At one point or another, we’ve all wished that we could get away from the stresses and strains of everyday life. And sometimes the Universe grants that wish. But not in the nice “lounging at a beach resort for two weeks with a fully covered bar tab” way, but in the “cursed monkey paw” way where you disappear and are never seen again. Case in point …
Brian Shaffer was a medical student at Ohio State. On March 31, 2006, he and two friends — Clint and Meredith — embarked on an epic bar crawl that encompassed every tavern, drinking house, and moonshine-slinging shack on their campus. Their odyssey culminated in the early hours of April 1 at the Ugly Tuna Saloona, an establishment that made up for body-shaming aquatic life with cheap booze. The three drank there until closing time … or so it seemed.
When the bar’s lights came up at 2, Clint and Meredith were unable to find Brian. After checking the bathrooms and trying his cellphone, they figured he’d quietly headed home or taken a side quest for pizza, and left. When Brian didn’t resurface the next day, his now-worried family filed a missing person report. The police then noticed something odd on the surveillance tapes they gathered from the Ugly Tuna in an attempt to trace Brian’s whereabouts. Here’s the footage of Brian, Clint, and Meredith entering the bar at 1:15:
And now, here’s the footage of Brian leaving:
There isn’t any. The police located footage of Clint and Meredith leaving dazed and confused at 2:15, but the only footage of Brian comes when he briefly exits to talk to two women outside … and then turns around and walks back in.
In all the years that his family has been searching for him, no one has ever managed to explain how Brian disappeared. Did he slip out the back? No, the police checked the camera overlooking that door. Could he have blended into a crowd of people? It’s possible, but that doesn’t explain why he wouldn’t return home, especially given that he was planning to propose to his longtime girlfriend the following week. Was he murdered by another person in the bar? It’s unlikely, especially given that they would’ve needed to dispose of the body right then and there (without being spotted on any surveillance cameras), because the police searched the bar soon afterward.
Two years after Brian’s disappearance, his father Randy died in an accident. In the comments section of his online obituary, a message stating “Dad, I love you. Love, Brian (U.S. Virgin Islands)” was posted. Police traced it, only to find it had been posted from a public computer in a nearby county.
It’s always tragic when a child disappears. However, describing the disappearance of six-year-old Timmothy Pitzen as “tragic” is like calling the Sun “kind of hot.” Timmothy lived in Aurora, Illinois with his parents, James and Amy. Their marriage was going through a “rough patch,” but it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be fixed (according to James). That is, until May 11, 2011, when Amy pulled Timmothy out of his kindergarten class, claiming there was a family emergency. They then hit the road on a three-day amusement park bender between Illinois and Wisconsin.
Timmothy was last seen at 10 a.m. on May 13, standing with Amy while she was checking out of a hotel resort. Amy next appeared on surveillance cam at 7:25 p.m. at a grocery store — alone. She then checked into a motel in Rockford, Wisconsin, where she died by suicide. In both her suicide note and a letter she sent to her mother, Amy apologized and said that Timmothy was “safe with people who loved him,” and that “You will never find him.”
Here’s the thing, though. In all the years that’ve passed since Timmothy’s disappearance, no one has ever come forward to say that they found a boy wandering the woods or sitting on their doorstep in a wicker basket. A police examination of Amy’s car found what they called “a concerning amount” of traces of Timmothy’s blood, but family members believe that was likely from a nosebleed he had suffered earlier.
Then, earlier this year, the case was revitalized when a 23-year-old man came forward and claimed not only that he was Timmothy, but also that he’d just escaped from years-long captivity in Ohio. However, a DNA test confirmed that the guy was just some random lying asshole who had recently been released from prison for burglary.
Teenagers do dumb stuff all the time; it’s kinda their whole thing. Andrew Gosden wasn’t about that life, though. He was a super-smart 14-year-old living in Doncaster in the UK. By all accounts, he didn’t have any major life problems (like bullying, depression, etc.), and loved video games, rock music, and his family. All told, he had a sweet setup — which is why it took everyone by surprise when, on September 14, 2007, Andrew skipped school and caught a one-way train to London for reasons no one can figure out. We’d ask him, but there’s a reason this article is titled the way it is. He got on the train at 9:35 a.m., arrived at King’s Cross at 11:25 a.m., then disappeared off the face of the planet at 11:26 a.m.
