5 Bodies Nobody Ever Found

Image credit: 

The wreckage of Steve Fossett's plane was located last month, but it's still too early to say with absolute certainty that Fossett's body has been found. (Partial remains are currently undergoing DNA analysis.) Here are five bodies we still haven't stumbled across, even after all these years.

1. Ambrose Bierce (1842"“1914?)

He was wounded during the Civil War, drank with fellow journalists Mark Twain and H. L. Mencken, and kept a human skull on his desk. Bierce was also a devilishly fine writer who lampooned and skewered just about everyone in the American public eye during the last half of the 19th century. One thing he wasn't, however, was found.

In late 1913, Bierce went to Mexico to cover the country's revolution. What happened to him when he got there is a mystery. Theories include: he was killed at the Battle of Ojinaga; he was executed by the revolutionary leader Pancho Villa; he shot himself at the Grand Canyon. Any of those ends would have doubtless suited Bierce. Death by bullet, he wrote before leaving for Mexico, "beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs."

2. Joseph F. Crater (1889"“????)

jcarter.jpgOn the evening of August 6, 1930, a New York Supreme Court associate justice stepped into a New York City taxi—and became a synonym for "missing person." When Crater didn't show up for court on August 25, a massive search was launched. But no trace of the judge was ever found. There were reports he was killed by the jealous boyfriend of a chorus girl, or by crooked politicians who feared what Crater knew. Conversely, there were rumors that he fled the country to avoid a judicial corruption probe. After 10 years, Crater was declared dead. But by then he'd already become a staple of pop culture: Groucho Marx would sometimes end his nightclub act by saying he "was stepping out [to] look for Judge Crater."

3. Amelia Earhart (1897"“1937?)

amelia.jpgIt was the second time around when Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, took off in May 1937 to try to circle the world in a custom-built twin-engine plane. A first effort by the famed aviatrix ended in a crash in Hawaii. Undaunted, however, Earhart had completed all but the last three legs of her second journey when the world last heard from her on July 2, and investigations into her fate have been almost ceaseless since then. U.S. government officials say she crashed at sea. Others claim she died on a South Pacific island, was captured and executed by the Japanese military, or lived out her life as a housewife in New Jersey.

4. Glenn Miller (1904"“1944?)

glen-miller.jpgOn December 15, 1944, it was so foggy that Miller reportedly joked, "Even the birds are grounded." Still, the famed bandleader, who had joined the U.S. Army in 1942, boarded a small plane in Bedford, England, bound for Paris to prepare for a troop concert. He never made it. Depending on your level of credulity: the plane crashed in the English Channel; it was knocked down by Allied planes jettisoning bombs before landing; he was killed by the Nazis while on a secret mission; or he died of a heart attack in a Paris brothel. The big money, though, is apparently on the bomb theory. A Royal Air Force logbook indicating "friendly fire" as the cause of Miller's demise sold for about $30,000 at a 1999 auction.

5. Harold Holt (1908"“1967?)

holt.jpgOn December 17, 1967, the ocean was all motion off Portsea, Victoria, but Australian politician Harold Holt, known as the "sportsman prime minister," plunged into the surf anyway. The man had been PM for only two years, but sadly, he never came out, and an intensive search failed to turn up a trace. The result? 38 years of rumors: had Holt committed suicide; been assassinated by the CIA; been eaten by a shark; or had he swum out to a waiting Chinese submarine and been spirited away? Without a body, no inquest was held at the time.

But in 2004, a change in Australian law prompted a formal inquiry to formally close the case of the missing PM. The ruling? A lackluster verdict to say the least: death by drowning.

See also: 6 Unsolved Disappearances

This article was excerpted from Forbidden Knowledge: A Wickedly Smart Guide to History's Naughtiest Bits. You can pick up a copy in the mental_floss store.

More from mental_floss...

October 9, 2008 - 5:29am
submit to reddit