5 Mass Vanishings That Are Still “Unexplained”
People go missing all the time. Heck, just on my way to the computer room (which is what I call the little hole in the wall at the top of my basement stairs that I keep my computer in) I got lost twice. Fortunately for me, I have a hyper vigilante fiancé who is constantly looking out for my wellbeing. But unlike me, a lot of those people that go missing are never found, let alone found lying in the fetal position sobbing uncontrollably by the one they are set to wed, as in my case. In fact, it’s almost as if these people just vanished into thin air leaving scarce, if any trace, at all. The following, with the exception of the first case, is a list of “mass” vanishings of large groups of people. I didn’t cover the famous Roanoke Colony or Flight 19 because, as I’ve just said, they’re famous. Most everyone I know has heard of the lost colony of North Carolina and the missing group of TBM Avenger torpedo bombers that disappeared over the Bermuda Triangle and it would indeed seem that they have permeated into popular culture, and so instead, wanted to touch on some lesser known cases. Everything on this list could be a post on their own merits and mystery and I encourage you to look into these incidences further to more firmly grasp what took place in each. I also use the word ‘unexplained’ loosely as there may be many explanations for some of the incidences, although none have and most likely never will be concrete. Some of these cases, such as ‘Anjikuni Village’, are even questioned to whether they had even taken place. So if you’re like me and love a good mystery (or five), and since I’m feeling a little ‘cliché-y’, I bid you to grab a snack, maybe a drink and get comfy. We’re going to be here awhile.
The Mystery of the Flannan Isles’ Lighthouse Keepers
Over a hundred years ago in December of 1900, on the western coast of Scotland, approximately eighteen miles from Gallon Head, west of the island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, lies the lonely outcrop of land in the form of seven islands known as the Flannan Isles, also called ‘The Seven Hunters’. On the largest of the islands, Eilean Mòr (Big Isle), there were three Lighthouse-keepers. They were James Ducat, the principal of the operation, who was forty-three years of age and had two decades of lighthouse experience. He was also married and had four children. Thomas Marshall was Ducat’s second assistant and was twenty-three and unwed. And lastly, Donald McArthur, who was forty, married, and was serving as an alternate for William Ross, the first assistant who was on sick leave at the time. All vanished from their post without a trace. Now I know three people really wouldn’t be considered a “mass” vanishing but the mystery associated with this occurrence has always captured my imagination as it has for many others over the past century. It has been the inspiration to an opera, songs, poems and many stories. There is something about the story that draws us in. Three experienced men, isolated from the rest of the world while sitting on its outer edge, vanishing with no explanation. It’s the stuff that legends are made of.
The islands had always been associated with supernatural surroundings, from sea monsters to ghosts despite that, besides the lighthouse, they were uninhabited, although some were used for the grazing of some livestock. This is a notoriously dangerous area for ships and thus the need for a lighthouse. This mystery, however, begins on the night of December 15, 1900, during a storm that broke out around the islands. The Fairwind, a passing ship, reported upon making port, that no light from the newly constructed lighthouse appeared to help guide them during a dangerous and potentially fatal stretch of their journey. Another ship, an American steamer named Archtor, which was on route from Philadelphia to Leith, passed by the lighthouse just before midnight, and reported when it docked at Oban three days later, that the light could not be seen or was not operating. Although it seems that no actions were taken at this time by the port authorities and this information never reached the Northern Lighthouse Board in Edinburgh, the company which owned and operated the lighthouse and over six dozen others and still exists today.
