5 Creepy Unsolved Disappearances That Nobody Can Explain
Thousands of people go missing every year. But as sad as that is, most of those cases have perfectly logical explanations, like foul play, accidents, or people just starting over after realizing they'll never pay back their payday loans. But then there are those disappearances that don't make a lick of sense, the kind where the pieces of the puzzle only seem to form a giant middle finger aimed straight at your own sense of skepticism. Like in the cases of ...
The Sodder Children
On Christmas Eve 1945, the Sodder family was asleep in their Fayetteville, West Virginia home when a fire erupted, trapping five of the ten Sodder kids upstairs and, sadly, taking their lives before the firefighters could arrive. At least, that's what the fire chief said had happened, despite no bodies or bones being uncovered from the rubble. This prompted George and Jennie Sodder to declare that their children could still be alive and oh God we're crying now. Is there anything more heart-wrenching than the reality-clouding grief of parents who'd lost their children?
Yes, the lack of bones was weird, but that must've had a rational explanation. Likewise, there must have been a rational explanation for the fact that, when George Sodder tried to drive his truck near the house (in hopes of climbing on top of it to reach the flaming second floor), the engine wouldn't start. And as for the family being unable to call the fire department in time because their telephone lines were apparently cut, that ... that ... hmmm ...It Gets Weirder:
In light of all the bizarre circumstances of the tragedy, the Sodder family remembered that, some time before the fire, they were visited by two strangers making not-very-veiled threats about their house burning down and their kids dying. One of the men, who posed as an insurance salesman, even said to George, an Italian immigrant, that he'd pay for the offensive comments he was making about Mussolini all around town. Definitely suspicious, but not nearly as much as that same "insurance salesman" later serving on the coroner's jury that deemed the Sodder fire an accident.
Others soon came forward saying they saw a man outside the Sodder house carrying a block and tackle, which could hypothetically have been used to temporarily disable a car. Also, the Sodders later found a weird rubber object in their yard which George claimed was actually a napalm bomb, which could hypothetically have been used as a napalm bomb.
But wait, aren't we just listing evidence seeming to point to the gruesome murder of five innocent kids by Italian fascists? Maybe not. A waitress at a roadside diner and a woman at a Charleston hotel later claimed that they saw four of the five missing kids with a group of Italian-looking men and women who wouldn't let them speak to anyone. Sadly, their tips didn't lead anywhere, nor did the photograph Jennie Sodder received in the mail 20 years later that supposedly showed one of her now-grown missing sons.
So, what, was it a kidnapping? With no ransom demands or anything? Was the fire unrelated to the threats? Were the children's remains in the rubble of the house, impossible to find among the rest of the debris? Is there some other, much weirder story that the Sodder family simply refused to share with the police? All we know is that every possibility is disturbing as shit.
The "Ghost Blimp" Crew
Blimps are kind of the fat, slow-moving Rascal scooters of the sky, so Lieutenant Ernest Cody and Ensign Charles Adams probably felt like they were in for a relaxing balloon ride when they were assigned blimp patrol duty on August 16, 1942. Right up until they freaking disappeared without a trace from inside their completely undamaged L-8 airship.
Shortly after setting out of San Francisco towards the Farallon Islands, the two sailors radioed in about an oil spill that they were going to investigate. A few hours later, their L-8 was spotted off course over Daly City, where, after sideswiping a few houses, it came crashing down. Bystanders rushed into the cockpit of the gondola ... only to find that no one was on board.
It Gets Weirder:
Naturally, the Navy investigated the hell out of the matter, only to find that no lifeboats or parachutes were missing from the ship. In fact, besides a few absent life jackets and the door being stuck open, everything was in perfect order. The engine and radio were both humming along nicely, and there was no sign of a struggle. Could the Japanese have captured Cody and Adams after they descended to inspect the oil spill? Did they both accidentally fall out while making emergency repairs to the ship? If so, what were they repairing?
It wound up going down as one of the strangest mysteries of World War II, and over time, it has earned the missing crew's ship the eerie/hilarious nickname of "Ghost Blimp." Now, obviously there are certain people in the readership whose mind immediately went to "UFO abduction," and that's only slightly stranger than our theory (Nazi Rocketeers!), but as with all of the examples on this list, every possible scenario boggles the imagination. Did the two men open the door and just ... jump to their deaths? Why? We'll literally never, ever know.
Or maybe it'll turn out to be the work of the same flying apparitions who took ...
Ben Padilla and an Entire Boeing 727
In 2003, American pilot and aircraft mechanic Ben Padilla arrived in Angola to supervise a team refurbishing an old Boeing 727. The job went well, and the aircraft was soon ready to fly out of the country. However, when the 727 taxied onto the runway one evening for a routine engine test, it made a sudden unauthorized takeoff, with no communication with the tower.
With its transponder disabled, the 727 headed off towards the Atlantic Ocean and has not been seen since.
It Gets Weirder:
Keep in mind, this was in the post-9/11 years, when a stolen airliner would be fully expected to show up again a week later crashing into a nuclear power plant. A missing 727, even an empty one, wasn't the sort of thing that authorities would shrug at and write off as a loss for the insurance. And it's not the sort of aircraft you can land in a backyard and hide in a garage. In fact, the plane carried containers filled with thousands of gallons of diesel fuel, so authorities were even more worried about it having been hijacked for an insane kamikaze mission.
