There was a time when people would vanish into thin air and that was that. We had no way of knowing where they were or what the circumstances were surrounding their stepping off into the unknown. With the advent of technology we now have myriad and numerous security and surveillance cameras set up all over the place, at times capturing every move we make. With this new advancement in technology we are sometimes offered glimpses into the last moments of people who have mysteriously disappeared, and while this may not always do anything to solve the enigmas surrounding these cases it is usually enough to add another layer of creepy bizarreness to it all.
At 11PM on the evening of September 12, 1987, 50-year-old Dale Kerstetter began his graveyard shift at the Corning Glassworks plant in Bradford, Pennsylvania, where he had worked as a security guard and maintenance man for 27 years. The shift started as always, and it was a routine Dale had been through countless times before, yet when the next guard came in to relieve him as always, Kersetter was nowhere to be seen, even though his truck was still in out in the parking lot with all of his personal belongings, including a carton of his beloved cigarettes, lying untouched within. There was even a lunch pail carefully set out on a table along with the food totally uneaten, along with a set of car keys. A complete search of the plant turned up no sign of him and he had just inexplicably seemingly vanished without a trace.
When authorities arrived on the scene it was found that along with Dale Kersetter, a load of platinum pipe estimated to be worth around $250,000 had also mysteriously gone missing, leading to the conclusion that the missing man had simply stolen the valuable platinum and made himself scarce. When police dogs were brought in, they traced Kersetter’s movements to the 2nd floor and right up to the door of the large glass furnace where the piping had been stored, a place he had no business being as it had not been part of his security route, further incriminating him in a possibly heist. This did not sit well with his co-workers, who insisted that Dale was an honest, hard-worker and loving family man who would not have stolen the platinum and then abandon his family.
Things got interesting when the police turned their attention to the plant’s surveillance camera footage, which would only serve to baffle authorities. In the footage, an unknown masked man can be seen entering the plant from a back entrance, and the unidentified individual is later seen talking with Kersetter, after which the two make their way through the plant to where the platinum was kept. At one point in the footage, Dale looks up directly into the camera for a time, but police could not tell if he was signaling for help or not. Nothing in the footage indicates whether Dale was being forced along by the masked man or if they were conspiring together. It is difficult to tell if Kersetter is under duress or not, although the plant manager has made it clear that he thinks the look into the camera was in fact a way to taunt them, saying of this:
I think the fact that he did everything in front of the cameras was once again just Dale Kerstetter saying to us, ‘Look, hey, here I am. I’m taking your platinum and there isn’t a thing you can do about it.'
Regardless, the masked man can then be seen leaving while carting off a large, unwieldy bag, which could contain the platinum or possibly even Dale’s body. Dale Kersetter was not seen on the footage to leave the plant at any point. A lot of speculation raged at the time. Had he been in on the robbery and working together with the masked man? Had he been forced to hand over the platinum and then been kidnapped and possibly killed and disposed of? No one knew for sure. Investigators soon found that Kersetter had been in some amount of debt, to the tune of around $30,000 or possibly $40,000, further bolstering the idea that he may have been in on it, but once again family members and friends dismiss this sinister possibility, pointing out what an honest, loving person he was. Dales’s daughter, Wendy Kerstetter, has always adamantly denied her father’s willing involvement in any sort of crime, and has said:
If he had planned on taking off anywhere, why would he bother packing a lunch? I mean, just little things like that. And a whole carton of cigarettes, and he smoked all the time. I mean, he would’ve taken his cigarettes. Also he had six kids, two grandkids. And to do something like that and take off, and not call any of them–you know, just take off and never talk to your kids again? I just… can’t believe it.
Whether Dale Kersetter was the victim of a robbery or a participant, the fact remains that he has not been seen since, he remains missing, and all we have to go on is that piece of creepy footage. Equally creepy is another vanishing that occurred in the year 2000, in Dublin, Ireland. On December 8, 2000, 22-year-old Trevor Deely went out drinking at a hotel with some co-workers from his job at the Bank of Ireland Asset Management, after which they headed off to a nearby nightclub to keep the party going. At around 3:30 AM, Deely headed back to his office, where he had coffee with co-worker Karl Pender, after which he picked up an umbrella and made his way out into the rainy night. He would then place a call to his friend Glen Cullen, leaving a voice message saying that he had enjoyed the party and was on his way home, but he would never arrive and has not been seen since.
When authorities investigated the disappearance, they found some curious hints in the CCTV footage of that night. Footage shows that when Deely entered the building there was another unidentified man lurking in the doorway of the building, as if taking shelter from the heavy rain, and Deely can be seen talking briefly with him, after which the stranger goes off to cross the road. Footage then shows Deely some time later leaving the office and walking off, perhaps because a taxi strike had been in effect at the time. The last known CCTV footage of Deely shows him walking past an ATM at 4:14 AM, and there can also be seen a man walking directly behind him carrying an umbrella. After this, Deely proceeds to vanish off the face of the earth.
