In the world of mysterious vanishings of people who have disappeared without a trace there is perhaps no more widely known set of tomes than The Missing 411 series of books, by retired law enforcement officer and dogged researcher of missing persons David Paulides. I have extensively covered such cases on many occasions here before, but there are so many it sometimes seems never-ending. Many of these odd vanishing have happened in wilderness areas or National Parks, and a common theme amongst them is the fact that many of these victims go missing within minutes, often right under the noses of those they are with, as if thy have just been erased from existence. Here we will look at such cases, of people who were simply there one minute and gone the next, going off into who knows where and into the realm of truly great mysteries.
Our first curious case is the rather strange vanishing of an 84-year-old theology professor by the name of Dr. Maurice Dametz. In 1981, he was mostly known for his fire and brimstone religious rhetoric and his many writings of how he believed the literal Antichrist was going to appear in our lifetime, but he was soon to become even more well-known for his odd disappearance. When he wasn’t expounding upon how the Devil was coming, Dr. Dametz liked to engage in his pastime of collecting rocks, and on this day he was out in Pike National Forest, in Douglas County, Colorado, along with his friend David McSherry to go hunting for topaz. Dametz was 84 years old at the time, with a range of health problems that caused him to rely on McSherry to get him around, his bad knees making him unable to get very far on his own. In other words, he wasn’t some spry young devil who could just run off at a moment’s notice. They spent the day digging around for the rocks, and they had sort of a system wherein McSherry would drop Dametz off at a spot and then go off on his own nearby, after which he would pick the Dr. up and they would move onto a new location. On this day everything was going smoothly, and they had spent hours digging at different spots. McSherry would typically not be too far away, and would check on the ailing Dr. regularly every 15 minutes or so.
At one spot he was only about 100 yards away from Dametz and went to check on him just 10 minutes after he last saw the Dr., but this time the man was nowhere at all to be seen. McSherry called out to Dametz and received no reply, and it was all very odd as his knees were so bad it would have been impossible for him to get very far so fast on his own. A sweep of the surroundings turned up nothing, and not only was Dametz gone, but all of his tools were as well, and McSherry thought he had maybe tried to hobble back to their car, but the Dr. wasn’t there either. Indeed, a complete search of the area turned up no trace of him, and not long after this the authorities were notified, who after a 5-day intensive search could find not a trace of Dametz or his missing tools, and no blood or sign that he had been attacked by an animal or the victim of foul play. Dametz was just there one minute and gone the next, and no one has seen him or any remains of him since.
The case caught the attention of David Paulides, author of The Missing 411 books, who was intrigued because the location of the vanishing was at a place called “Devil’s Head,” which has long had a place in Native folklore as a haunted place inhabited by evil spirits, and which also strangely enough had other strange disappearances that had happened in the vicinity. So compelling was the Demetz vanishing to Paulides, that he created a sort of mini documentary on it, which he showed to the Colorado authorities and which was instrumental to getting the mostly forgotten cold case reopened. Where did Dr. Dametz go, and how could he get so far and so thoroughly avoid detection in such a short span of time when he could barely walk on his own? No one really knows, and Dr. Maurice Dametz remains missing without a trace.
A similar Missing 411 case with a rather more sinister ending is one that happened decades before, and is perhaps not as well known. In the summer of 1958, a 10-year old Bobby Bizup was attending a Catholic camping retreat called Camp Saint Malo, at the Rocky Mountain National Park along with a group of other youths. On August 15, the introverted and partially deaf Bizup went down to a place called Cabin Creek in order to do some fishing, and at the time there would have been nothing unusual about it, as there were camp counselors nearby and the creek was a popular place for the boys to fish. When it was time to head back to join the others for dinner, a counselor got the boy to head back with him, and the two began their walk towards the nearby camp. According to the counselor who was with Bizup at the time, the boy was right on his heels, yet he glanced over his shoulder to find the boy gone, even thought he had been following close behind him just moments before.
The startled counselor was sure that he was just hiding and playing a game, so he looked around the area and called out to the boy, but there was no sign of him. When other counselors were called and no one could find him, authorities were notified and so began a 9-day long intensive search involving nearly 400 police officers, volunteers, and airmen from Denver’s Lowry Air Force Base, utilizing aircraft and tracker dogs, but absolutely no trace of Bizup was found. It was quite baffling because he had been right behind the counselor and it seemed impossible he could have gotten so far so fast on his own. Some odd clues came out at the time, including a report that a vacationing doctor had seen Bizup a full 15 miles away in a hardware store at Estes Park, but at the time of the incident this was seen as not a very reliable lead because no one could figure out how the boy could have possibly made it so far through the wilderness on his own in that amount of time. It just wasn’t considered possible.
Tragically, this case would eventually be solved, but not without leaving behind more mysteries of its own. In June of 1959, nearly 1 year after going missing, some torn clothing, a broken hearing aide, and a few bone fragments were found in a remote area 2,500 feet up Mount Meeker in the middle of nowhere and about 3 miles from where Bizup had gone missing. Sadly, the bones were found to be those of the missing boy, but it was rather odd, since the remains were found in the middle of an area that had been extensively and thoroughly searched. There was also the fact that the area was not easily reached, and no one could figure out how the missing boy could have possiby gotten there or even why he would have wanted to head up the mountain to begin with, considering most people who are lost instinctively head towards lower ground. Also, besides those few bone fragments no other physical trace of Bizup has been found, leading one to wonder where the rest of his body went. What happened to Bobby Bizup? It remains a mystery.
