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Every year thousands of people are reported missing. While most are found within hours, some disappear without a trace, never to be seen again. Here are some of the more famous and bizarre cases in history.


10. Louis Le Prince

Regarded by many as the true father of movies, Louis Le Prince was a French inventor who developed the first motion picture camera and projection system. In 1888, he used his invention to film Roundhay Garden Scene, a nearly 2-second long clip that is considered the world’s first motion picture. In September of 1890, Le Prince boarded a train bound for Paris, where he was to meet with his family for a trip to the United States to demonstrate his camera. But when the train arrived in Paris, Le Prince, along with his luggage and camera equipment, was nowhere to be found. The inventor was rumored to be nearly broke and deeply depressed, and theories abound that he engineered his own suicide. But it has also been proposed that Le Prince, known for his secrecy and paranoia regarding his work, was in fact murdered by parties seeking to steal the secrets to his invention. The most frequently cited suspect is none other than famed inventor Thomas Edison, now popularly regarded as the inventor of the movie camera, whose company would file a remarkably similar motion picture patent in the years following Le Prince’s disappearance.

9. Flight 19

One of the most bizarre disappearances in aviation history is that of Navy Flight 19, a group of five torpedo bombers that vanished during a training mission near Florida in late 1945. No debris or wreckage from the flight was ever found, and another plane carrying 13 airmen was lost when it exploded while searching for the missing squadron. The Navy conducted an inquiry into the incident, eventually publishing a 500-page report that suggested the pilots may have become disoriented and mistakenly headed out to sea, where they ran out of fuel and crashed into the ocean. But a general lack of evidence led to the disappearance eventually being listed as “cause unknown,” with one member of the inquiry stating the planes must have “flown off to Mars.” A much stranger theory posited by a number of magazine articles suggested that supernatural elements were responsible for the disappearance, citing bizarre radio transmissions where the pilots report: “We are entering white water, nothing seems right. We don’t know where we are, the water is green, no white.” Although no concrete evidence was ever produced to back up these claims, Flight 19 and its disappearance became one of the key incidents that helped to form the legend of the now-famous Bermuda Triangle.

8. Ambrose Bierce

A famed American writer and social critic, Ambrose Bierce is best known for The Devil’s Dictionary, as well as for numerous short stories about ghosts and the American Civil War. He gained fame as a writer for The San Francisco Examiner, where his cynical opinions and relentless sarcasm earned him the nickname “Bitter Bierce.” In 1913, the 71-year-old Bierce, a Civil War veteran, decided to go on a tour of battlefields in the South. He eventually crossed over into Mexico, and spent some time as an observer with Pancho Villa’s army during the Mexican Revolution, before vanishing somewhere near Chihuahua, Mexico in late 1913 or early 1914. Many have speculated that he was murdered, his body hidden by Pancho Villa’s men, who were afraid that Bierce would reveal secrets to the enemy. Still, others have maintained that Bierce’s disappearance was a calculated suicide. For his part, Bierce remained characteristically sardonic to the very end. An oft-quoted passage in one of his final letters reads: “Good-bye — if you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think that a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs. To be a Gringo in Mexico—ah, that is euthanasia!”

7. Percy Fawcett

An adventurer and a supposed inspiration for the Indiana Jones character, Percy Fawcett was a British archeologist who gained fame in the early 1900s for a series of map-making expeditions to the jungles of South America. In 1925, Fawcett, along with his son Jack, returned to Brazil as part of an ambitious expedition to discover a supposed lost city located deep in the jungle. On May 25, 1925, Fawcett sent a wire message to his wife letting her know that he, Jack, and a young man named Raleigh Rimmell were venturing into uncharted territory in search of the mythical city, which he had dubbed “Z.” It was the last anyone would hear from the group. The most probable explanation for the disappearance is that local Indian tribes, who were known for their hostility, killed the men, but no proof of foul play was ever uncovered. Other theories claim that Fawcett had survived and was suffering from amnesia, and a legend even spread that he was living as the chief of a tribe of cannibalistic Indians. Despite instructions left by Fawcett prior to the expedition, a number of disastrous search parties have been launched over the years, resulting in the deaths of at least 100 people.

