There are numerous cases throughout history of people just seeming to step off the face of the earth to vanish into thin air. We are usually left with only scattered clues, grasping at theories as to what has happened to these unfortunate souls, but in some cases it appears that there is a correlation of sorts. Throughout a great number of these accounts of people who have seemingly blinked out of existence there is the simple but nagging clue that they were wearing brightly colored clothing. It seems to be at first a meaningless quirk, but the number of reports of the mysteriously vanished and bright articles of clothing has increasingly become something that can't be easily ignored, although the answers as to why might be forever elusive.
A very strange case popped up on Whitley Streiber's site, Unknown Country, concerning a witness calling himself Alan Lamers and his very unusual, otherworldy story. Lamers claims that he was working on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia, which is where it first came to his attention that a great many people were said to have gone into the jungles of the area to vanish without a trace. He was first told about this as he visited a small speck of a village in the district of Sandu Batu, in South Sulawesi, where he was warned to only wear clothing that was white or black in color, with no bright colors whatsoever. In particular he was warned not to wear anything that was yellow, and that black was the best one to go with. Odd indeed, but it would get odder still.
When Lamers pressed as to why he should not wear bright colors or anything with yellow on it, the villagers told him that people who did so had a bad habit of disappearing off the face of the earth. Weirder still, sometimes the people would reappear dazed and confused, not remembering anything of their strange incident and missing the articles of clothing with the offending colors. As to why, the villagers had no explanation. After hearing of this, Lamers and his companions warily wore all black when they trekked out into the jungle to investigate some alleged illegal logging in the area, but one of the men apparently broke the rules, and he explains:
One of my friends, who is a Bugis-Makassar, didn’t listen or understand the warning and wore yellow socks. We did our tour and returned. He was strangely quiet. That night he became extremely ill. I had never seen a person projectile vomit that hard. He had an extreme fever also. We nursed him and about a day later he returned to his healthy self. Then he told us what happened. He said something had bitten him on his right legs calf and then his thigh. He showed us the marks. They were huge scratches. He said he could not see what was attacking him. He said he did not want to tell us what happened because he was embarrassed. The villagers stood around us with these knowing looks while we looked at the marks. they said he was very lucky. Usually people disappear. I was stunned.
What was going on here, and what in the world does the color yellow have to do with it? It is unclear, but Lamers claims that he would get at least some theories during his stay. He tells the account of a woman friend of his whose brother had gone hiking in the mountains along with four others, after which they all vanished. After an intensive search finally the brother was found, alive but in a dazed state and looking undernourished and skeletal. When asked about what had happened to them the brother said he could not remember, but whatever it was had obviously and visibly traumatized him. No trace of the others was ever found. Lamers asked his friend what she thought had happened to them, and he says of her response and his reactions to it:
She said it was the Jin. Jin is Arabic for demon. She said many many people have disappeared in the mountains because of the Jin. I asked my engineer friend who I worked with about this early today. He said it happens often and reminded me of Wala Wala the village we had gone to. Entire cultures have developed around this problem. They wear only black because they believe this allows them to travel through the jungle undetectable by whatever it is that takes these people. There is something taking these people Whitley. Something terrible and evil in Sulawesi. The people of Sulawesi have come to terms with it and have tried to adapt themselves to deal with whatever it is. It has gone on long enough to bend culture. I will continue to investigate what this is.
Is that what this was? A Jin? This makes sense considering that the population of the region is around 85% Muslim, but could there be any other explanation? He apparently did follow up on all of this, managing to get more information out of the locals, as well as from the lone survivor from that doomed trek as his memory came trickling back to him about that fateful hike. However, his story seems to make no real sense, and is so bizarre it leaves more questions than answers. Lamers tells Strieber of this additional information:
I found out he kept seeing what the Bugis call Jin Kurcaci. It means little demon people. These things do what is called "penculikan" or abduction. No one knows why they do this. But sometimes the people come back after a bit. The people or creatures who do this have a small nose and their eyes are small and black, but their mouths are very broad and when they smile it is very large compared to the rest of their face. He could not remember the color of their skin. I asked for a picture to be drawn. He managed a crude happy face with a nose consisting of a single line and a huge grimace.
