Setting Sail
Setting Sail

"When I was 15 my brother (8 years older than me) went missing. He had been overseas for a couple of years traveling and seeing the world. He'd discovered a love of sailing after a trip to Antartica on a schooner and found a job sailing/transporting rich people's boats from the US down to the Caribbean. He and the others he sailed with made it down there and there was a party aboard another vessel. When it was finished my brother (who was probably pretty wasted at the time) rowed another guy back to the guy's boat and then was supposed to row himself back to his own boat. He never made it. After dropping the other guy to his boat he was never seen again. The dinghy was never found, and neither was he. That's as much information as I have. I don't even know for sure which island it happened on. I was 15 and no one really talked to me about it. After I while I guess I just didn't ask because it would upset them. The whole family felt messed up to me. My mum was devastated, my dad went super-religious and my other eldest brother (10 years older than me) left NZ to go and live in England. Even now, 25 years later it still feels like a big hole, not knowing. Part of me likes to pretend he's still on an amazing adventure as I don't like to think of the alternatives."

South Of The Border
South Of The Border

"An old neighborhood friend of mine was living down in New Orleans with his girlfriend at the time. He had plans to go meet up with some buddies in Houston to see a football game, but first he wanted to take a bit of a road trip to go sightseeing in a small town on the border of Texas and Mexico. He never showed up in Houston. His family and girlfriend, quite obviously, flew into a panic and had the police on the job. The best the could do after a week of searching was find a picture that may have been his car, but they were really not much help. Considering he was visiting the border of Mexico, there was a good chance he was down there, which is not an easy place to find a person. I come from a strong neighborhood community so there was a lot of support for the family coming from all directions. It's never easy losing a child and the police claimed they had done all they could and that they'll keep an eye out. Three weeks without a trace, he called. He was in a hospital ONE THOUSAND miles away in Mexico from where had been sightseeing. His hands were cut up, his face was bruised and it took him days to remember his own phone number. He had nothing on him but the clothes on his back. As far as he could tell, he had been mugged and probably left for dead in a ditch somewhere. He has a spattering of memories of being on a bus, and then being on the side of a highway and random places like that. His family flew down there and got him back home. I'm grateful he made it out in one piece and for all the people that must have helped him on his way. There's no way he could have lasted three weeks south of the border in a state of delirium without help."


"They Called Her From A..."

"My mom's boyfriend went missing. He said that his mother was sick in another state and he was going to visit her. After a few days without hearing from him, my mom got worried and called his mother. She wasn't sick and had no idea that he was supposed to be there with her. We found all of his possessions, including his computer and camera and other valuables as well as seemingly his entire wardrobe, everything, in a rarely used coat closet in our house. 'Police' called my mom to say that they found his empty car somewhere in the forest near the Kentucky-Tennessee border (we live in Florida), but they called from a blocked number and when she tried to find information about the 'case' later on from other sources, nobody had anything on file about the car.

For about a year my mom kept in touch with his mother, and his mother said she hadn't heard anything from him but also said that they weren't close so it didn't strike her as too unusual for him not to talk to her for that long. They've since lost touch. We tried our local police but they were unhelpful and disinterested once they learned that we thought he might be in Kentucky or Tennessee.

We sold/donated all of his things and have since moved away from that house. That's when we found his computer had hundreds of photos of my mother, naked and asleep, that she never knew were taken. And there was a CD full of photos from a little girls' slumber party that my sister was at was in the disc drive."

Half Brothers
Half Brothers

"My mom married young and had her first child in 1969. She moved to the US, met a German professor who taught at the local university and they had their son Chris. After a few years, the marriage stopped working and they were divorced. She had primary custody of Chris during the week, and he was able to take him on weekends. One weekend Chris was picked up by his father just like any other time, but by the end of the weekend, they never returned. Police were called in to check out any place they could or should be, but the father was gone with a 3-year-old Chris. Best guess was he had fled the country with Chris, probably going back to Germany where he was from. That was the last time my mom saw her first child in the last 40 years.

