In the world of mysterious vanishings and disappearances there is perhaps no more high profile a figure as retired law enforcement officer and investigator of disappearances David Paulides, author of the Missing 411 series of books, in which he discusses some truly outlandish vanishings that have remained unsolved. Paulides has put forward a rather good number of frankly odd connections between these cases, including the presence of bodies of water, brightly colored clothing, which I have covered here before, the fact that many witnesses cannot rightly recall when the vanishing actually happened, the missing of articles of clothing, missing time, and others. Yet among all of these common threads is one that stands out as particularly odd, and which does little to provide any answers, and that is that in a fairly good number of cases the victims were out picking berries. It is an unusual feature of Paulides' accounts that is just about as incredibly bizarre as it is unexplained, and here we will look at just a few of these.
One unusual vanishing case revolving around berry picking is the odd case of of 6-year-old Lillian Carney, who in August of 1897 went missing in the U.S. state of Maine as she was out with her parents for a happy day of picking blueberries. According to the parents, she had vanished right under their noses, there one second and gone the next. A preliminary search of the area would quickly expand to over 200 hundred searchers scouring the region and calling the girl’s name, all to no avail. After an extensive search, Lillian was found in the woods in a dazed, trance-like state. When asked what had happened to her, the dazed girl replied that she had been in a place in the forest where the sun had shone the entire time she had been there. This was rather odd considering the weather at the time of her disappearance had been partly cloudy, she had been enveloped by a thick canopy of trees far from any town, and she had been missing overnight, for around 46 hours. What was this continuous “sunlight” she saw, and what significance does it have in Lillian’s disappearance? Was this a UFO abduction of some sort, or just her imagination? It remains unknown.
It is interesting that the girl in this case was found alive, albeit with an amazing story to tell, and a similar case also comes from the 1800s, concerning a 3-year-old girl named Alice Rachel Peck. On August 25th 1898. Alice 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.
In later years we have the case of 2-year-old Eddie Hamilton, of Saskatoon, Canada. Little Eddie was out picking berries with his parents on the day of July 6, 1928, when they looked away for just a second and their son seemed to have just disappeared right under their noses. A look around the area showed no signs of him, and it was bizarre as he had just been there literally seconds before. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) would be called in and also conduct an intensive search of the area, but the boy had seemingly just ceased to exist. A massive search operation with tracker dogs and aircraft and eventually involving 2,000 police, rescue workers, and volunteers would also turn up no sign of the missing boy other than some sporadic footprints that could not be followed through the thick undergrowth.
For months there was no further word on what had happened to Eddie Hamilton, and then tragedy struck when a local duck hunter found the body of a toddler floating in White Bear Lake. At first no connection was made to the missing Hamilton, as White Bear Lake was some distance away from where he had vanished over rough and rugged terrain, yet it would indeed be found to be him and that he had died not too long after his disappearance. Yet how had he ended up in that faraway lake? It has never been explained how a toddler had traversed that distance or if he had been dumped there by someone else, and the mysterious disappearance and death of Eddie Hamilton remains an ominous enigma.
Just a few years later we have the strange account of 7-year-old Wesley Piatote, who was out picking huckleberries with his mother and grandmother on August 4, 1932 in Washington state when he wandered off a bit from the others. The sound of the woods was then punctuated by two sharp screams that had obviously come from Wesley and which seemed to have been cut off somehow. However, the boy was nowhere to be seen, and the two frantic women searched everywhere for him to no avail, and a subsequent search by authorities was equally unsuccessful. It is a mystery as to why he screamed and why they had seemed shortened or stifled. Was this a wild animal attack, an abductor, or what? No one knows, and Wesley Piatote remains missing.
Also in the 1930s there is the case of 5-year-old Jack Pike, in the area of Manitoba, Canada, which is in some ways eerily similar to the Piatote case. On September 5, 1935, the family went out to do some casual blueberry picking near a place called St. Norbert, and it was a calm, beautiful day, yet things would take a sharp descent into the strange rather quickly. Mere minutes after starting to pick berries, Jack’s mother said she heard the boy let out a scream that seemed to be choked off in the middle, odd considering he was right there nearby, or at least he had been. When they looked to where their son had just been seconds before he was nowhere to be seen. In an ominous twist, the boy was found several days later in an area that had been intensely searched, lying unconscious across the raging Red River on the opposite side from where he had vanished. Unfortunately, he would die in the hospital later without ever being able to explain what had happened to him or how he had mysteriously evaded search efforts or gotten across that river. What happened to him? Who knows?
