Although there are plenty of “missing persons” stories, not everyone disappears under the same mysterious circumstances as the men and women in the list below. Here are some of the most bizarre cases of famous people who vanished without a trace.
Famous People Who Mysteriously Disappeared
DB Cooper: Disappeared in 1971
D.B. Cooper, or Dan Cooper, was just an alias for an unidentified man who hijacked a Boeing aircraft between Portland and Seattle, before leaping out with a parachute. His body was never found and his fate has never been known. The FBI officially suspended the case in 2016 after a 45-year-long investigation.
Amelia Earhart: Disappeared in 1937
Amelia Earheart is known for her feat of being the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, and she set the bar for female pilots to come. However, during her attempt to complete a circumnavigational flight across the globe in 1937, she and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean. Although they were never found, they were officially declared dead a year and a half later.
Harold Holt: Disappeared in 1967
It’s not often you hear about a political leader disappearing, but that’s exactly what happened to Harold Holt. Australia’s 17th Prime Minister was was only in office two years before he vanished while swimming in rough conditions in Victoria. He was presumed dead even though his body was never recovered, and his disappearance spawned several conspiracy theories, like him faking his own death or being assassinated by the CIA.
Jimmy Hoffa: Disappeared in 1975
Jimmy Hoffa was an American labor union leader who served as the president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, although he was also known for his dealings with the mafia. Although no one knows for sure what happened to him, it’s common belief that he was murdered by a mob member. He was declared legally dead in 1982, when he would have been 69 years of age.
Sean Flynn: Disappeared in 1970
Photojournalist Sean Flynn, who was the son of actor Errol Flynn, was on assignment in Cambodia with his colleague Dana Stone when they were captured by communist guerillas and were never seen or heard from again. They may have been executed, but no one can be certain.
Theodosia Burr Alston: Disappeared in 1813
Although it was over 200 years ago, Theodosia Burr’s disappearance is a story still told today. She was the daughter of the 3rd U.S. Vice President, Aaron Burr, and the wife of Joseph Alston, who was the governor of South Carolina during the War of 1812. On December 31st, 1813, she set sail aboard the famous ship the Patriot, but it disappeared with her, the crew, and passengers on board.
Glenn Miller: Disappeared in 1944
Glenn Miller was a famous big-band trombonist, composer, and bandleader in the swing era. Some of his best-known songs are “In the Mood,” “Moonlight Serenade,” and “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” However, on a trip from the U.K. to Paris, his plane, which was also carrying two U.S. military officers, disappeared over the English Channel and was never recovered.
Dorothy Arnold: Disappeared in 1910
The American socialite and heiress vanished under strange conditions. Dorothy Arnold, who moved to her Manhattan family home after finishing college, left to go shopping on 5th Avenue but failed to return. Her family hired private investigators but waited a few weeks to report her disappearance to the police in order to avoid publicity. One rumor is that she hit her head and suffered amnesia, and another is that she was drugged and abducted, but police dismissed both theories as too far-fetched.
Jean Spangler: Disappeared in 1949
Jean Spangler was a dancer, actress, and model in the 1940s, but she garnered the most attention for her disappearance in late 1949. One evening, she told her sister-in-law that she was going to meet with her ex-husband before heading to a film set. Two days later, her tattered purse was found in a remote area of Griffith Park in L.A., with a letter inside addressed to “Kirk.” No additional evidence was ever uncovered in her case.
John Anglin/Clarence Anglin/Frank Morris: Disappeared in 1962
These three criminals are known for their escape from the highly secure Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, located on an island in San Francisco Bay. After elaborate planning that involved crafting dummy heads to fool the guards, they were able to break free and leave on an improvised raft. A fourth inmate, Allen West, had planned to go with them but was not able to escape his cell in time. Although their whereabouts are unknown, police concluded that the men drowned while trying to reach land.
Jim Thompson: Disappeared in 1967
Jim Thompson, who was an American businessman but was living in Asia, helped revitalize the Thai silk industry in the 1950s and 1960s. One day, he left Bangkok to spend the day in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands with his long-time acquaintance and two hosts. At one point, he left them to take a solo walk and didn’t return. There was an intense search-and-rescue involving over 500 people, but he was never found.
Bison Dele: Disappeared in 2002
Bison Dele, an American professional basketball player, was only 33 when he, his girlfriend, and a skipper disappeared at sea somewhere in the South Pacific in July of 2002. His brother later returned the boat in Tahiti but was aboard alone. He admitted to killing them, but intentionally overdosed before police were able to gather all information.
Scott Smith: Disappeared in 2000
Scott Smith was the bassist for the Canadian rock band Loverboy, best known for the singles “Working for the Weekend” and “Turn Me Loose.” He was sailing his boat with his friends off the coast of San Francisco near the Golden Gate Bridge when a large wave swept him overboard. The Coast Guard conducted a search but were unsuccessful, and Smith was pronounced “missing presumed dead, lost at sea.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery: Disappeared in 1944
Many children remember Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s acclaimed book The Little Prince, but he wasn’t just an author – he was also a commercial pilot. He joined the French Air Force at the start of World War II, and in July of 1944, he took off on a mission from an airbase on Corsica. The remnants of an unidentifiable body were found several days later south of Marseille, but it wasn’t until 1998 that a fisherman found a silver identity bracelet with Saint-Exupery’s name. However, some dispute its authenticity since it was found far from his flight path. The cause of his death remains unknown.
Michael Rockefeller: Disappeared in 1961
Michael Rockefeller, the son of New York Governor and future U.S. Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, and a member of the fourth generation of the Rockefeller family, disappeared during an army expedition to what is now the Indonesian province of Papau. He and a Dutch anthropologist named Rene Wassing were in a canoe 3 miles from shore when it swamped and overturned. The boat drifted about 12 miles away, but Rockefeller told Wassing he was going to try swim to shore anyway. Wassing stayed put and was rescued the next day, but Rockefeller was never found.