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Top 10 Famous Disappearances

VO: Rebecca Brayton
They vanished without a trace: some of the people on this list were involved in crime or other illicit behavior. Some were daredevils trying to break world records. Others were following their dreams. But they all have one thing in common: no one can confirm what happened to them. Even the fate of Charles Lindbergh’s baby, who was found dead months after his abduction, is up for debate, as his murderer proclaimed his innocence until the day he died. In honor of the disappearances of Amelia Earhart on July 2nd, 1937 and Jimmy Hoffa on July 30th, 1975, counts down ten of the most famous disappearances in history.

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Top 10 Famous Disappearances

They vanished without a trace. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down 10 of the most famous disappearances in history.

#10 – Oscar Zeta Acosta (Disappeared: May, 1974)

You know him as Hunter S. Thompson’s partner-in-crime as he feared and loathed his way through Las Vegas. But Acosta, or Dr. Gonzo, was also a lawyer, activist and legend in the Chicano community. His unpredictable nature and connection to drug culture probably led to his 1974 disappearance from Mexico, after he told his son he’d boarded a “boat full of white snow.” No trace of him ever turned up.

#9 – Ray Gricar (Disappeared: April 15, 2005)

Months from retirement, this district attorney was working the case that eventually became the Penn State sex scandal. Then he disappeared. Things they found: undamaged car and cellphone, waterlogged laptop in river, web searches on how to destroy hard drives. Coulda been murder, suicide or maybe he just bailed on his life; but since Gricar declined to charge Jerry Sandusky twice, a connection there is unlikely. But, weird coincidence.

#8 – Frank Morris and John and Clarence Anglin (Disappeared: June 11, 1962)

Officially, no one escaped The Rock. But, after months of preparation, Frank Morris and brothers Clarence and John Anglin crawled through holes they’d dug in their cell walls and braved the waters surrounding Alcatraz using life jackets and rafts they’d crafted from raincoats. All three probably drowned, but their bodies were never located. Later investigations – and the 1979 film “Escape from Alcatraz” – suggested they could have survived.

#7 – Flight 19 (Disappeared: December 5, 1945)

Cases like these make it hard to deny the Bermuda Triangle’s existence. A grouping of five torpedo bombers was on a training exercise over that mysterious area near Florida when it became evident via radio transmissions that the 14 airmen had lost their way. No wreckage was found, but that’s not the weirdest part: the plane that was sent to search for Flight 19 also disappeared, losing 13 more.

#6 – The crew of the Mary Celeste (Disappeared: before December 4, 1872)

This is one of the greatest nautical mysteries ever: a ship in near-perfect condition, with plenty of supplies and the belongings of its crew aboard is discovered unmanned in the Atlantic. Theories about this archetypal ghost ship range from pirates to aliens to the Bermuda Triangle – but the most likely scenario involves a phantom explosion of its cargo of alcohol barrels. Whatever happened, the crew never surfaced.

#5 – Ambrose Bierce (Disappeared: December 26, 1913)

Known as “Bitter Bierce,” this American journalist was famous for his sardonic writings, colored by themes of death and horror. No one thought twice when the 71-year-old Civil War vet traveled to witness the Mexican revolution firsthand. His last known correspondence was a letter where he said “As to me, I leave here tomorrow for an unknown destination,” leading some to conclude he committed suicide.

#4 – The Lindbergh Baby (Disappeared: March 1, 1932)

Just ‘cause this case was solved doesn’t mean it had a happy ending: When famed aviator Charles Lindbergh’s 20-month-old son was snatched from their home, it became one of the century’s most infamous crimes. The pricey ransom was paid, but the Lindbergh baby was found dead two months later. Bruno Hauptmann was captured, tried, convicted and executed for the crime, but proclaimed his innocence until the day he died.

#3 – D.B. Cooper (Disappeared: November 24, 1971)

Here’s what we do know: a man using the name Dan Cooper claimed to have a bomb aboard a Portland-Seattle flight. He demanded 200-grand and parachutes, and when his requests were met, they left for Mexico. But, during that flight, Cooper exited the plane. Some of his cash turned up on a riverbank in 1980, but otherwise no trace of D.B. Cooper ever materialized and his identity remains a mystery.

#2 – Amelia Earhart (Disappeared: July 2, 1937)

This aviation and women’s issues pioneer was an international star when she went missing. After departing New Guinea with navigator Fred Noonan, Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean on her round-the-world flight. Some presume she sank, others suggest she lived through the crash but perished later, others claim she was a spy, and others still say she faked her death to escape fame, but her fate has never been confirmed.

#1 – Jimmy Hoffa (Disappeared: July 30, 1975)

Play with fire, get burned: that’s what happened to this Teamsters boss and mob fraternizer. After four years in prison, Hoffa was back to his old tricks and in 1975 vanished while awaiting a settling of accounts at a Detroit-area restaurant. Though his body’s still missing, theories have swirled that he’s buried at any number of random locales, including Giants Stadium. One thing’s certain: we’ll probably never know.

Do you agree with our list? Which do you think was the most iconic disappearance in history? For more top 10s about your favorite mysteries, be sure to subscribe to

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