There are numerous tales of people who have seemingly vanished off the face of the earth to leave behind mysteries and speculation of what has become of them. Rarely are there any real clues or even a trace of what has become of these people, and these cases can be orbited by profound puzzles that persistently baffle to this day. Yet on some rare occasions the vanished are found, alive and intact, but with decidedly bizarre stories to tell, accounts which serve not so much as clues but as instruments with which to bury the case further into the territory of the bizarre. Here we get a peek into just what has transpired between when a person has stepped off the face of the earth and when they turn up just as mysteriously, in some cases bringing with them tales from the other side of strangeness and posing more questions than they do answers. These are some of the more bizarre cases of the almost vanished, people who escaped whatever was pulling them away and returned to pose even greater puzzles than their own vanishings.
The stories of those who have mysteriously disappeared and come back take many forms. In some cases, these vanished people seemed to have been kidnapped or otherwise taken away by some sort of animal or entity. One such early bizarre report was related by the prominent author on vanished people, David Paulides, author of The Missing 411 series of books, in an interview for Paranormal Central, and is a case that comes from the year 1868, when 3-year-old girl suddenly went missing in Northern Michigan as she was at a lumber camp run by her father. According to the father, she had been there one second and then gone the next, as if she had simply blinked from existence. A search was launched, during which the panicked father enlisted the help of two hunters to try and find his young daughter lost out alone in the woods. The girl’s name was called over and over again into the thick forest as night slowly crept up on them, yet no answer came back. It was as she had vanished into thin air. With the onset of darkness, the search was called off until the next morning, with no trace of where the young girl had gone off to.
The next day the search continued and the hunters were hard at work scouring the woods for any sign of the missing girl. As they trudged through rugged, dense wilderness, they allegedly heard the shouts of a young girl from nearby, which sounded muffled and muted somehow, like sounds coming from farther away than they were, as if through some veil or blanket. The hunters claimed that they followed the source of the shouts to a river, and that as they fought through brush to approach they could hear a large splash after which they saw an enormous black shape that they took to be perhaps a bear entering the water and swimming towards the opposite shore. As they stared in shock at the retreating beast, they noticed the girl standing upon a nearby log, minus some articles of clothing.
When the girl was recovered, she seemed to be rather shaken up, and claimed that the creature they had seen was named Mr. Wolf and that he had been holding her prisoner there. She claimed that this Mr. Wolf had eaten her hat, taken her shoes, and had refused to let her leave under any circumstances, although he had also provided her with berries to eat. It is unclear whether this was a bear, a wolf, or something else, and the story certainly seems rather bizarre. What was this “Mr. Wolf” and what did it want? Just what is going on here?
Interestingly, this would not be the first time of a missing child being seemingly kidnapped and cared for by a large animal, as when in July of 1955 2-year-old Ida Mae Curtis similarly went missing from a lumber camp in Kootenai National Forrest, in the U.S. state of Montana. The mother of the girl frantically claimed that she had seen a bear carry off her child into the forest, and that it had been “cradling” the girl as it had run off. Following a 2-day intensive search carried out by around 350 people, Ida was found safe and sound not 300 yards away from where she had gone missing, in a crude shelter. She would later relate that she had been fed and cared for by a large bear during the time of her disappearance. Authorities were skeptical of the tale, but the family has always insisted that it is true.
Another weird tale from the 1800s concerns the disappearance of 3-year-old Alice Rachel Peck on August 25th 1898. Alice had wandered off from her home in an effort to follow her mother, who was out picking berries not far away, and then had gotten lost. A massive search was launched to try and find the missing girl that would stretch out for 3 days without any trace turned up. Then, on August 28, she was found in safe and in good health about 5 miles from where she had vanished.
The girl was reportedly in a sort of trance at first, but when she came back to her senses she was able to relate how she remembered meandering barefoot along an abandoned road, even though she had been wearing shoes shortly before her disappearance, as well as a bonnet that had also vanished, and that she had had nothing to eat but a few berries. When asked how she had managed to overcome the series of steep drops and boulders that stood in the way of where she had gone missing and where she had been found, she gave the cryptic response: “The Black Man helped me,” who she claimed had guided her and carried her over obstacles, notably away from where she had disappeared. Who was this “Black Man” and what had caused her to go missing from right in front of her house? Indeed, what happened to her shoes and bonnet and what would have happened to her if she had not been found? We will probably never know.