6. D.B. Cooper

One of the most brazen criminals in American history, Dan “D.B.” Cooper was the alias of an unknown man who hijacked a Boeing 727 commercial airliner in 1971. After the plane landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the man demanded and received four parachutes and 200,000 in unmarked bills, at which point he released the passengers and ordered the plane and its four crew members to take off again and head for Reno, Nevada. Shortly after takeoff, Cooper lowered the aft stairs and parachuted from the plane. Though he is suspected to have landed somewhere near Vancouver, Washington, he was never seen again, and no body or remains of a parachute was ever discovered. What followed was one of the largest manhunts in American history, and although there have been over 1000 suspects in the case, Cooper’s true identity and whereabouts remain a mystery.

5. The Mary Celeste

The prototypical “ghost ship,” the Mary Celeste was a merchant vessel that was discovered in 1872 abandoned and adrift in the Atlantic Ocean. All of the ship’s 7 crewmembers, along with Captain Benjamin Briggs and his wife and daughter, were nowhere to be found. The ship’s life raft was gone, but the Mary Celeste appeared to be perfectly seaworthy, and even stranger, a number of necessary survival items had been left behind. The ship’s cargo and a number of valuables were also untouched, seemingly ruling out the possibility of piracy. So what could have happened? A number of theories have been proposed, ranging from mutiny to alien abduction, but the most likely scenario is that a freak storm or earthquake caused the ship to take on a small amount of water, leading to a panic and an unnecessary evacuation. Adrift in a single life raft, the survivors are suspected to have perished at sea.

4. Joseph Force Crater

Although he is relatively unknown today, Joseph Force Crater’s disappearance in 1930 became a national obsession, to the point that the phrase “pulling a Crater” became synonymous with vanishing. A well-known judge in New York City, Crater inexplicably disappeared on the night of August 6, 1930. A number of bizarre details surround the case, most notably Crater’s relationship with an Atlantic City showgirl named Sally Lou Ritz, who would herself disappear soon after the Judge. An investigation found that Crater’s safe deposit box had been emptied, along with thousands of dollars from his bank account, but no concrete proof that Crater engineered his own disappearance has ever been uncovered.

3. The Lost Colony

Perhaps the most mysterious case of mass disappearance is the so-called “lost colony” of Roanoke Island. In 1587 a group of 114 people settled the island in an attempt to establish a permanent colony in the New World, but a bitterly harsh growing season and fear of the local Indian tribes led the group to send their leader, John White, back to England for assistance. Upon returning in 1590, he found that the settlement had been dismantled and all 114 colonists, along with Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the colonies, had vanished. The only sign they left behind was the word “Croatan,” the name of a nearby island, carved into a tree. Some claim the colonists were murdered and their settlement razed by Indians, while others blame starvation or raids by Spanish marauders. But the most popular theory continues to be that the colonists were assimilated into a local Indian tribe. Reports from later settlers that some tribes they encountered knew some English have helped to substantiate these claims, and a project is now underway to try to prove the theory using DNA evidence.

2. Amelia Earhart

Perhaps the most famous missing person on this list, Amelia Earhart was a groundbreaking pilot who set numerous records in aviation in the 1920s. In 1937, along with navigator Fred Noonan, she set out for what was to be her crowning achievement: a flight around the world. Near the end of her 29,000-mile journey, Earhart encountered unfavorable weather conditions in the south Pacific, and was unable to find the small island where she was to refuel. Sometime around July 2, all contact with her plane was lost, and Earhart and Noonan would not be seen again. The search that followed was the largest in naval history to that point, covering over 250,000 miles of ocean, but no wreckage from Earhart’s Lockheed Electra was ever found. The most logical explanation is that the plane ran out of gas and ditched in the ocean, but another popular theory states that Earhart and Noonan crashed on an uninhabited island where they eventually died. Still another theory says that the duo crashed on a Japanese-controlled island, where they were captured and eventually executed.

