It seems like way too often there is a story about someone disappearing. The world is still a big and dangerous place, and unfortunately a missing person can be hard to find. But sometimes luck is with people ,and they escape whatever bizarre circumstance took them away from their family and friends. Here are 10 stories of people who disappeared and then reappeared a long time later. It’s enough to make you want to never leave the house.
Jaycee Dugard, 1991
One of the most notorious missing persons cases in recent memory was the abduction of Jaycee Dugard, taken from her South Lake Tahoe, Calif. street as she was walking to the bus stop at age 11. Dugard was snatched by couple Phillip and Nancy Garrido, who shocked her with a stun gun and dragged her into their van. The Garridos took Jaycee to their home, where they would keep her for a staggering 18 years. During her captivity, Phillip Garrido got her pregnant at 13, kept her in a shed in the backyard and brainwashed her, at one point even putting her to work in his print shop. After his weird behavior brought some police attention on the house, investigators managed to lift his brainwashing and return Jaycee Dugard to her family in 2009.
Philip Sessarego, 1993
Most of these disappearances are orchestrated by somebody other than the vanished person, but Philip Sessarego is a special case. Obsessed with the British Army’s SAS division, Sessarego was rejected by the group twice, and decided to fake his own death with a car bomb in Croatia. Going underground, Sessarego constructed a new identity, that of writer Tom Carew. Carew built an amazing career, positioning himself as an expert on Muslim extremism and even having his book, "Jihad," serialized in The New York Times. In 2002, one of his kids recognized him and blew his cover, and he fled the country in disgrace. His body was found rotting in an Antwerp garage in 2009, and sadly this time he was dead for real.
Denise Desruisseaux Bolser, 1985
Here’s a pretty bizarre little story for you. In 1985, young bookkeeper Denise Desruisseaux Bolser simply vanished from her Raymond, Fla. home. The only clue was a note from a kidnapper that read, “We have your wife.” No kidnapper actually existed, though. Bolser was actually afraid for her life, claiming that her employer had been embezzling funds from the company and threatened to kill her because she found out. The cops eventually fingered her for stealing $12,000 from the firm, but she was in the wind. 17 years later in 2002, a private detective connected her with a woman named Denise James, and exposed her deception to her shocked neighbors.
Steven Stayner, 1972
When you’re abducted as a kid, it can change everything about your life. Young Steven Stayner was snatched off the streets of Merced, Calif. at just 7 years old, and was transported to the custody of Kenneth Parnell, a convicted child rapist who told him that he had been granted legal custody of Stayner because his parents couldn’t afford to have so many kids. Parnell kept Stayner for seven years, regularly interfering with him sexually, but when Stayner began to enter puberty, Parnell cast his net for a younger boy to add to the household. When Parnell snatched 5-year-old Timmy White, Stayner freed him and went to the cops. Parnell spent only five years in prison before being paroled. In 2003, he tried to coerce his medical caregiver into buying him a 4-year-old boy, and was thankfully arrested and incarcerated until he died.
Gabriel Nagy, 1987
In 1987, Australian native Gabriel Nagy called his wife Pamela to tell her he’d be home for lunch. That lunch never happened, and Pamela was distraught to hear that his car was found burnt up by the side of the road. Two weeks later, his bank account showed a withdrawal that was used to buy camping supplies. And then there was no more sign of him. Nagy was missing for 23 years. The last thing he could remember was waking up from his car crash with a head wound and nearly total amnesia. He drifted around Australia for over two decades, working odd jobs and drinking heavily, until his memory started slowly returning and he used his real name to get a Medicare card for cataract surgery, which tipped off the authorities to his location.
Takeshi Terakoshi, 1963
North Korea is like a scary roach motel. Once you go in, you never come out. So when a Japanese fishing vessel sunk off the shore of the Hermit Kingdom in 1963, grieving families said their prayers and moved on. But the boat had three survivors: 13-year-old Takeshi Terakoshi and his two uncles. But unlike most countries, which would duly deport them back home, North Korea instead decided to keep the Terakoshis. It wasn’t until 1987 that they allowed Takeshi to communicate with his parents back in Japan, who had long since given him up for dead, and then even more bizarrely, his father decided to move to Pyongyang to live with him in 2001.
Elizabeth Smart, 2002
Many of these people were abducted from public spaces, but in the terrifying case of Elizabeth Smart, she was actually snatched from her own bedroom. Smart, an ordinary girl from Salt Lake City, Utah, was abducted by Brian David Mitchell, a crazy fundamentalist Mormon who had somehow selected Smart to be his second wife. Keeping her tied to a tree outside his weird mountain hideaway, Mitchell would go with Smart and his first wife into Salt Lake City -- the ladies wearing veils -- and attend such non-Mormon events as keg parties. Mitchell’s identity eventually was deduced, and cops rescued Smart from his clutches after nine months of creepy captivity.
Nguyen Thi Van, 1992
Hanoi teenager Nguyen Thi Van got in trouble with her parents one night for staying out past midnight, and found herself locked out of the house. Sadly, this would result in a 21-year disappearance. Van went to a karaoke bar with friends and met an older woman who took them to a different bar. The young girl woke up the next day in China. The older woman told her and three other girls that they would be forced to marry older Chinese men or be beaten and fed dog poop. Van married a farmer and lived with him for decades before just recently escaping in a pig truck and making her way back to her shocked parents in Vietnam.
Natascha Kampusch, 1998
Austrian Natascha Kampusch was another young woman abducted by a creepy old man. She was held by Wolfgang Priklopil in a converted bomb shelter for eight years after she was snatched off the street in 1998 at the age of 10. Priklopil kept her in a windowless, soundproof room for months at a time, but as she grew, he slowly began to give her more freedom in the house, and eventually even took her on a ski trip. Priklopil told her that all the windows and doors were rigged with explosives and he also owned a gun with which he would not hesitate to kill her. In 2006, she saw the opportunity to escape when her jailer was distracted by his cell phone and she was running a vacuum. She used the noise to her advantage and ran away, finding a neighbor who was able to alert the police and return her to safety.
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Steve Carter, 2012
Let’s close this list with a very strange missing-persons case. Steve Carter was a young man who always knew that he was adopted from an orphanage in Hawaii. But when he clicked on a website that featured missing kids, he was shocked to see a picture of himself. He was searching missing kids in Hawaii from 34 years ago, and a computer-generated image of a boy named Max Panama Barnes looked eerily like the adult Carter. More investigation revealed that Barnes had been kidnapped by his birth mother at the age of 6 months. When she wound up in a mental institution, he was placed in an orphanage with no name, where he was then adopted. How awesome is it to solve a missing kid case that’s your own?