Each year, millions of people visit the national parks and national forests of the United States. Each year, hundreds of persons are reported missing from national parks within the United States. While most of these persons are eventually found, there are persons vanishing without a trace from our national parks and a number of these cases can not be explained. These disappearances defy normal search and rescue practices. Even when bloodhounds or other tracker dogs are used, clues are often not found. If bodies are found they are often in places that are all but inaccessible, or if found in the open, the bodies are found in locations that were repeatedly searched earlier, begging the question of how did the body get there.
David Paulides, a retired law enforcement officer, believes that some of the missing people disappeared under unexplainable circumstances. In his book, “Missing 411”, Paulides reports on why some obvious explanations simply don’t apply to these missing person cases. Paulides says he doesn’t want to scare people away from visiting our national parks, but he believes that people need to be made aware. Yet government agencies are not saying anything.
His bizarre story had an even more bizarre beginning. According to Paulides, his three year investigation began after he was visited one night by a government employee who unofficially provided him with information about some of these disappearances. Some of the most eerie cases he has uncovered involve people who vanished from national parks and the only clues left were their clothing, neatly piled.
Paulides has compiled data suggesting that these are not isolated missing person cases, but instead these missing person cases cluster around certain regions. His research reflects 28 clusters of missing people across the North American continent, something that has never been exposed before. The research data suggests that topography does play a part in the age of the victims and that certain clusters have specific age and sex consistencies. Paulides believes that this is not a new phenomenon, as his clusters of missing persons include data going back as far as the 1800’s.
Also disturbing is the National Park Service’s attitude about these strange missing person cases. The National Park Service either does not keep adequate records of these disappearances or they have blocked most of his efforts to see their records under The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552, according to Paulides.
One such missing person case involves the disappearance of six year old Dennis Martin in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on June 14, 1969. When the search officially ended in September 1969 nearly 13,500 man hours and 200 helicopter flying hours had been spent on the search for the missing boy. To this day Dennis Martin has never been found.
More recently, Twenty-five year old Derek Lueking disappeared in March 2012 while hiking near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Searchers hiked hundreds of miles of trails in the weeks after his disappearance and used tracking dogs and helicopters, but no significant clues as to Derek’s whereabout were ever found.
Other examples of persons missing in our national parks include, Stuart Isaac (age 50 ) and Bruce P. Pike (age 47 ). These men went missing in Yellowstone National Park in September 2010 and August 2006, respectively. Patrick T Whalen (age 33) went missing in Glacier National Park in November 2000.