Mysterious vanishings are nothing new. Throughout history there have been those individuals who have just seemed to step off the face of the earth to never be heard from again. What is new is the technology we now possess that ensures that in some cases those who have disappeared have been able to reach out to instantly make contact with the outside world either right before or even during their unexplained vanishings. Unfortunately, these last messages from the vanished rarely offer clues as to just exactly what has happened, but they nevertheless serve as creepy, even macabre glimpses into unexplained disappearances that may never be solved.
It is not uncommon for last texts from the vanished to pose more questions than answers. Take the spooky story of Toni Anderson, a 20-year-old student at the University of Missouri, who vanished in January of 2017. At around 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, January 15, 2017, Toni was last seen leaving her waitress job at an adult entertainment bar called Chrome, when she was witnessed getting into her 2014 black Ford Focus on her way to go meet up with some friends across town. At some point along the way, at 4:42 a.m., she was apparently pulled over by North Kansas City police, and she sent a text to her friend Roxanne Townsend, reading:
OMG, just got pulled over again.
It would be the last time anyone ever heard from her, and she would not make her appointment with her friends. It soon came to light that an officer did indeed make a routine stop for Toni that night for an illegal lane change, and that he had let her off with a warning. The officer in question claimed that the young woman had said that she was on her way to a gas station to fill up her tank and that she was very low on fuel, but it is unclear what happened to her after that. The cryptic last text does hold some clues in the word “again,” suggesting that she was perhaps pulled over another time before or after the lane change offense, yet there has been no knowledge by authorities of who this second officer could have been, no officers who recall this, and no official record of the incident.
This could mean that the officer simply didn’t report it and forgot, that he was in on it, or it could mean nothing at all, since Toni was reportedly pulled over all of the time. Then again it could also mean that it wasn’t even a real police officer at all. Toni’s friend Roxy would say, “There have been many reports of cars in Kansas City impersonating police with lights or sirens so now I’m not sure about what “again” means.” Indeed, the word “again” has remained a sticking point in the case, and Toni’s mother has also lamented, “I don’t understand why she would write ‘I’m getting pulled over again’ in the same night. It just keeps resonating in my brain ‘again,’ ‘again’ … that’s just odd to me.” If it was someone impersonating an officer, then there is some evidence for it, as shortly after the disappearance there were reports of someone doing just that in the area, with one Facebook poster talking about seeing a menacing fake policeman driving around the area, writing:
I called 911 as he scared me half to death and almost caused several accidents. Who knows what would have happened had this person gotten someone to pull over and stop. When in doubt … call 911 for verification that the vehicle is a police officer. This person clearly was not.
Indeed, it has become quite a baffling mystery, with authorities unsure of whether the mysterious “again” refers to the original stop at 4:42 a.m. or a subsequent one, and no further contact from Toni after that. No one saw her since and even her car remained missing. The only other possible clue at all is that her phone apparently received an incoming call at 4:53 a.m., but this does little to shed light on the mystery, and it is not certain who the call came from. It was hoped that a device in Toni’s car that sent out pings every 10 minutes would help them to locate her, but these pings apparently mysteriously stopped right about the time she would have reached the gas station.
Police have said that there is no outward sign of foul play, and that Toni may have just skipped town, but considering she had no personal problems, no history of running away, no known enemies, and had been looking forward to starting new classes, her family is not convinced that she would just leave and disappear on her own. For now the vanishing of Toni Anderson and the meaning of her mysterious last text message has remained an enigma, with her mother saying of the ongoing strange case, “It just doesn’t make sense to me. I have no clue [where she is] — it’s just bizarre.” (In an update to these events, a body pulled from the Missouri river in March of 2017 has turned out to be that of Toni. It is still unknown just what exactly happened to her.)