I was born in 1980. My dad is a good man, and my parents are in fact still married. My dad had actually just started dating my mom soon before Chris was taken. I grew up in a house seeing pictures of this boy who I was told was my half-brother, but as a young boy, that doesn't really compute. I vaguely knew the story and accepted it, and that was about it. I was the only kid my folks had, so I grew up as an only child. My birthday and Chris's birthday was always a tough time of year. Despite being years apart, his birthday was the 16th and mine is the 17th of August. It was always bittersweet for my mom to remember her first boy on his birthday and wonder where in the world he was, but then have my birthday to celebrate the next day.

As a teen growing up with the popularization of the Internet, every few months I would search the Internet for my brother in whatever was available. From every search engine, online phone books, online services, and eventually sites like MySpace and Facebook, my search has never ended. I'd generally be searching for his name and within Germany, or elsewhere in Europe, but never found anything that seemed likely. Of course, our searching relied on luck. For all we know, the father could have changed their names, gone anywhere in the world, anything.

All of this changed as of this year. My dad, who also did searching for Chris, found out that Chris's father, being a former resident of California, had started receiving social security checks a number of years ago. The checks stopped being sent about 4 years ago. The huge discovery is that the checks were being sent to Australia! Armed with this knowledge, he started searching for the father's name and Australia and got a hit. He found an online tribute/obituary web page. Someone with the father's same full name had died in 2009. The page also said that he was survived by his son Chris and 3 grandchildren who were named. While that was a huge moment, I took that information and immediately took it farther. I took my brother's name and started searching. Without giving away too much info, he's self-employed and fairly well-recognized in his profession. I read about a number of awards he had received and saw the products of his profession. What was missing still was a picture of him. For that, I started searching Facebook. Narrowing it down, I found a page with a guy who had the name, and whose cover photo was him and 3 children. Surprising/not surprisingly, he and I do look similar. I don't know why, but that never occurred to me that we'd look related. The childhood photos of us look nothing alike when compared at the same age.

Anyway, most of his profile info was private, but his photos were mostly public. I went through looking for pictures of the kids, hoping they were named in a caption or comment. One by one, I found a picture of each of the kids, and they had a caption that matched one of the names given on the obituary page. I couldn't believe that I had found my brother that's been 'missing' to us for 40 years.

So we tried contacting him. First I sent an FB message, but never heard back after waiting a couple weeks. I kind of expected this, since FB puts messages from non-friends into that Other inbox that no one looks at.

The only other contact method he had available was his work email. I wrote up an email and even included a picture of that childhood photo I'd grown up seeing. I tried not to come off too overbearing. While we were 99% percent sure it was him, there's always that chance of a huge coincidence, or maybe he'd want nothing to do with us. So again the email was sent and we waited. A week goes by, almost 2 weeks, no reply. My mom starts to lose hope, saying that at least she knows he's alive and well, but it would have been nice to speak to him again. I'll note that she was so overcome with excitement after we found him that she barely slept for a couple days. She also got my dad to print out photos of Chris, his wife, and the kids and had them already up on her bedroom wall.

After those couple weeks of no reply, I was trying to figure out if I should try some other way to contact him, or was he purposely not answering us. I didn't have to think long about that because he finally wrote back. It was, in fact, our Chris, and he was happy that we found him!

To fast forward a bit, my mom has since spoken to him, his wife, and the grandkids numerous times over the phone. I've spoken to him just once on the phone, but we Facebook chat each other all the time. He had wanted to come out to California with his entire family soon, but passport issues with one of the kids is preventing that for the moment. Instead, he is planning a solo trip in September to come see us, and hopefully a trip next March with the whole family. I'm excited to take my niece and nephews to Disneyland. Holy crap, I have a niece and nephews! And a brother!

In a few weeks, at 33, I'm finally going to meet my brother. After 40 years, my mom is finally going to be reunited with her long lost first born.

Life is good."