It wasn’t until the 26th of December that anyone made it out to check on the lighthouse keepers. The Northern Lighthouse Board ship, the S.S. Hesperus, which was supposed to have left six day prior for the purpose of making the ordinary relief but had been hindered by bad weather, approached Eilean Mòr. Despite attempting to alert the keepers of their arrival by blowing the ship’s whistle and siren and even firing a distress signal repeatedly, no one came to greet the ship in response to the hails. It was then that relief keeper, Joseph Moore, rowed ashore. Upon making it to the lighthouse, Moore initially proceeded to the kitchen where he found the remains of an unfinished meal, an overturned chair and a clock that had stopped. I mention the clock because it has been given a lot of attention when discussing theories on what could have happened. I would like to point out that this was a time when people had to wind their clocks and the fact that it had stopped is probably not a clue as to what transpired here. Upon further investigation of the lighthouse, Moore found that all of the beds had been made, a canary that had appeared to not have been fed for some time and that the lighthouse mechanism appeared to be operational. On the 28th of December, Moore wrote a letter of his account of what he found. In it he wrote:
On entering the kitchen I looked at the fireplace and saw that the fire was not lighted for some days. I then entered the rooms in succession, found the beds empty just as they left them in the early morning. I did not take time to search further, for I only too well knew something serious had occurred. I darted out and made for the landing. When I reached there I informed Mr McCormack that the place was deserted. He with some of the men came up second time, so as to make sure, but unfortunately the first impression was only too true. Mr McCormack and myself proceeded to the lightroom where everything was in proper order. The lamp was cleaned. The fountain full. Blinds on the windows etc. We left and proceeded on board the steamer. On arrival Captain Harvie ordered me back again to the island accompanied with Mr McDonald (Buoymaster), A Campbell and A Lamont who were to do duty with me till timely aid should arrive. We went ashore and proceeded up to the lightroom and lighted the light in the proper time that night and every night since. The following day we traversed the Island from end to end but still nothing to be seen to convince us how it happened. Nothing appears touched at East landing to show that they were taken from there. Ropes are all in their respective places in the shelter, just as they were left after the relief on the 7th.
On the west landing however, below the crane platform, there was rope discovered strewn about the rocks. The crane itself was still intact and secured. The iron railings around the crane and along the stairs however, were bent and there was also a block of stone estimated to weigh around a ton that had dislodged and fallen onto the landing. The box that the rope was normally held in was missing along with a life buoy that had been fastened to the railings although the rope that was used to secure the buoy was still attached to the rail along with bits of canvass from the buoy. It is worth mentioning that the rope was found still coiled in most parts and had not appeared to have been used in a rescue effort.
So without going too much deeper into this mystery and risking getting lost in it (pun intended), let’s state what we know.
- · All of the morning chores where completed indicating that whatever caused the men to disappear happen on the evening of December 15th, the first night that the lighthouse’s beam of light was not seen.
- · In the kitchen was found an overturned chair and a half-eaten meal which would indicate that someone left in a rush.
- · Only one set of wet-weather gear remained in the lighthouse belonging to McAuthur which implies that he was the one who left his meal in haste. Keeping in mind that this took place in mid-December in the North Atlantic, such action only further suggests that what happened was an emergency.
- · Rope was discovered strewn about the rocks on the west landing and it’s container along with a buoy where found to be missing.
- · Iron rails were found to be bent.
- · A large stone estimated to weigh around a ton had become dislodged from the cliff wall and had fallen onto the landing.
So what happened to the three poor souls mending the lighthouse on that fateful night? Speculations have been given to such theories as aliens, sea-monsters, ghosts, murder/suicide and of course a unfortunate accident that took place during an emergency. And although I feel that the evidence points to the latter, the truth is we probably will never know, and that’s what makes it a good mystery.
Village of the Dead! The Mystery of the Missing Eskimo Village
This story has everything. Strange lights in the sky, Government cover-up, an entire village of people vanishing seemingly into thin air, even one account of a sled dog made to look like a woman complete with makeup and dress. No. That is not me trying to inject my humor that you have come to expect in my blogs. That is a real account associated with this event. Hell, by most accounts, if you have fervor for such mysteries, it seems too good to be true. And in all likelihood, it is. Well, the more extravagant parts at least. You see this case has always been hotly debated as to it haveing actually taken place. It seems that over the years, it has definitely become exaggerated. But if there is some seed of truth to it, and in most legends, there is, then it is still a mystery as to what happened to the people of the village at Anjikuni Lake. Since there are many different versions to the story, let me start with the first telling that I heard and then well expand to the more impressive ones and eventually try to whittle down to what might have actually have happened.
