Knock on wood… if you find a coin lying heads up on the street pick it up, but never leave your purse lying on the ground; and if you ever see a pregnant woman, be sure to pinch someone nearby.
Many of these odd superstitions remain common in various different parts of the world, although the particular versions described here have their origins in Bulgaria and the mountainous surrounding regions of the Balkans. This part of the world is famous for its supernatural traditions; they are often associated with vampires and other monstrous creatures that are predominant in Slavic folklore, many of which remain prevalent themes in the cultures of this part of the world even today.
With its history steeped in belief in the supernatural, it seems only fitting that one of the most unusual unsolved disappearances in modern times occurred here in the summer of 2014 not far from the airport in Varna, Bulgaria’s historic maritime capital city.
The story of Lars Mittank tells that of a 28-year-old vacationer at Golden Sands, a seaside resort where he had traveled with several friends during the final days of June, 2014. He and his company had enjoyed their time during the first several days of the trip, and sports had predominated much of the discussion among the travelers.
However, things turned sour on July 6, when Mittank was involved in a brief brawl with four other men. The fight had erupted over football, which was no surprise since the men were fans of the Bayern Munich (Mittank was a loyal supporter of his own local colors: the Sportverein Werder Bremen and its team, the Green-Whites).
Mittank apparently ruptured his eardrum during the tussle, but received no other injuries. On the final day of their trip, the group had booked flights to Hamburg for the following day, from which they would proceed by train to Itzehoe where the group of friends resided. After a final day on the beach, the friends were surprised to learn that Mittank had decided to remain behind.
He had gone to the hospital earlier that morning, he told them, to have his ear examined and was advised that flying could make it worse. He would stay behind in an inexpensive hotel for one more night, after which his doctors had told him it would be safe to fly, having prescribed the young man with Cefuroxime, an antibiotic.
None of the group had noticed any issues with Mittank’s behavior, although one of his companions at the time, Tim Schuldt, later recalled that Mittank’s hadn’t seemed to have much of an appetite during the final days of the trip.
“He’d have a bowl of soup or a small plate of salad,” Schuldt said, “that was it.”
Despite their concerns, Mittank’s friends proceeded to the airport as planed, leaving their friend behind at the Hotel Color, which was close to the airport where he would catch his delayed flight the following day.
There had been no indication of any strange behavior by Mittank prior to his friends leaving. However, one day after his friends left for their return trip home, the lone traveler’s behavior became increasingly erratic. Hotel security cameras later showed that he appeared to behave in an apprehensive or confused manner; during the time he was lodging at the Hotel Color, Mittank sent a text message to his mother complaining that he felt unsafe.
Based on the correspondence he had with his mother, Mittank seemed to be under the impression that he was being followed—possibly by the four men he had fought with only days earlier—by men who intended to rob him. Security cameras chronicled his odd behavior, showing him hiding in elevators and pacing around the facility, occasionally peering cautiously out of its windows. During his single night at the Hotel Color, Mittank left at 1 AM, and remained gone for one hour; it was never determined where he had gone during this time.
Although his mother had become increasingly concerned for her son’s wellbeing, the following day he texted her from the terminal at the Varna airport, where he intended to board a flight that would carry him back to Itzehoe. Security cameras also documented his arrival at the airport; however, they also showed Mittank sprinting past the baggage area moments later—without any of his luggage—and proceeding out of the airport. Cameras outside the airport also documented the nearly six-foot Mittank, clad in an easily discernible white T-shirt, as he proceeded to a fence and, climbing over it, entered a meadow that led to a stretch of forest.
Mittank was never seen again.
So what happened to Mittank, and what might have caused the erratic behavior leading up to his disappearance? Various aspects of the Mittank case resemble other widely publicized deaths and disappearances, such as that of Elisa Lam, a student from Vancouver whose remains were found in a water tank located above the Cecil Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles on Feb 19, 2013. Security cameras in the hotel later showed that Lam had been behaving strangely prior to her death, which coroners later determined had most likely been an accident (an opinion which some still view as controversial). Among her odd behaviors, Lam was shown on hotel security cameras hiding in an elevator, similar to Mittank in footage from around the Hotel Color in 2014.
While the only diagnosed injury during the fight that occurred during Mittank’s vacation had been a ruptured eardrum, it is conceivable that a minor concussion or other head trauma might have resulted, which may have been a contributing factor to disorientation, feelings of paranoia, or other behavior leading up to the time of his disappearance.
If this were the case, no formal diagnosis exists that can corroborate this, and five years later the whereabouts of Mittank—dead or alive—remains unknown.