Last Updated on May 31, 2021
When the average person thinks of dangerous areas in the United States, they typically think of inner city areas with high crime rates. Rolling hills in the country and picturesque national parks? Not so much. Paranormal researcher David Paulides is different than most, though, and that’s what made him uncover a disturbing trend of seemingly paranormal disappearances in parks across the country.
In his breakout research book, Missing 411, Paulides talked about how dozens of people of all ages vanished without a trace while staying in national parks. Considering how easy it is to get lost in these areas, it normally wouldn’t raise an eye. However, things aren’t quite what they seem.
Unlike a typical kidnapping case, the victims vanish noiselessly, often feet away from others, and are found miles away in areas that are incredibly difficult to reach. Those who are found dead often have signs of a large predator dragging them away. Those who are found alive are in a daze, unsure of where they were. Worse still, law enforcement seems to be abnormally tight-lipped about the disappearances too.
With more people than ever before taking a look into the trend of unexplainable disappearances in the woods, everyone is starting to wonder what’s the secret danger lurking in America’s national parks.
Seemingly Random Victims
Part of what makes the cases in Missing 411 so bizarre is the seemingly random selection of victims. Some, such as the disappearance of 2-year-old DeOrr Kunz might be attributed to a child who walked off and got snatched up by a bear. If all the victims were young, this might make sense. However, they aren’t.
The people who vanish run the gamut from elderly 79-year-old Fortunato River to highly experienced hikers like Morgan Heimer. Victims come from all backgrounds and vanish in all parts of the country. The only real theme that seems to be constant in these cases is that they happen in or around woodland areas and that searches never seem to reveal anything that could solve a case.
Gone Under Strange Circumstances
The random assortment of victims is strange enough, but what makes these disappearances even stranger is how they vanish and how they are found–if they ever are found at all. In many situations, the missing people first disappear within feet of others. They make no noise when they go, and make no indication that they wanted to go.
For example, tour guide Morgan Heimer disappeared while on a hiking trip with others. Everyone was standing in line to enter a new portion of the hike, and Morgan was last in line. One minute he was there, the next, he wasn’t. Eyewitnesses all assumed he was still waiting in line, but he was never seen again.
When Carl Landers disappeared, fresh snow was on the ground. Despite snow being soft and ready to examine, trackers couldn’t explain where he went. His footprints came to an abrupt stop, as if he just flew away. More alarmingly, people were in the middle of a conversation with him when he vanished.
The sudden end to footprints is an unlucky omen for victims, but it’s scarily common among these disappearances. Local worker Christopher Tompkins wasn’t luckier; evidence suggested that something picked him up at a high velocity and flew away.
To date, there are no eyewitnesses who were able to see or hear what made these people disappear.
Reappearing Under Even Stranger Circumstances
When victims are found, they are often discovered dead, miles away, wearing the very same clothes they were last seen in. In many situations, they are found in areas that were repeatedly searched only days before or in areas where they couldn’t possibly have gotten to on their own.
The condition of the bodies varies. Some have minimal damage, often appearing in better condition than forensic scientists expect them to be. Clothing that was allegedly left in the wilderness for years alongside bodies are found looking fresh as can be. Others, such as Chris Thompkins, look like they were partially “melted” into their clothing.
The most alarming reappearances are the ones where victims are found alive. In most cases, victims don’t remember what happened during their time gone. Others claim they never saw the sun set, saw strange creatures, or become too disoriented to actually answer any questions relating to the disappearances.
One young child who was able to remember what happened claimed he went to a cave with a woman who looked like his grandmother. The cave was filled with robots and medical equipment. The woman asked him to defecate on a piece of white paper, then became enraged when he refused to. That was all he remembered.
The most common go-to reply from authorities is that wild animals like bears, eagles, and mountain lions are to blame for the disappearances. But, the doesn’t explain why other people wouldn’t have noticed a large animal stalking and charging at people right next to them.