An equally cryptic and puzzling text was received by the mother of one of two 14-year-old boys who went missing on a fishing trip off the Florida coast in 2015. The boy, Perry Cohen, was with his friend Austin Stephanos aboard a 19-foot Seacraft on July 24, 2015, for the purpose of doing some fishing in the Jupiter Inlet in Palm Beach County, Florida. Although they had no adult supervision, the two boys were reportedly quite experienced with using the boat and had been out many times fishing on it before, they were even said to be able to repair it if need be, and both were strong swimmers, so there was no reason at the time to suspect anything would go wrong. On the morning of the trip, Cohen texted his mother and told her:
Mom, it’s Perry. My iPad is dead… I’ll text you in a little. Love you.
The mother replied almost immediately, saying, “OK. I wanted you to sleep home tonight, I miss you. We leave Sunday morning for New York. What about your work? (homework),” to which the boy responded “But I was going to sleep at…” without finishing the message. Stephanos would also send a text to his father later in the day, at one point earlier, saying:
What’s Up? I’m checking in. I’m just out here fishing.
Neither Perry nor Stephanos have ever been seen again. Two days later, the boys’ boat was found adrift off the Florida coast by the Coast Guard, but it drifted away and could not be retrieved. A massive search and rescue operation was launched by the Coast Guard and volunteers shortly after, but after 2 weeks of scouring 25,000 square miles of the area no sign of the boat or the boys could be found and the operation was called off. It would not be until 9 months later, when a Norwegian ship spotted the capsized remains of the boat about 100 miles off the coast of Bermuda, that any headway would be gained on the case. When the submerged boat was searched there were found no signs of the two missing boys, but one potential clue was found in the recovery of Stephanos’ iPhone, even though it was seriously water-damaged and not in working order. Oddly, the life jackets on board were still there where they should be. Cohen’s own device could not be located.
The recovery of the iPhone caused its fair share of drama. The father of Stephanos initially was reluctant to allow the phone to be examined by authorities, but relented after the Cohens, knowing that it likely provided valuable data for solving the case such as the boat’s location or any final messages or pictures from the boys, filed a lawsuit. IT experts and people from Apple worked on trying to pry information from the phone, but unfortunately, the phone was hopelessly damaged and its cloud backup had not been enabled, meaning that there may be nothing left to investigate in the waterlogged device.
There are a lot of things that remain unexplained on this strange case. First is the question of what happened to them to begin with. The day had been calm and sunny, so how had they been capsized in the first place? Where had the two boys gone without life-saving equipment and what happened to them? Also, what is the significance of that last text message to Cohen’s mother? Was this last message sent before or after they had set sail? Was this just the iPad running out of batteries as stated or something more sinister? If something had happened, then why was there no communication from Stephanos’ phone? We will probably never know the answers to any of these.
Other last text messages are even more inscrutable. On October 19, 2015, 22-year-old Melanie Wilson went missing after being last seen near her home in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Notts, in the Ashfield district of Nottinghamshire, England. On this day, at around 11:20 p.m., she sent her father, David Wilson, a text saying simply, “I love you,” a mere 20 minutes before she was last spotted. David sent back a reply reading, “I love you too darling,” but there was never any further response, and the young woman has not been seen or heard from since. A search was carried out with dozens of law enforcement personnel and volunteers, and leaflets were widely circulated all over the country, but so far no information has come forward as to what happened to her. Her whereabouts remain unknown.
There is also the case of the missing Illinois teen Delia Ann Stacey, who vanished on December 28, 2015. The 18-year-old girl was last seen leaving her home in Herrins, in Southern Illinois, on her way to meet a friend at 11 a.m., and her last text message is as blunt and as scary as they come, reading simply “Help.” She has not been heard from since and further attempts to contact her have remained fruitless. Considering the chillingly blunt nature of her final message, it is almost impossible to tell what could have happened to her, and it remains merely a haunting last word from someone who has disappeared without a trace.