Around that very same time was yet another tale from a child that had gone missing and was reported in the American Ethnology Annual Report for 1898. The report tells of a 10-year-old boy known only as Wafford, who claimed to have been out practicing archery near a river when he was distracted by thoughts of catching fish and went to the riverside to attempt to make a fish trap out of stones. He reported that as he was at work piling up the stones in the water to make the walls that would trap the fish, a stranger emerged from the woods and told him that he looked tired and should take a break. The stranger invited the boy back to his nearby home for dinner, and since he looked like a normal, amiable person in every respect, Wafford went along with him without too much suspicion.
When the boy arrived at the home, it was found to be a warm place full of laughter and welcoming, friendly people who made him feel completely at home, and a family friend of his apparently also showed up, which melted away any remaining reservations Wafford might have had about being there. The boy ate dinner there, played with the family's children, and seemed to have had a most entertaining time before falling asleep at the house. In the morning, he told them that his family was probably worried and that he should get back home, and the same stranger who had invited him took him out along a path which reportedly had an orchard on one side and a corn field on the other. The stranger took him to a junction in the path and pointed along another trail that meandered off into the wilds, explaining that it would take him towards the river, over a ridge, and straight home.
The boy followed the instructions, but when he turned around to wave goodbye to the stranger he saw that not only was he gone, but also that the cornfield and orchard that had just been there were nowhere to be seen either. Indeed there was no trail at all. He found himself surrounded by nothing but thick trees and wilderness all around him, and had no idea where he was. Luckily, as he made his way through the underbrush he managed to chance upon a group of people who had been out frantically searching for him, including the family friend who he had apparently seen at the stranger’s house. When Wafford asked the friend where the house was and what had happened to the trail, the friend explained that he had never been to such a house and had been out searching for the missing boy the whole time. Indeed, he would later be told by many of the locals that there was no house at all where he claimed it to have been. The superstitious locals, upon hearing the story, suggested that he had probably come across the shapeshifting Nunne’hi, meaning "The People Who Live Anywhere,” which are supposedly a race of supernatural creatures from Cherokee mythology. It’s hard to know just what to make of this story.
An even more bizarre kidnapping by a mysterious entity is yet another case related by David Palides, this time in a Coast 2 Coast AM interview with George Knapp. In this weird account, a 3-year-old boy known only as John Doe went missing on Oct 1 2010 at around 6:30 PM along a popular fly fishing river near Mt. Shasta, in California. Shortly after his reported disappearance, authorities conducted a search of the area and found the boy 5 hours later sitting in a stand of trees and seemingly dazed and confused. He would later come forth with quite the odd story to tell.
According to the boy, he had been taken into a cave deep within the mountain by a woman who he had thought was his grandmother. Once they had reached their destination, the boy claimed that he had found himself in a cold, dark room full of human-looking robots that sat or stood around in various positions, apparently motionless, as well as some form of guns or weapons scattered about accruing dust, not to mention giant spiders skittering about in the gloom. It was then that the boy allegedly realized that there was a strange light emanating from his grandmother’s head and that she too was some sort of robot. The “grandmother” apparently ordered him to defecate upon a sheet of paper and got agitated when he refused. The grandmother also told him that he was from outer space and had been planted in his mother’s womb. The boy was then taken back outside and told to wait in a thicket until he was found.
When the whole incredibly bizarre tale came to light, the grandmother confessed that a year before the incident she had been camping in the area and had been inexplicably pulled from her tent and deposited a short distance away. When she had woken up, she claimed to have felt a pain in the base of her neck, and had discovered two puncture marks surrounded by red skin. The grandmother had no idea if this had anything to do with the boy’s far-out tale, but it does seem rather odd. Paulides has claimed that this is one of the more bizarre disappearances he has come across, and the whole tale seems rather absurd if not for the fact that everyone involved has continued to maintain that it is true.
