Hospitals are supposed to be where people go to be nursed back to health, to be brought back from the clutches of death, to be saved. They are not typically thought of as places from which people would step off the face of the earth, and yet some of the world’s most mysterious disappearances have revolved around hospitals, with some people coming to these institutions to never leave, or to ever be seen again, often right under the noses of those whose care they have been put in. It seems that the brightly lit corridors and shiny equipment of these places of healing are not beyond the grasp of strange vanishings, and here are some of the most baffling.
On April 9, 1947, the deadliest tornado to ever hit Oklahoma came raging through. A monstrous class F5, the maelstrom of wind and flying debris meandered through Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, eventually ripping a path directly through the town of Woodward, Oklahoma, leaving in its wake utter destruction, 185 dead, over 1,000 injured, and one of the most baffling mysterious disappearances out there. Although many people were tragically killed by the rampaging, whirling specter of death, others were spared, and one of those was 4-year-old Joan Gay Croft. The child’s mother had been killed in the disaster, her stepfather critically injured, but she had come away from her brush with death with merely a piece of wood that had penetrated her leg, a non-life threatening injury that she was rushed to the hospital for treatment for, along with her sister Jerri, who had also suffered relatively minor injuries.
Considering the vast influx of grievously injured and dying people arriving at the hospital in the aftermath of the tornado, the two girls were hastily treated and then regulated to the basement, which had been transformed into a shelter where other refugees from the tornado were being housed and treated. The next day, two men dressed in what were reported as khaki army uniforms made their way down into the basement and went to whisk Joan out of there in full view of everyone, apparently specifically asking for her by name. The girl protested, saying that she did not want to leave her sister behind, but the men reportedly calmly explained that they were friends and would come back for Jerri later. When hospital staff intervened and tried to stop them, the unidentified men remained calm and composed, and said that they were merely taking the girls to another hospital where the girls’ relatives were waiting for them. Amazingly the men were allowed to leave with the girl, but they never returned for the sister and indeed neither them nor Joan Gay Croft were ever seen again.
When it was noticed that Joan had vanished and apparently been abducted, a major manhunt was mounted that turned up very little at all, in fact no trace of her or her kidnappers was ever found. The case gained international coverage, spawned many anniversary articles of the event in the following years, and appeared on shows such as Unsolved Mysteries, on May 22, 1993, which featured a full dramatic reenactment of the odd incident. Interestingly, many women have come forward over the years claiming to be the long lost Joan Croft, but these leads have never gone anywhere. In one case in 1999 a woman claimed to an editor of The Oaklahoman that she was the missing girl, but she suddenly ceased communication even after agreeing to meet. Another woman living in Canada also claimed to be the missing girl, but once again the actual woman sort of disappeared and could not be located.
Yet another elderly woman calling herself Jean Smith came forward to claim that she had gone to a psychoanalyst to try and uncover the first 6 years of her life, of which she had no recollection, and said that under hypnosis she had had traumatic visions of blood and death around her. She started to believe that she was in fact the missing Joan Croft when she saw the Unsolved Mysteries episode in 1993 and contacted the family. There were many little pieces of evidence that supported the woman’s story, such as a scar on her leg that matched up to where the pencil-sized splinter of wood had pierced Joan’s leg, and they both had lisps. The woman claimed that she had been adopted and that the birth certificate she had was not genuine. Joan Croft’s relatives had high hopes that the mystery was finally solved, and were even able to get blood and tissue samples from Smith in an attempt to prove it, but unfortunately the results turned out to be negative, and Smith sort of dropped off the map.
Despite all of those who have come forward claiming to be Joan Croft, none of them have turned out to be her, and she is still listed as missing. The most prominent theory of course is that the girl had been kidnapped, but this does not do much to calm the mysteries swirling about the whole thing, with many questions left lingering. Who were those men who came for her and why did they come for Joan specifically? Since they knew her name it seems they possibly knew her, but what did they want and why did they whisk her away to vanish without a trace? Indeed, is Joan Gay Croft still alive somewhere out there, or did she die shortly after her abduction? These are questions that we may never know the answers to, and the ultimate fate of Croft remains a baffling mystery. For their part, Joan’s family believe that another family had lost their own daughter in the disaster and had kidnapped Joan to replace her, but this is sheer speculation. Simply put, no one knows, and we probably never will.
