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Writers Who Vanished Without a Trace

There are many disheartening stories in the book world but none sadder than an author who has disappeared, never to be seen again. I love a good mystery but these are hard to crack and some are so old, we’ll never know what happened to them. UPDATED

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Harry Weldon Kees

Last seen: July 18th, 1955.

Authorities believe they know what happened to Kees though it doesn’t make it any less sad. A poet and musician, he released, The Last Man, to critical acclaim. A Beat Generation icon, he grew disenchanted and after making cryptic remarks about suicide to his friends, his 1954 Plymouth Savoy was found on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge on July 19th and the keys were still in the ignition. He had talked about living in Mexico but no money had been taken out of his bank account.

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Dorothy Arnold

Last seen: December 12th, 1910

This one depresses me because she never got to see her work in print, but not for lack of trying. 25 year old Ms. Arnold was raised in NYC in a very wealthy family but wanted to be published more than anything so she paid for a private P.O. Box so her rejection letters wouldn’t go to her family’s home. After spending a few weeks with her boyfriend in secret, she disappeared a few months later, strolling through the busy city in the middle of the afternoon. She even purchased the book, Engaged Girl Sketches, at Brentano’s on 27th and 5th before telling a friend she was going to walk through Central Park. Afraid of scandal, her family tried to cover up her disappearance but this only harmed the investigation. I’m one of many who believe she was probably the victim of a botched abortion which was very common in those days as was death during the procedure and cover up.

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Tsawa Danyuk a.k.a Lodroe Palden

Last seen: April 2008

Tsawa was a Tibetan writer who disappeared after posting an alarming online article about being harassed by Chinese officials regarding his criticisms of Chinese rule. His laptop containing a book he was writing on Tibetan history, is also missing. A native of the Tsawagong region of Chamdo (in Chinese, Changdu) prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), Tsawa vanished in Dzoege (Ruo’ergai) county in Sichuan’s Ngaba (Aba) prefecture.

He had also angered the Tibetan Buddhist clergy with his writings. His family has traveled through 50 countries looking for him, even making queries at multiple prisons and police stations. They now concede that he is likely deceased.

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Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Last seen: July 31st, 1944

Antoine wasn’t just the French author of one of the most famous children’s books in the world, The Little Prince. He was also a kickass airman in WWII. He even went to America to try and get us to defend Europe against the Nazis at the start of the war. Before fame as a fighter pilot, he was famous in France as a writer of mostly adult books. After France fell to Germany, he spent 27 months in the U.S. before returning to France to fly with Free French Air Force and the Allies. He even wrote in his pilot’s seat. On July 31, 1944, he took off on his ninth reconnaissance mission from an airbase on Corsica and never returned. No one ever figured out the details of his disappearance.

Shockingly, parts of the crash have turned up in the last 20 years. In 1998, his bracelet was identified after having been found by a fisherman and in 2003, his Lockheed P-38 was discovered and pieces are now placed in the French Air and Space Museum.

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Gladys Conklin

Last seen: January, 9th, 1982

Gladys was the first children’s librarian in Hayward, California and an author of dozens of popular children’s books such as, Fairy Rings and Other Mushrooms and If I Were a Bird. Sadly, Alzheimer’s began to take her away from her husband of 48 years. According to those who knew them, they were a devoted couple after having raised goats in Oregon before settling in San Lorenzo, California. He claimed to have forgotten to latch the gate before taking a nap, leading to her disappearance but even family believed he killed her to keep her from the horrors of the disease. He died in 1988 and Gladys was never found.

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Craig Arnold

Last seen: April 27th, 2009

41 year old University of Wyoming assistant professor and award winning poet, Craig Arnold, was hiking on the small volcanic island, Kuchinoerabu-jima, when he disappeared into thin air. His poetry book, Shells, was selected by W. S. Merwin for the Yale Series of Younger Poets and his poems were featured in The Best American Poetry series and The Paris Review.

Days after he didn’t return to his lodgings where he was writing a book about volcanoes, American trackers arrived and found his trail of footprints. Because there is no hiking route and locals do not go in the location he was last seen, it is believed that he fell into one of the deep crevices but his body has never been found.

