On March 15th, 2014, two Dutch university students by the names of Lisanne Froon (22) and Kris Kremers (21) set out on the adventure of a lifetime. They had just graduated from university, and the two had moved in together to a dorm room in Amersfoor, where they began working at a cafe to save money over the next 6 months in order to go on a grand adventure overseas. Their target was the far away nation of Panama, where they hoped to do a 6-week stint of sightseeing, studying Spanish, and volunteering to help impoverished local children, and after sightseeing for 2 weeks around Panama they made their way to the rural mountain village of Boquete, where their plan was to live with a home-stay family for a month and begin their Spanish program. It was supposed to be a life changing experience and journey they would never forget, and the two intelligent young women arrived with hopes of fulfilling a dream they had long had, but little did they know that they were to go on to become one of the strangest and baffling unsolved mysteries on record, orbited by odd clues and bizarre evidence.
Not long after arriving at Boquete, Kremers and Froon found that they had mistakenly arrived a full week early for their Spanish program, and so they decided to use this extra time to do a little exploring of the area’s many gorgeous cloud forests and waterfalls. On the morning of April 1, 2014, the two young women set out on a casual hike along the the pristine Pianista Trail, a well-traveled route on the rugged, heavily forested border with Costa Rica, along with their host family’s dog. It was planned to be a short, routine excursion to take in some scenery in the cloud forests of the area, perhaps do some swimming, and then come back to their studies, and they had only brought with them the barest essentials, such as swimsuits, sunglasses, and cameras, yet they would walk out onto that trail into the jungle and seemingly off the face of the earth, never to be seen again.
That evening Kremers and Froon did not return as scheduled, or at all for that matter, and the dog came back to the host family’s house without them. It soon turned out that both women’s families shortly after their departure had stopped receiving regular mobile phone message communications from their daughters, and their Facebook updates had also abruptly stopped. When Lisanne and Kris missed an appointment with a guide the next day they were declared missing, and Panamanian authorities organized an intensive search which scoured the terrain using police, aircraft, soldiers, scent dogs, and signal flares to alert the women to their presence in case they were lost, all with the help of locals and native tribes of the area, while in the meantime a $30,000 reward was offered by the families for any information. Despite these extensive efforts, no sign of the missing women was found, and it was at first suspected that they had merely gotten lost out in the wilderness, but considering that the weeks passed with no trace, it slowly took on a more sinister atmosphere. The only potential clue at this point in time was that the women had apparently been seen shortly before their fateful hike having breakfast with two unidentified men, but there was no evidence that this had any connection to the disappearances and the identities of the men could not be found.
It would not be until months later that any evidence of what had become of Kremers and Froon was found, in the form of a banged up backpack turned into police in July by a woman from the local Ngäbe tribe. The woman claimed that she had found the backpack lying next to a rice paddy near her village of Alto Romero, in the remote Bocas del Toro region, and that she had been through that very spot the day before and had not noticed it lying there. When police opened the backpack they found that it was indeed Froon’s, holding her passport, some clothing, sunglasses, a bit of cash, a water bottle, and most promising of all a camera and both of the women’s cell phones, remarkably dry and in good working condition considering the wet weather that had passed through the region. It was the camera and cell phones that were seen as particularly important, and which would take the case further into the realm of the odd.
The phones turned up some spooky clues when it was found that there had been made some distress calls just a few hours into their hike to both the international emergency number and the local Panama emergency number, but these calls had not gotten through because the lack of reception in the area they had been in. Froon’s phone had then run out of batteries on April 3, and Kremers phone from then on had stopped making calls, but rather seemed to have been turned on and off intermittently, as if they had perhaps been searching for better reception while saving batteries. Then, between 7 and 10 April, there was a deluge of attempted calls, with a total of 77 emergency call attempts made in quick succession with the phone, after which it was turned off a final time on April 11. Eerily, this had all been going on while the intensive search for them had been in full swing, meaning that they were alive at least during that time frame.