Investigators believe that the person Deely can be seen speaking with and the one seen in the ATM footage could possibly be the very same person, and that he may have followed the missing man, although there is no evidence to connect him to any wrongdoing at this point. All that is known is that this mysterious figure is seen when Deely enters the office building, after which he crosses the road, possibly to wait for him to leave, and then there is another unknown figure, perhaps the same unidentified individual, seemingly following behind Deely in the ATM footage. Investigators have spent a lot of time trying to track down who this enigmatic stranger could be, believing him to hold a crucial piece of the puzzle, but so far he remains unidentified, his connection to the vanishing unclear, and Deely has not been seen since.
In 2002 there was also the mysterious disappearance of 65-year-old Mari Ann Fowler, which also involves some rather chilling surveillance footage. On Christmas Eve of 2002, Fowler was seen standing outside a strip mall near Port Allen, Louisiana, where she had stopped for some food at a fast food joint on her way to visit her husband Jerry Fowler, a former elections commissioner who was doing time in prison for bribery. Soon after this sighting Fowler was reported missing, and in the parking lot of the mall there were found various personal belongings of the missing woman strewn about, including some fake nails that had possibly been torn off in some sort of struggle. Her car was found to contain her purse, including wallet and cash, as well as the food she had bought and some wrapped Christmas presents.
When security footage was reviewed, it showed a pick-up truck speeding away from the location at around the same time Fowler disappeared, leaving behind skid marks, and authorities believe that this was likely the vehicle of someone who had abducted Fowler. At one point in the footage the unidentified man’s face can even be seen, but there was no way to enhance the image enough for a positive identification and he remains unidentified. Police have since speculated that Fowler may have been the victim of the infamous Baton Rouge Serial Killer, Derrick Todd Lee, who was suspected of being behind the murders of at least seven women in the region, and who happened to have owned a pick-up truck very similar to the one seen in the video footage. Lee’s phone records at the time also showed that he had been in the Port Allen area at around the time of the vanishing, but despite all of this there has never been enough concrete evidence to solidly connect him to the disappearance, and the case remains unresolved. Although it is highly suspected that she was abducted and possibly murdered, the man and the pick up truck have never been located, and Mary Ann Fowler has never been found.
In another strange case, in 2006 a 19-year-old communications major at the University of Missouri–Kansas City Jesse Ross was in Chicago to attend a model United Nations meeting at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, along with 1,200 other college students from around the country. On the final day of the 3-day conference there was a celebratory dance starting from 10 PM at the nearby Four Corners Sheraton, and later that evening there was a sudden United Nations Security Council meeting, which Ross attended. He then reportedly left the meeting at 2 AM, and although he had been drinking alcohol witnesses say that he did not seem to be particularly intoxicated. He told the others that he was going to take a short break and would be back in 30 minutes, but he never did return and has not been seen since.
The last known sighting of Jesse was security footage made on the hotel’s elevator, after which he steps out into the lobby and apparently off the face of the earth. Authorities suspected that he had left the hotel in order to walk back to his own hotel and that somewhere along the way he had stumbled and fallen into the nearby Chicago river, possibly because he was inebriated. The problem with this theory is that Jesse’s hotel was a 10-minite walk away along a well-lit street lined with security cameras, yet there is no footage of him taking this route and indeed no footage of him even leaving the hotel. As far as the surveillance footage is concerned, Jesse Ross never left that hotel, and strangely there is no footage of him anywhere on the premises after that taken in the elevator and lobby, yet a complete search of the grounds turned up no sign of him.
Police had divers search the Chicago River multiple times just in case, but no body was ever found. The Police were frustrated by the disheveled state of the crime scene, as the vanishing had happened just before Thanksgiving, most potential evidence had been tampered with, and most potential witnesses were gone by the time the investigation really started. Some of the hotel staff from the time and the other students at the conference were eventually tracked down and questioned, but this did little to shed light on anything. There was also the fact that everyone at the party had been drinking and no one had been really paying attention to their surroundings, which has caused one detective on the case to lament:
When you have teenagers, young adults, you have alcohol and the freedom of being out of town or somewhere new — that in itself can be trouble right there in the making.
Where did Jesse Ross go, and why didn’t he turn up on more security camera footage around the hotel after leaving that elevator into the lobby? Was he the victim of foul play or did he run off for reasons unknown? No one has the slightest idea, and he has never been seen again. Another missing person who seems to have just disappeared into thin air and likewise persistently evaded any video camera footage to prove where he went was another college student named Brian Shaffer. On April 1, 2006, Shaffer, a 2nd year medical student at Ohio State University, was at a nearby bar called the Ugly Tuna Saloona with some friends to celebrate the coming of Spring Break.