First, the why. If Andrew ran away, he did a terrible job of it. Before he boarded his train, he cleaned out his bank account to the sum of 200 pounds … but left 100 sitting in his bedroom. His family had relatives in London … but he never contacted them. He took a satchel with him … but didn’t pack any clothes or goods, except for his PSP. The most damning piece of evidence is that he only bought a one-way ticket, and refused to buy a return ticket despite being told it would cost less than 1 pound more. How do you make sense of him cheaping out here, when he also didn’t take every scrap of money and clothing that he could? He didn’t even take the charger for his PSP — which for a die-hard gamer is like leaving home without your internal organs.
The most popular theory is that Andrew traveled to London to watch a couple of shows from 30 Seconds to Mars, HIM, and SiKTh — because at that age, it’s required that you have terrible taste in music. On that same day, there was also a sighting of a teenager resembling Andrew eating at a Pizza Hut on Oxford Street — because at that age, it’s required that you have terrible taste in food.
How does someone disappear in one of the most surveilled cities in the world, you might wonder? It’s relatively easy when the police don’t bother to review the footage until a month after someone vanishes. That’s how long it took investigators to get the footage of Andrew leaving King’s Cross. By that time, his trail was ice-cold.
There’s been one “credible” sighting of Andrew since his disappearance. In 2017, someone contacted his parents claiming they’d recently been talking to someone called “AndyRoo,” who was e-begging on a forum for 200 pounds to make rent. When someone offered to wire him the money, “AndyRoo” responded that he didn’t have a bank account because he’d run away from home when he was 14. Why? He’d “just felt like it.”
The tip intrigued Andrew’s parents, in part because his nickname had been “Roo.” When they (and the police) asked the website for information on “AndyRoo,” however, the site admitted they’d recently suffered a massive data loss while migrating systems and couldn’t help. Was this a shitty troll or a legitimate lead? It’s hard to say, which makes it on par with pretty much every other piece of evidence to do with this case.
In July 2014, Lars Mittank and a group of friends went on a week-long vacation to the Bulgarian coastal resort of Golden Sands, where they spent the week bro’ing out on the beach, in the club, at knitting circles, you get the picture. On one night out, Lars got into a fight and ruptured his eardrum, for which he was prescribed a course of antibiotics and given strict instructions to stay in Bulgaria a little longer in order to prevent the injury from being exacerbated by the plane ride home.
No matter, Lars thought. On the day his friends departed for home, Lars checked himself into a motel near the airport and prepared to wait out the night. And that’s when things started getting weird. He called his mom, panicky and scared, saying that he was being followed and she needed to cancel his bank cards. Later that night, the motel’s surveillance cameras recorded him pacing the hallways and hiding in the elevator, before leaving at 1 a.m. to go … somewhere.
The next morning, a still-on-edge Lars got a taxi to the airport to catch his flight home. But before he could fly, he had to be cleared for takeoff by the airport’s doctor. According to the doctor, throughout the routine check-up, Lars was “nervous and erratic” and “didn’t trust the medication he’d been given for his ear pain.” When a worker from a construction crew remodeling the terminal entered the check-up room, Lars’ nerves gave out and he said, “I don’t want to die here. I have to get out of here.”
He bolted from the room, sprinted across the terminal, and escaped into the parking lot. He was so terrified that he scaled an eight-foot wire fence and disappeared into some woodland bordering the airport. And it’s not like he could buy himself another way out of the country or call for help, because he left his cellphone, wallet, and passport at the airport, along with all his clothes. Lars was never seen again.
It wouldn’t be controversial to say that Lars reacted badly to the medication he was prescribed. It’s possible he was suffering from “antibiotic delirium,” a rare side effect of some antibiotics (including the type he was given) whereby patients experience temporary paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions, which he obviously had in spades.
In the aftermath of his disappearance, Lars’ photograph and the video of him fleeing the airport were plastered across the country, in the hopes that someone would recognize him as that skittish hitchhiker they picked up. But no dice. Police also extensively searched the woods he fled into, whose conditions are hellish during the summer, to no avail. Lars’ mother even hired a private investigator to canvas the locals and make sure the police had explored every avenue, with equally nonexistent luck.