When clothing items of discovered victims get tested, DNA evidence and forensic studies rarely ever show any evidence of large predators interacting with them. Clothes from are never seen with the typical signs of drag marks, blood, dirt, and struggles that would naturally occur from animal attacks.
If anything, studies of the clothing suggest that many of the victims had their clothing removed when they died. This means that an intelligent animal, possibly a human, would have removed their clothes and dropped them by the body after the person in question was killed.
Who Could It Be?
Family members of victims generally do not believe that the disappearances are due to an animal attack. So, one has to wonder who (or what) took the lives of their loved ones. These are some of the most common theories dealing with the Missing 411 cases…
Considering how quiet government authorities are about the disappearances, it’s not surprising that many Missing 411 readers believe that government agents may have something to do with the missing people. There have long been rumors of government groups kidnapping civilians for human experimentation. Could this be what happened to the victims?
On one hand, it would explain the eerie silence that law enforcement seems to have when dealing with these enigmatic cases. Regardless of involvement, it’s abundantly clear that someone knows something they aren’t willing to say.
Prior to his fame as the writer behind the Missing 411 book series, David Paulides was an avid bigfoot researcher. In many parts of the world where legends like Sasquatch exist, part of the lore dealing with these infamous cryptids deals with their tendency to abduct humans and vanish without a trace.
Sightings of Sasquatch are often reported in national parks, and often involve seeing massive apemen walk behind a tree never to be seen again. Could it be that these creatures exist…and that they are responsible for the disappearances?
It’s hard to ignore how many strange parallels there seem to be between alleged stories of alien abduction and Missing 411 cases. Everything from how people get scooped up, to how people are being found seems to have a very extraterrestrial feel to it.
Think about it. Alien abduction stories often involve people suddenly vanishing for large periods of time, often without anyone nearby noticing it. Upon return, abductees can’t seem to remember what happened without the help of hypnosis.
Several cases of surviving Missing 411 people involve others discovering them in a daze, unable to recall where they were or what happened to them. Those who somehow manage to overcome the hypnotic spell they’re under sometimes mention stories very similar to alien abduction.
Unknown Paranormal Creatures
Almost every single culture has lore that involves strange disappearances in the woods. There are tales as old as time involving unseen creatures that whisk people away, sometimes after luring them away from crowds.
In many cases, the monsters that act as woodland kidnappers are never seen. In Europe, these unseen kidnappers were faeries. In Native American lore, it involved trickster spirits and unseen demons that mimicked people to lure them away. Among Asian cultures, tales of trickster spirits and malevolent beings are just as common.
There have been countless tales of creatures that lure innocent people into the woods for nefarious purposes. Who’s to say that there isn’t an unknown predator with supernatural powers at play with these disappearances?
Malicious Woodland Spirits
One paranormal phenomenon that’s often associated with Missing 411 is PANic in the woods. This phenomenon is characterized by an unnatural stillness in woodland areas, an unexplained sense of fear, and a feeling of being preyed on by an invisible creature. The feeling is one that’s been reported for millennia, a primal reminder of what it’s like to be away from society.
Among many cultures, it’s said that PANic in the woods is nature’s way of fighting back against the constant encroachment of man. It also appears to be a primal self-defense instinct for people. Theoretically, the unseen predator might be the very same thing that’s to blame for the abductions.
What’s strange about the cases in national parks is that no one near the victims felt PANic, suggesting that this might still not be the answer. In typical cases of PANic, everyone in the area feels the same fear.
A Vortex to a Parallel Universe
Perhaps one of the more unnerving suggestions brought up by readers is the possibility that the victims were sucked into another universe. It’s often said that there are moments where our universe ends up getting crossed with other adjacent ones. Could it be that there’s something about forests that make portals to other dimensions open up?
Of course, this doesn’t really seem to explain how peoples’ remains are found, nor the condition that they’re found in.
People have warned others against venturing in the woods for as long as humanity’s been alive. Every culture has its own unique superstitions dealing with protecting oneself from unseen forces in nature. Perhaps there may be more truth to these beliefs than previously thought.