The boy was the only one who could see them out of the five. He kept seeing a lot of them but when he would try to show the others one of the four who disappeared could see them. He also saw a strange animal he could not recognize. These animals are the size of a horse with huge antlers. He said he saw herds of them. He could not understand where they came from or why there were so many. They not an animal indigenous to the area. There is no such known animal that big in Sulawesi. Apparently this is a widespread problem.
Is this Jin, some sort of evil forest people, or just folklore? What is the significance of the colors and why must people wear black? Does this somehow draw these forces in, and maybe they are attracted by these colors? It is very interesting to note that some of the most bizarre vanishings on record are theorized to have had some link to bright colors, according to missing persons investigator David Paulides, author of The Missing 411 series of books.
Paulides has researched strange vanishings all over the world and has compiled a sort of list of criteria that seem to be common to many of the cases. Examples include people disappearing practically right under the noses of nearby friends or family, bodies turning up without shoes or proper outdoor clothing, children who have gone missing only for their bodies to turn up in inaccessible areas where they could not possibly have climbed to on their own, belongings or clothing left behind often neatly folded or arranged, bodies that have turned up in areas that have already been thoroughly searched or are out of reach, and people who have disappeared without leaving a single scrap of evidence behind. There are also the fact that many of these disappearances seem to happen near bodies of water or where berries happen to be growing, that with bodies which are found the cause of death is often unclear or difficult to determine, that there is a lack of tracks, and that search dogs often cannot pick up the scent or are led to places such as sheer walls where no one could reasonably scale. Often people who were with the missing explain that they just happened to get separated somehow without being able to pinpoint when or how. Then there is the curious detail that many of the vanished just so happened to have been wearing bright colors.
This has been seen in many vanishings covered by Paulides, with perhaps the most well-known being the disappearance of 6-year old Dennis Martin. On June 14, 1969, Dennis was on a camping and hiking trip to the Great Smoky Mountains when he and his family stopped off at a grassy mountain highland meadow and popular stop-off point along the Appalachian Trail know as Spence Field. As the adults sat out on the grass chatting, Dennis, his brother, and two other boys on the trip thought it would be amusing to play a prank on their parents. They decided that they would split up, go out into the woods, and then simultaneously jump out from different directions to startle the adults in what was meant to be just harmless fun.
Three of the boys went one way and Dennis, who was the youngest, went the other. The reason he had been chosen to be on his own was that he was wearing a highly visible bright red shirt. This is something to remember in relation to this article, the bright colors. Just as planned, the three older boys jumped out and scared the adults, but then the men asked where Dennis was. Since the other boys had seen him just a few minutes earlier, they assumed that he had merely missed his cue and so they waited for him to jump out of the trees as well, but he never appeared.
Dennis’ father, Bill Martin, went out to get his son, expecting that he would be there hiding in the bushes as he had been instructed, but an immediate search of the area showed no signs of the boy, and calls into the woods went unanswered. Increasingly worried, Bill and Dennis’ grandfather, Clyde Martin, hiked out in different directions farther and farther from the place where the boy had last been seen and still they found nothing. Park Rangers were notified and a search was launched that would last until nightfall, when heavy rain began to come down along with thunder, which hampered efforts to find the boy and the search was called off until the following day with still no trace of where Dennis had gone off to.
In a rather ominous twist, a mere hours after Dennis had gone missing a family named the Keys reported that they had been hiking around 6 miles from Spence Field when they had heard a boy’s scream. The son also claimed to have seen movement in a bush which he at first had thought to be a bear, but turned out to be a man walking in the woods with something apparently slung over his shoulder. As spooky as this may seem, authorities determined that the location was too far away from Spence Field to have possibly have anything to do with Dennis within the time frame of events.
In the following days the search efforts would quickly grow in size to hundreds of people scouring the area, including park rangers, locals, volunteers, the FBI, National Guard, and even Green Berets and psychics, along with bloodhounds and helicopters, and meanwhile the news of the disappearance had started making major national headlines. Since Dennis was described as a robust, healthy boy with plenty of hiking experience it was thought that he was alive and would be found in short order, but continuing heavy rains flooding roads, as well as thick fogs, made efforts difficult. For their part, Dennis’s parents posted a hefty reward for any information leading to finding their son. Dennis Martin has never been found, and not a trace of what happened to him has ever been uncovered. Interestingly, this all fits several of Paulides’ criteria, including the brightly colored clothing.
