Idiots Guide: Missing. Famous Disappearances. People who Simply Vanished.

There is something about an honest to God mystery that communicates with our souls. A mystery speaks to the human condition in a way that few other things can equal. When you add the intrigue of crime, consequence and celebrity well then you have the earmarks of historical infamy. When a human being simply vanishes from the face of the earth, a pandora’s box of possibilities spills out onto a mysterious canvas filled with unanswered questions. It’s unsettling in a way that sinks to primal levels, falling into the sacred hall of profound questions of which the answers constantly elude us. It forces us into having to think of the worst first and work backwards towards the geniality of hope. It’s a surreal circumstance, especially for those closest to the missing soul. A book with the final chapters forced upon the reader before they are ready to read them. A place where questions quickly begin to outweigh the potential answers. Idiots Guide presents a list of some of the more notable human disappearances in modern world history.

missing cover


#10.   District Attorney Ray Gricar  /   Disappeared:  April 15, 2005

Ray Gricar

As District Attorney of Centre County, Pennsylvania, Ray Gricar had a solid reputation as a hard-nosed prosecutor. A champion of law and order who relentlessly pursued his quarry until he got them. That all came to an abrupt end on the morning of April 15, 2005. That day Gricar informed his girlfriend via a phone conversation that he was taking a drive to the Pennsylvania countryside and would be back to meet her later that day. Unfortunately, D.A. Gricar never returned. He simply vanished under what can best be described as mysterious circumstances. He hasn’t been seen or heard from ever since. It’s been over 10 years. There is some evidence such as his car being found parked outside an antiques store. There were no signs of a struggle. His cellphone was recovered but nothing else. His financial accounts and credit cards went silent. He had a  laptop pulled from the bottom of a neighborhood river, but it was far too damaged to be useful. Here’s a bit of sinister fact, at the time of his 2005 disappearance, Gricar was working on the beginning stages of the ‘Penn State Sex Abuse Scandal’, yes that scandal.  It was also a well known fact that Gricar had an adversarial relationship with the university, some would say there was quite a bit of animosity on both sides. The bottom line is that Centre County D.A. Ray Gricar simply vanished from the face of the earth on April 15, 2005, never to be seen again.

#9. Jean Spangler / Disappeared:  October 7, 1949


Believe it or not Hollywood, California had a sinister albeit virtually invisible underbelly during the 1940’s and 50’s. Known gangsters and movie stars would co-mingle frequently. Up and coming starlet beauty Jean Spangler ran with that mixed crowd. Her star was literally on the rise, that is until  October 7, 1949 when she suddenly disappeared, never to be seen from again. She was on the way to meet her ex-husband regarding child support issues and then ‘poof’ she was gone. Evidence? Her purse was recovered two days later, in good condition and untouched, however, there was a cryptic note found inside that said “Kirk, Can’t wait any longer. Going to see Dr. Scott. It will work best this way while mother is away.” The only Kirk she knew was superstar actor, Kirk Douglas. A dubious revelation to be sure that became a nationwide tabloid sensation. So much so that it compelled Kirk Douglas himself to release a statement. The “Kirk” in the note “totally wasn’t him, honestly, guys, he barely knew her”. A curious statement from a man who had just recently starred in a film with Spangler earlier that year. With no concrete leads and/or suspects, the strange case of Jean Spangler’s disappearance faded into memory.

#8.   Judge Joseph Crater  /  Disappeared:  August 6th, 1930

Joseph Crater

On the night of August 6, 1930, 41-year-old New York City Judge Joseph Crater went out for a night on the town in Manhattan, New York. Little did he know that before sunrise the next day he would become the “Missingest Man in New York”. Crater was last seen leaving a restaurant on West 45th street and simply vanished from the earth. A massive investigation was launched into his disappearance and it mesmerized the nation. Crater’s disappearance marked the beginning of the end of the corrupt Tammany Hall political machine. The public was growing alarmed at public corruption and this disappearance only added to the firestorm. Judge Crater was legally declared dead in 1939. Although his body was never found anywhere.

#7.  Passengers of The Mary Celeste  / Disappeared:  December  1872

Mary Celeste

When the Canadian brigantine ship ‘Dei Gratia’ came across a deserted ship in the Atlantic Ocean off of the Azores Islands in Portugal, on December 4, 1872, they had no idea the mystery they had just uncovered. The abandoned ship was called the ‘Mary Celeste’ and it’s captain, his family and the entire crew were nowhere to be found (11 persons in total). Strangely the ship was determined to be still seaworthy, adequately provisioned and under a partial sail. The lifeboat was missing and the last captain’s log entry was made some ten days earlier. Where did they go? Why did they abandon ship? Did they willingly abandon ship? Stranger still, the captain’s family and his crew’s personal belongings were left undisturbed. Salvage hearings in Gibraltar focused on possible foul play and piracy by the crew of the ‘Dei Gratia’  found no evidence of conspiracy to commit insurance fraud. The passengers and crew of the Mary Celeste simply vanished from the earth in late November  or December 1872 without a clear reason and without a trace.