More recently is the 2015 vanishing of 2-year-old DeOrr Kunz Jr., who in July of that year was on a camping trip with his father DeOrr Sr., his father’s girlfriend, her grandfather, and their friend Isaac Reinwand, in the same region as where Bizup had vanished, out on the edge of the Rocky Mountain National Park. At one point DeOrr Jr.’s father and girlfriend left the boy at the campsite with the grandfather for a short time, and when they returned he was gone. The grandfather told them that he had simply been there one second and gone the next, and a search of the area turned up no sign of him, nor did an extensive official search of the area. It was not thought that he had been kidnapped because there was only one narrow dirt road leading into the campground, and it seems like an animal attack would have been noticed by the grandfather and left behind some sort of evidence. It is rather strange because he was only 2-years old and it is not thought he could have gotten very far through the rough terrain on his own, yet DeOrr Jr. has never been found.
Perhaps even weirder than any of these cases are those in which the person has vanished, only to reappear later unable to explain what has happened. An earlier case of this is that of 2-year-old Keith Parkins, also of Missing 411 fame, who in 1952 was visiting Ritter, Oregon to stay at his grandfather’s rural, remote ranch. The area was surrounded by forest, but Keith was allowed to play out in the yard, and on this day that is where he was, his grandfather constantly checking up on him. At one point the grandfather looked outside expecting to see the boy playing as he had been just minutes before, but he was nowhere to be seen. Like in the other cases we have looked at a massive search was launched, made all the more urgent because there was frigid bad weather set to hit that evening which it was thought such a young boy would not be able to survive.
When nightfall came, little Keith Parkins had still not been found, and it was considered puzzling that he could have gotten so far so quickly without a trace. The search went on all night, and when morning came they finally located Parkins alive, lying face down on a frozen pond around 8 miles through rough wilderness from where he had gone missing. Bizarrely, he had taken his jacket off despite the intense cold, and his clothes were ripped, although there was no sign of physical injury. It was a complete mystery as to what had happened to his clothes, why the jacket had been removed, or even how he had managed to survive at all, and even odder still was that considering his young age and the intimidating terrain it was estimated that it would have taken him nearly 20 hours to cover that distance. How could this be? Was he abducted, and if so why? A survival expert named Les Stroud deemed it impossible for a 2-year-old to have covered that distance in the time that had passed in that weather in the dead of night, making it all stranger still. It would help if Keith had been able to explain what had happened, but he was either unwilling or unable to elaborate, and his strange disappearance and reappearance remains an enigma.
A perhaps more well-known, but no less eerie case revolves around a Canadian firefighter named Danny Filippidis. In 2018 he went on a ski trip with some friends to Lake Placid, in New York state. They spent the day skiing without incident, and at 2 PM they were getting ready to head back to the cabin, but Danny told them he would make go retrieve his phone from his car and then catch up with them. It would have only taken a few minutes but he never would arrive, and after a few hours of waiting and calling his cell phone with no answer, his friends became increasingly worried. A search was mounted, but it seemed as if he’d dropped off the face of the earth.
Nearly a week later, Danny’s wife claimed that she had gotten a call from him, but that his voice had seemed faint and incoherent before he hung up. She would call the number back and talk to him again, but he seemed confused and unsure of where he even was. This had been the first tip to come in, and police acted on it, finally managing to track him down. When they found him he was all the way across the country in Sacramento, California, thousands of miles away from where he had last been seen, oddly still dressed in his full skiing gear and with a haircut and a new iPhone. Strangest of all is that he could not remember anything at all of how he had come to be there or what had happened to him. It is suspected that he had perhaps fallen down while skiing and suffered head trauma, putting him in a daze and giving him amnesia, but as to how he got to California and where he got that phone and haircut no one knows. The closest lead anyone has gotten is that he seems to sort of, kind of remember being in a truck at some point passing through Utah, but what connection this has to anything or if it is even a real memory or not is unknown.
Here we have covered just a selection of some of the weirder cases I have come across of people just seeming to blink out of existence in the wilderness. What has happened to these people, and how have they managed to just vanish right under the noses of the people they are with only to turn up far away or not at all? What is going on here? David Paulides himself has always been notoriously skittish about providing any solid theories of his own, and this has only served to stoke the fires of speculation and wild theorizing. For some, this is indicative of some forces snatching these people away for inscrutable reasons. For others this is all due to a myriad of fringe ideas such as roving wormholes, UFOs, forest spirits, portals to other dimensions, or even Bigfoot. The more skeptical take is that these are just people who have gotten lost, and due to whatever mundane circumstances were able to avoid searches and go on to become legend, weaving mystery around them for which we fill in the blanks with our own active imaginations and theories in a void of any real answers. Whatever the case may be, people continue to go missing in the wilds, sometimes under very peculiar circumstances, and for as long as this goes on we will search for answers.