In November of 1930, in the Kivalliq Region of Nunavut, Canada, a fur trapper named Joe LaBelle was in an area he was familiar with and was seeking shelter from the frigid night. He approached a village that he was familiar with on the shores of Lake Anjikuni. He knew from previous encounters with the villagers that there were upwards of 200 people in this bustling fishing village. Upon reaching the outskirts, he instantly noticed something was amiss. No one was there to greet him and no sled dogs could be heard. Making his was toward the center of the village, he noticed that there was indeed no one to be seen. An eerie feeling swept over him. He then began to notice other hints that he was in fact, completely alone. No smoke coming from the chimneys, no sounds of people chatting, no tracks of any kind on the freshly fallen snow. He noticed in the distance a fire that appeared to be slowly dying. He cautiously made his way toward it. Upon reaching the fire, LaBelle saw black smoke coming from what appeared to be seal meat stew that was left in the pot hanging above it. He felt that whatever happened there, it had very recently occurred. LaBelle then proceeded to investigate a few of the surrounding dwellings finding only the belongings of the occupants including their rifles leaning near the inside of the door. Living in the harsh northern territory, LaBelle knew no one with a lick of sense would leave their weapons to venture into the wilderness let alone an entire village. Despite this knowledge, his next objective was to look for any evidence of a mass exodus of which he found none. Not a single track, human or otherwise besides his, was found anywhere in or around the village. Fearing whatever strange force that seemed to had taken the village returning, LaBelle forwent shelter and sleep for the night and although already exhausted, trudged to the nearest telegraph outpost, 20 miles away. Because of the remoteness of the telegraph office, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police weren’t able to arrive until the following day.
After making out for the secluded village, the RCMP sought shelter at one of the regions many shanties that was shared by the area’s trappers where they encountered trapper Armand Laurent and his two sons. The Laurent’s stated after being questioned whether they had noticed anything strange the past few days, that they had seen a strange blue light in the sky over the Anjikuni Lake area. They were familiar with the Aurora Borealis and insisted that this was not what they witnessed. Once reaching the village, the RCMP’s investigation revealed that LaBelle’s story was indeed true and the entire village was desolate and void of life. They also uncovered other strange things about the village. There appeared to be no signs of a struggle, the food supplies appeared to be full, their seal skin kayaks were all tied to the docks and just a few hundred feet (90-ish meters) away from the edge of the village, they discovered the remains of a dozen sled dogs buried underneath about 12 feet (3.5 meters) of snow. The poor animals had appeared to have died from starvation. But in the most grisly of the discoveries made by the RCMP that day, was that despite the ground being frozen solid, the entire village’s graveyard was dug up and even stranger, the bodies were missing. What followed was a nation-wide manhunt for any of the villagers which resulted in exactly zero of the 200 missing people being found.