1. Jimmy Hoffa

Despite years of speculation and countless investigations, Jimmy Hoffa’s vanishing remains the mother of all missing person stories. A powerful labor organizer, Hoffa was President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters for many years, and was known for his mob connections. He was due to meet two of his mafia contacts on July 30, 1975 at a restaurant in Michigan, but disappeared before the meeting could ever take place. Because of Hoffa’s business dealings and his proven associations with crime families, investigators have little doubt that he was murdered, but the big mystery concerns what became of his body. A number of grisly possibilities were considered, among them that Hoffa’s body was mixed into concrete that was used to build the New York Giants football stadium, that he was buried beneath a swimming pool in Michigan, and that he was crushed in a car compactor, but all of these theories have proven to be unsubstantiated. Hoffa was declared dead in 1982, but his case continues to be open, and every few years a new lead emerges about the possible location of his remains.

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NBC’s Heroes features many evolved humans with extraordinary abilities. We believe there are superhumans among us and that the history books are full of evidence that superpowered people do exist…or do they? Famous people, are you on the list?

To celebrate the new season of NBC’s Heroes, my friend Mark deGuzman and I began analyzing history books and tabloids, trying to find the evolved humans among us. We were especially encouraged when a Heroes graphic novel included Benjamin Franklin, who had the power of electrical absorption. Here is our list of suspected evolved humans:

Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman

Former slave and Underground Railroad conductor

Abilitie(s): Super speed and/or invisibility

How else could this amazing woman manage to transport hundreds of slaves undetected? Although most evolved humans so far have been shown to only have one natural power, “Moses,” as they called her, may have had either or both of these abilities.

Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan

Mongol founder and emperor

Abilitie(s): Mass impregnation

A British man named Tom Robinson was told that he was a direct descendant of the ruler and many, many, many kings have claimed to be descended from him as well. Genghis Khan didn’t just invade when he took over a land, he would actually repopulate the land with little G. Khans. Talk about dominant genes.

Leonardo daVinci
Leonardo daVinci

Artist, inventor, military strategist, anatomist, everything

Abilitie(s): Intuitive aptitude

daVinci definitely could’ve been the Sylar of his day. He could understand things that didn’t even exist yet! This would explain his keen knowledge of and expertise in multiple fields. He was definitely a Renaissance man.

Michelangelo
Michelangelo

Artist, architect, engineer

Abilitie(s): Intuitive attitude

Maybe he was angry that he wasn’t good at as many things as Leo was. Or he was just angry. Michelangelo wanted to concentrate on sculpting and was furious when Pope Julius II told him to go paint the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. He was melancholy, arrogant and had a ridiculous temper. But who can blame a man who was caned in the street by a pope?

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson

Musician

Abiltie(s): Appearance alteration

He’s just not very good at it. MJ has changed his look several times, and by look, we mainly mean his nose. He has also managed to change ethnicities and reinvent himself fashion-wise over his long career.

Chuck Norris
Chuck Norris

Martial artist and actor

Abiltie(s): Empathic mimicry

Because the character who can take other characters’ powers is always the best. (Like Peter Petrelli.) And considering he trained with Bruce Lee, he has had some awesome people to empathize with. Thanks to his mimicry, Chuck has multiple powers including the power to divide by zero, slam a revolving door, and not read books, but stare them down until he gets the information he wants.

Sean Combs
Sean Combs

Rapper, actor, entrepreneur, producer, and more

Abiltie(s): Name shifting

Besides being able to have six or seven occupations at once, this man can also have multiple names at once. Puff Daddy? Puffy? P. Diddy? Diddy? Duddy? No one knows who this guy will be next!

Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse

Singer-songwriter

Abiltie(s): Rapid self-degeneration

No one has used alcohol, cigarettes, and crack cocaine quite like Amy. That is, no one has used them in combination with heroin, ecstasy, ketamine, self-harm, depression, eating disorders and soulful singing … the ability she really needs to stick to.

Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart

Aviator

Abiltie(s): Access to parallel dimension or space-time manipulation

If Amelia had these abilities, that could account for her disappearance. Perhaps she went to an alternate universe where people can fly? Or perhaps she traveled to some time in the future? Past? Well, wherever she disappeared to, she may have come back to us in the form of Jet Man.

Heidi Montag
Heidi Montag

Reality television personality, aspiring person-with-another-occupation

Abiltie(s): None

Self-explanatory.

Barbara Walters
Barbara Walters

Journalist, writer

Abiltie(s): Lacrimal manipulation

Everyone cries when Barbara interviews them and that’s no coincidence. The only person who can possibly resist Barbara’s powers might be Rosie O’Donnell because she’s a psychopath. Or because she no longer has a heart.

PETA
PETA

Animal lovers, crazy people

Abiltie(s): Superior delusion and lack of compassion for humans

They call themselves The Organization. While animals don’t deserve abuse, they don’t deserve the attention PETA gives them. These people actually thought Ben & Jerry’s might come out with breast milk ice cream. Then again, this is the same group that compared chickens dying to the Holocaust and complained that a donkey was used in warfare without protesting the loss of human life.

David Blaine
David Blaine

Magician and endurance artist

Abiltie(s): Intuitive disappointment

All this guy does is do boring things for long periods of time and finds new and interesting ways to use the bathroom in public. And then when he does something almost exciting like a “dive of death,” it ends up being the “bungee hop of death.” Thanks for the entertainment, Dave.

John McCain
John McCain

Senator, presidential candidate

Abiltie(s): Immortality or superior durability

There’s got to be a reason this guy has lived so long. And no, I’m not saying that just because he’s old. He endured five and a half years being tortured as a prisoner of war in Viet Nam. The knowledge that he will never die probably helped him make his vice presidential decision.

Barack Obama
Barack Obama

Senator, presidential candidate

Abiltie(s): Change

We’re not sure what kind of power he has, if any. But this is the one he advertises. Perhaps he isn’t an evolved human at all. He’s just … some guy.

Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin

Governor, vice presidential candidate

Abiltie(s): Media magnetism, cryogenesis, telescopic vision and/or light manipulation

We have not yet identified what exactly Governor Palin’s abilities are or how many of them she has. She has clearly demonstrated media magnetism, but the other abilities may have been expressed while she was out of the spotlight and governing Alaska. Her cryogenesis has been largely responsible for maintaining Alaska’s snowy grounds, her light manipulation for aurora borealis, and her telescopic vision to see Russia from her house. On a side note, while the governor is quite adept at creating ice, she is not in fact responsible for the creation of Hillary Clinton.

Joe Bidden? Biden?
Joe Bidden? Biden?

Who?

During our discussions, Mark actually spelled Biden’s name wrong when he suggested that he had the power of “Who?” Proves a point. But perhaps this is simply Biden’s demonstration of one of the coolest abilities an evolved human can have … invisibility.

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We have done numerous lists of people and things that have had a great influence on man and they are always popular, so today we are presenting another list of influential people – but this time, they are people who never existed. There were hundreds of people to choose from, so this has been a fun list to compile. We hope you agree with our choices, but if you don’t, feel free to use the comments to tell us who you would have put here instead.
10
Santa Claus

What child has not been frightened into behaving thanks to the ever-present youthful fear of Santa not providing come Christmas? Almost all western children were told by their parents that Santa would leave them nothing if they misbehaved. I speak from experience when I say that it was one of the most effective methods of stopping tantrums! Funnily enough, though, the fear always dissipates on Christmas Eve as you just know that Santa will be coming – even if you did slip up a few times.
9
Barbie

As Barbie has progressed from a pretty young woman to whom all girls could aspire, to something often verging on the likeness of a harlot, one can wonder whether it was Barbie influencing children, or children influencing Barbie. There are certainly many similarities. Barbie has depicted almost every possible female lifestyle choice and I think there can be no doubt that she has been at the start of the path many women have taken in life.
8
Robin Hood