While he was there, Shaffer is said to have downed copious amounts of alcohol, and at some point he began talking to two young women at the bar. His friends went to the restroom and when they came back he was simply gone. When the bar closed they all waited outside, but Shaffer never showed up. At the time, nothing much was thought of this. The friends just figured that he had had too much to drink and gone home, or that he had gone off to drink somewhere else. Yet the following day Shaffer was still nowhere to be found, his truck was found still parked at his nearby apartment, and all calls to his cell phone went unanswered.
Things got truly weird when authorities examined the security camera footage of the bar. Although in the footage Shaffer can clearly be seen entering the bar, he is never seen to actually leave. Baffled police went through every frame of the footage and were able to identify every patron at the bar that night on the camera except Shaffer. Even the emergency exit camera turned up nothing at all. It was utterly baffling that he could manage to so thoroughly evade all of these cameras, and it was thought that even if he had managed to somehow leave the bar undetected surveillance cameras on the street would have certainly picked him up, yet there was nothing. He had simply evaporated.
The vanishing did not make any sense at all, as Shaffer had been a young, good looking upstanding medical student with his whole future ahead of him, and additionally he had been planning to propose to his girlfriend at the time, who he had had plans to take a trip with to Miami during Spring Break. Although his mother had passed away from cancer three weeks earlier, Brian was described by friends as holding up rather well all things considered, and certainly not unduly depressed or suicidal in any way. In the wake of the vanishing there were myriad strange leads that came in claiming that Shaffer was living in Sweden or the Virgin Islands, but these led nowhere and were mostly thought to be hoaxes. To this day know one has a clue as to what happened to Brian Shaffer or how he could have possibly pulled off his vanishing act with the cameras.
One of the creepiest and most bizarre of all of these cases is the spooky disappearance of 28-year-old German tourist Lars Mittank. In July of 2014, Lars was in Bulgaria on a month-long vacation with a group of friends, with their main destination being a place called Golden Sands, known for its young, hard-partying crowd from all over Europe. Practically as soon as they arrived there was drama. At a beach party Lars got caught up in a violent brawl with another group, which resulted in his ear being seriously injured in the altercation. Despite this injury, the group went ahead with their plans and partied hard for the rest of their vacation, yet when Lars was set to return to Germany he was told by his doctor that it was not safe to fly yet as his ear had not healed enough to handle the pressurization of the plane cabin. Lars decided to stay behind for a few more days while his friends headed home without him.
On the first night of his stay alone, Lars purportedly made a strange, panicked call to his mother, in which he ranted about how he was being followed around by four men and that they were out to kill him, although he gave no further details. Rather than wait the few days as originally planned, after this harrowing call the following day he made his way to Varna Airport, from where he intended to fly home to Berlin, doctors orders be damned. When he arrived, he was seen by witnesses and on CCTV cameras to walk calmly through the airport with his luggage in tow, after which he visited an airport clinic to check his ear.
The doctor would later claim that although Lars was rather calm at first, he suddenly flew into an uncontrollable panic as soon as what was described as a “construction worker” walked into the clinic. This seemingly completely derailed Lars, who then reportedly ran off as fast as he could, leaving all of his baggage and belongings behind in a mad dash. The disturbing CCTV footage would show Lars sprinting off at full speed through the airport without his luggage and out to the parking area, and this is the last anyone has seen of him. The only potential lead that has come forward over the years is the odd testimony of a Bulgarian trucker, who claims that he had picked up a scared-looking, ragged hitchhiker who he thought resembled the image in the police posters for the missing man, but this has inevitably led nowhere. It is thought that Lars may have been on the bad side of some nefarious elements in Bulgaria, that he had made enemies, or even that he had simply panicked from paranoia, somehow lost his memory, and is alive somewhere out there confused and alone, but no one knows for sure.
What happened to these people? Where did they go and why? We will likely be left to wonder and ponder on these questions, but this speculation is especially put into focus by the existence of this baffling camera footage. Here we have the last fleeting images of the vanished, and a peek into what their final moments entailed, yet we are left to grasp at what it all means. Technology has offered us a way to gaze into the circumstances surrounding these unsolved mysteries, yet it has fallen short of giving us a clear answer to the many questions we have. All we are left with are these last images of the vanished, tenuous glimpses into their unsettling last moments and what became of them, which have only gone on to further fuel debate and discussion. Ultimately, despite these images we are left perplexed, and despite our cameras really the only ones who will ever truly know what has happened are the vanished themselves.