter how rationally the roommate tries to convince her that there are no intruders there, Louder will not listen, on several occasions yelling at the perceived trespassers and generally in a very aggravated state. Police officers who arrived at the scene determined that indeed there were no signs of any break-in or intruders on the premises. Adding to her strange behavior leading up to her vanishing is a piece of surveillance footage from the day before her disappearance showing Louder walking her dog and clearly talking to someone, either to herself or someone off camera, although it has been pointed out that she could have just been talking to her dog, as some people tend to do.
Not long after this last baffling 911 call, on September 27th, 2014, Louder left her apartment in heavy rain, barefoot, wearing only a tank top, and shorts, and without her wallet, car keys, or any other belongings. It was the last time anyone would see her alive. Searches were carried out but were unable to find any trace of where she had gone until a month later, on November 30, 2014, when Louder’s decomposing body was found partially submerged in the Jordan River, 5 miles away from her apartment. However, the discovery of her body only deepened the mystery. For one, detectives at the scene were unable to figure out how her body could have gotten to the location where it had been found. Although the body was found to be covered with moss, leaves, and other detritus from the river, it was determined that the water level and flow could not possibly have carried her body as far as it had gone.
Adding additional layers of oddness to the case is that the autopsy took much longer than usual, and when it was finally released months later the results were deemed to be inconclusive, the cause of her death unknown. Suicide was suggested, but although Louder had experienced a bit of depression due to recently losing her job, she was described by family and friends as being mostly well-adjusted and not being suicidal in the slightest bit. The bizarre calls she had made at first seem to point to maybe a mental breakdown of some sort, but Louder had no history of mental illness and the victim’s mother claimed that her daughter had not been acting out of the ordinary at all, despite what the 911 calls may suggest. Also, if she had wanted to commit suicide by throwing herself into the river, then how had she been carried off 5 miles away when it was determined that the creek leading from the apartment to the river could not have carried her there. Did she walk 5 miles in the pouring rain barefoot just to throw herself into the river? It all seems a bit strange. Louder’s family seems to agree, claiming that authorities did not do a thorough enough autopsy, and that she was killed. Louder’s cousin, Amy Fugal, has said of the matter:
The police have told us from the beginning they don't expect foul play, and we feel completely the opposite, we kind of feel like we are left to figure this out.
It remains a mystery as to how Louder died, why she had left her apartment to go out in the rain barefoot, and what significance, if any, the weird 911 calls and surveillance footage have in relation to her disappearance and death. While some of these mysterious phone calls are hard to really categorize and may offer few real clues, this is not always the case. One call that investigators think holds the key to solving a cold case disappearance and murder was one made by an Amber Tuccaro, which may hold the killer’s voice.
Amber Tuccaro was a 20-year-old indigenous woman from Alberta’s Mikisew Cree First Nation, and lived in Fort McMurray with her mother. In August of 2010, Amber made a stop over at Nisku, Alberta, Canada, along with a friend and her then 14-month-old child on their way to Edmonton. On Aug. 18, 2010, Amber was seen getting into an unidentified vehicle near the motel where she was staying and driving off, after which she would vanish. When she had not returned the next morning, the authorities were contacted and a search turned up no sign of what had happened to her. She had simply disappeared off the face of the earth without leaving any clues behind.
Ten days later, on August 28, 2012, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) released a major potential piece of the puzzle in the form of Amber’s last known phone conversation. During the rather disturbing call, Amber can be heard talking with the vehicle’s driver. She tells him “You better not be taking me anywhere I don’t want to go,” to which a man’s voice responds that he is taking them “north to 50th Street,” which Amber repeats to the person on the other end of the line, after which the call cuts off suddenly. Towards the end of the call, Amber is described as sounding scared, although the male voice seems normal and calm. On September 1, 1012, a mere 4 days after the audio recording was released, Amber’s remains were found by horseback riders in a rural area in Leduc County, in the general vicinity of where she had vanished. The finding of the body put renewed urgency on the identity behind the voice talking to Amber in the recording, yet no new tips came forward and her killer remains a mystery.
There are several odd things and questions about the release of this recording. For instance, why did the authorities wait so long to release it? Although the RCMP claims that it is not customary for them to release audio material to the public during homicide investigations, in this case frustrated authorities had made an exception in the hopes that someone might recognize the voice to aide them in their investigation and provide possible leads. Yet, why such a long delay? Wouldn’t it have been more useful to release it right away if that had been their aim? Another odd detail is that the RCMP refused to disclose how they had obtained the recording or to whom Amber had placed the call. It took an independent investigation by CBC News to uncover that she had been speaking to her brother, who was in the Edmonton Remand Centre at the time, where it is common procedure to record all outgoing calls from inmates. Why didn’t the authorities want that known? The CBC also found out that while the RCMP only originally released 61 seconds of audio, the entire recording was in fact 17 minutes long. Why only disclose a small portion of it?
