Down The Rabbit Hole
How 1,600 People Vanished in National Parks
1600 people have gone missing in the National Parks and forests of the United States. 1600 people that went hiking, skiing, or out for a simple picnic with their family. 1600 people that disappeared without a trace. 1600 families left without answers.
I know what you’re thinking; between bears and the elements, nature is dangerous. These disappearances have several striking, and unusual, coincidences.
A quick disclaimer here: I am not a law enforcement official. I am not associated with the Parks Service. What I am, is concerned about how human beings can vanish without a trace.
Clusters of people, built of three or four disappearances with similarities in the same general location, have popped up all across the United States. Majority lying in the Pacific Northwest down into Northern California, with the mid-Appalachian Mountains also having several distinct clusters. Oregon alone has 41 open cases of missing children, 14 years and younger, in the forests and parks.
‘Experienced hikers’, ‘the last person in the world who would get lost out there’, ‘knew this forest like their backyard’, these are all phrases that have been thrown around about some of the missing. Experienced hikers know the dangers of the trail, they know the precautions to take, they know how to keep themselves safe. Ask yourself this: why would someone with 25-years of hiking experience leave the trail? If they did get lost, why would they travel uphill? To be seen by searchers? Lower elevations are typically more traveled.
Take your same experienced hiker. Why would they take their supplies off? Backpacks, tents, food, water, even clothing, are often the only clues found by searchers. What would make you take your shoes off, abandon your lifeline of supplies, and race into the vast wilderness of the Western United States? Nothing short of holding a gun to my head would make me leave my survival gear behind. Even then, I’m taking my shoes.
Canine searchers are perplexed by these disappearances as well. The dogs will lead their handlers into the forest, circle, and lie down. Contrary, some cases have the canines leading their handlers straight up the side of cliffs, twenty miles through rugged, impassible terrain, before they lose the trail.
A surprising number of the cases I’ve looked into take place near water. Crater Lake being one of the clusters. Shallow creeks, watersheds, cattle ponds, some form of body of water is either near the disappearance sight or near where the body is ultimately found. One case that comes to mind is a woman found in the Redwood forests of Oregon, in an area that had been previously searched, whose cause of death was drowning. Who drowns in the forest, miles from the nearest water source?
The bodies they do find have discrepancies in official documentation. Hypothermia and exposure are the most common after ‘undetermined’. As a writer, I’m full of useless knowledge and freezing to death is one of the things that I’m well versed in for some reason or another. One of the symptoms of hypothermia is paradoxical undressing. In plain English, one strips down naked because their nerves are dying and creating the sensation of being too hot. Running through a blizzard in your birthday suit, as one can imagine, can prove fatal. This would explain why clothing and shoes are found, or not found. But again, an experienced hiker would know this.
Another symptom of hypothermia is confusion. An explanation for why people are found uphill or miles from where they should have been. But before confusion sets in, you experience tiredness and loss of coordination. You’re tired and confused, why go uphill? It’s much easier to travel downhill. Lower elevations are also warmer.
People are going missing. There are shockingly few answers. These are just some of the staggering coincidences some of these cases have. Human beings don’t just disappear. They have to be going somewhere. Someone or something out there knows what is happening to these people. Whether it be criminal or supernatural. If one is an accident, two is a coincidence, three is a pattern, what is four? Six? Three hundred?