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The Weird Vanishing of Susan Adams

Susan Adams, 42, and her husband, Tom, of from Austin, Texas, had been looking forward to their next big camping trip for months. Both avid campers, hunters, and birdwatchers, their plan was to take a wilderness tour with a group called Iron Horse Outfitters, their destination being a protected wilderness area near the Idaho/Montana border called the Selway–Bitterroot Wilderness. Lying along the Bitterroot Mountain range, it is a rugged domain of thick forests and alpine parkland that spans 1.3 million acres, making it one of the largest such wilderness areas in the entire country. The couple was very excited about exploring it, they both had experience with the outdoors, and they were going in with a reputable wilderness tour company and seasoned guides in good spirits. There was no reason to suspect this would be anything other than the trip of a lifetime, but this was an excursion that only one of them would return from.

On September 22 of 1990, the couple arrived in Idaho Falls ready for their adventure, and met with the owner of the tour company, Art Griffith, before heading out a few days later to take a long horseback ride through pristine wilderness to the outfitters’ camp in the Battle Lake area. There they were greeted by the rest of the crew, consisting of a group of hunters, guides, and the camp’s cook. They then spent about a week leisurely exploring the area, hunting, and engaging in their hobby of birdwatching, before Tom decided to go out on September 29 with some of the camp hunters for an overnight hunting trip. Susan decided she would stay behind at camp, and after escorting her husband by horseback to a ridge she said her goodbyes and returned to camp. No one at the time realized that this would prove to be their final goodbyes.

Susan Adams

The following day at around 9 AM, Susan decided to go do some birdwatching at a nearby meadow. The weather was clear and calm, and so she only had with her light clothing, her binoculars, and camera. The meadow was nearby and an easy short hike away, so when she told the camp cook that she was headed over there no one thought anything of it. She walked off, but never came back. No one in the camp seemed to really be all that alarmed, as it was a nice day, the meadow was so close, and Susan had not said anything about when she planned to return. It didn’t even cross anyone’s mind that something was amiss until Tom came back from his hunting trip in the late afternoon and she had still not returned.

Tom waited a while, but as darkness began to creep in, he became worried. He went out towards the meadow, where he found footprints that led away down a trail. Oddly, he claims that at some point the tracks just abruptly ended right in the middle of that dusty trail, with no sign of any leading off anywhere. According to Tom, it was unsettling, as if she had simply vanished right there on the spot, and he would say, “I followed the footprints to a place about 20 yards from the meadow, where the tracks stopped.” He looked everywhere for more footprints but there were none, and his desperate calls out into the trees were answered by the sounds of the darkening forest. He was then joined by the camp guides and hunters, many of them experienced trackers, but they had no more success, and after some time scouring the area with no sign of Susan, night was finally upon them, forcing them to abandon their efforts and just hope that Susan made her way back.

The following morning, Susan was still gone, and so authorities were notified of the disappearance. A large scale search was launched of the entire area for miles around, but nothing whatsoever was found, and the operation had to be suspended due to cold and snowy weather moving in, which was worrying since Susan had not brought any warm clothing or survival gear with her. The search then resumed with renewed efforts to find the woman, as it was thought that every minute lost was dangerous if Susan was still alive at all. Aircraft, dogs, and hundreds of volunteers meticulously combed the area, even walking side by side at arm’s length apart through large stretches of wilderness to leave no stone unturned. Some scattered footprints were found that indicated perhaps someone who was injured, but they were so faded and unclear that it was not positive that they had belonged to Susan Adams at all. The theory that was brewing among law enforcement officials at the time was that she must have gotten injured and died out there, and before the official search was closed for winter, Sheriff Randy Baldwin would say:

I believe beyond any reasonable doubt that Susan Adams died from injuries or other related causes due to being lost or hurt in the wilderness area near Battle Lake. I also believe that Susan Adams’ remains are still in that area, but feel that any future organized search would not be effective in locating her remains.

The family was so desperate that they even hired a psychic, who rather eerily came to the same conclusion, predicting that Susan had sustained a head injury and perished not far from camp. Yet if this is all correct, then why hadn’t they found any trace of remains or indeed any sign of her at all, despite such a detailed search? Another idea was that a wild animal might have attacked her and dragged her off, but if this were the case it is thought that she would have screamed out, which would have been heard at the nearby camp, and there was also no sign of blood, shredded clothing, no indication of a struggle, nor any tracks from a dangerous animal. It is hard to believe that a vicious wild animal could have swooped in to take her away completely silently without any sign of blood or a fight, and without leaving any tracks behind. The idea of foul play was also briefly looked at, but neither Tom Adams nor any of the hunters or guides were found to have any evidence at all that they were linked to the vanishing.

What happened to Susan Adams? How did she just wander away so close to camp and then evaporate to never be found? Was she attacked by an animal or nefarious party? Was her attention drawn by something to bring her out and get injured? Or was it something far stranger? Why is it she did not call out and why was no trace of her remains ever found? Even more eerily, what is the meaning of those tracks that just stopped in the middle of a trail? We will probably never know, and it is another bizarre case to add to the considerable number of those like it.