On top of these suspicious details, Amber’s family have been very vocal about the mishandling of the case of their daughter’s murder. There are numerous instances of dropping the ball on the part of investigators in the mysterious death of Amber Tuccaro. Concerning the audio recording, 3 different women came forward during the investigation and told the RCMP that they recognized the voice in the recording. One woman was absolutely positive she knew who it was, saying "I know that voice. I've ridden with that voice before on several occasions. There's no doubt in my mind that it's his voice. I know that voice like the back of my hand.” Although 3 women came forward similarly saying they knew the owner of the voice, the RCMP apparently only investigated one of the men, coming to the conclusion that he was not a person of interest in the case. It is unknown if they followed up on any of the other leads. In addition to this, investigators took Amber’s name off of their missing person’s list just one month after she had gone missing, despite the fact that no one had seen her, making this a breach of typical procedure. Amber’s mother, Tootsie Tuccaro, said of the matter:
When they told me they took her off the missing persons list my first question was ‘did you guys see her?’ And they said ‘no.’ And I was like, ‘how could you take her off after telling me time and time again that you have to see her and be 100 per cent sure that’s her and yet you take her off? So it took me one month to get her back on the missing persons list. I got the run around. They told me call this number, call that number and I ended up back in Leduc again.
Adding even more to the joke that was the investigation into the disappearance and death of Amber Tuccaro was the fact that all of Amber’s belongings that had been collected from her motel and could have been used as evidence in court were destroyed when she was removed from the missing persons list. The authorities also demonstrated an apparent surprising lack of urgency when dealing with Amber’s family, downplaying events and saying before her death that she was probably just out partying and that she was most likely fine even as the family desperately searched for clues to their daughter’s disappearance. Although the RCMP issued an apology to the family, they have lodged an official complaint on the dire mishandling of the case.
The unsettling possibility is that there is a potential serial killer at work here targeting Native women, a possibility chillingly backed up by the fact that there have been 15 mysterious vanishings in the area and the remains of 4 indigenous women in the 2000s discovered in the very same vicinity in which Amber’s body was found. All had disappeared while hitchhiking and all of the remains of these women were ominously found within a few kilometers of each other in Leduc County, with the most recent being the skull of Delores Browers in 2015, who had gone missing in 2005 without a trace. Of the voice in the recording in relation to her daughter’s killer and the other vanishings and murders, Amber’s mother has said:
Maybe it's the same guy that's killing these other women that are found in Leduc and Nisku area. And how many more women, girls are going to be killed before he's caught?
What happened to Amber Tuccaro? Why did she leave her young child to go out hitchhiking at night and who was that voice in her last phone call? Why haven’t more people come forward with information despite the massive circulation of the tape, and why haven’t the few leads that have come forward been properly investigated? Indeed, why was the case so spectacularly mishandled from the beginning? These are questions the answers of which we will likely never know for sure. Amber’s mother has also expressed her thoughts on this, saying:
There's a lot of things we don't know. We have a lot of questions that we're not going to get answers to because it's an ongoing case, and even if the killer is found we'll probably never hear some of the whole story.
Another case from Minnesota also has potential clues hidden within an eery voicemail made by a call from a missing man to his wife. 31-year-old Henry McCabe went out to a nightclub in Spring Lake Park on the evening of September 7, 2015, and never returned. That evening, at 2:28AM, McCabe’s wife, Kareen McCabe, who had been away visiting California at the time, received an unsettling voicemail on her phone. The voicemail features 2 minutes of strange, unintelligible moaning, groaning, screams, and growls, and towards the end there is an abrupt moment of silence before a voice can be heard saying “Stop it.”
The last person to have seen McCabe, his friend who he had been with that night, claimed that he had dropped him off at a local gas station's convenience store near the club and that that was the last time he had seen him. Police and volunteers thoroughly searched the area but could find no sign of McCabe. However, the location of the final call was determined not to be anywhere near where the friend claimed he had dropped McCabe off, but rather that it had originated from the vicinity of Rice Creek Park, near New Brighton, which is a totally different area. A search of that vicinity also turned up not a shred of evidence to shed light on the mysterious disappearance.
On November 4th, 2015, McCabe’s body was discovered floating about in Rush Lake in New Brighton and an autopsy came to the conclusion that he had drowned. It is unclear just how McCabe ended up in the lake or if there was any foul play involved, and the case is considered to be unresolved and ongoing. The bizarre part is that the finding of McCabe’s drowned body doesn’t seem to really be consistent with what is heard in his final voicemail to his wife. In that recording, the indecipherable jumble of garbled growls, moans, and grunts suggests some form of violence is being inflicted upon him, and one investigator even said: “The growls turn into high pitch moans, like he’s moaning in pain.” Yet McCabe’s body did not show any signs of trauma or injury suggesting that, so what does that weird voicemail mean? Who is behind the voice saying “Stop it,” and why did they say that? Very little of the case seems to make sense, and authorities have not been able to come to a conclusion on what the disturbing voicemail means, nor even if the moans and other noises are from McCabe at all. It is possible that this recording holds some clue as to what happened to him, and audio analysts are still working on it, but for now the case of Henry McCabe’s mysterious disappearance and death largely remains a strange enigma.
What can we glean from these calls? Is there anything we can learn, some insight we can mine from the often unsettling and compounding messages they provide? It is uncertain if these last calls of the vanished or mysteriously dead offer the lure of resolution or if they merely serve to further veil their cases in the bizarre. What does seem clear is that they provide an eery link to crimes and disappearances we may never solve, allowing us to hear the voices of these mysterious people in perhaps their final moments, leaving us to wonder what they were experiencing at the time, what they saw, and what tragedy befell them. Although these people have vanished or died, those voices remain etched into immortality, eerily taunting us from beyond the mysteries, echoing through these cold cases, and carving themselves into our minds. Whether the owners of these doomed voices will ever be at peace remains to be seen.