An Interesting Reddit Thread
On Reddit’s r/Missing411 forum, one user wrote about her grandmother who lived on the outskirts of a heavily wooded area known for paranormal activity. She seemed to know certain rules that would prevent disappearances, including warnings that coincided with many of the more common factors in Missing 411.
User High_Plains_Grifter explained that her grandmother didn’t allow her home to have trees closer than 10 feet apart, claiming that she “liked trees, but didn’t want them near her yard.” People who go missing are often in very dense portions of the woods.
This could obviously be a personal taste issue, but considering the nature of her region, it might have something to do with making it difficult for predators to hide.
Perhaps one of the most interesting things the thread mentioned was a warning to avoid berry picking in the woods. Her grandmother claimed that berry picking should only be done in areas on the verge of the woods, and only during the daylight.
She also warned her granddaughter that white berries known as “doll’s eyes” are extremely dangerous. In fact, she even told her to run away the moment she sees a bush of them nearby. Doll’s eyes are not edible, but they do not cause allergic reactions. So, why are they so dangerous?
Multiple cases brought for in Missing 411 noted that the victims who vanished went missing while they were picking berries or while standing near berry bushes. Perhaps there’s something in the woods that uses these bushes as a way to lure people to their deaths.
Like many older people, her grandmother said that staying in the woods at night was a stupid idea. But, that wasn’t all she said. She also warned people to stay away from the wildnerness during “the blue hour,” an hour of twilight when the setting sun casts everything in a slightly bluish light.
According to her, the only place you should ever be during this time is in a well-kept, indoors area. It could be that this hour has something to do with portals and paranormal creatures waking up.
An extremely interesting thing she said to her granddaughter was to avoid wearing bright colors in the woods, adding that, “things, just like people, can see you.” This is a commonly held belief in many cultures around the world, and it does have some clout to it.
Many of the people who seem to be plucked from reality were last seen wearing bright colors. Could it be that their garments attracted unseen forces to them?
Though many disappearances seem to happen, there are people who narrowly avoid vanishing. Their tales are just as perplexing as the disappearances themselves, and seem to have similar situations at play.
Dazed and Confused
Multiple hikers, even experienced ones, have reported getting suddenly dazed while on their walks. They often make wrong turns and find themselves wandering away, in search of a trail back home. When they rejoin others, the feeling immediately subsides and is replaced with a feeling of unsease.
Getting Shelter at the Right Time
One hiker was caught in a snowstorm with his party, which led them to all climb into their van. The hiker reported a feeling of being watched, shortly after he noticed that his window was completely frosted over. He stayed overnight, unable to sleep.
In the morning, the hikers got out of the van. To their horror, they noticed a trail of bipedal, humanoid tracks leading up to the van’s window—but none leading away. Realizing something was very wrong, they immediately left their campsite and went back into civilization.
Nearby locals picked up on the hikers’ unsettled emotions, then warned them to stay in the woods. One local put it best, “There’s something not right there.”
The Uphill Battle for Answers
Imagine having a family member who vanished while on a camping trip with you, then being unable to get any news about the search for them. That’s precisely what happened to the families of over 1,600 different people who disappeared without a trace within mere feet of them.
In almost all the Missing 411 cases, a brief search is conducted for the missing individuals with no results. Then, park rangers and law enforcement unceremoniously close the case, claiming that victims were dragged away by wild animals. If pressed for more investigation, the answer is almost always a stern “no.”
This doesn’t surprise Paulides in the least bit; his initial interest in park disappearances began after a local ranger approached him about the dodgy behavior surrounding some of the missing persons cases that occurred in a nearby national park. When he asked for information from the park, authorities tried to charge him an exorbitant amount of money to give him details.
The question, of course, is why authorities are so reluctant to give information about supposed “animal slayings.” Many who read the Missing 411 series believe that it might be due to government complicity.