Some mysterious kidnappings by forces beyond our understanding seem to be harder to define or classify, and not a little violent. Take the tale of a woman who went missing in France in the 1950s, also related by Paulides. The woman claimed that she had been walking along a river when some inexplicable force had forcefully grabbed her from behind and dragged her into the brush. This coincided with an abrupt change in weather from clear to stormy, and the woman claimed she could hear a voice somewhere above her say “Here you go,” as if offering her to someone else. Then, just as suddenly as it had started it ceased, she was abruptly dropped to the ground, and the woman ran off to take refuge at a nearby farm, where the farmer claims he found a large, red handprint etched across her chest.
In some cases, there is no identifiable entity, but rather some mysterious force that seems to be intent on making sure these people don’t get found. One case brought forward by Fortean radio personality Art Bell and originally published in the Fortean Times relates the tale of a 19-year-old woman who vanished on her way home from visiting a neighbor. A search was conducted, only to find the young woman suddenly appear in her home sobbing uncontrollably. She would later claim that as she had been walking along, she had felt her body jerk involuntarily, after which she had felt compelled to walk in the opposite direction of where she had intended to go. During the whole frightening ordeal, she claims that an unseen barrier had stubbornly prevented her from returning to where she had wanted to go, instead pushing her farther away. As darkness fell, she says she could see the search party members looking for her, but that they could not see or hear her no matter how much she called out to them or banged against the invisible veil that separated them. Finally, the barrier lifted and she was able to return home, safe but unmistakably shaken out of her wits.
This seems eerily similar to another case from 2012. On September 22, 2012, 53-year-old Linda Arteaga was hiking along with her 56-year-old brother Eddie Huff in the forests of the Arkansas Ozarks, near the town of St. Joe., and although the brother returned and claimed to have seen his sister off at a relative’s house and that she was safe, in reality she was nowhere to be found. A large search was launched and Arteaga was fortunately found that day in the woods, albeit in a profound state of distress, but the circumstances surrounding the whole ordeal would become increasingly more bizarre.
When she was questioned on what had happened, Arteaga could not recall how she had been separated from her brother. She did mention that she thought he had been hurt somehow, and that she had tried to find help for him. As she had walked along, she claimed that she had come across other hikers, but that all attempts to communicate with them had been futile, as if they had not seen or heard her at all. She also said she could see other shadowy figures who seemed to be hiding from her in the woods, saying: “These people were hiding in bushes. They were weird people, very weird people.” One of the searchers who found Arteaga, a deputy Dewayne Pierce, said that when they had found her she “she wasn’t quite about her head.” Some who have looked at the case have come to the conclusion that Arteaga may have ingested some hallucinogenic berries, but it remains unclear just what is going on here.
There are other equally strange and difficult to categorize cases as well. In August of 1897, a 6-year-old girl named Lillian Carney went missing in the U.S. state of Maine as she was out with her parents picking blueberries. According to the parents, she had vanished right under their noses. A preliminary search of the area would quickly expand to over 200 hundred searchers scouring the area and calling the girl’s name, all to no avail. After an extensive search, Lillian was found in the woods in a dazed, trance-like state. When asked what had happened to her, the dazed girl replied that she had been in a place in the forest where the sun had shone the entire time she had been there. This was rather odd considering the weather at the time of her disappearance had been partly cloudy, she had been enveloped by a thick canopy of trees far from any town, and she had been missing overnight, for around 46 hours. What was this continuous “sunlight” she saw, and what significance does it have in Lillian’s disappearance? It remains unknown.
Other cases of the almost vanished remain even more enigmatic, seeming to be as if the person in question has been to a whole other realm outside of our reality. One such tale concerns a pilot only known as Eddy. As he was out on a mission and approached Howland Island, eerily in the vicinity where Amelia Earhart notoriously vanished, he claims to have seen a vast expanse of green fog, which upon entering caused his aircraft to malfunction and his communications with the outside world to cease. As he emerged from the fog, Eddy reported that he had come into visual sight of an island that was not supposed to be there, and which did not show up on any charts.
Eddy was able to land the jet, and was supposedly approached by a young woman of seemingly Polynesian descent, who apologized and stated that the island had a habit of pulling in planes such as his. Eddy would purportedly end up living on the mysterious uncharted island for around 6 months, where he claimed the inhabitants lived a simple lifestyle, all while intensive search efforts were being made to find him. None of the island residents seemed to have the slightest awareness of nor concern for the outside world which Eddy had left behind, and they seemed to be perfectly content with their reclusive existence.