This could potentially lead to a debate about whether Hood existed or not, but I am of the opinion that he did not. Therefore, he is listed as my number eight on the list. I am sure we have all heard someone justifying theft because the victim is wealthy – and where did this justification come from? Not just the principles of redistribution of wealth that many of us live under in Western Society (read envy taxes) but the fact that to this day, we are all raised believing Robin Hood was a hero – when, in fact, he was a thief. Stealing is almost always wrong, and just because Robin Hood gave the proceeds of his crimes to poor people, it is not a valid justification. As for the previously mentioned taxes, there is every reason for us to believe that the majority of people accept these taxes because of their prior belief in the false morality of the Robin Hood story.
7
Cowboys

This is one for the boys obviously! Even in remote New Zealand where I grew up, all the boys played “Cowboys and Indians”. The cowboy was a great hero with a shining gun who represented the morality of Western ideals: manliness, defense of justice, protection of women and children. No doubt many now cringe at the lack of political correctness involved in the game and stereotype, but kids aren’t politically correct (thank God) and certainly won’t be hindered because of it. The influence of the Cowboy movie genre is indisputable an immense one. Oh – and for those who say “but cowboys are real!” – yes – but this is about the concept – not about a specific person – just as we might say Santa existed as St Nicholas, the concept is bigger than any one person.
6
The Marlboro Man

How many men reading this list who smoke, are smoking cigarettes with filters? Venturing a guess I would say all of them. Before the Marlboro Man campaign began, “real men” didn’t smoke cigarettes with filters – they were for women. The aim of the Marlboro Man campaign was primarily to get men smoking filtered marlboro cigarettes. The influence of the campaign is abundantly clear today. The campaign is considered to be one of the best in all history. According to Wikipedia, it transformed a feminine campaign, with the slogan ‘Mild as May’, into one that was masculine, in a matter of months.
5
Rosie the Riveter

And now another for the girls! Rosie the Riveter may not be a familiar name, but her picture certainly is. Rosie the Riveter told women that they can do anything – and they did! Rosie managed to motivate an entire generation of working-age women to get out of the home and in to factories to help the war effort. This is probably one of the most influential events of the Second World War. Once the floodgates of women working were open, they would never be closed again. All women working in traditional male jobs have Rosie to thank.
4
Daedalus and Icarus

In a short 24 hours, you can fly from one side of the planet to another. This (one of man’s greatest achievements) may never have happened if it had not been for the mythological characters Daedalus and Icarus. The story tells of Daedalus building mechanical wings for his son Icarus and ever since the tale was told, man has lusted after the ability to take the sky and fly. This eventually came true and the entire planet is a changed place as a consequence of it.
3
The Little Engine That Could

The moral of this children’s tale is that self-belief, optimism, and hard work result in achievement – of even the most difficult tasks. The book first appeared in a slightly different version to today, in 1906. It has been regarded by many as a metaphor for the “American Dream”. The popularity of this book may also be a contributing factor to the huge number of self-help and “positive thinking” seminars and books that we see today.
2
Big Brother

A relatively modern addition to this list, Big Brother has been a influence in so many social protests that he has to be included here. His name comes up every time a government passes a restrictive law or a law which seems to remove aspects of our eternal freedoms. Everyone recognizes his face, everyone knows what he stands for, and everyone is terrified of the potential for our own lives to be governed by our own version of the fictional character. Big Brother was, of course, created by George Orwell for his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
1
Romeo and Juliet

Not only can Romeo and Juliet be blamed for much of our ideas of the “perfect relationship” – I think it can also be blamed for a high percentage of divorces. Couples going in to marriage seek the ideal of a relationship based entirely on passion and romance, and when that romance dims (as so often is the case) they feel cheated and believe the marriage has failed. When in reality, passionate romance is not required for a healthy marriage – while respect, love, and charity is. Romeo and Juliet have much to answer for!

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