Okay. That was the version that I first heard. Others vary greatly. For example; the number of villagers differs from 20 to 2,500. In some, there was a tavern nicknamed The Mack Shack who’s crippled owner was a close friend of LaBelle and his crutch was the only trace that was left to prove that he was ever there. I’ve read accounts were what the Laurents saw in the sky wasn’t a blue light but a gleaming object that morphed shape before their very eyes from cylindrical to bullet shaped before whizzing off toward the ill-fated village. Some accounts claim that LaBelle found some personal effects belonging to the former Chief of the village next to that solitary fire he encountered that night despite that he knew that effects were buried with the chief, a close friend of his, a year earlier when he died. Some say that all of the graves except for the founder of the village, a tribal leader named Punckii Akkailo, were unearthed. Whilst others state that the local Catholic Church had been smashed up. Its walls and altar were covered in graffiti, all of which pertained in some way to Universalist or Unitarian Christian symbols. And even still, there are more varying reports accounting all of the sled dogs all being frozen to death and yet others that say half were found a short distance away well fed. Speaking of the sled dogs… as I mentioned above, there is a report of the owner of The Mack Shack’s husky dog. She was clothed in women’s garment. Female underwear had been placed over her hind quarters. Her mouth was covered in lipstick. Her ears had been pierced although no earrings had been inserted. Her left paw was damaged due to a wedding ring having been wedged over it… so… yeah… there’s that…
I would say that it is pretty obvious that most of contemporary accounts have been greatly exaggerated. I’m not going to go into too great of detail on all of the contradictory things that are prevalent in this story. There are plenty of sources on the inter webs that do that. For example, it would be very unlikely that any seal product be it seal meat stew or seal skinned kayaks would be this far inland. The supposed first official account of the missing village is alleged to have been printed on November, 28th, 1930, when special correspondent, Emmett E. Kelleher, published a report of the events in the Canadian newspaper “Le Pas, Manitoba.” But there is another claim that says the first report was published in an article in “The Bee” from Danville, Virginia, not in Manitoba. If the second account is true, then that is quite a fast turnaround. An investigation (although it’s not completely clear if it was performed in an official capacity) by Sergeant J. Nelson of the RCMP showed that based on a conversation with the unnamed owner of the Windy Lakes trading post, that he knew Joe LaBelle and that he wasn’t even from the area and that he had probably never been close to Anjikuni Lake. Suffice it to say that it is very easy to get caught up in a mystery such as this. Many have. The RCMP has dedicated a page on their website to deny such an event ever having been officially investigated by the organization and that it is a complete fabrication. For a quick skeptical look on the topic; I suggest listening to the Skeptoid episode on the matter. For those of you who want to delve deeper into the mystery, here is an awesome article over at MU by Rob Morphy. As for my two cents, I think that what probably happened was that Joe LaBelle or someone assuming that name, stumbled upon a small encampment that was used seasonally and then fed a very imaginative story to a less than diligent reporter. Sadly…
The Roman Ninth Legion
Whew! Still with me? Nice… I told you we were going to be here for a while. And that was only two! This next case has had historians scratching their heads for quite some time. Hollywood has had their own cracks at what may have happened to the infamous Legio Nona Hispana (Spanish Ninth Legion) with movies like ‘Eagle’ and ‘Centurion’ are both supposedly about the Ninth. Both of which, I must admit, I haven’t seen but have since placed them in my queue. ‘Eagle’ was based on a 1954 novel by Rosemary Sutcliff titled ‘The Eagle of the Ninth’, in which a young Roman officer must peril beyond Hadrian’s Wall in search of this father’s Eagle standard, which is odd since the Eagle standard belonged to the legion and not one particular person. Maybe his father was the aquilifier (the legionary who carried the Eagle) and his father had lost it in battle… I don’t know. Like I said, I haven’t seen the movie and haven’t read the book. But since it the publication of the novel, the reigning theory is that the Ninth marched into Caledonia and were slaughtered by tribes in Scotland. There really isn’t any evidence to support this theory so without getting too deep into British/Roman history, let’s try to go over what we know of Rome’s Ninth legion.
First off, there really isn’t anything paranormal associated with this event. It’s just a huge mystery. A Roman legion, for those of you who don’t know, was a basic Roman army unit made of entirely Roman citizens. Although the composition of the legions, in way of the numbers of soldiers, greatly varied throughout Rome’s campaigns of world domination, they usually contained up to 5,400 soldiers. These soldiers divided into sub-groups which divided into other sub-groups and so on and so on. At the time of the Ninth’s disappearance from the histories, in contained approximately 6,000 men not including auxiliaries. Six thousand men! That is a lot of men to disappear under Roman rule without anyone documenting what happened to them. And that’s why it’s such a head scratcher. The Romans were pretty good at documenting events, especially military exploits, even the ones were things didn’t go the way they planned. But there is nothing to date as to what may have happened to this legion of 6,000 plus men. You see, around 162 AD, Marcus Aurelius (the nice old emperor in the movie “Gladiator”) erected some pillars in Rome which contained the names of all but two Roman legions. The Twenty-second and the Ninth. Whoa! Two missing legions! Well, not exactly. The fate of the 22nd is known. They were disbanded/ destroyed during the Jewish rebellion of Simon bar Kokhba in 132 AD. A revolt in which some theorize also led to the decimation of the Ninth.