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Yda Hillis Addis

Last seen: 1899

Born in Kansas, in 1857, there is sadly very little information on this translator of Mexican lore and author of, The Romance of Ramon and Poetic Justice. Her family moved to Mexico at the start of the Civil War and to Los Angeles in 1872. All of this exposure to Mexican culture moved her to write about it. She was published in Harper’s Monthly and the Argonaut. Stories about badass heroines and getting revenge on cheating men. After a man proposed marriage to Yda but reversed his decision on account of his family, she sued them. The fallout in the media led her to move back to Mexico. After returning to the U.S., she faltered in her judgement and married an asshole named, Charles Albert Storke, who stole her hard earned money. He was 10 years older and told everyone that his wife was suicidal and tried to kill his son despite accounts of the teenager abusing her. After she divorced Storke and won a settlement, he began to slander her in the press and she ended up breaking into a home and shooting one of his friends. The trial took its course and she was said to have been committed to a California insane asylum in 1899 but escaped from it, never to be heard from again.

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Solomon Northup

Last seen: 1863

There is no record of death for Mr. Northup, the man who was born a free black man only to be stolen and sold into slavery. After escaping his captors for the last time, he wrote the book, 12 Years a Slave and toured the Northeast, giving speeches promoting the abolitionist movement. Some people believe he may have been kidnapped into slavery again but all that is know is that this important and famous man of his time, disappeared from all historical documents in 1863.

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Ian Mackintosh

Last seen: July 7th, 1979

Mackintosh, a Scottish naval officer, thrilled the public with his first book, A Slaying in September and many of his other novels were turned into popular television movies. He also wrote episodes for the series, Warship and The Sandbaggers. He, his girlfriend, and a pilot friend sent out a distress signal from their Piper plane while flying from Anchorage to Kodiak, Alaska. Despite searching at the exact spot where the signal was located, none of the wreckage or bodies were ever discovered.

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Ambrose Bierce

Last seen: January, 1914

No doubt, you read “Incident at Owl Creek” in high school and this was feisty, independent author Ambrose Bierce’s most famous work. He was Agnostic, asthmatic, and was known for writing dark and bitter stories but the public ate it up. He even did the unthinkable in 1888 and left his wife after finding letters she kept from an admirer. Even at age 70, you couldn’t slow Ambrose down and he decided he wanted a first hand look at the Mexican Revolution, joining rebel troops. There are no accounts of his death in Mexico and the last sighting of him was in Chihuahua, in January 1914. Some believe that Pancho Villa had him executed for having criticized the Mexican leader.

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David Kenyon Webster

Last seen: September 9th, 1961

Webster was born into wealth but wanted to be a grunt during WWII. He was hit by machine gun fire and when he returned from war, he became a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. His stories of battle were also published in The Saturday Evening Post. He loved the ocean and was last seen off of the coast of Santa Monica in 1961. He is presumed to be lost at sea.

A husband and father of three, he had a fondness for sharks and published the book, Myth and Maneater: The Story of the Shark. However, his greatest literary fame would come after death when Stephen Ambrose fought to have Webster’s writings published and they were: Parachute Infantry: An American Paratrooper’s Memoir of D-Day and the Fall of the Third Reich (1994).

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Khachatur Abovian

Last seen: April 14th, 1848

He was the first Armenian to write books for children but that wasn’t his only claim to fame. A man who fought against formality in the education system, he was banished from teaching after trying to enlighten schools in Armenia. He would go on to write many books including, Discovery of America, but his most famous was published a few years after his disappearance: Wounds of Armenia.

He was last seen leaving for a morning walk but was not reported missing by his wife for a month. His critique of Russian bureaucracy made many believe he had been murdered. His love for his two children made townspeople believe he would not have committed suicide but searches were fruitless and he was never found.

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Juanita Nielsen

Last seen: July 4th, 1975

Most famous for being the publisher of NOW, an alternative newspaper in Australia, Juanita had made enemies after protesting a $40+ million dollar housing project by developer Frank Theeman that would uproot the entire community. Her disappearance has all of the makings of a seedy murder plot involving the mafia. After a botched kidnapping by employees of the Carousel Club in Kings Cross earlier in the month, Juanita’s newspaper was invited to the club on July 4th, in order to discuss advertising in NOW. Fearless, she kept her appointment and was gone. Multiple employees of the club have changed their stories over the years and have gone to prison for murdering other people but Nielsen’s body has not been recovered. All signs point to Carousel Club owner, Edward Trigg, who owed Frank Theeman a favor but he died having sent his writings and possible confession to his lawyer for safe keeping.

 

Nicolina Torres
Nicolina Torres

When not working, Nikki is building websites and writing. She is the author of This Red Fire and Young Nation. She prefers to live in the country and is a new aunt to a potential bookworm.

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