One Facebook Message Is All He Has

Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock

One Facebook Message Is All He Has

"My girlfriend/wife (we lived together for 17 years) went missing. At age 18 I became an intravenous drug addict. I met Janet shortly there after. For 17 years we lived together, despite our addiction problems, we loved each other very much. In 1995 I entered into a long-term treatment facility. We stayed in touch by phone while I was in treatment. I was in the treatment centre for 16 months. I returned to our home, clean and sober, and my hope was to be able to help her accomplish the same. Unfortunately, she wanted no part of clean living and I had no choice but to leave her, but I tried my best to keep in touch with her and her whereabouts.

In 1999 she disappeared off the face of the earth. While it's not all that unusual for a drug addict to vanish, move to another city, or just break contact, nothing was ever heard from her again, not by me, her family or friends. Finally in September of 2012 I received a cryptic Facebook message. It was basically her expressing her regrets as to the way life had turned out, and how she wished things had been different. She said she wished she could start over but what troubled me was her insisting it was too late and was now impossible. She said she was in a situation that she could not get out of, no details were provided. By this time, I had been clean and sober for 16 years and was actually in a position to be able to help her. I replied immediately offering to fly anywhere in the world that she might be and bring her home. She did not reply.

Recently I heard she passed away from a drug overdose. Her aunt and only remaining relative was notified, and she eventually let me know. While I had only found out several days ago, she passed June 11, 2013. I do not know why her aunt waited so long to tell me.

It's hard to swallow that for 14 years, I wondered where she was and what she was doing. Private investigators, police and social service agencies had been trying to locate her to no avail. That one Facebook message was and still is all I know about the last years of her life. I had always hoped that we would meet again, I never stopped loving her. I have been crying myself to sleep for the last 10 nights because although she was absent from my life, she was never far from my thoughts."

"She Dropped My Daughter Off, And Was Never Seen Again"

"My daughter's mother went missing. We were never married. When my daughter was 3, her mother brought her to me for a 'shared custody' weekend on a Friday night. I was supposed to have her for that weekend only. When her mom did not come back Sunday afternoon, I tried to call. No answer REPEATEDLY. Finally on Sunday night, when there was no response, I packed my daughter in the car and tried to take her back to her mom's apartment. I could not get an answer at the door, and I could not find her car in the parking lot. The lights in the window were out. I called the cops. They woke up the Resident Manager and got him to unlock the door. The place was essentially empty. Some trash scattered around, and two trash bags with my daughter's name written on them in Sharpie. There was still some clothing left on the floor of the bedroom. Daughter's room still had furniture in it, it was the only room that did. The cop took a missing persons report and I took my daughter home. I had to arrange child care quickly so I could get back to work. We have been looking for her ever since. She's from Canada. Her family up there claims not to have seen her. One of her brothers, the one who is now a sister (M-F transgender) is the only one I suspect knows more than she's telling. I honestly believe that, if she IS alive she could find her in a day or so if she had a mind to do so! She might have even been living with her during some part of the transition, maybe even during all of it. The car shows up as sold for scrap in Canada. I know she was at her house since I've seen her. She had shown symptoms of Normal Weight bulimia and may have been bulimic. Don't really think anyone can survive active bulimia this long. It would have to go into remission. That would require professional intervention. If it ever occurred, I can find nothing to indicate where or when.

I raised my daughter as a single parent and put her all the way through college with a good degree. She now makes more money than I ever made. Officially I exited the search when my daughter turned 18. I have left it up to her to continue searching if she wants to. She has made it a lower priority and lowered the priority even more now that she is a married 20-something. Officially she's still looking, but not actively. When my daughter was 14, and we were talking about it and I asked her, 'If you ever do meet your mother, what is the first question you would ask her?' She just said 'Why?' Later, when she was 16 and it came up again, she said, 'That might be the ONLY question I would ask her. That's the one I always wanted answered.' My best guess as to why, and it is a guess and nothing more, is that we know she was abused, both psychologically and sexually by her mother and grandmother. She may have felt the urge to abuse her own daughter and it scared her so much she did not know any better than to run."