One very weird case in recent days is the disappearance of 23-year-old Corrie McKeague, who was an RAF gunner and team medic, based at RAF Honington, in Suffolk. A good-looking, gregarious playboy who was well known for his partying ways, he was last seen on September 24, 2016 after a night out with his friends at the Flex nightclub, on St Andrews Street South in the Bury St Edmunds town centre. At some point he became separated from his companions, who said he had been extremely drunk, and at 3:08 a.m. McKeague sent a text message to his girlfriend simply showing a picture taken from a previous night out. This would be the last contact anyone would receive from him. Investigation into the case would turn up a fair amount of oddities pertaining to both the vanishing and that last text message.
One of the strangest things about the text message is that while it was apparently sent at 3:08 a.m., recovered footage from CCTV cameras in the vicinity show him at that time near the club, but he is not on his phone. Furthermore, the last known trace of the phone showed it heading from Bury to the Barton Mills area, near Mildenhall and Newmarket, at the speed of a moving vehicle, but when authorities arrived at the area no trace of the phone could be found anywhere. Due to these mysterious clues, it is not clear whether he was actually aboard the moving vehicle, nor whether he had actually somehow sent the final text or whether the phone had simply been stolen.
What is known is that Corrie’s last known whereabouts were captured on a CCTV camera at 3:25a.m. that morning, which shows him in a light pink Ralph Lauren shirt, white jeans and brown suede Timberland boots with light soles walking from a shop into a horseshoe-shaped area in Brentgovel Street. He would never be seen again. This is particularly odd since this particular street is a “horseshoe” shape, with no side streets to wander off on, yet he is not seen to emerge, despite the presence of numerous CCTV cameras installed in the area, around 61 operated by police and dozens more by private businesses, and furthermore the four vehicles that were seen in the footage were checked out and cleared. This has baffled authorities working on the case, as they claim that there is practically no way a grown man could have walked more than a few feet from where he was last seen without being caught on camera, especially in his inebriated state, yet he is never seen again in any footage leaving that horseshoe street and there is no other way out, as if he just vanished into thin air. Police would say of this:
We can’t be 100 per cent sure, but we’ve analyzed everything, from whether a person could squeeze along a wall undetected, to whether they could run down a particular street when the camera was rotated in a certain direction. There are some gaps in coverage, but they are tiny. There’s no more than a 1 or 2 per cent chance that he walked away, even if he was trying not to be seen.
Exhaustive searches were conducted on the area utilizing tracking dogs, but nothing was turned up, making the disappearance one of the most baffling the country has ever seen. In the wake of the investigation some more clues were uncovered about the missing airman that are at the very least colorful, and may possibly provide clues to what happened to him. Corrie was found to have had an open relationship with girlfriend April Oliver, who was later found to be pregnant with his child. He also appears to have frequently visited dating, sex, and swingers websites, and to have had a casual sex-charged, party lifestyle, with his various profile pages listing an array of kinky interests, such as adult parties, blindfolds, cuckolding, making videos, role play, SM, spanking, and threesomes. This reckless, fast lifestyle is seen as having possible pertinence to Corrie’s disappearance, and his own mother, Nicola Urquhart, has said:
He was not so much a social butterfly, more a social hand grenade who absolutely lives for the moment. He makes choices others might not. Would he go to a stranger’s house that he’s met on a dating site? Yes. Would he get into a stranger’s car? Yes. He would put himself at risk because he believed he could handle himself.
Although several women who allegedly met up with Corrie in the days leading up to his vanishing were questioned by police, none of them were found to be at all suspicious. Did this wild lifestyle have anything to do with Corrie McKeague’s disappearance? Did he get in over his head and have a meeting with someone who turned out to be less than trustworthy? If so, how did he manage to go down that dead end street and never come out? Why was his last text message sent when he was clearly not sending it at that time and what did its contents actually mean, if anything? Where did his phone, which was tracked by police to its last known location, go? As of yet, nobody knows the answers to any of these, despite ongoing efforts by police to search every inch of the area and rural surroundings, including trash bins and landfills, and a team of private investigators hired by Corrie’s family, as well as large rewards offered for any information.
