Curious History : 9 Famous Human Disappearances

This might very well be one of the curious sets I could write about!  People go missing everyday in the world.  All the time.  Sad really.  This list is going to focus on the disappearances that flustered our imagination.  Though most of there fates could be guessed rather quickly it is always that “what if?” that lurks in the backs of our curious thoughts that make many disappearances even more baffling.  And I did have to add the “human” in the title since I’ve also wanting to work on another list later.

1. John Cabot


  • Born – 1450  Died – 1499?
  • Famous For: Being the second European to set foot on mainland North America since the Vikings 400 years before.

Disappeared while searching for an accessible northern route to North America.  Of the five ships that started out, only one survived and that was only because it was damaged and had to stop in Ireland.  No other records exist however there has been talk in the academic community that evidence is present that would have put Cabot back in London a year after his disappearance. Of course…we will have to wait a curious long time before anyone can invent a time machine to truly prove this.

2. Benjamin Bathurst


  • Born – 1784  Died – 1809?
  • Famous For: A British diplomatic envoy during the reign of Napoleon.

Disappeared while traveling under a false name in what is now Germany.  After stopping at an inn to freshen the horses he never showed back up to the chaise.  Since he was traveling under a guise his family did not hear of it for some weeks.  When they searched for him, they found his fur coat and pantaloons but nothing else.  Then, in 1852, a skeleton was found not far from the inn with a fractured skull and missing teeth.  Was this Benjamin Bathurst?

3. Captain James William Boyd

Boyd Card

  • Born  – 1822  Died – Sometime after 1865
  • Famous For: Possibly being the man killed instead of John Wilkes Booth.

Disappeared after his release as a prisoner of war.  His whereabouts have never been confirmed and he was never seen by his friends and seven children even after his promise to take them to Mexico.  Because of his striking resemblance to Booth, many conspiracy theorists believe he was the one who was shot in the barn in Virginia.  Historians, however, are very certain that this mistake was not made.

4. Glenn Miller

Maj. Glenn Miller

  • Born – 1904  Missing in Action – 1944
  • Famous For: A big band musician and composer.  Was one of the top selling artists from 1939-1943.

Disappeared over the English Channel during World War II while enlisted to entertain the troops.  After a spell of bad weather his plane was never seen again. Theories abound that allied forces coming home from France thought his plane a bogey but logs from all surrounding planes note no discharge of weapons.  Another theory is that his plane had a faulty carburetor that iced over in flight.  Either way, the wreckage nor any body were found.

5. Andrew Irvine and George Mallory (body found 1999)


  • Irvine : Born – 1922  Died – 1924   Mallory : Born – 1886  Died – 1924
  • Famous For: A mountaineer who tried to climb Mt. Everest, the third British party to attempt.  They might have been the first to reach the final summit.Dead_body_George_Mallory

Disappeared in June while hiking with George Mallory, the senior climber, to the third summit of Mt. Everest.  It is not certain whether they made it to the summit but they did die somewhere high on the mountain.  In 1999, Mallory’s body was found with an injury from his security rope but there was no trace of Irvine.

6. Francisco de Orellana


  • Born – 1511  Died – 1546?
  • Famous For: A Spanish conquistador who was the first the navigate the entire length of the Amazon River.  Founded the city of Guayaguil in what is now Ecuador.

“Disappeared” on his second expedition to find the gold cities he had seen on his journey down the river previously.  Basically, this was the search for Eldorado and it was plagued with horrible luck.  Though it is probably bad record keeping that make this a disappearance, it is most likely that his ship capsized and he drowned.  However…he was a professional conquistador after all and that is something curious to consider.

7. Jimmy Hoffa

Jimmy Hoffa

  • Born – 1913  Missing – 1975  Declared Dead – 1982
  • Famous For: A labor union leader and extreme activist resulting in creating one of the largest unions in U.S. history.

Disappeared in 1975 at the Machus red Fox Restaurant in Detroit.  It was said he was to meet a few mob connections about maybe reinstating him back into union activities.  His car was found but no sign of his whereabouts were ever confirmed.  This was a high profile case and since no evidence of his body has ever been produced this happens to be one of the biggest mysteries of the 20th century.

8. Percy Fawcett


  • Born – 1867  Died – 1925
  • Famous For: Was an archeologist and explorer in South America who claimed to have seen bizarre creatures and other strange animals including a 65ft anaconda.  Was the basis for Professor Challenger in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World.

Disappeared along with his oldest son in the uncharted jungles of Brazil searching for the lost city of “Z” which he believed was Eldorado.  Many dangerous tribes live in this territory so the popular theory is that he was killed by these tribes.  However, since only small pieces of evidence have been found and no of them are major leads in the disappearances, this still remains a frightening mystery.

9. Amelia Earhart


  • Born – 1897  Missing – 1937  Declared Dead – 1939
  • Famous For: The first woman to make a solo flight over the Atlantic. She was an aviation pioneer and was a huge boost in the Women’s Rights Movement.

Disappeared over the Pacific while attempting to circumnavigate the globe in an airplane.  She could have crashed, she could have made it to a small island and starved, she could very well have made it to shore with amnesia…there are so many curious things that could have happened and I could write a whole page about it one day!  The reason she still sparks our interests is that she sparked it well before her disappearance.


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