Top 10 Most Notorious Missing Peoples Cases

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Top 10 Most Notorious Missing Peoples Cases

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
The mystery of what happened to these famous missing people remains unsolved. For this list, we'll be looking at the most high-profile and mysterious cases involving missing people. Our countdown includes The Sodder Children, Jimmy Hoffa, Amelia Earhart, and more!
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Top 10 Most Notorious Missing Peoples Cases


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 most notorious missing peoples cases.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most high-profile and mysterious cases involving missing people.

Which of these stories do you find most puzzling? Let us know in the comments below!

#10: The Sodder Children

Tragedy struck the Sodder family on Christmas Eve in 1945. Their house in Fayetteville, West Virginia caught fire and burned down. While George, Jennie, and four of their children escaped, five completely disappeared. George and Jennie contested the electrical fire findings, believing that George’s vocal criticism of Benito Mussolini made him a target, perhaps of the Mafia. The FBI investigated the case as a possible kidnapping, but this proved fruitless. The most intriguing evidence of the kids’ survival came in 1967, when the Sodders were sent a photo of a man. The mysterious sender claimed it was Louis Sodder, and he bore a resemblance to their missing son. The family hired a PI to investigate, but he never contacted the Sodders again.

#9: Dorothy Arnold

The daughter of a fine goods importer named Francis Arnold, Dorothy Arnold was a Manhattan socialite who was pursuing a career as a writer. On December 12, 1910, the 25-year-old Arnold went shopping for a debutante party dress. Arnold was witnessed in the Park & Tilford store and again at a nearby bookstore before running into her friend Gladys King. Arnold told King she was going to walk home through Central Park, but after waving goodbye, Arnold was never seen again. Private investigators couldn’t locate her, and despite numerous “sightings” and rumors, the NYPD closed the case after 75 days. Dorothy’s father Francis passed away in 1922, leaving Dorothy out of his will in a final act of acceptance.

#8: D. B. Cooper

Few criminals are as notorious as D. B. Cooper. On November 24, 1971, a man hijacked a Boeing 727 between Portland and Seattle. Landing at Seattle-Tacoma airport, he was given four parachutes and the modern day equivalent of $1.3 million. The plane then took off, he jumped out, and was never seen again. Despite an extensive FBI investigation lasting 45 years, Cooper was never identified, and most of the cash remains missing. A break came in 1980, when a young boy found some of the ransom money on a Washington beach. However, this find didn’t do much to quell the mystery - in fact, it arguably made it worse. Many experts have assumed that Cooper perished in the jump, but both his body and the remaining cash are unaccounted for.

#7: Natalee Holloway

18 year old Natalee Holloway was on vacation in Aruba following her high school graduation when she disappeared. Holloway never showed up for her return flight home, and friends last reported seeing her with Dutch man Joran van der Sloot. Van der Sloot was arrested but released due to a lack of evidence. He was later captured on video claiming that Holloway was dead and that a friend had disposed of her body. He later retracted that statement, but alleged in a TV interview that he had sold Holloway into slavery. He further retracted those comments as well. Understandably, he remains the prime suspect in Holloway’s disappearance - an argument strengthened by his killing of Stephany Flores Ramírez in Peru in 2010.

#6: Maura Murray

On the afternoon of February 9, 2004, 21-year-old nursing student Maura Murray emailed her college professors, claiming that she would be absent owing to a recent death in the family. At 7:27 that night, Murray crashed her car outside Woodsville, New Hampshire, but when law enforcement arrived nearly 20 minutes later, Murray had disappeared. Inside the car were packed clothing and toiletries, indicating that she had planned on traveling. Phone records later showed that Murray had phoned an agency that helps book hotels in Vermont. Murray’s family claims that no one in the family had died, throwing a huge question mark over her email. Murray’s father believes that his daughter is dead, having been the target of an abduction. However, nothing is proven.

#5: Frederick Valentich

The disappearance of Australian pilot Frederick Valentich in 1978 is one of the most captivating UFO stories ever told. While on a training flight over the Bass Strait, Valentich radioed Melbourne air traffic control to report an aircraft with bright landing lights flying directly above him. Air traffic control reported no other aircraft in the area. Valentich then clarified that it was “not an aircraft” before his transmission was interrupted by a loud, metallic scraping noise. Valentich and his plane were never seen again. It’s been proposed that the inexperienced pilot was flying upside down and seeing his own lights in the water, or that he mistook planets and stars for a UFO while in a graveyard spiral. Of course, Ufologists aren’t convinced...

#4: Tara Calico

New Mexico’s Tara Calico often rode her bike along State Road 47 with her mother, but her mother had recently stopped, believing that she was being stalked. Calico went on her daily bike ride on the morning of September 20, 1988 and never returned home. Nearly one year later, a horrifying Polaroid was found in the parking lot of a Florida convenience store depicting a bound and gagged woman around Calico’s age. Both Calico’s mother and Scotland Yard concluded that the woman was Calico. However, the FBI declared the evidence inconclusive, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory disagreed with Scotland Yard’s assessment. No arrests have been made in connection with the photograph, and Calico remains missing.

#3: Madeleine McCann

While vacationing in Portugal, three-year-old Madeleine McCann was put to bed while her parents went to eat at a restaurant. 90 minutes later, McCann’s mother returned to the room to find Madeleine missing. Although Portuguese police did initially suspect the McCanns, this line of inquiry was soon dropped. But that didn’t stop the tabloid press and social media from accusing the couple, spinning out their own baseless theories. German police began a new investigation into the McCann case in June of 2020, with the prime suspect being a 43-year-old man with a prior conviction. Authorities are working under the assumption that McCann is deceased.


#2: Jimmy Hoffa

The name of this labor union leader has long been synonymous with missing person cases. Serving as president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Hoffa often collaborated with organized crime, and it’s long been suspected that the Mafia was responsible for his disappearance. Hoffa went missing after a scheduled meeting with caporegimes Anthony Provenzano and Anthony Giacalone, lending credence to this argument. This relationship was dramatized in Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman”, itself based on the nonfiction book “I Heard You Paint Houses”. If that story is to be believed (and it is not unanimously believed), then Frank Sheeran carried out the hit on Hoffa, and his body was secretly cremated.

#1: Amelia Earhart

Perhaps the most infamous missing persons case of all time, the disappearance of Amelia Earhart has long been studied and debated. Earhart was a renowned pilot in her day, becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. In the summer of 1937, Earhart tried to do one better by circumnavigating the globe. Unfortunately, both she and her navigator Fred Noonan went missing over the Pacific Ocean, and neither they nor their aircraft have ever been recovered. Countless theories have been put forth, like the two being captured by Japanese forces or landing and living on Gardner Island. However, no evidence has been found of either, and it’s likely that Earhart ran out of fuel and crashed into the ocean.
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