Race Course
Race Course

"When I was younger my family lived in Laramie, WY and my parents were going to school at the university/working. My mom is the oldest in her family and as her siblings reached college age, they all went to UW. Since we had a spare bedroom most of them moved into the house with us and served as a 'nanny' to me and my sister. Due to this we grew fairly close to my aunt Amy. She was always an outdoor person, very athletic and she would rock climb and run all the time. She took us out on hikes and served as a general role model of health and wellness. Over the following few years she graduated college, got married, and my family moved to Cheyenne while she and her husband moved to Lander. By this point, Amy had become a professional long distance runner. She was featured on the covers of several running magazines (this is before the internet got big) and was even helping plot courses for new races. That last part is what lead to tragedy. It was about 4 in the morning when my parents woke me up. My mother had obviously been crying and my father was clearly concerned as well when they sat down on the edge of my bed. I can't recall which of them it was that told me that Amy had not come home last night and that no one was sure where she was.

We packed in a rush, just bare essentials and nothing else and got in the car for the drive across the state. Throughout the ride my mom alternated between crying and trying to comfort us kids who were more confused and worried about our crying mother than anything else. When we arrived in Lander the story unfolded in front of us: she had been running the day before in the mountains nearby to plot a course for a local race she was helping to set up and she simply never arrived home. By the time night had fallen her husband had called the police and the family was informed. We arrived that following morning to a scene of chaos as friends, family, and the community turned out in assistance.

It was thought that she still might be up on the trails somewhere because her car was still in the lot, still locked, and her pouch she ran with was still missing. Everyone thought it was possible that she had fallen and been hurt or had perhaps been attacked by a mountain lion. We spent the next week in a vain search of the mountain with over 1000 people doing searches by walking the trails and woods, grid style, with everyone always having people in line of sight to either side of them so that nothing was missed. About a half dozen or so tracking dogs were brought in and 3 different helicopters, some with infrared, searched the area. They even searched the river and lake for a corpse. No one found a single thing. One of the weirdest things about it was how there was absolutely no sign of struggle anywhere along any of the paths she should have been on.

This lead to a lot of people assuming that the culprit was actually her husband. The lack of struggle plus his unwillingness to cooperate and some VERY creepy journals made him one of the prime suspects for a long time. Unfortunately, we found absolutely nothing concrete. Now, 16 years later, we still don't know what actually happened to her. There is a guy on death row already for committing a few other murders that they think may be responsible but he isn't willing to tell if he did it or not.

One thing that will always stick with me is that after a few days of searching and no sign of life, everyone was beginning to loose hope and become depressed. So someone, I don't know who but God bless that person, recruited a local band and the local bars and had a street dance and concert. They brought in hay bales for seats, local restaurants donated food, and bars donated alcohol. The whole town and all the volunteers all showed up and had a giant 3 block long party. It was the most interesting thing I have ever seen. In the midst of a tragedy here were these people, who just hours before had been depressed and crying, laughing and dancing and celebrating life.

Since then I have often looked back to that night and thought that no matter how deep the despair, we are still here and still have a life to live. That alone is a reason to celebrate."

Dinner's Ready
Dinner's Ready

"I lived in a UM cooperative house one summer in the '70s. I called upstairs to Bev that dinner was almost ready and to come down. She said, 'OK! Just a minute!' and I went back to cooking. Twenty minutes later we are wondering where she was and Diane went up to get her. Bev's room was empty and the large window that opened like a door was wide open, leading to the fire escape. Her keys and purse were still on her desk. Her typewriter was there with half-finished homework in it. I've never seen her since. It was terrifying. This was shortly after John Norman Collins, the Michigan Murderer had been put in prison and it was very fresh in people's minds. The next year they found a body in the Arboretum, but it wasn't her. I think about her every once in a while and her picture is vivid in my mind's eye."