The last recorded military campaign that the Ninth took place in was Battle of Mons Graupius, although it appears they had seen little or no action being that Agricola, a Roman governor who took most of the Island of Britannia during his six year term there, didn’t even put his legions on the battle field. After the battle, the Ninth headed back to their HQ of Eboracum (present day York) which they helped in the stone reconstruction of. They also constructed a gate which has an inscription on it that mentions the Ninth legion for the last time. The gate is believed to have been built between 107 and 108 AD. So that’s pretty much it. We know that sometime between 107 AD and 162 AD, the Ninth vanished with no mention in the records as to how or why. Wait, what? That can’t be all we know. You’re right, it isn’t. There’s a little more…
Two stamped tiles, that appear to bear the mark of the Legion, were excavated in Nijmegen which is in the modern-day Netherlands. A lot of speculations as to the meaning of these tiles are thrown around by the people who know of such things. Because of the way the tiles were stamped with ‘VIIII’ to denote the number nine instead of ‘IX’, some believe that the tiles belonged to the Eighth legion Augusta whose inscription was ‘VIII A’. We do know that the Ninth was stationed in this part of the world in the mid 80’s AD as part of a defense for the Rhine frontier; however, some believe these were not from this mission and happened after the construction of the gate in Eboracum in 108. We also know that only two tombstones belonging to members of the Ninth have been discovered in Eboracum. One which belonged to a soldier and the other belonging to standard-bearer. (Maybe the father of the young roman officer who periled to retrieve the Eagle. I am kidding, of course.) So this would suggest that they weren’t wiped out while at Eboracum despite they had come close before. Also, there were no reports of any of the tribes in the area who claimed to have done so. If they had, they would have definitely let the world know of the military prowess. And if they did and decided to keep a secret for whatever reason, then why have none of the Ninth’s weapons or armor ever showed up dawned by the native warriors? This was quality stuff at the time. So more questions than answers, and another mystery to ponder as you drift off to sleep.
The Disappearing Chinese Army of Nanking
The late 30’s through the mid 40’s of the 19th century were pretty horrid times for humanity. Most of the world was caught in global conflict. But before Germany’s invasion of Poland and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Empire of Japan aimed to control East Asia and was at war with the Republic of China during the Second Sino-Japanese War. After the decades-long imperialist policy of the Japanese that was aimed to control China from military and political standpoints, as well as Japan trying to secure China’s raw material reserves along with resources including food and labor, China began engaging Japan in small, localized incidents. After the Marco Polo Bridge incident where the Japanese took the bridge and began shelling the Chinese army. This marked the beginning of total war between the two countries.
In early December of 1939, the Japanese had already taken Shanghai and was making its way toward the then Chinese capital of Nanking (presently spelt Nanjing) and as a result, on December 9th, Colonel Li Fu Sien stationed his over 3,000 men in the rolling hills of Nanking, sixteen miles south of the city. One hundred and thirteen men were given the detail to guard a strategically important bridge that crossed the Yangzte River over which the enemy could advance; the other troops, 2,988 men, dug into their frontline just under two miles (3.2 km) long and were equipped with a large amount of heavy artillery.
