Cases of mysterious vanishings usually have no shortage of strange, impenetrable clues that orbit them and obfuscate our efforts to peer into these enigmas. In some instances, the evidence, details, and circumstances can be rather bizarre indeed, leaving us even more confused as to what is going on than when we started. Even when the missing is actually found the details surrounding their disappearance and absence can be frustratingly murky and bizarre, failing to really explain what is going on and often serving to launch the case further into the weird. Such is the case with a few strange disappearances that offer up clues in the form of mysterious animals or entities that have become involved at some point, and which leave us scratching our heads and scrambling for answers.

One of the more spectacular stories of this sort comes to us from the wilds of Ethiopia, in Africa. In June of 2005, a 12-year old girl vanished from her rural village without a trace as she was on her way home from school. Her family and other villagers searched the entire area but could find no trace of her, nor were their calls out to her answered, and authorities were notified to have no luck either. It was suspected that she had either been kidnapped to never be seen again or that she had been attacked and dragged off into the forbidding wilderness by wild animals, but either way it was expected that she was gone forever. What no one expected to find was the sight that would await authorities in the coming days.

On June 9, 2005, a full week after her mysterious vanishing, the girl was found in a rough patch of wilderness near Bita Genet, about 350 miles southwest of the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. Far from dead, but seemingly injured and terrified, the girl was unapproachable at first due to the odd presence of three lions, who were roaming about and seemed to be actually trying to protect the young girl, refusing to leave her side until help showed up. As soon as the authorities moved in the lions just sort of melted away back into the wilderness, and the girl would tell of how she had been kidnapped and severely beaten by men who had wanted to force her into a marriage, but that the lions had come out of nowhere to chase her captors off and then proceed to stay near her keeping watch until she was safe. One Sgt. Wondimu Wedajo would say of the strange incident:

They stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest. If the lions had not come to her rescue, then it could have been much worse. Often these young girls are raped and severely beaten to force them to accept the marriage. Everyone thinks this is some kind of miracle, because normally the lions would attack people.

It is rather curious that these fierce predators should want to save and protect a young human child, and theories as to why this might be have flown. One wildlife expert speculated that the girl’s crying had actually saved her, as it may have sounded to the lions like the mewing sound from a lion cub, activating some sort of protective parental instinct. However, other experts have postulated that the lions may have indeed been preparing to eat her and were merely interrupted by the arrival of police. The girl was treated for her injuries and released, surviving her terrifying ordeal remarkably intact, all things considered. So was this a miracle or something else? Who knows?

A much older but just as bizarre case 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 simply 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 and shadows 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?

There has been some doubt as to the veracity of this particular story, with skepticism cast on Paulides’ reporting of the events. According to paranormal investigator Theo Paijmans, Paulides may have exaggerated some elements of the story and even confused the case with the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, as there is very little corroborating evidence in the news of the time to suggest that there was ever this mysterious “Mr. Wolf.” Paijmans told me:

In regards to Paulides' retelling of the 1868 missing girl case, his version is not supported by any of the original sources. The story was widely reported in various US newspapers. Not in the timeframes Paulides claims, but in 1868, 1882 and again in 1903. Each time the retellings of the story consistently remain the same. None of the many articles that appeared in the American newspapers from 1868 to 1903 mention a "Mr. Wolf". A bear is mentioned though - but that's it, plain and simple. Paulides may have been confused by the old German-Dutch European fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood (the girl Little Red Riding Hood visits her grandmother in the forest and meets with a wolf in disguise who wants to eat her) in this account.

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? Was this an animal or something else? 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.

One theory with regards to the identity of the “Black Man” is that this was a black bear that had for whatever reasons decided to help the girl, and with her incomplete knowledge of the world and animals the girl had misidentified what she was seeing. This notion is not as completely far-out as you might think, and there have actually been a few cases of mysterious disappearances tied to bears. One case supposedly happened in July of 1955, when 2-year-old Ida Mae Curtis 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 girl and her family have always insisted that it is true.

Much more recent is the 2019 case of 3-year-old Casey Hathaway, who went missing from the yard his grandmother’s rural North Carolina home in freezing winter temperatures. Indeed, the weather had been so ferocious at the time of his vanishing that the initial search had to be called off, and it was not expected he could have possibly survived those temperatures and harsh conditions. When the slashing rain and winds died down a massive search was launched involving helicopters, drones, tracker dogs and divers, as well as hundreds of volunteers, but no sign of the boy was found. It would not be until two days later that police would receive a tip that someone hiking in the area had heard a child crying in the woods, and when authorities arrived they amazingly found Hathaway cold, wet, and entangled in some brush, but very much alive. Even more amazingly, the boy would tell police and family members that he had survived because a bear, which he called his friend, had taken care of him throughout the ordeal. His aunt, Breanna Hathaway, would consider it a miracle, saying, “He said he hung out with a bear for two days. God sent him a friend to keep him safe. Miracles do happen.”

Of course such a fantastic claim has been met with speculation on how this could be or whether it even really happened that way or not. Opinions have been mixed. One opinion is that the whole story was a figment of the boy’s imagination, which he had conjured up in his mind to help him cope with the stress and trauma. Chris Servheen, a bear researcher at the University of Montana said of this to The Guardian:

I’ve never known such a thing to happen, bears don’t do that. Wild bears aren’t friends with people. I don’t want to say he’s not telling the truth, he obviously thinks he’s seen things and maybe he’s got a teddy bear at home. But I’ve seen no evidence anything like that has ever happened. I don’t want to cast aspersions on the child but I think the little boy had a fantasy. But if the boy felt comfortable under the watch of a wild animal that’s fine. Whatever helped him get through it.

Not everyone agrees though. Another expert has speculated that the bear might have had its motherly instincts kick in upon seeing the crying child, although it would be rather unusual. Regardless of whether the tale is real or not, it is still amazing that Hathaway could have evaded such an intensive search and survive on his own in those frigid conditions for two days. As to the bear, the boy still insists it is true, and his mother believes him, saying that he is an honest boy, and that, “If he said he was with a bear, he was with a bear.”

It is unknown just what connection or importance the detail of these animals and entities has to each of these cases. What significance does it all have and did it all ever even really happen as described or not? How are we to process these weird details and circumstances when looking at the cases as a whole? In the end they remain just more perplexing, odd clues among many, and make sure that these cases remain no less mysterious in the wake of the victims being found.

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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