Perhaps even odder than these frantic unanswered calls were the photos found on the phone and camera. On Froon’s camera were found photos from April 1 that showed them at the overlook of the Continental Divide, spookily shortly before the emergency calls were to begin. These photos are of a perfectly normal variety, showing the women just posing and exploring, and they even seem to be in fairly good spirits, but going further into the photos the tale takes a darker turn. It was found that they had taken some initial pictures of themselves along their hike and at a waterfall, which were taken before the emergency calls, but then the camera and phone cameras were not used again until April 8, which was well after the frantic calls had started and a week after they had been declared missing.
At this point there was a sudden series of around 90 photographs taken in quick succession at a rate of about one photo every 2 minutes, all of them taken at night between 1 and 4 AM, and these would prove to be most bizarre indeed. Many of them do not show anything at all, merely sheer blackness, as if the lens cover had not been taken off, while others showed blurry, nondescript scenes of the nighttime jungle, suggesting that the camera flash was being used to provide light or to desperately try and capture something on film. Among the numerous photos taken there are a few that stand out as particularly strange. One is a puzzling shot of what looks like toilet paper and a mirror on a rock, its meaning unknown. In another, a stick which upon its branches are tied pieces of red plastic, possibly candy bar wrappers. It is speculated that this could have been an attempt at a crude signal, but no one really knows. The third is probably the weirdest, and shows an extreme close-up of Kris Fremer’s hair.
With the finding of the backpack and its enigmatic contents, a renewed search effort was launched in the area where it had been found. During this desperate search, a pair of torn, yet neatly folded jeans was found politely perched upon a rock, but more grisly and sinister discoveries awaited the searchers as they began to find bits of human remains scattered about the jungle along the river bank, mostly bones from the foot, and most notable of these was a boot with the remains of a whole human foot ensconced within, complete with sock still on, as well as a pelvic bone found behind a tree nearby it. In total, around 33 pieces of bones and bone fragments were found scattered around the same rugged riverside area. Oddly, it was found that while some of the bones appeared to be rather fresh and with skin still attached to them, others were completely bleached, and one forensics expert would further point out that “there are no discernible scratches of any kind on the bones, neither of natural nor cultural origin – there are no marks on the bones at all.” Considering the state of the remains it was impossible to determine the cause of death for either Lisanne or Kris, and their deaths are a puzzling mystery.
The weird state of the remains, plus the strange call records and baffling photographs, started up heavy speculation on what had happened to them. One idea was that the pair had gotten lost and then proceeded to use the camera to try and signal the search party, possibly after being injured and unable to move. They may have then descended into panic, getting themselves even more lost. The stick with the plastic could have been a makeshift way to get the attention of planes flying overhead, all while they desperately tried to call for help on their phones. After this they may have died out there in the wilderness and then scavengers could have done the rest, scattering the remains. However, if they were trying to signal ground search parties, then why not call out to them? Also, why is it that none of the local tribes had come across them and how had they remained so well hidden from the massive search that had been through the area? There is also the idea that they were abducted by someone, but if this were the case then why would they be allowed to keep their camera and phones, with which they continued to makes calls and take pictures with? Also, why would kidnappers just leave behind the bag with all of that evidence in it rather than make sure it was never found? A human perpetrator doesn’t seem to make much sense.
Another, more disturbing theory is that they were stalked and killed by some sort of large predator, and that the camera flash pictures could have been an attempt to unsuccessfully drive it away as it closed in on them, although what predator it could be is unknown. There is also the possibility that they could have met with foul play, perhaps at the hands of the two young men they had been seen with, but there is no real evidence of this at all. There have even been more paranormal theories offered, such as that some menacing supernatural force had come for them, and there have even been analyses of the found photographs purporting to show the outlines of strange creatures out in the darkness, but there is no real solid reason to think that some sort of mystery monster is behind any of this.
The most agreed upon explanation is that the two women simply got lost, after which they had perhaps taken a fall or been washed away by the river, but nothing really neatly ties together all of the disparate puzzling clues. In the end we are left to ask, what happened to Lisanne Lisanne Froon and Kris Kremers? What is the meaning behind the state of their remains, the bizarre phone records, the removed clothes, and those haunting, unexplained pictures? What do they mean? Did these two young women fall victim to the terrain, predators either animal or human, or did they simply get hopelessly lost? These are questions that have yet to be answered, and the disappearance and deaths of Lisanne Lisanne Froon and Kris Kremers will likely never be conclusively solved, these secrets forever confined to that swath of jungle.