Years ago, before technology helped the world shrink, disappearing was pretty easy. If you wanted to go away, you could simply slip off and create a new identify for yourself. In modern times, it’s nearly impossible. Almost everyone is “on the grid”, and simply changing your physical location and your handle doesn’t mean you won’t be found. That’s what makes these 4 cases, where people were simply gone without a trace, particularly perplexing.
For two decades, Ray Gricar served as the district attorney of Centre County, Pennslyvania and was known for his no nonsense reputation. On April 5th, 2005, Gricar called his girlfriend while driving through the countryside and told her he would return soon. Gricar never returned home. His car was later found by police with everything but his cellphone missing. With no signs of struggle, a search was underway. His credit cards and accounts were monitored, but showed no signs of activity. His laptop was found from a nearby river but was too damaged and no files were recoverable. At the time of his disappearance he was working what would be known as the Penn State Sex Abuse Scandal. Investigators found out Gricar had, back in 1998, enough evidence to take the abuse case to court, but refused to press charges. Some officials have declared that his disappearance must have something to do with the scandal. Four years after his disappearance, his home computer was finally searched. Search history of his home computer showed ‘how to wreck a hard drive’ and ‘water damage to a notebook computer’, which lends credence to the idea that he intended to destroy his laptop himself. But no signs of him were ever found and Gricar was declared legally dead on July 25, 2011.
Jean Spangler was an actress living in Los Angeles in the 1940s. She had played small parts in numerous movies and was a rising star, but whether she’d eventually become a famous movie star would never be known. In October 1949, she went to meet her ex-husband to discuss child support and was never seen again. He purse was discovered two days later. Robbery as a motive was ruled out because her purse had been found as she left it. Aside from a cryptic note inside it that read: ‘Kirk, Can’t wait any longer. Going to see Dr. Scott. It will work best this way while mother is away.’ The case became a nationwide sensation that brought plenty of tips and leads which were all completely useless. Even her ex-husband who she was on her way to see led to a dead end. Who were ‘Kirk’ and ‘Scott’ from the note? Spangler had just wrapped a film with an actor named Kirk. This was famous actor Kirk Douglas of Spartacus. Douglas went out of his way to clear his name though up until this point, the police hadn’t even thought of him as a suspect. Other clues that might be explain her disappearance were the fact that Spangler’s friends came forward and explained that she was three months pregnant and was considering abortion at the time of her disappearance, which was illegal at that time. There was also the fact that Spangler had ties to Davy Ogul, who was an associate of infamous mobster Michey Cohen, who disappeared two days after Spangler did. The LAPD continued the search without success or any reliable leads. To this day the case is open and Spangle is still listed as a missing person.
Jim Thompson was an agent for OSS (the predecessor of the CIA) during WWII. When his service ended, he elected to go back to his mission country and do something that no one expected: become a leading fashion designer in the Thai silk industry. It was a good choice; Thompson became a fashion big shot who single-handedly rebuilt the Thai silk industry. His success played a major role in improving the economy which made him very rich as well as well-respected fin the eyes of both the public and government. On March 26, 1967, while vacationing with friends in a cottage, Thompson never returned from his afternoon walk. He was avid smoker, but he hadn’t taken his cigarettes along, which pointed to the idea that he hadn’t planned on being gone long. With extensive survival experience and training from the military it was unlikely he got lost or fell. A major search of the area combing the land turned up empty. As rumor goes, the wealthy Thompson was kidnapped, but no ransom was ever demanded. He was never heard from again.
On February 9, 2004, Maura Murray disappeared after crashing her car in Haverhill, New Hampshire. Maura was a nursing student who left campus earlier that afternoon after packing her car. In emails to her professors and work supervisor she explained she was taking a week off due to a family emergency. No such family emergency existed. Packed items in her car included textbooks, clothing, and toiletries. Before hitting the road, she withdrew $280 from an ATM, and then purchased $40 worth of alcohol from a liquor store. Around 7pm Maura’s black Saturn sedan hit a snowbank in Haverhill, New Hampshire. A neighbor who heard a loud thump and witnessed the car pointing west on the eastbound lane call the police. Another neighbor stopped and pulled up alongside the Saturn saw a young woman and offered to call for help. She asked him not to call the police and assured him she’d already called AAA. AAA has no record of this call. Knowing there is no cell phone reception in this particular area, that neighbor went home and called the police. Forty-five minutes after the crash, the police arrived on scene. No one was found inside or near the vehicle. The car was locked. Both inside and outside of the Saturn police discovered red stains that looked to be red wine. A damaged box of Franzia wine was on the rear seat. Missing from the car were her debit and credit cards, as well as her cell phone – none of these have been used or found since her disappearance. Police believe that Maura came to the area to either run away or commit suicide, though her family and friends dispute the claim. The case is still open and is being handled as a criminal investigation.