Similarly there is the case of 4-year-old Alfred Beilhartz, who in the summer of 1938 was on a fishing and camping trip with his family at Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. As the boy and his parents were taking a hike along a river, little Alfred, who was wearing a brightly colored shirt, suddenly simply disappeared without explanation. One moment he had been there walking in a line behind them, and the next the parents had turned around to find he was gone without a trace. There had been no shout or sign of distress, and all calls to him went unanswered. He had seemingly just ceased to exist.
Although the parents claimed that the boy had gone nowhere near the water, authorities were nevertheless convinced that he had fallen into the river, and immediately went about blocking off the river so that it could be thoroughly searched and so that his body would not float too far away. A 6-mile stretch of the river where Alfred had vanished was searched and dredged for 5 full days without turning up any sign of the boy, and when bloodhounds were brought in they oddly tracked his scent to around 500 feet uphill from where his parents had been when he had disappeared, which was odd considering he had supposedly gone missing as he was walking behind them. Also strange was that allegedly the bloodhounds followed the trail for some time before reaching a fork and suddenly stopping and simply lying down, an odd behavior for trained scent dogs to display, and also strange because it seemed that the trail had just abruptly stopped to vanish just as surely as the boy had.
Even more bizarre than this was an odd report that came in from some hikers in the area in the early stages of the search, the very day after Alfred had vanished. The hikers, who were a couple, had been on Old Fall River Road about 6 miles away over rugged terrain and around 3,000 feet higher from where Alfred had disappeared, and at the time had had no idea that there was a missing boy in the area, yet they reported seeing a rather worrying sight. They claimed that they had seen a young boy perched up upon a high ridge in an area ominously called “The Devil’s Nest,” near the top of Mt. Chaplin. The hikers reported that the boy had been forlornly sitting alone up there and had then suddenly moved out of sight, which the hikers mysteriously allegedly said looked as if he were being “jerked back.” At the time they could not figure out how such a young boy would be out there in the remote wilderness by himself or how he could have possibly climbed up onto that formidably high ridge. According to the hikers, as soon as they had gotten home and seen the news, they had realized that the boy they had seen was the missing Alfred Beilhartz.
Authorities acted on the tip and made the journey out to the Devil’s Nest, a perilous hike through thick, unforgiving forested terrain littered with rough brush and dense trees, and there at the top of the looming ridge they could find no trace of the boy. Considering the difficulty of the terrain, the elevation, and the steep, treacherous climb up to the ridge on which the hikers had claimed to have seen the boy, park rangers came to the conclusion that it would have been impossible for the boy to have made the hike out there in the timeframe involved on his own, and that he could not have possibly climbed the ridge alone without specialized climbing equipment and experience. There are several weird details about this case. How did Alfred manage to just vanish right under his parents’ noses without making a sound? What happened to his scent trail and why did the bloodhounds following him act so oddly? How could Alfred hike all the way up Mt. Chaplin, trudging 6 miles and 3,000 feet through unforgiving perilous terrain in such a short time, and then climb up onto that high ridge by himself? What did the hikers mean that he was “jerked back”? We may never know, and Alfred Beilhartz has never been found. Oddly enough, it is reported that young little Beilhartz had been wearing brightly colored clothing at the time of his vanishing.
Such cases are numerous, and we also have the case of 3-year-old Jaryd Atadero, who in October of 1999 was staying with his father at a Christian retreat lodge at Poudre Canyon, Colorado. On October 2, Jaryd was out with 12 of the Christian group members on a hike along the Big South Trail when he somehow got ahead of the group and talked to some fishermen along the Cache la Poudre River, asking them if they’d seen any bears, to which they replied that the boy should get back with the others. Those fishermen would be the last ones to see Jaryd Atedero alive. In the wake of his disappearances a massive search using bloodhounds and aircraft was unable to find any trace of the boy, and it was largely assumed that he had fallen into the frigid waters of the river and drowned.
It would not be until 4 years later that he would finally be found, when on June 4, 2003 his remains were discovered up in a remote, inaccessible area up a steep incline about 500 feet above the trail he had vanished on. This is where the case gets weird. On the dead boy’s cranium were found a series of odd scratches that were assumed to be from a mountain lion, yet big cat experts pointed out that a cougar would have torn at the sweater and body near the neck and stomach, damage that was absent. Indeed, there were no other apparent injuries on the body. Paulides also claims that he spoke to forensics experts on the case who told him that, although the source of the scratches could not be determined, they were not from any known animal. Other odd details about the body were that the boy’s clothes had been turned inside out, and a single tooth from his mouth had been found placed upon a nearby log, strangely not overgrown with moss or vegetation considering that it had presumably been sitting there for 4 years. The clothes and shoes themselves were also surprisingly brightly colored and new looking for supposedly having been out in the elements for so long. And there is a key word here, they were brightly colored.
