In the Charley Project, persons who have vanished without explanation are entered into a database. Though it’s an excellent place to discover information on current investigations, browsing its database chronologically reveals instances from the early part of the twentieth century that will probably never be solved due to the fact that everyone involved has died.
These stories, which date from a time when a missing person’s case is a little less likely to become a national news story, are the ones that stick with us the most.
If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to operate a company selling stolen children to the wealthy, these photos are for you. Here are a few of the finest historical disappearances from the Charley Project’s collections in celebration of Halloween 2019.
Bobby Dunbar; 1912’s one of the Most Terrifying Disappearing Horror Stories of Louisiana:
This tale will be familiar to listeners of This American Life since it was the focus of one of the greatest episodes of the program.
On a family vacation, Bobby Dunbar, a 4-year-old boy, was separated from his family and was never found. He probably perished after falling from a railroad bridge.
Alternatively, a “weird guy” loitering in the vicinity may have kidnapped him. We’ll never know for sure since officials believed they had located Bobby Dunbar and didn’t learn it was another youngster until 2004, long after the case had been solved.
Martine Family; 1958 one of the Most Terrifying Disappearing Horror Stories of Oregon:
Most interesting information in tales about the disappearances often revolves around what happened to the persons left behind.
While it’s obvious what exactly to the Martin family – they presumably drove off the road and into the river on the way home — the unsettling images of a life that never made this piece stand out. It brings to light all of the little elements of daily life that might vanish in an instant if everything changes.
Mary Moroney; 1930 one of the Most Terrifying Disappearing Horror Stories of Illinois:
Families in need of low-cost child care in the time of the Great Depression sometimes relied on the wrong people, as is the case with Mary Moroney, a little 2-year-old girl featured prominently in the Charley Project’s archives.
After her parents permitted her to spend the day with a lady who went by the name Julia Otis, Moroney vanished without a trace.
The family received a letter from a lady claiming to be Otis’s cousin, informing them that Otis was “love-hungry” following the death of his marriage and kid and that she’d take care of Mary. As of today, Mary would have been in her late seventies or early eighties. We don’t know for sure whether she’s still alive or not. You can also find out about Creepy Ghost Stories from London if you’re interested enough.
Billy Gaffney; 1927 one of the Most Terrifying Disappearing Horror Stories of New York:
As soon as Billy Gaffney was left alone with a 3-year-old playmate in the corridor of his Brooklyn building, the two boys vanished.
Eventually, a 3-year-old boy was located on the top of an apartment complex, and he said that an older gentleman with a grey mustache had abducted Billy. Years later, the boogeyman murderer Albert Fish admitted to the murder of Billy, but no trace of his body has been located.
Georgia Weckler; 1947 one of the Most Terrifying Disappearing Horror Stories of Wisconsin:
The tragic tale of 8-year-old Georgia Weckler’s abduction is unsettling for one particular reason: “Curiously, before to her absence, Georgia had made many statements suggesting that she particularly dreaded being abducted.” There is no way to tell for sure what caused this.
Bruce Kremen; 1960 one of the Most Terrifying Disappearing Horror Stories of California:
Bruce Kremen vanished while attending camp. He was exploring with just a few other guys only a little way from his circle when he got separated from others never to be seen again.
Initially assuming him to be gone in the San Gabriel Mountains, officials conducted a large search but were unable to discover either the youngster or his corpse.
Now, though, officials suspect him to have been in touch with Mack Ray Edwards, one of United States’ least known but most prolific serial murderers, who labored on highway construction and maybe hid the bodies of his victims under the asphalt, somewhere they would never be discovered.
Evelyn Hartley; 1953 one of the Most Terrifying Disappearing Horror Stories of Wisconsin:
As though from a horror film, Evelyn Hartley vanished without a trace. When her parents’ phone didn’t ring when she was supposed to, the adolescent was left babysitting.
Upon going to check on her, her father discovered a locked home with lights and radio on, but no sign of Evelyn. A frenzied search for the missing child was sparked by signs of a scuffle and forced entrance, and she was never located.
Blood pools that may be Evelyn’s eyewitness tales of a girl who could be Evelyn add to the mystery of this event.
The Sodder children; 1945 one of the Most Terrifying Disappearing Horror Stories of West Virginia:
Among the most chilling tales in the Charley Project collections are that of the 5 Sodder children, all of whom vanished on Christmas Eve under strange circumstances.
Five of the ten youngsters requested to remain up & play around with their new toys instead of going straight to bed. As soon as their parents consented and went to bed, odd things began to happen. An unknown caller dialed the phone, and the children’s mother took it.
The caller asked for someone she had never heard of. The caller laughed & hung up on her when she stated as much. There were no closed doors or windows to be found, and no lights to be turned off.
Finally, around 1:30 am, she was woken by a noise in the attic and the knowledge that the home was on fire. Only her other five children were able to escape the flames, including her husband and the rest of their family. He couldn’t locate his ladder when he tried to climb up to his children’s second-floor rooms.
After some time, it was discovered to be pulled from the home. The Sodders were told that their children had perished in the blaze, but they never gave up hope that they were still alive. This belief persisted even after both parents passed away.
When a weird picture was sent to them in the 1960s, claiming to depict one of their boys as a grown adult, they were inspired. Were the Sodder children killed in a blaze started by masked assailants who were never apprehended? Perhaps.
Even if they were abducted, the enticing possibility that they could still be alive in Italy has retained some optimism that this odd case would be solved.
Marjorie West; 1938 one of the Most Terrifying Disappearing Horror Stories of Pennsylvania:
Marjorie, 4, & her 11-year-old sister went wildflower picking with the West family after church on Sunday. Marjorie vanished from the midst of a large open field while her sister went to speak to their parents.
There’s nothing unusual about this abduction narrative, but for the fact that Georgia Tann, who operated at Tennessee Children’s Home Society, was a possible acquaintance of Marjorie’s.
She was recognized for the ability to locate homes for children in need but really kidnapped more than 1,200 and put them with wealthy families like those in California — frequently for large fees. If Marjorie ever ran into Tann or a coworker, she may still be alive and not know who she really is.