Another very strange vanishing with more of an air of the unexplained occurred on March 2, 1959, when a Private First Class Gerry Irwin woke up in a hospital in Cedar City, Utah, with no memory of how he had ended up there. He had apparently been out cold for a full 23 hours, during which time he was reported as having been talking in his sleep about a “jacket on the brush,” and when he finally came to he is said to have asked hospital staff if there had been any survivors. Survivors of what? No one knew.
When Irwin was lucid enough to relate his tale, he told of having just been off a leave of absence and on his way from Nampa, Idaho to Fort Bliss, in El Paso, Texas, where he said he was a technician of Nike missiles. After he had reached Cedar City, he said that he had been driving along Route 14 when he had seen a strange glowing object pulsating in the sky. He had then exited his car to see what it was and thought that it was perhaps a large airplane coming in for a possible emergency landing. Irwin then allegedly wrote a note on his car saying: “HAVE GONE TO INVESTIGATE POSSIBLE PLANE CRASH. PLEASE CALL LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS,” as well as scrawling the word “STOP” on the side of the vehicle in shoe polish before going off to investigate the strange disturbance.
When the car and note were found by a Fish and Game Inspector some time later, the note was sent to the Sheriff’s office and a search party was launched. Irwin was then found lying unconscious upon the ground, but there was no sign of the plane crash he had described. When he was brought to the hospital, it could not be ascertained just why he wouldn’t wake up, as there seemed to be nothing noticeably physically wrong with him. When Irwin had finally woken up, he claimed that his jacket was missing, but that other than that he felt fairly normal. He would be transferred to William Beaumont Hospital at Ft. Bliss to be observed for 4 days and then was put back into circulation.
Not long after continuing his duties, Irwin suddenly fainted one day on base, and this happened again not long after that. Fearing for his health, the base had him brought to a hospital to be evaluated again, and he was found to be in a similar state to when he had first been found after his initial disappearance. He even awoke to ask once again “Are there any survivors?” Indeed it seemed to be some sort of flashback, and Irwin acted as if he had just awoken at the time of his first hospitalization, unaware of the time that had lapsed between the incidents. After a full month of observation he was once again released. The next day, he suddenly left the base without permission and got on a bus at El Paso, finally disembarking at Cedar City and heading to the same location he had originally been investigating. There he purportedly found his missing jacket, which had a pencil shoved in the buttonhole with a piece of paper entwined around it, which he burned. He then came out of whatever daze or trance he was in and made his way back to the road, where he was picked up by the Sheriff.
The Sheriff told him what had happened to him, but Irwin had very little recollection of having left the base or why he had ventured back out to the original location. Irwin was subjected to another psychiatric evaluation and when no answers could be found a deeper analysis was ordered. Irwin was once again put into Beaumont Hospital for observation, and he was eventually released. Immediately after this, he went AWOL without warning yet again and has apparently not been seen since. What happened to Irwin and why was he so obsessed with that location? What did he mean when he asked “Are there any survivors?” Indeed why had he ended up in that hospital in the first place? We may perhaps never know.
On February 13, 1978, a young mother to be, 24-year-old Benita Chamberlin, arrived in labor at Sacred Heart General Hospital in Eugene, Oregon. The daughter that was born turned out to be 5 weeks premature and was put into emergency care for a week. Benita accepted this, and when she returned to the hospital to finally be reunited with her baby she was told that the infant was in good shape and would be ready to go home that afternoon. Benita then called a friend to share the good news and this would be the last time anyone would ever hear from her.