Yearning for home, Eddy became despondent, after which he was told he could finally return to from whence he came. As he put distance between himself and the strange island which had been his home for months, he allegedly suddenly regained radio communications and was found by a passing fishing vessel. It was at that point that the entire island reportedly became veiled by a green mist and blinked out of existence in a flash of brilliant white light. Did this pilot manage to punch through some barrier between dimensions and make contact with a parallel universe of some sort? Would he have remained forever vanished like so many other aircraft if he hadn’t been allowed to leave? It is unclear just what the answers to these questions are.
There is also another category of the almost vanished that deals with those who are either unable or unwilling to speak of what has transpired, but for which something traumatic has certainly occurred. One such individual was a man named Steven Kubacki, who went missing in February of 1978 while in the sate of Michigan, in the U.S. Kubacki’s skis and ski poles were found abandoned upon the snow and ice, and his tracks were said to have just suddenly stopped, as if he had walked out of reality, with his backpack flung to the ground nearby. Since the location where he had vanished was so close to Lake Michigan, it was assumed that he had somehow fallen into the lake and drowned. Despite numerous searches, no one had any clue of where he could have gone, and he seemed to have just stepped off the face of the earth. That is, until 15 months later, when he just strolled right up to his father’s house.
When Kubacki was asked about what had happened to him or where he had been the whole time, his account didn’t seem to make much sense. He claimed that he had suddenly woken up to find himself in a meadow around 40 miles from his father’s house, and that he had been wearing clothes that were not his own, along with a small, unfamiliar bag lying next to him containing maps, none of which were his. Other than this, he had no recollection whatsoever of what had happened to him over the previous 15 months, and indeed he was under the impression that no time had passed at all. The only other clue that he could come up with was that he said he had felt as if he had done some running. It is unknown just what happened to Steven Kubacki, and he has continued to avoid talking about it.
On October 14, 1990, 11-year-old Casey Holiday went missing as he was out walking his dog near Alder Creek in St. Maries, Idaho. A developmentally disabled child, Holiday had gone missing without a trace just as a storm had sprung up, and search dogs had not been able to pick up his scent. He was finally found after an extensive search lying in a creek bed without his shoes. When the boy was asked about what had happened to him, he seemed dazed and confused, in a trance-like state babbling nonsensically, and with no recollection of where he had been or where his shoes had gone off to.
In the summer of 2013, 2-year-old Amber Rose Smith vanished from right in front of her home in Newaygo County, Michigan. According to the father, he had been watching her play with the family’s two dogs when he stepped inside for a moment to relieve himself. When he had gone back outside she was no where to be seen and would not respond to her name being called. The dogs appeared not long after without Amber. An intensive search involving hundreds of volunteers and emergency workers was launched to no avail, and the next day she was found around 2 miles from her home, standing in the middle of a road that had already been searched and staring into space. She was unable to express what had happened her, but seemed to definitely be in a state of shock and disorientation. It was odd since this was a 2-year-old girl and she had somehow managed to navigate her way through thick wilderness in frigid temperatures that had gripped the area that night. One sheriff named Brian Boyd said of the weird incident:
It’s hard to imagine how a 2 1/2-year-old can survive that distance through the woods with that kind of temperature. There’s some that aren’t convinced she walked that entire distance. Maybe she was dropped off. Those are things we might have to determine in the future.
These are still things we do not have an answer or explanation for, and Amber is either unable or unwilling to elaborate further. Such cases as we have looked at here serve to not only give us a possible glimpse into the bizarreness surrounding some unexplained vanishings, but also to further propel these cases into the outer fringes of the bizarre. They may be weird, ludicrous even, but they are nevertheless the only window through which we have to peek into what has happened to these people. What forces are at work here? Why are these people able to come back from their vanishings, and more eerily, what would have happened to them if they had not? Whether these are the products of overactive imaginations or real unexplained phenomena offering genuine peeks through the curtain of mystery into what lies beyond our understanding, they are truly unique, intriguing, and indeed even unsettling cases nevertheless. What secrets lie buried there in the experiences of these almost vanished? Only time will tell. Or maybe it will not.