14 People Who Vanished Without a Trace

By: John Donovan  | 

missing poster
Sherrill Levitt, her 19-year-old daughter Suzanne Streeter and Suzie's friend Stacy McCall were dubbed the Springfield Thee after they vanished from Missouri in early 1992. Public Domain

We know about Amelia Earhart, D.B. Cooper and Jimmy Hoffa. That is, we know that we don't know for certain — and might well never know — what became of the aviator, the hijacker and the labor union chief. As much as we might suspect an accident, an escape, foul play or whatever, some people, famous and hardly so, simply seem to disappear off the face of the Earth, their fates a mystery forever.

But not every cold case gets quite the attention these three have gotten. Here are 10 of those-- cases of people who shuffled off this mortal coil in mysterious fashion. (And speaking of Shakespeare ... even his death remains a bit of a cliffhanger.)

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1. The Springfield Three

Sherrill Levitt, her 19-year-old daughter Suzanne Streeter, and Suzie's friend Stacy McCall, 18, all were at a graduation party for the two young women in their Missouri town one early June day in 1992. The next day, they were gone. All their personal possessions had been left behind — purses, wallets, car keys — and no signs of struggle were evident. Over the years, authorities have followed up several leads; all have been either discredited or found to be inconclusive. The Springfield police are treating the still-open cold case as an abduction.

2. Harold Holt, Former Prime Minister of Australia

For a politician, Harold Holt was notoriously private, relishing the opportunity to escape from the public eye to swim and fish in the ocean. When he disappeared off Cheviot Beach in Victoria, in mid-December 1967, what has been described as "one of the largest search operations in Australian history" was launched. Conspiracy theories — he ran off with a mistress, was captured by the Chinese, was assassinated — abounded. He is suspected to have drowned in the churning waters, but despite the massive search, his body was never found.

Harold Holt
Former Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt never returned from a swim off Cheviot Beach in Victoria, launching one of the largest searches in Australia's history.
Dennis Oulds/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

3. Ray Gricar, Former Pennsylvania DA

In April 2005, the longtime district attorney for Centre County, Pennsylvania — some 230 miles (370 kilometers) west of New York City — told his girlfriend he was going for a drive, jumped in his car, and was never heard from again. None of the prosecutions that Ray Gricar led seemed likely to spark an angry response. His car was found (with his cellphone inside it), but no signs of foul play were uncovered. His bank accounts and credit cards were never again used. His laptop went missing, was later discovered, but yielded no leads. He finally was declared legally dead in 2011. He'd be 75 today.

4. Henry Hudson, British Navigator

Hudson Bay, the Hudson River, the town of Hudson, New York, all were named for Henry Hudson, the British explorer and navigator whose life was dedicated to finding a water route to Asia. In the summer of 1611, after spending a winter on icy James Bay (on the southern end of what is now Hudson Bay, between Ontario and Quebec, Canada), Hudson urged his crew of the ship Discovery to again set sail westward. Tired and cold, they mutinied and cast Hudson, his teenaged son and several others adrift in a small boat. They were never heard from again.

Henry Hudson
The crew of the Discovery mutinied against its captain, explorer Henry Hudson, and sent him, his son and several other adrift in a small boat.
Library of Congress

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5. Romulus, First King of Rome

Myth, legend, son of a god, real person or some combination of all that, Romulus' place as the founder of Rome and as its first king (and a bit of a narcissist; many say he named Rome after himself) are well established. His death, in about 717 B.C.E., is cloaked in as much mystery as his life. Some say he was lifted to heaven in a whirlwind. Others suggest he was ripped apart by angry politicians. Others still believe he was assassinated in another way. Nobody knows.

6. Bison Dele (Brian Williams), Retired NBA Player

At 6-foot-10 (82 meters) and more than 250 pounds (113 kilograms), Brian Williams looked like an NBA player. But he was way more than that. He was a musician, a pilot, an itinerant soul who retired from the sport at age 30 (forgoing millions of dollars) so he could travel the world. In the summer of 2002, sailing with his girlfriend, his brother and another man in Tahiti, Dele (who changed his name to reflect his Cherokee heritage) disappeared. Police believe his brother, who committed suicide later that year, killed the sailing party and dumped their bodies at sea. No traces of any of them have ever been found.

Bison Dele
Retired NBA star Bison Dele and his girlfriend went missing while sailing with his brother in Tahiti in the summer of 2002.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

7. Edward and Stephania Andrews, Chicago Couple

On the verge of retirement, Edward, an accountant and his wife Stephania, a credit investigator, were at a cocktail party at a Sheraton hotel in Chicago in May 1970 when they left, rather abruptly, banging the door of their car on the way out of the parking garage. They reportedly turned the wrong way on a one-way street and — poof! The working theory is that they made a wrong turn and ended up in the Chicago River. But their car, despite several searches, was never found. Other leads have gone nowhere. More than 45 years later, Arlington Heights police still are investigating.

8. Tammy Lynn Leppert, Aspiring Model and Actress

Two suspected serial killers, including John Crutchley, aka the Vampire Rapist, have been linked to the disappearance of 18-year-old Florida model Tammy Lynn Leppert, who was never heard from after a trip to Cocoa Beach in July 1983. Police weren't able to link the accused men with Leppert, though, and other theories — that she knew of a drug ring in town, that she was pregnant and suffering from a mental illness, or that she simply ran away from home — have never been proven. The Cocoa Beach police consider the case still open.

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"Vampire Rapist" John Crutchley is one of a few serial killers suspected to be linked to the 1983 disappearance of aspiring model and actress Tammy Lynn Leppert.
Public Domain

9. Peter Winston, Chess Prodigy

Considered at one time a rising star in the pawn-eat-pawn world of competitive chess, young Peter Winston hit bottom when he tanked in a 1977 tournament at Hunter College High School in New York. At the time, he had been diagnosed as having schizophrenia and manic depression, and was dealing with the drugs used to treat his illnesses. A few months later, in early 1978, he disappeared. Many suspect Winston, despairing that he was unable to maintain his once-lofty game, committed suicide. But his body has never been found. He was 19 when he disappeared.

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10. Nicholas Begich and Thomas "Hale" Boggs, U.S. Congressmen

What happened to Begich, a member of the House of Representatives from Alaska, and his Democratic colleague Boggs, the House majority leader from Louisiana, seems like an obvious plane crash. On a fundraising trip in Alaska in 1972, they were on a small plane from Anchorage to Juneau when the plane and everyone onboard disappeared over the Chugach Mountains. More than 100 planes, 40 military aircraft and hundreds of boats began a search that lasted more than a month. No trace of the plane or people was ever found, and The National Transportation Safety Board was unable to determine what happened. The Boggs and Begich peaks were dedicated in their memories in 1977.

NTSB ma
The National Transportation Safety Board was unable to find a cause for the disappearance of the small plane U.S. congressmen Boggs and Begich were flying in.
NTSB

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