After she did not return home that night, she was reported missing and authorities would find her abandoned car at a nearby bottling factory, as well as her discarded purse in a parking lot at the University of Oregon. The last anyone remembered seeing her was driving out of the hospital parking lot, but nothing after that. The newborn daughter, as well as her other two daughters, were left behind without a mother, and no one knows just what happened to Benita Chamberlin. Adding to the mystery was a gruesome discovery that was made around a week later, when the remains of a murdered woman were found stuffed into a plastic bag in a garbage bin. At the time it was strongly supposed that these were the remains of Benita, but they turned out to be from someone else entirely. What happened to Benita Chamberlin remains a complete and total mystery.
An equally strange vanishing happened on March 6, 1993, when 1-month-old Tavish Sutton was admitted to the Hughes Spalding pediatric unit of Grady Memorial Hospital, in Atlanta, Georgia, the United States, in order to remove an abscess. Sutton underwent minor surgery and then was sent to a semiprivate room to recuperate, in the custody of the Department Of Family and Children Services since his mother was being treated at a mental institution for schizophrenia at the time. He had been living with a foster family, and indeed the biological mother was apparently not even aware that her child had been admitted into the hospital for treatment. Three days later, Tavish Sutton would vanish without a trace.
In the early morning hours of the morning at 6:45 AM a nurse checked on him and found him to be in good condition. When she returned a mere 15 minutes later, the baby was gone. A thorough search of the hospital and surrounding area turned up no sign of the missing child, and since no one else was reported as entering or leaving the pediatric ward at the time except the nurse, it was a perplexing mystery as to what had become of him. No suspects were turned up either, as Sutton’s mother had an alibi and no other family members were considered suspects either. A lawsuit would be filed against the hospital that would result in a $600,000 settlement, but no leads were ever found as to what had become of Tavish Sutton. There was one theory that the perpetrator could have been a woman who lived nearby who often pretended to be pregnant, and that she had abducted him, but there is no evidence of this at all and she was never apprehended as a suspect. How did this baby so thoroughly vanish in a public place within the span of just 15 minutes? Tavish Sutton has never been found and his vanishing remains an enigma.
More recently is the strange vanishing of 66-year-old Haitian immigrant Philistine Saintcyr, of Immokalee, Florida. In April of 2006, Saintcyr was admitted to NCH North Naples Hospital after being airlifted there for a unspecified medical emergency. The next morning he was reported as having made a full recovery, after which he was put in a taxi for a ride home. When they reached Immokalee, Saintcyr claimed that he did not know the address, or at least couldn’t explain it because he did not speak English, so the cab driver drove him back to the hospital, where the staff put him on a bus instead, which would take him practically to his front door. He was reported by hospital staff as being on his way into the bus station and that was the last anyone ever saw of him. Investigators have been trying to track him down ever since, without any success. So mysterious is the whole thing that it is not even known if he ever got on any bus at at all, although there is some evidence to show that he seems to have actually entered the bus station and was making preparations to go home. Considering that the man did not speak English and could not drive, it was assumed he could have not gotten far, but he has managed to evade all attempts to find him ever since.
One of the most popular theories is that Saincyr simply wandered off and managed to get hopelessly lost. There have been hints that he might have suffered from dementia to some extent, but it is not clear how much this affected him or what it could have had to do with his vanishing. Another idea is that he had grown tired of his life in the United States and headed back to Haiti, but there is serious doubt from those who knew him that he could have been capable of doing this on his own, no indication that he would have wanted to leave his family in the United States behind, and once again there is no evidence of it at all. How could this older man who suffered mental issues and could not speak English so thoroughly manage to elude such extensive efforts to find him? Where in the world did he go? Thus far, there is no clue at all as to what happened to Philistine Saintcyr, and he has never been heard from again.
Hospitals are where we go when we are ill or injured in order to leave them healed and complete. Yet for some they are places that have been their final destination before passing into the realm of strange disappearances and vanishings. Where did these people go and what happened to them? How could they so completely and so suddenly disappear, often right there in their own hospital rooms, under the watchful eye of medical professionals? With no clues and no trace of the whereabouts of these individuals it seems that they will remain enigmas for some time to come.