In 1940 we have the case of 9-year-old Simon Skogan, who on July 2, 1940 was out spending the day picking berries with his grandfather near the town of Tuelon, near Winnipeg, Canada. At some point the boy just sort of vanished, with the grandfather unable to quite explain how it had been possible, as they had been walking along together. An intense search turned up no trace of the boy, but some odd tales would come in from some of the Natives living in the area. It was claimed that a person had been sighted out in the surrounding swamps and marshland who seemed to be surviving off the land and even stealing milk, but who would run away when anyone approached. It is unclear if this was the missing boy or not, but it remains an odd detail in a disappearance that has never been solved. No one has ever seen Simon Skogan since.
The following decade, on July 17, 1954, 3-year-old Gary Bailey was out picking blueberries with his family at Spears Mountain, in Knox, Maine. At one point he got separated from his parents for just a moment, and then seemed to have just stepped off the face of the earth. A 500-member-strong search team thoroughly combed the area, and would not find any sign of the boy until suddenly two of the searchers heard something odd around one day into the search operation. After hearing a shout, the two searchers homed in on the noise to find the missing boy, alive but noticeably shaken and with some inexplicable scratches on his face. The odd thing was that he was located on the opposite side of Spears Mountain, over remote, perilous terrain, which was deemed impossible for one so young to have traversed on foot in darkness. How did he get there to that harrowing location within the span of 24 hours? The boy himself was unable to articulate what had happened to him and it remains a mystery.
There has been some amount of speculation that these disappearances are perhaps orchestrated by mysterious forces from beyond our comprehension, and one case that seems to perfectly illustrate this is one from 1965, from Luumäki, Finland, near the village of Hermunen. On August 19, 1965, four members of the Kuninga family were out picking blueberries in the surrounding woodland, and at one point they spread out to see who could pick the most berries. At this time they still made sure to stay within eyesight of each other, but things would soon take an odd twist.
At around noon on that otherwise calm and sunny day, the father, Matti Kuningas, would claim that he had heard something rather peculiar coming from the darkened woods, which sounded like odd “bubbling sounds” coming from up on the slope he was on. Although he couldn’t see anything strange up that way, the strange gurgling noises continued, and at some point he realized that he was not alone. Looking back up the slope he noticed a “a small man-like being” perhaps around 3-feet tall, with orange skin and wearing green skintight coveralls, sitting there above staring down at him. It peered at him for some time before standing up to come walking towards the startled man with a shambling, stumbling gait as a sudden gust of wind swept through the area. The peculiar creature then veered off to the side to come to the edge of a bog before vanishing into thin air. When he looked at his watch, Matti realized that a full 30 minutes had gone by of which he could not account for.
It would later turn out that the son, Teuvo Kuningas, had also seen the strange little man, even claiming he had heard it utter “human-like speech,” and it was also found that the entity had been sitting atop a massive, mossy stone that no one could remember ever having been there before. Interestingly, although both of them had seen it, they both claimed that they had been under the influence of some paralyzing effect that had somehow prevented them from calling out for help, and they would also claim that they had experienced some sort of repelling effect that kept them from approaching the entity. Teuvo would also explain that the anomalous boulder also had a slight repelling effect, and that he had not been able get close to it.
It is unknown what connection this utterly bizarre case has to the others we have looked at here, other than its link to picking berries, but it makes one wonder, and oddly it is a theme that stretches across many of such oddball vanishings. It all seems almost absurd, as how could berries and picking them have anything to do whatsoever with such mysterious cases? What explanation could it possibly hold? How can the simple act of picking berries translate into unsolved disappearances and reappearances? What is going on here? David Paulides himself has always remained almost frustratingly elusive on giving his own judgement on what might be to blame, and we are left struggling to piece it all together with the other myriad threads of the odd that hold such cases together. Is this all just strange coincidence? Picking berries? What significance could that possibly have? At the moment it seems almost beyond our ablity to even process, and whatever is going on here is perhaps far stranger than anyone can even guess.