The next morning, at the Colonel’s headquarters a couple of miles behind the front line, it was reported that there was no response from any of the army field telephones. The detachment of 113 men guarding the bridge was still in position and assured the colonel that no enemy forces, nor any man, let alone nearly 3,000, had crossed the bridge, but the 2,988 men in the front line had all disappeared. Questioning the patrol of men at the bridge revealed nothing as they hadn’t heard any sounds of combat nor were there any signs on the landscape that any skirmishing or conflict had occurred. Concealed fires still glowed red and the bigger guns set up for defenses were still in place. The civilians living in the area similarly reported they had heard no gunfire nor had they seen any soldiers roaming through the countryside. So what happened?
There have been a few suggestions of what happened to the near 3,000 Chinese soldiers, none of which really pan out. The prominent theory is that they defected to the Japanese army despite that they would have had to cross the bridge in order to reach Japanese occupied territory. Also, after the two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan and the Japanese surrendered, Japanese documents didn’t show ever having encountered such a Chinese force. No grave or corpse has ever been found in the area associated with the soldiers. The vegetation surrounding the area was sparse and couldn’t conceal an army a fraction of the size of the one in question. The missing men were never located nor have any clues been found to suggest what may have been their fate.
The Japanese did end up taking the city of Nanking which resulted in an atrocity known as the ‘Rape of Nanking’ or the ‘The Nanking Massacre’. I prefer not to go into details but have provided links to those of you who are curious. The Chinese moved their capital to a few other cities, one of which the Japanese captured as well. The conflict had been merged with WWII and ended with the dropping of the two bombs. So what’s one to make of this? I can tell you that I failed to find any official documentation on the missing men, but I am just a humble blogger who only asserted a few hours of digging. And if there is something ‘official’ on the subject, can one really expect to find posted on the internet?
The ‘Clusters’ of the Missing in North America’s Forests
This isn’t any one event per se, but I included it because the number of people who go missing in wilds of North America are astounding. With a background of twenty years of law enforcement, David Paulides has compiled stacks of missing person’s reports in his books ‘Missing 411’ and what’s more, he’s connected the dots and began trending the similarities of the cases. From the sex, age, weather conditions at the time the person or persons went missing to blood hounds not picking up a scent or refusing to follow, even weird parallels like wild berries connecting cases. And the most disturbing thing just might be that the National Forest Service doesn’t actively keep track of who goes missing in their forests.
I have only had the chance to read his Western United States and Canada edition and speaking as someone who is an avid outdoorsman, after reading it, I make sure to leave a detailed plan of my trips with several people and make sure to pack a little more food and water. It’s amazing just how fast some of the people seem to drop off the face of the planet. Some are eventually found and unfortunately, they are not always found alive. Some are found in areas that were already searched by search and rescue parties numerous times. Others appear to be missing key items of clothing such as pants and shoes. Some are found with no trace of their clothes ever surfacing. The strangest part of all is that, like I stated above, these are things that the victims have in common with each other. So who or what is happening to the people in our forests? Sasquatch? U.F.O.’s? Or is it something more humanly and sinister? I rarely go on solo adventures but I can’t help but think when I do, that maybe I’m not truly alone.
Yes. A few things actually. I’ll try to keep it short. There are many stories of mass amounts of people vanishing and I could not include them all in this post. A fact that, I’m sure by now, you appreciate. The truth is, is that after researching more than a few, I went down many a rabbit hole and what came up on the other side wasn’t always a mystery. With the current news of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 going missing with 236 souls on board, it is apparent and no less astonishing that even in our day and age with our fancy gadgets and technologies that something of this magnitude can still occur with as of yet, no explanation. The missing plane wasn’t the reason for this post. It is just a sad and unfortunate synchronicity. I can only hope that this mystery is one that is solved.
What are some of your favorite Mystery Vanishings? Let me know in the comments. You can follow me on twitter at @ForteanMindset and if you’re like me and are fascinated with the high strangeness associated with the Evergreen State, you can follow my other twitter feed @WeirdWashington. If you have any questions on anything I covered here, feel free to ask in the comments or shoot me an email. Stay Strange My Friends.