"The Police Did Nothing"

"I'll never forget. It was Thanksgiving 2011 in the US. I was just finishing my food when my dad told me, 'Your uncle is missing.' My uncle isn't someone I really knew well, just someone I would see whenever I visited family in the Philippines. He was married to my mom's sister and they had two kids that were 14 and 16 at the time. I honestly didn't know how to feel. We were celebrating Thanksgiving with my dad's side of the family so it was easy to just talk with my other cousins and really just forget about the situation. Apparently, he had already been missing for a week. The next day we got horrible news from our family in the Philippines. They found his body. He had been brutally murdered: limbs cut off and his throat slit. They also suspected he was hung until he bled out a significant amount of blood. I remember 2 things: being shocked and my family drinking and crying around our dining room table that night. A few details and rumors started around his murder. The first was that he was involved in a cock fighting ring and he had recently fired someone who helped care for his roosters but would bet against them because he really knew how healthy/capable they were. The second was that he had a mistress from a wealthy family and that the family found out, and decided to get him for it. The last was just a random act of violence by a local terrorist group/gang. There have been no arrests made, not even charges. It's been over a year. According to my family, the police force in the Philippines is very corrupt so it would take a long time to really get anything solved with any murder cases. Even though I barely knew him, I'm still angry. And if anything, it really opened my eyes to how poorly the Philippine police force operates. Apparently evidence was misplaced and some witnesses essentially confessed to being 'paid not to speak,' but the police did nothing; pretty messed up overall."

The College Roommate That Never Returned
The College Roommate That Never Returned

"I go to university out of state, in Philadelphia. My boyfriend lives in an off campus house. It's his mom's house, but it's technically his. Anyway, one of his roommates, let's call him Z, lives there during the school year. Z takes some time off from school to figure things out but still lives there. Z is a VERY quiet guy, and there's a joke around the house that we call him a ghost because he's so quiet you never know when he's home, and when he moves around the house he makes very little sounds/rarely comes around. Z also suffers from social anxiety, depression and a load of other stuff & takes medication for it. This is important. Anyway, Z has a job back at home in Maryland, and it wasn't unusual for him to go home almost every weekend to work. He would work and then come back and at most be gone for 4 days. One weekend he tells us he's going home to work, it was around Christmas time. When school starts up again, Z doesn't return. My boyfriend texted him, and he tells us he's coming back but he doesn't know when. That's the last we heard from him. Soon days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and it's been 9 months since anyone has heard anything from him.
Even his best friend, and I mean best friend, has tried reaching out to him with no avail. He's written countless letters, tried getting ahold of his mom, called his house, nothing. It's like the whole family has disappeared. My boyfriend's mom has also tried getting ahold of him and his family (because he owed about 4 months of rent by then), but nothing. No response. It's so weird.

One day, while my boyfriend is calling Z's phone, he notices it just goes straight to voicemail instead of ringing a couple of times. It's so eerie because my boyfriend said that it's not like someone shut off the service because there would have been something saying the phone was disconnected, but in fact, you can hear Z's voicemail greeting, 'Hey, it's Z, I'm not here right now, so leave a message' so someone is obviously paying the bill. My boyfriend sometimes calls it just to hear his voice. It's really sad.
We have many theories as to what happened, but there's no real evidence or clues as to what happened. It's just gotten to the point now where we just want to know if he's alive or dead. My boyfriend noticed all his medication still left at the house, so suicide is definitely a theory, but wouldn't his parents have told us? We think maybe rehab, because he did dabble in drugs, but he wasn't a hardcore user. Then we worry because where he was from was a big heroin capital, what if he was involved in a drug deal gone wrong? There are so many questions, but no one to answer them. All of his stuff was in the house, clothes, shoes, medication, speakers, posters - he just got up and left.

We still don't have closure, and like I said, my boyfriend grew very close to Z. He sometimes gets emotional whenever Z gets brought up, or his reminisces about the times he and Z hung out. My boyfriend just can't believe Z just got up and left him, his best friend, everything in Philadelphia. All we want is closure. It doesn't help that he has the most common last name in the world: Smith. His best friend has tried everything to try to find him, and he's really disturbed by his disappearance. Soon we're going to plan a trip to just drive to the address that's on his leftover medication bottles and just knock on the door and demand to know what happened. It's just seriously so confusing and weird. All we want to know is if he's dead or alive."

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