Adding to this strangeness surrounding the case of Jaryd Atadero are allegations made by the boy’s father, Allyn Atadero, that authorities were very secretive and dishonest about the whole incident, and seemed to be almost intentionally botching the investigation. One example is when the Atadero family was allegedly threatened with arrest if they tried to go off snooping around on the Big South Trail, and although it was claimed by authorities that the trail was the only way in or out of the canyon, this turned out to be a falsehood, as Allyn found records of various other entry and exit points. Another oddity was that Allyn claimed that he had discovered that the police were using his own shorts as a scent sample for the dogs rather than those of his son, and that when confronted about this glaring error in procedure they got confrontational and irritated, allegedly going so far as to threaten to call the search off. Allyn would also claim that although some strange hair samples had been collected from his son’s sweater, no test results were ever released and he was merely told that they were neither human nor mountain lion, but that he “shouldn’t worry about it.” To top it all off, Paulides also claims that authorities were highly uncooperative with his own investigation into the case, and that the FBI had refused to get involved. What in the world happened to Jaryd Atadero? Was this an animal attack, a kidnapping, or something more? It seems we may never know.
Mysterious cases like this go on and on, with that common thread going through them that they were all wearing brightly colored clothing at the time of their bizarre vanishings. Is this, as David Paulides and Lamers say, a determining factor in such vanishings? If so, then why should this be? Are the colors somehow attractive or maddening to whatever forces are taking these people? And now that we are on it what forces would those be? Is this extraterrestrials, evil spirits of some kind, Bigfoot, some sort of other mysterious animal, or what? One very interesting theory that has made the rounds is that perhaps some sort of large, unidentified winged beast is behind it all, perhaps its attention drawn by the bright colors. One commenter on our very own Mysterious Universe has said of this and how it relates to such vanishings:
I’m pretty sure I know what it is & I'm sure it’s also responsible for some of the National Forest missing adults. If these disappearances have anything to do with what I saw in 2006 in Colorado (less than one mile outside of Pike National Forest), then it’s likely that the same thing is responsible for the cattle mutilations as well:
It’s a bird & it was massive; I startled it off my roof by stepping outside onto my front porch in the middle of the night. I had no idea there was anything there but when the door slammed behind me I heard a “scrabbling” sound; as if there were a small rockslide directly above me. I covered my head with my arms & tried to duck under the eaves when I heard a rippling sound. Almost exactly like the sound one of those huge flags make when a sudden strong gust of wind unfurls it.
Then, there was a boom. A percussive boom that my eardrums felt, to the point where I started to lose my balance & fall backwards. That’s when a huge shadow passed overhead. From 1.5 stories above me, clearing 50ft tall tree in the front yard. The shape of the shadow most resembled a vulture & I can’t conceive of the wingspan being less than 20ft. As it glided up it ... screamed. A pulsating croak? Not sure quite how to describe it. It was not a sound I have ever heard before. Oddly; it didn’t seem to have flapped its wings again. I refused to think about it for about a year because it was so ridiculously improbable. When an inspection of the roof occurred, the comment was “It looks like Freddy Krueger attacked your roof!” Along with the gashes, there were a few puncture holes as well. So I started researching & haven’t stopped.
It is of course possible that the presence of bright colors could just be a coincidence. Perhaps it does not matter, and has simply been assigned value by Paulides and others, but then how would that explain the clear link supposedly conveyed to Lamers by the people of that remote area of Indonesia and their aversion to entering the jungle wearing anything other than white or preferably black? Is there any connection to be had here, and if so what is it? It is certainly interesting to note the similarities between Lamers' stories on the bright colors and people reappearing with no memory of what had happened and the very similar Paulides cases in which the same thing happens. Are there mysterious forces drawn to these colors that somehow make these people disappear? There is no way to know, and it seems to lie beyond our comprehension, but until we do understand maybe don't wear brightly colored clothing next time you are on that hike through the woods.