Yet investigators never found any trace of it. They then thought that maybe Padilla and another crew member seen boarding the plane -- a Congolese man named John Mikel Mutantu -- could have decided to take the Boeing out on some drunken joyride, which would be plausible if either of them could actually fly the plane.
That's right -- Padilla was a licensed pilot, but he didn't have the necessary qualifications to handle a 727, which generally requires a crew of three people in order to function properly. And as far as anyone knows, Mutantu did not have any flying experience at all. Also, according to witnesses, the aircraft appeared to be swerving erratically along the runway before it took off, suggesting the pilot was fighting over the controls with someone else.
Another theory is that the 727's owners decided to make the aircraft disappear to collect the insurance money. But if that's case, then what happened to Padilla? To make things stranger, even though this incident caused national security concerns and was investigated by several agencies, the FBI abruptly closed the case in 2005 without any explanation, which can only mean one thing: they discovered that it was the work of that creepy-ass gremlin from The Twilight Zone.
The Flannan Isles Lighthouse Keepers
The Flannan Isles are a small island group off the coast of Scotland, located right in the path of a major shipping route. Naturally, a lighthouse was built there so that Scottish ships could safely navigate the treacherous North Atlantic waters to deliver their precious cargo of haggis and bagpipes to all corners of the world, despite the world's vehement protests.
The lighthouse was kept up and running by a three-man crew, which in December 1900 consisted of Thomas Marshall, James Ducat, and Donald MacArthur, who were supposed to only spend 14 days there. Unfortunately for them, that's just another way of saying, "They only had two weeks left to retirement." Yeah, they never made it out of there alive.
A few days after a major storm hit the isles, passing boats noticed that the lighthouse's "DON'T POINT YOUR SHIP IN THIS DIRECTION OR YOU DEAD" light was out. A team soon arrived at the locked lighthouse, finding it occupied by unmade beds and an untouched meal on the table, with the keepers nowhere to be seen.It Gets Weirder:
The captain of the rescue ship quickly wrote the case off as all three men being caught outside in the aforementioned storm and drowning. However, this was immediately proven wrong by one keeper's rain jacket being left behind in the lighthouse, and the logbook showing entries made well after the weather had cleared.
The current theory is that the missing men were swept away by a freak wave, but even that hinges on the idea that three experienced lighthouse keepers completely ignored regulations stating that a lighthouse must never, ever be left unmanned, no matter what. There is no way that Marshall, Ducat, and MacArthur would have left the lighthouse together for any reason that did not involve someone or something crying blood and wanting to "sate the eternal hunger of the Vile One." Plus, why would they lock the lighthouse door behind them when they went out? What, were they afraid that a hermit crab would break into their rooms and steal their smokes?
In January 2000, 18-year-old Zebb Quinn was meeting his friend Robert Jason Owens when he suddenly received an urgent page and rushed to the nearest payphone, presumably in his Model T.
He looked seriously perturbed when he returned a few minutes later, and allegedly rear-ended Owens' truck before driving away. This was the last anyone ever saw of him.
A few days later, "Quinn" supposedly called in sick to work, but his supervisor didn't think it was his voice on the line. He then traced the call to Owens, who explained that Quinn had asked him to do it. Naturally, the authorities were suspicious of this story, especially once they learned that Owens had received treatment for broken ribs and a head injury the morning after Quinn's disappearance. Owens claimed the injuries were caused by an unrelated fender bender, and since then has refused to cooperate with the police in any way.
It was soon discovered that Quinn had been showing romantic interest in a woman named Misty Taylor, who had a jealous, physically abusive boyfriend. Now this is important, because phone records confirmed that the page Quinn received before vanishing came from his aunt, who claims she wasn't home at the time, because she was hanging out with ... Misty Taylor and her family. And yet, this barely registers on the WTF-o-meter compared to what happened next.It Gets Weirder:
Two weeks after Quinn's disappearance, his abandoned car was discovered in a parking lot with a pair of lips and two exclamation points written on the back window in lipstick. A number of items definitely not belonging to Quinn had also been found in the truck, including a jacket, a still-unidentified hotel room key, and a three-month-old Labrador puppy. Since the car happened to be parked across the street from a hospital where Quinn's family worked, it's almost as if someone was trying to send them a message ... after sniffing copious amounts of glue. Needless to say, it didn't help. Nothing from the truck led the authorities anywhere near Quinn, who still remains missing, presumed dead.
But because we think we know our audience: take solace in the fact that the puppy was given a good home with one of the investigators.
Evan V. Symon is a workshop moderator and the interview finder guy at Cracked. If you have an awesome job or experience you would like to share, hit up the tipline at firstname.lastname@example.org. Robin Warder is the co-owner of a pop culture website called The Back Row and worked on a sci-fi short film called Jet Ranger of Another Tomorrow.
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For more stories fit for a Robert Stack narrative, check out 6 People Who Just Fucking Disappeared and The 5 Creepiest Unsolved Crimes Nobody Can Explain.
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