#6. Oscar Zeta Acosta  /  Disappeared: May 1974

Oscar Zeta Acosta

Oscar Zeta Acosta was a spirited attorney, politician, best selling novelist and an activist force in the ‘Chicano Movement’. He was also author Hunter S. Thompson’s inspiration for his ‘Dr. Gonzo’ character in his huge pop culture hit novel ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’. Acosta published his own novels, ‘Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo’ (1972) and ‘The Revolt of the Cockroach People’ (1973). Unfortunately, Oscar Zeta Acosta vanished into thin air during a 1974 trip in Mazatlan, Mexico. Acosta’s son, Marco Acosta is believed to be the last person to speak with him prior to his disappearance, telling his son that he was “about to board a boat full of white snow.” The meaning of that statement remains unclear to this day. What is clear is that Acosta was never seen or heard from again. Adding to this mystery was Acosta’s notorious addiction to amphetamines, as well as a predilection for the recreational use of LSD. In either case Oscar Zeta Acosta disappeared without a trace at the age of 39 and is presumed dead.

#5. Amelia Earhart  /  Disappeared: July 2, 1937


America’s first female of the skies Amelia Mary Earhart disappeared from the earth on  July 2, 1937. The aviation pioneer was the first female to fly solo across the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. Earhart was a driving force behind the formation of an organization of female pilots called ‘The Ninety-Nines’. ‘Lady Lindy’ as she was known,  became the 16th woman to be issued a pilot’s license. She was in the process of trying to circumnavigate the globe around the equator when her plane suddenly disappeared from radar. She hasn’t been seen or heard from ever since and declared ‘dead in absentia’ on January 5, 1939 she was only 41 years of age at the time.

#4. Frank Morris, Clarence Anglin, John Anglin  / Disappeared: June 11, 1962

Morris Anglin Brothers

In the moments after ‘lights out’ on Alcatraz Island on June 11, 1962, inmates Frank Morris and brothers Clarence and John Anglin accomplished what had previously been considered impossible when they escaped from Alcatraz Prison. It was one of the most ingenious and detailed escape plans in United States history. The brazen plan called for the use of papier-mâché heads ‘sleeping’ in their beds, as the men  broke out of the ‘Rock’ prison using a vacant utility corridor that they were able to access via the back of their prison cells. The three men left the island of Alcatraz using a prison-made inflatable raft and safety jackets made from prison raincoats. They were never captured nor were their bodies ever found by law enforcement after the largest manhunt in U.S. history. Despite law enforcement claims to the contrary, it is likely that these men survived the escape and disappeared into the San Francisco night never to be seen again.

#3. Jimmy Hoffa   /  Disappeared:  July 30, 1975

jimmy hoffa

James “Jimmy” Hoffa was the braggadocios President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union (IBT) from 1958 until 1971. Hoffa was reputed to have serious ties to organized crime in America. As a result Hoffa was convicted of jury tampering and attempted bribery in 1964, after two trials. In 1967 he went to the ‘Big House’ for what would have been a 13 year sentence, however, in 1971 he was suddenly pardoned by then President Richard Nixon. What happened four years later would change history. On the afternoon of July 30th 1975 around 2:45 p.m. Hoffa walked towards the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox Restaurant in Bloomfield Township, Michigan. He disappeared and was never seen or heard from ever again. Tales of criminal mischief abound, his body was never found. Police later found Hoffa’s 1974 Pontiac Grand Ville parked in the restaurant parking lot, but no sign of Jimmy Hoffa. He was gone, and remains gone until this day.

#2. D.B. Cooper  / Disappeared:  November 24, 1971

db cooper

The fact of the matter is that D.B. Cooper isn’t his real name. It’s just the name he gave during his brazen highjacking of Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305. A Boeing 727 aircraft he boarded on a flight between Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, on the afternoon of November 24, 1971. His goal was to extort $200,000 in ransom for the safety of the plane and it’s crew members. This amount is equivalent to over $1 million in today’s money. He was successful in getting the ransom and ordered the plane to take off. From the moment Cooper parachuted out of the back of the highjacked plane and into the airspace over Washington state, a full scale FBI manhunt ensued that has to this day not resolved what ever happened to DB Cooper. His whereabouts unknown. He simply vanished. Did he survive the jump? Did he live happily ever after? Nobody knows for sure. This case remains the only unsolved case of air piracy in United States history.

#1. 239 People onboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370  /  Disappeared:  March 8th, 2014

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

The true fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 the international passenger flight from Malaysia Airlines that took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia, towards Beijing Capital International Airport in China, is as of today, still unknown. The last voice contact with air traffic control happened at 01:19 MYT, on March 8th as it was flying over the South China Sea. Within an hour after take-off the entire plane and the 239 souls on-board simply vanished. It suddenly disappeared from air traffic radar screens at 01:22 MYT. The plane deviated from course and flew west from its planned flight path, crossing the Malay Peninsula. Nobody knows why this happened. Nobody has ever seen this plane or the people on-board since. As improbable as it would seem given the state of modern technology, this aircraft, a Boeing 777-200ER, carrying 227 passengers from 15 different countries, plus 12 Malaysian crew members vanished from visible earth. Did the plane malfunction? Was it highjacked? Was it a target of terrorism? Did it go down in the depths of the Indian Ocean? Nobody outside of that plane knows for sure. As of today (2016) the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the 239 people on-board is unknown.