Many ideas have been proposed to try to explain this puzzling case. It was at first thought that he may have fallen asleep in the back of a garbage truck seen to be leaving in the CCTV footage of the street, but the weight sensor information of the truck was inconsistent with the weight of a full grown human male and the dump itself turned up no sign of Corrie. The owners of the other three vehicles seen in the footage were found and intensively questioned as well, and were not found to be suspects. Another theory is that he may have been kidnapped by robbers or terrorists since he is an RAF airman, but there is no evidence at all to support this and no terrorist organization has ever come forward to claim responsibility, as they typically do. Another idea is that he simply went AWOL, but friends say he enjoyed his work at the RAF and had never expressed such a desire. Of course, considering his hedonistic lifestyle there is the possibility that he was targeted by a jealous lover or lured into a dangerous situation via “honey trap,” but again there is no evidence of this and it still does not explain just where he went when he entered that street. The ultimate fate of Corrie McKeague and the meaning of his final text message remain unknown.
Some other final texts are hard to classify, and one exchange between two brothers reported by a reddit user named chris2485 is certainly creepy to say the least. In 2014, the user claims that he had been napping when his brother sent a sudden text asking where he was. When he replied that he was at home in his living room, the response was, “Nice try asshole, I’m in the living room. seriously, get home whenever you can, something is weird.” This was a very strange reponse to get, as he actually was sitting there in his living room as he had said but his brother was not there. The user went along with it and asked what exactly was weird, to which his brother responded, “it’s quiet, like freaky quiet. And where is Jasper?,” with Jasper being their pet dog, who happened to be peacefully fast asleep in the corner.
Things would only get stranger as the exchange continued. When the user asked where his brother was, the brother replied that he was sitting right there in the recliner in the living room, which he most certainly was not. The reddit user responded, “just stop already, I’m on the couch looking at the chair. where are you really? You at Emily’s?,” and got a reply that said the brother had left Emily’s place an hour before and that there had been a fierce rainstorm, which was odd considering the day had been clear and sunny. When told that the weather was just fine, the brother responded by saying that it was indeed raining, saying, “Its like Noah’s Ark shit out there man. How you not seeing it?” The reddit user decided that his brother was simply playing a prank on him, and turned his phone off for around 30 minutes. When he turned it back on it had a string of messages on it reading:
What the hell, my phone won’t charge
I’ve tried every outlet in the house
nothing will turn on, did the power go out?
what the hell is that noise? It’s like grinding metal?
hey, seriously, come home, I’m freaking the fuck out.
the rain will not stop, I can barely see outside
I keep getting a dial tone every time I call you
fuck my battery is down to 5% and it won’t take a charge. The house phone is down too.
please come home. Seriously!
that noise is getting louder, please tell me you are doing it!
I texted mom and dad. They aren’t answering me. They must be at the movies still.
okay, you win, I’m terrified. You win, you win, you win. Now get home please!!!!!!
According to the one who reported this exchange, this would be the last he ever heard from his brother. The girl Emily, who had been the missing man’s girlfriend, claimed that he had been totally normal that day with nothing amiss. The witness claims that a security camera spotted the missing man’s car at a gas station a few miles from the house, but that was the last time it was ever seen. Allegedly, neither the missing man or the car were ever seen or heard from again. Is this just a spooky Internet story or is there anything more to it? Indeed, just what is going on with this exchange? It is hard to know what to make of this one.
We may never know what happened to these people. They join the ranks of the countless others who have mysteriously vanished from the face of the earth. Yet in these cases we have those last, frustrating clues in the form of their final communications before stepping into oblivion. Do these texts have any meanings or pertinence to these cases, or are they merely more clues that lead nowhere? Whatever the case may be, they remain eerie and decidedly chilling last contacts from the vanished, their last reach forth into this world before fading into the world of the weird.